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Parenting

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Ode to My Second Child

In parenting, sometimes irrational fears can get the best of us. Here's a story about one of my fears, and the 7 pounder that taught me a lesson worth learning!

I can only image what it must feel like to stand on the moon and look down (up, over?) at the Earth. You’ve always know the Earth existed, you’ve walked upon it every day of your life, but seeing it from this fresh perspective must give you a new and glorious understanding of the scope, complexities and beauty of the planet that we call home. I felt much the same way when I laid eyes upon my first born. Before holding my babe, I thought I knew what love was. I had loved many, been loved by many, and thought I understood the intricacies of love. But much like the Grinch that infamous Christmas morning, when I held her in my arms, my heart increased in size. Seriously, I believe that, because there is no way possible its previous size could accommodate the sheer girth and weight of the love that now consumed me.

Fast forward one year. For the past 365 days my love affair with my daughter evolved, changing from “love at first site” to a complex relationship that enlightened and challenged my sensibilities, intellect, and yes, at times my patience. This love somehow filled a void in me that I never even known existed. She completed me. This love, above all others, was a love worth dying for. Yes, I would literally throw my body on the live grenade to protect her. Love for my child, and her wellbeing, became my new working definition of love. I had now, figuratively, stood on the moon, and got a complete panoramic view of love.   

And, the story could stop here… the story of a young woman that learns about a “mother’s love” and lives happily ever after, but when Michelle was one year old, I conceived my second child. I was filled with joy. Soon, well in nine months, there would be a new being, precious and diminutive, to love. But something insidious happened during the early days of my pregnancy, as I went through the delightful sensation of morning sickness. Despite my desire to nurture, I often had to keep Michelle at arms’ length as I tried to contain the contents of my stomach. Now, I couldn’t pick her up or frolic until the nausea subsided. A thought entered my head, fleeting at first, but growing in size and stature as irrational thoughts of hormonally charged preggoes are prone to do… this second child, the one growing inside of me right now, was somehow going to come between me and my daughter!

I was filled with fear and shame. What if I didn’t love my second child as much as my first? And how could I? At times, my love for Michelle seemed almost all consuming. Of course, I still loved all those other people; my husband, my family, my friends, but this was a different kind of love; a possessive love, a protective love, a consuming love. I couldn’t possibly love another human being as completely.

I discretely broached the subject with experienced moms with multiple children, only to be waved off with, “I love all my children equally.” LIES, I thought… LIES… like telling someone that needs to have a root canal that it isn’t so bad. Of course it’s bad! But since the procedure is imminent, why add to their fears up front? Or, worse yet, maybe they weren’t lying, and there was something innately wrong with me. How was it possible that all these other women had this seemingly endless supply of love, and I had managed to use up all of mine on my first born?

The morning I went into labor, I remember dropping off my sleeping 21 month old at my mother’s. I rocked her in my arms, with tears running down my face. “Oh, I’m so sorry, sweetheart”, I sobbed, “Our lives will never be the same again. You are going to need to share Mommy’s love with someone else.” Secretly, tenderly, and so softly that the words didn’t even reach my ears, I whispered, “But don’t worry. I will always love you best.”

My labor and delivery was an oxymoron of emotions. On one hand, I wanted to deliver my child… to meet him, to know that he was healthy. On the other hand, I was panicking. I wondered if he would sense, from the very start, that I was a terrible mother, unable to love him as completely as he deserved. Eventually, a final push brought my son into the world, and he was placed on my chest… on my heart. My hands gently, protectively cradled his head and bottom.  He was so tiny, so perfect, so totally and completely mine. As his mouth rooted for a nipple, and he began to suckle, the unbelievable happened… I felt my heart expanding again! In that instant, I KNEW, totally and irrevocably, that I was capable of loving this babe, this second child, every bit as much as I did my first. I did not need to share the love I felt for my daughter with my son, he brought his own supply.

Looking back, I feel rather foolish for all of my fears and concerns. If my first born taught me how to love completely, then, in a blink of an eye, my second born taught me that a mother’s love knows no bounds. NEVER would I need to share my love for my daughter with my son (and eventually my second son). Each child comes equipped with their own supply, and, like all those wise mothers before me, I learned that I did, in fact, love them all equally. Adam, like Michelle, would provide his own joys and challenges, but my love for him, my second born, was as strong and consuming as the first. 

Of course, my daughter did need to learn to share me with her brother, and there were times I needed to split my time between them, but I was right about one thing… our lives were never the same again… they were better :)

(So as not to leave out my third born, Drew, not to worry, he taught me about love, too, especially about gracious love, but I’ll leave THAT for another post :)

At one time or another, all parents experience irrational fears about their ability to parent well. Fortunately, our children are very good teachers, and as long as we are attentive students, they have much to teach us :)

http://www.onegenerationtoanother.com
Copyright © Wee Folk Art 2008 - 2012. All rights reserved.

Please do not reprint any material found on this blog without written permission from Kimara Wise. You can contact her at weefolkart@yahoo.com

 

 

Words, Words, Words

I love words and the subtle nuances the perfectly chosen word denotes. Why use the word “wavy” when you can use “undulate”? Why use “excess” when “plethora” has the audio equivalent of the bouquet of the finest wine? And why should I settle for a flat sounding word like “wordy” when “verbose” more fully expresses my propensity to prattle incessantly? The English language has a rich heritage which makes learning grammar and vocabulary a challenge, but it also adds to the beauty and intrigue of both the written and spoken word.

My interest in the English language began early. I remember one lovely summer day when I was around 4. My mom was out and about and my father was left with not only the responsibility of supervising the children, but to make sure we didn’t trash the house my mother had just cleaned. Piece of cake. It was a hot summer’s day, there was water in our little pool, and a baseball game on the transistor. My dad could do this all day, or at least as long as the baseball game lasted. So, my brother and I were contently splashing in the pool, soaking up the rays, when I got one of my first scathingly brilliant ideas. We could play soda shop. We just needed a few essential props from the kitchen. As we headed toward the house, my father stopped us.

Dad: Where ya goin’?

Me: We need some stuff from the kitchen.

Dad: Fine. Just don’t get the linoleum wet. Mom just cleaned in there.

We entered the house. My brother and I stood in the middle of the kitchen, creating a small pond under our feet.

Me: What’s “nanoleum”?

Brother: Beats me. I think it’s the curtains.

When we didn’t make a timely return, Dad followed us inside. After he hydroplaned across the room, we learned very quickly that linoleum was another word for the floor. As the sting from a whack across my butt wore off, I can remember wondering, why hadn’t he just said floor? But later that day I found myself repeating the word linoleum over and over again. Say it aloud a few times. Linoleum, linoleum, linoleum. Feels good in your mouth, doesn’t it? So although my introduction to the word linoleum came at a price, in the long run it was worth it.

One of my roommates in college was dating a guy that I thought was an arrogant narcissistic. They were both in their first year of medical school. She was lovely, but he believed himself to be far above the plebeians that surrounded him. He had a friend that often came over. When the two of them got together, they often began to speak in a foreign language. It was a strange blend of English and an unknown vernacular. Although I normally tried to ignore them, I was drawn to their strange banter. I was finally able to ascertain that they were, in fact, speaking English. They were just using words that normally only surfaced toward the end of advanced vocabulary exams, and admittedly, the average person would find it near impossible to comprehend their almost cryptic repartee. Granted, they did this mainly for sport, and although they were inarguably ostentatious, I could not fault them for taking the opportunity to make use of their extensive vocabulary. Although I still thought him an insensitive cad, I must admit I was filled with awe for his mastery of the English language.

Possessing an imposing vocabulary is more than a parlor trick. It is power, and knowledge, and beauty. For that reason when I had my children, I believed it their incontrovertible birth right to be exposed to a rich and expansive vocabulary. Very early on I exposed them to a vocabulary that far exceeded their stature and embraced every opportunity to expand their personal dictionary.

I remember sitting on my back deck at our house in Kentucky. My youngest was napping and my two oldest, 6 and 4 approached me.

4 year old: Mommy, can we have licorice?

Me: Okay. But just 1 each.

Several minutes later, I espied the 2 walking through the backyard, each toting a beer!

Me: (Befuddled, bewildered and besot!) What are you guys doing with a beer?

My 6 year old daughter gave her 4 year old brother a look that implied… “I told you so.”

4 year old: “You said we could have licorice.”

Ah, I got it! Note to self… explain the difference between licorice and liquor, which I did after I confiscated the beers!

Not only does an impressive command of the English language allow you to communicate in an accurate and expressive manner, there is a beauty and symmetry that is personally enriching! 

What did you keep in a box?

As many of you know, Tim and I did not meet until we were in our mid 40s. Besides the obvious… he’d never be able to see the “killer bod” I had at 19… there were so many things we missed. Pregnancies and graduations, job interviews and college parties! So, on a regular basis, I would say, “Tell me something about you I don’t know.” Well, to begin with, it was a no brainer for him. Tim is never at a loss for words, except when he’s asleep. Nope, I take that back. Quite maddeningly, he talks in his sleep, too, but I only get to hear one side of the conversation! “Oh yes. I like that. I like that a lot.” I ask you… are we talking romantic interlude here or has a dream geek just shared a particularly concise line of code, and does the fact that that makes sense to me make me a geek by association? Sorry, not at all relevant to this blog! Anyway, over time, stories of Tim’s childhood and young adult life were shared. Some tales of woe and many of wonder, but as time went on the obvious recollections began to diminish. And because I wouldn’t relent, Tim got smart and started collecting memories to have on hand, so when I asked the inevitable, he was ready with an answer. And then one day, when I said, “Tell me something about you I don’t know”, it happened. His response… “I can’t, I’ve told you everything.”

Obviously, this couldn’t be accurate. So, my questions had to become more precise. “What board games did you play with your siblings?” “What did you do on snow days?” “Tell me about the first time you closed on a house.” See, tons of things I didn’t know yet! The other day I asked, “When you were a kid, what did you keep in a box?” His response, “How do you come up with these questions?”

Well, I thought this was a particularly pertinent question, and that the answer would be quite illuminating. Because, when you are a child, your most treasured possessions are stored in boxes.

Think back to the story of the Littlest Angel. You know the story. The day Jesus is born all the angels in heaven go to pay homage. Gifts are bestowed… impressive, magnificent gifts… gifts fit for a king. The Littlest Angel fretted because he did not have anything worthy of a king BUT then he had a thought. On Earth he had a special box he kept hidden under his bed with his most valuable treasures. Surely, if he only had that, it would be something worthy to give. An understanding grown-up angel heard the Littlest Angel, and made a speedy trip to Earth and returned with the little angel’s box. But when the Littlest Angel opened the box, he was filled with shame. What was he thinking? Here, in this tattered box, were treasures that certainly were not fit for a king. Inside laid a tattered collar from a beloved dog, a robin’s egg, a couple of smooth white stones and a wing from a butterfly. The Littlest Angel tried to hide the box, but to his horror, it was pulled from his hands by an unseen force and placed with the magnificent gifts near the Christ child. The Littlest Angel tried to skulk off, but he was summoned by God himself. Fearing a deserved reprisal, he approached, well aware of all the eyes that looked upon him with sympathy and pity. But, to his amazement, God did not chide him, but rather commended him for his selection of gifts. “This”, God said, “Above all other gifts, is exactly what a child, born of this Earth, will treasure the most.”

“So”, I persisted, “What did you keep in a box.”

As it turns out, and this in no way came as a surprise to me, on Monday mornings, Tim and his best friend traveled the neighborhood going through people’s trash at the curb. Tim was a resourceful lad, always on the lookout for… electronics! Some treasure butterfly wings some treasure transistors… tomato <pronounced toe-may-toe>, tomato <pronounced toe-mah-toe>. (As our son Mike pointed out, pronunciation is lost in the written word!) Anyway… when Tim was young, what he valued most was electronic parts that could be used to make an automatic sling shot or a battery operated space ship. So, although it appeared that Tim’s box was filled with discarded wires and transistors, switches and dials, it was in fact, filled with the things dreams were made of! Isn’t that, after all, what should be inside every child’s treasure box?

And, of course, it must be asked… what did you keep in your box? 
 

Edit: Tim pointed out that I never mentioned what I kept in a box. I kept the key to diary, a hair that fallen onto the lapel of my grandfather's burial suit, (okay, maybe a little morbid, but I was raised Catholic, and relics, like hairs and bone spliters, were big!) the bi-laws to a secret club I belonged to, and a letter I had gotten from Paul McCartney. (Okay, maybe his secretary, but when I was in 4th grade I assumed it was from Paul himself!)

As I grew up, I continued to have treasure boxes. And then, as a mother, I had a special tin. One day I was showing the contents of the tin to Tim. When I removed the lid, there was a very unusual smell. The contents included the first pair of glasses my pre 1 year old son wore, a hefty braid cut from my daughters hair, someone's retainer, about 30 baby teeth, 1 shriveled ambilical cord, and 1 ear tube.

Me: Yikes. This smells funky. I think this stuff is decaying. What am I going to do. I can't throw this stuff away.

Tim: You don't have to. Just put the top on it and never open it again.

He's so understanding! And so I did just that. I can't bring myself to throw its contents away, although its a rather macabre collection of paraphernalia, but I treasure what each of the items represents. So despite that fact that it needs to remain hermetically sealed, I know its contents marks major events in my children's lives. A pretty priceless treasure!  

Glimpses of an Elephant

There is an old Indian parable about 5 blind men and an elephant. The story goes that each man got to touch only one part of the animal. One man felt his tusk, one his trunk, one an ear, one his side, and one unfortunate soul, his tail. They were then brought together to give their interpretation of the elephant. As you can well imagine, their perceptions were drastically different. As in all parables, the purpose of the story was didactic…to teach the listeners a lesson. And what lesson can we surmise? I think there is a twofold message in this tale. First, each person comes to a situation from a different perspective. For that reason, we should be tolerant and respectful when other people’s values and insights differ from those of our own. And the second, we need to be careful when we try to assess a situation. Frequently, we are not given the complete picture…only snippets…which can lead from slightly to radically skewed assessments of the truth. Our news media is often guilty of this, sharing bits and pieces of a reality to provide a picture that they wish to convey. To get an accurate picture it is always a good idea to gather information from a variety of sources before forming our own opinions.

This certainly is one of my concerns with the internet, blogging in particular. Don’t get me wrong, I love the blogging world. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be a part of it. But there is a phenomena that I have observed that has given me cause for concern, and that is our propensity to bestow godlike qualities on some of the authors. And this really becomes problematic when we hold ourselves up juxtaposition to these demigods, and we compare our situation to theirs.

Young mothers, often functioning with sleep deprivation and low self-esteem (did I ever really fit in a size 6 and when is the last time I could actually see the wall-to-wall carpeting in the family room), are very susceptible to this behavior. Moms looking for insight and suggestions or just 15 leisurely minutes to themselves, surf the net and stumble open blogs being written by Mount Olympia moms. These women can do everything! They grow organic veggies, make 3 nutritious and preservative free meals a day, home school their brood, make all their children’s clothes and have abodes right out of House Beautiful. There are idyllic pics of their offspring running barefoot through sun dappled meadows, with heads thrown back in pure glee. Oh, and their husbands…their husbands are their own private cheerleading squad, praising their accomplishments, and orchestrating romantic outings. And if all of this wasn’t enough to fill a 48 hour day, they find the time, each and every day, to document their lives on camera, and write enthralling blogs that chronicle their Utopian existence.

So why do so many young mothers flock to these sites? Logically, it would seem that only slightly masochistic women would subject their egos to this type of scrutiny!  I’ve decided, when it comes right down to it, these blogs are so popular because they have become our modern day Harlequin Romances. Their blogs are a fantasy. In the back of our minds I think most of us know things can’t be as perfect as it seems, but it’s nice to dream!

Believe me, I don’t think any of these women that write these blogs are being deceitful, but they are only showing you part of the elephant. Just remember, all elephants have a butt! These women get yeast infections and lose their tempers, their children have meltdowns in the grocery store checkout line and flush wooden toys down the toilet, their mother-in-laws chide them for their childrearing practices and untidy houses, and their husbands need to work late and occasionally forget an anniversary! Their lives are not perfect. The internet is, after all, a parody of the real world, not a world in and of itself. All writers give you a glimpse of an elephant, not a photo of the whole beast. Trust me, where there’s a head, there’s a tail!

Wake Up Call

We had just gotten the last of our youngest son's belongings unloaded in his dorm room. Tim and I stood in the hall watching the orderly chaos as people went in and out, laden with what had finally been deemed necessities for campus survival. A couple of student guides, upper classmen that volunteered to help freshmen move in, were leaning against a wall within earshot of us. One collegian was recounting a story to the other.

Seems a mother of a new freshman had approached her with an unusual request. She wanted to make arrangements to have someone wake her son each morning.

"He has never been able to wake up on his own. I have to go into his room 2 or 3 times every morning before I can get him out of bed. If I can't find someone to get him up, he'll never make it to class." The stupefied guide informed her that there was no "wake up call" service on campus, and suggested she purchase a very loud alarm clock.

The woman had an incredulous look on her face. "But what happens if he doesn't get up?"

"Well", quipped the co-ed, "I guess he fails."

The woman called the young lady discourteous and rude. In a huff she set out to find someone that could help her. The 2 guides were aghast at the degree some parents coddled their children, and seriously questioned the somnolent offspring's ability to perform the most rudimentary hygienic rituals. "Without Mommy here to wipe his butt, I doubt he'll make it," they both agreed.

Now, being fair, I don't know the full story. Perhaps this young man suffered from a Rip Van Winkle disorder that interfered with the most basic of human skills...waking up. But, I'm willing to bet this probably wasn't the only life skill that eluded him, and sooner than later he would have to face a fundamental astronomical truth...the world did not revolve around him. In an earnest effort to take care of her child, this mother had unwittingly set her son up for failure.

Preparing our children to succeed in "the real world" must begin before they actually enter the real world. Here in lies the most basic of parental dichotomies...to truly help our children, sometimes we have to, well...not help.

As parents we are often frustrated by a 2 year old's desire to do something for themselves. Allowing a toddler to feed or dress themselves often creates more work for us, but it is an important stage to encourage and reward. A couple of weeks ago when my granddaughter pulled out 32 puzzles and mixed the pieces together to create a homogenized heap, she very confidently claimed she could restore order by herself. When we started to pick up puzzle pieces she quickly thwarted us with an outstretched hand and said, "No, Pixie do." Of course she did not have the dexterity or stamina to handle this task herself...but you have to admire her gumption! Teaching our children to take care of themselves as adults begins here and now. How we treat their efforts and reward their successes establishes a template for future accomplishments.

As children get older they may not be quite as enthusiastic about fending for themselves. Things like bathing, keeping their room clean and doing their homework can create confrontations of biblical proportions! Most teens are not elated by the prospect of doing dishes or laundry or vacuuming or getting a job, but if we are truly going to prepare our children to be successful as adults, it is imperative that first we teach and then expect a level of responsibility in keeping with their developmental abilities. A 2 year old can put away the puzzle she is playing with. A 6 year old can make his bed. A 10 year old can learn to load the dishwasher. A 14 year old can do a load of laundry. And an 18 year old definitely can use an alarm clock!

It behooves us as parents to begin teaching our children the "how tos" necessary to succeed as independent adults early. Although it may feel like meeting all our children's needs is synonymous with being a good parent, being a great parent involves learning to discern between what we should be doing for them, and what they should be doing for themselves!