I was sixteen years old and spending the afternoon at the mall with my parents and grandparents. I wasn’t one of those kids that was embarrassed to be the youngest in the group. (By thirty years!)
We window shopped, chatted, and I probably held hands at some point with each of my grandparents.
We ate lunch at my grandma and grandpa’s favorite place, Taco Time. We were relaxing on the benches next to the food court when my grandma decided to walk over to the bakery across the wide hall and get some cinnamon rolls.
She would have been in her late 70’s. I am sure she had on solid colored pleated polyester pants in a pretty pastel with a coordinating button up top with a catchy pattern, topped with a cardigan. I don’t remember every detail, but I know she had on a long necklace, probably beaded, and matching clip-on earrings, because she always did. Her hair and makeup would have looked perfect. She would have had on comfortable, if not bulky, walking shoes with crisp white anklet socks and a medium sized purse with short straps slung over one arm.
Grandpa put his arm around me and gazed ardently at grandma as she walked across the hall and stood in line.
“Isn’t she beautiful,” he whispered.
I don’t think he saw the pastel, the L’Oreal, or the Aqua Net covered curls. He didn’t notice if the purse was alligator skin or vinyl. The necklace was just one of many he had given her.
She turned to wave and gave us one of her magnetic smiles.
The kids got new rollerblades last weekend. They have been saving their money and talking about it for weeks. Brett and I decided to kick in the remainder of cash they needed to ease the disappointment of a cancelled trip to Utah.
We laid out the rollerblades and padding and explained each piece of equipment. We showed them how to put everything on and make sure it was secure. I drilled it into their fragile little heads how much trouble they would be in if I caught them skating without their pads, and most importantly, their helmets. I told them all the ways they could get hurt if they forgot to take the safety measures that they were being taught.
Then we took off. I had a blast skating with them even though I hadn’t worn my rollerblades in years.
We skated each of the next few days and I was feeling good about my balance and proud that I hadn’t fallen once despite being out of practice.
When Kai slammed into me from behind with his bike causing me to flip up and back onto the pavement, landing on the back of my head, I thought, “You idiot.”
After all my nagging to the kids about pads and helmets I thought I was okay with just my wrist guards and knee pads because I “knew how to fall”.
After laying stunned in the road for a couple of minutes and thinking, “What have I done?” I shakily got up and took Kai in the house.
The kids hadn’t been skating long and they were doing so well and I knew they would be disappointed if we stopped so I put my helmet on and went back out. My head was still numb and I skated slowly around with them for a few minutes until I realized I felt like I needed to throw up. I didn’t, but it made me realize it was time to go lay down.
I spent the next 21 of 24 hours in bed with a horrendous headache and feeling exhausted and thinking how lucky I was that it wasn’t worse.
As a mom of four I should have realized sooner that it was just as important for me to protect myself (their mother) as it was for me to make sure they were protected. I have a responsibility to them to keep myself as safe and healthy as I am trying to keep them.
I am sure as the headache and nausea fade over the next few days it will give me ample time for me to think about how hypocritical my actions were to my kids.
The broken laptop was the last straw for me tonight.
I had been wanting a laptop for a long time and was kindly given an older one a few weeks ago that did everything I needed it to. I could read my email and friend’s blogs as I settled in for bed, or write in my journal or look up “sandboxes” on Craigslist. It was perfect!
I walked into my bedroom tonight and Kai said, “look Mommy!” and pointed to the laptop with several buttons from the keyboard scattered around the room.
Brett tinkered with it for nearly an hour and determined that too many pieces were snapped off and not a single key could be replaced. We are still not sure if it can be repaired or used again.
I smoldered at the dinner table while I thought about the computer. I also thought about the pen that Kai had snapped in half yesterday, dumping half of the ink on my carpet and the other half on my favorite quilt.
I could not get the kids in bed fast enough and then I aggressively cleaned my kitchen in a huff. It didn’t make me feel better.
As I walked through the living room on the way downstairs I stopped at the piano. When I really need to unwind or let off some steam, pounding it out on the piano is just what I need.
I didn’t have anything in mind to play so I reached into one of my bags stuffed with music and pulled out a book. I threw it up on the piano and flipped it open to one of the songs I was familiar with. As I started to play I felt the tension leaving, but the sadness building. It took me a minute to realize that I was playing a song that I played years ago at the funeral for a baby girl. The mother was the little sister of a friend of mine and it was her second child and her second funeral as a mother. It was also the last child they would have because of their fear of burying another baby. I don’t remember all of the details, but because of an incompatibility genetically, their chances of having a baby that did not get terminally sick were very low. I remember keeping it together as I viewed their beautiful baby girl in her coffin, as I played “Love One Another” as the family entered the chapel, as I played “In the Arms of His Love” as a special number, and as I played, “Families Can Be Together Forever” as the coffin was carried to the hearse. As soon as the chapel doors shut behind the last family member I collapsed into tears.
I went straight home and scooped up my three babies and smothered them in kisses.
I also smothered Kai in kisses tonight as I went to check on him a couple of hours after putting him to bed. He had awakened and Lincoln had just finished reading to him. He was finally drowsy again and starting to drift off to sleep. He gave me a tired half-smile and wrapped his arms around my neck and kissed my cheek.
“I love you Kai,” I said.
“Yuh you too,” he softly replied.
I thank a loving Heavenly Father for guiding me to pull out my old piano book tonight so that I could be reminded of the blessings in my life. Carpet, quilts, and computers are temporary. I would give them all up in a heartbeat for the promise of endless more nights of hugs, kisses, and “I yuh you too”’s.
“You probably noticed that I got new glasses,” my kindergartner said to a boy from her class.
We had joined a family in town for a Memorial Day barbecue and I couldn’t help but notice my daughter’s attempts to catch the eye of her classmate.
“Mmmm, sure,” he replied without turning his head to see new glasses that she was referring to. He couldn’t have been less interested.
I saw disappointment briefly flash across her face before she shrugged and skipped away to find someone else to show her new frames to.
I wanted to take the little boy’s hand and turn him around and point to her glasses and say, “See! See how cute they are? Don’t they frame her eyes so beautifully and bring out the natural blush color in her cheeks? Can’t you see that?!”
I cared more than she did. I didn’t want her to feel hurt or rejection, until I realized…she didn’t. She had moved on. She was now singing and twirling in the other corner of the yard.
How many times have I told my children, “don’t worry what anyone else thinks!”? Too many. I am now wondering if caring what others think is something kids learn from adults.
Next time someone hurts my feelings I am going to try shrugging, smiling, and skipping off. I think it will feel great!
I made a new goal today. My goal is to start cussing more.
Yes, you read that right.
I realized today that my inner me and my outer me are a little out of sync. My inner me cusses like a sailor and my outer me cringes at the utterance of most swear words.
My internal voice has had the vocabulary of a Hell’s Angel since my early teenage years, but rarely does it break free and slide past my lips. I am sure most (with the exception of a couple of friends from my middle school years) would be surprised by this. Even my husband will be surprised by this.
Things are about to change, damnit!
I have good intentions with this resolve. I figure if I release a little bit of the steam once in awhile it won’t build up to an onslaught of profanity worthy of a college football tailgate party inside my head.
The other day, In a moment of extreme frustration, I let a word slip (twice! Oops.) that I abhor. It is one I have made a major stink about when Brett has let it fly so he seemed more than a little stunned when it flew out of my mouth. And then out it flew again. It was probably the first time he heard me use it. (If only he had known how common it was inside my head, he may have recovered his speech quicker!)
So here I go. My little experiment might result in an even more abject inner dialogue, but “Hear! Hear!” for good intentions!
The baby was asleep in his car seat so I read in the front seat of our van while the kids played on the play structure that was about thirty feet away from where I sat. I had the windows rolled down so I could hear them squealing and laughing as they played.
I glanced up from time to time to see to see the kids chasing up the stairs or racing down the slides. Their heads bobbed in and out of the various tunnels and tubes.
One time I looked up to watch them playing hide and seek with a young boy and girl who had arrived with their mother. I waved to the mom to show her that I was close by and watching them.
The next time I looked up I saw an old man standing at the corner of the park with his little dog.
A few minutes later he was walking very slowly down the sidewalk next to the playground. His dog running circles around him as he puttered along.
Then he was sitting on the park bench just a few feet away from my children.
His sweats were rolled up high above his ankles and knee socks were scrunched down, leaving a few inches of skin peeking out between them. He had a fanny pack on over an oversized Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. The old golf cap was pulled low and silver hair was poking out the back.
I didn’t look back down, but watched him as he watched the children play. I had an uneasy feeling. He hadn’t taken his eyes off my kids since I saw him standing at the corner. What was this man doing at a playground without children or grandchildren with him?
I had just read an article the week before about a convicted child molester who had been discovered hanging out at a city pool watching the children. Possibly looking for his next victim. He had gone day after day and sat on a bench watching until finally one of the regulars got concerned and had him checked out, thank goodness.
I got out of the car and walked a little closer as one of my children got close enough to him to ask him about his dog.
“Oh, she is friendly. You can pet her.” a shaky high-pitched voice responded.
It wasn’t an old man. It was a woman.
My heart instantly softened and my mind was filled with pictures of a lonely widow who came to the park to watch the kids play as she thought of the years she had raised her own children.
I stepped back to my van, still in listening distance of the conversation. My other two children had joined them by this time and she was directing them on how her dog liked to be scratched behind the ears.
I felt shame.
I don’t like to misjudge people and I don’t like to jump to conclusions. It made me wonder why I had felt so alarmed when I saw this person near my children. I am sure the article I read had something to do with it, but it didn’t make me feel any better. It shouldn’t have mattered whether it was a man or woman watching the kids, but for some reason my reaction was different as my perspective changed.
This happened last summer and I still think about it. How often do I misjudge others? What can I do to keep my children safe, without letting my worry for them interfere with a realistic view of the world and those around me?
As a parent it is my responsibility to figure out the balance between guarding and protecting my children and letting them discover their surroundings and develop who they really are.
I am a little bit better at it now than I was last summer.
I owe many of you an apology. I have judged you. When I have heard you complain about how hard your toddler is I have inwardly chuckled and thought to myself, “I’ve had three of them and they are not that hard.”
I have had babies and toddlers who wouldn’t sleep. I have had whiners, criers, and sassers.
But my first three obeyed. Almost always. They might have complained when I put them down for a nap, but they napped.
They might not have liked it when I told them they couldn’t eat a cookie before dinner, but they didn’t do it.
If they wrote on a wall it didn’t happen again. If they used scissors on something that wasn’t meant to be cut I knew that there wouldn’t be a repeat.
If I really needed (or wanted) a nap I could turn on a movie and lay on the couch and they would watch the movie while I snoozed and not get into things they were not supposed to get into.
#4 has taken all of my parenting knowledge, skills, and intuition and wadded it up in a ball, spit on it, stomped on it, peed on it, put it in the garbage, doused it with gasoline and threw a match on it.
This week he has:
Poured olive oil into my tub of brown sugar.
Combined the two half used bottles of ranch dressing, resulting in a slimy white kitchen floor.
Dug up my basket of grass that was my pretty spring table centerpiece.
Snuck out of the house to play in the mud 4 times.
Pulled all the books off the bookshelf in his room. (okay, they all did this at his age)
Pulled a chair to the open fridge to pull things off the top shelf.
Made each of his siblings cry.
Made me cry.
Made me pray.
Cut his lip.
Bruised his forehead.
Wore his sisters slippers out in the mud.
Went through four changes of clothes.
…..oh wait, did I say this week?! No. That was just today. If I include the rest of the week:
Tried to microwave a bottle of bubbles.
Unplanted my wheat grass seeds from three pots and replanted them into all the dirty cups that were in the sink.
Sprinkled baby powder all over his room while he was supposed to be napping. We had to wash all the bedding from two beds and the clothing from three drawers and wipe every surface because he also sprinkled it in the fan that was ON.
Tried to wash his “soft bear” in the washing machine. Thank goodness I found him before he tried to add the liquid soap that he had just climbed up to get off the shelf.
Sprayed and emptied a full bottle of cleanser from our Swifter onto the kitchen floor.
Snuck out of bed at 11pm to watch “Leave It To Beaver”. His new favorite.
Wrote on the carpet with a purple marker.
Wrote all over his bedroom wall and door with a pencil.
Tried to clean up the pencil on his wall with a whole container of wet wipes.
Emptied a bottle of grape seed oil on the bathroom floor.
Made his siblings cry.
Made me cry.
Made me pray.
…I know there is more! I KNOW there is!
This little guy has challenged me in ways I didn’t know possible.
BUT, he also:
Gives me endless hugs and kisses.
Calls my name first every time he wakes up.
Helps me (it is the thought that counts, right?)
Sneaks into my bed almost every morning when the sun comes up and lets me cuddle and kiss him while he falls back to sleep.
Makes me laugh.
Makes my kids and husband laugh.
Smiles at me.
Teaches me patience.
Comforts me if I cry.
I understand now. I will not judge you mother’s of two year olds any more.
I get it!
I am thankful every day for this mischievous stinker and I am a blessed to be his mother.
I rediscover the website bemboszoo every few months. The website is based on this book. The author and illustrator, Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, draws an animal for each letter of the alphabet, using the letters of the animal’s name to form the picture. The kids and I love to guess what each animal is going to be before we click on the letter. Even though we have looked at the site many times we still never get them all right.
I don’t have the book yet, as I just found out that there IS a book. Guess what is next on my Amazon shopping list?!
I was more tired than usual tonight as I got the kids a snack and encouraged them through their bedtime routine. I didn’t dare sit down because I knew I would not want to get up.
After cleaning the kitchen, prompting the kids to brush their teeth, take care of their dirty clothes, pick up their rooms, and say their prayers, I hurriedly tucked them into their beds and went downstairs to collapse into my computer chair to work on the school newsletter that was due…wishing I could go to bed instead.
Fifteen minutes later I heard footsteps coming down the stairs and I hollered, “get to bed!” before I even saw a face or heard a voice.
Luca slowly came around the corner and plopped down in the chair next to me.
“My legs are really itchy.”
I looked at her bare shins and could see the dry skin that is common for her this time of year.
“Go upstairs. There is some cream in the bathroom. Just rub it all over your legs” I told her, turning back to my computer.
“I want you to do it. I don’t do it very good.”
I reminded her how tired I was and that tonight I really needed her to do it herself.
“But I don’t even know what cream to use.” (she does)
Finally, after many more excuses, I told her to go up and get it and bring it down to me and I would put it on for her. I could feel my frustration and the tone of my voice rising. I was not handling fatigue well.
When she came down empty handed, claiming she couldn’t find it when I knew it was right on the shelf where I had told her to look, I finally threw my arms up in the air with a look of disgust and told her I would go get it myself.
As I walked up the stairs I was reminded of the book The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. The story is about a young boy, Rob, who lives with his single father in a small motel, where his father is the maintenance man. There is a lot to the story, but the part I love is the way the father lovingly massaged cream onto Rob’s red itchy legs every night. They don’t talk much and have a generally distant relationship, but this was a service his father performed day in and day out without complaint and it was enough to let his son know what he meant to him, despite his own loneliness, lack of communication or parenting skills.
I felt ashamed when I thought of this story that had touched me. By the time I made it to the bathroom to retrieve the cream that was not were I told Luca to look, my attitude about the short walk upstairs to help my daughter had changed.
She sat on the lid of the toilet as I sat on the floor in front of her and slowly rubbed the cream onto her itchy legs.
I wish I had remembered the story fifteen minutes earlier, but I think Luca accepted my unspoken apology as she hugged me, kissed me on the cheek, and then skipped back to her bed.