Posted in Parenting

Big Little Things

It is difficult to focus on anything when I am involuntarily wearing a thirty-pound toddler necklace. The banalities of stay-at-home parenthood — simply making it through the day — tend to overshadow the goal of raising the next generation of leaders.

I get bogged down and discouraged because I have to vacuum up cereal several times a day, referee sibling contentions, help three kids with homework simultaneously, and do my own class work. The cycle is never ending.

We took the Princess and the Monster on our ordinary mission Saturday to buy khakis, training pants & wipes, and shoes for me. My husband had jokes about how utterly unstylish my current footwear is. Of course, I am always the last one to get new clothes and shoes because we are blessed with so many children 🙂 He had just helped me decide on a pair of flats when a young man approached us.

This young man named Cole prayed with us and spoke words of insight about our two children who were present. It was an unusual encounter, but I was encouraged. Ever since that day, I have been hearing messages about the importance of raising children.

I have always been good with children. I began babysitting when I was eleven years old. I volunteered in the nursery at church as a teenager. I worked at a children’s shoe store for years. I just wasn’t sure I wanted any children of my own. Thinking about my own childhood kept me from wanting to take the chance that someone would hurt my children.

Then I met my husband, who already had a son and a daughter. When he obtained custody of his son, we decided that I would stop working and prepare him for kindergarten. My mother-in-law bought him a workbook with a CD ROM and we got down to business. Number One was totally prepared for kindergarten. In fact, he didn’t learn anything new until the second semester. By then, I was well into the second trimester of my pregnancy with The Genius.

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This is the first time in eight years that I have not had one child in training pants and one in diapers. I am going to miss the feeling of tiny appendages assaulting my internal organs while I am trying to sleep. The carrying season is over for me, but the nurturing season is in full swing. I was blessed to have Number One to set the example of how to treat younger siblings. He has instilled in all his siblings the legacy of loving and valuing one other. I have not had to deal with jealousy or fear that they would harm each other. With each new addition, they have extended their love.

Parenthood is a privilege and a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Our children have been entrusted to us for a short time. They are not pawns. They are not leverage. They are not dolls. They are small people with intellect, emotion, and will. They are priceless. So be careful with them.

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Posted in Life, Parenting

Shenanigans

Sometimes it takes a rough day (or week/month/year) to help me appreciate the little things. There is just something about going through hard times that makes me more sensitive to the beauty in the world. The tight squeeze my son greets me with when I wake him in the morning. The stars still visible opposite the sunrise. A smile and “good morning” from a stranger.

I had no idea that I would come to treasure the memories of my children’s various shenanigans. Those of you who have miniature clones of yourselves know (or will soon find out) that children should come equipped with DEFCON warning systems. None of my children are “bad” per se, but they have made life more interesting – some more than others. I mean, Ricochet scaled the big kid rock wall like a ninja at the park when he wasn’t even two years old. When I sat down to make a list, The Genius and The Monster had the longest toddler rap sheets in our household.

wp-1491026013919.jpgThe Genius had a huge afro by the time he was three months old. He was notorious for using his hair as a napkin. I had to shampoo spaghetti, petroleum jelly, and deodorant out of his hair. When The Genius was a bit more than eighteen months old, I was pregnant with Ricochet. The morning sickness was terrible. Because our eldest son’s room was right next to the bathroom, I would block his doorway with a safety gate and lie across his bed all day while The Genius played with toys and watched DVDs. One day, I went to the kitchen to get The Genius some lunch. Upon my return, a distinct odor assaulted me before I even rounded the corner. This toddler had distributed his diaper contents throughout the room. It was in the carpet, on the bunk beds, on the wall, and (of course!) all up in his hair. Usually, a boy gets his first haircut at two years old. Well, my husband decided that eighteen months was good enough.

The Monster is certainly the busiest child we have had. This boy is fearless. He was trying to climb stairs before he could even walk. He regularly climbed onto our bistro dining table. The other children would often scream, “He’s on the table AGAIN!”. I once discovered him squatting on the kitchen counter, playing in the oil in the deep fryer as if it were water. I had to bathe him with dishwashing liquid to degrease him. Now that he has grown a bit, he drops his shoulder and tackles his brothers like a professional linebacker. He is also our resident demolitions expert. He cannot stand to see a tidy room. You know where he has been because you can follow his trail. The Monster packs a lot of shenanigans into a day.wp-1491026036072.jpg

I have been having a trying month, but I have become aware of how blessed I am to have happy, healthy, curious children to love and clean up after. Plus, I have loads of blackmail material.

Posted in Life

By the Power of…

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

My power would be the ability to generate and manipulate energy. I’d supercharge myself with lightning during storms. I envision myself being able to create spheres of energy in the palms of my hands, generate protective force fields, and produce tiny electrical charges by rubbing my fingers together.  I would probably not be a hero. I’d be a vigilante. A petty vigilante. Customer service representative with a bad attitude and a smart mouth? ZAP! Class bully tripping my son in the hallway? ZAP! ZAP! Driver behind me who is all up in my back seat because I’m going the customary seven miles over the speed limit and he wants to push me to go even faster? Hit my brakes and ZAP! ZAP! ZAP! Nothing lethal. Just a little jolt to make them think twice next time.

Unfortunately – but probably fortunately, I do not have this ability. When I am wronged, I do not have the option to zap the wrongdoer. I can only choose whether to forgive. Dr. Tony Evans addressed the issue of forgiveness in such a way that I could not ignore his message. According to Dr. Evans, to see if you have forgiven someone you must ask yourself if you are still seeking revenge.

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My answer in most cases is that I am not. In one case, I admit that although I am not actively seeking revenge, I am simultaneously anticipating the opportunity to exact revenge and awaiting news that someone else has done the dirty work for me.

Most of the time, I don’t even think about it. Yet there are times when I am haunted by what happened and I must make a conscious effort to choose forgiveness. I know that I cannot function with the weight of the past crushing my chest: the anger, frustration, feelings of betrayal, hopelessness, insecurity… So I decide to forgive in that moment. As soon as those heavy thoughts barrel their way through my mind, I wrestle them into submission.

I may never receive an apology. Nevertheless, I can choose to forgive — and be at peace.

Posted in Life, Parenting

Bootprints

I get up early to walk two of our children to their bus stop. Our teenage son usually walks ahead of me and The Princess because her five-year-old legs can’t keep up. It’s okay. I cherish those few minutes alone with my daughter. Sometimes she talks to me, telling me what she knows about the moon and the stars we see above us. In autumn, I hold her hand so she can crunch the fallen leaves under her feet. When it rains, she is delighted to carry her own umbrella and tap dance around the puddles.

Not that it is winter, we walk in the dark. The skies are gray and the sidewalk is under a blanket of snow. The temperature has plummeted and we dress accordingly. The snow pants The Princess wears over her school clothes are light but bulky. She waddles like a penguin, but she makes it to the bus stop.fog-79456

However, winter being winter, the pleasant walks are less frequent. This morning, we awoke to a couple extra inches of snow. It isn’t a big deal to me or my teen, but the snow is like quicksand to The Princess’s five-year-old legs. She put on her backpack and hopped onto my back before we even left the house. When we stepped outside, the wind whipped the falling snowflakes so that they felt like minute shurikens slashing my cheeks. My hood blew off my head several times as we walked. The Princess put it back up as she huddled against my back, shielding her face from the wind.

Our walk today reminded me of Footprints in the Sand by Mary Stevenson. We walk with our Father through the seasons of our lives. Sometimes we hold His hand, letting Him guide us and trusting that He knows where He is going. Other times, we run off on our own – panicking when we realize how lost we are. Then there are days like today, when the snow is deep and the cold wind slaps us in the face with freezing rain. We clutch His hand, but we struggle to keep up. So He hoists us onto his back, shielding us from the brunt of the weather and carrying us (plus whatever we have crammed into our backpacks).

“You are my hiding place and my shield”

Psalm 119:114a (NASB)

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Posted in Life

Conservatory

The first thing we learn about plants is that they require certain things in order to grow – air, water, light, and space. The same is true for people.

I completed a developmental psychology course this past semester which prompted a great deal of reflection. I came to a better understanding of myself and how I got where I am now.

The most significant realization I had is that there are people whose support was critical to my well-being.  I like to think of them as horticulturists – the devoted professional gardeners who helped coax beautiful things from the soil.bird-of-paradise-flower-1359718 My grandmother did a lot of planting and watering. She kept me while my mother worked. She taught me to read, write, and mind my manners. She also made me feel valued, accepted, and secure. She was always patient with me as I “helped” her in the kitchen – until I reported that I couldn’t find something she sent me in the basement to retrieve. “If I go down there and find it where I told you it was…”

My aunt was water and sunshine in my childhood, then became a landscaper in my adulthood. I can always trust that she will see the big picture, tell me the truth, and help me rearrange things appropriately.

the-enid-a-haupt-conservatory-at-ny-botanical-garden-bronxThere have been many others who have taken significant time to cultivate life in my conservatory: The Smith/Walker/Shaws, the Maidens, the Burkes, the Thompsons, the Washington/Turners, the Chamblesses, the Millers, the Crowders, the Stranges, the Buffords, and my friends from PBC, CBBC, NCCA, OCA, and Malone.

When I married my husband, I gained a new family full of people who have enriched my life and given my children their first friends – dozens of cousins. Although we have experienced highs and lows, and he has both driven me crazy and kept me sane, my husband is my favorite person.

Growth is a continual process. I am blessed to have friends I met decades ago, friends I met through work, and a new group of sisters who all contribute to the beauty in my garden.

 

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

Nightmare

I did not sleep well at all last night. In addition to the eight extra thrashing, grasping limbs I normally contend with, I had a frightening dream that left me clutching my children for dear life. I dreamt that I went to work after some sort of function and had to change in the bathroom. Someone followed me and tried to rape me. I fought him off using the limited strange weapons in the room (Lysol spray, plunger, hangers, etc.) while screaming for help from my coworkers. Fortunately, in the dream, my husband and others heard me and came to my rescue.

Those of you who know me or who have read my previous blog, It’s Complicated, know that I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and rape. I have never had a dream like this in my entire life. All of the helplessness and terror came flooding back.

When I was in college, I attended one support group meeting. I was so ashamed of my story that I lied to the group by inventing a random rapist. I knew my attacker very well. He was married to my mother and had dropped me off to college.

I don’t usually think about the details anymore. However, I recently read a book in which handthe female protagonist was raped. Hello, trigger. All of the emotions washed over me like a tsunami: outrage, fear, anger, hurt, shame, disgust, hopelessness. Then, someone shared an article about rape culture in one of my social media groups. It seems that I just cannot escape this topic.

Someone needs this today. It is time to stop wallowing in the darkness. I know it is overwhelming. I know that some days simply walking out of (or into) your house gives you a panic attack. There are places and people you avoid. You feel like you are hovering a few feet above yourself, watching your body go through the motions. Life is drastically different. No one is trustworthy. Everyone is suspicious and has ulterior motives. I have days like that, too.

It is time to be your own light. The violation is not your fault. You have nothing to be ashamed of. The only thing you are responsible for is your journey to healing. It is a process. Do not allow the violator to win. Shine your light, even if it is a nightlight or a penlight. Know that you are not alone. There are a lot of us striking matches and shaking temperamental flashlights to dispel the darkness.

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, For You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8

“For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

“He delivers me from my enemies; Surely You lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent man.” Psalm 18:48

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.” Psalm 23:4

Posted in Life, Uncategorized

The (Too Much!) Information Age

Once you reach a certain age, the adults in my family stop censoring themselves around you. You become privy to all sorts of information that makes you question everything about the family that you hold dear. A tsunami of hearsay, opinion, and conjecture devastates the shores of your once-peaceful island paradise. Then, after being blindsided by it all, you are expected to jump right in with your own suppositions. You see everyone in a bizarre new light. After two decades of “staying in a child’s place”, you find out what’s REALLY going on.

If you think that’s traumatic, just wait until you get married and/or have children. Creating a family of your own is a written invitation to an oversharing soiree. You hear stories about yourself, your siblings, your parents and their siblings, and your grandparents that are not the PG stories you know and love. You are confronted with the fact that your mom is much more than just your mom. She is a daughter, a wife, a niece, a sister, a friend, and most importantly she is herself.

Too often, we neatly categorize people according to their relationship to us. We don’t consider that mom is an individual with thoughts and feelings who had a life before we existed. Old photo albums reveal that Gigi wore stylish wigs, miniskirts and hot pants, and perfected the smoky cat eye (true story!). It blows our minds when we discover that our loved ones operate in capacities other than the position they hold in our lives.

Although I’ve repeatedly voiced my dismay concerning the revelation of certain aspects of people I once held in high esteem, I am grateful for the clarity it has given me. Humans are flawed – each and every one of us. We all have elements in our stories that are unsavory and downright scandalous, but life is about growth. We must cut each other some slack while absorbing the morals of each story, even if we think that auntie is telling us way more than we want to hear.