Tuesday, December 23, 2008
If I decorate my house perfectly with lovely plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights, and shiny glass balls, but do not show love to my family - I’m just another decorator.
If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals, and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family - I’m just another cook.
If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family - It profits me nothing.
If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.
Love stops the cooking to hug the child.
Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.
Love is kind, though harried and tired.
Love doesn’t envy another home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.
Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way.
Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.
Love never fails. Video games will break; pearl necklaces will be lost; golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.
But with it's coming, everything seemed to change.
The orderly, peaceful daily living in the home ceased; afternoon naps became irregular as the household buzzed with cookie making, housecleaning, shopping trips, and parcel wrapping. Mother had little time for her blue-eyed boy and was often impatient with him. There was practicing on this song and drilling on that "piece". There were parties, entertainments, a Santa Claus who dispensed gifts to "good little children", and late hours to bed. When Christmas night arrived, there was an overstimulated, weary, confused little boy, whose blue-eyed sparkle had disappeared.
Is this Christmas?
Is this what we covet for our children at Christmas Time?
Too often the picture described above is true to our observances in our homes, schools, and churches. The little child's Christmas experience should be of entirely different character. It should be simple and unhurried. He should have an opportunity to share something that is really his own to give and to think of the happiness of others, as well as his own desires. Times of quiet when his father or mother read to him the Christmas stories, chances to listen to beautiful Christmas music and to sing about Christmas and the Christ Child, will all nurture the child's spirit and make Christmas a holy time for him.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Here we are again, Lord. Their backpacks are loaded and their faces are scrubbed and their lunch accounts are full.
And I know you'll walk with them, Lord. You always do. But a mom still has to ask.
Will You walk with them? Will You whisper to them what they need to hear, when I'm not there to whisper it?
Will You please, Oh please, cover their school with the protection only You can give, and will You keep harm far away?
Will You make their minds strong and ready to learn? Will You help them understand that hard work honors the One who created them?
Will You guide their teachers, giving them patience and wisdom and creativity and more patience? Will You bless them for their efforts?
Will You love all those children there, the ones whose lunch accounts aren't full, the ones who feel alone? Will You teach my children to be kind and unselfish and to love those who are different from them?
Will You point them back toward home just as soon as you can?
Lord, I give them to you today and everyday, trusting them to Your care.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Each kid will play two sports and either take music or dance classes.
There is no fast food.
Each man must take care of his 3 kids; keep his assigned house clean, correct all homework, and complete science projects, cook, do laundry, and pay a list of 'pretend' bills with not enough money.
In addition, each man will have to budget in money for groceries each week.
Each man must remember the birthdays of all their friends and relatives, and send cards out on time--no emailing.
Each man must also take each child to a doctor's appointment, a dentist appointment and a haircut appointment.
He must make one unscheduled and inconvenient visit per child to the Urgent Care.
He must also make cookies or cupcakes for a social function.
Each man will be responsible for decorating his own assigned house, planting flowers outside and keeping it presentable at all times.
The men will only have access to television when the kids are asleep and all chores are done.
The men must shave their legs, wear makeup daily, adorn themselves with jewelry, wear uncomfortable yet stylish shoes, keep fingernails polished and eyebrows groomed.
During one of the six weeks, the men will have to endure severe abdominal cramps, back aches, and have extreme, unexplained mood swings but never once complain or slow down from other duties.
They must attend weekly school meetings, church, and find time at least once to spend the afternoon at the park or a similar setting.
They will need to read a book to the kids each night and in the morning, feed them, dress them, brush their teeth and comb their hair by 7:00 am.
A test will be given at the end of the six weeks, and each father will be required to know all of the following information: each child's birthday, height, weight, shoe size, clothes size and doctor's name. Also the child's weight at birth, length, time of birth, and length of labor, each child's favorite color, middle name, favorite snack, favorite song, favorite drink, favorite toy, biggest fear and what they want to be when they grow up.
The kids vote them off the island based on performance. The last man wins only if...he still has enough energy to be intimate with his spouse at a moment's notice.
If the last man does win, he can play the game over and over and over again for the next 18-25 years eventually earning the right To be called Mother!
I'm going to bed.
Friday, February 29, 2008
A baby asked God, “They tell me you are sending me to earth tomorrow, but how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?”
“Your angel will be waiting for you and will take care of you.”
The child further inquired,
“But tell me, here in heaven I don’t have to do anything but sing and smile to be happy.”
“Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for you. And you will feel your angel’s love and be very happy.”
Again the child asked,
“And how am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me if I don’t know the language?”
“Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear, and with much patience and care, your angel will teach you how to speak.”
“And what am I going to do when I want to talk to you?”
“Your angel will place your hands together and will teach you how to pray.”
“Who will protect me?”
“Your angel will defend you even if it means risking its life.”
“But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore.”
“Your angel will always talk to you about Me and will teach you the way to come back to Me, even though I will always be next to you.”
At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but voices from Earth could be heard and the child hurriedly asked, “God, if I am to leave now, please tell me my angel’s name.”
“You will simply call her, “Mom.”
Thursday, February 21, 2008
A young wife sat on a sofa on a hot humid day, drinking iced tea and visiting with her Mother. As They talked about life, about marriage, about the responsibilities of life and the obligations of adulthood, the mother clinked the ice cubes in her glass thoughtfully and turned a clear, sober glance upon her daughter.
'Don't forget your Sisters,' she advised, swirling the tea leaves to the bottom of her glass. 'They'll be more important as you get older. No matter how much you love your husband, no matter how much you Love the children you may have, you are still going to need Sisters. Remember to go places with them now and then; do things with them.'
'Remember that 'Sisters' means ALL the women... Your girlfriends, your daughters, and all your other women relatives too. 'You'll need other women. Women always do.'
What a funny piece of advice!' the young woman thought. Haven't I just gotten married? Haven't I just joined the couple-world? I'm now a married woman, for goodness sake! A grownup! Surely my husband and the family we may start will be all I need to make my life worthwhile!'
But she listened to her Mother. She kept contact with her Sisters and made more women friends each year. As the years tumbled by, one after another, she gradually came to understand that her Mom really knew what she was talking about. As time and nature work their changes and their mysteries upon a woman, Sisters are the mainstays of her life.
After more than 50 years of living in this world, here is what I've
THIS SAYS IT ALL:
Children grow up.
Jobs come and go.
Love waxes and wanes.
Men don't do what they're supposed to do.
Colleagues forget favors.
Sisters are there, no matter how much time and how many miles are between you. A girlfriend is never farther away than needing her can reach.
When you have to walk that lonesome valley and you have to walk it by yourself, the women in your life will be on the valley's rim, cheering you on, praying for you, pulling for you, intervening on your behalf, and waiting with open arms at the valley's' end.
Sometimes, they will even break the rules and walk beside you...Or come in and carry you out.
Girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters, Daughters-in-law, sisters,
sisters-in-law, Mothers, Grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins, and extended family, all bless our life!
The world wouldn't be the same without women, and neither would I. When we began this adventure called Womanhood, we had no idea of the incredible joys or sorrows that lay ahead. Nor did we know how much we would need each other.
Every day, we need each other still.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Saturday, February 9, 2008
"We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?"
"It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral. "I know," she says, "no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations..."
But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes.
I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable.
I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.
I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation.
I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.
I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That
right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.
However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother. Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give it up in moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.
I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor. My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks.
I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.
I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving.
I hope she will understand why I can think rationally about most issues, but become temporarily insane when I discuss the threat of nuclear war to my children's future.
I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.
My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. "You'll never regret it," I finally say.
Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.
This blessed gift from God... that of being a Mother.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
On Being Momby Anna Quindlen
If not for the photographs, I might have a hard time believing they ever existed. The pensive infant with the swipe of dark bangs and the blackbutton eyes of a Raggedy Andy doll. The placid baby with the yellow ringlets and the high piping voice. The sturdy toddler with the lower lip that curled into an apostrophe above her chin.
ALL MY BABIES are gone now. I say this not in sorrow but in disbelief. I take great satisfaction in what I have today: three almost-adults, two taller than I am, one closing in fast. Three people who read the same books I do and have learned not to be afraid of disagreeing with me in their opinion of them, who sometimes tell vulgar jokes that make me laugh until I choke and cry, who need razor blades and shower gel and privacy, who want to keep their doors closed more than I like. Who, miraculously, go to the bathroom, zip up their jackets and move food from plate to mouth all by themselves. Like the trick soap I bought for the bathroom with a rubber ducky at its center, the baby is buried deep within each, barely discernible except through the unreliable haze of the past.
Everything in all the books I once pored over is finished for me now. Penelope Leach., T. Berry Brazelton., Dr. Spock. The ones on sibling rivalry and sleeping through the night and early-childhood education, all grown obsolete. Along with Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, they are battered, spotted, well used. But I suspect that if you flipped the pages dust would rise like memories.
What those books taught me, finally, and what the women on the playground taught me, and the well-meaning relations --what they taught me was that they couldn't really teach me very much at all.
Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything. One child responds well to positive reinforcement, another can be managed only with a stern voice and a timeout.
One boy is toilet trained at 3, his brother at 2. When my first child was born, parents were told to put baby to bed on his belly so that he would not choke on his own spit-up. By the time my last arrived, babies were put down on their backs because of research on sudden infant death syndrome. To a new parent this ever-shifting certainty is terrifying, and then soothing. Eventually you must learn to trust yourself. Eventually the research will follow.
I remember 15 years ago poring over one of Dr. Brazelton's wonderful books on child development, in which he describes three different sorts of infants: average, quiet, and active. I was looking for a sub-quiet codicil for an 18-month-old who did not walk. Was there something wrong with his fat little legs? Was there something wrong with his tiny little mind? Was he developmentally delayed, physically challenged? Was I insane? Last year he went to China. Next year he goes to college. He can talk just fine. He can walk,too.
Every part of raising children is humbling, too. Believe me, mistakes were made. They have all been enshrined in the Remember-When-Mom-Did-Hall-of-Fame. The outbursts, the temper tantrums, the bad language, mine, not theirs. The times the baby fell off the bed. The times I arrived late for preschool pickup. The nightmare sleepover. The horrible summer camp. The day when the youngest came barreling out of the classroom with a 98 on her geography test, and I responded, "What did you get wrong?" (She insisted I included that.) The time I ordered food at the McDonald's drive-through speaker and then drove away without picking it up from the window. (They all insisted I included that.) I did not allow them to watch the Simpsons for the first two seasons. What was I thinking?
But the biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make while doing this. I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4 and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in such a hurry to get on to the next thing: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less.
Even today I'm not sure what worked and what didn't, what was me and what was simply life. When they were very small, I suppose I thought someday they would become who they were because of what I'd done. Now I suspect they simply grew into their true selves because they demanded in a thousand ways that I back off and let them be.
The books said to be relaxed and I was often tense, matter-of-fact and I was sometimes over the top. And look how it all turned out. I wound up with the three people I like best in the world, who have done more than anyone to excavate my essential humanity. That's what the books never told me.
I was bound and determined to learn from the experts.
It just took me a while to figure out who the experts were.