Posted tagged ‘parenting’

Shimmering

May 5, 2011

The following are attempts to create poems about the birth of my boys, written as part of a project for grad school…the only writing I’m doing these days…

Griffin
Middle of the night water flowing
Dawn breaks after a slow walk in the morning mist
Carrying a blue sky Strawberry festival day
And the intensity of anticipation and effort
Vivaldi and honey-laced ice
the large soft hands of a capable shepherd
Trust and surrender to the
Welcome cries of eagle-lion
Myth and magic and mystery become
Divinity in my arms

Andrew
Jupiter rising within my impatient belly
It’s today! I think
But then re-think when everything stops
And the midwife decides not to come
Hours of disappointed inaction and I hardly
Notice when I start laboring again and
By the time I start paying attention it’s
Chaos and it’s just you and me little Jupiter
No time for conscious support it’s primal as
My body and my baby take over
A cacophony of action until twelve minutes after
The midwife arrives
You arrive
Time stops
Music stops
As the universe makes room for
This unspeakable love

making room

April 13, 2011

I’m staring down the last few months of my life as “stay-home mother”. Granted, in reality, that role shifted years ago to make room for this me, now coming into fruition. It’s hard to let go, though.

Driving to the airport today, I’m chatting with my teenager when I realize my newly-six-year  old is reading in the back seat. Full-on;  sounding out “hammer” and “amazing” and “teeth” and reading out loud a book about sharks. I knew he was making leaps with his literacy. He set it as his Kindergarten goal. “This is the year I will learn how to read”, he said the night before his first day, back in September. And he has. And I’m impressed because he’s ready and reading, yes, but more impressed that he set a goal for himself and now basks in his accomplishment. I’m beaming and proud and also strangely sad. Not sad, really, more just a twinge of some heartache I can’t quite describe.

He doesn’t understand my need to hold him on my lap while we’re waiting at the airport. He doesn’t know the longing I have to keep him small for one more moment. He tolerates my hugs and gets silly when I let him raspberry my cheek, but for me, this moment holds nearly fourteen years of mothering. It’s like the stories you hear people tell after a brush with death: “my whole life flashed before my eyes”, except it’s life and it’s vignettes of me and my boys I’m seeing.

The reality is that raising children marks time in extreme ways. They literally change, moment to moment: visually and markedly. Last summer, my oldest was eye to eye with me at 5’11”. I said to him “I think this might be the year you grow taller than me”. By the end of the summer, he had an inch on me and now at the beginning of this spring, he’s nearly 6’2″. I realize the goal is healthy, inter- and independent children who go off to seek their fortune. I realize a measure of mothering well-done is in the letting go.

But for just this moment, I want to stop time. I want to filter through every mundane moment home with my boys and savor it anew. And I see now that it’s not heartbreak and it’s not letting go. Just as my boys are growing and changing in remarkably ordinary ways, so too am I. My roles change, yes. I make room for school and work and community in ways which are much different from how they’ve been up ’til now. And within the role of “mother”, I change. I make room for these boys as they manifest before my eyes into the beautiful men they will become. And as I cherish the privilege of mothering, I realize there’s nothing to let go of, really. Time moves forward no matter how tightly I hold onto a hug in the airport. The grace comes in allowing it, seeing it, acknowledging it and loving it for the moment in time that it is.

And so things shift and grow. And that twinge of heartache is simply my life making room for us as we are. It is welcoming this me, now coming into fruition.

indulgence

January 17, 2011

“Sorry, no matinée today”.

I’m on a “mummy date” with my five-year old. We’re supposed to see a show about paleontology. Not happening. We’re at the planetarium on campus and the building is empty. It’s creepy. We stand in the lobby for a minute; discussing why it’s called a matinée and why it’s canceled. I’m trying to think what else we can do to make the 45 minute car ride worthwhile. The Children’s museum closes in less than an hour. It’s bitter cold. We had a snack in the car, so an early dinner is out. I’m not familiar enough with the city to quickly come up with ideas and my limited search via cell phone isn’t helpful.

Sweet child needs to pee, so we travel a few deserted hallways to find the restroom. He’s giving me a what for because it’s the women’s room. I tell him the sign on the stairway door across from this restroom says that the men’s room is in the basement. Not an option. He gives me squinty eyes and heads for the stall. A few seconds later, I hear him mumbling at first, then louder, “oh you can’t be serious!” It sounds exactly like when my mother says it. I’m smiling, despite that he’s obviously in some kind of mild distress. “Hey, pal, everything okay?”

Suffice to say, he’s pissed, literally, and I’m doing my best not to laugh about it. He’s giving me a commentary fit for the stage about how it happens that a five-year old, *practically grown!* can end up with pee on his pant leg.

We clean up as best we can. I’m trying to figure out how to salvage our “special” time together. I decide the only thing to do is to visit the toy store and find some ice cream, despite January in Maine. What else?  Off we go and within minutes we are lost in the world of toy store. Puppets. Kites. Model dinosaurs and dragons, books, games, wooden trains and play kitchen. He’s holding a couple of fierce dinosaurs, Utahraptor? Ovaraptor? He knows what it is. The other is a Velociraptor and I’m sure about it. “Mum, you know my birthday is just around the corner”, he says. “You can get one now, honey.” I say. “Oh, no. I could never decide which one”. I sneak them both to the sales clerk and ask her to set them aside. “Well, you can choose something for now” and he does, a glow in the dark skeleton pirate who rides a monster crab and carries a sword and a pistol. Not my favorite of his choices, but it assuages my disappointment about the day. We buy some board books for a friend and a craft kit for another friend’s birthday. We buy a WWII era plane with a red propeller. It’s about 3″ long and fastens to a bike handle. We decide it’s the closest we’ll get to making the airplane and history obsessed big brother’s dreams of owning a plane come true. I buy myself a craft kit, too, realizing fully that I will have zero time to start it anytime soon. I can’t help myself though.

I’m carrying the toy store loot, including the birthday surprise dinosaurs; we decide to take a walk. I’m looking for ice cream but I don’t say anything to the kid. It’s super chilly but we’re laughing as we walk. He takes my hand and pulls ahead of me, pretending to be a dog. I pull him back playfully and say “heel” as I did with our pup. Several times, I automatically call him by the dog’s name, which he finds hysterically funny. I don’t even realize I’ve done it! I’m noticing every detail as we walk. The smell of garlic from a restaurant. The wind whipping up tears and stealing my breath. The weight of the toys in the bag on my arm. The press of his hand against mine, warm in our mittens. The little upward pitch at the end of his giggle.

Turn the corner and we’re at the most wonderful “authentic” Italian gelato shop. The kid has no clue but I realize we’ve hit a jackpot. I order coconut and he orders something–I can’t remember the Italian name for it–translated, it means “deliciousness combined with chocolate deliciousness to make supreme deliciousness”. He shares, as long as I use my own little spoon, which is purple. His is pink, but he insists it’s orange. We have the discussion again about how there are no “boy” colors and no “girl” colors but he squints again and I know he’s the king of discipline for holding his tongue.

He takes his skeleton pirate out of the box and immediately starts the giggle. “Lookit this mullet, mum!” I’m about to ask what he knows about mullets when I remember showing both of my boys some prime hair band videos from the 80s just a few nights earlier. When was the last time you watched “Jump” by Van Halen followed by Ratt, Poison, Motley Crue and Warrant? Try telling those guys there are “boy” colors and “girl” colors!! We get a kick out of the skeleton mullet and he’s happy playing for a minute. I’m eavesdropping on the people next to me, savoring each bite of coconut deliciousness, when I realize that this beautiful boy of mine is not -so- quietly singing, “she’s my cherry pie, dunn nan na na naaaa na na” over and over while he’s lost in monster crab play. Okay, so the Warrant video was a huge mistake. I’m sure he’ll take it up in therapy when he’s older.

As we’re cleaning up our table and putting the toys away, he says, “Mum, what do pirates have to do with Jesus?” I can’t come up with anything appropriate quickly enough so I ask why he asks. “I just always think of Jesus when I think of pirates.” No idea. I know I’m giving him a dumb look but I’m caught between marveling at his comment and the sheer joy of this very moment. A few seconds later, “mum, do you know why the universe is here?” I wait, he’s not finished. “No, not the universe, I mean earth. Do you know why earth is here?” This is not a question he expects me to answer. He expects me to say, “no, honey, why is earth here?”, which I do. “So the moon has someone to appreciate it.” The dumb look again but now I’m just giddy smiling. He doesn’t miss a beat. Takes a deep breath and lets it out. “Mum, this was the worst day of my life. No movie, no paleontology. I thought for sure people would be near me and [he breathes deeply through his nose and then gives a few short sniffs with his face a crinkled in mock disgust] ‘oh man, why does that big kid smell of pee?’… but it’s not the worst day. I got a cool toy. I got that yummy European ice cream, what’s it called again? and nobody sniffed me.”I’m nearly crying now, just so in love with this boy, this moment.

As we leave, he takes off his mitten and puts his hand into mine. We’re quiet as we walk along, trying to remember where we left the car. A perfect day.

celebration

January 5, 2011

The other day, I had an overwhelming urge to call a girlfriend that very moment. I obeyed my intuition. When she answered, she shared some of her troubles. Valid, heartbreaking, heavy; she’s struggling for clarity and worn out. She doesn’t want to set another intention, make a list of goals, reflect on her vision.

Understand: this is a woman who sets standards for competence and generosity. A mentor, a leader, an inspiration; her intelligence, wit, ambition, creativity and awareness and kindness make her as beautiful inside as she is outside. With an incredible list of accomplishments proving her power and worth, I’m a little bit in awe of her. She sets her mind to something and makes it happen, but she does so while also raising up everyone around her. She nurtures friends, business partners, clients, family–she finds a way to connect which is genuine and so positive–which, it seems, is a common thread among my friends. I am blessed.

I look at other friends: balancing personal goals and career; raising incredible children, negotiating marriages and relationships, finding the humor in each day. They carry dreams for themselves in pockets filled with tissue, receipts from the grocery store, worn out lipstick tubes, stray crayons or legos and a to-do list bigger than Obama’s. They bring casseroles to friends with new babies on their way to one more PTO meeting/kids practice/appointment/meeting. They host holiday dinner parties and end the night loading the dishwasher while a sulking partner surfs the net. They face their demons with courage and honesty, humor and some therapy. They endure illness without complaint, except to say that it’s difficult sometimes to ask for help. They run marathons and teach yoga and coach and sing and play in the band.  They get advanced degrees while working full-time and raising a family and still manage to put a hot meal on the table each night. They get on another airplane to another gig in another city and leave each place better than it was before they got there. They take on a second job or stay home for a week straight because the kids are sick, or whatever else is required, because it’s just what you do. They take the high road more often than not, encouraging and expressing gratitude. They love their friends and family with passion and loyalty. I am amazed by what these friends accomplish. I am amazed by how generous and loving and spirited they are.

I want to throw every one of them a party. A moment for each to see each accomplishment and blessing as it is. A moment to let go of things undone. A moment to forget the negative and focus on the ripples of light and love from each positive they’ve inspired or created. A moment to shut off the chatter in their heads which criticizes or holds their feet to the fire relentlessly. I want to create a ritual for each one of them, to acknowledge their power and strength. I want to grant a wish which would bring them true satisfaction and contentment and a sense of pride in a life well lived. I want to sing them a love song of verses meant to encourage, comfort, thank each one for her gifts to the world. I want to whisper to each that it’s okay to celebrate. Take a deep breath, sit a minute in the glow of your beauty. Shower yourself with the affection you give so freely to others. Give yourself permission to gloat, brag, accept some well-deserved praise for your wonderful-ness. Go ahead, revel in the wonder of life in this moment, it is too soon gone.

 

10 things

October 7, 2010

10 Things Which Make Me Happy

1. My children. Deeply happy in that “I can’t believe how blessed I am that I get to parent these incredible beings” kind of indescribable way. That “this is love in its purest form for me” way.

2. M&Ms. How can I go from #1 above to candy coated little chocolates? Easy. It’s pure pleasure, an m&m. The little clinky noise they make when poured into a bowl. The little rush of chocolate after a tiny snap of crunch. The bright colors. The way they are fantastic on their own but also amazing mixed with cookie dough or ice cream or peanut butter. Oh, yes. M&Ms.

3. Music. The way it invades the soul without asking, creating connection to memory, time, place, present. The way it evokes emotion or carries lyric as though musician and listener are sharing an intimate secret. The way it can prompt action: laugh, party, shake it, shake it, shake it, let go and belt it out off-key if you must.

4. Gardens. More specifically, my hands in the soil. No– any gardens, because even looking at photographs of gardens zones me out. Color, texture, scent, taste. The task of planting a seed, saying a blessing over it and watching as it transforms: joy divine. The task of weeding or digging or hauling rocks taps into some internal bliss akin to religious rapture. Hallelujah.

5. Friends. I have the best collection of inspiring, creative, accomplished, devoted, loyal, loving, fun and funny friends. They nurture me. They heal me. They bless me with their presence, true presence in my life. They honor me with their trust. They crack me up. They remind me what is beautiful and right about connection and love.

6. Words. Serendipity, Avocado, Scootch. Sounds and symbols together creating meaning, which we then convey with voice or pen or keyboard. Conversation and connection and lyric and poetry and understanding.

7. Food. The way it can be central to the experience of connection. Yes, it literally nourishes. The act of preparing and sharing becomes nourishing. “Let me feed you” moves into a metaphor for giving of self. Levels of satisfaction from the genuine pleasure of tasting a perfect strawberry to the craft of creating flavors and textures to the delight of hearing “oh my gosh, this is amazing” when a friend bites into a lovingly prepared meal.

8. Laughter. Yes, of course, if I’m laughing it must be because I’m happy, right? But I’m talking about hearing others laugh, especially about sharing a laugh. The kind of satisfaction that comes from creating a laugh response from someone else “oh yeah, you get it”. It’s validating, “I’m funny!” It’s genuine pleasure. It tickles.

9. Water. Being near the ocean calms me like nothing else, even when the ocean shows its power. It’s like instant savasana. Primal. Lakes, rivers, puddles, even rainfall–pleasure within. The liberation of swimming underwater: quiet, dark, cool, a little mysterious and complete joy.

10. Clean sheets. Oh my gosh! Sliding into a well-made bed. Cool sheets (line dried and smelling of sunshine?!), letting go of the cares of the day surrounded by comfort and pleasure, a hug shepherding me into sleep. Bliss!

Rage

July 20, 2009

He speaks of rage with a soft voice.  A voice which occasionally cracks with anguish and shame as he leans against the wall and stares at the ceiling.  It is as though meeting our eyes would grant him permission to sob and so he avoids that intimacy.  He was sixteen when he worked as a camp counselor.  That was the summer he first smoked pot.  That was the summer he beat the kids–one so badly he chipped the boy’s tooth.  That was the summer he realized the power of his anger; released now and binding him to addiction. 

Now, perhaps ten years later, he speaks–whispers–of throwing his two year old into his crib when the baby wouldn’t go to sleep.  He speaks of screaming at his five year old daughter.  His suffering is not a physical need for substance.  His suffering comes of being controlled by rage.  His substance abuse is not an escape, rather a spark to engage the all- consuming fire of abuse within him.  He suffers.  As he speaks, he flogs himself with words of repentance, shame, grief, self-hatred.  He pleads for help–God, inner strength, resolve, magic, release.  

Several listeners speak after he is finished.  Advice from others who have seen their own demons manifested in the wounds they’ve inflicted.  Kindness from strangers who suffer.   Acceptance without judgement softens him, allows him to meet our eyes for a moment.  Go back and meet that sixteen year old boy.  See that he is a child himself.  See what has wounded him so badly.  See him make a choice to escape into substance.  See with compassion as he seeks relief and release and finds rage and rage and rage.  Hold that sixteen year old boy.  Soothe him with words of acceptance.  Rock him in strong arms which contain him for a moment.  Whisper forgiveness to him for hurting those children.  Love him enough to release his grip on now. 

Rage keeps him running.  He spins and spins inside his thoughts.  He’d rather be anywhere else than trying to lull his daughter to sleep.  She is not cooperating.  His frustration swells as his chest tightens.  He shakes with effort trying to rein in this familiar terror.  Fear, consequences, madness, shame, guilt, torment, heat, hatred: tornado within.  No substance fuels this.  There is no will to conquer.  Exhausted. 

He surveys this moment.  What is happening?  His wife is downstairs with a friend.  He feels cheated by the demands of this child who will not go to bed.  She wants a story.  They are on vacation.  He wants adult companionship, wants to win, wants compliance.  She wants comfort, wants a familiar bed, wants him. 

Surrender.  He chooses a book, climbs onto the bed with this little girl he loves.  Surrender.  He reads, controls his rage-tight voice.  Surrender.  She responds to him with gladness.  Surrender.  He is not hurting her.  Surrender.  They laugh together at a silly part.  Surrender.  She snuggles into him.  Surrender.  He holds her, strokes her hair, whispers to her.  Surrender.  She falls asleep.  Surrender.  He is calm.  Surrender.  He finds the address for a meeting in the morning.  Surrender.

One day at a time.

Distraction

July 16, 2009

It’s hot but the pint of ice cream I’m holding is still rock hard.  My four year old and I are taking turns digging around the softer edge for scoops of chocolate and chips.  He is fully engaged in this process, which means he’s no longer whining and sniffling, thank goodness! 

We’ve come to the third floor of town hall to hear live music.  It’s an old dance hall space in a former school turned town offices and police station.  Our neighbors’ daughter is singing with a friend, trying to be heard above the crackle of the sound system and the din of small children running about.  It’s threatening to rain which is why we are packed into this tiny auditorium in the heat of July.  The music doesn’t interest my child.  Ice cream.  Chocolate with white chocolate chunks.  A treat meant to distract; works like a charm for the moment.

He has cried for the past hour.  Sincere tears born of frustration at misunderstanding. I finally agreed to order his “favorite” transformers costume from a mail-order catalogue.  He’s been looking at it for weeks, the pages of the mailer crumpled and worn.  He has no idea about transformers beyond what he’s seen in the magazine he cherishes.  He’s never watched them on TV and doesn’t play with them at home.  He’s fascinated by the blues and reds and silvers of the jumpsuit.  He’s smitten with the full face mask and helmet and the armour along one sleeve.  So, I agreed to order it for him.  He sat in my lap while I spoke to customer service.  He could hear her asking me my address.  She could hear him asking when she was going to drive it to us.  She told me to tell him she’d tell the driver to hurry, but that it would be here by Monday or Tuesday.  After I ended the call, I showed him the calendar and tried to explain Monday or Tuesday.  He understood only that it would not be arriving this very day.  And so, the tears began.  He told me we should just go sit on his bed to wait for the delivery truck.  I told him we should just do our regular stuff while waiting.  The tears came harder. 

We walk into town and for a moment  he is distracted by the maple tree “helicopters” he finds on the sidewalk.  He doesn’t greet our neighbors.  He doesn’t smile.  Every few minutes, he sobs a bit and starts in with the questions–“why isn’t it coming today?”  We walk to the market for our ice cream and he scowls at the cashier.  He drags his feet along the sidewalk, wallowing in his Optimus Prime induced misery.  We arrive at the show and soon he is engaged in scooping and swallowing. 

What is the lesson here?  As a parent, I am annoyed by the whining though I am compassionate, too.  He just doesn’t understand mail-order.  He’s four.  He wants it now.  I am patient.  I tell him to use big boy words.  He does for a moment or two.  I am enthusiastic with distractions.  They work for a moment or two.  It is not my boy’s behavior in this moment which is under my skin.  It is the nagging sense of entitlement and gimme and consumption.  My frustration is how to teach him that this costume, for which he longs and about which he cries, is a luxury?  How does this moment reflect my own need for simplicity and gratitude?  It doesn’t; thus my conflict, thus my annoyance. 

And the solution?  One of my dearest friend’s sons owns this very costume.  When I tell her about my son’s drama, she offers his costume to us.  Her son has outgrown it.  He is happy to pass it along.  In a moment of serendipity, my child gets “instant gratification” and I can cancel my order and reduce, reuse, recycle…Optimus Prime lives on.