Tag Archives: motherhood

A Proverb Backfires

timerMy eight year-old son loves his video games – and I love to limit his game time.  He typically gets an hour a day (which I’m convinced is still too much but haven’t the energy for that battle just yet), and when he sits down to play, I set 30 to 60 minutes on the microwave timer.  His choice.

This morning it occurred to me that he’s tall enough to reach the timer himself, and that I could teach him to monitor his own time.  A win-win.  I told him as much, and was met with some resistance.  “Mo-om!  Can’t you just do it for me?”

I smiled and put on my best sage-mom voice (admittedly, it’s not great), and quoted, “If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day.  If you teach him to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.”

He stared a me.

My sage-mom voice dissolved and I gestured at the microwave.  “Do you think you understand what that means for us right now?”

He stared.  Then, a mischievous twinkle.  “I do.  It means that if you set the timer for me, I’ll play for 30 minutes, but if I set the timer myself, I’ll play for a lifetime.”

I’ve never seen him quite so amused with himself.

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

What I learned from a dancer’s heart

ImageMy four-year-old daughter had her little dance recital in late June.  This was new territory for me, so the ferocity with which her dance studio approached the rules of show participation surprised me.  They held no less than five rehearsals, plus two performances.  Miss one, and you’re outta there.

So I spent a week immersed in all levels of dance (though I declined the invite to be a backstage helper-mom – good Lord, one step at a time).  As I sat in the audience watching the dancers give their respective all, I got to thinking about my own creative outlet: writing.

For so many years I believed my writing had to be perfect before other eyes beheld it, that I had to have something Big and Important to say, and I’d better say it in exactly the right way.  I still struggle with this but, as I watched so many sequin-clad dancers move about the stage, two in particular showed me a thing or two about “the right way.”

The first girl performed a ballet solo.  Toe-shoes and all.  She also held the prestigious title of Jr. Miss Dance Michigan.  She glided onstage in a luminous lavender gown and danced to a dreamy version of John Lennon’s Imagine.  Her limbs stretched impossibly and she leaped and flipped and pirouetted until I felt dizzy.  On my lap, my enchanted daughter sat still for the first time in six months.  Mommy, I want to do that.  Indeed, the girl’s hard-earned technique, to my untrained eye, was perfect.  At fourteen, she possessed the poise of Grace Kelly, with her litheness and her proud ribcage and her princess smile.  Her name will be in lights.  I want to write like that, babygirl. 

The theater went dark to awed murmurs and polite applause.

The spotlight flared, and a new girl in black materialized.

This girl was not a ballerina.  Her powerful limbs ended right where human limbs should…and then she began to move.  She pushed into a folksy song about love and broken trust and solace-seeking. At seventeen, she managed to channel emotions she hadn’t lived long enough to feel.  She managed to become the song.  As the music built to a crescendo, she grasped and fell and pounded the floor with the desperation of the danger of loss.  My heart ached for her and yet, all the while, she exuded joy.  The joy of freedom, of a fearlessly displayed heart, of body and soul and music.  She commanded my heart to reach for hers and, gauging from the audience’s response, she commanded theirs, too.

No, I want to write like that.

In the span of ten minutes, two lovely and diverse young ladies reminded me that, when it comes to art, as long as it’s heart-filled, there is no right way.  There is only the way of the artist, and there’s room for us all.

Image courtesy of sattva at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

That mysterious time before bed

My seven-year-old son plays it pretty close to the vest.  He’s king of the monosyllabic response:

Me:  Hey buddy, how was your day?

Alex:  Good.

Me:  What did you do at recess?

Alex:  Tag.

Me:  Sounds fun.  Tell me a little about your day?

Alex:  Later?

He was feeling particularly chatty that day, as I recall.  Now, I know better.  I know it’s highly unlikely that they’ll talk when you want them to, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.

Last night, I was looking forward to a bath and an early bedtime.  I ducked into Alex’s room, tucked in his covers, strategically molding around the Garfield book in which he’d buried his nose.  I kissed his forehead, whispered good-night and headed for the door.

“Mom?  Can I ask you something?”

I whispered good-bye to Me Time.  “Anything.”

“There’s this kid at school.  He used to be nice, you know, nice to everyone, but now he’s kind of mean.“

“Hmm.  Do you think maybe he had a bad day?”

“No,” he said.  “It’s like he’s a different person.  He’s just mean now.  He calls people names all the time.  Do people really change like that?”

I know the boy, he’s big for his age and typically friendly and he has a learning disability.  Alex confided that the other kids have been teasing him lately.  I called in Dad and we all talked it through.

I’m so grateful I didn’t miss that moment.

There are times when I do.  Sometimes I’m rushed and distracted, and I can get my priorities out of whack with the best of them.  But last night I got it right, and I want to remember…if we are willing to meet them where they are, the floodgates will eventually open.

Sick kiddos and the Tray of Good Things

trayWhen I was little, I’d get tonsillitis about once every three weeks.  Eventually we found a new doctor, who promptly ordered them removed, but until then I felt intermittently miserable.  Fortunately, I was blessed with a mother who could rival Florence Nightingale, and she taught me a thing or two when it comes to caring for sick little ones.

Flash forward thirty-*cough* years to the day, and I now have two sick little ones of my own.  Each one is sprawled on a couch piled with pillows and blankets and teddy bears.  They’re watching Scooby Doo, and soon we’ll switch to story-time, but before that I’ll pull a page from Mom’s Infirmary Playbook.

The “Tray of Good Things.”  (Affectionately named by my four-year-old).

You know how it is when you’re sick.  Fruit sounds perfect at first, then after two bites becomes the vilest food on the planet.  You want juice, no…wait…saltines.  Strike that, you hate saltines.  So it is with kiddos, and now I understand why my mom always brought an assortment of soothing foods to my bedside.

There’s really no trick, although I’ve found that putting a little effort into presentation makes them feel a lot special.  So break out the good cups-and-saucers.  Cloth napkins.  Whatever little touches you think would make your little one smile through his fever.

On today’s tray:

–  Sliced fruit
–  Hot chicken broth
–  Cheese-Its
–  Green Goodness (the Bolthouse juice that resembles swamp water)
–  Graham crackers
–  Fig Newtons
–  Bananas

Just a little of each, and each tray is different.  It only takes a minute to put together, but it’s something they look forward to when their day is otherwise filled with thermometers and headaches and “the yuck medicine.”

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Your shoes are ugly.” What would you have said?

Brynn (4) came to me this morning as we were getting ready for school.

“Mommy, do you know what my classmates said to me?”

“What did they say?”

“Well, they were looking at their Hello Kitty shoes and saying they were pretty.  I told them I thought they were pretty, too.”

“That was a kind thing to say.”

(Tears well up) “But Mommy, they didn’t tell me thank you.  They said, ‘well, your shoes are ugly.”

She has pink Skechers, and they’re cool.  I’d wear them.  But they don’t sparkle or make noise or have any up-to-the-minute branding.  I asked Brynn if she liked her shoes, and she said she did, that they were her favorites.  I told her that’s what’s important.

She seemed to accept this but, if I think waaaaay back to grade school, I remember it was the sting of comments like this that stayed with me.

Yes, it’s all part of growing up.  Kids can be mean, and we won’t be running out to buy Hello Kitty shoes just because some of her little classmates haven’t quite learned to filter.  But I feel like I could have said something better, something more helpful or affirming.

So, if you were in my shoes this morning (pardon the pun), what would you have said?