Thursday, January 26, 2012
I've been neglecting this blog of late. For one thing, I feel as though if I don't have something amazingly profound to say, then it's not worth writing. For another, I often DO have something I consider profound to say, but then I feel like I don't have the time or energy needed to give it the full effort it needs. And finally, while my husband hooked me up with his old laptop, I still have to get Lightroom and Photoshop installed and I don't have easy access to my photos that are still on my currently-defunct desktop. I hate to post without pictures. I could also think of a dozen other excuses -- too tired, too busy, or whatever, but they are just excuses.
Today, though, I think I'll just post a jumble of disconnected thoughts and ideas.
* I'm enjoying having a laptop. It's nice to be sitting in my living room writing this while the three little girls run around in super-hero capes. I can fulfill my momly duty of saying "Hurray!" and "Go get the bad guys!" and still formulate some thoughts.
* Along those lines, I've been surprised over the years by how much of mothering is in the simple things. The noticing and praising of the small efforts my children make to be kind to one another, for example. Or cheering as they zoom down our sloping driveway on their wiggle racers. It doesn't take a lot of time, and often it is easy to be doing the many other things that go into making a home, whether it be pulling weeds outside or mopping the floors inside. Something about having mom's presence nearby, available to fix any hurts, notice how well you are putting together a puzzle, or remind you to say thank you to your sister, is reassuring and comforting to a young child.
I had a conversation with a group of wonderful moms recently about the concept of "playing" with your children. Most of us don't do a lot of it, though we are all engaged in giving our children time and attention. I loved this comment, "One need only look to the child whose mother DOES play with him/her constantly to see what a bad idea that is. Part of my parenting philosophy is that the kids learn that they are not the center of the universe. (Can you think of anything more tedious than being married to someone whose mom played with him ALL THE TIME?)" Another mom said that when she tries to enter her child's world, the child gets bossy and it doesn't go well, but when she invites the child into HER world, by reading to her or having her help with the cooking, the bonding happens.
My comment was this: "It's easy in our helicopter-parenting world to feel like we're not measuring up to the 'standard' -- whether that be constantly playing with a child or dragging them from one character-building activity to the next. I always like to think of the historical perspective -- I figure my ancestors were probably busy darning socks, churning butter, tending the fire and the garden and the other work of life. I believe that children do best when they are given a balance between the attention/parental time and the time to explore and play and entertain themselves. I'm the 5th of 6 and while I remember my mom reading to me and providing a clean home and meals every day, I don't think she ever 'played' with me. Do I feel in any way deprived? Nope! I also tell my four and five year olds, 'No, I don't play Candyland. That's why I gave you siblings.'"
On the other hand, I should point out that while I'm not constantly playing with my kids, I do give them time and attention. We read together and I like to be nearby and engaged in my children's play -- I help them navigate the inevitable battles ("Harmony, Katie just wants to play with that pony. Can you find another one to trade her?") or notice what they're doing ("Oh, are you all pretending to be doggies? Are you nice dogs or mean dogs?") or involve myself ("Can you serve me some pancakes at your restaurant?"). I will play Memory game or do puzzles with my kids and I like to take them on outings (at least I do when I'm not 9 months pregnant).
* After hearing from at least a half dozen sources that Downton Abbey was just an amazing show, I watched a couple of episodes yesterday. It was indeed engaging and interesting, but it also had some scenes that were absolutely NOT G-rated. I should have given up after the first episode, but it had come so highly recommended, I hoped the first offensive scene was just a fluke. I found out it wasn't. Maybe I'm just extra-sensitive because we've gone so many years without channel television, but is this what passes for entertainment these days? Or did I just watch the worst episodes and the rest of the series is just fine? I imagine, since the show is on PBS, that it's tame compared to prime time shows, and that just makes me feel sad and discouraged. In any case, I felt like I needed a good washing after watching and I don't plan on investing more time in the show, even though I really liked the parts that weren't scummy.
* I hate the school science fair and I hate that two of the three kids who had to participate in it this year need a lot of help to get their projects done. In fact, I'm down on most homework that seems intended more to torture parents than to teach kids. Darling, amazing, wonderful Lillian was good enough to agree to help the boys with their projects. She showed much more patience with one son's "I can't," and "I don't know how" excuses than I would have, and there is no doubt she EARNED all four work hours we gave her and that Snickers bar. She's going to go to Memphis with my husband in a few months and has almost enough work hours to pay for the trip.
* I loved listening to this Question & Answer session about mothering with Julie B. Beck a few days ago. Three-quarters of the way through, though, I had to laugh at one of the questions. The lead-up was "What do you do when the mothering years are behind you?" so I was getting all sympathetic to this poor empty-nester mother. Then they quoted from her and I was suprised -- she said she'd been so depressed and lost ever since the youngest of her five kids went to first grade two years ago! I was astounded that anyone would think their job was mostly "done" at that point! I thought Sister Beck handled her concerns with grace and insight, telling her she had a lot more work to do and giving her ideas of where to put her efforts.
It did make me think, though, about how some mothers seem more inclined to certain ages and stages than others. I love MY babies, for instance, but I've NEVER in my life been baby-hungry and I don't like babies in general, while I know other women just long to hold babies and really relish that stage and mourn when it's gone.
I love my adorable toddlers, but I wouldn't say I love that stage either. I do, however, LOVE my elementary school kids. They're fun, lively, able to contribute, eager to learn, and most of them still think I'm the greatest.
It will be interesting to see what the teenage years hold -- Lillian will turn 13 come April.
* I'm trying to re-read the entire Lord of the Rings series before Camilla Eowyn is born. I take naming my children very seriously and I want to be sure that Eowyn is a fitting name for this particular child. I have felt that she will be a strong warrior, but I want to make sure she won't ever be upset by the character she's named after. I'm on the Two Towers now, and can I admit something I've probably never said about books and movies before? The movies are WAY better than the books in this case. I'm sure it's sacrilege to real LOTR fans to say it, but I find the language too verbose and often stilted (probably because they were written in the 50s), and the descriptions just don't do the story justice -- the Riders are absolutely terrifying in the movies, but the way they are written in the book, they might as well just be some bad guys riding horses.
* I made six loaves of zucchini bread Tuesday, full of chocolate chips, walnuts, and yummy goodness. We gave one loaf to a neighbor and the kids devoured the rest. I woke up yesterday morning to find all that was left was half of a loaf.
* My friend is throwing me a baby shower with a twist on Saturday -- a cooperative freezer meal shower, where everyone brings some ingredients to make freezer meals for me. Doesn't that sound wonderful? I don't need any clothes or gear (this IS the sixth baby girl in a row, after all), but won't it be nice to have some meals in my freezer? I've been working to clear some space in my freezer before Saturday (one reason for the zucchini bread was to use up some of the frozen zucchini).
Friday, January 20, 2012
To the Mother With Only One Child
Dear Mother of Only One Child,
Don’t say it. Before the words can even pass your lips, let me beg you: don’t say, “Wow, you have nine kids? I thought it was hard with just my one!”
My dear, it is hard. You’re not being a wuss or a whiner when you feel like your life is hard. I know, because I remember having “only one child.” You may not even believe how many times I stop and reflect on how much easier my life is, now that I have nine children.and continues later on:
So now? Yes, the practical parts are a thousand times easier: I’m a virtuoso. I worry, but then I move along. Nobody pushes me around, and I have helpers galore. Someone fetches clean diapers and gets rid of the dirty ones. When the baby wakes up in the middle of the night for the ten thousandth time, I sigh and roll my eyes, maybe even cry a little bit for sheer tiredness—but I know it will pass, it will pass.
It’s becoming easier, and it will be easier still. They are passing me by.
I’m broken in. There’s no collision of worlds. We’re so darn busy that it’s a sheer delight to take some time to wash some small child’s small limbs in a quiet bath, or to read The Story of Ferdinand one more time. Taking care of them is easy. It’s tiring, it’s frustrating, but when I stop and take a breath, I see that it’s almost like a charade of work. All these things, the dishes, the diapers, the spills—they must be taken care of, but they don’t matter. They aren’t who I am.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
But I've changed my mind about the "if I can do this, I can do anything" issue. Because I'm having a hard time with this pregnancy.
I really hoped and believed that pregnancy would be easier on me this time -- with the greater fitness, surely the last months would not be so torturous! And in some ways, it has been. My morning sickness, though awful, brought me low only in the afternoons and evenings instead of all day. And I'm sure the weight loss has helped in ways I don't appreciate (after all, I weigh less now, with four weeks left, than I did a year ago!).
But as my belly has grown larger, my energy and patience have grown smaller. I've had a cough for over a month and between that and the regular sleep problems I experience with pregnancy, I have not slept well in ages. I wake up in the morning more tired than when I went to sleep the night before. With the lack of sleep and the requirements of growing this baby, I think my body has decided to forget about working its immune system for now. Two weeks ago, six weeks felt so near -- surely I can handle just six weeks! But this last week, with my health feeling so precarious, I've reached the point several times where I say to myself, "I have nothing left." In those moments, four weeks feels like four years!
And I find myself questioning why I'm such a wimp -- I can run a marathon but I can't handle the last month of pregnancy? But as I've thought and prayed about it, I've realized that challenges come in many different forms and seasons of our lives require different strengths. The work of last summer required determination, strength, effort, and faith. The work I'm facing now, with four weeks left of pregnancy, requires a different set of attributes: patience, endurance, and a different kind of strength.
This is a season of rest and of conserving what energy I have. It would not be wise to push myself physically right now, and so I wait, allowing many of my talents to lie dormant. In many ways, it was easier to run the marathon. I knew what I was going for. I had the milestones and training goals along the way to cross off the list. I had the satisfaction of achieving. There was so much to celebrate.
But now, there is very little to show for my efforts. I keep my home clean, my household running fairly smoothly. I give my kids love and attention and try not to lose my patience with them despite my exhaustion. But I'm too tired to do any more than that. And that's a different kind of hard. I'm hibernating, trying to conserve the little strength I have to give to the basics and reminding myself that spring will come. This baby will arrive and the sacrifice of pregnancy will be largely forgotten in the joy of those moments. My body will heal and renew itself and I'll get to move into a season of celebrations rather than a season of waiting.
My season of winter, of dormancy and limitation, is actually fairly short. There are many who endure years and years of this kind of challenge, whether because of age or health problems. I visit teach a woman who has endured much in her life. She's had two lung transplants. The medication she takes daily keeps her body from rejecting the foreign lungs but also leaves her immune system compromised. She has to be careful whenever she is in public places so as not to catch the slightest illness. She is limited in strength and energy and deals with diminished capacity on a daily basis. Training for a marathon will never be in her future. But she's making the best of her life, raising and loving her children and adjusting her life accordingly.
I wonder sometimes if the tough, tough days at the end of pregnancy don't give us sympathy and understanding for those whose stage in life is otherwise so utterly foreign to us. Five years ago, when health and age made a move to an assisted living facility necessary for my husband's nearly-ninety-year-old grandmother, I took over a large share of her care and visited her every day. The disruption in her life was extremely difficult for her to adjust to and she often expressed her frustration -- hadn't she lived long enough? Couldn't she just go home to her Heavenly Father? What more did she have to endure? I could understand her feelings in large part because of how I feel at the end of a pregnancy -- Won't this baby ever come? How many more days of fatigue and exhaustion can I endure? Will this really end?
So while I'm eyeing the calendar and counting down (4 weeks is 28 days -- surely I can hang on that long?), I'm also grateful for the lessons I can learn from this challenge, even if it is a different kind of hard.
What are some hard things you've experienced in your life? What have you learned from them?
Friday, January 06, 2012
Don't Carpe Diem
Some of my favorite parts:
And so I think that if there were people stationed, say, every thirty feet along Mount Everest yelling to the climbers – “ARE YOU ENJOYING YOURSELF!? IF NOT, YOU SHOULD BE! ONE DAY YOU’LL BE SORRY YOU DIDN’T!” TRUST US!! IT’LL BE OVER TOO SOON! CARPE DIEM!” - those well-meaning, nostalgic cheerleaders might be physically thrown from the mountain.
Craig is a software salesman. It’s a hard job in this economy. And he comes home each day and talks a little bit about how hard it is. And I don’t ever feel the need to suggest that he’s not doing it right, or that he’s negative for noticing that it’s hard, or that maybe he shouldn’t even consider taking on more responsibility. And I doubt anybody comes by his office to make sure he’s ENJOYING HIMSELF. I doubt his boss peeks in his office and says: “This career stuff…it goes by so fast…ARE YOU ENJOYING EVERY MOMENT IN THERE, CRAIG???? CARPE DIEM, CRAIG!”