These are letters to Jack, my son, and my daughter, Audrey. You have given me the gift of motherhood. This is just a little gift back. I want to share my experiences with you of your childhood from my perspective of watching you grow - of being your Mom.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
You’ll discover over the course of your life that language is really only part of the way that we speak to each other. Body language and gestures, expressions and grunts, etc, all are very good ways of also getting messages across.
This is never more apparent than with the pre-language toddler. You are right at that age where you aren’t yet talking, but you clearly are understanding and frustrated because you can’t formulate the words yet to tell us what it is you want and need. The thing that I am impressed by is how well you communicate. No – I’m not going crazy. Maybe you aren’t yet verbal, but there is never any doubt as to what it is you are wanting.
When you are focused on getting something – whether that be crackers in the top cabinet, or the movies up high on the book shelf, you grunt loudly with a purposeful UHHH! And jab a very pointed finger as far as it can reach in the clear direction of the object that you want. Your eyes become very large in your effort to direct our attention to the object of your desire so that it can be given to you and your lips reveal your new teeth in an expression that warns – I’m not fussing yet, but you better take heed!
In an effort to help you with speech, I will walk over to the object and put my hand on it and then say: “crackers. Say ‘crackers’, Jack”. This usually makes you call out even louder “UGGGHHHHHH! UGHHHHHHH! UGHHHHHH!” as my proximity to the object is so close and you are trying desperately to tell me “YES!! THAT’S IT!!!! THAT’S WHAT I WANT!”
This goes both ways – this interpretation of body language. You, apparently, have become incredibly adept at reading my body language that I usually am not even aware of until I see you reacting to my thoughts and – short of determining that you must have some sort of jedi mind powers – I realize that I must be giving some body language cues to my thought processes.
Point in question: out for an evening stroll.
You love the outdoors and would probably be quite content to walk until you collapsed and then just sleep where you lay until the morning when the journey would continue in the same fashion.
As I become tired along the way, I must begin to slow down prior to turning around. You notice this change in pace of mine even before I’m aware that I’ve made up my mind that we’ve reached the end of our journey.
Out of nowhere, your eyes become big as saucers and turn around to watch me as your feet take on a “Scooby Doo” life of their own propelling you forward faster and faster.
The danger in this action is very apparent. You aren’t looking where you are going and this means that almost all of our walks end in some sort of disaster. Running into parked cars, falling over curbs, tripping over your own feet and scraping little knees and elbows on the gravel…
I can’t ever seem to get to you before this happens.
So, I’ve decided that the only way to avoid this is to convince you that YOU want to do what I want you to do.
In order to do this, I need to make something in that opposite direction seem incredibly attractive to you. I will point out the doggy in the yard across the street back in the direction of home or a motorcycle parked in someone’s driveway that we missed before.
You hesitate….. you stand in an indecisive fashion with one leg already extended in the opposite direction ready to flee in case I suddenly stop showing you something and tell you to come with me. Sometimes you will make a half hearted jog for a couple of feet turning around to see if that has set me to chasing you. If it hasn’t and I’m continuing to show you the object of interest, you stop again. You consider the alternatives. Sometimes, you will come to me and we’ll investigate the item, but sometimes you decide that I’m up to something and you take off anyways.
Hey, I never said I had the perfect solution! So – if you discover when you have your little guy or girl – what the trick is? Share it with me! But in the meantime, our communication has never been better!
Friday, August 25, 2006
This entry today is more about setting realistic expectations for being a parent than not.
I think it’s important that someone confess to the battle with time constraints that a parent faces so that others who are about to enter parenthood or who are early into it realize that they are not struggling with a battle that others don’t.
I have found that juggling parenthood with the other titles that one holds in life – wife, employee, laundress, dishwasher, pet caretaker, housekeeper, shopper, etc – is one that forces you to walk the line of what is acceptable and what isn’t.
There’s a secret to walking the line. The secret is that you can’t cross over the line when walking it into what is “unacceptable” without consequences….. except when no one is looking….
What a lesson to pass along to your kid, right? That’s horrible! What kind of an example am I setting?
I’m not sure. I hope I’m not doing any permanent damage by confessing this, but I have a compulsion to do it. I feel that I need to appropriately set your expectations for the future so you don’t believe in the Hollywood movie hype and have unrealistic expectations of “happily ever after”.
“Happily Ever After” does exist, but you DO have to work at it and it takes being realistic and finding the humor and happiness in all of your situations, even the less than perfect. THAT’S happily ever after.
So – back to walking the line and crossing over it. How do I do this?
Well – EVERY DAY! It can take the form of:
• Long lunches at work so you have time to pick up something from the store, change over a load of laundry, put in a load of dishes, let the dogs out, get in a brief exercise walk for your own health, return a video so you aren’t charged some ridiculous late fee, and on and on and on…..
• Doing homework and class reading when you are at work
• Maintaining a blog at work (this is entirely my own decision – not yours – so don’t worry about that! )
• An addiction to entering contests while at work in the hope that you will win one of them and NEVER have to work again!!!!
• Sneaking off at lunch to visit your child wherever they are and running late getting back
• Being a little late in the mornings because you tried to sneak in one too many last minute chores before walking out the door.
• Using sick days too flagrantly for creative reasons that you call in until they become suspicious to the higher ups
• Taking small office supplies or leftover food home from work because I’m a klepto and I just can’t NOT do it
I find that I have started to risk doing a tango on this line of acceptability bargaining that I won’t get caught. I’m gambling that every time my feet step over that line, someone is looking the other way. It’s a dangerous little game, I know, but I can’t seem to risk taking it. Because – if I’m successful in the gamble, when I look back on these years - I’ll know that I was able to squeeze every last ounce of life out of them and didn’t leave anything to chance; that I took advantage of every single moment and hopefully to the benefit of all of us as a family. That’s the gamble that I’m taking. I certainly hope it pays off.
I don’t know what work life will be like when you grow up and enter the work force. Maybe there will be many jobs that currently run out of offices that will be run out of the home. Employees may report to work through the internet and do their work from their home offices, making it a little easier (or could it be harder) to juggle life’s responsibilities. Whatever changes or remains the same, though, the juggle will exist and I just want you to know that there is a lot of grey out there. Sometimes, you know you probably shouldn’t do something, but you might do it anyway.
My rationalization when I make these decisions is to ask myself – have I done everything at work that is expected of me? Am I on top of things and not dropping any balls? If I am, I allow myself the leeway to tango on that line in order to maximize my productivity in ALL areas of my life so that I can be the most capable Mom, Wife, Sister, Friend, Daughter, Grand-Daughter, Daughter-in-law, Sister-in-Law, Niece, Laundress, Dishwasher, Pet Caretaker, Student, and last and least Employee – that I can be.
Pardon me, but the music is about to start…. Right or wrong, I’ve decided that I’m going to go dance!
Here's a picture that you made today on foam with markers:
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I think you really realize that you have become a parent when this questions pops into your brain for the first time.
“Did I REALLY just DO that?”
What brings this question on you might ask?
Definitely not the first time you pluck a big green boogie from the nose of your child and, upon realizing that there is nowhere to put it, you end up wiping it on the ground or the nearest tree only to be brought aware of your actions when you see an incredulous person staring at you with jaw dropped wide open and you find yourself suddenly aware of what you did and asking:
“Did I really just DO that?”
And it definitely wouldn’t be the time that in a desperate attempt to pacify a toddler at the height of frustration because he is being made to do go home when he DOESN’T WANT TO, that you hand a big stick to your child because it’s the closest thing to a “toy” within reach until you realize that the next step for him is to start whacking everything in sight with it – including you.
….or the time in the grocery store where you kept picking out cartoon packaged foods in order to entertain your child while going through the aisles only to dump the entire stack of food items in the nearest bin before checkout
…or the time at night when you are SO tired that you can’t stay awake, yet your little guy is frightfully excited about how WONDERFUL it is to be next to you after a full day apart, so you fall asleep on the floor while he crawls over you and rolls cars over your head.
…or the first time that you fart in front of your toddler and he bursts into uncontrollable laughter and you can’t help but joining in – both of you laughing and farting and having a wonderful time – completely delighted with gross bodily functions.
Ah, yes. I do think you are officially a parent when you ask yourself for the first time: “Did I REALLY DO THAT?” and the terrible, truthful, wonderful answer is:
Yes – yes you did….
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
You know how cats and dogs have tails that sometimes seem to have a mind of their own? Their tails curl and move around so independently, that young kittens and puppies will chase their own tails when playing, not realizing it’s part of their own bodies till they bite down too hard and look around surprised to see if they can see where that shot of pain came from.
Well, in that same way, sometimes I think that your little hands and fingers have a mind of their own. They are the first things to wake up in the morning and the last things to settle down at night.
Sometimes on the weekend when you are napping, I like to read next to you. I can tell you are waking up because your hands become aware of the returning consciousness and begin with a little pre-wakeup calisthenics. Open, close, open, close. Flex, contract, flex, contract. Next, your fingers begin to slowly crawl across the top of the covers as though reading Braille searching for the binky that they are aware fell out of your mouth when you first nodded off. When they are successful, they maneuver the binky into your mouth and go about the next duty of waking you up. They rub your eyes and poke you in the ear and stick in your belly button and your eyes finally come open at the turmoil they are creating and you wake up.
In the evening, they can be quite hard to settle down. They want to grab for everything and I have to be careful to try to keep them busy with something quiet so that the business of the day can catch up with you a little and make you realize that you are tired until you can’t fight it anymore and fall asleep. Usually I accomplish this by giving you three plugs. I know, I know – bad mommy!! But, it works! You put one in your mouth and hold the others in your two hands. Your busy little fingers bend and pull on the nipples, but they are so busy with the project of exploring the pacifiers that they seem to give you a moments peace so you can listen to a bedtime story and settle in. Sometimes, though, those fingers realize what I’m doing and they’ll drop the binky and suddenly I’ll feel a little finger in my nostril while I’m reading to you and you’ll crack up as I jerk my head back to keep my brain from being pierced. Or sometimes your fingers will busy themselves by trying to pull a mole off of your Daddy’s arm. I don’t usually realize it’s happening until I hear your father say to you: “Jack – stop trying to pull my mole off.”
What I enjoy the most, though, is right before you fall asleep. Your hands slow down and then they might find my face and you will put a finger on my mouth and I’ll kiss it or blow lightly on the palm of your hand so it tickles a little and you’ll smile with your eyes closed and keep your hand there for a couple of repeats of this performance and then we’ll both nod. Hopefully you beat me to it.
At least we both know who will wake us up in the morning!
Thursday, August 10, 2006
So - my latest concern is nutrition, nutrition, nutrition! As you have become more and more independent, you are practicing this in all areas of your life. Most recently, you have become a bit of a picky eater.
Don't think I'm being critical! You come by it honestly! I am one of the pickiest eaters that you have ever met. People always used to tell me "you'll grow out of it! When you get bigger, your taste buds will develop and you'll like more types of foods that you don't like now." Well, guess what? I'm STILL waiting for that to happen!
I think what happens instead is you reach an age where you realize: if you don't want to have an ass the size of Texas, you have to start to eat more than just the things you like like macaroni and cheese, hotdogs, and pizza.
This is kind of hard to explain to you right now - language barrier aside - since you won't be able to relate at all to what I'm speaking about from the perspective of an adult. Instead, my approach has been to try to come up with ways to make the food I want you to eat more appealing to you.
A couple of techniques that I have used I discovered because they were successfully used on me - both by others and by myself.
You are a cheese lover - again - just like your Mom! So I have taken to putting a little cheese sauce on your veggies in order to get you to eat them.
Another thing I have tried is to make food faces! I organize your meal into some concoction that resembles a smiling face and put it in front of you. Your first reaction is usually to pause with hand in midair reaching for the fork and look at your tray in disbelief because your food is smiling at you with obvious enthusiasm to see you about to eat it.
You look up at me as though to ask me if I'm for real. I must have an expression on my face when you look at me as though I'm holding my breath - and usually, because I am. This makes you laugh and then you turn back to the face with a new perspective that: this is funny! You dig into that face launching the eyeballs to the sides of the tray, the nose falls in your lap and you carefully pick the string cheese mouth off of the face, because you recognize this as something you really love.
By the end, I'm not sure how much you actually ate of the face of the items that I was aiming to get in your system or what items dissappeared down the gullet of the canine vultures that lurk below you, but I will not give up in my quest to get your vegetables into you. I know you won't grow into them, so I need to convince you that you like them.
Maybe in the process, you can help convince me, too. What do you say, buddy?
Monday, August 07, 2006
The title of this entry ties to a game that you have been loving to play lately. You are loving to play this game where you hide from me and watch with excitement from your very conspicuous hiding spot as I frantically search for you asking over and over again "Where's Jack?!?! JAAAAAAACK!!! WHERE ARRRRRRE YOUUUUUUUU?!?"
Sometimes the vantage point of being able to watch my reaction closely has made the hiding spot a very distant second in importance and you will stand behind me, but enough to the side so that you can read my facial expressions clearly from a side view. You are SO visible to me from my peripheral vision, that it's sometimes nearly impossible NOT to find you. I have to be so careful not to look directly at you until the point in the game where you giggle or wiggle desperately and I know that permission is granted and you may be found.
You have found that you LOVE hiding in the cleaning closet where we keep the swiffer and broom and duster along with a mop bucket and mop. I cringe because it's this little closet without a handle that is very dark on the inside and I just know the day will come when we have company over and you run and close yourself in that closet and someone sees you do this and thinks "what kind of a mother puts her son in a closet to the point where he does it himself?"
Oh, well. Hopefully when this happens, it occurs at the same time that I open my mouth and say something incredibly ridiculous just to make it that more fantastic to this person and give them something to talk about forever. Like now, when looking for you, I'll say: "Jack, are you in the refrigerator, are you in the dishwasher?" Hopefully, upon hearing this, the individual will realize they have entered the world of the insane and will slowly back out of the house and run for cover and some semblance of normalcy again.
The truth of the matter is - I wonder where you are and what you are doing all the time - almost to the point of obsession.
Today you are spending the day with your Aunt Kelly. You are crazy about our extended family and always have so much fun with everyone, but this chance to spend a whole day with your Aunt is a fun treat that I know you will enjoy. I am so excited for you because I know how much you will enjoy the day - every second being a different experience and with an enthusiastic audience that thinks you are are the "cat's meow". I am so excited about the day that you're having that it's all I can do not to pick up the phone for a play by play description of the day. If it was up to me, you probably wouldn't have time to actually DO anything, the people you are with would be so busy describing it to me, you might not have time to experience it.
Long story short - this game: "Where's Jack?" may be one that you love, but I love it too and I must ask myself this question a hundred times a day. Where are you right now, little sweet one? What are you doing? Do you know at this moment how much I love and miss you? Do you realize how many times in a day I think of you? Of course not. Well, let me tell you right now. That question is one that I think about all the time and it makes me feel good when I hear the answer:
"There you are, Jack! I was wondering where you were"
Yes - I was.... :)
Love you lots n lots, buddy!