Thursday, May 26, 2011

It Is Time To Exhale

Child of Mine 
by Paige Jansen Tighe

Child of mine,
Daughter, son,
I still feel your tiny newborn heart
Beating against my chest
As I press you into me,
Tiny legs drawn up and mouth a rosy bow.
I have one hand on your bottom,
The other protects your wobbly grapefruit
Eyes closed, I nuzzle your neck
And drink in that scent which is
Distinctly and divinely and gloriously
You are my heart.
I often thought, back then, if I inhaled
     deeply enough
I would suck you right into my soul.
Is anything more precious?

Ah, but you are big now
And cannot be sucked so easily into someone else’s soul.
Your scent is still
Distinctly and divinely and gloriously
But now it mingles with
Glue smell and baby chick,
Sweat, lunch box, fresh air and sunshine.
Hairspray, cologne.
It has come time for me to exhale,
To allow your legs to lengthen,
Your mind to explore,
And yes, I must even allow
Your tender heart to break,
So that you may
Listen in the quiet,
Smell a coming storm,
Gaze long into every day,
Tread softly upon the earth.

Taste, my precious one,
See that the Lord is good,
And may laughter be your lot.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Our Open Door Policy

When I was a teenager--way back in dinosaur days--there were party houses, and the houses you didn't go to (because they weren't party houses).  My parents kept the door to our house open to my friends, and bought us beer.  (My poor parents didn't even drink.)  As I consider it now, though, I think that was because I was in control, not them.  I was big-mouthed, stubborn, rebellious and bold.  They were afraid I would run away if they clamped down too much.  I am not sure if I would have or not.  They figured if my friends and I were in our club basement, we would not be driving around in cars.  I understand their thinking, I would just never do anything like that.  Some of the other parents in our group did the same.  Mostly, though, those parents partied upstairs while the kids were getting looped downstairs.

This is absolutely NOT what I am referring to in the title of this blog!  Our door is open to ALL of our children's friends, no matter how old they are, and even if they are a little annoying.  If the high-schoolers come, I make a huge pot of chili, or something else you can feed an army.  I am always willing to chat, stay up late and be available to their parents if necessary.  If the group is a mix of boys and girls who are spending the night, the rules are very clear:  Girls are upstairs after one a.m. and boys are downstairs--and just to be sure, I sleep on the couch.  I know one morning I will wake up duct taped to the couch with ketchup in my hair and Sharpie marker on my face.  I sincerely hope someone gets a picture!  If the younger kids are here, I make every attempt to enforce a midnight bedtime and check a little after that to make sure everyone is where they belong.

We know our children's friends and embrace them as our own when they are under our care.  We hold very high standards in our home regarding bad language, smoking, drugs and alcohol--the highest standards.  None of those things are tolerated.  We inquire about their future plans and attempt to give wise responses to their questions.  If one of the teens showed up at our door under the influence or in need, we would do what we had to do to remain relational, keep everybody safe, love on that person and maintain our standards.  The word of God is spoken in our home and if you stay over on Saturday, make sure you bring church clothes for Sunday. 

We want our home to be a safe and dependable place where good food and kind words can be found, where everybody has a place and knows where they stand.  So far, so good.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Feed Your Kids, Not Your Addiction

The title of this installment of Momma To Momma may sound a little harsh but--well, it's supposed to.  Since I began my teaching career in the late 1980s, I have come across buckets of children with practicing alcoholic or drug-addicted parents.  There is no excuse.  I attended a parent conference--at a middle school in Baltimore--in which the child's mother was so drunk she fell out of her chair.  Another boy slept in a urine-drenched bed with several of his brothers and paid the electric bill on his own at twelve--his mother was a heroin addict.  A student in NJ visited my house and I refused to allow him to go home with his step-father; he smelled like a brewery.  A lot of my old friends didn't give up their wild ways when they had children--some have not even survived their children's childhoods.  Either way, their behaviors, left unchecked, do not just affect their children, but their grandchildren and great-grandchildren...and so on.

When we become grown-ups, we are supposed to put away childish behavior.  Look around you:  is your life unmanageable because of drug or alcohol use?  Are your children eating warm meals at the right time of day?  Do you stay in bed while they get themselves ready for school?  Do you ever leave your children unattended so you can party?  Do you want to stop but have absolutely no idea how?

Currently, at the Romney Goodwill next to Food Lion, there are three or four copies of Alcoholics Anonymous (affectionately known within the rooms of AA as the "Big Book").  If you decide to purchase a copy of this book, tell them you read about it on this blog and the nice Goodwill ladies will not charge you.  (I've got it covered.)  If your world looks hopeless because of addiction, do something.  There is hope.  Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are great programs filled with like-minded people who will love and support you as you work to stay clean one day at a time.  I am not writing this to condemn anyone, but to offer hope.  Be blessed!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Momma-Mia Ramblings...

I've had oodles of opportunities to reflect on mothering over the last couple weeks.  I have considered my own mother, my grandmothers, my mother-in-law, my daughter as a mother, my wonderful Auntie Madge and my own mothering.  The mothers in my family have been strong and brave for generations behind me, and I carry not only their strength, but their stories, in my body.  I am glad to know these stories and to have my life intertwined with their lives.  I am proud of that heritage. 

I think, because I am a person who people assume hasn't grown all the way up, I get mothered a lot.  I welcome this behavior in some, and in others I find it maddening.  I suspect motherly types are tipped off by my absolute inability to wear grown-up-lady shoes, or have my hair cut in a way that says ADULT.  And here's the paradoxical part of this little scenario:  I also mother people.  Some welcome it; and some, I am sure, find it maddening.

I am also very selective about the people I allow to mother me, and I don't think it has anything to do with prideful behavior.  There are women in my life who could slap me down for something I did and I would learn a lesson.  And there are women I would want to slap back.  Two of the women I appreciate most, Chris Thomson (my best friend's mom) and Evangelist Boone (Christ Gospel Church/Whitesboro, New Jersey) are also spiritual mothers--they have both directed me in the ways of God and corrected me when I was wrong.  I love them for their correction.  They are women who are submitted to God in their own lives and tend not to coddle me.  I am not a person who requires coddling, just some good old-fashioned butt whuppin' once in awhile.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Vacations At A Glance

Until 2003 we went on a vacation every single year.  Even if our vacation was just a five-day jaunt to a semi-local campground, we went.  And we had fun.  In fact, I don't remember a vacation that wasn't fun--it's just like that when you have a lot of kids of different ages.

When there were just two of them (the oldest two were two and four at the time), our daughter wanted to tie the baby to a tree so we'd quit having to chase him in a panic.  When she was a little older we told her the legend of the Woolly Swamp (and old Lucius Clay) while canoeing in a cedar swamp.  I don't know that she's ever revisited canoeing.  In 1998, we went to the Delaware River because that's where the three-year-old wanted to go.  Don't ask me who ever told her about the Delaware River.  We went to Niagara in late August of 2001.  (Note the date.)  What a blast!  Canada, the Maid of the Mist, Darien Lake Theme Park.  On the way home, this is is what my husband said:  "Do you want to head straight down I-81 or go east across New York and show the kids the NYC skyline?"  This is what I said:  "Oh, let's just go home.  We can show them the skyline ANY TIME."  Ouch.  In 2002, we rented somebody's camp on a lake in Down East, Maine (that's what the locals call it; we stayed on Cathance Lake near Machias).  Do you realize they have spiders in them thar parts that make noise?  I was awakened in the night by a ginormous spider scratching its feet on the lampshade next to my bed.  Thank heavens it was the lamp SHADE and not the knob I reached for to light the room.  The lobsters there are ginormous, too, so that more than makes up for the spider problem.

In 2003, our vacation was spent sprucing up the farm we bought as a second home.  In 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 we did the same thing.  By 2008, we lived on that farm and had too many animals to leave for any length of time.  So, we have not gone anywhere (far away) as a family for many years.  But, we have managed stolen weekends for camping and taken day trips to local attractions.  It is almost as if we have been prepared for a crippled economy.  I'm not sure the kids really care if we go anywhere BIG and FAR AWAY.  I know they'd like to visit cool places but their focus seems to be that we do things together.  So when we go, we do our best to leave home behind where it belongs, and focus on enjoying each other's company.  In a few weeks, we plan on pitching a tent in our very own pine thicket.  I can't wait!  We just have to all make a deal not to bring cell phones and not to go home.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

When Children Grieve

I had the sad occasion yesterday to observe children in mourning.  Our community lost a teenager; he was a friend to many, a real character, and it is to him I dedicate this blog.  Many teens rode to the funeral together, visited the casket together, wept softly in each others' arms.  A lot left tender mementos and notes in the coffin.  Some were driven by parents, but we were not able to offer the necessary comfort.  Our kids didn't need us--they needed each other, so many of us drifted to the perimeter to reflect and to grieve in our own ways.  I think it was important for our children, whose boo-boos we've kissed with our magic lips, whose foes we've met head on with our teeth bared, to know we were there should they need us. 

Way back when I was in college, a friend was killed by a drunk driver.  Her name was Maryann and she was the oldest daughter in a family of ten.  To the younger children, she was a second mother.  It was the first time I had ever experienced such a senseless, such a devastating loss. Her younger sisters' grief was agonizing to witness.  Their cries were high-pitched, full of something without a name, something even deeper than despair.  They clung to each other; they did not seek solace in the arms of an adult.

It is important for us, as mothers, to accept that some boo-boos are not ours to kiss.  I am learning through this terrible experience, to listen instead of soothe--unless soothing is requested.  I am learning not to initiate because my well-meaning words could scrape open a wound beginning to heal.  I am learning to walk that fine line between saying too much and not saying enough. 

I stood at Kalob's coffin and longed to fix the terrible trouble--so many years were stretched out before him.  But, there is no fixing.  So, in honor of this one boy, I pledge to listen better and to say less, to love more and to fear less, to be who my children need me to be as they swim new waters, both dark and sweet.