Tag Archives: children

Your Children Are Not Your Children

I had three encounters today that brought to mind these words from Lebanese poet and artist, Kahlil Gibran:

On Children
by Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Khalil Gibran at the age of 15. Photograph by Fred Holland Day, c. 1898.

Khalil Gibran at the age of 15. Photograph by Fred Holland Day, c. 1898.

Vivi, Away

We went through this together last year, right? Vivi being away at camp during her birthday week? Me not being able to make a fuss over her, all that rigamarole. I’ve been doing a lot better this year. Even when I miss her, I know she is safe and enjoying herself. I’ve had very few moments of panic that she might be curled up under her bed in the tent, crying because no one has told her that they love her that day. I’m cool…really.

But it’s been FOUR DAYS and I had yet to see a photo of her posted in the nightly album of scenes from the day. On the first night, I was slightly alarmed at this picture of my firstborn standing in the center of a pack of somber girls:

They're either learning how to raise the flag or acting out Lord of the Flies.

They’re either learning how to raise the flag or acting out Lord of the Flies.

Then today I made a teensy request (with only a touch of hysteria), because it’s her birthday, for a photo of my girl. The camp director replied “We’re on it!” and soon I was holding back tears at the sight of this beautiful creature:

Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.

Love many, trust few, and always paddle your own canoe.

Who is this woodland spirit? This daughter of Life’s longing for itself, she reminds me every day that “life goes not backwards.” I may spend today thinking back to the moment she was born, how Daddy reassured me “She’s pinking up real nice” when her Apgar score wasn’t so hot the first time. For me, this day is about then. For her, it’s about TODAY–a crown made from pipe cleaners, a cake to share with her unit, a care package filled with books and glow sticks and confetti eggs. She spent today learning to paddle her own canoe, discovering who she is today and getting ready for who she’ll be tomorrow.

Dancing with Jack

“You want to hop out at the door or do you want me to walk in with you?”

“Walk wif me.”

Carlos is at Extra Special People camp this week, and even though he is comfortable and knows from last summer that it’s a fun place, he still needs a hand to hold when we first walk in.

The first activity of the day at ESP is “Flag.” All campers gather around on the lawn to sing, dance, and brag on each other. It’s pretty loud for Carlos, so he hangs back around the periphery with his coach. I tried to coax him up to the circle, and he managed it for a while, but he kept floating back to the shelter of the sidewalk.

Then along came Jack. I know his mother from work, so I know all about Jack but he doesn’t know me. Jack is autistic and doesn’t speak. He’s not a big fan of shoes, but he does like hugs. His shirt today said, “THUG LIFE – drop the T and get over here!” Jack likes to stay on the move during Flag, so his coach was following close behind him to make sure he was safe.

Jack walked past me, just a few inches away, and I reflexively leaned down to his eye level and said, “Hey, Jack!” As soon as I said it, I thought, “Oh, that’s right…Jack doesn’t talk,” and I scrambled to think of how to communicate with him since talking is kind of my thing. But before I could chase my rabbit too far, Jack looked me right in the eye for a moment and smiled. I stuck out my hand for a high five and got two. Then two more, then low fives, then middle fives, then around the side fives and pretty soon we were both giggling. Then I got a hug from Jack and my heart cracked wide open.

His bare foot scraped across my shoe and caught his attention. Jack turned himself around then carefully put his feet on top of my feet so that we could move together. He offered me his hands and I slowly began to turn in small steps, making a circle in the cool early morning grass. We danced for a little while then Jack went on his way.

I had assumed that I wouldn’t know how to talk to Jack because he wouldn’t talk back to me. But we figured it out when Jack showed me the way–start with love then take little steps from there. “You may give them your love, but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts…You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.”

Thank you, Jack, for reminding me how to make a friend without using any words.

Twilight Rockets

End of the day fatigue led to a parenting mistake: I opened a box from Amazon in front of Carlos without remembering what was in it. Along with a Brandi Carlisle CD for me, I had ordered some Rocket Copters with the aim of taking them to the beach. They’re little plastic darts with wings and LED lights that you launch from a slingshot. They sail 120 feet in the air, spinning/blinking/whistling then plummet down to land on your roof or a nearby tree. Hence my aim to keep them a secret until we were at the beach and had a wide open space.

“Can we do them now, Mama?”

“We have to wait until dark.”

“Is dark now, Mama? When’s dark? Is dark after dinner or after bath? Is dark at bedtime or book time? Is dark now, Mama? How about now?”

I was so tired and so not wanting to have to put on bug spray and shoes to shoot a stupid rocket ONCE before I had to dig out the ladder to climb up on the roof. I hid the rockets in my room in hopes that he would forget about them.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…RIGHT.

After bath time and before book time, with his wet hair slicked down like Rudolph Valentino, Carlos came into the den and chirped, “Is it dark now, Mama?”

Dark enough, Baby.

We went out to the deck and I shot the first one straight up…and into the pool. While I went downstairs to fish it out (with the LED light still blinking, so these are actually pretty sturdy little toys), G shot the second one…onto the roof.

I stayed down by the water to rescue any that came my way and G stayed on the deck with Carlos to fetch the ones that hit the roof. For a good 10 minutes as night fell around us and the bats flitted through the graying sky, we shrieked and squealed and laughed. After a few duds, Carlos eventually figured out the magic of a slingshot, how the power is in both the hand that holds steady and the hand that pulls back.

Each needs the other to work. “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.” All this bending that we have to do as parents, it’s so that our children can fly strong and true to the horizon.

Let our bending be for gladness.

carlos tribal summer esp

Moving On

After Richard died and left our house to me in his will, many people assumed that I would be selling it.  As one friend put it, “It will be easier for you to move on with your life if you’re not still in this place.”

I didn’t want to give up our house.  Yes, it was too big for just me.  Yes, it was a lot to maintain on my own.  Yes, every corner and crook held a memory of our time together there.  But I didn’t want to give up my house.  One blazing hot July afternoon, I came home to an HVAC unit that had been struck by lightning, a green pool, and a leak in the basement.  I stomped around cussing and pouring chemicals and mopping and panicking.  I didn’t want to let myself start crying because I wasn’t sure how I would stop.  I remember glaring up at the brick face of the house as I turned the hose on and shaking my fist at it.  To be so huge, it was hugely empty–just me and three dachshunds.  That night, as I watched the Atlanta news and ate my dinner all alone in the den, the anchor introduced a story about kids who needed to be adopted.  Three siblings who hoped to stay together.  It’s hard to find a house with that much empty space–but I had one.  A part of my wretched heart opened up at that story because it dawned on me that maybe the house would give me options down the road that I wouldn’t have otherwise.  Like any gift, my house held possibilities.

kids

One of the dearest things about Richard’s gift to me is that he knew how much owning a home meant to me.  He had grown up with a home–his parents lived in the same house from the time he was in elementary school until after he was out of college.  He loved the little yellow house so much that he was furious when the next owners cut down “his” azaleas.  My childhood memories were scattered over several places–the trailer in Greenville, the brown house in Hollonville, the old plantation house, the tin-roofed house on the Circle.  By the time I was an adult, neither my mom nor my dad lived in a place where I had ever had a room of my own.  I didn’t have a childhood home to go back to.  Fartbuster and I had bought a house together, but it never felt like a place to put down roots.  I didn’t know any of my neighbors there…or my husband, for that matter.  When we divorced, I felt like I was being forced into the decision to sell.  I rented two more places on my own before Richard and I bought our house.  After he left it to me, I had a place I would never have to leave unless it was my choice.  So I chose to stay.

Within five years, all the bedrooms were full with three siblings.  Not those sweet kids from the evening news–my kids.  Yesterday, two of them and I were playing in the backyard when I witnessed something that taught me a new lesson about moving on.

The very idea of “moving on” is an illusion.  We put together our lives not by moving away from the past, but by integrating the past into the present and the future, regardless of where we might be.

bluebirdI’ve told the story before about the bluebird who appeared at our backyard wedding (A Tuesday Kind of Miracle).  Well, yesterday, as I sat in the sun and watched Vivi and Carlos playing in her wagon, a pair of bluebirds flitted out of the forsythia bushes on the far side of  the yard.  I thought I was seeing things.  One perched on the fence down by the river–in the exact spot where the wedding bluebird had sat almost nine years ago.  As I was marveling at the beauty of the bluebird–and the memory I associate with them–Carlos caught my eye and chirped, “Hello, Mommy!”  Time collapsed in my backyard as my son stood in the same place Richard and I had stood to say our vows, and called me by my new name.  Mommy.

If I had sold this house and moved in to a new place, I would have missed that moment.  I would have missed seeing my Now blend so seamlessly with my Then.  As I sat there being happy, it dawned on me that that is what HOME is–being somewhere long enough that stories have time to come back around.

Be Good For Something

This quote from Henry David Thoreau inspired my column today at Work It, Mom:

thoreau

The story is called “The How, When and WHY of Work: Fostering a Healthy Work Ethic In Our Children.”  Here’s an excerpt:

A few years back, my father hired a teenage boy to be an afternoon kennel assistant at his veterinary clinic.  Cleaning cages, feeding the animals, tidying up–a job of all work.  Mopping kennels at a vet clinic doesn’t require a tie, but this kid always showed up to work with his jeans sagging down off his butt.  Every time he stooped over to put a bowl of water on the floor, he had to adjust his pants.  While he stocked shelves or swept the exam rooms, he was constantly hiking his pants up or pulling them down to keep them in just the right spot.

This drove my dad NUTS.  So he, as the business owner and boss, told the kid, “Those pants are interfering with your work.  Either wear a belt tomorrow or don’t come in at all.”  The kid got huffy and replied, “I don’t have to put up with this sh*t!”
 
Which led to much laughing from the actual adults who worked there.  Gina, the lead tech snorted, “Oh, yes, sweetheart–YOU DO have to put up with this sh*t!” 
So click on over and find out what happened!

Playing Telephone

play phoneHow about a silly story that has nothing to do with Christmas?

When my nephew, Jackson, was about two, Brett dropped him off at Nana’s house for the afternoon.  Jackson’s diaper was riding low.  Brett said, “I’ve tried everything short of tying him down but he will NOT let me change that diaper.  See if you can get him to cooperate.”

After a while at Nana’s, Jackson pulled a yellow plastic phone out of the toy box.  Nana acted all excited and said, “Jackson!  I have a great idea!  Let’s call your daddy and talk to him about that diaper!”

So Nana pretended to dial the plastic phone.  She waited for it to ring and for someone to pick up…all the while Jackson was giggling and wiggling at their silly game.  Then Nana said:

“Hey!  Could I speak to Jackson’s Daddy?  Why yes, I’ll hold”…….”Hey!  I hate to bother you at work, but I need a little help.  Jackson has a wet diaper and he doesn’t want me to change it.  Would you talk to him and tell him that we need to change that diaper?”

Jackson hung on every word that Nana spoke into the yellow plastic phone.

She went on:

“OK, so you’ll talk to him for me?  Good!  Let me put Jackson on the phone.”

She handed the baby the phone.  Like a pro, Jackson stuck the phone between his ear and shoulder and began pacing back and forth across the floor.  He listened carefully to the imaginary voice on the other end of the line.  He nodded his head and said, “Uh huh.  Uh huh.  OK.”

Then he handed the phone back to Nana and said, “Daddy said NOT to change my diaper.”

Well, okey dokey then.

phone

The Stuff That Comes Out of My Mouth

wdyaParenting Pop Quiz – December 16th

Which of the following statements did I utter this weekend?

A.  “Please wash the poo off the bottom of the minivan.”

B.  “Grab the Dustbuster.  He just poured half a cup of powdered garlic down his diaper.”

C.  “Get your foot out of the popcorn.”

D.  All of the above.

I guess it’s lucky that only one was said to G.

What Is This Word?

Child with a Dove, Pablo Picasso, 1901

Child with a Dove, Pablo Picasso, 1901

I try to do at least one New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle per week.  After Richard died, his mother left a half-complete collection of NYT puzzles at our house.  I asked her if she wanted me to mail it to her and she said, “No.  I did so many in the hospital these last few months that I don’t think I ever want to do one again.”  So I picked up her book and finished it.  Then I bought another one and another one.  There are 200 in each collection–now that I have kids, one book can last me over three years!  But anywho…one of the clues this week for a three-letter verb reminded me of a sweet story from when Vivi was little and G and I were still in the throes of parenting an infant.

I make fun of G’s Brasilian accent now and again, but the man has an exceptional command of the English language.  Shoot, he even helps me with those crossword puzzles–usually for things like isotopes, names of stars, or atomic numbers.  Still, every so often, he bumps into a word he’s just never needed to know until that moment.

Like the time we took Vivi to the pediatrician when she was about six months old.  Vivi had a lot of ear infections, so we were talking to the doctor about whether they might impair her hearing and speech development.  The doctor said, “Does she make normal baby sounds?  Is she cooing?”  I assured him that she was and the doctor told me it was nothing to worry about.  He told us that we could get Vivi dressed again and left the room.  G put his hand on my arm and leaned in close.  “What is this word ‘coo?'”

It’s a delicate whisper of a word–coo.  Not something he would have run across in a chemistry lab, or a research paper, or a citizenship exam, or a patent application.  Not a word you hear at the grocery store, the gas station, the tax office, the cafeteria, the television.  It’s such a precise word.  You might know it if you have been close to birds or babies, but not otherwise.

I explained, “Oh, you know the sound doves make.  No?  It’s those little happy sounds she makes, like she’s trying to talk to us, like a cat purring.”  He smiled and cupped her tiny head in his calloused hand.  He leaned close to her and said, “Do you coo, gatinho do papai?”  I watched him as he tucked that word into his mind, on the English side, across from “arrulho.”  A sweet word that only came his way because he’s a Daddy.  

Is there a special word you associate with a moment in your life?  What’s a word you remember learning?

Sleep, Baby, Sleep

When it’s time to go to bed, I can’t walk past my children’s bedrooms without stopping in to check on them while they sleep.  Tonight, I took an extra moment to sit still beside them.  I rested my hand on Vivi’s chest and felt her heart tapping along beneath my palm.  Peace.  In Carlos’ room, I pushed the sweaty curls off his brow.  He stirred then sighed.  I put my hand over his heart and breathed in the quiet in his dark little haven.

There is no faster path to the present moment than feeling my child’s heart beating.

Léon Bazille Perrault [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Léon Bazille Perrault “A Mother With Her Sleeping Child,” via Wikimedia Commons