Archives for posts with tag: Children

The other day, I sent my four-year-old to find a pacifier for my three-year-old.

“There are a few in her room. I remember seeing them. Can you go grab one for me?”

She helpfully and eagerly bounded up the stairs, only to return a while later, with no pacifiers.

“I looked on the bed. I looked behind the bed (Did you know I’m big enough to move her bed??). I looked all over. There are NO pacis in her room!”

Flustered, I walked upstairs, entered my youngest daughter’s room, and looked down at the floor, where no fewer than THREE pacifiers lay, scattered on the grey carpet.

Exasperated, I yelled, “Sophie! You’re so terrible at looking for things! Didn’t you see these? How could you not see these?!”

It’s amazing what kids just don’t see.

They don’t see mess.

They don’t see toys.

They don’t see the mud puddle.

They don’t see cars, or waiters, or busboys carrying precariously tall stacks of dishes.

They don’t see clean underwear or socks.

They don’t see the water drops on the sink. Or around the bathtub.

A lot of times, I think they don’t even see the toilet.

They also don’t see those five (or ten, or fifty) extra pounds you’ve been dieting over, or stressing over, or grabbing in hateful fistfuls and wishing, screaming, cursing over.

They don’t see the dark circles. Or the worry lines.

They don’t see the rough hands. The short, chewed nails.

They don’t see that zit on your forehead.

They don’t see the dirty dishes that have been piling up.

They don’t see the stack of mail cluttering up the kitchen table.

They don’t see the mismatched plates. Or the chipped paint. Or that really loud, squeaky spot on the floor.

They don’t see the failing.

Or the flailing.

They don’t see the tears.

They don’t see what you see.

They don’t see it.

Instead, they see that, even though you’ve served them cereal for dinner—again—tonight, you remembered to shake the bag before pouring their bowl, bringing all of the marshmallows up to the top. Just for them.

They see that you’ve still managed to shove aside the clutter on the table to make a space. Just for them.

They see, in the dirt that has built up on their faces and in their hair, all of the hours that you have let them play. And explore. And investigate. And given over to the grime of childhood. Just for them.

They see that you know exactly what their favorite shows, their favorite songs, their favorite apps are, and you can and will summon those things for them. Just for them.

They see that you are magic. Just for them.

They see the splashing game they played together in the bathtub, which you filled with perfectly warm, soothing water. Just for them.

They see a pile of clothes, still dryer-warm, perfect for a cannonball, that you have washed and left in the basket. Just for them.

They see unmade beds perfect for jumping.

They see round, soft bellies for story-time snuggles.

They see sleepy, bloodshot eyes that crinkle in the corners when you smile.

They see you kiss them goodbye early every morning.

They see you come back to them. Every night. And smile.

They don’t see anything that happens in between.

And what they don’t see? What they don’t see is all the stuff you are not.

They see you.

They know you.

And they love you for it.

Because they see it all.

 

November 1st: Today, I am thankful for my daughters. Every day, they teach me a little bit more about how to see myself, my home, and the world the way they do.

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I don’t know if I believe in God. There. I said it.

I definitely believe in something bigger than me. I believe in something smarter than me. I believe in something that understands the mysteries of life and the universe better than me. (Insert joke about Neil Degrasse Tyson here) So, I suppose, in that sense, I believe in a god or god-figure. (And, honestly, no. Not Neil Degrasse Tyson. I actully imagine a shimmering cloud, whizzing through the universe. It has a pinkish tinge. That’s what I see. That’s my superior being. Silly, I know.)

It’s not “god” I have a problem with. It’s “God.”

The God that so many people claim as their own.

The God that listens and loves.

The God that created us to be fearful, wonderful, and fallible.

The God that is prepared to forgive, but is also ready to punish for an eternity, precisely for all of those flaws He intentionally placed inside of us from the beginning.

The God that will take the wheel.

He’s the one I just can’t seem to get behind.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to believe. There is something pure, whimsical, childlike, comforting in the raw, animal acceptance of that for which we have no scientific data, no hard proof. I envy my friends of faith. I marvel at their belief. Not their knowing. Their belief. Their unmistakable sense that this must be. Everything inside of me tells me. This. MUST. Be.

It’s incredible.

I applaud you. I really do. There is such a confidence (perhaps, at times, bordering on narcissism) in the unabashed faith in your own destiny as chosen, as special. Your absolute assuredness. Your unflinching knowing. I’m in awe of you.

And I need you.

My hypocrisy is that, even without this system of belief, even without this knowing, I still need people of faith around me. People of belief: I need you.

I need you to pray.

To your God.

Because I can’t.

Because my god? Well, my god’s busy. My god’s work on this planet is finished. My god has much more important things to deal with than my little dog and pony show. My god is creating parallel universes. Helping stars scatter their life-giving minerals throughout space. My god is busy writing the most beautiful symphonies into the numerical inifities of Pi. He’s microwaving a burrito so hot he can’t eat it. Just for funsies.

So I know that I can’t pray. I can’t get over the feeling that it’s just a useless gesture for me. Which is why I need you. You.

You see, my daugther is going in for surgery. Logically, I know that it’s not a big deal. Logically, I know that her odds of being struck by lightning are greater than her odds of having serious complications from having ear tubes placed and her adenoids removed. Logically, I know this.

But I also know that lightning does strike.

And I know that she is my world.

I know this.

It’s hypocritical of me. I’m asking you to waste your prayers, your favors, your limited energy and time with your Creator on the daughter of a heathen. But for some reason (and this is something that defies all logic, all science, all numeric infinities) I am comforted by the thought of you praying for my girl. It means a lot to me to know that you are taking the time, expending the energy, offering the sacrifice, engaging in the ritual, just for her. I know that when you pray to your God, it is an act of love. And love is my request. I need all of it I can get. She needs it.

When she goes into that surgery center, she’ll be given powerful drugs to make her sleep and forget. She’ll be cut into by a surgeon’s practiced hands. She’ll be monitored by anethesiologists, by nurses. She’ll be protected by science. By experience. By knowledge. By logic.

But her brown eyes contain my entire universe.

So, though it’s hypocritical of me, can you, my dear friends, help to make sure that something else will be in that center with her? Something that I can’t logically believe in, but also can’t quite argue away? Can you send her love? Can you? Can you all join together, in a single, pious chorus, and direct your God’s attention to her tiny, inert body, and ask Him, please, to maybe just smile lovingly, to blow a calming wind, to wink and nod and nudge? Can you?

I believe that you can. I have to. I must.

And I’m okay with that. For her, I will be a hypocrite. For her, I will.

You are a product of science and love, of desperate hope, and about three-hundred dollars.

Your hair is the color of newly-harvested wheat.

Your eyes the color of my favorite old blue jeans.

You have a single dimple on your left cheek, like an extra stitch left in by a careless tailor.

Your first freckle appeared on your right shin. Your second under your chin.

Your first kicks were in response to your father’s band.

Your first cries in protest against the sudden chill of birth.

When you sleep, you look just like your father, but, like me, you’ll never be called an “old soul.”

You love to “write songs” with your crayons and colored paper, using only yellows, peaches, pinks, and whites, because, as you explain, “Purple is too dark for my song.”

You are both a princess and a superhero.

Your sister is your best friend.

Your sister is your biggest fan.

When around other children, you giggle and play, run and laugh, but those you truly love, you stand next to quietly, reverentially, and silently reach down to hold their hands.

You love birds, airplanes, helicopters, the Sun, the Moon, anything that touches the sky.

You believe in magic.

You believe in good.

You believe that if you just wish hard enough, you can become a fairy who carries dewdrops to spider webs.

You place raspberries on your fingertips and swallow them whole.

You don’t want to take ballet lessons. Not because you don’t love it, but because, “I already know how to dance.”

And you’re right. You do.

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You have all your favorite books memorized, and all your favorite songs.

You become frustrated and angry when you don’t know the answer. Embarrassed when you have to be told twice.

You run away when we scold you, only to return, minutes later, offering “I’m sorrys” and hugs.

Sometimes, I hear you quietly correcting yourself, repeating over and over the lessons we try to teach you.

You clear small toys out of your sister’s still-unsteady walking path, take daddy’s tools away from her, hug her when she falls down.

It breaks my heart with pity and pride, seeing the responsibility you already feel.

When you have good dreams, they are filled with your favorite things: Papaw, Grammy, books, daddy’s guitar, mommy’s singing.

When you have nightmares, you are alone.

Your first instinct is always to love, to praise. Everything new is wonderful to you. Hate and distaste do not come naturally.

Every day, you run up to me and say, “Hey, I have an idea.’

You want to climb every tower.

You want to build a palace where we all could live.

You want to hide. But only because you want the thrill of being found.

You don’t know that you’re not supposed to sing in an office. Or dance at a restaurant.

You don’t know that mommy isn’t the best dancer in the world. That daddy’s guitar isn’t the sweetest sound.

You are willful.

You are opinionated.

You are stronger than I think you are.

Braver than you admit.

You tell me, over and over again, that you can do it all yourself.

And you’re right.

You’re right.

You can.

 

Happy third birthday, my Honest Girl. My Sophia.

To the Moon and back. To the Sun and back. To the stars and back.

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Special thanks to Michelle Rodgers Studio for the wonderful family photos.

Every year, after the holidays begin to wind down, I suddenly become aware of just how much shit my children have. Not being particularly sentimental about toys myself, I instantly get to work on what I like to call the “purge.” Though my oldest is not quite 3 years old, I’ve already noticed a pattern to my annual (sometimes biannual) purge. Below, I give all of my stressed out parenting friends, buried and suffocating underneath mountains of kid crap, step-by-step instructions for how to de-clutter and take back your home from the children, assert your dominance over your domain.

This is about empowerment, people.

And wine. Lots and lots of wine.

1. While the small ones are sleeping, carefully go through and sort their toys into several piles. One for broken, cheap, and/or novelty toys that can be instantly discarded. One for toys in good shape that have not been touched in weeks. Another pile for popular, nice toys that are in good shape. Yet another for broken yet popular toys. At this time of year, you may also have a pile of unopened toys or repeat toys. Decide if those can be exchanged, or should be donated, regifted, or placed in the attic for last-minute birthday presents later in the year.

2. Discard all broken and/or McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. Do this immediately, without thinking about it. Make sure to pile newspapers or coffee grounds on top, to obscure any view of the toys that the toddler might notice in the bottom of the trash. Be double and triple certain that not a single molecule of the toys can be seen by the naked eye. It’s best to not even keep the bag in the house. In fact, just take the trash outside and burn it in the street.

3. Box up any toys still in good, relatively unused shape, and set them in the guest room closet, ready to be shipped to your local charity. Pro Tip: Take pictures of the contents of any boxes you donate so that you can accurately inventory your donations on your tax return without going through the hassle of actually indexing everything you give away.

4. Place all popular toys back in the play area.

5. Put any broken or ripped popular toys on a shelf. Somewhere out of reach for the children but conspicuous enough that you will see them and be reminded to repair them in a timely manner. They will now stay there until the children graduate college.

6. Survey all that you have accomplished, and open a bottle of wine to congratulate yourself. Begin contemplating a minimalist lifestyle. 100 possessions? You mean I’d still have to find 100?? P-shaw. Surely you jest. Bet I could do 85. 80, if I’m pushing it.

7. Realize that you can see your floor for the first time in a month. Pour another glass of wine. You so rock at this.

8. Toddler awakens, runs to playroom, and immediately asks where her penguin is. You freeze. The penguin…? The penguin that she got in her Happy Meal last month. The Happy Meal that her Papaw bought her that night she stayed with them. The penguin that was his special gift to her, and he gave her after she ate all her chicken nuggets. The penguin that was her prize for being his big girl. The penguin that means more to her than anything else ever in the entire world. Where is her penguin??

9. Send spouse to McDonald’s for Happy Meals, hoping to distract her with new crappy, plastic shit.

10. It works.

11. Pour more wine.

12. After two weeks, notice your toddler playing in the guest room. She finds the box of forgotten toys in the closet. Because of course they haven’t been donated yet. You’re not done yet. You still have to go through their rooms, their closets. Maybe even the kitchen. The purge isn’t finished yet. Nothing has happened since that first night. But you have plans. Big plans. Huge.

13. Watch your toddler have ALL THE FEELINGS about toys she hasn’t missed in two whole weeks.

14. Weakly protest as she unpacks the entire box.

15. Dutifully carry entire contents of the box upstairs to her room, and help her arrange the toys on her bed, strategically placed so she can cuddle them all throughout the night.

16. Open more wine. Pour a glass.

17. Hear toddler come back from arranging her now “favorite” toys on her bed, and ask you where Papaw’s penguin is. She can’t find it anywhere!

18. Start drinking straight from the bottle.

Last night, as I was putting Honest Girl down for the night, she asked me to sing her a song. Softly, I began:

Baby mine, don’t you cry.

Baby mine, dry your eyes.

“What’s that song?”

“That’s ‘Baby Mine.’ It’s from the movie Dumbo. A mommy elephant sings it to her baby.”

Hearing the word elephant sent Honest Girl’s eternally associative mind on a spin.

“No! Sing the elephant song!”

Now, back in my day, “The Elephant Song” was happy, innocent, and joyful—“Skin-a-ma-rink-a-dink-a-dink / Skin-a-ma-rink-a-doo / I love you”—and called “The Elephant Song” because it was featured on “The Elephant Show.” For Honest Girl, “The Elephant Song” is “Elephant,” by Jason Isbell—a song about a woman dying of cancer who drinks and gets high to escape the “elephant” of her mortality. It’s beautiful, but completely heartbreaking. And there’s an f-bomb in it.

It’s one of Honest Girl’s favorite songs. The fact that she loves this song gives me equal parts terror and pleasure. It’s a reminder of what a weird parent I can sometimes be. A small symbol to remind me that one day she will either thank me for my quirks, or refuse to speak to me for the better part of her twenties.

Or both.

Dutifully, and being careful to substitute a few choice words here and there, I start to sing her “Elephant.” We got to the second verse:

I’d sing her classic country songs

And she’d get high and sing along.

She don’t have the voice to sing with now—

Suddenly, Honest Girl interrupted me.

“Sing me a country song.”

“You want me to sing you a country song?”

“Sing me a country song!”

Immediately, I burst into the first country song that popped into my head:

I hear that train a-comin’.

It’s rollin’ round the bend.

And I ain’t seen the sunshine since

I don’t know when.

I’m stuck in Folsom Prison,

And time keeps draggin’ on.

But that train keeps a-rollin’

On down the San Anton.

“Is that a country song?”

“Oh, yes. That’s a country song.”

“No. That’s a train song.”

“Train songs are country songs.”

“Train songs are country songs?”

“Yup.”

She paused, considering my words.

“Sing me the train song.”

And that’s how “Folsom Prison Blues” became my daughter’s bedtime song. I’m calling that a win.

As you can see from this post, I just don’t believe that there is such a thing as “inappropriate” music. My daughter knows all the words to both Sofia the First and James McMurtry, Frozen and Drive by Truckers. I sing her opera as well as Lucinda Williams. She loves when I plunk out “’Til There Was You” on the piano, and sits in rapture anytime daddy plays “Drops of Jupiter.” I’m not going to tell her what she “should” be listening to. I’m just having fun watching her explore it all. That might mean that I’m destroying her innocence, or gearing myself up for some naughty language down the line. But at least I don’t have to listen to Kids’ Bop in the interim.

Today, I feel like I need a good cry.

Nothing in particular is wrong. Sometimes, I just get too many feelings at once. It gets overwhelming. So I just crank a quarter turn on my emotional release valve. And let go.

This last weekend was Fourth of July. On Thursday, friends came over for a visit, and we had a wonderful dinner of Indian food, where we talked about family, jobs, children, and the future (she’s seven months pregnant with their first). We let Honest Girl run all over the empty patio, watching the trucks drive by on the road, and laughed while Honest Baby ate her body weight in saag paneer, smearing it into her hair and clothes with joyous abandon.

I was overwhelmed with friendship.

This weekend, my family and I went to a party to watch fireworks. Honest Husband played lead guitar in a band, and sang for the entire crowd. Honest Girl ran to her cousin, held hands with her Uncle, drank “yemmonnade” (lemonade), and squealed in delight when the fireworks lit up the sky. She pointed to airplanes and helicopters, explaining to me that she and her cousin will fly “up in the sky” one day. She danced to her father’s music, and strummed his guitar after he finished singing a song just for her. Meanwhile, Honest Baby smiled and clapped. She let everyone hold her. She never cried or fussed, and her open, trusting face and easy smile made all the older girls fall in love with her. They carried her around the party, cooed as she crawled and toddled around, holding on to one finger, and laughed while they watched her bounce up and down to the rhythm of the music. Then, she watched the first ten minutes of the fireworks, and fell asleep in my arms.

I was overwhelmed with pride.

This weekend, Honest Husband entertained all of us at the party on Saturday, playing requests that his tipsy relatives called out until midnight. I don’t know if he even managed to eat any dinner. Then, after getting home around 2am on Saturday morning, he woke up on Sunday, took all of his girls to breakfast, and began working on our kitchen countertops. He laminated all of our countertops, and finished the edging on them, even though he was exhausted. And he kept going, even after he cut himself badly on a belt sander (and bled on the counters and garage floor). But he kept going, even in the high heat and humidity. He finished all of the gluing and prepping, just so that he could install countertops (and a stove and sink) later this week. For me. For us. For our girls.

And I’m overwhelmed with love.

Then, last week, I heard that K, the woman at my daughters’ daycare who adopted her heroin-addicted cousin’s child, was in danger of losing her little girl. The girl’s biological grandparents, five months after K took her in, are challenging her adoption. Now that K has nursed her, loved her, cared for her, brought her back from the brink of hopelessness, they want to take her away. Now that K’s son (a boy with kind, sleepy eyes in Honest Girl’s class) has started kissing this girl, calling her “sister,” they want her removed from K’s home. Today K goes to court, to fight for her family. When she took that little girl in, the girl was diagnosed as “Failure to Thrive.” Last week, at her six-month appointment, she was up into the 50th percentile. She’s growing. She’s eating solid foods. Her face has become round and her eyes clear. She no longer suffers from the sharp, wrenching gut pains that are associated with children born with opiate addictions. Because of K.

And today, K may lose her.

A mother may lose her child.

And I’m overwhelmed.

So, please, if you see me today, and my eyes are red, don’t worry too much about me. Just send me a kind smile. An understanding smile.

I’ll be sure to give one back.

Because it’ll be a good cry.

 

I don’t ask for it often, but please pray for K. She is facing a mother’s greatest nightmare: losing her child. Biological or not, this little girl is hers. Pray for them. I know that it will mean a lot to K.

 

Addendum (7/8/2014): I spoke with K yesterday when I went to pick up my girls at their daycare. She officially lost all custody rights, and her adoption was halted. Her little girl is being “transitioned” to her biological grandparents’ home over the next two weeks. In order to fight the order, K would have to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees that she and her husband just don’t have, with very little hope of ever winning.

They have lost their little girl. Their daughter. She looked tired, but said, “She’ll be with family now.”

We both knew how wrong it felt to say those words.

She didn’t cry.

I did.

This is not what American family courts were designed for. It can’t be. It just can’t.

Thank you all for your prayers and positive thoughts. Even if they didn’t provide the outcome we all wanted, I’m sure that K felt them, and was comforted.