Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Best Gift

December 2008
Originally uploaded by alishialinn
"It is certainly less serious [for parents] to deny their children certain comforts or material advantages than to deprive them of the presence of brothers and sisters, who could help them to grow in humanity and to realize the beauty of life at all its ages and in all its variety.” John Paul II

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mother Kind

I had a conversation with my friend, Kelly, many years ago about her friend's mother. This was before I was married with children of my own and I had all these great ideas about what kind of mother and parent I would be. Or, more specifically, about what kind of mother I would not be. It's very easy to have these thoughts sans children.

Kelly recollected this mother who was very creative, somewhat fancy free and fun-loving. We agreed that was one facet of motherhood we would aspire to. Easier said than done, sans children. The specific memory that she was sharing had to do with a very spontaneous situation. There was an abandoned tree on the side of the road. Christmas tree, perhaps. Either way, this mother pulled her car over at the request of her children, or maybe in anticipation of their request, and gathered the tree up into the back of their vehicle. They would take the tree home and decorate it or do something fun and spontaneous.

This struck a chord in both of us because we came from pretty ordered and tidy homes. Our mothers would never consent to such an action. We wanted to be sure to be open to just such a spirit.

I still think about this story and what an impression it made on Kelly. How she wanted to be that kind of mom and how she enjoyed that kind of mom in her friend's home. I still think that I would like to be open to just such a spirit of spontaneity--at certain times of the day or week.

There's the rub. I would be willing to do such fun things in the right circumstances. I know that I am much more lax with my children in certain areas than I experienced as a child or than my current fellow friends with children are with their kids. However, there are certain areas where I am unbending. I am unbending because I must maintain my sanity and rest so that I may perhaps seize that spontaneous motherly spirit. There is no way that I could maintain such a fun streak all the time.

I also have my own personal recollection of a friend's father from my childhood. We'll call her Holly. My friend, Caroline, and I spent the night at Holly's house once when we were in elementary school. Holly's dad was fun. He took us to Jump, a totally cool old school Phoenix location that was a litigator's dream--probably forty trampolines all arranged so you could jump from one to the other for a certain amount of time. I won't mince my words here when I tell you it was awesome.

Holly's father took the three of us girls there and we got to jump for what seemed like an eternity. We drove around town in his Volkswagen Beetle and listened to music really loud. We probably even ate fast food. He also talked a lot about Mad Dog 20 20. In my memory he was drinking the stuff while he drove us around town. Maybe he wasn't, but the man was drunk. He was a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants drunk parent. It scared my friend, Caroline, and I so much that we never told our own mothers about the circumstances. We just decided, without speaking to each other about it, that we were going to bear down and survive and never come back to Holly's house and never tell out mothers what happened.

Obviously, Holly's father wasn't spontaneous, he was just plain unfit. But when you're a kid sometimes you can't appreciate the difference or the balance that it takes to have fun and still be safe and well-fed and well-rested. This is what I've come to recognize as the constance balance in my life (not driving drunk with my children or stopping to pick up every piece of fun trash on the side of the road! HA!). I'm constantly trying to fund some system for organizing my life and household to benefit the needs and the desire to be in the moment with my kids. This is the kind of class I would've liked to take in college: How to Organize Your Children's Clothing and Fingerpaint All in the Same Day.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Upon Waking From Her Nap

Little G is at a fun age. (This age also has lots of not fun in it, but let's be positive, folks.) She's excels at congratulating herself on a job well done. Lately, she''s been very proud of her performance with Puzzles. She gives herself lots of claps, hands-over-the-head silent snaps and audible, "Wows!"

She has one puzzle that she does over and over. This is really the only puzzle that she does. It's this great puzzle that makes sounds when you put the pieces in it and she loves it. She does the cutest little celebratory things with her fingers and her forehead. I'm not sure what to call it other than Cute nd Inspired.

Sometimes she gets so into her puzzle that she removes her Nuk from her mouth and sets it aside. This means she's getting serious.

Then a moment later she will pick that Nuk back up for some much-deserved congratulatory sucking.

The funniest thing to me, as her mother (Mother of the Puzzle Genius), is her perseverance at overcoming the puzzle piece trials. All of the pieces are shaped like farm animals. For this reason many of the pieces are oddly shaped and easy to orient into their slots. One piece in particular, that pesky mouse, is rather spherical and confusing. She always gets frustrated and wants to hit the puzzle and give up. Lest you think it that kind of story, though, let me say that she is no Quitter.

She has conquered this puzzling piece! She picks it up and almost immediately says, "Mommy, mommy," (translation: "Help me with this blasted, baffling thing that threatens to bamboozle and bewilder my budding intellect! Please.") However, now she has done the puzzle so many times she is able to figure it out. It is the first activity that she seeks when she gets up from her nap. She's got the right idea: she wants to wake up to success!

Her perseverance and her little curly/nappy bedhead and only two of her most precious features at this small age. Also: her sweetness toward her sister when Stella stumbles out of sleep. She always offers a toy and some old-fashioned affection and I only wish I could bottle it up and sell it for Christmas because it would surely stimulate this much-maligned economy.