Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

Small Children Are Whole People -or- “What do you mean, ‘and a half’?!!!”

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A nearly-forgotten pet-peeve resurfaced for me the other night: It really bugs me when people talk about a baby as “half” a person!

This came up while my husband, son, and I were playing a family game. My son got a question about how many pets he would like to have. His answer was 5 1/2. Puzzled, I asked him about the “half” pet.

“Well, you know, like a little baby pet of some kind.”

And I think, or at least, I hope, I mustered a smile and an uncomfortable laugh before I gave my son my thoughts on the “half” verbiage.

I don’t think I would have thought quite so deeply about the “half a pet” explanation he gave me if, when he himself was a “little baby,” I hadn’t already thought quite a lot about how younglings are not “half” anything. When he was very young, I was keenly aware of how wholly there this tiny person was.

Back then, I always felt indignant when staff at restaurants would observe that we had “two and a half” in our party. Inside I was thinking, “What do you mean, ‘and a half’?!!!” My baby being only a fraction the size of a mature human did not mean he was only a fraction of a person!

I worked at being gracious when people referred to my son as “a half.” I didn’t want to be unkind, but I felt like I needed to say something. Quite often I used a little humor to make my point and would playfully mention that we think of him as a whole person.

On a strictly practical level, I can tell you that keeping up with the demands of an infant is no small undertaking! When sleep is scarce, showers get further apart, and conversation becomes increasingly child-related, it is clear that this small person is all there, all the time.

But on a deeper level, I’m big on the sacredness of life and part of that means that I honor and treasure the lives of even very young humans. Treating kids as whole people, respecting them as beings all their own, is really important to me.

I know that my son didn’t mean any harm by talk of half a pet, and restaurant staff don’t intend disrespect by referring to a babe in arms as “and a half.”

But how we talk about this matters. The words we use hold meaning.

It matters if we verbally discount another person (or pet, or any other living being). Even if that person is very tiny, that person is worthy of our full respect.

In fact, I would go further to say that especially if another person is tiny, or vulnerable in any way, the onus is on us to make sure that we honor the agency and dignity of that one.

So, I tried to explain some of this to my son. And I tried to do it light-heartedly enough, because it was game night, after all. I didn’t want to make it too heavy, but I do hope it gave my son something to think about.

If nothing else, my son got to hear about how his mom defended his honor when he was too young to do it himself. And I think, or at least, I hope, that matters.

Is it Inconceivable that I Still Have the Crib?

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Everyday as I move about my house I walk past crib parts. It has been many years since my one and only son (who is now 10) has slept on that mattress. But I haven’t been able to bring myself to give the crib away because I’m still holding onto hope that I might still have another baby.

You may be wondering why I walk past crib parts everyday.

Well, we don’t have a lot of storage in the old farmhouse where we live. So, we use our enclosed back porch to store what used to be in the garage or attic in our last home–including crib parts.

This porch also serves as a major thoroughfare in our home, so I end up walking past the crib parts many times a day.

Most of the time those crib parts fade into the background–the way things often do when you go past them everyday.

But sometimes a June bug will dive-bomb that way and call my attention to the crib parts. Or I might have to retrieve an item from that storage area and I’ll notice the crib parts idling there.

Even when I do notice them, I don’t always feel moved to write about them. But I noticed them today and it punctuated a lot of what has been on my mind lately.

With the Hobby Lobby verdict about contraception coverage becoming such an uproar, the idea of “conception” has been on my mind a lot.

As a differently-fertile American, I want to go on record as stating that I am pro-conception. My challenges in conceiving lead me to confusion–even lament–that contraception is considered “essential.”

I know, I know, family-planning is very personal and I’m not begrudging anyone the option of using contraceptives. All the same, having this issue in the center of public discourse has triggered a lot of feelings for me.

Added to that was the realization a couple weeks ago that it was 11 years ago this month that my son was conceived. I know the exact date of, um, the act that led to the conception because I was tracking everything fertility-related back then. As that “anniversary” came, my mood–my heart–sank.

Then, I was bummed when my “cycle” started last week. I started taking better care of myself and my cycles resumed last fall. So that made me think that maybe I might be able to have another baby.

So, I keep hoping that this will be the month my cycle doesn’t start on account of becoming pregnant!

Each time a new cycle starts it is a mix of good news and bad news.

It is good news that I am having regular cycles because when I wasn’t as healthy I wasn’t having my cycles.

But it is bad news because it means I’m not pregnant. Again.

So when I brushed up against the crib mattress today, I thought about the crib. And I thought about my ambivalence about having more kids.

I have thought many times about giving away the crib. I have slowly given away nearly everything baby-related over these 10 years of my son’s life.

But the crib is the single most expensive item and it was a gift from my mother, so I don’t take lightly the decision to give it away.

Several months ago I was ready—really ready—to find a new home for the crib.

I was sure I was done with babies. I was certain I was content with a family of three.

In fact, I was leaning toward thinking it would be better to not have any more kids.

I remember the first time I felt such certainty—such peace with the size of our family.

I shared this revelations with dear one who also faces fertility-challenges.

“I’ve been there,” she told me.

But I was confused because she still talked like she wanted more.

“No, I really mean it,” I assured her.

“I meant it too…then.”

“Oh, I’m really at peace with this. I’m sure I’m okay with a family of three.”

She tried to explain to me how she had gone from certainty to longing and back again more than once.

I thought to myself, “She can’t really have been certain.”

I’m sorry, dear friend. I’m so sorry I didn’t believe you—that I didn’t listen.

I couldn’t hear you then.

I had to protect my heart because if I really knew then that this longing would keep creeping up on me…well, I didn’t want to hear that. I couldn’t hear that. My heart couldn’t bear the thought of it.

And so, despite my “certainty,” I have held onto the crib. And in my longing I am glad—even when it is a painful reminder of how inconceivable another baby has been.

It’s All Right for Mommy to Cry

We went to see a family movie* in the theater on Monday. My son had already seen it with his grandparents when he visited them in Ohio, so he knew enough to warn me that I might cry.

He feels uncomfortable when I cry around him, but I’m trying to figure out how to let him know that it’s just part of who I am.

He was right, of course. I cried at a couple of different dramatic points in the first 2/3 of the film, and then could not keep my eyes dry for the last 1/3. It was a really good show.

I just cry sometimes. Not all the time. Just whenever my heart can’t hold my present emotions all at once.

It could be in a movie–yes, even an animated family film. It might be during church–although I’m equally as likely to laugh out loud there as I am to sob.

I sometimes let tears flow about frustrations in day-to-day life, work, or relationships.

I might break down understandably because of trauma–you know, like that time when the Wi-Fi router blew up? Other times I cry for what seems like no logical reason whatsoever.

It may not be every day. There may even be weeks at a time that go by without a good cry.

But these tears of mine just sometimes gush out as my heart bursts forth with whatever it can no longer contain.

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But my son, he doesn’t like it one bit. He’d really rather I not do it.

At first I thought he was embarrassed by it. So I asked him.

“That’s not it, mommy,” he explained. “I just don’t like to see you upset.”

“So you’re worried about me?”

“Yeah.”

But for being worried about me he can be pretty obnoxious.

Sometimes he glares at me–he has even mastered the preemptive glare in which he tries to lock eyes with me if he even suspects I might cry as if to say, “Don’t even think about it.”

Other times, when he doesn’t notice until I am actually teary-eyed, he’ll nudge me with a “Hey, cut it out! I don’t want to see that!” jab.

Then there are times when he sees me crying while I’m talking to my husband about a problem and he’ll overhear a bit and want to be my little “fixer.” He’ll pop over and give me some seriously oversimplified solution to some really complex situation that’s weighing on me.

Most of the time, in one way or another, he’s essentially telling me it’s not okay, that I shouldn’t cry.

For that reason, my favorite response of his to my tears is when he sweetly brings me a stuffed animal, “for love comfort.” I like these times best of all because it gives me some hope that he’ll let it be what it is and not try to shut me down or fix me.

I know it’s a pretty sophisticated idea for a 10-year-old kid to take in–that’s okay that his mom cries sometimes. But I do hope he’ll come to terms with it.

Because it just is.

I think crying is like singing, writing, doodling, and speaking for me. It’s all related to the idea that I need to express what’s in me. It has to come out somehow. Even the very most important thoughts and feelings aren’t fully real to me if I don’t have some way to let them out.

And while I never want to burden my son with problems too big for his little ears and his little heart to deal with, there are just gonna be these times when I get a bit weepy. And I don’t need to be fixed or quieted, I need to pour out my heart.

He doesn’t have to watch.

But we’ll both get along better when he learns that it’s all right–probably even good–for mommy to cry.

 

*The movie we saw on Monday was How to Train Your Dragon 2

Home Sweet Ohio & Flying On

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This heart-shaped dish is part of the beautifully eclectic decor at my mom’s house in Ohio.

 

My husband, David (aka “Tink”), and I made it safely back to my home state of Ohio. I was born and raised here, Tink and I met in this state, and before moving to Texas we spent a few wonderful years in ministry up here. Ohio is home for me and it is great to be back visiting family & friends up here.

If you’re wondering how everything went with my son and his trip–it went great! He flew up here to visit with my mom & step-dad for a week before Tink and I arrived by car. Tink and I drove up because we’re combining my family reunion here in Ohio this weekend and my Deaconess conference in Wisconsin next weekend all into one big trip. Our son’s early arrival was a bonus for him and his grandparents.

It’s interesting when I look back on how emotional I was about my son’s departure last week because I ended up enjoying the extra “me time” and really, really enjoying extra time with Tink. And my son had a great time with my mom & step-dad here in Ohio.

What’s also interesting about my whole break-down last week over my son leaving is the whole last-minute passing on of my stuffed bear named Arty. It was this big deal to me to have sent my beloved bear with my son, but I acknowledged in last week’s post that it probably mattered more to me than to him.

Well, I was right.

When we got to Ohio I asked my son how Arty was.

“Oh,” he said, “he’s still in my suitcase.”

And I laughed out loud that he didn’t need Arty despite how much I needed him to take Arty. And I was okay with that. Really, really okay with that.

It turns out this whole travel plan has worked out beautifully. I’m glad that the three of us are reunited, but we all did fine while my son was up here without us.

And what is most interesting of all is here I am back home in Ohio for a brief time visiting my family up here, but my own dear mother has been letting me go over and over for decades now. And my mom will have to let me go once again when we leave here on Sunday to continue our trip and eventually return to our far-away land of Texas.

I draw strength from my mother’s courage in releasing me and entrusting me to God’s call in my life. And I draw strength from this chance I have to perch at her sweet home in Ohio for a time before flying on.

On Letting My Son Fly

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My son was on this plane earlier today for his first flight as an “unaccompanied minor.”

 

In the nest that is parenting, it’s not easy to know when to tuck my kid under my wing and when to let him fly. The older he gets, of course, the more freedom I give him because by letting him try his wings, he gets to become who he was created to be.

But, see, the more he becomes that guy–the more I want to have him around!

This week has been a text book case of exactly what I’m talking about…

 

Mother Nature

We had a bit of a trauma at our house on Monday. Before you get too worried, I will tell you we are all safe and no one was physically harmed. But lightening struck our phone line causing an explosion inside the house within 20 feet of where I was sitting.

Fortunately my husband and son did not witness what I did because the pop and flash made me jump and scream. I went into a panic and ran to the front room where my guys were and hopped onto my husband’s lap.

When my husband went to investigate the extent of the damage, I huddled up with my son on the sofa. It was already clear to me at that point that, since I had been closest to the explosion, I was more upset by the whole thing than my son was. Our cozying up on the sofa, then, was clearly more for me than for him.

My husband came back and reported that the jolt fried our phone and its cord and it blew up our wireless internet router–the router literally popping open when it exploded.

 

Creature Comforts

Even as the storm raged on, my curiosity drove me to examine the fried equipment and the charred spots on the wall. Then the reality sank in about what I had witnessed.

And I panicked some more.

You know how if there’s a tornado, you’re supposed to find an inside wall or a closet to take shelter? Well, that was what I did. I found an inside wall right by my bedroom closet and I sat myself down there, hugged my knees, and rocked back and forth.

By this time even my son was wise to the fact that mommy was way more scared than he was. As I sat there all curled up in myself, my son brought me one stuffed animal and then another and another.

“Lamby wants to give you love-comfort,” he would offer.

And then, “Here’s Danielle-Bear to comfort you.”

Before I knew it, I wasn’t just hugging myself, I was clutching a dozen plush friends to my chest.

 

Story Time

“Mommy, maybe it would help if I told you a story?”

“Oh, I don’t know if mommy can handle listening to a story right now.”

I pondered the import of what my son had offered. I know my son is a great storyteller, but any time I ask him to tell me a story he seems annoyed by my request, and if he does tell me a story it is usually just a sentence or two. When I ask for it, he gives me something far beneath his ability as a storyteller.

But this time, he offered to create a story just for me!

I took a few deep breaths and said finally, “You know sweetie, I think I’m ready for that story now.”

It was a sweet story of a boy named Bob who was an only child. Bob and his parents went on a picnic and Bob made friends with some ants. Because, apparently, a story where the ants ruin the picnic is just way too predictable. No, these ants were friends with whom Bob willingly shared some crumbs from the picnic.

By the end of the story, I was feeling a bit better. I held tight to the stuffed animals and brought them to my bed to sit and try to calm down some more.

 

Nesting Instinct

Oh, to have been so needy to have caused this role-reversal between my son and me…I am the one who is supposed to build the nest, to shelter my baby bird and there he was flitting about to provide my comfort.

And in the way that I get to fretting sometimes about whether I’m a good enough mom, I began to feel guilty. It wasn’t  just for having a melt down that night, it was also for all the times that I have not listened well enough to my son, all the times I have gotten irritable with him, and all the times I have not done (or not done well enough) something for him that I felt like I should’ve done (or done better).

But then, all birds must leave the nest at some point. And I found comfort not only in what my son had done for me, but also in the knowledge that he was growing into the kind of young man that could be so kind, gentle, and caring.

And I thought ahead to later in the week when my son was scheduled to board a jet plane and fly as an “unaccompanied minor” for the first time in his life to visit my mother in Ohio. And I thought how much I did not want to let him go–not because I didn’t think he was ready, but because I just love that kid to bits and I love spending time with him!

All these feelings mixed and interplayed in my brain when I went to sleep for the night with many of the stuffed animals still nestled with me in my bed.

 

Mending

The next morning–mornings are always my slowest times of day–my son had gotten himself breakfast and came back into my room where I was sitting up in bed. The stuff animals who had stayed the night with me were still about me as I sat there.

My son picked up the big purple bear. Sometimes we call him Lotso, like the bear in Toy Story III, but sometimes not because that Lotso was kind-of a meanie. But since saying “the big purple bear” is a bit wordy, I will just call him Lotso. As my son turned Lotso over in his hands he rediscovered a seam that had burst on Lotso’s belly.

“Mom, when are you going to fix him?” My son asked in that irritating way kids do when they themselves are rather irritated.

I took a big, deep breath. It was time for me to get to do something motherly, responsible–even if this particular task was long overdue. “Bring me my sewing box. And where’s Lamby? I still need to mend Lamby too.”

In all, I mended three friends that day. It was the least I could do after they–and my son–had given me so much comfort the night before.

 

Another Fine Nest

Today was the day my son flew to Ohio. And it was stressful and exciting and sad and wonderful and I’m so proud and I miss him so much already. But I know he is going to have a blast with my mom and step-dad. At their nest in Ohio they will take good care of him and he will care right back and they will all be such a blessing to each other.

The three of them always have such a great time together. They go on wonderful adventures and they play hard and they eat ice cream every day. And my son and my mother are well-matched in their energy levels–I can never quite keep up with either of them!

So, this is good, very good that they get to have this time. As hard as it feels to me to let go, I celebrate my son’s chance to perch for a while at another fine nest.

 

Taking Flight

Right before my son left I gave him something of mine. You see, there is this one stuffed bear–Arty the Arctic Bear–that I got a few years ago in a gift basket with some bath & body products. Even though my son begged for me to let him have that bear, I kept it for myself–after all the gift basket was given to me! I love that bear and my son respects that it is mine.

As we were about to leave for the airport, I thought of Arty and I thought if there was one way I could show my love to my son it would be to send Arty along with him–for love-comfort on his trip. And I don’t really know if it is helping him, but somehow it brought me comfort to let go of Arty as my son took flight.