Living with Children

November 29, 2010

I have been known to bitch about the stresses of parenthood.   I admit to a certain envy of people my age who are childless by choice and I applaud their self awareness and responsible choice.  I look wistfully back at the time when I did not either.  If I’d known how hard it was going to be, I would never have signed up.  And in their defense, it is not their fault that I had three babies within 15 months.  Who the hell knew I could be so fertile?!?

But now that they are here and I wouldn’t change any of it.

I cannot imagine life without them, and I am certain I am a better person after the experiences they’ve provided me over the last almost seven years.  In all the time I spend writing, I have yet to remotely capture the experience of parenthood.  It is too broad, too grand and too damn complicated.

But here are a few jewels from them this last week that made me smile…

The radio is on and Son says to Daughter 1, “Listen!  It’s an American Doll commercial!”  Daughter 1 replies with great disgust and irritation, “I don’t like those!”

We’ve been terrified of Daughter 1 getting swept up by American Doll mania, especially since the constant influx of advertisements slip past us and into her lap.   If you wonder why I care, go check out their exorbitant prices.

We have our share of the intellectual argument of “DID NOT!”  “DID TOO!”

Daughter 2 accused son of doing something “on purpose”.

“DID NOT!”

“DID TOO!”

“You can’t read my brain!”

Daughter 2 lives to irritate people.  Her favorite source of entertainment is a good game of Poke the Bear.  Family members are her bears.  But this morning she is sick with a stomach ache and, before going to school, Son and Daughter 1 gave her lots of hugs, told her they loved her and would be home after school to help take care of her.

Daughter 2 once asked me, “Mom, how come you can remember what happened when you were a kid but can’t remember where you put your keys yesterday?”  Damn, she’s observant.

Son lost a tooth last night and when he collected his Tooth Fairy gain from under his pillow this morning, the Daughters rushed to behold its beauty and… they kissed it for him so his money would have love.

Son hit Daughter 1 the other day (a frequent occurrence).  He managed to catch her glasses and actually hurt her pretty good.  She cried.  He apologized.  They cuddled until all was well again.

My kids get along really well, and they fight like street cats who just found a can of tuna.  I often say that I am very mean and they have a lot to bond over.

I once lost my cool with Daughter 1 and, yes, I made her cry.  Daughter 2 rushed in to comfort her, put her arms around her… and they just GLARED at me.  Daughter 2 said to me, “Can you not yew at hew anymore?”  For a split second I winced at being the enemy.  But then I realized that bond would long outlive me, and it is one of my favorite memories of motherhood to date.

I don’t believe in living through my kids’ accomplishments or experiences, but someone once told me that it was an opportunity to enjoy childhood again.  This is true when we watch old Pink Panther or Beatles cartoons.

I hope one day to use my parenting experiences in writing better than this, but this will do for now.

Thankful

November 26, 2010

Like any good thirtysomething, my Thanksgiving morning included an indulgence in what I share with most everyone I’ve ever known, Facebook.  And the first status I saw, from my always-thinking friend Scott, was this quote:

Thankfulness unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Thankfulness makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.– Melody Beattie

Melody Beattie, whose life work is educating people about their busybody, controlling, worrywart and/or overbearing behaviors (sometimes referred to as codependence), is legend here in the land of 10,000 lakes and a million substance abuse treatment centers.  Just the notion of that psychospeak puts the image of Stuart Smalley (aka Al Franken, another Minnesotan) in front of the mirror saying, “Gosh darnit, people like me.”  Doesn’t it?

And yet she is so wise.

Today I am thankful for so many things.  My children are healthy and have two loving parents, I have the food and clothing I need, my brain is functional, my neighborhood is peaceful, and I have friends whose love and support have helped me to find great strength in recent months.  And on a windy, 13 degree night in Minneapolis, I am damn thankful for shelter and heat and warm blankets.

But here is the part of Beattie’s quote that sets her description apart from the usual “let’s count our blessings” admonition:

…and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Because being thankful is not the same as convincing ourselves that everything is just fine and dandy.  Real thankfulness is finding JOY in life, just as it is, alongside HOPE for what the future may bring.  Real joy includes appreciating our ability to work through those things that, frankly, we hope will get better.

As I type this it seems appropriate that Thanksgiving is soon followed by the holiday of promised change: NEW YEAR’S.  But this post is not about resolutions or fixes.  What I think is so smart about this quote is that with this kind of grateful spirit, we can find calm and focus in the struggle of life’s imperfections.  And in doing so, work through those problems that can distract us from seeing how lucky we are.

Committed

November 15, 2010

I don’t generally read books on the Bestseller list.  Even if one is good, it rarely lives up to its hype.   I did not read Eat Pray Love.  I saw the movie, but I’d do some crazy things to spend quality time with Javier Bardem.

But a few months back I heard an NPR interview of Liz Gilbert about her recent release, Committed.  Having married at a young age and changed considerably over that 15+ years, I was curious.  As long as the author wasn’t Elizabeth Taylor, I was interested.

And I liked it.

I see why so many readers enjoy her writing – an easy and intelligent and humorous voice, much like what I heard of her on NPR.  While not a mother herself, she looks closely into how motherhood impacts the life of a woman and the experience of a wife and infuses that with meaningful stories from many sources, including her own family.  She looks closely at the economic and social impacts of marriage on both parties.  And best of all, she asks more questions than she draws conclusions.  Her conclusions are her own, not intended for everyone else.  I have always believed that marriages are as individual as the people in them and her work recognizes that.

I can also see the criticisms of her as self-absorbed, self-focused…blah, blah, blah.  But that didn’t bother me because it was an exploration of her own issues with marriage.  Her experience and perspective are likely not rare.  And before marriage IS the time for self-absorption.

She points out at the beginning that this is a personal work, not a scholarly one.  But her study of marriage is one I think anyone should read before actually tying that very serious knot.  Imagine if we all entered marriage only after such careful consideration.