Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Kind to Ourselves

There was a time that if ever I had a spare half hour, I would weed the garden, sew something, do some laundry, generally make myself useful.  My husband, on the other hand, would use his spare time to nap.  

I napped too, mind you; I just felt guilty about it.  An emotion to which my husband is, at least in matters of household chores, immune.  (He does things around the house, but his chores are unadulterated by guilt.)

I used to marvel at his capacity for what I perceived to be his self-indulgence.  No matter how much I did in a day, the unfinished portion of my to-do list seemed to loom much larger than the sum of my accomplishments.  How wrong I was.

I have noticed that women in general seem to have a talent for self-recrimination.  We are so ready to take the blame for whatever is going forward.  Why?  Why are we so hard on ourselves, hard on each other?  

When will we learn?  It's not our job to be perfect.  It's our job to do our best with what we've got -- sometimes not even that.  

It's our job to love.  We run ourselves ragged loving everyone else.  But we are created in God's image too -- it's our job to love ourselves just the same.  

I used to carry around so many worries, regrets, was like carrying around a sack of rocks.  I thought, what if I just drop this sack?  Stop worrying about everyone's expectations?  Lower my own expectations to those of an ordinary mortal?

What I learned is that I could take every day just as it is.  I learned I could look at each person and see the good in him or her.  I learned that I could see the good in myself.

Does this seem obvious?  It didn't to me.  Why are we women so reluctant to see the beauty in ourselves?  

Here is one of the many things I have learned from my husband:  when I have a spare half hour, I deserve a nap.  I am worthy.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Lots of Friends, but Only One Mother

Situation:  4 year old Gem wants to eat her breakfast in front of the TV.  My line in the sand:  we eat at the table together and have conversation.
Gem:  "Adrian gets to eat in front of the tv.  I want to too."
Me:  "Well, breakfast is on the dining room table.  If you want to eat, you need to sit here."
Gem:  "But I want to watch Dragon Tales."
Me:  "Then you're making a choice not to eat breakfast."
Gem:  "But I'm hungry!"
Me:  "Then come to the table."
Gem:  "But I want to watch Dragon Tales."

Around some more until it's time to brush teeth and go to preschool.  Kicking and screaming.  (her, not me)  I went on to teach my classes, waiting for a call from Child Welfare for starving my daughter.

Situation:  14 year old (high school freshman) Gem wants to go to Chloe's with a group of girls after school, then on to Andrew's for a party that evening.  My line in the sand:  I need to go to the party, meet the parents, and make sure it's a situation I approve of.

Gem:  "You don't trust me.  Chloe's mom will bring us and meet the parents."
Me:  "You are 14.  Papa and I are responsible for you.  Chloe's parents are responsible for Chloe."
Gem:  "How ridiculous to go home with Chloe, then to have you pick me up from there to go to the party. Why even go to Chloe's?!"
Me:  "OK, just come home after school.  All the girls can come home with you after school.  I'm happy to bring everyone to the party."
Gem:  "I am so embarrassed to tell Chloe that you don't trust her mom to see that she is supervised."
Me:  "Chloe's mom will understand that I have to see for myself.  I'm sure she feels the same way.  Do you want me to call her?"
Gem:  "Please no!  This is so embarrassing!  I'll probably just come home after exams tomorrow and skip Chloe's house and the party and LIFE IN GENERAL!  I bet you didn't have this kind of micromanagement as a teenager!  Memaw is so nice!"
Me:  "I'll tell you exactly what Memaw told me:  I am not your friend.  I'm your mother.  You'll have lots of friends throughout your life, but only one mother."

Blah blah more drama on Gem's part.  She even squeezes out a few tears.

20 minutes later, she comes back into the living room with a big smile:  "Chloe's mom says could you please bring half the girls?  It's too many for her car anyway and she wants to go in too.  She knows Andrew's parents and said Andrew's mom will probably like having more adults there anyway.  Afterward, can Chloe and Eva and Maylynn sleep over?  Can you make cinnamon rolls for breakfast and take us to the movies to see Tangled on Saturday?"

Who is this kid and what did she do with my drama queen?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Toppletan

Aunts who don't have children spend an inordinate amount of energy and time plotting ways to spoil their nieces and nephews.  That was me for a lot of years -- I've got 24 nieces and nephews, almost all of whom were born prior to my Gem.  (Now I've got 14 great-nieces and -nephews too!)  I have one other sister (Jay) who was a similarly late starter.  (We're not the youngest, not even close.)

Jay and I loved and spoiled our nieces and nephews to the fullest extent permitted by their parents.  We took the girls to tea at fancy hotels, all the kids to the zoo and the park, for rides on the street car, to movies, baked with them, read with them, and generally loved them.  They could sleep over and destroy my house turning the living room into a fort with every pillow they could find.  My husband would just shake his head and smile.  He was powerless to resist.  (You know he loved it.)

For birthdays and Christmas, Jay and I would scour the stores to find just exactly that one gift that would speak to each child.  ND was making his 4th birthday.  Jay and I were leaving Macy's and she picked up a little striped tee shirt on the way out.  It was an afterthought, really; a cheap sale item.  

ND blew out his candles, opened that box, and it was love.  He pronounced it "the Toppletan" (?who knows?) and wore it constantly.  If it was dirty, he would dig it out of the hamper.  His mother (our sister) would complain about the Toppletan -- ND wouldn't take it off!  For Jay and me, the Toppletan came to mean the gold standard in gifts.  I love to make or find exactly the thing that will speak to the person's heart, that will be just what is needed to make him or her feel special.  When I shop, I am in search of the Toppletan.

Teachers usually get presents several times a year.  When I taught full time, I used to love the special handmade cards and pictures I got for various holidays, my birthday, and teacher appreciation day.  My husband used to love the bath salts, which I would just hand straight over to him when I got home.  (What can I say?  I'm a shower and go girl.)  Now that I no longer work in a school, he reeeeeally misses teacher appreciation day, poor guy.

I have used the expertise built up over years of teaching to find the really good teacher presents for Gem's teachers.  A couple of gifts I've given that I think her teachers liked best were gift certificates for a car wash (a really clean car is luxury) and homemade candied pecans.

I think I scored an end-of-the-year teacher Toppletan last May.  Gem drew a couple of pictures and I used my color printer to make them into note cards.  It was easy to find envelopes to fit and I used grosgrain ribbon to wrap 10 cards and envelopes together.  Teachers always need note cards, and these are much more meaningful than some I could just buy in a store.  I got such great feedback from her teachers, I gave them to grandparents (aunts too!).

I usually shop for presents all year long.  When I find what I think someone needs, I wrap it and stash it until the occasion presents itself.  (OK, sometimes I can't wait and I just have to give it to them right away.)  

Last year, I saw the "Easy Reach Grabber."  (a steal at under $5)  I right away realized that every little kid needs one.  I'm sure I needed one when I was a kid if only such a thing had existed in my world.  It was last Christmas's Toppletan.  Several hours on Christmas day were spent poking around the marsh in back of Memaw's house by children who couldn't care less about the expensive video games languishing upstairs.  

This year, I've got binoculars.  And LED headlamps.  Now that's what I'm talking about.  The Toppletan.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

It's the Time of Year for a One House Open Sleigh

As a mother, I pick my battles.  Some things are worth arguing about and some are just not.  My test:  is it something they're going to do eventually anyway?  Don't sweat it.  Is it something they're not going to learn naturally?  That's where I put my effort.

So:  We are big on sitting down to a family dinner every night.  I insisted that my toddler sit at the table and learn manners that make her a pleasant dining companion.  After all, it's not uncommon for me to spend unpleasant time dining in company with adults who talk with food in their mouths, chew with their mouths open, don't use a get the idea.  Ick.

On the other hand:  There was a period of almost a year when she was 3 that Gem insisted on wearing her shoes on the wrong feet.  Everywhere we went, people would say, "What an adorable little girl!"  and then whisper aside to me (as if I didn't know about it) "You know her shoes are on the wrong feet, Honey."  I would just smile wearily, "Yes.  That's how she likes it."  But honestly, I don't know any grown person who wears their shoes on the wrong feet, so I decided not to care.  (It may be a relief to you to know that this problem did resolve itself.)

Like all little kids, Gem would mix up words on a regular basis.  I am a teacher.  An early childhood person.  A reading specialist even.  But how I cherished those adorable mistakes!  I confess I often did not correct them.  

Once we were in a public place and my 2-year-old decided to sing the Star Spangled Banner at the top of her lungs with a special flourish at "the bombs burping in air."  She insisted that "Jingle Bells" were "on a one house open sleigh."  And the Little Star twinkled "like a diamond ring in the sky."  

There was a little song I used to sing, "The red light says to stop.  The green light says to go.  And in between the yellow light says, 'Caution, now go slow.'"  That ended up as "And beenatween the yellow light says, 'Carwash, now go slow."

Makes perfect sense to me.