Please, Just Don’t

Forget about truth being stranger than fiction, truth is way funnier. It almost always is. And Jean Kerr wrote brilliantly about her truth as a mom. Originally a playwright, Kerr also wrote magazine essays. She parlayed those into books. And she sure had a keen talent for highlighting the laughter in the mundane. I like her style.

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Please Don’t Eat the Daisies was, for me, a perfect example of how our lives are the perfect material for any piece of art we have the desire to create. Whether it’s the feelings that accompany the varied life circumstances that are universal, or the cast of characters who are almost always by our sides (again, universally), a mom-writer will never be short of ideas if they look down about 20 inches to the nearest child.

The thing about humor writers like Betty Macdonald, Shirley Jackson, Erma Bombeck, and Jean Kerr is that they inspire me. For any woman desperately seeking time to mother, wife, and foster a writing career, these women modeled a way. They just took family-life experiences and mined them for gold.

Life is messy and parenting is tornado-level messy, but with quotes like these, I feel mollified when I must loudly proclaim things like, “Don’t lick the mirror!” Because, ew! And please, just don’t.

“The real menace in dealing with a five-year-old is that in no time at all you begin to sound like a five-year-old.”

Truth? Yes indeedy.

Enjoying the books I’ve chosen in my Write 31 Days Challenge series of the Best Books Ever? Missed a few days? Click the button below!

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It Seems Like It’s Disappearing

What makes a childhood?  I’ve been giving that question a lot of thought since the day I first read Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood. That thinking took on an urgency once becoming a parent.

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Sweetgirl had a playdate for the girls in her new classroom last week. As I eavesdropped (because, MOM) on their conversations, I heard one eight year old exclaim to another that so-and-so in their class asked her out. One girl squealed, another put her hand to her heart and sighed (I kid you not), and another asked if it was The So-And-So from their classroom.

Wait.

Back that train up a sec.

HE ASKED HER OUT?!?!

She’s EIGHT YEARS OLD.

Yes, I am yelling.

Before I get an onslaught of negativity about not taking their little conversations so seriously and they are just testing out this growing up thing, SHE PRODUCED A PHONE NUMBER! He apparently wrote his phone number down and said, “Call me sometime.”

Full up stop.

Just stop.

Because, childhood? It seems like it’s disappearing.

When I was eight, the only adult things missing from my social life were teeth.

Neil Postman wrote about the phenomenon I was witnessing in his book.

More, and more frequently, I am struck by how we are losing our social idea of children as separate from adults. The divide between what experiences a child should have and what experiences we encounter as adults is shrinking.

It bothers me.

Does it bother anyone else?

Of television Postman writes,

“The six-year-old and the sixty-year-old are equally qualified to experience what television has to offer…For in speaking, we may always whisper so that the children will not hear. Or we may use words they may not understand. But television cannot whisper, and its pictures are both concrete and self-explanatory. The children see everything it shows.”

Television isn’t the root of all evil. (We all know money is, right?) But, what the t.v. does is “eliminate the exclusivity of worldly knowledge and, therefore, [eliminate] on of the principal differences between childhood and adulthood.

Right?

I mean, take a look at any current cartoon geared towards “children” and you will hear plenty of adult humor peppered throughout.

Reading this book opened my eyes to the ways in which media can negatively impact our children’s ability to have an actual childhood. And while it won’t leave you with warm fuzzies, it will open your eyes to the realities of the techno-world we live in.

Parenting is full of pitfalls and epic fails. I’m thankful for Postman’s ability to draw my eyes to the places where it can get especially holey. It helps me be more aware.

And I’ll take all the help I can get. Yes indeedy.

We’re winding down here in the Write 31 Days Challenge. If you’ve missed any of my other posts in the Best Books Ever series, click the button below. (They’re not all this heavy!)

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Ask First

Her blonde curls unfurled behind her as she chased her little neighbor friend across the field. All eight years of her pumped those legs to catch up with all three years of her little friend.

And, when she did catch up?

Giggles.

Galore.

“I’m gonna get you! I’m gonna tickle you silly,” she kept saying, to the delighted cries of the neighbor.

My Sweetgirl gently tickled and chased, causing the newly three-year old fits of laughter. There was more glee to behold in the scene than my heart could take in.

But, I did.

Then, I waited…

For the right moment to have that uncomfortable conversation with my precious child, who meant only good. I’m talking about the reality that tickles can also be bad. And that, to be appropriate, you must always ask first.

“But, it ruins the moment, mama,” she insisted!

This is where #parentingishard. It’s in these joyful moments that you are loath to interrupt, that you realize you must.

I didn’t want to. And I most certainly wish I didn’t have to.

But, touching varies radically from family to family. Respecting that fact means asking first. I had to convey this to my sweet one without dulling the beauty of a precious interaction. An interaction that happens not only amongst her and her friends, but also within family.

And it hit me – this is where the lines get crossed. Or not.

These are the conversations that can allow fear to skyrocket if not handled delicately. But, at the same time, I want her to know that if anyone tickles her, and it makes her uncomfortable, we are a family who talks together. All the time. About everything.

Even uncomfortable tickling.

So, if you find yourself in a situation that requires some gentle conversation about appropriate touching, here are a few things that I found helpful. Hopefully, you will too:

  • Watch for cues. As we were talking, she mentioned that when I tickle her, it sometimes hurts because I tickled “too hard under my armpits”. WOW! I had no idea. Just talking about this opened up the opportunity for me to apologize and acknowledge that she didn’t like that. It also helped me use language she was using as I forged on with my harder points.
  • Keep it simple. I chose to wait until this age to have this conversation. You, or families you know, may choose to do it at an earlier age. Or, a later one. My goal was to make sure my child understood that asking first also meant respecting any form of “no thank you”. And, again, I used the language my daughter used. “Friends”, “family”, “appropriate” “tickling”, “hurt”, “uncomfortable”, “like”, and “secrets” were all worked into our conversation.
  • Allow for questions. This one was hard. Because, when you open up this can of worms, sometimes they stay in their nice round can, and sometimes they come out in every direction. Our conversation? There were no shoving those worms back in the can! So, I just let the questions roll in. And, some of my more brilliant answers included the words, “Maybe” and “Sometimes” and even “I’m not sure”. I hope it’s obvious that I didn’t have all the answers. And I thought it was important for my Sweetgirl to know that while I will always accept any question, I might not always have an immediate answer.

Is this a hard topic to tackle? Yes. Yes it is.

But worth it.

Yes indeed.

 

 

 

Silently Correcting Their Grammar

Few things slay my inner grammarian like hearing someone botch a perfectly good word or phrase. Folks do it “alot” (ahem).

And I’m silently correcting their grammar.

Hearing Americans talk and write about the Republican and Democratic “cannidates” could spell disaster for the future of our country. And, I’m talking about the mispronunciation of candidates, not the potential election results.

I’m silently correcting their grammar, and praying for the elections.

Listening to a young lifeguard friend tell about the time she had to swim “acrosst” the bay to make sure someone didn’t “drownd” while goofing around in the surf, makes me cray-cray.

I’m silently correcting her grammar, while thanking God for her bravery.

But, for all intensive purposes, I think it’s best if people stop using that phrase. Because, for all intents and purposes, it’s being used incorrectly.

Providing me another opportunity to silently correct grammar.

And I make jokes with my other grammar abiding friends about this private act of silently correcting others’ grammar.

Never once did I give it another thought.

Until…

jokingly used a phrase with my sweetkids the other day. “Listen up peoples!”

And my children not-so-silently corrected my grammar.

Humility…I am still learning it.

Parenting, it is a mighty teacher.

Oh, yes indeedy.

I am trying to train those children up in the way they should go. But, Lord? Could my training not come back and hit me upside the head so very often?

While my defenses rose and I felt the need to shout-explain, “I know that!”, I felt Humility, Himself, knocking on my heart’s door. With each knock, there was a growing unease in my soul at my many silent corrections.

Proverbs 3:7 harked back to mind,

“Don’t be conceited, sure of your own wisdom.”

But, as usual, grace laps over the edges of my spirit as I submit my desire to know more to His desire for me to love more.

The rest of that “train your children up” verse? It says to do so in the hopes that when they are old, they won’t depart from it [their training].

I’ve departed. Oh, how I’ve departed again and again.

But Grace…

I’d like to stop departing now. Please, and thank you.

In the meantime, I’ll stop silently correcting grammar.

Thankfully, there is no statue of limitations on grace.

Why I’ll Never Ask Her to Clean Out Her Room Again

There comes a time in every parent’s life when they take a peek into their youngest child’s room and decide they’ve had enough.

Enough of the teeny tiny toys that pierce the tender undersides of feet.

Enough of the stuffed animals covering the floor like carpet.

Enough of the doll clothes strewn like confetti.

Enough of the two crayons and 4 markers randomly located in the four corners of the room. Along with the 15 pieces of tape strategically placed on blankets, dresser, floor, and animals. (What is that all about, anyway? Do I even want to know??)

Enough!

Last weekend, the time had come for this parent.

“Alright Sweetgirl, mama’s all done with this toys-on-the-floor business. Let’s get this room cleaned out.”

This little announcement, as you can imagine, was not met with joy and excitement.

I began gathering all of the things we would need to clean up this mini-human explosion in the purple room down the hall. Baskets of varying sizes (I had delusions of organizational grandeur), laundry basket, big black trash bag that you could fit a human into.

“Why do we need a trash bag, mama? NOT THE TRASH BAG!?!” (The way you just read that last sentence? Not one ounce of exaggeration in how she presented her case against the dreaded trash bag.)

There are some parents for whom a messy room is their child’s problem, not theirs. It doesn’t bother them one eensy bit. They can roll with it.

Unfortunately for Sweetgirl, I am not one of them. You can only close the door on disaster so many times.

We set to work picking up the stuffed animals, first. As I lifted each one, I’d hold it up for her and ask, “Are we still in love with this one?”

I’m happy to report that she made a fairly large pile of stuffies to donate. Her mantra, each time she opted to let one go was, “It’s someone else’s turn to love them.”

Bless. (Her)

Happy Dance. (Me)

We talked through each meticulously curated pile of toys. She informed me, for example, that the lined paper cut into the shape of a haphazard oval was vital to the comfort of her mermaid Squinkie toy. But, that the pink glitter crayon lying beside them both was magical and couldn’t be moved.

Story after explanation after rationalization was doled out, in the hopes that some piles could remain.

Nope.

We finally got to our last corner of the room, when Sweetgirl put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I love you Mama. You listen to my stories.”

And that? That earned her a smooch and a hug. And a nice long break to admire what we had accomplished, so far.

I told her we could quit for the day. But, she opted to finish what we had started. So, we did.

As we finally, blessedly, wrapped up, I started dragging the trash bag of to-be-donated stuffed animals down the stairs. But, I had to pause on the second step. She had made her way into Sweetboy’s room to tell him something “important”.

“I’m a big kid now, brother,” she informed him.

He asked her why.

“Because, mama and I cleaned out all of my little girl toys today. So now, I’ve got a big girl room.”

A tear rolled down this cheek of mine. It was never my intention to clear out her little girl toys. I never anticipated a need to make her room a “big girl” room. But, she saw it as a rite of passage somehow. It meant something completely different, and, well… big, to her.

I don’t think I’ll ever ask her to clean her room out again.

Well played, little one. Yes indeedy… well played.

Cuteness, Times Seven

I’m convinced that Sweetgirl is able to sense my reluctance to allow her to grow up.

You see, she turned seven last week.

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As we celebrated the risen King, Jesus, we also celebrated another year with a girl whose spirit is so big and beautifully loud, that all who meet her are charmed.

This child is able to dance, sing, bounce, and breathe with joyful abandon. Sometimes, I think to myself, “I want to be like her when I grow up!”

Her confidence in her abilities sometimes outshines her actual abilities – and you know what? That’s exactly the way I hope it always is for her.

I want her to aim for the stars, keeping her eyes fixed on The One who already thinks she’s made it.

She catches me sighing in resignation as she’s making a scrapbook page instead of coloring Doc McStuffins. To that, she says, “Mama, I have to keep growing up. That’s my job, you know.”

Indeed, child. Indeed.

If I were a letter writer, this is what I’d tell her.

Dear Sweetgirl,

I love you.

I love your spirit of adventure. Please, never stop seeking wonder.

I adore your smile. Please remember to flash it toward any and all.

Your tender-hearted ways make me so proud. Please keep your heart soft towards this world.

I love your belief in a God you cannot see, but to Whom you often talk. Please, never stop talking to God.

I love, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, your adoration for the color pink. Please, know that it was you who turned your mama into a pink lover, too.

And most of all, I love seeing how you change each year. You keep trying new things and loving new things and understanding new things and I love every minute of it!

I’m so glad that God gave us you!

Happy Seven, child of mine!

Love,

Mama

The Back-up Hairbrush

Sweetgirl sat still (SHE SAT STILL!) while I brushed her hair the other night.

She had come to me, moments before, clutching her beloved purple hairbrush. The one with the gigantic, princess-sized, colorful gems glued to the back. The one I bought her on a whim. No wrapping paper adorned it. She didn’t request it. It was one of those “Sweetgirl would love this!” purchases.

And, oh, how she did!

This sweet child of mine, so girly in her ways, so foreign to my own, adores this brush with every strand of her fine golden hair. Each time she asks me to “Brush, please, mama!” I stop mid-whatever and sink down to do it. Each brush stroke another fleeting moment spent with this cherished girl child that hardly ever holds still long enough to allow me this gift of time.

As she walked over to me, this particular night, the brush slipped out of her hand. I dove, volleyball style, to get my hand underneath and break the impact.

I’ve still got it, because I surely did save that brush from destruction.

Immediately, I thought, “I need to buy a back-up brush!”

And, why?

What if she drops it and breaks it and we can’t fix it and she’s inconsolable.

Yeah. That.

I resolved to head back to the store where I bought it as soon as possible and pick up another one. The next morning, I had a quick hour of freedom and made a break for it!

But, a funny thing happened on the way to the store.

God got a hold of my human capacity for worst-case scenario planning. He whispered into the midst of it, “There is no plan for death. Save, mine.”

And I heard it.

But, I didn’t understand it. Not really.

So, I kept driving.

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Pulling into the parking space in front of the store, I felt this check in my heart. A nudge to just sit still, like my Sweetgirl did, and soak in some valuable moments of listening.

You already know where this is going, don’t you?

“You can’t save her from heartbreak. I couldn’t save my Son from the very same.”

I was listening. God’s Holiest whisper finally penetrated my human understanding. “I gave you this little one not so that you could save her, but so that I could. Show her that I can save her. Show her that broken hairbrushes will not break her.

Oh, y’all. I’m crying as I’m typing because… I needed to hear that so very badly.

Do you, too?

I want to take each circumstance in her life and Sweetboy’s life and control it and maneuver it and make it right and straight and copacetic and pain-free.

But, I can’t, can I.

And, that’s not even my job.

I’ve been trying to do Someone else’s job.

Clarity can be startling. It surely was, for me, in that moment.

I may have put the car in park, but it was my mind that God needed to pull over. I’m so thankful that He did.

I’m never more aware of my continual need for His grace than when He’s whispering a lesson into my heart that He’s only had to teach me eleventy times over.

Indeed.

I didn’t end up going in to buy the back-up hairbrush.

She doesn’t need it.

I don’t need it.

Gemstones may crack. We may crack.

But, He’ll put us back together in exactly the way only He can.

I’ll just keep showing her.

And He’ll keep showing me.