Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Student and Her 7 Year Old Teacher.

The other night, I was looking at Abi's cheek, and an epiphany hit me. (It does happen sometimes, between untangling necklaces and making noodles with butter and salt for the 12,215th time in a week). I was just studying her- her simplistic complexity, the curve of her chin, the freckle on her cheek, the sleepy smile on her face even in her slumber... And BAM. Just like that, I realized.

This child teaches me more than I give her credit for.

Sometimes, I get so lost in the parental hierarchy, where I am Queen, I sometimes forget to stop and measure the lessons she has taught this mama of hers. I get lost in the teaching and forget that I, too, am learning.

She has taught me to slow down. Few things are worth hurrying about. Rushing makes you miss the caterpillars, scoot right by the rose buds, and makes you fall and skin your knee.

She has taught me to write it down. When Abi is happy, she journals about it. When she learned about ovulation tests (a recent lesson), she journaled about it. When she and her BFF, Hannah, argue, break up, and get back together, she journals about it. And then, ages later, she re-reads it and remembers.

She makes eye contact. When her heart is talking, she likes to look deeply inside you.

She forgives. And moves on. Recently, a child pushed Abi down at church. The next Sunday, she walked up to the child and gave him her two prizes that she had won. Not long ago, an adult hurt her feelings pretty deeply. The next day, she walked up to him and hugged him and then said to me, "I love him." Wow. And ouch.

She is slow to anger. Abi has her own life rhythm. Anger throws off the timing for her, so she just doesn't go there.

She is protective and loyal. This kid understands friendship and family better than most adults who live 90 years. Quick to believe the best about others, she will defend her loved ones at ALL costs. Last year, she came home crying because a little boy (who was a little slower than the others) got in trouble during class, and it broke her heart that the teacher disciplined him.

Unashamed of her Jesus. And not afraid to give. Every week, we eat wings at a local place. And every week, we give her quarters for the candy and toy machines. There's been several times I've seen her win prizes and walk around the restaurant and pass out candy to every child there. And if she even THINKS someone needs prayer or needs to know about Jesus, she'll tell them they need it. (Who's the pastor here?)

There are days when this child literally drives me mad. As with every parent/child relationship, sometimes I feel like if I don't get away from her, I might need to pad the walls of my closet and lock myself in there.

But there are other times that I ache when she's at school.

That night, while I was lying next to her, studying her face... making myself photograph her innocence and the flawlessness of her skin before adolescent acne and makeup marks it, I realized. I realized that I spend so much of my waking hours, trying to make life count for her. I try to teach her as much as I can. Whether it be how necessary it is to put your dirty dishes in the sink, why you don't need to spray a whole bottle of 409 on the table to clean it after dinner, or what an intestine is. I teach her to say "thank you," not to run through a parking lot, and wash your hands after you use the bathroom. I educate her on responsibility, money management, and decision making. I explain Bible verses to her after our devotion at night, remind her to call Nana Kim after she gets a prize in the mail from her, and the importance of soaking up the time she gets with her grandparents.

But my little student? She's quite the teacher in her own right.

I've got alot to learn.

Monday, May 9, 2011

I know, I don't know.

Every once in a while, I feel super confident in my mom skills. You know the moment. When someone brags on your child's kindness or manners. When someone says, "You can tell she's got great parents." When an adult asks your child a question and she replies with, "Yes, ma'am." When she stands up for what she believes in. When she prays for another child, unashamed and unafraid of what they'll think.

But then, there's the other 350 days of the year. You know those days. When you feel like you have NO idea what you're doing, NO recollection of signing up for this, and NO long-term plan on how to get yourself out of the mess you're in. These moments start when your husband goes back to work and leaves you with a newborn baby, and they continue until you have the little darling married off and moved away.

These moments include, but are not limited to:
episodes of vomit containing food you did not feed them nor have any idea where they found it, fishing overalls out of a running toilet, covering up the conversation that you just heard your angel initiate to a strange man that started with, "Why do you only have one arm?" And the ever-so-popular comment from your child's teacher- "No matter who I seat her by, she talks. So, I guess I'll seat her by herself."

Those are the moments when you kinda make up the rules as you go along.

See, before you have children, you have all kinds of ideas. You read the books, watch the DVDs, and take the classes. You sterilize, sanitize, rationalize, and compartmentalize. But then, little tiny hiney comes along and not only shatters your theories, but also pees on them and laughs.

So here's the deal. I really don't know much. But what I know, I really know. And today, I am in need of remembering what I really know. I'm gonna make a list.

...that praying over a boo-boo CAN become an immediate reaction, and so much so that your child will start doing it without you present.

...that you absolutely cannot reason with a child who is hell-bent and determined to wear a flip flop and a cowboy boot, while carrying a pink comb every where she goes.

...that unless you clearly outline behavior prior to entering a store, family event, or any other worthy venue, your preschooler will outline her own behavior and you will wish you had never been born by the time it's over. to make the perfect peanut butter and honey sandwich.

...exactly the song she needs when she snuggles into my arms, just by the way she snuggles.

...that we ALL fool ourselves into thinking OUR child will be the one who never laughs at a dirty joke, keeps a secret from us, sneaks around behind our backs, lies to us, or does something that utterly embarrasses our family name. to stop a tantrum dead in its tracks. to squish ungratefulness and abolish its ugly head overnight.

...that it is perfectly normal to feel like your skin will crawl if you are touched one more time before naptime, but long for those arms around your neck by the end of the two hour break.

...meanings of words like "duper," "B," "in comprendo," "definkly," and "pupcake."

...that playing Barbies with Abi will teach me everything I need to know about what's going on in her world.

...that Abi thinks about Reagan (her best friend/ boyfriend/ love of her life) ALL. THE. TIME.

...that sometimes, all I can do is apologize for my behavior. Well, that and pray that somehow what I did won't shape her psyche forever.

...that kids shouldn't only eat things they like to eat, shouldn't only participate in church or other activities only when it pleases them, and shouldn't only befriend people like them. Adulthood is full of doing things we don't like to do, and we have to prepare them for that. Now.

...that someone, somewhere has been through what I'm going through with my children, and lived to tell the tale. Look for people with whiter hair than yours and ask them how they did it.

...that as much as I'd like to, I cannot fight all my kids' battles for them. They have to learn to voice their opinions, approach their offenders, and vindicate their wrongs without my help. Of course, I also know this is a process and cannot or should not happen over night.

...that my kids will not be good at everything. And shame on me if I make them think they will be.

...that Abi is more innocent than I think she is. But she's also WAY more world-wise than I think she is. All at the same time. assume NOTHING. her entire day was by the way she walks down the sidewalk at school.

...exactly how much fun stuff to pack in order to keep her entertained all the way to north Alabama, which is a 10 hour drive.

...that regardless of how awful her day was, I can reset her immediately by saying, "Let's just crawl in my bed and read." We end up talking ALOT. Reset accomplished.

...that regardless of how difficult it can be to GET pregnant, RAISING a child is so much harder.

...but so incredibly worth it.

See? The key to parenting isn't in the encyclopedias of knowledge we possess. It's ultimately found in knowing a few things well.

Last night, we were lying in bed, talking to Abi before she fell asleep. Here's the conversation, more or less.

ABI- Know what I'm thinking about?
ME- Nope. What?
ABI- I'm wondering how old I'll be when Reagan kisses me one day.
ME- (grabbing Rod's arm while he grabs mine, behind her head). Seventeen.
ABI- That's a long time.
ME- Yep, it is.
ABI- (silence). I love you guys.
US- We love you too. Good night.

I have no idea what I'm doing. But I'll figure it out. One conversation at a time.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Big Day Is Here! **Sniff**

June 25, 2003- I became a mom.

That's not Abi's birthday. She was born in February of 2004. That June date was the fateful day I held a pregnancy test in my hand that had two beautifully pink lines on it, announcing loud and clear that our firstborn was already inside me, nestling herself into both my womb and my heart at the same time. In the following two or three days, I peed on every pregnancy stick I could get my hands on, each time watching in awe and wonder as the lines appeared and stayed around.

Alot has happened since that balmy Florida summer day. Childbirth, diapers, long nights, endless days, diapers, rashes, fevers that shook us to our core, diapers,first words, bad words, nice words, mean words- no-no's, poo-poo's, pee-pee's, uh-oh's, and diapers. Blues Clues, Lazytown, Dora, and Little Bill. Drooling, big girl panties, stickers, knee scrapes, and aliens in her room. First day of kindergarten, volunteering, crafts, apple juice, and field trips. Swimming in summers, hating "arm pit" shirts (tank tops), only wearing boots, only wearing rain galoshes, and showering in her underwear. Immunizations, broken arm, fever again. Christmases, birthdays, Easters, first grade, and 100th day of school day.

It all blurs together, like beautiful raindrops down a window pane. Each drop vital and full of life. And somehow, each drop transitioning into another drop, making a breathtaking cascade of time that flows from one life into another.

It's Mother's Day (almost). And in a way, that's what this blog is all about every day. But since it's the day we set aside to honor the sacrifice of a mother's heart, I wanted to call out the moms in my family that I honor and admire... Because their story is a part of MY story and in some way or another, they shape the mom I am.

My Mom. All 5'2" of her. With her sass, her sheer beauty, her concern, her VOICE. If I could bottle the lullabies she has sang to me throughout my life and give a bottle to the world, the world would be at peace. Not because of her vocal abilities (she has NONE). Not because of her epic song writing skills (ZILCH). But because of the love that IS her symphony. I sing to Abi almost every day. It is my prayer that the sound of my song brings to her heart what my mom's song always has to mine. And even if she's on the other side of the planet, my song will take her to where I am. Home.

My sister. Lori was born into our family ten and a half years after me. I always joke that she was my firstborn child. But somewhere between changing her newborn diapers and today, she became the best friend I've ever had. A little more than 24 hours after giving birth to her first child, she found herself sitting in a chair next to her heart while he was hooked up to monitors and wires, fighting for his health and his life. If you know my baby sister, you know she is a wildcat. She's fierce and feisty. She's loud and boisterous. She's emotional and ridiculously alive in every thing she does. After giving birth, she was physically exhausted and in more pain than she thought possible, but she turned into the Rock of Gibraltar for her baby and her husband. (And she lets me have her baby whenever I want him, so she gets ten gold stickers for that).

My first best friend, Kim. My mom's younger sister, just 16 when I was born. We grew up together. Sleepovers, games, Barbies, shopping trips... she was in love with me from day one, and I have loved her back every single day since. My heart was broken when she married and had a baby of her own. But like the true friend she is, I never lost my place. And 34 years later, we're thick as thieves. I forget she's my aunt. She's my sister. My friend. I love you, Kim.

My aunts Pam and Phyll. Oh the special place in my heart you hold! Lunches at your kitchen tables, swimming with all the cousins, watermelon with our own butter knives, holidays, birthdays, special days... You're in all of my childhood memories! You bandaged knees, refereed fights, and judged contests all summer long. I can only imagine the relief every September brought to you.

My Nana. Queen Nana of the World. Just the sound of her name makes me smile. My dad's mom is still a grandma that kids drool over. There were 8 of us grandchildren, and if you ask ANY of us who her favorite grandchild is, I can guarantee you we will ALL think WE are. She let us eat Cool Whip for dinner, sleep with the Christmas tree lights on, took us out separately for special days, let us "run away" to her house, and was at every sporting event or school play as was humanly possible. I'm her favorite, of course. Really. ;-)

My Nanny. Quirky, crazy, cooking mama supreme, Nanny. The woman can COOK. My childhood memories of shelling peas, watching her hang her clothes out to dry, and seeing her rake the carpet (yes, you read correctly) are now becoming valuable to me as a part of my own story. See, I show love by cooking. And by cleaning. My husband (for the most part) comes home to a clean house and can appreciate the value of a home cooked meal because Nanny instilled these qualities in my mom. I'm already counting the months until Thanksgiving. We're halfway there. Ahhhhhh.

My mother-in-law. Raising 7 children (Raymond, Russell, Rodrick, Rachele, Randall, Richard, and Radford) to all love Jesus, play piano, and love each other is no small feat. Through years of Daddy being overseas or on the road, she held her course. She's a tiny woman. But only on the outside. And I love her because she gave me the greatest gift I've ever been given.

Mother's Day holds a special meaning to EVERY mom's heart. But to those of us who have ever struggled with infertility or loss, this day is our big sigh of relief. I never tire of the emotion I feel that morning, when we're in church and the moms are asked to stand. Standing represents accomplishment. It represents tears, prayer, endurance, patience, and a love that you just can't understand until it kisses you. Standing that first Mother's Day represented God's promise fulfilled in my heart.

And standing every year since represents me and a little green eyed girl, who was fashioned in the image and likeness of her daddy, but bears such a resemblance to her Heavenly Father, it takes my breath away.

Let me end this with two quotes that truly summarize the love we are celebrating this weekend.

A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. - Agatha Christie

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life. - Abraham Lincoln

Happy Mother's Day.