Friday, August 13, 2010

Bittersweet Birthdays

Two of my "babies" and my husband have birthdays within a five day span in August. My hubby's birthday was on August 6; my oldest, Rachel, turned 8 on August 9; and my youngest, Emily, turned 3 on August 11. As we went through this week, I was struck by the bittersweetness of all the birthdays, especially the children.

On the one hand, I am, of course, grateful and feel so incredibly blessed to celebrate another happy, healthy year with my girls. It seems we are surrounded by stories of children who are sick, mistreated, or have suffered death much too early. But there I was, watching two of my three beautiful girls smile and laugh while they blew out the candles on another birthday cake. How beautiful! How wonderful!! How lucky I am!!

On the other hand, it is so hard to watch them grow up. My oldest opened gifts of jewelry, pocket books, and a real camera. No more baby dolls or toys for her - she is too old to be interested in those things. I look at baby pictures of her and wonder where the last eight years have gone. What have I done wrong?? What have I done right?? I know (or at least I hope) I will have many more years with my Rachel, but the first eight are gone.

The candle on Emily's cake was a number 3 this year. It seems when they turn two, we can still find a little bit of "baby" in them - at least they are only toddlers. Not when they turn three, though. She really is NOT a baby anymore. Again, it is bittersweet. No more diapers! No more waking in the middle of the night! No more pacifiers! Hallelujah!!!! But - No more holding her in my arms while she falls asleep. No more long walks while she sleeps in the stroller. No more feeding her whatever I choose. Do you see the bitter part??

In about a week, I get to feel it all over again as my middle daughter, Megan, starts kindergarten. In December, she will turn six and I will again wonder where the time has gone.

Would I have it any other way? Absolutely not!! I look forward to watching my girls continue to grow and I pray every day for their health and happiness. I look forward to shopping for prom dresses and wedding gowns. I wonder what occupations they will have; what their husbands will be like; how many children they will have. And every time I watch them blow out the candles on another birthday cake, I will smile and count my blessings and be joyful to have had another year with my wonderful daughters. And, since I am the mom, I will also do my best to hide the little piece of my heart that hurts as the flames on the candles go out again.

Here's to my girls - Rachel, Megan, & Emily. And here's wishing them many, many, many more happy birthdays!!!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Crocodiles Don't Wear Panties

We all know that kids say the darndest things and it seems these things often inspire me to post something on my blog. This is one I just had to share.

My youngest, Emily, is two and a half. She already has a very witty sense of humor. Last week, the other two girls were in school, so Emily and I were at home together. Emily had been having some little pee-pee accidents so I was trying to focus on perfecting the pottying. At one point in the morning, Emily began crawling up to me, growling, and saying "I'm a Crocodile!" I, of course, would shriek in terror and say "Go away crocodile!" At which point she would crawl away and start all over. Then, this conversation happened:

Me: Emily, are your panties wet, again??

Emily: No.

Me: Yes they are.

Emily: No they are not.

Me: Yes they are. Now, go upstairs and get yourself some dry panties.

Emily: I don't want to.

Me: Too bad! You need to go get some dry panties.

Emily: (pause) Well, Crocodiles don't wear panties!

(She then took off the wet panties and continue the game.)

Somewhere underneath my laughter, it hit me that I had just been out-reasoned by a two-year-old!!! I suppose I could have gotten angry and offended by her defiance. However, I didn't read it as defiance. Aside from finding it hysterical, I was actually quite impressed by her thought process. I mean, think about it; it really took a great deal of sophisticated logic on her part.

"I don't want to go upstairs because I am having fun playing Crocodile. Do Crocodiles wear panties?? No, crocodiles don't wear panties and since I am pretending to be a crocodile, I shouldn't have to wear panties either! I'll tell mom that and then I won't have to go get panties!"

So what is my point here?? I promise I am not just boasting about my super intelligent daughter! I think my point is that sometimes we have to "get inside" our children's thoughts to appreciate their comments or actions. Remember that movie "Look Who's Talking" where the narrator says out loud everything that is supposedly going through the baby's mind?? I could have just reacted to Emily's unwillingness to follow my directions. However, when I look under the surface I can see that there is much more to her comment - a much more complex thought process. Is this an excuse for not following instructions?? Of course not! Maybe, though, we can learn to see the lighter, brighter side of it sometimes.

After all, crocodiles really don't wear panties, so who can argue with that?!?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Through a book club at my church/kids' preschool, I am currently reading a book called Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas. In the second chapter, Thomas talks about the way parents of today are afraid to let their children fail - afraid to let them experience pain.

One example he gives is that some school districts in New York, Texas, Utah, and Virginia have outlawed dodgeball because of the fact that it has clear winners and losers - if you get hit, you lose. Some people fear this can damage a child's self-esteem.

Well, here are my thoughts on this:

Seriously?!?! Dodgeball damages self-esteem??? I can vividly remember playing kickball during P.E. in the gym at Happy Valley Elementary School. I kicked the ball and ran toward first base. The boy who caught the ball threw it at me. It hit my feet. I tripped and slid on my knees across the floor. I had two bloody knees, but I do not recall feeling as if my self esteem had been damaged. On the contrary, it gave the boy who hit me and unintentionally made me fall the opportunity to show some character and practice sportsmanship when he came over to apologize. It gave my classmates the opportunity to show compassion as they helped me up and got some wet towels to wash my knees. What did I learn??? I learned to kick the ball AWAY from the guy with the best arm and to keep my eyes on the ball, even when I was running the bases!

As parents, it is our job to protect our children. However, it is also our job to teach them and train them to be successful adults. How can they appreciate that success if they have never tasted failure??? And when failure and disappointment do happen - because you know they WILL happen - how will they deal with it???

If you have a son who is a talented athlete, but little league doesn't keep score so that nobody loses, how will he feel when he plays for the team in high school? college? or the pros??? No team ALWAYS wins!!!

Got daughters??? There is a show on TLC called "Say Yes to the Dress" where brides-to-be go to a fancy bridal boutique in New York City to pick their wedding gown. If your daughter has never been told no, but then finds the dress and it just happens to cost $25,000 - what then???

And what about the disappointments we cannot avoid??? My girls lost their great grandmother last week. I cannot control that. I cannot shelter them from that either. I can tell them as gently as possible. I can answer their questions to the best of my ability. I can hold them and hug them and cry with them. I can't experience that for them, though. They have to go through it and feel it and, hopefully, learn from it.

Some parents may feel that exposing children to failure, pain, and disappointment is bad parenting. I, however, would argue the opposite - bad parenting would be not allowing your children the opportunity to develop the internal mechanisms to cope with the failure, pain, and disappointment they will inevitably go through in their lives; and sometimes, experience is the best teacher.

No parent wants to see his/her child suffer. Telling my children about their great grandmother's death is one of the hardest things I have had to do as a parent so far. I am not suggesting that children's lives should be miserable and full of hurt. However, some hurts and failures are unavoidable and, by sheltering our children completely, by manipulating their worlds to ridiculous extremes (like outlawing dodgeball), we do them a disservice in the long run.

I will leave you with these two nuggets of wisdom:

"Sunshine without rain is the recipe for a desert." - Arab Proverb

"Without rain there would be no rainbows." - Lisa Witherspoon-ism

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to go play dodgeball with my kids!! :)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rachel and MamMaw

When I was young, I was my grandmother's little princess. When I was a teenager, another girl joined the family, but until then, I was the only girl amongst her 5 grandchildren. Since she had also raised two sons - well, I was a little spoiled by her. She was my father's mother and we all called her MamMaw.

MamMaw was a strong woman. She had lived through the Great Depression. Her first time giving birth was at home - no drugs or modern comforts. Not long after that, her husband was drafted into WWII and she was left to care for her young son (my dad) on her own. Her strength came from being a fighter.

Some, including me and most of my family members, often saw her strength as stubbornness. After 50+ years of smoking, she gave up cigarettes on her terms - cold turkey! She finally broke down, after years of the family's urging and begging, and got air conditioning - but only a window unit. These are just a couple examples.

The last time I saw her before she passed away, I was newly pregnant with my first child and just starting to show. MamMaw rubbed my belly and admired my bump. I am not usually one to speak of "karma" and "spirits," but if there is such a thing, I am convinced that MamMaw passed hers on that day to the baby inside that bump - my firstborn, Rachel. Yes, Rachel - my 7 year old vegetarian who always wears skirts and dresses unless it is on her terms (like for the horseback riding lessons she asked for for three years); my Rachel who always knows if even one of the twenty things she sleeps with mysteriously disappears and who refuses to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. My Rachel, who already hates her freckles and her curls and vows to have her hair straightened as soon as she is old enough. My Rachel, who wants to own her own zoo when she grows up, not just work at someone else's. Sometimes, much to Rachel's chagrin, I even call her Eula, MamMaw's actual name.

As a mother, I find this stubbornness extremely frustrating. But when I think aobut MamMaw, I don't see only stubbornness. I see a woman who knew who she was and what she stood for. She never gave up on any of that without a fight. She was a woman who put family above all else; a woman who loved only one man her whole life - even when he died at a relatively young age, she refused to even consider marrying another and she wore her wedding ring until the day she died.

I would never tell Rachel this (at least not until she is older), but I pray that, as she grows, she will hold onto her strength, convictions, and self-identity as tightly as MamMaw did; that she never lets the outside influences of this crazy world change the beautiful, wonderful person God created in her. I know that MamMaw is looking down from Heaven, smiling and praying for the same thing!

I miss you, MamMaw, and I hope that ALL my girls and I make you proud!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Unexpected Snow Day

When I was a public school teacher, before having my own children, I was always put off by the parents who hated snow days; the parents who looked forward to the end of summer or Christmas break so the kids could go back to school. I could not believe how unappreciative they were of the time they had with their children.

Now - 8 years later - I'm one of those parents!

When my phone rang at 6 am this morning, I was expecting to hear "delay," not "CLOSED." My first thought was probably something like "You've got to be kidding me! What will I do with them all day?!?!" My second thought was probably something like "Well, maybe I can at least get some cleaning done."

Now, as I sit here typing and listening to my three girls playing and laughing together in the next room, I am trying to change my point of view. Admittedly, there has already been some yelling today (mine and theirs) and I am sure there will be some more. However, today is a gift - I get some time to spend with my precious girls that I would not have normally had. I get to experience their laughter and their smiles; I get to hold their hand; I get to snuggle on the couch and watch Sesame Street; I get to help them turn their bunk beds into a castle. How can anyone be annoyed by that???

Friday, February 26, 2010

Kids Say the Darndest Things!

Anyone who has ever met my sweet Megan figures out pretty quickly that she is definitely my MIDDLE child. She is the very definition of "quirky." One of those quirks - she is quite the chatterbox. Here is one of her latest "chatterings."

Megan attends preschool at our church, First Presbyterian, Greensboro. The preschool does many outreach projects throughout the year. They are currently collecting paper products for local families transitioning from homelessness. Earlier this week, I was packing Megan's bag with the items I had purchased for our donation. Our conversation went like this:

Megan - "What's that for?"

Mom - "You know Caring Kingdom at preschool? They are collecting paper products for poor people who used to be homeless and don't have money to buy these things."

Megan - "What kind of paper products?"

Mom - "Toilet Paper, Kleenex, paper towels.... Stuff like that."

Megan - "We are giving them toilet paper?" (We also had some Kleenex, but she was obviously focusing on the TP.)

Mom - "Yes. The government gives them food stamps to help them get food, but they can't use the food stamps for these things."

There was a pause and Megan was definitely looking a bit uninterested, so, for effect, I added:
"Megan, isn't that sad that there are people right here in Greesnboro who don't even have enough money to buy toilet paper??"

Megan's expression changed to one of great concern and she responded:
"You mean they can't even wipe their #@%?!?!?!"

After I picked my jaw up of the floor, my initial reaction was a firm reprimand. "Megan Julia Witherspoon, you better not EVER say that again! Do you understand me?? That is UGLY!"

My second reaction?? I had to quickly walk away so she didn't see me laughing hysterically!

From this 2 minute exchange, I came to two realizations. First, I was reminded of the innocence of children (yes, innocence.) After my flowery, heartfelt explanation, Megan shared with me the very basic (and blunt) interpretation from her child's mind. Secondly, I am very aware that language is learned and that perhaps it is the adults in Megan's life (i.e. David & me) that need to chew on a bar of soap occasionally!!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...