Tag Archives: parenting

Baby-Sitting

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As I write this, in a nearby room, sleeps about 22 pounds of energy, laughter and joy embodied in our thirteen month old granddaughter.  This is our east coast girl and we are  enjoying the quiet, after a few hours of entertaining and ministering to the needs of a little one.  Hanging out with someone who does  not yet use words means there are moments when it is like a game of charades, trying to figure out what has changed her mood, what she is staring at and whether she is tired, hungry or bored with my singing.  I know for a fact that my rehearsal for grandparenting was caring for my own children, and sometimes I forgot my lines and my patience was in short supply.

It amazes me that as I grow older my need to be doing “it” right (whatever “it” might be) diminishes exponentially.  When someone so little looks up and grins a toothy grin that makes you know you are doing it the way they need or want, it becomes the standard of measure.  It doesn’t matter whether you are acting like a fool, or that you are willing to copy any sounds that they utter  or crawl around on the floor, it all meets with approval.  It doesn’t matter that everything else that used to be important, is put on hold because my FHB and I finally get it….time has accelerated, our kids are adults and these little folks (both our east and west coast girls) are willing and available for loving and experiencing  life in this moment with us.  Children have no sense of time as that is a concept that it thrust upon them.  So every moment is freestanding.  The relationship is the connection between moments.

The caretaking is somewhat more daunting, and I am not that sure whether it is because I am older or whether I am more worried about messing up “someone else’s” child.  Having the trust of my child to watch his child is a tall order.  What I did when I parented many moons ago is less relevant to being consistent in caring the way I am asked to do.  It is learning respect for someone else’s system and honoring them for being excellent caretakers, which in the circle of life might just be a reflection of how they were raised.  It is actually such an eye opening experience to know that your child is truly a person who can manage to work, and caretake and be a partner and it all works well.  They already know more about letting certain things go and emphasizing the critical tasks of being available and present for their children than I knew.  It is kind of impressive.  There is also the sense that they are truly grateful for our help and participation in their daughter’s life and that it is not taken for granted and assumed.  All of a sudden the good manners and acknowledgement that seemed to pass me by during their adolescence, comes back a hundred fold.  I like these people. They are kind to us and kind to others.

I had a hard time sitting still when I had a baby.  I thought that everything was equal in terms of cleaning, laundry, and childcare.  I did little caretaking of myself and questioned  how I was doing as a parent.  I was a hard critic and concerned that I was juggling all I needed to, the job, the house, and the children and not doing it terribly well.  I like the current babysitting gig and know that somehow it has all synthesized itself into a pretty lovely system of checks and balances.  I guess the investment of time plus or minus the lack of or increase in life experience, all adds up to a lot of return and drooling kisses.  And you can take that to the bank.

 

 

Mother-ish

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Can’t let this weekend pass without recognizing and celebrating a day to honor all mothers.  If not for my mother, this conversation would probably not occur with you, my readers.  She was one of a kind who lived a life full of extremes and ironies.  She grew up  in a time when her religion targeted her and created a fear she lived with always.  Yet, she stood her ground, as a woman who worked because she wanted to, in a time when most mothers stayed at home, and she offered no excuses.  She was curious and highly intelligent.  Being a mother was challenging for her not because she didn’t love us, but she had to figure out parenting without her own mother as a role model.  Her mother had been a “lady who lunched” and my mother was raised by a nanny who was her world until she left Germany and her nanny behind, when she was 13.  She and her mother had a relationship that evolved as my mother was a new immigrant and her mother encouraged her to explore and get her education, until my grandfather passed away and my mother had to leave high school and work to help out. My grandmother died at fifty-nine, when my mother was twenty-seven.  My mother had married my father at twenty four and moved from Manhattan to Queens to settle into a life that eventually included my sister and me.   From a life of comfortable living in Germany, until the rise of anti-semitism, to living a much more spartan life, my mother continued to power on as a young woman, who would go back and finish high school at night, and take 15 years to finish her college degree in business adminstration while raising us, to working in an array of jobs, where she not only did the work (she loved working with numbers) but she would nurture the co-workers with baked goods ands a listening ear.  She engaged all she met by showing interest and concern. Having two daughters and a husband who was fairly traditional often created a longing to be out and about and she eventually went back to work in Manhattan, where she was part of the energy of the city, which she loved and thrived in.  We were taken to Central Park on Fridays to walk around and visit the seals and have a hot chocolate or soda, depending on the season.  She was happy to share the city with us, with theater and music, another one of her loves.  Her hope, as a teen was to be a fashion designer and yet, when that didn’t work out, her anti-fashionista personal stance, led her down a path of polyester and sensible shoes, and she left the dreams behind and headed in a different direction, which brought her satisfaction.  Once again, she survived a detour and made her choices work for her.  Her parenting was easily surpassed by her grandparenting, and her relationships with her four grandchildren were easier and more fun.  She could take the time to listen to them and they all “got” her.   She was admired by many for her kind gestures. She lived nine years past the death of my father and despite missing him terribly, she continued to work, travel,  and learn new things and participate in a life that still interested her.  She lived until she died, a quick passing that was difficult but was her way.  She always told us not to dillydally and when she got sick, she left with a thank you to America for giving her a place to grow up and old, and for a man on a bicycle who she said, in the last day of her life, was coming to take her for a ride.  My father would never have left her behind and we imagined them meeting again, as in the great love stories.

Mothering is a verb as mother is a noun and name.  The act of caring for others is not limited to women who give birth.  We all have role models apart from the women who give us biological life and those women, mentor us, challenge us, teach us and they may be family, teachers, community leaders, doctors, secretaries,  or the woman behind the counter at a place we stopped for a soda on the way home from school. She might be a person who is just someone you like seeing day in and day out, and there may be no connection other than a helping hand or question that shows interest in you.  She may be someone you admire or respect from a distance or someone in history.  Our personal strength may be in serving in that role or having been lucky enough to be offered some help by someone who was “like a mother”.

Thanks to my mother and all the women who helped me and continue to help me every day in large and small ways. Ever grateful.

 

Believing in Bunnies

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This is not my story.  This is a story that has to do with a friend of a friend of a family member.  The story is still ongoing and I don’t know exactly how it will end but it contains bunnies and who doesn’t like bunnies.  It’s also a story about what we believe…what we want to believe and what we need to believe.

Recently, a woman had a baby.  Despite what we all expect, sometimes, the most natural of events with positive outcomes, have unexpected detours.  The baby is fine.  The mother, however, became extremely and catastrophically ill.  To cut to the chase, she is now recovering, but has a long  journey back to health.  This is about holding on to hope.  It’s about optimism in the face of  dark facts.

When really difficult things happen, and perhaps more so , when it is something that is happening, not directly to you, but to a friend of a friend, you feel helpless and impotent, because you are not there as part of the event, but you bear witness as it unfolds.  My son shared the story as it was unfolding.  He was the witness.  I was in the role of listening mother.  I didn’t have to know the people involved. The pain of caring about your friend, and your friend’s friend, was evidenced in each phone call.  Even though my son is an adult, our conversations were about reassurance and separating the medical issues, which he is cognizant of, as he is studying to be a nurse practitioner, from the feelings and fear.

When I got the first call, the parenting instinct kicked in and all I wanted to say was it was going to be all right.  Being around for a long time gives me some wisdom and coupled with a knowledge base of some medical information and ability to dialog with him on common ground, helped distance him in the moment from the worry I could hear in his voice.  We talked facts, but I felt the feelings.  When your child hurts, you hurt. Parenting is really the toughest job but has the best benefits, especially when you know that your long term investment in a human has paid off.  I have great children.  I know everyone does, but I guess I am quite biased.  The rewards are in knowing your adult children want to talk to you and talk about the good stuff, but also know that they can talk about the really hard stuff.  Of course, my opinion counts the most when I agree with them.  It was not an easy path, and it still is fraught with bumps, but for the most part, it works.

We talked and texted during the first 36 hours of this evolving situation.  Every conversation contained updates and speculation.  They were intense and draining.  The helpless feeling, when we hung up, stayed with me. I vascillated between feeling worried and resolute that things would get better. I tried to use my logical mind to see this to a good end.  I’m not a fortune teller and  I don’t buy lottery tickets.    My son and I often talk, as I am driving, heading home, after a 13 hour work day.   As a therapist, I give at the office and by nighttime, I am spent.  Whatever listening skills are left, I use for the people I love.  That evening, I was really worn out, but as a mom, I always have some reserve.  I was just about at the loft. I turned into the driveway, almost at the garage, when a small grey bunny appeared in the headlights of my car and stopped, looked up at me and blinked.   The bunny crossed in front of me and scurried off toward the brick building.  As a reminder to those reading…I live in the gritty part of an urban setting, in a converted mill loft apartment .  There is asphalt, concrete, a few bushes and lots of cars.  There are no bunnies, until one shows up because you need to see something that lets you know, it’s going to be all right.  I said to my son “There’s a bunny in front of my car”.  He might have thought I was delusional but he knows me better than that and said “what did you say?”.  I repeated it and then said “She’s going to be okay.”  He listened as I reminded him that I want to be an optimist and that I can’t do my job if I am not.  I explained that the bunny was a sign and I needed to believe that we needed a sign and there it was.  Moms say things, sometimes for both the child and themselves.  He accepted it, because when moms talk, kids need to listen.  Later, within the hour, he texted again.  She was doing better.  The prognosis was still guarded, but things were improving.

Do I know if it was the bunny, or did I need to have something to hope with and something to share? I guess things don’t always make sense but I’m going to always believe that when one of my kids needs me to help figure things out, I’m going to try to believe I can do it.

What are “we” doing?

Maybe it’s me. In fact, I know it’s me. I am sensitive to things that come out of people’s mouths.  I am actually less sensitive to the things that people I know intimately and forever and  to whom I am close,  when they say something that makes my eye twitch (barely noticeable except to me, of course).  I probably roll my eyes but not sure others notice.  Back to the strangers who think they are part of my social circle (albeit small but good).  These are the folks who asked me things like “Do we know what we’re having?” and other gems such as “How are we doing today?” They call me “sweetie” as they are handing me my coffee.  I don’t know them and even my FHB, does not call me “sweetie” and frankly, I am just fine with that.  I’ve never been a fan of being addressed as Ma’am, as I think that is somewhat respectful but relegated to people who are in their 100s.  I would rather not be addressed if I think we are probably not going to see one another again and we are not going to be in a relationship, business or otherwise.

I was raised with what might be called Extreme Manners.  My sister and I did not call anyone who was a contemporary of our parents, unless granted permission, by executive order of the RULES, by their first name. It was always Mrs. or Mr.  or some form of formal designation such as “Tante” (aunt in German), followed by their first name.  These were in addition to our actual blood or by marriage relatives.  We also were taught to use the designation, “Cousin” to identify various members of the extended family . For a while, I didn’t know why so many people had the same first name. In fact,  my sister and I only have one actual first cousin, as my father was an only child and my mother’s sister (my cousin’s mother) was her only sibling to have a child.  That being said, she was referred to as “Cousin” long into our adulthood and never by her first name, which I still never use and often forget that she has an actual real name.  My childhood friends’ parents, with  whom I would play,  when I was in elementary school,were also called by Mr. and Mrs.  I mistakenly called one parent by her first name and my mother received a phone call from this woman and I was given a very clear mandate that I was never to do that again. Apparently this was a serious transgression on my part, never to be repeated.  These were formal times, with lots of rules.   I was never sure if other people had similar rules when it came to household etiquette.  We greeted our parents with “Good Morning” as we sat down to breakfast.  We asked to be excused when meals were over.  I often wondered if  someday,  if I met someone who was connected to royalty, I would be complimented on my good breeding and manners.  To date, for the record, I have yet to meet anyone who wears a crown, except  for the occasional  birthday parties I was invited to, when I was six.

So, what do I think about the familiarity with which people communicate with me, nowadays,  when I am out and about? Do I chastise them in anyway, beyond the eye roll which, as I said before, no one notices.  I grouse, inside, and perhaps say something snide to my FHB about this.  However, I put it all in the bag I call “Context”.  I see an attempt to connect, to have a moment, to be friendly and to engage.  A stranger who is working to make an impression and who, despite my curmugeon-like tendencies, probably means well and never means any harm.  My upbringing is often my undoing, as I have this standard in my head on how we are to speak and be spoken to.  I know, as time goes on, I may get used to be called “dear” and “miss” by strangers.  In the meantime, you can address me as “Your Royal Highness” and I will call you “Cousin”.