Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Sideline

I was on the phone with my mother the other day and shared a particular difficulty I was having with one of the girls. I told her some ideas of things that might help the situation (including one involving food, because after all I think most everything can be cured by some alteration in your diet..).  She listened and responded supportively,  "sounds interesting" in regards to the research and "couldn't hurt to try".
A little later she pointed out that, actually, we had had a similar situation with one of the older children when they were preschoolers.  She reminded me that that was cured by some discipline and not so much by food.
I received it.  She is probably right.  It might be a little of the other, but mostly ...

The reason for that story is this.  When she pointed that out to me, when she, in essence, made a child rearing suggestion to me, I didn't feel the least little sting. 
My feathers weren't ruffled, and it wasn't because I am particularly good at that sort of thing.

Why is that?
It is something I have thought about a fair amount because I have been repeatedly surprised by how few adult women seem to have a good relationship with their mom.  They feel criticized at every turn, unaccepted.  They hide things from her because they don't want her, presumably negative, opinion.
I don't have that with my mom. 

I am not sure of all of the reasons but I can speculate. 
She didn't fear man, or teacher or anyone else who was doing something not in the best interest of her children.   
She let me be a separate person with my own opinions.
We spent a lot of time together just the 2 of us in my middle school and high school years.  She was my "best friend" as I proclaimed one night, sitting in a canoe, in the dark, on the James river, me having had a beer or two and she a glass of wine.
Maybe the fact that I even have that story says a lot.

She took her family seriously.  She took her job seriously.  Herself?  Not so much.
And with that came a humility, an air, communicated to me at 8 and 18 and 48, that she didn't think she had all the answers. 
She had some. 
She actually had many, but she never made me feel that she had the corner market on them. 
I could have some answers too.
I could tell her which jumper looked good with what, what paint color was best for the kitchen, whether her idea for a project for her class was a flop or a fly.
She respected me.
Ultimately though, the thing with the largest impact, is that my mom has always been in my corner.

She supported me when I was going to be a school teacher, and when I was going to be a biologist, and when I was taking random classes with no apparent major in sight.
For more than four months after I went off to school she listened to me on the phone for hours at a time because I was so homesick.  And, it was over 25 years later when my own daughter moved out before she confessed that she would sometimes cry after she hung up the phone with me. 
She sent me care packages for every holiday listed on the Hallmark datebook, with treats for my roommate as well.
She shopped for cute work clothes with me when I wanted a career and then rallied for me when I quit that and wanted to go back to school 
She supported me with yet another round of phone calls when I decided to drop out of medical school and delighted in me staying home full time with my children. 
Despite 30 some years as a public school teacher, she managed to swallow most of her reservations when we decided to home school (she probably figured it wouldn't last any longer than the other things) and sent me curriculum ideas. 
She has done nothing but tell me how wonderful my children are on a regular basis.
I can receive her suggestions, because they are so rarely given.  The deafening noise on my sideline is her enthusiasm for me, not her criticism.

In short she has been my first, biggest, and best cheerleader all of my life.

So, since someone asked me recently, "do you have any advice for young mothers?"
It is this.
Cheer loudest.
Always cheer loudest.

That is what she did.  It is what she continues to do!  

"...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things."
Philippians 4:8

Friday, January 24, 2014


"The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip."  Genesis 32:31

Confession time!
 I forgot Ellie's birthday.  No, not just the time the pediatrician's office asked so that they could look up her records, I do that with all of them, even myself on occasion.  I am talking about the preschool day closest to her birthday.  I show up with Ellie in tow and the teacher asks if I have brought any special treats to celebrate her birthday with her friends.
Long pause.
"Uh, no."  I had checked birthday off of my list on Saturday, when we celebrated with family and opened presents and had cake.  It never occurred to me that we needed an encore.  Now in my defense, my first two kids had summer birthdays so "party at preschool" had never been on my radar screen.
The teacher looked at me like I was pitiful.  And really, I guess it was pretty bad.
I ran to the CVS across the street and picked up some Mrs. Field's cookies (hey, those are  a treat at our house) and some Bounty napkins slightly decorated with butterflies because they did not have any actual party supplies at the drug store.  I got back over there well before snack time and I am sure that Ellie did not even notice.

No one wants to be the "limper".  The one who slows the party down because they can't keep up, or who just gets left behind altogether.  The thing is, this time around parenting in particular, I am that person. 
I am just not able to keep up with all of the ins and outs of every one's lives, even in just my own family.  I don't remember everything going on in the two different preschool classes, much less in the college ones. 
I am not going to be any body's homeroom mother anytime soon.
I rush to sign up to bring the paper products for the class parties because, hey, who knows what next week is going to look like and I don't want to be responsible for baking something and getting it there.  Plates and cups, however, can be brought in just as soon as you sign up and then you don't even have to try to remember what day the party is! 

No, I don't want to be the one holding up the crowd, or the one left behind while everyone else runs ahead. 
I don't like being the "not liked by the teacher" parent, and I am.
I would rather be pulled together and on top of things. 
I would rather be different.

But, when you hang back, when you are not keeping up, you find that actually, you aren't alone after all!  I am finding that there are others back here with me.  Other people whose lives are not going so smoothly, or who just do not have the energy to rally for another race to no where. 
Other people who were dealt a far more difficult hand than I . 
I don't think I would have met these people, I am not even sure I noticed them before. 

And this has put a lot more mercy in my little mind than use to be there. 
When your child is acting up in the grocery store my assumption is not that you just can't be consistent in your parenting.  When you are feeding them junk food through the entire trip to keep the peace, I am not thinking that you are contributing to their long-term demise.  When they are dressed in shorts and a t-shirt in January, I don't think of you as negligent. 
I am proud of you for remembering their shoes. 
I am bringing my two at lunch time so that we can eat through the entire trip, stopping at the deli first to get some turkey. 
I am trying to send you a look of sympathy, but understand completely why your eyes aren't meeting mine.  I just wish I could tell you, "hang in there, I am limping too and if I look pretty good today, it is a fluke, I assure you". 

Jacob finishes his life renamed by God, reunited with his brother, restored and redeemed with his father.  He is blessed with children and their wives and grandchildren that numbered 70 in total when they moved to Egypt.  God had his hand in his life, even during the limping years, maybe even especially during those years.
And that gives me great hope, for all of us who are falling off of the jungle gym on the playground of life.

"Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.  And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years.  So the days of Jacob, the years of his life, were 147 years."  Genesis 47:27-28