Tag Archives: perspective

Babies cry, don’t take it personally

When my baby was born into this world, I was struck with the reality of it all. She is mine, my baby, nobody else’s. It felt like one of those reality shows when you get to play a part in someone else’s life for a while–but don’t get too comfortable, the camera crew is on its way with the annoyingly chatty host.

Our strange existence as modern women of the 21 century brought many of us to the realization that by the respectable age of 30, we rarely had a chance to handle a newborn, to change his diaper, to feed him or watch him nurse. That was me anyway, a total novice (not to say a nervous wreck). Before my baby was born I wouldn’t have wanted to hold a newborn. I was afraid to break them. I regarded every new, seemingly relaxed new mother with great admiration. “How does she do it?” I asked myself (and her, if I gathered enough nerve). They all looked like mother earth to me. Relaxed and natural.

Imagine my surprise when my turn came to play mommy. Continue reading

Was it something I said?

When I was a girl my mother told me this:

“I’m glad my daughters aren’t beautiful.”

(She had four of them.)

“My daughters are interesting and smart and clever instead.”

We were sitting at a stoplight at Stapley and University.

I don’t remember where we were going.

I had heard this in little bits and pieces all my life, but somehow, maybe my age, maybe the stillness of the car, maybe the car itself as holding cell for an unwitting prisoner—this time especially, the words stung.

And penetrated deep into my soul. Continue reading

Like Mother, Like Superhero

I’m delighted to be able to share the parenting wisdom of one of my favorite writers, researcher and social worker Brené Brown, here on Letters to a Parent. If you haven’t found her site yet, set aside some time, click over, and prepare for a treat. This post is especially appropriate this week as we put away our holiday trinkets & relaxed schedules and return to our routines at school, work, and home. Enjoy! {And thanks, Brené!}

* * *

In January, Ellen and I ran into Nordstrom so I could pick up some make-up. While we were there, we decided to check out the sale in the children’s shoe department. I had on my workout clothes and was looking pretty ragged. When we got to the shoe department, there were three moms picking out shoes while their young daughters tried on boots and sneakers. These women were stunning and their daughters were equally beautiful.

As I tried to stay out of the swampland of comparison, I saw a strange blur of jerky movement out of the corner of my eye. It was Ellen. They were playing a pop song in the neighboring children’s department and Ellen was dancing. Or, to be more specific, she was doing the robot.

At the very moment that Ellen looked up and saw me watching her, I saw the magnificent moms and their matching daughters staring right at Ellen. They looked horrified. Ellen froze. Still bent over with her arms in rigid formation, she looked up at me with these eyes that said, “What do I do, Mom?” Continue reading

Scrambled Heart, Part 1

I have spent countless days in hospitals: Someone checks you in, you fill out papers, they take copies, you wait. Someone else rolls your son in a wheelchair down the wide corridor, past the grand piano where elderly volunteers play “Let Me Call You Sweetheart” or “Five Foot Two” or “Amazing Grace,” up the elevator to a private room on the sixth floor where you’ve been before. You follow behind, making small talk and smiling, packing the necessary equipment – cell phone, laptop and an unread book – you will need to stay occupied while you wait. And wait. You wait for blood tests and x-rays and doctor visits while you play with your cell phone downloading worthless ring tones and pictures of purple mountains you will never look at again. You watch the black shadows move down the concrete walls on the buildings outside the window. You rub your son’s palm with your index finger, the way you did when he was a baby. You try to read, but your eyes blur. You fill up the room with balloons from the gift shop, because no one even knows that your son is in the hospital, again, and no one sends balloons or stops by or calls. So you fill in the space. Continue reading

Scrambled Heart, Part 2

{Continued from last week’s essay}

Because of the Hepatitis C diagnosis and subsequent cirrhosis doctors later agreed to evaluate him for a heart/liver transplant, quite rare, but several have been successfully completed around the country. Doctors wanted to do some lung studies first, before sending him to Seattle for a heart/liver evaluation. The doctors discovered his lung functions were extremely poor, possibly due to fibroid tumors, probably from anti-fibrillation drugs: he would need a heart/liver/lung transplant. Although multiple organ transplantation has been successful, the three big guns have been transplanted only once before.

After six months of waiting for results and decisions, a letter from Mayo Clinic arrived stating the “constellation of his anatomy” was in too great a state of disarray and he was pronounced a non-viable candidate. The sand in the hourglass draining, Mike and I began measuring time as though a bomb were set to detonate at the end of the two-year death sentence. We never told Zeke about the letter from Mayo. We told him only that the doctors said “not now” on the transplantation. Doctors agreed to respect our decision.

Continue reading

To me when I was sixteen years old

Dear Celia,

You say you don’t want kids, but you should have them anyway. It is the only way to get out of working full-time. You’ll like them when you get them, I promise. It isn’t all changing diapers and wiping noses like you’ve done your whole life with your younger siblings. You will love your own kids more.

You say you want to be free from responsibility, and while that sounds good, really it is boring and empty. Having kids will make your life meaningful and interesting. When you are responsible for something or someone, you love it more. And when you love something a lot, then life is worthwhile. Think about how much you love your Honda Elite 150 scooter. A lot, right? Well, imagine loving something 100 times that. You know how you wake up every morning and feel happy to see your scooter? That is how you feel when you wake up and see your children every day.

You say you just want to have fun. Here’s a secret you don’t know yet: You get to relive your childhood with each kid. Childhood is fun, remember? It wasn’t too long ago for teenaged you. Not only do you get to be excited about Christmas and Disneyland again, you get to be excited about your children achieving milestones like walking, reading, playing instruments, babysitting, and on and on.

You think YOU are the most interesting person in the world. As it should be for now, but trust me, there isn’t anything more interesting than a little person who reflects you and your husband’s personalities. When one of your children starts walking around with his nose in a book or putting together cute outfits, you’ll know where it came from. You. And what is more interesting than you?

I don’t really need to convince you. I’m pretty sure you are going to have children someday. I predict you’ll have four and that they will be the best things that ever happened to you. Better than a new car or a trip to Europe or a kiss from the cute boy. I promise.

Love, An Older And Hopefully Wiser Me

img_0606.jpgCelia, mother to four children, lives in the California Bay Area. She writes about it at Groundhog Day with Celia Fae.

Relax and enjoy

{This letter is really a talk given by my great-grandmother about motherhood}

When Dean asked me if I would give a short talk on harmony and beauty in the home, it really startled me. I remember I said, “Harmony! Dean, didn’t you know my husband? Because we had companionship, spirituality, love, beauty, excitement and loads of fun but I think harmony would have been the last adjective anyone would use to describe the Brockbank home.” So he thought I could perhaps give the young mothers some advice, and that I’ll try and do, because there isn’t any experience you will be likely to have that I haven’t had.

First, relax and enjoy your children. 99% of them turn out all right anyway. Just let your memory go back to all the obnoxious little boys and girls you used to know and think of them now. They’re not delinquents. They’re married now and going to work each morning, coming home at night to work in the yard, play with their children, go out with friends. They don’t get their names in the papers as the 1% who are delinquents do, but they are the salt of the earth and yours will be among them, so love them and stop worrying.

Especially ease up on the oldest one. My, we expect a lot of the first one. We set out to show the world what we can do, and it is a wonder they survive at all with our constant, erratic, unreasonable supervision. It is a good thing that children are resilient and so loyal. They forgive us and love us anyway.

The second thing is don’t hold grudges. Let what happened yesterday go. There’ll be another crisis tomorrow you can put your mind on, so let the old ones pass and don’t be afraid to say you are wrong. It’s no disgrace. It only shows that you are smarter today than you were yesterday, and besides, it disarms your opponent.

Three, try and see the child’s point of view. They have one and it may well be as good as your own.

Four, the really biggest problem, I think, to a mother, young or old, is trying to help her children over the trials and disappointments that come in everyone’s life. It is all right to say trials help us grow, but it is cold comfort to a child who is hurt either in body or spirit. The greatest help and comfort here is prayer. It is surprising how early and completely children will accept the fact that God loves them and can and will help them and how often he does. Once they have this assurance (and God is very cooperative) they will learn to accept what trials they must face with their shoulders square, knowing that things will be all right.

Five, they must be taught to be kind and to share, and there is nothing as good for this nor as easy as a big family. I hate to say that, with all the current talk about the population explosion, but it is true. They discipline each other and they help each other. A family is the best place in the world in which to learn to get along with other people.

Well, there are days you think you can’t live through, and then suddenly it is all over and you are babysitting your grandchildren….Of course, your children know you very well and may not regard you with the respectful awe they might if you were not their mother.

Elsie Booth Brockbank (1894-1978) was the mother of nine daughters and 50 grandchildren