Today I invented the possibility with my accountability partners (yes, I have two … it takes two to keep me in line) of being Courageous and Creative. That is my theme for this year.
No more business as usual.
That means some things are changing. I am completing things that aren’t working. I am giving up things I once loved to create a new future. I am purging my home of the unnecessary and unused. I am catching myself when I speak the usual broken record words or sound like my parents in their frustrated moments. Not always, but an astonishing amount of miracles are emerging where I would least expect them.
Simple miracles in simple moments that become the most meaningful.
Today after school, I picked up my eldest son at the second pick-up for the day, the sixth errand perhaps, and because I told my accountability partner that I would, and because I knew I could, I asked my children what they wanted to do.
“What would we do if we were being courageous and creative?”
Now, normally my son would get in the car, the kids might bicker a bit, talking over each other, vying for attention suddenly, and we would go home, spread out to our corners … Ben on homework near me on the computer and Bodee playing with a toy, his back to Bronson to protect his momentary obsession. We would have a snack together, maybe read a few books, but the day would continue predictably for the rest of the evening, including much whining as I cooked dinner, and terse reminders that the dinner table is not a trough and we are not pigs.
But this time, today was different. I am committed to being and causing Courage and Creativity!
We declare Hike Time! And then Ben suggests afterwards we go home and write about it. “That would be creative!” he says cleverly.
We hike through a new area by a secret marsh in Irvine. Being courageous, it’s a new area and we don’t have a map. As soon as Bodee even sniffs a whiff of boredom, I suddenly stop in my tracks and point, “BIGFOOT! TRACKS!” The boys are on high alert, and we urgently inspect the huge tracks of what seems to have been a very large-footed walker. Then … “SNAKE!!! The longest snake in the WOOOORLD!” I shout … at a long striped water hose.
“Oh Mommy, you’re funny, that’s not a snake.”
I am inspired by being considered funny. “Are you suuuuure?” I say slyly, and they realize they are not sure and boldly approach anyway.
We courageously go off the path and walk through winding trails. The boys pee in the bushes with glee and we christen it the “Pee Bush,” walking past it with our noses pinched. The afternoon is a delightful adventure of nature, trees, rocks, mud, birds, lizards, flowers, marsh ponds and singing boys filled with freedom.
We go home, and their drawings and writing about the adventure are as if we had gone to Disneyland.
Bodee also created an apology letter to a boy he insulted in school. It took great courage for him to acknowledge that he did that, and he very creatively wrote, “There were two boys who were MAD and then became friends.” Instead of, “There, ARE YOU HAPPY?” like he wanted to. It took courage for me not to get angry with him and to create understanding and the freedom to express himself … even if it did take three attempts at an apology.
We ate a delicious dinner and made a video for Daddy, who was working late. Bodee and the boys sang a song about how much they love Daddy. Priceless.
We even did a Venus Fly Trap science project afterwards–even though I really wanted to check out and write–because my children wanted to create something WITH ME. And it matters that it’s me that does it with them.
I am inspired by our creation. Inspired by the joy and glee in my children. When I bought them a pack of gum on one of the errands, they sang songs for ten minutes about Happy Glee Gum. When we found a new path, they shouted at the top of their lungs with bravado.What if we created like that? Expressed joy like that?
When my boys saw a tiny path, they took it, regardless of knowing where it might go. What if we were courageous in everyday actions … what new things, what miracles, might show up?
Posted by Rivkah Estrin, CBE and API online contributor. Rivkah is a certified childbirth educator, DONA-trained postpartum doula and journalist who puts her passion about Attachment Parenting to use as a writer, mother and educator for expectant and new parents.
As soon as new life is ushered into the world, an old life comes to an end. The birth of a baby is in some ways a death of the woman you were before becoming a mother. As Rajneesh said, “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”
All I have ever wanted in life was to be a mother. I naturally attachment parented my first baby because I didn’t know how else to keep her happy. All the traditional tools fell by the wayside as she told me in her 2-day-old way that all she needed was to sleep on my chest and all would be OK. She did everything in my arms, in the sling, at my breast, as did child number 2, child number 3 and child number 4. It’s been a long but amazing nine years.
Now my youngest has turned three and is sleeping in her own space, thinking about potty training and only nursing to go to sleep. And I wonder—where am I? In the past nine years, how have I given to myself? I know I’m not alone in this feeling, but it feels so lonely.
My husband continued on his trajectory. He is an incredible AP dad, but outside the house he’s still growing his business, meeting with clients, going on business trips and eating out with colleagues. I haven’t been to a moms’ night out without a kid because my little ones nurse to sleep for a very long time. And I can’t leave them in order to go play with my friends without feeling incredibly guilty.
Should I just get over it, go out and not worry about the affect it has on my kids? That doesn’t sit well with me.
Is the fault my husband’s for having a life outside the family? No, not at all. He’s out supporting us and allowing me to be home with our kids, to homeschool them, and he spends every spare minute with his family, he makes sure we use the best Charter Homeschooling program.
Is the fault my decision to homeschool? Many parents have six hours free to do as they please, such as work, go to the gym, organize the house, shop unaccompanied and myriad other things. But the time I have with my kids is so special and so limited. The experiences we get to share together can’t be matched on Sundays and holidays. Our everyday family life is something we’ve cultivated and worked hard to achieve, and as exhausting as it can be, it is infinitely fulfilling. So, no, I won’t blame the homeschooling.
Maybe there isn’t anything to blame. Maybe it’s just a very new existence for which there is no preparation or workshop. There is a term known as Mommy Burnout, and I think I may be headed there. Not in a scary, dangerous way. But it’s becoming clear to me that as the nature of my parenting is shifting as my kids are getting older, so too the nature of how I care for myself needs to change.
It used to be that a nap refreshed me to my core. My burnout was sleep-related, and a nap did just the trick. But my burnout issue now is lack of time—time for myself, time to take a class, time to smell the flowers. In the words of Rabbi Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”
API’s 8th Principle of Parenting is about striving for balance in personal and family life, which means “ensuring that everyone’s needs — not just the child’s — are recognized, validated and met to the greatest extent possible.” How does a mom find a way to recharge when the demands have shifted? How does one achieve more time? How does a mom give a little bit back to herself after so many years of joyfully overlooking her own needs? Here are a few ways I came up with that work for me.
Get into a book. More than just reading, finding a book that can transport me to another place and time can be a true mental vacation. I always say my favorite part of reading is being in the middle of a book. Looking forward to the next plot twist keeps me going even on the roughest of days.
Call a friend. My friends have always been my lifeline. And yet I find that months can go by without so much as a phone call! That’s just tragic. One thing I would love to implement is a once-weekly quiet time where I can step outside and call someone. Reminiscing about old times, talking about our current lives and just hearing a familiar voice can be relaxing and refreshing.
Add music. I like to bring the laptop in to the kitchen while cooking dinner or washing dishes. I can put on my favorite tunes, and it turns into a quick and easy escape from the endless to-do lists inside my head. The kids, usually off playing, will even come in sometimes and listen quietly with me. It’s a relaxing way to transition from the activities of the day toward bedtime.
Play a game with a partner or friend. What better way to chill out than to get completely consumed with a game? Recently my husband and I grabbed a deck of cards and played for two hours. We didn’t talk about the kids. It was awesome.
Pour a glass of wine (or cup of tea) and watch something. Two Netflix envelopes arrive at our house every week. One is for the kids and one is for us. Sometimes we get caught up in a great show and wait impatiently for the next DVD. Sometimes we catch up on all the movies we don’t get to the theater to see. Setting aside the time to watch something together is an effort, but it carries a worthwhile payout in distraction from the day-to-day.
Exercise! I can’t say it enough. It feels so good, gets all those endorphins coursing through the body and, oh yeah, it’s good for me, too. Every now and again I pop on some ABBA or Donna Summer and dance around the house. The kids love it and don’t even realize this is part of my master survival plan. On days when my husband is home and I can sneak out, I take a brisk walk around the neighborhood and enjoy 30 minutes of kid-free time with my iPod and my thoughts. Inevitably I return sweaty, energized and refreshed.
Find the spiritual. Our family observes the Sabbath. That means that from Friday night until Saturday night we turn off our cell phones, computers and TV and focus on family, friends and good food. Our walk to synagogue reminds us how much we enjoy being outside. Feeling the breeze, seeing the amazing reptiles we have here in southern Florida, and holding hands with our kids is so grounding. Even in the summer months, when the weather is brutally hot and often rainy, it is wonderful to be at one with the elements. After all, it is only a 15-minute walk. I make it a habit to invite friends for meals, and we sit and talk in a way we never have time for during our normal, hectic weekdays. For my family, reconnecting with nature and our community without distraction is absolutely essential to our spiritual well-being, and that translates directly to our family dynamic.
It may seem that I think of my husband as a babysitter, though I don’t view him that way at all. But I also know that if unprovoked, he won’t grab my walking shoes for me and shove me out the door with my iPod. I have to do it myself. Even though he’s the dad, I am and will always be the mother. As tiring, exhausting and overwhelming as it can sometimes be, that role is mine. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If I could just pick one day in my life to live over and over again, it may well be today.
Why not? It was a perfect day with you.
We played in the ocean. You “swam” with my hands on your body offering support, guidance, and safety. You loved the waves! You tasted the salt water on your lips with wonder. The sunlight sparkled in your big, blue eyes. May you always nurture your connection to the outdoors and honor the mother ocean, a vital source of life on this earth.
When we got home, you laughed with me as you played tag around the brown arm-chair in the front room. Deep, full, belly laughs emerged and your new teeth sparkled. You ducked behind the chair and popped out with a “Boo!” as if it was the most amazing thing in the world. I bow in gratitude to this miracle of loving you play and find magic in the common place. That chair will never the same in my memory. A door outside of time opened up as we played. Our laughter built a bridge unifying and connecting us to all mothers and children across the generations. May you always relish the deep, life-affirming laughter found in the most simple of games.
After lunch, we went outside and you chased the cat clicking your tongue as you hear me do that when I call her. This reminds me to be ever mindful that you watch me with care. May I always speak, walk, act, and love with a gracious respect for all life.
As the sun set, we played in the back of your dad’s blue Ford pick-up truck. I drummed out a song on the steel bed. You spun around and around a few times dancing. A vast, immense sky of stars emerged above you. You are my star. My child of wonder.
Later, cuddled next to me, I surrendered to the beyond-this-world-tenderness of you snuggling into my arms and nursing to sleep.
If I could live any day in my life over again, it would certainly be a day when you breastfed. I love the holy kindness that comes from the way you suckle milk from my body. It nourishes your every cell. It’s completeness incarnate. Joy incarnate.
I just love you little one. My sweet boy. My courageous, funny, go-down-the-slide-yourself little guy. May you always know how precious you are to me. May you always trust that I’ve got your back. May you know how much your mother loves you, all the way through the marrow of her bones. Because I do.
No matter what happens in this world. No matter what happens at all. These days are holy and precious beyond money, beyond gold, beyond anything. I love offering you the best of my time and energy. I honor each stage of your early development. How blessed we are to spend these days together. It’s perfection through and through. My heart fills with gratitude to your daddy who works long hours in the week to make this possible. We want to give you the best. We choose a life of simple things on the material level and offer you the deepest grace we can muster in the realm of what matters most.
If I could live one day again in my life—this precious, fleeting mysterious, challenging, and holy life— it would be a day like today with you.
I’ve swept up the Art Room. This room is my writing room and has also become my son’s chaos room. He paints here, plays here, and learns here. It is a womb of flashcards, water color trays, brushes, paper, stuffed animals, clothes, crayons, play kitchen items, toy trains, race cars, and other toddler toys. There has been plenty of times when I had to use power washing dublin to clean my carpets full of paint and dirt from the backyard. Carpets shouldn’t stay damp for too long. Carpets and rugs are lovely, comfy and comfy . Used and maintained correctly, they’re ready to last several years, and become an origin of wonderful pride and happiness. But when not taken care of, unattractive damage could cause numerous problems. The key to any carpet treatment — vacuum-cleaning — must be consistent and complete. Some research has shown an honest vacuum-cleaning can eliminate up to 80% of soil inside a textured plush carpeting. supported use and placement, carpets must be cleaned by professionals carpet cleaning Ann Arbor annually , and spot cleaned as required within the meantime. Drymaster Carpet Cleaning has been operating in the Newcastle since 1990 and has the experience, equipment and procedures to service your premises.There are many varied methods of steam cleaning your carpets. The most common form of steam cleaning is a 1 stage process, where a cleaner will bring to your home a portable machine, similar to the machine that you can rent from the local supermarket or hardware store. This steam cleaning machine is filled with water and detergent and your carpet is cleaned without any pre spray or agitation. This method cleans your carpet without a rinse process and unfortunately leaves detergent residue in your carpet which will promote rapid re soiling. This steam cleaning method is over 20 years old and is not the preferred method by most carpet cleaners today, but unfortunately is still being used by a lot of budget type cleaning companies. Carpet cleaning experts in Newcastle also offers our customers the carpet Dry Cleaning method. Carpets are indeed one of the most important things that we can find in our homes. These can make or break the look the whole room. This is why most people always make it a point to have carpets in their homes so that their homes will look as elegant and as nice as they should be. This is true only under one condition. carpet cleaning usually look their best especially when they are still clean and new. A newly bought or installed carpet would always pull the look of the simplest room there is. Most carpet owners do make it a point to maintain the cleanliness of their carpets. We all know how carpets attract dirt so much. Even if we try to take care and keep our carpets clean, there will always be a stain that will begin to pop out of it. Once a carpet looks very dirty, this can now destroy the look of the whole room. This can now leave the room very untidy and not well cleaned. This is the primary reason why you should always maintain the cleanliness of your carpets all the time. Whether you do this on your own or you hire carpet removal service to do so, you need to make sure that your carpets look as new as they should. One equipment that has really made carpet cleaning such an easier but effective cleaning job is a vacuum cleaner. These are tools or equipment which are used to suck out dirt which are trapped within the fibers of the carpet. This is very effective when you want to remove the solid particles, allergens and the dust which have stayed in the carpet. Although cleaning the carpet thoroughly, removing the stains do need extensive cleaning procedures in order to remove them in the best way possible.
Ten minutes before I swept, it looked like a bomb of paper based material exploded. Add crayons, spoons, plastic play food, children’s books, stickers, paper, paint, M & M’s, and one toddler. Chaos.
The pile I’m looking at could be swept into a dustpan quickly. And then it would be gone.
But I have to sort out the debris. What is recyclable — at least the paper and plastic.
I’m tempted though to do one clean sweep then I could attempt to floor mop the wood floors. This is my favorite room in the house. It has twelve foot ceilings and pine wood floors with amazing detail that I got thanks to the work of the professional from Epoxy Flooring Bellevue. It has a south facing window which centers the room — one large window nine feet high by three feet. Visit website for more details about DIAMOND COATING EPOXY FLOORING OTTAWA.
This room is never organized completely, only at best, neatened up. My husband has recently installed a shelf system in the closet to organize my on-going writing and art projects. Confession: I am a pack rat and have kept every paper based memory and scrap of paper. I have all my art projects from elementary school (thanks to my mom). I have the first note a boy gave me in sixth grade asking me out. Check yes, no, maybe.
I have kept every letter and card I received as an enthusiastic pen pal writer in the 80’s, including letters from my pen pal from Japan and Costa Rica.
My feet stick to the wood floor. Invisible toddler tape perhaps. As Ben calls it, sticky gooey. Everyone is asleep as I pull it together to do the impossible — clean this room. My goal is to see the floor. I start with baby steps picking up loose paper. I recycle what I can. I take a deep breath and recycle the toddler art I don’t want to keep. Should I keep them all? For Pete’s sake — I have over ninety-nine. Throw them out. He will paint more. Trust.
I pick up the books my son loves to dump from the toddler height bookshelf. The rest is a blur. A complicated system in my head of mathematical and analytic order takes over. I put things where I think they may belong. Piles. Lots of piles. They are off the floor for now.
What remains is still covering the floor: a pool of colored collage.
A blue plastic spoon with three vertical grooves lays angled across a scribbled toddler art paper. A crumbled napkin dyed with faded water color paints rests on top. A fluorescent pink index card with pen and ink scribbles hangs to the far right of the pile. The outfielder of the pile — catching loose grounders — about an inch away is a brown dog bone sticker the length of a penny.
A receipt for a failed fertility treatment from August 8, 2008 sits on top of the crayon stew. $244 reminding me of our desperation to be with child. Forever ago.
How did Ben find this bill? I know — he opened the file cabinet. The poor thing is shoulder height to Ben — completely accessible to his exploratory curiosity. (Yes, file cabinets have feelings; they like order — toddlers must make them nervous).
A black teaspoon lays across another fluorescent pink index card. A cardboard white cake mix box next to an empty ink cartridge. Crayons: thick canary yellow, yellow green, navy blue — all visible. Too much. I’m overwhelmed. I’m just going to sort out the paper, crusted in sticky toddler chaos boogers — subtract from the pile.
A black sock bundled. A page from Ben’s favorite book, Wacky Wednesday torn out. I can’t throw this away; it’s the eleven wild wacky things park scene. Ben loves to point them out. The page with the purple limo with the old lady in purple, pushing the yellow buggy on top of the limo.
A wild eyed yellow giraffe sticks his head out of a pothole.
The pile is lessened: progress.
A copper penny: head’s up, 2002.
A crayon crumb collage, fit for 80’s wax paper iron art projects, on the back of a glossy 8 x 10. I scoop it up and use it as a dustpan, moved enough by the bright colors to take a photo. Too lazy to find my camera, I toss the debris in the garbage.
Flipping the photo over, I see my fourth grade class from 2008. I was so hungry to be a mom in that photo: infertile. I put the photo on top of the printer paper atop my scanner.
The pile still there on the floor.
Next, fetch the plastic Ziploc bag for the crayons: thick purple broken tip still sharp; navy blue — the triangle grip; a plastic crinkle cut French fry (I hate these tiny outliers too tiny for toy bins). I’ve been throwing them away one by one, even though they fit neatly into the red McDonald’s fry holder, which I hate and soon it will get the cut. I’ll recycle it though.
The plastic corn ear goes into the keep pile. Place white play cake mix with it. My son thinks he is Chef Ramsey. All play kitchen items are keepers.
My therapist’s card (currently going to grief therapy) — I need to call her and make an appointment. This goes on top of my desk.
Blue M & M — throw it away. Maybe eat it.
A scribbled passage for a book I am working on — into the closet.
Yellow green, verde Amarillo, verte-jaune goes into the bag. An orange colored pencil soon behind it.
Turquoise thick Sharpie — no cap, dry as the desert.
Red crayon, red colored pencil. Cheap Rose Art red crayon, orange stub, green stub, thick blue, thin black, thick brown, thick blue — the other half. Royal blue plastic spoon — pile with black teaspoon.
More crayons: purple, navy blue, thick orange, thick red — sticky vegetable potato chip crumbs rolled around it like a Yule log.
Joan Miro 97 eraser from the Denver Art Museum — bought single, bought solo — a lifetime ago.
A persuasive journal prompt, a rogue teaching resource unearthed and liberated by my son from it’s tidy box.
Art Blast washable water colors packaging — not a good idea unsupervised. At least I can recycle the packaging: cardboard.
Another persuasive writing prompt card.
I think a piece of dried poop was on the white index card.
A pastel purple index card.
I smell poop. Affirmative on the poop crumb.
Wow, I keep everything (not the poop); I should have just swept all this stuff up.
A brown twig.
My friend’s self-published poetry book makes the cut, only because it is inscribed and has “Congrats on the baby” on the inside cover — a reminder of graduate school and my miracle pregnancy.
I’m tired and sleepy. The rest of the pile is going into the dustpan, which actually is just non-recyclable garbage.
I walk by the window, curtains open and turn off the light sneaking a peek at the beauty of this room — the chaos of this room and marvel at the chaos tidied up (for now).
What are the things you hold onto and what are the things you throw away? How do you keep your child’s playroom tidy?
I have to sing the praises of letting your kids get dirty. I mean really filthy, covered from head to toe with muddy, wet, slippery glop. I, like many parents I know have a house too full of every cool, interesting, and trendy toy available. And yesterday my five year old said, “I’m bored.” Hmm, I thought I could get angry and tell her she’s ungrateful for all her toys or I could listen to her and think: what playtime do I remember the most? What did I spend hour after hour doing with great concentration and glee? Hose, dirt, bucket: endless joy.
So this afternoon we headed to the back yard. There were fresh piles of soil dumped around the yard from a landscaping project in progress. My girls ran to the piles and sunk their hands into the soft fresh dirt. No directions, no right way to play, do predetermined story line. They were so excited. One grabbed a leaf and started burying her treasure. The other made pile after pile and then pushed them down patting the dirt with hard satisfying slaps. And then they asked for the hose . . . we got a bucket and started making the most slathery gooey “soup” in the world. They mixed and molded the mud plunging their hands into the muck with abandon. Then my five year old started rubbing her body with mud singing a made up song. She was covered, arms, legs and most of her clothes. Such freedom, such a tactile experience.
I noticed it was going to be time to go inside in about twenty minutes and thought about how to maybe get some of the caked on mud off in a fun way. Onto the swings! They swung and I sprayed their feet as they passed. Then legs and arms were offered. They were soaking, soaring and shrieking with each spray of the hose.
We peeled off muddy clothes in the laundry room and trooped upstairs for a bath. As we lay in bed saying goodnight my five year old said, “I’m going to play in the mud tomorrow!” “Yea!” said her little sister and they drifted off to sleep.
As adults, we’ve all experienced a language barrier at some point or another. You try and try to understand each other, but for some reason, your wires keep crossing. Depending on what the goal was, you may have just given up, politely disappointed, or angrily thrown your hands up in frustration.
Now, consider preverbal babies and toddlers. Imagine having a language barrier when you can’t do much for yourself.
It takes a while for babies to learn how to express that they’re tired, hungry, dirty, wanting a hug, or upset because big brother took away a toy. Until they can do that, we have to expect the occasional emotional outburst.
I embedded a video that I think shows exactly what’s happening when children are having a hard time communicating. I was recording my daughter, hoping to catch her new word and baby sign for “more.” I also happened to catch her doing something pretty remarkable. Watch the change from frustration from being unable to get her idea across, to complete calm and control.
She starts getting frustrated, she screams and is about to cry, until I remind her how to ask for more grapes. The moment she realizes she can effectively communicate what she wants, the panic goes away and she calmly asks for “more.”
I didn’t catch the part where I gave her the grapes she asked for – she giggled at her success!
It’s easy for us to get frustrated and short when our children throw tantrums. It takes effort to quiet those negative feelings, and instead try to figure out what the child needs. But it’s our job as parents to try as best as we can to understand them, especially when they don’t yet have much language to work with.
In my experience, Attachment Parenting has helped us in the communication department. Our kids’ father and I use the earliest weeks to really get to know the baby, so that we can start to understand cries and cues that will help our baby tell us what she needs. Throughout the early years we use plenty of interaction and play to keep those nonverbal lines of communication wide open. (We’re still in the early years, so I can’t comment much beyond right now!)
We may miss the mark from time to time, but nobody’s perfect. We’re all doing our best.
I flipped through this book at the counter of our local toy store the other day. It’s a humorous take on the classic “Goodnight Moon,” which my kids and I have read together countless times. And it is funny; an apt exaggeration of how virtuality has replaced so much of what is “real.”
But it makes me a little sad, too. That our world has become so plugged in that there exists a market for this kind of parody. That there exist gadgets for reading and being read to, for listening to music and making music, and for communicating with people without having to see or talk to them.
So many gadgets, so short a childhood.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the convenience of technology as much as anyone. Our family certainly has our share of gadgets. But the idea of “Goodnight iPad” does hit close to home for us.
Me: Goodnight iPad.
My son: Nooooooooooooooooo!
Not quite, but pretty close. The difference is I’m not smiling when I pry the iPad out of my 5-year-old’s hands.
Recently, we’ve been keeping closer tabs on our screen time, both grownups’ and kids’. It has become way too easy to allow some type of screen to keep us entertained on a whim. Between iPhone, iPod, iPad, laptop, and the good-old-fashioned TV, our kids are always only a finger touch away from easy entertainment. When they’re bored, it is only too easy for them to turn on a device instead of playing with toys.
And it’s too easy for me to want to. When days are filled with stress (either theirs or mine) because of school, work, household tasks, or the emotional upheaval of a 5-year-old’s growth spurt, it’s tempting to turn on a device that will allow them to relax, keep them busy, and stop the bickering. Gadgets are always an easy solution to stress.
But when we start to become dependent on them, something needs to change. When I say, “No iPad today,” and they don’t know what else to do with themselves, something needs to change. It means they’ve become to accustomed to a screen as their go-to to-do, and that needs to change.
I used to read the AAP’s recommendations for appropriate amount of screen time for young kids and think, “Oh, thank goodness that isn’t us.” We never used to have issues with keeping screen time to a minimum, but lately the accumulated hours have crept up on us.
So, goodnight iPad. Goodnight TV. Goodnight iPhone-in-restaurants. Goodnight video games of any kind.
Hello conversation. Hello toys and games and books. Hello puzzles and mazes. Hello blocks, Legos. Hello wrestling matches, swords flights, and dress up. Hello sketch books, hello colored pencils. Hello creativity and imagination.
Also hello whining and complaining…at first. In my state of exasperation with our screen situation, I eliminated every trace of them from our day. It may have been a little extreme, but cold turkey seemed necessary. Oh yes, there was withdrawal. The symptoms included angry faces, sad voices, confusion, boredom, chronic whining, and constant shouts from Mom to, “Go do something!”
And then eventually…contentment. Cooperation. Ingenuity.
It’s been a few weeks now, since we said “goodnight” to the screens, and the kids haven’t been asking for them. They get up in the morning and go to the pantry for cereal instead of the iPad for games. When they’re bored, they don’t immediately think of watching a show. They go to the bookshelf or the game cabinet. Our arts and crafts supplies are dwindling, the playroom is a happy mess, and my son always has a toy in his hands.
Will screens eventually creep back into our day? I’m sure. But I’m contented to have come to a point where they don’t seem necessary for engagement. Without the devices, we are engaging more with each other…imagine that! I know that technology affords us the convenience of connecting us to the world, but I see healthier connections made without it. Skip the digital connections please, I’ll take the interpersonal ones any day.
She is magic. But her dust sparkles the most in my childhood mind. She did it all, and now that I am a mom to a toddler at the same age she was a mom to a toddler and a new born baby, it baffles my mind she even combed her hair.
But her hair was always combed. In fact, she always looked beautiful — flaming red hair that sparkled when the sun hit it — a gregarious laugh that was never fake and always full — a smile that welcomed many a kid on our block into her arms.
She was magic. She is magic. She is my mom. And she taught me about being a mom.
She threw elaborate dog parties for all our dogs: Shaggy, the Pekingese; Sam-I-Am, the runaway Irish setter; Bear, the Collie –- the-great-big-fluffy-his-breath-stinks-so-much-drooled-so-bad-he-could-clear-a-room-when-he-farted-soft-cuddly-lovable-dog that was my mom’s favorite; and even Arthur Roo, the-curly-tight-permy-looking-poodle-that-jumped-all-over-you-if-you-just-as-much-as-looked-at-him-sideways. He just was excitable. That’s what my mother said. Even jumping hyper freak dog got his own birthday party.
Then there was Penny. Penny was a German Shepard my mom adored and who protected her from an attacker once. Mom didn’t hesitate to get rid of Penny quicker than lightening when she started snapping and growling at us young kids. Mom always put her needs last and us first.
She was magic.
Each dog had its own party, complete with party hats, party favors (biscuits, balls, and bones.) What I remember the most was Mom right there in the middle of it — flaming red hair, giant open-hearted smile, and children surrounding her. Her hands calm and her warmth radiant. She responded with patience and humor. She loved a party. In fact, she wanted to own her own children’s party store, but did not pursue that because she wanted to be at home with us as much as possible.
That is my foxy redheaded mom standing next to some very important people at the King Home in Evanston, Illinois.
Betty chose us. She chose to be home. This was her greatest work, for we were her miracles. She had had over ten miscarriages. We were her miracles. We were her gift; she was ours.
She was magic.
The dog parties would have all the trimmings – really, I’m totally serious. My mom made the dog cake and let us help. It was made of wet dog food with dry dog food to create a crust. Party hats were given to dogs and children. Candles were lit; birthday songs were sung. Candles were blown out, and sometimes even the dogs barked out the candles. Party hats were given to dogs and children. Children were invited on invitations that read, “Sam-I-Am Turns Two. Bring your dog. Bring your sneakers.”
What party is complete without party games? Betty had that all planned. The ultimate party game was chase Sam-I-Am. We lived close to a huge field and behind the field was a forested path where Mom often took gangs of children to pick wild berries.
With a magical tone, she’d ssshhh us all down from the towers of sugared excitement. We’d all listen. She was magic, after all. She’d give the directions in clear, short sentences. We all understood, as our eyes widened.
The point of the game was to let Sam-I-Am off his leash and catch him in the woods. The winner would get a prize. We were gone for hours. On foot with our sneakers and curiosity leading the way, giggles and silly struts created a caravan, lead by Betty. We were on an adventure. It was magic.
She was magic.
That’s me at a Pow-Wow Mom had planned, complete with tribal dancing, a bonfire, a circle of sleeping bags, and Indian head dresses. That’s Betty dazzling her magic charm, handling out drums and enthusiasm.
I remember my older sister’s Girl Scout unit went to a party at the Girl Scout Cabin around Halloween. Mom had organized the best game ever – John Brown’s Body. She went to the butcher to get bones and the super market to get spaghetti. She peeled grapes for the eyes, and creatively and curiously narrated the spooky story of John Brown’s Body as we passed along intestines (cooked spaghetti), eyeballs (peeled grapes), and leg bones (beef bones from the butcher). Every major organ was represented by something we could touch with our fingers under the blanket so our imaginations could run wild.
The story got all of us spooked out of our minds, but we were mesmerized; It was magic. Mom told the story, with the lights off and a flashlight choreographed just right to give it enough spook and enough game to make us giggle nervously.
She was magic.
I wet the bed that night. I begged her to let me go upstairs with my older sister’s friends and the rest of the Girl Scout troop my mother led. She snuggled me close and told me just what I needed to hear. “Meggie My, you are little. You will be a Girl Scout soon enough. Snuggle here darling. Snuggle close. I need someone to keep me company and I’d like it to be you.”
I soon forgot about wanting to be older, wiser, and more girly. And Mom and I snuggled. I was embarrassed that I wet the bed. I woke her. I whispered, “Mommy, I wet the bed.” She whispered back, “We’ll take care of it.” She was so patient. We folded up the blue mat that lay on the wood floor of the big open first floor room in the cabin. I followed her, tiptoeing in wet pajama bottoms and we went into the kitchen through the swinging door. She made sure nobody would find out.
She made me an ice cream sundae after I changed. I could hear the Girl Scouts up above giggling, telling secrets and stories, playing with their flashlights. I got jealous I couldn’t be up in the loft with the other girls, knowing I was too little. Knowing I was still a Brownie.
Mom and I had our own magic. She washed me up, while singing me a song — probably one of her favorites from her childhood days of sleep-away camps and Girl Scouts. It was probably the song she always sang us — our lovie song, which I sing to my son now. It goes like this:
Who’s my Little Whose-It?
Who’s the one I love?
Who’s my little whose it?
Who’s the one I love?
The thing about that song was, after each line, I’d giggle, and jump into her arms saying, “Me.” Then I’d shake my little feet back and dance in anticipation for the next line:
Who’s my little whose it?
Who’s the one I love?
She was magic; she still is.
Mom went with me to the local college up the street as a young teenager. Somehow we’d just walk right into the gym and it would be empty and open. I would take the basketball and dribble, dribble, dribble. Then I’d practice my 3 point shot. And I’d practice again and again. She never got bored — that I noticed. She had no phone to text or call anyone. She just had me and she watched me — encouraged me. Even after air ball after air ball. But day after day, week after week, I started to get better. Her great big smile would cheer me on. She clapped, jumped, and cheered each time I made one fall through the net. Then her magic became my own. Ask anyone – I can seriously throw up a nothing-but-net-hear-that-electric-sound-of-the-swish-3-pointer- buzzer-beater.
Mom was The Picture Lady in elementary school. She volunteered her time to talk to my class about art. She’d walk into the class and that magic would light up the room. She’d bring Picasso, Monet, Manet, Warhol, and ones we never heard of, encased is shiny glass frames she would check out from the local library. She’d talk to us like we were brilliant, like we understood, because we did. She’d check out a new painting each week and she’d tell the entire class about the artist and the painting. But then she always turned it to us. She’d ask us what we thought and like elementary children are famous for — we all chitter chattered how it made us feel, think, and see.
She was magic.
I remember sitting in the group, hands folded on my lap. Quiet. Questioning. My own wheels turning in my young mind. I loved art. But I loved that The Picture Lady was my mom. I watched how they reacted to her; the children danced in her presence. She celebrated with them and ignited something that seemed to already be blazing. That was my mom, she was magic and her flame warmed me.
We cuddled on Sundays when Dad was at work. My sister on one side, me on the other. She’d say, “That is why I have two arms – one for each of you.” We’d watch Family Classics with Frasier Thomas on WGN. And Mom always cried when it counted — when Scarlett O’Hara clutched dirt deep in her hands, and called out, “As God is my witness, I will never go hungry again.” And when Judy Garland sang out, “Clang clang clang goes the trolley, clang clang goes the band…” in Meet Me in St. Louis. Mom would sing.
She was magic.
Mom was a genius and could have had any job she wanted. But she chose to stay home and work part-time as an accountant at the gas station close to our house. Literally, it was just a quick run outside and through a secret tree lined passage and up into her office we’d go, in the midst of a kid squabble my father had no idea how to handle.
Mom was magic.
She’d explain it to us, Betty style – honest and direct, with her Cajun seasoning of magic. We’d shake hands or hug and off we’d go back to playing.
My mother taught me how to play. She taught me how to love and she taught me I have my own magic. And that there’s plenty to share.
She celebrated life.
She celebrated me.
She celebrated my sister.
She celebrated life.
She was magic.
And she taught me everything I know about the beauty of motherhood.
She is magic.
* My mother has been battling non-cancerous brain tumors for twelve years. She was diagnosed in 2000. Her condition has declined slowly and gradually. She has one brain tumor on her brain stem and one in her cerebellum. The magic is still there. Ask anyone. They all know Betty; nobody forgets her. She is magic, after all. Here is a link to a photo I have submitted to a creative invite from the Moxie Institute on Talenthouse.com. If selected, it will be featured in Tiffany Shlain’s documentary film called Brain Power. The movie will be viewed by non-profits. You can vote for the photo through your facebook or twitter account.
What I have come to accept is, no matter what happens, has happened, will happen — she will never lose that magic.