Category Archives: Parenting
This has been one of those weeks that seem to go on and on and halfway through, one wonders why it isn’t Friday yet because it seems like a whole week’s worth of work and activity have gone by in just three days. When this happens, I know that it is either Christmastime or it’s May. May, in our lives and in the lives of many people we know, is that month when summer is almost here, but not quite. You can see the end of the school year or the beginning of vacation season, but there are still a hundred and one things that need to be done before any of that can arrive. There are final evaluations, tests, recitals, end of year picnics and parties, not to mention the holidays that occur in May.
For some reason, this year seems worse than other years to me, though I know it must not be because neither one of our boys is playing baseball this season, which is always a huge time suck. I think perhaps this has been an especially draining school year for me. As the boys get older and the content of their work increases in difficulty, it requires more mental and emotional energy to juggle it all. And the lessons are not all academic, either. The major lesson this week: time management. It’s a tricky thing to teach because if someone doesn’t want to learn the easy way, the consequences can be quite hard to swallow. But, as a dear friend of mine likes to say, our job is to be a parent, not a friend.
In the meantime, while things on the school front seem to be dragging on and on, I tend to make up for it with some quick, instant gratification projects that I can (sort of) control. Like cookies.
These are the shortbread cookies from Bouchon Bakery and they are quite good. They are crumbly and have a nice texture and sparkle from the dusting of sugar that they get right before they are baked. I like these better than my usual shortbread recipe because the dough is easier to roll out. These also use real vanilla beans instead of extract and I like the fancy speckly look they have from the vanilla.
So, what’s the lesson here? Maybe it’s when the going gets tough, bake some cookies. Really, everybody could do with a cookie break every once in awhile. A cookie can make all the difference between a day that seems to drag on and a day that is satisfyingly productive.
Today is my older son’s birthday. He is ten. A whole decade ago, I was in the hospital, exhausted, and wondering if I would have the strength to go on this journey called parenthood. It turns out that I did and did not at the same time. Parenthood is a journey in which you learn more about your own failures and your own immaturity than about how to teach a child to grow up. I feel that the longer I am on this road, the more I am aware of how little I knew that day in the hospital when they handed me my son. I had an overwhelming feeling then of fear, of not knowing anything about how to be a parent, of hopes yet to be realized and I also felt that weight of responsibility that comes when someone is totally dependent on you.
It is ten years later and I feel the same way, only in a more poignant way. The weight of responsibility only gets heavier as you trade the day to day worries of diapers, naps, and feedings for character training, patience in frustrating situations, and grace during rebellion. I feel more now that what I am as a parent has a more eternal effect than I initially realized. At first, it seemed that eighteen years was plenty of time to teach a child how to become an adult. Now that a decade has passed, I feel that a hundred years would not be enough time, because let’s be honest. We never really reach adulthood. Our whole lives are about becoming more mature, learning to reach our fullest potential, all while keeping in mind our very real limitations. We never actually ever arrive at the place of total maturity that we dream of when we are children or that we assume that we have arrived at when we are in our twenties.
Sometimes, it would be nice to be able to take a breather to rest, but life doesn’t let us do that. As he likes to remind me every time I tell him to stop growing, ” I can’t stop it.” And he is right. None of us can stop time, stop bad things from happening, stop learning through our situations. We are all on this road called life and we can only do the best that we can in the moment that we have it. Sometimes that best is really not that great, but, you know, time moves on and so must we.
I started this quilt for my son several years ago when all I wanted was to make him something that he would like. It was a simple feeling that comes naturally to those who like to make stuff. I cut up all the pieces and pieced together the top and then it sat for a couple of years because I got busy…until a few months ago when I realized that the little boy who used to dance with me around the living room was about to celebrate his first decade. I decided that that quilt needed to be finished.
As I have worked on it the last few months, this quilt has become more than just a blanket to keep on a bed. It has become a symbol for all that I wish for him, for all that a mother can promise a child, and a reminder that God is the author and keeper of all these promises. As much as I can wish for or promise to my children, I know that I will never be able to fulfill them all. I do not have the strength. I knew that on that day ten years ago when he was born. But I also knew this. That I was not alone. That no matter what was coming our way, we had promises from God that we knew would be kept and that is how I have the strength to do this job called parenting.
I think in so many ways, I have needed to make this quilt more than he might need it in the future. I needed to be reminded of these promises right now when we seem to be on the edge of so much change. None of us knows what the next ten years or even a hundred years will hold. But I believe there is one who does know and that is all I need to know to keep going.
Every time I look at this quilt, I hope that I can remember those promises, even when the days are uncertain. I hope that he will learn more about them and that they will be as much comfort to him as they have been to me while making this quilt. I hope so much and know so little, that I must put all my trust in those promises that I know will be kept by the one who has the power to do so.
A few weeks ago I had a little attack of anxiety. It kind of went like this:
What year is it now? 2012? That means the oldest is going to be ten this summer. Ten! Oh my! That’s double digits. That means he’s going to be going into 5th grade.
5th grade. That’s just a year away from middle school. I need to start looking into middle school curriculum. This means I must look at what he will be doing in high school so that I can prepare him while he’s in the middle grades. This means I maybe need to look at college requirements. No, no, it can’t be time for college yet!
He’s going to be 10. That’s just a stone’s throw from teenagerhood. We are going to have to start thinking about talking to the son about the birds and bees. Oh my goodness. This time is going by too quickly. There’s still so much to do! We have so much to prepare for and not enough time. Are we doing enough? Of course not, and there’s no way we will be able to do even a fraction of the things we wish we could do and an even smaller fraction of the things we do do, will be done well.
This is the moment when the husband has to tell me to snap out of it. He does not really smack me, but actually just reminds me of the time (nearly midnight) and asks me why I have to have these attacks just as we need to be asleep. He’s right, of course. There is nothing to be gained from indulging in these panicky thoughts in the wee hours of the morning. I just lose hours of sleep and accomplish nothing, except maybe some desperate prayers. Things usually look brighter in the morning, so I tried and eventually succeeded in going to sleep.
The next morning, I did feel better, but the sense of a coming Big Event would not leave me. This was heightened when the oldest said to me that he did not want to be a teenager. When I asked him why, he said he was afraid of what it would be like. Just what I was thinking! I have this feeling like I am walking toward the edge of a cliff and, in a few steps, I will fall over the edge, but I can’t stop myself from moving.
Right now, things are calm. We are all enjoying each other and parenting the boys is mostly fun and not too stressful. But, I see the storm clouds in the distance and I know I need to prepare myself. How?
Love my kids with all my heart.
Teach them the truth while they are still listening.
And make a quilt.
Forget any other quilt I had in the works. This one, the one that will contain hours of love, prayers, and protection is the most important project right now. He may not know it when I give it to him, but this quilt will be part of his armour/shelter from the storms that are coming.
Every star is a mother’s wish.
Every stitch, a prayer.
Every color, a promise.
My oldest once said to me that he wished he could ride a roller coaster for the rest of his life. At the time, I thought, “Wow! This kid really loves roller coasters. He must be a thrill seeker.”
What I should have said is this: ” Honey, you are on a roller coaster. It’s called life.”
It’s true, isn’t it? You never know what the next moment will hold. It could be an incredible high.
Or it can be something that will bring you so low that a reminder like this will be necessary.
Even on vacation, there are highs and lows. Yesterday, we had a wonderful time hanging out in Santa Monica, checking out the wonderful farmer’s market and riding rides on the pier. Today, the oldest is laid low in his bed with a resurgence of the cold from you know where.
The trick to riding the ride of life is to live in each moment and not in the one you had planned or hoped for. And to stay on the gondola. And don’t make any sudden moves you might live to regret.
Here is a foolproof recipe for a Very Unclean House:
- Have all children in the house get sick with the flu for a week.
- As soon as the fevers are gone, leave town for a week and
- leave behind the husband to do some home improvement projects.
- Return from trip with a basketful of dirty laundry.
- Right away, go have a good time with college friends you haven’t seen in years.
- As soon as the kids go to bed spend time talking to the husband without being constantly interrupted by little voices.
- Begin your homeschool year.
- Schedule your doctor’s visit and dentist’s visit in the same week.
- Have the kids begin a new instrument and double up on their swimming lessons.
- Make three batches of jam.
- Wash and iron the quilting fabric instead of the clothes.
- Go to every store within 10 miles that might have curtains for the bathroom and drag the kids with you.
- Go to Costco and buy a 10 pound bag of onions. Then leave them in a paper bag until they start melting.
- Allow the kids to play with some new toys on the living room floor.
- Take an afternoon nap every other day.
- Schedule meetings and activities for 3 out of 5 weeknights.
- Schedule at least one activity or appointment a day.
- Make a dinner that requires you to brown chicken and spatter grease everywhere.
- Spend hours wondering if your kids are going to turn out to be productive members of society or not (don’t judge me. you know you do it too).
- Write blog posts whenever the inspiration strikes, even if it is 4 o’clock in the morning!
Mix all these things together in the space of a few weeks and you’ll have a Really Unclean House too!
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go bake a cake (oh, did I mention I also agreed to make a cake to serve, like 40 people, for a church lunch?)