Archive for August, 2010

Rose Colored Glasses

For two days I have walked around with a headache.  Even in the best of times I might be considered a pessimistic soul but after a two day headache with no end in sight everything takes on a more negative tone.  Still,even the cheeriest adults are hard pressed to find something positive in every moment in life.  That is the great thing about children.  They can find the positive in the most mundane activities.

Give a baby a pot and spoon and he can make a noise that will delight his soul.  Give a two year old a cardboard box and he can create a train, a car, a tree house or an alien planet.  Put a child in an empty room and instead of thinking, “Well, this room is empty,” they see a blank slate on which to create their own world.

As summer draws to an end and the mornings start in the lower sixties, my mind turns to fall days.  I would love to say that I daydream of the colors of the leaves and the long runs through the multicolored trails.  Instead, for the past two days I have been focused on how many boxes of leaf bags I will need to buy.  How much money I will have to pay the local handy man to clean out my gutters and how alone I will be in the yard trying to keep up with the leaves as they fall.

This afternoon on the way home from school, I found myself grumbling aloud about the work to come when from the back seat, I heard, “Oh yeah!  Does that mean I get to play in the leaves soon?”

It’s funny how one statement can snap me out of a funk.  Suddenly I realized that there really is always something positive even in the uninspiring jobs of being a parent and homeowner.  Almost 5 years ago when I discovered I was pregnant with our bonus baby, I was so worried about raising another child.  I worried about the late nights and the hard work to come.  But my mother in law promised me that this new baby would keep me young and brighten my world.

Today he is a little over four years old and I can honestly say that she was right.  Every day since he was born I have been in awe of the joy I have found in this child.  But some days I think he was sent just for this purpose.  He is here to remind me of the fun there is to be had and the games that can come from the simplest things.  I will never be a Pollyanna, but through his eyes, I have found my rose colored glasses.

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My Peace and Joy

I have this hang up about books made into movies.  I will not go see a movie if I haven’t read the book first.  When I saw the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love, I was intrigued.  It looked like an entertaining movie.  When the bookfirst came out, it was a huge deal and every day as I stood outside the neighborhood book store waiting for the bus, I was faced with the book and a choice.  To buy or not to buy.  To read or not to read.  I always chose the latter.  It just didn’t seem like my kind of book.  I couldn’t have told you why, but, to quote my kids, I just wasn’t “feeling it.”

Nevertheless, when it comes to self-imposed rules, I am pretty rigid. So, this month, I found myself reading Eat, Pray, Love.  The entire time, I wrestled with smug self-righteousness (I knew this book wasn’t for me) and a desire to analyze it compared to who I am and what makes me happy.

In some ways, I found it very difficult to relate to the author.  She seemed to wallow in her own misery, looking for someone or something to make her happy.  I couldn’t commiserate.  But watching her struggle through what seemed to me like self-imposed misery, I realized how happy I have been most of my adult life.  The interesting thing is that the very thing that brings me the most joy is the very thing the author was running away from.

Through my marriage and my children, I have found a joy I never knew existed.  Having grown up in a dysfunctional family, I knew little of the love and joy a family could offer.  Having seen the pain my mother seemed to experience because of her children, I was unprepared for the pure happiness and light that my children brought into my life.

As the book progressed and the author made her way to the “pray” portion of her memoir, I found it difficult to relate to her meditation and her thoughts on what meditating meant to her.  The truth is that I have always thought of meditation as forced relaxation and that has never appealed to me.  I seldom participate in a yoga class, but when I do and I get one of the instructors who is all Zen-like, I cringe in anticipation of the forced relaxation I know will follow the other portion of the class.  I spend that time lying on the floor thinking of all the things I need to get done at home and usually leave the class more stressed out than I was when I walked in.

But this morning, after I had eaten my breakfast, read the paper and checked my emails, I did what I love to do most in the world.  I made my way back up the stairs and crawled into bed beside my still sleeping four year old.  As I lay beside him, I noticed my breath mimicking his, my body relaxing and my mind clearing.  It was with the clearing of my mind that this article began to form.  And suddenly I realized that, in my own way, I do meditate.  In the moments I lie relaxed beside my son my mind often empties its worries and brings me the stories I share with my readers.

I also realized that I meditate in this way throughout my day.  That though I am not sitting in a yoga pose, I am meditating when I am running or riding or swimming.  I have often shared that exercise for me is much more than just physical, but thinking about it this morning I realized it is my “Zen” time.  It is the time I allow myself each day to let go of my worries and to analyze what is happening in my life and what those things mean to me or might mean to others.

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Filling the Silence

In Her Thoughts

When my first son was a toddler, I spent hours of quality time with him.   We built towers out of his alphabet blocks.  We built forts from sheets and the dining room chairs.  We wrestled and giggled and generally enjoyed life.  In the moments I would see him playing quietly on his own, I found it impossible to resist filling the silence.  When my daughter came along, she resisted my efforts at quality time.  She wanted to play on her own.  She invented games out of thin air.  Two lacrosse sticks and my weight bench became a Viking ship.  Two spoons and her booster seat hanging from the seat strap made for a parade through the living room.  Still, I would intercede to fill the silence.  What color is your Viking ship?  Where are you going?  What will you do when you get there?  Sure enough, she would get tired of the questions and move on.

When Zane came along and I was busy running two almost teenagers from one sports field to another, I was so afraid that I would not be able to have quality time with him.  I no longer had the quiet time to spend in making up games and leading his play.  When he was playing quietly, I found myself thankful for a few minutes to sit and write.  But always the guilt would set in.  “Am I not giving him the quality time he needs? Do I need to spend more time talking to him, filling those silent moments?”  I would beat myself up even as I watched him playing happily.  Then one day as I sat writing a new post, I heard him in the other room, singing the alphabet song.  He was a year and a half old and singing to himself.

After that day, I found myself stopping during my writing sessions and listening to his play.  I no longer felt the need to direct his play or fill the silence.  I discovered that he knew when to fill the silence.  Sometimes he will play in complete silence, building towers, driving his cars through elaborate tunnels he has created out of toys, building new train tracks on his Thomas train table.  But then there are the times when I sit in the kitchen at the computer, listening to him sing the Zaney Opera, a narration of his play set to music.  “My car is driving on the window.  Now it is going to fly out the window.  My truck is in the other room.  I am going to play with my truck.”  The tune changes from minute to minute but the narration goes on and I realize, he doesn’t need me for play.  He is in his own world, creating his own games and songs.

Lately, I have expanded this theory to our time together.  We will talk and play and have a good time but when the lull in the conversation happens, I don’t immediately fill the silence.  I wait.  I sit with him and let the silence envelope us.  Sometimes it remains as we push our cars across the carpet or sit cuddled on the couch, but sometimes, Zane breaks the silence giving me a glimpse into his thoughts. “I wish I were a zebra.” He will say.  Where this came from I don’t know but I listen as he talks about the things he knows or thinks he knows about zebras.

The books about parenting are helpful in so many ways.  As a new parent, I found them invaluable but they are not fool proof.  They are not the end all be all on the best way to parent a child.  I have three children and they are each completely different.  They each have different personalities, different styles of play, and different ways of communicating.  Filling the silence for my oldest child was the perfect way to parent him but trying to parent my daughter the same way didn’t work for her. With Zane his personality and our circumstances have changed.  I have learned to be patient and stop filling the silences, letting him fill his play time the way he wants, inviting me in when he chooses and leaving me on the sidelines when he chooses.  After all of these years and all of these kids, I have learned to trust myself and my child as much as I trust the advice in the books.

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