It’s been an eventful couple of weeks. We’ve enjoyed Christmas and New Year’s Eve and all of the joyful mayhem that these holidays entail. In addition, my family managed to squeeze in our sons’ birthday. That’s right, eighteen years ago, three days after Christmas and three before New Year’s Eve, we were blessed with a set of beautiful baby boys, weighing in at over six pounds each and putting their mama into intensive care for three days. Not that I hold that against them. Most of the time at least… And you know how everyone tells us how freaking fast it goes? Well, they were right. And while many of the days seemed endless, the years have flown by and our babies are now adult males who had to register for the draft. Scary on so many fronts.
In the midst of all the revelry and fun, I caught a nasty virus that put me down for the count. And while I soldiered on through December 28 and our kids’ New York birthday festivities (we go to NY to eat and shop the after-Christmas sales to celebrate their birthday each year), I collapsed upon our return home December 29. I will not emerge from my bed until I have to go to work on January 2.
Being sick as a dog and stranded on my comfy mattress allowed me to read. And read. And read, in a way I haven’t been able to in months. I’ve finished three books. It has been glorious, despite my health. And now I have material from which to draw inspiration for my blog, inspiration that has been sorely lacking of late, due to constraints of time and energy.
So, what have I tackled from my TBR list? First was Faith Hunter’s Flame in the Dark, the third of the Soulwood series featuring Nell Ingram. I love this series. In this installment, among other activities, Nell is trying to help her sister, Mud, who has similar paranormal abilities that need to be explored and controlled. Mud is 12, half of Nell’s age. Nell is aware that Mud is still a child who needs guidance and direction. As Nell contemplates assuming the burdens of parenting her sister, she reflects that children must be taught through repetition and continuous modeling and wonders whether she is up to the challenge. Teaching a child, Nell believes, is a long battle of opportunities offered and worldviews explored. I can relate.
My children are children no longer and the vast majority of my teaching has been imparted, for better or for worse. And Nell is absolutely right in saying it’s a long battle, the outcome of which is not known for a significant time after the soldiers have left the field and the generals have retired. Last night, as my sons were leaving to welcome the New Year with their friends, I urged them to be careful and to stay safe. My “oldest” (by 90 seconds) son said, “Mom, now that we’re 18, would you please trust us to take care of ourselves?” The short answer is, of course, “No,” although what I said was, “It’s not you I’m worried about—it’s all the crazies out there.” My progeny gave me knowing smiles, kissed me goodbye and slipped out into the night, my heart leaving with them.
My husband and I have made a conscious effort to convey our wisdom, such as it is, to our children, as parents have for millennia. We think about what we are modeling to them about what it means to be human, to be boys growing into men who share a planet with women, what healthy romantic partnerships look like, and what true friendship means. We talk to them and we listen. We set boundaries and punish transgressions. We reinforce strengths and try to discourage weakness and venality. We know that most kids can’t hear what we say over the noise of what we do, so we both work to do good, to demonstrate honesty, generosity, perseverance, hard work and sacrifice. And then we do it again. And again. And yet again.
I remember when my boys were babies, cute enough that people would stop me in the street to admire and fuss over them. At the time, I thought the height of boredom was playing peek-a-boo so many times I thought my eyes would pop out of my head because I’d widened them so often and for so long. My adorable bundles of joy (and exhaustion and wonder and frustration and silliness and annoyance and pride and gratitude) wanted nothing more than to throw their pacifier on the ground and watch me pick it up. Thousands of times. They wanted to play their favorite game called “Pushing Down Mommy,” which involved my standing on my knees and getting tackled from two sides by rambunctious toddlers. Hundreds of times. They wanted me to chase them in the park, up ladders and down slides. Tens of times. There was nothing my little cupcakes didn’t want to do over and over and over again. And then one more time, pretty please, Mommy?
And I did it all. Endlessly. Until I thought my intellect would shrivel and float away in a cloud of dust that exploded out of my ears. And I dreamed about a time when I wouldn’t have to repeat myself until I was tired of hearing my own voice.
I look back at those times now and see how truly naive I was. I had no inkling that repetition is the only real form of permanence and that Nell is absolutely right: teaching children is a long battle of opportunities offered and worldviews explored. Again. And again. And yet again. So they can learn. And so we can endure by sharing ourselves and our beliefs and philosophy and what makes our world and our lives meaningful.
Now that I’m about to climb out of the parenting trenches into a new life with young adult children and a suddenly empty nest, there is a part of me that wants to say, “Can we do it one more time, pretty please?” And there is another part of me that is at peace with preparing to close this chapter of my life and open a new one. Change is. And change is good. Change is what stops us from repeating ourselves over and over and over again. Change allows us to explore new opportunities and worldviews so that we parents can learn new tricks too.
As I contemplate emerging from my cocoon of a bed, I wish you a joyous, prosperous, adventurous New Year and many, many wonderful books to read. I recommend you begin with Flame in the Dark if you haven’t already enjoyed it. And if you have, maybe read it again.