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Every once in a while the Lord sends a day that will stay in the memory bank for all happy reasons. It was a gorgeous day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with deep blue skies and a mild breeze. Today was Will’s long awaited organ concert at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist. A nice crowd came out to hear him.
Will’s hard work and dedication paid off with a confident performance. As a parent, you watch in amazement as your children develop their God-given gifts. Today was one of those days. Emily was sitting on my lap which explains the rather jerky video I took of the concert finale, Acclamations by Langlais. The piece is powerful but dissonant. It ends, however, in triumph on a major chord. Will made that old church vibrate on the last notes.
Thank you to Will’s excellent organ teacher, Sr. Mary Jane Wagner, Michael Batcho of St. John’s who organizes the Fine Arts program at the Cathedral. I want to personally thank Pastor Mark Knappe and his wife Diane who attended the concert today. (That’s Pastor in the photo below.) They have been such an encouragement to Will, embracing him like one of their own. Will served as fill-in organist for their church for the better part of a year. He not only was able to use his music for the Lord in corporate worship, but gained valuable experience.
It was a joyful day, and the beautiful music took my mind off the awful things going on in our world and placed it on God, the author of all that is good.
“I have a little shadow…” begins a well-known children’s poem by Robert Louis Stevenson. Mothers of young children will very much get this post.
Emmy is my shadow, day and night. Without siblings to talk with during the school day, outside of preschool friends twice a week, I am the only conversational option. If you’ve never been shadowed by a preschooler you have missed quite a conversational experience. It goes something like this…
I’m trying to dash off a work email, and Emily at my elbow solemnly presents me with two plastic tea cups, taped together, one upside down on top of the other.
“What is it?” I ask.
“It’s a Wi-Fly.” (She makes it sound like Wi-Fi.)
“What is a Wi-Fly?” I ask.
“Yes, his name is Sophie. Do you like that name?” she asks, suddenly doubtful if Sophie is the right name for a male mouse.
“Well, Sophie is a girl’s name.”
“What do mice eat?” she asks with that startling change of direction at which preschoolers excel.
“It depends if they are indoor or outdoor mice,” I say, trying to remember the diet of mice. Nuts? No, that’s squirrels. I start typing gibberish on my email and give up.
“Emmy, I am a little busy right now, let’s talk in a few minutes, OK?”
“Watcha busy about?” (That’s the way she always phrases it.)
“Please send my photos to my email then,” she says in a very grown-up voice.
“Emmy, you don’t have an email, and what photos?”
She picks up several snapshots off my desk. “Here they are.”
I take them from her, and she sits on the floor next to me. As I attempt to finish the business email, she begins making various bird sounds, trilling and chirping and clucking and cooing. Great for concentration.
“Mama, I’d like a really big fish tank for my birthday. I could put it by my bed maybe? I could keep baby dolphins and whales in there.”
“That’s not going to work, Em. Fish tanks are a lot of work, and I have no idea where baby dolphins and whales can be bought. I imagine they’re pretty expensive.”
“What do dolphins eat?”
“What is plankton?”
“Small creatures in the sea,” I hazard.
“No, definitely not like chickens.” I’m picturing a chicken of the sea with a life-jacket on, flailing away.
And so it goes, from the time her feet hit the floor until her (early) bedtime, a constant flow of questions and ideas, some of which are downright astonishing. This phase of childhood is fun, but it is frankly, exhausting.
She informed me this morning that she is running a drive-through pet store. I sat out on the deck in the sun today, and she ended up selling me a rabbit, a mouse, a large dog and a Panda out the window of her playhouse. If you’re in the market for an exotic pet, I hear Emmy’s got some Llamas on sale cheap this week! Stop by before they’re all gone.
With Mother’s Day this Sunday, here are a few quotes I have enjoyed on the subject of motherhood. Both as a mother of six children, three of which are grown, two of which are nearly grown, and a preschooler (!), and as a grandmother of two (the second one is to arrive, Lord willing, in September), and also as a daughter, I have many thoughts on the topic of motherhood that are touched on by these quotes.
One good mother is worth a hundred schoolmasters. - George Herbert
I long to put the experience of fifty years at once into your young lives, to give you at once the key of that treasure chamber every gem of which has cost me tears and struggles and prayers, but you must work for these inward treasures yourselves. - Harriet Beecher Stowe
My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.” ― Jodi Picoult
I know enough to know that no woman should ever marry a man who hated his mother. ― Martha Gellhorn
All that I am or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. ― Abraham Lincoln
A daughter without her mother is a woman broken. It is a loss that turns to arthritis and settles deep into her bones. ― Kristin Hannah
Through the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest. ― Debra Ginsberg
Mother, I love you so, said the child. I love you more than I know. She laid her head on her mother’s arm, and the love between them kept them warm. – Stevie Smith
Sweater, n. Garment worn by child when its mother is feeling chilly.” ― Ambrose Bierce
Mothers can forgive anything! Tell me all, and be sure that I will never let you go, though the whole world should turn from you. ― Louisa May Alcott, Jo’s Boys
Before becoming a mother I had a hundred theories on how to bring up children. Now I have seven children and only one theory: love them, especially when they least deserve to be loved. ― Kate Samperi
Gilbert put his arm about them. ‘Oh, you mothers!’ he said. ‘You mothers! God knew what He was about when He made you. ― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams
This is what we do, my mother’s life said. We find ourselves in the sacrifices we make. ― Cammie McGovern
The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlet here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter. ― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
The mother’s heart is the child’s schoolroom. – Henry Ward Beecher
Most all other beautiful things in life come come by twos and threes, by dozens and hundreds. Plenty of roses, stars, rainbows, brothers and sisters, aunts and cousins, but only one mother in the whole world. – Kate Douglas Wiggin
The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. – Honore de Blazac
A man never sees all that his mother has been to him until it’s too late to let her know he sees it. – William Dean Howells
No matter how old a mother is, she still watches her middle-aged children for signs of improvement. – Florida Scott Maxwell
A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces that she never did care for pie. – Tenneva Jordan
A mom holds the hands of her children for a little while but holds their hearts forever. – Author unknown
As a former homeschool mom, I am glad that the movement has matured sufficiently to be able to self-assess. For many years, any comment of concern or analysis of both pros and cons, challenges and problems with home education were frowned upon. Pioneers who fought for the right to choose to home educate worked long and hard to win the legislative victories that now make it legal in all 50 states. We owe these pioneers a great debt for their sacrifice and commitment. But because home education was so hard won, public discussion of inherent problems in the movement were discouraged for many years.
As the first generation of homeschoolers has grown up and had children of their own, there is a refreshing candor these days about both the blessings and pitfalls of educating in a home setting. The Christian homeschool movement has much to commend it, and the freedom to choose to educate as we see fit is a great blessing. But there are pitfalls specifically within the Christian movement. One homeschool father, Reb Bradley, has written a detailed article about seven specific blind spots, as he calls them, that Christian parents need to know about. The article is not new, but having re-read it recently, I found it helpful as Tom and I consider education options for our youngest daughter. I have seen and personally experienced many of these “blind spots.” His article is right on target, and hopefully, it will be a help to those who are homeschooling or planning on homeschooling in the future. Here is the article.
P.S. I was not an “ideological” homeschooler, meaning, I did not home educate with the belief that it was the only Christian way to raise children. With multiple children and with the high cost of private education, school at home was sometimes the most affordable, common sense option for our children. Some Christians hold to the view that home education is the only correct, biblical way for children to get an education. Many of the blind spots listed in the article are most often a problem among those who believe that homeschooling will somehow help them achieve what home education advocate Michael Pearl claims in the following:
”In the final analysis, it is not the community or the church that produces great children and tremendous young adults; it is home life rooted in sincere, relaxed love of God and family that bears eternal fruit. Genuine, laughing love immersed in creativity is a miracle cure-all that supercharges the soul and grows up children that are too healthy to come down with soul diseases.”
Michael Pearl means well, but he is wrong. There is no “cure-all” in a family, no matter how loving and Christian it is, that will “supercharge” a child against “soul diseases.” As the article I linked to points out, homeschool parents who had visions of all their children becoming vibrant, committed Christians as a result of their exhaustive labors are sometimes devastated to learn that their children have chosen a very different path, one that doesn’t comport with what they were told by homeschool leaders like Pearl. The heart problem of rebellion comes from within, not from outside (Jeremiah 17:9), and no amount of tweaking an environment is going to guarantee a certain outcome. We are called to be faithful as parents to love and teach our children biblical truth. To put more than this on the backs of parents is a false burden of guilt. We are all responsible for what we do with what we are given.
I visit home education sites frequently and enjoy reading about all the educational resources available for toddlers on up. What I have noticed in the last few years are the frequent questions posed by mothers of very young children about what “app” they should get for their preschoolers’ or kindergartners’ iPads and similar technology.
It concerns me, because it doesn’t take long to see how dependent many have become on iPhones, iPads, and all other manner of digital communication. If they start using this technology in babyhood, what becomes of the wiring of their brains? Is it addictive? A recent report in the UK’s respected Telegraph newspaper confirmed my concerns on this topic.
Experts have warned that parents who allow babies and toddlers to access tablet computers for several hours a day are in danger of causing “dangerous” long term effects.
The youngest known patient being treated in the UK is a four-year-old girl from the South East.
Her parents enrolled her for compulsive behaviour therapy after she became increasingly “distressed and inconsolable” when the iPad was taken away from her.
Her use of the device had escalated over the course of a year and she had become addicted to using it up for to four hours a day.
Most of America stumbles around staring at their digital rectangles (the misnamed “smart phones”), shunning real human interaction and often seeking only the gratification of the next, often meaningless, text or status update. I’m not trying to say there aren’t legitimate job-related, family-related reasons to be in touch. But much of what teenagers and young adults do with smart phones is entertainment related.
Now we’re seeing small children addicted to touch screens, looking for that next buzz and change of colorful images, trained like small lab animals to perform certain tasks with certain digital cues.
At least in my own observation, children need both stimuli and periods of quiet. Emily is currently sitting in the sunshine a few feet away. She has turned a toy shopping cart upside down and is pretending it is a dump truck. She’s holding a conversation with an invisible colleague. She breaks into song occasionally, enjoying the feel of the sun and mild breeze on her face.
She can sit for a long time with a book, looking at the illustrations or photographs. Her mind is mulling things over in the quiet. She comes and asks questions about what she sees. She role plays and pretends. All of this is part of a child’s normal development and interaction.
I’m not oblivious to the benefits of technology. I’m using it to type and publish these thoughts online. But I had the benefit of a childhood where I did not have technology, just lots of books and free play, and it afforded me the ability to think and concentrate and enjoy reading that is still a part of life today.
Clearly, caution in the use of this technology is in order when it comes to our children. At a time when diagnoses of ADD and ADHD are epic, it is disturbing to see parents handing their children yet another means to destroy concentration. Give your children a healthy childhood and turn off the technology. There’s a whole world out there to enjoy.
No matter how long a child lives, they bring love and joy. The precious baby an Irish historian writes about lived only a short time, but her life was not meaningless. You can read her mother’s account here at this site in Ireland.
Through all the various emotions of the previous nine months, I hadn’t expected that I’d feel proud. I hadn’t expected that strangers would say nice things about Margaret. Some people might even have thought her life not worth the wait because she was going to die anyway. They might have pitied us.
But in the hospice, as we carried Margaret down the corridor, a man came over and gazed down at our little bundle. “She’s so beautiful,” he said wonderingly, adding: “She’s perfect.” Not “I’m so sorry she’s dying.”
Once in a while, Tom and I stop off at antique malls to just look around. Looking at the bits and pieces of living from the past tends to put time in perspective. Most poignant to me are baby things. Baby shoes, in particular, hold an attraction. Many times I have held up an old, worn pair and wondered about the baby who once wore them. Running a finger on the little scuff marks on the bottom made by feet long gone, I wonder, who was the child? What did they become? Who was the mother who once loved that baby?
The other day, Emmy was not able to sleep during nap time. She has never been a napper, but I make her stay quiet for an hour in the afternoons to give me a break and to see if she might fall off to sleep for a little while. She was restless on my bed, so I scooped her up (not easy these days as she is so big.) “I just want to rock you for a little while,” I told her. So she buried her head in my neck like the old days when she was smaller, and I stroked her hair, and we just rocked for a time while the world went by. I glanced over at my bookshelf next to the chair and saw the title of an old book I have called, Tarry a While. How fitting, I thought.
Babyhood becomes a distant memory so quickly. Emily will be four soon. Baby days are gone. The tighter you try to hang on to those days, it seems the faster they flee. Every season I pack away little clothes that will never be worn again, shoes that will never fit her feet. Wasn’t it yesterday I held her miniature feet in the NICU and wondered if they would ever be large enough to walk on?
Wasn’t it yesterday I held my first baby’s feet and marveled at how small they were? That was 26 years ago on April 14.
I get stressed out meeting the need of the moment, feeling exasperated at this or that with a preschooler’s constant chatter. But then I remember that it’s all over so quickly.
Sometimes we moms get so busy with the demands of life that we fail to notice how fast all our children are growing. Now I’m watching it happen with my little grandson who is growing so fast, getting ready to walk before we know it. This fall, we will have a second grandbaby!
Don’t rush growing up, Emmy. I’m not young, I’m not wishing you to the next phase. It will come fast enough. Today is precious. This hour is precious. Tarry a while, little girl.
Our son is blessed to attend a rare school where it is not considered cool to behave like an idiot. It’s a rare environment these days where the kids know how to have fun, but the focus is on achievement. Some days he and his friends actually wear suits and ties just to look sharp. They already have a uniform dress code of polo shirt and pants, but they are allowed to wear suits any time. It’s a positive peer pressure thing. When Will was a freshman, he saw the older male students sometimes wearing suits, so the younger guys imitated them.
I think it’s sad how often anything interesting in a young person gets stamped out by the hordes in schools these days. Christian schools are no exception to this. It is a unique faculty and school leadership that can foster excellence and an atmosphere where good grades and doing well is admired. It takes committed families and a vision by leadership to be different.
It may not seem like a big thing, but I would add that having had students in private and public schools over the years, the dress of both faculty and students is important. If teachers want to slouch around dressed like overgrown adolescents and try to impress the kids with their relevance, they will find that the exact opposite happens. Will’s teachers behave and act like adults. His favorite teacher is a tweedy, bearded historian and professor who also teaches at a local university. He’s a walking encyclopedia of history and a master of his subject matter. He has respect because he makes no pretense at being anyone other than himself. He is an expert. Kids know he is the real deal, and they admire that. Additionally, he is an excellent male role model for the young men.
I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Resist peer pressure.” It’s funny how the assumption was that the only kind of peer pressure is the negative kind. But positive peer pressure is just as real. The challenge is to find places for our kids where the positive influences dominate.
Will had a friend over one night recently. Tom and I were upstairs when suddenly music sounded from below. We both couldn’t believe our ears. We heard the sound of piano and…singing? Beautiful singing from a tenor voice! Will was accompanying his friend on the piano as he sang, “Caro Mio Ben”. The friend had brought over the sheet music for Will to play for him. He said Will’s music interests had inspired him to take voice lessons again. The world is a more beautiful place because of it.
I love to see teenagers swim upstream against a culture that worships ignorance and moral chaos. Anything we can do to help our young people develop their interests and gifts and ignore the braying of the celebrity icons is a good thing. They, and the rest of our society, will be the richer for it.
Emmy put together her outfit for the photo. Her now tattered tutu has had much use. She is wearing what she calls her “Shirley Dimple” shoes. I can’t bring myself to tell her it’s “Shirley Temple” not “Dimple.” There’s time enough. These fleeting moments are so precious with our children. We have to savor them while we can.
Last night I posted a Welsh folk song and lullaby familiar to many. Tonight I am posting a more contemporary lullaby I have loved from the time I first heard it many years ago. The songwriter wrote it for his little girl he would tuck into bed each night. Many lullabies are written from a mother’s perspective. This one is different and very beautiful.