Influence on Wheels

I have written before about the importance of conversations with children.  Moms or dads who do the school run each day have prime time with their kids if they recognize it.

I have been the primary school driver, and there are many great memories (and some not so great) of conversations that have taken place in my van through the years. I mention the not-so-great ones, as conversations with kids are not always all sweetness and light. The teen years come to mind. In any event, if you’re listening, you can hear what’s going on in the minds of your kids.

Emily, our youngest, begins talking before she’s even fully in the door of the car at pick up.  She is full of information about her day. She opens her lunch box to retrieve whatever leftovers she can find to assuage her after-school hunger and she then begins to update me on the state of the Third Grade.

Who played with whom at recess, what books she chose on library day, the song they are singing in music class (would you like to hear it, Mom?), those are just a few of the items she shares while munching a half eaten cookie or carrot from lunch.

But if I listen well to what she is saying, I can pick up on some important things. This morning Em shared with me that the teacher has a poster on the wall of the classroom. “It says ‘Do All Things in Love.’ And then, Mom, it listed things you can do to show love.” The teacher who placed that poster up on the bulletin board may not realize it, but  her classroom decoration had an influence on our daughter. It gave us fodder for conversation as we drove down the road on the way to school this morning.

“There was a girl that nobody was playing with,” Em announced the other day. “I went to talk to her.”  Another conversation started that reinforced the right thing that Emily did. “Someday, that might be you without anyone to play with,” I added. Em nodded. She gets it.

Our culture is tremendously noisy.  Media of all kinds can pervade our lives. I have  antipathy for radio noise running in the background in the car or at home. My mom never had radios or TV’s blaring night and day. In fact, it was rarely on at all.  I feel the same way about it. Not only does it clutter up your mind and thinking (I’m not good at shutting it out), but it robs you of conversation time with your children, particularly as you travel.

Each moment with kids is precious, because it is fleeting. I have two kids in their 30’s now, and one nearly 30! Two are already 21. Childhood is a terribly brief time. Children’s character is formed through everyday conversation where values are inculcated, and hopefully, reinforced by what they see at home. Someone is influencing your child’s character and view of the world. Is it you?

Children are hard-wired to sort out what they learn about the world from their parents. We can help them through the increasingly ugly culture they are growing up in by seizing each opportunity we are given  to underscore truth, in love, in their minds. These truths serve as an anchor for their thinking–bedrock upon which to build their lives. Two apt metaphors.

This is also a reason to seek wisdom from God – the source of ALL wisdom and truth–as we attempt to guide our children. These times are perplexing and treacherous. Lives can be so easily shipwrecked with the lying siren song of the world playing in our children’s ears, forever drawing them to the dangerous rocks.

It’s our job as Christian parents to continually point to the beacon of light that will guide our children through this life. God’s Word is the piercing beam of light that will warn of the jagged rocks that endanger them. It cuts through the fog and darkness like a laser.  “Danger here! Watch out! Go this way instead!”

With a new school year upon us, I intend to make the most of our travel chats. Whether listening or speaking, it’s a daily opportunity not to be missed!

 

 

We Are Their World

I was very young when I first became a mother. Little Charlie in all his vulnerability wrapped his little fingers around my heart, and I have never looked back to what life would have been without him or any of my six children.

There are so many happy joyful memories of being a mother. So many times of laughter and fun. But the true bonds of mother and child are developed in the difficult times, the worrisome times, when you are awake in the night feeling a feverish little body, and that grip of fear on your heart reminds you of how dear that child is to you.

My second son had severe asthma from six months onward. He was hospitalized over 30 times between six months and age 6, both in ER visits and usually for 2 to 3 day stays. He was allergic to almost everything environmentally, which made it especially difficult to get his wheezing under control. Every cold he had resulted in bronchospasms that would mean him having to be treated with IV steroids and various other drugs that were the latest in treatment to open his airways. He spent days on end on 7 North and 7 South, the asthma wards at that time. We knew all the nurses, and we watched the seasons change there.

There are so many memories of holding him hooked up to the various monitors, worrying and praying for him, trying to keep his time there positive and happy.  He still remembers me bringing the red and white striped bags from the gift shop with a small surprise for him each time. It was a tradition for us. He remembers the bins of toys I’d bring in from the play room and getting to watch children’s TV, something he usually didn’t get to do at home.

Sam is a husband and father of three children himself now. Nearly 30 years old. But he told me that he has no negative memories from those hospitalizations, despite the papoose boards used to restrain him for IV’s, the endless breathing treatments, and horrible tasting medicines and misery. To me, that said so much about children and mothering. He remembers the love and care, and me nearby, always nearby trying to sleep on the small couch, because I couldn’t leave him alone at night in case he felt scared and needed me.

I had to leave the hospital once for several hours to go home and take care of some things. I was gone longer than intended, and getting off the elevator that evening, I saw a nurse pulling Sammy in a small wagon down the hall. His look was one of utter dejection. He was slumped in the wagon, looking sad. As the wagon approached the nurses station, he looked up to see me. I’ll never forget the look of sheer joy in his eyes. His arms flew up for me to hug him. Mom was back. His world was OK again.

I remember that all these years later, because it showed me how important moms are to their children. We are their world. Our choices and decisions have a direct impact on their well-being and happiness. It’s a sobering thing.

So many mothers struggle, and I understand that with all my heart. I was a single parent at the time with a world of burdens on my shoulders.  Those mothers who have no support and help or who are dealing with counter-parents rather than co-parents carry unbelievable loads.  Those who continue to love their children, day in and day out, and who try to give their children the best they can in spite of circumstances are true heroes. I think of these moms on Mother’s Day.

My adult son told me something recently that I’ll always carry with me. He said, “I always remember the feeling of being safe with you, Mom.” Isn’t that what we strive for? That , come what may, in this broken and often bleak world, our children have a safe refuge with us. No matter the housing, the financial situation, or any other negative in their lives, they are safe with Mom–a mother who believes them, protects them, cherishes them to the best of her ability.  Creating that safe zone is the work of all mothers. If our children remember that, we have done our jobs well.

Oh, the Books!

I still remember the scent when I opened the door to the children’s section at the library as a child. I say scent, because the collective smell of the books was beautiful to me. It evoked a sense of excitement—far off places, beloved characters in stories, biographies of interesting people, and so much more. I  remember the color of the green tile floors at old Finney, and to this day, if it were still there, I could tell you where my favorite authors were. That was my first library, and it has pride of place in my memory.

In fifth grade, I developed an obsession with the Presidency of John F. Kennedy. I think I read every book on the subject at Finney, even making my way to the adult section when the limited number ran out in the children’s. I could have told you a great deal about the man, the President and his assassination, in detail, at the time.  (My mother’s copy of, Death of a President is what got me started!)

My second library was the Wauwatosa Public Library, a beautiful place long before the redesign and building project in the late 1980’s. The children’s section was (and the new one still is) huge compared to Finney. When I first saw it, I felt like I had entered a book lover’s paradise. I carried home stacks of books every week. It was a  world of enchantment and fascination in my arms.  I learned so much about the world from books.  Much more than just sitting in classrooms.

It has been a joy to watch the love affair with the library continue in some of my own children. Some, not all. But our youngest, Emily, loves to read, and already has her favorite authors at the library. I offer up suggestions as we walk through. Some she likes, some she does not. I think some of the books haven’t caught her imagination yet, because she isn’t old enough for some of them. Some books, I don’t recommend to her. There is a great deal of paranormal, bizarre and unacceptable material in the library, especially now. Parents have to be the filter for children. Just as we guard our children from toxins of various kinds physically, we guard our kids from toxic materials for their minds and souls. If it isn’t honest, if it isn’t true and tells lies about the world and parents, etc., if it doesn’t celebrate the good, than it isn’t welcome.

A lot of the children’s authors I loved are no longer found, sadly. New authors come up and the old classics we knew and loved disappear. I looked in vain today for a couple of authors I remembered, but they were not there. I bought up an entire series online of used girls’ books, the Beanie Malone series, that I loved so much. They were written in the 50’s, but I enjoyed them in the 70’s and 80’s. Girls today would not find them interesting at all maybe, but I loved the whole Malone family as the stories followed the motherless family through adulthood. There were a lot of fantastic values conveyed with the hard-working Malones. The author had a real gift for conveying common moral dilemmas and misadventures of American kids in a family. Great lessons were learned by reading the books.

Today, I snapped a photo of Emily who was waiting for me to find my own books. I ended up with a few Dorothy Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries and a 2016 release called, The Word Detective: Searching for the Meaning of It All at the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s a memoir by John Simpson, and if you think that’s boring, you’re very wrong. I’m already sucked into it.

The digital age has much to recommend it as far as communication and knowledge. But the thought of books, the kind you can hold in your hands and put on shelves, disappearing is a terrible thing. Emily has not yet been allowed into the digital world yet. She’s busy getting an appreciation for words on the page without digital distraction. It’s my strong view that children need to achieve an attention span and not have their brains rewired before they’ve even fully developed.

Emily and I have a  read aloud time. She sits in her smaller rocker next to mine and we read a chapter from our current book. It’s a special time for us, beyond just the reading of a story. She also has learned to love audio books on CD for when I can’t read to her. When summer days get long, those give her something fun to do to keep her mind and imagination busy.

There are no guarantees your children will love what you love. But as a parent, you can just set the table, so to speak, and let them sample good things that you lay out. Hopefully, the taste for good books will catch on! It looks like Emily is on her way.

Savor Them Now

The photo below was posted at a Texas daycare. Parents were too busy on their phones to look into the faces of their dear children who had waited all day for the moment they would have a parent back. Imagine being that child, so proud of your handiwork, waiting to show Mama or Daddy what you’ve made, only to find that they don’t care enough to get off their phones. It brings me to tears.

If such a thing were possible, I wish I could have one day with each of my six children back when they were small. I can remember the feel of each their skin, the bath times, the bed time stories, the meal time fun we had, the times they were sick and I was worried, the hugs and tuck-in rituals, the kisses on their chubby faces. I love each of them more than words can say, and I always will.

Advice from older generations to the younger is not generally received well anymore. Young people don’t want to hear it. The terms “Grandma”and “Grandpa” are used as an insult online frequently to dismiss something an older person has to say. But here is what I would tell a young mom if I could. You have absolutely no idea the speed with which time flies. You hear it often, because it is true. That baby who wakes you up every two hours is a toddler by the end of their first year. Walking. Away from you. Do not resent your children’s impositions on your time. The echo of their small voices in your mind will soon be all you have, and regrets are terrible to live with.

I have to remind myself of these things every day. We have a young child, and some days, I think (as I once did when I was a young mom), I can’t wait until this child can do this herself. But what is different is that now I stop myself from that line of thinking. She will be eight years old this summer. EIGHT. How did that happen? The little girl times will come to an end so very soon that it chokes me up.

At night, I lie awake thinking of her asleep in her bed with the Hello Kitty sheets and her dolls and stuffed animals nearby, and a kind of panic hits me. Was there something else I should have done—should be doing with her? Have I enjoyed and savored this phase enough? She doesn’t know that some nights I get up to kiss her while she’s sleeping. Because she’s growing so fast, and like her siblings, she will be gone before we know it.

Moms (and Dads), whatever else you have to let go, don’t let it be loving and spending time with your little people (or kids whatever their age.) Emmy asked me to play with her the other day, and I was in the middle of something. I wish I had put it down. I promised to make some muffins with her the other day, and we never did. Muffin making is on the agenda after school today. She will be thrilled.

Don’t rush your children to the next developmental phase. Their “littleness” is precious, and they’ll get to the next milestone before you know it. Those soft little hands will soon stop reaching for yours, because they’ll be too big. Something to remember.

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Morning Song

My songbird was up early and cheered my heart today. This is what she sang out in the kitchen in the first stanza. (She’s learning this at school.)  There is good counsel in this hymn, written in 1734, Stanza 3 is particularly fitting today with all the fear and tumult on the political scene in our country.

With the Lord begin your task;
Jesus will direct it.
For his aid and counsel ask;
Jesus will perfect it.
Every morn with Jesus rise,
And when day is ended,
In his name then close your eyes;
Be to him commended.

Let each day begin with prayer,
Praise, and adoration.
On the Lord cast every care;
He is your salvation.
Morning, evening, and at night
Jesus will be near you,
Save you from the tempter’s might,
With his presence cheer you.

With the Savior at your side,
Foes need not alarm you;
In his promises confide,
And no ill can harm you.
All your trust and hope repose
In the mighty master,
Who in wisdom truly knows
How to stem disaster.

If your task by thus begun
With the Savior’s blessing,
Safely then your course will run,
Toward the promise pressing.
Good will follow every where
While you here must wander.
You at last the joy will share
In the mansions yonder.

Hymn # 483
Lutheran Worship
Author: Peter Frank
Tune: Fang Dein Werk
1st Published in: 1734

songbird

Troopers Rescue a Birthday

Nothing hurts worse as a parent than to see your child hurt, whatever age they are.

watchingI wrote a post several years ago about how one of our sons invited some friends from school for a Christmas party. He’d never had a party of any kind, so we laid out some plans for what to eat, and I got the house ready, finished up our holiday decorating and ordered food from the BBQ place. The day before the party,  he came home looking dejected and announced that all the kids but one had canceled, so the party was off. He had gotten up the courage to do  it, kids had committed and then dropped out, one by one.

He emailed the one friend still planning to come to tell him it was off, but his friend said, bless his heart, “Hang on, wait, don’t cancel!” He got several others to come with him, and the party was saved. The kids had a great time, and our son will always have that memory of the get together. I was so grateful that all was not spoiled, thanks to the kindness of one boy.

A little guy, aged 10, in Arkansas had a birthday party planned by his mother, and 21 kids were invited. The excitement over things like this is off the charts for children that age. But the few who said they would come never showed that day. Just thinking of the child watching  and hoping, only to be disappointed, brings me to tears.

Then some state troopers heard about it, showed up a few days later and gave this little boy a birthday to remember! Here’s the story.

Thank you, kind troopers, for taking time out from your work to do this for a child. This is America at its best, and humanity at its finest. How we need more people like this to show kindness. It can have an impact that lasts a lifetime.

A Beautiful Morning

SunriseIt’s 6:15am  and having been awake for an hour already, I shuffle back to the bedroom to make the bed. Tom is somewhere zooming down the interstate to work already. It looks like sunshine today according to the forecast.

I pull up the bedding on one side and make my way to the other side. Suddenly,  the comforter is thrown back, startling me. A small, rosy face appears and a girly laugh rings out.

“Surprised you, didn’t I?”

It’s Emmy, my early bird, up already on this Monday school morning. She’s all warm and sweet in her pink penguin nightgown, hair in frowzled disarray.

Our early rising buys us time to  play a bit. We discuss and experiment to find out which toe is most ticklish, which, of course, leads to lots of giggling. Em then talks about her bike and how excited she is to practice after school, so she can ride with her daddy on the bike trail near our house.

Emmy retrieves her navy school tights from the drawer to get dressed and laments the discovery of a small hole in one foot. “It’ll do for today, but who knows what it’ll look like tonight,” she says, rolling her eyes dramatically. For some reason, that makes us both laugh.

Face washed and her hair affixed with a bright pink clip,  we go to see about breakfast. She has recently discovered the delicacy of toast sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, so I assure her that is on the menu.

An egg goes into the pan, a jumbo one, and she comments on the enormous hen that must have laid the egg. She eats a banana and drinks orange juice from a pink straw. Then the much anticipated cinnamon toast.

“This is very RICH,” she says, licking the sweetness from her lips.

She tells me they are learning a song in choir called, “Whistle a Happy Tune” and sings a few snatches for me. She says that she isn’t sure when they’re singing it but promises to tell me when they let her know.

She asks if she could have spaghetti and meatballs in a thermos today instead of a sandwich. I remember we have a can of such and agree that it sounds like a good Monday lunch. Preparations are made.

On this third day of spring, I note that the sun is already coming through my kitchen windows that face to the east.   There’s a feeling of hope in the air. Thanks to my new hearing aids, I hear the birds twittering in the towering pine out the window. They feel it, too.

We head out the door, and it is determined that Em has too much to carry into school by herself today, so I promise to come in with her to carry her heavy backpack. For some reason, this makes her very happy.

We are the first to arrive as we often are.  Both of us are early birds today. Inside the classroom, she shows me her desk which has been moved, I am told. I admire it all and help her get her things hung up.

Finally, I tell her good-bye and start for the door, but she runs and throws her arms around me. My little girl and late in life project, my unexpected blessing and head lifter.  As I leave, one of her friends comes down the hall all smiles. I feel a rush of gratitude for the little Christian school she attends and the excellent people who make the environment such a positive place to learn.

The chilly, fresh air hits my face as I make my way back to the car.

What a beautiful morning, I think. A beautiful, lovely morning.

And I am thankful to God for it.

 

 

 

 

Islands of Calm

More than anything else, home should be peaceful. Children thrive in a place where they can hear the sound of their own thoughts and ideas and just be together with loved ones. This scene in the painting below (I found it at Homespun Wife, who found it somewhere else) shows that kind of quiet of contentment, without the scream of news or entertainment media telling everyone who they should be and what they should think.

I can’t stand television and radio anymore. My hearing loss is one reason. Before my newest hearing aids, it was getting to the point where I couldn’t hear it anyway over the incessant ringing. With my hearing aids, everything is borderline too loud, so the sound of radio and TV is jarring and shrill. I get tired of it almost immediately.

I like quiet where I can think and where I can write or read. When I showed Tom this image, he said, “I doubt that very many homes look like that anymore.” I think he’s right. But nothing prevents us from creating islands of calm and togetherness  in our homes. Give technology the boot evenings. Children love to draw or look at books if you give them the tools., and they love to show you what they are creating Just being together to talk is my favorite way to spend time with Tom, even when there are long pauses. In a world of insane hyperactivity and meaningless noise, it is a healing thing for all of us.

P.S. To the unknown painter of this, thank you. What a gift to people to be able to portray scenes of homey and lovely things that we can relate to. Contemporary and postmodern art fails to connect with the everyday person and is now reserved for elitists who claim to derive meaning from the incomprehensible and ugly.  They are welcome to it.  I’m grateful to those who use their artistic talents to create things that are meaningful and uplifting.  The need for that is greater than ever.

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Keep on the Sunny Side!

After we have prayed and asked for Divine help, after we’ve asked whether there’s anything we can do in a bad situation, we have to walk towards the sun (Son!) and carry on.

I have always loved this little song. Keeping on the “sunny side” doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge and do what we can when evil is staring us in the face or someone else in the face, but ultimately, we can’t let evil overcome good. With social media putting every societal and personal evil on graphic and horrific display, it’s a choice to not be enthralled by the dark side of life, and to stay firmly on the sunny side instead.

Many of us with children to raise in our dark times are even more acutely aware of this need. Yes, there are many frightening and horrible things on the landscape, but where we can, we are called to create a safe place where our families can still see and feel warmth, love and beauty that God provides each day.

Our little girl, Emmy,  adores this song. I have to repeat it several times when I play it, because she dances around with her dolls when I do.

Daddy’s Girl

It’s not in the big events that the fabric of a child’s life is woven.

It’s the little things that make it—the bedtime stories, the little chats, the drawings admired by a caring parent, the silly inside jokes, the loving teasing, the moments together snatched in a busy day.

All of those threads combine to make the beautiful whole fabric of a happy childhood.

Em is reading so well now. Last night she read The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward to her daddy. Just a few minutes together, but minutes wrapped in love that she will always remember.

EmmyTom