Thursday, May 28, 2009

What's Your Parenting Style


This is kind of fun . . . see where you come out!

Our Worst Fear

 

“The 4-year-old daughter of former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson died Tuesday, a day after she was injured in a treadmill accident in her home, police in Phoenix, Arizona, said.

-- CNN

 

News of the death of Mike Tyson’s young daughter is a sad reminder of our vulnerability as parents. Once you become a parent, news of the death of a child is never again simply sad or tragic; it becomes personal – a reason to hug our children extra tight or give them an extra kiss at bedtime.

I’ve laughed with friends about how the first time our children slept through the night, we woke suddenly and immediately checked to make sure they were still breathing. And we’ve recounted the stories of how the first few times we had our firstborns alone with us in the car, we stopped a few times to check because they were too quiet, and we wanted to make sure they were okay. We laugh at our fears – but deep down, we know we’re vulnerable.

About a month before Ashley was born, a coworker’s 5-week old baby died of SIDS. In the first few weeks after Ashley’s birth, I was constantly on guard. When she breathed too quietly, I would lay my hand on her chest to make sure she was indeed breathing – unfortunately sometimes jostling her slightly and invoking the baby startle response. (Luke is lucky to be the second one. I was still worried about him – but I was better at checking to ensure he was breathing without actually disturbing him in the process.) And the fear of SIDS haunted me at least until Ashley’s first birthday. And, even now, if the kids sleep in just a little too long, I have a moment of worry.

Many of us in hearing of the death of Tyson’s daughter will say “I can’t imagine,” but the truth is that, as parents, we can imagine because it taps into one of our deepest fears – that something unbelievably horrible will happen to one of our children. And, so tonight, as I gave Ashley and Luke an extra kiss before bed, I said my own little prayer that they would stay safe, tonight and always.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The First Crush

“Colby will think I am soooo beautiful today,” Ashley tells me on the way to preschool. When I ask who Colby is, she replies (in that “jeez,-don’t-you-know-anything-mom” tone of voice), “My friend.”

On this particular morning, Ashley has taken great care with her hair, using practically every hair clip she owns to create quite a unique hairstyle. When I ask if Colby is the reason she spent so much time on her hair, she replies “Yes,” (in a “well, of course” tone that I imagine was likely accompanied by some kind of eye rolling).

Oh, my little girl is growing up!

I think her first crush is cute, but I can’t help but wonder, where is it that she has learned that the way you attract boys is by being “beautiful” – not smart, not funny, not kind, but beautiful. I know I tell her often that she’s pretty, but I hope I also tell her that she is smart and thoughtful and creative. I hope I instill in her the belief that she has a lot to offer boys – and that she won’t let herself be shortchanged only by focusing on the “beauty” part.

While I hope she will know that beauty isn’t the most important criteria by which to measure her self worth, I must admit I love the absolute self confidence she has. She is positive that she is beautiful. She isn’t asking my opinion or hoping that Colby will approve of her “look.” She is absolutely certain that she is beautiful, and that Colby will, of course, recognize that.  

I am sure that someday she’ll be somewhat less confident. But I hope that on more days than not, she holds on to a sense of that unwavering self confidence that needs no affirmation from anyone else. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Reflections on Mother's Day

Ashley has been excited for Mother’s Day to arrive since last weekend when she went shopping with her father for Mother’s Day gifts. This is the first year that she has really had an idea of what Mother’s Day is all about.

Ashley began the morning by asking if today was Mother’s Day (a question I’ve been answering since Monday) and then shouted “Happy Mother’s Day!” when I told her that, yes, today was finally Mother’s Day. She made breakfast (toast) “all by herself” (with a little supervision from Andy) and then happily showed me the necklace she had selected during their shopping excursion last week. (Of course, I later learned that she “really, really liked” the necklace and would be happy to wear it when I wasn’t.)

Luke still doesn’t understand much about Mother’s Day, but he’s in a rather cuddly phase regardless, so I’ve been treated to plenty of “I love you, Mommy” and requests for snuggles (“Nuggle, Mommy”), which are always heartwarming.

And today, like the other Mother’s Days I’ve celebrated since becoming a mother, I think about my children’s birthmother. My chance for the joy of motherhood came about because of her difficult and brave decision to make adoption plans for children she felt unable to parent in the way she felt they deserved. So today, while I send good wishes her way, I also stop and wonder whether I live up to the hopes and trust she placed in me when she allowed me the privilege of mothering her birth children.

I suspect I’m not the only mother who often wonders whether I do “good enough” for my children. I know I’m pretty good at the basics – after all, as a therapist working with children and families, I know about child development and I’m often working with parents on discipline strategies. I know we have good limits and boundaries and schedules – and that we’re generally consistent at enforcing them. I know that we provide Ashley and Luke with the right kinds of stimulation and lots of family time.

But there’s always that nagging question – beyond the basics, am I good enough? Do I spend enough time with them? Do I yell a tad too much? Do I remember to tell them often enough about the good things they do? (I especially ask myself that question on those particularly challenging days with Ashley.)

I wonder if they will grow up knowing that I really like them in addition to loving them. And, I wonder if they will like me when they grow up. Will they call and visit out of a sense of devotion – or because they really want to?

I was also reminded today of the origins of Mother’s Day – which was not about cards or gifts or our individual relationships with our children. Mother’s Day has its beginnings in a proclamation by Julia Ward Howe, who was passionate about peace and equality. After working with widows and orphans of Civil War soldiers, she saw first hand the devastation of war, and so in 1870, she issued a call for women to come together to work for peaceful resolution to conflicts.

Here is the text of her proclamation:

Arise, then, women of this day. Arise all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears. Say firmly, we will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of a devastated earth, a voice goes out with our own. It says, “Disarm! Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first as women to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other, as the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after her own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God. In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient and the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Julia Ward Howe did not live to see Mother’s Day declared an official holiday (which happened in 1914, four years after her death). I’m not sure what she would think about our current celebration, which is far from her idea of a “Mother’s Day for Peace.” But, her message that we as women can join together to work toward change in our world is still an important one.

 I do know that as a mother, I am more passionate about issues of social justice than I was before having children. Part of that, I think, is the realization that I would like some things to be different about the world my children grow up in. And, part of it is the desire to show my children that even ordinary people can be a voice for change.

 While I believe it’s important that I be active and involved in issues that face the larger world, I also believe that many changes begin much closer to home. Peace and justice are worldwide issues, but they are also neighborhood issues, and even family issues. After all, I can’t very well advocate for peace and tolerance in the world at large if I can’t be tolerant and model peaceful problem solving in my own home.

 I’m reminded of a quote from Mahatma Ghandi – “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”   So, in the end, peace and justice and equality are as much about how we treat those around us (including the little people who live in our houses) as they are about how we interact with the world at large. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother of the Year


Here's a fun link:

http://news.cnnbcvideo.com/?nid=i7eZURpnbgQH8mmPc86Fxzc2MjgzNjY-&referred_by=16246535-VIJwiVx&p=usat

This is one someone sent to me (I'm really not being vain, here!). You can customize it for someone you think deserves the honor -- or even for yourself!



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