Monthly Archives: May 2009

Transitions, schmansitions

I’m grieving the impending loss of a family member.

Well, she’s technically not a family member. And she’s perfectly healthy. And she only lives a 1/2 block away, so it’s not like we’ll never see her again.

But in August, Margaret is leaving Joan, the daycare provider we’ve been with for four years, since before David turned two.  And who has been caring for Margaret since she was six weeks old.

In four years, I’ve never heard Joan raise her voice to a child and never seen her lose her cool. (She’s not perfect, I know.  I only see her for minutes a day. But still.)   Each day, I’ve seen her greet my children with a delighted smile on her face, as though she’s been sitting there anticipating their arrival.  She’s never done a single thing that I have found objectionable. As my friend Pegeen (whose daughter was also in Joan’s care) noted, Joan’s not really a daycare provider. She’s more like a favorite aunt who’s a much better parent than you. She potty-trained Margaret, she taught my children to say please and thank you and to eat their vegetables, she taught them to play nicely with others, and to be kind and compassionate and thoughtful, and to say sorry like they mean it, with a hug.

For various reasons, both Emma and David had multiple caregivers. It was like a revolving door.  Most of them were very capable and loving. They just didn’t stick around very long.  (The most notable example of this was David’s nanny who, having been with us for six months, said her normal weekend goodbye on the Friday before Memorial Day, 2004, and we never saw or heard from her again. Still have no idea what happened to her.)  So David and Emma (and their parents) never really got that close to anyone. But we have all grown to love Joan. In addition to caring for the kids, she is our back-up in a jam, our child-rearing consultant, and my confidant.

I don’t have any problem with the concept of Margaret, my baby, going to pre-school.  I’m fine with the fact that I don’t have babies anymore.  And the Montessori she’s going to, the same one David’s been at for the past two years, will be a great environment for her.

But I tear up every time I think about leaving Joan.  Part of it is that I don’t do very well with transitions. (Is there any doubt where David got that from?) And I hate goodbyes.   On Friday, David will say goodbye to his teachers at Montessori, and spend the summer at a daycamp before entering kindergarten in the Fall.  And in early August, we will say good bye to Joan (see, my eyes are filling up with tears).  It feels like a summer of goodbyes, and it makes me so sad.

But I have to remember that it is also a summer of hellos, as David and Margaret each move on to the next people who will love and care for them. New opportunities for them, and for us.  New logistical challenges that we will figure out.

And we will still have Joan in our hearts. And the neighborhood.

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Frick and frack

I love this photo of David and Margaret Ruth, taken by Margaret Anne at my brother Fred’s house at Easter:

David & Margaret Ruth on Easter - 04-12-09

Their body language says it all.  David, sweet, cautious,  tentative, holding back, holding on to the couch for support.

Margaret, smiling wide, arms raised as if she were on a roller coaster. Ready to take on the world.

These two, each so wonderful, and as different as night and day.

He’s 2 1/2 years older, but it’s likely that she will still do many things first. Get her training wheels off her bike. (Especially since David now says he never wants to take his training wheels off.)  Stay dry at night. (She’s already there.) Advance to the next level in swim lessons. Ride her bike around the block. (With or without my permission. She’ll just make a break for it.) Jump into a new activity.

Yes, they were born to be the people they are.

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Enchanted Tea Parties – Not

Ever since I heard another mom being praised for the fact that she had Enchanted Tea Parties for her kids, I’ve been feeling guilty about the fact that I’ve never had an Enchanted Tea Party. I’m feeling guilty. A bad mom. For not having Enchanted Tea Parties.

Part of the reason I don’t have Enchanted Tea Parties is because I wouldn’t have the first idea about how to throw one. The thought never occurred to me. And if it did, I’d have to Google it to know what to do. (Let’s be clear that the reason I didn’t have enchanted tea parties is not because I was a working mom. If I were a stay-at-home mom I would have a perfect house. And a perfect garden. But I would not have Enchanted Tea Parties just because I was at home.)

I’ve never had an Enchanted Tea Party myself, because my mother never threw one. She never went to the park either. Or baked things for the bake sale. (She just donated $5 and said that she had baked her fill for my older siblings and that she was done.) She did play a lot of Candyland and Chutes and Ladders, though, as I recall. And I still turned out relatively okay.

I mentioned my guilt over this to Emma, who in her own Emma way said, “Mom, do I look like I’m suffering because I didn’t have Enchanted Tea Parties?” Which is one of the reasons I love Emma so much. Aside from the fact that she’s my daughter. And part of me knows that she’s just not an Enchanted Tea Parties kind of kid. And if she were, we would have had them.  (If I had Googled it or got a book from the library, that is.)

I don’t frequently feel guilty. Yet the whole issue of parenting, and its requirements, causes me great guilt. What should I be doing to ensure that my children are bright and inquisitive and creative and free thinkers and imaginative and good readers? (Don’t get me started on the whole “20 minutes a day of reading” thing.  We read 20 minutes a day, sure we do, absolutely. Except when I’m tired and it’s more like 10.)

I know that I’m doing the best I can. And I know that my children are happy and bright and well-adjusted and pleasant to be around and funny and kind and empathetic.

Most days, that’s enough. As long as no one mentions Enchanted Tea Parties.

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Precious Lord, Take My Hand

I had the difficult task today of singing for the funeral of  a 38-year-old mother of three from who died unexpectedly last Thursday.  It was a beautiful, intimate service, attended by so many people who knew her and her family.  She was a wonderful wife and mother, and a talented artist, and a bright, warm, kind, and funny person.  I’m sorry that I didn’t have the opportunity to know her better, but I’m glad that I could take part in her funeral to support her family and close friends.

I find the Episcopal funeral service to be quite moving, and this was probably the most moving one I’ve ever been to.  Paris Coffey, our rector, gave a perfect eulogy, and the whole service was a wonderful tribute to her life.

During the preparation of the table, Kathleen O’Connor and I sang “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”, written by Thomas A. Dorsey (not to be confused with Tommy Dorsey) accompanied by David Anderson, the music director of Ascension Church, Oak Park.  I had mixed feelings about taping it, but Kathleen and I don’t sing duets very often, so I decided to capture it.  For those who are interested, here’s the link:

I don’t have any wise words, or observations about any of it other than that.  There are no wise words. Just a tremendous sadness for the family she left behind, mixed with gratitude for the wonderful church family of which I am a part, and which provides tremendous support for me and my family when we need it, and for others who need it too.

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Of course, things were different then

I often hear people reminiscing wistfully about childhood adventures.  They usually involve risk and independence and freedom. “I remember when I was 8 and my mom put me on the bus to go visit my grandma.” “I remember when I was 7 and I camped in my friend’s backyard without our parents and we stayed up all night telling ghost stories.” “I remember how every day of the summer we left in the morning and came in for lunch and went outside again until dinner and then went outside until our moms said we had to come in for bed.”  And then, invariably, they say, “Of course, things were different then.” And I want to say, “Were they? Were they really different then?” (Sometimes I do say it, but it usually ends with the other person being offended, so I’m trying to keep my mouth shut and not challenge people so much.)

I don’t want to minimize the pain and suffering of people whose children have been abducted by strangers.  It is a horrible, horrible thing. But the fact is that stranger abduction is extremely rare. And I don’t think it happens anymore frequently now than it did when we were kids. I just think we hear about every horrible, sad, scary stranger abduction now, and each incident wasn’t  plastered all over the media when we were kids.

I just don’t believe that there are people hiding behind trees waiting to snatch my child away. And I feel sorry for the kids whose moms see the world that way.  I just don’t think the world is more dangerous now than it used to be, at least in terms of stranger danger.  There are two potential implications of this, of course: 1) Our parents were out of their minds to let us have so much freedom, because they didn’t understand how dangerous the world was; or 2) We are doing our children a disservice by not allowing them more freedom.  I understand the position of people who believe the former, but I believe the latter.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t let my children (5 and 3) play outside unsupervised. Much.  (Except when they open the door and go outside when I’m in the kitchen.  Even though I’ve told them a million times not to do that.) But it’s not because I’m afraid they’re going to be snatched away. It’s because Margaret will snatch other children’s toys away. And because they’re still forgetful and run into the street. (Which they do anyway when I look away for a split second.)

But when they are a bit older, I will let them play outside unsupervised. And walk to school without me. (I don’t know at what age, but I’ll know it when I see it.) I don’t want them to see the world as a scary place. I want them to explore the world. And find things to do. And negotiate disagreements with other people without an adult to intervene. And once they turn 13, I’ll let David and Margaret ride the el without me, as I did with Emma. (David will probably be clinging to my leg begging me not to make him go on the el by himself.)

Until they scrape a knee. Then they’re back to 24/7 supervision.

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An Evening Prayer

cross

I’m afraid that I don’t have anything amusing or funny to say today. I’m just not feeling it. So if you want a laugh, it’s probably best to read something else.

One of the reasons that I love being an Episcopalian is that I love the Book of  Common Prayer.  (Actually, I know many people who aren’t Episcpalian who love the Book of Common Prayer. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend getting a copy.)  I find the poetry and rhythm of the liturgies and the prayers to be comforting and uplifting. One of my favorite prayers is said at Compline (the Episcopalian name for “evening prayer service.”)  I’m not sure why, but it always makes me weep:

“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ;  give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.”

That pretty much includes everyone, in one form or another (even the joyous).

And especially for those who mourn, and for those who comfort them, I pray that you will find solace and strength in these next few days, and in the weeks and months and years to come. 

Amen.

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Happy Mother’s Day

Today, we have a guest-blogger: my neighbor and good friend, Pegeen Reichert-Powell, who also happens to be a very talented writer. She sent me this Mother’s Day “letter from her children”, and I asked if I could post it.

Dear Mama,

Thank you for always being there for me (except those times when I 
want to go to the park, but you absolutely have to get your nails done 
that afternoon).
Thank you for always being  my number one fan (except for that time 
you told me I’ll never be a professional football player, because I’m 
too little).
Thank you for always making me feel better when I’m hurt (except for 
those times when you’re drinking wine with your friends and you tell 
me that there isn’t enough blood to warrant a trip inside to get a 
bandaid).
Thank you for always taking care of me when I’m sick (except for those 
times you dose me up with children’s tylenol and send me to school).
Thank you for always having homemade cookies when I come home from 
school (except that you never do).
Thank you for always helping me with my homework (except for that one 
project that you could NOT stand to do, because it was too hard and 
you were mad at the teacher for assigning it, so you made Granddaddy 
do it for you).
Thank you for feeding me (frozen pizza again and again)
Thank you for clothing me (in clothes that are too small, because you 
haven’t had a chance to go through last year’s clothes).
Thank you for tucking me in at night (my favorite times are when 
you’re more tired than I am and you say “We can say two prayers 
tomorrow night.”)
Thank you for teaching me respect (like that time you crumpled up my 
favorite paper airplane right in front of my face because I wasn’t 
doing exactly what you told me to do.)
Thank you for being the greatest mom in the world (except that it’s 
impossible).

Love, Charlie and Elizabeth

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers (and mothers-to-be) out there. And thank you Pegeen, for the letter.

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