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Posts tagged ‘play dates’

An Open Apology To My Eldest Daughter

There is a sweet little drawing of a smiling face scribbled on the wall next to my bed. The artist is my youngest child when she was about three years old. At the time I calmly told her that walls are not for drawing, and then complimented her on her artwork.  I left her original graffiti there on my wall because it is beautiful, and because it reminds me of the lessons I’ve learned since being a new mother of one child, to a seasoned mother of five children–a span of 19 years between the oldest and youngest.

When my oldest daughter first drew on a wall, first cut her own hair, first filled the toilet with non-toilet items, first lied to me, I did not yet know that all children do these things (or some facsimile). I did not realize then, as I do now, it’s part of growing up; of curiosity, testing, exploring, imitating or avoiding. I was harder on her because I was young and didn’t know better. Her actions were not personal, but in my own immaturity as a parent I perceived them as direct affronts. I would overreact and make a big deal out of ‘bad’ behavior by shaming or lecturing her at length for what I perceived as big infractions. By the second, third, fourth and now fifth child I know better as a mother. I don’t claim to know best, it’s just that I know better the mother I choose to be.

As I sat on the edge of my bed looking at the smiling graffiti, I was thinking how much I wished I could change the parent I sometimes was to my oldest child. Then the phone rang and there she was, on the other end of the line.

I shared with her all I had been thinking about. I told her I was sorry that when I was raising her I wasn’t as calm or as mature or as wise as I am now. I told her I wished I could talk to the mother I was then and tell myself all that I have learned so I could do better. I apologized. She laughed and acknowledged having to “pave the way” for her siblings and she told me I was forgiven. In turn she apologized to me for her teen years. We laughed together about pay-back. I loved her for the grace of absolution she blessed me with so easily.

I can’t go back in time and give myself the wisdom of mothering that I have now, but I can share it with you. (Lucky you!)
First: It’s not always about us. Our children are growing, stretching, testing. We can love, guide, offer reasonable consequences and did I mention; love, love, love them? But there is no need to bully, shame or just generally freak-out. Second: If we do freak-out or overreact (because we all do) it’s okay to forgive ourselves and do better when we know better. Third: It’s less okay when we know better, and we don’t do better. That’s when we rationalize, make excuses for ourselves or place the blame on our children for how we choose to react. We’ve all been there, let’s just choose not to live there.

My oldest and me on her wedding day!

My oldest and me on her wedding day!

And lastly: There is great courage and love in risking vulnerability and humility. There is no shame in admitting fault. Fallibility is an inherent quality of the human condition, especially in parenting. Instead of defending our less flattering behavior to suit our need to see ourselves in a better light, admitting our mistakes as parents is important in validating what our children experience, of honoring their truth.

A close friend said to me after I told her this story, “Do you know how many adults would love to hear; ‘I’m sorry,’ from a parent? It would heal so much for them.”

Wise words from another seasoned mother.

Mammaste~
There is so much divinity in the everyday.

Play-Dates. From Benign Neglect to Manic Management–Longing for a Middle Ground

The reasons my mother didn’t have nice things.

Not long ago I asked Connie, the woman with whom I have been in a serious “play-date” relationship for a couple of years, if she had any regular play-dates yet for her three-year old son. Sighing, she said, “It’s really about seeing if you get along with the other mother, and seriously, I’m just tired of auditioning.”

With Connie I’ve scored that perfect hat-trick in the play-date game. Our daughters like each other, we live only houses apart and Connie and I are now good friends. This is only my second serious play-date relationship in the course of raising five children. My previous steady and I lasted almost 10 years until she and her husband divorced and he got custody of our family.

In my current relationship with Connie I have, as one does in long-term relationships, become complacent. I have not seriously pursued other play-dates for my very extroverted fifth child, Harper. Recently I discovered Harper with her kindergarten directory on her lap, serial calling every child in her class.

What she was doing, I realized, was the modern-day equivalent of running from house to house to scare up some activity. Something every kid in my neighborhood used to do growing up in 1960’s suburbia. It was an era where children navigated the social scene without parental buffers. Long summer days were spent getting a street-smart education on how to roll with the shifting alliances of elementary school-age politics.

The only consistent parental involvement happened around dusk. Moms (with a vague awareness of the whereabouts of their offspring throughout the day) would hang out front doors backlit by the flickering blue light of the television and call their kids home. Yodeling names–oldest to youngest, holding the vowels like opera singers, or, if there had been no response after the first call, a father’s booming bass that meant business. The most devastating call, however, was the two fingered whistle from the house of the Catholic family. Whole packs of siblings’ heads would suddenly tilt like prairie dogs and half your team would run home. Game over.

I realize I am romanticizing what might have been borderline neglect, but the swing to manic management of our children’s social calendars has me longing for that place where the pendulum swings to a comfortable center between the two.

Mammaste.

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