Life Lessons and Laces

This summer has been particularly challenging for my teenage daughter. She spent it working hard on studies to complete freshman year of high school. The most difficult for her was Algebra. Having a mom who is basically a mathematics idiot certainly did not help.

By misfortune that resulted in a positive, her dad was laid off from his job in DC, thus, he was able to spend the last month tutoring her. With advanced degrees in mathematics and physics, he literally is a rocket scientist. Who better to serve as her teacher than dear dad?

In the final countdown of preparing for her last exam, they crammed several chapters into hours of review yesterday. By this point, they had each had enough…enough of math, enough studying, and enough of each other. After fielding a few calls and texts from each of the exasperated duo of teacher and pupil, I was up to my limit as well and let them both know it in not the most gentle way.

Once home and able to observe the lesson firsthand, and all of their mutual frustration about how she was repeatedly skipping steps leading to the wrong solution, a thought struck me. I remembered teaching her to tie her shoes. She refused to wear the kind with Velcro straps or buckles and insisted on laces because she was “a big girl.”  We both repeatedly and with loving care taught her over and over again how to hold the laces in her stubby fingers using sing-songs and cute anecdotes to form a bow. This recalcitrant teenager had once been that precious, little, angel child. This  obstinate father, had once been the guy who spent hours teaching her the simplest of life’s tasks with joy.

Algebra was her new set of velcro-less shoes and without the shiny buckles. With all her strength of spirit, independence, appearance, intelligence, and confidence, we had forgotten in some ways, she is still a little person. Her fingers are less stubby and instead of stickers and marker smears, they are now adorned by metallic blue nail polish.

I reminded her dad that just as he did so gingerly with her five year-old version, he needed to tenderly teach the fifteen year-old version how to tie her laces using equations and polynomials.

Although the years have truly passed so quickly, we somehow lost sight of the  patience we once had with her. No doubt part of this is her constant reminder to us that she’s “a big girl.” I can only imagine that there will be many more of these tutoring lessons as life goes by. In the future, hopefully when she doesn’t tie the laces tight enough and they come untied, or when she ties them without thinking and they end up in knots, we will remember our roles. Then proceed with tolerance, love and probably a few concentrated breathing techniques until her laces form well tied bows.

Mothering

Sitting in the kitchen at Mamaw’s house, listening to her direct my 63 year old mother how to prepare a dish she has oft prepared, helped magnify the reality that regardless of the age of your children, you will always be their mother. In her 89 years on this earth, my grandmother, or Mamaw as she is lovingly known to her family, has raised eight children. She is surrounded by scores of grandchildren and great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. She has lived now to see four generations brought to life from her life and experience. Imagine the beauty of that?!

As my mom prepared the dish, Mamaw sat at the counter, watching each step. I could hear my mom respond under her breath, much like I did at 15 when my mom stood looking over my shoulder. I love watching her hands at work; hands identical to her mother’s. These are the same hands I see when I look down at my own. Strong hands. Hands that have  accomplished much, worked hard and produced something. Hands that nurture and protect.

Now, as mother to a fourteen year old girl myself, surely there are moments that mirror this exchange; moments of motherly love inevitably passed down through the veins. I watch my girl with anticipation of all her potential being fully realized. I instruct and marvel; words she may exchange for nag and hover.

The truth is, mothers cannot help but to mother. That instinct is born at the first stirring of life in our womb. I still remember  that moment well. After a long day and night, preparing a dinner party for 25, I finally sat down to rest…my four month pregnant belly starting to extend. I felt a little flutter, much like a goldfish swishing around a glass bowl. Joy washed over me, helping me forget my tired feet.  The motherly instinct grew astronomically from that moment on; sometimes completely overwhelming all rationale. The instinct to mother fills our thoughts as we watch our children take their first steps, walk through the school gates, pass the graduation podium, down the aisle, and over the threshhold of motherhood themselves. The instinct to mother keeps us from sleep, steals our breath and drives us to instruct our 63 year old offspring to stir the pot and turn down the heat before it boils over.

I enjoy watching these moments of motherly love between my mom and grandmother. It makes me proud to be from a heritage of strong, genuine, women who hold the future in their hands and faith in their hearts. ❤

  

For My Daughter

In your eyes, I see the future, not in that wispy, fanciful way of others but a calm,
supposed belief that all you know and all you will see melts into one being
so perfectly and completely that it isn’t what may be as much as what will be.
You often have a distant look as if you can see the day after next, skipping past tomorrow.
You retreat into yourself for that is more comfortable and familiar than opening up to others.
Yet in those moments…the few chances you give them to see you,
your wit and charm are realized much more than you or they anticipated.
At times I feel like I have not been your mother as much as an observer-
lucky enough to be there, watching as you grew in knowledge and height.
You never really needed me as much as wanted me by your side, just in case.
Or maybe it was more that you knew I needed to be by your side.
It seems, I never had to convince you that you could
because you were already so confident that you would.
You are beautiful.
You speak with a soul more experienced than your age implies.
Even so, you move forward with caution…
never with the reckless disregard that youth often acts.
You are bright and I respect your intelligence that seems to come so effortlessly.
Just as you are close to the depths of great emotion,

I sense you closing yourself off, hesitantly taking a step back.
I wish for you to touch the sky, swim in every sea,
breathe from thin mountain air and explore underground tunnels.
I wish for you to know love…to be loved and give love…
so much so that oxygen feels removed from your lungs when your lover is gone.
Not because I wish for you pain, but I wish for you understanding.
I wish for you to never fear the night and always cherish morning light.
I wish for you to allow yourself to feel the world around you, deeply-
to comprehend compassion as much as scientific reasoning.
I wish for you to never doubt the unmistakable, incredible being that is
the sensational, fantastic, brilliant- You.

Wherever you may go, whether near or far,

whatever you touch, create or live through,

I will be with you, in love and in spirit.

maddiepark

Parenting. Doing it right, at least for today.

mommynmaddieThere are numerous books on parenting; entire sections of Barnes and Noble dedicated to it, monthly publications focused on it’s techniques. There are many women’s magazines that share silly anecdotes and websites devoted to  “you’re doing it wrong/right” pictures. Funny stuff.

The quote about parenting that has most resonated with me was said by the incomparable Frank Zappa. “The first thing you have to do if you want to raise nice kids, is you have to talk to them like they are people instead of talking to them like they’re property.” I actually choose not to read most magazines and books about parenting. After moving beyond the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” phase, I chose to parent naturally. What can a book tell me about my child that listening and spending time with her does not? She is exactly the girl I have raised her to be, or more like allowed her to become. She is snarky, smart, sarcastic, clever, creative, beautiful and lovely in all her introverted fabulousness.

Truth be told, I have made and will continue to make mistakes…as a person, a woman, a daughter, a sister, and yes- as a mother. I am imperfect. Shock. I know. So instead of feeling like a complete moron, I choose to embrace it! Apologize when necessary. Learn from it. Move on and let go. Celebrate life and those moments that are as close to perfection as we can have here on Earth. Fortunately those moments happen often enough that it keeps one encouraged and not so often that I get spoiled. One such fantastic moment of parenting perfection happened yesterday.

The night before I was discussing with my 13 year old girl, the importance of her life skills education. I told her that she will be required to take more responsibility around the house (chores), for herself and her belongings. She will start helping me prepare dinner and complete tasks so she can learn. The goal being to prepare her for life on her own.  It is true that I do a lot for her that she could do for herself…not because she isn’t capable but because I enjoy taking care of her. However a few years from now she will be off at college. She will not have me to take care of things on her behalf so because I love her and her happiness is important, I need to step it up! Life Skills 201 has begun! She scoffed at the thought. If I listened hard enough, I’m sure there was even a snort hidden in her scoff. The look on her face was an “AS IF!” in perfect Cher Horowitz’ fashion.

Then it happened. That moment of near perfection. When I awoke the next morning, I could hear sounds of her from the front rooms. Walking down the hall as silently as I could, peeking around the corner I observed her stacking DVDs on a shelf. The shelf was not where it once was. She said, “Hi Mom. Go have a look at the living room.” The living room had been cleaned, dusted…including the ceiling fan. Exclamation point! She then pointed at the built in desk which prior to the “it” moment, had been a hodgepodge of mail and other items. However now neatly on display was her 27 inch all in one desktop with a cute Wizard of Oz background and a sticky note pinned to the top right corner.

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She is exactly the girl I have raised her to be. I would not expect anything less. As if! ❤