Friday, April 29, 2011

Surprised by a Well-Known Reality

We've lived in our present city for eight years.  It's very urban, and very depressed.  It was once a pleasant family neighborhood, but now it's somewhat dangerous.  When visitors come, they look at our little block and exclaim at what a nice place it is.  Actually, two blocks down are several boarded-up crack houses.  Two blocks in another direction bring you to the site of a summertime gang murder.  Two blocks up is the home of friends of ours in their eighties, recent victims of a robbery and attempted rape.

When we moved here, Teen and Tween were much younger.  Tween was barely out of toddlerhood, and Teen was a little grammar school age girl.  I spent a lot of time wishing we didn't live here, and more time dreaming of moving back.  It took years to reconcile myself to the fact that we were here to stay.  The remaining time has been spent in making my place here.

It never occurred to me that  my kids were growing up here, though.  Teen remembers our old home, but only faintly.  Tween says he remembers, but his "memories" are mixed up stories that he's heard us tell over the years.  Toddler, of course, has no recollection of our home from eight years ago.

In my mind, my kids grew up in a quiet, rural area of dairy farms and corn crops.  They ran free in a big back yard with woods and trails, geese and deer.  They enjoyed nights of bright stars and crickets.  My mind tells me that I have country children who have been transplanted temporarily to the city.

The reality is different, of course.  Actually, my kids have spent most of their lives in the city.  They are city kids who had a brief, early stint in the country.

Some of you are probably thinking that it's about time I realized this.  I've watched them grow up, after all.  I've raised them to be careful:  Don't answer the door or the phone unless you're expecting a visitor or a call.  Come inside when people you don't know approach the house.  After a brick was thrown through our front window, we bought special glass and rehearsed emergency procedures.  When gangs roam the streets in the summer, we lock the doors and windows and turn on fans so the kids won't overhear.

Maybe the reality was too far from my dream for them, and I overlooked what was happening in front of my eyes.

I tell them all the time that God's plan for them is not always evident, but that He knows what He's doing.  I tell them that hard things make strong people, and that if they are unjustly treated, they can take their complaint directly to Him and He will make it right.  And that right doesn't always look right to us, but that is what trust is.  I know that all these things are true.  I have to admit, though, that it's easier to live them for myself than to watch my kids live them.

Monday, April 25, 2011

I Want To Be A Dad

It was raining when I picked up my daughter from school this afternoon.  Her high school shares its building with a Head Start program.  We arrived early, just as many of the Head Start kids were dismissed.  One by one, big burly fathers appeared at the door.  From my observations, dads don't talk much.  They come, pick up their kids, and go.  One carried an adorable pink backpack and raced his little girl through the rain.  Her ruffled coat flapped open as she ran to the car, where he opened her door for her and tossed the pack onto the seat.  Another dad stomped through the rain while sharing an umbrella with his son, who took no notice of the umbrella at all.  He was all about the puddles.

A few moms came, too.  The scenes look very different when a mom leaves the building.  She's got her son's hand firmly gripped in her own - safety first, you know.  Her child carries his own backpack and his coat is safely zipped up to his throat.  She looks busy and purposeful, as does the child she escorts.  She has a lot to say as they walk: Did you eat all your lunch?  Do you have your homework in your bag?  Don't get your shoes wet!

At our home, Mom oversees schoolwork and chores.  Bedtime and wake time are regulated by Mom, as well.  Dad is in charge of entertaining the kids while dinner is being made and cleaned up.  While this job is primarily focused on the Toddler, his influence quickly spills over to the Tween and Teen, as well.  Dad is the Wii master, the about-to-be-defeated Undefeated Wrestling Champion, the silly-voiced narrator.  When Mom announces bedtime, three voices rise in dissent:  Teen's, Tween's, and Dad's.  I don't complain about the lack of help in the kitchen.  Dad has a very stressful job and needs the evening to detox and regroup.  I enjoy training the kids and running the home (to an extent).  But I envy the liberty.  It would be nice to be seen as the playful parent, and not the insistent one, now and then.

Every once in a while, I'd like to be the dad.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ack! I want to write...

but I am crazy busy!

Real life is eating up my online time.  I know that genuine, touchable people are the more important thing, but this has become the Me Time that everyone says is so vital to a soul's survival, and I very much enjoy it.

I shall return!

Monday, April 11, 2011


Happy one month of blogging to me!

In celebration. I wrote two new posts.  This one makes three.  But, as usual, I did not publish either of the other two.  They're still in the manufacturing process.  Chances are good that, at publication, they will not even closely resemble the posts they are now.

That's an interesting thing about blogging.  It refines my writing style, and by extension my thinking style.  I mentioned before that I use a thesaurus fairly frequently.  I also have to write out all of my thoughts, then sift through them for irrelevancies.  I then boil them down to the basics because I tend to go on a little (or a lot) too long.  Once I even ended up with two posts instead of one.

After only a month, however, I find myself resorting to the thesaurus less frequently.  It's also easier to spot a bunny trail before I've typed the entire thing out.

Hopefully this will translate itself into my day-to-day living.  I've found that my online forum life has changed my real-life conversation and comportment for the better, making me more expressive and compassionate.  It would be nice to be articulate and relevant in person, as well!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Toddlers are interesting people.  When they are babies, we watch all their whimsical ways and put thoughts in their heads to match what their gestures seem to be saying.  We assign them all sorts of virtues.  We just know those chubby little cheeks hide the wisdom of the ages.  That little fist waving is a comical retort.  Every quizzical look is scientific inquiry.

Once they start to talk and walk, though, the truth becomes unfortunately evident.  Cute?  Undoubtedly.  Loving?  Selfish, really.  Smart?  Maybe a little, but mostly selfish.  Amusing?  Yes, in a selfish way.  My toddler is no different.  Smart as a whip and cute as a button, but into her own thing.  She's not one to let you wonder what she's thinking - her limited verbal skills are always at the ready to point out exactly what is on her mind.  "Bagel!"  "Toy!  Doll!"  "I wannit!"  She's not one to say "gimme" when a "pwease" gets her what she wants even faster.  She says something that makes everyone laugh; her eyes shine.  She waits for a pause in the conversation and says it again.  And again.  She laughs and claps at her own jokes.

I really think we all have a little toddler remaining in us.  As mature and civil as we preen ourselves to be, inside is a little someone who won't be satisfied until she gets that cookie, or that awesome pair of heels, or that really spiffy car.  Once in a while, we strut a few steps that say, "notice my fine outfit/hair/nails!  Listen to me and affirm my genius!  Make me the center of your world, just for a moment!"  I think the key is to humor others' toddlerisms now and then while not overextending my own.

Now if I can just keep the two straight!

...and I'd really like a cookie...

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Bear Truth

Tween has a bear.

Booxie has been Tween's companion since he was one and a half.  Booxie is an every-night bear, a find-him-if-he's-missing-no-matter-what bear.  They've been together through thick and thin: secret midnight conferences, under-table "club" meetings, hospitalizations, vacations.  Naturally Tween wanted to share his honored friend with Toddler.  He hoped that his little sister would esteem Booxie with the same reverence that Tween had.  Accordingly, one evening after dinner he cautiously introduced them.

Toddler's response was not quite what Tween expected.  First she drooled on Booxie - drooled!  Imagine the indignation!  Then she ran around the living room, carrying Booxie by his tie like the lump of stuffing he was before he met Tween.  The more Tween chased Toddler to rescue Booxie, the faster Toddler ran (you knew that, of course).  She gave Booxie slobbery kisses, hugged him downside-up, sat on him, tossed him carelessly about.  Tween was outraged.

He gave her Booxie again the next night.

At this point, he says he will not give Booxie to Toddler completely.  After all, Booxie is a very special part of Tween.  Booxie still has confidante duties to fulfill.  You don't hand over your best friend of many years just because someone cute and needy comes along.  And yet, Tween offers Booxie again and again.  It's as if he wants her to love Booxie, but at the same time is afraid she will.


It's been an interesting exchange to watch - this giving and pulling back.  It must be hard to hand one so loved over to someone of undetermined character, who might devalue, or even damage, the one loved.  

I think I understand how Tween feels.  I feel the same way, in fact, about my Teen as she grows and weans herself of our home.  I want all the world to love her, yet I'm afraid they will.  A giving and a pulling back, for sure.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

An Odd Observation

I've noticed that, since I began this blog, my house has been cleaner.

I've also noticed that it's clean on days I blog, but when I haven't written in a few days, my house returns to its usual state of entropy.

There must be something psychological here.  Perhaps I've invited the world into my life, so to speak, and now I feel I must invite you into my living room, as well.  Maybe reading other blogs, which I didn't do often before, has inspired me toward better organization.

More than likely, though, I've had a bad case of mental congestion, as though my mind was stalled in heavy traffic that was going nowhere.  Perhaps releasing some of my thoughts allows the mental traffic to flow easier.

Whatever the cause, I'm sure my husband appreciates the change.  I know I do!  I've long wondered at my inability to keep my home presentable.  Who knew that something many would consider a waste of time would be a solution?