I lose track these days of how you grow
how tall you seem
Our closeness blinds me to changes
I call inner
has images of you
no photograph captured
and your youth in this world
fools me into thinking
I can remember
in twenty years
the occasion will come
when real photos
into that future
will make me weep
for this now
so long gone
no longer there
in my memory
I lose track these days of how you grow
"The U.K. Government has ruled out a complete ban on smacking after conducting a review into the practice which found that most parents would oppose such a move." The Telegraph 10.25.07
As a child, my mother was disciplined strictly. In her growing up years, as one of five children, there was little time for play, less time for indulgences and punishment for bad behavior was swift and harsh. Of the little that I know about how she used to be corporally punished, I can still manage to wince in sympathy for the child she was.
It was inevitable then, that my sister and I would grow up exposed to her inherited methods of discipline. By this generation's standards, they might be considered at best archaic and at worst, barbaric. In my time, my mother was viewed by her peers as a strict disciplinarian who allowed her two daughters very little slack and expected much more from them than other parents with children of comparable age did of theirs. I distinctly remember one of her lady friends telling her that we would end up hating her if she continued in her established course.
This was my mother's course: She was a firm believer in warnings. We would be warned repeatedly. A time-line to stop or start a behavior was clearly outlined by her and only when faced with our non-compliance, would she follow through unwavering in her determination to punish us. Afterwards, there was resentment on our part but never a feeling that she was gratuitously punishing us. My mother did not get a kick from exacting corporal punishment and, even as a child, I could sense that how she acted, was based on her belief that it was for our own best interests. Her policy was to preempt further punishment by making a first one so scathing, that we would never wish to incur it again. For my sister and I, this approach worked.
We were always so aware of our mother's inhuman ability to catch us when we were misbehaving that fear of her reaction, kept us on the straight and narrow path when otherwise we might have strayed more. This in no way cowed our childhood spirits, we were just more cognizant of the possible consequences of our actions, naughty or otherwise.
I hope you haven't gotten a wrong impression of my mother. Her stern side was balanced by the kind of unfathomable love that I still think myself incapable of replicating with my son and you can have no idea of how I love my child. She was both loving and strict and these two facets had qualities of extremeness in them. That is how it was.
In the years since my childhood, she has mellowed considerably. The doting grandmother she is today has little in common with the mother of my childhood. My son can get away with almost anything when he is with her and in her indulgence and love she will shield him even from me. She has happily relinquished her role as task-master and disciplinarian now that she is one generation removed.
For my part, I hardly ever punish my son corporally. How I discipline him so far, is based completely on his youth, his ability to understand why he is being punished and, my own personal preference to substitute his quiet chair for a spank if possible. That is not to say that I do not believe in spanking when, to my view, it is truly warranted. I will not go into the details of what I consider "spank worth" behavior. Like my mother, I neither enjoy disciplining my son nor the sense of guilt that follows. Nevertheless, from my own punishments growing up I have taken away the following: Being strict and following through on the promise of punishment, though unpopular by today's measure is not always a sign of "child mistreatment". That particular label should only be assigned on a case by case basis. In parenting, I suscribe to the thought that a strict parent can be a loving parent. That direct eye contact with my child coupled with words that are commandingly spoken work more often than one can imagine. That a spank as a last resort can sometimes be enough of a deterrent that my son will think twice about doing something he knows he should not. I am a parent. Parenting is what I am trying to do. I wouldn't want anyone to take that away from me.
Waking up yesterday and today to the terrible news of the fires in California, I cannot help but wonder upon the nature of disasters. Sitting here in Houston, I am looking on my computer at photographs of the damage, and reading stories about the human suffering it has caused.
How sorry I feel for everyone there, for all the homes burned, the memories lost, the agonizing and seemingly futile effort to save what cannot be saved and, for the enormous work the rebuilding will surely entail. I process this all from the safety of my kitchen, where I sit untouched, unhurt, a spectator much like you perhaps, to their tragedy.
This happens to me daily of course. How could it not? I read the newspaper, I turn on the television and listen to the radio. Disasters and tragedy, either brought about by man or naturally occurring, happen everywhere 24/7. I hear about them all the time. I've yet to live through one myself but I have come close enough on two occasions to know some about the fragility of life though mine, so far, has been exceptionally sturdy. It is for this reason that I am keenly aware of how I go about my life's business without major upheavals by the grace of God and sheer luck.
I give thanks that I woke up today with all my loved ones safe and my few, irreplaceable belongings intact. This amazing state of affairs is surely miraculous and words cannot express how I wish those people in California and elsewhere in the world could also say the same.
I was just thinking this morning that I very much look forward to having my son come and find me after he wakes up. Usually, I can anticipate his arrival by the patter of his feet on the floor right before he pops his head through the kitchen door and smiles at the pleasure of finding me in my usual place "there you are!" he'll say in his little piping voice, as if he's been looking for me for ever.
I melt every time. Then comes the hugging and the good morning kisses and, if it wasn't a good morning before, then the goodness starts flowing in. He has that much power my little boy. Days look sunnier after he wakes to them.
My sister always says that I wake up like a Jack in the Box. Basically this means that I open my eyes and, as if I had an inner spring, I bong upright in bed with a smile pasted on my face. I should clarify that this used to be true but no longer. After having my son and due mostly to the perennial lack of sleep, I tend to wake up less bright eyed and spastic. I also try to linger a bit in bed in order not to forgo the brief but lovely cuddle my husband never fails to give before getting up to start his day. He hugs me tight and holds me warmly and I feel so dear and loved that this too, melts me every time.
The same sister I mentioned earlier is not herself a morning person. At home, while we were growing up, we knick-named her often and unflatteringly based on her less than stellar disposition in the mornings. She was little miss vinegar or acid or miss Tasmanian devil or little scrooge depending on our daily preference. She made no excuses for her manner and over time, we learned to give her the space she seemed to need until she was truly ready to embrace the day. Some people decide when it is morning even if daylight calls it differently.
Before becoming a mommy, I was a true tea drinker in the mornings. Tea and a toasted egg sandwich with melted ham and cheese in it. Juice on the side and a bowl of fresh fruit. Now the only thing that determines the official start of my day is coffee. A generous shot of hot milk, two spoonfuls of brown sugar, and enough coffee into the mix that against the white porcelain of my cup it looks just a shade darker than milk chocolate. That's it. Good morning to you too.
Having a second child is something I am determined to do though my reasons for wanting one oscillate daily between absolute conviction on the rightness of such a step and worry about the disruption, albeit a happy one, which would visit our existing Trinity.
I worry a lot about the second child issue because I am getting on in years and I feel a sincere desire to get through a pregnancy now vs. later, if possible. I also worry about it because my toddler is growing older and I would wish his brother or sister to have as minimal an age difference as my husband and I can manage for him. It would help too, I think, if the second child were a boy. I feel strongly that though siblings of different sexes can love each other unconditionally, there is an even stronger bond to be had when they share the same sex for all the reasons you can well imagine. Though, don't get me wrong, I'd be thrilled to have a little girl.
I say disrupt the Trinity because that is what we have right now. My husband, my son and I have weathered the tempests of sleepless nights, impending food regurgitations, unexplainable crying jags (many my own), heart-wrenching colics and first-time air travel. Indeed, we are somehow and miraculously over the many upheavals new parents and their children can suffer.
I have, you could say, achieved a happy plateau of established routines, relative understanding of wishes and desires (as pertain to my son), enjoyment in my role as a stay at home mother, sharing moments with my husband and, a mesmerizing one could say, almost impossibly growing love for my child that exceeds everything I thought it could ever be.
I discover daily the person I am through letting my son be who he is and as my reward for this effort I think I glimpse the future child and he fills me with such wonder! I cannot even express...
In short, we are happy the three of us. Very happy and at peace. We have found our rhythm. Why would I want to shake this up?
I will continue searching for the fourth member of our family because my sister is my best friend and I would hope that my son will be able to call his sibling the same. My sister and I share a history that is populated with the kind of moments an only child could never have enjoyed. With fervor, I wish this same closeness of the heart and blood only siblings can achieve, for my son.
I will try to have another baby because quite frankly, babies are irresistible and everything that is good and wonderful no matter how much work or heartache they might entail along their growth. I long for another child. A smaller, more delicate bundle than the one my son has become. A baby who will look at me with those misty eyes and let me, once more, glimpse another future. The rhythm will come once more. We will be happy from the start, the four of us.
While shopping at Marshall's yesterday, I noticed that all the Christmas decorations had been set out. Seeing all those Santas and ornaments served as a poignant reminder that my year is almost over and that come the new one, I will most likely be filled with an overwhelming, if short-lived desire, to change for the better the existing me amidst a whirly-whirl of resolutions that I invariably forget as fast as I formulate. Some are old standbys: Lose weight, pay more attention to everything, make full stops at the STOP sign, consciously short-circuit some of my nervous ticks. Others are shaped by new developments: Bought some origami paper - make a collage masterpiece (I like collages), got a new cookbook - cook a recipe from it at least once a week, my toddler is growing up - play with him more, watch Disney less.
In between there are of course, the impossibles. An impossible is neither a standby nor a new resolution. Impossibles tend to be the leap year dreams that for some reason we yearn to achieve but truly, in our heart of hearts, believe unattainable. They hang unfinished without firm articulation because they exist only in the nebulous of wishfulness and not, in the grounding of reality: Someday I'll write a book, someday I'll go back to feeling like the old me (this goes beyond losing weight), someday I'll achieve all those things that the me who knew how to dream thought she had all the time in the world to get to. Someday...
You will be happy to know that to a certain degree, and thanks to the Christmas Shopping race of all things, today is someday for me. These words do not constitute a book but they are a published writing. I am putting something of myself out there as flawed as it is and in so doing, I have broken out of the impossible into the real. I now pat myself mentally on the back and make yet another resolution. I will continue to write for me and for you but, mostly for me because, in entering into this pact, I chip away at the mental wall of my laziness and inhibitions. This is me. Here I am. Hello.