Yesterday afternoon someone from Time magazine contacted me about participating in a “conceptual” photo shoot about attachment parenting. They had read some of my posts on the subject and wanted to see if might be able to fly up to New York City with some of my kiddos (my two youngest probably) for a one to two hour photo shoot. The only problem was they were working under a very tight deadline and needed us this coming Monday or Tuesday. As a homeschooling mama, our days are fairly flexible, but next Monday and Tuesday were out of the question for reasons I’m not at liberty to disclose just yet. (It really is a very good reason, so don’t feel too sorry for me!)
I was so bummed. This just seemed like an incredible opportunity to not only spread awareness about extended breastfeeding, babywearing, etc., but it was just plain cool to think about getting paid to go to the Big Apple (a favorite place of mine) and then having some of my family featured on the pages of a glossy.
It felt like one heck of a missed opportunity, but then I talked to my wise dad and he pointed out that the fact that it was kind of crazy that I couldn’t make it happen when usually our days are fairly fluid probably meant I wasn’t supposed to be a part of the photo shoot. “Maybe they would have portrayed you as a freak or your picture would have turned out really bad.”
Seriously, he’s probably right about me accepting that it just wasn’t meant to be. (He almost always is about that kind of stuff.)
The contact at Time asked me to forward her request to any other moms I might know who fit the qualifications she’d listed and so I did. I’m hoping someone I know might be able to seize the opportunity.
I also recognize that I may have not been the best fit. Yes, I mostly practice attachment parenting. Yes, I’m a big proponent of many of the principles of this style of parenting, but my parenting style really has simply evolved from the desires to #1 parent out of love or at least to try to and #2 become the kind of mom God calls me to be by using the tools He has blessed me with to mother my children and by tools I mean breasts, my skin, but also my temperament, my talents, and even my weaknesses. I’d rather follow God’s purpose for me than some parenting ideology.
But. Still. Time magazine. It would have been pretty cool.
The theme for this week seems to be missed opportunities. Our elderly neighbor passed away this week. Every time I look over at his empty house, I’m gripped with sadness tinged with a tad of regret. We were good to him. The girls and I frequently baked him treats. We invited him over for dinner a few times, but he was lonely and I could have done more. I hid behind the busy excuse. I got caught up in my spinning world. I could have paused more, visited more, and now he’s gone. If I could consider rearranging my schedule and disrupting the rhythm of my family life for a photo shoot, then certainly I could have cleared my calendar more frequently to just sit and talk with someone who was lonely. His nurse came by after he’d passed away, and I teared up and told her this. “You can’t do that,” she said. “He loved having you as neighbors.”
I think he did. When Thomas was born, he gave us the most meaningful gift. With wet eyes he handed us a gift bag. I pulled out a bowl with a network of cracks in the bottom. The bowl was old. That’s because it was the very same bowl our neighbor, who was approaching 90, used to eat out of. “I was waiting for the perfect baby to give it to,” he said. I took it with trembling hands. How do you thank someone for a gift like that?
I was always worried about the noise we made, but he seemed to enjoy the children’s squeals (and screeches, too). One rainy afternoon the girls were outside jumping in puddles. The next day he told me he loved looking out his window and seeing kids having old-fashioned fun. “Kids don’t jump in puddles anymore,” he said.
We’ll have to keep on making a splash in rain puddles in his honor.
I’m still processing his death. We knew it was imminent, but it’s still been more difficult for me than I imagined. My husband was the last person to see him (besides medical personnel). He had been at the hospice house for a little over a week, and my husband went a few times just to sit with him. On the evening before he passed away, my husband took him pictures the girls had drawn for him. They were in view when he slipped from this world (his nurse told me she saw them when she went to collect his belongings after he’d died).
His body simply lost the war to old age; his heart was weak and he’d been struggling since Christmas. He’d said he wasn’t afraid of dying, but he was afraid of dying alone. I hope he felt the love from afar. I hope he remembered Dave sitting beside him just listening to his ragged breathing, just being there. I hope he saw my girls’ crayon rainbows and knew that he wouldn’t be forgotten.
On a lighter note, my 3-year-old is constantly making me laugh (and crazy) these days. Recently, she announced, “I have a crush on ME!” Ah, wouldn’t it be nice to be so grounded in self-assurance to have crush on yourself?
Thomas remains the happiest, little guy, but everyone is entitled to a bad day.
So I shared some of the lovely details of Madeline’s First Communion earlier this week. Now for some funny, behind-the-scenes anecdotes.
Father shared a story about a little boy who wet his pants in school and was mortified. Before the rest of the class noticed his soiled pants, one of his classmates tripped and “accidentally” spilled a fish bowl all over the boys pants to hide the fact that he’d wet himself. Father went on to say each of the children were about to be little tabernacles and that they would have many opportunities to reveal God’s love to others – maybe by sticking up for someone or for helping out a classmate.
That night when I was tucking in Madeline, we talked about Father’s story and I mentioned something she had done that day that was kind. Madeline beamed, but then she grew serious.
“Mommy, why was there a fish bowl there?” she asked.
“Well, some classrooms have things like that in them so the children can learn about animals and stuff,” I said.
“It was nice to do that for the little boy, but what about the fish? They were just flapping around thinking, ‘Man, what happened?'”
I chuckled. I believe Father, a Franciscan, would appreciate my daughter’s concern for the hapless fish.
Also, when Madeline was in her room changing from her dress, she told my mom it felt good to have her tights off. “I kept telling my friend they would not stay over my butt.”
“Oh,” my mom said, “What friend?”
“The boy sitting next to me in church.”
I can just imagine the poor boy squirming in his seat having to hear about my daughter’s uncooperative undergarments when he was probably already nervous about making his First Communion.
Since I mentioned attachment parenting above, a dear friend of mine is contributing to a new site that focuses on attachment parenting from the Catholic perspective. (The site is a great source of support and information for parents. Do check it out even if you don’t follow all of the “rules” of AP.)
In my friend’s inaugural post she writes,
Every morning, despite the events or turmoil of the previous day, I greet my children with simple gestures of affection. The form of expression varies from child to child, from one day to the next. The eldest may hear subtle whispers of “good morning” in her ear, while the youngest might be smothered in hugs. My aim is to acknowledge the presence of the individual, genuinely and warmly welcoming each child into the fold. Quite naturally, it allows hearts to soften, opens dialogue, and fosters the hope of a fresh beginning.
I admit I’ve been what we refer to around here as a grumpster on several mornings this week. It’s not entirely my fault. Would you be all smiles if your 3-year-old had gotten into the habit of starting off the day throwing an epic tantrum because you weren’t going to give her mama’s milk right away? It kind of dampens your spirit, especially when she wakes up the baby you just nursed back to sleep. So does trying to revive a limp lump of a 7-year-old who stayed up way too late (again) reading. I never thought I’d have to take away books as a form of punishment, but my oldest continually sneaks in more reading after I’ve told her it’s time to go to bed. She doesn’t need as much sleep as the average kid, but I can tell she’s been tired lately.
Still, I have a responsibility to set the tone in the morning. More hugs. More smiles. As well as some more prayers (and coffee) would probably give us all a better start to our day.
This photo makes me smile. I hope it does the same for you.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Be sure to stop by Jen’s place for more QTs.
Here’s some wisdom I’m keeping close as I embark on my new life living with four kids under 6. The passages are excerpted from The Child Under Six by James L. Hymes, which my wonderful mom-in-law gave me. The book remains one of my all-time favorite parenting books, but it’s sadly out of print.
“The stages of growth so important to a child are not necessarily easy for us. There is a difference between behavior that is developmentally healthy and significant – good for the child – and behavior that is good for us – pleasant to live with. Young children wet. They have to, but wetting is a nuisance. Young children spit up. They have to, but what a nuisance! Young children wake up in the middle of the night. They cry because they cannot talk. They must be carried because they cannot walk. At every age children do what they must do because they are who they are. Their normal behavior does not always check with our convenience.
Sometimes we know why children do what they do. We accept their crying, for example, when we know they are teething. But the times when we know the reason are few compared to those times when we do not. You get no medals for siding with children when the reason for their behavior is obvious. Then the gold glitters – anyone can see it. The real trick to living well with youngsters lies in our willingness to give them a little free reign. Can you go along with them, even when you don’t know why they do what they do, and when their behavior certainly isn’t what we would do at our advanced age?
Living well with children calls for faith as well as facts. You need a conviction that there is a plan to growth and some point to all behavior – the faith that ‘God works in wondrous ways his miracles to perform.’ It is this faith that breeds humility. Our task is not to play God. Our task is not to end those acts that don’t happen to please use, although they please the child very deeply.
We each have our tolerances, peculiar to us, and our special tender spots. Some of us can live with the young children’s noise and activity with never a qualm. Some of us can tolerate the four-year-old’s verbal ‘outrages’ without breaking stride. Some of us are not bothered in the least by the young child’s love of water, mud, and gush. The job we face is to extend our tolerances. We have to learn to take children as they come.”
Rachel, 4, was recently playing quietly alone upstairs in the room she shares with her big sister. My husband and I were downstairs with Mary Elizabeth, 2. Madeline was over at a friend’s house.
After I’d read a few books to Mary Elizabeth, she asked if she could go see Rae.
“Of course,” I said.
“Fight?” she asked.
“I hope not,” I said.
The two of them have been having difficulties getting along lately and to children their age, “conflict resolution” often amounts to yanking toys away, screeching, and crying.
I was hoping for a more peaceful scenario at this given moment.
I heard Mary Elizabeth climb the staircase. Clop, clop, clop. Then immediately came her crying that quickly escalated to her “I’m-really-hurt-help-me!” howling.
My husband and I both ran up to the room. “Rachel pushed me!” Mary Elizabeth cried. My husband and I were quick to admonish Rae for not being nicer to her sister who was now coiled around my legs like a thick vine of kudzu.
It hasn’t only been Mary E. that Rae’s had difficulty playing with lately; we’ve been having issues with her lashing out at each of her sisters when they try to play along with her.
Dave and I have both talked about how it boggles our mind that she’s so quick to push her sisters away, especially since Madeline has always been really good about letting her little sisters enter her inner circle of play. Now no one’s perfect, and Madeline can be a bit of a control freak (I have no idea where she gets that from). I joke with people that she has established an Imaginary Play Congress where she makes all the laws and is sure to let you know if you’re not following them. But she’s always shared well and hasn’t ever been aggressive toward her sisters. (She plays rough sometimes, though, simply because she’s an active, physical child, but if someone gets hurt, it’s never because she purposefully hit or push. It’s probably because she leapt at them out of joy and inadvertently squashed them or was pretending she was a fierce lion stalking an injured wildebeest; that’s how Mary Elizabeth broke her leg, in fact. She tripped while under pursuit and twisted her little leg funny.)
I always saw Madeline’s welcoming nature to her sisters as a virtue, and she certainly does deserve kudos for being nurturing toward the little ones. However, my husband and I both experienced a parental epiphany with Rachel on this day.
We both told her, gently but firmly, that she needed to learn to play better with her younger sister. Our lecture wasn’t long, but its message was clear: You’re expected to always welcome your sisters when they want to play with you.
Rae burst into tears. “I have to see everybody’s faces all the time,” she sobbed. “I never get to just play alone.”