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Entries in birthdays (3)

Tuesday
Aug212012

Parenthood: 7 Myths I've Let Go of on My Seventh Anniversary

Carriage Ride through Downtown Memphis: Happy Seventh Birthday to My PrincessYesterday was my seventh anniversary as a parent.

I was thirty when I became a mother. Thirty years old is that age where you know a lot of stuff. You're your own person. You know how the world works. You know the rules.

When I first met Tariq at nineteen, I told him I wanted to send my children to boarding school. I know. I KNOW.

My reason was that boarding school was prestigious. Also, it would make my children stronger and "networked". Shut up. I think I was coming out of of a period of time where I read a lot of early twentieth century English literature.

When I became a parent, I became the poster parent for attachment parenting, though. We co-slept, I nursed, no television before two, no stroller, baby sling only, no fast food before three, constant attention... preschool didn't start until four and that, too, because there was a new baby and I was really, really tired.

Prior to preschool, I couldn't leave my daughter with anyone besides my mother for more than a day, so, needless to say, boarding school was out.

Look, becoming a first time mother was absolutely incredible.

I was proud of myself. Within a few weeks of parenthood, I had been flexible enough to understand that there is a distinctness between the idea of how I envisioned parenthood and how I actually practiced parenthood. Some things, you have to do to know what you really think they're all about. This is absolutely applicable to someone not having children and being 36. I have no idea what that's like. I have very clear ideas of what I think that should be like. It involves Paris, Italy and Spain, waiting tables for food money but spending it on incredibly beautiful shoes instead.

Being a parent constantly pushes at my notions of the ideal parent-child relationship. I've come to realize that the most tension between children and their parents (even into adulthood) occurs as a result of someone clinging too tightly to the ideal and not making peace with the real. 

When my daughter was born, I thought it was my job to teach her about reality. The same was true for my son. I have come to realize, of course, that we teach each other. We have been placed in one another's lives for a reason and that, as it is in all things, there is a balance of what we can offer to one another. Some days, I nurture my children and teach them value of love and respect. More often than not, though, they teach me those things and so much more. Like, nothing... and I mean, nothing, gets purple permanent markers out of a cream colored sofa. 

1. When I became a mother, I thought it was my job to make sure my children were good, decent, people who were kind and compassionate. I now know that children are born kind, compassionate, good, wise and decent. They stay that way when I treat them that way. The trick is to be what you expect from others. Want nice? Be nice.

2. As a new mother, I thought that I had to do everything in my power to protect my children from any and all harm. I have learned that it is inevitable that my children will come to harm. Something bad will happen to them one day. I can be wary, I can be wise, but I cannot protect them forever. I can only remind them that they are powerful enough to survive harm and that when they feel they aren't -- I will hold them up. I will be there. I can spend my time constantly watching our backs or I can spend my time feeling the joy of being together. I can't do both.

3. I once thought that children are a reflection of their parent's behavior, values and actions. I think parents can exert great influence over their children's actions and choices to an extent. I beleive that my children's actions are a reflection of how they perceive my integrity, though. If I want them to emulate my behavior, I must make sure that my behavior is grounded in good intention, well thought out values and integrity. I also must ensure that I never expect from my children more than I expect of myself.

4. Children are the charges of their parents. I have learned that you are in charge of you. I am in charge of me. Our connection is not based on power or hierarchy, but upon mutual respect and trust. Children aren't different. In an ideal scenario, I trust that that my child will do the right thing when presented with the facts, and my child will trust that I am telling them the truth when I present them with what I believe is the truth. I may not be correct, but I am doing my best to be so. That matters more. The greatest punishment either one of us can undergo is to feel that we have lost the trust of the person we love.. even if for a moment. 

5. I used to believe that children crave discipline and consequences the way I crave a McFlurry on a 100F Memphis afternoon. Actually, children crave respect. It's not consequences that they need to thrive and grow, it's accountability. It's the knowledge that they matter, that what they do matters and when they don't do what they're supposed to do -- like any valuable member of a community -- everyone feels the consequences of that. Showing someone that what they do matters is respect. People who feel respected require little discipline from others.

6. The Chimpmunks are horrible and will completely destroy any hope that my child has good taste in music. I still think this might be true. Children will like what children like. We can fight it or we can try to see the value in what they like. Maybe if we do that, they'll make an effort to like what we like. I plan on trying to pitch Bob Dylan as an antidote to the Chipette's version of Bad Romance. Pray for me.

7. Parenthood is full of crazy opportunities to be sarcastic and funny about our kids. But I will not do this to their faces or in their hearing ranges one day longer. This is difficult. So.difficult. Because I'm horribly sarcastic. The thing is, I don't ever want my children to be someone's punchline. I don't want the responsibility of teaching them that it's okay for someone to make them a punchline. They're not punchlines to anyone's jokes. They are my most incredible treasures. Addendum: if you and me are on the phone and they can't hear us? I'm totally making fun of them.

 

What about you? Are there any myths you've had to let go of when it comes to children?

 

 

Sunday
Aug122012

Happy Birthday to You... And Just You.

"I can't believe I'm never going to be two again!" he says. 

It's said with an angst reserved only for middle aged existentialists who've come upon the realization that life is fleeting and we're all going to, gulp, die. But this boy is only three today, and this is why friends of mine refer to him as "the evil genius."With the girl, it's all sensitive, morose observations sprinkled with feathery head bands and ruffled skirts.

The boy, though, he's all passion, intensity and drama. This is great, except the combination of intellect and uncontrolled passion often results in island lairs guarded by sharks with laser beams attached to their heads. I know intimately the drawbacks of this situation. For example, the real estate market for unloading an evil lair is incredibly bad this year. I blame the peace loving nonsense propaganda disseminated by seemingly benign entities like the Olympics or the people who post cute kitten videos on YouTube.

Evil just isn't as sexy as it used to be.

I have this habit of calling my kids "baby." It was a cute habit, but now it's a bad one, I think. Because they're not babies. You shouldn't call people who are not babies that unless they're Jennifer Grey or you're advertising Virginia Slims.

It's Tariq's birthday, too. Unlike the passionate reaction of his son, Tariq stands quietly in the background also absorbing the fact that his son is no longer two years old and never will be again.

His face reveals more than that, though. Maybe he's realizing that he, too, will never again be the age he was yesterday. Does this happen to everyone? I find that I tend to focus on the complex so much that the simple things like "you'll never cross the same river twice" escape me. Or rather I just forget about them until I'm suddenly jolted back into the reality of the simple.

There's a  symbolism of this shared birthday between my son and my husband.

All of his life, August 12th was Tariq's birthday. Today, he is a neatly wrapped, understated, high quality laptop backpack sitting quietly in the corner observing wildly arranged boxes containing Lincoln Logs, Hot Wheels, Tinker Toys and Lightning McQueen inspired merchandise. He, being the lovely man he is, has graciously deferred to this changing of the tide.

Like we all tend to do when it comes to the children. 

Whether in blogging or literature, there's much emphasis on the relegation of a mother's needs and the shifting of emphasis on the children't wants, needs and desires. I seldom consider the adjustments that the fathers in our lives have to make. Great dads give up just as much as great moms. We shouldn't forget that. I shouldn't forget that.

I want to grab my husband and tell him that he is still so important. That without him, there would be none of this. I want to remind him that I promise that in honoring the boy, I am also honoring him. My dear friend and husband doesn't require this, of course, but that doesn't mean it doesn't need to be said.

I love these kids, Tariq, but nothing will ever change the fact that you were loved first. 

Today, on your birthday, I want you to remember that while you sit gracefully in the background and let your boy have the fun, that I see you

I appreciate you. 

I am so very glad that you were born. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.

I have had the honor of watching you celebrate the past sixteen birthdays  of your life and, though I'm stunned that it's even possible -- you become a better man every single year.

August 12th is my son's birthday.

But it was my husband's birthday first.

I want him to remember that I know that and I still honor that.

Monday
Jan092012

Lyrical Life: Happy Birthday to Me

I know I just did one of these on Friday, but, hey it's my birthday!

Your gift can be to indulge me in another Lyrical Life post.

Oh, really, darlings?! You shouldn't have.

I don't feel much older than last year.

Youth means different things to people. It may be a matter of convenience that I've redefined my own idea of "youth" as I've aged, but the word means something different to me now that I'm older.

It means being open to ideas and to holding on to your hope.  It's retaining a little bit of idealism despite having seen some jacked up stuff go down in this thing we call life. It's also holding on to happiness, passion, and laughter.

It's that place where fear still lives, but it's in the trunk of the car pressed underneath a 50 pack of diapers and pillow pets.  Young is that feeling you get as you sit with your best friend on the hood of your car at a rest stop somewhere on the way from Memphis to New Orleans, eating Doritos, drinking a Diet Coke and making jokes about potentially being the inspiration for Mississippi Burning II.

It's about being unafraid to... well, to just be you no matter what.

We all start off that way: being okay with being us and not knowing how to be any different. Getting "old" takes that away from us.

In this sense, we don't have to get old.  We can stay young forever.

For my birthday, as a gift from you, I would like you to be able to draw upon on the love and beauty in your surroundings and find the energy you need to fight the idea that you should be something other than what you are.




Do you think if I squeeze her hard enough, she'll just STAY this age?

Too tough to take photos with mom. It's a phase. Right?

Tariq and Nuha catching snowflakes in Niagra Falls (Canada). He's totally going to kill me for posting this. It was nice knowing you.




Fear not when, fear not why,
Fear not much while we're alive,
Life is for living, not living uptight,
See ya somewhere up in the sky,
Fear not die, I’ll be alive for a million years, bye bye,
So not for legends, I’m forever young
My name shall survive
Through the darkest blocks, over kitchen stoves
...
With a little ambition just what we can become here,
And as the father passed his story down to his son's ears,
Younger kid, younger every year, yeah
So if you love me baby this is how you let me know.
Don’t ever let me go, that's how you let me know, baby


(Forever young, I want to be forever young, do you really want to live forever, forever)

-- "Young Forever," Jay Z featuring Mr. Hudson