Tag Archives: Child

Fly Away

10423861_10204115088224538_8532248948703564781_n

The plane lifted off the ground and the buildings and cars and trees below quickly became nothing more than small gray smudges against the earth. Clouds soon enveloped the tiny window next to me and unable to see past the foggy haze anymore I sat back, willing myself not to cry.

I had just said goodbye to my daughter who is spending a few months abroad in Europe.

I arrived a week earlier and she met me outside of my hotel where I held her in my arms for an embarrassingly long time, burying my face in her shoulder and drinking in the familiar, delicious scent of her. She proudly showed me around her city: the coffee shops she frequents with friends, the bakery where she gets her morning pastry, the bars with the best sangria.

Despite the relentless rain we had a wonderful week, traveling about, meeting her gracious host family, touring the university, listening to the stories of her adventures in foreign countries, but as happy as I was to see her, somewhere below the surface I kept feeling a slight something; a tremor, a subtle shifting…something had changed and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

So now as I sat there on that plane, the miles between us growing with each passing minute, I thought back to the beginning of this life journey which we had started together so long ago.

I remembered bringing her home for the first time, setting the car seat down in the living room and just sitting and staring at her… I was terrified; filled with fear at the realization that I was now responsible for the very survival of this tiny, helpless creature. Oh, how she needed me and oh, how it frightened me. She needed me to be her sustenance. She needed me to be her voice. She needed me to be her eyes. She needed me in ways I had never been needed before and it was, I thought, too much. But somehow, step-by-step, day-by-day we made it through and slowly, overtime, my confidence grew until I found myself on the other side of the ambivalence, suddenly relishing the fact that she needed me.

She needed me.

How flattering. How empowering. How wonderful.

I was needed.

I thought back to when she needed me to clean off her skinned toddler knees after falling in the park. I thought back to when she needed me to stay by her side as she wobbled down the street on her two-wheeler. I thought back to when she needed me to coax her into the pool, “Come ‘on. Jump! You can do it!”

How she needed me later still to help her navigate the strange changes in her body, the unexpected torment of fluctuating middle school friendships and the confusing new interactions with boys.

Then I thought back to that summer after a particularly bad school year during which a ruthless teenage bully had undone all of my child’s confidence.

I had wiped her tears and told her that this mean girl was no good. That the things she said weren’t true. That it was all just garbage. But no matter how many times I told her that she was beautiful and perfect, I couldn’t fix what was broken. She needed something else.

“It’s called Girls Leadership,” I said, handing her the colorful brochure sporting photos of teenage girls rock climbing and zip lining. “I think it might be good for you.”

She gave it a fleeting glance and handed it back, saying with the sage wisdom of a teenager, “You can call it whatever you want Mom. I know what it is. It’s confidence camp.”

The night before she left we went for a walk on the beach and she cried and begged and pleaded,

“Please don’t make me go.”

How I wanted to say, “You’re right. Forget it. Stay with me. I will make it all better.”

But I didn’t. I couldn’t, because while I wanted to always be the one who could magically kiss away her fears and fix her bad days, ultimately it wasn’t me she needed anymore.

She needed to go. She needed to discover that she would be all right on her own. She needed to climb over those rocks by herself and if she fell, well then she needed to find her own way up.

She needed something more than me.

She needed herself.

So there on that plane, as I thought back through all those years, I finally realized what the unsettled feeling I had been having all week truly was: it was the glorious, beautiful, and bittersweet goodbye of childhood.

Goodbye.

She has done it. She is standing on her own now without me by her side. She is scrambling over those rocks on her own. She will stumble, this is certain, but if I am not there to offer a hand, it’s ok. She will get herself back up, she will clean off her own skinned knee and she will whisper to herself, “Come ‘on. Jump! You can do it.”

March Madness and Three Little Pigs

So we are all into March madness over here, both the basketball kind and the kind brought on by prolonged winter cabin fever.  Lucky for me, Susanna Leonard Hill is sponsoring a March Madness writing contest to help alleviate some of the boredom and restlessness that has settled into my brain. This one requires a 400 word max fractured Fairy Tale. thIt’s all just for fun (and a few great prizes) so give it a try, you just might get hooked!

http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-march-madness-writing-contest-is.html

Inspired by almost-true events:

Go outside Three Little Pigs!! 

Once upon a time there were three little pigs.

Three little, lazy pigs that just sat around all day and did nothing but play video games.

Until, one sunny day when Mama Pig decided she couldn’t take it anymore.

“That’s it!” She said, pointing to the door. “I have had enough! Go. Out. SIDE!”

“What?” said the First Pig.

“You want us to go out… there?” said the Second Pig.

“But, there’s never anything to do outside.” complained the Third Pig.

Mama Pig threw open the door.

“Have an adventure! Use your imagination! Just go outside, NOW!”

So the three miserable, lazy pigs went outside.

“It’s sooo hot out here,” moaned the First Pig.

“I’m sooo bored,” whined the Second

“I miss my video games,” cried the Third.

A dark shadow crept slowly along the fence.

“Little pig, little pigs, let me in,” whispered a deep, gravely voice.

“The wolf! Mom! Mom!” The three pigs banged on the door.

“Go away,” said Mama Pig from inside the house.

The three pigs stared at one another.

“Quick!” said Pig Number One. “To the straw pile!”

The three pigs ran across the lawn and burrowed their way into the middle of the straw.

“Ha!” laughed the Wolf. “Do you really think that measly house made of hay is going to keep me away? I am going to huff and puff…”

The three pigs dug as fast as they could through the back of the straw pile.

“To the tree house!” yelled the Second Pig.

The three pigs clambered up the ladder to the tree house and slammed the door shut.

Snap!

A branch snapped, and then another, and another.

Snap!
Snap!

Suddenly through the wall came the wolf’s furry head, his red, beady eyes and his pointed teeth.

“Really, a house made of sticks?” He snarled.

The three pigs quickly threw themselves out of the treehouse, landing one by one with a thud on the dirt below.

“Over there! Behind that brick wall!” yelled Pig Number Three.

The three pigs scampered behind the wall but they knew it was no use;

sharp claws soon crept over the rocks…

“Help! We’re doomed!” They cried.

“Pigs! Oh, Pigs, time for din-ner!” Yelled Mama Pig.

“Awww, already?” said Pig Number One.

“That was way more fun that video games!” Said Pig Number Two

“Sure was.” Said Pig Number Three. “See you tomorrow Wolf?

“See you tomorrow Pigs.”

Does She Know?

November is National Adoption month. 
Does She Know?
Last week I was at a function with my family when an older woman came over and asked about my children.  She knew one of my daughters is adopted and quietly whispered into my ear, “Does she know?”  I didn’t think she was being rude, just curious. She is from a different generation and culture than me. A time and place where children often weren’t told they were adopted, and parent were even encouraged not to tell, not to talk about it. Secrets.
 
I nodded and whispered back, “Yes, she does.” The old woman smiled and patted me on the shoulder, “It’s better that way, don’t you think?” Then she walked away.
Secrets…perhaps she has her own.
 
I sat there for a while after she left and looked at my young daughter, mulling over the question in my head, does she know?
Does she know?  Yes, she knows she’s adopted. She will tell you, if it comes up, “I am adopted.” We have conversations about adoption, have read a few books that explain what adoption is, and many nights as we lay together I tell her the story of how her dad and I flew far across the ocean, wrapped her up in a pink blanket and took her home to a big party of waiting siblings and excited relatives. But does she know? Does she truly know what it means, this word, adoption?
 
No. How could she know? She is young, and busy with more important things like trying to figure out how to cross the monkey bars and how to ride a bike and how to count to one hundred.  Her head is full of birthday cake and colorful crayons and soft lullabies, and that’s how it should be. She knows we love her, her siblings love her. She knows we wished for her on a star, she knows we flew high above the mountains and across the ocean to get her, she knows her uncle helped us, she knows her family far away and those close by helped us, she knows about the country she came from, what they eat, how they speak. She knows a word, adoption, but its all abstract to her. She doesn’t really know all of it.
She doesn’t know.
 
She doesn’t know about the never ending sorrow that must have filled a far away woman’s soul as her belly began to grow and stretch, making room for the mysterious little arms and legs that were budding deep inside.
She doesn’t know about the rivers of joy and sadness that flowed together in the woman’s heart every time the child inside of her moved and danced, a tiny foot sending ripples across tightly pulled skin.
She doesn’t know about the spirit of grief and loss that hovered like an unwelcomed messenger in the sticky summer air, warning the woman that as the dull pangs of labor grew longer, her time with her secret was growing shorter.
She doesn’t know about the millions of tears that were shed and the hundred of kisses of joy and sorrow and thanks and love that were showered upon her before the woman finally wrapped her in a blanket and handed her to another, saying goodbye.
 
So, does she know the word, adoption? Yes, but does she truly know what it means? 
No. 
It’s a hard truth, a harsh reality to take in, that love and pain can be so connected. So entwined. So when will my daughter truly know what adoption means? When will she finally learn, understand the whole truth of what this word means?
 
I think… when it is her turn.  Her turn to hold her own child, be it through the miracle of adoption or the magic of biology, then she will know. When it is her turn to gently kiss her child’s soft cheeks, gaze with awe into its sleepy eyes and breathe in all its sweet wonder, then she will know.  When it is her turn to wrap her child in a soft blanket and bring it home to meet its family, then she will know.  When her heart rises up and she cries a hundred tears of thanks and joy and sorrow and love then she will know… finally, truly know what this word, adoption means.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Why I wish I could be four again…

When I was little I had many, many great teachers (and a few not so great ones). My first grade teacher, Mrs. Caruso was one of the greats. This woman was loving, caring and generous.  I could hardly wait to go to school and sit at my desk, pencil in hand, heart pounding, wondering what new thing she would teach us, what new contest she would invent. The reading contest is still one of my favorite memories. For every book we read our parents would fill out a flower petal to add to our paper flower at school.  Soon a colorful, construction paper flower garden was springing up all around the classroom. At the end of the year Mrs. Caruso laid out a table full of treasures (little did I know that the treats was actually toys she had purchased with her own money at various garage sales). The person with the most flower petals got to go up to the table and choose their toy first, followed by the second, the third etc. What a great day that was!

Mrs. Caruso would also occasionally call me up to her desk, quietly winking and slipping me a note. Inside the note it would say, “Tell your mom I am going to buy you hot lunch tomorrow.”  Now maybe to you this is not a big deal but to me, the fifth child in a family of twelve children, (well at that time there may have been only eight or nine of us) hot lunch was for rich kids. Oh, to be able to buy chicken and French fries, and sit at the hot lunch table! (Yes, back then there was the cold lunch table and the hot lunch table. Classism at its best!) Mrs. Caruso would also occasionally ask me to stay after school, and then give me a ride home, bags of toys and clothes stuffed in the back seat for us. She would invite my family, all of us, over to her house in the summer, where we would drink lemonade, stare at her white sofa and wonder at her koi fish in the back yard.  Mrs. Caruso clearly knew that my family was struggling, that there were a lot of kids and maybe not always enough money for the extras that everyone else around us seemed to have. She went out of her way to make me feel special and smart, praising me, telling me what a great reader I was, how creative my stories were. I didn’t always feel smart, certainly not in third grade and not through all of junior high, but in first grade, I was smart, and loved. I loved her.

Years later my mother told me that Mrs. Caruso started off every parent teacher conference with lots of sweetness, something like, “I love so and so. She is a wonderful child! So smart, so clever.  She really gives everything her all…etc.” Then after filling you up with honey, she would slip in one or two things your child could work on, “…however her desk is very untidy. She seems a little disorganized.  Math is difficult for her.”

Now a parent myself I realize how effective this technique is. I have recently had my own parent-teacher conferences and when the teacher starts off with. “ He is so funny, happy, eager, etc.”  I am so much more willing and able to hear the “but” that comes next.  Fill me up. Let me know that you like my child, that you appreciate them, then slip in your “however…” We all worry, we all know our children struggle with something, but we all want them to be loved, appreciated, and cared for.

Here is a little piece I wrote the other day as I watched my four-year dance, sing and play.  This is her last year before kindergarten…before it all starts. When I was deciding whether to send her onto school this year or not, (she is a late August baby, which would make her a full year younger than many of her classmates) her preschool teacher wisely said, “Why rush? Why not give her another year of childhood?”

I thought, she’s right. Wouldn’t we all love another year of childhood?  How great it would be to be four again and not worry about playground politics or math tests. How great to be able to read a book you want to read when you want to read it. To draw a picture and hang it up, proud of your work, not worrying that an art teacher is going to critique it or assign a grade to your masterpiece. To play baseball in the backyard for fun, not worrying about strikes or homeruns. How awesome to not be judged, because the real judging will come soon enough.

Why I wish I could be four again…

You can wear a two-piece on the beach and not worry about your tummy sticking out because the more it sticks out the cuter it is.

You can tell someone you love them, whenever you feel like it.

You can hug anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.

You can take long, warm bubble baths on a nightly basis.

You can fill your bed with stuffed animals.

You can laugh, skip and sing all the way down the street and no one thinks you are crazy.

You fall and get up, fall and get up, fall and get up, fall and get up….

When you fall, someone hugs you and wipes away your tears.

You can wear blue polka pants, a rainbow striped, sparkly shirt and purple cowboy boots and still look cute.

You can look at yourself in the mirror and loudly announce, “I am beautiful.”

You can order a hamburger, french fries and wash it all down wash it down with a coke without worrying about the calories.

You can spend hours playing with your best friend, your shadow.

You can wear a ballet tutu to Target in the middle of a snowstorm.

You can ask a million questions like, “Where does the sun go at night?” “Why do fireflies light up?” “How far is it to China?” and no one will think you are stupid for asking.

You don’t need three cups of coffee or a double latté to wake up in the morning.

You can tell come right out and tell someone, “You are mean. You hurt my feelings.”

Everyone smiles at you.

You can proudly say, “Look what I did!” and no one thinks you are bragging, they just clap.

A chocolate chip cookie fixes everything.

You can fall asleep anywhere and someone will pick you up and carry you to bed.

No matter what you do, all is forgiven the next day.