4 Aggressive Parenting Types of the New Testament

 

 

It’s the first week of school for many; parents armed with lists and coupons for back-to-school shopping have been on a seek-and-destroy warpath. Many have already spotted the kids with “smother mothers” and “helicopter parents”, as well as those who let their kids wear the same shirt every day of the first week. (I am sure they wash it every night. Pick your battles.)  Disputes over parenting techniques may have renewed societal spotlight but it’s really nothing new. Parent pushiness reached Biblical proportions long ago. As I gain new life experiences and perspectives, new things stand out to me from the Biblical text. This week it was the parenting stereotypes that we find in the New Testament. (Parenting faux pas from the Old Testament would need a mini-series.)

Presenting…4 Aggressive Parents of the New Testament!

1.       The Status Symbol/Best in Class Mother: Matthew 20:20

Ah, Salome.  Most likely Jesus’ aunt (Mary’s sister), her two sons James and John were in the disciple inner circle. Right after Jesus tells of his death for the third time, she sidles up to the dear nephew, whose diapers she probably changed a few times, used her family influence, and made a request: “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left in your kingdom.”

Oh, is that all? As a mom of at least two boys, Salome heard loud and clear at the third warning. Jesus was going to die but gain a kingdom; she wanted her boys to be on the fast track to the greatness Jesus described. James and John learned from the greatest teacher, spent 3 years in personal training, and sacrificed with the team. Why not ask for starting positions? What mother doesn’t want her boys to be successful?

2.       The Desperate Parent of the Uncontrollable Child: Mark 9: 14-29

All whose darling children have been overtaken by a spewing, demanding, uncontrollable spirit, raise your hand with me. This poor dad is the parent who has read every book, tried every method, sought every resource, and is now that haggard-looking parent we all feel sorry for when they walk in with their shoes on the wrong feet.

Enter the father of a challenging child.

“Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able… and Jesus asked his father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ ‘From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.’

 

This is no Wal-Mart temper tantrum. This dad has been vigilant in caring for his son, protecting him from his own physical destruction. This man truly loves his son. He has hope that his son can be helped. What he’s lost is his faith. No one around him has any faith in the child’s ability to recover either. Even the disciples were unable to help. The crowd and church leaders looked on and were discussing the issues at hand. Ouch. No wonder this man had a doubting problem! He was drowning in a sea of the faithless. He even wonders if Jesus can help him. At Jesus’ promise of ability the father cries out and says, “I believe! Help my unbelief!” This Dad isn’t concerned with heavenly kingdom positions; he just wants his son not to cast himself into fires. He needed a miracle.

3.       The Demanding Parent: Matthew 15:30

Behold the Queen of the Parent-Teacher conference; the Canaanite mother. Here Jesus is trying to withdraw for a little R&R after a grueling day and a non-Jewish mother is literally crying and pitching a fit because her daughter is ‘severely oppressed by a demon’. (Perhaps a teenage daughter?)  When she didn’t receive immediate attention, she pestered the disciples until they finally begged Jesus to handle it and send her packing. Then Jesus responds with one of the most misunderstood and sassy remarks of the New Testament. “I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel…it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

Yikes, oh loving Messiah! This Momma didn’t seem to bat an eye. She’d probably gotten so used to being called a Gentile dog that it didn’t phase her Jesus would use it as a metaphor. (This term means little dogs, much like a domestic pet- not necessarily an insulting term. Other Jews used the term for wild dogs to describe Gentiles.)  After being pushed around and rejected by people who wanted answers and to get what they want, this Momma came full of demands. Still, this was a mother who was determined to have her daughter’s needs met at all costs. She knows of the promises of blessing to Abraham’s other descendants and she has the faith that Jesus is the one who can bless her family. She’s up for a faith test if that’s what it takes.

4.       The Grief-stricken Parent:  Luke 7:24

Throughout the school year, tragedy sometimes strikes families close to us. As situation reports roll in, the parent may not make any requests at all. They aren’t aggressive parents, but the situation and grief can be dominating. We see one such grieving mother in the town of Nain as Jesus and his disciples enter. They encounter a great crowd not for Jesus, but for the funeral of this widow’s only son. This poor mother is now potentially in a financial and security crisis without the men in her life, which would add to the grief. Although she would be justified in asking for help, she doesn’t say a word.

“And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep’. Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.” (Luke 7:13-15)  Not only Jesus raising the dead, he touches the funeral beir, which would have made him ‘unclean’. At this point, death is a bigger issue. She was surrounded by others who helped carry the burden as best they could until Jesus came and restored life, which only he could do.

 

The encounters of these parents meeting with Jesus have rather impressive results. James and John were both leaders of the Christian faith who eventually did ‘drink the cup’ Jesus would bear and suffered greatly. They are founders of the Christian faith and often hailed as saints.

The desperate father of the boy with a tormenting spirit watched as “Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.” (Mark 9:27)  The Canaanite mother heard Jesus say, ‘“O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire!” And her daughter was healed instantly.’ (Matthew 15:29) The grieving widow and mother of the dead son received her son back, and the entire crowd glorified God and reported throughout the county. Her grief was replaced by joy; the miraculous experience enriched her life with an encounter with Jesus.

These are just 4 stereotypes, but I am sure some of these personalities have already been spotted in the pick-up circle or at the classroom door. The common denominator for all these parents is Jesus. Ultimately, their requests are granted and their problems do get resolved. Perhaps that’s why Jesus is sometimes called, “The Great Teacher”.

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A Case Against “Just Putting On Big Girl Panties”

Lately a new phrase has joined the “get over it and move on” mantra collection: “Just put on your big girl panties and get over it.” The times I’ve personally heard the statement, it is usually after some lamenting list of life’s troubles, punctuated with a deep breath. Yes, there are times where a solid, “Stop your crying and drive on, Soldier!” is needed. I’ve often said that the eleventh commandment is, “Thou shall not freak out.” Yet, today I feel a case should be made against “ just putting on big girl panties.”

First, ‘big girl panties’ must be defined. The sentiment is that wearers must grow up, show some maturity and resolve, and perhaps stop expecting someone else to change the stinky things for us; the proverbial panties are an attitude. Forgive me, but I’m going to be literal for a moment. Maybe it’s my toddler-mom stage, but big boy underwear isn’t defined as respectable boxers or briefs (that hopefully have no visible holes). They are a symbol of potty training accomplishment demonstrated by superheroes and movie characters. Thus, I’m not sure why the package of princess undees alongside the big boy underwear aren’t big girl panties.   ‘Day of the Week’ panties might be helpful for deliriously exhausted new moms to help us keep track.  The next aisle over holds respectable cotton and lace shoe-strings; Granny-panties to thongs, these are big girl panties.

If we carry the metaphor, this means the ‘big girl’ dons drawers  like thongs that put material or string up the butt-crack, where it gives her a total wedgie for the day. Eventually,  we just adjust to the uncomfortable factors of life- a permanent ride-up- for all sorts of reasons.  Some people take pride in their ability to face hardship. They flaunt their ‘big girl panties’ for all to see, not unlike teenage mall-crawlers in their low-rise skinny jeans, the strutting pants-saggers, and the elderly ladies whose Visible Panty Lines can be seen from Russian satellites.

My issue is not with the ‘face it head-on’ mentality; far from it. Certainly there are too many whiney-babies who need to shush, not post vague updates 4 times an hour, or gripe to every nearby stranger. When something pierces the heart, it’s not something one puts on immediate display. That’s when a well-intentioned butt-kick is not helpful. The sobbing mother outside the NICU and the man whose wife was killed by a drunk driver don’t need drill sergeants. So often the discomfort of others drives the knee-jerk reaction to skip to the “getting over it” movie montage. Grief gets the fast forward to the glorious triumph. Friends and supporters can sometimes be so quick to find the good that they hike your undees up for you in a well-meaning lack of sensitivity.

Things may turn out for good, people will adjust to a new normal, and deaths occur, but pushing through delicate material causes damage. When a mother faces cancer, a desired baby is stillborn, a soldier loses limbs, car accidents claim young lives, children are diagnosed as ‘differently-abled’, or healthy friends die suddenly, the situation needs to be assessed. The desire to go back to the old normal, even for a moment for some emotional peace, is inevitable. Even the strongest of us wish to trade in our Big Girl Panties for the innocence of princess panties and plastic tiaras for a time. In these moments, real comfort comes from a silent mouth and listening ear while we readjust.

A real-life example of big girl panties in a bunch: One young woman suddenly lost her husband to a dormant and unrecognized heart condition during Lamaze class- 8 months pregnant with their first and long-awaited child. He died almost instantly, although they were literally inside a hospital that was hosting all the leading heart surgeons of the state at the time. The clichés and difficult truths rolled in along with covered dishes and cards, but one ‘comforting’ comment took the cake. AT THE FUNERAL one woman said, “You are so young and lovely- God will just send you another man to marry who will just love you and that baby. Good will come from this before you know it.” (I believe this qualifies as an emotional atomic wedgie.) Yes, this young widow did put soldier on, but she didn’t “just put on her big girl panties”.  She grieved, birthed her child, and raised it in a new normal. She grieved, prayed, found a support group, and chose to see the good.  You can’t adjust and ‘drive on’ in a vacuum.

I find it fascinating to watch reactions of others when a soldier cries. Whether kneeling at a memorial made of a pair of boots, a weapon, and a helmet, palming the black stone of the Vietnam memorial in remembrance, or welling up at the Star Spangled Banner, there seems to be a quiet understanding that the soldier has seen and endured something that can’t be fully comprehended by the bystander. I’ve seen others put a hand on the shoulder, offer a solid man-hug, or whisper, “It is okay”- an allowance for the emotion and a promise for the future. I have yet to see- in that moment anyway- someone put his chin up and tell him to put on big girl panties and get over it. It may come shortly after, but not in that moment. Perhaps those fighting less obvious wars should be awarded the same consideration.

When I severely broke my collarbone in high school, I was put in a brace that limited my mobility. One day my mother, sister and I were sitting on the floor and sorting out belongings. In the process of going from seated to standing, my undees relocated. Horror of horrors…I couldn’t reach. I very pitifully asked, “Mom? Do you love me?” Puzzled, she looked up and answered, “Yes, why?” I whimpered, “Will you help me? I have a wedgie and I can’t reach it.” Through tears of laughter, my mother took full advantage of my helplessness and took a small revenge for the thousands of diapers she changed. As it usually does, things got worse before they got better.  It wasn’t a pretty moment, but henceforth it has been a story recalled as a reminder of dedicated love. True love is present in the uncomfortable and unglamorous moments.

We all carry invisible burdens. Some have visible evidence, but often it’s an iceberg that we only see the peak of. Be cautious, my dear ones. Flippant comments or encouraging clichés may do more harm than good. We all need battle buddies to muster us for the fight, but other times we need someone who will help carry the ruck sack or pull us up the mountain. Don’t be the school yard bully who gives atomic wedgies when a friend just needs time to readjust. The time will come to soldier on, but as our loved ones face life’s unexpected hairpin turns, let us be more like the undergarments that offer adjustable support rather than ones that look nice but make things more uncomfortable.

Pregopotamus

Have you ever overheard someone making a generic comment and wanted to declare, “You don’t know the half of it!”?   Recently I overheard,  “It was just so hard to get out of bed this morning!” Yes, I am sure it was, you dear girl. I am sure your exhaustion was legitimate. I too had a little difficulty.

Upon waking to my son’s cries, my pregnancy body pillow sprang to life and became a fluffy boa constrictor. The pillow is shaped like a C, so I was hooked around one shoulder as well as between the legs with the curve wrapped around and under my belly. I was wrapped and stuck.

I began my epic battle with desperate kicks for momentum so that I could roll over the pillows and get untangled from the sheet. The problem was that my middle section was encumbered by the weight of life. Halfway through this operation, son #2 sprang awake and started kicking my ribs. Not helpful.  I’m now flailing with a curved, light green body pillow  around just half of me, with every other body part tangled in something. I managed to break free and roll, resembling an overstuffed egg roll that is desperately trying to escape a square appetizer plate. Feel free to add your own music to this ridiculous struggle. My pride was a casualty, but I made it out of bed without major injury. (Olympic dismount…tadaa!) THAT is a picture of having a hard time getting out of bed.

I am now in my 6th month and a full-fledged basketball smuggler.  I am actually feeling quite good but no matter what effort is put into maintaining a healthy and feminine appearance, there are days that a pregnant woman just feels a bit enormous and encumbered.

My younger sister will be getting married in the winter, only about 8-9 weeks after I am due to deliver another son. Now, I’ve been asked what I am going to wear as the Matron of Honor. Two things I know for sure- under-eye concealer and Spanxx. While I was home, I had the joy of going wedding dress shopping with my now-grown up baby sister. On one glorious trip she emerged from the dressing room in a stunning dress that she will walk down an aisle in. This lovely, heart-tugging moment was quickly followed up with, “Do you want to try on a bridesmaid dress I like for you?”

Oh boy, can I? It is one thing to walk down an aisle in a tailored dress with everything sucked in, but quite another to try on dresses in the full-blown second trimester. My first attempt was when I was much smaller, and strangers gasped in horror- truly. It was ugly. A sister’s love drives us to unreasonable things, I tell you.  She handed me two dresses in a pretty, deep blue that were both about 8 times my usual size and I made my way to the dressing room. In such stores, dresses run in large sizes and an attendant clips the girl into the gown to show what it would look like tailored. At the second attempt at trying on a dress, I emerged with a chuckle.  I walked out in the floor length gown and stepped up in front of the mirror. My sister looked delighted. The attendant looked pleasantly surprised. With one tiny clip at the top, a billowing blue tent rounded over my beach-ball and became an ideal maternity dress.

Of course, no matter how a woman is gussied up, there is only so much that can be done in the second trimester.  I looked a bit like this.

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During my first pregnancy, Josh gave me a very endearing nickname in honor of my ‘condition’. I am his “Pregopotamus”. Again, reference the picture above.

A few Sundays ago I sat on down and looked down the pew. Despite my dress, heels, and lip gloss, I had a striking similarity to a few others nearby. Sadly, the others with the similar silhouettes were men over 60. Not so glamorous. Even with a good reason to have not only a new center of gravity but a gravitational pull, knowing that you look like a male Luby’s fanatic can be a little humbling. There were days of my first pregnancy where I lamented feeling like a hippopotamus. This time around, I decided to don the proverbial ballet skirt from the start. That hippo rocked her moves and had no issue with being lifted by a smaller crocodile. That’s about what the welcome-home-hug looked like last time (at 39 weeks). I may have a little more jiggle in the wiggle but I am the Pregopotamus.

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Yes, pregnancy is natural and lovely and could be so much worse…etc… yeah, I know. It’s really not a weight or body image issue here. Whether you’re carrying around the weight of another person, a few unwanted pounds, or some unwanted physical affliction, extra burdens that can feel crushing and knock the wind out of us.  The question is, do you decide to rock it?

A few friends are currently battling cancer and in the face of all that chemo does, I see smiles, awesome wigs, and seriously sparkly accessories. It takes a lot to get out of bed, let alone look nice in that condition. (Round of applause, girls!) I know a few older men with significant war injuries that make it hard to get around, but they don a snazzy suit and walk tall into the church on Sundays, regardless of knee replacements and back surgeries that make it difficult to walk. That’s resolve worth saluting.

Lots of things in life wear us out and make it hard to get out of bed- not all of them physical. My goal is to maintain some grace and dance through the “weighed down” times of life, even if someone else has to tie up my ballet shoes. After all, if a hippopotamus can do it, so can the Pregopotamus.

It’s Complimentary

A sincere compliment is always grateful to a lady, so long as you don’t try to knock her down with it.
– Mark Twain from “Answers to Correspondents,” Early Tales & Sketches, Vol. 2

I’m starting to notice that the longer we live, the more compliments change course.  For example, my second grade yearbook is full of “You’re neat!” and “You’re rad!” scribbles, while high school yearbooks have heartfelt passages about personality and potential.  Now I regard a great compliment as “You don’t even look tired!” or “Your son is delightful!” Perhaps it is language acquisition, emotional depth, or how a load of manure reeks more over time, but the difference between empty words and a heartfelt compliment is remarkable. An encouraging word is food for the soul.

Yesterday I had a series of errands and appointments that took all day. By 3:00 I was tired but thankful to finally sitting in the optometrist’s chair. He was a friendly middle aged man who was a bit chatty. Halfway through, the conversation went a bit like this:

Dr:  So, two boys! Are you the household disciplinarian?

Me: I better be. “Just wait until your father gets home” loses its sting after a few months of deployment.

Dr. So your husband’s the commander and you’re the sergeant? All you have to do is master that Mom-look.

Me: Oh, it’s already working. Still, there are days I think I might prefer to be overseas than at home pregnant with a rowdy toddler, although I know it’s not really the case.

Dr.: (Leaning back and looking at me contemplatively) I’ll bet you could take out the Taliban.

Me: (Huge smile) I think that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me all day.

Dr: Um, that’s kind of weird.

Yes, it was a little bit weird. It may have been sarcasm. It was certainly hyperbole and totally false. To me, it was also a great compliment. We know what our men go through to ‘take out the Taliban’ and all other manner of mission—there are things we could not handle. Likewise, we handle things they could not, such as childbirth and maintaining a house while suffering from a cold.  I know how strong my man is and all he is capable of…and this stranger hailed me as on par. I took this as  great praise.

It was also somewhat fitting- I didn’t make any yearbook “Most Likely To” awards, but a teacher informed me I was a runner up. The category?  “Most Likely To Kill Osama Bin Laden”. I can only describe my poor mother’s expression as priceless. Her hopes were more along the lines of my becoming a world leader rather than killing one.

The compliment that helps us on our way is not the one that is shut up in the mind, but the one that is spoken out.
Mark Twain: A Biography

Little known quirk about me—I love to give compliments. Not off-hand flattering statements or clichés, but real, needed, unexpected compliments. I also like to people watch. These two delights often collide when I see women over 50. I recently saw a 70 something woman who was absolutely radiant. Yes, she was wrinkled and white haired, but the woman just shone from her dazzling smile and she was rockin’ the polyester that hasn’t been done since the 70s. As I pushed my shopping cart past hers, I stopped and told her with a genuine smile how captivating she was. Her stunned reply was, “Sweetheart, I haven’t been paid a compliment in weeks. You just brightened me up.” Mission accomplished.

It’s amazing how true compliments and words of affirmation resonate and drive deep into the soul. An inspiring half-time pep talk can change the outcome of the game. The world is certainly full of flatterers and people who give idle compliments. Some people love it. To recount a T.V. quote, “Whenever my self esteem is a little low, I just walk down past the construction site and listen to the boys holler. Then I feel good again!”

Perhaps more eloquently stated once again by Mark Twain:
An occasional compliment is necessary to keep up one’s self-respect. The plan of the newspaper is good and wise; when you can’t get a compliment any other way, pay yourself one.
-Mark Twain, Notebook, 1894

Still, as we go through life it is essential that we cheer each other on and affirm the greatness in others that they cannot always see in the midst of their circumstances. I have watched many friends as they withstood life’s hurricanes. They see themselves as drenched and beaten, while I see them as standing resiliently through an onslaught. It’s important that they have both perspectives; providing it is my job and privilege.

Today I have to take out the trash, not the Taliban. I have to clothe, feed, change, teach, and care for a child, sustain another, and run errands. Traffic may not count as terrorism, but it is a great boost to feel like I am a butt-kickin’ Momma.

Make someone’s day- notice someone and let them know they are doing something well. It makes all the difference.

 

Turn Off the Flashers!

 

Picture this:

A fairly busy medical waiting room filled with women and quite a few well-behaved children (thanks to the cartoons). I walked in, had a very pleasant chat with the check-in clerk, and shuffled to the back of the seating area to an open seat. I turned, sat, and FLASH!

3 feet from my face a poster proudly displayed a new mother breastfeeding her baby. Okay, that’s fine. I am in support of breastfeeding and its awareness…I just wasn’t quite so prepared to be aware right at that moment. As I proceeded on with the appointment’s activities I saw multiple posters from a safe distance in expected regions of billboards. Still, these posters seemed to be everywhere.

I went to have the mandatory appointment potty break, shut the door…FLASH. Hello, Dolly! I mean, really. There are some life events here that when at all possible should be done separately and with a bit of privacy! Breastfeeding and making a tinkle are two such events!  

The thing is, I saw more photographed boobage in 1 hour than in all the billboards and media advertisement the rest of the day. I know debates are raging about the natural beauty of the body’s intended functions vs sexual exploitation, but it felt a bit like I had walked into an adult magazine section of the hospital. Every wall seemed to have something on it- trying to get an ultrasound was like being trapped in a pornado. There was no escape.

There is just something about seeing nudity when you aren’t expecting it that naturally shocks. WARN a person before dropping trou, for the love of Christmas carols! If you unexpectedly flash me with the headlights, expect a deer in the headlight look.

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Okay, I had to take a break from blogging to answer a phone, at which point I became informed via Facebook that August 26 is National Go Topless Day. Well, I appreciate the written notice. I will prepare accordingly.  

By the time I left the clinic, even though I am all about supporting the breastfeeders, I felt like quoting Delta Burke from Designing Women:

“I don’t know why Charlene insists of breastfeeding this baby. It’s like some kind of epidemic. Anywhere I go, anytime of the day or night I see these women whipping themselves out and acting like public filling stations. They act like just because there’s a baby attached, it’s not a breast anymore! Can you see me unleashing these things outdoors? All Hell would break loose!”

Again, the kid’s gotta eat…no problem there. Hypocricy in society? Oh yeah. Still, these posters had a major problem. They were AIRBRUSHED. There is no justice.  

The babies were lovely and clean, the mothers had on clean, fashionable shirts of a non t-shirt or nursing nature and free of any stains, hair was perfectly coiffed, and each mother was smiling and did not have a semblance of a shadow under her perfectly made up eyes. I bet these women don’t have cellulite either.

The deer in the headlights is now staring you down, Honey.  I know you are on the wrong side of this road. It’s one thing to pop up and pop out, but this was NOT listed in the “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” cliché list.

The regular clinics have inspiring prints of soldiers carrying fellow battle buddies or soaring eagles. Why not go with that theme? Moms teaming up to take on a play date or maybe an inspiring dream like…an organized diaper bag. A nice picture of a mother and child celebrating successful potty training moments? Or how about the “report a friend in need” posters… a picture of an exhausted mother sound asleep on the couch while her kids destroy the home and write on her face in Sharpie.

I am a MOM. I usually look like it in some form. Even on days where I am a cute mom, I have a diaper bag and stroller in tow…and usually crushed goldfish residue on my leg. I have come to terms with the fact that my bikini days are gone and that I will not ever look like I did pre-baby without some airbrushing…but when you flash your headlights at me and you’ve edited the look of MOTHERHOOD, prepare to be run off the road.

As I swerved out of the office I saw one last poster on the wall that read:

“Friends are like wedgies. It feels so good when you pick out a good one.”

So true.  

The place of wedgies, disrobing in front of strangers, an over-abundance of breast bearing is concerned with HIPPA and privacy acts. Okay then.

No wonder women group up and immediately delve into otherwise unmentionable topics; it’s our reality. It doesn’t have to be this way. Help a sister out.

Turn off your headlights and hit the hazards.

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Lightning Striking Twice

The very helpful and polite young clerk smiled and asked, “Would you like 2 year insurance on this new router?”

I smiled and answered, “No, thanks. I doubt lightning will strike me twice.”

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Most states that have two rival schools will sell “House Divided” bumper stickers with the logos of both teams and lightning down the middle. Yes, lightning can bring a house down indeed.

Roughly 48 hours previous, either my house or my yard was hit by lightning. This became apparent about an hour after I arrived home from a long vacation when I discovered everything flashing or dead. The lightning killed off the router, modem, the splitter that internet runs through outside, and the garage door openers. These were just a few of the lovely tasks that awaited me as I returned from my wonderful extended trip to Texas. Such events are typical when a Texan leaves the state, but things like lighting striking are especially typical when a man who usually occupies a home leaves for an extended period of time. I will pause so every woman can say, “Amen” and pull up a mental list of catastrophes that were handled in a man’s absence.

In only a few short years of military life, I have had an apartment building burn (the first night of my husband’s military absence), waded through 2 floods, had household goods literally taken joyriding an hour out of the way so the movers could do an ‘errand’ (read Waco drug deal), without my knowledge, made multiple ER trips, and moved into a wildfire zone after a cross-country trip with a 5 week old. Life has been exciting. I think if a military spouse can endure more than 20 years in the lifestyle, she should receive a medal…or at least a nap.

My father was often gone on business when I was a small child, which provided me with valuable training exercises. When the alarm goes off at 3am, the kids gather and go down the stairs, armed with all manner of weaponry. I brought up the rear with a second baseball bat at age 9, which was not nearly as intimidating as my 5 year old brother who somehow retrieved plastic salad tongs from his bedroom. He thought that he could pinch the robber’s nose if all else failed; he was in his first karate classes after all. I once brought to my father’s attention that he had missed numerous ER visits, a flood, a snow-in, and all other manner of disasters. At the time, Hurricane Rita had displaced some family members that were headed our way. He insisted that we were just more careful when he was around. I am sure that was it; carelessness brought on hurricanes. I’m sure a trip to the Container Store and Office Max could have prevented Katrina. Oh, the cost of being without colored labels.

Looking at the checklist, I’ve repeatedly overcome flood and fire…and during my pregnancies there have been moments that have felt like famine. As an earlier blog declared, “I will never go hungry again”…at least not for very long. However, payday grocery shopping with small children is enough to make anyone eat a PBJ with the last slices of bread for dinner.

Still, one of the marks of a life well-lived is the great stories. When you ask if a family road trip or a labor and delivery went well, a response of “Everything went totally according to plan ad was delightful” just gets a blank stare.

I am often amused by the cute saying, “It’s not the number of breaths we take, but the moments that take our breath away.” Aw…how cute. That is NOT my reality. The moments that take my breath away are usually followed with some sort of gasp or scream. In the house where I grew up, this caused a real domino effect. Likewise, story-telling will usually involve multiple interruptions and occasionally, some interpretive dance.

Over the past few years and especially since Firstborn has arrived, I will often call out to Hubby, “These are the moments!” The poor man has no idea what that means. Perhaps that is because I usually yell it when one or both of us are covered in some sort of baby fluid or discover the dog has also caught the flu. I started a baby album to capture the lovely joys of bloody injuries, blow-outs, and milk-launches, lest we ever think for a moment that parenting “wasn’t too messy”. No, it’s important to capture the moments that we will want to laugh about in decades to come.

Family trips should be remembered with names like “The Great Hurl-Fest Christmas of 2007” (true story) or have aside comments of “I couldn’t help hold the children because of my Smallpox vaccination”. This is life- life is hilarious…or at least we should be able to laugh about it later. They honeymoon where all the senior citizen Brits walked around naked on the beach, running a decrepit 125 pound dog down a sidewalk during a fire evacuation, discovering a flooded basement at 11pm in month 9 of pregnancy… these are the moments.

Admittedly, I feel a bit like a house dropped on me.  Sometimes it feels like my Munchkin would laugh and sing a song of celebration while Sparkle-Perfection Glinda asks why I didn’t unplug everything before we left…so silly of me not to predict lightning would strike!

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Still, I’m not about to shrivel up and let some other woman take my shoes. As I typed that sentence, my son’s dinner relocated to the carpeted stairs. These are the moments. Just one of many with my lightning bug- he will guarantee repeats of all sorts of moments that I’ll wish would only strike once.  

 

Don’t Drink the Salsa

“He is just so precious!” Amazingly, these words were actually said about MY son at a restaurant dinner table. Wonderful Ms. Diane wasn’t looking at a picture either; she was feeding my son his first taste of guacamole. (I will remember to say, “Holy Guacamole!” tomorrow morning.)

Moments later he was literally spooning salsa into his mouth and then trying to drink it from the dip dish. In this case I have no issue proclaiming as fact that he gets it from his father. I am highly allergic to most peppers and have spent years (and lots of Benedryl) building up a gradual immunity. Next up- iocane powder. (High five, fellow Princess Bride fans!)

Sometime in the last week, some unknown but soon to be discovered and accused culprit taught my son to tip his small cereal bowl and spill all but a mouthful of the remaining milk onto his lap. A thousand thanks for that one. (It’s only fair; my husband taught his niece the same thing which resulted in many such spills.) After taking a gulp of my own drink, I looked over to see my darling trying to drink the salsa from the bowl.

“Don’t drink the salsa” I told him. All doubt that he is a Texan male is GONE.

It occurs to me that a natural progression has happened here. Dips were only occasionally on his radar before various family visits; he now pretends to dip all food when a real sauce is not present. He went from dipping Wheat Thins into fruit dip (Thanks, Grandpa) to dipping chips into salsa…then the pacifier straight into the salsa… and now he is DRINKING the salsa. When that option was removed, he spooned it directly into his mouth. This was his second successful bowl to mouth spooning with a full-sized spoon; the first was with Bluebell mint chocolate chip ice-cream last night (Thank you, Lambert family).

We’ve all heard that it takes a village to raise a child. I’ve watched people I dearly love teach my child all sorts of habits. He now gets his spoon and waits near the freezer after dinner if he sees a white bowl; he is waiting for Bluebell ice-cream from Pop. He runs, plays, tackles, and generally acts like a boy- and this week several people I adore have been totally okay with it. As food falls to the floor, the dogs get it and no one cares. As he melts down in public people are ready with, “We’ve been there. Don’t worry.” When pacifiers go into the salsa and then into the mouth in .4 seconds, everyone laughs and grabs for the water glasses. This kind of acceptance- mixed with compliments about my mothering and affirmation when I discipline- has made me realize how much burden I have carried. The mix of guilt, impatience, and just plain exhaustion is enough to wear out the ‘care-o-meter’. Being in public with a toddler is a bit like reality television; just 30 minutes of observation and strangers know everything about you, your parenting, and what you should be doing differently. Experts are among us; how dare we imbeciles procreate!  I am amazed at how encouragement makes a difference. It’s one of my favorite things about the social networks offered to us today; we can celebrate and spur on fellow sojourners.

I have been graced with a child who is strong-willed. Those of you who know me and my husband well are probably smiling at that. When the determination is focused positively, he is amazing to watch. When it turns into opposition…look out. I have trouble eating out at Mexican restaurants due to my allergies—I only have a few salsas on the ‘approved’ list. Already, I am cautiously watching my little buddy voraciously devour foods that would guarantee my an ER trip. Part of watching a child develop (especially of the opposite gender, I think) is watching them do things that are foreign to you. Not just the “what were you thinking?” items, but the things that fill you with awe. Now, how do I encourage my child do and try new things that are dangerous or terrifying to me?

I am sure I will have many days where I wonder how to parent a child whose mind I can’t comprehend. Part of it is just general parenting, but the other is just trying to troubleshoot unpredictable problems. I expected ketchup covered shirts, not salsa-gulping. I hope that when the other surprises of life arise, I hope that I can just shrug it off and pass the chips. With my calm, shy demeanor, I am sure that will be the case.