Monday, July 28, 2008

Silly Putty! Tricks Are For Kids.

Parenthood stretches me like Silly Putty. When you press that glorious toy into a newspaper image for the first time, the result is a thrill.

WOW! I just transferred a picture from the comics onto this piece of goo in my hand! How cool is that?

When you then pull it in sixteen directions, the imprinted image is distorted to stretch and squish bodies and faces to your druthers. Endless fascination.

I feel like that monstrously-lanky, bulgy-eyed, manipulated picture some days. I look into the mirror of my soul and see odd and unexpected changes occurring, from someone else tugging and plying my image. Many women struggle significantly with the "Who Am I" question when Motherhood alters their substance for the first time. I was among them. How did the introduction of this frail and needy human, wrapped tightly in a blanket and held closely to my breast, change me? Who am I still, and who am I meant to become?

Five years later, and the submarined-question resurfaces every once in a while (Aroogah! Aroogah!), even as I feel quite grounded in my Mom-identity. Here's how the putty plays its part: my son is a mystery, so I have become a sleuth.

I remember enjoying endless games of Clue with my sister and our neighbors, gravitating toward the poetry of Edgar Allen Poe and the stories of Sherlock Holmes & his trusty sidekick, Watson when I was young. Now, I have to employ those skills I practiced in play, to discover not only how to be a parent, but how to be my son's parent. That role, it turns out, is more intentional than anything I could have expected after nearly twenty years of childcare experience that preceded my becoming a mom.

The solace is that this is a shared sentiment of several friends who also parent "intense" children. We find ourselves flummoxed by new struggles. I wonder, for example, "How was I such a fair and creative nanny/babysitter/mother's helper for two decades, but now so often lost in my own attempts to be the best mom I can be?"

Read: A Perfectionist's Struggle...

First of all, childcare is far easier than parenting, because budgeting-and-laundry-and-dishes-and-employment worries-and-groceries-and a clean-house-because-company's-coming do not pile on top of the heavy appreciation of one's Responsibility when you can kiss the kids goodbye and let the parents carry those greater weights while you go grab a cheesecake with The Girls after work.

Thankfully, I continue to hear, like a mantra, the voice of Kevin Lehman in my ear. I edited a series of parenting bites for The 700 Club about seven years ago--before I was a parent. When you are a video editor/producer, you often replay the same portion of video/audio many times to find your mark, or to perfect the final piece. In my case, each of the many segments ended with the same line...over...and over...and over! It is a good line, though, so I am not at all annoyed that it continues to replay as an echo in my (hollow?) brain:

“Too many parents live in constant fear that they’re going to do something to mess up their kids. One mistake and bam!, their child will join the skinheads or punkers,” writes Dr. Leman. “What kids need today are not perfect parents, but good parents – someone like you.”

Nobody's a perfect parent. But anybody can be a great one!
Nobody's a perfect parent. But anybody can be a great one!
Nobody's a perfect parent. But anybody can be a great one!
Nobody's a perfect parent. But anybody can be a great one!
Nobody's a perfect parent. But anybody can be a great one!
Nobody's a perfect parent. But anybody can be a great one!
Nobody's a perfect parent. But anybody can be a great one!

Here are some recent clues to our son:
1) While he is effervescently outgoing, charming and attractive in small groups, he cannot stand to have the focus on him.

We learned this first at his 4th birthday party when he angrily insisted that no one sing the Birthday Song to him. Instead, our dear friend who is a Marine Corps bugler, played The Reveille (which was awfully cool for a boy celebrating an Army-Themed birthday, I'd say!). Even then, with most eyes on Bret, instead of Logan, my son clung to and hid behind me, and my precariously balanced tray full of cupcakes, until the focus broke.

Today, all the children in Logan's KidsServe camp sat in organized rows facing the front of the room as a microphone was passed for introductions. The children were supposed to state name, upcoming grade in school, and favorite food. Since Logan is of-age for Kindergarten (although far beyond Virginia's standards for the end of school year), I whispered to him that he could say he is "going to be a Kindergartener." When the mic came his way, however, it was nothin' doin. He flat out refused to state even his name into the mic, because that would mean everyone was listening to, and looking at him.

In the car, at the end of the day, I brought the issue up, since I had punted for him in the morning in order to keep the mic moving. I asked a mainly rhetorical question about his disinterest in being the focal point.

"I don't want to do anything where everyone is looking at me," he stated plainly. "I only like Daddy looking at me, or you, or Teagan," he finished definitively.

Note that clue in the detective's journal. I love that he understands this about himself! Now...how to help him not be intimidated by that situation...? Or, does it matter?

2) If you add to a large group, newness, that is two strikes against the success of Logan's integration.

We have now been associating fairly frequently with a relatively large group of neighboring homeschoolers, and because of its growing familiarity, that is becoming an increasingly more comfortable environment every time. So much so that Logan got into a wonderful argument with one young lady this week. She, like my son, is a strong-minded firstborn who can stir up her momma's ire. This young lady's mom overheard our children arguing thus on Friday:

"It's my turn to be Captain."

"You've been Captain like alllllllllll day!"

"No. I have NOT!"

"Oh. Reeeeeeeeallllllly!?!?!? You have SO! You always think you can be the Captain."

It is irrelevant who said which line--their dialogue is interchangeable. It demonstrated to me that he has gotten comfortable in that larger gathering. Yes! Let the two battle it out--at least he can be himself with RK.

3) Strike three, which can turn the plausible into a clear & definite NO! is our being late to a large group get-together. So, if we are going somewhere new, where there will be a lot of Logan's peers he's never met before, I have to make it my #1 priority to GET THERE EARLY, so he can be among the first few to arrive. Then, the gradual growth of the group means a gradual adjustment of his comfort level.

We were late to KidsServe today--so he was a bear for the first 15 minutes (lashed out at me in front of all the kids--youch!), but we were EARLY (40 minutes) to his Curiosty Zone science class this afternoon, and it was a problem-free experience (REWARDING)! That astounded me, since he had already had three hours of activity--I was sure he'd be overtired, or overstimulated. Instead, he had eased into the space, and I was able to break away within ten minutes!

See? Being a mom changes everything! These books that talk about the "Me in Mommy," kind of tick me off, because I think Mommy is mostly about the reshaping of me...not the indulging of me. Sure, there are plenty of aches and pains involved in being yanked and punched like Silly Putty...but I remember hearing my mom & grandpa reiterate that anything worth having in life takes work. And, I remember the glorious pangs and pains of labor that delivered the greatest product of all: my children! So, sure! I understand! Don't be a doormat. Don't idolize your children. Do not give yourself up or over to build up your little people. Yes. Agreed, agreed, agreed. But, there is a really big difference, in my mind, between the "me" in Mommy, and the "us" in Family.

OK. There is no letter "u" or "s" in the word "family..." Let me think about that parallel for a few days...but the traditional sports' response is this:

THERE IS NO "I" IN THE WORD "TEAM"!!

It doesn't take a village to raise my children. But, it does take a TEAM!!



Hebrews 7 goes into wonderful detail about God's grace, versus our attempts to be perfect to attain salvation.

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