Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The 26th of September.

Mitch turned six months old.  His personality is beginning to bust at the seams.  More and more, I can see that he is the strong, silent type. He quietly observes his crazy brothers.  He is a momma's boy, and his adorable, wide, piercing eyes follow me around the room.  I could go on and on about his nuances, about the future I see for him, the person I believe he will be, but lately, I cannot decide if I should.  Perhaps, he should just figure it out for himself, without my heavy influences.  Probably, what I write at this point anyway, is no more accurate than the horoscope written from the day he was born:

LIBRA: People born specifically on the 26th of September are predicted to be very competitive and highly creative along with the typical Libra gifts of expressive charm and diplomacy. The ruling astrological planet for this particular day is Saturn making you rather insightful, intuitive and persuasive. If you have this birthday your strong willed tenacious nature is likely to possess intense powers of concentration and really thrive under pressure. Your demand of excellence from yourself often extends to others but your zodiacal symbol of the scales ordinarily gives you a balanced perspective on and of everything around you. Easygoing and calm on the outside you are also incredibly determined and shrewd on the inside. Individuals with a September the twenty sixth birthday are naturally friendly and witty in addition to being especially good at compromise. You are as a rule inclined to be fairly self disciplined, sympathetic and helpful but you can be known to have quite lazy, indecisive moments too. 

As I was looking through my Instagram feed and found that my cousin's daughter (or, as some may call it, my 1st cousin once removed) had "liked" 18 of my photographs, it suddenly dawned on me - my children will be able to read one day.  Not only will they be able to read, but eventually, they too, will have smart phones, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and any number of social media and devices.  In fact, I would venture to guess that in 2 short years, Brock will have the capability to find and read the exact words I am writing right now.  Crap.  What are the implications of what I write!?  Generally, most my articles are funny little stories or loving observations which are entirely objective. But significantly inter-mixed is a lot of subjective prognosticating, predictions, generalizations, stereotypes and perhaps some prescience.  It's these things that suddenly concern me. I have put each of my sons in a box. Already.  Everyday, I am writing their horoscope.

I don't think I am the only one.  In fact, I know I am not the only one. It's just that I have evidence in the form of a very active blog.  Every mom I talk to labels their child in some way.  Every grandparent does it. Aunt, Uncle, friend. "She's so sweet."  "He's a jock."  "She loves babies."  "He's going to be an engineer."  It begins before the child is even born.  It kid of begins before they are even conceived. I am sure there are extensive studies on this topic and the implications of what you tell your kid.  In fact, I remember reading some viral blog link that mentions the detriment of always telling your kid he's smart.  In this article, it mentions that if you tell them something like that, they turn away from anything challenging or difficult because they have come to believe if it doesn't come easily to them, then it's not worth their time. They never learn to enjoy a challenge, or work hard.  If that's true, then you can imagine that the opposite would happen. Meaning, if you only tell your kid they are smart, they may not venture into things they otherwise might, regardless of the ease.  Their mindset may turn into, "I'm smart, so sports, art, music, aren't for me."  They may never expand their horizons and venture off the beaten path to discover, that, alas, my parents had no idea what they where talking about!  I may be great in school, but I LOVE to garden.  It's my true passion, talent, gift.

Of all the fears I have as a parent, about how I am possibly scarring my child for life, my biggest is that I might squelch a fire I didn't even know existed.  Being such a passionate, competitive person myself, someone who always wanted to not only do the best, but be the best, at whatever I do, I assume my kids will be the same to some degree.  Life, to me, only exists with dreams, goals and aspirations.  When I recognize a specific talent in each one of those boys, it will be really hard for me to not push them to use it. It's hard for me, already, to not label them.  Show them the way of ease and success.  Identify their strengths and weaknesses.  Explain to them how to use their respective personalities for societal and personal advancement.  But, this way of thinking, living, being is what makes me happy.  It's me.  And ultimately, all I want, is for them to be happy.  Because, when it comes down to it, that is absolutely the ONLY thing that matters in life.  This is not just my opinion, the fifth item listed on the the 5 regrets of the dying states: "I wish that I had let myself be happier."  (And perhaps, even more appropriate to this post, is #1: "I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.")  Am I unwittingly, forcing a life on all four of my children that they may not desire?

Then, I thought about my own childhood.  I was an intelligent kid.  Teachers regularly told me as well as my parents, that I was "smart".  I got identified and put into some Duke University screening for the gifted.  I received an award for getting a perfect score on these little math quizzes that put me in the top 3% in the state of Missouri. I read books and did crosswords during class, instead of paying attention.  I received my first B, ever, in high school, in an honors class, that I only allowed myself to get, because at St. Teresa's, in an "honors" class a B equaled an A on the point system (therefore, still a 4.0).  In all honesty, when asked why I became a doctor, the reply I want to give, is, "Because I was told I could, and that I would be good at it."  But, that response is no fun, doesn't get you into Med school or residency and is only partly true. What is left out of that response is how I came to actually embrace what was being expected of me, and until recently, when I stumbled across an article about "Why using your gifts is heroic",  I could never fully explain it myself.  Basically, it's true.  I became a doctor because I was told I could and should, because I am smart, because the sciences come easily, because I enjoy the perception of success, but, ultimately, I became a doctor because I wanted to share my gift.  What's the point of selfishly harboring a gift like that to yourself.  My brain allows me to help hundreds, even thousands of people on a daily basis.  Knowing, not only that I can do this, but am, in turn, makes me highly satisfied in life, and happy. 

Would I have become a doctor if my parents, teachers and peers hadn't identified my strengths and personality early on?  I doubt it.  Do I think that I would have been happy with whatever lot in life I chose? Probably.  So, in conclusion, will I continue to describe, label, guide and assess my children?  Definitely.  But, I will work on exposing them to everything.  Embracing their passions.  I will try not to pressure them to be who I think they should be, and let them express themselves as they deem fit.  And though I will probably still write posts about them, I hope they, and everyone else, understands that these are merely fun, intuitive observations, that are somewhat factual, but not meant for any practical use. Mostly, I will let just them be.  At least, I'll try to anyway. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Eyes in the back of her head.

I have those ears.  You know, "mother's ears".  I hear everything, as well as nothing.  Tonight was no different.  Matt and I sat, enjoying late night television, him with a beer, me enjoying the last glass of that opened bottle of wine, while all of our children slept.  Tucked away, snug as a bug.  Until, I heard it.  The faintest ringing of the bells on that cheap Dollar Tree toy tambourine that used to light up, but now the battery is decomposing inside of the clearish plastic cover. I last saw that toy the hallway outside the boys' room.  I keep thinking, I need to pick it up and throw it away before the rust colored acid leaks out and stains the carpet or tile or where ever it might be lying.

"Matt, Curtis is in the hallway, go tell him to go back to bed."

He just looks at me, with no intention of getting up, "No he's not.  It's just the rain on the window in the kitchen."

I don't buy it, I heard that tambourine. "Someone is up there.  Just tell him to go to bed."

Matt begrudgingly moves to the bottom of the stairs.  "Curtis!  Got to bed!"  Silence.  He looks at me, as if to say, "see? No one is there."

I look at him, as if to say, "want to make a bet?"

So, we both stand at the bottom of the stairs.  Listening.  No movement detected.  No sounds elicited.  Matt tries a simple, "Curtis!?"  Still nothing.  I have yet to doubt what I heard.  I know he's up there.  I know it's Curtis.  Brock always, eventually, makes his way down the stairs.  He wants to be caught.  He enjoys antagonizing us, he enjoys whining and crying and the whole show.  George is stuck in a crib.  Curtis will sneak out of bed and near-silently destroy books.  Play with toys.  Or even fall asleep in the hallway.  I just know it's him.

Matt looks at me, looks up the staircase, and says, "Hey, Curtis?  Want a cookie?"

Without hesitation, I hear the pacifier drop. "Yes. I come down there, now?" And from around the corner appears Za Cucky monster, with the sweetest little smile.

"No!? Go to bed, right now."

Fat kids.  The cookie gets 'em everytime.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A lifetime of love.

My grandmother passed away today. It was sudden, and somewhat unexpected, in that I didn't think it would happen today.  Maybe this year, or next year, but not today.  Then again, one never expects these things to happen.  No day, is a good day to lose someone you love.  She died in the afternoon, after spending the day showering and getting ready to head out for her Cardiology appointment.  My grandfather was with her all day, helping her, until the moment she collapsed.  He says she was in no distress.  We all agreed that she would be happy to know that she was freshly cleaned and dressed and "not in her house coat" as grandpa put it.
My grandma never smiled for pictures.  Someone seeing her only in photographs might think her a grumpy old woman.  If they were to speak to her, they would see how deceiving a picture can be.  She loved her husband, her children, and especially, her great grandchildren more than anything in the world.  She loved our visits, holding the newest baby, and watching the boys play.  As a very young child, I couldn't wait to get to grandma's house.  Where there was a candy drawer, from which, we were allowed to free feed.  Generally, there was a good stock of Tang, those barrel shaped fruit-flavored drinks or off-brand sodas in the garage.  Also, free for the partaking.  She even invited a couple of us to spend the night every so often.  I remember going to a movie and having breakfast for dinner, thinking it was the greatest night ever!  I used to joke that there was no leaving Grandma's house hungry, but it wasn't a joke.  She always had plenty to offer us, and all but forced us to eat.

Christmas was her favorite holiday.  She had 3 trees...and her house was not big.  Now, reflecting on her life, and who she was, it makes perfect sense that the season of giving would be her favorite holiday.  Christmas Eve for us kids was as fruitful as Christmas morning, because of the number of gifts she would give.  Not only did she provide the grandkids with a trashbag full of fun, and sometimes even practical gifts, but I remember my dad always receiving his yearly supply of socks, under shirts, underwear and a nice sweater and pants.  She would just watch us open our gifts.  To her, the greatest gift was seeing our excitement, happiness and gratitude.  For years, I think until high school, we would receive a card on our birth, and in it was the same amount of cash, as age we were turning.  Without fail.  Through the years, this trailed off, but I still, sporadically, received a card on my birthday or Thanksgiving or Halloween from my Grandma and Grandpa Smith.  Just last week, she made sure to drop off a small, silver cup as a gift to Mitch, for his baptism.  All four of my boys have received this gift from her for their sacrament.
As an adult, I came to appreciate and admire my grandparents for their devotion.  Next month, on April 23rd, would have been their 65th wedding anniversary.  Amazing.  Simply beautiful.  The two of them raised 3 boys together.  The have a home, full of memories, walls filled with photos, every corner displays some item signifying a life together. I'm not sure what my grandpa will do.  He will no longer have his lifelong companion. "Mother" is not sitting next to him in her chair, with the TV volume up entirely too loud.  When I call, he will have to be the one to talk, and cannot immediately direct me to her.  I will miss that.  She was extremely sharp, nothing got by her. I was constantly amazed during our conversations at how up to date she kept with my life, my school, swimming, job, children.  Everything.  She could never express enough how proud she was of me, and my family.  She thought the world of my little boys.  In her mind, they were the most well-mannered, polite, well-behaved children she had ever met.  I'm glad she left before they gave her the opportunity to think otherwise.

I think she was very sick for a while.  I think her heart was failing.  But being the strong, matriarchal woman she was, she would not lead anyone to believe she was anything but well.  I think her worst fear would be to become a burden her family.  She was the caretaker.  The giver.  The mom.  As such, you best not cross her.  Even when all the cousins became adults, even when my parents became grandparents themselves, we all still made sure to keep the family farmhouse clean, for fear of what grandma might do to us if it were found unkempt.  She was a hard woman.  She lived through a lot.  She was 87.  She had polio as a child.  Polio!  That doesn't even exist now.  But as strict or serious as she ever seemed, the love shone through so much stronger. I sincerely doubt that I will ever come across a more selfless and devoted women, ever again, as my Grandma, Rosemary Smith.  She will be so very missed.  We lost an incredible, beautiful, amazing person today.  Goodbye, grandma.  We love you. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

So, you're doing this on purpose??

Driving home from a friend's house Saturday evening, I called Matt to ask him if dinner would be ready upon our arrival (and by "ask" I mean, "demand" that dinner be ready, I was seriously hangry.) When I hung up the phone, from the very back of the van, Brock shouts, "Mommy!  Who was that!?"  Ugh.  I know he is intelligent.  Extremely intelligent.  I am quite sure he knows good and well who I was speaking to on the phone.  I begrudgingly answer, "Your Father".  "Oh, what did he say?"  This question kills me, every time.  He didn't just 'say something'.  He said a lot of things.  We had an entire conversation!  Brock heard half of this conversation.  It wasn't complicated.  I'm pretty sure he could infer the other half.  Right?  I mean, can a five year old do that?  He manages to infer and hear a lot of other things.  For example, somehow, he always knows when I've just gotten off of the phone with my sister Annora, and we have planned something for the boys to do together.

"He's at the store."

"Oh, well, I hope he got milk."

"I'm sure he did."

"Good, because I was crying all morning about it.  I kind of threw a fit."

Interesting.  Brock just stated all of this in the most matter-of-fact tone, imaginable.  I mean, never has he ever been less whiny, loud or insistent.  He simply stated these as facts.  Nothing more to be said.  But, in my head, I can only imagine what actually went down this morning, while I was away at work that morning rounding on patients.  I'm guessing, Brock had a total meltdown.  I'm sure he cried and cried and went on about how all he wanted was milk.  At some point, I'm guessing that he mentioned how miserable his life is, and that we NEVER give him ANYTHING he wants.  I kind of grin to myself, because, Brock is so totally over the events of this morning.  Harbors no hard feelings.  And appears almost proud of himself.  As if, the only reason Matt went to the store to get groceries was for the milk, he so desperately needed at 7:30am.

We all go into the house and settle in to watch a movie while we wait for Matt to get home with the groceries.  The front door opens.  Matt walks in, and says, "Hey, Brock.  I got milk."  Funny you should say that...
...I go on to tell Matt of Brock and I's conversation in the car.  Matt is flabbergasted.  "So, he was aware of what he was doing!?"  Matt, like I, had always assumed these were fits completely out of toddler/child-like uncontrollable thoughts and emotions.  That they behaved this way because they have no idea how to channel their emotions.  That they wouldn't or even couldn't identify the moment as a tantrum, but more just as that time there was no milk, and I was really sad.  Turns out, we were wrong.  Way, way wrong.  I think we are being manipulated.  And, in Brock's mind, it worked.  Because we went out and bought the milk.  Never mind that Matt planned to go to the store that evening anyway. Never mind all of that.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Status Update

I hate snow.

Despite the fact that I never bake, I had all the ingredients for banana bread with chocolate chips! {insert photo}

One of those days where zone parenting isn't going to cut it. We need man to man. Who's coming over?

I hate winter.

Does a house of all girls do this? {insert bouncy house photo}

My stomach hurts really bad. I'm fairly certain I'm going to vomit. If I get the stomach flu, one more time this season, I swear I'm leaving for warmer land.

I fucking hate winter.

Easter egg hunt training. {insert photo}

The boys were hiding plastic eggs and then searching for them in the living room, so I took this opportunity to go into the kitchen and make some coffee...I came out and George had found a pencil and colored ALL OVER THE NEW MITCH CHAIR!!!!!!!!! That one might get murdered...

There's a chance Brock spent more time in time out today, than anywhere else. Mostly just for being loud. He's soo loud. Where does he get that!?

No one gets the iPad!!! 

I've never said, "don't hit your brother" so many times in one day.

Brock insists on knowing everything the person on the other side of the phone says. Today, after hanging up with my sister, he says, per usual, "Who was that, mom?" Leah. "What did she say?" That they finished painting their bedroom. "What else did she say?" Nothing, Brock. That's all she said! "Ugh. Why does EVERYONE only say ONE THING!?"

Curtis changed his underwear and/or Pull-Up no less than 12 times today. And used the toilet twice. Does not add up.

That's it. I'm looking for jobs in Hawaii.

After dinner, George comes sauntering into the family room where we are all watching '101 Dalmations'. He begins digging in his tiny shirt pocket. Matt is sure he's stored a piece of pizza from dinner in there, and asks him about it. George simply says "no". Then finally produces a grape. Shows it to Matt. And eats it. Seriously!?

And, like clockwork, it's 8pm and Curtis requested to go to bed. Goodnight.