If you had driven
Down Shields Avenue
Past a school at roughly
You might have seen a brown-haired boy
With glasses, and a button-blue shirt tucked in
Standing against the black steel fence
A score of other children swung and hula-hooped and dribbled balls and played tag
Forgive the boy waving
As if at the cars driving by
Or those waiting at the bus stand just past the parking lot
Or at nothing at all
He was waving to his mother
He was waving to me
My son likes Winnie the Pooh. Actually, it’s a bit beyond like. If a day goes by without him watching a Winnie the Pooh episode or reading a Pooh story, he’s more cranky than I am on the days I skip my chai.
But who doesn’t love Pooh? Who couldn’t love pretty much all the characters, in their own way?
The other day, Allen was watching the original Pooh movie… you know, the one we all probably watched when we were kids.
It came to the part about Eeyore’s birthday, where he is not surprised that no one knew it was his birthday. He’s just sitting there, gloomy as ever. Pooh and Piglet decide they should get a gift for him and rush off to their respective houses to find something.
Pooh finds a pot of honey (what else?) and begins the walk to Eeyore’s houseless hill. On the way, he gets a rumbly in his tumbly and decides he better sample the honey, “to make sure it’s okay”. Before he knows it, the honey is gone and he’s left with an empty—and rather sticky—pot. He heads to Owl’s tree house and Owl scribbles a birthday message on the pot, so that Pooh can present Eeyore with “a useful pot” for his birthday.
Meanwhile, Piglet finds the perfect gift, a red balloon that was three times his size. As he heads off to find Eeyore, the inevitable happens: the balloon pops.
Piglet arrives first with his “gift”, stammering his way through the story of what happened as he presents the broken and deflated red balloon. Just then, Pooh shows up with his gift.
“It’s a useful pot, and it’s for keeping things in,” he cheerily states to Eeyore.
“Like a balloon?” Eeyore asks.
“Oh, no. A balloon is too big to…” Pooh stops short when he sees Eeyore put the little red object into the pot and then pull it back out.
“Red, my favorite color…” Eeyore says…happily?
Parenting is like that sometimes. We have great ideas and concepts, hopes and the way we expect things to turn out. They never do turn out that way, though, do they? Sometimes we have to improvise, or come up with a whole new plan.
Then we have our kids, who don’t seem to mind; or if they do, they roll with the punches pretty well. Like Eeyore—well, at least in that scene—our kids are happy with what we have to offer. They are forgiving of the mistakes we make. Actually, they don’t even seem to notice.
Okay, I realize parenting is not quite as uncomplicated as an episode of Winnie the Pooh. Situations are not always resolved within 10-20 minutes. But at times like that, I can always put on Winnie the Pooh for my son, and make myself that cup of chai.
[Reposted from May, 2011]
My four-year-old son had been going through a whiny phase. It was difficult to even know what he was saying and I would frequently let him know (less-than-patiently) that I could not understand a word he was saying unless he spoke more clearly without the high-pitch, sing-song accompaniment of whines. After my strong reactions, he rarely improved and things would just go downhill.
My mom and I were in the car, and the kids were in the back seat. My son was talking to himself, which he rarely does. He was going on and on in a very impassioned manner so I tuned in to hear what he might be saying.
“No one understands me!” He was exclaiming to himself, building up a whole case in his little sing-song voice. I tried to reassure him that as long as he spoke clearly, he would be understood. I left it at that, although his talking continued.
That weekend, my sister came for a visit with her teenage son. I entered the living room that evening and heard my son telling a story to his aunt and cousin. They were sitting captivated as he narrated the entire tale of how we traveled from India, including information on the airplane ride, the things he saw, ate, experienced.
After he completed his tale, I told him it was time to get ready for bed. He turned to go, but then added, “I need to go now and that’s about all the information I have.”
My sister was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. My nephew commented, “He knows words I didn’t learn until sixth grade!”
The next day, my four-year-old told his plane traveling story to someone else, who was extremely impressed. He added a few details, cut out some other parts and had to double back when he forgot something, beginning the story once more from that point on. He breathlessly reached the end of the story and said, “And that’s the end of my story of how we came from Bangalore to America.”
Another successful tale. Another impressed listener. My son was happy once more.
He still has whiny moments and at times, I still have difficulty understanding what he’s trying to say. But he also has an amazing vocabulary and a gift of storytelling. Sometimes we need an outside glimpse from someone else to help us see just how special and unique each child really is.
[Repost from September, 2011]
Since becoming a mother, I sometimes think back on my own mother and my childhood, and at times find myself comparing my mothering skills against my mother’s. Needless to say, I always come up short. She was a mother of six, and loved being a full-time “mom.” I have half that number and yet I feel I struggle with being a “good mom” on a daily basis.
She taught her children at home until high school age. I am more or less still in “early learning” stage as far as teaching my children and am not sure whether I will be able to keep up with every aspect of their training—educational, physical, spiritual, etc. I remember only very rare occasions when my mother would raise her voice or get upset about something one of us did.
I was recently recalling to my mother a memory from my childhood. She asked a question about my perception of it, and I let her know that I recalled only one or two times she got upset at us children, and those times were without a doubt well-deserved moments. My mom said something to the effect of, “Wow, you must have a very rosy memory. You were great kids but I don’t know that I did such a marvelous job.”
Hearing those words from “the world’s best mom” gave me hope. Could it be that we are at times more harsh and judgmental of ourselves than others—our children included—are? I recently watched a movie called The Final Cut (not a great movie, by the way), which portrayed the point that personal memories of an event are often skewed and we don’t always remember the exact details. We remember certain parts of things better, perhaps the emotions we had at the time, or a particular highlight, and over time, even that becomes hazy or somewhat altered.
The Bible says that the memory of the just is blessed. This is probably for the most part because God blesses His children and thus we remember these many blessings. Another meaning could be that the memories are blessed because we have chosen to dwell on the positive and beneficial aspects of life rather than the difficulties or challenges. Having those “blessed” memories probably also requires some effort on our part, choosing to let go of any guilt, or desires of perfectionism in parenting.
A successful parent is a positive and happy parent who makes the attempt to highlight the more positive and uplifting aspects of any situation. In thinking back once more, that is probably what I remember most about my mother and her parenting skills. She was positive—not Mary Poppins, but she was sincere.
My prayer is that my children remember somewhat the same thing when they are grown … not a successful-but-too-busy-to-take-time-for-us mother, not a perfect-but-unrealistic mother, but a happy and sincere mother.
Most of all, a mother who loves them, and shows it in some way every day.
It was another day. For some reason, “another day” no longer held the magic and excitement it had once held. My life and circumstances had changed and there didn’t seem to be much to be inspired about. Days were slowly merging together into something I vowed I would never have—a weary and dreary sense of existence. There was cleaning, cooking and kids, day after day—and not much else, it seemed. One morning, I attempted to figure out what was wrong. Every day should have a bit of magic sprinkled throughout it, I pondered. Where was the magic?
I needed to get the house cleaned that morning, so I let the kids know they had the morning free from school. They were excited and ran to find something to do. That was when they found the box. It was an empty box, nothing special inside it—nothing at all inside it. It was a plain box—no painting, no markings, no decorations. I was soon to find out that this not-so-special box was, in fact, quite special indeed.
At first, it was a train coach, carrying them to a far-off and much-anticipated destination. Then it was a boat, keeping them safe through a giant storm. Afterwards, it was an easel, where each one of them could decorate and draw to their heart’s content. Again and again it morphed, from house to airplane to hiding place. The entire morning passed quickly for them in their magical box. As I watched them laughing and pretending as they climbed in and out of that worn, old box, I realized the magic had been there all along; no, not in the box—in the minds and hearts of my children, and in the many things they found exciting, amusing, and wonderful. It must be there in my own heart as well, I thought.
Magic was in every corner of the house—with its potential for imagination to take wings. It hid in the garden, the front yard and beyond—each place a chance for new discovery and experiences. It waited in the stories I read to them and made up for them—that would inspire their minds, encourage their spirits, speak to their hearts.
And yes, magic was in a big, plain box on its way to the recycling bin, a box that was just waiting for its chance to become a source of joy for three young children.
I looked around. There was still a lot of cleaning and more of the “same ol’ same ol’”, but it would have to wait. It was time to experience some magic, and, this time around, I knew just where it was hiding.
Congratulations to our winners: Gaby (73 likes), Helen (72 likes), and Charlotte (71 likes)! It was so close! I wish everyone could have won something because every story is so special. Every memory. Every moment.
I so enjoyed reading these memories and reflections on mothers and memories from childhood that I’m thinking about writing some posts with memories of my childhood.
The idea also developed with an assignment from my photography class. For the final assignment, my professor said we can choose one subject and take 20 photos on that theme. My immediate choice (naturally) was my children. Then I began to wonder, “What kind of pictures should I take?”
The concept began to form: take pictures that coincide with my own childhood memories. Images began flooding into my mind. Eating ice cream while sitting on the back of a station wagon with my siblings, running through sprinklers, playing shadow tag, moving the lawn with a push-mower, pillow fights and raking leaves, fishing, jumping on a trampoline. So many iconic flashes. I hope I can capture them all.
More than that, I hope that my children are developing images of their own. I pray that special memories are forming in their minds, things they can carry with them always. To remind them of being loved.
Because no matter what else I might have to offer, or might not have … one thing I can unequivocally give my children, one thing we can all offer our children, is love.
The love of a parent. Imperfect, yes. But somehow unconditional. Somehow transcendent and beautiful and enduring. Even if it’s all we have to offer our children … it is enough.