Blog Archives

Excuse Me for Breathing

DSCN0666I don’t know if there is anyone who doesn’t smile at the sight of baby. Fresh and new, unblemished, ready to begin life on earth. We smile at the innocence, the beauty, the miracle.

I think I began my life as a mother in a similar way. Innocent, hopeful, full of wonder and excitement. Of course, trepidation was a common feeling too. “How am I going to manage this ‘mom’ thing?”

As my children grow, I see their experiences molding and shaping them year by year. I take note of their minds and hearts working as they learn to make decisions for themselves. I try to give them helpful counsel as they learn to react to and interact with others. All too often, I wish I could protect them from hurt and difficulty, from the scars I know life will bring. Brought on by those same things I have faced and sometimes continue to face, even as a “grown up”. Sometimes I even wish I could protect my children from myself. From the fears I haven’t faced, the hurts I haven’t quite gotten over, the skewed perspectives I have. I think how nice it would be if I could do the “mom thing” from that same unblemished, perfect state babies seem to have when they enter the world.

Sometimes it takes years to realize something I encountered long ago still affects me … and my interactions with my children. The way I relate and respond to them. Not long ago, I felt hurt by a friend’s attitude toward my kids, and didn’t know why. Then I realized why it affected me the way it did. Years ago I had been hurt by the words of another “friend” who was vocally opposed to my second pregnancy and let me know in no uncertain terms that she felt me and my children were only a burden. The hurt I felt by her remarks remained in a place so deep I didn’t consciously realize it was there.

But it was. I became one of those parents constantly hovering over my children, hushing them if they became too loud, telling them not to disturb this person, and not to bother that person. Yes, it is good to help children grow in awareness of others and to understand there is a good and a not-so-good time to ask for things, but my hovering was borne of fear that I would again face—or worse, that my children would face—someone letting them know they are a burden, an unwanted load.

I was often preoccupied with making sure my children were “good” and “quiet” so they wouldn’t become an issue for someone else. But I don’t want to make the mistake of raising children in fear or negativity. Enough negative and harmful things face my children simply because we live in a broken world. My duty as a mother is to be haven of security, peace, and helpful boundaries. Not to exude an “excuse me for breathing” mentality.

Most of all, my responsibility and privilege is to show them unconditional love. Children are a gift. They don’t need a reason or an excuse. Each child is a treasure with the potential to change the world for the better.

Seeing each day through the eyes of a child can help me remember every day is a chance to start over. Each lesson I help my children understand can serve as an encouragement to let go of past pain and hurt. Every new life ushered into this world is another proclamation that my life can likewise begin anew every day.

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A Hamster in Heaven

HamsterMy daughter’s eighth birthday was approaching and I had the perfect idea for a gift. A hamster. I suggested it to my husband and he wasn’t so sure. “The kids are so young,” he pointed out. “What will they do when it dies?”

“That’s part of life,” I answered. “They have to learn about it sometime.” That might sound calloused, but I didn’t mean it that way. I just remembered that some of the deepest things I learned about life and love were intertwined with loss or death. Maybe because it’s times like those that we realize how deep love really is … and how enduring.

We got the hamster. Jessica named him Buttercup because at first she thought it was a girl. (Well, at first it was a girl but that’s another story.) Her birthday gift was a winner and it took a few days for her brain to wrap around the fact that she had a little pet to care for and love.

Buttercup became a part of our family. His bright, inquisitive nature fit in just perfectly. He was very friendly for a hamster and the kids had a lot of fun with him.

You probably noticed I’m writing in past tense referring to the little critter. Buttercup died last night. You know how it is when you know something is bound to happen eventually yet you assume it never will? Yeah, me too.

Jessica was doing homework in my room while I was in their room at the computer. While I was editing, I heard a strange recurring noise somewhere behind me. Finally I tuned into it and realized it was coming from the hamster’s cage. I peeked inside his little sleeping spot and he was breathing hard, labored. His body was unresponsive when I picked him up.

I called Jessica and she cried as she asked me if we could take him to a vet. I knew there was no hope for such a little thing so obviously taking his last breaths, but I wrapped him in a warm cloth and tried giving him water and then ground-up pellet-porridge with an eye dropper. I held him until he stopped breathing less than half an hour later.

Then I held Jessica as she said goodbye to her little pet. I told her about a hamster I had when I was 12, and that I cried when it died. She asked what we should do with the body and I told her we could bury him in the backyard. Then she asked if she could sleep with me, and I said sure.

We prayed for the night and Jessica fell asleep quickly, waking up from her half-asleep state to say something about Buttercup with angels and happy in Heaven. I told her I’m sure he is.

Life on earth. Followed by death. That part of existence we feel will never come and often live as if it won’t, yet still it does. Death. Another beginning, yet so often seen as the final act. The end.

But nothing truly loved is forever lost. And though we cannot see it, the end is the beginning.