Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.
Warm air, humid day
covered by clouds, sprinkles fine
white, silver, gray mist.
Being a child is not easy, whether insulated by affluence or not. Everything is new, a challenge, risks to be taken, lessons to be learned. If we do our job as parents the life long learning continues in our children as they become adults.
But that job of parenting? Anybody who’s done it, whether they are good parents or bad (and who’s judging?) will tell you it’s the hardest effing job they’ve ever had. I had no romantic notions when I became a parent. I knew it would be hard.
Parenting comes with no instructions. No manual is delivered into the hands of the parents along with that slippery squirming newborn. No update comes at each stage of development. No upgrade is installed at the anniversary of the birth.
Parenting never ends. It is the only truly 24/7/365/forever after job. It doesn’t end when they go to sleep. It doesn’t end when they learn to walk or talk. It doesn’t end when they finally learn to read at 6 or 8 or 11. It doesn’t end when they falter or when they achieve success. It especially doesn’t end when they become a teenager; they need you more than ever. It doesn’t end at 17, 18, or 19 when they typically graduate from high school or get GEDs and go off to college or war. It doesn’t end when they turn 21 and legally become responsible for all aspects of their own lives. It doesn’t end when they marry, or have children, or grow old.
Parenting can be generally consistent but by definition requires change. At each stage of development into adulthood and beyond. At each addition or subtraction to the family. At each milestone for either the parents or the children. At each transition, birthdays, graduations, moving homes.
You can read all the parenting books in the library or at the bookstore, but when it comes right down to it as parents we fly by the seat of our pants. Yes, we have a basic toolbox, but situations, or children, might require something to be made up along the way. That’s called flexibility or going with the flow depending on your generation. In the end we all deal the best we can to produce responsible caring citizens of this world.
When the son was small we lived in quite reduced circumstances, but even without a lot of money joy can be found. He was given a small red-white-and-blue clown costumed white stuffed bear at his 1st birthday party by a friend and co-worker. It was just his size. His face was so delighted as he unwrapped it and hugged it and when he wouldn’t let go of it, we knew it was his special bear. I didn’t give the bear a name but as the son began to talk the bear came to be known as Happy Bear.
Happy Bear was just the right size to fit in my hand and I could make him look like he was moving his arms and legs or giggling from his tummy. This delighted the baby son and he would coo and giggle as Happy Bear would “talk” in a funny voice. After the son found his own voice and we were done with snuggle-reading for the night, when it was time for lights out he would say “Talk Happy Bear, Mommy”. I, of course, could see right through this as it was his way to have a few more minutes of mommy time. I rather loved the demand, because working full time it is hard to get enough time with my child.
Happy Bear would tell stories made up on the spot, stories about safety in the darkness, and parents being always alert, and how important it is to brush your teeth. As he got older, stories about dragons, and elves, and knights, and how to treat fair damsels with respect. Sometimes Happy Bear explained about incidents during the day or why people behave in puzzling ways. Happy Bear talked about joy, and gratefulness, and grief, and discovery, and participation, and the universe. Happy Bear knew all, saw all, and could explain all.
Happy Bear was drooled on, sucked on, spit up on, cried on, and loved on. When the son was very small Happy Bear could easily be washed during the day but as the son got older he had to have a reason to leave the son’s room. Happy Bear occasionally had to take an amusement ride in the washer and dryer, placed securely inside a knotted pillowcase to make sure he was not destroyed by the agitation or the whirl, and enjoyed his ride along with Hugging Blanket (the son’s name for his blanket), the blanket given him by his paternal grandmother that had been with him since birth.
Sometimes Happy Bear’s voice was not quite Happy Bear’s. The son would say, “That’s not Happy Bear.” I would suggest he had visitors or company. The son would say, “Try again, Mom,” until I got the voice just right. When he was learning to read he was hesitant to read out loud. “I can’t do the voices like you, Mom.” So that night Happy Bear talked about how practicing things you want to do can make you better at them. We make it up as we go along.
Happy Bear stopped talking about the time the son became a proficient reader, which was also when our snuggle-reading stopped. I don’t think Happy Bear was silent though as the son slept with him every night until one day when he was 16 I came home from work and found Happy Bear on my bed, next to Hugging Blanket, who was also retired. Both were given one final amusement ride through the washer and dryer and tucked away in a special place in case he ever wants them back.
My mom kept the little brown bear I always slept with, Brownie Bear, and being the unapologetic sentimental sap I am, I am grateful she did. If I remember the story right Brownie came from her next youngest brother on my first birthday. Uncle Bob was a huge bear of a man and a little scary to a tiny girl but he loved me dearly as his first niece. My uncle had a congenital heart condition and died in his 40s when I was in my 20s. He worked for the City of Portland and occasionally I would pass him on the street working for one of the road repair crews. He also worked part-time at the Oaks Amusement Park, about a ten minute drive from the house I grew up in. I remember a few special evenings when my parents took us to the amusement park at night when all the neon lights were shining in the black of night, reflecting on the Willamette River, and we got to choose one ride. Brownie Bear has a place of pride in my room to remind me of the love bestowed on me by parents and family who were doing the best they could with what they had and what they knew. Same as any parent.
As the first year anniversary of my mother’s death passes this week, the son is off on a wild adventure road trip with two friends. It’s not well planned. They are flying by the seats of their pants on a Steinbeckian journey to find who they are. They have no travel plan filed with the parental units. They will travel to another state and find a mysterious place they have never been before. The destination is participation in a conference about improving the condition of our world.
This mother is trying to achieve a mature stance and not to be concerned if he has enough money to get there and back, if he is eating and drinking enough water, if he is brushing his teeth or changing his socks, if he is warm and dry, or if he will come back in one piece. It’s not as simple as talking Happy Bear any more. He’s 21. He’s an Eagle Scout. He has some skills in his tool box, and he’s traveling with other scouts. He must have adventures or he won’t have his own coming of age stories to tell his children or his elderly parents. But we know what a big world it is out there and we know the wide variety of people and opinions and laws in different states.
Parenting never ends. They may spread their wings, the very wings we have cared for for so long, and they may fly, but we are always waiting for them to land, to fly back to the nest for any brief moment of respite, even after they have created their own nests. We believe by blind faith, that we have done our jobs the best we can with what we have, they will stay out of trouble, have a fun and safe trip, eat and brush their teeth. We watch them fly. And we welcome them back.
Color Watch – blooming attractions in my neighborhoods this week – even weed flowers are pretty if you bother to look at these lovely yellow starburst weeds I relate to dandelions; the fairy hazed crystalline look of the dandelion seed head; unidentified yellow and green so pretty together; unidentified pale pink bell-like blossoms on burgundy stalks; the light of the orange hanging Chinese lantern lilies filling a yard space; the red, white, and blue effect of the blue hydrangeas in blossom next to the white house with the red door, in time for the celebration of Independence Day; and the brilliant open face of the yellow daylily.
Currently Reading – Man’s Search for Meaning (1946, psychology) by Viktor E. Frankl; A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013, fiction) by Anthony Marra; The Pain Chronicles: Cures, Myths, Mysteries, Prayers, Diaries, Brain Scans, and The Science of Suffering (2010, science) by Melanie Thernstrom; How To Become a Really Good Pain in the Ass: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Asking the Right Questions (2011, philosophy, logic). Yes, concurrently. Check out my From Me 2 U Book Review page.
This week I have been grateful for:
- Surviving this first tough year without my mom.
- Having Mom as long as I did; and the kind of woman she was.
- Sunshine. Rain.
- A fun dinner out with a friend and yakking our heads off for hours.
- A friend’s suggestion to re-frame my attitude about my love of cool junk as overwhelming stuff and fully embrace it as a love of history and curiosity. Could work. For the record, I have no skulls, bones, mummies, shrunken heads, or other preserved human or animal remains in my home now that Aunt Ruth’s cremains have been buried. Except for two generations of baby teeth (the son’s and the hubster’s) and my wisdom teeth, pulled when I was sixteen. Oh, and an intact snake skin I found not long after it had been shed; it’s flaking apart finally.
- Learning more about parenting.
- Knowing I’m sassy and cranky.
- The wind on my skin on a muggy day.
- Ignoring the housework and taking a little nap.
- An invitation I’m not sure I can take advantage of because of feeling puny.
- Feeling not quite so puny.
- Knowing the son did some research before he left, bothered to tell me his “plans”, gave me his pertinent numbers in case I need to find him, and gave me a kiss and hug before he went on his way down the road.
Hoping you have a lovely week.
Namaste. Peace. Blessings.
Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch