A Veritable Quandary
Last weekend we hiked in Arches National Park. It is one of the most breath-taking, beautiful places I’ve ever seen. When Jennika was just a little baby, and still content to be carried in the front pack, we hiked through Devil’s Garden. This 7 mile hike is listed in the brochure as difficult. I think mainly because there are high, narrow fins to walk across and a few places where scrambling (using hands and feet) are required. We decided to try it again this year, though we just did the basic trail without the side trips, making it just a little over 5 miles. We carried Korban and had a pack for Jennika just in case she got tired of walking. She was amazing, walking almost the whole way. We hiked with our friends, who also have kids, and I think having company for Jennika helped her hike further. There were a few times I carried her because I was nervous about letting her walk and a few times that she wanted to rest and ride for a bit. Overall, I’d guess that she hiked close to four miles.
The next day we decided to hike into the Fiery Furnance. This area of winding canyons and high fins is closed to general hiking and it is recommneded that hikers take the ranger guided tour. There are several reasons for this, primarily to preserve the pristine landscape, protect the cryptobiotic soil, and protect the hikers. There is no marked trail in the Fiery Furnace and hikers have gotten lost. The next available guided tour, however, wasn’t for three days. So we decided to apply for a permit to go into the Fiery Furnace by ourselves. Yes, it sounds scary and at that time I was feeling a little bit scared.
In order to obtain a permit for this hike, we had to watch a short video about where to and not to step and how to conduct ourselves. It was pretty basic, no shouting, be respectful of others and the environment, but good for the kids to hear. After the video a ranger came in and told us they would issue the permit but with hesitation because, “this is not an appropriate place for toddlers.” By now I’m really nervous about taking our four kids into this area and almost wishing the ranger would just say, “You can’t take those babies in there!” The guys persuaded us to just give it a try and promised that if our kids were out of control and ruining the area we would head back to the car.
Again, all of our kids did fantastic. They stayed on the trail, I don’t think the cryptobioic soil even knew we were there! They were quiet, whispering or talking quietly, and again I think they hiked at least two miles. This hike did require a bit more scrambling and balanced walking. There were several times when I’d tell Jennika to be careful or ask her to please hold my hand. There were several times when I would ask her if I could carry her, not because she needed a rest, just for my peace of mind. And there where times when I didn’t ask her, I just scooped her up to keep her safe over a slippery or dangerous section.
One section was particularly steep and the hard red sandstone was covered with loose sand and pea rocks. On one side was a little drop off, so I asked Jennika, “Do you want Mama to carry you?”
“No.” She said confidently
I nervously watched as she inched her way down, little step by little step. Again I said, “Jennika please let me carry you. I don’t want you to fall.”
Her response, “I’m being careful.”
As I resisted the urge to grab her anyway, I thought about her answer and our exchange. She is adventuring, taking risks, enjoying her freedom and ability to do something big. I know that feeling. I, too enjoy knowing I’ve done something difficult. As her mama, I am proud of her for trying things that are hard. I rejoice with her when she turns to me and says, “I did it, Mama!” But I also see the risks that she may not see or fully understand. I can see the drop off or the slippery rocks that she ignores and I can visualize her slipping and skinning her elbow, or worse. I want to protect her from getting hurt, but I also want her to try these things and to experience the thrill of pushing herself.
It’s a quandary that I really never knew until I became a mother. It’s a quandary that I think I may wrestle with for the rest of my life. When do I let my children live out the risks they wish to take and when do I interfere and scoop them up? I do not want my kids to life a cautious life. I do not want my kids to live in fear of what might happen. I want my kids to live big, to experience new things, and to push themselves to try the things they dream of. I know that means they will get hurt, skinned knees, hurt feelings, and maybe even broken bones or a broken heart.
It’s hard for me to think about my kids experiencing pain of any type, but it gives me comfort to think of my daughter’s response, “I’m being careful.” She may not see the dangers I see, but she has been listening to my warnings and is following my instruction. I have to trust her and the teachings I’ve given her. I have to let her try. And I will be there to comfort and cry with her when the hurts come.
When I was younger I would regularly and loudly bemoan the difficult life I had as an oldest sister. I have MANY stories of how I suffered due to the actions of my younger sisters. Oh, what? You’d like to hear a few? Okay. 🙂
-I was given several beautiful fancy hats, the kind that make little girls feel like twirling and curtsying in. I had one that was my particular favorite. When my little sister and I played dress up I would always let her wear a hat, but never my favorite one. One day she played dress up by herself and chose to wear my favorite hat. Then she decided to go outside and show nature and all our farm animals her elegance. Being a very small child with a very small attention span she quickly forgot about her elegance, dropped the hat on the ground and proceeded to find something else to play with. Our hat was found by our fox terrier puppy who did not appreciate its elegance, just the delightful taste of fake plastic grapes and old fabric. Goodbye hat.
-I was a teenager when my littlest sister and brother were born. Being from a large family in a small town was not always something I saw as a good thing. Many people asked me, “Are you mormon?”
“No”, I would respond.
“Oh then you must be Catholic” they would conclude. I wasn’t this either but usually I would just roll my eyes and walk off instead of trying to explain what we were that would provide an adequate justification, in their eyes, for our large family. I don’t know that there was a right explanation.
-Being the oldest girl I often was the primary babysitter for my younger siblings. Most of the time I loved it and and now I can see the great value in the childcare training I received. But there were times that I wanted to go do things with my friends but had to stay and babysit instead.
-I decided to change the way that I wrote so that my handwriting was distinct and recognizable. It took me many hours of erasing and re-writing my a’s, y’s, and j’s to create a habit of writing them differently. I wrote my a’s just like they look in this current font and my j’s and y’s were curvy at the bottom. About a year after penning my new style I noticed a paper written by my sister….with a’s and j’s JUST LIKE MINE! I was furious. It didn’t calm me in the least when my mom explained the imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. I didn’t want an imitator when I was trying to be unique!
-Clothing and jewelry often disappeared from my room and then later my own house at the hands of my sneaky littlest sister. She was always only “just borrowing” them but sometimes they were “borrowed” for months at a time.
-Once when my sister and I shared a room and a bed we sneaked out of bed after bedtime and at some of our Christmas candy. I ate my piece of candy and then fell asleep. My sister, however did not bother to finish her candy and we were caught in the morning when my mom found a cherry lifesaver stuck in my sister’s hair. We both got spanked because Jillian said I told her to eat candy with me. Yeah, like I had to command her to eat candy. 🙂
Now I laugh at these little antidotes but at the time I felt they were the most sincere forms of torture a girl could suffer and I did not suffer silently but made sure my sisters and parents were well aware of this burden I carried.
This weekend when we went back home for a visit I realized that over the past couple years I’ve gotten payback for all…well, okay most of the wrongs I suffered.
Each time we go home for a visit my youngest sister has bags full of clothes that she is giving away. I feel bad taking her adorable clothes and I know they don’t look as good on me as they look on her but I love getting the “new” clothes. My other sister practically swoops my kids out of my arms when we arrive and would take them the whole of our visit if she didn’t have to share with others. Several times during the weekend I left my kids upstairs and went downstairs to take naps.
So now I feel like the tables have turned and I am the one that is getting all the good from having little sisters. Not to say that I didn’t get lots of great experiences out of them when we were younger, but I think I am more able to appreciate them now.
Thanks Jilly and Liv. 🙂
Life to the Fullest
I’ve written about this before but I think I just need to get this out for my own good.
I recently was in Texas visiting my grandparents. They are in their late 80s and had never met my son, thus our visit. As I puttered around their house, removing porcelain figurines and the 100th pair of reading glasses from my daughter’s mischievous hands I was struck with bittersweet emotions. I have so many memories in this house and of these two people. I am sad that they will soon be leaving this house, with the address I have memorized, for an easier living situation. But I’m also relieved for them.
They are old. My gramma forgets things. So far it’s been little things, like whether I’ve met my cousin or if she’s already told me about the birthday party they are going to on Saturday. But soon it may be big things, like why she turned the oven on and if she turned it off. Or when she last took her medication. My grandpa’s mind is still sharp as a tack but his physical health is declining. He weighs less than me and there were several times that he lost his balance and nearly fell. It makes me sad to see them like this and I find myself thinking, is this what I have to look forward to?
There is silverware (real silver) under my gramma’s bed that hasn’t been used in 20 years. There are Get Well Soon cards from a surgery my grandpa had nearly three years ago. There is stuff, just stuff everywhere. And as my grandparents begin to mentally and physically process this move they will be making, this stuff weighs heavily on their minds. My gramma had piles of things she wanted to know if I wanted to take home with me. Some things are family heirlooms, some things are trivial, like a sample package of paper towels. She opened a bag packed full of crocheted doilies, made by my great grandmother and great aunt. Gramma was going to make something out of them but never got around to it.
I can relate to that. I have many little knick knacks in my guest room closet. Things that I’m saving for a project that I haven’t gotten around to yet. This trip was a wake up call for me. Because I don’t want 80 years of stuff that I’ve saved because I’ve not gotten around to doing them. I don’t want to save the good china for special events anymore. I don’t want to save the pretty cards for special notes. I don’t want my kids to out grow their nice shoes before they get to wear them. I guess I just want to be generous with my stuff and adventurous with my daily plans. I hope that when I’m 80+ years old I will have few things and lots of good memories.
Recently I overheard a conversation between two of my friends. One is a mama whose daughters are healthy, well adjusted adults. The other is a mama who is in the midst of toddlerhood. The conversation went something like this,
Older Mama: You are doing such a good job with your daughter. She is a delightful, caring little girl!
Younger Mama: (A little embarassed) Oh well, it’s not anything we are doing, it’s all God.
Now, I can totally relate to this younger mama’s response. In fact I’ve probably said something very similar to this before but the fact is, what she said is simply not true. It’s nice to give God credit for creating a child who is naturally sensitive and caring, but she didn’t get that way on his own. I KNOW that her parents work hard to train her and encourage her to care for others. I’ve seen this mama relate to her daughter and she takes great care in the words she selects in communicating with her. Both parents work to communicate immense love for and to their child. In short, they have worked hard and done a great job with their little girl. So what’s wrong with accepting a little pat on the back when another mother recognizes all your hard work?
As a parent of young children, I’ve found that my job is never done and often times very difficult and frustrating. When my mom, the one I always call when I feel like I’m about to pull out my hair, tells me that I’m doing a good job and to keep it up I feel so refreshed and encouraged. She is telling me what I know, but need to hear in that moment.
I’ve been told that in Chinese culture when receiving a complement it is appropriate, polite even, to argue with the complementer. For example if a man tells another man, “Your wife is very beautiful” or “Your son is so smart” the receiver of the complement should say something like, “Oh no, she is quite ugly. Look at how fat she is.” or “He’s really very average.” I don’t think our American culture is quite to this point, but I do think it’s very common to poo-poo or negate praise when we receive it. Maybe it’s false humility, maybe it’s embarrassment, maybe it’s an attempt at true humility. Whatever the reason I think it’s silly and maybe even harmful for us to deny well earned praise. We need to be reminded that our hard work is noticed and will pay off.
So I encourage you, the next time you receive a complement, whether it be about your cute hairstyle, well behaved child, or a job well done, don’t downplay it. Simply smile, say “thank you” and enjoy that feeling of satisfaction. You deserve it.
Why Did I Even Get Dressed Today
Have you ever had this thought? If you’re a mom, I’m sure you have. Today was my day to ponder this. Actually, I was more wondering why I even bothered getting my kids dressed today. Here’s the story….
My two year old daughter is a little bit shy and withdrawn in larger social settings. On her own or in small familiar groups she does great but whenever I take her to a public place, with lots of kids (playground, zoo, library, etc.) she pulls into a shell. She stares at the other kids like they are freaky aliens and refuses to leave my side/lap/arms. In an effort to help her break out of this shell I’ve been trying to expose her to more activities. Last week we went to the library’s story time. I loved it, I loved the books, the silly songs, and watching the other kids–she didn’t. Oh no, I will not sit on the rug with the other kids! Oh no, I will not do the hand motions to the songs. Oh no, I will not take a shaker and shake it with the song…okay I will take a shaker but I will NOT put it back when the song is over. I’m sure you can picture how our story time went. All the while my adorable, laid back four month old sat sweetly in the stroller, never making a peep.
I was not deterred, however by last week’s theatrics. And so this morning I got us up and dressed and with books in bag we returned to the library. I had studied my enemy (newness) and prepared a strategy this time. We arrived early, perused the books and got comfortable with the surroundings and the other kids. Jennika was doing great! I was so excited as story time approached.
Then, it happened.
Not two minutes before story time started, my little man filled his pants…man style. I didn’t have time to check out our books, run out to the car with both kids in tow, and change him. So I made the fatal error of hoping his diaper would hold until story time was over. Thirty minutes, just thirty minutes, please God!?! In we strolled to story time, Jennika still smiling, though a little uncertainly. She didn’t sit on the rug and didn’t do most of the hand motions, but she did listen to the stories and was having fun. Somewhere into the second story Korban started fussing. I tried distractions and movement but he wanted out of that stroller (who wouldn’t when they are sitting in their own poop?). I undid the buckles and scooped him up…then I almost dropped him as my hands felt icky, sticky poop all over his pants.
What to do? I glanced at the clock on the wall, still a good 15 minutes before story time was over. I glanced at the exit door and all the children and moms I’d have to weave through to get out. What to do, what to do. Well, some of you may frown and shake your head and I know I’m not going to get nominated for any Mother of the Year awards after this admission; I put him back in his stroller. For the next several minutes I distracted him any way I could, short of holding him. Korban handled his poopy pants like a champ…for about five minutes and then he was done. There was nothing I could do in that little library room to make him happy. So I apologetically pushed my stroller with screaming, offensive-odor-emitting child and carried my disappointed daughter through the sea of little hands, feet, and big mormon mama purses.
In the car, as I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned all that was poop-covered I wondered, why do I even bother? Why does it have to be so hard? Why can’t we go to the library for an easy relaxing story hour? Had any experienced mother sat me down before kids and told me just how hard, exasperating, and humiliating being a mother would be, if she had really and truly told me all, not sparing any of the gory details, I think I would have signed up sterilization that day. But no wise mother did, because she knew that the joys and the love wash over those moments when we want to pull out all our hair and scream. That those moments when we think we would willingly sign up for chinese water torture in exchange for just a few minutes of a normal life without food on our clothes and sleep-deprived circles under our eyes are really just one bitter drop in the bucket of all the sweet experiences we have with our children.
So though I am frustrated and discouraged, I will not give up. Next week we will go back to the library. And next week I’ll have better studied my new enemy (poop) and will have a strategy for victory (pants fashioned from plastic bags:-) ).
I have to go now…Jennika is standing on Korban’s tummy. 🙂
Ever since I was a teenager community living has been a part of my life. When my family moved out-of-state, I moved in with a close family while I completed my college courses. I shared an apartment with my brother when we both briefly lived in a small town in Wyoming, and with the exception of Kris and my’s first year of marriage and a few months before and after we moved, we have always had people living with us. Sometimes it’s been short term situations, others have been much longer. Each community living experience has been a wholly positive growing experience and has resulted in deepened relationships. I know that the friends that I lived with while I was single probably saw me at my worst, and yet they still loved me and spoke truth to me. They will be live long friends whose insight and opinions I highly esteem.
Next month we going to a whole new level of community living by combining our family of four with our close friends, another family of four. This is happening rather suddenly and taking all of us by surprise, but several unique events, namely the almost instant sale of their house, have led me to believe that this is the direction we are meant to be moving in. It may sound crazy and is totally not the cultural norm, but I am so excited for the combining of our homes and families. We aren’t just hoping to rent out a section of our house, we are hoping to share life together, to encourage one another, and to share in our strengths and weaknesses. Of course there are many practical benefits to this arrangement. The financial gain for both families has not been overlooked, but it certainly isn’t our driving motivation. The idea of sharing daily life with others is appealing to us. We desire the accountability, encouragement, and even the opportunity to make small personal sacrifices in order to bless the others.
I’ll keep you posted on this adventure. I’m sure you probably think we’re insane but if you have any wisdom or insight, I’d love to hear it.
Here’s what we’ve been doing to beat the heat…
Fourth of July Celebrations
We drove up to my parent’s house to spend the 4th and the rest of the week. It was great being in a small town for the festivities. Jennika attended her first parade…and was quite confused, then delighted by it. I think she may associate police and fire truck sirens with candy for quite some time now!
It was so delightful to watch my mom, dad, sister, brother, and brother-in-law love on my kids. I’m so thankful for a close family.
It’s the Little Things
I recently wrote about my husband being away and how I recognized the incredible blessing in that he’s usually home. Continuing in that same thread, I have to share with you all the little amazing things that stood out to me about him this week.
First, I noticed how incredibly good looking he is. This took about five seconds to notice but for days after he got home I’d be overwhelmed by it. I’ve always known my husband was hot, but wow, when did his hair turn so blonde and his skin get that beautiful shade of brown that compliments his blue eyes so well? Has he always been so muscular? (Yes, he has.) But somehow, being gone four days made me forget just how easy on the eyes he really is.
The next thing I noticed was what a fantastic dad he is. I mentioned this in my other post but I just have to reiterate, Kris is a GREAT dad. He delights in sharing experiences with Jennika. Countless times this week I was brought to tears listening to them laugh together or hear him laugh in delight at something she said or did. I was also reminded of how wonderful it is to have a partner who shares responsibilities as Kris got up early with Jennika and got her breakfast while I slept in. I reminded of that same thing again yesterday when our three week old son had a huge diaper blow-out. I wasn’t even aware of it, I was outside with Jennika, until after Kris had changed and bathed him. Wow.
I noticed how nice it is to have an adult to talk to, or not talk to just to be with. Because Kris is home all day there are times while at the dinner table or in the evening when we don’t have anything to say to each other. We talk throughout the day, sharing thoughts and experiences. There have been times when I’ve wished I could think of something to say, just for the sake of filling the silence. However I’m learning that it’s nice to just be quiet with somebody. There’s a comfortable silence that doesn’t need filling. On the other hand, it is so nice to have a coherent conversation with a grownup. I realized after Kris got home that other than phone conversations with my mom and Kris, I really hadn’t spoken to another grown-up since he left.
The old saying wisely states that “absence makes the heart grow fonder” and I guess in a way that’s what I learned this last week. It was the little tiny things that I forgot about or had grown accustomed to that increased my love for my wonderful husband.