Presence

There are moments when our precious/adorable children drive us crazy.  The noise level is ratcheting up and we want to run out the door or scream or both! It often happens when we are stressed, in a hurry to get out the door, or just trying to get food on the table for them.

 

Here is a question to ask yourself or your child if they are old enough and self-aware enough: “What do you need?” It may be something physical such as food, sleep, affection, or some kind of attention to what they are doing.

 

I remember more than once being in conversation with someone when my toddler son would put his two little hands on my face and turn it towards him.  He was not subtle in asking for my full attention!

 

A great gift we give to our children is ourselves, fully present. This means we are paying attention to them, understanding their needs and desires. It takes focus and determination at times.  We have to decide to step into the present with our children, when so many other things are calling for our attention. We have to turn off the game or put down the phone, tablet, book, or whatever is taking our attention and focus on them.

 

It is impossible for us to be 100 percent present to our children, just as it is impossible to keep them completely safe from all suffering and harm.  Yet, as we become more aware of their need for our presence, we can practice giving them more of our full attention. This is an aspect of love, choosing to be present to those we love.  Our positive, caring attention helps our child know she or he is loved.  A child who is aware of being loved grows into a person who can love others. It is amazing how small acts of love and kindness have a great rippling effect on many lives.

 

Family Gatherings

Our 1,750 square foot home didn’t feel very big when we gathered as a small clan for an extended time in mid wet winter.  There were a few days when 9 of us were together.  I am grateful for dear friends who let us use their “cabin”, which was bigger than our house, for those few days. Mix in a small dog with a toddler to liven things up and you can imagine the chaos at times. On the whole the 1,750 square feet were big enough, everyone had a bed or at least a mattress, enough bathrooms to share and room to cook in the kitchen to keep all of the above fed.

 

Compared to some parts of the world where we have traversed, our square footage is enormous. Many families in Hong Kong live in very small flats where gathering as a clan takes creativity. When we lived there, hospitality was often shared in a favorite restaurant. We were grateful for the rare opportunities to visit friends in their homes.  The refugees (boat people), who were our students, had one tier of a double sized bunk bed to call home. Yet, they still practiced hospitality and invited us to sit on low plastic stools to share a meal. Our Central Asian friends don’t worry about tables and chairs, they sit on colorful mats on the floor with a tablecloth spread out on the carpet for piles of food to share.  That way more people can squeeze into a room. Later they spread those same mats and more for sleeping.

 

I have been thinking this morning about how good it was to gather as a growing family.  It’s good to move our stuff and make room for each other. Our bonds were strengthened with each other. Our grandson will not remember the details of this visit in his long-term memory, but I believe he bonded with each of us in a special way that will continue through his life.  I’m smiling as I think of him singing “Teo, Teo, Teo”, (Uncle in Spanish) as he headed upstairs looking for his very fun Uncle. Or the report from his Mama that he woke up saying “Nana” a morning or two while he was here.

 

Another way it was good, was to see where love still needs to grow.  We don’t always know unless we are in a situation where it is challenged.  Say, tired and in need of a shower and both of the showers are in use.  O,r not quite enough of that fresh french pressed coffee to go around.  Or, whose on the dish duty, not me again? Or just trying to figure out what to do together. Things like that can help us see where our attitudes need adjusting.  If we live isolated lives we never really know where we need to grow. When the children were young and we all lived together,  there were daily lessons to be learned by all of us. Now I need my family to keep showing up for visits to keep that process going in my life. It’s not just knowing where I need to grow that is important, but also turning those needs into prayers and inviting the help of Heaven to bring about change on earth, in me.

 

I am tired and need to put my house back together again.  I need to get back into my regular schedule of writing and meeting with people, but above all I am so grateful for the sacrifices my kids and their spouses made to come home, from far away for the holidays.

 

Mother Guilt

Let me go here once in a while

Not often or too long

Only we mothers know

What we could have been

Had we been whole

What we missed

When we weren’t there

Spoke too soon

Or not enough

Over protected

Or neglected

Too harsh

Too lax

Too busy

Too tired

We know

So let us alone

To grieve for a while

I promise

I won’t stay too long

Or I might drown

I won’t medicate it

Numb it or

Meditate it away

Instead it’s good

To face it

Then super grace it

With God’s love

Move on

There are more

Children, teens or

Young adults

To love and care for

If not my own

Then another mother’s

We need each other

We mothers

We don’t have enough

Of all we need

For this job

 

© 2013 Julie Clark

Who Tricked These Kids?

I am aborting my vacuuming project before it gets started.  I just keep thinking about the article I read in yesterday’s New York Times called Extreme Grief:

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/sports/skiing/grieving-families-of-extreme-sports-enthusiasts-are-left-to-wonder-was-the-thrill-worth-it.html?_r=0

 

I met a young man last year who came to our church with his fiancé now widow.  He died last weekend in an avalanche, ice-climbing.  Many of my friends got to know and love him while he was here before he moved on to get married and start medical school.

 

I keep thinking of his young widow, his mother, all those who loved him and valued his life.  Why didn’t he value his life as they did?  Why didn’t he see how connected he was to them, tied to them with bonds stronger than any rope? Why didn’t he see how devastated they would be with his loss?  I don’t know the answer to any of these haunting questions.  I just want to say please parents teach your children of their extreme value to you and the world.  They are here for a reason.  Every life has extreme potential to change the world for good.  Since ancient times parents have been training and teaching their children the important values they hold dear.

 

I am growing to detest the phrase: “He died doing what he loved.”  What about those he was extremely connected to?  Did they get a vote on this?  He was an extremely talented, bright, and beautiful person that the world will be bereft of now. I know anger is a part of grief and my anger will subside to sadness eventually, but while I am still angry I want to challenge parents to use their parental authority to teach children their extreme value.  Talk to your children about how important they are to you and the world.  Teach them what is important to you; don’t wait for someone else to do it.  They may not do it and children need to hear from parents more than anyone else; peers, teachers, counselors, and especially the media.  Teach them to love and respect. Teach them to love and respect themselves, others, as well as our beautiful planet.  As a person of faith I would add love and respect God.  Knowing His love helps me to love extremely others, His creation and myself.