Saturday, June 23, 2007

I Love You, Nana!

Lately I have noticed something about my four-year-old grandson, Jordan. Whenever he does something he knows (or thinks) is wrong, he says quickly, "I love you, Nana!"

I might not even be paying attention, but when I hear those words, first I am disarmed and pleased and then I am suspicious. My first reaction is to say, "Thank you, Jordy, I love you, too." But now I also look around to see what may have been broken or spilled. Often he has done something he thinks I will not like, so he tries to divert my anger before I have a chance to react. Recently he had knocked some pictures and magnetic letters off the refrigerator. Hardly a cardinal sin. But he apparently figured that I would be displeased, so out came those tell-tale words, "I love you, Nana!"

I replied in my usual way, then looked for the damage. When I saw what it was, I told him, "You didn't do anything wrong, Jordan. It was an accident. Let's pick up the letters and pictures."

Still, it gave me pause. Jordan seems to know what makes me angry - or what he thinks will make me angry - and opts for damage control rather than denial of the crime. He is obviously afraid of my anger, my reprisal.

I have worked on my temper over the years, but still it erupts from time to time. This is the child who will most likely push the envelope until I get mad and yell. I never feel good after I get angry. I realize that I have diverted the attention away from my grandchild's behavior and on to the aftermath of my anger. I do not want my grandchildren to be afraid of me.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Drowning in Motherhood

As a brand new mother, I was overwhelmed for the first six months of my baby's life. It seemed like the only time I was able to sit still was when I nursed my baby. Gradually I was able to relax into the role (after the 3 month bout with colic) and even read a book while Joe was nursing. I would lift my eyes from the page and see his dark button eyes peering intently at me as he nursed. I had so much love for this little person who had such a huge presence, such great awareness, and who was so dependent upon me.

When Joe was four years old, I got pregnant with my second baby. I had been quite content with having only one child. We had settled into our routines and there was time every day for me to read or sew. I was also working part time. But time was slipping away and so my partner and I decided we had better have one more now or not at all. So Gabe was conceived.

Gabe was born in late April, three weeks early. Still, I was ready for him or so I thought. As the mother of two I felt more comfortable in my role. I was able to take care of both of my boys, pay attention to them, feed them, do their laundry etc. without the peroids of overwhelm or panic I experienced the first time around. The only problem was, I had no time left over for my self. No reading time, meditation time, daydream time. Someone always needed me. I was always holding one of the boys. I was actually tired of being touched all the time.

I felt like I was always tending to everyone else's needs and demands, and I had no time of my own. Where was Sara in all this? I was losing sight of my self. I was drowning in motherhood.

I do not mean to say that I resented my role as a mother, or that I resented my children (and my partner) for needing me as much as they did. I just felt like I was losing my Self as I tended to the needs of eveyone else. Learning to take some time for just me was very hard for me to do.

Recently a neighbor stopped by on a walk with her family. Her daughter is six and her son is one. Her husband was with them also. My friend said, "Shayna has her special time, Jared has his special time, my husband has his personal time, but where is Barbara's time? Where is the Me Time?"

I could sympathize as I watched them walk away. I had been there, too. We all feel like that at some point I am sure. What about mothers who have three children or four or five? Their Me Time is postponed even longer I suppose. At some point we all feel like we are drowning in motherhood.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Postscript to When Too Much Is Really Too Much

On Tuesday June 5th I went back to the ceramics shop to retrieve Crystal's unicorn and my sugar bowl, which were fired and ready to go home. They were beautiful! Crystal's unicorn was shiny and purple with a brown mane and golden horn. My sugar bowl was done in southwest shades of turquoise and orange.

I brought them home and called Crystal to tell her they were at my house. Later that day she and her family came over for a barbecue, along with other family members. I showed Crystal her unicorn and we put it up on a shelf to keep it safe. On Wednesday, June 6th, when Crystal came home from school, I asked her what she wanted to do with the unicorn. "I don't know," she answered.

"Would you like to give it to your teacher, Mrs. H.?"

"Yes!" she said immediately. We found a pretty gift bag to place it in, then Crystal set about making a card. She drew a picture of Mrs. H. on the cover, then told me what she wanted the card to say on the inside:

"Dear Mrs. H.
I hope you like the unicorn that I made for you. You are the best teacher in the whole world."
She signed the card "Love, Crystal" all by herself.

This morning (Thursday) Crystal's mother, Jackie, and Crystal went to school a little early to give the gift to Mrs. H. before the other children got to class. As soon as she saw it, Mrs. H. knew that it was the unicorn Crystal had made the day of the beach field trip, because she had read the story on this very blog! She was very touched and very pleased to receive such a heart-felt gift. It will be a fitting memento of her year as Crystal's Kindergarten teacher. Crystal has learned so much in her class, even though being in a classroom with lots of other children has been very difficult for this home loving, shy-in-groups child.

I am glad she chose to give this gift to her teacher. I think I will Mrs. H. as much as Crystal! And I wish she could see Crystal as I do: this wild, loud, funny, happy-go-lucky child, this shining light, full of beauty and wonder.

Read more of Saralee Sky's articles on parenting in her online newsletter, Nutsense, on her web site:

Friday, June 01, 2007

When Too Much Is Really Too Much

Yesterday I accompanied my six year old granddaughter, Crystal, on an all-day field trip with her Kindergarten class. We were all going to Marine Park - a local beach not far from the school. All would have been well, but I had to bring along Jordan, Crystal's four year old brother.

Crystal deeply resented Jordan coming to HER classroom prior to leaving for the trip. She was furious with him for playing with the toy cars while the teacher read them all a book during circle time. She did not want him getting in line or walking with the other kids in the class. The teacher wisely told Crystal she understood how hard it was to share her class with her younger brother, but this sympathy seemed to make Crystal even more upset.

When we all arrived at the beach, a very cold wind was blowing off the water toward the shore. Though it was warm everywhere else, it was cold at the beach. Crystal and Jordan did not have a jacket. Both were dressed for a warm early summer day. Crystal was angry and now she was cold. I gave Crystal my jacket and Jordan the beach towel and tried to get them to walk along the beach and explore tide pools, look for shells, watch the herons, the wind surfer - anything! But nothing would pull Crystal out of her angry, cold misery.

I called my son, Gabe - Crystal's and Jordan's father. I told him to come to the beach as soon as he could and bring jackets. He was 30 minutes away, so in the mean time I tried again to engage them in exploring the tide pools. Jordan was game, but Crystal was not. She followed along, however, because she didn't want to be left behind. We walked down near the water's edge where another parent was lifting rocks up to show the kids what was living beneath them. He lifted one rock and a bunch of hermit crabs stared runing this way and that, some tiny and some not so tiny.

That was it. Crystal became hysterical, wailing, "Nana, Nana, help!"

"They won't hurt you," I said. "See how tiny they are? They won't bite or pinch." But she was beyond reason at this point. She could handle no more surprises, no more cold, no more field trip and no more annoying little brother.

Luckily, soon after this event, her father showed up with warm jackets and her grandfather showed up to take Jordan off for the rest of the day. She huddled in her father's lap and would not talk to me or let me touch her. Gabe stayed through the picnic lunch, which the class ate in the sun sheltered from the wind behind the restroom building. Crystal gradually calmed down and warmed up.

The other children occasionally tried to come over to her and ask her to play, but she would not leave her father's lap. Eventually she consented to eat some lunch. After lunch Gabe left to go to his college class. I told Crystal she could do whatever she wanted. She elected to stay up on the sand far from the water (and the crabs). She made a sand castle and played with a few of the other girls in the class. I considered this a successful end to the field trip and asked the teacher for permission to leave early.

I took Crystal to one of our favorite places - a paint your own ceramics store. We each chose an item to paint. Crystal chose a unicorn and I chose a sugar bowl. We spent the next few hours painting in companionable silence, sharing colors and becoming friends again. Afterwards I took her to the grocery store and bought a cantalope - her favorite fruit. We took it home and she ate half of it, then retreated upstairs to play computer games on her favorite web site, Nick Jr.

She spent a few hours alone, with me checking in on her and sometimes watching her play a game. Jordan came back from his day with his grandfather and all was once again well. I worked hard to repair her day and our relationship. I knew I had pushed her too far with the hermit crabs. I told her that I loved her very much. When her mother came to pick her up that evening, Crystal told her that she had a good day!

I think we both learned from this experience. I learned that I have to respect her space and her moods and her energy flow. And Crystal? Her lessons are her lessons. You'll have to read her blog someday to find out! :)

You can read more of Saralee Sky's articles in her online newsletter, Nutsense, on her web site,