Tuesday, March 10, 2009

BooBoo with the Windy Yellow (Ok, Mostly Brown) Hair

My daughter is the best surprise trick anyone ever played on me. (I guess, technically, I played it on myself.) Although she sometimes drives me to distraction with her willfulness and yes, occasionally, even whining, I would not trade her for all the wide world, not even for a second. I adore both my children, and everyone who knows me at all knows that I am devoted to them irrevocably. I relate to each of them differently. They’re also fairly far apart in age so my daughter is still quite young despite her tenacity.

In the last week I was sideways accused of paying “too much attention” to her. Now, if I even knew what that meant, it’s still the dumbest and most offensive thing anyone has said to me in a long, long time. My kids spend every other week with me. She gets a bit of one-on-one time with me in the mornings before school, although usually I’m working or doing chores while we get ready for the day. In the evenings, my son will hang out with me for a while after my daughter goes to bed, time he uses either to try to convince me to buy a PS3 or elicit any evidence that my views on the afterlife or some ancient civilization have changed. Other than that, they have school and their activities and I have meetings and other goings-on, and most of the time just getting through the day catastrophe-free is something of an accomplishment. Though I think about them on the weeks they are not staying with me, I don’t call them or interfere with their time with their other family unless there is a logistical issue or a family emergency of some kind.

This isn’t boot camp, it’s a family. I’m not The Great Santini, I’m a mom – and a really good one. While keeping my home and having a job is up there right now, nothing is more important to me than to see that these two young people are healthy in every way, and that they get the love and attention and opportunity they deserve for my having brought them into this mess of a world in the first place. I don’t take this job lightly, and I don’t put it back on my kids to raise themselves. If some folks feel that’s too much attention, that’s really too damn bad.

We are a throw-away society. Despite all the warning signs and the many horrible stories we see in the news about children in despair or getting into trouble, we still parent based on convenience rather than meeting kids where they are, being there for them. Not a week has gone by in the last seven or eight years that I haven’t felt I should go back to school. Because of the kind of work I do, I would love to get a nonprofit masters degree, and more than one person has suggested law school. The problem is I don’t have anyone to raise my kids while I do that, so I choose not to right now. It’s not brain surgery. This isn’t a lack of ambition, or laziness. It’s a conscious choice to be whereI believe my eight year old needs me now, and for that matter, my 14 year old, too.

Yesterday, I learned about a horrible thing that happened to a little girl outside of Cincinnati. This past Saturday afternoon during our bout of warm weather, young Esme Kenney left for an afternoon jog and never came home. Her body was found in the woods about a block from her house at around 3 a.m. Sunday morning. She was the friend of a little girl whose mother is a friend of mine and a fellow former La Leche League leader-- and one of the people who supported me both as I got my credentials to help other moms and as I evolved into a mom myself. She is devastated.

No doubt the man who killed Esme Kenney was thrown away at a young age. He probably didn’t do well in school. He probably didn’t have anyone to redirect him, or get him the help he cried out for with every expression of his self-loathing and turmoil. Someone probably just told him to “get over it” and figured he would. And he didn’t, and now Esme is the latest casualty in the perpetrator’s war against himself.

I recently stumbled across a Peter, Paul and Mary concert in which Mary performed this beautiful piece, which sums up the way I feel about my daughter perfectly. It’s a joyful reflection on motherhood. My daughter spins and flips and argues and sings and dances and runs to her own beat, but her little hand still finds mine when we are walking, and she still needs a song now and then before she falls asleep. I will always be happy to oblige.

Here’s Poem for Erika/For Baby. I dedicate it to all the amazing, fearless, loving women in my life who are mothers of daughters, and a good many friends and family who may not be mothers but who are loving aunts who share a special love with other people’s daughters.

Poem for Erika/For Baby


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