Monday, November 7, 2011

The Spark

It's Monday Lovies, and if you're like me you've been awake since some time before 3am when a little one was ushered back to his bed after being comforted during a thunderstorm and hubalicious left disgustingly early for work. After trying to no avail to fall back asleep, I finally decided to brew some coffee, switch some laundry over and get a head start on Mama Monday!

Something that's on my heart to share today has to do with my own fears as a mother and how I hope they've guided me to make some good choices for my kids. It all has to do with that spark, that little glimmer of life, hope and adventure we see in children before they are damaged and disillusioned by the disappointments of our world. It's the shimmer in their eyes when they see a magnificent display of Christmas lights and the excitement in their voice when they sprint to the door after discovering a toad in the backyard. Do you ever notice that in your little ones?

I'm more than a little embarrassed to admit I'm a bossy mom. It's nothing new. I was the kid who created neighborhood clubs so I could be president and may or may not have coerced my pals into letting me order them around with a whistle (don't ask me WHY they complied)! Yes, that really happened. And I may have gotten in trouble at Sunday School once for slapping another kid because he didn't clean up when the teacher told us to. It's the truth; ask my mom!

While I agree it's important as a mom to be firm, set boundaries and be consistent with discipline, I often worry about being too hard on my kids. I don't necessarily worry about my kids not liking me or not being my "friends" but I do worry about being so regimented with them about rules and routines that I extinguish that spark of life inside of them and squelch their little spirits. I don't want to be so bossy that I inhibit my little ones from being themselves, and thriving in their individual personalities.

Now, I am not a parenting expert, and I'll admit that I haven't read a single book or article on this particular topic. So, I have no scientific evidence to share with you or professional wisdom, only my own experience, observation and hopes.

In my attempt to combat my own bossiness and shortcomings in discipline I try to do a couple of things. First I simply try my best to be consistent on rules and routines that are most important, that have to do with the health, morality and safety of my kids. Things like keeping veggies and fruits on our dinner plates, and reiterating how important it is that we bathe and brush our teeth regularly! And I try to remember that teaching my kids the difference between right and wrong is far superior to how organized their toy bins are or how well they make their beds! I try to loosen up on things that, while they may irritate me, don't matter all that much in the long run.

Secondly, I keep my eyes open for that spark, and try to remain ready and willing to do what it takes to fan the flame when I see it. I don't know how to better explain it other than to just give you examples of when I feel I was successful at doing this.

Corrinne, my stepdaughter, loves animals. Particularly, gross ones (in my opinion). She's constantly looking for toads and frogs to befriend, and catching worms and crickets to feed her gecko. I don't exactly identify with this. When I was a little girl, I was decorating and redecorating my Barbies' living rooms and organizing their wardrobes. One day this past spring, Corrinne rushed in from playing in the backyard, covered in mud, gets a huge Tupperware container from the cabinet and trekked to the kitchen sink to fill it with water. After my initial freak-out and interrogation, I discovered that she and her friends were "building a habitat" for a family of toads they had "rescued". I could have panicked about the mud in my kitchen which is easily cleaned, or the hole they were digging in our yard (which really isn't a big deal because it's in the part of the overgrown section we lovingly refer to as the "weed bed"), but instead I let them explore and asked what they needed to complete the task. They were thrilled!

Then there was a time when Aidan discovered an invitation to an art opening at Dwelling Spaces in Downtown Tulsa. I could have scolded him for rifling through my purse and told him the event wasn't for children and would be too late in the evening for us to attend, but instead I encouraged him to learn more about the artist and his work which led to a grand Donuts and Robots adventure! You can read about it on my old blog here, here, and here. He got to meet a real artist and have him sign his personal copy of the artist's book!

Without turning this post into a novella, I'll share briefly about the time Carter suggested we "write encyclopedias" and I chose not to be stressed out about us being late to wherever we were headed so I could buy him (and all the other kids too) a composition book so he could see his vision realized. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I could tell he was really excited about it. He ended up pouring over that book for days as he worked on an encyclopedia of comic book and video game characters, complete with illustrations and elaborate descriptions. He is such a creative and gifted young man!

We can't forget about little Alec. When he's not perfecting his "real cowboy outfit," he's incessantly begging to watch Sid the Science Kid (which drives me crazy but is a wonderfully educational show). And while he watches he learns all kinds of interesting information, and it encourages him to explore the world around him.

Motherhood, like cooking,  is an art in estimation sometimes isn't it? It doesn't come with an instruction manual and we're left with our own experience and devices to figure it out. Do you sometimes have to combat your own shortcomings in order to help your children bloom, like I do? I hope that as I learn and grow (and sometimes make the rules up as I go), I don't miss all the steps in the journeys of four beautiful children growing into hopeful, intelligent, adventurous and confident individuals.

Love and Honey,

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