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Dads

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DSCN1081I live with a pretty great dad. He’s so great that sometimes I forget that not all dads are like this. Even though we now have an empty nest, this dad stays in touch daily with his children. He shares jokes and stories and texts to show he is thinking about them and to let them know he is there whenever they need him. Like me, he has had to learn diplomacy when often what we really want to do is rush into a situation they are dealing with and take over, not because we don’t think they can handle it but because that is what we do as parents.  Dads, like Moms, know that parenting never stops.

Dads sometimes get a bad rap. Often when we hear the word “dad” it is joined with negative words like “deadbeat” or “authoritarian”. But just like motherhood, fatherhood does not come with a training manual. My own husband grew up where only women tended to babies and children so changing a diaper was uncharted territory as was bottle feeding a baby. But he was willing to jump in and do it if it meant more time spent with his children. I recall joining the first baby sitting co-op I was in and sitting around with other mothers who commented on how devoted my husband was with our children. I jokingly asked “aren’t all new dads, this is the 90’s after all!” My comment was met with incredulous silence as they looked at each other and then one of them said “no, it’s not”.

That’s the moment I realized how lucky my children were. They not only had a dad who was a good provider they had a dad who would prefer to spend all of his spare time with them. We took our children everywhere with us because we were a family but also because we lived far from our extended family and we didn’t trust our babies with anyone else but ourselves (no offense to the amazing women in my babysitting co-ops!) What that did was expose my children to a myriad of life situations like music festivals, sporting events, camping and road trips exploring art and nature. And lots of time with their hard working dad.sunset-934865_1280

I have been fortunate to grow up around some pretty great dads although I lost my own when I was 17. I was given a gift however. I had always felt as a child that  I could not please my dad or make him proud of me for who I was. But the summer I was 16 found the two of us home alone together for two weeks as my older siblings left for school and jobs and my younger siblings traveled with my mom. Suddenly we had common ground and things to talk about. I confided in him about teenage joys and concerns for the first time and he listened. Little did we know that was to be his last summer. He was a good provider to his family so we always had food and a nice home and clothes. But this was a different thing. This was his time and his attention. After his death I could not have been more grateful to have had those two weeks to myself.

I then had the great fortune to have another man step in to be a father figure. A beloved uncle with whom I was blessed to spend more years with and who always had time for me and my siblings and then for our husbands, wives and children. He was the consummate dad, full of life and wicked humor and love, love, love. It was because of his example that I learned what qualities would make a good husband and a great father. We lost him last year in his very august elder years but were lucky to have a had a strong father figure in our adult years. Not only my children but my nieces and nephews have some pretty great dads as do my cousins children and my friends as well.

silhouette-1082129_1280But now I look at my children’s dad as we grow older. Our hair is getting grey and we have aches and pains that were not there 10 or even 5 years ago. Our children are adults now and parenting becomes an ever evolving thing.  There are times we want them to listen to what we say even as we realize they may or may not. We worry over them. This great dad still jumps into action whenever he is needed; at our son’s wedding he was full of pride and joy and was on hand for whatever task needed to be addressed; when our daughter moved to her new place, he was the first to schedule the U-Haul. He showed up with his tools and ideas to help her furnish her own little nest.  He will always be a pretty great dad not matter what age they are. And for that I am grateful.

 

A Thousand Cranes

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Photo by jwskks5786 via Pixabay

My son and daughter-in-law have just returned from their honeymoon in Japan. In their account of their amazing and extensive travels, they told me about the Children’s Peace Monument at ground zero in Hiroshima and the young girl who inspired it. Suddenly familiar memories came flooding back. In the early 80’s I was enthralled with a fusion jazz band aptly named Hiroshima. They sang a song about a thousand cranes based on the true account of a young girl named Sadako Sasaki who survived the initial bombing of Hiroshima only to sicken and die from radiation induced leukemia seven years later. Sadako believed the ancient adage that if she could fold a thousand paper cranes she would be healed. Although she was unable to finish the thousand cranes, her friends and family continued her work and spawned a global peace movement.

When 9/11 happened I remember vividly sitting down at the dinner table that night, saying a prayer for the victims and crying. My children were 9 and 13 at the time and needless to say there was a lot of confusion and worry about what was happening and could something like that happen to them. There were many conversations in the days that followed about fear, death, mortality and living your life as you choose despite the fear or the terrorists would win. Since that life changing day, I have burned candles daily with that same fervent and innocent faith of Sadako Sasaki that my prayer for peace and safety would be answered.

Sadly, devastating bombings have continued since that fateful day in August of 1945, one just last week in Manchester, England. Today in Kabul. Yesterday in Baghdad. Paris, Cairo, Brussels. No place is immune. Sadly children are once again victims. Our human sorrow seems to be never-ending. We are at the mercy of those who believe in a cruel and evil god. It is not the god of people who love their children and families and work hard to build a life together. This god has no faith. This god has no religion. This god has no heart.

If I could fold a thousand cranes to fly into this evil and sweep it away with the power of two thousand wings, I would do it even if I grew too old and my hands too stiff to fold. I will never stop fighting for a safe world for my children to live freely and love openly and raise their own children and build a happy life.

20170525_203049In an account following the A-bomb drop on Hiroshima, the crew of the Enola Gay, the plane that carried that devastation, recall being caught in the shockwave of the explosion that rocked the plane and knocked them off their feet. They looked back over their shoulders to see that huge white mushroom cloud unfold. They understood what they had done but could not imagine the extent of the horror their mission wrought. The irony is not lost on me. Drop a bomb to stop a war. Adults start wars but it’s always the children who suffer for those sins.

I think of today’s suicide bombers who detonate themselves and forfeit the chance to look back over their shoulders and struggle with what they have done. Instead I believe they come face to face with their evil god and only then realize the magnitude of their mistake.

In the helplessness of yet another tragedy, I steadfastly light my candles every evening and offer up a prayer for peace on earth. For harmony even among differing beliefs and for the chance for all children to grow and realize their potential. For the safety of my children. For the safety of all children, young and old. For the hope that the power of the peaceful will eventually override the power of hate. That we will finally achieve that nirvana here on earth. Peace.

Mother’s Day

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photo by Adrian, Canada

Mother’s Day is the day when people celebrate the woman who has given them birth, the one who has loved and nurtured them, the one who caused them to feel angst and guilt and often it is the same woman. It’s also a day when children of all ages and husbands or significant others feel they must buy that woman flowers or jewelry or take her out for a meal. I have heard cynical rumblings that Mother’s Day was created by the card and flower conglomerates to offset what would normally be a slow business month. Yet even mothers have misgivings about Mother’s Day. What if your children forget or there is no expected phone call or card? What about the extra stress on her loved ones to recognize the day? Hasn’t anyone thought of mothers feeling sad or bad on Mother’s Day?

It seems a time honored tradition to have a day when children can celebrate not only their mother but their father, their grandparent and even their pet. Mother’s Day takes its tradition from ancient Rome and Greece. Indeed the term for “mother” then referred more to the spiritual goddesses who could impact fertility of humans, animals and crops and be a benevolent spirit one could offer tribute to. The modern day celebration in this country grew from the efforts of several prominent women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to recognize the amazing mothers in their lives. This convinced President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 to proclaim Mother’s Day to be the second Sunday in May. Bring on the flowers!

20170514_201723I confess I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day although I really felt the love this year. Not because I don’t crave the attention from my children. When they were young, I would get homemade necklaces, paintings of the family cat and small hand prints in clay, gifts cherished even to this day. As adults the only thing I truly relish is their connection. A phone call or a visit. Flowers and brunch are icing on the cake. But what about those who do not have children? Those whose fervent wishes and hopes were not realized? What about those who have suffered the ultimate loss? What is this day to them?

Last Mother’s Day I was gifted with the news of my son’s engagement to his long time sweetheart. This Mother’s Day we are mere weeks out from a beautiful and magical wedding that brought all of our families together. My daughter who lives nearby, spends lots of time with me and, yes, gives me beautiful gifts and flowers. I cherish this attention and her presence because who knows in a year, a month or even a day where we will all be? I don’t want my children to feel a special obligation to me just because it’s the second Sunday in May. I selfishly want it everyday. This past year I lost my own mother. In many ways she had left some time ago as Alzheimer’s slowly stole her memories and pulled her away from us and into her own world where we could not follow. Even so, the touch of her hand or her sweet hug was enough for my own memories to stay intact. I want to maintain the same connection to my own children no matter what happens.

I think what keeps mothers up at night, or at least this mother, is have I done well by my children? Have I been able to give them what they needed? I confess there have been times I have not. I have fallen short. I have allowed my own misgivings to surface so that my children have felt the need to care and protect me. And many times when I knew I needed to be the adult, I know that I was not. I was the angry, sad petulant child and I waited for them to comfort me. Sad mommy. Mad mommy. It’s okay Mommy. Yet the guilt at showing such vulnerability to my little children would stay with me for days.

There were many times when I wished I were that goddess who could seemingly live on little but praise and adoration. Yet I realize that adoration usually came out of fear. Will we have crops? Will the cow give a safe birth? If I were that benevolent goddess mother, couldn’t I guarantee the perfect life for my children? I believe when mothers first hold that tiny frail little body in their arms after hours of the intensity and violence that is giving birth, there is that fervent prayer to protect and be the perfect advocate for that child. I know I made such promises to them and to myself even as my body tried to reconcile itself with what had just happened. But mixed in the good days are the hard ones, lack of sleep, a sick child, worry and fear that translates as anger, hoping a hug will make the world tilt back again. No we are not perfect. Yes we are human. Some mothers make it look easy but all mothers know it is not.

I am so grateful for the Mother’s Day I had this year. I got exactly what I wanted which was connection to my children even though one was far away on his honeymoon. One I could hold and kiss and one I could send my love to. Time and attention. The most precious gifts of all. How very perfect is that?

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