Saturday, August 7, 2010
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Imaginary friends are a fundamental part of childhood. My son, Malcolm, has had many - including his right hand, who he has named...well, "Hand." Don't fret over my son's lack of imagination in picking a name. After all, we discovered one day that Hand has a twin brother (naturally), whose name is BobRocketGeorge. Hand and BobRocketGeorge have provided hours of entertainment, but my very favorite of Malcolm's imaginary friends was Fred the Lion.
Around the time that Fred joined our family, I was struggling with my role as a mother. I was a very task-oriented person, and would get caught up in things like work and laundry and dishes, and not focus on the important things - like spending time with family. I recognized this as a detriment, but was struggling to overcome it. The difficulty in this was a pretty basic road block: Malcolm's interests were fairly typical for a 4 year old boy: cars, trains, Star Wars. I couldn't have been LESS interested in these things. We connected over Disney movies and the Zoo, but you can only go do those activities so many times. I needed to find a way to engage my son on a regular basis.
For a lot of moms, this probably seems like a no-brainer. Many moms I know simply have that "mom-gene" imbedded from the moment of conception, and they know how to figure these things out. But I felt like I had missed out on that gene. I was feeling like a whopping failure of a Mom - someone who couldn't stay in the moment with her own child, without thoughts wandering to the crisis at work that day or the pile of laundry waiting to be folded. I could never quite live in the moment, and appreciate my son for who he is, and who we are together.
Malcolm "discovered" Fred one day while in the bathroom. When Malcolm excitedly reported he had spotted a lion in the sink, I saw an opportunity, and responded with great enthusiasm. "REALLY!?!" I responded with the appropriate amount of wonder and awe. Malcolm peered up at me, a mixture of excitement and a bit of confusion on his face. I pushed past the deep pain that bubbled up upon recognition that my son was surprised at me being engaged, and plodded forward with all kinds of questions about who Fred was and how he got there. Turns out Fred is a lion who lives in our pipes and follows Malcolm around whenever he can - but he can't climb out of the sink, because he's too big to get out of the holes. So, basically, we can only see Fred in sinks and bathtubs, basically relegating him to a morning and nighttime ritual of greeting.
In the days following Fred's arrival, I continued to be excited about our new found friend, encouraging Malcolm to say good night to Fred every night, asking him questions about Fred...I was so excited to connect with Malcolm in such a fun way. After Malcolm was done brushing his teeth at night, he would pour a little water down the sink for Fred to drink, and encourage me to do the same. (I had to draw the line at the peanut butter and jelly sandwich.)
One day, we were at the book store, and an idea struck me.
"Malcolm!" I exclaimed. "Why don't we see if we can find Fred?"
His eyes brightened. "Yeah!"
So we run toward the bathroom, and as we were passing the water fountains, he peers in. "Nope," he keeps saying, matter-of-factly, until he's checked every water fountain and sink. "He must be sleeping." Well, that never occurred to me. I guess Fred does need to sleep.
As we were walking back by the water fountain, Malcolm exclaims, "THERE he is! He's awake now!" His whole body is lit up with excitement.
"Hi Fred!" I wave happily. Malcolm beams and tells me that Fred says "hi" back. We exchange pleasantries with the Great Lion of the Pipes, then return to our shopping.
This is such a simple thing that is probably second nature for many mothers. But for me, this was a revelation. I had been so caught up in the demands of modern life that I had forgotten how to be a mother to my child.
Moving forward, I knew I had to do something to retain our connection. I started to purposefully pursue activities we could both enjoy; because, to be honest, I knew I would not keep up a habit of playing trains or Star Wars. We started with coloring - a task I had to force myself to do at first, but now I find it strangely calming. So we colored, played games, and sometimes, we just talked. Just like many other things, Fred is something forgotten over time, but my connection with Malcolm remains, stronger than ever. We still do puzzles and doodle and color, have Nerf gun battles and go for walks in the park. I even play some Star Wars games with him - they're surprisingly fun!
The last time we saw Fred the Lion was at the beach in Orlando. I was extremely impressed that he had navigated the pipes all the way there, but Malcolm explained that he had learned in "Finding Nemo" that all pipes lead to the ocean - so naturally, it was no great difficulty for Fred to join us on vacation. Even though Fred is gone, I will forever be grateful to the Great Lion of the Pipes for teaching me about the wonders of childhood, and giving me a deeper connection with my son.
Friday, June 25, 2010
Not too long after Malcolm was born, I started getting the questions from others about having another child. While these questions have continued for years, they have died out recently, I'm guessing because Malcolm is turning 7 next month. The "natural, usual" gap between first and second child has long passed.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Hear, Oh Israel!
The Lord is our G-d!
The Lord alone!
LOVE the Lord your G-d
with all your heart
with all your soul
and with all your might.
And love your neighbor as yourself.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
There are a number of "Mom" books out there. Some are focused on the idea of motherhood as a battlefield, while others are focused on fun and fluff. I'm trying to be somewhere in the middle of this - recognizing the pain and sorrow that can accompany this important "job" while reveling in the joy.