Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do you take your priest for granted?

Last week I was upset to hear a friend criticizing her priest. She was not critical of his homilies or how he "ran the church" but upset that he takes one day a week for himself. A day off.

About 10 years ago, an episode of King of the Hill poked a little fun when the Hill family's Methodist minister left to become an online minister. Upon hearing the news, Peggy made a comment about the man "only working half a day a week."

As laity, we often forget just what a gift it is to have a priest. And we forget that priest's themselves are human. And even God took a day off. A few years ago, Jeff called our parish priest with a question (nothing urgent) and left a voicemail. The following day the priest called back and in the voicemail he left us, he apologized that we had missed him because it happened to be his day off. Jeff said, "I'm glad he gets a day to do whatever needs to be done! Everyone deserves that." Indeed. Being a shepherd is hard work. It requires constant attentiveness. But let's not kid ourselves, shepherds out in the field sleep. They work in shifts.

Being a priest is not typically the easiest job in the world. It means shepherding people, which is much more difficult that sheep. Sheep don't talk back, among other things. Priest's not only say daily mass and Sunday mass, they hear confessions, visit the ill and shut-in , counsel couples before weddings and families before baptisms, they conduct funerals, they confirm young adults, they meet with any number of parishioners regarding anything from civic activities to personal tragedies, and many oversee schools or a mission parish. I'll willingly take my lumps for saying it, but priests are as busy as any parent. And like parents, they don't have set hours. People don't convieniently pass away or have a major crisis between 9 am and 5 pm eastern standard time.

So, what is wrong with a priest taking one day where he doesn't have set appointments and can quietly read or study or maybe walk in a park and enjoy God's creation? Every priest I know who takes this kind of time takes it "on-call" so if an emergency does arise, he can attend to it immediately. Now, since I did make the comparison with parents, I will admit, that parents typically cannot take a regular day off. However, in this day of modernity, we have drop-in care,, and nap times. We find ways to get our moments in.

Yes priests not only deserve a day off, but they deserve attentiveness from us, the laity. In a take on JFK's quote: Ask not what your priest can do for you, ask what you can do for your priest. Most of us rarely, if ever think of it this way. I remember, clearly, the first time I did. It was about five years ago, a co-worker and friend of mine named Jean was telling me about something that had happened at mass at her parish that week. At the end of mass, her priest, a normally very kind and jovial person, made a somewhat angry statement during announcements about people not showing elder family members respect and love. Jean, while initially taken aback, almost immediately saw an oppurtunity. The next day she called the priest and asked him if there was anything he needed to talk about or let out. She told him that as he had heard many a confession from her, she was more than willing to let him "let it all out" with her. She said what followed was an honest discussion of things happening in his personal and family life. And she was nearly moved to tears at the end of the conversation when he thanked her for reaching out. Jean saw her priest as more than just a collar, a confessor, a shepherd; she saw he was a sheep as well.

When was the last time you dropped a homemade meal off at the rectory or had your kids make cards thanking your priest or just asked him how he was doing? Pray for your priest daily and consider, even just once a month doing something special for him. He is our shepherd, let us sheep show him we appreciate it!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Waiting for the Right Time

It is hard to want something badly only to never see it come to fruitition. At least for the time being. Infertility taught me a lot about that.

Back when we were trying for that first baby and month after month coming up short, I remember reading something from Sister Patricia Proctor where she said that God does all things in His time. Not ours. Being human, patience is a learned virtue and one that most of us do not do well with. And it seems God's greatest way to teach us patience is to withhold (in our minds) something we want. NOW.

My husband told me not long ago that he had always thought that when he was 30 and unmarried with no children that it was the way his life would continue on. He had set a limit of 30 on himself to accomplish these things. We met when he was 36 and Shelby wasn't born until he was 43. He said this experience taught him that timing was everything. And it was God who was holding the stop-watch, not him.

How often in life do "wait for the right time" only to avoid doing something? If God gives you an opening, you should do it. I'm not saying it's an easy or natural thing, but it is what it is. One of my favorite movies, Steel Magnolias, shows this when Shelby tells her mother she is pregnant. She starts by saying that she wants to tell her parents when they are together but they are never together. Perhaps that is what is best as her father is elated with the news of a grandchild but her mother is put off. Would telling them at the same time have caused them to have an argument or worse? Would it have tempered her father's joy or made her mother resentful?

There is no perfect time in our world. There is only God's time which is always perfect.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Tiny Treasures

William- "No biting friends!" is a song on Yo Gabba Gabba I wish Will could learn. My shoulders are bruised from the biting, as are Daddy's. It is purely the teething causing it, I wish they would hurry up and come in! Will is trying to pull himself up to stand as well. It is so hard to believe in just under two weeks he will be ten months old! He is also graduating from baby food to table food really well.

Joseph- Joey peed on the potty! Well, more like he sat on the potty and sprayed the floor, but he did tell us he had to pee-pee, sat on the potty and went. Daddy is working on aiming into the potty now. We haven't had a repeat success yet and unfortunately yesterday's shopping trip for big boy underwear was not successful (they were out at Wal-Mart?) but we are hoping to move him quickly in that direction, if he is truly ready.

Shelby- Shelby has been a ball of giggles this past week. What is so funny? She is really enjoying being out and about playing outdoors on the few warmer days we've had and snuggling with her brothers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Smile and Wave Boys, Just Smile and Wave

so goes a favorite line of mine from a favorite movie, as spoken by penguins.

I think of it often when dealing with certain people who, if they didn't grate on my nerves would be acquaintances.

And this lent, it is a good penance. "Smiling and waving," for me, is a metaphor for dealing with the difficult people we encounter in life. Treating them better than they treat me.

When I was a day camp counselor in my teens we had one child with particularly tough behavioral issues. The worst part was, he was EXTREMELY intelligent. His logic was among the best of them. And one incident I particularly remember happened after he had been caught fighting with another little boy. When the camp director had him in the office, he said, "Now, B, you know what the Golden Rule is?" The little boy's answer still elicits laughs when I tell people, "Yes, he hit me first, so he must have WANTED me to hit him!" I think we all really struggled not to laugh. No child had ever come back with this logical response.

Of course, we all the know the true idea is that we should people the way we want to be treated regardless of how they treat us, but for me, smile and wave goes beyond that to say, treat them better than you want to be treated before they treat you well or not. For me, it can be painfully difficult. I have what is referred to as "a smart mouth" and have been told that sarcasm is my super power. So, when confronted with someone who brings out the worst in me, it takes me a lot more effort to just smile, wave and move along than one might think. I have been praised for my tolerance and patience, but I don't think that is very often deserved. After all, if I think something bad, I'm not living up to the hype.

So, my challenge this lent, and a challenge I extend to everyone else: smile and wave.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In the Winter of our discontent...

This winter, Lent seems very appropriate. It sounds strange to say that, but it is true.

The economy is in a terrible place, our country is at war, and we are having a real freeze-out. It seems like spring might never come.

But come it will and we all know that. And Jesus will rise from the dead once again.

For the sake of his sorrowful passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world....
from The Chaplet of Divine Mercy

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ashes to Ashes Dust to dust

Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.
Mk 1:15

Monday, February 15, 2010

Because how could I resist posting about...

my favorite sporting event, the WINTER OLYMPICS!!!!

I mentioned we watched the opening ceremonies while on our mini-vacation, but that hardly cracks open the love I have for this event.

I think the Canadians did a beautiful job on the opening ceremonies. I also think there was an appropriate level of acknowledgment of the loss of the Georgian luger. I have to admit, I cried every time he was mentioned. His one moment of glory in his twenty-one years so tragically cut short. I also felt that the torch lighting by such an array of Canadian athletes was to be commended. The Paralympics will take place in Vancouver shortly after these Olympics end, but the inclusion of a Paralympian was outstanding as their events, sadly, happen on a much smaller stage. And although there was a technical error with the torch, Catriona Le May Doan showed much grace as she held her torch up and saluted the athletes and spectators.

Now the athletes are taking center stage. Two of my favorite events, moguls and biathalon are over. The moguls, this Olympics, brought redemption for both the US's Hannah Kearney and Canada in the form of Alexandre Bilodeau whose inspiration, his brother Frederic who has cerebral palsy. We watched the luge with a low feeling in our hearts and the pits of our stomachs, but the mood lifted as Joey began cheering "yeah!" each time he saw a luger go around and clapped when each one got off their sled.

What is it about these games that brings out so many positive feelings in our country? It is more than just national pride. There are moments the world feels, like the loss of Nodar Kumaritashvili or Dan Jansen's gold medal at Lillehammer. But more than that, is the idea that if for these days we can put aside our differences and compete and show good sportsmanship and love of fellow man, why can't we always do that?

So, what did Mommy and Daddy do on their weekend away...

Well, we caught up on being Mommy and Daddy for sure! Friday, after we checked into the hotel, it snowed! In Morehead City, NC. After deciding it would not be wise for us to venture out for dinner that night, Jeff ordered us a pizza and wings and stopped by Wal-greens to procure real sudafed, aspirin (I was two days into a cold and had a raging sinus headache) and some junk food in case we were snowed in. Seven inches fell that night while we watched the Opening Ceremonies at the Olympics. We especially enjoyed watching Canada's Aboriginal peoples dance to greet the athletes, the whales swimming across the floor, the fiddler dueling with his shadow and the appropriate ovation for the Georgian team as they entered the dome after losing one of their members.

Saturday we awoke to a beach winterwonderland! Unsure if anything would be open, we decided to first go to the beach. Atlantic Beach was surreal with palm trees bent over and white and snow on top of sand! We took a short walk and enjoyed the snowmen. We tried to go to Bert's to get t-shirts for ourselves and a special friend in Indiana, but they were closed :(. So, instead, we went to historic Beaufort where Clawson's 1905 was open for business. We enjoyed a delicious lunch and afterward headed to Seaside Cheesecake & Dessert Shoppe where we got slices of NY Cheesecake, Chocolate & Vanilla Cheesecake and Carrot Cake. Then we decided to enjoy the indoors for a while back at the hotel. For dinner we went to the Channel Marker restaurant and enjoyed good fried seafood. We had intended to eat our cheesecake and carrot cake that night but were too full of good food, so we watched the games again.

We decided to head home early the next morning and brought home our desserts to share with the grandparents who gave up their Valentine's Day to watch the kids. They had a lot of fun including braving Wal-Mart with all the crazy, "let's buy all the bread and milk" people, going to Shelby's Valentine's Day party at school, potty training and playing in the snow and building a snowman.

Yes we missed the kids, (although we only called home twice), but we greatly enjoyed each other's company and some alone time. Will we take advantage of having grandparents so close by in the future? You betcha!

Tiny Treasures Tuesday

William--Oh the saga of the teething tot! Will is cutting more teeth. And he does not like it one little bit! He is, however, enjoying being more and more mobile. If only those legs would let him walk! He had his nine-month check-up on Friday. Just a seasonal flu shot and his iron was checked and is great. He is healthy and happy and that's just the way we like him!

Joseph- Joey was a great help to his grandparents who kept the kids this weekend while Mommy and Daddy went away. He soothed Will when he was upset, he got his grandmother when a dog threw up in his room and told her "yuck!" when he showed it to her, and helped his grandfather with a snowman. Also, new words, "watch" (as in Mama's watch), "uh-oh" (not really a word, but he says it a lot all of the sudden), and of course, "yuck!"

Shelby- Shelby has the biggest news of the week! She peed on the potty! Her grandparents worked with her and Joey all weekend and SUCCESS! one time she made it! She enjoyed the praise of her grandparents. We haven't had a repeat, yet, but are working with pull-ups during the day and daycare will continue on their regimen. She had a great time with her grandparents this weekend and loved the snow!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Feeling Romantic?

A recent poll I showed asked what was wanted for Valentine's Day. I'm assuming the intended responders were women based on the options of flowers, chocolate, jewelry, a date night and peace and quiet.

Since Shelby's birth three and a half years ago we have not had a date night. I have gotten flowers. I'm not big on jewelry and chocolate just isn't a big deal gift for me.

So, this weekend for the first time, we are going away just Mommy and Daddy while grandparents come for a visit. Yes, this is long overdue.

For the first 18 months of parenthood (and by 18 months I had an 18-month-old and a four-month-old) my thoughts were hardly of my marriage so much as babies. And quite honestly, we felt better being together as a family with the kids at that point. It wasn't that we thought things were bad when it was just the two of us, we just preferred the kids around. But a couple of months later, around Mother's Day, I was feeling like so much of a mom and not at all a wife. At the time Shelby and Joey were in daycare and Joey's teachers offered free babysitting on the Friday night before Mother's Day at the center for all the kids in their class for and a small fee for additional siblings. They even told me when they handed me the flier that they wouldn't charge us the fee for Shelby as they loved her so much. I was flattered and told Jeff I really wanted to do it and he agreed somewhat reluctantly and so I RSVP'd yes. Then, on the day of, Jeff canceled with the teachers and told me after I got home from work. He said he just felt like our time was so short with the kids that we needed to have them with us. He also said he paid for Shelby and gave them money for Joey because he felt since we were going back on our part of the bargain we should compensate them. I agreed with the compensation but I was upset about losing the time together. I kept it in perspective though, what Jeff said was true.

A few months later, I was pregnant with Will and shortly after that we both lost our jobs. We were planning an anniversary trip for March of last year and kept it just scaled it back and, of course, included the kids. But I was seven months pregnant so I was in full family mood again. But fast forward eight months and I had a six month old and something just felt like it was lacking in our lives and it wasn't the presence of the kids! I began asking Jeff for a date night, a movie after the kids went to bed, anything! But I was working nights and Jeff was doing his student internship and life was stressful enough without me begging for attention.

For my birthday we had decided to celebrate with some of Jeff's friends at a college football game. I had intended the kids to come with us as many of his friends had not met them, but Jeff decided we would leave them with my parents at their home. We had a great time with other adults, but it was clearly a family event as witnessed by everyone else's kids present. So it was a semi-date night.

After the successful night with my parents for the three kids, we decided we might be willing to try again and I ultimately booked this coming weekend (through my work I get a significant discount) to go to Emerald Isle and relax while my parents come for the weekend to watch the kids and the dogs. I am excited but also nervous. I know I will miss the kids and often wonder what they are doing. But at the same time, I will be enjoying the date night atmosphere as well as the peace and quiet. If flowers or chocolates make an appearance, that's okay, if not, it's cool too. And for the first time in a while, I get to be just a wife for a few brief seconds. I won't stop being a mother, but people won't identify me as that right away, it'll take two minutes.

God Spare Them, Please!

Over the last week we have been waging war in my house. Against colds. Shelby brought one home from daycare that KO'd her for two days last week. She is finally at day 10 and it is subsiding. Just one day later, Will came down with one and at the end of the week, on the day I took him to Myrtle Beach, Joey.

I have to say, my kids are pretty good about colds. Sure they are cranky but I've seen a lot worse. They don't love having their constantly running noses wiped, but they tolerate pretty well. Joey was the only one to spike a temp and Motrin perked him right up. Fortunately, he's my best one about taking meds. And of course, he began crouping, and he did fight the breathing treatments, but overall, it was mild. He spent a night with Daddy in bed, so did Shelby, but they either watched tv or slept, no big deal.

The worst part of all of this is watching them though. Hearing the terrible cough, the awful sneezes, all of it. Logical Kristen knows this is part of growing up and being human. We get sick sometimes. Mother Kristen hates it. Knowing that there is nothing I can do to take this pain from them is really rough. Sure, I have remedies that ease it a bit, but it doesn't end the suffering any sooner. When I get sick myself, the worst part is I'm afraid I won't be able to give them the same care I did while well. And that makes my recovery longer.

It's one of those prices you pay for motherhood that no one tells you ahead of time. No one really can because it's one of those things that until you experience it yourself, you never can quite understand it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's less than a week till Ash Wednesday...

Ack! Where has time gone? We are already half-way through February AND we are getting ready for the six week trek to Easter?

I am pretty unsure of what to give up or add to my life this Lenten season. Jeff and I will be trying to do only one meat dish a week, but that doesn't seem a tremendous sacrifice nor does it seem to significantly enhance my spiritual life.

Times like this remind me of a former priest of mine. When I would go to confession he would often tell me, "Kristen, (I always look at the priest face to face) it is one thing to confess and another to be so hard on yourself that you can't find anything good. That's a trick of Satan's!"

I find this to be true often in life. Sure, it's normal to have doubts about ones judgments or actions, but quite another to let doubt consume us and make us unable to make any decisions.

Maybe God is telling me that cutting back on our meat consumption is enough this year. Maybe we'll be able to find other simple things, listening to Relevant Radio in the car just occurred to me, to cut or add. Regardless, I think that trying to find more positive in my life and focus on it, while being an on-going mission, will ultimately be my Lenten theme this year.

Monday, February 8, 2010

WE are the primary educators of our children...

according to the catechism and John Paul the Great, but what does that really mean?

Lerin is pondering this at her blog and in her life. A recent change was made in their household from home school to public. Catholic school is cost-prohibitive.

There are lots of reasons that public, private, or homeschool might be a good option for your family. Perhaps your family is like mine, unable to afford private school but knowing for at least one child it's not an option anyway because Catholic schools in the area do not provide exceptional child programs or the therapies your child needs to be successful. And while homeschooling may be a nice solution, you're just not a good enough teacher to pull it off. So you are public by default. Or maybe you've made great sacrifices in extras, added a second job or even limited your family size to be able to afford Catholic school. Maybe, you're disillusioned by both and feel that you have to homeschool. Maybe your decision is one you made long ago and will stick to come "hell or high water" or perhaps it's ever evolving.

For our family, even without Shelby's needs we make too much to qualify for financial aid but not enough for tuition. And in these tough economic times, more and more families that might have qualified for aid just a few years ago no longer do. So, what's a good Catholic family to do?

I have found much peace in praying for discernment and realizing that, at this time, God is directing our family to public schools. We take very seriously the charge to be the primary educators of our children. But we also feel that for our family, the academic needs (in addition to Shelby's "special" ones) would be much better addressed in a classroom setting by a teacher. We would still be front and center with homework and classroom participation (I decided long ago to be the classroom mother for all my kids' classes). And family time is still a priority, a chance to teach and pass on the values we want our children to have.

People like to confront me with lots of objections to a public school education. (For the record, I was exclusively publicly educated, as was my husband who is a public school teacher.) The most common objection I hear is that my children will be victims of secular culture and will fall prey to bad influence. In addressing the secular culture question, I have to say that unless your children NEVER leave your house except to go to church, they are exposed and could potentially fall victim to secular culture. A simple trip to Wal-Mart will expose a child to more secularity than one can imagine. But by showing our children what is of God and what is not, we can combat this. The same way any other parent can if he or she chooses to do so. As for falling prey to bad influence, yeah it's a risk (one that Catholic school children are also in danger of facing) but along with that risk is great oppurtunity. My children have the chance to be the light for those around them. They have the potential to live a Christian life in public and show others the value intrinsic in it.

I can't in good conscience say that our decision is perfect, no one's is in all ways, but it works for us. It is what we are called to do. That may change as we allow God to direct our paths, but for now we are at peace. We are teaching our children what it means to be children of God and walk in His pathways, we are assisting in the academic realm and we are the primary educators of our children.

Tiny Treasures Tuesday

William-- "one fell off and bumped his head!" or tooth as the case maybe. This weekend we took the kids to Myrtle Beach for a family reunion of sorts with my dad's family. While I took Joey to the aquarium, Jeff stayed behind with a napping Will and Shelby. After Will's nap and his dinner, Jeff was letting him investigate on the floor and we believe Will might have been trying to pull himself up when he bumped his mouth and he began bleeding. There is a small bruise on the gum above one of his top teeth. He is battling a cold, but seems to perk up when Motrin is in the vicinity. And on Sunday he became nine-months-old! Man that went by quick!

Joseph--Joey had a blast at the beach. He visited with his great-grandparents and great-aunts. He snuggled with one of my cousins and took walks on the beach. He also said his own name for the first time. At the aquarium, while looking at sharks, I asked him what a shark swimming by's name was. Being he loves "Finding Nemo" I expected him to say Bruce and was surprised to hear him say "Joey" instead. To each his own. He also identified the sharks on a bath towel we had at home when we got back.

Shelby--Shelby had a great time at the beach. She was extremely social with the family including those she had never met before. Despite having a cold, she was in good spirits and enjoyed walking down the long halls at the hotel, playing in the sand and in the pack and play that her brother was supposed to sleep in. She also made progress with not removing her pants and diaper.

Friday, February 5, 2010

There's Not a Baby For You...

the nightmare is always the same. A doctor is telling us there is nothing else she can do to help us. We are not accepted by adoption agencies or foster care.

I haven't had it in almost a year, but this week it woke me up again. I crept down the hall where the kids were napping to see them in their beds.

In the last few months, Joey's godmother defied odds (no ovulation) to conceive and in January we celebrated my best friend from high school's son's first birthday. She overcame PCOS to conceive him her first month on clomid. But this Monday we remembered something much more somber, the stillbirth at 25 weeks of our neighbor's second son. Maybe that's why the nightmare returned.

Until a woman has experience infertility, she cannot know the pain of wanting a child she may never be able to have. Until a woman has experienced miscarriage or infant-loss, no one can describe to her the pain of almost seeing this dream come true only to have it illusively slip through her fingers.

I am incredibly blessed, when I wasn't getting pregnant, my husband told me that was okay. We'd adopt and if God decided we would not be parents that it was not our failing and that he didn't need to be a father to feel fulfilled in our marriage. I have friends' whose marriages ended because of infertility. In one of the most cruel cases, a friend conceived one time in 3 years of trying and lost the baby at ten weeks. After she and her husband agreed to stop trying, she found out he had been having an affair and fathered two children while they had been going through the church approved IUI method. Her marriage was annulled last week.

It is hard, sometimes to not think of myself as still infertile. It sounds crazy, I know, but it's true. In my family you just got pregnant and made babies. No one saw doctors or had tests, or, in my case, surgery. But as I explored my own cause of infertility and miscarriage (a uterine septum I was born with), I discovered that there is a good chance that before medicine was as adept at diagnosing it, someone in my family had suffered as strongly a I had. One of my maternal great-grandmothers apparently had several, possibly ten, miscarriages and, lucky for me, three live births, one of whom became my grandfather. I type this with hesitation, as infant loss and infertility are still taboo in our culture. A woman who cannot conceive is considered less than a woman. She is often left out of social gatherings surrounding a birth because no one wants to catch her eye or talk with her about babies or birth. People say they do this to consider her feelings, but really they want to avoid their own discomfort. And there are cultural references from this. In the Bible. In Genesis. When Jacob was forced to marry Leah, the older daughter when he truly loved Rachel and after he married Rachel his love for her well out-did that for her sister, God felt bad and made Leah fruitful and she multiplied. And God closed Rachel's womb. Is it any wonder we think of infertility as a curse or punishment from God?

When I was in my teens, my mother's sister was pregnant with her first child. That summer, when we visited NY, my mother and her other two sisters hosted a baby shower at my grandmother's home. Among those invited was a friend of my aunt's from high school. During the shower, my mother asked her if she had any children. She said no. Later, my aunt told her that the previous year, at 26 weeks pregnant, this friend had lost her baby. My mother was mortified that she might have put this woman on the spot but my aunt quickly reassured her, telling her that she and this friend talked often and one thing her friend had told her was that her biggest obstacle was people treating her like a normal person. Yes, she was heartbroken, and yes, it was still painful, but treating her like an outcast wasn't helping the cause!

In my teenage years, I admit, I would have been one to avoid had I known, but the harsh reality of my twenties has changed me. I share my pregnancies with friends I know are having difficulty conceiving because I know what it feels like to be left out. I tell them that if I am talking too much baby talk to please be up front and tell me, I work and do other things, I can talk about them too! If they are feeling sad or dejected, I don't offer platitudes (you can always adopt!, have you thought about in vitro?) and I don't tell them things like "it'll happen before you know it!" I listen, I sit and I listen. And I take some of that load from them. Sometimes we cry together. I do tell them, this is a loss, it is real and you have the right to mourn it. One friend told me she loved me more than I could know for saying that. It was what I wished someone had said to me.

Maybe it helps me appreciate my kids more when they are pouring maple syrup on my kitchen floor or finger painting one of my dogs, or biting. Maybe it's made me a more patient mother. Maybe it's made me more pro-life. But that nightmare, while it still haunts me, is one I wake up from with gratitude and rejoicing because it is just that. It's a life I glimpsed, but God spared me from. But with that glimpse God gave me a direction: for all those women whose reality is the nightmare, be the light.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Calculated Risk

Rachel has a great post about risk taking behavior by children, particularly boys. The type of risk being discussed is performing stunts on purpose that can cause bodily injury. Being a mom of five boys and having a baby on the way (sex to be found out at birth!) this is an issue close to her heart. But it should be close to every mother's heart regardless of the sex of her children, number or ratio of boys to girls.

But it's an issue, that for me, has implications far beyond the fact that I have two sons. A stupid stunt gone wrong by a young male, nearly cost him his life and by extension nearly cost me my family.

In June of 1980, shortly after graduating from high school, my husband, Jeff, went with friends to cliffs around Goldsboro, NC to go diving one night. They had been drinking (18 was the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol) but with my husband's personality, alcohol could not have been a factor and this still could very well had happened. NC was going through a drought that summer and the level of water in the Neuse River had fallen. Jeff had to be first and race up to the top and yelled he was the "King of the World" long before James Cameron asked Leo DeCaprio to say it while his best friend was trying to tell him to wait while they checked the water. Jeff dove. He broke his C5 vertebrae (his neck), his humerous (the big bone in the arm), and his clavicle (collarbone). He also had massive cuts on his scalp and hands. Immediately the others knew something was wrong. Very wrong. They raced him to the ER and called his parents. He walked into the ER on his own power. Once an x-ray was done (doctor's initially expected a skull fracture) and it was discovered his neck was broken he was raced to Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville, NC part of East Carolina University's School of Medicine. He endured the long hot summer in a "halo" that used bolts screwed into his head to hold it in place, he could not turn his neck. His vertebrae were fused and metal was put in to hold his spine together. His arm had to be set and a bone graft from his hip was needed to repair his collarbone. It was a long and grueling physical recovery and rehabilitation.

Today, Jeff is not wheel-chair bound. He is not paralyzed in anyway. He has pretty much normal range of motion and unless you see the scar on the back of his neck, most people have no idea. There are still physical issues though. Pain in the arm at times and of course, a stiff neck that you or I could not imagine at times. And there are still psychological/emotional issues 30 years later. And not only for Jeff.

Jeff is quick to point out to me the tell-tale scars of a halo. The actor Oliver Platt has them, for example. It's a pretty select club that has these scars; a type of brotherhood no one wants to belong to. And Jeff acknowledges that God spared him. For whatever reason he lived through this and without major disability. But he acknowledges it with both reverence, thanks and guilt. Friends of his have died, why was he saved? And for those that lived through the accident with him, there are also a range of emotions. I had someone ask me once, "Why didn't I try to stop him?" Other friends who now have teenage children tell them frequently when kids are going out Jeff's story. This isn't a person in a book they read about, it's someone they know. Someone who lived to tell when so many didn't. For some, this was the first experience they had seeing mortality up close and they are still shaken by it.

Then there is me. I didn't know Jeff when this happened meeting him almost twenty years after the fact. But for the last eleven years, I have lived it every day. I have never forgotton that God did spare Jeff, and if He had not, I would most likely not have a husband at all. Not to mention my children.

My kids will live every day of their lives with this reality as well. And their experience with it will be different from all of the others. As the children of someone who made a mistake and paid dearly for it (although not the ultimate price) they will learn somethings and probably be subject to some restrictions other kids are not. Every parent tells a child at some point, "don't do that, you'll break your neck," but not every parent can say that with the gravity my children's father can. And it does play heavily into our parenting. Jeff and I both know and readily acknowledge that we cannot prevent our children being injured physically. To some, in light of what he has been through, Jeff seems fairly casual about it. But inside, it tortures him. For me, I have to resist seeing my children, especially the boys and ESPECIALLY JOSEPH (who looks just like his father and has the same personality) as Jeff's children in the risk-taking respect. I have to remember that I am their mother and maybe they will have inherited a little bit of my balancing brain that weighs those risks. I also have to make sure I don't overreact both in my punishment for dangerous behavior, setting limits and reaction when an accident does happen. My kids will learn nothing of how to live life if I put them in a bubble and force them to sit still all the time. And, don't forget, some risks are worth taking, that's why we have things like flight, space exploration, and open heart surgery.

When I had children, I was taking a calculated risk, a risk that my health would remain good enough that I would be able to care for them, a risk that they would be healthy and not require years of medical treatments, a risk that I would be able to provide for them. I took a risk that God was going to give me the tools I needed to take care of and raise them. I thought a lot about this before getting pregnant, while pregnant and even now. And ultimately, I know that there will come a time when my own children will have to weigh the pros and cons of many things, including taking a chance at injury for whatever gain. I'm just glad, for now, that I might have another year or so before I have to tackle that time head on.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Tiny Treasures Tuesday

William-- Will is still busy cutting teeth and is doing his darndest to try and get through it without Motrin or orajel, which means a lot of gnawing, and biting. He is enjoying "boy time" the time Joey and Will have with Daddy during the day while Shelby is at school and Mama is asleep. The three have lots of fun playing peek-a-boo, hide and seek and everyone crawl around on the floor and see what we can find.

Joseph-- Joey is doing much better on sharing. Now, we have to work on his "enforcer" tendency. Oh that he could be the Mommy or Daddy or better yet, both. He is also wanting to play more with Will, but in a rougher way than we are comfortable with. He is also working on cuddling. We got a new bed and he loves climbing up into it and "pretending" to sleep.

Shelby-- Shelby is enjoying school and looks forward to going each day. She also developed a taste for white cheddar popcorn there. She is also loving to crawl under huge comforters and rest, and sometimes fall asleep! We play "monsters" with her while she is doing this. We tell her the Mommy-monster or Daddy-monster is coming to get her and give her squeezes. She squeals and loves it.