Monday, February 13, 2012

Giving In

I recently had cause to go back through the notes I took during my challenging workshop at residency. One of the questions that someone asked, and I wrote down (without thinking much about it at the time, because the questions and comments were coming in rapid-fire and I was in my "cone of silence") was, "Why does the mom always give in to the baby?"

I was going to use walnut shells to stamp heart shapes on brown paper, but that didn't work out so well, so I made a mid-course correction and E and I created heart animals with construction paper.
I laughed when I re-read that sentence. If I had those sweet, innocent, childless young people before me now I could say, "Because that's what moms do." And it's not giving in; it's called meeting their needs. Babies can't take care of themselves, so someone (often the mom, if she's the one around at the time; though hopefully the dad a good deal of the time does too) else has to do it for them.

I had to pitch in and help with some of these or we'd have them done for St. Patrick's Day. (Like my cute new tablerunner in the background? I bought it at a nearby farm store. It makes me smile).
I thought of that sentence again Friday night, when the boys piled into the car after daycare at about 5:15 p.m. and M said that there was a dance at school that night from six to eight-thirty and couldn't he please go? He didn't know about it before because the sign had been covered up by something else. And since there was no good reason why he shouldn't go, I hurried home and made a quick dinner, and loaded all three boys back in the car an hour or so later (C was working late) to drop him off, and went back out into the cold to pick him up at 8:30.

Z has refused to participate in Valentine-making for as long as he's had a class to make them for (this would be the fourth year). His idea is to cut up paper into smaller and smaller hearts.
We're mothers. It's what we do. And it's not giving in; it's parenting. It's why we spend all Saturday evening and Sunday morning cutting out construction paper hearts and coaxing, encouraging, begging and pleading out charges to turn them into doggies and cats and bunnies and turtles (and why we finish them in our best imitation of childish scrawls after out charges go to bed). It's why we stop at the store on February 13 to buy Cheddar Bunnies for the class party and three boxes of candy conversation hearts, because our child has been asking for two weeks if we couldn't please get him some candy hearts with words on them?

I saved this tray from inside our Advent calendar for just this purpose--pouring beeswax from old candle stubs (happily, one of the stubs was red) into the heart-shaped molds to make little ornaments.
It's why, at five in the morning, we find ourselves in the kitchen making one-and-a-half peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and one-half ham sandwich with mustard and slicing two oranges in quarters, but leaving the third one whole and digging in backpacks for lunch bags that have sat all weekend with half-eaten sandwiches in mismatched containers.

Z cut out the names of his classmates from the Valentine list and C somehow coaxed him to write his name on the back and I taped them to the strings for his Valentines.
It's why we consent to reading out loud yet another Jack and Annie book, when we'd really much rather read Farmer Boy or Anne of Green Gables or anything with more literary merit than improbable time-travel scenarios.

We had a lot left over, and C trimmed all the extra wax off of them with a knife and arranged them in this cute circle. They smell sooo good, but I have no idea what to do with them all--thoughts?

It's why we sit through six-hour baseball tournaments and Christmas concerts that only seem like they're six hours long and quit cooking any dish that combines eggs and cheese and move all of our breakable objects to very high shelves. It's the first thing we discover when we have kids: it's not all about us anymore.

I liked this heart wreath in the Sundance catalog so much that...

Don't get me wrong; I'm not talking about spoiling my kids. I do far more saying no than giving in--no candy after breakfast, no I won't take you to Barnes and Noble to buy more Lego's, no movies on school nights, no torturing your brother, no biting your best friend--perhaps more than I should.

We made our own, cutting free-form hearts from watercolor paintings (always looking for a way to put those watercolors to good use!).
I guess you could call it giving in. But I call it LOVE. Happy Valentine's Day.


  1. Oh this. So good. So true. And it's not about spoiling. Not at all. (Hate those night-time pick ups when you have to get everyone into the car, though!) Tweeting this...more people need to read it.

  2. Well said!
    ps--I think those beeswax hearts would look lovely decorating a branch inside the house. :)

  3. LOVE the heart ornaments! and animals! and wreath! I'm going to have to borrow all those ideas next year!!
    I agree with the whole non-parent thing, but I know I was a COMPLETELY different person before I had kids. I was judgemental and thought I knew it all. My kids were never going to watch tv, I was never going to shout at them, and they would be perfect little angels who would pick raisins over sweets and handmade toys and sticks over barbies and cars. I gave any woman with a child wearing a safety harness a very evil look. I think the truth is that once you have children you realize that most of your ideas about parenting really were not all that brilliant.
    Well,I'm not saying my parenting ideas are brilliant now, but they work for us and I certainly don't judge anyone anymore. Live and learn. ;)

  4. so well said. I had a childless friend recently question why I spontaneously decided to take my daughter to the toy store where she could spend some of her allowance money. She thought I was indulgent. And really my answer was "why not?"

    xoxo happy valentines day!

  5. Yes, yes, yes. Parenting is a most humbling gig that for me, has made me a far less judgmental person. Without sounding patronizing or divisive, a childless person can never quite 'get' what it means to parent (unless that have full-time dependents in some other manner). This is not a negative statement, a holier-than-thou thing. It is what it is.

    When P was in grad school at 40 yrs of age with three children (five and under)-- it amazed me how many of his classmates (without children) were the BUSIEST people in the world, always talking about how many hours of reading they had, papers to write, internship hours they needed to put forth, meetings to attend, etc. I would just smile and nod (OK, it was more like a smirk), thinking that of course, P was doing all of this AND doing all the things that parenting involves.

  6. It's also why you pay for your 21 year old's inhaler when he cannot afford it, because he needs it and that is what parents do.


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