Will you indulge me this tender memory?
My husband was slicing a loaf of bread the other day. I watched him – his fingers so long and elegant, like a pianist’s. He held the bread, talking casually with me and our son, unaware of the feeling that was welling inside me.
Those are the hands that are holding mine in this life, I thought. Those large, strong hands are helping me out of cars and up from the floor and into the world. Those beautiful, powerful hands. I felt for a moment like I had never seen anything more attractive.
Then the other day we were at the play place at South Town Mall with the little boys. Aiden, our 2-year-old, kept trying to escape and run out into the mall. Aaron was standing in the large opening, gliding back and forth to block his exit. I saw Aaron in that moment the way another woman might, not the take-for-granted way I usually do. He looked so tall, so lean with his long legs loose in an old pair of jeans. If I had been someone else, not his wife, I might have had the thought, “Who is that handsome dad?” Then I caught myself. I AM the wife. That handsome dad is MY husband. I mouthed the words to him slowly so he could read my lips, “You – are – so – fine.”
I have had occasion in recent weeks to appreciate Aaron in a way I had forgotten to for some time. What a blessing. I vow not to forget so easily again.
This is Ethan.
Ethan is a magical child. He knows the lyrics of practially every song he’s ever heard. He uses words like hippopotamus and ridiculous (although not in the same sentence.) When I play him music to fall asleep to, he asks for Debussy’s Clair de lune – by name. He likes teachers and chocolate and inviting himself into the neighbor’s houses.
Ethan also likes hitting his little brother, refusing to come to dinner, and throwing temper tantrums that require alerting the insurance company. He’s broken everything we’ve ever put in his room, so we took everything out – and then he broke the closet doors. We put him in time out, we try to stay calm, we tell him why he’s in time out, but he just goes from 0 to 60 miles per hour mad like no child we’ve ever seen.
My husband and I are studying, trying to understand what we’re doing that is contributing to the problem. We read the book The Magical Child that talks about how children under 7 are in a magical world where adult logic does not apply. And we’re reading books like Love and Logic and Your Defiant Child, which talk about applying real logic to a 4-year-old in order to teach him consequences.
Which is it – is it love and logic . . . or just love? What am I doing wrong?
I woke this morning at 2:45. That’s what time I always wake up. I turned the alarm off (can’t risk the snooze at that time of day), but I just couldn’t get out of bed. I lied there looking at my husband, listening to him breathe. His face was so masculine, so broad and strong, his breath so steady. I just wanted to admire him for a few minutes. A few minutes wouldn’t make me late.
Then Ethan (my 4-year-old) appeared at the door. He couldn’t sleep. I tiptoed him back to his bed (shaped like Lightning McQueen) and lied down with him until he fell back to sleep. Another 15 minutes.
I was almost in the shower when Aiden (my 2-year-old) started to moan. His soft complaints turned into screams for Mama. I threw a bottle in the microwave and got back to him before he woke the whole house up.
It was 3:45 now. I would have just gotten dressed and come to work, but I had to shower. HAD TO! (It was a hot night in the kitchen the night before.) So I jumped in the shower, fast as I could, threw on jeans and a T-shirt (sometimes I’m really grateful I’m on the radio and not television) and ran out the door. Still got here in time to read a few stories before we went on the air.
Now here’s the kicker. With my hair as curly as Oprah and no makeup on, my coworkers said. “Oh my gosh – you look 20-years-old!” (That was Mary.) Grant said, “Man! You look cute today.” Grant? Are you feeling alright? I looked like I got dressed in a truck stop. Then the guy at the store said, “Hey – how YOU doin’?” and I knew I was on to something here.
Maybe it was the love expressed that made me late. Or maybe there’s something to the I-don’t-have-time-to-do-my-hair look. Or maybe a face sans makeup is just good once in awhile, but the Goddess of Late for Work was workin’ this morning.
My suggestion – try being late next week and let the compliments come pouring in.
When I was a little girl (how many great stories have begun with those words) my mother would react to my tantrums in the same way. I have an image of her ironing in the dining room while I sat nearby complaining about how hot it was or how I had nobody to play with. She would not take her eyes off my father’s shirt, but would say in my direction, “I think somebody might need to go over to the hospital and donate some of her time to those less fortunate.”
Her advice would send me right over the top, even as I knew it was true. Perhaps because I knew it was true. I didn’t often heed her words, didn’t make my way to the hospital to sit at the bedside of someone suffering and alone, but when I did – it cured me.
And it still does.
I’ve been struggling lately with . . . my life . . . and my Mama had the answer all along. Give of yourself. Give of myself. To my children, to my husband, to the world. Give and give until all I feel is love. I’m only on day two of remembering her advice, and already my heart is lightening, the insecurity and judgment fading away, being replaced by the smiles of my children. There just isn’t room for self-absorbed nonsense and selfless love in the same heart . . at least not at the same time.
Thank you Mama.