Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I Come to the Garden Alone

As a young mother, I loved mornings. Each one was a new beginning, blotting out the "if only" of yesterday. Perhaps mornings will always mean reaching for the elusive perfect day.

In Garden Graces: The Wisdom in Growing Things, Janice Elsheimer writes about the first flowers to awaken in the morning. They call her to the garden, alone. "As often as not," she reflects, "the music of that old hymn, 'I come to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses,' comes to mind. And I pray."

The words strike a chord with me. The hymn was the first duet my sister and I sang as children. Oh well, maybe "duet" is fudging a bit. My musically gifted sister sang. I twisted my skirt in my fist, swayed from side to side, and stared at my shiny new patent leather shoes. But to this day, the words, "And He tells me I am His own" go right to my heart where they linger and comfort.

Is that not the message you give your little ones, no matter how imperfect the days? There are no perfect parents anywhere, nor does your child expect you to be one. Young children are forgiving. They also are constant motion, filling the space around them with restless energy that spills over in tears and upsets. But they are yours! No one anywhere in the world can lead and love them like you. The little one who acted out from dawn to dusk today is the child who most needs your attention. Her errant behavior is begging, "No matter how hard I push or how headstrong I am, will you still love me?" And your answer?

Every kissed boo-boo, every tantrum that ends in an understanding embrace, and every good night prayer rewrite the same message: "You are my own. And the joy we share, none other has ever known."

A Colorful Thought: Color your child with gentle words of unconditional love that last a lifetime.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Emotions of Childhood

"I get it! I finally get it! You taught me in your classes how important the early years are, but today, I really get it!" Carlson, my dentist and long-time friend, was talking to me in his office. "I read in my medical journal about a woman caught in the tangles of Alzheimer's," Carlson explained. "Yet, she wrote a book while it pummeled her back to the painful emotions of her childhood. The emotions were buried, but never resolved. For 80 years! Now they bedevil her mind again." Carlson shook his head and confided, "I finally understand the hurt of my childhood."

Before It's Too Late: Alzheimer's: Return of Childhood Emotions by Jane A. McAllister is Jane's story. A woman of great intelligence despite the disease, Jane writes, "The end of my life story is a painful shadow of the beginning, stored in the haunted halls of memory." The resentment, desperate isolation, and uncontrollable anger and guilt "are the same emotions that colored the earlier years of my life. Vivid and unsettling, they return as raging emotions."

That is why I write Colored with a Positive Crayon. It's a myth that children have no memories of their early years. What you do with your child today echoes for a lifetime. I am passionate that you know developmental stages so you understand acceptable behavior. I'm passionate that you respect your child's feelings. If ignored, feelings bury themselves. But they're alive, and someday explode. Jane tells us that.

A child is the last to know what she needs. That's why your child must have boundaries, and discipline that teaches. She needs endearing bedtimes to help her separate from you, and cheery mornings when you wrap your love around her again. The experiences of your child's early years will be stored forever in her hallowed halls of memory.

A Colored Thought: You color your child early with a positive crayon when you honor and respect her feelings.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Daddy Marine

We hadn’t seen our cousin and her husband for what seemed like ages. But some friends step right back into your life as steady as the metronome that guided my piano practice as a child. We didn’t miss a beat. Reconnecting with family is like that. Perhaps it’s the pendulum of memories.

Or perhaps reconnecting means sharing a “heart concern” with someone who cares. The highlight of our togetherness was a phone call of hope from their daughter, Kathy. Six months pregnant and remembering her three miscarriages, Kathy was elated with the all-is-well-ultra-sound-images of the tiny infant in her womb. It’s odd how happiness shared, doubles the joy. And on the flip side, how misfortune experienced alone, doubles the sadness. Kathy, caught in the separation of war, will give birth alone. Her marine husband, deployed to the Near East for the fifth time, is due home three months after the birth of their firstborn.

Like most military daddies, Kathy’s man is eager to stay connected. He already knows a father is critical to a daughter’s sense of self. He understands it is a father who holds up the first lens through which a little girl assesses her femininity.

But for now, this marine daddy wants somehow to bridge the miles. I suggested he wear a tee shirt (what’s closer to his heart?) and without laundering, send it to Kathy. And follow that with a Skype video call of him reading aloud a happy, rhythmic bedtime book (already on its way to him). Soon after birth, I picture the infant’s head resting on a crumpled tee shirt on Kathy’s shoulder, rocked to sleep by the rhythm of daddy reading to her from half-way across the world. The little girl will know the sounds and smells and love of her daddy Marine before the first moment he holds her. Sweet.

A Colorful Thought: An infant's sensory learning begins with the sounds, scents, smiles, and touch of those who love her.