Every potential mother has ideas about what it will be like to have children. We all have expectations.
OK, maybe delusions would be a better word.
There were areas I could imagine–just barely–but I could understand and foresee them. I could visualize myself reading children books, tucking them in, taking them camping and giving them Christmas presents.
Hmmm. That’s actually about it. I don’t think I ever really understood that I would be cleaning up their messes, feeding them 6 meals a day, and all the rest. Diapers were purely hypothetical until I actually had an infant and my husband and I had dropped off Grandma at the airport for her return flight. There I was in the restroom, baby on the changing table, to discover a giant explosion that could not be contained by any diaper. I didn’t have enough wipes. There was nobody else in the restroom. I think I called, “Help!” (Yes, really.)
Then I did what any new mother ends up doing. I waded right in with paper towels because that was what I could reach without moving the baby. I don’t know if those little pants were salvageable.
So you learn the basics pretty quickly.
But there are surprises that no one could have predicted.
Here are my top ten unexpected roles.
10. Amphibian search and rescue team. I found myself with a salamander in one hand, moving leaf litter with the other hand, so that the second salamander could be given its worm. I had to peel back layers of rotting leaves before I found the thing sandwiched happily into the decomposing strata.
9. Chauffeur. Needs no explanation.
8. Ship’s counselor. I knew that I would be comforting children when they scraped their knees, and sympathising when the boy didn’t notice them and went out with the best friend instead. I just had no idea the span of support that actual people need, and how hard it is to comfort and guide when you don’t have all the answers.
7. Home school teacher (with fifteen years of experience). Absolutely not! Not in my plans, no way, no how; I am looking forward to my child leaving home so that I can do other things and have some time to myself already. Hmmmm…..what’s that? You say my child will be bored in public school and needs more stimulation? You say, kindergarten is easy; anyone can teach kindergarten? Give it a chance? I turn around, and whoops!–I had to count up the years of experience to put in this list, because I’ve lost track, it has been so long.
6. Short order cook. Again, this probably needs no explanation.
5. Tooth removal patrol. By this I mean the fact that you as the parent are ultimately responsible for removing your child’s loose teeth, because if they don’t come out within 48 hours of the dental hygienist mentioning their eligibility to be removed, it will cause dental damage that can only be fixed by expensive orthodontia. Thus, you are supremely motivated to get the tooth out of your child’s head. However, it is your child’s head, not yours we are talking about here. So, you turn into the tooth removal patrol and take up a full-time job nagging the child and getting slime on your fingers, until the tooth is finally out weeks later and dental disaster is averted.
4. Family cheerleader. Some children need more encouragement than others. You, Mom, are it!
3. Sherlock Holmes. Specifically, Sherlock who specializes in finding lost tiny items. Tiny items are incredibly precious and thus must be taken to bed. When they cannot be found amongst the bedding, you are the Sherlock who will find them. At 2 in the morning, in the mostly dark. While simultaneously averting the potential emotional tragedy of this event for your child.
2. Amphibian Houdini rescue team. Ah yes, this is what happens when you allow your children to keep the tiger salamander they have found because your nature-type Fish and Wildlife friend says they are so easy to keep and care for! Not endangered so no problem there. When your child loves amphibians, and you don’t want her to get a tree frog, you can always just keep a salamander. Why not? What you don’t know is that your child will occasionally get the salamander out of its terrarium, because after all everyone needs exercise. Did I mention we actually got two salamanders instead of just one? oh well, they can keep each other company in there. Another thing I didn’t mention is that when you first adopt salamanders they do not prefer bright open places and are always looking for some dark corner where they believe they will feel more comfortable. So, when the active salamander takes a walk straight into the doll pants that have foolishly been left out in the “salamander play area,” it will be up to you, the amphibian Houdini rescue team, to get the salamander back out of the doll pants. She cannot walk while encased in doll pants. You must painstakingly, tenderly, cut the pants off the salamander (who is much too fat for the pants to be pulled off of) without damaging the plumpness of the salamander, while it writhes and wriggles in your hands.
And my number one role I did not anticipate playing…Fail Mom. Yes. This one is worth a whole other blog entry. This is the role you know you will never play, because…how hard can it be?
Yesterday, I finished reading a book new to me this year. I read it once with my daughter as part of school, but decided it needed another read.
I strongly suspect it will lead to another–and another–and another. That is, if my heart turns out to be anything like Eustace Clarence Scrubb’s dragon skin. You remember his transformation in C. S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He tried on his own to remove the skin, as Aslan told him to, but failed miserably.
On his own he had gained the knowledge that he had dragon skin, and knew how desperately he needed it peeled away. But his claws weren’t deep enough to do the job.
As I read this book, I have felt the skin being tugged. I’ve seen the scaly bumps. I’ve felt some scales beginning to fall from my eyes. All I have so far is the knowledge that it must go.
I’m talking about Till We Have Faces, also by Lewis. It’s strong medicine.
How did he know what I am like internally? Or is it just that we all have the same battle?
Here’s what he observed through his narrator, Orual, the unlovely older sister of Psyche. She begins her accusation of the gods by recording her life and her losses. In the first book, she tells what happened when the gods gave her and then took away a lovely, sweet younger sister whom she loved as much as any one can love another person.
She ends that part by saying that the gods never give an answer to our questions and complaints. But in the shorter second book, she begins to see herself as she really is and not as she had imagined herself to be all the years of her childhood, young womanhood, and rule as queen.
“For it had been somehow settled in my mind from the very beginning that I was the pitiable ill used-one.”(256)
“My love for [fill in a name from your life…was actually] a gnawing greed for one to whom I could give nothing, of whom I craved all.” (267) As I read Book II, and saw with Orual all the events she had been sure she understood perfectly before, I began to question my own life and situations I thought I had understood perfectly before. In the courtroom of the gods she reads her complaint, her book that she has been working on diligently, only to find that it is in reality a nasty, ugly scroll filled with scribblings that when placed before the eternal are revealed to be the lies and excuses they truly are.
Reading this book made me see things about myself I hadn’t seen before. So with strokes of the pen, years after his death, Lewis has managed to begin to tear my dragon skin.
But it will take a deep slash for Aslan to finish the work, I know.
Lewis, C. S. Till We Have Faces. Orlando: Harcourt, 1984.
You know what they say. The more you can keep your brain active and working as you age, the less likely that you will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
I have always thought that homeschooling parents have a leg up on this goal. Our brains are working every day by definition. I know that teaching division, Algebra I, history and more does a lot for me. It may not be a Sudoku or a crossword, but I think it meets the goal of doing a task that is mentally challenging.
While I have stuck with the same core curriculum through the years, the curriculum company has made some text changes as time has gone by. With each student, when I either purchase the new teacher’s manual or look at the current book list, I can see they have pulled out a few books (some I was glad to see go, such as The Dark Frigate; most I was sorry to see go) and added some new ones.
This year in the American history course we read World War II and How it Affects you Today: The Rest of the Story. Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by the same author was a helpful explanation of economics, inflation and all those esoteric topics, and I have now read that twice and will read again with my youngest student this school year, but I had not read anything by this author on war history.
Because it looked quite different from the standard historian’s view of the whys and wherefores of WWII, I told my daughter she could read the fiction selection by herself for this time period; I was definitely reading World War II out loud with her.
What an eye opener. Disagreeing with the standard explanations of why the US got into WWII, the author makes a case against the idea that the Germans and Japanese were such vicious fighting machines that England and our other allies would have been destroyed without our help.
Potentially changing the way you see the world and considering the possibility that what you’ve been led to believe is false will keep a mind active.
Another way I’ve been keeping Alzheimer’s at bay is learning to play chess.
At my age, it’s difficult to retain all the rules. And even when I do remember exactly what moves each of my pieces can make, that does not mean that I will notice what dangers I’m moving them into. I am planning ahead, checking out possible dangers for the square I have in mind, coming up with long-term strategies for taking my opponent’s queen and getting at his king: all that stuff. It’s just not working yet.
What really makes it embarrassing is that the person teaching me is ten years old. I lost my queen to him in our play yesterday in the course of ten minutes tops.
And no, I’m not letting him win. It’s just happening.
But I can be a good sport.
At least I’m fighting the loss of brain cells!
I’m not sure how to put this. It’s an observation based on all the doctors I have known. This is it:
Doctors don’t know what they don’t know.
Self evident, I’m sure, once you’ve been in enough waiting rooms and offices.
I’m mentioning it just for food for thought as you look for answers to the latest flu virus, round of strep or pink eye, or your latest concern about your child’s development. People have a tendency to believe that a doctor knows more than they do. Yes, any given doctor does know much more than you do about things medical and biological and pharmacological, most likely. So that’s true.
The problem is that any one doctor will not know how to solve your problem, unless your problem is a problem they’ve been taught to solve.
You might have a problem that particular doctor did not study and does not know about.
You might have a problem that is multifaceted. It might be caused by malfunctions in more than one body system. You might have a problem that most doctors aren’t even looking for. If they aren’t looking, they aren’t going to find it.
Take autism, a disability that is caused by multiple factors. Also one that we still don’t even have half the answers. We have a great many theories, and there are great many therapies and medications that can be tried, many of which are helpful to any given child, some of which may not help same child.
But in this example, if your child’s symptoms of autism are 80% caused by a virus that has taken up residence in his body, but your doctor wasn’t taught to look for viruses that could be affecting your child’s behavior, you will get sold a different set of solutions. Behavioral therapies, anti-anxiety medication, social skills groups, occupational therapy: all of these have their place in treating children with autism. Yet there can be other causes of the difficulties nobody is looking for.
Another example of “not seeing” is chronic Lyme disease. People dealing with this can be told they have any number of neurological and physiological problems. Maybe even mental health problems. Then a person finally sees a doctor who takes a few or many steps backward and looks for the bigger picture, runs some lab tests, and finds the Lyme spirochete. You can’t get better if you don’t actually know what’s causing the problem.
Doctors work hard to know all that they can, because they want to help the patients they see. But they are only human and can’t help only knowing what they know.
I suppose it should not be surprising that when a doctor has done all she can, and provided all the suggestions for lifestyle changes she knows, and had you try all the supplements and medications that she thinks might be helpful to you, that this doctor may be strongly tempted to tell you you’re better, even when you don’t feel better.
I can understand that tendency. I’d probably do the same thing.
But having worked with doctors over time, I’d say the reality at that moment is that the doctor just doesn’t know what else to do.
Maybe another one does.
Which of all the cats I have known well is my favorite? They are all so different; with each there is a story, and it is understandable that we know each cat differently and have preferences.
Moter: his name was misspelled because I stuck to my error with 8-year-old determination not to admit a fault. He was my first cat, the one I begged for months to get. When my dad and I went to “interview” him, he strolled right to us, purring so loudly, and won my heart right away. He was a large marmalade tom who tolerated two small children very well. He went outside every night and was on the porch railing each morning to get our attention outside the window where we ate breakfast. We couldn’t hear him meow because it was double pained glass. But we could see him. And we could sure hear him purring. Never had a louder cat. Hence the name.
I lost him when we moved from Alaska to Montana, because Mom and Dad didn’t think we could move a pet that far. After we moved, he ran away from the people who had taken him, and I don’t think they ever found him. Heartbreaking. I don’t think my parents chose to not move a pet again.
Later, my brother chose a kitten who turned out be even bigger and lovelier than Moter as far as looks. Max was darling, and grew up pleasingly large with dark tabby markings and huge green eyes. People always commented, “what a beautiful cat.”
Of course he wasn’t mine the way Hobbes was. I picked her out after I married and my husband already had a cat. I wanted one of my own, a kitten. I had no idea how hard it would be to find a kitten in October. Finally we called someone who still had a kitten left from the newspaper ad they had placed. We rushed out to see it. I sat down, she got in my lap, and started playing with the cord of my hood. I fell in love that moment. And it was a good thing, because Hobbes was a nut case. She peed in corners, cried at the wrong times, ate rubber bands and nursed on her surrogate sister, who, as far as we know, never gave her any actual milk. She needed me because nobody else would have put up with her.
I named her after the Hobbes in Calvin and Hobbes, as she was another stripey cat and I loved that comic strip. Only later did I learn she was a female. She had an attention to detail that did help us at times. She noticed a shorting outlet in our apartment and stared at the spark she saw, making a squeaky noise. I never would have noticed that if she hadn’t shown it to us.
Jigs was my husband’s cat, the best-natured I’ve ever had in her own “you may worship me now” way. Moter was more personable, I think, but Jigs had a certain charm, after she got over my getting in her space. I think she thought she was there first. She used to chew my sandals when I would go to my then fiancée’s apartment. But after he and I were married, she warmed up. She was the only cat I’ve ever known who would approach a crying person, meowing, and get in the person’s lap and look in her face to ascertain the problem and what she could do to help her feel better. And if you won her favor, you would receive a “puh,” which is a gentle pat on the nose with a velvet paw.
Annie found me one summer day. She was my only long hair, a kitten who had been abandoned by the side of the country road we lived on when my oldest son was young. I brought her home, cleaned her up, took her to the vet, and was only going to keep her until I could find someone who wanted her. But she stuck to us. She played with my two-year old. When someone actually said she’d take her, I suddenly changed my mind.
For years I didn’t have an inside cat, due to dealing with kids and not wanting to deal with fleas.
But, I had given birth to three children and at least one was bound to inherit the cat gene I had. (You can have either the cat or dog gene.) Despite my husband’s being a dog person, guess which animal the kids adore?
So, my then 9-year-old daughter was begging me for a cat. For months.
Finally, I gave in and let her pick an adult cat from the pound for her birthday. This cat she named Terry, after her aunt’s cat Carrie.
Terry is another beautiful dark-haired tabby cat and her role was to prove to me that I could have an indoor cat again, that a cat could be good in every way. She used the litter box only. She drank from her water bowl. She didn’t claw or scratch us. She used her scratching post. She sat on laps. She is the best cat I’ve ever had, as far as behavior goes.
So she inspired me to get another cat. Of course! I picked out a kitten because I hadn’t had that pleasure in 20 plus years. I brought home a smoke grey male kitten, who promptly grew up to teach her all his bad tricks (like opening doors), so I could have two bad cats. However, since I picked him out all by myself, I fell in love with him, and Boris has been weaseling his way into hearts ever since he gaily bounced along behind the kids the first day I brought him home. No need for this kitten to be put in a cozy box in a small space in order to slowly adjust to his new surroundings. He was scampering to and fro and purring from the minute he came in our door, ears pricked on his too-big head, to see where he was.
He’s my baby now, even though he is almost three in people years and I guess in his twenties in cat years. He loves to sit on my lap and purr first thing in the morning. That would be when I haven’t even made it off the toilet. And he comes to cuddle in the bed some nights, usually the ones when I could use a purring furry weight next to me. He’s a pill sometimes, but I’m awfully fond of him.
I think that of the cats I have known, the ones I chose myself were my favorites. Or maybe they chose me?