Meddling

cherry tomatos

 

It took a full sixty seconds before she could get hold of her giggles long enough to tell me why she called.

“What’d he do now?” I smiled.

You see, she has a four-year-old and an 18 months old. Both precious. One precocious.

The preschooler omits some speech sounds and makes a salad of most others. He knows what he wants to say (and has much to impart from dawn to evening), but the production message from his brain to mouth muscles doesn’t always come through organized. We’ve been working on improving motor planning and sound production, and he’s been making steady progress. He is a studious little dude and follows instruction well enough, but what he really adores is experimenting: With his father’s shaving cream and his mother’s makeup, with his little brother’s haircut and diaper-rash cream, with words and their meaning.

“I was making him a salad,” the mom hiccupped, still not quite over her laugh-a-thon, “and silly me, I thought I could slip in a tomato.”

I grinned. Silly indeed … This boy loves some vegetables … but he is also the kid who declared “tomatoes are mean because they look like cherries but they taste yucky.”

“So, he takes one look at the plate and shakes his finger at me, saying ‘Mommy, I told you five times already. Why you meddling my dinner?'”

 

 

For The Daily Post

Whew!

shrinershospitalforchildren

 

For the child who finally got a clean bill of health, long enough into remission at last, after three bouts of cancer, four surgeries, five courses of chemo, two collapsed lungs, a resistant infection, and more invasive treatments and hospital days than one can count (though I’m sure her parents had counted. Every. Single. One.)

Whew.

We’re so relieved.

You rock, little one!

 

 

For The Daily Post

Father Kindness

fathering

Photo: C. Moriah-Gibor

 

Be a father to the vulnerable

Guide the path of those who need

A lift

A helping hand.

Be a father to those seeking

To find shelter

Who need help to

Understand.

Show the way.

Provide

Kind counsel.

If by biology or presence

Be the best

Model

You can.

For it is by kindness

That fathering

Takes hold

And

Grows children

Strong

In body, heart

And mind.

 

Temporary Paragon

grandmas graphics

illustration: grandmasgraphics.com

She is a paragon of deliberateness. Personifies all things just-so aligned. Her veggies must be on the left, her french-fries on the right.

She draws her letters so they march in perfect rows. No effort (or eraser) spared to ensure strict discipline among her lines.

She is a model of sheer focus. She will not be dissuaded. She absolutely won’t be rushed.

She examines every detail for correctness, chooses only hues that match.

She rejects any suggestion to skip corners or leave even the least uneven mark.

She will garner no discussion. Her exactness is fiercely protected.

All things must be in place. Each squiggle inspected.

Until an ice-cream truck chimes outdoors … and messy life once more accepted.

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Taper to Expand

openmind

Photo: Playbuzz.com

 

Taper your prejudices

So they not block the light

Of real understanding.

Taper your worries

So they let in

Newborn paths.

Taper your reliance on

Hearing only what fits

Your opinion.

Taper your righteous

Indignation

So it leaves room

For your heart

And mind

To truly

Expand.

 

For The Daily Post

A Little Closer

vugust on tumblr

Photo: vugust on tumblr

 

“Granpa is no here anymore,” he stated, morose, “he go back to very far.”

The little boy raised impossibly long-lashed honey eyes to me but I didn’t think he was looking at anything in the room. His eyes were seeing through the walls and out to where a presence is not constrained by oceans, mileage, and topography.

His little face was pinched in a sad frown and he fingered the edge of his shirt, before taking in a long breath that seemed to fill not only his lungs but also return the sparkle into his eyes. He pointed a small finger at the center of his chest. Exhaled. Took another breath.

“But Granpa no really faraway,” he declared, the last two words blended into one in a sing-song. “My heart think so he only little closer very far.”

 

 

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A New Friend

seat

Photo: duffylondon.com

 

There needs to be an extra chair now at the table, another place setting, extra fork. The bath requires extra towels. Reading choices necessitate an added pause. There are lively conversations from the bedroom, laughter, whispered dialogue, deep monologues. A seat to save in rides, a window-or-middle deliberation. Opinions of a first-line advisor, a determined intermediate, a confidante.

Granted, he is secretive, selective, and exclusive. It doesn’t mean he isn’t a good friend.

Accepting him is fact, not question. Get used to it. He’s there. He may not show up to explain, but he will not be ignored or shunned. Be nice. He has deep feelings. He has needs. A keen mind.

Should not matter that he is a dragon-human made of magic. Invisible to all but a certain little one.

 

For The Daily Post

A Way Out

Clay Tablet Babylon Ca. 2000-1700 BC

Clay Tablet Babylon (Ca. 2000-1700 BC); SCHOYENCOLLECTION.com

 

“I just get lost,” she sighed. Her pre-teen face was creased with dejection.

Schoolwork is hard for her. She tries but often fails to live up not only to the expectations of her school, but also – and harder still – to her own views of perfection. She begins. Gives up. Procrastinates. Misses deadlines. Then needs to make-up what she had delayed as well as keep up with current assignments. School is a merry-go-round of stress and frustration.

“Lost how?” I prompted. Not only did I want to understand more about what she’d meant (rather than assume I knew it), but one of the things we’d been working on is expanding her ability to narrate her feelings and perceptions, explain and communicate her needs.

She glanced at me, not quite in irritation, but almost.

“I’m not being tricky,” I smiled. “I really want to understand.”

“Fine,” she sighed again. Her brow furrowed as she thought, and she reached over to the pad of paper that rested on the desk between us. Doodling can sometimes help make paths for words.

She scribbled for a moment, then her breath deepened and she flipped to a new page on the pad. “It’s like this,” she said.

She drew a labyrinthine squiggle that turned several times onto itself. Added another squiggle that sprouted from it, then another, and another. Sketched a stick figure at one end of the criss-crossed creation  and a bulls-eye at the other. Looked up at me to see if I’m still paying attention.

Very much so. I smiled encouragement.

“I have stuff to do and I think I know how, but I start doing it and then I get stuck,” she moved her finger over the squiggle till it ‘hit a wall.’ “So I go back, and I try another way … and I get stuck again,” her finger slid on top of the paper to another dead-end.

She looked up again. Her eyes were bright.

“So I get lost …” she swiveled her finger around the squiggly lines in a half-aimless, half-frantic manner. “It’s too hard. I give up.”

“I hear you. I really do.” I nodded, lifted my pen, and drew another squiggle around hers, connecting the pencil figure with the bulls-eye. “We need to find a better way. A way without a maze.”

 

 

For The Daily Post

You Better!

rainy day

 

He came up the stairs, looking like a cross between a drowned kitten and a frog: wet hair, clinging shirt, useless green umbrella and matching boots (with sloshy feet inside).

I smiled at him. He sighed.

“Yeah, I know,” he said, “I better …”

His father nodded.

Coded language.

I’ve heard it before.

“You better come right now!” “You better sit down quietly!” “You better not hit your brother!” “You better listen to the babysitter!” “You better not forget your homework again!” “You better not get this floor wet …”

You better? Better how?

More like “your life will be much worse, unless …”

I swallowed my own sigh. I don’t abide much by the “you better” style of communication. The dad was probably parroting the coded-directions of his own upbringing, spurred by habit, rigid expectation, his own fatigue.

“Looks like you two got caught in the downpour,” I smiled, took their umbrellas, and offered towels, a mat to put their footwear on, a plastic bag for wet things, a pair of dry socks for the boy. The minutia of a rainy day.

“He kept goofing around,” the dad grumbled. He pointed at the drenched boy in accusation, though he was only marginally less wet than his son (and had a bigger umbrella!). The father patted his arms dry, patted his son’s hair. He seemed embarrassed and glared at the errant rain drops on the floor as if they were proof of his son’s weathery misdemeanor.

“I ran because I didn’t want to get wet!” the boy retorted, eyes glistening.

“Sometimes there’s not much one can do to stay dry,” I soothed, and lifted the bag of extra child-size socks to emphasize my point. “It is raining hard and it is windy, too, so the umbrella probably can’t do much. I’d gotten soaked. Had to change.” I pointed at my clothing. “Not what I had on earlier.”

The boy threw a vindicated glance toward his dad.

“You better not give me any sass,” the parent reflexed.

The boy’s face darkened.

“You know what I think is better?” I interjected. “For all of us to come sit down and get dry and comfy …” I gestured toward the couch for the father to sit on, for the boy to take his seat by the table.

I wondered if the father was aware of just how alike his own expression was to the boy’s: a mix of combative, deferential, dejected and relieved.

The rest of the session went smoothly. By the end of it, the boy’s curls bounced back right along with his spirits. His dad’s mood improved, too, nourished in equal parts by the rain easing and the nap he’d managed to sneak in while his son and I worked.

They left calmly enough, but I’ll have to make time to speak with the parent. We spoke before on things that need discussing not in the child’s presence. I know the father means well. He’d told me he hadn’t had a close relationship with his parents. He had grown up with the threat (and frequent bite) of a switch, and he’d vowed to not repeat it. He does not raise a hand to the boy. This father wants better – the real better, not the threatened one – for his son. He’d told me he wishes for his son to be able to come to him with anything, interests or worries. Yet for now this parent’s very way of communicating stifles the possibility. He gets tripped by his own memories of what parental language ‘should be’ like. Maybe he knows no other way to exert control over a growing and often opinionated boy.

We’ll have a talk. The dad and I.

I know he wants better for the both of them.

“You better” is hardly is the better way.

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Empty

(Dedicated with love to the children who survived, and to those who couldn’t.)

Luchenza Orphanage by photocillin on Flickr

Orphanage by photocillin on Flickr

 

There were no toys. There were no hugs.

There were no hands to pat wet eyes.

There were no smiles. There were no songs.

There were no calming lullabies.

There were long nights. There were cold days.

There were no comforts when one cried.

There was just time.

Immense.

Indefinite.

There was just fear.

Impervious.

Infectious.

There were blank stares.

A deafening silence.

There were human metronomes

Rocking in desperate absence.

 

There were no words.

There still aren’t any.

Just threads of heart

To weave the splintered

Into many.

 

 

 

 

For The Daily Post