Chasing Life

chasing pigeons1

Photo: Chagit Moriah-Gibor

 

For all the little ones in my life: Right here, nearby, quite far; right now or not but in my heart you always are … For all of you who chase life (and sometimes Central Park pigeons), and grab hold of every moment’s possibility with two tenacious hands:

You teach me lots more than I ever could teach you.

You are each life, exemplified.

 

For Tuesday Photo Challenge

Mnemonically Challenged

 

teachingmomser.com

Photo: teachingmomster.com

 

“I failed the test,” she sighed and let her book bag slump to the floor.

“What test, and I’m so sorry.” I responded.

“Social studies. History stuff. I studied so hard!” She plunked herself into the chair. Dejection personified. “Who put all those stupid names and dates in there, anyway?”

“Names and dates can be really difficult to remember,” I noted. “I find it helpful to connect them with the story of what happened, or with something else to remind of what the name or date relate to.”

“Yeah, well,” her eyes rose to meet mine, accusatory at my not understanding she just needed me to let her vent. “But you are not mnemonically challenged!”

 

 

For The Daily Post

Bumble Dog

http://www.redheart.com/free-patterns/dogs-crochet-bumble-bee-costume

Photo: RedHeart.com

 

“Our puppy is drunk!” The four-year-old announced mid-session.

“Drunk?” Their puppy was a five-month-old rescue mutt named Rooky, all paws, mischief and licking tongue. Still, surely I misheard. I looked at the mom.

“Well,” she clarified, her color rising, “he isn’t anymore!”

“But you said!” the boy accused.

“He was yesterday …” she conceded, redder still. “Drunk, I mean. He’s okay today.”

“Rooky drank Mama’s beer,” the boy offered helpfully.

Her blush intensified. “It’s not like that …”

“Mama had to pee and Rooky knocked her beer over and then he licked it up and he maked nasty burps and he walk funny. His burps smell like Mama’s beer,” the boy was on a roll. “Mama called the vet and he said Rooky is drunk. We taked him to the vet. Rooky even barfed.” The boy pointed out, impressed.

“Gramma said beer makes ‘bumble bee idiots dogs or not’,” he added in what I thought was a very grandma-like tone.

I’m considering the odds I might never see that mother in session again …

 

 

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

Baby Steps

Goals drive us forward. They also hold us back.

Goals often seem too big to get to. The great idea you had the other night feels suddenly less sparkly in the morning: there are far too many steps, it will require more time than you realized, need more attention than you believe you have, more energy than you find within you.

You feel overwhelmed. Discouraged. You get stuck.

Goals are posts along a journey. It truly is not the destination that matters, but the path you take to get there, what you learn along the way about yourself, about your possibilities, abilities, the things that limit you from stretching up and over into the incredible, the fears that keep you from reaching out.

Parents ask me about their children’s therapy: “Will he ever not need help?” they want to know. “Will people ever understand her when she speaks?” They worry how long it will take, how much effort, whether they can make it; can the child.

Children, too, talk about their process. “I am not good at this,” they say. “I don’t know how to write this reading response/this essay”, “I don’t know how to understand the story or how to have the words ready in my mouth when I raise my hand.” “Will I still have to see you next year?” they ask. “Do kids sometimes see you even when they are in high-school?” they inquire, wondering in part-worry, part-hope that I will answer in the affirmative: they worry that they can still be ‘different’ by then, and hope that if so, they will not be left on their own.

“We’ll get there,” I say. “One step at a time.” It is something most of us hear plenty, and not always helpfully, and I know it is often not what parents and children want to hear from me. However, it is Truth still … even if it stirs the place inside each one of us that wants to ‘get to’ where we’re going faster, that does not want to have to do the work, that wants destinations to arrive without the journey.

“Baby steps,” I recommend, knowing that this, too, is often hard to listen to. Who wants to take even smaller steps when the target seems so far away already? BIG steps will get me there oh so much faster! But baby-steps, too, are Truth. Careful, one-foot-then-the-other passage gets us there more surely than a hop-skip-pray-you’re-still-on-the-path would.

Baby-steps aren’t slow, really. They aren’t less-than other ways of making progress. Think of it: Babies take brave steps when they begin to walk. They walk and wobble, toddle and fall and rise and try again … and when they get their footing they walk almost constantly. They put little feet on every surface, tackle stairs, grass, sand, uneven ground. They hold on to hands, grab onto what is available. They crawl when there’s no balance to be found in standing. They climb on all fours. They find a way around. They stop and look for a path behind an obstacle and then surge forward in delight when they find it. Their steps get longer, surer, less a-wobble. They accelerate. They run.

“Baby steps,” I say. Remind. Consider.

It does not mean to do go slowly. It does not mean to take too long. It means to be determined, brave, consistently in focus and yet open to an opportunity to rest and play. It means looking ahead. It means seeing the immediate requiring some climbing over and assessing whether there’s someone tall to carry you awhile if you need a break or wish for a moment of better view …

It means getting there, and finding much to do along the pathway. It makes the journey part of what it takes, and worthy in of itself.

You start with baby-steps, yes. But along the way, you learn to walk. You find your pace. You learn to hop and skip and turn and twirl and run.

You’ll get there.

All you need to do is take step one.

off i go

How did THAT happen?

tom looking for ball

Kids are wizards of pointing out minutia of life that can seem quite arbitrary to us. They note things we missed completely. They seem to ‘insist’ on irrelevant details like the way the plate is organized, who got to open the refrigerator this time, or what touches what. Everything takes far LONGER to do with a little one around …

In good part it may well be because their life moves slower. Time is yet to be shackled onto watches and the ticking of a schedule. They pause mid-sleeve, pondering the way light filters through the cloth, unconcerned with how rushed the morning is. They stare in wonder at a pigeon when the light changed and it is time to cross the street. They have an urgent question or need just when you finally sat down to eat.

And they notice. Everything.

They collect each leaf and pebble. There is no such thing in their vocabulary as a “quick run to the store and back” … not when there’s a big exciting world out there. There is endlessness to explore: Cracks in the pavement. Bits of paper flown by winds. Funny people. Yippy dogs. Horns and beeps and squeaks and windows with wonders and when finally at the store, multitudes of candy at eye-level … How could it be that this was not what you came all the way for? …

They teach us patience, that’s for certain.
They also teach us that time is what we make of it. That stress can catch one breath, and relaxation ride right in upon another. That one can laugh before their tears have dried and emotions coexist and flow without a judgment.
They hold a mirror to the things we have forgotten or have misplaced our truth about or have given up on trying to critically examine.

They listen. Even when they do not seem to.

More than most anything else, they note the mismatch of expression, the ambiguity of tone and matter. The odd things our mouths can say and we do not hear.

In part it is because small children are so literal. They get confused when they listen to the WORDS we say and find it not to match the words’ MEANING. Their reaction (and ensuing cuteness) can have us realize hidden ambiguity. They reflect what we once saw and now are almost blind to: how the world works even though words so often mean things they do not really mean.

Want a few examples?

A father talked about his mother looking after the children when he and his wife had to both be away. “She has a heart of gold,” he gushed. His preschooler daughter piped up and added, “no daddy, you forgot. Nana’s TEETH are gold …”

A mother had forgotten something she needed to ask me. “I’ve had it at the back of my head all day,” she sighed, frustrated. Her three-year-old scrambled up onto the couch and took a look, exclaiming, “No mamma, it is nothing there!”

“It is all politics and money,” another parent moped when a kindergarten admission did not go the way she’d hoped, “there’s absolutely nothing new under the sun!” Her almost kindergartener son looked at her sideways. “That not true, Mommy,” he said, rather accusingly. “I have new Spiderman shoes! You forgetting my new Spiderman shoes?!!”

Then there are the cats and dogs that do not really rain; the invisible pins and needles one can be on (and no wonder one’s child refuses to sit where the parent sat a moment prior!!); the feet in mouths (“You can’t do that no more, Daddy. You’re too old. You can’t reach like baby Deena!”); the bleeding hearts (think on that …); the pants on fire…

Language is a treasure trove of meaning, and learning symbolic language is a big task. It calls for the ability to hold two lines of listening: one for the words, another for the context. Children get very good at that around age 5 or so, though they get thoroughly confused before they realize that “listen to what I say” is far from straight forward.

Kids practice logic. They spend a good bit of their time making connections, figuring out how things work and what brings on what. If you pour too quickly, you spill everything. If you push your brother, mom gets cross. If you don’t stop whining, you may lose a privilege. If you mix milk with chocolate syrup magic happens and you get chocolate milk!

They get right fast at figuring out what makes what, and a never-ending list of ‘why’s helps them figure things out. They realize there are desired outcomes and less favorable ones, some adults that are easier to get things from, that there is misfortune and consequence. They get uncannily creative at hopeful attribution of fault …

They map their world into cause and effect. Into how things happen. Who does what.

And sometimes they make connections that are not quite as we would have put them. … Like the little girl with the (newly) pregnant mom, who asked quite loudly and in public: “Daddy, how did God put a baby inside mommy and didn’t tell her about it until she peed on the stick?”

The B&Bees

The B&Bees