Tag Archives: children

The Wiggly One

When we picked Luca up from an orphanage outside of Tver, Russia in the winter of 2008, he had never been restrained.  Never.  There had been no need.  His unsteady legs failed him our first few visits, and he preferred to sit and stare blankly, rather than engage.  He was conditioned to a specific experience, and he acted accordingly.

I remember that first taxi ride back to Moscow from Tver sans car seat.  Child restraints in moving vehicles were not on the top of the priority list there.  We were making the final leg of our journey, and I felt like I had hopped in with a New York City cab driver on drugs.  Our quiet, reserved little boy was finding his momentum, and the idea of sitting in my lap for two hours while caged inside a metal torpedo did not compute.  It was all I could do to keep him from opening the back door of the car and tumbling out at 70 miles per hour.  After an additional two hour traffic delay on the outskirts of that grand Russian city, I was pretty sure I had lost my mind.

Then the 12 hour flight back to the United States happened.  The 12 hour flight.  The only two things that got us through that experience were a saintly Delta flight attendant and Benadryl.

From the moment Luca found his feet, he has been on the move.  I will never forget when I took him to a Wal-Mart for the first time.  He got down from the cart as we approached the check out stand and took off like a shot toward the front doors.  At full sprint, I had to slide tackle him beside one of the cashier stations.  One horrified man looked at me and said, “That little boy is going to need a leash.”  My cheeks burned.  That’s how this goes, I thought.  Instant judgment followed by a healthy dose of shame.  At a Wal-Mart.

I don’t exactly have to use my ninja-like soccer skills to keep him from running straight into traffic anymore.  He has grown up . . . some.  However, there has never been a time that he has found sitting still interesting.  I would watch other parents with their children at ball games and church services, only to see a sweet little cherub perched peacefully on his mother’s lap.  No signs of struggle.  No marks of resistance.  Just general, blessed compliance.  It would almost make me cry.

God, how did I get the wiggly one?

Even in double digits, he finds ways to confound me.  I will be standing up one minute, and the next minute he has leaped on my back dragging me to the ground.  He likes to belly slide down the aisles of Home Depot.  Just the other day, I was in a serious conversation with a friend about something terrible that had happened this summer, and Luca came up behind me and starting aggressively giving me the Heimlich Maneuver.  I knew he needed discipline, but he engages in guerrilla warfare, waiting until I am too engaged or pre-occupied to strike.  This kid is a military genius.

So, to all you parents of the wiggly ones.  I get you.  I understand your fatigue.  I know what it feels like to be on high alert in social situations, to avoid the stern gaze of the parental Pharisees, to take loads of good natured advice about essential oils and wraps and discipline techniques and dietary choices.  I know what it means when your child gets the “class clown” award at school every year.  I am a teacher, you know.  And as I type these words tonight, I pray for that kind hearted soul who will see past his busyness straight into his heart.  That mentor that will help shape him one day when he doesn’t want to listen to me anymore.  I pray for wise counsel and the patience of Job.  God blessed me with a wiggly one, and I mean that.  My heart smiles every time I think about him.  I may be tired, but I’m never bored.




My Sweet, Little Megalomaniac

“Mom,” my son whined loudly as I handed his dad a Father’s Day card, “I wish there was a Son’s Day.”

“Got news for you, Luca,” I shot back.  “Everyday is Son’s Day.”

It’s summer.  That is a good thing.  Long, hot days filled with unscheduled time.  No worrisome alarms.  No nagging deadlines.  For a teacher, June and July are a part of the package benefits.  So, why do I feel my skin crawling and my anxiety rising?  Perhaps it is that little mercenary of personal pleasure sitting in the backseat of my car.  Propped up in his booster seat that generally doubles as a throne, this egomaniacal dictator of self-interest strategizes his next move like an elaborate chess game.

“If I eat ALL my food at Cracker Barrel, can we just get ONE thing in the store?  Just one, little thing.  Like one piece of candy.”

“When we get back home, will it be morning or afternoon?  Can I see if Addison is home?  Wait, can I see now?  Why do I have to go to the grocery store with you?”

“If I am really, really nice, will Grandma give me just one prize or do you think I might get two?”

“I don’t have to go to bed right now, Momma, it’s the wrong eight!  It’s the other eight when I go to bed.”  (For the love of all that is holy, what does he mean?)

Oh, Luca, I remember when I wished you could talk.  How short-sighted of me.

Seriously, how can one human being . . . one relatively under-sized human being work so tirelessly for his own gain?  If I stop at Publix, he wants me to pick up the sugar cookies with blue icing.  If I swing through the Starbucks drive-thru, he soooo needs a cake pop.  If I get the mail, he wonders why nobody sent him anything.  That’s it.  I’m raising a megalomaniac.

And his process mirrors that of a five star general.  He starts off with a simple, although self-deprecating request.  “Momma, I’m guessing you’re going to say no, but dot, dot, dot- fill in the blank with an outrageous request that caters only to one.”  After I invariably do, he begins his systematic assault.  He produces his baby like whiney voice at the precise decibel of annoyance.  He seems to intuitively know the exact tone that sets my nerves on blast.  “But momma, whyyyy???????  Why  can’t we go to California today?”  (We live in Tennessee.)  It starts low and slow, increasing in strength and stridency the longer I ignore it.  In my head, I sing through two verses of “My Favorite Things” from Sound of Music and the next thing I know, there is an explosion of caterwauling in the back seat.  Now, he brings his best assault, anger with two guns ablazing, gathering all the fortitude his eight year old lungs can sustain, demanding that I pay attention to his humble and easy to deliver request.  My internal temperature rises like a menopausal hot flash, and before I know it, I have whipped out my “Momma’s gone crazy” voice.  Screaming into the abyss and threatening all manner of disciplinary consequences, pressing on the gas pedal for effect, I have an out of body experience.  I can see and hear myself, but it seems only from a distance.  Then, the echoes of my anger reverberate off the back window, falling to the ground complete with the shrapnel of a military counter-attack.  Head drooping low, eyes and mouth squished together in despair, my opponent is defeated.  “We will NOT be going to California today,” I silently congratulate myself.

And then, just as I gather my sanity, a small, puny voice emerges from the backseat, a phoenix rising from the ashes like the villain in a horror film, “But, Momma, why can’t we go to California today?”

Dear Hardee’s

Before you dismiss the next few moments as some fluffy, middle aged, prudish, past her prime, woman’s rant against young twenty-something females who have bodies for days and sex appeal that sells, don’t. I am, in truth, a fluffy, middle aged woman who has never considered herself anything but sometimes cute and mostly clumsy. My sense of fashion never developed past the “I’m in college, and I like to wear Umbro shorts and flip flops everyday” stage, and I have a tendency to find one outfit that works, and just stick with it. That being said, I am definitely not begrudging any young actress her body or appeal. In fact, I believe the female frame is one of the most artistically appealing renderings by the Creator, destined to be noticed, to be pursued, and to be desired. Forever an object of the male’s attraction, it is both incumbent upon each female to understand the power she possesses and to learn to treat that power with the same sensitivity she would when holding a live grenade. With great power comes great responsibility.

So, in your most recent advertising campaign, when you chose to put scantily clad, mostly wet, lanky legged models sliding around on hot rod vehicles while taking extra wide bites of one of your specialty burgers, I got it. I understand that you are trying to boost the profit margins for your company. Let’s face it. Fluffy biscuits purchased by senior citizens on Saturday morning just don’t pay the bills. And even in your hey day, when you were a new, shiny penny among the tarnished coins of the fast food industry, you were always, well . . . you were always Hardee’s. And I’m sorry about that. I really am.

However, just because we all understand that you are inexplicably attaching sex to hamburger meat doesn’t help me explain what is happening to my seven year old when he is watching television during a time of day or early evening when seven year olds watch television. And before you say, “just turn the channel,” I can’t. Your assault on the senses lasts 30 seconds. And admittedly, I am just not that fast.

So, let’s get this straight once and for all. Quit it. Seriously, stop it. Go back to “where’s the beef” or try to get that guy that talks faster than the speed of light to explain to us why we should buy your subpar fast food in an industry that is markedly subpar. And if you need to be weird, steal that creepy, plastic monarch that slinks around people’s houses and shows up in unexpected places eating a Whopper. There are ways to herd the dumb sheep, also known as the American consumer, into your half clean establishment without making us all feel like we need to take a shower first. In case you forgot, we are the most obese culture on the planet. We will eat anything, literally. So, please don’t sacrifice the souls of our young boys . . .our children, future husbands and fathers, on the altar of pornography before they even understand they are sexual creatures. There is an entire host of moms out here fighting a battle, outnumbered and oftentimes dismissed. We would love for our sons to grow into young men who value and enjoy the beauty of a woman while respecting the integrity of her heart and soul. As it stands right now, I’ve got to review 65,000 television shows on 7000 channels, check common sense reviews for 40 movie releases a year, scroll through browser histories, verify the age appropriateness of one million apps, and understand the ratings system of thousands of Wii, Xbox, and Nintendo games. Please, for the love of all that is holy, please don’t make me waste my precious time policing cheeseburger commercials. You’re better than that. Well, wait a minute. I forgot you’re not. But can’t we just pretend?

Big Papi

Little League.  Coach pitch.  Age 6.  Today was the first day that Luca had the game riding on his shoulders.  The only problem:  he had no clue.

I am going to be honest.  In general, I am bad with names.  After 40, I have trouble keeping up with my own.  But memorizing the revolving door of Luca’s teammates at this age is virtually impossible.  As a result, Paul and I have a tendency of nicknaming them based on their abilities.  This nicknaming game is simultaneous necessity and entertainment.

So far in Luca’s illustrious career as a baseball player, he has been a Cub, a Pirate, and this season, a member of the Braves.  Right now, it is hard to know if Luca “enjoys” baseball as a sport.  I mean he kicks the dust less, he picks daisies in the outfield less, he throws his glove in the air less . . . he is ever so slowly conforming to the notion of team.  However, I wonder sometimes, as he is twirling in the outfield, if he is asking himself what in the world he is doing out there.  Sometimes I catch him turning to stare at the line forming outside concessions, and I know he is formulating a secret plan to start his own tab.  What is even more difficult to bear is that he has a natural athleticism that he seems to be completely unaware of.  Any time he concedes strength or agility is when he is imagining himself as the Incredible Hulk.    He has yet to see any use for these skills outside the realm of imagination or the world of a super hero.

Now say what you will about Luca being “only 6.”  There are some men on his team this season . . .with full beards and deep voices and manly baseball ready stances.  Two of them are left-handed hitters able to find the lefty sweet spot just like Mickelson on a Sunday.  They are nicknamed Bruiser and Big Papi, respectively.  When Big Papi comes to the plate, he is all DiMaggio, with his baseball hat turned backwards, the bill peeking out from under his batting helmet.  His lip is bulging with a wad of Big League Chew somebody shared with him in the dugout, and he pronounces his arrival with two swift but punctuated taps on home plate.  This kid NEVER misses, and when I say NEVER, I actually mean NEVER.  I am shouting this right now.  He generally hits it to the fence and a triple is under shooting his potential.  Today, however, Big Papi couldn’t find the ball with a shovel.  The kid was in a slump, a big one, and our team was needing him badly.  The A’s had us down 5 to 0 when Luca strolled to the plate making the Grand Canyon behind him by dragging his bat.  After a short comedy routine to the crowd, he put his stick on the ball, bringing in our first run and starting a major rally.

Bottom of the 6th, tied at 5, one out, man on third . . . Big Papi races from the dugout to home plate.  “We got this,” I whispered to Paul.  “Big Papi doesn’t know how to lay off.  He will be swinging for the fences.”  Sure enough.  He swung for the fence exactly three times, missing all three.  “He’s out,” squeaked the teenager masquerading as umpire.  Having no sense of the batting order, I turned to a parent behind me and uttered, “Well, at least we have one more try!  No way we won’t get that man in from third.”  Swiveling back to the field, I peered over my fake Ray Bans to find our savior in waiting.  Who was this little big man who was going to lead the Braves to victory?  At once, I spied his multi-colored laces; red on one cleat, blue on the other.  It was Luca.  He practically danced to home plate, smiling that toothy grin at the crowd, looking embarrassed and semi-determined all at once.  The game was on his bat, and he didn’t even know it.  All the sudden, my stomach turned to knots and Paul’s color drained from his face, both of us nervous for our son who hasn’t figured out how to be.  First pitch.  Strike.  Second pitch.  Strike.  Third pitch.  Luca doesn’t like it.  Fourth pitch.  Foul ball.  “Way to keep fighting,” I yelled.  “Get mad at it!”  “Follow through.”  Fifth pitch . . . slow motion . . . strike.  “He’s out,” the pimply umpire yelled.  All the air in my body escaped as the look on Paul’s face reflected my disappointment.

And then I looked up and something magical happened.  I caught Luca dancing his way back to the dugout.  Dancing.  He had no idea that he just had his moment in the sun.  His opportunity for hero status.  He had no awareness that this time at bat was different from any other.  No searing disappointment.  No tears.  Blissful ignorance in motion.  He just wanted a hug from his momma, a blue Icee and what he always wants, the game ball.  Just for a moment, I was at peace, resting in the knowledge that there is a shred of innocence left.  All the drama of the day created by the adults.  On this day, I learned something.  Luca remained oblivious.  And for once, that was okay.