DON’T WORRY

Do you know that they’ve done studies which PROVE over 90% of what we worry about NEVER happens!  I’ve even READ the studies, so I ask you, why did I wake up at 5 AM this morning worried about my teenagers?  Because I figure, MY worries are in that 10%.  Go figure.

Now, I admit, I have a rather uncanny ability to find everyone else’s flaws and weak points.  Seriously, my head is like a magnifying glass. It can fix on the most minute crack in someone’s façade and enlarge it to earthquakian proportions.  Give me ten minutes with anyone and I assure you that I could tell you where they’re going wrong, what they’re doing right and if so inspired, even offer my advice to let them know both of the above. 

Plus, it does not take a GPS to find my mouth.  Just walk by and it locates.  If only that inner guide steered me as well raising kids, I might have a whole lot less worry and a heck of a lot more sleep.  In hindsight, I spent the first 10 years loving, nurturing, teaching, and helping them find their way.  Frankly, they have spent the last 10 undoing all my good work.  

Children learn by example.  (At least they used to before the computer opened it’s top and swallowed them whole).  In prehistoric times, kids had no choice.  When Mom said, “Run!” they ran.  Otherwise, they’d have been flattened by a buffalo.  But they’re extinct like “Thank You” notes, long distance phone calls and helping little, old ladies across the street.  When’s the last time you laid eyes on a Boy Scout?  Or held the door for someone older? 

Fortunately, my oldest, has had a part-time job the last two years.  She knows what’s it’s like to do something that involves mindless repetition, receives no praise and garners little money.  It has prepared her for parenting.  Of course, by the time she has kids, you can probably just download an App.  It’ll save you the hassle AND the worry. On that note, I think I’ll hit the sack.

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THE TOP TEN REASONS MOTHERS NEED DOGS BEFORE KIDS

Only one person wished me Happy Mother’s Day this morning:  the dog.  (Granted, no one else was up yet, but isn’t that how it is?)  Actually, she greets me EVERY day as if I am the most wonderful creature on the planet.  My kids used to be like that.  They’re teenagers now.  So on this happy occasion let me share a few things this little mutt has taught me that I wish I had known BEFORE I gave birth. 

1.  “No” is very effective about the zillionth time you say it.  If you cave before that they just don’t get the point.

2.  If you don’t want them to do something, like chew the buttons off your blouse, whatever you do, DO NOT TRY TO GET THE BLOUSE!  Give them a nice, dirty sock instead.  Otherwise you’ll end up with a ripped blouse.

3.  If they want to play, play with them.  Otherwise they will hound you until you simply cannot do whatever it is that might be more important than playing with them at that exact moment. 

4.  When they get too wound up, pick them up and hold them.  They’ll calm down eventually.

5.  If they bark at strangers you aren’t sure of—let ‘em bark.  Otherwise, get yourself a nice, pair of earplugs cause they’re gonna bark. 

6.  If you have to give them a nasty-tasting pill, don’t tell them, “It’s yummy” and insist they eat it.  Play ‘Keep Away,”  and don’t let them have it.  When they finally get it they’ll pretend to like it even if they don’t.

7.  Don’t pick up after them.  That chewed up, muddy shoe is on their bed for a reason.

8.  They’ll eat when they’re hungry.  Just put the food out.

9.  If they suddenly bark at you or nip you on the leg for absolutely NO reason at all, don’t try to figure out why.  They don’t know either. 

10.  Leash them up at night or you never know WHERE they’ll end up in the morning.

When my grandmother was raising me, she had already owned a dog.  This stuff was second nature to her.  I had to learn the hard way.  So, to all you new mothers out there this morning:  before your little ones grow up, GET A DOG!!!

(Helen Hudson is the author of “Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of caring for her grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.  http://helen-hudson.com. )


JUST DRIVE

     I just handed my oldest the keys to the car and sent her out to the market.  For a brief moment, she just stood there and looked at me as if uncertain what I meant.  “Here’s the key,” I repeated.  “Just drive.”  I figure she’s had enough of me sitting in the passenger seat making her nervous.  She now has her license and it’s time for me to let go.  Ha!  Do we parents ever really let go?

        Okay.  So she’s been gone over an hour.  I’ve replayed the entire drive to and from back and forth in my mind several times.  But no amount of my worry will amount to a hill of beans when it comes to, ‘the other guy.’  If I add up all of the worrying I’ve done about everything over the last 40 years, it is quite clear that I have wasted months, maybe years, of precious time.  They should have been spent laughing, creating and exploring instead. 

        The really good decisions I’ve made in my life were mostly done on the spot out of a sense of responsibility, joy or love; like the day we moved Granny in with us.*  We didn’t work out a budget or decide how much time we would have to devote to her.  We just moved her in, Alzheimer’s and all.  In hindsight, it’s better that we didn’t know we’d have to add Depends to the shopping list, or that just bathing her might take an entire hour.  Love far outweighs anything on a balance sheet or a shopping list.

        And it was love that propelled me to send my daughter off an hour ago.  She will never spread her wings if I keep her tethered and I want her to fly.  She needs to feel that sense of full accountability when she is behind the wheel, to know there is nothing between her and the other guy but her own good judgment.  As a driver, she will have to make many ‘on the spot’ decisions.  If they’re done with responsibility, love and joy she will be okay.

        Oops.  Gotta run.  I hear the garage door opening.  My bird is returning to the nest; the same one I used to buckle into her pink, fluffy, car seat with her stuffed elephant.  My heart leaps with both joy and gratitude.  (*From, “Kissing Tomatoes,” by Helen Hudson.  http://www.helen-hudson.com).

P. S.  An hour after I posted this blog, I discovered that Wisconsin has launched a, “Just Drive,” campaign for teens.  It comes with its own yellow road sign and points out that while teens only account for 7% of all drivers, they cause 14% of all accidents.  How comforting.

A DAY FOR MOTHERS–A LIFETIME OF MOTHERING

     There is a mother on our back porch; a common, house finch.  For days, I watched her build her bowl-shaped nest on the 5″ by 5″ column ledge that supports the awning.  Trip after trip of gathering sticks never seemed to wear her out.  She flew her missions until that nest was as perfectly round and centered on the precipice as if it had been pre-drawn by a protractor. 

     The waiting began.  Sometimes, I would look up, see her eyes closed and imagine she was laying her eggs.  For weeks she sat, even through the deluge of tornadoes, rain and floods which shook Nashville to the core.  Undeterred, she merely preened her feathers and waited.  I grew tired of waiting and forgot all about her until the day I heard chirrupy peeps and looked up.  Three, tiny heads, just barely above the lip of her nest were open-beaked and squawking.  In she swooped with worms from the wet ground and they fought for her delicacies. 

     Many days have passed and those heads now tower over a space too small for their size.  The nest is no longer neat or centered, but has shifted several inches to the right and looks shabby.  The right side is bent down low from the weight of that mother patiently standing to nourish each open mouth.  Displaced twigs and debris have fallen to the ground underneath.  Feathers and dung are splashed and stuck to the sides.  There is nowhere for them to go but out now.

     I was 40 my first Mother’s Day & until then, my life had been all about me.  So thoroughly thoughtless and self-centered was I, that years earlier I said something to my cousin which still haunts me.  She had recently given birth to her first child and we were to meet for an afternoon coffee.  She phoned at 2 PM to say she could not make it.  “The baby was up all night with colic…has a diaper rash..exhausted …just now headed to the shower.”  My reply?  “It’s two o’clock in the afternoon.  You’re just NOW taking a shower?  What do you DO all day?” 

     She is an empty-nester now.  Her three daughters are grown and gone into lives of their own.  Mine will soon follow.  And Anna Jarvis, who 100 years ago began “Mother’s Day” as a tribute to her own mother is gone, too.  She  was bereft at the commercialization that her special day ultimately became:  “A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.”  Had she ever had children of her own, they would have been as proud of her as I was of the grandmother who raised me.  (Hudson is the author of ,”Kissing Tomatoes,” a memoir of 40 years with her grandmother.  http://www.helen-hudson.com).