Sweet Dynamite

In our house, a very favorite story is when my firstborn was young and one of us parents chided her for taking too much of something.

“But I like too much!” she shot back.

Yes she did. Luthien before adolescence was a whirlwind of a spirited child, my little stick of dynamite (I wrote about it on this very blog!). Now she’s just about finished with high school and that little pixie is history. She asked me the other day if I miss that kid, and I could honestly say no, I dearly loved that child and I deeply love the young adult she is now too.

This song and picture show is just a little lingering over a colorful past that I’m so grateful to have enjoyed – and gotten through!

Somebody said the sky’s the limit
So you had to go and get stuck in it
That’s my baby, that’s my child
Tangled in blankets of thunder clouds

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet dynamite

And wouldn’t you know you’d find a way
To break the surly bonds and play
There’s something in the air up there
Makes you shake like you just don’t care

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet dynamite
I love you I love you I love you forever

Where would you be if not for me?
You’re very welcome, I’m so sorry
Oh my baby, oh my child
You make me crazy, you make me proud

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet dynamite

You throw yourself down on the kitchen floor
Cause I gave you candy but you still want more
Nothing feels like it’s enough
When you’re loaded with a heart that loves too much

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet dynamite

I love you I love you I love you forever

Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet dynamite

Pretty Baby

I wasn’t planning on having children. Actually, I was planning on not having children. Until my now-firstborn, now-twelve-year-old, first made herself known. That extra pink line on the plastic strip might as well have been an angel, and I would have benefited from the routine angelic greeting, “do not be afraid.” I admit I cried myself to sleep that night, but it seems I always take a night to freak out before changing my plans in any major way. Sometimes even the sweetest surprises are first met with salty tears.

And now, we are two-thirds of the way to that tiny baby’s high school graduation.

Week 15 of #songaweek2016 included an extra challenge, to write a song in the form of a recipe. I already felt like writing a song about my daughter, so I found a way to squeeze it into recipe form too.

Take a smidgen of him and a dash of me
Bake for nine months at ninety-eight point six degrees
Then when my body feels like it’s about to break
It’s time to open up and meet my babycake

Pretty baby pretty baby with her daddy’s eyes
Pretty baby pretty baby mama’s sweetest surprise

Give liberal breastfuls of milk to my sugar and spice
Try not to scream the first time she bites
Blend up some squash and put it on a teaspoon
Pretend it’s on a mission and she’s the moon

Pretty baby pretty baby with her daddy’s eyes
Pretty baby pretty baby mama’s sweetest surprise

In a medium class combine her with twenty kids
Sift through all her papers and art projects
Roll out chores and charts so she gets her work done
But ditch the cookie cutters, let her make her own fun

Pretty baby pretty baby with her daddy’s eyes
Pretty baby pretty baby mama’s sweetest surprise

Sometimes my little sweet gets a little saucy
Sometimes she flames up like bananas foster
Then I let her settle

Let her sweetness age, let her take her time
Gotta wait patiently for the finest wine
Then however she decides to pour herself out
She’ll outsparkle all I’ve dreamed about

Pretty baby pretty baby with her daddy’s eyes
Pretty baby pretty baby mama’s sweetest surprise

 

Word Limit

[I wrote this after a school-morning parenting moment with my preteen daughter earlier this year. Sometimes I am just as amused at my words in moments like these as I am at my daughter’s!]

You absolutely adore your teacher, and he fiercely cares for his students. One day when I am volunteering in the lunch room you walk in and sit down, and you are crying. Your teacher confides in me that he doesn’t get it why you cry sometimes and can’t say why.

I get it. You know why, but it’s not a talking kind of thing. You and I sat on the couch this morning and tried using words to unravel the problem, but it only wound tighter, tightening along with your shoulders, along with my tone of voice.

Using words, we outlined the problem something like this:

You need to make your lunch so you’re ready for school.

I can’t. My life is so hard. I’m lonely. I hate it here. I want ramen noodles. Please buy me ramen noodles. We don’t have anything I can make for lunch.

I just went shopping yesterday. We have plenty of food.

No we don’t.

Yes we do.

No we don’t.

How have I failed so miserably as a parent? We need to leave this country. You need to see how most people live. You have clean water and more than enough food and a safe place to live every day. You get to go to school every day, and have few other responsibilities in life. How can I show this to you?

You hate me. I make you feel like you’re a bad parent. I need to leave. I’ll move somewhere else. You don’t want me.

Words, which I love, often fail me in my parenting efforts. So I close my arms around you, my dear miserable child, and close my mouth. Your shoulders relax, my throat loosens, and eventually, you are in the kitchen making your lunch and singing.

Baby to Mama: Push Push Push!

Lots of things can inspire people to push to a new level.

You can see someone else do something amazing, and start to wonder what you may be capable of. For example, watching the Olympics. Or this guy. Or the last moments of last night’s Super Bowl!

You might have a drill sergeant or a coach or teacher or boss who yells and punishes and demeans you to draw those hidden reserves of strength from you. It works for some people, some of the time.

Or, as I poignantly discovered yesterday, love might do it. Love and joy and a bit of parental pride too.

silasrunThis kid, if he were your kid, might inspire you to do something you didn’t think you could. Maybe you have one like him. Or maybe you love someone else as fiercely as I love this kid, and then you might also know what I’m talking about.

In this photo, my son is a few years younger, but he’s doing the same thing he’s been doing every day, almost since he first balanced on those two legs. He’s running. Back and forth, lap after lap after lap. Muttering and shouting to himself, jumping, waving arms now and then, the star of the story in his head, pounding out the joyful rhythm of life coursing through his veins.

On Saturday, Silas toured the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and the athletes and stories he encountered inspired him to start his own training. On Sunday, he announced that he would run around the block 20 times. Nathan went with him, and used his phone’s Strava app to track it.

Ten laps around the block, and Nathan was done. They had gone 2.5 miles at an average pace of 9:38 per mile. But Silas wanted more! He had said 20 and he meant to do it. So I said I’d go.

Six and a half years ago, I decided it was time to get back in shape, and so I started running. My first accomplishment was running one mile without stopping. Over the years, I pushed until I was regularly going on ten-mile runs, and my average pace peaked at (or dove to?) around 9:30 per mile (which is nothing special, but for recreational running, respectable enough).

Then we moved to Colorado, where the air is thinner, which makes running harder – and since we’ve moved here, I’ve never run further than six miles at a time, or at a pace much less than 10 minutes per mile. Lately, I’ve been averaging closer to 11-minute miles, and hardly running more than two miles at a time.

Which, of course, is fine. Even great, relatively speaking. And I’ve been content with that.

But then, yesterday, Silas wanted someone to run ten more laps around the block with him, and as he had already worn out his dad (who, to be clear, is in great shape but just not much of a runner), it appeared to be my turn.

Knowing that just two days before I had eked out two 11-minute miles, and that Silas had just rocked two-plus miles at a pace of more than a minute per mile less than that, I wondered how this might go. But, he had just run two miles, and I was coming in fresh, so maybe these next ten laps would go a bit slower.

I brought my phone so we could track our pace on my Strava app. Since Silas didn’t have a good way to carry it securely while he ran, he emphasized that I needed to keep up with him so he could get an accurate reading of his pace.

I said I would.

And we were off.

The kid showed no signs of slowing down.

“Pace yourself, now, Silas! Remember you’ve got to keep running for ten laps! And you’ve already done ten so you may be tired.”

“I know, Mom. I’m fine!”

“Great!” But I wasn’t so sure about myself. Legs felt fine. It was the lungs that protested. I concentrated on breathing, and keeping up with Silas.

We counted the laps as we passed our house. “One!” I panted.

“Nine more to go!” Silas joyfully shouted.

Help! my mind screamed.

We made it to four.

“Only six more now!” piped the happy little athlete.

Six more! But we hadn’t even run six yet. We had run four, and we were going fast, and I was breathing hard. When we had actually gotten to six, we would still have four more – as much as we had just run – still to run! How was I going to manage?

“Are you getting tired, Mom?” Silas asked as we turned a corner and I began to breathe especially hard.

“Not really, just having a little trouble breathing! How are you doing?”

“Great!” chirruped the cherub.

“Awesome!” cheered the panting mother.

We ran, and counted, and ran, and talked a bit.

And then, somehow, we were at nine. One left! I could do anything now!

And we did. We sprinted for the finish, and I stopped the app and insisted we walk just a bit to cool down, and when those ten laps were complete, my phone told me we had just run 2.5 miles at an average pace of 8:54 per minute.

Even in the flatlands, even on short runs, I rarely saw the number 8 for a minute-marker in my average pace.

My boy had just run five miles in a little over 45 minutes, on a whim, in the mile-high Colorado atmosphere.

And, probably more remarkably, he pushed his mother to shave two minutes off her average pace – not with inspiring platitudes, not with barks or insults – but with something much more powerful.

He did it by tapping into the love I have for him, and sharing his absolute joy of running with me.

This morning, still basking in the glow of yesterday’s achievement, I went out on my own and ran an 8-minute mile, and another 10-minute one to finish out a daily run.

I didn’t know I could do that, not before yesterday, not before I ran with Silas.

Who knows how serious Silas will be about continuing his “training”? I hope we can keep it up together for a while at least.

But whatever the case, and far beyond the realm of running, I learned something deeply important yesterday – that if you want to break through to a new level in anything, or help someone else do so, love and joy might just be the ultimate motivators.

Child-Woman

I closed out another journal this morning. Here’s an entry from earlier this year, written after a particularly painful evening of parenting.

Oh ten-year-old girl with the rages and rolling eyes, the cry and play of a child, the body and mind leaning towards adulthood. You are loved, and lovely. You are unpredictable, awkward, unkind, collapsible. Headstrong, indecisive, brilliant and naive.

I, young one, am your mother. I am wise and baffled. Patient and irritated. I love you. I do not always like you. I am not old and wise enough to never feel pain at your unkindnesses. (No, that’s not where wisdom would be found. Love feels the pain. Wisdom – and love again – can reach beyond it, to embrace you, to envision you in truth, a child-woman writhing in growing pains.)

Sleep tonight, my small darling. Sleep and be refreshed. You are not in-between two realities. You are fully functioning, smack-dab in the center of one reality, this one, the reality of your living self at age ten-and-one-half. And I am honored to know you here and now.