Tag Archive | Parenting

Testing Compassion Capacity

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My compassion capacity was tested the other day, just a little bit. Many of these moments occur in the same place, Walmart. People sometimes seem to schedule their shopping trips around the time they are in the worst possible mood.

I was in line, a long line. I like to think of myself as a patient person, but my patience had already been tested at least three times in the ten minutes before I took my place in that long line.

As I stood waiting, the cart behind me made contact, nudging me ever so slightly forward, I turned to see a little boy, no more than three or four, grinning gleefully at his accomplishment. I turned and resumed my attempt to practice patience in the face of all things Walmart.

It happened again, with just a little more force and obvious glee accompanied by giggles. I ignored it. I ignored it the third time as well. The fourth time, I turned in hopes of making eye contact with the little trolls mother, she was blissfully glued to her iPhone, unaware of the war her little munchkin had declared on me.

I was annoyed and out of what little patience I once had. I gave the boy that mommy look I keep in reserve, leftover from when my own children where still little trolls. It worked, at least I thought it did. He turned his attentions in full force on his mother. She told him to shut up. It’s always pains me to hear a mother slap down a child with those words.

I looked at them closer, at least I looked a little closer at the troll. He was starving, I could tell. Not for nourishment of the body, but for attention, and he was trying in every way he could to satisfy his hunger.

He tugged at her, she shoved his little hand away. He laid on the floor and tried to kick those within kicking distance. She reached down and pulled him by one arm back to a standing position. “Quit acting like a brat.”, she said. Her eyes never leaving the glowing screen in her other hand.

He resumed his cart bashing fun.

I firmly held the end of the cart and looked the little bugger right in the eyes . . . he cringed. I said, “You are really strong, aren’t you?” He smiled and tried to push into me again. Not strong enough. I was safe.

I looked at him again, really looked. He was dirty and disheveled and my heart broke a little. Mom was still absorbed in whatever escape she’d found on her phone. I looked at her. She had dark circles beneath her eyes, her hair was hastily drawn into a pony tail and she looked like I know I must have looked at some point in my parenting journey. Tired. So very tired.

Her little man was obviously a handful and a half. My ire for her began to fade. We’ve all had those days. Maybe she was a good mom. Maybe even a great one. Maybe, just maybe, it was simply one of those days.

I glanced back at the munchkin troll, if he hadn’t been trying to dislodge the bones in my ankles, I might have thought he’d had an afternoon of fun, playing in the dirt at the park. I may have thought he was just a little angel in need of a good nap.

Either way, it pained my heart and I whispered a prayer for them.

I could have easily been angered. I could have said something nasty to mom or been harsh to the boy. I chose to bite my tongue instead. I chose patience. I chose compassion. It isn’t always an easy choice, but it is one we must choose, especially when we are tempted to feed the anger and annoyances we feel, and especially, especially . . . at Walmart.

Crystal R. Cook

#1000speak

Gorgeous Geek

Today – A blessing.

After school we went to the thrift store. My son, Michael, is always on the lookout for a great suit jacket, a snazzy vest or a playful bow tie, because bow ties are cool of course. We found a handsome jacket and a fine, fitted vest. With the added bonus of 75% off, we were feeling quite accomplished. As we readied to leave, a blessing occurred. A beautiful exchange I am certain will forever be in my heart.

Behind us, a precious woman with the twinkling eyes and loving smile of a young lady in her early seventies I would guess, reached out and touched my arm.

She asked if Michael was my little brother, I liked her immediately. I told her he was my baby and her eyes twinkled even brighter. She looked him in the eye and said, “You are the most gorgeous geek I have ever seen.”

How stinking cute is that?

She continued, “You certainly are young man. You are perfect. The way you dress and act is just perfect.” She touched his hand and said, ”Thank you for existing, thank you for being you.“

The woman behind the counter nodded in agreement and said he was certainly a polite and wonderful young man.

Michael thanked them both, smiling like the gorgeous geek he knows he is, and we turned to leave. The beautiful woman with the twinkling eyes again touched my arm, she said, “Thank you for making him. Thank you for bringing him into this world.”

I am still smiling. I am so proud of him. The world can see him, really see what kind of man he is becoming, he wears who he is with pride and confidence. I look at him and I know without a doubt, I added something of worth to this world.

My children, each of them, are treasures. Each a unique and brilliant light in the darkness. Once upon a time, when they were still my little ones, we would sing, this little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine . . .

Oh, how they shine.

Crystal R. Cook

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Regaining Wonder

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I sometimes envy the look of amazement and innocent wonder in the eyes of a child as they gaze upon something I’ve somehow forgotten was worthy of such awe. I don’t remember when I first lost the gift of seeing the marvel of what we grow up to find ordinary, but I remember quite well the day I realized it had happened. It broke my heart. My tears blurred the road before me as I pulled the car off to the shoulder and cried. I tried to contain it for the sake of my children, but now I realize it may serve as a great life lesson for them one day.

Christmas was fast approaching; the kids were giddy with all the anxious excitement holidays bring. School had been out for a week and they were growing more and more restless with each passing day. I had so much to do, there were still gifts to buy and wrap in pretty paper, cards to sign and stamp and send, and what seemed like a million other things. I felt flustered and frazzled, the thought of the inevitable trip to the grocery store with four young children was weighing heavily on my mind.

We arrived at a supermarket filled with bustling, busy, and irritable shoppers. I fit right in. All the things that cause general annoyance in the store seemed magnified, the kids wanted this and they wanted that, the lines were long and my fuse was growing shorter by the minute. We made it out relatively unscathed and set off for home. The children must have sensed I was ready to lose what was left of my mind, they were unusually silent as we drove home, the sky was darkening and the twinkling lights of the season gave the evening a beautiful glow, I was too consumed with frustration to notice.

About a mile or so from our home is the entrance to a lovely neighborhood the kids have dubbed Christmas Light Street, the entire block lights each night with the most magical displays of Christmas cheer imaginable throughout the entire holiday season. The kids began to buzz in the back of the van, the closer we got to Christmas Light Street, the louder they became. I couldn’t take it and I yelled at them. I told them to knock it off and be quiet until we made it home.

The dead silence which followed my outburst was eerie and uncomfortable. As we passed by the fanciful wonderland, the entire day replayed in my mind, it hadn’t been as bad as I was making it out to be. I realized the conversation I’d intruded upon was filled with joy and excitement. My children were laughing and talking of Santa and baby Jesus and I yelled at them for it. I’d stolen a precious moment of perfect childhood innocence I knew I could never give back.

This realization is what brought me to the side of the road in tears. Even the memory of that moment brings tears to my eyes and a pang of sadness to my heart. When I regained what little composure I had left, I turned to them an apologized. If I could have given them each a piece of my heart I would have. They forgave me. They didn’t say it, but I saw it in their eyes. I felt unworthy as we sat there watching cars pass by. I made a u-turn and drove straight back to Christmas Light Street and we drove up and down the two blocks of twinkling delight for the better part of an hour.

We sang carols and we talked about the presents Santa would soon bring. We talked about the birth of Jesus, and for the first time in a long time I felt the magic of childhood and I vowed never to let myself become so detached from what was real and wonderful again. I have my moments of course, but I try so hard to keep myself in tune with the purity children are blessed to see each day. We live in a world that does its best to rob our children of this gift, as my children have grown I’ve seen it insinuate itself into their hearts as well. Sometimes, I am the one reminding them to hold on tightly to the simple joys in life.

I wish we could drive down Christmas Light Street every evening; I never again want to feel what I felt as I sat crying on the side of the road that night . . .

Crystal R.Cook

Dear Me . . .

Dear Me - The Qwiet Muse

Just to clarify ~ I’m not crazy. I don’t have split personalities, the one I have may be splintered just a little bit though. Truthfully, we all have many faces and facets that make up the entirety of who we are. Sometimes we disconnect from self, we may not even be aware we’ve neglected certain aspects of ourselves, but eventually it begins to manifest outwardly and when it does, people notice.

It may be some internal attempt at self-preservation, it may be our experiences in the moment are simply so overwhelming they overshadow parts of who we are. When his happens it can lead to depression, self-doubt, and a sense of emptiness in our lives. I’ve seen it happen to those around me, people dealing with illness, heavy work loads, and other life-changing events. I see it happen often with caregivers and parents. It’s happened to me.

Women seem particularly susceptible, especially mothers. We tend to forget we are more than just wives and mothers and the ten thousand other things we are expected to be. We are unique and complex individuals, there really is more to us than what the world sees, there is more to us than we can sometimes see as well.

We often push parts of ourselves to the deepest depths of our inner being, we become what we think everyone needs and expects us to be. That’s okay as long as we don’t forget to nourish the essence of who we are. Sometimes, we just need to remind ourselves we are important too.

When my kids were still little ones, I went through a period of loss. Loss of self. My life was a whirlwind of schools, doctors, therapists, and medication. I had four young children, two with developmental disabilities, a husband frequently away in service of his country, and a recent diabetes diagnosis. I lost myself in the mayhem.

In a rare and quiet moment the weight of it all bore down on me and I knew I had to do something or I wouldn’t have the strength or the will to continue. I hadn’t picked up a pen to write much more than grocery lists and schedules to keep for a long while, that night I decided to dust off my journal and try to make sense of it all.

What I ended up penning to the page seemed odd, and to be honest, I thought at the time, stupid. I closed my journal feeling no better than I had when I’d opened it. The next day though, I felt stronger. I took little breaks throughout the day to sit and read, to simply sit in thought. I felt a sense of peace. The rest of the week I felt lighter, I enjoyed my days a little more.

I’d forgotten about my journal entry until I decided to write something about a month later, I was surprised at what I found. I didn’t recall writing the words I was reading. I’d penned a letter to myself. It was the first of many . . .

Hello there my old friend. It’s been so long since we’ve had a moment to talk. I just thought I would check in with you and see if you’re okay. Are you? I only ask because you’ve been so distanced from me lately. Remember the hours we used to spend together in thought or in silent prayer? Have you forgotten how wonderful it was, sitting back in the sun, reading and resting?

I miss the quiet moments we used to spend together. I miss hearing your laughter. Do you laugh anymore? Tears seem to have replaced that twinkle in your eyes and that saddens me. I wish I could help. I am trying, do you even hear me? I know you must, you simply have to. If we could just reconnect I know it would ease your troubled heart.

I can feel your loneliness, it is mine as well. There’s no need to be lonely, I am still here. My presence seems to be crowded and nearly lost by all of the pressures and pains you’re feeling. I know the responsibilities you have are great, but what happened to the time you used to make for us . . . for you, the time used to rejuvenate your soul and refresh your mind and spirit?

You cannot keep going without checking in with me every now and then you know. You need me and I need you. What would we be without one another? I shudder at the thought of it. I know right now you feel you do not have time for me, but I think if you tried you would find you really do.

I’m not asking for days or even hours, just a few stolen moments every once in a while. We could read a chapter or two in an old book or step outside and let the cool winters breeze give us goosebump kisses. We could sip a cup of tea and write poetry and breathe.

Please think it over, I know you will feel better once we have been in each other’s company for a spell. I will be here for you when you’re ready, just as I always am. I do hope you will squeeze me in soon. I’m afraid if you do not I will lose you forever. What would become of me? What would become of you?

I whispered a prayer for us. I look forward to spending some time with you soon. Sooner than later I hope.

I miss you and I love you . . .

Sincerely yours.

A little part of you.

Crystal R. Cook

Reality Check

Going through the shoeboxes again . . . I distinctly remember the day I wrote this. I was tired. So, so, very tired. The week had been a whirlwind of medical appointments, two IEP meetings, my husband was out of town, my blood sugars were high, and my energy was low.

Autism was in charge and it’s sidekick Bipolar was running amuck. I was outnumbered and out of my mind – Thankfully, a little reality check pulled me back.

Seems like only yesterday sometimes

Seems like only yesterday sometimes

I remember reading something once about about people with unsinkable souls, I believe I am an unsinkable soul. I simply must be. If I weren’t, I certainly would have drowned in whatever sea of muck souls sometimes sink into long ago. I’ve felt myself being pulled under a few times, but I always manage to pull myself up for air. Sometimes, I even manage to find dry land.

I recall one particular night when my toes were just about to reach the bottom of this proverbial, soul-sinking pit, and I was ready to throw in the towel, search out a nice little cave and see if it was possible for a human to hibernate. Ultimately, I decided it sounded like too much work and made one last attempt to free my sinking soul from the murky depths by reaching for my pen.

Miraculously, I managed to pull myself up and I began to write. I was going to pour my heart out on the page. It was going to be a gloomy piece, a somber and sad work of words. It’s often said writing is a healing art. I’ve never doubted it to be anything but true, but I may have taken it for granted now and then.

On this night, as my tears fell to the yellow pad beneath my hand, transforming my words into water-color patches of blue, I was reminded of the awesome power writing holds. I did not pen a masterpiece that night. I did not create an epic tapestry of words that would go down in poetic history. It was not my best writing, nor was it the worst.

It was also not what I thought it would be when I began. It turned out to be something that dried my tears, made my husband laugh, and my children smile. Writing is a healing art.

Peace and quiet . . . Solitude and rest,
someone else to cook the meals, someone else to clean this mess.
Someone else to do the laundry and mediate the fights,
someone else to sweep and dust and get up and down all night.

Oh, for just one day, I need a little break,
I need someone to give, instead of take, take, take.
Let me have a little nap, for just an hour or two,
a rejuvenating rest sounds like a wonderful thing to do.

I’d love to take a shower till the hot water is all gone,
I simply can’t imagine staying in there for that long.
I could actually take the time, to shave my legs tonight,
and I’d love to go to bed sometime before midnight.

I could paint my nails or polish up my toes,
I could curl up on the couch and catch up on some shows.
I could read a book and maybe have a cup of tea.
I’m not trying to be selfish, I just need some time for me.

REALITY CHECK

The kids say they are starving, they are on the brink of death,
you can’t make it down the hall unless you watch your step.
The dryer keeps on buzzing and someone just got punched,
I don’t think I’ll get to take that nap, but that is just a hunch.

I’m sure I’ll get to shower, sometime late tonight,
when the kids have given in to the sleep they like to fight.
The hot water will be gone between dear hubby and the dishes,
so I’ll keep that dream close to heart with all my other wishes

Maybe I’ll just shave my legs tomorrow or the next,
I’ll wait for a new razor, I think this one has been hexed.
Most my nails are broken so I’ll pass on that one too
the other stuff sounds nice, but I’ve got too many things to do.

Like drop from sheer exhaustion and drift off to sleep and dream,
of perfect little children and a house that’s always clean.

REALITY CHECK

The morning sun has risen, a new day lay ahead,
and there’s a morning snuggle bug curled up in my bed.
I wrap my arms around him and hold him near my heart
I cannot think of a better way for a brand new day to start.

I really can’t imagine someone else to take my place,
and chance missing a precious little smile on a dirty little face.
The housework’s not that bad, not compared to other things,
like the joy and love and laughter having a family brings.

Crystal R. Cook

My good intentions and lazy kids.

 

imageI awoke this morning ready for war, ready to kick some ass. I was going to stomp through this day, defeating everything needing to be defeated. I was going to be all the Spartans rolled into one fearsome beast of a stay-at-home mom, tearing across the landscape of my home. Anything standing in my path would be a-nni-hil-at-ed.

To ready for battle I sipped a cup of hot, strength nectar and then another. Caffeinated warriors are un-frickin-stoppable, right? I donned my armor, pinned back my hair, touched up with just a bit of war paint because, I don’t know, reasons, and . . . checked my blog.

I don’t know what happened after that. I had to attend to it. Facebook said I had notifications, so the obvious course of action was to rid myself of their distraction. There were a few things that needed to be liked. I accidentally clicked on the Pinterest icon, good thing too, there were several helpful tips that would certainly aid me in what I knew was going to be a full day of fighting.

By this time, the nectar of strength was wearing off so I had to recharge. While waiting for it to work the magic it always works, I fell into a sleep-like trance, the enemy must have poisoned me. By the time I looked at the clock I realized it was too late in the day to engage my foes with any chance of success.

Tomorrow is another day.

The laundry is piled high
the dishes are still soaking,
dust bunnies have invaded,
and I’m having trouble coping.

Something in the fridge
has really started stinking,
I thought the kids would clean it,
that’s what I get for thinking.

I asked them very nicely,
I said I’d give them money,
I guess they must have thought,
I was trying to be funny.

I suppose if they want to eat
or have clean clothes to wear,
they’ll get up off their butts,
and start to do their share.

I realize I’m delusional
But I kind of have to be,
because somewhere in this mess
I think I lost my sanity.

Crystal R.Cook

Mothers – Remembering who you are.

Picasso - Mother and Child

Picasso – Mother and Child

I remember well the first time I left my son; it was only for a short time. But in that short time I went from feeling euphoric joy to terrible anguish. I was gone all of ten minutes. I knew he was safe in the arms of my mother and yet I found myself weeping before I made it home. I held him and kissed his precious forehead vowing I would never leave him again. In the early stages of parenting I felt terrible guilt if I even considered leaving my children, it was unfounded and unnecessary, but you couldn’t have convinced me of it then.

Fast forward and three more precious babes later, and you’ve got a mom who doesn’t mind hopping into the car for a few trips alone to the store. Ironically, when I do get out for the occasional shopping day I usually end up looking at things I know they would love. When in the company of others, the topic of conversation inevitably steers toward all things children. I must admit I miss them when I am gone. I like being with them . . . most of the time. I can now say without the weight of unfounded guilt, it’s okay to take some time for myself when I need it.

Everyone needs a little respite now and again. Sometimes we need it from our kids and sometimes they need it from us. Truthfully, there are times I think they need it more than we do. There is nothing wrong with breathing a sigh of relief as you listen to the silence surrounding you when the kids are away from the house.

As a stay at home mother of four fabulous kids who are now  no longer little, I can say without hesitation or guilt, I look forward to those fleeting moments of solace. I can’t take it for too long though . . . I need to hear the life and laughter they bring, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t nice every now and then to have the house all to myself. For most parents at this stage, their nest is emptying. My little birdies have yet to all take flight, they are still learning to spread their wings.

As mothers we need time to ourselves, many of us won’t admit it though. I know from experience if I am tired or overwhelmed I am not going to be the most patient or nurturing mother I could be. It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact it was okay to be away from them for a short while. Once I did it though, and all of the awful things I had imagined happening didn’t happen, I realized it felt good, a different kind of good, a need to get used to, kind of good, but good nonetheless.

Once we become mothers we tend to forget we are so much more than mothers still. We are women. We are wives and friends and daughters. We need to keep those parts of us alive and well if we are to be whole. The day is going to come when our children become people and begin to spread the wings we’ve watched grow, we have to know who we are so when they take flight we know we still have purpose and relevance in life.

I think I would be doing my kids a terrible injustice if I never took a bit of time for myself . . . If I don’t know who I am then they will never really know me either. The older they get, the more I realize they are watching me, learning from me. I want them to learn how to be everything they can be. Long ago I put so many pieces of who I was up on a shelf so high I could no longer reach them. Ironically, my children are the ones who pulled them down for me; they are the ones who reminded me I was more than I thought I was.

I remembered I was a wife, I remembered I was a writer and an artist, I remembered I was an individual, and in the beginning these things terrified me, but as time passed I began to cherish these parts of who I once was and began incorporating them into my life. I will always, always be a mother, no one ever told me it wasn’t all I could be, if they did, I certainly didn’t heed their words. When my children are out and about or when the night has come and they lay safe in their beds I treasure the time I have to get to know myself again.

It took me a long time to reach the realization that it is not only okay for us to steal away now and again, it is vital. Spiritual and emotional healing is found in moments of solitude, we have to tend to the woman within, the one which will remain once the children have grown. She needs to be nurtured just as our children do.

Stealing a few moments in time to sit in quiet reflection, read a book, nurture a talent or simply take a nice long shower can only make you a better you, and in turn, a better mother . . .

Crystal R. Cook

Syllables change things.

The way you speak is important. How you say something matters. For instance:

Son: Hey Mommy, I was was watching this whore episode of that show and . . .

Me: (interrupting) What were you watching?!

— If you know my son, you know he has a moral compass bigger than than the Washington Monument, he detests anything indecent —

Son: I was watching this whore episode on . . .

Me: (again interrupting) Whore?

Son: Yeah. Whore. You know, it was supposed to be scary.

Me: Ahh, horror.

Son: That’s what I said.

Me: No. No, you didn’t. Horror has TWO syllables my son. TWO.

Son: (turning a shade of pink) Gimme a break.

Enunciate my friends . . . enunciate.

**A little background regarding my name – My children are adults, well, the youngest is 17, but close enough. My kids call me Mommy. All four of them. My oldest boys, autistic and awesome, have never wanted to call me anything else and their sister and brother hung on right along with them. So, just in case you ever wondered . . .

How to ask Mom a question.

Son: I have a question for you, you’re probably going to say no, but . . .

Me: I can’t stand it when you assume what I am going to say by beginning your questions with, “You’re probably going to say no, but – ” I want to say no before you even get to the question.

Son: So basically, you’re saying I am almost guaranteed a no by saying that?

Me: It’s a possibility.

Later

Son: Question . . . I’m pretty sure you’ll say yes, so . . .

Life with the Cooks.

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The unknown.

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I sift through the remnants
they’ve left behind
without regard for their worth.
Broken, scattered, rotting.
Trails of things they’ve
no longer use for
lead me to where
they have been.
Finding what I thought
to be lost, stolen in secret
while my back was turned.
In dark corners and
cobweb covered recesses,
I know not what lay hidden.
Fearing what may be found
I retreat, it can wait another day.

They can clean their own damn rooms.

Crystal R. Cook