Here is another wise guest post from our mom, Judy.  She’s always been such a great example to us of being positive, and it’s amazing to see that she continues to challenge her own thinking, even her positivity.  I often hear from friends how their parents seem so “stuck in their ways” and how many of them aren’t willing to work on personal growth or challenge themselves beyond a certain point, so it’s refreshing to see our mom model this.  

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Have you ever experienced quick, flippant responses like “It’s all good!” or “Perfect!” after sharing a difficult circumstance with someone?  It seems they are harmless comments as we respond affirmatively and positively.  Generally, being positive is a very good thing to be. But, what if things are not at all good?  What if someone is struggling?   What happens when we don’t really listen and quickly jump to ‘Count your blessings,’ ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ or ‘Think positive!’  Does it minimize what the person is experiencing?   Continue reading

stlucyToday is St. Lucy Day. Great, you’re thinking. What does that even have to do with anything? Well, there’s a definite link to vision here.

My husband and I always wanted to have a daughter named “Lucy”, even back when we were 18 and dating, we talked about this name, inspired by a song by the band, Over the Rhine, the adventurous character in the Narnia series, The Beatles’ song, and its meaning: “light”.

It wasn’t until we actually ended up having a little girl named Lucy that we discovered she is the patron saint of eye diseases. While St. Lucy Day is celebrated most in Sweden and Norway, it is also observed in many other European countries. It is often celebrated with women carrying sweets and lights, often with a procession led by one girl wearing a headpiece with candles to “light the way” as St. Lucia once did.

My 6-year-old Lucy is a saint to me. Even on our first outing alone at a movie when she was just 3, she instinctively knew to grab my hand and lead me into the dark theater, her tiny hand clasping mine tightly even though her young mind probably didn’t eve comprehend why she had to help me. Whether it’s helping me match socks together, find crumbs that have fallen on the floor, or leading me through the dark, she is my little daily saint.

It’s interesting how un-phased yet protective she is in regard to my vision loss.

The other day as I was walking with the girls downtown, Lucy and I were talking about the possibility of getiting a guide dog someday. When I told her it might be awhile, she replied, “That’s okay mom, I can be your guide dog until then… Ruff Ruff!”

Ben’s uncle, who is a Catholic priest in Northeastern Ohio, wrote me a very endearing letter after he suffered from an eye illness that resulted in double vision for a few weeks. The time he spent in prayer and contemplation as he struggled through his illness brought Lucy and i to mind, so he wrote some of his insights to both of us. Here is an excerpt from his letter:

“I suppose I never gave this any consideration before, but I thought how significant it had to be for you, Lucy, to be so named and to have your mother and aunt with an eye ailment. Lucy, you will come to know that Lucy comes from the Latin word “lux, luce” which means light. I’ve also come to learn how much light refracts in our eyes so that we can see as we do. In our Christian faith, Lucy, you will learn that Jesus is the Light of the world for us. He is the true light that will take away all darkness in our lives. As the prayer card indicates, we share in the Light of faith that is Jesus Christ because of our baptism and we are to let that light burn brightly in our lives. St. Lucy is a patron saint for you, but also keep in mind that the name has much association with Jesus who is the Light.”

This letter is a tangible reminder of God’s goodness and of all the saints in my life. The dictionary definition of saint is “A person acknowledged as holy or virtuous”. I have numerous saints in my life– people who make tough days easier and sweet days even sweeter.

I have a good friend, for example, who picks up odds and ends for me at Costco, generous in her time even as she totes around her 3–year-old while trying to get her own list of items in a crowded store. Whether it’s surprising me with a gift basket on a tough day or running an extra errand…. she adds me to her list time and time again, and I’m not sure if she’ll ever know how much she blesses me despite my feeble attempts to thank her.

And another friend drives out of her way every single Sunday to pick the girls and I up for church since my husband leaves very early. And this is no small favor– she has to get her own kids ready, load extra car seats and listen to a car full of children bark orders about adjusting the volume on the DVD player….all while driving on the highway next to some terrible Sunday drivers. It’s truly a miracle that we make it to service on time (usually!) It’s also one of those things that I didn’t realize was a relief until it was offered. Being able to worship with my community each week without having to make numerous phone calls in hopes of finding a ride relieves so much stress and anxiety. I think back to how many Sundays I used to miss at our old church, and this is not to say that there were not generous people who occasionally drove us. I would never expect anyone to drive 35 minutes out of their way on a weekly basis, but the fact that there’s a saint in my life who does so without a second thought or even a hint of irritation is a gift.

Saints add that bit of warmth to our lives, often when we don’t even realize that we’re cold. They add warmth to our homes….sometimes even literally. My mother-in-law recently spent 8 hours sealing our old windows shut for the winter. She gave up an entire day so that her kids and grandkids can have a toasty winter.

Whether its family or friends, we all have saints in our lives, and whether we notice them, they are blessing us often. I am deeply grateful for my favorite little St. Lucy and the way she sparks light into my days.

 

While standing in a cozy, haphazard semi-circle around my grandfather’s grave on Christmas Day last year, my grandmother remarked, “Just think, all these people are here becaues of 2 people.”  And she was right. Not even all of her 9 children were there, yet the 7 that were, along with their families, created a small tribe of noises and happy commotion.

Three little girls sat on a memorial, pretending it was their horse, siblings posed and snapped pictures, and others milled around, taking it all in.

Maybe it’s just the habit of blending in with a large family, but large groups of people have a numbing effect on my vocal chords.

I sometimes wish I was one of the louder, more boisterous personalities like my grandma, making friends with the masses and spouting off witty remarks.  But I just love observing it all (kind of a pattern lately, see “Spectator“).

I like to think that I inherited some of this from my grandpa, who did a lot of observing.  He was quieter, but always contemplative.  He saw things.  And just when I’d kind of wonder whether he was really with me, he’d either crack some quiet joke or make some interesting observation.

My toddler tends to take after her grandma, however, so I wasn’t overly-surprised to hear her yell, ‘towers!  Knock ‘em down” as she pointed to the gravestones, which caused me to wonder about the wisdom of bringing young, rowdy children to a graveyard on a day when there may be people silently mourning loved ones.

My worry increased as my 5-year-old began prancing from stone to stone, pausing to ask loudly “And who died here?…..And who died here?” at each one.

Since darkness nipped at our heels, night blindness made it increasingly difficult to watch my children as they sprang around the graveyard like it was a playground.  Fortunately for large families, my college-aged cousins chased them around while other family members called out, “please get off that” as they climbed up on strangers’ gravestones.  There was a time not too long ago where a situation like this would have upset me.  Losing control and allowing others to intervene used to bother me.

But I guess the saying, “It takes a village” has proven true for me on so many occasions that I began to feel grateful for the times when others step in to help parent my children.  Now I often feel perplexed when I see friends or family get annoyed when other people correct their children, as if they are the only ones in the world permitted to help keep their kids safe and respectful.  Most of the time I am relieved when people help keep my kids in line because I know it’s for the benefit of everyone, including my children.

It takes many eyes, many hands, and many chasing feet to raise children.

I guess in a way it takes a certain amount of humility too.  Allowing others to correct your child, especially when you are present, is not easy.  I imagine that many parents– sighted or not– feel threatened or embarrassed when others step in, as if their role as parents in being judged…. and this is one way to look at it.  But here’s another: I feel like people love me and my kids enough to help me see what’s going on with them– figuratively and literally.

I don’t know why I’m going on about this, except to say that it’s a lesson that my visual challenges have taught me that I think could be helpful to many parents who might find themselves getting unnecessarily upset in these situations.

We all need help sometimes, and that doesn’t say anything negative about our parenting or our character.  In fact, quite the opposite; the way we set aside our pride and respond to assistance says volumes.  This comes from someone who often links arms with pride.  I don’t think I’d have the same appreciation for my large, amazing family if I didn’t take the time to step back once in awhile and lift the veil long enough to examine what’s really going on.

There’s a lot of wisdom and a lot of beauty waiting to be unveiled out there….. in places like school drop-off lines and playgrounds and grocery stores and graveyards.

This month’s warm weather, particularly our 65-degree Thanksgiving, brought back memories of Christmas Day last year, an oddly-warm 25th of December.

After opening numerous presents that morning, my then-5-year-old sat and played with her new treasures.  After about 20 minutes she asked, “mom, aren’t there any more presents?  I want some more.”  I thought back to 3 years before when she was two-and-a-half years old, and how, after only 3 presents, she said nonchalantly. “that’s enough.” and refused to open more.  She wanted to just play with the same 3 presents all day until finally being coaxed to open the rest later in the evening.

I couldn’t help but wonder when the shift from “plenty” to “empty” had occurred in my little girl.  I imagine that gap between satisfaction and always-wanting-more will only increase as she gets older, as it does with almost all of us.

Could it be this feeling of want that creates the chaos surrounding the holidays despite the  soft, underlying pleas for a peaceful, Silent Night?

I’m not lecturing here…. I clearly enjoy a good Black Friday sale and find myself craving the holiday craze at times.  And I have definitely gotten myself wound up about a house that doesn’t feel decorated enough.

But the memory of a simple, satisfying trip to the graveyard with my family on Christmas Day last year evoked a desire in me for a quieter December this year.

I decided to adopt the “wrapped and done by December 1” motto so that I really can sit back and celebrate a peaceful holiday season this year.  And it’s not just a lofty goal– I started shopping a bit this summer and finished today.

I’m ready for some Silent Nights.

I’m ready for more moments that match this one from Christmas last year:

It began after dinner at my grandma’s house.  We usually take long family walks to digest our afternoon feast, usually to the nearby Riverwalk, but this particular year we decided to visit my grandfather’s gravesite about a mile away.  Though buried 2 and a half years prior, his stone had just recently been engraved and we all wanted to see it and take a few moments to remember a man who was important to us

Weather-wise, this was a rare midwest day in December,  reminiscent of late October, the faint scent of burning leaves and a hint of distant cold air to come.  We walked without mittens, our feet free of heavy boots, the air far more refreshing than startling.

We arrived at the cemetery, our shoes crunching on leaves and our voices chattering away, signaling our arrival to the departed.  I can only imagine my grandpa chuckling to himself, “You really know how to make an entrance.” he’d say with a dimpled grin.

While standing in a sloppy semi-circle around my grandpa’s grave, singing some of his favorite tunes, such as “Singing in the Rain” and “You Are my Sunshine”, I felt it– that nearly-extinct sense that everything is right in the world despite so many wrongs.

I think the moments that I sit back and say “enough” and sigh with deep satisfaction are few and far between, but I think they’re worth noting when they do occur.

It will probably be more difficult for my family to have that rare feeling of satisfaction this Christmas, as my grandmother recently had a stroke, and the fatigue of figuring out her care has been weighing on many.  The future is uncertain, as it always is, I suppose, but a little less comfortably for the Kuhn family right now.

For me, this is all the more reason to keep things a little less chaotic this December.

This year, there is reason for the air to feel different during the holidays, and even if it is a little brisk at times, I hope to sit and breathe it in.

It’s Sunday night, and I”m tired.  But it’s a good tired.  Ben and I played a lot with the kids today.  And we put on rain boots and jackets and went splashing through puddles as we walked to Lou Malnati’s for pizza in the pouring rain.

And I was reminded today, as I was throughout this whole past week, how life reverses both ways.  From perfect, sunny days that turn rainy all the way back to rainy days that turn out to be fun despite the puddles.  Or perhaps, because of the puddles.

To give you the end of last Friday’s story, Lucy continued to cry all the way home.  When she continued to sob at home, I got desparate for something to calm her and went up to my closet where I store future Christmas gifts (yes, I know it’s only August, and I’m ridiculous for starting already, but I pretty much am a single-parent the month of December since my husband is in ministry, so I like to just get it done early).  Anyways, I went in the bin and grabbed the one thing she has been asking for the past year that I finally found on ebay– a retro Rainbow Brite doll (yup, that’s what I get for thinking I’m a sly, early shopper– the best gift is already ruined!)

And as I’m handing it to her, an even larger feeling of guilt sweeps over me as I realize that I’m instilling a materialistic comfort habit that will probably lead to her becoming an emotional shopaholic one day. (honestly when I told my husband about everything, he was completely understanding about the stroller accident, as something similar happened with him and Lucy and a bike a couple years ago, but he was really upset that I pulled the doll out!)

It did the temproary job of calming her down, however, and reassured me that the crying (which ceased immediately) was dragging on more out of fear than pain.

But as quickly as her tears vanished, mine appeared. An old friend had stopped by to see our new house, and as I was showing her the upstairs, I felt my voice break and I couldn’t compose myself. She, of course, told me that I was being too hard on myself and that she had done so many similar things when her boys were young.

And you know what?  Throughout the entire past week, I received comments and e-mails from people, sharing their “guilt stories” of ways their kids were injured on their account.  And while a couple of the stories honestly disturbed me, they really did help.  A couple of them even made me laugh and smile to myself.

And as my week progressed, I realized that there are a ton of reversals that occur in the span of a week, or even a day for that matter.  And sometimes life seems to reverse on its own when we give it a moment…..like when Lucy was pouting on Wednesday because there was a toy she wanted that I wouldn’t get her at the store. She ran into her room and shut the door, and I was too frustrated to try to reason with her, so I just sat on my bed and read with Elli, feeling like I had created this material=hungry little blonde monster.  But to my surprise, a few minutes later, she came hopping up on my lap and thrust a handmade card in my face that said, “I’m sorry mom.  I love you, daddy, and Elli more than things.” followed by a great, big bear hug.

And while I beamed and hugged her on Wednesday, I found myself feeling irritated on Thursday when both girls were whining and kept begging to watch tv all afternoon.  I kept waiting for the day to reverse on its own– for the girls to come prancing up to me with handmade cards again that said “We will never whine again and we don’t even care about tv!”  But the cards never came.  And I kept thinking, “Why does it take so much to make them happy?”

And it was then that I realized that it was my frame of mind that needed a reversal– not my day. I got out some play doh and sat on the porch with Lucy while Elli took a little snooze in her stroller near us.  We sat and chatted and played, and it seemed like just that hour of one-on-one attention turned the whole rest of the day around.  She frolicked around the house the rest of the night, singing little songs.

And I kept thinking, “wow, it takes so little to make kids happy.”

So I guess this is just how life is– one reversal after another.   And while it often takes so little to turn it around, it does take something.  

Whether a pause.  A prayer.  A deep breath.  An empathetic ear.  A shift in consciousness.  A brief moment of reflection is worth the likelihood that the day– or week or month or year– will turn around.



Have you ever had one of those days where you wake up feeling like you could conquer the world and go to bed feeling like the world conquered you? Friday was one of those days for me.

It was one of those rare, Midwest gift days in August where you wake up and open the windows because the humidity has finally dissipated long enough to turn the A/C off for a day or so.. On days like these, there’s no wrong thing to wear. Whether long sleeves or tank top, you are neither too cold nor too hot because the sun shines brightly, complimented by a crisp, clean breeze.

It was also my first free day with no plans in awhile and felt like the perfect day to get really serious about potty-training my 2-year-old, with my oldest daughter back in school As soon as I put minnie mouse underwear on her, she immediately ran to the potty and knew just what to do (though she forgot a minor detail that required some clean up– pulling her pants down– but close enough!) She then asked to go to Starbucks to get vanilla milk and I thought that would be a good reward (yes, my 2-year-old is a Starbucks fanatic, thanks to her dad!).

Before we left, I saw a facebook message pop up on my phone that said a good friend of mine had tagged doublevision blog and wrote how I inspire her. And then I saw an e-mail come in from another friend who clicked on her link and read our blog. She sent me an encouraging e-mail, saying how brave she thinks I am and how she related specifically to a certain post.

So I left on the 2-block walk to Starbucks in this perfect weather feeling on top of the world. Everyone I passed seemed to smile or greet us with happy conversation. Even the birds were attempting to join in the casual conversations. And a bagpiper played beautiful music in front of Starbucks to help raise money for firefighters’ families (seriously, what is it about bagpipes that always gives me goosebumps?!)

I sat on a nearby bench and listened while sipping passion tea and watching my toddler happily slurp down vanilla milk in her stroller. I watched as car after car stopped to hand firefighters dollar bills, showing no sign of a recession anywhere nearby..

As I walked home, I felt like everything was right in the world. I felt good that I had handed a donation to the firefighters. I was elated that little Elli was still dry. I felt inspiring and brave and proud.

And what’s that they say about pride always proceeding the fall?

The day turned on me like over-ripened fruit. Elli peed on our new rug 2 minutes after getting off her empty potty chair. I opened July’s electric bill. Two small foreshadowings of the havoc to come.

I picked my first-grader up from school and asked if she wanted to walk to the shoe store for new school shoes. She was excited and jumped in the wagon, but Elli cried for the stroller so I caved and decided to do the “faux double stroller” with Lucy on top of the stroller (as shown in “Mama on the Move“) As we approached the shoe store, I remembered that we hadn’t brought socks to try on the shoes, and not wanting to spend extra money on socks at the shoe store, I decided to walk the 2 blocks back to grab them from home. Since a friend called to say she was stopping by in a half hour, I began walking quickly, wanting to make sure that we had enough time at the store. I usually try to go slowly when I’m pushing the girls “double-decker” style and hold on to Lucy while pushing, but I was in one of those hurried semi-frenzies as we crossed the street to our block. I was trying to get across the street quickly since there was a car waiting (and I had recently been told by my sister that I’m kind of a slowpoke crossing the street when cars are waiting!) In my haste, I misjudged the distance between the curb and front wheel, and felt the stroller jerk back in protest. And as if in slow motion, my precious Lucy went flying off the stroller headfirst onto the cement sidewalk.

Immediately, people surrounded us and a man ran for ice. Lucy stood up right away but began running hysterically in circles, shrieking in pain. I caught her in my arms and just cradled her, repeating “baby, I’m so sorry” over and over, vaguely aware of Elli staring at us from her stroller, wide-eyed and onlookers shuffling around awkwardly, trying to figure out how to help. The people from the waiting car had kindly pulled over and were looking at her pupils and trying to reassure me with the fact that Lucy has rolled, shoulder first and hit her cheek, not landing head-on. A bruise had already started to form, and Lucy continued to bawl and shriek.

I think the woman from the car could tell that I was mortified and ashamed because she began telling me how her niece did the same thing a few days before. I nodded politely but I couldn’t let myself be comforted. What kind of mom was I?

I felt this ball of guilt and regret in the pit of my stomach. And I felt not one bit inspirational. And not brave in the least. And as I pushed the stroller home, Lucy walking close and whimpering at my side, I felt like nothing in the world was right.

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Here’s a glimpse of how the girls and I wheel around town in all seasons:

Yup, this is our version of a double stroller– it keeps us moving nice and slow, and people have a lot of grace for us since it’s clearly a challenging task! Looking into used sit-and-stand strollers on craigslist…..

To keep out the rain and hot sun, this roof does the job!

For cold and windy weather, there’s nothing like a fleece blanket! (note: last year I carted the kids to a friends house on a sled in the snow….looking into a sleigh or double-intertube this year!

This netting (formerly Lucy’s fancy princess canopy that collected too much dust over her bed!) is perfect for keeping out all kinds of bugs during mosquito season!

For those perfect, convertible-worthy days where the sun isn’t too hot and the wind is a breezy bliss! (2 or 3 days out of the year in Chicago!)

For as lovely as words can look on a screen, life can really blur them all together when you’re trying to live them out.

I hosted a Mother’s Day brunch at my house today for some of my extended family, which was filled with sunshine, great food and beautiful people.  It was also filled with crap.  Literally.

I won’t get graphic or anything, but I do want to share a little piece of this scenario to give you an idea of how very challenging it can be to place relationships and people first.  I have a family member who is developmentally disabled and sometimes has bathroom issues.  Well, let’s just say that today he had major bathroom issues.  In both our bathrooms.  And on the new bathroom rug.  And even on the freshly-painted walls, discovered by my poor husband hours later.

When I first walked from the outside fresh air into our house and caught a whiff of this accident, my gag reflex went off, and I stepped right back out.  Another family member graciously helped him clean everything up, though further setbacks and clean-ups seemed to continue for quite awhile.  I found myself feeling disgusted and frustrated that this was all happening on Mother’s Day.  And I found that I acted less than gracious and spoke in irritated tones.

As my family members were leaving, I told a couple of them about my blogpost on placing people first and how I couldn’t even post it because I felt like such a hypocrite acting like I care way more about people than my house but then feeling like I wanted everyone to just go away when it got messy.  They smiled with understanding and joked that they wouldn’t tell anyone.  I thanked my helpful uncle for all his clean-up work dealing with the other family member’s mess, to which he replied, “all small stuff”.  And really, in the grand scheme of things, it is, and I know that as a whole.

And I tried to remind myself of that as my husband and I continued to do some aftermath clean-up later.

But the house still smelled like you-know-what, and I just wanted the nice scent of my Mother’s Day bouquet to fill the house as it had before the brunch.

Since we had to be at another gathering, we decided to just open up all the windows, and even left our front doors leading to the screened-in porch open in hopes that it would air out while we were gone.

And it did.

When we walked through the door this evening, the faint smell of cleaning supplies drifted,but mostly just the aroma of evening spring air filled the house.  And it reminded me that sometimes all it takes is a few open windows.  And there are windows I forget to open all the time.  Not just in my house, but in my life.

I know I’m hovering on cheesy here, but it’s true.  I remember to open the windows of all my thoughts, ideals, and insights to the world as I write this blog, but sometimes I forget to open the windows of acceptance to my own family members.  Yes, I don’t have to love some of the things they do, and there are definitely boundaries I need to set with certain people who choose not to work on their issues, but there’s usually room for more kindness and acceptance even when setting boundaries.

For example, this particular family members was mentally capable of taking some medication that could have prevented these accidents today but chose not to, and he also chose to eat food that he knows upset his stomach, and because of that, he will not be asked to the next gathering at my house.  But at the same time, I didn’t even take the time to say goodbye to him today.  I could have still hugged him good-bye and shown love despite my frustration.

I think in order to place people first in our lives, we need to challenge ourselves in the ways that we think about others and act toward them, especially with the difficult people.

There are always more windows that can be opened.  And always more fresh air we can let in.

 

I want to freeze time.  To capture the light blonde and brown tendrils that fly all wispy as my daughters dance around the kitchen putting on “dinner entertainment” for daddy . He eats and laughs, more amused by these two under 4 ft. tall than he probably ever imagined he’d be.  I want to put their little sing-song voices in my leftover packing boxes with heavy packing tape so that they will never escape me.  I want these little years– the ones when they want to play all day – and beg me to stop doing laundry so they can just be with me for 5 minutes — to last.

As I was trudging up the stairs exhausted the other night, I tried to recap in my mind all the things I had accomplished during the day.  I became a little agitated because I couldn’t think of many things I had crossed off my growing to-do list.  But then I remembered the important 2 hours I’d spent crawling on colored carpet squares.

The girls and I had gone with Ben to the church where he works because I was meeting some friends there, and since we needed to wait for his meetings to end before leaving, we spent the whole day there.

We went into the K-5 room which has these fun, colorful carpet circles and began inventing all different kinds of games.  I was a chomping alligator in hot lava while they were toads hopping from circle to circle.  I was the leader of a secret “flower” club up on the little play balcony.  We were robots that could only jump to certain colored islands.

We ran and laughed and played till we were slap-happy with fatigue.  And while those 2 hours of fun were clearly not on my list of things that really needed to get done, I went to bed feeling satisfied that night.

I’ve noticed that since living in a walkable area and having the ability to run a lot more of the errands during the day, my days are sometimes packed.  I also took on a part-time job scoring essays from home this month, so the to-do lists seem to be multiplying.

I ended up needing to create a separate list of things entitled “important things”, and I try to make sure that even if some of the things on my regular to-do lists don’t get accomplished, I at least do the important things each week.

Most of the important things involve people, and one of those is my 82-year-old grandmother who lives  3 blocks away and recently was told to stop driving.  This a little more difficult for her because she doesn’t have the strength of a 33-year-old to walk all over town like I do.  So one of the new “important things” on my list each week is to take the girls to visit her– not out of obligation or anything, but because I value time with her and know it helps lighten her day at a difficult time in her life.

Sometimes this means grabbing a 45-minute window of time, leaving the kitchen a mess or a chore undone, to go spend time with her. And while I wasn’t raised to be okay leaving a mess, I think sometimes in order to put people first in our lives– not our houses or material things– it’s necessary.  Obviously, there comes a time when things really do need to get cleaned up, and I don’t want us living in a disgusting mess or anything, but loosening our reigns on how perfect the house should look at all times can open up space for our relationships to grow.

When I’m 82-years old like my grandma, I hope that my phrase of satisfaction reads something like this:  “My life is full because I put first things first in my life.  I put relationships and people in front of my stuff.” as opposed to, “Wow, I have had a perfectly clean house for the past 82 years– how full and satisfying life is.”

So this post used to end right here, and there was no “part 1” in the title.  That was a week ago when I thought that this was the easiest, simplest concept in the world…… when  sunny strolls to grandma’s house trumped dirty dishes in the sink (okay, they still totally do, only I’ve realized that sometimes extra complications arise that challenge our ideals…. and that’s why there’s a part 2, so stay tuned if you can relate!)

 

Friends and I have often joked about what current parental mishap will surely send our kids to therapy someday.  I usually laugh and then cringe inside because there are just so many, many moments of parenting– and they all add up to just one childhood.  Which moments will my girls remember as adults?  The ones where I am frustrated and nagging or the ones where we are snuggling up reading a good book together?  As a parent, I of course want my kids to have the best possible memories of their childhood,  and I feel angst when my 5-year-old says things like “No one ever plays with me” after my husband and I have spent the whole day hanging out with her but have taken a 20-minute break to do housework.
It’s interesting what our minds choose to hold on to– out of the 1,440 minutes in a day, sometimes only two  of those minutes will filter down and make it into the “keep this” category.  While I sometimes wish I could program my kids’ filter system to hang on to all the good memories and throw out the bad, I of course know that I can only help them learn how to process the harder memories and perhaps help them remember aspects of the not-so-fun memories that are redeeming.  My mom, while not on active parental duty anymore, still helps me do that on occasion.
A couple months ago I received a nice comment on our blog from a mother, Amy, whose 10-year-old son has RP and responded very positively after being told his prognosis. Amy writes:
“When we explained everything to him that the retina specialist told us, his response was, ‘Well, Mommy, I guess you’ll have to be my personal chauffeur for life.’ He has such a positive, optimistic attitude and view on life in general, so he is a great example for my husband and I when we start to feel sorry for him.”
I lamented to my mom that I wish I’d had that kind of personality as a child.  My mom replied that she remembers me as that kind of child and went on to say that after realizing I couldn’t get my license at 16, I said, “That’s okay, mom.  I have a great family, a nice boyfriend and get good grades in school.  I couldn’t ask for much more–I have it pretty good.”  Now, whether that was a cover to mask my true feelings at the time or whether I really meant it, I’m not exactly sure.  But it’s strange how when I think of that day– the one where the driver’s ed instructor spoke in low tones to my parents in our front entryway- I remember it differently.  I remember fleeing to the neighbor’s house where I was housesitting.  I remember changing their cat’s litter box with tears streaming down my face and sinking onto their red velvet sofa in sobs of disappointment and self-pity.  But my mom’s recollection of this event puts a slightly new spin on that difficult day in my mind and makes me feel kind of….. strong.

Amy just shared another snippet about her son’s day-to-day dealings with RP that said:
 “I thought about your blog the other day when Nathan came home from school and said he got hit in the face in gym class three times with basketballs. His glasses were broken and he had a substitute teacher that day, so he walked around with no glasses on with his friends sticking close by him. His one friend even had Nathan dictate his answers to him and wrote it out for him as the boxes were to small for Nathan to see and the teacher wasn’t there. Nathan, Mr. Positivity, came home and had his first meltdown over his vision, saying it was the worst day ever. Poor guy! He was so proud of himself, though, that he held it all together until he got home that day!”
I really loved how she ended the story with him being proud of himself for holding it together until he got home because that’s the piece her son may not remember when thinking back on his difficult day– that he was strong.  And she can remind him of that.  And I think that will make a difference in how he views himself.  

And that’s something we can all do as parents – whether our kids have RP or not- help them see that little piece of their story that seems hidden to them.  And hopefully someday they’ll help us do the same if we’re beating ourselves up about what we could have done differently as parents (after they’re done complaining about us in therapy, that is!).