A Mother’s Education

By the time she was three, my first daughter, an early talker, had shared that people have colours around them, that I would eventually have three children, and not to worry about those who died, for they come back like she did.

“She’s freaking me out,” I told a cousin of mine. “I don’t know how to respond to this stuff.”

My cousin told me to start with a book by Ian Currie: “You Cannot Die.”

As a new mother, I expected that teaching would be part of my role. I had not anticipated the things my children would teach me.

Number one child opened a whole new world of questioning for me. By the time the third (unplanned) baby came along I was ready.

I continue learning.

***

Our focus this week has been on “What a child knows.” Thanks to all who participated. If you haven’t already read the entries, please take a moment to visit and comment.

Life in Thirds, Sgeoil
What a child knows, CURATING THOUGHTS
Reconnect our inner child, Shilpa Nairy
Sprinkled, one letter UP
In The Now, parallax
Once Upon a Time, POETRYPALETTE
What a Child Knows – When I was 5, Musings of a CowCorn (Vakicornius Chocolatus Rex)
Big Little, I Write Her
When I Was Five, A MULTITUDE OF MUSINGS

See you tomorrow for a new challenge!



Three Times Blessed

Recent upheaval has plummeted me into a dark space, where I am not willing to settle. Depression has followed me throughout life, and while I acknowledge it has a place, I am not willing to let it drive. I learned long ago that the only way for me to counter the clouds is to be cognizant of my thoughts and adjust focus.

So, I have decided to dedicate Thursdays to acknowledging my blessings.

Where better to start than with those three little miracles who have inspired me to be a better person, and given me the strength to never give up: my children.

As they are not crazy about me taking their pictures, I’ve chosen some old photos, capturing ages and stages:

Being a mom is a blessing. Having birthed these three a miracle I am ever grateful for.

Remembrance

Sloane's Fladers FieldMy granddaughter paints a row of red flowers with crosses in between.  “Flanders Field” she tells me.  She’s six.

“Your great-great grandfather, my grandfather, was shot in Flanders Field.”

She raises her eyes to meet mine.  “Did he die?”

“No, but he was injured.”

He was crawling across the field when the bullet entered and passed through his stomach exiting in an uncomfortable place, I’d been told.

“It’s why he drank so much,” one of my aunt’s told me.  “To cope with the pain.”

Likely to cope with the PTSD too, I think.  I know my father suffered from it, although no one called it that in those days.

I tell her that my Dad fought in a war too.  His job was to sneak into enemy territory and eke out their ammunition stash and then report back to his unit.

“Who won?”  she asks.

“The good guys,” I say.

She nods her head and listens intently and I think how far removed this sweet soul is from the horrors of wars, and I pray that she will never know it in her lifetime.

Peace.  How long will the sacrifice of our ancestors last?

Are we forgetting?

(Image supplied by Willow Poetry for her challenge:  What Do You See?  Also submitted for my weekly challenge:  sacrifice.  Painting courtesy of Sloane.)

 

 

CFFC: Things People Grow

Here in southwest Ontario, we grow corn.  By August we’ve also a grown an appetite for the taste of peaches and cream corn, buttered and salted, right off the cob.

My mother comes from farming roots, but these days all she grows is older.
Blowing Out Candles

We are all farmers, in a sense – planting our seeds, nurturing our crop, hoping for a fruitful harvest.  A mother grows a baby in her womb, raises her, and the cycle repeats.  A grandmother now, I grow slower, and more appreciative.  Ric and I revel in the gift of grandchildren, and relationships that only grow fonder with time:

FishinFinn6

(For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge:  Things People Grow.)

Curiosity is the Mind of a Child

“Grandma, you are just like my mom!”

We are snuggled in against the cold night air, having a sleep over.

“Well, I am your mom’s Mom.”

“Yeah,” she says hugging me tighter, “she’s your kid!”

At five, Sloane likes to explore connections, turning things over, understanding things from different angles.  The next day, she finds a bag of marbles and lines them up by colour, comparing greens to blues.  I suggest she groups them by 10’s, which she enthusiastically does, discovering there are six groups and four left over.  Then I teach her how to count by 10 and her eyes light up with new understanding.

Another granddaughter, now six, is learning to read, patiently sounding out the letter combinations to reveal a new word.  She attacks reading as one would a puzzle, decoding the mystery.  She is also fascinated by nature, particularly bugs, and has no fear of handling even the slimiest of creatures.  Researching information about her findings is a developing skill.

At seventeen months, my third granddaughter is learning to talk.  She wants me to carry her about, pronouncing the word for each object she points to, watching my mouth and attempting to imitate the sound.   She studies the actions of the older girls and tries to repeat what they are doing.

Children are by nature curious.  Their minds are sponges, absorbing information and processing it.  It is easy to see in the young and so delightful.  Spending time with my grandchildren reminds me that although they are each very different, their love of learning is innate, which evokes a question in my educator’s mind:  How do children lose this instinct?

As teachers we are schooled in differentiation:  an appreciation for diverse learning styles; and we are encouraged to apply this knowledge in terms of our delivery and assessment, and yet, children still struggle to learn.  The emphasis for years, has been on promoting self-esteem in our students, by ensuring success for each student, a trend that is proving to be less than successful.

Resilience was the newest buzz word when I left teaching:  educating our children to learn from their mistakes, and develop the character skills necessary for success.

I had the opportunity in my youth to experience a variety of learning environments, from the one-room school-house where I started out, to the open classrooms of the sixties and freestyle learning, to text-book driven learning.  Personally, I struggled with the structure of standard school practices:  I found textbooks boring and unimaginative, detested worksheets, and felt antsy when confined by a desk for too long.

I suppose this is why, as a teacher, I kept switching things up for my students – rearranging desks, offering different approaches to lessons and giving them options for demonstrating learning.  I wanted my students to reconnect with their curiosity.

The five-year-old informed me recently that a winged unicorn is called an Alicorn, a term I had never heard before.  She then went on to recite other ‘fun facts’ that I did not know.

“You never stop learning, Grandma,”  she exclaimed.  “Even my dad is still learning.”

Her dad is a neuroscientist.  I love this attitude.

I am no longer involved in the education system, and my interest now lies with how my granddaughter’s educations will unfold.

I just pray the school system will be able to keep their thirst for knowledge alive.  Technology is evolving at a rapid rate, and the children of today have adapted, but is our education system keeping up?

Perhaps too much onus is put on the classroom.  Maybe the answer lies with family.  More likely, a child’s continued enthusiasm results from a combination of both educational programming and home support.

For my part, I will continue to look for opportunities to help the minds of those within my circle of influence thrive.

 

Divorce Through the Rear View Mirror

Perspective is everything and seldom appreciated until the offending circumstances are well in the rear view mirror.th-2

When my former marriage fell apart, I did the unthinkable and moved out.

The one that leaves loses, I’d heard over and over.  I was hell-bent that I would not lose.

What I failed to do was consider just what it was that I was set to lose.  I was so focused on gaining my share of the equity and assets along with support that I didn’t factor in the emotional toll on all involved.

Four years I dragged my case through the courts fighting a battle I could never win: my opponent was a brick wall narcissist, whose sense of self existed outside the realm of common law and ethics.   Four court decrees in my favour held no sway over my ex’s intentions:  he was not going to pay.

In the end, I was able to reimburse my lawyer (more than half of the settlement I received) and I had a small lump sum I used as a down payment on a home – a paltry amount considering what I’d figured I was owed.  I had to waive support arrears to get it.

That was many years ago, and the resentment burned in me in for a long time.  Everyone was right, I told myself, the one who leaves does lose.

In hindsight, I have a different take on what happened.  Yes, I lost the equivalent of seventeen years of invested time and money, but that can happen in life anyway – economics change and losses occur.  If I had managed to get him to leave (unlikely, since he worked from home) I would have soon lost that house as I had no appreciable income to sustain the upkeep.  As it is, he held onto the home, and the children have at least one structure from their childhood in tact.

Financial losses can be recouped.  It is the underlying pain and suffering that is hard to replace:  the damage done to the children.

th-1I recovered – raged, despaired, railed against the injustice, and then got on with my life.  My children, caught in the crossfire, were not so fortunate, and I wish I had been more aware of that at the time.

Divorce is hard, I get it.  Typically, the adults involved revert to childlike behaviours in response to the emotional pain, which is understandable, but not helpful.

I was at least conscious enough not to make the children pawns; I didn’t threaten to keep them away from their dad if he didn’t pay up.  Having a relationship with both parents, I realized, was their birthright.  I did, however; involve them in the fight.  It only served the purpose of forcing them to take sides – a choice no child should ever have to make.

If the kids never really know what happened that’s okay.  What they need from their parents is reassurance, and a role model for how to overcome adversity.

I told myself at the time that at the very least I needed to conduct myself with integrity and civility – a goal that is only ever possible with the right therapist on board.  I was not always successful.

When weighed against the losses, the gains of ending a disruptive marriage ultimately win.  Post divorce I was able to receive the counselling and personal growth that I needed so that I was ready when a healthier relationship came along.  I embraced opportunities that I never would have before, and most importantly, I reignited a sense of self that had been slowly extinguishing over the years.

And….the greatest gift of all:  my three children.

Divorce is not the end of the world.  It is not about who is right and who is wrong.  It is a loss of a dream, and an opportunity to follow a new path.  Yes, it hurts.  Yes, it is humiliating.  Yes, it feels like insurmountable failure.  How the challenge is navigated determines who and what is lost and gained in the end.

Of course, that’s easy for me to say, in hindsight.