Monday, February 11, 2008

"Work is Love made visible," by Kahlil Gibran.

Two years ago, I wrote, "I do all that I do from love; my doing is an outward manifestation of that love. However, once I put it out there, it is no longer just mine. It will be viewed from a different angle and perspective, and might be missed, or misinterpreted. At the end of the day, I always hope that I get the benefit of the doubt or suspension of disbelief and all that I do is understood as being done from love.

With kids, though, you don't always know. Lately, my daughter has been convinced I am so mean and out to ruin her day. Perhaps she thinks I lie awake at night plotting. It's okay to laugh. I have to, but I admit, a little piece of my heart breaks every time."

We have entered this stage again.

Yesterday, as we left a birthday party at which the girls had delightedly run, played, laughed and enjoyed, Patience's souvenir balloon popped.

What a metaphor.

Patience is troubled with endings, anyway, but the endings and transitions, I've found, can be eased by carrying something away with us---something that represents the good time.

Although eventually I hope it will be something less tangible, such as an experience, right now what we carry away with us is a concrete, solid object, such as a balloon. But as we got on our bikes to ride home, her balloon touched an edge and popped.

"Oh no!" Patience cried, distraught.

"Oh no," I echoed.

"Tissy's balloon popped!" Persistence cried, sympathetically.

"That's too bad," Patience's father said.

"I want another one!" Patience immediately said.

"Honey, the other balloons are for the other children, I'm very sorry yours popped," I told her.

We rode on, her happy demeanor altered utterly into sulky despair. I couldn't stand it. I know we ought to accept our children as they come, and I do, but there are some angles to my daughter that I wish to smooth and shape, to suit her life better. I know how it is to live life with those angles sharp and rough, and I wish to spare my daughter that.

She lost the balloon, but I did not want that to mean the entire good time deflated. And I could see it happening, so I tested the waters.

"That was a pretty fun party, I thought. The obstacle course was neat, and the cake was really cool with the pet shop pets on it. What did you like there?" I asked her.

"Nothing!" she said.

Conventional wisdom will tell you to let it go. Let her have her sulk and get over it. I disagree. I know she will cement in her mind that this party was a bad time, and while she will get past it, it will remain a bad time in her memory.

I tried, by coaxing and cajoling, to get her to remember and admit that she'd had fun. But she refused. I felt a sense of urgency rush through my body, so I stopped, and asked her to stop too.

I stood in front of her, and looked at her face: bottom lip out, mouth downturned, eyes mopey. She was a small figure on a little pink and purple bike---no training wheels---her once white basket painted pink with sidewalk paint, her wheels striped with the same paint in green, blue, and pink. The bike was a vibrantly cheerful contrast to the sad girl who rode it.

"You had fun," I told her firmly, "You did. You told me during the party it was fun and you thought it was a great party. You enjoyed the passing game, liked the confetti cake, and had a ball with the scooters. You loved the take home gift bag. Don't lose that," I admonished, "Don't. I know your balloon popped and I'm sorry, that's sad. I understand if you want to talk about that, say you're sad about it. But don't lose the rest, don't let that be the only thing that happened. Because it wasn't. Don't let it be the thing you keep and remember from this party, don't let it overshadow the good."

She stared at me, all sulking gone from her face, replaced by a sort of stunned contemplation.

"Keep the good," I practically begged, "Remember the good, too. Remember sitting in a circle with your friends, comparing charm bracelets and giggling. Remember your friend's dad playing songs on the guitar. Acknowledge the bad, but keep the good, and focus on it, okay?"

She continued to stare silently at me.

I asked for far more than to remember the giggles and good times. I asked her to change how she remembers things, how she thinks...asked her to be different.

Parenting is work. It is the toughest job you'll ever love. It will break your heart more than you ever thought possible, and you'll learn your heart is more resilient than you ever thought possible. You'll look at these little faces and feel a love that surpasses's the sort of thing that drives people to song and poetry. You will also feel a frustration (to say the least) that causes every other annoyance to fade into a whiter shade of pale. You'll face the best and worst of yourself and see it reflected in your children.

If work is love made visible, then each act of parenting I complete---rightly or wrongly done---is evidence of the depth of my love for my girls.

I hope they grow up to know it.

Copyright 2008 Julie Pippert
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Gwen said...

Aww, Julie, you did a good thing. I have similar conversations with my oldest daughter, too, and I'm spurred by the same motivation--I want her to be different from me, not to suffer in the ways I did and do.

And that picture! Beautiful!

melissa said...

What a nice post to start off the week!

I find myself doing the same thing with my kids, too. Focus on the good,not the bad. I think it is human nature to do that though. You know, "What have you done for me lately?" But we have to try and work around that a bit if they are going to be functional adults.

SciFi Dad said...

You taught her a very valuable lesson that day, Julie.

All too often in today's world we focus on the negative instead of the positive. The evening news leads with a shooting or a bombing or a tragedy of some sort; the feel-good stories come later (if at all) as an apparent after thought.

We need our kids to see the good through the bad, that even in times of sadness there is still joy to be remembered.

Great job.

Suz said...

I love not only the message you left with her, but the urgency of it. As much as we regard ourselves as the keepers of our children's memories, the photographers and the writers, the fact of the matter is that they are doing that work themselves, as well. It's an important fact to acknowledge.

Mama Drama Jenny, the Bloggess said...

It's a good lesson for us "grown-ups" as well.

Kyla said...

I just love that photo of her. Love it.

I have those moments with BubTar...the let it slide/tackle it moments. Usually when I speak up, he listens and takes it to heart. (until the next time, heh)

Magpie said...

Good one Julie.

I left mine in a heap of tears at daycare this morning. I know she thought I was a mean horrible mother - but with time, she won't remember. She'll grow up to accept the love. As will yours.

Nicki said...

Balloons are cruel. It's like they were invented to teach kids about loss. Balloons, and goldfish.

we_be_toys said...

Great picture - she's very cute!
Ah the rollercoaster ride of children's emotions - I feel your pain, chile!
My youngest is currently in the 8 year old phase of extreme emotional responses. Good times, eh!? This is where a sense of humor is crucial, I think.

crazymumma said...

You know how beautiful this is don't you?

I loved it because sinced her birth, I have struggled with the absloute depths of misery my Songbird will throw herself into at the slightest disappointment.

It was you telling Patience, not to lose the rest, the joy that she experienced.

I am copying your words when I talk to her next time her sky falls down...hope you don't mind.

Julie Pippert said...

I just hope it does get through to her. In general, she's a pretty cheerful and bright kid. But oh when something goes outside of her out!

Suz, great point, Jenny, I agree.

Thanks for these comments! I love the validation and additional ideas.

Sober Briquette said...

I've got to chuckle at what Nicki wrote. I think for about a year her balloon popped, Fiona wouldn't accept one.

All I can say is that I'll give this a try myself - should get an opportunity soon, if not this very afternoon - and let you know how I think it goes. This is the girl who runs and hides instead of coming for comfort when she gets hurt, so I'm feeling doubtful.

thordora said...

oh parents used to do that to me. As a naturally "glass half empty" person, it drove me INSANE. I like to wallow. :)

I always remembered the good stuff too-I just liked to have a good pout once in awhile. We're lucky that so far, neither kid freaks out that bad when things don't go their way.

I'm quite sure this will change soon.

Robert said...

Adults are so often children with latent memories of things gone wrong in their youth. You did your daughter a real service by helping her begin to remember the good and the bad. Most people who hate clowns as adults got scared by one as a small child and never let it go. That's my opinion. Great post.

thailandchani said...

Yes, I can imagine parenting is hard. Clearly though, you are good at it.

Suki said...

That was such a moving post.
I'm glad you're teaching them this so early. It takes a LOT of heartbreak before we learn it on our own, hehe.

Carpe Diem.

wheelsonthebus said...

Zach is just like that, and you are right. The hard work is love manifested.

le35 said...


Optimism is important. It's also important to help guide the changes in our children. I think that I could write a whole post on optimism, and I probably will, so I won't post my whole reply here. The biggest thing though is that we have not only a desire but a responsibilty to "train up our children in the way they should go."

Terri B. said...

Such a good lesson for all of us to remember. I absolutely love the way you worded this to your daughter. In fact, I'm going to print your post out and tape it to my mirror as a reminder to remember the good parts and let those define the way I remember things. Thanks Julie! I needed this today.

Kathryn said...

That was fabulous. I love that you talk to your children as smart individuals. So many people (myself included) are guilty of dumbing down their vocabulary for their children. But children are smarter than we give them credit for.
I think she heard you. I think she knew exactly what you were saying. What a valuable lesson for her.
And that pic? Priceless!

shay said...

You are a wise wise woman and I'm in awe of how you dealt with this.

My oldest also didn't make transitions well. He had trouble going from one event to the next. I never, until now thought of taking something with us. thanks for that.

Hold on to the good! Genius!!!

jen said...

ah yes...i've been dealing with this myself. this is beautiful, jules.

realitytesting said...

Julie--Not only is this post fantastic and beautiful and all of that usual stuff that your writing always is...BUT...I am always so amazed by how you craft these entries. They are truly anchors for those who want to know how to blog well too. From title to comments. Very thoughtful, hard work you do.

realitytesting said...

Julie--Not only is this post fantastic and beautiful and all of that usual stuff that your writing always is...BUT...I am always so amazed by how you craft these entries. They are truly anchors for those who want to know how to blog well too. From title to comments. Very thoughtful, hard work you do.

Anonymous said...

May I please have permission to quote "You'll face the best and worst of yourself and see it reflected in your children." What an incredible statement.


bubandpie said...

It's a really important thing, what you're asking her to do.

flutter said...

This is such a testament to your love, Julie.

ALM said...

What a great post. So well put. Thanks.

(BTW - I never let my kids take balloons. It ALWAYS ends in tears.)

Cathy said...

That was an exceptional moment of mothering, and one day they will realize it.

alejna said...

What a beautiful and moving post. I'm so glad that you interrupted her sulking and had that discussion. It's such an important lesson to be learned, and re-learned in life. I'm so glad you shared it with her, and with us.

slouching mom said...

what bubandpie said. exactly.

you are a terrific mother, julie -- don't forget it.

jeanie said...

Awww - can I just put a redirect on my blog and just put "what she says"?

ha ha - we had one of those weekends with my daughter. Only we didn't have a birthday party. Or a balloon.

Family Adventure said...

Good job, Julie. From your description of her expression, you made her think!


Rob said...

"Keep the good." That's deceptively simple, but powerful stuff! Many adults - myself included - would do well to heed that lesson too. Sometimes the best or most enjoyable things in life will be tinged with difficulty or sadness and really, without those contrasts, the good might be harder to recognize or recall. Often, the "hard" is what makes something great.