Saturday, March 4, 2006

My Heart Melts

Brendan is napping right now, curled up in his dad's favorite chair. I can see him breathing and he looks so small and sweet. His cheeks are flushed and his lips rosy. His blond hair curls up at his temples and he looks every bit of a cherub. I want to hold him and kiss the sweet spot on top of his head. All the frustrations of the morning have melted away and I regret being so wrapped up in household chores that I didn't sit down and play with him more.

Of course, I always feel that way. It's a battle for me, finding the right balance between keeping the house in some semblance of cleanliness and order and finding time to be a fun mom. I wonder what the ideal amount of time playing with one's child is. Back when he napped it was easier. He'd nap and I'd clean. Once my chores were finished if he was still napping, I got to have some time to myself. Now that he rarely naps or takes only a brief afternoon nap, I find I have to do housework while he's awake if I want the house to remain above the level of pigsty.

Sadly, none of my friends have this problem. Or so it seems. I am the only one of my friends in our neighborhood who does not have a housekeeper or maid who comes in once or twice a month. It's crazy. Stay-at-home moms with housekeepers. I thought cleaning house was part of the job description. Not that I'd complain if I could afford to have a maid. But would I? My friends spend between $120 and $180 a month to have someone clean their homes. I can think of a lot of other ways I'd spend that kind of money. That said, would it be worth it if I had an extra 2-5 hours a week not engaged in cleaning, laundry, or other chores that I could devote to my son? I don't know. That's precisely the problem.

How much time do kids need with their parents? I don't remember my mom or grandmother ever spending time playing with me or reading to me unless I was sick. I could read at three, so I read to myself. And I played by myself constantly unless cousins were visiting.

How much time do you spend playing with your kids each day? I'd love to hear how others balance household duties with giving children the time and attention they need. Does it make a difference to you that cleaning and cooking are ways you are caring for your family? Let me know...

Friday, March 3, 2006

There's No Place Like Atlanta in the Springtime

I love Atlanta. At least I do on gorgeous days like today. The sky is a perfect, beautiful blue with just a few wispy white clouds blowing by. The Bradford Pear trees have burst into bloom and the gorgeous Redbuds and my favorite, Tulip Poplars, give my neighborhood the infusion of pink it so desperately needs. Gorgeous yellow daffodils dance in the March breeze and my heart sings. I love this time. I love this place.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

If it ain't one thing, it's another...

My grandmother used to say that all the time when I was a child. It would seem things were always going wrong for us back then. I'm not sure I knew quite how bad off we were. How poor. How close we were from the "poor house," as my grandmother might have put it.

Trust me when I say I knew we were poor. The other kids at school certainly made me aware of that. And a few years ago, when we went back to my hometown for my mother's funeral, Scott made it painfully clear how poor I was. In fact, I think it was the first time I really knew exactly how poor I was. As we drove through the neighborhood where I lived from my birth until I left for college, Scott said, "Wow! You told me you were poor. You never said you lived in a slum."

I just managed to keep myself in a state of denial I think. I had to in order to maintain any shred of dignity as I walked the halls among the throngs of Izod and Polo clad yuppies-in-training. Somehow, despite burning up inside with humiliation because I felt less than human among what I thought of as rich kids, I managed to hold my own and not drown in my own anger and bitterness. I managed to pretend I was their equal and to be treated nicely by most of them. Because I was in the top 5% of my class academically (#15 out of 425), I managed to earn their respect and pleas for help with homework. I found a comfortable niche with a few other smart kids and lovable oddballs who didn't quite fit in. But in a happy way, not all dark and angsty. More John Hughes, less Columbine, than you might imagine.

Now, when I find myself repeating my grandmother's words, I'm saying it in reference to Brendan catching a cold on the heels of my own recovery from a virus. (And just when we almost have him sleeping through the night in his own bed.) Not because my mom wrecked the car and we can't afford to get it fixed. Or because our crazy white trash neighbors poisoned our dog.

I feel so lucky. How did I get from there to here? And why? Sometimes, I believe I'm the luckiest woman in the world. And I'm so thankful. I really, really am. My life, while it's not exactly what I imagined way back then, is so much nicer and more perfect than my mom's was, or my grandmother's, or anyone that I knew growing up. Well, except that really rich lady I babysat for.

And I love it. I love my life. But I wonder how I keep my son grounded. How do I keep him from turning into one of those kids I both envied and hated in high school?

We try not to spoil him, but by the standards I grew up with, it's already too late. He already has more toys than I had in my whole life and he has the fewest toys of all his friends. Seriously. He eats much better food than I did. And without a doubt lives in a nicer house than I ever imagined, and it's just an ordinary, 30-year old middle-class house in a middle-class subdivision.

I guess someday when he's old enough to understand, I'll sit him down and explain my origins and hope he understands. I'll continue to teach him about acts of charity and have him participate with me as we find ways to help others. Mostly, though, I want to instill in him a sense of respect for his fellow man, no matter how rich or how poor that other person is. In doing so, I hope, somewhere along the line, something my son does will make a difference in the life of someone who could use a hand.