Thursday, May 21, 2009

Frankie and the wonderfully awesome, fabulous, very good day!

“This is a really great day, Mom,” my son announced to me as we were driving home from the grocery store with a few odd grocery items we needed for our ‘date night’ project of baking cinnamon rolls. The words were music to my ears. For every great day my son has, there are five bad ones. There is a really great children’s book, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst (Author), Ray Cruz (Illustrator). I am reminded of this book when son is having one of what he calls his ‘worst days’.

Don’t get me wrong. My son has a GREAT LIFE! I have often worried that he just doesn’t have the perspective to realize it. “There are starving children in Africa who would love those (fill in the blank)” is a phrase that escapes my mouth more often than I would like to admit. There are many instances, when I hear my son utter the words, “This has been the worst day of my life” that I pray for God to grant him a little ‘perspective.’ Today, I was blessed enough to discover that his nine year-old mind is getting it.

As I mentioned, we were beginning our date night. It’s a tradition my husband and I began when our kids were two and three, and it has survived our busy chaotic schedules without interruption every Wednesday night since then. It’s a tradition that trumps even the biggest holidays like Christmas and Halloween in our family. We alternate children and let them choose the events of their special evening. It was my night with my son. He was in one of his chatty moods which usually indicates that things are going great.

I asked him why it was such a good day. “Well, I got to garden and cook on, I had a good day in school, my tomato plants finally sprouted, I got more plants to plant in my garden, and we’re going to make cinnamon roles on date night and watch the American Idol finals. It’s just a really great day!” he said.

I love the fact that his ‘perfect day’ involved the simple pleasures of life. When I really think about it, mine are too—breakfast in bed, a long walk in the morning with only my iPod and the dog, yoga, time with the family, an afternoon under an umbrella on a blanket at the beach with a good book, a simple dinner watching the sun set, and sitting by the campfire with my husband drinking a great glass of wine. That’s my perfect day. It’s true that the best things in life are free, and yet it took me 40+ years to discover what my son understands so clearly at nine. (And I thought he was the one who needed perspective).

Then, in a sort of nine year old encore, he said this in response to yet another piece of depressing news resounding from the radio about the state of the economy. “Mom, in some ways I think this bad economy was a gift from God. It’s making people more aware of the things that they do have. Its making them find ways to save money and scale back on stuff that they don’t need. When they have to take care of things themselves, and find simpler ways to do things, that’s good. Sometimes I think God wanted it… No, I know He made it happen that way so that we would all realize what is important. And I think some of the crazy stuff going on with the politicians is making people remember some of the important things about our country and the way our Founding Fathers wanted it to be. I mean, it’s bad because I know some people are really hurting and losing their jobs and stuff. But, if they can just stick it out, they’ll see that this is really a great thing. They’ll be happier when it’s all over.”

This is what he said, almost verbatim. And I was stunned…Stunned at his perception and interpretation of world events. Stunned that he could see such trying times as an opportunity from God. Stunned at his awareness of the gift of change. Stunned that at nine years old he understands that the simple pleasures are the most important things in life. And relieved, that in all his pessimism, he can recognize and appreciate a wonderfully awesome, fabulous, very good day!

Copywright, 2009: Kim Bauer, wife, mother, and writer

Sunday, May 10, 2009

This Mother’s Day, May You Celebrate Your ‘Interdependence’

I watched a movie with my family last night that left a deep impression. It was not a huge box office success and it went quietly to video with no awards or fanfare, but it left a tremendous impression on me. The movie was Marley. Maybe you have seen it. If not, here is the basic story line.

A young married couple embarks on their lifelong journey together with promising careers as journalists. They are young, happy and in love, and she, the more disciplined and ambitious of the two, systematically checks the boxes in her 7 step plan for life. They are approaching the ‘children box’ at a different pace, so the husband decides to stall the inevitable by getting Marley, better known as ‘the clearance puppy.’

Marley is ‘the worst dog in the world’ and destroys nearly everything he touches except their hearts. Surprisingly, the husband finds his voice and his fame as a columnist in writing about everyday adventures of their life with Marley. His career flourishes. The couple is eventually blessed with children, three of them in fact, and life changes. It is not bad. It’s just not at all what they expected. Upon the arrival of child number two, she decides to sacrifice her career to be a full time mom and discovers that motherhood is more challenging than she could have possibly anticipated. At one particularly stressful period, they are all ready to throw in the towel.

In a defining moment, she admits to her husband that it is all more overwhelming than she imagined. “I have given up so much of what it is that made me, me,” she confesses. This is the turning point that every mother reaches. We have lost our self. Or at least we think we have, because we are looking in the wrong places. We are measuring our lives in terms of our ‘independence’ instead of our ‘interdependence’.

The great Stephen Covey writes about this in his book, “The seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He reminds us that we come into the world dependent on others, then transition to a phase of independence and eventually, through maturity, we reach our most important and meaningful phase—that of interdependence. Interdependence is the power curve of life, in which we realize that our contribution, gifts and relationships create and shape our life much more than our ‘independence’ ever could. This is the essences and beauty of mother hood. I bet almost every mother can remember the exact moment in which she realized this simple truth. And even though it seems we have given up our independence, we really find ourselves in our ‘interdependence’.

To most, the movie Marley was about the joys, sorrows and unconditional love that our pets provide and the unforgettable imprint they leave in our hearts. To me, this movie was much more. Mother’s Day is a celebration of our interdependence. On Mother’s Day, our loved ones engage in a valiant and heartfelt effort to create for us “the perfect day.” This mother’s day, I got breakfast in bed compliments of my son and received a beautiful necklace he made from herbs from his garden. I am wearing an exquisite pair of beaded earrings made by my daughter, and received an early morning surprise from my husband of 15 years. They even allowed me an hour of writing time so I could make this tribute to the mom’s of the world. My family is giving me the perfect day!

As Mother’s, we must embrace these tributes from our loved ones while remembering that while Mother’s Day is special, each day is a perfect day. For it is in the journey, not the destination that mothers make their biggest impact and are at their interdependent best. May God bless all the mothers on the planet and allow them to enjoy their perfect day!

Copywright, 2009: Kim Bauer, wife, mother, and writer