Every Child is an Artist
💫 “Every child is an artist until they are told they are not.” I read that quote by John Lennon and wasn’t sure that I agreed with it. I yanked back into existence memories of my childhood that had long ago faded away, and I distinctly remember wanting to be an artist, to draw the cartoon characters in my comic books. And I remember the moment of reckoning when I realized I did not possess that special talent: I was on the floor in my bedroom with my drawings of Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, and Yosemite Sam spread everywhere. I never showed my drawings to my brother, parents, or friends. It was easily discernable that they weren’t good
As a young boy, I had a grand collection of comic books, almost as tall as I was, and I took excellent care of them. My attempts to recreate the characters within and put my own words into their mouths failed dismally. No one had to tell me I was a terrible artist. I knew it, so I abandoned my desire to become one. When I was a kid, adults did not heap praise on a failed effort. If you weren’t good at what you were attempting to do, you would be told, and it wouldn’t be done politely.
Sigmund Freud (the id, ego, & superego) gave us a lot to think about, but it led us down the path to thinking we had to always encourage our children by telling them they were great at whatever they were attempting to do. My mother and father never succumbed to that tenet, and I didn’t with my two children. If my brother or I came home with poor grades, it usually ended up with a whipping. Those same rules applied to my children.
My son and his wife (JoAnn) have three daughters. I remember him telling me when they were three/four years old that they were going to raise them without spankings. I applauded their efforts but secretly believed they would fail. I was wrong. Three wonderful adult granddaughters are what I have now. I am unaware of how they feel about it: was the replacement punishment worse? My dad only spanked me (whipped) twice as a kid, but in its place, he would get mad at us and stay mad for weeks. Mom would whip my brother and me, and that was the punishment. After a good night’s sleep, she was back in love with us again. I was grateful for that. But my father withholding his love from his children for 3-4 weeks, to me, was unconscionable. I promised never to do that to my children.
Neither of my two children have expressed to me their opinion on how their mother (deceased) and I raised them. I don’t know why I would expect them to. I never told my father how much I disliked his punishment for my brother and me. Florence Nightingale said it well, “How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.” Flo may be on to something.
💫 I read recently that you form your first permanent memories around age four, and I agree with that. But I believe I can go back earlier. I can recall my mother nursing my brother, who was fifteen months younger than me. That is quite a bit younger than four. Science has yet to figure out how we store memories. The human brain is the least understood part of our body. When things start to go wrong with it, the psychiatrist chosen to correct the problem seems to guess. I have a close family member that needed their help, and it consisted mostly of being doped up all the time and walking around in a haze. The medicine had side effects, and they were required to take other medicines to counteract the side effects.
I believe we need a psychiatrist/psychologist, but we must monitor what they do closely. They will never say you are well, and the bills will just keep on coming. I know I cannot control the involuntary part of my brain, but I’m guilty of believing I can control the conscious part of it. I know I can control what I choose to think about, and if any unwanted thoughts creep in, I can toss them aside. What I can’t control is what I dream about, but I have tried to have only good thoughts before I drop off to sleep. Sometimes that works, and other times it doesn’t. Often, I get up in the middle of the night to follow the obligatory bathroom adventure, go back to bed, and resume the dream I had before waking up. I’m still trying to figure that one out.
Here’s my plan; My mother used to sing to my brother and me as youngsters before we dropped off to sleep, and I never had a bad dream when that happened. I am going to attempt to persuade my wife to do the same as an experiment and see if it holds true with her. I’m not sure she will do it because I take much longer to go to sleep now 😊. John Rockwell said, “There are times in life when nothing happens but in quietness the soul expands.” That seems like something I should try.
💫 There are stories I tell myself about myself. You’re probably wondering why I need to do that since I already know the story, but that’s not entirely true. I have to tell myself the story to focus my mind and force it to recall whatever it is I want to remember. True, sometimes things from the past will just pop into my mind, but that’s always at the mercy of something triggering the thought/thoughts. Recall that in the previous paragraph, I told you about my mother singing to my brother and me before we dropped off to sleep. That memory came alive because I forced myself to recall it. As I was telling the story to myself and you, the memories came rolling in. I often tell stories from my past at our dinner table, and I’m quite confident that my wife and our two constant dinner companions (Nancy & Richard), tire of hearing them. My tales from my youth are meant to entertain them, but I must admit, they also entertain me. I try not to repeat my favorite ones, but I’m sure I do. My mind is not as agile as it was, and so family and friends are forced to endure my musings. I doubt my wife and dinner buddies have noticed, but I have an alter ego, and I have given him a name. I will tell you, but you have to promise not to tell anyone else. My alter ego is aptly named “Fat Boy.” This fellow is nested as far down inside me as I can stuff him, but he’s always fighting to get out. He puts up his most fierce battles when I’m looking at the dinner menu or gazing out over the dessert table. Buffets bring out the beast in my alter ego, and he enjoys dancing on my shoulder as he encourages me to put some of everything on my plate. Before I go to bed, he sometimes tries to force me to get a handful of the peanut butter-filled pretzels my wife has stored in the drawer beside my coffee container. I’m always aware that “Fat Boy” is fighting for survival, but I also know that his survival is not good for my survival. Like everyone else addicted to calories, I’m looking for the “silver bullet” that will put an untimely end to his existence. Every time I approach our scale to weigh myself, I can hear it screaming, “go away Fat Boy.” Oops, even the scale knows the name of my alter ego! I have to get rid of it and buy one that doesn’t know my alter ego’s name. Stephan Sagmeister said, “Everybody who is honest is interesting.” I sure hope that’s true. If not, I’m a really boring guy 😊.
One-on-One Time…by JoAnn
I am a huge advocate that parents need to spend occasional one-on-one time with each of their children. From the time they are young, during their teen years, and after they are adults.
I have three grown daughters. This year, their ages will be 39, 37, and 30. I love my daughters more than life itself. Being their mother has been an essential part of my life and has been the reason for the most joyful times I have known.
With everyone having their own life to live, it becomes a real challenge to have one-on-one time with an adult child. A genuine effort has to be made by both parties. It was easy to keep up with each other’s daily routines, good days, and bad days while living under the same roof. But when the chicks begin to fly and leave the nest for their own, the busyness of life and the world’s stresses have a way of pulling loved ones apart. We have to try harder!
Lately, I have felt an authentic, heartfelt need to connect with each of my girls. They each seem so busy with meaningful projects in their lives that I have not had the heart to ask for their time. One of the worst feelings in the world for a parent is to feel like a burden on our children. I felt as if it would be very selfish of me to do so.
Sometimes life just has a way of working things out for us. I have been in desperate need of help with cleaning and organizing my apartment. It was built in 1970 and requires some major repairs. Repairs that will require me to move out for at least a whole week. I will also have to take my belongings with me so the floors can be replaced entirely.
I can no longer do things, like cleaning fast and furious, as I did in my younger years. Much less move furniture around. I knew I needed help, but I became silent in asking, hoping, and praying it would somehow all workout.
And it did. My beautiful Chelsea, my sweet baby girl, saw I needed help and came to my rescue. Like a little angel with the power of a tornado, she came into my home and got more done in a matter of days than I could have done in one year! She amazed me, and she also took a burden from me that was so heavy.
I never asked Chelsea for her help. She offered. Somehow, someway, my youngest daughter grew into a kind, loving, generous, and empathetic adult. I couldn’t be more proud of her. I doubt she realizes just how much her help means to me. She probably won’t be able to until someday, when she is older and in the same need for help. That is how life lessons work.
But that was not the only blessing to come out of this story. My daughter and I ended up spending much-needed and valuable one-on-one time. It had been way too long. Yes, we were sweating, and yes, we were doing not-so-pleasant chores, but the magic happened anyway. We laughed, cried, hugged, and were able to catch up on each other’s lives.
When Chelsea walked away, I was left with a clean apartment, organized rooms, and a heart full of love for my youngest. I felt revived, renewed, and ready to face Spring with a happy attitude.
Chelsea plans to return this weekend and help me finish a few loose ends. I can’t wait to see her. Not just for the help, which I am very grateful for, but for the one-on-one time we will be spending with each other again.
Now to find a way to spend some overdue one-on-one time with my other two daughters. It will be a challenge, but no doubt it will be worth it.
Another Mothers Day
The month of May brings many blessings. Sunny days, warmer temperatures, flowers, bright blue skies, and all things categorized as Spring. But it also brings the most coveted holiday for women who have children, Mother’s Day.
It’s true, that mothers should be thanked, appreciated, and showered with love every day of the year. After all, they earn their title daily. But it’s really special having a holiday on the calendar devoted just to us mothers. One day a year to receive special recognition for our years of hard work being the best moms we know to be. Even if we aren’t perfect at the job, most of us give it our best.
Even after our kids are grown, we never stop being a mother. Age just brings on a whole new set of worries, and reasons to pray for our children. They still need us in every phase of their lives, even if they don’t always realize it. No one can understand like a mother. She has already been through it all and has a reason for her advice. Moms never stop wanting to take away a problem from our children. If they hurt, we hurt. No matter how big or small. You never age out of being a mother. It will stay with you for the rest of your life and beyond.
This year marks 38 years that I have been a mother. I count the first year because I was carrying my firstborn in my womb. I was indeed already a Mama. I took care of her for 9 months in the most crucial of ways. Making sure she grew healthy. I tried with all my might to prepare a wonderful world for her to be born into. Long before she saw my face, she heard my voice, and my prayers for her.
I am still praying for her 38 years later, along with her two sisters that came along after. I have added three grandchildren to my prayers as well. It’s like an enormous ball of snow rolling down a mountain, growing bigger and better with a mother’s love all the way.
When I was a young Mama, it was a big deal to be recognized on Mother’s Day with cards and gifts. Homemade crafts from the children, a bouquet of Spring flowers, maybe. A day filled with well wishes and family. Now, after so many years, the need for recognition is no longer there. I don’t even need a card anymore. I couldn’t be prouder of the now three adults who made me a proud mother so many years ago! All I care about is hearing my grown children’s voice saying, “I love you Mama”. That is all I need for a happy day.
⚽ I spent 43 years of my life working at the local shipyard. I have been retired for 14 years and, as such things go, I have forgotten a lot about those years, but I haven’t forgotten how important Fridays & Sundays were during those times.
Each Friday I would get out of bed around 6 a.m., head for the bathroom to wash my face and to shave, and then get ready for work. Friday always put an extra hop in each step because Friday nights were always fun, and Saturdays allowed me to do anything I wanted. Most of us know that the anticipation of a vacation to some far-off place is almost as good as the actual trip itself. That’s why planning is so important: it allows you to experience the joy of anticipation and lets you double down on how enjoyable that vacation is going to be. The same applies to anticipating the weekend on Friday mornings.
Now, as a retired person, you would think I would have difficulty telling the difference between weekdays and workdays, and I admit it’s not the same, but back then it was a big thing. I had two small children (a son and a daughter) and weekends let me spend more time with them. Their mother worked at Sears on Saturdays, so I got to spend a lot of alone time with them during the winter months. They felt free to ask any question. Some were frivolous, some serious, and some difficult. I recall my daughter asking me when she was twelve how many times a week did men want sex? I always tried to be truthful with my children, but that question caught me off guard. After some thought, I looked her in the eye and said, “Sweetheart, men want sex often.” That wasn’t good enough for her, so she rephrased her question and asked how many times a week I wanted sex. I read a study once that said men think about sex in some way at least once during every waking hour. I didn’t realize it was that much, but I guess they were kinda right. I have no idea how much women think of it. Of course, those thoughts wane as we men age.
Anyway, back to my daughter’s question. After a few moments, I responded, “Sweetheart, it’s not important how many times I have sex with your mother, what’s important is how much we love each other.” The look on her face waffled back and forth like the bubble on a carpenter’s level. I explained to her that sex is an important part of love but that other things were equally as important, such as holding her mother’s hand as we walked, or putting my arms around her waist as we talked with friends, or showing her every day that I loved her by being attentive. To this day, I do not know whether that information helped her in any way, but I hope it did.
Ok, back to the weekend thang (hillbilly term 😊). As much joy as Friday & Saturday brought me, Sunday evenings were totally different. As each hour went by, the dread of having to get up the next morning and go to work haunted me. The fun was over; it was time to go back to work and “bring home the bacon” (that term originated in 1906 and pertained mostly to boxers who were expected to win and take money home). Sure ‘nuff, Monday morning would arrive, and I would shake off the sadness and head out the door to welcome another week filled with nothing but problems. Fulton J. Sheen famously said that “one becomes more interested in a job of work after the first impulse to drop it has been overcome.” As a teenager, I watched Bishop Sheen on TV (Life is Worth Living). He was often referred to as the first televangelist and won two Emmy Awards for Most Outstanding TV Personality. He died in 1979. I was always impressed by his knowledge and his piercing eyes. I always felt as if he were talking directly to me. Ah, the things we remember! 😊
⚽ I once read that what we say about others gets applied to us. I’m not so sure that I believe those words. It implies that if I say good things about you, then those good comments get applied to me as well. Hmm, I don’t think so. I think the intent was that if you say bad things about someone else, then they get applied to you. The person who came up with that idea didn’t think it all the way through. Of course, I’m guilty of doing the same thing, so I shouldn’t complain.
⚽ My Grandma McCoy had a sister (Naomi) who had 13 children, all named after someone in the King James version of the Bible. They lived just across the Virginia border in Kentucky (45 minutes away), so as a young boy of 4 or 5, my grandparents took me with them to visit her. I was amazed at how well behaved the kids were, and it was easy to tell who was in charge (Aunt Naomi 😊). Those visits were utterly confusing to me, because with so many kids around I felt insignificant and believed the other kids felt the same way, except for the older ones. As I got older and moved away, I forgot about that big, wonderful family that lived down by the river in the middle of nowhere. I have heard of larger families with 15 or more children, but the most prolific mother of all time, and the one that holds the record for childbirths, is Valentina Vassilyev (Russia 1707–82). She gave birth to 69 children, including 16 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets, and 4 sets of quadruplets. She was pregnant 27 times and 67 of her 69 children survived infancy. Now you would think this was the end of the story, but as it turns out, her husband, Russian farmer Feodor, fathered 6 sets of twins and 2 sets of triplets by a second woman, giving him a total of 87 children. Of course, we all know that mothering takes a lot more strength than fathering, so I’m not so much in awe of old Feodor as I am of Valentina.
I knew a family in our little coal camp whose mother, upon giving birth to her 5th child on a chilly winter morning, got out of bed in the afternoon and washed a load of clothes, and put them out on the clothesline to dry. I was amazed at that feat then, and still am to this day. I can only wonder what the neighbors thought about Valentina. I imagine there was fear on her face whenever Feodor looked at her with the gleam of passion in his eyes. Undoubtedly, tubal ligation (tying the fallopian tubes) wasn’t available in the 1700s, so the poor woman was doomed to be pregnant almost all of her adult life. I assume Feodor had more grandchildren and great-grandchildren than anyone else as well. Heck, he may be responsible for a large portion of the Russian population. I have a good friend in Russia (Irina), and I’m thinking that I should ask her if she knows about old Feodor’s reputation 😊.
Having raised two children, I’m at a loss on how you raise 87 of them. It was hard being a good parent for my two, I don’t know how that happens when the number goes that high. It’s a good thing that he was a farmer, because if he had to buy all the food for his family, the Devil would always be dancing in his back pocket 😊. I see it now: the school principal calls Mr. Vassilyev and says, “sir, we’re having a lot of trouble with Vladimir, could you come down to my office for a visit?” He scratches his head, pauses for a moment, and kindly says, “who?”
John Andrew Holmes said that “a child enters your home and makes so much noise for twenty years that you can hardly stand it. Then he departs, leaving the house so silent that you think you will go mad.”
Little Sponges… by JoAnn
January 18, 2023
Guest WoW, JoAnn
When I was in my early thirties, I had three young daughters to raise in a new town where I knew no one. I was a stay-at-home mom and spent most of my time at home. When I decided to take my girls to church, I was also excited for myself. While they were in their designated classes, I would be in my own. Most of my conversations were with my children or over the telephone. The idea of actually having conversations with someone closer to my age had only been a dream for several years. I looked forward to making new friends in church and growing deeper in my Christian walk.
Things didn’t quite work out the way I had imagined. It seemed the moment I walked into our new church, I was “volunteered” to do what I did best, take care of children. I was the new member, so I didn’t feel I could say no. But I was disappointed, to say the least. I was starving for interaction with someone older than the age of seven. It had also been some time since I had sat in a church pew and refreshed my faith with stimulating sermons, music, and prayer. I was even missing the lessons in Sunday school class that regular churchgoers often find boring. I needed a place where I could fit in with other adults. I told myself that maybe this was my calling for now and dove into the adventure of teaching youngsters.
The first class I had was a Wednesday night class for preschoolers. I not only wanted to do lessons that they would enjoy and have fun with, but I also wanted them to learn a valuable lesson about Jesus, just as I had done at their age when I was taken to church by my favorite aunt. I was certainly comfortable with the age group. Knowing from my own experience as a mom that these little ones were like sponges.
I devised a new lesson each week using a set of bible story cards I had at home. For example, I did the story of Jesus calming the storm and walking on water. I printed out copies of a picture for each child to color and glue different media on for effect. First, I would sit the kids down and tell them the story. They would become very quiet as they listened to me, their little faces letting me know that they were absorbing every word I shared. I was amazed at this at their age. It was true; small children are little sponges. They absorb everything they see and hear.
I had a lot of fun while I taught that little class, but I began to burn out after a while. This just wasn’t what I needed. I didn’t want to be selfish, but I had to fill the empty tank I was carrying around. It was my turn to be a sponge, and so I was. I began attending service on Wednesday nights instead of teaching or caring for children. I particularly loved the Wednesday night sermon because there was no singing or socializing like on Sunday mornings. It was more of a long bible study. A lesson for us adults. I loved it! I needed it! It was filling my empty tank, just as church should do.
I miss the little sponges I taught on those Wednesday nights so long ago. I often wonder how or where those kids are now. Do any of the lessons I gave stick with them? I’d like to think so.