Tag Archives: Children

What we should learn from our Mothers, about being Mothers

The Bath by Mary Cassatt

We should learn from our mothers how not to be devils

How not to bind our children in chains

And if we already have,

How to set them free

Because we so fiercely protective, we can be seen as interfering without meaning to.  We could take charge and involve ourselves where we have no business.  In the private sanctuaries of our children’s hearts.

We run the risk of interfering because we think we know better.  We do not want our children to stumble so we stop them from venturing out and trying.  We block the little falls they so desperately need in order to avoid those big falls.

There is always the danger of not approving so often, that we become disapproving.  That our children feel unwanted and unsafe near us.  That they stay away.

My buddy told me that the day her mom died it felt like a big, black devil climbed off her back.  And so many of us have the same without even realizing it.  We are wrapped in chains and bondage to what our mothers think or might say.  That ever disapproving down-turn of the mouth.  Those criticizing eyes.  That feeling of condemnation.  The dread of nearness.

Our own mothers are from a completely different generation.  They just got on with life.   Their mothers did not run to school every time they had issues with teachers, they did not interfere in friendships because they were simply too busy.  They were not pampered and mollycoddled.  That has predisposed them to  disapprove of the way we raise our children and the way we chose to live our lives.

We should learn to set our children free, exactly because our own mothers did not release us.

And how sad to wait for it to happen in death.

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Clara Harris – How dare you leave me?

In 2003 Clara Harris was convicted of the murder of her husband David Harris.  That she killed him was never disputed because it was caught on camera.  Clara, either in a fit of rage, or accidentally, ran her husband over in a hotel parking lot where he had met with his mistress, Gail Bridges.

Clara was born in Bogotá and worked hard to fulfil her dream of working in the United States.  A dentist, she met David Harris, an orthodontist and together they ran half a dozen successful dental offices.

Everybody in their workplace was aware of David’s affair with the office assistant, Gail, who had earlier, during her own divorce proceedings, been implicated in an affair with a woman called Julie Knight.

The jury took into account ‘sudden passion’ before sentencing Clara to twenty years in prison.

Clara Harris was a woman who worked hard at success, in life and in marriage.  The news of David’s affair came as a devastating blow to her and she became intensely insecure.  She went so far as to ask David to make a list of comparisons between her and Gail which she set out to correct immediately.  Such as losing weight, colouring her hair and making an appointment with a plastic surgeon.

On the night of the murder, David had told her that he was meeting with Gail at the hotel to put an end to the affair.  When he did not return home, Clara and Lindsey (David’s daughter) went to the hotel to look for him.  Now I can imagine what state she was in.  How her stomach turned in fear of what she would find.  And what she did find was David and Gail walking in the hotel lobby, hand in hand.  They had spent two hours together in a hotel room.

A scene followed in the hotel lobby with Clara apparently attacking Gail.  David then took Gail to the car park and Clara and Lindsey got into her Mercedes.  At some point, as she spotted David and Gail, Clara put her foot down and tried to run them over.  She says all of that time is a blur to her.  Gail was injured slightly but David was seriously hurt.  Onlookers say that Clara then ran over David again and again.  He died shortly after.

Now I don’t condone what she did, murder is not a solution to any problem.  But I can put myself in Clara’s shoes.  Firstly, she was completely unaware of her husband’s affair although everyone around her knew.  Secondly, when she found out, she did everything in her power to get him back, including more sex.

David’s behaviour is not really shocking, I suppose many men do the same.  But to compare her physical attributes to Gail’s is a bit low.

I will not dwell on Gail Bridges.  Suffice it to say that I cannot have sympathy for any woman who puts herself in a position where she could break up a family and destroy children’s lives.

Clara is not a character that invokes sympathy, but I think thousands of women could empathise with her.  The woman scorned.  Not out for revenge, but suddenly confronted with the fact that her husband does not want her anymore.  Lies, sex and rejection.  And a sudden fit of passion in more than one sense of the word that ended in the death of one, and the misery of more.


Annoying Mothers

I work in an industry where I deal with children and so by default, with mothers.  Most moms are normal and stay behind the scenes, but you always have one or two who interfere, make ridiculous demands and are so difficult to deal with that you actually wish their children away.  And sadly, the children are often precocious and unbearable too.

Some mothers never stop telling their girls to sit still, straighten up, speak louder, stop fiddling etc etc.  And rarely do these daughters benefit from the constant reprimanding.  They are in fact highly insecure.

One had no problem demanding to see my teaching syllabus for the year so that she could approve it.  Nor did it enter her mind as ridiculous when she told me to move a class to another day because it does not suit her.  Never a thought about the other parents inconvenienced.

These are the mothers that would arrive at an arranged half-an-hour photo shoot with so many bags full of clothes and shoes that the shoot turns into a two-hour affair.  But they would not think to offer the photographer more money.  Then again, neither do they settle COD as arranged.  I would imagine that this mother has been, and will be hated by every teacher that has the misfortune of having little missy in their class.

I believe that mothers should be hands-on.  They must know what is going on in their children’s lives and if the child is being wronged, they have to intervene.  As for the rest, staying on the background is healthier for the mental health of all concerned.

Mom, stop for a second and evaluate your behaviour when interacting with those who have to help guide your child through life.  Be a little considerate and think before you make demands.  Try to be nice.  Don’t make a nuisance of yourself because in the end, you will be seen as an insufferable bore and your child will be disliked.

In fact, get a copy of ‘How to make friends and influence people’ by Dale Carnegie.  It was written just for you.


Love parted

They were sixteen when they fell in love.  They graduated together.

They couldn’t keep their hands off one another and did not go out much.  Preferring to stay home to watch movies and cuddle.  Doing everything together, as young love does.

Someone drew a cartoon of everyone who matriculated that year.  They were the only two depicted as one.

Her dream was to study at a prestigious acting school in Los Angeles.  She was selected, and left.  He remained behind to pursue his studies.

All the parents watched.  And sighed.

Now it is their third year apart and he still has three years of studying ahead of him.

Both mothers’ hearts break for their children.  But they do not interfere.  How do you give advice on something you have no understanding of?  Courting over Skype in spite of an eleven hour time difference.  Touching physically for a little while only twice a year.

While so young and restless.

What everyone does understand is that if this relationship makes it, they would have earned it.  The usual issues that crop up and are dealt with over time has to be sorted out quickly.  Like jealousy and trust.  All of us might have time to fight it, or fight about it.  They don’t.  You cannot distrust the other at night when you are alone in your bed, and make it work.  Trust for them is a decision, not a feeling.

Everyone who knows them, roots for them.  Because they deserve it.

They take it one day at a time, with the optimism of their youth.  Not looking too far into the future.  Not sweating the small stuff.  They simply love, and believe that they are loved.  Trusting that this love will be rewarded.

I know that they will both be richer for having had one another, no matter what.  I also understand that to pass this test, they need character, and strength, and endurance, and faith.  Which the passage of time, and the separation itself provides.

These two stones rub against one another, sanding hard.  The pain released builds character which will be its own reward in time to come.

You are so faithful and brave my little children that my heart aches when I look at you, when my thoughts touch upon you.

I pray God’s favour over you.  May He give you all the desires of your hearts till there is room for no more.   And keep you strong and content, and faithful, and pure.

I have so much I want to ask for you, but rest in asking that His will be done.  Because I don’t know what is best for you, nor do I know what the future holds for you.

And it is not for me to decide.


Stepmothers

Why do some women feel threatened by their stepchildren?  Especially their stepdaughters?

I know of one woman who has forbidden her husband from seeing his daughter because she doesn’t like her.  It is a lovely girl with good manners but she dared to stand up to the stepmother once.  This child suffers from depression and has tried to commit suicide once already.

If Dad wants to see her, he has to meet with her outside of his own house.  He is not allowed to help her with money, buy a car or any of the things parents usually do for their children once they come of age.  But, he has to pay everything for stepmom’s child, including handing over a car and allowing her to live in his house.

Recently the Gran went to visit and dinner at a restaurant was organized.  Stepmom had to attend but spat on the sentiment by sitting at another table.

I can put up with a lot but these shoes are hard to imagine on my feet.

I believe it is harder for a woman to accept another woman’s child, than it is for a man to accept another man’s child.  I get all of that.  But how could anyone be so mean, callous, cold-hearted, malicious and wicked?  No wonder there is not one good stepmother in fairy tales.  In days where so many women died during childbirth, stepmothers were a dime-a-dozen.  Those authors knew what they were talking about.

Which brings me to the next point.  Why is dad allowing this?  Because he is too scared to stand up to his wife, at the cost of his child.  Because it is easier to do what his wife says than to put up with her continuous moaning and bitching.  Tis true.  And too many men who fall for this one.

Wrong move Dad.  You would only have to put your foot down for so long before mom gets the message.  Or you could take away the credit card.  You are after all the head of the home, why don’t you start flexing your muscles a bit?  Yes it will be hard and yes it might take a while, but it will be worth it.  And you know what?  Once you have made the decision to swallow your fear, the battle is half-won.  Nothing worthwhile comes easy but leaving it as not to disturb the peace is cowardly.  You will regret it when you are old or sick and your children don’t visit (out of habit or because they think they hate you).

And stepmom, you are messing with the life of a child.  You could be ruining a perfectly good human being.  Take a chill-pill and step aside.  Perhaps that is what the STEP stood for all along.

PS:  I know that not all stepmothers are bad.


There is enough time in a day

Here are two facts:

  • The more you do, the more you get done
  • The less you do, the less time you have even for little things

When my drinking was at its worst I hardly functioned.  Everything seemed like an insurmountable mountain, so I just shelved it.  Which meant I had to do the same with every new task after that.  It all just snowballed.  I copied what I had to do today into tomorrow’s calendar, then into the day after and so forth until even re-writing it became too much.  The guilt and worry over all my unfinished business haunted my nights.

Under normal circumstances though, I find that even when I have a lot to do, there is always a bit of time to tackle something else.  Because it is true that each day has enough time for the things of that day.  And you will be rewarded with that wonderful sense of accomplishment when you have completed all you had set out to do.

Your body produces adrenalin when you are busy which propels you forward.  It helps you do and achieve more.

It is so easy to get home tired and be unavailable to those who love you most.  A good rule is to allow yourself and/or your spouse thirty minutes from when you step in the door to unwind.  To do whatever you want.  Afterwards it will be easier to face and listen to your family.  We are not a chatty household.  But we always know what is happening in one another’s lives.  When there is a problem, I set the table and we discuss the issue at dinner.

I am always so pleased when I complete the evening’s cooking because it is the very last thing I have to do.  After that I can officially wipe out the “5th of February 2012”. There is a great sense of relief in retiring to my bedroom.  It is also the time that partners talk and enjoy one another.

Getting through each day without worry or stress requires faith.  It also requires staying in the moment and not running ahead of yourself.  When we were tied up on the floor during our armed robbery, I had the pleasure of realizing the concept of staying in the moment.  There was no point in thinking about what they could do to us.  What use would it have been had I considered that they could gang-rape me?  And that they probably had AIDS?  Or that they could shoot us?  Instead, I stayed focused on what was happening at that instant, so that I could do whatever was best for that moment.  The preservation of our lives outweighed all scary future scenarios.  I was fully anchored in each exact second.  Which created a sense of calm in everybody and ultimately saved our lives.

So, make a list of everything that needs to be done today.  And don’t stress about it.  Tackle them one at a time without worrying about the next one.  And if there is something that you cannot get to, put it under tomorrow.

Because, tomorrow is a brand new day.


When is a house a Home?

For me, home means safety and security.  That is what our armed robbery almost destroyed.

It is also a place of love, comfourt, forgiveness and caring.  We should feel safe inside our homes, protected from the outside world.  But we should also feel secure in one other, and protected by one another.

The people in a home should be transparent with each other, yet have enough love to overlook a host of transgressions.  I am reminded of Liz Murray, in her book Breaking Night:  A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard of which I wrote in a previous blog.  Her parents were both drug addicts and she was out on the streets early on.  I kept wondering why Liz became the success story that she is in spite of her background and circumstances.  The only answer that presented itself to me was love.  Her parents were honest about what they were, and they loved her.  She never doubted that and it was this love that allowed her to rise above what seemed to be her destiny.

Inside a house there might be much or little, neither which make for a loving home.  Parents who admit their mistakes do.  Children who respect their parents though they might not agree, do.  People who accept one another’s faults, do.

Two, or four, or however many people living together have to be able to give one another space.   My Uncle and Aunt had seven sons, one after the other, nine in one house which was by no means spacious.  They had to learn to cohabit their home in a way that made them one unit, yet where each still had enough space to be an individual.

It is not always easy to share your space with others, especially if your personal bubble is big, and you crave a lot of ‘me time’.  But therein lays the secret.  That which hurts, grows.  That which scrapes and scours, builds.  That is what the people in your home do.  They build character in you, they teach you, and they grow you.

Left to yourself, you would never become what you are ultimately, capable of being.