There was a message left at 1:27 pm yesterday, the day after my mammogram, “Please call us back.” Call them back? What about just waiting for that nice letter that arrives next week to tell me everything is ok? Hours had passed and kids swarmed the kitchen as I listened to the message. I waited […]
Monthly Archives: May 2012
When you hear Vietnam, do you immediately think “war”? It was the first word association I had when I heard my parents were planning to visit Vietnam for a vacation. Months later, through a series of lucky events, I ended up going in place of my Dad.
War has, indeed, been a repeating theme in Vietnamese history and without a doubt, the Vietnam War is more present and visible there than in the US, but traveling there, we also got a glimpse into the complexities and treasures of a culture and a people that run deeper than what they call the American War.
We landed in Hanoi at 10:00 pm on February 1, 2012, haggard and fatigued after the long flights, we met up with our tour group and guide, Quang, a 47 year old for whom, by the end of our time together, we would feel a special affection.
Since this was a tour group and planned for people more my parents age, it turned out that Quang and I were closer in age than the others. As he shared his life stories, I found myself continually figuring out what I was doing while he was swimming in flooded bomb craters during the rainy season or what it would feel like to have my brother leave home for another country, facing pirates and dangers, never to see him again.
What kind of parallel did his life have to mine growing up only 5 years apart? The comparisons were dramatic, I was safe, doing homework, school activities and swimming at beaches, my family was together, and in the post-war years, I happily studied at college and lived a carefree, peaceful, and fun-filled life. Quang grew up with the war.
A babysitter when I was about eight years old first introduced me to the song.
It’s a silly little ditty:
“Good Night, Leah,
Good Night, Leah,
Good Night, Leah,
It’s time to go to bed,
and she accented the “boops” with her hips as she left my doorway.
When Ali was little, I sang it to her and soon it was a regular part of our bedtime routine. Over the years (Ali is now 13) and through three children, the song has grown, changed and evolved. Each child has added his or her own individual enhancements. A second verse bloomed, “I love [insert kids’ name here], I love [kid sings Mommy/Daddy as parent sings kid’s name], I love [you get the idea], it’s time to go to bed, boop boop.” Michael now says “wee-ooo” instead of “boop boop,” we sing the names of everyone in the family (and our bird, Piper) and new phrases have crept in (“I love Ali, so much, I love Michael, so much…”)
As the song has lengthened, perhaps initially to delay the actual bedtime, it has remained a special part of ending the day. I don’t know how or when, but years ago, Anna (our youngest who just turned eight) began giving two kisses in between each phrase and instead of the boop boops. One night I realized she was counting the kisses on her fingers, we would end up with 16 kisses and run out of fingers, and then we always had to kiss four more times to get to an even 20.
I suggested she count by twos using one finger for each pair of kisses, so Anna started learning and practicing counting by twos. We added a challenge and I’d give her one kiss before singing and she’d need to count by twos on the odd numbers.
It certainly wasn’t how we’d planned to spend a preciously sunny Mother’s Day, but it was a day that tested me to live what I believe, a day that reminded me that I already know the value of gratitude.
I was reading a book in the hammock, feeling the warmth on my skin, listening to the kids take their first splashes in the pool (we finally figured out that opening it early makes a difference to a short Rhode Island pool season). My husband was tinkering around as he kept an eye on the kids; to give them access to the towel hooks, he moved the grill three inches to the left.
Those three inches cost us eight hours in the emergency room. A heavy, cast iron grilling pan slipped off the side shelf and landed squarely on my husband’s right big toe. Though he hopped around swearing beneath his breath and blood dripped everywhere he hopped, we didn’t think it would be so dramatic. At the advice of our nurse and doctor neighbors, we went to the hospital for a look and a tetanus shot.
The kids rallied, threw on cover ups, grabbed iPods (thank goodness) and off we headed, with my husband’s toe still bleeding all over. Huddled in the small room together, we learned that the damage was actually quite severe and it was good that we’d gone in, his toe was broken, he nail bed was smashed, he needed stitches and he was still bleeding.
The whole day, he kept apologizing and we kept laughing as people wished me a happy Mother’s Day, but really, it could’ve been so much worse. We were together. My three sweet kiddos, my dream-man-husband, hunkered down in waiting rooms, triage rooms and small ER rooms. We were together. Even though at times I was reading my book, the kids were entertaining themselves with technology, and my husband rested and watched some TV, we also shared little snuggles, kisses, told stories and colored. There were no words of bickering, there was not a single complaint, we were harmoniously, peacefully together and I just felt thankful.
Ever been stumped by your child’s tough question? Yeah, me too!
Children are naturally inquisitive and down and dirty scientists. My son has explored critters under stones, built himself a zip line between two trees (it really works after multiple variations and attempts) and even sleuthed out what kind of animal skull he found in the woods. A question lurks and a kid asks it, there’s no editing or second guessing like an adult might do.
I remember as a kid, I was impressed that whenever I was at my friend Bene’s, house, if a question or disagreement arose, the family went to the set of encyclopedias and immediately sought the answers. I loved that it didn’t float out there unanswered, I loved that we could hope to satisfy that curiosity. Kids want to know.
Today, the internet provides us an even greater tool to help give our children the accurate answers they crave immediately. As parents, we get to read and learn something new ourselves and then help to break it down and explain it to our children at an age-appropriate level. An inquiry by a kindergartener can be answered with pictures and simpler phrasing while a teen’s question can become an in-depth discussion or the spark for their next school project.