Adventures in Babysitting … er, ParentingAdventures in Parenting At home with columnist Lana Leeper
By: Lana Leeper , Living North Magazine
My daughters are my date on Mother’s Day. To them it’s a day where mama takes them to wherever Annasty wants to eat. For me it’s another reminder of my single mama status. All of the women are out with their spouses and I’m on the floor at Red Lobster picking bits of cheesy garlic bread out of the carpet in an attempt to look like a conscientious patron. But at the end of the day when the girls are settled down for the night and I’m sitting on the back porch reflecting on the day, I feel good. There is something in me that takes pride in the struggle involved in doing everything myself, and being confronted by my singledom only reaffirms my sense of pride.
Because neither of my daughters are with me on a full-time basis I take extra care in the way we spend our time together and try to make the most of it. There are times when I can feel the anger well inside me and I have to take a deep breath and think things through. It’s easy to get caught up in emotions, but I find my most successful days are when I take a step back and remember what it was like to be a child. Eldridge Cleaver once wrote, “Sensitivity is a sign of intelligence.” To this day that is my favorite quote. It can be applied in so many various situations. It also reminds me of Annasty’s first grade teacher and her philosophy on life. Mrs. Scroggins seemed to have a similar approach. Annasty never had a bad day in her class, but she had plenty of bad moments. But it was the overall positive that she was taught to focus on and she brought that lesson home to me.
And as a family we’ve had our share of bad moments, but they usually bud into something positive. I remember when my dad and granny were up to visit. I hadn’t seen either of them in years and Annasty was just 3 at the time. It was important to me that we all spend as much time together as possible, but it was difficult to juggle the preparation of meals and entertaining both them and a toddler. I was frying chicken and talking with them when Annasty came into the room to ask for a paintbrush. As I was explaining to her that she would have to wait until after dinner, the grease spilt over the edge of the pan of frying chicken and caught fire. Between my shouts, the grease spitting, and flying flour, Annasty ran to our room crying, and I was able to put the fire out safely. As soon as I had dinner back under control I went to comfort Annasty. As a devout Christian she couldn’t understand why a fire and possible death was such a bad deal if you got to go to heaven to be with Jesus. That conversation in itself was an endearing moment – though she refers to it as, “the time I asked you for too much,” which still makes me a little sad.
A child can never really ask you for too much. They will push and push in search of boundaries, but finding their “fence” gives them a sense of containment and security. As a parent I provide this out of love and I’m rewarded daily. There are certainly the ups and downs, the good and the bad moments, and I prefer not to fight fires or wield paintbrushes through the smoke. Or later try to explain to a 3-year-old that this life, with all of its faults, is my heaven and I’m not ready for us to perish just yet. But in the end everything is balanced out when Annasty tells me she loves me, though now that she’s gotten older I’m just “the best mama ever.” Up until she was in about third grade she would call from the backseat of the car or from her room where she was playing, “Mama?” and when I responded, “Yes?” she would say, “I love you.”
“I love you” is something Nevaeh is just learning how to say, and in both English and Spanish. When I started working towards a degree in college I incorporated Spanish into my curriculum, using it to meet general elective credits. Having the knowledge to read, speak, and write another language has no negative consequence. It is also something I want to pass on to my daughters, and I’ve found the easiest way to incorporate Spanish into our lives is through shows and music. Nothing calms Nevaeh better in a long car ride than mama belting out the ABCs in Spanish, English, Spanish, and back again. Generally following the first verse she has joined in and Annasty can’t help but follow suit. This spontaneity and positive reaction to an otherwise stressful situation has overflowed into other scenarios. It’s not uncommon to hear Nevaeh sing herself to sleep – and what’s better than a rusty set of ABCs in Spanish at 16 months old?
Seeing the way Annasty and Nevaeh interact now is one of my favorite things. Nevaeh will crack Annasty across the chest with a book during just about any ride in the car. Six months ago Annasty would have been sulking; now she just seeks an apology. They hug, kiss, and two minutes later Nevaeh does it again. Annasty forgives her each time though, and eventually she takes the book from Nevaeh, but that’s the worst of it. They adore one another. If Nevaeh has a choice she follows Annasty around. I’m left forgotten in another room, wondering what to do with myself. “Aah-stee” was actually one of Nevaeh’s first words and “I sarry” is one of her newest phrases. And each day with the two of them is an adventure, a memory in the making. Watching Nevaeh reach out and pet Annasty’s hair in the restaurant, or Annasty pull Nevaeh into her lap to read her a book or three, makes every day we spend together, Mother’s day.