Tags Posts tagged with "Parents"

Parents

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Parents recall forever the acute accidents experienced by their children and with the same emotional turmoil every time the memory surfaces. It’s as if the horror is locked in the mind, frozen in time.

For example, my first born, when he was a toddler, hated to stay in his crib. A tall child, he was intensely curious about the world around him and would wander to explore whenever the opportunity presented itself. Hence his frustration at being limited by a crib. Because of his height, he threatened to vault over the crib’s edge at an early age, and so my husband and I bought an extender fence that attached to the top of the crib’s rail and presented an insurmountable barrier to his escape. Or so we thought.

One night, when my parents were visiting, we had just put our son to bed and retreated to the kitchen for some after-dinner coffee and conversation when we heard a loud splat, followed by a blood curdling scream. When the four of us rushed into his bedroom, we found our 1-year-old splayed out on the cement floor, stopping only to suck in air for the next horrible scream. I don’t have to tell you what thoughts went through our heads.

I can picture the scene perfectly, in all its detail, to this day.

Then there was the time our second son, thrilled that he had just discovered his sea legs, was running at top speed across a green lawn in Texas. We were in front of the Air Force base hospital where my husband worked, and we were to meet him for lunch. Because we were early, we waited on the grass. I was desperate for some shade since the temperature was in excess of 100 degrees, and I was heavily pregnant with our third son. Settling myself beneath the lone tree in the park, I closed my eyes briefly, then looked over to track my toddler just in time to see him running on a perfect trajectory toward a girl swinging high in the distant playground. Struggling to my feet, I began to run after him, frantically calling his name. Either because he couldn’t hear or chose not to, he kept pumping his chubby little legs, with mine clumsily running to catch him. I can still picture the scene in horrifying slow motion and remember that I knew I would be too late.

Just as I put my arms out to grab him, the back arc of the swing smacked him in the mouth, and instantly there was blood everywhere. The poor girl on the swing that had come to an abrupt stop looked over her shoulder in terror at the sight. I scooped up my screaming and bloodied child, and ran with him cradled across my arms to his father’s office in the hospital. Again I can perfectly remember all the minute details as we burst through his door, especially the look of horror on my husband’s face as he took in the sight.

And then, not to be left out and because they have always been equal-opportunity children, there was the time the bloodied face of my 3-year-old third son came into my line of sight as I drove up the driveway from an early morning tennis game. With the babysitter crouched over him on the blacktop beside the kitchen stoop, bleeding profusely from a cut on his forehead, was my screaming child. He had somehow fallen sideways off the top step onto his head.

This visit to the hospital involved stitches. Fortunately for him, they have long ago healed and the scar is all but invisible. Too bad the memories don’t likewise fade. Such is the price of being a parent or having responsibility for a child’s life, whether a niece or nephew or grandchild or a babysitting charge. Whatever the accident, one can never forget.

The best way to get to know your kids, especially if they are teenagers, is to drive them and their friends, teammates and classmates. If your daughter texts you from school and asks, “Hey, Mom and/or Dad, can one of you drive three of my friends around?” don’t hesitate.

The answer, of course, can’t be what you might think. You can’t say, “Yes! Of course, that’d be great.”

You’ve got to play it cool, because the moment she catches on to the fact that you actually have ears and are listening to the conversation in the car, you’re done.

Yes, I know the temptation, after a long day, is to pick up only the kid that you’re responsible for, the one whose clothing you washed for the 10th time this week and whose teeth are straightening because you brought her to the orthodontist for yet another visit. However, the rewards from just a tad more effort more than tip the scales in favor of the few extra miles.

The key to making this supersecret spy mission work is not to let them use their phones, to take routes where cell reception is poor or, somehow, to encourage conversation. If they’re all sitting in the back seat, texting other people or showing each other pictures on one of the social networks, then the effort, time and assault on your nose aren’t worth it.

Seriously, anyone who has driven a group of teenagers around after a two-hour practice should keep a container of something that smells more tolerable nearby. When it’s too cold to stick my head out the window or when the smell becomes overwhelming, I have become a shallow mouth breather. But, again, if the conversation goes in the right direction, it’s worth it.

Put four or five or seven, if you can fit them, kids in a car, and you might get some high entertainment. If you’re quiet enough, you might learn a few things about school or your kids.

“So, Sheila is so ridiculous,” Allison recently declared to my daughter. “She only talks about herself and her feelings. Have you ever noticed that? She turns every conversation into a story about herself. I mean, the other day, she was telling me about her brother, and her story about her brother isn’t nearly as interesting as my story.”

At that point, Allison then talked about her brother and herself for the next five minutes.

Tempted as I was to ask about the story Sheila told about her brother, so I could compare the stream of stories about Sheila’s brother to Allison’s, I knew better.

The boys also enter the realm of the car social laboratory experiment after a game or practice.

“Hey, what’d you think about the movie in French?”

Wait, they watched a movie in French? Again, you can’t ask any questions or everyone retreats to their phones or remembers that the car isn’t driving itself. You have to be inconspicuous or you will be relegated to the penalty box of listening to one-word answers from your suddenly sullen sports star.

“You did well in that presentation in English?”

A presentation? English? Quiet! Quiet! You have to breathe normally and act like you’re giving all of your attention to the road.

Once the car empties and it’s just your son or daughter, you can ask specific questions. You might want to mix up some of the details, just so it doesn’t seem like you were listening carefully.

“So, you had a presentation in history?”

“No, Dad, that was in English,” your son will correct. Then he may share details that otherwise would never have made it past a stringent teenage filter.

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On the eve of this year’s Mother’s Day, I have a question to ask you. Do you ever think of your parents as people? Sounds like an odd question, but I mean thinking about them in terms of the times they live through, their private satisfactions, their fears and phobias, the experiences that mold them and so forth. We know the facts they choose to tell us about their lives but not their deepest thoughts and feelings.

We can’t ever really know them, even though we grow up in their home. Most of us consider them as loving to us, making our lives comfortable, caring for us when we are sick, instructing us how to behave, making our favorite birthday dinners. But there is more to their existence than their interactions with us.

I sat down to try and picture myself in their shoes.

I know that my father met my mother when he accompanied his older brother to the home of his brother’s fiancée for the first time. There, coming down the stairs in a red dress, was the sister of the fiancée, my mother. To hear my father tell it, he was struck instantly and forever by Cupid’s arrow. Although he was only 15, the sight of her took his breath away. So we know what my father was feeling, but how about her? Did she catch sight of him and feel the same overpowering love at first sight? Was she coming downstairs merely out of curiosity to meet her older sister’s intended, then to slip away for the afternoon with her friends? Did she have nervous or polite conversation with my father? What did they talk about? By the time she was 15 and he was 17, he had persuaded her to get married during her lunch hour in Manhattan’s City Hall. They prevailed upon two men in a nearby barbershop to be their witnesses and to swear that they were both of age. They then returned to work and to their separate homes that night.

My father was triumphant, I know, because he told us so, for now he had the love of his life as his own. Did he have any idea what that meant? You know, the stuff about making a home, supporting and caring for a wife? And my mother, my always and eminently practical mother? How had he convinced her to do this without telling her parents, her brothers and sisters, especially her older sister with whom she was dearly close? Hard as it is for me to picture, she must have been wildly in love.

Theirs was a youthful marriage that worked. They were seldom apart, only during the workday, and they eagerly reunited in the evenings. I could sense the quickening of her breath as we heard his key in the front door. And they began their nightly nonstop conversations as he entered the apartment. My sister and I fell asleep each night to the hum of their voices coming from the kitchen.

My dad was born in 1904, my mother in 1906, so they had both lived through World War I. My dad was lucky to be too young for the draft, but how did he feel seeing his older brothers marching off to war? And my mother? Was she worried about the fate of her older brother? I never asked them.

My parents decided everything together. My mother was more assertive about her opinions, but if my father didn’t agree she would back off. And while he seldom disagreed with her, when he did he was not reticent to let her know. They lived through the Great Depression, but I don’t know if they worried about money or job security. Were they afraid? There was no unemployment or health insurance then. Did they have nightmares about standing on breadlines? I never asked.

I do know that by 1939 they started their first business with all the life savings they had managed to scrape together. Then came Pearl Harbor and World War II. Once again my father was saved, being just beyond draft age. Did they feel threatened by the attack and the war? What were their thoughts and feelings? How did they cope with the stress? I came along then, but at no time in their lives did I think to ask.

Now, of course, it is too late.

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The first time we hold them, they fit into the corner of our arms with room to spare. Their impossibly small pink toes fit neatly in our eyelids as we kiss their wiggling feet.

We lower their grocery-sack-sized bodies gently into their cribs. During the day we bring food to their toothless mouths, and their bodies process the food as they take what they need and leave the rest for us to clean and remove.

Suddenly they are coasting, looking into the side of a couch, a chair or our legs, standing for the first time. Amid the cheers and squeals, they fall and we rush to the floor near them and congratulate them. Before long we’re bending down, gently holding tiny hands engulfed in our oven-mitt-sized palms.

From their first walking steps, they progress to trotting. It’s a wonderful yet terrible transition, as their developing minds can’t process dangers at the same rate that their feet propel them. We keep up or race ahead, making sure they don’t step off a curb until all movement on the street has stopped.

They no longer want to sit in the car seat. They arch backs that are shorter than our arms, making it impossible to buckle them in. We distract them enough to close the clasps, run to the front seat and bring the car to a high enough speed that they sleep.

We take them roller skating, skiing or ice skating. We start them early so they’ll become naturals. Brilliant idea, except that they need us to put our hands under their armpits to keep them upright. After a time far too short for our kids’ liking, our backs scream to stop. We can’t bend down or our spines will go on strike. At that point, these small people want hot chocolate or the chance to try skiing, snowboarding or rollerblading on their own.

We stand on a field, tossing a ball lightly near their gloves. They throw the ball back in our general direction, discouraged that they haven’t discovered the magic of a catch. We get down on one knee, look them in the eye, pull up their small chins and smile, hoping we can teach the mechanics of throwing before they become too upset to keep trying.

We protect their heads from colliding with the tops of tables, reach for glasses from the cabinet, and help them into the seats at restaurants where their feet dangle far from the floor.

Pretty soon, they want to ride a bike. We promise to hold on but our backs, yet again, have other ideas. They shout at us for letting go or, maybe, they decide they want to do it on their own because they saw Timmy down the street on his bike.

Their faces, arms and legs get longer, they pick up speed everywhere they go and, before long, their heads are above the level of the kitchen table. They reach down to pet the neighbors’ big dog, and they sit in restaurant chairs with enormous feet that rest on the floor and which we wouldn’t dare put anywhere near our eyelids.

We no longer have to bend our necks to kiss the tops of their heads. In fact, with their braces gleaming in the sun, they stare or glare from under the long hair of adolescence directly into our eyes. Pretty soon we hope, as we go to sleep each night, they will be taller than we are.

Wonderful as that moment is, maybe — just for an instant — we remember that the head perched atop this growing body is the same one that fit so snugly into our arms all those years ago.

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Senator Chuck Schumer is taking wireless network companies to task for poor service in areas of Long Island. File photo by Elana Glowatz

The dangers of social media and overall Internet use for children will be the topic of conversation at a parent workshop at Miller Place High School on Tuesday night.

Thomas Grimes of NY Finest Speakers gives a speech. Photo from Grimes
Thomas Grimes of NY Finest Speakers gives a speech. Photo from Grimes

Retired NYPD detective Thomas Grimes will be the speaker at the event, which is open to all parents in the district, from elementary through high school.

“The goal of the parent Internet safety workshop is to understand potential life-threatening scenarios, social networking and how to protect your child from innocent behaviors that predators utilize to plan the perfect ambush,” a press release from the district about the event said.

Grimes was a 20-year veteran of the NYPD and now owns “NY Finest Speakers,” a company which was formed in 2007 and is made up of former detectives and a former secret service agent, according to their website. Those officials are “dedicated to educating and protecting today’s young people and their parents from threats posed by Internet usage and drug involvement,” the release said.

During his 20 years in the NYPD, Grimes spent time in various task forces focused on organized crime and drug trafficking.