Thursday, May 06, 2010

Too Grown Up, Too Fast

I never imagined you would be so mature so quickly. How can a four year old possibly wrap her mind around the eternal questions you have been considering of late. Ever since your Granddaddy died, you have talked a lot about the concepts of heaven and hell and death. You try to be a little consoler, reminding me and Grammy any time you can that when we see Granddaddy in heaven, we won’t be sad anymore. You like to describe in vivid preschooler detail how joyous that reunion will be. You say things like, “Mommy, I know you are sad now. But when you get to heaven you will hug Granddaddy so tight and you will be so happy. You should think about that Mommy, when you feel sad.” You tell Grammy you can see Granddaddy waving in the clouds, or blowing kisses to you both when you are driving in the car together. Once you even told Grammy that he told you to tell her he loved her very much. You talk to me about how much you miss him and how he is your favorite Granddaddy. We cry together sometimes.

You worry about these things too much. No child should ever have to question these kinds of things. You shouldn’t have to comfort me. You shouldn’t have to play the part of a little adult because the adults around you are so damaged.

My heart just constricts when I think about your premature concerns of your own eternal destiny. You worry that you “do too many bad things to go to heaven.” You have even started blaming yourself for your Daddy’s depression, saying if you weren’t such a “bad person” your Daddy wouldn’t be sad all the time…that he wouldn’t be upset. I tell you over and over again that these things aren’t true. I remind you that you have asked Jesus into your heart, that you know He died on the cross for your sins, and that He is alive. (Maybe I haven’t done a good enough job of letting you see how truly salvation is through Him, and Him alone – that our works, good or bad, do not determine our relationship with the Father. Is it a curse of our holiness upbringing that all our children live in fear of the rapture/death because they never think they are good enough?) And I adamantly tell you every time the topic arises that your Daddy’s illness has nothing to do with you. I’m not sure you are listening.

Instead you are probably taking in the tense, stressed out faces of your mommy and daddy as they deal with the symptoms of a mental illness that has already claimed the life of one family member. You watch Grandma and Granddaddy Bryan work a little too hard to keep everything appearing normal. You see through the faƧade of “everything is fine” when you visit Grammy’s house and instead pick up on the nearly suffocating grief that seems to permeate everything in that lonely place. Words of comfort mean little coming from adults who are searching for comfort and answers themselves.

I’m sorry you have to go through this period of confusion with us, little girl. I pray and pray and pray that you aren’t being irreparably damaged by it all. I pray for God to give me strength patience and wisdom to answer all your questions the right way, and to pick up on the things you aren’t saying too, so your fears can been diminished. Someday soon we will all feel secure again…the world won’t be upside down forever. I can’t wait for that day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Missing My Little One

I want to set the record straight on something. I HATE being away from you, Petra Sky.

Ever since you and daddy started staying with Grandma and Grandaddy, and I've been forced to stay here in Henderson so I can finish out my time at my current job, I have been a miserable mommy. I miss you more than you can ever imagine. I stand in your room sometimes and choke back tears because I feel like a part of me is missing. I can't imagine what it must be like for parents who are divorced and this is the way it is all the time - only seeing their children on the weekends. It's just not worth it! I feel like you are growing up without me, even though it's only been a very short time. Your sweet little voice on the telephone makes my heart ache. When we are together on the weekends, I love cuddling up to you and holding you. I love all the kisses you give so freely.

This whole process is hard on you, and that hurts me too. You don't understand why I have to be away from you and daddy. You don't understand why we had to leave our home and why we still haven't found a 'new house'. You don't understand why daddy is sad all the time or why mommy can't play with you sometimes because she has to spend time 'helping' him feel better. How can I explain depression to a four-year-old? How can I explain a struggling economy, or job loss, or a bad real estate market? I try. I try hard. I tell you that it's not your fault. You haven't done anything wrong. You are good and smart and wonderful and beautiful and things won't always be like this. We won't always be apart.

I promise.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Moving is Hard to Do

Moving. It seems to be the story of my life, but I really had hoped it wouldn't be the story of yours.

When we came to South Henderson, I really had thought this was going to be someplace we could be long term. The church has been such a good fit for all of us - you included. I remember when we first came and you were SO shy. You wouldn't talk to anyone, you hid behind my legs in apparent terror when anyone tried to speak to you. I was really worried that you would never really adapt to this big new world with so many strangers in it.

But you have adapted...beautifully. You love your Wednesday night Rainbows teachers, Ms. Shelia, Ms. Kathy, and Ms. Heather. You love all the ladies on the Kings Kids teacher rotation. You made a very special friendship with our Senior's Pastor's wife, Ms. Peggy. You have played with Pastor Rhonda and the secretary Ms. Jeannene. And you've even come to love and accept many of the teenagers (I think our drummer, Adam, will always be your image of 'Prince Charming'!)

Of course you've been blessed with friends your age as well. Madision is your best friend - you two are inseparable at church. At times the promise of seeing Madision was the only thing that would get you out of the bed in the morning (my little night owl!). You have grown to love the children in your class at Great Beginnings. You call Kyra and Sierra your 'sisters' and have told me rather definitively that you are going to marry R.J. when you both get 'grown up.' Daycare was another thing I had worried about, but you showed me just how adaptable you can be.

Now we're moving. It wasn't something we wanted. It's very hard on all of us to let go of these wonderful relationships we've built here. You are pretty ticked off about the whole thing: "Why do we have to move?" "But I like our house!" "I'm going to miss my friends in Ms. Twanda's class..." "I don't want to go to a new church!" "Are they (all the church people) coming with us?" One of the sweetest - and most heartbreaking - things you have said came up when I offered to paint your bedroom pink when we move into a new house. You said, "Well, that's okay, but I want you to paint a picture of me and Madision and Adam and Brittany on the wall. We will all be princesses, except for Adam. He can be a prince because he's a boy." Every time I think about that I tear up.

It's been hard for you since my daddy died and through all the emotional roller coaster since. You don't understand why mommy and daddy are sad so much. You don't understand why you and daddy are staying with Grandma and Grandaddy, while I have to keep working in Henderson during the week. It's tough. I hate being away from you more than you can even imagine. When I get to come to Sanford on the weekends, I don't want to ever let you go. I am trying to look back at how well you adapted to our new life in Henderson and believe that God will help you to have the same reseliancy in our new life in Sanford. I think it will help that we will be close to Grammy and Grandma and Grandaddy and all of our extended family.

Being a pastor's kid just doesn't lend itself to the stability that I had when I was growing up. I don't remember the first house I lived in. I've seen pictures of it - a trailer in Hearn's Mobile Home Park at the end of MeMa's road. All of my memories are tied up in the home that Grammy lives in now - where I lived from the time I was 3 years old until I graduated from high school. Your daddy on the other hand lived in several different places growing up - Pembroke, Chocawinity, Fayettville, and Sanford. I can't say that one way of growing up is better than the other. I just hope that God will help me to always create postive experiences whenever we have to move. I also hope that you will learn as you grow older that home is where your family is, no matter what town that may be and Christ is our stability at all times, no matter what changes we face.

So let's start packing!

Thursday, December 31, 2009

We Will Remember

Petra, I never imagined having to write this. I never imagined that I would have to make an effort to help you remember one of your grandparents. I just thought all of them would be there for you for the better part of your life. That they would watch you in dance recitals or ball games, concerts and plays...that they would watch you graduate and walk down the aisle to be married someday. The only reason they wouldn't see those things, in my naive mind was if the Lord came back and raptured us all home before those things occurred. Never, ever did I consider that one of them would die before you were even old enough to really remember them.

But here we are.

Your Grandaddy, "Grammy's Grandaddy" as you like to distinguish him, my Daddy, died on December 7, 2009. This has been the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my life. There is no comparison to be made to this kind of grief. I know if the Lord tarries, you will have to go through it someday - I pray earnestly that it will not be this sudden and more than that, that it will not be under such traumatizing circumstances. Someday perhaps I can go into the details of how Grandaddy died. I just can't do it right now...not in this post. This post is about my commitment to you to help you remember someone who should never be forgotten.

Your Grandaddy was the strongest man I have ever known. He was the one who could always be counted on in every situation. If something needed to be done, if there was a crisis staring you in the face, he was our anchor. My mom, your Grammy, always has had the reputation of being the 'strong one' in her family. But I saw the truth of the matter - she was strong, but he was her rock. He took care of everyone...me and my brother, Grammy, MeMa, and really even his sister-in-laws knew they could count on him when they needed anything.

He was a man of integrity - a hard worker who gained the respect of all of his coworkers and those who worked under him. Everyone who was touched by his life was changed for the better. His work ethic was second to none and the bar he raised on every task was often a hard one to live up to. No one kept a more immaculate car or yard. No house was better maintained. So much of his identity was wrapped up in what he did and how well he did it. He was a perfectionist, no doubt about it.

But I also remember the tender love he always showed to our family. He was never hesitant to tell you he loved you, to wrap you up in a strong hug, or kiss you on the cheek. He worked hard, but those times we did get to spend together he never held back in showing us how much he cared about us. I remember playing tag in the yard with him, or shooting hoops at the end of the driveway. I remember baking him little cakes with my Easy Bake oven which he would always eat and tell me how good they were, no matter how badly mixed or how runny the icing. He was always there and it was his presence that made me always feel safe and loved. He worked a lot - too much really. But the times that it mattered the most, he was there. He was there, and now I admit I feel very lost at the thought that he isn't anymore.

Oh, how he loved you. You were his first grandchild and the only one I am to sad to say he ever knew. He loved you and showed a reckless childlike abandon when he spent time with you. He would roll around on the floor with you, play hide and seek, make funny voices for dolls and stuffed animals. You would jump out from behind his recliner and yell, "Boo!" and he would jump and make a big deal out of pretending to be scared. You spent a lot of time outside together, watering the garden or playing on the swingset. You would play in the sand box for hours, and he never seemed to mind you dumping play sand all over the yard (Uncle Joe nor I could have ever gotten away with that!).

They had a big playground at Lakewood Campground at Myrtle Beach where we would all go together. I have such great memories of you and Grandaddy running around that playground, or playing in the arcade. He went and bought cereal so you could feed the ducks.

I also remember the two of you playing in the leaves. You were the only person ever allowed to mess up his leaf piles. One time we were staying at Grammy and Grandaddy's house and I heard you doing something in their bathroom at the back of the house. When I went back there to check on you, there you were standing in the shower surrounded by piles of unrolled toliet paper, Grandaddy standing over you grinning. I started to scold you, but he interrupted me, saying, "Oh, it don't matter. We'll just buy some more at Sam's." My mouth dropped open. Where was my spend-thrift dad? He'd somehow been replaced by a ready-to-spoil grandaddy.

You are going to miss out on so much with him gone. I hope I can keep the memories of him alive in you. I don't want you to ever forget.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Christmas is not about wrapping paper and bows...

We were heading home from church last night, just the two of us in the car. Daddy was home sick - bronchitis, the poor thing. I hope you don't inherit his propensity to catch upper respirator type infections...he gets twice as many as I do, I think. You were 'oohing' and 'aaahhhing' over all the Christmas lights we passed. I'm enjoying the fact that this Christmas season you are really able to take in and enjoy some of those little things for the first time. We took you to see Christmas lights before, but you seemed only briefly fascinated. I think we'll have to plan a special Christmas-light-viewing-outing this year.

There are a lot of traditions for you to enjoy during the holidays. Before our big family get-togethers on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we have some traditions we follow throughout the month of December. We have a felt count-down-to-Christmas calendar that we use to build excitement through the weeks leading up to Christmas. There are Christmas plays and musicals at church to plan for, practice for, and enjoy. When we are home, we always try to watch a lot of Christmas movies during December. Daddy is all about finding that radio station that plays 24-hour Christmas carols to listen to in the car. We love to shop for our family members and really take the time to buy them things that reflect their individual personalities, not just what the 'hot' item might be that year. I am hoping you and I can start some new traditions of our own as well. I want you and I to make some Christmas cookies together, and make some homemade Christmas cards for the granparents. I'm even optimistically thinking you might be able to help me wrap some of the gifts. Granted they won't be as "perfect" as I used to make my gifts look when I first got married, but I don't think that matters.

Boy, did I obsess over the package trimming those first couple of years though. Clothing had to be placed in tissue paper before it went in the box....wrapping paper had to be unique and elegant....every package had to have ribbon wrapped fancifully around it. I made my own bows or embellished store bought ones. Once I started teaching full-time life got a lot busier and ministry responsibilities around the holidays became more intense. Soon I had stopped worrying so much about the look of the package on the outside and became more concerned on what was on the inside. By the time I had you, well....let's just say last year the packages just did have cheap little stick on bows and more than half of the gifts ended up in gift bags. I have to chuckle when I think about it. All that fanciful wrapping usually got crushed or messed up when we had to pack all those gifts into the trunk of our little car for the 3+ hour drive back to Sanford. And even the ones that did survive the trip were destroyed in 0.5 seconds of excitement.

So that's my life lesson for today, I suppose; don't obsess so much on the outer trappings, whether in Christmas or just in life in general. It's what is inside that counts.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Frustrating But Fascinating Fours

Everyone talks about the 'terrible twos' and the 'trying threes'...now I've coined a new expression - the 'frustrating fours'. You really weren't that bad at two or three. A tantrum here and there, but overall nothing that overwhelming. Now I'm beginning to think you saved it all up until now.

In the past month you have become argumentative, defiant, irrational and often hysterical. It takes little to no provocation to send you right on over the deep end. The tantrums you had at 2 and 3 resemble mild spring showers compared to the hurricane force meltdowns you have now. You have mood swings like a pendulum - one minute it's "I love you so much mommy! You are my best friend!"....the next minute it's "Don't say that to me! Leave me alone! I'm going to my room!" I think a lot of it seems to be connected with how much down time you have at home. Days when we aren't home very much because of school and church responsibilities, you seem to do worse. Yesterday, when we were home all afternoon and evening, you did great and were as sweet as sugar all day. I guess I have to adjust to the fact that you are going to need more time at home to 'download' all that's going on in that little head of yours and the old break-neck paced schedule that worked when you were smaller may not be viable now.

That's not to say you haven't matured in some other areas. Your vocabulary continues to astound and you sound like a little adult in your conversation a lot of the time. I've been really proud of the way your grasp of spiritual concepts has been improving. You really seem to have a good hold on the concepts of 'sin' and why Jesus died on the cross to erase those sins. You have started apologizing on your own for bad behavior, without being prompted (some of the time anyway) and you even ask me to pray with you that God would forgive you too. I'm so proud of that. On your good days, you seem to be more considerate of other people's feelings than you used to be. I hope that's a sign that you are starting to grow out of the whole 'the world revolves around me' stage and start being more social and willing to share.

You are into so many things....you are a good artist; you draw pictures of people much better than I think I ever did at this age. You like to 'work' on things with your tool set and dance to music on the cd player. You also like to play your Leapster (Pet Pals mostly), Thomas the Train, and Polly Pocket and the Disney Princesses. And of course, you love to play with your "best friend" Madision at preschool and at church.

You watch Nick Jr. on television more than Disney Channel (though you are still fond of Handy Manny). Your favorite shows seem to be Yo Gabba Gabba (I call that show 'Seseme Street on drugs'....weeeeird...), Ni Hao Kai Lan, Dora the Explorer and The Upside Down Show.

You still love to play with "Pirate Pete" (the pirate puppet Daddy uses to tell you stories at night) and can't go anywhere without your blankie ("the pink one with the curly things on it"). Some days I look at you being so grown up and so loving and I wonder if that Miss Hyde I saw earlier in the week was just a figment of my imagination.

And then I hear a frustrated, angry scream from the other room....I roll my eyes, and say "Here we go again..."

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Broken Hearted

So it finally happened. I got a new job. I am the Granville County Schools transition teacher for Central Children's Home. It's part time - 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., but that still means you are now going to daycare. You are in the 'Older Threes' class at Greater Beginnings Childcare Center. Your teacher is named Ms. Tiwanda and she is a really great lady - she definitely has a heart for your age group. You seem to have a good group of kids in your class; your teacher says this group is really a lot mellower than the group she had last year.

You and I have been working our way into this for a little while. The whole month of September we went to your class a few hours at a time together so you could get used to the kids and your teacher and the schedule they keep (I told the school system I couldn't start working until the end of the month for this very reason). You seemed to gradually get accustomed to things, but that very first day that I had to leave you was a heartbreaker.

You seemed to sense that something was up and acted more clingy than usual, so there was no sneaking away from you. When I tried to leave, you started screaming and crying and wrapped your arms and legs around my leg begging me not to go. I was devestated...how was I supposed to let you go? Feeling like the worst mother who had ever lived, I pried you off of my leg and handed you to Tiwana. As I turned away and started walking down the hall, one of the workers looked at me and my expression of anguish and said sympathetically, "She's gonna be okay, Mama." That was the last thing I needed to hear. The dam broke and I sobbed...I sat down in Michelle's office and sobbed and sobbed. They tried their best to comfort me, and told me that within minutes you were fine and playing with blocks, but it didn't help me. I cried all the way to the school, only pulling it together at the last minute so my supervisor didn't think I was crazy.

Since then you've done really well. You seem to enjoy being around other kids, especially now that your friend Madision is in your class. You still have a few moments that you seem reluctant to go, and I still harbor some latent feelings of guilt, but I think it's been a good experience so far. A lot of the church people have observed you have started really coming out of your shell and I think a lot of that can be attributed to being at Great Beginnings.

Let's just pray God can heal your mommy's broken heart.