Monday, March 28, 2011

Know What You Want

Mommy: Where's your milk?

Sophie: Ummm, I don't think I'm thirsty right now, but I'll want it when I do.

These were words that should have warned us of the trouble to come. Spoken by a two year-old, they were words of independence, confidence and self assurance.

At the time, they were just funny; cute and memorable. The fact that I laughed and tucked the phrase away to remember with fondness is proof that Sophie is our only child. If she had been the second, alarms would have gone off and flags would have raised themselves high.

I think it's outstanding that the young lady knows what she wants and when she wants it and I hope that never diminishes. I hope she develops a desire to set goals and reach them. Someday.

What happens these days, however, isn't encouraging her in the notion that she can get what she wants when she wants. The opposite is taking place. Much to her chagrin and irritation, many times the lines to a song that she has yet to hear in full gets sung to her when she says that she wants something (and now).

"You can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes; you get what you need." ~ Rolling Stones

Yes, we aren't beneath singing classic rock to our youngster in order to make a point. And it drives her crazy. But she listens. Most of the time. Now that her television watching includes stations with commercials (shudder), the "want vs. need" conversations have been ratcheted up a notch or two. We watch advertisements for absolutely inane and downright stupid toys and, of course, she wants them...NOW. She wants them until we discuss what the toy really is; the fact that the commercial makes it look as though the 'super hero' is alive and can do all those nifty things, when if fact, it just moves its arms up and down.

"But Mommy," she'll respond after hearing a true description of one of those gadgets, "McDonald's toys do that and they're free and break all the time. I don't want that."

Ah, from the mouth of babes.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Is Chocoholism Genetic?

Upon retrieving a half-full bag of M&Ms from her candy basket, Sophie walked past me on her way to the living room, clutching it to her chest and said,

"Praise God!"

I dislike chocolate quite a bit. This wasn't always the case because I have fond memories of sitting on my parents' front step while in high school and munching through a bag of M&Ms with my best friend while we contemplated life and watched the world go by.

My husband considers my dislike of the confection near blasphemy because my father (and I for that matter) was born in France and my mother in Belgium; two nations filled with chocoholics.

When we adopted Sophie we were faced with many genetic unknowns that other families don't face. For instance; like my parents, my eyes stayed sharp and clear through my youth and young adulthood. Now that I'm approaching 50 and use the computer, I am following in my parents' footsteps and wearing glasses; sometimes. My hair is graying late in life; like my parents. My two center bottom teeth overlap; just like my mother's do.

We have the joy of surprise with Sophie. None of these little things are knowns for her. As each appears, it will be a fun discovery for all of us. We only have the evidence of straight, even baby teeth to go on as we wonder what her adult teeth will be like. We have no idea if she'll have a tremendous singing voice or will be relegated to the shower. All we know for now is that she loves to sing (and that's good enough for us).

Another thing we know is that Sophie loves chocolate. Sophie adores chocolate. Our daughter is a chocoholic. It turns out that chocoholism must be genetic because she sure didn't develop the love from us. Before she came along the most chocolate we would have in the house was a tube of chocolate chip cookie dough, which Doug would eat before I could even bake cookies.

While those who don't know that Sophie is adopted think that she got her dark eyes and hair from me and her tallness from her father, they'll also think that this chocolate addiction skipped a generation and she has it directly from her grandparents. You see, both of them are avid lovers of the stuff.

In fact, if you ask Doug, he'll share with you a story in which my father looked very much like Sophie; clutching a bag of chocolate that had been given to him at church as a Christmas present and making a beeline for the exit so he could enjoy the confection in the privacy of his home office. Trust me, we never saw a morsel of it.

Is the love of chocolate genetic? If you look at me and my father, the answer is no. If, however, you look beyond the scientific bond to the love bond, the answer is definitely yes. I think Papa and Meme loved chocolate into little Sophie. That's a good thing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Visiting the "Library"

This shout-out came from Sophie, who was in the bathroom:

"Do you have a newspaper that I can read while I'm in here on the potty?"

One of the laws of human nature is that women are quick and men need time. Yes, there are exceptions to every rule, but that's the general law. In fact, we've taken to calling that special room the library because one of us does leave his books in there "just in case."

It doesn't surprise me at all that Sophie is intent on breaking this law of nature and walking her own road. It started early on, where she was apparently training for more than just using the big potty. She was training for proper toilet reading.

It has progressed. Now that she's on the big potty, she's following the "man-style" feeling obligation to let everyone in the house know when she's going to go "poop and pee" as well as requesting reading material. This particular shout-out came while I was at my desk and even though I tried to keep the laughing quiet, it was impossible, which just fed the fire.

Unfortunately, or not so much so, there is no deeper meaning that I can draw from this situation. It is what it is.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Two Things She Can't Do

Mommy, when I grow up, I want to be a mommy just like you but I want five babies."

Are there any other words that can cause a mother to both feel very proud, very humbled and very scared all at the same time? I feel honored that from Sophie's point of view I'm a good enough example of what a mommy is that she would want to be one herself.

Another thought that races through my mind is one that embarrasses me and that I chase away as quick as I can. It runs along the lines of, "But don't you want to be something more than that; like a doctor or a scientist?" Isn't that horrible. Being a mother is my primary responsibility. I don't believe that it's a "lesser" occupation at all. In fact, I work harder now than I ever did out in the "work force" as a project manager.

Lately, however, another thought goes through my mind. It's comes as a result of a situation that happened to some friends of ours. Their son got in some trouble that involved the police and could go to court. This comes on the heels of their second son, a college student, who has several DUIs under his belt right now.

Why I bring that up is that there are two jobs that my daughter and I can't ever aspire to, even if we wanted to. The first is President of the United States. I was born in France and she in Armenia. Because of our international birth we're automatically rejected as potential presidents (thank goodness). The second thing that we'll never be able to do is be elders in our church because we're women. Our church has decided that in this one instance, the words "man" and "husband" used in 1 Timothy 3 should be taken literally and globally, thereby excluding women.

At this point, because our church is amazing in so many other areas, I'm able to deal with mismatch in theology beliefs and move forward. As long as no one tries to teach our daughter that this is absolute truth, we won't have an issue. However, where I do have problems now, is that the father of the two boys who have now both been in trouble with the law is an elder at our church. In the same passage in 1 Timothy, Paul teaches, "one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how can he take care of the church of God?)."

How do I explain to my daughter that our church has decided to pick and choose which rules for eldership are literal and which are ok to ignore? How do I explain to her that while our reason for not being allowed certain areas of leadership is centered around something we have no control over those that are controllable but not followed can be ignored? Or that even though we are equal image-bearers and may have been given the gift of leadership or teaching, because of this one uncontrollable item and men's Bible interpretation, we're being told our gifts and equal image-bearing don't matter?

Unfortunately, this isn't the only instance where these "rules" of eldership have smacked me in the face. The last church we belonged to had an elder whose son was caught flushing another child's head down the toilet. One of the elders was a single man (no wife, no children).

I grew up in a church where the lead elder was a woman. Since the elders were the pastor's accountability, in essence, the head shed of this 13,000 member church was female. She was and is incredible. She walked with God, had humility, wisdom, strength and compassion. I want my daughter to know women like that; Women who are allowed to use ALL their gifts in the church, whether it be the gift of serving to wash a toilet or the gift of leadership or teaching, which still enables them to wash a toilet when needed.

I want my daughter to be a mommy if she gets the opportunity. There's no greater joy or responsibility. I pray that she will be a part of a church where she is allowed to use the gifts that God is already building inside her. I also pray that she never wants to be president.

Monday, August 16, 2010

He Knows If You've Been Bad Or Good....

Sophie: Do you think Santa will bring me a new high chair for my babies for Christmas?
Mommy: What do you think he'll think about the fact that you broke the old one?
Sophie: I'll hide it. He won't know. And you won't tell.

For anyone who thinks that babies are innocent, I beg to differ. The first morning after we brought Sophie home from the orphanage she threw up on me. Even at that young age she was devious enough to know which parent couldn't handle spit-up and would start gagging immediately.

Every parent has seen it happen. Babies wait until that moment during a diaper change when the "protection" is off and the parent's back is turned while they're either disposing of the disgusting Pampers or pulling out a new one in order to pee a river all over the changing table (or worse, the bed).

As they grow older, it just gets worse. Who among us hasn't opened a closet and found a broken item that's been missing for months. For me, it was opening a drawer in the living room and finding a half-eaten Pop Tart. They start out devious and it just gets worse as children get older.

Sophie's solution to her high chair dilemma was fast and well thought-out. I watched her mind process the problem and come up with the solution within seconds. There was just the faintest pause between each short sentence as she thought of each problem and immediately came up with the corresponding answer to it. One part of me was impressed with her fast processing, but the other part was sad at how easily she came to the conclusion that deception and cover-up would be the best solution (I'd make a politician joke here but that would be too easy).

Even with this, there are moments of sunshine when Sophie's honesty brightens the room. We're working on a method of stopping the thumb sucking entirely. She only does it when watching television or in bed, but it's time for it to go away completely. So, there's a chart on the refrigerator and every day that she doesn't suck her thumb she gets to put a sticker on the chart. She can choose a trip for lunch at McDonalds, Wendy's, or Cici's. She can also choose a tattoo or an item at the dollar store. At the end of the day we ask her if she's sucked her thumb at all. Amazingly, if she has she tells us. I don't know if she'll realize some day that a lie will get her what she wants or not. Maybe she's already thought that through and decided that we'll just stop believing her if she says that she hasn't. Plus, she still believes that I have eyes in the back of my head so she might even be thinking that our asking is just a test.

We definitely realize that the art of lying and deception will be fed by peer pressure as Sophie grows older and will work against what we're trying to teach her. It's already happened. She had a playmate that's a good bit older than her at the house and they didn't realize how well sound travels from her room to my office. At one point I heard the friend say, "...and don't tell your mother."  I didn't know what the situation was but I immediately called both girls into my office and had Sophie stand next to me.

Very gently and with lots of love I explained to her how she can always tell me anything. I told her that if she has even done anything wrong I would be more saddened and upset that she tried to cover it up or hide it than by what she had actually done; and that when (not if) I found out, the discipline would be more than it would have been without the lie. Her friend was watching the two of us talk with an open mouth. Her parents may have a different way of handling discipline (I'm being politically correct; I KNOW they have a different way), but my mom dealt with us by talking through things before discipline was meted out simply to make sure that any was necessary and to what level it should be given.

As time goes on and I'm not there to hear the whispered words and watch Sophie see others lie and deceive, I hope that this is building a strong enough foundation that she'll be confident in her choices to do the right thing. Hopefully her strong will can influence others instead of her being influenced.

Fortunately the One that sees if we've been bad or good is also very forgiving. She knows who He is too, thank goodness and that's the strongest and most stable foundation we can ever hope for.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Everyone Puts Their Pants on One Leg at a Time

"Mommy, will Santa come in the bathroom to poop so he'll see my snowman night light?"

The whole idea of Santa is one that my husband and I had many "animated discussions" about when Sophie was a baby. I was raised in a family that treated Santa as any cartoon hero that you know doesn't really exist but look up to anyhow (for me it was the original black and white Superman show). Christmas was first and foremost about the birth of Christ (and then the presents). My husband was raised believing in Santa. Since we both ended up pretty much normal and well-balanced and my brother, who is a psychologist, told me to lighten up when we presented our case to him, I decided to go with the "let her believe Santa is real" option and just see what happened.

Last Christmas was the first year that Sophie truly understood the concept of Santa and she embraced it totally. Life began revolving around making sure Santa knew what she wanted, where he was working, if he was going to be able to get everything done, etc. I have to admit that playing the "Be good or Santa will see you," card was used a few times by me. Santa was

When we decorated the house, we put up a Santa night light in the bathroom so our young lady would be able to see where she was going if she needed to go potty at night. It wasn't until a couple of days later that the question about whether Santa was going to see our Christmas decoration in the bathroom was brought up.

After a good laugh and running to write down what she said before I forgot it, it hit me that even though Santa was bigger than life to Sophie, she realized that he still went to the bathroom. He does this HUGE job, but when the rubber meets the road, he's just a guy and he needs to poop too.

How different our perspective of those we hold in such high esteem would be if we first remembered that they have to poop just like us. Lately it's happened to some big heroes in various venues. The football world saw that Michael Vick poops; and in a different way the golf community saw that Tiger Woods does as well.  (Is it ironic that my daughter just walked by and let me know that she has to go poop?)

Unfortunately, there are those whose stars rise so high that even they seem to forget that they poop like the rest of us and when it happens, they do it in front of the world and the crash is one from which they never recover completely. Mel Gibson is one of those, as is Brittany Spears.  For me, the worst scenario is the ones who we hold so high even though we are well aware of their shortfalls (sorry, I'm getting tired of the poop analogy and I think you know what I mean by now). We are willing to turn a blind eye to the stink and only focus on the glitter and glam.

This was the case for me in 1982. The person in question was my favorite comedian and actor. He was very, very funny, especially with physical comedy. He was also a local boy who made it big; having gone to my high school. I actually met his older brother because his mother had worked at the same pharmacy as me and once the family moved to California, the brother came in to chat and tell us what the movie industry was like. My hero was John Belushi and he died in 1982 of an accidental overdose. I remember where I was when I heard and I cried my eyes out.

These popular icons seem unable to learn from their fellow artists, athletes, etc. Whether it's an accidental overdose, suicide or a different kind of fall (aka Rob Lowe and Hugh Grant), it continues to continue. Marilyn Monroe, Billie Holiday, Anna Nicole Smith, Jim Morrison, Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson....this list doesn't end.

I want my daughter to have heroes. I'd like them to include people of quality and character, but I am not that naive. So, when she has pictures of whoever replaces Lady Gaga by the time Sophie's a teenager, I hope that in addition to admiring the artist's style and voice, she still remembers that when it's all said and done, her hero poops just like she does. Human is human after all.

Monday, July 19, 2010

It's All a matter of Perspective

Mom peeking in the rear view mirror: "Sophie, are you sleeping?"
Sophie: "No, I'm just resting my eyelids."

My parents live 800 miles north of us in a west suburb of the ever-expanding shadow of Chicago. On trips like that, or even on the 4-hour trip to my in-laws house we pray that Sophie will sleep....a LOT. It saves a lot of pain all around. When she's awake and stuck in the car for long periods of time she can get.....fussy. When she's fussy, we suffer.

In truth, even when she's awake and bubbling with joy and goodwill, her curious mind lets loose an endless stream of questions, comments and observations to which she requires an answer or comment to every one. After an hour or two, it can be a little tiring, especially if you're someone who relishes peace, quiet and silent reflection.

On the flip side, when we take shorter trips, like to our zoo which is an hour away, the last thing we want on the drive home is for Sophie to fall asleep and take her nap in the car. If she does that, we're robbed of a couple of hours of getting things done around the house once we get home. Those short car power naps are all that it takes to recharge her batteries and energize her for the rest of the day. So we are constantly making sure that she doesn't fall asleep by talking to her, tickling her, giving her food; whatever it takes.

The day she gave this response to our attempt to keep her awake was the day we realized that we'd hit another milestone; one that would require us to stay on our toes even more than before. We have a politician on our hands. She's three years old (at the time) and she knows how to spin.

I think that being able to spin  a situation or statement is an incredible art form. It amazes me that I can read a piece on Fox News' site, go over to MSNBC and see the same situation described in an entirely different way, with an opposite conclusion; both sounding very plausible.

Perspective is merely spin to your advantage. Unfortunately, it's not always honest. While I applaud our daughter's ability to use her creative mind to quickly come up such a witty response, she'll need to learn and heed the point at which spinning passes simply sharing her perspective and becomes lying.