Sunday, May 06, 2012

Love Across the Drive

Without thinking much about it, I grabbed the little girl’s hand and walked her across the drive in front of the school. A woman had been yelling at the child from a car in the parking lot. I wondered if the woman was the little girl’s mother because, surely, all the parents knew the rules. At my son’s elementary school, there is a driveway in the front where parents can drive through and drop their children off curbside.

But if you go into the parking lot on the other side of the drive, you can’t just drop your child off and leave them to cross the drive on their own. Even though there is a crossing guard, the rule is that a parent must escort their child across the drive.

On this particular day, I had just escorted my son across and saw this woman yelling from a car. As the car was driving off, the little girl was near tears, probably because she knew the rule. That’s when I stepped in and took the girl across the drive.

“You’re going to have a good day,” I said, hoping to cheer her up. She stared straight ahead and walked stiffly.

“Okay? You’ll be fine. Yes?”

Still no response. All I got back was a bunch of negative vibes. Not just little girl negative vibes. I was feeling enough negative vibes for a grown, agitated woman.

It seemed like this incident was just another lapse in parenting, another reason to place a brick in the wall I ran up against with all my morning cheerfulness.

Parenting is tough work, and as quietly as it's kept, it does not come easily to every parent. A child’s needs change when they move from infancy, to toddler, to little kid to big kid. Their needs change, but the level of care and attention required from a parent does not change. If anything, it takes more to properly parent as a child grows. I had to make an intentional decision to parent my children the right way, and for me, that means that I always make them know that I love them. Whether we’re having the best of days or the worst, I want them to know the love I have for them.

Parent means “to bring forth, to develop in mind, to develop physically.” I’m not going to always make the right decisions and do the right things, but I know that I can always love them and let them know it. The indomitable, redemptive power of love, will more than make up for whatever mistakes I make as I bring forth and develop my children.

My earliest memories are of my mother lavishing me with her love. I was her sixth child, but as far as I knew, I was her only child. Once I became aware of my siblings, I realized that surely, I must have been her favorite. As I grew up and heard my siblings talk about my mama, it appeared that each of them thought they were her favorite. She passed that wonderful mother love down, and now I endeavor to spread it liberally on my children.

My kids have gone through some pretty tough stuff. They’ve been in despair, hysterical, terribly upset, but I’ve always tried to soothe their pain with love to keep them from building up a wall of anger or resentment. Only love can keep such walls from forming. And with children, sometimes the littlest things leave the biggest impressions.

That morning was a reminder to me, just in case I find myself too busy to love them the way I should. I can never get too busy to walk my children across the drive. I must always actively love them because the consequences are too much for a child to bear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I Still Celebrate Love

Going through a divorce can leave you bitter and skeptical of all things having to do with being in love and being loved. For me, marriage wasn’t just about “eros” love, it was also about “agape” love, an unconditional love. So, although my marriage failed, love never failed.

My wedding day was a wonderful, fabulous, day. I remember stepping into the aisle holding my father’s arm and seeing my groom standing tall and handsome as ever. I cried as I walked to the altar toward my beloved. I saw him as a prince who loved me and was committed to my well-being for the rest of our lives. I was likewise committed to being his partner and to helping him accomplish his life’s goals. During the ceremony, he charmed me with an original poem and stunned me with a dip when he kissed me.

I wanted to have one, two, three, four, five babies with him and raise our crew in a loving, Christian home. I looked forward to my kid’s having a thoughtful, steady, protective father, helping them grow and learn. Lord knows I needed someone to balance me because I don’t necessarily believe in things like bedtimes or strict rules and such (but don’t tell my children that). I wanted, had and needed a present partner in parenting. I never imagined anything different.

I wanted to grow old with him. I loved him with all my loving. I still love him, though in a different way.

I had the luxury of mourning the death of my marriage while I was still married, somewhere in that last quarter of my time as a wife. Somehow I got allocated to an opposing team and no matter what I did, he would retreat to his corner and play by rules I never understood. Too often, things just fall apart, and as our marriage disintegrated, neither of us had the skill or wisdom to pick up the pieces and move forward as a united front against the enemy of our union. I was married, but I was in mourning. Looking back, I remember running on the Braes Bayou in Houston and tears were streaming down my face. I saw an older Indian couple sitting on a bench and I yearned to run up to them and plead with them to give me the secret to bridging the gap between me and my dear husband. What did I need to do to stay together as long as they had? Yes, I mourned while I was still married, and by the time I signed the paper that ended our union, I had only a few tears left.

When I told him I was leaving, he insisted that we talk to someone at the church. I reluctantly agreed, but for various reasons, I knew we wouldn’t find healing in any meetings at the church. Once we met with and told an elder what was going on, it was comical watching him fumble around trying to get us an appointment with the busy pastor. This matter was beyond his elder training I guess. Thankfully, the pastor knew me well enough to know that I was already gone and that I would be all right.

There are thousands of books about relationships, why they fail and how to keep them from failing. I could tell you five reasons a marriage fails and ten ways to avoid that failure. But my declaration today is that even after all I’ve been through, I still celebrate love.

I still love weddings. Even after going to one of the most beautiful weddings and then hearing that the marriage fell apart within a few months, I still celebrate love. At every wedding I’ve been to, they say that love never fails. And that’s a reason to celebrate.

I know my marriage was meant to be a lasting covenant, a model of love. Sadly, my relationship with my handsome groom failed, but thankfully love did not fail. Our love spawned two (not five) sweet children. Time and events have reshaped our love which abides in a friendship that began when we were teens. After nine years as a wife and in the eight years since the union ended, I learned that my human failures could never extinguish love.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Aftermath

Aftermath originally meant "a second crop of grass grown after the first had been harvested" according to After you reach a goal, a certain inertia or even depression can set in. It takes a lot of energy to accomplish something so it's natural to have a valley experience after the peak of success. However, you can't stay in the valley. It's important to push on to the next level in your life. Define your next goal and go for it. Invest the time and dedication needed to move forward. No turning back. Keep moving forward.