Thursday, May 6, 2010

Triumphs and Tears

I read this passage in a book once and as my children grow, I often remember it in those moments when I realise they've just reached a new milestone...

Watching something you love grow, is both pleasure and pain. Each new phase - crawling, walking, talking - brings shouts of pride, but with each comes the mourning of the phase gone past. Never again the cluck of her chin as she fed on my breast; never again small enough to carry in one arm while I stirred soup or carried turf with the other; never again an infant lying in a muslin-covered basket in the top fields while we worked. The soft down of her scalp, fingers the size of beads, the mysterious whispers before words come: behind the joy in each new talent, I regretted the passing of the last. I had a secret longing to keep her small and precious and a part of me. As miserable as I had been during pregnancy, I now often dreamt that she was back inside my body and that the two of us were floating like that forever, each clinging to the other for soft comfort in some eternal womb.

Time is impatient to take your child from you. So you learn that each moment is precious and that life is an inevitable clock. The pleasure of rearing a child is just a prelude to the pain of letting them go, and I anticipated that with an ache every day of her small life. I thought it would make it easier when she finally reached adulthood. But it didn't.

No matter what wisdom or tricks for happiness you learn, a mother worries every day for the life of her child. A wise one will pretend to let them go to keep them, but it's just a sweet amd sensible lie. Motherhood is a sweet, sweet suffering; a joy today is marked by fear for tomorrow and a craving for yesterday."
From: Recipes for a Happy Marriage - a novel by Kate Kerrigan

Note: This was a beautiful story, but please be advised that this
book contains swear words and an extra-marital affair.

Bittersweet. That is the best way I can describe the incident that occurred in our home tonight. Oh, maybe this might seem so insignificant to you, but this mother's heart was touched. Yes, with both a pang of pain AND a tender joy.

I was catching up on some writing after having put the children to bed, when I heard Sweetpea start to cry in her room. I left it for a moment, hoping she'd go back to sleep, but then I realised that through her sobs she was saying something she has never said before "Mama, scared!"

I opened her bedroom door and had to smile a little: Missy had never been asleep after all, but had quietly been unpacking her entire bookshelf and her tea set and was now standing right in the middle of all this chaos, her chubby cheeks tear-stained and flushed with both exhaustion and emotion. I asked her what the matter was and she said: "Scared, Mama. That one there!" She was pointing to a large, hard-cover collection of Dr. Seuss stories. Of course I immediately realised the reason for this distress: The picture of the green old Grinch. She kept her distance while I packed the book away where she couldn't see it anymore and I remembered how, as I child, I was terrified of touching pages with pictures of frogs on them, as if they could come alive by the mere touch of my hand!

You're a mean one, Mr Grinch!
(Found this picture on the Internet, the actual book that cused the drama is now in her room where she's fast asleep)

I comforted her and tucked her in and laid down beside her in the now darkened room, stroking her hair as I hummed a lullabye. And I thought of how I had tried to delay this day: the day when she would first say that she was afraid of something.

A friend of mine's toddler son went through a phase where he was scared of everything, and I told myself then that he was only scared because they have taught him the word. I figured it's like a tool: I would give my child good tools, positive ones, like words for expressing happiness and joy and excitement. I have done well in that department, and she is just as eloquently able to express her feelings of anger and sadness. But to me, fear was in a league of its own and I was trying my best to keep her innocent of the concept of fear. Yes, I know. Silly mommy.

And yet, now that it has come, I am surprised that I also feel a sense of delight: because my child has learnt something about her own emotions. She has found a way to express a thing inside of her that has caused her distress. She has made a connection between this abstract, unseeable emotion and another abstract, invisible thing: a word. We've read a few books about feelings over the past few months, and I try to remember to help her name her emotions when I recognise them in our daily situations. It really is gratifying to see it bearing fruit now!

I try to keep this blog REAL - sharing with you ideas I use with my own children, showing you what we are up to, and sharing my excitement about products I find educational, fun and inspirational. And since emotions seem to be a recurrent theme in our home at the moment, over the next few posts I will share with you tips and ideas that I am finding helpful as I guide my children on the road to emotional intelligence. I would LOVE to hear your comments and what works for you, so be sure to drop me a line!


  1. Lovely words and how true they are! I feel the joy and pain all the that she's growing up but feels like it's just too fast!

    As for fears, our daughter was afraid of a shadow when she first discovered them. But once we made shadow puppets and she learned that she had control over them, she loved it!

    And we co-sleep so fear of the dark doesn't bother her too much. It's wonderful to be there right next to her, cuddling and watching her fall asleep. And of course, I'm aware of the fact that even this is all too fleeting...

  2. Oh, I think that was a beautiful way in which you solved the shadow fear! Well done!!

    I agree, there are nights when I could just stay up watching my child sleep, trying to burn that picture into my memory forever: the rose-petal lips that are slightly parted, those kissable cheeks and chubby little hands...that will one day be slender and grown-up. But they will always be our babies...

  3. Thank you for sharing this excerpt. I think the last line is so profound...I got emotional reading this! I also then smiled, 'cause we are so often on the same page. I have a series of Feeling posts coming up...I'm looking forward to yours!

  4. Hmmm, what can I say!
    Rheuben (3) is still a bit afraid of owls. This after watching a DVD of children's songs, where a person impersonating an owl was wearing a scary owl mask. (Dapper Muis). So firstly I explained what the song was really about.
    My wife bought him an owl lantern for his room.
    I also explained to him that unless he is a mouse, he should not need to be afraid of owls.
    We also took him to the zoo to see a real owl and I showed him several pictures of owls on the internet, so that he can understand what owls are and how they live and eat.
    I am really not sure if this is/was the correct way forward, but I attempt to teach him the real truths about things as early as his mind inquire about it. I am also sure he does not always understand, but it seems to give him a sense of acceptance.
    I have also taught him that we are afraid of nothing, but certain things, like dangerous animals, electricity etc. we should be cautious of because it can hurt us.
    With regards to the owl, I still test him on occasion, when he wants to fetch something from his dim lit or dark room, by saying he should watch out for the owl.
    Currently, he still pauses for a moment and then either responds that it is only an owl lantern or that he is not a mouse :) or during the day he would quickly correct me by saying that owls only come out after dark! Then I just praise him for being so clever.

  5. Hi George, and thanks for stopping by! I like how you tackled the issue by teaching Rheuben more about owls. I think that empowers him in more ways than one! You are not only helping him overcome his fear, but educating him about nature at the same time!! Double whammy! I know your little guy loves books, so see if you can find the book The Owl Who was Afraid of the Dark. It is about a baby owl whose mother helps him overcome his fear in much the same way you are doing now! Or hey, lets have a braai some time and I can lend you our copy!

  6. Hi George,

    I must compliment you for trying so hard to help Rheuben overcome his fear of owls. I agree with Grietjie, that teaching him the facts is a great tool. Fears are often irrational though and for Rheuben even age appropriate, so know that you have done a great job so far and in all likelihood this fear will pass soon. Story telling is terrific in helping with fears and Grietjie's book suggestion sounds perfect!

    Kind regards,


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