May 6, 2004


Bleeding Hearts

The flowering plants I’m most excited to see each spring are my Japanese Bleeding Hearts.  Every year I look forward to the day that I find they’ve erupted out of the mulch.  They’ve become the favorite plant I have in my yard, partly because I can see them through the window from my computer chair which means that I am much more likely to actually notice their daily progress.  Once I actually get outside, there are too many other things to do and I get distracted…meaning I just don’t notice every plant, every day.  But the Bleeding Hearts I can track while I’m waiting for a web page to load or repeatedly pressing the delete button on all the spam in my inbox.  When I find a plant that I can allow to establish well so it will require absolutely nothing from me in order to bloom beautifully, I realize just how much we need things like that in life; things that give whether we need it that day or not.   

I’m really not much of a gardener; I know little to nothing about plants quite honestly.  I know enough to listen carefully and follow the directions my mother or grandmother give me after they’ve propagated something for me to try planting.  I have an approximately 50% success rate at actually getting that something to grow, which really means I kill half of what I touch and therefore have not managed to overcome that sense of impending doom I feel every time I set out to nurture a new batch of flora.  I’ve come to realize that feeling comes with responsibility of any living thing and is the milder form of the impending doom I often feel when faced with parental dilemmas.  It is no coincidence that my Bleeding Hearts bloom around Mother’s Day every year.

I don’t know if there are people out there who came through childhood and into adulthood unscathed by actions of their parents, but I know I haven’t met any yet.  Even the very best parents seem to somehow manage to perpetrate at least one of those “it will scar your child for life” actions that all the “experts” yell about.   

“Never be the first to stop hugging.”

“Don’t hug that baby so tightly, you’re smothering it!”

“Babies shouldn’t be held constantly, they must learn self-sufficiency.”

“If the kid’s crying, pick him up!”

“Call the doctor at the first sign of_____.”

“Excuse me ma’am, the Doctor wants you to stop calling every time the baby crosses his eyes while looking at his nose.”

“Don’t make food an issue!”

“Malnourished Children, an American Epidemic!”

“Use natural deterrents to inspire good behavior.”

“No, duct tape is not a natural deterrent.” 

Like any parent, I get busy, distracted, and tired.  My two girls, at ages 5 and 6, tend to talk a LOT.  They’re just always talking.  Doctors give medications to patients that are suffering through having a constant running dialogue in their heads, and some days I wonder where my share is.  A person can only listen for so long to a five-year-old say “Hey Mom!  That bird had a yellow beak!  A yellow beak-headed bird!  Get it?  Get it Mom?” before a person just starts automatically answering, “Yeah, I get it” after only half hearing the “joke”.  It’s inevitable.  Parent’s tune out their kids (Right?  Look, it’s been a tough week so even if you would never, ever tune out your beloved offspring, please just nod so I can put off seeking therapy for a few more weeks!).  I actually remember, when my kids were angelic (and quiet…it may not seem so, but trust me) little babies, that I couldn’t imagine NOT hanging on every word they said once they could open their little cherub lips and utter glorious words.  Vaguely I remember that.  My mom was blessed (heh, heh) with three girls and one boy who were all fairly close in age, and I definitely recall her tuning us out.  I remember wondering what on earth she could be thinking about when that detached look came across her face.  What could be more important than whatever it was *I* had to say?   Probably say for the tenth time if I was anything like my six-year-old…I’ve no idea why “Broken Record” didn’t jump out at me from the baby name book.   

While driving in the car a week or so ago, my youngest did that actual little “joke” in the paragraph above and on cue and with enthusiasm I said, “Yep, I get it!” After a few minutes had passed, she very seriously said “Mom, how come no one ever laughs at my jokes?”  (Moment of silence here for any hope I ever had of winning Mother of the Year.)  Honestly, I get teary-eyed just typing that!  I tried to sell some lame stuff about being distracted, oncoming traffic, trying to remember how to find the bank (that one may have worked though because they’re still at the age where they’re in awe that I know how to get so many places), and other hollow excuses.  I tearfully told my husband about it that night, with a warning that we *had* to start paying more attention to her jokes that make no sense.  We discussed the probability that we’re permanently hurting her self-confidence by not being more impressed by her humor.  Sometimes it’s all just so hard.  You look up one day and find your heart is bleeding over a misstep involving birds and beaks, and while you’re still flogging yourself for it, your child has already moved on to trying her hand at making what could be award-winning rhymes (“Hello yellow beak bird fellow”).   

I guess I’ve just realized lately that every parent messes up, misses opportunities, and inevitably could “do better”.  We’re fallible, that’s the given.  Maybe the biggest opportunity lost is the time spent beating oneself up over the fallibilities.  I think I need to work a little harder at simply recognizing the misstep for what it was and filing away the snapshot of my feelings about it as a reminder to find a better way to navigate that path the next time.  I suppose stewing over it for the rest of the day only means that mom was distracted first, followed up by a weird mix of freaked out overcompensation and self-pity.  It’s tough sometimes though.  You do the best you can and manage to give yourself a break most of the time but then they somehow get you with something that just hits right in the heart and soul of you. 

Like my beautiful Bleeding Hearts though, my children do give something to me every day and I always need it.  My youngest and I have an ongoing “I love you more than _____” contest going on.  Jury is still out on whether “more than everything” tops “more than anything” or vice versa.  We also have well-honed kiss stealing capabilities and both claim to be superior over the other on that score.  She’s the affectionate one while the oldest is a bit harder to grab hold of.  I have to be patient to find the moments with my firstborn, but she’ll come through.  She likes to cuddle (on her terms, lol) on occasion but gets a much bigger charge out of dragging me along to view things from her perspective.  Simple things, like cracks in the sidewalk or suspicious holes in the backyard merit deep discussion with her.  Both of them reward me constantly with every conceivable creation every made from paper, markers and glue.  They’re both ecstatically excited about Mother’s Day and we’ve spent a LOT of time this week rehashing everything they’ve ever gotten me so that they can confirm (yet again ;) that this will absolutely be the best Mother’s Day yet and I’ll like my present better than any other I’ve ever received.  As if there’s any doubt.  

This year I really want to thank all the nurturers in my life.  I am blessed with a wonderful mother whom I’m incredibly grateful for.  I’m doubly blessed by having extended family that give my children a new lease on life every so often by taking them out from under mom and dad’s watchful eye and giving them a different perspective of the world.  I’m also so thankful for the friends I have that nurture me on an almost daily basis.  They seem like such little things: keeping my secrets, listening through my tears, laughing at my jokes…friends and family that nurture seemingly without even having to think about it.   They help me to remember what’s important.  That’s what this Sunday is about for me and I’ll say a little extra prayer to ask for blessings for all those that nurture, moms or not.   


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