Questions My Children Ask – a prose poem

Since April is National Poetry Month, I couldn’t let the month pass without sharing one of my new creations and loves–a prose poem. Here is one I wrote this spring:

Questions My Children Ask

When can I have an allowance? Will you unlock the computer so I can play? How come you get to be on your phone whenever you want but I have a timer on the iPad? Do you listen to me when I talk to you? What did I just say?

Can we get clothes from a real store and not a thrift shop? How do these jeans look? Are my thighs too big? Should I wear my cream Uggs or my black Converse? Or could you get me some Dr. Martens? Can I cut my hair? Highlight it? Dye it purple?

Why do you make this gross food for dinner? Don’t you know we hate lasagna? Asparagus, again? What is this green stuff? Peas or peppers? Why is it good for me to eat food I don’t like? I’m going to go play with Cain, okay?

Can we have a dance party? A game night? A movie night with popcorn? Will you make French fries again? Sweet chicky nuggets? Cheese pizza?

Will you read Corduroy to me? Skippyjon Jones? Tuck me in? Kiss me goodnight? Can we cuddle? Will you stay with me? What does ‚Äúespecially‚ÄĚ mean?

Why do I feel like this ‚ÄĒblech one moment, ecstatic the next? Am I just hormonal? Did you feel like this when you were my age?

Is this normal? Am I normal? What does sex feel like?

Why did you marry Dad? Do you still love him, even when you fight?

They cut her whole breast off? What does she look like now? Will she lose her hair? Will she die?

Will you die? Will I?

How do you know everything will be okay?

Architecture

Who hired me
as architect for your early life?
My experiences with Legos are hardly
Sufficient credentials, I think….

Still, I labor
Planning the experiences that will build
You.
Modifying blueprints as my
on-the-job training requires
Will you love soccer, ballet,
the trombone?
More importantly, will you love
Yourself?
Your fellow beings?
Your God?

With experiences as cinderblocks and
Love as mortar
We work together building the edifice of

You.

–Karin Salisbury

photo credit

You Gotta Work

So, with a little music bopping around in my head, I have a tiny piece of wisdom to share this fine morning.

I thought I was being nice.

I thought I was being helpful.

You see, up until the last week or so, I have been doing a bunch for my kiddos. I was never one of those women who thought that kiddos should be without responsibility…our kiddos have their share of chores and babysitting and tidying…but I was definitely doing more than I needed to for them. Like, if they didn’t put the cereal away in the morning, and they were rushing out the door to meet the bus, I would put it away for them. Or, if I was having company and one of them didn’t put clothing (that I lovingly washed, sorted, and sorta folded for them) away, I would do it.

Yes, as I write this I am feeling a little slushy inside…like I’ve known for a while that they are old enough to pull more weight around here.

Well, this morning, in no uncertain terms, I (lovingly) explained that I have done much for them…and that I enjoy doing fun things for and with¬†them (like baking goodies or making treats or playing games and hanging out together)…and that they needed to show more respect to me in return.

Guess what? They were up to the task! I was surprised and elated to see that, as they went about their work and responsibilities with little guidance from me, they stood a little taller. By helping them get to work, they felt the value each of us feels when we ACCOMPLISH. And, I have to say, accomplishment is a great feeling. ūüôā I’m guessing that when they feel accomplishment and begin to understand their value in our family, in society, and in the world, that their self-esteem will grow, as well.

If you have kiddos, and they could be stretched a little more…to do more…to be more…then I say boldly, “GO FOR IT!!!!” You might have to use your words.¬† You might have to get a little tougher skin.¬† You will absolutely have to do more than just “teach by example.”¬† But it will be worth it.¬† Teaching them¬†the value of work will stay with them throughout their lives…and, I dare say that the value of work is lacking in this world.

So get to work!

Do We Eat Words?

While chatting with the preschooler today over markers and¬†paper, I noted the letters¬†my little one¬†was drawing in rainbow colors across the tablet of white.¬† I remarked, “I like your letters.”

Preschooler:¬† “I LIKE letters.”

“Me, too,” I responded.

“I like words.”¬† Then, looking up from the markers and papers, these words spouted from little lips:¬† “What do we do with words?¬† Do we eat words?”

I smiled at the innocent question. “We don’t eat words.¬† Sometimes we spit words.¬† Sometimes we say words….”

I know that sometimes people talk of “eating their words” when discussing having to take back words or admit they were wrong…but try explaining that to a preschooler.¬† ūüôā¬† The question has given me pause, though.

In current parenting circles and educational venues, children are encouraged to “use [their] words” instead of acting out with their bodies in frustration or other emotions.¬† Sometimes the phrase “use your words” is used to promote verbal communication.¬† I have used it many times myself with my own children and with other little ones.¬† I find words intriguing, marvelous, powerful tools!¬† I love to use them to describe, to console,¬†to communicate,¬†to empower,¬†to compliment, and¬†to strengthen.¬† And so I leave you with this same question today as you consider life, liberty, and your personal pursuit of happiness:

What do you do with words?¬† ūüôā

(And, because every post is better with music…here’s “One Word” from Elliott Yamin that I found on Spotify to share with you…because we all know I love a good, upbeat, positive love song….)

Parenting is Hard.

After an experience with one of my precious children this morning, and after some weekend reflection, I’ve come to this conclusion:

PARENTING IS HARD.

Maybe that isn’t news to you. If I stopped parenting long enough to think about it (which only happens in tiny little moments), I might have figured this out sooner. Maybe? ūüôā

Anyway, these recent¬†moments¬†of reflection¬†have shown me similar traits in my children to my own personality flaws (which are actually quite difficult to view). For example, remember when you have¬†read a novel or watched a film and you find yourself identifying with the feelings or habits or personalities of a certain character? Those connections have been happening abundantly lately for me…only¬†my children are not mere characters in a book or movie. They¬†are my¬†children.¬† And they are flawed (which I knew) like me (which is what is so difficult currently to view).

Maybe some of the difficulty is knowing the path they have ahead of them…and my desire to¬†help them wake up to a realization that certain behaviors that I have wasted years of my life practicing can lead them to heartache and sadness.¬† I find myself defensively saying (in my mind) to them, “I’m¬†getting over [that behavior].¬† Why can’t you?”

But, some lessons need to be learned from the inside out, not vice versa.

I guess what I’m saying is, after this weekend and this morning, I’ve got some work to do…both for myself and also with my children. And I’m wondering what I can do to change today….

Each of my children (and yours) is a gift, a life, an opportunity for love and learning and greatness. My children don’t need the fame of a Super Bowl ring, a Julliard degree, or a name in figurative lights to be valued and precious and productive in society. They are each amazing in their own spheres of influence¬†as they develop and share¬†their own talents and gifts with those around them.

I wish I had learned that earlier. I still find myself fighting feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness daily. But, at least I am fighting them (most days) instead of giving into negativity.

On the way back from taking one of¬†our children to school (the one having a rough morning), my husband gently said my name, followed by the words, “You are a good woman.”

My immediate thought was, “If I¬†was a good woman, I could cure more ills and take away more pain.”

As I fought tears in the thought, I saw something else, though…a smattering of light…of truth.

Pain is part of life and a tool to help us grow, just like a flower fights the adversities of gravity and wind to grow and stand straight and bloom.

So bloom. As a person. As a parent. As YOU. We can make a beautiful bouquet together.

Simple Gifts


photo credit

I still remember¬†a song I learned when I was…who knows how old I was?¬† I’ve known it for as long as I can remember.¬† The song, “Simple Gifts,” is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett.¬† Would you like to hear Jewel’s rendition? (It’s the only one I could find on YouTube, so it will have to suffice.)¬† Here you go:¬† Simple Gifts

We have each been given gifts…gifts of life, gifts to give and receive love, gifts of faith in God or fellowmen (or both), gifts of writing, gifts of goodness, gifts to share and gifts to develop.¬† Gifts can be moments of peace and tranquility.¬† Gifts can also be found in packages of adversity, where we learn more about ourselves and¬†our abilities to carry on and to triumph.¬† Whatever your gifts are, I hope that you will recognize that you are amazing!

In this post, I invited you to join my family as we have sought to recognize and develop the gifts we have been given.¬† Did you take me up on that?¬† We’ve had almost two weeks since that post, and I’m wondering what you have discovered.¬† I have been working on developing my gifts to cook and bake, to sing, and to continue writing and editing the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo…and I am working to connect with you through blogging¬†while reading and commenting on your blogs.¬† I applaud your efforts.¬† ūüôā

While searching for our own gifts, let’s also¬†look¬†for the gifts¬†of those within our sphere of influence.¬† Maybe someone did something kind for you.¬† (Yesterday, after a lengthy visit (with a somewhat fussy preschooler) at a store, I purchased said fussy preschooler a drink.¬† As we were shuffling items around a shopping cart, the two of us managed to dump said drink all over the floor.¬† And the drink was sticky.¬† And the floor was soaked with a big mess.

A fellow customer¬†went to grab an employee, who quickly flagged the slippery, sticky area and mopped the spill.¬† I was so grateful for both of those people.¬† They took initiative and helped a tired mom with a fussy little person.¬† Sure, someone could argue that the employee was just “doing his job,” but to me his work meant so much more.¬† He was helping me rectify a mistake I made.¬† And I was grateful for him.)

Two Mondays ago, on our weekly family evening, we passed around papers where each person in our family wrote one item which we recognized as a gift in another person.  My page looked something like this:

MOM
You are good at playing the piano.¬† Mom is good at cooking.¬† Mom is very patient and forgiving of us.¬† You are so nice and you help me with everything! I wouldn’t have lived without you…literally! ūüôā¬† You are very caring!

Now, while I wouldn’t own all of those kind thoughts from my sweet family (especially the piano one), some of the people who know me best have helped me see¬†some of my gifts.¬† And, I think that since they were looking for positive attributes in other members of our home, they have each been more positive since the night we did that activity together.

So, in the busyness of this holiday season, I challenge you to take a moment to think of the gifts you possess that you cannot purchase from a store…as those may be the simplest (and most profound) gifts of all!

Setting Boundaries

As I¬†am currently contemplating the content on this new¬†blog, I have been¬†feeling a bit like a new parent, wondering where the boundaries need to be set…what to share and what to hold back….

In the home where I was raised, we could talk about anything at the dinner table–from politics to algebra questions to everyday experiences to music to sex.¬† (What we absolutely weren’t allowed to do at the dinner table was break out in song…my dad’s dad used to say, “You sing at the table and you’ll cry before night.”¬† Though I still have no idea what that really means, we were diligent, non-singers at the table…a rule which I have not passed on to the family with whom I¬†am currently living.)

When my husband and I had our first child, we resolved to be open with him in all areas.¬† Before he started kindergarten, we talked together about sex (which became more of the “How You Make a Baby” talk, since I had given birth to several children since he had entered our life).¬† When he came home with experiences about racial prejudice in the classroom (yes, in kindergarten), we addressed those concerns with teachings to embrace diversity and know that we are all working together as members of this planet.¬† When boys were saying the “F-word” at school, we made time to talk about that, as well, and how to intelligently speak our minds.¬† And, of course, when he came to ask me questions about sex, I tried to be informative and answer his questions.¬† Until one day recently¬†when I was cutting his hair….

“Mom, what does sex feel like?”

I’ m sure I stopped my scissors¬†so I could absorb the impact of the question.¬† I took a breath, (said a silent prayer for calming and inspiration), and spoke.¬† “If you have questions about the physical nature of sex, I will happily answer them to the best of my knowledge, but I am not going to answer any questions pertaining to my personal relationship.”

My answer drifted through the air where it hung just a minute until he nodded and shrugged, somehow a little satisfied.¬† A flash of inspiration hit, and I went on, “Is your school day ever the same?”

“No,” came his answer.

“What about family dinner?”

“No.”

“What about when you brush your teeth?¬† Is that basically the same experience each time you do it?”

“Yea, pretty much.”

“Okay, well, when you participate in an experience that has another person, your experience is going to change and vary each time, right?¬† Like dinnertime, and school, and even¬†road trips.¬† We¬†can go visit¬†the same city more than once, but each time the dynamic changes.¬† When you do things with other people, they bring whatever they are feeling into the experience, along with whatever you are feeling in that moment, and so¬†similar moments in life are¬†different each time, right?”

“Yea.”

I continued to cut his hair without further ado.

And so, while sharing experiences without getting all-too-personal (maybe I’ve already crossed that line today?), I will continue on this journey.¬† Hopefully the writing will continue to flow a bit, and, like a new parent with a new child, I will make mistakes about boundaries.¬† So, I’m asking your forgiveness now as I continue to muse and record and write about this area of my life…in the middle of my story.