“The best way to keep children at home is to make home a pleasant atmosphere — and to let the air out of the tires.”
— Dorothy Parker
Among some of my earliest Farm and Dairy columns was a piece in which I talked about my impatience while awaiting the birth of my second baby. That baby is turning 20 years old today.
How in the heck did that happen? How could 20 years have possibly flown by while we all were watching?
Caroline has been a joy in every way, and there are times I feel utterly undeserving. How did I ever get so lucky, and do I deserve to be this incredibly blessed?
While friends discuss their worries and their frustration with children who talk back, act out in all sorts of disrespectful ways, I count myself in a league of my own as none of this has ever been an issue.
I realize every single day what a rare and wonderful gift I have been given. When Caroline was in first grade, one day she seemed upset, indignant. I asked if something had happened that she wanted to talk about. “Oh, Mom, there are boys in my class who are not nice to my teacher, and there are girls in my class who tattle on each other and just seem to like to fight. I don’t like it one bit.”
Setting a good example
We sat down and talked about what she might be able to do about it. Maybe if she could just speak up and suggest they all be nice to the teacher for one full day, everyone would have a better time. And maybe, just maybe, if she said, “Let’s not tattle on anybody today,” in a very nice way, she could be the one setting a very good example.
The next day, Caroline came home from school, smiling. “It worked! Well, it sorta worked. The boys are still not so nice,” she said, but at least she had found there was power in setting a good example.
In second grade, I remember a day of tears on the way home from school. I asked what was wrong, because this daughter of mine was rarely one to cry, even in the toughest of circumstances. “Oh, the teacher yelled all day long,” she said with a big sigh. I had to reassure her that the teacher was not yelling at her, but it didn’t seem to help. “It just hurts my heart,” she said with such sincerity that I nearly cried, too.
When I had the chance to talk with this wonderful second grade teacher, she was kind and apologetic. “The boys in this class are so ornery and full of mischief that I guess I do spend many days just trying to corral them,” she explained. She also said that Caroline was one of the sweetest and most sensitive students she remembered having over the course of a long teaching career.
After that day, there were many times this dear teacher found a way to give Caroline a special assignment in a separate part of the classroom before she lowered the boom on the students who were giving her such grief.
My friend Wendy commented many times that Caroline seemed other-worldly, angelic, unbelievable. “How do you do it?” she asked me, thinking perhaps she could follow a certain parenting trick with her own challenging daughter. “It’s not anything I do,” I assured Wendy. “She was just born with this amazing sweetness.”
Wendy loved taking Caroline on trail rides, enjoying her appreciative nature. “She just seems to love everything about every day,” Wendy once said to me. “She never complains about ANYTHING!”
It was true. I remember hearing this adorable baby girl awake in her crib early in the morning, talking to her doll babies and teddy bears, a joyful chattering that always made me so happy to be a mama. The minute I would walk in her bedroom, those beautiful blue eyes would shine and her smile would light up the world.
I can still see her holding her arms up to me, and feel her sweet and gentle hug when I held her. She woke up happy, and went back to that crib for naps and nighttime with that same happy heart. Incredible.
Even in her darkest days of illness, too many hospital stays, needle sticks and I.V. lines to count, she quite often would look up at the tech or the nurse who inflicted such pain and say, “Thank you.” She was never one to rail against the injustice of it all, but accepted the fact that she was ill and there were people working to fix it.
Photographs of this little girl, always smiling, always pleasant, provide proof that such memories are true. Her angelic sweetness shows up in those photographs all along the way, even throughout junior high and in to her high school days. That little girl has grown in to a beautiful, kind, sweet-spirited young lady who is a joy in every way.
Cherish every moment
If I have a single request, it is to slow down the clock just a tiny bit, as this dear daughter of mine has grown so busy that time together is getting more and more rare. It is a reminder to cherish every moment.
I feel lucky to know her, and luckier still to be her mom.