Sunday, May 24, 2009

On Smiling

After dinner one night, we were just cooing over my three month old infant smiling. What is it about a baby’s smile that just makes you giggle, laugh out loud, feel so filled with love and happiness? Of course, I love to see my oldest Elijah smile, and my husband. But there is nothing like a baby’s smile. What is it?

My husband and I were just smiling and giggling over this little person’s smile and I got nervous that my five-year old Elijah would get jealous. But he just said, “when Ezra smiles, it makes me want to smile.”

How lovely a thing to hear! How perfect!

How happy it made that he wasn’t jealous, that the smile just made him happy.

So I tried it out at Ross. I smiled randomly at people who seemed unhappy or so focused on their goal they were unknowingly sporting frowns. I smiled and though they seemed tentative, they reciprocated. And the brief exchange was pleasant.

So, I try to do it more often with people everywhere. I try to remember that a smile is worth something. Unfortunately, I learned that a smile is worth more than I have in currency to the older gentleman who hasn’t received a smile in quite some time. The exchange sometimes includes an uninvited flirtation or “can I get your number?” Sometimes, I want to yank my smile back or say, “it’s just a smile! Not an invitation.” But I continue to smile and say thank you or no you cannot have my number.

I guess they are used to getting ugly mugs from people. Elijah has asked me about the ugly mug I’ve had on different occasions, “Mommy are you mad?”

“No honey, I’m not mad, why do you ask?” I reply with another question.
“Because you’re not smiling,” he lamented.

“I’m sorry,” and I give him the smile he deserves to see always.

On another occasion, it was simply, “I like it when you smile.” And I told him, “I like it when you smile.” And then we just smiled and our silly grins turned into laughter.

When I’m at work and smile at my students when they are down or deep in thought, their faces brighten and they smile back. I’ve even started smiling at random students in the hallways. They need those smiles, that energy, that warmth. I need that warmth and when I remember that a simple smile can supply warmth, I ask myself why aren’t you smiling and I reply with one.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

On Raising Children

I was watching Oprah interview these mothers who lost their 11 year old sons to suicide. And all I could think was Elijah is 6 years away from that age. What happened to these poor children that they found no other way to cope? What can I do, what should I be doing for my boys, with my boys, to help them become strong, confident individuals?

At 5 years old, Elijah has already talked about being teased and we try to encourage him to say “leave me alone. “ His first few years performing on a stage, he was so confident and cheery. More recently, he has been nervous about getting on stage, fearful that people will laugh at him. What happened, how is the world already destroying his confidence?

On another occasion, Elijah got out of our car when we got home from school and a neighborhood kid ran up to Elijah and shoved his toy gun in Elijah’s face, on Elijah’s cheek. I had to hold myself back from yelling (among other things) at this child. I watched my son to see his reaction, to see how it made him feel or if it affected him at all. Elijah ran from this child. The child followed and repeated his original gun-in-face action. Elijah told me what the child had done (I guess my silence made him think I hadn’t witnessed the action) and I asked Elijah “what should you say to him?” Elijah told him, “Stop it.” And the child stopped, just like that.

I don’t know if this has confirmed my anti-gun sentiment for my children. More importantly though, I think it confirmed that the one thing I can do is teach my children to stand up for themselves. I can’t control what they do or see on every play date, with their grandparents, in this world. As much as I want to protect and shield, I can only hopefully give him tools to take care of himself and understand right from wrong.

I’m teaching Fences to my students and Rose sings, “Jesus be a fence all around me every day.” We discussed the different types of fences that exist and those that people create. Rose wants a fence to protect her family. Troy wants to act as a fence around his son to protect him against the racial discrimination of the outside world and the disappointment that ensues. I think all parents want to be that fence; I want to put my children in bubbles to protect them from confidence-destroying, evil-maniacal, gun-toting, intolerant society. If it were only that simple. If there was only a magic formula. There are so many times when I think, “I don’t know what I’m doing.” God protect my children from me and my lack of parenting skills. I guess you just keep trying. Thanks to the show for confirming one instinct-- teach him to stand up for himself.