Giving Thanks for Painful Things

In honor of Thanksgiving, I did a post the other day on giving thanks. 

I mentioned my good health, my wonderful children and my loving husband.

Then I read a post by another blogger who just launched her new book, The Golden Sky, a memoir that tells about her painful loss of a son.  I noticed that she was calling for other parents to contribute their stories about the death of a child and it touched a chord in my heart.

Thirty-seven years ago, I was pregnant with our second child.  Our son was a year and a half old and my husband and I were very excited!  Everything was going so smoothly…every check-up at the doctor’s office was a blue-ribbon one.

Something woke me in the middle of the night…not a pain…not even a feeling of discomfort.  I guess I would call it a feeling of disquiet.  Getting out of bed because of some cramping, I thought I would take a warm bath.  I was six months pregnant and we had attended the Lamaze classes two years before…I assumed this was some type of false labor.  As I reclined in the bath, I suddenly felt as if I had to go to the bathroom…really badly…and that’s when the nightmare started!  Sitting on the toilet, I had an overwhelming sense of urgency to PUSH…my water broke…and I hobbled to the bedroom, calling for my husband to wake up.

The rest of the night was a blur.  The ambulance got me to the hospital quickly…my husband had brought our son next door to our neighbor’s house to stay till he got home…my doctor was at the hospital waiting for me and he comforted me, telling me they would do everything they could.

Jeremy weighed one and a half pounds…a very tiny preemie, especially for 1974.  The doctors were not able to save him and my husband and I mourned the loss of this precious life.

I can’t tell you how much I wanted to get pregnant again…as quickly as possible.  I’m sure if this has happened to you, you understand.  Of course we had our son…but there was still an empty space in our hearts.  And, even though I did get pregnant again a year later and, thanks to my wonderful doctor (it turned out I had an incompetent cervix which means that at any time during a pregnancy, the cervix can start dilating, with no pain and no warning), had a healthy pregnancy and birth, that painful loss will never be totally erased.

So why do I say that we need to give thanks for painful things?  I think for two reasons: we grow stronger and more able to cope with life’s challenges and we also learn to cherish more what we do have.

I hope you will all go and visit Elisabeth’s blog, http://ecwrites.blogspot.com/p/golden-sky-my-journal-about-zeke_02.html  and find out about the wonderful prizes that will be awarded to celebrate the launch of her new book.  She shares her painful journey and will certainly help others who face similar tragedies.

Rhett Butler: From Devil-May-Care Scoundrel To Doting Dad

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We meet Rhett Butler early on in the movie.  Standing in the expansive hallway of Twelve Oaks, his animal magnetism and piercing stare attract the attention of Scarlett O’Hara as she climbs the graceful winding staircase with her friends.  Scarlett’s companions inform her that Rhett Butler is the son of an honorable and distinguished family, but “good” girls should avoid him because he is a rogue and a troublemaker. 

While the other young ladies are taking a nap to rest up for the evening’s festivities, Scarlett sneaks downstairs to confront Ashley who, earlier in the day, had announced his engagement to his cousin, Melanie.  Scarlett tells Ashley that she loves him and he says that he loves her as well, but that he is going ahead with his marriage to Melanie.  As the door closes on Ashley, Scarlet throws a vase at the door, shattering it.  As the pieces fall to the floor, Rhett, who had been lying down on the couch, unobserved by Scarlett or Ashley, stands up.

This begins their tumultuous on again – off again relationship.  Throughout the years, we see many different sides of this enigmatic man…shrewd businessman (he makes a fortune as a privateer during the war), compassionate friend (he buys back Melanie’s wedding ring when she donates it to help the Confederate army and returns it to her because he understands how much it means to her), a man who disregards conventions (he pays a large sum of gold to dance with Scarlett even though she is a new widow and it is a definite no-no for her to dance).

However, when Scarlett has their baby, we see a soft and vulnerable side of Rhett. 

There is a saying that when you become a mother, your heart no longer resides inside your body, but is now exposed to the world.  This holds true for fathers as well, because Rhett changes his ways and becomes steady and gentle and concerned with what others think about him and his family.  He wants only the best for little Bonnie and goes to great lengths to insure that the community accept him and think well of him.

Here are a few of the ways Rhett exhibited good parenting skills:

1.     He spent time with his child, joyfully participating with her.

2.     He encouraged his child to try new experiences and to master tasks and skills.

3.     He was supportive if she failed to reach a goal and he understood and respected her fears.

4.      He set limits and rules…he admonished her not to change the jumping bar.

If you’ve seen Gone With The Wind, you know that Bonnie did not listen to her father in this instance.  She raised the jumping bar and her little pony was unable to jump over it and Bonnie was thrown from the horse and killed.  Bonnie’s death creates a chasm between Scarlett and Rhett because each blamed the other.   Unfortunately, this scenario takes place all too often in real life.

Parenting is the most difficult job in the world and the only one I know of that doesn’t require some kind of training or licensing.  We all want to be good parents…and most of us are.   But sometimes (many times) parenting can be frustrating and draining, both emotionally and physically. 

1.     Don’t be ashamed to ask for help if you need some time for yourself…investigate different options…maybe you can watch your friend’s child one afternoon and she will return the favor so that both of you can have an afternoon to yourselves.

2.     If you need information or advice on parenting, there are many support groups, 1-800 help hot-lines, and local community organizations that stand ready to assist you to be the parent you want to be for your child.

Tune in tomorrow for the last post in the Gone With The Wind series…Mammy: Top Marks in Parenting Skills

Pencil Maker’s 4th Lesson: In Life You Will Undergo Painful Sharpenings Which Will Only Make You Better

2 woodless graphite pencils in plastic sheaths...

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Have you ever watched a blacksmith working on a piece of iron?  He handles it with long tongs and repeatedly passes the metal through the flames to heat it while he works on it.  This tempers the iron and makes it stronger. 

Life is like that with us.  Some of us have to go through many painful experiences…emotional and/or physical.  But when we emerge, we are stronger.  Most of the time, we don’t purposely “walk into the fire”.  When you think about it though, every time we step out of our “comfort zone” and learn a new skill or master a new task or take a new job or begin a new relationship, we are allowing ourselves to be tested and improved.  This is lesson #4 of the pencil maker: In Life You Will Undergo Painful Sharpenings Which Will Only Make You Better.

How can we relate this to parenting?  Our children look to us for guidance and direction as each day they face new experiences, develop new relationships and have to master new skills and tasks.  If you think about it, young children are undergoing painful sharpenings on a daily basis.

1.     We need to be good role models…you need to walk the walk, as they say, not just talk the talk.  Don’t expect your children to follow one mode of behavior while you follow another.

2.     We need to be caring of others…not only those we know like our friends and family.  Help your children learn to reach out to others by sponsoring a child in a third world country or choosing to help out at a soup kitchen for Thanksgiving or Christmas.  Make a family project of going through your children’s toys, books and clothes (and your own) and donate to a local shelter.  Decide to give up going to the movies and eating out and get a free movie from your local library and have sandwiches at home instead…use the money you save to shop with your children for canned goods and bring them to a local food bank.

3.     When your child experiences a sharpening in his or her life, be there in a supportive and loving role…if a beloved hamster dies, don’t make light of it even if the hamster wasn’t important to you.  Treat your child’s feelings of grief and sadness with respect.                                                                   

4.     When you experience a sharpening in your life, such as losing a job or dealing with a serious health problem, try to be honest with your children.   Young children can be tender and compassionate if you give them the opportunity and their self-esteem soars when you give them respect and listen to their suggestions.

5.     We all want to protect our children from sadness or unhappiness…but these emotions are a part of life…sheltering a child from ever experiencing these feeling will not enable him to learn to cope with the challenges life will inevitably bring his way.

The frightening tragedy this past week has left many, both adults and children, dealing with a plethora of negative feelings: pain, disbelief, anger, sadness.  Reading a children’s picture book will not take these feelings away, but it can open a window for discussion and allow a child to be more comfortable talking about his feelings or concerns.  A few good children’s picture books for acknowledging and coping with grief and sadness are: 

AFTER CHARLOTTE’S MOM DIED written by Cornelia Spelman

NANA UPSTAIRS, NANA DOWNSTAIRS written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

GOODBYE MOUSIE written by Robie Harris

Tune in tomorrow for the last lesson of the Pencil Maker: To Be The Best Pencil, You must Allow Yourself To Be Held And Guided By The Hand That Holds You.