Tuesday, August 11, 2009

To Be 8

I have learned a few things over the course of this crazy parenthood thing and one of them is this: Eight is a pretty cool age to be.

Eight year olds can still wake up sleepy in the morning and look really cute and cozy. There are no new blemishes which have popped up during sleep, no odd odors radiating from their very beings, and the pajamas are really still quite cute. Being eight means 'bed head' is adorable and crawling into a parent's lap is perfectly natural.

When one is eight, the world tends to begin at point Me and venture in really curvy, curly-q lines from that point ending at point Me. It's not a direct route but it's a pretty reliable route. It's steady - because at 8 one has mastered the whole balance thing - but it's interesting. Eight can focus on eight because, really, in the end it's all about 8. And that's okay. At 8.

The fabulous thing about eight is the fact that birthdays are still exciting and meant to be counted down starting at, oh, 92 days before birthday. And everyone else should be counting right along for, apart from Christmas and any day involving no school, Eight's birthday is about the most thrilling, fantabulous, celebratory day there is. 8 still can't wait to be 9 and 8's mommy is generally okay with that because 9 is still a single digit. But 9 is no eight.

Of course there are downsides to 8 as there are with 1 through seven. Eight is no three - no longer the epitome of cuteness to the public at large. And 8 is no 1 - being held by anyone lucky enough to steal a quick cuddle. Eight involves some maintenance for no one will brush 8's teeth or bathe 8 in a kitchen sink. And sometimes Eight must do school work which seems entirely too far removed from point Me. Eight also means extra chores....though truth be told 8 can still smile or pout out of some work that 13 and Ten cannot avoid. (Eight works really well when 8 is the baby....)

And 8 can turn any situation into an adventure. A basement with water is an indoor puddle, a dog with muddy paws is fun with a garden hose, any trip becomes vacation, a funeral home is free (mint) candy, and the Dentist is a fun adult who hands out free stuff.

Oh to be 8...even just for an hour or so.

(this little thing is here because I'm testing something......)

Transparent Language

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The lost art of....guilt?

It has come to my attention over the course of several years, that the fine art of guilt has been waning to the point of (virtual) non-existence. While a cursory viewing of any episode of Law & Order will result in someone receiving a guilty verdict, the angst people used to experience over doing something - anything - wrong seems to have been summarily replaced. The observation is really in two parts: where did guilt go? and what replaced it?

I imagine humans have been shoving aside guilt - or at least displacing it - since the beginning of recorded time. Adam shoved his blame to Eve I'm sure, partly, in an attempt to assuage the guilt he felt over standing by and watching Eve do her thing. He even took that blame a step further and blamed his Creator for ever giving him "the woman". Somewhere in the midst of our dirty sin-filled story the main human characters felt enough guilt over seeing nakedness that they decided hiding from that shame would be the best route to take. It seems that where there has been sin there is often guilt. Or at least there should be.

Abraham Lincoln, father of emancipation and favorite poster child of the underdog, often bemoaned the fact that he had no good solution for slavery. End it to be sure, but what then? Generations of slave traders had removed a people from their homeland and transported them abroad where these people had gone on to have children and - in whatever fashion they could - establish a life in a new country. In fact, the guilt was so great that during an address in Peoria, IL Lincoln went so far as to suggest that the best solution, though wholly improbably, was to send the slaves back to "Liberia". In some ways Lincoln's guilt, felt on behalf of an entire country's population, lead an otherwise sensical person to suggest something that just about anyone would agree made no sense at all. And he, himself, knew the suggestion was completely implausible. Guilt makes us come up with crazy notions for covering it over or taking care of it.

Somewhere along the line, however, guilt became so covered over with grace that we neglected the guilt that got us here in the first place. I'm thinking 'grace' not only in a Biblical sense, but in that cheapened worldly use of the term. Oprah loves using the term 'grace' with the aplomb of Joel Oosteen and his prosperity preaching. Catholics once known for their "catholic guilt" rarely have much of a concept of the emotion - in my family the guilt died after my grandparents with the next generation acting without regard. In my own generation we were raised not only to follow laws and rules and commandments because they existed, but because there was that dreaded pit of the stomach guilt that came right along with swearing, drinking, smoking, premarital sex....you name it - it wasn't completely avoided but the guilt was as palpable as the second hand smoke girls tried feverishly to wash out of their hair.

Guilt it seems has been replaced by lowered expectations. What is granted as freedom is really a feeble bunch of excuses for bad behavior. There are few rules for teens because, as one parent once told me, "What can you do? You keep telling them 'no' and eventually you have no connection." Children cheat in school and instead of guilt they blame a teacher who can't teach or a 'system' that has failed them. They don't feel guilty - what else could they do but cheat? Husbands look at pornography and have affairs but there's no guilt - after all their wife let herself go, was too tired for sex, nagged him far too often. Wives sure have no guilt over not being a wife because it's really not what they signed up for. They are in the marriage for the children and their children are extremely happy so why should they feel guilty?

Guilt used to be an art.....one that drove us to grace and gratitude. What happens when we lose the art.....what drives us to true grace and a life filled to overflowing with gratitude if there is no longer anything to spur us on to that point?

“I have come to the conclusion that none of us in our generation feels as guilty about sin as we should or as our forefathers did” - Francis Schaeffer