Thursday, July 24, 2014


Alexis And Her Buddy Chase
My best friend and I had our first babies three months apart. I remember one day, when they were a bit older, how we got to talkin' about why they had certain character traits, and not others.

Paula has worked in early childhood education her entire life, and feels like she must be the most highly-trained person around, what with all the seminars they are forever sending her to. That day she shared a little exercise with me, which she had done herself in one of those seminars. 

Mr. Austin Joins The Party
She had me take a piece of paper and list at least 10 or 12 qualities which I felt were important for my children to have. When I was done, she had me circle the first four or five I had listed. "See those traits in that circle? That is your child. I bet they describe Alexis to a tee, don't they? Why? Because those are where you spent most of your time and effort. Sure, it'd be nice to have a child that was neat and tidy, but there are only so many hours in a day, so you focused your energy on what was most important to you."

Know what was up towards the top of my list? Strength and independence. I needed to be sure that she could handle whatever life threw at her, even if we weren't there to help, which could explain why she was a Little Miss Bossy Pants.  With Austin I may have eased off on that, knowing he was my last baby, a boy, and had a big sister who always looked out for him. I also wanted my kids to have a great sense of humor and of adventure -- to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and experience new things. I wanted them to be kind and creative and lovers of books. They are, in fact, all of the above. They are most definitely not neat and tidy.

I've thought about those lists a lot over the years -- especially about what might have been on Paula's own list, since I never actually saw it. From the very few things we have differed about over the years, I'm guessing that "independence" was not at the top of her list. For instance, when we sent Alexis off to college without a car the first year, Paula thought we were a bit crazy. When I told her it was because we didn't want her coming home every weekend, she was pretty much sure of it.

Nope, that's not me doing the hugging. That's Alexis!
It got me to thinking about our parents and our own upbringings, and it had me wondering if this might not have something to do with being country people vs. city people?

My family has been in the big city for generations, where it was each man for himself. We were on our own as soon as we got out of high school. If you wanted to go to college, you put yourself through. My dad finished high school early, just so he could get a job and stop being a burden on his single mom. No one ever lent him a hand with anything, so why should we expect a helping hand? Once we left, moving back home just wasn't an option. Our jobs have made us very mobile, taking us away from friends and family time and time again, forcing us to learn how to tough it out alone. We are "island" people, and maybe that's why I felt the need for my kids to be so strong and independent.

In Paula's family, however, no one ever really leaves home. She comes from farmers and ranchers who grew up in a small, agriculturally based community -- where neighbors and family had to rely upon one another, because it was simply impossible for any one person to do it on their own. You might say they're "village" people -- as in "it takes a village." Sure, kids may go off to college, but it's usually somewhere close by, and they usually do come home on weekends, to help out. Daughters may marry, but if it doesn't work out, they tend to move back home. Paula's father did actually move to Houston to work, but they alternated going home to his people and to his wife's people every single weekend, and moved back home to the country the minute he was eligible to retire. Although we met Paula and Tim while living overseas, they too moved back closer to home at the first opportunity. They have never been farmers or ranchers themselves (they don't even grow houseplants!), but that homing instinct must have been genetically imprinted on them, and on their son. Everything Chase does is about family and tradition, and there's nothing our friends love more than to be needed and relied upon.

So, in the end, I guess we both got what we wanted. Paula and Tim still get to see their son almost daily, talk to him on the phone several times per day, and have created their own little village to help raise their grandson.

We see our kids almost daily too...on Facebook.

Hmmmmm. Perhaps I should have thought this through a bit more thoroughly.

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