Flounder Reflections

After four hours of fishing HARD in the rolling waves and brisk breezes, “getting skunked” is very hard to swallow.

Flounder

If it hadn’t been for this fellow, I would have gotten the skunk. today.

With the catching so slow, I decided at noon to give my arms a rest, grab my lunch, and just vegetate for a while and see where the current might take me.  I rarely take time to just sit and cogitate any more.  I guess life spins way too fast most of the time for that to happen.

Feeling like something, maybe life, has sucked the creativity right out of my bones, I just wanted to reflect.   Reflection is good, right?

With so many things pulling at my time these days, I pause to think about those things that matter most in life.  Immediately my children come to mind, quickly followed by the thought that they haven’t mattered most for the past year or so.  Yet, when I think back on my years as a stay-at-home mom, they were my happiest and very fulfilling.

I had lived over a quarter century before my first child was born.  She was wanted, desired, anxiously awaited.  I fell in love with her the moment I saw her, and that love has only grown deeper.  I wondered early on if I could ever love another child as much as I loved her.

I could.  And I did, over and over again for many years.

Pregnancy, childbearing, and child rearing were things I could do very well.  And in so doing, I found that my life was full to the point of bursting at times.  My kids will tell you that I was tough on them–a very strong disciplinarian.  Even now when I hear a tired, hungry infant crying or a toddler pitching a tantrum in a store, I always think the same thing:  None of my children EVER behaved that way in a store.  And the second thought is:  Someone needs to spank that mommy.

And it’s a big deal, being a good mom.  We lived so far down the bayou, and money was so tight, that I planned monthly menus and shopped for groceries once a month. Try that with 3 children under 5 in tow. But they helped.  They always put away the groceries.  Even as toddlers, they folded the wash cloths to help with the laundry.  By the time they were 10, they were washing, drying, folding and putting away their own.

It was hard when The Captain was first laid off boats, and we had two babies.   He took a land job that paid much less than what he had been making.  And then before health insurance could kick in, we were being blessed again. Oh, didn’t you know?  Children are a blessing.  Who was I to say, “No thanks! No more blessings for me!”?

Maybe my children tired of hearing their mother say “No, we can’t afford it.”  So one day I quit qualifying the no’s and tried to say yes to everything I possibly could.  I wondered today while drifting, now that my children have their own bills to pay, if they realize that we did all we did on $1800 a month?  Including a house note.

My children swam in Lake Michigan, walked on the edge of the Atlantic, swam in the aqua-blue waters of the Florida gulf, and were splashed by Shamu in San Antonio.  They’ve been to the top of the state capitol, played  inside fire trucks, been to the zoo,  and camped overnight in vans, tents and boats.  They’ve seen the Smoky Mountains, tubed down an ice cold mountain spring, and hand-fed bison and giraffes.

They’ve seen how Louisiana rice is made, and chewed cane straight from the field.  They’ve crossed paths with water moccasins big around as rats and dreamed while coy-dogs yipped in the distance.  They’ve roasted hot dogs and marshmallows on fires they gathered the wood for and started themselves.  They’ve fallen off bicycles, broken teeth, and flown out of go-carts, hiding their skinned knees from me.  They’ve hunted and fished, knee boarded, and marched in a parade.  They’ve made their own zip-line and run their 3-year-old brother down it, causing my heart to skip a beat.

They’ve mowed grass, gathered eggs, and jumped off the roof onto the trampoline–just once.  They’ve tended bee hives and been stung.  They’ve raised rabbits, picked figs and dewberries, and been in 4-H.  They’ve played softball, baseball, basketball, piano, flute, drums, guitar, and video games.

My kids have fought with each other, but seldom within earshot of me.  They learned quickly to solve their own issues, because they certainly did not want ME to get involved!  Nor have we ever had bouts of “MOM, make him stop touching me.”   They knew that if they ever called out “MOM”, it better be important.  From the time they could talk, whining was neither encouraged nor tolerated.

The truth is, good parenting is hard work, yet parenting is the most fulfilling job I have ever had.  I’m thankful that my husband worked so I could stay home.  He opted out of the newest, latest, and greatest of everything so that I could stay home and invest myself in five little humans.

So why now, after such a rewarding job of 30 years, do I find myself downcast because I have no IRA, no 401K, and no resume`.   By the world’s standards, I have no investments.  Clear as the trees reflected on the water, my own reflections remind me that what I do have are five loving children, who have become amazing adults and teens.

With midlife comes a crossroad–a time to look back and look forward.  Five years ago, I wasn’t ready for grandchildren.  Truth be told . . . I haven’t wanted to hold an infant since my youngest left that phase. Now, I feel like I’m approaching the season of my life where I might be ready for a return on my investment.

However, if my children choose not to procreate, then I will be at peace with that choice.  I do worry along with them about bringing children into such uncertain times.

I worry, too, about my son who is so busy spending his hard-earned money that he doesn’t take time to know himself, much less the people he spends his money on.  And I worry about the son who is afraid he will never find an attractive mate who has maintained some sense of self respect and purity in this “show-as-much-flesh-as-you-can” society.

Then there is my teen-aged special son who, just like his normal counterparts, doesn’t like to hear me say “NO”.  He wants to drive a car, like his peers.  He wants to work at the grocery store, like his peers.  I say yes as often as I can to balance out the no’s, but he asks for so little, how can I constantly deny him?

And then there’s the child that could be my grandson.  He was a surprise baby.  Not a mistake, mind you, just a nice, late-life surprise.  He has gotten into more things in his short life than the other four put together. And that is no lie.  He tries my patience.  He makes me crazy.  He wears me down.  He gets away with murder.  But for some reason, the Creator wanted him here, and for all the mischief, I love this last child as much as I do the rest.  Ah yes, he keeps me young.

With grandchildren a future dream, a husband facing disability, and two sons still in school, my midlife crisis is a multidimensional one.  For my peers who had to work or chose a career, retirement is at hand.  Meanwhile, I’m wondering how I will provide for my family.  Even so, while reflecting, I’ve taken time to count my blessings . . . there are at least five major ones.

I thank God for giving me such great kids.  I thank goodness they still love me.  I thank them for being here for me when I am down.  Without their support, this crossroad would just be a “cross to bear” rather than a “road to choose”.

I just want to say to my children that I’m sorry for making you listen to me read the entire Little House on the Prairie series.  I was hoping that somehow we might be moved to record in writing our adventurous lives for others to read a hundred years later, but it’s hard to imagine anyone would care, isn’t it?

What others consider mundane and less than, I consider challenging and greater than. I hope a little of that rubbed off over the years.  It makes the lean times much more tolerable.

So only daughter, you bring me great joy, whether you choose to have children matters not to me.  Oldest son, please settle down and meet Miss Right.  And second son, please open your heart to the remote possibility of a girl whose self respect is still in tact.  And special son, I’m afraid to let you go, so be patient with me.  And baby son, don’t go too far when you leave this tyranny called the teens.

You are all worth more to me than any retirement plan!

Reflectively,

BW

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Comments

Flounder Reflections — 24 Comments

  1. Thank you for putting the thoughts and reflections of so many of us into words.
    Memories are what we hold dear when those we care so much for are not near enough or are too busy or think they are “too old” to be hugged or given a kiss on the cheek.
    My children will always be my babies and their children also.
    Rich, poor, happy, sad, threaten them or hug them, what makes a true family is all those special times that stay in your memory.
    So, reflect, remember and continue to say Thank You to a higher power for such a wonderful life. And when they say that magical word “Mom” with love in their voice, you know you have it all.

  2. Guess that hits all the buttons. I was a termite once. Ran pretty much wilder than any kids my age and still got chores done and eggs sold. Learned to duck the older sisters and out shoot the older brothers. Never didn’t have anything I wanted and learned early what trouble was. I under achieve by design. Guess I don’t whine enough for disability, back has been issue for 50 plus years.

    Some people need to have kids, I just need more fiber in my diet.

    Time to shred some more Republican Central Committee letters….

    Is flounder the metaphor for what we do?

    Cheer up.

  3. Too bad more mothers don’t share a similar sentiment. I suspect the world would be a more interesting, enjoyable, peaceful, and sustainable place to live. But unfortunately some women that should become mothers can’t, don’t, or won’t; and some that are, shouldn’t be. Wish more people had the wisdom to know the difference. Always felt that motherhood has been viewed too much as a right in modern history instead of the privilege you so eloquently describe it to be.

  4. What a tribute to you and your children. You have done so much with what some people would consider so little. I know how difficult it has sometimes been. Even now I marvel at your equanimity in the face of so many challenges.

    By the way, Blu. A gentle scolding – your comment about not “whining enough for disability” makes it seem as though The Captain’s disability is a sham or a scam. Please know that is entirely not the case. He, more than anybody, would not wish his disability on another soul, and would gladly trade it for back trouble.

    LilSis

  5. What a moving and great tribute to you and your family! Thank you for sharing, Wendy. There are not very many women out there like you, and you serve as an inspiration for this working mom trying to keep all of the juggling balls up in the air.

  6. “No one ever died from sleeping in an unmade bed. I have known mothers who remake the bed after their children do it because there’s a wrinkle in the spread or the blanket is on crooked. This is sick…” -Erma Bombeck

    THANK YOU for being a mom who understands that there are more important things in life than making your bed… Like learning to love and respect special people by going for beignets at TARC (with baby Daniel in the high chair in his blue Winnie the Pooh pajamas!), like giving a homeless man corn dogs and red Kool-Aid for lunch at the park, like boxing up forgotten toys and driving around until we find a family who could use some new toys at Christmastime, like helping an elderly man clean up fallen branches in his yard while waiting in line for ice after Hurricane Andrew… so many things that I can look back at and vividly remember! Thank you for investing in us and giving us those memories! (And for finally giving up on making us make our beds, although maybe I’m the only one who hated it so passionately!)

    I have so many, many more memories that I could post here, but I’ll save it for MY blog! (Coming soon! Shamless plug… sorry, Mommer!)

    I love you very much! (And I liked the Little House series!)

    • “They’ve fallen off bicycles, broken teeth, and flown out of go-carts, hiding skinned knees from Mom. They’ve hunted and fished, knee boarded, and marched in a parade. They’ve made their own zip-line and run their 3-year-old brother down it, giving Mom heart palpitations…”

      Oh, how this made me laugh! And all of it completely true!

      And yes, we did hide some bickering from you… were we the only kids who would barter with each other to avoid more trouble? As in, “I’ll let you hit me back twice if you don’t tell mom!” *LOL*

  7. Sounds like my kids could function in your house and yours in mine without any issue. I just don’t tolerate the whining or the bickering. I’ve had clients tell their unruley children that I would spank them if they didn’t mind and I’ve ofter replied back, “no honey I won’t spank you I will spank Mommy for letting you act like that”. Keep up the good work!

  8. Sometimes words reach out across the world and touch others. I guess you may be writing the Little House on the Prairie Series that my daughter will be reading to my grandchildren.

    You are a very special wife and Mother and I am so proud you shared your philosophy of raising children.

    Diane’s words touched my heart because some of us who are women have missed the opportunity to be the kind of Mother you have been to five precious children.

    I love Mrs Croach’s response:

    Offering to spank Mommy! Every time I go to the store I see Mommy’s who need to be spanked or helped because they definitely cannot deal with being Mothers.

    I am struggling with how to save your family and Bayou Dularge.

    I truly believe the people of Louisiana need your voice and expertise to save our entire coast. But I think we must deal with helping your family first and finding a way to build not only a new home but a structure from which you cannot only be caregiver but also give lessons on wetlands, our native American methods of basket weaving, netmaking and all the traditional things your in-laws have taught you.

    We need you teach fishing and duck hunting to a new generation of young people and women.

    I want your three acres to have a home and educational site that will be there for your grandchildren….

    But perhaps I am selfish because what I really want is for the people of Louisiana and visitors from around the world to continue to live on this land that belonged to native Americans long before corporations from other states came for the cypress and furs.

    and I cannot give up that dream.

    I think you need to self-publish the first year of this online journal the way Chris Rose self-published One Dead in the Attic.

    Another idea I have for you, Wendy.. . Why don’t you ask the Courier to pay you for a weekly column with photos?

    Goodnight and may God be with us all as we struggle to find our way out of the last four years of Katrina-Rita-Gustav-Ike into the future Louisiana and the Gulf Coast deserves.

    • I want all of you to know that Lillian Miller is the niece of the legendary “Alligator Annie” who started the first swamp tours in the Houma, LA area back in 1979 (I think it was). She was a conservationist and a wetland advocate long before my time. I could only dream of doing the good that Annie and Lillian have done in their combined years for coastal Louisiana and its peoples.

      Thank you for your kind words and all your help, Lily. The Courier might take the suggestion from you, since you have such a good reputation in the industry, but I’m not sure they’d take it from me! Thanks for the idea, though!

  9. I see I have another asignment. I will visit with the newspaper folks.

    All you have to do is promise to give them something once a week.

    And it can be be a past post.

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  10. Du’ing homework. Reading John Besh’s My New Orleans The Cookbook.

    Guessing if your somewhere ain’t there but you stop in here. Y’all ought to head to Barnes and grab a copy. Piggies, cattle, and fish.

    Back to irregularly scheduled stuff.

    Hey Termite got the duck call out yet?

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