Life with the kids… the ’90s

[This is the eighth entry in my series on The Children. This is excerpts and  connecting comments from several journal entries during the 1990s when John, Lucy and Liana were all together in the Hickory Street house in Jesup. Some of the entries are from a “writing journal” that I was keeping as part of a class I was taking on using journaling with students.]

September 17, 1994

John Nelson went off to college today.

It didn’t quite feel like he was gone until I turned out the light and closed the front door before heading for the bedroom for the night. As I closed the door, I realized I wouldn’t be leaving it unlocked for him to come in late anymore. Locking it had a strange sense of of unpleasantness to it, as if I were locking him out. Realizing… he’s not just spending the night with a friend, not just visiting his mother, he’s now living on his own.

Certainly, he’ll be back to visit lots, I’m sure, but — he’s gone.

If I haven’t spent enough time going in and sitting on the edge of his bed and talking, saying goodnight, I love you son — if I haven’t said it by now, it’s likely too late.

I think I have tried, I hope I have tried enough… Now I hope I can turn him loose and not drive him away by trying to do what I may come to feel I should have done and didn’t. I love him too much to do that.

It’s really incredible that this moment is actually here now. It doesn’t seem so long ago that he slept all night on my chest night after night, that I walked up and down the floor of that apartment in Independence to keep him sleeping, that I ran around playing football with him in Granmommie’s back yard, the he walked down the sidewalk with us, that he came here, a serious but smiling eighth-grader.

How could all those moments have become this moment?

September 18, 1994

We had dinner with John in the ‘Boro tonight… took him out for pizza with all the kids… it was pretty normal. The whole process has been pretty normal, actually. Except things were a little strained at his dorm room… his roomie a little stressed maybe… but we sat and watched a movie and it was normalizing, I suppose. Stacy popped in and out, pretty normal for her…

But it all sorta served as a formal break, a little goodbye, although not so dramatic as when I “went off to college.” John has been so self-contained and confident in all this, not seeming dependent on us for much. It’s been a good transition…

September 20, 1994

Ugh! Tough soccer game for my little guys last night! Lost 5-0 and looked pretty foolish doing it. The opponent was a new coach, but he had three strong, very fast boys. I love my kids! They had a grand time losing and are ready to play again and score a goal!

Liana loved her first soccer game, though she was a little nervous about it…. but I need to work on my attitude! I didn’t like losing… work to do. Mainly in my little mini-Zendo on the screen porch.

But Lucy’s team won tonight, so now I feel better!

September 22, 1994

A busy week! Tonight, Liana had her second soccer game. My little team did great, though we lost again — one or two very fast players on the other team. But we’re getting into it! Amazing!

And tonight, Liana sat in the middle of her bed holding up her two bright orange soccer socks, holding them together, carefully evening them out, running her fingers down the full fuzzy length of them. The look of loving wonder on her face as she experienced the joy of her first pair of soccer socks was the pure expression of a child encountering life, finding unexpected joy in its little things,  a selfless moment of experience, a wordless wave of life…

September 26, 1994

Tonight, tho we lost ignominiously, Lucy had the half of her five-year soccer career! We were down three or four goals and striving mightily to score. Lucy was at forward, striker position. Over and over she dribbled the ball in to the goal box, going around much larger defenders with almost no help, to bring the ball within scoring range. She almost scored once and turned the ball around at mid-field numerous times! She took the ball from the opponents two or three times, as well.

She was darting around, in and out of traffic, running down players from behind, and once she even knocked down another player who tried to steal the ball! It was great! She played so hard, but we just couldn’t get our other forwards down the field. Sarah was doing great, too, but the two of them were not enough. Lucy did make a great pass to Sarah to start an attack, but the defense was too strong. Lucy felt, quite rightly, proud and good after the match!

Liana…

([This is the second post in a new series on my children. See the Post, The Children, for an introduction. These are a few entries from a random journal that is mostly just writings, largely undated. I was not very consistent in my journaling in those years, but these are special to me.)

Nov. 11, 1989

Just yesterday, Liana crawled her first hesitant, half-hitch crawls. This morning, a lovely, calm Saturday at home, she crawled nearly the length of the Hopi rug to to a stuffed toy — making sure she had it firmly grasped before she sat back.

I hope I can remember always the joys of watching her play, the delight in her enthusiastic babble of sounds, arms bouncing energetically as she scoots around on her bottom. I know she won’t be doing much more of that now that she’s discovered a superior method of locomotion.

I realize, as I marvel at her baby ways, that I hardly remember those things and the intense pleasure they bring from the babyhood of John or Lucy. I don’t want to forget how sweet it feels. I know I won’t likely feel precisely that again. This last baby…! The feelings are hard to describe — that delicate joy/sorrow mix. She is such a special one — so happy and loving, and quite an adventurous little one. She has a definite stubborn streak and this endearing little way of straining her stomach and arms and going “oooooh” with a very intense face, as if she is doing isometrics — and then breaking into a big smile and laughing about it!

The sheer variety of her spontaneous vocalization is amazing — reminiscent of the mocking bird. She really loves to be outside and get very loud and very excited about the creatures around. Some months ago, when we took her for her first carriage ride without the top, she got fascinated with the trees and sky. After ride, when I had picked her up to take her inside, she made a great effort to tip her head back and look up again to see, apparently, if all that wondrousness was still there.

It’s very gratifying — with this third child — that Li-li seem to really enjoy being with her Daddy and will go to sleep for me often.

July 17, 1990

So many wonderful moments, hours, days with this last little one have gone unrecorded… which is truly a shame, for she is truly a unique child, and I know we’ll forget so much of the dear little things that have had us in tears and in laughter! Her character is very strong! She has a persistence and determination at any task she undertakes, which has won my great admiration!

She’s just learning to talk now and has several phrases that we just haven’t deciphered yet — such as “Dat eye!” repeated with great enthusiasm in a number of situations, usually accompanied by her pointing finger. (My best guess is that it means ‘that way.’) She has lovely, slender fingers and her investigations of the world have been led by that insistently pointed index finger for some time now, almost as if she’s testing the world ahead of herself with it. She is quite loud and loves to scream, especially after being shushed! Defiant little thing!

We just said goodbye to my sister Linda and John and their family, and Liana had to part with beloved cousin Stevie (Tee-veee!) after much hugging and kissing! We hope they see each other often enough to stay close… When we talked about those kisses later, she made little kissy noises and called Stevie’s name over and over… just happy remembering the whole little love scene!

Sept. 14, 1991

Liana is a wonderful but difficult child! Eating pistachios with her this morning is a paradigm of her dealings with life. She can’t quite open them, but she wants to, and so she will eat only the ones that she picks up out of the bowl and hands to me to open for her, saying, “Now, I’m going to eat this one!” The ones I shell and put on the plate for her to eat she assiduously ignores! She also insists on putting the shells in the bowl herself.

She is also most loquacious at 2 1/2 years. She has many very adult phrases and ways of expressing herself. For example, she speaks often of someone being “able” to do something. She has great small-motor skills and is very print-aware, loves books and trying to read, and she pretends to write letters and words.

Jan. 6, 1993

Liana is an unusual and amazing child. I guess, at almost 4, she’s supposed to be a budding conversationalist and have an expanding vocabulary, but the delightful quality of her personality is really beyond just those developments, even as advanced as her verbal skills are.

Last night, she was unusually difficult about bedtime, and her mother spanked her — a very rare event! — for disobeying. As she lay in the bed crying, she began wailing, “These people are crazy!” over and over. She also said, “I’ve got to get out of here!” I went up and tried to talk to her, but could not get her to say why she said it. “They just are!” is all she would say. She did say that she meant all of us! Finally, I just held her and rocked her to sleep. Even today, she would not elaborate on why she said it, but she did not seem to be upset.

This is a rather atypical incident, as she usually will articulate her thoughts and feelings. I wish I had done a better job of recording some of her earlier comments and conversations…

A good example of her uniqueness is the Oatland Island trip. She was a big help in unpacking and packing pottery and was generally great all day. At lunch I took her to see the lower part of the animal trail on the island. She was just charming and delightful with me. In fact, she seemed to make a real effort to make the experience enjoyable for me! Most kids expect the adult to be the entertainer, to meet the needs and expectations of the child — most kids are totally self-absorbed and are hardly aware of the adult unless he fails to do what they want! Which is normal! Liana, however, seems to be able to focus on the other person and intentionally be entertaining and charming, considerate and sweet!