Category: parenthood

Susannah has a new and consuming obsession with volcanoes. Viewing videos and photos and reading about volcanoes hasn’t satisfied her curiosity.We have the following conversation at least once a day. 

“Mommy, what’s a bolcano?”
“A volcano… is a mountain with an opening where lava, steam, and ashes come out when it erupts.”
“Mommy, what’s hop laba?”
“Hot lava is melted rocks.”
“Mommy, why does a bolcano interrupt?”
“A volcano erupts when the pressure inside it gets high and the lava needs to pour out.”
“Okay.”

“Hey mommy? What’s a bolcano?”

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This morning, Susannah wanted to call Granddaddy. “Hey, Granddaddy! You wanna do a video chat?” Of course, he said yes, and we got the laptops fired up for a nice, pajama’ed, messy-haired chat session. Susannah was her silly self, making up words and enjoying watching herself on the picture-in-picture box. Jonas was not himself at all. He barely talked to Dad, and kept acting out aggressively (growling at the screen when Granddaddy asked him a question, antagonizing Susannah while she was trying to talk). After we hung up, Jonas was slouched on the sofa, curled into a grumpy lump, with his back toward the room.

“Jonas, are you upset? Because you seem really grumpy.”

“Yes. I’m grumpy. I’m angry.”

“Are you angry at Granddaddy?”

“Yes.” His eyes glistened with little-boy-trying-not-to-cry-tears.

And I knew. I knew the conversation we were going to have today. I’d sensed it coming, even before Mom died. When things got bad around Thanksgiving, and I tried to explain brain tumors and cancer in spinal fluid to an almost 6 year old, I knew that soon I was going to have a very angry young man on my hands.

I sank onto the couch beside him. I lowered my face so that our foreheads touched. And as carefully as I could, I told him, “You don’t need to be angry at Granddaddy. I bet seeing him and talking to him makes you think about Grandmama, and that makes you sad and angry. Is that right?”

He nodded.

“But, baby, it is not Granddaddy’s fault that Grandmama died.

Jonas sat upright. His cheeks flushed, and he blurted out, “I know! I know it’s not his fault! IT’S GOD’S FAULT THAT SHE DIED. And when I get up there, I am going to BREAK HIM.”

And then the tears did come – hot, angry tears. Maybe tears of shame at finally confessing this anger, this wish to see God face-to-face and break Him into pieces as punishment for taking away Grandmama. And my tears came, too. Mine were tears of sadness of missing my mom, sadness for my son’s hurting heart, and tears of desperation for how to explain this big, big situation to a little boy.

So I grabbed him and I held him and I told him I understand. We turned on a show for Susannah to watch and we went to sit on the stairs, so we could talk in private.

I did my best.

When I asked Jonas how he feels, he said, “ANGRY.”

“I know, but how does the anger make your body feel? Does it make your tummy hurt?”

“Yes.” He looked relieved, maybe to know that the knot in his belly was related to the anger bubbling in his chest. “My tummy hurts. And I feel… I just feel…. all half.”

“Half.” I thought about that for a second. “You feel like half is missing? Do you mean, you feel like something is missing inside here?” I touched his chest. He folded into me for another hug. “Yeah.”

“Think about how much Grandmama loved God. Do you know what I mean?”

Jonas’ head was pressed into my shoulder, but he nodded. “Yeah. She loved Jesus.”

“Yeah, she did. She talked about Him a lot. And she loved songs about Him, and she read her Bible, and she taught kids at her church about the Bible. And as much as Grandmama loved God – well, God loved her back, even more than that.”

“Baby, it is not God’s fault that Grandmama died. God didn’t give her cancer. God designed us, designed our bodies, and He wants us to have good health. But this world we live in has problems. There are germs, and bees that sting us, and accidents where we get injured, and diseases like cancer. Sometimes it just happens – people get cancer. And some of those people get healthy again, and some of those people don’t.”

“Grandmama’s body just got weaker when the cancer got stronger, and when her body couldn’t live anymore… that’s when God just let her come to Heaven. Her body died. Her spirit lived – it will always live, and when we go to Heaven (a long, long time from now, I hope) we will all be together there.”

We talked about being angry and sad, and how it’s okay to feel that way. It’s okay to talk about how you feel, and Mommy and Daddy and Granddaddy can all listen and help. We talked about what’s NOT okay (like yelling at your sister because you feel angry about something else) and we talked about pretty soon Jonas will probably feel less angry but he might feel sad for a while still.

And we prayed together, asking God to bring comfort to Jonas’ heart. Thanking God for loving us and watching over us even when we are angry at Him. Telling God how sad we are and how much we miss Grandmama.
So. I know this will take time, and we probably have more conversations ahead of us. Keep Jonas in your prayers, that he’ll be able to release his anger in appropriate ways, that he’ll feel the love of God even in the midst of his hurting, and that he’ll get to a point of acceptance and understanding. And if you can spare a prayer for a mama who’s trying to guide her little man through grief, I’ll take it.

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Today while I was fixing lunch, Jonas and Susannah started doing that ‘fun kid thing’ where they opened their mouths and just yelled, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH” at each other as loud as they possibly could.

No argument, no anger, no issues.
Just yelling.
And the annoying part (aside from the sheer volume) was the dissonance. Oy, my ears.
So I put down the peanut butter and walked over to the table slowly. They stopped. (I think they thought they were in trouble.)
I opened my mouth and made the lowest tone I can muster (my range doesn’t go very low) with a nice big “OM” sound. Jonas’ eyes widened. Susannah grinned. They both joined me and matched my note.
I slid up the scale, and they’d take a half-second to hear it and adjust. (By the end of an octave, Jonas ‘got it’ and anticipated the shift. That was cool.) We got as high as I could go, and I started sliding down the scale. They sang it with me.
When we stopped, they both started giggling and I told them no more crazy screaming, please. They actually managed to just sit quietly while I finished their lunch plates, and ate happily together.
Now they’re upstairs for quiet time, and for some reason I’ve got “She made a proper cup of coffee in a copper coffee pot*” running through my head.

*We used this tongue twister in a vocal warmup when I was in high school chorus. Yay for Mr. Ellis!

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I don’t love waking up all night long. Susannah’s at an interesting stage where some nights, she sleeps from 6:30 pm straight through until 6:00 am. But other nights, she wakes at midnight… and 2:00… and 4:00… more or less. She’s easy to get back to sleep; she just wants a sip of water from her canteen and to be covered back up with her blankets. But last night I was thinking about something interesting when Susannah woke up around 10:00 pm.

When she wakes up, she’s alone in her bed. The room is dark (unless she has turned on her Twilight Turtle). She doesn’t know what time it is. She doesn’t know where everyone else is.

Yet she calls out with perfect faith, perfect confidence. “Mama! I need a sip a wa-tuh!” She cries out my name knowing that I hear her. She tells me what she needs trusting that I will provide it.

Every great once in a while, her faith wavers. I don’t know why – maybe she has a bad dream? Maybe she’s not feeling well? But sometimes, rarely, her voice quivers and she calls out, “Mommy? Can you hear me? Mommy? Where ah you?”

She’s the same kid, in the same room, with the same Mama right across the same hall. But some nights, it’s just harder for her to know that I’ve heard her.

You know what? I get that. Most of the time, I talk to God – my Father – with faith. I call His name and I trust that He hears me. I tell Him what I need, or about the needs I see around me, and I believe that He is meeting those needs. But I have rough days when I cry out and I don’t feel heard. Or really rough days, when I don’t bother calling His name at all. And that’s just as silly as Susannah asking “Mommy? Where ah you!?” – because He is the same Father, watching over me, still caring, still providing. He is always ready to hear me and to minister to me, like a cool sip of water in the dark of the night.
It’s true that as a mom, I’m usually the one trying to teach my little people about God, about His love for us, about His plan for us. But there are moments when God teaches me something about Himself through my kids – and I really love those moments.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents–if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:7-10

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I posted on Facebook today that I heard my mother’s voice flying out of my head today. We were leaving the library, and Jonas had a stack of five books in his hands. As we passed through the automatic doors and neared the parking lot, I said, “Jonas, you have to pay attention to where you’re going. Don’t walk and read – you can read that in the car.”

WHAAAA—–????!!!!
I cannot count the number of times I heard some variant of that growing up. Don’t read and walk… don’t read at the dinner table… don’t read in the bathtub. (Although now they make these cool things, and since I read in the tub anyway, flouting conventional wisdom, how cool would that be? I digress.) The funny thing was, after a short period of time adjusting to my 5-year-old bifocals [CURB!] I was good at reading while walking. I don’t recall ever bumping into anything – anything major, that is. It was just “one of those things” my Mom always said. And today, without even thinking about it, it came out of MY mouth.
*****
Later today, Susannah was picking at a tiny scab on her leg. (This child is constantly dealing with bruises and scabs and various little injuries. Welcome to my world.) Now, here’s a dirty little secret: I’m a picker. I cannot stand to leave things like that alone. I don’t think I’ve ever just observed how long it would take my body to heal a little scab like that; I always mess with things on my skin.
But as I sat beside her, do you know what flew out of my mouth?
“Susannah, don’t pick at that. You’ll open it to infection!”
Hello, Dr. Chris Nebel, when did you take up residence in my Broca’s Area?
That was wierd.
*****
Yesterday, we had a few big rumbles of thunder. Jonas was having quiet time – not asleep, not absorbed enough in a major activity to ignore it. Down the hall he sped, onto the couch and into my arms he jumped. “Mama – it’s a storm! I’m scared of storms!”
I patted his back, and do you know what came to mind immediately?
“I know, baby. But remember: God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. We’re okay.”
Hmmm. Yeah, that wasn’t an original thought either.
*****
So here’s my take on losing my voice: in this case, it’s a good thing. They say that when we’re children, we think our parents know everything; when we’re teenagers we think they know nothing; when we’re parents ourselves, we realize they knew a whole darn lot. I think that this co-opting of my words is happening because the more I grow, the more I realize that the best wisdom comes from outside myself. Opening up to the wisdom of others, especially to the Creator of wisdom itself, and making it our own – that’s the only way to have a voice that matters.

Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Proverbs 3:13-16

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I think with a little boy, you just have to expect the unexpected. You really never know what they are thinking.

Tonight, our bedtime talk centered loosely around babies. First there was this idea that Jonas and Susannah were “baby friends” when they “knew each other in my belly” before they each came out.

Then he wanted to know if Daddy came out of my belly, too. I explained that he came out of Mimi’s belly, and when I was a baby, I came out of Grandmama’s belly.
“So…. everybody… when they’re a baby….” he started.
I supplied, “…comes out of some mama’s belly. Yep.”
Next inquiry: “But, what about the daddies?” [I realize that at this juncture, he may have been trying to figure out the daddy’s role in getting the babies here. But I didn’t think that’s what he meant, so I didn’t leap in that direction.]
“What about the daddies?” I asked him back.
“Well, if you have a boy in your belly….”
“Oh. If you have a boy in your belly, you have a son. And if you have a girl in your belly, you have a daughter.”
“Okay.” He gets very quiet and thoughtful. Then he rolls over onto his tummy, dangles his long legs over the edge of my bed, and spins around so he can gaze out the window at the leaves which are blowing all over our backyard.
I finally spoke up. “You’re really trying to figure out this stuff about babies, aren’t you, bud?”
He casually tosses back over his shoulder, “Yeah, but I’m also trying to figure out the Clone Wars and Star Wars.”
That is SO not where I thought this conversation was going.

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Meet the author

MICHELLE NEBEL

I write uplifting women’s fiction woven with threads of faith, grace, and Southern hospitality. My blog is where I share a glimpse of my life, and I hope you’ll find the thoughts here encouraging!

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