Monday, June 7, 2010

Jackie Oh!

Hillary Clinton wrote It Takes a Village and Other Lessons Children Teach Us a popular book on the importance of  the community's involvement when raising children.  But WAY before her book the phrase, "It takes a village," originated as an African proverb.  Over the years, as I think I have mentioned before, I have taken full advantage of the wisdom of this quote.  I am a firm believer that sometimes as a parent I have to let someone else step in when I am unable to give or do for my child what he may desperately need.  Parents of tweens and teens know oh so well, our kids get to a certain age where what we say, what we think, what we know, doesn't matter.  But a wise parent also knows that this too is the age where what others say, what others think, what others know, DOES MATTER.  So my "village" list is lengthy.  I have used friends, educators, coaches, relatives and even other students (usually ones that are older) to help guide my children in their endeavors or, more importantly, to help them solve dilemmas that they typically don't want me to know about, (I usually do,) or to be involved in, (I typically am, thanks to the help of my "village.")

There are many people I owe a thanks to for the help that they have offered and the support they have freely given to those boys of mine.  But this post is meant to be a tribute to a specific member of my village that I didn't know, ummmm, shall we say, was even a neighbor. She quietly took residence in the town of "Aidan and Gannan" especially over the last year.  For those of you who know me, you know that I developed a heart condition while pregnant with Ila.  These past nine months have been excruciatingly hard and the boys, being older, sometimes took a backseat and didn't get what they needed at the exact time they needed it. If you follow the blog then you also know that sometimes not getting what they need can turn into conflict pretty quickly in our household (a slight understatement, yes?)   What makes this village member so special is that despite the fact that my sons (whom I love with all I have) can be difficult, despite the fact that I never even asked her to help with the boys in any way shape or form, she just took it upon herself to do for them whenever the need arose.   And believe me...there has been an abundance of need.  So Mudders of mine, could I get a "Woot Woot" for new village member....Jackie boys' stepmother.

I know that some mothers may be shocked at the deep gratitude I have for the other woman in my boys' lives.  I mean the relationship between a mother and step mother is often portrayed in movies and on TV shows as one of tension and jealousy.  And although my husband would assure you emphatically that I am most definitely capable of tension and jealousy, I have never felt either for Jackie.  Watching her gentleness with Aidan and Gannan when they were a mere 2 and 5 years old, I quickly came to appreciate the love and devotion that she offered them even though she had two daughters of her own.  As the boys got older and were able to speak of her, they never once spoke ill.  I  have always marveled at "her way" with them.  In fact, "her way" often taught me me how to be a better mother from afar.  While there was always an appreciation for Jackie, one incident clinched my profound admiration for her.

Gannan called from his dad's once.  They had had a fight.  No. No.  Let's say a blowout. He was beside himself on the phone.  Sobbing.  Pleading.  He wanted to come home, but according to our legally binding visitation agreement collecting dust in the dining room desk, he had to stay for 24 more hours, only to come home Sunday at 5 pm. I did my best to be mom.  As my gut pitched and rolled, I said things like, "Gannan, just take a time out honey in your bedroom."  As Gannan made mucousy hiccup sounds in between words like "Please." and "No." I shushed and soothed as best I could over the seemingly endless telephone wire.  We eventually hung up and I curled into the fetal position on my bed wracked with guilt and helplessness.  A few hours later a very different cheery Gannan called me back.  I gently asked how he was feeling.  He said, "Jackie took me for a ride.  I feel better."  When I probed a little further he said, "Mom, did you know that when Jackie feels bad she goes for a ride to a really cool place to clear her head?"

"No I didn't know that."  I answered..
"Yeah," he continued.  "She took me there.  It's cool.  It looks over the lake.  I just stood there looking out at it and do you know what?"
"What?" I asked trying to hide that I was choking up.
"Jackie is right!  That place is so good it made me feel better."

At that moment, she was Superwoman.  She was a mom for Gannan when I couldn't be.  I realized then how very lucky my children were to have her.  These past nine months have only strengthened that notion.  She's attended baseball games, encouraged the boys to do their best in school,  and taken them at unscheduled times to give me time to rest and recover.  Since the boys' father and I DO have the typical movie and TV portrayal divorce, she has acted as a go between speaking for him sometimes, and at others speaking for me.  When we are in the same places supporting our children in their many activities, she readily comes to chat, cooing and coddling Ila, giving advice as one mother of a preemie to another.  I have come to look forward to seeing her and experiencing her sweetness, just the way I bet my boys feel about her.  And I'd like to think that in another world, or should I say a different village where she wasn't my ex-husband's wife, I'd still seek her out.  She has a lot to give.  Just ask my sons.


  1. What a great post! I know how hard it can be to always want to be there, but not be able to do so. It can be very hard, especially if you are anything close to the control freak I am, so it definitely takes a certain kind of person to accept help, especially in dealing with something so important as one's children! If I were on the receiving end of the huge compliment you just gave to Jackie-O, I would feel so wonderful and appreciated. Being an educator, I strive to not be a "hover parent", but to also be one that is involved. Sometime it is a fine line. We have to trust others as parents to do the right thing, whether placing our children in the hands of coaches, children's friend's parents, teachers, etc. How great it is that you have that kind of mutual respect and friendship with Jackie and that there are others that you let step up to the plate at times so you don't have to deal with health issues, a writing career, and all the other trials and tribulations of life ALL THE TIME. I hope that your heart condition is not too limiting and that you are able to do and balance all that you want to do in life. Soooo enjoying reading your writing. I feel very connected to you when I read your writing, so you are doing a wonderful job at reaching the muddled mother in all of us!

  2. I LOVE this article. Kudos to you for letting Jackie know how important she is to you and the boys!

  3. Great post, I too am a "step"
    I walk that fine line every day and really and truly love my two "steps" (boys) as I do my own 2 girls.

    All four of our kids grew up together and they refer to each other as brothers and sisters.

    I have had my trials and tribulations with 1/4th of my kiddo's and indeed I did rely on our village, when times were difficult with her.
    I was blessed to have many people who assisted in getting our family through the tough times.
    I was on my own with my daughters (their Dad chose to "opt out") and the kindness and understanding afforded our family was a godsend.

    In your writing you are able to put into words how I feel (and what a talent that is !!!)

    I can only hope that my 2 guys have respect for how I treat them and my goal was always to show them kindness and help them to be happy and grounded young men.

    They are both in college now and have made their Dad and I nothing but proud so I go to sleep at night knowing we did it right.

    It was and is not a cake walk, the Brady Bunch is a TV show.
    Love, caring and understanding along with a good dose of maturity on my part put us somewhere in between the Brady's and The Simpson's :-)

  4. Anon,
    Thanks for a heartfelt response. I have such an appreciation for you. To have someone else's children full time is quite a fete. I am sure those boys are proud to say you are their stepmother!

    Letting go of control is SO difficult! I just have to remind myself that sometimes I just don't have the answers and I need to find them somewhere else!

  5. This one made me smile ear to ear. I realize I'm a bit late in reading it, but I wanted to take a second to tell you how great this one was. There is something so human about it. Love you Logan!