The Magic of Pets

How do know your child’s full potential?

There are certainly times when I feel like I see or experience my children’s potential. When one of them pushes themselves to do something new or challenging, but a recent comment from my son got me thinking — how do I (or anyone) really understand my child’s full potential?

My family was getting ready to head out the door for some weekend activities when our cat made his presence known. We each acknowledged the cat with a pet, or scratch behind the ears. My youngest son leaned down to the cat and said, “I love how you…” my husband and I were sure he’d finish with understand me, but we’re surprised when he said, “…see my full potential.” It actually made us laugh. My son joined in. Pets do have a magical quality about them, and do seem to understand our feelings and can feel very insightful, almost psychic, when they come to us in times of need. It can sometimes feel like the pet knows you, sees beyond your exterior and really knows who you are and what you need. I can remember an experience I had when I wasn’t much older than my son is now. I was having a tough time with puberty and adjusting to getting older. I remember sitting outside feeling sad, and my cat at the time, who typically was off on her own adventures during the day, seemed to come out of no where and sat by me. She looked at me like she understood my worries and was there to remind me that I was loved and lovable. It was magic. How I miss that cat.

My husband and I sensed our son was experiencing some of the magic pets have. A unconditional love that comes and doesn’t ask for anything in return except for basic needs (safety, warmth, food and water).

I don’t know if our cat knows my son’s full potential but I like that my son thinks the cat does. We all need someone who believes in us, that pushes us to explore and be our best selves. A loving pet is as good as anyone to help someone see the beauty and potential they have within.

Do you have pets? What magic are they bringing to you or your family’s lives?

The Magic of Nature

How do you experience nature?

My son went with his school on an overnight trip to a school in the woods. The trip had the students staying in lodges and exploring nature, bugs and animals in their natural habitat. My son was mainly nervous about being in a new place without any family members around, but we encouraged him to try to enjoy himself.

It was the first time my husband and I had not had any contact with our son. There was no computers or cellphones for the kids. I was glad the kids were completely unplugged, but as a parent, it was difficult not to know how our son was doing — was he enjoying himself, was he adjusting okay?

He left on a Monday and got back on a Thursday afternoon. We were so glad to see him, and he was glad to be back, but he already missed the camp. His teacher sent us a note warning us to this prior to picking him up. “Your son had a great time on our trip, and shared how sad he was that he was back. He really enjoyed himself there.” When our son got home we asked him to tell us about his trip. “It was great, let me read you from the journal I kept.” I was dumbfounded. I’ve never seen my son so interested in something he was willing to journal about it. I thought, this place must have been something really special. After going through his journal, which consisted of all the magic that this place held — nature trails, a tree house you could climb, water where bugs and fish lived and much more — he told us, “We’re going to visitors day,” and promptly walked to the calendar and wrote it down. It was set in stone, we were going.

Nature can be therapeutic and healing. It can feel connecting and peaceful. It’s wonders can feel magical, and amazing…sometimes hard to believe certain places or things exist. My son’s trip was a good reminder that I could benefit from connecting with nature more. Making time to talk walks, and a hike now and then, can work wonders on my soul. It certainly did so for my son.

How have you experienced the magic of nature? How has your child?

The Magic of Santa

Do you remember when you learned Santa wasn’t real? How did you take the news?

Our oldest learned last year that Santa wasn’t real from his classmates. We knew he would find out sooner or later, but realizing that he understood this news was hard to take–for him and us.

He was not happy when he learned the news. He was clearly disappointed that Santa wasn’t real, and he was ticked that we had let him believe he was. After calming down, he and I talked. I needed him to understand why we let him believe in Santa. I told him, “When you are young, there is an opportunity for you to experience something magical–that someone knows and cares about you so much that they go to great lengths to get to your house to bring you something they think you’ll like. Experiencing that magic and understanding what it feels like is important. It’s one of the few times you get to feel that outside of your mom and dad, or your family, that someone really cares about you and wants you to be happy, without wanting anything in return. You don’t get to experience this often in life, and we felt you would miss out on something really special if we didn’t let you believe.”

I’m not sure our son really understood what I was saying, but our hope is that he will as he grows older.

Believing in Santa is magical. And oh, how I wish he were real. I’ve experienced Santa as I’ve grown in glimpses–through a thoughtful friend who called or brought flowers or soup unexpectedly in hopes it would lift my spirit, or an foot or shoulder rub from my husband after noticing I looked tired from my day. My kids making me a picture because they thought it would make me smile. Small moments, that’s don’t have the build-up of Santa arriving, more like an expected arrival that I’m grateful for.

What magic has Santa brought to you and your family?

Happy Holidays! I will be taking this much needed time off and will be back in January.

To Give and to Receive

What part of the holidays brings you the most cheer?  Giving gifts, receiving them, or something else?

I loved receiving gifts when I was a child. I was captivated by the magic of Santa and couldn’t wait to see what I would receive. Receiving gifts was an acknowledgement that Santa thought enough of me to bring me something he thought I would like. As I grew older and the magic of Santa faded, I found holiday cheer in giving. Watching others expressions of surprise (at the unexpected gift or the thought put into it) brought me great joy. Putting a smile on someone else’s face made me happy.

As I watch my children this holiday season, I see how hopeful they are that when Christmas morning arrives they will have gifts under the tree. For my older one, the magic is starting to fade. He’s starting to ask questions and we realize this is likely his last year of believing. It’s a bittersweet moment. Joy in watching him grow into a young man, but bitter in that the innocence that goes with childhood is starting to slowly slip away. I wonder what will bring him joy going forward. Will he continue to enjoy receiving, or giving (whether it’s physical gifts, or acts of kindness), or something else?

I can’t wait to find out.

Spring is in the Air

As I walked out of the house, rushing to get everyone in the car something caught my eye: blossoms on one of our bushes. While I had just been in a hurry to get to my car, I allowed myself a moment to examine the plant more closely. Were there more blooms? Would there be more soon? The one I was looking at was so beautiful.

My children, who I was busy hustling out to the car only moments earlier, noticed that I had stopped. “What is it Mom?” my oldest asked. “Look at this,” I said. Both boys came over to see what I was looking at.

I never tire of the beauty that comes with Spring. Daffodils blooming, tulips starting to grow. The blooms in white, purple, pink and yellow that come to life. For me, it’s a magical time of year. The natural beauty I’m experiencing is both comforting and humbling.  It is so powerful it’s no wonder I felt compelled to have my children experience it with me.

My son’s joined me by the bush. “Oh, there’s a flower,” my son said. “Oh, yea, and there’s another,” my youngest added. They both examined the bush in search of more blooms. It was one of those moments where you’re both present in your surroundings and fully engaged with the people around you–rare and special, in my opinion.

Once we finished examining the plant, we proceeded to the car. “More flowers are coming,” I commented. My son asked, “how do you know?” and while I could have said ‘this is the time of year that plants start to bloom,’ I decided to respond based on how I felt, “I can feel it in the air, can’t you?” My sons nodded in agreement. It made me smile.

How do you experience the beauty of nature with your child? What season is most magical for you?

Lucky Clover

When I was a child I learned that four-leaf clovers are good luck, and if I found one I was told I would have good luck for a day. It was never quite clear to me if it was the day you found the clover, or the next, but the promise of a good day sounded fantastic.

My children have learned from their classmates that finding a penny is good luck. They get very excited when they find change on the ground. They understand money buys things, but also realize there is almost nothing you can buy for a penny. It’s as though the penny represents more than one cent. It represents that something good happened to you. And if it happened once, it’s likely to happen again.

What is it about these signs of luck or good fortune that captivate us? The promise of happiness or good fortune coming our way expectedly, right?

Luck seems to help explain good things that are, well, unexplainable. A few examples of how I’ve experienced luck:

  • Winning a prize for a contest that I’d never signed up for
  • Running into an old friend in an airport thousands of miles away from where I grew up and where I currently live
  • The day I met my spouse

Now, I realize their are nay-sayers who might attribute these experiences to fate or coincidence, and yet others who adamantly believe we create our own luck. I have to admit any of these things can be true, but I prefer to think of them as luck. They were unexpected, there is nothing I could have done to influence them happening, and they brought me joy.

There are certainly instances where we make good situations happen for ourselves, but isn’t it nice to think there’s a possibility something good might happen outside of our efforts?

I’m happy my boys think finding a penny is good luck. The happiness it brings them is priceless, it makes me smile. So does finding four-leaf clovers.

What unexpected joy have you experienced? Did luck play a part?

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

A Little Bit of Cheer

Does your stress level go up, like mine do, as the holidays draw near?

The holidays are about family, friends, connecting and joy. We all know the “joy” part can sometimes be the most difficult part to find with traffic, and crowds at the mall, and all the various activities and places we have to be during this time of year. It can be a bit of a bummer, can’t it?

As I vow to be present and find joy each day through the holiday season I’ve had to implement a few tools: taking a moment each day to remember while the holiday season is busy, it’s temporary (I can handle things much better when I know they’re temporary); that my children’s excitement is infectious–there is a innocence and delight about it that I haven’t experienced since my own childhood and am encouraged to know it still exists; and that the number of holidays my husband and I will spend with our children is limited. They’ll eventually have these holidays with their own families. I want a flood of joyful memories to look back upon.

I’m taking each day as it comes, and experiencing a little bit of holiday cheer. Those moments are like magic–joy in the truest sense.

How are you experiencing joy this holiday season?

The Pumpkin Patch

Our tradition of going to the pumpkin patch each October started after our children were born. Prior to this the idea of getting in a car and driving a long distance to get a pumpkin or Christmas Tree had always seemed silly. Why go the distance when I can just get the pumpkin at the grocery store. I know. I know. How very practical, right?

When we first went to a pumpkin patch, I felt like I had been transported. Hundreds of families were all around, grabbing wheel barrows to cart their pumpkins around in, there were hay rides, a petting zoo, a corn maze and all the wonderful smells of Autumn. After being given a hot apple cider, my husband and I took the scene all in. I felt alive. I was in the moment, watching my children enjoy the pumpkin patch and fully experiencing it the wonder that was going on around me.

How often do we get to make these memories with our very busy lives? It felt good to make the time for this special adventure.

Going to the pumpkin patch has become an annual tradition for us. There is nothing new per se about the trip that happens each year, but it’s quality time we get to have together. It’s precious time in that we’ll only get to do this as a family for so long.

I take my cider and sip on it slowly as I try to make the moment last longer. It really is a special time.

What special fall traditions do you and your family partake in?

Fantasy Football

I hold my parents responsible for my love of sports. We lived in Atlanta when the Falcons appeared to be Super Bowl bound in the late ‘70s.  During the season our house was filled with lots of cheering and shouting on Sunday afternoons. The Falcons made the playoffs in 1981 and in order to advance they needed to beat the Dallas Cowboys. I was convinced the Falcons would win. Not because I knew that much about football, or the team at the time, but because I still believed anything was possible, whether it was realistic or not. I was a child.

My parents went to the Falcons Cowboys playoff game while my sisters and I watched the game on TV with a sitter. The Falcons led most of the game. I knew they were going to win. I could visualize it—the team winning, my parent’s elation that wouldn’t end until after our Super Bowl victory. Except that’s not what happened.  The Cowboys came from behind to win.  I was devastated.  How could the Falcons lose?  This wasn’t supposed to happen.  When it became clear there was no chance the Falcons would make a comeback, I ran to my room, slammed the door, jumped on my bed and promptly began to cry. I cried for the Falcons, I cried for my parents, and others experiencing the same pain I was.  But mostly I cried for the fantasy that hadn’t become a reality.

I took a break from watching football after that. It was too painful. I didn’t need a reminder that sometimes dreams don’t come true. Several years later, my father convinced me to watch a college football game with him. I almost immediately regained the love I had for watching the sport. At first I resisted getting behind one team, but seeing my Dad get behind the University of Miami, where he’d gone to school, win-or-lose I quickly followed. I loved it when it was clear Miami was in control and a victory certain, and had to walk away when things started going in favor of the opposing team. Whether I thought I was a jinx on the team, or allowing myself to have hope that things would improve during my absence, I can’t quite say. Trying to stay and experience the pain of watching my team lose was too great.  I couldn’t do it. My father would often remind me, “it’s only a game,” when he would see how upset or frustrated I was getting. Logically I knew he was right, but it really bothered me that he seemed at peace with it, and I was having all these intense emotions.

While I didn’t set out to teach my children to love sports, I’m afraid I’ve taken them a good distance down the path. My oldest son watches college football games with my husband and I on occasion and helps us cheer on our alma maters. He isn’t picky about who he roots for mainly cheering for teams because he likes their school colors or their mascot. He can get pretty upset—frustrated, angry and sad—when his team isn’t winning or loses altogether. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was a child. I try to comfort him and talk to him like my dad did with me. “Are you playing in the game?” I ask. “No,” he replies. “Did you practice with the team?” I ask. “No,” he replies. “Is there anything you can do to change what happens in the game?” “No,” he replies. Sometimes this line of questioning calms him down, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s hard to see your child’s heart break. To know their dream might not come true, even if it’s only a game.

Most things are out of our control. As an individual that’s hard. As a parent it can feel even harder. We can only control how we respond to what happens.  I try to empathize with my son and see the game through his eyes—fantasy sprinkled with a dose of real life.   While I’m better equipped emotionally to handle my team losing, I still can’t bring myself to watch and entire game if its clear my team will lose. I’ll turn the channel or walk away. I know it’s only a game, but the pain that teeters in the loss is still too great.

Every time I see the famous Doug Flutie pass and victory over UM I’m reminded of the disappointment I once felt, though thankfully not as intensively as I did back then (the recent UPS ad is a killer to watch every time!).  Maybe it’s the childlike fantasy I still want to believe in, the hope that the dream will come true, even though I have know I have no control over it. I think back to what my dad said and take a deep breath. It’s only a game.