Mollycoddle – Do or Don’t?

Wonder if you have the same attitude toward mollycoddling as I have? It’s a hard one to pin down. If I am mollycoddling, it’s the thing to do. If I am being mollycoddled, well, that’s alright, too.  Society in general  seems to have a harsher view, unless it sells something. Who doesn’t mind being mollycoddled with velvety ice cream, blinding diamonds, expensive rigs, wear-only-once outfits to once-in-a-lifetime events, lavish meals in luxurious settings, exotic trips to out-of this-world locales? But a touch, a genuine smile, a kind voice and eyes that really see may be more valuable though the cost is zero.

Consider babies. Mommas tend to mollycoddle their newborns. I did, sometimes under the critical eye of my parents, who, by the way, did their share of mollycoddling when I wasn’t around. Then, when my toddler began exploring, I eased up a bit, hard as it was, because I wanted him to be adventurous and learn to think for himself in a way that toddlers can if allowed. There was that critical eye again, from the same parents who let me get skinned knees and elbows learning to ride my bike and suffer the consequences of disobeying when life and limb weren’t in question. It’s a balancing act that parents learn. I hear and read often that babies can’t really be spoiled. The cuddling and playing and rocking and soothing help them feel safe as well as help Mom and Dad learn to communicate with their child before language develops. Parents can read expressions, gestures, tones, grunts, eyes and silences way before babies speak, but only if they are paying attention. Babies learn those skills, too. Mollycoddling is a necessary avenue for that.

It bothers me to more frequently witness parents with attention on a screen while their previous child is tucked into a plastic carrier staring at the ceiling from a floor or a chair or a table. How that baby would love a goochy-goo, a lap to sit on while Momma or Daddy describes the world or reads or book or sings a tune! It’s the loving interaction- or mollycoddling – that fosters growth in a myriad of diversified paths – that encourages a child to explore and nudge boundaries all while feeling loved and secure.

Mollycoddling is not pacifying; it’s nurturing. Pacifying – keeping a child quiet – seems a current trend. (You realize I am NOT talking about the use of those gizmos we stick in babies’ mouths, that they learn to play games with, that they train their parents with). Mollycoddling a preteen or adolescent is shallow wasted energy if the sole purpose is to keep them quiet and out of the way. The gig is up. Older kids see right through that and might feel as if they are not worth the smiles and touches and attention loved offspring deserve from parents who make them feel valued and wanted by time and attention.

What happens to individuals who don’t feel they were valued enough to be given boundaries, direction, attention and love? Maybe our nation is grappling with increasingly horrendous side effects of distracted child-rearing.

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Tribute to Dad

A Tribute to Dad

He gifted me his name and his nose;
Since his feet hurt all the time,
Thankfully not his toes.
He worked hard, that dad of mine.

We often had a battle of wills,
Because I am firstborn, I later teased.
I didn’t always sit quiet and still;
Sometimes that’s all it took to please.

First memories are blurry and dim,
Bundled and playing with my dog in the cold,
Waiting to hear his truck and see him
Climb down from his rig, back in the fold.

I had a puppet so Dad taught me a rhyme,
He teased and tickled and gave me rides,
My home was safe. I felt loved all the time
Even when he had to tan my hide.

His laugh was distinctive and contagious,
Though his voice could be cold and stern
When he deemed my behavior outrageous.
He made sure good lessons I learned.

Along with adventures and family fun,
Blessings and love live on in my mind,
So glad that Mom thought he was the one.
My siblings and I think no better you’d find.

Calvin Granville Pearson (1925 – 2003)

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What God Joined Together…

Daddy made me scramble and babble when he stood to pull off his belt. Momma made me sit still and shut up just raising an eyebrow. Wonder why Dad never tried that?

Little brother Glenn experienced some variations in his disciplining for his scrapes with trouble, but he could vouch for the repercussions of the belt and the eyebrow if ignored. Observant baby sister Phyllis learned from our shenanigans and had smooth sailing all the way up.

Those childhood punishments, though, at least from my perspective as child number one, didn’t drown out the laughter. I can close my eyes and hear Dad’s particular chuckle and see Mom’s grin. As much as I’d like to say the three of us kids were always the source of their fun, I know better.

They laughed with neighbors across the fence as we played in the yard. They laughed with friends around a table of card games as we fell asleep on the couch. They laughed during road trips as we aggravated each other in the back seat. They laughed with relatives at family gatherings while we frolicked with cousins. We all laughed at Red Skelton or Ed Sullivan’s guests, never with Ed Sullivan himself, though, as we watched TV together on the weekends. They laughed at country music shows when we traveled to Branson. They always laughed with the grandbabies. What was it that amused them so? I didn’t pay enough attention.

This month is the seventieth anniversary of their union. (You’re calculating now. I didn’t show up till about five and a half years later). Why didn’t I think to ask how long after Dad’s military discharge they met? I don’t know where they went on dates in the Bootheel back then that would have been fun. Did Dad make a production of his proposal? Where did they go out as newlyweds in St. Louis besides the Admiral? That is the only date story I know. What was the determining factor in moving back to St. Louis from Doniphan when I was four after two or three previous stays?

My brother and sister might know a thing or two. We have realized we had different perspectives and information though growing  up with the same parents under the same roof. Extended family might know some stories we don’t. It’s a fascinating treasure hunt.

Calvin Granville Pearson married Ruth Evelyn Bizzell on February 9th, 1948. Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

A love story from the start,
Two daring to share their hearts.
Proof is in familiar traces
In three now grown-up faces.
Two girls with a boy in the middle
Mirror their love more than a little
In noses, eyes and easy grins,
In coping with life’s losses and wins.

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Celebrating 4/18

As you read this, I hope spring has arrived, that we have been enjoying the dogwoods in the forests and along the roadways without wearing hoodies as we hike or using heaters as we drive. We have been long overdue for an extended dose of blue skies and sunshine.

If that is so, grab three of the pooch’s toys and step outside, maybe behind the house to avoid curious stares, and juggle them to Fido’s delight. What better way to celebrate International Juggler’s Day today? Jugglers I saw as a child, usually on the Ed Sullivan show, mesmerized me but also puzzled me when they added sharp objects or burning ones to their routines. Juggling just three balls seems beyond my ability; I can’t even get the steady rhythm required just to switch two from hand to hand, much less add a third. I haven’t completely given up the dream, though you won’t see my attempts till I have mastered it, for sure. It is bound to be a GREAT brain workout.

The first thought I had when I noticed this ‘holiday’ for April 18 did not bring to mind keeping multiple objects circulating in front of my face, though.  Instead I envisioned managing multiple diverse  tasks with approaching deadlines. Most of us do that with varying degrees of skill throughout our lives, which might draw similarly curious stares from those who don’t fully comprehend our frenzied zigzagging. Probably NOT a great brain workout with the stress it creates.

Today is also National Columnist Day, which sounds more like an authentic day to celebrate, especially since it was established to honor a famous war columnist of World War II- Ernie Pyle. Pyle didn’t write about the events from a desk in a shiny office building; he wrote from the midst of combat, experiencing it firsthand, sharing truth from a soldier’s view. A year following his receipt of the Pulitzer Prize, he was killed by a Japanese sniper.

Columnists and journalists contribute to our understanding of events. We count on them to tell us the truth, to hold leaders accountable, and to offer perspectives and comfort that we might miss. At least, that’s the way it used to be, before the invasion of the press by fake news. May we continue to reward those who reflect the standards exemplified by Ernie Pyle.

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In an Instant

It’s the INSTANT Information Age. Technology is the automatic guest at any gathering, be it an intimate chat or a rowdy belly-up-to-the -bar discussion. That guest cheats us of the chance to speculate or ponder with knowledge and experiences as we pull info from our gray matter. Instead, the guest, aka Siri or Google, pulls facts out of an infinite invisible warehouse. End of wondering. How many thoughts slip away, never needing to surface again?

Perhaps it is the spaces in conversation, when we scan our brains for stories, solutions and understanding, as we watch the faces and eyes of those with us, that create connections, deep connections that bind us beyond the meanings of the spoken words. After all, it is the space between notes that makes music.

Access to the infinite storehouse of instant info has spoiled this boomer somewhat. Why isn’t everything instant?!

*I want my foot to hit the gas pedal as soon as the light turns green.

*The ten minutes it takes my eggs to boil seems like ten hours sometimes. (Impatient folks tend to exaggerate).

*I want my fast-food fast in the drive-thru, forgetting that increases the likelihood of mistakes, cold meals and complaints.

*Instant replays during baseball games slow the game down sometimes! Get on with the game already!

*My toaster exasperates me. Why do I not have instant toast?

*Texting allows us to get to the point in an instant. “Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” (A nod to Dragnet) Does anyone talk on the phone anymore, just ’cause? In days gone by I could sit for hours talking and twisting the phone cord without the hint of a point.

*Instant digital photos take us away from mailboxes and albums. Remember waiting to receive the pictures from the roll of film sent off to be developed?

*Instant oatmeal, microwave popcorn and ready-to-eat meals shorten time with family, all in a hurry to go their separate ways for this and that. Generations before us bonded around the table. There are no instant bonds. That seems an oxymoron.

In an instant a dear soul can leave us. Cherished bonds sharpen the shock of loss at first, but soothe a heart and mind with joyful memories, too.  Another oxymoron, perhaps, but one we embrace.

[BrainyQuote is the source of my quote inserts.]

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Retiring Well

I

The idea of living without the bells that tightly structured my life for so many years filled a daydream or two. How free I would surely feel, going and doing, or not going and doing, following my heart’s longings and my mind’s tuggings!

A gal pal of mine asked my advice for a summer sabbatical in her future. I can always spout off info I have read so I did just that, based on the printed word, not my experiences. For some reason she thinks I do it well.

Total lack of structure isn’t quite as liberating as it might first seem. Procrastination is my middle name, but, in the complete void of deadlines, procrastination can disappear into the black hole of nothingness. Some tasks/plans never materialize without an endpoint in the process.

So what am I learning about retirement from its midst?  For me, it is a batter of routine, flexibility, passion and discovery, with added pinches of mystery and surprise to ward off hints of boredom.

Routines promote health by allowing time for rest and nourishment and giving a sense of stability. Otherwise, with all the flexibility at their fingertips, retirees might seem irresponsible going hither and yon anytime, involved in formerly neglected beloved activities and experimenting with the unfamiliar.

What-ifs can become why-nots. Skills and talents can develop into passions. Discovery can invite adventure. Never-ending to-do lists can suffocate it all, tempting us to postpone life until… Perhaps the key to embracing retirement is embracing balance.

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Evolution of Music for Me

When I was plopped down in Ripley County, Missouri, in the middle of nowhere as a not-quite-16 year old, I vowed I would never be a country convert in ANY way, but particularly not in my music choices.

Remaining a separatist took some doing. I could listen to Wolfman Jack out of WLS in Chicago on nighttime rides and soak up all the rock music I could stay awake for. Favorite tunes could be purchased on 45’s from Fred’s, and I could play my cherished 33’s on the stereo in the living room and pretend for a while I was not in the midst of brush, bugs and blue jeans.

KDFN was the local radio station – totally country for sure – and I did tune in at scheduled times to hear Grandpa Hunt read the local/national news, to argue with Grapevine (a 30-minute phone-in talk show), to list items from the call-in buy/sell show Current River Exchange on Saturday mornings, but not to listen to music. Being subjected to the weekly broadcasts of Grand Ol’Opry growing up as first child of a super fan was enough country/western music to last me a lifetime, I thought.

After one year in a tiny rural high school, off to college I went, the country/bluegrass culture in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas, ever present to challenge my resolve. We college kids had plenty of ammunition: AC/DC, Earth, Wind and Fire, Chicago, KC and the Sunshine Band, Neil Diamond, the Eagles. I won’t go on, but I could. I had tons of options to safeguard my resolve.

Two years of college in the Kansas City area, with a roomie who played acoustic guitar, I learned to sing harmony and gained an appreciation for popular ballads, folk and country. The first crack in my shield.

Fate would lead me back to work in that same rural district I had scrambled to escape from as a teen. As a teacher I wanted to be in tune with my middle school kids, so I lowered my shield and played with the radio dial a bit more often. Good thing; Billy Yates, Nashville singer/songwriter, the musical director/lead vocalist/guitarist of Raiding the Country Vault and the owner/producer of Hit Songwriters in the Round, both top shows in Branson, was among my first students and I am among his devoted fans now.

Motherhood came during the disco era, as well as work on advanced degrees, so I filled long hours on the road with the loud rhythm of pop and rock to maintain musical balance…and stay awake. A year’s residence in Memphis, with the radio dial inviting me to tune in to all sorts of styles punched multiple chinks into my protection.

Back to the rural district in Missouri, this time in a high school setting, the balance was tipped toward loud 80’s tunes the teens preferred. My cheerleaders adored routines to the likes of Guns and Roses, so I found myself chilling to softer country tunes at home, without realizing my brain cells were absorbing the lyrics of both genres.

In retirement I am relishing those varied musical memories that are tagged to so many events, and I am now chilling to 80’s tunes – on purpose! – on our new local public station KQJN 99.1 established by James Nonnemaker, another among those high school students of mine.

And I am learning a thing or two….sometimes the beats and the bars in various genres sound amazingly similar and dancing to all of them is great exercise as well as tons of fun. Another fact I have learned is that our somewhat isolated rural county in the midst of Mark Twain National Forest has many talented, creative souls who can play, sing, write, perform, produce and encourage others to do the same. Another reason to sing and dance!

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