Thursday, April 10, 2008

316 Hours- She's My Daughter, My Inspiration

"Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." Jesus Matthew 18:1-5

"Children: They have the ability to turn our lives upside down, to disrupt our plans and our sleep, to try our patience, and to elicit our most ferocious love. But children also have the power to teach us the greatest lessons we'll ever learn...." Piero Ferruci-What Our Children Teach Us

I've been a mother for over a decade now- and I can say with fervor that all my years in public school and college could not touch the education I've received from my kids. It's intense, this parenting journey, filled with days which threaten to rob you of the very last shreds of dignity you may possess, sometimes leaving you so tired and broken that you feel you must somehow have made an error in judgement when choosing this path for your life. I feel that way a lot. But, sprinkled within those hard times are captivating moments, where you know that you have somehow achieved greatness just by being in the presence of these seedlings of humanness.

Lily is my first-born. From the moment she arrived she's been flooding my life with wisdom. She's only ten but she has the soul of an old sage- with maturity and uniqueness well beyond her years. Tom and I have learned about parenting from our days with Lily. We've seen our best intentions turned into a young girl with amazing poise, confidence, and compassion. For all the criticism we've endured over the years, as a result of our parenting choices, there's not a minute I would change when I look into the eyes of my daughter- whose potential is mind-blowing and beautiful.

316 hours ago Lily took her thumb out of her mouth and decided that she could live life without that source of comfort. While you may gasp is horror that someone her age would still be carrying on in this fashion, I would remind you that many of us, as adults, have habits, whether they be substance abuse, smoking, food disorders, compulsive gambling or spending, etc.....and we continue participating in them because they bring us a feeling of security that we decide we can't live without. Lily has been a thumb-sucker since she was in-utero.

Lily holding her baby brother Seth, also a "left thumb-sucker."

Our only sonogram revealed a tiny being, thumb-in-mouth, at only 20 weeks gestation. Over the years, Lily has attempted, on numerous occasions, to relinquish this vice of hers, under no pressure from us. She had me paint her nails with polish that had a bitter taste at five. Then she bought a ring with some of her spending money and wore it on her thumb. At seven she had Tom and I cast her left hand, in the dead-heat of the summer, but she just sucked the other one. She tried sucking endlessly on lollipops (not so good for the teeth)..... one thing after the other failed her, until she was ready to let go...and then she was done... There were times, in the last year, that Tom and I panicked, thinking Lily might go off to college with her thumb in her mouth, and sometimes, due to our own insecurities and fears, we prodded her to stop. Mostly though, we chose to stand aside on this issue, as we did on potty-training, weaning, and reading, somehow feeling that children accomplish better when they are ready, not necessarily when we are .... .


This morning, I stared into Lily's eyes, and I told her, very-matter-of-factly, that her 316 hours were not only an indication that she didn't need to suck her thumb anymore, but that she, Lily Sombar, possesses the courage and the power, within her, to do anything in the world she wants to do. She looked at me, with a big grin, and said, "I know Mommy...Isn't it great?" yes it is my sweet girl, yes it is.

Lily, this morning, exuding such pride and exhilaration over her fabulous accomplishment. What a girl!



Later on today, I thought about what I'd said to her, and remembered that I too had overcome the grip, so to speak, of thumb-sucking. I was seven-years-old, and I wanted more than anything in the world to be a grown-up. I was incredibly independent and hoped that everyone could see, that though I appeared to be just a little girl, I was actually a super woman. We had flown to Colorado for my Grandfather's funeral, and I was staying with my twelve-year-old cousin Shelley. As I lay there in her bed, seeing other of my big cousins pass by the doorway, I made the decision that my thumb was going to need to take a hike if I was ever going to fool these people into thinking I was cool enough to hang out with them. That spunky seven-year-old still resides in my soul, as does her strength. I forget about her alot, when my despair over my many imperfections overcomes me. I caught a glimpse of her, in Lily's eyes today, and I'm reminded that the things in my life, right now, that make me feel bad about myself, are only a committment away- a committment to letting go of what I don't need anymore.

Thank God for children, our greatest teachers. Thank God for Lily.

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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Forty-three year-old, mother and staunch advocate of four young children, passionate warrior of truth and self, finding the soul in each day, sharing my struggles and triumphs as I live them. Mostly I do this for me, so my thoughts don't race as much at night as they used to. But I also give this to those of you who need to know, in any or every way, that you are not alone.

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