In my new Montana Born novella, THE LONG WAY HOME, heroine Abby Foster’s father is sick and wants to see her safely married and well provided for before he dies.
Oh, Dad. From the safety of our reading chairs, we all know what a terrible mistake that is.
But the urge to protect your child is probably the most powerful force in the universe. (Well, maybe the second most powerful…<g>)
Our primitive instinct to shelter, comfort, heal and defend our offspring makes us do crazy things.
And it’s often at war with our brain, which knows that protecting them from everything is a) impossible, and b) dumb.
If they don’t make mistakes, how will they learn to be wise? If we rush in to eliminate pain, how will they learn to endure it without looking for a quick fix? If we imply, even subtly, that we don’t trust them to handle their own problems, how will they learn to trust themselves?
And who is to say we always know what’s right, anyhow?
Even when we understand all those pitfalls, it’s still hard to stand back and let your child suffer. Yet sometimes it truly is the right move.
I remember so well the day I learned this lesson.
One night, Boychild, still very young, had a Big Game with his first Little League team. At this Big Game, he made a Big Mistake. I can’t remember now exactly what went wrong. Maybe he made a bad throw. Maybe he dropped a fly ball and let the other team win. It was a real mistake, not a misunderstanding.
Whatever it was, it devastated him. The other kids were upset, too, and took it out on him. He kept his head up in public, but when we got on the road, he began to cry. He lay down with his head in my lap (he was still that young) and let the waves of disappointment, embarrassment and misery wash over him.
I nearly died. I adore Boychild and could gleefully have kicked every one of the other little ballplayers in the keester for hurting him. But I had no idea what to say. Everything I thought of seemed to make it worse, miss the point, or sound horribly patronizing.
I couldn’t say he hadn’t screwed up, because he had. I couldn’t say the other kids were jerks, because how would blaming them help him? I couldn’t say “man up,” because I think that’s dangerous baloney. I couldn’t say it didn’t matter in the big picture, because that denied his reality. I couldn’t say he’d feel better later, because. for a kid, at a moment like that “later” doesn’t exist.
So I just put my hand on his shoulder and let him cry. As he talked it out, and I said absolutely nothing, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Where was my wisdom? Where was my magic mommy medicine? Where was my big, rousing, Braveheart-moment speech?
My son was in pain, and I was a failure.
The ballpark had been in another little town, and it took us forever to get home. It was probably the longest thirty minutes of my life. His tears dwindled away, and he went through all the phases of grief, and I still didn’t say a word.
When we pulled into the garage, he jumped up, hugged me around the neck and, beaming, said, “I love you so much, Mommy!” Then he bounded into the house and moved on with his life.
Though he probably struck out, double faulted, or threw an interception many times in his life after that, he never shed a tear over it again.
Amazingly, because I’d choked, I’d accidentally allowed him to learn a lot of priceless lessons.
You don’t have to make pain go away instantly—it won’t kill you.
You don’t have to blame anyone else, or lash out, in order to try to ease your discomfort.
You can be honest about how you feel, because the people you love won’t tell you it’s crazy to feel that way.
Most importantly, this, too, shall pass.
And he wasn’t the only one who learned something important. My parenting changed that day, because I learned that sometimes your best move is to stay out of it.
Sometimes all you need to say is nothing at all.
How about you? Have there been any times when someone trying to console you said all the wrong things? Is there anyone in your life who understands the healing power of an understanding silence? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate and a copy of THE LONG WAY HOME to one random commenter today!
Lily Palmer is in for the Christmas of a lifetime! When the nanny signs up to watch Dr. Cullen Dunlevy’s four foster kids, she’s got her hands full. The Thomas clan is the most mischievous group of youngsters she’s ever had to wrangle, but Lily loves the job. After all, what girl wouldn’t adore spending the holidays with a warmhearted new family—and their irresistibly handsome foster dad?
Cullen doesn’t mind Christmas, but his Scrooge-like facade is there for a reason—to protect himself. His tough childhood caused him to hide behind his work and avoid entanglements at all costs. That includes avoiding falling for the deliciously tempting new nanny that Santa left for him this year…
* Where did you get the idea for A CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS?
The Sound of Music has always been one of my favorite movies. I saw it for the first time when I was very young. Later, I shared it with my daughter. I hope someday she’ll continue the chain. In the meantime, I wanted to write a book that was a nod to that classic story that shows that with love and family you can overcome just about anything.
Of course, I changed it up enough to make it my own. First, it’s set during the holidays. Cullen, the hero, is a doctor rather than a wealthy navy captain; and Lily, the heroine, is a teacher rather than an aspiring nun. There are four kids rather than seven. Actually, in the first incarnation of this book, I gave Cullen seven foster children, but then I came to my senses. He and Lily were grateful because as it turned out, four feisty Thomas children were more than enough.
* Tell us about the hero and heroine of the book? Why will we want them to fall in love?
We met both Cullen and Lily in previous books. I introduced you to Lily inCELEBRATION’S BRIDE (she was the woman who won the wedding of her dreams, only to have her fiancé back out on national television). Cullen first appeared inCELEBRATION’S FAMILY. He was the stern chief of staff at Celebration Memorial, who insisted that the hero of that book participate in the bachelor auction that raised money for the hospital’s pediatric wing.
Lily’s nurturing, never-give-up-on-love spirit softens Cullen’s hard exterior and together they realize that through love and family they can heal hurts of the past.
* Is there any particular significance in the setting?
I think Debbie Haupt of RT Book Reviews said it best, “Thompson takes us back to Celebration, Texas to check in on old friends and create new memories.”
* What was your favorite scene to write?
This book was so much fun to write, that it’s difficult to pick just one scene, but I guess the scenes with the kids were my favorite…or maybe the scenes at the Holiday market…or maybe when the hero and heroine go to the Christmas ball… Wow! Choosing is kind of like naming my favorite child.
* Were there any real-life inspirations for a particular scene or character in the book?
I infused several personal details into the book. Like Lily, I lost my mother and was exceptionally close to my grandmother. My grandmother’s recipes are very special to me. I cook her food when I’m missing her.
My father remarried a wonderful woman, who was first generation German American and my lovely step-mother shared her mother’s recipe for a German Christmas bread called stollen, a confection filled with dried fruits and marzipan. In the book, the stollen recipe came from Lily’s grandmother and to bring some holiday cheer into the house, she teaches the kids how to make it.
* Do any beloved characters from your previous books show up in this one?
Oh, yes! Sydney and Miles from CELEBRATION’S BRIDE and Pepper and A.J. from Celebrations, Inc. Catering Company among others. It was fun revisiting everyone.
* Any interesting tidbits of information you discovered while researching this book?
I wanted Lily to tell the children the story of Christmas stollen and when I was researching it, not only did I learn all about where stollen came from (Lily will tell you all about it in the book), I learned there used to be an annual stollen festival in Germany. They’ve recently revived it and now it’s called Stollenfest.
That makes me wonder about your holiday traditions. I know it’s a little early for some of you to talk about Christmas and Hanukkah, but we are getting close to Halloween and Thanksgiving. What are some of your fall/winter traditions?
I will give away an ARC of CELEBRATION CHRISTMAS to one person who posts on this blog.
If you’d like another chance to win, I’ve joined with a group of authors from Tule and we’re a prize package worth $500 in the Great Thanksgiving Giveaway. Follow the link for details on how you can win.
I can’t wait to hear about your fall/winter traditions!
Arlene Hittle, Kate Person, and Dawn A. are my winners!!! Thank you everyone who stopped by the blog.
Mary Ruth Baloy, congratulations! Contact Sugar at www.sugarjamison.com to collect your e-book!
Please welcome my friend Sugar Jamison (who also writes as Ginger Jamison) to the Jaunty Quills! I’ve been so tickled and thrilled and completely unsurprised with her success, and have the privilege of belonging to the same writers group as Sugar (in fact, I kind of insisted she join). Leave a comment, and you could win a digital copy of her great anthology.
Children really like me. Sometimes I don’t know why. It could have something to do with my cuddly, teddy bear-like figure. But I don’t think so. I’m a little snarky. Sarcastic even. I really like high heeled shoes and hate things that are sticky. I don’t give off a Mary-Poppins-children-come-love-me vibe. And yet when I’m out in public, I have to avoid eye contact with them because I easily get sucked in to their cute little vortexes. Especially children in shopping carts at the checkout counter. Because if I don’t avoid eye contact, I’ll end up having an in depth conversation with them. I once fell in love with a cherubic-like little boy who kept trying to feed me his drool covered Goldfish crackers. I took every one the mushy crackers he offered me and placed them in my pocket.
Because he was sharing. And sharing is caring. And who could resist that?
I like to watch children too. Not in the creepy hide-your-kids-from-her way, but I like to watch kids interact. See how they talk to each other, how they figure things out. Kids are super interesting. And that’s why I like writing about them. In my latest release GENTLEMEN PREFER CURVES, I tell the story of a kindergartner named Ruby and her father, Carter. Ruby is insightful, bright and says some things that might make you wonder if you’re speaking to a five-year-old little girl or a forty-year-old divorcee. Some critics might (did) say that I wrote an unrealistic, too mature sounding kid. But that’s where I disagree.
I taught elementary school for seven years. Most of those seven years I spent in the primary grades. There were countless hours of lunch and bus duties. Countless hours of me freezing my butt off in the dead of winter watching kids play recess outside. I’ve taught kids how to count money and tie shoes. I’ve listened to them while they’ve had some really amazing discussions about books. I may not know a lot about anything else, but I do know children. And I know that they have changed a lot since I was a kid.
While still innocent, they are a lot savvier about the world than I was. They seem… more adult.
Which brings me back to Ruby. She’s based on a girl I once knew. Let’s call her Veronica. Anyone who met Veronica would swear she was a middle aged woman parading around in a kindergartner’s body. She wore double breasted trench coats and hound’s-tooth fedora. She hated pants, and only wore skirts with brightly colored tights and ballet flats that matched her outfit. She had personality. She was the most fabulous little girl.
Once she overheard another teacher and I talking about going to Hartford to see a play.
She said, “There’s going to be traffic. They’re having a rally this weekend.”
When asked how she knew, she simply said, “Dad has the news on in the car. I listen.”
“You do?” I asked, thinking no child ever listened based on the amount of times I had to remind them to stay quiet in line.
“Yeah. I know what’s going on.” She was five then and knew more about local traffic and politics than two adults did.
There was another time I complimented one of my second graders on her designer Michael Kors boots. (My shoes had come from Payless.)
When I had asked her where one might find designer shoes for children she said, “You’ve got to go to TJ Maxx or Marshalls. That’s where all the sales are.” A seven year old schooling me on where to shop. She was totally right too. I got a really great handbag on sale.
Then there is my own niece. Who is not even two yet, but I forget that sometimes because I seriously think she’s smarter than my brother. We were in the store one day when she had to go to the bathroom. She happened to be eating an apple and my brother tried to take it away from her before she went into the yucky public restroom. She refused. My brother, the softy, conceded that battle to her.
When we walked away from him she said, “Daddy no take my apple. Why daddy want take my apple?”
“Because bathrooms are dirty,” I said. “People go pee pee in there.”
“Oh,” she said looking thoughtful. She then handed the apple to me.
My niece the genius! Not only is she smart enough to talk about her father behind his back, but she listened to reason.
Of course I know that not all children are like the ones I mentioned above. But kids are not as simple as some people think they are. They are smart and savvy and can smell BS from a mile away. Don’t ever underestimate a kid, because they’ll end up surprising you every time.
If you don’t believe me, check out these two kids who are way before their time.
And if you have any funny stories about the things the kids in your life say, I would love to hear them. I’ll give away a digital copy of ON THE NAUGHTY LIST featuring Lori Foster, Carly Phillips, Beth Ciotta and myself to my favorite tale.
Thanks for having me!!!
Leave a comment and you could win a copy of ON THE NAUGHTY LIST. Winner will be announced Sunday.