Being Present

by Mary Ann on May 24, 2010

As many of you know I am in the process of writing a book about The Spark Station; all the details of how and why and what, that parents want to know. I spend a lot of time thinking about it and working on it. I came to a place where I knew I needed some inspiration and clarity. So I turned to some people that I really respect and whose opinions I value. I set up a Master Mind Group to run my thoughts and ideas by. It is very helpful.

I first learned about Master Mind Groups many years ago when my husband and I were running a home based business. We would meet together once a week and help each other out. We all had a business of one sort or another. I learned the power of support, the power of many good minds, and the power of creative help.

When my youngest daughter was a senior in high school she had an advanced writing class. One of her assignments was to write a poem using iambic pentameter. She was a bit overwhelmed by the assignment and wasn’t even clear as to what iambic pentameter meant. They had talked about it in class but most of you will relate to how clear it was by the time she got home.

Now I want you to know that I am not a fan of poetry unless it comes from Mother Goose. I am a bit ashamed to admit it and I know that I owe it to myself to read some poetry before I die. My daughter, however, likes it a lot. She really likes Shakespeare. She has read all of his works and all of his sonnets, watched many plays and acted the part of Hero from “Much Ado about Nothing” in 8th grade. Here is another confession- I have read Romeo and Juliet and seen The Taming of the Shrew.

So it wasn’t a very happy circumstance when she came to me and asked for help. In other words, she wanted to form a Master Mind team, her and me! Yikes. I had no idea what iambic pentameter was. But how could I say no to my daughter who wanted my presence and support. So we sat down at the computer together and began. We looked up iambic pentameter. We read it. We gave each other a blank stare and then read it again. Now I may not be much into poetry but I am pretty good at figuring out what I read. I started to get it and I was able to explain it to her. Then she was off and running.

We talked over possible topics for her poem. Then she chose one, actually one of her own ideas. She told me the story that she was envisioning her poem to tell. It was good, really good. Then she wrote the first line. I can see us pounding out the syllables into our hands and changing words until there were exactly ten syllables per line. We would come up with ordinary words and then go to the Thesaurus to find words a bit more descriptive, elegant or fitting the time period and topic. It was fun. We laughed a lot.

She wrote and rewrote for over 3 hours. I was there the whole time. I made a suggestion or two whenever she was stuck on a word or a thought and asked for help. She almost never used the word I suggested but it would spark her mind and she would come up with just the perfect word. She would look at me with an excited smile, raise her hand, and say “gimmie five”. I would, at regular intervals, say, “This is good; it’s really good. You are amazing!”

Tonight Kate was revising that old poem. She is now in college taking another creative writing class. Her assignment is to create an imaginary author, and describe his/her life. She has to present a piece of the imaginary persons writing and then analyze it. She is rewriting the poem which is about a sailor’s widow to one about a Civil War soldier’s widow.

I just happened to peek in her room to say hi and see what she was doing. “Mom, come in and let me read this to you.” Then she asked me to sit down and help her out.

We reminisced about the last time we worked on the poem together; all those great feelings came right back. We laughed about the experience and how fun it had been.

I sat on the side of her bed and watched her use the Thesaurus and the dictionary to find words she needed. I saw her look up Civil War information to get a feel for the period of time. I didn’t really say much. Her poem was coming along great. Soon I stood up, patted her back and left her to her work. She didn’t really need me.

This is a marvelous example of being present. We weren’t in a home school environment and she was far too old for  The Spark Station but she needed what all kids need, our presence, our support, our focus for just a bit of time and our enthusiasm. She really wrote the poem by herself back in high school. She thought she was asking me to help her do it. What she really was asking was, be with me, care about me, learn with me. This is Rule Two of the Five Rules of Engagement: Be Present.

That is the value of a consistent family learning time. It allows you to be present. Not to do for a child, but to support, to listen, to watch, to enjoy. The payoff of making this small sacrifice of time every day is bonding, trust, a relationship with the most wonderful and important people in your life.

Enjoy my daughters work. I think she will do GREAT Things!

The Widow’s Walk

By Kate Johnson

Upon the widows walk forlorn she stands.

Face gray, indistinct in the morning mist.

Iron railing, cold portent in her hands.

Heartache knocks, upon her cheeks he kissed.

Annals of mariners wives keeping pace,

Back and forth, eyes on the horizon.

Lives lost forty leagues below without trace.

Possibility, worry like poison.

Bells peal out, mournfully telling of loss,

Belaying her breath, they tacitly mock.

Mind shrouded, forever bearing the cross,

Endlessly trudging the high widow’s walk.

Hope springs eternal, they shall meet anon

Sighs a chantey to a roseate dawn.

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