Category Archives: Motherhood

What Does it Mean to Be a Woman?

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Seems like as soon as Thing 2 could talk, she has said that when she grows up she wants to be a mommy.  Not truck driver. Not doctor. Not female body builder.  Mommy.  I must tell you (and no one who knows us personally will disagree with me) that I am her absolute favorite person on the planet.  I am followed closely by Thing 1 and everyone else is on the B List.  On the other hand, Thing 1 has never said she wants to be a mommy.  Well, maybe once, but it was like a distant 25th to dancer and scientist/fashion designer.  I’ve always thought Thing 2’s desire to be a mommy was cute, but I never gave it much thought since she is only 6-years-old and her interests and life goals will morph several hundred times before she reaches adulthood.

Recently, the girls and I were having a conversation about how a woman’s body naturally goes through different seasons: preparing to reproduce, reproduction years and the end of reproduction.  I was explaining that as a woman in my late 40’s, I am at the end of my reproductive years  – hence, no little brother.  Thing 2 looked up at me and said “But, when we grow up we’re going to have babies because that’s what it means to be a woman, right? That’s what girls do, right momma?”  Suddenly, it wasn’t so cute to me anymore.

Obviously, I like kids. I mean, when we married we already had 3 kids between us yet, we had just had to keep going.  Three was for quitters. However, I do recognize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for raising children.  In fact, I didn’t even realize how much I would enjoy being a mother until I became one.  It doesn’t work that way for everyone.  I looked at my baby girl and said “No, sweetie.  You can be a woman without ever having children and that’s okay.”

She looked a little surprised. Her sister spoke up an said “Auntie,” referring to my sister, “doesn’t have any kids and she’s a woman.”

“True,” I responded “Auntie, is childless by choice, but there are a lot of women who physically can’t have children.  They are still women.”

“Why can’t they have kids?”

“For any number of reasons all too complicated to explain. Regardless of the reason, whether you have children or not does not define you as a person or a woman.”

I felt guilty. Like the life that I have chosen to lead has somehow made my daughters believe that this is the only life to choose.  While I am very happy with the choices that I have made and the life that I live, I know that it isn’t for everyone – including them.  Their lives are only beginning and open to so many exciting possibilities I want them to know that no matter what choices they make about their careers or relationships or decisions to have children or not to have children, I’m there to support them.  And I certainly want them to know that being a woman means so much more than giving birth.

So, I pulled them close and told them that while being a mother is “a very important job that requires a lot of hard work, it is not what makes you a woman. Women are a lot of things.  We are: smart, and strong, and creative, and ambitious, and nurturing, and insightful, and caring and clever, and fast, and agile, and a lot more.  We are: writers, and lawyers, and police officers, and soldiers, and doctors, and teachers, and dancers, and engineers, and, again a lot more. Sometimes we are mommies and something else; and other times we are mommies and nothing else; and sometimes we aren’t mommies at all.  Any combination is fine and that will be your decision when you are older.”

“Yes, much older,” echoed Thing 1.

Thing 2 was looking kind of dazed, so I asked her if she understood what I had said.  She assured me that she did, saying “Yes, being a grown up woman is more than just being a mommy.”

I smiled, “Exactly!”

“And, I get to pick what kind of woman I want to be.”

“You got, sister!”

#girlpower

Mommies Don’t Get Sick Days

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Mommy

This is going to be short and to the point.  You see, I am feeling a bit under the weather, so much so that right now, I feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck, then it backed up and ran over me again.  However, I wanted to share this with you because it  made dragging myself around today feeling like death warmed over a little bit more pleasurable.

Last night, due to my worsening symptoms, I went to bed early and let Big Poppa handle bed time.  It was loud – something about a lizard – but it got done. This morning the Dynamic Duo came into my room, took one look at me and asked “Where’s Daddy?”

“At work.”

“Then who’s taking us to school?”

“I’m taking you to school.”  I think I heard one of them audibly gasp.

“BUT YOU’RE SICK!”

“Yes, I’m aware,” I said, “but Mommies don’t get sick days.”

“Why not?”

I paused and contemplated telling the truth. That life as they know it would come to a complete stop if I took to my bed and stayed there until I fully recuperated. There would be no snack in their backpacks.  No double-check to make sure that they had their library book on  library day.  No one would remind them that it’s Thursday so they should be wearing their class shirts.  No sweater tucked into their back pack (you know, just in case?).  No lunches made with a handwritten note declaring my love inside the lunch box.  Gym shoes on gym day?  Forget about it!  Papers signed? Checks sent in for various payments? Follow up notes to the teacher?  No, no and no!  And that’s just school.  With after school activities three or four days out of the week (don’t forget Saturdays!), I am the keeper of the schedule.  The only one with complete knowledge of what’s supposed to be happening, when it’s happening and where it will be happening.

Not to mention, who am I going to call if I take a sick day.  If I’m the Chief Operating Officer of this operation, who do I notify that I won’t be able to fulfill my duties?  Certainly not the Chief Executive Officer (that would be Bog Poppa) since he’s not really “in the trenches” if you know what I mean.  That’s my job.

I didn’t answer them.  I decided that it would be best to leave it alone, at least for now.  So this evening, when Thing 1 said “Mommy, why are you still up if you’re still sick?”,  my answer was the same “Because I still have things to get done and Mommies don’t get sick days.”

“But, why?”

“Because how could I give you my daily dose of love?”

She smiled and we hugged and I’m sure that I probably passed on my contagious virus to her.  Poor thing.

It Wasn’t Really the Job That I Loved…

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Today’s writing prompt over at Champagne to Crayons:  28 Days of Celebrating Thanks is Day 12: A Job That I Am Thankful for. I am going to be honest with you, I almost had to skip this one. I don’t mind working but, I can’t say that I’ve had a job that I just couldn’t wait to get to every morning.  Granted, different jobs had their high points, but over all, they were not what I was interested in doing.  Looking back, I don’t think that I really knew what I was interested in doing.  After my son was born I quickly realized that I needed a good paying job with medical and dental benefits that I could afford, so I randomly chose to pursue a career as a paralegal.  I do mean random, because although I was a Journalism major, jobs in that particular field are hard to come by and I had no idea how to go about doing so.  At the time I was living with my sister and her husband, who were both lawyers and after seeing a television commercial for paralegal training, I thought, “I could do that!”  That was it.  I took out a loan,  went back to school and spent the next 15 or so years bored out of my mind.  However, I did manage to earn a decent living, I had good benefits and I created a fairly comfortable life for me and my son. Additionally, I gained  an invaluable skill set (research anyone?) and I met some of the most amazing people, some of which I am fortunate enough to still call friends. Since having a personally fulfilling career wasn’t something that I felt was important, it was all good.

However, after some thought, I realized that I was over looking the obvious.  I do have a job that I love more than any other, that of a Domestic Engineer (i.e., SAHM, house wife, homemaker…whatever you want to call it). Make no mistake, this is a job. Whether you do it full – time or part-time, it is a job.  At times it is as emotionally draining as it is emotionally fulfilling.  Sometimes at  night when I finally make it to bed after homework and cooking…and girl scouts…and dance…and laundry…and errands…and PTA stuff…and whatever else there was, I can’t remember a time when I was more physically exhausted.  I love it!  I even love those mornings, at 3:30 a.m., when I realize that it’s Thursday and their class shirts are not clean so, I jump out of bed to put the load of laundry in knowing that I will never be able to fall back to sleep. Big Poppa doesn’t even notice that I’m missing, but it’s okay.  It just provides me with another opportunity to do some internet shopping.  It’s best that he be kept in the dark.  I love it when my grown children ask for advice then ignore it.  Only to later, begrudgingly admit that I could have had a point. Or the way that they ask for new bed pillows as if Target won’t allow them to purchase one with money of their own.  

Some have even tried to put a monetary value on the role of Domestic Engineers (http://www.businessinsider.com/value-of-stay-at-home-moms-2013-5) and while I think that it’s a great tool in bolstering the validity of the role of a SAHM, I think that the whole debate is ridiculous.  Really, there is no way of placing a real dollar value on what parents do because so much of it is intangible. It’s priceless, really.   No paralegal position has ever given me a moment more memorable than seeing my daughter’s smiles when I come to volunteer in their class rooms.  Or, more satisfaction than I felt when every single Barbie clothing item, shoe, and accessory was finally organized and put away.  Or, when I fix a meal that EVERYONE likes (hardly ever happens). Or when I manage to get everything done on the list for the day, plus a few extras…SCORE!  No, nothing that I have ever done during my career out side of the home could ever be more important to me or more fulfilling than what happens in my home with my spouse and children.  Yes. This. This right here is a job that I am truly thankful for.

Quiet Strength

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Strength

Over my past 23 years of parenting, I have had many occasions to dig deep inside of myself to find a source of strength to sustain me. Unfortunately, there have been more nights spent in a hospital with one child or another than I care to remember.  My husband and I have each gone through the loss of a parent and together, we have suffered the loss of a child.  Like any married person, our marriage has suffered through its ups and downs.  SURPRISE! We do have disagreements (you’re probably not so surprised – we all do).  Our children don’t always do as we tell them and yes, there are consequences, many of which we no longer control.  It gets uncomfortable and we want to rush in and play Miss Fix-it to spare our loved one’s any hurt.  Unfortunately, life isn’t like that.    We can’t control, comfort, direct and dictate everything. Not for those that we love and often not even for ourselves.

One very simple, yet powerful lesson that I have learned in my life is that sometimes the mightiest show of strength is to remain very quiet.  Seems counter intuitive, I know.  After all, when body builders lift weights there’s all of the loud grunting and bulging biceps, right?  When stepping into a situation where you want to protect your loved ones, every instinct says that you need to step forward and take charge.  Loud and forceful! Are you a Momma Bear?  If so, then you know that Momma Bears are rarely quiet.  However, often the best approach to make it through some of the toughest times is to remain silent.

I think that this became particularly apparent as my older kids reached adulthood.   Most young adults are itching to get out on their own and, trust me, you are pretty ready for them to leave your house, too!  However, you know what life has in store for them and you know that it’s a lot harder than it looks.  Now, they’re adults.  They really don’t have to listen to you yet, you hope that they do.  You pray that they make wise choices about their finances, careers, friendships and love interests.  They are too grown up for you to control,  but too young to really appreciate all of the complexities of living life on their own. I gave them my advice, I said my piece and made sure that they knew that I loved them.  Then I remained silent, which was by far one of the hardest things I have ever done.  There have been some successes where they outperformed anything that I could have expected.  There have also been some tough times and Big Poppa and I still remained quiet because our decisions had been made and our position established.  It was our grown children that had to bear the consequences.  As a parent, that’s hard to watch but, it’s often strongest stand that you can take for the benefit of your family. Believe it or not, in the end, it makes them stronger, too.

No, it’s not always the best thing to do to barge in and (at least, attempt) to take charge.  Sometimes your strongest statement is made when you simply remain silent.

This post is in response to the prompt ” Day 2: A Time When You Were Strong”  on the blog link up  “28 Days of Celebrating Thanks” hosted by Nicole over at Champagne to Crayons.  You can read the other posts by my fellow bloggers here.

Change of Seasons

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This post is a response to the writing prompt “What’s A Challenge You Are Facing?”  You can read additional posts by my fellow bloggers at Flotsam of the Mind .

My youngest child started Kindergarten this week and my mind is in a really weird place right now.  The last time that I seriously thought about the reality of my kids progressing through school, moving out and leaving Big Poppa and I as empty-nesters was about 12 years ago.  It was a reality that I didn’t like then and I immediately set out to stop it from happening. I decided that I should have another baby.  I told Big Poppa of my desire and he surprisingly agreed to go along.  I was well aware that I was in my late thirties and he in his mid-forties yet, I was just not ready to not be a hands – on – mom.  Having children at home gave me purpose, they brought life to my house and gave me a type of joy that I couldn’t find anywhere else.  No, I wasn’t ready for all of that to end.

Fast forward eight years and two babies  and I am now entering my late forties, I have elementary, as well as, college students and life is never, ever dull.  I am satisfied. However, as I watched my two girls walk ahead of me to school this past Monday morning, I realized that this really is the beginning of the end of this season of my life. I know that it’s only Kindergarten but, remember, I’ve been down this road before and they are never really all yours anymore once they start school.  This time, I can’t make the decision to have more babies and truthfully, I really don’t want to (believe me, that was music to my husband’s ears).  I’m all at once sad, yet, strangely curious about what’s coming next for me.

Everyone’s life goes through a change of seasons: the glorious Springtime of our youth,  the bountiful harvest of Summer, beautiful transition of Fall and the peaceful stillness of Winter.  I am standing at the threshold of Fall and feeling a little trepidation of walking in.  Not sure why I’m so hesitant since Fall has always been my favorite season of the year.  In fact, the absence of a real fall is probably the main reason that I don’t like living in South Texas.  I love the vibrant colors of the leaves and the crunching under foot as you walk down the street.  The smell of the cool air immediately makes me think of everything fun and comforting: football,  apple cider, mac and cheese, Halloween, Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday)…all those things that I love. So why then am I struggling with this impending change in my life?

Fall

I’m getting older.  I’m sure that’s one reason why I’m having such a hard time with it.  I knew a man once who, on his 50th birthday, noted that it was a little sobering to think that he had already lived longer than he is probably going to live.  That certainly put things in perspective.  Yet, I’m not sad or even mildly upset about turning 47.  In fact, and I have said this before, for whatever reason I think 47 sounds really sexy.  Forty-seven sounds confident!  Forty-seven sounds strong! Forty-seven sounds exciting!  So, it’s not my actual age that’s bothering me, it’s more likely that it’s time for me to embark on something new that doesn’t have anything to do with my kids or my husband. Something that’s all mine.

I don’t really like to do “new” things by myself.  In fact, doing new things always makes me nervous in general.  One of my fellow bloggers recently wrote about her first time sky-diving and the entire time that I was reading it I kept thinking “Wow! She is soooo cool!” I will never be that cool.  Really. I’m never going to get on a plane to go skydiving. I’m okay with that for the most part, except I want whatever it took for her to get into that plane in the first place and not jump off right before they closed the doors for take off.  You see, I really would prefer to stay in my very comfortable life the way it is, with the covers over my head, where it’s safe.  I know how to be a wife and a mother.  I know what everyday brings me for the most part and I know what I’m doing.  It’s stepping out from behind my “security blanket” that I’m struggling with.  As I approach this change of seasons in my life, I’m struggling with finding my own identity.  Am I the only one?

Back Together Again

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Together again!

Together again!

They haven’t gone to the same school for a few years.  Thing 1 was age  four and Thing 2 was age two and they were both in pre-school at the time.  Both sisters have been waiting for this day for two years and it finally came today.  I tried to stay out of their way and let them have their fun, they giggled a lot and talked and planned.  Big Sissy gave advice to Little Sissy, who promptly tossed it aside and decided to do things her way (My girl!).  There were no tears and once they reunited after school it was non-stop talking and comparing notes.  I listened, asked a few questions but, mostly listened.  I learned a few things like:

  • The first day of gym is boring because all you do is listen to the rules about playing gym.  It’s gym…who needs rules in gym?
  • Thing 1 saw at least three – yes! three! – One Direction back packs and A LOT of One Direction t-shirts being worn by girls her age.  This means that Mommy (that would be yours truly) obviously doesn’t know that it is in fact NOT inappropriate for young girls to have One Direction on their clothes and backpacks!  I stand corrected.
  • Since we are talking about backpacks, apparently Teen Beach Movie is the most popular backpack in school and Mommy (again, that would be me) should have known that and bought each of them a Teen Beach Movie backpack!  I am so lame.
  • Apparently, there is a kindergarten boy who comes after you and actually…SQUEEZES…YOU…TO…DEATH! Thing 2 got this from a very reliable source, another kindergartener who said that it had happened to her last year (gasp)! Obviously, this is questionable since the child is alive to tell about it.
  • Lunch was definitely the coolest thing that happened all day!

Notice that there was no mention of their teachers or any actual work being done?  I did and I inquired but, I was met with blank stares.  Never mind. I must admit that my favorite part of the day was watching them just be happy being together.  Any parent of siblings as close together as 18 months can tell you that these happy tranquil scenes are often far and few between.  I missed them while they were both gone today.  I have to admit that it’s going to take some getting used to, but it’s a good thing.

Thirty-Nine Days

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Yes, I’m counting the days until school starts, but not for the reasons that you may think.  Historically I used to start counting the days oh, about a week after summer break started.  Yea, I know how that sounds, you don’t have to tell me, but it’s true.  Summer break usually was the beginning of the twelve longest weeks of the year.  Children complaining about having nothing to do, but not happy with the activities that I had planned.  Teenagers wanting to go on vacation, but dissatisfied with where we ended up taking them.  For your information, the Wisconsin Dells can be just as entertaining as  Disney World if you do it right.  Never mind.  “Get a summer job!” I said,  to which they replied,  “but, I’m only going to make minimum wage!”  Duh.  Basically, I decided that summer break must have been designed to be punishment for all of the horrible things that I had done during the school year.  That was the only logical reason that I had to suffer through three months of complete hell.

It didn’t change much after the Dynamic Duo were born.  I was no match for them.  I filled their days with activities – pre-school, Mommy & Me classes, play dates – both to keep them entertained, but also to distract them.  I needed relief.  I was overwhelmed and extremely tired.  Please don’t tell me that’s to be expected.  I know that.  However, somehow I just wasn’t prepared for just how overwhelmed and tired I would be.   Did I mention that I was jealous of my husbands ability to leave the house sans children every day?  So what he was going to work.  It was summer and if I had to be trapped in the house with five children, as far as I was concerned, so did he!  It didn’t really work that way.

You know, the irony here is that by the time the school year comes to an end, I am so glad to be done with it.  I’m tired of checking back packs, correcting homework and making lunches.  By that time, I can barely function.  In fact, Jen Hatmaker over at JenHatmeker.com wrote a very funny, but very true essay about this very thing (you can read it here: http://jenhatmaker.com/blog/2013/05/30/worst-end-of-school-year-mom-ever).  THAT WOMAN IN THAT BLOG IS ME!  Honestly, all enthusiasm  and imagination runs out around March and by April, I’m just going through the motions.  Thing 1 noticed that something wasn’t right after I gave her the same snack every day for two weeks straight.  One night on her way up to bed she said, “Ummm, Mom, that’s okay, I will take care of packing my snack because I just can’t take another day of Goldfish.” I felt like such a failure.  Okay, not really, but I did let her handle it.

I say all of this to tell you that usually, by this time of the summer, I am already planning what I’m going to do with my time on their first day of school and my first day of freedom.  This year, however, something is different.  I’m not planning.  In fact, when I think about the first day of school, I become very melancholy.  I mean, there are definitely things that I will change in my schedule, like no longer blogging instead of sleeping, like I do now.  Also, I’m looking forward to fitting in my workouts, hair appointments, doctor visits without having to rush  to pick up one of the kids.  I can work on recipes without interruption. Dinner. I think I will be able to actually get dinner on the table most nights at a decent hour.  Not every night, but that’s just on  principle.    These are all good things, but I’m still sad.  I think that I have to admit that I have really enjoyed this summer.  I don’t know why it has been different, but it is.  Maybe because they or older? Or maybe because I am.  They seem to have mellowed a bit.  Especially, Thing 1.  Suddenly she’s so sophisticated.  Now, when I’m singing and dancing in the car, she looks at me like “OMGosh!  She’s my mother?!”  Now that I know that it embarrasses her, I make sure that my windows are down as to not obstruct anyone’s view of my antics.  Wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone.

Or, maybe it’s the fact that they will both be in school for 7.5 hours per day, every day.  You would think that a woman with five children and who has been parenting for 23 years would be okay with this.  It doesn’t seem as exciting as it once did.

I also enjoy the fact that they are becoming friends.  This summer, I’ve had occasion to watch each of them defend and protect the other when someone else dared to try to come between them.  And their conversations are comedic gold mines, especially when we are riding in the car, for instance:

Thing 2: “If you could have any princess power what would it be?”

Thing 1: “Princess power? What power?”

Thing 2: “Like talking to animals, singing, dancing, shooting a bow and arrow? That kind of stuff.”

Thing 1: “Well, I do dance, and I’m a great singer.  I don’t need to talk to animals because  I don’t like them.  Shooting a bow and arrow? I don’t know about that one.  How about shooting a Nerf gun?”

Thing 2: “Cool!  Wait, what princess shoots a Nerf gun?”

Thing 1: “WE SHOOT NERF GUNS!”

Thing 2: “Oh, right! So we are the princess that shoot Nerf guns. Got it!”

Nerf Guns.  Just one of the many benefits of having older brothers.

I love the way their minds work.  I love the lazy mornings when they come get in my bed when Daddy’s gone and we all watch cartoons and eat dry Froot Loops.  I love painting our toes ourselves and not going to the salon and learning to braid each other’s hair.  I love spending  afternoons at the pool and looking at their beautifully deep tans.  I love what I now call their “summer smell” – a mixture of sun screen, chlorine and bug spray.  I love making cookies together, reading our favorite and some new books and just being with them.  We have had our share of unpleasant moments, but over all, I have thoroughly enjoyed their company over the summer and I’m going to miss them.

The good news is that it’s not over, after all, there are still 39 days and we have plans for most of them.   I wish there were 40 or maybe 45 more days, although I don’t really know what difference it makes.  I’m just trying to hold on.  Please think of me on the eve of the 39th day.  Say a little prayer that I don’t hang out a little too long at the door of their class rooms or stare in the window as I walk by on my way home.  Better yet, send me a gently reminder to come home, do some blogging and take a nap.

Seven

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On July 12, 2006, at 25 weeks pregnant with identical twin girls, my water broke.  I was alarmed, obviously, but not surprised, because the pregnancy had been an ordeal from the very beginning.  We had been to hell and back trying to ensure that we would have two healthy babies only to realize by this point that one was already dead and the other was in real danger.  I will spare you the details, but less that 24 hours after my water broke, on July 13th, I gave birth to one girl who had taken the short-cut to be with God and another beautiful, beautiful baby girl who turned out to be a real fighter – all 1 lb, 14 oz. of her.

On Daddy's chest, just about 2 lbs.

On Daddy’s chest, just about 2 lbs.

Look at the size of her hand next to the tip of Daddy’s finger!  Looking at her now, it’s unbelievable where she started.  So, so tiny and weak that she couldn’t even cry.  She wasn’t strong enough to make a sound.  We were warned about all of the things that could be wrong with her developmentally due to her prematurity – neurological damage, learning difficulties, speech impediments – the list was long and daunting.  In fact, it is more common than not that there are lasting effects of being born so soon. Amazingly, she has no lasting effects.  None!  No delays, no damage, nothing that can be directly linked to her being born premature.  Every once in a while it takes my breath away.

She is very normal.  So normal in fact that she is pretty much like any other girly – girl ready to celebrate turning seven.  She wants to know what Big Poppa and I are getting her for her birthday.  She asks me every day and every day I say the same thing, “Our undying love and support.”  She gives me this “Gee, that’s swell, but…” look and pushes ahead, asking for an iPhone (???), new Hello Kitty earrings (the kind that you find in the jewelry store), another American Girl Doll?  No, No, and No!  I’m not one of those parents that feels like I need to give a particular gift on birthdays, particularly when a party is involved.  The party is expensive enough.  However, this year there is no big party and no big gift.  I’m okay with that because sometimes, enough is enough.  Of course we will celebrate because we are happy that she’s here but, it’s going to be low-key.  She is NOT low-key.

Lately, we have been going back and forth over what kind of preparations we will need for her birthday celebration.  I was thinking plates, napkins, balloons (mind you, this is just for a small family gathering, so absolutely none of this is necessary) but, she was thinking somewhere along the lines of fireworks, pinatas and getting One Direction to put on a show in our garage.  In the middle of this, I noticed that she seemed to be complaining of headaches a lot.  Eye problems? I made an appointment with the eye doctor and sure enough, she needs reading glasses.  She saw this as an opportunity to add a cute new accessory to her wardrobe.  I saw this as our birthday gift to her. Sounds like a win, win situation to me. Not so much to her. Ah, well…I tried.

Can you see the missing teeth?

Can you see the missing teeth?

This girl reminds me that miracles do happen every day. She reminds me that faith really is enough.  She is smart and strong, courageous and focused.   She swims like a fish, is a talented and graceful dancer (when she was four she told be that she was “born to dance”), and has a pretty mean forehand in tennis.  She loves music, baking and reading..oh, and dolls!  I don’t think she can ever have too many dolls.  And now, she loves her glasses and can’t wait to get them because they are “sooo super cute!!”   Yes, she is perfectly normal and I am undeniably grateful.  Happy Birthday, sweetheart!

Bored?

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Photo Credit: brassyapple.com

Photo Credit: brassyapple.com

Just 3 weeks into summer vacation and I can not count the number of times my girls have said this to me.  Considering the fact that we have spent countless hours at the pool, participated in a science camp, dance camp, private dance lessons, theater camp, continued gymnastics and swim lessons (Summer’s not over yet, folks.  There’s more to come!), when do they find the time to be bored?  Well, you know that 30 minutes or so that one of them may have to wait for the other to get finished with a class?  That’s when.  “I’m soooooooooo B.O.R.E.D.!!!!!!”

When I was a kid, I learned the hard way never to say these words to my mother.  I must have been about ten-years-old and trust me, I didn’t get to do a third of what my kids do over summer break but, telling her that I was bored was not a good move.  The day that I said it she looked at me and said “Oh! You’re bored huh?  Well, I got something for you.”   And that right there, my friends, launched me into a summer of cleaning out the refrigerator, emptying and cleaning the kitchen cupboards (Y’all remember Scott’s Liquid Gold for wood?  Baby, those cabinet doors were shining!), mopping the floors and ironing everyone’s clothes in the house right down to my father’s handkerchiefs.  I used to wonder what kind of mother would sit and think up all of these horrible things to punish her kid with? Now, 36 years later, I can answer that question.  That would be the kind of mother who pays for your fun, chauffeurs you around, wishes nothing but the best for you and really doesn’t want to hear you whine and complain.   Ummm, that would now be me.

So, the other day, I took a page from my mother’s old school playbook.  Thing 1 was in the throes of one of her best drama filled performances when she laid across my lap at gymnastics, while waiting for Thing 2 to finish, and said “Mooommmmmy!  I’m booooorrrreeeeed!”  Without missing a beat I said “Oh, you’re bored huh? Well, I got something for you.”   I think she sensed that this could be trouble because she got really quiet.  When we got home I sent them straight upstairs to clean their disaster of a playroom.  Thing 2 was a little confused since she had nothing to do with it but, I figured that it was a good lesson to learn and the more the merrier.  Can I tell you that level of histrionics generated from that particular action was like an Academy Award winning performance?  My word!  I fully expected them to break out in a rendition of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”  Unbelievable.  It got done, they dried their tears and we talked about responsibility.  Specifically, that they are responsible to clean up their messes and I am not responsible for entertaining them.  Have they said it again? They have started the sentence, but then stopped when they realized what was about to happen.  My mother would be so proud of me!  Remember this the next time one of your kids complains about being bored.  They get something to do and you get free labor. I call that a win – win situation.

What Are We Doing to Our Children?

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photo credit: blog.holistichealth.ch

photo credit: blog.holistichealth.ch

“I want to give my children everything that I didn’t have when I was a kid?”   Have you ever heard someone say this? Have you ever said it yourself? Every time I hear that statement I wonder two things, a) what exactly does it mean? and b) why?  As a parent of twenty somethings, I see a lot in them, their friends, and their generation in general, that suggests that we parents may be giving them entirely too much.

When we say that we want to give our children everything that we didn’t have growing up, my sense is that we are referring to “stuff”: more toys, more gadgets, more vacations, more luxuries than were at our disposal as kids.  And, when I  say “we” I am really including myself because although I have never made that statement or actually even thought it, I stand convicted of being an overly indulgent parent.  Sometimes I try to rationalize it and sometimes I don’t.  I just do it because I can, and it’s fun.  Fun, that is, until my children through their behavior and/or attitude point out to me that I have done too much.  Here’s where my experience as a mom of twenty somethings comes into play because it wasn’t until years later that my husband and I realized the mistakes that had been made as they were growing up.

I am the product of an overly indulgent mother.  My father was the one who was reasonable and frugal but, Mom, not so much, although, neither one of them told me “no” very often.  So, when I became an adult and graduated from college, life stepped in and slapped me right in the face.  And it was brutal. Suddenly, my parents expected me to be responsible, pay my own bills, set goals, save money, chart my own path…things that I had never done before.   Then I found out that I was pregnant and that, my friends,  has been the single most grounding and defining  moment of my life.  The fact that I was going to become responsible for another little helpless, beautiful person put my feet firmly on the ground, and quickly, I might add.  Thankfully, none of my children have found themselves in this position  (and I implore them to keep it this way) because I often wonder about their ability to adjust to the real world.

The real world.  The world where you can’t call home and ask someone to put money into your bank account because you spent it all over the weekend (but, you had a great time!).  Where you can’t come home on break from college to your comfy, fairly large bedroom that you don’t have to share with anyone. You know, the one that connects to it’s own private bath or, maybe you share it with your sibling and it connects both rooms (Did I mention that this is all really well decorated?).   Where you can’t sleep until noon or 1:00 then go out to the back yard and dive into the pool.  The real world, where you pay for your own car; mommy and daddy do not buy it for you.  They don’t owe it to you.  In fact, they don’t owe you anything.  See, I have had to tell my adult children this very thing more than once, “We don’t owe you anything!”

Do you watch “House Hunters”  or “My First Place” on HGTV?  Every time I see these shows, I am amazed by the first time homeowners who really are insistent on buying a house that has a gourmet kitchen complete with granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, four bedrooms, a master suite complete with a whirlpool tub in the bathroom, all in a 3,000 square foot home.  No one, no matter what their age or stage in life expects to have to work and save and plan for anything.  Instant gratification.  We live in a microwave society where we  expect to put a few loose plans into motion and expect instant success.  And it’s all our  fault, parents.  We have created a generation of  people who feel entitled.

Why? Why do we do this?  What is it that we are trying to make up for?  Were our childhoods that bad? I can recall playing games of “Pickle” in the yard across from my house until the street lights came on.  Or, asking my dad for a quarter to walk to the store and buy a soda to drink while reading Tiger Beat magazine in the aisle.   Or, walking down to the new cinema (notice, there was a lot of walking?) with my friends to see the first Star Wars movie…nine times.  Nothing elaborate, but it was all good.  Why do we feel like we have to go bigger with our own children ?  What was wrong with what our parents gave us?  I know that times have changed but, I submit that it’s because we have artificially upped the ante.  We have become so obsessed with “stuff” and status that we have forgotten that we, parents,  have a bigger purpose than just keeping our children entertained and coddled.

Tell me, do you put as much effort into teaching your children how to be altruistic?  Do you realize that kindness and compassion have to be taught, they are not intuitive?    Do you feel the need to teach your children the value of hard work resulting in delayed gratification?   This is hard stuff and I must say, that I find it just as daunting 16 years later than I did when I had my first child.  Fortunately, or unfortunately if you look at it from my younger children’s point of view, I am parenting from the rear view mirror and I can see clearly.  To set the record straight, my older kids are good kids.  They have their bumps and bruises but, they are figuring it out.  So am I.