Tag 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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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.

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?

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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?

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.

The Graduate, too!

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I think that it is odd, in a fun sort of way, that almost exactly one month ago, I sat in an auditorium and watched our oldest daughter graduate from college and yesterday, I sat in an auditorium and watched our youngest daughter graduate from preschool.

Oh, fun fact here, these two lovelies have birthdays one day apart. Well, more like 16 years and 364 days apart.

Anyway, on the one hand, I can’t believe that I am old enough to have a child who is a real adult.  A fully functioning member of society.  A college graduate.  Actually, I have three children over the age of 20 and this fact still blows my mind.  I just don’t feel like this should be my reality.  That’s probably, in part, because I am also the mother of the little 5 – year –  old, who sang and danced on stage  with her class mates, and her older and wiser  6 – year – old sister.  In all honesty, I really don’t feel much different than I did 22 years ago when I had my first child.

Okay, I move slower in the morning when I first get out of bed but, that’s about it.  Seriously.

I remember back when I was in my 20’s, 40 sounded so old to me.  And 60?!?!  Ancient!  Now, that I’m closer to 50 than 40, 60 sounds pretty spry.  I guess it’s all relative.

I’m not big on preschool graduations, or kindergarten graduations, or 8th grade graduations.  The expectation is that our children will pass these milestones with relative ease, so I often think that we make too much of a fuss over it (like most things are children do these days).  However, as Thing 2 received her diploma,  a few thoughts crossed my mind:

1. She is absolutely adorable.  I’m not bragging, it’s just true. 🙂

2. I had no idea that she knew some sign language.

3.  I hope that she doesn’t suck her thumb while she’s on stage. Or, have to go to the bathroom.

4.  This is my last child to ever go to preschool…ever.

There is a finality to that last one that really shook me.  No more babies. Ever.  Truthfully, I don’t want any more kids. I really am over the whole baby thing and I’m looking forward to being with my girls as they grow up.   However, it’s one thing to say that when you’re capable of having more children but, it’s another to say that when that ability is gone.  Hopefully, I will have grand-babies to enjoy during their preschool years but, this one is MY last child.  Ever.  I know that I keep saying “ever” but, forever is a really, really long time. Sobering.  Especially for a woman who still considers herself to be relatively young.   I know, I know, I’m past the child-bearing years.  I get it. But, I guess I just never gave it much thought before entering this phase of my life.

I was trying to talk to Big Poppa about this but, I think moms and dads see this from a different perspective.  While I was lamenting about being a woman and the physical changes of  getting older, he was a bit fixated with the financial aspect of it all.     You know, all of the “More kids just cost more money, ” and “Just think how much college is going to cost when the younger ones get there.”  A lot less sentimental.

But, then, I had an “in – your – face”  moment today.  One of Thing 2’s fellow graduates and BFF had a birthday pool party.  Before you go there, no, I did not put on a swim suit and embarrass myself !  I know my limitations.  However, while I was sitting and chatting with the other preschool moms, I heard one of them ask another what year she graduated from high school.  You know what she said?  2000!  My oldest kid graduated just 8 years after her!  Now, THAT’S sobering !  You know when I graduated from high school? 1984!  Heck, I was out of college and had a child (a 10 – year – old to be exact) when she got her high school diploma. SOBERING!

I didn’t feel much like chatting after that. I really felt like having a Chick-fil-A  vanilla shake but, alas, Chick-fil-A is closed on Sunday.

Turns out, that I’m at least 10 years older than most of the other preschool moms.  Maybe I’m not so sad to leave preschool behind after all.

Thing 2 made it across the stage and accepted her diploma without incident.  She shared that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.  I’m sure that will change a zillion times, with at least two of them being after she declares her major in college.  She sang, she danced (with no thumb-sucking), she looked adorable and when it was all over, she headed straight for the table with the cookies on it. Because that’s what was important!  Making sure that you get a chocolate chip cookie before you leave, not all of this crazy stuff that I was thinking about.  At least one of us has our priorities straight.

Sisters

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Aren’t they adorable?  The picture of sisterly love.  Not, quite.  I can not for the life of me understand the bond between my daughters.  It is definitely what you might call a “love/hate” relationship, but it seems to swing by the minute, no, by the second. Most of the time it’s very clear that they love each other dearly, but boy do they fight!  Loudly and often…over everything or nothing.  It’s both intriguing and frustrating that at one moment these two, born just 18 months apart, can be at each other’s throats over who is the rightful owner of the box of crayons on the right side of the dining room table, even though there is an identical box of crayons on the left side of the same table; and 10 minutes later end up crying because they can’t sit next to each other at the dinner table.  I can’t make sense out of this.

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I shouldn’t really be surprised because from the moment that they met each other, it was clear that there would be problems.  Upon laying eyes on her brand new little sister, Thing 1 erupted into tears.  Bitter, sad, angry tears.  I hugged and held her the way that I always did and told her that she was still my sweet baby, but now I just had two sweet babies.  It didn’t help.  There were several thwarted attempted attacks on Thing 2 before Thing 1 settled into some sort of acceptance.  Acceptance = ignoring.  I encouraged her to help me take care of the baby.  No.  I found ways to give them each their own time with me hoping that it would help. No.  I enlisted my husband to spend more Daddy/Daughter time with Thing 1 in hopes that it would distract her.  No.  She was jealous and pissed!

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Big Poppa, who is a twin, tells me that my problem is that I don’t understand sibling relationships because I was raised as an “only child” .  To clarify, I do have siblings, but they are all a lot older than me.  In fact, my sister is 13 years older than I am.  By the way, I was instructed by my sister to never talk about her in my blog again, but, I can’t really explain my views on this blog topic without talking about my relationship with my sister, can I?  Besides, she will forgive me because I’m her little sister.  And that’s just it, because of the age difference, there really couldn’t be any rivalry.  She was more like a mother to me than a sibling.  In fact, I have no memories of her as a kid at all.  My earliest memories are vague recollections of her as a college student.  Other than living with her as an adult after I finished college, I have no memories of living in the same house.  To me, she has always been an adult.  In recent years, our relationship has become less parent/child and more equal.  We have become real friends (best friends) and I can’t imagine my life without her.  We are everything that I envision sisters to be, which is why I have such a hard time understanding the relationship between the Dynamic Duo.  I want them to see how blessed they are to have each other from the very beginning.

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It’s not all bad.  There are just as many good moments as there are bad.  They are fiercely protective of each other.  They each think the other is the smartest and most beautiful girl on the planet.   They are each other’s stylist and confidant. Well, that is until the other one makes them mad and then they tell whatever the other confided in them.  It’s a little flimsy.  I just wish that I could increase the occurrence of the good times while decreasing the bad.  I just don’t understand.  If you do, please clue me in.

There are signs of hope.  The other day, they were playing together, fussing at each other in the process, accusing each other of doing it wrong.   In fact, they were both doing it wrong because they had no business doing it in the first place.  Just as I was about to intervene, not only because of the fussing, but also because of the fact that it was all wrong, Thing 2 stopped and said

“Sissy?”

 “What?” replied Thing 1.

 “I love you.”

Thing 1 sighed and said “I love you, too.”

I stayed put and said nothing because, even though they were doing something completely against house rules, they loved each other.  Made me smile.

Mother: It’s Complicated

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Happy Mother’s Day! Was yours good?  We had a good time here at my house.  The Dynamic Duo was way into it and planned every detail.  I was awakened this morning to the smell of bacon and presented with a pink balloon that Thing 2 re-gifted from a birthday party yesterday.   Then came my presents, that I actually had to go find while the girls said “hotter” or “colder” to help guide me in the right direction.  Did I mention that this was around 8:00 this morning and I’m not a morning person?  It was a struggle.

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I was presented with an array of candles because I love candles and mostly because the other night, when the electricity went out, Thing 1 felt like I could have been better prepared with more candles.  As if the five that I had burning were not enough.

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I was also given a selection of their favorite candies, which they promptly ate.

However, my favorite gifts were by far the book that Thing 1 wrote for me telling me why I’m the perfect mom for her (“Because she loves me and makes the best macaroni and cheese, EVER!”) and the cookbook, (yes, I said COOK BOOK!) that Thing 2 and her class made for their moms.  Each child had a recipe to illustrate – Thing 2’s is a salmon dish – and it is so precious.  She is very, very proud of her handy work and so am I. I love it!  Personally, I would have liked more words from the hubby about what a great wife and mother I am, how the last ten years have been the best ten years of his life, and how grateful he is that we have two beautiful children together, blah, blah, blah…but…whatevs.

Admittedly, I have really struggled this year with Mother’s Day.  These past ten months is the longest period of time that I have gone without seeing or talking to my mother in my life.  She doesn’t talk on the phone so I can’t call her and I really, really miss her.  Or, at least I miss the memory of her.  After all, she hasn’t  known who I am for at least the past 4 years.  Obviously, I haven’t had a real conversation with her for years, but I miss the role that she played in my life.

“Mother”.  It’s such an all-encompassing word.  Protector, provider, personal chef, cleaning lady, doctor, chauffeur, confidant, lawyer, disciplinarian, teacher…I could go on and on and on but, really, the word itself denotes a figure-head.  Think about it, the word “Father” doesn’t carry nearly the weight that “Mother” does.  Unfortunately, in today’s society, it is not uncommon for a child to grow up without a father, but, everyone has a mother.  Mother’s Day is big business but, Father’s Day pales in comparison.  It’s sad when a child has an absent father, but it’s down right tragic when the mother is missing from their life.

“Mother” is iconic.  For years after your mother is gone, there are stories that will live on and define her legacy.  When I think of my mom, one of the first things that comes to mind is Imelda Marcos, former first lady of the Philippines, because of her famous and fabulous shoe collection. Imelda’s and Mom’s.  In fact, we, her children, used to teasingly, but accurately call her Imelda and if you said this to anyone who knew her in her heyday, they would immediately agree with you.   I probably should tell you that she, my mom, also had a long and successful career with the United States Postal Service (I could say any town in the State of Illinois and she knew the zip code  – amazing!) and she was a gifted musician and singer.  Somehow, I just know that the stories that my kids will tell about me will have nothing to do with my talents, but will be about some of my more neurotic, obsessive-compulsive tendencies like checking the stove three times at night before I can get in the bed.  I can’t believe that I just told you that.  Or, how I absolutely lose my mind when someone sits on my bed in their street clothes.  It’s me and I’ve accepted it.  Don’t judge me.

“Mother” is complicated.  The expectation of almost near perfection from your children, from your spouse, from your kid’s teachers, from the nosy neighbor down the street and from yourself (just to name a few) is subjective and unattainable. I know this yet, on pretty much a daily basis I am saddened by all of the ways that I feel like I fall short.    Likewise, it is those expectations of our own mothers and often the disappointments that we feel that we  have suffered, that hinder us from truly appreciating the gifts, or the “good stuff”, that our mother’s have given to us, big and small.  Often we forget, if we ever really knew in the first place, that our mothers, just like many of us, fulfilled their duties and gave of themselves even when their own emotional needs were not being met.  Over the years I have come to realize that no mother anywhere, including my own, ever sets out to screw their kid up.  They may not give much thought to what’s important to them as a parent or what style or approach is best but, their intent at birth is never to be the worst mother that they can possibly be.  Once I understood this, it allowed me to be more forgiving of not just my own mother, but of myself.  Always striving to be better but, accepting my own limitations.

I love being a mother, truly, I do.  It is my favorite part of me.  However, I do recognize that not every mother feels the same way.  I also recognize that there are those who are longing to be a mother but, it hasn’t worked out for whatever reason.  Then there are those who never want children and then those who are somewhere in the middle of all of this and trying to figure it all out.  And those of us just missing our own mom’s.  I can respect all of the differences.  It is complicated and that’s why Mother’s Day can stir up so many different emotions.  So, come in close so I can give you a BIG HUG!  I’m silly…I know.  I sincerely hope that no matter where you are or who you are with or your motherhood status, you had a wonderful day with people you love.

A Proud Member of M.A.A.

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A funny thing happened to me on the way to pick up my daughter the other day.  Well, it wasn’t “ha, ha” funny, but more like, “Are you serious?” funny.  While I waited for Thing 2 to gather her things from a play date, I struck up a conversation with a couple of the other moms, including the mother of  Thing 2’s friend.  We chatted, small talk mostly, about this and that, but then the conversation turned to some of the joys and difficulties of raising  children.  Just then one of the moms said that she always knew that she wanted to be done having children by the time she was in her early 30’s because she thinks 40 is just too old. After all, you wouldn’t be able to keep up with your kids by the time that they are in middle school.  She continued on to say that she thought that it was just plain selfish to wait too long to have children.  Now, my daughter’s friend’s mother knows that I have adult children and had apparently done the math, because about this time she turned a really pretty shade of reddish-purple.  Here is where I have a confession to make: I am ever so slightly passive-aggressive.  Don’t judge me.

“How old are you?” I asked?  “29,” she answered.  “How many kids do you have?”

“Two.”

“Well, I had  Thing 2 when I was 41 and my oldest child is 22 – years – old.  We have five in all and I can honestly say that it’s been all good!”

Awkward silence.

Birds chirping.

Clock ticking.

Then, she looks at me and says “Why in the world would you start over having children at 40?”  She truly seemed baffled.  I was a bit taken aback, maybe by her being so forward, but not surprised.  I have read several blog posts from women who take serious issue with moms over 40.  Not to mention the various comments that my husband and I endured when we announced that we were expecting another baby to be delivered just 18 months after the arrival of Thing 1. Now, let me point out here that a couple who, at ages 40 and 47 are expecting their fifth child, more than likely did not plan that pregnancy.  Therefore, I think we should have been afforded a certain degree of consideration  before we were bombarded with unsolicited opinions.  But, no, that was not the case.  We heard everything from “Can’t you guys just watch t.v.?” to “Haven’t you ever heard of birth control?”  On the upside, my husband achieved rock star status among his middle-aged male friends.  By the way, don’t even get me started on the double standard of women being called selfish for having children late in life but, men being patted on the back for the same thing.

Yes, I am a M.A.A. I’m a Mom of Advanced Age.  You want to know who first used that term with me? My high risk doctor.  I kid you not. Obviously, he was not very charming.  He would say things to me like “Since you are a Mom of Advanced Age we have to look out for blah, blah, blah…” and “Moms of Advanced Age are at risk for blah, blah, blah…”  I swear that by the time he said that for the 10th time, I wanted to punch him in the neck.  I understand that certain pregnancy risks increase with the age of the mother, but I think that there was another way of saying it.  For what it’s worth, this M.A.A. delivered a beautiful, perfectly healthy baby girl.

So, as I considered this woman’s question, I decided to give her a serious answer instead of rolling my eyes and walking out (really mature, right?). By the way, it takes my daughter an insane amount of time to get her stuff ready to go.  Believe me, I did speak with her about this when we finally got into the car.

Basically, this is what I told her:

1. Because I love my husband and I wanted to give birth to his children.

2. Generally when you’re older you are more stable and you have more resources.

3.  I have more patience.

4. I LOVE being a mother and I wasn’t ready to watch them all go off to college.

5. Parenting from the rear view mirror is really cool because you can see things that should have been done differently and make adjustments, while other things just stay the course.

6. Things that cause a lot of angst in younger mothers don’t faze me.  I do not sweat the small stuff mainly because I know what’s coming.  Not to mention that there are some things that you will face as a parent that there is no way you can prepare for.

7. I’m much better at taking one day at a time and not planning or wishing their lives away.

8.  In general, I really don’t care about other’s opinions (unless I ask for it). You’re welcome to give it, I just don’t care.

9.  I am far more confident than I was the first time around.  I think this helps me raise confident daughters.

10. I find it ironic that women under 40 are far more concerned than women over 40 about having children later in life.

I was a little more eloquent than that but, that was the gist of it.  She didn’t really respond and that was about the time that Thing 2 and her doll appeared, ready to go.    I bid everyone a good afternoon and exited stage left.

I wasn’t angry but, I was certainly annoyed.  Motherhood is demanding enough without people making an issue out of a non-issue.  I know a number of beautiful women who are also members of M.A.A., and they, like me, are very happy with their decision to have children later in life.  It may not be for everyone, but that’s okay, it doesn’t have to be.  I’m free to do me.

The Dynamic Duo

The Dynamic Duo

Obviously, I have no regrets.  Big Poppa and I comment all of the time that we can’t imagine our lives without these two sweeties.  Of course, retirement in the next 10 … 15… 20 years is out of the question. Sure, we will probably have grand-children before our last two kids leave home.   However, we consider ourselves blessed with these two precious gifts.  We are happy with our decision, and grateful for the opportunity to be their parents.  Ultimately, that’s all that matters.