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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

‎”Don’t!”

“I didn’t do ANYTHING!”

“Mom, he made a face at me!”

“I did not!!”

Guys, can you just ignore each other, please?? Just look out the window or something. We’ll be home in 10 minutes.

Thirty blissful seconds of silence.

“Let’s play a game”

This could either be a blessing or a curse.

“The first one to see a truck, yell truck!”

“TRUCK!”

“TRUCK!!!”

“I was first!”

“NOOOOO! I was first!! You cheated!!”

A curse. Definitely a curse.

“Mommmmm, she cheated!!”

I’m not sure how a person could cheat at a game that involves seeing a truck and yelling.

Leave it to my kids to find a way.

It’s in moments like this that I can’t believe there was a time when I wished for them to talk. A time when I wished for them to be old enough to have a conversation and interact with each other. A time when I was excited for them to act like brother and sister.

“Mom!!! She’s pointing at me!!! Make her stop!!”

‎Close eyes.

Bang head slowly against steering wheel.

Repeat. ‎ ‎

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‎You and I, we seem to be in an almost constant cycle of renegotiation.

I tell myself that we’re just figuring things out, that as you grow and want more independence it’s only natural that I’m going to struggle to know how much to let go and how much to hold on. ‎ We’re just working out the new rules and responsibilities within our relationship.

It sounds much better than the reality which is that we can’t seem to see eye to eye on anything these days.

If I’m being honest, I don’t think I’m doing a very good job at this. I’m trying to do the best I can but I’ve never been a mother to a ten year old before and if there’s a manual out there, I can’t seem to find it. I fear you are paying the price for my inexperience. While I realize that your brother is a whole different species (pretty much) I feel like at least he will benefit from me having been through it once before it’s his turn. You would probably point this out as yet another example of the unfairness of your world as the older child.

When I was your age (cue eye rolling now), I kept a journal. I thought it was a very grown up thing to do and that was pretty much my goal for everything, to be a grown up. One of the other reasons for my journal-keeping was that I promised myself I would always remember what it was like to be a kid so that when I (finally) became an adult I would be understanding to what kids go through.

It was a nice idea.

Of course the concept that I couldn’t really grasp at the time was being a mother. If I’m being honest I can barely grasp the concept right now. Sure I can remember that when I was 10 I wanted independence and for my parents to trust me and to stop bothering me to do this and that and the other thing. But now I’m on the other side of the fence and I know why parents say no and not yet and because and because I said so. I remember what it was like to be you, but I haven’t yet figured out how to be me, mothering you.

In reality, you and I have been in negotiations since shortly after you were born. First it was figuring out the eating thing and then the sleeping thing and then the not jumping down the stairs and the graspingof the concept of no and on and on it went. Our relationship seems to be a series of very short term contracts in which as soon as we finally figure out the terms and learn to live by them, we end up back at the bargaining table.

Your brother is very different in that respect. ‎Whereas you and I are a work-in-progress, he seems to have arrived with a long-term contract already in place. There is very little discussion of terms or roles or clauses. I’m sure the time will come but for now I’m glad I can focus my energy on you and I.

I feel the pressure to get this right; the fear of not screwing this up hangs over my head and keeps me up at night. I fear that one wrong word, one wrong look, and you will turn away and not turn back. And yet, in the heat of the moment, all I can seem to say are the wrong things. It’s only after that I find the words that would have been so much better.

I only hope you know how much I’m trying. I hope you can ‎see how much I want to give you what you need while still keeping what I can’t give up. I can’t let go, I don’t think I will ever be able to, but I will try to loosen, to lessen, to listen.

This mother-daughter thing is tricky. If I take a minute to look at it from a different perspective I’m probably still renegotiating my relationship with my own mother, and her with her mother, and on and on we go.
And maybe it’s because it matters so much, and we so much want it to be perfect, that we end up tweaking and twisting and bumping up against each other so much.

But I can’t promise that it will ever be perfect, all I can promise is that day after day I will get up and meet you at the table, ready to take on whatever is coming next because the stakes are so high and there’s no giving in, no giving up.

You’re just too important.

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‎I could hear the voices as soon as I entered the school yard, excited, happy voices, the sound pouring out the open windows of the second floor. I smiled, their anticipation and excitement rubbing off on me, even from a distance.

I walked around the corner and took my usual position at the edge of the grass, still visible from the doors that would soon be flung wide open in reckless abandon. I checked my watch; it would just be another minute or two.

A few kids trickled out before the bell, sneaking past the teachers guarding the door. The voices grew louder, a few cheers rang out in the distance.

Then the bell rang; chaos followed.

The small trickle of kids turned into a full on flood, the doors swinging open so hard and fast that they banged against the concrete walls. ‎The little kids came first, their excitement more subdued, uncertain, restrained, until the screams of the older kids behind overwhelmed them.

My eyes welled up a little, I’m not sure why. Maybe it was the sheer, uncensored ‎joy, or maybe the nostalgic “kidness” of the situation. Whatever the reason, I wiped my eyes and scanned the crowd for the two that were mine.

I saw him first and smiled, but it quickly faded from my lips. His backpack dragged behind him, his arms weighed down with indoor shoes and a long forgotten sweater newly rediscovered at the back of his cubby, and on his face, a frown.

I started walking towards him, my arms open, and when he spotted me he stopped pretending and his face crumpled.

“Honey, what’s wrong?” I said, kneeling down and folding him into my arms, shoes, sweater, backpack and all.

“I don’t want it to be the last day of school,” he said between sobs, tears rolling down his face.

Some kids cry on the first day of school, my kid cries on the last day.

I couldn’t help but smile but I hid it behind his shoulder while I squeezed him tight. I knew it would pass, that a few hugs and a popsicle and a cuddle ‎in his chair would ease his sadness. I knew he would forget this.

Just as I knew I never would.

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‎I heard a small cough from the top of the stairs as I checked my purse to ensure it contained all of the necessities I would need for the day ahead. Up until that little cough the house was quiet; I was the only one awake.

He didn’t need to be up that early, not today. On a regular school day this was the time I would be kissing his cheek in his bed and he would be groaning for just “five more minutes.” Of course today, the day he could have five more minutes, he was awake anyway.

I turned my head to see him slowly making his way down the stairs, his blanket and favourite stuffed animal – a little brown bear wearing blue pajamas which he has named Toby – in one arm and the other bent slightly, rubbing the last remnants of sleep from his eyes.

“Hi Mama,” he said softly, a little smile on his lips. “I heard you and wanted to see you before you left.”

Wanted.

He got up out of his warm bed to walk down the stairs because he wanted to see me, to give me a hug and a kiss before I left for work.

He wanted to see me.

Most of my days are filled with people who need things from me; people who call me and email me and stop me in the hallway because they need me to do something, finish something, read something, find something.

But this morning, with the early sun streaming in the window, a little boy placed a sweet kiss on my cheek and wrapped me up in a hug and held on tight for almost a whole minute.

And he did it for no other reason than because he wanted to.

And I can’t even put into words how great it felt to be wanted.

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a gift

For a couple of years when I was a kid I wanted to be a big animal vet, horses specifically. There was just something about them I loved, not to mention the whole draw of living on a farm and wearing jeans and boots all the time, which I somehow assumed went with the job. Then I wanted to be a travel agent. Flying off to distant lands, helping people plan their dream vacations; I couldn’t really see a downside. Then I wanted to be a journalist. Not a journalist in front of the camera but rather one behind the scenes, doing the research, putting together the pieces and then writing the words to bring it all to life. But no matter what form my life was going to end up taking, I knew one thing for certain: I was not going to settle until I found my calling.

I was, and still am, a big believer in the idea that there is something I’m meant to do.  There is something out there that will just click with me and I will love it and be good at it and be successful at it and it will not feel like work.  I grew up with two parents who worked extremely hard at their jobs and each achieved success in their fields but every day when they walked in the door, I could tell by the looks on their faces that it felt like work.

I ended up pursuing journalism and got halfway through the program at school before discovering I didn’t love it.  I stuck with it though, at the very least so I would have some letters after my name to fall back on until I found what it was I was searching for.  Then I met a guy and started dreaming very different dreams.  I started thinking that perhaps my calling had nothing to do with a career but rather that being a mother was what I was actually on the Earth to do.

Um, not exactly.

Two kids and ten years later and I have discovered that although I love my kids with a strength and conviction ‎that I can’t express or explain, motherhood is not my calling. I see mothers who truly love being mothers and I know, definitively, that I am not one of them. I love my kids with every ounce of who I am but, to be honest, being their mother almost always feels like work.

It took me a long time to get to a place where I could say that out loud (or at least out loud on paper) and not feel bad about it. It took me a long time to feel like I could share that part of me without also feeling like I had to apologize for even thinking it. I’m glad I finally got there; so relieved that after the days, weeks, months and years of feeling ashamed of the feelings that I wasn’t feeling, I can now accept myself and stop hiding it. I totally agree that motherhood is a gift, one that I will always be grateful that I was given but, as with some gifts, it has never felt like it fit quite right.

As they grow older, my kids need me in a much different way than when they were babies and toddlers and pre-schoolers. They need me in a much less physical way and although there is no doubt they still need me, their growing independence has left gaps in my days that I only used to fantasize about. When I spent hours in a rocking chair with one or the other attached to my body I used to dream of the gaps; of times when I could once again think thoughts of me and make plans for me and be inspired by the possibilities of what I could do.

Don’t get me wrong, most of my days are still filled to the brim with the kids, their activities and homework and friend problems and the constant search for missing library books, missing hair clips and whatever else manages to disappear on a regular basis, but now my mind has time to relax, even if my body doesn’t. I have time when I’m sitting on a hard wooden bench in a gymnasium watching my daughter chase after a soccer ball. I have time when I’m sitting on a hard wooden bench in a freezing cold arena watching my son stop hockey pucks. I have time when I’m sitting in front of a computer waiting to be inspired. I spend a lot of time sitting, and thinking, thinking and sitting and yet I’m no closer to finding any answers.

When I was a mother to babies I was filled with so many wishes and had no time to make them come true; as a mother to older kids I have all the time in the world but I seem to have forgotten what it means to wish wishes just for me.

I thought I had a plan for my life. I planned on school and I planned on a husband and I planned on the kids and the house with the two car garage but I guess that’s when I stopped planning. I wrote it all down on the pages of my life, hoping it would all eventually come true and I am so lucky that most of it has, but now I’m lost because I never planned what happens after.

And on the dark days I’m frustrated and disheartened to think that maybe I don’t have a gift to give, that I don’t have a role to fill beyond the one I play within these four walls. I get down on myself, I start to believe the negative thoughts in my head that tell me I have nothing left to offer, nothing to give that is worth anything.  On those days I feel like I’m trapped in a rut, a trench so deep and so wide and so long that I can’t see over the top of it.

But I’m not ready to give up just yet.  I’m not ready to pack away my perhaps childish idea that somewhere out there is the thing I’m meant to do and if I find it, when I find it, something inside will click into place like a key fitting inside a lock.

I have to believe it’s out there.  I have no choice but to teach myself how to once again start wishing wishes for me and finally start filling up the pages of the rest of my life.

 

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This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project.  Click HERE to learn more and if you don’t know about Glennon Melton’s amazing memoir, Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, now’s your chance – it’s now out in paperback so pick up a copy!  It will have you laughing and crying, all in the same breath!

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I shot a glance at the rear view mirror and caught a glimpse of her in the back seat, sitting quietly, staring out the window. I knew something was wrong but she wouldn’t say what it was. I had questioned her a few times throughout the morning with no progress. I decided I needed a captive audience.

So we left a few minutes earlier for her hockey practice than we needed to ‎and I stopped at the drive through to grab a tea. Then we pulled into a parking spot at the arena and I asked her to come sit up in the front with me.

Apparently all she needed was a change in scenery because no sooner did she sit down in the passenger seat than the flood gates opened. She was feeling down, one of those days we all have when we think we’re not good at anything, a never will be. A day when everything seems hard and sad. A day when nothing is wrong but everything is wrong.

When I looked at her face, eyes down-turned and wet with tears I was struck suddenly by the familiarity of it ‎but in a way I couldn’t quite place. And then it hit me where I’d seen that look before. I’d seen it in the mirror.

I’ve felt the very same way, more times than I can even count. Feeling like you’re good at nothing, worthy of nothing, proud of nothing. All too often I try and give advice; try to find solutions to the problems and put band-aids on the cuts and watch from a distance as they heal, even with myself. But this time I tried to turn all of that off and just say what I thought she needed to hear; to say what I wanted to hear when I was feeling down on myself and stuck. ‎And when I thought about what I most wanted to hear at those times, I opened my mouth and said, “I will always be a fan of you.”

She looked at me with questions in her eyes so I asked her if she knew what that meant. She shook her head ‘no.’

I told her I would always be the number one cheerleader of her life. I would always keep track of all of the amazing things she did and does and will do and when she can’t remember them, I will remind her. I will always scream the loudest and yell the longest and embarass her with how much I love her. When she forgets how special she is, I will tell her, over and over and over again. When she fails or comes in last or falls on her face I will help her up and remind her how amazing the effort was and help her try again. ‎I will be the voice in her head that tells her she can when everything else is telling her she can’t. And I will tell her she can so loudly and so insistently that she won’t be able to hear anything else. I will be a fan of her.

And when she looked at me this time I could tell that she understood, and that the words I said were the ones she needed to hear. Sometimes her and I are not on the same page, or even in the same book for that matter, but this time we got it right.

We hugged and talked a little more and then headed inside. I smiled to see her step seemed a little lighter, her eyes a little brighter, her face more open than it had been before. It’s a wonderful feeling to find out you don’t have to carry the weight of the world all by yourself.

She scored a goal at her game that day, her first real goal of the season and I screamed so loud you could hear me through the entire arena. And oh the smile on her face, ‎I could see it from a mile away, even hidden behind the bars of her mask.

There is a time and place for teaching, for hard truths and stark realities. She will learn to lose and fail and be chosen last. The world will teach her all of those things better than I ever could and maybe I’ll stop trying to compete. Maybe, instead, I’ll just stand and cheer.

The world is a critic; maybe I’ll just be a fan.

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‎”Please,” she said, over and over and over again. “Please can I go, please, please, please, please?”

I saw the pleading in her eyes, like she’d never wanted anything as much as she wanted this and, in that moment, I believed that she probably never had.

A year ago she was crying herself to sleep almost every night because she didn’t want to go to a new school. Didn’t want to leave her friends, didn’t want to start fresh, didn’t want anything to do with the plans we had made. We tried to convince her otherwise, tried to explain how much better it would be, tried to help her see the bigger pic‎ture. Of course it was impossible. Of course a nine year old can’t see the big picture. Of course she just wants friends and most of all, the holy grail of friends, the best friend.

“I promise I’ll be careful, Mom. I promise.”

I hated that she could see the fear in my eyes so clearly. That she could already see, even at her age, that it is the fear, my fear, that stands in her way. I smoothed down her hair and answered that I know she would be and that I would let her know later that day what had been decided.

‎They came to the door last Friday evening and once the girls were upstairs he said he wanted to talk to me about something. My mind raced through all the possibilities of what it could be and I hate to say it but all of them were negative. Did the girls get in a fight? Did something happen? Was something said that shouldn’t have been said? I’m always so bad at dealing with these situations, what if I don’t know how to react?

But it wasn’t bad at all, it was good. They were going away for a couple of days, doing something really fun, and they wanted her to go with them. She had been picked. Their daughter could bring only one friend and my daughter had been chosen.

My heart warmed for her; that she would be able to experience, if even only for a brief time, being the chosen one. She was now what she wanted to be so badly all those teary nights before. She was the best friend.

Some people seem to come into the world with a place already waiting for them, a spot in the sun where things just seem easier and smoother and softer. My son is one of those people. He draws attention and bats his eye lashes and has people of all ages commenting that he’s adorable. He makes friends effortlessly because he genuinely doesn’t care if you like him or not, so convincingly that you can’t help but try and make him like you in return. He has his own struggles but even they have an effortless quality to them. It’s not a matter if “if” but “when.” You get the impression that he sees the world as being full of possibilities and his greatest challenge is deciding what to try next.

My daughter, on the other hand, will seemingly always have to work to find her place. ‎She has a hundred amazing talents but is satisfied with none of them; constantly trying to prove herself to some silent critic. She cares if you like her, she cares more than she wants to admit. She wants you to like her but works incredibly hard to look like she doesn’t. She seems to see the world as being full of obstacles, coming at her one after the other after the other.

And now she had almost made her way over a big hurdle , if I could only get out of her way. I wanted to, I really did, but at the edges of my happiness for her, I felt the fear creeping in. How could I let her go? How could I pack her bag and send her off with these people I know only in passing? How could I wave goodbye to her and send her off without me?

But how could I not let her go? How could I say no when she had been picked, been chosen, and when I know she would have such a wonderful time? How could I say no to the chance for her to make such amazing memories?

“Please Mom, please! Have you decided yet? Please?”

If I said no, if I didn’t let her go because of my fear, of my desire to keep her safe in the only way I know how – by keeping her right beside me – then what have I taught her? I have taught her not to be careful, but to be fearful. I’ve taught her not to trust her instincts, but to mistrust everything around her. I’ve taught her that while someone else may have picked her, I don’t believe in her enough to let her be chosen.

And so I finally said “yes.”

I hugged her close so she wouldn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes.

“You can go.”

She yelled with joy and ran to start packing her bag although she wouldn’t leave for four more days. It’s all she talked about and she hardly slept from the excitement. And when she left it was my turn to say please.

Please be careful. Please don’t do anything you know you shouldn’t. Please stay safe.

Please take care of my little girl. Please don’t think I’m crazy for all of my worrying. Please treat her like I would. Please bring her back safe to me.

That was two days ago and now she’s back. She’s sitting here beside me on the couch, home safe and sound with lots of stories of all the fun she had. I smile and sit back to listen to her, the words spilling out of her, tumbling one on top of the other in a hurry to be told.

I just sit and listen. I won’t tell her that I didn’t sleep while she was gone. I won’t tell her that I thought about her every hour and that I was sitting on the stairs just inside the front door waiting for her to get back. I won’t tell her that when I saw the car pull into the driveway I went and stood in the kitchen so it didn’t seem like I was hovering, even though that’s exactly what I was doing.

I know this is just the beginning. I know there will be many more times spent sitting inside the front ‎door, looking at the clock and waiting. I know there will be more questions and pleases and trips and answers I don’t want to give. More waiting for her to come home safe from wherever she was. Hundreds and thousands of silent prayers sent out into the universe to watch over her when I can’t.

Always bring her home to me.

Always keep her safe.

Please.

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