Posts Tagged ‘Family’

Beneath the Surface

Wednesday, August 13, 2014
No Gravatar

I have a friend who grew up with an unhealthy fear of thunderstorms.

Her fear was unhealthy not because she hid at the first sign of a storm or trembled at the sound of thunder. It was unhealthy because it was based on a lie.

Her fear was built on a belief that her cousin had been killed when struck by lightning.

Only after years and a well-cultivated phobia of lightning did her parents reveal that her cousin had actually committed suicide.

I was thinking of this Monday night when both of my children wanted to talk about Robin William’s suicide. My daughter asked how he could asphyxiate himself. My son just wanted to express his shock. Since I was also in shock, I had very little to add to the conversation even though I knew I should. I don’t want my children to be afraid of thunderstorms any more than I want them to think suicide is about a person’s final act.

Instead, suicide is about everything other people don’t act upon.

I first realized this when the brother of one my daughter Kendall’s classmate’s killed himself. The boy was in middle school at the time, and my daughter relayed the same story that the media did: the boy had been bullied. That revelation was followed by the typical outcry to address bullying by calling out people whose words and behavior are hurtful.

What I didn’t hear was an outcry to simply to pay attention to each other despite labels or diagnoses or cliques or fame.

Some people might say that Robin Williams, one of the funniest men in the world, and an overweight middle school student had nothing in common, but they are wrong.

They had a great deal in common.

They were both people. They both had feelings. They both struggled to meet the expectations of others. They both wanted to belong to a world that often doesn’t make sense. They both fought internal battles that others couldn’t or didn’t see. Because of this, they both hurt inside. And they both committed suicide.

Like millions of others, I feel the loss of Robin Williams, but I can’t claim I knew him any more than I knew the brother of Kendall’s classmate.

I never had the opportunity to share a smile, listen to, interact with or show my compassion for either of them, and I never will.

But I do have the opportunity to do all those with a neglected child, a homeless adult, a rebellious teenager, a lonely senior, a rude customer or client and an overly-talkative neighbor. Not only do I have the opportunity, I have the obligation. All of them are my fellow human beings who have feelings, struggle to meet the expectations of others and have a simple desire to belong to a world.

And they, like me, generally show only a small piece of themselves to the rest of the world. We keep what lies just below the surface hidden in hopes that we don’t reveal our vulnerabilities to a society that is quick to exploit them.

I can’t imagine Robin Williams ever approved of such a world. Instead, I choose to believe that he wanted all of us to recognize that imperfect people make the world interesting and meaningful. I believe he knew we should all look beyond the superficial to where imperfection and insecurities lie. And he  would want us to dive into whatever depth we are capable of reaching with others so we can work together to save all those who are drowning.

I also believe he would encourage all of us not to fear the thunderstorm and instead to dance in the rain that comes with it.

Lost In New York

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
No Gravatar

I could easily be the poster child for people who choose to ignore sensibility and instead blindly try to make our way through life ignoring the basic principles that our parents taught us.chaos

Take, for example, my awareness of the perils of pride.

I know pride is one of the seven deadly sins, and I grew up hearing the phrase “Pride goeth before a fall.”

But that knowledge didn’t prevent me from taking pride in my belief that, because I remember being an adolescent, I understand adolescence. After all, circumstances and access to information may change, but people and feelings don’t.

At least, that’s what I tell myself.

There may be a grain of truth in those thoughts, but those grains don’t feed the masses. They also don’t take into account genetics,which often distort perspective.

And because my children share my genes, neither of them gets wrapped up in the drama of their peers.

My son seems maintains a complete air of oblivion and chooses to mask himself in his sense of humor and comic attitude.

My daughter denies being anything like me, but she loves musicals, listens to theater music more than popular music, requires hours for reading  each day and labels herself as a book worm.

In reality, she’s much smarter than I am.

She, for example, remembered to actually take her phone with her to dinner in Times Square in New York City last Friday night.

I, on the other hand, left my phone on its charger in our hotel room. I realized this as we were getting on the subway but commented to my daughter, her best friend and her best friend’s mother, “All three of you have phones. What are the odds I’ll be separated from all of you?”

Apparently, the odds were not in my favor.

Upon arriving in Times Square (the girls’ choice not their mothers’), we took a leisurely stroll before spending a couple of  hours in a restaurant that offered both entertainment and food.

My next mistake was to suggest we leave.

As soon as we opened the doors and stepped out on the street, I knew something was wrong.

My first clue was the ear-shattering screams coming from across the street.

My next clue was the ear-shattering scream right next to me along with the words “It’s Magcon boys!!!!”

Up to that point, my only exposure to the Magcon boys was through my daughter’s best friend (the one who was with us.) Her mother and I had spent hours trying to understand whom these boys are and why they are famous.

From what I understand, the boys post  six-second videos, photos and amusing comments on social networking sites. They aren’t actors. They aren’t (real) musicians. And they aren’t (real) comedians.

They are simply boys who post on the internet.

I so don’t get that.

In other words, I really don’t understand adolescence these days.

Because of that, I didn’t expect my daughter’s best friend to start chasing after them in Times Square with a mob of other screaming teenage girls.  Nor did I anticipate that her mother then my daughter would chase after her, while I, in high heels and no phone, would watch them go.

And I had no chance of finding them.

Times Square on a summer night is wall to wall people.

All I could do was shrug my shoulders and say “Magcon boys” when other people asked what all the excitement was about. I would see their looks of confusion and feel a brief sense of peace in the fact that I wasn’t entirely alone in my lack of understanding.

I was simply without a phone in Times Square while my daughter chased her best friend’s mother who was chasing her daughter who was among a pack of adolescent girls chasing boys that post in the internet.

I didn’t get it. I also didn’t know whether I would stay where I was (as taught as a child) or simply head back to the hotel room.

Just as I had decided to go back to the hotel room,  I heard ear-splitting screams coming back toward me.

A couple of  teenage boys followed by screaming and crying teenage girls followed by a few angry parents were coming my way.

Then I saw my daughter and grabbed her.

I don’t know if I was more grateful that I had found her or that she said to me “this is the dumbest thing I have ever witnessed.”

We spent a few minutes together laughing as we watched the girls holding their cell phones in high in hopes of getting a photo of a “Magcon” boy. We rolled our eyes  at the girls as they banged on the doors of the building where the boys had entered. And we expressed our disbelief  at the histrionic girls gasping  in tears that they had seen a certain boy. My daughter even tried to capture the chaos on her cell phone.

As we bonded over our genetic code of not pining over boys we could never have, two New York City police officers joined us.

Maybe we looked a little too happy. Or maybe we looked a little too sane.

I’ll never be sure.

What I do know is that I apparently stomped out the dreams of thousands of girls when I asked the officers why they were letting such insanity ensue. When they asked me what I meant (apparently most New Yorkers don”t use the word ensue), I told them about the chaos of the girls chasing the boys.

The police officers disappeared telling me they’d “take care of it.”

A few minutes later, my daughter’s friend and her mother appeared with two photos with “the boys.” The drama was over.

I was happy for my daughter’s friend, but I can’s say I understood her obsession. Neither did my daughter.

The incident had left us both completely lost in New York City.

The next day, as I sat next to my daughter watching Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, I witnessed her lip sync every lyric.

That’s when I realized there are many people who will never understand her passion for music or the theater just as people didn’t understand mine at her age.

Perhaps that’s why I also felt so lost as a teenage. Now I realize now that being lost isn’t such a bad thing.

But being lost without trying to gain some perspective and better understand others is.

Thankfully, my children and their friends are providing me with those lessons on a daily basis.

Don’t Judge Me

Wednesday, July 30, 2014
No Gravatar

I didn’t care that the man in the cowboy hat was well over six feet tall with the hard edge of a prison guard. He had angered me, and I’ve never been good at hiding my feelings.don't judge me

My daughter had darted back into the theater to spend a few more minutes with her friends after I told her we needed to leave.

“If that were my daughter,” he drawled, “I wouldn’t tolerate that. I’d be marching her out of here and grounding her.”

That’s when I gave the man what my husband calls “the look.”

There is nothing that bothers me more than people who immediately judge me, my family or my behavior.

The man in the cowboy hat didn’t know that I’ve given my children “warnings” since they were young.

That may not work for other parents, experts may never recommend the practice and I may never receive any award for mother of the year, but it works for me.

I  tell my kids it’s time to go, they go back and spend time with friends and then I say it again and we go.

The practice started when my son was a toddler. He didn’t respond well to being abruptly pulled out of a situation, and I learned giving a warning worked. It gave him the time he needed to adjust and, as an adult, I could easily adapt.

The practice continued with my daughter not because she necessarily needed the time to adjust but because I had become accustomed to the practice.

As my children grew into adolescence, the practice just stuck.

I shouldn’t have to explain that to anyone, especially the man who was so quick to judge my parenting skills, but for some reason I am compelled.

My children are good students and generally good people. There is no reason for anyone to judge us.

And yet they do.

And we are among the lucky ones.

This past week I’ve witnessed others blaming large groups of people – those who receive “welfare” benefits, those who don’t speak English, those who suffer from addiction – for society’s ills.

Here’s the thing – those groups are comprised of individuals, and every individual has a story. That’s not to say every individual is perfect – none of us are. But we were all handed a different set of skills, a different family and different circumstances.

Instead of judging each other, we should spend more time listening to each other’s stories and supporting each other rather.

I could have explained this to the man in the cowboy hat, but instead I made an instant decision that he wouldn’t listen and wouldn’t care.

In other words, I judged him.

The irony isn’t lost on me.

I could try to rationalize, but I can’t. All I can do is admit that  I’m human, I’m not perfect and I sometimes judge others..

But I’m also constantly working on that impulse, listening to individual stores and teaching my children to do the same.

Maybe the man in the cowboy hat is doing exactly the same thing.

I didn’t ask him, so I’ll never know. But my guess is that he, just like me, is just trying to do his best.

Fuzzy Truths, Fake Beards and Imaginary Poison Ivy

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
No Gravatar

I’ve come to realize that  being a parent sometimes requires creating your own version of the truth.

I should have caught on at least 45 years ago, but I can sometimes be a slow learner.poison ivy

When I was a little girl, my dad provided a running commentary about the dangers of my behavior.  He said my skin would turn green if I ate too much pea soup. If I swallowed a watermelon seed, he informed me that it might take root in my stomach and start to grow there.  He warned me of that dangers of crossing my eyes in the car because if we hit a  bump, my eyes would stay crossed forever. And, according to him, if I didn’t go to the bathroom when the urge hit, I would suffer some miserable but unnamed disease as an adult.

I listened to him with a cautious ear. I didn’t necessarily believe that everything he said was entirely true, but neither did I want to test the veracity. By the age of five, I’d  decided to err on the side of caution by avoiding anything potentially harmful. Generally, that wasn’t a bad thing, but there were times my fear interfered with my quality of life.

I feared eating any mushrooms because my dad had told me some mushrooms were poisonous. I refused to even try  jerky because Dad said if people didn’t prepare it properly, it could cause food poisoning. And I looked at all greens suspiciously because I had been warned on multiple occasions to never eat rhubarb leaves.

But nothing scared me more than a warning that came not from my father but from another man – a complete stranger who pretended he was worried about my well-being. In reality, he was worried about his store. I don’t remember the name of the store, but I do remember it was a large one in another town and that my entire family was there. For some reason, my brother Sean and I were alone when we spotted the larger the life-sized fake Santa Claus, and Sean dared me to touch its beard. I took on the challenge, reached up and ran my fingers through St Nick’s most famous feature. I was surprised that it wasn’t soft at all. Instead, it was stiff, wiry and apparently off-limits to children.

At least that’s what the store manager told me when he marched over and ordered me to take my hands off Santa’s beard. His tone of voice intimidated me, but his words were downright scary. “That beard is made out of poison ivy,”  he said. “It’s made out of poison ivy so people won’t touch it.”

I had no idea what poison ivy looked like, but I knew it made a person itch. And for months, I itched everywhere and was convinced that I had a case of poison ivy. By the time I realized that there was absolutely no way that poison ivy would ever be used as material for a fake Santa Claus beard, the incident was well in my past and I had realized that people sometimes manipulate the truth.

Sometimes, they do it to protect their children and sometimes they do it to protect family and holiday traditions like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. And sometimes they do it to protect themselves.

I never thought I’d be one of those people who lie to protect themselves, but apparently I am.

I’ve always prided myself with being open about any topic with my children. But a few weeks ago, my daughter Kendall and I were having a meaningful conversation about tough issues when she asked me a question that I couldn’t honestly answer. Telling her the truth would open the door to so many more questions - how could I be such a hypocrite? How could I set different expectations for my kids than I did for myself?

And so, on the spur of the moment, I lied.

Now I wish I hadn’t, and I’ve battled with myself over the decision. During this same time, I’ve also managed to get a  real case of poison ivy because I refused to let the plant take over my rhododendron bush.

Since I will forever associate poison ivy with lies that adults tell kids, I can’t help but note the irony of the situation.

My daughter, who is oblivious of my lie or my subsequent internal turmoil, thinks I made way too big an issue over the poison ivy. According to her, I if had  just left it alone, I wouldn’t be so miserable.

She’s probably right.

But like I said, I can be a slow learner.

Roughing It

Wednesday, July 9, 2014
No Gravatar

A few days ago, my daughter approached me with her hands on her hips, her head cocked and her voice dripping with exasperation.

“Well, mom,” she said. “Your great experiment failed.”

I had no idea what she was talking about, and I said so.

“This whole not using the dryer thing,” she explained. “It’s not working.”

I still didn’t understand what she meant, so she slowed her words and paused between each one.

“The      towels      are     rough      and    my     t-shirts    are     stiff,” she explained.

“That’s because they weren’t dried in the dryer,” I said. “The dryer fluffs things.”

“Exactly,” she said.

I understood her perspective, but she didn’t understand mine – which was that dryer needed a replacement part and running it would break it completely. Besides, dryers use a great deal of electricity, and electricity costs a great deal of money. I’m all for saving electricity.

Our brief and pointless conversation was ironic.

Just days earlier, I’d had a conversation with co-workers about the benefits of drying laundry on a clothesline. I expressed the intense embarrassment I’d experienced as an adolescent when my mom had hung all of our laundry, including underwear, on clotheslines and drying racks in our backyard for the neighbors to see. A colleague, who is younger than me but grew up in the country, said everyone dried their clothes outside when he was growing up.  Another, who is older than me but who grew up in the suburbs of Washington D.C., said she had tried drying clothes outside once but her sheets were full of bugs.  The only consensus we reached about line-drying clothes is that is much cheaper.

And then my dryer started making a funny noise and I decided that cheaper is sometimes better, and we don’t need technology as much as society tries to tell us we do.  Humans survived for hundreds of years without it, and even my own generation once made do with much less.

I remember my family’s first color television, first microwave oven, first electric typewriter, first answering machine and  first touch-tone phone. And I most definitely remember our first computer, which required us to insert a floppy disc with the operating system. I never dreamed of voice mail, cell phones, the internet, laptop computers or being able to rewind live television.

My children can’t remember a world when they didn’t have all of that technology at their fingertips.

Their disbelief reminds me of trying to understand how my grandparents had lived without television, telephones or running water. It also reminds me of a moment in my own childhood, when my grandparents had traveled from Michigan to Oregon to visit my family.

My grandmother was helping my brother Sean clean his pet hamster’s cage. “You need to use elbow grease,” she said.

My brother looked at her and said, “I don’t think Mom buys that. Should I ask her to go to the store?”

My grandmother laughed and explained that elbow grease is something that comes from within. It is the effort each person uses to get the job done.

I am thinking about that moment as I sit on my back porch in the dark. I am fortunate that there is still a battery in my laptop computer so I can write. My son is sitting at the picnic table at the other end of the deck reading a book to the glow of a lantern.

A storm blew through my town a few hours ago, and there was a fire at the local substation. The power has been out for hours.

I can’t say I’m pleased with this turn of events. The slight inconvenience of drying laundry on a clothesline is nothing compared to the worry about the food in our refrigerator going bad, the temperature in the house getting too hot, our lack of internet and television or, most important to my kids, our inability to charge our mobile devices.

And yet, as I write this on a laptop with a depleting battery, I am enjoying the gentle breeze blowing through the leaves of the oak tree that rules the backyard and the dance of the fireflies against the dark sky. I am enjoying the fact that the only noise I hear is the sound of crickets. And I am enjoying the fact that, just for a moment, I can understand a world that used to exist. A world that depended less on electricity and more on imagination and personal relationships.

A world in which kids accepted rough towels and the need for elbow grease.

Independence Day

Wednesday, July 2, 2014
No Gravatar

I had a flashback to the Summer of 1976 while riding my bike the other day. The rubber on my back tire had split, and the damaged tire was slowing me down.1976

Instead of recognizing the problem, I blamed myself. I thought I wasn’t pedaling hard enough, which is the same accusation I made of myself during the Bicentennial Parade on the Fourth of July in 1976.  That parade  provided some of the hardest, but most meaningful, lessons of my childhood.

I grew up in a small town in Central Oregon where summer meant two things: being outside and celebrating the Fourth of July.

Being outside involved building forts in Juniper trees, capturing tadpoles in irrigation ditches, swimming lessons at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort and riding our bikes everywhere. Bike helmets weren’t even a consideration back in those days. We only worried about skinned knees, and, when the temperatures were cooler, getting our bell bottom pants caught in the chains of our bikes. But during the warm days of summer, we were wearing shorts, and our greatest concern was how to decorate our bikes for the Fourth of July parade.

Everyone in Madras Oregon participated in the parade. Adults and children planned and prepared for months, and the anticipation of  the annual event increased dramatically for America’s Bicentennial. As soon as the calendar turned to January 1976, the planning was on. Every activity and event highlighted America’s 200th birthday.

During  Girl Scout events, all the girls wore Betsy Ross inspired outfits.

During school programs, we sang patriotic songs.

And almost all the clothes in stores that year were red, white and blue.

But, in the eyes of the kids, nothing was more important than how we decorated our bikes for the Fourth of July Parade. As I recall, there was a prize for the best decorated bike, which only partly explains why we took the task so seriously. Prize or not, kids on bikes led the parade and finished in time to catch a ride on the fire engines that wrapped it up.

With all that at stake, we took decorating our bikes in theme very seriously. We had always woven streamers through the spokes and threaded them through our handle bars, but the Bicentennial parade was something special and required extra effort.

My friend Shannon and I had a plan for how to make a statement. Instead of riding bicycles, we decided to ride tricycles with signs that said “Ready for the Tricentennial.” I don’t remember where we got the trikes. Perhaps they were from her brother Kip or perhaps they were sitting around my parents’ garage.

All I know is that my nine-year old knees and legs were much too long to ride a small tricycle with any efficiency. On the day of the parade, I gathered with all of my peers at the start of the parade. When everyone else sped off, I didn’t. I could barely pedal the well-decorated but much-too-small trike. Before long, I was trying to keep up with the antique cars. And by the time I realized I’d be faster if I simply pushed the trike, I was with the floats. When the fire truck with all my peers on board passed by, I felt completely defeated. Despite that, I didn’t quit. But I was extremely embarrassed by my poor showing.

Thirty-eight years later I’m not embarrassed at all. Instead, I proud of that little girl and her perseverance.

Life has a way of encouraging us to re-think our memories and identify how they can help in the future. As a mom, I appreciate the  benefit of of  perspective and a life time of experience. I’ve learned a great deal from both.

I’ve learned being embarrassed does not equate to failure. In fact, being embarrassed simply means you went outside your comfort zone, which is something winners always do.

I’ve learned that finishing what you start means more than a first place ribbon.

I’ve learned that blaming ourselves when something doesn’t go as planned is pointless. Sometimes, the circumstances are beyond our control: the tire is flat or the distance to the pedals too short. Sometimes, we don’t have the resources we need, like a bigger or faster bike. And sometimes we are simply out of our element.

I’ve also learned that  life can’t be truly enjoyed if we try to measure it in terms of success or failure. Life requires that we cheer on those who are ahead on the parade route and encourage those who never have a chance to ride the fire engines.

Most of all, I’ve learned to appreciate having the freedom to make mistakes, the luxury of having the independence to talk about those mistakes, the opportunity to fix the flat tires that life sometimes delivers and the importance of recognizing that we can’t control every aspect of our lives.

This Fourth of July, neither of my children will be participating in or attending a parade as I did when I was young. Despite that, I have no doubt they will be turning to me for ideas about how to celebrate. And I’m almost positive, I’ll suggest we take a family bike ride.

Unforgettable Fun

Wednesday, June 25, 2014
No Gravatar

I made a huge mistake last Friday. I asked my daughter if she wanted to do something fun with me on Saturday.

I had forgotten that, in Kendall’s almost 13-year-old mind, there is only one situation that involves both mom and fun: shopping.

But she didn’t just want to go to the nearby mall where we usually shop. She requested we go to a much larger mall in the D.C. suburbs, and she only wanted to shop in stores that have clothes fashionable enough for nearly 13-year old girls. For the record, these are the exact same stores where she shops at the nearby mall and, from what I could tell, the clothes were exactly the same too.

The day was hard on pocketbook, hard on my feet and hard on my patience.

But I tolerated the shopping trip knowing that the next day we would be having real fun.

We were going hiking.hiking - Copy

But in Kendall’s almost 13-year-old mind, there is absolutely no situation that involves fun and hiking.

At first, I think she forgot that. As we were getting ready to go, she asked what she should wear. (For some reason, she asks me this every day. When I make a suggestion, she rolls her eyes and tells me what she thinks of my suggestion. Then, she wears what she wants and we repeat the routine the next day.)

I advised her to wear a t-shirt and sturdy shoes.  Per usual, she ignored my advice and wore  a newly purchased floral top, matching shoes and new prescription glasses she wears to see long distances. She asked if I liked the look.

This time, I rolled my eyes.

By the time we actually arrived in Harper’s Ferry, she was already complaining that she didn’t want to waste her whole day on a trail.

While my son forged ahead, she was demanding an explanation about the purpose of the hike. When my husband told her that someday she would appreciate it, she scoffed at the idea. IMG_3502When we joined up with a large pack of Boy Scouts at the overlook, she stopped complaining and seemed to enjoy the view and the company.

Then I made the mistake of suggesting we complete the hike along the ridge, which added additional hours to our time  in the woods and on the mountain. While I enjoyed the challenge, nobody else in the family did, especially my daughter. The only solace I could provide was the promise of a hot dog and ice cream at the end of the trail.

The hike, and subsequent meal out, were hard on my pocketbook, hard on my feet and hard on my patience.

But despite my daughter’s complaints, I thoroughly enjoyed the day and the memories we made. Something tells me my daughter will also remember the hike long after she forgets the trip to the mall. I’m also fairly confident that those memories will be good ones.

That’s how life works.

Despite our disagreements and dislikes, stepping outside our comfort zones and testing our endurance always builds our confidence. When we do it with people we love, it’s even more meaningful.

And when we do it together with family, it’s unforgettable.

The Puzzle Piece

Wednesday, June 18, 2014
No Gravatar

I’ve started feeling guilty about a cardboard puzzle piece.

I’ve been passing it for more than a week during my early morning bike rides as I pedal across an interstate overpass.IMG_3440

The puzzle piece is lying on the shoulder of that overpass. The first time I saw it, I simply wondered how one puzzle piece can be lost on the side of the road. I’ve asked the same question about abandoned shoes, socks and other random items.

But the more times I’ve passed that puzzle piece, the more I’ve thought about it. It has simply stayed on the side of the road to endure heavy rainstorms and traffic, and it is getting more and more worn down.

To me, it is not  just a piece of cardboard. It is a piece of a  picture that will never be complete again. It once belonged to something bigger than itself, but now it is all alone. It has been ignored and discarded, and as a result is now broken down. And it reminds me of people I encounter every day:

  • Children who have been abused or neglected but know other families are healthy and happy. They wonder why their family is broken;
  • People who struggle with physical or emotional pain that leaves them isolated from others and afraid to reach out;
  • The single mother who lost her job and is now living in her van with her five children. So far, everyone has told her she doesn’t fit  anywhere.

Yet even though I’ve had these thoughts, I haven’t picked up the puzzle piece. I continue to ride by and think how sad and isolated it seems  just  as so many people pass by the children who are hurting,  the people who are lonely and the homeless.

The people who do take the time to stop, listen and offer some type of support are my heroes. Often, they can do little more than provide momentary comfort, but sometimes they are able to provide assistance that can make a significant difference.

They are the reason I am going to pick up that puzzle piece tomorrow. I’m going to bring it home and hang it on my bathroom mirror.

And when my children ask why I have a broken puzzle piece hanging on my mirror, I’m going to tell them that things that have been broken still have a great deal to give. I’m going to tell that being kind is more powerful than being a millionaire, and everyone has the ability to be kind. Most importantly, I will tell them that when our circumstances change and we feel that we no longer fit in, we can always find somewhere else where we can make a difference. That puzzle piece certainly has.

The Empty Lot

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
No Gravatar

The small house was torn down only a few weeks ago, and already there are few signs it ever existed. Grass and clover cover the empty lotare growing where the foundation once was, and there is no indication of the fence that bordered the small yard.

Now, it is just an empty lot.

Maybe someday the area will be used for  a garden or a new structure, but the space will never be the same again.

The destroyed house shouldn’t even be on my radar. When it was standing, it meant no more to me than a random stop where my dogs sometimes greeted the dog on the other side of the fence. Soon, I won’t even notice the changed landscape during my short, daily commute to work. I will accept the space for what it is: the status quo.

Yet, the destruction of the house has been weighing on my mind like the rapid progress of time, the growing independence of my children and the aging of my parents.

Maybe that’s because its destruction was timed perfectly with my son attending his first real graduation party – not one for a family friend but one for a friend no one else in our family knows.

Dropping him off at the party reminded me of dropping him off for his first day of kindergarten almost eleven years ago.

For months, people had been asking me if I was ready, and I blew off their concerns. I didn’t understand why they thought kindergarten was so significant. Both of my children had been in day care since they were toddlers, and I thought kindergarten was no different from day care.

Only it wasn’t.

On that first day of kindergarten, his teacher didn’t know my name. The school personnel didn’t know my son’s unique issues or about his contagious sense of humor. He was just another little boy who needed to be taken out of his car seat, encouraged to wave goodbye to his mother and walked into his classroom.

And I, his mother, couldn’t even watch him walk away. The woman working the carpool line frantically waved me to move on as the tears trickled down my cheek .

Now, my son’s public school education is quickly coming to a close. This coming school year, he will be a junior, which is considered an upperclassman. He is already talking about colleges and moving out of our house – which is exactly what I want him to do. I have no desire to have a 30 year-old son still living in my basement and depending on me to do his laundry.

And yet, there is a part of me that is sitting in my car watching my 5  year-old son take a teacher’s hand and walk into doors which lead to a world over which I have no control. And I can still feel the tears trickling down my cheek as I realize that my children, like time, grow, change and move on without me.

I can’t control my children’s growth or the rapid flip of the calendar any more than I can control the landscape I pass every day on my way to and from work.

What I can do is appreciate the potential.

Roses might bloom in that now empty lot. Or a  young couple might build a house and start a family there. Or the lot might remain one of few empty green spaces where people can walk their dogs while enjoying fresh air.

But I have no doubt that the space is destined for something meaningful that will make the world a better place.

Just as I believe my children are destined to make a positive  mark on this ever-changing world.  And like the empty lot, their quickly fading childhood needs to be appreciated rather than mourned, celebrated instead of regretted and, most of all, serve as the foundation for something even greater.

 

Sleepless Nights

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
No Gravatar

My daughter set three different alarm clocks Friday night so she could ensure she woke up at 3:30 am.

The bus to a 9:30 am show choir competition was leaving at 5:30 am, and she wanted her hair to be perfect. Unfortunately, her efforts to achieve perfect hair involved my assistance.

I’m generally not someone who spends any time on hair. I can honestly say there are days when I don’t even remember to brush mine – I wash it and forget it. But Kendall has much longer and thicker  hair than I do. That means curling it literally takes an hour: hence the 3:30 wake up call to ensure she was prepared for the competition. The competition itself required the 5:00 am drop off and the 11:00 pm pick up at the school.

I shouldn’t complain. I was warned.

As soon as I announced I was pregnant with my son, people began telling me that I wouldn’t have a good night’s sleep for years. What they didn’t tell me was that years actually meant “never again.”

I should have realized that every parent is obsessed with sleep because no parent gets any. For months after my children were born, almost everyone asked  “Is he/she sleeping through the night?”

Now, sixteen years after I first became a mother, I realize that question is still relevant.

My children aren’t sleeping through the night because they are either sleeping at the homes of friends or have friends sleeping at my house.

My children aren’t sleeping through the night because they come home late from events and activities that leave them wound up and wired.

And my children aren’t sleeping through the night because they have activities that require them to be on a bus at 5:00 am on a Saturday.

That doesn’t mean my children aren’t getting enough sleep. They simply sleep during the day.

They sleep when they have vacation days and I am at work.

They sleep on Sunday afternoons when I am catching up on house work.

And they sleep in the car when I’m driving.

The question that everyone should have been asking when my children were born was “Are you, the mom, sleeping through the night?”

The reason no one asks the question is that they already know the answer.

Children are a responsibility that weigh on a mother’s mind greater than any job commitment or promise to a friend.

When our children are not with us, our hearts and souls are with them: waiting for them to arrive home safely.

When our children are scared or struggling, holding them close is more important than resting our eyes. ‘

And when our children need to talk about their struggles, we lend an ear no matter what the hands on the clock tell us we should be doing.

My children don’t understand my sleep deprivation, and they shouldn’t.  At least they shouldn’t for years.  Someday (give me at least 15 years), I hope I will be asking one of them, “Is he/she sleeping through the night?”

But what I will really be saying  is, “I’m passing the torch. Are you ready?”