Posts Tagged ‘Family’

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Since the beginning of November, I’ve been seeing social media posts discouraging retail stores from opening on Thanksgiving Day.

I get that. Thanksgiving is intended to be a time for families and friends to spend quality and meaningful time together. But whether or not stores open on Thanksgiving, there will always be people who have to work.

I should know. I grew up in such a family and I married into another. Because of that, I am fascinated by the people who are oblivious to the moms and dads who have to work regardless of a special day on the calendar.

Anyone who watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade or football games should recognize  all of the people who have to work to make those events possible and broadcast them.

Anyone who expects up-to-date news and information should recognize that reporters and editors are hard at work trying to keep the world informed.

Anyone who  is traveling and needs gasoline or a meal on the way to the family feast should recognize that the clerks and cooks and waiters providing that service probably want to be with their own families.

Anyone who is feeling sick should recognize that health care providers are at work or on call  regardless of the day or time.

Police officers are still on patrol, movie theaters are still open and hotels are available for weary travelers on every holiday.

And for that, I am appreciative. I am also appreciative that this year, my husband does not have to work on Thanksgiving or on Christmas. But he has on previous years, and my children learned to accommodate. In doing so, they received a great gift: they learned that celebrating isn’t so much about the actual date or time but about cherishing special  moments with people we love.

Here’s wishing everyone those moments of celebration this upcoming holiday season.

A New Mom’s List of Thanks

Friday, November 21, 2014
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Next week I will celebrate my first Thanksgiving as a mom. I have many things to be thankful for that don’t involve motherhood, but I thought I would share some of the things for which I am thankful as a mom (list is not comprehensive – I could list pages and pages but I’ll stick to the basics).

This year, I am thankful for:

Epidurals. Ms. “I want to have a natural birth” got the epidural and I have never made a better decision. I think my husband would agree; it was a lifesaver.

Nurses who help their patients with things I cannot even imagine helping someone with. The nurses who took care of me in the hospital were compassionate, caring and generally amazing.

My doctors and AJ’s pediatrician. What can I say about the people who made sure my little one made it into the world safely, made sure I was healthy and now make sure AJ stays healthy? I respect and rely on our doctors more than I can say and I know they truly care about our well-being.

Sleep. Glorious, uninterrupted sleep. This is one of those “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” kind of things. Oh how I miss sleeping in on Saturdays. I’m thankful I once got to sleep so soundly.

Only waking up once a night to feed AJ. After waking up every two hours for weeks on end, once a night is nothing. I remember thinking the day would never come. It did, and I was so grateful.

Velcro swaddle blankets. This wonderful invention helped us reach those amazing once-a-night feedings.

Our family and our friends. I am beyond thankful that we have loving, supportive family members and friends that care about and love AJ and us. We were overwhelmed with the good wishes, help and love we received when AJ was born. Chris and I are truly lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives.

Baby Zantac. If you have had a baby with acid reflux, you know this stuff is like gold.

Coffee. Oh how I missed it while pregnant, and although I still closely monitor my caffeine intake, I’m back to enjoying my morning cup.

The “speak to a nurse” option at my pediatrician’s office – a great resource for when you want to know if your baby’s poop is a normal color.

Daycare. AJ seems to really enjoy going to daycare and they take such good care of her. They also love to feed my mom ego by saying things like, “She is just such a beautiful baby!”

My coworkers. Going back to work was made much easier by the warm welcomes I received.

My husband who gets up at night to change diapers, takes out the dog at 6 a.m. and who tells me I have a beautiful voice when I sing lullabies off-key (which is always).

My mom friends. I’m so glad I have good friends who I can spend hours talking to about stroller brands and baby fingernails and the best way to get a baby to take a nap without them wanting to poke their eyes out (or if they do, they hide it well).

Google. HOW did moms survive without Google??

Smart phones. Again, HOW?

Mommy blogs. There is nothing more therapeutic for me than to read the honest and wonderful stories moms around the world are sharing. It’s so helpful to know you are not alone.

And of course, I am most thankful for my healthy, happy, wonderful baby girl. She has changed my life in a million ways and I’m thankful for every one of them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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Years ago, in what seems another life, I used to work with adolescents. During that time, when I had no significant parenting experience, I considered myself a champion of youth. I thought young people should have seats on boards of directors for nonprofit organizations and that adults  needed to really listen to what they had to say.

I like to believe that still hold those values. I also know that I’m not the champion I once was – and that’s not because the focus of my job is no longer youth.

It’s because I live with two teenagers.motherhood

Since my children are quick to point out how I, a professional woman with a Master’s Degree, am generally clueless about anything of importance, one might assume I am in awe of how much they know in comparison.

I’m not. At the same time, I know I don’t often give them the credit they deserve.

When my son mumbles at me under his breath, I often forget about  his ability to make a whole room laugh with a facial expression or wry comment.

When my daughter snaps at me for asking her a question, I tend to ignore the fact that she’s often lost in a book or absorbed in learning.

And when I get anxious about the mistakes I make as a mom, I definitely don’t give my kids enough credit for setting me straight.

Thankfully, they do it anyway.

Last Sunday night after a very busy weekend, I found myself already ramping up for an even busier work week. In other words, I was starting to stress myself out. And when I stress myself out, I tend to stress  out everyone around me out as well. Or, in the eyes of my  children, I can be incessant and annoying.

So it was for my daughter, for whom I made several suggestions about things she should be doing. Nothing I said was necessary or even important. In reality, I was putting some of my own issues onto her shoulders, and she knew it.

“Mom,” she said. “I’m the one living my life. Let me do that.”

She was right.

There are times when parents have to interfere in their children’s lives, but that wasn’t such an occasion.

She wasn’t making a decision that affected her health or her future success. She had a perspective that I didn’t, which is exactly the reason I used to be such an advocate for young people.

They might not always be right, but adults aren’t always right either. Adults might have more experience, but sometimes that experience keeps us bogged down in all the reasons something won’t work instead of getting excited about testing the possibilities.

Most importantly, the potential of our young people is only limited by the opportunities adults provide them to grow and learn.

And those opportunities often mean that we moms have to let go of our strong desire to steer the direction our children take in life. Instead, we have to trust that even though our kids may not always know where they want to go, the responsibility of finding their path lies on their, not our, shoulders.

My kids have taught me that being a good mom sometimes means I need to stop providing advice and instead need to listen to them. When I do that, I can hear them say  they need a mom who allows them to fall, make mistakes, struggle and discover that sometimes the best path in life is the one that isn’t mapped out years in advance but is one that is blazed by experiences.

My daughter may only be 13, but I have no doubt that’s exactly what she meant when she told me that she, not me, is the one living her life.

Hopefully, I can follow those words of wisdom.

Turning the Tables

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
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My daughter was sharing her latest insights and opinions with me, but apparently I didn’t react appropriately.

“You’re thinking about writing about this conversation into a blog, aren’t  you?” she said accusingly.

Actually, I wasn’t. Instead, my sudden and unusual silence was a result of my worry about our cat, Skitty, who is staging a hunger strike after our recent adoption of a new kitten, Artemis.

“No,” I responded. “While I love listening to your thoughts and opinions, I wasn’t thinking about writing about you or this conversation.”

“You better not just be saying that,” she said.

I wasn’t.

I’d had a tough week and wasn’t in the mood to write about much of anything, particularly about the conversation we were having. But, based on Kendall’s adamant protests, I promised that I wouldn’t write about anything she said or did.

I admit I may be breaking that promise (slightly) right now, but that’s only because I have to give credit where credit is due and Kendall is quite the inspiration to me.

She may not believe me, but I remember how sensitive and easily embarrassed I was when I was 13. I also remember thinking that the only thing more embarrassing than my mom sharing stories about me was having to endure her behavior in public.

Even now, my children sometimes ask me to tell “grandma stories.” They laugh at tales of  grandma trying to ride the school bus home after leaving her car for repairs, her argument with a theater manager after trying to sneak in her own popcorn or her plunge into an irrigation ditch after being “chased” by horses on her way to a board of education meeting.

But I also know that my children will have similar stories about their own embarrassing mother.

While I didn’t fall into an irrigation ditch last week, I did fall into a creek during what was supposed to be a simple walk to the park with my German Shepherd, Rodney.

The problem was, I couldn’t get to the park.

The road from my neighborhood to the park had been closed for construction of a new bridge. A highway sign indicates a detour for moving vehicles, but that detour isn’t safe for pedestrians. My determination (also known as my obsessive-compulsive personality) was not going to let the lack of a bridge prevent me from getting to my destination.

At first, I thought I could easily cross the creek. There were, after all, large rocks spaced in strategic locations across the approximately eight foot span of water. Unfortunately, those rocks weren’t stable, and my ginger steps across them weren’t enough to keep them, and me, from rolling.

As I plunged into the creek ,  I fell on my left wrist - the one that I hadn’t fallen upon, shattered, and had surgically repaired last winter when I was “determined” to walk Rodney during a snowstorm.

After popping my wrist back into location, I did what any embarrassing mom would do.

Realizing I was already soaked, I decided I might as well continue across the creek. When I fell again, and I recognized that my nearly 5o year- old body had to find an easier route to the park.

I didn’t.

After slogging through mud and getting caught in the arms of bushes with thorns, I gave up and walked home covered  in wet, muddy pants with bloody scratches on my face.

To me, my appearance was that of a warrior.

To my children, it was that of a pathetic middle-aged woman who can’t act normal.

I understand their feelings. I remember the horror at the sight of my own mother, dripping wet in her checkered, red and white seventies era pantsuit after falling into the irrigation ditch.

But here’s what my own children don’t  understand about me and what took decades for me to understand about my own mother.

Embarrassing our children is a good thing because we have to teach them that behaving within the normal parameters of societal expectations never changes anything. We can never find an alternative path across a creek if we aren’t willing to take risks and look a little silly. We can’t inspire others if we are never willing to take on our own fears and challenges. And we certainly can’t tell our children to pursue their own happiness if we can’t demonstrate that being true to ourselves is where the path to happiness starts.

I, like my own mother, may be an embarrassment, but I’m fairly confident that a willingness to wear that description with pride is a job requirement for being a mom.

At least, I know it is for me.

 

Being Present

Friday, November 7, 2014
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I went back to work this week.

My last day at home with AJ was Monday, and we had such a special day.

We did the same things as we did in previous weeks, but this day was different.

I made the conscious decision to be as present as I could be – to not worry about anything and simply enjoy spending time with my baby. For someone whose hobbies include making lists and organizing anything, this was a quite a challenge. I didn’t plan an agenda, I didn’t have a list of chores, I didn’t even worry about what was for dinner. And, maybe more importantly, I didn’t pick up my phone (except to snap a few photos) and I didn’t get on social media. It was wonderful.

I spent the day savoring little moments and observations – the curiosity in AJ’s eyes when looking at my hands, how her smile is already verging on flirtatious, her determination when trying to roll over. We played, cuddled, “talked,” and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Her little personality shines through more each day, and I watched her figure out the world. Unlike many days of my maternity leave, I didn’t worry about things like crying or naps or what time we needed to be home for her to eat.

I really think AJ could sense my mood and it wore off on her. She didn’t cry at all and was all smiles all day.

It was an ordinary day, but it was one of the best days of my life. This might sound like an exaggeration but I promise you it is not. I will cherish the memories of that day forever.

Not every weekend or day off will be like my last day at home. Bills won’t pay themselves and the dishes and laundry will pile up. Errands will need to be run and chores will need to be done. Responsibilities must be met.

But I learned a valuable lesson Monday – sometimes we need a “pause” day. A day where we pause our busy lives and make the effort to be completely present, physically and mentally. A day where we put all our worries aside, turn off our phones, and enjoy what we love most in life. These days will without a doubt end up as the best days.

Spending Time

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
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Like many Americans, I looked forward to an extra hour of sleep last Sunday morning.

That’s not to say I like the practice of changing clocks twice a year.steve jobs

The extra hour of sleep wasn’t actually an extra hour in my life. It was simply a debt that had to be repaid for the hour taken from me this past spring. And I resent that lost hour, especially since I’m never been able to find enough hours in the day,

I think I inherited that trait from my mother.

We both feel better about ourselves when we are being productive. Because of that, we often put too much on our plates.

We just load those plates with very different items.

When I was very young, my family lived in a tiny house on an Indian Reservation near other families with fathers who also worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. My mom, who has always taken great pride in ensuring that no speck of dirt survives more than a week in her house, was burdened with two small children who thought life should be messy and did their best to live up to their beliefs. Mom would spend the day busy cleaning, cooking and doing chores. When my father would arrive home, she would ask him how other women got their chores completed early enough to play cards and socialize while she never seemed to get ahead.

Dad never had the nerve to say that my mom could play cards and socialize if she  really wanted to do so. She was choosing to use her time in a different way.

I can’t imagine spending so  much time doing housework.  Just as my mother didn’t have time to play cards with the neighbors, I don’t have time to clean my house. I tend to spend too many hours at the office and doing volunteer work and writing and walking my dog (which I try to pretend is a chore.) The reality is, like my mother, even though I complain about never having as much time to relax as other people, I’m actually quite happy being busy.

But I still need to ensure I’m not so busy that I’m wasting time.

Time, like any other precious resource, has to be budgeted.

When I was  in graduate school and working full time, I thought I didn’t have any time. I couldn’t let go of my need to ensure every paper I wrote was perfect and that I aced every test. I couldn’t understand how some of my classmates, who were also working full time but also had children, were only concerned about getting by. I never wanted to “just get by.” I wanted to be perfect.

My last year of graduate school, I got pregnant with my son, gave birth in April and graduated in May. When I graduated, I had as much pride in putting the letters MOM behind my name as I had in putting the letters MSW there.

Nine months of pregnancy during the most demanding time of my life taught me that no one can do everything perfectly. The more thinly we spread ourselves, the fewer things were are capable of doing well.

No one has unlimited time, and how we spend it speaks as much or more to our character as how we spend our paychecks.

I was thinking a great deal about how I spend my time this past weekend – not just because of the “extra” hour but because senior night was celebrated during the last home football game at my son’s high school. As parents proudly escorted the senior football players and band members onto the field while the announcer talked about each student, my eyes welled with tears.

Next year, I’ll be escorting my son onto the field, and I’m already wondering how the time went by so quickly. I’m wishing I had more and worrying whether I spent the time I had as his parent wisely.

But for the moment, all I can do is treasure every moment and remember that time, unlike money, can’t be saved. It can, however, be wasted or spent wisely.

I simply hope that years from now I’ll look back at this time and pride myself in making some very good investments.

Something Really Scary

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Halloween is quickly approaching, but I don’t need a special occasion to be frightened.jack o lantern

I get a little bit scared every time I publicly share my thoughts, opinions and experiences in writing.

And yet, perhaps like people who watch scary movies and choose to visit haunted houses, there is also a part of me that must enjoy the fear because I keep putting myself out there.

Putting together a string of words can feel magical, but knowing that others might read those words can be frightening. With every sentence, I am giving a small piece of myself away.

When I write, I want my words to be informative, emotional, persuasive and possibly even entertaining. Those same words also reveal the truth about whom  I really am, and that is very, very unnerving.

Take, for example, the topic I actually considered writing about this week – my worst  trait as a mom.

I’m certainly not a helicopter parent nor do I think my children are superior beings about which I constantly brag. But I do have a have a tendency to get completely neurotic when I think either of my children will have to deal with the same issues I did as an adolescent.

My constant struggle as a teen to be true to myself without being a social misfit, which I often was, has taken a toll on my own children. I want them to have a strong sense of self and the confidence to question the status quo, which they both do. At the same time, I worry every time I see their peers going in one direction while they step in the other.

When I say worry, I’m not referring to a brief concern. I’m referring to my need to talk about the issue incessantly until I drive both of my children, and my husband, absolutely crazy. At that point, I just try harder to explain that I don’t want them to fight the same battles I fought.

Despite my efforts, no one takes my babbling seriously, which is what compels me to take to the written word. After all, there must be some other mom somewhere whose emotional turmoil of adolescence is impacting her children decades later. Or maybe not.

Which is why I decided I should write about something completely different – like Halloween. Only, when my fingers started across the keyboard, my brain went in a completely different direction and the words tumbled out anyway.

Scary, isn’t it?

Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

Wednesday, October 8, 2014
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I admit it.

I’m not overly engaged in my children’s education.

To be honest, I’m not very engaged at all.

If you want to say that makes me a horrible parent, feel free. If you want to silently judge me, feel free to do that too.

But here’s the deal: no one but my husband and I are the parents of my children. No one but my husband and I have worried about our children since before they were born, witnessed all of their imperfections and would give our lives for theirs in a heartbeat.

In other words, I’ve reached that point in my life when I’ve realized that being an imperfect parent in the eyes of other adults is much healthier than attempting to be the wrong parent in the eyes of my kids.

And the last thing my children need is my interference in their education. They know my expectations and they know their capabilities, and they’ve done fine in school without me.

Since the time they were in first grade, my children have rarely asked for help with their homework, and I rarely know when they have a test. We’ve had an occasional bump in the road, but compared to stories I’ve heard from other parents, my children are doing just fine in school.

I like to think they are extremely conscientious kids who have a great deal of initiative, but the truth is they learned a long time ago that doing their school work independently was less torturous than dealing with a mom who would obsess over every paper they turned in and every grade they received.

My husband, who never worried much bout grades during his own education and, in most people’s eyes, has been much more successful professionally than I have been, is completely on board with our family’s “don’t ask; don’t tell” policy.

The only time I’m supposed to ask about school performance is when I get an interim or quarterly report card, and the only time my children are expected to tell me about their grades is when the either get straight A’s or are giving me an explanation for anything less.

I used to think my rather laissez faire attitude about their education was great preparation for college, when they really will be completely responsible for ensuring they study and meet deadlines

Then, last month, I had a rude awakening.

My daughter was complaining that she didn’t like her West Virginia studies class. Initially, I thought she was complaining about the subject matter. But the more I listened to her, the more I realized that she simply didn’t like having to actually study to get the grade she wanted.

School has always come easy to her, and the real reason I’ve never really provided much help has little to do with her or her brother’s motivation and more to do with their abilities.

Not to brag, but I have smart kids.

Let me rephrase that.

My kids are a great deal smarter than I am or every was.

They don’t ask for my help with their class work because I can’t really provide any insight or input that exceeds their capabilities or academic capacity.

On the rare occasion when they’ve actually asked for my input, I have more questions than answers, which they find extremely annoying.

And, on the rare occasion when I feel that I have to provide input in order to earn my “good parent” badge, I been completely ineffective.

But what I can do is regularly challenge them to think for themselves, question the status quo and keep an open mind.

As long as they both do that, I’ll remain comfortable with my less than stellar performance as a parent in the eyes of others.

And as long as long as my children don’t tell me they have a problem with that, then I’m certainly not going to ask.

 

A Bad Day

Friday, October 3, 2014
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There are hard days and there are bad days. Some days are both. The first weeks of AJ’s life held many hard days, but not bad days. But this week, I had a bad day.

Now, if you are like pre-baby me, you might be thinking, “How could she have a bad day when she just spent it hanging out with her baby?”

Moms, I give you permission to stop right now and laugh at (or virtually smack) pre-baby me. Oh how little I knew…

The day started out normal. There were chores to be done, bills to be paid and a few calls to make, but nothing out of the ordinary. It quickly turned into one of those days where nothing goes as planned and everything seems to culminate into a mess at the same time.

The bad day started when I set out for our mid-morning run. I ended up dealing with several issues on the phone and the run never happened, but I did almost shed tears at the park. When we got home, I was frustrated and upset, and AJ quickly became the same. A crying baby meant no shower and a half-par lunch for me.

AJ continued to cry. Screaming cries. It could have been her reflux, or maybe she was just tired of looking at my face. Nothing I tried could soothe her. Even after eating she would go back to crying.

Several household items and appliances have managed to break in the last few days, and of course something broke on this bad day, which required more calls to check on warranties or at least adding making the calls to the mounting to-do list.

I was on the phone and online trying to get through red tape for various issues all afternoon, all the while trying to keep a pacifier in AJ’s mouth. Not giving my full attention to her wasn’t helping the situation either.

I then had to run a few errands that couldn’t wait (and errands are never quick with a child) and when I finally finished the day’s tasks I was exhausted. But AJ was not. She was still crying on and off. Chris had an after-hours work event and wasn’t home. The house was a mess. I was not able to eat anything for dinner because I was back to soothing the baby. When Chris finally came home, I was a mess.

It was official; I had had a bad day.

We all have bad days, whether we are two or twenty-two, a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, a mom, dad, grandma, grandpa or none of the above. They come unexpectedly, usually right when we think everything is going well. Some bad days are for silly, superficial reasons; some are not. Some are because of our kids, some because of work, some because of quarrels with family or friends, and some are because of sickness, loss or heartbreak.

That evening, as I finally got into bed, I thought about the day’s events. Sure, things did not go as planned. I wasn’t able to shower or eat dinner, I was frustrated with a lot of things, including myself, and had not been able to soothe our baby. I felt like a bad mom.

I then did a small reality check – I had many things for which to be thankful, one being that I was with my husband and baby at the end of the day and we were safe and healthy.

Sometimes we let the little things get to us, at least I do, but I hope I can always remember everything that is good at the end of the day and be thankful for it. I hope I can teach AJ that it’s okay to have bad days, even if the reasons may seem silly to someone else, but to remember to put things in perspective. Often, we’ll realize what we thought was a bad day was actually a pretty good one.

A Messy Situation

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
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I absolutely despise the phrase “I told you so.”

But then, I can’t imagine anyone actually likes hearing words that generally follow a bad decision, a poor choice or some unfortunate situation.

Sometimes, even when they remain unspoken, I know I deserve to hear them.

And sometimes, I am saying them to myself.

Now that I have two teenagers living under my roof, I find myself saying those words to myself over and over again, just as a friend warned me years ago.

At the time, one of my many job responsibilities was teaching adolescent development and parenting. I thought I was an expert as I spouted facts about concrete versus abstract thinking, risky behavior and setting boundaries.

In reality, all I knew was what I had read and what I had been taught, neither of which can replace genuine experience when it comes to human behavior or raising kids.

A friend tried to point this out to me when my son was just a toddler. I had been quoted in a newspaper article about carefully picking battles with teenagers. I specifically told parents not to waste time and energy fighting over messy bedrooms as teenagers should be allowed to be in control of some parts of their lives, including personal space.

“You are going to look back at that article some day and laugh at yourself,” my friend said.

I told her I wouldn’t.

I was wrong.

When my son turned 13 and his bedroom began to resemble destruction left in wake of a tornado, he came up with his own solution to my constant griping. He asked if he could move into the bedroom in the basement, which we already called the kid cave. His dad and I agreed, and I thought the bedroom battle was resolved.

I was wrong again.

My daughter, who once took pride in keeping her room neat and organized, has apparently been taking notes from her brother. As her room grows messier and more chaotic by the day and the contents of her room are now spilling out into the hallway, my complaints have grown louder and more frequent. They’ve also fallen on deaf ears.

Even as I tell myself I am fortunate to be battling with my daughter over such a minor issue, I am also aware that I’m not following my own naive yet somehow sensible advice: pick your battles so you have the time and energy to deal with the major issues.

Since I haven’t listened,  the battle is starting to wear me down. I have also become convinced that my daughter is simply laying the groundwork to take over the basement as soon as her brother graduates from high school.

I’m telling myself that will never happen, but something tells me I may also be wrong.

Which means I will once again be telling myself “I told you so.”