Day 142/365 Children Are Amazing, and Coffee is Important

A conversation at 8am…

Sitting on the porch this morning with my girls, taking in the view. I was enjoying my coffee (no, I did not give it up for my cleanse – nobody wants that, trust me). Louie, our lab, was chewing on an enormous log, as he is want to do.

Beau (age 11): If I could have a superpower, it would be extra strong teeth.

Me: What would you wish to do with extra strong teeth?

Beau: Chew logs!

(Duh)

Me: Umm, why?

Beau: Seems like fun.

Me: So, let me get this straight.  If you could choose a superpower, like…flying, being invisible, mind-reading….you would choose to have extra strong teeth?

Beau: Couldn’t I have more than one superpower? I wouldn’t want to fly, for one thing.  I love to climb, and if I could fly I’d just get lazy about my climbing.

(Obviously)

Ruby (age 8): I would choose being able to bring people back from the dead.

(Sigh)

Me: That would be pretty amazing.

Beau: You can’t do that! Their souls have already left their bodies. So you’d basically be waking up zombies. That would actually make you a villain, not a superhero.

(Clearly she’s pondered this.)

Me: Well, what if you could time travel? You could visit people who have passed away, instead of bringing them back from the dead?”

Beau: Only if it was just to be able to watch, like a movie…not actually do anything over.

Me: Would that be hard? If you went back in time, and watched yourself in a situation, and you wished you had done or said something differently.  Would that be hard to watch?  Seeing your mistakes?

Beau: No, because everything that has happened, happened for a reason.  Even the things we think are mistakes. We learn from things.

(Proud mom moment)

Beau: Like…if I broke my friend’s leg…by accident. Then she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore. So I meet a new friend who I wouldn’t have met if I still had the other friend with the broken leg. If I go back in time, and I don’t break her leg…maybe she’s still my friend and she has me hanging around some other kids who aren’t very nice…and I would never know I could have had this other great friend…

Me: So, breaking your friend’s leg, accidentally, actually kept you from falling in with the wrong crowd?

Beau: Exactly.

Me: You are very wise.

Beau: So…strong teeth, time travel just to observe, and a third arm.

Me: A third arm?

Beau: Yes. So I can lean back and relax with my two arms behind my head, and still have a free arm to pet Louie. It would come from behind me, like a tail.

Me: Ahh, a butt arm. Brilliant. You’d even be able to wave at people from behind as you walk down the street.

We all burst into hysterical laughter.


{…and this is why children are amazing….and coffee is important.}

Photo by Betty Lou Harvey

 

Day 141/365 It’s Okay If You’re Not Okay

It starts early.

Well meaning people telling us how to feel (and how not to feel).

When we are little and we take a fall, our loved ones immediately tell us, “You’re okay!!” before they even give us an opportunity to assess the situation ourselves.

Am I okay?

They seem to think so.

Maybe I don’t feel okay.

Maybe I feel scared, or hurt, or confused about what just happened…

But they said I’m okay.

I must be okay if they think so.

I guess I’m okay.

{But what if I’m not okay? Is it okay to not be okay?}


We send a confusing message when we tell a child how to feel.  Maybe we tell them not to get so angry, not to get so frustrated, not to upset people with the truth of how they feel.

Yes, we should teach our children strategies for coping with life. Yes, we should teach them that there are appropriate times and places in which to fully express their feelings.  We should teach them to be kind as well…but not at the expense of teaching them its okay to feel how they feel.

We must teach them it’s okay to feel…

ALL

THE

THINGS….

Not just the one’s that make other people feel comfortable…

Not just the one’s that feel comfortable to us.

I even do it to myself sometimes, muttering under my breath, “You’re okay” even when maybe I’m not. Not in that moment.

It’s the first thing I said to my ex when he revealed a life changing secret to me….

“It’s okay.  We will be okay.”

Is it? Are we? Is he? 

How could I know?

When I take the long view, I think…

Yes – we will be okay.

But there’s a whole lot to feel about the situation besides okay. We can’t brush those feelings aside without allowing ourselves (and each other) to feel them.

So…

When life gets hard, or when my children stumble and fall, I want them to know they have permission to assess the damages themselves.

I will let them feel.

I will listen.

I will let them decide whether or not they are okay.

They will know that whatever they’re feeling…

THAT is okay.

134/365 Help

“Can I help?” she asked, sidling up to me in the kitchen at Miskiania.

“That’s okay, I’ve got it,” I replied. I was making breakfast for twelve people and I wanted to just bang it out myself.

“Please?” she asked again, looking at me pleadingly.

“Okay, grab the whisk,” I said.

She beamed.

In that moment I realized before long she may stop asking if she can help, especially if I have a habit of brushing her off when she does.

Someday in the not too distant future I may be begging her to spend some time with me, side by side in the kitchen.

Before long I began to suspect that her altruism was largely motivated by proximity to bacon, but I savored the moment just the same.

Day 128/365 The Opposite of What You Know is Also True

A while back I read an excerpt from “Buddhist Boot Camp” by Timber Hawkeye.  The gist of it is this – The opposite of what you know is also true.

also true

He went on to explain –

“No matter how certain we are of our version of the truth, we must humbly accept the possibility that someone who believes the exact opposite could also be right (according to their time, place and circumstance).

This is the key to forgiveness, patience and understanding…”

Amazing, right?

I have found that looking at things from the perspective of another allows me quite a bit of insight, and makes it easier for me to accept the words and actions of others, even when I may not agree with them.

Here’s a small example from today –

My girls are usually with me Sunday night through Friday afternoon. Their dad and I both work, and being self employed I have more flexibility in my schedule to be with the girls when they need me (after school, school vacations, sick days, etc.). I can offer them the most consistent foundation, so their “home base” is with me.

He is taking a week off in August to spend more time with them.  One of the girls is signed up for four violin lessons this summer – only four one-hour lessons for the whole summer. One of them happens to fall during the week they will be with their dad. He and I were texting earlier and I let him know that she has a lesson on Tuesday mid-morning.

We should not assume things (which is a whole other lesson – one on which I am clearly still working), but I did. I had already made the assumption that he is not going to take her to this lesson, or that if he does, he will do so grudgingly.

This assumption made me irritated. I’m not proud of that, but it did. So there I was getting mad about something that hadn’t even happened yet, based on an assumption I was making about someone else’s future behavior.

Brilliant.

Anyway, I was irritated.

I thought – I get them to school every day, plus every single doctor’s appointment, dentist appointment, music lesson, summer camp, and on and on….every obligation that occurs Monday through Friday, year round.  Here he can’t take one morning out from going to the beach to get her to her violin lesson?!

Then, I paused, and I flipped it.

He only gets one, maybe two full weeks with the girls. Maybe he should be allowed to plan the time that week however he sees fit. Maybe its a bit unreasonable for me to expect them to spend 45 minutes in the car each way in order to attend a one hour lesson. Maybe she could just bring her violin with her and find a quiet hour or two during which to practice at his house. Maybe summer vacations are all about making exceptions.

From there, I was able to let it go.

It was a small thing, and perhaps something I should not have allowed to get under my skin begin with.  However, it was good practice.

Just like with anything else, the more we practice something the more automatic it becomes. If we use our muscles of compassion and perspective consistently, I bet we will save ourselves a lot of frustration and resentment in life.

That seems like something upon which we can all agree…or not.

 

Day 115/365 Doing Our Best

In my line of work as a childcare/preschool Administrator, I work with many parents of young children. As a parent of two myself, I can completely relate to their struggles.

This was not always the case.

Years ago, before I had my own children (which is of course when one possesses the most kick-ass parenting skills) I was a caregiver for a group of toddlers at a local preschool. I can remember having a good laugh one day when my coworkers and I looked in a child’s bag for spare clothing and found nothing but a tutu.  His parents were good natured, and later they had a good laugh along with us, but I know there was a certain amount of judgement on my part.  I’m sure I was thinking something like…

“A tutu?  Really?  That’s all this poor kid has for spare clothes?”  

Because, after all, what is so hard about sending your child to school every day with everything you’re asked to bring?  How hard could this parenting (or this parenting plus career) thing be?

To those parents, and to all parents that I, in my ignorant bliss, judged, I sincerely apologize.

Here’s a quick list of things I thought I’d never do…

Forget my child’s lunchbox at home.

Check.

Send my child with her lunch in a huge cooler because I ordered the pretty flowered lunchboxes too late.

Check.

Arrive at school with no spare clothing for my child (not even a tutu).

Check.

Carry my child into daycare kicking and screaming.

Check.

Carry my child out of daycare kicking and screaming.

Check.

Send the wrong lunch with the wrong child, inadvertently smuggling a peanut butter grenade into a nut free zone.

Check.

Remember the store bought Christmas gifts for my children’s teachers, but misplace the gifts that were actually made for them by my daughters.

Check.

Find aforementioned handmade gifts in February and enthusiastically present them to my daughters to give to their teachers as Valentine’s Day gifts.

Check.

img_2670

So many times I have had parents apologize to me in some form or another for something they perceive as a parenting fail.

To them I say –

No parent I know is aiming to fail at parenting. We all love our children. They are our hearts and souls. So, repeat after me…

I am doing my best.

We are all doing our best.

I know, sometimes our best feels shitty. We feel like we have phoned it in, lost the plot, dropped the ball…

We don’t live up to our own expectations.

I have a couple of things to say about that –

First of all, if you care enough to feel like a failure, chances are your kids feel really loved.

Seriously.

Think about it. You obviously love them a whole heck of a lot to be putting so much pressure on yourself. Stop apologizing for being a human being, doing the very hard work of raising other tiny human beings.

Second, if you’re lucky you’ll get to do it all over again tomorrow.

Let’s face it, for many years parenting is kind of like Groundhog Day – you’ll have another opportunity to do things differently tomorrow…and the next day…and the next.

Every day you’ll do the best you can do that day. 

That’s all you can do.

That, and…

Be kind to yourself. It’s contagious.

 

Day 110/365 Musical Chairs

Good evening! This is one of those nights in which I find myself dreaming of my head hitting my pillow, and yet I have written nothing here…why did I commit to this 365 day challenge? Who am I challenging, exactly?

Myself.

Oh, Right. It makes total sense that I’d do this to myself during an incredibly stressful and exhausting time in my life.

Idiot.

{Seriously, I have been loving sharing this journal with you. I’m just tired and loopy tonight…bear with me if you dare.}

So, it’s approaching 10pm. I remember when that was what time my friends and I would hit the town. Right now I can’t think of anything less appealing than hitting the town! It’s funny how our priorities and interests change and evolve with age, isn’t it? Which leads me to my (hopefully coherent) thoughts for tonight…

As a middle aged woman (my friends get mad when I say that, but guess what, you guys – 88 years would be a damn good run.  We’re lucky if we are only middle aged right now).

Ahem…as a middle aged, single, divorced woman…

Holy cow, can you almost hear the violin playing the sad music in the background?

Let’s start this again…lately I have been thinking a lot about relationships and the freedom I have to look at them differently now as an independent, confident, self sufficient single mother of two.

Here’s what I mean –

When I was in my early twenties I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have children. I just remember feeling really lost. I didn’t know who I was nor who I wanted to be.

At some point I decided that nothing appealled to me more than having children and staying at home to raise them…like my mother had done. Perhaps this seemed like the safe thing to do (but that’s a psychoanalysis for another time).

After that, dating became stressful….kind of like musical chairs, but instead of chairs being taken away one by one, it was the eligible men being removed from the game.  I saw my friends getting married and I didn’t want to be the one left without a “chair” when the music stopped.

The problem was I fixated a lot more on landing in a chair than on enriching my life in other ways. I thought little about cultivating my own interests. I was certain that my life was going to revolve around my children, and around my husband (who was going to take care of us entirely, of course) and life would be good.

(Cue the feminist lynch mob…)

Feel free to judge if you must. It’s the truth. That’s all I wanted.

Ultimately I did find love, and marriage, and my two beautiful children came into this world.

I was a wife, and a mother – being either one of which is a beautiful thing – but I had no idea who I was outside of those labels. Which becomes a problem when a label no longer fits.

I found myself there, with the husband and the beautiful children just like I wanted – and guess what – I still didn’t know who I was nor who I wanted to be as an individual.  It’s safe to say, neither did he.

Somehow, when my marriage unravelled, I found strength, self confidence and skills I never knew I had.

I built a new life.

So, the beauty of where I sit now, is…

(See what I did there…where I sit now? Remember the musical chairs? Stay with me…it’s late).

Ahem, the beauty of where I sit now, is that I am not looking for someone with whom to build a life. I’m just looking for someone with whom to share in the very good life which I have built for myself.

I’ll tell you what, it feels amazingly good to want, but not to need.

I’ve written it before and I mean it entirely when I say I loved my (ex)husband (and in a different way, I always will). I have no regrets about the relationship we had. We were happy for many years, and we made beautiful children. Our children are so loved.

Looking back, though, at how I entered that marriage, and what I expected to find there within it, I’ll say this…

I hope when my daughters feel ready to seek out partners in life, that they do so already feeling complete on their own. I hope that they will look not for someone who will create a life for them, but for someone who will enhance the lives they have created for themselves.

Perhaps I’ll show them what that looks like, someday, with the right person.

No matter what, I hope I’ve shown them if the music suddenly stops, they don’t need to scramble to find a chair…

It’s best to stand on their own two feet, anyway.

Day 109/365 My Heart

Though I don’t often have my daughters on the weekends, I thought I was going to have the long holiday weekend with them. As it turned out, due to a communication fail, their dad had had the same plan – to spend four days with the girls.  Since I do have a lot of time with them, especially in the summer, I told him he should go ahead with his plans to take the girls away for the weekend.

Balancing home and work can sometimes be a lot, particularly in the summer when the girls are out of school and they live with me five days a week. I had been feeling stretched a bit thinly as we eased our way into a summer routine.

Suddenly, I found myself completely free of responsibility for four days – no work, no children.

I’m not going to lie, having that span of time unexpectedly laid out before me, to do with as I pleased, felt like a truly decadent gift.

I didn’t do much. I spent some time with family and friends. I sat on a beach, and I laid in a hammock in the woods. I lingered over coffee while being delightfully visited by hummingbirds on my front porch.

There was a lot of quiet.

Sometimes I really love, even crave, the quiet…

BUT, my God…

When those elegant little arms swept around my neck this afternoon…

When I heard the words, “Mommy, I missed you so much!”

When I looked at my children and felt as if they’d each impossibly grown taller during our four days apart…

When they were bursting with stories about what they’d seen and learned…

I couldn’t stop pulling them close.

I compulsively peppered their foreheads and cheeks with kisses, repeatedly brushing the hair away from their eyes so I could stare at how beautiful they are.

I told them over and over how much I love them.

They are my heart.