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Summer Mommin’

So, in our house, it’s officially summer time.  Summer for me really doesn’t start until the last day of school, the first time grilling, and the first day I feel like I am dying from heat stroke.

This year, summer is a little different than usual.

Friday was the kids’ last day of school.  My son headed to a friend’s for an end of year party, and the little one and I headed to the annual beach party.  It was the first time I had gone.  I took the time off work, and we headed to the beach.  This year, the tone was a probably a bit more somber than in years past.  With the redistricting going on in our town, many families from our school were getting pulled out through no fault or desire of their own.  Other families I have known for years through school and soccer, like me, had kids leaving for middle school.  It was a day and time of transition. It was my first day at a school event as a member of the new ptsa board as well.  I was overwhelmed with the amount of parents who came up to wish me well, and to offer their help as the new board transitioned.  I was reminding what a great group of parents we have.  Of course, I now feel an even deeper sense of responsibility to keep the traditions alive.

Saturday was a family birthday party for my niece.  It was a really nice, relaxed atmosphere.  It was also, however, a reminder of how fast time flies, and how quickly the kids are all growing up.  The years are passing by so quickly, not only with my kids, but with the other kids in the family as well.  My nephew, who will be 10 is perilously close to being the same height as me.  How is that possible?  After her party, I fired up the grill to make one of my favorite dishes, and we as a family had an easy night in.

Father’s day came in, which started out busier than usual.  I am dog/house sitting for a neighbor, so I looked after the animals, cooked breakfast (2 lbs of bacon is no match for this family, apparently) and got loads of compliments on a new dish I tried.  We then attempted to assemble ourselves and head to an amusement park (yay for season passes!).  By the time we got there, it was late in the afternoon, but we had plenty of time to hit the water park for some lazy river relaxation and wave pool laughs.  It was relaxing, fun and the kids were thrilled.  My husband seemed to relax and enjoy the time.  I got talked into going onto the new coaster at the park by my son and husband.  I was terrified, and I hear there are videos of my screaming, but it was admittedly a ton of fun.  I surmise that those season passes will get used a couple of times as we battle a very hot beginning of the summer.

Again, we are still working on our beginnings of “free range kids”.  Time spent outside as much as possible, with breaks for cooling down.  My friend around the corner and I take turns texting when the kids are in transit.  They roam between the houses and play in the yards.  Bike rides, scooter rides, and kids just being kids.  I know there are kids who have been doing this for years, but I’m a suburban mom who has been told for YEARS how it’s just not the SAME as it was when I was growing up.  I was told that we need to keep the kids inside and not let them out unless we can be right THERE staring at them to keep them safe.  Meanwhile, I had kids who couldn’t do basic things like safely cross a street because they had never needed to, because I was always there.  Things I knew and did as a kid safely and easy, my kids couldn’t really do because they had never had to do them.  I had always been there to do it for them, and if I couldn’t do it, then they just didn’t learn it.  I started to have visions of my kids being unable to cross a street at 25, and I knew something had to change.

We are starting off small.  It’s hard for this mama to let go a little bit.  When I tell people what I am doing, I get “looks”.  No camp? No constant supervision at every moment and turn?  I get looks like I am mad.  How would I manage without someone to constantly monitor them?  Well, I say, we’re doing an 80’s summer.  A summer where there may be boredom, and you’ll have to think of things to do.  A summer of go outside and play with friends and nature.  I summer of reading, and playing with toys.  A summer of being a kid, but learning new responsibilities.  A summer of figuring out your own fun sometimes.  Sure I’m nervous, and I keep an eye out the window on them.  That being said, I have to teach them to be independent.  That’s what a good mother does.  Teach them to fly on their own, but be there when they need you should they fall. The hardest part of mommyhood for me is having these two little humans who carry my heart around, and going from doing every single thing for them to teaching them to eventually manage without me. There are always the lasts.  The last book you read to them out loud, the last time you bandage a cut before they just grab the first aid kit and do it themselves.  All those lasts, that you never know is a last until you suddenly realize they are doing it themselves now.

For now, I am hiding from the heat as best I can, prepping for a hot week.  There will be complaints of lack of stuff to do, but at least it should be minimal as they are just glad to be out of school.

 

 

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Let Them Be Chickens

freerange

So, it’s official.  I am officially on the PTSA board of our school as of today.  I am still wondering if I have done the right thing, and also just what I have gotten myself into. My default is to jump in with both feet, and have already been brainstorming some fundraising ideas.  I was told to relax, hold back, and take a “let’s see” approach.  That’s not really my style.  On one hand, I am chaos personified.  I’m the mom screeching into the parking lot at the last minute, but I get there.  I am the mom who gets it done, even if it doesn’t look pretty.  There is some method to my madness, and I usually need at least a baseline plan in place to keep the stress levels down.  I’m not very structured, but I need a basic idea of a plan to get started.  At the moment, I’m floundering and I feel dazed.  I’m not a fan. I will therefore sit back, and try very hard not to think too much about things.  It just won’t be easy.  I’m more of a doer than a not think about it type of gal.

After getting voted in, I was chatting with a mom friend about the changes, about summer, after school care next year for her daughter, and she asked how I manage to work from home when the kids are home.  She was surprised by my answer.

“Well, the older one will play video games or read and entertain himself pretty quietly, and the younger one plays outside or with the neighbor kids.  I’m trying this whole “free range parenting” thing out.”

She looked stunned.  The video game comment gave her pause and a raised eyebrow.  The free range parenting comment made her appear quite surprised.

The fact is, my son is an old soul.  He is extremely smart (way smarter that me, to be honest).  He’s responsible, a rule follower, and very mature.  (Not like me).  He gets great grades and is respectful and kind.  That, along with some chores, is his “job”.  As long as he is doing his job, and his grades are good, I don’t sweat the small stuff.  I let him play video games with his friends after school.  Sure, I keep the time down to a decent amount, but I let him play.  It’s a form of socialization, and he enjoys it.  It’s also sparked an interest in coding, which could be good for him.  He accompanied me to the apple store and jumped into a coding class there.  The instructor was very impressed with his knowledge and demeanor.  I may take him for more.  Currently, my son and his bike have disappeared down to the school to go hang out on the field/playground with his friends.  He has his sister’s ipod which has wifi, so he can text me if he needs me.  I’m only a few minute drive away.

The little one looks most forward to racing outside each day.  I can see her from my home office window.  I can call to her.  We have a system, and it works.  She never leaves the front of the house without telling me where she is going.  There are also a group of great kids in the neighborhood that she plays with.  The parents know each other, watch out for the kids, and text each other when kids are on route from one house to another.  It’s working.  I now have a happier child, who enjoys being outdoors and playing with friends.

For years, I have struggled with balance.  Work vs home, fairness  with the kids, and a constant battle of how their childhood is vs mine was.  When my son got older, my daughter was still 4 years younger, so it was easier to keep them both inside.  With my work schedule, there wasn’t any time to just hang with the neighbor kids.  Growing up, I raced home, did homework, and jumped on my bike.  I rode the back roads about a mile from my house to my best friends, and we would go back and forth between our houses, playing, riding, laughing, and making memories.  I did this when I was about 8 or nine.  My parents trusted me to do right, to call when I arrived, and to do be responsible.  And you know what?  I WAS.  I DID.  I called, and I was responsible.  I knew quite clearly that bad behavior, or not doing as I should would eliminate my freedoms.  Looking back, I believe my mom would drive the neighborhood to make sure I was safe and keep an eye on what I was up to.  I fell off my bike once and she was there in minutes, without a phone call.  (no cell phones when I was a kid, folks!).  Nowadays kids have technology at their fingertips.  Luckily they have ipods and the neighborhood is a wifi hotspot, so they can text me if they need me.  That’s more than I had as a kid.

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The fact is, kids were kids, but in many ways, we were more grown up than today’s kids.  We had more freedoms and we learned to handle those freedoms appropriately.  We learned responsibility.  We had street sense.  The small freedoms I received made me feel more grown up, and I behaved better.  Why? Because I didn’t want to lose the privileges I had been given!  Cause and effect is an important learning tool.

It occurred to me one day my kids might not really know how to cross the street safely.  As in, which lane cars drive in, where to look, how to listen for cars, how to double check.  I was horrified.  The fact was though I was always with them and guided them. I started teaching them more street sense.  How to manage if I wasn’t there.  How to be safe, and to help their friends be safe. I started taking them on bike rides, to learn the layout of the neighborhood, where cross walks are, and how to read the traffic signals.  It’s an ongoing lesson, but an important one.  I keep an eye on them, but I am allowing more freedom and choices their way as they get older.

I notice other parents doing the same more than before.  Maybe I’m just more in tune with it because giving the kids so much freedom is a bit daunting at first. The fact is, I am raising future adults.  I have to balance teaching them a healthy dose of reality (ie. stranger danger, car safety, etc) vs teaching them to be independent and responsible.  I need to teach them that outside is where magic happens.  Healthy habits, spending time in nature is good not only for the body, but for the soul.  Not to mention, they sleep AMAZINGLY now.

I’ll still be nervous.  I’ll still keep an eye on them when they don’t know I am watching.  At the end of the day though, this free range parenting, allowing the kids more freedom and responsibility has thus far been a good thing.  The better they do, the better I will do. There are parents allowing their kids to navigate the city by themselves, take the subways, etc.  I’m not there yet.  We’re keeping with the neighborhood and going from there.

 

A Little More Yes.

The school year is winding down, with just a couple of days left before summer vacation begins for the kids.  They are beyond excited to start their break.  I, on the other hand, am a little bit less excited.  Summer is always a time to scramble.  There are new schedules with camp and work, and I never feel fully settled in the summer.  Every weekend is jam packed with happenings and parties, and there just seems to be a never ending stream of things to do.  As someone who probably needs to minimize her to do list, the summer seems daunting.

But of course, I took on more, instead of less.

Our new fridge got delivered, and not a moment too soon for me.  Using a bar fridge for a week wasn’t quite fulfilling what we needed, and I must admit I was excited for a new fridge.  Our old one was a dinosaur, and the handles had even broken off. The new fridge is vast and bright, full of possibilities of future meals that I likely won’t have time to cook.  In order to get the fridge in, we had to shuffle stuff around, so now the house appears more cluttered than ever.  My yard looks like a rainforest jungle out there.  Yesterday I was outside until 8:30 mowing, tidying, and trying to get things better in the yard.  There is still hours upon hours of work left to do.  With all of the work that needs to be done (and the short few hours I have to do it in), one would think I’d be saying no.  Instead, I have been saying yes.

The year of yes was a good year.

In prior blog posts, I wrote about living the “yes” life, where I tried to say yes more, to do more.  It was chaotic, but looking back, it was a happy year of new adventures.  While I said recently I need to say “no” more to live a more simplistic life, I’ve found that sometimes, I have to slip back to yes.

Our school is going through MAJOR changes, changes that were made by the BOE that many parents disagree with.  It effectively means that our PTA got decimated, and they needed to appoint and almost entirely new board. Our school community has been ripped apart, and we need to come together to build a community again.  Somehow, and I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but my name got thrown into the mix.  Me, who doesn’t go to math night (My kids don’t need to know they are smarter than me just yet), who struggles to make it to events and who is openly and almost proudly in a state of perpetual chaos.  Someone, or some folks, apparently feel I’d be a good choice.  So, onto the board I go, if voted in tomorrow. Part of me is scared shitless, and part of me is hopeful I can make a positive difference. Part of me wonders how the heck I’m going to manage such a big responsibility.  Part of me is honored I have been considered and therefore wants to give it my very best shot. I think I’m always happiest when I can make a positive difference. I find out tomorrow if it’s official, but I’d be amiss if I said I wasn’t nervous about the outcome either way.

Some other “yes” decisions….

Yes to having my daughter live an old fashioned summer.  A summer of playing outside, some boredom, and learning to overcome that boredom with imagination, friends, and summertime freedom.

Yes to going home to England for my cousin’s 40th.  She’s the closest I had to a sister growing up, and if she wants me there, there I shall be.

Yes to being more of a free range parent.  It has been a perpetual concern to me that my kids don’t get the benefits and responsibility of going outside and hanging with the neighborhood kids like I used to.  I would get home from school, hammer out my homework, and then outside I went until the streetlights came on.  I got my son a new bike, have been working on teaching the kids road safety, and now they are often found outside playing with neighborhood kids or riding bikes. I am lightening the reigns and letting them just be.  I noticed a greater sense of awareness in them and an appreciation of simple time outside.

Yes to teaching the little one how to ride a two wheeled bike without training wheels.

Yes to being more social and being more outgoing.

Yes to being a bigger voice at the school and making it the best place possible.

Yes to being outside more.  I want to spend my nights outside and relaxed in the fresh air.

I’m probably crazy, but you already knew that.

Little Assholes and The First Ride

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bikeSometimes. kids are little assholes.  As parents, our jobs, should we do it successfully, is to not raise little assholes, but it has to be said, some parents are failing mightily.

Let me explain.

This is the year I have been giving the kids a bit more leeway and independence.  I let them play out in the neighborhood more, my son goes on bike rides with his friend who lives around the corner.  Now that they are a bit older, it’s time to trust them more, and I know they will keep an eye on each other.  I can watch them out the window, or from the front stoop, but they are feeling more responsible and independent.  Part of this was their age, but a big part was knowing at even the little one’s age I was always out playing or riding bikes with friends.  I went out right after homework and stayed outside until the street lights came on.  I had no cell phone.  I was fine.  It taught me responsibility, street smarts, and I got fresh air.  My friends and I all looked out for each other.  It made for a good childhood.

My children, on the other hand, haven’t had as much of that.  With my work schedule, they got home close to dinner time.  After homework, it was already starting to get dark.  I was nervous about them being outside while I was cooking.  There weren’t too many kids on the street.  The result? Too much screen time, not enough fresh air.  Another result? My daughter is almost 8 and couldn’t ride a bike without training wheels.  This never bothered me, and it didn’t bother her either.  That is, it didn’t bother her until the asshole neighbor kid started commenting on it. Then of course, the other kids had to tell the tale of when they learned how to ride a bike. I watched my daughter’s face crumble a bit, then tighten with resolve.

That night, I knew.  I grabbed a wrench and took her training wheels off.

The next day, I took her outside and started showing her how to balance on her bike.  She was nervous, but I could see strains of confidence beginning to appear. Just when I thought we were almost where I could start teaching her to use the pedals, the asshole kid came up.  He started again with the brag.  Not even a humble brag, but a full on, almost neener neener kind of brag.  I tried to be an adult.  I told him she was learning, and it would be more helpful if he cheered her on.  I said “let’s keep it positive!”.

He persisted in his assholish behavior.  I told him to go home.

At that point, I picked up her bike and wrangled it in my car.  “Hop in” I told her, “we’re gonna learn how to ride that bike!”  I drove down to an office park, knowing on a Saturday it would be a ghost town.  We got down to business, practicing balancing.  There was some whining. Some self doubt appeared for both of us.  And then, just like that, her feet hit the pedals.  Remember that scene in Forrest Gump when the braces come off and you see that sudden realization and determination in his face?  That was the same look she had.  Within 10 minutes, she was whizzing around the parking lot.

I clapped.  I cheered.  I danced.  I teared up a little.

I was just so damned proud.  I was proud of her for sticking with it.  I was proud of her grace when that kid was giving her balls.  And, if I’m honest, I’m proud I was able to teach her.  Riding a bike for a kid is a big deal.  I always figured I’d never be able to teach them, and that my husband would be the one to do it.  Yet I managed to teach both kids, and I think they’ll remember it was something I was able to do for them.  Kids remember our successes.  They remember (and sometimes land in therapy because of) our failures.  We don’t get an instruction manual.  We’re winging it every day as parents.  So that little success of “I can do it! I can teach her how to ride that bike!” was LIFE for me in that moment.

Parenting is just like writing a novel.  There are characters and stories, twists and turns, heroes and villains, successes and failures. We as parents work tirelessly, endlessly on our greatest works of art.  Our kids.  We love them, nurture them, and hope that their story will have more smiles than tears, more success that failures.  We are just one character of many in their story, but we play very important parts to that story.

When we got home, she hopped on her bike, and rode is smoothly down the sidewalks and back.  The kid who had given her a hard time came by and was shocked to see her riding without training wheels.  The other kids in the neighborhood also looked surprised.  “You learned to ride that in one day?” he asked her.

Yep, my mama taught me how.”

Best sentence I’ve heard in a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

One Day

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Oneday

One Day.

That’s all it took.  Just one, unimaginable day, and she was gone. I woke up to a call from my father saying I needed to come quickly, as the time had come and she would likely pass away soon.  The problem was, there was no “quickly” about it.  I was a good 5+ hours by car away, and still a good 4 if I tried to take a plane instead.  There was no quick. There was only tears, and fear, and horror as the “should be” 5 hour drive turned into 11 painstakingly slow hours.  I was right near the George Washington Bridge when I got the call.  I was too late. I also had a very long drive ahead.   But I am ahead of myself.

One Day.

That day I got married, and she couldn’t be there because cancer made her so weak she couldn’t travel up.  It was a Justice of the Peace wedding, not at all as I had planned in my youth.  But if my mom couldn’t be there, I didn’t want the big wedding.  I married the love of my life without either of my parents able to be there.  That’s a hard pill to swallow.

One Day.

The day my son was born.  The day I truly believe she fought and battled that cancer to be able to be there for.  She couldn’t get there until well after he was born, but she was there.  I remember her telling the nurses to be extra kind to me, because her mum was dying and there was all just so much STRESS when there should have been only happiness.

One Day,

That day my daughter was brought into this world, without her Grandmother there to wonder out loud if she had a curly haired grandchild, and to marvel how pretty and delicate she was.  I remember telling the nurse that I had held it together all day in front of visitors that I was just so heartbroken that my mom wasn’t there to meet this beautiful baby, but I couldn’t hold it any longer.  That nurse called the station to say she would be a while, sat down and let me cry while she held my hand.

One Day.

The day my father finally remarried, and I wrote a lovely speech that thrilled him, smiled for pictures, and made peace with the idea of him making that next step, all while hurting that the change had to take place because she was gone.

One Day.

The day I had my uterus taken out and knew I’d never have another baby for my mom to meet, but that same nurse was working, so I asked for her and thanked her so profusely for what she had done for me to get me through the happiest day that was still tainted with a touch of sadness.

One Day.

That day every year when mothers, including myself, are celebrated and revered, but the day is so bittersweet.  The card displays I walk past, the gift ideas I scroll past online, and the thought of “oooh, she’d love that!” only to know I won’t be buying it because she’s not there to give it to. The day when my husband and kids take me out, and I feel so special, but also a little tinged with the reminder of the loss.

One Day.

That day that I remember how she trusted me to get on my bike and ride to my friend’s, and my son asks me to do the very same thing.  Only this time, I say yes.

A lot can happen in One Day.

My Wonder Girl

This morning, my daughter marched proudly out of the house wearing a Wonder Woman shirt, Minnie Mouse Leggings, and….a cape. A Wonder Woman cape, to be exact.  Off to second grade she went, proud as punch of her outfit choice.  As a kid who wears a school uniform each day, the chance to wear a cape for “Fun Friday” dress down was just PERFECT.  I cringed a bit, wondering if the school might give her a hard time, but I reminded myself to live and let live. When it comes to my daughter, I do a lot of that.

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My son was and still is, as easy of a child as one could ask for.  He was an easy pregnancy, an easy baby, easy toddler, and at 12, he’s still a laid back, easy child to raise. Things come easy to him, for the most part.  He’s smart as a whip, mature far beyond his years, calm natured, and extremely even keel.  A gentle soul, with a soft heart, I do worry a bit about him getting hurt by girls as he gets older, but otherwise, I rarely if ever need to fret about him. I know he has things handled.   He was such an easy child that having our daughter appeared like it would be easy peasy.  After all, he was such an easy child to raise, she would be too, right?

Not so much.

From the get-go, things weren’t easy.  I spotted throughout much of the pregnancy, and we didn’t settle comfortably that she’d make it until I was quite far along.  She came into this world at 6lbs, 7 oz.  She was a bit of a cranky baby, cried far more than my son did.    She also had an eye issue called alternating amblyopia, and strabismus, meaning she suffered from lazy eye, however it would switch from eye to eye. That appeared before she was 9 months old, and a week before her birthday, she had surgery to try to correct this issue.  Watching a baby go through this broke my heart, but it didn’t seem to phase her.  She was a tough cookie.  As a toddler, she was a force to be reckoned with.  People worry their sons will get rough with the little ones, I had to worry she would roughhouse her brother too much.  To my horror she once punched him when she was two, and when I asked why she responded “he too close”.

While I was trying to reign her in, we still battled over certain things.  I can’t explain to you how defeating it is to find yourself in a full blown battle over a piece of clothing, but trust, it’s no fun.  One day we were meeting with family out of town.  I had picked out clothing for my daughter, and it included a big pink tutu skirt.  Now, she loved this skirt. But not that day.  That day, she hated that skirt.  (Welcome to toddlerdom!) and she refused to wear it.  The problem wasn’t the fact she didn’t WANT to wear it, it was the tantrum that occurred because of it.  It was a full blow, kicking, screaming, meltdown of a tantrum that was so over the top I stood in awe. Like I said, I didn’t care about the tutu, except now, I had to stand ground about it.  If I let her bail on the tutu, I would be giving an approval on the tantrum.  I was now forced to stand ground on something I didn’t care about at all, in order to teach a valuable lesson that I did care about….Bad behavior will NOT get you out of doing something.   Neither one of us backed down for about an hour. She wore the tattoo in the end, however family members still joked we walked in like a true war had taken place, with me looking like I had some PTSD.  I still remember that day as a day I won a battle, but it was a hell of a fight.

The day she turned 5 was a turning point.  My fiery little beastie suddenly calmed. It was as if she had nothing more to have to prove.  She had pushed all the buttons, and knew which buttons did what. She grew into herself.  I now had a super helpful, motherly, sweet girl.  She had always been a cuddler, and I was thrilled that despite the sudden grown up attitude, she kept that love of curling up in my lap to cuddle and get hugs. Nothing makes her happier than helping me cook, having a similar outfit to me, or looking after her little cousins.  We now entered the stage of a girl who knows who she is, with a side of chaos.

5-7 has been an interesting stage.  My son and I often comment that she’s a tough cookie. The child who needed tonsils out? Her.  The child who is accident prone? Her.  The child who gets nosebleeds?  Her.  The child who struggles a bit more in school?  Her. Most things just don’t come easy to her in life.  She has to work at things, be more careful. I tell her she’s my warrior girl, and that I know she’ll be ok because she knows how to handle tough times.

With this resilience comes chaos as well.  My daughter?  She’s a SLOB.  She leaves things everywhere, and I spend my days reminding her to clean up after herself, and walking behind her picking up things.  It’s exhausting.  She’s just always on the the next big thing.  I remind myself that one day she will grow up and move out, and I will be left with a quiet, clean house, and the thought makes me sad.  Her chaos drives me nuts, but at the same time, it is her, who I love, so I am trying to find a balance. I have to send her into the world as a functioning adult who is in a bit less chaos.   Even her clothing choices are choas.  Her aunt and I named her Vegas Judy. She loves all things leopard, colorful, glittery, rhinestoned, and “extra”.  If she chooses her outfits without input, she looks like a walking carnival.  My husband lets her wear whatever she wants.  I try to tame it a bit, but sometimes, like today, I let her just go with her own clothing flow.  When I had a beautiful fancy dress for her to wear on Easter but she came to me with Puss in Boots eyes asking if she would wear a leopard dress?  “Do you love it? Will you be comfortable? Will you be happy in it and wear it all day?”  The answer was yes.  I caved.  She thanked me for allowing it, and I spent the day being looked at as a hero by her. What made me happy was seeing her happy and confident in her choice.  I try very hard to remember that it doesn’t matter what people think, what matters is that she is figuring out who SHE is.

There are times I see her outfit choices and get a bit cringey.  There are times, like when she was adamant she wanted to cut her long hair short, that I waffled and wanted to tell her no.  I then reminded myself that hair grows back, clothing can be changed in a heartbeat.  I have a daughter who knows who she is, and firmly knows what she likes.  I want to celebrate that, because in life she will be surrounded by a world that will try to make her question her choices. She doesn’t need to me to always do it too. Her short hair that she was confident she would love? I loved it too. Her outfits? ok, well, I don’t always love them, but I love her confidence in them.

My chaotic, not always easy child is just as perfect for me as my laid back, easy child. Two sides of the same coin.  Similar in so many ways, yet so totally different.  Each teach me different lessons.  My relationship with each is so different, yet so amazing. Watching them work together, and balancing each other fills me with wonder.  I spend a lot of time thinking about how, in the same house, with the same parents, and same experiences, two people could have such vastly different nuances to their personalities.  My daily challenge is to figure out how to successfully balance parenting two completely different people.

When I started this blog, I referred to my kids as the Tiny Diva and the Laid Back Kid. The definition of Diva:  a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please (typically used of a woman).  I no longer consider her my Tiny Diva.  She’s my Wonder Girl.

I wonder where she gets her strong sense of self from, yet I am SO happy she has it.  I wonder how to help her succeed when she falters, yet how to let her find her way on her own as much as possible.  I wonder how she believes some of her outfit choices might even begin to match.  I wonder why she doesn’t put her stuff away without me having to follow up and ask her. I wonder how she does the amazing bendy stuff in gymnastics.  I wonder why her feet smell like dirty fritos and vinegar sometimes when she wears certain shoes.  I wonder how she isn’t aware her feet smell like that.    I wonder how I can make sure she keeps her sense of self throughout her life.  Mostly, I wonder how I can be the best mom to her and her brother, getting them through their strengths and weaknesses when they are so very different.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Girl Power

Ok, I am a little bit proud of myself.  You might think I’m completely bonkers, but hey, life is way too short not to enjoy small successes, right?

So, we’ve had some stuff breaking around the house.  And of course, it can’t be one thing, it has to be everything, right? Why? Because that’s how life goes. The dishwasher, the vacuum, the bathroom light blew.  The dishwasher is above my paygrade, and I certainly can’t pull it out and flip it to fix it.  The bathroom and vacuum, however, I could manage.  The bathroom was tricky because someone had painted over the screw I needed to access to get the cover off.  (WHY do people paint over stuff they shouldn’t?)  No worries though, it was a simple fix.

My daughter came in as I was dismantling my vacuum cleaner and sat down to watch me.  She watched me take it apart, and commented how cool it was that I was able to do it.  She watched me replace a belt, clean filters, and clean/adjust the brush.  I explained the parts, what they do, and how I was going to fix it.  She sat carefully paying attention.  She helped me clean the parts.  We laughed together, and both yelled with glee when the test run of the repaired vacuum confirmed it ran better than it had in YEARS.  She beamed at me, so proud of what we had done.  We then moved into the bathroom.  I got on the ladder, and she held parts and passed me what I needed.  Once done, she cheered and high fived me.  She then commented “look mom, the girls fixed it!  We didn’t have to wait for boys to do it!”.

I am very lucky to be the mom of a boy and a girl.  This means that I have to raise two well rounded children who will grow into self sufficient, independent adults with great self esteem.  Easy peasy, right? Not so much.  I’m not a man basher.  I’m not a bra-less ranting feminist.  I’m just a gal who believes in equal rights for all but admittedly is flattered when my husband opens a door for me.  I believe women should make the same as men for doing the same job.  I feel men get skewered way too often.  Has anyone noticed how television makes men seem like dolts? It’s unfortunate. My son already sees this bias on Tv and has commented on it.  My daughter is already seeing the pressure of being “picture perfect” on TV, and also seeing certain gender stereotypes.  I had a reminder today that I need to show her that women can do things that often stereotypically fall under “men’s” jobs.  I try to do the same for my son.  For this blog, I’ll focus on my daughter.

My husband does do a lot of the fixing of things.  That’s mostly because he has the patience to do it.  I often don’t.  Sometimes things need strength, and that’s his forte, rather than mine.  I am seeing more and more though that I need to take the time and gather the patience to do more of these little jobs because I want my daughter to see I can do it.  If I can do it, she’ll know she can too.

I’ve been a working mom for pretty much her whole life.  I balance a full time job, two kids, and I do it working an opposite schedule to my husband.  I am proud of the fact she sees her mom having a career.  I’m proud that she sees her mom contributing to the household, managing the family, and making sure everyone is taken care of.  Ok, so she doesn’t see a perfectly clean house, or a mom who is perfect.  And you know what? Maybe that’s a good thing.  She sees me flawed, she sees I can’t do it all, but that I do my best.  She sees that it’s ok not to have everything together all the time.  That’s an important lesson in and of itself.  I am happy, even if things aren’t always perfect.

Another lesson I have been working on teaching her is to not stand for nonsense.  I keep my circle pretty small.  It’s gotten smaller over the past year, and she has even commented about the fact that I don’t keep people around who don’t treat me well or who aren’t nice to me.  Kids are super perceptive.  I explain that I have plenty of people to love, who love me as well, and those are the people I keep in my life.  People who aren’t nice or who treat me badly are quickly shown the door.  I have no time for nonsense or wasting time on people who don’t like me. I want her to see that she doesn’t have to keep mean or nasty people around.  It’s ok to say no, it’s ok to stand up for herself, and that she doesn’t have to hang out with people who are bad to her. I know we have a big push in this country to teach kids to be kind.  I teach my kids that too.  (For anyone interested, look up the children’s book about filling buckets, it’s fabulous). They came with me on my treck to look after cats, to provide Christmas for a family, etc.  We talk regularly about ways to be kind, and how to act if people aren’t.  That being said, I think women are often all too accepting of bad behavior.  We think it must be us, or we can fix the person, or we feel like we deserve less than.  I don’t want that for her.  I want her to feel confident in her choices of the people around her.  I want her to keep people who make her smile, and to move away from those who make her feel even an ounce of bad.

As a woman, we are taught to apologize a lot.  Ever notice that?  Someone will bump into you and women will often reply “I’m sorry”, as if our very presence was something to apologize for.  We sometimes even apologize without even meaning to.  Why? We are taught to be pleasant at all costs.  We are taught, unfortunately, to often make excuses for bad behavior.  I’m trying to teach her the opposite of that.  I am working hard on saying “sorry” when it’s truly warranted, and not just on impulse when nothing is to be sorry for.  I am teaching her that someone treating her unkindly is NOT ok, and she shouldn’t just tolerate it.  We talk about decisions and choices, and how to handle situations.  It’s a learning curve, but I think it’s working well.

I have always believed that almost all bad decisions are caused in some way by low self esteem and insecurity.  It’s hard raising a girl in a world that markets to her by telling her she is too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, not pretty enough, not ok enough.  That’s how companies often market to women.  They play on our insecurities to make us but things to “fix ourselves”.  Look at the beauty industry.  It’s mostly based on fixing our “flaws”.  How do I, as a mom, compete with that?  How do I tell her she is beautiful inside and out, exactly as she is, when the rest of the world is all too prepared to pick her apart?  Growing up, I dated boys who were bad for me.  I was an easy target because I was often insecure.  It took many years, and a big change in attitude before I met the right man for me and settled down.  I had to learn to be ok with myself.  Love myself.  As Rupaul says “if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else? Can I get an amen?”  And it is TRUE.   How do I teach a little girl to love herself more than the world can make her believe differently?  It’s a daily struggle.

I often write her notes on her board.  One recently mentioned that she was kind, smart, and strong.  I noticed a few days later that a school project had her creating a character and describing them.  Her character had the same characteristics I had listed in my note about her.  It hit me that she is listening.  She is looking to me and her father to help her realized what’s good about herself.  I will be working every day to make her see how great she is. Trust me, I’ll still tell her when she’s being a slob, but I want her to feel confident.  Some days, she’ll choose her outfit and leave the house looking like a walking carnival, but if she feels confident and happy, I’m ok with it.

Raising kids is hard.  I joke that my job is to make sure I don’t raise little assholes.  The fact is, it’s pretty true. I have to raise kind, respectful, independent, loving people so that they can hopefully find happiness as they grow up.  That’s a lot of pressure!  I have to raise a daughter to know she is smart enough, strong enough, and wise enough to handle what life will throw at her.  Even if it’s a broken vacuum or a difficult light fixture.  If you can handle the little things, it’s sets the tone for the bigger things.

Looks like I better start learning how to fix stuff, eh?