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Creating Happiness

This year I started off super antsy. After coming out of a year where the family and I took an amazing trip back to England, I came eager to travel some more. I always come back from England, where I was born, feeling nostalgic, yearning for a simpler, more country based life, and feeling a strong pull to go back. January has felt like it’s been 85 days long already, and I found myself starting the month off NEEDING change in whatever form I can get. I need some change, and I need things to look forward to. It brings me happiness.

I’ve always been a firm believer that one CHOOSES to be happy. As someone who grew up struggling with depression and anxiety, I had to make some solid life changes. It had become so bad I was in a very dark, sad place. I woke up one day and realized just how bad it had gotten, and knew something had to change. Depression is much deeper than a simple attitude shift, trust me, I know. That being said, the first step for me in learning to manage and come out the other side of depression was to find ways of changing my mindset. The first thing I needed to realize was that I can’t always change a situation, but I can change my mindset about how to deal with it. I can choose how I look at things, or research things to learn to see things a different way. Once I started choosing and really trying to look at things from different perspectives, I noticed a break in the doom and gloom. It helped me to start the process of managing things much better.

My mom once told me…”no matter how bad things get, someone is always worse off than you”, which helps to keep things in perspective sometimes. I remember my dad recounting a story of when my parents when to a huge business dinner in NYC. The dinner was a big deal, and mother, despite being in terrible pain from a degenerating disc in her spine, was determined to go. She needed a cane, and was struggling to walk. My father looked at her, struggling, and said “maybe we should just go back to the room and forget the dinner….you don’t have to put yourself through this”. My mother turned and said “I’ve been looking forward to this dinner for ages, and remember, no matter how bad things get, there is always someone who has it harder, or worse off than me. I can do this!”. Just then the elevator door opened, and inside was a man who only had one leg. My mother glanced at my father and proceeded to head to dinner. She knew that happiness is realizing what you have, that things could always be worse, and being grateful that your struggles are your own. Someone once said if everyone threw their stuggles in a bowl, most of us would all grab our own back. Frankly, we don’t know what others are dealing with, and at the end of the day, struggles are often minimal when you see what others are struggling with. I am an oft repeater of “silver linings!” Even when things are bad, one can usually find a silver lining if they look harder enough. Even if it’s a small one.

But I digress.

Winter is a tough time for many, especially those with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. While I don’t struggle like I used to, I do make a conscious choice to plan things to look forward to. Why? Because on a bad day, I can look at my calendar and despite the busy chaos, I can see a vacation, a trip, or a school event I am happy about. This reminds me that happy days are ahead. I am excited to go visit my dad soon. This usually also entails not only a happy time with him and my step mom, but also a dinner out with my close friends I don’t get to see very often. Always fun. I am excited about a family vacation I have planned. While it won’t be cheap, it gives me a goal, something to work towards, and something exciting to share with the husband and kids. I have a few day trips planned, one just by myself, to spend a day wandering and sight seeing. There is a school field trip I am chaperoning, which made my daughter beam ear to ear when I told her.

These trips and events keep me looking forward in a positive manner. I LOVE my job and what I do, but I have stressful days like everyone else. On those stressful days, I remind myself those extra hours or that hard work is earning me money towards a vacation. When I am cleaning the house (which admittedly I’m not great at….have you seen the title of my blog?) and I find change people have left everywhere, I am at least excited to put it in the vacation fund. When January hit and stomach bugs and flu arrived at our house, I console myself that we’re getting it out of the way now and will be healthy again hopefully for the happy events planned. Having something to look forward to brings happiness.

Not only do I plan the event, I plan little, simple things about it that bring me joy. Some of these revolve around food. That probably explains why I am working on losing some weight….10 pounds down so far! For example, the trip to NYC I have in mind. I am already planning and excited to go to Tea and Sympathy for dessert. Why? Because they have one of my favorites there. It’s a British tea shop, and their rhubarb and custard reminds me of being a kid in England. When visiting my dad I always go for fajitas at my favorite place. It was a place I used to go to with my mom. While the food is delicious, the memories it conjures up are happy ones spent with my parents and friends. Happiness is a feeling, and being as sentimental as I am, I always lean towards it.

Looks like it’s going to be an exciting (and yummy!) year!

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Getting Ready for the UK

So we’re in the 24 hour mark.  I can’t believe our big vacation is upon us!  I, like usual, am in chaos.  In all honesty, I’ve done a lot.  Picked up all the little things we need but often forget before a trip.  Travel bottles for shampoo/conditioner, small toothpaste, a luggage scale, snacks for the kids, earplugs, etc.  I put the travel alerts on my credit cards, notified the cell phone company, did all the check ins online for the car and the plane.  I bathed the dog, made sure we had food and supplies for the animals, had keys made for the house sitters, and made sure I have my GPS preprogrammed for the trip (it was WAY cheaper to have the rental company ship me one to use rather than deal with it over in the UK).3

I’ve also answered the same questions from the kids 80 bazillion times, so much so that I just typed out an itinerary for my daughter to follow so she knows what’s happening when.

I’m pooped.  

I still have to drop the dog at the sitters, drop off keys, feed the kids and get them showered, and then begin the packing.  Oh yes, and tidy the damned house.  Did I mention I am working tomorrow morning too?  Why NOT work right before a major overseas trip when you have tons of stuff to do?  I am rethinking my choice there.  

Packing isn’t horrible, it’s just SO time consuming.  Why? Because I have to sort through everything, pack it, and then start unpacking when I realize I’m being ridiculous and don’t need all the masses of stuff I have packed. It’s a process, that’s for sure.  Wellies? I need those.  I also need my heels for a party, and shoes to wear each day, but do I need more than one pair for daily use?  And so it begins.  A suitcase piled with shoes.  One that my husband will gaze at with lifted eyebrow before telling me I am being ridiculous.  I will realize he’s right, and begin to sift and rethink everything.  Before you know it, it will be late, so late, and I will cry from being over tired, as if I’m a little kid again.  He will tell me to go to bed, and I will gratefully do so, only to frantically get it all done in a few minutes before we leave for the airport.  I’m a last minute kind of girl.

I’m thinking it might be a good idea to get off here and go get stuff done, don’t you agree?  See you all soon!

She Can Do It All, Until She Can’t

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I grew up the daughter of parents who never made me feel I couldn’t do something just because I was a girl.  I was taught I was equal to men, could hold my own, and to be fiercely independent.  I lived in a two parent household, and my parents stayed happily married until my mother died.  Of course, there were some stereotypical roles that fell into place.  My mother was a stay at home mom, and my dad worked to support the family.  My mother cleaned the house to spotless perfection and looked after me, dinner was on the table each night at 6, and she was the arranger of all the plans.  My mom was the glue that seemed to hold us all together.  My father traveled extensively for work, sometimes even for weeks at a time, and my mother was always the figure in the home who held down the fort.

With that being said, my mother always made it clear that she had been the primary breadwinner before we moved to the US.  I knew she stopped working to look after me, and also because it made more sense financially.  She always told me to make sure I was ok on my own if I ever needed to be, and to make sure I always had my name on the house, cars, and other assets as well as my husband.  She’d had friends who had gotten divorced and ended up screwed because they hadn’t looked out for themselves as well.  In other words, while my parents lived in many ways an old fashioned set up, I was always taught to be a modern, independent woman who could look after herself, and why that was so important. I also learned that I could be a good wife, a good mom, and that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do just because I was a girl.  Women in today’s society are told we can have it all, the career, the family, the home, and all that comes with us.

We can.  Many women do.  But sometimes, it’s really hard.  Like, really, really hard.

I hesitated to write this, because it’s hard to be vulnerable.  Usually when I admit a vulnerability, it gets thrown back at me.  That being said, I am who I am, and unapologetically so.  I own my mistakes, I own who I am, both on my best and worst days.  The other week someone tried a jab at my parenting when I “lost” my daughter.  (More on that in a future blog). Yet still, I owned it. At the end of the day, I am bluntly, without apology, or explanation, myself.  With me, you know what you are getting.  My filter isn’t very good, and my face will say my thoughts anyway.

So with all the things.  The work, the parenting, the house, the jobs, the peopling, the endless obligations that have stacked up….it’s gotten to be a bit much to manage on my own. My husband is always supportive of me in everything I do, but he works long hours and our schedules are opposite, so much of the stuff around the house and scheduling the kids falls to me.  I am trying to hold all the pieces together of the life puzzle and I ran out of hands.  I’m left tired and drained.  They always say on a plane to put your oxygen mask on first so you can help others.  I have been doing the reverse and I ran out of air. The more I couldn’t focus on a few things, the more everything started to spiral where it got to be just a bit more to manage.

This week I hit a wall.  I’ve only had it happen a few times in my life, but this week was one of them.  This week something snapped.  The year of yes came to a crashing end and I just wanted to say no. I looked around and for all I was doing, it just wasn’t amounting to what it should.

And I stopped.

I cried a little, I’ll admit it.

And then I did what I hate doing the most.

I asked for help.

I hate asking for help. I always think it’s an imposition.  It feels like I am failing at something, and I sort of hate that.  The funny thing is, I always encourage others to ask for help, and always am willing to help others.  I suppose we are always hardest on ourselves, right?

I’ve suffered from depression since I was a teen.  I went through some very bad times with it, went on medication, until I finally got it under control.  The fact is, I will likely always have it, but for the most part I rarely suffer these days.  I haven’t been on meds for it for years, but I do stay very mindful of when it feels that it’s starting up.  Yesterday I realized I need to stop and breath.  I looked around, and realized I needed to ask for help to ease the burden of things for a little while.  I called my dad and said I wanted to come visit and have a mini vacation.

I had an honest chat with my family and the response was amazing. I said I am overwhelmed, and they stepped up to ask how in turn they could each help. That’s family. Even the little things stack up to help.  This morning, my husband offered to run the kids to camp and returned home with a coffee for me.  He called from work to check in, just to make sure I am ok.  He knows that usually, I keep it all together, but when I am struggling, he is there to check in…just to make sure I am hanging in there and to see if I need anything.  The reminder that he is there to back me up and lift me up if I fall is a great source of comfort.

The next week or so is going to be busy.  Much to plan, to do, and to coordinate.  That being said, I will be pausing to breathe more, saying no when I get overwhelmed, and asking for help if I need it.  I will try me best to take care of me a bit better than I have been.  Maybe I’ll even use that gift certificate for a massage my aunt sent me.  Seems like a perfect time to use it.  Rest and recharge amongst the chaos, so I can minimize the chaos.

Yesterday, when I felt my worst, I looked around at ALL the THINGS that needed doing, and I felt like a failure.  My mom had always made things seem so effortless.  I look back and realize how much I took for granted.  I realize I looked at her and she made it all seem so darned easy.  I came home from school to find my laundry done, the house clean, a meal on the table, and I never really comprehended the amount of work that went into making all of that happen.  I also realized she would have told me that while she was a stay at home mom, I work full time.  I have less time for some of the things than she had. I know she would have reminded me of the times when she seemed short with me or stressed that she too struggled with getting it all done.  She would also remind me that sometimes, you just have to go and take a nap and figure it out later.

When you grow up and you watch your mom do it all, you think you can too.  There is a big push on social media and the media in general to be the mom who can be perfect.  Everyone portrays themselves to be super moms.  They post and pin and they present the perfect outside image.  Their immaculate houses, their vacations, their endless smiles.  The fact is, I’m sure there’s a lot of women who feel they too need to pause, take a deep breath, and escape from it all for a few.  To not have ALL the THINGS in their heads and to do lists every moment.  So I’m waving to those ladies, from my yard that needs weeding, my house that needs cleaning, surrounded by all the jobs I need to do but have no time to do them in because there’s only so many hours in a day. I hear you. I see you. I’m one of you too.

 

It’s her birthday

Today would have been my mom’s birthday.  I think we’ll take the kids for ice cream.

I always try to find something happy to do on days like this. They kids know I miss her, every day.  They know that some days, I get a bit sad.  Sometimes, I miss her enough that I may get a bit teary eyed, usually when I realize she is missing something amazing. Grief is a tough thing to show kids, and to talk about with them.  It’s important to let them know that grief is normal, natural, and ok to go through.  In fact, it’s important to go through it.   What I don’t want, is for them to think that it’s ok to get lost in the grief, to wrap the grief around you so tightly that you don’t let the joy in.  It’s easy to do, especially as someone who suffers from depression. If I am not mindful, I know I can get too deep in the grief.

The past few years, we have done fun things for her birthday, to celebrate life.  One year we took a trip to the lake to my aunt’s house.  Another year, ice cream at Carvel.  Each was a simple joy that taught the kids that I want to celebrate my mom in small ways.  If the mention of her is always tinged in sadness, they will associate her memory in a negative light.  I choose to associate her memory with happiness and treats, laughter and funny stories.  It makes it easier for me, and frankly, she would hate if her memory was carried on in a sad light.  She was much too vibrant for that.

To be fair, got teary eyed for just a few brief seconds, and I’m not sure where it came from exactly, but I am back to feeling positive and looking forward to spending the night with my husband and kids.  My favorite 3.  I have so many wonderful things to be happy for, so many wonderful memories of her to share, and knowing her as I do, I know that would be the very best gift I could have given her.

Happy birthday Mum.

 

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.

playborhood.jpg

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.

 

She’s a Bleeder! A Hungry Bleeder! And on the PTA?

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I should have known.

The moment on Sunday morning, when my husband laid next to me in bed and said “I’ll have to see if the fridge is cold”, that it was going to be that kind of week.  At first I looked over at him and lowered my glasses…thinking his statement was similar to “I’ll have to see if a rock is hard”.  But then…realization kicked in.  My eyes widened, my mouth opened.  “The fridge is broken?!?  Oh NOOOO!”

Look.  I’m not a monster, but I’m a (relatively) healthy woman with curves.  I like food.  To be honest, I didn’t realize how much time the fridge and I spent together in a day until it died.  I make dinners, snacks (husband does school lunches), but I go in the fridge a lot.  Suddenly, there was a freezer that worked, but strangely, no fridge.

We spent Sunday going form store to store looking for a fridge.  Do we get a cheapo fridge to tied us over for a while until we eventually got something we loved?  Do we get what we love?  Do we get that sweet ass fridge that was wicked expensive but you could knock twice on the window and it would light up a drinks compartment?  Our budget set the tone.  We ended up with a great fridge that had what we wanted, lots of space, and no water dispenser.  Why? Because we didn’t want the hassle of getting someone to hook it up.  Do you know how hard it can be to find a fridge without a water dispenser?  No easy feat.  The only issue? It won’t be delivered until Saturday, so I’m using a bar fridge for a few days.  I feel like I am back in college but there is no tapioca pudding in there.

To add insult to injury, I also got sick.  Effectively, when I breath, it CRACKLES.  If you need to imagine yourself by a roaring, crackling fire, just have me come stand there and breath.  The crackling is no joke.  My voice is wrecked too, which means I fluctuate between Herman Munster and some high pitched squeaky baby voice.  Interesting, considering that I teach classes online.  Every day is a surprise!  I never know what sound will emit from my head.

Something else I wasn’t expecting to emit from my head was blood. I was sitting in my office when I realized I got my first nosebleed.  I ran to the bathroom, leaving a blood trail.  Then, I coughed. I coughed so violently, blood went EVERYWHERE.  Now I look like I got punched in the face, there is crime scene looking blood splatter, and I don’t really know what to do, so I start wiping it up, while i’m bleeding. Then I hear my daughter so I shove paper in my nose and frantically start cleaning before she sees it.  She comes down just as I am getting up a big plop of blood on the counter, and seems amazed I have never had a nosebleed (She gets them somewhat often).  I start to feel the cough coming, so I jam my face in a wad of toilet paper to catch the spray of blood while I hack and wretch violently.  Of course once one of these coughs starts, it just won’t stop.

“You should probably sleep with an ice pack and a bucket” she says, kisses my shoulder, and heads up to bed.

I just cleaned up the blood trail in my office.

I hate blood, by the way.  Hork.

Nosebleeds can be kind of scary but mostly are kind of funny.  What makes the body just go…”ok, bleed through one of those front smeller holes!” And one size of your nose just becomes a disaster?

But again, I digress.

Our school district is under complete chaos.  I’ll write more about it probably tomorrow, after I’ve rested and mulled it over.  Tonight, however, I am left with decisions.

Y’all, they asked me to consider being one of the PTA moms.

ME.

You know that scene from Bad Moms when Mila Kunis is trying to get the kids to school, and the dog ends up having to go to the vet, coffee is spilling, life is chaos, etc?  That’s my life.  Only I’m chubbier, drive an SUV, can’t walk in heels anymore and need more coffee to survive. In other words…I’m the antithesis of the stereotypical PTA ladies.  Hell, I’m not even a lady.  I’m the mom who accidentally drops an F bomb without realizing it (and then honestly not caring that much).  I am the mom who makes it to the functions, just in time, screeching in to the parking lot and running in the door while rubbing lipstick off my tooth with my finger (because I’m British and have a snaggletooth…the struggle is real, y’all). That being said, I make it.  I’m calmer now, and I’ve got this two kids deal in control much more of the time. I’m a full time working mom, with two kids, a husband with an opposite schedule, and I do what I can. I do my BEST.  Sometimes my best sure doesn’t add up the way I want it to, but my best is what I’ve got.

The PTA moms find me to be ok.  I’m that mom they warn their friends about before meeting me, but they seem to like me.  I’m the mom that took on coaching the boys soccer team when nobody else wanted to step up.  I make it work in my own way. My kids are polite, well behaved, so they know I must be doing something decent.  I think I have a reputation for being direct and honest. I say what I think, but I look at both sides of things.

But PTA? With my already having no time self?  I dunno.  Part of me wants to be a part of something great for the school, especially during a tough time the district is going through.  I want to show my daughter and son I can do it. Maybe I want something warm and fuzzy to melt my cold little heart.  Plus, I’m kind of honored they want me to consider it.

I have some things to mull over.

Right after I clean up those blood spatters I just noticed on my floor.

 

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.