parenting

 
 

Not a Cookie Cutter Holiday

Friday Letter to My Kids ~ May 8, 2015 ~

Dear J, J, L and L,

You know how I was always such a grouch about mother’s day? I’ve decided to give up that silly notion and move on, finally.

I don’t know about other women, but I feel like I came from the planet Venus. Not because I meet some arbitrary list of ideas that some author came up with, but because I’ve never met anyone else like me. There may be other Venusians out there, other Kami-like creatures, but I’ve yet to run into one.

What does that have to do with Mother’s Day? I suppose it’s that I’ve always felt a bit out-of-place and not in my element. I surely never felt like I fit any Mothering Mold. But I’ve come to believe that there isn’t a cookie cutter for Mothers.

Closest cookie cutter shape to a Mom that I could find.

Closest cookie cutter shape to a Mom that I could find.

Mothers take on the shape that they must to meet the needs of their children. At least, most of them do. (I’ve met a few who don’t.) I tried to shape myself to your needs, not consciously, but instinctively. Whether I was ready for the job or not when each one of you came along I molded myself to fit your little fuzzy head and squalling cry. I moved and shaped my days and years to do what I could to make your life a happy one.

Naturally I fell short in that effort simply because I’m a human. And in that shortfall I often felt I’d let you down somehow. Not that I could have done things any differently than I did. I think it’s just part of life that we disappoint those we most love in spite of our very best efforts.

And that’s where my head and heart sat every May when that greeting card angst-riddled holiday of Mother’s Day rolled around. Feeling that I didn’t deserve honor or accolades or chocolates or flowers. Silly, don’t you think, that I’d hold myself to some standard of perfection? I can see now how nonsensical that was.

But having some close calls in losing my mother the past year or two made me think more about mothering. I never felt like my Mom let me down or fell short. She gave me life. She shaped me. She answered my cries in the middle of the night, cleaned up my messes, worked hard at everything she did and somehow still kept loving me in spite of stupid and hurtful choices I made. Amazing!

And that made me think about how much I love the four of you, each in a different, but intensely personal way. I’m proud of each one of you. I became who I am because of your influence and shaping and needs. I’m blessed beyond words to be your mother.

No gifts are necessary. No cards or words or hugs, either. You are my gifts, my jewels, my crowning joy.

Thank you!

All my love forever,

Mom

~~~~~

"Bluebird of Happymess"

The Bluebird of Happymess

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Categories: children, Family, Friday Letter to My Kids, Friday Letters, Friday Letters to My Kids, mother, motherhood, mothers, parenting | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Short Days, Cold Nights

Nothing brings more joy and light into my home than a visit from one of my children. When they bring along their littles and a spouse, even better. The house nearly sings with baby giggles and cries, bubbles over with stories reminisced and glows with the warmth of family relationships rekindled and renewed.

And then all too soon, the vacation time ends. Farewells, hugs, goodbyes all around.

On the very day that lovely family visit draws to a close I feel a bit like a candle blown out, wisps of grey smoke trailing off in the chill morning air. I grasp hold of sweet moments, memories made, review photos snapped, hold close a blanket that snuggled a little one.

Winter light.

Winter light.

But warmth and joy elude me today. It’s like winter sun shining through a screened window. All light and no heat. Odd angles and too much brightness.

photo 3-4 copy 21

Bright but not very warm.

Instead I want to close the blinds and wallow in the shadows for just one day. One day to wish for lost days from years ago. One day to dream of living close to all the birds that have flown. One day to compare the silence to the noise and cherish both, oddly juxtaposed at strange angles.

A glass table adding dimension to the shadow.

A glass table adding dimension to the shadow.

Just for today I’ll mourn all my yesterdays. Tomorrow I’ll be glad again that I’m on this side of it all. I will. I’m certain of it.

At least, I hope so.

Categories: Family, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Naked Crayons and Other Sunny Things

By Simsala111 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

By Simsala111 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Spending time lately with my favorite three-year old I picked up on some of her personalized words and phrases. She’s smart! And I’m not just biased.

Here’s proof.

I mean look at this first word. She says:

Hanitizer” instead of hand sanitizer 

That makes perfect sense and in fact ought to replace the two-word equivalent, don’t you agree?

She hasn’t quite mastered the art of “f” and “v” so she uses an “s” instead.  So, when she asks:

“Please can I have some Sruit Snacks?”

I try to remember to add an “f” or a “v” in place of an “s.” And, voila’ I know she really wants Fruit Snacks.

I think, again, she’s stumbled on something brilliant, since those little bite-sized pieces of candy-like substance have about as much to do with fruit as her version of the word does.

One of her favorite pastimes is watching videos or:

Mooies” also known as movies.

At my house she gets away with watching more than she does at her own house. I’m thinking of hiding “Aladdin” and “Bug’s Life” because I can’t seem to get them out of my head.

By Glamhag (Glass slippers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

By Glamhag (Glass slippers) [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

Oddly, she refuses to watch “Cinderella” or as she calls it:

“Cindergrilla.”

Sounds like a Planet of the Apes version of the glass slipper story, doesn’t it? It once served as her Mom’s favorite movie as a kid and led to the naming of a semi-adopted cat named “Suffer” (another appropriate word-twist.) Someday I’ll convince her to watch it.

When she colors with crayons she prefers the newer ones that haven’t had the paper wrappers ripped off of them. When I recently handed her an orange crayon without the paper around it she laughed and then she said:

You want this book!

You want this book!

“It’s a Naked Crayon!”

Then I laughed, too. Her Mom said she probably got the term from a book they’d read from the library called, “The Day the Crayons Quit” by Oliver Jeffers.

You’d like the book, too, even if you don’t hang out with three-year olds. Drop in to the library and look at it sometime, or buy a copy for your own favorite three-year old. And then next time you pick up a naked crayon, you’ll get to laugh as well.

What a great sense of humor this particular three-year old possesses. I’ve learned to see things with a twist when get to I spend time with her. When she thinks something’s hilarious she even says so:

“Haha, that’s sunny!”

Then I remember to replace the “s” with an “f” and I know she’s found something funny!

Funny and sunny definitely seem related. The more sun I include in my days, the funner my life feels. Likewise, the more fun I remember to schedule in, the sunnier my days.

See, isn’t she brilliant? I sure think so.

Naked Crayons!!!

Naked Crayons!!!

Categories: Family, Humor, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

At School In Your Underwear?

“Always follow your dream! Unless it’s the one where you’re at school in your underwear during a fire drill.”

~Friday Letter to my Kids~

Dear J, J, L and L,

That joke illustrates how I feel about advice. I’ve never liked the one about following your dreams especially. I have some pretty bizarre dreams!

When you started fleeing the nest I promised myself one thing:

“I will not give my grown children advice.”

Maybe, if you asked for it, then I would venture an opinion. Maybe. Otherwise, my lips stay sealed, my tongue unmoved, my pen silent.

If my parenting served you well at all, my advice got hardwired into you as you grew. Any nagging, suggestions or ideas I might throw out at this point in the game act as so much dust on the wind.

Honestly, y’all outdo me so far as parents, as spouses, as decent people in general. By time I was your age, clueless and flailing best describe how I navigated life. Scary thought.

What little advice or tidbits I’ve gleaned and could pass on over the years hang on the walls in my house or I simply live it.

(Except for the bit about you getting adequate education and being fully prepared to support yourself and your family, male or female. Maybe you learned that more from life’s hard knocks. I’m certain I also hammered it in verbally during particularly trying seasons and episodes of our ongoing dramedy.)

Y’all already get it. I think I just need to reassure myself that I actually taught you something. So here’s some of the advice I’m hoping you learned before rocketing into the jetstream of adulthood, in no particular order:

Non-Advice Advice

  1. Laugh every single day if you can.photo 5 copy 3
  2. Sing often and off-key if necessary.photo-26 copy 2
  3. Kindness matters more than you know.photo 2-2 copy 19
  4. Back door friends are the best and necessary.photo 3-4 copy 10
  5. Learn to say no if you need to, and yet…
  6. Pay attention to and follow that gut instinct you get about certain things.photo-24 copy 23
  7. Say yes when you can…photo 1-4 copy 17
  8. Mom loves you forever and always.photo-24 copy 24
  9. Family comes first.photo 2-4 copy 2
  10. Count blessings daily.photo 3-5 copy 3
  11. Learn as much as you can.photo 2-5
  12. Read, read, read.photo 1-7
  13. People outrank stuff every time.photo 1-5 copy 5
  14. When you’re lost or uncertain, look at a map.photo 1-6 copy 2 
  15. Love much and deeply.photo-25 copy 5

 

I’m glad you’ve busted free of some of the not so good behaviors (i.e. bad advice) you could have picked up from growing up as a child of mine. For instance…

You’re all waaaaaay better than me at:

  • living organized
  • having less clutter
  • managing your money
  • getting educated
  • making friends
  • working as a team with your spouse
  • kindness and generosity
  • being like a duck (little things stay little things)
  • sticking to your goals
  • stability
  • optimism

Basically you’re exceeding my wildest hopes and expectations. I couldn’t be prouder of or happier for each of you.

You make my promise to never give advice an easy one to keep. You don’t need any advice. You’ve got this. No worries.

Love ya tons,

Mom

"Bluebird of Happymess"

“Bluebird of Happymess”

 

 “I always advise people never to give advice.” ~ P.G. Wodehouse

~~~~~

 “The quality of any advice anybody has to offer has to be judged against the quality of life they actually lead.” ~ Douglas Adams

~~~~~

“I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisdom from an Almost One-Year Old

photo 4-3 copy 4

I could do this all day. That’s my plan.

I spent some quality and quantity time recently with an almost one-year old. I recommend it to nearly everyone. I learned some profound and not so profound lessons I think I could apply to my life, if I’d just loosen up a little bit.

  1. Water is JOY! Put it in a plastic five-foot circle, a sippy cup, a bath tub or running out of a faucet or hose. It’s the best toy ever! It surprises, cools, splashes, runs, makes music I can dance to. It also has the magical ability to clean everything or transform it into a giant mess
  2. I’ll stop everything if there’s an animal to observe.
  3. Except eating, I won’t stop for anything if I’m in the middle of eating. I probably wouldn’t notice a Tasmanian devil and an animated rabbit in the room if I had food in front of me. I want it. I need it. And I need it fast! Don’t be lollygagging around once you’ve decided it’s time to eat. Oh, and what I loved yesterday, or even at lunchtime, I might turn my head away so it ends up in my ear.
  4. I just need one little foothold to expand my play space from the floor to everywhere else. Chairs, pillows, toys, people, all count as legitimate means to upward mobility and access to all things taller than me. You’ve been warned.
  5. If you want an honest, unrestrained belly laugh just tickle me under my chin. Or kiss me there.
  6. Clocks – schmocks. Nonsense.
  7. I’ll insist I’m not the least bit sleepy even when every indicator for exhaustion is blinking red and making warning noises. If someone can just help me slow down long enough to pay attention to the tired meters I’d probably start snoring before my head reaches the pillow. If you want to hum a soothing tune or gently brush your hand across my forehead for a few minutes I might just fall asleep in your arms. I’ll try not to drool.
  8. Dirty toes, sticky fingers, splotches on my face and spills on my shirt mean I’ve simply been exploring, learning and having an all around lovely time of it.
  9. My smile is all about you and has very little to do with me. I’m happy to see you, I love being in your company. As much time as you want to hang out with me, I’ll take it. All I have to offer you in return in my undying devotion and this smile.
  10. When you go away, even if it is just down the hall or into a small square room with a lock on the door, I’ll feel forlorn and lonely and think the world has come to end. At least temporarily. I’ll probably cry, loudly and with gusto. But when I see you again, all is instantly forgiven and life is good.
  11. My big bulging belly is part of my beautiful physique. It isn’t who I am though. No matter how much exercise I get, or how healthy I eat, my belly insists on being a prominent part of what everyone sees.
  12. I want to move to everything that sounds like music. I may break into dance without any warning whatsoever. If I’m moving around in silly ways that not everyone will interpret as dancing, you’re welcome to move to another part of the room and pretend you don’t know me, or you can laugh. But please, don’t try to video the experience because it’ll just ruin my groove.
  13. I love being snuggled, and held, and hugged and patted on the back. But I need my space. Don’t crowd me. How will you know when to hold me and when to let me go? I have no idea. Go with the flow and take a chance.
  14. I’m going to fall down a heckuva lot. It’ll look like failure, but it’s not. I may whine and cry about it. But mostly, I’ll just get myself up off the floor no matter how awkward it might look, and, if I can remember what I was doing before I fell, I’ll try again. Obstacles abound. Oh, well.

That’s not everything I learned. But it’s a piece of it.

Toddlers. Who knew?

Those little people possess a boggling amount of wisdom for having just barely learned to walk.

Midnight? What's that?

Midnight? What’s that?

Categories: Fun, Happiness, Humor, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Pet Peeved People

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

After Sunday’s hour long downpour and subsequent temporary pond creation, nearly every member of the neighborhood walked past or around or through the park/pond. I couldn’t help but notice how many dogs accompanied the humans. I see people walking their dogs every day all day at the park since it’s right outside our front door. I just had no idea quite so many lived here as I saw concentrated in one Sunday evening. I’d guess three out of four neighbors house one or more dogs.

Clearly, that puts our family in the minority.

Since one of you recently adopted a blingy blond princess dog, (Blondie) and one of you has a ginormous, slobbery, loveable dog named after a beer, (Pabst) as well as a cute but moody cat (Penelope Buttercup) I’ve thought some about the few pets we’ve had over the years.

I suppose first I ought to discuss the elephant in the room, or more concisely, the dog not in the room.

I know, I know, we never owned a dog.

That’s more your Dad’s doing than mine. I’d have probably relented, against my better judgment, if it had just been me making those decisions.

Or not.

There were various dogs in my household growing up, one or two of which produced some slightly traumatic experiences. (Being home alone when the small Beagle began birthing the babies of the biggest dog in the neighborhood didn’t go over well in my pre-facts-of-life brain.)

stunnedSorry. Had to call my therapist and have a conversation there for a minute… (kidding)

Anyway. No dogs for your growing up years. And look, you survived!

Laaaaaa!!!

Cue the orchestra.

Nope. No dogs.

Instead Parakeets blessed our household. Bright green Sunny lived up to his namesake by being a ray of chipperness and laughs. I loved how you used to build Lego mazes for him to search through to get to the inanimate love of his life, a bell. Weirdest relationship on the planet.

image by Testostera

image by Testostera

I’ll never forget when he flew out the open garage door and Little J followed him through the neighborhood, climbed a forty-foot tree (what was I thinking?) and got him to climb on her hand. Completely inspired, she tucked him into her shirt and shimmied down the tree and ran home. Talk about heroic love!

I’m not sure if we can count “Suffer” as a real pet, since it was a stray that hung out by the back door that we occasionally fed. And occasionally bought medicine to put in its food. And occasionally, on really cold snowy days, let in the house if the parakeet was in its cage. It remained a stray when we moved cross-country. I didn’t really feel too guilty sending it back to its free and wily ways of mooching off whatever neighbor took compassion on it.

I learned a few years later that three-year old Big L’s naming of “Suffer” wasn’t in reference to his mangy, tattered countenance, but a reference to Disney Cinderella’s cat “Lucifer.” Say it out loud like you just found a dead mouse and you’ll see where she came up with the name.

Maverick, the blue parakeet, escaped the same way as Sunny, but we never saw feather nor tail of her again. And Blossom, another blue, met a most unfortunate demise, which also might require calls to therapists if I ever divulge in what state I found her.

After Sunny passed away, with the requisite burial in a box in the side yard, we didn’t have any more pets for a while.

That is, until the fish. Teenaged Little J had a spell with that saltwater tank. But it’s tough to bond with fish and crabs and snails. And that thing never smelled very good.

And Little L had that poor oxygen deprived goldfish that was more depressing that cheering, about exactly the opposite of its intended purpose. And then a few other nameless, nothing whatsoever like Nemo the Disney cartoon personality-filled fishies, swam in and out of our lives for a brief spell.

And finally, two more parakeets who, thanks to Dad and his overly generous and somewhat sidetracked nature, flew out of their open cage that he’d set out on the back patio during an extra windy day.

Thus ended the Tilby family pet saga.

A predominate theme with all but the saltwater fish and the cat: Mom did the majority of cleaning.

Ew.

Not happy memories there.

At least with human children the poop eventually becomes the child’s own task. With pets, it’s forever the job of the human to clean up the piles and putrefaction.

Give me kids any day.

Bottom line. I’m happy if you’re happy in your pet-filled or pet-less lives.

Carry on.

Lovingly yours,
Mom

P.S. Thank you for not asking me to experience snakes, pigs, rats, rabbits, mice, hamsters, miniature deer or tarantulas as pets.

photo-23 copy 5

 

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.” ~Christopher Hitchens

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Who-Hair and Other Facts of Life

A few of the Who Ville folk.

A few of the Who Ville folk.

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

I love your Dad. Three decades plus of being together grows Lego-like connections that only fit each other, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, mentally. I can talk to him about ANY thing and he doesn’t go ballistic or get out of whack. He’s a great listener and so very caring and concerned and generous.

MSH, also known as Dad or Pa at our house, loves you more than you can ever know. It’s one of those things you only understand when you’re halfway through your life and have gone through a few things. So just trust me on this one.

I preface today’s letter with those reassurances for lots of reasons, some of them having to do with thongs, hair brushes, speedos, who-hair, corduroy, delegation, advice and perfectionism. Not necessarily in that order. It’s all kind of a twisty mess.

Dad's alter ego?

Dad’s alter ego?

Yes, a twisty mess, kind of like Dad’s hair. I affectionately call it “Who-hair,” as in Dr. Seuss’s amazing little creatures. When your Dad wakes up who knows what his hair will have formed itself into. Bedhead hair is normal for most people. The name who-hair stuck because he so often simply doesn’t bother to comb his hair at all. That’s one of those benefits/dangers of working from home most of the time. All day long he sports a pillow-designed coif, answering the door, sometimes running errands, looking every bit like he just woke up. It’s kind of endearing, don’t you think? A little Einstein-ish.

Funny thing is when I met your father he, quite frankly, was a little vain. He took a lot of pride in how he looked. Always had a comb in his pocket. Checked the mirror frequently. He had this brown velvet jacket that he looked stunning in. Oh my! Takes my breath away even thinking about it this many years later. Yes. Your father cared how he presented himself to the world. I’m not sure when that changed, but it surely did, from day to night. I will add, the corduroy pants have been and will always be part of who he is.

These particular footwear were known as thongs (made in the 70s and 80's)

These set of footwear are called thongs (made in the 70s and 80’s)

That said, he doesn’t change very much. Doesn’t want to. That’s a big part of why flip-flops, those sandal-like shoe things we wear on our feet, will always and forever be thongs in his vocabulary. Known as thongs back in the day, he will call them that to his dying breath. Ironic that his one surviving pair that he loves are, yes, rainbow colors. I find it sad that the world has changed so much that basic innocent words and other things have taken on such odd and disconnected meanings from their origins.

Here’s two things you must remember. And this isn’t just your Dad, it’s most Dads.

Advice = Love

You need to… = I love you

When a sentence from his mouth begins with the words, “you need to,” just know those are really the three little words everyone longs to hear, just in Dad language.

All Dads see part of their role as a fixer, a repairer and an answer man.

If you actually ask for his advice on a topic you’ll make his day. You’re light years ahead if you can simply accept his advice knowing that it really means that he loves you. You don’t have to go along with the advice, but thank him for it, sincerely.  Appreciate the meaning behind what he says. I know that’s a really tough pill for some of you to swallow, but truth nonetheless.

The other Dad-unique thing he’s done is spend time with us watching TV or movies. Just being in the room together, sharing some popcorn or a snack, for him says Love. Dad isn’t  alone in that. I’ve heard of other men who are the same way. It’s not a disconnect in their minds, it’s an indirect way of sharing time and space. And shared time and space equals Love.

Shared Time and Space = Love

One of my most cherished memories is of Big J as a three-year old coming out of your bedroom after an hour of pretend sleeping. Dad would say, “do you need some time with your Dad?” And J, you’d say, “yeah,” in your sleepy voice, trying to hide a grin.

Best reruns ever.

Best reruns ever.

So Dad would break out the chips and salsa and the two of your would sit on the ugly orange plaid sofa munching while watching M*A*S*H reruns. Then you’d snuggle up. Dad would be in his classic pose of lying sideways, legs taking up most of the room on the couch, and Big J would perch on top of him in perfect imitation and fall instantly to sleep.

If that wasn’t love, I don’t know what is.

And girls, those times when your Dad went along with your idea to play beauty parlor, shows his sense of humor as well as his love. He even posed for photos with those bobby pins, barrettes, curlers and bows all over his head. Yet another example of his looking every bit the part of a Who from Who Ville. What a good sport he was. And still is.

I’m rethinking sharing the speedo and hairbrush stories, for now. And the delegation, perfectionism and creativity can wait for another day, too.

If I could sum up your Dad, it’d be in an equation that looks like this.

Dad = Love

It’s true. He’s not like any other Dad on the planet or in the galaxy. He hasn’t ever been a sports dude, or a nine to five guy, but he’s got a ton of love for each of you. More than you’ll ever know. Believe me, that’s the reality of it.

Tons of Love from,

Mom

and

from your Dad

photo-23 copy 5
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ~ Umberto Eco

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Baffled by the White Van of Life

Friday Letter to My Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

Do you remember that white van we owned? The gutless wonder that could barely make it up an overpass without overheating? The one little L christened on our first road trip by barfing all over the middle seat? The same van big J ran over the high school parking lot curbing with and blew out two, or was it three, tires in.

Ours didn't look this bad on the outside. The problems were all mechanical.

Ours didn’t look this bad. The problems were all mechanical.

Yeah, that one.

It had all sorts of fun problems. The muffler issue comes to mind lately. The world could hear us coming in that vehicle from a good half mile away. Not sure why we didn’t replace or repair the muffler. Actually, I’m pretty sure we didn’t have the money to fix it for a while.

When either of the J’s would finally come home from wherever you’d been, work, a friend’s house, an unapproved “date,” we’d definitely hear the van coming. That is until one of you thought you’d figured out we wouldn’t hear the unmuffled engine if you turned it off before coasting around the corner and into the driveway.

Problem was we’d still hear the van coming from further out in the neighborhood, before the engine was turned off. Also, that sort of parking style raised some eyebrows from neighbors who were out and about late at night who mentioned it to us. We should have come down harder on you, grounded you from driving. Seems like most discipline had little to no effect on you.

Go figure.

The most infamous sneaking about done by any of you came from little J.

You climbed out your second story window onto the strategically placed garbage bins below the roofline and out to frolic in the middle of the night. The funny part happened when you couldn’t climb back the way you climbed out and had to ring the doorbell to get inside the house at, what was it, three a.m. Your story that you forgot your key after “going for a walk to be alone” missed the fact that we had a deadbolt lock on that door that could only be locked with a key.

You gotta love the logic of teenagers whose brains haven’t quite yet fully developed.

Honestly, you all know at this point that true logic doesn’t really even exist in a teenage brain. It’s all hormone driven coupled with the “logic” of a three-year old.

I’ve been hanging out with our favorite three-year old lately and she reminds me so much of each of you as teenagers. The main themes are as follows:

  1. I want it.
  2. I want it now.
  3. No I can’t wait.
  4. I need to go pout and feel sorry for myself if I can’t have items one through three and I’ll make your life miserable until I get what I want.
  5. The way I see the world is reality and nothing you say will change that. If I say a dinosaur lives behind the desk that’s the truth of the matter.
  6. Why?
  7. Why not?

Pam, from Oklahoma, used to say about teenagers. “You don’t like them very much for about five years, but you still somehow manage to love them.”

That stage lasted longer for some of you than others.

Honestly, you all weren’t horrific all the time. You each seemed to need to take your turn being difficult to live with in one way or another. And I hate to lump you all together in one crowd because you’ve each behaved so differently from each other.

speed bumpsI remember big J saying you’d bring your friends over to the house if only we had a VCR and a decent TV. So we scrounged and sprung for both and you still didn’t bring your friends over. Much later we learned the real reason you didn’t bring your friends over. Still shaking my head over that stuff.

Little J had such charm and charisma I’m afraid she got away with way too much on cuteness alone. Changing clothes after leaving the house and “losing” your pager come to mind as just a couple of minor sneaky things you did.

Big L used to purposely incite skirmishes with little L out of sheer boredom or revenge. It didn’t matter than I begged you not to bother the sleeping giant, you did it anyway. And yes, I can still hear your revengeful heh heh hehhing in my head.

Little L you provided the final exam to my parenting experiences with the other three. Since I’d learned a few things by then, you had to pull out some never before seen situations that I’m still reeling a bit from. Your need for TIGHT bed covers that never were tight enough and your other need for an always spotlessly clean and organized house, which I failed to provide, come to mind.

Sorry, I didn’t measure up.

Most of what I feel about all of your teen angst and rebellion and mistakes is regret that I couldn’t save you from going through it. I’d have given anything to keep you safe from your own teen dingbattedness. Somewhere I fell short with each of you and that, oh man, that really stings.

And yet, what makes me smile, other than the fact that I somehow managed to get through those parenting years without scarring any of you too badly, lies in the promise that each of you will get to experience parenting teens yourself.

Heh, heh, heh.

I was no saint as a teen. Oh my. Not. At. All. So I probably, well okay, definitely, deserved the thrashing I got from parenting all of you through those same years. You’d think I’d have done better, seen the warning signs, been harder on you, or gentler, as needed. My own experiences should have taught me to be a better parent than I managed.

Didn’t work out that way. Dang. Turns out being a teenager does little to prepare you for raising one.

To quote Pumbaa who’s misquoting Timon, “Ya gotta put your behind in the past.”

So what did I learn from not applying what I’d learned as a teen to my parenting career?

  • I wish I’d been more direct with each of you.
  • There’s no such thing as balance between parents. There needs to be agreement. One parent’s hardness can’t be softened by the other parent’s squishiness. And vice versa. Bad cop, good cop only works on TV shows and the movies.
  • I’m the grownup in the relationship with my kids.
  • It’s okay to expect the best, but I should have been more eyes-wide-open about reality. It’s not easy reconciling the two. It can hurt, big time.

If all parents learned from the mistakes they made as teens, we’d have a perfected society by now. Obviously, we’re all slow learners.

I take heart in seeing what kind, patient (mostly), generous, optimistic and loving adults you each have turned into. Ya’ll came preprogrammed with some great stuff that sat latent for a while. Now look at you.

I couldn’t be more proud.

engine interior

It may as well be Greek, engines baffle me.

That white van reminds me of teenage life. It got us where we ultimately needed to get to, most of the time, but not without some bumpiness and noise, breakdowns and mind-boggling struggles. I can’t tell you how often I stood before the open hood of that van completely snookered as to what went wrong and what I could do to fix it. Same goes for each of you. I’d stand there looking into your face and wonder “what the flippin’ heck can I do to make this work?”

I wish you well in your personal parenting adventures, especially the teen-fraught years. I hope your own version of a white van serves you better than mine did.

Good luck with that. I’ll be praying for you.

 

All my love,

Mom

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 “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” ~ Robert Fulghum

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Climbing, Shredding and Burning

Friday Letter to my Kids

Dear J, J, L and L,

I’ve been “on vacation” for the past two weeks. As you know from personal experience that means, (ninety-five percent chance) staying with relatives. That’s not a bad thing; it simply means that most of our vacations involve family, not visiting Europe or going on a cruise or hitting the slopes or the beach.

We did do some of that. We had some good times on the slopes for a few years. In fact big J practically emerged from the womb skiing, and little J took to skiing like a seed to dirt. I still get this ache in my stomach about J breaking his collarbone on the first day of a four-day ski trip. No more snowboarding that season. The pain of the break, I’m guessing, felt like nothing compared to the pain of watching everyone else racing down the mountain while you had to lounge around at the lodge every day.

Ouch! I hope you’ve made up in quality what you missed in quantity on that trip.

Given that you put yourself to sleep at night by boarding down a specific run makes me feel pretty good about all the days you managed to get in on the mountain after that.

We never made it to the ocean with all of us together. L and L enjoyed that singular experience. Spring break, we found out the hard way, isn’t really the ideal time to hang out in the Pacific. Chilly, fierce waves, a strong undertow, but plenty of space on the beach. We managed to get a sunburn, sand stuck in every imaginable and unimaginable spot including the sleeping bags. One of my other favorite photos ever? The sun setting orange over the ocean in a thirty mile an hour breeze, and L and L silhouetted just so. Good times, good times.

More than a few of our camping trips involved rain, a couple of them fairly significant amounts. North Carolina rains pale only in comparison to Oklahoma rains. Either way, we ended up soaked, clothes hanging everywhere inside the tent, muddy boots, big smiles, flooded lakes or streams. Good thing we cooked over a backpacking stove or we’d have eaten cold food all those times. I loved big L’s computer drawing, back in the dark ages of computer graphics, of one of our camping in the rain events. Wish we could find that. It’d make a great children’s book. Especially the mud monster part.

Let’s not forget, L and L, Queen of the Flame and Little Muddy Foot. Those two young girls will forever be tender spots in my heart of camping hearts.

Rock climbing and rappelling figure prominently in our getaways. Little did I know what I set in motion when I took that wilderness adventure course. I look back now and shake my head in amazement that I looked on as your Dad roped you in and let you climb at Index or scrambled all over Spire Rock or swing suspended from whatever boulder, cliff or mountain happened to be handy. Dad still refers to little J as “our Arachnid” for your epic climbing abilities.

Yes, most of our vacations involved camping in a tent, which isn’t bad at all.

You also got plenty of experience with airline travel, surprisingly, which has come in handy tons of times, and has become old hat for others. Little J had the chutzpah to backpack Europe once and visit Paris another time. Big J now travels regularly for work, getting around airports and big cities as if they’re simply different runs at a ski resort.

Many of our vacations involved road trips as well. But that, oh my, that is another story or ten for another day and another letter.

Wish we’d taken you to Yellowstone. And I’m sorry, but I never could make myself feel comfortable with taking you to Grand Canyon, even though it’s been less than half a day’s drive for the past eighteen years. My heart couldn’t bear the thought of you anywhere near the edge of an impossible precipice. And Disneyland remains elusive as a family getaway, even though most of you have managed to get there on your own.

I’d like to think we’ll somehow manage one last ginormous family vacation with all the spouses and *babygrands. Maybe that’s why family reunions happen; attempts at reliving or making up for the past.

I’m pretty sure we made good use of our weekends, summers and holidays. I hope you feel the same. Those rank as some of my favorite memories together.

Would surely love some more evenings by a campfire with ya’ll again sometime.

All my love,

Mom

 

*babygrands = grandbabies or grandchildren

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“…there ain’t no journey what don’t change you some.”

~ David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

 

 

 

Categories: Friday Letters, Fun, Memory Lane, Outdoors, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Friday letter to My Kids: Going, Going, Gone?

Dear J, J, L and L,

About a year from now all four of you will live in a different state from each other. Already I’m in mourning.

I’d like to think that life will coöperate with my plans to visit one of you at least every other month. I promise I’d keep them short visits, if they’re frequent.

We all know how that plan will work out.

There’s so very little anyone can do to prepare for the experience of parenting. And then after eighteen or more years of figuring it out there’s also nothing that prepares anyone for when those kids leave home, or when they leave the state, or the country.

I need to get me one of these bikes.

I need to get me one of these bikes.

You know that scene in the movie ET? Oh yeah, I forget, some of you haven’t even seen ET. (I truly have failed in your cultural development. We won’t even mention that one of you didn’t recognize a Beatles song when you were old enough to date.)

Here’s my condensed version of the movie, skipping all the exciting but less essential parts and getting to the heart of the matter of whatever this is I’m trying to understand and/or explain.

Forget what anyone tells you about Reese’s Pieces, or frogs, or getting drunk vicariously.

The important scene is the one when ET has phoned home and they send a megaship from the home galaxy to pick him up. He’s way past curfew by, I don’t know, a few weeks. He’ll be grounded for light-years. Anyway, he and Elliott, the main character, have bonded in a Spock mind meld kind of way, ish, and now they are best buddies. Elliot doesn’t want ET to go home. ET wants Elliott to go with him. Elliott wants ET to stay.

Now, pay attention, this is the point of this rambling story.

ET has this glowing heart that he points to and says, “Ouch” as he points to Elliott. Then Elliott points to his heart and says, “Ouch.” Of course, everyone except the dog is crying. And then ET gets that magical glowing fingertip and points to Elliott’s forehead and says, “I’ll be right here.”

I don’t know if I’m ET or if I’m Elliott, but either way, tears and “Ouch” and “I’ll be right here” seem to say what I feel about any one of you being farther away than a twenty-minute drive. A two-hour flight is about all I can tolerate. Don’t even consider space travel.

How will I manage?

You all will be just fine. Your lives will go on. Mine will feel like a train leaving the tracks.

Of course it sounds like you’re all leaving en masse, when the truth of the matter is one of you has been out-of-state for a few years now and somehow I keep breathing. And you’ve all left for a while, and come back and left and come back, ish.

I might have to book a cruise, or an Antarctic expedition, followed by a trip to anywhere that doesn’t involve reality or getting on with my life without all or most of you nearby. Or just as real a possibility as any of those, maybe I can get a flying bicycle…

Let me try a different medium.

We’ll leave science fiction and fantasy and try music.

The Phillip Phillips song “Gone, Gone, Gone” seems to capture some of what I feel about the future and the now.

Sure, it’s a love song, but then, so is being a mother.

I already miss you.

 

Love forever,

Mom

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Have a listen, the lyrics follow:

 

“Gone, Gone, Gone”

When life leaves you high and dry

I’ll be at your door tonight

If you need help, if you need help.

I’ll shut down the city lights,

I’ll lie, cheat, I’ll beg and bribe

To make you well, to make you well.

 

When enemies are at your door

I’ll carry you away from war

If you need help, if you need help.

Your hope dangling by a string

I’ll share in your suffering

To make you well, to make you well.

 

Give me reasons to believe

That you would do the same for me.

 

And I would do it for you, for you.

Baby, I’m not moving on

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

You will never sleep alone.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone.

 

When you fall like a statue

I’m gon’ be there to catch you

Put you on your feet, you on your feet.

And if your well is empty

Not a thing will prevent me.

Tell me what you need, what do you need?

 

I surrender honestly.

You’ve always done the same for me.

 

So I would do it for you, for you.

Baby, I’m not moving on,

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

You will never sleep alone.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone.

 

You’re my back bone.

You’re my cornerstone.

You’re my crutch when my legs stop moving.

You’re my head start.

You’re my rugged heart.

You’re the pulse that I’ve always needed.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum my heart never stops beating…

 

For you, for you.

Baby, I’m not moving on.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

You will never sleep alone.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

Baby, I’m not moving on,

I’ll love you long after you’re gone.

For you, for you.

You will never sleep alone.

I’ll love you long, long after you’re gone.

 

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum, baby, don’t stop beating.

Like a drum my heart never stops beating for you.

 

And long after you’re gone, gone, gone.

I’ll love you long after you’re gone, gone, gone.

 

~ This song was co-written by Derek Fuhrmann, Todd Clark and Gregg Wattenberg.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters, Love, parenting | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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