Tag Archives: parenting

Three Hundred Fifty Eight: Christmas

“‘Waking up to you is like….presents on Christmas morning.’ His mouth curved. ‘For your convenience, I’m already unwrapped. Batteries not required’.”  – Sylvia Day

Thursday, December 25th

Christmas was a day delightfully devoid of smartphones, tablets, tvs, and blogs, and it was absolutely perfect.

The kids woke up early but got a good night of sleep. They were ready to engage in the sport of opening gifts. The rest of our extended family was sleeping elsewhere in the house, so we had to keep the restless youth at bay. There were lots of wiggles and giggles as they had every ounce of our attention.

I loved this uncharacteristic direct link between my children and I. It really is true that kids need less things and more moments with the people that we love. We all need that. I know this, but it is hard to put into practice day after day after day. Another goal for the days to come.

Under what circumstances do others have your sole attention?

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Three Hundred Fifty One: Foster

“Love, Protect, Heal, Strengthen, Teach, Comfort, Uplift, Encourage, Nourish, Guide, Inspire, Cherish, FOSTER.”  – Unknown 

Thursday, December 18th

Tonight there was an end-of-quarter night at my daughter’s school to celebrate the projects the kids have been working on. Four classrooms full of parents converged in a meeting area to watch our kids sing and sign a song about trees. I was seated next to an acquaintance I know from my work on the PTSA, and it felt so good to listen to her talk so sweetly about her busy life with two new foster children. She is so matter-of-fact, like the kids were always there. What a special type of person it takes to foster the healthy development of another, especially a child who has had separation, pain, and abandonment at an early age.

Every time I meet a foster or adoptive parent, I want to tell them my family story. The story of how my mother was fostered for years by a couple that took in not only her, but her three other siblings. It was only recently that I learned that my mother stood in a courtroom at age 12 talking to the judge about the very real possibility of being split up from her siblings – really the only stable force in her chaotic childhood. Her foster parents could be strict, but they provided normalcy and love and structure. My Mom grew up to appreciate those traits and searched out the same for me when she ended up a single parent. The act of love and bravery my grandparents made so many years ago is felt now as their children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren lead normal lives.

Do you know someone who has been fostered or adopted? How has that affected him/her?

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One Hundred Sixty Six: Fathering

 “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

Sunday, June 15th

Fatherhood – the one human experience I haven’t pulled apart with my rampantly over-analytical thoughts. And yet, as Eco puts it, it is the key relationship to the fiber of our being, made up of smaller seemingly insignificant moments.

I have made a collage of my fatherhoods. My godmother was the first person I called “Daddy” (she called out “Daddy’s home!” to me the fatherless child when she returned to the for apartment she shared with my mother). She had encouraged my mother to leave an abusive marriage and travel westwards with her to a new city and a new independent life. Within a couple years I was crawling under the arm of my Dad – the man who partnered with my Mom and stepped in to parent me. He gave me his welder’s cap and showed me how to make stone pavers. He brought me along to the woods to chop firewood and load it into the truck, teaching me about the forest world along the way. Slowly, I learned little smatters about my biological father through the odd story that my Mom would tell about him or through the choice of book that he decided to send me for Christmas. I would analyze his handwriting on the inside page of the book, and wonder why he chose “James and the Giant Peach” and not “Jacob Two Two Meets the Hooded Fang”. I didn’t know any other kids with two fathers, but it didn’t make me feel out of place. I had one present one and one absent one, so the equation balanced out to a perfectly normal and average  household, dysfunctional in all the typical ways.

Once I became an adult, I started to look at fatherhood differently. My Dad could accept that I was physically moving out of the household but was in total denial that I was experimenting with sex, drugs, and…electronica. He had been talking to my much-older (step)brother casually about sex for years, and didn’t quite see the disconnect between how he discussed such matters with his daughter. He was trying to be my brother’s friend, but he was my vigilant protector. It pushed me to free-spiritedness but it is no surprise that I ended up marrying someone who is a rock – stable, practical, and very protective of his loved ones.

My other father taught me the value of being present and active in my children’s lives.  He wasn’t, and has spent years trying to make it up to me for not being interested or involved in my upbringing. I appreciate the effort, but there is always a circuit that is not fully-connected emotionally for me. I can’t help it. It has everything to do with the bonding that happens in those early years and we missed out on that. I see him in my physicality and even in my mannerisms and temperment, but there is and always be a clear divide.

And so I am a very demanding woman of the men in my life. I have distilled my male relationships down to the critical few, and I rely on these men for strength, support, and presence to guide me forward. I give thanks to all my fathers and what they did to make me the woman that I am.

How do you regard your father(s)?

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Thirty Six: Nurturing

hug_Fotor_Collage

“The production of children, the nurture of those born, and the daily life of men, of these matters woman is visibly the cause.”  – Guru Nanak

Nurturing our loved ones is a choice, each and every day, but for me there are days when my expectations don’t mesh with my obligations. I put my desires ahead of my children’s. They don’t understand why my attention is divided and why I won’t help them on the potty or grab their art supplies off of the shelf for them at a moment’s notice. Sometimes the constant stream of requests maxes me out and I bring that stress to my conversations with them. I don’t want my kids to view me as Mama Outburst.

Today, however, was a success. It was my daughter’s second day home sick from school, and maybe I hit my stride after her frustrating first day home. The biggest frustration was that both of my children would run around and expel so much of the energy I wanted them to hold in for rest and repair. So I decided to engage their creative sides, and offer a steady flow of art projects: play dough, making paper dolls, drawing a street map for toy cars, and so on. This gave me time to prepare snacks and get an exercise or two in. I used music and our family YouTube channel to entertain us through most of the day while we crafted. By time the afternoon rolled around, we were all ready for a long snuggle session and some cartoons. Here I was trying to heal them, but their snuggles nurtured my soul to the core.

How do you nurture yourself and others?

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Altered photos from Flickr Creative Commons: Toshimasa Ishibashi; “Lucas with Teta Nabila” by Sherif Salama; and “Morsans nya kompis” by Andreas Eldh

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Thirty Five: Direction(less)

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”  – Lao Tzu

When I quit my job to raise my babies, I struggled to find new terms to define myself. I had always put my everything into my work. It was so much of who I was. That was five years ago, and as I watch my youngest child grow closer to school age I wonder what the workplace holds for me in the future.

My first realization of being a stay-at-home-parent was that I was defined now by who I am and not by what I do. But who was I without this role I had for 8 hours+ a day? So I started to put energy into parenting. I could make it into a job by researching all the aspects of parenting I found interesting; it helped alleve the stress spurning from the physical and emotional demands of raising an infant. Everyone who deemed themselves worthy gave me a performance review, from snickering mothers at the community centers to parenting experts who knew the right way for me to feed, talk, or sleep with my baby. I saw that in order to succeed in this job I would need to be self-employed and answer to what felt right to my husband and I (with the advice of trusted professionals.) I believe that a big part of successful parenting is listening to oneself and building a better sense of self awareness; I know when I am yelling too much at my kids or allowing them to watch too much tv, just as much as I know how good it feels to snuggle up and read or play with them. If I am paying attention then hopefully I will be more responsive to the changes that need to happen for their benefit. That balance is different for every family.

I have tried to learn more about myself while I am at home with my kids. I have taken a number of non-credit classes to see if something piques my interest. I take out an obscene number of books from the library. I know that true happiness, to me, lies in following my own star. I think I am getting good at that, but where is this star leading me?

I am turning back to books. Lately, I’ve been thumbing through Ken Robinson’s “Finding Your Element”. I appreciate how this book is centered on building something greater than a job, rather a daily activity that we are passionate about and look forward to excelling at. I don’t think that this is my problem, honestly. I think that I can find a good match, but I have trouble asserting my worth in the work place. I’m happy when others want me around, but I have never ever negotiated a salary. That’s really kind of sad at my age. While I am not driven by financial gains, I see the value in being rewarded for the valuable services I can provide for an organization. So now the question is: how do I promote and assert myself in interviews?

I have time to figure this out before I start my job search in earnest, but I think I’m going to get a head start and start promoting the volunteer work that I’m doing. No time like today…

Are you passionate about your job? If not, what would be your ultimate job?

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Twenty Six: Shopping with Kids

“The quickest way to know a woman is to go shopping with her.”  – Marcelene Cox

If that is true, then it must also be true that in order to know the limits of this woman’s sanity you must take her shopping with her kids.

I had a gift card that had been burning a hole in my pocket over the last few days, so I packed up the kids and took them shopping. We had two stops before we reached the gift card store, and theoretically I should have been more prudent with my time and kept those stops short. Sometimes I shake my head at myself: I’m 39 and I’ve been a mom for 6 years now. I should know how to balance the need to get out and have a good little shopping session and spending time with my kids.

For the most part, my kids are really sweet and fun in public. We strolled through the thrift store after unloading several bags of donated items. We love thrift stores. They are filled with treasures waiting to be discovered.  My kids know I can lean towards buying ridiculous things, so they don’t think twice about holding up a freakishly-scary clown knick-knack or a dog bowl when we don’t have a dog. (Ahem, there is a reason that Macklemore won a Grammy for “Thrift Shop” tonight; I literally almost bought neoprene kayaking shoes for the Polar Bear Swim I’m going to do 11 months from now.)

My team was already growing weary and snacky in the thrift store, but we had two other stops to make. Arms were grabbing at anything and everything, and wasn’t it reasonable that I should limit how much I  pawed the merchandise. And it all grew much less fun for all of us. We drove over to the shop where I had the gift card, and I was basically like a big gust of wind that blew the kids from one department to the next. I spent out my card and we were on to the last stop, Trader Joes. We had blown making it home in time for lunch and my brood was headed straight for an all-out blowout if I didn’t get them a snack.

Sometimes, I just have to stop where I am and take stock of my attitude. Shifting my perspective is the best thing I can do in most situations to improve things. Now I know this life lesson through and through, but practicing it in the moment can be really tough. I decided to combine this with two other life lessons I know well: one, if me and my kids are grumpy then eat, and two, provide my kids with opportunities to choose. The kids will eat anything from a sample counter; I’m sure I’m not the only parent who has fed their child lunch from the Costco sample counters. They perked up, so I rode this wave of giddiness and offered them the opportunity to choose and carry a snack for later. Bingo! This was now their shopping trip too.

So what have I learned about myself by taking myself shopping? I like to shop alone. I don’t want to be rushed. I need to bulk up on protein beforehand and carry a couple of power bars in my purse. Shopping is a sport, but not a team sport for me.

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