Posted by: Kim | August 17, 2019

I Know Where The Time Went

There are three things you can count on seeing this time of year on Facebook: 1. Summer-bashing, fall-idolizing seasonists who insist on posting about pumpkin-spice-this and countdown-to-Christmas-that, 2. Fantasy Football frenzyists (I like making up words in my spare time) who clearly can’t wait for the regular season to begin, and 3. Moms of school-aged children who post first day of school pictures and pose the stereotypical and rhetorical question, “Where did the time go?”

No offense to everyone who writes those words (which means I’m about to offend everyone who writes those words), but I don’t think we really want the answer because in reality we all know better, and I think many of us (myself included) feel pangs of mom-guilt as a result. So why do we keep asking as if we really have no clue how time passed without us realizing it, as if our inability to notice has all been beyond our control, as if we’re looking at our children the way we look at that single sock that comes out of the dryer after we know it entered the washing machine with its twin? It’s not a mystery. Time doesn’t “go” anywhere. It’s with us all the…ahem…time, and its consistent, predictable, irreversible passing fills us with everything from anticipation, excitement, joy, dread, regret or sadness depending on what “it” is that we’re experiencing at any moment.

Time lumbers as slowly as a pregnant woman struggling to stand during those 9 months of morning sickness, swollen bellies and feet, middle of the night trips to the bathroom, mood swings, hangry episodes and compulsive nesting rampages. Probably even more slowly if you’re a prospective adoptive parent waiting for your soon-to-be child to be born and/or for the courts to muddle through the legalities of adoption.

It rocks along with us during those quiet, shadow-filled middle-of-the-night feedings and diaper changes, when all we hear is the creaking of our chair, our soft, lullaby-humming voices, the steady tick-tock of the clock on the wall and our thoughts wondering if we’ll ever sleep through the night again. It’s also there during those not-so-quiet colicky nights when all we hear is the screaming of our child and our thoughts screaming for peace and sleep and begging for someone to take this wailing waif away for just a little while.

Time crawls along as our babies become independent and curious and their own number one health hazard, and we spend our days teaching, playing, corralling and saving them from their fearless ambitions to eat everything they find or climb everything they see.

It toddles steadily as we chase our unsteady new walkers around the house or the yard or anywhere else we happen to go and try to (unsuccessfully) convince them that sitting in the stroller or cart makes life easier for all of us, even though we know it makes it easier only for us and way more constraining – and frustrating – for them. (This is when we bring out bribes like snacks or special toys that appease them for about 17 nanoseconds, by which time they realize none of this is allowing them to get out and run away).

Time runs alongside us as we’re off to play dates and preschool and peewee soccer practices, and it does its best to reign us in so we can spend some calmer moments reading stories, playing games, watching whatever it is that’s all the rage and, for those lucky enough with tired tykes who nap, to manage to get something for ourselves done…like maybe read one page of a book before realizing, dammit, those toilets need to be cleaned and laundry needs to be folded and the kids will probably want to eat some kind of meal before bed.

It drives with us to school and music lessons and dance lessons and practices and games and concerts and performances and meetings and conferences. Then time escorts our kids to dances and football games and parties and dates on its own because our chauffeuring services are no longer needed. And before we’ve figured out what time has been up to, it leads them from our homes to their first dorm rooms and towards lives that are no longer a part of ours (well, except for the financial part, that is).

And it’s then when we shrug our shoulders, shake our heads and ask, “Where did the time go?” But we know the truth: Time didn’t go anywhere without us. It’s been ticking away right next to us while we’re busy either trying to ignore it or wishing it away or begging it to slow down.

We can’t wait until our nine months of morning sickness, heartburn, food cravings, unpredictable bladders, swollen feet, sore backs and Braxton Hicks contractions are over…until we’re in labor and then we want that to be over before we can yell “Where the hell’s my epidural?!” We pray for our newborns to sleep through the night because we’re tired of being tired, and we long for the day we can go out without our hair looking like Einstein’s and clothes that aren’t covered in baby food, snot and that piece of a mashed-up Cheerio or gummy fruit that stuck to our backs after we picked up our toddler. We get sick of the constant mess of toys, games, books and art supplies strewn about the house and we curse stepping on Legos and Play-Doh and finding glitter everywhere, longing for the day our house may look like those in the latest Clearly Children Don’t Live Here magazine. We are too exhausted at night to be excited to read stories or check homework or bake 5 dozen cookies for whatever our kid told us at 7:00 pm her class needed tomorrow morning. We look forward to when we no longer have to be in three places at the same time and when we can stop organizing carpools because our kids can finally get themselves to where they need to be. And while all this is going on, in the back of our minds we tell ourselves “You’re going to miss this someday.” But in the front of our minds, the part that speaks loudest to us at moments like this, we say “But I wouldn’t miss it right now!”

We tell our kids to hurry up, to stop dawdling, to “come here right now,” to finish dinner, to get in the car, to get out of the car, to do this and that faster. And then they do. They grow up and we miss it because their growth comes in those little moments, those often exhausting, frustrating, super-chaotic moments where they are learning to be the independent, creative, caring, responsible people we’re trying to teach them to be. And then, just when we’re enjoying the human beings they’ve turned into, they’re gone. It happens to most of us if we’ve done the jobs we’ve hoped to do. It happened to me three times already and it will happen again in two short weeks when we move our baby to college. And my heart aches while at the same time it’s so full of love and happiness for all my kids who have moved away and onto the rest of their lives.

Their time with me is done. Now their time is all their own to manage – to take, to save, to bide, to waste, to lose, to kill, to wonder where it went. And I pray that when they’re parents they’ll be more careful with it than I was – that they’ll pay closer attention to its passing, that they’ll treasure with their children the moments I once wished away with them. I hope they will have learned from the mistakes made by all those parents who’ve come before them – those who didn’t understand until it was too late.

But will they?

Only time will tell.

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Posted by: Kim | July 28, 2019

Real Moms of College Freshmen

Pretty soon we’ll be seeing posts from people sharing links to articles and blogs offering helpful and healthy suggestions to parents (mostly moms) who are dropping off a child at college for the first time this fall, encouraging us to be supportive, patient, understanding and excited for our child’s new-found independence even in the midst of our own (assumed) sadness. With all due respect to the good intentions of these advice-givers, they’re about as helpful to a mom of a college freshman as ice chips are to a mom in labor. I’ve been through three college freshman move-in days and am facing my fourth (and final) in just a couple of weeks, and I can tell you putting into practice their well-meaning advice is as easy as it was as putting into practice any of the words of wisdom in What to Expect When You’re Expecting that followed those that said, “Congratulations! You’re expecting!”

There is no “This is how you beat the ‘my-baby-is-abandoning-me-for college’ blues” cure that fits all of us. Some moms are buying themselves a case of wine to celebrate the fact they’ve successfully seen a child into his/her legal years and are rid of the immediate obligations and frustrations that came from getting them to that point. Some are buying themselves a case of wine because they know it’s harder to miss someone if they have their friends, Merlot and Chard, to spend quality time with. Some are buying themselves a case of wine simply because it’s just what they do on a Friday. All valid reasons.

All moms are different and the experiences we’ve had raising our kids are different, too. The ones we read about in books or see on TV way more often than not don’t match our reality. So don’t worry about what you’re “supposed” to do and how you’re “supposed” to act. You have earned the right to make this moment your own just as much as your child has. You have endured morning sickness, stretch marks, labor, colic, temper tantrums, carpools, PTA meetings, school dances and carnivals, teacher conferences, Girl Scout cookie sales, sports practices and games, music lessons, sleepovers, concerts, plays, marching band competitions and last minute trips to Walmart to buy food for the class party your son had promised everyone you’d provide two weeks ago but just got around to telling you about at 10:00 the night before.

So don’t be afraid to have a meltdown when you say goodbye. Remember when you told your kids it was time to leave the park/playground/pool? Or you asked them to share their toys with their siblings? Remember the screams of “Noooooooooo!!!! I don’t wannnnnna!!!!!” followed by the dramatic floor-flop, the flailing of arms and legs, the scrunched-up red faces and subsequent sobs that emanated from those tiny bodies who just earlier in the morning, when you finally let them have a Pop Tart with breakfast, told you in their cutest, most darling voices ever that you were the best mommy in the world? Long hugs, getting choked up as you’re helping your child unpack, ugly-crying when it’s time to drive away and leave him/her behind…they’re all acceptable forms of allowing them to relive those moments from the other side of the tantrum.

But don’t be afraid not to have a meltdown either. It’s ok – and probably healthier – if you are so happy for your child that it’s impossible to be sad for yourself. It’s also ok – and definitely healthier – if, because your relationship has been strained, that you’re looking forward to the emotional break you and your child need to take from each other. A mother’s heart is big and complex enough that it carries an ample supply of both joy and pain intermixed with the abounding love it holds, and which of those dominates her feelings at any given time is the one that happens to be momentarily winning the emotional tug-of-war game that is constantly going on inside of it.

The truth is, there is no right or wrong way for us to handle our children growing up and moving out and leaving behind pieces of their childhood for us to box up and stick on a shelf. There’s no one way of coming to terms with the fact our role as a mom has forever changed – that our kids will (hopefully) always need us but never again in the same way they did the first 18 years of their lives. There’s no multi-step process that teaches us how to celebrate the young adults they’ve become while mourning the loss of the little people they once were. There’s no way to stop the memories that rush back when walking past an empty park on a beautiful and quiet Sunday morning and being able to hear the sounds of our kids playing and laughing and screaming “Again!” when we pushed them on the swing or hung on to them while riding down a slide. And there’s nothing wrong with us if those memories make us smile or make us cry. Or both.

The more I think about it, dropping a child off at college for the first time – whether it’s your oldest or your youngest – is very much like giving birth. There’s a lot of labor involved, which usually includes an excessive amount of sweating and, occasionally, swearing. And even though you’re trying to cram your child and her belongings into a tiny room instead of un-cramming her from your tiny womb, there’s a considerable amount of pushing required. But when the hard work is over and it’s time to hold that perfect, beautiful person in your arms, instead of whispering in his ear “Hello, little one. I’m so glad I get to be your mom. You have my heart and I’ll love you forever,” you whisper “Goodbye, little one. I’m so glad I’ve been able to be your mom. You still have my heart and I’ll love you forever.”

And there’s no book, no article, no words of advice that can prepare you for that.

Posted by: Kim | June 19, 2019

Unsubscribe

There’s something about sitting on a beach and gazing at the ocean while your husband is somewhere at the bottom of it (hopefully learning how to successfully SCUBA dive) that allows you the chance to do things you just don’t have free time to do when you’re at home, like unsubscribing from all of the emails you never meant to sign up for, or those you did mean to sign up for and now regret because they inundate your inbox every. single. flippin. day. It also gives you a chance to think thoughts that are as deep as the sea in front of you or the pockets of the people at your resort who are here for their annual two-week visit.
Today it’s making me think about the need for all of us – whether we think we need it or not (count me in as usually one of those “not” people) – to unsubscribe from the demands of our daily routines, or the toxic people in our lives, or the stressors that don’t allow us to be who we want to be, or the cruel thoughts we often think about ourselves that tell us we’re not good enough, smart enough, attractive enough, loved and valued enough, worthy enough or just not enough enough.
If you’re familiar with the Enneagram, you’ll understand when I say I’m a 3 – The Achiever (if you aren’t familiar with it, Google it and take the online quiz. Better yet, order the book The Wisdom of the Enneagram. It’s a fascinating personality profiler and the most accurate one I have seen). Achievers are, according to this theory: “The Success-Oriented, Pragmatic Type: Adaptive, Excelling, Driven, and Image-Conscious.” We 3s feel valued when we are seen as being capable, reliable, and accomplishing what we say we’ll do and then some, ideally before we say we’ll have it done. Like all personality types, there are times when our tendencies can be healthy, positive and fulfilling and times when they aren’t so much…or at all really. Like, for 3s, when our need to remain driven and focused and to accomplish overrides our need for rest, relationships and pursuing things that bring us joy. Oh, sure, there is joy in finishing a project or knowing you helped someone by doing some task, but it’s not the same as the joy you can get from zooming around the Caribbean in a Hobey Cat or having free cocktails served to you at a swim-up bar. Our habits can bring us closer to the happiness we deserve (yes, deserve!) and the people we love, or they can take us far away from both. So when we feel the tide pulling us away from the kind of life we want, maybe it’s time to unsubscribe from the behaviors, thoughts and people that are not allowing us to be, as author Mathew Kelly says, “the best version of ourselves.”
It’s not easy to do this. I know. I’m awful at it. I like to achieve. To do. To work long after everyone else is finished. And I know I’m not alone. Too often most of us get so caught up in all the stuff we (tell ourselves we) have to do, we (tell ourselves we) don’t have time for the stuff we really should do. You know, the stuff we would want for our kids- like a job that makes them happy instead of rich (although both are ok!), or a place to live that feels like home (but not actually at home when they reach a certain age), or a partner who allows them to be themselves, or the ability to travel, or time to just connect with their friends, family or even themselves. I’m not sure why we decide we don’t need these things for ourselves, but it seems we have a much easier time seeing their need for others but not for us. It’s not until we finally get the chance to get away for awhile from all of those distractions that prevent us from being our authentic selves, to see all those things that are really important. They are usually right in front of us…like this ocean I’m still looking at…and to be able to focus on them means we need to unsubscribe from all those things that just really don’t matter.
So tomorrow I’m looking forward to a less-cluttered in-box. And maybe when I get back home, I will have a less-cluttered week. Ok, well maybe after catching up with all the work I’m not doing while on vacation and my son’s grad party next weekend… See? I’m awful at this. But for now all I need to think about is if I should stay by the ocean or move to one of the pools, when I should reapply sunscreen, which book to read, which tropical drink will be first on my list this afternoon, where we should eat dinner tonight and if my husband will be resurfacing anytime soon. As for all other decisions and responsibilities, I’m checking the “unsubscribe” box.

Posted by: Kim | January 14, 2019

Marching Band Deserves a Sporting Chance

As the mom of four kids who were involved in marching band their entire high school careers, I’ve argued for a long time that marching band should be considered a sport. If you (or kids you’ve raised) have ever spent several hours of practice carrying an instrument and perfecting your ability to play exactly the right notes while taking exactly the right steps and ending up in exactly the right position, followed by putting on a uniform and then having only one 8-12 minute chance for you and every single one of your teammates to get everything you just practiced perfectly right at exactly the same time for a group of judges whose job it is to pick apart everything you’ve just done and to reflect your collective accomplishments – and failures – in a subjective score, I’m willing to bet you’d agree. (For the record, my willingness to bet is only slightly stronger than my willingness to run, which, if I haven’t mentioned before, is non-existent).

Marching bands seem to be like sports teams in so many ways; band members spend hours upon hours practicing and playing together, often in extreme temperatures – anywhere from 90-some degrees during band camp down to temps that are in the single digits with wind chills by our November holiday parade, although sometimes those extremes can hit in the same week (#Wisconsinlife). They face the physical challenge of marching around a field during hours-long rehearsals while carrying an instrument and holding it in exactly the right position, as well as the mental challenge of memorizing all their music and each precise step they need to take during their 10-ish-minute drill.  Their directors are equivalent to coaches, the support staff to assistant coaches and the drum majors to team captains. They ride in buses to their competitions, wear uniforms, compete against other bands on a field, earn scores and win trophies. They compete in state and national championships and have banners hung in their school gyms when they succeed at those high levels.  They have dedicated fans who don their favorite band’s “spirit wear” and cheer them on from the stands. And their parents travel to every venue and pay every entrance fee to sit for hours on bleachers, sometimes sweating, sometimes freezing, while pretending to be able to identify their marcher in the crowd of matching uniforms, shakos and plumes.

Yet unlike other teams, marching bands aren’t afforded the ability to make and recover from mistakes, missteps or miscues during competitive performances. They don’t have an hour of playing time to win a competition. They have about 10 minutes to display the highest level of performance ability possible and that’s it. If a marcher is sick or injured or doesn’t show, there are no substitutions. If someone is over-heated or tired or twists an ankle, there are no time-outs. The director doesn’t send in a second or third string anybody. Nobody else knows how to play another person’s position, so if someone can’t participate, you don’t get a backup player…you get an empty space in the formation.

There are no star players in a marching band either. Sure, there may be soloists or small ensembles who are featured, but those people’s names are never announced or written in a program. Nobody stands out from the rest. As a matter of fact, an important part of a successful marching band show is having marchers who don’t stand out from the rest, because if they do it means something went horribly wrong.

When it comes to scoring, there’s no objective way to determine who places first. Bands don’t score goals or make baskets and they can’t play any defense; as tempting as it may be for player to run into the field and take out a tuba during another band’s performance, I’m pretty sure that would warrant a couple yellow flags and time in the penalty box if those were even things in marching band. Band members can only perform their unique show to the best of their ability and then sit by as other bands attempt to do the same.  And when they’re all done, a panel of judges decides which band performed better than the others. If every band performed the exact same show, this would be more of a straight-forward task, but that’s not how it works. Music, drills and props differ from show to show and the number of instrumentalists and color guard members vary from band to band, so there’s no way to make true side-by-side comparisons. When two or more bands execute nearly perfectly their respective shows, it ends up coming down to the judges’ preferences in show styles. And there’s nothing a band can do to affect what a judge thinks about their choice in music and visual presentation.

And the spectators, well we understandably cheer most loudly when our favorite band is on the field, but we also clap and cheer for every other band as well. Because we know that despite our culture’s need for winners and losers, every kid in every band deserves recognition for their hard work and pursuit of excellence despite what scores or caption awards their band earns.

At the end of a marching band competition, there aren’t reporters clamoring for photos or chasing down the winning director for a quote either.  No MVPs are named. The fans don’t storm the fields to find their favorite marcher and get his or her autograph. The director isn’t doused with Gatorade (which I’m pretty sure is just fine with most of them). The state champs aren’t thrown a parade (at least in our town) and are welcomed home only by a collection of parents and fans who stand by the door cheering for them as they walk off their buses into the school.  And while their trophies and awards pile up in the band room, they are never put on display in the high school’s main trophy case, which is reserved for athletic recognitions.

Maybe that’s why marching band isn’t given the recognition and respect I think it deserves. Marching band defies our understanding of traditional sports, of what winning and losing means (a band can win a competition, but that doesn’t mean the other bands “lose” it), of how our society views physical activity (hard work is not directly proportional to dirty uniforms in band) and physical fitness (kids of all shapes and sizes participate in band) and gender-specific teams (marching band is obviously co-ed and the gender identity of its individual members doesn’t matter at all) and the value placed on beating an opponent.

And perhaps that’s just as well. Because while band kids appreciate and celebrate winning like (other) athletes do, that’s not the reason they play. They don’t join marching band to prove to others they can be better than anyone else; they join to prove to themselves they have the ability, the drive, the focus to be better than they used to be.  And when I think about it that way, I can’t help thinking that marching band is more than a sport. Marching band is a discipline. It’s an art. It’s a tool that can be used to shape how young people see themselves and others. It’s a medium through which they discover that the rewards associated with working hard and with achieving excellence don’t have to come from defeating anyone or anything except the notion that what they do isn’t valuable, isn’t meaningful, isn’t anything but the rewarding, fulfilling, character- and leadership-developing, discipline-enforcing, team-building experience it is.

I’m so grateful my family took advantage of the opportunity to learn this.

I wish more did.

Posted by: Kim | September 20, 2018

The First of Lasts

There are many things people post on Facebook that make others cry – poignant sayings, tributes to loved ones who’ve died, stories about abused animals, images of natural disasters, videos of military heroes returning to their families and, of course, things like election results and snow accumulation totals in mid-April. But this past spring it was a picture posted by our school’s band director of a few chairs and music stands in our band room with a caption referring to that day’s first marching band rehearsal for the upcoming (now current) season that got to me. That rehearsal was to be the first of what will be many lasts for me between now and the end of the school year, when my youngest graduates from high school and prepares to head off to wherever his plans and ACT scores will take him and our money.  And though I’ve been well-aware this time’s been quickly approaching, I didn’t expect a simple picture of an empty room to flood my head with memories and my heart with emotions that would spill out my eyes and onto my keyboard.

Since 1997, my four kids have attended a total of nine different schools. During my kids’ early years, I volunteered in classrooms, served on PTAs and PTOs, was a homeroom mom who planned class parties and events, helped organize and run fundraisers, served as a football and basketball team mom, donated food for teacher appreciation days and chaperoned field trips and dances.  Throughout the 11-year span of my kids’ high school years, I’ve been serving on our band booster board, volunteering with our drama and choir departments, working with other parents to plan the annual all-night lock-in for our graduating seniors and had a short stint as a football mom during my youngest’s freshman year.  And while I’d like to say I took all these things on for the good of the kids and our schools (which IS true), I’d be lying if I said I didn’t say I also took these things on for me. I wanted to be involved in my kids’ school lives enough for them to know I was paying attention to what they were doing, that I supported their activities and wanted to know who their friends were. I felt the need to make connections with our schools’ teachers, staff, coaches and other parents, to feel like I was somehow contributing to our schools and teams and arts programs, to give me a sense of purpose beyond keeping my own kids alive and my house standing. And in the process of perhaps taking on a bit too much at times and over-scheduling my volunteer calendar, I’ve met an amazing community of teachers and parents, several of whom I now consider close friends. We’ve spent hours together in meetings, working in concessions booths and at an untold number of events, running fundraisers, developing severe cases of bleacher butt from sitting at games and marching band competitions, applauding our kids during performances and celebrating those rare times we don’t have some kid-related event with adult conversation over coffee or wine (ok, usually wine). And while all of this has been going on, I’ve gotten to watch children learn, develop and grow; kids who are now interesting, fun, engaging young adults I’m lucky enough to still have in my life.

And in just nine months, all of this…all of what I have allowed, for better or worse, to define such a great part of who I am will simply, quietly and unceremoniously end. I will have spent 21 years being a part of multiple school communities (four different schools at the same time at one point) and, as a dear friend who hung up her “Super Volunteer” cape in June when her youngest graduated after her own 21-year stint observed, I’m not even going to get a watch.

Although I know I can’t speak (or in this case write) for everyone, the parents I’ve gotten to know through shared toil, sweat (or sometimes hypothermia) and tears don’t do these things for the recognition. Which is good because there is none except for possibly the occasional eye roll from our kids as they silently scream, “Good God there she is AGAIN!” when they see us serving up lunch during band camp or climbing on their field trip bus or flinging open the downstairs door during a cast party with a bowl of chips in one hand, a pan of pizza rolls in the other and an offer to explain to them anything in Cards Against Humanity they may not yet understand (even though there’s plenty in there we don’t understand ourselves, nor do we probably want to). And we don’t do them because we long to be run ragged, spread thin and walk through our days exhausted because we stay up too late baking for banquets, assembling raffle baskets and creating SignUpGenius links. No, we do it because we love our kids and our schools and being a part of something more than just our own selves and families. We do it because we’ve found purpose and a sense of belonging and friendships that have lasted years and, with any luck, will continue long after our kids are gone.

As I’m reminded throughout this upcoming year that this will be the last marching band competition, the last play, the last concert, the last committee meeting, the last parade and the last all-night school graduation party I attend as a parent, these past two-plus decades of my life will flash before my eyes, and I’m quite certain my eyes will give away the emotions that come with those final moments (thank Ulta for waterproof mascara!).  Because saying goodbye to all of this doesn’t just mean saying goodbye to my kids’ childhoods, it also means saying goodbye to this role I’ve embraced all these years. It means living in a house with too many empty bedrooms and too many boxes filled with keepsakes and too few actual people. It means redefining my purpose and priorities and trying to figure out where to channel my energy and free time, which are definitely not going toward home improvement projects, yard work or training for a marathon. It means wondering if I’ll be able to sustain old friendships or how I’ll develop new ones without the common bond I’ve shared with so many for so long. Sometimes thinking about this upcoming “empty nest” phase is just as intimidating as it was holding my firstborn and wondering what parenthood was going to be like and if I had what it would take to be a good mom, or at least one who didn’t screw her up too much.

But I guess I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Moms tend to do that, don’t we? Out of habit, usually born of necessity, we’re always anticipating, preparing, thinking ahead to what needs to be cleaned or baked or signed or who needs to be dropped off where, and we too often forget to enjoy what’s right in front of us, unless it’s that cup of coffee or glass of wine I mentioned earlier. I believe we would be better off if we stopped thinking about what’s next and started looking at what’s now, even amid messes and noise and filthy uniforms and calendars so full we can no longer read the actual dates. Because soon enough it will all be gone and so will our children who brought this chaos into our lives, and, with them, the community of schools and teams and the parent-friends who’ve helped us get through it all. Sometimes it takes a picture in a Facebook post to help us realize we’re going to miss that just as much as we’re going to miss our kids.

Posted by: Kim | May 13, 2018

Mother’s Day Musings

Ah, Mother’s Day. That one day of the year moms are often served breakfast in bed by their little ones and pretend to love Lucky Charms-topped peanut butter toast and orange juice that doesn’t have champagne in it. It’s the day our significant others may remember to buy us a card and flowers and we smile so we appear appreciative while secretly being irritated because they spent money on something that will die and an over-priced piece of cardstock with someone else’s words written on it – money we could have spent shopping for ourselves or for getting a mani/pedi or massage or maybe going to a bar with some friends (or, let’s face it, all alone). Mother’s Day is also when we get gifts from our kids we didn’t have to think of, make or buy ourselves – like painted rocks, or coffee filter and pipe cleaner butterflies, or glitter-laden cards, or homemade gift certificates that promise a clean(ish) room provided we don’t look under the bed. And for those of us with older kids, we may (if we’re lucky) get a phone call so we can enjoy the gift of vocal communication as they apologize for not being able to be with us because they are working and also for not getting us a gift because the reason they are working is they are either saving for college, are in college or they are paying off college loans and can’t afford to buy anything.

I know I can’t speak for all moms, but based on what my friends and I have talked about over the years – during chaotic play dates, rain-soaked football games and bottles of red wine – and what I’ve read in articles about “What Mom Really Wants for Mother’s Day,” I think it’s safe to say there’s a majority who do not want what Hallmark, jewelry stores and flower shops tell our families we need to make us feel appreciated.

What we really need is to be left alone. At least when our kids are little. It’s true anyway for those of us who are/were stay-at-home-moms during our kids’ baby/toddler/pre-school/we-are-the-sole-reason-for-this-woman’s-existence-and-the-cause-of-her-slow-decline-into-insanity years, and I can only imagine it’s similar for those who juggle a job on top of changing diapers, feeding kids, reading bedtime stories, helping with projects and trying to keep the house from looking like a family of raccoons busted into Toys R Us. It’s not that we mind pretending to be asleep while listening to our family make breakfast in the kitchen. It’s just that while we are waiting we are wondering how long it’s going to take for us to clean up because the “And you don’t have to worry about doing anything today” line may be well-meaning but we all know it’s total bs. And while we know our significant others have good intentions when they leave us all alone with the kids on the Saturday before so they can go out “to take care of something,” in truth, most of us would happily give up the presents and take instead an hour locked in our bedroom with a book, a glass (bottle??) of wine and a “Mom has left the building” sign on the door. Hell, even 20 minutes to take a shower, get dressed and put on makeup without an interruption is a welcome gift! When our children are little, there is something to be said for the “Absence makes the heart grow fonder” theory of mommy-hood. As a matter of fact, it might be more appropriate to say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder and prevents mom from jail time,” although, looking back, jail time may not have been a bad option. Having our clothes picked out daily and all our meals prepared and cleaned up for us would’ve been a welcome change, and it’s not like we slept uninterrupted or went to the bathroom without the door wide open anyway.

Yet, when our kids hit the teenage years, our Mother’s Day wish changes from wanting an hour to ourselves to longing for an hour of time with them – 60 full minutes without the distraction of their electronics and our “to do” lists and without having to coax, beg or bribe them to do this. By this time in our relationship, they are probably as tired of hearing us remind, nag, yell and enforce consequences (translation into teen lingo: punish them) as we are of doing it. We all dream of going through our children’s years without having to be the bad cop, without losing it after telling them 1,384 times to carry their dirty clothes out of the bathroom instead of leaving it piled up somewhere between the toilet and tub, or that they’re just as capable of actually opening the door to the dishwasher to put their dirty dishes in it as we are, or that dusting their rooms doesn’t mean blowing the dust from one surface to the next, or that we pay for their phones so they can communicate not with their friends but with us, ideally before we’ve had one of these “textersations”:
Mom: Hellooooo? Have you seen any of my past seventeen texts asking when you’ll be home?
Child:
Mom: I know you answer your friends’ texts the nanosecond after you receive them, so either I need to start worrying or deciding how long I’m taking your phone away from you when you get back.
Child:
Mom: Can you at least type 1 for “Yes, I’m alive” or 2 for “No, I’m no longer of this world”?
Child: 1
Mom: OK, so when will you be home?
Child: Well you don’t want me texting and driving so I guess as soon as you stop asking me all these questions. Also, can I stay longer?

We want them to be able to see us for the fun, non-confrontational people we long to be. We want to be able to sit with them and tell them how step-on-a-Lego-with-your-bare-foot hard being a mom is, how we know we often get things wrong, how there are so many times we’ve lost it when we wish we wouldn’t have, said things we wish we could take back, acted Jack-Nicholson-in-The-Shining crazed when we wish we would’ve just walked away and counted to 10 (or maybe 10,000), or how we wish we would’ve spared the life of their Pillsbury Doughboy doll instead of cutting off its arms to teach them a lesson about why it was wrong for them to continually cut up their shirts while sitting bored in their first grade class (definitely not a stellar mom moment right there). We desperately want to explain why it is we can seem like the “cool, fun mom” to their friends while all they see this totally un-cool, un-fun side of us: because we are so entrenched in our commitment to raise them to be kind, honest, hard-working, responsible people, we take it personally when they don’t seem to get it, forgetting that their brains are still developing and we weren’t created to be perfect. So, we take it out on them even though we’re disappointed with and mad at ourselves for our own perceived failures. We want them to know we forgive them way before we forgive ourselves for our imperfections and that even though we seem to be out to ruin their lives, we would give ours up 100 times over for theirs because of how fiercely and completely we love them. Moms with teens just want to be heard and understood – much like they do, I guess. But we’d take simply being tolerated if it meant having that precious time together we were desperate to give up a few years before.

Then, when our kids grow up and move out and start living their own lives, and those Mother’s Days when we were all together – even those chaotic ones we naively wished away – are now just tucked away in our memories, we often find ourselves wishing for a do-over. Wishing that we knew then what we know now – that those little creatures we gave birth to and did our imperfect best to raise would become people we loved to spend time with and wanted to know better and missed like crazy when they were gone. And we look back and realize that if shoes had been left a mess in the mudroom or beds had gone unmade or we had to do extra laundry because our kids got soaked in puddles or dripped ice cream down their shirts, they’d still likely have turned out ok and we would’ve been a lot less stressed out. Maybe we would have even enjoyed those breakfasts in bed if we hadn’t been concerned with getting syrup on our comforter and we would’ve been more excited to open those gluey/glittery cards if we weren’t thinking about what a mess they were making all over the place.  But there are no such things as “do-overs” when it comes to being a mom (except for when you become a grandmother, or so I’ve been told); we can’t re-live our kids’ childhoods so that we can un-do the mistakes we made. We can only do our best to be the kind of moms our kids need now.

Because they still need us. They need us to encourage them and support them in their schooling and career choices, even those that won’t make them six figures or the promise of job security until they retire. They need us to let them know it’s more important to us that they’re fulfilled in what they do than in how much money they will make doing it. They need us to be supportive of their choice of partners, even those we wouldn’t pick for them ourselves, if, of course, those partners treat them well and make them happy. And if they don’t, our kids need for us to be honest and to tell them that, even if we know they may hate us for it. They need to know if they are sick or stressed or overwhelmed by life, we will be there for them. We will do what we can, spend what we can, give up what we can to help them make it through whatever storms life churns up. They need to know that by doing this our goal is to help them become stronger and healthier and better equipped to deal with future obstacles, not to make them dependent on us again. They need us to rejoice in their accomplishments and encourage them to embrace life’s adventures, even if those adventures will take them hundreds or thousands of miles away and our hearts are breaking for ourselves just as much as they’re bursting in excitement for them. They need to know we are proud of them – not for what they’ve done, not for what they’ve won, but for who they have become – even if they don’t fit the mold we foolishly tried to squeeze them into when they were little. They need to know we adore them for who they are and that we’d be their mom all over again if we had to go back and start from the beginning. Only we’d do it much better this time.  They need to know how grateful we are and blessed we feel for being able to celebrate Mother’s Day as their moms. And they need to know that while our nests may be empty, our hearts never will be because we are carrying our children in them wherever we go. Still. Always.

Posted by: Kim | February 16, 2018

The Girl Who Lived

When my oldest was in kindergarten, back in 1999, I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to her. It was our special time together – just the two of us sitting on the couch and reading while my younger two napped or the two of us snuggled in her bed after the others had been put down for the night. Throughout the years we kept reading – at first only me to her, but soon she was reading to me and we took turns telling each other the story about the young wizard boy who, with the help of his good friends and the adults who looked out for him, fought the evil that lurked inside him through no fault of his own – that whispered to him in the darkness, that taunted him, that took away what mattered to him the most, that told him they couldn’t coexist, that one would have to die in order for the other to live.  We read together page after page, chapter after chapter, book after book until the last one, which she snuck into her room after we returned from picking it up at midnight from Walmart, and read to herself until 3:00 am while I tried to sleep before my sister-in-law’s wedding the next day. I was a bit disappointed she decided to finish without me, but at the age of almost 14 and with her childhood disappearing as quickly as footprints in the sand wash away with the rising tide, I understood.  I came to grips with the fact we had already shared our last story together. I just wish I had known it at the time.

And so she grew and graduated and moved out and moved on. Her life wasn’t perfect – she juggled school and work and activities, which brought on anxiety that worsened her senior year – but she sought treatment and was young and smart and talented and pretty and had her whole life ahead of her. After college she found a new job and a new life in a new city. And she was happy. Or so I thought. Until I found out she wasn’t. This past fall, when distraught texts turned into desperate phone calls that lasted into the early morning hours with me staying on the line until she cried herself to sleep, my husband and I knew she wasn’t just struggling. She was drowning. So she took a medical leave from work and came home where we could help save her from the current of despair that was pulling her away from everything that made her happy.

Except we couldn’t. And we watched as she drifted farther and farther away. Like the terrifying Dementors in the Harry Potter series, Depression lurked in the darkest parts of her mind – the parts that kept telling her how ugly she looked, how un-loveable she was, how meaningless her life had become – and it drained every bit of hope, peace and joy out of her. During the day she’d spend time with my supportive sister- and mother-in-law, and she’d be able to mostly function, but when I’d come home from work I would watch her melt into the couch and become practically unable to move. The place where we once had sat reading to each other all those years before she now either lay sobbing or staring at the wall night after night as I sat trying to understand, to reason, to convince her she looked like she always had, that she had so many people who loved her, that she was young and had so much to look forward to…all things that would make sense to her if Depression hadn’t been so effective at preying on her insecurities and doubts. If it hadn’t convinced her things were so hopeless that all she wanted to do was to fall asleep and not wake up. If it hadn’t made her say the words that will probably haunt me forever, “Mom, I love you and Dad but I just don’t want to be here anymore.” Damn that brutal, cruel, wicked, heartless monster.

Despite the recent trend to be more open about mental illness, Depression, like Lord Voldemort in HP, is still our society’s version of “He Who Must Not Be Named.” At the same time our oldest daughter was at war with this demon, our younger one was suffering from what we’d end up learning after several consults and medical tests is a condition that mimics a brain tumor and causes similar effects: excessive pressure in her brain resulting in severe headaches and vision and balance problems. And while we felt we could talk openly about the serious medical condition she was dealing with, talking about our other daughter’s Depression and the treatment she finally sought for it seemed wrong. Depression hides itself in a cloak of stigma and misunderstanding and an implication that whomever it possesses is a fragile “snowflake” who just needs to get over herself for Chrissake! While we don’t think anything of someone taking a leave of absence from work or school to be treated for cancer, for example, we are much less tolerant of someone needing a “mental health day”…or week…or, in her case, a couple of months. I’m not sure why. Maybe mental illness scares people because there are so many manifestations and none of them can be fixed simply by walking into urgent care and out with a prescription that will make a person feel better in 24 hours. Many mental illnesses (but certainly not all) are much like drug or alcohol addictions – they can eventually be managed and controlled but, as of now anyway, can’t be cured.  Let’s face it…people aren’t really trying. How many runs or walks are there for schizophrenia? How many silent auction fundraisers for eating disorders have you heard about? How many ice bucket-type challenges are there to raise money for people with OCDs or benefit dinners held for people with anxiety? Yeah, I can’t think of any off the top of my head either. Mental illnesses don’t usually offer the hope of being cured, so what’s the point, right? Someone like my daughter may always need medication or therapy (or both) to help her keep Depression dormant and faces the prospect of waking up every morning worrying the sonofabitch will reemerge, praying for just one more day of being able to see a flicker of light in the darkness. Perhaps imagining a life like this for ourselves or those we love makes us feel so uneasy that we need to ignore it, shun it, shame it out of existence, yet all we end up doing is ignoring and shaming the people who are already living it.

Whatever the reason, talking about what our daughter was going through didn’t feel right and, frankly, because living the experience was exhausting enough without rehashing it, we shared the details of what was happening only with our immediate family, our pastor and vicar and, eventually, a few close friends. Thank God for them! As we were met with more and more questions about why our oldest was home or what was going on with our family or how our younger daughter was faring, and as our oldest was recovering and seemed more open to talking about it in general terms, I felt a little more at ease sharing some of what she – what we – had been going through. And I was astounded at the number of times I heard “I’ve been where she has” or “My daughter/son is going through the same thing.” I was relieved to know other people understood what our family had been going through, yet at the same time I was perplexed that we all still feel the need to remain quiet on an issue that is clearly so prevalent. If we don’t start talking to each other and to our kids about mental health issues, I fear Depression will become the new number one “Silent Killer.” We need to stop silencing ourselves.  While I’m not a fan of “hashtag campaigns” because I have yet to see one come up with a solution to the problem its attempting to draw attention to, maybe it’s time to see #ustoo out there. Depression often manages to slither its way through multiple family members, and even when it only confines itself to one person, there’s no way the rest of the family isn’t affected by the cruelty it inflicts on the one they love. We are all in this together.

I could write pages about the daily emotions Depression’s hold on my daughter had on me;  anger, fear, insecurity, sadness, hopelessness, hatred and strangely enough, gratitude. Gratitude for my job that kept my mind off things for a few hours each day, for my family’s support, for the compassion my friends offered, and for the grace from God I could still see despite everything. For life, in all its messiness and imperfections, is still a treasured gift.  But this story is not mine.  It’s hers. And with courage, purpose and faith she has spoken up and written about it in her own blog, The Blonde Roast Blogger (please, please, please read it!). In doing so, she has learned it’s a story more people than she ever imagined could write as well.  People she hasn’t seen or spoken with for years have read her blog and reached out either publicly or privately to say, “this is my story too.” It’s hers. It’s his. It’s theirs. And because those of us who love them can’t help being taken along for the hell ride, it’s all of ours.

“The Boy Who Lived” is the title of the very first chapter of the very first Harry Potter book. Those were the first four words I read to my daughter when she and I began sharing the story of a young wizard boy whose parents had been killed by an evil dark lord but whose own life was spared because Voldemort’s curse was no match for the unconditional and absolute love that came from Harry’s dying mother and protected him from harm.  Yet his mother’s love could not protect Harry from everything – not from being neglected, bullied, afraid, feeling alone, being hurt, or from losing people he loved – just like my love was not enough to protect my daughter from the punishment she took from Depression’s abuse. Yet, with the love and help of his friends, with what he learned from his professors and others wise enough to counsel him, from the strength and courage he found within himself, from the hope he saw in his future and with a lot of magic, Harry fought against the Dark Lord and remained “The Boy Who Lived.” And with the love and help of her friends, with what she learned from her doctors and others wise enough to counsel her, from the strength and courage she found within herself, from the hope she finally saw in her future and with a lot of faith, Dani fought against Depression and became “The Girl Who Lived.” And here we are, all these years later, sharing a story together again.

 

Posted by: Kim | August 7, 2017

Summer Daze

“It’ll be much better next year when he’s three,” my neighbor assured me as she watched me climb in and out (and in and out and in and out) of the kiddie pool with my toddler while she sat casually dangling her feet and watching our girls, who, as soon-to-be-kindergartners, needed adult supervision but not intervention. We used to make weekly trips to the local pool together – her with her 9- and 5-year-old and me with my 9- and 5-year-old…oh, and my 8-year-old…and 2 ½-year old. It was not only a great way to keep our kids active and entertained outside of the house while beating the summer heat, it was a fantastic opportunity for me to build upon my list of “fun family activities that are fun for everyone in the family except the mom.” It’s not that I didn’t enjoy watching my kids splashing and swimming and laughing and playing with their friends instead of sitting in front of video games or TV shows. It’s just that doing so required a lot of work on my part, including (but not limited to):

  1. helping get everyone in his/her swimsuit
  2. stuffing a pool bag with towels, pool toys, brushes, cover ups and extra clothes
  3. tracking down goggles, one set of which always seemed to be missing
  4. amassing enough snacks and juice pouches to keep everyone from starving in the three hours we’d be gone
  5. putting together a diaper bag with swim and regular diapers, a hat, toddler toys and books, a sippy cup, the blanket that was always required when taking a nap and all the miscellaneous things needed to keep a young child happy for a full 15 minutes
  6. slathering 4 kids and myself with sunscreen
  7. piling our pool paraphernalia, a stroller and all four kids into the van
  8. running back into the house at least twice to grab our pool pass and whatever else it was I forgot
  9. driving to the pool
  10. finding a place to park, which wasn’t always easy at a pool with no parking lot and nestled in a neighborhood
  11. unloading everyone and everything and then trekking to the pool entrance without losing track of a child
  12. sending the older boy into the men’s locker room while walking with the baby and girls into the women’s locker room and praying he’d make it out on the pool side without needing me to send in a search party
  13. yelling “Don’t run and be careful!” as the older two ran carelessly to the “big kid” pool and the third one climbed into the kiddie pool as I got the little one and his toys ready for the water
  14. spending maybe 30 minutes playing in and around the pool with the toddler, followed by 10 minutes of changing him, 10 minutes feeding him a snack and 10 minutes getting him to fall asleep in the stroller
  15. helping the 5-year-old in the bathroom while my neighbor kept an eye on the sleeping boy
  16. getting snacks for the other kids who were now hungry
  17. spending nearly a full 5 minutes sitting with my neighbor by the pool talking about what it would be like when we no longer had to work so hard to have “fun”
  18. wading back in the pool with the awakened toddler and keeping him entertained until nothing could entertain him anymore
  19. managing to find the right kids and at least most of their things when it was time to leave
  20. gathering up everything and everyone for the trek back to the van
  21. explaining ONCE AGAIN as we left that no, I did not have money for the ice cream truck that sat outside the entrance/exit EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. and that no, their day would not be ruined if they did not have a Bomb Pop or a Spongebob ice cream with gumball eyes treat.
  22. cramming the kids and their stuff back into the van and climbing in to listen to the joyful sounds of them complaining about how hot the car was and asking me when the air conditioning was going to start working (which was always followed by me telling them it wouldn’t work until they were all very, very quiet)
  23. returning home and starting a load of all the wet towels and swimsuits while the kids destroyed the bathroom taking showers as I unloaded the cooler, pool toys, diaper bag, etc. and wondered if Cheerios and fruit would really make a terrible dinner because that’s all my energy level would allow me to prepare that night
  24. thanking God the kids and I survived another day at the pool just before one of them bounded down the stairs and asked “Can we go back tomorrow? I think I left my goggles in the locker room.”

I remember thinking those days would last forever.  They didn’t. That day was 14 summers ago.

When my mind fast forwards through all our summers since then, I catch glimpses of bubbles and sidewalk chalk, sprinklers and Slip ‘n Slides, bikes and Big Wheels, workbooks (oh, how the kids LOVED those) and library books, trips to the park, baseball and softball games, tennis and drum lessons, Vacation Bible School, Girl Scout camp, dance camp, confirmation camp, marching band camp, football practices, church mission trips and family vacations. Sometimes I wish a Hogwarts pensieve was a real thing so I could stick my head in it and re-live those moments that seemed so boring or ordinary or frustrating or exhausting (or any combination of the four) at the time. Because instead of seeing them through the eyes of a harried and agitated young-ish mom, I’d now see them through the eyes of a mom who often purposely borrows large-print books from the library because she’s no longer young-ish. And she’s not as harried or easily agitated as she used to be when her life revolved around keeping kids entertained and alive while maintaining just enough sanity so her kids didn’t return to school and begin their “What I Did This Summer” essay with “I barely survived Momzilla.”  That mom would appreciate those days now much more than she did then because she’d realize they’d vanish as quickly as those chalk pictures on the driveway did after a summer rain.

I imagine most moms who stay(ed) home with their kids during the summer know what that’s like. You start June praising Pinterest (Family Fun Magazine for all of us from the pre-Pinterest era) for all the creative and fun ideas you have planned for your little cuties, and before the summer solstice you’re cursing the fact it completely overestimated your kids’ nanosecond-long attention spans and underestimated your talents for turning toilet paper tubes, pipe cleaners and glitter into anything other than a hot glue mess. Same goes for the library’s reading program and all the math and reading workbooks your kids are going to work on every day so they return to school just about ready to skip a grade: by the time 4th of July rolls around, you’re ecstatic if you can even find all the books you checked out that first week or if the word “workbook” doesn’t send your kids running under the bed and shivering in fear the way dogs do when the first firework is set off.  And the first time you lug all your kids to the grocery store with every intention to buy only what’s on your list but return home with a bunch of fruit snacks, two bags of Goldfish crackers, a box of Fruity Pebbles, multiple tubes of Go-Gurt, a box of Popsicles and a 750-mil bottle of wine you’re going to crack open the second you walk in the door, you decide right then it will be your last time.  After that, all other grocery store outings are made later at night, when your husband is home and your kids are in bed.  And it is glorious.

I was reminded of that this morning at church as I talked to a friend with three adorable young girls.  When I commented that she appeared a little tired and asked how she was doing, she looked at me the way we conspiratorial moms look at each other – with that “YOU know” eye roll – and said, “I’m looking forward to school starting again.  Summer has been…crazy.”

Yup.  Summers with young ones can be overwhelming and seem unbearably long. Then one year those un-lazy, crazy days of summer just stop showing up. Days that revolve around stroller rides to the park and feedings and naps morph into days of driving kids to the pool and the park program and play dates and t-ball practices which transform into to driving them to league baseball games and week-long camps and summer jobs and friends’ houses so they can “hang out.” And before you know it, you’re driving to Madison to help your son move from apartment to apartment or to La Crosse to move your daughter into her first house or maybe to Minneapolis to help your other daughter move into a townhouse with some friends.  Or maybe not because she might not need your help anymore…  And back at home you’re not driving anyone except yourself because the only one you have left there – that two-year-old toddler you chased around the pool only last summer – can drive himself now. And you’ve gone from longing for the days when you’ll be able to drive in the car in solitude, listening to your own music and even, by the grace of God, your own thoughts, to longing for your soon-to-be-junior son to want to drive anywhere with you.  You may even resort to once again bribing him with food, except now instead of a packet of fruit snacks you’re offering a burger or a pizza or frozen custard or anything that may possibly pique his interest and appetite enough to get him to go somewhere with you.  But usually he’ll look at you then back at his phone where certainly some kind of fascinating Snapchat story is unfolding and say, “Nah. I’m good.”

I dropped that one off at Bible camp this afternoon.  He’ll be gone for a week and my husband has a rare full week of work in town, so he and I will be giving this whole “empty-nest” thing a trial run. It’s freeing and frightening at the same time.  I’ve been a mom for almost 24 years, and although I remember a couple occasions when everyone’s been gone for a short stretch of time, I don’t recall going a full week at home without at least one of my kids also being in our house (or at least in and out just long enough for me to suspect they still consider this their permanent address).  Admittedly, I enjoy my alone time and have come to cherish quiet times in my house, like when my husband is out of town and my son is doing something after school or at work or spending the night at a friend’s house.  But I know that solitude is temporary and that life as I know it will resume eventually; that’s part of what makes me appreciate it.  Yet in two more years, life as I’ve known it for a quarter of a century won’t resume at the end of the summer. My youngest will be off to college and the others will all be out of college, living their own lives in whatever cities have called them away.  (Before you think to yourself “Ha!  As if any of the older ones won’t be coming back to live when they realize the world is a cold, cruel place filled with rental fees and utilities costs and phone bills and insurance charges and student loans and <gasp!> Wi-Fi charges,” I happen to think my husband and I have done an adequate job in making life bearable enough for them to want to stay here for 18 years but also just unpleasant enough for them to think 18 years is plenty, so I’m feeling pretty safe in that department.)  And while I know while a part of me will be celebrating that we did our jobs as parents – provided a home, love, faith background and all the other things they needed (and plenty they didn’t) until they reached the age of adulthood and then sent them out to follow their own life-paths – another part of me is going to feel like Wile E. Coyote when he finally caught the Road Runner, wondering what in the hell I’m going to do with all this child-free motherhood now. I suspect it will involve wine, though, because what stage of motherhood doesn’t deserve wine?

Anyway, when my son started packing for camp last night, I handed him the packing list and told him he was responsible for getting everything together without me checking up on him. Considering there are only two quick years before he will be on his own and (imo) he still has to climb up a few rungs up the responsibility ladder before I won’t be nervous at the thought of him going anywhere except a local college, I’ve been making more of an effort for him to swim on his own without me standing nearby as his personal lifeguard, ready to grab hold of him if he starts to go under like I did all those years ago. OK, so I did ask him if he remembered his contacts and glasses (with his 20/400 vision, leaving those behind would end up being as much of an inconvenience for me since I would certainly get a call from the counselors asking me to drive them to camp) and his underwear (because ew!). To his credit, he already had them packed. I may also have casually asked him about the sleeping bag he needed for their outdoor camping night, which triggered a “Oh yeah, I’ll get that now” response. But that’s it. As we climbed in the van this afternoon I simply asked him if he was sure he had everything and he double-checked his bag for his “must-haves” (whatever he defined those to be) before assuring me that yes, he did. But then, when we were about halfway there, I glanced at his soon-to-need-a-cut hair and asked if he remembered a brush.  Apparently it did not make his list of “must-haves.” As a matter of fact, according to him it wasn’t even on the packing list. Although I doubted his recollection, I didn’t argue with him and offered him the travel brush in my purse, which he happily accepted.  And as the rain started to fall I asked if he thought to pack a poncho. No again.  He said that wasn’t “on the list” either and he claimed not to remember having packed one the last time. Not wanting to call BS on him (we were heading to a Bible camp, after all), I simply offered one of the umbrellas in the van, which he declined. Fine by me. If he gets soaked at least he’ll be able to brush his hair afterward, right?  Then later, as we stood in the registration line at the camp, he looked around and said, “You know what? I should’ve packed a water bottle.”

“Let me guess, that wasn’t on the list either?”

“Nope.”

<insert emoji with eyeballs rolling in disbelief>

“That’s ok, though. They have water all over the place here. I’ll be fine, Mom.”

Noting how the coincidental theme of this week’s Bible camp is “The Water of Life,” I thought Yes. Yes, he will as I headed back to the van.  Maybe not my version of “fine,” but his own. And that’s the only version that is ever going to matter.  As I sat down in the van, I did one more quick check to make sure he didn’t leave anything behind and I noticed the packing list was sitting on the floor behind me.  I took a look.  Number 4 on the list was “water bottle” followed by #5, “rain gear.” Yup, they made the top 5 yet Mr. “They weren’t on the list” managed to miss them. <sigh> “Brush” didn’t show up until #11 and  was sneakily buried under the term “personal items,” so I guess you can’t blame a guy for missing that one, right?

So I did what any mom who gave up on winning a “Mother of the Year” award three children ago would do: took a picture of the list with those items circled and texted it to him so it’s the first thing he sees when he turns his phone on when camp is over on Friday.  It’s my not-so-subtle way of reminding him that he’s got some improving to do in the “pays attention to details” department and of reminding myself I can set aside my empty-nest woes. I clearly still have a little more work to do with this one.  Although, I’m sure it’ll be much better next year when he’s 17.

Posted by: Kim | July 13, 2016

When Words Fail, Music Speaks

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Music can change the world because it can change people.” Bono

“The world’s most famous and popular language is music.” Psy

“Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitation of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us.” Martin Luther

“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” Ludwig von Beethove

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” Frederich Nietzsche

“Music…is an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we’re all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everybody loves music.”  Billy Joel

“Music is moral law.  It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” Plato

“…Music is in the connection of human souls, speaking a language that needs no words.” Mitch Albom from “the magic strings of Frankie Presto.”

Plato. Nietzsche. Longfellow. Luther. Billy. Bono. Hans Christian Anderson (noted for the quote that’s used as the title of this posting). And, strange as it is to include the man who introduced us to Gangham Style, I’ll add Psy.  They all recognize(d) the beauty, the mystery, the magic, the unmistakable power of music.

If you’re old enough to remember the “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” Coke commercial, I’m sorry.  That means you’re probably at least as old as me. I heard it again on the radio months ago, and even though it didn’t make me think sucking down a can of carbonated liquid sugar would help me teach the world to sing in perfect harmony or running out to buy the world a Coke and keep it company would do anything to foster world peace, it did bring back images of all those young people of different races and colors singing together on a mountain top. And it reminded me that music is one of the few things – maybe even the only thing – that seems to be able to unify people despite how polarized our communities, nation and world can seem sometimes. And by “sometimes” I mean right now given the growing occurrence of regular shootings and racial tensions, debates over everything from immigration to public bathroom usage, foreign and domestic terrorist attacks and the national circus filled with elephants, donkeys and clowns we used to call a presidential election. But I digress…

Music is believed by historians to have existed since prehistoric times.   Primitive instruments dating back tens of thousands of years have been discovered during archeological digs.   That means there’s a very good chance the Rolling Stones were appropriately given the honor of performing during the ceremonial unveiling of Stonehenge.   And it also means that since before recorded history, humans were expressing themselves through the language of music.

In other words, music is a universal experience. It is the one thing all cultures, even prehistoric ones, have in common.  I’m not sure any person can leave this earth without having been exposed to some form of music.  Even deaf people can feel vibrations and recognize rhythms and can see the expressions of joy and sadness music extracts from those who can hear it.  Some of Beethoven’s most critically acclaimed symphonies were composed when he was deaf.  And music therapy has been shown to help people with autism, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer. Music transcends abilities.

We use music to sing our babies to sleep and to teach our children the alphabet. When I was growing up, my friends and I learned the preamble to the constitution, how a bill becomes a law, our multiplication tables, the function of conjunctions and the fact that interjections are “generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point (or by a comma if the feeling’s not that strong)” thanks to the musical genius of David McCall, School House Rock’s creator.  Music is used to praise God, to commemorate birthdays, to mourn deaths, to promote causes, to affect change, to celebrate freedom, to bemoan injustices, to cheer ourselves up, to tell our exes through every Taylor Swift song ever written how we will never get back together because we knew they were trouble and now there are way too many teardrops on our guitars because of all the bad blood between us…You get the idea. Music is played in homes, cars, offices, on street corners and concert halls, in churches, at parties, tribal rituals, weddings, funerals, school functions, sporting events, parades, arenas, and the Olympics. It unites families, co-workers, tribes, teams, communities, states, and nations. Music transcends individual experiences.

Last fall, 14 members of Africa’s University of Zululand’s choir visited my son’s high school, and the choir’s director, Bhekani Buthelezi, was quoted in the local paper as saying, ““It was amazing…The energy I saw on stage and the intercultural acceptance. Within five minutes, we were one nation, one body, one family moving along, breaking boundaries, language barriers, cultural barriers.” One of the high school choir students agreed, saying “Music can bring two completely different cultures together,” and explained how “they took us step by step, saying ‘you guys have it in you as well.’”

I think we all have it in us. Not necessarily the ability to move in rhythm or even sing in tune, but we do have the capacity – if we choose to exercise it – to look at someone and not see a color or race or class or religion or sexual orientation or political party but to simply see another human being: a person who, like the rest of us, laughs, weeps, celebrates and mourns. Someone who experiences joy and despair, triumphs and setbacks, moments of pride and moments of humiliation, weakness and strength, fear and courage. Someone who hears a song and smiles or is moved to tears, who starts to dance or closes her eyes, who remembers a distant moment or a person with joy or with sadness, or whose emotions are stirred by just the right words or just the right melody. It’s hard to imagine there is anyone in this world who hasn’t been emotionally impacted by at least one song. Music transcends differences.

There are plenty of studies that show the benefit music programs in schools have for students.  Early music training helps develop the brain, spatial intelligence, coordination and reasoning ability. It helps kids imagine and think creatively, work together, pursue excellence, conquer fear and take (healthy) risks, stay engaged in school, perform better on tests, boost self-confidence, learn discipline and prepare for real-world situations that require us to achieve and perform at high levels.  It helps build awareness of and respect for other cultures and can help them bridge those cultural differences in an effort to better understand and communicate with one another.  Music transcends barriers.

Yet the music program is often the first victim when schools’ budgets are cut because it’s not seen as valuable or necessary as subjects like math, science and language arts.  Now, I’m not knocking the value or necessity of those programs; our kids need to learn these skills in order to thrive in our increasingly global society and to do important things like discover cures for diseases and make advances in technology so nobody ever again has to suffer a daily barrage of “iCloud full” messages even though she’s deleted pictures and videos and minimized what gets backed up on her phone and iPad and doesn’t want to buy 45 more gigs of storage at 99 cents a month purely on principle!  But when I’ve asked my three college kids what their most memorable, cherished experiences were in high school, not one of them said “learning there are 6.02 X 10^23 atoms in a mole” or “conjugating verbs in Spanish” or “figuring out how long it will take two trains to meet if they leave their stations that are 456 miles apart at the same time and travel toward each other, with one train traveling at 105 miles per hour while the other travels at 85 miles per hour (2 hours and 24 minutes for those keeping track, pardon the pun).  The events they said that meant the most to them all revolved around either band, choir and drama and the friends they made, the experiences they shared, the lessons they learned and the emotions they felt when they were performing with a group of people who could be different in every other way but united in their love for music.

Isn’t this kind of thing true for most of us?  If we look back on our most treasured moments and memories in life, do they involve calculations, formulas, and proper grammar and spelling, or do they involve cherished people, celebrations, pursuing passions and feeling deep emotions?  And what has the magnificent ability to unite people, mark celebrations, fuel passions and stir emotions more than music can?  The periodic table of elements?  Einstein’s theory of relativity? Strunk and White’s grammar book “Elements of Style”?  (OK, maybe that last one just a little bit for grammar geeks like me, but safe to say the general population does not get verklempt over the proper use of the apostrophe).  Prince’s recent death and the resulting expressions of grief and sense of loss by people of my generation whose coming-of-age soundtrack was comprised of so many of his songs, exemplifies the influence musicians and their art have on our lives.

I actually started this blog last fall when I heard that Coke commercial on the radio.  I allowed life and a fair amount of writer’s block to get in the way and put it aside until I felt inspired to finish.  I picked it up again a month or two ago when my pastor for posted on Facebook “I need church like I need….” and asked us to fill in the blank.  The first answer that came to my mind was music because, like church (if it’s the fulfilling experience it’s supposed to be), it adds beauty, depth, emotion, purpose and passion to our lives. Music unifies people from different backgrounds and different places and allows us to relate to each other in a way few other things can. Music doesn’t care what you look like, how much money you have, who you love, how educated you are, how old you are, what abilities or addictions you have, who you vote for or what stances you take on social issues. It welcomes everyone to listen, to be touched in some way, to share in the experience, to feel whatever it is each person feels in that moment in time. People can engage actively by signing or dancing along, or they can sit, listen and watch if they prefer. It doesn’t matter – in some profound way, every person willing to accept the gift it has to offer is affected. Music, like church, feeds the soul.

So I left my thoughts at that and went about my life, as most people do when they get preoccupied with the mundane busyness that compels us to just do what we feel needs to be done in order to get from one day to the next.  But recently another black man was killed by a white police officer in Louisiana.  And another in Minnesota.  Then 5 police officers were killed and more injured in retaliation by a black man in Texas.  And social media lit up with messages and memes about who’s responsible, whose lives matter more and people pleading “why can’t we just all get along?” without any ideas as to how to accomplish something we were supposed to have learned when we were in preschool. Added to the political quagmire many of us find ourselves in during an election year when solid, trustworthy leadership is so desperately needed and the best choices we have are “Candidate-I-despise” vs. “Candidate-I-also-despise-but-not-quite-as-much”, it’s no wonder why our country seems so divided and our people so frustrated about what they can/should/are supposed to do about it.

Then this past week I went to Summerfest, an annual event considered the “World’s Largest Music Festival” held along Milwaukee’s lakefront for 10 days every summer. Festival goers get to enjoy music at eight main stages, one large amphitheater and scattered small stages, which are filled every day with musicians whose styles run anywhere from rock, rap, country, jazz, pop, folk, reggae, alternative, ‘80s covers, percussion ensembles and ethnic music of all kinds. Popular touring bands headline the amphitheater each evening and not-as-big-right-now-as-they-used-to-be groups (think Barenaked Ladies, Jason Derulo, Weird Al, Joan Jett, Styx, etc.), and plenty of local, regional and smaller national-touring performers fill up the main stage rosters. Each year up to a million people from all over the country come to spend a day or two…or ten…walking around, eating bad-for-you food, drinking over-priced beers and listening to all styles of music.  And again last week there we all were – infants to over 80-year-olds, people of all colors, nationalities, backgrounds, religions and personal experiences sitting or standing side-by-side, sharing a common experience without, I want to believe, giving a second thought to the differences between us all. It struck me especially at the Sting/Peter Gabriel concert, when I looked out over a nearly sold-out crowd to see thousands of people standing up and singing together Sting’s “Fragile.”

If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the color of the evening sun
Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay
Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime’s argument
That nothing comes from violence and nothing ever could
For all those born beneath an angry star
Lest we forget how fragile we are

I couldn’t help wondering at that moment if only enough people could learn those words, took them to heart, and stood side-by-side with the other human beings who were (according to Psalm 139:14), “*fearfully and wonderfully made,” this seemingly insanely messed-up world would be more like the one we envisioned for our children when we brought them into it.

Ah yes, back to them…There’s a song our school’s concert choir sings in class every Friday, and each year at the seniors’ baccalaureate, they sing it together one final time. During the second to last song at that ceremony, the choir members walk off the stage and leave the auditorium, stopping in the hallway outside the doors and forming a circle. Standing hand-in-hand and facing each other, while those of us in the audience turn in their seats to watch because we’re not allowed to follow them out, they sing “The Road Home.”  As they sing the final lines, “There is no such beauty as where you belong. Rise up, follow me, I will lead you home.” many of the kids can hardly get through it.  The seniors who have left the stage for the final time and the other members who are saying goodbye to some of their best friends struggle to get those last words out as tears falls, shoulders quiver and the notes fade into complete silence except for a few sobs that manage to have improvised their way into the arrangement (the loudest often being from the 200 pound football players).  And then they embrace and cry and laugh and walk down the hall toward the choir room together one last time. All of them – the athletes, music freaks, drama geeks, National Honor Society students, students who have struggled academically throughout high school, the socially astute kids and the socially awkward ones, the kids who seemed to fit in everywhere and those who seemed to fit in nowhere, except here. For that moment, differences don’t matter. Backgrounds don’t matter. Achievements don’t matter. Pasts don’t matter. Looks, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, politics, academic accomplishments – none of it matters. Music transcends all that meaningless, trivial stuff.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people could do that too?

 

* In the original Hebrew text of the Bible, the word fearfully means: with great reverence, heart-felt interest and with respect, and the word wonderfully means: unique, set apart and marvelous.

Posted by: Kim | June 6, 2016

Of Birthing, Blinking and Saying Bye

I remember the day my oldest was born as vividly as I remember everything I did today before sitting down to finish writing this (which can be a challenge on some days lately, but luckily for me, I’m having a good brain day).  I remember going to the doctor that morning, September 27, 1993, five days past my due date, and her predicting I was going to have a 7 pound baby boy but not for another week or so because nothing “down there” was happening.  I remember going home and lying on the nursery floor crying because I was tired of being pregnant, tired of wondering if the baby were a boy or a girl, if s/he were ok, if I were going to survive labor, if sour lollipops and crossword puzzle books were really necessary to take to the hospital, or what the hell was left to clean after my recent “nesting” phase, and I dreaded this drug called “Pitocin” which I knew roughly translated meant “as if pushing another human being out your vajayjay wasn’t painful enough, I’m going to turn the pain up to 11 (random This is Spinal Tap reference) and make you curse forever that night 9 months ago you decided to have sex with your husband.”

I remember my husband coming home from work with 9 roses, one for every month I had endured nausea, not drinking coffee or alcohol, craving Lucky Charms and Count Chocula three times a day, needing to eat “right now!” until I cooked up I wanted and then not being a little bit hungry for it, getting up 10 times a night to pee, losing sight of my feet, stretch marks, being reminded that my boobs, after I was done nursing, were going to end up looking like two socks with sandbags in them (truth), and reading in What to Expect When You’re Expecting that I would bleed for a good 6 weeks after having my baby but as long as I didn’t pass a clot “larger than a lemon” I should be just fine. Seriously. I remember he added a 10th flower just because I had managed to endure it all without him wanting to divorce me (or at least without him vocalizing that he wanted to divorce me).  And then – and this was the really special moment – he proposed what we would do that evening to make me feel better: a test drive in the car he was thinking of buying since our sexy, red, two-door Prelude was not overly family-friendly, followed by picking up a pizza and watching Monday Night Football at home.  Husband of the Year award-winning stuff right there. But he meant well and, frankly, I didn’t care. Pizza was involved and I was pregnant.  And there really wasn’t anything else to do around Waterloo, Iowa on a Monday night other than to sit at home and watch football anyway.

I remember exactly what I was wearing when we went to the dealership to test drive the car we would eventually buy. I remember thinking as I was sitting next to my husband while he was driving us around scenic Waterloo, “Hmmm, that Braxton Hicks contraction was kind of uncomfortable. I must just be getting hunger pains. Can’t wait for that pizza.” And then I remember having that same thought about 5 minutes later as we got back to the lot. I remember my uncomfortable laugh when the car salesman walked us inside and joked that he had never had a woman that pregnant in the dealership before and Mike responded by telling him that as long as he had his seats “Scotchguarded” we should be fine. I remember that feeling that told me I needed to excuse myself to use the bathroom and the mini-panic attack I had when I realized I wasn’t peeing and I thought maybe I would be giving birth to my first child in the bathroom of a car dealership. I remember my frustration with Mike when I returned and no doubt gave him very clear, expectant mother, “I’m-pretty-freaking-sure-my-water-just broke” eye signals but he, for some reason, couldn’t read them at all. I remember his response when I could finally verbalize my thoughts after the salesman got up to “talk to his manager.” He looked at me and said, “What do you mean you think it just broke? Go back in there and find out for sure!” I did and it definitely, definitely had. Then I returned to Mike and the salesman who likely never heard a customer say, “My water just broke and that’s my final offer” but didn’t at all seem thrown by the fact that is what we were essentially telling him as we walked out before I had an accident that would force us to have to talk to his manager in person.

I remember all the details after that, too – driving home, getting my bag, announcing to our duplex neighbor the proverbial “it’s time!”, driving to the hospital and seeing the shocked expression on my doctor’s face who had just earlier that morning written me off for at least another week, another pound or two of baby weight and several more stretch marks.  Unfortunately, I also remember labor – all approximately 360 minutes of it. (By the way, any woman who tells a first time mom-to-be that she’ll forget the pain either had an epidural and/or really great drugs when she was in labor or is a sadist.  Possibly all of the above. You don’t forget. Ever. But yes, it’s worth it and most would do it all again. Multiple times even.). I remember being hooked up to the machine that was helpful in the sense it allowed the nurses to monitor the baby’s heart rate, but completely useless in the sense that it also told me when I was having a contraction and how strong and long the contraction was, as if my uterus didn’t feel like it had just been stuck in a carbonite chamber ala Han Solo and frozen solid, squeezing every organ within its vicinity so hard they could all implode at any second. I remember my husband dutifully standing by my side, holding my hand and breathing along with me, except for when he started to yawn because he was warm, hungry (we never did make it to that pizza) and starting to get tired.  Or when he sat down to stretch because his back was bothering him.  Or when he was walking down the hall to find something to drink and bringing back ice chips for me, or when he ate the Gardetto’s we brought from home so he could curb his hunger pangs while I sucked on those delicious, satisfying ice chips. Granted, he asked if I minded and I sincerely told him I didn’t since the last thing on my mind was my stomach because my uterus had declared a mutiny and had proclaimed itself Queen Organ while all the other organs bowed down to its supremacy. But I did mind shortly after when my next contraction came and he once again held my hand, looked into my eyes and breathed with me.  Or rather at me.  With Gardetto’s breath. Garlicky, oniony, stinky, god-awful, almost-worse-than-labor-pains Gardetto’s breath. And all I could was wave him away because words defied me.  I’m not sure if it was because of the contraction or because I was about to pass out from the garlic haze surrounding me, but I am guessing it was a combination of the two.  He brushed his teeth immediately and then again after breathing at me through my next contraction with his now minty, garlicky, oniony, stinky Gardetto’s breath. He never ate another one after that.  Ever.  I never bought them again. Nor will I ever.

I remember the Monday Night Football Game on in the room – Pittsburg vs. Atlanta. It was a much needed noisy distraction for me, but when my doctor came in, slapped on the gloves and told the nurse to turn it off, I knew the real game time was about to begin, which was a little surprising since only about 20 minutes earlier at 10:50, the same nurse predicted I’d have the baby at about 3 in the morning. Strike two for the medical professionals being able to predict anything about this day accurately.

There is no good reason for me to share the details of the 20 minutes that followed and no good reason for you to want me to.  Suffice it to say, it wasn’t nearly as long as What to Expect had led me to believe it would be and it wasn’t nearly as bad as TV shows make it appear.  I was too focused to scream or call my husband a bastard for knocking me up or to say “I can’t do this anymore.”  I just did.  And in what seemed like only a few pushes, out came our 7 pound baby boy in the form of an 8 pound 12 ounce girl with lots of dark, troll-like hair, a puffy red face and a super strong set of lungs, and  at that very moment my world forever changed.  I remember as I held my first born, the activity and noises around me were, for lack of a more descriptive term, “matrixed” – everything and everyone seemed suspended in time and all I could see and hear in real time was this tiny new person my husband and I created, this little girl who would need us to feed her, clothe her, teach her, love her – who would rely on us for everything…until she didn’t.  I remember that moment of sheer joy and excitement and fright and wonderment and peace and unconditional love and how overwhelming, yet comforting it was.  I remember how it seemed we had so much time ahead of us to watch her grow, learn and become her own person and, very possibly, screw her up in the process.

And then I blinked.  And in that nanosecond, her life up until now flashed before my eyes: her first words, her first steps, her first day of school, play dates, sleepovers, birthday parties, dance recitals, orchestra concerts, softball games, track meets, marching band competitions, plays, choir concerts, school dances, AP exams, high school graduation, going away to college, pursuing two majors, college graduation, learning how to “adult” and finding her own mind and voice in a cacophony of others that constantly tell her who she should be and what she should think.  In that blink, those first seconds turned into over 22 years – her lifetime – and here I am, a week after she moved on and away to the foreign land of Minnesota, wondering how I managed to time gash to now, completely unaware of all the time that was passing so obviously while I was busy not noticing.

I think one of the many things that makes motherhood so difficult is the phenomenon of how painstakingly slow the days pass – especially the days filled with diaper changes, multiple feedings, piles of laundry, temper tantrums, cleaning Play-Doh out of the carpet, shopping trips that should take 30 minutes but take 2 hours, arranging play dates and parties, running kids to football/baseball/basketball/soccer/softball practices, dance, play and marching band rehearsals, music lessons, friends’ houses, and to Walmart for poster board the night before a project is due or for cookies the night before a class party because you were “voluntold” to provide a snack for everyone thanks to a child overly generous with your time and budget – but how shockingly fast the years go by. One minute you’re watching your 11-month-old take her first steps and (what seems like) the next you’re watching her drive away in her first car – to a new state, a new adventure and a new phase of life that has absolutely nothing at all to do with you.

And you know what?  The combination of absolute joy and pain that comes when your children leave your little corner of the world isn’t much different from what you experience when you first bring them into it.  Except now when you walk back into the house after your labor (seriously, labor isn’t just about childbirth), it’s emptier instead of fuller and the only thing you have to show for all you’ve been through are a few more wrinkles, gray hair and a beat-up minivan.

Out of all the jobs a person can have, parenthood is the only one I can think of in which being successful means you end up losing the best thing you’ve ever created – that child God placed in your care so many years ago who you helped grow from a tiny, helpless, dependent baby into a dependable, knowledgeable, kind and faithful young adult confident enough in his/herself and abilities to leave home and forge his/her own way in the world (aided, of course, by copious amounts of – in no particular order – coffee, wine and bitch sessions with your closest friends).  And letting go hurts in the way labor hurts; you ache in a way that’s almost unbearable and yet those feelings of sheer joy and excitement and fright and wonderment and peace and unconditional love rush back at you when you see your child for the first time as a young, capable, independent adult you didn’t manage to screw up (too badly anyway). And despite how hard saying goodbye is, every pang of sadness, every sense of longing for what used to be, wishing you had just a little of her childhood back to redo the things you regret and every tear you shed is worth it because you know, in the words of the band Semisonic, that “every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  And you remember what every moment of that new beginning felt like when you became a parent. And knowing what you know now, remembering how long sleepless nights felt, or how frustrating the toddler years seemed, or how busy the school years were or how challenging the teenage were, you would still do it all again if you could. Only this time, you’d try a lot harder not to blink.

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It's MY Journey, and I'm Taking My Time

Reflections on my maternal life

Reflections on my maternal life

Reflections on my maternal life

The American Calgarian

Tales of a Midwesterner transplanted in Western Canada

Reflections on my maternal life