Being the Yes

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I’m at the age where grandchildren are most likely in the not too distant future. I know the thought of being called “Grandma” makes some women feel old. Not me. I’m filled with joy at the prospect. I am more than ready to move from being the “No” that motherhood requires and becoming the “Yes” that is the hallmark of grandparenthood.

In anticipation of my hoped for change in status I decided to start planning a few things and determining some guidelines. As it’s often helpful to solicit ideas from others, I thought I’d share a few of my ideas and ask you for some as well. For the kids out there, you should consider this a version of “What to Expect: Grandparent Edition.”

  • Saturday morning breakfast will be eaten directly out of the ice cream container.
  • Bedtime may be suspended at any time for any reason.
  • Jumping on the bed is encouraged.
  • There is never a bad time for a new toy.
  • Totally Chocolate Dinner constitutes a viable meal option.
  • Pajamas are acceptable daywear, regardless of the day’s plans.
  • Mismatched socks are preferable.
  • You can never have too many stuffed animals.
  • Baths filled with toys are to be expected.
  • Nap? Only if I feel like taking one.
  • Mud puddles are for stomping in.
  • Rarely is there a difference between a want and a need.
  • Payment for household chores done at Grandma’s is to be expected.
  • Overpayment for tasks is also to be expected.
  • Everyday is a good day to bake cookies.

I reserve the right to amend this list at any time. In fact, I’m hoping y’all have some suggestions for additions. I figure if I managed to raise kids to adulthood, I’ve earned the right to start saying “Yes.” And so have you.

Nursery Games

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When my husband and I made the decision to have our second child at home, we knew that there was a chance our daughter would be there when her sibling was born. Our plan was to have a friend available to tend to her while I labored and gave birth, but given that my first came quite quickly, we knew there was a chance she would end up being in the room. We consulted with our midwife and our childbirth instructor about the best way to prepare her. I borrowed a kid appropriate birth video and we watched it together. The video we used was of a family that included all their older children at the birth of their last child. It was incredible to see these kids react to watching their newest sibling enter the world. You could feel the bonds being built as they held that baby for the first time. Our daughter was only two at the time, but after watching the birth video her excitement over having a little brother or sister to hold and love on intensified.

In the end, our son was born in the middle of the night and our daughter slept right through it. She woke up 10 minutes after he was born – just in time to hold him once he was cleaned up after having pooped all over my friend. We could not have planned it more perfectly.

After a successful birth using The Bradley Method, we decided to become instructors ourselves. Bradley classes are typically taught by a couple, so that you get the first-hand experience of both mom and dad. They are longer than many other classes, lasting from 8-12 weeks, depending upon your instructor and delve deeply into pregnancy and nutrition in addition to teaching relaxation techniques to use during labor. Dr. Bradley came up with his method after watching farm animals give birth. Cows, in addition to gifting us with the makings for cheese, are also pretty good at the whole procreation thing.

We finished our training in the midst of my second pregnancy. Once that was done, it was time to teach our first class. One of our first couples were some good friends from church. Our daughters were only a couple of months apart and became fast friends in the nursery. My friend was a few months behind me in her pregnancy and decided she wanted to have a natural, birth center experience the second time around. Much like my husband and I did, our friends knew there was a chance that a care giver might not make it in time to take care of their eldest daughter, so they borrowed our videos and shared them with her. They enjoyed the class, had a healthy baby girl at the birth center four months after my son was born and then a year later, had another girl at that same birth center.

My friend and I were both involved in the music ministry in our church. We had choir practice every Wednesday night and our eldest girls were in the same nursery room. They were great friends and loved to play together. Oftentimes they appeared to be off in their own world together. One fateful Wednesday night my friend and I were greeted by a red-faced woman when we went to retrieve our girls from the nursery. Apparently, our girls had caused a little bit of a scene.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, but the girls were playing a game tonight that I had to intervene in and put a stop to.” She said quietly. My friend and I braced ourselves for the worst.

“One of them was lying on the floor with her legs pulled up with a baby doll on the floor in front of her and the other one was sitting next to her whispering words of encouragement and gently stroking her hair. When I asked them what they were doing, they informed me that they were playing midwife! Knowing that I couldn’t let that continue I grabbed a blanket, swooped up the baby and exclaimed, ‘Congratulations, you have a healthy baby girl! Now let’s get her a bottle.’ To which your child,” (pointing at me) “responded, ‘Bottle? We don’t use a bottle, we breastfeed!’ and then proceeded to lift her shirt and put the baby to her breast!”

At that, my friend and I began to giggle, then cackle, and finally, we completely lost it. We laughed so hard that we both had tears in our eyes and were gasping for breath. All the while our sweet nursery worker stood there, looking a little shell shocked, and absolutely bewildered at our failure to grasp the gravity of the situation. Once we finally managed to regain our composure we quickly apologized to her, thanked her for her deft management of the “birth” and got our girls out of there before they could cause anymore ruckus. We laughed all the way to the car that night, and then again on the following Sunday, and the next Wednesday… In fact, even all these years later, we still laugh about it.

I did eventually get to explain the whole history behind the girls’ desire to play midwife to that sweet woman. She got a good laugh out of our explanation, but I’m pretty sure, even to this day, she’s convinced my friend and I are both a little nuts. So, in other words, she knows the truth.

She Deserves All the Spoons

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With Mother’s Day being this Sunday my social media & news feed have been flooded with myriad postings on the greatness of motherhood. Everywhere I turn it’s all about moms. It’s basically a cauldron of Motherhood stew. Knowing full well I run the risk of overflowing said cauldron, I’m throwing my two cents into this interweb pot.

I have been blessed by knowing some amazing mothers, starting with my own. Many of the most influential people in my life have been moms. Some of these amazing moms never had children of their own, but adopted the kids of their friends. I know my own mother has far more than the 2 grandchildren that are part of our nuclear family. Moms truly are amazing creatures.

Looking back at all the things I’ve seen these moms do, I can’t help but think about the Spoon Theory. The Spoon Theory is a brilliant explanation of what it’s like to live with a chronic, often invisible, health problem. The theory likens our energy reserves to a stack of spoons. Each day we start out with a stack of spoons in our drawer. Every activity we engage in requires the use of one or more spoons. By the end of the day, many of us end up spoon-less, usually because we didn’t take any time for ourselves, which is what replenishes our spoon supply. The number of spoons necessary for any given activity varies from person to person. For those living with chronic illness, that stack of spoons is often smaller than other people’s and doesn’t replenish itself at the same rate as the average healthy person’s stack does. If you haven’t read it, I encourage you to do so.

I think the Spoon Theory can be applied to motherhood as well. No matter what cards we’re dealt, motherhood is not easy for anyone – we all face our own struggles. We moms are notoriously tough on ourselves as well. We often overlook the myriad ways we use our spoons, and frequently fail to recognize things we’ve done well. In other words, we are quick to deplete our spoon supply, slow to take the time to replenish our spoon supply and often deny ourselves the extra spoons we deserve for a job well done.

I decided that today is a perfect day to share with you some spoon spending/earning moments I’ve witnessed in my circle of moms. Consider this little exercise in Mom Recognition as a chance to catalog all you do and as a reminder to repopulate your spoon drawer. If you’re not a mom, this can help you identify some ways in which you can help the mothers in your life pick up the spoons they so richly deserve.

  • Moms are battle-tested warriors. I have watched moms fight for the proper diagnosis and medical treatment for their kids. I’ve witnessed battles with school districts to secure services for their kids. I’ve watched friends go to divorce court and fight for the best situation for their kids. I’ve also watched women graciously put their own hurt feelings away to keep from influencing their kids’ relationships with a former spouse.
  • Moms are a security system. I’ve seen a mom step between a child and an irate father that’s ready to lash out. I’ve seen a mom jump into traffic to keep her child from being hit by a car, only to suffer the impact herself. I’ve seen moms walk on the outside of a hiking trail to keep their kids from falling/walking/running off the side of a mountain.
  • Moms are gift givers. I’ve seen a mom give her child one of her cherished possessions. I’ve seen a mom give her children the gift of discipline, even when it would be so much easier to just give in. I’ve seen moms give the gift of responsibility by requiring their kids to do chores/homework, etc.
  • Moms know the true definition of bone tired. I’ve watched moms get up at the butt crack of dawn to get kids to practice. I know moms that have stayed up until the wee hours of the morning providing moral support to a homework overloaded kid; or drying tears of a heartbroken teen; or picking a non-driver up from an event/job/band trip/college. And then there are the new moms that never get to sleep!
  • Moms are providers. I know working moms, single moms, stay at home moms and they all provide for their kids in unimaginable ways. Time, money, transportation, sustenance, guidance, sanity. None of it is easy to give, and yet moms give generously and self-sacrificially.
  • Moms are pride swallowers. I’ve watched moms courageously seek help from others because it’s what’s best for their kids. I’ve heard moms admit that they have made mistakes and offer apologies to their kids. I know a mom that took responsibility for the dysfunction of her family thereby absolving her kids of the tendency to blame themselves for things that were not their responsibility.
  • Moms are closet criers. I’ve watched moms deal with petulant teens calmly, holding back hot tears until their child has left the scene of the emotional crime. Mothers that are ailing or in pain stuff it down to keep their kids from worrying. I’ve seen moms wave goodbye to their child and only after they’ve gone, give into their tears.
  • Moms are Joy Bringers. I’ve watched a mom fighting cancer muster up the energy to laugh and joke with her kids. I’ve seen moms encourage kids to play in the mud; take kids to the pool on a hot day; watch an irritating kids movie on loop because it’s a favorite of her kids. If it brings a smile to the face of her children, moms do it.

I could go on for days on end sharing all the things I’ve seen moms do that deserve recognition. Moms spend a lot of spoons every day on the well being of those around them. The amazing thing about that though, is that it often takes very little to replenish a mom’s spoon drawer. A smile from a child, a heartfelt thank you, a compliment from a friend for a job well done. Each of those can replace more than one spoon. You never know how impactful a few kind words can be, especially for us moms.

Sunday may be Mother’s Day, but it takes more than one day to replenish your spoon drawer. If you’re a mom, then from here on out I encourage you to take the time you need to collect your spoons. Whether that involves a few moments to yourself, a lunch out with friends, or even a night in enjoying your family, just do it. If you’re not a mom, I challenge you to find ways to replenish the spoon drawers of the moms in your life.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. I hope and pray that you hold onto this undeniable truth: You deserve all the spoons.

 

Thin Walls & Phone Chargers

I will forever be grateful for thin hotel walls. Well, at least grateful for one experience with them. I sometimes still have flashbacks to the thin walled roadside motel we stayed at on Long Island with a toddler when we were considering a move for my husband’s job. I’m pretty sure the lady next door was named Roxanne and her Red Light was definitely on…

Many years after that fateful trip to Long Island our family went on a trip to the Pacific Northwest. While in Seattle we stayed at the Waterfront Marriott. It’s a lovely place and has a great view of Elliott Bay, but the walls are a little thin. As such, it was fairly common to hear our neighbors.

Before we get to those walls, let me give you a little background. My kids are two years apart and for the most part have gotten along fairly well, but they were never particularly close. We had the usual sibling squabbles over toys, books, who’s turn it was to clean the shower in the bathroom they share, etc. There were very few knock down, drag out affairs in our home. And if one started, I tried my best to let them negotiate things themselves – only stepping in if there was the threat of imminent injury or death. Although, there was one incident when they were very small where our intervention was necessary. It is the only time that we had to use corporal punishment, but it was more than warranted seeing as it involved attempted murder in a shared bathtub. But that’s a story for another day.

Anyway, the end result was I had two kids that got along fairly well, but didn’t spend much time together or in shared activity. They were mostly polite and kind to one another but led very different and separate lives, rarely doing anything together beyond the mandatory family activities.

I was fairly content with that state of relationship between my kids. I will admit that there were times I would see sibling pairs who loved to spend time together and wish mine were more like those. But overall I was grateful that my kids shared a much more positive dynamic than I had in my formative years with my own brother. To say that my sibling relationship was tumultuous is to seriously understate the dismal state of our familial bonds. Thankfully, that has changed in adulthood. I have grown to really enjoy spending time with my little brother and consider him one of my good friends. I continued to hope that my kids would eventually, as my brother and I have, become close, but resolved myself to enjoy the mostly harmonious divide between them.

Turns out, I didn’t have to wait until they were adults for their relationship to take a turn for the better. All I had to do was check into a hotel next door to a family whose kids had a fight that we could hear through those thin Marriott walls. Not long after we got to our room it became apparent that we may hear a little more of our neighbors than we were used to. The afternoon following our arrival is when the real fireworks took place. We had just come back from enjoying the bounty of the Concierge Lounge when the brother and sister staying in the room next to ours started to argue. We could tell the animosity was growing by the increasing volume of their exchange, but at first it was difficult to understand what they were fighting about. It all became clear when the brother yelled, “Give me the effing (edited) charger Bitch! Mom gave it to me!”

It became so quiet in our room I swear you could have heard a pin drop. We all looked at each other as we listened to the fight escalate. They continued to yell increasing numbers of obscenities at each other until finally we heard a door slam putting an end to the drama.

We all sat for a moment in stunned silence. Then one of us started to giggle, followed by another, then another. The giggles turned into guffaws and eventually there was a cacophony of laughter and nary a dry eye in the room. Once we had recovered our senses we had a quick discussion about how we were doing better than the family next door because we’d never had a verbal brawl that intense, let alone within earshot of others.

That could have been the end of it. Instead, that one overheard argument has had a lasting impact on the life of our family. We’ve had several discussions about how ridiculous it is to argue so vehemently over trivial things, like a phone charger. The kids realized how fortunate they were to have never had a fight like that. It also provided the kids with a tool to help deescalate arguments. When they start to argue, all it takes is someone mentioning a phone charger. That small reminder is like a breath of fresh air blowing through the situation that breaks the tension, and often even leads to a laugh or two.

Probably the most important impact it had was the appreciation of each other it provided my kids. They realized that they really did get along fairly well. They admitted that they kind of liked each other. It decreased the number of arguments and squabbling over minor transgressions. And now a few years later, I love that they spend time together when my eldest comes home from college (even if it means skipping church to hang out). I didn’t have to wait for them to be fully formed adults to witness their friendship grow.

My family owes a great deal to that brother and sister. If that happens to be one of my readers then I’d like to give you a heartfelt shout out. Thanks for fighting over the effing charger. It changed lives.

Confessions of a Bad Mom

It seems like every time I log onto social media, I find at least one post/blog about parenthood. Many of them paint a picture of perfection that can be attained by following their handy dandy click-bait slides. Others are a dissertation on the author’s own winning parenting style. While there are a few that encourage the reader to refrain from judging their own parenting by the yardsticks of others, they are fairly small in number.

It’s so easy to walk away from a social media session feeling hypercritical of oneself. Parenting is hard, but everyone on the interwebz seems to know what they’re doing.

Instead of feeding into the current “picture perfect” social media worthy parenting post, I’m going to make an admission. I’ve made some questionable moves in my years of parenting. Many of them are fairly cringe worthy, but others are just funny. So here it goes, my confession: I’m a Bad Mom.

  • I told my kids the ice cream truck only plays music when it’s out of ice cream.
  • If the kid that lovingly places a tooth under her pillow has to come down the stairs the next morning and ask you for her dollar, you might be the Worst Tooth Fairy Ever.
  • My kids only made it to about the age of 4 believing in Santa Claus. They asked me if the hubby and I were in fact the bringer of Christmas presents, and I answered yes. (Which was great because I only have like 2 pictures of them with the big guy in the red suit. #LackOfPhotosJustified)
  • My oldest child has a partially filled out baby book. The youngest, well…Guess it’s a good thing we only have two kids.
  • I don’t have school pictures from every year of my kids’ existence. (For this I must apologize to the grandparents. I promise I haven’t been hoarding them. I just don’t have them.)
  • When they were young, I would kick them outside when they annoyed me, not even bothering to use the need for fresh air as an excuse. They were annoying and I often told them as much.
  • I didn’t do their “Star of the Week” posters. I barely supervised so theirs were always the ugliest.
  • I forgot to order their yearbooks one year. Oops.
  • I didn’t let them do more than one activity at a time so as to maximize their athletic/artistic/etc. availability. I was too lazy to schlep them all over tarnation every day.
  • I let them decide how to fix their hair. Even when the boy wanted to grow his hair really long, making him easily confused with a girl. I rolled with it.
  • I know they live in messy rooms, but I’m too lazy to walk up the stairs to make them keep them clean.
  • I refused to act as referee. “Don’t bother me unless there’s imminent blood/ threat of serious bodily injury.”
  • I often don’t know where they are. In the play outside years it was be home for supper & now it’s be home by curfew.
  • I sometimes use colorful language. Admittedly, this started when they were older, but my 6th grader did get in trouble for using the phrase “half-assed” in an essay. Sadly, he didn’t learn that one on the playground, he learned it while doing chores.
  • I tell them to go away and leave me alone.
  • I have ruined big Christmas presents by accidentally blurting them out. No one was surprised the year Santa (you know, me) put a Wii for the family under the tree.
  • I missed lots of performances and games. Sometimes because it was impossible to be there, other times because I just didn’t want to go.
  • Both of my kids have done multiple school projects on the efficacy of medicinal marijuana.
  • I actually said everything in the Power Point. (If you’re a frequent reader, you’ve read a few of them. If you’re new to my dysfunctional rodeo, you can check out my archives.)
  • I’m looking forward to being an empty nester. Less laundry, less cooking, less hassle, more time to read.

I could go on and on, but I’ll stop there for now. I hear the Wine Walk calling. And kids, if you’re reading this, please remember – all therapy bills go to your grandparents.

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