A Letter to My Senior

This was not my idea.

 

Dear Bear,

You are such a beautiful soul that I am always cautious when I impart advice to you. But, I am your Giver of Life. As such, I invoke the right that all Givers of Life have to dispense advice whether needed or not, requested or not, right or not, wanted or not. (In this particular instance, I also note that YOU required it of me at the bequest of your teacher; this is not to be used against me in any later therapy that you may or may not need.)

Trust yourself. You are wondrously made. If all people had the heart you possess, the world would be a better place. There will be many times you feel unsure, doubtful, fearful. That’s okay. We all feel that way. Know that you are more right than you are wrong most of time. Yes, this is true regardless of what other people may want you to believe.

Consume at least 64 ounces of water a day. (Water in your Starbucks lattes only count on Sunday.)

You will get it wrong. We all do. When it happens – and trust me sweet girl, it will happen – own it, fix what you can, leave what you can’t, and suck every piece of education you can from it. Failure is not something you are, it is something you do. It does not define you. It does not define them. Grace is a gift I hope you freely give to yourself and others. This is not a trait of the lax or the pushover. It takes strength and courage. Do not believe those that tell you otherwise.

Banana splits are occasionally acceptable for dinner.

Sometimes you just have to say “F(edited out of courtesy to your English teacher)k it” and move forward. Not all choices feel good and safe. Not all choices are fun and desirable. Some things just have to get done, left behind, cleaned up, walked over, turned out, wrapped up, thrown away. This is where life just is what it is. These things, being left to their own devices, only get worse. I promise you, what smells bad today only reeks worse tomorrow. Just bulldog it and move on.

Drink with people who love you. Be the designated driver for those who don’t.

Be real careful what “they” you listen to. There is a whole world filled with the ominous “they.” We aren’t really sure who they are, what type of training they have, what their agenda is, but we are pretty sure they live in their parents’ basement nomming on cheesy poofs playing Dungeon and Dragons. “They” have big mouths and are currently trying to figure out how to make a living trolling the internet. They do not have girlfriends. Easy filter – if “they” insists that everything sucks and nothing you do is right and the entire existence of the world is a big conspiracy meant to create entire subcultures of GMO tolerant, gluten adverse, non vaccinated, obese fast food consumers, breastfed gym rats that poo granola Oreos, you are probably dealing with a “they.” Abraham Lincoln said it best – “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.”

Semicolons are sexy. Learn how to use them.

There are assholes everywhere; that doesn’t define the “everywhere.” (Sorry, the edit just didn’t do the thought justice. Besides, you’re a senior, you can handle it.) Every sect – professions, neighborhoods, races, religions, clubs, cults, PTOs, opinion groups – is just a microcosm of society. A bad cop, teacher, solider, sailor, politician, mommy, doctor, teenager, old person does not provide reason to assume that all folks in that particular demographic are idiots. Quite frankly, it doesn’t necessarily mean the offender is an idiot. We all have bad days. And we all have folks in our groups that we would rather we didn’t. Boxes are for shoes, not people. Everyone is created as an individual and deserves the consideration of an individual. Of course, if they prove themselves individually to be the designated asshole, take them at their word that’s who they are and move on.

Don’t be afraid of profanity. It is not a sign of weak vocabulary any more than a love of chocolate is a sign of a weak diet. Sometimes, they both just taste good.

Different is not wrong – it’s just different. Your dad likes to cut up his steak as he eats it. I like to cut up mine all at one time. You like to have your dad cut up yours. None of those things are wrong – they are just different. Be wary of people who try to make “different” = “wrong” as they are usually covering up for some feeling of personal inadequacies that I can bet money you don’t want any part of.

Be a rebel. End sentences with prepositions. Unless you are speaking Latin. Or honoring Yoda.

If you realize one day that all your friends are alike, get new friends. I’m not saying cut the old ones loose. I’m just saying you need to grow your circle. There is no better way to become an asshole than to surround yourself with people who always think like you, agree with you, and are a whole lot like you. Nature shows us this. If we plant the same crop over and over in the same field, eventually the ground dries up and produces trash. Diversity in relationship is the single best thing you can do to ensure you do not become stale as a person. It also makes coffee shop conversation much more interesting.

Disregard that thing I said about profanity around your great grandmother. Thanks.

Don’t ever make one decision out of fear. It is my belief that there are only two true emotions in life – love and fear. I don’t have to tell you that one is exponentially more productive than the other. There are times you will find yourself afraid or feeling one of its offspring emotions – hate, anger, depression, spite, resentment. Don’t beat yourself up about that as it is natural and human. It is in those human places that we are able to work through and find those ways to be more human. That is where we find grace, compassion, courage. Make decisions in that space. It is worth the work.

Do not make a habit of eating food that comes out of a window.

Make the commitment to love forever. There are so many obstacles and story spinners out there trying to convince you that love is not the answer. They need your love most of all. Love animals, love people, love babies, love criminals, love saints, love the broken, love the healed, love yourself…always love yourself. This is not always easy and sometimes it can only be done in a detached, acknowledged only in a broad sense type of way. There are atrocities in this world that will bend your heart to the point you think it will break. People will be careless with your emotions and you will hurt. You will look at yourself in the mirror and find an imaginary million and one ways in which you don’t measure up. Don’t be surprised when it happens and don’t let it define who you are. Your heart is the most beautiful thing ever created. Share it, be prepared to nurse it, do not hold fear in it.

My baby girl, there are so many more things I want to tell you…

  • Never go on a second date with someone who is mean to the wait staff
  • Live your passion
  • Never leave home without your sketchbook
  • Sometimes going to the store in pajama pants is necessary
  • Exercise
  • Volunteer
  • Always have a book to read
  • Compliment others
  • You can always come home
  • I am never further than a phone call
  • Diet soda is for crazy people – just drink the regular stuff

But most of all I want you to know that when you feel like it doesn’t matter, you don’t make a difference, you aren’t capable of being in this adult world – you are wrong. You have been changing lives since the day you were born. Who I am now is so much because of you. It scares me to think who I would have become without you. Thank you for growing up with me. I am so glad you are my kid.

Love,

Momma

 

I was Sent to the Principal’s Office

Ok, so maybe I wasn’t sent to the principal’s office. But my Turtle was. In kindergarten. The Principal’s Office. For whacking a kid in the face with a book. Her little friend no less.

She doesn’t know why she did it – she just did. Little friend didn’t hit her first, say something mean, look cross-eyed, stick a tongue out – nothing to which I could defend this outburst of brutality. My sweet little Turtle just attacked without provocation.

I won’t lie, my first thought was, “Holy shit, they are going to think I am that kind of mother.” It was actually my first, third, ninth, twenty-second, thirty-eighth, this morning’s thought of the day…you get the idea. Of course I had other thoughts like, “What is the appropriate reaction,” “is the victim ok,” “what kind of trouble is Turtle in at school,” “are the girl’s parent mafia thugs who are gonna hunt my family down.”

Ok, so I didn’t think that last thing at all.

But I really was am concerned about the conversation happening at the little girl’s house.

I wrote a letter to the teacher explaining that we do not tolerate that type of behavior and please pass our feelings on to the offended family. I thought about it all night. I considered rewriting the letter to try to convey more remorse. I thought about it this morning. I am obviously thinking about it now.

I feel like I am the one who has been waiting outside the principal’s office. Waiting to be weighed and measured. Waiting to be found wanting. Waiting to be judged.

Seriously?!? I am a grown damn woman. Must investigate this dumbass response and figure out what has got my knickers twisted.

The truth is a good many parents feel over whelmed in this way. We are bombarded with media images of snotty ass kids and their over indulgent parents. God Bless I Am: A Flippy Doodle for really marching this point home with the timely post on bratty kids.

All over the place, parents are relentlessly forced to watch children behaving badly. And, bless their hearts, after we get cut screens of the parents, we realize it really isn’t their fault – Mom and Pops are crazy! We watch peas get thrown, heads get bashed, rooms destroyed, fits thrown, and all other manner of perfectly good reasons why I am certainly pro spanking. And all the time mom just rolls her eyes, dad acts like he doesn’t have a clue and kid gets exactly what they wanted in the first place – so they will do it again – instead of a big old dose of “I-am-the-Momma-punk.”

As a parent, I see flashes of my Turtle walking the streets of Jersey Shore talking about how she used to throw down all the way back in kindergarten. That’s right punk, she’s hard like that. Too bad her Momma didn’t raise her better. Probably didn’t pay any attention to her. Probably just hung out and blogged about it. It’s hard coming from a piece of crap family.

And I want nothing more than to shout at the top of lungs “I am not a bad momma and Turtle is not a bad kid! We just had an unfortunate minute!”

And why should I even feel that? Her daddy and I did talk to her. She is very sorry. She was put on punishment and she was even more sorry. She felt bad about it today and apologized to everybody.

I have long quit letting “other mommies” create the benchmarks by which I grade myself. I need to add the products of those “other mommies” to the list. Not gonna let over indulged children or their breeders put me in a funk.

P.S. Little Friend’s Mommy, we are really sorry. I hope she is feeling better. Turtle tells me they are really good friends and they have hugged and made up. I say that not because I want you to think good of me and my family, but because your child should not have to go through. Turtle was handled. I hope we get to meet soon.

**Photo credit to Eric Castro

That is NOT what I said

Life in the home has been complicated by this tank top >>>>>

Ok, maybe not this EXACT tank top…but I own one a lot like it.

Ok, maybe it isn’t just this tank top…

Maybe it is this innocent looking creature…

Do not let her fool you…her ways are not for the faint of heart. At 4, she is good, real good. I can only imagine where we are going to find ourselves

Example ~

Morgan: Momma, can we have macaroni and cheese for dinner?
Me: No baby, I am making mashed potatoes.
Morgan: (utter outburst of screams and tears) You mean you are never going to feed me ever again?!?!

Umm…not what I said…

Example ~

Me: Morgan, please take your thumb out of your mouth.
Morgan: But Momma, my body says I have to…
Me: Morgan, I know it is a hard habit to break, but you are gonna mess up your teeth.
Morgan: (another outburst as in previous example) You mean you are gonna knock my teeth out and cut my thumb off!?!

Ummm…no?

And finally (but not only) ~ The Tank Top ~

Daycare: April, I hate to bother you but Morgan says you have a shirt that upsets her. She is in tears.
Me: Really, I can’t imagine what that could be.
Daycare: Well, I don’t believe you own a shirt that says that.
Me: Says what?
Daycare: Well, Morgan says you own a shirt that says (wait for it….)
“I hate my daughter”

Ummm…no….again….thanks….

She quit the club

My Savannah came home from first grade last week and was not in a good mood.

“She quit the club.”

You see, my Savannah has created the “Best Friends Club.” It is a special thing to her. She would like everyone to be in it and is trying to rope her daddy into building the clubhouse in our backyard. We will see how that goes.

After some discussion, the bones of the story is that my daughter’s club is in turmoil. It seems to have a revolving door retention problem. While most of the club seems happy to play tag and collect rocks, there is a fringe group. One little girl left because another little girl left because the wrong nickname was being used. Another left because the clubhouse wasn’t ready yet. This latest episode involved a debate over club ownership.

It struck me how representative this is of adults. I belong to a few organizations and they are wonderful! However, I am sure we have all seen “the fringe.” These are those folks who are going to find the negative like they have “poo poo radar.” Then, instead of working to resolve the problem, they leave. Or worse, they stay and try to make life miserable for those around them. I am not going to spend anymore time talking about the characteristics of these folks or why they are the way they are. I learned a long time ago (ok – maybe not that long ago) that I can only control my thoughts and actions.

That’s when I realize (again) the brilliance of my daughter.

“Honey, if she doesn’t like that nickname, you really shouldn’t use it. That would upset me too.”

She already knew this. After the little girl had quit the club, Savannah went to her and found out why. She then apologized for hurting her feelings and said she wouldn’t do it anymore. Both her and the girl that left with her are back.

She also went to the girl about the clubhouse. They decided that since they couldn’t build the clubhouse themselves and since they already had the playground, that was good enough for now. She’s back in the club too.

The little girl who wanted club ownership got her way. Now, while I am not crazy about this (previously it was an all for one ownership), I think Savannah’s thoughts were, “Who cares who owns it as long as everybody is in it?” For a six year old, I think I will leave this one alone for now.

Communication is a wonderful thing. When we genuinely care about what others think, how they feel and what they want, we can accomplish a sense of unity and collaboration that would have been unattainable before. Amazing things happen when move away from placing blame and move towards making progress. I’ll admit I was proud to watch my six year old navigate through situations that make many adults stumble. Maybe there is a learned trait there that is special to adults. If so, I hope she never learns it.

*Photo credit to Sue RB

The Village doesn’t get my kids until it becomes way less fishy

Topic of parenting came up.  Surprise, I know.  But, the topic was “Make a Difference.”  Really, what did you think I would write about?

Rosa Say, whom I adore, says there is greatness in “it take a village.”  Rosa is right.  Except, when the village is corrupt, you have to know when to tell the village to get out of your house.

Now understand I am not going to claim some moral high ground about what I do and don’t allow in my house.  I like the Sopranos.  I watch it – after the kids go to bed.  Understand I am not telling you how to raise your kids.  I am telling you that I have four daughters – if you think that’s a walk in the park, I invite you to the beauty of my chaos.

Times have changed.  Yes they have.  I love hearing people say that things really aren’t that different from when we were growing up. Are you kidding?  Lohan, Spears, and Hilton make it different.  Why? Because they are not the exception, they are the norm.  Madonna was a shocker.  Girls wanted to be like her because it was rebellious.

Today this is not rebellion – it is not being different or expressing yourself.  Girls understanding their place as sexual beings is the way it is supposed to be.  The media no longer objectifies them – we have come so far that we have taught our children to objectify themselves!  It has become so common that we don’t even notice it when it happens.

Example: Lead actress from High School Musical  decides she’s going to take some bra and panty pictures and send them via email (huh?) to her boyfriend.  They become public (shock!).  Now, I understand she wasn’t naked, is of legal age, and few people outside of the HSM demographic know who she is.  That makes it ok, right? Wrong!  The persona that she portrays is that of a high school girl.  The HSM soundtrack was the number one selling album last year.  Your preteen daughters can dress up like her for Halloween, theme their birthday party, and probably recite the words from the movie.  She was set up in the public as the girl that all other girls should want to be like.

Example:  Music CD’s marketed for children.  These albums take popular songs and have kids singing them.  This makes them kid friendly right?  Wrong!  Just because kids are singing Girlfriend, Irreplaceable, and Lips of an Angel does not make the lyrics any different. They are still the types of songs I can only listen to when my kids aren’t in the car.

Example: Little Mermaid.  This fish has been banned from my home and my kids know it.  Why?  Let me break down the story for you.  Little fish Ariel is turning 16 – that’s right 16.  On the dawn of her birthday party she flounces off to a place her father has forbidden her to go.  During the course of things, she sees this guy (sees not meets) that is obviously not 16.  She falls madly in love (remember being 16).  But, she’s a mermaid and this guy lives on the land.  No problem, evil squid offers to give her legs if Ariel will give up her beautiful singing voice.  It’s a good trade according to the evil squid – Ariel can use her “body language” and if the guy kisses her within three days, she can have her voice back.  So, little fish runs away from home after giving up all her talents to chase after some older guy she has never even met.  The body language thing works, he kisses her, they get married and everybody is okay with this.  Are you kidding me?

Could I go on?  You bet.  Little girls who are dying to own pants with “sweetness” written across the bottom.  Clapped for when they nail they latest dance moves that look a whole lot like pole dancing.  Giggled at when they cop some attitude and use very grown up phrases to disrespect their parent’s friends.  Allowed to use terms like “boyfriend” and “dating” before they even hit middle school.  You bet I could go on.

I love the “it takes a village” in theory.  The accountability, the diversity, the help is wonderful.  But the village has traded it’s one idiot for a marketful and many of us have become so complacent and the methods so common, we don’t even notice it.

I don’t know what the answer is for the village.  Maybe you can offer some suggestions.  For the moment, all I can do attempt to keep it and its fish off my doorstep.

The Confessions of a (Relatively) Perfect Mom

I love being a mommy – it is truly one of my favorite things. My four daughters are a joy in my life and I wouldn’t trade them for a thing in the world. Ask them and they will tell you – I am the best mom in the world. In fact, I do consider myself the perfect mom.

***Begin playing sappy music***

McDonald’s is not a staple of our diet. We have family movie night. I am cautious of the movies they watch, clothes they wear, music they hear, and the friends they have.  We discuss values and citizenship. We see the dentist twice a year and the doctor for regular check ups. We discuss stranger safety. Chores are a must. School work is priority – even in the summer.

***Record playing sappy music scratches to a halt***

Let’s get real…I am a great mom, relatively.  While all the above statements are true, let me let you in on some more truths.

We rush in the morning to get to school on time. They probably watch too much TV.  The kitchen isn’t always clean. I don’t read to them for 30 minutes every night. Sometimes I just want to be left alone. They brush their teeth at least once a day, but definitely not after every meal. There is always laundry to be done. We don’t always eat together. I am ready for summer break to be over. Sometimes dinner comes out of a box. Their room is a mess and I am tired of fighting about it. I have made the mad dash to Wal-Mart to get supplies for a school project that is due the next day.

Why tell you all this? Because I believe I am not alone. I believe that there are a ton of mommies – probably most – out there who feel overwhelmed and under performed most of the time.  I believe that these moms (dads too?) carry around heavy guilt that makes the hardest job in the world even harder. I believe that we think we are the only ones dealing with these feelings and ask ourselves why we can’t have it “together” like the super mom who lives down the street (who, by the way, is probably thinking the same thing about you.)

I believe there are far too many of us asking ourselves, “What’s wrong with me?”

The answer – Nothing, except being human.

I believe our children deserve the very best we can give them. I don’t think that looks like perfection. I think it looks like unconditional love. Kids don’t care so much about “stuff” when they feel protected and cared for. Don’t believe me? Watch a kid’s face light up when they get the one present they wanted most.  Then watch his heartbreak when you won’t play with him. The toy means nothing without the love.

We spend so much time trying to be a perfect mom to the world and then feel like a failure when we can’t pull it off. Wouldn’t that time and energy be better spent on something you can do – like being the perfect mom to your kid?

Am I just crazy…

…or is everybody else?  Sometimes I really don’t know. Is it a “silent majority” thing and I am the only loud mouth, or am I really in the minority? Are my opinions really that out in left field?

Feels like a rant is coming on and you, my dear friends, will have to excuse me while I try to stay on track.  This frustration is not one thing, but many things…this uniform thing is just the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The school system here is attempting to implement a uniform policy.  We had this when we lived in Chicago and it was fantastic. Mark and I both felt that if we had uniforms in school, we would have hated it, and our lives would have been much easier. However, some parents don’t feel this way and that’s okay. But, OMG (to use the cool, hip, text abbreviation) can we get over it already! Reading the newspaper, you would think Stalin was running the board and Hitler was poised to take over. I don’t get it. My kids have enough to deal with in their young lives with society being the way it is. Any attempt to remove some of those distractions while they are attempting to get an education is fine by me.

They say that the problem would be solved if the administration would just enforce the current dress code.  Are you kidding? Have any of you been shopping for school age girls lately? Now, I can’t speak to the boys, because I don’t have any, but girls I got and it is near impossible. What does my 5 year old or my 10 year old need with halter tops, short shorts, and platform shoes to round out the outfit? Sure, you can get them long pants and then contend with the provocative remarks the manufactures insist on pasting across the butt. That’s much better. You are basically limited to jeans, capris, and t-shirts (funny, sounds like a uniform policy). This is fine with me until I am getting the kids ready for school or shopping in the mall and I have to hear for the eleventy billionth time about what so and so’s mom will let them wear, buy, scout around town in.  No thank you. Get up, get breakfast, brush your teeth, and grab one of the approved uniforms that will be very much the same as anything else anybody else has on. Bypass the drama and get on to the job at hand – getting your education.

Speaking of the job at hand, a lot of jobs require a uniform, or, at the very least, a required manner of dress. Are they oppressive and limiting free expression of their employees?  Are we going to bash the boards of these companies for their abusive practices? No. We are probably working for them, collecting a paycheck, and happy for it.

I could go on. There are lots of things in the media that are absolutely driving me crazy – taxes, immigration, Iraq, and the list goes on.  But, I won’t. I will say this and be done. Don’t be a shallow thinker. Take opinions out to their logical conclusion. Pay attention to the society around you and compare it to what the media says society is. If you hear it on the news, don’t listen to what they say, figure out what they mean – it is all too often two different things.

My NewsBowl Champ!

The school year is almost over. We are participating in all the regular end of the year activities.  Today was the Awards Program for Madison.  I couldn’t have been more proud.

She received an award for the Honor Roll – we expected that. Her grades are usually pretty good. But we, and several other parents, got a real treat.

Madison participates in the gifted program at school. Every Friday, she and a few of her classmates go to their SEEK class and participate in various mind expanding activities. One of the programs they participate in is the News Bowl. This is a national program that looks to involve students in learning about current events.

Well, Madison’s team won 1st in the state and 6th in the Nation. Her group received the News Bowl certificate and another for the Principal’s achievement award.

Big congrats to the 4th grade SEEK!!  We love you, Bear!

 

My Fairy Godmother

I absolutely love getting dressed up and going out. However, as you can imagine, with four kids, it happens very rarely (read “never”). There is that time when the stars are aligned and the moon is producing the right gravitational pull, this opportunity presents itself.

It was to be an awards banquet on the beach. I wasn’t getting any awards, but who cares! I was getting an incredible dress (no more maternity clothes!), great shoes, and an appointment at the nail salon.

Get ready. Well, almost ready. Mark’s dressed, my hair and makeup are done. As an experienced Mommy, I know to wait and get dressed at Mom’s house. She’s watching the kids and I am sure I will get some kind of kid goo on me in the process of getting over there.

Ok, honey. Zip me up. Damn! Is that the zipper in your hand? Yep. What do you do about that? You don’t go. My heart breaks. My wonderful husband works on that zipper for 20 minutes. We were already running late and I am incredibly disappointed. He is really sorry. It’s not his fault. These things happen. Doesn’t change it. I go in the pool room with Mom and Dad to fix a drink and sulk.

I hear my Dad say, “If she wants to go, then she’s going.” He gets up and leaves the room. Mom and I look at each other. “He’s going to fix that dress. I hope you’re ready,” she says.

Dad can fix anything, but I am not getting excited. We are already late and my heart has already been broken once.

Half hour later, Dad comes out with the dress. He pulled stitches, reran the zipper, and stitched it back up! My dress was fixed. “Go get ready,” he tells me. Mom zips me up this time as Mark doesn’t want to tempt fate.

There I am, ready to go. Amazing! I walk out of the room and there is my Dad, beaming. Mark and I gather our stuff and walk out the front door.

Ready to hear about the great time I had? On the front porch, I stop my beloved and tell him I don’t want to go. He is obviously confused. I explain that my men had rallied around me and my crushed expectations; Mark, with his warmth and compassion, and my Dad, with his determination and a sewing kit. There was nothing more I wanted to do than stay here, in this house, and be with them.

Those who know, know that I put my husband first in all things, but I am still a Daddy’s girl. What an awesome Daddy he is. I wonder if he knows how special he makes me feel. He should – I must have told him a thousand times that night, and that was only half the times I thought it.