Such is life

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I made a new friend in one of my classes.  She’s around my age, and we have some things in common, so I did the “hey, let’s connect on social media” thing.  We walked out of class, talked for a few minutes, and then got to talking about having coffee after class one day.  But I had to get going because Latefordinner had to take Tuna to one of his things.  I had to hurry home to be home with the littles. She asked me if I had ever been to this place in town, or this other place…she had to go shopping there, and go eat over there.  Shopping?  At a little place?  You mean somewhere other than Costco or Target?  Wouldn’t that other place be Amazon?

You see, this new friend who is around my age and also in college, doesn’t have children.

She said, “You’ve never been there?!”

“No, I have no life”, I said with a smile.

We laughed, and I found myself floating away from this new friend in front of me. We do actually have things in common–we feed off of each other in class discussions, and we both lean toward holistic practices, plus there’s the age thing.  Age…it really is nothing.  Her laughter was coming from a very different place of understanding, in which someone my age actually did have a “life”, and was not a mother.  I wonder why she laughed, actually.  Probably just because I did. Politeness.  She’s nice, so I’m sure she didn’t actually think anything of it.  But of course I did.

We separated, and I had that unsettled feeling, hearing the echo of myself saying “I have no life” in my head.

It was such a quick realization this time.  No pondering the depths, just hearing the echo come back saying:

“You have SUCH A LIFE!”Echo-Canyon-2.jpg

And it’s true!  My life is FULL, and RICH.  Not with the freedom to shop in little shops, or eat out all the time; but with my full, rich family.  My family gives me SUCH a life.  My life is enriching and busy and chaotic and messy and scary and exciting and boring and breathtaking.  My life is a roller coaster of exhilaration and fear and love and boys and marriage and school.  My life is PACKED with NEWNESS every day, jammed with sameness, overflowing with opportunities to grow and thrive and teach and learn.  Every. Single. Day. of my life is SUCH A DAY. 

Psh, no life.  Why did I even say that? What a thing to say. I don’t have time to have no life. That is the stuff of midlife crises. There is no crisis when every age is SUCH an age. Every life we live within this one is exactly what it should be.  There is no need to call motherhood  and marriage and college less than life, because it is exactly what completes me now. Accepting SUCH a life is crisis-prevention.

Try it: Tell yourself you have no life.  If you don’t hear that echo back, YELL IT BACK. Every one of you has SUCH a life.

No life my ass.

Zen Cheerios

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I wonder, if someone filmed me throughout my day, would it look like other mothers’ days? I wish I could SHOW you what it’s like.  I know we aren’t totally normal, but are we that different?

This morning, I managed to get everyone to the van with enough time to squeeze them to school mostly on time. I sent them all out to the van, came out, and of course no one was actually in the van.  That would be too simple. They were all wandering around outside.  Before I could say anything about why the eff they weren’t buckled in and ready to roll, Tuna announced that Binker had to poop.  Me: “Then why aren’t you inside pooping??!!”

So he slowwwwly walks to the door, Tuna asks where Binker’s backpack is (because that’s relevant at that moment), and Binker rambles up the steps to the house.  I tell him to “HURRRRYYYY UUUUP!!!” Seriously, how does it take three minutes to walk inside and sit on the toilet?

So the rest of us are waiting in the driveway….waiting….waiting….I check on him a couple of times…………..He is the world’s slowest pooper. He took at least 87 minutes just wiping. And we’re officially late.  We pull out of the driveway at 8:20–exactly when we should be arriving at school. I should start recording the number of times we’ve been late because of poop.

Before all of that, my house wasn’t the vision of three angel children getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, putting on shoes, and going to the van. That’s ALL THEY HAVE TO DO.  Those simple steps.  That’s IT.  I have seven million things to do.  They have FIVE things to do.  Why in God’s great Universe do they not understand, after years of school mornings, this simplicity?! I have charts, timers for when it’s time to get shoes on, timers for when it’s time to go out the door, I even remind them every step of the way while I’m doing my stuff (making lunches, sucking down coffee, putting out fires…). They can’t find the right socks, they are fighting with each other, they are playing with Legos still with bare feet…and this morning Binker was constantly whining about how he didn’t feel well enough to go to school–over and over and over he whined at me while I was trying to think!  Whined at me while I sprayed him with Mucinex and shoved Tylenol down him–You’re going. to. school. damnit! (He was totally fine.)  It’s SO hard to just THINK when three little boys need a million things–things that they don’t even need–right NOW.

The hardest part is keeping my cool.  I have challenged myself to keep it cool for four days in a row.  So far this week (it’s Tuesday) I’ve reset my challenge twice.  So much for that.  How about three?

Then Squishy and I have our day doing this and that (Today. Other days are crazier), going here and there, accomplishing things, playing…and then it’s time for pick-up. Armor on. Enter whiny tired Squishy after the day and the playground, talky talky talky Binker, grumpy hangry Tuna…all talking and whining and fighting with each other over the stupidest shit in the Universe, all at the same time.  It’s great fun. Not headache-inducing at all.  We get home and Squishy has a three hour long meltdown about Angry Birds, Binker gets emotional about his old bed that we sold, and Tuna is about to pass out because he couldn’t sleep last night. I really don’t know how I managed to feed and bathe them (help from Latefordinner).  Falling asleep didn’t take long, thank all of the Gods of this great Universe for that.

So, with three angels slumbering,  I sat down at my computer to do my homework, and realized that this blegh post was in order.  Seriously. Because there has to be another parent out there who deals with the intensity, who deals with the morning rush, who is late because of poop. It’s a major challenge for me–to keep my cool when poop makes us late.  To keep my cool when Binker is on the top bunk with Legos when he should be putting shoes on.  To keep my cool when the cat gets on the table and eats Squishy’s cereal. To keep my cool when Tuna wants to discuss the meaning of life before coffee–every single day.

Your lessons will continue to present themselves until you learn them.  These effed up days are not about my kids learning how to get ready on time (well, they sort of are, but not completely).  These days are about ME learning how to find that center of the cyclone while lateness and distractions and poop are happening around me daily before coffee. I have three days left this week to rise to my own challenge of keeping my cool.  I really hope I don’t have to reset again tomorrow.  This is a tough one, because I think that these smart boys should just get it.

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I have memories of sitting on the heater vent in the winter mornings, my mom throwing my clothes at me, telling me very nicely to get dressed. Man, I don’t remember her yelling at me like I do at my boys. I remember watching the last remaining cheerios in my bowl move toward each other, making shapes out of three or four circles together. I would make a ripple in the milk, and they’d re-form into new shapes–faces, animals, boats…  It was like cloud-watching in a bowl.  I wasn’t thinking about the clock. I had no concept of time or school bells. I was cold first, then having a warmer zen moment with my cheerios. I am constantly disrupting my kids’ zen moments with these stupid deadlines.  I tell them “I didn’t invent the clock.  We all just have to follow it if we want to succeed in this world.”  How does a little dreamer child even come to understand that?  The kids need to learn, yes, and the adults need to REMEMBER. We are all born dreamers, the clock is man-made. Maybe I’ll meet them in the middle–they will learn the clock, and I will re-learn zen cheerios.  I should at least try, and probably harder than they do.

Maybe each household’s morning looks different, but these kids are probably pretty similar. If you struggle with your routine, I hope you can try with me, to not be quite so normal. I hope that some of us can remember that what some consider “different”, is actually closer to where we began–little cloud-watchers outside of time.

Man, I hope I remember that tomorrow morning when I have to get them out the door again.  We can look at clouds on the way.

I’m Starting with the Mom in the Mirror

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There’s a book called Mindset by Carol Dewck.  It’s becoming widely read by educators, and many parents. A friend of mine just wrote an awesome piece about it here.  The idea of cultivating a growth mindset has been popping up for me, beginning with a consultant at my boys’ school handing me the book three years ago. I put it off, being busy and all, and I think I actually over-borrowed her book by a year or something.  Oops!  So I finally read it, and the gist is that we can choose to have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  You can change your way of thinking, and you can choose to try hard at things that aren’t easy.  Of course there is much more to it, and you should pick up that book.

This seemed like a really simple concept, and I pshawed the idea that needed to change my mindset.  Of course I had a growth mindset! My mind has had a lot of attention!  I spent my late teens and twenties working on myself, understanding how I worked, and I came pretty darn far with that, thankyouverymuch.  I needed those years for that.  My mindset was solid.  It was my kids who needed some help here, not me.

The last couple of years brought parent-teacher conferences where I heard that my boys were awesome, except they needed to learn to persevere when things didn’t come easily right away.  I would heavy sigh, internally blame it on Latefordinner, and say “I don’t know where they get that!” That’s not how I do things!  And I work on it with them.  I take them for very long hikes in the woods and make them figure out how to get back, dragging them for miles when they want to quit.  I make them do chores for screen time, teaching them new chores and following through with my rules.  I use the mantra my parents used: “You can do hard things!” I make them problem solve, forcing them to figure things out before I help them. But the desire to work hard still doesn’t seem to be ingrained in their psyche, in their mindset.

The other day Tuna got a new Transformer.  He was frustrated because it wasn’t easy, and Latefordinner wouldn’t help him.  He reminded him that he used to get frustrated when he was four (he’s almost 11 now), but now he had to big-kid-up and figure it out.  Tuna carried that thing around with him all day, working and working on it until he could transform that thing in 10 seconds.  And he did it!  He was so proud of himself.

Then he came to me and wanted ME to try it.

Asking me to do Transformers is like asking me to sew something–I might throw a tantrum and smash stuff.  I have avoided Transformers for seven years now, passing them off on Latefordinner, because I CAN’T DO THEM. I HATE doing them, and no one is going to make me!!

So I wouldn’t do it.  I actually snapped at him  and asked why he even wanted me to do it.  Did he think it was funny that I’m not mechanically inclined?  Did he want to watch me fail? No, I wouldn’t do it.  I don’t sew, and I don’t do Transformers.  I had the fixed mindset that I couldn’t do Transformers, and I refused to try something hard. I told Tuna I would not try.  Now, there are some things in life we just don’t have to do as adults–taxes, sewing, washing cars, dishes…oh wait, gotta do those. BUT, when my child came to me and wanted me to try his Transformer, it was an opportunity to teach him how to do hard things.  I stomped my foot and refused!

The whole thing didn’t sit right with me. I knew I was being hypocritical and childish. I almost blew my opportunity to model the growth mindset. …..until I realized what I was doing.  I took me a day, actually.  Once the lightbulb went off–I think it was Latefordinner’s account of telling Tuna to work hard that flipped the switch– I went to him and asked him to teach me, and to be patient with me. I explained that I really should work harder on the things that don’t come easily.

It turns out he is an excellent teacher!  And, I was a pretty good student.  Transformers are hard when you’re me.  I can do hard things.

How many other times had I unknowingly taught him not to try?  How to quit?  How to not even begin?? How many other opportunities have I blown?

mirror-on-face

The good news is that Tuna (10), Binker (6), and Squishy (3) are still young enough to catch on, and they’ll have minimal damage.  I am always brought back to the mirror in parenting.  I used to call Tuna my little mirror–he shows me the truth of who I am–he is a reflection of me.  Somewhere along the chaotic way I lost that, (I think because it’s a bit overwhelming to see three different perspectives of your own reflection, like a three-way mirror), and this has been a shining reminder to do some inward reflecting.  It’s the same concept as putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping others–how can I grow their mindsets if I’m in denial about my own?  I’ve spent too much time projecting, not realizing that I’ve been giving away my opportunities for growth. Mindsets, like reflections, are never solid. We are never ever done growing. Who was I to think I didn’t need to change?  I really hope to hear some hard work reports at conferences this year.

This parenting gig is hard! Good thing I can do hard things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Emojis and Blue Phallic Jellyfish

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Yesterday, the girl at the drive through said “hi” to Binker as if he were 2 years old. He’s actually like 18 in his mind, so he just stared at her and said “Hi” back in a monotone voice. She asked what grade he’s in (This is not the typical “here’s your happy meal” interaction, right?), and I said kindergarten. In a singsong voice she said “Oh, I’m a junior in high school! You have to catch up to mee! Hehe, I’m just kidding, bye bye!” Binker and I drove away, and I swear he was also thinking “WHAT was THAT?” I said something like “Well, she was friendly”, but he wasn’t buying it. And ironically, his stuffed emoji in his happy meal was the “Whatever” face. whatever emoji

Later on, a discussion in one of my facebook groups got me thinking about the interactions we have with strangers. Why do we ask “how are you today?”  Is it because we really want to know, or just because it’s polite?  Most of the time it’s “I’m fine, thanks”, and you move on with your business.  Sometimes (too often with me) it’s “nice to meet your problemsImeanyou”.  I must have “tell me all about your kids/divorce/illness/random problem” on my forehead, and our conversation turns into a psychology session.  So, maybe that’s why I am wary of talking to strangers…and sometimes actually looking at them…and sometimes going out into public at all… 

I find that sometimes these random personal conversations do hold some meaning, and it’s a significant exchange.  I live with the belief that there’s meaning in everything. So, I could take away from that interaction a reminder that my Binker is unique, and that we in our family thrive on mindful discussion.  I’m not sure how many five-year-olds would look at that girl as anything other than friendly.  So, I guess we have to acknowledge that these boring, unintelligent, and seemingly meaningless interactions are always there to show us something. (That’s why I made sure to say that the girl was nice.) We just have to consciously remember to think this way, you know, to avoid the slip into existential dread.

Binker is totally allowed to think “whatever” though!  I mean really, she might as well have hovered a squeaky toy above his head.

In honor of mindfulness, and finding the sunny side and all that, I will now show you my mother’s day gift.  It was chosen by Tuna and Binker, and I have given it a place of honor on my sunny back porch.  I did such a good job of  NOT LAUGHING when I opened it! They went to one of my favorite stores, walked all over the store, and chose this phallic blue jellyfish just for me.  I was the best actress!  I do like it, and HAHAHAHAHA it’s a four-tailed chiming glass sperm!!!!!  Look at its sparkling magnificence in the sun! Thanks, boys.  This made my optimistic day.  Happy Mother’s day, and may all of you find the joy and humor in your seemingly meaningless moments.  

blue jellyfish