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.

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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.