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?

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smug-Faced Bitchy McJudgerton

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You know what I don’t do?  Fold wash cloths.  Or underwear. I don’t care if my 3-year-old goes out to swing in his underwear. I don’t exercise every day.  I don’t feel guilty when I tell Latefordinner that I have to get out of the house ALONE.  I don’t make my boys keep their rooms clean. I don’t keep my room clean. I don’t keep a garden.  I don’t take for granted that Latefordinner supports my need to get out ALONE. I don’t stress if I eat ice cream. I don’t like negativity. I don’t want to keep writing about what I don’t do….

Except for this one thing I didn’t do yesterday–I didn’t do what I swore I’d never do (stay with me), and that’s NOT JUDGE ANOTHER MOM, EVER.

I ran into the drug store yesterday for some things, and was deciding on which gum to get, when I heard a mom two aisles behind me say, “No, we have that at home.  Put it back.”  I heard  a tiny person whining, and then, “I told you to put it back.  I’m going to count to three, and if you don’t put it back you’re getting a spanking.”

Then I heard “Three, two, one.”…….Smack!

And the baby boy cried and cried, and said “Ouchie!  Owww!  That hurts!”   And the mom walked by, baby on hip, sobbing two-year-old in tow.

And you guys, I did the thing.  I did that thing that is so devastating to mothers everywhere:  I looked her in the eye and shook my head at her. And she looked me in the eye and I could read her mind, “you bitch, you don’t know me.”  I could have just minded my business, but I broke my oath to never judge a mother, and I judged. Openly. I’ve been given that look before, but not for hitting my kid.  I get that look when my kid is acting up, and I am not dealing with it the way the glaring woman would. I get that look for what I don’t do.

So, here’s the thing: she spanked her baby boy in a public place.  He was sobbing, and my heart hurt for him.  Why, after all my years as a seasoned mother, and firm believer in non-judginess, did my heart not hurt for her?  Maybe she didn’t know any better.  Maybe she thinks she’s doing the right thing.  Maybe she just doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing and needs to get her damn head on straight before she messes her kid up…uh, I mean…ugh,there’s the judginess.  She didn’t beat him, she smacked his butt.  She didn’t yell at him, she counted to three.  She didn’t look angry…and that’s the thing…why would you be violent if you’re not angry?

First: I don’t believe in hitting children.  It is psychologically damaging; and does nothing to teach, nurture growth, or effectively discipline.

Second:  Even though I don’t believe in hitting children, I have lost my temper and smacked a butt a few times. It very rarely happens, I’m not proud of it, and I have apologized to my children each time.  I have explained that mommy can make mistakes too, etc. Of course we also talked about his behavior, but a child’s behavior is just his way of asking for help.  It’s HARD to remember that sometimes, seriously, like when they’re being complete jerks and you just want to SMACK them.  But you don’t (99.9% of the time). Because you don’t believe in hitting. Because you are the grown up.  Because you want to lead by example. Because hitting hurts.

Third: I have never hit my child because he wouldn’t put something back on a shelf by the count of three. In a public place.  Or in any place. That’s just ridiculous.  Yeah, I’m judging.

BUT, Shaking my head at her probably just made her angry, and hurt, and probably did more to isolate her more than maybe she already is.  Shaking my head disapprovingly probably did nothing to help her. Judging her, even if I do disagree with her actions, does nothing to help.  Maybe she felt sorry, and helpless, and hopeless.  Maybe she needed a hug (even though I just wanted to hug that baby boy). Maybe she is looking for another way. Maybe no one is supporting her.  I wasn’t sure where this would go when I started writing, but now I know: What I don’t do is feel good when I judge.  What I don’t do is help when I judge.  What I don’t do is really know anything when I think I do.  What I don’t do is withhold compassion where it seems to be undeserving.  

Because those who need compassion are the ones who act out.  Because a mother’s behavior may be her way of asking for help. Looking again at her non-angry face, I can now see that she was just as scared as her boy.  She really didn’t know what else to do.

I firmly reaffirm my resolve to support other moms, even if I don’t agree with their actions.  I hated what I saw.  It broke my heart. But, I don’t know her. Who knows her story?

So here’s what I DO do:

I do yell at my kids sometimes.

 I do sometimes yell into the backyard like a redneck so the neighborhood can hear me.

I do follow through with what I say, even if I regret having to do it.  

I do not like it when Binker sticks his tongue out at me and runs away. Wait, that’s a negative.

Ok, um, I do feel helpless as to what to do with him sometimes.  He’s like a honey badger. Seriously.

I do feel helpless when Tuna loses his temper at Binker and tackles him to the floor while screaming in his face about making annoying sounds.  Binker silently provokes, Tuna loses his temper. Tuna gets in trouble. Binker gets reprimanded……and on and on until I sometimes lose my temper and send them to their rooms with no solid discipline or clear idea of how to handle it from there.  

And every mother feels helpless sometimes.  And every mother needs help sometimes. And sometimes that help is silence.  A nod. A smile. A hug. A look of solidarity, even if you know what she should do when she doesn’t have a clue.

What I don’t do is agree with that mother’s choices.  

What I DO do is have compassion for her.  

Because we all make mistakes in the great oneness of motherhood,

and I hope to receive that compassion when I would otherwise be judged by Smug-Faced Bitchy McJudgerton (me yesterday).  

Yep.

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

There is no busy

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I haven’t had many bleghy moments lately.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been ridiculously busy–not my favorite way to be, but how do you manage the lives of five people without being ridiculously busy?  I might need a personal assistant when all three are involved in activities.  Good thing they are available for people who can only pay them ten bucks a month.

Ridiculously busy is not my natural state.  I start to forget things, and do things like leave my debit card in my pants, rather than my wallet, and think I’ve lost it and can’t even find the pants I was wearing because I actually put them back in the drawer.  I also back into curbs (in my defense, I was late, the curb was invisible, and I am secretly trying to wreck the Storm Trooper anyway).

But I once read this facebook meme (which I pronounce “may may” because it’s more fun that way) that said  “Stop the glorification of busy.”  I love that, believe it to my core, and yet am still so very busy.  My creativity lovvves to NOT be busy.  The summer was a success, in my opinion, because I did not plan much at all for most of the summer.  We did just about nothing, minus our super-awesome-action-packed-adventure as the summer’s finale.  Our summer was the equivalent of a lame-o fireworks display with a surprise  FANTASTIC finale.  But why is lazy and unscheduled “lame-o”?  It wasn’t.  We slept in, played outside, ate some food, went a few places…and the kids were happy.  Why is slow considered boring?

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Slow is beautiful.  Simplification is beautiful.  In this life we’re in–which is not in a hut on a tropical island where we wake slowly and go for a dip in the morning, but rather immersed in the American midwest among minivans and Starbucks and travel mugs and yoga pants–slow means only choosing two activities versus all seven Tuna is interested in, and only one for the little ones.  Slow means setting timers on screen time and forcing them to actually play with their toys, or each other.  The definition of busy has been modified.  Slow means eating together as a family at least three times a week, rather than every night.  Just as my standards of cleanliness have changed, so have my standards of busy.  For alone time, I can get now get by on a trip to Target without kids every other week. (Exaggeration there–I totally need my workout classes with the free childcare.)

During the summer, I had my bleghy moments because my mind slowed down enough to see them in my day to day. Like the Matrix, I was able to manipulate time and space to see the bleghs in between. There is no spoon in the summertime.  Now all I see are spoons, and suddenly, and all freaking shiny.  Perhaps the key to stopping that glorification is to see those moments even during the busiest times.  Ideally, we may be jetting from one busy to the next busy, and still see the space in between breaths.  I think that that’s what it means to stop the glorification of busy–see the space between, no matter how fast you’re moving.  Deep breaths, and you may be slow whenever you wish, no matter what’s going on around you.

My favorite from Thich Naht Hahn’s “Peace is Every Step” is:  “breathing in, I relax my body. breathing out, I smile.”   

With this, there is no busy.

On Hitting People in the Face with Stuffed Animals: A Study.

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There are things we have to do to our kids that hurt them. Last night I had to rip off Binker’s band aid when he wasn’t expecting it, and he hated it.  Squishy has rats-nest hair that requires yanking combing every day.  I always imagined that I would be gentle when I combed my kids hair…I also always imagined that they wouldn’t watch tv, or that I would even have kids, sooooo yeah. Ha!  I have a freaking hilarious imagination.

There are also things we do to our kids that hurt them that we don’t have to do, such as throw stuffed animals at their faces.  Um, I don’t know anyone that’s done that, but I heard someone who *coughhappenstomaybebeme did that today.  Ok, so let’s just say it was me for the story’s sake.

I had to call Tuna upstairs because I was working on sizing up his school uniforms and vacation clothes, so he had to TRY ON some clothes.  He HATED it.  I asked him if he’d rather go get his blood drawn, because it was that kind of resistance.  I said we could just go get some allergy tests done while we’re at it.  He chose clothes.  I had to keep grabbing his arm to keep him with me, and “why do I have to do this!!??”, and “after these shorts I’m done!” (I made him try on THREE pairs of shorts.)  Tsk tsk, terrible mom.

So in the middle of holding up uniforms to him since I didn’t dare make his royal highness actually try on any more, he started his complaining again, and I threw a stuffed seal (the closest stuffed animal) at his face. It hit him pretty hard.  (Am I a horrible person for laughing while I type this?) (Don’t answer that.)  He started crying and I felt really bad and said sorry and hugged him and assured him that I didn’t know there were rocks in that seal and I would never really try to hurt him.  I picked up a nearby frog and let him hit me in the face with it twice.  It was hilarious and he laughed and I laughed and it was over.

As I thought this over, I decided that throwing stuffed animals at people’s faces should be an acceptable form of revenge because it’s hilarious and therapeutic. I thought of some of the times that people have hurt me, and then imagined throwing a stuffed animal at their face, and it felt GREAT!

I do not generally agree with the concept of revenge.  It is unnecessary and being mostly a peacemaker I know that there are healthier ways of dealing with “wrongs”.  However, this could be a thing–a parenting thing!  I could win awards!  Have your kid throw a stuffed animal at your face if they’re upset with you, and everything is better!!  I might write a book about it:  “Kids who throw stuffed animals at their parents’ faces:  a long term study of their happiness and success in life.” *  And by long term I mean today, and by success I mean happiness (happiness=success after all).  “Studies show that 98.6% of kids who threw stuffed animals at their parents faces grew up to be well-adjusted and happy adults!”  I think I’m on to something.

*this is not (IS) a slight knock on the parenting books/methods/theories/studies that claim they can tell you how to be the best parents in the world and if you don’t follow their rules your kids will suck at life.  I wonder if any of those books tell you to hit your kid in the face with a stuffed animal and then have them hit you back and then crack up about it. **

**I really hope my kids grow up to be happy because if they don’t I’ll wonder if it’s completely my fault for letting them hit me in the face with stuffed animals.  As if we moms don’t already have enough guilt.

My kids have a healthy sense of humor and the ability to shake off a knock or two.  That comes from NOT following any subscribed parenting method.***  It also comes from following my guts, and my freaking hilarious imagination.

***it is important to note that there are some useful tools available in the parenting books I knock.  they’re not all crap.  ****

****I just wanted to do the footnotey thing again.  I have nothing more to write.*****

*****FIVE asterisks ah ah ah (that’s the Count).  Sorry, I hang out with kids all day, ok?  Really though, I’d probably be like this anyway.

 

This really just happened as I was about to hit “publish”:  Tuna came running into the room with Binker closely chasing him with a STUFFED SNAKE.  For the record, I do not condone hitting anyone in the face with a stuffed snake (read: whip).  Rounded stuffed animals not stuffed with rocks are acceptable.  UGH! Because Boys.