Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fly Your Freak Flag or Time to Live What I Preach

“Mom, they call me weird.”

I knew there was no way I’d get away parenting without having to deal with some name calling, teasing, bullying. And I guessed it would happen to my Squirrel, who has always marched to his own drummer. He’s someone we’ve had to defend against adults who thought it would be “helpful” to tell me how much he needs a haircut or should change his clothes. This always pissed me off because his appearance reflects his personality and telling me my son needs to cut his hair is like saying who he is just isn’t good enough for you. And while I may just gently tell you to mind your own business, in my head I’m telling you to fuck off. The fact that how he looks bothers you so much you think you need to tell me he needs to conform to your version of acceptable tells me more about you than him. So needless to say, I knew he’d be called names eventually.

How do I explain that weird is awesome? Inventions, art, music, science, books – all of those things come from people who think differently. If you act like and think like everyone else, you will do what everyone else does. And I have big plans for my kids. I need them to think about things differently so that they can change the world in ways no one else has before, because no one else has had those thoughts and ideas before. Weird makes change. Average does not.

But…that’s a pretty ten-thousand-foot concept. And when you are in second grade, you are thinking about what people are saying to you right now, not that being unique means you’ll invent the latest technology, solve world hunger, or write amazing music when you are older.

What is reassuring is that I’m not alone. Pink’s daughter is bullied for her looks. Her kickass mom made a speech to her at the VMAs, telling her she’s beautiful and amazing, no matter what other people say. If Pink is going through this, then I’m in good company. I don’t have an awards show to make a public declaration of affirmation so I’m going to have to go for frequency.

But frequency is just not enough.

What’s tricky is that as an adult, how many times have you talked about someone because they are different or “weird”? How many times have we spent time with someone only to turn around and gossip about their short comings to someone else? Can we get real? I’ll admit I’m guilty of this. I’m guessing you might be guilty of this too. What an ugly, shameful side of me. I want my kid treated with respect to be his own person and I am one of the people who judges others for being different. We share blogs and memes about how you should be unique and that one small act of kindness can change the world, and in the next moment, we are trolling someone’s Facebook page with our passive aggressive comments.

I have a friend and when she catches herself talking about other people, she stops herself and says, “That’s not fair. I’m just saying that to make myself feel better.” Oh my goodness, she is my hero. Because deep down, I’m saying things to make myself feel better about my own choices and when your choices are different than mine, I’m inclined to judge you because what if you are doing it better than I am? Time to cut you down! It’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s exactly what the kids on the playground are doing. And it’s time to stop.

If we model the kindness and love we want our kids to show to others, what would happen? Would they learn to treat others with respect, even when they are different from us? It’s so easy to tell our kids about bullying and how awful it is, but we forget that as adults we do it too. We say shitty things on people’s social media pages and behind their backs. We don’t count it as bullying because we are adults! Adults don’t do that. We only say what needs to be said. Plus we are old enough now to know that it shouldn’t hurt anymore.

Except that it does. Each week we witness a new horrific act of violence and hatred and we say, how could that happen? How could someone drive a car through a crowd of people? How could a madman gun down people at a concert? How could someone threaten to shoot up a school? This world needs more kindness. I don’t know what motivates these people. I’m guessing a lot of mental illness, which is a whole different blog. But I’m guessing a lot of hatred too. What if this person experienced just a little more grace and kindness instead of judgement and hate? What if there was one person who showed them a smile and did something helpful – would that be the tipping point to convince a madman that the world really wasn’t all that awful? Maybe that’s just way too simplistic. But what does it hurt to try? What if we could all be a little weird and embraced for our differences? Would that change our mental and emotional DNA?

The other day I passed a panhandler and handed him some dollars. Then I walked to my destination. And I realized that I did not look this man in the face when I handed him the money. I kept my eyes down, as though asking for help and giving help were shameful acts. What a bitch. I was fortunate to walk by him on my way back to my hotel. I looked him in the eyes, smiled and wished him a good evening. (Side note: This is ridiculous. As I type, I realize I am telling you a story about how I made the conscience effort to treat a man like a human, with dignity. That should not be newsworthy. However. We treat people who make us uncomfortable like they don’t deserve respect and kindness. But there’s more to the story.) He didn’t say anything back. So I walked on. Honestly, he didn’t owe me anything. I was the one who treated him like nothing in the first place. Humanity as an afterthought can often be too little too late. As I kept walking, I heard “Hey! You have a good night too!” He was talking to me. I’m not sure if he was just slower with his response or just surprised that someone talked to him. I can’t assume to know his life. But I do know that I caught myself withholding kindness and decency because someone lives a different story than I do. It’s time my life involves more kindness, even if it feels a little a little stilted, a little uncomfortable. I saw a side of me that I didn’t like and I can change that. I owe that to society. I owe that to my kids.

So yes, I’m still going to tell my Squirrel all the time that it’s okay to be weird and different. Weird and different are the definition of creative. And I’m going to remind my kids to be kind to others, to talk to the kid that has no friends, to smile at someone who has a blank expression. But I’m going to do it too. I’m going to recognize that sometimes my knee jerk reaction to others is because I’m trying to make myself feel better. We can feel good about ourselves without stepping on someone to bring us up. I’m going to remember that everyone is a person and should be treated with dignity. Is this going to be easy? Nope. Our culture is to climb on others to make ourselves higher. But nothing worth doing is easy. Will I see a change in the world? Maybe, maybe not. Does it matter? We don’t always have to witness the good to be a better person. I challenge you to join me. Let’s make the world a better place. Fly your freak flag and mind your words. As they say in “The Four Agreements” (great book), be impeccable with your word. Sometimes it’s all you have control over. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

No One Told Me or My Truths About Parenting

No one told me these things would become my truths as a parent. Or maybe they tried to tell me but I didn’t GET IT until I had kids. And now I look at young couples and say things like, “Oh, just wait. You won’t know love until you have children,” and they say “I’m sure.” And I think, oh you really have no idea. You don’t even know. You don’t even know. But you will. Just like I did. Sometimes you just have to live it to know it.

No one told me that having children would feel like having my heart outside of my body, walking around, making decisions on its own, subject to the craziness of the world.

No one told me that love for my children would feel like blood in my veins, constantly pumping and flowing.

No one told me that being a mom is like being in junior high again, complete with the clicks and gossip.

No one told me how much more fun Halloween, Christmas, birthdays and the zoo are as a parent.

No one told me how stressful it is to throw a successful birthday party.

No one told me that the best part of ice cream before dinner is not because ice cream is better than spaghetti but because your kids will think you are the coolest.

No one told me that I would be the one doing most of the cleaning, laundry and cooking.  And that these tasks feel like you are trying to dust a house that is swept up in a tornado.

No one told me that I’d be puked on, peed on and occasionally pooped on. And that  eventually I wouldn’t even bat an eye when it happens. I may even still go to Target in said clothes.

No one told me how tired I’d be. Oh my gosh.

No one told me that I would accidentally coordinate my outfits to match my kids.

No one told me I’d have to relearn math. Shocking. You really don’t need geometry. I knew it.

No one told me that I would feel unsettled unless all of my children are in the same room with me. Unless it is the bathroom. I just want 2 minutes to myself then.

No one told me that being a mom means I will feel like I am constantly living in a barrel of octopuses. Someone is always hanging on me.

No one told me that I would be judged for every single decision I’d make as a mom. Going back to work, staying home with a sick kid, the clothes they wear, how they wear their hair, you name it. Everyone has an opinion. And none of them actually matter.

No one told me I'd have to be a walking encyclopedia. So many questions. 

No one told me that the word “lice” would literally strike terror in my heart.

No one told me that I’d repeat the phrase “fuck it” multiple times a day. In my head of course (most days.)

No one told me that my kids wouldn’t be invited to parties just because I didn’t become friends with the parents.

No one told me that some of my favorite people I would meet are my kids’ friends’ parents.

No one told me that I would still feel like I should be a size four, even though I am much older and have had two kids. Excuses.

No one told me that I would be more invested in middle school sports than I am for college athletics. And I love college athletics.

No one told me that the best part of my day is lying in bed with my kids reading to them. And I get to do this every day. Just please no Magic Tree House. Give me Captain Underpants over Jack and Annie any day.

No one told me how awful kids cartoons would become. I just found one called The Day My Butt Went Psycho. I rest my case.

No one told me how awesome kids’ books really are.

No one told me that I’d see hope for the future because of my kids.

No one told me that PG movies from the 80’s are really R rated movies today. Oops.

No one told me how little sleep I can function on. It takes a few days before you get delusional. If you aren’t there yet, then you are doing good.

No one told me that I would become attached to my kids’ favorite stuffed animals too.

No one told me that parenting is like Fight Club – the only rule is that there are no rules.

No one told me that everyone is doing a great job, even if it is the complete opposite of what I’m doing.

No one told me that I still need 8 hours of sleep to function properly. Unfortunately, I don’t know what that feels like any more. You can be Super Mom but the basic rules of being a human still apply. Good luck with that.

No one told me that I’d get selfish with my time with my children, not wanting to share them with anyone else when we are all home.

No one told me that I’d learn how to like Brussel sprouts because my kids like them. Lima beans are another story. My kids don’t even know they exist.

No one told me that I’d miss my kids every day I’m at work, even 13 years after my first was born.

No one told me that I’d go to work just so I could feel competent once a day.

No one told me that I would honestly never get tired of talking about my kids. And I only 
sort of feel bad for becoming one of “those” people.

No one told me that while glitter is very pretty, do not let it into your house. Glitter is the craft cockroach. Once it’s there, it will never go away. It will live on after the apocalypse.

No one told me that I’d never get enough down time or self-care to feel like a refreshed adult again.  Two hours of quiet will not fill this deficit. It’s okay to not be miraculously refreshed just because you got a pedicure or a 20-minute nap. 

No one told me that I’d learn so much from my kids. Thank goodness because I missed most of my history classes.

No one told me that once I had kids I literally would never have money again. What did I do before kids? Burn my extra cash for heat?

No one told me about snuggles. Snuggles could bring world peace.

No one told me that even if I am out with friends, all I think about are my kids.

No one told me that I would become someone who doesn’t mind paying hundreds of dollars 
for extracurriculars. Well, maybe I don’t love it but I don’t bat an eye anymore.

No one told me that I would feel like I'm losing my mind most of the time. I want to be around my kids 24/7, yet I need a break. I want to stay home with them forever and I want to go to work. 

No one told me that an extra cup of coffee solves everything in the short term. It either wakes you up or gives you a brief moment to think. Sometimes that's all you need.

No one told me that I would learn which wild animals are more prone to rabies. FYI, provoked ground squirrels (emphasis on provoked) usually don’t have rabies, even if they bite you. This lesson was brought to you by the ER. I’ve just saved you $500.

No one told me that I would never know what I’m doing. Ever again.

No one told me that you could do anything to me and I wouldn’t notice. But the moment you involve my kid, I will lose my shit.

No one told me that I would have a firm knowledge on which weekend walk-in clinics have x-ray machines. Tip: only use the walk-in clinics with x-ray machines.

No one told me that my children would become my legacy. And I’m okay with that. That is enough.

No one told me that no matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will be able to sing Raffi songs verbatim. Down by the bay, wear the watermelon grow, my ass.

No one told me that I’d be able to intelligently discuss ear infections, respiratory viruses and the virtues of different over-the-counter medicines.

No one told me that I’d miss the baby stage. It pulls my heart out of my chest.

No one told me that I’d love the teenage stage. So so enjoyable.

No one told me that I really would not be able to remember life before kids. Seriously. What did we do? Watch black and white tv and go for walks? I don’t remember! 

No one told me that when my pediatrician retired, I’d feel it like a loss in the family.

No one told me that I’d start considering canned green beans as part of a healthy dinner. I do draw the line at ketchup. This isn’t the Reagan era.

No one told me that my kids really would be more technologically savvy than I am. And I’ve learned to embrace it because I just don’t have the time to keep up. Plus it’s nice to have little tech wizards readily available.

No one told me I wouldn’t be able to breath if I don’t know exactly where my kids are at all times. Don’t get me started on public restrooms with boys. I literally sweat. Especially if I think they are going number 1 and it ends up being number 2. There should be a mom waiting area for the men’s bathroom.

No one told me I’d have to talk about poop, pee and farts so much. See above. Ugh.

No one told me that I would wake up in the middle of the night in a panic attack when I realize my kid is going on a field trip to the zoo that day and what if he is taken by a stranger. It takes everything in me not to wake them up right then to cover Stranger Danger again.

No one told me that my nightmares would change to horrible things happening to my children.

No one told me that I wouldn’t think twice about getting my kids’ oxygen masks on first before mine in case of an aircraft emergency. I know what they say. Tell that to my mom instinct.

No one told me how hard it would be to teach someone to tie their shoes or blow a bubble with gum.

No one told me how much fun coloring is.

No one told me that some of my favorite movies would be Pixar. Inside Out’s Bing Bong makes me cry every time.

No one told me that travel wet wipe packs would become a permanent fixture in my car, years after we left the diaper stage.

No one told me that parenting every single day is different. And once I learn how to deal with one age, it changes.

No one told me parenting would be so much fun and crushing at the same time.

No one told me to stop taking everything so seriously. The only way through parenting is with a strong sense of humor. Laughing is always a better first reaction over yelling or panicking.

No one told me that I’d try my best and fail constantly. And that’s okay.

Monday, September 25, 2017

My Annual Mom Application or This Position Still Open?

To whom it may concern:

I heard your organization had an opening for Mom and I would like to apply. I believe that I possess many of the qualities you are looking for in a candidate, as you can see from my resume which I have enclosed.

Your job description listed several required qualifications, including personal shopper, cook, baker, chauffeur, office organizer, housecleaner, seamstress, artist, mind reader, psychologist, funeral director, gardener, nurse, doctor, handy man, hair dresser, writer, personal assistant, copy editor, event planner, decorator, grief counselor, mathematician and personal trainer. While my academic history does not support all of these qualifications in a traditional sense, I feel as though my experience makes up for what I lack in the classroom.

For example, I can perform under pressure and take criticism. These are not skills that can be learned in the classroom. Once I found myself in a situation where dinner needed to be made, one son had to be taken to a concert and another son had homework to do before said concert. In the midst of this, it was discovered that a pet hermit crab had died. My first response was to throw it in the garbage and immediately I was rebutted. I handled the criticism well and completely changed tactics to ones of empathy and gravity. While cooking tacos, I crafted a make shift coffin for the crab and we held a eulogy over dinner. I am proud to say we still made it to the concert on time. This was a great learning experience for me. Clearly I was insensitive for considering that dead hermit crabs should be disposed of in the garbage (honestly my first instinct was to flush it in the toilet but I reconsidered – perhaps that is only an appropriate burial for fish. What would the Little Mermaid do?) I am glad I had an opportunity to understand the very human characteristics of hermit crabs and why they are such sensitive pets that deserve our utmost respect. I believe this example not only showcases my ability to work under pressure but to also learn new skills in a rapidly changing environment. Additionally, the coffin was showcases my artistic ability with limited supplies.

I understand that a certain personality type is desired for the position of Mom. She must be fun, patient, spontaneous, loving, kind and smart. I believe I will bring my unique spin to this position if chosen as your ideal candidate. I believe that while being fun, Mom must also balance responsibility. She must be patient but also know when it is time to hurry. She must be smart but humble enough for you to teach her new facts you learned at school and from your friends. She must be quick to laughter. I will admit that this can sometimes be a weakness for me as I have accidentally laughed when one of my sons was stung by wasps, although in my defense it was the second time it had happened that day and was following a “I hate nature” monologue of that son just said prior to the second stinging. I like to frame it as lending levity to an unfortunate circumstance. In my past, I have tried to find ways to mix fun with life’s mundane routines. An example is an initiative I call Wake Up Wednesday, where I make breakfast on Wednesday mornings, also known as Hump Day, to break up the routine school week. I appreciate that too much fun can sometimes hurt the bottom line so I have found inexpensive ways to motivate, such as the rule that if there is a new kind of Oreo, you must purchase it. This inexpensive incentive costs a mere $3 and can lighten any grocery trip. Currently I am on the hunt for the Cookie Butter Oreo. We shall not speak of the Root Beer Float Oreos, the only time this fun game has backfired.

During my research into your organization, I have learned that you expect perfection, regardless of the circumstances. I have heard that you do not tolerate tardiness or insubordination. Serving the wrong cheese or “demanding” that you do your homework will not be tolerated. Frequent performance reviews are common in your organization and one must not be crushed by such mundane pressures as being in two places at once. Hours are 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. and of course a 24-hour on call rotation every day. I appreciate that you do not have a non-complete clause, which will allow me to have a full-time job in addition to this one. From the contract that I have reviewed, it looks like you only take 98% of my earnings should I take a “second” job, which seems reasonable.
In closing, I know you have many candidates to consider for the prestigious position of Mom. I hope my qualifications are competitive. I will follow up on my application before bedtime stories tonight. 

Thank you for your time and consideration – I know that you are very busy catching up on the same season of Gravity Falls for the fifteenth time and catching Pokémon with your phone.


Jenny, MBA (Mom of Boys Alone)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Black, White and Rainbow or I've Messed Up

I’m not entirely sure how to start this blog. I hate being cliché and talking about what everyone else is talking about, but sometimes you realize that you’ve been messing up and you just want to let people know about it.

I’ve had difficult conversations with my kids. We’ve talked about gay marriage, drugs, smoking and safe sex. I’ve tried to be up front and approachable so that they can always come to me with questions. We’ve established the Four Golden Rules: Always respect women; Don’t smoke; Don’t do drugs; Always practice safe sex. And I thought if they followed those rules and we talked openly about the hard conversations, they wouldn’t do anything that could royally screw up their lives.

But I’ve omitted a topic that frankly, I didn’t want to talk about. I haven’t been talking about race and discrimination. If I’m being honest, I thought I shouldn’t have to talk about it. Racial discrimination is mostly a thing of the past right? We don’t see it other than isolated incidents and those we can attribute to the outcasts in society, anomalies. We see Nazis in an Indiana Jones movie or in the Blues Brothers and we make it clear that we too hate the Illinois Nazis! But those movies are from the eighties – that kind of ignorant idiocy doesn’t happen anymore. Except that it does.

As a white American who wants to believe the world is better than it is, I’ve been privileged in that I can ignore the ugliness of the world. Why teach my children about race? We see everyone as equal in our family. In fact, we see everyone as equal so much that we don’t even need to talk about it. And that’s where I’ve fucked it up. For some reason, I thought I needed to be clear about smoking, drugs, sex and women so I’ve talked about those things. I didn’t want to talk about race. I assumed that if I didn’t preach hate and discrimination, then my children would just know that “we don’t do that.”

But kids don’t learn anything by the absence of teaching. Silence teaches nothing. If we don’t talk about it, someone else will and who knows what they are going to say. I need to control the message. We live in an age where we know about everything that is happening in the world. Horrific events are now live streamed on Facebook. We have found new ways to insult people anonymously online so we can still seem like decent people in the flesh. And I’m watching the nightly news and seeing the fucking Nazis walk among us. Oh, I’m sorry. Alt-right. Because rebranding hate makes everyone feel so much better. Well done marketers.

I’ve sat back passively for too long. I don’t get involved and talk politics much. I don’t know why – maybe because I don’t think I could have a respectful conversation with someone if I so strongly disagree with their beliefs so instead I opt to stay quiet. I’m going to have to learn how to get better at that because too many of us have sat back and let others do the talking. Look at where we are. We went from a black president to white supremacists walking openly in the streets. Did I contribute to this with my silence? You bet I did.

What can I do to change the world? I am one person but I’m raising two boys that will impact people around them. Their actions will affect those around them either positively or negatively. It is my civic duty to teach them wrong from right, to teach them proactively what our values are instead of thinking they would just pick up on the fact that we don’t hate people based on their skin color, their religion or who they love.

Why is this so difficult? Why can I talk about condoms and STDS and where babies come from but I can’t talk about the struggle for people of color? I’m afraid I’m going to mess it up. And I’ve got to get over that. Look, I mess up parenting regularly. If I could have a “best of” reel of my mistakes, we could watch for days. The one thing I know about parenting is that I will probably screw something up today. But what’s great is that if you are open and honest about messing up, kids will usually give you another chance. Through trial and error, I’ve learned to be a better sideline parent. I’ve learned that analogies should not be used in sex talks. (No glove no love? Glad we caught that one before my kids wore mittens in the bedroom.) We’ve talked about gay marriage and how people can love whoever they want – we will not judge love in our house. But I’m very anxious about talking about race because as a white woman, I’m sure I have committed microaggressions of my own. Does this mean I shouldn’t try to do my best to have discussions about race? Nope. I’m going to forge ahead. 
I’m going to mess up. That’s guaranteed. But maybe the more conversations I have, the better I’ll get at it. I’m sure I’ll need re-dos. Heck, my first sex talk was a disaster but I’ve gotten better at it. You have to start somewhere. At least now I’ll be trying and my kids won’t wonder where I stand on issues of race, religion and orientation.  

What’s that going to look like in our house? It looks like us driving in the car and I’m going to bring it up out of the blue. We are going to talk about it at the dinner table or while we watch TV. I don’t need to wait for a segue or a news clip about race to talk about it. People talk about God openly in their houses; we can talk about race, religion, and orientation openly. It’s time we start preaching our values instead of thinking they will passively become installed in their brains. I’ve made that mistake long enough. It’s time I get over my discomfort. Pretending the world is a different place than it really is simply because I wish it were so is naïve and no one has time for wishful thinking. Maybe if we have those talks with this generation we will eventually get the world that we want. One where everyone really does accept everyone for who they are. Love wins.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Eat Your Grits or Lessons Learned...Again

One of the toughest parts of being a parent is being brave when you know your kid is going through a hard time.

They say that everything happens for a reason. I say that’s bullshit. You cannot convince me that babies die, people get cancer, people are raped and nature destroys lives and it’s all for some “reason.” No. However, I will argue that there is always something to be learned. Sometimes you learn the depths of sorrow, sometimes you learn how to appreciate what you have, and sometimes you learn grit.

This weekend the Moose broke another bone,which is turning into an unfortunate fall tradition. For a second year in a row, he will not be able to play his all-time favorite sport – football. It is what this kid lives for. And he’s good at it. It is genuinely fun to watch him play and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it feels really good when you hear your kid’s name on the loudspeaker for making the play. My chest swells. And now he gets to sit out another year.

God bless him. He doesn’t cry because of the pain but he cries from disappointment. And my heart breaks. It really does. It is so hard to be the cheerleader when you know he is hurting. It is hard to be brave and encouraging when you want to be swallowed up with sorrow for your kid. But being a parent does not give you the luxury of wallowing. Being a parent means womaning up and pushing forward. Quiver and cry as much as you want on the inside but it is game face on the outside. I know vulnerability is the rage – and I’m not saying you shouldn’t be vulnerable.  But there are times you simply have to be the rock. Later when the moment has calmed down, you can tell them how you feel. They should know that you are scared and sad too. But in the thick of it, be the parent.

At night, I went into the Moose’s room and laid down next to him. In the dark, I felt tears on his cheeks. We talked. How it isn’t fair that he is missing another year of football. But there’s something to be learned from moments like these – it’s just that we can’t see it now. And he says, “I get that. But Mom, this is the second time the same thing has happened. Why would this happen twice if it’s because I’m supposed to learn something? I learned it last year.”

It was a great question. I had to think about it for a bit. Why would the same thing happen twice? Last year he was a total champ. He didn’t complain. He was a leader on the sidelines. We got compliments about how he was such a champion on the bench. Great. Way to go Moose! You rocked a crappy moment. You are right – why the heck do you have to relive this again? It isn’t fair. I agree.

So what is there to learn from the exact same lesson? I whispered to him, “You were born for greatness. Your name means greatest. You are going to change the world someday. You might cure cancer or teach inner city kids. Who knows. But you will change the world. And that’s not going to be easy. Over and over you are going to be met with resistance. You are going to get knocked down. Because changing the world is important. And nothing important is easy. Maybe you are learning how to deal with repeated disappointment and how to keep going. Not playing football one year is one thing. But having two seasons in a row on the bench is a whole other level of disappointment. How you deal with it is how you will learn to deal with the hard things in life.

You can sit there and feel terrible and wallow in it. And you can do that today. But tomorrow morning we are not going to talk about how you have to sit out another season. We are going to talk about what you can do. You can lift weights. You can bike. You can work on your core. You can work on your flexibility. You can use this moment to get stronger, physically and mentally. You see there are two types of people. There are people that are frozen when bad things happen to them. It’s all they can think about. And there are people who get up the next day and say ‘what can I do’ instead of ‘look at what I can’t do.’ You are always going to be moving. You may not be moving in the same direction you started, you may have to juke and change up the plans. But you are going to keep moving. Plan A didn’t pan out. You are going to kick the shit out of Plan B. Because that’s the kind of people we are. And if you are going to change the world, this is who you will have to be.”

I rubbed his head and crept out of his room. And I thanked my stars that the worst thing that my son can fathom is being out a second season of football. He has not imagined cancer, a death of a parent, losing friends and family even though they are alive, or losing himself. So I honor that this is the worst thing to happen to him and acknowledge that it will not be the worst thing to happen to him.

And I thought, is there a lesson in this for me? I was crushed he wouldn’t be able to play this year. And I have to remind myself that I’m disappointed for him, not for me. That sports do not define him and his performance is not my identity either. Sports are not the most important thing, even if the 13-year-old boy believes it. And that I need to respect the strength of his feelings. This is also a good reminder for me that we always move forward, even if forward is in a different direction than we anticipated. There are going to be other moments where I have to be brave and sensitive simultaneously as a parent. This has given me good practice because I know this is minor for what is yet to come. I would be kidding myself if I thought dealing with a broken bone in 8th grade football is the worst of what I’ll see.

They say that grit is actually the characteristic that is most predictive of success. The definition of grit is courage and resolve; strength of character. You can’t have courage without having to experience fear and challenge. You can’t have resolve without having to go through adversity. How we handle life now gives us practice for when things get even harder. And this is a lifelong practice. As much as it sucks, we all need to have opportunities to be courageous and resilient. We can’t get better at it without these experiences. It looks like the breakfast of champions isn’t Wheaties. It’s grits.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

School Supply List for Moms or You Deserve a New Backpack Too

It’s that time of year again! The calendar has turned a page and we find ourselves looking at back-to-school month – August! Soon our little darlings will be heading off to start learning again.* Are you ready? If you look at the ads, it’s like Black Friday for School every day. Crayons, 99 cents! Paper, college-ruled or wide-ruled, 79 cents! Pencils, $1.19! With deals like this and everywhere selling school supplies, school shopping should be a synch!

But you know it’s not simply that easy. You need to get CRAYOLA crayons, in a 37-pack, not a 16, 24, 36 or 64-pack. Those don’t exist? Surely someone sells them. And you need to get five folders. But not just any five folders – you need to get violet, plum, orchid, lavender and fuchsia. They are all five shades of purple but yet so very different from each other. Now run out and find them! (Side note, my teenage boy did not know what fuchsia was. He thought it was…purple.) Target is out of plum? Try Walmart. No, not that Walmart, I heard it from someone that the elusive plum folder is at the Walmart on 8th Street. What do you mean it isn’t a PLASTIC plum folder? It’s just a heavy-duty paper one? That won’t do! The list says it must be specifically a plastic folder!**

When I first became a parent of a soon-to-be kindergartener (oh so many years ago) I dreaded the school shots. Why are there 47 shots for kindergarteners? (PLEASE NOTE: I LOVE VACCINES. THEY KEEP SOCIETY SAFE FOR THOSE INDIVIDUALS WHO TRULY CANNOT PROTECT THEMSELVES AGAINST CERTAIN VIRUSES. PLEASE VACCINATE. AND THIS BLOG IS NOT ABOUT VACCINATIONS SO WE’LL LEAVE IT THERE.) After the kindergarten shots, I took my newly minted five-year-old to buy school supplies as a reward. See, after you suffer through those shots, you will be rewarded by getting to go school shopping for the upcoming school year! Backpacks! Lunch bags! Pencil boxes! Do you know where this is headed? Naïve me had no idea I was venturing into one of the Seven Levels of Hell. Take one small area of Target, add 28 shopping carts, 36 frustrated parents (some smart ones stayed home and stuck their spouse with this task solo) and 900 kids all looking for the Dixon Ticonderoga pencils (did I mention you need to sharpen all two dozen of those pencils yourself?) This was not a reward – this was war! After searching for 15 minutes for a white, 1 inch, plastic binder, I found it 7 aisles down with the poster board. Oh Target, you mock me, toying with me and making me believe you’d put everything I need in the one place that has signs screaming SCHOOL SUPPLIES. Needless to say, I needed a nap and a bottle of wine when I was done. What the hell was that? Why does Parents magazine make this seem like a rite of passage? Oh, but because it is! It’s just that not all rites of passage are happy. How little did I know.

I quickly got smart and after that I started ordering the PTO School Supply box, that arrives in your child’s classroom at Open House, with all of the supplies, including Kleenex, except for the PE shoes and paint shirt. Does it cost more? Who the flip cares? How much is your soul worth? Mine is worth at least a $60 box of school supplies.

This got me thinking. Why isn’t there a School Supply list for Moms? We survived the summer and now will get to survive the upcoming school year. We will get to learn different teachers’ nuances – is this the year we have homework every day or never? Will there be a lot of parental engagement in the weekly special projects? Do we need to build a realistic looking dinosaur out of cereal boxes that still looks like our five-year-old made it? Do we bring snacks? Can they have peanuts in them? And do you have all the paperwork done? Did you sign the form for Tylenol, concussions in sports, vaccines, and permission for them to photograph your child? Don’t forget to bring it with you to the Open House! Oh there is so much to do. Look Moms, we need to get ready for this year too. 

Here is my suggested School Supply List for Moms:

  • Wine/Beer/Cocktail supplies – you either are celebrating the end of summer or celebrating the beginning of the school year
  • A new “backpack” aka purse of your choosing
  • New “PE” shoes
  • Magazines for killing time: People, Cosmopolitan, and Vogue are all acceptable – you need to read something with very little substance after you spent the summer reading books, magazines and blogs full of ideas to keep your kids entertained and engaged
  • A fancy new calendar so you can keep track of all of those new dates for sports, homework and field trips
  • Highlighters and fancy pens for your new calendar - you can get stickers too if it brings you joy
  • New podcasts for waiting for pick up/drop off/practice
  • Frozen meals for those nights that dinner is after practice (Look, you can be super and make these yourself. You can also buy a box of frozen burritos at Costco. No one is judging.)
  • A haircut for that new style you found on Pinterest
  • It goes without saying…new school clothes
  • Calming tea (You know there will be a pre-school-year assignment that you will receive at the school open house. It will involve a paper bag, scissors, crayons, 17 pictures of your family and thoughtful stories about your summer. This will be due in 36 hours. Cue Mission Impossible music.)
  • A full tank of gas because the bus schedule never goes smoothly the first few days
  • Kleenex because, sometimes this can be a little teary for someone (I’m talking to you Mom.)

I also suggest scheduling a playdate with one of your favorite mom friends to celebrate getting these little bundles of tan joy (you used sunscreen!) off to school with only minor glitches. You forgot the earbuds? Hey, last year I forgot poster board for my middle schooler for the whole year and guess what? He still moved up a grade. It will be okay. (But don’t forget that school paperwork – you won’t get further than a few days into the school year without them kicking you out with it. There is no coming back from forgetting the school paperwork.) 

You made it! You pulled it off. You found the Crayola washable fat markers in a 12-count box at the last minute at Walgreens. You only forgot snack on the second day of school but you rallied after that. You are winning. Celebrate! Time to go to Coach for that “school bag” and then treat yourself to an adult juice box (yay for boxed wine!) Here’s to another year of school!

*Actually, if you are a good parent, they were learning all summer with your reading programs, math websites and fulfilling science excursions you took them on. If this is you, you are my hero. And if this isn’t you, you are my hero. So tired of summer guilt…that’s a whole other blog topic.

**To my teacher friends who make these lists…I love you. I know you have your reasons for this treasure hunt/wild goose chase we go on every year to find these school supplies. And I also know you are probably pulling out your hair to fill your own child’s school supply list. I see you. I hear you. Plastic folders ARE better than paper ones. Except that in 2015, an orange plastic folder Did. Not. Exist. I kid you not. I am still traumatized.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Switching Super Heroes or Grab Those Bracelets

This week I realized I’m been going about this life balance stuff all wrong. All those blogs, articles, books, podcasts, posts, etc talk about how we are all trying to be Super Woman. All day we try to be all things for all people. We get up early in the morning for “me” time at the gym, treat ourselves to a shower long enough to shave our legs, run around getting the kids ready for the day, go to work all day where we will be brilliant and articulate (despite always always being sleep deprived), get the kids from their after  school programs, take them to their next after school activity, make dinner, clean up dinner, do homework, make lunches, get everyone ready for bed, rest and repeat the next day. We are Super Women.

But ladies, we’ve been cocking this up. We have been trying to emulate the wrong super hero. I just saw the Wonder Woman movie and had an epiphany. We’ve been modeling Super Woman when we should have been Wonder Woman. Now there’s someone I can get behind. She is a complete bad ass. She’s got some bitchin’ bracelets, a lasso of truth and one really fantastic shield. She can accessorize and kick butt. She is my new idol. I don't know why I didn't realize this sooner. I had Wonder Woman Underoos when I was a kid and if I had them now, I'd wear them every day.

First, let’s talk about that jewelry. Her bracelets can deflect bullets! Her shield can protect her from grenades! What’s not to love!? It’s fashion and function together at last! And as a mom, who hasn’t felt someone shooting bullets at her once in a while. Whether they are words, a brush off, a messed-up deadline at work, forgotten homework or an impossible schedule to coordinate, we are dodging bullets and grenades daily. And how often have you stood your ground, braced yourself, bounced those bullets off your bracelets, and plowed ahead? Probably all the time. You are channeling your inner Wonder Woman. Don’t get me started on that lasso of truth; what I wouldn’t give for that!

Did you notice how Wonder Woman really only worked on being amazing at one thing at a time? She was going to stop war. Granted, it’s a lofty goal, but still, it’s just one goal. She’s not trying to be a super mom, a super spouse, and a super career woman. She does one thing at a time. Maybe we should try to just be really good at one thing and then give ourselves a pass on being mediocre for the other things. The priority can change daily, even hourly. But what if we just try being good at one thing at a time? I think this is what people call being in the present. Can “save the world” be a goal? Sure, just maybe don’t plan on cooking three course meals on the same day you save the world. It might be a good day for take-out. No judgement.

And when things didn’t go her way, Wonder Woman took a moment and completely regrouped. She didn’t charge ahead blindly and she didn’t have a pity party longer than about a minute. She took some time to realize the guy she killed didn’t stop the war. We all hit speed bumps sometimes. Don’t we all need a little time to reflect when we have a setback? Yet how often do we take a moment to do that? A quick breather, a time out, a moment to just sit, might be all we need to get back in the game and end war…or whatever battle it is we are fighting.

So maybe next time we have over filled our plate with too much to do, too high of expectations and a healthy sense of self-doubt, we take a moment, change our capes, grab our bracelets and shields, and put on that fancy Wonder Woman headband. Deflect the bullets, focus on the goal at hand, and kick ass. Power on my friends.