Monday, October 30, 2017

This Stage of Parenting

Every stage of parenting has its own special kind of chaos and craziness from sleepless nights with a newborn, to toddler tantrums, to elementary school mania. I truly believe that no stage of parenting is easier than another - they are all just different. I'm currently in the tween and teen stage of parenting with a 10 year old, a 12 (almost 13) year old, and a 15 year old. There are parts of this phase that seem so much easier. Everyone dresses themselves and they can fix a snack on their own. They don't wake up at the crack of dawn on Saturdays and our schedules don't revolve around nap times. They don't need to be carried and dinner at a restaurant does't feel like herding cats. However, there are pieces of this chapter that also seem harder. Mood swings are as unpredictable as preschool meltdowns and schedules are so packed I'm left wishing for a nap. Homework looms constantly and fashion choices can be points of contention. They clean out the pantry faster than I can refill it - again. There is a lot of letting go and a lot of testing independence right now. 

Like every other leg of this parenting journey, there are ups and downs, twists and turns. Sometimes, the road is a little rocky and, sometimes, it feels like smooth sailing. 


This stage of parenting is . . .

Mood swings (theirs and mine) followed by hugs and high fives.

Being so grateful they don't wake up at 6:00am on Saturdays anymore, but also wondering if I should wake them up when the clock hits noon and they are still snoozing away.

Going shopping for homecoming dresses, new high heels, and a strapless bra (for her; not me).

Wondering if any fashion designers actually have daughters of their own and wanting to give them all a piece of my mind. 

Watching them raid each other’s closets and give each other fashion advice. 

And social advice. And advice about boys.

It’s discussions - actual adult-like discussions - about politics, and religion, and tragedies, and making a difference.

It's inside jokes that only we understand. (Hey, R! It's raining!! 😜)

It’s late night homework and early morning carpool lines.

It's coffee dates with my daughter and frozen yogurt after school (sometimes).

It’s listening to them sing along becasue they know all the words to a song I’ve never heard.

It's them hanging out in their rooms alone while I wonder if I should orchestrate some quality family time or just enjoy the peace.

It's texting them from downstairs to say that dinner's ready.

It’s “What’s for dinner, Mom?”  and “Why do I have to go to bed so early?” (Even though, it’s not early at all and I’m about to fall asleep standing up.)

It's sharing clothes and sharing shoes, except with the one whose feet are already bigger than mine.

It's making a Target run for shampoo, lotion, feminine supplies, makeup, and razors - because we ALL need them.

It's offering guidance, but also knowing they have to figure it out for themselves; find their own path.

It's disagreeing, but biting my tongue.

It's hours and hours, miles and miles spent sitting behind the wheel of my minivan shuttling them to and from school, sports, clubs, and social events. 

It’s talking about the rules of the road and driving advice - from the passenger side because she has now taken the wheel.

It's date night with my hubby because we can leave the kids home alone for a while. 

It's figuring out Christmas gifts together, because we don't do Santa anymore and feeling relieved, but also a little sad about that. 

It’s wanting them to be healthy, growing young ladies, but crumbling a little invisibly when I stand back to back and she rejoices becasue she is FINALLY just a smidge taller than me.

It's Facebook memories from six or eight years ago that throw me a sucker punch and leve me temporarily breathless as I gaze upon the babies they used to be. 

It's hearing her say, "I'm fat!" and quickly replying, "No you are not! You are beautiful and perfect just the way you are!" but also knowing I need to set a better example of self-acceptance.

It’s me asking them for assistance with technology and them NOT asking for assistance with homework - because they know it is too advanced for me! 

It’s discussing college and potential careers. 

It's trying to keep up on Instagram and hearing myself say, "Please put down your phone!" 

It’s being a more relaxed mom becasue I’ve been doing this for so long now -until something new arises and throws me off a balance again. 

It's still a lot of firsts, but also quite a few "lasts."

It’s cherishing hugs that are few and far between; wishing I could hold on just a little bit longer but being careful not to hold on too long or too tight - realizing these hugs are a metaphor for life. 

It’s still being needed - so very, very needed - for money, and transportation, support, and love, but not really being needed anymore to brush their hair or help them dress.

It's learning to let go, even though I want to hold on.

It's hoping and praying that the seeds we've planted have taken root and that they were the right seeds to start with. 

It’s watching them become young adults and being so incredibly proud of the people they are growing into, but also missing the sweet little baby faces and cuddles that now seem like so far ago and also just like yesterday. 


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Oh, Saturday!

Friday night, I waited up until midnight for my oldest daughter to get home from her high school homecoming dance. These days, I'm usually lucky to still be awake by 10pm, so midnight was tough. I was super glad I didn't have to set the alarm for any specific Saturday morning hour and, indeed, I rolled out of bed just after 9:00am that morning.

I sat down at the kitchen table and scrolled through Facebook while I ate a bowl of cereal and savored a cup of coffee. Scrolling across my computer screen were friends who were, at 9:30am, already out and about walking for breast cancer, anticipating a busy soccer tournament, had already slayed a workout, or  were photographing the colors of fall foliage.

As I sat there in my pajamas with a bowl of cold cereal and a cup of lukewarm coffee, I lamented the Saturday ahead of me. We had no plans for adventure or excitement. Instead, I knew that my Saturday would be spent with three kids who probably wouldn’t let their feet hit the floor until almost noon, a husband who would spend all morning in his office upstairs woking while I toiled away scrubbing tubs and toilets, doing load after load of laundry, vacuuming up dog hair, trying to plan our menu for the coming week, and attempting to order groceries without blowing the budget.

Sounds super glamorous, no?

I let myself wallow in that self-pity for a little while. Then, I remembered that I've really been trying hard to break up with "busy" and how nice it was that I didnt’ have to set the alarm when I went to bed the night before. It occurred to me that all those moms sitting out there on a cool drizzly soccer field might very well have preferred being curled up back in bed  or at least being at home sipping a cup of coffee in their pajamas. Maybe the people who were out walking for a cause or exercising bright and early were dreading the dirty house they were going to have to tackle later in the day.

Certainly, there are those who pray daily to know what their next meal might be and how they will pay to feed their children tomorrow -much less have a menu for an entire week and a “budget” to think about.

But, nobody posts those kind of things in a Facebook feed, do they?

No one would tell the world how mundane their life is or talk about all the things they are NOT for all their social media “friends” to see - becasue who would want to read that, right?

Better yet, who would want to admit that they are simply average??

Well, maybe I would. For the sake of myself and anyone else who is feeling the way I felt Saturday morning about my lackluster, boring, completely un-glamorous Saturday morning, this was how I spent my Saturday morning:

I share this because I think we all feel a lot of pressure to construct these perfect, interesting lives because that's what we think is expected of us based on what we see on social media. We forget that social media is not always reality - or at least not the WHOLE picture of reality - and, somehow, we've come to believe that a humdrum Saturday is something to be embarrassed about. I would argue, however, that the "humdrum" parts of our lives are where we find most of our commonalities and that, really, we could probably all use a little less busy and a lot more "humdrum."

So, I say . . . . 

Kudos to the parents who were on the soccer field or at the dance team competition at the crack of dawn.
Kudos to the women who had already run five miles before 8am.
Kudos to the family who packed up the minivan for a weekend in the mountains or at the beach.
Kudos to the dads who made chocolate chips pancakes with preschoolers before the sun came up.

And you know what?

Kudos to the mom who was still in her pajamas at 11am sipping her third cup of coffee.
Kudos to the teenagers who didn’t get out of bed before noon and to the parents who let them sleep.
Kudos to the dads who worked in the morning and give it their all to provide for a family.
Kudos to the kids who lazed on the couch watching Paw Patrol in Elsa pajamas.
Kudos to the mamas who, just like me, spent the morning scrubbing toilets and folding towels.

In the end, we’re all just trying to make this family life work - whetever that might look like for each one of us and we would probably all be better off if we paid a little a lot less attention to what we see on social media and just kept on keeping on with whatever works for us.

What does your typical Saturday look like? 


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Currently . . Fall 2017

Once October rolls in, it really starts to seem like fall to me. The temperatures are cooling off (finally!). The leaves are beginning to change and fall. We are (mostly) settled into our school routines. New seasons of our favorite shows are on TV during the week and there's football on the weekends. Chrysanthemums and pumpkins decorate front porches and stores.

The change of the season seems like a good time for a "Currently" post! 

Currently I'm . . . . 

Anticipating several work events for which I will have a big responsibility. Starting with this weekend (Oct. 8) through the last weekend of October (Trunk or Treat) and into the first weekend of November (Parent's Night Out)! Whew! I'm excited about all of them, but will be putting in a lot of organizational efforts.

Trying a few new recipes. In general, cooking for my family can be extremely frustrating due to all their picky preferences. However, we ate out way too much over the summer. Now that we are back in school and back to homework and bedtimes, I've been cooking more. I recently tried these:
  • Tuscan Tortellini - I left out the spinach because I knew the kids wouldn't even touch it. They didn't care for it anyway because of the sausage, but my hubby and I liked it and it was super easy to make.
  • Chicken Piccata - This one was easy enough to make and pretty good, but not as flavorful as I had hoped. 
  • Sweet and Sour Meatballs are on my menu for this week. I hope they turn out well! 
What is one of your favorite weeknight recipes?

While we're "in the kitchen," I've been loving these new skillet, oven sauces, and slow cooker. Have you tried them? I have seen them made by Campbell's, McCormick, and Red Fork. I've tried one or two from each brand and they are really good, plus super simple. 

Reading, well, not much. In addition to the summer books I reviewed , I read The Barrowfields by Phillip Lewis. The book was set in the Blue Ridge Mountains near where I grew up and even mentioned my hometown in it. That was pretty cool, but, otherwise, the book was not my favorite. I am currently reading Leadership on the Line as part of a discussion group for work, but it's not exactly the most scintillating stuff! 😜 I have The Child by Fiona Barton on my nightstand. I just need to pick it up and jump in! 

Thinking that I should probably start planning for Christmas, but in reality, I'm not even close because. . . . . it's October! 
78- there are 78 days until Christmas (at the time this post was published).

Beginning to think about college for my oldest daughter. She is in 10th grade and, on one hand, it seems early. But, on the other hand, I know we need to start seriously considering it. After all, we probably need to do some college visits this summer, right???  She is already getting mail and emails from colleges and I feel like we're getting behind. Yet, this is, obviously, a whole new process for us, so I really don't even know where to start. Maybe I should be reading "A Mom's Guide to Helping He Daughter Choose a University" (or something like that!).

Traveling with that same oldest daughter behind the wheel! She got her learner's permit in August and is doing really well. My nerves? Well, they're doing better than they were at first, but it is still a very strange feeling!

Reeling, like the rest of the worldfrom the news of another horrible act of violence last week. I wrote a lot of this post over a week ago, before the shootings in Las Vegas. I struggled to finish it because, now, most of it just seems frivolous and superficial. I have to remind myself that it's not frivolous, though, because it's life - and we have to go on living our lives, soaking in all the precious moments we can because life is so uncertain sometimes.We may never have answers to the "why?" and that is a tough pill to swallow, but if we let fear take over, then "they" win - and the worst thing we can do is to let "them" win. 


Monday, October 2, 2017

Why I'm Breaking Up With "BUSY"

When I think about last spring, it makes my blood pressure rise even now. Our schedule was absolutely insane. My three daughters were participating in at least two extracurricular activities EACH and those activities required me driving all over the county. Add to that my own part time job and associated responsibilities, some school meetings and volunteering, basic homework and household chores, and other family obligations. Then, top it off with a husband who travels a lot for work which meant most of the day to day logistics fell on me. Every single day, figuring out the schedule was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. I was completely stressed and the kids were, too. 

At the end of it all, I was left asking myself, "Why are we doing all this? Are any of these activities really even worth all this turmoil?" Ultimately, I decided the answer was a resounding "No!" When I evaluated the usefulness and enjoyment of each activity vs. the stressfulness of them all, the scales were tipped quite drastically in the direction of distress and aggravation. 

That's when I decided to break up with "busy." 
Did you know that a recent study by the Journal of Consumer Research found that being busy has become the newest indicator of social status? When presented with a fake social media account created by the researchers, study participants assigned the person behind the account a higher social status when the account posted updates about working long hours and a lower social status when the account posted more about leisure time. Another study done by the University of Chicago found that people actually dread being idle. Therefore, they propose that people actually expend energy justifying the need to stay "busy."

I remember just a few years ago, when I asked someone,"How are you?" or someone asked me the same, the typical, auto-response was, "Fine, thanks! How are you?" Now, the answer I usually get AND the answer I usually give is, "You know, busy busy, busy!" often followed by a run down of all the latest activities on the schedule. It seems we are always trying to let others know that our lives are full and dispel even the slightest notion that we are sitting idly around twiddling our thumbs.

But, what's really wrong with just sitting around twiddling our thumbs, or reading a book, or having a family dinner in which we don't all have to hurry to scarf down our food between activities?  Why can't we just have a quiet, relaxed evening at home without feeling like we (or our children) are missing out on something?

Many times in the past, I have found myself hoping that soccer practices or riding lessons are rained out. I've been relieved when instructors cancelled activities, even when the reason for the cancellations was something such as illness. I've put off appointments and chores because there just wasn't enough time in the schedule for them. I've longed for "down time" with unscheduled space, but, when it rolled around, I felt guilty for enjoying the calm (or at the very least, I had that nagging feeling that I was forgetting something terribly important becasue I was so un-used to having "gaps" in the schedule).

Look, I've got three kids, a part time job, a husband who works full time and travels a lot, and a household to run. That means that our lives are always going to be inherently busy to a certain degree and I will not deny my kids the opportunity to participate in activities they truly love that are honestly enriching them in some way. Not in my wildest dreams will I ever be able to come home every single night, have a peaceful dinner, and, then, kick my feet up until all the kids go cooperatively to bed. The thing is, though, that I/we can choose not to make it even busier and when we have "down time," we can laugh or rest and give ourselves permission to enjoy it rather than feeling repentant.

At the end of the day, each family has to do what is best for them. Maybe your kid is a future pro soccer player and all those hours of practice are worth it. Maybe dance classes three nights a week will yield a professional ballerina. Perhaps the 4:00am swim lessons will someday lead to an Olympic medal. It's possible that having an overflowing schedule invigorates (rather than agitates) you. It's also possible that your kid enjoys the activities he/she does immensely and would be very disappointed to cut them out. However, in my house, none of those scenarios are true and when the stress overshadows the enjoyment, I know it is time to make some changes. We're one month into the school year and I can already tell it's making a difference.

So, farewell "Busy." It's not me, it's you & I really, really need some space this year. 
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