Posted on | March 19, 2015 | Enter your password to view comments.
Posted on | March 18, 2015 | 2 Comments
I’ve never been much of a hugger.
I don’t really like it when people do that lean in thing where you know that at any minute they’re going to put at least one arm around you. My body goes stiff and I fall into an Ally McBeal moment where I wonder what would happen if I just stepped back and let them fall or maybe put up a karate high block like “No. Just…. no.”
Because of my … under-appreciation of hugs, I’ve always been really careful to let J know that he’s not required to hug anyone he doesn’t want to hug. When some people get offended by this, I just explain to them that he’s the master of his own body and he chooses who he lets hug him and who he hugs. Usually, my kid is a hugger, so it’s not an issue, and as I said, I generally don’t force him to make physical contact with anyone.
However, when we stopped by to see my Granny, his Great Granny, on Sunday when we left North Carolina, J asked if he could stay in the car and I could just tell her bye from him. Initially, I said that was fine. Initially, I fell into my routine of “he chooses,” and told Banks to just let it go. Then we got to my grandmother’s house and I realized that this was it. This was, without a doubt, the last time I would ever hold my Granny’s hand, kiss her forehead, or make her laugh that hoarse half-chuckle that she does when she get’s just a little “tickled” by something.
I told Banks to bring J in.
He didn’t want to hug her, of course he didn’t. She was lying there, so old and worn by time that there was barely any of her left to hold. Her hair was disheveled and her eyes were barely seeing anything and she looked, for the first time in her life, like the almost 99 year old woman that she is. He didn’t want to step closer, didn’t want to meet her outstretched arms and I knew, without asking, that he wasn’t interested in kissing or hugging this frail old woman before him.
So I did something I’ve never done.
I pushed him forward and leaned down to tell him that he absolutely, 100% HAD to hug his great-granny. And he reluctantly did it, stilted in his walk and leaning in like it pained him to even touch this woman who had greeted him into the world with the purest and happiest of loves.
And I realized that sometimes, hugs aren’t for giving, they’re for receiving. Sometimes, it’s more about what you are offering to the person before you… the love, the warmth of your touch, the comfort that comes with just being held. My Granny always says “come here and let me feel of you” and what she means, I think, is just that… she wants the comfort of holding her loved one in her arms, to feel the warmth and life that they exude.
So I made my son hug her and then I hugged her as tight as was allowed by her tiny, fragile frame. I made him hug her, not because he owed it to me, but because we, both of us, owed it to her. We owed her that gift of letting her feel the strength and life in his small body and in my own. We owed her the knowledge that after she’s gone, that strong little boy she held briefly will still be here, carrying her genes into the world. I think maybe that when you’re losing your own strength, there’s something uplifting in the physical feeling of someone elses.
Though I still don’t love hugs and I still will balk slightly when someone leans toward me, I think I’m learning that sometimes it’s not about the taking of my personal space… it’s about giving some of my strength to someone else who needs it. And I think my son is maybe learning that, too.
Last night, as I was putting him to bed, he leaned in and put his head against my shoulder.
“I’m glad I got to say goodbye to great granny,” he said softly. “I think she liked it when I hugged her.”
Posted on | March 16, 2015 | 3 Comments
For as long as I can remember, I have collected stories. I suppose it’s part of what makes me, well… me. I collect the bits and pieces of other people’s lives and I store them in my heart and I take them out and examine them piece by piece as though they were gifts; because in a way, they are. The stories people tell you about themselves and their lives are tiny gifts offered as a way to say ‘Here. Know me.”
My father’s mother is a teller of stories. She has always told stories in a way that makes you laugh and picture yourself right there beside her, waking up on a cold winter morning to the stocking on the end of the bed. For a while, she told many stories, but as the years have passed, she’s told the same stories, each one meticulously groomed and shared like little charms on the bracelet of her life. There’s the story of her brother being pushed through the mud, the story of her sister taking off a shoe and beating her boyfriend and the girl she found him with through the window of a car. There’s the story of my father locking the car doors and sliding back and forth on the back seat to keep her from getting him out at the doctor’s office, the story of my father wearing the aviator cap, the story of my father playing in the fireplace, and crying over the Poky Little Puppy not getting his supper.
There are, sadly, very few stories of just my grandmother. She’s always been the sort of person who tells you about others, leaving her own childhood painted in a soft watercolor of surrounding people. But there are stories of her in the stories she tells of others… just as there are with all of us. There are pieces of her woven into what she chooses to tell us about the people she has loved, about the things she has seen. She presses her love of stubbornness, her admiration of the joy of children into the stories of my great uncle, and her pride in the gumption and zero tolerance in the stories of her sister. She weaves a blanket of love through her stories of my father… of the love of his tender spirit, the love of his silliness as a boy, and the reminder to us and perhaps to him that those are the pieces of him she still loves the best. She repeats the stories as though to burn them in our memories, to push and prod and sear on our hearts the parts of her she is scared she’ll lose.
This past weekend, I sat beside her with my sister and we encouraged her to tell those stories again and again, letting her smile with the memory of her children, the memory of her brothers and sisters. We encouraged her to remind us of what is most important about her life as it trickles out the corners of her eyes and down the sides of her cheeks. And as we stood to leave, she grabbed my hand with a soft ferocity and pressed it to her heart.
“Do you know my stories,” her hoarse voice questioned, and I told her I did. And then with tears in her eyes, she asked a promise of me that I willingly gave. “Will you raise that boy of yours to know my stories?”
I promised I would. I promise I will. Because even when the light is dying, the memories of it and the stories it holds are seared on the softest underside of our eyes and hearts. And the storied seeds that my grandmother has passed to me, will be tended and treasured and it’s fruits will be carefully passed along in the thread and fiber of my own collected stories.
Posted on | February 25, 2015 | 3 Comments
Mornings aren’t always easy at my house. Some days I repeat myself so many times that I want to pull my hair out. Some days I feel like the words “Get. your. clothes. on.” are tattooed across my forehead and they’re all I’ll ever say, ever, for the rest of my life. Some days I just want to grab and shake my son and say “DON’T YOU KNOW I’M IN A HURRY?!”
But no matter how our morning goes at home, we always make it to school. Sometimes we race up the walk way. Some days I’m still pushing at him to unbuckle his seat belt, open the door, and use his feet to walk to class. It’s like a constant push and pull of who is in charge, who is making the decisions. And sometimes I let him win, because I think that’s what parents are supposed to do. And sometimes I let him lose… because I think that’s also what parents are supposed to do.
But no matter how much we argue on the way to school, no matter how much I want to strangle him for talking back or not listening or throwing crazy fits over buttoning his pants or cleaning up his breakfast plates… no matter all of that, we start our day away from each other the same way.
I hover for a moment as he puts his jacket on the hook in his cubby. I wait while he slides his lunch box into it’s place and smile as bright as I can while he surveys which of his friends are in the room already. Then I stretch out my arms and say “Okay… I have to go!” And he bends down into a runner’s stance and takes off towards me while I do my best Westley impression, saying “Gently! Gently!” before he barrels into my arms. Then I back out the door, waving, and make my way down the front walk way, stopping every few moments to check the windows beside and behind me.
I don’t check them because I worry he’s unhappy.
I don’t check them because I think that he may need me.
I check them because I think that’s what parents do.
We check the windows for little faces pressed tight against the glass. We check the windows for silly faces we can return, for smiles we can bounce back, for kisses we can catch and press to our cheeks and foreheads. We check the windows not for them, not for the sake of our child but for the sake of ourselves, for the knowledge that the last moment they saw us, we were smiling. For the understanding that the last words spoken between us were cheerful and loving. For the reality that we need those tiny smiles and gap-toothed faces to remind us that WE, not they, are okay.
Sometimes J and I make silly faces for a few moments. Sometimes we blow kisses and catch them, bouncing our love for each other off the windows between us. And those mornings feel just about perfect because he needs me and it satiates my need to know that he is good and well and fine. And some days, he never notices me pull away, too enthralled in whatever is going on in his classroom. Those days are perfect, too, because he doesn’t need me… and it reminds me that this, too, is what parents do. We let them move away from us, from needing us for any and every thing.
No matter the day, or the weather, or the amount of madness piled onto my plate before and after I leave the house and make my way to my desk, I have to check those windows. And because I do, I always know that for at least five minutes… everything is exactly right with my world.
Posted on | February 24, 2015 | No Comments
Most days, I feel like I walk a very fine line. Well, “walk” is probably a generous word. It’s more like a teetering balancing act where I’m hovering thirty feet above a round pool of sharks, just waiting for me to take a wrong step. Behind me, there’s the world of my past, the world where… if I enter… I may never get out again. The world where I second guess every thing and every one, where I wonder what people are saying and doing behind my back. The world where I think that nothing could ever be good, ever again, because why would anything good ever happen to little old me?
Before me, there’s the world of my potential future. The future where I’m strong. The future where I make decisions with authority, make choices with compassion and clarity… the future where I am complete and whole and healed.
And then there is me, teetering somewhere in between, close to neither, wondering which foot fall will send me plunging down into the pit I can never get out of.
I am not a fan of this person I find myself to be some days … this indecisive, scared, confused person, who wonders about each step… who questions every movement. Some days, I feel infinitely closer to the me of my past… the one who would and did let any one and every one walk all over her. Some days, I feel that I’m one half-step from the safety of the platform, even though that platform is the me that lets things happen… not the me that makes things happen.
Today is one of those days.
A day when I find myself so achingly close to stepping backwards onto the platform. I am so close to giving up on the quest to make myself that me I want to be… the me who waves at me from the platform so many thousands of feet away.
But on these days, when my past creeps up on me, when my feet want to carry me back instead of forward, I have to stop. I have to stop and regain my balance and look below and see that, yes, there are sharks. I have to stop and see that yes, I have many steps to go before I reach that other side. I have to stop and recognize that although I’m only a half step away from my past and it feels scary and overwhelming and tastes so much like the dripping sweat of failure… I am still balanced.
Maybe I’ve moved backwards.
Maybe I have a very long way to go.
But I’m still here.
I haven’t fallen.
And as long as my feet waver here, balanced on the thinnest rope of my hope for the future… then I can still choose to move forward.
Posted on | February 10, 2015 | 2 Comments
When I was knee deep in divorce, my house was almost spotless. I’m not sure if it was to prove to myself that I could keep it clean, or to prove to him that he shouldn’t have left, but for whatever reason, I worked diligently to keep the laundry done and the dishes done and the counters clean… and, and, and. I’m not going to lie and say you could eat off my floor, but when you came in my house, even unexpectedly, you were going to find it very neat.
It turns out, for me, having a perfectly clean home is a sure sign of a perfectly messy life.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love having a clean house. And I work hard to keep this little home of mine as tidy as possible. But there are times the dishes sit in the sink. There are times when I don’t wash the pots and pans immediately after dinner. There are times when the beds just… don’t get made.
And yes, there are times when I have to wash a load of laundry three times because I somehow forget that it needs to be transferred to the dryer.
At first, I thought I was falling behind. I thought that maybe I was falling apart because didn’t I handle all this before? Wasn’t I able to do the dishes and the laundry AND everything else, before?
Last night, I was in a tailspin, trying to get the house back in to shape. I was stomping around and getting aggravated with myself. I mean, how could I have done it all then and can’t seem to do any of it now? Why are there dishes in the sink? WHY IS THE FLOOR SO DIRTY? I had worked myself into quite the tizzy when it suddenly occurred to me that when I was in the midst of my divorce, having a clean house was, well…
It was the only thing I had control over.
I was exercising control over something small because all the big things were crazy and crazed and sad. I was putting my foot down and saying “This. This I can do, dammit. Look at how well I can do this.”
I’m honestly surprised that I didn’t take pictures of empty sinks and folded clothes and put them all over social media because that’s how it felt. It felt like I was trying to prove that I was worthy of something or maybe everything.
Well, last night as I worked myself up over dishes and dirty laundry, something occurred to me. Now, I have a life for myself. I have a job I love, a boyfriend I love, a life that I love. I don’t have to prove my worth to anyone… not even myself.
And if knowing I’m worth the world is what I get in exchange for my clean house, then so be it. It’s a pretty good alternative. I’ll take the dirty dishes with the smiles over squeaky clean tears. I’m learning to cut myself some slack, to give myself the break I deserve. And if that means sitting down to watch television with Banks and J instead of immediately cleaning the dishes, then that’s what I’m going to do. Because my house may be cluttered and in need of a good clean, but my life is pretty perfect.
And that’s a trade I’ll take every day.
Posted on | February 9, 2015 | 5 Comments
Yesterday I did something I’ve never done in my life. J was sitting on the sofa, begging for some play time on the iPad or something different on television or even the use of my cell phone. I was getting frustrated. He has a room full of books and toys and none of them were being used. None of them.
All he wanted was something electronic.
I threw out suggestion after suggestion and he wasn’t having any of it. My patience was worn thin and finally I told him to get his shoes and coat on. He wasn’t really sure what was going on, he probably thought we were about to head somewhere with video games, but he did what I asked. I took him by the hand, walked him to the back door, and pushed him outside.
“One. Hour,” I instructed. “Go play.”
I have a fenced in back yard. He couldn’ get out of the yard unless he asked for help on the latched gate or climbed the fence, so I wasn’t all that worried. I brought Riley inside so there wouldn’t be any issues with the dog getting in his way, and I just… shut the door.
He stood there for a moment, dumbfounded. He stared at me in the window with a look of abject horror on his face. I mean, how DARE I put him outside in the 60 degree sunshine? It took about ten minutes of us staring at each other through the glass for him to realize I meant business. And then something happened…
He went and played.
Granted, it wasn’t for long. And yes, there were moments when he came to the back door and begged to come back in. And yes, I gave up after thirty minutes because I just hated standing there and reminding him to go play in the wide expanse of our back yard. But still… he played.
And I realized that I’ve been doing him a real disservice by always being with him. He doesn’t quite understand the joy in playing alone… in being out in nature and discovering things. While I was slightly appalled at myself for literally locking my child outside, I also was appalled that I hadn’t done it before. I’m appalled that I’ve been fostering this couch potato lifestyle on the weekends that doesn’t really jive with the type of person I want my child to become.
We spent the second thirty minutes on a walk with the dog and we talked a lot about how good it is to be outside. He still isn’t quite buying the idea of being alone outside in the protected back yard, but I’m sold on it. Because it’s not always easy for me to get him to a playground or take him to a museum. I can’t spend my entire weekend entertaining my son, even if I wanted to, because there’s work to do around the house, and yes, I actually need some time to myself. And when I’m sick, I can’t be the fun, playful parent I like to be. I see all these facebook pictures of kids playing in the yard, of kids riding their bikes and being, you know… kids. And mine prefers to sit and stare at a television.
So these one hour “lock out” sessions will continue until my child starts asking to play outside. Because I think I owe that to him… even if he doesn’t understand it right now.
Posted on | February 6, 2015 | 1 Comment
Yesterday, I promised my son frozen yogurt after school. I wasn’t feeling well and the thought of soft serve frozen yogurt sounded like perfection on my throat. We drove the short distance to a store, pulled in, and trouble started.
No problem, I told J. There’s another one near my office. So we hit the road back towards my office. J wanted to go a different route. He sort of exploded about not wanting to take the highway. This should have been my first clue. But we plodded on, taking the highway with J in the background mumble-whining:
“This road makes me carsick.”
Yeah right, drama king. Suck it up, we’re going for yogurt. I wasn’t having any of the drama.
We exited the highway, pulled into the next store and started to get out of the car.
I seriously had to read the sign twice. Closed? For real? ANOTHER ONE? Don’t these people know I have a five year old in my car who has been promised frozen yogurt? I start to question whether we should even get yogurt, like maybe this is a sign from God that froyo is not in the cards for us. But then, oh what the hell, right? Frozen yogurt is delicious. And I happened to know for a fact that there was a store that was NOT closed about five miles away.
However, I made a very big and very foolish mistake. I thought out loud.
If you’re a parent of a comprehending child, you know that this is the worst thing you can do. Keep your thoughts to yourself. No matter what they are. Your thoughts do not matter to your child and they will create a mushroom cloud of crazy that will never. go. away.
But I was sick. I wasn’t thinking. And I thought, very out loud, that maybe we should just go get a milkshake or something and go home because this was getting ridiculous. It’s like it was my very first day as a parent. Once the words were out, I searched desperately in my car for a flux capacitor so I could go back five seconds and NOT say them. Because from the back seat there came a mighty howl. No. Howl doesn’t begin to describe it. It was like the keening of a woman who has lost everything she owns in the world. I mean, this sound… was epic. There were no actual words I could make out… more of a jumble of syllables and deep gasps of air that were, perhaps, his own attempt at time travel.
I have to admit, I was a little stunned at first. This doesn’t happen very often. I thought for a moment that maybe he was sick, maybe he had a bad day? Maybe something was wrong, because it’s just frozen yogurt, right? What the hell brought this crazed Tazmanian Devil child into my back seat?
I mean, we were still going for frozen yogurt because I wanted some. It was just a stupid thought process! Why was he kicking my seat and wailing like the world was ending?
And then I realized something that made me very ashamed as a parent.
I don’t see this often because he most always gets his way. In a daze, I watched my own dreams of frozen yogurt goodness disappear, and I turned back towards the house. The noises from the back seat were like a snot massacre. I honestly was afraid to look in the rearview mirror. He kept asking why. I kept calmly saying it was because he threw a fit.
And though it broke my heart to see him like that, to watch him rail against my authority and wonder who I was to deprive him of the amazing that was frozen yogurt, I realized that we’ve reached that point now… that point where I either must assert myself as his parent or resign myself to being merely another friend.
And I’m his parent.
Even when it means I don’t get my damn frozen yogurt.
Posted on | February 5, 2015 | 1 Comment
It’s funny; the first moment I remember holding my son, I thought about all the important things he and I would do together… all the important things he’d see and do and learn. I thought about those milestones… the first tooth, the first steps, the first words… and it all seemed so very big. I thought I’d never find enough time or love or life to do all those big things with that tiny baby.
I was thinking back to that moment this morning when I woke up, a five year old leg strewn across my body, and a dear friend on my mind… one who is, as we speak, in the process of having her first child at a nearby hospital. I was thinking about those big and important lessons I was going to teach my son as I argued with him over how much breakfast he was allowed to eat and how long it would take him to go get in the bathtub. I thought about that intense love I felt for that tiny baby as I rolled my eyes and undertook the excruciating task of washing his hair. And as I thought about all those important things, I had to laugh a little at that younger me, that new mother me with the big dreams of a perfect life.
If I could sneak into that hospital room and sit beside her, watching her take in the bigness of her life now that there was a child, I think I know what I’d tell her. I’d lean in close, pass her a cup of something forbidden… maybe beer, maybe wine… and I’d tell her what I know now. I’d tell her what the Important things really are.
They aren’t the first tooth and the first step. It’s not the first smile or the first laugh that will change you. It’s not riding the bike or winning the game or learning to read. No, as wonderful as those moments are, they aren’t the ones that change you… they aren’t the moments when you stop and think “This is Important” not with a little “i,” but with a big, screaming “I” that makes tears well up and your voice catch in your throat.
The Important things are so very different… that first broken bone… the first broken heart. That moments when he comes home from school crying… the time when he tells you that someone picked on him… the day that he whispers everyone hates him…. the time he asks why his dad or mom doesn’t live with him. The Important things are the choices you make when he looks up at you and asks to try on your make up, asks why some people are different colors, asks what makes girls different from boys. And I know that yes, dammit, I’ve failed at some Important things, and as much as I try, I’ll fail at more. I’ve failed at being exactly where and who he needed me to be, failed at saying the right words or implanting the right ideas about respecting his body and others, respecting his life and others, respecting the world around him. I know that I’ve failed more times than I can count and that those failures will continue to bother me in that space in the back of my mind that we keep our moments we wish we could do-over.
But while I’ve failed at some of the Important moments, I’ve tried to make them up to him by loving each smile and laugh and as if it were my own. Because Important moments, Important things… they are temporary… scary, but temporary. And so much more Important than those temporary things is the over-arching importance of just… loving them. Bigger than me. Bigger than the moments I dreamed of in that not-so-long ago hospital room. Love? Love is bigger than everything. Important Love… well… if you can get that one thing right… that’s really the only Important thing that matters.
Posted on | February 4, 2015 | 2 Comments
My kid likes the word “butt.”
No, correction… my kid likes any word associated with the word “butt”, any word that rhymes with the word butt, and any word that could be substituted with the word “butt.” For example, our conversations often go like this:
Me: “J, go get your clothes on.”
J: “You go get your butt on.”
Or like this:
Me: “It’s time for school, kiddo.”
J: “It’s time for BUTT.”
I swear to you, I did not realize how many things could be made into “butt” jokes by a five year old. If he’s feeling down, all I have to do is make a fart noise and he’s all smiles and giggles… it’s like a wonder drug. Only it’s a sound, obviously. I have to admit, I find farts a little funny myself, but butts? I don’t know.
Maybe it’s a girl thing. Maybe it’s a grown up thing. Maybe… oh hell, I don’t know. All I know is that right now in my house EVERYTHING is “butt.” My kid thinks that slapping his butt is funny. He thinks the fact that our dog sniffs other dog’s butts is funny. He thinks the fact that poop actually comes out of a butt is the. funniest. thing. ever.
Honestly, I just don’t know how to react. Because I think it’s pretty harmless fun for him, you know? But every so often, I hear from him that he’s getting time out at school for saying “Potty Words.” I get it, I do. I mean, he’s in class with 3-6 year olds and you don’t want the six year olds to teach bad habits to the three year olds… but still. Time out? For saying “butt”? Should I encourage “hiney”? Should we switch to calling everything “private”?
I just don’t think so. I encourage J to call his body parts by their names. All his body parts. Because I never want him to be embarrassed to tell me that something hurts or that, God forbid, someone touched him somewhere that he didn’t want to be touched. I think it’s pretty natural for boys to want to say whatever it is that their parents don’t want them to say. Or maybe for KIDS to do that. And I think it will pass, somewhat. I mean, I know a lot of adults who think “Butt” is funny… just maybe not as funny as my kid thinks it is.
So for now, our mornings are being spent getting out all the potty words. It’s actually pretty hilarious and it takes a strong will not to die laughing. J will run around the house yelling “butt, butt, poop, butt, butty butt butt,” and anything else he can think of. Then he just makes fart noises until he’s out of breath. It’s epic.
Maybe I’m a bad to let him say words at home he can’t say at school… I don’t know. All I know is that “getting out the potty words” has become the most amusing part of my day and… I’ve actually started looking forward to all the “butt” jokes.« go back — keep looking »