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I am their mother. This is my job.

standard March 1, 2017 1 response

When my children were little, the urge to guide them, protect them, shield them from the world was something I felt deeply in my bones. Even as I watched them struggle to learn new things, I found it hard to stand back, to not rush in to make it easier for them. I remember knowing, deep in my gut, that they needed to struggle, needed to feel the rush that comes from hard won success, needed it to grow and learn, but, nevertheless, struggling with it.

I’m their mother. Their guardian. Their protector. Their teacher.

It hurt to not fix, smooth, facilitate.

Logic almost always won out and I held myself back from intervening (unless they were in danger, because come on, mother, not monster). I even coached various family members who had a tendency to jump in with help before it was really needed, held them back gently so that the kids could claim their victories.

And then, as they grew, the challenges got bigger.

Instead of learning to scale a chair, they had to face the first day of Kindergarten.

Instead of figuring out how to tie a shoe, they had to learn to navigate the friendship seas.

Instead of puzzles featuring puppies and ponies, there were schedules, homework, relationships.

And, in parallel, the urge in me to fix, smooth, facilitate has gotten stronger and stronger.

I don’t remember the first time I tried to get on a chair, but I remember trying to understand how I fit in with the other kids at school.

I don’t remember struggling to tie my shoe, but I remember the pain of losing friends.

And every day that my kids come home, hurt because of some slight, or upset because they don’t quite writing essays online understand the murky interpersonal waters of the pre-teen pool, a piece of me shrivels up a little.

I want to fix it. I want to make the pain just go away. I want to find the magic words that will make it all better.

And then tonight, as I was doing some much needed laundry, I remembered, that’s not my job.

My job is to give them the tools and resources they need to succeed, whatever that will look like for them.

My job is to encourage them to be their truest selves and gently guide when guidance is requested.

My job is to send them off with hugs and love so that they know that, however far they roam and whatever they do or face when they get there, they do so knowing that they are unconditionally loved and supported.

My job is to offer a safe place to land, a warm set of arms to hold them when the world is proving inhospitable, a soft kiss on their brow creased with angst.

And then, my job is to send them back out to keep on trying.

Because my job isn’t to fix them, to fix their path, it’s to be their support, their safety net as they become who they’re meant to be.

I am their mother. My job is to have faith in them and in everything they have learned and continue to learn from me, from their father, from the rest of our family, and to believe that they will be OK, even if their path isn’t the easy one I would have chosen for them.

And damn if it isn’t the hardest job in the world.

toddler walking away

We found the real comic book heroes

standard September 22, 2015 Leave a response

I have a thing for books. I mean, duh, I’ve written one, but it goes way beyond that. Bookstores are my happy place. I’d rather drop a wad of cash on a stack of books than a pile of new clothes any day. I love to surround myself with books and tend to feel a little off in homes where I can’t see a single tome anywhere. Books. They’re part of my lifeblood. And I’m working hard to make them part of my children’s lifeblood too. I buy them books more frequently than I should admit to my husband. (I can hear him right now moaning “What’s wrong with just going to the library??”) I let them pile books around their rooms. I let them leave books in every bathroom, in the car, on the dining room table. I almost always let them read “just one more page” at night. And I let them see just how much I love and value literature. I’m not picky about what they read. Fiction. Non-fiction. Poetry. Little kid books. Picture books. And yes, graphic novels and comic strips. All the graphic novels and comic strips they want. Because books are books, words are words, and whatever helps them foster that love for reading, helps them feel like books are a safe haven to dive into when the world gets to be a bit too much to handle, works for me. They love a good graphic novel. They love a good comic strip. I endorse it all heartily. So much so that this week we went to not one, but two book signings in a row to see people who draw as much as they write and enchant our lives with their art. On Sunday we braved the heat and the crowds to hear from Stephan Pastis, author of the Pearls Before Swine comic strip. We arrived just on time for the event, but not early enough to get a “good” spot in the book signing line. Unfazed, the girls were patient almost two hours without uttering a single complaint about either the heat or the wait and finally beamed as he signed their new book and posed for a quick photo.

Little L, C, and Stephan Pastis.

Little L, C, and Stephan Pastis.

Then, Monday, we said to heck with bedtime and ventured to a local independent book store to hear from Ben Hatke, author of, among other things, the amazing Zita the Spacegirl and Gene Luen Yang, author of a crazy number of graphic novels. The two authors interviewed each other and answered a ton of questions, keeping the audience highly entertained, but the highlight of the evening was when C showed Ben one of her comic strips and he laughed.

Ben Hatke with C and Little L.

Ben Hatke with C and Little L.

And really that’s why we attend these things. For inspiration. Because nothing says “You too can write a book!” or “You too can draw comics!” more than saying “Look! These people do this every day! They’re people like you and me! They started drawing when they were kids like you! And they got to this point because they just kept on going.” We rode the high of Ben’s giggle all the way out of the store where M whispered to me that one girl sitting near him had been doodling and he couldn’t believe how talented she was. I asked him if he’d recognized her, and he mumbled something about a kid running up to her and asking her if she was the author of the Babysitters Club graphic novel series. She was. So, of course, we had to turn right back around, because it’s not every day that you get to meet not just one, but two of your idols in one day. Raina Telgemeier could not have been sweeter about our fangirl onslaught and all the requisite gushing and even posed for a photo with the girls, who, at this point could barely contain themselves. To be fair, in this photo, Little L is trying to match the smile on the cover of Smile, but I don’t think it was much of a stretch.

C, Raina Telgemeier, and Little L.

C, Raina Telgemeier, and Little L.

Sometimes you go to book signings and the authors aren’t exactly what you expected. It’s a treat when they are just as amazing as you thought they’d be. Without a doubt we met some true comic book heroes, not just authors. Today, all books purchased over the weekend have been read and are being reread and little fingers are hard at work drawing more comics. All in all, I deem the two events an unmitigated success and another great stop along the road to growing lovers of books, reading, and writing. Go books!

I left my kids on the other side of the country

standard July 14, 2015 1 response

On Saturday I flew the two kids to the Midwest so I could drop them off at camp. Overnight camp. For two weeks.

I went to camp as a kid and loved it.

M went to camp as a kid and hated it.

Two differing opinions that warred in my head when we first learned of the camp this winter and I asked the kids if they’d want to go.

In my mind there was no doubt that camp would be a fantastic experience for them. Two weeks on a gorgeous lake surrounded by kids, going from one activity to the next…heaven to most kids. Right? I was even hopeful that a little separation would be great for Little L, help her become a little more self-reliant and a little less prone to asking for help before even trying something.

But I worried, because, in so many ways, they’re very much M’s children and taking them to camp halfway across the country didn’t leave many options for middle of the night pick-ups should things not pan out.

That said, the whole halfway across the country no middle of the night thing is also good. Sometimes not having an easy out is a good incentive for pushing yourself through the hard parts so you don’t miss the good parts.

But I still worried.

And then Sunday dawned and I had to load them into the rental to take them to the drop off spot. And then I had to hug them goodbye and leave them behind.

I was fine until that point. Riding my “Camp is a GREAT THING” wagon all the way. Until I realized I left my heart behind with them.

I drove away from the camp, headed into town for a few hours of sightseeing and reminded myself of all the good things camp does for kids.

I reminded myself that my job as a mom isn’t to shield and protect my kids from everything and anything, but to help prepare them for adulthood. Because, after all, we’re raising adults, not children, right?

My heart broke at the thought that I wouldn’t be there to cuddle Little L at night when she felt homesick, but I comforted myself with the thought that any one of her three counselors or the camp mom would be there for her.

My heart squeezed when I wondered who C would discuss her worries with, and then relaxed when I remembered she had her journal and a slew of new-found friends.

My breath hitched when I realized I’d forgotten to ask the director to make sure Little L ate, because she sometimes doesn’t and then she gets cranky, but then I reasoned that it would probably be apparent, very, very quickly.

And then I stopped myself from thinking of any other ways they’d be missing my ministering and doting.

I dropped my kids off at camp and I will not be privy to their day-by-day feedback. They’re going to have experiences I won’t be able to picture and might never hear about. And that’s ok. It’s sad, it’s hard for me, but it’s great for them. I will peruse the camp’s nightly picture uploads to look for smiles and happiness. And I will try not to worry if they look tired or a little sad. Because a nano-second captured on film doesn’t tell the story of a whole day, or a whole week. And I will remember that this is a GOOD thing.

For them, for me, for us.

I won’t always be there to hug them and pick up the pieces. I won’t always be close by for instant feedback or advice. One day they will be spreading their wings and going to college and then off to their own lives, and it’s never too early for them to know that I know they are smart, strong, resilient, and I trust them to stand on their own two feet.

Even if it makes me feel like I’m walking around completely empty when they are away from me.

Looks like she's not the least bit traumatized by camp.

Looks like she’s not the least bit traumatized by camp.

Slacker Mom Vacation Wins

standard February 20, 2015 3 responses

This week was “Ski Week” in our school district, a bizarro break that can always be found somewhere between Winter Break and Spring Break, rumored to have started back when families would literally just head for the hills as soon as the snow got good and the schools started closing to pretend that they were controlling the situation. (OK, I admit I might have started that rumor.)

It’s kind of a joke these days because snow, like rain, has been rather scarce around these parts for the last few years.

In any case, god forbid the children ever have to go to school for more than 6 weeks at a time, and so Ski Week still exists.

And, while last week I had virtually no work to do, this week I was absolutely slammed. Which is awesome when you have two children begging to be entertained.

Even better, after two days of working like crazy and periodically yelling “I sure hope you guys aren’t on the computer again” out of my open office door, C and I came down with a small stomach bug.

She spent an evening throwing up, I spent almost 24 hours sleeping. Which was great, because of all the deadlines I somehow had to meet. For a whole day I alternated between intense writing and equally intense napping.

And that was the day I stopped asking them if they were on the computer or wondering just how many TV shows they’d watched.

Guilt gained ground as the nausea and sleepiness relented and I found myself lamenting my less-than-stellar vacation orchestrating to a friend the next day.

Her reply?

“You know, they’re still better off than the kids who are working in the fields.”

I stopped my whining and thought about it.

Two kids, playing educational games on computers and watching truly harmless TV shows, running around in the sunny backyard, no pressure, no schedule, just unstructured free time. For a week.

If you ask the International Unofficial College of Super Judgy Moms I have completely and utterly failed my kids this week. No educational day trips, no intricate crafts, endless hours where I completely ignored my kids…

If you check my Facebook stream, we have completely and utterly missed the point of Ski Week. Clearly we should have either been on a ski run or on a sandy sunny beach.

But if you ask me or my kids? I think we did this vacation just perfectly. I met all of my deadlines beautifully and my kids are relaxed and recharged and just about bored enough with each other’s  company to almost want to go back to school.

Almost. But they shouldn’t worry too much. They’re off again in 6 weeks and I’m sure I’ll be just as lax about planning anything for them to do and just as busy then as I was this week.