Primal

How do we learn to love our children? When does it begin? Where does it grow from? Is the love just there all of a sudden or does it bloom over time?

This last fall was one of tragedy. I watched a Mama lose her baby. This Mama waited a near-eight months to meet her child and spent a mere 12 hours with her. Then this Mama lost her baby. In seconds, that tiny, beating heart slowed to a stop. And just as quickly as she was there, she was gone. Yet the longing, the seed of adoration was planted. And now this Mama will spend the rest of her life longing for a different ending.  A do-over she will never get.

As a Mama with three children, these last couple months have been humbling.  And it makes me wonder where the love comes from.  That feeling that washed over me when I took in my new babies and cried because the love so violently gripped my heart.  I have that same feeling even now, when I lay next to a sleeping child, whether he is nine, six or four, as I watch him sleep.  Peacefully, trusting and innocent in my arms.  Where does it come from?

I watched as this new Mama grew that love.  Witnessed as it rose in her like a building wave, crashing into her heart, breaking into her soul.  The love seemed to scare her, feeling foreign and unexplainable, yet coursed through her like nothing she had felt before.  And then the being for whom this crushing emotion was felt, was gone, leaving her raw and starved.  So what is the Mama to do with all the love that was left over?  That love that wasn’t there the day before seems so familiar now.  That love collides with a loss so profound it cannot be explained, for the word grief seems painfully pathetic in comparison to the feelings this loss actually illicits.  But the woman is now a Mama.  She is changed.

I have learned that children do not make the Mama.  The devotion to a life other than your own is what makes the Mama.  It’s a love with which we are all familiar whether we make the same decisions about bedtimes, school, discipline or vaccines we all share that unfathomable adoration for our children.  And to hold all that love in your heart for a child who is not in your arms, at your breast, in your sight, forces one to conjure a strength so powerful that it almost seems impossible to trudge on.  But even without the child, she is still a Mama.  The Mama is in her now.  And she will never again be the same.

And after witnessing this, I will never be the same either.  I’ve come to recognize that the love of a Mama is the most basic of our actions.  An unlearned emotion which all of a sudden and uncontrollably just exists.  The love of a Mama is only known to another Mama.  The love of a Mama is Primal.

Peace, Mamas.

 

Mama is Homeless

Yup. Sold our sweet little farm house and moved all that shit out. Figured it was time for an update. We have moved in with the ‘rents while our new digs is being thrown together. Thrown together on an amazing piece of land, in the same, picturesque town in Vermont with which we have fallen in love over the last eight years. And by digs, I mean, house of our dreams. Well, realistic dreams, at least. But now we are waiting. Our shit is in storage and did I mention that we moved in with my parents…? Which I am dying to write about but since they may be reading this and I don’t want to end up truly homeless, I can’t. But you’re really missing out on some go-od stuff folks…

So unfortunately, I can’t tell you about how on our second night back under this roof (in nearly fifteen years) we listened to my parent’s argue about whether my mother snores. It was only when my mother smugly thought she had convinced us of her silent slumber habits that my father presented to us an audio recording of the previous night, evidencing the see-sawing. As they giggled on the opposing couch, I glanced at my husband. Eyes wide, we exchanged the same what-the-fuck-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into look.

Nope. I can’t tell you that. And I also can’t tell you about trying to explain Facebook to my father. Dear. God. I can’t tell you about an argument over who’s drinking the orange juice with pulp or who missed their morning wake-up call for the shower, making everyone late for work. (Yes, we are really sharing one shower.) I can’t tell you about how hard it is to live with people around all the motherhumping time. And I can’t tell you that I am sure the adjustment for us was equally as profound for my parents.

But what I can tell you is that two weeks ago, I watched someone very close to me end a long term relationship. I witnessed her heartache and break. And then I helped her move her stuff out and in with family. What I can tell you, that was never as apparent to me before is that family is everything. Everything. Witnessing her fall, only to be caught, held up by people who love her was eye-opening.

We spend so much time focusing on the things we have. We work to buy more things. We pay bills, go on vacations, buy toys, clothes, electronics. At this moment, near 95% of those things are in a 12 foot by 15 foot concrete storage unit. And we are still happy. All that shit we thought we needed- buying and using- and without it, we are still happy.

I can deal with the nit-picking about OJ and the annoyance of breaking down a grocery bill or deciding how to split up the Costco case of toilet paper. I can deal with waiting for the shower now and then so my mother can shave her legs or with the car shuffle in the driveway. Did I mention that two weeks in, the washer broke…? Eyes on the prize: A new home. It’s family stuff. And I am at this moment very grateful for this family. And most of the stuff that comes along with that. As far as the audio of snoring or explaining Facebook to those over age 60… Well, ask me again in a month.

Peace, Mamas.

20140728-214859-78539261.jpg

20140728-214900-78540644.jpg

I am a Hoarder. No more.

I know we have lots of excuses.  Two moves in three years.  Tiny basement.  Three babies.  Who grew into three kids.  And insane grandparents who spend far too much on toys, etc.  But however it happened, we kinda turned into hoarders.  We aren’t collectors of antiques, we don’t have newspaper clippings or mass amounts of old photos.  We aren’t even sentimental.  We don’t have twenty-seven cats.  Our yard is clean, our home is pretty clutter-free most of the time.  But our basement looks like it could be the season premiere of Buried Alive.  It was bad.

I am sharing because my goal through this blog was to ensure that any Mama who read this would feel like there was another Mama out there who let her know she was not alone.  Not alone with the struggle of trying to be a good Mama everyday and still feeling like you fall a little short.  Not alone with the exhaustion, tantrums, and anxiety of getting out the door.  Not alone with the basement packed floor to ceiling with shit.  Shit that you shoulda got rid of a long time ago.  Shit that you were only going to store down there for a little while.  Shit that you’re never really going to use but that you aren’t quite ready to part with.  Shit that reminds you of holding your babies when they were babies- and couldn’t yell at you.  Shit that reminds you of your life before kids- you actually had friends who you could “hang out” out with- who you didn’t have to talk about feeding schedules or diapers.  Or poop.  People with whom you could spend hours of time, without even mentioning soccer schedules, bus routes or which books eight year olds are into.  And did I mention that you can have these conversations in increments of more than three minutes in the parking lot with a crying child on your shoulder and another weaving through the parking lot like it’s a suicide attempt.  Seriously, you had friends like this.  I digress.

So the shit piles up and you watch it.  The stacks grow before your eyes and yet, you let it happen because you know you’ll get rid of it just as soon as you have the time/energy/stamina/motivation to go through it all…  I watched it pile up for the last seven years.  This is embarrassing and if you can eat off the floor of your basement, this probably isn’t the post for you.  A friend recently told me that she thought my blog was brave… And I am feeling pretty brave (or a little tipsy) tonight.  Here’s my basement…  Before.

photo 4

Holy shit, right?  I know.  I went through every one of those f-ing boxes.  And some had mouse poop in them.  (See again with the poop conversations.)  Some of the cardboard boxes were a little mildewy…  I know who puts cardboard on the floor of a 145 year old basement?  But remember, it wasn’t going to b there for long…  This is my basement… Now.

photo 2

Impressive, right?  I know!  So where did it all go?  Ahh, you know where it all went… To the garage!

b

Utterly ridiculous, right?  I know.  So we had a yard sale this weekend.  And a couple things happened.  1. I got rid of a lot of shit.  2. I made a fair amount of moo-lah.  And 3. I discovered that the vast majority of the people who attend yard sales are weirdos.  For real. Or maybe it was just my yard sale, I don’t know.  I talked to more nutty people in a 48 hour period than I have in a long time.  Remember, I am a social worker; I know a lot of fucked up people.  They flock to me, in fact.  So, here’s my garage… Now.

photo 3

Ahhhh… I can breathe.  And I didn’t need all that stuff to remember my babies as babies.  I still have them.  They act like babies every damn day.  I don’t need a box of shit in my basement with mouse poop to remind me of the life I had before I had those babies because I still have most of those friends and I have new friends.  Friends who hug me even though I have puke on my shirt, friends who listen to me complain about math games, shin guards and bedtime routines.  Friends who drop off a bottle of wine when my kid has his eighth go-around with the stomach bug (and these friends can purchase that wine legally now).  I don’t just like my life now, I kind of love it.  And now that my house is not being swallowed in shit, I can enjoy it even more.

Peace, Mamas.

Coming Up for Air

Holy shit that was fast.  In a nanosecond, summer passed us by.  It’s been a while.  My last post was about indulging myself in what was supposed to be my kids’ summer vacation.  Once I abandoned being a self-absorbed lamo, I threw myself into playing with my three little dudes.  We beached it a few times, went to the library a bunch and hung out in the yard, ran in the grass and fell into bed with dirty feet.  And we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory for a tour.  Which taught me a few nuggets of parenting genius- which of course, I intend to share here.

I hadn’t done many things with all three kiddos solo- other than work on my (semi) stay-at-home mom tan, while Pintersting as the kids dug holes at the beach- so I decided we needed a trip- somewhere to acquaint them with the culture of our state (Vermont), somewhere they could learn about local agriculture and industry, somewhere educational… Yup, we went to the Ben and Jerry’s Factory.  To learn about ice cream!  I was quite proud of myself as I drove to Waterbury (about a 35 minute commute from home), nearly smug as I pulled into the parking lot, pumping myself up.  See, Mama!  You can do this on your own!  Everyone is happy and ready for a relaxed day of ice cream and fun.  Ha.  Sure they are.  After parking, I gleefully walk to the trunk to get out the stroller- essential piece of equipment for a solo Mama of three at in ice cream factory…  Trunk’s empty.  What the fuck.  Reminder: send husband a hate text.  Now what.  Well, I guess Zook is going to have to walk.  Sure.  That will be simple.  A two-year-old is totally going to hold my hand and walk calmly and quietly as we tour an ice cream factory, right?  Riiiight.  Parenting Nugget #1: Always bring the fucking stroller.

Unloading everyone from the car, I pass out cheerful reminders like party favors.  Let’s try to be really good listeners today!  Mama needs your help to be calm!  We all need to work together and follow directions!  Hopefully they are not listening well enough to hear the panic bubbling in my throat…  This was going to be a long morning.  And why the hell do I not have the stroller?!  Okay Zook, hold Mama’s hand…  Nope.  Me run now!  Shit.

Up the 47 stairs from the parking lot.  Inside and into line to buy the tickets.  Thirty minutes until our tour begins… What are we going to do to kill some time.  Cub spots a spin art station.  The kids run over, to drop paint from a bottle onto a spinning sheet of paper.  Now I have to point out here that although the kids loved this, whoever in their right mind thought that a horde of children crowding around a spin art table was a good idea, clearly did not have children.  “Okay, just one drop of each color!”, the cheerful (annoyingly cheerful) 16 year old girl says to the boys as they rush the spinning paper.  Oh yeah, they are totally going to listen to you, honey.  Good one.  Zook takes a death grip on the bottle and squeezes like he’s trying to force out the last bit of ketchup.  Except the bottle is full and now there’s paint everywhere.  Everywhere.  Sweating, I pry the (now nearly empty) paint bottle from his paint-covered hands.  And now he’s screaming.  There’s paint everywhere.  Calm down, pull it together.  Clean up.  Who wants to pose in front of the giant ice cream truck?  Parenting Nugget #2: Don’t ever let a two year old do spin art.

Okay so spin art sucked up about 12 minutes- including clean up, which was really rather impressive.  Now what.  The boys spot a playground.  Perfect.  Just as they descend on the slides and climbing walls, I feel it.  The trickle.  A week early.  I have on mint green capris.  Fuck.  Boys!  We have to go back to the car for a minute.  Moans.  Whining.  All the “but we just got here”, “we want to stay” start a’flowing.  I forgot something and we need to go back to the car. Now.  Grumbling.  Of course Zook wants to walk.  All the way back to the car.  Oh dear god… This is bad.  In an effort to maintain my calm facade and struggling not to start screaming- or running- I try to formulate my plan of attack.  Do I dare leave them outside the stall in the bathroom?  Do I bring them in?  No.  There will be questions… Questions are bad.  The car.  I have to make it work in the car.  Good god, I have to make it work in the car!

I’ll spare you the details but my critical, curious (and a little annoying) 8 year old pretty much bitched me out the whole time while Zook literally devoured half a tube of chapstick and Mooch asked about 40,000 times how many more minutes until our tour- which by this time, I had completely forgotten about because so far, this fun trip to the ice cream factory has consisted of no stroller, spin art and my fucking period.  Where’s the bar.  Mama needs a drink.  Parenting Nugget #3: Don’t get your period at the ice cream factory.  (What?  TMI, you say?  Well, the name of this blog is Mama Gets Real.  And this is about as real as it gets.)

Long story long, we made it to the tour in the nick of time.  It was pretty boring.  But there was ice cream at the end and no one had a melt down.  As we drove out of the parking lot, Cub asked if we could do this every weekend, Mooch asked if we could have ice cream for dinner and Zook was passed out before we hit the interstate.  And my mint capris were totally fine.  Just when I think things are falling apart, they come together.  I forced myself to remain positive and my little ducklings followed suit.  Our summer wrapped up nicely.  My heart feels so full when I think about our last days of summer.  Completely elated that I had this time with them- which while stressful, warmed my soul.  Parenting Nugget #4: Enjoy these summer moments… Because the shit hits the fan when school starts again.

21416_10151850959899257_1370877294_n

Peace, Mamas!

Back on the Wagon… Again

My name is Sarah Russell.  I am a yell-aholic.  I have been yell-free for eight days.

So here we are.  Day Eight.  Many, many events have taken place in the past month or so.  Mainly summer vacation hit me like a ton of bricks.  The first couple weeks were quite euphoric.  I was craving the lax of no school, no obligations, no pressure… Until that’s just what I got.  Sure, the relaxed nature of our days is easier in some ways but I am not sure the pros have outweighed the cons because something happens when you don’t have to answer to school, sports practices, preschool pick-up and bus schedules: You get lazy.  And I am not just talking about lazy like Oh I’m just going to lay around— no, no.  Lazy like, I’m going to take a little break from parenting.  Lazy like, I’m going to ignore the bickering for just a little bit too long.  Lazy like, I’m going to say sure to that (store bought) cookie because you can get it for yourself and I don’t have to get up from Pinteresting to cut you up a goddamn piece of fruit.  You want to watch TV for an extra hour?  Sure.  You want to play video games past the 20 minute limit?  Go for it.  Your brother kicked you because you– oh nevermind.  Get another cookie.

And as I am sure you can imagine, the cart plummeted off the cliff at the intersection of lazy parenting and children gone wild.  Ugh.  Something had to change.  I was unhappy.  I felt like shit.  The summer was passing us by and I was like an indifferent, stinky high school student on summer vacation.  And then it hit me.  This isn’t my summer vacation.  It’s theirs.   What was my problem?  I was so looking forward to slacking off and then I realized I was wasting their vacation by being self-absorbed and lame.  Mama Fail.

So we went on a trip and spent a week at the ocean.  It was amazing.  On our last day, we had a very stressful travel itinerary and I knew that to keep us from living in a constant state of chaos while one humiliating meltdown blends into another, it was gong to take everything I had in me– which was not a whole hell of a lot considering the steady BAC I was able to maintain for six straight days (impressive, I know).  The night before, I panicked and fell back on the No Yell Challenge.  It was the only tool in my cloudy, liquor-saturated box.  I needed the No Yell Challenge.  And I needed to get Husband on board.  We needed to work as a team- not as ring leaders of t this dysfunctional circus we had operated for  the last couple months.

Photo4 (1)

Despite the whining, crying and annoying complaining of the next 24 hours, I managed to remain in control.  I did not lose my temper.  And when I was close, Husband became quite adept at identifying the bulging vein in my forehead and stepped in as needed.  We even high-fived each other.  Twice.  As I sat, crammed in between a sweet child and a fat, crabby Canadian (both snoring with drool hanging from their lips), I realized that I can do this.  And I owe it to these amazing little humans I brought into this world to be better.  Better at playing with them.  Better at listening to them.  Better at  guiding them.  

Photo1 (15)

Photo2 (3)

So here we are.  Day Eight.  I’m doing it.  I have not yelled.  I have taken deep breaths.  I work so hard every day to be patient, kind and attentive.  It’s tough, I won’t lie.  But I feel so much better at the end of the day.  Instead of the guilt-stricken recap, I wrack my mind thinking of little things I can do to make them smile the next day.  And then I do them.   I have left tasks unfinished to read to them.  I have forgone errands to take them to the beach.  I have put my phone down to play with them.  Relishing the feelings which swell as they grab for my hand, turn to smile at me or as I catch them pretending.  This is their summer vacation.  My summer vacation is over.  Or maybe it’s just now beginning.

Peace, Mamas.

Whoppers

Mama: What happened to your legs?

Zook: Fell me.  (Little man speaks in Yoda-ish format most of the time.)

Mama: How did those marks get all over your legs?

Zook: Boo-boos.  Fell me.

Mama (Yoda Decoder):   Those are boo-boos from when you fell?

Zook: Yeah…

Mama: It looks like pen to me…

Zook: Yeah…

Mama: Did you drawn on your legs with pen?

Zook: Um… Fell me.  On pen me.

Mama: You fell on the pen and that’s how it got on your legs?

Zook (Beaming Yoda): Yup!

Okay, 1. I need some kind of a trophy for mastery of this new language and 2. We need to have a chat about fibbing… As soon as I stop giggling.

Photo1 (13)

Peace, Mamas.

Mama’s Little Helper

My littlest dude loves to help his Mama.  With. Everything.  While I adore the way he looks up at me with those big innocent eyes, Help Mama!  Help you?  Pease?  Seriously how can I say no to that.  So we pull up a stool.  And he helps.  Whether it’s cooking, weeding the garden or putting away silverware from the dishwasher.  Including him in the process makes it take about twice as long (if I am lucky), tests my patience, forces me to take deep breaths and slow down.  But since when are exercising patience, deep breathing and taking my time bad things…?

Photo1 (12)

We move through life so quickly and barely take the chance to appreciate the interactions we have with our kids.  It was quite apparent to me when we sat down for dinner one night and began our evening ritual of sharing the favorite events of the day.  We got to Zook, who usually makes something up to feel like he’s contributing although at two and a half, he’s barely able to sift through the day’s events to find a favorite- or so I thought.  Zook, what was your favorite part of the day?  Cook Mama.  Cook [with] Mama.  It was my most tedious and frustrating task of the day.  The part of my day that caused the most amount of frustration because I had to slow down, take my time and breathe.  Sounds pretty ridiculous now, huh?  Yup.  Really, so much about life can be learned from retrospect.

I am reminded of a previous post where I talked about Committing to No and realized I really need to go back to that.  I need to breathe.  This high strung Mama needs to relax a bit because her kiddos are becoming high strung offspring.  Breathe Mama.  Soak in the moments.

I love my little helper.

photo (39)

Peace, Mamas.

Love is Free

I’m going out on a limb here but I think everyone should have an opinion on something.  If you don’t have an opinion you can’t really be relevant.  So here goes.  I had a conversation with someone today about parenting.  But I think it goes deeper than parenting.  Read on.

A man disclosed to me today that he was struggling terribly with his sixteen year old son.  The child is in an alternative school setting as he was removed from a traditional school setting due to violence and complete disregard for rules and authority.  It’s true that traditional school is not the right placement for all children however, I feel strongly that the school failed this child.  Nevertheless, the child has been exhibiting violent behaviors, cutting and most recently drinking.  The father stated that he came home to find his son sleeping and when he awoke him, he found that he was heavily intoxicated.  I asked how he had disciplined his son to which he responded I gave up on discipline a long time ago.  My wife doesn’t back me up and if we can’t be a united front, it’s never going to work so I just stay away from it.  Me, probing: Don’t you feel like he was testing you? Like he wanted to see where your hard line was?  If you didn’t draw the line at drinking, do you think he may push that line further the next time?  Maybe… maybe.  But he was so sick, I don’t think he’ll do it again for a while.  He already smokes.  And I know he’s gettin’ into pills too.  Ah, what can you do.  Kids.

I’m not sure I mentioned this before but I am a social worker.  At my past job, I assisted people experiencing homelessness with finding housing, obtaining medical, mental health and substance abuse treatment, creating resumes, repairing credit and provided support with transitioning from years in prison.  In my current position, I oversee a wellness program for seniors, people with disabilities and families who live in public housing.  I have seen poverty.  Motivated addicts, coached offenders, supported parents who have lost their children or are in the process of getting them back and made reports for them to be removed.  And what I can surmise from all this I have bared witness, what I can draw from these life events which may appear critical, is that they are chronic.  They are part of a chronic cycle that was learned, from one generation to the next.  Passed down like a quilt or a recipe, these cycles of abuse, poverty and drug use are to blame for the generations of dysfunctional behaviors which will follow.  These cycles are powerful.  This life we know is not fair to humans who are born into a field which is not level.  These cycles take such incredible strength to overcome that it can seem nearly impossible.

Sounds discouraging right?  That generations compounded by poverty will just continue over and over again.  Well here’s the kicker: Love is Free.  Love, patience and time do not cost a penny.  This man, sitting across from me today need do nothing more than to go home to his son and prove to him that he cares.  Tell him he loves him and that he’s not going to stand by and watch him give up on life.  The father has not been provided the skills to do this because his father didn’t give a shit either.  It’s a total cop out to say that but it’s true.  Love is free.

I am often struck by a quote from Gandhi: Be the change you wish to see in the world.  Well here’s the change I wish to see in the world: I want it to be better for my kids than it was for me.  I want the world they grow up in to not have nuclear bombs, ethnic cleansing and genocide.  I want them to know only of kindness to humans and respect for this earth we share with plants and animals alike.  I want my children to recognize when a fellow human needs help.  And help.  I want them to find partners they love and make babies and love them.  Really love them.  No small feat.  But I would dare to wager that many, many parents want the same thing for their children.  Even the gentleman I spoke with today.  He is a good person.  He works hard.  He’s lost hope that his son can see and appreciate the wonderful things in this world.  Just as soon as he remembers how to care about those things, he can inspire his child to see them to.

So Mamas (and Papas) be that change.  I’m not a person who judges.  And I certainly don’t claim to have things figured out- and I very seldom give advice without being asked but I am right here and now telling you- begging you- to see that good in the world and challenge your children to find it too.  Because my kids have to live in this world with your kids.   And my grandchildren have to live with your grandchildren.  Be that change.  And love your children.  Give them your time.  Grace them with your patience.  It will not lighten your wallet but it will make our world that much richer.

Peace, Mamas.

The First Breakfast of Summer

Wanting to make the first day of Summer Vacation special for my monsters, I dove into a little recipe pioneering.  And came up with these: Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes.  Um, yum!  They were light and fluffy and pair perfectly with Vermont Maple Syrup.  The kids love them- even more so that they were silver dollar-sized.  Usually we have a strict Double Stack Rule but with these little buggers, we stacked ’em sky-high!

So many of the recipes I have for pancakes, include modified sugar  and enriched white flour.  A common misconception is that using whole wheat flour will produce dense, dry confections.  On the contrary, using whole wheat flour, actually adds depth to the flavor and generally makes baked goods more moist and delicious.  If you haven’t used whole wheat flour before, my suggestion would be to ease into it by mixing half and half.  It does change the flavor- I love it but I have also been using it for years.  Now my recipe does call for a couple tablespoons of brown sugar.  In hind sight, I would have used a more natural sweetener like honey– or depending on the ripeness of your banana, you could just omit the sweetener completely.

Of course you will need some assistance from your helpers…

Photo7

I had the heat set to about medium and it seemed to cook the pancakes evenly and uniformly.

Photo8

Photo6

Now for the towering stacks…

Photo5

The smiling, sticky-sweet faces of my boys made my day- and I think this breakfast treat set the stage for what I hope our summer will be: fun, healthy and a little sticky!

Photo4 Photo3 (3) Photo2 (2)

Whole Wheat, Banana Pancakes

  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar*
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 Medium Banana
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • Dash of Cinnamon

*Swap out for honey or omit entirely

Preheat griddle to med heat.  Combine flour, baking powder and brown sugar (if using honey, add to the banana mixture instead).  In separate bowl, mash banana and whisk in egg and milk.  Add all at once to the four mixture and mix until just combined.  Using a tablespoon, drop batter into heated pan (spray with a little cooking spray before the first batch and then you should be good to go after that).  Once bubbles begin to form and the edges aren’t shiny, flip ’em over.  There you go!  Of course you could make regular-sized pancakes, but how fun is that?!

Clean pates in this house equal a meal well enjoyed!

Photo1 (11)

Celebrate summer!  Peace, Mamas!

The Beginning of Really Living

This evening, I was able to witness my lovely niece’s graduation from the eighth grade.  As I sat in the jam packed, sweltering gymnasium, clapping on cue, attempting to keep my husband from dying of hunger and trying not to gawk at the short skirts (dear lord!), it occurred to me: This is the Beginning.  The Beginning of Really Living.  These children will go on to become doctors who will treat me when I am old, they will become educators who will teach my grandchildren, they will become scientists, astronomers, mayors, bus drivers, business owners, counselors.  They will become parents who will raise children of their own who will one day walk across that stage and take a diploma in hand.  The Beginning.

After the diplomas had been passed out, the children stood, we clapped some more.  Husband is now convinced he may be fading further into starvation.  The principal announced his closing speech.  He spoke to his (now, former) students about going out into the world; he encouraged them to sincerely show gratitude to the family, teachers, friends who had helped them become the amazing young people they were today.  And then he asked his own daughter who was seven years old to come and sit with him and look at the class of 2017.  He explained to her that they had had some struggles with homework, tests, classes, teachers, each other.  But that they had certainly had a lot of fun too.  This principal, as he spoke to his graduated class, spoke as a parent.  Effortlessly and from the heart.  And not only did this group of silly, emotional, excited barely teenagers listen intently to every word which left the man’s mouth, his daughter did too.

As a Mama of a seven year old, I envy the opportunity to fully captivate my son in a lesson which may quite possibly last him his lifetime.  Have fun.  Be a kid.  School is so important.  When something seems to big you don’t think you can get through it, you always will.  Ask for help when you require it and space when you need it.  Our children are going to become powerful, inspiring, helpful humans.  And it is our job to guide them.  These students are on the cusp of high school where their new challenges will be peer pressure, drugs, sex and an array of  bad choices.  Like a new world of opportunity, these temptations spread before them as part of the landscape.  The choices they make as young adults, are shaped by the values we instill in them through their childhood.  It is so important.  It is so important.

So that next time I want to give up.  Check out from being a parent for a bit, I will try to remind myself of just how important it is to be the most responsive, patient, loving and determined parent I can be.  Do I want them to see that Mama checks out when shit gets tough?  Um, nope.  They watch us.  They are witness to every fit of anger, ever exasperated sigh, every swear muttered under our breath, every eye roll, every snide comment and the negative energy that seeps from our pores.  We worry about violence, the media and video games but the truth is, our children see the ugly from us.  And that’s depressing.  But it’s also empowering.  Why?  Because we can control all of those things.  And that is freeing.

Tonight, this principal took the time to be a parent.  He showed his adorable, sweet little girl the good he was sending out into the world.  He told her about the wonderful things these students would do.  And all they would become.  As she stared up at him, shiny blonde curls falling around her soft pink cheeks, she became convinced that she would become one of these gifted, inspiring graduates one day too.  It begins with us.  This was a lesson for me.  Crazy breeds crazy but positvity leads to opportunity.  We can give our children that opportunity.  It’s worth it.  They are worth the investment.  This is the Beginning of the Really Living.

Peace, Mamas.