Mama Stands Up

Darkness.  I lay in the darkness feeling numb.  Am I awake?  Praying for that feeling a relief to wash over me like slipping into a steaming bath.  But that warmth does not arrive.  Instead panic flashes.  Hot and dry in my throat.  What am I going to say to my children?  I need to be brave.  But how can I dig for that courage when it’s not there?  It’s buried deep under fear, panic, shame and sheer disappointment that runs white hot through me.

For months, I have pushed this possibility to the side.  For nearly a year, I’ve laughed this off as an embarrassing joke.  But what I have really done is forced myself to believe in humanity.  Challenged my fearful mind to trust that good will win- it has to, right?  That the majority of humans care beyond their doorstep.  Feel a sense of duty to protect our so very fragile society and vote with their hearts.  The disappointment I feel is for the reality that what’s in my heart is not in the majority of the hearts across our country.  I struggle to reconcile the notion that I’m the minority in my values.

5:49am.  Cub walks in to my room and crawls into bed.  Warm, innocent hands wrap into my own.  Did Hillary win, Mom?  I hesitate.  Waiting.  Like I’m expecting something wise to come.  Instead, No, baby.  She didn’t is all that falls out.  He rolls over to face me.  Searching my eyes and my mouth, his breath whispering, heart pumping.  She didn’t win I say again.  This time a little louder, pushing my voice past the hardness in my throat, testing how the words feel in my mouth, how it sounds to hear myself say it.  Cubs eyes fall.  He knows that evil won today.

The piercing, jagged truth is, he knows what this means.  I openly shared my feelings for not supporting Donald Trump.  My children know all the reasons this man did not earn our vote.  I shared these reasons because I genuinely did not believe that others would be able to see past the truths, the facts, and support him.  Of course I knew some could but I had no idea so many would.  So now I feel duped.  So does my kid.  So now what.  What do we do?

Well for starters, I am not going to be silent.  I am not going to roll over and make the best of this.  I am going to Stand Up.  I am going to look for places where I can Stand Up.  And Standing Up now means something different.  I won’t be silenced by Facebook, like I realize I have been for so long.  Words on a screen that mean nothing.  No action.  Look, I shared an article!  Now that I’ve let everyone know what side of an issue I’m on, I can go back to posting pics of my kids, recipes or memes.  For fucking real?  You know whats different about activism now than during the 60’s?  You actually had to show up to Stand Up.  You couldn’t just post a pic of a Civil Rights March, hashtag it and call it a day.  You actually had to show up.

I hear people say about the election outcome, We did this.  Guess what?  I actually didn’t do this.  And I am sick of being the We.  The We are the people who voted for this man.  The We don’t hold the same values as what’s in my heart.  The We are the people who are just going to go about their business and ignore the fact that evil won.  That gender discrimination, racial ignorance, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration won.  I am not the We.  I am the Me.  And the Me feels like the only thing I can do right now is Stand Up.  I vow to seek out injustice.  And DO something about it.  No matter how small that is.  I will no longer smile apologetically at the woman holding a “WOMEN’S RIGHTS MATTER” sign outside Planned Parenthood.  I will hold a sign next to her.  Are you Muslim?  I’m in your corner.  Are you an immigrant?  A refugee?  Are you black?  Consider me your ally.  Are you gay?  I will hold your hand.  Are you a strong, powerful woman?  I’ve got your back, girl.  I will not look for fights but I will seek opportunities to show that I am not the We.

And I will do this in front of my kids.  I will encourage them to do the same.  To say nothing is not an option for me.  And as angry as I was at 5am, I feel that anger replaced with a sense of duty.  I have deactivated my Facebook account to push myself to use action as my platform, instead of a social media account.  I’ll dearly miss the pics of your adorable kiddos but this feels more important to me right now.  I need to challenge myself to act instead of post a status or share a comical clip from the Daily Show.  Now, I have a sense of how to move forward.  I may not be able to influence laws from my tiny town in a tiny state but I can let people know how I feel about them.  I am not the We.  I can show up.  And I will Stand Up.  And I hope you will too.  Because it’s the only way I know to get through this right now.

With all my heart, I wish you Peace, Mamas.

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Work It Mama

Are you a Mama who works?  I am.  And while I am certain Mamas who stay home have their share of struggle, I am going to talk about Working Mamas.  

For the last few months, I have spent enormous amounts of time and effort planning a training for my entire agency.  On Cultural Awareness.  I had planned out the lunch- which was a struggle in itself- have you planned a meal for 50 colleagues?  It’s exactly the same level of fun and easy as feeding 17 three year olds.  So the morning of the training, I needed to get three kids on the bus by 7:23am so I would have enough time to prep and run errands for the training.  Piece-o-cake.  Shit cake.  

I picked out clothes night before.  Made sure eveyone had “cozy pants” and not the jeans that apparently are seamed with jagged shards of glass.  I had stayed up to make a loaf of pumpkin bread- which at least two out of three children will eat.  I got up at 5:15am to shower and get myself ready.  Things went downhill from there.  Zook threw is clothes back in my face.  The cozy pants I’d picked out were blue and not gray.  And on Tuesdays, blue cozy pants = bad.  I hadn’t gotten that memo.  So I am hunting through four baskets (yes you read that right) of unfolded, unsorted (which I am about 85% sure was clean) laundry for the gray cozy pants.  

Meanwhile, some kind of fight has broken out somewhere in the house over who gets to eat the first slice of pumpkin bread.  Giving up on the treasure hunt for the mystical fucking gray cozy pants, I run toward the sound of screaming.  There’s some crying involved at this point.  After determining that Cub was indeed the first downstairs and (somehow) this entitles him to the first piece of pumpkin bread, I break the news to Mooch and Zook.  Zook punches Cub.  I determine that this violation means he will now get the third piece of pumpkin bread.  Because, duh.  There’s some more screaming but now everyone seems to be moving their greivences to the table.  Just ask Zook has finally stopped crying over being relegated to the third slice of pumkin bread, Cub announces that he’d really like to have oatmeal and slides the slice of pumkin bread to Zook who complains that he won’t eat it because it smells like Cub’s breath.  I shit you not.  

So finally, at 7:18am we run out the door to the bus stop.  I’m standing there, sipping my coffee, taking that deep breath as I see the bus round that corner… I am there.  I’ve made it.  Another 30 seconds and I can hop in my car, flip on Adele and blissfully sit in traffic for 40 minutes.  Buuuuuusssss! I yell gleefully.  Too gleefully.  Because just as the doors to that bus open, Zook trips and slides across the gravel.  Screaming.  Blood.  More screaming.  The bus is waiting.  Now this is a moment where time stands still.  I am staring at this screaming child, and pleading with the universe to make the crying stop.  I am actually done.  This is where I punch the clock.  The bus is here- this is the handoff.  I get coffee and Adele now.  Nope.  He refuses to get on the bus.  Like refuses.  Um, what the hell am I supposed to do with this?  I have to go to work.  Like now.  But I still need to be a Mama.  First I am a Mama.  Work will wait.  

Today, a dear Mama friend fell apart. Giant, soft tears fell from her eyes while she described to me how she feels like every day she’s failing.  Failing at home.  Failing her kids.  This I say to you: I know the struggle.  I know her well.  It’s waking to the sink of dishes you were too exhausted to clean up the night before.  It’s forgetting the library books.  Again.  It’s throwing some shit in a pan and calling it dinner when all you wanted was to try that new recipe.  It’s digging through piles of clothes that never make it to the drawers before ending up in a heap next to the washer again.  It’s realizing at 7am that your child is Star of the Day and needs two dozen motherfucking peanut-free, treenut-free, gluten-free snacks.  It’s cyring on your way to work- not only because you have all of this on your mind but because it’s the only ten minutes you have alone.  It’s crushing.  And oh yeah, now you have to hold your shit together for an eight hour day and host a Cultural Awareness training for 50 peope who are going to complain about the lunch.  

This I say to you: You are not alone.  You are the most compassionate, strong Mama I know.  Your heart is filled with so much love for your children.  And oh, how they adore you.  We are all in this together.  And sometimes, we fall apart.  Sometimes the pressure of it all bears down and panic creeps in.  I need to be more.  I am overwhelmed.  I am failing.  But you are not.  You’re doing it.  Every. Single. Day.

Just keep on working it, Mama.

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.

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Mama Drops the F-bomb

Today has been one of those days.  One of those days.

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The day began pretty typically for a Saturday with the Hub leaving for work at 6:00am, kissing me gently on the forehead as I barely have the strength to move, both arms trapped under sleeping boys.  As he walks out, I lay, trying to remember when and how they ended up pinning me to the mattress.  I have no clue.  I move.  Eyelids snap open.  Coffee.  Heading into the kitchen, I am struck by the most debilitating pain in my foot.  Crumbling to the floor, clutching my foot with tears starting to sting my barely awakened eyes.  A Lego.  A mother-humping Lego.  And it’s still stuck in my foot.  Right in the sweet spot between the ball and the pad.  I can barely contain it but I am thinking it.  Really thinking it.  Fuck.  It’s not out loud.  But it’s more oozing from the pores in my forehead.  I am sweating obscenities.

I manage to recover.  With no help or concern from the little beasts gobbling granola bars and fruit cups from the couch, little eyes glued to glowing screen like they’re in some kind of trance.  I survey the house.  The living room is pretty bad.  The sink is piled with dishes.  I efficiently, almost smugly, loaded the dishwasher the night before last (yes, you read that right) only to find that we were out of detergent.  And then I forgot to get it yesterday.  So now, this morning, not only is the dishwasher full of dirty dishes, but all the dishes from yesterday are piled in the sink.  Sweet.

Looking over to the playroom, I am filled with anxiety and dread.  That has to be cleaned.  You see, we are in the beginning stages of selling our house and have people coming to look at it tomorrow.  Tomorrow.  And they are such a sweet young couple… The sight of that playroom may affect them so profoundly that they may never again be able to stomach the idea of bringing children into the world.  But more importantly, they probably wouldn’t buy our house.  I sit.  Staring- glaring in at the mass of plastic, knowing that I will have to find a spot for each and every piece of shit in there.

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Fuck.  Again, not out loud but in my soul, I am breathing this curse in deeply and spitting it out from far in the back of my throat.  Silently.  And with a smile.  Because that’s what we Mamas do, right?  We hold shit together.  For everyone.  With a smile.  Because if we can’t, everything falls apart.  Everything falls apart.  No pressure.

Mooch has a birthday party today and we have yet to choose the perfect gift so we are off to pick out something ridiculously pink, frilly and girly.  Just have to pick out clothes for everyone.  Walking into my bedroom, the fury of my looming task in the playroom returns in full force.  Standing in the doorway, looking down at the heaps of laundry I must also deal with.  But later.  I dig in, searching out shirts and pants and underwear, and socks.  God, I hate looking for socks.  Hunching over, trying desperately to find the match to a dinosaur sock, I am so engrossed in my quest that I don’t even hear the smallest child sneaking up and pouncing on my back, catching me off guard, sending me face first into an over-turned laundry basket.  Fuck.  This time, it’s mostly in my head but the Fffffff slips a little.  Hi Mama!  Got you!  And he runs off.  The quest is over.  Mooch will not be wearing matching socks today.  I walk out of the room, but not before I take one long look back…  Knowing I will have to tackle this later.

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Mooch is pissed about his mis-matched socks.  Zook won’t wear his coat.  Cub is bitching at me for something but I can’t even hear him over Zook’s angry wails.  We manage to make it into the car.  Zook continues with the sobs- now because he wants to take his seat belt off.  I stop to pick them up bagels.  Silence as they chow in the backseat.  The toy store is uneventful except leaving- which is always stressful.  Always.  And ends with me yelling that I am leaving as at least two kids run screaming, partially believing that I may actually be gone.  I am beat.  But we have a gift that looks like something a fairy barfed up so I think we are in good shape for this party.  Mooch steps in cream cheese.  And now it’s all over the car.  My wallet falls to the ground into a mud puddle.  Along with the card for the gift.  Cub stands, looking at my wallet, acting like a sponge, soaking up the murky water.  Pick it up, I am saying to him.  But he’s just standing there.  I’m not putting my hand in that… I vaguely hear him say as I am wiping cream cheese off virtually every surface with upholstery.  Scooping my water-logged wallet up, I glare at Cub.  I get in and just as I swing my arm down, I feel a bump.  Hear a splash.  Looking down, I see that someone has left a full bottle of milk on the center console.  Without the cap.

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Fuck.  This time it’s out loud.  Instant shame.  Did I just do that?  Was that out loud?  Did they hear that?  I desperately scan the rear view mirror.  Yup.  They totally heard that.  No one says anything.  Nothing.  Deep breaths.  I put the cap back on the milk. Put my seat belt on, after about ten deep breaths.  I pull out of the parking lot.  I know I should say something but I am just not quite sure what that should be so I just drive.  Finally, I just blurt out, I am sorry.  That was a really bad word.  Mama was really angry and frustrated but it’s still not okay for me to say bad words.  Quiet.  And then giggles.  Breathe Mama.

It was a day.  A bad day.  One of those days.  But now it’s over.  Now, they are up in their beds. They know their Mama isn’t perfect but they know she tries her hardest every day.  The playroom is clean.  The dishes are done.  And the laundry, well that’s still up there.  But tomorrow is another day.

Peace, Mamas.

Bye, Bye Booby

For real.  This, the eve of his third birthday, also marks one month since Zook last nursed.  A few months back, I posted about my little guy giving up his nightly boob.  Sad, but not really surprising.  He was two and a half…  So although we did not nurse before bed, he awoke craving his mama’s milk instantly as his eyes opened.  And it went on like this for quite a while.  I had no clue that it would go on this long.  But it did.

Zook is my last baby.  Our family of five is complete.  What is apparent to most parents after two children became a blaring reality after he was born: Children are a lot of work.  And making sure that they all survive the day is also a lot of work.  So I relished in our nursing relationship- the Journey as many call it- because I knew this was the last chance I would have to grow this bond with a child.  I never thought of myself as an extended breastfeeder- not that I had any judgments about people who breastfed past a year… or two… or three… I just did’t think it was for me.  And then I was that Mama.

He just never appeared to be a toddler or (gulp) a preschooler.  He just looked so much like my baby that I was blind to the progression of his increasing age.  With each passing month, I thought surely it would be any day.  I was sure that after his second birthday, he would give it up but just like so many other things, the books were wrong about this too.  After his second birthday, I began scrutinizing about each session.  I gave myself such a hard time. And it was stupid because I was the only one putting the pressure on to kick this.  My husband was more than supportive- half because he relied on me to “give him a boob” to get our insanely temperamental sweet child to shut the F up calm down in any public setting.   And the other half of the reason he was so supportive was because he saw how much it meant to our little guy.  Don’t you think he’s a little old? I would say.  According to who?  He’d answer.  But do you think he still really needs it?  I’d say.  Look how much he loves it.  If it still works for you, don’t take it away from him.  He’d say.  For real.  (Reminder: Hug this man.)  So I just decided to go with it.  

Slowly, he would miss a morning booby sesh.  Then he would miss a day.  And then two.  And then three…  And then.  It was gone.  Still, one month later, the sadness creeps into my throat.  But I am comforted by the idea that he weaned me as much as himself.  Had he cut me off, I would have been heart-broken.  (Yes, folks, this was about me too.)  So he weaned me.  Slowly, and on his terms.  This happened just the way it was supposed to.  It was true self-weaning.  It was hard and there were times I wanted to give up- just as much as there were times that I wanted to offer when he didn’t need it.  But I let him decide what he wanted- what he needed- and trusted he would find his way.  I trusted him to find our way.

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Now, I’ll admit that I boarder on control freak (who am I kidding, I am a total control freak but I can’t really admit that because it sounds horrible… but this is Real) and because of this, I have a hard time letting my kids decide what’s best for them.  Of course you have to wear a hat, it’s 30 degrees outside!  You need to fill out your reading journal!  Take two more bites of breakfast!  Finish your milk!  Now what if we treated them like… humans?  Humans who are capable of making decisions for themselves.  I know I am making a huge leap here but if letting a near-three year old decide when he’s done nursing has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t give our children far enough credit for knowing what they need and when they need it.  We make so many decisions for them.  And some of them are necessary but are they all…?  I am not so sure anymore.

For some of you reading this, you may be welcoming me to the room: you’ve already made a decision to raise your kids this way.  To some, the idea of letting your kids make autonomous choices may seem ridiculous.  To the latter group, try to entertain this idea.  I’m still totally forcing my kids to wear their seatbelts, brush their teeth and use their manners but if they choose not to wear a hat, maybe I will let them (and shove it in my purse to hand off when they start to cry that their ears are cold) or maybe I will allow them to leave the table without finishing breakfast… they will be hungry but they won’t die.  Maybe they would make a better choice the next morning.

I don’t pretend to know where to draw that line and I am in no way telling you how to raise your kiddos.  But what I am saying is that our children are crazy smart.  They know what they are doing more of the time than we acknowledge.  Consider this.  My three year old clung to my breast until he slowly decided he didn’t need it anymore.  And then he was done.  On his terms.  I let go of the control.  And it worked out really well.  Bye, bye Booby.  Hello Independence.

Peace, Mamas.

Mama Forgets. Twice.

Cub began third grade this year and one of the special ways his teacher celebrates each student is to send home Corduroy, the Adventure Bear for a weekend.  Each student takes a turn to welcome Corduroy into their home, to take him on an adventure.  This weekend, it was Cub’s turn.  And we forgot him.  I know what you’re thinking: Winning.

When Cub ran off the bus on Friday afternoon, he was wearing a Christmas-morning-grin.  Lunging to the porch with a large bear.  This is Corduroy!  I got him for the weekend and he’s going to do everything with us!  Joy.  Dear God, just don’t let us lose him- better yet, please don’t let Zook rip his leg off…  We take out the bear.  There is an instruction page and journal for Cub to record his adventures with us.  Most importantly, Cub needs to read aloud to Corduroy.  Okay, here we go.

Saturday, Cub had a soccer tournament.  Four hours of watching, waiting and playing.  Husband lucked out had to work and was only able to make to the last game of the day.  Getting out the door was quite a cluster…  Packing lunches, finding shin guards- why the hell are they not together?!  Then the socks have to go on.  But what?  You can’t do it alone?  As I am packing Cub’s leg into his sock, my spine is beaten by Zook’s boot.  It’s unseasonably warm this weekend- 75 today- and no, child, you can’t wear your boots.  Finally out the door.  I have sandwiches for everyone, snacks and a couple hidden treats to serve as Tangible Rewards– certainly NOT bribes, what kind of Mama bribes her children?  I do however, recommend the Tangible Reward system.  You won’t be disappointed.  Promise.  It was a little ride to get to the tournament and we picked up a couple friends on the way (one for me and one for Cub) but by the time we got to the game, Cub realized we had forgotten someone.  Corduroy.  Shit.

I’m so sorry buddy.  We completely forgot him.  I bet you’re bummed.  We will bring him tomorrow when we go apple picking.  Okay…?  Fine.  Whew.  Dodged that melt-down bullet.  One down, forty-three to go.  The day was hot, long and by the last game, I was ready to be the one to have the melt-down but we survived with only twenty-two minutes of crying and one horrible port-o-potty visit.  Which I won’t elaborate on but I will say this: They are not suitable for young children.  And two people cannot fit.  Well.  Two people cannot fit well.  And then there’s the smell.  And the— Okay, I’ll just stop there for tonight.  But there could be an entire future post focused on visiting a port-o-potty with a two year old.  Just an FYI.

Sunday.  Gor-ge-ous day.  Amazing- even for Autumn in Vermont Standards.  Beautiful drive to the orchard with zero complaining- pretty impressive because it’s about a twenty minute drive from home.  As we walk through the first row of apple trees… Mom!  We did it again!  We forgot Corduroy!  Crap, that fucking bear is ruining everything.  We sit down for a minute- because now, I am pretty sure we are all trying not to hyperventilate.  We have to get him!  Husband tries first: The day’s not over.  We could play chase in the yard when we get home…  Cub doesn’t even humor him with a response.  We have to get him.  Mama looks at Daddy.  Go.  Please.  I say this with my eyes.  But he gets it.  Husband stands up.  Cub smiles.  He’ll be back (in approximately fifty minutes) with the damn bear.  With Corduroy.

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While I can say that dragging (or forgetting) the bear around this weekend was a pain in the ass, it was also a wonderful opportunity for me to listen to Cub read aloud.  He’s a wonderful reader- better than I know I was at his age- but he often reads to himself before bed, outgrown the evening ritual of being read to.  We still read plenty to him but it wasn’t until this weekend that I heard him read aloud.  It was amazing- like tears to your eyes amazing.  Thanks to Corduroy, I was able to witness my child read, hear him form the words, hear his inflection of tone, hear him enjoy a journey.  I asked Cub if he would read to me sometimes before bed after Corduroy was gone.  He obliged with much more optimism than I had anticipated.  I am beyond proud to report that this is a pastime that will not end when the bear is returned to school tomorrow.  Thanks Corduroy.

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.

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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.  

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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.

A New Kind of Honor…

New to blogging as I am, one of the best parts along my journey thus far has been the wonderful Mamas I have had the privilege to connect to, laugh with and draw strength from.  I firmly believe that Mamahood is better when you are surrounded by Mamas.  One blogger I have come to admire and follow is Leslie Hunter.  Her blog, It Takes a Village, is completely in tune with my philosophy on the importance of connectedness in parenting.  This month, she has bestowed a great honor on me: I have been featured in her blog!  That’s right, I’m Mrs. July!  Check it out right here.

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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.