Tag Archives: Childhood

Love Covers

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Proverbs 10:12

 

Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

I just lean into this on the regular so as not to drown in mommy-guilt.

I’ve been giving this parenting thing a bunch of thought lately.  Okay, I’ve been giving it a bunch of thought since 1985 when I became pregnant with my firstborn.  It’s SO hard.  The responsibility of raising actual human beings is more than I think I should’ve even been trusted with.  I poured myself into it like most mamas do and usually believed I did a less than adequate job most days.

It’s interesting to me that so many of us think we’re alone in this.  We think the confidence other mamas display is for real.  I always believed their kiddos were sweeter, more polite, more compliant, and felt more loved than our kiddos did because I knew what happened at home when no one was around to see or hear my authentic self.  Like the time when I had just begun homeschooling my children, who had never heard me use profanity, and Hannah was being especially whiny.  She repeatedly asked me if she could do a bit less than I was requiring for their writing assignment.  As we all sat around the kitchen table, my patience wore thin and I threw an empty plastic 2 litre soda bottle across the kitchen, into the garbage disposal side of the sink while yelling an attractive expletive at my daughter.  She was forever scarred – I can still remember the looks on their faces – and my additional punishment was that the thrown bottle hit a plastic plate, chipping a piece off that lodged in our garbage disposal blade, resulting in a broken disposal for the next year!  I decided unschooling for a few months was a better way to begin our journey after that epic fail.  One of my prouder moments as a parent.

Ten years later, we all laugh at that moment in our history together.  I like to think that we’ve learned that there can be grace in the face of losing our %@*&!  It’s okay that my children know that I am far from perfect, that I need grace.  It’s good that they know we all need forgiveness and we all fail each other on occasion.  They know that I am in this for the long haul, like most mamas.  I will always want healthy relationship with all of our children.  I’ve sown this into their hearts and they’ve sown it into mine.  It’s what I cling to in the dark days of our relationship now that they are adults, some with spouses, some with children, and all with their own beliefs founded in our home and molded by their individual experiences.

I can think of a BAJILLION times that I messed up in my journey as a mama and it’s difficult for me to remember great moments without questioning myself or minimizing the good stuff.  Why is that?  Being a mama has been my single most important contribution to this world.  It is what I worked the hardest at, got the least worldly reward for, have been beat up for the most by the world and sometimes by the people who should’ve been my biggest cheerleaders.  My very best, lovely, sweet, hilarious, embarrassing, sad, satisfying & glorious moments have been my mama moments.  I’ve laid into my babies in anger and disappointment (usually more with myself than them).  I’ve held them while they cried in bitter disappointment, anger, embarrassment, hurt, fear, and frustration.  I’ve proudly cheered them on at countless sporting events, music performances, and activities of various types.  I’ve internalized numerous emotional injuries that only my own precious offspring can hurl at their mama, just as any mama reading this can attest to.  I’ve lost weeks of sleep waiting for one of them to finally come home or call to say s/he is alright.  I’ve spent hours waiting to hear the slightest sound of a seizure in the next room so that I could run in and tell my child that he is breathing just fine and it will be over soon. I’ve become humbled as I accepted that my plan for my children is not always best and I’ve grieved what I thought was to be and been humbled again.

It really is SO hard

and so lovely

and just too many adjectives to list and yet, none of them could do justice to a relationship so deep and complex.

I’ve received more hugs and “I love you’s” than any human being has a right to.  I’ve belly-laughed more than most people have had the pleasure of laughing.  I’ve watched my children attend to their grandparents lovingly.  I’ve seen them care for homeless and needy people with genuine affection and joy.  I’ve stood by as they made sure everyone felt included whether or not they “fit in.”  I’ve witnessed them extend grace to me, one another and so many others.  I’ve experienced more encounters with people than I can count expressing their affection for my children.  A mama NEVER tires of hearing what kind, hardworking, funny children she has and if I can brag for just a moment, it happens to me A LOT!

I guess we did some things right…

I love my children more than I ever thought I could love anyone.  They are truly a part of me and they always will be.  I am blessed to have been chosen as their mama.  God must really love me.

Love covers over all wrongs.

Shew…

Daddy’s Girl

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Tricia Baby

When I was a child, even before starting school, I can remember knowing that I wasn’t someone who people thought of as a nice, polite little girlie-girl.  My mother, on the regular, would bend down next to my ear when I was in “public”  and whisper that “nice girls don’t talk like that.”  She wasn’t referring to profanity, but I was “rough around the edges.”  I had four brothers, my dad encouraged my moxie, and if I’m completely honest, I took quite a bit of pleasure in knowing I made my mama squirm a bit.  I think I figured if she was never going to be proud of me, I might as well at least be sure she noticed me!

My father spoiled me so obnoxiously when I was very young, that I truly believed on some level that I was more important than others.  Once I started school, I was rudely awakened to the fact that I was no more or less important than the other people in this world.  It was good medicine.  I wasn’t always given the proper dosage, but it was the correct prescription.

As an adult, and especially once I became a mama myself, I came to believe I needed to follow in my mother’s footsteps and be less vocal, more contriving in order to be what the world, or at least what many of my family members wanted me to be.  I worked to be what I thought I was supposed to be as hard as I could, and for the most part, I pulled it off.  When I became a Christian, the stepford mama/wife mission went into overdrive.  I worked very hard to be the perfect wife and mama that my husband, in-laws and parents would be proud of.  If you focus on becoming something you aren’t hard enough, you barely notice your “self” dying a little bit more each day. – Just to be clear, I don’t mean the good kind of dying to self for Christ daily deal, I mean the horrible, denying who He made you to be, so you can please people who are not Him, kind of deal.

One of the problems with this kind of thinking is that I never really learned how to deal with problems, especially anger.  When I was young, I just bullied my way through other people.  My family is really good at that.  We think we’re being terribly witty and quick-minded, but really we just make others uncomfortable, dishonored and bullied.  I know because I allowed myself to be bullied by some of my family members during my stepford years and even beyond because I don’t know a good middle ground way to deal with such aggression – either I go toe-to-toe with them or I stuff it down, get super frustrated, as well as hurt (emotionally) and then begin to cry – and this, btw, is seen as an admission to lying or at the very least an admission to being wrong in my family of origin.

I have a confession to make… and this is not a proud moment for me, but I feel like if I’m trying to be truly transparent, and my goal is to help others who are dealing with similar junk, I have to put it all out there as He leads me.  During my stepford years, I didn’t always hold my tongue and make nice with everyone.  I did with my friends, my husband, neighbors, church family, etc., but I continued to bully my children, of all the precious people.  When I felt frustrated or like I was losing control, Tricia McDowell came out in full force.  She wasn’t fair.  She wasn’t kind.  She was just ugly.  I’m not proud of those moments.  They felt fairly normal to me at the time and I was great at justifying what I’d done or said, but my children just felt dishonored and bullied.

The other side of that coin is that when I stopped bullying the general public and started developing friendships, a pattern ensued.  I made friends quite easily, but when conflict came, as it almost always certainly does, I would stuff my hurt feelings down until I was ready to blow and then I would just walk away.  I was usually afraid I would go berserk on my friend (and once in a great while I did) and lose the relationship, so it seemed less messy and less painful to just walk away first. Besides, they obviously didn’t care much anyway… Ever the sacrificial victim…

ICK…

 

See, I believe that if you try to push down who you are instead of embracing her, then God’s hands are tied because he doesn’t make you a certain way already shiny and perfect.  He makes us a certain way so that we can be molded and shaped into what he desires for us to be, if we choose to be.  My big mouth needed to be tempered.  My passionate heart needed to be fed.

Are you who He desires you to be?  I don’t mean the shiny, perfect version.  Are you embracing the beautiful, trying parts of yourself that others may try to shame out of you?  Are you asking Him what He wants you to accomplish with these traits, desires, feelings?  Does it just feel easier to be what everyone else wants you to be?

That’s what I thought, until it all blew up in my face.   explosion

Now, here I am, well beyond my formative years learning how to deal with hurt and anger in a grown up, vulnerable way.  It sucks.  I’m not lying.  It’s a tough pill to swallow, accepting you are terrible at a basic life skill and that you make your immediate family a little nervous now that you aren’t quiet and always “appropriate” in public situations.  I can still hear my mother whispering in my ear, “Nice girls…”  Except now, I turn and look her in the eye and say, “I’m my Daddy’s girl.  He loves me just as I am and that is enough.”

fence boundary

I have some fences to mend.  I have some boundaries to keep.  I have some work to do and some time to catch up on.  As much as I want to keep looking back and regretting the time I’ve wasted not seeing the truth, I don’t want to dishonor the gift I’ve been given.  I have a glimpse of the me He wants me to be and I am walking in that now.  I’m walking all wobbly, like a toddler, so I’ll need grace and forgiveness during this learning process, but that’s okay.  That’s the stuff.  That’s where I’m trying to live. – And I don’t mean I have it all figured out, not even close.  I just don’t feel so lost or alone now, because I’m coming back and I have me, again.  Do you have you?  Do you know who you are and do you love your self?  I hope so, because He does and I do…

You are His and He made you uniquely you.  That’s so cool.

Walk on…

Step On Up

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baby-steps

I remember the first time I met him.  He was all of two years old and the tiniest little replica of his daddy.  It was adoration at first sight for me.  He was a bit of a show off and knew he had his daddy in the palm of his chubby little hand.  He kept asking me to watch him do this and that and I did, gladly.  I was so happy that he was such a friendly little guy.  Later, when his daddy kissed me and he leaned out of the playhouse window and said, “Hey… What’dya guys doing?,” his daddy nearly had a heart attack!

It was a rough start.  My new husband’s ex pulled out all the stops.  We were in court for everything imaginable, even before the wedding.  We naively believed that things would calm down and even improve as time passed and we all settled into our lives.  We were wrong.  It was a constant rollercoaster ride for more than a decade.  Sometimes we marvel at the fact that our marriage survived it!  We were committed to not allowing it to affect our time together as a family.  Through the years it felt like we just kept getting run over repeatedly, but we were the adults and we refused to let it hurt our kids anymore than it had to. It wasn’t always easy, but we had some great friends who let us unload our “It’s not fairs!” on them on the regular.  They prayed with us and for us.  I don’t know what we would’ve done without their support.

Being a stepdad comes with its challenges, for sure, but if you participate and are nice to your spouse’s child(ren), you are a hero to the world at large.  If you are a stepmom, it is an ALL uphill climb.  It’s typically assumed you are evil, thanks to Cinderella, Snow White, and other lovely fairytales of the day.  If you welcome your spouse’s child(ren), you are suspected of trying  to replace the bio-mom.  If you aren’t terribly affectionate or welcoming, you are accused of being a heartless witch.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt as scrutinized as I felt every other weekend and the several weeks during the summers that I was actively being a stepmom.  As hard as I tried to make things “normal,” there was always the second guessing of EVERYTHING.  What was completely normal with my bio-child who was only a few months older made me a wreck with my stepson.  Between a husband who was very critical, a bio-mom who was court happy, and family members who struggled with the whole situation, I did the best I could with what I had at 24 years of age.  Doubting everything I did when it came to him was the norm.

In 96 hours each month we were to visit both sets of grandparents, make memories, teach responsibility and a million other important things, be a normal family, sleep, eat, go to church, and be sure the kids all made it to all of their weekend activities – because if they didn’t, we may end up in court, again.

I sometimes wonder if I knew what all I’d go through because I fell madly in-love with a man with a child, an ex-wife, and all that entails, if I would’ve said, “Yes” to that first date.  I know that must sound awful, but tonight I am tired and hurting and a little bit unbelieving of how long this continues to go on and how frustrating it is that the people who should be standing up and supporting the good guys are kissing up to the bad guys in selfishness.

I didn’t always make the right decisions, but I always choose what I believed was best for our sons.  ALWAYS.  I love all 5 of our children with all of my heart. I have since the moment I met each of them, whether it was in person, or it was by way of a pregnancy test.  I have lived my life with my family as my first worldly priority.

I know there are women who marry men and do their best to get their stepchildren out of their lives.  I know there are others who are genuinely unloving to them.  I know there are parents and stepparents who put their children in the middle like pawns in a chess game.  I also believe that this is horribly wrong and rare.  I know I have done none of these things.

My oldest son has a stepmom.  During his teen years they did not get along terribly well.  He was a teenager.  He and I did not get along terribly well.  She is a very nice woman.  We are not social friends, but I am so very thankful that she has been good to my son.  I can see that she genuinely loves him.  My son, his dad, his stepmom and her children are a family.  That is what I want for my son.  Isn’t that what being a parent is?…

If and when my oldest son and his wife have children we will all be grandparents together.  Our grandchild will be our priority and we will support each other and encourage relationship with our grandchild because we will all love him/her and want what is best for that precious child.  We’re the adults.

Okay… I feel better now that I have that almost 3 decade long load off of my chest.

Yep, I know this is a bit corny, but it’s mostly true, too.

 

step-mom

 

I’ve learned that a bunch of the junk that we fought for because it seemed so important in the moment, wasn’t really so important in the long run.  I’ve learned that you can’t spend your life fighting for someone who doesn’t want you in their life or who isn’t willing to fight for you because you lose precious moments with the people He put in your life to love and be loved by.  I’ve learned that being a mom and/or a stepmom is really hard and we should honor each other along the way.  I’ve learned to trust myself, to forgive myself and to let go when He shows me it’s time…

Life is too short.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until after I wasted more time than I wish I would’ve.  Fortunately, I’ve also learned that it’s not worth my time to wallow in regret.  Movin’ on…

Peace.


Houses of Cards and Undersized Shoes

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card  igloos

Typically coming into one’s own is thought to happen sometime in one’s early 20’s.  We leave the secure (or often unsecure) nest of our parents.  We see that other people live differently, the world is a big amazing place and we shift our way of thinking.  We begin to feel as if we rule the world.  We get a little arrogant about our parents and the way they live, the things they believe in and instilled in us somehow seem silly, small minded.

So, we create the adult “us” because now we know.  We’re 23 or so and we won’t make the same mistakes as our parents or any of the other clueless adults who have ruled our world for the past couple of decades or so did.  There is also this disillusionment that happens when we realize our parents aren’t perfect, and that they were actually wrong about a few things.  Honestly, this can shake up our entire sense of  how the world works.  It makes everything seem like a lie, so we’re not sure who or what to trust anymore.

This can also be a truly wonderful time.  We are young, beautiful, driven.  The world is our oyster…

We begin our adult lives.  We may start an amazing career, get married, start a family or not. . .  and then we’re just busy.  Responsibilities multiply all of a sudden, and we fall back on the examples, good and bad, that were set for us.  We don’t really know any better unless our upbringing was laced with the biggies – some kind of abuse (sexual, physical, emotional) that the world told us was terribly wrong.  Then (usually) we fight with all that we are to NOT make the same mistakes – to not treat our spouses like that or put our children through the horrors that we experienced.  

What about so many of us who were raised in homes with families who looked good on the outside and even on the inside – at least to the child who only knew this family and even to the damaged adults who were the leaders in those homes?  

I think we usually grew up believing we had a “normal” life.  We become the damaged adults who raise another generation of damaged adults, who raises another generation…  All the while, I think we feel a tug to be more, to be real, to be authentic.  We simultaneously run as fast and far from the raw truth as we possibly can.  In order to get down to the “real” of who we are, we have to flesh out the ugly that has been buried for so long.  We have to face the lies, the hurts, and the junk that have layered themselves in who we are.  There is no guarantee that we will like the new “me” we become.  It is a pretty sure bet that the journey will be painful and  very few people will support us.

Have you ever heard the theory that a family is like a house of cards?  Even when the house is standing with very little that is structurally sound, most all of the cards will do everything they can just to keep the house standing just as it is.  We find some sort of comfort in our dysfunctional family units and when one person tries to shift, i.e. get emotionally healthier, become more independent, branch out in a healthy way, the rest of the deck will do whatever they deem necessary in order to avoid change.  They may try to shame the lone card, even disown the lone card, often involving others in the hopes that feeling ganged up on, the lone card will go back to his/her old ways and everyone can just be comfortable again.  When the shifting card “moves” too much, the entire house of cards falls down, and in order to rebuild itself, the other cards are forced to face their fears, their ugliness and their secrets to some degree.  Truth be told, not too many of us are crazy about dealing with our junk because someone else pushed it on us.

I’ve seen this happen with friends who were sexually, emotionally, or physically abused as children.  Family members try to keep the uncomfortable truth in the dark because they think it’s easier than dealing with the pain that bringing it into the light would cause.  I’ve witnessed the agony of adult friends discovering years after their childhood abuse that other adults were aware of what was going on at the time, but chose not to speak up because it would hurt too many people if they said anything.  It breaks my heart to know what that did to their sense of self-worth, to their belief that they were worth loving and protecting by the people closest to them.

I think the hardest part of stepping out of the crazy darkness is the incredible loneliness and the self-doubt.  Being shunned by your family of origin or the family you helped create is a special kind of hell.  In spite of the plethora of strained family relationships in our culture – (so much so, that joking about the difficulty of holiday family gatherings is often seen on greeting cards, sitcoms, etc.) – we still are inundated with facebook postings, books, t.v. shows, billboards, etc. that cause people not in the “perfectly happy family club” to sting in silent pain.  It’s not that you resent the person that has a loving relationship with their parents, siblings, children. The opposite is true.  You are happy for them.  It gives you hope to know that unconditional love and grace exist in families.  It also hurts deep down to your very core to be reminded that you aren’t loved like the facebook or twitter postings I see on the regular:

“Love your mom no matter what you go through and how much you argue because, in the end, she’ll always be there for you.” –  No, not necessarily…

or
“Because I have a brother, I will always have a friend.”  – Not in my case…

or

“Family is a circle of strength: Founded in Faith; Joined in Love: Kept by God; Together Forever!” – That sounds wonderful, but not my reality…

As the holidays approach, it becomes even more difficult to stand firm.  The fear of spending these very special family days without family can cause you to run right back into the dysfunctional routine that chips away at your sense of worth, but still feels comfortable, normal to some extent.  It’s all good and well to be committed to breaking the cycle and even suffer in order to make things better for everyone by bringing the junk into the light or refusing to engage in the old messed up dance that you’ve done For-Ev-Er, until you’re faced with spending Christmas Day with no one except the cable t.v. channel that is FULL to the BRIM with stories of loving families on Christmas and even the families that aren’t perfectly happy at the beginning of the hour are full of joy, love, forgiveness and all tied up with a pretty bow by the end.  And when others ask what you’re doing for the holiday, you have to decide if you should make up a story about how you’ll be spending the day with your big, loving family, or make up a different story about not being able to see your family because they’re too far away or a horrible sickness is making its rounds through your family members, or if you should just face the music, be honest about having no one to spend the day with and leave everyone listening to you in awkwardness or even worse, offering you “pity” invites to their family gathering!

Gosh!  It’s a hard thing to be a member of a family that is made up of other flawed human beings!  It’s almost impossible to step out into the light and make a concerted effort to choose honesty, health, depth of relationship when you’re not really sure what that looks like and not a bunch of people desire the same depth or transparency.  I think that mostly we only choose this new path because we simply cannot keep doing the same dance we’ve always done.  It’s just too painful…

Trying to go back once you’ve stepped out into the light is like trying to fit your foot into a shoe that is 3 sizes too small.  Some of us are crazy enough to try, all the same, but I don’t think we can stay there for very long.  Once He frees you and you see the truth, really SEE the reality of your story, then you know you have the power to choose to be in His will and become all you were meant to be.  It’s a new kind of pain, not less or more, just different…Cleaner, more pure, I think, but still excruciating at times.

I remember 6 years ago thinking that I would NEVER make it through the holidays.  My entire life was shattered… and then the person who shattered it came along side of me, held me up and made some beautiful bittersweet memories that I hold gently and very near to my heart.  Two years later was when I finally and fully stepped into the light and lost a big part of my family of origin and my extended family.  It was almost as unbearable as two years earlier, but I was different – stronger and much more fragile.  He had begun to show me who I am in Him and that was enough.

Unfortunately, satan knows where I am weak.  The holidays will again be difficult this year.  My heart is sad, my head is baffled, but the shoes don’t fit anymore and I can’t dance my new dance for Him in shoes that don’t fit, no matter how uncomfortable it makes the people still sitting at the card tables in the dark corner of the room…

shoes too small

Expectations and Crutches

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I often ponder what happened to my family of origin.  I haven’t even begun to make sense of it all.  I carry it with me every moment of the day just under the surface.  I’ve gotten pretty good at accepting that my father has never really loved me.  I don’t believe he’s capable, so it makes it easier to live with.  Well, easier to live with than thinking I’m just not worth it or believing that I did something worthy of complete rejection by the people who brought me into the world.

I had something happen a few days ago at work that really threw me for a loop.  First, let me go back to Tuesday.  I had a rough meeting with a parent of one of my students.  So, I went back to my classroom feeling a bit melancholy.  I decided that I needed to do something productive instead of being gloomy, so I brought up my kiddos contact information and starting at the top of the list, I called every student’s parent in my class.  I got to talk to all but 3 of them.  It was really great being able to honestly share with all of these sweet parents just how blessed I feel to be able to share this school year with their precious babies.  I left the school just an hour and a half later with a whole new attitude.

The following afternoon, at our regular staff meeting, our awesome principal announced that we were to all go to our classrooms and call as many parents as we could to tell them something honest and wonderful about their child.  – At first I was flustered because I had just done this the day before…  Then I was excited because I figured after I called the 3 parents I missed the day before, I would have a few minutes to check papers or something – Yep, sometimes I am that pitiful…

So, I reached two of the three parents, had really nice conversations with each of them and then the staff returned to the meeting to share out.  Apparently this is an annual thing at my new school and while teachers call students’ parents, the administrators call the teachers’ parents.  The stories were adorable: cute dad’s proudly talking on and on about their daughters, mom’s initially being worried when the school called and then agreeing that their adult child was amazing, etc.  I found myself stuck in this vortex of loving to hear how loved my coworkers are by their moms and dads, feeling envious of how proud their parents are of them, and a little panicked that they somehow found my parents’ number and talked to one of them.  The second conflict in my mind (and heart) was hoping my father didn’t answer the phone and say something awful, while secretly wishing my parents could hear that I am a pretty good teacher and feel a little proud of me.

It took all the self-control I had just to stay in my seat and not allow any tears to show.  Even though no one in the room, except my sweet husband knows my parents haven’t spoken to me in over 4 years, I sat there knowing I had no parents who would welcome a call about their daughter.  When I read those sweet quotes on sites like facebook that say things about spending time with your parents if you are blessed enough to still have them here, I always feel a twinge of grief.  I don’t have to hide my feelings when I see those because it’s just me and the computer.  The other day, in my staff meeting, was a whole other animal.  As much as I don’t enjoy being caught off guard about my relationship with my parents and risking making a complete fool of myself, I am thankful for a chance to re-examine how I feel and not continually stuff my heartache for such a long time that I risk eventual cancer or a million other terrible illnesses.

I cried myself to sleep Wednesday night.   I had a 20 minute pity party Thursday night.  I haven’t been sleeping very well for the last few weeks, so that makes me a bit overly sensitive, I know, but I’m also just sad.  It’s okay for me to embrace how heartbroken I am.  I can do it just a bit now and then, but then it’s time to put it away, folded up neatly and tucked away again just under the surface.

I went to see the movie, “This is Where I Leave You,” today.  The family was full of disfunctional members.  They reminded me of how most families I know are made up of people who have junk and how necessary grace is.  Sometimes I wonder if my expectations are too high or if I take things too personally and that’s why I’m estranged from part of my family of origin.  Other times I wonder what took me so long to insist on respect.  I believe with my whole heart that healthy boundaries are as necessary as grace.  I struggle with locating the line between grace and respect and doormat and bitch.  I struggle with knowing that I may never make peace with or really be loved by my parents.  I’m not sure how I’ll walk through that one day…

You see it’s always just below the surface…

Scott – Part 2 A LETTER FOR LATER (1991)

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Scotty - kindergarten 2 Scotty,

Tomorrow afternoon you and I will be going to your kindergarten orientation. You’re going to Elms Elementary School. Mrs. Huffman, your teacher is very kind. You will be in her morning class from 9:15 until 11:50 each day. I can’t believe this is happening already!

I took this summer off so that I could spend time with you before you started school and it went so very quickly – just like the past five years… Have I taught you enough?… Did I teach you the right things?… Will you make friends easily?… Are you ready for all of this?… Am I?

I hope someday you will realize how very much I love you. I want you to be independent, confident, and self-assured more than almost anything, but there is a part of me wants to scoop you up and hold you in my arms, and never let you leave me. I am a little ashamed to admit that. I just want to be my little boy’s mommy and keep you from any hurt or danger.

Kids will be mean to you. You will get your feelings hurt. You will have embarrassing moments. You may not always know the answer and I won’t always be there to help you. You’ll learn to cope. You’ll shine. You’ll grow up – much too fast. You’ll need me less and less, and I will be very proud of you – and that part of me will want to scoop you up…

It’s a difficult thing to create a life and try to give him everything he needs and then to let go, knowing you can’t protect him from the world…

I believe in you. I know you are ready. You are brilliant; you get along well with others. You understand the world much better than I do at times. You are such a big boy. You are not a bully, but you know how to stand up for yourself. I’m very proud of you, my little old man. You have a heart of gold and you mean the world to me.

I pray God gives me the strength to be strong for you on Wednesday when you become a kindergartner. I’m afraid when you get on that bus I’ll fall to pieces. – Isn’t that silly?! I feel such anxiety, and I’m not completely sure why. I want to be confident, so that you will be. It’s so important to me that this be a positive experience for you. It’s the beginning of a whole new wonderful world of learning for you – one I know you will blossom in!

This is a momentous occasion in your life! You will never be the same after starting school. Change and growth are good, but never easy – especially for your mommy. That part of me still wants to scoop you up…

I love you, my Scotty-boy, more than life itself. Please take that with you. Be kind and good, and life will return the favor. You are my precious, wonderful little boy with so much to give. I will always love you, as you always tell me, “more than infinity…”

Mommy

…………………… HIS………………….

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Opinionated, educated, sensitive

strong, a leader, fragile

“That girl’s got moxie!”

Betrayed by her sisters

Shunned by her brothers

“That woman’s a Bitch!”

Shame, Fear, Loneliness

Strength, Peace, Frailty

“That child is mine.”

girls leaders

Scott – Part 1 First Night Home

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scott

 

 

 Scotty Baby Tux

 

 

 

 

 

 

I remember bringing him home from the hospital, 28 years to the day, like it happened last week. He had that beautiful jaundiced skin that looked so healthy to this new mama and he kept curling up in a ball most of his waking hours. Taking his picture proved a difficult task! I honestly couldn’t believe that the people at the hospital let me take a baby home. The first night home in July was almost the end of me…

We came home to the big old farmhouse that we had rented upon our return to our small hometown just a few months earlier. I kept hoping that the day would go smoothly and the night would never come. My parents lived about 5 miles from our home and we had loads of other family and friends very nearby whom we could call for help at any time – Except after 11:00 or so at night when I understood I could only call in the case of an emergency or the world would find out I was not new mom of the year material.

Our first day was filled with diapering, a few visitors, nursing, and sleeping – Scott, not his mama! I watched him sleep for hours, fretting over any buzzing fly that would come near him or loud noise that might frighten him. He was a wonderful baby all day long.

My mother called just before the 11:00 news came on that night. I told her everything was fine. The truth is I kept her on the phone as long as I could because I was terrified of being alone with my baby ALL NIGHT LONG! After we said our good-nights, Scott finished nursing. I had changed his diaper and I hoped beyond hope that sweet slumber would be upon my precious baby within minutes. He lay in my arms as I sang a lullaby and in a short while, his eyes began to flutter and he gradually fell sleep.

I slowly and ever so quietly ascended the narrow, wooden stairway with this new little blessing protectively in my new mama’s arms. I gently laid him in the beautiful cradle that my sister-in-love had crafted with her own hands for her babies and now generously let me borrow for my new bundle of joy. I stared down at the gift I had been blessed with and love, like I had never known before first becoming a mama just days before, washed over me. I knew that I would always do whatever I could to make his life the best I could and to ensure that he never doubted how completely he was loved.

I stepped into the bathroom to get ready for bed, leaving the door ajar so that I could hear any noises that may come from his cradle. I just kept thinking nervously, “What am I going to do with this baby if he starts crying? What if we both fall asleep and he chokes and I don’t wake up?  What if a bug bites him and hurts him?  Why the heck would they send a baby home with ME?! I have NO idea what I’m doing! This is NOT the same as babysitting!!”

So, naturally, my son started wailing within minutes! I picked him up. I tried to feed him and that didn’t work. I checked his diaper – Dry! I rocked him, walked him, patted him, sang to him, talked to him, laid him down, and held him.

NOTHING worked. He just kept on crying and crying for hours and hours.

Finally, just before 5:00 a.m., I was at the end of my rope, so I walked downstairs where his daddy was sleeping soundly on the couch. I woke him up with tears in my eyes and said, “I just can’t do this right. I need you to take him for a little while. He doesn’t want me. I can’t make him feel better.”

His daddy took him and Scott continued to scream for about 30 more minutes and then, silence… I sneaked down the stairs and there was my tiny, exhausted baby fast asleep on his snoring daddy’s heaving chest. I dragged myself up the stairs and slept gloriously and fitfully for the next two hours.

The following afternoon I confided in a friend how horrible our first night home was and she told me that the trick was to not let my baby know how nervous I was feeling because she had heard that babies react strongly to their mother’s emotions. She told me to “fake it until I could make it.” It was sage advice. I told myself the rest of the day that this night was going to be different, wonderful. I decided we would have a restful night and I refused to worry about it anymore.

Scott went to sleep like a little angel that night. He woke up every 4 hours and nursed before falling right back to sleep again. From that night on (until he was a teenager!), he only kept me awake when he was getting a new tooth. On those nights, we stayed up ALL night long together and I loved every minute of helping my precious boy through the pain of welcoming a new tooth into his sweet little mouth! By the time he was a month old, he slept 10 hours straight every night.

I’m not sure if he had something terribly wrong the first night and it never happened again or if it was just a coincidence that Scott was a perfect baby after that first night. I know that I believed that it was simply mind over matter for more than seven years until I had my Hannah, and in spite of the “real” veteran confidence I had, she screamed her head off all night for no good reason on the regular!

Forgiving that little brat…

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I find that whenever I write about my childhood or almost anytime before I was a “grownup,” I have a tendency to apologize for who I used to be, almost as if I was her just yesterday.  I still feel HUGE shame for the person I was pre-adulthood. I didn’t torture small (or large) animals as a child or anything, but I was outspoken, pushy and downright mean to some of the girls who were bullies back in the day.  I was a kid…

I read this really neat thing on a dear friend’s (who I have known since my days of shame) facebook wall:

 

Forgive Yourself

Now, while I think this is a bit of an oversimplification because I’m a 12-Step girl and I believe in making amends and all of that, my first thought when I read this was, “AMEN!!” … and then I realized the person who judges me most by my past is me.

Even while I type this I am imagining old school friends, family members, and others from my past reading this and I have this overwhelming urge to explain why I was so awful or to justify the many bratty things I did.  I want to say, “I’m so sorry for the way I acted!  Please forgive me and know I’m not that girl anymore!  I’m a good person now.”  I was a child…

I’m not that girl anymore, nor have I been for a very long time.  She was not as terrible as I was led to believe she was.  She was NOT evil.  She was very sweet at times.  She wanted to be accepted for who she was.  She wanted to be loved unconditionally and feel like she was even likeable at times.  She wanted to be really good at something – anything! – And have her family, especially her mother, notice it and be proud of her.  She defended the underdogs always.  She was scared and insecure ALL of the time, even though she was a phenomenol actress and appeared to be overly confident to other children.  She loved to argue with people because she was pretty good at that… but an argumentative girl is not something people notice in a good way, nor is it something to be proud of, apparently…

I left the town I grew up in a long time ago.  Part of the reason I did that was to leave it all behind.  I wanted a fresh start.  I wanted to be a new person and I couldn’t really get a clean slate there.  In the decades since then it has been a rare new friend of mine who doesn’t hear about what an awful person I was back then.  I guess I thought if I confessed it enough, it was a kind of repentance.  I wanted my present friends to know who I used to be.  I wanted to be upfront and transparent.  I wanted them to have an out… 

I wish I could tell you I was protecting them, but I think it was me I was protecting.  No one wants to be friends with girls who are bossy and argumentative.  Right?

When I write it all down, I realize how silly this all is because it was SO long ago and I’m not that girl anymore… Well, I am outspoken if it’s something that I feel really passionate about…  Maybe I am that girl.  I’m just grown up, my edges have rounded out, my heart has been broken and softened, I REALLY love people, some of them even love me back, and I’ve found a few things that I’m REALLY good at.  He loves me unconditionally and that’s enough. 

I think of friends who have been through so much more as children – sexual abuse, loss of parents or other loved ones,  divorce  – and I feel like a drama queen.  This is how I’ve stayed in this rut for so many years.  I minimize my pain.  I think a lot of us do that when we become adults.  We file our childhood pain under “Get Over It” and move ahead… only not really.  It’s there.  It always shows up even if we don’t recognize it.  It’s there and leaving, burying, pretending, none of those things heal it.  Pulling it out, really looking at it with blatant honesty, forgiving the necessary parties, and then putting it to rest forever or until we’re ready to deal with a little more of it – that’s the way to heal it.

And, still, I haven’t forgiven myself.  I’m not sure how to do that, not even sure how to begin.  I just know it’s looming in the background and affecting my present relationships.  I know that I still feel genuine embarrassment at the little girl I was (sometimes).  I know that this may all sound very silly to someone who is not me, and that’s okay.   If one of my friends came to me and told me that s/he was struggling with forgiving the person s/he was 30-40 years ago or more, I would tell my friend to let go of that and embrace their present self.  I would reassure him/her that no person in her right mind would still be holding a grudge against a child this many years later for things that children do.  Right?

Right?

 

 

 

 

 

Happy dia de las madres

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happy-mothers-day
Or is it?….
Not for everyone. Some moms are geographically or emotionally far from their children. Some have lost their children – in death, by estrangement, to others. Some have not been able to conceive, don’t feel called to adopt or simply don’t choose to be moms. Then there are the sons and daughters who struggle because their mother has passed, is very ill, or was not what they needed her to be growing up or now, and worse.
It’s not all as pretty as the Hallmark cards and some of the posts on facebook would have us believe. It’s hard to be politically correct when you are dealing with something as emotionally charged as the holiday that makes as if all women who have given birth are saints. Personally, I have very mixed emotions about tomorrow. Each year when I’m in church, I feel a bit sad about the women (and men) I know who are struggling with this day. There is often an insensitivity in our culture to those of us who weren’t loved well by their mothers or who haven’t been able to become mothers. I’ve heard church friends say things like, “Well, even if you’re not a mother, everyone has a mother, so we can all celebrate that.” Except that we can’t ALL celebrate that, either. There are mothers who are/were abusive, emotionally absent, selfish, unloving, physically absent by choice, etc.
I’ve always LOVED Mother’s Day. I used to enjoy how my family gathered to celebrate my mother and when I became a mom, it was like crossing over to the other side – the really cool, up-on-a-pedestal side. When Bob and I married, he always made me feel very loved and appreciated on Mother’s Day. When we had all 5 of our babies, after I gave birth to our twins, I was a bit of a celebrity on Mother’s Day at church. I’m not gonna lie, I ate it up! I was exhausted most of the other days of the year and it felt wonderful to be acknowledged and honored for the life I chose to live. It didn’t happen much outside of church where the world doesn’t think much of stay-at-home moms.
I know it sounds cliche’, but my very favorite MD gifts EVER were the “complete the sentence” cards my babies made for me when they were in elementary school. Their answers were SO honest, funny and sweet – and self-centered! I do this every year in my classroom with my kinder kiddos because I remember sitting with each of my children with tears streaming down my cheeks while I read their love letter to me. Caleb loved me because I made the best goulash and picked up a babysitting job to help pay for a family trip to California and Arizona. Hannah loved me because I took her fun places and she thought I was pretty. Aaron thought I was best at cooking food for him and Scott thought I washed clothes and kept the house really clean!
I wish they would still make a homemade card for me with a note about us inside. That would make my heart sing. I don’t really want chocolate, earrings or flowers… Well, I do LOVE getting flowers!… More than anything I want their time. I want to know that they have some good memories and that they know how much I love them. I don’t want it because they feel guilty or because Hallmark and every jewelry store is telling them that they SHOULD do something nice and commercial for me because I gave birth to them. I’ve spent the last few years trying to pull out of that martyr thing that I had been molded into my entire life. It felt pretty comfortable and the world supported me in it, so breaking out has been a chore – and honestly, I’m not there, yet.
Part of me just wants to stay in “Denial Land” and pretend that MD is just a beautiful day that reminds us to appreciate our mothers and I understand for a very few of us, this is true and I envy you – not in a covetous, I hope your day is ruined kind of way, but more of a “I wish everyone had that, too” kind of way.
I’m not sure how we can “fix” this day so that everyone is comfortable and happy in it, but I do think that it’s important that we are all aware that this day is very painful for loads of people. I think it is even more important that we are more sensitive to their pain. It is deeply and achingly painful to realize that your mother doesn’t really love you in any fashion that resembles what the commercials play over and over and over for a month preceding this day. When you’ve dedicated your life to your children and found your greatest joy in this and then find that your children don’t have time for you, it feels as if a big chunk of your life was a lie. I’ve been told that it makes one who is unable to give birth to a child feel like less of a woman and less of a human being when all of the mothers are honored for doing and being what they have longed for, but are unable to do or be. I have friends who have chosen not to have children and some of them have felt judged by others on this day (and other days) or wished a Happy Mother’s Day by ignorant people trying to spread the joy!
It’s unavoidable, I know. But that doesn’t mean we should just shrug our shoulders and plow ahead.
There are SO many people who have been surrogate mothers to children, aunts, neighbors, teachers, friend’s parents – not all of them women, btw! I’m glad we are becoming a society that acknowledges that more and more. I hope we do our best to honor these wonderful human beings with acts of love and acknowledgement. I have friends who honor their fathers on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day because he was both parents to them and I have friends who do the same for their mothers. I wish we could have an AWESOME PERSON’s Day that would kind of blanket honor all of the people who helped us become who we are because of their sacrificial and unconditional love. I wish we didn’t commercialize every holiday so much that that begins to dictate to us what we should be, give, and do when it comes to holidays.
That’s probably part of the reason we cancelled our cable years ago, but that’s another post…