Monday, June 13, 2016

Tough Days, Tolerant Kids

Liam's hand in my hand {and yes he is a giant}
It is with a heavy heart that I sit here, tears blurring my vision, to write. 
My boys are running through the backyard wearing capes—but even they cannot save the day this time.

It is truly an art form to parent under the weight of these last couple weeks. It takes a delicate hand to strike the balance of smiling through tears because they are too young to understand and to act normal when your heart is breaking because that last thing you want to do is make them afraid and angry—that’s part of the reason we find ourselves here, someone was afraid and angry. 

I have always felt that we owe it to our children to start the difficult conversations when they are very little. When Liam was only 3 we started to use the words “no means no.” We talked about it in terms of playtime to help him develop an understanding that his version of a fun game might not be his friend’s, emphasizing that to be a good buddy you need to end what you’re doing when the other person has stopped having fun. I remember people thinking it odd that we used that particular language but I couldn’t and still can’t understand why that would ever be wrong—to utilize common messages of safety at a young age. And not only to be sensitive to someone else saying no, but to have the courage and conviction to say no themselves—to understand that their body is their own and no one has the right to touch them without their consent. I know, I know it’s sounds heavy… but our thought is if we start the conversation now, the dialog just continues as they get older, hopefully encouraging openness and eliminating any awkwardness later.

And last night I started to ask them what they think about people who look differently or act differently than they do. I’ll admit Liam’s first response was to be nervous {but that is his personality} but we talked it through and realized that everyone is same on the inside and how important it is to recognize that. It seemed to make sense to them and reminded Liam of the Bernstein Bears’ book about strangers—in the book they talk about how in the barrel of apples there may be only one or two bad ones, but you can’t always tell which ones are bad just by looking at them. Mama Bear has a bumpy, gnarly apple but when she cuts into it, it’s beautiful on the inside. She also has a perfectly round, shiny one, but when she opens it, you see it’s full of worms. {A big thank you to Stan and Jan Bernstein for being able to perfectly visualize a really tough topic that truly stands the test of time!}

I was happy that he made that jump on his own, even happier that my kids didn’t see anything wrong with other people who may be different from them. 

I stand alongside those calling for a change, but I also think that tolerance {and tough conversations} begin at home. If we can model for our children through our words, and more importantly our actions, that every person is worthy, then we might actually have a shot at some real change.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

DAY 19—Breakfast with Champions

This morning we had Liam’s portfolio breakfast at school. 
It’s a fun event where parents have the chance to view their child's progress by looking back at all of their work from September through June. 

I don't know about you, but these events have been known to make me nervous and just a little on edge, and I am sad to say that I find myself getting sucked into the negative sometimes. I am always worried about what Liam SHOULD be doing, how far behind he is, what tactics to use to get him on track and keep him there. {Which honestly, I am not going to apologize for because these thoughts, while not super positive, are necessary when your child is trending behind the rest of his first grade peers.}

But today, he pulled out papers from as early as last fall and as recently as last week—and I was shocked at the difference. The improvement was totally mind-blowing! Perspective is so important and I lose sight of it when I get myself stuck in a tree, unable to see the forest blooming around me. Once I let myself see experience what this day was intended for, I let go a little and looked at every piece of work in his portfolio. I shrugged off the anxious feeling I had walking in and simply enjoyed being there with my proud almost-2nd-grader! 

And I felt the difference that slight shift made… Liam was beaming and Connor was in full congratulation mode, complementing every item with a “Wow, good job Liam!” And suddenly it was fun, like really fun—of course that may be because we were eating Oreos at 8:30AM, ha! 

But seriously, I was able to appreciate the incredible progress he has made this year without worrying about what it meant, how it would effect his IEP and whether or not we were meeting milestones, because you know what? Recognizing his achievements felt like the best milestone yet!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

DAY 18—MOM-ster

I was pretty terrifying!!
This is just a quickie for today…

There was a fast-moving, soaking, torrential downpour earlier today—and it happened to take place at the exact same moment as Connor’s preschool pick up.

And of course the driving conditions were horrible so I ended up being parked the furthest away from the school entrance—without an umbrella {of course!}

I ran to the school and was instantly wet through every layer… I got Connor and cradled him as I flew at top speed, leaping over puddles {not to brag but I am pretty sure I looked like an Olympic sprinter—in my head at least that’s what I looked like as I raced elegantly} to the car!

Then, as I was buckling the boy in the car seat {I know they need to be safe but OMG the buckles!!} He starts screaming hysterically and crying, saying “Mommy you are turning into a monster!! Where is my mommy? Who are you?” I kept saying what you are talking about {meanwhile I could wring out my shirt and my sneakers as the rain was pouring down my back while I fumbled with buckles…} Finally finished, I shut the door on the wailing kid and jumped into the front seat where I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror—I had mascara EVERYWHERE and crazy zombie eyes!!!

He cried the whole way home… Here is my mommy? You are a monster! Over and over... We pulled into the driveway and he ran inside demanding to see a mirror—because he was convinced that he would see black around his eyes, because the storm was turning us BOTH into monsters!

Once I washed my face—I was greeted with sweet smile, a hug, “Mommy you’re back!” 

You can never underestimate the power of imagination—it can create such beauty and such fear. 

My only worry now is whether or not he will have nightmares! Looking at that picture, I just might!

Monday, June 6, 2016

DAY 17—Even the toughest lessons have to be learned

This was me
So… last night I lost it. 

The boys were getting really riled up after a rainy day spent inside, they were getting louder and louder in the bathroom—where they were supposed to be brushing their teeth before bed. I had a headache that was making the dim light in their room feel like a spotlight and I could feel Jesse getting stressed by the wall-vibrating ever increasing volume.

Then I snapped. 
I yelled for them to be quiet. 
And Liam started laughing. 
Then I screamed for quiet... and got exactly what I asked for. 

I walked out of the room, Jesse helped them to brush their teeth in silence. I took a few deep breaths, then walked back in. I helped with PJs, read stories, sang songs and gave out goodnight kisses in a trance. Then as I was lying in bed, the self-loathing that can only come with knowing you’ve done something wrong, settled over me like a wool blanket on 100 degree day. I felt the ache build in my heart… it wasn’t their fault, they were being kids, noisy kids for sure, but just kids. 

I should have said something else, should have done something else…

And Liam only laughed because he doesn’t always read situations correctly, he doesn’t react “correctly” to social cues all the time. I know this and yet, I lost sight of it in the blink of an eye. In the moment, he hurt my feelings. But it wasn't until I was reflecting back on it that I realized how easily another child or another person could misinterpret that reaction. If it can happen to me, then how will other people regard him when he makes a seemingly inappropriate choice? Suddenly I felt so protective and nervous for my boy as he navigates getting older and gains independence that I had to go in and check on him… he was sleeping peacefully, arms behind his head looking like a carefree teenager and I was struck by how much older he looked. But I still tucked him in and kissed his head. 

Lying there last night, I felt stuck—trapped between my rock (these three boys that I am grateful for) and a hard place that is constantly changing as we progress in our lives. But I also realized that the person who pushed me into that position was myself and no one else, and it is up to me to ensure that my actions are not driven by anxiety or anger.

Now I know there will be fights, there will be crying, there will be time outs. But it is up to me to decide how I choose to handle each situation, because discipline and structure are essential but a kind heart is even more vital—for myself and my boys. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

DAY 16–40 Years Strong

A couple of weeks ago, we had a party to celebrate my parents’ 40th wedding anniversary—it was a surprise that almost succeeded… 

My mom had no clue but my dad found out a few hours before, but it didn’t matter, it was all about family and friends coming together to raise a glass to these two, who have always set a great example of what marriage can be. 

These crazy kids do everything together—like everything. From doctor appointments to grocery shopping to babysitting, they just want to be with each other. It’s something I always remember growing up—we all did everything as a family, even a quick trip to the mall—simply because my parents just enjoy being together. 

And back then they held hands, which they still do today. As a kid, I didn’t think it was odd or embarrassing, but I do remember when I realized that not everyone’s parents did that—and that not every couple did that. For me it was also about the little every day things, knowing how the other person took their coffee, sitting talking at the table for hours, being considerate to each other even if you are frustrated. It may not seem like much at first, but for me it emerged as the key to happiness. 

Over the years, they have shown me how amazing love is, and how fun having a family and a life together can be. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

DAY 15—Brighten Your Day

Bright Lip
It’s the little things…

This is going to sound really silly but I really feel like a change…. I desperately need a makeover. I need someone to just tell me what to do with my makeup, how to style my hair, what to wear…. I really need the full work up. 

So I texted my good friend, who happens to be a gifted designer and makeup artist, and said what can I do to feel better about how I look? She said a brighter lip color always makes her feel better. I read that and smiled because she looks amazing in any color, style, trend…. whereas I look like a clown that’s trying too hard when I try anything beyond under eye concealer and mascara.

But with my motivation at an all time low, I thought why not! So I put on this pink shade and looked in the mirror…. and this was my thought pattern: who buys this shade, this is bright, I look nuts, I should take it off, why does bright pink look oddly fuchsia on me, is fuchsia still trending?, I am totally disconnected, I need to do a trend search, huh I am starting to like it, I will try it, I shouldn’t leave looking like this, I am doing it, I look great, somewhat sweaty but great, well I look fine, fine enough, OK it stays.

And after all that self-doubt and crazy talk. I found I have a spring my step! So, I sat down to write this—hello motivation! Dipping my toe out of my comfort zone has some great benefits, maybe tomorrow I’ll do something wild like wear my hair down! 

Whew I have to control myself, I just got pretty carried away…

My point—something unexpected can bring an element of fun to your day, so remember to treat yourself even if it’s only to a little pop of color!