With a little help from my friends…
December is a time for giving. I love shopping for others, making donations to our favorite organizations, and seeing the look of joy on my loved ones faces when they open their gifts. Giving to others is fun, and it is easy. It makes me feel good about myself.
In our house, this past January was a time of receiving. With the passing of my beloved grandmother a few days before the start of the new year, in combination with moving a family of four and all our belongings, 2012 was off to a rough start.
Enter my friends and family. They swooped in. They helped pack, carry furniture, move boxes, care for my children. They brought us meals and housewarming gifts. They prayed for us, sent cards of congratulations and sympathy. They talked to us. They listened. And we let them.
Sometimes, in the past, I have let pride get in my way of asking for help. I have said, “No, we’re okay,” when we were struggling. Maybe I didn’t want to put anyone out. Maybe I wanted to seem like “SuperMom.” Maybe I couldn’t let go of the control of doing it myself. I’m not sure why it is so hard to ask for help, but it can be. It used to be for me.
This time, I made a conscious decision to let people help us, help me. If someone asked, “What can I do?” I told them. And it felt great. It was both inspiring and humbling to accept all the generosity we were shown. Plus, it really helped! Loved ones can lighten your load if you let them.
A good friend of mine recently gave me a great book, Eat Mangoes Naked... by Sark. In this book Sark talks about how giving to others is such a natural part of our humanity. It is easy to do because it feels good. Receiving is much harder. (One example: think about how easy it is to give someone a compliment compared to receiving one. Women are always dismissing compliments, “Oh, this top, it’s nothing—I got it on clearance,” or “This recipe was so easy; I barely did a thing.” Few people say, “Thanks, I love it too.” or “Yeah, I’m proud of it.”)
However, when we let others give to us, we give them a chance to feel good. When people offer help, it is because…wait for it…they WANT to help. People like to swoop in. They like to feel needed. At least, I know I do, and I bet I’m not alone. Thus by receiving, we are actually giving. Pretty crazy, huh?
It was a good lesson for me to learn, and I hope I can hang on to it. With the start of February, I feel recharged, re-energized and balanced.
So, anyone need any help with anything?
P.S.–To those of you who were there for us, our biggest thanks. Your support, your help, your love was what we needed to get us through. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
If I could see her one more time.
We’d all sit around the kitchen table, just like we always did.
I would drink my coffee black, just for her, because she once told me there is no other way to drink it. And there would be coffee cake. There was always coffee cake.
Someone would tell a funny story and she’d laugh, leaning back in her chair, her smile wide. Grandpa would make a joke and she would scold him, saying “Grand-pa” in a way I will make sure to imitate someday when I am a grandmother.
Another story would be told. And if I was mad, Grandma would be mad. If I was treated unfairly, Grandma would be furious. If someone had wronged me, her fists would be clenched. And if I was in the wrong, well, with Grandma, I was never in the wrong. (That was one of the major perks of being close to Gloria Nelson—she was always on your side).
She would feed us till we were ready to burst. She would bring more food to the table despite our protests and we would give in and eat it anyways.
Birds of all feathers would drop by to dine at their own feast, full of seeds and fruits, right outside the window. We’d watch them peacefully till a squirrel or a Starling arrived and Grandma would rush to the window, shooing it away.
If I could see her one more time, I’d ask her to tell me the secret of the happiness she shared with Grandpa for all those years. I’d listen once more to stories of my father’s childhood. I’d tell her that she always made me feel loved and special and talented. I’d thank her for spoiling us all, because we loved every minute of it. And I’d tell her that I love her, and that someday we will all be together again.
Boys will be boys, and girls will be…women?
I realize I may lose some friends with this post, but sometimes standing up for what you believe in is more important than playing well with others in the sandbox, so here it goes…
While meeting with a teen girl I know the other day, we were reviewing her Halloween escapades. During our discussion she revealed that she went out dressed as an animal. A good, old fashioned zoo animal, not preceded by the word “sexy?” This was a shock to me. Not because she is the type of kid that would dress inappropriately, because she wouldn’t. It was a shock to me because almost every costume out there for young girls involves them looking like they have a VIP invite to a Halloween party at the Playboy mansion.
Now I’ll admit, back in my college days, I myself donned a few racy costumes. But a quick trip to Party City this year, had me seeing all these costumes now through the eyes of a mother, the mother to a young girl. And what I saw was sickening: “Sexy Witch,” “Sexy Cop,” “Sexy Zombie.” Yep. Sexy ZOMBIE. Totally ridiculous, right? (Check out this great blog post, with examples, on the topic).
And as much as I sit here thinking, “how the hell could this happen?” I realize that Halloween costumes are only worn one day of the year. It is the other 364 days that are really scary because it is on those normal days, that we are saying the most about our society and the messages it sends to young girls.
Every Woman Needs a Little Maintenance Now and Then
Little girls have, for a long time, made trips to the beauty salon for hair trims. However, the past years have seen an increase in child facials, “mani-pedis” and massages. The image of mom and daughter sitting down to get their nails done together is a nice one, but what at what age is it appropriate to start that type of special treatment? And how do we make sure that getting nails painted at age five doesn’t turn into this?! After all, how slippery of a slope are we on if tweens are getting bikini waxes?
Show ‘em off, Push ‘em up, Stick ‘em out
My daughter just started wearing shoes. So far, they have been more like slippers than shoes—totally flat with a soft sole. She doesn’t seem to like them too much, as they get pulled off whenever she has the chance. Maybe she will like these better–
The “Laurel” shoe, sized for preschool and grade school girls, is made by a company called Firstkiss Kids. According to Shoes.com, this sandal will “get them ready for long summer days spent outside with friends.” Of course, those days will quickly be followed by long summer days spent inside after the Firstkiss shoe becomes the Firsttriptotheemergencyroomforasprainedankle shoe. No thanks.
Remember your first training bra? Mine was white with a little tiny pink rosette in the center, and it was totally unnecessary for my seventh grade self, but I wore it anyways (most days). Well, those of us who remember the ole’ days may be shocked to know they don’t call them “training” bras anymore. Budding young women now go straight from Sesame Street underoos into lacy “bralettes” with removable cookies (a.k.a. padding). Yes folks, they actually call them cookies, which kind of makes me want to toss mine.
And, just for kicks, let’s throw in the issue of young girls’ running around in pants with words written on their backsides. Seven year old bums should not be read. Adjectives, color names or nouns just don’t belong on bottoms. If your baby has a ducky face on the back of her onesie, that is one thing. If your college roomie loves Juicy Couture, great. But if your lil’ potty trained preschooler is running around the playground with pants that say “PRINCESS,” you may want to consider what people are actually looking at when they read that.
What is Good for The Mommy, is Good for the Daughter
There used to be a difference in the clothes that Mom put on each day versus what was hanging in lil’ Suzy’s closet. Girls wore kittens on their shirts, ruffled pinafores and colored denim jumpers. While you can still find a denim jumper on many young girls, the line between adult and child clothing has been blurred. Often times it is only size that separates the ladies from the girls.
I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Putting a toddler in jeans instead of brightly colored corduroy pants doesn’t seem to be much cause for alarm. My own daughter has “jeggings” amongst the choices for bottoms, along with cotton leggings, flared jeans and some bright pink and blue slacks.
My issue isn’t that mom and daughter can get matchy-matchy. My issue is that we shouldn’t be matching when it makes our daughters look like shrunken adults instead of the innocent, beautiful children that they are.
If you wear striped sweaters from Old Navy, and your daughter wears them too, there is no problem with that. But let’s say your fashion tastes run a bit more mature. Do you dress baby girl like this?
Does anyone think this is cute? If you didn’t see this in the news, this photo was one in a series ran by French Vogue. It got A LOT of attention, but not in a good way. The series showed 10 year old models dressed the same as their 20 year old counterparts. It has been described in the media as “risque,” “inappropriate,” “provocative.”
Letting little girls into their mom’s closet and make-up drawer is a part of childhood. Posing them in adult ways and photographing it? Well, that crosses a line.
The Real Bottom Line
We cannot dress our daughters like sexpots and then be surprised when they start “sexting” boys in the fifth grade. We cannot put them in cookie filled bralettes and act scandalized when they start showing off the matching underwear as well.
Our daughters are not our best friends. Maybe they will be someday (I can only pray) but they aren’t right now. Our daughters are not our Barbie dolls. Our daughters are not mini versions of us. Our daughters are not blank slates, waiting to have all of our hopes and dreams and expectations and re-dos from our own lives pinned to them. Our daughters are our daughters. They are our CHILDREN.
If we take that childhood away, even a little bit, by letting them do things or wear things that are meant for adults, we are stealing from them. There will be time for the beauty salon, high heels and bras. Lots and lots of time. For right now, let’s let them run, get muddy, play with baby dolls and trains, paint, dance (appropriately please), sing and read.
Let’s enjoy them as little girls, and wait patiently for puberty. Lord knows, it will be here soon enough.
When the shoe hits the sand
There was a part inside of me that always blamed myself.
“How did these children get to be so stubborn?” I would ask, all the while feeling like I already had the answer–my genetics.
Whether it involved putting my son back in the time out spot 30 times till he stayed put, or listening to him plead for “something else” for dinner for 15 minutes, I was sure I had somehow instilled this strong will within him. I could remember my own persistent tantrums from childhood–whining for a toy the entire car ride home from the store, begging to play with my best friend after I had begged to stay home from school for the day (because as soon as the bus pulled into our neighborhood I wasn’t sick anymore). I figured what goes around, comes around. This is what I get for putting my own mother through hell.
Normally, my children’s willpower and persistence tests my patience and my resolve. It usually draws a line between us and a battle is fought. But today, I saw another side to that determination, and it changed the way I view my children’s behavior.
My daughter is learning to walk. Every day she tries a little more and goes a little farther. She always beams with pride as she toddles across our living room, a toy in hand, before plopping down on her bottom every couple of feet. It is adorable.
This morning, the children and I headed off to the “sand park” to enjoy this lovely Indian Summer we are having. The sand park is a playground that has a large sandbox area, complete with a few digging toys. My son headed in right away, armed with cars and trucks. My daughter watched him and pointed in his direction, as if instructing me where to place her. I obliged her chubby fingered command and set her down in the uneven sand.
At first she just sat, content to comb the sand with her hands, but after a few minutes she stood, took a step and tumbled. She stood again-bam! Stood, stepped, tumbled. Stood, stepped, tumbled. She repeated this over and over again. At first I chuckled, but after a dozen times I watched in amazement. She was working so hard to cross a ten foot sandbox. This may have been the biggest challenge of her life so far, and every time she fell, she got right back up.
All of a sudden I realized my children didn’t get this from me. I am not a good loser. If I am not good at something, I usually give up. Just ask my husband how many times we have played chess! That kind of determination is all theirs. It comes from within them. It is innate, a requirement to grow, develop and change. Without that stubbornness they wouldn’t learn to walk, or how to express what they want in the face of opposition. The persistence gives them confidence, and as I watched my daughter eventually cross the sandbox and climb over the edge I realized it breeds success too.
When she reached the other side she was proud. But I have to say, Mama was even prouder–humbled, inspired and very, very proud.
The Anxiety of Separation
My son’s preschool class has a “theme” every week: friendship, numbers, transportation, etc. Since it was his first full week of preschool, I suppose it is appropriate that our household felt very thematic this week as well.
Much less fun than “under the sea” or “teddy bears picnic,” was the general but pervasive current of separation anxiety running through our home. In lieu of craft time, music and sensory tables, we had general worry, nagging thoughts, big tears and ear drum piercing shrieks. Leaves me wondering, who chose this? Why would we want gray hairs when we could have had dinosaur week instead?
My daughter is a little over a year now and she is learning to walk. Although she has no fear of the sharp corners on the coffee table or the ceramic tile floor, she is apparently terrified of her growing independence. If she is trying to take steps, they are only towards me. She clings to my legs as I try to work in the kitchen, wraps her body around me like a little monkey when someone else comes near her and screams in terror at the sight of her very gentle, sweet natured uncle smiling at her (poor guy).
To be honest, this behavior is really taxing. I know it shouldn’t be, and I hate to admit that it is. If I was a perfect mom, I would relish this time when she is so needy, knowing that it will soon come to an end. That thought leads me to my second act…
My son is slipping away from me. Preschool is a beginning to an end. It is a time when his world is expanding to include other caregivers besides Mom and Dad, friends I have not carefully chosen for him, influences I have no control over.
So far, (and it has only been three days) I have a love/hate relationship with preschool. I love that he loves it, and I love that it gives me some one on one time with my daughter, but I hate everything it represents. To cope, last week I did lots of research about homeschooling. This week I just simmered in my discomfort, working hard to not show even a blip of it to my son. It just doesn’t feel natural to have him away from me, but I don’t want to pull him out of something that is good for him (and probably for me too).
As all of this is happening, there is another separation approaching as well. My grandmother is in poor health. Her multiple medical issues have reached a tipping point, and she is in need of continuous care. We don’t know how much time she has left. Some days are good, others are bad. My brother and I attempted to travel up to my aunt’s house to see her this week, but she was having a bad day and wasn’t feeling up to visitors. I pray that we can visit many more times before she has to leave us, but I worry that time is running out.
I suppose that there is a positive side to all of this. In order to have separation anxiety, you have to have attachment. One doesn’t exist without the other. Each one of these relationships is important, special and dynamic. We all need each other; we want to be together. I need to count my blessings and be thankful these attachments exist. I need to remind myself that the bonds will change, but they will never be broken.
If there was no fear, no worry, no threat of abandonment, that would mean we didn’t care. It reminds me of what my old cross country coach said upon hearing of the team’s pre-race jitters–
“I’m glad you are nervous. If you weren’t nervous that would mean you don’t care about doing well,” he said. It didn’t help us feel any better, but it always stuck with me. At times, to care is to feel wonderful. Other times, caring makes you feel like shit.
There is no escaping from the separation. It is going to happen. All I can do is try to appreciate the moments of togetherness. Sop them up like good soup on bread, fill up on them till I am going to burst. When we have to part, be it for moments, hours or till death reunites us, I won’t be left saying “I wish we had been closer.” I will know that the love is there, and that nothing, neither time nor space nor death, can take that away.
Days Go By
Three hundred and sixty five days ago, I thought I was starting labor with my daughter, I had started regular contractions in the middle of the night, which eventually spaced further and further apart till they disappeared. At my morning appointment, my midwife told me to go home and get some rest because baby could be coming at any time.
My water broke almost twelve hours later.
And now, as I sit here across the breakfast table from my beautiful offspring, that day, so vivid in my memory, all at once seems so recent and so long ago. This year has flown by like no other, yet I can hardly comprehend that the squealing, raisin toast eating little blondie in front of me was once my raven haired, content (and sleepy!) little bundle.
People always stop me in the grocery store to admire my children (which I love) and 95% of the time offer the same advice: “enjoy it while it lasts, it goes by so fast.”
It is great advice, I am just not sure how to follow it. Some days are full of enjoyment, others leave me counting down the hours till the children’s bedtime. Then, there are also the days when even bedtime provides no respite, since lil’ girl decides that going to bed before Mommy is not an option (some of my girlfriends can attest to this, as my daughter has more than once joined in on girls’ night in).
Time is a cruel, heartless S.O.B. When you want it to slow down it races along, but just try and put in a request for some fast forward action and watch Father Time all but halt the universe.
For right now, I just want a pause. I want to etch this scene on my mind’s memory. To forever remember my daughter’s sweet humming as she kicks her feet. I need to be able to close my eyes and see that soft dimple that comes and goes as she gums her bread, the little clump of jelly on her long eyelashes and her chubby fingers, feeding scraps to the dog…
Oh crap. My daughter has jelly on her eyelashes and the dog is getting second breakfast. And just like that, Time steals another moment from me.
The Needle and the Damage Done
Disclaimer: I ripped off the idea of using the Neil Young lyrics to describe sewing from a blog I encountered by the same name. It was just too great a word play to pass up.
I first sat down at a sewing machine during a college course on “textile construction.” While there are some books you cannot judge by their covers, the title of this class said it all–BORING. Our first project, a pillow sham, turned out all right. I was able to pick my fabrics and the idea was simple enough. However, the instructor was not enthusiastic about my idea to close the pillow using ribbons, and she was downright angry on the next project when I picked a knit fabric to construct my men’s shirt out of, instead of a woven one. (Did you catch the part where I said “men’s shirt?” Yes, a room full of 20 twenty-something females were ordered to make a shirt for a man–in the year 2000).
Despite my genetic inheritance (which includes at least a mother and grandmother who could throw a mean stitch), I did poorly in my class. I never finished my men’s shirt and I wrote off the idea I would be able to do much more than wield a hot glue gun for the rest of my life. But, thanks to the inspiration of some crafty friends, the guidance of my patient mother and my new (to me) “Jean’s Machine” sewing machine, I have fallen in love.
As I look back on what went wrong in that college course, I realize that my teacher (ironically named Jean) was cramping my style. I didn’t want to learn buttonholes and…well, I can’t really remember what else she wanted us to learn, but the point is it was so lame. What active, normal, twenty year old girl wants to hike across campus at 8am three days a week to make a men’s shirt? I was always a good student, but every lady has her limit!
Now fast forward eleven years. My hubby and son are out of town. It is just me, baby girl, and my machine. I have seen what this bad boy can do. My children have capes, banners, quilts, and aprons pieced together by other lovely sewing divas, and I want to add to the collection. I read the instruction manual (well half of it), hit the stores for supplies and call my mom for back up.
I start sewing. On my first day, I knocked out some baby gifts for a friend with a new little guy:
Burp Cloth Couture
Tie appliqué (Go ahead and let your eyes go blurry from the stripes, then you won’t notice my icky stitches)
My second day, I went after the one item I had been dreaming of making for my little girl–a “pillowcase” dress. (No actual pillowcase was injured in the making of this dress, I used fabric). It took all day. Seams were ripped. Armholes were sewn shut. Seams were ripped again. But when it was all said and done…
Nothing turned out perfect, but it was all fun. And now, I too am a junkie to the needle.
Summertime, and the livin’ is busy…
Whenever I think of summer approaching, I picture the country time lemonade commercials from my youth complete with an Otis Redding soundtrack.
But when summer hits, there are very few chances to sit on a front porch swing and sip lemonade. And I haven’t yet watched a ship roll in from anywhere. I suppose not having a front porch swing could put me at a disadvantage from the start, but that is besides the point.
So far, we have been to two weddings and six birthday parties (with several more ahead of us). We have had doctor’s visits, potty trained, camped, visited museums, and traveled to Springfield. We have shared many meals with family and friends, attended movies and had some water fun at a local beach and splash park. In addition to all of this, I added another evening into my work schedule, leaving less time at home for family dinners and keeping up with the housecleaning.
Our summer feels more like a Beach Boys song. It is fun, peppy and over before you know it. And though I was never too much of a Beach Boys fan, I am starting to realize my “fantasy” summer isn’t my reality, and that if it was, I would probably be bored. If I was able to sit on the dock of the bay, I would want to go swimming, take a ride on one of those ships and cast a few lures.
Maybe I will just pour some cool lemondae into my “to-go” water bottle and try to come to grips with the fact that I am more of a “mover” than a “relaxer.” If, that is, I have the time.