a new mantra

Her words sank in and offered me a whole new way of looking at things. Previously I would have seen my shortcomings, my failures as a mother. On top of that I would have inflated the emotions of my son to eclipse anything else.

Now I saw an opportunity to empower him.

I find it so amazing how just one little thing, just one little sentence can turn a light on in a room I didn’t even realize was dark.

But Zachary, you did just the right thing, didn’t you? You called out and mom heard you and you found each other. You took care of yourself.”

This was new.

Not the chatty mom who made a pit-stop on our way out of school. My poor children are quite accustomed to my tendency to find and stop at any opportunity to have a meaningful connection with someone.

But when I make such a pause and my children are young enough to not realize this and they keep going, they loose me. They look around and mom has mysteriously disappeared. Panic may set in to their small little hearts.

Thus what happened to Zachary this day. And when his nervous holler for mom found it’s way to my ears, I responded how I always did. “I’m so sorry, honey! I stopped and didn’t tell you. You must have been scared. I am so sorry.” Because, of course, this is all about me and how terrible I am.

But then she affirmed my son and his ability to find his way out of a sticky situation.

He took care of himself. Wow. That is something that has taken me almost 40 years and a lot of therapy to do. And my then three-year-old did it without even really thinking about it.

Children solve problems. All the time. And I WANT my children to be problem solvers. I want them to know how capable they are. But I realized in this moment that sometimes I take away their natural problem solving skills because I am so wrapped up in my own self.

This became my new mantra. My eyes were opened to how my children solve problems all the time, all over the place. And I could point that out to them. So that then they know they have this very important skill. And hopefully it grows.

Advertisements

mantras

Her comments struck me. I was hit with an ah-hah and a rush of relief all at once. I am not alone.

A few moms gather chatting on the playground with our younger kiddos after the olders have been safely swept away into their classrooms. We join together not everyday, but many. There is a certain ritual about it. And honestly, it helps me breathe.

Not because we have such profound conversation while our children run and play. We slur our way through most of it while the coffee kicks in. I am settled in my soul simply because we are together. There is so much extraordinary in ordinary life, if only I see it and let it in.

Out of my mouth came one of the phrases I often find coming out of my mouth toward my children and I expressed the frustration of repeating myself to my friends. When will they learn?

The camaraderie was a warm blanket set on my shoulders as we all related together. And then one of my friends used the word “mantra”. Comfort gave way to peace.

It was as if Legos I had been trying to force together the wrong way had just been straightened out and the puzzle was solved. They clicked.

These things I repeat over and over to my children, they are not just for them. They are not things that can be mastered in one day, one week, one childhood, or even one lifetime. They are learnings of life. They are things that no one ever masters, not my children and not me, but we all simply continue to learn through the process of life.

They are things we need to hear over and over and over again because they are truths easily forgotten. Easily misunderstood. Easily cast aside.

They are in fact, mantras. Things that help us as we chant them over and over. And I realize in this moment that I need to hear these mantras just as much as my children do. Because I want them to become a part of me. But I am not the only exacerbated parent who tires of chanting from time to time.

Every family has different mantras. Some help us, some beat us down. Sometimes the difference between the two is all in the delivery or the interpretation. God, help my tone of voice breathe life into my family instead of shame.

Everyone has say over their own bodies.

We don’t get to make other people’s choices for them.

Listen to your body, it tells us some of the things we need.

Love is not earned.

It’s okay to think different things.

Our choices affect our future.

Outside energy is a good energy to have, it just belongs outside.

Everyone feels disappointed when we don’t get our way. But it’s also important to learn how to move on with life afterward.

Those are some of my favorite mantras from the Koo family, but I am curious…..what are yours?

calendar rebellion

They were just the words I needed to hear. Which is exactly why we read, right?

I have a love/hate relationship with my calendar. I used to love organizing and keeping things inside the lines of the nice, neat, pre-printed squares. And my pocketbook sized calendar fit in any purse. Easily managed.

Then I had children.

And everything got a little hinkey. I had to get a bigger calendar. Then I had to get a bigger purse to accommodate for the bigger calendar. Would be nice if they sold bigger brains.

Then I had my third child.

That is when the color-coding started. I know. But when my brain went ADD, my calendar countered with OCD.

Not long after that, I rebelled. Against the calendar. Too many colors, too many appointments, too much to keep track of. Just chuck the whole thing. Live life in the moment.

But when I have five people in my family with dental appointments and karate lessons and play dates and coffee dates and school and laundry and dinner and dishes and and and and and and and……life, my little brain has be known to forget a thing or two.

But once I write ALL those things down and actually look at it, rigor sets in. Thus the love/hate.

This is so hard. No wonder I feel like I am running a sprint that never ends all the time. I am.

I cannot possibly do it all. So I will sit here in my paralytic state and enjoy the warm cozy feeling of overwhelm. How on earth do single parents survive?

Then I read this post from my friend Leeana. She is married to a SEAL. Leave it to the SEALs to make the impossible sound fight-able.

So the last few days I have been attempting to channel my inner SEAL. Yesterday was the only easy day, I keep chanting to myself. My how I love a good mantra.

Maybe I don’t hate my calendar after all.

chicken fingers

This was a celebration for me. A marker of growth, of change for the good.

A few years ago, I let myself see an ugliness inside of me. It was something I tried to hide from for years before that. I was too ashamed to admit, even to myself.

I have resisted writing about my ugliness because it comes out in context with one of my sons and it is my ugliness, not his. I would never want for him to someday read my writing and do what we as children always do, internalize our parent’s brokenness as our own defectiveness.

But these chicken fingers were just too much to pass up. So here I go.

chicken fingers

I have had trouble accepting my middle son for exactly who he is. Don’t get me wrong, simultaneously I recognize and love what he brings to the table and how he gets me outside myself.

But he’s different than me. And when it comes to being different, I like to think I am the right way and anyone else is the wrong way. Apparently that includes my children. Great.

He likes to make messes and struggles to clean them up. He’s well liked and sweet and tender and makes some pretty great choices on who to be friends with, but he’s also just a little bit…..awkward. Quirky. Unique.

And he doesn’t like words. And words are how I function. They’re my strong suit.

But that’s not how he wants to be loved. He is intuitive. He senses what is going on behind the scenes, in my heart. So that means I have to actually work through my issues instead of just covering them up by using the right words.

Fantastic.

chicken fingers-3

What kind of mother has trouble accepting her child?

I will tell you.

The kind of mother who has trouble accepting herself. Fully. Un-conditionally. Wholeheartedly.

Because what Brene Brown says is true. We can only accept others to the degree we accept ourselves.

Finally, eventually, I became safe enough to myself to go below the surface and deal with the issues that lie beneath. The process has been slow and scary.

But bit by bit, I work my way through. I have in no way arrived, but I am not where I used to be. And these chicken fingers told me so.

We call this Abby’s chicken. There are eggs and flour and dredging involved which means….messes. And my Colby loves to embrace a good mess.

chicken fingers-5

Which is exactly why I avoid cooking with him. Because undoubtedly my perfectionism flares and I end up sending messages either spoken or unspoken that he is wrong for being the way that he is. Lovely.

But this time, I delighted in Colby and his chicken fingers. I laughed and celebrated his jois de vive. I let go and embraced the process. And of course, I had to take pictures, which he loved.

Growth shows in the little things. Like making chicken with my son. And enjoying it. And more importantly, enjoying him.

relief

Relief washed over me. As the movie ended I realized I am not all that different and terrible than most any other loving, human parent.

I have gone back and forth about whether or not to publish my next post. The words have been sitting in my computer since last year. This is one of the loose ends I set a goal in January to tie up.

But I have been dragging my feet every step of the way.

It is no secret how vulnerable I am here. Some of you may think that it comes easily. Sometimes it does.

But other times it doesn’t. And so far, this next post has been the toughest.

I am not sure why. Truly, the post celebrates growth. And in that I my desire is to communicate hope. If I can change slowly bit by bit, anyone can.

But in the process I admit something to my readers that took years for me to admit to myself. And I feel ashamed about.

Even after I cleaned it up and uploaded it to have it all ready to go and just needed to press “publish”…..drag, drag, drag. I was going to push that button on Thursday.

My feet turned cold. Well, I will have a good one for Monday, I thought. But secretly I wondered if I could find anything else to write about to replace it. Maybe it could sit on the eternal shelf.

Then I watched The Odd Life of Timothy Green. And I realized my dear little post that feels so incredibly naked to me, so trusting of those around me to be gentle and kind to me and my son after reading it, is a common story.

I face what all parents face.

There are times when we want to take those things that make our children unique and beautiful and change them or cover them up. We think we are trying to protect them, working for the good of our children.

But really we are simply passing on our issues to our children, instead of dealing with them ourselves. And from experience I can tell you, passing them on is so much easier than facing them.

So one more day until I post it. I want as many other parents out there who maybe struggle with themselves in the midst of parenting to know that they are not alone. So feel free to spread the word.

Until then, go rent the movie. It’s definitely worth it.

pieces

As I sat around the table, the people around me held out pieces of me. Pieces I had not seen in a while. And it felt so good.

Those pieces are always with me, living inside of me. Sometimes I just forget about them. I live disconnected from them.

My life has moved on from when we were together, these friends and I. Marriage, babies, therapy, life. And it’s good. Moving forward, growth, change. All of those things are good.

And at the same time, sometimes I can forget that the college student me is still in there too. Along with the mom me and the wife me and the almost 40 year old me (ugh, really?).

But I am fortunate enough to still have friends from way back when. We were all on staff at camp together. And camp bonds people in a mysterious way. I have yet to experience it elsewhere. It could be the dirt, the camp food, or any number of the only-appropriate-at-camp conversations surrounding bodily functions.

I think it is all those things plus a whole lot more.

There is a sacredness about it, about the fact that we hold pieces of one another’s history. These people know a side of me that my friends today have only caught glimpses of, if that.

For a while, a few years ago, I felt in between. My friends where I live didn’t know my history but my friends from my past didn’t know the richness of my present. And I had this weird, awkward urge to prove myself to all of them.

But something must have settled in me. Made peace with the fact that the only one who knows me my whole life is me. I am the only one who holds all the pieces.

And occasionally that can feel like too much to hold. Sometimes I forget about the pieces that aren’t necessary right now. But they are still in there. They are who I was which is a part of who I am.

And it was whole-making, to have these people who are dear to me stir some of those piece to the foreground. To the surface.

They had not forgotten those pieces. They loved them. They kept them safe. They saw beauty in them. They remembered them. And being together reminded me of them too.

And it was…..settling, calming, restoring…..for me to be reminded that all of those me’s are really just parts of the same whole.

concussion

All of us together laughed with that deep, hearty, from-the-gut kind of laugh. I am pretty sure my youngest didn’t know what he was laughing at and my laughter might have been extra hard due to exhaustion. But does it matter?

Laughter is good for the soul.

Let me just start by saying that after reading this some of you may think that I have terrible manners and that I am raising savages. Let me also disclaim that when living with all males I may get desensitized to a certain amount of discussion surrounding bodily functions.

Apologies in advance.

Raising three boys I have found that there are certain conveniences to the male anatomy. Particularly in the area of relieving oneself.

In the potty training process, my kids would often announce, “I HAVE TO PEE!!!” Because when a child is just learning, peeing is a desperate and immediate need.

As a parent, a certain level of panic would proceed to wash through my body accompanied by a horrifying question. Will we make it in time?

Back in the day when we were out and about in a parking lot or such where who knows where the nearest bathroom is and the need to pee was made known, I would scan for the nearest bush in hope of avoiding the dreaded accident. Advantage: boys.

And when we would be playing outside, in the comfort and safety of our own backyard and the trumpets would sound with the grand proclamation, my response was often, “Go in the calla lily.” Made life easier and less panic ridden for all of us.

Which worked very well for me until we were at someone’s backyard birthday party and my boys both relieved themselves in the nearest calla lily.

I turned fifty shades of red. I am going to need to make some clarifications about when it’s okay to pee outside. 

Fast forward to present day.

After a night out, the boys and I head to the car to go home. Earlier in the day my youngest son had clunked his head at preschool (ironically after they had a rousing discussion about concussions).

As we approach the car, my oldest son asks if he can pee in the bushes with a tone that said I can hold it if I need to but it would be really nice if you would just let me take care of this here.

No one was around. Clarification must have sunk in, good to know. I concede.

When he gets back in the car he says, “I have a confession.” Oh dear.

I didn’t wash my hands.”

I died. I love good wit. Even infused with boy humor.

Then, as we are all laughing away, my four-year-old chimes in. “I have a concussion!” And we barely hear him confess his lack of hand washing because we were laughing so hard at his mimicked version of his brother.

This – moments like this – are what I love about family.