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.

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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.

collecting hope

My parental heart swells with pride. But more than that, my hope for this world is revived in this moment.

My son is not getting an award. He’s not starring in any big performance. He didn’t just graduate. This is a small act, really. Unnoticed and uncelebrated by anyone who might happen to see. Including my son.

He’s not pointing out his actions with the common, “Mom! Watch me!” that accompanies most acts children think are spectacular. Or the, “Did you see what I just did?” when they want to receive credit for what they have done.

And maybe that’s what made this all the more amazing to me. The fact that it was no big deal was a really big deal.

Because I, like most people, want this world to be a better place. But I am completely overwhelmed by the thought of making the whole world better.

And not just better on the outside, the tangible things we see, our behaviors. I want the world to be better from the inside out. Better because people care more. About the environment. About one another. About themselves.

Because change from the inside out – transformation – is a lasting change. This kind of change usually indicates a healing and making whole of damaged people.

So of course sometimes I feel a little hopeless. Because while I often see the incredible beauty in humanity, I also see the terrible brokenness of it. And sometimes I am crushed with despair.

Because I can’t put the world back together from it’s brokenness. So sometimes I doubt that it happens at all.

But when I see my nine-year-old son walk over to pick up a piece of trash on the ground that was not left by him and put it into a trash can, I celebrate. I do the happy dance.

I know. This is a small thing. But to me, it represents so much more. Because transformation is often revealed in small, changed habits.

As his parent, I am glad to see my son keep track of his own trash. To make sure what waste he creates he also takes responsibility for. That on it’s own is a win.

But the fact that he went outside of himself and picked up trash left by someone else and it was no big deal was ENORMOUS.

Not just as his parent, but as a fellow human being. Because he cares enough to do the little things that make this world better.

He wants the world to be a better place, too.

And he knows that starts with him.

And that gives me hope.

eyes to see

Sometimes I need help remembering what life is like from his perspective. I have a tendency to be human and forget that not everyone sees from my point of view. Especially my children.

When one of them gets a hold of my camera and starts snapping, there are often at least one or two pictures that shock it into me. Life literally looks different when you are the size of a child.

This time it was the youngest. He looks up at things I look down on. He sees things I ignore. He treasures things I want put away.

And somehow seeing that different perspective captured in an actual image that was taken with one part creative license and another part random chance drives the point home to me clearly.

My perspective is not invalid. And neither is his. But they are entirely different from one another.

My parenting may not change much as a result. Except for my understanding and compassion for my children. Which is everything, really.

So thank you, my son, for asking to take pictures with my camera. And thank you, me, for saying yes and being willing to let someone small handle something big that cost a good chunk of money.

Because out of it comes a priceless reminder that my set of eyes is not the only one in the world. That life is different when you’re four. Or eight. Or almost twelve. Or anyone besides me.

the dreaded PTA mom

Missing the adrenaline surprised me. Exhaustion set in for sure; I have never slept so hard as after the event.

But the next day as I thought about getting back to my normal life, all the things I normally love to do when I am not in charge of decorations for a circus-themed silent auction fundraiser (like write and spend time with my family), I realized I was going to miss the adrenaline that has kept me company during the last week.

I have never had such a role in one of the school’s main events. Quite frankly, I have stayed away from them. I am not a big “task” person. I prefer people.

And to be perfectly honest and risk offending people, the image I have in my head of a typical “PTA Mom” is not glowing. And that’s putting it mildly.

So for six years, I managed to avoid it entirely. I signed up for membership every year to show support for the school, but then helped in the classroom while avoiding eye contact with any one who might ask me to do something for or with the PTA.

But after enough years of avoiding the madness, I gave in.

One of my dear friends was chairing this event, so of course I volunteered for things I otherwise would have graciously dodged. And to be honest again, not all of it was easy or enjoyable.

But while I cannot stand the image in my head of PTA, the idea of coming along side schools to help them financially when they are being hit particularly hard right now is something I believe in strongly.

And that belief kept me going. Which was super helpful because getting different personalities together to work with each other toward a common goal can be…….tricky…….from time to time. We can all make each other crazy.

But that’s how we learn.

So now I am back to those things that connect me to my life and keep me grounded…….dishes, laundry, and toilet scrubbing as well as lingering snuggly hugs, intentional eye contact, and tender bedtime rituals.

And I love it, even though the adrenaline that comes along with being crazy together when planning a big event leaves a bit of a hole. I suppose that just makes me realize how valuable it was to engage in the process of working with others for a greater good. 

practice is hard

I have a confession. There are things I say as a parent that come out of my mouth much easier than they sink down into my heart.

“All anyone can ask is that you do your best.” Every parent has said it, right? But when it comes to living it out myself, occasionally I want to scream at that sentiment. Because sometimes my best is not good enough.

I mentioned recently about practicing life. Which was very lovely at the time, but what I failed to mention is that when I am giving my best at practicing something I suck at and I don’t see myself improving to the degree that I think my best should be improving me, I feel incredibly discouraged.

And overwhelmed.

It’s exhausting.

Truly.

And these are the kinds of times when that nice little sentiment about doing my best just doesn’t cut it. Don’t get me wrong; I realize the reality and truth. All I can do is my best.

But my best is not always enough for the task at hand or the opinions of those around me. And before I know it, my best is not good enough for me, either. And that is a much bigger problem.

Because what I think of me affects me much more than what other people think of me. My nasty little perfectionism tries to take over my brain and push me down so that I forget my value and worth as a human being.

And this is when, for me, it comes down to sheer perseverance. Can I ride out the storm happening inside of me long enough to see the sun shine again? Even though my best isn’t enough right now, can I keep going because I know it is all I can ask of myself?

Can I offer myself the same grace I offer my kids when I tell them all they can do is their best?