Friday, May 31, 2013

Thirty Days of Yes

Growing up, there was one phrase that my dad would say that made an impression on me more than any other.  It wasn't so much the words that bothered me, but the truth behind them.  Because I said so, and I'm your dad.  Really all those words meant was that he had no valid reason, but because he controlled me, he made the rules.  I wasn't a child who liked to disobey, but I've always been a person who questions and seeks understanding.  His explanation left me feeling cheated, and it certainly didn't fool me.  I knew he didn't have a good reason, often no reason at all.  It was a cop out.  A non-reason.  A meaningless excuse disguised as the ultimate answer to everything.  It still kind of irks me to hear those words.

Yet as a parent myself, I must admit that I have said those same words to my children.  And the truth behind them is the same as it was when I was a teenager.  When I have a good reason for saying no, I give that reason to my kids when they ask the inevitable why.  But on those occasions when I have a less obvious reason or not much of a reason at all, I sometimes find myself resorting to the old stand by, Because I said so.  Each and every time I say those words – which is pretty infrequently still – I think of my dad.  I remember how frustrated it made me, not knowing why I was or wasn't doing something.

Somewhere along the path of parenthood I developed a tendency which I really dislike.  I find myself leaning to no, and often that no is in my head before the request has even finished leaving my children's lips.  I suspect that many parents find themselves in this place.  “No” is a convenient answer, when a “yes” would require me to do something that I don't want to do at that moment.  But “no” is usually met by sad eyes from the little people I love the most.  A while back I read this article about being a Yes Mom, and it resonated with me.  I want my children to look back onto their childhood's and remember a mother who stood firm when it counted, but who said more yeses than no's.  A bright, shining, happy Mom.  A Mom who tried her best to say “yes” whenever she could.  I want to be a Yes Mom for myself too.  For the peace that “yes” carries as its companion.  For the joy that accompanies it.  For the sheer wonderful delight that “yes” brings to my children's eyes.  I want to be a Yes Mom.

Tomorrow is June 1st, and it feels like the perfect time to try something new.  Thoughtful, meaningful, intentional yeses.  Thirty Days of Yes, to be exact.  So what will this mean for my family?  I can tell you what it won't mean.  It won't mean yes to every toy they want to buy.  It won't mean yes to unlimited candy.  It won't mean yes to not eating their veggies.  It won't mean yes to being rude.  It won't mean yes to ignoring chores or family rules.

It will mean yes to a few more minutes of night-time snuggles.  Yes to one more story.  Yes to staying up a few extra minutes.  Yes to game night.  Yes to {another} craft.  Yes to splashing in the puddles.  Yes to leaving the pile of laundry to play a game of tag.  Yes to a second round of Candy Land.  Yes to star-gazing.  Yes to more messy play.  Yes to helping chop the veggies for dinner.  Yes to wearing whatever they choose, regardless of what I think of it.  Yes to expressing themselves.  Yes to growing into themselves.  Yes to happiness.  Yes to less fighting and more freedom.

It might not always be convenient to say yes, but memories don't wait for the most convenient time.  Memories are made now, if we give them the opportunity.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Season of Now

I love the change of seasons;  those few days or weeks where the newness of the season hasn't yet worn off, where the anticipations of the past few months are manifested in each moment, where I couldn't possibly wish for the weather to be any different.  Fall is my favorite; I'm pretty sure it's everyone's favorite, but no matter what season it's changing to, there is always this inner longing for the newness of the next season to emerge.  The warmth of Spring which melts the Winter chill, bringing with it beautiful, fragrant blossoms, thundershowers, rainbows, and festivals.   The Summer heat which carries with it the promise of longer days, vacations, tanned skin, and lazy relaxation.  The crisp chill of Fall which blows it's breeze over the charred summer landscape, signaling the start of holidays, football season, and family times. The frigid air of Winter, which brings with it cozy sweaters, fireplaces, and the smell of pine.  There is something incredible in each Season.  Something to look forward to.  To anticipate.  But more often than not, a few weeks into each new season, I find myself anticipating the next season.  More than just anticipating it, wishing for it, waiting for it, unsatisfied by the presentation of Nature at the moment, and already wishing it away.

As I mowed our lawn this morning, the weather was glorious and hinting at Summer.  I couldn't imagine that I'd ever get tired of days like today.  And then I started thinking about the seasons of life, and how they are much like the seasons in Nature.

I can't remember a time in my life that I wasn't waiting for the season of Motherhood.  Becoming a mother has been the one constant, something I knew I was born to be.  We tried to get pregnant with Sadie for five months before we finally did, and while that is by no means a long amount of time, it felt painfully long as each month passed.  I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with her.  I woke up in the middle of the night, 2:30 am, and I could hardly sleep just waiting to know, wishing for my dream to finally come.  I took the test, and it was positive.  There is no way to describe the elation that I felt in that moment.  It was like the world had led me there, as if every breath I'd breathed up until then had been shallow and half-hearted, and I was finally breathing in the first full breath of my life.  It was a simple line on a stick, but for me, it was a monumental.  That was the moment I began to live.

Her birth was no less miraculous.  The sounds of her first cries are forever etched in my memory.  My heart grew one hundred times over in those first moments of her life.  She became the sun my world revolved around.  She was everything and anything I could ever want.  Nothing could make me take my eyes off of her, not for a moment.  After what had felt like endless winters, the season of Motherhood had finally come.

I envisioned myself as a mother for years and years before I ever became one, but I always knew the kind of mother I would be.  Attentive.  Supportive.  Nurturing.  Kind.  Funny.  Silly.  Doting.  The kind of mother who savored each moment, counted each new freckle, kissed each and every boo-boo, calmed each nightmare.  The kind who never rolled her eyes, never wanted alone time, never needed anything but to be with her children.

The reality of motherhood is quite different than anything I ever imagined.  It's certainly not always wonderful.  I am, at times, distracted, dismissive, cold, mean, serious.  I don't always make myself proud.  There are moments when motherhood feels foreign, like something I'm not cut out for.  I lose my temper.  I get frustrated.  Little things annoy me, like sand tracked in from outside, or bikes left out, or dirty clothes left draped all across the house.  Crumpled up clothes in messy drawers and the way I'm constantly buying children's body wash because they use up half the container with each bath.  Unmade beds, fighting over toys, tantrums, never sitting still.  Typical kids things.  Things which anyone planning parenthood should expect.  Things which other parents seem to shrug off; these are the things that gnaw their way under my skin.

No, my life is nothing like I once pictured it would be.  But it's no less beautiful.  I've caught myself in the past wishing away certain seasons of life to make way for newer seasons, envisioning that those seasons will somehow bring peace, purpose, an inner feeling of completion.  But I know, now, that is not the case.  And it never will be.  No season of life will ever be as beautifully imperfect as the season I'm in now.  There can never be anything now.  Wishing away today in hopes of tomorrow is like waiting for the sun to rise in Japan.  It will happen, but there's no guarantee I'll ever be there to see it.  I don't hold tomorrow in my hands.  I hold now.  This moment.  I know nothing of what will happen in my life, and I certainly can't plan for much of it.  I can spend all of my time waiting for a tomorrow that may never come.  Or I can be here.  I can be present for the life that's happening right now.  I can allow myself to feel alive and complete and wonderful in the moments of now.  These moments are all I have.

The seasons of change will come.  Some day all of my children will be off to school, and I have time to do the things that I want.  And most certainly, when those days are upon me I will find myself missing this season.  I will miss the interruptions and early morning wake-ups.  I will miss playing Candy Land over and over again.  I'll miss the messy crafting and the crayon marks on table tops.  I'll miss the pleas for extra stories and the tight squeezes of extra snuggles.  I'll miss the little shoes scattered all across the house and the milk stains on the furniture.  I'll miss hearing the dishwasher running, knowing that I didn't cut it on.  I'll miss the sweet smells that only come from my babies.  I'll miss the doe-eyed looks of my innocent baby boy.  The carefree giggles of my precious little girl, lost in a world of her own characters.  The way my daughter's hair dances in the wind as she's swinging and the sun sparkles off her cheeks.  I'll miss their childish voices, the unexpected hand holds, and the cries for Momma to make it all better.

How could I wish away this season?  It's the most beautiful one of all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


There is no shortage of things demanding my attention these days.  The hierarchy is clear, when I step back and actually look at it, but when that little ding erupts from my phone, or when the buzz from the dryer goes off, or when the mood strikes me to reorganize something now, I have very little willpower to ignore or postpone those things.

I've spent much of my time in the last few months and even the last year seeking balance in my life.  I'm fortunate in that, at least for now, I don't have to balance a full-time job with being a mother and wife.  But even without that, I often feel like I'm not spending enough time with my family.  And not only that, I often feel as if I don't have any time for all of the other things I'd like to do.  As I've started to look at my life and internalize what's going on, it's become clear why that is.

It's the simple act of multi-tasking.  Or multi-non-tasking, in my case.

Because, for me at least, I've realized that it's impossible to give myself to more than one thing at any given moment.  Once I start trying to focus on more than one thing at a time, everything suffers.  When my daughter's want to do a craft, and I'm in the middle of reading something or writing something or folding laundry or cooking dinner or thinking about what I need to get done that day, I can't give myself to them in the way that I want to , in the way that they need, in the way that they deserve.  I cannot browse facebook, paint a butterfly, cook a healthy dinner, cut paper hearts out of construction paper, work on the family budget, soothe a crying baby, and make a grocery list all at the same time.

I can't do it.

Separately, I can do each of those things and do them well, do them the way I need to in order to feel like I can leave them once they are done.  But when I try to fit too many things into a single moment, nothing fits.  Each simple task is done begrudgingly and often quite poorly.  And no one is fooled.  My children don't look at me as an awesome mom who's getting it all done.  What they hear – loud and clear – is that their needs are less important than {fill in the blank}.  That is not the message I want to send to them, and it's certainly not the way I feel in my heart.  Nothing could be more important than them; not laundry, not the phone or computer, not dinner, not bills, not television, nothing.

They don't ding or buzz or have any fancy gadget attached to them.   But that doesn't make their needs any less imperative.  More so, in fact.  They need me, the whole me, the full, undivided me.  They don't need to compete with other things to win my attention.  They don't need the multi-tasking me.

I often notice their need for attention manifesting in behaviors I dislike;  bickering, whining, clinging, negative attitudes.  They are struggling to tell me through their actions that the things of the world have come between us.  Their needs are often not tangible, and they can't often articulate them.  At times, neither can I.  But I know what it means to be frustrated and feel the warmth of comforting words letting me know they believe in me.  I know how it feels to be down and lonely, and then to be made whole by the loving embrace of those closest to me.  My children know that feeling too.  And those moments are the things that they need.  They need to be heard.  They need me to listen.  They need to show off sometimes.  They need to know that no matter what, I am their's when they need me.  Not a piece of me, the whole me.  And I find that when I give them my complete attention when they need it, they drink it up and are full and enriched and just as quickly they move to the next whispering of their hearts.  And it's in those fullest of moments that I often hear my own soul whispering.  The things that feed my soul begin to speak to me.  And I'm free to listen.

I don't have to give up my own pursuits to make time for my children.  I have time.  I just need to shut down, switch off, throw out that little voice inside that's always saying I don't.  I do.  So do you.  We have time for the things we love and for the people we love.  I won't give those up.  I could, but I would be less me if I did.  I want to experience my life not just live through it.  I want to show my children the beauty in my soul, and I want to encourage them to show the world the beauty in theirs.  Life is nothing if not a series of choices.  I am a collection of the ambitions I give myself over to.  Each action defines what my life will be.  I can choose to live each moment half-way, cramming in as much as I can.  Or I can be present one moment at a time.  By giving myself to each moment, I will certainly feel more fulfilled and enriched through my journey, and my soul will be free to enrich those around me.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

You are Super Mom!

Today was my five-year-old's last day of Pre-k.  As we were leaving the school, I carried my one-year-old on my side, held my three-year old's hand, and comforted my new Kindergartener as she cleaned out the wood chips from her sandals.  Another mom from my daughter's class held the door for us, and as we passed, she looked at me and said, “Wow, you are supermom!”  I immediately laughed because she has no idea how un-supermom I usually feel, then I exclaimed, “Well, thank you.  Really though, I usually feel like I just barely have it all together.”

The truth of the interaction hit me on the way home. Why is it that as mothers, we look at each other with this awesome reverence, seeing the strength it takes to do what it is we do.  We are quick to congratulate and applaud each others efforts, and equally as quick to dismiss our own.  Why do we see other mother's as always having it together, yet always feel like we ourselves never measure up?

The truth is there's a part of us that feels guilty when we are proud of ourselves, like we're egotistical to say, “Hell yeah!  I am supermom!”.  But if we're gonna recognize the accomplishments of other mothers {which we definitely should!}, then we can't dismiss our own awesomeness!  So the next time I see a mother whose got it all together, I'm gonna acknowledge her, and then I'm gonna take a minute to tell myself that I'm a supermom too!

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself." -Walt Whitman

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