Do the Hard Thing

 

I have set a goal for myself that I have to admit I’m afraid of achieving.  Because if I achieve it I might find out I’m not good enough.  Yet.  And that’s always a hard thing.

There is a writing competition hosted by a website that has been instrumental in my development as a writer.  It’s a brand new competition and they will only accept 75 entries for a women’s fiction novel. Not only is it a competition hosted by a site I trust, every entry gets feedback from editors in the field.

Which is huge for a writer to be able to put their book in front of people who make decisions.

So I opened up the file on my computer I have been avoiding for the past month, and got to work.  As I get deeper in revisions, I slip easily into the cone of shame.  I have 5 weeks to polish my work into something worthy of being judged.  Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of my writing.  It has morphed and grown over the past 2 years I have been working on it.  I understand way more about the writing process and story construction than I did when all I had was an idea on a napkin.

But in order to get the story submission ready it will take a lot of work.  A lot of late nights, early mornings, and missed blog posts.  A lot of time away from the kids, locked in my office while they beat on the door asking me “WHERE IS MY TOOTHBRUSH?”

And sometimes I doubt what I’m attempting to do. And whether its worth it.  Just like every hard thing requires us to ask.

I spent a lot of time in my life avoiding hard decisions, hard jobs, difficult classes, or impossible tasks. And once I lived through the most difficult time of my life and came through on the other side, I now preach to my kids: do the hard things. Tell the hard truth, pick the hard math problem, and do something you don’t think you can do.  I try to live what I tell them.  I’m training for the marathon I always told myself I should run, but never signed up for.  And I’m not just going to finish that book I’ve been playing around with for the last couple of years, I’m going to let someone else read it.

It’s hard to let go and do the hard thing.  Writing is something I told myself for a long time I couldn’t do.  I had all the reasons and they made a lot of sense.  It wasn’t practical, it wasn’t a job, and who did I think I was? Margaret Atwood? Submitting this book proves to myself I can do something hard.  I can do something I thought was impossible. Even if I fail. Even if my book doesn’t get picked for a second look. Even if I don’t make the cut-off and I am the 76th entrant.  I want the letter back saying please try next year.

Because that means I took the first step over the gulf of who I was and who I intend to be. And one failure is one small part on the road to success.  It’s the difference between growing or staying stagnant.  Come May 1st I don’t want to ask what could have been if I only sent in my book.  The only feeling I want is stomach churning thrill that happens when I step into the unknown.  And through that, I hope I will have shown my kids and myself that I’m not too scared to do the hard thing.

How do you keep doubt from stopping you doing hard things?

 

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Top 8 Cleaning Rules for Kids

I’ve been sick.  And when I am sick, the house runs at bare minimum.  My husband tries to work while keeping the kids from harming themselves or each other, so if at the end of the day everyone has eaten and is alive, we’re good.

Today I could stand and keep food down, which is good because now my husband is sick. So the kids and I set about picking up the pieces that used to be the house.   It wasn’t too long ago that I did all the cleaning myself.  After all I am home, I have the most time, and I have a thing about clutter.

But as the kids got older, I realized what a disservice it was to them to not have them take care of the house around them.  After all, at school they are responsible for the classroom environment.  They help with dishes, dusting, etc.  Its about time I stepped it up at home.

Trying to get a head start on cleaning.

But cleaning can be overwhelming to kids.  To tell you the truth, its overwhelming to me.  Having piles of toys overflowing on the floor, baskets of laundry to fold, and a bathroom that grows a science experiment can make someone run and hide.  Or in this case 3 someones run and hide.

Then like a headslap from the grave, I see this post from Maria Montessori.  And it reminded me why its important to have kids do challenging things.  I gave the kids a toilet brush and some 409 and they scrubbed the bathroom.  If they got stuck, I gave them direction.  They even worked out some jobs I hadn’t thought of like cleaning the rugs.  Then they tackled the family room.  Which is a room that looks like someone threw up childhood.  Toys, goldfish crackers, mud, paper, and books strewn all over the place.

I shuddered when I looked at that room.

But they worked together.  Even Margo pitched in, when she wasn’t climbing on the table.  And they did it without a lot of prompting (which is more than I can say for the front yard after they played outside)

Kids want to do hard things.  When we swoop in and do it for them, they don’t have a chance to learn and grow.  It’s great to give them helpful hints, but give them a chance to see success on their own.  Give them a chance to do the hard things now, because it will make their lives that much easier when they’re older.

Too often I see parents stepping in when the kids should be at the helm.  Packing lunches, doing laundry, and cleaning up after the kids is nice.  But it’s harmful.  It takes away a sense of purpose and responsibility in the household.  Which is damaging not only now, but in the future.

Do something even nicer for your kids, and take a step back and let them grow.  Their future teachers, bosses, and spouses will thank you for it.

My advice to having kids help out around the house?

1.  Always have them pick up their own toys.

2.  When you are first starting out, start with small spaces.  And no room is off limits.  Bathrooms are a great place to start because of the size.  Find some cleansers you are comfortable with and let them get to work.

3.  In bedrooms give them clear tasks.  I write down what needs done for the older kids, and for Margo, I sit with her and tell her what to do next.  If I shut the door and say clean, I will either get crying kids or a room that looks the same when I open the door.

4.  Ask them what they want to do.  If I have 3 jobs that need done, I let them pick what they want to do first.

5.  The hardest one for me to learn is to not expect perfection.  A 9, 5, and 3 year old don’t see mess the same way I do.  A job well done doesn’t mean spotless, and that’s a hard lesson for me to learn.

6.  Remember kids want to help at all ages.  Even when they are small let them work around the house.  We tend to not let kids help and then are surprised when they refuse to help when they are older.  Get them in the habit now, otherwise its an uphill battle.

7.  Don’t give them too much to do.  Especially on a school day.  After school the kids need time to unravel from the day, and if I have a list of things to do there is mutiny. Dishes are always on the agenda, but otherwise we work on 1 room each afternoon.

8.  Rewarding them for a job is harmful as well.  Tell them you can see they worked hard.  Thank them for doing the work.  But if you reward them for doing the job, they become monkeys who will only work for a payout.

Trust me on this one.  I’ve made that mistake.  Throw out the sticker charts and the reward systems.  That plan will backfire.

 

What would you add to this list?

 

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Is Stress Fun?

There is a radio station I absolutely hate listening to in the mornings, especially Friday mornings.  Every Friday they pick a caller, always a mom,  and rate her stress level.  It pisses me off.  One, that the radio station rewards women for being too busy and two, that women call in by the droves hoping to be picked for that week.

I get that people are stressed.  And there is real stress in lives.  Demanding jobs, young kids, aging parents, illnesses, financial problems, and the list goes on.  Life can be craptastic a lot of days.  That’s when you call up a girlfriend, grab your favorite drink, and complain.

But a lot of people choose the stress.  They sign their kids up for everything, they say yes to every committee, every meeting, and they overfill their schedule with parties, playdates, and outings.  And they say, “I wish I could say no.”  Like someone was forcing them to say yes.  And they can’t call up a friend to complain, because no one has time.

Does anyone relax anymore?

I stopped telling other moms I read books.  After the gazillionth time answering their angry stare with, “I read when the kids are playing.” I learned to keep my trap shut.  When another mom complains that all she feels like is a taxi driver, I no longer ask, “So why do you sign your kids up for all the activities?  And I really keep it quiet that my husband once a year gets me a hotel room, so I can indulge in some bad books, play Agricola by myself (even by myself I lose), and sleep in.

I feel guilty when people are flabbergasted that I am writing a book and training for a marathon, all while raising three kids.  They think I have some secret amulet like Hermione that allows me to be in five places at once.  The truth is ask me to do something, and chances are I will say no.   I say no to a lot of things and my husband is pretty useful around the house.  I NEVER SAY to the open mouthed stares that  it isn’t that hard.  Because I’m pretty sure I would be shot on sight.

If I hadn’t had a huge cancer wake up call at age 28, I would probably be in line with these other moms, verbally elbowing my way to the stress o meter on the radio.  I signed Rebecca up for what I could, said yes to everything, all while working.  Because that’s what you do.  I didn’t know there was another way until the world got knocked out from underneath me.

It is hard when I see other moms struggling.  Trying to keep the family boat afloat when the tidal wave of life hits then.  There are only 24 hours a day and we can’t do everything. But there are some women who think they can, they should, and its expected of them.

And I wish I could show them a different way.

Keeping the stress out of my life, isn’t just for me.  It isn’t a selfish act.  It’s for my kids and husband as well.  The kids learn to manage their own time, instead of letting the next thing dictate what they do.  They have time to be a responsible member of the family, as well as have fun.  Not being scheduled every single minute, of every single day provides margin in life that is important for all of our continuing development.

It gives us space to create.  Space to renew.  Space to think.

And my husband?  We can take a date night once a week and spend time together sans kids.  Hands down, that is the thing that has saved our marriage.  Because before we created the space for that?  It wasn’t good.

I want to call up the radio station and demand that they stop acting like stress is a badge of honor.  Life provides its own unavoidable potholes, and we don’t need to dig them ourselves.  If I could tell new moms one thing, (I know, I always say this is what I would tell new moms)  But really.  If I could tell new moms one thing, it is that they don’t need to hop on the crazy train.  Its okay to not be stressed.  Its okay to have space in your life.  Its okay to not want to be in the driver’s seat of your kids lives.

I want less stress in everyone’s life.  If I could bottle up what I learned those 18 months when I was sick, I would  It gave me a clarity I don’t think I would have learned until it was much too late.  When the kids were grown up, stressed out adults themselves.

I think this is an appropriate place for this song.


Too obvious?

If you are one of those moms (or dads!) who find yourself not able to breathe because of the stress, I challenge you to say no to one thing this weekend.  And use that space to do something completely indulgent.  Like read a book.  Lay on the couch like a lump.  Watch your kids play while you sit in the background.  Make Girl scout cookie s’mores.

Open up your life to a much needed Sabbath.  Even the creator needed a day off.

What’s one thing you can say no to, that would give you a little more margin in life and less stress?

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Little League isn’t for Kids

The kids asked me after my Princess Disney Half Marathon if I won.  I love the possibilities of youth.  After all it is a race, their mom is awesome, of course she won.  There’s that pesky truth we know as adults: Someone is always faster.

I try to explain to them the nuance of success.  The woman who won the race holds the American record for the half marathon.  Her record is 1 hour and 7 minutes.  There’s a lot I can do in an hour and seven minutes, but running 13.1 ain’t one of ‘em.

So I didn’t place, I didn’t come in the top ten, but I did finish in the top 1/3.  Which I think is pretty cool, but the kids are about the win.  Not place 7,383 out of 19,317 runners.  Not even including the 5,000 runners who weren’t able to finish the race.  My kids don’t understand what an accomplishment that is.  Instead they pat my back and say, “Better luck next time.”

As a culture we are obsessed with results.  We sign our 3 year olds up for baseball, soccer, ice skating, hockey.  We practice, we talk about focus, we pretend if they just work hard enough they will be that one rising star.  We take away their playtime, school time, and family time, all for the sport.  All so they can be a winner.

But that isn’t reality.

Reality is most of us will be middle of the packers.  We’ll be okay at sports.  We won’t be stars, but we won’t suck either.  We teach our kids that the win is what is important, not the fun of sport itself.  We focus on results, and not growth.  We focus on the wrong things.  And because we focus on the wrong things, when kids hit the wall of their own athletic development, a lot of them stop competing.  They stop moving.

I don’t think I have ever won anything.  When I ran track, I never won a heat.  In basketball I kept that bench nice and warm for the real players.  In cross country I was pretty close to last place.  I was an inflexible gymnast.  I could keep my head above the water in swimming.  I could hit the baseball, dodge the ball, but I was not the person people clamored over to have on their team.

And it didn’t just stop in sports.  I could sing, but I wasn’t the best.  I was passed over more often than not in the school plays.  I had to work my behind off to keep first chair as a trumpet, but that was because the kid who was the best switched instruments.

In college I realized even the things I enjoyed, I wasn’t great at.

And for a lot of years I quit everything, because I wasn’t good.

Sports and other hobbies are not about the game or competition, they are about learning more about yourself and having fun while doing it.  I often hear from my daughter, “I’m just not good at it.”  And my answer to her is action.  To keep running and showing her just because we aren’t good, doesn’t mean we can’t do it.

Recently someone posted an article on Facebook called, The Only Six Words Parents Need to Say to Their Kids About Sports—Or Any Performance  It was a timely read for me because I was in the middle of watching my older two kids play basketball.  I watched parents complain about the scores, I watched coaches yell at kids for not “getting under the hoop.”  I watched kids come off the court upset because they didn’t win the game.  I saw kids getting paid for baskets.  I saw coaches complaining about the refs.  I saw a bunch of kids learning the wrong thing about sports.

One thing I didn’t hear enough of was, “Did you have fun?”  or better yet:  ”I love watching you play.”

The article reminds me that life isn’t about the win.  We aren’t professional athletes.  I am never going to be a Boston qualifier.  I will never win a race, let alone my age group or gender.  But that doesn’t stop me from running or even racing.  There is nothing more exhilarating than lining up with 20,000 other runners at 3 in the morning to run.  And 19,999 of us will not win the race. Because ultimately the goal of running it isn’t about beating the person next to me, it isn’t even about beating myself, it’s about having fun.

I wish we taught our kids to enjoy sports the way they were meant to.  No more organized baseball leagues.  No more parents teaching skills.  Just kids, out in a field, throwing a ball around.  Just kids swimming in the pool on a lazy Saturday morning.  Kids riding a bike on a sunny day.  Just kids making up their own rules to a game they love.  Saturdays and Sundays would be their own.  Weeknights would end with the sound of parent’s voices calling their kids home.

When adults got hold of the little league world we ruined it.  We turned it into the results driven culture we are obsessed with.  And the kids can have fun despite our best efforts to ruin it. But soon, the kids who aren’t the best, who aren’t the stars, fall away.

And they are left with disappointment.  Feeling like they didn’t match up and they failed.

Parents.  Stop the obsession with sports.  Let your kids play for the sheer joy of it.  They don’t need lessons, they don’t need coaching, they don’t need pressure.  They need to have fun.  They need to grow.  They need us, to get out of their way.

 

Do you agree?  Should kids play organized sports, or should we let them discover the fun on their own?

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Dead car batteries, killjoy

It doesn’t take much to enter into the cone of shame.  Anything can set it off.  A dead car battery.  A rejection letter.  The kids not behaving.  One thing can set you off on a negative spiral that will take a long time to come out of.

Have you had a day like that?

It can happen in any area of your life:  job, relationships, parenting.  One bad thing has you questioning everything.  That is what happened to me this morning, and it was all because of a dead car battery.

The kids have gotten into the habit of not shutting the van door when they get out.  I blame it on technology.  The van door is so easy for me to close, a lot of times I close it for them.  So they forget.  And then we end up with a van door open all night, with a dead battery come morning.

I was proud of myself.  I didn’t yell.  We calmly read stories until Michael came and jumped the van.  Then I drove them to school and came home.  After all that I had shortened my morning by an hour.  So instead of 3 hours to run, write and shower I now had 2 hours.  Of course then I started to think about how much writing I needed to get done this week, because the kids start on spring break next week.  Meaning I will have zero time to write for 2 weeks.

And that’s where the spiral started.

It didn’t affect my run, no, in fact the short time helped.  I ran my fastest 5K in a long time.  I had 30 minutes to run, so I ran my little butt off.  I took the fastest shower ever and was dressed leaving me 45 minutes to write.

But the words didn’t flow.  I felt stuck.  I knew exactly what I wanted to write.  I had the scenes mapped out in my head.  The words couldn’t unfurl from the place in my head where the words begin.

So I sat and stared at the screen.  And wondered what I was doing.  Rushing around all morning to write words that only I would ever read.  Take time away from the kids for something the IRS considers a hobby.  The hours I waste writing, when it will never be actual work and just a distraction while the kids are at school.

See how quickly I spiral.

The time ticked onward and I knew I had less and less time to write before I had to pick up Margo.  So I started writing.  It wasn’t eloquent, and it wasn’t pretty.  But I put close to 1000 words on the page before I had to pick her up.

All through lunch I stewed over the rough morning.  The pressure I put on myself to produce something.  The cone of shame became a vortex ready to swallow me whole.  Margo and I ate lunch.  We read stories, and afterwards she took herself upstairs for a nap.  I sat at the computer wondering if I should just call it a day.

And that’s when I started to surface.

I’m just having a bad day.  That’s going to happen every once in a while.  My morning disappeared and I didn’t have much to show for the time.  It doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer, and writing doesn’t mean I’m a bad mother.   It’s just one of those days.

And the words started to trickle out.  My head above water, I could wade through all the negativity and plant my feet on some solid ground again.  Whatever happens with my books, I am going to finish them.

Because I can.

Just because this morning was a loss it doesn’t mean all the days will be.  Just because the words were stuck and the plot seemed contrived, doesn’t mean this afternoon I won’t see a way out.  Just because I let myself get stuck in the muck this morning, doesn’t mean I have to let it rule the rest of my day.

I can push out of the negativity.  Not just in the writing, but in my daily life.  I don’t have to let one thing destroy the rest of my day.  And when I recover from that spiral threatening to pull me under, it changes my work, my attitude, my parenting, and my relationships.

It even can help my writing.

This afternoon I’m sitting at the computer with fresh eyes.  I can see where I was going this morning with the scene, and I know how to fix it.  I take pride in the fact I put words on the page instead of saying, “Screw it, I’m watching TV.”   Although I came perilously close to the edge of the shame abyss, I climbed back out in record time.

I think I’ll be okay.

 

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Raising Kids

I love to research. When I am about ready to learn something new, I head to the library (now the internet) and research everything I can about that topic. In fifth grade I joined the basketball team, and I studied books, plays, and skills until I understood the game inside and out. In sixth grade it was gymnastics. I found books on Mary Lou Retton, Nadia Comaneci, Phoebe Mills. I again looked for skills books that would take me step by step through a handspring, uneven bars, and balance beam.

I may not have been the best at these sports, but I knew a lot about them.

So, when I became a parent ten years ago, I read books. Books upon books upon books. They towered in my bedroom next to the bed. I was always telling my husband over a cup of coffee about some new technique I read. My firstborn was the guinea pig of every new parenting theory that I came across until what I ended up with is a mishmash of everything I liked rolled together into my theory of raising kids.

And now that I have three kids running laps around my legs, I think I stumbled on something pretty good. These ideas aren’t really my own, but a conglomeration of all the good ideas that seemed to be repeated amongst all the books I read.

In all the parenting books they make their plan seem like the best one. But as I have learned, no family, parent, or child is alike. What works for one family, doesn’t work for another. A tactic that motivates one child is ignored by the next one. Instead of forcing my kids to fit in a mold they don’t belong in, I focus on what I want the end result of their childhood to be.

And for me, that is an independent, joyful adult.

When I say joyful, I don’t mean happy. Joy can be happiness, or it can be peace, or it can be acceptance. As I have learned, life doesn’t like to be tied down. In my thirty six years  I have had my share of hardship. I’ve faced cancer and chronic illness. And if those two things have taught me anything, is that I can still find joy even in the darkest days. It just takes a little more work to find it. But I can have joy, even when I’m unhappy.

Society likes to tell us our kids need certain things to be happy. They need the best education, the most recent technology, the latest toys. If you stand in line at Starbucks you will hear people grumbling about the five places they need to get their two kids to. After school there are no more cookies and milk with some free time, no after school is filled with activities. Multiple sports, multiple classes, and tired kids. On a recent Saturday I overheard a boy at basketball say, “I had two tennis tournament games before my game.”

He is only 10.

It’s Saturday. Shouldn’t he be enjoying life?

Rebecca likes to complain we don’t let her sign up for more. But our hard and fast rule is one extra curricular at a time. Even with 3 kids this sends our family running around more than I would like. But I don’t really see the benefit of all these activities. In fact I have seen the opposite. Over scheduled kids, over tired parents, and no one happy.

And not only that, kids can’t stand to be bored anymore.  If a child whimpers a screen is shoved in their face.  When any of my 3 say, “I’m bored.” My response is good. After they shuffle off, I will often find them doing something pretty cool. Rebecca sat yesterday and drew portraits. Isaac creates Lego buildings that hide people inside. Margo, I’m not sure what she does, but she’s having fun and it involves tiny tiny tiny pieces of paper she cuts up.

Let kids be kids. Let them find the joy in the everyday. Stop entertaining them, and let them figure out what they like. Stop signing them up for every lesson out there. Pick one at a time. And then let their free time be free time. They’ll annoy you until everyone gets used to the new routine, but no child has ever died from boredom.

Really, I promise.  I grew up in Amish country, I understand about boredom.

My parenting theory isn’t popular. I get a lot of strange looks and shakes of the head. But when my kids reach adulthood I don’t want them to be the perfect college applicants, I want them to be joyful, creative, and independent kids.

And if I get out of the way I know that will happen.

 

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The magic of Disney

It’s been more than a week since my return from the sunny south.  The time in warmer climates, clear blue skies, and no schedule always does wonders for my spirit.  The few days away give me the grit I need to get through the last push of winter.  And this winter has really pushed me.

Disney 2014 RabbitIt’s always fun to go to Disney World with my sister.  We get up when we want, eat when we want, and do what we want.  There are no schedules to follow, no kids to feed, no household needing overseen.  We are completely free from responsibility for 5 days.  And we can act like the kids we remember we were.

Yeah, its fun.  I know.

And even though we are in the happiest place on earth, all around us are miserable people.  Families dragging exhausted kids around the park trying to make the most of their vacation.  Moms and dads talking to each other through gritted teeth.  Over stimulated, over sugared kids bouncing around the park, until they hit the wall of their parents irritation.

The end result is crying, lots and lots of crying.

In these moments, Andrea and I love to sing a little ditty called, “Happy Family Memories.”

I know if I were with my own family I would be a lot like the people we see.  Over tired, overwhelmed by choice, and sick of my offspring.  I would be annoyed with the whines and cries and snapping at my husband in a chorus of disappointment with other moms.

But with clarity of space, I can also see those hidden moments of joy, that the families in the midst of their “happy vacations” can’t see.  The absolute amazement of 3-D technology to a 5 year old.  I get all teary eyed in the Muppet 3-D vision watching kids believe that pie coming towards them is real, and if they just reach out their hand they can touch it.

Disney 2014 Sophia

Margo really believes I saw her favorite princess

Or when a group of pint sized Jedis come to battle Darth Vader and the reach out their fingers to use the force.  Believing the really can defeat this evil man with their minds.  The wide eyed wonder at seeing Peter Pan and Wendy walking down the path hand in hand.

I can see this happening in other families because I’m not distracted by the present irritations.

This past trip, I spent a lot of time (in line) thinking about when we lose our sense of wonder as an adult?  In these shows, I know the pie coming towards me is just a trick of photography, or that the man behind the mask is a struggling actor.  Or Peter Pan and Wendy are on their way to a break.

But I would love to see the world as these kids do.  To believe that there are things out there we will never quite be able to understand.  There are uncharted territories and lands yet to be discovered.  That time travel is possible, or the adults don’t have answers for everything.

At some point, kids lose this wide eyed appreciation for the world, and it makes me question if parents are the cause of it or is it just the nature of growing up?  And if there is no more mystery to the world what does that do to our hearts?

I’m try to see the world through my kids’ eyes.  I may know the answers to questions they believe are unanswerable, but I want to have the jaw dropping awe they have about everything.

When I am at Disney, I want to yell at those families I talked about earlier and say, “Look at your kids right now.  See how inspired they are.  Don’t let them lose that.  Keep them in a place where the world still holds a bit of intrigue and wonder.”

Don’t make the happiest place on earth, the place where they lose that kid like sensibility of incredibility.  A sense of exploration will only serve them well as the are thrust into adulthood.  And I’m going to try and remember that the next time I take the kids to the lake, or the zoo, or just a walk around the neighborhood.

I’m going to indulge their sense of wonder.

I need to see the world as they see it, and marvel at its intricacies just the way they do.  I hope to be a little less adult like with my schedules and answers, and turn into the kids I’m raising.

Do you still believe the world holds wonder?  Or have you become a jaded adult?

 

 

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What no one told you about being a SAHM

Since I became a stay at home mom, about once a year I go through a huge dilemma.  It almost always happens as the school year rounds into the final stages.  Spring Break looms and I know another year is almost done, and the kids are only getting older.

What the hell am I going to do when I grow up.

Right now I enjoy being home.  I write, I read to the kids, make sure the house stays upright and clean.  And it is almost always enough.  After all I don’t have the pressures I did as an admin aide to a legislator, and I’m not breaking up fights at the library.  No college kid complains about the lack of materials for a paper he put off all semester, and no customer complains because I can’t find the pink book for them.

I like being home and available to my kids and my family.  But every once in a while, that jolt of what will I do next hits me and my mind goes reeling trying to answer that question today.

There is a lot of vulnerability in the decision to stay home.  No one really talks about it, but its something I wish I would have considered when I left my job.  I always knew I would go back to work.  But I never thought about the consequences of leaving the work force for so long. Who’s going to hire someone who hasn’t worked in 6 years?  Who has degrees that qualify them for politics and libraries and nothing practical.  This is where I thump my head against a table and wish I had become a nurse like my sisters.  (No one wants to see my bedside manner.  Just ask my husband.)

These are the questions that plague me when the days get warmer.  I have ideas of where I would like to head.  (You know, if my writing career doesn’t take off)  But I am kinda of lost about how to get from point A to point B.  Don’t know how to see my ideas into production, and don’t know if its even something thats needed.  At this point I will either combust, or come down off of the crazy train. And today I choose to step down.

I don’t have to figure out today what will happen in a year or two.  I will figure it out.

Someday.

Right now, I am here for my family, I’m writing, and enjoying space.  I know now how to talk to my kids about school and the pitfalls of thinking you have everything figured out at 18.

If I really had figured it out, I would be in Washington DC right now, working for the legislator who is now a Congressman.  But I learned early on, what interests me is different from what I want a career in.  And that’s what I need to teach my kids.

Someday, I will know what I want to be when I grow up.  But for now, I will be satisfied with where I am and what I have.

Until next Spring that is.

Do you have any advice for SAHM’s looking to get back into work?

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Getting it

Most nights we sit together as a family and read a short devotional together.  What I like about this time is what the kids say in response to the reading.  Sometimes it is nothing more deep than what happened five minutes before.  But sometimes, the kids sucker punch me with their enlightenment.  And I am in awe of their emotional intelligence at such a young age.

Last night the reading was on worry.  If you know me, it couldn’t have been a better passage.  Michael and I always lead by example and share something.  And so last night I talked about how I worry about money.  I don’t get into the knitty gritty of my worry, just that sometimes I have to remind myself when I worry about money, some things are needs and some things are wants.  And since I have everything I need, I am working on trusting that we will be okay.  The best advice I’ve gotten as a parent is be honest, above all else with the kids.  (Age appropriately of course)

Isaac looks up at me with his bright blue eyes and says, “Sometimes I worry that you’re going to yell when you’re upset about something else.”

And I wanted to defend myself.  I don’t want to be the cause of his worry.  What he said is something I have been working hard to correct in my life, because when I am upset, angry or worried about something else, I tend to take it out on whoever is in front of me.

Some parents might have dismissed what he said.  Some parents might have over apologized.  I took what he said to heart.  My response.  ”Thank you for sharing that Isaac, and I promise to do better.  I’m not always going to do it right, but its important you tell me how you feel.”

A smile breaks across his face and he says, “I know, that’s why I keep telling you to Slow Down!”

Which is true.  Whenever I get in a rush in the morning or during dinner time, he holds out his hands and says, “Slow down Mommy!”  It always helps me collect myself before a spray of vitriol leaves my mouth.  In fact he’s been doing it enough, that I even catch myself before the anxiety, anger or worry builds.  Which is an amazing feeling when I can let whats bothering me go and focus on the present.

It makes me grateful for these chats we have every night.  Some nights its hard.  Margo might roll around on the floor and Rebecca might page through a book.  Isaac could be running laps around the couch, but they are listening.  It is important to talk each night.  And not only talk, but actually share what is happening in our life.

My hope is this isn’t something that stops as the kids get older.  Hopefully, setting the groundwork now will open up dialogue during the turbulent years ahead.  I really think its possible if Michael and I keep being honest with our own struggles, and continue to listen to the kids.

What have been the best discussions with your kids?

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Who am I? Margo’s brush with existentialism

Margo:  Who’s the oldest?

Me:  Me

Margo:  Who’s the youngest?

Me: You

Margo:  Who isn’t the youngest?

Me:  Everyone else.

Margo:  Huh.  So who’s the oldest?

Me:  Me.

Margo:  And we aren’t the oldest.

Me: Right

Margo:  Huh

But it doesn’t stop there.

This is a conversation on repeat all this week.  Margo is trying to figure out her place and everyone else’s place in this world.  I feel like I am missing something in her question.  Otherwise, why would she keep asking it, right?

Is it an existential kind of response she’s looking for?  Like why at the root of things is she the youngest?  Why did the universe put her as low man on the totem pole?  Or is she angling for something else, cherished last child status?  The kid who gets everything because the parents are just too darn tired to argue anymore.  Is she pointing how I’m failing as a parent for not giving in to this traditional third child role?

I don’t know.  All I do know, is the conversation I typed above happens everytime we are in a car together, reading books, in quiet time, getting ready for bed, or brushing her teeth.  You name it, she brings it up.

I want to ask her, don’t you want to know why the sky is blue?  Or why the sun moves across the sky?  Or why grass is green?  Where are the hard hitting questions of a 3 year old.

But asking who is oldest and youngest on repeat?  I just wished I knew the response that would satisfy her curious mind.

What are the questions your kids always ask?

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