Hide and Seek: A Cautionary Tale

My four year-old asked begged me to play hide-and-seek with him the other day.

“Pleeeeeeze mama! Nooooowwww!”

I will play with him, I thought.  I will be “that Mom” who stops what she is doing (showers are overrated anyway) to play with her child. He’s the last at home, the lonely straggler with me as a play mate most of the time. I felt a little proud of myself for my sacrifice.

“You hide first! I will count to 29, and I won’t peek!”

I ran. I hid. He counted to 29.

Silence.

Crouched between the bed and the wall in his room, I waited, hearing him come in singing a little song. He talked to himself for a minute and left.

I waited.

Then I heard the TV.

I waited longer. He never came.

When I couldn’t feel my legs anymore, I pulled my wedged-in behind out from the bed and the wall and went downstairs. I found him in front of PBS, Ali’s Aunt Sue’s poundcake in hand, completely oblivious to the fact that we were in the middle of a game.

“You forgot to find me!”

He just shrugged.

Well played, Charlie. Well played.

I got in the shower.

Moral of the story: Sometimes, your four-year-old might just want access to the TV and treats, and might just come up with an ingenius way to get it.

Genetics and My Thighs

This is my Mom. She is 75 years old. I look alot like her. I inherited her smallish, um…top, and her larger, well…bottom. I can’t do anything about either of those without surgery, and I haven’t really cared to anyway.  I also have her freckles, her thick hair, her thin fingers, and her small feet. These traits were genetically passed on to me, without my control or consent or even knowledge until I hit puberty. I’m ok with that. I didn’t get her awesome skin. I feel a little cheated by this, as I think that should have been a consolation prize for the thighs. But…I digress.

My Mom has other traits, of course, that have been a little more negotiable and more in my control to adopt or leave behind. She’s great at baking bread and decorating cakes. I have the bread down…I don’t  have the patience for the cakes. I like sewing too and I’m kind of good at it. She has a green thumb and grows a great vegetable garden every year. I…don’t. She was and is an excellent mother, and I’m trying my hardest to emulate that. She never finished college…but made sure I did, and took care of my daughter so I could go to graduate school. She was always DOING for her children, even when we became adults.

Then, one day, it occurred to me that my Mom was a PERSON. She has interests and personal goals and friends and…a life. Near about age 70, she decided to become a volunteer firefighter in her small community. She took classes, trained, practiced, and certified. Then, she decided to become an Emergency Medical Technician. More classes, training, practicing, tests, and certification. She wants to continue to move up in rank and is constantly learning and studying and practicing. She has a radio and a ready-pack, a key to the fire station, is a first responder and usually beats the ambulance to the scene, day or night, rain, snow, or sunshine. In the winter, this usually involves a hike in the snow about 1/2 mile just to get to her car.

But wait…it gets better. THIS year, her 75th, she has decided to complete a marathon. My sister and I am on her “team.” I’ve really NEVER had a desire to run a marathon, but I couldn’t wimp out on her!

So – why the brag-fest about my Mom? Because her attitude and approach to aging is worth knowing about! Listen up, women of the world:

STOP whining about your birthday. Stop complaining about your wrinkles, boobs, thighs, whatever. Put all of that ENERGY you are wasting by wishing you LOOKED different into BECOMING different. CHOOSE to keep working on who you are…what you know…what you can do…how you take care of yourself…how and who you love and serve. Choice is so powerful and truly the only thing we own. Your body is nothing but a conduit for your accomplishments and expressions of who you truly are. Keep it healthy and in a state of attractiveness so that it doesn’t limit your ability to progress, but remember that progression has nothing to do with the specifics of what you look like.

I have decided to adopt my Mom’s approach to aging. I can do that. I have a choice-attitudes are not genetic! I am almost 42 years old and not a bit sad about it! Of course, there are things about my body I would LOVE to change, given the magic wand or time machine. But since I have neither, I put my energy into creating experiences and relationships and love and little people. I try to take care of myself and stay in shape. If I wanted to, I could spend hours at the gym, pour over fashion magazines (or Pinterst fashion boards!), do headstands and lay upside down with egg whites on my face, etc., just to hopefully take a few years off.

I don’t have time for that.

And neither do you.

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity  you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap  this source, you will truly have defeated age.” –Sophia Loren

You’re (NOT) gonna miss this.

It’s something that well-meaning strangers and relatives say to make you feel better about the fact that motherhood just stinks sometimes. It has never, ever made me feel better. I will even go out on a limb and say that it might be an amnesia-induced lie. I’ve noticed that when people grow older, they sometimes forget about the more painful experiences in life, and reminisce about the joyful, positive ones. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and I look forward to it in my own life. I’m just not drinking that kind of Kool-Aid yet.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I love my children, and I love being their mother. We have wonderful, loving, and tender moments often, and I do my best to relish the joy in all of that. It’s just that it’s not lollipops, butterfly kisses, and homemade valentines all of the time. I give myself permission to admit that to myself and anyone who reads this post.

Once upon a life, I enjoyed an identity that was not preceded by a possessive noun or pronoun (so-and-so’s mom). I hope to return to that version of me after the tornado passes, without regret that the time I spent over the last three-and-a-half decades of my life raising six other humans is over. While I am SURE I will have tender memories of these times, there are many, many things about motherhood that I am certain I will NOT miss. I’ve listed a few below:

I will not miss having an audience when I use the toilet. It’s been nearly 18 years since I have enjoyed the solitude of the lieux d’ aisances, and I have several left to go. And don’t suggest that I lock the door. Anyone with kids knows they will just beat on it, yell through it, wiggle the handle until it unlocks, and shove things under it until you come out.

I will not miss several crises or immediate demands for my attention the second I get on the phone. It’s like a universal signal, a quietly and secretly transmitted frequency among offspring, to raise hell.

I will not miss smooshed lipstick tips and chapstick all up in the lid. I might even buy really nice ones again someday.

I will not miss Cheetos. Or Cheeto fingers, and the orange anthrax they leave behind.

I will not miss missing jewelry or items of clothing or make-up that somehow migrate to my daughters’ rooms/backpacks/car/friend’s house/outer space.

I will not miss being kicked in the head all night by a toddler, because I am too old and tired to return him to the bed we bought him, which was, apparently, a waste of money.

I will not miss 2 a.m. vomit clean up. (no disrespect to Trace Adkins, but I will not want this back. Ever.)

I will not miss parent teacher conferences, or open-house night. I’ve been to roughly 38 of each so far, and I’ve heard the spiel enough to know it never changes. I will send Kleenex and hand sanitizer regardless of my attendance, and I promise I love and support my children in their quest for knowledge and extra credit.

I will not miss the twilight zone experience of arguing with 3 teenagers while simultaneously begging a 2-year-old to poo in the potty. I just won’t.

And lastly, in honor of the movie Groundhog Day, I will not miss doing all of this over and over and over for a combined 108 years of getting 6 kids to adulthood, with the hopes that if I just get it right I can move on. We all know I will never get it right, because there is no such thing as “right.”

I’m a good GREAT mother all the same.

This happened in one afternoon. Enjoy:

Battles I’ve Won and Lost

Sometimes, parenting is war a difficult exercise in strategic operations, and I often feel outgunned as a parent. If there was ever a time I’ve been thinly stretched, it is NOW.  Part of this is logistical: I’m outnumbered 6 to 1, my husband works long hours, especially this time of year, and I simply cannot do everything I’d like to do or be everywhere I’d like to be.

The other part is by choice. I choose to keep my children busy. Sports, music lessons, scouts, church youth groups, and school clubs for 5 of the 6 take up an inordinate amount of my time and energy. And money, gas, tires, and socks. I try to be as organized as I can and teach my children to organize themselves. I envision our home and family working as a well-oiled machine of schedules, organization, cleanliness, and personal responsibility.

And then I wake up, and open their bedroom doors.

Enter Plan B:

Pick your battles. I Googled it.

“This term references a well-known aspect of military strategy, which suggests that when troops are thinly stretched, they are often unsuccessful.  The more fronts a military is coping with, the harder it is to handle the strategic and day to day operations on all of these fronts, and sometimes a front must be abandoned because there are not enough personnel to secure it, which is generally undesirable.”

Fits, doesn’t it?

Allow me to illustrate:

The battle I’ve abandoned:

My daughter will keep her room clean and organized. She will do her laundry on a specified day of the week, and said laundry will be neatly folded and placed in drawers or hung up by day’s end. Or else. (see above picture for status)

I don’t view the fight for a clean, organized bedroom as a loss, because I have chosen to let it go. I’ve tried numerous strategies to make her clean it, and none of them have produced any long-term results. One day, I just decided that she needed to exercise her right to be her and be in charge of this part of her environment. I realized that getting stressed, angry, or resentful about her refusal to keep it clean and organized was taking energy from me that was needed elsewhere. I still express my wish for her to clean her room, and describe all of the benefits for doing so (like finding car keys, etc.), but I decided to focus my efforts on other battles aspects of her development. I decided to let it go.

The battle I’ve fought:

My daughter will develop her talents, do well in school, and prepare to leave home and enter college as a functioning, self-reliant human being.

(check on link below to view status of said battle)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL9pNkrlctg

This is just one example of the talents she is developing. She plays piano, guitar, sings, and writes songs. She’s an excellent student and has been accepted to several colleges and offered scholarships. She holds down a part-time job, has friends, and is a really nice person. I’ve changed my perception of her from a messy, unorganized slob to a creative, self-expressive artist. I like her alot better that way.

This new paradigm came in very handy when she introduced me to her new, long-haired, tattooed, giant, Polynesian boyfriend. Who, as it turns out, is one of the sweetest gentlemen on the planet.

So, maybe the spring cleaning that needs to happen in your home this month is clearing out old, ineffective expectations, making room for what matters most instead, and redrawing your battle plans to ensure that eventually, you win the war. Maybe, with this new outlook, you’ll notice it isn’t a war after all.

It is one thing to show your child the way, and a harder thing to then stand out of it.  ~Robert Brault

It takes a village.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s a quote that has been used to the point of cliche, and no one seems to know exactly where it originated from. I don’t really care, but I’ve been mulling it over in my mind the last few days.

If it takes a village to raise A child, what does it take to raise six? Or three? A well-coordinated, strategically executed group effort rivaling any tactical operation I know about, that’s what.

Today, my heart is full of gratitude for the people in my group, my village. Mondays I have five children who need to be in five different places at the same time. It just happened that way. Thank you to my sister-in-law Tiffany who will now take J to soccer every Monday. Thank you to M’s teammate’s mom, who agreed to bring him home from basketball practice even though we had never met. Thank you Google, for providing her phone number. Thank you to my daughter, who qualified for the good student discount on our car insurance and can drive herself where she needs to go. Thank you to another mom, who brought my daughter home from track practice, giving me a smile and a wave as our cars passed on my street. I don’t even know your name, but you’re awesome.  Thank you to my toddler, who spends hours in the car and is ok with napping there. Thank you to my husband, who provides us all with the opportunity to live such an involved, active life.

And lastly, thank you to the Coca-Cola corporation for keeping me awake during all of this. I know it’s poison, but sometimes its a better option than, say, falling asleep at the wheel.

And to my children, I say YOU ARE WELCOME. Now show your appreciation by unloading the dishwasher, walking the dog, cleaning your rooms, doing your homework, and picking up your crap things. I love you.

Let’s roll.

Think Outside The Box

My six-year-old told me a joke last week.

“Mom, imagine you are in a steel box and there’s no way out. What do you do?”

“Hmmm…no way out huh…gee, I don’t know. Scream for help, I guess. What would you do?”

“Stop imagining I’m in the box.”

In this little riddle lies the key to solving most, if not all, of life’s problems, and it was delivered to me by a first-grader. So simple, and yet so profound a message: the solution lies not in what you do, but in what and how you think.

We often view circumstances in life, whether self-created or imposed by others, as a steel box we cannot get out of. Our problems become larger than they should be and seem unsolvable because we are not willing or able to change the way we think about them. Sometimes we sit in our box, convinced that there is no way out, and scream for help, or assign blame for our predicament to someone else. We accept helplessness as if we are victim to whatever perceived force put us in the box in the first place. The riddle of the box suggests that maybe we imagine things as problematic when they really aren’t. Maybe the only thing we actually fall victim to is our own propensity to think ourselves into a steel box.

I spend my time professionally helping people get out of boxes by changing their limiting or negative thinking patterns. The doing naturally follows. You’d think that because of this I would never find myself in a similar situation, but sometimes even I need a little help with this too. In an intensive I attended last weekend, I worked an exercise that lifted the lid of a box I thought I was in, showed me the light at the end of this tunnel, and, quite frankly, made me feel like an idiot for getting in that imaginary box in the first place. I began writing this post before this experience, and now, I know why I needed it.

Glinda was right. I’ve always had the power, and I always will.

Opposition creates an opportunity for choice. I choose to think outside of the box.

How will he ever learn?

Remember the tree-planting incident with my son? It has resulted in a water-leak that has yet to be addressed. I asked my husband to look at it, and he replied that it was my son’s responsibility to fix because he broke it. It makes sense, but my son is 12 and has no plumbing knowledge (or gardening knowledge, apparently), so I pointed out it was over his head and therefore hubby was on the hook. Then Eric began a very fatherly-like speech, saying things like, “he needs to learn to finish things,” and “how will he ever learn,” etc.

This morning I nearly slid off the toilet because the seat my husband attempted to install had simply been placed on the toilet and not bolted on. It took all of my ninja skills to remain vertical and not end up in an awkward heap between the wall and the toilet with my pants down.

That is all.

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