(Don’t think you’re seeing things. I really have posted twice in one week after months of .. nothing.)
While I haven’t written in a long while – and I haven’t managed to spend any time reflecting on last year’s goals, much less make new ones of this year, I have had an eventful 2013 anyway.
For instance, I registered a kid for high school in the past month. Which may not seem to be a big deal to those who have already done this, but it hit me like a ton of bricks. While we busily went to meetings and interest sessions and learned about optional academies and scholars programs, etc., etc. I felt floored by the fact that high school now requires almost as much preparation as college did when I was the Owl’s age. While that was a revelation in and of itself, nothing – and I mean, nothing – prepared me for that moment when I was parked in the high school parking lot having just dropped off my little bobble-headed toddler’s high school applications. That’s when all the busy stopped and the reality hit me. . My time with him under my roof is shrinking at as rapid of a rate as he is growing. We only have four years left with him.
I have to look UP to him. His shoulders are broader than mine. His feet no longer fit on the steps of our staircase. At last check he was 5’6″ and 126 pounds. I get startled almost every afternoon thinking there is a random man in the house, only to realize.. it’s him. My kid. With a booming, deep voice.
Oh, and I took the Pelican to MIDDLE SCHOOL orientation. (I can’t even elaborate on middle school. It speaks for itself.)
And she has started borrowing my shoes (because they are now her size.) And coming into my bathroom each morning before school to borrow my flat-iron for her hair (there has to be some irony in the fact that I loved her baby blonde curls so much and all she wants now is to straighten them). And I had to teach her how to shave under arms.
They’re growing like mad.
I’m pretty certain that here on this very blog I’ve stated that I will not be that mom who is lost when my little birds have all flown the nest. But suddenly, I feel panicked.
Easter always makes me feel so nostalgic for little babies with blonde curls adorned by bows, monogrammed/smocked dresses, and peter pan collars… kids who would still sit with the Easter Bunny and take a photo. Toddlers who would run barefoot through the grass hunting Easter Eggs while their hair and linen dresses tried desperately to keep up with the speed at which they sought out those glorious candy filled eggs.
My kids could not care less about Easter Egg hunts anymore.
The other 51 weeks of the year I am quite happy that they are big and over all that stuff, but this one week of the year, I wish they were little again.
The years are flying by. Really. And I am panicking. Because I know what’s next: they’re going to hate me soon.
So, for the moment, I’m taking a nostalgic look back (blocking out what the reality of those toddler years was like) and missing them. And then soaking up the beauty of the stage they’re in now. While I can.
And just to end on a positive note, thank goodness my sister and brother waited years behind me to have kids, so I could have baby/toddler aged nieces and nephews now.
Because I have clearly lost it.
It’s January. (Now March – but I started writing this piece back in January. I thought it was fitting to leave it..)
This time last year I was looking at back at my year in review, analyzing the goals that I set and achieved (or missed altogether) the year prior and setting new goals for 2012. By this time in January, I had taken on multiple purge and re-organize projects in my house. Totally revamping my closet. I was reading a book (gasp!). I was taking up tennis. I even really – truly finally got serious about my writing and this blog. That was my biggest resolution in 2012.
What do they say about the average time that people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions? Based on the drastic drop-off at the gym this week of every year, my guess would be two weeks. A FranklinCovey survey found that “35 percent of respondents break their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January and only 23 percent of those surveyed don’t ever break them.”
So, I’m not that bad. I made it well past January of 2012. At least through the first quarter if not half way through the year.
But the truth? I haven’t yet looked back to see what my goals were for 2012 for fear of how many I dropped at some point during the year or abandoned completely. I don’t have a single resolution or goal for 2013. Not one.
Still waiting for some New Years motivation. Hoping it gets here before the year is over.
I have been sitting on this Connecticut horror for days.
On Friday I was at least able to mutter these words on my personal Facebook page:
“What if your smile, hello, or kind words made the difference for someone who felt lonely and unloved? What if you choose to say something nice to someone – something that makes them feel good about themselves – instead of being brash and saying everything you think? What if choosing to be kind is the thing that makes the difference in the life of someone who is on the edge? Be kind.”
And – at the time – I believed that was the issue at its root. Until this morning when I read this blog:
Specifically, these words: “Children are not complicated. What they need more than anything–more than video games and iPhones, even–is to feel loved by the people around them. Unconditionally loved, especially by their parents. And yet very few children ever experience enough Real Love to qualify as anything close to a consistent pattern. So these children grow up in horrifying emotional pain–every bit as real and disabling as physical pain–all their lives.”
Now let’s be clear. This isn’t a beautiful read. It isn’t a moving, inspirational read. It’s actually kind of a hard read, if we read it with an honest view of our own parenting style in mind. It is extremely real and extraordinary important. Because in truth, the accessibility to guns is NOT what has changed in this country since these awful things have started happening. But instead what has changed is that the culture of Love and anti-violence – that used to be prevalent in our country – has taken a drastically different back seat to selfishness and anger.
We, as parents, don’t love our spouses and parent our children the way our grandparents did. Marriages and families (much like the rest of our lives) have become disposable. Stability and a feeling of real connection – in families and relationships – are becoming more and more rare. Our society has become a culture of selfishness, where we have lost much of our compassion and ability to love. And children need love. Nothing more than to feel loved. Children who grow up missing love, instead feel pain. And in the absence of love… the strike out in some way.
I’m not preaching here. This – at least, at certain times in my motherhood – applies to me too, and that’s the truth.
And don’t think that I’m neglecting the subject of Faith in all of this. Each person has their own set of beliefs, and while I am aware of that, my beliefs make it glaringly obvious to me that children who are taught of God’s unconditional LOVE for them, feel that Love through their parents as well.
It isn’t just being kind to strangers and friends and others in our communities. It’s being selfless – in our community, yes, but even more importantly, in our homes.* It’s loving our kids with Real – UNCONDITIONAL – Love. Maybe if more kids grow up feeling REAL, unconditional LOVE, these things will become less frequent.
We all have work to do.
In the mean time, I just pray. Because, truthfully, sometimes there are those cases – which honestly, this Connecticut one seems to me to be – where disorders and mental illness causes a human being to become very un-human. It prevents them from being able to make social or emotional connections with people and does not allow them to feel. And when a person can’t feel and can’t connect… what can we do? But pray.
* Now, how do we do that AND still make room for taking care of ourselves?
1. lowly and sometimes degrading: menial work.
2. servile; submissive: menial attitudes.
Finding your identity – and maintaining a sense of it – as a Stay at Home Mom can be a little more than challenging.. especially in terms of how the world views you — what “worth” they put on you.
I get comments from people all the time (usually other women) about how “nice” it must be not to “have to work”.
Or the drive by comment, “Oh, the life of a stay-at-home-Mom.” – as the working mom drives away from the bus stop on her way to work, and I walk back to the house in my yoga pants, with my coffee cup in hand. Little does she know that the idea of getting dressed in business attire and being able to have a change of scenery – where I can turn on my brain and engage in something other than house and kids sounds like manna for my starving mind sometimes. *
As you may have gathered from reading this blog (when seldom I post, lately), I work hard to have an identity outside of my children. To find ways to keep myself well-rounded and feed those parts of me that need a little more than 5th grade homework (challenging as it is for my old brain) and endless loads of laundry. I have been diligent in recent years in my attempts to hold on to the interests I had prior to my three little birds landing in my life… so that once they spread their wings and leave the nest, I don’t feel lost with no definition of myself. When they fly away, I pray, that they will be strong, independent and GOOD big birds… and that I will be more than just mom with an empty nest.
I have made endless efforts to find ways to engage in my interests, learn new things, and feel like I still contribute to the world outside of my home (not in any way belittling the value or importance of being focused on the contributions I make to my household.) It takes a lot – and I mean, A LOT – of energy to keep from being all-consumed by life as mom. Which makes the comments from others that go like this: “Oh, are you still doing that little volunteer thing?” – feel a bit like a knife in the gut. * (It’s worth visiting this asterisk again.)
While I do know that having the luxury of staying home with my little birds is a blessing and I AM thankful, I also have to admit that very often when I’m doing the same laundry for the 100th time — or doing dishes for 4th time in a day — or trying to figure out what to cook for the next meal (when I’ve just finished cleaning from the last one) — or picking up guinea pig poop — or having to repeat myself endlessly with my children, I often feel that most of the things I do all day are just plain menial.
There have been times, I even feel like anyone on Earth could do what I do - I could just record myself saying “No. Stop fighting. Speak kindly. Try again!” and let it play on repeat on the ipod – or that I am simply that robot, Rosie from the Jetsons (please don’t tell me that you don’t know who the Jetsons are.) Am I just wasting my talents and my education on these menial tasks that have to be done over and over and over and over, with no end in sight?!
Not that these tasks are unique to stay at home moms… all moms/dads have to get these same menial things done, but when you have no other “professional” outlet or career definition in your life, these menial tasks tend to be the things that come to define who you are – they ARE what you do.
But that is not where this topic ends. Not with the negative. Never. I look back to that first paragraph, and I Thank Goodness that – as a Christian - my “worth” is not defined by this world.
One morning a while back, during a few minutes of devotional time, I happened upon a quick writing about Holy Thursday. It reflected on Jesus’ last acts with His disciples and pointed out that in His final hours with His most beloved – His chosen – He didn’t perform miracles or do “great” works. He didn’t bring people back from the dead, he wasn’t being anointed with costly oils or perfumes or any of the multitude of things that The King would seemingly choose to do in His final time on Earth. Instead in His final hours, He chose to spend with His earthly family, His chosen disciples.
In very much a familial way. He chose to feed them. To teach them. To wash their feet. In essence, the very cooking, cleaning, correcting and teaching that I have loathed. That’s what was most important to Jesus in His final hours. That’s what He chose.**
Yeah, go ahead and think about that for another few seconds.
And the crazy thing is that when I found this reading – about Jesus, Himself, choosing these seemingly menial tasks as the most important things He could do in His last days, I began to find happiness in doing them.
So, I share this today to say that, here – at the end of the calendar year, I am adding a new “MORE” to my list. As this Advent Season begins I will make the everyday things – that I have been so desperately trying to keep from defining who I am - precisely what defines me. And by that I mean, what should – and really does – define me, is how I choose to view these tasks. My attitude towards those menial tasks defines my character. It makes me more than just mom. It makes me the person that I want to model for my little birds as they grow.
Menial = redefined.
* I truly don’t have any ill feelings toward my fellow moms that make these comments – not at all - I maintain that we are all on the same team. Maybe sometimes we just need to communicate about our different positions on the team and how they all work together for the greater good of our team goals.
** I had to pause and ask myself if I knew that I had a few last days on Earth, what would I choose.. would it be to do the things I have never done and go see the world? Probably. Would I choose the menial acts of service for my loved ones? Probably not.
I know I’ve been absent for far too long.
However, I did begin writing again earlier this week. When I finish it, I’ll post it, but something else took precedence today.
And that’s just where I am this week. Pondering my absence.
In an attempt not to be absent in all facets of my life, I sent a text to a dear friend this morning to check in with her on a prayer request she had shared with me a few weeks ago. Her response was a little like a mini jack-hammer to me. Not in a destructive way, but in a way that shakes you so as you can’t help but give it your full attention. She said that I had been on her mind and heart; that she had a feeling I needed to talk.
Little did I know, I really, really did need to talk. So talk, we did. And it was Good – with a capital G.
I’ve talked about this before (Losing Myself in the Building of Cathedrals), but sometimes I think we get to a point in our lives where we are so busy building our little Cathedrals that we get lost in them. And well, there are times that it just has to be that way. But there are other times, when we are busy working away on their little cathedrals, all the while thinking that our own cathedral – built long ago – is sturdy as a rock and standing the test of time – only to find out that maybe it’s not.
Usually things that were built way-back-when seem to be built better than the new stuff. It seems like older structures are more sturdy, more sound. But, guess what? Not always the case. Sometimes, the ancient things crumble. Especially if they aren’t getting the regular maintenance and attention they need.
This blog has focused on giving my cathedral the little stuff it needs so it can keep on standing firm while the building of the little cathedrals happens.
Sometimes that little stuff means my cathedral just needs a new coat of paint.. and something like a girls trip to the beach adds enough color to your skin to take care of it.
Sometimes, our mom-cathedrals just need a little landscaping.. and a trip to the salon for a haircut – or a mani/pedi spruces things up and makes things feel tranquil again.
Sometimes it’s the simple little maintenance that holds it all together.
And then other times, a cathedral has serious foundation issues.. something for REAL that rocks it to the ground. - People get sick. Really sick. People lose their way. They lose their partner. Or a friend. Or a parent. – Serious foundation issues. — The ones that cause destruction, requiring total demo and huge construction crews to build it back.
Thankfully, my cathedral doesn’t have serious foundation issues right now. But if it did, I know the construction crew that I would call in to do the job.
You know those friends. The Tried and True Friends. The friends that make you feel comfortable showing all of your cracks, at the same time making you confident in the beauty in your age. They’re the friends that have Faith in the One Great Architect. They’re the friends that He sent to me in my earlier building stages… and that the One Great Architect is still sending my way with each new phase of life.
Today one of my most beloved and experienced construction crew told me just exactly what I needed to hear as I struggled to figure out what needed to be rearranged and renovated in my Cathedral. It was simple really. Everything is in place; she just reminded me that I need to clean the windows and let the light shine in on it.* The light can’t shine in if you aren’t cleaning the windows regularly.
The important thing here is found in this quote I read today:
“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go… a place of women, to help you learn the ways of woman… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself… waiting to be released… A place of women. How might your life be different?” ~Judith Duerk, Circle of Stones
Do you have an expert construction crew? Do you consult with them often enough? And do you thank the ONE GREAT ARCHITECT for them and the gifts He Graced them with? Because, today especially, I sure do.
* I need to give my faith life a little more time and attention.