Is There An “Easy” Setting for this Parenting Game?

My kid is easy to parent.

Mostly.

I guess what’s more accurate is that she’s kind of an old soul. And her emotional intelligence is spot on. So it doesn’t take a lot of explaining to get her to see someone else’s point of view or to get her to make an empathic leap.

But, let me tell you, when she digs in she can be just as stubborn, just as unlikely to admit she’s wrong as I am. And really, who needs their own personality flaws flailing about in front of them? Not me, that’s for sure.

But damn, isn’t just what I’m getting out of this kid lately.

She’s struggling with second grade ending. She adores her teacher and her new school. Goodbyes are hard. And Jane loves routines. And now all that’s coming to a screeching halt. Which makes her teary and clingy.

And if being her mom was the only gig I had going (like, I don’t know, if the world wasn’t spinning around me and she was the only person in my orbit), I might be able to remember 100% of the time how difficult this time of year is for her. But there are other things going on, and I forget she’s emotionally a bit scruffed. I fuss at her for being whiny or clingy. Or I can’t understand why a benign suggestion (like going to bed a little early since the allergy meds she took were literally making her nod off into her fried rice at Doc Chey’s) meets with a wailfest.

She’s usually so together.

And, to be honest, I kind of count on it.

But, as her mom, it’s my job to be her soft place to land. Because really, what 8 year old has it together all the time? (Hell, what full-grown has it together all the time?) So, I spent the tail end of my Mother’s Day with her laying across me sobbing because I wouldn’t put together a 1,000 piece puzzle with her right then.

I let her cry. And tell me how awful her weekend was. I rubbed her back and nuzzled her head. And, even though nothing had changed, she felt better in the end. Because I was there. With her. Just being.

I hope I can always be that for her. That she’ll turn to me just as easily at 38 as she does at 8. Because loving her is a privilege. And its the most sacred way I spend my time.

Cool Mom

I saw a mom the other day cruising through the Atlanta streets with her brood, all elementary age and younger. She had on a tank top that said “Cool Mom.”

Huh.

I am not, and have never aspired to be, a cool mom.

As my own mom liked to say, “I am your mother. Not your little friend. It’s not my job to be your buddy.” I hated it when she said that. Really. I mean, why didn’t she want to be my friend?! But now, I get it. She was something so much greater than my friend….she was my MOM. Larger than life. I loved that woman more than anyone else in my world–even when I swore I hated her (I thought it was my honor-bound duty as a 13 year old to hate her. So dumb.) But I never, not once, mistook her for my friend.

I am a lot of things to Jane. And I know it. Right now, I still get to be her confidante. She wants to dress like me. She laments that her hair isn’t a hot, unbrushed mess like mine. But, still, I’m not cool. For the same reasons my mom didn’t want to be my friend.

It’s not cool to be strict. Or to hold her accountable. Or to insist on respect. It’s decidedly uncool to demand that she say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am” when she addresses me. But that’s what I do. I call her out when she’s impolite or hurts people’s feelings. I love her, and comfort her, and celebrate every day of her existence.

But I’m not cool. My exuberance isn’t cool. My dancing really isn’t cool. My constant questions about her life, her thoughts, her friends might not be cool either. I don’t know. And really, I don’t give a shit.

Because I don’t need to be cool. I’m her mom.

I thought about getting a “Strict AF Mom” tank top, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “Cool Mom.” So I guess I’ll have to stick to wearing my “Feminist. Sober. Killjoy.” shirt. That about sums it up, I think.

Eight is GR8!

Elizabeth Jane (Lizard, Lizzie Jane, Janiepants, Bug, Bear, EJ, Chicken, Monkeybutt Jr, etc…) is 8 years old today!

Honestly, I have no idea how my favorite human in all the world is 8 years old today.

It both seems like I’ve known her forever and like she just got here. I do know that she changed my world forever the very moment she entered it. And that I love her more & more with each passing day. Which I would’ve sworn would be impossible as I stared into her sweet little newborn face. But here we are: I love her infinitely more today that I did on the day of her birth. Because now I know her. And she is breath-taking.

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Jane really sees people, in a way I think most of us have forgotten to. She finds the very best in people, and she holds it up for everyone else to see. She reminds people that they are good at their core. She believes it.  And she’s made me believe it again, too.

She loves without condition. Even when people are difficult. Because, hell, aren’t most of us difficult some of the time? She offers a lot of grace–room for mistakes, space for second chances. She’s quick to forgive. And always 100% ready to help someone feel better.

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Jane’s primary resting state is happiness. She’s enthusiastic beyond measure. And she’s silly. She’ll totally walk up into her classroom strutting like a chicken. NBD. She’s a stripes-with-polka-dots-and-a-tutu-just-because-she-likes-it kind of kid. I love her willingness to simply be herself. She often tells me she enjoys being herself–that she likes herself. I hope that remains true for always. There’s just so much about her to like.

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She’s not perfect, this kid. Not by a long shot. And, if she were reading this, she’d say “Nobody’s perfect, Mommy. There’s always room for improvement.” Amen to that. I think what I admire so much about her is that she really grabs a hold of opportunities to improve. Oh, not right away. But she’s willing to ponder situations where things, let’s say, could have gone better. And, after an initial blame shuffle, she’ll quite often own her part in the meltdown of situation normal. Good Lord, I couldn’t do that until my mid 30s. Sometimes I struggle to do it now.

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The other day, she came home proclaiming, “Mommy, we’re so close, it’s almost like we’re sisters instead of mom & kid.” Sweet, but wildly untrue. I’m Mommy 100% of the time. Motherhood is no fucking joke. Even with the sweetest of kids, it’s a job fraught with tears, frustration, and meltdowns (mine as much as hers). But what IS true is that there is no other kid on this planet–in the multi-verse, even–whose mother I’d rather be.

My favorite thing to tell Jane is that she was worth the wait. It took us 2 years to conceive her.

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I’d definitely given up hope by the time we found out we were pregnant with her. But that struggle made me appreciate her brilliant presence in our lives all the more. I can’t imagine a world without my sweet Elizabeth Jane.

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As far as I’m concerned, I am the luckiest mother in the world (8 years running).

Book Nerd (to the 43rd power)

The pieces of me–my love for writing and running, my need to sing off key at every song on the radio, my penchant for remembering lines to movies and bits of songs I haven’t heard in years–make me who I am. I honor myself by making time to do things I love, so that my daughter sees the woman who shapes her world as a whole person.

I grew up in a household where motherhood meant absolute sacrifice. My mom gave her all, every day, to care for me and my sister. As much as I scrounge around in the bits and fragments of childhood memories, I don’t remember my mom ever doing something just for herself. Not once.

I wish my mom had known that the whole maternal sacrifice thing… well, it’s kind of bullshit.*

I give my daughter access to all that I am. But the pieces of me–my love for writing and running, my need to sing off key at every song on the radio, my penchant for remembering lines to movies and bits of songs I haven’t heard in years–make me who I am. I honor myself by making time to do things I love, so that my daughter sees the woman who shapes her world as a whole person. Because I am. A full, glorious, flawed, incredibly enthusiastic person.

The one place where that ability to create space for the things I love hasn’t translated is reading. That’s right. Reading. I love to read. More than I love to do almost anything. Consequently, I feel guilty when I do it. There’s this subconscious voice that kicks in that tells me to stop screwing around, to do something productive. There’s something deep down in my soul that believes I don’t deserve that kind of unadulterated pleasure.

So this year, my 43rd year, I am laying down that reading guilt. I’m going to set it free because it does not serve me. And I am going to fully embrace my love of reading. So much so that I am going to read 43 books this year.

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That’s right. Go big or go home, baby.

I’m already reading 3 different books. At one time. So my very first step is, well, you know, to finish one of those. And, yes, they count even if I started reading them before I turned 43… because I am the decider.

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Here’s where you get to play along. Got a book recommendation? Drop it in the comments. I love to explore new authors, new genres… and I’m willing to try almost anything you think is good.

Here’s to uncovering all my book nerd glory in year 43.

 

 

*And by that, I mean it’s unnecessary to being a good mother. My mom’s sacrifice for us was real. It’s one she feels even now. And while I love and appreciate her, I needed to find another way for myself.

Photo by Nicole Honeywill on Unsplash

That First Cup of Coffee

I love mornings: the sun’s slow, upward climb; the quiet; the COFFEE. But I don’t wake up perky. It’s a little fuzzy in my brain first thing in the morning. And I’m real sleepy until that first cup of coffee.

I love mornings: the sun’s slow, upward climb; the quiet; the COFFEE. But I don’t wake up perky. It’s a little fuzzy in my brain first thing in the morning. And I’m real sleepy until that first cup of coffee. Here’s a visual representation of my mental state first thing in the morning:

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But that’s fine. Because Simon sleeps later than I do. And after a cup of coffee (and a quick browse through social media), I’m all like this:

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But there’s one wild card in this morning situation: JANE. Jane wakes up like a shooting star every morning. She hops out of bed and greets the world with all the sunshine, rainbows, and sparkles she can muster. It’s A LOT of perk. Trust me.

And she gets up early. Really early. 6 a.m. early. Even on the weekends. I know. I know. I’ve tried to reason with her. She just can’t help herself. She’s SO EXCITED TO BE ALIVE.

So, when it comes to forging a bit of quiet time for myself in the morning–and believe this: I am a MUCH better mother after that first cup of coffee–I have to get up early. 5:30 a.m. to be exact. That gives me half an hour to wake up in the relative quiet (the dog snores, so there’s that) before facing the day (and other people).

Years ago, this was my everyday practice: up before the kid so I could have coffee and be charming and whatnot. But Jane & I, we know each other well. So well that sometimes it’s uncanny. (Like I really think sometimes she can read my mind. I wish I was joking. SO not joking).

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Jane can sense when I get up (the squeaky hardwood floors probably clue her in, too). When she was young, and not yet as familiar with the ways of the world (and the moods of her mother), she used to come in and climb on me when I was trying to have quiet time–which by it’s very nature is child-free time.

But this morning, I heard her get up. And slam her bedroom door shut. And slam the bathroom door shut. (She means nothing by all this slamming. It’s just her way). Then I heard her stomp into the kitchen like a baby buffalo, where she commenced slamming cabinets making her lunch.

And never, not once, did she venture into the living room where quiet time had commenced. She did not bother, pester, or annoy. She did not ask to cuddle, tell a story, or launch into a million questions about the day ahead. She just let me be.

When I wandered into the kitchen to greet her, I was all full of sunshine, happiness, and good-mother-vibes. Because coffee. And love.

All of this is apropos of pretty much nothing–except to say that the children, they are trainable. Don’t give up. Just keep loving them, redirecting them, and drinking just as much coffee as it takes.

 

This is My Life, Right Now.

This is my life, RIGHT NOW. Because, good or bad… it’s fleeting. I’ll just stay where my feet are & take it as it comes.

On Tuesday after school (and immediately following a two hour long playdate with one of her besties), I scurried Jane in the door to change clothes so we could head to a dine-out fundraiser for her school. A bunch of her friends & their parents planned to go. So, even though I wasn’t going to eat there (I had plans with my own bestie later on), I was going to earn my Gold Star for selfless motherhood by taking her into an incredibly chaotic dining situation.

Apparently, martyrdom doesn’t look good on me. Because, when Jane emerged from her room and declared herself ready, I turned around to find her wearing chickens.

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No. Not that kind of chicken.

You see, what had happened was… sometime during the summer (when it is in the mid 90s and humid as hell everyday because THE SOUTH), Jane bounded out of her room dressed for camp in leggings. As if it were Fall.

WHA???

Now, usually I can get down with the Natural Consequences of (stupid) behavior. But when one of the Natural Consequences might be heat stroke, then that’s just a hard NO from me.

I told her to change. She freaked the fuck out had a different opinion. As we were discussing this, Jane’s Bobby came flying out of our room (where he’d been sleeping because it was only 6:30 a.m.) and asked what the tussle was about. He was planning to rescue me by a) listening to Jane, then b) telling her to pull herself together and do as her mother says. (Because he’s an excellent co-parent).

Except that Jane was all worked up and Bobby was still half-asleep, so she’s explaining herself and he interrupts and says, “You want to wear CHICKENS to camp?!”

I died. Right there. CHICKENS!!

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Since then, we’ve had approximately 1 TRILLION battles about wearing chickens at the tail end of summer. And I know we’re supposed to pick our battles. But hell if I didn’t pick this one. So when she rolled out in chickens AGAIN, it was the last straw.

“Oh, no,” I said slowly, sizing her up. “You did NOT.”

“This is what I’m wearing,” she said, staring back at me in her defiant 7 year old way.

Aw, naw… now its a CHICKEN THROWDOWN.

“Bring me all the chickens. Every last pair. And I swear, if you somehow find a chicken I didn’t collect and you put that chicken on, I SWEAR I will make you take it off and I will march out of this house and find another kid to give that chicken to. DO YOU HEAR ME?”

“Yes, ma’am,” she mumbled. Because even when she’s acting like an asshat, she remembers to say “yes ma’m.” (Because THE SOUTH)

So, now I have a pile of chickens leggings in my closet, awaiting October 15th (when Jane may once again take possession of her chickens).

THIS is my life, right now.


On Sunday morning, Jane asked me if I would take her running on the Beltline. Sunday morning was cool and beautiful, and I loved that she asked… so I took her.

I let her set her own running goals. I ran beside her, cheering her along. She smashed every goal she set. And she sprinted at the end of each run–so fast I couldn’t keep up with her. We made folks on the Beltline giggle, with my cussing under my breath trying to catch up with my lightening quick 7 year old, and her absolute glee at beating me on every sprint. (I did get close once, though. I swear.)

We stopped to take pictures a couple times. I wanted to preserve everything about that unexpectedly amazing Sunday morning. I was just so proud of her. And she was all sunlight and happiness. It was the best, most purely wonderful time with my sweet kid.

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THIS is my life, right now.

3 Ways Adults Ruin Everything

Being a kid is INTENSE. As adults, we have this bizarre tendency to reminisce over the simplicity of childhood. After two days of full immersion in elementary school culture (and three more days to go), I remember now–being a kid is hard as hell. And adults don’t always make it easier. 

Being a kid is INTENSE. As adults, we have this bizarre tendency to reminisce over the simplicity of childhood. After two days of full immersion in elementary school culture (and three more days to go), I remember now–being a kid is hard as hell. And adults don’t always make it easier.

3 Ways Adults Ruin Everything

Adults act like things are common sense–when they don’t make sense at all. This week is the  Scholastic Buy One, Get One Free Book Fair. It’s AMAZING. Kids can spend $5 and leave with two spellbinding stories. Books on dragons? Got ’em. Books featuring ass-kicking princesses? Got ’em. Graphic novels, historical fiction, picture books, bestsellers… the book fair can magically coax excitement into even the most reluctant reader.

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But buy one, get one free? Yeah, kids don’t get it. Invariably, every hour or so, a kid wants to argue with me about why they should be able to buy a book that costs $2.50 and get the $25 Chrystal Making Kit free. Why would they want to pay for the more expensive one?  It’s buy ONE, get ONE free… no one ever said which one they had to buy (even though we did. Over & over, we painstakingly explained that the more expensive book is the one they’ll have to buy. But capitalism is NOT common sense, it seems. Maybe we should call it “Buy the most expensive book, get another maybe-kinda-interesting-but-not-exactly-your-dream-book free.” But that doesn’t have a very good ring to it, I suppose).

And while they’re dealing with the frustration of not getting what they want, adults continue to walk around smugly like this all makes good sense. Like just because they explained it, it is fair. Kid verdict: UNFAIR.

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Adults act like it’s no big deal when kids get their feelings hurt. I try to teach Jane how to shake things off, how to bounce back from hurt feelings and squabbles with her friends. But just watching the ebb and flow of kid relationships over the course of a day is exhausting–and these aren’t even my relationships. Now wonder Jane comes home completely worn out after school.

Today, I wandered out on the playground and bumped into a friend of Jane’s. He was sweaty from running around–and he looked completely dejected. I knelt down, eye-to-eye with him, to figure out what was up. Jane, it seems, had kissed someone else. Then she told him they couldn’t have a playdate anymore. Man.

I totally shelved the mommy reaction to “Jane was kissing someone else” and asked if he & Jane had an argument. (He hung his head & and shook it almost imperceptibly) I assured him that he & Jane would work things out (I was right. He was the last kid Jane hugged before she left for the day). But, whoa, Jane’s kissing treachery tore this little guy up. The idea of losing that playdate with Jane devastated him.

So much hangs on one word, one interaction.

While all this was going on, one of Jane’s friends approached me, close to tears, because her Principal’s Award medal had fallen apart, and she’d lost the medal. I felt the little twinge in my stomach I used to get when I was a kid and something was very, very wrong. I helped her and Jane look for it. Then I promptly marched my full-grown self to  the powers that be to inquire about a replacement. There’s a time and a place for lessons to be learned. But nobody is trying to learn lessons on the last week of school–over a medal they worked for all year. Nobody that I know, at least.

Adults act like they know everything. Adults, we’re busy people. We try to connect with kids over things that are important to us, not to them. We talk over them. We can be really shitty listeners. Sometimes, I’m guilty of this, too. But at the book fair, my whole job is to help kids find books that they will love. My secret goal is to make enthusiastic readers out of all of them. Every one. So, I listen a lot. I ask questions, about their hobbies, their families, their interests. Then I get to work bringing them books. I’m always looking for that magic spark, that book that makes them light up. It doesn’t happen every time. But the times it does… whoa. Amazing.

But no matter if I find them the perfect book or not, they remember me. At school, I’m either The Book Fair Lady or Jane’s mom. Kids run up to me and tell me exciting things happening to them (and sometimes sad things, too). They give me hugs. One girl who I’d seen in book fair but don’t really know came skidding across the linoleum floor to show my the two books she’d finally chosen at book fair (both Diary of a Wimpy Kid). She was beaming. And looking for me to share her joy. I love that connection.

Kids know a lot more than we give them credit for. They know how to connect without overthinking it. Kids may be snarky, silly, germy, chatty, snotty, and squirmy–but they crave connection & love. And they return love so much more freely than adults. It’s humbling (and maybe a little life-giving) to be in the presence of that kind of love.

I admire the professionals who work day in and day out with kids–loving them, teaching them, guiding them. That dedication and commitment kind of takes a special type of person. (That’s TOTALLY not me) But I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to exist in the kids’ world for a bit, to alter my perspective, and to remember the truths I’ve forgotten about childhood.

I’m a much better adult when I remember what it’s like to be a kid.

 

Photo Cred: Lufti Gaos, Kiana Bosman, Wang Xi, and Patricia Prudent on Unsplash