Lessons in Humility.

Audrey recently had a sleepover leaving us temporarily a family a three. I enjoy the few times when we have just one child with us, giving them extra special one-on-one time. We decided to drop Audrey off, then take William out to dinner and dessert. After saying our goodbyes to Audrey and visiting with the family, we decided on a French cafe that was nearby.

We got to our table which was tucked way in the back and right away ordered drinks. Both kids always order for themselves, something Brian and I have encouraged from when they were really little. William placed his order, “May I please have a Dr. Pepper?” At home we have milk, water, or juice but it’s really anything goes when we are out. We were so excited to be out, even had the server take our picture!

William’s food arrived, and Brian and I chatted away while he ate. We had the day’s news to catch up on and just tried to enjoy a few moments of adult talk while William was eating. Things took a weird turn when we looked at William and he was no longer eating. His eyes looked glassy and he was white as a ghost. He kept blinking. “William are you ok?” I implored and he shook his head yes. I could tell something was not right and I started to slightly panic. I was honestly worried he was about to throw up and this chic bistro was not the place for that to happen. We were so far in the back I had no idea how to make an exit. He kept blinking and I could tell he was scared. He was still drained of all color.

My first instinct was to check his drink. We always check the kids’ drinks but this time I didn’t. I can’t say for certain why, I just know this time I did not check his drink. It was basically empty so there was not much to check; whatever was left was watered down with melted ice. If there happened to be a mistake, and there was booze in his drink, certainly that would explain his quick demise.

“I feel dizzy.” His quiet voice whispered, “My heart is beating really fast.”

Brian scooped him up and walked him outside. I asked to see the manager and for our bill. My mind was racing: do I take him to an after hours clinic for a blood test? Do I run him by our friend’s house to examine him? Do I need to go to the ER? Should I be physically panicking now?

The manager runs over and offers to call an ambulance if I need one. I know he was trying to be reassuring but it only made me feel more sure that my son was accidentally given alcohol. He then went on to explain that those who bus the tables and take drink orders do not have access to the bar at all; there is zero chance that he was accidentally given the wrong drink. I still wasn’t sure.

In the meantime, Brian had gotten some crackers and William ate a few bites of them. For the first time in, what seemed like an eternity, I was no longer sure my son was about to either vomit or die. He was improving.

The manager returned to my table with our food wrapped up to go. He leaned over and politely said, “Ma’am, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but, when was the last time he ate anything? You know, all that soda on an empty stomach can be problematic.”

You know, folks, there are times in our lives when we need to take life’s lessons of humility and learn from them. Listen to what the universe is telling you! When he first asked the question, my initial (internal) response was to roll my eyes right out of my head and get all parent-y and righteous, declaring how I am a 43-year-old mother of two with a PhD and need not get child rearing lessons from the concerned manager of this restaurant. I had already cocked my head, ready to momsplain to Mr. Manager the err of his ways, then…it hit me.

Good thing my internal response wasn’t my external response, because the ugly truth is, he was right. My kid hadn’t eaten since noon. It was an oddly busy day…Brian was in and out…I had a meeting…then we went to soccer…I was preoccupied and never offered anyone snacks…oddly, no one was asking for snacks! We were also eating later than normal because of the sleep over drop off. We normally eat around 5:00 and it was after 7pm! My kids rarely drink soda…my son hadn’t eaten in, oh, say close to 6 hours and filled his stomach with Dr. Pepper.

I GUESS HE DID FEEL DIZZY.

File this under ‘mamma needs to check herself.’ If there is one thing I want to teach my children, it is to be humble. I still have a lot to learn – we all do. We can all learn from each other. Mr. Manager was right and for that I am thankful. Can you imagine the humble pie I’d have to eat if my kid was diagnosed in the ER with nothing more than a sugar and caffine high? I’ll take my lessons in small bites and be sure to learn from them.

xoxo

Growth is Necessary, But Growth Can Suck.

During the time when we should have all been celebrating the joyous event of back-to-school, I noticed that several of us moms were all crying. Me included.

WHY THE HELL ARE WE ALL CRYING??

My latest for Parent.Co !

It’s been three weeks since my kids went back to school and I’ve cried twice. I talked with a teacher-mom-friend the other day and she cried. I’ve read several articles by fellow writers who are also crying.

Why the hell are we all crying so much?

Because sometimes growth can suck.

I believe in growth. I teach from a growth mindset. I have publicly declared how much I love that my kids are getting older. The physical growing and getting bigger is a great thing! Personal growth for me is essential in life. I need to grow in order to live. It may be hard but I know I can handle it.

I was recently faced with the terrifying experience of sitting in a courtroom to settle a case involving an accident. I was hit from behind by an 18-wheeler while driving over 60 miles per hour. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s not a typo. I was hit from behind while moving. Despite this fact, the ruling landed in the defendant’s favor. No, not another typo – I was found to be at fault. This was an excruciating experience that left me floundering and questioning everything I knew about life. My initial reaction was to curl up and wallow in a lifeless ball of fear, pity, and sadness.

Then I realized that I had to find a way to grow from this experience.

With the help of two glorious women and an emergency road-side stop at a local sports bar for a drink and solid conversation, I was able to piece back parts of my life that were beginning to crumble. With their push and my intentional movement forward, my faith in humanity has been restored intact and made stronger. Growth resulting from an internal struggle is a very good, positive thing. Except when I have to watch my children do it.

I cried this week when my five-year-old told me he was sad because his new friends didn’t laugh at his jokes. It was soul crushing, thinking how he may be feeling lonely throughout the school day. Another mom cried when her daughter was having a hard time getting her new high school schedule straight. The uncertainty for her, being placed in the wrong classes, learning to navigate self-advocacy, and the feeling of helplessness as a mom unable to solve these newfound challenges. I shudder at the thought of my daughter dealing with rejection. Another mom cried about her son playing alone at recess.

The thing is, I don’t mind this kind of growth because I have the life experiences to know I can handle it. I’m 42 years old and fully aware of what I’m made of and capable of. My kids know how to record 57 episodes of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Of course, they are more capable than that, but the thought of it scares me. I continually share with them the honest reality of the challenges in life but these experiences are mine, things I’ve gone through. Of course it helps to assure them that they are not alone, but truly, they need to experience all of these things themselves.

As a mother, it’s goes against everything within me to let that happen and I want to keep them protected and safe from hurt. As a logical adult, I realize that I cannot. The mother in me wants to stand in the middle of the den, eyes closed and arms waiving in the air, asking the universe to give all struggle, pain, and uncertainty to me. I will gladly shoulder all of the growth for my entire family. The logical adult, thankfully realizes that I, instead, should stand and beg the universe to give me the strength to let my children grow.

Letting them grow means letting them go.

I have a sneaking suspicion this is why we are all are crying. I want my children to grow, but I don’t want them to hurt in the process. I want my kids to grow, but I’m having a hard time letting them go. I want my kids to grow and become strong and resilient people of good character, but I still want them to need me. Currently, I would rather have someone hammer bamboo shoots under my finger nails, one-by-one. Slowly.

It’s the sinister paradox of motherhood. We are intensely there for them from the moment they are born and then suddenly our roles change. We once shielded them from every bump and bruise and now we have to allow them to fall. While I may be screaming for mercy on the inside, asking the universe “to give,” I will continually pack them up and see them off into their lives. I will wave from afar and wish them the best of luck and the happiest of days. I will be their everlasting champion. I will be there to wipe away tears, take in their hurt, build them back up, and send them back out into the wild, wild world of Kindergarten and fourth grade. I know we will all be better people for it, and who knows, maybe I’ll grow a bit, too.

The Goal That Keeps on Going…

If you have been following along, you know that I recently set a new goal for myself, and while it was uncomfortable as hell, I made this goal actually happen! Since the article went straight to publication, it hasn’t been posted here until now and I could not be more proud to share this piece with you. It made its big debut on Scary Mommy, then was published by Parent.Co, by Red Tricycle, and also published by The Natural Parent Magazine, a publication in NEW ZEALAND! All of that and I’m not sure it has ended its run just yet. I’ll keep you posted! So without further ado…

I Decided to Redshirt My Son, But Not for the Reasons You Might Think.

Our bodies are amazing. When pregnant, I’d say they are miraculous. Less than 72-hours after one romp of unprotected make-up sex, I knew I was pregnant for our second child. Highly unlikely considering I was 36 years old and it was only one time, but I knew I was pregnant. Even before the stick was positive, I began counting. Always a planner, I began counting the weeks and months figuring in my head an estimate of a due date. It was early December which meant only one thing: a September baby.

Things are so different today. Like it or not, being a September baby is a thing so it became a tiny, lingering thought tucked into the back of my mind. Then I found out I was having a boy.

A September Boy. I was having a September Boy. I was already thinking way far down the road and clearly so was everyone else. As the years went by and the date grew closer, I could feel the other mothers shift uncomfortably when they would ask me the question, “What are you going to do about school?”

All of the moms I spoke with who held their late boys back, all were overwhelmingly happy with the decision. Several who didn’t, and whose sons had to repeat a grade, regretted having to go through that; as the social pressure was difficult. They specifically told me that if they had to do it all over again, they would have held him back. They all encouraged me to think about holding him back because of the advantages he will have in the future. There were many reasons to consider: fine motor skills, ability to follow directions, maturity, and more. For some, the common theme had to do with the physicality of boys. They echoed the same sentiment: he will be older, bigger, faster, and taller; which will be way better than being younger, smaller, slower, and shorter.

Full disclosure, I am an educator. I was a classroom teacher for years and now I am at the university level preparing students to become teachers. I hold a Doctorate in Special Education, which, by the way, has proven to be utterly useless when it comes to actual mothering. I know teaching, best practices, milestones, progress, and developmental appropriateness. I also know that today, Kindergarten is the new first grade. I also know our school. I also know what will be required of my September Boy. Just because I knew all of this, didn’t mean I knew what to do.

I decided to red shirt my September Boy but not for the reasons you may think.

Our school registration process starts in January and for months leading up to that date I was in a constant state of, Should I? or Should I not? If I start him too early there could be consequences. If I start him too late there could be consequences. Some days I was hoping for a third option. I knew I would have to rely on a solid mix of my professional knowledge coupled with what my September Boy was telling me. I would ultimately let him be my guide.

My September Boy is smart and very able, and certainly could have managed through the year starting Kindergarten at 4 years old. But in the months leading up to registration day, I realized that while he certainly could manage, I wasn’t totally sure that he really had to manage. I watched him one particular morning, in his pajamas with the side of his head planted flatly against the hard floor, investigating the structural integrity of his Lego suspension bridge. He had a laser-like focus, studying his structure, thinking and strategizing his next block. He would test his engineering prowess with a line of 13 tanker cars pulled by his favorite powerful steam engine.

In that moment, I saw it. This was no longer a decision that I had to make, instead, it was a decision that I could make. I saw that my September Boy had the gift of time, and I was determined to give it to him.

For the next year, we gave him the gift of time. He had one more glorious year to be little.

He could have started on-time and left the house every morning by 7:15am. Instead, he and I lingered in our PJs until about 8:15am and leisurely drove to preschool. (The long way, of course.) He could have started on-time and faced more seat time and less play time. Instead, he enjoyed another year of unstructured play, lots of dress-up, and most Fridays at home. He could have started on-time and figured out bathroom stalls, long hallways, and how to balance a full cafeteria tray. Instead, he enjoyed lunches and snacks delivered to his classroom and learning how to pour his own milk.

Like it or not, there are certain demands placed upon our school-aged children. These demands are exactly what made being born in September way more than just being born in September.  While I am not necessarily ready to fight the status-quo, I can certainly do what it takes to protect my child from the effects of it.

I decided to red shirt my September Boy and it was absolutely the right thing for us. As our school year is approaching the end, I see that giving him the gift of time was the best gift we could have given him. He started school when he was ready, which translated into being confident, happy, and excited about learning. He loves school in a way that I doubt he would have felt without having the extra time. I definitely gave him an advantage, but not one that had anything to do with his future physical abilities. I have no idea if he will be bigger, taller, or faster than the other boys in his class, and quite frankly, I’m not sure that I care. What matters to me now is that he is a happy, vibrant, little boy who adores school and I’ll take happy over fast any day.

xoxo

Mel-A-Phone

“Mom!”                                  “Mommy?!”

                       “Mom?”

“Mommy?”             “Mooooooooom!” 

Don’t judge me, but last Friday night I looked at Brian and confessed, “I’m ignoring them.” I can’t help it, it’s the end of the week for me, too and I just need a break from the countless, seemingly endless string of questions and requests. I truly feel like we are raising good, smart, solidly kind children but I worry about their need for me to intervene in their lives. Brian and I recently heard John Rosemond speak at our school and he assured us that children today or not in any way genetically different from children 50 years ago. If this is true, my 8-year-old daughter is the same, typical third grader that I was in 1982. Thinking back, I was insanely resourceful, especially when it came to bird-dogging my mother.

Here’s the scenario:

“Bon soir, La Cuisine, may I help you?”

“Yes, hello sir. I need to find one of your customers. There’s an issue at home and I need to speak with her.”

“Oui, Madame. Who can I find for you?”

“Her name is Elaine Forstall. She’s tall and thin with straight shoulder-length blonde hair. Tonight she has on a gold and turquoise peacock print dress, it has a jewel neck and drop waist, three-quarter length ruched sleeves. She’s with her husband, Rick. He has salt-and-pepper hair. He has on a white button down shirt, no tie, and a grey suede sport coat. I think they are dinning with two other couples.”

“Oui Madame. I think I see her. I will get her for you.”

**wait**wait**wait**

“Hello?”

“Mom?”

“Melanie, what’s wrong?”

“When are you coming home?”

I had mad skills. With a phone and white pages in hand, I could make just about anything happen. I had the communication skills at 8 to be a CIA operative and yet sometimes my kids get stumped opening a single serving pack of Sweet Tarts. How is this possible? No one taught me how to do this. My mother never sat me down to discuss the finer points of stalking people. I was driven enough and I just did it.

My parents fondly named my skill the ‘Mel-A-Phone’ knowing that they could never go too far without me finding them. They really were never safe. While I don’t condone the idea of constant invasion of parental privacy, I give my 8-year-old self kudos for having the drive to get shit done.

So what’s my plan? I’ve decided that I am no longer helping. Nope. No more…everyone can tie their own shoes, so please by all means tie them. Everyone can get dressed on their own, I’m not needed. Look for it. No one in my house has a weight lift restriction which means everyone can pick up their own shit and put it where it belongs. I am not needed for this task. If you can’t open an item on your own, the likelihood is that you don’t really need it. I bet you big bucks that if you were dying of hunger you would figure out a way to get that wrapper open. Look again, look harder, and look one more time. You do not need me.

But you do need me.

Come to me for hugs. Come to me for snuggles. Come to me and ask questions about life and tell me about your day. Come to me when you are scared, happy, lonely, or sad. (Not bored, don’t come to me when you are bored. I cannot help bored.) Come to me with excitement or worry. Lay your fears at my feet and I will always wipe your tears. Come to me to laugh. Ask me to play with you. I will love you ultimately forever. Come to me for encouragement. Come to me for a reminder of the beautiful soul you are and how much you are truly loved.

xoxo

Raising Diamonds.

Almost daily I stop and ask myself the same question, “Is it just me?” and I promptly reassure myself and answer, “Of course not, dear. But it doesn’t matter even if so.” Recently, though I can’t help but question why I don’t feel the same way as seemingly so many others. Picture after picture is captioned, “I miss my babies!” or “Time please stop!” or “I wish I could go back!” I see these pictures, and while I love a quick dose of nostalgia, my first response is usually, “Like, how far back are we talking?”

Sure, I have wonderful memories of when my children were babies but I have no interest in going back there. You want to go back to the endless nights of staring at your newborn daughter for hours on end watching the rise and fall of her chest just to know with certainty that she’s still breathing? No thank you, I actually like to spend my nights sleeping. Back to the time when my son would cry in spits and spurts for no apparent reason and nothing I could do seemed to soothe him? Oh yes, please, sign me up for more of that.

I remember in particular one very long day when my son was about four months old and I just could not get him to settle down. We had enjoyed roughly four hours of an eat, sleep, cry cycle and I had just about had it. I decided to take him to the pediatric after hours clinic and with my three-year-old in tow, I had a plan. My mom had recently come for a visit and she left a crisp hundred-dollar bill on my nightstand. (That’s who she is and what she does.) I was frazzled from the day and was not interested in waiting endlessly to see a doctor. I arrived at the clinic with the cash in hand ready and willing to hand it to whoever was in line ahead of me. I was willing to give money to a stranger just so I could quickly get this baby to stop crying. So do I want to be go back to this place and time? Hardly.

I love that my kids are growing up; is that so wrong? I love the people they are becoming. I love to see them navigate through life and ask me thoughtful questions. I love that they are developing opinions and tastes that may or may not align with mine.

I love the fact that my son can tell me that the medicine burns, or that he feels like he might throw up. I love the fact that when she does throw up, my daughter can aim perfectly into the toilet. I love that they can easily explain to the doctor what ails them. Karaoke is a lot more fun now, too.

I am genuinely excited for my daughter’s third grade year. I honestly wasn’t sad when my son started pre k. His excitement was so infectious, how could I possibly be sad? I see how excited they are about the journey before them and I can’t see any other option but going along for the ride. I don’t find it sad to see my kids grow, blossom, and step into their life’s milestones.

That’s just it. Their life. It’s their life, not mine. I guess I can’t hold too tightly to something that’s not mine to begin with. I read a quote recently:

“To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.”

This was a perfectly fine quote and in many ways it spoke to me. But so does Elizabeth Taylor and I’ve never met a diamond I didn’t like:

“I’ve never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of them and love them, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”

Don’t get me wrong, the thought of my kids leaving and going to college in Idaho makes me very sad; but I still wouldn’t discourage their wanderlust. And full disclosure, each night when I kiss them goodnight, I jiggle them gently to hear them breathe. Old habits die hard.

As much as the thought truly sends shivers up my spine, I am their temporary custodian; my job is to prepare them to soar. They are two of the brightest jewels of my life. Brilliant and dazzling, precious and rare. Expensive. Temporarily mine to protect and nurture until they are ready to shine on their own.

#raisingdiamonds

xoxo

 

#LTYM LIVE!

FINALLY!!

The videos from the Listen To Your Mother Baton Rouge show have finally arrived! I couldn’t be prouder of the show and having been a part of it. It was a true honor to share the stage with the other women and I hope to work with the show in some capacity in the future. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.

I wanted to be sure the link to my closing piece had a permanent home here, on my blog, especially since this is really where it all began. Here, in all its glory is,  I No Want It.

 

XOXO

 

My Answer Will Always Be Yes.

I’m sure, not unlike many new mothers, I was totally unprepared for motherhood. I guess no one can really prepare you for what’s about to happen but I was particularly not at all prepared for the physical and mental exhaustion. There were many days that I was so sleep deprived I could have fallen asleep standing up. Sleep was so very important to me; I’d give up food before sleep. I was also very honest about my position on bed sharing. My position was simply that there would be no bed sharing. I adore my children but I adore them even more when we all can retreat to our own spaces, specially our own beds, at the end of the day.

I was particularly comfortable one night about two years ago, stretched out in my tempur-pedic dream bed with the down comforter covering just about everything except the very top of my head. I was mid-dream when I felt a poke. Startled, I looked up to find my son at my bed side. He leaned in and whispered, “Mommy, can I sleep with you?”

My kids have been historically great sleepers. Truthfully though, early on I had to intervene a bit to get them to become such great sleepers. I read a lot of books, took the parts that worked for us and helped them learn to sleep well. So, I know what the experts have to say about kids getting up in the middle of the night. They are all fairly consistent and give similar guidelines. If your child ever wakes in the middle of the night you should proceed with the following steps:

  1. Under no circumstances do you ever let a child in your bed during the night. If you allow it even once, you might as well hand over the keys to your child and get used to the fact you will now be held under the rule of a toddler. Cheerios and finger paint will dominate your life. (As if it doesn’t already.)
  2. Make no acknowledgement of your child. Do not communicate in any way and especially don’t let them know that you care. Showing concern will only show weakness and they will try to capitalize on that.
  3. Take the child by the hand and walk him or her back to their respective bed. Cover the child and walk quickly back to your own bed.
  4. When the crying child comes running back to you, again, do not communicate in any way with said child, simply carry or drag him or her back to their bed. You might have to throw them in. Now run back to your own bed and cover as quickly as possible in hopes that they will leave you alone and the nightmare has ended.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until dawn. Be aware that you will not be able to drive or operate heavy machinery for at least 4-6 weeks.

As soon as I heard his question, all of this ran through my mind. Is this when I need to walk him back to his bed? Am I opening myself up for trouble if I let him in? We’ve all been sleeping so well! Ordinarily, unless my bed is on fire, I see absolutely no reason to get out of it, especially in the middle of the night. I looked at the clock and it was 1:18am. “Yes,” and I pulled him into my bed where he settled in between my husband and me. After that, we all slept through the night.

It’s been about 600+ nights now and each and every night he comes to my bedside and asks, “Mommy can I sleep with you?” I think it’s so incredibly sweet that he continues to ask. I wonder sometimes if he’s just really polite or understands already that you should take nothing for granted and things can change at any moment. For now, my answer will always be yes. It’s actually sweeter than I could have ever imagined. He snuggles and I snuggle back. I often feel his small hand grab mine during the early morning hours when no one is really awake. Weekend mornings are a dream. Don’t even get me started on holidays. There is something very special about the time we can share like this. I am all too aware that it will end soon. There will eventually be one night where no one will be at my bedside asking if they can sleep with me. My answer will always be yes.

So, I say to my sweet prince, ask me, ask me every night if you need to. Come to my bedside when you are lonely, scared, or simply just miss your mommy. Come to me and ask your question, knowing that no matter what, my answer will always, undoubtedly, be yes.