Peanuts.

I recently had an article published about my personal struggle between balancing the need to be assertive, with the unnecessary need to always be polite. I blame this on my southern roots. No matter the cause I want my children to have a different internal narrative – if it’s important to you, say what you need say. Period.

I thought about several interactions throughout my life and I easily saw a pattern. Clearly it resonated with other women, too because the article has reached thousands of readers, all with a resounding agreement that we often times put too much focus on being polite, instead of what we need to say. You can read the article here, published by Scary Mommy.

Hhhooowwweeevvveeerrrr, apparently when I’m traveling and tired my worry about politeness goes right out the plane window. Literally. On my completely full return flight home last week from Dallas, I was making my way to the very back of the plane, realizing quickly that there was no more overhead room for my carry-on bag. A flight attendant quickly intercepted me and started looking for space.

One thing about me: I’m a rule follower. People don’t typically make up rules for shits and giggles. There is usually a reason for rules and most likely a good one. Another thing about me: I listen. When people talk on a microphone or speaker-thing, something sort of important sounding, I listen. Most of the time they are not engaging in unimportant talky-talky. Especially when I’m about to board an aircraft, an object I still don’t fully comprehend how it remains in flight, I am going to listen.

The accommodating attendant popped open an overhead bin and found a soft, squishy, rather small backpack. I was one misplaced backpack away from getting my overhead bin space. I had her back; I knew exactly what she was thinking, “Who the ever loving hell put a backpack in the fucking overhead bin?!?” Instead she politely asked around for the owner of the backpack.

There he was. As soon as I laid eyes on grandpa I was ready to take care of business. Ain’t nobody screwing up our system! Not today, gramps, not today. As she was leaning in to talk with him, for some very impolitely assertive reason, I leaned over her shoulder and firmly informed him, “Bags like that are supposed to go under the seat in front of you, not the overhead bin!” I may have even pointed a finger for emphasis.

It was like an alien had taken over my body. I quickly pulled my lips inward as the attendant stared into the soul of my forefathers. She gently directed me to take a seat. Again, I knew exactly what she was thinking, “No peanuts for crazy in the back.”

xoxo

You can also read the complete article here:

As a southern woman, I have found that we are too often taught through our experiences that, above everything else, we should be polite. At some point throughout our life, in often compounding ways, we are shown that under most circumstances, we should always err on the side of politeness. No matter what we want to say, or what we are feeling, the appropriate response is to smile and nod.

Instead of telling the truth, we bless people’s hearts. Instead of saying what we want to say, we hug graciously. My experiences don’t necessarily need to be the same as my daughter’s, which is why I want to raise her to explicitly understand that being polite is not necessarily a requirement in this life.

I was recently at a lunch event with friends and relatives when two women started a conversation with me and then, rather stunningly, said disparaging things about a close family member of mine. Instead of responding the way my inner voice wanted me to, engaging in a verbal street fight, I was polite.

Later that same year my family and I were having lunch at a local restaurant and were seated across from a chatty, elderly couple. I’m certainly accustomed to people interacting with us as a family when we are out with our children, as nothing gets grandpa up and chatting like cute kids. The problem wasn’t anything he said, it was merely his insertion into our family lunch. I was more uncomfortable with his level of comfort, his assumptions that he could barge right into our meal. I didn’t put an end to the conversation or ask for the privacy I wanted. Instead, I was polite.

Having sat there, silent, I hated the way I felt and wanted to share those feelings with my daughter. I wanted her to know that if she was ever in a situation like that, in which someone was making her uncomfortable, she didn’t have to put up with it. I pulled her aside, got eye-to-eye with her, and told her my lie. “I want you to know that it’s always okay for you to not interact in situations like that. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, it would be totally fine for you to say that you are not interested in engaging with him.”

She stared blankly at me, and asked, “Well, why didn’t you?”

Her question has stuck with me for months. Time after time, I have allowed things to be said or done and instead of standing up for myself, I’ve opted to be polite. I have sacrificed my own feelings for someone else’s comfort. The old man’s feelings shouldn’t have been put ahead of my desire for privacy. Those women didn’t deserve to be protected for being hurtful. My feelings within the space of these events matter, and I want my children to feel the same way.

I want my daughter to find the balance that I didn’t necessarily grow up having. I want her to understand the importance of being respectful and polite, but also understand the importance of being brave and saying what she needs to say — even if it’s scary. I don’t want her to sacrifice her own feelings for the comfort of those around her.

So, is it ever okay to ruin the lunch?

As a mother raising a daughter, I have found that in order to combat this pressure to be polite, it’s my responsibility to teach my daughter explicitly and directly that politeness is not a requirement in this life. My words sometimes will not be enough. I have to show her that I am strong enough to do the things I am telling her to do.

So, to all the women out there struggling with this idea that in order to have a happy life, we must be polite; to my dear daughter and all the girls who are growing up with her, I say an emphatic, Yes! It is completely and totally okay to ruin the lunch. Say what you have to say. Even if your voice shakes and it’s really scary, say the words and express your feelings. Take up space in this world without apology, and remember that being polite is not a requirement.

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