Family, Life, Parenting

If You Love Someone, Let Them Lead. Sometimes…

I swear sometimes I feel like the universe is laughing hysterically at me. Parenthood is the ultimate paradox — we are hardwired to risk our lives protecting our children from harm, and yet at the same time we can’t suffocate them from experiencing life. Whether we like it or not, we have to allow our children to feel disappointment. While I know that’s what we should do, it’s not always something that I want to do.

We have to let them struggle.

We just returned from a cruise to the Bahamas for Mardi Gras break. It was our kids’ first cruise and a much-needed getaway for our family. There is nothing quite like lounging poolside, basking in the warm sun, eating endless soft-serve ice cream. (By the way, I never want to eat again.)

Once on board, we saw that there was going to be a talent show towards the end of the cruise. Immediately, my son declared that he wanted to sign up for the show to play piano. We headed down on day two for him to sign up. We were greeted by the happiest Activities Director named Mauricio who sadly informed us that the show was for adults only. We were about to leave when he stopped us, “Look, let me get an idea of who will be performing and I’ll let you know.”

I put it out of my head. He had scribbled my stateroom number down on a scrap of paper – unlikely he’ll remember us and even more unlikely that he’ll ever find us.

Four days later while we were headed out of our stateroom for breakfast, the phone rang. (What? Who calls stateroom phones anymore anyway?)

“Heelllooo! I hope you recognize my voice! I have some fabulous news!”

It was happy Mauricio calling to tell us that William was going to be in the show! (holy crap) “Meet us in the theater for 10:00am today for rehearsal!”

Then he quietly whispered, “Ok momma, he can really play right?” (holy crap)

We show up in the theater, and as expected, William was the only child there. Mauricio went over a few logistics for the show that would be held for about 350 people later that day. (holy crap)

Brian and I asked William what he was going to play and encouraged him to practice on the piano on the huge stage. He sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m okay.”

Oh my god small child, you are NOT okay. You are going to play the piano in front of 300+ strangers, you better start rehearsing.

Thankfully Mauricio asked William to come up and get comfortable with the piano.

BRRRING – BRRRONG – BLLLONG

He cranked out about three chords and came back down to our seats.

That’s it? What the hell is happening.

We encouraged him to practice an actual song but he just gave us a shrug and said, “I’m okay, mom!”

I was feeling a bit nauseated and Brian was on the verge of having a stroke. We calmly tried to encourage him to practice a bit more – in less than five hours he’d be performing in front of 300 strangers. Not to mention several friends we had made along the way and who William had joyfully invited to come to the show.

I could feel the mood within the family begin to tense up. We are the adults, and in may cases, we do know what is best. We know what it’s like to fail, to get hurt, to feel embarrassed, and feel regret. We have been through it all and want nothing more than to protect our children from experiencing these things. We know that sometimes we need to practice and prepare! We also know that it’s usually a horribly crazy idea to plan your performance in a big talent show by just winging it.

Maybe.

I turned to Brian and tried to get us to focus on letting go. Clearly William is comfortable with his choice and maybe we needed to follow his lead on this one. It makes zero sense in my adult brain, but the last thing I wanted to do was to make the experience a negative one for him. My gut, although I was questioning it, said to let go and let him take the lead. We’ll be there to help him over the bumps. No matter what.

Two o’clock rolled around and all I wanted was a really large margarita.

Mauricio open the show and introduced the first performer — William. (holy crap)

“Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome, all the way from Louisiana, with nerves of steel, William!”

(holy crap)

Brian and I could not have been more proud. (or relieved)

After the trip, I sent the video to William’s piano teacher to show him the performance. I was a little perplexed when he responded with this:

“WOW! That was awesome, love how he started with an altered version of the chord progression and slowly built it up until it sounded like Heart and Soul. Everyone knows it and the crowd loved it. He’s got a good sense for how to move a crowd!”

What the hell? Altered chord progression? Seriously, that’s a thing? And my kid knows how to do it?

I showed the response to Brian, then we asked William about it.

“You were playing an altered version of the chord progression??” As I read it from my phone.

“Yes.”

“You knew that all along?”

“Yes.”

“Without even really practicing?”

“Yes. Mom, I told you I was okay.”

And he did. And he was. He told us all along he was okay. Although it was not easy, I’m so glad we listened to him and let him take the lead.

I often hear people describe parenthood as a journey and I’d say very much that it is. A journey in which the line leader may change. The key to making the best of it, from what I can gather, is to know when to let go and follow along. xoxo

 

 

 

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She Knows Stuff…

This is a picture of my daughter when she was about 14 months old. I love this picture, it’s one of my favorites especially because she’s not smiling. For whatever reason, I have a fondness for pictures without smiles. Even without a huge grin on her face, the picture truly captures her personality and, I think shows how beautiful she is. I remember when the pictures arrived and I was so excited to share them with friends and family. I showed them to one friend who remarked almost immediately at how her expression is so telling. “It’s like she knows stuff” my friend Kay said to me. “This little girl knows more than you think!” Of course we laughed about it but for years Kay’s reaction has stayed with me and I often find myself going back to this picture in my mind and wondering, just how much exactly does she know? How much more does she know then she is actually letting on? After our conversation over lunch recently I wonder if she does, in fact, know more than me…

Audrey has grandparents on both sides of her family. Lucky for her she actually has a great-grandmother on Brian’s side! On my side she has three grandparents. My mother is Sugar, my step-father is Opa, and my father is Pere. I have not up until this point discussed much about this arrangement except that Audrey knows they are all part of her family and that they all love her very much. She knows, clearly that Pere is my dad and Sugar is my mom but how Opa fits into the picture hasn’t actually been discussed. There is no real reason to anyway. All three of them are part of our family and we all love and care about one another.

We had an impromptu lunch date recently while we were waiting out a bad rainstorm. It was really more like a snack since our “lunch” consisted of french fries and chocolate malts! We had just left a clothing store where Audrey talked a lot about how much Sugar would love it. “Oh mom look, Sugar would love this!” She told the saleslady how her Sugar loves the color orange and that she would just love the jewelry. Fresh on her mind she posed a question, “Mom, did Sugar marry Opa?” From the moment I saw her lips forming the words I knew exactly the path down which we were headed.

“Yes, Sugar and Opa are married. Why?”

“Well, how can Sugar marry Opa if she was married to Pere?”

As the whirl of the blenders seemed to become the only thing I could hear, I began to mentally prepare carefully for my next steps. How can you possibly know to even ask this? How in the world do I explain this? Is divorce a topic to discuss with my four-year-old?

I was honest. She had a valid, albeit surprisingly deep, question. I told her that Sugar and Pere were married but that they aren’t anymore. I told her that the adult word is called ‘divorce.’ She pulled a face at that so I reframed it and said that they broke up. “You mean they don’t like each other anymore?” Oh my precious, precious child. I felt like I was looking into the soul of wisdom tucked inside a four-year-old body. With curls.

Again I was honest. “That’s part of it, yes.”

The conversation ended as quickly as it started. My answers and explanations were all that she needed. I reminded her again that what’s most important is that everyone loves her and that we all love each other. Families come in all shapes and sizes and it’s the love we have for each other is all that really matters.

As I enjoyed the last few sips of my malt and saw this picture in my mind and I thought about Kay remarking how she looks so wise. I wonder for a moment where this beautiful, wonderful soul will lead us next. Clearly I am not leading these adventures. No, I am at least smart enough to recognize that I’m here to nurture and support her; not direct her.

The week after she was born I wrote in her baby book about my greatest wishes for her.  My wish for both of my children is for their world to be bigger than mine. I have this flicker of a sense sometimes that she will easily soar beyond the limits to have her world be just as big as she wants it to be.

Happy Mothering!

Melanie

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Our Picture Perfect Life….Sort Of

Just as I entered motherhood feeling totally unprepared, I too enter the world of blogging totally unprepared. How often should I write? What is too much? Not enough? I think I will take the same perspective I do when it comes to potty training my daughter. I tell her, “Let’s just sit on the potty and see what happens.” So, I will write when it feels right and just see what happens…

So, yesterday I wrote a check to the photographer for $203 for pictures that are, at best, okay. His work is great, don’t get me wrong, it’s the subjects that leave room to be desired. My daughter, as beautiful as she is, wouldn’t so much as crack a smile. In no way was she buying into the giggles, jingling, and “show me your princess smile” being energetically yelled from the photographer and his assistant. She wasn’t going to budge. One photo, in particular she is giving such a distasteful look I dubbed it, “Mean Joe Green.” Of course I ordered a copy. I had to. I had to have living proof that she could grimace with such expression at such a young age.

So as I was reviewing these pictures I thought about how my perspective has changed so much in less than two years. When my daughter was first born there was definitely a sense of wanting all outward appearances to be just right. Especially since she was a girl. I wanted everything to look perfect. Yeah right. I remember our first Santa picture like it was yesterday. She was not quite a year old and we set off to the mall to take what I certainly knew was going to be the perfect Santa picture.

I have such a wonderful mother. As a baby and young child she made many of my clothes. She is so talented. Her work as a drapery designer has landed her jobs for a few famous people that will remain unnamed. Anyway, she kept this green velvet jumper that she made for me to wear one year so of course my daughter wore it for her first Christmas. The green jumper monogrammed with her name, the crisp white shirt with Peter Pan collar, and black patent leather Mary Janes. Sounds perfect right? Did I mention the giant white bow with a green monogrammed initial? Anyway, she sat on Santa’s lap, cried and they snapped the picture. Anyone who has ever taken pictures at the mall can sympathize…we left there paying over $50 for poor quality, over advertised pictures. I couldn’t get past all of the fake snow photoshopped across my daughter’s head. I felt a little defeated when we left. We swore we would not go back to the mall again.

So Christmas year number two rolled around and I was on a hunt to find a great new venue for Christmas pictures. I found out that Santa would be at the new Cabella’s store and the pictures were free! Paydirt! That was our plan. We packed up on what turned out to be a very rainy night to get the perfect Santa picture. You could cut the tension with a knife. I was walking about five paces in front of my husband on a mission to find that free Santa and score a place in line. That would have been fine but there was no line. Just a bunch of people milling around getting on Santa’s lap while an associate from the store snapped pictures with a digital camera. Hmmm…I was going to make the best of it. I had to. I found Santa. He was sitting in a rocking chair in front of a menagerie of taxidermied wildlife. Being that this is south Louisiana, I guess it was appropriate.

As we waited for the child in from of us to finish, my husband looked at me and asked, “What do we do if she starts to cry?” I looked straight at him and said, “We will leave her there.” As if I would take her off just because she was crying. Crying baby Santa pictures are adorable and besides she won’t remember. So we sat her on his lap and to our delight she didn’t cry! Instead she looked right at Santa and said, “Pink bicycle.” A girl who can state what she wants. I’m so proud of her!

Turns out the printer ran out of ink so there were no pictures from me to pick up. I quickly scrolled through my camera (they allowed you to take your won pictures) in hopes that I captured the perfect shot. To my anguish I saw in every picture my daughter’s dress was turned upward to reveal her tights and diaper! “We have to retake them!” I said to my husband and I took another look at the pictures. He kept telling me that it wasn’t a big deal. Well it was a big deal to me! I gave him the cold shoulder and finally demanded that we go back. My daughter, thankfully, happily sat on his lap and my husband fixed her dress with expert precision. I took about four pictures and felt a wave of relief. God I’m nuts….but I know I can’t possibly be the only one.

I doubt my daughter will remember that day but I certainly will. It was tense and I argued with my husband all for the sake of the perfect picture! Four months later we decide to have family pictures taken. The day of I could feel that anxiety rising in me and I had to tame it. I remembered how awful the past photo events were and I didn’t want to relive that.

So we were outside along the lakes close to our Governor’s Mansion sitting in the grass as a family. The photographer and his assistant tried, and tried, and tired to get our daughter to smile but she just wouldn’t budge. She wasn’t the least bit interested in having her picture taken or playing along with these unnecessary games as she saw it. She wanted to feed the ducks and play in the leaves. She wanted to be held my her daddy and see the edge of the water. Do I really need to force this? Is this “perfect” picture really that important? What is the perfect picture anyway?

So, $203 later and I have an 8×10 of my family with a daughter who will not smile, a husband who is craning his neck which makes it look like his one chin multiplied into three, and me, who looks just plain tired. But you know what? This is our family. It may not be a perfect picture, but to me it is the perfect family and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Is it just me? This idea of the perfect image of the perfect life…I don’t get it. Life is not perfect. It’s messy, complicated, and not everyone smiles. I’m working on remembering that each day…it’s really not what the picture looks like in the end…it’s who’s in it and the memories you make taking it.

Happy Mothering!

Melanie