Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Popped Balloons

As a parent, I believe it's a natural instinct to want to fix problems.  At least it is for me.  Even after three kids, I jump up when one of them falls down.  I hate to hear them cry.  It actually feels like someone is squeezing my heart.  Like it will just shrivel and dissolve in my chest.  It doesn't even matter if they're crying because they're bratty.  And believe me, I can recognize bratty.  The problem is that they are genuinely hurting, no matter the reason - even a bratty one, and that hurts me.

I have to make a conscious effort to not fix things for my kids.  To not do everything for my kids.  Ideally, my kids stay where they are forever and ever, never grow up, and never leave home.  Ideally.

Realistically, they grow up and need to be functioning, independent, reliant, adults.  They leave us and start their own lives.  That's the way of the world, right?  As much as we'd like to shelter and protect and fix...eventually, we won't be here.  It is natural that a child leaves his/her parent to start his/her own family.  It is natural that I will leave this world before my children.  So as much as I want to take care of them now, I need to know that at that time, they will be okay.

I am not a stranger to disappointment.  This is not an "oh poor me" statement.  It is a fact.  I was shown how to be independent and self reliant.  My parents didn't do everything, they didn't fix everything.  I actually think these things go hand in hand.  If you're never disappointed, you never learn to fix/adjust, you are forever dependent on someone.  I think it's just the way my generation was raised.  And the generation before that and before that and before that...

Until now.

The other day, Ainsley went to a birthday party.  She was particularly tired.  It's been a crazy summer.  Different activities every week.  Late nights.  Full weekends.  She got a balloon as she left.  It popped the moment we walked outside and she dropped it to the ground.  She burst into tears.  I literally took two steps towards the door to get another.  I stopped.  I knelt down and said "Ainsley, balloons pop.  It's a fact of life.  I'm sorry you're sad, but it's the way it is.  Let's go."

She nodded and cried a bit more, but was over it by the time we were driving away.  So is it natural that my immediate response was to fix the problem?  A very silly problem.  A problem that wasn't actually a problem at all.  The less balloons in my house, the better.  Was it natural because I'm a mother and I don't like to see my child upset?  Or was it natural because every where we look these days a parent, a school, a teacher, a government, a leveling the playing field.  Telling everyone that you're all the same, and everything's fair, and everyone deserves anything they want.

You're not good at math?  Well of course you are, here let's make it easier.
Your closet's too small?  Okay, let me bust down this wall and make it bigger.
The other team won?  Oh no, that's not more scoring.
You're offended by the word bossy?  Well, that word no longer exists.
Someone teased you?  BULLY!!!!!!! SUSPEND HIM! LOCK HIM UP!

As much as it hurts me to see them hurt, I want my kids to lose.  I want someone to pick on them.  I want someone to break their hearts.  I want them to flunk tests.  I want them to get rejected from a school/job/team/audition.  Because if none of that ever happens, and they go through life with everything being easy and handed to them, then aren't those good things lessened?  Why is winning awesome?  Because you know what it feels like to lose.  Why can friends be lifesavers?  Because you know what it feels like to be lonely.  Why is falling in love and getting married and having babies the best thing that can happen to a person?  Because a broken heart sucks.

You can't have joy without sorrow.  Happiness can not exist without sadness.  That feeling you get when you laugh so hard you can't breath, the one where the rumble of laughter consumes your whole chest and belly.  You can't have that if you haven't also been overtaken with breathless tears.

I want my kids to love what they earn.  To be proud of themselves for an accomplishment.  And I want it to be their accomplishment.  Not mine.  If it's me handing them the toys and cars and clothes, if it's me working the math problems and writing the papers, if it's me picking up their dirty clothes and putting away toys - without any effort on their part - they'll never understand that feeling.  You know the one.  That feeling that makes you beam.  That feeling that you, just you, actually did something that was hard and challenging.  Sure it might suck in the now.  It might be the hardest thing to get through.  But that feeling when you get the reward, nothing beats that.  And to deprive my children of that?  That would make me a really bad parent.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Sweet Girl

Dear Ainsley,

Long before I ever had children, or even considered being a mom, I figured I'd have girls.  Three or four sweet little girls.  Sisters...all close in age so they could grow up the best of friends.

Well, the universe has a way of throwing your grand plans in your face and saying "NO WAY!"  Somehow, the universe always seems to know what is best.

So instead of three little girls in matching bows and dresses, I got you and two little boys.

If you would have told me this 10 years ago, before I had a chance to experience any of you, I probably would have cried.

I couldn't have known that the first baby the universe sent me would be the perfect little girl for me and there would just never be a way to top her.  Now when I think about having another little girl, it seems so strange.  You really are so perfect, how could any other girl compare?

All the things I like about myself are in you tenfold.  I try to be sweet and kind and caring.  I try to be brave and creative.  I try to be strong and confident.

You are all of those things on steroids.

This year you went to first grade.  You lost your first tooth.  You learned to read, to write.  You've learned some Spanish.  You can add and subtract.  You know about tree parts and bird species.  You've made best friends.  You joined Daisy scouts and became a Brownie.  You cut your hair off because you wanted it that way, and now you've decided to grow it out.  You learned to tie your shoes.  You learned to whistle.  You played soccer and loved it.  You gave up dance.  You know every word to every Frozen song, but really...this year it wasn't Frozen that you fell in love with, but Star Wars and Princess Leia and Queen Amidala.  You started calling us Mom and Dad...but most of the time it's still Mommy and Daddy. 

My favorite thing about you is the excitement in your eyes over everything.  You just love life and all that comes with it.  I hope you never loose that.

Six was an awesome year, but I think seven will be even better.

Happy Birthday Ainsley Bug, we love you!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ignorance is Blissful

Sometimes I like to think back to simpler days.  Back before I had kids, before I thought about getting pregnant, before I bought a house, before I got engaged.  I was so uninformed back then.  It was so freaking AWESOME!!

Because now?  Well, now I am so very much informed about everything that at times I'm sure I am sentencing my family, my dogs, society to certain and cruel death.

I am informed about everything.  I know bunches of stuff about GMO's and the non-GMO project.  I know about organics, about the dirty dozen and the clean sixteen.  I know that maybe, just maybe, sunscreen and vitamin D deficiency cause skin cancer and not the sun.  I know that Deet is bad.  I know that toothpaste and deodorant are poisonous.  I know that plastic is quite possibly the most evil invention ever.

My brain is overloaded with the information on how to stay healthy.  I know how we should eat, I know what we should use to groom and clean ourselves, I know where we should shop.  I know all this stuff.  There is just one teensy, little problem with all this information.  I absolutely, positively, do not have the time to execute it all.

I get it.  The world has become one of convenience.  It has to be for me.  My world begins at 5 am and doesn't stop until 11 pm.  The two grown ups in my world, work and commute 9ish hours a day.  The three little people are shuttled around to different locations depending on the week.  Back before anyone knew what GMOs were, when my grandmother grew her own garden and canned her own veggies, when barely anything was plastic, when West Nile Virus was something that obviously only happened on the west bank of the was a little slower.  Not saying it was easier, just slower and simpler.

I am aware that when it comes to food and household products, the more you can do on your own, the better it is for you.  The fact is...there aren't enough hours.  I can barely find the time to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich...let alone bake the bread, jar the jam, and mash the peanuts.  It's pretty tough to cram the farmer's market into a Saturday morning when you also have soccer games and birthday parties and all other errands to run.

Last year I made a small more granola bars.  I would not buy another granola bar.  All that sugar, all those additives parading around as a healthy snack.  I would just make my own.  I have tons of recipes with zero sugar.  And really, it's not a huge undertaking.  However, when it's Sunday evening and I haven't started because we've been running around fitting all of our errands and house cleaning and fun family time into 2 days because fat chance any of that is happening during the week, it is a huge pain in my ass.  Those nights I'm staying up past 11 to get it done.  I've stuck to my commitment, but I've definitely lost a few hours of sleep over it.

My newest obsession is sun block and vitamin D deficiency.  I have a recipe for making my own sun block.  I've had it for over a month, still haven't made it.  So instead I lay out the big bucks for the organic, chemical free stuff.  And I've started letting my kids get a bit of un-sunscreened outside time.  But seriously?  My kids are blond, blue eyed, fair skinned babies.  I can't, in good conscience, let them get sun burned...and they will burn.  They will.  I don't care what you tell me about tanning diets or essential oils or anything.  They will burn and it will hurt and I can not believe that a burn is good for them.

I yearn for the carefree stupid days.  The days when I didn't google how to naturally remove ants from my smoke detector, when I just bought a can of Raid and sprayed those little effers until they curled up and died.  I long for the days when I just bought milk, the cheapest milk I could find, and didn't worry about added hormones and if my 6 year old's nose pimple was because of the rBGH in some string cheese I bought because I can not afford organic dairy.  I miss the time when I thought the most awesome invention ever was the aerosol sunscreen.  Spray that on and no lotion hands and it worked.  No burning.  Who cares about what you're breathing or if it contains hormone disrupting chemicals like Oxybenzone?

But you can't unlearn it.  You can't become re-blind to it.  So I will just try and manage my panic attacks over genetically modified corn and BPA in plastics.  I will just do my best and try to remember that there's always something.  Even when Grandma was making jam on the back porch, I'm sure there was something out there that had her worried for her children, worried for the world.  Probably the bugs eating her cabbage leaves, but I'm sure she had some nice pesticides to take care of that ;)
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