Late last night I got a phone call from my daughter. She was upset about something that happened at school. I was reminded of how many times my own first instinct was to grab the phone and call my own mom or sister in times I was feeling frustrated or troubled. We all need a tribe. We need to know there is someone on the other end of the phone line waiting to pick up in our time of need.
Today, be the calm in someone’s storm and the sane in someone’s crazy. Be there for the people who need you and trust that when the time comes, someone will be there for you too. Be an an anchor. Be a rock. Be a soft place to fall. Be the difference.
I saw this meme a few weeks ago and was reminded of it last night. I was trying to sleep but I could feel that old, familiar anxiety that shakes me just enough to keep me awake at night. The storm was brewing outside and the crack of thunder nearly made me jump out of my skin. I didn’t realize how on edge I was until I noticed the storm inside of me was much larger than the one going on outside my window. Sometimes anxiety strikes at the oddest moments. I had been a difficult week with me being a continuous advocate for my son at school. My daughter had her last and most important swim meet of her senior year and I was trying to remain calm underneath the palpable chaos. The stronger and louder the noise became outside, the more I felt at ease. I had no idea the storm inside of me was so great until I could compare it with the one blowing hail up against my window. Calm down Kim, I thought to myself. Feeling anxious cannot become your new norm. I took a few deep breaths and let the sound of the rain falling on the house slowly put me at peace. It’s so important to check in with yourself from time to time and put down what isn’t yours to carry. When you become accustomed to carrying more than your share, you forget the relief you feel when your hands are finally free. That was my last thought before I finally drifted off to sleep.
I went for my usual two mile walk around the track this afternoon. As I watched the children play on the gym floor, I noticed a theme I couldn’t ignore. One little boy was pointing his finger at another boys face while talking at him. His voice was loud and he snapped his head in unison with every word. There was a little girl hanging on the YMCA worker and hitting him in the head with what looked like a stick. Another little girl was dragging her friend around by the arm forcing her to do what she wanted to do. Those innocent kids are modeling the same behavior I see each and everyday. My heart hurt as I faced the reality of what we have become. The anger, the forcefulness, the tone, the volume and body language could be summed up in one single word. Aggressiveness. I used to think people were like cream puffs. They looked good on the outside but the sweetness, the elegance, the depth was on the inside. It was amazing to get to know someone and discover the beauty that was hidden inside. I don’t have any desire for cream puffs anymore. After so many sour ones, my willingness to take a chance on another has faded with every angry word, the constant resistance to be civil toward one another and refusal to respect anyone who thinks different than we do. It’s a silly analogy but it makes the point. We have to be softer and allow our gentleness a chance to have a voice. We have to speak quietly so people will lean in closer to hear what we have to say. We have to be sweeter and less violent in our tone and words with one another. The evidence was right there in those small children and my heart hurt as I realized what poor role models we have been. They deserve better. We all do. I vow to be the change.
My daughter loves to sing. Not the soft, beautiful singing that soothes your soul but rather hard on the ears, top of your lungs, screeching with passion kind of singing. My ears actually hurt as she belted out her favorite Frozen tune. Let it Go she bellowed through the house. Immediately I softened. I realized, in that moment, that soon my house would grow eerily quiet. Not the kind of silence I would welcome but one that would remind me how empty the house will be. Next year during this time she will be off to college and I will be longing for her to return for Christmas break. It’s easy to lose track of time and what’s important. There are days my life flashes in front of my eyes and I ache for the certainty of what once was. I picture her chubby little face, messy pigtails and sweet little Barney songs. I miss her crawling in my lap or in the tub everytime I would take a bath. I miss her big, brown, sparkly eyes and the wonder each time she would discover something new. Her eyes are more serious now but I am grateful for her playful spirit. She has fallen down a few times but is still brave enough to run full speed ahead. She is unafraid and confident and fully engaged in every moment. I pray that never changes.
Today, look around you and really see your blessings. Enjoy every person and every moment and remember that we can never know what tomorrow may bring. I know this holiday season is bitter sweet. This is the last year that the only normal I have ever known will only exist for a few months more. Today I will look a little longer, love a whole lot deeper and feel the gratitude in my heart. Today I will not take anything for granted. I long to hold onto her just a moment longer.
Teenagers. Need I say more. The first day I held my my babies in my arms I knew my life would never be the same. Here were these perfect packages of love all bundled up and counting on me to keep them safe. I didn’t know much about parenting then. I knew I had to muddle my way through until I finally figured out a plan. Certainly I would figure this mom thing out because like it or not, these tiny babies didn’t come with instructions. There was no transitional period. A baby was born and I became mom.There were no guidelines or anyone to tell me a sure fire plan to raise a happy, healthy, super kid. Sure there were people who offered suggestions that followed a hint of the theme I was doing something wrong. These days I feel everything I do is wrong. Sometimes I say things that later near drown me with pain and regret. Some days I’m so distracted that I forget to listen. Some days my cape falls off and I’m reminded I am only human. I right every wrong or fix everything that is broken. I can’t be who everyone needs me to be or pretend I’m someone who I’m just not. Sometimes my mom is broken. It can’t be fixed with a bandaid or a trip to the spa. Sometimes I need a good cry or a long walk or some space to breath without feeling the need to apologize for my own needs. Sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s okay not to be perfect and that each day is a new day to wake up and try again. So how do I parent when my mom is broken? The best way I can and somehow I have to make peace with myself that somehow that will be enough.
Sometimes I feel like a lousy parent. The older my kids get, the less I am their model to follow. I look at what’s happening in the world and the parallel with my own children. I watch this laziness among people and no attempt to even try and meet expected deadlines. I watch them spin the truth and deceive me by leading me to believe something when they know darn well it isn’t true. I watch them not hand work into school on time and not care because there are no consequences. Worst of all, I see a lack of fear. I watch the wrong doing of several influential individuals who escape accountability and consequences an entire lifetime. I watch media spin opinions into the truth they want me to believe when I know darn right well it isn’t true. I watch teachers not follow my sons 504 and then threaten and intimidate me when I call them out. I watch the system of checks and balance not follow up on a complaint of discrimination against a school who for all sense and purposes blatantly did not follow the law. I watch people disrespect cops and ignore their orders and wonder why they get shot. I watch a few cops shoot to kill and I wonder why they couldn’t shoot to wound. The world is spinning out of control and I am so dizzy I can barely breathe. I witness people I have known an entire lifetime call each other names and accuse each other of horrible things because they commit to voting for a certain candidate. I watch people pick and choose what is okay and what is not based on who the person is. I watch double standards and people acting in the same manner they claim to abhor. I watch people spread hate and contempt, the very people who accuse others but turn around and do the same. I feel my heart break as I see the way we treat one another and at the same time feel no remorse. I watch us judge and label and humiliate and my heart breaks a little more. Sometimes I sit down long enough and it all catches up and I need to take a minute to just breathe. I need to repeat the serenity prayer and believe that I have to find a way to let go of what I cannot change and continue to change the things I can. I have to choose to see good in people and everything around me and remember I do the best I can and I have no control over the rest. I cannot carry the weight of the world but I have to always be prepared to carry my own share. Some days are just harder than others. Some days I need encouragement so my own cup is full. Some days I need to say what’s on my mind and not be afraid. Some days I just need to step back and take a little break. Today is one of those days.
One of the toughest challenges I’ve had as a parent is not falling into the trap of pushing my kids to do it all. When you say yes to everything and anything kids think they want to do, life can quickly spiral out of control. I have one kid who likes to participate in everything and one who doesn’t seem to be part of anything. Both are equally frustrating. The one who is overly excited to do it all has probably been more of a challenge. I really believe encouraging her to do it all and push herself to exhaustion is negligent on my part. Instead I’ve made her make some difficult choices because the older I get, the more I realize how important balance really is. We’ve had the conversation, I get you want to play volleyball and swim but I’m sorry you will have to choose. To those parents who take pity on themselves for their never ending schedule of ridiculous things to do, I say shame on you. Life is about making choices, hard choices and knowing limitations is a skill that will always come in handy. If you are yessing your kids to death at your own expense both financially and physically, at what point to do you look yourself in the mirror and ask, “what am I trying to prove?” How can parents go night after night until the time kids go to bed running from one activity to another not for just one but sometimes three and four kids. They don’t play one sport anymore they play three. Or they play one sport but on two or three teams. When do these kids actually get to rest and take a break? Often parents use the excuse that their kids get bored when they have a night at home with nothing to do. Try playing a game or going on a family walk or encouraging one to relax and breathe. We are under this silly notion that our day should be jam packed with endless places to go and things to do. Newsflash, that is not living at all. Nothing is really okay sometimes, quiet can be really good. Who can live in the moment when you are rushing to get from one to the next? Bottom line is there comes a time when you need to accept that more is sometimes too damn much and sometimes less really is more. Teach balance and discipline and how to make choices. Maybe that should be a subject in school these days because we seem to be failing our children at home when it comes to these lessons. Do what you love and love what you do but find a healthy balance. Rant over.