The Juggling Act

super_mom

Looking at this oddly overwhelming drawing whenever I’m feeling overwhelmed somehow makes me feel better. I found it years ago, and, sadly, I can’t seem to find it again to properly credit the artist. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, this one tells quite a story about everyday life as an adult – a perpetual balancing act of everything that’s important. So many balls in the air, and the consequences of letting any of them fall can be great. Yet, somehow, we manage to do it – and not just survive, but often thrive. We grow, we grow people, we help them grow.

My oldest son told me the other day that he didn’t want to grow up (but he still wanted to have birthdays, mind you!) When I asked him why, he said ’cause grown ups didn’t get to have any fun anymore. I, of course, told him that wasn’t true and reminded him of all the fun things we have done together. But it’s not just pictures that speak louder than words. Actions do too. And somehow, my actions are portraying life as boring, busy, and work filled. All work and no play makes Jane a dull girl.

His declaration got me thinking. I admire people whose enjoyment of life is evident. Who wear joy on their sleeves like a beautiful accessory and brighten every room they walk into. I’m not talking about the fun or thrill seeking type, who shirk responsibility and look down their noses at anyone who chooses to tie themselves down with it. Don’t get me started on those people. I mean the people who manage to do the daily juggling act, and make it look fun. Because it is fun after all. Not each individual piece of it, but as whole picture, it is. And when I see something I admire about someone else, but don’t see it in myself, I have some work to do. I need to do better about not sweating the small stuff. Occasionally letting the little balls fall so that I can keep the big ones up. And showing my son that this juggling act of life, even as a grown up, can be a lot of fun. Who’s with me?

For Now…

In the future, my boys might roll their eyes in embarrassment if I try to kiss them goodbye. For now, Owen clings to me, begging me not to leave and Aiden hugs my neck and whispers in my ear, “When you come back, I want to hold you. And you’re the best Mama in the world.” I will not let the rush of life in the morning rob me of these treasures.

10476063_10154517600145015_5097624618393217751_o

In the future, I may be able to say goodnight from across the room – may even be lucky enough to get a hug or a kiss, before my boys retire to their rooms to do whatever teenage boys do before finally going to sleep. For now, I will not begrudge the long, loud bubble baths, the need to clip 40 nails that are not my own while making a game of counting the clips, the endless re-readings of the same favorite stories, the stalling for water or covers or deep meaningful questions at the door because they just don’t want me to leave, or the sweet nothings they call out before I go, “I love you! I’ll miss you while I sleep! When I wake up, I wanna hold you! I love you more!”

1780700_10153902983170015_104766073_n

In the future, when everyone has their own schedules and responsibilities and friends, I may have a quiet dinner alone. For now, I will happily cook as many meals as possible for us to eat as a family even if it means the cycle of dishes is unending, the process of getting every bite into my two-year-old’s mouth is a battle of wits and wills, the milk is always spilled, my food is always cold and up for grabs, the floor is always sticky, and chaos envelops us. I will long for the chaos later, so I will not wish it away today.

1623563_10153881078960015_610147435_n

In the future, my boys may fall down and get right back up because they’re too big to cry over scraped needs or hurt feelings. For now, I will gladly provide the kiss that makes it all better, the snuggle that makes the hurt go away, the reassurance that time heals all wounds. Because when the wounds are far more complicated, I want them to know that I am a safe place to come for comfort.

1538876_10154037938365015_4956990202289344729_n

In the future, going out with my husband alone, rather than taking an act of congress and a financial benefactor to accomplish, might be as easy as walking out the door. For now, I will cherish the few-and-far-between dates because their scarcity makes them more special and the thought and planning that went into making them happen will be missed when replaced with the casual, “You wanna go out somewhere tonight?”

10257627_10154638072305015_2298453261912513914_o

In the future, I may have all the time I want or need to write that article that will finally get me noticed or publish that book that’s on my bucket list. For now, the lives I am helping to build that demand so much of my time, are molding me into a person with a perspective worth noticing. I will not resent the delay because, “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – John Lennon

Allowing Our Children To Cry

A few months back, I had a conversation with my 5-year-old son that was so tender, sensitive and mature that it made me both extremely proud of the person he is becoming and rather humbled by the fresh awareness it gave me of the awesome responsibility of raising a healthy, balanced human being.

It happened back when we were still in the throes of what I can only hope will be our most difficult move. We were stuck in Jackson trying to sell the house and pack up for the move. Daddy had been gone in Austin for nearly 3 months and, although Aiden was old enough to understand somewhat, he still hadn’t developed the right boxes with which to categorize his emotions. I know he felt abandoned, confused, angry, sad – all mixed in with his normal everyday happy. The world around him, as he’d always known it, was changing. Everything familiar that he loved was being crammed into boxes and stacked against walls. His preschool year was over and he was transferred, temporarily to a new day care until the house sold. His Mama, who was his lifeline, was stressed out of her mind and barely holding it together. And our daily face time conversations with Daddy, although important for maintaining connection, only seemed to dredge up these emotions and bring them to the surface. Sometimes he was so excited to tell Daddy something about his day, only to see his face and clam up and withdraw.

It was after one such conversation that Aiden disappeared into his room. Being somewhat introverted, he often does this to take some time to himself. But when I checked on him a little while later, he was crying. I went to him and quietly scooped him into my arms. He weightily sank into the embrace and shook as he cried. It took everything in me not to try, again, to “fix” it and tell him all the reasons it was really okay and he didn’t need to be sad and… blah… blah… blah. But I held my tongue and held my son and let him cry. Then, without someone talking over his emotions, or trying to explain them away, he filled the silence himself -

Aiden: “Hey, Mama, sometimes when I’m sad, I just go to my room and close the door really quiet so no one will hear and climb in my bed with a toy. And I just cry while I hold the toy.”
Me: “Does that help you feel better?”
Aiden: “No.”
Me: “Does it help you feel better to hold me instead of a toy?”
Aiden (nodding meekly): “A little. But sometimes I still feel sad.”
Me: “That’s okay, buddy. It’s okay to feel sad and to cry. And it’s okay to need help working through it. You just have to ask me and I will hold you while you cry. And if you don’t want to talk about it, just tell me and I will hold you quietly.”
Aiden: “Okay…   Hey, Mama…   I love you.”
Me: “I love you too sweet man!”

Sometimes kids just need to cry and know that it is okay – that they are still loved and accepted.

One of the most achingly poignant parts of this conversation was the revelation that he tries to hide when he’s sad, closing the door really quietly so no one will hear him. But, craving embrace, he holds a toy, which he readily admitted doesn’t help. How often do we, as parents, label every emotion that our kids can’t control as “bad”? Every episode of crying as a “fit”? Every poor expression of frustration as a “tantrum”? And our response to these immature expressions of emotion is, too often, to send them to their rooms to deal with it… alone. There is better way. We need to teach them that what they’re feeling is okay, that we understand it even if we don’t like its expression, and that there are healthier ways to express even the worst emotions. That it is okay to take time to yourself if you want it, but it is also okay to ask to be held and even to ask that we not talk about it if crying quietly in the safety of love is all you need in that moment. In this way, we will avoid teaching our children to bottle up emotions, seal them tightly with a cork, and wait for the pressure to get so great that it one day explodes. I have experienced the explosion, and I’d rather not lead my children down that road.

I am so thankful for a son who teaches me how to be a good mother while I teach him how to be a good man. I will always cherish this conversation.

10565043_10154426732130220_2286420240920110366_n

Photo taken by Aiden’s Aunt Gigi, aka Jenniffer Allgaier

First Day of School – The Battle of Heart vs. Head

How is it that the first day of school can be such a dichotomy of emotions – at the same time completely hope filled and completely anxiety ridden? Although my first-time kindergartener and first-time preschooler shed no tears today when they were dropped off in their strange new worlds, ready to take on whatever challenges awaited them, their Mama sure did! The moment I had them safely and happily deposited in their classrooms and I was alone in the car, I burst into tears. My brain, which was sure of their safety and convinced they were in the best place for their growth and development, fought with my heart, which seemed determined to dredge up images of tiny fists grabbing single fingers for security and tiny eyes looking up into mine with complete trust while nursing in the night and tiny feet taking first steps. Who can compete with those images? So of course, my heart won the fight and my head surrendered briefly to the tears. Briefly. And then it took up arms again and reminded me that this is what it’s all about! Parenting is about raising independent, strong-minded individuals. It is about sending them out into the world to have experiences all their own and believing that the values you’re instilling in them will carry them through. It is as much about trusting them when you know they are capable as it is about them trusting you to help make them so. And as pride began to win the fight against pining, I was reminded, once more, of the importance of seizing the moment – living in it and experiencing it to its fullest – and not waiting until it’s gone to fully appreciate its worth. Today was one small step for little boys, one giant leap in the journey of motherhood.

First day of school

The Mama Workout

Every now and then, someone asks me if I exercise regularly in order to maintain my girlish figure (HA!). This question does not usually come from a mother of small boys. She would not ask such a question because she knows. For those of you who aren’t in the know, here’s a small sampling of my daily “exercise routine” at the gym… er… house:

Stair-stepper: 50 reps up, 50 reps down (at least)

skateboarding-stick-figure-hi

Weight lifting: 30 to 40 lb dead-lifts (of the boy variety) – 50 reps (on a slow day)

Lifting

Leg Presses: 30 to 40 lb weights (of the boy variety) – 30 reps (did I mention PER BOY!)

images

Cardio (Including, but not limited to):

  • Running (aka chasing)
  • Aerobics (aka bending, twisting, lifting (of the non-boy variety such as laundry, toys, books, etc.))

screenshot-2014-01-03-14-40-47

  • Wrestling (aka superhero play, or any play with boys)

Wrestling

Keep in mind, this is only a sampling of my workout routine, which varies a great deal from day to day, but is never less rigorous than what I’ve described. So the next time you look at someone and think to yourself, “How does she stay in shape? She doesn’t even exercise!” Think again! If the “she” in question is a mama, she may not go to the gym or yoga class or out on the trails, but she MOST DEFINITELY exercises.