Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Losing It...

I’ve been in one of the longest writing slumps of my life. I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve blogged!
I was doing everything I could to find a way out of my intense case of writers block. And who knew that Erma herself would pull me out and save me?
I own a good chunk of Erma’s works, and I read them from time to time. This last week, I was reading “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank” and that’s when I saw the inspiration I needed.
Right on page 152. Here it is…
“Kids go all through their lives learning how to win, but no one ever teaches them how to lose.
… Just think about it. Most kids don’t know how to handle defeat. They fall apart. It’s important to know how to lose because you do a lot of it when you grow up. You have to have perspective- how to know what is important to lose and what isn’t important.” –Erma Bombeck

See, the reason this inspired me so much and brought me out of my writing slump is easy.
We just went through this recently.
Amy decided on her own that she was going to enter the talent show at our community fair. For an 11 year old girl, in the midst of changing and growing up, I thought this was an especially bold move. I have not pushed the kids to do activities they aren’t interested in, so when she got the paperwork to get her entered into the contest, I knew she meant business.
And she practiced and practiced her song. I will forever have the lyrics to “Undo It” by Carrie Underwood burned into my brain because I heard it for 10 days straight. But here’s the thing. I knew my daughter was doing an excellent job. But there are other kids out there who also were going to do an excellent job. And there are only so many winning slots. It’s not that my daughter COULDN’T win, it’s that we didn’t know if she would. You never know what can happen in situations like these.
So before the big show, we talked about it.
“You realize,” I told her, “it’s not often that you will win something like this on your first try.” It’s not that I don’t believe in you, but I want you to be ok if you don’t win.”
And my sweet mature daughter (whom I can no longer call my little girl) understood. “I just want to try it to see what it’s like. I’ll just do my best and we will see what happens.”
The night of the talent show, we did her hair and makeup, got her in her new dress, and headed to the fairgrounds. She was nervous, but if you didn’t know her like we do, you wouldn’t have a clue she was sweating bullets. On the outside, she was calm as a cucumber.
Her song was number 6 in the order of things.
And the girl who was going first? She was singing the same song as Amy.
Now, I’m not going to say that the girl butchered the song or anything. She did a fine job. But I knew that if Amy really let loose, she would knock that song out of the park.
The contest kept going (including a 5 year old boy who did the thriller dance, which was a crowd favorite) and finally it was Amy’s turn.
She took the stage with grace and poise. And as her song began, I saw something amazing.
I saw a young woman pouring out her soul on-stage. She was really telling the story of the song. Her emotions matched the intensity of the song. She was performing with such passion, and doing it in front of about 400 people with 370 of them being perfect strangers. It didn’t matter to her that the same song had already been sung once that night. The song now belonged to her, and no one was going to deny her that. She owned it.
How I wanted her to win! My entire heart ached for her to place somewhere in the competition. Just something to encourage her to continue on this journey of performance. It’s her gift, and while it’s raw and untrained at this point, I know that given the right opportunities she will one day bring a stadium of people to their feet in uproarious applause. I could see it, but more importantly, I could see how much she enjoyed it.
We waited for the contest to come to the judging portion. And as the judges deliberated, I prayed with all my might. “Let her place. Let her place.”
But when the names were called of the winners, Amy wasn’t one of them. (Neither was the girl who sang the same song.) She didn’t place, she didn’t win.
As a mother who wants nothing for the best for her babies, my heart broke for her. For a moment I realized one of the hardest things for a parent is to watch your child lose at something that’s important to them.
As Amy came up to the grandstands where her family and friends were all waiting for her, we saw the other girl. Same song girl. And she was throwing a FIT. Bawling her eyes out and carrying on like someone had just killed her puppy. Loudly yelling “It’s NOT FAIR!”

Yet Amy just carried her head high, with a genuine smile on her face, and said to all of us, “Well, that was fun! And now I got the first one out of the way! I’ll be ready next year!”
My heart did a complete 360, going from broken up for her to being so proud of her I could hardly speak!
Because I discovered that one of the hardest things for a parent is to watch your child lose at something that’s important to them, and see them be a sore loser.
For the rest of the night, Amy laughed and joked and proved that she wasn’t just putting on a brave face in front of the crowds. Sure, she was a little disappointed, but it wasn’t going to ruin her night.
I’ve got to tell you, I have never seen a more beautiful loser than her- which in my book makes her a winner to the million factor.
And we are already looking for songs to sing next year…

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Objective of Parenting


Perhaps some parents want children to carry on a family name.
Others want kids so they can live out their dreams vicariously.
Or maybe it's nothing more than a genetic code inside us to keep the human race afloat.
I honestly don’t know WHY I want my kids. But the fact remains clear.
I would be lost without them.
Let’s not mince words- I would have nicer items in my house if they were gone, and my once cherished treasures wouldn’t be superglued and duct taped together. I’d have a couch without stains, and could probably save a small forest from being turned into toilet paper.
But my house would be empty and silent. And I wouldn’t like that at all.
I could afford to drive a better car, wouldn’t have to drive a passenger van to haul all their stuff, and could choose music that wasn’t produced by Disney.
But I’d miss the sound of their voices fighting in the van.
I wouldn’t have to break up sibling revolts, would only have to do 3 loads of laundry a week, and wouldn’t find a dead frog in the bottom of my washer that was left in the pockets of somebody’s shorts.
But I wouldn’t know how to fill my days without the chores they so generously provide.
I would only have to cut 20 finger and toe nails instead of 80 and do it without needing goggles from rouge flying toenail bits, I wouldn’t have to figure out how in the world a piece of sticky foam wound up on the ceiling, and there would never be an egg shell stuck to my kitchen curtain.

But then I wouldn’t have memories to look back on and laugh about.
I wouldn’t have to deal with selfish moments, when a child insists they are the center of the universe, and I have to burst that bubble as gently as I can. I wouldn’t have to worry that their hearts are going to be broken by another person. I wouldn’t have to fear that someone will hurt the kids I sometimes have to tune out for my own sanity’s sake.
But in those moments, powerless as a mother, I have learned more about myself than I ever knew without having them in my life.
I wouldn’t have boobs that are 3 feet long from nursing, stretch marks on body parts I didn’t know would stretch, or perpetual hemorrhoids. I wouldn’t have a bladder that can’t handle sneezing, coughing, laughing, or being surprised.
But I also would have missed the feeling of seeing such precious faces for the first time and knowing I was more complete as a human.
I wouldn’t have to explain to you that even though you are the most precious people on earth to mama and daddy, that the rest of the world doesn’t feel that way about you. Being special in the world is something you have to earn.
But then I’d never know how special a family really is.
So what is the objective of having kids?
I don’t know. Having kids certainly has made me a more objective person.
I’ve had to make tough choices that will make their lives better in the long run. I’ve had to give up the fantasy that I will be my children’s friend, and concentrate on simply being their parent. I’ve had to learn that allowing a child to be comfortable seldom builds character. I have gained a new appreciation for other parents who shake their heads in sympathy when I explain the latest phases we are encountering. I’ve learned that above all else, it is my responsibility to bring up productive members of society who have compassion on humanity, and had to accept that humanity they are compassionate to does not include your brother or sister when you are a kid.
I’ve had to accept that as a parent I will never be perfect. I will make mistakes, fall short, and sometimes, have to ask forgiveness from my kids. I’ve learned being a parent often has you apologizing to other people because your child made an unwise choice. And I’ve embraced that kids aren’t going to be perfect, no matter how great of a parent you are. Your kids will make mistakes, and it doesn’t devalue your worth as a parent. Instead, it offers you a multitude of teaching moments, and you and your child can develop trust in your relationship together.
Being a parent is saying no a million times. It’s saying yes on occasion from nothing short of desperation for a moment’s peace. It’s kissing your money goodbye to keep them in shoes, clothes and paying for school lunches that they despise you for making them eat. It’s spending an hour cooking dinner and calling it a win when 60% of the kids actually like what you made.
It’s admitting that parenting is the hardest job in the world, and finding ways to enjoy it. It’s coming to terms that there is no such thing as a vacation for a parent’s heart. It’s talking about nothing but your kids on date night when you are finally alone. Parenting is spending HOURS of your life talking to someone about how you are raising them- questioning everything and wondering if you are a good parent.
So what is the objective of parenting?
I don’t know. But my mom tells me it has something to do with sugaring up the grandkids and sending them back home to their parents…

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


So here it is. My first post on my new blog about motherhood.

I've been waiting for a very special story to post on my blog that references my alter-ego, Erma Bombeck. Even as I read her writings from the 1960's, the timelessness of motherhood remains unchanged. The styles of clothing may have changed, but the heart of a mother has not.

So you can imagine my HORROR and fear when I saw this.

Yep, that is an empty vitamin bottle.

Which previously was only 3/4ths empty.

Because my darling almost 9 year old son, Marker Man, decided they were declicious AND nutritious.

And ate them like candy.

Never mind that he had already been instructed to stop eating everything in sight. Never mind mama had had one heckuva day and was already emotionally wrung through the ringer.

Nope, my little man ignored his common sense and ate the remains of the bottle, sneaking them one or two at a time until they were gone.

So the conversation pretty much went down like this.

Mama: Where did the rest of the vitamins go?

Tweenage girl 1: I didn't eat them.

Tweenage girl 2: It wasn't me.

Marker Man: ...

Mama: Did you pour them out somewhere?

Marker Man (looking anywhere but at his mama): ...

Mama (starting to panic): You didn't EAT the rest of these did you?

Marker Man: ... (taking a deep breath) Am I in trouble?