How Not To

I’ve been processing this post for weeks, and debated whether to write it or just let it lay in my head and on my heart. But the words keep fighting to get out, so here it goes. I’m going to preface this with a word to my Princess……Please know I am not judging or disagreeing with your decision to try new and different things. Now is the time to explore and experience. Just know these words come from my viewpoint, my experience as a mom, as your mom….

When I found out I was having a baby girl, I was fairly sure I was going to put her in dance and/or gymnastics at some point. Whether it ever stuck or not would be up to her, and I would never force the issue if she straight-up hated it. But I knew we would try it out.  Before she was even born, I imagined her vaulting, swinging on the bars, and in a pink tutu and tights. When she was three, she started a Saturday morning combo class which covered ballet, tap, and a little bit of tumbling. It was adorable. She was adorable. Seriously though, I needed something girlie going on in our lives, outnumbered by men in our house. She made it through one year, and had her first recital when she was four. It was precious, and everything I’d hoped for.

We took the summer away from the studio, and when fall rolled around, I asked her if she wanted to dance again. She gave me a firm yes, so back we went to that Saturday morning class. That year, we met and made friends with another family whose oldest daughter was in class with the Princess. They’re still dancing together. That year, they did a tap routine for recital. I got used to doing the recital hair and makeup, to dress rehearsals, and buying flowers for my budding dancer.

Year-after-year, I would ask the Princess if she wanted to keep dancing. The answer was always yes. Eventually, we added a jazz class. Now, she was also playing competitive soccer. By age ten, she reached a level of dance we were at the studio three or four times a week, and she also had at least two soccer practices a week, plus Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) games. She was a busy little girl. That fall, midway through soccer and Nutcracker season, she told me she was tired. We told her it was probably time to choose between dance and soccer. She couldn’t do both at a competitive level and NOT be exhausted. I fully expected her to choose soccer, as that had been our life for more than three years.  She sat on it for a couple of weeks, and then told me she’d made her choice – she wanted to dance. I made her evaluate that choice for a couple of weeks before we started making any announcements, and she had to finish the season with her soccer team of course. But in February that winter, she became a dancer full time.

I’ve spent twelve years watching her dance, watching her become such a beautifully talented young woman. Every time I see her perform, I’m touched by her strength, her grace, her courage, her ability. I cry more often than not. I can cry just watching her hands moving in class as she works at the barre. This has been our life. I can’t begin to count the hours I’ve spent at the studio, driving to and from the studio, sewing ribbons and elastics on shoes, altering costumes, watching competitions, dress rehearsals and shows. I’ve loved it all. When  your kid does something so intently for so long, it’s not just about her anymore. You develop your own friendships with the other parents at the studio. We definitely have a much-loved dance family. And don’t get me started on her teachers and directors. They’re so much more to my girl than *just* dance teachers.

This past February, the Princess told me she wanted to stop dancing – well, at least stop ballet. I had no words, couldn’t even begin to think when she told me. I told her we were in it until recital as we’d already committed, paid, signed on the dotted line for this year. She’s a sophomore now, almost sixteen years old. She wants to try new things, be more engaged with her school. I understand. But this is hard. She may not believe this, but she is such a beautiful, talented dancer. Her face lights up on that stage. I see her – what’s inside of her – when she dances. And I just can’t imagine not being able to see that ever again.

Here’s the deal – I don’t know how not to be a dance mom. I don’t know how to not be able to watch her do something she’s so good at. I don’t know how not to be part of this dance family.

I watched her dance recital this past weekend. I cried every time she stepped onto that stage, knowing it might be the last time. We’ve spent twelve years doing this. I spent twelve years watching her grow, watching her turn into a real ballerina, a real dancer. At the hour of dress rehearsal I sat through last week, every dance she’s ever performed rolled through my head, from when she was a tiny ballerina in a pink leo and tutu, through her Hairspray jazz number, to being a turtle and lion, and on through her turn as Clara in the Nutcracker, to her solos, duo, and other competition pieces, to her finale as the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland. I could see them all in my mind. So  many hours, so many years.

Who knows what will happen in the next months and years. I know we have to let her choose, have to let her make these decisions. I will have to come to terms with change. She says she’s going to continue with some dance, but we won’t be here again, in this exact place. No more competitions, no more Nutcracker, definitely not nearly as much time at the studio. I will just have to learn how not to be the dance mom I’ve been for twelve years.

Just Love Them

Eight years ago, I was flying home for my sister’s funeral. God, that sucked. It still sucks. Seeing the posts of when she went into Hospice, waiting for word, then when she passed, and then her services come up in my TimeHop – you just should be able to block some things from coming up in your social media memories. I miss her, especially lately when things have been such a struggle with the kids. I know she would have pulled up a stool to my kitchen counter, poured a glass, listened, and then would have given me some insanely awesome, sage advice. I know it.

Instead, I’m left with the last words she said to me, which were, “Just love your babies.” Lord, but I hope I’m doing her proud. And I guess when it comes right down to it, what better advice is there when parenting teenagers going through a ton of muck? Just love them. Everything else will fall into place. Love them enough to be strong. Love them enough to be consistent. Love them enough to stand by your rules, your values, your beliefs. Love them enough to help them become independent. Love them enough to not tolerate bad behavior. Love them enough to hold them accountable. Love them enough to require them to be respectful. Love them when they hurt. Love them when they’re unsure. Love them when they’re doubting themselves. Love them when they make mistakes, and help them learn to pick themselves back up. Love them enough to push them when they need to be pushed. Love them enough to let them know when they need to pull back. Love them enough to let them be independent while under your watchful eyes and the safety of home, and a known environment. Love them enough to talk with them, ask questions, know who their friends are, what their dreams and desires are.

I consider my sister’s words often – not just those last words, but all the words she gave me. She loved fiercely. She took such joy in living. Her laugh filled the room. Her sarcasm inspired all her siblings. She was our Queen. She momma-bear’d with the best of them – she taught me how to momma bear. She kept us together, reminded us the value of family, no matter how unconventional our family was/is.

She’s been hovering this week – I’m sure for my parents and my siblings, her children, her Spouse too. This year has been so difficult, and I’ve found myself in a deep, dark place too frequently. Nothing was getting through. But lately, I’ve heard her, and her reminders to just love them. I can do this. She’s gone, but her lessons live. 11:11

 

My sis with baby Little Man E and Deb

Itis

I have itis…….No specific itis, just itis. There’s physical itis – I am on week 17 of a 19 week half marathon training plan. My right hip has so much itis. My left IT band decided it needed itis for the first time in my life. (Totally used to managing my right IT band). I’m also tired of training. I want the race to be here. So I have training-itis. Mentally getting myself out the door every running day is challenging.

We’re reaching the end of the school year – although, as I mentioned, while Big Man and P have just 7 school days left, Little Man has 19 school days left. It sucks. I have school-mom-itis. I’m over checking grades, checking homework, asking if they have homework, getting kids out the door in the morning, making sure they go to bed at night. Done. Finis. Toast. Exhausted. Drained. ITIS!!!!!

I also have some domestic-itis. I have no motivation for laundry, grocery shopping, Costco trips, dishes, sweeping, vacuuming, making the bed. I make myself do it, because I am a responsible adult, but geeez…..I know now why my mom used to go off the deep end and totally lose her ish whenever we’d roll our eyes and/or groan over what she’d decided to make for dinner. I think one of the most over-rated things of being an adult is choosing what to make for dinner. Don’t even get me started on making sure you actually have what you need to make what you’ve decided you want to eat, nor on actually cooking it, and even less cleaning it up. My bed hasn’t been made in weeks, unless you count yesterday when clean sheets were put on all the beds.

I have a little work-itis too. I do love my job, but I’m struggling with a very-low patience level due to all the other itis’s I’m currently managing, so tedious tasks are, well, tedious, and annoying. I wanted to poke my own eyeballs out while spending two hours on a PowerPoint, only to discover it didn’t save half of what I’d done. Then another spreadsheet just flat out disappeared off my external hard drive. Can’t find it on my computer anywhere. And darn it, I really hate when I forget something or make a mistake. The event I worked today was on the Bay. I sat there and watched boats for half an hour after everyone was checked in and the program was underway. That half hour of quiet and calm is the only thing keeping me sane at the moment.

My mind and body want to float in my pool with a book and a beverage all day, every day. I don’t know what you’d call that particular itis, but I have it. It’s probably the worst itis I have at the moment. I’m sure it’s making all my other itis’s worse, don’t you think? I can hear the water flowing over the edge of the hot tub into the pool. It’s warm outside, and the water looks so inviting. And my float is just floating around the pool, looking lonely. Sigh….

What’s your current itis situation?

The Ending

*Something of a spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen LaLa Land yet (holy wow, who hasn’t seen LaLa Land yet?) But if you haven’t seen it yet, you may want to skip this post, cuz I tell you the ending…….*

 

I bought the LaLa Land DVD when it came out recently. I haven’t watched it though. The Princess and I did see it when it was in theaters, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch it again. Here’s why – the ending still haunts me. I still haven’t been able to decide if I liked it or not. And since we’ve kind of been in an emotional place in recent months, neither P nor I felt ourselves in a place to be able to handle it. Heck, the music is enough to make me cry.

I did really love the movie, but that ending…..Did you like it, if you saw it? I get it – it’s more real life than most movies. We don’t always end up getting forever with that one person who was with us during a time we’re becoming, we’re discovering, we’re learning about ourselves. I had one of those – a boy I dated right out of college. I was starting my career, really figuring out what I wanted to do with my life, and I was making plans. Turns out he wasn’t supposed to be Mr. Forever, he was just Mr. Right Then. It took me a few years to figure that out, and I don’t regret that one minute. He encouraged me in so many ways, helped me grow and learn. And we had some amazing adventures together. He was there for me at a pivotal point in my life. But we both ended up married to other people, and that’s as it should be. Spouse is my Mr. Forever, and has stood by my side through things I don’t know that other boy would have been able.

My deal is this – when I go to a movie, I don’t tend to want reality. Hello! I’m there to escape reality. That means the boy gets the girl, and the girl gets the boy, and it’s forever. Amen, and pass the popcorn. I had NO CLUE I was going to get a dose of reality at the end of this movie. For real – who puts real life at the end of a magical musical? It was like a punch to the gut at the end. It took me weeks to recover. I think that’s a big part of why the music still gets to me.

P and I talked about it. We both kind of go back on forth on whether we liked it or not. What’s your take?  Should it have had a happy ending? Or did you consider this a happy ending after all? I mean, she is married with a beautiful child, and is a successful actress, but she’s not married to the guy who helped her get there, the guy who stood by her side as she worked towards her dreams and began to see them realized. There still seemed a certain sadness, a what if, to her at the end. And he definitely seemed sad, even if he did fulfill his dream of having his own jazz club. I didn’t walk away with an “everyone is fine” feeling. I’m leaning towards it not being a happy ending, and it making me sad.

Enough

I’ve said it before, but seriously, you couldn’t pay me enough to re-live high school. Oh, there were great things that happened to me, so many amazing experiences. But holy wow, the stress, the pressure, the hormones, the emotions, the jerks and queen b’s. It was really hard – trying to live up to expectations, real or imagined, while trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to be, while trying to  make sure I did what I had to do to get into college, while dealing with friends and classmates going through the exact same process. I remember crying a lot. I remember dealing with ulcers and other stress-induced illness by the time I was fifteen. I remember pushing myself harder than anyone else – the drive to be “perfect”.  And this was all in the time where rumors were spread via those folded up notes a-la 80’s, and during lunch or at post-game dances.

I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like for teenage girls these days. It was hard enough to get through each day before there were phones and cameras around 24/7. Social media has been around most of my kids’ lives. They live their lives on blast. Remember when you had a bad hair day in high school? There weren’t any cameras around to capture it. Or if you fell walking across Senior Court, people would talk about it, but there wouldn’t be video evidence to spread the humiliation even further.  You would likely have to see that boy you really liked walk his newest girlfriend down the hallway, but you didn’t have photos of everything else they did in your face every day. I can’t imagine the pressure girls (and likely boys too) these days have to always look perfect, be perfect, not let things get to them in public. I think they’ve had to grow up much more quickly than we did.

With that all in mind, I want my babies to know they are enough for me. Just them, just as they are.

You are enough…

You are not what you wear. You are not what uniform you might put on for whatever sport you choose. You are not your success on the field. You are not how many honors or AP classes you take. You are not even the grades you get or the test scores you earn. You are not how many friends you have. You are not whether you date anyone before you’re sixteen. You are not whether you ever date. You are not whether you take someone or get asked to Homecoming or the Prom. You are not how many pictures there are of you in the yearbook. You are not what college you might get into. You are not how clean your room is, or if you finish all your chores without being told. You are not whether you finish that half marathon at a faster pace than last year. You are not your golf ranking. You are not whatever role you get for recital or Nutcracker. You are not the IEP meetings we go to annually. You are not the papers you write, the projects you finish, the number of books you read, the car you drive. You are not the money you earn, the house you live in, the career you decide upon. You are not the Facebook posts, the Snapchats, the Instagram photos, the re-tweets.

You, just you, you are enough. You are loved, you are cherished, you are wanted, just as you are. Remember that……There’s going to be so much pressure in your life to do, to be, to look everything “perfect”. But none of that makes you more. They are just what you do, how you look. They are accessories. You – you are enough.

It Just Seems to Happen

I was talking with my sister (mom of two girls, age 19 and 17) last night about our beautiful teenage daughters, and our own high school/teenage years. I’ve not hidden the fact my beauty has been going through it in recent months. My sister and I compared our high school, and pre-high school, experiences, which were very different as far as friendships were concerned. Even though we had those different experiences – I had a bff from 7th grade all the way through high school, while my sister did not, but rather bounced each year from group to group, never quite finding her tribe – we both suffered massively from horribly low self-esteem and very poor self-image. We both had issues with food. We both struggled severely with our own sense of worth and value.  Now I know the source we both point to, but I found it interesting that even with those different friend experiences from an early age, we both ended up in the same insecure boat.

When I found out I was going to have a baby girl, I was immediately determined she would never, ever for one minute question her worth, her value, how much she’s loved. I didn’t want her to ever suffer insecurity, self-doubt, or unhealthy self-esteem/self-image. I for sure never wanted her to deal with an eating/exercise disorder, or any of a host of  stress-induced illnesses. I’ve tried to tell her every day (sometimes I wondered if it wasn’t too much) how very loved she is, how much she’s needed, how proud of her we are, reinforcing all her strengths, encouraging her. I saw her, until a couple years ago, as a strong, independent, courageous, brave, outgoing girl who always stood up for others as well as herself. She’s incredibly smart, goofily funny, amazingly talented, and also happens to be beautiful.

But it just seems to happen to teenage girls, no matter how they’re brought up, no matter who they’re friends with, no matter what activities they’re engaged in. Teenage girls all seem to suffer insecurity – often debilitating – they doubt their worth and value, particularly amongst their peers. If there are any struggles with friendships, they find the fault within themselves all too often. They are struggling to figure out who they are, and where they fit  in, at the same time hormones are ruling their bodies and minds. Add to that anyone who may be threatened by them, and boom, perfect storm.

I thought I could keep her from going through this – I well and truly did. I’m finding you really can’t shield them entirely. Each girl has to face it – find her worth within herself, learn to accept herself, learn to be okay with who she is, find a peace with herself within herself, learn to be happy with herself. We just have to love them through it, and pray the effects aren’t long-lasting. Lord knows it took me YEARS to recover, same for my sister. I wish I could minimize and fast-forward the process, because when your child struggles in any way, you struggle.

Someday

Someday, you will be but a blip on the radar of her high school memories.

Someday, she may still remember your  name, but everything else about you will blur and fade in her mind.

Someday, the memory of you, her first like, will be eclipsed by the memory of another, her first love.

Someday, she will wonder why she was afraid, for she will realize you are just a boy.

Someday, she will wonder what it was about you that made you stand out in the first place.

Someday, she won’t recall why she let you so impact her days, her moods, her emotions for  a season of her life, won’t remember why she gave you that power to begin with.

Someday, she will be able to see you and not feel that little hitch in her breath, that little hit to her heart, that little kick to her stomach.

Someday she won’t remember your voice, your laugh, your birthday, your favorite foods.

Someday, she will forget why she let you matter so much.

For now, she is cracked and a little bent, but she is not broken.

For now, she is a bit sad, a bit angry, a bit confused.

For now, she is finding her way back to herself.

For now, some songs, types of movies and tv shows are off limits.

For now, she is digging into that well of strength and resilience she remembers she has inside of her.

For now, I am seeing glimpses of my happy, goofy, confident girl.

For now, she is surrounding herself with her friends and her family, doing the things that make her feel good about herself again.

For now, she is learning that she will never quite be the exact person she was before she let you in her life, but that isn’t a bad thing.

For now, she may be bruised, but she is getting back up, and will move on, stronger for the lessons learned.