Closer

Spouse and I have been married 19 years today. Go us! We have, as all other long-term married couples, been through it…ups, downs, sideways. We’ve had our share of not being even close to the same page. We’ve had seasons we were both so exhausted with just living there wasn’t energy or time for anything else. We’ve struggled, we’ve fought, we’ve battled our way through. He still makes me laugh. Still loves me. Still seems to find me somewhat attractive. And we both still choose each and every day to do what it takes to keep us, our family, together. He matters to me.

Parenting is rough on a relationship. We both bring our own upbringings to the table of parenting. We both bring our issues and insecurities to the parenting table. We bring all our wins in life, and all our regrets and wish-we-hadn’ts. That’s just the way of life. We do have different parenting styles…I am for sure the tougher, hard-ass parent. But then I’m around the babies more, thus I’m forced to be the enforcer.  When the kids were toddlers, he was very much the “let them eat dirt and cut each other’s hair off” parent. I was the rules, structure, routine, solid nap and bedtimes parent. We had lots of conversations about what to do, when we should allow the kids to do certain things, and so on. I didn’t think of it as a cornerstone of our relationship however. We just did it.

You think just having kids itself is a game-changer, and it is. But – and I’ve said this before – it’s nothing compared to parenting teens. Now that is a serious game-changer. I’ve seen it tear apart more than a few relationships. It is so hard (unless you don’t care about your kids, who they are, and who they’re on the road to being….then I guess it wouldn’t be that hard). There are so many bigger things to worry about, think about, deal with, face when your kids are teens – driving, friends, parties, boyfriends/girlfriends, phones, social media, not to mention those big scary possibilities of drinking and drugs.

I’m going to say this….parenting three teenagers has truly brought Spouse and I closer. We talk more. We have to talk more. We continually check in to make sure we’re on the same page. We keep each other in the loop. We discuss how to handle each new thing that comes up. As difficult as parenting teens is, it has had this side-benefit for our relationship.

The other thing we’ve realized is we have more time for us. We now have two full-fledged drivers in the house, besides us. We’re no longer spending hours and hours every weeks getting kids to and from. We also don’t need sitters. They’re even savvy enough to go get their own dinner at a local restaurant if we leave them money. It’s so freeing! And we realize it is very important for us to spend more time on our relationship, because in a few years, all three will be out of the house and off to college or life, and it will be just the two of us again. We need to know how to do that.

Yeah, closer. That’s the way it should be, isn’t it? Happy Anniversary to us!

The First Boy

It feels appropriate to re-post this, as it seems that first boy might be imminent…

To the boy who will love my daughter first:

Young man –  you will be her first love.  Make it good. She will remember you her entire life, sometimes fondly, sometimes with hurt or anger. Give her more reasons to recall you with kindness and nostalgia. In other words, don’t screw it up. Don’t screw it up for every other boy who will follow you, for while you will be her first, you very likely won’t be her last.

Take your time, and give her time. She is just figuring out who she is, her place in the world. That’s a scary thing, but more terrifying is someone trying to define that for her, or take it away from her. Don’t try to command her friendships, do support her time with her friends. She will be a better, more whole person for it. Don’t try to be her everything – that’s not what she’s looking for.  The harder you chase, the more quickly she may run.

No one besides family has loved her before.  The idea of someone who doesn’t have to care about her caring about her is difficult to trust. She may doubt, she may wonder why you care, she may not believe you really care. Be consistent but not overwhelming.  If you remain calm, she may come to believe it. In the meantime, there might be a dance of moving forwards and backwards. Trust me, she’s worth the wait if you’re willing to be patient.

She has priorities……School first, then family, then dance and cheer. You come in somewhere after that. Don’t attempt to mess  up that order. You’ll hear from us if you do. And she will probably set you straight before we even have to step in.  She’s kinda tough-minded that way.  She has big plans for her life, and if she feels like you might try to sway her from those plans, you’ll likely be shown the door. Heaven help you if you start shifting your plans for your life – kiss of death right there.

The heart is easily broken, so that first relationship is the most difficult, mostly due to fear of how it will end, and how you will deal with heartbreak. One of you will hurt the other. Most likely, you will hurt each other. There’s a lot of angst involved in that first love. There’s a lot of learning involved in that first love.

If you play your cards right, you’ll both learn, love, and grow, and someday, she will find all the notes you’ve written each other, come across an old photo or the first gift you ever gave her, and she will smile fondly in remembrance of her first love.

 

Hey, they’re still alive, aren’t they?

When the kids were little, I learned it was okay for me to take time for myself. It was necessary to maintaining my sanity – those once-a-month bunco nights, book club, the occasional GNO….When they were older, I started to take weekends – scrapbooking retreats and girls’ getaways. Every time I came home though, I felt I was being punished for having had the nerve to go out/away. The house would be a total disaster – kitchen covered in food and dishes, cups everywhere, everything anyone had worn while I was gone tossed wherever, shoes and blankets all over the floor. I’d cry and yell in frustration. I’d bang things around, making sure everyone was aware I was unhappy with the state of our home. It didn’t make anyone feel any better.

Years passed. I continue to do book club, Girls’ Night Out, weekends away. Sometimes when I come home, they’ve taken the time to clean up, knowing it will ease re-entry for everyone involved.  Sometimes it’s a total disaster. I never really know what I’m going to get, but even if it’s relatively clean, it’s not how I would do it. Counters aren’t wiped down. Blankets aren’t folded on the back of the couch. Shoes aren’t in their baskets. There are likely towels hanging over the chairs in the backyard. The dishwasher isn’t loaded the way I load it (and everyone knows the moms load dishwashers the most effective, efficient way possible to make the most of every inch, right?).  The trash and recycling bins are probably overflowing. Floors likely aren’t swept. I’ve learned to let it go.

Hey, the kids (and pets) are still alive, right? They’ve probably been off-schedule, the boys likely haven’t taken their meds every day. But they’ve been fed. They’ve probably done some fun stuff with dad. They got a break from the way mom does everything. No, it isn’t the way I do things, but everyone is still intact, and the house can be put back to order.

I got home from my weekend in Chicago yesterday. I’d been gone for five days. The house was a DISASTER of the first order. I was so tired, and my luggage had been put on another, much-later plane than mine, so I was dealing with that too. I walked in the door, happy to be home and see my babies. I saw the mess, and sighed. I gave the boys a hug, greeted the fur herd, dropped my bag, and set about putting things in order, my order. But I wasn’t mad. It is what it is. I had an amazing weekend away. My kids had a great time at home (well except for the part both Big Man and the Princess’ phones took a dunking and had to be replaced). And hey, they were still alive, right?

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.

Can I get a Representative?

I recently read Glennon Doyle Melton’s book, Love Warrior.   Oh my gosh – if you have a chance, read it. I loved so many things about it, highlighted so many passages. It spoke to me in so many ways. But one thing that stuck with me most is when she talks about sending her Representative out into the world…not her real self, but who she needed to be in order to be perfect and admired. Yep, I’ll wait. Go read it again. The quote is: “…we can choose to be perfect and admired or to be real and loved.  We must decide. If we choose to be perfect and admired, we must send our representatives out to live our lives.  If we choose to be real and loved, we must send out our true, tender selves.”  There’s risk of being hurt when we are our real selves, but “There is pain in hiding”.  (Glennon Doyle Melton, Love Warrior, pg 225)

I spent much of my childhood, teenage years, and most of my 20’s sending my representative out there. Why? Because I didn’t really like my real self much. I truly believed she wasn’t good enough. My true self was messed up, sad, imperfect, terrified. She didn’t feel worthy of like, much less love. She was afraid of being hurt, afraid of being seen as anything less than having it completely together. That real scared self hangs around even to this day. And yes, sometimes my representative gets sent out into the world when I am scared, intimidated, full of anxiety, or really feeling less-than.

We all put faces on. Sometimes we do have to “fake it til we make it.” There’s no harm in that. Sometimes, we have to be who we want to be until we are that person. But when we are faking our entire person so that others will see us a certain way, we are not only selling ourselves short, we are being unfair to those around us. We are, in a sense, saying we don’t trust them enough with who we are really are, don’t trust they will accept us just as we are, mess and all.

How many times have you met someone who seemed perfect, and it actually turned you off? Yeah, that. I’m always SO intimidated by perfect people. They make me feel less. But after I read this book, I started to wonder how many of those “perfect” people I’ve met are really representatives? How many people do you know who truly have it that together? Just food for thought.

I’m trying to be more mindful of being my true self, particularly with teenagers in my house. They need to know this is a safe place to set their representatives aside, and be who they really are – that their true selves are good enough, accepted, loved deeply. With that practice at home (hopefully), they can gain enough confidence to send their real selves out into the outside world. They will get hurt sometimes. That’s just life, and the risk you take when dealing with other people. But you are good enough – you, just you.

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.

Return of the Wonder Twins

When Big and the Princess were little, I called them the Wonder Twins. They’re not twins. They’re not even technically Irish Twins – they missed that by 19 days – but they’re close enough. And the two of them together…..yeah…..two creative, intelligent, mischievous minds working together to cause as much chaos in my world as possible. I couldn’t mentally keep up with the two of them. I believe I’ve shared some of their earlier antics – him cutting all her hair off twice, running away while I was feeding their brand new baby brother, finger painting with baby shampoo all over their bedroom floors (carpeted), unraveling an entire Costco-size package of toilet paper and tossing another package of toilet paper into my full jacuzzi bathtub, making a mud pit in our backyard and basically bathing in it, climbing up on top of the fridge to reach the candy I’d hidden up there…..They work well together, what can I say?

They’d veered away from creative disasters in recent years. They do have a special relationship, though. That’s never really changed. They are both in high school together this year, and now that Big Man has his driver’s license, they have a bit of freedom away from us they hadn’t had before. I’m seeing a return of the Wonder Twins, and I’m a wee bit terrified of what they might get up to.

They are GOOD kids – both in honors and AP classes, involved in sports and other activities. They have good friends. But I remember that feeling of newly-gained freedom in high school, and I see the writing on the wall. They talk with each other about things they don’t even tell us. They have each other’s backs, for the most part. They move in relatively different circles at school, but they do have some friends that overlap.

I got completely bent the other day when I thought they might be covering for each other. I’ll admit – I’m paranoid. I was a supremely boring kid in high school – never broke the rules, never even thought about it. I was where I was supposed to be, when I was supposed to be there, always (okay, I did skip a few classes senior year, but that’s about it as far as being a rule-breaker). I was basically a nerd. I didn’t party. I did what I was supposed to do, what I was expected to do. But I do  know what my brother and sister got up to, so I’m scared – scared I’ll miss something, so we do keep a watchful eye on them. I don’t expect them to be as boring as I was, but neither do I want them ending up in situations we can’t get them out of.

My point is, my Wonder Twins are back. It’s fun and amazing to watch, but it’s also terrifying in a good way. They’re there for each other, thank god. But look out school – who knows what these two will do.