EVPHO

Executive Vice President, Home Operations

Moms Need The Father

There is one other important relationship all moms need, and that is a relationship with The Father. 

Motherhood is a humbling experience. Teething Toddlers have the ability to bring grown men and women to tears in the middle of the night.  And what could be more humbling then raising a child, sacrificing everything for them, only to have them grow up to be teenagers who insist they know everything, rebel against you and make bad decisions, and you have no way to stop them. 

There are so many moments in motherhood, where all you can simply do is trust The Father and believe that God has a plan. You have to believe that God’s got this, because you sure as heck don’t.

In First Peter 5:7, we are told “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”    He cares for you, and He cares for your children, because we are all God’s children, and He loves us and will provide for us. 

Matthew 6:31-34

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

My husband and I love this passage and hold firmly to the belief that we cannot borrow worry, we must cast our anxiety on God and trust Him.  I often tell myself, they are not our children, but they are His children, and He has blessed us by giving us the opportunity to care for them.

I remember spending hours rubbing my growing belli, contemplating the miracle of it all.  We waited to be surprised with the gender for our first child and you know how they say that baby girls are born with all the eggs they will ever have. So while I was in my mother, all my future children were already inside me. And now if this baby is a girl, all of her future children are already inside her?!?!   Mind Blown!  

That deep contemplation also reminded me that women were made to do this – God made us to be mothers.  We are part of a plan.  God’s plan.  As Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.”   

I hope what I have said today will inspire you to be intentional about who you journey with as a mother.   Tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and while it is always nice to be honored and pampered by the men in our lives, it is also an opportunity for us as daughters, mothers and grandmothers, sisters and friends seize the opportunity to celebrate each other and our unique relationship with the women in our lives. Let’s celebrate the sisterhood of Motherhood and praise God for the many blessings he gives us.

Read my previous posts discussing why moms need other moms to Mentor and Journey with them.

Moms Need Mommy Friends In The Same Phase Of Life

This is PART III of my recent remarks for a Mother’s Day Brunch, where I talked about why Moms need other Moms.  You can read the beginning HERE and I discuss the importance of mentor moms in Part II HERE.

The second important relationship is that MOMS NEED OTHER MOMS who are in their exact same phase of life.

It is inevitable, that at some point, a mentor mom will say to you “Enjoy this moment – they grow up so fast”  But when you are exhausted and dealing with a moody threenager throwing a fit in Publix or when your teenager has just crashed the family car — the last thing you need is someone to tell you to enjoy THAT moment.  You need to be able to vent to other moms who are exactly where you are in life and completely get your frustration. 

moms-need-Paula Dean

And that is why MOMS NEED OTHER MOMS who are in their phase of life.  Nowadays we call this The Birth Club.  Whether you actually meet in person at the hospital birthing class, or simple at the park or your child’s school… moms need to be a part of a Birth Club with mom’s whose children are about the same age.  We do – it is a need.  We are drawn together by this primal instinct of pack survival.   It is good for the kids, and it is great for the moms.  Play dates are easier – and the conversation can be open and honest.

Both my mother and mother in law have friendships that began when they were young mothers, with young children.  And now, decades later, they are still friends whom they rely on to talk through the joys of grandkids, worrying about their grown children, or fussing over their husbands.  They’ve grow up together, shared the best and worst of life together.  Those female friendships are precious. 

I also look to the many military mom’s I’ve met here as a great example of the importance of this mommy support network. Military wives do an amazing job of caring for each other.  They are uniquely positioned to understand each other’s lives, the way civilian women can’t.  They form friendships that, like a birth club, help moms survive each day by being a friend who understand exactly where they are. 

The Bible also talks about the importance of having a Birth Club. Its true!   I’ve never gone to seminary, but I was raised in the Catholic church, and growing up we learned a lot about Mary.  My favorite story is called The Visitation.   

In the Gospel of Luke, we learn that immediately after the Angel brings the good news to Mary that she is pregnant with the Son of God, Mary travels to visit her older cousin Elizabeth, who had been thought to have been barren but the Angel told Mary she too is pregnant.  Many scholars believe that Mary stayed with Elizabeth through the birth of her son, John the Baptist. 

But here is what I love about this story – this isn’t just two cousins who are both pregnant helping to care for each other. This is a Birth Club of women in very scary situations.  Both women are unexpectedly pregnant – Mary not yet married and Elizabeth much older.  Both women have partners who doubt the circumstances of the pregnancies.   An angel actually appeared to Elizabeth’s husband and because he voiced doubts the angel command he shall be mute the entire pregnancy!  And at this point in the Gospel, the angel has not yet appeared to Joseph, so many scholars think perhaps he was not with Mary during this time.  That He stayed back in Nazareth. 

So both women are confident of the miracle and blessing of their pregnancies, but their husbands doubt, and they have ample reason to fear what outsiders might think.  The Gospel of Luke actually says Elizabeth was secluded for 5 months. 

In my head I just imagine the tears, fear, joy and the unique bond these two women shared.  God could have picked any woman to be John the Baptist’s mother, but in choosing Mary’s cousin they were able to be there for each other from the very beginning.  They were a Birth Club. And while the relationship isn’t described in the Gospels further, I imagine they remained close as they watched with pride as their sons grew to be preachers, and eventually even shared in the grief of their deaths.

The down side of this very primal need of moms to seek out other moms is the comparison game.  This can be a downward spiral into a very un healthy relationship.  Too often, mothers want to compare rather than support each other. 

As we saw in the video at the beginning, judging other mothers really just distracts us from our calling to care for our own children. 

And can you imagine if Mary and Elizabeth got into a comparison game?  What if rather than joy, Elizabeth felt jealousy… why is her baby going to be the Son of God?  Why not mine?   Of course that is not at all what she said.  Upon hearing Mary’s voice, the baby in her tummy leaped with Joy and Elizabeth proclaimed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb!” 

Just as you need to be intentional about choosing your mentor Moms, you need to be intentional about choosing women for your birth club.  Don’t get pulled into comparison games, or judgmental groups.  Seek out mothers who want to journey with you, and be a friend to them and love their children.

The awesome diversity of our MOPS group has taught me that motherhood can be so beautiful when it unites us together, despite our differences and our children’s differences.

Moms Need Mentor Moms

This is PART II of my recent remarks for a Mother’s Day Brunch, where I talked about why Moms need other Moms.  you can read the beginning HERE.  

The first important relationship that plays an essential role in our own experience and success as mothers is that with Mentor Moms.

A mentor mom is any experienced mother who inspires, teaches or motivates us. They are the women we turn to for parenting advice big and small.  From what bouncer to register for to what preschool to attend.  For advice on adjusting to life as an empty-nester or advice on dealing with a grown adult child who has moved back home.  No matter what stage of parenting you are in, you will need a Mentor Mom or two on speed dial.

Many of us are lucky enough to call our own mother’s Mentor Moms.  Personally, I count myself as one of the very lucky ones, because both my mother and mother-in-law are tremendous resources for me, and have supported me through every step of my journey.  If I can be half the mom they are, I will be doing ok! 

The mother daughter relationship is so special, because we were once a part of her, and she is forever a part of us.  But this relationship is really divided into two parts.  The first half is when one is a mother and the other is just a daughter.  This part is special and wonderful, but it is also known to be a difficult relationship at times.  Particularly around the teenage years.  

I was the youngest of five and my mother was, as they say, of “Advanced Maternal Age” when I was born.  This meant that when I was entering my dreaded preteen years, she was beginning menopause.  The result was a perfect storm of female hormones, that my poor father had to navigate through very carefully.  

But like magic, there is a clarity of understanding when the daughter matures and becomes a mother herself.  They then enter the second half of the Mother-Daughter Relationships, when they are joined in the Sisterhood of Motherhood.   For most women, when the going really gets tough, there is only person they want to turn to, and that is their mom. 

Of course not all women consider their mother a Mentor—  sometimes women are “inspired” to do things differently.  

And of course not all of what mentor moms teach us is a formal conversation or lesson, but rather knowledge that we gain simply by observing them.  Values and traditions we then try to embody and hope will carry on with our own children. 

There are many women whom I consider a mentor mom who probably don’t even know they fulfill that role for me…. neighbors, other MOPS mommas, and women I’ve met in my career or in the community who inspire me. 

keep calm mentor mom

In MOPS we really value Mentor Moms who join our groups and help provide our young momma’s, who are deep in the trenches of toddler warfare, a compassionate ear, sound advice and even a shoulder to cry on.  Perhaps most importantly, they provide knowledge that only comes from experience.

We need to surround ourselves with Mentor Moms that inspire us to be better moms, and so we need to be intentional about these relationships.  If you can have the perspective that “I am not the first momma to go through this” your next thought instantly can be, “who can I turn to for guidance on this mommy crisis?”

Sometimes Google, WebMD and Mommy blogs or Facebook groups provide quick and easy answers, but they are not always the best idea…. you can get sucked into debates, or fed faulty knowledge too easy.  Be intentional AND discerning in your choice of who you learn from. 

That is not to say online forums are not legit sources of information… they can be a wonderful resource.   Especially in the middle of the night when you really don’t want to call your own mother.  But there is something to be said for speaking with your mother, or sister or neighbor or friend, and having a conversation.  So much of mothering is not just about the issue we face with our child, but how we are handling it as well. 

There is no textbook for how to be a good mom, but there is a long, rich oral history that we share generation to generation, and mom to mom, that when heeded can build on your natural instincts and personal beliefs to make you a better mom.

Moms Need Other Moms

Happy Mother’s Day!!!

I was honored to be asked to speak at a Mother’s Day Brunch yesterday at my church.  I am sure they asked me because for the last year I was one of the co-coordinators for our MOPS group, but I also like to think its because of my EVPHO title, which let them know I take this whole Mommy gig seriously.

More than likely, my church family simple knows I am obsessed with being a mom, and prone to talk to any stranger on the street who will listen about the joys of motherhood.  I’ve convinced more than a few friends than having two kids close together is soooo easy and wonderful.  They know who they are, and you’re welcome.

My obsession with Motherhood has involved countless hours reading mommy blogs, babycenter articles, parenting books as well as watching every episode of The Cosby show multiple times.  I am not sure that any of this qualifies me as an expert,  but I had plenty of ideas to inspire a Mother’s Day talk.  So let’s begin by watching this video …

At first, you watch this and think, “Ugh, this is the worst of what motherhood can be,” which is lonely and judgmental.  It began with the lone mother, arriving at the park.  Full of new mommy fears – wanting to do what is best for her child, that she loves more than anything. 

Quickly we see that the different parenting styles lead to division and hostility, rather than empathy and friendship.  The one group they left out, in my opinion, is the Grandparent group they should have had a gaggle of grandmas watching from the sidelines shaking their heads.

Of course the point of this video is that we are all parents.  We are all mothers.  And we all want what is best for our children at the end of the day, right?  RIGHT!   If we could all approach motherhood as a sisterhood, a uniting factor that brings us together, we would find abundant blessings in our relationships with other moms.

We have so much to learn from each other.  Because the reality is, whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom; a mom with young children or an experienced mom with grown children – Motherhood is not something we can do on instinct alone. It’s just not.  Mom’s need other moms.

Moms need other moms to mentor them,  and mom’s need other moms to support them and help them as they go on the journey.

Raising children is an incredibly complex, demanding job. Mother’s instinct is amazing – and I certainly believe in that gut feeling that so often props me to act on my child’s behalf.  But instinct alone does not give us all the tools, guidance and support that we need to navigate the daily grab bag of random issues you will face as a mom.   There is no major in college, no HomeEc course and no amount of time spent reading parenting books that can give you all the answers you will need.

And while I dearly love our pediatrician, and he is a wealth of knowledge, Doctors often help diagnose a child’s needs, but it is up to us as moms to figure out how to tackle those needs on  a daily, sometimes hourly basis – and for that, we must rely on the sisterhood of motherhood. 

Just ask any parent with a special needs child, or a brand new momma struggling to breastfeed. They turn to other moms for advice, or even just encouragement that their struggles are normal and really they are doing just fine. 

We need other moms to mentor us and teach us, and we need other mom’s to support us and see us through the scary, exhausting and ridiculous moments of motherhood that only other mother’s will understand.

In this day and age, many women feel they need to be a Super Mom – juggling kids, cooking, cleaning, a job, being a perfect wife – and they think they should be able to do all of this on their own.  I would counter that nothing could be farther from the truth.  Moms need other moms, and we need them now more than ever.

Women have always rallied around each other to help with childrearing – in many cultures throughout history a new mom was afforded a great deal of help in those difficult postpartum months.  Mothers, sisters, neighbors, aunts move in and help cook, clean and care for older children and their husbands. 

In fact life in general has almost always been more communal than what it is today, with extend families living closely and integrated into each other daily lives. I have often joked that I would love to go back to the days of tribal living or set up some kind of mommy Co-op where neighbors rotate nights cooking, we all supervise the children running around the neighborhood and feel as much an obligation to care for their children as we do our own.

But today… what do we have?  Today we have world where if a young child is playing outside on their own in front yard while you are inside cooking dinner, you might have a nosey neighbor come knock on your door and scold you about letting your kids playing outside alone.  That neighbor, too many like them, make mothers and parents feel like it is solely our responsibility to care for our children, 24/7, and that they bare no responsibility at all.   

The reason Hillary Clinton had to reemphasize the “It takes a village” mentality is because sadly, in America today we have gotten far, far away from that.   We live in our own little McMansions. Our own little fiefdoms.  That support network from days gone by has long since fallen apart.

So over my next two or three posts, I’m going to continue this discussion of why Moms need other Moms.   These are important relationships that play essential roles in our own experience and success as mothers, and I hope you’ll keep reading and share your thoughts! 

 

The Best Job You Will Ever Have

If I’ve heard her say it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.  My mother and mentor is quick to tell me that “Being a mom is the best job you’ll ever have.”  Every once in a while, usually after I am griping to her about an extremely frustrating day with the Associates, she will modify it to say “Being a parent is the HARDEST job you will ever have.”  I hear the words but sometimes it is hard to really believe that endless laundry, dishes and diapers is the best job in the world.

I mean, I had a really REALLY cool job before.  I actually had a really cool career.  From 2002 to 2010 I worked in Republican Politics in Washington DC and for candidates across the country.  The work was hard, the hours long, but the perks were very cool.  I met Don King the night Republicans gained seats in the 2002 midterm elections (which almost never happens when the same party is in control of the White House) because you know he likes to hang out with winners ;)   I got to have after work drinks on the Speakers Balcony of the US Capitol Building overlooking the entire National Mall;  I attended White House Christmas parties, watched the fireworks on the fourth of July from the White House lawn, and even stood on the White House lawn to pay respects to President Reagan’s casket as it was paraded through Washington.  I had the honor of working for Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Rudy Giuliani, dedicating a year of my life to each of them (and yet I just had too google to spell check both their names – ugh MOMMY BRAIN!).  Most recently, I served as campaign manager and district director for Congressman Bill Posey, one of the most down to earth, honest statesmen the state of Florida has known, and in doing so was able to intimately learn about the community I lived in. I worked with all the community leaders, elected officials and CEO’s; I toured the big industries – from citrus groves to aerospace companies; and perhaps the coolest part of my job was being able to attend numerous Space Shuttle launches from the closest viewing area possible at the Kennedy Space Center.

Seeing a space shuttle launch has got to be one of the most amazing experiences in the world, no matter where you view it from.  But it was nothing short of emotional at these special VIP launch viewing receptions because the families of the astronauts where there, many former astronauts, scientists and engineers who worked on whatever program was being launched, and so much tradition and history that you couldn’t help but be in awe of the amazing accomplishment of sending humans into space and returning them safely.

Me with KSC Director and Astronaut Bob Cabana and my boss, Congressman Posey, and the stunning Atlantis Space Shuttle behind us.

Me with KSC Director and Astronaut Bob Cabana and my boss, Congressman Posey, and the stunning Atlantis Space Shuttle behind us.

KSC Director Bob Cabana telling the Congressman and I about the heat shield tiles and re-entry as we stand directly below one of the shuttle orbiters (Discovery or Endeavor?)

KSC Director Bob Cabana telling the Congressman and I about the heat shield tiles and re-entry as we stand directly below one of the shuttle orbiters (Discovery or Endeavor?)

Photo taken by the CEO of a Shuttle Launch from the VIP viewing area we were guests at.

Photo taken by the CEO of a Shuttle Launch from the VIP viewing area we were guests at.

Failure is not an option!

Me with Gene Kranz, fellow CCHS grad and lead flight director during NASA’s Apollo 13 manned Moon landing mission. (aka my personal hero)

These doubts were ringing loud in my mind one morning as I rummaged through my coolest memorabilia from the shuttle launches I attended.  Associate P’s class was learning about space that week, and I was to be a guest speaker and then read our favorite space book, Mousetronaut, by Astronaut Mark Kelly.  I couldn’t help but think, had I made the right choice when I left a job I loved and was passionate about, and had worked so hard to succeed at?

We were of course off to a hectic start that morning, and perhaps she could sense my mood, but my mom said her same old line to me again “Being a parent the best job you’ll ever have dear.”

The phrase floated in my head as we rode bikes to their preschool and I wondered what big important thing might I be doing right now if I were still working.  Would it be better than trying to inspire a few toddlers to dream about becoming a rocket scientist?

After a giving my thrilling presentation to his class, his teachers thanked me for sharing my career with the kids and I almost corrected them… “It’s my former career.  I don’t work for the government anymore.”  Instead I just mulled on that phrase the whole way home.

Needless to say at that point I was having a full on personal crisis. I love my boys and I love teaching them the ways of the world, but I missed feeling a part of something so big… and it doesn’t get much bigger than working for the Federal Government. ha!  Would I ever get that feeling of doing something big again if I am just a mommy.

The CEO and I decided their learning about space was a perfect opportunity to take the Associates to Kennedy Space Center visitor complex for the first time so they could see the now retired Shuttle Atlantis up close.  So that Sunday we loaded them up, plus my parents, and headed to KSC.  The boys loved it.  What an awesome, fun educational adventure!  I could see their imaginations take flight.  Associate P loved seeing the mission control room and announced he wanted to work at a computer like that one day, and my heart swelled with pride.  How proud would I be if he really did grow up to do something amazing like that!!!

Then it happened.  The circular moment that brought it all together.  The KSC bus tour took us to another of the special viewing areas, and my parents and I reminisced about the time, thanks to my job and position, that I was able to get them here, to this location to watch a shuttle launch.  BAM.  I could still see in their face how proud they were of me.

My parents had done something big.  They raised an Architect and got to walk up the gorgeous ramp of the Seattle Space Needle that he helped design.  They have been in homes their other son built with his own two hands.  They have supported two daughters who care for others daily, and have even saved lives, in their respective nursing and Optometric careers.  And they have gotten to enjoy the perks of my political career, from tours of the Capitol to shuttle launches.

Being a parent is the best job in the whole world, because you get to help mold and shape the next generation and see what amazing things they might do.  Behind every brave astronaut that prepares to launch, I bet there is a mother who is already over the moon with pride.

So since this epiphany it has been a little easier for me to see the long game.  To appreciate the little moments to teach, encourage, love and support my little Associates as opportunities to mold them into men who might one day do big things.  Then I know I’ll be over the moon with pride.

 

PS: Being a parent, especially a SAHM is still crazy hard, exhausting work.  So I might amend my mother’s phrase to instead be “Being a GRANDPARENT is the best job you’ll ever have” because they also get to enjoy helping raise amazing little Associates, but they can hand cranky Associates back to the parents and sleep all night long uninterrupted :)

My parents with Associate P at KSC.  They were pretty proud of our little Astronaut.

My parents with Associate P at KSC. They were pretty proud of our little Astronaut.

Riding the Emotional Rollercoaster

So we all know toddlers are crazy, right?  I mean you don’t have to be a parent to know this.   Anyone who has ever met a toddler has probably experienced their split-personality tendency when they go from screaming fury to pleasant contentment after their parent gives in on whatever it was the psycho-toddler was demanding.

Ok, maybe they aren’t crazy.  They are just learning how to control their emotions and figure out how their behavior can control their environment.  Everything is over dramatized, and because their energy is finite, they vacillate between euphoria and hysterical depression before collapsing from exhaustion.  I know they can’t help it, and I’m supposed to be the one to help them figure out how to manage these emotions, but it is so hard to be the even keel some times.

Supervising this learning process often feels like an emotional roller coaster that leaves my head spinning, torn between vowing never to ride again and wanting to immediately get back on.

I found some notes from December, when they had been sick, and one day the ride was so wild I had made an effort to write it down, positive I was so exhausted I wouldn’t remember.  Re-reading and reliving I see the funny, although it was far from it at the time.

Thursday 12:30am:  Exhaustion.  We normally go to bed 10:30/11pm, but the CEO and I had a hot date the night before and walked in the door at 12:30 am.  I could barely keep my eyes open.  As I fell asleep the room began to spin and I began to regret asking for a 4th glass of wine.  I’m going to pay for this tomorrow.

5:00 am:  Associate A’s meds have run out and he wakes in a fever spiking up at 102.  He is tired, but too miserable to sleep.  I spend the next hour trying to get him comfortable, but nothing seems to work.  He wants me to hold him, but at the same time pushes me away.  He’s shaking with chills but refuses a blanket.  He’s hacking but won’t drink anything.  He wants his lovie, but also doesn’t want it because it is wet from his own tears.

Sometime after 6am we both fall asleep on the couch.  This hour ends in bliss, as my little man is not usually cuddly, so I cherish the chance to hold him while he sleeps.

6:45 am: Associate P wakes up and his meds have also run out.  His fever broke yesterday, but his cough is worse than ever.  He is coughing to the point of gagging and throwing up.  He and I hang out the playroom, and try to let Associate A and the CEO get a little bit more sleep.  I am grateful because he is such a sweet kid.  After one vomit, wash up and new clean shirt on, he instantly coughs and gags up more, but looks and me and apologizes.  “I’m so sorry mommy.”  My poor, sweet kiddo.

7:05 am  Here comes the Cra Cra.  Associate P rolls around the kitchen ground, crying and refusing to drink the “special sick tea” that for the last two days he has been chugging down like a champ.  He is still coughing violently, but now, for some reason, won’t drink the warm water with honey and lemon that I know will soothe his poor throat.  This random refusal drives me insane, as his picky eating habits are growing out of control.  It also wakes up the CEO who stumbles in just in time to play interference before I really snapped on the poor kid.

7:50 am  Potty Bliss.  Associate A wakes up in a good mood (thank goodness) and even tells me he has to go poopies, BEFORE he does it, and successfully drops his first poopie in the potty!!! This is a huge deal as I just recently began encouraging him, and yesterday morning during some naked-time he pooped in the playroom then came and told me, and the night before that he told me as he dropped a big package in the tub.  Speaking up before is a BIG DEAL.

8:45 am Insanity.  Both kids are now adequately medicated and running around like the caged animals they are.  They’ve been cooped up for three days, and they are bored and restless.  They’ve also discovered the jingle bells I put out on the front door when we decorated the house this past weekend.  My head is pounding as I feel the pain of last night’s over-indulgence, and I do not appreciate them screaming Jingle Bells.

There is a rocket waiting to launch just 30 miles north of us at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, so I get them changed and head out the door to the beach in hopes of seeing it take off.  Words cannot describe how much I love living next to the beach – the giant free sandbox from God that keeps little boys happy and occupied for hours.

9:30 am  My associates don’t like my plan of “you two play in the sand while your hungover mommy lays on the blanket and naps” and insist I march up and down the beach finding shells with them.  I have a rough job, I know. You should feel bad for me.

The launch is scrubbed, which leads to the most annoying thing in the world… a three year old asking the same question over and over and over and over and over and over.  I try to explain why, after almost an hour and a half of talking about it and building up excitement, now we will not be seeing a rocket launch.  Associate P does not accept my answer (to windy) and would like me to put him in contact with mission control to get answer’s straight from the commanders mouth.

A 75 degree sunny day in December is reason enough to stay at the beach and we do have a great time.  In fact I’m so content after what had been a very long morning already, I lose track of time, and it is only when I see their noses start leaking uncontrollably again that I realize my launch window has closed.  I better get these kiddos home before they explode on the beach.

That is where the diary ends… and I honestly don’t remember the rest of the day, so I am glad I had typed that bit up.  It is also clear, in retrospect, that perhaps they aren’t really the crazy ones.  I think I am a little crazy for complaining at all.  If that was one of our worst days, life is pretty darn good.  Maybe I am ready to go for another ride…. hmm…

 

 

 

Top 5 Parenting Tips From UNBROKEN

(Spoiler alert – I do reference scenes and points from the book and movie “Unbroken.” proceed with caution)

This past December I read UNBROKEN, the amazing true story of Louie Zamperini, a US Olympic track star and Veteran who survived a as a WWII POW.  The CEO had read the book before me, and loved it.  We were both looking forward to seeing the movie, and made a date night out of it shortly after it was released.  We sat through the entire movie with no snacks, popcorn or drinks.  We wanted to be focused, undistracted.  It was utterly captivating to watch and we both left the theater in awe of the sheer reality that men can be so strong, of body and spirit.

We walked quietly our of the theater, listening to the conversations around us.  Both of us were a bit shocked by what we heard.  In the ladies room a sassy young thaang in her late teens had complained to her friends, “Well that was a drag.  I mean I get it, he was tortured and survived. Big Deal”  And on the way out we heard another young group complain “I just don’t get the point.  There was no plot.”

WHHHHAAAAATTTT?!?!?!?!

Needless to say the CEO and I were aghast.  Our conversation on the way home quickly turned to our disappointment in the response from those young adults.  Could they really be so numb that they don’t recognize true heroism when they see it?  Were they expecting Louie to have super powers and fight his captors in direct conflict with choreographed fight scenes and a dramatic escape?  Where there not enough explosions for them? Could it be they didn’t know enough about the Atomic Bombs to find that conclusion to the largest war in human history dramatic enough??  Really?

And I don’t think the fact that they didn’t read the book before seeing the movie is an excuse for their response.  I had not finished the book yet myself, and so hadn’t read about the insanity he endured in the prison camps in Japan.  I was still in tears during the scene where The Bird forces Louie to lift the huge pillar of wood above his head, and had to burry my head into the CEO’s arm because I simply couldn’t watch that intense, and long scene.  I whispered to him, “Did that really happen?” just to hear him confirm what my mind couldn’t fathom.  Yes. Yes it did REALLY happen.  To a man who had already endured over a year and a half of hellish starvation and physical abuse.  And yes, he really did stand there and hold it for an incredible, surprisingly long time, proving that while the body may be defeated the human spirit can endure.

So in the days and weeks since seeing the movie, finishing the book and thinking about those bratty kids from the theater, I have been obsessed with thinking about how I can raise our associates to be less like them and more like Louie Zamperini. Obviously those kids needed better understanding of world history, but since I can’t easily influence what is taught in schools these days, I compiled the top five parenting lessons I learned from UNBROKEN.   I don’t think Laura Hillenbrand intended to write this as a parenting manual, so I apologize in advance if my mommy-brain is misinterpreting her masterpiece.

5) “Dirty Food” and “Nutritional Meals” Are Relative Descriptions

Our family policy has officially been changed from the “5 second rule” to the “Does it have maggots or fecal matter on it” rule.  I’ve certainly already been more lax than most moms about food cleanliness and I never really flinch to let my kids pick something off the ground if in our home or at the park. A little dirt never hurt anyone, and Associate A still gets a majority of his fiber from mulch.  But when cookies fell on airplane seats, restaurant floors or most recently the sidewalks of a major theme park, and one of my kids picked it up and popped it in their mouths before I could stop them, I worried.  I even panicked a little, with a few stern words, grabbing his head and forcing open his mouth trying to dislodge the offending, contaminated animal cracker. NO MORE!  Seriously people, I know there are risks with eating germs, and I will continue to teach them that is not a good idea to eat food off the ground, but no longer will I overreact and mommy-guilt myself to death over this.  They will survive.  I may have to amend this rule if they ever get a bout of dysentery, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.

And the same is true for worrying about their poor nutritional intake. Associate P is in full on toddler pickiness, and he refuses to try just about everything but his short list of pre-approved meals, assuming they are served in the correct bowl and with the appropriate construction themed utensil.  I have spent countless hours worrying if he is eating enough or good variety.  NO MORE!  Reading what Louie and Phil survived on in the Ocean for 46 days is unbelievable.  The military directions provided with the rations on the lifeboat were to eat a (as in 1) square of chocolate and a few sips of water a day.  So from now on, if all Associate P wants to eat today is two squeeze yogurts so be it. As long as I can give him good clean water, I’m over trying to force him to eat or giving in and letting him eat crap.  I will wait it out, and then when he is hungry enough he will just have to eat whatever healthy ration I offer him…. its not like the options I present him are raw seagull or fish.

4)  You Do Not Need To Be a Cruise Director Mom To Be A Good Mom

Associate P has always been clingy to me (likely because his entire first year of life I spent every moment of his awake time entertaining him, talking to him and stimulating him) and Associate A is currently in a major mommy-obsession phase.  It is hard to ignore there cries for attention, help and assistance in providing entertainment for them, but NO MORE!   I hereby give myself permission to ignore their cries and begin insisting they occupy themselves.  It’s not that Louie’s mom ignored him, but she certainly didn’t follow him around everywhere and schedule his every waking moment.  Moms were not expected to be entertainment directors and chauffeurs.  If kids wanted to participate in an activity they rode their bike, public transportation or walked there.  And most importantly, kids then were allowed to roam, play and live in the world, not just in their own backyards.

Louie had a daring childhood, filled with frequent confrontation with the law, bullies, and adversities that he overcame on his own, or suffered the consequence of his actions.  I’m not saying I hope my kids are stealing, drinking and smoking while in elementary school like Louie was, but it is very clear from this story that Louie had an independent spirit, confidence and survival skills at a very young age.  He took responsibility for his choices because he was allowed to make them… something I don’t think we let kids do enough of these days.

3) Love Your Children, No Matter What

Number three comes directly from number 4.  Louie’s parents led a good life and were good role models, they loved their children and cared for them, but they didn’t try to manipulate their kids to be something they weren’t.  Louie was a handful, and wild and refused to follow the straight and narrow path as a young kid, and they accepted it.  He was disciplined when needed and they let him know they expected more from him.  But his mother still loved him dearly.  And in time, thanks to their unconditional love and the encouragement of his big brother Pete, Louie began to believe that he could be more than just the town thief.

I think all to often parents set a vision of what they hope their kids will be and try to manipulate them to fit into that dream.  Some are more dramatic than others.  I have only seen one or two Toddlers in Tiara’s episodes, but I got the gist of the show.  It was pretty clear those moms should spend a little 1:1 time with a therapist to work through their own body image issues rather than playing dress up with their own living daughters.

But I myself am guilty of this manipulation already… I’m scared to death of my associates wanting to play contact sports, and already hear myself telling them “You see how mommy and daddy like to kayak and row? Did you know it is a sport and you can do it with a team. That will be fun, right?!?!?!”

So NO MORE!  I pledge here and now to love my kids no matter what and to accept them for who they are, and trust that my unconditional love and support will help them realize they can do anything they put their mind to.  And if that means they turn into a soccer star, fine.  I’ll get over my fears.  If they want to play dungeons and dragons all day and DOOM! all night, cool with me.  For them, I will be willing to learn and play too. (No, that does not mean I am willing to learn and play with you CEO.  Sorry. You have to take me to dinner and on romantic dates)

2) Don’t Let Your Kids Be Numb To Real Bravery

Superheroes and legends of bravery have been favorite stories for all of mankind.  From Odysseus to Ironman, everyone likes a good hero story.  But I think more and more, in this society of abundant TV, movies and video games, kids are loosing sight of what real heroism is.  The more I thought about the reaction of those young adults in the theater, the more I began to think about the true subtlety of the violence, bombing, and struggle portrayed in the movie.  I thought the beauty of the movie was the realistic portrayal, and that they didn’t overdue it with fancy graphics, sound effects or gratuitous blood and guts. Maybe without all that jazz, those kids were genuinely bored.  But could they still not recognize that this was a “based on real life story” and that someone actually survived all that?

ES-Louis-Zamperini

Maybe the media doesn’t report the stories of everyday heroes enough.  Maybe society doesn’t celebrate them enough.  But I can’t change any of that.  What I can do is raise children who will know and respect real heroes – veterans, policemen, fireman and the brave citizens who step up in unexpected ways to prevent an accident, solve a problem or challenge status quo.  I want to raise my children to admire astronauts, and understand those REAL men strapped themselves to REAL rockets, filled with REAL rocket fuel, and most of them lived to tell about it and we honor those brave souls who didn’t.

1) The most important thing I learned from UNBROKEN is that the gift of faith in God is by far the best gift I can give my children.

“Though all three men faced the same hardship, their differing perceptions of it appeared to be shaping their fates. Louie and Phil’s hope displaced their fear and inspired them to work toward their survival, and each success renewed their physical and emotional vigor. Mac’s resignation seemed to paralyze him and the less he participated in their efforts to survive, the more he slipped. Though he did the least, as the days passed, it was he who faded the most. Louie and Phil’s optimism, and Mac’s hopelessness, were becoming self-fulfilling.”
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Phil’s father was a methodist Pastor, and how proud he must have been to know that his son was strong enough in faith, not just to save himself, but to share the hope that he found in Jesus with his friend in their hour of need.  The book goes into much more detail of Louie’s faith journey than the movie portrays.  It was more than just the conversation with Phil on the life raft that brought Louie to Christ, but it is that scene, if you will, that stuck with me.  When I think about the kind of men I want to raise, hands down I want my sons to be the one sharing eternal hope, not cowering in fear of human suffering.

It is so easy to feel alone and helpless in this world.  I imagine floating on a raft in the middle of the pacific is about as alone as anyone might feel.  But when three men looked up at the stars.  Two saw the wonder of the Lord’s creation and renewed their faith that all things are possible through him.  One felt small and insignificant, alone and hopeless.

“What God asks of men, said [Billy] Graham, is faith. His invisibility is the truest test of that faith.”
Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

If you haven’t read the book, I highly encourage you to do so.  But if you are an exhausted mom or dad and picking up a book isn’t in your immediate future, then I hope these five ideas can inspire you to raise the next Louie Zamperini or Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips.

I don’t think your daughter meant to pick a feminist fight…

So randomly reading my facebook stream tonight I see a link to this article.  This feminist-working-mom writer interprets her daughters question, “If dad made more money you wouldn’t work, right?!?!” with a wee bit of sass for my taste.  I don’t disagree with many of her points, but I’m pretty sure her daughter’s question was rooted in a desire to have at least one parent not, and I quote,

“hunched over the computer and planning my work day while the daily circus of morning family activity had played out.”

As humans our deepest desire is to connect with other humans.  We all crave it.  We all need it.  And while clearly this mom is very happy connecting with other adults in her working environment, and that is completely ok, it saddens me that in this article she doesn’t seem to consider the fact that her 10 year old daughter wishes there were a world where she could connect with her mom over breakfast, and mom not be worried about planning her work day.

I don’t want to pick a feminist fight either, as I have so much admiration for working moms. They truly work double duty and I am in awe of so many of my working momma friends and my sisters.  I am just a little surprised that this particular working mom doesn’t get that kids are very selfish, especially when it comes to getting attention and love from their parents.

“What unnerves me is realizing that somehow, my own daughter has picked up on the idea that for a mother to not work is the optimum situation, the one that, if money were no object, of course one would choose.”

I don’t think her daughter has “picked up” on anything in our culture.  Further, it annoys me that she wants to blame Modern Family or the SAHM’s who volunteer in her daughters school for planting sexist thoughts.  I think her daughter was only expressing her ideal world, where she, the child,  could have it all.  Where she could have a sense of security both in being provided for and being cared for by her parents.  Is it really that offensive that she wishes she had more of your attention in the mornings before she heads off to school?

The CEO and I have discussed often that one thing we both desired and appreciated about our parents, beyond even their unconditional love, was their time and how they spent it with us. It is true what they say, ‘time with your children is priceless’ …. to them.  As parents, we know all to well the price we pay for staying home, or leaving work early, to be with our kids.  But to our kids, the fact that we are there, with them, is priceless.  They would trade anything for more of that.

Working moms are amazing. They are.  And I really want to reach out to this mom and tell her not to be offended by her daughters comment.  She isn’t trying to offend you and what you’ve accomplished in your career.  She isn’t parroting a political statement from the SAHM lobby in the cafeteria.  And you are right, in a few years when she is off at college dreaming big dreams of her own she will probably be damn proud of you and all you accomplished in your career.

But right now that sweet 10 year old girl is simply telling you that she thinks you are amazing and the most wonderful thing in the world, and if it were up to her, yes, she would like to spend more quality time with you, without giving up the comforts she knows you and dad currently work to provide.  Because you are her mom, and that is the only job title she cares about.

It doesn’t have to change your answer:

“I like my work. My work is important to me. I want to work.” She looked at me, puzzled, and asked, “Why?” ”I always want to make you proud of me,” I told her that morning. “And this is how I do it.”

That is a great answer, and one she will grow to understand and appreciate.  But tomorrow, maybe put the laptop away at breakfast and spend a few extra minutes with her.  She’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

Holidays with Toddlers

So yesterday was not my finest day.  I was, how do I put it…. mean, crabby, impatient, annoyed… let’s just say all of the above.  The Sunday after a long Thanksgiving weekend, and I was mean mommy all afternoon because I wanted to finish decorating the tree and get all the Holiday decorations out and storage boxes put away, but of course all my little Associates wanted to do was take things OFF the tree, climb in and out of the mountain of boxes in our garage and stay up in the attic all day.

I knew I was being mean.  They certainly knew it.  Associate P was telling me to “Calm down, calm down Mommy.  It’s ok.  Look you have lots more ornaments that I didn’t break.”  And of course, the CEO took notice.

I like to think normally I’m a better parent when the CEO is around, just like any employee is when their supervisor is watching them, but reality is I usually act the same and just make sure he doesn’t hear me whispering bribes or threats to the Associates.  (kidding.  kind of.)  But today, he heard it all, and it was all pretty bad.

When things calmed down a little and we were making dinner while the Associates played in the other room he asked me what was wrong.  I then let out my sob story of “I just want to be able to enjoy the holiday stuff like I used to.  Now it is all work, that I don’t have time for and can’t get done with them running around. I can’t take my eyes off Associate A for a minute or he ends up covered in dirt from digging up half the flower bed.”

He looked me square in the eyes and held my shoulders and told me I’m crazy.  That I have two young kids and I’m the one setting unrealistic expectations for Holiday decor, traditions, crafting and efficient shopping.  And then he emphasized the point that I should, under no circumstances, ever take my eyes off Associate A. Even for a Minute.  That kid is cray-cray just like his momma.

I know he is right – and it is so hard to admit when he is, especially if it means I was wrong.  This was the end of an amazing weekend.  We hosted Thanksgiving for our extended family, had a football watch party the next day, I had a girls night out Saturday night, and I did in fact manage to get 90% of our holiday cards mailed, lights up on the house, the tree decorated, a fun family outing this am, and even had time to empty and wash out the kitty litter box.  WOAH.  That is a detail I rarely do.  I must have really been in the zone.

Our Family Christmas Tree

Our Family Christmas Tree

So I tried to end this amazing weekend on an up note, playing with the boys and not worrying about all the other Holiday to-do’s that had been running through my head all weekend.  I am trying so hard to relive happy memories of big family Thanksgivings and decorating the tree with my family as a kid, that I’m focused on my enjoyment of these things, and making them perfect for me.  Not my boys.

I dunno.  I was a bit of a cleaning obsessed, Martha Stuart wannabe, not at all attentive momma the last few days, and looking back I can only hope they are young enough to either be oblivious or only remember the highlights… playing with cousins, singing Christmas Carols while helping me with the tree, and reading Dinosaur Rumpus a few hundred times.

After all, I only remember the good times.  It is possible that my mother may have been high strung, bossy and impatient around the holidays when she was playing hostess, but that’s not how I remember it.  I remember being thrilled she trusted me to dust the legs of the dining room table (very important busy work, right?!).  And I remember my dad always letting me help get the decorations down and back up into the attic.  I don’t remember him ever threatening to leave me up there.

So let’s go on assuming my parents are the saints I have built them up to be in my head, and that my little associates will do the same.  After all, they did get to spend a lot of time up in the attic this weekend, and that is pretty darn cool.

#youwanttostayuptherealldayfinewithme #noididntreallylockthemintheattic

 

So Now It’s My Fault He Won’t Go To Sleep?

Our two little Associates share a room, and have for about 6 months now, since the little one, Associate A was 15 months old.  His almost 3 year old big brother had super-cool bunk beds and it started with him napping on the bottom bunk and eventually moved in full time.  This was all against my better judgement, of course, but they loved sharing a room and I figured “Why not?  Child-led parenting is a thing, right?”

Associate A did surprisingly well staying in bed for the first few months, or if he did get out would walk to our room and gently knock on our bedroom door.  We took the bunk beds apart to two twins after he demonstrated he had mastered the ladder up.  By then Associate A was 18 months old and had already demonstrated his propensity for nighttime adventures.  Associate P had never once even remotely considered looking over the edge of the upper bunk railings. He is a good rule abiding first born.  A, on the other hand, laughs in the face of danger and would have jumped over the railings faster than I could dial 9-1-1.

So now they have twin beds next to each other, and they go to sleep and wake up at the same times.  Sounds awesome and super easy, right?   WRONG.

The quality of my day, workplace productivity and enjoyment is completely dependent on their sleep patterns lining up so I can have two happy well rested boys at the same time.   Something wakes them up too early, and Associate A will be exhausted by 11am… but if he naps then, Associate P isn’t ready.  P will start to behave like an exhausted psychopath just about the time Associate A is waking up, and I’m no psychologist, but I do know that psychopaths refuse to nap if they think their younger sibling is going to get 1:1 time with mommy.  The day then becomes a slow roll to hell, and by the time the CEO gets home from work I’m usually hiding in the kitchen and throwing snacks at the savages to keep them at bay in the playroom.

The alternative is they wake at a respectable hour, we have fun morning adventure – maybe a park or the zoo  – we come home and eat lunch in the 12 o’clock hour and everyone lays down for a nap together in the 1 o’clock hour – me on the ground between their two beds.  It is a win win, as I get a 20-30 minute nap and  an hour or so to myself before they wake up.  Then we play outside the whole afternoon, and when the CEO comes home we greet him with smiles and a nutritious, home cooked meal on the table.

Bedtime is usually pretty easy, and hands down my favorite part of the day.  But unfortunately, Associate A is teething (2 year molars… shoot me now!) and in a very needy phase lately.  He has become accustomed to mommy laying on the ground between their beds at nap time and so now, at bedtime, insists on the same practice.  He will point to the ground “You stay right there.”

For a while I have indulged this sweet little gesture, and even enjoyed falling asleep for a little evening siesta between my two boys.  They usually ask me to hold their hands, so I’ll lay there on my back, with arms stretched out reaching up to their beds.  Not at all comfortable, but it is sweet. So I’ll cherish those little moments and listen as their quiet breathing turns to adorable baby snores.

But not tonight.  Tonight we took the boys out to eat, and my stomach is fully rejecting the butter-soaked meal.  I’m miserable and just want to put them to bed and poop in peace.  I had tried while they were in the tub, but the P was all “ahh mommy I have to poop”  so I had to get up, get him out and let him do his business, and by the time he was done my opportunity had passed.   They are ready to get out and the next twenty minutes is a blur of toothpaste, wrestling them into PJ’s and wild giggles as mommy keeps farting and stinking up the room.

Stories, prayers, hugs and kisses – ok now climb into bed, everybody got your 15 lovies, toys, books and special blankets?  Great!!!  Good night.

Of course you know there is no way Associate A is going to stay in bed and fall asleep unless I am on the ground next to him… which right now is the very last thing I want to do.  So I’m going to be tough today and say “NO!  You must stay in bed.  Mommy is not in the mood tonight. Go to sleep!”  After another 20 minutes of tears and little feet pitter patting out of the room, I give in and go in to lay down.

At which point a very amused, and still a bit giggly Associate P tells me, “Mommy its your fault A won’t stay in bed.  Your farts are too stinky.  They made the whole room smell and he just wants to get out.”

I can hear the CEO laughing from the other room…. and when they are finally asleep and I come out he tells me this is one of the best days of his life and he wants to remember this forever.  Well here you go sir – may it live on the interwebs forever.

Associate P was right – the bedtime battle was my fault, but I hold firm it is not because of my stinky farts.  It is rather because I have indulged my kids in a routine (staying in the room while they fall asleep) that is unsustainable.

Eventually I will have to be strong enough to withstand the tears, stay firm and stay out. But for tonight, it was just easier to sit in the dutch oven of my own creation.  ugh.

 

Nothing Says I Love You Like a Dutch Oven

Nothing Says I Love You Like a Dutch Oven

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post Navigation

Executive Vice President, Home Operations

I Live on a Boat

Adventures of sailing with a toddler and three Jack Russell Terriers

Hands Free Mama

Letting Go...To Grasp What Really Matters

TRU Parenting

Executive Vice President, Home Operations

Melbourne Florida Photographer - Angel Gray Photography

Executive Vice President, Home Operations

Hello, darling

Executive Vice President, Home Operations

grasping for objectivity in my subjective life

Executive Vice President, Home Operations

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 166 other followers

%d bloggers like this: