The Moment of Tooth

I once read an article that talked about all the “last moments” that are lost – because we may not even know it is the last. I mean as parents we celebrate all the first moments. First time walking. First words.

But this article talked about the “last” moments, and it hit home like a ton of bricks because the truth is, we rarely even realize when those last moments are happening. As they grow and we celebrate those independent moments – like washing their hair all by themselves. But one day you sit back and mourn that moment passed you by and you didn’t even know it was the last time you would “get” to wash their hair – Ugh! That hurts!

Tonight we pass a milestone that I actually do know and realize will be a last – barring any terrible accident on a volley ball court or play ground. Tonight she slipped her last tooth under her pillow. Last visit from the tooth fairy. Last time she will make me nearly faint as she wiggles it all around before she bravely pulls it out herself. Like – when did she get so brave?!?

This is my baby. I have a teen that passed that moment by so long ago – that I honestly don’t remember her last tooth. See?! She’s on to bigger and better things like learning to man a 3,000 pound road sled and not wreck it. That’s exactly how it happens too. Focusing on the next big milestone after milestone and all those “last moments” can easily scurry right by you unannounced.

I’m not even sure which is worse…knowing something is your last, or letting it slip by you blissfully unaware. Because knowing this is the last tooth….I am sitting here writing this through ridiculous blurry, teary eyes. Geesh. If I realized when each last moment was happening – I would probably be walking around like a blubbering sobby incoherent mess. One big walking Hallmark channel movie mess.

So – here is to final visits from the tooth fairy. Cheers, and Tears.  I know some parents would rejoice at this moment. No more waking up in the middle of the night or worse yet – sliding it under the pillow in the morning after they are already awake because the tooth fairy forgot!! Oh, I can’t tell you how many times I had to pull the old “Oh here it is, you didn’t look hard enough!” act. Cause as they do grow and get older…so do we.

But tonight the tooth fairy did not forget. In fact, she left behind a fat $20 AND…FAIRY GLITTER! Which of course, she will be far more excited about than the money. Because she still adamantly believes in fairies. And so do I – because she keeps them so alive. Naively, I would love to believe there will never be a last day she believes in those.

Of course this makes we think back and wonder what else I have missed recently? What other “lasts” have I missed? I still get to pour the milk when it’s too heavy at least. I’m good for that. I still get to take hot things out of the oven. Ok…I’m still mommy.

Deep breath. Good cry. And carry on. In the end, it’s all just part of it. All we can do is take it all in. Hope we are doing a decent job at it. And learning to hold on as best as we can, as we hit these moments of truth and tooth.

 

 

 

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If You Give a Mom a Moment

me and kiddos

Each summer my big girl makes a 5 or 6 week visit to her dad. On top of that, I share custody of my youngest so I get her every other week. So at times when they are both away, I am forced to take…a moment.

I know I am not alone in my situation – there are plenty of other parents that have to experience this. I used to get intensely sad and mope for days and even fall into a depression about it. But I have slowly been able to turn my perspective of void and sadness to joy and happiness.

So, what is the big turn around?

My girls and I really enjoy the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series. We are always making up our own goofy versions. So here’s a nod to Laura Numeroff, the author, and a feeble attempt at a parody on it to try to explain how things turned around for me.

If You Give a Mom A Moment…

At first she will be sad. Saying good bye is hard. Chances are, she will cry. She will try not to cry in front of her child, but if she does, chances are, she will realize moping around and acting like a victim or martyr, borders on emotional manipulation and only robs everyone of happiness. If she wants her children to be strong, well-adjusted people – she will want to model that.

And if she is modeling healthy role-model behavior, chances are she will eventually find humility – She will have to accept that she alone, is not enough for her children. That her kids need their dad(and step mom if there is one, and many other relatives) in their lives to keep them stable, happy and confident. It takes a village. Really.

Once she is humbled, chances are, she will just want her children to be happy. She will realize that as long as her kids want to spend time with their dad and he wants to spend time with them, it is ALWAYS a positive and wonderful thing. So she will foster that relationship like crazy (regardless of her past and personal history with her ex. Because she will realize it is not all about her).

And chances are, if she sees how happy her kids are, it will change her perspective. She will realize there are much harder things people are dealing with, and that this is a very temporary time apart.

When she realizes this time apart is only temporary, chances are she will spring into action and want to take advantage of the fleeting moment.

She will want to deep clean, and even down-size STUFF!

And since she is cleaning and decluttering, chances are, she will sift through the mountain of randomness that inevitably collects in the open real estate of unused kitchen corners and dispose, dispose, dispose…and file the 3 things she actually needs to keep.

Since she cleaned up all that clutter, chances are she will want to get organized and figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

She will probably spend some time on pinterest searching really cool ways to organize stuff.

And since she is on pinterest, chances are, she will see images of women that appear to have it altogether and are enjoying life.

When she sees images of these women being carefree, she will remember a time when she was carefree.

It might remind her that the only person holding herself back from being carefree right now is her, and she will want to claim some quiet time herself.

She will probably sit still and do nothing for awhile. She will be reminded of a time before children where there was no one constantly bumping her, stepping on her toes (literally), poking her, sitting on her, and interrupting every 5 seconds.

And when she thinks about not being interrupted, chances are, she will want to spend some time with her spouse completing full sentences and thoughts and catching up with the person she fell in love with.

When she spends time with her spouse, she will probably talk about her dreams and hobbies. She will want to work on recording music she has written, work on books that need finished and published, sift through electronic pictures and maybe get some printed out. She might even want to paint, and experiment with new art forms.

Painting will remind her of wine and canvas nights and time with her own friends. Chances are, she will make a few dates with her friends and go out and have a blast, without needing to ensure everyone is safe, comfortable, and properly hydrated (and bug sprayed, or sun screened, or have enough snacks on hand, or needs a hair tie, or has to go potty or…)

And when she spends time with her friends, they will probably end up talking about their children. She will get to vent about life and parenthood, and then brag a little about her kids. Chances are, she will compare notes, and get some great advice.

And when she gets some great advice, it will probably make her reflect on what she is doing well as a mom, what she could do better, and take some time to read up on how to influence instead of nag. How to partner, not be nosy.

And while she is reflecting, chances are, she will probably miss her kiddos. She might even shed a few tears…

But this time they are not tears of pure sadness, but of completeness. And when she realizes how far she has come…chances are, she will want to have a moment.

Goodnight 13

Tonight I hugged my thirteen year old daughter goodnight. Tomorrow she will turn fourteen.

I found myself not wanting to let go of her. I just kept hugging her and hoping the moment wouldn’t ever have to end. I felt my eyes sting and burn trying to hold back tears, as years of memories flooded before me. Ooops…something in my eye there. Darn dust.

Mauldinfest 9-26-03 004 Mommy hugging riley Riley on merry go round Riley on mommys shoulder

We’ve been through so much together. She and I have made it through so many obstacles and she has always been right there by my side. Mostly because she had to (not much choice at those young ages to just pack up and move out). But also because those hard times have drawn us closer.

I have always carried guilt about her having to endure divorce. And not just once, but twice. One divorce from a good man (her dad) and one divorce from a bad man. Carelessness with the best of intentions.

Through the years of being a single mom, and a remarried mom, she and I have had to learn “new normals” again and again. And through it all…she surprises me with her silliness, good nature, and adaptability. She has always been able to roll with the punches.

But she has also bared the scars. Through the 2nd divorce we both learned how damaging broken promises can be. When someone pretends to be something they are not and everything you thought you knew suddenly becomes a huge lie – it breaks something in your soul.

Trust is hard to rebuild in a life that has been shattered by a million lies.

But somehow we managed to pick up the pieces and make something altogether beautiful. Like a mosaic glass work. Old broken pieces put back together in a new arrangement to reflect a whole new state of mind. Stronger than ever.

Over time, I am slowly letting go of guilt (most days) and learning to move beyond by using the past as lessons of what not to do. She will have to make her own choices obviously, but because of our experiences, we have had the opportunity to talk in length about character and the attributes of a good and bad person from first hand examples.

She has had her share of anger and still carries it. But I am hoping over time, the more I let it go, she will follow as well. We have had to learn the hard way that there are some bad apples out there. Being choosey is really important and to not ignore important warning signs, which applies to not just boys/men but girlfriends too.

When I look into her eyes…most times I see a scatterbrained teenager whose frontal brain lobe and rational thinking has been held hostage by a rapid deployment of rewiring and complex triggers that happens during adolescence. The all too typical teenager blank look or maybe even contempt or disgust…or total silliness to the point of irrational annoyance.

But sometimes I get a glimpse of that little chunky monkey she used to be with curly blond hair and a bright tiny toothed innocent grin that I pushed in swings for hours, chased around playgrounds and yards and spent hours upon hours giggling with and snuggling tight.

And then other times…I get a glimpse of the woman she is yet to be. A poised, spectacularly beautiful young woman with all the potential of the world at her fingertips. A young woman that can ride a horse like a graceful dream, has a soft spot for the elderly and some kind of old soul thing going on just beneath the surface.

Somehow these 3 dimensions of this child/teenager/adult are all wrapped into one amazing package that I consider my gift every day – good, bad or indifferent. That’s what life is I guess. A balance of getting through the tough crap and hanging on to those really great moments. And I am just so thankful to have been blessed with a kid like her to hold hands and get through it all together.

I get a few more years of her under my roof. I try not to take that for granted. Tonight is a bittersweet night. Tonight I say goodnight to 13.

 

Riley profile Riley sitting

 

Beauty in the Chaos

ripples of joy

The beauty of Chaos

The beauty of Chaos

Sometimes I can get a little intense about taking photos – especially photos of water. Flowing water in a creek, water droplets on a blade of grass or flower. My kids even make fun of me because I tend to go overboard.

“Hey mom! – look! There are some dew drops over here. Better get your camera!”

One picturesque fall day I looked over the bank and saw so much potential and beauty just there for the capturing.

I grab my camera and head down to the creek. Excited about what my lens might find.

Much to my dismay, both of my girls decided they just had to come down with me and play in the creek at the same time.

I thought to myself…well, there goes any chance I was hoping of getting some good shots.

You know what they say about assuming.

Let’s just say I was in for some humble pie and a huge life lesson.

We all get down there in one piece (it is a steep descent/ravine).

The girls started doing what they do best…causing utter havoc. And being completely adorable while doing it. I believe whole heartedly that kids need to experience nature first hand like this.

I am all for getting them out of the house and letting them get a little dirty.

Just not while I am trying to take photos, for heaven’s sake!

But I soon forgot about those frustrations. Just watching them. They are so beautiful. So full of silliness, play, and wonder.

They transform into magical water fairy nymphs right before my eyes.

Then came the splashing. The inevitable splishing and splashing, and accidental falling in. All just a matter of time.

So there I am snapping away at some of the artfully placed leaves I had my eye on from the start. Except now, there was all kinds of chaos going on around this otherwise peaceful scene and moment just a few yards away.

I was about to get frustrated, but thought better of it. I kept snapping pictures. Art is all just an experiment anyways – at least for me at this amateur phase.

And of course you know what happened…

I got some of the best shots I could have hoped for. WAY better than if I had gone down there alone.

Because the most beautiful part of the pictures I captured that day was not the leaves on the water that I had gone down there for…

The most beautiful part was the water that had come to life all around the leaves.

All because 2 little girls were curious and had to follow their crazy mommy down to the water.

And I am so thankful they did.

They continue to teach me lessons like this all the time.

Lessons of letting go of control. Letting go of expectations.

Letting life be even more beautiful by the surprises that happen when you surrender all those preconceived notions or thoughts on how things should be like this or that.

There is a lot of beauty and freedom in that kind of surrender.

They are great teachers. Even when I am a reluctant learner.

And though I still yearn for calm and quiet times now and then, I know I will look back at these days and miss being smothered by two needy, precious girls that will grow up all too fast.

I am thankful for these teaching moments and for the beauty in the chaos.

beauty in the water

beauty in the water

Hurricanes of Ohio

There is a hurricane brewing in Ohio.

At least that is what my mom is paranoid, restless and consumed with fear about tonight. My mom suffers from several kinds of mental illness. She was diagnosed with Schizophrenia right around her 20’s. Now at 72 she has also been told she has dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Any one of those are pretty terrible. Pile all three – and you have a shit storm of confusion at any given moment.

Looking back, my childhood was very different from most. I just didn’t know it at the time.

But now – as an adult, and the fact that she lives 4 states away – it gives me some space and ability to see things for what they are.

I have had time to heal and forgive from the seemingly personal attacks. The souless look in her eyes as she would hurl insults and physical objects my way. The delusions, the voices, the paranoia, the anger.

So now when I hear she is suffering from another episode, it just saddens me. She is in a rehabilitation center worrying…in great concern that I am about to be wiped off the face of the earth from a hurricane. A hurricane in Ohio.

Her mind is taking her down a senseless track of anxiety and fear and there is no talking her out of it.

I remember sitting in the complete dark and silence – no electronic device allowed of any kind – because in her mind aliens were coming and they would enter through the electrical wires.

I remember trying to see the spiders – the hundreds of spiders that she was screaming about – begging me to get them off of her and her anger at me because I didn’t save her from them.

Pretty scary stuff. Especially as a kid. I remember thinking…she IS wrong…right?! right??

There is a natural tendency as a child to want to believe your parent – but in these cases there was a lot of confusion and internal struggles.

The brain is a mysterious place. It happens so fast – She was just fine, laughing and sounding great last week. But this week there is a hurricane in Ohio.

Living with a person with a serious mental illness is a challenge. It takes an extraordinary person to be able to handle it and understand it with compassion, love, forgiveness – especially in the midst of an episode that could involve personal attacking. I wasn’t always that person and am not always that person even now.

The distance has helped. It has given me the opportunity to focus on my own little family. To be a little selfish. I had not realized just how much of my life, my energy, my thoughts had been focused on caring for mom, worrying about her, or living in a constant underlying state of dread when the phone rings and it is her…needing rescued again from something or someone – which usually involved lots of time and possibly lots of money.

But I will always remember a conversation we had a few years ago that completely broke my heart and changed the way I deal with her and look at her.

She said in a moment of realization, “No one likes me Lee Ann. No one likes the REAL me. The unmedicated me. The raw me. People only like me when I am on drugs that make me something, or someone else”.

That is a sad and truthful statement.

She is locked inside a body and brain that has been failing her for years and is only increasingly fading out. The real, unmedicated her is an unpredictable, paranoid, delusional, angry, unstable person.

And the worst part of it all is that she is aware of it. She knows this truth.

So when I step back, and think about it in terms of pure physical illness…I am able to have compassion, patience. Just the same as if she had a failing kidney or heart. It just happens to be her brain in this case.

It is still exhausting, frustrating. The whole thing is unfair. But life is not fair.

We all have challenges to face. How you face them – THAT is what determines who you are.

I lived the earlier years of my life angry and blaming her for a terrible, scary, unstable childhood. A childhood that left scars, and some really awful exposure to some really bad experiences.

So I became that. An angry person. A victim. Resentful. Naive. Restless. Blind. Making unwise decisions and choices.

But it wasn’t because of her. All that was because I made that choice to become those things. In many ways it was coping mechanisms and I did have a right to be angry to some degree. But when it starts tearing you apart from the inside out…that is a problem.

It took me years and a few hundred miles to finally make peace out of all that chaos.

So. Here I sit in Ohio. No real threat of a hurricane. Just a heart that is sad for a very confused loved one that is fighting a huge storm of her own. And having no way to rescue her from this one.

The quiet and important distractions that keep me sane

 

On these days without my child because I have shared parenting, I look forward to the quiet and important distractions that keep me sane.  Without them I would be a sobbing, devastated mess…dwelling on missed hugs, smiles, spontaneous laughter, and sweet little kisses. 

Really – I know this first hand because I was a sobbing devastated mess for a few years until I learned to turn those quiet distractions into moments of strength and clarity.

I learned that I get to focus on the quiet or sweet silence – something that I don’t get to experience when she is around.  I have learned to embrace this quietness – something that once grieved me now fills me up.  It is a re-energizing moment.  A moment to breathe.    The silence that once screamed of voidness (which is apparently not a word) and loss now comforts me and provides moments of reflection, clarity, balance. 

Honestly – I used to kiss my sweet girl goodbye with a strong happy face mask, close the door and sink to the floor in a fetal position and sob.  Snot dripping, knife-like inflicted pained sobbing.  Though I still do smell pillows and pajamas left behind, it is more of a bittersweet/happy reminder – a promise I will embrace her again soon…not a devastating never ending loss. 

That was not a wise way to live back in those slow internal death days, but I guess I had to get it out…so I could move on to this next level of coping.  A healthier way.

I have some friends who have lost their children at such young innocent ages to pediatric cancers and tragic accidents.  Their tragedies have also helped mold and form my newly found composure – by putting my situation into perspective.  My pity parties have definitely been curbed as I have seen these families deal with the most unimaginable horror, with grace, honesty and beauty.  I realized how ridiculous I was being by dwelling on the negatives rather than the positives. 

But everything has a cycle.  If you are in the beginning of your journey of a new divorce with forced time away from your babies…take heart, but also know that it’s ok to cry, sob and grieve like you’re dying.  Get it out, but don’t stay there.  You can camp out for the night at pity party alley, but you can’t live there.  That’s not for you – or for your kids when you do have them.

Here are some tangible and wonderful distractions to do with your forced silence:

  • First of all – Make a list of places you want to go and things you want to do that you could only really enjoy alone or in adult company.  This is important because you WILL forget.  Depression can set in fast and you need that “Go to list” as something to look forward to.  These ideas usually come to you while your kids are with you (let’s be real for a moment – you know those moments in time when they are driving you crazy and you start thinking things like “OMG – I could SO being doing this or that…”  Those This or That’s are the starting points for your new list of things to do when they are away – so make notes.  On your hand, a gum wrapper or these days – a text to yourself. 
  • If you are having trouble thinking of something to do – take some time to remember who you were before – we sometimes lose ourselves in a relationship, a divorce, or parenthood.  Who were you before?  What did that person love to do?  Remember your hobbies and start making time for them again.
  • Sign up for art classes.  Water color, acrylic, oil, tile mosaics, floral arranging – don’t limit yourself.  JoAnnes, Michaels, and other hobby stores often have free or reasonably priced lessons.  Or look up different techniques on line – some great learning videos on youtube these days.
  • Go to a Lowe’s or Home Depot Do it Yourself Workshop.  (You know… I am women…hear me roar!  I don’t need a man to fix THAT, thank you). Sorry guys – you can attend to.  No shame in not knowing how to assemble a door knob…but maybe now’s the time to learn that new skill. 
  • Sign up to blow glass if that is available near you
  • Call up a friend and make time to reconnect.  Friends are not telepathic and do not keep track of your personal schedule of when you do or don’t have your kids. Swallow your pride and initiate the call. You will both be glad you did.  
  • Find some live music and actually go and listen
  • Pick up a local “things to do” magazine and start circling interesting places and things you want to do or see that you never even knew existed right in your own town.
  • Head to the library for something for…YOU!  Not the kiddie section. In fact – purposely avoid the kid section.  This is your time.  It’s ok to guard it selfishly because let’s face it – you have no choice.  Own it girl (or guy).
  • Organize those 5000 photos you have downloaded on the computer and have never printed out.
  • Go to a coffee house
  • Go Shopping
  • Go Hiking
  • Go Kayaking
  • Go Biking
  • Find a stream or creek…and just listen and breathe it in…as long as you want to.  No shirt tugging and restless whining to hurry to on to the next thing.
  • Take a book or an Ipod to a nature reserve.  Hike, find a peaceful place and read, or listen to the wind in the trees or your favorite music. 
  • Take time to find some new music or artists.  There is more to life than Dora the Explorer and Disney Channel and it’s ok to find it, and embrace it.  Look for Indie Artists. Utilize Pandora, Spotify, etc.  There is a whole world of really great music and artists that never get mainstream radio that you need to hear. 
  • If you have a weekend – take a trip!  By car, by plane.  Go visit a long distant friend. 
  • Bake something.  Again – something grown up that you enjoy.  No mac and cheese or hot dogs here.  Spoil yourself a little.
  • Take a cooking class. 
  • You never had time for the gym before – well guess what doll?  Now you have time!  Do it.
  • Take a spinning class.
  • Eventually and only when you are healed and honestly ready…start contemplating the idea of dating.  But make sure you are not looking for someone to heal your wounds or “complete” you.   That is a dangerous lie and trap.  You don’t need rescued.  Chances are you will only end up in another heart break.  Take this time to really find you.  This is a gift – a rebirth!!  Once you have done your mourning – Embrace it.  Never forget who you are again.  Then promise yourself that you will never lose yourself again.  If you ever do find someone worthy of you – they will have to accept you for the amazing person you are and not want to change you.

When you learn the art of taking these moments to re-build you, to rejuvenate you – you will in turn be a stronger, healthier, better parent.  You have to take time to lick those wounds, but find a balance.  As you get stronger and better adjusted you can take advantage of more and more of these wonderful spirit building quiet and important distractions that will keep you sane.

Confessions of a Recovering Helicopter Parent

In my early years of parenting I heard many times from older mothers, “You are one of the best, most engaged parents I have ever seen”. Some even went as far as to admit they felt a since of guilt that they were nowhere near the hands on parent that I was. Insert Sigh of relief and maybe even a moment of gloating that perhaps I was doing this parenting thing right!

But was I? Since that time, I have made some parenting adjustments. Partly because 1. no one can keep up that pace and stay sane and 2. I had another child and went through a divorce at roughly the same time and simply couldn’t be there like I had in the past.

It was the end to craft marathons, baking and cooking from scratch together for hours on end (while pretending to narrate our own mother daughter cooking show), and trying to fill every waking moment with a kid filled activity from library story times, to mommy play groups, to the zoo to…you name it. If it was published in a local paper, or posted on the internet – you can assure it was marked in my calendar and it was a ragged, grueling schedule to keep up with.

Both me and my husband (I remarried) are products of the generation of parenting that was fairly hands off. I was left alone at very early ages to navigate some pretty scary situations and paid the price now and then. I had the added handicap of having a mom that was afflicted with mental illness and simply couldn’t look after, or advocate for me consistently. She herself actually put me in harms way sometimes. The result left me with a strong desire and urge to over parent and over protect my children – in attempt to keep anything bad from ever happening.

My husband was doing man chores – like serious hard labor chores at the age of 8 and continued to do so for years. To this day he is the hardest worker I know – and I sometimes have to get on him to just chill out and take a break and have fun, and I am guilty of quoting corny cliches things like, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. But the nice unexpected result is that since he has entered our lives he has helped instill a since of work ethic into our girls by doling out age appropriate chores – that I otherwise might not have done – or at least on a consistent basis.

With him in our lives thankfully our girls are learning the feeling of earning a true “Atta girl”, and a sense of accomplishment, not to mention just a sense of worth. Just this weekend my little one age almost 6 decided to take upon herself the chore of cleaning the kitty litter box. This has been my 11 year olds job for a few years now. I think tid bit volunteered partly because she wants to be like big sis, partly because it is a novelty (I’m a romantic…not an idiot), and partly and maybe without her even realizing it – it gives her a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

So while our generation is getting a bad rap for the helicopter parenting style (as my earlier years), our previous generation sometimes gets pegged with under parenting (examples – I had to cross a 4 lane highway to get to school unattended at age 7 and tripped one day to nearly be smashed by a semi). But where is that healthy middle ground? It’s kind of hard to navigate sometimes.

But I have to set one thing straight for the records. Since I have intentionally backed off a bit I have to say this, “The less hands on parenting style is NOT for the lack of parenting or love or what is sometimes perceived as”. It does NOT give me more “Me” time. It does NOT make my life easier. In fact…what I am finding is as I force myself to back off, let them be “alone” sometimes, let them do chores and fail at them many times over is WAY WAY harder than just doing it all myself in the disguised name of “helping them out”.

Because let’s be honest here. It would so much faster for me to always vacuum, do my oldest daughters laundry when she has nothing clean to wear, for me to always do the dishes, etc. Why? Because I know it would be done right! Yes, it kind of drives me a little nuts when I go to get a plate out of the cupboard that has some mystery dried gunk on it. Not a fan of that.

But that is also a teaching moment. That is when I need to call for my oldest and either give her the option to eat off that plate tonight or let her have a re-do. It takes extra time…and it takes multiple times because believe me – you would think that after you did that once or twice…or 36 times that they would incorporate quality into the initial process the first time! But then I remember that she IS a kid… and that this IS a slow developmental process. And that in the end it is for her benefit – not just mine. And it is ANYTHING but hands off and easy.

I gain more respect for my parent’s generation style of parenting all the time. Especially when I know some 13 year old kids that literally don’t know how to make a sandwich for themselves. I absolutely cringe – and part of me feels really sorry for the spouse to be – if they ever get that far.

So let’s be clear here and say that those parents that are filling out college applications for their kids or worse yet – taking tests for them or intervening into their battles of “he said/she said” staying up all night to finish a project that the kid had 4 weeks to complete…are not these great hands-on parents that we should feel guilty that we don’t measure up to. They are doing clean up duty!! Because it is easier to swoop in and be the rescuer to avoid an emotional let down than stand back and let the kid build some character – which WILL require some heartbreaks, broken friendships, and a failed test or assignment here and there.

Not only are we giving them a false sense of security, a warped view of reality, but we are robbing them of the building blocks to life. If I didn’t like my boss…I can’t have my parent call HR and get me moved to a different department people! And if I get lazy and don’t do my best, mommy is not going to call my boss to fight for another chance for me or worse yet – blame my boss for some unrealistic standards!

Now I am not saying to NOT advocate for our children when they are actual harm, being bullied or something like that. In that case you smack it down like starving lioness and instill the fear of what is good and Holy where you need to. But even then – there are tactical, ways to do that. And discussing it with your child is a good start, making them part of the solution if and when appropriate, etc.

It is much harder to let your kids get scraped now and then, than to never let them fall down on the play ground. I have had to literally turn the other way a few times or pry my knuckles from a bench to refrain from catching a near fall (of 1 foot or less). It requires a sense of patience, a very selfless kind of love. Because when our kids hurt WE hurt. And maybe that is it too! We don’t want to experience that pain of rejection or failure either. And at some twisted core of it all – maybe we are protecting OURSELVES just as much or even more than we are protecting our kids. Ouch!

It took me about 8 years of parenting to realize that my child’s failures are not exactly a reflection on me. If they fail to turn in an assignment – it should not mean that child services will be at my house shortly to investigate what the hell is going on in my obviously chaotic and unorganized household. Is THAT part of it too? Paranoia? I mean – honestly – by today’s standards – I would absolutely have been removed from my mother’s care by the court. Now do not mistake me – I am thankful for the many gains we have made as a society in protecting and advocating for children and think we still have a long way to go.

All I am saying is that we sometimes over parent out of fear of what other parents might say, teachers might say – or what we “think” they might say. We over coddle not just out of love for our children to save them from pain and rejection, sometimes we may do it out of selfish fear! Our parent’s generation didn’t quite have that level of paranoia going on. They had that Clint Eastwood tough-as-nails-deal-with-it mentality.

And yes – over the years I have detected some guilt on my father’s part. Sad and grateful eyes and admission that he has no clue how we turned out normal. But I will totally be saying that about my girls too. As a parent – there will always be guilt – one way or another. I think that is in the unwritten by laws of parenting. I learned to accept that awhile ago. I know I am not perfect. I am going to mess up. But that’s part of learning too.

Honestly – I don’t know how right I am on this – I am only relaying some of my own fears and experiences and things or epiphanies I have learned along the way. And no doubt have so much more to learn along the way. I have always said, “My best teachers are my kids”.

All I do know is that I am intentionally trying to back off a little hopefully in the right places, because I don’t want to go to the other extreme so my girls feel like I don’t care or are not there for them. But honestly – that is perception too. There will be a time when they yell at me that I don’t care. And that may mean that they didn’t get the Ipad that they wanted at age 8. So we take these things with a grain of salt.

But at the end of the day I am just incredibly thankful. They are fed, laughing (and sometimes bickering at each other), safe, healthy, and doing some daily chore here and there (and yes sometimes rolling their eyes at having to do them) we are always interacting in some way or another, tickle fights spontaneously erupt, there is a light and sparkle in their eye. There is real effort…sometimes balanced, sometimes over or under done. And when effort isn’t enough – because it never is – there is always forgiveness and most of all…love.