Category Archives: Parenting

It’s all perspective

Last weekend, Mr. Wonderful and I were on the bike. The sun was shining and the sky was blue and as the wind whipped past my helmet, it was as if it pulled all the worry and stress out of my head and flung it onto the road behind us.

I don’t know if you know this about me or not, but I kind of expect a lot out of myself. (And by kind of, I mean I absolutely, 10000% expect a lot out of myself.) It’s really easy for me to focus so much on where I want to end up, that I forget to appreciate where I am.

I think we all do that from time to time, don’t you?

For example, as a parent, I want my kids to be happy, well-adjusted, functional members of society. Who doesn’t, right? But I can get so worried about who my kids might be, or should be, or will be, that I forget to see who they are.

And you know what? Watching them play together, cooperating, laughing, building huge Lego castles and immense imaginary worlds, I think I have to say that my kids are happy, well-adjusted, and functional.

So, why do I worry so much about helping them become what they already are?

Sure, I want to continue to guide them – especially as we near the teenage years with Lady Chatterbox – but do I really need to waste so much time being tense and worried about their development? I think the answer is probably ‘no.’ I mean, I’ve given myself upset stomachs and stress headaches worrying about my kids who are, essentially, just fine. Doesn’t that seem a little crazy?

In fact, I think the majority of the stress we carry around with us is … well … pointless. I know that I can get so caught up in what I want to do, what I want to have happen, that I totally forget to appreciate where I am.

Sure, sometimes where I am is in my living room, surrounded by an explosion of toys and pillows, trapped under a mountain of dogs and kids. At that point, what I want is to clean up the living room. But if all I focus on is getting that living room clean, I miss out on the fact that where I am is in a warm pile of people and animals that love and need me.

And isn’t that a pretty fantastic place to be?

When I was teaching dance, I spent a lot of time researching the psychology behind developing young artists and athletes. I stumbled across an article about a tennis player – years ago, sorry I can’t link to it – who was wickedly talented, driven, hard working, and pretty much won every match he played. He was on the fast track to success until, suddenly, he wasn’t. He started losing. His form slipped. He started losing some more.

His parents took him to a therapist who was familiar with working with athletes and it came out that the guy had changed the way he spoke to himself about his matches. Instead of saying: “I can win this,” he started saying: “I MUST win this.” Instead of saying, “I’m going to practice,” he started saying: “I HAVE to practice.” All of his self-talk switched from statements using ‘can’ and ‘will’ and ‘love,’ to statements using ‘must’ and ‘should’ and ‘need.’

In essence, those words popped him out of a place of positivity and into a really negative head space. Once the tennis player was able to change his self-talk, he stopped putting so much pressure on himself, lowered his stress levels, and started having fun.

Oh ya.

And he started winning again.

So my thought for the day is this:

Slow down. Look around. Appreciate where you are. Everything in this life is about perspective.

Lady Chatterbox is growing up

Yesterday was the first day of spring break here in Webb-land. I’ve got all three munchkins at home and Master Moose and Lady Chatterbox  have their annual check-ups in about an hour. (Sir Brown Eyes had his last week. He’s healthy and strong and growing! What more can you ask for?)

Lady Chatterbox turned eleven in February. She’s got one round of vaccines today and she’s a bit nervous. Me? I’m feeling a little…I’m not sure there’s a word that means all the things I’m feeling about this appointment.

Is it goofy that I’m feeling sentimental about taking my girl to the doctor?

Ya.

Probably.

I’ll admit it. I can be strange sometimes.

But it feels like this appointment with this particular vaccine symbolizes another bit of childhood she’s shed and left behind. In one of the very first artist interviews I did, Greg Tremblay said he felt ‘achingly bad’ for his eleven year old daughter and I can only nod my head in understanding of that statement. In the same instant, Lady Chatterbox is both child and young woman, eager to play with her dolls and quick to fight tears if a boy mentions her (wonderfully) long and skinny legs.

For my entire career as a mother, I’ve tried not to wish away whatever current phase of growth my kids are in. I’ve not always been successful. I was certainly pleased when Master Moose finally outgrew his Death Sauce phase. (You know, the phase where he went from zero to wailing  like a tornado siren at the drop of a Cheerio…? Especially if we were in public…?) But all things considered, I realize that I only get the honor of having these little people featured as a major part of my life for a relatively short time.

I’m essentially borrowing them.

They’re mine.

I made them.

But I don’t get to keep them.

They will grow and they will develop and my main job as a mother is to make them strong enough to leave the safety of my arms. And so, even during the most difficult of phases, I try to cherish the times they still want to cuddle up close and snuggle in.

Thing is, with Lady Chatterbox entering her pre-teen years, I realize I’m about to be dethroned. My time as the all knowing, super cool, hilarious, and wonderful mom that I am is ending. I’m about to become the woman who causes eye rolls and sighs of frustration. I’m about to become Officially Dumb. The things I do that are awesome and fun and cool now are going to earn me the status of Most Embarrassing Woman Ever in like…

*checks watch*

…any minute.

To some extent, I feel like I’m losing my Lady.

And just because I know that – in reality – I’m not really losing her, and that even if she does go away for a little while, she’ll be back…

And just because I know this is exactly how things are supposed to happen…

…well…

Knowing those things doesn’t make what’s heading my way any easier to swallow.

Sometimes I think parenthood is the sharpest of life’s cruelties. I love my children with a ferocity that makes me braver than I really am and a simplicity that strengthens me when I’m weak. I sacrifice for them, give up bits of my freedom for them, design my life around their wants and needs and lose time for myself in the process. I get up early to make sure they get to school with full bellies and stay up late worrying that I’ve somehow let them down.

And for all that, my job is to raise them and set them free.

I don’t know…maybe I’m strange. I can’t fathom a time when my children aren’t living in my home, under my roof, available for a quick hug when it’s needed.

And, as Lady Chatterbox enters these pre-teen years, I feel like the number of hugs heading my way are suddenly finite.

I know that’s silly. I know it ’cause I still end every phone call to my Mom and Dad with an “I love you,” and I know because I wouldn’t dare leave their house or let them leave mine without a hug. My children will do the same because…well…family. That’s why. I love them and they love me and that’s just a truth that IS.

And really, despite all the things that make me sad about my children growing up, there are countless things about the process that fill me with this honey colored, smile in my belly, pride filled wonder.

It’s warm and it’s good and I like it.

I watch their faces change and wonder what they’ll look like as teenagers and, later, adults. I see them interact with friends and glow with pride when they are the voices of kindness and reason among their peers. I study the unfinished sculpture of who they are and smile when I think I glimpse the finished product.

And so, I’ll grab all the hugs I can while they’re still young enough to want them and hope I can be the anchor the kids are going to need as they set sail on the waters of teenage-hood. They’re going to go out there, the waters are going to be rough, and they’re going to get wet.

Thing is, I’ll be here, watching from a safe distance, making sure they know I’ve got a warm towel waiting if they need it.

Don’t lean on your biscuit and other strange things I say to my kids

I have kids. Three of them. Ever since Lady Chatterbox entered this world, I’ve found myself saying the strangest things, having the most disgusting conversations without blinking an eye, and in general, doing things a younger me would have never thought I’d end up doing.

This morning I had to tell Master Moose not to lean on his biscuits. And when I say biscuits, I’m not using a cute euphemism for his rear end or anything along those lines. I seriously mean the biscuits I made him for breakfast. The kid was so tired, he put his head on his plate and started to doze off. So naturally I spout off:

“Dude! Don’t lean on your biscuits!”

Is that truly something I should ever have to say to another human being? When did that become the most natural sentence in the world to leave mouth?

He sat up, bleary eyed, crumbs strewn across his cheek and dangling from his eyebrows, and looked at me as if I were a total she-devil — the most heinous of maternal figures thumping her ladle on the counter and spewing the nastiest of obscenities in his direction.

I’ve run the gambit of motherly one liners.

“Get your finger out of your nose.”

“Stop playing in your soup.”

“Everybody poops.”

“Because I said so.”

“Don’t lick your brother.”

“WHO PEED ON THE WALL?!”

I still feel the shock of discovery on that one. This very minute, my fingers flying over the keyboard, I’m transported to the day where I stood in the bathroom, staring wide eyed and open mouthed at the urine streaking down the wall and pooling on the tile. Who pees on the wall? What kind of heathens am I raising?

And then there was the day, very early in spring, when the animals were very busy being twitterpated and quite diligently acting on said twitterpatification and I got into the car with my children.

“Look Mom,” squeals Master Moose. “That squirrel just jumped on that other squirrel’s back!”

Lady Chatterbox giggles in delight. “And now they’re stuck together!”

“Oh my.” I throw the car in gear and back out of the driveway. “So, what are you looking forward to at school today?” Redirect! Redirect! Please don’t make me have to explain what just happened! Not yet! They’re not ready! I’M NOT READY!

Squirrel-Love

“Yes, that doggie IS a boy.”

“No, farts aren’t butt giggles.”

I mean, the list goes on and on, dragging you further and further down the rabbit hole. I didn’t envision myself growing up to be a ‘no’ machine.

No, you can’t have gum right after you brush your teeth.

No, you can’t jump on the couch.

No, you can’t throw big rocks at each other and see who can dodge them the fastest.

Nor did I envision myself growing up to bark orders at a small army of raving lunatics.

Why are your socks on your hands!? Get a move on! You’re gonna be late for school!

Finish your dinner!

Clean your room!

Shoving everything under your bed isn’t cleaning your room!

Don’t ride the dog!

Don’t kung fu your sister!

No!

Stop!

Don’t!

OW!

Sounds amazing, right?

If younger me ever read this post, she’d shake her head. “Nope. Not me. I’ll never say those things.”

Thing is, I don’t think you can make it through parenthood without your internal overseer standing with her hands on her hips shaking her head reproachfully as you say the things you either swore you’d never say or never, ever, EVER dreamed you’d have to say.

The other thing is, for every moment you feel like a raving lunatic spewing spittle encrusted orders from your reddened face, there’s another moment that warms you from the inside out with love or pride or joy or some unnamed combination of all three.

…Lady Chatterbox’s blonde pigtails bouncing behind her as she runs in the backyard, the summer sun casting her shadow long and linear behind her…

…Master Moose going on in great detail about the bridge prototype he’s building out of toothpicks and marshmallows…

…Sir Brown Eyes hugging me tight and telling me he loves me…

There’s silly songs and inside jokes and so many memories of so many moments all wrapped up inside my head, filling my joy bucket until it overflows.

I’m not just a ‘no’ machine, I’m a warm hug when the day is hard. I don’t just field strange questions and redirect traumatizing squirrel conversations, I mold these young creatures into the kind of people I’d like to see fill up the world.

Squirrel

“Be good,” I say as they walk out the door, dwarfed by book bags and lunch boxes and the immensity of what they might someday become. “Work hard. Be kind. Make me proud.”

What they don’t know is that I’m already proud of them. And I love them with a ferocity they won’t understand until they find themselves banging ladles on counters and reprimanding biscuit leaning offenders at the breakfast table.

 

**No ladles were banged on counters prior to or at any time after the writing of this post.**

What’s a Girl to Do?

It’s cold here. Like, cold enough for the kids to have a two hour delay. Cold enough for me to have to drive them down to the bus stop. Cold enough for my car to chug and whine when I turned the key in the ignition.

As a mother, I love it when the kids are home. I love hearing their voices. I love hearing them laugh. Just the sound of them moving through the house — little thumps of feet and toys as Sir Brown Eyes and Master Moose build Lego fortresses, Lady Chatterbox singing off-key to her newest favorite song of all time — it’s enough to make me want to whip up some cookies and nurture the hell outta those blossoming little people.

As a writer, as a business woman working from home, I have to admit that having all three kids home seriously cramps my style.

The mother in me hates the previous sentence. She wants me to hit backspace until it’s gone. Obliterate it from existence. My children are precious little gifts and my time with them is borrowed. I get to enjoy it while they’re young, but once they grow even a few years older, their time will become their own.

So what am I to do? When the mantra in Indie Author-dom is write faster, publish faster, content, content, content, FASTER…how do I maintain my sanity as a mother, as a woman, as a home-maker while still making certain I carve out time each day to write?

Because writing? That’s me time. You know, all that advice on finding what you love and doing it? Ya. I did that. And you know what it is? Telling stories and putting them out there for the world to read.

I’ve had an absolute blast getting Facade into reader’s hands. Each time I see a purchase in a new country, I just sit back, kind of in awe of things. Then I generally do a little happy dance and make Mr. Wonderful look at the report, waving my phone in his face while he gives me his best I’m-proud-of-you smile. As if writing the book wasn’t fun enough, now I get to hear from the people who’ve read my story and enjoyed it enough to reach out and start a dialogue with me. I’m making new friends, new connections, learning new things…all because I followed Mr. Wonderful’s fantastic advice to publish the book I’d written.

I have, in my head, at this moment, eleven more books that are begging to get out. And they all want out right now. These new characters are cajoling me to tell their story and I can’t get to those stories until I finish the one I’m writing. And I can’t finish this story while I’m constantly listening over my shoulder for whatever trouble Lady Chatterbox brings to Sir Brown Eyes and Master Moose.

Thankfully, my kids are good kids. They see me typing away, brow furrowed, leaning into my screen, and they realize that I’m officially in Author Mode. They give me space. Cause they’re cool like that.

But there’s still the inevitable squabble, the raised voice that catches my attention, the lunch that needs made, the cough that might turn nasty in a few days, the Transformer whose leg fell off. I can’t get my head in the game because Mama Bear, that big old, instinct-driven, ever-present side of me that showed up the moment my daughter was born, is ever vigilant.

Maybe, there’s a way for me to access the JOY that I feel as a mother with her tribe at her side and marry it to the JOY I feel as an author with words and stories and ideas flowing out of me like some Muse on a sugar high.

In the meantime, someone’s sneezing, the timer on the cookies just dinged, and I’ve got a book to write.