Get Real

Do You Still Believe In The Magic Of Childhood?

Every parent knows with the passing of every child-centered holiday that one day their child will come to them with The Question.

“Mommy, is the (Easter Bunny, Santa, Tooth Fairy, etc.) real?”

My oldest daughter B. is eight years old.  I though this might be the year she calls my bluff.  After all, she spotted all the stuffed animals we bought from IKEA last Christmas.  My retort, “Maybe the elves were too busy this year and had to swing by IKEA for backup.”

The Tooth Fairy didn’t even leave a note when B.’s most recent baby tooth fell out.  “She must have been tired from flying around all night carrying a bag full of teeth.”  That child has no idea how tired the tooth fairy is.  Really.

B. found wrappers in the garbage can from the sneaky leprechaun who visited in March.  I was annoyed at my failing by this point, “He’s really sneaky leaving it out in the open like that.”  (My mother would have NEVER let that happen.  She was and still is the master of holiday hiding spots.  I bow to your wise ways Mom.)

I thought maybe the older children she hangs out with would spill the beans, but apparently nobody is talking.  So we carry on our traditions of baskets and candy, letters and presents; traditions my husband and I grew up with sprinkled in with a few of our own.  I dread the day I am confronted with The Question.  But I know what I’ll say.  It’s the same thing my own mother told me.  As long as you believe, it will always be real.

Why should we, as grownups, stop believing in the magic of childhood?  I love seeing my kids’ eyes light up at the sight of a handwritten letter from Santa or hear their squeals of delight upon seeing a big chocolate Easter bunny.  It doesn’t get old, it’s bittersweet and it’s fleeting.  With a two-year old under our roof, I have a few years left of making these memories with my children.  And no, I don’t feel like I’m tricking them or lying to them.  This, to me, is childhood.  Some of my best memories are from holidays gone by.  Becoming a parent myself, I realized how much work, thoughtfulness and planning go into Christmas, birthdays, egg hunts, tooth fairy notes.  I consider myself lucky to be able to do these things for my children.  To be part of the magic making, to see their happiness, their sheer wonder in things that are unexplainable makes it all worth while.

An Introverted Girl’s Best Friend

introvert
I’m an introvert. I often tell my husband I would be content on a deserted island with some good food and a stack of books for a long, long time. I have an event coming up that is weighing on my mind. I will know absolutely no one there. I will be forced to socialize, network and chit-chat, things I’m not comfortable with and don’t enjoy. But thank God for Steve Jobs because I can take my iPhone or iPad with me and disappear into the crowd.

It’s socially acceptable to be on your smartphone now in certain situations. I’m not talking about at the dinner table or while you’re having face to face conversations with people. That’s just rude and annoying. But in a crowded room, with people wandering around, small groups of people sectioned off into their cliques, only talking to the people they know, I don’t sweat it, I just pull out my distraction tool.

Looking at me, no one knows if I’m texting, tweeting, blogging, tumbling, googling, emailing, pinning, on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, checking in or just pretending to do one of these things to avoid idle conversation. Maybe I’m doing a couple at once. Maybe I’m eavesdropping, hoping for an “in” to the conversation. Maybe I’m simply relieved to not look so out of place, to not have a spotlight shined on my introversion. Some people misconstrue my quiet, reserved nature for snobbery. Only those who know me well know that is the farthest thing from the truth.

So for all my fellow introverts, take along your smartphone/pad/whatever and get lost in the crowd. Maybe you will meet another kindred soul pretending to text in the corner. It might be me. 🙂

Finally A Job We Are ALL Qualified To Do

Photo: Juanedc

Photo: Juanedc

Have you ever found yourself upset because other people weren’t making you happy? All too often we rely on others for our own happiness. I’m guilty of this. I look to my spouse, my kids, my friends, my parents, even my neighbors to provide happiness, when I should really be looking in the mirror.

Don’t count on other people to make you a bright happy ray of sunshine every day. Instead adjust your own attitude, your own outlook and find your own peaceful, content place. Happiness is not the job of others. Happiness is an inside job.

Now get to work!

Two P’s For the New Year

I’m a mildly anxious person.  I get stressed easily.  I can get into a negative mood and nothing can shake it.  Sometimes this spills over into my home life and I show my ugliest feelings to those I love the most.  Yelling at the kids, collapsing at the end of the day exhausted, worrying about something slight, feeling depressed because I haven’t seen the sun in more than 10 days. You get the idea.

This year I promised myself I would make big changes.  Instead of my usual list of New Year’s Resolutions, this year I made a tiny list.  Only two things were on it.  I figured two things are easier to tackle than a list of twelve right?!

My simple resolution list looks like this:

1. Be more positive.

2. Be more patient.

Or to simplify even further, this year I will practice positive patience.  I like the sound of it.  Positive Patience.  When I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed out by fighting kids, annoyed at spilled orange juice, questioning everything, I will remind myself to be positive – everything will be ok, it always works out in the end, this too shall pass.  I will remind myself to be patient – yelling only makes me feel guilty afterwards, staying calm feels good, they are growing up so fast.

If you’re feeling a bit lost this new year or just looking for an easy tweak to your normal routine, practice positive patience.  I’m no self-help expert on anyone but myself, but this is my prescription.  Try it and let me know if it works for you.  Then maybe I can write a self-help book….

One of These Things is Just Like the Other

My husband and I have our own business.  It’s terrifying, exhilarating and a lot of work.  At the end of a long day’s work our feet hurt, our backs ache and we just want to collapse in bed.  Since we are the boss, we are in charge of making sure everyone is happy, satisfied and well fed.  We make mistakes, we stumble, but we learn from them and move one.  Being an entrepreneur is an organic process, full of discovery about one other and the world around us.  New tax forms to fill out, licenses to buy, social media plugs, inventory, notebooks organized by color and form.  Simply put, there is always much to do.

Owning your own business is very similar to parenting.  It is terrifying, exhilarating and a lot of work.  At the end of a long day’s work my feet hurt, my back aches and I just want to collapse in bed.  Since I am the boss, I am in charge of making sure everyone is happy, satisfied and well fed.  I make mistakes, I stumble, but I learn from them and move one.  Being a parent is an organic process, full of discovery about one other and the world around us.  School forms to fill out, soccer uniforms to buy, pack lunch, plan the day, scraped knees, laundry, dishes, playdates, homework.  Simply put, there is always much to do.

But we wouldn’t have it any other way would we?  It’s tough to run a business.  If it fails, the defeat falls in your lap.  Parenting is tough too.  If we fail, our children suffer the consequences.  But we don’t give up just because things get rough.  We are in this for the long haul.  A client skips out on their bill, the soufflé falls, the children argue, someone gets hit in the eye with a stick.  At the end of these days we are beat down, bloodied to a pulp by responsibilities and obligations, defeats and missteps.  But there is beauty in the hardship.  We get up to begin again, remembering the bright spots, the little victories, an unexpected check in the mail, the toddler running towards your legs with the biggest hug in the world, an I love you so, so much whispered in the dark, the sounds of laughter singing in the windows from the backyard.

We are blessed, flying high, tired but gratified, yet always wondering if we are up to task.  Can we really do this one hard thing?  What if we fail, make a fool of ourselves, do something unique and original despite all the naysayers?  Trust your authentic self.  In the end, even if you fail, you’ve succeeded just by persevering.

Here is a fantastic quote from Jenny Offill’s book Dept. of Speculation (which is fantastic, by the way) to sum up my reasoning for remaining steadfast in my calling.

A thought experiment courtesy of the Stoics.  If you are tired of everything you possess, imagine that you have lost all these things.

If it was all gone tomorrow, I’d never be the same again.  So I say a prayer of thanks for my many gifts and I keep on keeping on.  Tomorrow is a bright new day full of possibilities and those sweet moments of grace that make it all worth living.  Look closely and you’ll see them too.

Go Brush Your Teeth

In the spirit of this month’s NaBloPoMo theme of healing, I decided to have some routine dental work done last Tuesday.  Little did I know it would put me out of commission for days.  I have some serious dental anxiety.  I don’t know why.  I just know I leave the dentist’s office feeling like I’ve been mugged.  I’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say I was miserable.  Think intense, sharp nerve pain that comes and goes at random times, causing me to almost cut off my finger while slicing a fresh peach for my daughter.  Not fun.

This went on for two days before I bravely decided I had to go back and let the dentist address the problem.  My dentist is a lovely man and he did indeed fix the problem.  My pain is almost gone!  I can eat and talk and do laundry and yell at whoever isn’t listening to me again! Yeah!

Now I am healing, my tooth pain and my control over those funny things I have no control over.  On a lighter note, I’ve forced my children to be more vigilant about their oral health, standing over them while they brush, warning them about eating too much candy and cavities and how awful it all is.  I think I’ve successfully scared them to death.  But you know what?  Their teeth are so damn clean.

Scenes From A Preschool Hallway

Dear fellow mom at preschool,

Please explain to me why your three-year old daughter is wearing earrings and a training bra? Why does she show up at school with lipstick smeared on her lips, teetering in shoes with chunky high heels?  She loves the sparkle, the attention, the girlieness of it all.  But you strapped her into her car seat, all dolled up, and left the house like that?

The teacher and I exchange questioning glances.  This sweet little girl can barely speak in full sentences, still carries a stutter from toddlerhood, yet here she is in platform shoes. Another day, she’s in a yellow sundress with tiny high heel shoes.  I’m at a loss.  Is this some sort of new trend I missed?  I find it alarming and off-putting.  What kind of message are we sending our children when we dress them like tiny women?

My own daughters run and play and dig and explore.  They don’t wear makeup or training bras or high-heeled anything.  They go barefoot. They get dirty.  They are innocent, not well versed in the ways a woman must work and conform to be accepted by society.  I plan to keep that door closed to them as long as I’m able.

There is plenty of time for pierced ears and eye shadow, push-up bras and teetering shoes.  Not now.  Now is the time to be a kid, to look for tadpoles, to swing and make sand castles and jump rope. To learn about constellations and outer space and wishing on a star.  To scribble and draw, glue and tape, paint and sew.  To get lost in a book, laugh at a cartoon, bake zucchini bread with their mama, be sung to sleep, rocked quietly at night and cuddled after a fall.

There will be plenty of time to be a grown up, to get serious, to pay the bills and feed the cat.  But that time is not now.  Not today.  Not just yet…

 

 

Airbrush Nation

 

If you liked this post, you will appreciate this one as well.  I encourage you to share this with your children if they are mature enough. 

As a young girl I spent my lazy days flipping through the pages of Teen magazine longing for perfect white teeth and stick straight blonde hair. I wasted many hours wishing, praying and agonizing over the (fake) girls in the magazine.  I wanted to be like them so badly, I was angry I looked like me.  It wasn’t fair.  I had a gap toothed smile, a little pot belly and hair that never seemed to lay right.  I wore glasses and was shy. I wish someone had shown me this video to remind me beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Under all the makeup and lights and digital enhancements, we are the same. 

I don’t want my daughters to go through the same experience, so I will show them this video and ingrain in their minds how perfect and beautiful they are, just the way they are. It’s an uphill battle in today’s society, but if I’m not talking to them about unrealistic beauty standards, who is?

Are You Really Seeing This?

I  was watching the Today show this morning, which I never do because usually I have little ones circling my ankles, but today all three kids are at Grandma’s house.  (Thank you Mom!)  I finally had a few moments to catch up on what the rest of the world is doing.  (And I love Hoda and Kathy Lee.)  There was a girl band performing and as the camera panned the front row and the looming crowd, I noticed a disturbing trend.  Almost everyone was watching the show through their smart phone screen.  Like a rock concert where everyone holds up their lighter in the dark, this time it was broad daylight and every hand held up a phone.  It was a little creepy.  Maybe creepy is not the right word, but depressing, yes.

It made me wonder how many of my own special moments and memories have been captured through the lens of my camera or the small screen of my phone.  How many T-ball games did I really watch or was I more interested in capturing the perfect photo to preserve the memory?  I felt proud seeing my daughter sing at her preschool celebration, but I spent too much time cursing out the camera battery that died halfway through her performance.  I missed out because I was focusing on something less important.  Lately I haven’t been taking pictures; I just don’t feel like lugging the camera around, or my phone is out of memory and I don’t want to deal with that headache.

I’ve felt the twinge of guilt, not getting the perfect shot of my Dad opening his Father’s Day gift, or capturing my toddler’s cheesy smile when he scaled the climbing wall in our backyard all by himself.  But I was there.  Really there.  Not messing with the camera settings or forcing fake smiles out of everyone.  I was present in every way.  I’ve begun taking pictures with my mind.  I tell myself to remember this moment, really remember, and it seems to be working.  I know I won’t remember everything.  The images in my mind will fade and meld together into clumps and pieces of memories and emotions, but my children will remember.  Mommy paid attention to me when I earned my yellow band at the swimming pool.  Mommy was smiling and clapping when I hit that pitch at T-ball.

I don’t want their memories of me to be one of a mom with a phone in her hand trying to get perfect shot after perfect shot.  I want to watch the concert!  That’s why I’m there.  I want to watch it all and take it all in and hold it near my heart, where special memories belong, not in some dusty old photo book or storage on my computer.  Put your phone and camera away for a day and see just how freeing it can be.