Teaching Our Girls About Friendship

IMG_5409This post is part of the 1000 Voices for Compassion movement, an online campaign happening on February 20, 2015 to flood the blogosphere with kindness, caring, compassion, non-judgement and all around goodness. To read other stories of compassion, check out the hashtag #1000Speak on Facebook and Twitter.

My daughter is in 7th grade in a small private school. She’s known most of the kids in her class since kindergarten and even one or two since preschool. While they’re not all close friends, there isn’t much overt bullying going on. The teasing and undermining is much more subtle than that.  Continue reading “Teaching Our Girls About Friendship”

What I Know For Certain

Trio11-26-14I love my kids. They make me wonder what life would be like without them, but I love them anyway.

I have no interest in ever learning how to play Minecraft.

When you have a three-year-old, you absolutely believe in the Tooth Fairy, unicorns, talking snowmen, mermaids and ghosts. Continue reading “What I Know For Certain”

Flutterby 2

A collection of what’s winged its way across my path and got me thinking, grinning and gearing up. 

7812f7b9de1f1de7c6719dd7ffba2978Time Cools All Jets: Emotions tend to flash hot in my household and this canvas cutout by Jim Marble might just help us all cool off. I ordered one for the kitchen wall.

What Matters in a Friendship: “I care that in the midst of the noise and clutter of our messy lives, that in the tiny moments we find to connect there is meaning, there are smiles even through tears, that we part feeling just a little bit stronger, a little more hopeful.” Yup. Continue reading “Flutterby 2”

Lunch With a Friend

The other day, after dragging Lilah around on errands all morning, I decide to take her to lunch. Technically, she’s on a toddler moratorium from eating out at restaurants because it’s too stressful for me. It’s such a nightmare convincing her to stay in her chair and not throw her food on the floor and not to wander over to the next table to ask the unsuspecting diners if she can have a bite of their burger.

But, there I am at 11:37 a.m. with eight minutes to go until her preschool lunchtime, which she enjoys, on schedule, three times a week, and not a crumb of food in my bag. Not even a few stray Goldfish. Not even a half-eaten Z-bar. I’d forgotten one of the Top 10 Commandments of Motherhood: thou shalt not leave the house without snacks. Mayhem and meltdown will surely ensue if I don’t come up with food, pronto. Luckily, there’s a California Pizza Kitchen right there at the mall we’re traipsing around in search of picture frames (don’t ask). Pizza

The restaurant is quite empty, a sea of open tables, but the hostess takes that telltale turn towards the back of the restaurant to the dreaded Kids’ Corner – the area where they stick all the parents with small children as though we’ve got the plague. The only other people there are another mom with her toddler daughter. The girl has broken free of the high chair (I don’t even try that anymore) and is walking along the bank of booth seats where no one else is seated, pizza crust in hand. The mom is diligently eating her salad.

She glances up at us as we sit at the table across from them then calls out to her daughter, “Lucinda, come sit down please.” The tow-headed kid, gives her a quick look, then continues her trek across the seats.

“Sorry,” says the mom, her eyes creased with apology. She has a lovely English accent.

“Don’t worry about it,” I say. “There’s no way mine is going stay in her seat either.” We look at each other and laugh. And that’s all it takes for the floodgates to open. She has three kids; I have three kids. We both worked once upon a time and now stay at home. We’re both killing time with our toddlers, wondering how we’ll fill the next three hours before the much anticipated bliss of nap time. She tells me about a horrific experience she’s just had flying on Alaska Airlines that almost ended in her being cited for violation of FAA regulations. What are we parents supposed to do? Keep them strapped in the entire plane ride across the country? I totally agree – ridiculous – then tell her about the time I was shopping in Target with my toddler and the baby and the toddler took off, running into a man in the next aisle over who then yelled at me to control my kids. I was so shaken I abandoned my cart, put the girls back in the car and cried into my steering wheel. “Yes! yes!” she says. She’s done that too.

It’s amazing how we moms make these immediate connections over plane rides, meals gone awry and unfriendly encounters with the curmudgeonly. We swap war stories, getting to the heart of the matter within minutes: yes I love my kids but parenting is hard. So much work goes into keeping it altogether. Planning ahead, knowing the limits of each child, being able to abort a necessary outing because of a meltdown or just having to suck up that meltdown because you still have to fetch your 5-year-old from school and you still need milk.

We bond immediately, understanding what it takes just to be there with the little ones: you have to eat, you have to travel, you have to shop and more often than not, you have to do it with your kids in tow. And it’s stressful and mind-numbing and joyous and exhausting and there’s nothing you’d rather do than this mothering gig and then again, you’d give your left arm to be anywhere other than in the middle of an airplane or grocery store or playroom floor with an inconsolable, tantrumming 2-year-old.

We let the girls run around our mostly empty little outpost of CPK, we glance at them and lob warnings over the empty tables, admonishing them as expected, but really, neither of us care that much. They aren’t hurting anyone (yet). They aren’t tripping up any of the wait staff (yet). They aren’t that annoying (yet). And we need a break. We need those moments between us to shore ourselves up, pool our lives together for a few minutes, swim in the shared love and frustration of motherhood and know we are holding life jackets for each other. We lean into the aisle between our two tables, nodding and understanding each other, encouraging and eye rolling.

Ten minutes later, we collect our kids and head for the door, saying how great it was talking with each other, wishing each other a wonderful rest of the day, all the while corralling the girls, steering them towards our exits. As I cross the parking lot to my car, feeling somewhat rejuvenated, I realize I don’t know her name. I feel that dip of disappointment, the pang of a potential friendship lost, but it doesn’t last. Even if we never see each other again, I know she’s out there, doing the best she can everyday, just like me. We’re in it together.

Anytime you want to have lunch in the Kids’ Corner at CPK, I’m there.

W is for Waterworks

waterworks: the shedding of tears.

Source: www.wireworks.com
Source: http://www.thewireworks.com

Tears flow with abandon in my house everyday. Faces flush, lips tremble, salty tears well up, spill out and run down cheeks. Other times they erupt in a burst of rage or frustration or pain. Lilah bangs her knee on an open drawer. Ella comes home from a “terrible” day at school. Ruby can’t find her Family Tree assignment and it’s due tomorrow. The floodgates open and the waterworks begin – but not from me.

I don’t do tears. Crying makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want people looking at me or feeling sorry for me or wondering what’s wrong or how to make it better. Sad tears are the hardest for me, but even tears of joy or relief are hard for me to come by. I’m better at keeping it all in than letting it all out.

It’s not that I don’t cry at all. I’ll cry in a dark theater when a movie tugs at my heart. I’ll get teary watching sappy commercials (the Coca-Cola Mean Joe Green one is a vintage favorite). I’ll well up reading an article about children orphaned and starving in war zones. I’ll cry when one of my kids does or says something totally true and amazing that only a child’s beautiful mind would think to do or say. I’ll cry in the car once all of the kids are dropped off or into my pillow after a good fight with my husband.

But I can’t cry in front of other people, especially not my kids. As a mom, I often feel like there’s not a whole lot of room for me to express myself. My three girls are extremely emotional and effusive. When they emote, I retreat emotionally. Isn’t it my job to be available to them, to make them feel safe in their sadness or received in their great joy? I want them to let their emotions out, acknowledge them and live with and through them. I just can’t seem to do this for myself.

Instead I keep my sadness knotted up inside, usually somewhere between my heart and my stomach. Maybe I’m afraid if I let it out, it’ll be so overwhelming I’ll never recover. I know, I know. I’m a therapist’s dream. Even my dear friend Nicki teases me about my perpetually dry eyes.

A few weeks ago we talked through the tension we’d been feeling between us, collapsing together in a big, warm hug. She ended up in tears while I could only muster a brief salty stinging. It’s not that I didn’t feel anything – in fact, I felt totally flooded with love and friendship, appreciation, relief and even sadness that we had both felt so badly for the past few weeks. I just couldn’t express it in tears, even though I wanted to so badly. I blinked my eyes and swallowed my feelings right back down into their hidey-hole.

That night, I dream Nicki and I are back at the café, talking and hugging, and the best part is, I’m bawling. I woke up feeling emptied and relieved and, well, happy. I suppose dream tears are better than no tears, but if a good, hard dream cry with a friend can bring me so much comfort, then maybe a real-life sob fest with loved ones is just what I need.

Bring on the waterworks.

I’m participating in the 2014 A to Z Challenge during the month of April using the very broad theme of LOVE to carry me through the alphabet. Check out writing by other bloggers taking on the #atozchallenge at @AprilA2Z.