Clinging to “Mom”

I can feel the heat burning my face as anger is enveloping my little 9 year old body. My best friend and I are both grabbing at the shiny plastic dollhouse mom with desperation and determination. We both want so much in that moment to be the dollhouse mom…not the dad, the brother, or even the baby. But the mom. In our young minds, the one and only boo boo fixer, caregiver, and homework helper. The meal server and tucker-inner. I don’t want to share. I won’t share. We fight to the point that she leaves and I’m secretly relieved because now I can be the mom without anyone else trying to swoop in and play that role. 
Fast forward over 30 years…that dollhouse now sits in the basement of my adult home…covered in a sheet and collecting dust. The mom is shoved in there somewhere…forgotten.
But, now I’m left with a new real life challenge to clinging to my own child. See, my children are from a “broken” home and I have to share. Recently, their father’s girlfriend and her kids have moved into his house. And into my children’s lives. My son is so easygoing and young and I think it has little affect on him. But, my 13 year old daughter. That’s where I cling desperately and with determination to my role as her mom. 
The girlfriend is “nice” as described by my daughter. She takes her to get her nails done. Takes her shopping at Sephora and buys her expensive makeup. Sends her texts about how she’ll always be there for her.

 There is no way my daughter sees me as “nice” these days. We battle about everything that teenage girls and moms can possibly battle about. And then some. I’m sure it’s easy to embrace this new “mom figure” and all the perks she offers. I know I’m SUPPOSED to be happy that my daughter has another woman in her life to help guide her and care for her. Easier said than felt. 
Here is what I want to say to my daughter- 
I hope you know…
I hope you know that I love you even if I don’t show it in the ways you want. 
I show it by fighting with you about doing your summer reading assignment. 

I show it by dragging you to math tutoring every week while you yell at me about how mean I am. 
I show it by taking you to counseling that I can’t afford every week to work out all your teenage feeling. 
I show it by saying no more times than I can count. 

I show it in all these ways and more. None of them are “fun”. 

I don’t take you to get acrylic nails when I need that money for your tutoring. 
I don’t take you to buy expensive makeup. Partly because I can’t afford it and partly because I want you to feel beautiful looking like a 13 year old girl instead of a grown woman. 
I know this makes me “mean and boring.” I know that I’m threatened by how your other mom figure is fun and easy-going. 
I want you to know how much I love you. How much I want what’s best for you. And how that’s not always what you want. 

This is what I would want her to know as we navigate this new time and this new family dynamic. 
I’m still clinging to the mom role, and I’ll never stop. 

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The Introvert on the Sidelines

When I was a kid, I could have been described in three words- quiet, shy, and polite. The kind of kid that parents liked their own children to hang out with. The kind of kid that did pretty well in school and was a rule follower so as not to draw any attention. A reserved kid. The kind of kid that liked to write and read and dreaded giving speeches. 

Now that I’m an adult there’s is a better way to describe me. I’m an introvert. A friendly introvert, but an introvert, none the less. 
So there I was going along contently in life as an adult introvert. A teacher who mostly talked to children in a soft voice, but could definitely chat with my colleagues or my couple of close friends. That worked fine until my own children became old enough to get involved in competitive sports. 

And here’s what I’ve learned over those last few years- The sidelines are no place for an introvert parent. Seriously, it’s an introvert’s nightmare! All the OTHER parents around me are shouting to their kids…sometimes words of encouragement and sometimes comments about what they are doing wrong or to badmouth the ref. All the OTHER parents are chatting with each other and laughing loudly together. They know each other’s kids names and cheer for each one of them. They stand up, wander around and look for conversation. They plan outings together for after the games. 
I feel lost in this world. Sometimes I feel left out or like I don’t belong. I don’t have a shouting voice (well, except the one I use on my own children in the privacy of my very own home). Don’t get me wrong…I will clap if my kids team scores. And, on brave day I might quietly call out “Go Evan” or “Good save Anna.” I don’t make much small talk with the parents around me and I don’t know most of their kids names to cheer on. 
And big Confession here- sometimes I’m so uncomfortable that I actually sit near the others teams parents, so at least I can hide. Shhh….

I might come off a stuck up or rude. Possibly shy or antisocial. This bothers me. Because I’m not these things. I enjoy people. I love being social sometimes.  I consider myself a nice person. I’m just an introvert. An observer. A listener. A quiet person. Someone who is friendly, but not really looking to make small talk. Someone who is there to quietly cheer on my kid without drawing attention to myself. Someone who might get lost in the shuffle. Someone who craves solitude more often than others might. 
And the sidelines are a place that make me feel like something is wrong with me. 

So here’s to all the parents that just want to watch their kid play sports. Quietly and alone. Or maybe sitting with one friend and talking a little. Someone that was a friend before this whole sport thing started. Introverts deeply need those couple of close friends. Please don’t mistake us for stuck up or not caring about our kids performance cause we are not yelling across the field to tell them what to do. 

Take this recent event- my son finally got the chance to play offense in soccer. He always plays defense and I would have though he would have been thrilled. However, he looked miserable. I noticed this. I questioned it. I processed why he might be feeling that way. I didn’t yell at him to get his head in the game. And I think this allowed my to be empathic. Maybe he was tired or discouraged. Maybe he was hot and thirsty. Or maybe he just liked playing defense more than he lets on. 
So here’s to all the introvert parents trying to survive these crazy sidelines. Observe. Question. Process. Maybe make a tad of small talk so you don’t come off as stuck up. But don’t make it with me. I’ll be hiding on the other side of the field.  

Seven words 

The little round cafe table occupies the space between us- a barrier and a perfect symbol of where we stand. At one point in time (probably many years before), that table would have supported loving hands clasped upon it. Now it supports nothing but resentment and grande coffee cups sitting there barely touched….just the occasional sip to serve as a momentary distraction. 

It’s a bitter cold December afternoon and we are here… in the most private table we can find in the bustling Starbucks. No easy task, by the way. We are here for a meeting to discuss the tactical approach in ending our 17 year marriage. How and when would we tell the kids? How would we divide the time? The money? What do we do with the house? The house that we bought together only 3 years before with dreams and plans. 

There is common place chaos all around us in the coffee shop-  Moms carolling toddlers away from breakable mugs. Young twenty-somethings impatiently waiting for their half caf skinny  soy lattes (unaware of how unimportant that latte is and their own life struggles yet to come).  Dazed holidays shoppers slumped in line to get a jolt of caffeine before they hit the next store. But even this chaos is not comparable to the internal chaos at our own little table of two. 

Much later, after we’ve hashed out all the details we can think of,  I notice that he gets a slight sad look on his eyes. “So……how are you doing?” he asks. I knew I risked losing my strength. There is no way he would be priveledge to seeing any emotion from me. My strength was my security blanket. And something in me knows these would be the last words we shared about anything other that kids, money, or logistics. I answered quickly, with words that I didn’t know were going to come out of my mouth until they were out…” That’s not for you to know anymore.” Seven simple words that spoke a thousand…you are no longer my friend or my companion. We have a defining endpoint and it’s here—at this table in a busy Starbucks on this frigid December day.  I needed to hear myself say that sentence. To know that I was strong enough to say it. That my tears were not something he gets to see. Those 7 words would be the last meaningful words I would say to him. 

So, with the last sip of coffee that was now cold, our awkward little meeting came to a close. And so did our 17 year marriage. 

Someday, I believe that someone else will ask me, “how are you?” with a loving heart. It might be when he noticed that I’m upset or maybe having a bad day.  He will ask with true caring and compassion. And no matter how bad the day, I will look into his eyes and know that I’m strong and I’m worthy of someone caring about me. The words I imaging saying are,  “I know I’m going to be okay”. Seven words that will speak a thousand words. 

More Than Numb

I’m laying on my stomach on my bed with my feet kicked up behind me. I’m texting a guy and feeling like a 14-year old girl without a care in the world. Except I’m not 14. And I have a lot of things I should be caring about right now- folding laundry, making lunches, emptying the dishwasher. 

But, after the end of my marriage, preceded by years of no feelings at all (except maybe defeat and resentment), it feels so wonderful to have all these emotions. 

My wise 42 year old brain knows  the feelings could be temporary and the things that are making me feel this way might be ficticious. 

But still…nothing compares to having feelings again after being numb. To feel optimistic, uncertain, brave, reluctant…all wrapped up into one. To feel like maybe, just maybe, something wonderful and new could happen. 

Looking ahead, I know sometimes this might prove to be the harder road. Feeling numb can be easy. I know heartache and confusion probably loom in my future. And I will welcome it as opposed to a life of apathy. We are here to experience this life and all the things that go along with that. So I push aside years of comfortable, silent, easy indifference and choose to go on boldly and experience all the feelings that I can. 

I’m ready to feel more than numb. 

Look For The Beauty. 

I hate New Years Day. Hate it with a passion. To me, it has always symbolized the end of a beautiful time filled with warm and glowing lights, family and friends, gift giving, and just overall joy. Of course, there’s also the fact that it means back to work with a long winter ahead and no end in sight. And although I generally consider myself a pretty positive person, Jan 1st send me into a dismal and dark place. So when I woke up this morning, I thought, “We meet again January…” 

This has been a long and difficult year for me (and I’m sure many of my readers), and so I decided that perspective holds the key. I’m not allowing myself to be miserable today. Maybe tomorrow, but not today! 😊 I’m looking for the good, the beauty, the fresh perspective that can change my mindset. Here’s what I found-

1) In the winter, the sky is often layered in think, gray, beautiful clouds. I love to admire the beauty of those clouds. 

2) The trees look magical with bare branches and now I can see the little stream that runs through the woods behind my house. Sometimes ice will form on the branches enhancing their beauty. 

3) the lights will stay in my house this year. I’m replacing the tree and colored Christmas lights with white fairy lights wrapped around fake branches and twigs. I’m lining my mantle with votives in gold or silver winter shades. 

4) I’m learning to appreciate myself more. I’m spending a LITTLE (let’s not get too carried away) less time in yoga pants and warm hoodies and a little more time finding parts of my own self that I like and can show off in real clothes. My smile, my eyes, my shoulders, etc. January is typically a time to focus on what we don’t like about ourselves. This year, I will focus on what I do like. Hard as it may be. 

And, so Jan 1st- you can not beat me down this year! There is always beauty to be found. Today I will cherish the beauty that is around me and that I can find in myself. 

Because there is always beauty- whether it be in nature, in our homes, or in ourselves. You just have to look for it. 

Like it Never Was 

So many years ago, back when we were too young for rational thinking, we collided too fast and too intensely with no time to think. I needed you and you needed me. We were naive college kids looking to grasp at life and what we thought we were supposed to do in it. 

Time and change were our enemy, growing us into the people we were really meant to be. And slowly, ever so slowly, pulling us farther and farther apart. Until, finally, it wasn’t slow. And the words we spoke were the quick rip of a bandaid. And, just like that, we were done. 

The days turned into weeks, months, and now a full year. And the best way to describe us is that it’s like it never was. Like there never was an intense love, never was a beautiful summer wedding, never were mornings snuggling as rain hit the roof, never were the beautiful moments of bringing children into the world together, never were the words “forever we will be” inscribed in our wedding bands. 

All I have are blurry memories of happy years early on and then many years of grasping at straws and desperation to hold us together. For what reason, I’m not sure. Except that you’re supppse to. But it wasn’t enough. That was our theme. 

This is certainly not all bad. There is a light and a freedom in this feeling. If it’s like we never were, there are no regrets and there is no looking back. There is only looking forward. A direction that I am ready to look in. There is no feeling of guilt because I’m told I’m not enough. Not fun enough. Not adventurous enough. Not giving enough. 

And now, I’m adult enough to know that I deserve someone who appreciates me. There will always be flaws and things that aren’t enough. But beyond that, there is someone who is kind and caring, and sometimes, pretty darn funny! 

So, now we are just 2 people who used to know each other. The memories are fading and the moments feel like they never were. And I’m becoming okay with that…

The Second Christmas

The Christmas season is by far my favorite time of the year. I watch every holiday movie, listen to Christmas music constantly after Thanksgiving, and shove holiday traditions down my kids throat whether they like it or not!  And, luckily for me, my daughter seems to have embraced the love of all things Christmas as well. So when she asked me the other night if we could decorate, and it was one of the few moments recently that I’ve seen her 12-year old scowl turn into a smile… How could I resist?

Plus, there is the fact that this is the SECOND Christmas since the marital split. I have been looking forward to this time of the year since last December. Literally.

In the beginning of last December, he officially decided to move out, but “agreed to stay”until after the holidays. I told him that he didn’t need to do that and to go ahead and pack his bags. It was a hasty and somewhat selfish decision. I should have taken the time to think about what was best for the kids. But instead, all I could think was that I needed the healing process to begin. Right at that very moment. I’ll call it foresight. At that moment, I needed to make sure that NEXT Christmas would not be the first as a family of 3. THIS one that was right around the corner would. Of course, I still went through all the motions last year. But it was hard on all of us. And, I constantly thought to myself, “I can’t wait until next Christmas. Until it’s the second one instead of the first.”

And…here we are! Well,  not quite yet by most people’s standards, But, my daughter and I are! This year we have a new house, a new perspective, and a new sense of how important it is to celebrate together.

So, last night, we blasted the Christmas music and decorated our new space with fresh and brand new decorations. We worked together, we helped each other, and we laughed. And, I was ready….so ready….for this holiday season to begin. In the words of some talented singer (not really sure who), “We need a little Christmas. Right this very minute.”

I say bring it on!