Guest Post - An Unplugged Blessing9:17 AM
Another glimpse into a different world!
If you'd like to read the others, here are the links:
My Summer Sister. We both love books, but one of us excels in English and the other doesn't. I'm the later, obviously (re: you experience my grammatical errors on the daily)! We met in high school and our friendship has strengthened every year since then. She is one of my best friends because she is laid back, honest, sarcastic, an amazing cook, and loves life even if she tries to pretend shes super cynical about it all! It's been an amazing journey, mostly happy, sad at times, to see her grow as a woman, start a family, and go through life as one of my strongest lady friends! She teaches various English courses at a handful of Community Colleges, so I'm extra appreciative of the extra time she took to share her story with you all...Enjoy!
Steph asked me to write a guest post for her blog and I was immediately excited/terrified. I have gone over and over what I might write about, and how I might actually write it. Angie and Carolyn both wrote amazing guest blogs, and I was literally in tears after reading both (as I imagine many readers were!), not only because their writing was so raw and powerful, but because I love my friends and have been there to witness the struggles they have encountered. When I actually sat down to write this, I wrote literally five different starts on different topics. This led to a few texts to Steph about how in awe I am that she has the courage to write so often! After a little trip out with my kids, I was inspired to write about being a mom, mainly because it is something that I am intimately familiar with.
Today I went to the library with my littles. Before we even got to the library, I told my screen-obsessed kids: “Listen up—today we are not playing on the computers. We are unplugging for a little while, so I want you to find some books.” Of course when we got there Olivia ran straight for the pre-K computer area. But surprisingly, Jake wandered around looking for books and kept coming back with pile after pile. Jake is a great reader, but he often lacks interest in what he is reading, so I was pleasantly surprised that he followed my directions and got a variety of non-fiction and fiction books and a few magazines that he seemed genuinely excited about. Jake is, like so many kids in his generation, obsessed with computers, video games, and TV. I often have a hard time tearing both of my kids away from their screens (which is, admittedly, probably my own fault for introducing them to the technology). This example points to a larger issue that I have been struggling with lately, especially since I have been working more. I regularly wonder how I am doing as a mom. Am I spending enough time with them? (No.) Am I setting enough boundaries and enforcing the rules fairly and equitably? (Maybe?) Am I teaching them to grow up to be self-sufficient, productive adults? (I hope so.) I think the key to knowing how your parenting is affecting your kids is to look at the small ways kids show us who they really are. I know that I can get too caught up in tests, report cards, and comparison to other “perfect” kids and “perfect” parents. Everyone else seems to have it all together while I am constantly yelling at my kids, feeding them donuts, and letting the TV babysit. OK—so maybe this is an exaggeration. I take them out into nature to be more connected with the peacefulness that nature can instill. I make sure they have veggies with every meal. I monitor what they are watching and weed out most of the trash that passes for kids TV these days. Even still, sometimes I have to take that step back to really see who they are. Jake is so loving and caring; he has a deep sense of fairness and equality. I kid you not--one of his favorite days is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. He has listened to the “I Have a Dream” speech more than most adults. He is honest and kind and wants to be friends with everyone. When someone is left out, he goes out of his way to make sure that they are included. He is brave. Today at the library, he asked the librarian for help all on his own—he told me that he didn’t need me there, even though he clearly felt anxious taking the first step to ask for help alone. He may struggle with spelling and sitting still in class, but he is so amazing at taking risks on his skateboard and jumping off of playground equipment or playing wild games with his sister. Olivia may have a gigantic attitude on her, but I know that she will grow up to be a strong, self-sufficient young woman. She never wants help zipping her jacket or opening a package. She fights constantly with her brother, but it is also clear that he is her whole world. It is hard not to hover as a parent, especially in this day and age when it is easy to feel judged by others on your parenting skills. It can feel like all eyes are on you when you let your kid jump off of that rock or run to a part of the playground where they are not immediately visible. But these are really important steps for me to take for myself as a parent. I believe that in the end it makes me a better mom and the kids more independent. I cannot be there for them every step of the way, and so letting them “make good choices” (a phrase I say constantly to them) is vital to my sanity and my mission as a mom.
Another aspect of being a parent, one that I think about constantly, is having friends that you can vent to who will support you unconditionally; there have been many days when I feel like I am at the end of my rope with my kids and I call Annah and feel immediately better when she tells me what her day has been like. At our monthly GNOs, I can tell Angie, “my kids were such jerks this week,” and I know that she will respond in kind. My friend M, who is the mom of Jake’s best friend, is always a snarky text or an emergency school pick up away. These are just a few examples, and it is definitely not restricted to only my mom friends; all of the friends I have chosen to surround myself with have become Jake and Olivia’s surrogate parents. My kids have a whole army of aunties, ates, tias who love and care about them. “Same” is a common theme that I have found among my network of friends. Parents or not, we are all having these struggles; we all support each other without judgement which makes it easier to rally and regroup and really see my kiddos for who they are. This also helps me to try to be my very best (mom) self again.
There is an added layer here that I think about sometimes, and that is looking at who we are as parents (which is why I have been obsessing about this topic for a while now). I recently began teaching among multiple campuses while my husband stays home with the kids. As a result, I have missed award ceremonies, play dates, field trips—it made me realize that I had misjudged why my own mom missed so many of our school-related functions. She had to work to support our family; only when I started missing my own kids’ stuff did I realize what a sacrifice working full-time really is. It made me see my own mom—and myself—in a whole new light. Not only do we have to look at who our kids really are, but who we really are as parents. I work in order to make their little worlds fun, comfortable, without worry. I teach because it is my way of making a difference in the world they will go out into someday. Sometimes that means that I have to work while they go on a field trip without me. But in doing this, I am learning to rely on other parents to help me be a parent. My friends not only support me and my husband, Peter, but they support, celebrate, and help raise my kids. I know that my friends will enforce the same rules I set, will be present for birthday parties, will take pictures of the moments I have to miss, and will ask my kids how school is going with genuine interest. I can see how valuable these friendships are not only for me but for my kids. I work with students who sometimes come from backgrounds where there is no support, no network of help, no interest in the student’s success. I take this into consideration when building my own network. It is so important for Jake and Olivia to have other adults who care and who will be there if and when I cannot. I remember being so at home in Annah’s, Lotty’s, and Autumn’s houses when I was growing up. These friendships shaped who I eventually became as a mom and as a person. A huge part of this was, not only the friendships, but because Carrie, Ludi, and Jeanie were my other moms. They welcomed me when I felt lost in the world.
I often worry about when my kids become teenagers; will they shut me out? (Probably). Will they get into trouble? (Hopefully not.) Will they have a place to run to when they need a break from me? Absolutely—because they will have their “other parents” just like I had (and still have) my “other parents”. Their other parents will still be able to see all of those amazing qualities that Jake has—his sense of humor, adventure, and fairness—even when he is driving me crazy with his teenager-ness. They will give Olivia the advice that she doesn’t want to hear from her lame, crazy, overly-detailed mother. There is that old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It may seem clichéd and trite, but I have come to see that it is really true--my kids have an amazing village
Thank you, SS. I am so intertwined in your life via social media, text messages, and sharing it with you that I don't always take the time to reflect on the mother, woman, wife, daughter, and sister you have become. You and your village are doing an amazing job. Olivia is sweet and sassy and Jake is lively and a tough little boy, through and through. Both are creative, sweet, gentle, honest, and can make any one of us smile with a cute little statement, a sweet hug, or them just being around us. Keep doing what makes your family thrive and I'm always here to support whatever that may be. Keep reading books and inspiring me to read more, and more of the good stuff -- not my silly Chick Lit!