You Are Not Special

Dearest Child of Mine,

I know you are tired, and feel weak under the weight of all that is upon you now, even at such a young age. Hours of state testing, increasingly difficult school work, and more homework than you’d like to do or have time to do in the evening. Fierce competition for awards and academic recognition. I see it in your expression, and hear it in your meltdowns. I feel it in the anger and frustration you aim indiscriminately at me, at your dad, and your sisters just because you can. It pains me to say this when you are clearly struggling, but you are not special.

I know that other people’s opinions of you are supremely important now. The words that the kids at school use to describe you, whether to your face or behind your back, consume your thoughts and hijack your emotions. A school yard disagreement, or thoughtless gossip about you that gets back around to you, can absolutely derail an otherwise good day and leave you in a puddle of tears. These seem like life-altering, life-ending events, I know. And still, sweet girl, you are not special.

I know how that sounds to you. It may hurt your feelings. You probably think I am mean. You may be mad at me for pointing it out, but I am telling you this for good reason. I am not delivering this truth to you simply to ruin your day, or your life. I am not sharing this with you to bring you down. It is good news, really, it is. I am telling you this now, and will echo this message tomorrow, and the next day, and in all the days to come to give you HOPE. To give you COMFORT and PEACE when you need it.

Want to know the good news? YOU ARE NOT ALONE! What feels difficult to you, may not feel that way to your sister, or your best friend, or the kid that lives down the street, but everyone experiences the same feelings. Everyone feels challenged. Everyone feels stress and pressure. You are not alone.

Life is not easy, and in fact, it can knock you flat when you least expect it. But, know this. Everyone, and I mean everyone, struggles with something. Everyone feels challenged by something. Everyone feels like they don’t fit in at some point in their life. They wonder if anyone likes them, or wants to spend time with them. They wonder why others win awards, or get promotions or special privileges, and they do not. They punish themselves for being overweight or underweight, for not having enough friends, for being shy, for not making enough money, or wearing designer clothes, or driving a fancy new car. The good news is, kiddo, that you are not alone.

The pressure is off. The veil has been lifted. I’ve just given you the punchline to the joke that is life. You are welcome. If you know this, if you learn this important lesson now, then you are immeasurably richer for knowing it. And now, instead of feeling separate, instead of feeling weird, or sad, or alone, you can reach out to others in compassion and love and understanding. You can feel connected where you would otherwise feel distance. ISN’T THAT AWESOME NEWS???!!!

And here is something else that is awesome. You ARE special to me. I love the way you throw up your hands when you’re frustrated. I love the whine and shake of your voice when you’re talking and on the verge of tears. I love being present when life teaches you a hard lesson. And I love being there when you get an award. I love that you wear hats. That you have freckles. That you walk toward me with your arms outstretched when you’re upset. That you appreciate the healing power of ice cream. When you laugh obnoxiously at something that is stupid funny. And I love the look on your face when I call you out for not flushing the toilet.

So, you know. There’s all that.

Love, Mom

Balance

It’s the start of week four in the new job and I am starting to feel the pressure, a bit off-balance. Not pressure at work, really, nothing is all that complicated. At least, not yet. There is much to do, but I’m given the space and time to do it. I am learning so much, but it isn’t overwhelming, it’s exhilarating.

The pressure of which I speak is that all too familiar pressure to balance everything – The Job and The Family – which is, of course, an oversimplification because there are a million little things wrapped up in those two broad categories. How in the world do you/we balance all of it?

To say that the house is unclean, is giving it too much credit. It seems as if the laundry – dirty AND clean – is anywhere and everywhere, except where it should be. Bills need to be paid. Taxes need to be done. Dogs need to go to the vet. Husband needs servicing, cars need maintenance, and vice versa. And, oh yes, the girls need attention, love, guidance, homework help, and so much more.

I made a critical decision this weekend to start saying no to things that have or that might come my way, protecting my time for those things that are at the top of my priority list. Would I write a newsletter or contribute content for a blog? No. Would I work on social media? No. Will I go to that writer’s conference? Um…..No. (That last one was a doubly difficult decision to make.)

I knew when I took this job that my efforts as a writer would slow considerably, but that giving it up altogether just wasn’t an option. So I’ve pared it down to one writing night a week, and perhaps a blog post here and there. And once I get the other stuff tamed – take the laundry to have it done, hire a housekeeper, find a tutor for the girls – extra time will open. And that is good enough for now.

So here I sit with my writing group, working on a project that I have a lot of interest in and passion for, and I have the most incredible feeling, like I’ve put on an oxygen mask. I’m not worried about the girls, they will survive. I am not concerned about the laundry sitting in the front entry, it will get put away another night. The husband, the dogs, the bills. All of it will get done. I’m exactly where I need to be now.

And there it is. Balance.

I Am Not Raising Dead Fish

With four girls in the house, the subject of boys – usually, relationships with boys – comes up almost every day in some form or another. I see them trying to wrap their minds around this incredibly murky and elusive subject – the male species – as if it’s a thousand-piece puzzle they have to solve overnight, and I want to help.

Sometimes I’m asked to play the role of listener, but more often than not, they want to know WWMD (What Would Mom Do). And honestly, at least on this specific topic, I vacillate between being thrilled that they’re asking for my opinion, and sweating bullets because I don’t know jack about relationships and the male species. Oh, I know what I read in Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, in The Rules many years ago, and in all the other marriage and relationship books I’ve been through, not to mention just about every Cosmo article on the topic. I even know what societal norms and good etiquette are, too.

After all of that, and 44 years of time in the trenches, you’d think I could get it together enough to offer wise counsel when they ask for it, but nope. And my lack of confidence in this area is apparent in the inconsistent feedback I’ve been giving to the girls. Behold, the evidence.

Scenario 1:  Then 9 year-old says she is going to ask a boy out. I explain very gently that, traditionally, the boy asks the girl out. She says she thinks he likes her but is too shy to ask. Yeah, I say. In that case you may just have to club him over the head and drag him back to your cave.

Scenario 2:  Twin tells me that a little boy she briefly dated in 2nd grade wants to date her again. What should I do, she asks. Don’t do it, I say. Move on, move forward. Never go backwards when it comes to relationships.

Scenario 3:  Oldest explains that she really wants to go to Homecoming with this kid, and asks us what she should do. My answer: “I don’t know.” Greg: “Drop subtle hints.” He proceeds to give her his definition of what a subtle hint looks like. I’m more confused after this demonstration, and all I can come up with is, “Let him make the first move.”

Recent events in our house have caused me to re-think my usual brand of feedback, which as you can see is generally just a brain-to-mouth-and-out kind of a response. And what comes out really depends on how I’m feeling that day, emphasis on I’m, and not what I really want for my girls to hear and know in their heart. So I feel the need to do them a solid and get this one right.

I ran across this poster yesterday on Hey Prints, and it resonated with me in a big way. I had a moment of parenting clarity so I thought I’d share it, because we all know how brief those moments are. Talk about murky and elusive.

Only-Dead-Fish-v2-l_largeSo here’s the thing: I’M NOT RAISING DEAD FISH, Y’ALL! I’m not raising dead fish! I want them to swim wherever and however they want. I want them to choose their course, however impossible I may think it is, or however challenging it proves to be. Doesn’t matter, because they will be swimming, and choosing, and LIVING. Most importantly, they will be living, and living authentically.

So my message to them going forward, when I’m asked for advice on this topic, is so very simple and consistent.

I want you to do what feels right to you, Emily. I want you to do what feels right to you, Madison. I want you to do what feels right to you, Cameron, and to you, Quincy. Stay true to yourself. And I’m going to do the same. No exceptions.

Love, Carmen (a.k.a. Mom)