Posts Tagged ‘Parenting’

When the last bluebird sings

September 28th, 2009    -    8 Comments


I’ve been watching it for some time now, anticipating the end and knowing what it would mean.

When I left my lonely life of accomplishment behind, when I first moved with my husband to this house, to my stark empty-handedness, I called my mother soon after. She had raised three independent daughters, three whiz kids, and I had never said the words that tumbled from my blubbering lips:

I need you.

She came to visit, but before then she sent me a houseplant. It was the kind of plant sold at grocery stores and florists, just a pot of common ivy and indistinguishable indoor greenery. For decoration, it had a slender spike stuck into it with a bluebird on the end of it. I’ve had it since then, all 12 years, in one spot and then rotated to another. I treated it like a talisman, and then a memorial, thinking to myself:

This is my mother.

About a year ago it started to fade. The ivy yellowed and dropped off. The other stalks shrunk. Little remains but the spike with the bird on top. It seems to have bugs now, or some kind of blight. I know it’s time, and so I moved it to the patio. As part of every morning service at the Zen Center we chant this line, and so I chant it now:

The four elements return to their nature as a child to its mother.

It’s time to let the old girl go, to let it all come to rest. My mother is telling me to go, to take flight, to sing my own song. A few weeks ago I heard myself say, as if reading my own heart, “I don’t want to write about parenting any more. Motherhood is about so much more than the kids.” Yes, it’s true the kids are part of it, I said, pounding my chest, but my life and work have moved to a larger purview now. Like what, you might ask, if I haven’t lost you in this pile already. And so I tell you:

The laundry.

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I hate you*

September 22nd, 2009    -    89 Comments


*and other ways to say I love you.

Today I had a: conversation/fight/tantrum/major meltdown.
The fact is, I’m having a tough time with the transition to: going back to work/daycare/no sleep/solids/no nap/the big bed/the twos/the threes/a new sibling/the layoff/the new job/kindergarten/fourth grade.
I’m just so frustrated with: naptime/potty training/bedtime/no time to myself.
I shouted/screamed/slammed the door/broke down/sobbed/made her cry.
I should have: seen it coming/stopped in my tracks/used my words/taken a break/left the room/given myself a timeout.
This is so much harder than: I thought/anyone told me/it was last year.
How can I: learn from my mistakes/do better/raise my child differently?

My friend Kris Laroche sent me a Feeleez game recently to give away on this blog. Because of all of the above, I feel happy to share it with you now.

Kris is one of the founders of Feeleez, which originated tools to teach kids what some folks call emotional intelligence.

Getting along peacefully is what we all want to do. A tool to help our children identify and talk about their feelings helps parents talk about their feelings too. Personally speaking, that has always been a more urgent need in our household, and that’s why I’m so glad to offer you this gift.

Kris was an early adopter of Momma Zen, for which I feel so grateful, and she checked in with me recently to find out how else I was feeling. Frankly, Kris, I’m feeling relieved now that I said all this, and empathize with all the moms who I know are having a rough go of it these days.

I’m giving away a beautifully crafted and packaged Feeleez Empathy Game with 25 matching pairs of Feeleez cards to help you and your children learn to recognize and express feelings in a non-confrontational way. It comes with a guide for several game ideas including memory games and charades. It’s a lovely addition to your home or classroom.

To enter, simply leave a comment telling me how you feel right now, including a way to contact you by blog or email if you win. Seriously, I feel sad when I choose a winner that I can’t contact! The giveaway ends next Monday, Sept. 28. Enter as often as you like whenever the feeling strikes.

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Every bit love

September 15th, 2009    -    12 Comments

The other night I stepped into the living room to deliver the announcement: Timetobrushyourteethwashyourfaceitsbedtime! My husband and daughter were watching an ancient baby video, one of the ones we haven’t watched in, oh, nine years or so, a dozen obsolete formats ago.

We were starstruck.

She was not yet two. We watched her waddle in circles around the lemon tree, and then repeat a circuit around the yard, climbing the steps over and over, little feet sailing, arms flailing, head tucked and hell-bent on a mission called growing up.

She stood in sunken, soggy diapers twirling her goldilocks curls and rubbing her bedtime eyes.

She danced in a loopy bounce to grandpa’s ragtime piano, bathed in a spotlight of self-immersion and propulsion.

She emptied her first Halloween bag piece by piece, cooing a drooling baby talk of approval, chirping a drunken birdsong of eees and opps and umms that we understood perfectly.

I said to my 10-year-old, “Now do you see why we love you so much?”

Everything seen and unseen. Heard and unheard. Known and unknown. The confusion, the fear, the fatigue, the worry, the doubt. The rage, the gulf, the hurt, the tears, lonely sleepless anxious terribleness, all of it, the ugly underside of it, and the unwrapped rosy red yummy of baby’s first bobbypop. It’s all love.

My sweet lord. Every bit love.

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From a tipi to a tribe

May 27th, 2009    -    2 Comments


Perhaps if this woman had ever been here, she would have had the fearless forethought to stay there. Maybe if more girls could find their own expression, they wouldn’t be lost in translation. It’s not farfetched to imagine the day we’ll have one of our own braves as chief. That would indeed be tribal justice.

My friend Wendy Cook has taken an impossible dream out of her laptop and into her lap with the launch of the Mighty Girl Art empowerment camp starting this summer. It’s for our tweens riding the raging waters between slippery rocks and hard places. (And those aren’t just the frontiers where calls get dropped.) I have a tween, and I hope in the months and years ahead she will learn to trust the voice of her native intelligence above the mindless cacophony of the crowd. But she needs wise mentors and guides beyond her mother’s fleet fingertips. All of our girls do.

What I really want is for Wendy to bring her tipi to my front lawn for a West Coast outpost. Saving that, I want you to look around the camp see how you can add your muscle to the magic. How can we grow this? Spiral it outward? I liken it to my own recent kids’ writing project, which has ricocheted to 70 places all over the world in just the last week. There’s no underestimating the power of getting ink all over your hands, and no one has to make a case for it.

It’s about time, girls, to put our faith in the tipi instead of the WiFi, connect to the sacred circle and not just a cell network, and flex something other than our thumbs.

We have a whole world to rescue and seven generations to serve, starting now.

Whoop!


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Getting around the peanut ban

March 12th, 2009    -    11 Comments


She rolls into the room with a salty grin.

Mom, here are two things I think would be fun.

First, I want a sister. A little sister. I just think it would be neat and fun. Is having a sister fun?

(Pause)

OK, then, how about a Wii Fit?

What passes for dinner

January 29th, 2009    -    14 Comments


La-de-da. The First Family has a new chef as of today, a fellow from Chicago who specializes in healthy food and “knows what they like.” From what I read, he’s going to have to put a dash of something special into every meal. I happened to see an interview last fall of the Obamas in the kitchen. Those sweet girls pooh-poohed their daddy’s fancy tuna poupon salad, and smiled, “cheese!” when asked their own favorite food. I’m convinced they’d have a seat at our table anytime.

I can understand that the President is driving a national nutritional agenda. We all drive our own family nutritional agendas, and on those nights it doesn’t drive you to the drive-thru, an agenda like that can drive you bonkers. Take my friend Shawn, who decided to take herself off the hook from cooking this week so she wouldn’t take her dinner frustrations out on herself for a change! In the spirit of compassion for all moms and dads who want permission to veer off-agenda and have a happy meal or two, let me give you an idea of some of the healthful variety that passes for dinner in our house:

Any noodle or vegetable soup with a sprinkle of cheese.
Pasta with marinara and cheese.
Romaine salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese.
Macaroni and cheese, not homemade.
Cheese pizza.
Cheese quiche.
Cheeseburger hold the burger with extra cheese.
Grilled cheese sandwiches. As long as the crusts are cut off.
Cheese quesadillas.
I’m not hungry can I have some Cheez-Its.
Cheese straws, cheese slices and cheese cubes.
Fruit slices and cheese with more cheese.
Chicken nuggets. Hallelujah! No cheese.
Artichokes. I kid you not.
All of the above with ketchup.
And ranch dressing.

In praise of abandonment

January 18th, 2009    -    12 Comments


All my life, I have been stitching together a family – Barack

I read a fascinating piece in The New Yorker the other day. It became more fascinating days after I read it, as the implications surfaced in all kinds of other events right before my eyes. It’s from an interview more than 10 years ago of the young Obama couple. It’s delightfully honest, because you can see the truth and trajectory in what they say long before it was made known to them or to us.

There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career – Michelle

You can hear the foreboding, see the vulnerability, in her words and her picture. She describes herself as more traditional, more risk-averse, pretty private. She is so much like many of us, with a family background so much more like the rest of us, without ambiguity, and yet we see ourselves so clearly in him. How so?

I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me – Barack

Reading this I thought, wow, having a family is like an adventure to him, a journey. Because he didn’t have the kind of family that brings with it such an overriding sense of identity, such confining identity, he is free of expectations. He is comfortable with mystery even in those he loves. His arms are wide; his pose is relaxed and natural. On this wide open face, we have projected our hopes and dreams, and he alone can bear them.

Even as you build a life of trust, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person – Barack

How many of us can say that? Do that? Withstand and pursue that? How many of us can abandon our expectations and free those we love from the prison of being who we think they are? Who we want them to be? This is the recipe for all loving relationships and the point of an article I wrote for the February issue of Shambhala Sun entitled, radically enough, “Parents, Leave Your Home.” If you subscribe, you’ll get the magazine any day. If you don’t, you’ll see it at the Whole Foods checkout. Or, you can download it from my website right now by scrolling down the home page to a list of my articles and anthologies.

Thank you, Mr. President, for making me part of your family. You encourage me to do the same with my own. Let them be. Let them be a mystery. Let them be home wherever they roam.

When girls collide

January 14th, 2009    -    6 Comments

When your daughter’s new doll is 18 inches tall, and your new daughter was 16 inches tall, the brief span of Daddy’s Girl fits entirely around the length of an American Girl. Are they one or are they two?

(Mommy saved her baby clothes, and her baby didn’t save a trace.)



To buy children’s gifts, mothers do without

November 28th, 2008    -    16 Comments


Come Christmas, McKenna Hunt, a gregarious little girl from Safety Harbor, Fla., will receive the play kitchen and the Elmo doll she wants. But her mother, Kristen Hunt, will go without the designer jeans she covets this season.
New York Times

To give their children health, mothers do without.
To give their children sleep, mothers do without.
To give their children attention, mothers do without.
To give their children time, mothers do without.
To give their children comfort, mothers do without.
To give their children respect, mothers do without.
To give their children shoes, mothers do without.
To give their children security, mothers do without.
To give their children freedom, mothers do without.

For a mother, doing without is never doing without love.

Try designing that into a pair of jeans.

The fall of the smart house

October 8th, 2008    -    20 Comments

Could be a metaphor for our economic collapse, and it is, but it’s not.

By my bleary reckoning, it might have been 4 a.m. when Georgia got out of bed, walked across the darkness, said “I don’t feel well,” and threw up on the white wool carpet in my sister’s tony new townhouse.

It was a stunning flood of Mexican beans and rice and milk, a regurgitation that transfixed a mother into the gripping awareness that the day to come wouldn’t be going her way. At 9 a.m. my daughter and I would be boarding an airplane for a flight from Houston to LA. This was a new one for me: traveling with a five-year-old through the turbulence of stomach flu.

Incoming!

She spit up at steady intervals, giving my lame hope of a less paralyzing diagnosis no time to coagulate. It was the crowning blow to what had been a triumphant return to my old hometown.

I’d been hired to do two days of media training for the wealth management division of a regional bank. Damn I’m good! I’d brought Georgia along to visit old friends and family. I can do it all! On the eve of leaving, we’d gone out for a Houston twofer: Tex-Mex and margaritas. Life is sweet, with salt on the rim!

I was satisfied that I still had it. (The business thing.) I’d figured it out. (The mommy thing.) I was a sassy smartass at the top of my game.

Two hours later, I hunched over the wheel of my rental car heading up the interstate, one eye on the rear view mirror watching Georgia double over into a plastic Target shopping bag. My baby would have to fly 2,000 miles with her face in that bag. What else could I do? I’d never done this. I’d never been in this bind. I knew nothing. For all my bravura, the smug congratulation of the night before, we were starting all over again. Day 1.

About then I realized: It’s always Day 1, you dummy.

I begged and consoled, consoled and begged. “If you make it home I’ll buy you a Barbie Smart House,” I said, kissing her sweaty neck, shielding her convulsions in the window seat.

This was a mommy Hail Mary. The Barbie Happy Family Smart House was an $80 obscenity, just the latest in an onslaught of overpriced molded plastic monstrosities that possessed my daughter, still immersed in her all-Barbie, all-day play stage. I’d refused it a dozen times over. Drawn a line in the sand. But now I reached for it like a miracle cure.

It worked. By the time we made it home, she was sipping Sprite and bubbling with nothing but anticipation. I was so grateful and proud and humbled. It had become the happiest day of our lives.

***

I’ve wised up so I’m not running the Chicago Marathon this Sunday. My former running partner and I are staging a marathon of another kind, a garage sale. No, it won’t be worth it, but this time the Smart House is going.

It’s Day 1 all over again. The happiest day of our lives.

***
And what’s this? See if you’re a quack happy winner of our latest giveaway here.

12 awesome tips avoided by great moms

September 13th, 2008    -    18 Comments


Hey moms! I just had to share with you something really awesome that keeps turning up when I Google myself. “How to Be a Great Mom – 12 Awesome Tips.” I mean, how awesome! All 12! Tips!

And look! It’s on this site called Zen Habits. That’s so zen!

I’m never again going to wonder, “What does it take to be an awesome mom?” Here we go: 1.Stay true. 2. Don’t be a martyr. 3. Don’t try to be perfect. (That was perfect. Without trying!) 4.Ditch the guilt. 5. Be patient.

Whoa. Just be patient! That’s so zen. Why didn’t I think of that? I’m going to start being more patient right now! But wait, maybe I should kill the patience and hurry through the other tips so I can finally be an awesome and great mom in just seven more steps and start being patient later. Awesome!

6. Listen to your children. REALLY listen. (Yoo-hoo! All caps means REALLY.) 7. Be their mom, not their friend. (That is so “unique” and “original” too.) 8. Teach them simplicity. (Simple!) 9. Don’t push too hard. 10.Teach self-esteem. 11. Teach self-reliance.

Big shout out for self-reliance! A website with 70,000 subscribers latched to their computers reading an endless recitation of inane and superficial tips on how to live life tells us to be self-reliant! Why didn’t I think of that? I’m going to start as soon as I’m done reading this great list of awesome tips on how to be a great and awesome mom.

12. Laugh and have fun.

Photo credit: kmevans

Early returns and small packages

September 9th, 2008    -    9 Comments


At the end of the third day of third grade, her teacher looked at me and said, “You have a happy child.”

I heart NY

September 8th, 2008    -    12 Comments


Start spreading the news. Jen Lee and I chat in a heart-to-heart over in her hip of the slope.

And as long as I’m at it, see if you don’t find yourself in my palpitations:

I heart Montreal, Cedar City, Commack, Hanoi, Cohasset, Philadelphia, Milton, Pearland, Erie, Sydney, Issaquah, North Billerica, Reston, Madison, Berlin, Den Haag, New Boston, Old Boston, Gilbert, Tyler, Grand Rapids, Seattle, Astoria, Orimattila, Glen Burnie, Louisville, Minneapolis, Silver Spring, Everett, South Pasadena, Burnaby, Buxton, Jacksonville, Saint Louis, Littleton, San Jose, Champaign, Austin, Hitchcock, Belfast, Toronto, Frazier Park, Vereeniging, Boise, Ebern, Los Angeles, yes you read that right, even Los Angeles and especially Hollywould, Norman, Portland, Watertown, Paris every day of my life, Omaha, Phuket, London, Unterhaching, Tacoma Park, Romeoville, Tillatoba, Summerdale, Kingfisher, Lynnfield, Sandy, Coventry, Chelmsfort, Montataire, Moscow, Sant-Ouen, Newport Beach, Bedford, Vancouver, Killeen, McWatters, LaPorte, Fresno, Central Islip, Franklin, San Juan Capistrano, Utica, Lausanne, Somerville, Radolfzell, Liphook, Zurich, Hanford, Asheville, Longview, Port Angeles, Palos Verdes, Wonder Lake, Leesburg, Oklahoma City, Reno, Providence, Wilbraham, Waterloo, Indianapolis, Denver, Wellington, Brooklyn, McKinney, Salem, Midlothian, Plainfield, Englewood,Lynnfield, Bethlehem, Zofingen, Des Plaines, Trowbridge, Hudson, Williston, Havelock, Sherman, Fayetteville, South El Monte, Klaipeda, Imperial, Trostberg, Braselton, El Paso, Methuen, Washington DC, Sliedrecht, State College, Ingolstadt, Orly, Winnepeg, Birmingham, Kailua Kona, Smyrna, Irvine, Scottsdale, Ledyard, Saint Petersburg, Dayton, Columbus, Tampa, Engen, Greensburg, Baltimore, Dallas, Venice, Albrightsville, Douglasville, Lakeland, Mississauga, Oakland, Affoltern, Santa Clara, Calgary, Sterling Heights, Anderson, San Francisco, Walla Walla, Lincoln, Bamberg, Livermore, Knoxville, Charlotte, Caroga Lake, Mesa, Halifax, Dublin, Valley Stream, Parow, Frederiksberg, Kaneone, Dauphin, Stoneham, Cagayan de Ore, Ooltewah, East Hampton, Boca Raton, El Mirage, Eugene, Gteborg, Chattanooga, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Albuquerque, Grafton, Valencia, Russell, Gracemont, Canberra, Dexter, Virginia Beach, Tuscola, Saint Paul, Kansas City, Evanston, Camden, Orange, Brighton, Canton, Lafayette, Ottawa, Phoenix, Houston, Holliston, San Luis Obispo who doesn’t love San Luis Obispo, Overland Park, Chapel Hill, Montclair, Hoofddorp, Queens Village, Ridgway, Atlanta, Newton Center, San Clemente, Maastricht, Trenton, Honolulu, Victoria, Calverton, Farmington, Nicholasville, Cincinnati, Alexandria, Sarasota, Downers Grove, Livingston, Kent, Newark,Westwood, Gooik, Fremont, New Orleans, Chicago, Burlington, Union Grove, Calumet, Little Elm, Scottsdale, Santa Fe, Santa Barbara, Sherman Oaks, Columbia, Raleigh, Davao, Fort Lauderdale, Kurri Kurri, Rockville, Charleston, Watonga, Morinville, Athens, Durango, Westlake, Plano, Rochester, Bailey, Hinesburg, Lubbock, Little Rock, Palmar, Syracuse, Keene, Cambridge, Warwick, Custer, Wellesley Hills, Sudbury, Griffin, and whether you find yourself here or don’t find yourself here, you will still find yourself here, yes you and everyone everywhere who shares this dance floor right here on the head of a pin.

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