Bowling with a 5-year-old has its perks. The first of which is bowling with the bumpers up. My husband and I hadn’t been bowling ourselves in years. We were saved a few times from gutterballs thanks to those bumpers. It was nice. Another perk was watching my children have fun. Lexiana loved trying her hand at bowling. We learned a few frames in that the ramp really did make her experience more fun and never once did her ball stop halfway down the lane while using the ramp as it hand when she was bowling without it. Drake had a great time watching the other people, us and oh-so-many colorful balls rolling around and disappearing.
The biggest perk, however, was the cheerleading that took place. I have bowled many, many times in my life. In fact, I almost forgot how much I used to go bowling until I went again. We used to go every Saturday morning. I was in a league thing. We went as a family and with our extended family. I have never, though, been cheered on and encouraged as much as I was last week. That’s not to say that my parents weren’t supportive or encouraging. That’s to say that my daughter was our own personal bowling cheerleader. ”Go, Mommy! You can do it!” ”Go, daddy! You’re doing great!” And that happened each and every time. We cheered back for her. We didn’t try explaining that serious bowlers like it a bit more quiet for concentration, because it was too precious and sweet to put a stop to it (and nobody was close enough to us to be bothered by our noise).
You know what? Having someone cheer for you with complete sincerity feels really good! I got to thinking about how everyone needs a little cheering on sometimes for reasons not as celebrated or as obvious. This is especially true for moms in the trenches. So, I’ve put together just a few of the shout-outs I have in my head right now.
To the mom who is struggling to stay awake today because she was up most of the night with a sick child or a baby needing to be fed or both, woo hoo! You go! You can do it! You’re awesome!
To the mom who feels like she can’t wrangle her toddler for one more battle on the changing table at the dinner table at the grocery store or anywhere else, rock on! You’ve got this! Keep going! You’re fabulous!
To the mom who is worn to the bone and doesn’t know how she’ll manage getting the kids fed, clothed, packed off to school and then survive a work day, you’re on it! Press on! You’re going to make it!
To the mom who’s battles with her teenager are reaching epic proportion with no end in sight, woo hoo! You’ll get through this! You’re doing a fantastic job! Hang in there!
To the mom-to-be who is wondering how she’s going to survive this miserable pregnancy and figure out the whole motherhood thing, yay! You’re going to make it! You rock!
To the mom who is looking at a messy house, piles of laundry, hungry kids and a stack of bills needing to be paid and feeling overwhelmed and tired, you’ve got this! One thing at a time! You’re on your way!
To the mom who has forgotten what she even likes to do in her spare time because there never is any, hang in there! It won’t be this way forever! You are going to make it and you can do it!
To the mom-at-heart who is suffering another broken heart as yet another month passes without a positive pregnancy test, hold tight! You’re going to make it! You will survive this heartbreak even when it doesn’t seem like it!
To the mom who is working hard and losing energy on getting help for her child with challenges, you’re on it! You’re an awesome mama bear! Keep fighting!
And like any good cheerleader, I’d be remiss to not offer some defensive cheers:
Defense! against discouragement. Don’t beat yourself up! You’re working hard; keep pressing on!
Defense! against loneliness. You’re not alone! Other mamas feel your pain. God feels your pain and sees you. Keep going!
Defense! against weariness. It’s OK to take any kind of break you can get. Rest well!
Know today that wherever you are, whatever battles you’re fighting, whatever stage of motherhood you find yourself in that you have this. Let me be your cheerleader today. Hold fast to your course. Stay strong and you will make it. YOU CAN DO IT!!! Go, mama, go!]]>
Let me give you some background. My daughter has been praying at bedtime since she was around 2. We started with praying on her behalf and she has taken over to saying her own prayers. But much like the prayers of adults can do, her prayers have gotten sort of stagnant and every night we were hearing her thank God for the good day she had and not usually a whole lot else. Sometimes she’d pray for other people, too. Her prayers have always been precious, but we’ve been trying to teach her about the joy and responsibility of praying for others as well.
A few years ago, I saw a prayer bucket on Pinterest that held popsicle sticks decorated with different names of people to pray for. It was cute. But, I don’t have a cute bucket and I loathe wooden sticks. They give me the heebie jeebies. And I could just see her baby brother pulling out the sticks, taking off and ending with a splinter in his tongue. So I decided we’d try it our way. I talked to my daughter about making a list of people to pray for and she was happily one board. We sat down together and came up with a list of 33 family and friends (including two pets!) that we’d like to pray for. I typed it up on my computer. We printed them out. I cut them out with our paper cutter so they’d all be about the same size. I gave my daughter two envelopes to decorate. On one I wrote: “To pray for.” On the other: “Have prayed for.”
Last Sunday we got started using the envelopes. She pulls out a name and says her usual prayers then prays extra for the person who’s name she drew. That name goes into the “Have prayed for” envelope to then get recycled back through once we get through everyone. If I was super crafty, I’d have used photos of each person since my daughter can only read a few of the names. But I can easily tell her which name she pulled out and it works. It’s been going well. The three nights we’ve done this so far, she’s been excited to pull out a name and get to praying. The first night was a friend of ours. The second night was one of her second cousins. The third night was me. We talked about how if we know specific problems someone is dealing with then we’ll pray for those. If we don’t, then we’ll just pray for God to bless and protect them.
My daughter is growing in her prayers already. I love how her mind works and I love hearing her heart. Her heart. Her prayer for me left me in tears. I was blessed beyond measure. She is so wise and so perceptive and so pure. As she prayed for me, I offered up my own thanks to God for blessing me with her in my life. I honestly didn’t think about how helping my daughter with her prayer life would touch my heart.
I don’t think she’ll always have a prayer list of names in an envelope to draw out. I don’t do that as a grown-up, but I most definitely have a prayer list of people I love and care about and pray for all the time. They don’t even know and that’s OK. Prayer is not all about recognition. It’s about honoring God. It’s about blessing others. It’s about getting outside of ourselves and remembering that God is there with us, loving us, yearning to talk with us if only we take the time. I also know my daughter has many lessons to learn and much growth in her relationship with God. She will get there, but she already has a good start with her pure heart and sweet spirit. She has a desire to know God and learn about Him. She has an in-born love for Him. She blesses her mama so much.
This has been one craft I’m incredibly thankful we took the time to do. Something that took maybe 15 minutes total has already been blessing us in ways I hadn’t even imagined. I don’t know why I’m surprised. That’s how God works!]]>
When her first birthday rolled around, I knew that I was losing my baby. In fact the weekly e-mails I got about parenting switched immediately from referring to “your baby” to “your toddler.” I cried some more. I wasn’t ready to let go of my baby being a baby. Looking back on that now, I smile. And when my son turned 1, I didn’t shed a tear, because I knew the secret: toddlers are way more fun than babies. You still get the baby snuggliness and cuteness but you also get to see their personality come through even more. You get to hear more of their thoughts as they start verbalizing things. You get to really play with them. It gets good. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think toddlerhood is bliss. I’d say it’s about 60 percent fun and 40 percent frustration, but the fun is FUN. The good is so very good. I didn’t know all of that, though, when my daughter turned 1. I didn’t know how good it was going to get. Something happens between the first and second birthday that your child really becomes his or her own person and it’s awesome.
But, 5 has caught me off guard. It signifies that kindergarten is soon on its way (almost a year away, but I know it’s coming!). After this year, she will no longer be able to hold up fingers on only one hand to show her age. My little girl is growing into a big girl. She’s getting more mature. She’s getting more independent and I don’t know if I am ready for that. While she spends three hours, four days a week in PreK now, I know that next year she’ll start school and I’ll lose my days with her. Never again will we be consistently, happily home together most of the time she’s awake. And that makes me sad. That makes me sad even on days when I’d give my left arm to remember what it feels like to do something just for me and get a break. I am not ready for my little girl to grow up.
At the same time, I cannot stop it. I’m sure I have lamented about this before on my blog. It’s not new information and it most certainly isn’t unique to me. Generations of moms before me have dealt with the same feelings. I almost feel like I need to apologize to my own parents for growing up, but at the same time if I hadn’t grown up, they wouldn’t have had these beautiful grandbabies. It’s how life is meant to be lived. It’s the cycle that has been continuing from the very beginning of time.
Maybe in 3-1/2 years when my son turns 5, I won’t feel it quite as keenly. Maybe I’ll approach his 5th birthday as I did his 1st, knowing that what is to come is so very good. For now, my daughter has a week out of school on fall break. I won’t say that every waking moment I’ll be by her side, playing and having fun. In fact, as I type this I’m in another room from her while she’s watching a show on Netflix as her baby brother naps in his room. But, I will have fun with her. I will laugh with her. I will enjoy her for who she is today as a 5-year-old because I have a very good feeling that before I know it, she’ll be a 15-year-old and I’ll be yet again asking myself where the time has gone.]]>
When I’m out with my children, I like to be able to have my eyes on them pretty much all the time. You might say it’s a control issue, but mostly it’s a mom instinct that has me wanting to watch them like a hawk and keep them safe. I don’t necessarily think kidnappers are lurking at every corner. But I know they’re out there. I also want to be aware if they get hurt. I have tripped and hurt myself in so many places and in so many ways that I sometimes project that onto my children — both justly and unjustly so. Somehow I think that if I can see them nothing bad will happen to them. I’m pretty sure I’ll get over that a bit as they get older, though I make no promises.
As they were running through the flags, however, there were times I couldn’t see them. At 19 months, my son couldn’t be trusted to not wander out of the flag area and into the road or parking lot or over the edge of the garden wall down onto the walking path below. My mom and I made sure that one of us was with him and often holding onto his hand at all times. My daughter, at almost 5, was more advantageous and more trustworthy. I knew if I told her not to climb on the stone wall or leave the area then she wouldn’t. I still wanted to keep an eye on her, though.
A few times she was completely out of my sight thanks to the flags whipping through the breeze. In such a large space, she could also get out of the range of my hearing. I had a few moments when my mom and I were together with my son and I couldn’t get eyes or ears on my daughter in any way. Though she faced no real danger, my heart still skipped a beat and my stomach knotted. Within 30 seconds, I’d spot or hear her again.
She was having a grand time. I knew the issue was mine alone and she needed no admonishment. I began reflecting a bit then and continued to later on when I wasn’t chasing children about. I realized a few things. First, it was a lesson in trust. I like to think that if I can see my children at all times I can keep them safe. That’s 100 percent false. I don’t have that kind of power. Yes, I can do everything I can to keep them safe, but at the end of the day my best efforts are only that — efforts. There are no guarantees. I felt God reminding me gently the importance of entrusting my children to Him, the only One who can actually protect them. I am blessed and immensely grateful that I’ve only had one other time when I had to completely trust Him with my child’s safety when my son was born not breathing. However, I know that in many ways every single day He is protecting them in ways I cannot see or fathom and I’m thankful for that. I’m beyond thankful for that. I need to always remember that. He is in control. Any sense of control I think I have is really nothing. There is not much I can truly control. When my daughter disappeared a few times on me, I had to trust that He was watching out for her as well. When she is out of my sight at preschool or children’s church or with her grandparents, I have to trust in others taking care of her and in God watching over her. While I think I am learning to let go in little ways many times over, I’m really just slowly learning how little control I truly have anyway.
The other thing I’ve been pondering is the symbol of the American flag itself. The timing coinciding with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks was no coincidence. My son was clueless as the flags that were flapping around him and what they stood for. He just liked to watch them moving in the breeze and feel them gently caressing his skin as he ran by. My daughter has a small understanding of the flag. She knows it represents her country and she can recite the pledge of allegiance, but she doesn’t know much more than that just yet. She doesn’t know, as my mother did walking through those same rows of flags with us, what it is like to send a new husband to war in a jungle on the other side of the globe and pray every minute for his protection after he was drafted to represent that flag. She doesn’t know what happened 13 years ago in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., when our feelings of safety and power came grinding to a halt. She wasn’t born. She won’t remember that firsthand.
I am thankful for my country. I am thankful for all the sacrifices those flags represent. I am thankful that while God is ultimately the protector of my children and me that there are also men and women who have and continue to sacrifice so very much to protect us as well so that my children can run carefree through a grassy field of flags and not have to worry about being attacked or stepping on a landmine. I am thankful that my mom and I can take them on our own and enjoy them without having to have a male escort or be weighted down with clothes we must cover ourselves from head to toe with.
I must say I didn’t expect a field of flags to have that many lessons for me. I expected that we’d go and have a good time and let the kids play. Who knew what insight awaited me? All I can do is give thanks to my God and to my country. I am blessed.]]>
As I’ve watched him cart that doll all through our house and into the car and weep for her when we take her away at bedtime or mealtime, I’ve smiled. He’s just so cute the way he hugs her and pats her. He’s learning to be gentle. He’s learning to take care of her. He’s mimicking some of the things my husband and I do to take care of him. And I’m not going to put a stop to it.
I have no issue with my son playing with a doll and one that is so very feminine at that. I’m not a raging feminist myself. I see the differences between men and women, boys and girls. I appreciate those differences and try to celebrate them. My husband and I have different strengths and different ways of thinking. Together it works quite nicely for our family. I think to be gentle with our children; he thinks to turn them upside down and tickle them. (He’s also gentle and loving with them as well.) We’re different and it works. The kids love both. I love both kissing their heads as we snuggle and hearing their laughter as they play with dad. I celebrate that my son already works differently than my daughter, both because of his personality and because of his gender. He is more physical; she is more verbal.
When it comes to toys, I don’t have much preference in what they want to play with. My daughter plays with superheroes, Ninja Turtles and cars. She also plays with princesses, baby dolls and Barbies. It’s up to her what she picks. I feel the same with my son. He loves helping his sister cook in the play kitchen (though he’s not super great at following her instructions, yet, much to her chagrin). And he loves playing with baby dolls. He carries them, he pats their backs and he is gentle with them like he isn’t with other toys. This one baby doll in particular has become his favorite. He also plays with cars, balls and blocks.
Toys are just toys, but they are also something more. They are what my children first use to develop and learn about the world around them. I make sure they have appropriate toys (as in their toys are safe), but otherwise, I’m hands off. I want them to be free to explore and to learn. I want my son to have a chance to explore his more gentle side in taking care of a baby doll as well as explore his more aggressive side in splashing the water in the bathtub as hard as he can.
I very much want and plan to raise a strong, confident man. I also want to raise a man with a good heart who has compassion. He won’t learn that if I only let him play with “boy” toys. He can’t explore gentle play if I forbid him from playing with his sister’s dolls. Neither can my daughter learn to assert herself if I teach her only to be gentle. I want her to be gentle and caring, but I also want her to be confident in herself and be aggressive when she needs to in order to fulfill her life’s purpose. She can’t explore those aspects by only playing with dolls.
I’m not a fan of labeling toys as gender specific. I’ve long balked at that idea. I don’t think my son will be less of a man because he spent a few weeks as a toddler lugging around a pink baby doll. In fact, I think he’ll be a better man for having had the opportunity to do so. He’ll be a better father one of these days if he knows how to be gentle and loving.]]>
I can rattle off a list of facts about IC a mile long. I’ve interviewed leading IC researchers for articles. As a journalist, I’ve attended urology meetings discussing the latest research. I can tell you startling things like how one study found the pain and quality of life of severe IC patients is comparable to people with end stage renal failure. I can tell you other facts like how food and beverages (even soaps and fabrics) can irritate an IC bladder and make it worse. However, what I most want to tell you today is the good side of IC. I’ve been working to find this side. I still work to find the positives almost daily. Not much feels positive about dealing with IC, but the fact remains that I have some good things in my life because I live with this disease.
1. Some people call themselves IC survivors. I am not a fan of that term because a survivor is someone who has gotten through something, not someone who is still in the trenches with their enemy. I call myself an IC thriver. I have learned to live and thrive despite my bladder. I have more confidence in myself because I know my ability to survive and thrive in the midst of adversity.
2. I have a high pain tolerance. And along with that, I know how I handle pain. This information really came in handy when I was developing my birth plan with both kids. I know that when I don’t feel well, I don’t want to talk and I don’t want too many people around. This trait has also come in handy other times when I endure something physically challenging. Pain is a part of life. I have a good handle on how I manage with it.
3. I know a lot of awesome people. I can’t count the number of people I know because of IC. I’ve met a lot of folks through the years both in person and online. There is something that binds you together when you’re fighting the same beast. Even though we come from different walks of life and may have different symptoms sometimes, different dietary triggers or different treatment plans, we’re all teammates in the same game. I’ve been blessed by my fellow ICers many times.
4. I know my dietary triggers. That doesn’t sound super positive, but it is. While I would sometimes love to forget about avoiding citrus, caffeine and vinegar (do you know how many places that stuff can be hidden?!), I also am glad to know what bothers me so that I can avoid it.
5. I’ve gotten to know compassionate doctors. I’ve not always had compassionate urologists. I had some with rough bedside manners when I was 13. Fortunately, my parents worked to find me better help. Since then I’ve been blessed to find doctors and medical staff who have been caring and compassionate. In attending urology meetings and listening to the leading IC researchers talk about how hard they are working to find better diagnostic and treatment options for us patients makes me want to hug them. Seriously. Their devotion to IC makes me grateful.
6. I’ve learned to appreciate the small things, like going to the grocery store. I’ve had times where going to the grocery store just wasn’t an option. I remember a day about 10 years ago, before I had children and my symptoms were at their all-time worst when I stopped by Target to pick up a few things. I didn’t even get inside the door before I turned around and went back to my car to head home. I just couldn’t be on my feet that long because I felt so bad. I still have days that I have to sit more than stand, but I sure do appreciate the times that I can do regular things like grocery shop.
7. I’ve developed more compassion. I feel like I’ve always been a pretty compassionate person. I’m a sensitive person who picks up on others’ feelings many times. Having dealt with chronic pain, I feel so much more compassion for people dealing with health issues. I know the challenges and struggles that come with not feeling well, being stuck at home and working to find hope and joy in the midst of pain.
8. My faith has grown. I’ve loved God from an early age. In church-speak, I was saved when I was 10. God and I have always been close, but I have continued to draw closer to Him through dealing with my pain. I firmly believe that God could heal my bladder. And maybe one day He will, but I don’t think that’s His will. I thank Him that His strength is made perfect in my weakness. I pray that through my struggle He can be glorified. Please don’t think I say these things flippantly. I don’t. I have wrestled with God about this many times. It has taken me years to get to this place that I can feel any sort of thankfulness for IC.
9. I have gotten more time to just sit and play with my children. When I feel at my best, sometimes I can get busy running our household and doing the things that need done. That’s not a bad thing. We definitely need our clothes washed, house cleaned, food prepared and errands run. I still do all of those things, but I have learned that I need to not push myself too hard or I will pay the price. I have learned that sometimes I can just sit. And so I do. I sit on the floor and read books, play cars, play dolls, build towers and whatever my children want to do. At 19 months and almost 5, they are already growing too fast. IC reminds me to slow down sometimes and just enjoy them.
10. I have had professional opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise. I write regularly for IC Optimist magazine, the publication of the IC Network. While I enjoy having the opportunity to get paid to research and write about something of personal interest to me, what I most enjoy is the chance to help other patients. I feel honored and thankful to get to put together articles about issues patients are facing and dealing with and need help with. I feel blessed to in some very small way let other ICers know they aren’t alone and there are doctors doing research trying to help us and there are other patients out there going through the same struggles.
IC is a part of my life. I am aware of it every single day to some extent. Lately I’ve been aware of it even more as my bladder has been kicking and screaming at me. And I’ve been motivated now more than ever to find the best treatment options for me. I have two little ones who need their mama to feel as well as she can to take care of them the best she can. I have spent quite a few years not talking about my personal struggles with IC very openly. I feel like I’m over that phase. IC is a part of my life. It’s not the best part of my life, but it is there. And I will not be defeated by it. I will not go down in this battle. I will continue to find ways to live my life and thrive in spite of my bladder. I am an IC thriver.
For more information about interstitial cystitis, including how to make donations to help forward IC education and research, please visit www.icawareness.org.]]>
This apologizing and excusing comes into play in motherhood as well. Some moms feel the need to justify their decisions and their child-rearing to their friends and even random strangers. We may be confident in what we’ve chosen. We may firmly believe that we’re doing the best we can for our families. Yet, seeing another mom doing something differently or a stranger just looking at us a certain way and we feel like we ought to explain. I’m sure psychologists have lots of theories and explanations for this. I’m sure I could delve deep into my psyche and perhaps my past experiences and come up with some reasons as well. But that’s not what this blog post is about. This post is about me learning to do something about all of this unnecessary apologizing and explaining.
In the last few years, I have been pushing myself to just shut my mouth. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. I almost always still feel the urge to explain myself or to apologize. However, I am learning to stifle that urge more and more. This is for myself, but it’s also for my children, especially my daughter. I don’t want her to apologize for things that aren’t her fault. I don’t want her to feel the need to explain herself to anyone who doesn’t need to know why she’s made the decisions she has. I want her to be bold and confident. And I know that everything I do, every interaction I have that she is watching and learning. Just as she talks to her brother in the same tone of voice and using the same words that I do, so will she mimic this behavior. I’m sorry, but that’s not OK with me. No, wait. I’m not sorry.
You, mama, don’t have to be sorry either. You don’t have to apologize and you don’t have to explain yourself. We other moms probably aren’t judging you nearly as harshly (if at all!) as you think we are. If we are, then unfriend us. Nobody needs that negativity in her life. Here are some things of late for which I refuse to apologize or explain. You can judge me if you want. Go ahead. I really, truly don’t care. If it bothers you enough, click away to another Web site.
- I’m not sorry for feeding my children chicken nuggets for lunch every couple of weeks or so. I recently had a friend visiting and found myself starting to explain why we were having chicken nuggets that day. And then I stopped. She didn’t care.
- I’m not sorry for ordering my food a certain way at a restaurant because I have dietary restrictions I don’t always care to discuss.
- I’m not sorry for picking my son up off the floor at the hair salon when he started throwing a temper tantrum and distract him by looking out the window instead of disciplining him. It was the moment. And it was the right decision at the time. Trust me. That doesn’t happen all the time.
- I’m not sorry for my dog jumping on you at the vet’s office when you got him all excited.
- I’m not sorry for letting my daughter watch a third episode of “Daniel Tiger” so I could have a few minutes to myself.
- I’m not sorry that I need downtime. I don’t need to justify it.
- I’m not going to explain why the one afternoon I had a break from my children recently that I spent the time reading and napping instead of cleaning my house that was verging on a disaster zone.
- I’m not going to apologize for the three minutes I spent checking Facebook on my iPhone during lunch with my children with whom I had been interacting with constantly for the previous four hours.
- I’m not going to explain why my daughter isn’t taking another dance class this fall.
- I have no need to explain why sometimes we eat canned Spaghetti-Os for dinner and my children gobble it up better than if I spent an hour cooking.
- I’m not going to explain why my children are in the car seats they are or facing the direction they’re facing. They are safe.
Every day this list could change, evolve and grow. And every day, someone in my life who I think may be caring about a decision I made or judging me is most likely too worried about themselves to even start to care about my decisions or judge me for them. I don’t have to be constantly sorry. I am not responsible for the happiness of the entire world. I cannot control every single thing in every single situation. I am not perfect.
I’m not even sorry for my imperfection. My imperfection is what makes me human. My imperfection is what reminds me that I need God. My imperfection makes me real and gives me goals to work toward. My imperfection gives me opportunities to teach my children about how to make mistakes and take responsibility for them. I am not sorry for being me even though sometimes I wish I were a better version of me. I also do not owe people an explanation as to why I am the way I am or have made the choices I have.
To some, this is not earth shattering news. That is awesome. To others like me who have struggled with this tendency throughout life, I ask you to join me. Partner with me in working to sometimes just be quiet instead of apologize. Remind yourself that you aren’t responsible for the happiness of the whole world. Remember that you don’t owe anyone explanations. Remember that sometimes you can just keep quiet and that’s OK. You don’t have to apologize or explain. Join me in silence. You won’t be sorry that you did. ;-)]]>
- I get to see sweet smiles every morning and throughout the day every day. Nothing makes my heart happier than having happy children. When they’re happy and smiling, I can’t help but join them. One of my favorite things right now is going to get my son up in the morning or from his nap. When I enter the room he’s so happy to see me that he not only smiles, he laughs. It’s pure joy. To know that my mere presence can cause that in another person makes my heart swell. I usually giggle back at him.
- I get to listen to their stories. Well, this is mostly true just for my preschooler, but more and more my toddler is communicating. I spent so long wondering what they were going to be like and what they thought about that now that they can communicate it to me is such a joy. Yes, I get tired of incessant talking sometimes, but for the most part, my children entertain me and delight my heart as I see them growing into the people they are.
- I get to laugh — a lot. Seriously, I don’t think I ever laughed this much or this often before I had children. My kids are funny. They do funny things. They say funny things. We laugh a lot. And their laughter makes my heart burst with joy no matter what I’m dealing with.
- I get to see my children form their own relationships. I love seeing them interact with their grandparents and other relatives. Even more I love seeing them interact with one another. Sure I have to be a referee sometimes, but more often they are loving on each other. They love to snuggle with each other. Every night at bedtime, my son climbs into my daughter’s bed yelling, “Sister!” over and over. Then she pulls him over to her and they hug tight and kiss good night. Every night my heart melts and my eyes tear up. Man, it’s good stuff!
- I get snuggles. Boy do I ever! While it can sometimes be a bit crazy when they are both vying for my lap and I kind of, sort of just want to be able to sit by myself, I cannot resist the feel of little arms around me or little lips smooching my cheek. I melt. Having a baby, toddler or small child snuggle into you just soothes your soul.
- I always have a snack handy. I carry stuff with me like Teddy Grahams or crackers or fruit. I almost always have some sort of snack somewhere on my person or in my car. It’s great for the kids. It’s come in handy a few times for me, too. Just the other day, I was starving and snatched a couple of the oyster crackers my son had dropped in his car seat as I was getting him out of the car.
- Speaking of having things handy, I almost always can offer you a wipe to clean something with, a baby spoon, a napkin, a hat, a blanket, a pair of small sunglasses, sunscreen, adhesive placemats, toys, books and almost anything else you can think of. I never had stuff like that with me before having kids. It all comes in handy.
- I have a built-in excuse for downtime. Don’t blast me for being so honest about this. When I was pumping or nursing, I got away often with and without the baby. As an introvert, those small breaks were sometimes so very precious to me. Even now there are times when my son needs a diaper change or a nap and I have to go that I’m not all so disappointed to get a break myself. I promise I don’t dislike people, but I do sometimes just need a minute to breathe.
- I get to be blessed by other people in new ways. Before I had children, I didn’t talk to nearly as many people, but now people stop me to talk about and to my children often. I also get to experience the blessing of someone being good to my children. If you’re good to me, I’m happy. If you’re good to my babies, then I’m over-the-moon and likely to be your friend for life. I’m so blessed when others bless my children by being kind to them or going out of their way to make them feel special.
- I get to experience the world afresh all over again. My son is learning more about everything around him every day. My daughter is constantly learning and asking all sorts of questions. I see the world through their eyes. I see the novelty of small things like watching the rain. I am challenged by the questions my daughter has about important issues of faith. I am blessed and awestruck at their pureness and untainted view of the world and other people.
- Probably a minimum of five times a day I say or think how cute my children are. Sometimes the level of cuteness in my house overwhelms me, especially when you add our cute pooch and my cute husband. Gah! I can’t stand it and I love every minute of it. I may be humble in many ways, but I will tell you outright that my husband and I make the most adorable children (thanks for that also goes to God, of course!).
- I get to read some fun books. I’m not to this stage with my son, yet. With him I’m stuck in the read-this-same-book-10-times-in-a-row phase. But my almost 5-year-old is a different story. For a year or so, we’ve been able to read chapter books. I’ve been able to share some of my favorites with her and we’ve found some new favorites together. I love reading. I love books. I love sharing them with my children. I love good books for kids.
These are just a few of the benefits of motherhood I can think of for now. Do you agree? What would you add? Share the with me!]]>
In my life, I have mentioned going to Gen Con to others who have no clue what I’m talking about and still think I’m a bit crazy or maybe even weird once I explain it to them. That’s OK. I get that. I lived that. I wasn’t always a gamer. I wasn’t always this woman who sits around a table with six other people (give or take) pretending to be someone else in a fictional situation who’s movements and decisions rely on rolling the right number on dice. I spent years as a gamer’s wife. And that was OK, too. But, slowly through the last 15 years of being a wife, I have evolved into a gaming wife. I’m glad. I enjoy playing games with my husband and seeing his creativity. I enjoy getting a peek at how his brain works outside of our regular daily life together raising two small children. This transformation took place during the Gen Con years, in fact. The first year we attended, my goal was to write about the event as a journalist since my husband was interested in going anyway. We went only one day. I didn’t know what to expect, but I’ve learned. I’ve become a gamer and we’ve learned the ins and outs of Gen Con. We know how to get into games, we know where to park based on where we’ll be, we know where to go for food and we know where the press room is. My husband has spent time working in downtown Indianapolis and, in living an hour away, we’ve visited there often, so we’re quite familiar with the area, but navigating Gen Con is sort of its own beast.
While the games draw me to the convention, the people also do. And by people, we’re talking more than 49,000 of them. Gen Con attendees flood downtown Indianapolis. They fill up all the hotel rooms. They take up seats in the restaurants. There are lots and lots and lots of gamers. They interest me nearly as much as the games. My view of them has shifted through the years as well. The first year we went to Gen Con, I had no idea what to expect and had preconceived notions of finding mostly a male crowd maybe in their teens and 20s. I anticipated awkward, stereotypical, geeky gamers. I now hang my head in shame for that notion. Gamers are so much more.
I’ve learned that gamers come from all walks of life. I’ve encountered people of all ages at Gen Con from babies to college students to fellow mid-lifers to senior citizens. Some are married; some aren’t. Some have children; some don’t. Some are working professionals; some are students. Some have traveled across the country; some have traveled mere minutes. Some of them dress as their favorite characters; some wear their everyday clothes. But they are all there because they love games of some kind or all kinds. Gen Con is a draw for people who play role playing games, board games, card games, video games, computer games and pretty much any game you can think of. There are rooms upon rooms of people sitting around playing games. There are even rooms of people acting out games.
While all the gamers are different in many ways from gender to age to religion to occupation, they are all the same in so many ways as well. I’ve never met friendlier people. I say that as someone who was born and raised by southern influenced folks and who has spent a fair amount of time in the friendly state of Tennessee. Gamers are friendlier. The stereotypical gamer is a quiet person who might not be all that social. I fall into that category. I’m quiet. I’m a total introvert. I don’t seek out people I don’t know to talk with. That’s not my personality. But that doesn’t matter at Gen Con. Conversations happen all over the place, all the time. There was the grandma who I chatted with while waiting in line to get into the Paizo booth. We talked about my children and her grandchildren while we watched an adorable little 1-year-old go crazy for a man dressed as Gandolf from Lord of the Rings. There were the two gamers from the East Coast who we chatted with while waiting to get into a game about the new Dungeons & Dragons system and what our commutes were like. There were the fellow attendees who chatted with us when we ventured over to a movie theater to watch a screening of the 1986 movie “Aliens.” (My husband was beside himself to see that movie on the big screen since he was too young to see it on the big screen the first time around.)
Gamers are helpful. This is true both outside and inside of gaming. We had an unexpected adventure with a few other gamers coming up in the elevator from the parking garage when the door to get outside was locked early on Saturday morning. We worked together to figure out where we were going and how to get out. Another gamer offered advice when he overheard my husband and I talking about the new spinning dice ring my husband had purchased. During different game sessions when players had questions about their character or the game mechanics, others were quick to offer help and advice. It makes sense to me because so much of gaming, especially of the role playing variety, is based around helping people out. Gamers are fighting in-game for the common good of a population. That extends in real life so that when I was playing a wizard and didn’t know what all my spells did, other gamers at the table were happy to help me with information. When that same wizard had some bad luck thanks to the roll of the dice and ended up dead on the bottom of a pit, those same gamers used their characters to come down and save me. Later one even gave me his health potion in-game when my character was failing yet again. Gamers are good people.
Gamers are polite. Usually in a crowded space like the exhibit hall is, people tend to push and shove. They tend to bump into one another and not acknowledge having done so. I’ve not had that issue at Gen Con. It’s busy. People are everywhere, but they remain civil and cordial and pretty darn polite.
Gamers are nice. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone make fun of someone else at Gen Con. I have heard a vendor or two talk negatively about gamers before (I didn’t patronize those booths). Most vendors are gamers themselves who love fellow gamers even just for the fact they are buying their products. But for the most part, gamers are nice to each other and don’t laugh at the way someone is dressed or what they’re doing. Of course we may laugh at someone’s antics in game when they do something crazy, but never in a derogatory manner.
I think overall that these people, these fellow gamers — my people — are a big part of why I enjoy Gen Con so much. For four days we band together. We fight imaginary battles. We right imaginary wrongs. We take breaks from being who we are the rest of the time. I take a break from being a mom of young children (our kids don’t go with us, but there are definitely plenty of kids to be found at Gen Con). I still do wear my journalist hat somewhat in doing interviews and writing while at Gen Con, but I also get breaks from that. We come together. We share laughs and victories. We share common interests. We spend four days running around the convention center and adjacent hotels and restaurants wearing ourselves out and having fun. We make up the people of Gen Con. I have become one of them and I am honored. Game on! Time to start thinking about Gen Con 2015. Who’s with me?!]]>
And those differing phases were exactly what I was thinking about. Not long after we moved in, this neighbor’s grandchildren rang our doorbell to sell something for their school. They were elementary-aged then. A decade later, they must be mostly grown, I realized. So I got to thinking about time flying. It does with children. My daughter will be 5 in October and, yet, I still feel like she was just born. My son is almost 18 months old and, yet, I still feel like he was just born. I was struck in that moment at the difference in our lives, my neighbor and I. I was also struck by the similarities. I marveled that it was 8 p.m. and she was out and about while I am never out and about at 8 p.m. That’s bedtime for my kids. But, she is beyond that phase. Maybe she misses it; maybe she doesn’t. Maybe it’s a combination of both.
What struck me for the first time is how short-lived this motherhood thing is. I will be a mother the rest of my life no matter how long I live or what happens. It is a part of my identity. It is part of me and it won’t ever go away. However, I won’t be consumed by motherhood the rest of my life. Right now I’m in the thick of it with a toddler and preschooler who need so much from me. But, they are both gaining more independence almost daily. They will slowly and steadily need less of me. In 17 years, my baby boy will graduate high school and move on to college. I will have an empty nest. 17 years! That span of time both seems like forever and also like a blink of an eye. When I think that next month my husband and I will celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary, I realize again how fast time goes.
And so I was left to realize that in the midst of all the pressing needs of mothering small children, I must cling to pieces of myself where I can find them. While I need to give myself to my children, I also need to take breaks and give myself to me and to my husband. They really are only with us a short time. I won’t stop being their mom when they are 18. No switch flips like that. My own parents haven’t stopped being my parents now that I’m a grown-up, but our relationship is vastly different now than it was 30 years ago when I was my daughter’s age. I think about what it will be like when my babies are grown. I can’t quite wrap my head around it. I don’t know exactly what choices they’ll make and how they’ll turn out. I don’t know how I will feel when my time of really rearing them is complete. But I do know I will be left with myself and I don’t want to lose her.
It’s very easy to be consumed by motherhood and perhaps it’s completely necessary. However, it’s also quite taxing and leaves little room for much else. Sometimes I forget that I am more than a mom because I simply don’t have the energy left at the end of the day to be anything else. I think that’s OK for now, mostly because it just has to be. I just want to make sure that I don’t completely disappear over these next 17 years. I will change, I’m sure. I have already changed and I wouldn’t go back. I love being a mother. I love being defined as a mother. I love the person my children have made me. I pray and long to be good enough to raise these little ones as they deserve. I pray for strength to be the best me I can be for them. They are my world. But my world is one day going to not be so tight. My world is one day going to go out on its own. I don’t want to forget the Stacey I am underneath the mother I am.
I can only smile as I think about my neighbor and her oblivion to what just seeing her out and about 8 p.m. sparked in me. We don’t know each other well. I won’t ever share this with her. That’s OK. I find myself wondering now whether she has any regrets from her child-rearing days. I wonder how she was left to define or redefine herself when her children were grown. Maybe it’s an abrupt change and maybe it’s gradual. I will see one of these days. But for now I’m going to keep snatching small pieces of myself here and there amidst the chaos and joy of mothering small children.]]>