X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out (#xplan)

My parents always assured me that I could call them to come get me no matter what and I could always use them as a way out of something that made me uncomfortable. I appreciate that and I love this idea for the world that my girl is going to grow up in.

Bert Fulks

Friends, as most of you know, I get to spend an hour each week with a group of young people going through addiction recovery.  Yes.  Young people.  I’m talking teenagers who are locked away for at least six months as they learn to overcome their addictions.  I’m always humbled and honored to get this time with these beautiful young souls that have been so incredibly assaulted by a world they have yet to understand.  This also comes with the bittersweet knowledge that these kids still have a fighting chance while several of my friends have already had to bury their own children.

Recently I asked these kids a simple question:  “How many of you have found yourself in situations where things started happening that you weren’t comfortable with, but you stuck around, mainly because you felt like you didn’t have a way out?”

They all raised their hands.

Every single…

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To the Mother Who Sent Only Cards to the Valentine’s Day Party

So, last night, as my child slumbered off an upset tummy, I picked up her backpack and began to unpack the bounty. In case you’ve forgotten, yesterday was Valentine’s Day and my girl had her first preschool Valentine’s Day party. Of course, she picked out and we bought the cute little My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic sticker-cards for her friends and I helped her sign her name to them, because the note from school had said that students would be giving Valentines to each other. However, as I sat and unpacked three large paper bags/envelopes, I felt my little hobbit-mommy heart sink a little.

There were gifts attached to almost every card.

One card came with a toy car and proclaimed “I “wheelie” like you”.

One card came with a twist-off-top Kool-aid bottle, with its card declaring, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Here’s a “squeeze” for you!”

And on and on it continued. Cute little gift bags, school supplies emblazoned with “You rule!”on them.

By the time I was done, I was wishing every Pinterest-y mother at the bottom of the deepest oceanic trench. All my girl had given were MLP sticker-cards. No gifts. No treats. Nothing cutely punny. Had I dropped the ball or what?

Quietly, I put everything back into the bags and stacked them on the couch so my daughter could open them with Grandma and Grandpa the next day, feeling all of my mere 61 inches tall. Thankfully, I suppose, the aforementioned upset tummy didn’t give me much time to wallow in self-pity. I did end up feeling badly for wishing doom and gloom on these parents who had obviously taken and put much time and thought into would make their children’s little friends smile, for which I am very grateful. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling of ‘less’. It lingered all through the rest of the night, aided by weariness and lack of rest thanks to her throwing-up-every-half-hour-to-keep-time.

It’s not just “less”. It’s a feeling of “not enough”. Not creative enough. Not involved enough. Not aware enough. Not available enough.

And it sucks. (Yeah, I’m self-pitying just a bit. It’s part of the journey.)

I know comparison is a spirit-killer and I don’t want that. I also know that my girl had fun, which is splendid. Maybe her body waited until she got home to be sick because, deep down, she knew that Mommy would take care of her. Make everything as better as she could. I don’t know. I don’t know for sure, but I hope that my love, the fact that I would do whatever I can and need to for her is known down in her blood and bone, as true as her heart that beats.

I’m not a Pinterest mom. I’m not an artist or a party designer. I don’t know the perfect gift for the perfect occasion. But I do know that I love my daughter. I do know that I want to teach her the joy of loving on others. And I hope that, maybe, yesterday was a good starting lesson in that. I hope her sticker-cards made some child smile when she handed them one.

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When Mommy’s Big Feelings Break Out

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The picture above is from a year ago. This was the caption I posted with it on IG: “My girl showing her poor addled, short-tempered mommy some sweet grace and comfort.” #empathy #kindness #toddlersweet #grace #graceforthemoment#littlehands

A year to the day, I need this picture because, last night, I was addled and short-tempered again. Last night, I yelled at my daughter when she came out of her bedroom for the 7th or 8th time since I had put her to bed an hour before. She cried; she tearfully proclaimed that I wasn’t nice to her. My heart broke. I apologized. I asked her forgiveness for letting my big feelings break out on her. I tucked her back in with teary kisses and lots of I love you’s. She calmed and sighed and gave me sleepy I love you’s in return. I cried. I cried. I got the house settled for the night. I went to bed, squeezed a favorite stuffy, and cried until I fell asleep.

I know that ‘nice’ isn’t the same as ‘good’. I know that I am not and will never be perfect. I also know that I need this memory and its reminder today, of the grace that my girl has shown me when my emotion is anathema to my gentleness. I am glad that chances aren’t final. I am glad that I can try again today. I love my girl and her forgiving grace, and I want to learn from it. I want to be like my daughter with her sweet, “It’s okay, Mommy. You made a mistake. I love you.”

I have dear ones who have given me marvelous encouragement and loving reminders today, and I am thankful beyond words for them. As I teach and grade and think today, I’m slowly living out that ear-worm of a Daniel Tiger song, “It’s okay to feel sad sometimes. Little by little, you’ll feel better again.” And I look forward to seeing my daughter’s smiling face and her exuberant, “Mommy!!” when I pick her up from preschool this afternoon.

Ears to Hearts

I just did a Heart Check with my girl (inspired by the beautiful tradition of Hands Free Mama Rachel Macy Stafford and her daughters). We do it every now and again, not really on any regular basis. We listen to each other’s heartbeat and then we tell each other what we think our hearts “sound” like. I listened to her little heart thud like a drum and told her that her heart sounded happy because she had had such a good day at school and had had such a great time running around in her red boots ever since she got home.
My baby girl leaned up and I cradled her head against my chest for her turn. She listened to my heart and then moved to lie down in her bed again. I asked what she thought.
She told me, “I think your heart is crying. I think because it is sad.”
I will not lie; I about lost it into a puddle of tears right there. I told my oh-so-wise girl that, yes, my heart is sad because a lot of my friends are sad right now, but that I am trying to love them as best I can. I asked her if she would pray for me, that God will give me strength and lots and lots of love to share.

Just As Is.

Today, I received that call that I have honestly dreaded as the mommy of a three-year-old new to daycare.

“We’d like to try putting her on a behavior chart…”

My strong-willed little warrior-princess has been giving her teachers a bit of difficulty with her particular brand of personal strength. I am a teacher myself so I know that particular struggle and therefore absolutely gave my go-ahead for the behavior chart/incentive. I will admit, though, that my heart sank as I hung up the call, I lost my appetite for the quick after-work bite I had been having, and shed more than a few tears.

My husband was quick to reassure me that I hadn’t done anything wrong or failed in any way. I didn’t say anything in reply. The honest reason for that was because I was not in an emotional space to agree or admit he was right, even if I believed it (which I was trying desperately to) and that he was so (which he was). After all, I was her primary caretaker/educator/etc. for the first three-and-a-half years of her life. What if I had done something wrong? What if I had not taught her proper respect or kindness? What if I had indeed messed up somewhere with our girl? The rest of the trip from the corporation where we teach to the church where our girl attends preschool and daycare was spent in serious contemplation of just how I was going to approach this, approach my daughter. And I decided (and was later solidified and reassured in my decision by this post from Hands Free Mama Rachel Macy Stafford; thank you so much!).

As is. I wanted to take Elizabeth as is.

I would not scowl or shame her before her little friends and her teacher. I would not make her recoil or wilt because of the sternness in my voice or my expression. I would greet her with a smile and a wave and as big a hug as I could muster. Surely she had already been talked to by her teachers so I would not heap any more on her little three-year-old soul that day. Instead, I would heap grace on her head and give that which I so badly need myself day in and day out. I would hug her, tell her I missed her, and hold her hand as I walked her out of school. Together, we would drive home as a family and then I would tumble myself and her out of our house and into the backyard or the city park just beyond our property. I would run and play with my girl and tell her how much I love her laugh. I would color and draw with her, help her with her “homework” (practicing her letters, numbers, shapes, and colors), and watch her splash and “swim” in the tub at bath time.

I would and will celebrate my girl as she is, encourage her to have courage and be kind. I would leave today behind, inhabit the moments this evening, and let tomorrow wait on itself and all that it will bring. I would take my daughter, my little love, my warrior-princess, and celebrate her as she is. I want her to be (and to help her to be) good, kind, helpful, loving–all of this, yes, but I do not want to stomp her spirit out of her. Her sense of justice, her opinions, her thoughts, her imagination, her hopes, or her dreams, and I must trust her teachers to have the wisdom and the care to not do so either.

I love you, my daughter.

I love your laugh. I love how you love to make friends. I love your imagination. I love listening to you sing. I love listening to you play with your toys and make up stories while you color (just like I did). I love your creativity. I love your fire. I love how you clutch my arm to hold me close to you while you fall asleep.

I love you, my girl. Always and forever. Above all things I want you to be kind, encouraging, helpful, and good. But nothing, nothing can or will ever diminish the love I have for you. Just as you are. Just as is.

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Running On Ahead

Today was the day. That day. That first day. Today was my girl’s first day at daycare. And tomorrow will her first day of preschool. Her first day(s) in the care of someone not a parent or grandparent.

Only a week and a half ago, I accepted a very last-minute position and, in a positive gale of13872934_10153805997603133_477313044703904389_n change, have returned to teaching this year. This was not what I had planned for, not what I had settled on, and so it has been quite a tumultuous time. One of the most difficult parts for me, however, has been the realization and reality that I would not be able to be there for her first day of school. I will not be there to hold her little hand and walk her to her class. I will not be there to see her face light up with excitement or grow sober with apprehension. I will not be there to hug her close, stroke my finger down her pert little nose, tell her I love her, and remind her to have courage and be kind.

And that hurt. It hurt a lot. For an entire week, I cried every time I thought about it, every time someone mentioned it. I still get a little burn in my chest where my heart aches at the missing. I have always been with her; these are the first “firsts” that I will miss. It’s too soon. It’s happening too fast. I know that she’s excited, that she loved her first day at daycare, and had a great one according to her teachers, and that makes me happy for my girl. But, at the same time, it’s like she’s slipping away through my fingers. She’s pulling away and running ahead and I am so far from ready.

I miss our routine. I miss mornings with her cuddled in my arms in the big bed when it’s rainy and dark and we are both still sleepy. I miss walking in the sunshine with her or helping my fearless, spiky girl place her feet properly as she climbs up the playground ladders. I miss watching her jog through the mall, waving at strangers with a smile and a “Hi!” I miss our quiet times at home, her with her Kindle and me with my book or my writing.

13876688_10153805997673133_8663280121382326193_nIt’s all happening so fast. Too fast. I knew that this was coming. Eventually. But I hadn’t looked for it to be now, to be immediate. I had thought I’d be there to  help her transition to part-time preschool. Instead, I tiptoe from the house before she’s awake and won’t see her now until I pick her up at the end of the day. I can only hope and pray to be greeted by a big smile and lovingly enthusiastic “Mommy!” every evening. That’s why I am doing this. For her. For our family. Not for me. For them.

Tonight, as she splashed and played in her bath, all my heart could do was cry out, “Slow down!” And the song below came to mind, as tears likewise sprang to my eyes and trickled down my cheeks.

I want you to grow, my love. I do. Just…don’t do it too terribly quickly. Please? Don’t pull away just yet. Could you slow down, just a bit?