Saturday, February 9, 2013

Misery Loves Company

I consider myself a fairly upbeat person.  I believe that most people are innately good and are not always looking out for number one.  I tend to trust - maybe overly so - people at their word.  Negativity in others irritates me; in myself causes self-deprecation.  I try really hard to not let the little things get to me and I consider most things little.  Life is too short to be miserable.

I know that everybody has bad moments, trials, tribulations, and poor luck.  How we deal with these moments often determines how well those moments turn out in the end and how long the moment affects us.  When we attempt to shoulder the burdens alone, we are dragged longer and deeper into despair. When we share our frustrations with others, we find unexpected ideas and methods for coping and possibly solving the problem. "Others" may be a licensed therapist, a certified counselor, a degreed professional.  Some problems need that kind of company.  Most of the time we just need a friend with a listening ear, a gentle heart, a shoulder to cry on, an empathetic response. 

I have been blessed in my life to have a lot of company.  Some are fellow mothers and wives who understand the feeling of keeping everything together and not being shown any appreciation.  Some are family members who love me and understand part of why I am the way I am because it's part of their why as well.  Some are long-standing friends to whom I don't talk on a regular basis but when the phone rings we just pick up where we left off.  Some are members of my church who inspire me to do better with this life I've been given.  Some are members of my church who don't really think I'm going to hell but are willing to accompany me at least part of the way if I am.

I do worry about my children. Our children.  Teenagers today seem to be dealing with a lot more angst than I remember having.  I don't know if it's just my kids or if it is more prevalent, but my freshman seems to have a lot of conversations regarding death and suicide.  Most of his friends have mental disorders and are seeing professionals for their issues.  He has admitted to having suicidal thoughts. He has made comments about shooting up his high school.  He has dated girls who cut themselves, are bipolar, and have been institutionalized.  He has a friend who is a girl but wants to be a boy.  As his mother, I am faced with the question of whether or not he can spend the night with her/him.  I can only imagine what his friend's parents are faced with.  Who do they talk to? Which friend can say they've dealt with that issue? And who are our children talking to?  Do they have friends who can lift them up? Empathize? Help them cope?

I feel that I have pretty good conversations with my children.  While I do not always like what I hear, I am grateful that they are talking to me.  While they do not always follow my advice, I am grateful they are asking.  But there is a fear in me, especially concerning my freshman, that I am not doing the right thing.  That as much as I tell him that there is nothing more selfish a person could do than to commit suicide just because he didn't get to go to that concert or because her boyfriend broke up with her, as much as I have threatened him with his life if he were to attempt suicide; I am fearful that I don't understand him well enough.  I am fearful that he doesn't have anybody positive to talk to in his life. I am fearful that I may lose my son because I don't take his feelings seriously enough.  Because I can't comprehend that this angst he deals with is really that big of a deal.  Because I hope he is enough like me to realize that you just can't get bogged down by the little things and that he wants to keep living because of the hope that there's something better waiting.

Misery does indeed love company. We don't want to be miserable, but even more, we don't want to be miserable alone.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Should've Put Something On It

Not many Superbowl Halftime Shows get much publicity once the show is over. Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction was probably the last major snafu to cause an uproar.  This unfortunately isn't an indication that fashion faux pas are few and far between.  But for the most part, the unclad music celebrities keep their immodesty sequestered to shows where the paying guests know the risk they take when they buy the tickets. 

The Superbowl is a family affair.  For some it is a huge party attended by football or food lovers of all ages. For others it is a more intimate affair. The Superbowl has had over 100 million viewers each of the last 3 years.  It stands to reason that a fair percentage of those viewers were children. 

I have two daughters who chose to play outside on the tire swing during the halftime show. The 8 year old has a keen sense of fashion and has her mother's fetish for shoes. The 7 year old still wears sweaters with shorts and stripes with polka dots. We have regular discussions about modest clothing and the appropriateness of running through the house to the laundry room after a bath with the towel flapping in the wind behind them. It's not behavior I condone but at least they're not on national television.

I'll be the first to admit that Beyonce is a beautiful woman and has a great body. I don't believe that she needed to share so much of her body with the world.  I realize that this is a trend in the music industry.  I recall having similar issues with Madonna during the Summer Olympics.  I don't watch any of the entertainment award shows but I am aware that performers and attendees alike are wearing less and less clothes.  And while I understand that their clothing choices are personal, I do believe that they ought to at least put some thought into who might be watching these shows and the impact it can have on a young child. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Figuring Out Boundaries

I spent the day with my 4th grader's class on a field trip.  I had requested the day off of work as I often feel that my son misses out on mommy time as I am too regularly focused on my 3rd grade daughter who has been going through a clingy stage for about 2 years now.  In some ways, she is actually easier to figure out.  I know she always wants me around and asks days in advance about which days I have off so that she can request that I have breakfast with her or spend the whole day.  Last year I spent equal amounts of time between her class and Little Bit.  Nicholas rarely asked for me to come to his class and I suspected that he was figuring out how much independence he wanted.  Occassionally I would catch a glimpse that he needed me more than he was willing to admit.  And since he was in the same building as the girls, it was easy for me to slip into his class to let him know I was around without crowding or embarrassing him.  This year he moved to the outer building and access to him isn't as easy.

Although I try to split my three mornings between the three kids, inevitably something happens on Nick's day preventing me from actually having breakfast with him.  At home, he is loving and touchy.  I often receive foot massages or pats on the back as I relax on the couch or am making dinner.  Yet at school, he remains distant. When I let him know I would be attending the field trip, he seemed pleased.  Once in the classroom he barely acknowledged my presence.  It is an odd feeling.  I couldn't help but compare his behavior to that of his sisters.  Perhaps it is because he is a boy; perhaps age is a factor.  Cierra becomes enraged if I am not sitting in a chair by her desk while she eats breakfast.  Speaking to the teacher, or, heaven forbid, doing a favor for the teacher, incurs her wrath as only this 8 year old seems to possess.  Rachel is a bit more relaxed about my presence in her classroom.  I am allowed to interact with other adults and students as long as I remain in the room.  Most of her classmates were in her class last year so my presence in the class usually means massive hug attacks from all sides.  Rachel only becomes irritated if she feels her territory is being invaded, but she will also quickly let me leave with a hug and a kiss when it is time for me to go.

The bus ride did nothing to lessen my confusion.  Again the comparisons came to mind.  The girls would be on my lap if I let them so I always knew seating assignments would include me with my girl and a classmate.  Nick piled into a seat with two other boys.  Nick is not a large child - he needs size 10 pants for the length but can get away with a 7slim in the waist.  The two boys he chose to sit with appeared to be twice his size.  There was no room for mom.  I ended up sitting near the rear of the bus with a group of rowdy boys, yet alone nonetheless. Although the class had been divided in two for counting purposes and Nick was in my group, the class remained together during the entire tour and he was up front with the tour guide while I brought up the rear. 

The field trip was to Taliesin West - Frank Lloyd Wright's winter home which now is preserved by the FLW Foundation and is still used as a school for architectural students.  The majority of the tour consisted of traipsing through desert foliage to explore the shelters used by the students.  During a student's first two years, the student can choose to live in a tent the same as those used by the original FLW students or stay in a shelter designed and built by previous students.  In the third year, students are given the option to design and build their own shelter or renovate an existing shelter that is deemed in disrepair.  One shelter we visited looked like a ship floating in air.  To get to the sleeping compartment, one would have to climb a ladder and traverse a metal balcony.  The students had been asked to keep track of sculptures found around the main buildings and the keenest observers were allowed to climb the ladder of this shelter.  Nick and one other student took the prize.  After he climbed down, I quickly met him to congratulate him on his acute observations skills. He burst my bubble by confiding that he hadn't kept count, but just guessed.  And then he was off to the next adventure, leaving me in the dust.

Lunch was another bubble burst.  At home he had thought it a great idea to put both our lunches into the same sack.  At the site, he quickly grabbed the bag and retreated to a table with his buddies.  I barely got a glance as I went to retrieve my lunch and drink.  When lunch was over, he remained with his friends while I ran groups of students to the bathroom facilities.  He came over to me long enough to take the last of my lemonade and then was off again.  Back on the bus he had ensconced himself in the very back seat up against the window.  His fortress of friends surrounded him and I once again sat alone. 

I want to give him his space, but I also want to be there when I'm needed.  I've read the books, I've raised two other boys through these same years.  I reflected to their needs at this age and realized that I was probably oblivious to their wants and needs as my life was consumed with babies.  In fact, the same babies who now are a mystery to me in other ways.  And so Nicholas eludes me.  I left for home once we were back at school as I needed to take care of some errands before picking up the older boys from school.  Nick barely noticed.  Yet an hour later, when we were all home and I was tasking them to get their homework done, he requested help with homework and begged me to play video games with him.  I don't understand him.  Perhaps he doesn't either.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Happy Birthday Little Bit

Today my baby turns 7.  Rachel wasn't due for another week but quite honestly I was tired of being pregnant.  She was my last pregnancy and an unexpected one at that.  After Cierra had been born we looked into permanent prevention.  We decided that Neil would undergo the necessary procedure as it was less invasive and quicker recovery.  Everything was set but on the day he was to go in, his blood pressure was too high and the doctor chose not to perform the procedure.  A few months later I took a trip to visit a friend, came home to an anxious husband, and ended up pregnant.  This began a whirlwind of changes in our lives.

Quickly, the house became too small, as were the cars, the paychecks, and my patience.  In fact, the only thing getting bigger was my belly.  We considered adding on to the house, but decided that the inconvenice of "under construction" would not bode well with the "under construction" my body was already dealing with.  So we house hunted, name hunted, car hunted, and job hunted.

As many of you know, we are a blended family.  Coincidence when we married was that we each had a child with the first initial of A and D.  When Nick was born, we matched up his N with Neil and Cierra was deliberately spelled with a C to keep things neat and even.  Rachel was unexpected and we had no match.  Well, not exactly no match, but who wants to admit that they looked for an R name to match the family dog Ruger?

This addition to our family was not exactly an elation in my life.  I've never had difficult pregnancies, but I was done.  It was such a disruption and I couldn't imagine why God would punish a child by sending her to our family.  Again, the blended family - yeah, well, more like a mud pie than a smoothie.  Marriages and families are difficult enough without adding in exes and stepsiblings and baggage.  Oh the baggage. We have plenty and I'm not even sure it's all ours.  So in a moment of despair (and there were plenty) I whined to Heavenly Father about this additional burden. 

After my divorce, I was left unfulfilled.  I had always had the feeling that I was supposed to have a girl.  As I dated and searched for a companion, I was looking for not only a man who would be a good father to my two boys, but also someone who was wanting more children so I could get my girl.  With Cierra in our home, I had my girl. And boy is she mine.  So I couldn't understand why we were being sent another child.

I received a very humbling answer.  My Little Bit chose to come to our family.  She was a spirit who had been denied a body due to a mother's choice to abort.  And she had been given a choice of where to go and she chose me.  I don't feel like I'm a great mom and I couldn't imagine anyone actually wanting to be part of our family - baggage and chaos and, well let's face it, we're not exactly an ideal family.  But she chose to come to our family and in moments of frustration and downheartedness, she is a light to my life.  Part of it is her personality.  She is a loving child.  She has a wicked sense of humor.  She can be girly but most times prefers to take on the world with no respect to the consequences. And part of it is that she is a reminder to me that I must be doing something right because she chose me.

Happy Birthday to my Little Bit.  Thank you for choosing our family and allowing me to be your mom.  xoxoxoxo