For Moms & Kids Everywhere

School starts tomorrow. In some places it has already begun. In others, summer will last another week. No matter your location, if you are a mom with school-age children you face a new beginning:

Your child is going back. Or going for the first time.

Maybe you feel like this

crying

Or possibly you’re more this

excited

You could be both, but one thing is certain, you are feeling something. And that something is okay to feel. You should be anxious, a little bit stressed, not quite sure how it’s gonna pan out, and also secretly lusting over the brief moment in the morning after you’ve dropped the kid off but before the day actually has to begin for real. Savor the precious solitude of the car ride to wherever (if you don’t have a toddler in the back throwing Cheerios at your head) (if that’s the case, remember you chose to have that baby, and she is a precious cherub sent from God) because uninterrupted thinking time is vital.

To mother’s of Kindergartners, don’t panic. Kids are scarily intuitive. You might think you’re holding your shit together but in reality you look like this to your five year old

crazy

I’m gonna be real with you, most kids will lose it, or at the very least cry, on the first day of Kindergarten. That new classroom and those new kids and all that new shit on the walls they can’t quite read is just TOO MUCH. It’s hard to process, and they don’t want to disappoint you, or to look like a wuss, so they need you to be brave for them. Remember that earlier gif of TSwift? Yeah, get that out of your system before tomorrow morning. Be a Disney Princess smiling through the emotional damage you’re about to incur.

cinderella

It’s for the kids.

My son starts first grade tomorrow. I am not old enough to have a first grader. Some days, I’m not even old enough to have a houseplant. But, somehow, in the years since I had my sweet baby boy to now, he has grown tall and lean, started playing video games and decided he wants to marry the Pink Power Ranger. He’s able to read. He won’t just sink if he falls into the deep end of the swimming pool. He’s lost five teeth.

Part of me wants to pretend he hasn’t grown up at all because the reality that soon he won’t be able to sit in my lap or let me kiss him on the lips is almost too much to accept.

You could too. But we shouldn’t.

As parents, it’s essential that we give our babies the chance to be big. We have to let them face fears and conquer obstacles because the world is littered with traps and terrors they must learn now to overcome. Yes, we may want to tenderly kiss their foreheads and coo in their ears like when they were babes, but that’s not really what they need from us now.

They need us to listen. To play the game with them. To answer their questions and acknowledge their anxiety. They need us to agree that it’s scary — kindergarten, first grade, LIFE — because holy shit it really is, but it can also be great if you work hard and stay strong.

They need to learn from us that backing down from the challenge isn’t the answer. And when they struggle — because they will struggle, guys, they will hate it and they will cry about it, and around Christmas they will be DYING for a break — they need to know you care that all they want to do is veg out on the couch and watch Holiday movies while eating cookies.

And they need you sitting beside them. Just existing with them in the moment, showing them it’s okay to slow down, to say no, to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

In the end, it’s not really about school, or tests, it’s not how well they behave or what the other kids think of them. It’s about knowing they can (you can, too). We all can. Knowing you can is a powerful concept. An idea worth believing. A chance worth taking.

fly

Turn, Turn, Turn…


turnturn

Summer is gone in a flash, like lightning it is bright, hot…fleeting. Raising children, there are times when every moment seems to pass at this lighting speed. There are also times that seem to stretch so long in an eternity of torture that you begin to wonder if you are the punchline in some cruel joke. When you are raising a child, time is precious and boundless and finite and endless.

Tomorrow comes fast on the heels of today. Tomorrow my five year old becomes a Kindergartner, and even though he has been to pre-school and made friends from strangers and coped with new situations and learned in a group setting before, this is still a new and unknown adventure.

There are all kinds of mothers in the world. Some moms work outside the home. Some are crafty. Some pre-cook meals and freeze them and some are just fine with pizza three times a week. No one way is guaranteed to produce a happy, whole, well-adjusted child, and anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves. But there is one instinct that I believe all mothers will understand.

The instinct to protect.

We all know it is best for our children to learn to cope with stress, to handle conflict, to problem solve. We all also know the best way to lose weight is slowly, through diet and exercise, but we all secretly hope that three day cleanse will work just as well and faster.

The radical, rule-breaker, fist-fighter inside me wants to redo elementary school alongside my son, creating a shield of rebellious protection. The mother in me doesn’t even want to argue with her. But the woman who had to learn the hard way that you must fight your own battles to truly have won, she is the still small voice — less amusing and less passionate, but no less correct. She reminds the other two that they must chill, they can’t beat up the world no matter how much they may want to, and in the end, the best thing for the kid is to just hang back and hope.

Every stage requires letting go. The baby stage, when they look at us like we are the only thing in the whole universe worth acknowledging: gone. The just walking, talking, eating everything, making up words, laughing because you blew a bubble and wow that’s the best: gone. The I can do it, pitch a fit when I can’t, still let you do it because I got bored: gone. The I really got this, back off: gone.

Children move in and out of moments like lightning, too, their faces alive with the glow of newness. And over and over again we feel them slip from our fingers, tearing at the scabs on our hearts. Eventually, we recognize the sensation. The tugging at our grip. The pressure to give some space. It comes from them, it comes from the world waiting for them, and even, sometimes it comes from us.

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We can be Zen about it, we can kick and scream, but still we are stabbed in the heart by our own offspring. We welcome the wounds. We revel in the pain because it means we are doing it well. Tomorrow my son will go to Kindergarten and I will smile and cheer and walk away no matter how much it hurts, and all the tears I want to cry will happen in the car ride home, because even though all I want to do is grab him and run, what I have to do is let go.

 

 

 

Who’s driving?

I could have lost my leg this evening. You may read that and think I’m being dramatic, or drinking again, and while I am currently nursing a gin and soda, light on the soda, no, that account is pretty accurate.

Today was a good day, and even though North Texas was shrouded in a cloak of storm clouds this afternoon, even though the heat was the kind that made you sigh when you walked out into it, even if I took my first Zumba class and confirmed that all things must be achieved through baby steps and blind faith, I had a sense of rightness. Oneness with my path. Destiny.

On the way home from my son’s art class, the storm hit. Rain pelted us, but we soldiered on, the promise of pasta and red wine (grape juice for Sam) on the horizon. I drove across a bridge, swept up by the wind and heaven’s tears — a fear of mine, one I am acutely aware of — because I felt sure that was the right way.

I don’t consider myself a superstitious person. Sure, I look for meaning in fortune cookies and chance encounters with valuable strangers, but not everything is a sign from On High. Though, I do believe On High speaks in signs and gets your sense of humor.

Life is a mixture of those things: signs, wonders, human error and kitsch.

When my son and I were driving we saw a deer running from the storm. She was magnificently close, her eyes wide with fear, her mind driven by instinct, and I thought, I’m like her, sometimes, afraid of where I find myself, exposed without warning and seeking shelter.

We arrived to the house, safe, sound and ready to eat that pasta. I jumped out of the car, and as I came around to the passenger side I realized I’d left the car on. I opened the passenger door and reached across to turn off the ignition. In that moment I don’t know if I hit the break when I leaned over or if the break had not actually engaged, but the car began to slide.

With my son still strapped in his car seat.

I didn’t think. I just jumped in.

Many things fly through your mind when you’re racing down an incline at a ridiculously fast speed, your leg hanging out, trapped beneath the bottom of the door, scraping along the rock drive.

My leg will be crushed when we hit the gully.

We can’t hit the gully.

I don’t want Sam to know I’m afraid.

I want someone to help me. Please help me.

As long as I can remember I have had this recurring nightmare. I am in the passenger seat of a car that is going too fast and no one is driving. When I realize no one is driving I begin to panic. When I panic the car begins to accelerate, careening uncontrolled away.

In the moment before we hit the gully I turned the wheel away and somehow, even though I couldn’t get my leg in the car before, it was in the car, bruised and screaming with pain, but not crushed. My eyes were locked on Sam, cocooning him away from his fear.

We slammed to a stop, not in the gully, not in the brush, fine, dandy, shaken beings. I am not someone who speaks often publicly of my faith, but this was a moment where that faith was enlivened.

Sometimes we fear things that are beyond our control to begin with. Sometimes that is a fear that will carry us off our path, into some chaos, away from safety. And sometimes, yes, you are hit with the thing you fear when you aren’t looking for it at all. You must jump in anyway, because often, there is something more important than your fear. Something like a little boy strapped in his carseat who doesn’t like roller coasters let alone backward speeding SUVs.

FAUBION-79 copy

 

Road Trip Wednesday: #163 Goals Anyone?

rtwRoad Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. We ,the bloggers who love YA Highway, post our response and then link it in the comments of the YA Highway site. Pretty fun!

This Weeks Topic: What are your goals for the new year—for reading, writing, or other?

I am going to attack this question in the three parts it’s broken up by — reading, writing, other.

I am not really a goal-setter. I discussed this in my New Year post, you can see that here. To briefly reiterate, I do not like to fail. I do like to have a plan though, and that plan does leave room for me to fail.

So…whatever.

Reading:

I have set a reading goal on Goodreads this year. First year I think I have ever done that. You can see my little tracker over in the sidebar. I’ve read one book so far. My goal is 75. We will see. I would like to try to read in genres or sub-genres I don’t usually read in for at least 30% of my reading. For example) Literary Fiction, Contemporary YA, Nonfiction or Memoir.

Writing:

The biggest goal I have here should be obvious: get the manuscript to a sale-able place. For those of you who are agented, you will understand how very little power you have in reaching this goal. It comes down to absorbing the notes on your work, interpreting it through the eyes of your characters and your voice and your story, then making that happen in the writing. That’s what I’m doing now.

Beyond that, ideally the book will sell. I’m an holding my breath for that. Holding my breath, praying, crossing fingers, dotting “i’s”. It’s happening this year. I would also like to consistently blog, tweet, and build my presence on the interwebs. And, if my manuscript is out in the world of publishing, I’d like to begin work on the sequel.

Somewhere in there I will sleep and potty-train my three year old son.

Other:

Potty training is happening. Sometime between now and when he turns four. My husband and I joke about this, and other more challenging aspects of parenting, in order to remain sane in the midst of chaos. He says, sometime between now and when Sam’s eighteen he’ll be able to sleep through the night (use the big boy potty, eat his vegetables, dress himself, etc., you get the idea), so no pressure.

I’d like to find time to sew, which I haven’t done since moving to New York.

I want be more settled this year. This is more of a feeling, something I will know when I get to it, but not necessarily know how to get to. I’d also like to be more flexible. Last year, I was learning how to be a mom and a writer. I’m still learning, but I hope this year, I’ll be better at the dance.

Those are my current goals. I find goals evolve, like all living things, and goals should be alive. They are a part of who we are. As you journey towards something the end result you were hoping for usually matures. Sometimes it changes entirely. By the end of the year, I may not meet any of my goals, but I may still feel I’ve accomplished everything I set out to. (This is a mentality I am developing in order to counter my need to win compulsion. So far, it’s working.)