Black and White, or Maybe It’s Gray

Sigh

“Mommy what’s wrong?”

“Nothing sweetie.  Why?”

“I heard you go like this (heavy breath)”

“Oh, mommy was just frustrated on what she was hearing on the radio.”

“What?  What happened?”

 Ugh, how do I explain this to him.

“Remember how you learned in school about Dr. King and all the things that he did?  What do you remember from that?”

“He was a man who said he we are all the same in the inside even if we looked different on the outside.”

“Right.  What does the mean to you?”

“That you should be friends with everyone and be nice no matter what a person looks like.”

“Right.  Well besides the color of a person’s skin there are a lot of things that makes people different.  Some people speak different languages.  You know how you are learning Spanish and sign language in school, some people speak that way all the time.  There are different religions.  You know how we go to church and learn about God and Jesus.”

“Yes! Jesus just had his birthday at Christmas.”

“Right.  Some people believe different things.  Mommy’s best friend growing up was from Pakistan and she practiced a religion called Islam.”

“What makes her religion different?”

“Well actually there are a lot of similarities, but I guess one of the biggest differences is we believe Jesus was the son of God, whereas she believed he was not.”

“Ok”

“Am I confusing you?”

“Kind of.  What does it matter if they are different?”

“Well that’s the point it doesn’t matter if we are different.  People in our country speak different languages, practice different religions, and are from different places in the world.  However, there is one thing that can make people different that our country does not accept.”

“What’s that?”

“Umm, ok if I confuse you please stop me.  You know how mommy and daddy are married?”

“Yes”

“Well I didn’t always know daddy.  I didn’t meet him until I was 19 years old, but we became friends, we fell in love, and eventually got married.   However, I have always known grandma and grandpa and I have always loved them very much, but it’s a different kind of love, but it is love just the same. “

“Ok”

“Well there are people who say that some kinds of love are wrong and should not be permitted.”

“But if it’s love, how can that be wrong?”

“Liam, from your lips to God’s ears.”

“Huh?”

“Never mind it’s a saying.  But you are right Liam and that is why mommy sighed.  She is sad that our country is trying to tell some people that their love is wrong?”

“And then they couldn’t get married!?!?!  Mommy I love weddings.”

differences

“I know you do. I want you to remember something, just because you don’t agree with something, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  Just because it might not be in your beliefs it doesn’t mean others shouldn’t be allowed to do it.  Growing up sometimes mommy would have what I like to call healthy debates with grandma and grandpa.  Sometimes I learned something and it made me think about it in a different way, but sometimes I just didn’t agree with them.  Do you know what grandma and grandpa did?”

“No what?”

“Nothing.  They never told me I was wrong.  They never told me to change my mind.  I never got in trouble for it.  They let me form my own opinion.  Sometimes we agreed, sometimes we didn’t.   I want you to remember that too.  You are allowed to think and believe whatever you like as long as you are not hurting anyone else. Capeesh?”

“Capeesh.  Mommy?”

“Yes Liam.”

“Can you put on “Uptown Girl?”

“Yes Liam.”

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Bathroom wars

A few weeks ago I had an afternoon that was just with my son. After finishing our lunch in the food court I decided I needed to use the restroom before we moved on to our next destination.  I was pretty familiar with this mall, however it was apparent that they had just recently done renovations.  In the past there used to be a family bathroom, which I never used to give much thought to, but now as a mother I find it a necessity.  To my surprise however in the renovations done to the bathrooms the family bathroom was no longer there.  I had a fleeting moment of, “What’s too old to bring your son in the woman’s bathroom?” but quickly pushed it out as I was completely uncomfortable with the thought of Liam waiting outside the bathroom for me.  This mall in general was very popular with high foot traffic and this was lunch time so it was even busier.

1401x788-42-25816125I held Liam’s hand as we entered the ladies bathroom and there was a line.  He was excited I had just bought him a balloon shaped like Spiderman so he was completely engaged with that.  I heard a woman say, “Oh you are one of those,” but I didn’t really pay much attention at the time as I didn’t think it was directed to me.  A stall emptied and I brought Liam in.  At home we had instilled a privacy rule as Liam and Ava had been notorious for busting in on anyone who was in the bathroom.  Liam closed his eyes without me saying a word (to be quite honest I hadn’t given it much thought), and he said, “Mommy I am giving you privacy.”  I smiled and thought how considerate that was.  I quickly went and then we left the stall.  I directed Liam over to the sinks to wash my hands and that’s when it happened.

A woman came up to me and said, “So you are one of those.”  Completely dumbfounded by what she was talking about I said “One of who?”  She replied back, “Making a political statement by bringing your son into the opposite sex’s bathroom.”

In split seconds I felt like my whole body was on fire.  I was so angry I felt like I was shaking.  I must have given off some impressions because Liam asked, “Mommy are you ok?”

I don’t often get like that, but when I do I rarely hold back, and this case was no different.  “If by one of those you mean, a mother who would do or say anything to protect her five year old child, then yes I am one of those.  I have no political agenda I am trying to make, except being a good mother.  And by the way, if I had left my son outside to wait for me, I bet you anything you would be the first one to say, where’s his parent?  How dare you!”

I was so flustered, angered, and oddly mortified I grabbed Liam’s hand and stormed out of the bathroom.  It wasn’t until we got to the car and Liam asked me, “Mommy did I so something wrong,” that I realized he didn’t understand what was going on.  As I placed him in his car seat I tried to explain to him what had happened and he had done nothing wrong.  Just as I was backing out of the parking spot he said to me, “But mommy I don’t get it.  If the rooms (he called the stalls rooms) have doors why does it matter.  At home we all use the same bathroom and we shut the door.  How is it different?”

And while I again I am not trying to make any political statement in this entry, Liam does have a point.  I struggled to come up with an answer and yet nothing in my mind sufficed.  I think either side of this whole bathroom wars would have a response to his question, but me I am just mom.  I am just looking out for what’s best for him and always will.

Swiper the Fox

So for some time now my son has had a little nickname that we have given him of Swiper.  This derived from a character on Dora the Explorer who takes things from people.  Liam on a somewhat regular basis tries to swipe any lingering desserts on the table.  Ava has fell victim to this many times as she doesn’t eat them as quickly as he does.

A few nights ago in the madness of what I call dinnertime I was cleaning up in the kitchen when Liam said, ” Look Ava I am having the last bite of ice cream,” as he scooped up the last bite and put it in his mouth.  Irritated I slammed my hand down on the counter and yelled, “Liam!”  I couldn’t believe he did it again.  He stole Ava’s last bite of ice cream and was taunting her about it again.  Liam froze, his eyes bulging out at me.  He finally in a shaky voice replied, “Mommy this was my ice cream.”  Now I froze completely stunned.  I quickly replayed in my head the last five minutes of dinner and to my horror realized Ava had an ice pop and Liam had ice cream, he indeed did not steal her dessert.  Complete and utter remorse and self-deprecation washed over me.  At this point Liam’s lower lip was quivering and I felt horrible.  I quickly rushed to him and scooped him up in my lap.  I apologized profusely to him and tried to explain to him why I jumped to the conclusion I had.  As he calmed down in my arms a heavy albatross grew around my neck.

A little while later while Will and I were finishing cleaning up the kitchen I was discussing my plans for our garden and how we needed to go to Lowes the next day to pick up some materials.  Liam interjected into the conversation how he wanted to be with me tomorrow and just me for some mommy and Liam time.  My heart melted and I felt a little better about what had passed thinking that he had forgiven me.  Will and I quickly came up with an idea that when we got to Lowes we would split up, so Will would take Ava and I would take Liam to pick up the items.

The next day Liam, Ava, and I got in the car to meet Will at Lowes after he got out of school.  As we were pulling out of the driveway Liam said, “Now remember Ava you will go with daddy and I am going to go with mommy.”  Ava said, “No why don’t we all go together.”  Liam said, “No we can’t. I have to make mommy feel better about her mistake.” That is when my ears perked up.  Mistake, what mistake?  Today had been a relatively low conflict day.  “Liam what mistake did I make?” I asked.  “Remember yesterday mommy when you yelled at me because you thought I stole Ava’s dessert.  I knew you felt bad and you were hurting so I wanted to make it better.”

12305814_10208286065415264_490324964_nI could not believe what I was hearing.  For a moment I was completely shocked, but I had to shake myself out of that as we were driving down the road.  I was in awe on how insightful and thoughtful and empathetic Liam had been.  Even now as I type this out it astonishes me how forgiving and loving he was.  It’s unbelievable how sometimes the littlest actions, the simplest words can have the most profound impact.  Liam in that split second reminded me on how as wonderful and great, grand gestures are sometimes, it’s the purest, smallest moments that can have the lasting effect.

 

 

 

I’m Not Lucky

I was talking to a mother the other day about bedtimes and how my kids go to bed without a fuss.  She said to me, “You are so lucky.”  Later on that day I started to think about our conversation and how “lucky” I was.  That is when I came to the conclusion, I’m not lucky.  It was not by some random stroke of luck that this occurs.  I didn’t pick some numbers and win the lottery.  As I have written in the past one of the things my husband and I decided early on was that we would dictate bedtimes, schedules, etc., not the children.  It is not by luck at all that my kids go to bed without a fight.

In any schedule, rule, or manner, that we wanted our children to maintain it took a lot of patience, time, and sometimes tears to accomplish it.  It was hard at times and my husband and I sometimes would have to take turns to give the other person a break.  There were moments when one of us was on the brink of giving in.  I questioned myself and fought internally debating whether we were doing the right thing.  No there was no luck about it, it was work.

parenting LuckLike any good parent I have doubted myself in my methods, read numerous articles regarding whatever particular topic we were trying to hurdle, and surveyed other parents to get feedback on what they did.  I asked my pediatrician and read books on parenting.   No it was definitely not luck, it took a lot of studying and research.

I admit there were times that we headed down a path and realized it was not working.  We were not getting the results we wanted.  The kids were not responding in the way we thought they would.  We had to go back to square one, decide what we needed to tweak or change altogether, and start all over again.  I made my mistakes and I will continue to make them, but as the bumps come up we will iron them out.  No it was not luck, it was perseverance.

So I guess what I am trying to say is that it was not by some small miracle that my kids are acting in a way that you admire.  And believe me they do act up.  They are not perfect, my husband and I are not perfect, but it was not by luck they behave they way they do good and bad.  It was work and I am so proud of it.

 

 

 

Summertime With the Kids

I remember my mother telling me about waiting on the playground on the last day of elementary school.  She would hear a few mothers moaning about how they had to “deal” with their kids for the whole summer.  I remember my mother telling me how she did not understand these mothers, as she was excited about what she was going to do with us for the summer.  And it’s true; my mother did a lot with us.  She took us to the library, trips to the city, friends’ houses, swimming lessons and the list goes on.  I never really understood exactly what she meant until today.  I knew she enjoyed her time with us, but I never understood how annoying those other mothers were until now.

I went to pick up pizza at our local pizzeria and there were two women ahead of me waiting for their orders.  It was obvious that these women knew each other.  I overheard the one woman say to the other, “Julie is in camp till the end of July.  Thank God.  I have no idea what I am going to do with her in August.”  That was followed by an exasperated sigh.  The other woman was nodding in agreement and replied, “I know exactly what you mean.”

Family Fun Times
Family Fun Times

The problem is I do not know what they mean.  Without fail everyday Liam and Ava try my patience, they get into fights with each other, and have standoffs with my husband and I; and yet I would not trade it for the world.  I go back to work in a week and half and I am half looking forward to it and half not.  Since my husband is home for the summer (he is a teacher) we have been jam packing our days with family “funness” before I have to go back.   I don’t understand these women’s sentiments especially since I have been accused (and rightfully so) of jam packing our days too much.  I just want to do so much with them and I feel like there is not enough time.

I am not trying to be preachy or anything like that.  I know I am not perfect by any means.  I guess it comes from one fear that I have, which is when I look back in twenty years I don’t want to say I wish I had ….but instead say I’m glad I did.

Lesson Learned From a Four Year Old

After my nightly run, I hopped in the shower, and threw my hair into pigtail braids.  When I got out of the shower Liam excitedly ran up to me and said, “Mom your hair looks so stylish.”  It brought a huge smile to my face and made me laugh.  It was a quick reminder on how I would like to see things more like him.  Instead of being so critical, enjoy the moment.  Important lesson learned from a 4 year old, take a deep breath and enjoy.

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We All Fall Down

Ava’s favorite new song/game is Ring Around the Roses.  When it comes to we all fall down, I squat down as each day it takes more and more energy to get back up.  However, my husband the good sport that he is falls to the ground and then Ava runs at him and pushes him till he is flat on his back.  We then repeat this process until Will or I get tired (Ava never tires of this game).

I thought about that this weekend as I was having an emotional breakdown.  Every once in a while the stars aligns perfectly and everything seems to go wrong all at once.  Unfortunately, this time it took a toll on me and I fell down too.

keep-tryingIt is amazing the resilience of children.  They can fall down and then get up again and keep trying to do something.  I wonder as adults at times where our resilience in things goes.  I couldn’t help but wonder if our adult logic gets in our way of getting back up and trying again.

Liam the other day was having a hard time putting a puzzle together.  He insisted on doing it himself, however every few minutes he would declare that he was giving up.  He then would continue on trying.  He eventually succeeded and was very proud of himself.  I was proud of him too.  He struggled and had a difficult time, yet even though he wanted to give up, he kept on trying.  I reflected on how many times in my life things were difficult and I struggled.  How many times did I persevere and how many times did I just give up? Why is that as adults many times we forget the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”?

My goal for the next few weeks as I feel I have been tested more and more in this area is to not give up so quickly. Whether it is a physical, emotional, or mental challenge, I am going to take the lesson my children have taught me and try, try again. At the end of the day even if I am not able to accomplish whatever challenge it may be, I can feel good about giving it my all and reflecting back the same admirable behavior that I am so proud of my children for portraying.

 

 

A Family That Throws Up Together Stays Together

It all started last Wednesday night I got home late and Liam and Ava were already in bed. I was standing in the kitchen with my husband talking, when I noticed that there was an eerie silence. I can’t explain it, but something was not right. I checked on Ava and she was sound asleep. I then went down to Liam’s room and in the dimly lit room I could see he was sitting up. I went over to his bed and placed my hands on his covers and right away realized they were wet. That was when I saw that Liam’s body was heaving and the horror washed over me. He was throwing up. In his almost four years he has never thrown up. When he was he finished he looked at me and said, “I can’t make it stop.” It broke my heart and thus we began the stomach bug that ripped through our house.

That night my husband and I did not get much sleep every half hour Liam got sick and we constantly were stripping his bed and changing his clothes. However, by morning it had subsided and he was now just a weak, tired little boy. Throughout his stomach upsetness Liam made mention to the fact that he had “the throw ups”. I felt so bad seeing him like that, but I thought the worse was over. Until early Friday morning…. I woke to hear my husband violently sick in the bathroom and right away realized another man down. At 4:00 in the morning I knew I wanted to get out of the house as early as possible for many reasons. One being it would be best for my husband to be able to recover in a quiet, kid free zone; but two maybe if I left I could escape the germs. Having already done 16 weeks of morning sickness and now finally at 20 weeks feeling good I did not want to go back to hanging over a toilet. Besides this stomach bug although short term (lasted about 6 hours) was intense making you sick every half hour. It took days for Liam to even start eating and moving about again, and I feared being pregnant getting dehydrated. I stayed at my parents all day on Friday. Liam still was less energetic and spent most of the day lounging about, but Ava played lively all day. We ate dinner with my parents and as we were cleaning up Ava was running about. All of the sudden she stopped and right there in my parent’s living room, she began her six hour tour of the stomach bug. Fear crept over me as I tried to comfort her. I could see in her face she was scared as she did not understand what was going on. I live 40 minutes away from my parents and knowing the past two experiAva ence, she was inevitable going to get sick in the car. My mother had an ingenious idea and took a huge plastic shopping bag and cut holes to fit over her head and arms to protect her coat in case my fears were realized. Twenty minutes from home as I was trying to make my best attempt to make it before the next episode occurred, Liam announced that Ava had the “throw ups” again. I quickly moved to the shoulder where I cleaned her up the best I could and prayed there would not be another incident before I got home. By the time I got home my recovering husband helped me get the kids inside and Ava situated. Ava finally finished her round of the “throw ups” around midnight. My house was silent and still. My poor husband and kids lay in their beds as their bodies were trying to heal and rest. I was wide awake. Exhausted but terrified. I had come to the realization at this point that I was the only standing survivor and it was not likely I would stay that way. I believe I related it to on Facebook like a game of Russian Roulette. The trigger was going to be pulled and it was only a matter of time to find out whether it was a blank or not.

Bang! 2:00 AM I awoke and knew immediately my time had come. Paranoid of the dehydration after each round I sipped cautiously Gatorade. Funny thing is that maybe it was the sugar or the electrolytes in the Gatorade, but throughout my bout I could feel the baby kick, which gave me peace at mind. By 8:00 in the morning it was over but I was weak, achy and very tired. It isn’t an easy position to be in in general, but when you know your family Mommy and Ava Recoveringisn’t at its best either it’s hard not to feel bad. Luckily my husband who certainly wasn’t completely better rallied and took care of the kids and me. I slept most of the day. Liam and Ava using their doctor kit they got from Santa, periodically checked my temperature and gave me shots to feel better. There something so soothing about the innocence and kindheartedness of a child. Liam repeatedly said that day, “Mommy I just want to make you happy and feel better.” And you know what, he did. Those four days were a rough time for our household and I hope we may never have to go through that again. We had to lean on each other, take care of each other, and in our own ways did what we could to make the other person feel better. However, I am convinced a family that throws ups together stays together.

A Sensitive Soul

The Merriam-Webster dictionary has many definitions for the word sensitive.  One definition being, aware of and understanding the feelings of other people. That does not sound like a bad thing to me.  Don’t we all wish that people could be more empathic?  Why is it than, the word sensitive has a negative connotation to it?

I never gave this much thought until recently.  I had made mention in passing about my sensitivity in an adverse way and the person I was speaking with had a very different perspective on things.  He said to me, “Why do you say that as it is a bad thing?”  I was dumbfounded.  I never saw it any other way.  He then went on to say to me having feelings and being able to express them is not something to be shameful of.  I thought back to all of the times I had fought back tears in my life during emotional moments (happy and sad) or during a movie for the sake of no one seeing an illicit tear escape from my eyes.  I can recall the painful tightening of my throat in order to keep in the welling emotions that were stirring inside me, all so that no one would see how I truly felt.

20150101_180646I have been thinking about this a lot lately because my kids are quite empathic.  I was thinking about what had been said to me and how I viewed sensitivity.  I have to say it has made me quite uncomfortable.  I would never want to pass to my kids a message that would make them think that something about them was shameful or embarrassing, and yet even if I changed my perspective, I can’t help but think that society as a whole sees sensitivity as a weakness.    It’s funny because one of the things that melts my heart and I praise my kids for all of the time is how they try to cheer each other up when the other one is upset.  At their young ages they feel with all of their hearts and are unaware that by society’s standards they are not supposed to express themselves so openly and unequivocally.

I am not saying tomorrow that I am going to be openly weeping at my desk at work, but I think the best way for my kids to feel comfortable with who they are and how to express themselves is to model that emotions are ok.  If I can I can let the tears roll during a sappy moment on TV or if I had a bad day and I feel like breaking down a little bit maybe I should.  Instead of hiding my emotions and being embarrassed by it all, maybe it’s time that they see mommy cries too.  With that said there is a time and a place for everything.  In time I think they can grasp and understand that crying to their boss that they spilled coffee on themselves is not appropriate, but at least they can feel more comfortable with owning their feelings instead of being ashamed of them.