Saturday, October 8, 2016

Oh Hey there Junior High - I see you haven't changed much.

I spent one of my junior high years at a private school and the second at public school and as I dig deep into my memories I cannot find a positive memory from either experience.

But I shook those rough years off and then, well ... grew up.

When my daughters entered junior high my past remained faithfully tucked away in a dusty old yearbook somewhere. This was going to be their experience. This, I was certain would be better.

But, oh hey there Junior High. I can see you haven't changed much.

I wondered if my fraternal twin daughters - who are a sun and a moon, they couldn't be more different in every way - would stay together or use the freedom junior high has to offer - to branch apart; find their own set of friends, activities and hobbies.

They haven't. I've noticed in a group of girls, they still stick together and I'll admit at first I thought it was a good sign; their bond would remain intact. But as time went by it appeared they were less sticking together and, I began to wonder, more being left out.

Maybe they were but my heart told me they have what they need inside of them to navigate the social scene. Not climb to the top of the social ladder - we're in no way interested in our Tribe to be on top people, we're more interested in being happy, kind, make the world a better place people.

I decided not to worry about them.

And it seemed I was making the right decision when teachers, coaches, and even other parents on the bleachers stopped to tell me how much they were enjoying the girls, especially my 'sun' (the shiny sparkly one of the sun/moon combination).

Until. Yesterday twin sister was visiably upset. Upon investigation she confessed she was privy to some hateful conversation about her twin. Apparently my sun is too sparkle-y, too loud and obnoxious.

I looked at her beautiful face, eyes rimmed with tears dangerously close to spilling down her cheeks, masked my own grief and asked what she was going to do with that information.

We talked about the reprocussions of approaching the mean girls as well as the probability of just keeping quiet about it all. I asked her to consider all of the possible outcomes and instructed her to understand whatever she chooses to do, she has to own the consequences. We hugged it out and we'll see what happens on Monday, if anything.

I find it ironic how the same qualities celebrated by the adults who have met twin sister are the same characteristics annoying her peers.

I think that is the very hardest part about parenting; raising children to be people who have the skills to navigate the bigger, wider, and sometimes harsher world, while fostering the belief that they have a meaningful contribution to make to it.

Turns out potty training was not the hard part of raising kids. Releasing them out into the world prepared is. Thank goodness we get to do it in stages. First junior high, next the rest of their lives.

What about you? Have your daughters had 'mean girl' experiences? How did you handle it?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Am I a Good Mom?

I have never been one to sugarcoat my opinions regarding parenting. You could blame it on the fact that I have five kids but it's more likely that I am a bit of a realist. I think that parenting is one of the hardest jobs that I've ever had. It wears me out and runs me down and puts me in situations that are uncomfortable. And yet I do it. I do it everyday, all day. Then I wake up each morning with a resolve to give it my best shot all over again. I don't throw in the towel or lay on the couch defeated. I give my kids my best as often as I can and I post the proof on Facebook like every other social media mama.

That's because I am proud. I'm proud of my kids, my family and the tribe we've created. I think what we're doing is hard but I also think that we're doing a pretty good job at the same time. Admitting that ... well, honestly, that is tough for me. It's so much easier to poke fun at the hardships and sleepless nights of parenting. It is not so easy to admit the successes. Why is that?

As a Parent Educator I've had many encounters with all types of parents and I believe I am not alone in feeling this way. I've noticed that most people, especially mom, avoid authenticity and instead focus on how we portray ourselves. Some mothers present themselves as if parenting is a breeze and their children are literal angels (they're not, we know it - you know it!).. Others keep their head hung low in shame believing they fail to measure up to the mothers who look like they have it all.

All of it makes me want to ask; where's the balance between the two? Why can't I be the mom who has a clean house, makes homemade brownies for the bake sale and forgets to pick up her kid after school? Why can't my attempts at parenting be simultaneously successful and a fiasco? Somewhere we've picked up the expectation that if we fail anywhere in parenting we've failed in all of parenting. I'm not okay with this. 

I was asked recently "How do you do it all?" It took me a while to respond to the question because truth is I was shocked that someone thought I did. Let me be clear; I am not doing it all. Sure, I work outside and inside the home, write and shuffle my kids around to their various practices after school but don't assume because you see me doing those things that our homework is done, dinner is on the table and my laundry is caught up. I assure you it is not.

So does that make me a good mom because I look like I have it all together or a bad mom because I don't?

You see, I have a very soft spot in my heart for women in the trenches of parenting, I am mortified to think that anyone would elevate my parenting skills or techniques over their own. So I've been guilty of downplaying the things I've done well so you won't feel bad about yourself.
Isn't that so unfortunate? When will mothers stop comparing themselves to the other women in the carpool line? I'm doing the best I can. Aren't you doing your best too? Why can't we be free to celebrate our successes and comfort each other in our failures? When will we learn parenting is not, and will never be, a sport in which the best cook/volunteer/photographer/blogger/thinnest/prettiest woman wins? 

Parenting requires us to dig deep within ourselves and be kind when we're exhausted and function on little sleep. We must offer grace to the unmanageable toddler and consistent discipline to the wiley teenager. We manage households and budgets. We create and provide an environment that nurtures our children, our most precious commodity, into men and women of the future. This is no small task. Neither is it one that has ever been managed with perfection. 

Sure parenting is tough and we are constantly reminded of the things we aren't doing (no thanks to you, Pinterest!). Of course other women make better brownies than you. There will always be someone who is able to attend every game. But what another woman does is not your measuring stick. You are your measuring stick. You and you alone can search the depths of your heart to know if you are trying your hardest and giving it your best effort.

Parenting is the perfect love/hate relationship. I love that I am blessed with such an awesome task and hate how it challenges me. But anything of significance requires work doesn't it? Parenting isn't easy because of what's at stake. Let's get real. It's ok to admit the tough times but only if we can learn to bask in the glory of a job well done as well. Your kids need you to believe in yourself. You need to believe in yourself. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why! 

What about you? Do you have a hard time admitting you're a good mom?

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