Milestones and Mermaids

Hannah eyeing the pregnant lady in the lounge chair, we made our way over to a shaded table to plunk down our towels and kick off flip flops for an afternoon poolside. The kids love the pool. Without fail they inquire the precise time we will be going to swim each morning. Kids off and splashing I sit down and smile at the lady and preemptively apologize for my daughter’s obsessive staring. She laughed and we chatted for a bit.

Of course hindsight is always 20/20, but time has a way of warp-speeding when viewed through a rear view mirror. It sure doesn’t seem like it’s been a decade since I was first pregnant myself. But here I sit with an almost 8 and 10 year old, chatting with a young mom.

There have been some big milestones in our world. These self-proclaimed big kids are riding bikes to the nearby playground, exploring our new place – stepping into their first bits of independence. I remember wondering about my then-infant and toddler when my sister and her daughters came to visit us in Hawaii. It seemed like so long until I would be able to just enjoy our time swimming instead of worrying and being on patrol, ensuring safety. I remember marveling at moms who sat poolside looking at their phones while their kids played and swam, part of me loving playing in the water, part of me longing for the day when they would find friends and play on their own.

That’s motherhood in a nutshell, I suppose – being divided. Not only daily working ourselves out of a job to grow independent and hopefully productive adult humans, but also wondering what the next step will look like, while simultaneously reminiscing about previous phases.

Flash forward to our time in Texas where they both had swim lessons and became comfortable in the water. Playing in the waves on South Padre Island still made me nervous, yet they had no fear, jumping and giggling as waves crashed and tried to knock them over.

Here I sit today, book in hand, sipping on an iced coffee (because I have waded through cardboard seas to rescue my coffeemaker from an ocean of chaos) .

Yet another little step, them in the pool making friends, practicing tricks and flips and jumps. My mermaid and merman happy to swim and soak in all of summer in our new home.

“Mom?” Hannah asks, as we gather up our stuff to leave when the need for food overpowers the need to be submerged.

“Yeah, baby?”

“Will you swim with us tomorrow? I love swimming and meeting friends, but tomorrow I’d like to swim with you, like we did in Texas.”

“Sure thing Hannah,” I say smiling.

I think we’re going to like it here.

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Independence

School’s back in session, the sun is shining, and I have time! Time to read, write and play with my 3 dog babes! School started this week and it is the first year that our minions are riding the bus.

Facebook abounds with mothers (and mockers) with tears in their eyes sending off precious bundles that just yesterday were babes. I particularly like this one:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/embed/video/1322461.html

I like it because it pretty accurately depicts how most of us felt and or now feel.

Standing at the bus stop the first morning this year, I got the familiar catch in my throat. It was nothing like that first day, the first year, the oldest kid – I remember feeling pretty nervous, sad, and anxious for him to get home. I just wanted to know that he was okay, that it was a good day. I called to them both, “Have a great day!” with camera positioned and ready to snap a quick ‘getting-on-the-bus’ picture. This is what I got:

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1st Day of 1st and 2nd Grade!

There were no tearful last-minute run back and hug mom moments, not even a goodbye! They didn’t even turn back around! And you know what? I was actually pretty glad. I’m glad because I’m so happy they are confidently heading into school and excited for their days. This phase is pretty awesome. Because really, isn’t that what mothering is all about? We work each day to slowly work ourselves out of a job – so they are independent, functional adult human beings who are capable of going after life.

Day 2 of school and we miss the bus.

So much for having my “mom shit” together.

We flip a u-turn and head to the other bus stop and wait. The bus arrives and another dad comes running down the street, flush-faced daughter in tow, backpack swinging wildly as she races to keep up with her dad. I ask the driver to wait for one more. The kids all get on and the dad and I share a knowing smile.

“Nothing like starting your day with an adrenaline rush!”

I agree and laugh. “Almost better than coffee! Here’s to another great school year!” I raise my coffee cup to him and head off back home. I walk the dogs, I pick up the house. I do some doggie school homework. I do some writing. I look at my watch and realize I have about 10 minutes until I need to head down to the bus stop and pick up the kids. I get into what I’m doing. I look back at the clock and realize I’m 5 minutes late.

In the space of 30 seconds, I panic slightly and ask myself rapid-fire: “Do they know how to get home? Will they look for traffic? What if someone grabs them? Will the bus driver not let them off if I’m not standing there? Where will I go to pick them up? Didn’t someone say there are convicted felons registered here? What if they fell asleep on the bus again and the driver forgets it’s their stop and what ifwhatifwhatifwhatif…….”

Breathe. I hastily dash out the door and make it to the end of our block. I see their little heads bobbing as they walk proudly in a single file line on the narrow part of our road that has no side walks. They make it to the corner. They both stop, they look for traffic. The cars wave them across and they make their way to me on the sidewalk. I grin and Hannah swaggers up, chest puffed out, “MOM! WE WALKED HOME BY OURSELVES! I’m SUCH a BIG first grader!”

“Mom, I had us walk single file like you do when there is no sidewalk,” Jake reports, in his usual just-the-facts-ma’am style.

Then they both beg me to stay home the next day so they could walk ALL the way home by themselves. I exhale. I make no mention of the fact that I was late, or having a slight heart attack; that this was all part of my master-mom-plan to give them a little more independence. I take another deep breath.

‘NO!’ I wanted to scream. ‘You were JUST MY BABIES IN DIAPERS yesterday! What are you thinking? Are you crazy? NO you cannot walk 2 blocks by yourself! Someone will call CPS because I’m a neglectful mother!’

But I say none of that. I shut up my helicopter-mom alter ego and simply say, “Perhaps I can just meet you on our corner for now. Then see how it goes.” They think that’s a brilliant plan. While we are eager for growth and responsibility, perhaps just for a bit they can move into independence with baby steps. At least for their mom’s sake.

 

I’m Sorry – A Letter to My Kids

I’m sorry. I’m truly very sorry.

I have gotten plenty of things wrong in your short lives, and there will be plenty more I will likely handle badly. This one is going to hurt.

I’m taking away your screens.

Permanently.

I know. I’ve threatened before when you couldn’t keep yourself together when I’ve said, “Times up!” Then I gave in, or we went on a long drive,  I “just needed a minute to myself” or any number of other excuses. I was lazy, and I’m sorry for that. It was far easier to hand you a tablet and let you play so I could get some work done, or to have quiet, or both. But I’ve done you a HUGE disservice. You see, you do not know how to be bored. You don’t know how to wait. You do not know how to let me have an adult conversation without interrupting.

None of that is your fault. It’s mine. I’m the parent and I should’ve done better. Technology is a WONDERFUL thing – and for some families it totally works and it’s awesome. For us, however, I will be a far better parent to you both and you will be better mannered, more functional adults if we leave the tablet behind.

I had it confused for a bit. I struggled with finding a balance  – many times – since these tablets were purchased. As you’ve grown, and your friends have them, it’s just become more and more of an issue of an inability to self regulate. You are both on the verge of needing computers for school work (you’ll use mine for a while). These toys are simply not necessary. I kept thinking that if I had it to do all over again, there are two things I would never have purchased: the dang Elf on the Shelf and the iPads. (Don’t get me started on the holiday tradition of hiding the elf in a new place every morning in addition to the already busy season!)

If I wouldn’t do it again though, why do we still have them? Honestly? Because it’s easier then going through what we are now. The transition to life without video games is not for the weak! I know this will be hard, for ALL of us, but here are a few things I know you will gain in the long run – and the end game is what I have to keep in mind because that’s my job.

*Better manners, fewer meltdowns and tantrums.

*The ability to be bored, and be okay with it.

*Long drives where you actually LOOK at the world around you. (Even if it’s south Texas and flat!)

*More outside time – especially as we move into fall and winter! Nature is a MUST – for all of us.

*More games, relearning co-operation and give and take. You know these things, you have the skills, but we are going to get better with fewer meltdowns.

*Better sleep. Science has proven this repeatedly. Less screen time, especially close to bedtime, equals more restful sleep. More restful sleep means more functional during the day and better prepared for learning and growing.

*More Creativity! You are both inventive and incredibly creative when forced to be. You make up games and play so well together. The whininess subsides, you handle life better.

*Better parents. Nope – you don’t get to trade us in, but  I will be a far more creative parent when my go-to bargaining chip is not the iPad. I’m tired of it, and if you are honest with yourselves, I think you are, too.

There are many more benefits in the long run, some that I’ve noticed even in this first day screen-less. It will be bumpy, to be sure.

I’m also sure that this is the exact right thing for our family. I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner. My dream for you; to be creative, insightful, helpful, kind, co-operative, self-sufficient and well-adjusted adults, simply won’t happen with your face stuck to a screen. It just won’t.

I love you too much to let that happen.

Boredom

Oh Summer.

With the conclusion of the school year, the reduction of my gym hours, the kids and I are experiencing the sudden loss of structure. I’m actually enjoying it, and for the most part, they are, too. There is a common theme that has arisen as of late, however – a whole 14 days into the break – boredom.

The dreaded summer “b” word.

Last week, my sweet son whined to me, “I’m bored. I have nothing to do. And I’ve used up my iPad time.” (Yes, that’s limited!) Somewhere along the way, I was dubbed the activities director. Sadly, this is a job I do not want, nor did I apply for.

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“Why don’t you use that big beautiful brain of yours to figure out how not to be bored,” I replied.

Eye-rolling (brain searching) commenced and a few mutterings. I choked on the suggestions of 500 things he could do that were sitting on the tip of my tongue ready to spew all over. I waited. About 2 minutes later (felt like 30) he drug out the sidewalk chalk. Little sister joined him.

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And 45 minutes later, they were still super involved in their hopscotch project. No whining. No bickering. Just 45 minutes of bliss.

Later, I was sent this article (thanks Angie!) that confirmed what I’m figuring out: Boredom is the birthplace of creativity. (Yay research for backing me up!) I also keep seeing articles about “How to give your kids a 1980s/1970s type of summer” complete with exploration, being bored, taking the days as they come. I LOVE this! I sure as heck don’t want to be the family chauffeur. I don’t think spending my summer in the car sounds like fun. I cannot be the activities director. I will not (nor can we afford) week after week of camps all summer long. (We are doing 1!) We are taking this one summer day at a time.

It WILL be full of swimming, bike riding, yummy lunches they help make (hello, cooking camp in our own kitchen!), but none of the hyper-organized structure. More of the “What are you up for today?” and less ticking off a must-do list that leaves us all harried and cranky. I am so looking forward to this!

But, in the event the dreaded B-word rears it’s ugly head, I’m now prepared!

Sidewalk chalk.jpg

What about you? How are you spending the summer months?

 

Happy Birthday Jacob! 

My kid is 7 today. My “On this day” Facebook feed is me every year exclaiming how “I can’t believe he’s ___ years old already!” Time is such a fluid concept both rocketing so fast and crawling by simultaneously.

7 years ago I became a mother. Parenthood changes us, beeaks us open to a different version of ourselves. It’s hard to imagine life before these little people, these ones we feel like we’ve known all our lives the minute we meet them. I remember thinking, “Oh! There you are. I’ve been looking for you and didn’t even realize I was searching.”

7 years. I’m going to blink and it will be 7 more. For now, I’m going to revel in this day.

Happy 7th birthday Jacob!

  

  

Mermaids

Sitting on the shore at the Ko’olina lagoons four years ago, my sister and her daughters jumped right in splashing and playing like three long haired mermaids. They were out visiting and I so enjoyed a peek into the future of what life looked like with kids slightly older than my own.

How I marveled at the thought of my then 3 and 1 year old swimming solo. Would I ever get to the point where going to the beach wouldn’t be work? Or a whole lot of sitting on the shore ensuring they had their floaties on and not going out too far? When would the enjoyment of just playing in the water with the kids take over the watching and the worry?

The minions have been enjoying their summer break, the pool, the warm weather, the pool, riding bikes, skating and did I mention, the pool?! Last summer, they were timid and didn’t want to get their faces wet. We did swim lessons, and they made some progress. But this year, Jake asked what it would take to get to go down the slide at the deep end of the pool. Nothing like a little motivation, right? They don’t allow floaties and was told he would have to pass a swim test.

f=”https://curlymamaof2.files.wordpress.com/2015/07/img_9708-1.jpg”> The slide![/capt
And so he did! He splashes down that slide without plugging his nose. He doesn’t wig out when water gets on his face. He plunges in over and over and paddles his way to the side to do it again. And again. And again. We’ve gone to our local water park (with HUGE waterslides) and the kids have a blast! Hannah and I put on our goggles and make silly faces under the water, blowing bubbles, and playing underwater chase. She goes down a smaller slide and tries to splash me as much as she can as she lands with a wide-grinned goggle face.

I get to relax. I get to enjoy them. I conquer my fear of heights and climb those stairs so I can go down the slides, too! The camera sits in the towel bag. My hair gets messed up. We all have goggle rimmed tan lines around our eyes. We get exercise and we sleep soundly with the sun-kissed contentment of a summer thoroughly enjoyed.

This is our mermaid time. And I’m loving it!

I’m the mom

I’m the mom whose garage constantly looks like it vomited a Toys R Us into the driveway.

I’m the mom whose children pick out their own clothes. (Therefore ensuring that they never match.)

I’m the mom who is passionate about fitness, so yeah, I DO wear yoga pants. A lot.

I’m the mom that goes to Target alone to sip coffee and shop. Yes, I do in fact feel like it’s a mini-vacation.

I’m the mom who loves fiercely. Who will look at my kids and get choked up thinking about what amazing people they are becoming. And what a privilege it is to witness.

I’m the mom who sometimes gets lost in the to do list of laundry, dishes, and dinner, but eventually I find my way back.

I’m the mom who is becoming ever-more comfortable with the realization that I’ve never been, nor will I ever be, one of those women who “has it all together”. I tripped and rolled my ankle this morning walking from my front door to my car door. It’s a distance of about 4 feet.

I’m the mom whose role is ever changing as the kids reach different stages of independence.

I’m the mom who chokes back tears as he walks into the big school on his first day of kindergarten.

I’m the mom who still sits and waits because she’s just not ready to let go of my hand yet.

I’m the mom.

I’m their mom.

Forever.