Sunday, October 6, 2013

My Half-hearted Return

Hello, again. It's been awhile, and I'm sorry for that. I've had a rather introspective couple of months, and when I'm in the kind of funk I've been in since last spring, my writing isn't really fit for public consumption. Nobody wants to read that shit.

Heck, with the backlash against mommy blogs, nobody really wants to read this shit, either. But here I am.

Little Miss turned seven in June. SEVEN. When she was an infant, my dad was holding her, and said to me, "I can't wait until she's seven." At the time, I was horrified and chastised him for wishing my baby's babyhood away. And while I stand by my policy of trying to appreciate my children's ages and stages as they happen and not longing for some other version of them... part of me gets what he was trying to say. She is really fun right now - up for just about anything, old enough and well behaved enough to take out into the world and do really cool things with, and she's just really growing into someone I can have a conversation with and enjoy her company. We have been reading The Secret Garden together before bedtime, and reliving the books I adored in my childhood with her has been everything I hoped it would be. It does my bookworm, daughter-of-a-librarian heart good to see her just as eager to fall into those worlds.
At four, my little guy vacillates rapidly between "tender" and "terror." He has incredible, endless energy and I'm always looking for new ways to direct it. I am acutely aware that in less than a year, he will be in full day kindergarten, and life as we've known it for the last few years will change dramatically. It has been 29 months since I left my job, which means he has now spent just over half his life home with me. He just started his second year of preschool, which has been wonderful for both of us, but there is a huge difference between a few mornings a week and kindergarten. I am trying very hard to savor this time with him, because I know how quickly it's going to slip away from us.

Summer simultaneously passes too quickly and not quickly enough. It was a blur of baseball games, library workshops, day camps, and park dates. It felt both busier and lonelier than I anticipated, and honestly, I was glad to see September get here. It's nice to get back to a regular routine.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Two years ago today was my last day as a fixture in the world of working adults. I've waxed poetic on plenty of the ways my life is different now that I'm with the kids full time, so in honor of my personal independence day I thought I'd change things up a little  and point out some of the ways things haven't really changed at all.

When I was employed outside the home, I made no money because every last cent of my paycheck went towards child care expenses. It never even passed through my bank account because we paid the child care center via direct deposit. My "paycheck" was just a pdf file detailing where my employer sent all my money for me.

Now I make no money because nobody pays stay at home moms to just be moms!

Net change: zero.

Other People's Kids
In my professional life, I spent a lot of time worrying about Other People's Kids. I designed and executed educational programming for them in a variety of ways, most notably a large summer day camp that was really one of the great joys and stresses in my job (I've been known to refer to that program as my first baby.) Whether they were kids on field trips, kids at camp, or kids just visiting my workplace with their families, I wanted those kids to be having the best experience possible. A lot of it was behind the scenes (yay paperwork and parent/teacher communication!) while other folks were with the actual kids, but I got to spend a lot of time with kids, too.

Nowadays, I lead my daughter's girl scout troop and I'm very involved with my son's cooperative nursery school. For scouts, that means planning and executing a lot of educational programming and communicating with other parents. For the co-op, that means being in the classroom, helping out behind the scenes, and - very soon - being on the board. In both cases, the goal is the best possible experience for the kids. Sound familiar?

Overall, fewer kids total to worry about these days, but far greater emotional investment. Net change: Basically zero.

Relationship Navigation
Almost anyone who works outside the home has to deal with supervisors, co-workers, employees, or some combination thereof. Workplace alliances and drama are very real and can present significant challenges - but they can also become the roots of lasting friendships, long after the job is over.

Turns out, it's basically the same over here in Stay at Home Parent Land. My "co-workers" are mostly other parents of kids in my kids' social circles. And not unlike the workplace, some of them can be safely ignored, some present unavoidable challenges, and some become your support system and your friends.

I think it's harder to build a day to day network as a SAHP than it was as someone with a career and built-in coworkers, but once you have the pieces in place it's easier to customize that network to be what you need it to be over time. Net change: Zero.

My Priorities
I think it gets implied (and sometimes said outright) fairly often to parents who work outside the home that their kids must play second fiddle to their work. This made my blood boil as a working parent and it still makes my blood boil as a SAHM, because nothing could be further from the truth, in either situation.

It's really quite simple - my own children were always my first priority. When I was working 50+ hour weeks outside the home, and now with my career on hold indefinitely and all my time devoted to them - they were always Priority Number One. Always. Net change: Zero.

Sometimes I get bogged down mentally and emotionally by all the ways my life is different than it was, different than what I expected it to be. It's important for me to remind myself that really - a lot of the important things are not so different at all. I have loved these last two years - and I can't wait to see what the next two have in store!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Fat Mom Running

Well... not really running. Mostly walking, punctuated with pathetically slow jogging.

For years, I have been telling myself that I need to get in some sort of shape (besides round) and that the way to begin doing that is to commit to a 5K. I've never been able to pull the trigger, though - until now.

Getting ready for the Color Run ("The Happiest 5K on the Planet!") has been difficult, because approximately 90% of the time I'm still convinced I can't do this. I have never been successfully athletic in any way. I've been overweight since puberty. I regularly trip over my own two feet and walk into things. In my entire adult life, I have never been anything but a lazy fat girl, far happier being a body at rest than a body in motion. I don't even have "once upon a time, I could do this and I can do it again!" motivating me, because I was never capable of this. There's nothing to get back to - I got Bs and Cs in gym class, for crying out loud. The fastest mile I ever "ran," even as a kid, was over twelve minutes.

Who am I kidding, seriously? Nine out of ten steps I take, that's what I'm asking myself. Who are you kidding, Sarah? You can't do this, at least not without humiliating yourself. My internal monologue is horrifically self-deprecating.

On that tenth step, though... I begin to believe that maybe this time it will be different. Maybe I'm not destined to spend life just holding down my side of the couch. Maybe it's not too late to be physically capable of keeping up with my extremely active children - and really, that's the motivation right there. There are so many things I can't give my kids, so many experiences and luxuries I grew up with that I can't even begin to provide for them. All I can give them is myself, my time, my energy, my focus. That means being healthy enough to not get winded chasing them around a park. It means being able to move fast enough to hold onto the bike seat while chasing after a kid learning how to ride a two wheeler. It also means not hesitating when my husband says he wants to go canoeing, or hiking, or camping... or even shoot a few hoops. That's one small thing I could do occasionally, back in the day - grab a rebound or two.

I just want to be healthy, for them. For him.

And maybe, for me.

Monday, April 15, 2013

30 Things My Kids Should Know About Me

I found this list of questions on Pinterest, and while I don't necessarily think these are things they should know about me right NOW, they're things I'd like them to know eventually, and they're good writing prompts, anyway. I'm just going to park this here and hopefully come back to it to pick at some of it.

1. List 20 random facts about yourself.
2. Describe three legitimate fears you have and explain how they became fears.
3. Describe your relationship with your spouse.
4. List 10 things you would tell your 16 year-old self, if you could.
5. What are the 5 things that make you most happy right now?
6. If you could have three wishes, what would you wish for?
7. What is your dream job, and why?
8. What are 5 passions you have?
9. List 10 people who have influenced you and describe how.
10. Describe your most embarrassing moment.
11. Describe 10 pet peeves you have.
12. Describe a typical day in your current life.
13. What’s the hardest part of growing up?
14. Describe 5 strengths and weaknesses you have.
15. Describe when you knew your spouse was the one or how I fell in love.
16. What are your 5 greatest accomplishments?
17. What is the thing you most wish you were great at?
18. What do you think your spouse loves most about you?
19. How did you feel the moment you became a parent?
20. Describe 3 significant memories from your childhood.
21. Describe your relationship with your parents.
22. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?
23. What’s your favorite holiday and why?
24. What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about parenthood?
25. If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would it be and what would you eat?
26. What popular notion do you think the world has most wrong?
27. What is your favorite part of your body and why?
28. What’s your favorite quality in your spouse?
29. What are your hopes and dreams for your prosperity?
30. List 10 things you would hope to be remembered for.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Retro Post: Sleeping Beauty's Puppy

I originally wrote this on May 12, 2010, shortly after we returned from a trip to Walt Disney World. Elizabeth was almost four years old.

The morning we left, Elizabeth was upset. She didn't want to go to Disney World, she wanted to go to school and see her friends. Since I'd left plenty of time in our schedule, I took her to school so she could say goodbye and tell everyone where she was going. That helped a lot. While we were there, we talked to her friend L, who was just at Disney World a week or two ago.

S: L, what was your favorite part of Disney World?
L: Meeting the princesses! And I got to be a princess! Lizzie and I play princesses. I'm Sleeping Beauty and Lizzie is Sleeping Beauty's puppy!
Lizzie: Arf! *grin*

Can I tell you with some shame that my heart stopped during that conversation? And not for any reason you might suspect. I think a lot of moms - more moms than would admit it, I think - spend a lot of time encouraging their daughters to be like them, to do things they liked or wanted to do and couldn't. I'm certainly occasionally guilty of this.

You see, I was that kid who was Sleeping Beauty's puppy. I didn't want to be a princess. I didn't even want to be human most of the time. I don't know why I didn't realize it before now, but Lizzie is exactly like that, like how I was. Her pretend play is NOT centered on anything particularly girly. She prefers stuffed animals to dolls. When playing with friends, I usually had to find some way to work my preferences into games of Barbie or princess or other girly pretend stuff - it usually involved being the pet.

I think most women would be happy to see their daughter acting exactly the way they did as children. But for whatever reason, it breaks my heart a little for Lizzie. It was HARD to be that kid. It was hard to not care about Barbie, or She-Ra, or baby dolls. It made me different, right away. It made me weird, and made it so that a lot of other little girls did not want to play with me because I didn't fit their mold.

She didn't get why so many little girls were dressed as princesses at Disney World. She didn't want that, she had no interest. That's totally fine, although it pissed me off that I couldn't find a Lion King or Aladdin shirt for her.

I'm so proud of her I could burst. But I wanted things to be easier for her than they were for me. It's so much easier to be the princess than the dragon.

Elizabeth, totally unimpressed with Ariel

 Elizabeth, totally stoked to meet Eeyore

Friday, March 29, 2013

On what becomes memories

My mom played Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond in the car a lot when I was little. I still know all the words to just about every Manilow song there is, and I can sing along to the entire soundtrack of The Jazz Singer. In some sad, sick way, I'm sort of proud of this.

I remember one rainy day in particular when I was about five - I think I'd just started kindergarten, so it was 1984. My mom drove a tan Camaro from the time I was four until I was ten. People often criticized and questioned her for driving a sports car when she had two small children. Her snappy retort was that it was the only time we'd actually fit in the back seat, and what did they expect - her to have a sports car when we were teenagers and could wreck it? (I love my mom's attitude sometimes.) I was sitting in the front seat of the Camaro feeling sorry for myself. I think it was late fall, because I can remember the leaves and the fact that I was wearing my purple corduroy overalls - I was scraping my fingers across the cords to make the fabric look like a grid instead of striped. We were listening to "Heartlight", a Neil Diamond song about ET ("Turn on your heartlight... in the middle of a young boy's dream... Don't wake me up too soon... Gonna take a ride across the moon... You and me...") I was mad because she wouldn't let me keep rewinding the tape to listen to that song over and over again - she made me wait through the whole rest of the tape. I was mad but knew better than to sass her about it, and I was sulking while I watched the wipers squeak back and forth across the windshield. I can still remember what it felt like to be that small, and what the windshield looked like from that low angle in the bucket seat. I can still remember the reds and oranges of the autumn leaves rolling by as we drove past them, on the way to somewhere that seemed very far away at the time.

And while some things still seem so far away... I love the way my memory calls them back to me when I need them.

It makes me wonder what my kids will remember. What am I doing that is inadvertently being etched into their memories? Elizabeth in particular has given me some clues that she seems to remember finer details in the same way that I do. Is it the '90s music that I tend to play in the car? Or maybe the purple and blue skirt that she insists on wearing whenever it's clean? Or (most likely) something that I'm not even considering? I'd like to think it's the good stuff in general, but I know better. I remember a lot of the bad days, and I'm sure she will too. And that's okay. Rose colored glasses, especially looking backwards, never did anyone any favors.

If I'm hoping though, I hope she remembers how much she loved Joan Osbourne's "One of Us," personally. She calls it "The Bus Song" -

What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us?
Just a stranger on the bus

Tryin' to make his way home?

I'll remember, even if she doesn't.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

That was then, this is now.

Today I am 34.

If you told me ten years ago that on my 34th birthday, I would quite happily spend my day attending Palm Sunday services, watching Peter Pan with my husband and kids, and then going roller skating with the Daisy troop I lead - I would have laughed so, so hard.

That's okay though. I just didn't know.