September 17, 2014
by Tricia
5 Comments

My daughter loves princesses. And that’s ok with me.

I recently asked my daughter what she wanted for her upcoming fifth birthday. Her response: “princess stuff.”

princesses and my daughter

Up until this past year, I had successfully kept the princesses from knocking on our door. We didn’t talk about them, see the movies, or read the books. We steered her towards gender-neutral characters. We spent a lot of time pretending that the princesses didn’t exist. And that worked when she was at home, where we could light up only the parts of the world we wanted her to see. But school is the wild west and kids talk. Within weeks of her first day, she was talking about Cinderella and Rapunzel and it was clear that she’d become smitten with fairy tales. We couldn’t pretend any longer.

So this year, I waved the white flag. I opened the door and welcomed the princesses into our home. And here’s why:

They bring her joy

Yes, I want my children to be happy. Not the fleeting kind of happiness that comes with cupcakes or new toys; I want them to feel a deep, heart-happiness. I want, for them, the kind of happiness that comes from realizing a passion and indulging that love. Right now, princesses are my girl’s passion. Their glitter-dusted lives and their fairytale stories sweep her up in a whirl of excitement. They fill her with joy and I want her to know what that joy feels like. I want her to be so familiar with that joy that she can feel her way back to it when the world goes dark and the burdens grow too heavy. Years from now, when her tiaras have all been packed away, she will still remember what it felt like to dream of magic and fairies. And that memory will bring her joy.

girl and butterfly wings

It matters

When I stood between my daughter and her princesses, I was sending a pretty bold message: that it doesn’t matter what you love, what brings you joy, what you are passionate about. It doesn’t matter that you love to dress up and weave wild, magical stories about princesses and princes and fairy tales with sparkles. It doesn’t matter because I don’t approve. I am her mother and so my approval does have a place. But I’ve come to believe that place is not here. I’ve come to realize that I will have to pick my battles. Sometimes I will have to prioritize my values and morals and what I want for her above all else. But sometimes I will have to yield to her, this little person entrusted to my care, and nurture her feelings, loves, and beliefs.

I get it

Tell me that you didn’t dream, even just for a second, about being Kate Middleton on the day she became a princess and I will tell you that your pants are on fire. I understand the princess love. Deep down in the part of me that once was a five-year-old girl gazing at Cinderella gliding across the floor with her prince, I want to be a princess too. I want the long, flowing dresses, the fancy shoes, and the crown.  Almost every girl wants, if just for a brief moment in time, to be a princess, to live in a fairytale. I get it.

I can guide her

Yes, there are parts of the princess culture that I don’t like. I want to shield my daughter from the obsession with beauty and appearance. I don’t want her to believe that she should sit, helplessly waiting for a knight to save her. I don’t want her to crave material possessions or idolize spoiled girls with bad attitudes (lookin’ at you Little Mermaid). But none of those things have to be part of my daughter’s princess experience. I can guide her towards the princesses that stand up as strong women, of which there are many. I can encourage her to build her own princess stories. While she is young and still likely to talk with me about her dreams and ideas, I can mold the narrative that plays out in her head. And I’ll be far more successful if I use what she loves.

girl climbing with tutu

It’s fleeting

I know enough moms of older girls to know that the princesses will only be with us for a short while. They are here, all hot and heavy, for just a few years before they’ll be too babyish. She’ll move on to something else. And I know enough moms of older girls to know that I’ll miss them when they leave. I’ll miss the magic they bring, not just to my daughter but to me as well. The princess years are simple, sweet, and magical. And I want to live in the magic, while it lasts.

tutu tea party

How do you feel about princesses? Have you let them in?

~~~~~

linking up with Shell

September 15, 2014
by Tricia
6 Comments

Vignettes: almost five

“Is it a drop-off party?” she asks.

She asks the same question every time. Half the time I kiss her goodbye and watch the clock for two hours. Half the time I make small talk and try to decide whether or not I’ll have a piece of cake.

“I’m not sure.” I reply.

“I don’t want you to leave.”

~~~~~

I lift her up so that she can see the choices. Dozens of tiny bottles in rows. Mostly a study in reds and pinks but she finds the sparkly midnight blue and falls in love.

A few years ago, a neighbor mentioned taking her daughter with her for a pedicure. I got all giddy at the thought of it. How sweet! I couldn’t wait and started plotting out when this could be a thing for us too. “Well,” my neighbor replied, “it’s really the only way you get to go.”

We settle into the chair and she puts her feet in the water between mine. We don’t chat much but occasionally she will tilt her head back and say, “I’m so glad we’re doing this.” She says it a few times. “I’m so glad we’re doing this.” And whether or not this is the only way I get to have someone pamper my toes, I’m so glad we’re doing this too.

feetnailpolish

~~~~~

We walk in and there are hugs and little girls squealing but no crowd of parents milling about. The birthday girl announces that the party is downstairs. And they’re gone in a flash.

The mom we walked in with says goodbye and makes a fast exit. Another mom and I look at the dad for guidance. “We should wrap up by 4!” he says.

~~~~~

“Mommy, I had so much fun knitting with you last night!” she says, as we make her bed on Sunday morning.

A few months ago I bought a knitting kit. The box promised enough yarn to make a pair of very colorful fingerless gloves. We knitted a few rows before loosing track. And when I say ‘we’ I mean I knitted and she managed the yarn and sat next to me. In the past few days, this kit has resurfaced and she’s been asking to knit. So we put aside reading and stories last night and we knitted before bed. Just a few rows. We made very little progress. But we were curled up in bed together. We talked about what the gloves would look like. How she would accessorize them. We talked about the women I had seen knitting at the coffee shop where I worked on Friday afternoon. We worked a few rows and we chatted. We had so much fun.

~~~~~

I walk down the stairs and find my girl already deep into the party. The basement is set up like a vet’s office and my girl is registering her stuffed cheetah with the ‘doctor.’ I kneel down, placing my hand on her shoulder.

“I’m going to go, ok?” I ask, testing the waters, to see if this is really ok.

“Ok, bye mommy.” she replies. She looks tentative, shy, but not unsure. I smile and give her a hug. I linger by the steps before heading up and out. But she’s fine. I’ll worry for two hours and arrive well before 4. But she’s fine.

walkingtoschool

~~~~~

The coffee shop has been playing Neil Young all morning. I don’t ever put Neil Young on by choice but when he is put on for me, I will always get swept away by the strange sound of his voice and the wistfully sad melodies. “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” comes on and it takes me to the night she was born. Somehow that rather depressing song made it onto the playlist we took with us to the hospital. I don’t think it was actually the one playing as she came into the world but I associate it with those moments – the last ones before her and the first ones with her. And so I sit in the coffee shop, staring out the window, thinking back four years and 50 weeks to a quietly life changing morning.

~~~~~

She sees me as I enter the backyard and shouts, “Mommy!” and in the next breath, “I don’t wanna go.” But we do and she is polite, hugs for her friend, thank yous for the parents. We head home, play some more, and before bed she says she wants to knit again. So we do and she tells me about the party and school and friends. She draws the yarn out of the skein for me and somehow the yarn draws stories out of her. And I’m still thinking about almost five years ago and I don’t understand at all how we are here, knitting and chatting and curled up in bed. And sometimes it does get me down. How fast this is all going, how I drop her off at places now, how she’s ok with that, how she is happy to be someplace and doesn’t want to leave.

But then there are the pedicures. And the knitting.

And I’m so glad we’re doing this. I’m having so much fun.

September 12, 2014
by Tricia
14 Comments

Lovely Little Things, 31

I’ve had some dark days, recently. Maybe you could tell. (Didn’t think I’d have enough to link every word of that sentence but, well, there ya have it). I’ve said it here often: I know that you know that tantrums and tears and major meltdowns mark the spaces between the sweet and lovely moments I so often share. So I want to state the obvious reverse as well. Laughter and joy and smiles do brighten up even the darkest of days. No one day is all sweet and lovely just as no one day is all dark and gloomy. That’s not motherhood, that’s just life. Sometimes we get a string of darker days, the ones that really test us and our resolve to live the life we want, chase the dreams we dream, and go all in. Those days are oh so hard and it can feel as though they may break you. But, through it all, there are always lovely little things.

fall window decorations

lovely little fall window stickies that she’s been begging to put up for weeks

friends

I checked my email at that particular time because I needed a break. A moment. We’d been hitting the speech work so hard for at least an hour and we both needed me to be out of his face. When I saw her name, I clicked immediately. It sort of didn’t matter much what her email would be about, I knew it would give me something I needed – a quick question about something completely unrelated to what I’d been battling all morning or an invitation to a playdate later in the afternoon – something to distract me. But it wasn’t either of those things. In a few short paragraphs she described to me exactly how I’d been feeling. Stressed, overwhelmed, alone. Self-critical. Completely to blame. She used every word that I would have used, had I gotten to the point of being able to try to put words to the cloud above my head. Without having seen me in days, she knew where I was. She knew what to say. She knew to reach out. There are not enough words in the world to express gratitude for friends who lift you up when you’re falling.

funny stories

On Wednesday, I drove my son to an allergy appointment. The morning had been rather hectic and so we left late. By the time we got there, late, he had taken off both his shoes and tossed them around the backseat of the car. I grabbed him, the packet of paperwork that by some miracle I had already filled out, and the bag of toys I had gathered for what promised to be a rather long appointment, and rushed inside to find out… that I was exactly a month early. Our appointment was for October 10 at 10am, not September 10 at 10am. The receptionist could not have been sweeter, almost acting as if it were her fault that I was standing there, in her waiting room, a month early and on a day when the doctor wasn’t even at that office. But as she double checked for me, I nearly lost it over feeling as though I had lost it. We have had so many appointments lately, so much paperwork, so much to keep track of but this seemed like the last straw of my sanity breaking into pieces. On the way home, I called a friend and the conversation went something like this:

friend: “How are you?”

me: “Well, I’ve been better. I just showed up exactly a month early for an allergy appointment.”

There was a pause. And then she broke into laughter.

friend: “I’m sorry but you have to admit, that is pretty funny!”

And she was right. I did admit. It was funny. Not a sign that I’ll soon be a heap of broken pieces. Just a very funny story that’s still making me giggle.

new inspiration and knowledge

Last weekend, I attended Women Get Social. On the ride home, I made a giant to-do list of all of the things I should do with the inspiration and information that some really inspiring and well-informed speakers had shared. I’ve been slowly working my way through this list all week and have already seen some changes for the better. I’ve been to two conferences this year and can honestly say that each one has had an undeniably positive impact on my work. So, where are you all headed next year?

favorite words

“Raising children is presented at first as a true-false test, then becomes multiple choice, until finally, far along, you realize that it is an endless essay. No one knows anything.”
~Anna Quindlen in this amazing essay that a friend posted on Facebook this week. Be ready to cry if you plan to read the whole thing. But this quote in particular, and in this time in particular, struck me as so undeniably true. I’m in the multiple choice phase but trying to write the most beautiful essay.
Happy weekend, all. Go work on your essays.

September 10, 2014
by Tricia
22 Comments

They screamed, I screamed, we all screamed

She screams at him. He screams back. There is a pause. I call her into the next room but she doesn’t come. He screams again. And this bellow rises up from my belly, zooms around my heart before it can be caught, and explodes from my mouth. I scream at them and the world is silent except for my booming voice. I stop and the echo still rings in the air between us.

“We can’t imagine you screaming!” my friends said on a recent girl’s night out. I smiled. Good. I don’t want you to imagine it. But they were happy to hear that I do. We all want everyone else to be human too.

I can’t imagine any of them yelling either. These are the parts of ourselves that we don’t show to just anyone. We don’t parade about with the decibels our voices can reach or the contortions our faces can make for just anybody.

No, we save those for the people we love most.

little feet on bench

Only my kids have heard that bellow. Only they know the volume my voice can reach when I call upon every last ounce of me to carry out anger. When I’ve reached my limit and I want to be damned sure that everyone in earshot knows it, my children are the only ones around.

Only my kids have seen how my face looks when my voice bursts out in a complete loss of control. I don’t even know. Is my face red? My eyes huge, as if about to pop? Do I have one of those veins they caricature in cartoons? Does steam rise out from the top of my head?

Only they know.

Only they know the silence that follows. As the echo fades and we’re left, the three of us, staring at each other. What now?

And, of course, it’s not fair. It’s not fair that the people I love most in the world see me at my absolute worst. The people I love with every last breath in my body are the ones who don’t have to imagine me screaming to believe that I am human. They can remember and know that it’s true.

We reserve the worst of ourselves for the people who we love most of all, the people we believe love us unconditionally. We all do it. After all, I am the one who knows their loudest voices and their ugliest screams. They treat me to their worst behavior too. I can teach them better. We can work on it together. We can strive to always bring the best of ourselves. But we are human. It will still happen. And it should. They are my people. I want to see the parts that they don’t show to you. I want to be welcomed into to all of the spaces in their hearts. Even the ugly ones.

We’ll work on it and we’ll try, and we’ll do our best for each other. But it will still happen.

And when it does, we will apologize. Because love is not unconditional.

We want to believe this love between parent and child is special. That the gift of life between us carves into stone what otherwise could be washed away by the rain. But it’s not true. We are human. We yell and bellow and we have a worst side that we show to those we love the most. And we can tear away at this love until all we see are conditions.

Only my children know that apology. The one that follows the scream. The one that breaks the silence and ends our staring contest. Only they know that moment when I answer the question ‘what now?’ When I kneel down in front of them and I look into their eyes and I lower my voice to its softest place, which is never as soft as I want it to be. Only they know the quiet of the air as I say to them, “I’m sorry. I made a mistake. I let anger get the best of me but I love you. I screamed and I yelled and I showed you my worst, again. But I love you.”

And she smiles. He smiles too. I wrap them in my arms and I squeeze and tickle and they giggle and this laugh erupts from my heart. Only my children know that laugh. Only they know how it feels when I love them as if it’s not unconditional.

~~~~~

pour your heart out

September 8, 2014
by Tricia
25 Comments

Atypical (the big speech udpate)

They started with the good news. Gross motor in the 21-24 month range. Check. Receptive communication, same. They went on down the list until they got to expressive communication. I know these words now so I knew we had arrived. She said his development is atypical. She even said that if we were living in a signing community, if everyone in our world signed as their primary method of communication, we’d have no problem. But he doesn’t, so we do. And then she said it again. Atypical.

And I don’t really know what that means.

walking with son

Almost two months ago, I shared our worries about our little boy. You all responded, sharing your stories and experiences with me. We took it all in, started researching and making appointments, and walked carefully into a brand new world. And it turns out that the answer to my question of how much I’ll share here about it all is “not very much.”

One thing that parenthood has taught me, and it’s been pushing hard on this one in the past few months, is that everything is always new. Even when you’re doing something the second time around, even when you’ve walked this road holding little hands before, even when it’s just another first day at the same old school, it’s all still new. All of it. It’s still learning and growing and trying to figure out where you’re going as you hurtle down the road at top speed.

.

Over the past two months, we’ve been drowning in new. New terms like speech pathologist, prompts, expressive communication and receptive communication. New signs for words we use every day like go and stop, more and again. New people, new processes, new forms to fill out. New games to play and songs to sing and strategies to try. A new perspective on development; the typical, the atypical, and the everything in between.

We’ve heard our boy make new sounds. We’ve seen a new side of him. We’ve seen pride surge out of his big brown eyes as he signs and communicates needs and wants that he couldn’t just six weeks ago. We’ve had new little conversations with him in complete silence. He can sign ‘stop’ if he doesn’t like something and sign ‘again’ when he does and so we’re learning new things about him.

boy and fountain

But he’s still not talking. He communicates without speech.

Adjusting to his timeline, progress that comes through in slow trickles instead of wild gushes, that is new for us too. We weren’t naive enough to believe that after just a few speech therapy sessions, he’d be talking up a storm and these struggles would be behind us. In fact, I’m not sure I had an expectations at all. But this waiting, waiting for things to click, waiting with bated breath for that first word to finally come, waiting and wondering what to do to make the waiting easier or shorter, this is all quite new.  Working so hard to help our child learn what comes so naturally to others, is new.

And I don’t deal well in new. I struggle with new. I don’t write about new. I write about things I know. And I don’t know this world. I don’t know if in six weeks of speech therapy, my boy has made progress. I don’t know what the next six months of therapy will do for him or for us. I don’t know if we’re putting so much pressure on him now that we’ve pushed back and away what would have happened naturally had we just let him be. I don’t know and so I haven’t been able to sit here and make myself write about this. It’s too new.

boy in swing

The feelings are new too. The feelings that I’m failing him. And, of course, her too. That I’m too distracted and not paying enough attention and not giving them enough and not focusing on them enough. Not sitting often enough and looking in their eyes. Not settling into just being with them. If I could just sit myself down on the floor for all of the hours I have with him each day, would we be past all of this by now? Is atypically developing because of me?. Like any mother, I doubt my abilities and actions all the time but this sort of deep doubt and confidence shedding is new for me. And this new is hard.

But two months ago I came here with my worry and a world of people, both new and old, reached out to lift us up and help us take the first steps. So, today, I’m taking a moment to write about the new. We have moved ahead with speech therapy. We’re getting some help now from our local early intervention program. We’re learning the landscape and the words and the signs and we’re setting goals and moving towards them. And we’re grateful for your support.

show
 
close