November 20, 2014
by Tricia
6 Comments

Growing Together: Lara of Joy, Lovely Joy

growing together

There are writers whose words inspire me to breathe deeply, take a moment, and give into the power that softly lilting phrases have over me. There are bloggers and people who I talk with on Twitter and think about as I wander through the pages of the book I’m reading. And then there are people like Lara. She is both. I am honored that she is here today for Growing Together, sharing a beautiful story of growth with her little girl. A story that will speak to you, I’m sure, as it did me.

Enjoy her story here today and be sure to visit her at Joy, Lovely Joy!

~~~~~

My daughter clambered through the front door after school one day, spun into the kitchen, and slapped a piece of paper on the counter in front of me. “You need to sign this,” she said. I glanced down and saw Talent Show Auditions printed at the top of the page.

“The talent show? What are you going to do?”

“I dunno,” she said, still spinning across the hardwoods. She stopped to grab a granola bar from the pantry. “But I want to do it.”

This would be the third year she’s announced that she wants to do the talent show only to change her mind a few days later. I didn’t think this year would be any different. The paper sat in an accumulating pile of papers on the kitchen counter until the day before audition forms were due.

“Mommy, you need to sign the form,” she said as I tucked her into bed. “Tomorrow’s the last day to turn them in.”

I had assumed she’d changed her mind. I also assumed she didn’t really understand what she was getting herself into.

“You know that you’ll be on stage in front of teachers and your classmates?”

I told myself that I wanted her to be prepared so she wouldn’t freeze with shock when her turn came. In hindsight I realize that I was steering her away from auditioning in an attempt to protect her from disappointment.

“Mommy,” she said, drawing out the ‘o’ in mommy, a sure sign of annoyance or exasperation. “Of course I know that.”

Lately, I’ve needed to remind Mia that when someone speaks to her she needs to speak back. When someone says hello or good morning, it’s kind to reciprocate. And when she does do these things, I need to remind her to speak up. Her voice that has no trouble carrying through the house suddenly becomes mouseling-quiet in front of strangers or people she doesn’t know very well. I had a difficult time melding together this child and the one who claimed to want to stand on stage alone in front of her entire school to perform an as-of-yet unstated talent.

“I’ll sign the form,” I said. “But what are you going to do?”

“Jump rope,” she said, and when she smiled I saw two grown-up teeth poking through the space previously occupied by chiclet baby teeth.

A few days later Mia received an audition day and time, and then she promptly forgot about it.

“Don’t you need to practice?” I would ask her. “Do you have a routine? Are you using music?”

She brushed me off. Once in a while I would catch her jumping rope on the back deck, but whether or not she jumped with her audition in mind I couldn’t say. I was at once frustrated that she wasn’t preparing more and in awe of her self-confidence.

The night before the audition, she informed me of the song she planned to jump to, and I spent the next hour trying to track it down on iTunes or elsewhere, all the while gently scolding her for not thinking of it sooner. The truth is, up until that point I still believed she would back out. I even tried to prompt discussion that would allow her an out, but she wasn’t biting.

Finally, I asked, “Don’t you think you’ll get nervous?” And that’s when my husband wisely stepped in.

“It’s okay if she gets nervous,” he said, throwing a cutting glance in my direction that told me to back off. He was right, of course.

When I tucked her into bed that night, I asked her if she was ready. She nodded, kneading her blanket in her palm the way she’s done since a toddler, the CD that’s lulled her to sleep every night for the past seven years playing in the background.

“I’m ready,” she said, and I realized with an aching clarity that I wasn’t. I listened to the lyrics wafting through her room, the same lyrics I listened to as I rocked her as a newborn, and marveled at the girl whose unruly tendrils spilled onto the pillow, whose fingernails were painted sparkle blue, whose legs had slimmed and lengthened, whose feet could now fit into my socks. Mia’s childhood is something buttery slipping through my fingers even as I try to grasp at it.

Her audition was scheduled for 4:05. I pulled into the parking lot at 3:55 and raced into school. I peeked through the closed doors of the audition room only to see Mia on stage and out of breath. She was done. But when I stepped into the room, she caught my eye and smiled that cavernous, gap-toothed smile. She was beaming.

“I messed up,” she told me. “I dropped the rope and tripped a few times.”

“Did you have fun?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said. “But I don’t think I’ll make it.” Then she let go of my hand to catch up with her friend.

As I watched her skip ahead of me, I started to pick up on the lesson my daughter was teaching me. While I worried over her lack of preparation and wondered if her ability to jump rope was stretching the word talent a bit too far; while I fretted over stage fright and possible peer reactions and resulting disappointment, she raced straight into the ring, jumped her heart out, and had fun. I realized that the worries I tried to project onto her in the name of protection were my own fears, not hers.

And so this is where I’m growing, little by little. I’m learning to let her feel the buzz of butterflies and the sting of a fall and the electric charge of stepping outside her comfort zone. I’m learning that those lengthening legs will carry her out my door one day and into a world of her own making, and as much as I would rather pack her in bubble wrap and stick her into my pocket for safe keeping, that’s no life for a girl. No, it’s best to race into the ring, feeling the zip and zing of it all against her skin.

~~~~~

lara anderson

I’m a freelance writer and editor, lover of books and coffee, collector of words, mama to three, and blogger at Joy, Lovely Joy. Soon after we survived that arduous first year with twins I felt a fog lift and could see the outline of a routine begin to take shape. I started blogging then as a creative outlet, not realizing the connections I would make with like-minded mothers and writers who get me thinking and laughing and asking questions. I love this community and would love to connect with you at Joy, Lovely Joy. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. P.S. She made the talent show.

November 19, 2014
by Tricia
3 Comments

A Thanksgiving Roast Beef

“What should we do for Thanksgiving this year?” he asked as we drove along, each of us gazing out the window, watching the world pass by as we made our way home.

We had already declined invitations and decided to stay home. With illness and travel and just the bustle of daily life in the Fall with its birthday parties and Halloween festivities and all the rest, I longed for a day to just stay. Just see my three people. And that’s it. We needed it, I believed, if we were to make it through the holiday season. So I knew he was asking about the meal. What should we eat? His question, however, wasn’t as clear to the car-seat bound behind us.

“What do you mean?”

“Well on Thanksgiving, people usually eat turkey.” he went on. But then he paused. And then he said the words that should logically come next when you are trying to teach your children to be open-minded, make the world your own, don’t be bound by convention. Except, of course, when convention is a tradition so deeply engrained that it seems to be not just synonymous with the holiday but actually becomes the holiday itself.

fall decor - turkey candle holder

He said, “But we don’t have to eat turkey.”

“I don’t want to eat turkey.” she said, without missing a beat. Call it the Indian blood coursing through her veins that makes her one of the only kids I know to crave chicken tikka (with naan, of course). Or call it typical kid pickiness. But she’s never liked turkey. Or mashed potatoes. Or cranberries. She’ll even pass on the pumpkin pie. The meal that people gorge themselves on, filling plates with second helpings of things that only seem to grace the table for a few months at a time, she could, and does, go without.

And so it began. Our non-traditional Thanksgiving meal planning. By the time we arrived home we had planned a meal of beef with a side of pasta with red sauce and green beans, only because we required her to pick a vegetable. Corn bread is the only traditional Thanksgiving staple to have survived and it was non-negotiable.

There have been times in my life when this would have appalled me. I wouldn’t have stood for it. Because there was a time when everything had to fit nicely into a box. Everything had to be done just the way it always had been done. Turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ham for Easter. The list, of course, covered much more than just food. And I’d continue listing here for you if I could. But, the truth is, I threw those boxes away long ago.

[Tweet “What really matters? The people matter.”]

Kids break the boxes. With their wants and needs and complete ignorance of the way things have always been done (or maybe it’s that they just don’t care), they break the boxes we set up to organize our lives. They call everything into question. What really matters? What is worth fighting for? Which boxes are worth repairing again and again with tape and staples, bubble gum and bandaids, and which are ok to just collapse because they weren’t all that useful anyway?

What really matters?

Does it matter that this year, as everyone else we know carves a turkey and breaks a wishbone, we roast beef? Does it matter that we’re calling it quits on pumpkin early this year and will, instead, probably indulge in something dripping in chocolate at the end of our meal? Or does it matter that on Thanksgiving evening, the four of us will gather around our table, happy and excited about sharing a meal together? That we’ll sit and use our words to talk and connect and share what we’re grateful for rather than counting bites and begging little people to “just try it.”

fall decor - pumpkin candle holder

What really matters? The people matter. And believe me, I know it’s hard, this time of year especially, to focus on the people. Never does the way things have always been tempt us more than during the holidays. Tradition marks our lives all year long but it really goes big right now and we begin to believe that it won’t be Thanksgiving without the turkey. So we force it and we make it happen because that’s just what you do to make the holiday real. But the truth is, Thanksgiving is a celebration. It’s coming together. Being with family. Giving thanks. It’s the gratitude and the love that make Thanksgiving a true celebration. No matter what you’re giving thanks for and what you’re stuffing in your face as you give it.

November 18, 2014
by Tricia
2 Comments

When they’re sick

I sat on the floor, in front of the couch, spoon-feeding pasta into his mouth. She stretched out next to him. Both of their eyes glazed but focused straight ahead, entranced by the TV screen. My own stomach rumbled and I wasn’t sure how much more I could take of the high-pitched voices and inane but ridiculously catchy songs to which our last few days had been choreographed. But there I sat. Delivering pasta to his mouth and wiping his runny nose between bites.

This was the peak. Or was it the lowest of the low points? The depth to which we fell that week, when I talked to my pediatrician more than my husband (he was traveling). After a long day preceded by a long night, the latter spent sitting up in bed and stroking the curls of a little boy struggling to take in air. After more than a week of taking my little girl’s temperature and struggling to lift her spirits as she tried to power on, even as this virus was doing it’s best to keep her down. After days spent coughing uncontrollably with my own scratchy throat. This was our low. This, when I let go of every blessed rule we keep to keep this house from spinning off it’s axis. Every last one. You want to watch TV? Sure, let’s do it. All day long? Absolutely. Dessert every night? Why not? You want me to go get the tissue, wipe your nose, and then throw it away while you just sit there? Yes, I’d love to.

Her fever started in the middle of the night on a Wednesday. Ten days later, three of us were coughing and sneezing in unison.

It’s not so much that little else matters when your babies are sick. It’s that little else fits. It’s that the elements of your normal life just don’t fit until the tissue box can be tucked away again, no longer required to travel around with you. It’s that you find, once the sniffles descend, as the thermometer takes up a permanent space on your kitchen counter, that you really don’t have time for this. Not in the cliche we all say as flu season descends. “I don’t have time to get sick.” No, you find that you really don’t have time. You’ve packed your schedule so full that it was already bulging a little in the middle. You couldn’t quite get the lid to sit on nicely but you were getting by. Nothing big spilling over the top. But then you add the thermometers and the timed and spaced doses of ibuprofen or antibiotics or whatever else is required. And you add the trips to the doctor and the time spent on hold with the nurse, trying to avoid the doctor visit. And you add the tissues. Oh my goodness the tissues. I didn’t have space for the tissues.

And then you add the pain. The pain and the worry and the angst of watching your people suffer. The fear of what it might be. That it might be worse than just a little cold. That there are illnesses going around and making people very sick but you haven’t stopped to read any of the hundreds of articles because you don’t want to give into the hype. And you add your own pain. Because once it’s in the house, it’s going to touch everyone before it leaves and so yes, you too, will get sick. And you are the mama. Nobody is going to wipe your nose for you.

And, of course, you add the small hours because you will be awake for all of them. You’ll catch every last one on the clock. The days and nights would blend together if not for the sunrise and the sunset.

[Tweet “It’s not that little else matters when your kids are sick. It’s that little else fits”]

Of course, you also have to add the snuggles. The extra cuddles. The moments when they rest their heads on your shoulder, uncomfortable as your shoulder may be, because at that moment, they just need the comfort of you. They drape themselves across you just for the closeness, as if the warmth they feel next to you alone could make the pain subside. And never mind that you feel as though their fever is going to burn a hole through your tshirt and you really need a glass of water, you sit there. You snuggle and you cuddle. You make the pain go away. And you all rejoice when they rally, on a medicated high, they believe that they are all better and ready to take on the world. And then you catch them when the virus wins another battle. You hunker down again and power through the lows.

You add all of these things onto your normal, everyday life and you try to do it all. But you can’t. So you break the rules. Extra TV time because it distracts them from the pain. Dessert everyday because cookies magically overcome the flu-induced appetite loss far better than green beans. And it feels like anarchy. Like complete loss of control. Like you’ve passed the keys to them and let go of the wheel. You worry about the habits you’re starting.

But then it’s over. Yes, over. It really does end. And they move on. They rush on to play and catch up with their trains and dolls, pick up where they left off on their coloring books. They leave you, and the TV and the dessert, behind.

We’ve, finally (and for now), put away the thermometer here. I haven’t measured Ibuprofen in nearly a week. The tissues are still multiplying regularly but coughs are fading and nose-wiping is no longer a full-service activity. There were moments when I didn’t think it could be done but we made it through. Now let’s just hope we’ve done our time and the next course of viruses can skip over our sweet, little, Lysol-smelling home.

[Tweet “Has your family gotten sick yet this season?”]

November 12, 2014
by Tricia
7 Comments

Vignettes of 2

halloween_boy

He’s been screaming at me for days now. He screams when I walk near him and when I walk away. He screams when I bring him his lunch and when I take it back. He screams when I pick him up and when I put him down. I fear that this ringing in my right ear may be permanent.

He’s not really screaming at me. I know that. He’s got this tooth that has turned his sweet little mouth into a bloody battlefield. It’s tooth vs. our collective sanity. It refuses to do it’s thing and just break through already. Instead it sits there, just below the surface, almost all the way out but not quite. And the pain, he just can’t bear it. Teething, that little babies must feel each tooth break through perfect little gums, is one of life’s greatest evils. And that, as parents, we must attempt the impossible, bring comfort where it isn’t welcome, well sometimes I wonder how the human race continues.

~~~~~

“Mama!” he calls for me. All the time. All day long. I pick him up, even though I shouldn’t, because he is two now and a big kid. But he wraps his arms tightly around my neck and reinforces my bad behavior. He’s getting to be so heavy. So big. His feet nearly reach my knees as he sits on my hip and I know, we’re getting there. We may even be there. That point in time when the lifting has to end. My hip no longer his mode of transportation. But I ignore it all. I’ll carry him anywhere, as long as he wraps those arms around my neck. These hugs won’t last forever, you know.

walking with boy and monkey

~~~~~

He doesn’t scream words yet. I don’t live in a series of “NO!!!!” yet. But I see it coming. “NO!!!” is headed down the road, straight for us and it’s picking up steam. For now, he just screams. When I help him down the steps and he wanted to do it himself. When he wants to get in the swing but I’m demanding a sound or a speech attempt first. When I’m driving and he’s caught on that something else has my full attention. I tell him the noise hurts my ears. I ask him to use his nice sounds. Use his words. Most of the time, he does.

[Tweet “Each age has it’s sweet and sour.”]

~~~~~

We wander into the kitchen and I mumble something, mostly to myself, about baking something. Instead, I begin to load the dishwasher, clear the breakfast dishes. But he doesn’t miss a thing. He pushes his stool to the spot where we bake and he rushes to the bookshelf. He knows my favorite cookbook and he grabs it and hands it to me. His deep brown eyes as wide as they can get, looking up at me with the innocence of a little boy who loves swirling a wooden spoon inside a mixing bowl almost as much as he loves his mama.

~~~~~

boy and curls

His hair isn’t so much hair as it is a mess of curls. Mess, a total mess. But those curls? Oh those curls. They start conversations everywhere we go. He doesn’t love when you touch them. He gets furious at the wind when it whistles down to tousle them. He’d probably be thrilled if I went and had them all chopped off. But I just can’t. I hear rumors that when I do finally sit him down for that first haircut, the curls will disappear forever. And I’m not ready to let them go yet.

~~~~~

They call two terrible and I’m not naive. I know exactly why. There are moments so terrible that I can’t see us surviving long enough to break through to better days. But there are other moments too. Moments that are so pure and lovely. And I know, now, that those moments don’t last forever. There is something so sweet about two that doesn’t live on. It fades away with the terrible. In the emotional balance that our littles find as they reach three and then four and then beyond, there are definitely fewer tantrums and explosions. But there are fewer fierce and spontaneous hugs. Fewer delights over the smallest things. Less excitement as the world becomes known. I didn’t realize it the first time around. It never occurred to me that the good and the bad are tightly intertwined. Everything changing together. But that’s how it goes. Each age has it’s sweet and sour.

[Tweet “These hugs won’t last forever, you know.”]

November 6, 2014
by Tricia
6 Comments

Life is not a sitcom

She wanted to win.

I could feel it. It was my emotion, my feeling, my yearning, trapped inside her little body. It was as if she had been there all those times when I had spontaneously wanted something, to win something, to get something. As if she were watching me and practicing the moves so that she could, someday, execute them on her own. Watching my own quirks and insecurities played back for me in miniature form will always feel so surreal.

She hadn’t wanted the win for very long. She hadn’t even known a win was possible until we arrived. But then she wanted it and she wanted it bad. She quietly told me she wanted to win. She gazed at the judges. She bounced excitedly towards the group as they prepared to announce the winners.

And, of course, my heart broke for her. There weren’t quite as many Elsa’s as I had expected but, of course, she wasn’t alone in her blue gown and side-spun braid. Her costume, the one she had wanted so badly, the one that made her feel like a queen, was not award-winning material. Not this year, anyway.

But I also saw it coming. A teaching moment. I could do this. I knew what to say. I’ve got experience with loosing and loosing out and not getting thing thing that I want so badly. I’ve got experience in putting myself out there, no matter how far, and not feeling welcoming arms wrap around me in acceptance. Once again, I believed, that with my experience, my journey, my life, I would soar over to her and gently guide her through life’s tough moments. Teach her how to soar through, herself. Make it all better with a smile, a hug, and a bit of wisdom passed down. We’d be skipping home to carry on with our day in no time.

Of course, it didn’t work that way.

My words failed. They didn’t console her. I talked with her about how winning isn’t everything. I reminded her how much she loved her costume. How she so desperately wanted to be Elsa. Wearing blue had been a dream come true. And that’s important. It’s important to do what you want, regardless of accolades and awards. We talked about originality. We described to her how the costume that had won for originality was truly original and we talked about what that meant. We talked about next year.

But she didn’t smile. She nodded through tears. She asked to take her dress off. Change into her normal clothes.

atthedoor

I tried to figure out where I had gone wrong. Why had my words failed? Was it because she is a different person? She may look like me and act like me and react like me but she isn’t me. She needs different things. Was it because I really haven’t learned from my years of trying and failing and, sometimes, yes, succeeding? Was it because I really don’t have all of this wisdom that I like to think I’ve gained?

Or was it because I was far too impatient?

Life, you know, is not a sitcom. People, of course, are not just characters. Lessons don’t sink in during the span of a half hour, choreographed to a laugh track. Conversations about the big life lessons, the tough things we need to learn and adjust to and deal with in our lives, rarely end with a hug and a smile and a single, sweet tear in our eyes. Parenting is a long, long game. It’s setting your sights simultaneously right in front of you and years into the future, trying to manage here so that you land there. It takes pouring your words and wisdom and wishes and love into a tiny, little heart, hoping that you’re filling it up. And it takes years of that. Without much sign or signal that you’re pouring the right things, that most of it isn’t sloshing over the rim. It takes repetition and trying and growing. It takes modelling what you say and narrating what you do. It’s not just a few post-Halloween-party words sprinkled over a little queen as you wipe her tears. It’s an everyday journey and a journey every day. And it takes patience.

[Tweet “Life, you know, is not a sitcom.”]

She did eventually move on. We did carry on with our day and it was a good day. And by the time trick-or-treating came around, she happily put the dress back on and skipped off to collect her candy. Only time will tell whether she did it because she had listened and understood. Remembered how much she loved that ice queen and how badly she wanted to be her. In the meantime, we’ll just have to be patient.

trickortreatwithdaddy

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