Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mother's Day Week: Carolyn.

When Ramee invited us to blog on motherhood, I thought: “There’s so much to say!  How will I know where to start?”

Well…let’s start with an introduction!  My name is Carolyn.  I’m in my mid-30’s, and I’ve been friends with Ramee for three years now.  Our friendship started when I decided to bring the Larsons dinner on Thursday evenings.  Dropping off turned into visits, and during those visits we became friends.

I became "Mommy" in 2005, and again in 2007.  I loved carrying those babies in my belly.  I loved feeling them move, hiccup, stretch...I loved it all.  When I held them in my arms for the very first time, I knew God had given me the very most precious gift and assigned me the most important role of my life. 
In 2005, I dreamed about the future.  I dreamed about a white house with a white picket fence, becoming a tenured teacher, raising the perfect family, celebrating many anniversaries with my husband, volunteering for 4H & baseball & boy scouts & church & anything my kids did, all complete with the perfect family dog. 
 But it’s 2014, and my reality looks very different than I had dreamed.  While I have the white house – I find myself overwhelmed with trying to keep up with yard work, home repairs, and the everyday tasks of laundry, dishes, cleaning.  I haven’t taught full-time since I left Florida in 2005, and I only seem to find part-time or temporary gigs.  I’m raising two beautiful, perfect boys – but our struggles are very real with one of them on the Autism spectrum.  I am divorced.  I volunteer, but doing so leaves me feeling as though I’m letting down some other part of my life (friends, home, kids).  But the dog: I nailed that. 
Do not be fooled.  Although this isn’t life as I dreamed it would be…we are blessed.  We are happy.  We are thriving. 
And we are living. 
These boys, this dog and I…we are figuring it out as we go, and we are loving this journey.  



 Right now, at this moment, we are in baseball mode.  When our world abruptly changed last year, Colin asked me if he’d ever have a parent coach his baseball team again.  This was a big concern for him.  So…I signed up to coach.  And I invited the boys’ dad to join me.  And along with three other awesome dads…we have the coaching staff equivalent to a major league baseball team.  Okay, maybe not.  But we love the game, enjoy these kids, we have fun…and I’m showing my boys that life goes on. 
I’ve learned a lot of lessons in these past few months, after becoming what society dubs a “single mom” again. 
[Please note: I don’t do this alone.  My parents are great, my brother jumps in when asked, and my boys have a great dad and soon-to-be-stepmom.  I feel completely supported in this journey.] 
A few of our lessons are worthy of sharing with you…whether you are a single – married – expecting – or otherwise – “Mom”:

You can have the plan in your head.  You can stew over and edit that plan, love that plan, and brag about that plan.  But being able to divert from that plan is when you will find happiness.  Plans should be seen as guidelines.  Don’t feel like a failure if your plan changes.  And changes again.
Establish traditions with your children.  Take prior traditions and adjust them to make them “yours” despite what changes life brings.  For us, it meant re-claiming our tradition of visiting St. Louis.  We enjoyed some old favorites – The Zoo, The Magic House, Laclede’s Landing – and added a new one – The Arch!  We needed to know that things we enjoyed when we were a bigger family didn’t have to be sad or abandoned now that we were a smaller family unit.  I would say that weekend was healing for me and my boys.  We truly became a family again…we accepted the new definition life had given us.                  

Vacations are cool.  Don’t get me wrong.  But vacations are stressful and expensive.  I have learned that my boys are just as happy with several day-trips scattered over the course of a month – or a weekend/overnight getaway – than they would be if we drove 18 hours straight through to Disney and scrambled to fit everything in.  I’ve also learned that they are just as happy tent camping in the backyard – no change in zip code required. 



Sometimes, it’s okay to let the kids eat Lunchables for dinner.  Okay, seriously though…I love to cook.  It’s therapeutic for me, I’m good at it, and I just love to do it.  Probably the biggest adjustment for me these past few months has been learning to cook less for an army and more for just one.  Ha.  The boys prefer “gourmet wonders” like Spaghettios, PBJs, and mac and cheese.  All of which Mommy hates.  So I’ve learned to let them eat their food, and I can create my definition of good food, and bless a friend with it or else feed myself for the next few meals.  Either way… letting them eat what they will and me eating what I want never hurt anyone (contrary to my prior beliefs).  I know super moms everywhere are cringing…but I don’t really care to battle it out.  This works for us, so it’s what we do.  You shouldn’t feel guilty if you do the same!                                                            
Putting a table in my kitchen was the best move I ever made.  It’s just a small breakfast bar with two stools, but it allows the boys to sit and gab with me while I make dinner, do dishes, and clean.  Our kitchen seems to be the room in our house where we gather most.  [Well, except for the bathroom…where they seem to THINK there is a reason for us to all gather as I shower or go potty.  The joys of motherhood, folks.]                   
Cleaning can wait.  [Let me preface with…I’m a mediocre housekeeper.  I go on cleaning sprees…but maintaining is a struggle for me.]  My floors can be mopped, carpets vacuumed, dishes washed, laundry done when they are in bed or at Daddy’s.  But you know what can’t happen?  I can’t get back the minutes, hours, days, years when I pushed them aside to do housework.  My mom had this poem on her wall when I was growing up, and she truly lived by it.  I’m now doing the same: 

Excuse This House
Some houses try to hide the fact
That children shelter there.
Ours boasts of it quite openly,
The signs are everywhere 
For smears are on the windows,
Little smudges on the doors.
I should apologize, I guess,
For toys strewn on the floor.
But I sat down with the children
And we played and laughed and read.
And if the doorbell doesn't shine,
Their eyes will shine instead.
For when at times I'm forced to choose
The one job or the other,
I'd like to cook and clean and scrub,
But first I'll be a mother.
On the weekends when the boys are with me – or during breaks off school – we swear by Living Room Campouts.  This means we all drag our bedding downstairs…and the boys sometimes build a tent…and we put in a movie (or sometimes several) and fall asleep in the living room together.  Such a simple little thing brings my children true joy.  And thus, brings me joy.

Celebrate things that matter to you.  And to them.  My youngest son was one of the first kids in his grade to complete addition and subtraction at school.  About the same time, my oldest son hit the same milestone.  My boys certainly did not get their math skills from me.  So…we celebrated!  I took them out to dinner, we ate ice cream, and we ran amuck at the park.  I told everyone along the way – from our server to the lady at the park – about my brilliant boys and their mathematic abilities.  We enjoyed our celebration immensely.  Other things we have celebrated?  Brushing our (i.e. their) teeth for one straight week without reminders; Getting out the door on time; Completing AR books; Getting special awards in Art class; Every-Day-Should-Be-Mother’s-Day (this was my sweet Colin’s idea); Good report card grades; Mommy fits in her “skinny jeans” (so we went out for ice cream); & many many more.  To some, these may seem like silly, everyday occurrences.  But after so much bad, we craved good.  And so we made it.

Stop rushing.  Be present.  {This really says it all, but I have learned that if we are running late getting ready for church and my boy is close to a meltdown, we can instead turn a church service on TV and sit in our living room and worship.  Or if we aren’t in bed exactly by 8pm, the Earth won’t rip open and swallow us whole.  Or if we had a really bad night and need to get sleep to have a successful day, we should do so and then proceed.  And phone calls and texts can wait.  My kids need me now.}
While money is a very necessary part of living life, no job should make me compromise my very important role of Mom.  No amount of money or prestige could ever replace the importance of precious time with my children.  I’d rather go without now than regret lost time down the road. 
Find a village.  Plant your roots there.  Allow them to see the good, the bad, and the ugly.  These women will be the ones who will hopefully hold you up and defend you when you cannot, encourage you if needed, and celebrate with you always.  You will do the same for them.  They will understand your “Autism days,” your fear of falling in love again, will answer your texts at 1:45 in the morning after a bad dream, will respond to a panicked phone call and pick you up off your kitchen floor, will defend your honor, will tell your children to stop when they are misbehaving, will come and celebrate a new year coming because they know how desperately you need to look forward with them by your side, will come to your dad’s memorial service when your own family doesn’t, will tell you when you aren’t making smart choices, who understand why sometimes the only way you can communicate with your children is by screaming and shrieking, will drive your kids to school, and who get that you are tired/angry/ joyful/optimistic/sad/hopeful all at once.  A village is what we call our friends.  My village has literally helped me survive these past few years.  Everyone needs a village.  If you don’t have one, pray for God to reveal one to you.  If you do have one, nurture it and take care of it.  



Be a Mother Warrior.  NO ONE knows her child like a mommy.  Follow your instincts.  And know you don’t have to justify your choices to anyone.
Motherhood is tough, ya’ll!  I have never experienced such joy and heartache ambiguously.  And my heart has never felt more full.  My life has purpose.  I go to bed 90% of the time worrying that I’m doing it all wrong.  But each morning with the sunrise, I welcome the new day and am grateful to be “Mommy.”
 Happy Mother’s Day, fellow moms!  You’re doing a great job. 
Keep up the good work!  :)

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