parenting

Tomorrow Will Be Better

Today was a bad day.

We were all tired–the combination of incessant coughing, middle-of-the-night-toddler-wakings, and endless wintery blahs are getting the best of us, I guess.

Felicity napped for just 20 minutes.

After school, the big kids started arguing approximately 2.7 seconds after they entered the same airspace.

I yelled at them. Meredith cried. Mother of the Year, right here.

Daddy is working the late shift this week, and I’m feeling sorry for myself, so I drove through McDonald’s for dinner.

Felicity splashed water out of the tub and I lost my temper. When I got her out, she ran away from me, and not 10 seconds later, tinkled on the kitchen bench cushion. That’s not to mention the permanent marker toddler artwork discovered on my couch cushion.

I let them all play iPad tonight much longer than any pediatrician would recommend, just to give myself a few minutes of silence and solitude.

I ate a piece of stale leftover chocolate birthday cake for dinner.

The kids got toast, cheese, and water for a bedtime snack, like some sort of second-rate prison ration.

Nolan cried because I brushed his teeth with the wrong toothpaste, and Felicity pushed him off his stool.

It was not a good day.

But, when we finally came to an agreement on which books to read before bed, they snuggled in–and forgave it all. We talked about visiting Mount Rushmore this spring, looked up pictures of what it looks like and discussed Abraham Lincoln. Meredith recalled he was shot, and Nolan piped up, “Just like Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton.”

They make me smile, even on bad days.

They don’t hold my failures against me. Their capacity to forgive my shortcomings and forget my lousy moments is more than I’ve earned.

We parents spend our time stringing together a bunch of failures mixed in with some victories–and that’s OK. We’re human. We’re imperfect. We’re in constant need of grace.

These three little faces reminded me tonight that I can’t do it on my own. That despite the bad moments, the rotten days, the McDonald’s drive-thru dinners, mercy is there if we’ll only slow down, take a deep breath, and accept that which we do not deserve.

Today was a bad day.
Tomorrow will be better.

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Sharing Scary News With Our Children

This week, my daughter’s elementary school went into “soft lockdown” after a domestic shooting nearby appeared to have a link to a child attending the school. Administration decided to err on the side of caution and implement additional security measures. The school’s front doors were locked and manned, window shades were drawn, and children were kept off the playground.

When I picked my first grader up after school, she mentioned that the janitor told them they had to keep their classroom door locked, and that they’d watched a movie instead of going outside for recess that day.

“Do you know why?” I asked her.

“Dunno,” She shrugged. “I guess maybe it’s too cold to be outside.”

A perfectly logical explanation—we live in perpetually cold, windy, recess-stealing North Dakota—but something about the incompleteness of her explanation left me feeling slightly unsettled.

It begs the question: how do we balance our desire to shield our children from scary situations with our responsibility to tell them the truth?

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Yesterday’s horrific terrorist attacks are a sobering reminder of the state of the world. Most of my peers were teenagers on 9-11—not yet grown, but no longer children—and those attacks transformed the way we viewed the world dramatically. In an instant, everything was bigger, scarier, and infinitely more dangerous than it was just moments before.

Today, we’re parents of elementary school students. I’m admittedly no psychologist, but I suspect 9-11 left my generation feeling a nagging pressure to fiercely protect the innocence we consciously lost that Tuesday in September. When I look at my seven-year-old, I see her inherent trust in the goodness of the world, and I want to preserve it for her. She doesn’t yet understand evils like ISIS, or suicide bombers, or mass murders.

At age seven, she shouldn’t.

And yet, I feel an obligation to be truthful with her. To help her understand that where there is evil, there is also good. That where there is terror, there is also justice. That where there is fear, there is also hope.

But . . . how?

In the case of my daughter’s school lockdown, I decided it was better for her to hear from me why things were operating a little outside of the norm. As simply as I could, I explained the situation. She listened with rapt attention. She asked questions and I answered as honestly as possible. I reiterated how committed the teachers, staff, and police were to keeping her and her classmates safe at school, how locking the doors and keeping them inside were just part of that right now.

After taking it all in, she frowned and gave a tight-lipped, curt nod. “Okay,” she said.

Okay.

No panic. No fear. No apprehension.

Just acceptance.

I realized then this child—this generation—is growing up with a view of the world we parents can scarcely understand. Phrases like “lockdown” and “additional security” are part of her vocabulary—more alarming to her mother than they are to her.

She’s more mature than I give her credit for.

She can handle unsettling truth when it’s shared gently, with love.

I can’t shield her from everything.

. . . But I’ll never stop wishing I could.

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The Fear of Letting Go

Fear of letting go

The baby didn’t sleep last night. Again. She’s really not a baby anymore, I suppose, at 16 months, cutting three molars (at once…delightful), learning to count, and running faster than her little legs can carry her towards anything resembling danger.

And yet, I still see her as my baby in so many ways. She’s quick to fall into my arms in moments of uncertainty, when the big, exciting world grows too big and exciting. She’ll nestle her head into my neck like a fuzzy kitten, stilling for brief moments her busy business of growing up. She’s relies on me, still, for so much, even though she’s constantly pushing the boundaries of her independence and self-awareness.

In my head, I know she’s no longer a baby, but how can I allow myself to see her as a child?

Who do I become

I wonder if it’s because she’s our third. Three children. We’ve reached that point where people generally assume there’ll be no more additions to our family. Three kids? How nice! Four kids? How…nice? It’s an interesting thing, this raised eyebrow reaction bubbling below the surface when families reach a certain size. We’re not even there yet (and who knows if we ever will be), and still I sense it.

Cultural influences aside, I think what’s really making it harder to accept this one running headlong into childhood is my own insecurity. What if she is my last baby? It’s a mildly terrifying thought. Do I know how to be anything other than the mother of young children? How do I transition from changing diapers, wiping noses, and rocking sleepless babies in the middle of the night into…what? Who do I become when there’s no longer a baby in my arms?

Motherhood truly is a mystery of constant evolution. These precious moments with our babies are fleeting, but leave powerful imprints on our very beings. Selfishly, we wish they’d stay babies forever, depend on us just a bit longer; but oh, how our hearts swell with pride as they spread their wings and fly, secure in the love we so fully gave. Somehow, seamlessly, we have to learn to embrace both ends of the spectrum.

And you know what? It’s really hard.

So forgive me if for now, I go on grumbling about a baby who doesn’t sleep—while secretly loving it for the echoes of “my baby” it allows. And one day, when she’s grown, sleeping soundly in her bed all night as her big brother and sister do, I’ll look back on these nights and smile.

And no matter who I become, however my identity as “Mom” looks in years to come, I’ll treasure these moments in my heart forever.

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(Originally published 6/14/15 at https://www.bisonbooties.com/blog/the-fear-of-letting-go/)

Why the Middle Matters

from a mom to her middle child, a loving message about love and family

Back-to-school buzz is everywhere, isn’t it? I know you’ve noticed—you sat in the shopping cart while we picked out school supplies for your big sister, frowning over all the brand new pencils, notebooks, and markers (“Can I just have the orange one?”). You watched as we labeled and packed them up in her backpack, and dutifully tagged along as we dropped her off on her first day of first grade.

As the second born, it probably feels like you’re constantly playing second fiddle. Your sister is older, taller, more self-assured. When she does something big like heading off to school for the first time, your dad and I can get a little carried away because it’s a milestone we’ve never experienced as parents either.

But I want to remind you of something really, really important: your firsts matter just as much as hers.

Right now, you’re too young to grasp what it means to be the middle child, sandwiched between the pioneering oldest and the “awfercute” youngest. Believe me, I get it—I’m in the middle, too. People will tell you how lucky you are to be second, how you’ll benefit from having more experienced parents, skirt the coddling as the baby of the family. Well-meaning teachers will compare you to your older sister, say how much they loved having her in class, what a great student she was. Strangers will gush over your adorable little sister, exclaim how fun it must be to have her around to play with.

Sometimes, it will feel like it’s always about them, and never about you.

It’s not.

In a few days, you’ll start preschool. Your dad and I are veterans this time, of course, having sent your sister a few years ago into the very same room. We know the teachers, and they’ll remember your early morning perma-scowl (it’s why we enrolled you in the afternoon session, by the way). But what they don’t know, what your dad and I haven’t yet experienced, is you in this moment. Not your uncertain half smile as you pose outside the door for a ceremonial photo. Not your finger painted wobbly letters and gluey macaroni art. Not your puffed-out chest distributing cheese crackers as the designated “snackee” of the day. It’s all new to you, which will make it all new to us.

Because even though this path has been blazed by your older sister, you’re making it wider. You’re adding unexpected detours and giving us beautiful new views.

Before you were two years old, you talked in complete sentences. I remember us standing in line at a department store one day; we’d just dropped your sister off at school, and you started jabbering in your tiny toddler voice. A woman ahead of us glanced back, then did a quick double-take when she saw it was you doing the talking. “How old is he?” she asked, incredulous that such a small person could carry on such conversation. When I told her, she shook her head and smiled down at you. “What a smart boy you are, with so much to say!”

How right she was: you have much to contribute. You have stories to tell and pictures to paint of things we thought we’d already seen. From your spot in the middle, you’re discovering the joys of life in a new way—in your own way—and helping us discover them again, too.

And that, my child, is something only you can do.

(Originally posted 9/17/15 at https://www.bisonbooties.com/blog/middlechildren) 

The Story

Once upon a time, I was on TV.

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I wore blazers over a myriad of colorful camisoles. Caked on foundation two shades too dark for my skin tone. Straightened and hairsprayed my highlighted should-length “anchor cut.” Five mornings a week, I clipped a mic onto my lapel, wiggled an earpiece into my left ear, and delivered the news from behind a sea of tungsten lights.

And I was good at it.

Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t destined for network news, but I enjoyed what I was doing and felt comfortable doing it. Even though it was barely 6am (and I’m decidedly not a morning person), when the camera’s little red light blinked to life, I came alive, too. Covering the news from the anchor desk and out in the field as a reporter was different every day. It was fast-paced. It was fun. There’s something endlessly fascinating about telling people’s stories, and at its heart, that’s what journalism is really about.

But, when my husband and I had our first baby, I signed off the airwaves for good. Motherhood was a job I felt deeply called to do, and I took on the assignment of my life without looking back.

Today, I enjoy what I’m doing–and I think I’m pretty good at it most days.

Motherhood is different every day. It’s fast-paced. Fun. Endlessly fascinating.

Come to think of it, parenting is a lot like TV, but on this side of the desk, I’m doing more than telling a story–I’m creating one with my husband, our children, and the family and friends woven into the story our life.

Motherhood is about creating your family's story

This is a place for that story–the good, the bad, the triumphs, and the trials–to be shared.

Thanks for tuning in.