Thursday, July 28, 2011

Knit one, Run two: The rhythm of parenting

I have many guilty pleasures, but the top two by far, the two that always leave me feeling selfish and a little spoiled are knitting and running. In the winter I knit and in the summer I run. I love the rhythm of each, the consistency and how any tension in your body is obvious in your stitches the way it's equally apparent in your stride. Furious days get taken out on the road, or find half started projects completely unwoven. These pasttimes are my saving grace more often than I can imagine. They bring sanity to my day and connect me to something bigger and more ancient than myself. I love the idea of people running all over the world, running to tell a story, to share their river with a friend, to set a record, to get milk. I love that people have been running since time began, and that they each run to their own rhythm, in their own way.

Knitting does the same thing for me, in a weird way. The steady hand of a consistent tension, my own quiet rhythm, knowing that women (men too, I'm sure) have been tying these knots and weaving yarn into fabric for centuries in the same way I am, with the same stitches. I love it.

I mentioned that I was training for a half (Full hopefully!) marathon and my well-intentioned coworker said innocently, "Don't you feel so selfish when you run?" Which I didn't before she asked, but now, can't get out of my head. It's true, I prefer to run without children. Charlotte can ride her bike, but wants to take every side road to look for frogs, and I'm trying to hit a new personal best. Henry just screams. Likewise, it's very difficult to knit and parent. The objects I've knit while nursing certainly look like someone was distracted throughout their creation. My happiest knitting moments are popping in an audio book and getting lost in the story while counting stitches. Somewhat at odds with an ever-narrating 6 year old and a hands on toddler.

So what's a girl to do?  This week, I've logged 8 miles (so far!) with Henry in the jogstroller, safely strapped in and screaming at the top of his lungs. But, we live in the country, and I just turn the music up and push through. He keeps coming back for more though, walks right over to the stroller and climbs in; he just would prefer if I walked instead of ran, and gets pretty upset if I break my pace at all, or turn in a direction he's not expecting. It doesn't help with the selfish feeling, and probably just makes it a bit worse. Now, I'm trying to do something that I enjoy, when it's clear to every car driving by that my son is miserable, and I'm making him do it anyway, which certainly takes some of the enjoyment away.... sigh...

So if the question is "how to be a less selfish parent", is there an answer that isn't "don't run and don't knit?"  If there is, I'm not sure I want to hear it. And perhaps that's the wrong question altogether. Maybe the better question is "When am I going to be able to bring an even stride to my parenting?" When will I have a clean house, dinner on the table at six, well behaved and polite children who go to bed the first time they are asked... and make it all look seamless. 

Until that magical day comes, I'm going to keep running, and keep knitting. The kids can parent themselves for a bit.

Hug your kids/partner/pet, and make it a great day,


Friday, July 22, 2011

It is never too late to become what you might have been

Randomly, I get completely obsessed with quotes. I'd love to think it has something to do with where I am in life, something on a grand and completely philosophical scale. Am I moving forward? Accomplishing goals making progress, learning from my mistakes... that's what I think I mean by "moving forward" anyway. Or am I simply hanging in there? On some days, too many to count, just maintaining the status quo is no small feat. It's the days when I'm not hanging in there, when I feel myself actually slipping away that I find inspiration in the words of others who've already been on this journey. Abraham Lincoln said "The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time." I rely on these words to get me through the threat of being completely overwhelmed by Henry's unknown future. I don't have to worry about whether he'll be able to drive one day, if he'll have any kind of learning disorders, or even if he'll be able to cut his own food at the dinner table. Those are all so far down the road in that unknown future. Today, he's perfect, annoying his big sister in all of the quintessential little brother ways, behaving age appropriately with his possessive self-centered views. The future comes one day at a time, and today is amazing.

I saw a poster with the message "My Worth will not be dicated by a number." Not a quote that's attributed to anyone, but one that pulls me out of that backslide that the scale always sends me down. My worth will not be dicated by a number. That's not a poster, that's my life.

One of my favorites though, "It is never too late to become what you might have been." ~George Eliot.

George Eliot was a penname for Mary Ann Evans, who authored Silas Marner in the mid 1800's. A couple of things here... If you haven't read Silas Marner, it's a beautiful book. It's the story of a man who was wronged and found redemption through the eyes of his daughter, or the girl who he raised as his daughter. It's about a man who is rescued by the devotion of a child, who finds a new life and a creates a whole new world around that child and is better for it. It's heartache of love lost, lives ruined by assumptions and ignorance, and a child healing all of that only to grow up and cause her own pain. It's a lovely story. And, the author has her own story, choosing to hide her true identity to be taken seriously as a writer, and then coming out mid-way, making her own rules, demanding respect in an unyielding society. Pretty remarkable herself. So, today, if you find yourself in a backslide, think of Mary Ann Evans who couldn't follow her dreams because she was a woman, and how she refused to let that stop her. Think of Silas Marner who's life was redefined by a child, and how that happens to us all. It is never too late to become what you might have been. Be a dreamer, a writer, a poet. Be a scholar, an advocate, a parent. Be loved. Be honest. Be forgiving. It's never too late. 

Hug your partner/pet/child, and make it a great day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Becoming a mom

When I was growing up, I don't remember my mom sitting down, ever. She must have, at some point, but it seems like in every memory she's on her way somewhere, doing something. I never doubted her, I never questioned that she was the mom and everything was going to be better because she was on the job. She always made me feel safe, loved, brilliant, beautiful. In my eyes, she was always my mom first, and then somewhere down the line she must have been other things too... a woman, a wife, a teacher, a daughter, a sister, a friend.

I wonder today, as a 35 year old mother of two, when my mother "became" a mother, or if it really was as innate as it seemed. Every day, I am still so hesitant that my kids get stuck with me as a mom. I mean, really? 1994 was yesterday. I remember sitting in my 1986 Plymouth TurboColt learning to drive stick in the high school parking lot so vividly. Waitressing third shift at Denny's and going out for breakfast the next morning, trying to stay awake long enough to watch the nail salon open. I still blast the radio to Salt N' Pepa and Katrina and the Waves, just not when Henry's sleeping in the back.

I think I expected the whole mom thing to just happen overnight. I mean, let's be honest here. I studied for the baby. I had lots of books that I thoroughly poured over in a quest to truly have the happiest baby on the block. I feel like I passed once I passed the first round, I was tossed into toddlerhood, then preschool, kindergarten, first grade (really?!?) and didn't have time or energy to study along the way. So, here I am, making it up as I go. Making our own rules and making all the mistakes that come along with that. Knowing that I will not be the mom that my mom was, and trying to come to terms with that. Hoping that at some point, I'll be graded on a generous and forgiving curve that rewards the big things and dismisses the dust on the shelves and the fact that I'm playing Tetris on my phone while nursing Henry to sleep. 

Love you mom, I still don't know how you did it. Then again, it was the 70's, there are a lot of unanswered questions about that particular decade.

Hug your partner/kid/pet and go make your own mistakes. We're all in this together and I need all of the help I can get!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Just the frosting, please

I made cinnamon rolls this morning and Charlotte licked every bit of frosting off hers before pronouncing that she didn't want the rest because "it's just not good." Now, truthfully, it's a cinnamon roll. There's nothing not good about it. Similarly though, I'm not going to force her to eat it because it also has zero nutritional value. I got her a bowl of strawberries instead, but here I sit, pondering the choices I'm making as a parent.

Is it wrong to just give your kids the "frosting" in life and not make them take the rough parts with it? I think I know the answer, I know what my gut says, but I'm interested what you think. I, like you, want to raise strong, confident people that contribute to society, give back to their community, are loyal friends and gentle listeners. I want to raise people that accept, that don't judge, that are kind-hearted and level-headed. How does that fit in to, when they are say, 6, making them do things they don't want to, or NOT making them do those things?  I don't think that Charlotte is spoiled, she certainly hears "no" enough, but I do think that we go out of our way to celebrate her because of all she does for Henry. So much of our lives revolve around him, and it's a constant balancing act. Partly, just being the big sister means accomodating the changing family needs. We didn't do much when Charlotte was two because, well, she was two. She doesn't remember that though and now, she feels like she has to give up so much because of Henry, which is true. I think that sibs of special needs kids all over are likely in the same boat. But does she realize that, or am I projecting that on her? Am I overcompensating by going out of my way to try and celebrate her when I should just be letting her figure out that this is her life now and she has to deal with it. And, now she's old enough that she plays the "you should do this because I'm a great big sister" card. Slippery I giving her frosting without making her eat the cake?  Or better yet, is there intrinsic value in the cake alone, will eating the "cake" in life make her stronger, more patient, more likely to be kind-hearted and level-headed, everything I hope she will be? 

For now, I have an extra, frosting-free cinnamon roll with my name on it. Today, and likely in the future, I will eat my daughter's cake.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Beginning to Blog

On the direct orders from my friends on facebook, here I am, starting a blog. I make no guarantees as to how often I will update it, I only promise to do my best. Today, I'm thinking about six word memoires. Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to tell a complete story in six words. His story? "For Sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn."  My heart aches every time I read that. We talk alot about our six word memoires in my household, knowing that they change as we change. Once upon a time, my memoire was "I'll be there in a minute."  Always running, always on my way, always in motion... and that was when I only had Charlotte! I'm not sure what mine would be today... something profound?
"Ask questions. Accept answers. Practice gratitude."
Something silly? "Unmopped floors breed practical science experiments."
How about "having children means never sleeping in."
Today, my six word memoire is simple. "Grocery store hugs make me happy". Because they do.  I'd love to hear your six word memoire. Check out, for inspiration.

Hug your kids/partner/pet, and make this a great day!