Who Is The Best Father?

Many of you have read my Tweets and my other Post on my daughter’s challenge to process the fact her father is not around. At times it has been more than heartbreaking for me. So I can’t imagine the hurt she feels. I’ve diligently relied on God to take the place of her biological father. It was a stretch for me to grasp this as an adult, let alone a child. But I’ve tried to be consistent in encouraging her in her time of need, sadness, or joy to look to God as her father.

Well…. It’s starting to pay off and I can not be more thrilled!!! Slowly, she has started talking about God more specifically, not just in general terms or on Sundays after church. Here’s what Emma’s shared with me in the last week:

  • While watching some movie on TV (clueless as to what now) she announces,

Mom, I love God for 4 reasons:
1. Because He loves me.
2. Because He sends angels to protect me.
3. Because He gives me hugs.
4. Because He’s always there for me.

  • John, Emma, and I were sitting at the table eating dinner. Jacob was in time out for yelling at me and semi-punching me in the arm. This is not typical behavior for him, but unacceptable nonetheless. John initiated the time out, also very unusual. But he wanted to talk to him about the respect and treatment of women, especially me. At the table I told John, this was an example of why he needed a father-figure in his life. Time out was different coming from John versus me in that particular situation. Surprisingly, Emma jumped in on the conversation.

“Do you guys know who the best father is? [long pause, as John & I stared at her, then each other] God is. He’s the best Father we have.”

  • In another conversation this week, Emma and John were discussing a visit we made to The Carter House. John was giving a tour, so Emma & Jacob walked up on the porch to get his attention. John told Emma he was so happy to see her that day. She leaned in and whispered in his ear,

“Did you see the angel on my shoulder?”

  • Each night when we pray, I ask God to send His angels to help comfort her when she wakes at night. It’s been a struggle for her to stay in her bed at night for a few months. She wakes up frightened and comes to me in the middle of the night wanting to sleep with me. It was happening even when she shared a bed with Jacob. We’ve tried several things to help her sleep through the night, including eating a bit later to make sure she has a full belly. Since praying for the angels, she has stayed in her bed more often than not.However, when I tucked her in last night I was caught off guard as she told me her angel was sitting on her side table. According to Emma, her angel is purple and small. But she is very powerful and can protect her against anything. She likes the same hand lotion as Emma and she goes to sleep when Emma goes to sleep, but she stays all night long. Even better, we all have an angel in our room to protect us. At the end of our prayers, she asked if we could pray to the angels. I said, “No, we don’t pray to angels Emma. We only pray to God.” Her reply….

“Oh right. I forgot. We don’t put anything in front of God.”

I was shocked and asked her where she learned that. Her reply….

“You taught me Mama.”

Wow! My sweet girl gets it!

Thank you Father.

Parenting with Fear or Forgiveness

playing in snowToday I was blessed by a sermon on how Matthew 5:7 specifically relates to our relationships.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

It is difficult for us to forgive each other because we love poorly. (Ouch, that struck a nerve.) We do not love unconditionally as Christ does. I wrote a post about that here. But diffing deeper and taking it a step further is even more difficult.

Loving unconditionally includes forgiving. It certainly has its challenges. My empathy for another adult is easier to find sometimes. Maybe because I’ve been there… failed, flawed, sinful & shamed. For my children is does not seem to come as easy at times. Surprised? I guess I am.

When they were younger is was easier to be patient, but as they grow up, it seems my patience fades. I tell myself it is because they are old enough to know better. But it that the truth? It certainly is a handy excuse, but I don’t think so. So why?

Is it harder for me to remember being that age? To remember my need for unconditional love and approval. My desire for forgiveness. The kind of forgiveness that Our Father gives us.

I think about this deeply today. I guess the only thing I can grasp is that it is born of fear. Fear that they will make the same mistakes I did. That the error of their ways will bring them pain and shame as it did me. Fear that their mistakes will become their legacy, thus my legacy.

It is not pride that gets me. After things I have been a part of, there is no pride here. But it is a fear that their lives will bring pain to them that is not necessary. A continuation of a vicious cycle that is hard to break. That is the fear of legacy.

But, isn’t it this same fear that caused my mother to find it difficult to show me unconditional love and forgiveness. And isn’t it odd that the feelings of shame and being unlovable caused me to act out, seeking love in other, unhealthy, ways. I know that she loved me, that she felt accountable, and guilty that she caused my hardships. But it just part of an unhealthy pattern that we tend to perpetuate in our families. It is no one’s fault. It just is. We tend to do what we know. Thus the cycle continues. But is there a way to stop it?

Being a single mother, has an incredible, overbearing level of GUILT and FEAR. You try to do twice as much to make up for the lack of a “normal family” environment with a mom and a dad. Parenting out of fear seems to be a natural state. So I have seen the above cycle played out in my own family, by me.

I am harder on my daughter than I am my son. I have known this for a while. I rationalized it because she is more mature, more intuitive and more like me. My guilt and fear of her following in my footsteps is incomprehensible. So I am harder on her to try to make her more aware, make her better. (Wow, seeing it in black and white, makes me laugh. It is preposterous!) But if I love her or discipline her out of fear, will I not being doing the same thing and continuing the cycle?

However, is it possible I can put fear aside, put my faith in God, and begin to love and forgive as He does? Won’t that be better? Surely, it must! It just may give them less of a reason to run away from the love and safety of home to someone or something else.

I am not naive. I realize it won’t be perfect. But isn’t it worth a try to parent with forgiveness. I think so.

Rewarding Kids For Not Cussing?

IMG_0548There was a post Mom Connect requesting advice on how to get her 6yo to stop interrupting her while on the phone. I ran across the tweet and went to check it out.

One of the replies was to reward them for not interrupting. i.e. give them stickers or a prize, etc. This riled me up a bit after I thought about it. So I replied.

I used this tip from a mom who also found success. It is not a reward for not misbehaving, it is a consequence for inappropriate behavior. There are pros & cons to both, but I strongly disagree that we should reward kids for not misbehaving for general everyday activities. That’s like giving them a reward for not cussing. They begin to expect rewards for just being nice and doing the right thing. It can backfire later on in life, but that’s just my opinion. A 6 yr old is old enough to know better. This is a matter of doing it because they get away with it.

It’s a quick and easy rule: If you interrupt me on the phone, the answer will be no. Unless it is an emergency (i.e. injury, fire, etc). That’s it. It didn’t take my kids long to catch on and they are 4 yr b/g twins. It deters 80% of the “Mom, I want a….” “Mom, can I….” “Mom, can u…” There are times when they think something is an emergency, but it’s not really. Hope this helps!

I explained the situation to John as a safety check and he agreed. It IS like rewarding them for not cussing. We would never consider it.

Keep in mind I’m not against using positive recognition or reward systems. I think they are great for teaching and helping establish new behavior patterns. i.e. potty training, taking on chores, etc. I use(d) one with my kids when introducing them to their bedtime routine of cleaning their room, brushing their teeth, putting clothes away, etc. It worked great initially, but then those actions became part of the routine, most of the time anyway. So now we are in the process of moving on to bigger tasks for rewards and letting the standard baseline include the ones they have mastered.

However, I just think we often set up kids to expect rewards for doing the right thing or the responsible thing instead of just doing it because they should. We see it on TV everyday. The little sitcoms laughs at the daughter being told to help or clean up and the retort is, “What am I gonna get for it?” (hand stretched out seeking compensation) I HATE THAT!!!!

I’m not a perfect mom and I don’t have perfect kids. In fact, my kids are expert negotiators at age 4! And I basically taught them how to do it. We (me, moms, society) teach them to share. It’s one of our primary directives when navigating year 2 with a child. Sharing is about negotiating. I take my turn and then you take yours. I’ll do it 3 times, then you do it 3 times. It’s all a negotiation. And this is key because life is a myriad of negotiations in relationships, business and even self-discipline.

But… you knew it was coming… there is also a fine line drawn when it comes to what you do for compensation versus non-compensation. Getting in to interpersonal relationship and family dynamics presents more opportunities where you have to make a choice to either negotiate or just do it because.

When we begin to negotiate bad behavior with rewards versus consequences, we set ourselves as parents up to fail and ultimately we set the kids up to fail! Plus we miss an opportunity to instill a sense of pride and self-esteem for doing the right thing.

I am the worst when it comes to not realizing that I do it. John points it out to me quite often that I negotiate compliance versus expect it. He’s right. It’s typically a scenario where I’m giving a choice because that’s what we’ve been ‘educated’ to do with children. Give them choices, make them feel a part of the process, that they have some control. This is good. It is true. But not necessarily when it comes to compliance.

Like just about every other mom out there, I often wonder if I’m getting it right or screwing it up. I know I don’t have all the answers. Very few for sure. But I hope I’m making more right choices than wrong ones.

How do you see it?

Lost Child Found… Not The Reaction You Expect

hot-air-balloonI was preparing a special dinner for the evening when John called me on his way home from work and told me about the lost balloon boy.

Immediately, my mood dimmed. Significantly. This is why I don’t watch the news.

I hate to admit that I’m perfectly content living in the dark about most horrible things going on in the world. It takes its toll on me emotionally. Perhaps more than it should. This was one of those times. And it caught John off guard.

My reaction was not what either of us expected. But my kids are 4 and my nephew is 6 and I kept thinking of them in that scenario. My heart ached for his parents and for him. How scared he must have been. I can’t imagine losing a child in any manner, let alone like this.

Then they found him or he came out or whatever the story is. And I was as relieved as I was angry. Once I tried to explain to John the reaction a parent has when faced with a ‘found’ child. He didn’t get it, until today.

I had it once in the mall. My sister and I were shopping with 3 kids. Mine were 2 1/2 and my nephew was 4 1/2. We were in Parisians (aka Belk) trying on clothes. Shuffling between racks and dressing rooms and the kids, I realized Jacob was missing. She thought I had him, I thought he went with her to the room. Neither of us panicked in a screaming fashion or ran about hysterical calling out his name. He was probably just hiding under a rack of clothes, right? But what if? What if?

Every parent knows the thoughts that I fought inside my head. I forced them down because it just couldn’t happen to us and I refused to let the hysteria take place front and center. Yet as I walked around the store looking for him, the terror rose up inside me in a heated flush that spread across my face. So much so that a woman, a customer, walked right up to me and said, “That look on your face tells me your child is missing.” “Yes, a little blonde boy. He’s two, wearing an orange jacket. His name is Jacob”, I replied in a calm collected fashion. She went one way, I went the other. A few minutes passed before I heard her shout to me across the store. “He’s here. I found him.”

I rushed over, falling to my knees and hugging him as tightly as I held back the tears. Thank God! He was ok. He got under a rack and turned around and headed off in the wrong direction. But the words came spilling out anyway. You know the ones, “Don’t you ever do that again!” We had many talks about staying with an adult, not hiding under the clothes racks, blah, blah, blah. But he was 2 1/2. Old enough to follow most directions but not old enough to get it right most of the time.

I was more angry and frustrated with myself than with him. As it should be. We were the adults, the responsible ones in charge. Had we been paying more attention to him than to the clearance rack deals, it would probably have never happened. But it gave me a taste of that feeling. Of the panic button that instinctively goes off in a parent when your child is in danger. The feeling I never want to have again.

Call me crazy but as the kids started getting a little more independent and rambunctious in stores. I added a few new lines to the usual spiel.  Bad people will take you away from me and hurt you very badly and you will never see mommy again.

They rarely leave my sight.

Life Without Kids

The Hug

The Hug

Yes!!!

I have a week without the kids!!!

No getting up to make breakfast, no packing lunches, no fights over the TV, no baths to take, no tiffs about bedtime stories, no getting up 4 times a night for anything & everything under the sun!

I’m going to sleep in, go to the gym, hang pictures, organize the hall closet, hang pictures, scrub down the house, clean out the playroom, go to a writer’s group, fix a candlelight gourmet dinner, go dancing with John, get an overdue massage, watch the TV programs I want to watch! Awesome!

1st Night Home Alone

Me: It’s kinda of quiet.

John: I miss the kids.

Me: So do I, let’s call them

John: I was just going to suggest that!

Call the kids…

  • Me: Hey Emma! What are you doing?
  • Emma: Playing, is Mr John there, I want to talk to him…
  • Me: Hey Jacob! I miss you buddy. What are you doing?
  • Jacob: Nothing, what’s Mr John doing? Can I talk to him…

1st Day Home Alone

Sleep in, spend all day in my pjs, surf the net, do not clean, no gourmet dinner on the table.

2nd Night Home Alone

Me: What do you want to do?

John: Nothing, just relax & watch TV.

Me: Me too.

(Flip, flip, flip)

Me: There’s nothing on.

2nd Day Home Alone

Sleep in, dream I kiss Brad Pitt, wake up with a migraine. At 2:30, I’m still in my pjs. No cleaning. No gourmet dinner planned.

Thinking how much I miss the kids.

So far, it’s not going according to my plan

I Don’t Want To Be A Mom

My Loves

My Loves

The feeling of panic creeped in as the day progressed. I tried my best to shove it down and ignore it. But it reared it’s ugly head with a vengeful force as I grabbed the keys off the counter top and got in to my car to go pick my kids.

Thoughts flooded my brain and my heart all at the same time and I couldn’t stop them from coming. Like a dam releasing water, the alarm had been sounded so you know it’s coming but you have no control over it whatsoever.  ‘I don’t want to go. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be a mom. I don’t want to what…..? What is wrong with me? How can I feel this way after all we have been through? I’m horrible. This is so bad.’ Rewind. Repeat.

Seriously, I wasn’t sure who was driving to pick up the kids from preschool. I didn’t know her. The woman behind the wheel hysterically crying with an aching pit in her stomach that grew as the miles between her car and the preschool shrank. Yet, those were my hands on the wheel. And those were my swollen empty eyes staring back at me in the rear view mirror. Looking at me as a stranger would, with disgust and disdain.

Of course, there had been days before when certain thoughts flashed in to my head. ‘I don’t want to do this RIGHT NOW. I don’t want to have to be a mom TODAY.’ Those are typical right? Most moms feel this way at some point. Maybe it’s postpartum or sleep deprivation or raising a teenage daughter that triggers them. They are normal and on occasion may come or go. But this time was different.

The thoughts did not have qualifiers attached to them, such as: right now, today, in these circumstances. No, they were distinct with no end point. It seemed pretty cut and dry. I don’t want to be a mom. Plain and simple.  And it was that simplicity that scared the hell out of me and brought me to hot burning tears I had not felt for a while.

Doing the only thing I knew to do I reached out to my best friend and fellow mom, Michele. As a mother of 4 whose oldest is 22, she’s done it all. I often rely on her for mom advice. I was so relieved to hear her say hello and I immediately poured my heart out. The beauty of a friend like Michele is the honesty that permeates our friendship. She knows all my secrets and can take anything I dish out regardless how ugly it may be. And she still loves me anyway. It is one of the true friendships I have that is completely non-judgmental.

I tell you all this so you will know that I held nothing back, didn’t sugar coat it or glaze over it as a mere venting session. No, this was I am in major trouble and I don’t know how to handle this. And her response, “Amy, that’s normal. I’ve done the same thing.” What? This was not the response I was expecting at all. Seriously? Maybe I didn’t explain myself well enough. I was just coming back from vacation. I had been gone for 6 days and didn’t want to go pick up my kids. I didn’t want to see them. I didn’t miss them.  That’s far from normal.

But apparently not far from normal given my circumstances according to my friend and my life coach. As a single mom, my life revolves around them. I’m the sole caregiver. I’ve discussed it here many times before that it can be hard and lonely and frustrating. Especially knowing that their father is gallivanting all over Europe with his new girlfriend living a life of leisurely freedom. Please know before you send the hate mail that I do realize my life comes with amazing good times and many rewards that he will never know. But although we’ve hit a great stride in our new life, it is still quite lonely at times. As my coach put it, it is a life of deprivation.  Not always, not completely, but in general.

I had just went from a life of deprivation to the extreme opposite on vacation: a life of abundance. My holiday entailed complete freedom with adult friends and activities to pick and choose at will. I had anything I wanted and no one required a single thing from me. WOW! Talk about a stark contrast in life.  Here I was walking back in to deprivation and all that it entailed. No wonder I was having a moment of panic.

Michele told me to forget about it, get over the guilt, dry my eyes and go in to get my kids. So I did. And you know what happened. The minute I saw them running up to me yelling, “Mama, Mama!”, my heart filled and I was back. Back to my life of deprivation and thankful for it. Thankful for them. Their smiles, their eyes, their hearts and little hands. Oh every ounce of it was so precious.

I guess sometimes it’s hard to make a transition especially in extremes. Like going from Antarctica to the Sarah Desert, it requires a degree of mental preparation and transition time.  I analyzed the thoughts and feeling too much through the lens of mommy guilt and the impact was exponential. My self-confidence and my love for them was falsely shaken by ME.

Reality is I love being their mom. I’m a good mom. I’m a hip mom. And I’m proud of that. I had just forgotten it for a moment.

Vote for Blue Eyes!

Little Blue Eyes

Little Blue Eyes

Blue Eyes Too!

Blue Eyes Too!

While I always figured that my kids would be cute, I also renounced the idea of being a stage mom. But I gotta say… my son is not only cute, he’s an entertainer. He’s outgoing and very expressive. He enjoys singing and is jealous his sister gets to take dance lessons. He’s a little JT wanna be! So please use this link and vote for my blue eye’d charmer so his talents don’t go to waste! LOL!

Emma has been born in the wrong decade. She is really a hippy from the 60’s who wants to dance and spread love to everyone. She’s a bit more shy at times. But once you get her going watch out! She’s smart, quick witted, more daring of the two and so beautiful! Not just on the outside but on the inside too. She has such a warm spirit! You can choose the same link below to get to Emma.

Thanks for your votes!!!


Love at 3

emma-me-xmas-08“I love you mommy!” Planting kisses on my cheeks. I hear this 20 times a day, at least. 

“I missed you mommy!” She clings to my legs as I come back from getting the mail. 

“Please sit with me mommy!” She pleads sometimes with tears in her eyes, most often in the evening when she finds me in the kitchen or office. 

“But please mommy!” She begs, desperation dripping down her face as the tears come. It is night and once again the only place she is not restless or stirring is in my bed.

I am her world. The only one that makes her feel loved, safe and secure. 

I really AM her world.

Not that I didn’t expect to be. But she has always been very independent. Very laissez-faire about me being in the room. But as of late my easy going, care free daughter has become clingy, needy, and so very affectionate. And I savor those moments, as inconvenient as they can be. Breathing them in, knowing far too well that one day she will shun me for this or that as most teenage daughters do to their mothers at some point. 

And I worry too. I worry that her irrational fear of me leaving the room or the house to get the mail is something buried deep inside her festering. One minute she is fine and the next she is a whirlwind panic of emotions.

It almost resembles those early teen years of puppy love hysteria. You remember the kind, when the object of your affection determined your mood and emotional stability with a fleeting glance. The heart pounding, gut wrenching feeling that your life is either over or you’re on top of the world with your rose colored glasses singing, “He loves me, yeah, yeah, yeah.” 

She loves me. Always asking, “Are you happy mommy?” She even mirrors my emotions with heart-felt tears the few times I was caught crying, unaware I had an audience. The strong willed defiance that I used to see has been replaced by a sweet girl who is so eager to please. So needing to make everyone in her world ok. 

She loves with the purest of loves that is possible. Love at 3 is instinctual. It is not born of obligation or guilt. It is not jaded from baggage gathered through the years. It is not twisted. It has no strings. Love at 3 is selfless. innocent and pure. 

I wish I could save that part of her that the world will destroy. But I know I can not. So for now I will let her crawl in my bed at night when she’s scared. I will rock her when she’s not feeling quite her self. Yes, I will even kiss her fingers and toes when she asks, as she does frequently.

And I will remember the tears that I cried while writing these things to help save that part of her in some small way. Even if it is only on paper.

Missing You

emmajacob I was taking a little blogging break over the holidays to focus on my kids and work. 

See, I had them til Christmas morning, then they boarded a plane heading to Detroit with their dad to stay til New Years Day. 

That’s all good & well. I have a calendar full of things to do. I’m working at the Y a bit and concentrating on finishing the website (another post). I also have two rooms in the house to finish organizing and then there’s the consignment sales approaching in February. They’re a load of work. And of course, I have 3 dinners, a girl’s day out and a New Year’s Eve Party. So it’s not all work. 

But at night, when it’s quiet and I’m done for the day… I miss them so terribly.  I miss the snoring, yes, Jacob snores. I miss the “Mom, I’m thirsty” I miss the “Mom, I have to potty” I miss the “Mom, (insert fake cough here) I’m coughing” I miss the “Mom, I’m sad” I miss every single excuse their creative little minds can muster to get out of bed. The house is too quiet. 

Yes, I’m fickle. Every mother is I suppose. Because while we dream of me-time as the little ones we care for are running us ragged, we can tolerate only so much of the solitude we long for because our heart strings pull us back again only to crave the noise and chaos of our kids. 

Maybe I’m fickle more than most or maybe I cycle more rapidly. Without any support from their father, I have them full time 24-7. That was a hard transition to make for me. I felt panicked and claustrophobic, a prisoner in my own house, my own life. And my captives were my children. Sounds horrible doesn’t it. Well, at a minimum it sounds selfish. But that’s what it felt like.

When you are the sole caregiver, it can be an adjustment and it can also take its toll on you, physically and emotionally. That’s why you need build in breaks. And it’s more than just a few hours a day while the kids are in preschool. It also means some nights too. Going out to dinner with an adult or just by yourself. I cherish those evenings. Overall I’ve adjusted. I’ve gained a better balance and we are in more of a routine than before. We are settling in to life as we know it and just taking it day by day. 

But right now in this moment, I miss them so. They’ve been gone before to stay with family and I was fine. Maybe it’s the holidays. Maybe it’s because I’m sick and have been in bed all day. Maybe it’s because I just love them so much. 

In the end the reason doesn’t matter. It’s good to miss them.

I love you, my blue eyed beauties! I can’t wait to see you. Love, Mom