Take it or leave it
While having a conversation on the phone with a dear friend, we began discussing what was really important to us. We had both recently spent time with family and were happy about it. But while talking, the topic of cleaning our houses prior to events came up. I laughed and said, “Well, I just mopped my floors for the first time since probably Christmas.” We both laughed and said, “Who cares? If people don’t like it, don’t come over.”
But honestly, my house is cleanish. Yes, I said cleanish. Allow me to define: Cleanish, as in picked up, dishes done, laundry completed, trash emptied, counters wiped, and floors swept. Mopping, baseboards, windows, dusting? Not so much. But who cares? Frankly, I have books and blogs to write, yoga to do, people to connect with, and a family to love. Does anyone feel more loved in my house when it’s squeaky clean? I hope not because it isn’t that.
On most occasions, a tumbleweed of dog hair might float across your feet as you sit and sip your coffee. But I promise, I will laugh with you, cry with you, pray with you, and love you while you are at my home. I will genuinely ask how you are doing. I will appreciate the time you spend with me. I will seek ways to help you if you need them, or I may just listen if that is what you need. There is no doubt that I will be loud and give a hearty laugh. So if you are coming to inspect my floors, don’t waste your time. But if you want to spend quality time with me, my door is always open.
What I have learned: How you make people feel when you spend time with them matters much more than what your space looks like when they visit.
As I was sitting in my yoga room during my daily practice, I decided to turn and face a different direction for my meditation. You see, I normally face the closet doors which are covered with mirrors. When I open my eyes, I often find myself spending time criticizing my body. Today, I decided to turn the other way, facing the window and my essential oil diffuser.
While facing that direction and meditating, I took a deep breath in and exhaled it out. I let my mind wander as thoughts came and went. I then decided to open my eyes and sit still. I looked at my surroundings. I noticed the ballet slippers hanging on the shelf that represented my time as a 15-year-old in ballet class. Above the slippers, there is a painting from a dear friend who just happened to have an extra canvas and asked me what I wanted on it. Together we selected a lotus flower, a yogi, and some calming colors. Next to that is a painting from a friend who took up painting as a hobby as she was going through a difficult time in her life. My eyes skimmed down to the shelf that held the rocks we painted during book club. I had decided to paint Peace, Love, and Hope on mine. They were supposed to be part of a project where you hide the rocks for someone else to find, but I ended up wanting to keep them. So there they sit, surrounding my salt rock.
I scanned my eyes to look out the window and saw the beauty of the most gorgeous dogwood tree in bloom. I scanned my eyes to the right and noticed a plant that was given to me from a dear friend when I became a principal 11 years ago. My eyes then rested upon a picture that was given to me by one of my employees which says, “Do What Makes You Happy.” I was going through a really difficult time in my career, and it's funny how some people just know what you need to see. My eyes scanned up a little higher, and I saw the basket that I brought back from Jamaica on our honeymoon 30 years ago. Inside it are two rolled up chalk drawings from my daughters when they were in elementary school. I scanned a little farther to the right. Higher up on the bookshelf are the collection of books from my dear book club and just next to that is the stained glass plant holder that my mom made in 1975 when we lived in California.
As I took the time to take in my surroundings, my eyes filled with tears and they began to stream down my face. Instead of looking at (and criticizing) my body like I normally do, today I decided to turn my gaze to the rest of the things that depict who I am. The tears today were filled with joyful memories and a life of people who love me and whom I love back so deeply. When I looked around, I was surrounded by all the things that mean so much to me. My heart and soul were filled with love. Tears were streaming down my face. I let the feelings flow. The lump in my throat began to swell as I was overwhelmed with emotions. I let it go and allowed myself to feel the blessings around me. Today I left my yoga space filled with love and gratitude for the amazing experiences I've had in my life, as well as all the wonderful people I have known.
What I have learned: Sometimes you need to turn your gaze in another direction to find the truth about you.
I know I’ve told you that being a parent is a lifetime commitment. But, knowing your limits is also essential to parenting. Realizing my limits has helped me become a better parent. When our structures and routines in life are changed from our normal schedule, we can feel very out of sorts. In previous blogs, I have mentioned my daughter’s hospital stay. If you have ever had a child who had a significant health condition, an accident, or an unexpected change in life circumstances, you know that these times can really rock your world.
During her hospital stay, our lives were turned upside down. My daughter was fearful of the testing process and worried about the findings. She was missing her space, her privacy, and her dog, Luci. Luci brings her comfort and security. Luci is her fur baby. She had taken time off from work, which made her feel as if she was losing her purpose. She was missing her co-workers, which made her feel a loss of joy and connection.
My husband and I took off work and rotated our days at the hospital. Our time together had changed too. Our morning coffee time had been eliminated. Meals together were no more. Our sleep schedules and daily habits had been completely modified. We were missing us!
It was a hard week for everyone. Knowing your limits is not a sign of weakness. It is actually a sign of strength. A strong person is in tune with their mind and body and knows their limitations. Knowing when to stop before hitting your breaking point is crucial. Everyone has their own boundaries and limits. Everyone has their own breaking point. We are all unique and handle life differently. It takes a confident person to admit they have reached a point that makes them feel uncomfortable.
This was hard for me to learn. It takes time and practice to know when something is too much for you. I now know that I can tell people what I can and cannot do without worrying about what they think. While we were going through this tough spot, my husband and I communicated with each other about how we were feeling and what we could handle. He was feeling far more confident with the duties than I was. In this situation, his tolerance was higher. So I leaned on him. I think that because I am the mom I feel like I should be the caretaker ALL the time. This is not true. I am not the only caretaker in my daughter’s life. Many people want to help, including her father. Men are nurturing too. Sharing the duties helped all of us cope. We took care of one another's needs while also tending to our daughter.
What I have learned: It is STRONG to say, “I have reached my limit.” This requires you to know yourself. Practice establishing and maintaining your boundaries. It is okay to stop before you hit your breaking point.
In life, there are “doers” and “veggers.” I am definitely a doer. I find it very difficult to just sit and veg out. While we stayed in the hospital with our daughter, I had the hardest time doing nothing. Yes, we played games and binge-watched shows, but I didn’t do anything I considered productive for two days. I was beginning to feel helpless and worry began to encompass my thoughts. My daughter and I both had our moments of, “I want to go home,” because home feels good, smells good, and brings us comfort. Doing nothing raises my anxiety and makes me feel out of sorts. I feel better when I can “do.” Being productive by keeping my mind and body moving is actually more relaxing for me than sitting on the couch. After I had been at the hospital for 48 hours, I really needed my husband to take his turn at the hospital. I needed to do something and take a break. I think my daughter was also ready to have a new person in her hospital room! She was so brave and handled vegging out much better than I.
While driving home, my thoughts centered around what I could do to help her in her transition home. I drove straight to the grocery store. I picked up some things we would need as she was recovering from her week-long stay. Once home, I took a power nap. Then, I had my coffee and read for about 30 minutes. Now that I was up and moving, I was beginning to feel much better. Then, the doer in me really kicked in! I made my list and the work began. I cleaned her house, washed her sheets, and made things pretty in her home. I cut fresh flowers and put them in a vase for her. I was feeling better and better as I was moving more and more. My heart was full to be able to do this for my daughter.
Before bed, I Facetimed my daughter and told her what I accomplished. She grinned from ear to ear. She was really appreciative. We were all ready for her to come home.
What I have learned: Being a doer is who I am. I feel best when moving and helping others.
While writing Raising the Well-Adjusted Child: A Parent’s Manual, I felt that it was important to include a section called “Parenting Is A Lifetime Commitment.” I don’t want people to take this negatively. In fact, it is a reality that I would never change. Once you have children, you are a parent for life. There is no age at which your children are no longer your responsibility. There will be times when your kiddos become more independent and need less time from you, but they still want love, positivity, and attention from their parents. Your parenting responsibilities may be fewer but they still occur. Sometimes even with a higher cost. As a child, no matter what age you are, having the support of your parents is very important. Having a parent who is an active and positive force in one’s life is essential to healthy development. I know there are some parents that are not positive forces in their kids’ lives, but that is generally the exception rather than the rule. If the majority of parents make a lifetime commitment to their children, imagine how much stronger and well-adjusted our kids would be.
As I sit next to my adult daughter today while she is hospitalized for testing, I am reminded of my commitment to her as a parent. When children are young, there is nothing more important to them than their parents’ love and attention. During her hospital stay, my daughter requested that her father and I stay with her. Even as an adult, the presence of our parents brings us comfort. Honestly, it brings the parents comfort too.
My husband and I created a plan on how best to support our daughter while also supporting one another through this trying time. Due to COVID protocols, only one parent could stay with her at a time. Therefore, how he and I supported one another influenced our ability to support her. My husband took the nights in which our daughter was deprived of sleep because he knows I cannot function at all on little sleep. I stayed the evenings he had golf. A good night’s rest (for me) and a relaxing game of golf (for my husband) allowed us to fill our cups and be able to provide that support for our daughter.
As her mom, I know I can’t control the test outcomes or fix the medical condition that has plagued her for over 10 years. However, I can love her, hug her, and comfort her. We played endless games of Garbage and War and made up card tricks. We binged-watched Ink Master and Cardinals baseball games. We giggled about the cute tech that hooked her up to wires. These are memories I will cherish and would not want anyone else to have with her. My husband and I are feeling blessed that we were the ones to bring her the comfort she needed during this time.
My mother and my husband’s mother both felt helpless as they watched my husband and I go through this difficult time. They too wanted to provide love and comfort to their children -- us. They wanted to support us, but it was hard to give them our time and attention because our focus and energy was solely on our daughter. Because a mother’s love never ends, they worried about us (and their granddaughter), as we worried about our daughter. When love runs deep, it is a long litany of compassion.
We have lived with this health condition for 10 years, and I have always said that it is our job to pick her up, dust her off, and put her back out into the world.
“We are right here when you need us, but, in the meantime, go and live your life.”
What I have learned: The most difficult times in life sometimes create the greatest bonds.
It’s important to show your teen how to disconnect from technology. Do a detox from a device. Try detoxing by choosing a night of the week and not using electronics. Make it a routine each week. Make sure that you, as the parent, are also participating. This will give their brain (and yours) a much needed reset. A detox is hard, so consider starting with a 30 minute detox then increase gradually. Trust me, your teen will find other ways to stimulate their brain without a device. Over time, they will become less reliant on technology and become increasingly well-adjusted to our technological world.
I know this is easier said than done. As I was writing this, I realized that I left my phone in my husband's truck. The very same truck he drove away in this morning. I keep stopping to check my phone, but it’s not here. It is a weird feeling; it’s almost like a part of me is missing. It’s funny – I never felt like that with my cordless phone from 1995. It just wasn’t as addictive. My cellphone is like a bag of Doritos for me...I cannot have them in the house because I cannot stop at just one! I keep going back to the bag in the pantry until it’s gone. Usually within 48 hours. My husband buys them for me on my birthday or Valentine’s day, and every time the same thing happens. I have no control when it comes to Doritos. Our devices are starting to hold that same sway over us. They can be very addictive. We use our devices when we are bored, when we are happy, when we are sad, when we wake up, when we work, when we book trips, etc.
When I was teaching my daughter how to drive, she never knew the directions to get anywhere. At age 15 or so before she got behind the wheel, I made a certain discovery. While I was driving, I would ask her to tell me which direction we needed to go to get to the grocery store. She wouldn’t know. I thought, “How can that be?” She didn’t know how to get to a lot of the places we go to regularly. That is when I realized that she never pays attention to where we are going because she is always looking at her phone. Frankly, I was shocked! I remember thinking that she is missing out on so much when we drive, including the rivers, trees, birds, cars, and people. How sad. I finally had to say, “Stop looking at your phone when we drive. Pay attention to the road and the other drivers around us.” Before she got behind the wheel, she learned the rules of the road by looking away from her phone. We required her to tell us many rules and directions before she was allowed to drive. Encourage your children to put their phones down in the car and pay attention to the world around them.
What I have learned: Stop! Stop! Stop! Take a break; you will survive for one hour, one afternoon, or one day without it! Model this self-control for your kids. Putting your phone down and looking around really opens up the whole world.
While editing Raising the Well-Adjusted Child: A Parent’s Manual, I had the pleasure of reliving so many wonderful memories from raising my children. Some memories made me smile and feel very warm inside. Others made me remember the feeling of trudging through mud and being stuck. Like the night when both of the girls were sick and vomiting, while my husband slept through it all. I’ll spare you the gorey details, but I am sure you’ll be able to fill in the blanks.
To make a long story short, I heard one daughter, so I got up to help her. I got her settled back in bed in clean sheets. Then came the chain reaction. My other daughter started; I got her back to bed and changed her sheets. Then, back and forth they went. When I grabbed the two-year-old again, I carried her to the hall bathroom. Well, we did not make it in time, so the hallway got a good dose of you know what. I thought to myself, “How could they have so much in their little bodies?” Yep, my husband was still sleeping in our bedroom at the other end of the house. In his defense, I thought I could handle it, but that did not happen. I remember running through the house covered in vomit and crying. Waking my husband, not kindly at all, I said, “Get up! I need help!” He was stunned and confused but got out of bed to help me. He has always been a great help when needed. Finally, I had someone to help me clean up the mess! When the kids were bathed and in clean jammies, my husband and I each took a child and sat up all night waiting for them to get some sleep. It was sheer exhaustion for all four of us.
That night was horrible at the time, but I can look back and laugh about it now. It was like a scene from a sitcom. I think to myself, “Why didn’t I just bring a bucket with me? Why did I keep the girls in their rooms? Why didn’t I wake my husband earlier?” Why? Why? Why? At the time, I just couldn’t even think straight. It was the middle of the night, and I was exhausted and overwhelmed. There were so many simple solutions, but when you are trudging through mud, your perspective can get a bit murky. And let’s get serious – parenting is exhausting sometimes.
What I have learned: It is going to be okay. You will get through nights like these. It seems like an eternity, but, thank goodness, they don’t happen often.
“You were so relaxed you didn’t even seem nervous.”
That was the comment from the host after the podcast. Little did she know, I practiced conversations and answers to made up questions in my head a million times in the weeks leading up to the interview. I checked the time zones twice to make sure I had the correct time for our zoom meeting. I picked out my outfit days in advance. I colored my hair (believe it or not, this is not my natural color – I think silver is my natural hair color now). I waxed my face and whitened my teeth! Wow – what I had to do to get ready for a podcast! But I think she meant that the conversation flowed naturally. From my perspective, it definitely did. I think that when you talk about something you are passionate about, something you love, something you live, you can speak with ease.
Children have been my life for at least 25 years. I have always connected with kids and have always loved their honesty and wit. I love their curiosity and their compassion for others. I prefer to sit at the kids’ table during family events because they are funny and like to laugh, while adults tend to dwell on problems and negativity. Kids want to share their hopes and dreams, all while still being accepted by those around them. Kids are what I know. I can comfortably talk to them, learn from them, and engage with them. I like to problem-solve with them and hear their thoughts on life. I know that children thrive on structure and routine, just like adults do. We talked a lot about structures and routines during the podcast, specifically how children need to know what to expect. Our kiddos need to know the schedule for the day more than we think they do. They need to know the plan.
On the podcast, we shared stories about our kids and our own parenting faux pas. We talked about how we, as parents, needed our kids to be on a routine as much as the kids needed it. We discussed the repercussions of a diversion from the routine and how we would pay for it later in the evening. For example, if we let our kids skip a nap, we ended up with cranky babies that night. We talked about the importance of asking for help when we needed it. And, we talked about how parenting is extremely difficult but gets easier each day.
It is my passion to help parents raise their children. It is my hope that my work inspires parents to help one another.
What I have learned: It does take a village to raise our children. It is okay to ask for help.
Check out The Kentucky Momma Podcast - Consistency and Scheduling