Mum’s the Word

Ten years of Mother’s Days.

Y’know that scene in Contact, when Jodie Foster’s character is hurtling through the wormhole? That’s sort of what our last decade feels like. We’re vomiting out the other side into calmer space, and it’s still a little fraught (what family with kids isn’t?) but holding intelligible conversations with children certainly helps.

I am not a naturally maternal mother, I don’t think. I was not the sort of girl who dreamed of getting married and having babies. And when I did meet my husband, we kinda sorta knew we wanted to have kids when we were ready. But, the Universe had vastly different plans and knocked us up before we’d even exchanged vows.

So began our bewildering, mentally unprepared tumble into parenthood.

Now we have an almost ten year old son and a daughter, who will be firm in telling you that she is not just seven, she is seven and a half.

I’m not a coddler or a helicopter parent, but I know how to comfort, and offer solace, and take care. My children are not the be all and end all of me, and I don’t think I’m an intrusive parent. They are independent, but never shy away from a hug. They think about stuff, and ask questions. They eat their vegetables, even if they leave the chicken nuggets behind. They do their homework before they go outside. They do as they’re told. They are funny, and loving, and spirited kids, each with their own talents. They are selfish, but care about the planet and other people. They are not yet masters of their own emotions.

At the end of the day, I am happy to ‘tuck them in’ and perform our secret handshakes, play thumb wars and occasionally read to them, even if I groan about doing so, because I’m knackered and all I really want to do is make a cup of tea, sit next to my husband and watch the next episode of The Blacklist. I get exasperated at having to repeatedly remind them to wash their hands after they use the loo, to not leave drinks and snack wrappers lying around, to put their clean clothes away, to do the jobs they are supposed to do, and to be home at 6:30. No, not 7, 6:30…why?  Because the kitchen closes at 6:30, that’s why.

It’s all really ok; there will come a day when I’ll still be reminding them to do their chores, and to pick up after themselves but they’ll have curfews of 10pm, and I’ll ask them to be careful driving the car.  There will be dates, and broken hearts, and proms, and college, and whatever path they choose after that.  Or no college, if my son has his way.  But he won’t.  So.

I might have lost myself for a while there during the early years but look at what I found…a better me, a wiser me, a cheekier, classy, gracefully clumsy, more well-rounded me.

I am not my kids, and my kids are not me.

Without each other though, we wouldn’t be the wonderful unit that we are.

Happy Mother’s Day. And that includes furkid Mothers too!

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Friday Fictioneers – The Other Five Percent

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Photo courtesy – Randy Mazie

The Other Five Percent

Word count:  100

They did it themselves, the kids. Billy was the oldest, at ten, so he balanced the lightest, Rufus, on his shoulders while Max and Sadie steadied them. But Rufus was young and it was all very confusing so the word was spelled wrong. It didn’t really matter; no-one came around here anyway so they knew they were ninety-five percent safe.  

“Why ninety-five?” Max asked.

Sadie cocked her head to the side and placed an insouciant finger on her young, ruby lips.

“Because Maxie darling, there’s always the possibility.”

Across the street, camouflaged by bushes, a man with a knife waited.

Hello and welcome

Some mornings after the kids have gone their way and I am in the car to work, I think that I need to find a quote or an affirmation for my day.  Much like holding tightly to a balloon string, I hope that it will keep me steady and aloft during what could be a turbulent day or one that is slightly off-kilter.

I forget often that I am my own balloon and string.  Sure, the words I would eventually find might offer solace and comfort or be a momentary guide but essentially, I am the only one who can glide above the crap.

Having said that, some things I have read have stuck and are helpful.  One phrase (which I shall paraphrase because the exact wordage has faded) goes along the lines of “Whatever knocks at the door of your soul, be it anger, fear, disappointment, happiness, joy, whatever…open the door and welcome it.  Whatever it is will not stay but while it is there, be a most welcome and gracious host.”  I take it to mean that it is up to me to observe and feel and to avoid being carried away by undercurrent to a place where I am no longer in control.a_red_balloon

I’m not quite sure why I feel a faded shade of blue today.  It’s possible in part to my son’s expected reaction to starting a new school and subsequent sickness on day two.  It’s also possible in part to the attachment I have to my car which will be an unattachment very soon, I discovered yesterday.

It’s silly to feel the sting of an impending cheerio for an inanimate object but my car has many memories attached to it.  Since I got her in 2010, I have run the gamut of situations and emotions.  She has been there for me through every time capsule of anger, guilt, rage, fear, love, passion, wonder, confusion, worry, joy, hope.  Like a soothing blue angel, she wrapped herself around me, comforted me and allowed me room to express.  She opened up and gave me space to be lifted when I felt at my most happy.  To feel this strongly is trivial and natural at the same time and I will miss her for a while when she is gone.

Also, I am, as the English part of me would say, gutted, that I may be unable to accept a sudden opportunity.  This, due to the new Autumn schedule for our kids.  On one hand, I am delighted that we are finally able fund extra-curricular activities and yet the timing puts a crimp on my own loves.  And so, a feeling of ambiguity has stepped across my threshold and I am breathing deeply to allow it room.

How fickle the human nature.  How wondrous.  To be able to feel happy and lithe only to tumble down to feel the opposite.  Up and down we go, and around and around.

All the while I continue to learn and grow.  I open the door every day to whatever is knocking.  Some days the balloon stands no chance against my guest and I do get swept up. For some time there is no way for my feet to touch the floor but I am so grateful when they finally do, because they always do…eventually.

And there I am again, at my front door, holding my own balloon and string, taking a deep breath.

Daily Prompt: Opposite Day. The photos…

I thought, ya know what, I’m going to post some photos anyway as an extension of the Daily Prompt:  Opposite Day.   It’s rare to find a family pic on here.  Nor do I put up pics of the things that make me laugh.

Today I will make an exception.

Cat memes crack me up:

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My kids.

She’ll be seven in September and he’ll be nine in a few weeks.  They are funny, loving, kind, bickering, fighting, pestering, adoring, hugging, cute, smart, forgiving, nurturing, caring, empathetic, lying, nose-picking, questioning, obeying, disobeying, fun-loving, spontaneous, adventurous, shy, polite, rude, loud, quiet, rambunctious, bored, enthusiastic and mine (and husband’s, of course).  We love them to bits.

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I Am and the kids

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When I was four, I was sexually abused. I don’t mind putting it out there, not that I bandy it around like a national flag, in fact, it hardly ever comes up at all. Dealt with all of that ten years ago; 18 months of therapy put paid to over 30 years of vacant soul-searching. I went in scrabbled, confused and with all these strings from the past hanging from me like one of those Australian cork hats. I came out the other side filled up, released and happy with just being me. I know I was the one to do the work but I will always be grateful for the help and guidance of a therapist who I still believe to this day, was meant for me.

So. Yes. That happened. And plenty of other things have occurred since those therapeutic, hard-won days. Some wonderful things like meeting and marrying my husband – an event I believed happened to other people, even the loud, angry lady at the gas station, but never to me. I’ve given birth to two wonderful children. And cats. Well, I haven’t given birth to cats…that’s just weird. We’ve had three cats. Somewhere along the trail of the last ten years, the ‘me’ faded away. Life turned ugly. Businesses fought for and lost. Houses left behind to grow moldy. Money scraped from here and there to survive. No trips. No holidays. No bikes. No gifts. No celebrations. No new clothes. No haircuts. We did what we could do for the kids in terms of Christmas and birthdays but it’s been a tough six years.

On the upside, we have been incredibly fortunate to have had understanding landlords, business associates with big hearts and good friends with listening ears. We also had each other, our little family, but the stresses and strains on our marriage were very apparent during my darkest time, probably toward the end of 2011 when our beloved restaurant was beginning its slow flail to an inevitable crash-landing. I stood on the verge of someplace really dangerous; a place I had never considered before and never want to return to and it took the love and light of a special person to guide me away. And it was then that I began the second phase of my journey. Again, I did the work but I’m truly grateful for that person’s guidance and know that they were meant for me.

Now it’s 2013 and life feels like it’s turning around in so many ways, like we’ve been lost at sea for a long time and now we can see land.

I am here.

I am this.

I Am.

And that’s all I need to know. There doesn’t need to be so much work done because I get it. Sure, some days are harder than others. Like the other day. It took me a while to understand what was really happening and how to stop it. There’s something about the term ‘ego’ that bothers me but it’s also quite fitting; it’s obnoxious, overbearing and shoulders its way through my life. It’s sneaky. It put me in a donkey position with the dangling carrot; I slapped my lips and trudged behind it, looking forward to its deliciousness. Ultimately, the carrot, out of my control, was whipped away and I was left with nothing but fear, disappointment and hurt. The ego is so well-versed. It has had years to hone its skill. My fledgling self, although has been around since before I was born, is still a relatively new concept to me, so the ego might have the upper hand sometimes. I’m learning its ways and learning through the ups and downs that I Am is where it’s at. Where I’m at. In me, the stillness. The calm while the hurricane can rage around. I also know that although there’s no work involved, sometimes it’s gonna feel like it.

I ask myself, how do I teach this to my kids? How do I teach them to understand the self and the ego? My daughter understood the concept of spirit almost immediately but my son, well, he’s eight and more interested in Mario Cart, Legos and drawing comics but I hope some of what I’ve explained so far, sticks. Spirit is one thing; how to explain that the mind and its thoughts can sometimes be your enemy? Enemy sounds harsh too but really, when you boil it down, it can be your own worst. I remember a couple of months ago on the way to school, suddenly feeling the urge to tell them to have good thoughts and how not to believe every one that pops into their heads. In the rearview mirror, they eyed each other like Mommy was going loopy. I broke it down to Lego actually…said how do you think Lego’s came about? Shrug. Well, someone had a thought. Someone thought “Hey, I wonder if I made something like this, would it be fun to play with?” and from that thought, the thing was made and today, we have Legos. The same with everything you see – it all started with a thought. Well, that made their eyes boggle and out came a torrent of “What about that lamppost?” and “Ooh, what about that dog?” and “Ooh, what about the fart I just did?” cue giggle fits. But they understood. It was a basic explanation, appropriate for their age, without becoming convoluted and boring.

I expanded by saying that not all thoughts are good thoughts. Sometimes we have thoughts about people without knowing all about them. Or sometimes we have thoughts about ourselves that make us feel badly about ourselves. Those are the kinds of thoughts that we shouldn’t really believe. They became a little confused by that but I could see that the notion had tucked itself in their minds like a little seed.

And that made me happy; I hope I am giving them something positive to build on.

Lisa…

Take it as it comes.

I’ve lived here…

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Plymouth, England

and here…

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Charlottesville, VA

and many, many other places in between. Currently, I live here…

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Delaware

It’s been a gypsy kind of life, minus the caravan. Although, I’d love to have one of these…

Gypsy Caravan

…in my back garden, all nestled in some tall overgrown grass with some hollyhocks and foxgloves. Imagine lounging on the steps during a warm fall evening with a glass of chilled white wine and some noshy things to nosh on. Mmmm…

Anyhoo…yes, I’ve been picking up my stakes and throwing them down all over England and the United States. Made such a mess, you could probably track me down in Borneo if you wanted to. Not going there though, too many creepy crawlies.

My Dad was a Navy man, you see. British Navy, if you please, which meant moving from one Naval married quarters to the next, until I grew out of the primary (elementary) school years and needed a place to buckle down with regularity. And that’s how we ended up in Plymouth, England. Actually, we’d lived there twice before during our early years (that was a fun time – leaving a school at the age of five only to return five years later? All the kids I knew had grown up and around each other. Nowhere else have I ever felt quite like the outsider as I did during the final year in that school.)

Anyway, yes, during my secondary school (middle) years, I lived in that house in Plymouth for six years.

And here’s where I just blew my own mind across the desk. That is the longest I’ve ever lived in a house. From the age of twelve to eighteen. I’m forty-three now and the most I’ve stuck down roots in a house, not a town – a house or apartment…would be three years. Sometimes, I know my up-and-moves came from possessing a restless spirit. Sometimes it was circumstance; a broken relationship here, a job loss there, eviction notice or a condemned house (yes, that happened) – they all necessitated a move.

Just to backtrack a second, it’s probably safe to say that in my entire life, I’ve never settled down. My Mum’s marriage fell apart around the time that I was born (fabulous!), so was forced to find where she could in terms of housing. As a single, working mother in the early 70’s, I’m sure it was no easy feat. She’s told me over the years how she met my Dad (not my “step dad”, because he actually went one step further and adopted me) at a Halloween party when he was docked in Norfolk, VA and how she was sort of her friend’s wing girl, except it was my Mum who met her “One.”

So, at two and a half, I moved from the States to England. New Dad. New family. New environment. A lot to adjust to, right? Even as a toddler. These days, there would be much care taken for the well-being of the toddler and the family as a whole. But back then, there were no outreaches, no helping hands, no sympathetic groups. You had to get on with it. Stop yer grumblin’ and get to work!

Here I am now with two kids of my own; both in elementary school and one not far from the middle. I was adamant before the oldest started school that they would not be shifted and shipped around like me. That they would have a stable education and that they would grow up in one house. Images of my son bounding in after some extra-curricular activity, of my daughter standing on the beautiful butterfly staircase before going to prom…

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…Yes, these very stairs. This was our house, the one we dreamed of living in until the kids went to college. Buuuuut….circumstances outside of our control forced us to move, and move, and move again. And, quite frankly, that gorgeous house should never have been ours. It was out of our league.

I know kids move around all the time. And kids are resilient. Kids bounce back. That’s what everyone kept telling me when mine had to bear the brunt of switching schools. They took the changes in stride, shed a few tears, balked a little in the mornings but on the whole, seven months in, they’re doing just fine.

I turned out fine too, despite the lack of concern for my true well being as a toddler and the subsequent trauma that occurred which might be a bit too personal for sharing. That, and I’ve recovered quite nicely from it so why dredge it all up again, right?

We have more house moves on the cards, I know for a fact and with each one, I become more weary; I wanted to plant those roots and watch them grow (excuse the French Kiss line) a long time ago. I actually really like where we are; it’s the first time in a long time that a place feels like home.

So, circumstance might have some control over the situation but how I deal with it and how my family sees me dealing with it is the most important thing. I just wish I hadn’t unpacked ALL the boxes in a fit of “Goddamn it, I’m fed up with living my life in boxes, I’m going to open up everything and put everything in its place,” when we moved in.

Lisa…