Category Archives: motherhood

This is How We Say Good-Bye

So, it’s all very, very good. We’ve had college in mind for 18 years. We’ve saved for it for 18 years. We didn’t really hope she’d live in the basement.

We paid for books, drove her to games and rehearsals, pushed her to work hard. We filled out the applications, did more than stress our minds out, cross our fingers and say our prayers. But geez, this is the deal? She actually LEAVES?

I’m¬†paying for this pit in my stomach?

College.

This picture sits on my desk. This was my baby Cope starting kindergarten, just a little while ago.

I remember her so well at this age. She had a little brother and a baby sister who accompanied her to school. She wore a yellow rain jacket and Elmo backpack. On the first day of kindergarten she came home and threw a ginormous tantrum, collapsing on the couch in a deep sleep from sheer exhaustion. This would continue to happen throughout her childhood ūüôā

She lives with passion, this girl.

What a privilege it has been to be her mother. There are no perfect mothers, but I have tried to be a good one. I’ve pondered: Do I regret other “opportunities” I didn’t take so I could be home more and raise children? Do I regret any of the stories read, the bedtime routines, the wake up and go to sleep times? I regret none of it. I have no greater accomplishment.

Suddenly she’s this girl: so confident and smart and compassionate and beautiful.

We had a great August. Slow days of packing and purging and sorting. What to bring to college when you have to put it on an airplane (2 carry-ons per passenger, nothing over 50lbs.)

We also had hostage-like negotiation sessions over clothes – she is always raiding my closet!A certain sister already had her room packed up before Cope left, chomping at the bit to move downstairs instead of across the hall from mom and dad.

Cope and I and flew across the country, hovering above the great Salt Lake. It was getting real.

I was that really strange mom taking photos of my grown daughter while she slept beside me.¬†I found myself gazing at her skin and eyelashes, wondering how this thing called “TIME” works. I thought of Erma Bombeck’s poem, WHY DON’T YOU GROW UP?

Guess what? They do.

Although Utah is a desert, we went hiking and found TREES!

We stayed with my sister and family where Cope walked little Autumn to first grade. On the first day, Autumn cried and clung to Cope. Cope looked at me with big eyes and panic, mouthing, “WHAT DO I DO?”

I said: Give her a hug and kiss, I’ll see you later, and walk away.

Oh dear, I feared I would be Autumn in a few days.

We made it! She has a room key. I don’t. What the heck?

We love her dorm and roommate!

After buying out the entire local Target (when people tell you that bringing your child to college is the most expensive trip you will make – THEY ARE RIGHT. I, the tight-fisted budget mom was suddenly spending her feelings on lamps and hangers and “Honey, look at this llama lamp, do you want it for your room???! No? How about mug with your initial or how about M for Mom? Make-up? Do you want make-up? What can I buy you???”) Who was this woman???

We spent HOURS debating about room decor (Believe me, Pinterest IS NOT YOUR FRIEND). However, after agonizing over the tapestry and bedding for literally DAYS, we had just what she wanted. Bless you, Amazon, and your free Prime 2-Day shipping.

Roommates?!

“Dad, mom knows she’s not staying, right?”

We walked around campus, reliving the college years (Gregor and I met at BYU!) Cope patiently endured us.

¬†This is a much bigger pond than our little town…

Of course we had to get pictures with the BYU cougar. “Moooooom!” And yes, we are now completely dressed from head to toe in True Blue BYU fan gear. I’m sorry if you find me annoying for the next four years ūüôā

On the bright side. The BYU bookstore has the best cinnamon gummy bears IN THE WORLD. This is not a joke. For $2.50 a bag, I’ll just eat her way through college.

On the wall in the bookstore: We went to spy on her the next day at freshman orientation (we didn’t see her). Um, is this what they mean by “helicopter parents”? Clearly, we are part of the problem.

We made up an excuse to meet up for a few minutes before our flight took off. When she came walking across campus she looked like she could be in college. Oh wait…she is?

Final hugs good-bye, in the Joseph Smith building, where Gregor really fell in love with me ūüôā

And so it begins.

We left her in the capable hands of mighty Mount Timpanogus, my most favorite mountain. Can you see her lying across the top, left to right? Keep an eye on my girl, Timp.

She will, as this girl does, read. And study. And learn. She will, as BYU’s motto states: “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.”

The Class of 2017. “You Are the Y.”

Excuse me while I go get a tissue. As Gregor says, “this is the happiest sad I think I’ve ever felt.”

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Graduation

Well, we did it. 

I can say “we” because y’all know this day¬†is a family affair.

This milestone – wow.

It is the toughest paradox of love: letting go and holding on.

I’m so proud of this girl.¬†She¬†has worked really really hard. She has hiked and sang and ran and studied. She has cried and laughed and prayed and LEARNED SO MUCH. She stumbled and fell and got up many many times. She sailed the ocean blue, was elected school leader, played Belle and freaked out¬†over finance class (the drama runs deep :). I’m so grateful for it all.

I¬†give thanks for a tremendous¬†education, an amazing advisor who not only advised, but fed and loved her. I give thanks to the many fabulous teachers that not only noticed, but SAW her. Cope was born a “faculty brat,” raised on campus with 12 dorm boys until we moved off campus, and has always aspired to walk across this specific stage. The “bittersweet” cliche? Totally true.

This girl¬†made me a mother and I’m in awe of her. There’s the other¬†paradox: the child becomes the teacher.

Brene Brown says the etymology of the word “paradox” captures the heart of what it means to love. Greek origins joins the two words para (contrary to ) and dokein (opinion.) The Latin paradoxum means “seemingly absurd but true.”

Parenting captures that exactly Рseemingly absurd but true!

It is seemingly absurd that we are here…but it’s also true. It’s seemingly absurd that my “baby girl” Cope (who was just wearing a onesie!) will not live under our shared¬†roof this fall.

It’s seemingly absurd that I will survive this. But alas, that is true, too.

This day of graduation is a paradox of joy and grief. There is absolutely no control over either one. And I know very well that in life there is no joy without sadness. There is no sadness without experiencing that great joy.

Now excuse me while I go find my tissues. This is a happy day ūüôā

 

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Need to See the Kids? Make an Appointment!

I used to actually think that when my kids were older, life wouldn’t be so crazy – that life would be easier¬†and might¬†actually slow down…oh, silly rabbit.

Life is going by at warp speed. If our family isn’t incredibly intentional about scheduling time together, we are the ships passing in the night. How easy it is to lose sight of one another. How easy it is to drift.

Paige and I are still joined at the hip. Brynne is in middle school but is slowly weaning herself from my clutches (sob.)

But high school? It’s a whole new world – that often doesn’t include you. With all the wonderful activities, sports, clubs, student government, classes, musicals, and friend time, it’s more like a weekly wave. Weekends, especially Sundays, are sacred, but during the week, more often than not, I’m getting the younger girls to bed when the teens come home. We say hello, how was your day, sorry¬†about the drama, do your homework, see you tomorrow.

In some ways it feels like high school is the¬†beginning of the end – you send them off and just hope and pray you’ve taught them how to behave, keep their pants on, and be kind to others.

This is how I usually see Cope – bye, Mom!

Cope with the backpack I used in high school and college!

But you see, stuff has to get done. Like work applications, scholarships, scouting merit badges, emails sent, college visits, and on and on. And you, as the parent, can’t or shouldn’t do the job. What to do? Remind? Nag? Talk about it incessantly until you see action? It’s exhausting for all parties, and tremendously annoying.

Let’s just say that none of these tactics were helping our relationship.

Note: the time to remind the kids about something isn’t while they’re exiting the vehicle (um, me.)

“Don’t forget to…”

“Yep, Mom, I got it.”

But, hmm. Do they?

But ho – here’s a strategy that’s working REALLY WELL! (an idea from the fabulous Happier podcast featuring Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft.)

A weekly one-hour appointment with the teens. It’s obvious, right? Well, it’s also genius.

At first, the idea was met with skepticism. Cope said, “Uh, honestly mom? I don’t think I have an hour a week for you.” Good thing she laughed after she said it. But she was right – we were having a hard time finding an hour to even have a conversation.

But she penciled me in, and that week we refined some essays, responded to college emails, and got those scholarships sent off. Done. So much relief! And you know what? It was FUN. I also got juicy tidbits of high school life (buzzword: “bralette.”) WIN.

Experimenting with the boy was harder because what we really needed to work on were merit badges and HE DOES NOT WANT TO DO THEM. Me neither.

“Are you ready for our scouting date?” I said in my overly cheerful annoying voice. However, I know the way to the boy’s heart:¬†MEAT.

Thanks for the meat, mom!

It’s the habit of pairing. If boy associates meat and yummy food and positive attention from mom, he’s more likely to cooperate. Total success. We only went half an hour and we got the job done.

On my calendar I now have a weekly note to self: schedule Cope and Nelson hour.

The great thing is they aren’t resisting it. (shhh…I think they might secretly enjoy spending time with me ūüôā )

My advice:

  • Schedule a weekly¬†meeting.
  • Try to be consistent with time and day, but even if it changes, set the appointment before you adjourn so it’s not one and done.
  • Try REALLY HARD not to nag about scheduled¬†matters during the week. Save it for your date.

Your meeting doesn’t even need to be for things you HAVE TO DO. It could be a walk together or¬†a pedicure, but as time is teaching me: these final moments with¬†our kids under the same roof is Precious Time.

My boy and I didn’t get our hour in this weekend because I was sick and he had homework, but right before we said good-bye this morning he said, “I think we can do our hour tonight.” Oh good, I said, happily surprised. “Maybe you could defrost some meat?”

Check. Hey, whatever it takes, buddy, ’cause I sure do love you.

(Marriage? It also works wonders!)

Let me know how this goes, dear readers. Successes? Failures? Already doing it? I’d love to hear.

 

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

  1. “I’ve learned how to be patient and now I’m done being patient!”

  2. “Sometimes when I miss you I go into your room and smell your perfume.”

  3. “When I’m a mom we will never use plastic – feel guilty!”

  4. “You didn’t make a snowman with me like you said and I want you to think about what you’ve done and how you’ve taken a bite out of my soul!”

  5. “Our family is so weird! Who listens to this music in the car???”

  6. “I could not be mute! I would negotiate something else with Ursula.”

  7. “I learned a new way to strangle someone today.”

  8. “Can you please not die before my wedding?”

  9. “Thank you for being my mommy!”

  10. “Mother, this is not dinner. This is a wee nibble.”

  11. ¬†“You were meant to have wavy hair, Mama. None of that straight stuff.” *

More Real Quotes From Real Kids HERE

*a husband quote!

I’d like it to be known that¬†I made a snowman with Paige and was not the one responsible for taking a bite out of her soul.

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Waiting at the Kitchen Table

And…a new school year begins. As always, we are off and running. Are you running, too? Let’s take¬†slow breaths and think calm thoughts. This helps stave off the frazzled, panicky, snapping¬†mama¬†that is so fun to be around. Or is that just me?

Last year I remember thinking, “There is nothing more I can add to my plate. This pace is insane.” Well, there is more this year, including more emotion as my darling Cope is a senior. Oh dear,¬†I need to change the subject now…

So anyway, a new school year always reminds me to sloooow down.¬†Which is the definition of irony, isn’t it?

I have two mantras at the moment:

Remember: If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.

Remember: Once your direction is clear, you can give attention to pace.

Priorities became very obvious after this summer. In a crisis,¬†family comes to the forefront every time. Perhaps we needn’t wait for the crisis’ to prioritize.

I’m going to tell you about a very special mother who has taught me a lot about priorities: Ginny B.

Ginny B. has a very wonderful son named Benny B.

If you don’t know Benny B, I’m very sorry. For he’s a good boy to know.

He is one of those boys we point to and say, “Try to be like Benny B.”¬†He is kind and honest and funny and always has a big smile that lights up all the space around him. After high school Benny B. went on to study and play basketball at Brandeis University – and he is still a good boy!

Well, good boys don’t get grown¬†by accident now, do they? Just by knowing Benny B., you have to admire the family behind the scenes.

The Professor and I attended Benny B.’s¬†college graduation a few years ago. I had met his mother, Ginny B. before, but I was very struck of how obviously Benny B. loved her.

I felt  РEnvy? Longing? Wishing? When my children flew the nest, would we have  that kind of relationship?

“Benny B., you and your mom seem really close.”

“Oh,” Benny B. said. “She’s my best friend. I tell her everything.”

Say what?

I pounced. “How did you do that?” I asked Ginny B. “Tell me all of your secrets!”

“You know, Amy,” she said. “I just always made sure I was waiting at the kitchen table. No matter how old they were or how late it was, I just always tried to be there when they came home.”

I have a pang of guilt every time I think of Ginny B.¬†because¬†there are few things I like more than climbing into my bed…at like, 8. As my children grow older they are not tucked in at 7:30 every night. Darn it. Hmmm. Could the kitchen table be substituted for say…my bed?

I have decided this is a doable substitute.

I’m waiting, baby! (zzzz….)

Benny B. and the great Ginny: IMG_3712

I don’t know a lot about Ginny B. but I know¬†motherhood hasn’t been¬†all honey dew and butterflies. The family has made a lot of sacrifices for Ginny B. to be able to stay home. They make due¬†on one income. Their home is modest and well cared for. There are touches of Ginny everywhere, from the plethora of hostas lining the front walkway, to the homemade quilts hung over furniture. There’s nothing showy about their lifestyle; only comfortable and welcoming (including a lot of delicious homemade¬†food.)

I’m a mom who needs reminders like this. The pull of the world is strong, my young padawans. There are opportunities to be snatched, and of course we need jobs and money to live. But there’s a point where we don’t actually need to accumulate more stuff or more status or¬†more.

Ginny B. made the decision to be waiting when her children came home. Let the chips fall where they may. This is how the chips fell: Her children love their mother. They are best friends. They tell her everything. And I just love that.

IMG_3921Ginny B. even loves my children, too.

Now, I’m sure Ginny B. and Benny B. have had many “moments.”¬†Ginny isn’t, shall we say, a timid or docile flower. For goodness sake, her hair is red. She’s opinionated and fiery! But gosh darn it, she waits and she listens and the children talk.

IMG_4079Here is Benny B. and The Professor. They both have great hair. If you need hair product tips, just sit quietly and listen to their conversations. It’s both hilarious and enlightening.

Back to Ginny B. waiting at the kitchen table.

Remember the most important 9 minutes?

Now listen: this is not a post to cause you motherhood guilt!¬†For goodness sake, if you can’t always be home when the kids walk through the door, they’re not ruined. This story was just good for me to witness. It is good to see a boy with good hair turn out so well. It is really good to see Benny B. love his mother so much and to be reminded that mothers can’t be outsourced. Feel special, gosh darn it. You’re NEEDED.

Carole, a friend of mine, lost her mother many many years ago, and I haphazardly scribbled this down when she spoke – “I couldn’t wait to get off the bus and run to her, even in high school. Even when she was gone I found myself wanting to tell her things – and I can’t wait for the day when I can tell her all the things I want to tell her.”

The thing is, if we’re not around, they can’t tell us all the things.

My mother was a mom who waited for us (and she likes sleep even more than I do.) Growing up, she placed above the entrance to the kitchen: The Gathering Place. (Take heart: my mother hates to cook!)

But even when we are all grown, and my parents moved across the country, she insisted on¬†a home that was big enough for us all to come and¬†gather. And she still drives a minivan! (She says it’s for comfort, but I secretly think she likes to pick up stray¬†grandchildren…:) ) Even now that I’m a pretend grown-up I know she’s¬†waiting. #lucky.

Benny B. and my boy:DSC_0961Wait for them. And they’ll keep coming home.

Thank you, Ginny B.

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I Swore I Wouldn’t Do It…Then I Did

"Seriously, mom. It's such a dinosaur."

“Seriously, mom. It’s such a dinosaur.”

“Our children will not have iPhones. I don’t care how uncool it is. They will absolutely not carry the internet in their pocket. Ever.”

I’m pretty¬†flexible. I’m an obliger (take the test!) It would be¬†my¬†great horror to be viewed as a megalomaniac.

Sometimes¬†I should care more, but I just don’t. Where to go to dinner?¬†I don’t really care¬†(as long as it’s not McDonald’s). The Professor wants to¬†choose the¬†color of the van interior? Have at it. You want some input¬†on a new living room rug design? Either one is fine. I just don’t care. It feels inconsequential. It doesn’t matter.¬†Yes, sometimes I should care more. For example, I’m prone to impatiently hacking¬†my hair off every few months (I really shouldn’t.)

But there are other Amy Absolutes:

Thou shalt not have a DVD player in the car. Because children should be bored occasionally, daydream, and look out the window. Maybe even talk to me.

Thou shalt not do all the chores. Because a working family is a happy family! And the mother is not the slave of the family.

Thou shalt not speak rudely to mom and dad. Because honoring thy mother and thy father is a worthy endeavor.

Thou shalt not use my toothbrush. Or I will never speak to you again. The Professor has had to ask for forgiveness on multiple occasions. 

Oh yes, these things do matter. Technology use is my hot-button. I can get more fired-up about technology rules than most political candidates. Kids and¬†iPhones. No. Why in the world would I put that device in my child’s pocket when there is a world to explore? When technology¬†addiction is rampant, when a child’s brain is so malleable and still forming?

No, we shall frolic and sing with our bonnets and aprons on at all times….

The hills are alive with the sound of music!

The hills are alive…

I’m¬†sad and terrified when¬†so many of our children do not know how to read a textbook and pull¬†out cohesive “take-aways.” When¬†The Classics are “boring.” When Google is so easy, that “hard” is avoided at all costs. When English courses have to cut out whole books, curriculum, and reading because our teens¬†just don’t have the brain power to sit still, absorb, and ponder Anna Karenina. I liked this post.

And yeah, I blame technology for some of¬†that. I read less because of my phone. It sits on my bedside table, putting me to sleep and waking me up. All the dings, alerts, and Twitter notifications that go off in our¬†pockets, pulling us away from absorbing, focusing, and being “all in.” I see¬†the effect¬†in my classroom every.single.day. I¬†fight that battle every.single.day.

Two years ago I wrote¬†about my gollum-like fascination after finally getting an iPhone. It’s been life-changing. I can actually find your house now with that nifty GPS! I keep an on-line calendar, use reminders, check Instagram, comment on Facebook and blogs, schedule appointments – I LOVE my phone. I¬†love¬†it. I love it too much. Which is why I wanted to keep it out of the hands of my darlings as long as possible.

“My friends make fun of me everyday,” The Boy tells me. After revealing he had to ask permission to use technology at home, his friend literally rolled on the floor laughing. Now, every time he sees The Boy using his iPad at school he says, “Nelson, did you¬†ask permission??!”¬†

Come on now, are technology rules SO WRONG?

Last month when I assigned a homework assignment, it involved downloading the Adobe Voice app. Every single student whipped out their smart phone. I realized maybe my high school kids were right…they were the oddballs. But aren’t oddballs adorable?

My oldest darling, Cope, is a junior in high school. She has a flip phone, which is “absolutely mortifying.” The Boy, a freshman, flat out refused. He would rather not have a phone than to be seen with something “so lame.” Which sounds terribly materialistic, but there are a few things in a boy’s life that really matter (girls, meat, shoes…and phones?)

Let us back track¬†to last week when The Professor said, “I think we should get you a new phone for Mother’s Day.” My contract was up, you see, and I’d been drooling over the new and improved camera feature. I didn’t object to The Professor’s wishes ūüôā

Yesterday, we giddily (read: me) visited a Verizon store (where the customer service is out of this world, awesome) and discovered that not only could I get a new phone, but we could upgrade to a better plan (text me! I now have unlimited texting!!!!) and¬†also transfer my daughter’s phone number to my older iPhone and pay LESS than what we were paying for her flip phone.

Ah, geez.

What’s a mom to do?

We took the deal.

Yep, I sold my child’s imagination for a few silver coins. The world is ending.

I had a moment. “Wait, wait, wait! I only want her to be able to take photos, text and call – THAT’S IT!” It turns out we can control the cellular data (for $5/month!) but if she has wi-fi? Well, it’s free reign.

I felt ashamedly resigned. I rationalized like this: she’s a good girl. she has a good imagination. she still loves to read. and sing. and yeah, she’s a bit addicted to youtube videos but mostly if they involve Lin-Manuel or cheesy BYU studio C outtakes. Also, I know that technology, used the right way, is AWESOME. We can change the world right from home!

At least, as far as I know. Maybe I don’t know. Maybe they’re all tech addicts at 3a.m. If you know of such behavior, you better tell me.

We held out for¬†almost 17 years. Maybe it was time¬†to extend the leash a little further. In a few short years, mom isn’t going to be around to set the parameters¬†(I weep.)

The best part was having our stellar Verizon gal, Kelly, transfer Cope’s old number and plan to my older iPhone, knowing her flip phone would suddenly stop working. She was going to freak out. When Cope came home from school I showed her my new phone, which she drooled over, as I casually asked, “I called you today – why didn’t you call me back?”

“Something is wrong with my phone.”

“You must have dropped it.”

“No, mom, I swear. I didn’t drop it!”

“How sad,” I said. She sighed.

At this point I very slowly took out my old iPhone. Before I could say anything she screamed. And started hopping up and down. It was rather wonderful.

After having yet another technology discussion (I like to be thorough ūüôā ) she reached out her hands, snatched the iPhone, and whispered,¬†“Precious.”

Heaven help us all.

Alas, it’s not all roses around here. The Boy has taken this injustice very personally. We obviously have favorite children.

“Mom,” he says, following me around. “You’ve got to let me have Snapchat now – you gave Cope an iPhone!”

That, my friends, is the latest battle. What say ye? Do tell.

 

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Real Quotes From Real Kids

Just because it’s fun. And because a mom needs a record of such things!

IMG_2121

1. “I’m going to marry David Archuletta and we won’t talk – we’ll just sing to each other.”

2. “If Santa doesn’t bring Pringles, Christmas will be ruined!”

3. “Unbelievable. It’s unbelievable that you could be that piggy. You’re just like Dudley.”

4. “Paige, put your dishes in the dishwasher. (sigh…) She has so much to work on. She’s going to be a terrible mother if she keeps this up.”

5. “I need a good pen! A good pen defines a person!”

6. “I want a goat. It’s good for the environment. I will name her Arabella. And I will toilet train her. Mom, will you take care of her when I go off to college?” (no.)

7. “We all know we can go a year without tater-tots…buy why?” (after mom’s decree)

8. “Do you know how much crap I get for having to ask my parents to use my phone?”

9. “Mommy, I want to tell you something and I don’t want you to ever forget it: you are the best mommy in the whole wide world.” (favorite child status)

10. “You know, for a child who bore four children you have surprisingly small hips.”

The Professor did not contribute to this round as I have not seen the Professor in a great while. We think he still lives here. Occasionally there is a sighting and we wave to one another.

unnamed¬†There he is! Hello, Professor! You’re looking mighty cute with that beard and stern expression on your face. This is the season of the winter widow, where the man is on the road and on the court coaching boys to jump high and shoot big. We are proud of the man. And his boys (they are AWESOME.)

So thank you, darlings, for providing me such entertainment. More real quotes here.

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What My Daughter Has to Say About Helicopter Parents {who, me?}

DSC_0359 2

The problem with educating your children is that they become…educated. When Cope came home from Ocean Classroom¬†(and after a period of love and kindness) I was informed we were doing it all wrong – “We need to get chickens again and eat our own eggs. And we need a goat. Mom, that face wash is ruining the ocean! And¬†FOR SHAME – YOU’RE USING¬†PLASTIC???!

Enthusiastic¬†she was saving the world from her wasteful and consumerist mother, I had a silent¬†counter-argument…¬†just¬†wait, honey. just wait until you’re a mom packing lunches and walking through knee-deep snow to water chickens only to find them slaughtered by a weasel and golly gee, can’t a girl use her favorite face wash? Oh, and yes, let me¬†skip outdoors to milk the goats daily. I shall wear braids¬†and an apron. And¬†sing.

Sometimes it’s fun to be¬†patronizing.

Now the girl is taking Psychology. She spent Sunday afternoon educating her mother. Hey parents, leave those kid alone.

“Mom, what do you think of this: in the UK there are adventure parks called The Land,¬†designed¬†in the 40s, where kids can make fires and uses knives and saws.”

I said: “Fires?”

Apparently this is a thing.¬†This adventure playground¬†looks like it was inspired by a junk yard. “It’s one of dozens in the UK fostering an endangered human behavior…RISKY PLAY.”

And I kindof love it.

Cope says parents need to stop helicoptering, using Atlantic Monthly writer, Hanna Rosin, as her muse.

“Kids who are not at risk or who don’t feel like they’re at risk (at danger) or don’t find risk in socially acceptable ways – like handle scissors before age 6, flip pancakes, chop potatoes – they will either become afraid of everything and not know how to handle real life situations OR they will seek out risk in socially unacceptable ways like doing drugs…”

She spoke passionately, wearing her brand new smarty-look glasses and gave me these gems to consider:

“If you’re always hovering and giving stuff, helping, never letting them fail, they’re much more likely to feel entitled, angry, and ungrateful.”

I took mental notes. No more hovering. No more stuff. Fail, darlings, fail!

“If you never let kids feel like they can handle themselves than they’ll never be able to handle themselves.”

This discussion made me think of my own childhood, a more relaxed time, where I was a free-range child in a Nebraska suburb. We roamed unsupervised for hours at a time. When I was 5 years old me and my twin brother walked to school. Alone. It was a mile there, a mile home. We often got side-tracked. It was glorious.

Our¬†mother drove us¬†maybe once a year. No matter how late we were running – and we were often running –¬†We walked in sun, rain, and snow with other unsupervised children.

Once I arrived at school at 9:30 (school started at 9.) “Where were you?” my kindergarten teacher asked. “Just walking to school.” I remember how big her eyes got.

In second grade¬†I picked up a dead squirrel in the road, and brought it to school for show ‘n tell (my teachers loved me).

We got into all sorts of mischief. Those memories remain some of the happiest of my life.

Oh, guess what else we did? We jumped on trampolines! (okay, okay, I broke my neck but that was a fluke.)

As I’ve grown up and become a mother, it’s less socially acceptable to let my children play or walk places independently. Parents get arrested for such things. We’re¬†meant to feel like¬†we’re sub-par parents unless we’ve got EYES ON THE CHILD every single second.

Once, when Cope was six months old, I gave her¬†a fork to play/eat with. The women came out of the woodwork – OH MY GOSH WHAT ARE YOU DOING????!!!! YOU GAVE HER A FORK!!! AHHH! SHE’LL POKE HER EYE OUT AND DIE!!! WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? That fork was snatched so fast out of her hand it made both our heads spin. Publicly shamed, I didn’t make that mistake again. We gave her forks in private. And she learned to eat with it.

I partly blame the media. With the speed of news,¬†we hear¬†about every kidnapping, car crash, accident, drowning, and child murder that ever happens. The thought sends chills and horror through my body. But guess what? Kidnapping rates haven’t gone up. Child accidents haven’t gone up. Just because we walk our third-graders to school or teach them never to talk to strangers, doesn’t lower their risk of being kidnapped. The rates have remained the¬†same since the 70’s.

Cope quotes¬†Rosin again, “We’re always saying kids are growing up so much faster now – they’re not. They’re just mimicking adult behaviors. And then when it comes time for them to exercise responsibility and become adults they don’t know how. They can’t.”

My own mother studied human behavior extensively in the 90s. She hated the 1980’s¬†self-esteem movement. “Telling yourself how wonderful you are all the time is stupid,” I can hear her saying in my head. “Teaching kids how TO DO THINGS makes them feel good about themselves.” Which was why I scrubbed the disgusting kitchen floor every Saturday. And golly gee, I do¬†feel¬†good about myself!

By¬†skipping milestones (not letting our kids cross the street, get jobs, walk to the store alone) are we actually depriving our kids¬†of becoming capable? How sad. Because that’s not the intention of any parent I know.

When I was in college I had a roommate who went home after one week. I felt terribly for her. She just couldn’t hack it. She told me she had never done her own laundry or dishes before. She was too scared to find her classes. I was¬†shocked her parents would actually¬†let her come home. I imagined my parents saying,¬†“Are you joking? Suck it up. After a semester we’ll discuss.” (obviously there are exceptions to every situation!)

Want more? Read this: How To Land Your Kid in Therapy by Lori Gottlieb: “Why the obsession with our kid‚Äôs happiness may be dooming them to unhappy adulthoods.”¬†Yikes.

Obviously I need to be a tad more neglectful, let the darlings feel a little more discomfort, fail more and bigger Рlet them discover that they are perfectly capable of getting right back up.

I vow to try.

But children, beware. Does this also mean: no more¬†driving to school with your¬†forgotten gym shorts, requesting a teacher, hounding¬†the coach because your¬†didn’t get enough playing time, or worse…writing your homework essay? (for the record, I’m batting 50% at these four.)

Remember the Battle Cry of the Tiger Mother? I loved that book –¬†and was fascinated, inspired, and appalled.

Concluding words, Cope? “Don’t be a helicopter parent! No one likes it, least of all your incompetent children!”

My friends, these are very encouraging words indeed. Parents, it’s time to¬†take a load off! Read in bed. Take a nap. It’s cereal for dinner – and they’ll pour the milk. Bonus:¬†It’s good parenting!

“Cope, aren’t you glad I gave you chores and made you do things?”

“Actually, I’d rather be pampered hand foot.”

Too late! Yesterday afternoon I took her advice to heart. I took a nap. Without supervising the children. BEST MOM EVER. Right?

I also want to say: Thanks, Cope. For reals. You’re going to make a terrific mom.

(And don’t worry, I’ll bandage the cut off fingers of my grandchildren after they use scissors without supervision ūüôā ).

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Sunday Meditations: Why I Love Mary

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Mary was named National Geographic’s Most Powerful Woman¬†of 2015, and while I don’t “worship” her the way some religions do, I revere her. I always imagine the type of young girl she must have been, to be¬†chosen to raise the most extraordinary man and influence the world has ever known.

Sometimes I feel very inconsequential, like I’m never doing enough, that I’m not “living up to my potential,” the message “CHANGE THE WORLD OR YOU’RE NOTHING” constantly being thrust at us. It’s exhausting.

During the bustle and hustle of Christmas time, I’m so happy to pause and¬†think of Mary. Quiet and serene, holding a small baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, in a dirty barn in a field under the stars. Or maybe she was loud and boisterous and had a wicked sense of humor. I don’t know. But she’s sitting in the barn wrapped in pure love with some cows, her¬†Joseph, and their beloved baby. She’s thinking nothing of social media likes or platform or being important. She’s just loving her baby. This scene is pure peace. I want to sit under the stars with her and just hold my babies, hearing nothing but the cattle lowing…

A few years ago I realized that the greatest thing I would probably ever do in this life was raise good children. What a wonderful way to change the world.

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Just Because We Can Save the Day, Should We?

Halloween started out as magically as it always does in New Hampshireunnamed with this scene lighting me up daily. The foliage was spectacular this year.

We crunched through countless leaves, breathed the crisp wood-burning air, and debated over just the right costume.

As the kids are getting older, Halloween is also evolving. This year I only had two trick-or-treaters. Eldest was somewhere on the ocean blue, and Boy was deemed too old and went to a dance. Where once there was four trick-or-treaters, now there are two.

Hermione was practicing her spells and getting her hair ready. Apparently, even wizards have to do their own hair!unnamed-1 But tragedy struck early when Hermione lost her wand at Hogwarts. We were right on time for a fun-filled evening when halfway to the first house when she realized she was missing a very special accoutrement.

“My wand!”

I looked at my watch. “How about we go look for it after we trick-or-treat?”

The thought was too horrible to imagine. You see, after spending every penny she had ever earned ($36), Ms. Paige bought a Hermione wand. For three months she had looked at it daily, inserted batteries, and taking it out to wave around so the little magical tip would light up. And then every night she put the wand back in its special wand box.

For three months she had dreamed of walking around in the dark with her long wizard cloak, flashing that wand in the dark and lighting up the world. Go trick-or-treating without it? For shame!

So we went back to look for it.

We looked up and down and all around. It wasn’t in The Professor’s office or in the dining hall or dropped outside, or with Moaning Myrtle in the girl’s bathroom.

She put on a brave face until the panic was too great and mighty tears fell.

Soon, half of Hogwarts was looking for Hermione’s wand!

“Honey, I’m sorry, but I just don’t know where it is.”

“No, no, no!” she sobbed. “I need my wand!”

We were now, at 6:30, quite late for trick-or-treating.

When all seemed lost and Hermione’s devastation had wrecked her Halloween,¬†Brother saved the day: he found the precious wand in-beween two couch cushions.

Never was there a happier Hermione. Tears were dried, hugs given, and finally we set out into the night.

unnamed-3 Hermione and the soccer player gathered their many treats.unnamed-2And said hello to Daddy who was dressed as a football coach for a Halloween Saturday night game!

With only a few houses left, we walked through crackling leaves and held out our pumpkins for a few more tricks or treats.

Throughout the night, many children wanted to hold¬†Hermione’s wand. I have a very sweet Hermione. She has a very soft heart. She didn’t want to, but she¬†handed it to children who waved it around to light up the sky with that special lit tip. She watched it carefully, nervously. You see, it had already been lost once and Hermione was feeling even more¬†particular and possessive of her prized possession.

All was well until we came home and what should Hermione discover? The wand’s tip was broken. It lit up, but the clear plastic tip that sat atop the wand was gone.

Now, my sweet and soft-hearted Hermione could not handle this discovery. The great depth of despair was heard round the neighborhood, I’m sure.

“I’m sure we can fix it, ” I assured.

“No! We can’t!”

“This is the worst Halloween!” she sobbed. “I hate this Halloween. It’s the worst in the whole history of Halloween!”¬†The sobbing went on for a full half-hour as I scoured Amazon for “harry potter replacement tip bulbs” to no avail. Tricky magic wand makers. You can’t buy a replacement tip, but you can buy the¬†whole wand!

Hermione was so out of control that she was banished to bed. She cried so loudly that we could not be in the same room. Finally, when she was quiet and hiccuping I laid next to her on her bed. Her cheeks were wet, her hair soaked with sweat and tears. The sadness hung heavily in the room. Poor Hermione.

I kissed her cheeks and left. I went back to the computer and clicked on the Hermione wand. Only $36. Free shipping. I put it in my cart. But just before clicking, “Buy,” I let the mouse hover.

What was the right thing to do here?

For the first time I realized Amazon was not my friend.

When I was a kid and¬†my toys broke, my parents most definitely did not rush out to the toy store to buy a new one. They were sad with me and said, “I’m sorry.” And then went back to reading the newspaper. They did not have an Amazon with a “1-Click” shopping option.

But…how¬†happy¬†I would make her, my girl who is truly appreciative, who says, “thank you so much mommy for being such a nice mommy,” almost daily. Who kisses my cheeks and never forgets to hug me good-bye. She isn’t a spoiled brat. She would truly appreciate this gesture.

Still. I hesitated.

If I clicked, was I being a hovering, helicopter parent whose child wouldn’t be able to leave for college? Was I enabling? Or was I just being nice? I remembered the news story¬†I had heard on NPR that we spend way more money because of the¬†ease of clicking¬†“buy now!”¬†

It’s just so easy.

I pushed back from the computer. I did not click, “buy.” And I was sad for Hermione.

The next day Hermione came downstairs. She was still down in the dumps, still mourning the magical tip of her special wand.

“I’m sorry about your wand,” I said. And then went back to doing the dishes.

That’s life, isn’t it? It sometimes really stinks.

A few hours later, Hermione had bounced back. She waved her wand around a couple of times. Adjusting.

One of the hardest things about being a parent in the land of more-than-plenty is saying No when you are able to say Yes.

There’s nothing in my nonexistent parenting handbook that says, “For best results, Do EASY!”

I wouldn’t fault a parent for buying a new wand, but I am curious. I could have saved the day, but I didn’t.

And just because we can, should we?

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