Shout Out to Other Mothers (THANK YOU!)

MOMS.  Because not all superheroes wear capes!  -author unknown

WOW.

In case you didn’t know it, that’s MOM upside down!

Okay, all kidding aside, WOW is the only word that comes to mind for me this Mother’s Day.  I’m not sure what made this year’s holiday different, but I feel very compelled to give a huge shout out to other mothers today.  I feel like belting out a great big THANK YOU…complete with song and dance (not to mention a few hugs!)  But mostly, I just want you all to know that I see you and I really just couldn’t do this mothering thing without you.

Some have said that being a mother is the most important job on the planet.  Something along the lines of “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”  And there’s plenty more sayings out there to describe motherhood (and, believe it or not, most of them are favorable!)  Still there’s nothing like being deep in the parenting trenches to remind you that you cannot do this alone.  We need each other…sometimes desperately.  I need you to be my eyes and ears,  I need you to catch my kids doing good AND to give me the heads up when they make poor decisions.  I need you to double-check our kids whereabouts and sleepover plans with me…because communicating in the tween/teen years can be difficult and responsibility/accountability are crucial.  I need you to share advice and help me navigate through tough situations.  And I need you to be loving examples, safe places, and trusted adults whom my kids can turn to, if needed.  And I promise to do the same…because motherhood is an interesting club.  It’s not necessarily hard to join (although I’m sensitive to the fact that it can be.)  There’s no pre-mom exam.  No age limit.  No “green light.” Some of us fit in from the get go.  Others clamor to get in.  Some of us enter hesitantly, if not reluctantly.  Many of us trudge through.  And some of us never quite find our place.  Regardless, once you’re in…YOU’RE IN.  And there’s no guarantee of success in this club.  There’s no real manual.  No graduation.  And sometimes, in spite of the numbers, it can be a pretty lonely place.  I can’t speak for everybody, but for myself I can honestly say I had no idea what I was getting into.  Albeit the oldest of four, growing up in a very large extended family, having countless hours of babysitting under my belt and with a “mother hen” type personality…I never felt like I was ready.  In fact, during my teen years and early twenties, I was pretty dead set against becoming a mother.  I had this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I wasn’t up for the task.  At age 26, my son was born…and while this was a well thought out and planned event I still knew on some level that I had no idea what I was in for (despite all my research)–and I was right!

We all know that our bodies change when we have a child.  Hormones fluctuate, things shift, etc., but what happens to your heart has to be the most remarkable, extraordinary change of all!  While the other changes occur over a matter of months, it seems that your heart changes almost immediately.  Your priorities change, your instincts change, your thought processes change…basically, what I’m trying to say here is that EVERYTHING changes.  What I was really least prepared for was the general roller coaster ride of motherhood.  The wins and the losses.  The ups and the downs.  I’m pretty much a planner (and a bit of a control freak) and motherhood is everything but a well-defined plan and you can throw any hope of control out the window.  Plan A quickly moves through the alphabet to Plan Z, and in no set pattern.  What works one day (and for one child) quickly falls to the wayside in lieu of something completely different for another child (or the same kiddo down the road.)  Uggghhh.

Photo of a soccer birthday cake (or at least what’s left of one) that a sweet “other mother” made for my son on his 15th birthday.

So for all this (and so much more) I continue to look to you, fellow mothers.  Without other mothers, I’m not sure where I would be.  I’m grateful to have my own mother to serve as an example and a guide.  Grateful for a mother-in-law who offers love and encouragement.  Grateful for a sister, who lovingly mothers all the nieces and nephews and her own stepkids with a natural mothering gift.  I’m grateful for sister-in-laws who treat my kids like their own.  And I’m especially grateful for the mothers of my children’s friends, the “church” moms, the “teacher” moms, the “neighbor” moms and other mothers in my community.  You all ROCK!  BIG thanks for your kind hearts, for the rides to and from practices/games, for the driving them through the fast food line and including them in your family plans.  Thank you for the birthday cakes, countless sleepovers, day trips and shopping excursions.  Thanks for bridging the gap when our family schedules were overloaded.  Thank you for sharing photos of my kids and yours just doing their thing.  Thank you for the “Walmart Updates.”  Thank you for not judging them harshly, for understanding that they are in a unique circumstance (as are most kids) and for offering them grace and love.  Thank you for including them in your family life.  And thank you for your example…often times it’s your own mothering actions that speak volumes.

So let’s forget the mom-shaming, the parenting peer pressure, and all the other nonsense.  And instead, keep breathing life and love into each other’s kiddos.  Keep talking, keep texting, keep cheering, keep showing up and keep vigilant.  Please continue to keep your eyes open…looking out for my kids and others.  Thank you for filling my ears (and heart) with bright spots that you see in my children.  I see the same bright spots in your kiddos, too!

We truly are on each other’s team.  Happy, happy Mother’s Day!

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.  Proverbs 31:25

 

 

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Desperately Seeking Female Role Models (Celebrities Need Not Apply)

Like a gold ring in a pig’s nose is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.  Proverbs 11:22

I’m not the first mother to wonder about my kid’s choices in role models.  And I’m not writing this because my daughter has suddenly gone all Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus or (insert your favorite female celebrity villain here.)  Still, it has come to my attention recently that being a lady isn’t really high on anyone’s priority list anymore.  So much so that recently when I told my daughter that a certain behavior was not “lady like,”  she looked at me with a puzzled expression.  Mom fail 😦

The era of fairy tales:  My sweet princess at age 4.

The era of fairy tales: My sweet princess at age 4.

Here’s the problem:  I’m her mother.  And one of the things I pride myself on is being a lady.  Yet my daughter seems pretty unaffected, confused, (and quite possibly) doesn’t care about what that means.  I’ve been told that as a mother, I am my daughter’s primary influence and still, I’m not seeing the fruit of my labor.  I feel like I’m losing the battle in a war where I thought we were all on the same side.  And by we, I mean women.  Turns out the rules of engagement have changed–BIG TIME.  So maybe I need to come up with a new strategy…and I need YOUR help.

The whole dilemma requires a little sorting out.  When I think about what it means to be a lady, I will admit that the first couple of things that come to mind are superficial, you know, surface stuff.  Good manners, age appropriate dress, polite disposition…you get the drift.  I can hear the groans now–THIS ISN’T 1950.  To which I have to say, I know and I’m not trying to make a case for going back to that decade (and for your information I wasn’t even alive then, either.)  But I think there is something to be said for these external characteristics, because like it or not they demonstrate the heart and spirit of a person.  For example, good manners are the outward expression of one who puts others above themselves and exhibits generosity and kindness.  This person is not a pushover, soft or a “goody goody” as my daughter might call them.  (BTW, in kid speak a “goody goody” is a derogative term and means that someone is only pretending to be proper.)  Good manners reflect a common courtesy, demonstrate a love for one’s neighbor, and reflect a sense of personal pride.  I hold these things in high regard and I don’t often see them in young people.  Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon to see young girls swearing, name calling, belching, lying, dressing provocatively and flat-out acting anything but lady like!  And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  Sure, females can do anything that males can do, but I still think an argument can be made for being the “fairer” sex.  (And that doesn’t mean letting the guys of the hook for their lack of decorum, but that’s another post.)

I want my daughter to say please and thank you, to acknowledge someone when they walk into or exit a room, to know how to sit in a dress, to make eye contact with adults, to speak and not yell, to chew her food without putting it on display for the world, to treat others justly and with respect all while having combed (tangle free) hair and a good attitude (no white pearls required.)  Instead, I see her influenced by her rough and tumble brother, her peers, music that glamorizes booty shaking and countless television shows where kids make the rules and adults are portrayed as irrelevant idiots.  Girls are depicted as shallow, devious, backbiters who will stop at nothing to get ahead and put others down in the process.  If we reap what we sow, what exactly are we setting our children up for?  In no way, shape or form, will I give up on my little girl or the girls of the world for that matter.  I refuse to rely on the school, church, social clubs, media, or society to raise my kids…but I’m not above asking for their help or support.  We are in this together.

I know this won’t be wildly popular.  Accountability never is.  But holding our young girls to something better is important.  I want my daughter (and yours) to be confident, caring, strong, and intelligent all while being afforded every good opportunity that the world has to offer.  I want our little girls to be taken seriously and to know their worth isn’t based on how pretty or thin society judges them to be.  I don’t want our girls to derive their power from sex and provocativeness in the way that so many of today’s celebrities do.  Similarly, girls do not need to tear down other girls to make themselves standout.  Our girls are worth so much more than that.  At the same time, I want them to take pride in who they are on the inside and outside without feeling like they have to act like males to get ahead in this world.  If we can live in a culture that claims to celebrate diversity, then why can’t we live in a world where acting like a lady isn’t a negative or a slam against women?

A lady exudes grace.  A lady stands out in a room for all the right reasons.  Her life and the way she carries herself speak to her great character.  A lady is powerful and others are drawn to her strength. I feel like the lines were so much clearer 20 years ago.  Somewhere we have blurred the boundaries and gotten off track.  My little girl is special (and so is yours!)  I want her to grow up in a society where men hold the doors open for women, swearing like a sailor is actually left to the sailors, gentlemen who wish to court my daughter come to the door to meet her parents, and she is valued for the jewel that she is.  I pray she is not influenced by cleavage and short shorts at every turn, feels that she has to keep up with the boys to be taken seriously, yell or be rude to voice her opinions or settle for anything less than a gentlemen.

I need your help.  Please be the tasteful, responsible, smart and beautiful women that I know you can be.  Hold yourself accountable for all the little ones out there.  They are so easily influenced and if you sell yourself short, you are not only letting yourself down, but you’re providing a disservice to little girls everywhere.  I remember when my daughter was tiny and she dressed as a princess and believed she was really something special.  Some days that tiara never came off!  She even went through a spell where she wore a white pearl necklace (a la June Cleaver) with every outfit, everyday.  She was royalty and not the diva-like, spotlight seeking, entitled, stop at nothing to get ahead females we see today.  Just a precious child who believed she could do and be anything.  Somewhere along the way she realized that real princesses don’t exist and was left to settle for the ways of the world.  And so today, I’m desperately seeking female role models who will represent women in a positive light.  Women who will be real, authentic, elegant, modest, smart, athletic, and all around awesome!  I want my daughter to see these women at the grocery store, at school, at the ballpark, in politics, on television…basically everywhere.  And I want her to want to be a lady, not because her mother told her to, but because as the quote goes, “being a female is a matter of birth, being a woman is a matter of age, but being a lady is a matter of choice.”

http://www.playbuzz.com/katelynw11/how-ladylike-are-you

 

My Dates with Donna

The Donna Reed Show

Today I had a lunch date with Donna.  She makes me smile.  She makes me laugh.  I consider her to be both an unlikely mentor and an inspiration.  We get together every once in a while for lunch and occasionally coffee.

I met Donna years ago when I was a kid.  She and I hung out every night one summer.  After evenings at the baseball diamond, after endless Monopoly games, after midnight snacks, and long after my parents went to bed…Donna was there.  And so was her husband–Dr. Stone, Mary, Jeff and later, Trisha.

trisha

Trisha

The Donna Reed Show has had an odd place in my heart ever since.  I didn’t grow up in the era of her show.  I came upon her sitcom by chance, back in the days when Nick at Nite was in its infancy.  It came on very late and included other black and white shows like Mr. Ed, Dobie Gillis, My Three Sons, The Patty Duke Show and so many others that I came to adore as a kid.  Off all of these comedy classics, Donna Reed was my favorite.  My siblings and I laughed at Jeff’s antics and joked about how boy-crazy Mary was.  We wondered if Dr. Stone was the only pediatrician in Hilldale?  (Anyone ever notice how that man never had a moment to himself?  That poor town had the sickest children’s population ever imagined!)

Donna’s show was popular back in a time when family was more than important, it was everything.  Back when there were high standards and ideals.  Back when girls were expected to grow up to be ladies and even the orneriest boys grew into gentlemen.  Yes, I know it was just a TV show.  But even back in the late 80s/early 90s her show was relevant and fun.  And I latched on to it BIGTIME!  A permed-hair, gum snapping, jelly-shoe wearing kiddo like myself could easily step back into time and come up with applicable and memorable lessons in life.  I recall seeing the Stone family deal with time-management issues, sibling rivalry, the pros and cons of marriage and countless other teachings.  We saw them donate their time, help others and land themselves in all kinds of crazy jams.  We learned what to do and what not to do in 30 minute episodes.  And what stuck with me was the manner in which they carried themselves through good and bad situations and how they looked out for each other with kindness and loyalty.

It wasn’t like I was a neglected kid pining for this type of family.  I had a great family…Mom & Dad both in the home, siblings I loved and adored, a good neighborhood, middle class upbringing and on and on.  So for me, I guess it reinforced all the good that I already knew and cemented the concept of good that I would come to expect and demand of myself and my own family.

Nowadays most of my dates with Donna occur while my kids are in school and my husband is busy at work.  I’ve tried getting them to watch with me, but they don’t share my delight with Donna.  And, that’s okay.  Those TV moments have become somewhat sacred to me now.  It’s thirty minutes where my 80s kid-self can meet up with my laundry-folding, house cleaning, reluctant chef mom-self and be in perfect harmony.  In some ways I ended up becoming just like her…and for all her notable qualities, that really was the last thing I was trying to do!  But in rediscovering her show on DVD a few years ago (and loving it just as much now as I did then), I realize that Donna and I have become quite a duo…and I’m good with that.

Now you’ll have to excuse me while I straighten my apron and check on the roast…Alex will be home anytime now, Mary will need me to help set her hair, Jeff has homework to do, and Trisha lost the dog in the park (again).