That One's Life

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My kids are at the center of my world. Not as they were when they were babies - when they had to be for their mere survival - but rather because, intrinsically, they point me to my greatest purpose.

They are the catalyst to every good or hard decision or change that I make. They rely on me to make sense of their world, and look to me to show them how to live a good life. They are so affected by my attitude and how I live my own life that they show me every day, through their behavior and in the way they receive my love and show me love, what I am doing well and where I need to improve.

There is always so much to improve upon. More than I wish. The daunting responsibility of raising them, although challenging and overwhelming, is more important than anything. I want to give them my best self, yet I fail to do so, so very often.

Still... Wanting to do my best for them doesn’t mean I need to sacrifice myself or my own fulfillment of wishes and dreams. I have done that too many times in the past to good short term results and negative long term ones, paying dearly for what I’ve given up in happiness and well being. I’ve decided I’m not going to do that anymore.

There’s no black and white answer to any of this. I perpetually live in gray areas. Parenthood is a never-ending balancing act that is so hard to master, and an easy one to give up trying to balance.

Many people either completely sacrifice themselves for their kids to the detriment of their own identity, or they put themselves first and roll the dice on how their kids will turn out or eel about them later. I think we all wish to fall somewhere in between these extremes.

I strive to do better for them, and for myself, as far as honoring their needs, while still honoring my own... honoring who I am, what I love, what makes me feel healthiest and most alive, and how I can use my gifts to contribute to the world.

It’s out of these choices that one’s life materializes. That one’s life finds its path in both parenthood and individuality. That one’s life reaches its fullest potential and has its strongest impact. That one’s life defies the odds, winds its way through its challenges, and travels the journey that was meant for it all along.

#lifesjourney #findyourpath

*Originally posted to Instagram and Facebook

Like Mother Like Son

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A couple weeks ago, I took my son to H&M to exchange a pair of shoes that didn’t fit him. While there, I saw this scarf and asked him if he liked it. He took the scarf from me, immediately put it around his neck, smiled, and asked if he could get it.

We decided it would be a good purchase for winter, and so he quickly made his way to the cashier to get in line. I spotted the matching beanie as I tried to catch up, and brought it along to show him. He was excited to see the hat, and asked if we could get that too. Yes, sweet boy, we can.

Upon leaving the store, he insisted I take his new scarf and hat out of the bag and let him carry them as we walked through the mall. He held on to them like they were his most coveted treasures, and he thanked me for getting them for him. Every time he has worn them since, he has treated them the same, proclaiming they are just as important to him as “monkeys” (his three sleeping buddies).

Something about that scarf captured his heart and held on to it, beyond any explanation or reason. It’s a beautiful thing because, isn’t that the way most amazing relationships begin? An inexplicable, undeniable connection that defies logic and causes us to hold on with the most fervent conviction.

I love his passion. It mirrors mine; and he is so much like me in so many ways. Unbridled expressions of devotion are just our thing, and we proudly flaunt them for all the world to see.

#likemotherlikeson

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

In Seven Years Time

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I hosted my son's Lego birthday party today to celebrate him turning 7. And now is not the moment when I state any variety of, "Where did the time go?, The years are going by too fast!, or Slow down time!" No, I don't subscribe to this mode of thinking that most parents do. I feel the opposite. I believe that it's all happening at the right speed, in due time, with my close awareness and full presence.

These 7 years have gone by as they should. They have been lovely, hard, joyful, painful, inspirational, challenging, uplifting, heartbreaking, euphoric, devastating, and hopeful. They have been 7 years of my life. Of my son's life. Sometimes lived by me to the utmost & fullest, and sometimes lived less wisely than I would have wished.

There have been moments that have been some of the best of my life, and there have been moments that have been some of the darkest. My son is the gift I received 7 years ago; but along with this precious gift, I also inherited the challenge of parenting 2 children, dealing with an often volatile sibling dynamic, and precariously juggling my time mothering 2 souls, all the while trying to find time and space for my own self care & self preservation.

As I have written about before, I lost myself a bit a few years after having this child, and then I found myself again 3 years ago when I began to share, through writing, what being lost meant. So life - for me, for my son - is happening as it should, as it was meant to. When people say "It's going by too fast," I think they may really mean that they want more of their time to play out in the ways they want it to play out, or that maybe they haven't been using their time to its fullest potential.

Yet who really does? Who can? At least, who can do so every second, or every moment. Life goes on, for all of us... we live it, we feel it, we thrive, we falter, we triumph, we make mistakes, we make the most of it, we waste time, we celebrate it, we have regrets, and we do our best with what we've been given. That's it.

This day has closed. This time is done. We will wake to a new day, with more life and more time; and we will spend it foolishly or we will spend it well. What will you choose?

#whatwillyouchoose

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Love the Inside First

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Apparently, I now have a ten-year-old who's old enough to see films that don't involve animation, musical numbers, or talking animals. My daughter and I watched her first romantic comedy, You've Got Mail, and I am a bit beside myself about it.

She learned about it when I told her it was my inspiration for buying her a couple classic novels referenced in it; and when she asked more about the narrative, I vaguely explained it was about rival bookstore owners. Being an avid reader, this intrigued her and she wanted to watch it; so I told her I believed she was too young still... or maybe I just wasn't ready to accept she wasn't too young still.

I looked it up on Common Sense Media, as I often do for guidance on age appropriateness in media, and they rated it ok for age 10+. I was skeptical, having seen the film many times and knowing how mature the romantic themes were. Yet, since I am admittedly a bit resistant to her growing up (and also indoctrinating her into the world of Hollywood romance), I knew I couldn't shelter her forever. Right? 😩 Must let go...

She loved all the book references and was amused by the outdated dial-up AOL e-mail, but was surprised that the core of the story was about two people falling in love over the internet without knowing who each other were in person. About people beginning to love one another because of who they are on the inside, stripped of ego and vanity. He loved her FOR *not despite* the vulnerable parts she reveals to him while lost and in her most fragile state. Her physical appearance is not a factor at all in the beginning, and when it is revealed, it's still secondary to her inner beauty to which he is drawn.

It is a lovely example of authentic love, one developed through deep connection, vulnerability, and the bearing of two souls who loved with their hearts, independent of physical appearance or attraction. A soul connection. Impossible to fathom? Naively idealistic? Maybe, and all wrapped up in a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan Hollywood Rom-Com no less. Still, the film's core message of loving the inside first, and most, is one I can get behind, and one I would definitely like my daughter to value.

#lovetheinsidefirst

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Charlottesville

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Somewhere in California, a father helps his daughter learn to ride her penny board at a gas stop during their family's summer vacation last week.

This father fell in love with his wife seventeen years ago, married her, and had two children out of that love. This daughter was born healthy, beautiful, and graced with the privilege of living with both her parents in a serene city by the sea, a golden state with mountains, deserts and beaches, and a sovereign nation granting her the freedom to dream of a life of her choosing.

This family of four wanted nothing more than to enjoy a fun road trip last week, create new memories together, and be nurtured, loved, accepted, and safe in the bosom of their extended family.

While away for seven days, this mother did not post to social media, was free of influence and distraction, and experienced what most moms do on a vacation with their kids: a mixture of relief to be away, excitement for adventure, exhaustion from all the packing, and grateful appreciation of time with her beloveds; intermingled with listening to whining, arguing, and annoying "Are we there yet?'s," and feeling the chagrin of an exasperated parent refereeing the chaos and attempting to orchestrate the calm, at times wishing she could escape to read a book... or write one.

Yet she, I, was also unexpectedly disrupted on our trip by the news of the intolerance and racism that was violently displayed a few days ago in Virginia, in this present day world that should be well past such an archaic ideology. A dangerous, ignorant, and irresponsible doctrine that so many Americans fought against (including my grandfather) and so many other Americans and citizens from many nations died fighting in a World War.

Not a small thing and not something ANY American should be so disrespectful of our violent history to blatantly ride in the face of, disregarding what America went through, fought against, and strongly reviles as not only anti-American, but anti-humanity. To denounce any human as less than because of their skin color, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation is a human rights violation of the tallest order.

I am sickened by the news from Charlottesville; yet I am emboldened to continue to live a life of worth and purpose and cause, and to raise my children with knowledge, intelligence, empathy, and decency so they can carry on the virtues of acceptance, inclusion, compassion and love.

I was fortunate to have been born of a family who taught kindness and love over violence and hatred. My kids are fortunate to have been born into a life where, so far, they have been safe from daily harm and live in a place free of social unrest and dangerous persuasions. Yet, wherever you are and from whomever you were born, we are all humans who have love at our core. Humanity unites us.

Abject evil, ignorance and fear cannot and *will not* win if we, who chose love, expand our reach of compassion and solidarity with decency, equality, conscious humanity, and perseverance to uphold all that is right and good in this world.

#charlottesville

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Ocean Warrior

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He came, he fought, he conquered.

My son gained a new sense of confidence in the ocean yesterday after he challenged himself to keep up with his big sister while they both boogie boarded in a more aggressive than usual shore break.

I relished seeing the pride in his eyes and elation in his voice as he ran up to tell me of their adventures facing the waves... how he was tossed, flipped and spun around by the sea and lived to tell the tale.

It was wholly dramatic and wildly exciting from the innocent perspective of this six year old's world; and after he finished recounting his saga, he stood quietly and stared out at the surf, seeming to reflect on all that he accomplished.

I cherished being witness to this, and felt like he grew and matured ever so slightly right before my very eyes. 🌊

#lovethiskid #oceanwarrior

 

*Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook

Love By Choice Rather Than Obligation

 My Eternal Friend & ex-Stepmother Julie and Me - March 2000

My Eternal Friend & ex-Stepmother Julie and Me - March 2000

I just found out you died.

Died of cancer. The same lung cancer that almost killed you a couple years ago. I didn't know it had come back. If I did, I would have flown out to see you. I would have called you to see what I could do. To talk to you again. To say I love you for the last time.

But I didn't know. You didn't call me to tell me and I'm not sure why. Maybe you didn't want me to know... to worry, to be sad, to have to try to find the words to say goodbye.

I heard once the cancer came back it took you quickly. So quick that maybe there wasn't time for goodbyes - at least not with me, across all these miles. Or maybe you just wanted to slip away peacefully without having to say the farewells you weren't required or ready to say.

It makes sense, I guess. It just makes me sad to not have been given the chance to tell you what you meant to me or to thank you for all you had done for me. I think you already knew; but still, we humans like to say it. Saying it makes it more real. Saying it ensures us that our feelings and intentions are known. Unequivocally. Unmistakably. With no presumptions made, and no feelings implied or misunderstood.

So I am saying it now. Here, on this site full of my writing. A site you never visited, nor ever read one word from, but still were so proud it existed.

I gave my sister Rebecca some of the words on this page to read aloud at your memorial service in my absence. I wanted my feelings to be represented there so all the people there knew you mattered to others who weren't there. Others like me.

What she read was brief... not nearly everything that came out of me when I first heard you were gone. All the words that came out of me are here now, written with tears flowing and a heart full of gratitude for having known you.

When we spoke on the phone last summer, you were in full remission... your hair had grown back, you felt great and were riding your bicycle around town. You had just begun to explore the internet, googling and wikipedia-ing everything you wanted to know more about.

You didn't want to correspond via email, be friends on Facebook, or even visit this site to read some of the things I wrote. Although I wanted you to read what I had been writing for the past couple years, I respected your slow pace and understood your intention to not get overwhelmed or swallowed up by the abyss the internet has the potential to be. I thought about printing some of my best pieces out to mail to you; but it's funny how we all think we have infinite time to eventually do the things we don't have time to do in the moment.

So I am going to choose to believe that you are reading this somehow, feeling the sentiments and emotions I lay bear here, through the energy that is now you.

I will never see you in person again. The finality of that fact is a tough one. The last time I saw you was here in Malibu twelve years ago when you attended my wedding and were escorted down the aisle in procession as my stepmother and important family member.

Over the last decade, we were able to keep our relationship going, despite your divorce from my dad, the distance between our homes, and my being swallowed up by newborns and toddlers. Two or three lengthy, inspiring, and uplifting phone calls per year were all we had; but I was grateful for them.

One was always around your birthday in August, when we would talk about the summer we were having and our plans for the Fall... another was when you would call me at the start of each new year to gush about how fantastic my holiday card was, how beautiful my children were, or how the Christmas gift I sent you just couldn't be more perfect than it was... and a third was usually around Mother's Day, when you would thank me for the Mother's Day card I sent, and tell me how overwhelmed and blown away you were by my kindness and generosity for thinking of you as a mother.

Of course, I lost my mother to a car accident shortly after I lost you as my stepmother. The difference is, I never really lost you. Not until now. You became more of a mother to me after your marriage to my dad ended, and in the wake of my mom's death, than you ever presumed or intended to be when you were still married to him.

It's not like you took my mom's place after she died. You didn't want to do that; nor did I want you to try. The truth was, you couldn't do it even if you did try, and you knew that.

So instead of stepping into her role, you reinvented it. For yourself, and for me. You became a new entity... a mother by choice rather than obligation.

You gave me something unique that I hadn't had before - a nurturing presence who lifted me up, accepted me for exactly who I was, and loved me so unconditionally that I became stronger and braver and more self-assured because of it. You believed in me so much and was so proud of me in the most generous and selfless way, that I began to believe in myself more. So even though you weren't physically in my life, you were always there for me.

And I was here. Figuring things out, often floundering, succeeding and failing in motherhood, marriage, and life. Our calls seemed to always happen at the times when I needed your support, advice, and guidance the most. I definitely didn't call you as often as I wanted, to see how you were doing and check in on how life was for you. You loved it when I did, but you didn't need me to. You always made sure to tell me how much you loved and appreciated me, felt my love across the miles and held it close to your heart in the time between our talks.

You let me know the cards and photos of my family I sent were valued as some of your most treasured possessions. You expressed your regard for them through wildly enthusiastic and whimsical descriptions of where you placed them in your home - like on your refrigerator door so you would see them every time you made a cup of tea, or on your bedside table so you could see our smiling faces when you woke up - and these long, beautiful expressions of appreciation that you would generously give to me always left me with a deep and comforting feeling that I was truly cherished by you.

What an amazing gift you had. The ability to spread so much joy and love by just being YOU. Your true and unapologetic self was so honest, vulnerable, and sincere that I would bet any person who was lucky enough to know you, or be showered even once with your unconditional adoration and praise, was left a better person.

You were an enchanted, mystical and ethereal force of positive energy and light. You brightened my life with your encouragement, your sage advice, your enlightened wisdom, and your boundless love.

And although I will miss you deeply, your love will stay with me; and I will never lose what you meant to me.

A Better Ten

The last time I posted on this blog was on the 10th anniversary of my mom's death back in October. Since then, I have continued to write, but have only shared a few of those words on social media, not finding the time or inclination to write anything of substantial length or significance to post as a full blog entry.
The close of 2016 was challenging for me, as it was for many. Over and above dealing with the U.S. presidential campaign and subsequent election, as well as the sudden loss of a few of our most respected artistic icons, I myself suffered the loss of both a dear family member and a long time friend and neighbor at the close of the year. I also had much to contemplate, reflect on, and work through regarding my family, the holidays, and both my internal and external life as a woman and an individual.
Sometimes it is necessary for us to do this kind of work on our own, without an audience, and without certain external influences or opinions muddling up the process. This, of course, does not bode well for a writer who mostly writes about her life's journey and experiences.
My proclivity to share my opinions and feelings through writing on this blog stems from my inherent longing to connect, relate, comfort, inspire, and provoke dialogue. So suddenly not having a strong desire to do so was troubling. What I did post on Instagram and Facebook during the last few months was always short and spontaneous, and seemed to be all I wanted to comment on or delve into at that point in time.
Now, a new year is upon us, and I thought it apropos to follow my last post about the 10th anniversary of my mom's death with a new post about the 10th anniversary of my daughter's birth.
It is definitely a better ten to celebrate.
I still plan to share some of the things I wrote during the final months of 2016, most likely in the next few days; but for now, this first entry back is all about balloons, birthdays and blowing out candles... and the hope and promise for the future as my little girl enters double digits.
 Originally posted on  Instagram  and  Facebook  on January 14, 2017

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 14, 2017

Party in progress at our house right now. My daughter turns ten today and her three best friends are over for the small, exclusive birthday party she requested.

As all of the girls were dropped off, there are no other parents here, and my husband took my son out of the house to give her the freedom to be with her friends without her six-year-old little brother in tow.

So here I am, in the kitchen, icing her chocolate cake and getting ready to write a big, purple "10" on the top of it, while four nine and ten year olds are out on the deck... chatting, laughing, snacking, taking instant selfies, and decorating photo albums.

It is quite peaceful in here, away from the action; but it is also a strange new reality for me, after nine years of kid parties at which a deluge of parents, babies, toddlers, relatives, nap breaks, bibs, sippy cups, diaper changes, and tantrums all previously played significant roles.

Very strange.

Well, better get back to the cake. Here's to TEN. The dawn of a new decade, as well as a new era of parenthood.

 Originally posted on  Instagram  and  Facebook  on January 19, 2017

Originally posted on Instagram and Facebook on January 19, 2017

It had been blustery and rainy for the better part of last week, and strong winds were still howling on the morning of Saturday, January 14th, my daughter's 10th birthday. We weren't sure if we were going to be able to use the deck for her party and were prepared to relegate the festivities to the indoors if the wind persisted and the rain returned.

But as the party's start time approached, the sun warmed the air, the winds calmed to a gentle breeze, and the ocean swayed and soothed for a much needed rest from the stormy tides it had weathered the previous few days.

I set up our outside table with the craft projects we planned and looked out at this view with a grateful heart. Not just for the weather cooperating or for the breathtaking panorama, as I am grateful for that every day, but for the soul that was born to become my daughter ten years ago that day.

Someone could naively suggest that the weather cleared up especially for her party by some stroke of divine miracle; or they could even go as far as to say my mom made it so from up above, a gift to her granddaughter who arrived on this Earth only days after she herself left it.

Yet as idealistic and romantic as I am, I don't believe in these kinds of notions. What I do believe is that life, along with the weather, is unpredictable; and we, for the most part, don't know exactly what's going to happen from one day to the next.

Losing someone you love without warning teaches you this; yet to a certain degree, so does parenthood, marriage, and simply living daily life. As much as we want to believe otherwise, we are only in control of our own actions, our own mindset approaching what we do, and ultimately how we respond to what unfolds beyond our control.

This day unfolded beautifully... my daughter officially turned ten at 3:19pm, and she made her birthday wish and blew out her ten candles just before the party ended and the sun set over the ocean out front.

 Originally posted On  Instagram  and  Facebook  on January 20, 2017

Originally posted On Instagram and Facebook on January 20, 2017

I wouldn't say it was lonely... just, different. Weird. Unchartered. Last Saturday, I hosted my first kid birthday party as the sole adult in attendance. My nine-going-on-what-feels-like-eighteen-year-old daughter was blissful and carefree when her friends arrived for the party that day; a refreshing departure from the potent mix of drama, melancholy, and defiance she has consistently been the last year.

She smiled from ear to ear all day long... laughing, posing for selfies, and basking in the sweetness and silliness of her girlfriends' happy birthday song rendition before blowing out ten candles on her homemade chocolate birthday cake.

I watched all this transpire with joy in my heart and my own smile on my face, yet was feeling like more of a spectator than participant of the party, and noticed the stark contrast from her past birthday parties at which her dad, brother and I were always at the center of the action. Being alone and observing her and her friends from the sidelines this year made me realize that a change was happening that I didn't know was coming, at least not this soon.

I know as my daughter gets older I will have to relinquish my role as the primary creator and orchestrator of her life's events and memories. This is vital for her to bloom and grow outside the constructs of my nurturing and protecting. Yet it's new for me (and a tiny bit heartbreaking) to let go of so much of what has defined me as a mother since I became one ten years ago.

It's all going to be okay though. I have my own game of life to participate in, one in which I am not a spectator. And no matter what... I will have a front row seat to witness her beautiful life as it plays out; and I will be her most enthusiastic and loyal fan. She may continue to ask me less and less to participate in her life's game as the years go by; but I will always be there to guide, support, uplift, and love her as her mom. And THAT role is one I will never relinquish.

Ten Years After My Life Before

The life I had before... I knew how to do that. I could do that forever. But now look at me. What am I gonna do? What am I gonna do with all this?
— Erica Barry (in Something's Gotta Give)

Life is not a movie. No one knows this more than me. Still, just humor me here, okay?

The quote above is one of the most poignant and heartbreaking lines from a great scene in one of my favorite movies. It speaks volumes to so many of our fears of losing control, of stepping out of our comfort zone, of challenging the false egos and fabricated identities that we offer up to the world and hide behind to protect ourselves from the heartbreak of being vulnerable, of admitting we aren't fine, and of feeling and loving deeply.

Her sentiment, "What am I going to do with all this?" really resonates with me because I have felt it, not only in regard to romantic love (as she does in the film), but in regard to losing my mom... now ten years ago today.

When my mom died, so much came up in me that I was not prepared to deal with. I had my first child three months later, and my delay in fully grieving the loss of my mother until my daughter was safely outside of my body meant I was faced with embracing overwhelming joy and tremendous grief simultaneously.

WTF? Are you kidding me? How was I going to be elated about my beautiful and healthy baby girl while finally allowing myself to feel the intense anger and crippling sorrow of my mom being killed in a car accident?

What am I going to do with all this? All this feeling. All this hurt. All this love. All this disappointment. All this hope. All this sadness. What am I gonna do?

I couldn't navigate my way through it, and I didn't have the clarity, energy, motivation or support to know that I needed some sort of outlet, or some sort of outside help, to sort out the mess that was me, that sad woman buried somewhere beneath a bunch of diapers, baby wipes, burp clothes and boppy pillows.

So instead of real help, I used band-aids. I patched up my life as best I could with quick fixes, forced positive attitudes, running, yoga, clean eating, a bit of makeup, a healthy dose of denial, and the sheer abandonment of some of my deepest passions and strongest convictions. I created some semblance of a happy home life and convinced myself that it was all somehow, in some way, going to be okay the way it was now.

The way I was now.

It wasn't. I hadn't fully understood what these new roles I now was expected to fill (wife, mom, motherless daughter) would do to my former identity, or how my attempting to fill them would demolish all that I had thought of myself. Although it looked as if I played the roles pretty well from the outside, deep down I was partly broken, unhappy with myself, my ability to parent, my marriage, my choices, and my unwanted, unchosen, effed-up circumstances.

The difficulties I faced had rippling effects that forever changed the landscape of my life and led me down roads I never imagined I would venture. Roads of thoughts, feelings, words, and actions that did not serve my life. States of mind and being (sadness, anger, bitterness, fear, self doubt, insecurity and shame, to name a few) that I expected to only visit temporarily - that is, while grieving my mom, caring for needy babies and toddlers at home, and fumbling through my domesticated, messy life - were instead the states of mind and being that I set up camp and lived in for years.

In the narrative of the film, Erica dealt with her "all this" by writing. She wrote and cried and cried and wrote, and out of all of the hurt and pain and love, she created something glorious, healed herself, and moved on with her life. In the narrative of my life, over seven years had passed before I discovered that writing would be my salvation for my personal "all this."

With every word I wrote, I began to dig out of my dark tunnel both toward the light within me and the light in my life that had been eluding me. The digging was painful, enlightening, intoxicating, scary, euphoric, and all together devastating; yet, it freed me from the purgatory between "my life before" and the life I knew wanted to have in the future.

So today, on this day that means so much yet hurts so much, I am grateful that these last ten years are over. Still, the dawn of this solemn anniversary of sorts didn't flip a switch and make all my problems magically disappear. There is no ten year statute of limitation on my pain, suffering or difficulty in life. Sure, you can look at all the photos of me as a mother these past ten years, posing with my kids through faces of love, smiles and happiness, and see part of my story. And those faces are all as authentic and real as anything. But, as we all know, snapshots taken and often shared with those outside our inner world are mere snippets of a much larger picture... and rarely do they tell the whole story.

Not having my mom here hurts still. The void she left has never been filled. I feel it most when I see the grandmothers of my kids' friends enjoying their grandchildren, and the moms of my girlfriends helping their daughters like they have been doing all their lives, being there for them and showing them the unconditional love and support that only a mother can give. I miss that. This is the part of my story that makes life challenging for me.

But it's just a story. Not a movie, but a story without a completed script or a guaranteed happy ending. We all have a choice to either indulge in our stories, let them control us and dictate how we live; or to acknowledge and honor the events that unfold in them with awareness, vulnerability and acceptance. Then all we can do is just write and cry and cry and write until we create a new chapter, heal ourselves from the plot twists that we didn't see coming, and move through the remainder of our story looking forward to the parts that have yet to be written.

I Am Strong

 Natural History Museum - Los Angeles, CA

Natural History Museum - Los Angeles, CA

I just saw a viral video of a man with his young daughter doing their morning ritual of looking into a mirror and repeating positive affirmations.

In the accompanying article, this man states, "My dad did this with me in the mirror as well, which I believe has helped make me more confident and positive."

This is a true testament to how good parenting gets passed down from one generation to the next.

I wasn't raised at all like this, so I don't inherently possess the tools to positively and effectively parent my own kids. While this man was given a road map and spotlight that shone from within, I was sent out into the world with a wonky compass and a flashlight with dead batteries.

Yes, we do the best with what we were given, yet what we were given sometimes sucks.

DON'T ACCEPT THIS.

I don't. Even though it is more of a struggle for me as a parent (and frankly, as a person) to do the right thing and say the right thing than it is for this man, and even though I may make way more mistakes than he does, I hope, aspire and persevere to do better, be better, and give my kids a better start in life than I was given.

There is nothing more important.

#iamstrong

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Soulful Six

 Malibu Bluffs Park - Malibu, CA

Malibu Bluffs Park - Malibu, CA

My son turns SIX today. A gentle and kind soul wrapped up in an energetic and hilarious character, he is a kid who likes to shock and amuse just as much as he likes to cuddle and love.

He possesses a depth and a soulfulness way beyond his years; yet he is raucous and rambunctious, needs to be told to use his inside voice constantly, and tires out his mama on a daily basis.

One minute he is leading our blessing at dinner, expressing how he is "grateful for companionship, the Earth, and everyone in the world, even the people he doesn't know, or who aren't alive anymore" (that last one being for my mom). The next minute he forgets all proper table manners to joyously revel in his ability to make uncouth bodily noises at will.

He is the yin to his big sister's yang, loves to pick flowers for me any chance he gets, and never ceases to surprise, bemuse and fascinate us with his remarkable capacity to elicit smiles on our faces and laughs in our hearts.

#thisissix

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Only One Mom

I didn't think about it. I just pulled out my phone and quickly snapped a single frame of my son holding my hand as we walked toward his new classroom on his first day of Kindergarten today. He didn't see me take it, nor did I want him to, as my phone went right back in my pocket a second later.

I had already taken the obligatory photo before we left home; you know, the one of him standing still, all polished and pressed, wearing his new school outfit and backpack, in the typical "first day of school" style. He wasn't holding a dated chalkboard sign or anything, as is the trend these days; but he still looked cute, smiling and posing for posterity, as requested by me, his personal photojournalist.

So, why this one? Why bother taking in motion an uncomposed, blurry snapshot? I certainly didn't need it to remember the moment, one my heart and mind will not soon forget; yet I took it anyway, like some sort of parent paparazzi.

Maybe it was because I wanted a visual to accompany the words I would inevitably need to write. Maybe I simply desired a tangible image to encapsulate my feelings in that moment. Or maybe I just needed to capture and freeze a glimpse of my perspective, the one looking down at his little body, with his little fingers holding mine, before he or those fingers grew even one centimeter more.

I don't know. One second I can't wait for things to progress, for him to grow, change, move on and move up... anything to get past the challenges of his present age and developmental phase. Another second I feel like his childhood is slipping through my fingers like sand on a beach, moving fast out of my grasp, without my consent, against my wishes, and beyond my control.

What I do know is I am only one mom - one of countless mothers around the world - who is having this same experience or one similar to it. If not today, then last week, next week, or even next month. This fact doesn't make it happening to me any less significant; it just helps me recognize that I am not alone.

I am only one mom, yet I could be so many. I could even be you.

One mom ushering in another milestone of her little one's life... welcoming the start of her youngest child's school years, while simultaneously bidding farewell to the baby and toddler years for which she had most recently dedicated her life.

One mom saying goodbye to the realities of those precious, yet equally exhausting, days and months that occupied and consumed most of her time the last five years, and in my case - with two kids - the last ten years.

One mom who understands and appreciates what this new, monumental change means for her existence.

I am only one mom of many guiding her child into a new stage of childhood, while also leading herself into a new chapter of motherhood.

One mom feeling a mix of relief, elation, and anticipation for what the future will bring, while still experiencing a touch of melancholy for what is now past and will not be again.

One mom who knows she will never be the same person she was before she became a mother; but one who hopes that somehow she can get back a little of her former self, or at least be afforded the time and space to reimagine and reinvent her present self - this woman in mom's clothing - not only in the eyes of the world, but also in those of her family, and more importantly, in her own.

I am only one mom no longer having to stay at home because a baby or toddler is there for which to care; and one who now vows to go out and reach and do and be the things that will make her feel a bit more whole again.

One mom who will create and find what she desires, to love more, live more, and feel even more grateful for her life, her children, and the privilege to be the one and only mom to hold their hands as they walk toward, through, and into their lives.

#likeagirl

 Butterfly Beach, Montecito, CA

Butterfly Beach, Montecito, CA

My daughter is growing and changing, like she always has, but these last couple months seem different somehow. Her growth from little kid to big kid feels much more pronounced than that of her transition from toddler to little kid; or maybe now that she's nine and a half, I simply can't believe she will soon be ten years old.

Nevertheless, the changes in her over these last few months have been transformative. Fears are slowly being overcome and more risks are being taken. Opinions are growing stronger, arguments are more defiant (God help me), and emotions are more volatile; yet all with a level of understanding and maturity that is much more refined.

These long summer days, chalk full of beach play and the freedom from classmate influence and school pressure, have bred a more confident and determined girl. She is beginning to leap into life more, when before she had tread more carefully.

As such, she now enters the ocean more confidently too, approaching the tumultuous surf like a warrior into battle. She has learned to wait for, catch, and ride the waves with both courage and elation, and she no longer seems to get so scared and discouraged when she is tossed about in the salty brine. Tears and quitting have since been replaced with dogged determination to get back out there and try again.

I am hoping this newfound resilience in the ocean will translate to her life in general, and that it will mirror how she takes on the tides of life when they toss her about. If it does, she will be unstoppable.

#likeagirl

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

Let Things Come to You

This kid is so my kid... loves herbal tea, dark chocolate over milk chocolate, ginger kombucha, and a healthy dose of introspection...

My five-year-old son loves to drink tea with me... he absolutely LOVES it. Loves everything about it. Apart from dousing it with raw honey and enjoying its sweetness and warmth, he especially enjoys ripping open the small paper envelope, retrieving his aromatic bag inside, and anxiously asking me to read the pearl of wisdom that's printed on each Yogi tea tag. Every time I read one, even if he doesn't fully understand what the inscription means (which is most of the time), he'll pause a moment, as if contemplating it, and then say, "Hmmm, good one."

That moment, in and of itself, is MY favorite part of our ritual.

His go-to flavor is "Calming," while I switch between a few stress relief and detox varieties. This instance, when we opened our packages from different flavored boxes, we were surprised to discover the same quote on each of our tags: "Let things come to you." I found this to be timely and sage advice, so I've decided to heed it. He, again, thought it was a "good one" and is going to do the same.

We'll let you know how it plays out.

 

*Originally posted exclusively on Instagram and Facebook.

We Are the Choices We Make

This is what I look like most days... baseball cap, yoga or running clothes, sunglasses, no makeup. No glamour, no glitz. No sign of professional success or status. No power lunches, business trips, or expense accounts. No coffee dates, happy hour hang outs, or peer camaraderie.

This is what I do most days... DRIVE. Me in the car, alone. For miles. That is, until I am descended upon by little minds and hearts and souls with their meltdowns, attitudes, bargaining, hunger, crankiness, and loudness (and at times, cuteness).

Whether it is up and down the coast highway or over the canyon to the valley, I live in a place where I have to drive quite a few miles to get anywhere.

This is a typical Monday, when I drive the same stretch of PCH four times. Seventeen miles down the coast from home to my son's school, nine miles back up to my daughter's school, ten miles back down to ballet class, a mile to the library with my son while she dances, that same mile back to pick her up, and then a final eighteen miles up the coast to home for the night. Fifty-six miles logged in four hours without leaving Malibu.

On days like these, it's hard to feel like I've accomplished anything or was at all efficient in my day. Am I doomed to be the horribly inefficient underachiever I feel I am at this stage in my life? Is my dream of being Mrs. Goal Reacher and meeting all the (possibly unrealistic) expectations I put on myself on any given day just an illusion? It seems like other people get so much accomplished in the span of a single work day (albeit many hours longer than mine) while I have been feeling extremely underwhelmed by my ability to do the same, because of the limit on my time. Or is it more because I am just not as organized and pulled together as them or as I once was?

When I still had a toddler at home, it was expected (and perfectly acceptable) to do less, to get less done, and to be less efficient. After all, there was a little person demanding my attention in a myriad of ways, and that always took precedence. It had to. I was being a mom and doing all kinds of important mom stuff, all day long. My success in that was easily rated by the smile on the kid's face, the fullness of his tummy and the dryness of his diaper... and the fact that we both simply survived another harried day of toddlerdom, relatively unscathed.

But now, it is different. No one's here but me. There's no excuse for a day (or at least, a morning) not ripe with boxes checked, goals reached, and missions accomplished. When you once were a person who worked a full time job as a single, successful professional, often lauded by your employer and peers for your ability to get stuff done quick and get it done well, you remember that driven and organized version of yourself and you kinda miss being her. You sometimes wish you were her again. You think you can conjure her up to perform on the same level as she did before; like the last ten years of all the baby making and isolated domestication didn't happen. And although some remnants of the former you are still in there (albeit ten years older), she just isn't flourishing as well as she used to in this messy and unpredictable environment that has replaced her former kid-free and organized life.

Now a five hour work day at home (interrupted by moving clothes from the washer to the dryer, folding and putting laundry away, or emptying and filling the dishwasher) feels anything but productive, at least in the self congratulatory, "Yay me!" kind of way that getting to do the work you love or finding the satisfaction in accomplishing what you set out to do that day does. And it is most definitely no match for a full workday outside the home where you are held accountable to, and appreciated by, someone other than yourself for completing your tasks and making cool stuff happen in the world. I know I could be getting so much further in my ambition to share, connect, and inspire through my work and my writing, if only I just had a few more hours each day to share, connect, and inspire.

Is this really my life now? This chaotic and harried existence in which I sacrifice so much of me for the "them" in my life? Things are not going to be exactly how I want them to be all the time, I know. Actually, they are not most of the time. This I understand and accept, to a certain degree, even if I do so a little begrudgingly. However, I often have to stop and remind myself that, each and every day, no matter what I get done or don't get done in my own realm of work, websites, and writing, I am still always accomplishing something: LIFE.

Yes, this is my life, these are my days and those are my kids who are learning, experiencing and growing. They do all these things, go all these places, and learn all these things, because of me. Because I am their caretaker. Because I am their shepherd. Because I am the one that promotes and encourages and facilitates these opportunities and journeys they have.

It is easy to feel like a mere shuttle driver in their lives while we move from place to place, in and out of the car and in and out of experiences. I sometimes have to remind myself to accept, be present, and recognize that I too am on this journey, and that this is my time too. My time to hang out, have fun, and enjoy them at these ages. My time to support and guide them, love and protect them, learn and grow with them.

Regardless of all the things my mind may think up or my heart may yearn for that go unfulfilled each day, I realize that when I am with them, I am exactly where I need to be and am doing exactly what I need to do.

Yes, I know all this. I do all this. I rise up (most of the time) and kick ass at all this. But it is still hard. And it may always be hard. To get out of my ego. To surrender some of my deepest desires for theirs and to find new and different ones of my own. To escape the intoxicating mode of busyness and the lure of personal aspiration. To deal with their strong emotions, growing pains, and kid-sized hurts (alongside my adult-sized ones) while still trying to be a model and example of human decency, empathy, compassion, and love.

Life as a grown-up is hard. Life as a parent is hard. Life as a spouse is hard. Life as a feeling, driven, passionate, and naturally flawed person is hard. It's all so hard. Yet it's all so easy. It's all so devastating, and it's all so wonderful. It's all so... much. Just sometimes. It's challenging, beautiful, f'ed up, and contradictory. It tests our patience, resilience, and resolve; and it dares us to live it the best way we know how.

It has been said by many, in many variations, that "We are the choices we make." Nothing could be both more painfully and inspirationally true. Our realities are built on what we have previously chosen for ourselves; and to accept, or better yet, embrace this truth, is essential.

So it stands to reckon that our futures will then be determined by what choices we make next. We steer our lives from where they have come to where they will go. We are the sum of our past efforts + our current attitudes to = create our future realities. We are our perspective, we are our hope. We are our awareness, our positivity, our perseverance. We are always evolving, as long as we are paying attention, and we are always learning. And although we may need to stay the course of the commitments and obligations that have already been routed for and by us, we can still venture out and explore new roads along the way, possibly forging new paths that will transform us to who we will be in the future.

All it takes is looking forward. FORWARD, NOT BACK. We're not going that way anyway, so who we were in the past can inform us, but doesn't have to define us. Even though we are the choices we have made, we are also the ones we make today, and we will be the ones we make tomorrow.

Make them count. Make them wisely. Make them without fear and without regret. Make them for you, your spouse, your kids, your life; and make them without the influence of ANYONE who may want to steer you to do so for their advantage, for their benefit, for their ego.

You may be miles away from who you were, but you are now on the road to who you will be. You have nothing to lose but your resistance and fear, and nothing to gain but the life you want to create.

I Grew These Feet

To my baby girl (and her feet) -
Today is your birthday. You are now nine. Or at least you will be at 3:19pm this afternoon. I know you are a stickler about that fact, declaring to your dad when he wished you a happy birthday this morning that you aren't actually nine yet.
I thought I'd share with you what I wrote last year on your eighth birthday. Only a handful of people have read it because, as you know, I hadn't yet widely shared my writing back then; so not many people know I wrote this... not even you. Now, as a year has gone by and more readers are reading what I write, I am sharing this with them, and you, on your birthday this year so they, and you, will know how I see you.
I say how I SEE you rather than how I feel about you because how I feel about you is a given. It is obvious and expected that I love you as a mother loves her child; and it is obvious and expected that I think you are great and perfect and wonderful because you are my daughter. But what is not obvious and expected is how I see who you are so clearly... more clearly than anyone else who knows or meets you, and maybe even more clearly than you see yourself.
One year later, what I wrote below is still true today; yet, even more so. Your awareness, insight, forethought, sensitivity, complexity, and understanding of things way beyond your years astounds me on a daily basis. I know I just used a bunch of words to describe you whose meaning you may not yet fully understand, and that this may lead you to break out your dictionary to look them up (which I love about you). So, I will put it simply... you think, feel and know more and deeper than I, or anyone, would expect you to think, feel and know at your age; and this simple fact sets you apart when all you want to do is fit in.
I wish I could convince you that being different and unique and not blissfully unaware of things is a good thing; but that is something you will hopefully come to understand and embrace as you get older. So for now, to the nine-year-old whose complexity renders her unlike most of her peers, I will just say this... Trust that you are exactly as you were meant to be. Know that you fit in your life just as you should. Be YOU. Believe that the you you are is beautiful, and the you you are becoming is even more so.
On this day, I wish for you to see what I see... to see the you that I see.
Happy 9th. I love you, my gal.
Love, Mom
 

I Grew These Feet

Originally published January 14, 2015

When my daughter was a baby, I loved her feet. Of course, I still love them today; but when she was really little, I couldn't get enough of them. I would kiss them and squeeze them and pretend to gobble them up, all the while exclaiming, "I grew these feet!" over and over again in gleeful animation. She would smile and laugh, delighted by my silly musings, not fully comprehending what I was saying; but nonetheless, highly entertained by me, her personal clown.

As she got older, I continued to playfully declare how I grew her feet, along with the rest of her, in my tummy. I liked to see her face fill with wonder at the thought of this, as I myself was in awe (and frankly, still am) that her beautiful little feet exist on this earth solely because my body fed, nurtured and protected them until they were ready - until she was ready - to leave the safe haven of my womb and be born, on this day, eight years ago.

It wasn't an easy day, to which I'm sure most mothers would attest. However, I have never once proclaimed it to be "one of the best days of my life" as I so often hear other mothers declare about their kids' birth days. I definitely can think of many actual better days. Take my wedding day... now THAT day was the best day of my life, hands down. The way I felt on that day - from the moment I opened my eyes, excited to get married, to the moment I closed them, as a blissful new bride - was nothing short of pure joy, unbridled love and overwhelming happiness, for about 12+ hours straight.

This day, back in 2007... not so much.

Extreme discomfort, tense anxiety, and complete exhaustion defined it... for about 12+ hours straight. And all this in advance of the baby actually being born. Afterward, once the fleeting moments of relief and elation subsided, a different variety of discomfort, anxiety and exhaustion followed, and for many more hours before the day was finally done.

So, even if the hours that made up the day my daughter was born didn't deem it an actual best day of my life, all those laborious hours put together did result in giving me one of the best gifts of my life.

Now tonight as I sit here, having just put my winsome eight-year-old girl to bed after a lovely birthday evening of dinner, homemade chocolate cake, and presents ranging from a pink ballet-themed glittery nightgown to a suction cup bow and arrow set, I am filled with gratitude for this most precious gift.

Possessing a temperament that's a perfect balance of level-headedness and devil-may-care brashness, my daughter cannot be easily summed up in a narrow label of “girly girl” or “tomboy”. Instead, she's a cool mix of contradictions: a voracious reader and dauntingly sharp mathematician who also practices ballet and plays the violin... a beach girl that spends hours at the seashore boogie boarding who also loves camping and dirt bike riding in the dry desert... a devout fan of classic Hollywood movie musicals and science/nature documentaries who will also watch motocross and surfing videos with equal interest and enthusiasm... a mighty girl that asserts she wants to be a scientist when she grows up who also identifies herself as an artist today.

(Yes, when I say "dirt bike" I do, in fact, mean motorcycle. And no, I have not lost my mind... yet. The fact is, I am married to a highly competent motorcyclist whose inherent talent and ability to ride has seduced her to follow him down the dusty trail. Although it does make me a bit anxiety-ridden, I still can't help but be abashedly proud of her and her determination to attempt it, not to mention the fact that she is actually quite good at it.)

I am also surprised that I find it exciting, rather than terrifying, to watch how the contrasting influences her Dad and I have exposed her to are rendering a complex and intriguing little girl. It seems that she has been bestowed with the best parts of both of us - those parts that made us initially fall in love with one another. Imagine that.

This little girl is also a complicated creature, as all females inevitably are... a fact that I don't believe is necessarily a bad thing. But as females go, our beautiful one challenges us with her stubbornness, beguiles us with her wittiness, and inspires us with her innate goodness. She is truly one of the most decent, kindhearted, and generous people I know; and I am so very proud and honored to be her mom.

 
 

Happy Birthday my sweet, sweet girl.

This is It

This is what I look like most days... baseball cap, yoga or running clothes, sunglasses, no makeup. This is what I do most days... DRIVE. Whether it is up and down the coast highway or over the canyon to the valley, I live in a place where I have to drive quite a few miles to get anywhere.

This is a typical Monday, when I drive the same stretch of PCH four times. Seventeen miles down the coast from home to my son's school, nine miles back up to my daughter's school, ten miles back down to ballet class, a mile to the library with my son while she dances, that same mile back to pick her up, and then a final eighteen miles up the coast to home for the night. Fifty-six miles logged in four hours without leaving Malibu.

On days like these, it's hard to feel like I've accomplished anything or was at all efficient in my day. I have to stop myself from allowing the chaos of my schedule to overwhelm me and recognize that, each and every day, no matter what I get done or don't get done in my own realm of work, websites, and writing, I am still always accomplishing something: LIFE.

This is my life, these are my days and those are my kids who are learning, experiencing and growing. They do all these things, go all these places, and learn all these things, because of me. Because I am their caretaker. Because I am their shepherd. Because I am the one that promotes and encourages and facilitates these opportunities and journeys they have.

It is easy to feel like a mere shuttle driver in their lives while we move from place to place, in and out of the car and in and out of experiences. I sometimes have to remind myself to accept, be present, and recognize that I too am on this journey, and that this is my time too. My time to hang out, have fun, and enjoy them at these ages. My time to support and guide them, love and protect them, learn and grow with them.

Regardless of all the things my mind may think up or my heart may yearn for that go unfulfilled each day, I realize that when I am with them, I am exactly where I need to be and am doing exactly what I need to do.

This is it.

To read the extended, unedited version of this post, see We Are the Choices We Make

'Twas the Night Before (Transitional) Kindergarten...

 My son running to hisclassroom the next morning, on his first day of Transitional Kindergarten

My son running to hisclassroom the next morning, on his first day of Transitional Kindergarten

It's happening. My youngest starts Transitional Kindergarten tomorrow.

Although it is a transitional year for him between preschool and actual Kindergarten, there is no transitioning for me. He'll be in school for as many hours and days as he would be if he was starting Kindergarten, AND he will be attending a new elementary school that neither of us have been before.

This is not the carefree wonderland, play-in-the-mud up to your knees and elbows, run around with chickens, dream of a nursery school that he spent the last two years at for only three short days a week. Nope. This is a five days a week, five hours a day, keep your shoes and socks on, recite the pledge of allegiance, "big kid" kind of a school. 

A big step for him. An even bigger step for me.

Let me repeat. Five days a week. Five hours a day. ME. ALONE. WITHOUT KIDS.

The thought of this new reality is surreal, and a bit hard to believe it's here. After the pregnancies, breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, postpartum depression, preschool separation anxiety, and a near loss of my identity as a woman, wife, friend (and sane human, at times), my impending release from toddlerdom, the shackles of which have held my autonomy and personal freedom hostage for the last NINE years, has finally arrived. 

In just a few short hours, my daughter will enter 3rd Grade, my son will begin T-K, and a goal I set over ten years ago will be realized. I vowed to "stay at home" until my youngest kid entered elementary school, bound and determined to be there, be present, and be the best mom I could be during those all important and vital first five years of my kids' lives. (Yep, that's me, as idealistic as they come.) I dedicated myself to this lofty ideal before I was even pregnant with my first... way before I knew exactly what it meant, what I would be giving up, and how hard it would actually be to do it.

So tomorrow is a monumental day, and one I have been looking forward to for a while now. Yet, now that it's here, it doesn't feel as monumental as I thought it would. I thought I would feel an overwhelming mix of excitement and relief to finally have both kids in school full time. I thought I would be over the moon and brimming with ideas of how to spend my first days of freedom.

After all, isn't this what I have been wanting? Isn't this what I have been waiting for? Planning on? Dreaming of? To cease living in a daily state of chaos amongst land mines of toys, mountains of laundry and stained couch cushions? To reclaim a life outside the confining reality of motherhood? To identify myself as a woman and an individual with a professional career, and get back to the business of taking care of, well, ME?

It's late. I'm still awake while my kids and husband are asleep. I stayed up to finish prepping for the big day, washing the kids' new stainless steel lunch kits and putting name labels on their water bottles and backpacks. As I sit here alone in the quiet of the night, my newfound freedom within grasp, I feel different than I expected to feel. 

I don't feel excited, I feel calm. Not relieved. Not ecstatic. Just calm. And reflective. Surprisingly, I find my attitude toward achieving this new freedom altered. I find myself thinking less about what I gave up the past few years or what I will be getting back in the next few, and more about what I will be saying goodbye to as my son welcomes in this new adventure.

His world will be expanding and his reality will begin to change as soon as he walks into that classroom tomorrow. Soon he is going to learn to say his "L's" correctly, and I will no longer hear him say, "I yove you" or "I yike yoyipops." He will learn to sign his name without needing me to remind him which direction the "C" goes. He will soon learn to button his own pants, zip his own jacket, and tie his own shoes.

Those things that seem like they will stay that way forever will suddenly one day cease to be; and his little habits and dependencies will drift out of my life like a breeze not appreciated until it's gone. Soon he will not need me to ensure he's buckled into his carseat correctly, nor will he need me to wipe his face after eating or his bottom after pottying. All these mundane little things, that at times are tedious and exasperating, will just be gone one day, never to return.

True, so much has already gone by the wayside. Leaning over him on the changing table to kiss his feet and make him laugh while changing his diaper. Seeing his toothless grin while spoon feeding him oatmeal. Assisting him in drinking milk from a cup. Helping him brush his teeth and put on his pajamas. While he has slowly taken over some of life's tasks and responsibilities, small bits of my freedom have been returned to me little by little with each milestone achieved... and honestly, I have welcomed every one of them.

Still, any relief I have gained over the years with his budding independence has perhaps received a little more focus and attention from me than any of the cute behaviors and endearing qualities that have suddenly gone adrift along the way, often without notice. As many parents spend these toddler years in a partial fog, sometimes the exhaustion and frustration challenges our ability to soak up and enjoy some of the precious moments amidst the overwhelmingness of it all. And although this all makes sense and is all so understandable, relatable, and somewhat expected by us... it also still kinda sucks.

So my son is no longer a baby. On the brink of turning five, he is barely even a toddler anymore. He is a little boy. A little boy with leg hair and arm hair and a head full of wild, curly hair. My little boy who, with each passing day, seems to need me less. Less to help him get dressed and less to fill his days with fun and wonder. Less to play with him in the bath, and less to comfort him at night as he falls asleep.

LESS.

But wait. Hold up. Take a breath and accept. Wipe those tears away, mama, and consider this.

Is it possible that now, with each passing day, he may just need you more? Yes, less to help him physically live his life and survive in the practical sense; but more to guide him through his youth as he navigates the world around him?

More to comfort him when he gets teased or bullied for the first time at school. More to answer his inquiries when he is confused by what he sees and hears the big kids do and say. More to show and teach him what empathy is, how to be generous of spirit, and how to be giving and forgiving. More to help him process his emotions so he will grow to know that feeling his feelings is a good thing, and not something to fight, resist, or deny.

MORE.

It's true, maybe now I'll have more time to myself. Maybe now I'll have more possibilities to be more than "just" a mom. Maybe freedom from toddlerdom means I will cease to be a Mommy who pushes a stroller, carries a diaper bag, or exists as the center of her kid's universe.

And maybe all that makes me a little sad. 

But I think it also means that as my son grows, all the new and different ways that he needs me will be more vital than ever before. It means that this journey of becoming a parent has changed more than just my daily routine or the time I have to focus on me. I am realizing now that becoming a parent has changed my life more in that it has changed ME... my perspective, my priorities, and my capacity to love.

MORE. MORE. MORE.

 The Floor at  SUNLIFE ORGANICS  in Malibu

The Floor at SUNLIFE ORGANICS in Malibu

So when I wake up tomorrow and take my son to school on his first day, I will not be focusing on what I am gaining in time and freedom, nor losing in endearing toddler moments and memories. I will be content in recognizing that what we are both experiencing in the present is special, and fleeting, and wonderful, and true. I will watch and enjoy my beautiful boy as he begins this exciting new endeavor; and I will experience it with gratitude and presence, rather than with yearning for the past or anticipation for the future. 

I will be BE HERE NOW and see the moment for what it is... perfect in its impermanence, just as every other moment with him has been, is, and will always be. 

Picking Him Up

Wearing a robe ready to jump in the shower, I was confronted with a distraught four-year-old, his arms reaching up and crying, "Mama, pick me up." Now almost five, I hadn't seen him this way in a long while. As I scooped him up, he buried his face in my neck and clung to me tightly. I remained silent, allowing his tears to flow, gently swaying from one foot to the other. After a few minutes, his cries slowly began to subside, but his grip remained tight.

I then caught our reflection in the mirror, and I was transfixed. There we were, as we had been countless times before - mother and child, giving and receiving comfort - yet this time he wasn't the tiny armful of chubby deliciousness he once was. Now over half my size, a boy with gangly limbs and a head full of curly hair was clinging to me. And although my eyes could see how big he was in that mirror, my arms could feel how little he still was in that embrace. He was my baby. The baby I have held onto since he was born.

And in this moment captured, I was reminded... my body knew that he needed me, my heart knew that he loved me, my soul knew that he was a part of me, and my mind knew that, no matter how much he grew, "picking him up" was something I was going to have the honor of doing for many years to come.

Dads: Babysitters or Parents?

Why do some dads today behave as if they are only temporary substitutes for mom when they are in charge of their kids? It's like they act as if they are seat fillers on an awards show... you know, those individuals hired to fill the seats of the actors and musicians who get up during the broadcast for a bathroom or a smoke break. The seat filler’s job is to keep the audience looking full when seen on television. Nothing more than that is expected from them. And since these human place holders are not the ones with the recognized talent and luminous spirits, they promptly exit the scene when the real deal returns with no further obligation or responsibility.

The seat filler version of a dad is one who acts less like a parent, and more like a babysitter. Yes, he is also good enough to fill in for the “real deal” (aka mom) for an hour or two; but surely he’s not equally matched in ability and expertise when it comes to actually caring for and nurturing his children! 

Or is he?

Is this really all dads are meant to be for their kids? Or is this just how some see themselves? Or more importantly, is this how their spouse, our society, or a combination of both perceive them to be? In our modern world, dads are so often viewed, portrayed and treated like they are incompetent fools, hopelessly incapable of handling kids and their abundant needs and demands. Unfortunately, many dads have bought into it and subsequently behave within this limited perspective. In their minds, they aren't Mom, so why even try to be? 

This is not only unfair to dads, but it's unfair to their kids.

In the not so distant past, fathers were held up to higher standards and defined a bit differently: Head of the Household. Breadwinner. Family Provider. Strict Disciplinarian. Honorable Patriarch. Respectable fathers were the "big guns" that came out when the oh-so-fragile and nurturing mothers weren't cutting it in the punishment department. Most often, Dad was not expected to “fill in” for Mom because he had his own defined position and responsibilities - those that were clearly set and rarely interchangeable with hers.

And although I think these labels and assumed roles were, and still are, restrictive and suppressive; it could be argued that back then, men as fathers were given significantly more respect by their partners, and by society as a whole, than they are collectively given today.

In this circumstance, what’s a modern day dad to do? 

I believe today’s fathers have the unique opportunity to define themselves in a much broader scope, no longer accepting their spouse’s or society’s ruling on their perceived capacity or commitment level or letting those perceptions guide how they approach being a dad. As their varied roles, and our collective attitudes toward those roles, broaden and evolve, dads are breaking free from old definitions and claiming new ones of their own making: Nurturer. Supporter. Caregiver. Encourager. Protector. Anchor.

So I say to babysitting dads everywhere, please... DON'T BE A SEAT FILLER FOR ANYONE. Don't settle for just "watching" your kids. Seize your power to define your own role in the lives of your children and don't allow others to define or limit who you are, or can be, for them. And to the moms that treat dads like they don’t know what they are doing, please… STOP. Have faith. Support these men in meeting their full potential and allow them the freedom to become the amazing dads they were meant to be.

No, it is not the easy road. And it's definitely not the path of least resistance. Mindful and aware parenting will challenge you with issues and moments that no babysitter wants to face; yet it will provide you with occasions and memories that every dad hopes to experience. Not to mention it will be the most rewarding and life changing path you could ever choose to take.

So jump in the trenches! Get involved in the lives of your children, be vital to them, and parent them... with intention, awareness, presence, and love. 

Your kids deserve it. And so do you. 

*Article as featured on the GoodMenProject.com