I love this post about focusing on what is important to you and your kids when choosing your battles by my writing friend Jennifer DiCamillo. Jennifer is the author of 37 books and has won well over 200 writing awards. She is a mother of five and grandmother to 8. She lives and writes in a haunted hollow in the Missouri Ozarks. Her pets include a 4 lb Yorkie named Pixie and a blue eyed paint stallion named W.C..
Picking Your Parenting Battles by Jennifer DiCamillo
I am a mother of five. I grew up in the seventies when Daisy Duke shorts were in. However, for my four daughters, I preferred to keep their butt cheeks covered. That was my first rule. But my girls are really long legged, so I had to draw another line. Shorts must be at least three inches long from the center seam. At least, that insured covering of the buttocks and other private areas. But then I decided fingertip length was better. You see, as a parent, you have to be flexible. If something doesn’t work, try again, make a new rule.
Then came the prom dress dilemma. I’m frustrated by the strapless and spaghetti strapped formals offered, as if sleeves were not used on modern clothing at all. I fought this battle, made a dress from scratch that was perfectly modest; and when prom pictures came back, my daughter was the only one who didn’t have a dress to match EVERY OTHER GIRL IN HER CLASS. My daughter forgave me, but I haven’t forgiven myself. I stood strong on the basis of modesty, and the fear of her losing her virginity on prom night. When in reality, both issues were character issues, not reliant on the straps or lack of sleeves on a dress. So, I actually lost the battle that I won at the time. I’ve cried repeatedly over what I think was a big mistake.
In a similar issue, I inspected my kids before church, sent them out to the car, climbed in, and half way to the church one day, I looked in my rearview mirror to see one of my daughters, after inspection, had added a poofy ponytail on the center top of her head, and let her sister draw (with an ink pen) a rather stylish headband across her forehead. Complete with an impressive starburst in the center. I was livid. I ranted about respecting God and self and embarrassing your family on top of all else.
It so happened that my daughter had to speak in front of the congregation that day…on judging other people. Or rather, not judging. I learned that she’d been a victim of a very churchy woman who didn’t like the length of her dresses, or how she dressed, period. After she spoke, eloquently on the subject I must add, many women approached me, said they loved the example my daughters all set. I complained about the headband and ponytail, to hear woman after woman say, “If that’s the worst rebellion you have to contend with, thank God.”
So, I’m here to tell you, don’t let a hairdo, or even a funky headband be your undoing. Don’t let a dress become a mortal war between you and your daughter. Relationships are fragile and need nurtured. Pick your battles, give in a little, and maybe you’ll win the war and still be friends with your daughter(s) when it’s all said and done.
So the 6-year-old and I went on a trip during spring break, and I’m just now posting about it. No, it’s not because I need to recover–it actually went quite well. But I thought now would be a good time to talk about some practical tips for traveling with your child or children with summer break just around the corner.
First, don’t go to Disneyworld. HA! Just kidding. My friend Camille is planning a huge family trip for her 2 kids and hubby this summer. Did you know you can get someone to help you plan your Disneyworld trip? I don’t mean a travel agent–I mean another mom who likes to figure out where you should eat dinner and what parks you should go to and when! Now, this is practical. If you want more information about this, send me an email, and I’ll put you in contact with Camille. (margolynndill@gmail (dot) com)
KT at Legoland
Anywho, here are my actual practical tips for traveling with a 6-year-old:
Don’t overbook your days: If you do, both you and your child will be exhausted and not have fun. In my opinion (since you are reading my blog, you’re gonna hear my opinion), you need one big thing on the trip (like an amusement park) and the rest smaller activities that don’t have a set schedule. Here’s what our itinerary looked like:
Leave St. Louis at 4pm on a Monday night. Drive 2 hours to Columbia, MO. Eat dinner that I packed in the car.
Go to the first hotel and go swimming that night. (Because this is what kids actually care about –hotels and pools)
On Tuesday, eat breakfast and go swimming. Check out of hotel and drive to Kansas City (2 hours). GO to next hotel and take showers there after check-in. Walk around the Plaza in Kansas City since it is a beautiful day and eat dinner somewhere. (We didn’t have a specific time we had to be anywhere, so no rushing.)
On Wednesday, OUR ONE BIG DAY–eat breakfast and go to Legoland. Make the reservation around 10:30 am, so we don’t have to get up early and rush. Eat dinner in the hotel room with food brought from home. Go swimming that night at the hotel pool.
We sat outside here at Crown Center for a while. (photo by Mark Goebel Flickr.com)
On Thursday, eat breakfast, check out of the hotel, and go to Crown Center and Hallmark’s Kaldeioscope, which is free! Eat lunch and drive home.
You need a hotel room with a refrigerator and microwave when traveling with kids. You should also look for hotels that have free breakfasts and indoor swimming pools, so your child can swim regardless of the weather. After a long day at Legoland, being able to eat the food I brought from home and relax in the hotel room, as well as that night just go swimming for an hour, made both of us happy and not so tired or cranky!
Schedule activities as much as you can in advance and look for online coupons and deals. We got an amazing deal for Legoland because I had a buy one adult, get one child free Legoland coupon from McDonald’s. We saved $18 on Katie’s admission. We also would’t have been able to get into a session of Kaldeioscope if I hadn’t checked out online first how it all worked. Many children’s activities and events have special deals for people who buy their tickets online in advance. If you are military, you probably already know that you can get all sorts of deals on kids’ admissions to museums and other fun stuff. Check out the Blue Star Family website here.
Remember to ask yourself: What is your big goal (s) for this trip? These were mine:
Take Katie some place for spring break, where she and I can spend quality time together and BOTH have fun.
Here it is. My new series on the blog–Practical Moms Unite.
Every time you see this symbol, you will know that a Practical Moms Unite post is coming! 🙂
So what is a practical mom (parent, dad, grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc, etc)? I’m focusing on practical moms because that is what I know best. But this does not mean I am excluding any of these other most-important roles. Anyway…
The definition of a Practical Parent is:
An adult who cares for a child/teen 17 or younger and who also keeps the big goal in mind. It is a person who tries NOT to allow little, unimportant, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses details get in the way of everyday living. It is remembering what being a parent should mean AND remembering who YOU are as a person (and that is not just a parent).
Let’s break it down a little!
What is the big goal? I would guess we all have specific different goals for ourselves and our children. But most of them probably fall somewhere in the range of: We want our children to grow up to be productive members of society as well as being kind, loving and successful people. For example: if this is the goal, is it really that crucial to get those Troll cupcakes for the 3-year-old birthday party if you can’t afford them?
What are little, unimportant, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses details? Anything that causes you great anxiety that does not fall in line with the goal. These are a lot of the unnecessary pressures we put on ourselves as parents, like instead of bringing a bag of cuties and cheese sticks when it’s your turn for the soccer game snack, you spend hours on Pinterest to find a cute idea for soccer snacks and stay up til midnight making them.
What should being a parent mean? Again, we all have different definitions, but my guess is most of you will agree that being a parent means loving your child with your whole heart, providing boundaries for them to learn and be successful in, and fulfilling their basic survival needs. Maybe that sounds too simple. There are thousands of children that don’t get those things, so it’s not that simple.
What does it mean remembering who you are as a person? This is the problem with social media. We compare ourselves to what everyone else is doing. When you look at your friend list, you can pick out the baker, the crafty one, the smart mom, the athletic one–this might be you, but it might not. SO then why do you expect to parent like all these friends? How many of us have seen a photo of someone doing something on Facebook or Instagram and thought: I should be doing that with my child. But should you? Do you like to bake? If yes, great, then make a birthday cake with your child. If not, then buy it at Walmart. You don’t have to make yourself miserable to be a good parent.
I don’t want to alienate anyone who loves to make crafts or throw themed-parties. If you LOVE that, if you get ENERGY from it, then my point is you should do it. But if you don’t, as a practical parent, don’t beat yourself up over it. Your child doesn’t have to have that to reach the big goal.
So that’s a little take on Practical Moms Unite.
What’s your big goal as a parent or grandparent?
What do you like to do with your child? or for your child?
Thank you to everyone who entered the book giveaway contest for Claire Gem’s books. I have 3 winners, whom I am in the process of contacting:
(contest graphic above by Angela Mackintosh from WOW! Women On Writing, a great resource for writers here. )
Andrew McCarthy in St. Louis at the Library
I saw ANDREW MCCARTHY (yes, 80’s heartthrob from Pretty in Pink and St. Elmo’s Fire) at the St. Louis County Library Headquarters last night, and it was amazing! This is not because he was so charming and I have loved him since the 80’s. But it’s because he was inspiring as an author. Here’s the beginning of my blog post I wrote about him on WOW!: “I Heard Andrew McCarthy Speak at My Local Library” True story. (Doesn’t my blog title sound like one of those titles from a “true story” magazine?) I live in St. Louis, and last night–actor, director, travel writer!, and now YA novelist Andrew McCarthy gave an inspiring talk about being creative. Once I got over the fact that I was in the same room with this man I loved on the silver screen since 1986 as Blaine in Pretty in Pink, who starred in my favorite comedy Weekend at Bernie’s and my favorite guilty pleasure, St. Elmo’s Fire, I listened to what the man had to say, and I was pleasantly surprised.
As writers, we know that we sometimes look at celebrity writers with disdain. It’s true because we know what it takes to slave over a manuscript and try to get an agent and then hope for some kind of book sales if we are lucky enough to get published. Then there’s this celebrity, who already has all the connections, and probably on some whim decided to write a book, and now is living our dream. Writers can be a spiteful bunch. (winks)
But guys, Andrew McCarthy is the real thing! To find out how he is the real thing and the inspiring things he said, go here.
Practical Moms Unite
I know you are all anxiously waiting for practical mom blog posts, so you can be a practical parent, too. No worries. They are coming–and I am currently working on two of them. If you haven’t signed up to have posts emailed to you when they go up, you should do so RIGHT NOW. 🙂 Look at the sidebar, scroll up just a bit, and fill out the very simple form titled, “Want new blog posts emailed to you?” to make this happen.
Well, it has taken me more than 28 days, but I am finally finished with the MOPS 28 Day Truth Challenge, and I have to say–I’m proud to have finished! So let’s get on with it.
Day 22: Banishing Ghosts: What is the best smell in the whole world? What is a nostalgic smell for you?
Answer: I really like the smell of Bath and Body Works Eucalyptus Spearmint Soap. I have no idea why. I did work there for a while one Christmas season, and that was a particularly fun and joyful Christmas season. It also used to be in the bathroom of a close friend of mine. It makes me feel calm. As for a nostalgic smell–I like the smell of leaves burning, which reminds me of my first couple years of teaching when I lived in a small town, and you could burn leaves there. It also reminds me of fall, which is a great time of year.
Day 23: Campfires and Confessionals: When did you last push the boundaries of your comfort zone?
Answer: The first thing that comes to mind is dating. So I guess that is what’s out of my comfort zone–but actually I don’t think it is anymore. It was, it definitely was. But I am lucky to have met someone very nice who is also understanding and seems to get me. So in going with it and going outside of my comfort zone–all actually paid off, which I think happens often when we step outside our comfort zones. I hardly ever hear anyone say: I stepped outside my comfort zone and it was terrible.
Day 24: Hearing God: What distracts you most from being present in your life?
Answer: My thoughts about what we should be doing or that I’m not doing enough or what could I be doing better or what’s going to happen next? My thoughts keep me from being in the present–and I’ve noticed a couple of times, my phone–or the social media on my phone also distracts me.
Day 25: Forget-Me-Knots: Tell someone five things you love most about them and then hug them for longer than is comfortable.
Answer: I will have to do this in person–not for the blog. 🙂
Day 26: A Dazzling Unfolding: Write down three things you want to become an expert in.
Answer: Well, I would like to become an expert in. . .practical parenting (you’ll see why in a minute), living within a budget, and living a balanced life (with exercise and healthy eating).
Day 27: The North Star: Describe a reoccurring dream you’ve had. What do you think it is trying to tell you?
Answer: The most frightening, reoccurring dream that I have ever had is one where I am driving on a Bascule bridge , and just as I get to the middle, it raises up and my car starts to slide down. I have also had a reoccurring dream where I’m sitting on the side of a river, at a cafe, and I watch an airplane crash into a bridge. So I must have something with bridges. I think these bridge dreams speak for times in my life when I have been crossing over to a new place or going on a new life journey, whether it’s my age, my job, my relationship status, adulthood–and I have had some trouble with change, so the difficulties with the bridges in the dream could symbolize that.
Day 28: Good Things Run Wild–One Big Thing
My one big thing is two big things: I am taking Katie on the little spring break trip to Kansas City AND I am going to start focusing more on writing posts about Practical Moms. 🙂 I don’t have that clearly fleshed out, but I’ve decided to just start on it instead of waiting–because I generally work better that way!
Well, even the best laid plans go awry …. If you read my last post, you obviously did not ever read a singular post about a love letter to my own body (as I had planned), and I am going to blame it on the fact that I was 1. Already behind 2. my mom went to the hospital twice last week. She fell on Sunday night, into her bathtub from a standing up position out of her bathtub, and so she has some bruised ribs–and a few other issues. Anyway, she’s been there now four days, and so this entire week has not quite gone as planned. This is the life of the sandwich generation. (If you haven’t read my previous MOPS TRUTH posts, you can find the links in the sidebar!)
But I have been thinking about my ONE BIG THING–and I might actually have two or three big things! 1. My little spring break trip with my daughter 2. Starting a new segment on this blog called Practical Moms Unite 3. a 5K (actually work up to it this summer) okay, on to the truth challenge. . .
Day 14: Sensuality and Our Skin: Write a love letter to your body.
Answer: Dear Body: This is not easy to do. 1. I’m not great about professing my love 2. Over the years, you and I have had a tumultuous relationship. But I am committed to doing this challenge, so a letter I will write. . .after all these years, I actually do love HOW TALL YOU ARE. You provide me with many benefits that I now hold dear. You have given me long legs to run bigger strides and to look nice with dresses. In my 40s, if I gain 5 pounds around the holidays, it’s not so easy to tell because there are a lot of places in my long body to hide these pounds. I can see above a crowd. There are men who love tall women. (Who knew?) So, I love being tall, and I thank you, body, every day for getting me where I need to be and for healing and allowing me to live this life I am. Love, Margo
Day 15: Feminine Power: When is the last time you did something for the first time?
Answer: Last week, I went to a bar in St. Louis and listened to some jazz music, and I have never done this before. I know–that sounds crazy and not like a big deal since I have lived here off and on all my life. But it’s on my mind because I actually said to U., “I have never been down here before” , and I called myself a virgin. 🙂 He said: Well I don’t know if we need to use that term. LOL
everything turned out fine
Day 16: Hospitable Hearts: When were you changed by someone’s kindness?
Answer: I have to go back to the NICU with this question. I didn’t even know what to ask for when KT was in the NICU. But people did things anyway, without being asked, and I have to say that this is something these people taught me that I try to do today. They sent gift cards for restaurants near the NICU, in case her dad and I needed to get out of there for a while. They took days off of work to come sit with me. They made meals for my parents and for us at my parents’ house when we got home. They sent notes about their time in the NICU and how it all worked out. Not to mention the nurses, doctors, Ronald McDonald House volunteers, and March of Dimes staff members–we were showered with kindness. I have been lucky enough to have the kindest people in my life since then also, and it has taught me how the simplest gesture really can mean so much during a difficult time.
Day 17: More than meets the eye: Has your first impression of anyone ever been terribly wrong? Were you pleasantly surprised or disappointed?
Answer: This is a difficult question for me to answer because I tend to see the good in most people until it is too late. But since I am an optimist, I’m going to focus on the pleasantly surprised part of this question. I think the answer to this then would be my MOPS group–isn’t that funny? But it’s not because of them–it’s because of me. My first impression was this is a tight-knit group that I will never want to become a part of–I’m just doing this for KT, so she has something to do apart from me, every other week. HA! What a joke. These women are some of my best friends, once I opened up and became involved (that’s the key), and now I don’t know what I would do without them!
Day 18: Power of Story: What is one of your biggest regrets? What do you need to forgive yourself for?
Answer: I can never answer this question. And I will tell you why. If I did anything differently than how I did it, I would not have KT. I would not be a writer. I would not have my wonderful friends and family. I would never have met U. So, I am glad I did everything I have ever done because it has made me the person that I am today. I am pretty happy with her. Sure, sometimes, I will say things like: I should not have majored in English. I should have known better. etc. But really, the only thing I regret or need to forgive myself for is when I have a bad day and I waste time on things that are not important OR allow myself to become negative OR get caught up in the pettiness of social media, drama and gossip.
Day 19: Eyes and Calling: What is the motto for this era of your life?
Answer: I have this hanging on my wall, thanks to MOPS: Sometimes, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do what everyone else is doing. And today, I’m going to add something to that: or what everyone THINKS I should be doing!
Day 20: Live Like Music: Is there a song that always takes you back to a specific time?
Answer: Is there a song that doesn’t? 🙂 I currently have a two-year free subscription to Sirius XM and I love it! I love the 70s on 7, 80s on 8, and 90s on 9! But if I’m going to think of one specific song that has meant something to me recently, I think I’ll pick: “The Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. If you watch the video below and listen to the lyrics, it will be pretty obvious why this song has meaning to me these past couple years, and it will always take me back to the summer of 2015:
Day 21: Failing Gloriously: What are you afraid of? If you weren’t afraid of these things, how would your life be different?
Answer: I am most afraid of putting myself out there and failing. It has been a fear for so long, AND I STILL have failed so many times; and I am finally realizing that this is true. SO…I’m done being scared. I try to be true to myself now with consideration for people that I love. I am trying to STOP worrying about all the bad things that could happen and just live. I am trying to recognize what is in my control and what is not. If I would have stopped being afraid of all my worries years ago, who knows what my life would look like now? I would probably have taken more chances at the very least.
Come on–you blog reader–take a look at one of these questions, and answer it in the comments below. (Or if you are here from Facebook, answer me there if you like that better!)
I’m doing the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) 28-day challenge. This is day 6 to 10 (because I’m behind and trying to catch up). To read my first post about this challenge and the answers to questions 1 to 5, please click here.
Here is Day 6 to 10:
Day 6: Creating a Legacy: Okay, I can’t do Day 6 on here–because it is actually something you have to say to someone. And I don’t want to say it to that someone on a public blog. . .so. . .moving on
Day 7: Birthing Something New: What is something that is being birthed in you right now?
Answer: This is simple! I want to write a non-fiction book of some kind–I just have to decide which topic or topics I want to cover. I have been thinking about a writing book and also a parenting book. Or a humorous parenting book–or even practical parenting/humor. Or a book about being a mom and divorced. I feel right now the possibilities are endless, and I am using this blog and my WOW! posts to see which topics seem to resonate with readers the most.
Day 8: Confidence Over Conformity: What does your name mean? Hit up Google to discover the attributes spoken to you via your given name.
Answer: Apparently, Margo means Pearl. So, I decided to look up pearl. Merriam-Webster said pearl means:
a: a dense variously colored and usually lustrous concretion formed of concentric layers of mother-of-pearl as an abnormal growth within the shell of some mollusks and used as a gemb:mother-of-pearl
2: one that is very choice or precious
3: something resembling a pearl intrinsically or physically
4: a nearly neutral slightly bluish medium gray
Let’s go with definition 2, since that’s the one that could apply to a human being also. Hopefully, I am precious to my friends, family, and daughter. Or even a gem. 🙂 I do truly believe that all human beings are precious, and individuality is something to be treasured, just like a pearl. So. . .what have you learned here today? Basically Margo means pearl, but you can just call me Margo.
Day 9: Breathing in the Light: Talk about a time when someone shined a light into your dark place. A time when someone encouraged you when you really needed it.
Answer: I think I might have mentioned on here before that the absolute worst day of my life was October 31, 2010, when my 5-day-old daughter had to be transferred by ambulance to a children’s hospital in St. Louis City. (She had been in the NICU in the county at the hospital where I gave birth, and doctors decided due to medical testing that she needed to be at the better hospital.) I never knew fear like this before. I remember being with my mom, who was sitting next to me while I pumped with tears streaming down my face and saying, “If anything happens to her, I will not survive this.”
Luckily, nothing happened, and as you have seen in other posts, she is doing wonderfully today. But, that was a very dark day.
Once we were at the new children’s hospital, around 9pm, I was in her private room, and a doctor is talking over my screaming/turning red 5-day-old preemie to explain to her father and I all the testing she needed, why, and what it all meant.
I turned to him and said, “I can’t focus on what you are saying while my baby is screaming. We need to help her first.” (I’m not sure I said it this nicely or coherently. I might have just said, “You have to stop.”)
Then this wonderfully skilled and kind nurse ran in and put her hands on my baby’s head, applying pressure like you need to with a preemie (which I eventually learned) and stopped her crying; so the doctor, who looked absolutely taken aback when I said he had to stop talking until my baby stopped screaming, could finish all the testing talk.
And the nurses, during our entire 30-day stay were terrific, from teaching us how to bathe her, to making sure I was able to breast feed, to answering my phone calls every night at 3am–those NICU nurses are some of the most amazing people on this planet, who encouraged me and shone a light during a very stressful and dark time.
Day 10: Timeless Delight: Do you laugh or frown more? When is the last time you really lost track of time?
Answer: I definitely laugh more; and more than ever before, I am learning to laugh more, to appreciate life, to feel happiness and be in the moment. This is a learning process, but I feel that I am further along on this journey than I have been. The last time I really lost track of time. . .I need to think about this because I am just not sure. . .I hate to say this, but I am so schedule oriented–so that I can “fit everything in.” I’m going to come back and revise this answer. . .after I have some time to think about it. (Blame game: I am writing this post very late at night, so I will blame my poor response on the fact I need to go to bed. . .)
What about you? Try looking up your name or telling us about a time someone shone a light in your darkness in the comments below. . .
I am in MOPS–Mothers of Preschoolers, and I recommend if you are a stay-at-home mom or part-time working mom of children under 1st grade, FIND YOURSELF A GROUP NOW. These women have become some of my best friends and have been with me through thick and thin. Through the divorce and surgeries, they have helped me with Katie, provided support with cards and messages, organized two meal trains, and paid for lawn service for an entire spring/summer/fall. I don’t need to explain more, right? I love them! But that’s not what this post is about.
This year, MOPS has a 28-day challenge to do either a TRUTH OR DARE each day, and then work toward a BIG THING. I’m still not sure what my BIG THING will be. I thought running a 5K, but I’m not sure training for that in February is the best idea; so I’m still on the fence with my BIG THING. But I am going to do this challenge; and like everything, I am behind. This post is for days 1 to 5. On Monday, days 6 to 10 will post. Then I will hopefully post 11 to 14 on Tuesday ,and will be caught up along with knowing more what my BIG THING might be. I also have been mulling around going on a short trip with Katie, so maybe my BIG THING will be actually taking the plunge and planning it during spring break. So far, I’ve just talked about it.
So let’s get to it:
Day 1: Swell Seasons: In what ways do you feel out of control in your life?
Answer: In what ways, don’t I? Ha! I think the biggest ways I feel out of control in my life are the demands of single parenting and my time management and amount of daily energy. It all boils down to priorities. Since I have a full-time job and a child and relationships with other human beings, then I need to prioritize what is important to me and what goals I want to accomplish on a daily basis. If I don’t and I waste a lot of time on something like arguing politics on Facebook, I feel out of sync, out of control, because time is precious. More and more, I realize how little of it I actually have. And how I want to be choosy where and with who I spend it. It’s all about balance, and I still struggle with that on a daily basis.
Day 2: Blessings in the Night: What is your favorite thing that has happened in the dark?
Answer: That’s a loaded question, huh? I really had to think about this one because I am much more of a morning/afternoon/early evening person, than a night-time owl; and so I decided to just look back over this past year, and be very literal about this question. My favorite thing that happens on a regular basis in the dark is my 6-year-old daughter’s night time routine, complete with reading (and now sometimes she is reading to me!) and snuggling. I always tell her it is my favorite part of the day, and I am being serious. It is peaceful and sweet and calming–so much so that I often fall asleep myself. . .oops!
Day 3: Becoming Our Mothers: What are two things you hope your kids will talk about as adults when they describe their memories of you?
Answer: I want her to talk about how much fun we had on a daily basis, using our imaginations (the stuffed animals all have voices and talk a lot; my fingers are actually tickle bugs; the gremlins come if we don’t get dressed by 9am) and how in our home, there was a lot of singing, dancing, and laughing. I also hope she remembers the little life lessons I am trying to teach her, such as being kind, entertaining yourself, not always thinking of yourself, work before play, and remembering to say I love you to people you love.
Day 4: Sister Courage: What do you value most in a friend? Are you that kind of friend?
Answer: I value kindness the most in a friend. I want someone with a kind heart and a positive attitude. They don’t have to always be up, of course, and I am willing to listen to anyone about anything; but I hope that when they are looking at the world, they are doing it with kindness and optimism because that definitely wears off on me. I think I am pretty kind and optimistic. Sometimes, with some friends, I can be more opinionated than others, and I probably need to do a bit more active listening.
Day 5: Dear Fifteen: What do you need to give yourself permission to feel? What hurts are waiting to be seen and healed?
Answer: This is going to sound crazy, but I need to give myself permission to feel happiness. I will not feel guilty because I also feel happy. I know it sounds crazy, but I think divorce or any really hard life struggle does this to you. It is almost like you are scared to feel happiness because you’re always waiting for the next terrible thing to happen. I have worked through a lot of hurt over my adult life, so I don’t feel like I have any deep, buried issues that are waiting to come out. They have all been pouring out and now I am looking to find peace.
Feel free to answer any of these questions in the comments! 🙂 You don’t have to be a MOPS member to do so. . .
1. Life is a work in progress. I’m the kind of person who wants to fix everything right now. This is an impossible and exhausting way to live for two reasons. First, the only person I can control is myself; therefore, if the thing in my life that’s wrong involves another person, I can only do so much to fix the problem. Secondly there are only so many hours in the day, and part of those must be spent taking care of essential needs: since I am a parent, I must provide a home, food, and care for my daughter as well as myself. So a good portion of my time goes toward this. Therefore, the other things I want to do in my life take a backseat sometimes, and that is okay and normal. Everything does not have to happen RIGHT NOW.
2. Listen more. Speak less. I’m still working on this one. But I realized this about myself this year, with help from a very good friend–I often jump to conclusions and speak my mind before I have all the facts. I am working on my listening skills and taking a deep breath before spurting out the wrong thing.
3. Give people a chance. After divorce, most people will tell you it is hard to trust. No matter how bad the marriage was or who initiated the divorce, you were a part of a couple for a while (sometimes a long while) and now you are out on your own. While dating, I have learned that most people in a similar situation as myself are decent and also just trying to live their lives. This kind of fits with number two above, but I need to learn to not jump to conclusions and trust people until they give me a reason not to.
4. Being a parent is hard. Give myself a break. I miss my daughter terribly when she is away from me; but sometimes when she is with me, I don’t feel like I have time to think or process anything, and I am often exhausted. I worry about her constantly, and I am sometimes impatient. This seems to be similar to many other parents I know (single and married); and when I start to feel like “you are doing a terrible job–you should have done A, B, C,” I’m learning to take a deep breath and give myself a break. I love her more than anything, and I spend a good portion of my life being her mom. Every once in a while, I’m going to mess up and it’s okay.
5. Balance is key. To be the best person I can, I have to sleep, eat healthy, exercise, have fun with my daughter, read, write, work, have fun with my friends, and spend time with my parents. The key is to stay balanced. Don’t let any one area take all the time away from another. This is super hard, and again a work in progress; but I am doing better–especially the sleep. Do you know how important sleep is? 🙂
One day, my friend Julie said, “Have you seen the latest issue of (Insert some wonderful parenting magazine here) and their suggestions for back-to-school lunches?”
The funny thing is I had seen that article–I think it must have been a free issue sent to many houses, and I remember thinking: Do people really make these types of entrees for their child’s school lunch? Coconut and raisin pita roll up? Almond butter and banana sandwich on 12-grain bread? Homemade minestrone soup?And do children eat these dishes? Where have I gone wrong?
Julie brought me back to reality. “My children basically eat cheese and crackers. Or their potato chips.”
Yes, now you are speaking my language.
I’m not sure who writes parenting magazine articles. Their bios state they are a parent of 12 or triplets, or they have adopted children from several different countries around the world, but I’m not sure if I believe them. Or maybe their bios are the only true part of the entire page, because really, who lives their lives like the parents in parenting magazines?
Let’s take a couple of headlines for example:
25 Ways to Make the Holidays Special
First, no headline of any parenting magazine should ever have more than 5 tips for anything, and even 5 is semi-overwhelming. Do you really need to read a magazine article about how to make the holidays special? Aren’t they special all on their own? Isn’t it magical as a kid to think of the big guy in a red suit coming down the chimney, eating your homemade chocolate chip cookies and drinking your milk, and leaving you presents that you asked for? It’s also special that your entire family gets together and eats a meal, and maybe even plays a game instead of watching Netflix. Driving around and looking at Christmas lights or watching a Christmas movie snuggled under a blanket is special! Trust me. You don’t need a magazine article to tell you how to make this magical time of the year magical. You can figure this out all on your own with the same things your mom did for you BEFORE there were articles like this at your fingertips or pinned to your Pinterest board.
Is Your Child Getting Enough Sleep?
Please don’t read an article like this. If you are clicking on this article to see if your child is getting enough sleep, then the answer is probably that your child is not getting enough sleep. Enough said.
How to Play with Your Child
I am all for articles that might introduce new games or even craft ideas (if they are easy) for you and your child. But do you really need an article that tells you HOW to play with your child at an age-appropriate level? No, you really don’t. It will just stress you out. You will be ridden with anxiety after reading this article and wonder constantly if you are playing with your child correctly and stimulating him or her enough to become smart enough to get into the best preschool. And don’t worry, there are articles galore (10 Ways to Tell if Your Preschool is On the Cutting Edge) to help you stress out about this, too.
SO what should you read?
I really feel like Mommy blogs, such as The Tribe Magazine or Scary Mommy , are much more realistic and helpful. Some of you may be shaking your head. But just like Pinterest and sometimes the Facebook fantasy world we all portray are too much for me, I can’t believe that people live their everyday lives like these writers for parenting magazines portray. I can’t believe that people need articles telling them 12 ways to diaper their child or 13 toys that help your baby reach super intelligence.
So please, do yourself a favor (and the rest of us, too). Step slowly away from the parenting magazines and love your child because you are the only one who knows how to do that the best.