Monthly Archives: June 2014

Owning It

Dear Melody,

Last night, you came to me crying, saying that you broke a rule earlier in the day because you forgot it was a rule. You asked if I could forgive you. I assured you that I would always forgive you when you asked me to, but could tell by the look on your face that this was really bothering you.

“Did you forget or did you choose to disobey the rule?” I asked pointedly.

You looked down and back up. “I forgot. Really I did!”

“Okay. If you tell me that is the truth, I will believe you. But I’m giving you one more opportunity to own your real feelings and motives if you are not being honest with me. Think very carefully before you answer me. Remember how important it is to take responsibility.”

You looked at the floor again and your eyes filled with tears.

“Did you forget or did you choose to disobey?” I asked again.

You burst into tears. “I chose to disobey. I knew I shouldn’t have but I really wanted to and I did it anyway. I’m so sorry. Will you please forgive me, Mama? Please?” You sobbed and fell hard into my arms. I saw your dad’s eyebrows go up as he observed our conversation from behind you.

“Yes, Melody. I forgive you. And I am VERY proud of you for admitting the real truth. That is a really big deal. Admitting your real feelings behind something you did wrong and taking responsibility for it is very mature. I knew you could do it. I feel so, so proud of you right now.” I hugged you tight while you cried a bit more. Then released you as you wiped your tears. “I need to take your iPod until the morning since you didn’t follow the rules for using it, okay?” You nodded solemnly and handed it over. “Will you punish me anymore for this?” You asked in a nervous voice. “No. Because you chose to be honest with me and with yourself, I will keep your iPod until I get up tomorrow, then you can have it back and we go back to normal rules. Do you understand why I need to do that? To help you make a better choice next time?”

“Yes, I understand,” you nodded emphatically. “Thank you, Mama.”

I hugged you again and told you I loved you and you made your way up to bed.

Once the three of you were safely tucked in, I asked your dad what he was thinking as he watched what was happening. “That was a really big deal,” he said without hesitation. “It took a lot for her to admit that.”

I agreed. And I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I’m so proud that you are starting to learn this lesson. And it makes me feel like I’m doing something right in the midst of all the brokenness where I do things wrong.

A few days ago, we had a notsogood day. A day where you felt powerless and I felt powerless and we both felt angry and I yelled and you yelled and we had to separate to calm down. I was not able to be a grownup in that moment. And I was ashamed of that fact. A little while later, we came back together to talk about our feelings. I explained why I reacted the way I did and you told me what you were feeling. I apologized for yelling and for being so lost in my own “stuff” that I wasn’t able to help you with yours when you needed me. You cried and told me that when I act like that, you feel like I don’t care about you at all. I told you that makes me sad because I love you more than you can imagine. And I apologized for not being a better mother. I told you I wish I was better and more like the mother you needed. You got very upset and we clung to each other and you told me you didn’t want anyone but me to be your mom. We both cried and connected in that moment.

I challenged your recent reluctance to return my “I love you’s” and you admitted it is because you’re mad at me a lot of the time. I asked if you thought I ever got mad at you and you said yes. I asked if you knew that I still loved you when I was angry and you said yes. I asked if you thought it was possible for you to both love me and be angry with me. And I appealed to the fact that you have Jesus in your heart, and that He challenges us to love in the face of anger, sadness and imperfection. You agreed that all of that was possible. I told you that I will not force you to say you love me, but I would like for you to think about what all of that means. You nodded and that was that. It was a really hard day. But we made it through it together, even though it was painful.

I’ve noticed the last few days, you’ve been saying “I love you.” I watch you making a choice every time. And so that, coupled with you owning your own wrong choice gives me a hope I didn’t have before. We’re going to make it. You were made to be my baby girl and I was made to be your mother. For better or for worse. And we are going to make it. Because if you are becoming a person who can be honest with herself about her own decisions and motivations instead of being a victim or making excuses? You are ahead of the majority of adults I know. And I have such respect for you. You are growing and changing and I am proud to call you my daughter. It’s taken me years to learn that owning a mistake is the road to positive change. And you are 9 years old and learning it already.

So I know you are never going to be perfect. . .just like I never will. But I’m yelling less and listening more. And you’re saying you love me even when you’re mad and admitting when you choose to break a rule. We are becoming, we two imperfect girls. Becoming together and becoming separately. And we are learning so much from each other. And I know that Jesus is smiling today because we are choosing to let him make beautiful things out of our brokenness. And I know that much of your brokenness is because I am your mother. But I also know that God has a plan to use both of us for His purposes. . .and that brokenness is a tool that opens the hearts of others to receive the love of Christ. So we will keep growing together. We won’t give up. Because He lives inside of us. And because we’re worth it.

Love, Mama

Counting the minutes. . .

Dear Fellow Travelers,

From the title of this post, you’re probably thinking I’m going to write something emotionally deep or beautifully poetic. Sorry to disappoint you. But in the raw and sometimes shocking fashion that I normally share. . .here is some truth in journalism:

I count the minutes until my son goes down for a nap. Every. Single. Day. Afternoon nap. Bedtime. Blessed, blessed quiet. Exhausted from the chase, I do a little booty dance when he goes to sleep. Because. Freedom. And. Peace.

I realize that may be offensive to some, but let me explain. I love that little boy more than you could possibly even fathom. He is adorable, squishy, delightfully hilarious, cuddly and just all-around lovable. But the boy is busy. When he is awake, I am constantly on the chase. As I clean up one mess or comfort one pain, he’s in the process of creating another.  So the hours when he is asleep keep me sane. Well, saner than I would be without them.

So it is with honest excitement that I can go into his room after a refreshing break from the action in anticipation of his beautiful blonde/blue smile and exclamation of “Mommy!!” as if he hasn’t seen me in a week. And while I used to judge myself a bad or incapable mom because of counting the minutes, I now deem myself “normal.” ;) It’s okay to enjoy the break and look forward to my quiet time. And to look forward to the resumption of Whirlwind Romeo. Because one feeling does not diminish the other. Just like my exhaustion does not diminish my SO BIG love for him.

And so, fellow tired mommy traveler, if you find yourself counting the minutes, remind yourself that you count those minutes BECAUSE you love your little whirlwind and want to recharge so you can keep giving him or her your absolute best. Because you’re human. . . And because you’re both worth it.

Love, Handprints

Nostalgia and New Perspectives

Dear Granny,

My memories of you are somewhat faded by time and filtered through the mind of a child, but I thought of you today. I’m not sure what it was. I was cleaning up after breakfast and getting ready to have my coffee on the porch. I bent to straighten a pillow and suddenly the smell of old house, antique furniture and bacon frying coupled with the hum of my antique fan and the warm summer breeze sent my mind sailing back to summer days spent on the breezeway with you and Papa Denver.

I don’t remember a very close emotional connection with you as a child. I remember finding you somewhat of a mystery. Memories of holiday meals with delicious food in the big farm kitchen or helping you make the cookies there are no recipe for still float by occasionally. You still seem like a “big person” in my mind’s eye. . even though my very last memory of you is anything but big. A frail, sad lady in an assisted living home. Lonely. Telling the same stories and asking the same questions over and over. But I prefer to reminisce through the happy times I remember.

Every summer, the week I spent with you and Papa at your house was one of my favorite of the year. When I go there in my memories, I feel a sense of peace and happiness.

Homemade pickles, cold buttermilk and roasted hot dogs over a fire in the front yard.

Helping in the huge garden, playing “house” in the room off the breezeway.

You sitting in the living room floor with me in a fort we made together, playing store. In spite of your age (which I now realize was late 70’s, early 80’s!), you were one of the best playmates.

Trying on your huge shoes with the bunion marks, thinking there was no way my feet would ever be that big (I think they’re actually bigger!) :)

Listening to you snore next to me at night in the big bedroom of the old farmhouse, where the wood floors caused it to echo off the walls.

Sitting on the breezeway after my bath in the evening, listening to the crickets chirp and the birds make their nighttime settling-in noises.

Pleasant memories all. Then I move to memories of you from my teen years and I realize, that’s when my view of you changed. I still knew you loved me, but I began to listen to the judgments of others around me. Many times, you would get “stuck” on a thought and could not seem to get free from it. You cleaned your bathroom with a chemical cleaner and for weeks were worried about chemical poisoning from your exposure. You were constantly convinced that something was wrong with you and went often to the doctor for testing to find out what it could be. And those around me talked about your tendencies as if you were a little bit crazy. You lived to be 99 years old, so clearly there was nothing “wrong” with you all those times. But as I look back at those and MANY other incidents like them, I realize that you, in fact, likely had a fairly active case of OCD. And instead of thinking about you as the slightly crazy old lady who was my granny and feeling like laughing about those stories, I feel like crying.

Because I also have OCD. . .the kind that is triggered by significant anxiety. And I suffered for years thinking that if I could just be strong enough to force my mind to think differently, I could overcome it. Feeling like something was “wrong with me” on so many levels, physical/mental/emotional. Hating myself and sometimes wishing I could just be done upon this earth because the tormenting thoughts were so overwhelming. I would become obsessed with a symptom, compulsively research it online and suffer from terror that I was going to die young and leave my children without a mother.

And so, now that I understand what you were actually struggling with all those years, I feel so very sad that you were so misunderstood. I know a bit about the very difficult life you had early on. To outlive all three of your children (two who died six months apart in childhood) and two husbands must have caused you unimaginable pain. And still I remember you as one of the strongest ladies I’ve ever known. Because you WERE strong. And your struggle with OCD did not make you any less so. The grown-ups around me who laughed at your “odd” tendencies did not do so maliciously. I know that now, too. As humans, we tend to mock that which we do not understand. I thought you were weird, too. Until I WAS you. And I realized that mental illness is not a character weakness. That it often comes from a place in our minds and hearts attempting to make sense out of the senseless things in life that cause us pain.

So now as I sit here on my own breezeway of sorts with the sounds and smells that remind me of you all around, I wish we could chat. I’d love to help you understand why you thought the way you did. And that you were not broken beyond repair. And that you were not crazy. And then I remember where you are today, and I know that you already understand those things. Because the foremost thing I remember about you is that your faith in Jesus was one for the history books. And so as you sit with Him this morning face to face, I know that you understand the brokenness you suffered on this earth and that you are now in a state of permanent joy and fearlessness. And that makes my heart smile.

If I could tell you anything right now, it would be that I don’t struggle so much with my OCD anymore. I fought the odds and the stigmas and got the help I needed. And while I have my rough days, my mind and heart are free to love without fear more days than not. I broke the cycle, Granny. And I learned that I am strong. And while my children will have their own struggles without a doubt, they will not have to suffer alone or without the knowledge that they are not stuck there forever. And if they start to show signs of OCD, I will help them get the help they need. Because they are so worth it. And you were worth it, too. But then you know that now, don’t you. ;-)

Love, Your Great-grandaughter

Serious Therapy

Dear Fellow Broken People,

Those who throw out, “Man, YOU need some serious therapy!” as an insult. . .

1. Likely need serious therapy.

2. Likely have no clue what therapy actually is or does.

3. Have just perpetuated the stigma in our society that mental illness is some kind of character weakness. Which it is not.

It takes a lot of courage to seek out help when you need it. An honestly, even the most emotionally stable person on the planet could still benefit from therapy. Because we live in a broken world. And we’re raised by broken people. Who were raised by broken people. If we would just take a moment to employ a bit of kindness in the face of immaturity or poor judgment, who knows what ripples of change we might create.

As an individual who has personally benefited from “serious therapy,” I can tell you that it’s not for cowards. It’s hard. Possibly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But it’s SO WORTH IT. My mind is a different mind than it was 8 years ago when I first walked into my therapist’s office and told her she had 6 weeks to fix me. I parent my current    toddler much more effectively than my poor firstborn (they get all the big mistakes, don’t they?)

The bottom line? If you’re struggling with parenting, I highly recommend getting some serious therapy. And I don’t say that lightly or jokingly. I say it because it will change your life. And I say it because you’re worth it. ;-)

Love, Handprints

Principles and Poopy Diapers

Dear Jubilee,

Last week, you impressed me to the max with your diaper changing skills. . .that I didn’t know you had, and that I likely would rather you not employ again. I found some poopy wet wipes in the bathroom trash can and asked you how they got there. You first made up a story involving the dog, but when pressed you looked at me with very big, guilty, sad eyes and told me the story of how you changed Romeo’s diaper because “it makes him sad to be stinky,” and you know how tired I am of changing his poopy diapers (Your words. I’ve never actually said that. lol). You said you used your stool and changed him on the changing table and cleaned up all the poop and washed your hands and WOW that was a lot for a four year old!

So after explaining to you that even though it was VERY nice of you to try and do something for me that was so helpful, changing poopy diapers is a grown-up job and we’d like you to ask for help next time, you smiled and nodded and it seemed all was well. Fast forward to tonight.

As I was tucking you into bed tonight, I noticed some brown stains on the bottom of your comforter. When I asked you what they were, the all-too-familiar wide-eyed guilty look overtook your face and tears began to pool. And that’s when it all came spilling out. You DIDN’T actually change Romeo on his changing table. He climbed up into your top bunk and you changed him there on your comforter. And there was poop all over your comforter. Because you made up the story about the changing table and I had no idea that your comforter had poop on it and needed to be washed.

I will admit this information took me by surprise and frustrated me. You are going through a phase where it’s hard to know when you’re telling the truth. You spin stories for fun but you also lie a lot for fear of “getting into trouble” when you cross a boundary. And so we had a very long conversation tonight about honesty and consequences.

I explained to you that if I had known your bedding was dirty, I would have washed it for you before now. I asked you why you didn’t tell me in the first place and you said what I expected. That you didn’t want to get in trouble. I explained that you were now in trouble for lying to me, but if the honest story had been told when it happened, there would have been no further consequences AND you would not have had a stinky comforter in your bed all week. And I banned your favorite TV show for the day tomorrow as a consequence for the lying.

As you began to sob about your loss of privilege, I knew it was time for another conversation, so I pulled you into my lap and held your shaking body until you calmed a bit. I asked you what you were feeling and you muttered something that didn’t make sense about doing all the chores. I asked if you felt like I don’t love you anymore and you started sobbing harder and nodded. I reassured you that I will always love you. No matter what. Even when you lie. Even when you’re mad at me. AND that telling the truth doesn’t just keep you out of trouble (because you may still get in trouble sometimes if the truth is you did something you shouldn’t have), but lying will always get you into trouble.

I told you I was sad that you lied to me because I would have helped you clean up your bed. I told you I was disappointed that you lied to me because I want you to feel like you can safely tell me anything. I told you I was still proud of how capable you were when changing your brother’s diaper, and that it was actually very smart to make sure he was on your comforter to keep the mess off the rest of your bed. I told you that if you keep lying to me the way you have been lately, I will start to think you’re lying all the time, even when you’re telling the truth. And THAT’s when I saw the light go on in your mind.

“You mean when I tell the truth you won’t believe me?”

“Well, if you keep telling me lies, I will start to think you’re lying even when you’re not. But if you tell me the truth, even when you might get in a little trouble, I will believe you when you tell me things.”

At 4, I did not expect you to really comprehend that concept, but it seemed to really sink in. We talked about you listening to your inside helper when you think you might want to lie and using your “feeling muscles” to tell me the truth when it feels scary. We talked about feeling proud for the way you changed your brother’s diaper, feeling sad to lose your TV show, feeling scared to tell me the truth and feeling sad about the thought that I might not believe you sometime. And there we were, holding “good” feelings and “bad” feelings together, all in one place. That most uncomfortable of sensations that even adults struggle with. You and I did it. . .and it was wonderful and horrible and painful and joyful all at once.

As we took each feeling out and examined it together, I realized just how emotionally aware you have become lately. And so in spite of this lying phase, I’m sitting here now alone thinking about how thankful I am that you’re getting this feeling thing. And that you’re starting to understand natural consequences (i.e. chronic lying leads to doubting your honesty).

As your warm, sweet little arms gave me my final goodnight hug tonight, I left your room truly believing that next time, telling the truth in the face of crossing a line might be a little easier for you. And as usual, you, my little hurricane, have pushed the limits of my mind when it comes to what you’re capable of. But I’m so glad you’re mine to learn from. Even when it’s exhausting. Because you’re worth it.

Love, Mama