Monday, June 1, 2015

Moving on

Wow. Just wow.

I now have a 21-year-old.

And I now have a 16-year-old.

When people tell you that kids grow up in the blink of an eye, they're telling the truth.

My two oldest sons have both hit major milestones this month.

My two sons are 5 years and 5 days apart. I can remember so well the day I went from being a mom of one to a mom of two. I still had a week of work to go before maternity leave. But, as I got up to go to work that Monday morning, my water broke. Uh, oh!

While I was trying to scramble through the house between contractions gathering things I hadn't packed yet, all I could think of was that in an effort to get things all squared away at work, I had important confidential files sitting at home that I had been working on all weekend that had to get back to the office and spreadsheets that had to be finished. My wonderful friend and co-worker stopped by on her way to work so I could try and go over them as best I could in four to six minute increments until I'd have to stop and do some deep breathing.

Later that morning, following some difficulties during labor, my second son was born via emergency c-section. I wasn't awake for it, so the first glimpse I got of him was as I was being rolled down the hall after recovery and they brought him out next to me. He looked just like his big brother and his big brother couldn't have been more proud.

At that time, I had no inkling that the 5 year span between the two would mean that one day I would be celebrating such big birthdays for them at the same time.

Maybe it's my longevity as a parent or the fact that I went on to have three more boys after them, that the milestones don't seem to be hitting quite as hard as they once were. I can remember sobbing at first days of school and watching one pedal down the sidewalk on a bicycle for the first time.

This year it's less sadness and more shock that I now have a full-blown adult child that can legally do anything I can. It's less teary eyes about my son driving alone for the first time and more anxiety of him driving for the first time, combined with anxiety over the insurance bill along with relief that it may lessen the load on me of driving him everywhere.

It's part of life. It's part of parenthood. The kids are growing up and moving on. It's just more of many milestones. Sometimes those milestones mean taking a first ride on a bike, other times a first time driving a vehicle. Sometimes it is a taking wobbly steps across a room, others times it's wobbly steps after a grown-up beverage. It's never easy, but you get more used to it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The best thing a father can do for a child is to love their mother

When we were kids my mom had a plaque hanging that said something like "The best thing a father can do for their child is to love their mother." It was fitting for my parents, where there were very frequently shows of affection. Like any couple, they didn't get along 100% but most of the time they were very loving. It was a great example for us.

They've now been married for more than 50 years and it's obvious that can drive each other a little crazy at times, but they are still crazy in love with one another. And that's been one of the biggest takeaways from their years of parenting my sisters and brothers and I.

As a parent I still believe in that saying that mom had displayed in the living room. Although we have no daughters, it's just as important for sons to see their father taking care of their mother, treating her with respect and being loving towards her. There are a lot of kids who don't get to see that.

And it really goes both ways, kids need to see that love on both sides - from father to mother and from mother to father.

Mother's Day just passed and that is a time of year when naturally a husband will do something kind for his wife. However, it's the kind things that happen spontaneously that also have a big impact. Like when my husband went out to exercise his new hobby of taking nature photographs and he returned with a handful of wildflowers for me. Or when he noticed a restaurant I like had a favorite soup on the menu and he drove there to pick some up for me. Or when he notices my car needs to be washed and spends a Saturday morning in the driveway scrubbing it. There are so many other things I could list. Some get noticed more than others.

I, in turn, reciprocate, although it's not something where you keep score. But I try to be thoughtful of him and do little things for him, too. I'll make a favorite meal of his. I'll give him a shoulder massage after a rough day at work. Honestly, I have an easier time coming up with nice little things he does for me than I do for him and I need to work on that.

Anyway, it's crucial that kids witness those nice things. It's also important that they see you holding hands and enjoying each other. When they see the love between their parents, it can make them feel more secure, more confident, more prone to repeat that behavior.

I have the luxury of being in a long-time marriage and I know that there are a lot of parents who don't. It doesn't mean that kids can't still witness little bits of kindness toward the other parent. While you may not still be in love with that person, displaying kindness toward one another can still have a lasting positive effect on the children.

Take those opportunities while kids are watching to display love toward the other parent. Show them what a partnership should be when everything isn't focused on feeding and changing and caring for kids. Give them a little glimmer into your relationship. And let them see that it's a two-way street.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Dears sons: Have respect

Dear sons:

(Letter #25)

This is the 25th letter added to the blog. I got the idea years ago from another writer and have added a few letters to my boys here as things arise that I think they should know. Maybe one day they'll look at these and realize that all of mom's advice wasn't that crazy and unimportant after all.

So, my thought for you today is to have respect for others. In life, you're not going to like everyone you come across. They won't all like you. You'll meet people who will have very different opinions than yours. That doesn't mean they are wrong. It doesn't mean you are right. It means that you have each had different life experiences and different influences that have shaped your opinions. You can still co-exist peacefully. That starts by having respect for the other party.

What is respect? When I looked online most of the definitions were along the lines of admiration for someone.


a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Besides being a feeling, it's a verb, too. It's an act of showing admiration.

  1. 1
    admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

You may wonder how you are supposed to admire someone you may not agree with. It doesn't mean that you give in to their beliefs. It doesn't mean that you try to convince them of yours. It doesn't mean you dismiss their way of thinking. It means you don't assume yours is superior. Part of the beauty of this world is that we aren't all the same. We think differently. We see differently. We feel differently. And despite, that we can still get along.

You can look at someone with a completely different attitude, yet admire how much passion they have for that cause. You can look at someone who does something well, even if it's not something you're interested in, and admire the work they put into getting good at it.

Showing someone respect involves listening. It means not assuming you know better. Not cutting them off and telling them what they're doing wrong. It means giving them the benefit of hearing them out. It means allowing them to express what they'd like to express just as you would like to do the same. It means not making them feel like less because you may not agree.

It applies in so many aspects of life. School. Work. Relationships. Social circles.

You don't always have to be right. And sometimes learning that you aren't can be refreshing and eye opening. Don't have negative feeling toward someone who is different, admire them for what it takes for them to take that path that may be different.

As you grow, remember that respecting others also means you are respecting yourself. It can make your world so much bigger when you respect others enough to listen to their views and open up your own.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A hometown parade tradition

One of my favorite things about the spring and summer season is parades. I love them. I go to all the ones I can - Memorial Day parades, 4th of July Parades, Flag Day parade and Labor Day parade. Then there's some of the other fun parades in the region, like the Pierogi Parade that's part of Pierogi Fest in Whiting and their downtown Christmas Parade. But one that I have gone to every single year for at least 25 years is Lansing's Good Neighbor Day Parade. It's a fun parade that was started 48 years ago by the Chamber of Commerce and highlights the businesses, non-profit organizations, schools and churches in the village and surrounding towns. It's always the first Saturday in May and while Memorial Day is the traditional kick-off of the summer season, around here it's the Good Neighbor Day Parade. Just thought I'd share a few visuals of this fun event that has been a family tradition for us. Every year for the past many years there's at least one person in the family in the parade. This year two of the boys were involved.

The Lansing Veterans Memorial Ceremonial Honor Guard always starts off the parade.

Not far behind them was the Civil Air Patrol color guard. My middle son is part of that group.

I always love the marching bands. There were three this year.

Among the other entries were firetrucks, emergency vehicles, horses, tractors, motorcycles, antique cars, clowns and lots of other fun stuff. The theme of the parade was "Alive with Music" so there were a few bands on floats, also.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Cherishing our mutual love of the game

Every year my dad and I go to a Cubs game early in the season. That usually means opening week because we can't wait to get there after a long fall and winter without our favorite past time. Dad grew up in central Illinois surrounded by Cardinals fans, but fell in love with the Chicago Cubs as he listened to the broadcasts of them playing in the 1945 World Series and read about their victories in the pages of the Chicago newspapers that were delivered to his home via mail.

Dad passed on his love of the Cubs and his love of the game to his kids and now I'm doing the same with mine. My oldest really took to it. He's as big a fan as my dad. They've been to lots of games together over the years and several Cubs conventions. I love to hear their little chats about the latest trades, the merits of the bull pen and how the season is shaping up. Somehow, the younger four of my boys just don't have that same affection for the game. My youngest one gets excited about the games, but it's as much for the cotton candy and nachos as it is to watch the team I love so much in one of my favorite places.

This year as Dad and I looked at the schedule, we noticed there were way fewer day games this season. Heading to the ball park in April is brutal enough during the day, but head to a game at night in those first couple weeks of the season and you are almost guaranteed to need eight layers of clothing. Since I couldn't find a day game in April that would fit into the schedule, we had to wait for May. I'm glad we did because we couldn't have ordered better weather. It was about 80 degrees, very bright and sunny for the first few innings and then a little overcast, but still a lovely warm day.

We always get tickets from my sister who has been a season ticket holder for many years. We love the upper deck seats that are under the big awning that keeps us dry when it does rain and that I can spend the day outside and never even have to apply sunblock. Those seats are where we reminisce and lament over teams of the past, missed opportunities and team curses. It's where we swell with optimism and excitement discussing the newest crop of big league players and the talent in the Cubs organizations' minor league teams. It's where we share a bag of peanuts in the shell and contemplate if we want the bare bones dog from the vendors who walk the crowd, a dog with grilled onions from the stand around the corner or if it's worth the trek down under the press box to get one with freshly chopped onions. It's where we bond over a mutual love of the game and a fondness for this team and this ballpark that has given us so many memories.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Dear sons: I wish the middle for your kids

Dear Sons:

(Letter #24)

So I've read a few things recently that reinforce the thought of how my generation and my parents' generation have absolutely hit opposite sides of the pendulum when it comes to parenting. My guess is that my mom and dad parented in a way drastically different than theirs did as well.

A recent article I read suggested that those who parented in the 60's and 70's and even 80's were entirely hands off. Kids left in the morning and didn't come home until mealtime or when the street lights came on. Parents didn't hover. The kids walked to friends houses. They rode bikes around the neighborhood. They sometimes did stupid things -- exploring where they shouldn't have been, but they learned how to problem solve. They were kind of on their own. People really didn't bat an eye when kids were left home alone for hours or sat unattended in a car while parents when in a store to shop. Supervision just wasn't that common.

And it also suggested that today's parents are much the opposite. Helicopter parents they are called. They watch their kids every move. And the moves of everyone else's kids. They call police when they spot a kid unsupervised in a car or in a park or in their own front yard. They don't believe their kids are safe walking to school or riding their bikes to friends' houses. Supervision is paramount.

How we ended up on such opposite sides is perplexing. As we grew up, we had freedom and we had independence and we survived. We didn't have cell phones back then as a means to track where everyone was all the time.

Now that generation is doing the parenting and it's so different than it was back then. As I've moved on in my parenting years, I've learned to hover less but can't imagine a world where I'd send you out to play and tell you to come home hours later when it started to get dark. And I don't necessarily believe that the world is that less safe than it was then. But I know I'd be a nervous wreck, wondering where you were and what you were doing and who you were with and why you were gone so long and if you were getting into trouble or if someone had started trouble with you or if you were lost or if you were hungry or a barrage of other possibilities.

I hope that when you become parents, life will fall somewhere in the middle. Where your kids will be able to learn about the world without you looking over their shoulders and where you'll be connected enough to communicate, yet not so much that the worry takes over the enjoyment. I wish for you that parenting will be middle ground.



Monday, April 13, 2015

Little things that make you fall in love again

We've been married for almost 24 years. It's a long time.

As time passes, the daily grind of keeping things going with work and family and home can sometimes put you in robot mode. You're doing what needs to get done and not fully appreciating everything around you.

I had a moment last night where I just felt a load of gratitude for what I have and felt so appreciative of the hubby I have.

One of our boys - the 11-year-old - is in an upcoming play. He's been on stage before, but will have more lines in this production that he's had in the past. I'd gotten a kind call from the director just letting me know that he's getting stuck during some scenes and could use some extra practice time.

My son's spent a lot of time in his room going over the script on his own and he's been going through scenes at weekly rehearsals. It wasn't quite enough. I tried over and over and over and over to get him to sit down with me and go over lines with him. I suggested that it would really help if I read him the lines of the others in the scenes and we could go back and forth. He just wasn't going for it. He's not a shy kid. I don't know what the deal was. I guess I make him nervous. I can see that. I totally don't want to do that, but I can understand it. I'm sure he'd feel pressure if we sat together to rehearse.

I thought that if he didn't want to rehearse with me there's no way he would want to with his dad. Theatre is my thing, not my husband's. I'd be out at a musical every week if I could spare the time and money. I love going to plays. I love live theatre put on by all ages.

I can't even remember the last time my husband has been to a play that wasn't at one of the kids' schools. The last closest thing we went to may have been Blue Man Group. That was about 15 years ago.

So, it shocked me when I asked my son, "Do you want to go over lines with Dad?' and he answered "yes." And then I was surprised at how well it went.

Like I said, theatre is not my husband's thing, yet he patiently sat down with the script going through scene after scene, making sure he was getting pronunciations correct and adjusting his voice based on the character. He encouraged my son to leave the room for a moment to get into character and to use props to help him recite the scenes. I would have done none of that. I would have focused on memorization. No wonder my son wanted to practice with dad rather than me. The kids have said it before and I wholeheartedly agree that dad is much cooler than I am.

Anyway, seeing the two of them together and listening to them was just so heartwarming and a reminder of what a good father he is. And it just takes me back and makes me fall in love with him all over again.

Back when they were babies and toddlers those tender moments of cuddling and him feeding them and them falling asleep in his arms were constant and easy to recognize. As they get bigger and the cuddling and snuggling is less and less, we tend to least I do. And that makes a reminder like this just so sweet.