Overnight Parental Metamorphosis

 

My son, my second child, just left the house for his Senior Year of High School finals.  I know this day is a major rite of passage.  So I go to my basement and retrieve a few fragments of his and his sister’s childhood from the big box of grade school papers I have kept all these years.  I am that Mom.  The one who frames art projects and puts every lost tooth in a ziplock bag.  These memories are my treasures.

You don’t get to choose many of the experiences your children will have outside your four walls and nothing prepares you for the disappointments the world will heap upon them – you can only hope that your love will be the cushion your child needs to bounce back and return to the world of unexpected experiences the following day.

As a child, Motherhood and writing were my true callings.  I wrote plays and each afternoon baked goodies in my Easy Bake oven before picking my imaginary kids up on my bicycle riding up and down my long driveway and talking to them.  As an adult, my life has luckily pretty much mirrored what I always dreamed and imagined motherhood would be.  Except the joy I have felt over the beauty of children’s innocence and unfaltering love was deeper than anything I had ever experienced.  And the anguish over not being able to solve a child’s heartache with a bowl of ice cream and a hug more harsh than any adult experience I had ever known.

The most unexpected delight from mothering a girl and a boy has been the gift of being the guardian of the gentle unfolding of their hearts in this world.  Being a parent at our house has often meant inviting the outside world to our table.  The way my children embraced our Little Brother when we were matched as a Family in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program was loving and open-hearted.  They were open and accepting of the experience and shared our abundance of love, food, toys and fun with him without urging by me or their Dad.  And the outside adventures their hearts led our family to were beyond any planned playdate or experience I could have ever mapped out.  When our daughter told us at age 8 she wanted to be a competitive cheerleader, we set off on 2 years of driving hundreds of miles each week and thousands of 8-counts and sassy faces and moves to impress judges at competitions.  She already had grit, determination and focus.  The competitive sport just gave her an outlet, and her overwhelmed Mom was grateful for that.

My husband will faint in disbelief when he reads this, but I am grateful to have lived in the country on 32 acres for part of our kids’ childhood, in particular, the formative part.  They learned how to occupy themselves on long, windy, hot summer days without constant monitoring or activities.  Families enjoyed campfires, storytelling and music in the evenings and our son became a huge fan of the annual music festival that took place 1 mile from our back door.  To this day, his favorite smell is smoke from a campfire and as a young man, our house has become the headquarters for his friends to linger, laugh and talk into the night by a simple campfire.  Our daughter honed her writing skills and our many 8-hour car trips to visit family in St. Louis were a great source of inspiration.  Here she writes about the “Throwing Up Spring Break” of 2006 which was preceded by the “greatest day” of our 6-year-old son’s life at Disney on Ice.

Although today officially marks a transition from parenting children to young adults, and my heart is somewhat tender with wistful memories of those early days, I look forward to the next chapter – one that has already begun with my daughter – of witnessing, supporting, validating and loving the young adults my children become.

These 2 are my treasures and they belong to the world now, not me.  That’s both the most painful and proud reality of parenting:  these children gifted to us are born to fly.  Instead of planning the next week to make sure I am available for sporting events or other activities they love, I am, even as I write this, officially promoted to Witness.  I don’t have to referee their journey anymore.  Another Mom recently said, “You go from parent to consultant overnight.”  It might take me a few boxes of tissue to make the transition.  Each tear will be worth it.

Now I get to see who they invite to our table.

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6 Risks Worth Taking

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I used to believe that trusting the Universe was foolish,  After all, what’s a good mind worth if you’re just going to throw logic away and believe everything will work out okay?  It’s taken 52 years and a heap of effort to discover that happy people are trusting people – doesn’t make them stupid or less worthy of a good life – it is simply a fact.  Marshall Crenshaw has a song, “Cynical Girl,” about a girl who “harbors no illusions and she’s worldly-wise.”  I pretended I was that girl for a very long time.  It was boring and I missed out on so many adventures – including failures – because I chose the safety of a cynical attitude.

When I chose sobriety in 2015 I had no idea I was responding to an invitation from the Universe to trust and live.  Everything that happened in my life before I chose sobriety felt like either a punishment or reward instead of simply life.  Giving up a chemical dependence meant surrendering to the illusion that I had any power whatsoever over what happened to me and those I loved.  That’s frightening!  But I also discovered that my husband and I had been risk-takers all along.  We were living and thriving in spite of minor scrapes and bruises along the way.  It’s weird when you stop numbing yourself from pain because it’s almost like you start expecting painful experiences without fear or dread.  Once you accept what is, the energy that went into numbing and denial and supporting beliefs that no longer serve you is free and available to use.  And life gets fun again, even the messy parts.

So, here is a short list of 6 messy risks I have taken (all of them affecting my family, so I give them lots of credit) that have been worth the short-term pain:

  1. Change careers even after you have an established one – mostly my husband has done this (a couple of times!) and I have been the “best supporting” character, but I have done a smaller version of this myself.  After raising kids, I have had a series of very low paying and stressful jobs that have all provided experience and skills leading to the satisfying “big” job I am in today, at exactly the moment I am ready for it. But also, THIS BLOG.  Cheeky Street started out as what I thought was the pursuit of a new career but has become something so much more important to me.  It’s a creative outlet for me, plain and simple.  I am proud of it and happy to let it just be without pushing it to grow into the next wildly successful online endeavor in the history of the world.  It meets a need in my life and that’s good enough for me.
  2. Connect with new and different people you haven’t been in contact with – it’s all part of learning about the open-heartedness “thing”  I have been given the chance to build a relationship with a first cousin I never knew growing up – and her family – and it’s been the sweetest journey.  My cousin reached out to me for a connection and taking the time to discover a part of my family I might have never known is nothing short of a miracle.  It’s just beautiful and my gratitude for this opportunity overflows.
  3. Get off anti-depressants – This will not be the case for everyone, but I am one of the fortunate people who once held the belief I would always need pharmaceutical “support.”  I have had the good fortune to work with a psychologist who supports the belief that we can learn to manage our emotions and life without taking anti-depressants.  After 25 years of believing a pill was managing my emotions, I am completely off all forms of chemical “therapy” and feeling happy, healthy and capable of handling life sans pharmaceuticals.
  4. Trust your child’s journey – Without betraying his privacy, I will just say my son has had an unconventional experience with traditional education and I have learned to respect and trust his instincts as well as advocate for him within an educational system that still barely tolerates kids who are different.
  5. Ignore criticism from people who haven’t been where you’re going.  As a former miserable practitioner of people-pleasing, permission-asking, approval-seeking behavior, this is huge.  If they AIN’T doing what you’re doing then why do you care what they think?  Keep moving forward.
  6. Sell the Baby Grand Piano – we literally did do this in order to catch up on some bills and pay for a nice vacation to Lake Michigan, but I am also speaking metaphorically.  Don’t be afraid to let go of things that are weighing you down from the past, especially if getting rid of them will provide something valuable for your future.
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By Cleo Wade

Cleo Wade is a newly discovered (by me, anyway), poet and Millenial Muse.  I love reading her work, just as I love interacting with and learning from today’s young people. They aren’t blindly pursuing the things my generation valued without first examining the true costs to their mental health, the community and environment.  I find them all very refreshing and look forward to learning more from this younger generation.  They give me hope for a kinder world committed to social and economic justice.  Turning the world over to the next generation is just a natural next step in my list of “risks worth taking.”  How grateful I am to have had the luxury of choosing each risk. Every single one.

 

 

On Twist Ties, Labeled Baggies and Loving My Clutter

There is absolutely nothing written anywhere that says Moms who carry clean wipes and organize with twist ties and “label-able” baggies are better than Messy Moms.  Yet, on many occasions, I have pondered this.  Yes, life would be simpler if I were a more organized ziplock baggie-type of Mom, but would we be a happier family?  Show me the studies that prove children raised in organized environments thrive and flourish and I might consider (though at 49 I am pretty sure it is far too late) changing my ways.

Like Carrie Bradshaw, each morning I awoke to a boutiquey trail of shoes down my steps and to the front door.
Like Carrie Bradshaw, each morning I awoke to a boutiquey trail of shoes down my steps and to the front door.

I mean, it isn’t as if nobody saw this coming:  when we were dating, my husband recalls the “trail of shoes” in my little pink house – I liked it that way because I never knew what kind of “shoe mood” I would wake up in.  Some people simply need to see their stuff to feel comfortable.

This is cozy.  A bookshelf would be "cold" and uninviting.
This is cozy. A bookshelf would be “cold” and uninviting.

Ask any other Clutter Mom how they manage to run an organized household around so much “stuff” and you will get the same answer:  “I know exactly where everything is and it makes perfect sense to me.”  Just not anybody else!

To me, THIS is organized.
To me, THIS is organized.
The first time I took baby Isa to visit my parents in St. Louis, my car was loaded down with so much baby gear (to improve her intelligence at 3 months), my Dad asked "Where's the BABY?"
The first time I took baby Isa to visit my parents in St. Louis, my car was loaded down with so much baby gear (to improve her intelligence at 3 months), my Dad asked “Where’s the BABY?”

My kids are teenagers now and my family pretty much knows “I Yam Who I Yam,” and they take responsibility for organizing their own stuff.  In addition to my proclivity to create clutter, I also have disastrous handwriting.  So much so that, on many occasions, my children would come home from school claiming the teacher accused them of “forging your Mom’s signature” on papers she had sent home.  Sigh.  For years, Isa re-wrote my grocery lists for me.

Instead of making life more difficult, I think my messy-leaning-habits have created a sense of acceptance, tolerance and love in my household.  Put THAT in your labeled baggie and twist tie your opinions, ORGANIZED MOMMAS!

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Because my children and household are F-I-N-E with their Messy Momma.  I may not be able to whip out exactly what my children need at precisely the right time from my purse, like other Moms, but my kids always understood my struggle with organization and everybody managed to get by.

If you are reading this and have perhaps been feeling badly about your lack of organization, I urge you to to think a moment about whether anybody in your family would be happier or better off but for your personal failings.  I always found the Organized Moms to be a tad boring, myself.  And THAT’s how we ROLL………..

Holding on and Letting Go

Yesterday it became official:  After 20 years of marriage, I am officially 31 pounds heavier than I was on my wedding day.  But I am too busy getting sober, raising teenagers, losing my reading glasses, finding myself, and holding on to the time I have today with loved ones to really give a damn.

Another thing became official in the last week:  my husband believes in the regular “God Winks” I am receiving from my Dad.

I have had some really awful moments in my struggle for sobriety these past 156 days - and Daddy always appears at just the right moment, in the form of a feather.
I have had some really awful moments in my struggle for sobriety these past 156 days – and Daddy always appears at just the right moment, in the form of a feather.

Mike witnessed it as we gazed outside his office window anticipating the start of the Kansas City World Series Parade last week:  out of the blue, a single feather gracefully frolicked in the wind and made its way to the pavement just beneath us.  He looked at me with wonder and said, “Dickie’s here!”.  Yesterday, I was feeling like a little kid again, preparing to meet a new friend and try a new AA meeting, and wanting to just go home and hide beneath my covers.  I ran out to my car before my friend met me for coffee before the meeting to look for my phone:  a single feather lay just beside my car door (it was NOT there when I arrived a few moments earlier).  Dad was reassuring me, “Go ahead and go to that meeting.  You need it.”

I’m holding on and letting go to everything and everyone these days, it seems:  my beautiful teenagers; my youth (and former figure!); things that used to matter but really don’t anymore; my dreams of who I wanted to be and reckoning with the reality of the time I have left to fulfill them or make new ones.

Grandma Rhetta gets a BIG hug from 5-year-old Mario for the beautiful quilt she made him.
Grandma Rhetta gets a BIG hug from 5-year-old Mario for the beautiful quilt she made him.

I am still thrilled and sometimes even enraptured by the journey of life – including the scars I carry as a mid-lifer.  It’s wild to ponder the things that matter more to me now that I know I don’t have a lot of time on this Earth.  I care more about being gentle and kind than winning, at anything.  I worry less about deadlines and more about resilience and protection (social work lingo that I love!).  We live among the wounded and I want to be a healer.

Sally Wilcox. my dear friend, passed these along to me when my family was treated unkindly in a small town. She became a Deacon in the Episcopal Church very late in life and never shied from
Sally Wilcox. my dear friend, passed these along to me when my family was treated unkindly in a small town. She became a Deacon in the Episcopal Church very late in life and never shied from “sticky” situations. I will always cherish Sally, these earrings, and the brief time I had with her.

I guess the trick to living a life of Grace after 50 is to know when to hold on and when to let go.  I cannot be in this state perpetually!  Luckily, I have had some pretty wise friends share their wisdom with me along the way.

Remember the movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes”?  I picture myself often as the character Kathy Bates plays – Evelyn – that awkward midlife woman, pathetically hanging on to a shell of her former self until she meets Jessica Tandy’s character – Ninny – the older woman in the nursing home who shares the story of her relative, Idgie, in segments for Evelyn,  and gives her the gift of strength to prepare her for old age.  I had a friend like Evelyn in Winfield, Kansas.  Her name was Sally Wilcox and she was a writer.  She volunteered to write an article about an old dairy house on our land adjacent to a neighborhood development.  Mike and I saw beauty and grace in this old structure.  Our neighbors saw blight. They wanted it torn down, we maintained it had Historic value and submitted to the City’s requirements that it be boarded up.

Who would have thought that a historic dairy house would be the
Who would have thought that a historic dairy house would be the “mountain we chose to die on” in our small town experience? We learned a lot, thanks to Sally.

The dairy house was designed and lived in by a relative of a well-known architect from the region.  Louis Caton, a musician, lived there for a period of time and was a known local artist and musician.  We romanticized the past and the things that transpired in the old dairy house  but to the neighbors, it represented a hatred they carried for the former developer of their neighborhood and broken promises.  It was ours but, in the end, it was not.  Our fight did not matter because the neighbors won the right to tear it down, after all.  Looking back, I realize the dairy house was just a symbol to Mike and me of something beautiful we had found and wanted to “tend to” for our children.  We imagined a future for them in rural Kansas and all the cool things they might get to do with this beautiful barn like structure set beside a wooded canyon that many children, including Osage Indian children and pioneer children, had played in before.

But maybe we held on to the wrong thing at the wrong time for the wrong reasons which now, ultimately, does not matter.  But I cannot stop thinking about the twinkle in Sally Wilcox’s eyes as she interviewed us and published the article in the local newspaper about it.  In all her wisdom, Sally thought the fight was worth it and she liked us, unlike our neighbors!  One afternoon before a public hearing about the condemnation of the dairy house we were forced to attend at the City, Sally gave me the earrings she wanted me to wear bearing the words:  “People are no damn good.”  I will always love her for her strength and courage and carry with me the memory of my very own “Evelyn,” who helped me confront one of my first ugly midlife battles over WHAT to hang on to and WHEN to let go.

So, here I am, almost 50, getting feathers from Dad and remembering a brilliant older friend who gave me many gifts of wisdom.  In their own ways, they both sustain me as I daily weigh what’s worth my energy and what’s not.