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Posts from the ‘Letters to my son’ Category

I know I’m the adult here but…really?!

Dear Loch,

You wrote a song recently. Your Dad was away for the weekend and we had his car so you were right beside me when you started singing. The song went like this:

I love my Mom. I love my Mom. I love my Mom. But I love my Dad more.

I was in the middle of saying, “Oh, honey I love this song…” when that last line came and I felt as if I’d been doused in water.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now. I know you love me. You need me for chats and fears and snuggles and hurts but, for the last six months I’ve played second fiddle to anything your Dad. I get it. Your Dad works a lot. He’s busy. You don’t get to spend as much time with him, so your time together is special. Combine that with the fact that he’s 100% yours when he is around – full of exciting role playing games, outdoor adventures and full fledged wrestling matches – and your Dad’s a God. He doesn’t drag you around doing errands. He defeats giant underground worms, builds forts that take up entire rooms and fashions elaborate creations out of legos. Your Dad’s the man. I’m just the Mom.

photo 2In contrast to the rare and special times the two of you spend together, you see me every single day. Intellectually I can comprehend why you’re sick of me. I’m old news. It’s natural to take the thing you’re most confident in for granted. I suppose I should take it as a sign I’ve done something right. But, it’s hard not to feel under appreciated and, if I’m being honest, hurt.

Your Dad and I have different strengths. He’s able to meet your childhood energy and I’m not. He’s available for brief stints and I’m around all the time. He does the fun stuff, I do the necessary stuff and we’re both well suited to our jobs. When it comes right down to it, he’s dessert and I’m the vegetable, and we all know how kids feel about their vegetables. You don’t care that I spent two years inundated with essays and applications to get you in to just the right school. It doesn’t register with you that I buy all the presents or ensure the house never runs out of food or toilet paper. You’re not interested in who makes your bed or buys your clothes. You’re aware that people like you but not how much of that is due to the fact that we’ve worked so hard together  on your manners and attitude. Your Daddy is the shining star and I have bad breath in the morning. You once told me, “Daddy is the King. I’m the Prince, and you’re the maid.” I asked you to leave my room.

I'm a bit of a background player in your life these days.

I’m a bit of a background player in your life these days.

Being taken for granted, marginalized or discredited hurts no matter who does it. I know I’m the adult. I realize I should have the capacity to rise above my sore feelings. For goodness sakes you’re five and I’m the one who needs to grow up! But when you tell me after a three hour playdate at a friend’s house it would’ve been more fun if I wasn’t there, or I ask if you had a good time at the Aquarium and you tell me it would have been better if I was Daddy, I want to cry. I also want to scream, “You know what kid? I had other things to do today too you know! It would have been better for me if Daddy was there too!” Of course I’m happy doing things with you. I love spending time together. I know you’re starting Kindergarden is the beginning of the end of our extended one-on-one relationship, and I’m thrilled I was able to be there for so much of it, but I was a fully realized person before you were born and as much as I’m honored to have played such a big part in your childhood, I put a lot of myself on hold to do it, and your complete dismissal of my contribution makes me sad.

photo 1 copyI’m sensitive. You say hurtful things and I get hurt. My face gets screwed up. I look at you and say, “that was mean” or “Loch, how d’you think your saying that makes me feel?” I suppose it’s better you learn from me how much words can hurt rather than discovering it after you say something thoughtless to a friend, but it doesn’t make it feel any better. You’ve actually taken to apologizing lately without any prompting. It’s as if you’ve learned to recognize from my reactive body language that you’ve done something unkind. This summer when we were walking around Disney you said,  “I like you this much (indicating a bench mark with your hand) and I like Daddy this much (indicating a higher mark). Sometimes you’re here (meeting Dad’s high level) but most of the time you’re here (back to my original lower position)”. You followed that comment directly with a quick “Sorry Mommy. Sorry, sorry. I love you both the same!” but I got your message. At this point I’ve learned to bite my tongue and say something like “I understand Loch. Your Dad is very special and you love him very much”, but that doesn’t mean I don’t do it with a big sigh in my heart.

photo copy 2The reality is you appreciate things more when you don’t have them all the time (that, and your Dad rocks) but it’s hard for me to think of the future without worrying if I’ll be around or not, and when you say things like you wish you wasn’t here, it breaks my heart. Sometimes all I can hear when you say that sort of things is, “Well, you might get your wish…” and that scares me. As I said when I started this whole process, I want to be around as long as I can and I hope you always feel confident enough to take my presence for granted, but it’s something I can’t guarantee. Recently I wasn’t feeling very well and you were so mean to me. I couldn’t do anything right. It was as if you were punishing me for being sick. It made you mad. I’m sure what you were really feeling was nervous, but anger was your way of processing the fear.

I understand as annoying as this behavior is, it’s also very normal. I’m a grown woman and I know my parents would still love it if I called them more. I have to remind myself constantly to make sure I actively acknowledge how much I appreciate your Dad. It’s all too easy to take those we count on most and love the deepest for granted. I don’t take care of you for credit. It just stings to be discredited. But I’ll take that feeling any day over the alternative. I’d rather you not know what you have than be aware of what you’re missing.

So go ahead. Dole it out. I can take it. I know you love me and, no matter where life takes us, I hope you always know that I love you.

xoxo Mommy

photo copy

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A for Effort

Dear Lochie,

Recently we were sitting together while you made a card for your friend’s birthday. You drew a half hearted picture on the front (red stick figure Iron Man turned into Ice Man after you scribbled blue on it) and we worked together on the words inside. There’s no other way to put it, you were phoning it in. You weren’t concentrating. Every letter was a different size. You asked me to repeat myself over and over and I was doing my best to be supportive despite the fact I knew you could do better. There’s a fine line between encouraging you and discouraging you and I was trying not to cross it. So, when you made an M instead of an N in your friend’s name, I helped you fix it. I didn’t lose it. I didn’t say, “if you were paying attention…”. I stayed calm and helpful. However, 10 minutes later, when we finally got to the sign off, Your Pal, and you wrote YOUR PAE because you were completely unfocused it bothered me. There was no way for me to turn an E into an L and with one mistake already on the page the only choice was to start again. I have to admit, it made me crabby. I took away the card, folded another piece of paper and we began for the second time. However, this time when you wrote an R instead of a P in Happy and looked at me with this lazy, little “oops, oh well, who cares” face, I lost it. I picked the card up off the table and ripped it in half.

bubblews.com

bubblews.com

It wasn’t my finest moment. I find it infuriating when people do subpar work out of sheer laziness, but watching my own child do it made me doubly nuts. Look, I have no desire to be a Tiger Mom. For example, I’m perfectly happy with the fact that, despite your gender, you seem to have no interest in competitive sports. You don’t want to play soccer or baseball. You aren’t interested in riding a bike. You don’t scooter. You don’t do the monkey bars. That’s all ok with me. I get it. You haven’t found your jam. You love swimming. You like skiing. You like costumes and acting and dance. You’ll find your place. I’m not worried or pushing you to do what you’re not interested in. I want you to be you, whoever you turns out to be. But…I want you to be the best version of you, and that lazy, unfocused kid I was hanging out with was not it.

Frankly, I don’t think I was too horrendous. You hadn’t drawn the picture yet, it was just 3 letters (2 right, 1 wrong) drawn on a piece of paper in the shape of a card, but you were pretty shocked when I ripped it. I’m embarrassed to say you started to cry. It made me feel awful. Your mother shouldn’t make you cry and it was a horrible feeling for both of us. I told you if you wanted to take some time in your room you could and, a couple minutes later, I joined you for a talk.

vi.sualize.us

vi.sualize.us

You told me you were mad at me and I understood. You said, “You ripped my card” and I said, “I did. I’m sorry.” Then I asked if you understood why I’d done it, and you said, “because I made the wrong letter”. That devastated me. I don’t want you to EVER feel you can’t make a mistake around me. That I’m going to be mad or cruel if you’re anything less than perfect. That’s not how a mom should make you feel and said as much to you. I said, “Lochie, you can make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. That’s ok. What’s not ok is being lazy. Not doing your best because you can’t be bothered. If you’re doing something, working on something, trying something, always do the best you can. There’s no other way to do things. The world is full of people who don’t try very hard, but that’s not who you are. That’s not how our family is. That’s not good enough.” Then we talked about your Dad (who you worship) and how he works a lot. I explained that when your Dad works he works at 100%. He does the very best he can and sometimes the very best takes longer, but when he’s done he knows there’s nothing else he can do to make whatever he’s working on better, and that’s the only way to approach things.

label on picYou’re going to want things in life Lochie. You’re going to dream of them, and hope for them, but you’re also going to have to work for them. It’s an aggressive, competitive world and the people who rise to the top are those who aren’t afraid of hard work, those who are willing to put in the effort for the things they want. I realize working on your friend’s birthday card and having your future career where you want it are not the same thing, but it’s my job to teach you the skills that’ll help you when you get to that level. It’s my job to push you. Not in a way that makes you unhappy ,but in a way that makes you accountable. So one day, when you’re on your own in college or the job market, and someone gives you an assignment or you want something from your life, you go after it at 100%. I want you to grow into a man who’s natural reaction is to do his best so you never have to force yourself to work harder because that’s the only way you know how to work.

keyposters.com

keyposters.com

I don’t say this to pressure you. I want you to be happy. Whatever you choose to do in this life – work, play, love – do it at the highest level. Whatever job you decide to pursue – Doctor, DJ, Actor, Politician – pursue it as hard as you can. Those kind of choices may seem far off now, but when you’re there I hope you’ll be grateful I encouraged you think like this way back when.

After our talk we went to the playroom together to do the card again. This time you did it with such focus and concentration it broke my heart. The finished product was amazing. Detailed personalized picture. Same size letters each on their own line. Plenty of color and creativity. We even added stickers. I complimented you on it and you looked so proud. Then I held up your first card beside the new one and asked how you thought they compared. You smiled and said, “This one is much better”. I agreed and asked why you thought so. You looked at me very seriously and said, “Because I tried with this one”.

Always try baby. Always do your best. In School. In Love. In Life. Doing the minimum and just skating by isn’t enough. You’ll always wonder what could have happened if you’d tried just a little harder. Don’t take that chance. If you’ve done all you can and put your best foot forward on all counts, then any dream you have will always be in reach. Isn’t that worth the energy?

As they say, make an effort, not an excuse.

I love you.

xo Mommy

fasstperformance.com

fasstperformance.com

It’s What’s Inside that Counts

Dear Loch,

Recently I started to notice how often we discuss your looks. You’re a really cute kid and I realize it’s become a sort of habit to constantly comment on the fact. With that in mind, I started to wonder whether I was guilty of placing too much emphasis on your appearance, as if it was a quality of character rather than something you’ve just been blessed with. I recently came across an article by Latina Fatale that addressed this issue in reference to young girls and how often we try to connect with them based on their appearance – “Aren’t you adorable.” “Look at your pretty dress.” “You have the most gorgeous hair.” – as if their aesthetic was the only thing worthy of note. I found the article thought provoking and it occurred to me that perhaps it was something that might also be happening with you.

I realize boys, by nature, are not defined by their looks the way girls are. They aren’t judged or commodified in the same way. You won’t go through life trying to live up to the same beauty ideal or struggle with the same body issues women do, but modern men are under more scrutiny than ever before. In the past 20 years I’ve watched the men’s section of drug and department stores increase exponentially. There’s manscaping and body envy and more products than ever before, and though I believe you will never reach the level of self improvement/self loathing women deal with (freaking out over bathing suit season or constantly fighting the uphill battle to hold onto your youth) modern man is no longer removed from the pressure and insecurities that surround appearance.

Lochlan_McGowan-216-PrintThe problem (and I realize it’s a champagne one) is that so far your looks have garnered you a fair amount of attention and caused people (myself included) to make constant reference to them. Look, I love fashion, I love beautiful things, and since I have little money to dress myself or design our home how I’d like, I get my aesthetic kicks dressing you. So far you could care less what you wear so I’m able to doll you up without complaint. The end result being that you look adorable, people mention it and we both feel proud. I’ve started to wonder however, that even if I continue to dress you like an winsome, little prepster, if I shouldn’t be making a more concerted effort to shift my remarks to better celebrate your qualities of worth rather than appearance.

Baby, you’re cute. Your face slays me. That smattering of freckles across your nose. Your gorgeous auburn hair that shines red in the sun. That adorable, little upturned nose. You’re something else kid, but I think it’s time for me to take a break from mentioning it so much. You were signed by FORD Models at 4-years old for Pete sakes. People pay you to be cute and you’re getting to the age where, if I’m not careful, you could develop the very unattractive quality of vanity and I’ll serve you best if I help you avoid it.

DSC_0240With this goal in hand I devised a game for us to play that would sort out the qualities on which we should focus to ensure we were good people, and what qualities were simply nice byproducts achieved simply by luck. After collecting rocks together on the beach at the cottage I painted them with 5 qualities I deemed important and one extra to represent looks. Ultimately I was looking for a tangible way to express that even though being attractive is nice, at the end of the day it belongs at the bottom of the list. The qualities I included were:

KIND: Someone who looks out for other people (includes: thoughtful, loving, giving)

Ask yourself: Am I a good person?

SMART: Someone who uses their mind to better themselves and others (includes: ingenuity, cleverness)

Ask yourself: Am I an intelligent person?

CONFIDENCE: Someone with a justifiable faith in themselves and their talents. Not afraid to try new things or forge their own path. (includes: ambition)

Ask yourself: Do I believe in myself?

STRENGTH: Someone who has the ability and courage to deal with adversity. (includes: perseverance)

Ask yourself: Can I handle it when things don’t go my way?

HONOR: Someone with humility, honesty, and good manners. (includes: being a gentleman)

Ask yourself: Do people trust me?

APPEARANCE: Someone attractive.

Ask yourself: Am I good looking?

DSC_0243When the stones were ready I laid them out in front of you and we talked about what each one meant. To your credit you were attentive and engaged and took the exercise very seriously. When I was finished explaining I asked you to put the qualities into their order of importance. You were very conscientious taking your time deciding as you put the rocks in order beside you. This was the order you chose:

KIND, CONFIDENCE, SMART, STRENGTH, HONOR

You left ATTRACTIVE off the list.

DSC_0244Though I know this is just the beginning of a far deeper and more intense conversation, it felt like a great beginning for both of us to understand what the most important things are for being (and raising) a person. What’s qualities are key and what are not.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big proponent of taking pride in your appearance. I believe it’s a sign of confidence. I think it shows you have a strong sense of self awareness and a healthy dose of self worth. Taking care of yourself is a good thing. Having a good body shows you’re healthy, value exercise and good eating habits. Nice hair and skin reflect good grooming and illustrate your self respect. Dressing well proves you’re willing to make an effort to present yourself properly to the world. These are all worthy endeavors. I’m just trying to help you understand that all the attention we pay to our outer shell, though important, is essentially irrelevant when it comes to being a Quality Person.

DSC_0245Our culture worships beauty and youth and people deemed attractive by our society would be hard pressed to convince you their looks didn’t have value or hadn’t played some part in acquiring them something of desire. At the end of the day people like attractive people and if looks didn’t matter, we wouldn’t work so hard to hold onto them.  Attractiveness is a tangible quality. Terrible behavior is often forgiven based solely on the perpetrator’s looks. Attractiveness is not worthless, it just holds no weight to who you are as a person. Beautiful packaging sells many a product but it doesn’t make the product good. It’s the difference between a beautiful, ornately decorated cake made with way too much salt and a plain cake made to perfection. Which one would you choose to eat?

DSC_0249Lochie, God willing you’ll always be attractive. It’s a nice way to go though life. But as we move forward together, I want you to know there are so many other qualities I value above your appearance. Who you are will always be more important that how you look, especially if how you look is the first thing everyone notices.

Be kind, be confident, be strong, be wise, be trusted and know, above all, you will always be loved.

xo mommy

DSC_0248

When Polite Becomes a Problem

Dear Lochie,

I’ve spoken about Manners before, about what kind of behavior I expect from you and what kind of boy I want you to be, but I feel the need to tell you that there will be times when getting caught up in manners or “being polite” can hold you back, disappoint you or even put you in awkward or unsafe situations and, at those times, I give you full permission to courteously put your well being above your social graces. There is such a thing as being too nice. Bosses will pile work on you. People will take advantage of you. You’ll stay in relationships too long or miss opportunities waiting for someone to give you the go ahead. Though remembering you’re part of a bigger human picture and acting accordingly is key (the world is not all about you), you must also be aware that no one will look out for you better than yourself. You are your own champion, protector and catalyst. It’s up to you to take care of you. In the film The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo the villain talks at length about how frequently people put themselves in danger rather than risk being impolite. He questions why people don’t trust their instincts and allow their fear of offending to outweigh any other concerns. Statistically I’m sure women do this more than men as we’re predisposed to be perceived as “nice” and more readily inclined to be “pleasers”, but you should be aware this kind of situation could also happen to you. I often wonder how many people are victims of crimes when they were just trying to be nice? How many people put themselves in uncomfortable situations rather than chance insulting someone? How many of us put up with things we hate just to appear agreeable? Look, nice is wonderful, it’s a lovely, hopeful way to behave, but be mindful it has a flip side that can allow people to take advantage of you and that goes from everything from violent crimes to crappy hotel rooms.

marsheating.socialtract.com

marsheating.socialtract.com

Felonies aside, I want you to be aware of the possibly negative results when you put “nice” and “polite” above all. Having and using courtesy is something I’ll always encourage but your well being takes precedence over other people’s “feelings”. It’s not impolite to respect yourself enough to speak up for what you need. It’s not rude to put your safety and well being first. The difference between being nice and being taken advantage of is measured by how you feel. Do you feel good about yourself, respected and well liked, or do you feel put upon, overlooked and marginalized? Paying the check for your friends is nice. Being expected to do it every time is insulting. If you’re confident in your worth you won’t allow yourself to be undersold.

I recently tried out a new acupuncturist. She was a Chinese national and didn’t speak much English but, unlike with customer service operators, I was ok with that. Plus, she took my insurance so I was willing to give her a go. As she read my intake form I started to get the impression she was in over her head. I have a pretty rare disease even for someone with a medical degree and English as a first language but, I didn’t want to discredit or undermine what could be her vast array of skills, so I waited while she read. After a short while she seemed to realize I was still there so she strapped a blood pressure cuff to me as she continued reading. Now, I’ve had my blood pressure taken a lot, both at my doctor’s office and at home, so I’m extremely familiar with the procedure. I know how it feels, how much time it takes, how tight it gets. This machine however was taking an extraordinarily long time and only continued to get tighter. As the pressure went from uncomfortable to painful I kept thinking it was going to stop. That it would hit the sweet spot, register and loosen up. It was hurting me but I didn’t want to say anything. I suppose I didn’t want to bother her. As it moved from painful to alarming, my desire to be perceived favorably was superseded by my unequivocal need to get the horrible thing off. The scene played out a little like this:

bpa.co.uk

bpa.co.uk

Tight, grimace.

Tighter, look at her for guidance.

Tighter, (to self) Suck it up. Suck it up. It’s almost over.

Tighter, “Ow, ow, ow!”

Tighter, (actively ripping the cuff off my arm) “OW! OW!”

When I finally got the Velcro undone I found a whole chunk of skin had been pulled through the metal loop of the cuff. It was just sticking out as if it was extra waiting to be cut off. I actually had to physically extricate my arm from the cuff by manually pushing my now obviously bruised skin back through the loop. It was horrible and I was furious, but instead of getting up and storming out like I wanted, saying something like “This isn’t going to work. Sorry.” (I hardly wanted someone sticking pins into me who couldn’t use a blood pressure cuff), I just sat there sore and sad.

I may as well have left because 10 minutes later when she asked “How do you know you’re actually sick? Because a doctor told you so…” with a skepticism that implied I might somehow be working with western medicine to create an imaginary issue, I ended up walking out anyway. It was too much. I had tried to be polite, but I couldn’t take it and my need to protect usurped my need to ingratiate.

blogs.telegraph.co.uk

blogs.telegraph.co.uk

I’ve had to advocate for myself more than most because as a sick person you quickly find if you aren’t looking out for your best interest few will. Too many things of too high an importance can fall through the cracks if you aren’t paying attention. Over the past five years I’ve learned to ask the questions, get the second opinion, double check the concerns and I’ve found that nothing is insignificant. Even the most minutia of details, like people who seem unsure when they’re about to draw my blood, matter and I’m not embarrassed to ask for someone else. I’ve become adamant about finding “‘the absolute best person for putting in a central line” because I’ve had too many hideous experiences to go through another one unnecessarily. Not everyone in the medical community is created equal and as my mother always says, “They didn’t all graduate top of their class”. If you don’t ask you’re just as likely to have a grossly swollen arm than a comfortable port. I realize people need to train on someone. I’ve just been around the block too many times to let it be me.

This is a view from a room at a top boutique hotel in NYC.  You don't have to say yes to this room. It's ok to ask for something different.

This is a view from a room at a top boutique hotel in NYC. You don’t have to say yes to this room. It’s ok to ask for something different.

As parents we’re great advocates for our children. If they aren’t getting enough time on the soccer field or we feel they’re being passed over for opportunities in school, we’re in there trying to sort it out, but if a similar oversight happens to us, all too often we’ll suck it up rather than risk being perceived as jerks or, heaven forbid, high maintenance. You must understand, it’s not high maintenance to know what you want and ask for it, it’s proactive, and more people should do it unapologetically. Speaking up for yourself does not equal rude. When I was younger I remember traumatizing my friends by letting waiters know something wasn’t right. They were always “soooo embarrassed” but I saw no issue with expressing myself. There’s complaining for the sake of complaining, sending meals back and generally just being churlish and snotty and then there’s replacing your recommended wine because you hate it or sending back a margarita because the bartender rimmed it in celery salt like a Bloody Mary. It’s perfectly reasonable to have things sorted out. It makes a tremendous difference to your enjoyment and I’m confident it’s completely acceptable behavior provided you handle the situation with class and civility. Putting up with something subpar just to avoid making waves doesn’t make you polite it makes you wussy. You may as well get what you want. Just be sure to acknowledge the effort in both tip and attitude.

doormat1

I kicked myself recently for not taking my own advice. Your Dad and I went to restaurant and our meals were so unpleasant we could barely get them down. If I’d made that chicken at home it would have been tossed but, aside from letting our waiter know we were disappointed, we continued to pick at our meals and ended up leaving the annoyed. It’s incredibly irritating to pay a fortune for dinner just to go home and eat cereal. The restaurant offered us a free dessert for our “troubles” but we didn’t take them up on it. It wasn’t about getting something we didn’t want for free, it was about getting what we wanted correct and we should have dealt with that. Ultimately, we just wrote off the restaurant and that’s unfortunate. We always liked it there and I’m sure they would have preferred making us new dinners over losing long term customers, but now we’ll never know.

It’s too easy to be taken advantage of these days. You can’t just assume the right thing will happen. Often, you have to insist on it. Sadly we live in a time where you also have to protect yourself more. Where your manners take a backseat to your safety. Your Dad and I sell a lot of stuff on Craigslist but with the recent situation of the husband and father who was killed when he took two men for a test drive of the truck he was selling on Kijiji, you can’t just assume people have good intentions anymore. In certain situations being distrustful and coming off cold is preferable to allowing friendly or trusting behavior get you in trouble. This isn’t to say you should walk around being an a*#hole and calling it protection, just that awareness is key.

stepstothesky.com

stepstothesky.com

Look, being a nice person is wonderful. People should think you’re nice. You should be nice. I’m not saying don’t take the time to help old people across the street or go through life distrustful of everyone, only looking out for “number one”, I’m simply reminding you to use common sense and good judgement, aware of the world you live in and it’s possibilities. Be courteous and respectful, making sure your sense of self worth doesn’t become a sense of entitlement, but don’t forget the only way you’ll ever really get what you want is if you’re ok asking for it. Sometimes the right thing to do, is the right thing for you.

The goal is to be polite, not a patsy.

I love you.

xo your mom

tumblr.com

tumblr.com

Throwing in the Towel

Dear Loch,

How long do you wait before you throw in the towel? How dearly do you hold onto a dream before you accept it’s over and move onto something new? Is there a difference between making the “safe” choice and giving up?

Whether you want a spot on a team, acceptance at a specific University, the love of a particular person or tangible success at a chosen career, these questions will come up again and again. When you’re young it’s easier to move on, to shake it off and find a new dream, challenge or person when your first choice doesn’t work out. One of the beauties of youth is that the stakes are lower and more options are available as you discover who you are, but as you age, these questions become heavier because they refer to a finite and more important collection of things – the direction of your life, your career,  your spouse.  Not making the volleyball team, for example, will be replaced by rethinking how you’ll make a living, and though it’s possible you’ll succeed at everything you put your mind to, never having to deal with disappointment, it’s unlikely. There’s a chance you could choose a stable, clear cut career where hard work equals success but every day those jobs become less and less likely. Even doctors are struggling to make ends meet today. Realistically, I believe there’s a much stronger chance you’ll follow your heart into a career that speaks to you but has less than guaranteed results.

lumbertonpolitics.blogspot.com

lumbertonpolitics.blogspot.com

As your mother I want you to be happy. I hope you follow your dreams and do what it is you want to do. I’m a firm believer in “do what you love and the money will follow” and “choose the career you want and it won’t feel like work” but I’m also a current student in the school of hard knocks and I know first hand how discouraging it feels to live on the periphery of your dreams, to be so close that you can look through the window at the buffet but be starving outside. Your father and I have a wonderful life but it’s not the one we imagine and every day we struggle to rise above the disappointment to hold on until our persistence and hard work finally pays off.

acelebrationofwomen.org

acelebrationofwomen.org

Your Dad is better at this than me. His optimistic attitude serves him well in the world of the arts. As you know, when we met we were both actors. I was part of a successful show moving from NYC to LA and he was a reoccurring role on Star Trek about to be cast as a lead in an ABC pilot. Our dreams were within our grasp. Our time was coming. When I was fired from my show and your Dad’s pilot wasn’t picked up we were disappointed but not discouraged. We understood the business. We were young, talented, hungry. We’d been down before. We’d be up again. There were opportunities ahead and every job brought us one step closer to our goals. When your Dad was cast as the lead in a CBS show just before our wedding it felt right, as if everything had lead up to this. Our life and our choices were finally falling into place. We enjoyed our honeymoon that much more knowing Sean had a full time gig when we got back. When we returned to LA to find his role had been recast by a celebrity it was a big blow to our projected bank account but also to my faith that everything would work out. Just like that we were back to square one and over the next six months I became very discouraged. I was married now. I was 30. I had certain expectations that came with those titles that didn’t match up with my reality. I didn’t want to be a bartender married to a cater waiter. It no longer felt exciting to be a struggling actress. My dream of making a career doing what I loved was drowned out by the noise of my own disappointment. I felt unhappy all the time. I became jealous (and bitter) of other’s opportunities and luck. I had no experience with failure and here I was at the beginning of new decade, the decidedly adult part of my life, unable to look at myself in the mirror without seeing a loser.

bestlifeministries.com

bestlifeministries.com

Your Dad on the other hand was able to let everything slide off his back. He never questioned his career. He was so confident that everything would work out that my uncertainty stood out in contrast. I realized if I was no longer sure of my inevitable success I was in the wrong line of work. Almost every sign in an artistic career points to “you’re not going to make it” and if you start buying into that, it’s the beginning of the end. I was no longer happy. I’d lost track of who I was. I didn’t recognize myself amidst my insecurity. I could have hung on but it wasn’t worth it. I needed a new dream.

Letting go of the idea of being an actress was like saying goodbye to the person I thought I’d be and opening my life to the person I might be. It was heartbreaking but not nearly as painful and difficult as I thought. I missed being happy I wanted to find it again. My biggest problem was I had no idea what to do. My life had been mapped out for years and suddenly I was sailing without direction. It was simultaneously frightening and freeing.

Not knowing what you’re going to do with your life is scary at any age but changing course as a full fledged adult is particularly unnerving. How do you choose wisely without being swayed by your desired lifestyle, your current bills or growing list of dependents? What if you choose poorly and have to start again AGAIN? How do you stack up against your friends? Your contemporaries? How do you not feel embarrassingly left behind? For a while I was able to hid my lack of plan in my pregnancy and early days with you. The value of a stay-at-home mom was legitimate enough to start rebuilding my self worth and temporarily negate the question of what I was doing with my life.

wittytitlehere.com

wittytitlehere.com

When I found my way into writing my life opened up. I finally understood what it meant to work with joy. I felt value in myself I hadn’t in years. I was able to use my skills again, my brain. I found I could write for hours without feeling the least bit burdened. Being an actress was wonderful but with hindsight I saw what I really loved was entertaining people, making them laugh, and I could do that as a writer without the same burdens I felt as an actress. It turned out I was better suited to my fallback career. I like being attractive but resented it as a job requirement. I’m committed to hours of hard work but like a flexible schedule. I want to be a present hands-on mom and I have a tendency to let people know exactly what I’m thinking – a detriment to a young actress but real worth to a writer. The take away being: had I not “failed” at my original plan I never would have discovered the thing that made me happier. That Plan B is ok, provided you aren’t choosing it out of fear.

Now, I threw in the towel and got a whole new life, your Dad refused to do the same yet still found his way to a new passion. Having no desire to give up acting, he realized he also was no longer happy simply trying to afford to keep up his dream. He had a family now and wanted to be a part of his life not just a visitor too busy to enjoy it. At a crossroads he took a leap of faith and opened a production company. Just as my bottom line was to entertain, his was to create, and he realized he needed to make his own opportunities rather than continue to passively wait for them to come along. Instead of abandoning his dream in search of another, he added to it. Which career takes off only time will tell.

kendrickshop.com

kendrickshop.com

Lochlan, I believe your future, and the future of your peers, will be a less traditional route than the past. I think they’ll be less, “I’m going to be a lawyer” and more roundabout discoveries. I believe many of you will forge your own course and find yourself in careers and fields that have yet to be created, and in many ways, I believe your father and my irregular journeys may be of service to you as you navigate those uncertain waters. It won’t be easy but your Dad and I are firm believers that it’s ultimately a mistake to make the “safe” choice. Don’t choose the “sure thing” you don’t care about over the risky thing that would fulfill your dreams. I want you to be responsible, to protect yourself and your family but never feel you have to walk some predetermined path in order to be a success. You must do what fulfills you. You must follow your heart in all things. If you’re no longer happy or want or need things you can’t achieve on your current path, adjust, but never give up because holding on seems too hard. I changed courses and found something I love. Your father held tight to his dream but added to it. Either way we’re better people and parents for liking what we do.

mysignatureblog.com

mysignatureblog.com

The hardest part of an uncertain career is dealing with the disappointment of the wait. The pain of which is only counterbalanced by the happiness you surround yourself with. In our case: family, love, friends and you. If you work to secure all the important things when the rest comes it’ll be gravy. (Gravy your Dad and I are dying for like dried up turkeys, but gravy all the same.) The point is, create a happy life and success – financial or otherwise – will only add to it. Your father and I know plenty of “successful” people who are nowhere near as happy as us and we don’t want that for you, no matter how nice their houses might be. Follow your dreams without fear. Only by being true to yourself can you find real happiness without which success, in itself, is irrelevant.

I can only hope when you’re old enough to read this, our family’s prosperity will render the above advice prolific and inspiring…

Be happy. Make others happy. Carve your own path. Success will eventually follow. I’m counting on it.

Love you forever.

xo Mommy

dale-carnegie-quotes

Bossy Bossy Two Socks

Dear Loch,

Years ago I wrote a children’s book called Bossy Bossy Two Socks.  It’s a book about a little girl who, with all best intentions, spends all her time telling people what to do until eventually she discovers she has no one left to play with. It was an autobiography of sorts, a love letter to the lessons an only child must learn. I started thinking about Bossy Bossy Two Socks again recently and wishing I’d had it published. A: because “author” is a pretty good answer to “What do you do?” and B: because I’d have the book to read to you right now. BB2S is a book you should be reading and having it would allow me a way into a discussion about appropriate behavior. I wouldn’t even tell you I wrote it. Frankly, I think it would mean less if I did.

Standing in hosieryYou’re in a mode. A pressing every button, testing every established rule mode. You talk back and act up and push your luck and, if I hadn’t seen it before I’d be nervous about what was happening to you. The thing is, I have seen it before. Every year around your birthday something like this happens. Overnight you seem to morph from the boy I raised to some unknown, attitude coping child I’m unsure of. When you turned three you started ignoring me. You’d stare right at me as I told you not to do something and do it anyway. You pushed hard against my authority. You even tried to swat me once while I was plugging you into the carseat. I was freaking out. What happened to my perfectly behaved boy? Who was this ruffian with his embarrassingly willful behavior? I brought all my anxiety to your wonderfully and amazingly zen teacher Tammy. I didn’t know what to do. What had I done wrong? What made you think this behavior was ok? Teacher Tammy, in her infinite wisdom, told me not to worry, that this was a normal phase. You were growing up, testing your boundaries and seeing, now that you were older, if the rules still applied. You were looking to me for guidance. You wanted to know what being three meant and I should see it as good and normal behavior even if it appeared the complete opposite. Another mother who overheard our conversation told me when her son turned three he started spitting, everywhere, including on her. She was so appalled that – for the one and only time – she’d slapped his hand. She said she felt like “Where did my child go? Who is this kid?” and I totally understood. Teacher Tammy told us both to relax and accept our job was to calmly and firmly remind our children of the rules. To let them know they may be older but the expectations remained the same. She reminded us that even though it was a trying period, it was a short one that would be outgrown provided we stayed firm, and two weeks later just as predicted, the testing stopped and the boy I knew returned to me.

From this....

From this….

When you turned four the behavioral shift arrived in the form of attitude coping. “Mommy, you don’t know.” “Mommy, you got it wrong.” It was eye rolling/teeth gritting/don’t lose it behavior and just when I’d bent down to eye level to “calmly” talk to you more times than I thought I could possibly handle, overnight your sweet disposition came flooding back. Now, you’re five and transitioning again. This time your boundary pushing has arrived resembling what I would call snit fits. If you don’t get what you want, you pout, you badger, you talk my ear off with disappointment and blame and if you’re worked up enough you fall into full fledged, life’s unfair, crying dramatics. I honestly think you’re subconsciously seeing how far you can push me before I lose it. The other day I had to put you in a time out because you became so completely worked up looking at yourself in the mirror. It was as if the more you witnessed your own devastation, the more devastated you became. It would have been hilarious if it hadn’t been so irritating. I understand things can be disappointing and it’s hard when we don’t get our way but life is like that and, if you don’t learn to handle it now, you’ll be more prone to breakdowns later, and there’s nothing worse than a grown man having a hissy.

Back to this.

Back to this.

The other issue five has kindly brought us is bossy, know-it-all behavior. I’m sure it’s partially the product of growing up an only child, though we’ve done our best not to let you run the roost. Your Dad and I make a big effort to encourage you to fall in, to play our game or use your second choice toy. It’s not because we care what placemat we’re using or what Ninjago we get, it’s because we don’t want you going through life expecting everyone to bow to your will. We’ve done you no favors if you think the world revolves around you and reality will be a crushing blow. We’re very sensitive you not grow up with an inflated image of yourself. We don’t want you to fall into a world of righteous entitlement. We want you to feel special. We don’t want you to feel SPECIAL.  It’s important you understand everyone’s ideas have merit and just because you have a captive audience at home doesn’t mean the world will always stop to listen to you. Learning to be flexible, to defer to others, to know when to take the lead and when to give it away are important life skills and ones too often lacking in both children and adults.

Talks about our behavior started early.

Talks about behavior started early…

Up till now, you’ve been great at this kind of behavior. You’ve been a leader without being a dictator and I’ve secretly patted myself on the back for your excellent manners. So now that we’re returning to the post-birthday boundary check, these long established skills have been slipping and we need to reign them in. Recently you were playing at your BFF’s house and from the kitchen I could hear you screaming “No! You don’t do it like that!” “Stop playing until I say it’s time to start!” “NO! Wait for me to say ok!” And, when your friends ignored you and continued playing the way they wanted, you freaked out. “Stop! Stoooop!!!” I came in to find you standing at the side of the room just as livid as can be and I was floored. All your beautiful give and take, “please may I have?”, “that’s ok, I’ll play with it after” had been replaced by an unfamiliar, little tyrant yelling at his exasperated friends. When I asked you why you thought you were in charge you looked at me with irritation and disgust and said, “Because I’m the Director!”. Now, if you’d grown up on sets, or gone to work with your Dad, I might chalk this behavior up to remiss parenting and the need to extricate you from “the business” but you don’t even know what a Director is so the behavior was all you. What you really meant was you were the “Boss” and we needed to address it immediately.

...and has continued every year.

…and has continued every year.

Driving home you explained you were frustrated because no one was playing the game “right” and when you tried to explain the rules no one was listening so you had to scream. I tried to impart parental wisdom by saying that unless a game comes with rules written down on paper, there is no “right” way to play and you have to learn to loosen up on the “rules” because everyone’s ideas were worth the same amount. I tried to explain if you kept telling everyone what to do, yelling that they were wrong and screaming when you didn’t get your way, pretty soon just like Bossy Bossy Two Socks, no one was going to want to play with you. I realize it’s a tough lesson but it’s one you have to understand. At this stage, having friends is infinitely more important than being in charge.

I love his face in this one. Normally it's not caught on camera. Totally classic.

I love his face in this one. Normally it’s not caught on camera. Totally classic.

So, the battle continues. I hope the Post-Five adjustment ends sooner rather than later and I get my easy going boy back. Lochlan, I know you can’t stay the same forever. I know you’ll only continue to grow and change and each phase will test me in different ways. I can only hope I’m always able to rise to the challenge. I think children fail when parents get complacent and tired. Keeping up with the rules is exhausting. There are so many times when it would be easier just to say “eff it, I can’t deal with this” and let you do whatever you want, but high expectations require effort from both sides and we keep at it because we want the best for you. We want you to be the best you can be. We don’t want you to be that kid.

Most of all, we don’t want you to be that adult.

At the end of the day I’ll love you no matter what phase you’re in. Let’s just try and keep it an 80/20 split between my boy and that boy. Deal?

I love you always. Even when you’re a twit.

xo Mom

Lochlan_McGowan-058_1024

On the Occasion of your 5th Birthday

Dear Loch

You just turned five. You’re FIVE years old. Half a decade. No longer a baby. A full fledged kid. You don’t toddle or struggle for words. You make yourself and your feelings heard. You are loving and empathetic, kind, funny, popular and cheeky. I am honored to know you and am so proud of who you’re becoming. I adore you with all my heart.

People say it goes so fast. The years fly by and one day your child is grown and you wish you could do it all again. You wish you’d spent more time together, not sweated the small stuff, appreciated every minute. I’ve heard that every time I’m at the end of my rope I should try and transport myself to the future and see my life after Loch’s grown. I should take a look in my rearview mirror and see no carseat, no goldfish, no little face. I should imagine hearing no kid music or little voice talking from the backseat and that should give me the perspective to see all the monotonous activities morphing into lovely memories I’ll surely miss. Though I understand this as a noble exercise that could possibly grant me that extra scrap of patience when I’m steps away from losing it, the truth of the matter is I believe true perspective is only really possible in retrospect. photo 4 copy 2  We can enjoy the company of our children, appreciate the moments of love and affection, revel in our unconditional love for each other, we can kiss their sweet faces and pray over their little sleeping bodies, but we can’t truly appreciate the passage of time until it’s passed. It’s too much to expect of ourselves and just another thing to feel guilty about when we don’t succeed. You can’t see a forest if you’re tied to a tree and the rope only slackens up as our children age and gradually pull away on their own. It’s only with distance that we can see a bigger picture. Yes, childhood goes fast but in many ways it also goes slow. I stayed home with you. I’ve been with you every day of your life.* I was there when you walked and talked and sang and learned and grew. I committed to your well being, your education, your entertainment. I introduced you to everything from manners to live theatre and all the things in between. I’ve been your constant companion, champion, teacher and friend and I’ve loved almost every minute of it.

photo 2 copy 2Being a parent is by far the best thing I’ve ever done. Being your parent is a gift from God I’m grateful for every day. I know I’ll look back on these baby years with longing but I’m also looking forward to the next step. I know there a lot of working parents who feel guilty they’ve missed some milestones but I don’t find myself in that position. I didn’t miss anything in your life. The things I missed were things that belonged to me. As a parent whichever way you choose you’re going to miss out on something. It’s impossible to do it all, be it all. have it all. Something has to give. If you’re at work you’re missing out on your kids. If you’re with your kids you’re missing out on your work. We do the best we can and live with the guilt however it comes.

Hendershott Photography is the best. Working with Adam & Sylvia is such fun!

I’ve been tired lately. Not of you but of me. I’ve been so caught up in the business of being a parent I find I’m less capable of experiencing the joy of being a parent. I watch your Dad play with you and I get down on myself for not being more like him. As you wrestle or play superheroes or legos I feel I should be able to handle more than an hour (or sometimes 15 minutes) of down-on-the-floor-playing but I can’t. I’d rather be out in the world experiencing something with you, or taking you somewhere, or getting some writing done or folding the damn laundry.

photo 1 copy 4I fight to live in the moment when I have so many other things in my mind. On the flip side your Dad’s time with you is more spuratic, more fleeting. He’s able to give himself over to you completely because your time together is finite. Our time together is more extensive and fluid. We’ve experienced so much together. Played for hours at all ages. You’ve grown up in front of my eyes and I’ve decided not to get down on myself for being excited for the next phase. I’ll always treasure our days together but I look forward to having some time belong to me again. Time to find worth in my work and not just your behavior. Time to explore my own happiness and not just live vicariously through yours. You will always be my top priority, my first and most important job, your happiness will always come before mine, but as you grow, so again shall I.

photo 2 copy 3I’ll miss these days. I’ll miss our time together. The concentrated, one-on-one Mommy/Lochie time. I’ll miss your unbridled affection, your devotion to me, your constant desire to be with me. You recently told me you didn’t want to turn 5. When I asked why you said it’s because 5 year olds have to go to kindergarden and you’d rather stay in preschool. You understood it. You liked it. You weren’t ready to move on. I get it. I have moments when I feel exactly the same, both for your life and mine, but I told you no matter what we do we can’t stop time from marching on. We have birthdays, we get older, we transition to the next phase and the best we can do is appreciate each one as it comes.

I have six months until you start kindergarden. Half a year to truly treasure these last days of your first phase before we start celebrating the beginning of the next. Every part of your life is important, every transition exciting, and even though each step will take you further from my side, each one only solidifies you in my heart. I love getting to know you Lochlan. I love the discovery of who you are and who you might be. I am not afraid of you getting older. I will look back on these days as glorious memories. I’m not sad. I’m excited and proud and I only hope I’m around for the many more phases to come.

Happy 5th Birthday Darling boy!!!

xoxox your mommy

Photo credit for all green pictures to the lovely geniuses at Hendershott Photography. We are so lucky they like to use our kid to play around. Yay Adam & Sylvia!

Photo credit for all green pictures to the lovely geniuses at Hendershott Photography. We are so lucky they like to use our kid to play around. Yay Adam & Sylvia!

* Every day except nine. Three, weekend trips with your father and one three night trip to NYC when you were two

A Lesson in Love

Dear Loch,

Love is the most important thing in your life. It is now, when you’re small and dependent on your parents’ love and protection. It will be when you’re grown and find a home in the heart of another, and it will culminate in the love you’ll feel for your future children. But for this the season of cupids and cards, let’s put parental love aside and focus on romantic love which you will experience all varieties – obsession, heartbreak, ambivalence, lust, desire – throughout your life. Ultimately you should look to find yourself an equal, a partner who not only turns your head but fills your soul. Love, at it’s essence is acceptance. If it’s right you should feel supported for who you are and encouraged to become who you want to be. Love is not all passionate getaways and happily ever afters but at it’s heart, it has the ability to bring moments of true magic.

csmonitor.com

csmonitor.com

I’ve written about your father before, my love for him, the great blessing of finding such a partner, the struggles of marriage that befall any couple. I’ve spoken about dating and navigating your way through the discovery of love. But in the month of St. Valentine I want you to know that though love will be the most important thing in your life, you can’t make it your sole focus. I pray great love will find you but I want to encourage you to live your life and experience its many joys while you wait for it. Finding the right person is a blessing but before that person arrives there are bound to be some disappointments and it’s best if you are aware enough to handle them.

I can’t prepare you to deal with heartbreak. It’s something you just have to live through. All I can say is there’s life after heartbreak if you don’t let it to ruin you. Heartbreak, though painful, is a good sign. It means you committed. You put yourself out there and in doing so truly allowed yourself the best chance of success. It’s my belief that true love can only be attained from an open and unguarded heart. It’s hideously gut wrenching when it doesn’t work out but it’s better to be unsuccessful because you gave too much than to fail because you couldn’t give enough. People who guard their heart so tightly that they’re unable to truly commit or relax with another are the people I truly feel sorry for. You’ll get over heartbreak but you’ll never find true love if you aren’t willing to experience it.

weheartit.com

weheartit.com

I’m can’t say for certain if boys and girls experience love the same way. I believe as we age men and women treat and see love in remarkably similar ways but I wonder, as you traverse the path of young love, if I can truly relate to you on your level. In my experience boys always seemed less invested in affairs of the heart. Not to say they weren’t committed or didn’t get hurt just that they seemed to have a stronger ability to disconnect, move on, or play the field. Male dating behavior seemed to involve a lot less crying and certainly less rehashing of minutia details. Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps boys feel everything just as strongly but gender bias forces them into silence. I guess I’ll never really know until perhaps I watch you go through it.

sinisiamballs.wordpress.com

sinisiamballs.wordpress.com

However it plays out I can tell you that when love takes hold it can control your behavior, your feelings, your choices, it can even change the person you become. People don’t start out bitter they get that way. Disappointment in love can cause great misery and if you experience it over and over it’s difficult not to allow past sorrows to dictate your future possibilities. The important thing is to keep the faith. Throughout my life of rather dismal dating experiences I  never lost hope that there was someone out there for me. That hope didn’t prevent my suffering but it allowed me not to get trapped in it. For all the pain, I was never jaded.

Your younger years are full of unrequited love. It’s the way of the world. We all want what we can’t have. High School is tough. Certain people are considered the pinnacle of desire and others their pale comparison. You could navigate these waters without a hitch or struggle to keep up. The key is not to let it define you. Whether you’re the BMOC or the awkward guy trying to find his place, everything is fluid. Everything changes. Have confidence that becoming the best version of you will attract the right people for you. Don’t change to fit in. Don’t conform. Don’t become someone your not. Never do things you aren’t comfortable with to make someone love you. The greatest relationships I saw as a young person were not between the “coolest” people but the people who were coolest with themselves.

My lack of teen dating success can be boiled down to fear. I set my sights too high on older boys, or boys who only loved the beauties, and more often than not I allowed the opinions of others to dictate my choices. There were boys I could have gone out with, nice boys, boys I liked, but they couldn’t live up to the people I’d put on a pedestal or else my friend’s didn’t approve. Either way, I didn’t have a boyfriend till I was nineteen and the only person I have to blame for that is myself.

juliet's balcony and statue in Verona.verona-tourism.com

juliet’s balcony and statue in Verona.
verona-tourism.com

I wrote a boy’s name on the walls of Juliet’s house in Verona one summer when I was backpacking through Italy. I made it small and subtle and kissed the spot it was written. In those days I dreamed of love but I’d yet to experience it. I fantasized about boys who didn’t care about me and spent my time making out with boys I didn’t care about. I aspired to great love but settled for trivial attachments.

By University I was able to value myself more and compare myself less. I dated a lot, had a series of mediocre, short lived romances and one serious relationship that introduced me, for better or worse, to capital L, Love. I lost myself in that relationship and it wasn’t till it was over that I was able to pull myself out from under it. Loving someone can be the most powerful thing you do but it can break you and you have to be strong enough not to let it. You have to know who you are and have a clear enough sense of self worth that even if you lose yourself in a relationship for a while, you can walk away knowing you’ll never do it again. Problems start, not when you make mistakes, but when you repeat them.

Even the things that appear to be perfect can surprise you. I have a darling friend who had the most grown up, open, respectful relationship in High School. They were so well suited to each other, so in love, so devoted that no one questioned them ever breaking up.  They made plans for the future and stayed together as we all went off to University. When he ended their five year relationship over the phone because he’d met someone else she was completely blindsided. Sadly, this happens. We change so much as we grow that ideal relationships from one phase of our life may not work in another. This happens with location as much as it does with time. You meet someone at camp or on vacation and it’s perfect, you try and make it work when you get home and it fails. The saddest thing about my friend is I think she believes she had her shot at great love and lost it. She’s never been as sure of herself, her gifts and talents as she was when we were kids. She’s never asked as much from a man again and, in a disturbingly self fulfilling way, no man since has been worthy of her. It breaks my heart she’s still alone. She’s so deserving of love. Life is hard but it’s so much harder by yourself.

fanpop.com

fanpop.com

When I was in my mid-twenties a boy who’d always been pleasantly dismissive in my teens, looked at me across a pool and said, “I should have been nicer to you in High School”. It might have been a kind and aware thing to say – a young man suddenly realizing how superior he and his friends had been to all but a few of us – but what was really happening is he was hitting on me. He was saying, “Hey, you turned out way hotter than I thought you would and I should have laid some groundwork when I was younger because I don’t have as much of a chance now.” He wasn’t wrong.

Ironically, a lot of the boys I’d pined for seemed to return as I got older. It was as if they’d always been interested in me the person, but now that I looked differently they could commit to being interested in me the girl. Keeping this in mind, never judge potential partners on too narrow a list of requirements and try not to idolize. You can’t fight chemistry, you’re either attracted to someone or you’re not, but make sure you like the person inside the package. You’re convinced someone’s perfect for you? Make sure your perception matches the reality. Love a person not the ideal and understand people can grow in relationships, improve or degrade depending on the love, but ultimately you can’t change someone. We can be better versions of ourselves -clean up, learn new skills, get better looking – but at the end of the day we are who we are and deserve to be loved for that person first.

darrenhardy.success.com

darrenhardy.success.com

You shouldn’t have to second guess love. I was never totally at ease with anyone before your Dad. I knew I only had a tenuous hold on most of them, they were only partially committed to me and no matter how much I cared it was never going to be right. When I met your Dad, I knew immediately. I always say, I could have told you I’d marry him on our first date, but if I was being truly honest, I think I knew the first time we made eye contact. There was something about that moment – a recognition, a stillness and I never questioned it. I may have a million terrible dating stories but I never doubted I deserved love or could make someone truly happy. I knew I was worthy of someone who would meet me at my level. Getting to know your Dad was like coming home and everything that came before had lead me there. I didn’t need to lower my standards or expect less. I didn’t have to pretend or settle. When we got engaged I knew in my heart it was the right decision and it took everything that came before to prepare me to recognize that.

Love to the fullest. Don’t guard yourself or hold back thinking it’s safe. You will experience hurt but it’s part of the journey. Things have a way of working themselves out.

Believe in love. Have faith in love. Respect love and in the end it will respect you.

Happy Valentines.

Love forever,

Your Mommy xo

The path to true love is never smooth. indiaforums.com

The path to true love is never smooth.
indiaforums.com

The Me First Mentality

Dear Loch,

The world is not the same as it used to be. It’s harder, tougher, more self serving. People don’t take care of each other like they used to, or at least as I’ve heard they did in say, Grand Mimi’s time. Even when Granny was young it seems people were more willing to look out for one another. That’s not to say there aren’t twenty-first century people who give of themselves, but just that it seems they’re more the exception than the rule. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that my generation never lived through a major coming together like a great war or depression. We’ve faced financial hardship and God knows there’s been enough blood shed for generations to come, but wars over oil or perceived nuclear threats are different from the Great Wars fought for ideology and losing your house because of loose banking regulations is less uniting than the dust bowl and the crash of the entire economy. Those times forced our country to band together to weather a storm. It was a time where people on the home front sacrificed and contributed and the war was the news of the day. These days it feels as if we’ve become complacent, leaving the wars to faceless soldiers halfway around the world, it barely registers in our daily lives. Our most recent conflicts didn’t even raise taxes. We’re paying for it with our hideous deficit, but it’s almost as if we thought we could get involved without really involving ourselves. We’ve become so used to looking out for the individual that we’ve created a culture that celebrates and rewards those who put themselves first.

underconsideration.com

underconsideration.com

Lochie, I’m sorry to say that you seem to be growing up in a “what’s best for me?” world. I’m not sure how to advise you to navigate it other than to say try and choose a higher path. It’s fair to wonder how you’ll be able to compete if you aren’t playing the same game as everyone else, but I’m confident it’s worth striving to rise above your most basic nature and attempt to be better than the lowest common denominator. Hold yourself to a higher standard than expected. Ask more of yourself and more of your friends. I often think of this idea when people are shocked by your manners. Fifty years ago, children were expected to behave. A child not saying please and thank you would have been a disappointment, an anomaly. Today, a child that doesn’t bowl you over is a delightful surprise. Often, when we’re with guests or at someone’s house and I correct you for doing something impolite (interrupting a conversation or climbing on the back of their couch) people will say, “Oh, don’t worry about it. It’s ok.” As if the mere fact that you’re not destroying their house is cause to be impressed. My answer to their kind overlooking of your behavior is always, “No, it’s not.” I hold you to a higher standard. I expect you be well behaved and follow the rules. It’s how you were raised and I hope it’s how you’ll continue.

Adam Zyglis Cartoon

chandelight.blogspot.com

Nowadays more and more people – adults, not just children – somehow feel the rules don’t apply to them. They’ve convinced themselves they are somehow exempt from the standards to which others are accountable. I recently witnessed this first hand waiting for a treatment room at my acupuncturist’s office. A girl came into the lobby with a big golden retriever. My acupuncturist sighed and I looked at him and said, “The dog?”. He nodded and went over to speak with her. The conversation played out like this:

Acupuncturist: I’m so sorry but we can’t have dogs in here. We treat a lot of people for allergies and the pet dander makes it a really tough environment for them.

(Her response should have been something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m so sorry. Of course.” and promptly removed her dog. What actually transpired was an illustration of a society that thinks it’s special)

Dog owner: (non-plussed) Oh. Really? Can’t I just keep him in here this time?

Acupuncturist: (long pause) Um, well…no…because he’s a really big dog with a lot of hair and we’re really trying to keep the office pet free.

Dog owner: But he doesn’t like being tied up.

Acupuncturist: You can leave him on the patio. It’s fenced in.

Dog owner: I’d rather just keep him in here.

(At this point I wanted to go over and say, “Hey! This place is no dogs. That includes YOUR dog. The rule applies to YOU. Take. The. Dog. Outside.” But I said nothing.)

Acupuncturist: Um, unfortunately, I really have to ask that you take him out.

Dog owner: What if he runs away?

(Seriously lady?!!!! Like that’s going to happen.)

Acupuncturist: I’m sorry. I’m sure he’ll be fine.

Dog owner: (much huffing and puffing) Fine.

Dan Goodsell illustration from rivetart.com

Dan Goodsell illustration from rivetart.com

The whole interaction was both ridiculous and representative of everything that drives me crazy about the “Me First” culture we’ve morphed into. Rules are rules. They exist for a reason and you’re not exempt just because of a sense of entitlement or inflated self worth.

I was infuriated in traffic the other day sitting behind a woman making a left turn at an intersection clearly marked (multiple times) No Left Turn. She sat there completely unconcerned with the honking and waited the entire light to make her turn. As I cooled my heels through the next light I grumbled to myself about people who think they can do whatever they want. From the backseat you asked me what I was saying. After explaining the situation, I told you it’s important that you respect the rules that are laid out in life, and even more importantly respect other people. You don’t do something just because you want to. The world doesn’t revolve around you. Frankly, I think you got it, and even more so I think you agreed.

Lest it appear that your mother is simply a wuss to the rules – a cow tower if you will – I should stress I’ve always been an advocate of rocking the system and I think you should challenge authority if authority needs to be challenged. I’m simply of the opinion that you can’t go through your life under the assumption you are special which somehow qualifies you to live under a different set of guidelines. And, yes, I believe that also goes for celebrities who continue to skate their way out of situations the rest of us would be in jail for. If that’s not the worst message to society I don’t know what is. Other people should not have to clean up after you. You’re responsible for your own actions. Blatantly disregarding rules for your own betterment does not make you better, and as you navigate this world I hope you’ll remember that.

the100percentyou.com

the100percentyou.com

Nothing brings this point home more succinctly than a recent altercation your Dad had at work. He was bartending a Laker’s game and a man (who’d already proved himself to be selfish and self serving) tried to remove one of the stools from the bar to put at his table. Your Dad informed him that, unfortunately, the bar’s policy was the stools had to remain where they were. They were for bar patrons only and could not be moved. Outrightly dismissing your father this patron continued to leave with the stool. Again, your Dad stopped him, telling him more firmly this time, he would not be taking the stool. The man proceeded to launch into an angry tirade about how his elderly mother needed a place to sit and what kind of *^#@ wouldn’t give a stool to an elderly woman. Your father suggested the man take his mother to their seats if she needed to sit, but reiterated the seating rules. About an hour later a regular arrived to have dinner with his daughter at the bar. At this point it was very crowded and he asked if there was stool he could sit on. Your Dad looked down and saw one stool was missing (there’s only 7 so it’s pretty easy to see). Knowing exactly where it was and who it was with, he asked his barback to retrieve it. When the barback returned shame faced without the stool your Dad asked what happened. Apparently the same man had told him the stool was needed for his one-armed son who was in the bathroom. The man had asked Dad’s barback if he really expected his disabled child to go without a seat. Your Dad lost it. He left the bar, found the guy and called him out for not having a “sick mother” or a “one-armed son”. Realizing he’d been busted, the guy gave up the stool, but made no apologies for his behavior. When your Dad got home five hours later he was still furious. He couldn’t believe someone would be so despicable as to fabricate a disabled child just to get what he wanted.

usmagazine.com

usmagazine.com

People can be disappointing and I wonder with our society’s current leaning towards the celebration of people’s base natures – reality television’s generated fame lathered on undeserving people to the greed of a wall street tycoon who takes a company into bankruptcy but feels it’s appropriate to collect a bonus – if things really have the opportunity to improve. I’m always touched when someone goes out of their way to help me or does something classy like hold a door or send a thank you note. It seems like a glimmer from a lost time, a bygone era, and I appreciate it all the more for it’s rareness. What I’d like to see is proper behavior being less uncommon and it’s my hope that we can find it in ourselves to overcome our grasping natures and remember we don’t live here, or do anything, completely on our own. At the end of the day we are all connected and though personal fulfillment and success are wonderful, collective success helps us all.

Take the extra step. Respect the rules. Use your manners. And unless you’re rushing to the hospital…don’t turn if it says don’t. Honestly, it’s just so ignorant.

I love you. I believe you have it in you to be better than anyone will ever expect you to be.

Anyone, except me.

xo your devoted and ever opinionated mama

coffee-reverie.blogspot.com

coffee-reverie.blogspot.com

Being a Parent versus Parenting

Dear Lochlan,

I’m sorry. Sometimes I feel as if I’m failing you. My personal struggles have a way of seeping into our life together. I’m tired and frustrated and I don’t always have the energy to do all I should for you. No, that’s not fair. I do everything I should for you. What I don’t do is all you’d like me to, and if I’m being perfectly honest, only part of that is because I don’t have the energy. The other part is because I don’t really want to.

As I said before in Pre K, I’m kind of sucky at “playing”. Moving cars or trains around on the floor with no game plan makes me twitchy. I’m happy to engage in a board game. I dig building. I’ve made more inanimate objects talk than I can possibly count and I’ve embodied every bad guy from this planet and beyond for you to destroy and capture, but I can only do it in ten to thirty minute intervals before I start planning my escape. I love talking to you. I love going places with you. I love singing and visiting and hugging and snuggling, but playing, just random “play with me” moments, exhaust me. I’m not four. I’m not a boy. I have nowhere near the energy you do and there are so many other things I need (or would like) to be doing. I love to work. Love it. It makes me feel good. I like using my brain. I feel pride in a job well done. I aspire to do better, be better, than I am, not just as a parent but as a person. Despite the fact that my life closer resembles a 1950’s housewife than the millennium power player I thought I’d be, I still aspire for things to be different. I cook and clean and do laundry because it needs to be done. I research the best schools and camps because I want you to be happy and fulfilled. I take you from class to class and involve you in extracurricular, play dates and sports because that’s what a good mother does, but I’m not fulfilled by it. I’d love to be one of those women I see at preschool drop off in full Lulu Lemon on her way to spinning, but my finances can’t stretch to exercise classes, and I don’t have time to waste those two and a half hours on something as frivolous as me. I have to get home, attempt to be creative on cue, then return to my job as a full time mother.

pinterest.com

I love being your mom but being a parent is sometimes a tough pill to swallow. There are days, like recently, when you were furious at me for A: choosing “totally the wrong shorts”, B: having the audacity to take off your long sleeve shirt so you wouldn’t be hot, and C: “interrupting” you, all before I’d even had a chance to brush my teeth, when I just want to say, I’m out, and go catch a movie. I don’t want to be away from you for long, but sometimes I could use an afternoon, an evening, a day, when I wasn’t in charge. I think that’s not so much selfish as self preservation.

I recently read an article in the New York Magazine called All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting, that gave weight to some of the more complicated feelings surrounding parenthood and that ultimately, made me feel a bit better (and more justified) in my shortcomings.

The article points out that being a parent is something that most of us chose and when asked, would say we would be miserable without. I agree wholeheartedly with this as having you was an active choice that I can’t imagine living without. The article, however, goes on to say that most people assume having children will make them happier yet “a wide variety of academic research shows that parents are not, in fact, happier than their childless peers, and in many cases are less so.”  The article quotes a 2004 study by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winning behavioral economist who, after surveying 909 working Texas women found that “child care ranked sixteenth in pleasurability out of nineteen activities.” * Preferred activities included cooking, exercising, TV, talking on the phone, napping, shopping, even cleaning. The article suggests that perhaps much of the problem may be attributed to the fact that raising children has fundamentally changed.

939kissfm.com

“Before urbanization, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they toiled alongside you to maintain its upkeep; if you had a family business, the kids helped mind the store. But all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological revolutions of modernity. As we gained in prosperity, childhood came increasingly to be viewed as a protected, privileged time, and once college degrees became essential to getting ahead, children became not only a great expense but subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed. (The Princeton sociologist Viviana Zelizer describes this transformation of a child’s value in five ruthless words: “Economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”) Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.”

Reading that resonated on many levels. I do see childhood as a privileged and protected time. You’re an adult with responsibilities for so long that I think having the opportunity to be a child without pressure is key, but I also want you to go as far as you can in life and with that hope comes a certain amount of stress. According to the article I’m not alone. Apparently middle and upper class families are particularly susceptible to unhappiness as they are more likely to “see their children as projects that need to be perfected”.  Though your Dad and I try so hard to not put that anxiety on ourselves, or worse, on you, the fact of the matter is there’s so much competition, so much emphasis on making the “right” choices and choosing the “right” path that it becomes overwhelming. The article acknowledges that feeling saying, “middle-class parents spend much more time talking to children, answering questions with questions, and treating each child’s thought as a special contribution. And this is very tiring work.” Yet it appears that level of diligence is something few parents feel they can neglect “lest they put their children at risk by not giving them every advantage.”  It’s a tough road to navigate and one that leaves very little energy left for for Ninjango, let alone doing something for yourself.

birthwithoutfearblog.com

According to research, all parents today, regardless of social status, seem to spend more time with their kids than (when I was born) in 1975. “Today’s married mothers have less leisure time (5.4 fewer hours per week), 71 % desire more time for themselves (as do 57% of married fathers), and yet 85% still think they don’t spend enough time with their children.”

The article reminds us a few generations ago “people weren’t stopping to contemplate whether having a child would make them happy. Having children was simply what you did.” It goes on to say “We’re lucky today to have choices about these matters, but the abundance of choices—whether to have kids, when, how many—may be one of the reasons parents are less happy.” 

It also matters what age you are when you have your kids: “When you become a parent later in life there’s a loss of freedom, a loss of autonomy. It’s totally different from going from your parents’ house to immediately having a baby. Now you know what you’re giving up.”  There’s no more “let’s meet up for dinner” or “wanna catch a movie?” Your freedom and autonomy no longer exist, you traded them for parenthood, and for the most part you also traded your disposable income and marriage first mentality.

It’s been said that you should always put your relationship first, that a happy marriage makes a happy family, but in real life that can prove quite difficult. Thomas Bradbury, father of two and professor of psychology at UCLA, says: “Being in a good relationship is a risk factor for becoming a parent.” Psychologists Lauren Papp and E. Mark Cummings asked 100 long-married couples to spend two weeks meticulously documenting their disagreements. Nearly 40 percent of them were about their kids. “And that 40 percent is merely the number that was explicitly about kids, many other arguments were ones couples were having because they were on a short fuse, tired, or stressed out.” According to Changing Rhythms of American Family Life one of the biggest problems with marriages with children “is the amount of time married parents spend alone together each week: Nine hours today versus twelve in 1975.” Husbands and wives apparently spend less than 10 percent of their home time alone together. “And it’s mostly just two tired people staring at the TV.” 

ivillage.ca

Lest you feel depressed my love, or feel I’m somehow saying having you was a drain on my happiness or a detriment to your father’s and my marriage, I will tell you that is unequivocally not the case. Your father and I are stronger as a couple because we are both so devoted to our family. If anything you have brought us closer together. Life, in itself is more of a strain, but statistics (and my heart) will confirm that “though parenting might make people unhappy, not parenting makes people feel worse.” That when we “take stock of our life, in the end, it isn’t by how much fun we had, but what we did with it.” Children give us a real sense of purpose and a point to our lives. It might not always be fun, but it’s exceptionally rewarding. Tom Gilovich, a psychologist at Cornell highlighted the concept of “retrospective happiness”. The idea of looking back on our good times – the very things that in the moment might have felt like a complete drag – but later can become the “source of intense gratification, nostalgia and delight.”

I know this to be true. You’re only four and a half and I already feel it. It might be just a trip to Target or grocery shopping or brushing your teeth. Time we’re simply filling in, or errands that just have to be done – those ho hum, nothing special, moments between moments – but in retrospect those times are some of the best. It’s time just spent together, snippets of connected activity where I get to steal a kiss or two from your sweet skin and talk with you about everything and nothing. Days I know I’ll look back on with nostalgia and longing. I may miss my old life. I may have days when I desire my autonomy. Times when explaining why it’s not “unfair” that you can’t have a mall pretzel at 5:30pm is just too much, when the selfish takes over and I can’t bare to pick up another toy, or I just want to shut my door and be alone, but I wouldn’t give any of it up for the world. You are by far the best thing I’ve ever done, my most prized accomplishment. In my heart of hearts, I know even if I don’t get as far as I’d like in my professional life, looking at you makes me feel like a success. I love you. Your presence has blessed my life.

There are so many moments as a parent that make it worth it. Moments that melt your heart with joy and make you say things like, “God, we’re so lucky” and if you can accept that there will also be times of exhausting, overwhelming tedium, extended moments where you wonder where your life went, then you’re well on your way to being a happy and successful parent. Your Gigi tells a story about when your Dad and Uncle Matt were young and she would sneak out to the garage just to hide in the car and have a break. I always thought that was a hilarious image, but now that I’m a parent it’s starting to look like a pretty good idea.

Why do you think I have so many magazines in the bathroom?

I love you kiddo. Cut me a little slack will ya?

xoxo your loving Mom

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*all quotes from Jennifer Senior, New York Magazine, “Why Parents Hate Parenting” July 4, 2010