Nobody knows how to say goodbye. It seems so easy until you try.
Love is deep as the road is long and moves my feet to carry on. It beats my heart when you are gone. Love is deep as the road is long.
Explaining priorities to children is a tough thing. They don't quite understand why people do what they do. Heck, I rarely understand why people do what they do. However, we need to explain to children how priorities, values, and lifestyle choices all go hand in hand. Not only do we need to explain it to them, but we also need to show them. Growing up, priorities never had to be explained to me or my friends. We saw what the priorities were and we understood them. Growing up, almost all of my friends came from the same type of household. We were all middle class with one or more working parent. Occasionally, someone would get something super cool and expensive, but it wasn't like you see today. I also grew up in a very different neighborhood than where I'm raising my children.
Where we currently live, we're in the minority. We live in an area where it's almost all upper middle class to upper class. It's tough when you see all of your friends getting fancy phones or tablets or things as such. It's OK to want those things also. But, for our family, that's not a priority.
When we decided that I would be a stay at home mom, we realized there would be tough choices to make. We realized that we wouldn't be able to get a lot of fancy stuff. Our priorities are our family's well being. We have a decent house, that requires upkeep. That's a priority. We eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle. That's a priority. We go on one vacation a year. That's a priority. Spending time as a family is a priority. My kids' safety is a priority.
So, when my kids see things that contradict our priorities, they don't understand. Frankly, some of it is downright hard to explain since I can't understand people's choices either, but we try. Still, it's hard for my kids to see all of the "stuff" their friends have and they can't get.
But it's not just the "stuff". It's also the freedoms. We are on the stricter side of parents. It is a priority to us that our kids don't spend their lives in front of the television. It's priority to us that our kids stay safe online, so we have very strict internet rules. My 9 year old does not have a phone with data. The only time she can use it is when it's connected to wifi. She is not allowed to watch YouTube on it. In fact, we took YouTube off of her phone and my 12 year old's phone. So,when they see their friends who are allowed to download whatever apps they want and spend hours on YouTube, it's hard to understand why we don't allow them to do the same.
My hope is that, one day, my kids will understand why we live the way we do. I hope that they will see that we all have to choose what is important to us. I hope that they will see that they are our top priority. I hope that, when they have families of their own, they will see how hard we worked to show them that family is a priority to us, even if it's not to others.
I've been thinking about this for some time. A friend actually beat me to posting anything about packing the last school lunch. For her, it's the last one ever, since her daughter is graduating. This is not the last lunch I will pack, but, today, I pack my son his last lunch his lunchbox. The lunchbox that he has had since first grade. You see, tomorrow is his last day as an elementary school student (they get a pizza party, so no packed lunch). Tomorrow also happens to be his 11th birthday. I realized that this day was quickly approaching. I've been trying to decide what to pack for this occasion. Nothing seemed special enough. Nothing was special enough.
You see, I have packed this same lunch box every school day since first grade. I have written a note on the whiteboard inside the box every single lunch. And now that it's the last one, I worry that all those words from the past five years will be forgotten. All of the times I told him how special he was. All of the times I encouraged him to be kind. All those times I praised him for being strong. All of those times I told him how proud I was of him. All of the times I told him I loved him. He'll have a packed lunch in middle school, but he's graduating to a middle schooler lunch box. One that doesn't include a whiteboard. I'm sure I'll put in a note here or there, but it won't be the first thing he sees when he opens his lunch.
There are so many lasts that have been happening this year. I know that with the lasts also come the firsts, but I'm not ready to say good-bye yet. This school year has been so amazing that I just don't want to let it go. I definitely don't want to head into the unknow. That's how we grow, though. That's how they grow. Today, I didn't mention how this was his last day taking his lunch box. I didn't make his lunch anything extra special. The note I wrote summed up all of the things I hope he knows and remembers. I am so grateful that this is not the last lunch I will pack for him. I'm so grateful I have more time. It's important to remember that every last is just as important as every first. Time is precious. Don't take it for granted.
Not many people can say they have found friends who are truly like family. I am fortunate enough to have found several of those groups of friends. I'm not just talking about friends who look out for your kids or friends you can hang out and be yourself with. I am talking about friends with whom you have a deep connection. As I grow older, I don't think of friendships for myself as much for my kids. Husband is my soulmate. He's my best friend, so my friendships are often secondary. However, over the years, I have made some amazing friends. Friends who I can call on for pretty much anything.
Sunshine is blessed with the most wonderful best friend in the world (aside from her brother,who is her best friend, as well, but it's different). Sunshine and [H] have been friends since Sunshine was born. Literally. I have watched their friendship grow over the years and it amazes me. After spending the first five years of their lives seeing each other no less than once a week, I was worried when they had to split for Kindergarten. Then, I worried again when [H] moved further away. But, none of that weakened their friendship. The girls still get together at least once a month and it's like they have never been apart. [H] is part of our family. She always has been, but there's something deeper about it. All four of us in this family would do anything to help [H]. She went through a rough patch this year, and it hurt all of us that she had to deal with it. We made sure Sunshine and [H] saw each other a little more so that [H] would know there were people who loved her. Friendship like that is rare.
Yesterday, I realized that we have another group of friends who have the same deep connection with. [A] has been my friend for 9 years. She is a person I can always count on to be there for me, even if it's just to sit and say nothing with. I have always adored her children. Our children have always all gotten along. I would do anything to help out her family and I know she would do anything to help out mine. But yesterday, I saw something different with our kids. I saw that deep connection. Our kids would also do anything for each other. I'm not just talking about the girls sticking with each other or the boys sticking with each other. I'm talking about all of them, together. Both of my kids would do anything they could to help both of her kids. It's not just a hope that her kids feel the same, I know they would. It's how they treat each other. It's how they interact as a group. Our whole family sees it. My kids, throughout the years of knowing this family, have commented on how they have the same values as we do.
This all got me thinking about how we moved away from our core values over the past year. It's not that we have forgotten our values. It's more that we've forgotten how it feels to be with those who hold the same values and we need to get back to that. This summer, I will make a conscience effort to bring those who hold the values around more often and try to put a little distance between those who do not hold the same values. No, I'm not saying we're only going to be friends with people who are just like us. That's just ridiculous. What I'm saying is, I want my children to form stronger bonds with children who find the same things in life important.
The older I get, the more I realize how important it is to stick to your beliefs. I also realize that surrounding yourself with too many people who hold different beliefs actually makes you forget yourself a little and makes you someone you don't necessarily like. That's why I'm going to work so hard now for my children. With all the hard choices they have to make in life, I want them to have people one their side who hold the same things dear. I want them to see they are not alone in their beliefs. I want them to see that they don't have to change who they are for their friends. Strengthening this now will only help them later in life. It's time to go back to the start and let the future begin.
This year, like every year, we went to Florida for Christmas. This vacation was a first though. This was our very first family vacation with just the 4 of us....ever. We have never gone on vacation without other family members. Husband and I were worried that we would all be at each other's throats and would be miserable. This vacation was a test for us. A test to see if we could do this on our own. It turned out to be one of the best vacations ever. Of course we had our moments, but, overall, it was great! We went to the beach every day and swam all but one day. People asked why we didn't go to Disney or Legoland or someplace like that. Well, it's because our family is content without that. We are happier to sit in the sun at the pool or on the beach. We like to be where there's no crowds and no hassles. It was just what our little family needed to regroup.
I've written and re-written and deleted and re-written and walked away from this post for days now. When I started it, there was a whole different theme. There was even a different title. The original title was "The Day Hate Won". No, it wasn't me whining about how my candidate didn't win and someone else's did. The fact is, my top choice didn't make it past the primaries. It was about how, we, as a country, the world, have been turning to hate and violence. I had talked about how it didn't change overnight. I talked about how it's been building. That's what the post was about.
I'm actually glad that the post took me so long. I'm glad something just didn't feel right about it. I'm glad because instead of a post about hate, it's about hope.
I promise that, even though this post is about hope, I lose friends over it. And you know what? That's perfectly OK. This election brought out the ugly in people, and that's never alright. There are people that I thought had the same core values as my family; people that I thought we decent and would teach their kids love and tolerance, but instead, I saw them spewing hate and anger. After the election, a good friend of mine, who holds very different political views, and I texted this to one another (and rereading them I see autocorrect typos that are killing me! )...
This conversation, right here, sums it up. I had to stop and realize that I get to choose who I surround myself and my family with. I get to choose to stick with the good people. I also get to choose how I raise I my children. Know what? Nothing has changed since last Tuesday in that manner. I have written post after post after post about the values we are trying to instill in our children and it hasn't changed. I will continue to teach my children to be good people. I will continue to teach my children the importance of being kind, to everyone. I will continue to teach my children to be strong individuals. I will continue to teach my children to follow their hearts. I will continue to teach my kids that we are stronger together. I am constantly telling my kids that "together, we can do anything".
And that's what this is about. This is about those people, on all sides of the political spectrum, those people who aren't gloating their candidate won or whining about how their candidate lost. It's about the people who looked around the days before the election and the days after the election and saw the hate and said, "this is not OK". Until people realize that we are all losing right now, and have been for some time, our world will continue to hurt.
Core values in this society have been changing for quite some time. In my opinion, there have been people who have been waiting for something, anything, to happen to strike out. The election was the opportunity. It wouldn't have mattered who won or lost. Like Taylor Swift stated, "Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate" (who ever thought I'd be quoting Taylor Swift on something like!). Hate is always present. Those people, well, they're always going to hate. But love is also present. That's what I choose to surround my family with. I choose the love.
Last night, Monster finished up his letter to Santa. He began with "I believe that I have been good this year." Then, he listed what he would like. But then, this is how he finished...
Obviously, we've been doing something right. I posted this on Facebook and tagged some friends who work at the Children's Center. I got so many comments and likes, from people I didn't even know. These are people who don't know me or child. They don't know our race, religion or sexual orientation. These are seeing a child, who truly cares and wants to do good in world.
So, there's hope. There's hope that if good people stand together, we can make this world a better place. There are many debates over what this country needs, what this world needs. But, as the Beatles stated, "All we need is love". Those of us who are seeking the good in the world, we are stronger together. We need to remember that. We can't let hate divide us. We need to raise the future generations to be good and caring people.
I wanted to star on Broadway. I had dreams of winning a Tony. Needless to say, that didn't happen. It's not that I can't sing or act; I can hold my own. Definitely not award winning, but not so horrible you want to run screaming. It's that life changes. Dreams change. I also wanted to be a fashion designer. That one was probably my most far fetched since I can't draw, but 10 year old me was pretty decent. My art skills, though, have not progressed since being 10. I also don't give a hoot about fashion, as anyone who knows me could attest to. As I got older, my dreams of what I wanted to become when I "grew up" became more and more conservative. A journalist. A photojournalist. An advertising photographer. A teacher. One thing I always knew I wanted to become, though, was a mom.
My dream of being a mom and what my life looks like are vastly different. I always pictured myself with 4 kids. A boy, twins, and a girl. Yes, in that order. Each morning, I would kiss my husband, dressed in a business suit, goodbye as I handed him his briefcase, with our perfect dog at my feet. My children would be examples of what all children should strive to be. I would bake and be crafty. I would make their perfect little lunches and kiss them as they walked out the door and got on the bus. My hair would be perfect. I would dress in the latest fashions. I would be a successful...whatever my other dream was at the time...while the kids were in school and then perfect mom and wife the rest of the time. Dinner would always be hot and ready on the table. My house would be spotless. We would all get along 100% of the time. The house that we all happily lived in was big enough for all of us to have our own space. It even had a white picket fence.
That's what I wanted my life to be like "when I grew up". Parts of my dream have come true, but, quite honestly, in real life, I'd be happy with a shower on a daily basis. I was a teacher and I loved my job. I am a mom to 2 wonderful children (there is no way I would ever be able to deal with 4!) and I have an extremely hard working husband. I can be crafty. I love to bake. The rest? Well.... I kiss my husband, dressed in jeans, a safety yellow shirt and work boots, each morning. If he's lucky, I make him a sandwich. If he's not, he either starves or fends for himself. My neurotic dog is usually already standing in the garage waiting to go out or he's upstairs literally slamming himself against our bed to wipe his eye boogers off. I admit, I do make my kids their perfect, well balanced lunches every day. I actually enjoy that. I walk my less than perfect (but still pretty good) children to school every day. My hair is in a ponytail 99% of the time and I only wear jeans and t-shirts. My house is not spotless. Though we do all get along very well, it's not 100% of the time. It's more 60-40. Our house definitely does not allow us to have our own space. Heck, we have one bathroom! Can't wait for the teen years with that...
While my children are away at school, I don't go to my highly successful career. Someone recently asked me what I do all day long. Let me give you an example....I vacuum, mop, do laundry, take my neurotic dog out, clean the bathroom, bake cookies, make beds, and do dishes. All that is usually between the hours of 9:00-noon. And that's a relaxing day where I can actually sit down and check my email or catch up on Facebook. No where in my "when I grow up" dream did I see myself scrubbing dog vomit off carpets or running to the grocery store or trying to make everyone happy with dinner (because in my fantasy life dinner was just made and everyone happily ate it). At no time did I dream of being committee chairs for the PTO and having to run around for that. In my dream, somehow all 4 of my perfect kids got to every activity they were in, which was many since they were so well rounded, without having to rush or try to rearrange things to make it work. There was always plenty of time in my perfect world. Oh, and not once did I ever do laundry in my dreams....I'd just like to point that out since my children think I love to do laundry (seriously, just ask them). Not once in my dreams did I scrub pee off of the sides of toilets, because, let's face it, males just can't aim.
There was something else missing from my perfect dream life though....laughter. Of course everyone was happy in my dreams, but, until you live it, there is no way of knowing how the sound of pure laughter can make you're whole day. Kid snuggles also did not appear in my dreams. There is no way I could have ever known how important those are. My dream was also missing the feeling of pride when your child does something wonderful. The adrenaline rush of watching my children compete in events wasn't present in my dreams. The way unconditional love feels is something that was way beyond even my wildest dreams. There are no words to even express how my children's, and Husband's, love makes me feel.
The dream is constantly shifting. I know that what I dream of now is not going to be my dream in another year. But it's OK because the reality includes so much more than the dream has to offer.
For you, my sweet babies, I hope for happiness.
I hope you always find the good in world and are rarely touched by the evil.
I hope that if you are touched by evil, you have the courage to turn from it.
I hope you make friends who build you up and don't try to rip you down.
I hope you learn all that you want to learn and more.
I hope you make good choices.
I hope that when you make poor choices, you learn from them so you don't have to make them again.
I hope you give second chances.
I hope you get second chances.
I hope you always try your best, even if you don't like the task or find it unimportant.
I hope you remember that what might be unimportant to may be important to someone else.
I hope you see the value in hard work.
I hope you step out of your comfort zones.
I hope you are brave enough to see all the world has to offer you.
I hope you never get your heart broken, but when you do, and you will, you will find the strength to move on.
I hope you find love that lasts a lifetime and more.
I hope you take time to enjoy the little things in life.
I hope you always have a strong bond with one another, as you are each other's best friends.
I hope you realize the importance of family.
I hope always make time for those who matter in your lives.
I hope you take time to help others.
I hope you respect others' beliefs, even if they are different from yours.
I hope you do not let all the struggles you have faced so far and will face, make you lose faith.
I hope that all of you struggles help make you stronger and more resilient.
I hope you don't let you sorrow and worries define you.
I hope you remember that being a good person and true to who you are is more important that fitting in.
I hope you know that people who want you to change who you are are not your friends and you don't need them in your lives.
I hope you remember that life has many different paths to take, and sometimes, there are no easy choices.
I hope you remember that easy is not always better or right.
I hope you remember that there will be an end to your troubles as long as your heart keeps holding on to your faith.
I hope you always know that Mommy and Daddy will be here for you, no matter what.
I hope you always feel how much Mommy and Daddy love you.
I hope you remember that, together, we can get through anything.
I've heard it many, many times from others, "You're very strict parents". I wouldn't use the word strict, but I guess there's a lack for a better word. We are parents who follow through. We are parents who implement consequences, the first time rather than just threatening them over and over. We have a rules and we have expectations of our children. We don't allow our children to eat outside the kitchen or dining room. The only drink they may have on carpeted areas is water. They must ask to be excused from the table. They must ask before playing on electronics. They have set before school and after school tasks to complete before they can do other things. They must wear coats when it's cold. They must clear their spots at the table after meals. They must stay within eyesight when in a crowded place. They may not run around stores or restaurants. They must be respectful to adults. They have chores they need to do. They must always try their best.
None of these things seem over the top to me. Yet, people are always saying we need to lighten up. Maybe what they don't see is that our children run around like banshees a good portion of the time. Maybe they don't see that my kids get to play outside after school with friends (when we or friends don't have a list of activities a mile long) . Maybe they don't see us singing and dancing in the kitchen, or store, or the parking lot, or anywhere and everywhere. Maybe they don't see the HOURS of Lego building, school playing, or family games. Yes, our kids have an early bedtime, but we play games or read together after they're all ready for bed. They must not see the smiles and hear the laughter. What others also forget is that we lead by example. We try to show our children that we, too, follow the rules. We show them that there are consequences for our actions as well. We always try to explain to our children why we make the choices we make. We try to explain our children how we weigh our decisions and how we weigh the different outcomes to make the best choice possible at the time. We show our children that, sometimes, we make poor choices, too.
"Strict" does not equal cold. "Strict" does not equal no fun. "Strict" is us trying to raise children to become decent people. Having chores and following rules does not mean they never get to have fun. It means that when they are adults, they will actually be able to do things on their own. Is our way the best? No. We make plenty of mistakes. We realize that sometimes we are too hard on them and we try to ease up. Can parents who are less "strict" still raise responsible children? Of course. What I'm saying is, the next time you look at my family and say, "Wow, you're so strict", understand that we're OK with that. Everyone chooses how to parent their own children. The goal is to raise happy, responsible people. People who know that choices have consequences. both good and bad. People who know life isn't about always getting what you want. People who understand life isn't about feeling like you deserve people to hand you things simply because you exist. People who know how to laugh and have a good time while still respecting themselves and others. People who appreciate life and all that they have. People who have strong values and morals. Good people, because right now, this world is definitely lacking in good people.
Today, I read a story that made me realize that I've been spending the first 4 weeks of my sacred summer vacation focused on what I can't give my kids instead of what I can. It made me realize that that I've been letting a little of my happiness be taken every day. Social media plays a large roll in this. People always post the happy. They post the "look at my perfect life". They post the "look at where we go". Those posts have made me hurt for what I can't give my children. I can't give them vacations. Daddy doesn't have the time off work and we don't have the money. I can't give them new rollerblades or new bikes every year. They have to deal with hand me downs. I have been letting the feeling of not being enough and having enough ruin parts of my day. I'm done. I'm taking back my happiness. I'm taking back my sacred summer. I'm done focusing on what I can't give my kids. They certainly don't focus on it. They are thrilled that they get to play baseball and go to camp and play in the pool and just hang out. They are thrilled to go get ice cream uptown in the middle of the day for no reason. They are happy playing with Legos and riding hand me down bikes. They are happy playing in our cramped, one bathroom house. I only have seven weeks left with my babies and I won't let my happiness be taken away one moment longer. Especially when the one taking away the happiness is me. I've been trying so hard to make this summer as perfect as last summer that I haven't stopped to look and see that it is perfect. It is perfect because we are family and we are together. What matters is what I can give my children, not what I can't. And I can give them me. All of me.