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My Daughter is Braver Than I Am

For me, today was the day mothers know to be a bit….emotional.  My first born baby started Kindergarten.  This is the day when you realize that all the work you’ve done throughout the last five years comes to fruition.  Your work isn’t done by a long shot, but the roots have taken hold, and how you have to let your little tree grow.

My daughter has been excited about going to Kindergarten for quite a while.  She didn’t really understand what it meant to go to Kindergarten, just that it was an important thing she’d do as a big kid, and she’d get to ride a yellow school bus to get there.  The day I took her to the “Kindergarten Round Up” last May so she could see a classroom and I could collect some of the mounds of information the parents of a gradeschooler must possess, she excitedly exhaled a “YEEESSSS!!!  I’ve been waiting for this!”  She was excited, and I was excited for her.

As the pool days of summer were all starting to blur together and the first day of school was looming, I was becoming more anxious.  There are a lot of things I want to keep track of, what the PTA is doing, where I need to be, where my child needs to be, what school supplies I need to purchase, etc.  But I was also anxious because my Kindergarten experience, while mostly positive, was colored by a deep anxiety I felt at being away from my mom.   I was always filled with worry that I had forgotten something important or missed a key instruction that I desperately needed.  I took grade school quite seriously, and still, as an adult, have nightmares about forgetting things in school.  Being inside a grade school again for my daughter started churning those old memories and anxieties.  And then I looked at her, my beautiful daughter, and I saw none of those worries mirrored back at me. Instead I saw excitement at meeting new friends and learning new things.  I was in awe.

I mentioned to a friend of mine what I was feeling, and she asked me if I had expressed to my daughter how impressed I was with her bravery.  I realized I had not, and I decided to have a talk with her.  It turned out to be the best conversation we’ve had thus far in her little life.  I sat her down and told her how proud I was of her that she was so brave and excited about school.

“Well,” she said.  “You know, I am a little nervous.”

“Are you nervous about taking the bus to school or about doing schoolwork?” I asked.

“I’m nervous about schoolwork,” she replied.

“It’s ok to be nervous about that, but you know, Daddy and I will help you with your schoolwork, so it will be ok.”

“Was schoolwork hard for you when you were a kid, Momma?”

I had a momentary panic.  I didn’t want to diminish her feelings, but the truth was, it wasn’t.  I didn’t struggle with academics until my brain smacked into the wall that is Calculus my senior year of high school.

“Well,” I said slowly.  “No, I guess I didn’t.  Schoolwork wasn’t hard for me, but you know what was harder for me?  Talking to other kids and making new friends.  I was always really nervous about that.”

I smiled inwardly at my recovery…an honest answer that didn’t put her down.

“If you had different parents,” she said after a moment’s thought, “and we were kids together, I would help you make friends.”

I smiled.  A big smile.  “Well, you know, there will be other kids in your class that feel nervous about talking to the other kids.  Maybe you can help them make friends.”

“I will,” she said triumphantly.  “I know how to make friends.  You just go up and say, ‘Hi, my name is ______ _______.  What’s your name?  Want to be my friend?”

I hugged her.  It was a proud moment for me.  She is braver than I am.

 

Today, more than a week after that conversation, we stood at the bus stop ready for her to board.  She had been so excited during breakfast, while I did her hair, when I took her picture with the “1st day of Kindergarten” sign so I could post it on Facebook.  I was fussing with her backpack when she suddenly looked up at me with big eyes, and said, “Momma, I’m scared.”  Her lip bottom lip pouted out and tiny tears squeezed from her eyes.  I bent down to hold her. “I want to stay with you,” she whimpered.  My heart hurt a little.  I want you to stay with me too, I thought.  Forever.

“It’s ok to be scared,” I eventually said.  “Everyone is scared their first day.  But you know how you also feel excited?  Try to focus on that feeling.”

She nodded, and her tears dried up.  Her eyes were still wide, and I knew she was still anxious.  A 2nd grade neighbor arrived, and she offered to sit on the bus with my daughter and make sure she found her teacher when they arrived at school.  My daughter stood a little straighter, holding hands with this girl as they stood in line to board the bus.  And then, despite her wide eyes, my little love climbed up onto that bus, sat where the bus driver instructed, and waved goodbye to me.  Off she went, to her first day of school.  I climbed off that bus, and I burst into tears.

Most moms will know what I felt in that moment, that mixture of pride and sadness.  My husband was there with me, and he, holding our three year old, walked me back down the street to our house.  The friendly 2nd grader’s mom put a hand on my shoulder.  She knew what my husband and I knew, that today, we hit a milestone.  For my daughter, it was a big, exciting, kind of scary adventure.  But for us, it was the end of an era.  The baby era, bringing her home from the hospital, long nights, bottles, baby food, rolling over, crawling, diapers, oh so many diapers, walking, running, sippy cups, coloring, playing, a big girl bed, potty training, preschool, letters, numbers, martial arts classes, soccer, singing, swimming.  It was a slow transition from baby to kid, but this day, today, marked the point of no return.  She would never be baby again.

I would have to say, I took today like I take most big milestones of change in my life… like a giant sack of anxiety and worry.  But my daughter, took it like a champ.  She admitted her fears, but she faced them.  I don’t really know what they did at Kindergarten today, but I know it was “awesome” and her teacher is “super, super nice.”  And I know that my daughter is braver than I am.

 

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The Culture of Entitlement: Remarks on Brock Turner

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Until yesterday, I had never heard the name, Brock Turner.  As the mother of two young children, I haven’t much had the necessity to follow the case of a young Stanford swim star on trial for a sexual assault that occurred on a college campus.  But his smiling face came up on my social media feed, and I decided to click on it.  I read the media’s postings, I read the letter Dan Turner, Brock’s father, wrote to the judge begging for leniency, and I read the statement the victim of the assault read aloud at the sentencing, which had also been featured on CNN, read in full by anchor, Ashleigh Banfield, and is now going viral thanks to a re-posting of the letter in full by Buzzfeed.

There are so many conversations being sparked by this case on a national level.  Brock Turner’s 6 month sentence for his three-count felony assault conviction is certainly receiving an outcry and there is much talk of white privilege and the justice system.  This is a conversation that needs to be had.  Judge Aaron Persky is a Stanford alum, and many are asking the question, and rightfully so, would the same sentencing have come across if the defendant were a young man of color or not a star athlete?

There is also talk of rape culture.  Some seem to have the sense that the victim of the assault should roll up and go home, accept that you drank too much and got what you deserved.  In a letter to the judge, Brock Turner’s childhood friend, Leslie Rasmussen, writes that “These are not rapists. These are idiot boys and girls having too much to drink and not being aware of their surroundings and having clouded judgement.”  It’s like leaving your car door unlocked means you have literally invited someone to steal from you.  It’s a bad decision, but it isn’t an invitation.  Drinking leads to poor judgement, and often the conclusion of that poor judgement is “I should have another drink.” But being drunk or passed out is not an invitation to being assaulted.  It is poor street smarts, but it still doesn’t make it acceptable.  But it is in rape culture, and we need to know, why is this ok?

These are questions that need to be asked, and eventually, after deep soul searching, our nation will have to answer them.

What disturbed me a lot about this incident was the letter that Brock Turner’s father wrote to the judge, begging him to be lenient in his son’s sentencing.  I’m quite sure it has been agonizing for Brock’s parents to watch the boy they love so dearly lose so much.  They were, I’m sure, desperate not to watch their son suffer.  No one can fault Mr. Turner for writing a letter to try and help his son.  But that letter gives some disturbing insight into what is really wrong with this case.  Mr. Turner describes in the letter his son’s depression over what he has lost, saying, “Brock’s life has been deeply altered forever,” and “he will never be his happy go lucky self with that easy going personality and welcoming smile.”  Mr. Turner wants his boy back, the boy with the bright future and happy demeanor.  Who wouldn’t?  What parent would want his child to suffer?   Further, Mr. Turner in a statement of very poorly chosen words laments, “His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.  That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life.”  Unfortunately for Mr. Turner, and the parents of all people who have committed crimes, often it only takes one moment.  One moment of poor decision leads to a lifetime of consequence and regret.  Brock Turner is fortunate he had twenty minutes to contemplate whether or not he was doing the right thing.  Sadly, he did not use that time wisely.  People are very outraged by Mr. Turner’s letter, but the real outrage isn’t that Mr. Turner trivializes his son’s remorse nor is it that he misrepresents his son’s crime as simple “alcohol and sexual promiscuity.”  The real travesty of this letter is the lack of empathy.  There is no mention of the victim.  There is nothing in Mr. Turner’s letter about what his son has done to another human being.  He makes his son out to be the victim and says nothing of the victim of his son.  This is entitlement culture.

Entitlement culture is rampant in America.  Consequences don’t apply to us nor do they apply to our children.  We are of higher intelligence than the general populace.  The rules don’t apply to us.    We are victims, and we never victimize.  We are entitled.

The victim, in her statement read to Brock Turner at the sentencing, implores him “not talk about the sad way your life was upturned because alcohol made you do bad things. Figure out how to take responsibility for your own conduct.”  This is the truest lesson this we as a nation can learn from these events.  We need to be responsible for our own conduct and what we do to others.  This is where the conversation needs to start.  Race and privilege, drinking on college campuses, rape culture…these are all important discussions we as a people need to engage in, to improve things that are fundamentally wrong with the way we look at certain circumstances, such as a crime committed by a white star athlete on a college campus while under the influence of alcohol.  But the fundamental conversation we need to start with is our own entitlement.

We all believe our children are the best.  But we all must take responsibility for ourselves not to fall into the entitlement trap, believing that we and ours are entitled to more than you and yours.

 

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Happy F*#%ing Spring Break- We Built a Snowman

Ok, admittedly, that title is rather dramatic. I live in the Midwest. It is not at all uncommon to get a string of wonderfully beautiful spring days followed by a snowstorm in March or even April. But being the mom of two young kids, I am acutely aware of the weather. Is it an inside day/ outside day/ bundle up/ bundle down?  Our whole day generally revolves around the weather and nice weather means we walk to the park and my job as Entertainment Committee is easy that day. As an aside, I do think we parents now put entirely too much pressure on ourselves to entertain our children.  Not sure why the phrase, “Go play” should wrack us with so much guilt. 

Nevertheless, I watched out my window all morning waiting for the snow to stop, but it did not. So once it became apparent that my 2 year old boy was going to sing and pound the walls all afternoon instead of nap, I bundled up both kids and out we went. There were moments of delight like when my 4 year old laughed herself off her feet while chasing me with snowballs. And then I decided we would build a snowman. I became engrossed in the task: rolling large balls of snow, packing it down, shaping, reshaping. It was the ugliest, most pathetic snowman I’d ever seen built of fresh snow. I kind of felt bad about myself as a mother, like I’d deprived my children by making them such a dopey looking snowman for their yard.   But when you’re 2, that doesn’t matter, does it?  My son kept sticking balls of snow to our lumpy little guy and pronouncing, “ta da!!”  I still wasn’t convinced it was a win until he called the snowman Olaf, told him he was cute, and gave him warm hugs until his head popped off. 

Then we rolled up and down the hill behind our patio, and life was good.  All of the anxiety and annoyance I had felt all day watching the snow fall out my window melted away. 

Happy Spring Break. We built a snowman!!!

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All You Need Is LOVE

In addition to my Stay-At-Home Mom gig, I work a part time job, evenings and weekends. It’s retail and thus not very glamorous, but I can work when my hubby is home with the kiddos. It works. 

This evening, I called home on my break to check in.  Hubby and kiddos were having dinner with my mom and grandma. My 4 year old daughter hopped on the phone and asked if I was coming home now. 

“No, sweetheart,” I replied. “You’ll be in bed when I get home”. 

“Peeeaaaazzzzzzeeee, Momma, can you come home now?” 

She broke out the manners. She really wanted me home. 

Heart = Break

But that’s life. I went on with my work shift and she went on with her day. But when I came home, I found that after my hubby had put her to bed, she had snuck into our bed to wait for me. There she was, tiny face smooshed against my pillow, sound asleep. 

Hubby carried her to her own bed and I followed behind clutching her stack of stuffed animals (which must accompany her to bed at all times, of course). She briefly became awake and her raspy sleep voice squeaked out, “No, I have to be in Momma’s bed.”  

“Momma’s home,” Hubby told her. 

“Here I am,” I said, surrounding her with all of her stuffed friends. And you know what that little girl did? She sighed out a relieved, “Momma”, and hugged me tighter than anyone has ever hugged me in my life. Then she rolled over and fell back to sleep. 

She just wanted a hug from her mom. And her mom, in return, got to have the euphoric moment of just giving (and receiving love). No other needs needed to be met.  She wasn’t demanding food or drink like I’m a diner waitress. She didn’t need entertainment, clothing, or her butt wiped. She just needed to know I was there….that she was loved. 

And in the end, that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it.

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When Momma Gets Sick….

…Daddy becomes a superhero.

So, I was going to post something snarky with this picture of  piled up laundry like, “Look what happens when Momma gets sick.”  And you know what?  My awesome hubby, Mr. Momma Marks, washed it. All of it. And the giant pile in the kids room too. And he’s been cooking, cleaning, and bathing the children while I’m laid up with a fever, tonsillitis, and an ear infection. He’s like Superman. (Or he just wants to get laid). Either way, good man. Good man.

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Why Kids are in a Hurry to Grow Up…..And Why It’s a Sham

Lately my 4-year old has been talking a lot about growing up.  “Momma, when will I be a grown-up?” is a frequent questions she asks as well as, “How can I grow up faster?”  I recall imagining being a grown up all the time when I was a kid.  I couldn’t wait.  And now here I am, all grown up, and really disenchanted by it.

Why is it that kids always want to grow up so fast and adults always say, “don’t be in such a hurry”?

Just now, my girl, having made herself a little stage, is singing at the top of her lungs to an imaginary audience.  And I just caught the lyrics, “When I am a grown up, I can do whatever I want.”

And, that’s it, isn’t it?  That’s why we want to grow up….so we can do whatever we want.

And there’s the sham.  I am grown up, and now I have kids.  And I hardly EVER get to do what I want.

~Momma Marks