life, motherhood

Parenting adults: is it the high road or the low road?

Answer: it’s both and it can be beautiful and bumpy, so buckle up!roughroad1

If you had asked me a few years back whether I thought parenting would be harder when our girls were young adults, I would have chuckled and said no. Then I might have wondered why you were asking…

One of my biggest parenting challenges has been to sit back and watch as our daughters navigate the harder life lessons that come along with #adulting. I labored through those years under the notion, that once they reached adulthood, all the lessons I taught would have a trickle down effect. I know that does actually happen. It’s just not happening all at once.

Like every other parenting stage, much of it has been really rewarding, but truthfully, there are times when it feels like I’m herding cats.

Where is the owner’s manual, or at the very least, that big red “easy” button, when you need it?

My job is to teach. To protect them while also allowing (age appropriate and non-life threatening) mistakes. There is no definitive rule on how to do this. It’s not always as simple as it sounds.

Maybe dodgeball is a better comparison? Remember that movie with Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller? “Just remember the five D’s of dodgeball: Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and…dodge.” Parenting adult children is like a dodgeball game. Except you don’t always feel like you’re dodging. The lines are blurred. It’s harder to get out of the way, and just like in the movie, you often take one to the gut, the head, or both.

It starts when our children are small and we are new to the parenting game. Our first inclination is to “fix” whatever is wrong. They cry; we pick them up. We kiss all the boo-boo’s big and small; even the ones we know we don’t need to. Maybe we want to give them all the things we didn’t have as a child, or we feel some guilt when we go to work and try to compensate for that. Maybe they sleep in our bed when we really don’t want them to, or we’re tired, so we let it slide when they misbehave.

I don’t believe you can ever love your babies too much, it’s simply not possible, but as they get older, we have to learn to separate the boo-boo’s. Hovering like a helicopter to keep them from experiencing pain, or spoiling them just because you can, doesn’t benefit you, your people, or anyone who has to be around them for an extended period of time.

Fred is running by the pool after you have asked him not to. SallyJane is out of bed for the umpteenth time, for no apparent reason, and now wants to sleep in your bed. Every child and every household is different. How do you manage it?

Me? I was a young mom “with everything to prove”. There were many things I was steadfast on. Sleeping in our bed wasn’t a regular thing at our house. I use this example because I have been asked this question dozens of times over the years. They could sleep with us if they were sick. They could fall asleep with us when they needed the extra cuddles. That was it. I always felt our kids needed positive separation from us and that quiet time with my husband was very valuable to me. We all know that having one child in your bed is like having a whole herd of them in there! Who could possibly be well rested after dangling precariously from exactly 1.64 inches of a mattress all night? While they might only be three feet tall, those little stinkers spread out, into all four corners of the bed, like a giant octopus. Their head is angelically placed on the pillow, but their knees and feet are somehow wedged in your sternum and kicking the small of your back simultaneously!

Uhhhh, no thanks.

“Please don’t run by the pool Fred. It’s not safe. You could slip and fall.” Suddenly, there is howling and skinned body parts. I clean up the knee, or elbow, or chin (or all three!) and Fred is poolside, marinating in sunscreen and consequences.

That said, I certainly doled out more than my share of kisses for those questionable boo-boo’s. The key? Find the balance between their currency and your own and choose wisely.

You’re not always going to get it right. Sometimes we’re just too overwhelmed, or too damn tired to dodge the ball! I’ve said before that parenting is about using the tools you have to put your best foot forward 99% of the time. If you missed that post, you can read it here. The remaining 1% is reserved for the days when that last nerve is on the brink of nuclear detonation. It’s OK, we all have them.

mary_poppinsAs hard as it is to separate, I am learning that I cannot allow parental guilt to be a factor, at any stage. We are allowed to make, and then reconcile, mistakes! It’s expected really. Life can wear out even the most persistent “Mary Poppins”, and I guarantee that the spoonful of sugar she sings about won’t save you!

Besides, Mary was never a parent, remember? She just flew in, solved the household problems of the moment, and then drifted away on the breeze.

Whatevs Mary.

I can tell you the scenarios only become more challenging as kids get older, but I have discovered the basic principles are the same.

So how do you know when to dodge? The truth? Sometimes you don’t; sometimes the answer is really easy, whether you want to see it or not; and sometimes the answer is to draw a line in the sand and not step over it.

f2fbc252bd8ca74e10e043ac02134355Staying connected: Adult children are often focused on themselves. Do your best to keep your lines of communication open. You want to know everything that is going on in their lives, but you don’t want to know everything. Parental guidance should begin to take a back seat to the opinions they are forming on their own, but they continue to need the emotional and moral compass provided by parents.

Finding the balance: This has been one of the most difficult for me, but stepping back is vital to their success as adults. Sometimes they take the scenic route. You won’t always agree with their choices, which may be vastly different from yours. Express your feelings without guilt. Let your child know that, even when you don’t agree, you accept that their opinions and choices might differ from your own.

8a6f11e53fe5eb41cc197a374f64465bTrusting your choices: Remember that the word NO is a complete sentence. Successful parenting includes setting standards for behavior while fostering love and mutual respect. Taking a hands-off approach, in order to avoid conflict, will leave children without clarity regarding what is expected of them. This can breed a “victim” mentality and a child who cannot see fault in their actions. That behavior isn’t beneficial to anyone.

Setting expectations: Young adults need to learn to take responsibility for themselves. Allow them make their own decisions and live with the consequences. This is often easier said than done.

Setting limits: It’s easy for parental guilt to jump in the driver’s seat. No matter what mistakes have been made in the past, if you have done your best to reconcile those mistakes, move forward. You are not a doormat. Boundaries should move to the forefront. No more blurred lines. Be clear and fair. Don’t be arbitrary in setting limits. Explain your reasons. They may not understand all of it right away and that’s OK. In the long run, the relationship between you and your child will benefit.

I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I feel like I have taken more shots to the gut in the last two months than ever before, but I am determined to turn good people out into the world. What is most important to me is that our daughters continue to develop into strong and independent women. Women who among other things; love themselves and their families, work hard, surround themselves with a circle of wonderful people, and understand the importance of paying it forward and giving back to their community.

I’m still learning. Dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge.

-Kim

 

life

The difference between a father and a dad…

They say you either gravitate in the direction of a partner who is very much like your father, or you choose someone who is the complete opposite.

I grew up with a semi-absent father and when I was young, I had no idea what kind of impact that would have on my life choices.

When I was old enough to understand, I didn’t walk, I ran, as fast as I could, in the opposite direction.

Looking back, I know now, that my father did the best he could with a very limited set of tools. I have made peace with the past and I wish him peace as well.

When I first met my husband, we were teenagers. There was something about him. He was intelligent, funny, devastatingly handsome, outgoing and just a little shy (it was his friend, not him, who came back to ask for my phone number).

His smile still gives me butterflies and I’m not exaggerating!

We were young when our first daughter arrived. When you have children with someone, you hope they will be a good father. I didn’t have to hope. I already knew. It was something deep within my soul. I can’t explain it.

He took on fatherhood with every ounce of himself. TT was his little sidekick. In the beginning, we worked opposite schedules so that we could be home with her. I started work at 6AM and he worked a swing shift. We were like ships in the night, but agreed we wanted to do what was best for our baby girl. When Fred came along to complete our family, his love spilled over in buckets.

My husband is a dad.

He loves and lives for our family. He is brilliant and funny and ambitious and stubborn and supportive and tender. I can close my eyes and vividly picture our future. I can tell you exactly what he looks like when we are in our 90’s. His work ethic is inspiring. He ducks life’s monkey wrenches like a ninja; he can figure it out, fix it, make it happen, and presses forward through everything. He is the voice of reason when PMS takes over our house. He hugs and protects like a bear, but you can still breathe. He is witty and his laughter is contagious. He is generous with his time. He hates the limelight and will brush it off as though he’s no big deal, but trust me when I say, HE IS EVERY BIT A BIG DEAL! I am regularly in awe of him. #soluckytohaveyou

So to my husband, with all my heart: Thank you for being the best dad to our girls, my best friend, everything I knew I needed in my life, and so many things I only hoped for.

I love you. Happy Father’s Day!

-Kim

 

 

 

 

motherhood

A note to all moms: I see you!

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. I don’t know about you, but I intend to celebrate at home, outside in the sunshine. No computer, no tablet, no phone, and I don’t plan to check my email, or phone messages until Monday!

New moms: Pat yourself on the back, you’re doing a great job! The first year of motherhood is a unique set of challenges. Say yes to offers of help. Keep taking it one day at a time and do not subscribe to any predetermined list of expectations. Very rarely is any part of this job “by the book”.

Toddler moms: “Terrible two” isn’t really that bad. It’s three that you need to watch out for. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and a hug. Nap time is your friend, an extra 30 minutes in front of the TV won’t “ruin” them, and time-outs (even for you) are OK! There will be public tantrums. This too shall pass. If I see you in Target, or the grocery store, looking frazzled, the first words out of my mouth will be “we’ve all been there!” You’re never alone in this!

School aged moms: Being “Supermom” is overrated. Being “Mom” is absolutely enough. Take time for yourself. Whether you head off to work during the day, or work from home; with laundry, cooking, homework, errands, and other household chores looming, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that if you’re not “busy” you’re not doing your job. Wrong. Do something daily, weekly, or monthly that improves your personal well-being. There is some truth behind, “If mom’s not happy, nobody’s happy.”

“Obsolete” moms: Embrace your emotions. You have turned the corner, the role shift has begun and you have earned the right to feel all of those feelings. What now? Reinvent yourself. Congratulations if you have your next act figured out! If you’re still on the edge of the pool, put your life jacket on and jump in! Paddle around in that pool until you figure it out.

To all moms: Thank you for the things that often go unnoticed…

  • Getting up early to make breakfast and lunches.
  • Those who mother alone or without much support.
  • Kissed elbows and band-aids on knees.
  • Reading Goodnight Moon or Harold and the Purple Crayon for the 1000th time.
  • Stopping to wonder if you’re doing all of this (or any of it) “right”.
  • Getting back into the car to drop off at practice, or pick up, or both.
  • Clean laundry.
  • For Dads who “Mother”.
  • Rocking colicky babies.
  • Going without so your children can have what they need.
  • Applying sunscreen.
  • Finding the lost blanket, pacifier, shoe, stuffed toy, bouncy ball, favorite shirt…
  • Pushing forward even when you think you might break.
  • Extra time in the morning braiding hair.
  • Teaching them how to be kind.
  • Handmade costumes.
  • Cheering them on.
  • Helping with homework, when you still need to do your own.
  • Wholesome dinners prepped when you don’t feel like it.
  • Nights spent sleeping in a chair, holding a sick child.
  • Giggling and belly laughs.
  • Volunteering at school, for sports, or wherever you are needed.
  • Strength when they are vulnerable.
  • Movie nights, cuddled up under blankets, with popcorn.
  • Standing up and defending your child when necessary.
  • Tucking them in every night.
  • Baking cupcakes at 11PM.
  • Showing them how to appreciate the beauty in the world.
  • Worrying about all of the little things.
  • For hugs and kisses that are second nature.
  • Encouraging them to work hard and follow their dreams.
  • The smile on your face and doing your best, even when you’re exhausted.
  • And ALL that you do to make their world a better place.

You are enough and more than enough. You are a #mom and you are incredible!

Happy Mother’s Day!

-Kim

life, motherhood

15 Realizations about parenting kids that are 18+…

Being a mom is the best job I have ever had and it has also been the most challenging. I have struggled with the motherhood role changes the passage of time brings. If you’re not familiar with my story, you can read my very first post here.

I still miss our babies cuddled up in my lap, listening to a story, or the muffled patter of the rain in the middle of the night. I miss the “baby smell”, their sweet little faces watching me intently while we sing quietly in the rocking chair, baking cookies with them, and regular family movie nights with all of us snugly tucked into our bed.

drivinglessons
Realization #11

The other day, I was in the midst of writing another post and our oldest came buzzing in from work. She sat down to chat with me for a few minutes about her day and then she proceeded to make something to eat, before disappearing to shower.

In the moments after that interaction, I came to the realization (several of them really) that being an #obsolete mom, and parenting kids 18+, has some real advantages.

15 Realizations about parenting kids that are 18+…

1. They do their own laundry!!! Enough said.

2. Going out to dinner isn’t a crap shoot anymore and the restaurant doesn’t have to be family-friendly. There’s no worrying about the possible no-nap meltdown, who has the green crayon, or fighting over which fork belongs to who.

3. The only butt I have to wipe is my own. If you consider this TMI, sorry. With the exception of changing the toilet paper roll, they handle their own bathroom business. I mean what could anyone possibly miss about wiping someone else’s behind? The end.

4. I no longer have to watch Beauty and the Beast, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, Pooh’s Grand Adventure, or The Jungle Book 585 times in a row. Disneyland is truly one of my FAVORITE places and I love Disney movies, but I don’t feel the need to see any of them on repeat anymore.

5. When not at school, or work, they sleep in.  This allows for extended coffee time with my other half, or time to clean house without any interruptions. It’s glorious!

6. They can cook the basics. Even if it’s just eggs & toast or grilled cheese. If they’re hungry and it’s late, or my other half is traveling, I’m not on the hook for a whole meal!

7. I don’t have to lug around a diaper bag loaded to the gills with 8 changes of clothes, diapers, wipes, toys, and snacks. While we’re on the subject of diapers, there are no poop “episodes” just as we’re leaving the house. Seriously! I don’t know how many times I was heading out the door, late, and just as we’re locked and loaded in the car, the stench would waft from the back seat, and it was all the way up their back and down their leg. Screw you peas and sweet potato!

8. Profanity is no longer censored. I was so strict about language when our girls were young, my friend Jessica used to call them the “word police”. Let’s face it, sometimes “shoot”, “gosh darn it”, and “fudge” just isn’t going to cut it. In fact, my desperate need to use a swear word is how our younger daughter got her nickname. (That’s a story for another post – she’s always been a bit of a firecracker.) Frankly, none of the kid-friendly “swear” words have the same effect that the F-bomb does, and now that they’re adults, it’s actually funny when they slip and let one fly too.

9. Their homework is just that, THEIRS! No late evening trips to the local Walgreens for glue sticks, glitter, and posterboard (which they WILL inevitably be out of because every kid in the neighborhood is frantically doing the same damn project). That’s all I have to say about that.

10. Privacy in the bathroom! My mantra was always “I get to pee by myself!” No more knocking on the door, or little eyes peeking under. No answering questions about body parts and bodily functions. Just ME. ALONE. IN. THE. BATHROOM.

11. No more driving lessons and late night pick-ups. I served my time white-knuckling it in the passenger seat; grasping the oh-sh** handle, holding back expletives, eyes squeezed so tightly closed my brains might pop out my ears. I have also racked up my share of frequent flier miles shuttling them from here, to there, and back at all hours.

12. They help around the house. They unload the dishwasher, vacuum, dust, rake leaves, take out the trash, and did I already mention THEY DO THEIR OWN LAUNDRY!

13. I am not aimlessly wandering the Target toy aisles, dodging strategically placed end caps full of My Little Pony, or daydreaming of tropical beach vacations while passing the “Luau Barbie” display. BONUS: Sometimes we divide the list at the market to speed things up. Woot! Woot!

14. No tantrums, no time-outs in the corner, no potty breaks, and they pack their own sports bags and suitcases. Period.

15. They’re even more fun to talk to! They’re witty and sarcastic, and it’s often hilarious even when it shouldn’t be. Our girls have opinions about what’s happening in the world. This ultimately leads to some great conversations and it’s enlightening to hear their views.

Are you parenting, or almost parenting, teens and/or young adults? If change has been a challenge for you you, there is hope! If you have already parented through this stage, would you add anything to this list? I’d love to hear it!

-Kim

life, motherhood

Parenting hacks from a mom who’s been there…

Last week, a friend and I were talking about parenting stages. We both have college aged kids now so we’ve “been there and done that”. When she asked if I would go back and do anything differently, I paused. I was pretty sure I had most of it figured out. I’m not saying my husband and I did everything right. On the contrary. We definitely did not get everything right, but we raised two kids who made their share of mistakes, and still survived to adulthood, so I suppose we must have done a few things correctly?

Seriously, our daughters are turning out to be really good people. I know, I’m probably a little biased. Maybe even just a smidge more than a little? Still, they’re pretty awesome in my book. Isn’t that the whole idea though? Parenting with your best foot forward 99% of the time, so you can send intelligent, curious, kind, and socially responsible people out into the world, to make it a better place. Well, that’s the way we approached it anyway.

That said, there are some things that I didn’t fully understand back then.

  • First things first! Don’t second guess your capabilities. I have repeatedly heard parents wonder out loud if they’re doing it all right? Of course you’re not! None of us are. How could we? Those little wonders don’t come with a manual and all the parenting books in the world won’t completely prepare you, or keep you from making mistakes. There will be “bad” days. Shoot, there might even be a stint of them. If you’re doing your best, YOU ARE ENOUGH! Look in the mirror and ask yourself “Am I using all the tools I have to be the best parent I can be?” If your honest answer is yes, you are doing enough.
  • Speaking of “bad”days. Let’s just get this one off the table now. We have all said or done something (if you haven’t, you will) that makes us cringe. We are human after all. We get overwhelmed and tired. It’s OK. Just don’t unpack and live there. Stop, take a deep breath, or a few of them…apologize, and LET IT GO!
  • You can’t do it all at home and you shouldn’t feel like you have to. Looking back, our girls could have had more chores. Put your little angels to work. They can help fold laundry and unload the dishwasher. They should be picking up their rooms and making beds. Will three of those four chores turn out the same way they would if you did it yourself? Probably not, but it will be close enough, so who cares? A perfectly starched and spotless house is overrated. Martha Stewart doesn’t live here. Nothing against Martha, but I’m certain she has “people” who do all that for her. Perfection is for model homes. It’s getting done and that’s all that matters. As they grow, give them a weekly chore list. You are lessening your work load and teaching them simple lessons in the process.
  • School isn’t a competition. “Oh, my goodness, my little SallyJane just wouldn’t know what to do if she got a B!” If that works for SallyJane, so be it. My kids were never straight A students and at times I agonized over my girls grades even though with a mix of A’s and B’s, they were doing just fine. We ended up putting undue pressure, on our oldest, in math. Unfortunately, she inherited my math skills. (Sorry TT!) We tried everything and she would work her rear end off for a C. The thing is, there was nothing wrong with a C. We finally accepted she was doing her best and that’s what mattered!

As it turns out, both of our daughters got accepted to the colleges of their choice and she only needed one math class for her major. There really is a reason for everything!

  • You don’t have to be BFF’s with all the other parents at school. Be friendly to everyone, but it’s OK to pick and choose who you really want to get to know. Let those relationships grow organically. There is only so much energy to go around and none of it should involve forced interactions.
  • No is a complete sentence. An explanation is not always required. Practice in the mirror. Own it.
  • Take at least 15 minutes for yourself daily. I didn’t do this and I should have. Make some tea, read, take a nap, sit outside on the porch in the sun, do some gardening. If you don’t want to take 15 minutes, devote an evening to a class. Whatever is good for you, do it!

I will also add (and this is not to be lumped in with your 15 minutes of “you” time) that it’s not OK for your kids to follow you into the bathroom. My mantra was always “I get to pee by myself!”

  • There will be days when you don’t feel like playing another round of Candy Land, Go-Fish, saving the world, or attending the Barbie dance party. Take a walk to the park and save your sanity instead.
  • Mom guilt is real. Don’t give in to it – go back and review the bullet point about being enough.
  • Date night should be a regular thing. Once a week. Once a month. Every other month. It can be as simple as going for a walk, or out for an ice cream. Another friend of mine schedules stay-in pool side date nights. I love that idea! My husband and I didn’t begin regular date nights until our girls were older. We always spent lots of time together as a family, so we have no regrets in that department, but we could have carved out more time for us as a couple when our girls were younger.

I’m sure there are a few other things I would do differently. Maybe I’ll write about those, down the road, in another post. For now, these were the most obvious. Maybe you would do a few things differently too?

#Parenting; would I do most of it the same? Absolutely.

-Kim