Friday, July 25, 2014

Poking at keys

"What do you write about?"

I've gotten that question a few times today because I'm at the annual BlogHer conference of women who publish online. And, to my surprise, I've met the question with a moment of pause. Not because I (admittedly) haven't written much lately, but because so often what my brain processes and sends to my fingers to poke out on my keyboard is a free flow and not well planned. But at the same time, the reason I go for days,weeks or months without writing is because I'm afraid of the free flow and exposing too much of what my brain is processing.

"I write about life with kids," I said.

And I guess that's what I do here. And I guess that's also what I stop myself from writing about. And it's hard to make that the answer because "life with kids" sounds so trivial and menial... an oscillation between boring and saccharine. But in reality, it's layered and complex and heart bursting... and hard. I overthink. "What do you write about?" is too close to "what do you think about?" and I won't give that away.

See? Not well planned.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Sad Goodbye

If I have learned one thing about motherhood in eight years doing it, it is that nothing should surprise me.

But yet, I am so surprised at how emotional I am about one thing in particular. My sister says it’s the hormones.

For 13 months, I have personally nurtured my baby girl with a gift only her mother can give. And now, that door is about to close. We are both growing and moving on.

When the boys were infants, I worked hard and did what I was supposed to do and went through the motions of nursing them because I had to and at six months, they each were done. They were too busy to sit still and just nurse. They had other things to do and couldn’t be bothered. And truthfully, it felt to me more bothersome than anything else. Finding the time and place to get it done seemed so much more impossible then. It was a chore and I pushed on as far as I could and when that chapter ended, I knew I did my best and gave them what I could and we moved on to formula and on with life. It was matter-of-fact. They needed to be fed and I fed them the way I was supposed to for as long as I could. And then I was free.

But now, feeding my baby isn’t a chore. It’s a bond. In fact, it’s a gift. And it’s ending.

We have survived sinus infections, flu, mastitis, pneumonia, and business trips. I have pumped in cars (parked and moving), in bathrooms, in airports, in offices, and in the Louisiana swamp. I remembered vitamins and counted ounces of water intake and measured and timed alcohol consumption. Whenever we left the house, I would keep an eye on the clock and a part of my brain would constantly be ready to alert me as to when it was time for the next feeding. My nursing cover was always ready to whip out, no matter when or where my baby needed to eat.

We plowed through The Great Incident wherein a certain very important person who shall go unnamed accidentally left an entire month’s worth of frozen pumped milk in a hot car and ruined it. I have never felt so devastated - as if I experienced the death of family member or the loss of a limb. And yet, we powered through and pumped and restocked the supply and soldiered on. Perhaps one of my proudest accomplishments.

Because it was that important. Not just for her consumption, but for our bond. Our thing that only we could have and only I could do for her. I am the only person who could give her the nutrition she has needed to live, to grow and to thrive. I alone have provided her with that, and all from within the cradle of my arms. But now it is coming to an end and so is this unique bond we share. And with it, I say goodbye to this life stage of mothering infants.

And it’s just so surprisingly sad.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Eight

We pulled into the garage and your dad turned off the ignition. Everyone got out and went inside but something made you and I linger a little longer. It was your birthday eve – your favorite subject of the moment. “Can you believe you’re almost eight!?” I said. “This is the last night you’ll ever be seven.”

You crawled from the third row and perched yourself next to me, atop the console between the two front seats. “I can’t believe it,” you proclaimed with a sly smile. “I can’t believe that means I’ve been a mom for eight years,” I pointed out and grabbed you for a hug. “Did you know you made me a mom?” I said. “You gave me that gift.”

You held on tight – you, the kid who is always so pissed that you’re not yet a teenager, that you still have to live with mom and dad rather than on your own as a self-sufficient free spirit who answers to no one – you held on and so I did too, rubbing your back. “What a gift you gave me,” I softly repeated.

You looked at me with tears in your almost-8-year-old eyes. “Now I’m crying tears of happiness,” you said. And so was I.

These are the moments I treasure in the midst of ADHD and defiance and homework hell. In the mess of the daily grind, and anxiety, and hidden triggers that others around us can’t seem to relate to, like when you absolutely must be the last person in the gym after basketball practice, meaning that even the guy who turns off the lights and locks up better get out before you or else you’re gonna lose it.

You have moved on from calling me “Mommy” to “Mom,” from trains to skateboards, from pajamas to athletic shorts. Your feet stink, you leave the door open and you always have a ball in hand. But even behind your tough-guy persona I still catch you, though fleeting, as my first baby.

Your teacher told us this morning that you think differently than everyone else. When the assignment was to make an American flag, you refused to have yours laminated because you wanted it to ripple like the way you notice real flags rippling. When asked to create a city scene, everyone else drew buildings on paper but you had to fabricate yours in 3-D, consenting to not hang it up with everyone else’s so that your constructed buildings could actually stand up.

You are passionate and determined and quirky and individual. Sometimes the way you make everything uniquely yours can drive your dad and I batty. We try to remember it’s not about us. We try to not squash your spirit just because we have agendas and bedtimes to manage. But we’re still growing along with you.

You acknowledged recently that Autumn, whom you’ve said for maybe three years you are going to marry one day, doesn’t really hang out with you. You’re thinking maybe it’ll be Maggie or Brooke now. It’s all of course meaningless but your heart seems so fragile and sensitive. It’s amazing how at 8 you straddle the fence of tough guy and sensitive boy. And how you push and pull us back and forth with you, alternating between moments of sheer let’s-watch-a-move-and-snug-under-blankets joy and those of whatever-mom-wants-is-exactly-the-opposite-that-I-want discord.

You are one of my favorite people on Earth and I couldn’t love you more. You, who made me a mother. Who gave me that gift.

One

She looks out the window and points suddenly, a surprised expression on her face and an elevated voice: "Dad!" He's mowing the lawn. My heart pings a little. She says "Dad" so much more often than anything else. But she still clutches me as if I might disappear at any moment, she reaches her tiny arms out for me to come get her, hold her, hold on. She collapses her little self on top of me in the bed in the mornings. As if she had been looking for me in her sleep, and upon finding me, right next to her the whole time, she is almost relieved and determined to keep me there. I relish these little moments that make up our life today. The third time around, my sense of what is fleeting is keener than ever before. I know she'll push me away one day, but for now, I am her comfort and her hero and I couldn't have a more important title in my life. How funny that one year ago, we were just getting to know each other.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Short Reflection on a Short Year

I'm sitting up (hooray for at least sitting up) in bed, propped up by pillows, laptop glowing in my face, sleeping baby cradling my hip and breathing rhythmically in and out. I can't remember the last time in my life I was so sick. I am on day five of fever, chills, aches, coughs, and surely death's door - the whole nine yards. What a wonderfully ruined Christmas vacation. This is the kind of sick that isolates you to bed upstairs while you get to listen to the family open their stockings and eat their Christmas dinner downstairs. Yes, next year I will be getting that flu shot.

I am alone on New Year's Eve with just my girl, while the guys have gone to a germ-free friend's celebration. What a wonderfully ruined New Year's Eve. But in the stillness of this house, and having read my book, caught up on my People, and watched the entire season one of Downton Abbey, I'm suddenly struck with the realization that I have no other obligation than to reflect on this year.

We are a blessed family of FIVE.

We survived the Great House Remodel. And I even managed not to maul any of the contractors who spent my entire maternity leave in the house with me.

We are fighting the vicious beast that is ADHD and though it's an exhausting daily battle for all of us, I believe we mark a W on more days than not.

We have cultivated new meaningful friendships in the arms of a community.

We got to introduce our sacred beach and annual family tradition to the newest member.

We celebrated 10 years of marriage. We are high school sweethearts who have grown into teammates.

We have contributed time, talent and treasure to local causes that can benefit from what we have to offer.

We are given a daily gift of watching our boys love our girl, and vice versa.

They say the days are long but the years are short and it feels no more true than at this time of year. How do I have an 8-month-old baby? How am I possibly going to remember all the little moments of this precious, fleeting time that I find myself begging my brain constantly to imprint? It's the catch-22 of a full life: it will not last. So here's to hoping 2014 brings more big and little moments that make me catch my breath and hit the pillow hard at night with the knowledge that I did my best to earn it every day. That I worked hard and played hard and prioritized appropriately. And that one year from right now, I will be cursing time, begging it to slow down while also recognizing that my begging means it was again a year full of so much to be thankful for.

Cheers to you and yours and happy new year!

Monday, December 9, 2013

When Girl-Power Marketing Accidentally Does the Opposite

I have long believed I am a psychologist or sociologist trapped in a PR gal's body. Or perhaps it's just that I was drawn to a career in marketing comms because I am so fascinated by how marketing can make people believe and even do things they may not have believed or done otherwise. Behavioral psychology. And maybe that's also why since college I have had a thing about gender-based targeting.

Check out my latest post at ModernMom.com, where I (probably not very popularly) discuss what I see as an big miss (though in fairness I think it was inadvertent) by a toy brand trying to debunk the myth that only boys should like engineering. I just don't like the approach this particular brand *coughGoldieBloxcough* took.

Do you agree? Disagree? Tell me about it.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

To My Daughter

I open my blurry eyes in the morning and see you there. I am amazed you are still here each day. That you are really part of our family.


I pinch myself regularly. Thankfully, I am not waking up from this dream.

Your story started almost a year ago, when your dad, brothers and I were in the car on our way to the airport, headed to the family beach house and I made us stop at Walgreens on the drive north so I could purchase a pregnancy test. I got sick in the plastic Walgreens sack. Your dad and I exchanged looks. I took the test in the airport bathroom and gave him the news in the terminal. You were already with us. This was happening. We managed to keep the news of you secret between just the two of us for several months even while we lived with Mimi as our house was remodeled. We didn’t know when we had created the blueprints with our architect several months beforehand that we were adding space for you.

I have waited months to write these words because I am so desperate to make them count; to live up to the standards you’ve set. Perfection. It’s an impossible goal so I move forward anyway, expecting missteps but doing my best. Just like in mothering.

In my belly you made me crave anything tomato-y. Salsa, spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce. And anything involving a mix of peanut butter and chocolate. I was sure you would have peanut butter colored hair based on the amount I consumed.

I find myself reminiscing about you growing and stretching inside me, kicking and hiccupping. This is not my first rodeo. I know I will forget how that felt and I already grieve for these memories that are so fleeting in the course of motherhood. This is the story of you, now. The snuggly baby ball of you that is just stopping by on her path of growth. I plead with time to stand still, while simultaneously looking forward to the next phase of you being unveiled.

You arrived in late spring and when we left the hospital with you, there was a May snowstorm. Welcome to Life, a place where we shrug our shoulders and try to go with the flow. In the 11 weeks that have followed, you’ve done just that. You eat and sleep like a dream and your yelling, screaming brothers don’t even faze you. I believe you got used to them in utero. And based on the chaos you heard, you figured out that you would need to be flexible. Thank you.

You love to be outside. You seem lulled into a peaceful state by nature sounds and smells around you. I hope a yearning to be outside stays with you forever. You gaze up at me from your seat in the stroller as we walk and I gaze back, overwhelmed with all the life advice I want to impart. Be a helper. Stand up for what’s right. Extend your hand to the outcast. Identify your gifts, then cultivate and share them. Stay off of reality shows and out of tattoo parlors. Respect yourself and treat your body as a gift on loan from your Creator. Keep the faith. The list is endless. What will you learn from my words and what from just living, experiencing, observing? I feel anxious pressure to set the best example.

 
I know there will come a time(s) that you’ll become so annoyed with me and that’s okay. (I’m sure your grandmother secretly looks forward to those full-circle moments.) I’ll try to be patient, give space and wait for you to come around. I also hope there will be times you are proud to be this woman’s daughter. I will tell you about the day you accompanied me to the office, just a few weeks into your life, as I was promoted to Partner. I want you to learn from me how to work hard in pursuit of a rewarding passion. Not how to fall back on your laurels or be enabled. At the same time, you inspire me to cut back, reexamine priorities and seek treatment for my sometimes workaholism. You are my treatment. I know you will remind me over the next many years, when I want to be reminded and when I don’t, to stop and exhale.

I need to tell you about your brothers. You wouldn’t believe how in love with you they are. Even Graham, who upon learning that you would be a sister cried real tears. “But she’s going to be bossy!” he lamented through sobs. I know we’ll recount that story time and again with a giggle, but oh that boy. I believe he thought you would come out as a fellow first-grader who stole his toys and liked to tell him what to do, which (word to the wise) apparently he does not appreciate. But the first night you were home with us from the hospital, he held you in his 7-year-old arms and proclaimed, “I guess I wanted a girl the whole time.” He is protective and proud. As you get to know him and come to appreciate his quirks, you will be a better, more empathetic person for knowing and loving him in all his uniqueness.

Everyone says you look just like Reid. He loves that. He is gentle and understated and timid around you. But really, it’s not just your effect on him. You will learn from him how to be a sweetheart, a listener, a pleaser. At night he asks if you will snug with him in his bed while I read to him. I ask him if he will read to you one day and he looks up with me with a nod and a smile. That’s so Reidy. Remember that when Graham’s extremes push you too far, Reid will be your soft place to land.

These boys have taught me how to mother to this point. I hope you’ll find they’ve done a good job with me and consider yourself a lucky addition to their team.

I hope you also find luck in being your daddy’s daughter. One day when you are older I will tell you about my complicated relationship with my own dad, but more importantly what I learned from it. Part of that education was what I wanted in a father to my children. You will now benefit from that hard-learned lesson. Your daddy is the man by which any of your future suitors should be measured and often fall short until one day, someone doesn’t. When that happens, and not beforehand, you’ll know. In other words, never, never settle or compromise your expectations in this arena. Never. Ever.

While I’m still early in this motherhood journey, I know enough to know that while daydreams of the Future You are inevitable, we really have just met and you haven’t shared much about yourself yet. In seven years of parenting, I have learned the most important lesson: that you are not a mini version of your parents, or who we think you are or want you to be, but you, Blair, yourself. And as you let us get to know you more with each passing year, I hope you’ll find that you have no louder cheerleaders anywhere in the world than the four who will always be here in the Hawks Nest – your nest – where we have enthusiastically made room for you. You, my daughter.

Welcome to the world.
Love,

Mom