The New Normal

FullSizeRenderThis winter in Boston has been a challenge.  No, let’s be honest, it’s been a shit storm.  Driving through the city, past ten foot snow mounds and down two lane street that are now one and wrestling your way into ice covered parking spaces, you learn one thing very quickly.  You need to turn into the skid.  It’s the first thing they teach you about winter driving.  As counter-intuitive as it seems, as scary as it sounds, as much as you want to throw on your breaks: You turn into the skid.

The analogy is obvious.  You can’t fight the inevitable.  When the world fights against you, it’s okay to turn into the wind and let it take you where it may.  These last few months have challenged me to put this philosophy into practice nearly every day.  Once we hit 8 feet of snow in thirty days, and my car disappeared into the snow piles, and it started to take me more than an hour to travel four miles to work, it forced me to start leaning into the curve.

So, it’ll take more than an hour to make it across town; pack a big cup of coffee and some snacks for the ride.  So, there’s no parking on the streets; bundle up and walk to the errands.  So, it’s too hard to get out to shop and eat and and socialize, take the opportunity to save some money for the inevitable battery that I’ll have to purchase for the buried car.

Now I know that it seems easy for me.  The storms have unquestionable hit some harder than others.  I know that there has been lots of lost wages, and poor revenue, and property damage.  But, for better or worse, that’s still the new normal.  I can’t see the utility in complaining about it, announcing your misery, playing the “who has it worse” game.  The best we can do is look at our new reality and figure it out.  Make a new plan.  Turn into the skid.

It’s not just the weather.  So many people who I love have had a hard winter.  Friends have had set-backs, and illnesses, and life altering surprises.  But, what can you do?  Except for to define your new normal. I still struggle with this everyday.

My life is miles away from where I saw it two years ago.  But, if I had spent even one moment fighting against the changes and railing against the inevitable.  I wouldn’t be where I am today.  The reason I continue to be successful, is not because of actual success, but because of my ability to continually redefine my expectations and my reality. It’s about choosing what you’d like your life to look like and then adjusting it accordingly.  It’s about committing to your priorities and making adjustments as life sees fit.  My priorities are family, happiness, and time.

And, it hasn’t been easy to stick to my guns this winter.  Not when it’s been so dark, and everything takes so long, and we’re all stuck in the house in tight spaces under the most unpleasant circumstances.  It’s been a challenge to make the most of it.  But, I continue to work towards the ideal.  To find some quiet time to read with the boys.  To get outside and embrace the epic snow.  To smile and laugh and find the joy in the smallest of triumphs.  To keep on defining the new normal and accepting the twists and turns as they come. FullSizeRender-1

My Kids Can Hang

DSC_0234Last weekend we attended the wedding of very close friends.  But, we had a quandary. Do we bring the kids?  The wedding was in Cancun, at an all-inclusive resort, during the first weeks of spring break.  Yet the kids would have been crushed if they missed this opportunity, and the winter has been so rough, and they deserved a vacation too.  So we packed them up and brought them to this most decidedly adult of events.

People thought we were nuts.  Why would you bring you children to this center of modern young adult debauchery?  Why would you want them there?  What will you do with them?  In fact, we weren’t concerned at all.  Because, we know our kids can hang.  We’ve put a lot of effort over the years in making sure we rarely have to shuffle them up with a babysitter or leave them out of a good time.  By the end of the weekend, many of the guests, and lots of perfect strangers made a point to tell us how great the kids were, and how, someday, they’d like to have kids “just like yours.”  Our response, “Thank you, we’ve worked very hard at it.”  Here’s some tips we’ve picked up along the way.

Start Early:  When Xavier was three weeks old, he’d only quiet down when he was in crowded places.  So, we took him out… a lot.  His car seat had a special spot on the corner of the bar in our favorite restaurant.  The owners would pick him up if he got fussy and seat customers with him in their arms.  The boys grew up in restaurants, and learned how to behave: from being fed from the high chairs, to sharing our dinners, to reading the menu and ordering their own food.

Teach Them Manners: We eat dinner as a family almost every night.  Whether we’re having a roasted chicken, or chicken fingers, we try to sit down together and eat like civilized folk.  The boys know that they are expected to sit like gentlemen and have conversations.  That toys do not belong on a table.  That you don’t get up until everyone’s finished.  That you chew with your mouth shut.  And eat with utensils.  That you taste what’s placed in front of you.  And that you say please and thank you.

Don’t Hide Your Children:  We were the first of our friends to have babies,  So, out of necessity, they were always around.  When our friends came over for a game of darts, we passed the babies around as we took turns.  When we had lunch with friends, the kids came along.  When we were invited to house parties, so were our kids.  They became an expected part of the package and they learned to hang out with adults.  They learned to answer questions when grown ups asked.  They learned how to be introduced to strangers.  They learned how to not interrupt when we were talking to someone.  And they learned how to entertain themselves.

Don’t Baby Talk Them:  It became very clear that our friends were not going to temper their behavior or their mouth for the sake of the young ears.  So we learned to talk to our kids about grown-up behavior and what was appropriate and inappropriate.  They understand that sometimes adults act poorly, and that some words are not for children to say.  At their young age, we talk to them about all the grownup things so that they feel safe and involved in our conversations.  And we ask them their opinions about things; we include them in our discussions.

Respect Their Time:  If we ask the kids to do something that is above and beyond the normal, we show them our appreciation.  We always make a point of thanking them for behaving so well, and staying respectful when we drag them somewhere they don’t want to go.  And, if we know that it’s going to be a particularly long night, or a particularly odious visit, we respect their desire to “do things that we like”.  We let them bring their crayons along, or borrow our cell phones, or let them sit in a corner to watch a movie.  They know that once they make their initial commitment, they can do their thing without the grownups bothering them.

Know When Enough is Enough:  Remember that if the kids are miserable, then everyone is miserable.  If everyone is miserable, the invitations will stop coming.  Know when the kids have had enough and respect them enough to leave early for their sake.  Make sure that you sneak in time for them throughout the evening.  That you don’t ignore their needs while you’re having fun.  And, when they’ve had it, know the cues and leave graciously before all hell breaks loose.

Enjoy Their Company: I really like hanging out with my kids.  We have lots of fun together, and I legitimately enjoy their company.  Let them know that they are a valued member of the team and that they are a respected guest at the party.  Include them in discussions and let them choose some of the activities.  Make sure that time is spent just with them and that they are not left out of the group.  Allow their interests and desires to be valid and respected.

We had an amazing time in Cancun.  We played on the beach and swam in the pool and stayed up late.  The boys learned how to take advantage of the all-you-can-eat buffet (as many bacon and donut sandwiches as you like).  They learned how to be gracious ushers and take real responsibility for their wedding party role.  They learned how to swim up to the pool bar and order their own limeade.  And, when asked on the last evening if they planned on staying up late, they said, “We’re sure gonna’ try to rally!!”  And they did.

Risky Business

IMG_1769It started with ice skating.  My husband decided early on that the boys should learn how to ice skate.  He never learned how to skate as a child, and always felt left out as his cousins and friends ran off to play hockey.  I, on the other hand, grew up on the ice.  Lessons, frozen cranberry bogs, sit spins, and dates at the skating rink.

So, last winter, we loaded up with hats and gloves, second hand skates, and high expectations.  And, I held all three of them up as we negotiated the South Boston Rink as all the little kids

flew by us at break neck speeds.  It went well, and all three of the boys love it.  They’re better this year, more independent, and sturdy on the skates.   And, I’m starting to find my independence again as I have less people to hold up.

But, it started a trend that’s a bit hard to keep up.  We decided, as a family, that the boys will learn how to do a bit of everything.  We hope that they never have to say that they can’t do something because they don’t know how.  We hope that they feel comfortable trying new things and attack new adventures as they come along.

So, they know how to kayak, rock climb, and shoot arrows. Play street hockey, horseshoes, and poker.  Eat sushi, chacuterie, and paella.  It’s a ludicrous amount of new experiences.  But, they’re pretty civilized young gentlemen, and are rarely intimidated by new things.

But, trying new things is a bit of a pain in the ass.  It’s one thing to get the boys to do things, but quite another to realize we have to do it all too.  Hard to tell the kids to try new foods when you don’t eat red meat.  Hard to teach them to not be afraid when you’re terrified of horses.  Hard to teach them to always be game when sometimes you just don’t feel up to it.  Hard to teach them to get out and have fun when you really just want to lay on the couch and watch HGTV.

So, today, instead of nursing a bad winter cold, checking emails, and watching movies, I’m going snowboarding.  Not skiing (I know how to ski), but snowboarding.  This forty year old lady is going to strap my legs to a board and aim down a mountain.  Brilliant.  Couldn’t be more pleased.  Wish me luck!