AMENDED: Dear Sons (What I Really Want for Mother’s Day)

One year later, and I love my boys more than ever.  And yet, again, I fear that they might miss the boat on Mother’s Day.  So to reiterate, and to amend, here’s what I really want for Mother’s Day

10334360_10202709480073133_776496951207363595_n (1)Dear Sons,

I love you sweet boys oh so very much.  And, although I’m sure, your father will force you to make a lovely half-assed card featuring monsters and lasers and a fair amount of poop, and your teacher will make you paint a frame and put a blurry picture of yourself in it, there are other things I want for Mother’s Day.  And, if you can’t pull that off, I kinda’ want a Magic Bullet (smoothies are hot right now).

Jalen made me a card more than a week ago that he poured his little heart into.  He said it was a pre-Mother’s Day Card and it had a girl and a bear walking into the sunset, hand-in-hand.  Every day I appreciate my empathetic, thoughtful son.  Someone had to take after me.

My mother bought me my Magic Bullet, because she knows what it means to be a mother, and she knows that sometimes people don’t give you what you ask for.  And she knows that if a mother actually, specifically asks for something, she probably wants it very, very badly.

Last Mother’s Day, the boys worked very hard on making me a jewelry box and a necklace out of Lego’s and we went to the Arboreteum to see the lilacs, and it was a perfect day.  

Now onto the things I want this year…

  • I would like to spend one day in the car without you arguing about what you want to talk about.  You might actually have a pleasant conversation if you could just stop fighting about whether talking about Pokemon is annoying or not. (hint:  it is)

We’ve improved immensely on this front. But, now I have a new request.  Stop trying to piss each other off.  Stop pushing each other’s buttons.  Stop trying your damnedest to make the other one lose it.  The only one that’ll lose will be you (not an empty threat, I swear) 

  • You could admit that you actually love playing outside.  That you love baseball and soccer and playing at the playground.  That you’d prefer to be active then to sit in front of a screen rotting your brain.

After the worst winter on record, we’re finally enjoying the outside, breathing fresh air, and being active.  And this is why we live in New England, so that we can appreciate the weather when it’s great.

  • About those screens.  They are not that important.  They are not worth your anger, and your frustration and your general whiny-ness when you don’t get to play.  Playing electronics are not, and will never be, a priority in this family.  Give it up!

The games are harder, more violent, and generally cooler, but somehow the boys have finally, mostly, realized their screen limits.  And, they’ve finally wrapped their heads around the fact that I couldn’t give two Donkey Kongs about these games; leave that to their father.

  • In fact, please learn, that you will never get your way by whining.  You are 9 and 6.  We have never given in to your whining.  We never will.  It is not a functional way to communicate with us.  You will not win that fight.

Entitlement, Lack of Gratitude, and General Moodiness have taken the place of whiny.  I miss whiny…  

I would love for one day for someone  to say, “Thank you, Mom.” “We appreciate the effort that you expend on making us happy.” “What do you do what you want to do today?”  

  • Put your shoes on. Now.
  • For the love of god, clean yourself!  You are boys.  You smell.  You must shower, and brush your teeth, and comb your hair.

and pick out your own clothes, and tie your shoes, and clean up your room.  It stinks!

  • Ask your father.  He is sitting right next to you.  Watching hockey.  Do you not see him?  Do you have to walk up the stairs, storm into the bathroom, and ask me for apple juice?  Do you?

In fact, don’t even bother asking your father.  Get it yourself you lazy bums!

  • Now means NOW.

Really, I’m not screwing around.  I MEAN NOW!

  • We have a routine.  We do the same thing every single morning.  You need socks everyday; you need your backpack everyday; you need to strap in everyday.  Why can you not understand that?  And don’t ask me what we have.  We “have” the same things we always “have”.
  • Enough with the sarcasm.  I know you “learned it from watching me,” but my sarcasm is warranted, acceptable, and witty.  Yours is annoying.

Try to be less annoying.  I get that you’re developing your persona and playing with being a young man, but for the love of god, stop trying so hard.  You have plenty of time to grow into yourself and become a charming teenager, don’t rush it!!

  • You are not bored.  You keep saying that word.  I do not think that word means what you think it means.
  • Keep your hands off of each other.  I know you need to be close to each other and the hours of passing each other in the halls is torture, but STOP TOUCHING EACH OTHER.
  • About that…. I know that it’s cool to say that your brother’s a pain. I know it’s not cool to spend every free moment at each other’s side.  I know that you don’t want to admit that your brother is your best friend.  But, he is.  And, he likely always will be.  Please stop saying you hate your brother.  You don’t.
  • Please take pictures with me.  Moms aren’t in enough pictures, moms always miss out on the photos.  Please let me have pictures with my sons; even if they’re goofy.

Thank you for becoming my selfie buddies.  Thanks for squashing together so that we all fit into the frame and hold on to our memories.

  • Never stop holding my hand.  Never grow to big to cuddle with your mom.  Just love me unconditionally; I promise to do the same.

Thanks for letting our relationship grow and change and develop as you do.  Thanks for watching movies with me and cuddling on the couch and playing in the snow with me.  You can grow as big as you’ll like but you’ll always be my little boys.

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Parenting’s a Crappy Gig

10334360_10202709480073133_776496951207363595_nLet me be the one to say it, because you know you’ve all been thinking it.  Parenting is a really shitty gig.

You go to a job interview, and they say, “You’ll be on call 24 hours a day, you’ll be expected to work overtime on the weekends, you’ll have full responsibility for every task and there’s rarely anyone to delegate to.  Your boss can be unreasonable, selfish, beligerant.  You’ll serve as director, secretary, bookkeeper, custodian, chauffeur, chef, and CEO.  And, by the way, this is a volunteer position, you won’t be paid a cent.”

And, I know….  You would never change it for the world, and you love those lil’ buggers, and it’s the worst job you’ll ever love.  And, that’s all bullshit.  You know this job blows chunks.

I love my kids.  Totally.  Unequivocally.  Madly.  And, I’m at the stage of their development when I really LIKE them too.  I have fun with them, we laugh a lot, and I legitimately enjoy their company.  It’s really not them, it’s the responsibility.

The soul crushing, overwhelming, absolute responsibility.  The worrying, and the second guessing, and the messiness of it.

As I sat on the toilet for a half an hour yesterday, holding my nine year old’s bloody nose, covered with rapidly drying red dots, as my six year old cleaned off the walls, I had a while to think about this (Yes Dad, I took him to the doctor.  He’s fine)  It’s an impossible task, with very little room for error.  And, there’s a million ways to mess it up.

You have to keep them clean, and fed, and well rested.  The have to be smart, and work hard, and be nice kids.  They can’t cuss, or fart, or pick their nose in public. They need to get to school on time, and like healthy foods, and play well with others. You need to deal with the strange rash on their head, and where their glasses are, and whether they are “happy.”  And, you have to look good doing it.

For the love of God, why didn’t anyone warn us!!  Quite simply, because if we truly understood, would we have agreed to bring these monsters into the world.  Or maybe I was warned and I chose to ignore them.  Hubris.  Pure hubris.

I’m sure of this.  Everyone,  every single last one of you, agrees with me.  Whether you choose to admit it or not.  Whether you smile through the muck, or cry through it, struggle every day, or knock it outta’ the park; it’s a shitty gig.

So, give the dad in the super market an understanding grin. Help that mom trying to drag the double stroller into the restaurant. Have patience with the parents struggling to feed their two toddlers in the crowded restaurant.  We’ve all been there, and we’ll all be there again.  Love your favorite parent today.

Loving the Skin You’re In

578114_10153465840730484_249916913_nI’m embarrassed by my body.  But, not in the way you’d expect.  I’ve worked hard on my fitness, and in fact, have made a career of it.  And yet, when people give me a complement about my body, I feel ashamed.  And, my go to response is, “I get paid to be in shape.”  Fact is, I often feel judged for being in shape.  People’s comments are often not complementary, somehow taking an accusatory tone.  There’s a suggestion that I should feel guilty for being strong.  That I am pompous and self-centered, and stuck up because I am in shape.  No one would ever accuse a man of these things if he spent time at the gym, sculpting his body.  He’d just be hot and attractive and self-assured.  As a woman, mother, wife we don’t give ourselves the right to be proud of our bodies.  Somehow, in my mind, if  I tell people I get paid for it, I have an excuse for dedicating my effort, time and focus to my health.

But, in fact, I’m not fit because someone pays me.  That’s categorically and philosophically untrue.  Firstly, my employer doesn’t pay me to be fit.  In fact, they pay me to help other women develop a great relationship with their body and their fitness.  They pay me to welcome new women to the gym and help steward members towards a better relationship with their own body.  But, secondly, and more importantly, I’m not fit because I’m paid to do so.  I got in shape and I stay in shape because I love it.  Because I have joy in my activity and I love being in my body.

My fitness is very personal to me, and yet I often feel judged for how I look.  People assume, that I sacrifice for my fitness. That I don’t enjoy life, that I don’t eat cookies, that I’m selfish because I find time for my own health instead of putting my family first every moment.  There’s an assumption that a fit woman is vain, rigid, selfish, unhappy.  That a mother and wife can’t be a great, liberated, altruistic, joyful person and still be in great shape.

I’ll admit that I am lucky enough to have an unique relationship to fitness.  That I rarely have an excuse not to work out.  That, it is my responsibility to show up at the gym four times a week and get after it.  I’m not embarrassed that I taught class on the day I gave birth… twice.  And, very few husbands would care for his newborn so that his wife could go back to the work that she loves.  Regardless, staying in shape is not merely a job for me, it’s one of the best parts of my day.  Every day.

Every woman has the right to love their body.  To take the time to feel their body get strong. To look in the mirror and see something that they love.  To see improvement and growth in their strength and speed.  To have pride in their health.  And yet so many woman feel guilty for going to the gym, feel too busy to take a walk, feel too needed to take five minutes for a sun salutation.

Fitness is so good for you, and what’s good for you is good for the people around you. The worst days can be turned around with a great workout.  Sweating energizes you and raises your endorphins.  A long run or walk help to focus your brain and organize your thoughts.   And, everyone benefits from taking time for themselves to focus on their own goals and health.

For me, I’m entirely committed to my health and fitness.  Through my biggest struggles, fitness has been there for me.  From quitting smoking (so, so many years ago), to the first weeks of raising a preemie, to supporting a husband with cancer, to starting a new career, to turning 40, fitness has been there for me.  It’s something that’s all mine.  And, something I can share with others.  It clears my head, fills me with energy, and gives me immeasurable joy.  I love sharing this passion with others, with my friends, with my family, and with my children.

But, more than anything, I love sharing this joy with people who are new to this world.  With women who aren’t sure where to start and aren’t sure they can do it and don’t believe they will love it.  More than anything, I hope that I can share this hope and joy with more women so that we can all share in the pride and joy of loving the skin we’re in.

The Dinner Date

This week, due to the craziness of spring sports season, I had the opportunity to eat dinner with my five year old. Just the two of us. For a lovely sit down dinner. No chicken fingers or hot dogs on the fly, a real dinner.

We sat out on the patio, on a lovely spring evening anDSC_0089d had stunning dinner conversation. “Mom, my favorite part of your dinner is asparagus.” “Mom, would you like to hear my collection of fart noises” “Mom, am I made of meat?”

And here’s what I learned…

I really like my kids. Come on, you know that’s not a given. When you’re a parent of young children, it’s not always easy to like your children. They are often miserable, mewling, horrible creatures. Little beings that make you want to cry, or pull your hair out, or wonder why you ever had them to begin with.

But sometime, after weaning, and potty training, and learning to tie their shoes, they became little people. Little people who you actually have something in common with. Little people who are a little bit like you in a lot of ways. Little people who you might choose to hang out with.

My eight year old is bright, and inquisitive and a bit of a know it all. He loves learning new things and can spend hours reading about greek mythology or human anatomy. He’s also moody, and whiny, and has a nasty temper when you push him too hard. He doesn’t like it when he’s not right, and when he’s not in control (a bit like his mom). He’s a rule follower, and can always be trusted to do the right thing. And he loves being the role model. Does it drive me crazy that he’s convinced that no one could possibly care for his brother as well as he does? Absolutely! Might it be better if he could communicate without moaning? Sure thing! But, we can spend hours talking about politics, or science, or music and he can hold his own. And, he has an incredible imagination with a rich skill in storytelling. He brings out my competitive nature, and we love to play games, or race, or challenge each other. And, he’s not afraid to tell me when I’m not being fair or just, and he’ll tell me how to fix it.

My five year old is a slow burn. He’s reserved and shy when you first meet him, but he’s worth the effort. He’s one of the most thoughtful people I know. He remembers to ask how your day was, or check on how you’re feeling if you have a boo boo. And he’s funny. Way funnier than a five year old should be. He retains things that will make people laugh, and has expert timing and a deadpan delivery. He’s silly and he loves to laugh.  Yet, he has a hard time believing in himself and realizing how incredible he is, and he doesn’t take complements very well. And, it would be great if he could get through a movie, any movie, without sobbing in the sensitive parts.  But his sensitivity is his strength, he understands people and pays close attention to how the social world works.  And, he’s always willing to go along with the flow, and I can always count on him to help me make dinner and sing and dance with me as we cook.

The boys are a perfect pair. X’s ying to J’s yang. I’d be lying if I told you that it didn’t bother me how easily they fall into their roles. How J’s flexibility fits perfectly with X’s rigidity. How X always seems to get his way, and how J always seems to follow along. But they worship each other. I can’t help to feel jealous sometimes when they run upstairs and leave me out of their plans. But when they let you in, you’re welcome into their own little world that’s created just for them (complete with backstories, strange lands, and theme songs).

They’re really fascinating little creatures. Watching them grow and change has been an amazing adventure. There’s things I wish I had control of. But, one thing I’ve learned for sure is that there’s a whole lot of nature in that nurture. X will likely hold my hand when I bring him to college, J will likely walk the wrong way at his high school graduation. But, I love them for it and more so than that, I truly like them for it.

Parenting is often a responsibility with diminishing returns.  The more you put in, the less you seem to get out of the deal.  The hours spent at cooking, cleaning, transporting, molding, mentoring, disciplining, coddling and cajoling often feels like an endless black hole of human need.  It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the moment when it all pays off.  But it does, and it doesn’t come with any fanfare or fireworks.  It comes in moments of silence as you eat asparagus in the back yard, or when that growing hand reaches over to hold yours as you walk home, or that ever fleeting moment when that little voice says, “I love you.”  And you know that you’ve made it through, if only for a moment.