Category Archives: Parenting Spirited Children

My Own Personal Scary Mommy Moment

The “H” word is forbidden in our home. But what my family does not know is that these days I violate this rule inside my head quite frequently.

Here is what I Hate:

1. Our political representatives’ lack of ability to make feeling safe in this world their priority; their insistence on “being right,” as Wayne Dyer once said, rather than “being love.” Within this particular Hate lies the total Hate of the lobbying power of the NRA that keeps its fear mongering members loaded, as well as its target politicians who live and breathe under its dirty thumb. According to The Center for Public Integrity, “The NRA and its affiliate spent nearly $3 million on federal-level lobbying in 2012 — more than it has during any previous year … but spending during this year’s first quarter puts it on pace to exceed that mark.” Further, according to the Washington Post, “213 members of the 113th Congress received NRA dollars in 2012,” an amount totaling about $650,000.

A protester demonstrates in front of the NRA lobbying offices in Washington D.C.

Is there anybody left who does not feel that the NRA is running our country? For this, I will break another family rule: No using the “F” or the “S” word: Holy f-ing shit!

Why use #1 to explain My Own Personal Scary Mommy Moment? Because I am pissed off. Angry, and seemingly unable to let it go. Or process it in any way that facilitates healthy body/mind/spirit. I am simply, totally, upset with the prevalence of violence in our society, and this anger is keeping me from acting with unrelenting patience, respect, or kindness. Kindness and respect: a family motto we created even before our baby girl could speak. I have violated my own dogma now, and this too I Hate!

2. I Hate that my daughter sees me act in ways that could be perceived as violent; or at least not kind or respectful. I recently jumped out of my skin and heard myself as I  screamed as loud as I could, three, maybe four times, at the bottom of the stairs, below where my exhausted daughter was in bed screaming that she refused to get up and brush her teeth because she was too tired to stand. So, what did I do? Something I really Hate: I lost control of myself and the situation and screamed like a five year old. I’m 50.

3. I Hate everything about this one: The other day my daughter came up to me while I was fixing her breakfast, and for no seemingly good reason that I can come up with made a finger gun, pointed it at me, and sounded a gun shot, albeit in hardly above a whisper. I matter-of-factly said, “Um, what was that? You know we don’t pretend to shoot in our house.” She then crossed her arms, frowned dramatically, and put herself in the corner. Refused to explain why she was doing this.

What I really Hate here is that I didn’t let her be five and just go on about the breakfast chore at hand. I convinced myself–yet again–that she may be just 41 pounds, 42 inches but her head circumference matches, or beats mine, so her large brain surely must indicate that she is capable of a mature conversation that includes discussing the horrifying internal reaction I feel when anybody even pretends to use a gun. This includes weapons crafted from shaped fingers, plastic, or the real thing. Yes, I definitely Hate that I don’t have the parenting skills to navigate these waters with the kind of finesse it requires to maintain a calm home and raise a kind, respectful, communicative child who may one day decide to run the U.N. I, indeed, Hate myself for this one.

4. Ironically, here, I truly Hate that I do not forgive myself for failing to behave 100% of the time in a manner that would warrant an onlooker to admire my keen sense of knowing how to lovingly, consciously, compassionately, and, oh yeah, brilliantly parent my only child.

Luckily, I have not let this piece of writing depress me. Thanks for listening; I actually feel somewhat liberated for confessing, and perhaps even slightly giddy. Me thinks I may be letting this all go … for now.


A Mighty Girl

It seems that these days, and I know I am not living inside a bubble, women are truly waking up from a Sleeping Beauty kind of deep sleep. It seems that many mothers and daughters, aunties, educators and political powerhouses are realizing that women the world over are rising. We are standing up and making ourselves heard, seen, and respected.

It is with total joy and appreciation that I came upon a new online resource, whose founders and dedicated staff of volunteers are doing all they possible can to offer a thirsty browsing audience a place to go to find books, media, toys, and clothing that empower girls to love themselves as they are, fully and freely.

Please take the time to read my piece about A Mighty Girl published by another fabulous online resource, Kindred Community. Spread the good news: women everywhere are preparing to stand up and be seen, and are offering their daughters, nieces, students and friends the chance to leave the dark ages of oppression behind–for good.

Binky Revisited

The girl is too little to know how profound it is to feel nowhere to belong; maybe no one at any age understands feeling grief for what can’t be remembered. But though she barely remembers anymore the world she came from, half of her brief lifetime ago, she knows she never wanted to leave it, that she left part of herself there, so her grief is a secret from herself and until she learns the word for this secret then it’s not a grieving that heals anything.     –Steve Erickson, author of These Dreams of You

As a result of a Huffington Post article I wrote entitled, “Birth Mother Pain–the only way out is through” that received more controversy than I had thought possible (upon my request, the article was quickly removed) I do not know how to express the intensity that floats through my blood these days, for fear of offending those who wish I would keep myself shut up tight.

But sometimes in a writer there is an almost desperate need to let out the creepy crawlies that weave their way through a banished section of a moment in time. As indicated by the quote at the start of this piece, one must deduce that this particular topic has to do with the hidden grief that a small adopted child feels once the reality of who she is emerges from her very own private darkness. And, as indicated by the eloquence of the author, a complicated mix of emotions experienced by the parent joins the child in this braided mess of lives that found themselves entwined and subsequently tangled up in a complicated twist of fates.

My daughter had a grow-ing up kind of past ten days. She “graduated” preschool; received her last two vaccinations in order to register for kindergarten in Northern Virginia; visited the dentist for a cleaning and check-up, and was told by the doctor: “That binky is ruining your mouth. You’re a big girl now, you need to stop using the binky.”; and three days after that, she had two cavities filled, which brings us up to last night, the fourth night sans binky. Which brings me back to that first night of her life (as far as my husband and I know) that she fell asleep without a binky in her mouth.

As my big girl/little girl looked me in the eyes that first binky-less night with a fear and longing I recognized from a deep place within myself, and I saw her holding the one binky she had not thrown in the garbage, struggling not to put it in her mouth, the clock ticking on, and her eyes fluttering to stay open for fear of what only she could know, she kept repeating, “Mama,” and then, “Mama,” and I rubbed her back and repeated, “Daughter,” and then, “Daughter, I love you. I am here for you.”

It was then, in the struggle that I witnessed going on inside of her, that I felt a breath blow through my being. I felt a shock of relief, as I realized I could tell her these words: “Daughter, this is your decision. Never let anybody tell you what to do with your body. This is your body, and your decision. Not the dentist’s, not Mommy’s, not Daddy’s, but yours. You must never let anybody tell you what to do with your body. And that includes right now. It is your decision to make.”

She looked at me and I her, and in the dark of the night, and a clinging of her arm around me and mine around her, she said, “Mama, I love you.” Soon, very soon then, she set the hand that held the binky beside her, closed her eyes, and slipped into a peaceful sleep.

After three nights without binky, however, on that fourth day filled with an at-times manic expression of staying awake and away from that binky, added with a morning filled with dentistry, she was wiped the heck out. So was I. My husband and I had planned a few hours out to attend a friend’s birthday party, but by 3pm, with Daughter clinging to me so tight and whining, “I don’t want to you go out,” and other such emotionally challenging sayings, and by simply knowing her so well, I knew that if she did not nap, I would feel like the worst mother in the world walking out the door at 6pm with a crying child begging me not to go. So I let her sleep in the afternoon. I let myself sleep too. The stupid part is that I let this non-napping almost five-year old sleep for more than an hour.

Are you still with me?

That night, we arrived home to a dancing girl who had made cookies with the babysitter, watched a movie or two, and was up up up for the long haul. At 10pm, she moaned beside me as she lay restless in her bed: “I caaaan’t sleep!” I felt her panic as she gave a sort of wide-eyed expression that seemed to be begging me for all sorts of answers I could not at this hour, with this child of mine, give. I put her in a warm bath, and I talked–about love and God and how safe she was in this world–and she repeated, “Mama, Mama, Mama,” like a baby bird pleading for her mother not to leave the nest to go hunt for food.

I held this child with reassuring arms, a life-line for us both I could not remove. In a magic world we would stay like this forever, making good on the promise I offer whenever she tells me she does not want me to leave–Ever! By the time I left this precious one’s side, it was near midnight. I did not know I would be up with her again shortly after daybreak.

This story of one small person choosing to let go of the one constant source of comfort she has known throughout her short but intense life, exemplifies for me so perfectly the human struggle to remain whole, to not fall apart at the slightest nudge to crumble.

This is suffering, as the Buddha called it, and is to be recognized and honored, but not clung to. I am a woman who perhaps too often falls emotional prey to the surroundings in which I find myself. Perhaps this is why, as a young woman and into mid-life, I respected my intuition to keep myself distant from motherhood.

Yet here I am, a nearly 50 year old mother to a deeply feeling human being who needs to know that the world is good and safe, kind and loving. A world in which pain exists, but one that will support her through all that is to come.

All that is to come.


Delight In Your Child Now

photo by Paola Seyffert

We lose muscle tone, sleep, reason, perspective. Our hearts begin to live outside of our bodies. They breathe, they eat, they crawl, and–look!–they walk, they begin to speak to us. … We get used to living with a love that suffuses us, suffocates us, blinds us, controls us. We live.” –from Maggie O’Farrell’s The Hand That First Held Mine

I cannot recall where, upon our return from Ethiopia, I read or heard that the biggest gift you can give your child is to show them by your expression how you delight in them. When your young child walks into the room, how do you react? Is it with annoyance, as if they have, oh no, interrupted you? Or, rather, does your child, with a sleepy morning shuffle or an exuberant after-school sprint, enter your space to be greeted with sheer and utter delight? Do you grimace, or grin? Do you stiffen, or soften?

I think about this question often, when I feel a smile spread across my face, or sense my jaws tightening. How is my attitude being received by my daughter? Will she remember the moments when I wanted to finish sending off an email instead of playing “fetch” and the way in which I curtly told her, “Not now, please, give me a few minutes.”

I cannot say I feel guilty during or after these moments of seemingly taking care of myself, my friendships or work relationships. I believe what I feel in retrospect after one of these exchanges is more damaging: sadness.

It is in the stopping to examine my self-absorption that I give myself the opportunity to choose a different outcome the next time. So often I hear others tell me to enjoy every moment, that soon she will be in kindergarten, or puberty, or college. And, believe it or not, I take these comments quite seriously. I know for sure that if I had become a parent ten years, maybe even five years earlier, I would not pay attention to seemingly nosy or didactic advice. However, I am one of those older moms who has accepted that sometimes others do know best. I can learn from the mistakes of others, and for this, I can appreciate that I have at least a decade over most of the moms with whom I have contact. In other words, with just one more year to go until I reach age 50, I realize that time does speed by, and I must, I truly must savor the moment.

Today I made a conscious decision to stay in-joy when Aster would, eventually, dodge my every effort to lure her towards bed. The dancing, singing, play acting, doll-cuddling, prancing bed-avoider became, at my will, a source of delight. Rather than experience her defiance as a pain in my tush, I saw her through fresh eyes. I witnessed, not a purposely “bad” kid trying to do whatever she can to make her mommy angry, but a funny, happy, joyful child who loves her life so much she just does not want to sleep it away. Instead of raising my voice tonight with threats or attempts to bargain, I sat back and smiled, cheered her on, and opened my arms for the eventual run, jump, and hug.

Delighting in my daughter is not only a gift I can give her, but also, absolutely, the best way I can be kind to myself.

Pink Bike Paradise

Towards the end of gymnastics yesterday, the mom of a first-grade girl carried in a pink two-wheeler. Though it was a bit scuffed and dusty, the frame, seat, and tires seemed in tact enough to join the rummage sale pile at the far end of he gym.

I have to get that for Aster, I thought, and eyed the bike like a mama bear prowling for food after a long winter.

How much would Coach, a kind, no-nonsense Hungarian woman who ran the gym, ask for this mother’s donation? Ever since Aster turned three, just about, she’s been waiting to turn four so she could get a “big girl bike” with training wheels. This one would need a little work, but it was pink! And, more affordable than the nearly $200 new kids bikes they sell at REI and other local bike shops.

Coach spied me salivating and came over. Unusually, the little gymnasts were well looked after this session, so Coach was free to tend to other gym business, like preparing for the fundraiser this weekend. “Would Aster like that bike?”

“Oh my gosh, yes!”

“Then she must have it.”

“How much do you think you’ll want for it?” I asked. I only had a twenty in my wallet.

“I have no idea. Hmm. Let me see. How about twenty dollars?”

“Perfect!” It must be meant to be, I thought.

Knowing my gal, though, I told Coach that Aster would have to see it for herself and let me know that this bike would suffice as the one Nana and Papa were to buy her for her birthday. It would be an early present, which was a good thing, because just the night before she had cried in bed, upset because of all the summer birthdays–her grandmother and grandfather’s, as well as mine–hers comes last. “I don’t WANT my birthday to be last!”

After class I took my girl by the hand and said, “Before you go get some water, I have something to show you. It’s a pink bike, Sweetie.”

“Okay!” she said, and sped off. I warned her to keep to the left of the white line on the big mat where the older girls were warming up. Gingerly she balanced on the thin strip available for us to walk on and we headed toward the pink bike.

Upon closer inspection I saw that the tires were flat, the seat slightly torn, and the chain dried out and near to rust. But for $20, how could we go wrong?

“Do you want this to be your birthday bike, Lovey?”

“Yes!” The smile on my daughter’s face was, as the MasterCard commercial so cleverly boasts, priceless.

Coach came up to us with a smile as big as Aster’s. “Aster, do you like this bike?”

“Yes! It’s for my birthday! I’m going to be four!”

“I am so happy for you.”

Here’s my thought process as I loaded the bike into the back of the Subaru: No training wheels, she’s in love with this bike, not going to want to leave its sight, going to want to ride it immediately, not going to be able to do so, needs some work at the bike shop, she’ll want to take it to the park tomorrow after breakfast, considering there’s no school for her on Fridays, how I am I going to get it ride-worthy and safe without having her throw a tantrum?

On the way home from the gym I pulled into the Trader Joe’s shopping center where Bike & Sport was still open. It was closing in on 5:00, and my plan was to leave it at the shop and pick it up as early as possible, hopefully on the way to the park. Sure enough, there were two jobs ahead of us. We could pick it up at 10:00 the next day, but that was as quick as they could get it done. When I explained to Aster how great it was that she would have the bike back in time to go to the park after breakfast it was … MELT DOWN CITY!

“Oh my, your tears are getting my floor wet,” one of the bike technicians said loud enough for her to hear.

“I don’t WANT them to keep my bike!” she shouted, and slammed her fist against her thigh.

So, picture this if you can: Three feet tall with pink beads in her braided hair, pink short sleeved leotard, no tights, pink sandals with pink flowers, stomping, writhing, tears streaming, shouting: “I want to take my bike HOME!”  You get the idea.

I attempted to explain in a voice that didn’t sound megaphoned that there was no way we could take the bike with us if she wanted to ride it in the morning. It just was not possible.

I picked Aster up in my arms. “I know how disappointed your are, Sweetie, but there is nothing I can do about this. I’m so sorry.”

Just then, I heard one of the technicians shout from across the store, “If you want, I can do it now.”

Crap. Here I was holding Aster, who by now was nearly, okay, maybe not nearly, but getting to nearly, done with her dramatic display of being a three-year-old with me somewhat thrilled that I may be in the midst of a fantastic teachable moment: Crying will not get you what you want in life. Sometimes, you just have to feel disappointed and move on.

Aster’s happy dance overrode my desire to chew out the technician for contributing to my daughter’s sense of omnipotence. It would be a calm and delightful evening.