Archives for August 2014

Six Years of Jacob

Two days ago my son Jacob turned six. And then I cried. Birthdays are so bittersweet.

My son was super-excited about his birthday. He had been counting down the days for weeks. He told anyone who would listen that he was turning six soon – in twelve, nine, eight, six, three, two days. On his actual birthday Jacob and his big sister announced to strangers at the grocery store, at the toy store, at the park and on the street that today was his birthday. The enthusiasm was infectious. I loved how excited they were.

Still, the bittersweetness of it all overwhelmed me. Six somehow sounds much older than five. On Jacob’s birthday I was forced to acknowledge that I am no longer a mother of little kids. My kids are nine and a half and six now, solidly school age. They are growing up quickly – too quickly. Even at this moment, as I type, Jacob is reading over my shoulder. He’s making out most of the words, and happy that I’m writing about him. There’s no slowing down the train of childhood. It’s only picking up speed as it goes.

Of course, it’s an amazing journey all the same. My children are awe-inspiringly fabulous in pretty much every way. And they are so much their own people, with their own ideas and interests and quirks. Being their mother has made me much better in so many ways.

At six years old, Jacob loves superheroes and Star Wars. He likes to wrestle and crack jokes. He is reading well, and working on his printing. His favourite sport is “all of them.” He alternately adores and despises his sister. The most exciting moment of his day is when his dad comes home. And he still wakes up and crawls into my bed early most mornings. It’s not comfortable for me, but when I ask him to go back to his own bed and he says “but you are just too cozy, Mama” I can’t resist. What’s a little discomfort, in the face of such sweetness?

I guess you could say the same thing about the birthday. What’s a little bitter in the face of such sweetness? Of course I want to take every chance to let my son know how glad I am to have him in my life. And so I order the cake and the candles, stay up late putting training wheels on the bike, and force back the tears in front of him. This is about him, not about me.

Happy birthday, Jacob!

Birthday

Birthday

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Birthday

On Winging Life and Winging Forgiveness

It’s been ages, but today I felt compelled to write a Forgiveness Friday post. Today, specifically, I’m thinking about forgiving is something we have to just wing it in life, which includes forgiveness. You can find my other posts on forgiveness by checking out the Forgiveness Friday tag.

I volunteer as a peer breastfeeding support person, so I occasionally field calls from new moms who need a listening ear and a little information. What I’m best at, in these situations, is pointing out what is and isn’t normal for a breastfeeding infant. If you’ve never had a baby before – or even if you had a different sort of baby every other time – it can be hard to tell what is perfectly okay and what is cause for alarm. Add in the pressure of being utterly and completely responsible for another person’s well-being when that person can’t actually communicate with you in a truly meaningful way and it really is a recipe for total panic.

Well, at least, I remember being totally panicked myself. Fortunately my kids aren’t any the worse for wear.

As I was speaking with a mom last week I thought about how much of life is spent flying blind. Seriously. Of course parenting is an extreme example, but how much do I really know about gardening or investing or choosing the best melon? And even if I master these topics, there’s always something else to know. The universe is amazingly vast, and I am actually rather small. And so, sooner or later, you just have to kind of wing it and get on with things so that you don’t spend your whole life agonizing. You won’t always get it right, but at least you’ll do something.

14828832674_252fb985b6_kAs I considered how much time I spend flying blind and winging things, I also thought about how little patience I have with myself when I make a mistake. Somehow, I expect myself to do everything well, even when I couldn’t possibly be expected to have mastered a specific task. I constantly tell my children that mistakes are okay, because they’re just learning. The important thing isn’t to do everything perfectly, but to avoid the same pitfall the next time. Mistakes are just learning opportunities, and all that jazz. However, in order to actually learn from something you have to stop self-flagellating long enough to see the lesson. Just feeling bad doesn’t actually lead to growth.

My point, once again, is that I need to forgive myself. However, there’s more to it than that.

When I started out on this forgiveness journey I was focused on defining forgiveness and then executing it perfectly. Of course, this isn’t how life works. You don’t learn to ride a bicycle by reading a book, you learn to ride a bicycle by falling off and getting back on. Forgiveness is sort of the same thing. You decide to forgive, you do forgiveness as best you can, and you figure out what does and doesn’t work. This is true whether you’re forgiving others or forgiving yourself. And if you’re not good at it right out of the gate, well, that’s to be expected. You’re learning as you go, which is how so much learning happens.

The good thing about forgiveness is that, unlike parenting, you don’t have a helpless infant’s well-being in your hands. This means that it really is all about what works for you. And if the question is whether or not your feelings are normal, or okay, the answer is pretty much always yes. Feelings are just feelings. Anger is just anger. Letting go of it is hard. You will feel that hardness. It is okay. You might not let go of it right away. It is okay. You are okay. You are normal. The key isn’t to be perfect. The key is to avoid this same pitfall the next time. And if not the next time, the time after that. Or the time after that.

Sometimes you have to fall in the same hole a bunch of times before you can actually see it. This is also normal. Unfortunately.

So, while I haven’t been writing about forgiveness, I have been thinking about it, and working at it. Am I good at forgiving yet? I’m not sure. I only know I’m getting better. It’s happening more slowly than I’d like, but it’s enough all the same.

Run Mama Run

I am not what you would call the athletic type. My mother loves to tell the story of how, during the first grade race at my elementary school track and field day, I came in dead last. It wasn’t because I was slow, so much as that I didn’t care to exert myself. I meandered my way across the field, even stopping at one point to pull up my socks. When asked why I didn’t run, I apparently replied, “You don’t have to run, everyone gets a ribbon anyway.”

While you could view this as a cautionary tale exposing the evils of participation ribbons, I don’t see it that way. The truth is, given my shortness I likely never would have placed in the top three amongst dozens of students. I think I likely knew that, so I accepted my fate and decided there was no point in breaking a sweat. And that last part – the breaking a sweat part – is what I mean when I say I’m not athletic. Why run when you can walk, since walking is so much easier and less sweaty?

A few years ago my perspective shifted slightly when I signed up to participate in Run for the Cure. For the first time since my high school gym classes I was running, and this time it was by choice. I found that it wasn’t so bad when I set the parameters for running, choosing my own time and place, and listening to my own music. It was almost liberating, in fact. Nonetheless, once Run for the Cure was over, I stopped. The next spring I considered starting up again, but then I didn’t.

Red and sweaty, post-run

Red and sweaty, post-run

This summer, between work and my school and a teachers’ strike that ended my kids’ school early, I’ve been stressed out. So stressed out, in fact, that I overcame my natural inertia and laced up my running shoes. I started my running app back at week one on June 21, and I’ve been running regularly since. I’m now on week six and going strong. It’s been good. I’ve found it helpful. I even surprised myself when I was at my wits’ end one evening and my first impulse wasn’t to eat ice cream or drink wine but to go running. It’s like I don’t even know myself.

The reason that running works for me is that it’s flexible, and I can fit it around my family’s schedule. All I need is 30 minutes and another adult in the house, and I can go for a run. I don’t need to fit a class that’s happening on someone else’s timetable into my day. I don’t need to get up early if I don’t want to. I don’t even need to have change on hand to pay for gym admission or a locker. I just need my shoes and my music and I’m golden.

Will it stick this time? Will this be the time that I keep on running when the days get colder and shorter? Will I be writing another post like this in another three years about how I’m running again? I don’t know. For now, though, I’m doing this thing for myself, and it makes me feel good. It gives my anxiety a productive outlet, and reminds me that I’m important and my well-being matters. Those are all good things, so for now I’ll keep on lacing up as often as I can.

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