Sunday, February 23, 2014

I Love You More Than This Hurts

Just let that soak that in for a minute.

Do you ever hear a song on the radio, or stumble on a particular line in a book, or a TV character waxes eloquent, and it just sticks with you?  I love finding inspiration in unexpected places.

I got this jewel from a good friend recently when we were on vacation together.  She was sharing a current struggle with one of her children, and her frustration that there was no easy fix.  But, as she was describing her sadness, she looked at me and said she knew they would prevail, because the love she felt for her child was far greater than the pain she felt.

Wow.  I can't even begin to explain how those words resonated with me.  It is so simple.  If you love someone, truly love them, then there is nothing they can do or say that can trump that love.

But beyond that, love can keep you from getting in your own way.  Because the feelings you have for another person are inevitably wrapped up in your anxieties, your insecurities, your faults, and your fears.  It is easy to lose sight of the pure feeling of love, when you limit your worth or scratch at your scars.

Instead of feeling like a failure because your child is in crisis, draw strength from the moment you met and fell in love. Rather than give up on your partner because you have drifted apart, remember what drew you together and speak to them from that place.  Don't allow your failures to define you, but celebrate the trials that have made you strong.

Love yourself more than your pain.

I should mention the other quote that stuck with me that weekend, also from my friend.  It came in the form of an honest reaction to raw chicken necks, purchased at a gas station.  She was bagging them up so that our boys could go crabbing, and as the blood and ligament fat dripped onto the floor, she said, "This is gross, but I love my son."

Ya'll.  This woman is my sensai.  I drew on those words later that night when my son was projectile vomiting in his room - in the top bunk bed of a converted closet - while his friend offered moral support.  If you know me at all, you know my gag reflex would impress even Pavlov.

But I love my kid.  And I loved that I could take care of him when he needed me.  Love is a gift - and you can give it to yourself.

Until next time, keep crowin' and lovin'!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

I Will Always Have Gum

I just became an aunt for the 6th time.  My sister and her husband welcomed a daughter a few weeks ago. Looking at her, I think about my own children, who are much closer to leaving home than coming home for the first time.

I see my sister in the position I was in almost 14 years ago.  My job at that time to was to keep the baby fed and clean, warm and safe.  That was a tall order, when you throw in the navigation of new family dynamics, grabbing sleep where I could, showering only once a week, eating donated food or pure junk, and generally feeling completely overwhelmed.

But that wasn't the hard part. Not by a long shot.

Because that baby grows up - rather swiftly, I might add - and soon her needs extend to help with homework, negotiations about appropriate clothing, debates over independence, and long talks about the potholed road of friendships and love.

And then she discovers that you are, in fact, a human being, with flaws and vices and needs of your own. That you can screw up royally and make her cry.  Eventually, you can't hide your skeletons in the closet anymore, because your kid is in there, looking for a pair of shoes to borrow, or the hidden Christmas presents, or flat out asking you what your problem is.

Just as suddenly, she is in high school, and you realize in 4 years, she will be gone.  I find myself reliving my daughter's childhood over and over again - the parts I can remember - to judge my successes and failures, to make sure she has been, and will, be happy.

Whew.  Breathe.

One thing my sister has working in her favor, raising a daughter in this day and age, is that the world is a lot more realistic about what the typical family looks like, and what really happens around the dinner table (or, if we're being honest, the coffee table with the TV on).

When my parents were growing up, they had Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons as their guides. Dinner on the table at 5:00, served by mom in pearls and heels, dad sharing witty truisms and the boys dealing with problems like accidentally breaking a lamp or the dog eating their homework. As I was growing up, I remember The Brady Bunch and The Cosby Show.  Blended families were now OK, kids had bigger problems, like puberty and fender benders, but still, the parents always saved the day.  Now, my children are watching Modern Family and The Middle.  The parents in these shows constantly blow it - the kids are often far smarter and more together - and usually, there is not a pithy, happy ending, but the acknowledgement that life is not, can not be, perfect.  Sometimes a bucket of chicken at 9:00 p.m. with your bra resting comfortably in the chair next to you is the best you can do for your kids.  And no one will die because of it.

In fact, maybe it lets your kids know that no one expects them to be June Cleaver when they grow up.  That the pressure is off.

My niece is a lucky girl.  She's got wonderful parents, and I know she will have a happy life.  She is already so loved and cared for, and as her aunt, I get to spoil her rotten and be her buddy.  I get to watch a new, sweet little life grow and learn, as my own kids fly the coop.  And one thing she can count on, one thing I can guarantee, is that I will always have gum.

Until next time, keep crowin' - and seeing the beauty in your family's imperfections.