Election Eve

mountains

Tomorrow I will bring my daughters with me to vote for the first female president of the United States. Then we’ll make our way around town trying to avoid anything election related. Because who needs that stress all day long? I’ll reserve the nail biting and pacing for after bedtime.

Tonight is ours. We’re going to talk politics. I’m going to show them the ballot. We’re going to look at all the candidates at the state and local level. We’ll look at the issues and what they mean. We’ll talk about the Supreme Court and why who wins matters.  I’m going to tell my girls that a woman like me wasn’t always allowed to vote up until very recently, 1965 to be precise. I want them to walk into our polling place with fierce gratitude and entitled to have a voice, knowing why so many people feel so passionately about this election.

They will probably school me a bit on the election as well. Both have been up to their eyeballs in learning about our government. Hillary already won by a landslide in their classrooms today. They are optimistic. I can see in their faces how this election is very much a girl power moment. They were with her before I was with her.

We don’t own any pantsuits, so we may or may not be making our own Hillary shirts while watching Gilmore Girls. They’re encouraging me to make them “nasty” tees. I’m on the fence.

Tomorrow is another story. Tomorrow will be one for the history books. I’m not sure how we’ll fill our hours but I know years from know we’ll remember everything we did.

How will you spend your night this election eve? How will you pass the hours tomorrow?

Gracias

Today I am grateful for the young girl at the register at CVS who looked at my purchase and let me know which lice treatment worked for her a few years ago.

Today I am grateful to the mom in line behind me who chimed in and let me know her daughter had lice the year before.

Today I’m grateful for the coach who, in response to my email about not making it to the game, let me know his family dealt with lice last year.

Today I’m grateful for my dear friend who told me both her boys had it this summer.

As you can tell, today brought a creepy, crawly surprise. I was freaked the fuck out. Expletives are necessary when dealing with lice, ok? Immediately I felt shame because I had internalized this narrative that lice plagues kids with poor hygiene. I came across so many wonderful people who made me feel lass alone and let me focus on getting the job done (combing and combing and combing, stripping beds, collecting laundry and stuffee animals, visiting the local laundromat).

So thank you, to every last person who spoke up today and made me feel a little less alone.

Bedtime Magic

Bedtime has changed dramatically during my tenure as a mother. What started with swaddling so tight I bore holes into their muslin blankets has evolved into spooning by moonlight and feather light whispers about the meaning of life, or just who made them smile at school today. Something about bedtime drowsiness renders them particularly vulnerable and exceptionally eager to spill the beans, so I take advantage.

A few years ago, while we were still homeschooling, there wasn’t any necessary rush to our bedtime routine. I had three questions I asked every night –

1. What are you grateful for?
2. Who did you help today?
3. What’s one thing you love about yourself?

The minutes would tick past 7:30pm and I wouldn’t blink an eye (unless The Mindy Project or Pretty Little Liars was on, of course, then one word answers were totally acceptable). Now, after homework and dinner and prepping for the next day and just one more book and that song they love, bedtime feels more rushed than I’d like.

After the last book, we each share what we’re most grateful for that day. That’s one question that’s constant in our repertoire. Once the lights are out, I divide my time with each girl. I alternate who I start with each night because it’s almost certain while I’m waxing poetic with one, the other will drift off to sleep before we can have a heart to heart.

I don’t plan the questions I’ll ask. Who has time for that? But I do read a lot about parenting so when I come across a good question to ask kids, I make a mental note. I find questions in blog posts, parenting books, magazines, and most recently in journal prompts. A friend recently shared on Facebook how much she loves talking with her daughters at bedtime. We all mother in our own unique way but we share many common joys and from the looks of the comments she got on her post, bedtime is one of those universal gifts. Her post made me really curious about the questions other parents ask.

Here are the questions regularly making the rounds at our home plus the ones that really make my girls light up:

  • Who made you laugh at school today?
  • Did anyone help you at school today?
  • If you could travel around the world with only one friend from school, who would it be?
  • If you could have your own restaurant, what kind of food would you serve? What would you call it?
  • If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  • What job would you never, ever want to do?
  • If you wrote a children’s book, what would it be about? What would you call it?
  • Where do you think you will live when you grow up?
  • Were you able to help anyone at school today?
  • What’s the most interesting thing you learned in school today?
  • What do you want to dream about tonight?
  • What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
  • What superpower would you want?
  • If you found $100, what would you do with it?
  • If you could learn to do something new, what would it be?
  • If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  • Who made you feel loved today?
  • Who was unkind to you today?
  • What animal would you want to be?
  • If you could build a superhero team, which 3 friends would you want by your side?
  • What do you love most about yourself?

And while we’re at it, I’ll share a few other things we do at bedtime to make it special. We don’t do these every night; they happen once in a blue moon as a treat:

  • Years ago I started giving them massages while I asked them our nightly questions. I’d take out a special lotion and rub their feet while we listened to each other’s answers.
  • When the energy is running high, I have them lie down and I say goodnight to them from their toes to the tops of their head. I rub each part of the body and give it a kiss, saying goodnight to each (goodnight toes, goodnight legs, goodnight tummy, etc.). The best is getting up to their sweet faces and kissing their little lashes.
  • Other times, when it looks like they’re having a hard time falling asleep, I tell my girls to lie still, eyes closed, and silently thank each part of their body for it’s hard work and then say goodnight to it (for example, thank you feet for allowing me to climb at the park, goodnight). Since this is something they do on their own, I can’t be certain they actually do it but the smiles on their faces always make me think they at least try.
  • It’s been ages since we did this but for awhile I used to light a candle and we’d take turns making a wish and blowing it out. Once everyone had a turn, we’d blow it out together.

All of this in addition to our nightly bedtime book(s) plus a song they love and some whispered blessings in their ear. Bedtime ain’t no joke, people. It’s my last chance each day to redeem myself for lost tempers, elusive patience, checking my phone too often, saying no more than yes, rushing, for being imperfect. Our quirky mash up of rituals anchors me to the moment, each one sinking me deeper into the present. It’s not perfect every night but we try to make it feel a little bit like magic.

What’s funny is this is nothing like bedtime was for me as a kid. I’d kiss my parents goodnight then tuck myself in and fall asleep to the sound of my television in the background. If my godmother was visiting, she’d read me a bedtime book and her husband would ask me math questions before turning out the lights. No one lied with me until I fell asleep, there were no songs, but somehow there was no lack of magic. So there’s no right way. What’s bedtime like in your home? I’d love to know what questions, conversation starters, and rituals make bedtime magical in your home.

Hugs

Seven has been full of eye rolls and huffing and puffing and “are you even listening to me?” Shitty diapers, midnight fevers, and not sharing seem like a walk in the park right now.

Seven, on my part, has been full of deep breaths and giving space and a voice inside whispering, “Don’t forget the fucking year we’ve all had.” It is teaching and stretching me more than any tearful, toy throwing tantrum ever has. Or maybe those moments prepared me for these moments.

Seven, thankfully, has also been full of rushing me with hugs and unexpected snuggles. Tenderness that catches me off guard. These embraces speak to me.

They tell a tale of a little girl whose world is changing – new home, new school, new routine, new family dynamic. They tell a tale of a little girl between, who can sense the changes around her and those taking place in the world she holds within – heart and mind expanding, growing richer, more complex. It’s the story of a girl who remembers being 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and knows she’s left those days behind but still carries them with her as she figures 7 out. She’s juggling a young heart and big emotions. She’s looking for her place like we all once did (and still do).

So. There are hugs, so many more than before. I relish every one. Eye rolls and raised voices, huffs, puffs and lost patience, today those are the sounds and signals of change and growth and becoming. Hugs are the space the between, the stillness.

This is her love language and I’m no linguistic specialist but I’m her mom so I learn as the moments pass. Hugs, embraces, touch, tenderness, cuddles – this her heart speaks, this her heart calls for. This I give her.

So much has been going on the last few months there’s been little time for writing. Make that no time for writing. And yesterday, in a frenzied pizza joint with 20 kids running around, inspiration called and I listened. We finally moved and are slowly making ourselves at home. This hopefully means I’ll be writing more. Come back and visit, k?

The Grass Ain’t Greener

I’ve been told I’m an amazing mother. My daughters are lucky to have me. The girls are wonderful children because I’m doing such a tremendous job. I usually smile and say thanks while admitting to being nothing more than human, imperfect and human. Anything after “thanks”, though, usually gets brushed aside. I’m left feeling like a fraud. Like somehow, through my writing or something I shared on social media or the tiny moment of my day they witnessed, I gave the impression I’m June Fucking Cleaver. I am far, far from it.

I share a lot about my life and my interests on social media but it doesn’t capture it all.  No one really ever gets to see the whole picture besides us. I share those things because my mind is easily distracted and prone to forgetfulness; so sharing is my way of reliving, repeating and burning it into my memory.

I don’t share when I lose my temper and raise my voice. I don’t share every time one of my daughters has a tantrum. I don’t share all the times I’ve taken toys from my daughters and put them on top of our fridge. I don’t share when I make my daughters cry because I’ve said no yet again or I rush them away from something important they’re doing to go run errands. I don’t share when I’m impatient and take my young children’s words personally. There are plenty of don’t share moments. Those poor decisions I’d rather soon forget, aren’t shared but they certainly aren’t swept under the carpet.

apologize to your children

For some reason, the joyful memories are fleeting while the hard moments are always waiting in the wings. This is why I share the good moments, to hold onto them. This is why I share so much about the kind of parent and woman I want to be; it takes practice and constant learning.

So whether it’s me or someone else, the grass is never greener. We are all human, perfectly flawed and growing. Every mother is amazing. Every child is lucky to have the mother they cosmically chose when they were just a star in the sky. And we’re all doing a tremendous job at this motherhood business. Some days tremendously awesome, others tremendously crappy, and others still tremendously mediocre.