Lessons Learned

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Worn Out Pair of Jeans May 8, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — splitpease @ 11:27 pm

I was going through my archived pictures the other day. And by archived I mean 24 years of pictures stuffed in shoe boxes waiting to be put in all those Creative Memory scrapbooks I purchased. And I found these…

 

And I saw the progression of my motherhood right there in front of me

 Tyler sitting up straight with his hands on his lap. So serious. Sunglasses on to protect his fragile eyes from the sun because I read somewhere that I needed to do that

Carter barely sitting long enough, his hands beside him ready to bound off the step and scale the nearest tree.  To it’s highest point; to my dismay.

Cameron posing extra cute, as he had already learned to do to be noticed, with bruised shins from lack of supervision.

And the shorts; threadbare, faded, and worn.

They looked a little like my heart.

Sometimes mothering feels  a little like a worn out pair of jeans

Changed from the wear and tear. Broken in. A little more comfortable than the first day you tried them on. Softer. More forgiving as the years of wear progress. But faded, too. Different than the original.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then There Were None March 26, 2016

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As of today, March 25th, I will have raised three boys into adulthood. Well, numerically and legally anyway. I’m still doing research on my theory that all males are really just 12 year old boys in a body that continues to age physically …its just a theory. It really is a bit of a miracle I survived all those parenting years. Sure, I somehow managed to do it as a single mom  while working multiple jobs. But that’s not the real miracle.

The real miracle is that I did it in a time without drive thru Starbucks, Target leggings, or parking spaces reserved for parents with children. It’s like I parented in the Dark Ages or something.

As a mom of all boys, I have had a few challenges. Thankfully, now that they are all young adults those challenges are a distant memory.  It’s been at least 8 years since I have had to tell any of them to get their hands out of their pants.  I never thought I would see the day, but they have all managed to use the bathroom without leaving it looking like a pee spattered crime scene. Now that 2/3 of them are out of the house and the third right behind them, I no longer have to watch every testosterone laden, sci fi , super hero movie to hit the big screen.  The other day I actually got to pick whatever movie I wanted on Amazon Prime and it was calm, and thoughtful, and educational.  No one got shot and nothing blew up! I can even walk into the family room free of any first person shooter games; and frankly I couldn’t be happier about that. There are no more Nerf gun fights terrorizing my house and no more stepping on Lego. (I just realized in my first draft I wrote Legos. Shame on me.  As a boy mom, I know better. The plural of Lego is Lego. Please don’t take my boy mom card. It was an honest editing mistake)  But even though I am happy that my boy mom challenges are behind me, I find myself struggling with this transition for reasons that have caught me by surprise.

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It’s not that I am sad. I don’t think I am anyway. I love my relationships with my young men. They are funny and interesting and I couldn’t be more proud of them. It’s just that it feels a little like what you must feel when you cross the finish line of a marathon you didn’t train for.  The tears come because you are  relieved that you  finished the race. It was so hard. It required so much strength and stamina.  But they also come because you can’t believe it is over.  That somehow you did it. Somehow you succeeded in achieving the goal: today they  are  all technically adults.  And as my friend Chookie says, now all I have to say  is, “Just so you know, I’ll visit you. But I’m not paying your bail!”

I wasn’t always the most gracious mom of infants and toddlers. I used to dream of the day when my boys would be independent.  I loved parenting my kids, really I did.  But, I’m an extreme introvert and sometimes those kids were just in my space way too  much.  Many times I wanted to  scream to my  6month old or my two year old, “Why won’t you leave me alone?  Would it kill you to  just give me a moment to myself.” ” Stop needing to be fed and read to.” “And for goodness sakes, stop asking me to play Candy Land” (or now Scrabble at 10pm which is the same thing except I can’t stack the deck so I pick Queen Frostine and then hope for double purple for the win!).

 

During those early years, I didn’t really get excited about some of those first milestones. Take their first steps, nothing special.  Say their first word, big deal. But the  day they could get up, pour their own cereal, and turn the TV on by themselves was the greatest day of my parenting journey. Let’s just say I was a much better mom of independent kids.

But then they are.

And then they leave you.

 

And now  I feel the need to dig my claws into their ankles and hang on for dear life. Which is quite the opposite of how it used to be. I will never forget the first day of kindergarten for  one of my kids; who shall remain nameless but decided to move to the other side of the world.  I literally (no, I mean literally, this is not a metaphor) I had to peel his hands off the school bus step railing, put my hands on his behind and push him up the stairs to get on the bus. I guess this is my payback. I mean, isn’t this what all the worry, work and sleepless nights were for; to send them out of the nest to make their own way in the world?

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But instead of doing the empty nest dance I dreamed of, I am crying every time I see banana pudding.

 Banana pudding is my new trigger. It makes me misty eyed and nostalgic.  It brings to the surface all the emotions I have been stuffing since my middle one told me he was leaving. There are so many things that make me miss him, but for some reason the banana pudding makes me cry. I wouldn’t get it every time I passed it on the salad bar at the grocery store, but I thought of him every time I did. It was his favorite. Also, who decided that would be the dessert on every salad bar in every grocery store?  But on occasion, I would bring some home to him just to say, “I thought of you and I want you to feel loved”.  So why does the banana pudding make me cry?

I guess it’s a brutal reminder that I am no longer able to mother him in that “your my child” kind of way. It’s a reminder that now I have to mother him like you’re a man now and I need to get out of the way and let you become a manlier version of the boy I raised.

It’s a reminder that I won’t be able to  know how he is really doing just by seeing how he moves through the house. He used to walk the path through the kitchen, to the dining room, down the hall, and back through the family room.  The number of times and the speed at which he moved told me all I needed to know. It was a barometer for me; measuring his internal pressure and stress. It was a way for me to know if he needed time alone, or a word of encouragement, or for me to just stand back and watch him figure it out.  And now I don’t know. And seeing those layers of soggy vanilla wafers smothered in Dwight Shrute  yellow pudding scream at me that I am no longer the one to  be sure he is alright. It’s a reminder that I am no longer the one who is responsible for his daily needs. That I no longer can parent him in the little things. I am no longer the person  to check his pulse. 

And then I saw a picture of my oldest son.

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But it wasn’t my boy.  It was a picture of a man. I don’t know why it struck me the way it did.  I’ve known for a while that he was an adult. I mean, I’ve watched him graduate college, and get a job, and fall in love.  I’ve even heard that  he cleans up after himself now. So I’ve known he’s been a grown up for a while. But today, for the first time, I actually saw the man. A man that I no longer have the responsibility to mold. He’s leaved and cleaved, like he should.  But now I need to learn my new role in his life.  When to help and when to back off. When to say something or when to just be quiet.

And I am wondering why I wanted those early years of parenting to pass.

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 I still have my 18 year old here a little while longer.  And since he is in college, we are doing the  I am giving you freedom but you are still living under my roof dance.   We are walking the tight rope of go on, step out, be independent; but you better be home by 11 and I am going to read your txts because I am paying for your phone bill. I can’t control who he dates or how long his hair is; though I desperately want to.  Oh! to be back in the days of play dates that I arranged. Now I can only pray that all those years of parenting trained him up in a way that he will be ok. That they all will be OK.

 

I don’t know why I so desperately wanted them to be independent. I would give anything to go back to the early parenting moments.  When they didn’t make the team, at least I was the one who could hug and comfort and cheer them on.  When  life wasn’t being fair, at least I was the one who could guide and lead and go to bat for them. When they were struggling with their calculus at least…yea never mind, they were on their own in the homework department since the 4th grade. But at least I could be there to tell them great job and you can do it. Now I wish I could step on a Lego.  It was a lot less painful than not seeing your kids for months or maybe years. That pain was a lot less traumatic than watching your child struggle with real life, big issues and not being able to fix them.

It’s a tough thing learning to be the parent of  adults. I think I would rather have a Nerf gun fight and be able to put them to bed; even if their  hands are down their pants.

I wish there was a way to know you are in the good ole days before you have actually left them  -Andy from the Office

 

To My Son On Your Wedding Day February 6, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — splitpease @ 12:51 pm
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use this tyler.jpg

Dear Son,

It’s the morning of your wedding day and I can’t sleep. So I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel and thought I would write a few things to you even though I know you won’t ever read them.

 

Tyler, you NEVER slept as a baby. The doctors told me it was a sign of intelligence.  A lot of days I would have preferred dumb and sleepy.  I would sit in your Winnie the Pooh nursery and cry with you. I must have listened to that lullaby CD a million and one times trying to get you to sleep.  Kenny Loggins and House At Pooh Corner were my companions all those months.

 

I had a really difficult time trying to find a song to dance to with you today.  They were either too cheesy, too country, or too  NSync. Who knew NSync wrote a song to their mom for their wedding day?  It was pretty bad.  I am not sure how I stumbled across the song again, but it instantly took me back to the early days of being your mom.  And despite the fact that you never slept…EVER, you were a really easy kid to raise.

 

You were an easy teenager too.

 

Well, except for that run in with the police and the donuts.

 

While most kids were out drinking and smoking weed you, you rebel, were breaking curfew to go get $1.99 donuts from the gas station 1 mile away from our house.  I thought I had lost you forever.

 

And that time as a freshman in college when you stepped up and took control of the situation when that VT student was harming himself and threatening others, I knew you were well on your way to becoming a man of character and action.

 

 

I learned that Kenny Loggins wrote House At Pooh Corner when he was 17 and about to graduate from high school and enter adulthood. So I thought, considering our history, it was only appropriate that we dance to it today as you enter your next phase of adulting.

Son, I want you to know how very proud I am of the man you have become. And I am so grateful that God chose me to be your mom.

 

And to your beautiful bride, Liz, I apologize for all the things that are going to drive you crazy that I failed to parent out of him.  You have my permission to blame me for years to come.

 

So, Tyler, as the song says, there is so much more to be done…

 

And I know you and Liz are going to do them so well together.

Love,

Mom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I caught Powerball Fever January 10, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — splitpease @ 1:08 am
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lotteryI have never bought a lottery ticket in my life. But today as I was laundering and scrubbing and sweeping the crud out of my house, I started to fantasize about what I would do with all that money and freedom if I was the 1 in 292 million chances to win the lottery.  Which job would I quit first? Which caribbean island would I build my dream house on?  I planned the trip I would send my sister and her husband on as a thank you for all the amazing trips they have taken  my kids on. I would buy the Lakers for my friend and maybe a jet just because, you know, 900 million dollars!  I would get Cameron a really sweet drum set to replace the incomplete set he has and Carter a jet of his own so he could come see me a lot. (I know it is not very equitable but it’s what came to my mind.  I was inhaling bleach fumes so back off) Not sure what I would get Tyler cuz every time I think of him lately I get teary eyed and nostalgic remembering him  as the chubby fat little baby he was, not the young man about to be a husband.  There would be the usual splurges for my family and friends and of course I’d start a charity, Im not a complete materialistic jerk.

 

So off I went to buy my very first lottery ticket.

 

The line wasn’t too long so I decided to get my grocery shopping done first.  As I was paying for my groceries I looked up and saw (now bear with me this is going to sound judgey and I don’t mean it to; it’s just how my moment went) a disheveled mother in her sleep pants with a fist full of lottery tickets yelling at her toddlers to stand still while she paid for some more tickets.

 

The line was getting longer and my lottery fever was waning.

 

As I stood there I thought, I get it, I really do.  There was a time, not too long ago, that I may not have outwardly looked like that disheveled mom desperately trying to win some relief, but I certainly felt like it on the inside. I was struggling to raise these boys and the hope of a huge lottery win was something that would have eliminated a lot of my struggles.  Many times I was holding an imaginary fistful of lottery tickets myself wishing and hoping for some relief from my “lot in life”  So really, there was no judgement just the realization that tonight I am not so desperate for a lottery win anymore. For a brief second I even thought that if I won I wouldn’t even quit my jobs. Emphasis on BRIEF.

So after all that lottery fever and fantasizing, I ended up not buying a lottery ticket.  To be honest, the real reason I didn’t buy a lottery ticket was that the line had gotten considerably longer  by the time I finished buying my groceries and now I had to go to the bathroom. And  we all know the chances of me wetting my pants were exponentially greater than  getting even one number right in the power ball.

So good luck to all of you who bought one and if you win I hope I fall into that friends and family category and you throw a cool mil my way. After all, I am going to start a charity. On a Caribbean island.

 

What are you going to do if you win???

 

Hope October 28, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — splitpease @ 1:04 am

Every person needs hope planted at the bottom of their hole – Anne Voskamp

 
cam croppedSee? See that? That is my boy smiling.  A genuine smile. There were months, maybe years if I really am honest, that I didn’t see him smile a genuine smile.  I want to freeze time because I am afraid this moment of peace will slip away from me. When you are in the dark place, the struggle, you just can’t imagine there will ever be anything different. You fear you will  always be surrounded by  the suffocating darkness; that this is what it will always be like.

But, hope.

 

Hope is what every desperate heart needs.

 

Some days I couldn’t hear the hope. I couldn’t believe it. I am thankful for the ones who spoke hope to me even when I couldn’t see it.  I want to speak that hope to you.  That you really will get to the other side and it really will be ok.

Jen Hatmaker is speaking that hope  tonight too…

“That thing when someone’s kid is pitching a 25 minute long fit in Target, and you simultaneously feel terrible for the mom and unhappy kid but also want to hit your knees in blessed thanksgiving that those days are behind you.

Young Target Mamas, THIS TOO SHALL PASS. I swear!!

I now walk around Target like the Queen of Sheba, sipping my latte and DOING WHAT I WANT. You will too. I promise. In the meantime…ain’t nothing wrong with a mama wearing earplugs on aisle 7.”

Some times you just need someone to say I know, it’s so hard. This grief, this struggle, this fear.  It’s so hard. And then you need someone to say I believe it’s going to get better. You need them to say it  because you can’t believe it for yourself. Not when you are in the middle of it.

But one day; after every day, after every minute of your struggle, you will find yourself on the other side.  And you will see your boy smile.   And you realize  hope was there all along.

 

First Day Of No School September 9, 2015

pic of me no schoolToday marks a milestone. It’s the first day of no school for me. My youngest decided to forgo his senior year and graduate early. It snuck up on me, really. No more school  shopping, no more 5:30 am wake ups, no more homework battles, no more scouring Pinterest on June 13th to find a cute teacher gift, no more PTA, no more packing lunches, no more last minute runs to Michaels for poster board, no more a lot of things. So where does one find herself on the first morning of no school? Target. Duh.

 

 

 As I was wandering through target in my target uniform; you know some combination of workout gear that has yet to experience any workout,(well there was one woman that looked like she had actually worked out thus justifying the uniform and subsequently making the rest of us look like the frauds we were)  I couldn’t help but notice the moms.

There were the exhausted moms of preschoolers patiently waiting while their sweet angel “helped” them pick items off the shelf, and the moms  of elementary kids skipping through the aisles then lingering as long as they wanted in the clothes department struggling to decide between the v neck or the crew neck Tee, and the moms of high schoolers rushing to pick out her root touch up color before racing off to work cuz dang these big kids are expensive and she can’t justify spending her days like she would want playing tennis for hours or reading on the deck with a cool beverage.


That’s when it hit me.  I’m done! I actually survived getting three kids through school.

I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say there was a time when I did NOT think I would cross this school finish line.  If you’re interested here was our struggle. But we have arrived, and since I have crossed the finish line I thought I would dispense a little advice to those of you embarking on, or in the midst of, the school marathon.  You can take it or leave it.

First and foremost, save the mole that you so painstakingly and meticulously make with your first born. Because the amount you will care about Mole Day by your third child is exactly zero. And when the last child remembers at 8 o’clock the night before said Mole  Day that they need felt and googly eyes for said mole you will not be facing the decision to A. Harm the child B. Let the child face the consequences of his idiocy or C. Pretend you didn’t hear him, pour another glass of wine and turn up the volume on The Office you are binge watching on Netflix.  So seriously, save the mole.

 This one I had to learn the hard way. You are probably way more enlightened than I was. But, let your chid run in his own lane. It’s hard not to heap expectations on our mini me’s. We unknowingly put pressure on our young-ins to achieve in ways they may not be designed to achieve. It is especially difficult in this ultra competitive world of parenting.

Don’t let your first born fool you either. That child that excels without even trying, that golden boy that rocks what ever he tries; he makes you look like a rock star parent. Look what I did! I created a super kid! And you did. But you may also have created a kid that doesn’t fit the I do everything great mold. Maybe you have a kid that doesn’t follow the path you envisioned for them. You may, no probably, will have a kid who disappoints you and frustrates you and puzzles you. And the sooner you realize that and accept it, the better you can love your child right where they are; with all their struggles and issues and opposing personalities and strengths you don’t yet notice or appreciate.

So let them run in their lane.

Spend your emotional energy on cheering them on in their race not trying to register them for yours. I can tell you this because I spent years trying to make my kid fit into my version of him. I regret that. Have an introverted child when you’re an extrovert? Read the book Quiet and discover all the amazing things about his quiet nature. And then don’t force him to swim in loud, crowded swim meets even when he is the fastest on the team and you want him to swim so you can be the proud mom of a fast swimmer. Not that I would know anything about that. Have a non sport playing child while you were a collegiate athlete? Let it go and help him find his passion, not yours. Have  a child that doesn’t “fit in”? Celebrate his differences and remember that how they are in 3rd grade or 8th grade or 11th grade doesn’t define who their future self will be.

Maybe all your kids have found their lane and it lines up with your expectations and dreams. I hope so. But my guess is most of us will have a child or two that will take a different path than what we envisioned for them. Love them in their lane anyway.

 I thought I had more advice.  Turns out that is all I really learned from all the hours of homework  and school projects and sports and school plays and college resumes and even recorder practice. Just let them do them. And be there to make sure they do the best version of them there is. And honestly, there is nothing sweeter than watching them find their lane! Also,who am I kidding? Recorders are worse than water boarding!

 

 

Why God Hates Divorce and Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs; As It Pertains To The Single Parent August 9, 2015

I stayed in a difficult marriage ( to put it mildly)for 23 years because I knew God hated divorce. When I finally had the courage to get divorced, I interpreted that as God hated me. It kind of felt like it actually.   In my head I knew that wasn’t true, but in my wounded, weary and  beaten up heart, that is what it felt like. Thankfully my heart eventually caught up with my head and it didn’t feel like God hated me anymore. But he does still hate divorce, and probably not for the reasons you think.  The longer I am divorced the more I understand why He hates divorce.

God hates divorce because of Maslow’s hierarchy  of needs.  If you are not familiar with it here it is….

Diagram credit: J. Finkelstein

 

Divorce sends you straight to the bottom again, well except for the sex, even that is gone. And trying to climb back up Maslow’s Hierarchy after divorce is a little like standing at the bottom of Mt Everest in flip flops, a tank top, and carrying a vacuum cleaner and three kids.  It all just seems so insurmountable.

Divorce, regardless of the reasons, catapults you into survival mode; especially if you now find yourself a single parent. In the beginning, literally, some days all you can manage is breathing and going to the bathroom. Most days all you want to do is stay under the covers and sleep; hoping that when you wake up you really don’t have to work three jobs and someone has paid for a cleaning service for a year. Eventually you  manage to get up off the floor and you look behind you to see the indent in the carpet on your bedroom floor; like some crime scene chalk outline of someone that died while curled up in the fetal position. (Please, just grant me a little melodrama.) Somehow you find you have slowly graduated out of this stage. Usually it’s because one of your kids is banging on the bathroom door demanding  something ridiculous like food or clean clothes.  You realize no one is going to do it for you. The laundry fairy and your night in shining armor have failed to show up at the requested time. The bills and the laundry have taken over and now you will need to build a whole bill/ laundry suite addition just to contain them. You actually contemplate that as a solution for a moment before you begin to climb out of the hole of divorce despair and attempt to graduate to Maslow’s next level. God hates divorce because it leaves you worn and weary and struggling in survival mode.

Single parents spend all of their time in the second level.  All of your energy is about keeping your kids safe, cared for, clothed, and somewhat on course. Safety and stability are your entire focus; right the ship that was wrecked, whatever it takes.  Survival mode is about finding enough employment to keep the house and shoes on your kids.  It’s about doing whatever it takes to pay the bills.   Your days are spent doing tasks that used to be shared, now it is all on you. Every grocery shop, every load of laundry, every floor mopped, every lawn mowed, every car repair, every light bulb to be changed, every home repair, every doctors appt., every school conference, every HW session, every discipline moment, every bath, bedtime, and morning meal, all you.

 

I know every mom makes sacrifices for their kids and deserves a standing ovation, but only single moms (and dads) know the burden, worry, and exhaustion of doing it alone and praying that what you’re doing is enough to provide for, fill the void, and set your kids up for success.

 

God hates divorce, because it leaves little time and energy to live with a purpose other than survival and safety.

Somehow, divorce causes your friendships to fracture too. Where once you had couple friends to socialize with and support you, now you are the odd man out.  I don’t blame them.  It’s awkward and a little uncomfortable. Nobody really knows what to do with you. It’s weird setting 11 places at a dinner party.  Besides, lets face it, those of us that have gone through the pre, during, and post divorce events aren’t the cheeriest people to be around. We can be a little draining on our relationships that are still around. It makes a lonely situation, even lonelier.  God hates divorce because it cuts a lot of chords.  Chords that were in place to encourage and support you; do life together chords. And now they are gone too.  God hates divorce because for a long time you just don’t have the time and energy to form new friendships or reestablish the old ones.

So If by some miracle you are able to climb up  from the depths of survival mode to establish some sense of security, and maybe  you even manage to develop some new relationships; you are still facing the steep accent up to regain your self esteem. On a good day it’s hard to have a healthy self esteem. After divorce, some days you need to send in the national guard followed by a counseling session with Stuart Smalley to remember that you are “Good enough, smart enough, and Doggon-it people like you”.

 

Divorce beats you up. It stomps on your heart and exhausts you. It makes you question your worth and  your lovability.  It feels like failure.

 

Most of your day is spent making sure you kids are thriving  and helping them to reach their level of a healthy self esteem. All your effort is going to  the “Good Jobs” the “You’re Greats” the “You can do anythings”  for your kids.  It’s hard to muster the strength to do that for yourself; especially when divorce made you feel like the exact opposite. I think God hates that.

But I think the thing that God hates the most about divorce is that he watches those He created for a purpose and a passion lose theirs.  It sidelines people that could be and should be living out their calling.The daily struggle for survival keeps single parents from achieving their potential and purpose.

 

It’s hard for the single mom/dad to create a “Do Over”  when they are already the doer of everything.

 

It’s nearly impossible to  muster enough emotional or physical energy to reach that top level. Nearly…

It’s taken me years, but I feel like I  am finally clawing my way out of the depths of survival mode. I am beginning to dream of possibilities again; beginning to see the top of the mountain my just be in reach. If you are in the depths of survival mode, hang in there, with time and effort you will get there too. The top of the pyramid is within reach. Like anything in life, you just have to keep making forward progress. You don’t need to sprint to the top. Just take one step at a time. However long it takes, keep pushing forward. Your climb to the top is yours alone.

Don’t compare yourself to the person traveling by leaps and bounds carrying only a small back pack while you lumber one fatigued step at a time dragging all your responsibilities behind you in a duffle bag the size of a U-Haul. Climb your mountain at your pace; just keep climbing.

 

No one walks down the aisle thinking they will end up divorced. Life happens, addiction happens, infidelity happens.  And God hates it. But maybe not for the reasons you thought. Climb on!

 

 

 

 
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