Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tears and Success

What is it about watching your child succeed that is so darned satisfying? Is it that we see a piece of ourselves succeeding right along with them? Sometimes succeeding at things that we could never in our wildest dreams hope to be good at? I had the pleasure recently of seeing all three of my children succeed at things that they were striving so hard for and my reaction every time surprises me. Christopher’s baseball team won a very hard game and kept their playoff hopes alive for a while, Daniel managed to finally hit the baseball and get a base hit and Allison was successful in obtaining a volunteer position that she had interviewed for. All three successes brought me to tears. Not full-on bawling mind you, but choked-up-ready-to-bawl-like-a-baby waterworks.

My question is why? Why when it wasn’t me achieving those things do I become so invested in what happens? Let’s take baseball for a good example. Normally, I have exactly zero interest in baseball. I don’t play it, I don’t watch it and I certainly don’t talk statistics about it or belong to any fantasy leagues. I don’t begrudge anyone who does do those things, I just don’t find them interesting. Pro baseball is a slow-moving sport in my humble, admittedly uninformed opinion. Every time I have tried to watch a game on television I find myself drifting off to sleep.

Everything changes when my son Christopher is playing. Suddenly I want to watch every minute of every game he has. The same is true of Daniel’s games. In fact, whenever they both have games scheduled for the same time-slot it really stresses me out. I don’t want to miss anything at either game. I love watching Christopher knock one out of the park so to speak. He has a lot of power in his batting for a kid his size and age. The added bonus? In case I haven’t said so before I love to watch him run. He is so lithe. The words “poetry in motion” come to mind whenever I have the chance to see him run. Running for him seems so effortless and natural.

When Daniel is playing baseball true, it is a little different. He doesn’t have the coordination that Christopher does, but he does have his own style. He manages to run pretty fast and despite those curls of his obstructing his view he sees well enough to play the game well. He’s in an instructional league so playing well does not mean he is headed for the playoffs, but that doesn’t really make a difference here, does it? What matters is the smile of pleasure on his face when he finally connects with the ball, sending it into the field. What matters is the look of satisfaction as he makes it to first base. What matters is that he is having fun as he makes the out at second base, and he is leaning the value of team work.

Allison’s successes tend to be successes of the mind. She loves the intellect. She’s well-read, she has diverse intellectual interests and can intelligently discuss almost anything. So when she obtained the volunteer position she wanted I was so thrilled for her. She will get to put her formidable intellect to good use and meet new people in the process. This is a big win for her in my opinion. It will be her job to help people play with the materials that are provided. What a wonderful job. It’s a unique way for not only her to help other people, but for her to develop social skills that she will need as she goes forward toward adulthood.

So am I proud? Certainly. It makes me feel that I have succeeded in what I wanted most to do…be a mother. Do I obtain a certain amount of satisfaction in seeing my kids grab hold of some of the stars they are reaching for? Why not? Their successful lives are my reward for being a mother.

Things could change in the next few years. There could and perhaps are going to be some negative things happening while my children plod along the road to adulthood. There are some difficult things to navigate between where they are and successful lives as adults. I would be a fool to say I don’t worry about them. What if one of them decides to experiment with drugs? What if they find a mate who is abusive or so needy they can’t have a life separate from them? What if they don’t get into the schools they want to get into? What if they have children before they are ready to?

I could sit and worry about all these things. I really could. Sometimes I do worry about them if I’m to be honest. Things could get ugly for them if they make bad choices. But so far they are making good choices and I think I have to trust that they will continue to do so. While I know that their successes now do not necessarily prove that they will be successful adults, I am hopeful that they are getting a taste of success and will hunger for more. That hunger will make them pursue success as they grow toward adulthood, no matter what success means to them.

That’s why I think I cry when they have a small success in their lives. It’s a foreshadowing of the success that is to come.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Embrace the Chaos

Embrace the chaos. That seems to be what the universe is telling me these days. See, I planned a nice, relaxing vacation camping. If you don’t remember (or weren’t reading my blog until recently) check my August 10, 2013 post, I did this last year. It was great. I went “off the grid” somewhat for a week or so. I cooked over an open fire, I walked my dogs, we had s’mores and slept out in tents. It was great. Really. So great that I planned on doing it again. I even have a campsite already reserved.

This time will be slightly different though. We have a pop-up camper we bought from our friends Debbie and John. I’m really looking forward to trying it out. Sure, we had an extremely icky time clearing out the ants that took up residence during the winter. There were hundreds of them. It makes me cringe just thinking about them (Are there any in my hair? I sure hope not). We got past that though I think. I plan to set up tents too, but having the pop-up will be nice. Especially if there is any rain. We’ll be able to sleep in the camper if we like and use the tents too – but if the weather is bad there is a table inside that we can play cards and board games at.

The spot we have reserved is right above a pond or lake (not sure which it is). There’s swimming, boating and fishing just a few steps away. This will be great. We’ll have fun and relax under the stars. My wonderful husband and kids bought me a screen tent for my birthday. We’ll be able to eat dinner without being bothered by bugs. We have a propane stove for those times we don’t want to cook over the fire. It’s going to be excellent. Except…

Except my daughter got a volunteer position at the Museum of Science. I am so proud of her that they offered her the position. It seemed pretty competitive during the interview process so I think it’s pretty great that she landed the position. The only issue? She will have to come home and go to Boston a few times during our vacation. Boo!

Except….my son got picked for the All-Star baseball team! I am equally proud of him for that accomplishment. He had to try out against approximately 80 other children and only about ½ or less were selected to be on teams. The issue? Players must commit to games until August and there are 2-4 games a week, plus perhaps practices. Boo!

Between those two things and the surrounding summer camps and various other activities my summer is booked! You might even suggest I overbooked. Boo! I have to figure out rides to and from camp and coordinate schedules. I also need to make sure uniforms are clean, work clothes that are appropriate are available and my younger son is being watched. Good thing I have a wonderful husband that will pitch in and help (see last week’s blog entry to see who I’m referring to).

But that’s the life of a mother with three children. A life that I am more than happy with and I suppose we will figure it out. That’s how I embrace the chaos. I try not to worry about how it will get done. I want my children to have these experiences so I do what I can to make it happen. Notice I said I will TRY not to worry about how it will get done. TRY. That is the main verb here.

Will there be some worry? Probably. Will I let it get me down? I hope not. The main thing is that my children are having important experiences that are helping them to figure out who they are in relation to the world around them. They are developing talents, interests and skills that will help them become part of a larger community and to make worthwhile contributions to that community.

If the price of developing those talents is some chaos, I’m in.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Marry Your Best Friend...I Did

It’s been twenty years as of today. Twenty years since I married the man of my dreams. We met because of Adam Ant. Not many people may remember this musician, but wherever he is I thank him for his part in making sure I met Steve. Mr. Ant doesn’t even know he had anything to do with it but that’s okay.

See, I met Steve in high school. A close friend of mine used to like to call cute boys on the phone after school. She and I were hanging out and watching MTV back in the days when MTV actually played music and not stupid things like “The Real World.” (I always felt that in the “real world” you paid your own rent, but MTV and I have different definitions apparently of the word “real,” but I digress). This friend had called Steve and was talking to him when one of her favorite videos came on T.V. Ironically it was “Desperate, But Not Serious,” by Adam Ant. Teenage girls, desperate? Never…heh heh heh. Definitely not serious.

Well, anyway, when this video came on television my friend, who absolutely ADORED Adam Ant, just HAD to go watch. She hastily stuffed the phone in my hands and dashed off to oogle the war-paint-clad wonder that was Adam Ant. While she was dancing and clapping along with the song, I was left to chat with a young, apparently cute (I had never seen Steve at this point) 17-year-old. For someone who was under-confident and introverted like I was, this was like being thrown from the frying pan into the fire. I stumbled around for a few minutes while we tried to figure out what to talk about. My job, given to me by my friend, was to keep said cute boy on the phone until her video was over.

I don’t remember what we talked about for 45 minutes while my friend watched even more videos of musicians she liked (Billy Idol, Prince, etc.), but by the time she came back to take the phone, it was too late. Steve and I had discovered we enjoyed talking to each other and were laughing and chatting away. When my friend asked for the phone back, she was told in no uncertain terms that we were in the middle of something and she would have to check back later.

So began the beginning of a great friendship with my future husband. He made me laugh. A lot. He still does. He was always respectful of me. He still is. He was always a gentleman. He still is. He had a great family who treated me like one of their own. He obviously still has that family and they still treat me like a member of the family. The only difference? Now I actually AM a member of the family.

We have had some very tough times during our marriage. When we moved in together we had a twin mattress on the floor of our apartment. That was all we could afford. We used an American Red Cross back board for a coffee table. It was held up by concrete blocks. For months all we ate was Ramen Noodles, Macaroni and Cheese and hot dogs. That was our food budget. We had this truly UGLY red and orange floral couch, given to us by a friend.

That difficulty paled in comparison to what happened in 1997. Just three years after being married we had our first child, Thomas William Turner. He was an 8lb 9 oz beautiful baby. Unfortunately, that beautiful boy was not destined to live a long life. He had a serious heart defect and died after a surgery that attempted to correct his many problems. He was 10 days old.

I have never recovered from that pain. The pain of losing a child is incredible. You just don’t know how to keep going once something like that happens. This beautiful baby that you are allowed to love for nine months is suddenly ripped away from you, never to return. If I hadn’t had Steve to lean on during that time I think I would have gone crazy. I was pretty close a number of times. I hope that I was as supportive of him as he was of me. My gut says no…I tried to be supportive, but he was the rock, the steady one, during our darkest times.

When we miscarried our last child he was there as well. He held me as I cried and was there while I met with the doctor who told me about the D&C procedure I needed when the baby was dead. He never left my side. He was there both before and after the procedure and I never felt alone.

He was also there for the really good times too. He was there as my number one support during the birth of each and every child. Allison, Christopher and Daniel saw Daddy before they ever saw me, that’s how involved he was in their births. He was truly amazing. I honestly couldn’t have made it through the unmedicated, natural child births I had without him. He made it so much easier for me than it could have been.

As I look back on the years we have been together, I realize that he has always been there. He brings flowers home on random occasions just to say I love you. He does laundry (which sometimes is more romantic than the flowers) and he is a FANTASTIC father. He works hard at his job and does all he can to support us AND he manages to arrange his schedule so he can be at baseball games, bring kids to karate, take days off when I’m sick and help with dinner.

Have there been times that I have been upset with him? Of course. You don’t live with someone for twenty-plus years and not get upset sometimes. Has he been upset with me? Sure. I’m not the easiest person to live with at times. Despite these difficulties, I am glad we are together. I don’t think we have a perfect marriage (who does?), but it’s perfectly ours.

Our marriage has been hard work. There have been tears, arguments, and pain. But our marriage has been fun too. We laugh, we cuddle and we talk. We hopefully show our children that you need to put more effort into your marriage than your wedding. I hope they come away with the knowledge that marriage to the right person is SOOOOO worth the work.

I know mine is.