I have relationships on the brain. I think many Americans do. In the aftermath of a highly contentious election, I observe people from all sides publicly and privately sorting through the complex ways this political cycle has affected their relationships. It got me thinking further about the mindset I bring to my own interactions.
As a child, I was incredibly sensitive with an overwhelming need to be liked and included. I would often take things personally and want to find the path to acceptance with everybody. Through the years, I learned that we are drawn naturally into friendships with some people, and less so with others. I also learned that there are people who most likely will never be your friend. The key to that sentence is “most likely.”
There was a time when the open-ended implications of “most likely” would stress me out. I like things tidy and compartmentalized. If it isn’t working, I want closure. I prefer to know where I stand with someone. However, relationships are a two-way street, and I can only drive the car in my lane. Plus my need for definitive boundaries does not supersede the natural fluidity of relationships over time nor does it allow room for change. Real life relationships are layered, and two people may connect on one level but completely miss on another. And the more time people have together, the more intricate it can become.
These days, I am finding freedom in allowing relationships to come and go, wax and wane, without feeling the need to define the who/what/why. There are friends whom I cherish that I haven’t seen in years, and there are people whom I would love to get to know better. I am always intending to schedule time with these folks, yet life gets in the way. Putting in effort is important, but I am accepting that just because things aren’t happening now doesn’t mean they won’t happen again someday.
Then there are the people with whom I share messy and contentious experiences, and we aren’t as close as we once were. There are also those I intentionally walked away from to escape toxicity. These packed the biggest punch for me personally, and I still mourn each break.
Rather than beating myself up or blaming someone else, though, I am recognizing that there are seasons to all relationships that don’t have to have a definitive beginning or end. I want to allow the distance, the dissonance, or the lost time to be what it is and doors to remain open for whatever the future holds while I try to grow from each experience and gain new perspective.
This really hit home for me after touching base with someone with whom I share a tumultuous history. We have had moments when I think there will be no reconnection, and then life circumstances come along to bring us back together in a meaningful way. It seems new phases bring possibilities for relationships to be reborn or evolve. Not all will, of course, but you never know.
This may sound incredibly obvious to most, but it takes practice for me, especially as I watch things play out for my children. I have seen friends come in and out of their lives, and I have witnessed situations that make me hurt for them. We have discussed how it’s OK to have different seasons for their relationships. Maybe connections need time to be rekindled, or maybe things will always have a hard limit because that is the healthiest choice. But there have been some rocky starts that have turned into great relationships as all parties have matured, and a big part of this is due to the forgiving nature of children and the willingness to start again.
In the effort to build up a child who has suffered a broken friendship, it seems easiest to say ,“It’s their loss”, or, “Who needs them?” Sometimes, we as adults do this too. But the reality is that paths often cross again. Maybe nothing will bear fruit, but what if it does? If we are open to new beginnings or willing to go back to old conversations with a fresh perspective, perhaps those relationships can grow again. And if they don’t, we can allow things to play out without cynicism knowing spring will come again someday with someone else.
How do you navigate changing relationships in your life? How do you help your children do the same?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit: Chalky Lives. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
The first time I met my future mother-in-law, she insisted on taking me shopping. She raised two sons and was hungry for female companionship. I worried about disappointing her because I am not a shopper. Department stores stress me out. I very much dislike wading through racks of fancy clothes. I rarely carry a purse, and I don’t want to go anywhere near a fragrance counter. I recognize that this is a silly, first world problem, but my mother-in-law, while frugal, loved shopping. Wanting to make a good impression, I went with her. She bought me clothing, which I accepted as graciously as I could.
Soon afterward, my husband and I moved across the country and started a family. My mother-in-law always remained involved. She visited, sent care packages, and supported us in so many ways. She encouraged me and would occasionally offer gifts that sparkled. I always appreciated her tokens, whether they were to my taste or not. I knew it was her way of female bonding.
Earlier this year after a stroke, she learned that she had advanced cancer. She made the decision to move to our area for her care, so she could spend as much time with us as possible. As we talked about goal setting for physical therapy, she kept coming back to one thing. She wanted to go to Macy’s on her own.
Let me back up a little. Many years prior, her eyesight deteriorated through macular degeneration. No longer able to drive, she relied on her husband to take her to Macy’s, often not on her terms. When she moved, she wanted to reach the point where she could hire a car and go on her own. We offered to take her, but she declined. There were so many decisions to be made about doctors, living arrangements and finances that she was unsure about, but what she was crystal clear about was the idea of going to Macy’s and looking at blouses for long as she wished without family poking around her. Macy’s became the ultimate symbol of her will to recover. Unfortunately, this outing never happened.
When she passed away, I offered to pick out the clothing for her burial. I didn’t want to select something from her limited wardrobe, so I pulled myself together and did what she wished she could do. On Halloween morning, I stood outside Macy’s in the pouring rain waiting for the doors to open. I had so many emotions running through me, and I held a warm cup of tea to steady myself. A man dressed as a banana came to unlock the door. I took that as a good omen. I was the first person in, and I walked past an army of smiling, eager sales clerks. I didn’t think I could get through explaining to them what I was looking for, so I decided to go it alone.
At first I looked for a dress, thinking I’d find something in the color she wore to my wedding which suited her so well. I walked section by section, and saw how much there was to sort through. I started to feel overwhelmed. I wanted it to be perfect, but everything felt flashy and loud. Nothing seemed like her. I worried that I was in over my head.
I took a deep breath.
She liked a touch of femininity, but she was sensible – a college professor and savvy investor. A dress was the wrong way to go. I needed a sweater and pants. I came upon a pretty cream sweater embossed with a floral pattern. It was simple yet elegant. I found black pants to go with it. Feeling emboldened, I moved to the jewelry area and picked out a pearl necklace. Lastly, I hit the shoe department. I really struggle in shoe departments, but I pushed on and decided on a pair of black flats. After rounding out the other needed items, I checked out and was on my way.
My mother-in-law was laid to rest on a beautiful, sunny fall morning. The service was intimate and heartfelt, and I think she would have enjoyed the lovely yet not ostentatious flowers. I hope she would have approved of my choice of attire. As for Macy’s, I plan to stop in now and then, wander around, think about my mother-in-law, and enjoy the sparkle. And if I do ever need to pick out a handbag, I trust that she will guide me to the perfect purchase.
Do you have a mother-in-law? What types of things do you do together to bond?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit: Diariocritico de Venezuela. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
Recently, my family and I were invited to attend the baptism and confirmation of a neighbor’s son. They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Days Saints, and they asked friends, family and neighbors to witness this special rite of passage. I am an agnostic, and we do not practice formal religion in our home, but I was excited to take my sons to support their friend.
I grew up in a Catholic community, but I reached a point when I realized that Catholicism wasn’t the right fit for me. I explored other faiths, but none stuck. However, I have a tremendous amount of respect for formal faith-based communities. I may not agree with all aspects of any given religion, but there are many things that I do agree with and that warm my heart.
Family, community, connection, support, love…these are the things that you can find playing out in houses of worship around the world.
I talk to my children about religion. We discuss the different forms that prayer can take, and the ways in which people of various faiths interpret the presence of God in their lives. We also talk about people who do not believe in God, and ways in which they can be spiritual. We have visited Christian churches, a Buddhist temple, and a Hindu monastery. We celebrate Christmas, and we spend time in the fall and winter discussing the festivals of light celebrated around the world. We have our own version of prayer in the form of secular daily intentions that we recite together.
We talk about mindfulness, morality, and being positive members of our community. I try to draw parallels about how we think on these things and how those who practice religion do.
Prior to attending the baptism, my boys and I talked about what it would mean to their friend and his religious community. I explained that it would be OK if we didn’t understand everything that happened during the service. We would go to observe, learn and show support.
It was a joyous gathering. Family members spoke and guided the service. They did a wonderful job of explaining the process to everyone there, especially those of us for whom this was new. People sang and cried happy tears. Their friend was immersed by his father in a font while everyone, especially a front row of the littlest attendees, looked on him with smiles. He became an official member of his religious community, surrounded mainly by people of his ward but also a few from the outside.
As we drove home, I asked my children what they thought. They had both had a great time. They had interesting observations and were able to talk about what they expected and how it compared to what actually happened. But overall, they knew that this was a special day for their friend, and it helped them understand his life a bit more. As a family, we are still content approaching all things spiritual in our own manner.
However, I want to make sure that while my children don’t practice religion, they are tolerant and respectful of religion. We live in a time when it is so easy to become cynical and focus on what we don’t like about someone or something.
While it is important to champion our own beliefs, it is equally important to continually learn about those who choose a different path than ours.
Opportunities like this recent one benefit us all by bringing us closer together while still allowing our differences. At the end of the day, it’s all about the larger community, and I love mine.
Do you practice religion with your children? How do you talk to your children about faiths that are different to yours?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit to the author.
We are nearing the end of summer here in the US, and I just put on my annual back to school safety puppet show for my kids. I started the practice when my eldest was just starting out, but even at ten years old, he enjoys sitting down for my Mom Production.
I came up with the idea years ago, not only to provide my kids with tips for self-care, but also to mollify my control issues.
When my first son was a toddler at home, and then a preschooler, I felt confident that I could shield him from certain dangers. However, once he started Kindergarten in the public school, I realized that there was much of his day that he would need to navigate on his own, even with support from teachers, staff and friends.
There are many lightly supervised zones where things only get noticed upon full escalation. That was hard for me to accept, but it’s life. So the talent show was born to help us both with this process, and it has stuck to this day.
I cover the big topics in an age-appropriate yet crystal clear manner:
Traveling to and from school. My kids take the bus most of the time, but there are special exceptions for playdates or activities. My puppet show covers who they are allowed to leave school grounds with, and what to do if they are unsure. This naturally brings in talking points around school staff versus unknown persons on campus, and our emergency contact list.
Private body parts. We review what they are and the fact that no one can touch, explore, or try to see anyone else’s. Not kids. Not grownups. No one. Accidental bathroom viewing aside, private parts are aptly named because they are private.
Now bathroom humor can be hilarious, but it’s important that the potty jokes are just words and do not actually cross the physical line.
Weapons. Toy weapons are not allowed at school. So guess what? Real weapons aren’t either. No guns or knives or cross bows or spears or anything of the like, whether it’s real or Nerf. If anyone has one with them, talks about having one hidden at the school or about bringing it to school, it needs to be reported.
Food, drugs, and alcohol. The bottom line is that food and drinks cannot be shared at school. This may sound harsh, but there are too many variables that could go wrong. Teacher-approved birthday treats and school bought lunches aside, you need to stick with what you brought. Some kids have allergies. Some kids need to take medicine. Some kids like to experiment with grown up stuff like beer and cigarettes even if it’s bad for them. So to make sure everyone has the right stuff that won’t harm them, don’t take food or anything consumable from other kids, and don’t share your own. We can plan snack parties and picnics together outside of the school day.
I know it sounds like a lot, but trust me, when hilarious looking puppets are walking you through it, times flies and giggles abound. But how much of this actually sinks in? Probably not all of it, but I do know that a few take-aways stick.
Those include tattling versus helping, the things that have a hard line you cannot cross, and when in doubt, talk with the staff in the school office.
Will my kids always make the choices I want them to? Probably not. However, when things do come up, we have a foundation from which to build. I will continue to do the back to school safety puppet show as long as my kids will sit down and watch. I am hoping to make it to college.
How do you prepare your kids for going back to school? Do you or your school address safety topics?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit is to the author.
This summer my family went an overnight backpacking trip to a gorgeous meadow tucked in the mountains. Our party included me, my husband, my 10-year-old son, my 6-year-old son, and our dog. Our journey included walking 12 miles and climbing 2000 feet of elevation while carrying everything we needed. We have done this type of camping in the past with our kids, but this was the farthest distance to date for their little legs. My older son carried a proper pack with his own gear the entire way. My younger son carried a small pack filled with stuffed animals for about 1 hour of the trip before handing it off, but he managed to go the distance on his own two feet.
Trips like this are a ton of work, and truth be told, there were as many thorny moments as there were rosy. We were all so exhausted and crabby at one point that I was tempted to question whether the effort was worth it. But like all big undertakings with children, I believe you put in the time and roll with the ups and downs in order to build a better next time. Or as my husband and I discussed, we needed to let them be maniacs and mess up so they could learn from experience, even at the expense of peaceful communion with nature.
Our biggest challenges:
BUGS – The flies were awful, and the kids spent most of the time in a tent playing cards to avoid being bitten. I was not so lucky: I got a nasty bite on my back. The natural bug repellent I brought in an attempt to avoid harsh chemicals around the kids did absolutely nothing. So while we did not do a ton of exploring at our destination, a champion of Crazy Eights was decided amid a glorious setting.
DEER – I have encountered many deer throughout my life, but never have I seen deer so interested in humans. They visited our campsite regularly, at least 30 times. Our dog was not pleased and felt the need to alert us continually throughout the night. We had very little sleep because of those deer, but it was a clear reminder that we were guests in their home.
HEAT – We were on the eastern side of a mountain range where it was blazing hot. We were so dry and covered with dirt that several hand washings once we got back to town still didn’t feel like enough. We live on the western side of the mountains, which is known for the dark, damp climate, so a little heat goes a long way with me. I was ready to retreat back to our cool, shady corner.
The time to and from the car was a little over 24 hours, but it felt like days. That said, we did create some wonderful memories. We got to enjoy marmots whistling in the evening while the sun set over the mountain peaks. We imparted important back country skills to our boys around bathroom etiquette and water treatment. We slept under the stars and woke up in a meadow of wild flowers. We celebrated the accomplishment of seeing a place that you can only access on foot. We had an adventure that will hopefully serve as a building block for the adventures to come. And for that next adventure, I am definitely packing an arsenal of bug spray.
Tell us about a building block type of undertaking with your kids. What did you/they learn from it, and how did it go the next time?
This has been an original post for World Moms Blog by Tara B. Photo credits to the author.