The Gift of Sincerity – A Guest Post

The following is a guest post from my friend, my sister from another life.  The fact that she can concentrate long enough to write this while raising like 457 kids – makes her a hero.  She blogs (not enough) at http://kittyhague.blogspot.com/.

Last night, as I was reveling in the comfort of finally sinking into my soft cozy bed (seriously… if you don’t have a bed that is absolutely heavenly you owe it to yourself to make it that way. Even if you have to eat Ramen for a month. Make your bed the most awesome place…ever.) Anyway, I was laying there with nothing to think about except how good my new fabric softener smelled when my husband (who was obviously less affected by the bliss which was our bed) says to me, “If you could teach the kids one thing that they really grasped and held onto… what would it be?”

Damnit.

Why must he be philosophical at bedtime? Always. I mean, Always.?

I considered faking sleep… but I know him. It wouldn’t have mattered. He wasn’t going to let it go. I wiped the drool that was already beginning to pool on the pillow side of my mouth (yes, I’m a habitual sleep-drooler) and began the process of clearing the cobwebs. My first thought was “I would like to teach them that when someone has spent all day mothering seven children and a man-child and she has finally climbed into her happy place and engulfed herself in Mountain Sunshine scented bliss;  if you love her…even a little bit… you should never, ever, wake her to ask her to participate in a conversation for any purpose other than the prevention of the death of an immediate family member. If the house is on fire… try to put it out yourself, call the fire department, evacuate all the children to the pre-determined meet up spot, and THEN come ask her if she would rather get out of bed… or wait a little bit to see if it burns out on its own.”

That was clearly the cobwebs speaking though. So I bit my tongue and gave myself another moment.

What would I want my children to really take to heart of I could teach them one thing.

“Sincerity”, was my answer. The importance of being sincere. Always.

See, children are born with a perfect understanding of sincerity. It is natural to them. It is why we all roll our eyes and joke that “Kids say the darndest things…”. Kids don’t say they “darnedest” things. Kids are honest, and kids are sincere, and that strikes us as funny. Unfiltered sincerity makes us a little uncomfortable… so we laugh about it and chalk it up to kids being kids. Somewhere along the way, as kids grow up, we teach them that sincerity is not a good thing. Kids will say something honest and we correct them.

“I don’t want to play with Johnny. He breaks my toys because he plays too rough with them, and he smells bad.”

How many parents first reaction is to say, “Now now… don’t be mean. Johnny can’t help that he smells bad. It isn’t nice to say that. He doesn’t mean to break your toys… you need to be nice and share with him.”

Here’s what the response should have been. “You know, you’re right. Johnny does stink. Maybe his mom didn’t teach him to wipe his bum properly. Maybe he doesn’t brush his teeth as often as he should.  I will talk to Johnny’s mom about it and see if maybe she can help Johnny out.”

No… I’m being serious.  Honestly, it would probably be best for Johnny and his mom to know that people are talking about his smell… wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t they then be able to take measures to correct it so that Johnny isn’t the smelly kid….forever? In theory, most of us believe that. But it is really hard to be the one to tell Mrs Smelly Kid that there is a problem. Its easier to just fake it.

And what about the broken toys? Is it okay to force our kids to allow other people to mistreat their belongings? Society, with a few awesome exceptions, tells us that we must teach our children to share. But sharing when it is forced, isn’t sharing at all. What we are telling our kids, when we force them to share with someone they have deemed unfit to use their belongings, is that their happiness is less important than the happiness of others.

Some argue that is a noble idea; teaching that the happiness of others should always come before your own happiness. They teach that selflessness is the most favorable of all attributes in a perfect society. I disagree…but that is another rant, entirely.

If a child has a valid reason for not wanting to share, why would we force them to share?

Kids who are told over, and over and over again that it isn’t “nice” to be honest or that their needs come after everyone else’s needs are being set up for failure in what can be a harsh world.

If I could teach my kids one thing that they would really hold on to and apply every single day, it would be that you should always say what you believe. Even if it seems mean. Even if it isn’t popular. Even if it makes you, or others uncomfortable. We say, “honestly is the best policy” and yet most of us don’t actually believe it. Most of us believe “to pacify is the best policy”… let’s make everything smooth and easy and comfortable. There, that’s nice isn’t it?

But that isn’t what life is about. Life isn’t about making everyone like us, all the time. Life is much bigger, and much more important than the opinions of others. Life is about making hard choices, and making real progress. It is about trials and failures and successes and heart breaks. How can we ever hope to know ourselves, to make any change for good in this world, or to affect anything of importance if we fear the consequences of sincerity?

I want my children to be happy. I want them to have friends…real friends. Friends who value them as forces of nature; strong and kind and independent and honest… not friends who like them because they are doormats. I want them to know, and understand, and apply every single day, the idea that if everyone likes you… there is a good chance that you have never stood for anything.

And as I felt my “Philosopher husband’ twitch next to me, I realized I had lost him at the Smelly Kid.

Pfffft… Amatuer.

Freedom!

I sing.  When I am alone.  Normally, in my car.  If the kids are with me – they get pretty irritated and downright bitchy when I am belting out my renditions of my favorite songs.  So, I sing alone – because its fun, right?

When I was younger, my friends and I would go out bar-hopping and dance the night away.  So much so that my thighs would ache the enxt day, as if I just ran a marathon.

I cannot say that the dancing was good – but it was dancing nonetheless.

Now I am an ahem adult.  A mom.  I don’t dance anymore.  And I sing alone.

Yesterday, I watched my 5-year-old daughter playing in the yard, bare feet being tickled by freshly cut grass,  singing and dancing her heart out.

I am sure she was pretending to be a ballerina, and I also think that in her mind – she sounded like Adele.  She sang loud.  And proud.  And she danced with grace.

But mostly what I noticed as I watched her from my perch, was the freedom with which she sung and danced.  She didn’t care if anyone was looking or listening.  She was comfortably secure in her own world and her small body was expressing itself to match her mood. She was FREE.  Free like the bird flying high overhead, free like a dolphin exploring the deepest part of the ocean.  F.R.E.E.

One of the beautiful things about children, is that they always act out their moods and emotions.  When they are happy – THEY ARE HAPPY.  They laugh too loud, sing too proud, dance with their bodies and minds in ways that adults can’t do without the influence of alcohol.

One of my teen daughters does this same thing.  She will take off on the golf cart out into the pasture with her Iphone and headphones and sing as if she is trying to push her tunes high up to the Heavens.  I can sit on the porch and hear the echoes of her freedom ringing in the air.  In those moments, she TOO, is experiencing, what I can only describe as FREEDOM. Beautiful, flawless freedom.

Yesterday, I was sitting outside my kid’s school waiting for the bell to ring when the music teacher brought her 4th graders outside to learn a new song in the fresh fall air.  The class paired up, and most of the kids were singing their hearts out.  I cannot even remember the song – but I can remember watching the freedom, the safety, the comfort these 9 year olds felt with their own voice.  Their confidence that has not yet been stolen.

It.  Was.  Beautiful. 

And while this was going on, my 5-year-old – completely unaware that there was 30 4th graders in near proximity was chatting to herself and dancing.

And then, there was me.  Sitting on the bench, worried that I had a booger hanging out of my nose – and concerned that all ‘these people’ (who I could really give two shits about) were seeing me in my ‘not so nice’ sweatpants and hoodie, without make-up.  (The Horror RIGHT!)

The song in my head was one that was the polar opposite of freedom. The dance of my body was closed, and SAFE.  And guarded.

There comes an age when singing and dancing become lost arts.  There comes a time in life when we become self-conscious, and embarrassed, and insecure.  There comes a time when we silence our songs, and disturb the natural rhythm of our bodies to dance and move to the tune of how we feel.

Rather than simply react, live in the moment, give in to how we feel – we navigate, control and try to remain politically correct.  After all, if I stood outside the school dancing and twirling around, singing Cold Hearted, at the top of my lungs, there’s a good chance that the people with straight jackets might show up to take me away.

Slowly but surely, I am seeing less cartwheels and curious spins and singing and FREEDOM from my children as they grow up.  Even though I have always tried to encourage their freedom and confidence, the world is slowly but surely chipping away at their freedom.  And seriously, how sad is that?

One of these days, I am going to reclaim my freedom and record myself singing and dancing and then post it to You-Tube. (Don’t hold your breath!) And I wont worry about how much ya’ll will laugh at me, but will instead try to catch just a moment of real, true and honest freedom.

When is the last time you truly felt FREEDOM?

 

Stay at Home Guilt

On days like today, where the routine 6am wake-up is met with rumbling thunder and the pitter patter of rain on our metal roof, I always feel sorry for my husband. 

As a UPS man, the man in brown – constantly serving the world with the “What can BROWN do for you” salutation – I know he will spend the day like a wet duck in soggy socks and squishy shoes.  Luckily, today it is pleasant outside, so at least he wont be freezing his butt off, or steaming like a pot of hot chili in humid 90+ degree temperatures.

During the summer when he comes home around 8:30pm (if he’s lucky), his brown uniform layered in a white smudge of salt from the sweat of his own body - he is oh so tired.  While the kids and I have spent the day frolicking in the pool or pausing in the air-conditioning, he has spent his time amongst nose picking, cell-phone using distracted drivers, rude customers and battling a freakishly tight logistics schedule - delivering three or four hundred boxes a day.  Each one being lifted and hoisted by his muscles.

During the weeks leading up to Christmas, he is out till all hours of the night- often not seeing the kids awake for several weeks at a time (except for weekends), even on Christmas Eve, making sure last-minute gifts arrive happily at their destination.  And in the freezing cold winter, he is again – subject to the conditions that Mother Nature throws his way, while the kids and I are toasty warm at home.

As a stay at home mom, it is sometimes difficult for me to feel sorry for myself, or to honestly invest in the ‘woe is me,’ ‘my life sucks,’ “I need a freakin’ break” drudgery that is common in the stay at home mom community.  I don’t mean to be a trader, but when I compare my life with that of my husbands – I think I got the better end of the deal, even if my offspring sometimes suck the life and joy right out of me and even if I don’t get paid.

Yes, the four kids drive me insane much of the time.   Yes, I have given up 15 years of developing a career, don’t have a 401K or retirement and havent earned enough in my lifetime to qualify for disability.  Yes, I don’t get a lot of breaks (okay NONE at all) from the children, and I am 100% responsible for providing them everything they need during the course of a day – from the moment they wake up till they go to sleep.  I do all the cleaning and all the cooking.  I am the one responsible for signing every paper, helping with homework, mediating arguments, paying the bills, getting the kids to the 6 million places they need to be every week.  Since my twins were 2 weeks old and my husband returned to work, I have been the one who is the sole caregiver, getting up for every feeding and changing nearly every diaper.

Since I stay home, and my husband works excruciating hours, I have never felt like he should pitch in around the house, have certain nights that he should make dinner, or be ‘giving’ me breaks. (No one gives HIM a break!) But he does get paid vacation.

I don’t go to girls night out, take off on vacations on the weekends, and rarely – if ever – go anywhere by myself. If painting, or plumbing, or fixing needs to be done around the house – I do it, so that he can enjoy the short hours that he gets to be with us.  (Most of which is taken up with softball practice for the two (or 3) teams that he single-handedly coaches).

In the evenings, when my husband gets home – the house is clean, the kids and I are snuggled in the living room relaxing, and he has a plate in the microwave waiting.  By the time he kisses every forehead, the lot of us are ready to go to bed, and he is just removing his soggy socks and hoping that his shoes dry out before he has to return to work in the morning.

All of this makes it very difficult for me to complain about MY JOB.  Especially because he NEVER complains about his.

When he comes home and I am completely crazy, pulling my hair out – and general pissy because the kids have acted like assholes all day long, I tend to ‘try’ and keep it to myself.  Venting my frustration when I have spent the day WITH the people I love, in the comforts of my HOME (even without a paycheck) seems selfish.  Oh trust me, there are days when I wish I could trade places with him – and I am pretty certain that he would throw in the towel of being a stay at home parent after one week.

But right now, as I type this – I am completely dry, enjoying a cup of hyper caffeinated coffee having just finished a great workout.  The house is cool, and quiet and Wendy Williams is on the background.  Dinner is in the crock-pot.  In a few minutes I will shower.  The kids wont be driving me freaking crazy again for a few hours. And he is out traipsing around in the pouring rain and won’t be dry again until sometime late tonight.

Stay at home guilt!?  Ever feel it?

 

SCREW the SWEEPING –

I grew up in a clean home.  Even today, my mother is one of the most orderly and organized people that I know.  Every thing in her home has a place, and every THING is always in its place.  I have to admit, there are times when I envy her organizational skills, especially now that I have a family of 6 living in a small home.

Still, growing up in a very strategic and controlled environment has taken its toll on me.  I have regrettably, never been one of those mama’s who could just leave the toys out on the living room floor after the kids were done playing.  I don’t go to bed at night with a sink full of dishes, and have slowly, over time graduated to a simple, but diligent routine of cleanliness that I perform every day.

It’s pretty much always the same – and the ‘routine’ of it makes me feel very comfortable.  I drop the kids off at school, clean up breakfast dishes, start dinner, sweep the kitchen, living room, hallway and bathroom, vacuum the throw rugs, dust off things, put laundry in and bleach all the counters and disinfect the bathroom.  This whole cleaning process takes me about an hour, which really isn’t much in the course of a day.

The problem is when I don’t do these things, I feel out of sorts.  Once, I even posted the poem about a ‘messy house being a symbol of family happiness’ on my fridge to remind me that disorder and chaos would be okay.  (It didn’t work!)

I attribute a messy house to environmental chaos.  This probably has a lot to do with my upbringing.  When I am surrounded by environmental chaos, I have a difficult time doing my job (which is creative), relaxing, or being productive in my day.  It’s stupid, I know.  The kids – as they have gotten older have taken to sort of laughing at me, and call me OCD or anal.  “Geez mom, why does it matter if the floors are swept,” they will say in disgust when they seem me searching for the broom.

The other day, after reading a snippet from The Libertarian Homeschooler, shared by a friend on Facebook – it hit me how much my cleanliness was about control.  My environment is the one thing I feel that I CAN control on a daily basis.  The kids are all wild cards, and it is not my desire to control them in any way, but rather to support and love them.  All of the other people in this world are vehicles of their own free will.

The problem is most of the things that we claim to ‘control’ in actuality control us.

The house, the sweeping, the cleaning – is something that I can control.  It is also something that I have taken to defining myself by.  I have subconsciously fell victim to generalizations such as “A good mom has a clean home!”  I worry if the house was a mess, it would look like I am not doing a good job at being a work at home/stay at home mom.

And, the energy and time spent cleaning helps me to blow off steam and generally vent nervous energy that is cooped up in my brain.

However, I decided after reading the snippet, that I had to be able to ‘let go’ of the clean floors and perceptions of environmental chaos so that I could enjoy my life a little more.  So I said, “SCREW THE SWEEPING” and refused to pick up a broom for the entire weekend.  Every time I saw cookie crumbs and pieces of dirt, I resisted my instinct to lift feet and clean underneath them – and instead chose to ignore the incidental messes.

By Sunday evening, the house really wasn’t a mess.  At all. 

The world did not end.  (Much to my surprise!)

I did not need a Xanax to keep my nerves in order.  (Either that or my perception had altered a little).  I didn’t feel jittery or uncomfortable, and realized that taking a break from the so-called and chosen duties of being a stay at home mother was liberating.  I gave up control – and realized that everything was still absolutely okay.  Instead of being resentful that I am always the one cleaning and tidying up, I enjoyed just being with my family and not worrying about the residue that results from 4 pairs of feet LIVING in my home.

Yes, stupid insight from something as trivial as sweeping, I know.   But 15 years as a stay at home mother ALTERS your sense of reality!  And hopefully, now I can learn to focus my attention on things that are more important to me personally.

To the People I want to Punch in the Face

I don’t normally have anger issues. I really don’t. (I swear I have never even spanked my kids – which isn’tt to say they haven’t deserved it from time to time) I can always manage a way to find the Zen moments in life and tend to lean toward the friendly yang rather than his evil twin sister yin. (Yin-yang, get it? LOL)

At any rate, it seems that the last few days – oh hell weeks, there have been more than a few people that have royally pissed me off. So much so, that I thought about hanging piñatas throughout my house to fulfill the innate desire I have to punch these folks in the face. Because punching folks in the face is not really a viable option. (Is it?)

Today, I figured I would vent the best way I know how. Writing! I don’t care if the people who have peed on my cheerios as of late find twisted satisfaction from the knowing that they have managed to sway my peace loving ship toward the dark side. I’m calling all of you out!

 

  • First, but certainly not least on my list, is the nice satellite television  provider that I have been doing business with for, oh say — 15  YEARS!  (Insert screams) When you  say you are going to be at my house between 8am  and noon, don’t call me at 4pm to ask me where the hell I am?  Do these idiots have any idea what a rainy summer day is like cooped up in a home with 4 children without television.  And seriously, I got up early – put on a  stinking bra and waited around all morning for you to get here. Screw you…

 

  • To the  nice people over at Keurig.  I was  super excited when I received one of your expensive (but oh so delicious) coffee pots for Christmas.  But….I  have been waiting on a replacement part that you told me you were shipping for FREE for 3 months now.  In the meantime, I bought a $10 coffee  pot.  5, yes 5 phone calls later and the part is still on its way. (Sort of like the checks in the mail if you  ask me)  Supposedly, it has been mailed on 4 different occasions.  I imagine that someone in Indonesia  is wondering why the heck they keep receiving an itty-bitty washer from  Keurig, because they certainly haven’t shipped it to my house.  Idiots!  For a $120 coffee pot, I expected better customer service.

 

  • To my  family.  Hello, do any of you see the trash on the floor?  I’m literally tripping over empty soda cans, and stepping on potato chip  crumbs while you ALL act as if I am completely insane when I tell you to pick up your trash. And for the  record, I see the Little Debbie wrappers in between the couch cushions. 

 

  • The  fools who drive their tractors on the road, carrying hay, going like 6 mph  down one lane roads, when I have somewhere to be.  Even if I didnt have somewhere to be, this would annoy me.  Could YOU MOVE over and let those of us driving real vehicles by you?  Because NO, I don’t find your tractor  sexy. (Now Kenny Chesney, he’s sexy)

 

  • I don’t  have a degree in technology.  And sometimes, well I just need to speak to a live person on the phone to help me with my  troubles.  Someone who speaks  English.  I have decided to completely boycott all the online companies that REFUSE to display their  phone number, or that constantly redirect you to some phony support tab.  And if I have to call at 5am, just to get a customer service person on the phone that speaks English because you are taking advantage of foreign workers – you lost my vote too.

 

  • The complete morons at the new store hosting a Grand OPENING, who thought they  only needed one person to work the register.  Really? Sort of like throwing a frat party with a 6 pack of beer.  (Boy do those folks need a woman running things)

 

And sadly, this is just THIS weeks vents!! 

So tell me, who has pissed you off later.   

 

 

 

Shut the Hell UP! (Please)

It’s 8pm.  And so far today, I havent experienced five seconds of quiet.  The first thing I heard this morning when I woke up was an alarm clock beeping in my right ear.  And everything from that point forward has had me wishing, hoping, praying even – that my ears would be silenced for just a few minutes. Even the bathroom isn’t a suitable escape.

One of the things that no one ever told me about motherhood was how noisy it is.  The kids are always making noise.  They crave noise – which to me is an utter distraction to the peace that exists in my head.  They are listening to music, singing, asking questions, talking, bickering, all out arguing, watching television, playing games on their Ipods,while I am suffering from noise overload.

‘Right now, Spongebob’s voice is driving me insane in the background and my phone is making annoying twittles to alert me that someone, or something needs me. It’s 8pm people!  just go away already!

The last time I heard silence, was last week when tornadoes ripped through a town just a few miles north of where I live.  In the moments before the storm, I sat huddled with my kids watching the funnel cloud and hoping that it would miss my house.  And in that moment, the entire world around me was hushed of sound – or even air.  But dammit, I couldn’t enjoy it then because I was scared out of my gourd. 

So the noise, the sounds….continue.  I have to admit that there are moments when I wish everyone would just be quiet for 5 minutes.

But I also know that in the silence will probably come loneliness.  So for today I fore-go the urges to tell everyone to shut the hell up and I listen. Intently and sometimes with admitted annoyance at the sounds of my life.