Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nature vs. Nurture

I have heard this comparison for as long as I can remember. It has always made perfect sense to me.  There are naturally occurring parts of our personalities and our physical traits and then there are the things in and about us that change over time due to our all encompassing environment. Not only have I lived through it myself in my own upbringing, but I have it in my mind while I parent my own children. I am a firm believer that all children are born with their very specific personality. It is up to us, as parents, to recognize all the complicated parts of their individual personality. Our job is to nurture them, guide them and help them grow with their personality and be able to function with them during their lives, not to change them.

I grew up with two mothers. In order to keep this less confusing for you while I write, I will call one Mother and one Mom. My Mother gave birth to me and raised me until I was three years old. My Mom married my Father when I was three years old and they had custody of and raised me and my brothers. My Mom had two sons who were older than me. I also have two little brothers from my Mother and Father. Later, my Mom and Father gave me one more little brother. Five brother in all. The six of us all had very distinct and different personalities, most of which have stayed true to present day. Reflecting on our growing up years and raising three children of my own has given me an even deeper respect for my parents. Sometimes it boggles my mind to think of how they did it all. I was very lucky.

I am like my Mother. I physically look like her. I have her legs and feet, her closed mouth smile. I chew like her, laugh like her and move my pursed lips side to side like her while I am thinking hard. I was blessed with her beautiful singing voice and creative and crafty skills. Sometimes, when I talk, I even sound like her, especially if I slip into a little southern drawl. I love being a mother and would do almost anything for my children. My pure, raw thoughts and emotions are very similar to hers. I can not explain this one very well, but knowing her as long as I did and reading some of her letters and journals, I know I am right on. I even remember one time when I was around eighteen years old we decided to arm wrestle. We actually ended it at a deadlock, neither of us could budge the other. Similar strength.

I was not raised by my Mother. When I was three I went to live with my Father and Mom. After this, I saw my Mother during the summer breaks while in school and over a holiday here and there. She lived thirteen hundred miles away and we were still so much alike. Nature.

I am also like my Mom. I am confident and strong, opinionated and thoughtful. I have a very strong pull towards my family and keeping all of us together. I am extremely organized and have a very strong work ethic. I know what I want and I will usually go for it, as long as it is fairly reasonable. I love music, it can move me very deeply. I physically carry myself the same way and we are often complimented on how much we look alike. We have learned to just nod, smile and say "Thank you." When I am in pain, physically, mentally or any other way it comes, you may not even know it unless you ask the right questions. I try not to burden others with my own issues, although, I am learning to try. I absolutely adore being a mother and would do anything for my children.

My Mom did not give birth to me yet our similarities rival those between my Mother and I. I was able to see my Mom nearly everyday and it shows in my everyday life, even now. I am grateful to have had her raise me. I would not be the same person I am now if she had not been my Mom from such a young age. I love my Mother dearly, but I do know there were some weaknesses in her personality that I would have absorbed too deeply into myself. I mean no disrespect to my Mother, please do not misunderstand. All I mean is that if she had raised me we would have been exactly alike. I will not get into all of the details of her life but I can say that she had many very meaningful struggles for so many different reasons throughout her life and my similar personality tendencies would have brought me in the same directions. Being raised by my Mom allowed me to keep some of my Mother's traits while being slightly overpowered by some stronger traits. I am forever grateful. Nurture.

Living through all of this personally has made me a better mother to my own children, in my opinion. I was blessed with two sons who could not be more opposite than the other. I have called them my salt and pepper babies. My oldest has brown hair and eyes and naturally tan skin that he inherited from his father. My eleven year old has red hair and hazel eyes along with my very fair skin and a few freckles. One got my crooked teeth and one got their father's straight teeth. One got my poor vision and the other got 20/20. The personalities they were born with are completely opposite, too. One is athletic, eager to please, sensitive, temperamental, lovingly kind and not afraid of a little hard work. The other is creative and imaginative, very sharing, argumentative, stubborn, walks to his own beat and is a little afraid of hard work. They are both amazing individuals and I am proud to know them. I am lucky to be a part of their lives and guide them every day.

How do I do this? Carefully. The athlete is allowed to be one as long as his grades stay up and the sport remains fun. The imaginative one is encouraged and complimented when he creates something new. The temperamental one is made to take a step back, take a deep breath and think about the current situation. The argumentative one is made to pause, maybe apologize and be a bit more respectful. I am actually encouraging him to try out for the debate team when he gets to a grade level that offers it. There is a time and place for arguing and it is not always a bad thing, it just needs to be channelled in the proper direction. There are so many pieces to each of them. I do not want to stifle or change them. My goal is to teach them to grow with, accept and use the natural talents they were each born with. I have to be extremely patient. I think I am. None of this is something I feel you can be taught. I worry at times that I may be doing some of these things wrong.  I honestly make a lot of this up as I go. I use my instincts, my gut feelings. I have to do things a little bit different for each of them while still trying to remain fair. I can only try to do the best I can and stay true to myself.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Head Over Heels

In March it will have been ten years since the man of my dreams walked into my life and flipped my world upside down. The day I met him is the only time I remember ever being truly speechless. I was not expecting him. I was not ready for him. I was definitely not looking for him. Yet he found me all the same. I am so glad he did.

I was so unhappy. I had given up on my own happiness. I will not go in to the nitty-gritty details of my problems back then because I love my sons and I respect their relationship with their father. I will say that I was holding on for the sake of my two children no matter what it cost me mentally, physically and socially. I had recently started a new job and went back to school. I would go to work during the day and go straight home to the kids when I was done. I did not attempt to build new relationships with my coworkers at first. Over a few months I began to make new friends and become more involved. It was nice to have peers again. I started to believe I was worth something. I was getting my long lost confidence back. It still was not enough of a push.

Then one day in March of 2002, while I was working and minding my own business, my coworker pointed behind me and said, "Look, there's the new guy." I turned around and I couldn't speak. I actually turned a little red in the face. There was an amazing guy walking right by me to go fill out his new hire paperwork. I stood there like an idiot. My coworker thought this was very funny and pointed and laughed at me. I think I even spilled a little clam chowder on her to shut her up. I was in a long term committed relationship. I knew there was nothing I would do about this but I am human and he was gorgeous. A little bit of excitement in an otherwise dull day.

For the next couple of months I got to know him a little better. He was such a great guy and was absorbed into our close knit group of friends very quickly. He fit right in. I was developing a little bit of a crush even. Yikes! I respect committed relationships and I would never cheat on someone. I have always felt very strongly about this for reasons I will not discuss. I remember there was one night we were at work together and I had a psychology project I was working on for college. I interviewed him as one of my subjects and we got to talking afterwards. We admitted to one another that we had crushes on each other. We also discussed how we were both in serious relationships and that our partners were important to us. It was truly a harmless conversation but one I will never forget. It unintentionally changed me in ways I did not know until years later.

Someone actually found me attractive. I was not a used-up, good for nothing, girl with baggage. Someone found me interesting. Just knowing that gave me the strength to admit to myself that I did not like my life; a thought I had been burying deep down inside myself for at least five years. I woke up. I deserved better.  I did not have to settle in my situation for the rest of my life. I tasted change and I wanted more. So I changed it.

April and May of 2002 was the hardest time I have had in my whole life. The majority of the tears I have shed in my lifetime was during those two months. Not only had I decided it was time to leave my partner of seven years and change the lives of my sons forever, I lost my Grandmother and a step-sister during the same time. One to old age and one to suicide. I was a wreck. I was not leaving my Ex to be with this new guy but he did give me a wake up call to re access my world. I hope I never have to experience pain like that ever again.

My life has been uphill ever since. I had no intention of being in a new relationship so quickly after my last had ended. But, within a couple months we were inseparable. It was so easy with him. I decided that I was not going to let what happened in my past jeopardize my future with him. The timing was not our fault. I could not let this wonderful man slip away, I just had to be careful how we proceeded because I had two beautiful young boys to consider and I did not want to put them through any more trauma. I knew he was "the one". I even told a friend that I was going to marry him someday. I didn't introduce him to my boys until October 2002. I had him over for a spaghetti dinner and then he left. We took it slowly with the kids. We agreed that they did not need another father but that a decent male role model is always a good thing. When the boys were home with me, we were apart and when the boys went to their father's, we were together. We made it work.

Fast forward nearly ten years, I still adore him. He is my match in every way; we fit like puzzle pieces. All the pain of my past was worth it just to get me to this place. We were married in June of 2008. We wrote our own vows and one of my main points was that he lets me be the Mom I always wanted to be. That is huge to me. He accepts me for who I am in every way. I am happy everyday to wake up next to him, to share my children with him and to continue to build the life we have. I love you, Allen. Thank you for everything and being you. Beep beep.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A day in the life...

Most of my days are full. I could always use more time. Others have asked me, as I have asked myself, why don't I exercise, sing in a band anymore or go to hosted parties to buy random jewelry, kitchen products or purses? Why don't I go shopping for the groceries and get it all out of the way so I can have the weekend off? Why can't I be a bit more spontaneous? Truthfully, most days I feel like I do not have the time or even the energy. For example, today I have been going nonstop for over thirteen hours and I can not begin to imagine running off to the gym to sweat it all out or stand around singing for a couple hours trying to be creative and inspiring. I do not feel as though I would be social enough to go and sit around making small talk with a room full of mostly strangers in order to buy something that I may or may not end up using. On occasion, I will go out and do different things during the week but most of the time I am just not up for it. Don't get me wrong. I am not asking anyone not to invite me because I know that each day is a new one and there is always going to be hope. I am also not saying that I do not desire to go and do all of these interesting activities. That would be silly. I want to be fun and social. I want to enjoy time away from home doing things with peers and family. I'm just tired.

A typical day for me begins at 7:00 A.M. I get up, get dressed and do the normal morning hygiene routines. I make sure my boys are on track for the morning. I see that they made a balanced bag lunch, that the necessary school items are being set by the front door and make sure that their teeth, hair and clothes are presentable enough and weather appropriate. I make sure our three pets had potty breaks and breakfast, too. I get the toddler out of bed and ready to go off to daycare. We are usually out the door between 7:50 A.M. and 8:00 A.M. My oldest usually walks to school and my middle child rides along with me to the daycare so we can drop off my sweet baby girl. Once at daycare, I pick up the daycare lady's son, who happens to be my eleven year old's best friend, and swing them by their school on my way to work where I clock in at 8:15 A.M.

I work a full eight hours with a half hour lunch break. I haven't had much down time at work since last May. I keep very busy, which is good. Sometimes I have to remind myself to breathe, though. Remember, I'm working on the whole "stress" thing. My lunch breaks are usually spent keeping up with my personal life organization. I pay bills online, check grades for the boys, make any calls or e-mails to who ever I may need to on any given day, like the vet or the squirrel removal people (don't ask). I make all the family medical appointments, fill out any forms or paperwork we may need done and anything and everything else I may need to do that I can squeeze into thirty minutes while eating something at the same time. Also, for the next few months I am actually leaving work two hours early on Thursdays to volunteer at my sons' school as their Destination Imagination coach. I am coaching two teams totaling seven kids.

After work I usually pick up the little one from daycare on my way home. Most of the time she is very happy to see me, but if she is in a cranky mood she is not. I get home between 5:00 P.M. and 5:10 P.M. Once in the front door I am greeted with three much needed hugs from the male members of my household. That is one of the highlights of my daily life. I also get to feel like Snow White as the animals come up to get their turns, too. I may or may not have to scold a son for not doing the chore they were assigned. I usually have to walk around and pick up miscellaneous items that have been left all over during the previous twenty four hours and get them near their proper places while making my way to my room in order to change into my comfortable clothes. Once I am changed it is time to cook dinner for the family. I do not always know what's for dinner, I make a lot of things up. I enjoy cooking most of the time. I find it very therapeutic and it feels so good to sit at the table with my loved ones and have a meal together while talking about our day. Although, there are days, every once in a while, when I just need to order a pizza.

After dinner we all clean up. There may be homework, projects, bubble baths, play time, etc. My baby girl is off to bed between 7:00 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. My boys have reading time in bed from 9:30 P.M. and 10:00 P.M. and then it is "lights out." By this time I am beat. I am lucky if I have the energy to squeeze in some bonding time with my husband. We may sit back to watch a show or movie, sit around and talk for a while or enjoy other things that married couples do. (wink) Some days I just want to curl up in my warm comfy bed and read a book until I fall asleep. Sigh.

I was joking with a girlfriend the other day. You know the shows on television that have to do with "Real Housewives of Whatever County"? I think we should have our own show about "The Real Housewives of Anoka County". It would probably be a very boring show. We all like each other, we don't back-stab one another, we live normal lives and have nice children. Our spouses are decent men and our jobs are real work. I don't think a network in the world would take the risk because our ratings would be so low. There is no drama or glamour, no money or fame. This is all in jest, of course, but I thought it was pretty funny. Who would want to sit around and watch me be me for an hour while I chill on my couch and blog. Ha! Because honestly, that is all I have the energy for tonight.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Serenity Now!

Serenity means to be free of stress and anxiety. I wonder what that is like. It sounds quite nice.

I could use some serenity in my life. I have more stress than I care to admit quite often. I have also been known to have my share of anxiety attacks. It is usually my own fault. I put too much pressure on myself, want everything to be perfect and hold myself to ridiculous standards. I am aware of this and consciously battle inside myself to keep it in check. I am now, and always have been, a extremely independent person. There was a time in my life when I began to feel this part of myself slipping away. I was able to remedy my situation and get this quality back. Although, I am realizing now that while striving for this independence I have brought some extra self-imposed stress into my life.

My house is not as clean as I wish it were. I have very recently come to terms with this. I have not given up but I am now cutting myself a little slack. I have a husband, three children, a dog, two cats, a full time job and I currently volunteer at the school two hours each week. Housework is just one example of where I am currently making an effort to be less stressed. It will get cleaned eventually.

This brings us back to "serenity." I am literally bringing serenity into my life. Starting this Saturday, my husband and I will be playing a role playing game called Serenity with nine other friends. We will meet every other Saturday night until March 31st. That is seven Saturday nights away from my three wonderful children. For those of you who do not know me well, this is a HUGE step . I realized last night that by beginning this game I will be doing something I have not done for myself in nearly fourteen years. I have not been away from my kids on a regularly scheduled basis to do something for myself since I became a mother at twenty years of age. I would be lying to you if I said I was not a little freaked out. I am not sure how the time got away from me. I do know that being a mom is one of my favorite things in life, I just didn't mean for becoming one to consume me. This experience will hopefully help me to let go a bit and be a good thing for me and my understanding husband to do together.

The game should be a fun time. There was a show on for a while called Firefly. They later made a movie to wrap things up called Serenity. It was a kind of western set in the future outer space. Adventure, drama and comedy all wrapped into one. We all have our own characters that we have created based on the story line of the shows and will meet and play out outlandish scenarios given to us by the leader of the game. To some this will sound very geeky but I am looking forward to the time with good friends. I am nervous to leave my kids for so many nights but also know that by doing this I will push more stress right out of my life. My daughter will get to spend some quality bonding time with a few of her grandparents and my sons will have some time away from me with friends or possibly being trusted home alone. We will all grow from this. I am scared and excited at the same time. Serenity now!