I got my first taste of the New World Order a couple of years ago. A mom with a daughter in Princess Galen’s preschool class and an older son moved from the city, which she loved, to the dreaded suburbs because her son didn’t get into the Kindergarten programs she’d applied to. That was my first sign we weren’t in Kansas anymore.
I don’t know about you, but when I was 5, I went to the elementary school down the street. Kindergarten was optional and half a day. I even walked to school and home again by myself (but that’s another blog!). Now Kindergarten is a bit more serious, as in applying-for-college serious.
Princess Galen is going to a public school, which means I could cut out all the private school rigamarole, although I know so many parents applying to private schools I could probably submit applications in my sleep. Believe it or not, where I live, you apply for public school too. The Houston Independent School District has school choice, which means you don’t have to go to your zoned school. You can apply to other schools in the district with special magnet or gifted programs with specialities in fine arts, literacy, science, technology, or music.
I really like our zoned school, but I still felt like I’d better tour a few of the other elementaries that caught my attention. That’s right. I toured elementary schools. Then I had to fill out applications. Lots of applications. And there were forms and surveys to fill out. PG had to take a test one Saturday morning. It was all vaguely reminiscent of the whole college application process.
But through it all, I didn’t stress because I knew even if we didn’t get into any of the school where we applied, I was perfectly happy sending her to our zoned school. I even toured it! It would have been on my list regardless. And that was when the school district decided to shake up my world and change the enrollment policy for a few crowded elementaries. Registration became first-come, first-serve, and when the school reached capacity, zoned students would be sent to other schools.
I should find out soon where, if anywhere, we were accepted. In the meantime, yesterday I had to register at our zoned school. Remember camping out for concert tickets? Yep. It was kind of like that. Hours in line. In the rain. But we’re in…until middle school…
Anyone else kind of miss the “old days”?
Dear mom I saw at the grocery store:
I saw you there in the cold section, I was picking up yogurt for my family and you were there with your three kids – 2 in the cart and one walking beside you. Your little ones were what people affectionately call chubby, but I want you to know that cute chubbiness is going to change and what happens from there will shape your children’s lives. Your little girl, walking beside the cart, I’m guessing she was 7 or 8 and I’m sure everyone still teases her about her “baby fat” but those eating habits she has right now, they’re only going to get worse.
You see, I was that little girl the one with the baby fat. But once you hit Jr. High, no one calls it baby fat anymore. But then it’s just fat and people will still comment on it. There will be that boy who somehow gets a hold of her yearbook and writes in it cruelly, “save the whales, harpoon the fat chicks.” And there will be that girl who points and tells her that fat girls shouldn’t wear mini skirts. There will be the boy she has a crush on, the one who never looks her way and she’ll go home sad and only get sadder. And bigger.
Mom, know now that you are the one capable of changing her eating habits, of teaching her about healthy choices, fruits and vegetable and no, that doesn’t include french fries. Know that every time you offer her a candy bar or an ice cream cone when she’s sad, that only teaches her to continue to reach for those when she needs some comfort. Know that if you don’t fix it, she will have to, someday when she’s ready, if she’s ready, but that the burden of those extra pounds will cause her health problems and emotional damage that she’ll live with forever.
Mom, I know you love those kids, I could see it on your face, but I glanced in your grocery cart and honestly I don’t mean to judge, but please be careful with those choices for your babies. I know they’re kids, I know they should be able to eat fun “kid food” chips and cookies and every sugary thing in between. But they’re kids and they’ll love fruit if you give it to them, it’s sweet and natural and yes, it can be more expensive, but there is always some fruit in season or there’s frozen fruit. There are ways to do it. And you can do it!
Your window of opportunity is small, eventually this blame will leave you and fall to her. It will be her choices, those things she puts in her mouth. But right now, while she’s still little, you can help shape her view of food and her body and her health. Right now, you still have time…
That’s what I want to tell them, every time I see moms with “chubby” kids. It hurts me. I ache for those children because I know, first hand, how horribly cruel kids can be and it only gets worse as you grow up. I hope that letter doesn’t make it sound like I blame my own mom because I most certainly do not. Things were different when I was growing up, no one knew much about nutrition in the way that we all know now. Convenience was king and still is to some degree, but we’re having a bit of a renaissance where people are getting back to growing their own food and infusing their daily food intake with more whole foods, grains, veggies and the like. We know more now. And for right now while we prepare our kids food, it is our responsibility to teach them about healthy eating. Of course that doesn’t take into consideration the picky eaters…but that is for another blog.
So do y’all ever pass someone you don’t know and want to say something to them – whether good or bad? I mean sometimes I see that frazzled mom at the store and I just want to go up to her and tell her she’s doing a great job. What do you think about the epidemic facing our kids today with the unhealthy eating and sedentary lifestyles?
You’ve probably heard of the Myers-Brigg personality assessment. If you’re a writer, I know you have. In any case there are 16 types and you can take a test, there are a slew of online ones and they tell you about your personality type. It’s just components, certainly not all inclusive. Now I say as a writer I know you’ve heard about it because us writers are pros when it comes to personality tests and we’re on a first-name basis with all our baggage. For example, I know I’m a total control-freak (also very common among writers, well and moms), I’m reluctant to try new things because I’m not sure I’ll be able to do them right (AKA perfectionist), I have serious body-image issues, and I’m bossy as hell (is that the same thing as being a control freak?)
One of the other things I know about myself, and to bring us back to the subject matter and the Myers-Brigg assessment is that I am an introvert. Now I don’t know if there are levels of introverts, but if there are, I’d think I was a Class 4 (on a scale from 1-5), nearly as introverted as one can get. This doesn’t mean I can’t function socially, but I do need my space. Which brings us to the problem with being an introverted mom. Okay so there’s probably not just one problem, but there is a significant one.
There are days when I wake up and though I might not recognize it immediately, it is a day when I need to be alone. Not simply because I need to recharge, but because if I’m around other people I tend to get snippy. I’m not in the mood to talk. At all. I just want to be inside my head and have quiet. These are the days when I’m the worst sort of mom. Most of the time I won’t even notice it until mid-afternoon and I realize I’ve been grumpy with my girls all day. I’ll try to stop and reassess the situation, think of ways I can either (a) be more patient or (b) occupy them without having to engage too much. It’s not that I want to ignore them, but as an introvert, I crave, I need, alone, quiet time in order to function properly. And sleeping doesn’t count. I need awake time to be quiet and alone.
It’s not so much that I don’t like people (though there are days…) it really just has to do with my energy level. The stuff I need to be the best me, that stuff only gets refilled during those alone moments. They’re few and far between these days. And this week, which marks the third year we’ve had our girls, I’m so thankful for my children and the family we’ve become. But I also believing knowing this about myself and taking action to make sure they aren’t the butt of my grumps, makes me a better mom.
So how about you? Do you know where you are on the spectrum? Do you think your personality brings challenges to your parenting or to any of your other relationships?
Hi, everyone! I’m so excited to welcome the lovely RITA Award-winning author Beth Andrews, who is here today to share her inspiration for her new Superromance, CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER, and to talk about how
The Times They Are a-Changin’
So far, 2014 has been a doozy for my family. Little Sis (my younger daughter and youngest child) started her senior year of high school which means she and I have been busy visiting colleges and sending in applications. Big Sis (older daughter who is actually NOT bigger than her 5’8” baby sister) is in Columbus for her second year at Ohio State. And their big brother? Well, he’s been the busiest of all. In the span of eight months he got engaged, graduated from college, started a new job, moved into a townhouse, got married and moved again.
Did I mention the part where my son, my firstborn, my only boy, got married? My baby is a married man. It’s been a month and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that one. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I birthed him? (I swear, those 75 pounds I gained were all baby)
Changed, bathed and fed him?
Kept him warm for those cold, Northwestern Pennsylvania winters.
Taught him the importance of pitching in with the yard work.
Why, it was just a few days ago we were wearing matching outfits and traipsing around in the woods.
And, of course, he learned the art of pulling off any hairstyle with aplomb from me (not to brag, but I did rock a mullet for a year back in the eighties).
Then, in the blink of an eye (or twenty-three years – same thing) my husband and I were escorting him down the aisle.
Now, he’s married to the love of his life, giving me another beautiful daughter!
Yes, there are plenty of changes afoot at my house (isn’t that the way of life?) and while those changes may take some getting used to, they should also be celebrated.
Change and the relationship between mother and son are two big themes in CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER, my December release for Harlequin Superromance (like how I tied that together?) Single-mother Penelope Denning moved to small-town Shady Grove, Pennsylvania hoping to raise her son in a warm, safe environment. But when local firefighter Leo Montesano wants to build a future with her, she feels torn between him and her son.
“As in out on a date,” he clarified. Must be he sensed that her brain had ceased working the moment he’d stepped into the room. Then again, he was probably used to having that effect on women. The power of a pretty face knew no bounds. “Dinner. A movie. Or we could go into Pittsburgh, see a show.”
Her throat dried. She couldn’t feel her fingers, had to lock her knees to remain upright. Date? Him? Absurd. They were too different. He was too good-looking. Too smooth. Too young. Too…everything.
And she was afraid she wasn’t nearly enough.
She leaned her hip heavily against the desk. “I don’t think—”
“Or we could start slow. Have lunch. Or even coffee.” His voice dropped to a husky, sexy tone that could strip a woman of her inhibitions. And her good sense. “It doesn’t matter to me. Just a few hours. I’d like to get to know you better.”
She shut her eyes. Counted to ten. But when she opened them, he was still there, broad and earnest and, it seemed, completely sincere. “Why?”
The word hung in the air, bald and loud and yes, desperate sounding. Too bad. She wouldn’t take it back even if she could. She was too curious to hear his answer.
“Because I find you interesting.” He stood and stepped forward, his body and her own pride trapping her between him and her desk. “Because I’m attracted to you.”
Her breath locked in her chest. A thrill raced through her before she could stop it. He was attracted to her? That…that was impossible. Implausible. Incredible.
He edged even closer and she pressed against the desk, the rounded edge digging into the back of her thighs. “How about it, Penelope?” he asked, drawing her name out as if savoring each syllable. He trailed the tip of his forefinger up her forearm, his light touch like a flame along her skin. “Go out with me?”
Dear Lord, but he smelled wonderful, a mix of citrus and spice that made her want to breathe him in. And when he smiled at her, his eyes dark with intent, she wanted to believe in fairy tales. Wanted to believe in foolish dreams.
But fairy tales were for children. And dreams were for people who didn’t know better. She wasn’t some naive girl waiting for a handsome prince to sweep in and make her life complete. She was a mature, sensible woman with a teenage son who needed her time and full attention.
A mature, sensible woman who was wise enough to know when she was in over her head. Leo flustered her, and she hated being flustered. She doubted that feeling would ever go away, even if they went on a hundred dates. She needed to be the one in control. She liked knowing what the right thing to do and say was, and with him, she wasn’t sure she’d ever have that ability again.
“No,” she said, her voice firm. “Absolutely not.”
I’m giving away three copies of CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER! Just leave a comment telling me the biggest change in your life recently or your idea of a dream date. Winners will be drawn at random and announced on Sunday.
When Romance Writers of America RITA® Award winning author Beth Andrews was a young wife, she started a gas grill with the lid down. The small explosion left her with singed hair and a life-long respect for propane. While no handsome firefighters came to her rescue that day, she will never forget that particular incident. Mainly because her husband reminds her of it every summer.
Learn more about Beth and her books by visiting her website, www.BethAndrews.net or her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BethAndrewsBooks.
In my new Montana Born novella, THE LONG WAY HOME, heroine Abby Foster’s father is sick and wants to see her safely married and well provided for before he dies.
Oh, Dad. From the safety of our reading chairs, we all know what a terrible mistake that is.
But the urge to protect your child is probably the most powerful force in the universe. (Well, maybe the second most powerful…<g>)
Our primitive instinct to shelter, comfort, heal and defend our offspring makes us do crazy things.
And it’s often at war with our brain, which knows that protecting them from everything is a) impossible, and b) dumb.
If they don’t make mistakes, how will they learn to be wise? If we rush in to eliminate pain, how will they learn to endure it without looking for a quick fix? If we imply, even subtly, that we don’t trust them to handle their own problems, how will they learn to trust themselves?
And who is to say we always know what’s right, anyhow?
Even when we understand all those pitfalls, it’s still hard to stand back and let your child suffer. Yet sometimes it truly is the right move.
I remember so well the day I learned this lesson.
One night, Boychild, still very young, had a Big Game with his first Little League team. At this Big Game, he made a Big Mistake. I can’t remember now exactly what went wrong. Maybe he made a bad throw. Maybe he dropped a fly ball and let the other team win. It was a real mistake, not a misunderstanding.
Whatever it was, it devastated him. The other kids were upset, too, and took it out on him. He kept his head up in public, but when we got on the road, he began to cry. He lay down with his head in my lap (he was still that young) and let the waves of disappointment, embarrassment and misery wash over him.
I nearly died. I adore Boychild and could gleefully have kicked every one of the other little ballplayers in the keester for hurting him. But I had no idea what to say. Everything I thought of seemed to make it worse, miss the point, or sound horribly patronizing.
I couldn’t say he hadn’t screwed up, because he had. I couldn’t say the other kids were jerks, because how would blaming them help him? I couldn’t say “man up,” because I think that’s dangerous baloney. I couldn’t say it didn’t matter in the big picture, because that denied his reality. I couldn’t say he’d feel better later, because. for a kid, at a moment like that “later” doesn’t exist.
So I just put my hand on his shoulder and let him cry. As he talked it out, and I said absolutely nothing, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Where was my wisdom? Where was my magic mommy medicine? Where was my big, rousing, Braveheart-moment speech?
My son was in pain, and I was a failure.
The ballpark had been in another little town, and it took us forever to get home. It was probably the longest thirty minutes of my life. His tears dwindled away, and he went through all the phases of grief, and I still didn’t say a word.
When we pulled into the garage, he jumped up, hugged me around the neck and, beaming, said, “I love you so much, Mommy!” Then he bounded into the house and moved on with his life.
Though he probably struck out, double faulted, or threw an interception many times in his life after that, he never shed a tear over it again.
Amazingly, because I’d choked, I’d accidentally allowed him to learn a lot of priceless lessons.
You don’t have to make pain go away instantly—it won’t kill you.
You don’t have to blame anyone else, or lash out, in order to try to ease your discomfort.
You can be honest about how you feel, because the people you love won’t tell you it’s crazy to feel that way.
Most importantly, this, too, shall pass.
And he wasn’t the only one who learned something important. My parenting changed that day, because I learned that sometimes your best move is to stay out of it.
Sometimes all you need to say is nothing at all.
How about you? Have there been any times when someone trying to console you said all the wrong things? Is there anyone in your life who understands the healing power of an understanding silence? I’m giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate and a copy of THE LONG WAY HOME to one random commenter today!