Take a Look at Me Now

Take a Look at Me Now

I enjoyed coffee with a friend this morning. We talked about all the things we normally discuss on Friday mornings: kids, parenting, husbands, work, running, goals, plans, leggings, and everything in between.

Yesterday she experienced one of her daughter’s “lasts.” She’s a little ahead of me in the parenting game as her oldest daughter is now a senior. As she related the story to me, my eyes welled up with tears.

“She’s not even my kid,” I sniffle-snorted.

But when I met my friend, her oldest daughter was younger than my boys are now. It’s kind of a mind-trip to realize that a child you regarded as young now stands on the precipice of the rest of her life. I’ve watched her grow, watched their whole family grow.

The boys’ school pictures came home yesterday. My husband was at work, so I snapped them with my phone and sent them via text.

“He looks older,” lamented my husband, complete with deeply sad face emoji.

He does. He looks older. His shoulders look wider, mirroring my husband’s build. There’s no more little boy left in his face.

It is what it is, of course. I cannot slow time. I cannot pause it. All I can do is attempt to keep up with these two boys. For the record, the older boy looks… older, too. He looks like a fifth grade boy. And no, I don’t want to discuss middle school on the horizon. Hush your mouth.

All of these Sunrise, Sunset moments left me thinking about who I was all those years ago.

In third grade, I didn’t yet need glasses. I read everything I could get my hands on, including abridged versions of the Classics. My favorite at the time was—obviously—Romeo and Juliet. That’s right. I was a third grader who quoted Shakespeare. It is not surprising that I wasn’t all that popular. Related: My name in Spanish class in high school and on into college (six years total) was Julieta. You can thank the 1996 Leonardo Dicaprio and Claire Danes version of the Classic for that one.

In fifth grade, I talked too much. My teacher told my parents as much and no one was shocked for a country mile. I brushed my perm. I wore a one piece pants/jumpsuit with bubble legs, shoulder pads, and a wide, white collar that my grandmother made for me. I had giant glasses that all the Cool Kids wear nowadays. They weren’t cool in fifth grade, let me tell you. Neither was getting your period.

The thing about third and fifth grade is this: I knew I was somewhat different. I knew I wasn’t one of the Cool Kids. But I was okay with me. I liked me. I longed for all the cool shirts my friend S had, yes, but I had clothes. I had friends. I was smart. What wasn’t there to like?

Flash forward to my senior year.

Things weren’t the same.

Oh, I was still quirky, yes. I wore long butterfly skirts, white eyeliner, and platform sneakers. Because the ’90s. I still made straight A’s, complete with Academic Letter. I starred in the musical and senior class play. I scored an academic and music performance scholarship. I had friends. I had a steady boyfriend. My hair was long, long, long. I played softball, competed in cheerleading, and checked the box on a number of other extra-curricular activities.

And I hated myself.

I don’t know exactly what happened between fifth grade and my senior year. Or, I do, but some of that is locked down tight with other things I don’t access simply out of a desire to protect myself from myself. Or, I don’t, because memories shift and change and get the beauty and hindrance of hindsight thrust upon them; the past changes all the time.

But I do know that somewhere between fifth grade and my senior year, I decided I needed to be perfect in order to be liked. In order to succeed. In order to be good enough. In order to be loved. An A wasn’t good enough; I needed a 100%. Or better. The lead wasn’t good enough because, well, was it a pity give or did I earn it; so I trained and worked my ass of to prove to everyone that I deserved to be where I was on that stage. Even if I never believed it myself.

I never believed it.

I wish I could say I figured out how detrimental my perfectionism was to my mental health and changed it up before college. Or after college. Or even last year. Last month. Yesterday.

It’s still my downfall.

Nothing I ever do is good enough for me. I can always nitpick and pinpoint something I could have, should have done differently. Better. Best.

But I am actively trying to fix it. Or address it. Or at the very least acknowledge that it’s something I struggle with and might always. The good news is that I no longer avoid taking risks due to fear of failing before I even start. There’s that.

I look at my third and fifth graders and wonder what lies ahead. I see traits that worry me. I see traits that give me hope. I recognize and celebrate the ways in which they’re their own selves. I feel thankful that they have the two of us as parents. But there’s a little part of me that wants to pull them in close, whisper affirmations in their ears on repeat, and keep the negativity far from their big, big hearts. They love and trust so much, so hard, and I want to protect that beauty for as long as humanly possible.

I figure the best thing I can do is to continue to work on who I am and how I see myself. I was doing really well in that regard earlier this year until a series of unfortunate events left me doubting my every step. But still I work. Hard. Because nothing matters more to me than having my children understand how much they are loved, how much they are worth. One step in that process is modeling self-love, self-care, self-awareness.

And so I wake up every day, despite a severe bout of insomnia leaving me with 45 minutes of sleep some nights, and give them the best I can—giving myself the best of me. They don’t have to repeat my mistakes.

Neither do I.

Take a Look at Me Now

 

Land Of Nod: Design for Kids and People That Used to be Kids

What Matters In This Election

What Matters In This Election

LittleBrother decided to run for Student Council.

I only ran once. I think fifth grade marked the year I decided to go for it. I made posters on construction paper. I wrote a speech that in no way promised giving away candy or changing the lunch menu as I knew I couldn’t do those things. I stood up in front of the class with glasses, crooked teeth, and a shoulder length perm that I brushed—no, reallyand gave my speech.

I lost.

I don’t remember who won, but they opted for the “promises we can’t keep” route of candy and longer recess and all that jazz. I’m not even sure I told my parents I lost. I felt kind of stupid for not doing what the other kids did, for not passing out candy or making empty promises. I’d chosen the honest route, followed my moral compass.

And it got me nothing.

To this day, I still choose that path. I follow the rules. I don’t promise what I can’t deliver. I don’t even like when my current bout of insomnia makes me flake on my friends because I simply cannot will my body to move after a night of 45 minutes of broken, interrupted sleep. I kick it old school, I suppose, and I feel like my word, how I conduct myself in business, and how I treat others are all part of my honor. Sometimes I screw up, because we all screw up. But I try my hardest to live a life I’m proud of, one without much doubt that I chose the right path.

My husband took Booey shopping last night for brightly colored small poster board. LittleBrother designed his own poster on a piece of paper first and then transferred it to his poster. This morning, after both boys ate breakfast and got ready for school, LittleBrother asked if he could make another poster. He added a big-smiling emoji face to that one. I told him they looked great.

After school today, he asked if I would help him write his speech. So he sat with my iPad while I finished up some work for the day, and he wrote that speech. My input remained minimal. I told him the basics of speech writing, instructed him on how to introduce himself and give a statement of purpose.

I then asked him, “Why do you want to run for student council?”

“I like helping people,” he replied.

This is why we parent the way we parent. This is why we live our lives the way we live our lives. We want to model kindness, empathy, compassion, dedication, service, determination, loyalty, honesty, and other important characteristics. We want our sons to know that how they treat others matter, that their word matters.

That they matter.

I don’t know if he’ll win or if he’ll lose. We’ll support him either way. He decided to stick himself out there and do something laced with a little bit of risk. I hope he comes away from the experience feeling as though he’s worth that kind of risk—worth so much more than that kind of risk.

What Matters In This Election