Everything Happens the Way It’s Supposed to and It Isn’t Always About You

img_2660-1A couple of weeks ago I was getting a haircut.  I loved the way his work made me feel. I wanted a trim and a dye job.  I have a bit of hair at the nape of my neck bleached, then dyed purple. I wanted it near work in Santa Monica to help me take my time getting home so I could avoid traffic. I found a hairdresser who uses gentle products and was very social.  I loved my time in his chair.

While he worked and the shop began to close, his cleaning man came in to scrub floors and make the place smell chemically clean and sanitized. We chatted about his birthday weekend plans apart from his twin sister.  We chatted about the twins I carried long enough to love. Just as my hair was washed out, a woman came into the shop.

The hairdresser was supporting her with a hug and the benefits of friendship.  She wore a cute black dress that was perfect for work and made me jealous of it until I remembered I rarely sit like a lady in a dress.  She seemed to be holding back with so much pain and emotion.  I asked if she had just endured a long day and my moment of compassion opened her up just enough to be authentic in the pain she felt.

This woman was going through a divorce with a man still intent on making her suffer even though they were no longer together, and she was faced with starting over.  New city, new job, new lower credit score (divorce will do that) and no idea how she was going to get through it. I’ve been there and I’m certain several of my readers have as well.

I gave her encouragement like I got so many times from people who had been divorced.  I told her she was stronger than she knew.  I was told the same thing repeatedly and it was only in the months after I found a new normal that I could see it was true.  I told her there were good times and bad times.  Remember the bad, but cling to the good.  I told her that I acknowledged her for not giving up and getting this job for herself.  She insisted the job was for others and their expectations of her, but I pointed out she was doing it for herself.  I knew because she wasn’t in bed, hiding and quitting life.

The cleaning man stopped to encourage her as well.  He was a man that got to start over after nearly 40 years and and it wasn’t his first choice either.  He also eventually found freedom in starting life over.

What are the odds that I would be in the right time at the right place with another stranger sharing a similar story of getting through the end of a marriage with a woman who needed to borrow our strength?  We were exactly where we needed to be when we needed to be there.

There was another hair appointment that was supposed to be worked in tandem with mine.  She had cancelled and had she been there, we might not have had that same cradle of connection and care that we were able to offer her. Had I decided to go straight home or wait for the weekend to go to a salon near my home, I would have missed her.  We are right where we need to be, when we need to be there, but sometimes we’re meant to be present for someone else.  It’s not always about me, and I get to see how I might help others.  That is a gift.  It is a special honor.

I told her to hold onto that moment.  It was one of the good ones where she openly cried with two strangers and she was met with love and compassion.  One day what we gave her will be needed by someone else. I’m certain she will give and also receive in the act of giving the way I did.

There is a right time and place for everything.  There’s a whole song and bible verse on it if you don’t believe me.  The thing is you get to look at the moment you are in and see what the purpose is.  Maybe you’re there and the reason is you’re meant to support someone else.

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Why Dad Has to Look Great, Even Through Divorce

I might give more clarity than is appreciated by my ex on my blog, but not to our kids.  They don’t read my blog.  They don’t always want to do the reading for homework and Mom just blathers on. I don’t lie to them but I defend their Dad to them all of the time.  They are free to express themselves in my home, so when they call him names, I’ll remind them that he loves them as much as I do.  When they justify their opinions, I remind them that we can all be a bit selfish or lazy, but that doesn’t mean we love anyone else any less. I remind them that having them do chores around the house prepares them for life alone and their Dad is doing the right thing by teaching them independence.  They help out when I need them to but I resented feeling like a slave to my parents, and will never ask my kids to do work I won’t help them with. I might not like their Dad as a person and my life is so much happier without him but I admit, my kids have a good Dad.

Why do I defend him? Because even in the ways Kid1 splays himself across my couch, he is in every way his father’s child.  I love my sons.  Every part of their personalities is special to me.  There are even ways where I see their Dad or grandfather coming out and those are special.  I know them and I know where they come from and they’re my kids.  I want them to feel safe talking about him to me, and they do. Because I defend him even when I don’t want to.

We get our first sense of identity from our Dads. It’s how we fit in his world that tells us we matter.

My relationship with my kids started in pregnancy.  I was talking to them before they had ears to hear me.  I had that bond or connection, and I still do.  The act of growing up means we are part of our mothers and spend a lifetime learning independence from her.  Even as an adult, I see the ways I follow what my mom did and the ways I try hard to distance myself from her.  I see it in my sense of style and the way I give my kids affection.

When a child is born, they still rely heavily on the parent they attach to, but the smell of mom can soothe a crying baby because that feels like home.  It’s instinct.  When they get older, they start to look to the other parent, (in my case my Dad as well as my children’s Dad) to see where they fit.

Mom is different from Dad. There’s a sense of safety when a child gives mom a melt down.  Mom understands and will make it better so they can safely fall apart.

With Dad, there’s a distance that holds a different sense of security and safety.  They will behave differently.  It’s not just me.  Most seasoned moms will tell you their kids are different people, depending on who is around.

When it came to angry tempers and who was more capable of losing their shit, it was always me.  The pressure of keeping a clean house, behaved kids and his needs met was overwhelming.  My needs were neglected and it looked like anger.  I was scary.  Without fail, I could tell my kids to behave or I would call their Dad, who was usually more patient, and they would behave.  They listened to his authority without him needing to raise his voice.

Our home feels different now.  I have certain rules, but I allow flexibility.  I will ask them to shower after dinner, but I’m flexible with showers as long as they happen before they leave for school in the morning.  I will ask them to go to bed, but in bed with devices is okay as long as they’re asleep before I am, and even if they aren’t, they won’t be punished for brains that won’t slow down. I don’t worry about what they wear to school as long as their bodies are comfortable and warm.  Much of this is very different from their Dad and most homes because as mom and head of my household, I can do it how I want to and giving my kids more control and authority over their bodies is important to me.

But I’m not Dad.

When my niece was younger, I asked her brothers to step in and be the man in her life.  I asked them to take her out and play basketball and spend time with her.  I let them know that if the men in her life don’t give her a sense of value, she’ll believe any boy that tells her he’s the only one that cares about her and that will groom her into his victim.

My Dad has always been part of my life.  To this day, I see my Dad fairly often and we talk.  I’ve become more open with him than he probably appreciates at times.  Growing up, I still had Daddy issues to reconcile.  It was mainly that he was present and my Dad, but he wasn’t the person I imagined him to be.  He failed the rules I set for him in my head.

My Step-Dad was patient beyond measure.  He gave me rides, bought me things I wanted, was kind and patient.  I was terrible to him.  I called him “Penis” and sometimes to his face.  I treated him like the name Step-Dad meant I was to step on him.  It was years of patience and I couldn’t see him as a decent man until 5 years into his marriage to my mom.  Now I’m so blessed to have him in our lives.  He’s been a terrific grandfather to my kids.  He spoils them.  He loves and cares for them, and he looks out for me.  Step-Dads are really special and mine is a great Dad.

I’m lucky to know my brother in law as a great Dad to my nephews.  They live separately from me, so I don’t know all that happens as they parent, but I’ve seen him guide my nephews in a way that they are respectful, responsible, and caring.  Of course, my sister had a great deal to do with that too (because my family is filled with badass warrior dragon slayer women), but I’m not writing about moms.   He has been present and involved in their lives.  He has given structure and discipline as well as encouragement.  He has put being their Dad above being a person in the ways where selflessness has been more common than selfishness.  That’s a great Dad.

There’s a holiday schedule for my kids.  Easter is coming and I get the Saturday before Easter and their Dad gets Easter Sunday.  We used to visit his family and I wanted the kids to keep that tradition and enjoy a quiet day with them where they don’t have to house hop and we can just enjoy each other privately.  For Christmas I get Christmas Eve.  My mom started having celebrations on Christmas Eve so we could spend Christmas Day with our spouse’s families.  Without a spouse I was planning a hike alone but a friend invited me to share their Christmas meal.  I sat at the table and watched a Dad hold a baby so his wife could eat her meal.  I watched him connect with his children and guide them with love.  He knew the needs of his children as well as his wife did.  I was so blessed that night by being able to watch a man be a great Dad to his children in supporting his wife.

I remember taking a picture of the mess Kid3 made in my hair when he wanted to brush and style it for me.  It was fun for him but it reminded me of all of my bad hair choices as a child.  I cringed.  I couldn’t go out like that.  The smile on his face made it a moment worth remembering through the selfie I snapped.  Yesterday a facebook post almost moved me to tears.  A friend posted a picture of her husband with their girls.  He was proudly wearing the polo shirt and tie his daughter picked out to go out and spend time with his daughters and a niece.  That is a great Dad.

It seems to be an anthem among single moms that there are no good Dads out there, but that’s not true.  There are many amazing Dads out there and it comes down to a choice to be that person.  Just like moms, it’s a moment to moment choice. Sometimes we shine with patience, love, care and understanding.  Sometimes we fail miserably and hurt the children we love with impatience, anger and selfishness.  The great ones never quit and learn with the kids coaching them to greatness.

How We Compare Past Pain To Gauge Present Pain But It’s All Relative

My writing feels broken.

Life still moves at the speed of “slow down, WTF!”

That hasn’t kept the words at bay.

My love life has been moving in a positive direction.  It has made change for me and my boys and we’re riding the waves as a family.  For the most part we’re okay but in one very specific way, we’re not.

My firstborn is having a hard time with the changes and not having my home whole has made writing a challenge.  How do I write about doing what feels good, when so much of what I feel is tied into how my son feels and the ways we’re not blending our lives into ways where I can proclaim we’re all doing epic shit.

Friday I drove myself to an ER after pushing through a job interview and saying I had a little indigestion.  The chest pain was bad enough that I was crying.  Not sobbing or asking for attention as much as silent tears and gritting my teeth through the nurse’s questions.  It was bad.  I found my sense of humor.  She was hiding out but given free reign, she’s a bit snarky and had no patience for the whiny bitch next to me.  (If a nurse or doctor is trying to help you after you go see them for help, don’t bother trying to justify kicking them.) I was sent home after being given really good drugs and felt better through the weekend.

Monday morning I called an ambulance after a night of chest pain, vomiting and being unable to sleep.  I know, pretty bone headed of me.  I kept thinking, it hurts, but it’s not as bad as the pulmonary embolisms.  And then it was.  It went from kinda uncomfortable to more painful than full on labor pains pretty quickly too.  I think at some point I may have begged for death while running to the bathroom to vomit and it was only after getting through the night that I called an ambulance and had the paramedic act pretty bored as he realized I wasn’t actually having a heart attack.  They hung out with me and waited for another ambulance to take me to a hospital where I was taken in and tested and poked and prodded and drugged.  The 7 am call included a transfer to my plan hospital and a discharge after 33 hours, with lotsa fun follow up appointments in my near future.  Gallbladders are like lungs.  They’re supposed to function without using pain to grab your attention.  If you feel pain, play it safe and see a doctor.

I kept thinking of my worst possible experiences and I held them up to what I was going through.  I held up the past with the present in a way that let me see that I was not actually dying.  I matched up battle scars to see that I’ve been through bad situations and it doesn’t make the current better or worse.  It reminds me there’s no point in whining about it.  I will get through it.  There are no other options.

That moment helped me find the funny and crack some jokes.  That comparison gave me the clarity to see that I haven’t been able to write, but it’s about me.  It’s not the boyfriend.  It’s not wondering what I can write or if I should. It’s my relationship with my firstborn that makes me feel so shattered that the words stopped.

It’s new territory.  I get to learn and we get to stretch, and in time, this will be one of those battle scars in our relationship I will hold up.  I’ll remember how hurt I am that I have hurt him.  I will remember how torn I feel by the directions my heart is pulling me in.  I’ll remember that in this moment and every moment around it, I’ve been trying to go by my gut and do what is best for me and my family, without sacrificing myself for my family.  It’s a marker.

I will see the parts that were broken.  I’ll compare them to the next terrible thing.  I’ll remember how we managed and the ways that made us stronger.  It’ll be okay.  The words will flow again.

 

How We Bounce Back After the Marriage Ends

I was never a tennis player.  I ran around a tennis court with my Dad once.  It was some time right after high school on the open courts in Griffith Park.  I remember having no control of the ball.  I kept swinging my arm up and sending ball after ball over the fence walls and being the person to chase them all.  It was just exhausting.  I hated the experience.  I’m sure there’s a really bad poem about that day on my hard drive somewhere. I’ll spare you the angst.

Take that same ball and include a dog willing to run around and it has a whole different feel for me. I actually enjoy throwing the ball and watching a happy dog chase it down before it lands.  It comes back a slimy mess of drool and it comes back with the expectation that the game would continue.  You throw a ball for a dog to chase and there is an exponential growth of energy and excitement.

That poor ball though, right? You reject it.  It lands and then comes back a mess.  And yet it comes back.  It bounces back.  (Just grab it before the dog gets to really start chewing.)

There are lessons here.

I know more than one cancer survivor.  The word “survivor” sounds very different from who these people are to the life they lead.  I have never met a survivor that wasn’t thriving.  I have never met one that was afraid to say the important things.  I have never met one that wasn’t stronger than they thought they could be, brave in spite of their fear, or courageous through all of their physical pain. They have mastered bouncing back.

I know more than one person that has gone through a failed relationship and the bounce back isn’t pretty.  I spoke with a woman last week and our experiences were similar.  Bouncing back was a long and hard journey that wasn’t a bounce from relationship to relationship to mask what needed healing. At the end of the road we both came out stronger, but at the lowest points, even our mothers had a hard time seeing our pain.

We know how to be alone.

We’re not afraid to be alone.  We even celebrate moments alone and you can’t threaten us with leaving. At one point it was terrifying to hear the sound of an empty home.  It’s possible to find a way to be comfortable sitting at a table for one in a crowded restaurant on date night.  We know the devastation of a relationship that has ended and taken our dreams and expectations with it.  We know how bad it can be and we know we survived with strength we didn’t know we’d find.  Most of the encouragement I had in the beginning was that I am stronger than I think I am.  It was and is true.  Who knew? Others that have been through it knew because I sure didn’t.  It’s something you find out once there is no one around to rescue you but yourself.

We know how to roar.

We have learned how to listen to our own voice and we’ve found the courage to speak for ourselves. We do what feels right because we know there will be others willing to share their opinions without support and we know at the end of the day it’s our choices with the weight in our hearts that will allow us to sleep or keep us up all night.

We know it can always be worse.

Finding your way through a life-change can knock the wind right out of you, and just when you think you can stand on your feet again, the ground shows you it can swallow you up without warning. You’ll hear about friends going through a rough patch and you won’t be able to fully empathize because you know it can always be worse and you know it has been, but you are stronger for it and you can get through it. You offer the nuggets of hope that helped you through the worst of it and laugh at the rest because that perspective shift is the control you needed to launch you past the pain.

We know how to ask for and accept support.

We know when to set our pride aside. It feels terrific to know we can do it all on our own,but sometimes we can’t.  It can be really hard to ask for support and humble ourselves, and know help doesn’t look the way we want it to and it often comes at a cost, but we ask for and accept support anyway because we know we have to.

We learn that it isn’t always about us.

A week ago I was humming to myself.  It was one of those Mariah Carey songs that end up in ranges that even dogs couldn’t hear.  I was humming badly and someone walked in on me in the office kitchenette. I was embarrassed and tried to excuse myself but the woman walking in the room didn’t even hear or really notice me.  In her head and taking up her full attention was the world that sees only her as I was in my world that saw and cared about everything I did.  Our worlds would have never met if I hadn’t stopped her to draw attention to the fact that I expected her to see me.

The world that crashed around me was my world.  In the beginning it was ugly and I was emotionally bleeding all over Facebook and to anyone that I thought cared about me.  Some friends saw more than they wanted to.  Some friends didn’t see or know anything.  Other people wanted the juicy details and my personal hell of a side show. Given space, some people will still really care, but not enough to be present.  Maybe they’ll offer space because they don’t know how to react.  Maybe they have no room for someone else’s pain. Given time, will the opinions of others matter?

We know how to bounce back.

The thing about bouncing back is you are first launched.  You are thrown far, and land hard in a way that throws you in places and ways you would never choose. You end up covered in things you would love to wash off and you accept that some of it is shame and part of that shame never belonged to you.

Shake it off.  Newton’s 3rd Law tells us every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Live boldly and prepare to be launched.  You were born to fly.

 

 

 

How To Find Closure After Something Special Ends

A few mornings ago Kid3 was singing an Adele song and laughing about it. He found the funny without knowing what it was about, other than the many memes starting with, “Hello.”

I asked if he knew what the song was about and I told him it was about getting closure and saying hello a long time after a relationship ended. Then the jaded bits came out to bite me and it’s worth looking at if it makes my inner cynic stand at attention.

Closure is about being able to move on from something that meant enough to destroy you a bit when it ended. It could be a relationship. Or a job you relied on. Or the death of a person you didn’t expect to die and refuse to let go of. It’s about accepting that something you loved and cherished doesn’t exist in your life anymore and knowing that it isn’t who you are. You are not a broken relationship and the past is not where you’ll find your badassery.

The angry black woman in me said, “you expect someone that failed you while you were both in love to make you feel better now that you’ve had the time to move on?” I mean, true artistry looks like this woman in love. Even when you aren’t amazing, my heart full of infatuation can make something truly terrible look like I can’t live without it. I take your flaws and push them aside because living with them is better than living without you. Take that amazing artist interpretation, give it time and I may just see how much we really weren’t made for each other.

Time will show me the ways I didn’t give space or obsessed way too much over every single detail that seemed relevant but really wasn’t. I’ll see the ways I failed and pride will shove the reasons he failed me to the forefront. And closure sometimes asks us to reconnect to reexamine and release these things. But why?

I’m currently in a relationship. It’s new and I’m still in that happy phase so this really is a look back and doesn’t apply to him. But he’s different. I can see the things I question and his answers shift my perspective. I’m different.

Looking at past relationships, there was a fascination in each man I cared about to the point that I wasn’t caring for myself. I wasn’t writing or finding time to be in my happy place. I was relying on him for happiness and that means I wasn’t happy. That neediness often made him (all of the hims) unhappy.

Take my unhappy ass, add a man who was equally unhappy. Subtract the value for our love and how much we cared about each other and it still didn’t add up to keep us together. In the ways we cared about each other . . . The ways we lied to soften the blow of rejection . . . Ultimately, walking away is the greatest rejection possible . . . And that care still couldn’t keep us connected. Time passes and for me that means head turning weight loss. I return to my happy place that shares way more than you’d ever be comfortable with. I start buying myself flowers and reminding myself of the ways I’m awesome that couldn’t be seen under the shadow of the man I placed on my pedestal, and let’s find that closure!

The reality for me is that I have never been able to find closure in a conversation with the men I once gave my all to. I couldn’t see how he might fail me until he did and once I had that hindsight vision of who he was, I see how he could have never been what I painted him as. I see the ways he could never even communicate what I needed to hear because he’s never been as open or emotionally self aware as I am. I held him to my standard and I know he’ll never meet another woman like me. I’ll never meet another woman like me.

For me, closure comes from hindsight and a vision of what my future should be. It comes in facing the ways I accepted less than I desired and taking notice of the ways I undervalued myself to prove to them they were worthy of my love, affection, time and desire. (My desire though… Not everyone can or should handle that much intensity.) I appreciate the times that were good. I relive a few of the good memories. I’m careful to see them with the perspective of someone that was once in love and is now happy and fulfilled in self-love. I can see the good for the good it was. I can also see the ways it was a relationship I would never wish on a loved one and I can stand tall as I walk away because the closure I needed was always in my control and not at the mercy of a man who failed me and odds are would repeat that pattern.

Find the good. Honor it. See the bad. Recognize how you accepted it and promise yourself to do better next time. Be open to love and let go of fear. That’s the closure you’re looking for. It will come in waves and surprise you when you least expect it to.  Go with it.

Relearning How to be a Girlfriend After Being Married

I’m still learning. When I wake up and get ready to face my day, I get to decide I don’t have to know what it will look like or how it will feel. The hard part is realizing the many ways I need to unlearn an existence.

I was a wife for 15 years. I made meals I never ate. I rubbed sore muscles and washed laundry for someone that wasn’t my offspring or me. Dishes were washed and bathrooms scrubbed as the last thing I would ever want to do with the consistency of someone suffering from severe depression. The stench of urine never went away because teaching my boys to use a toilet when I didn’t have a penis as an example means it was a poor lesson and it often failed all over the seat and floor. (New lesson: bleach will make my skin reek and burn my eyes but after a while, the chemical scent fades and with it the smell of stale urine only a barfly could appreciate.)

I dated when I was younger. It was a goal to be someone that might become a wife one day. I wanted to be all that would make me a wife. Even to the point that I would put my desires behind someone else’s. I was a chameleon for love, as it were.

Fast forward to nearly two years ago and I’m suddenly single again. A year ago I started to enjoy being single. I’m doing what feels good and exciting to me. I go where I want and stay out as long as I want and it’s about making myself happy. I’ve gotten really good at buying myself flowers and discovering Victoria’s Secret for myself. I eat what I want and enjoy the epicurean delights of self-satisfaction. I love being single because I get to be selfish without feeling selfish.

Then lightning strikes and there’s a man. Just one. There’s a boyfriend and I get to unlearn being a wife to learn how to be a girlfriend and no longer a single woman.

There are moments of joy because I love the way I feel when I’m with him. There are moments of doubt. I have FOMO (fear of missing out) just like anyone else. Is there someone else? Could there be someone better? I have moments of telling myself to relax and enjoy each moment for the spontaneous gifts of our time together. Our times together are amazing enough that I want to learn to be an us when I was so happy with just being me. And moments where I feel like I don’t deserve him. They coincide with moments when he tells me he knows there isn’t another me on this planet.

I found myself rushing home after work to be by his side and in his arms. On a kid free day as a single woman, I would normally just explore the area I work in or drive to the ocean for a while until traffic was a straight shot home and into bed.

I keep turning the thermostat slightly lower to accommodate his comfort rather than my desire to comfortably walk around naked at home.

I would normally have a light dinner or a non-existent one on a kid free night, and I wonder if I should cook for him or how that should look as his girlfriend that isn’t hungry and he surprises me by caring for my needs and being self sufficient. I have moments that beg for a lifetime in spite of my fear of what that could look like. I wonder if I want more and I ask why can’t I have the more he’s offering. And there’s happiness and contentment and moments that shock me and rock the certainty I almost lived in. (I’m certainly adaptable.)

I find myself trying to remember how I am supposed to behave and care and not rely on him. Can I rely on him? Does he ask that of me and why does that scare me. Around that time, the reality of being abandoned shows up and I see how I keep holding him at a safe distance, without accounting for the fact that there is no safety in what we have and that is the thrill I have a right to embrace.

I’m learning what drives him and where his passions are. I’m learning to see the new patterns of who we are and not place the heavy burden of the old (my past) on top of him.

When I met my ex, it was on the heels of a superficial relationship with someone else. He introduced me to a song that I in turn introduced to my ex. We played that song over and over on our honeymoon. I kept wondering if I should just tell him and pick a different song. I heard it on the radio this morning and it was interesting how the memories of it were layered by two different men. I heard another song with a similar scenario and two different men, and again, the significance and memories cascaded in a way that felt so confused and beautiful. There was a moment with my current boyfriend. There was a sweet emoji he texted to me (and so help me, I’m embracing smiley faces and I don’t feel like an asshat doing it). He sent a picture that reminded me of my ex and I let his expression color the picture in a different light. Like brush strokes on a canvas, we are offered a gift in our expressions and it was a moment to shift what I saw and how I felt and rather than dwell on what it was, I was able to bask in what we’re making it. And that moment is his and mine and has nothing to do with anyone else.

My kids on the other hand . . . Kid1 isn’t in love with my dating one person. (He might have enjoyed the idea of me being a player or hard to keep because that meant I was so picky only his Dad was worth holding onto and that means only my kids held my attention. He isn’t rude but refuses to engage.  Kid2 is indifferent. Kid3 (at 10 years old) has moments where he likes the new boyfriend and moments where his anger is palpable. He tried breaking my car window after watching me, watch him pee all over the toilet seat on purpose. I withheld my smirk and laughter at how visceral his need to be territorial was.  And there I go with that bleach lesson again. We’re all learning.

New Traditions After Divorce

It is a great Christmas to be me.  I’m really giving myself to the holidays as a single mom on my terms. When we hashed out custody, I was intentional with wanting Christmas Eve with my boys.  My family always celebrates Christmas Eve and I was able to start my celebrations with a first date at Catalina Coffee Company yesterday morning (beautiful blue eyes, amazing conversation, couldn’t look away from his dimples, didn’t feel an ounce of chemistry, great venue). I then enjoyed most of yesterday with one sister over several hours of making tamales yesterday. This morning  was alone with my boys at breakfast.  We had our private gift opening at home and then I enjoyed a day with my kids and ginormous family.  Right now I get to have a really appreciated quiet night alone.  (Although that hot buttered rum is calling me.) Tomorrow my adventures will continue with more family and friends.

I started my day with my boys at a Denny’s Christmas breakfast.  I hated making breakfast first thing in the morning.  I was never hungry and the kids were always picky.  I got to eat later in the morning, and I wasn’t the short order cook.  I don’t remember last year, but this year has been great. I explained to my boys the thoughts my last post inspired for me.  I explained that in asking what they want for Christmas and focusing only on that, I was teaching them to be takers without bothering to show them the joys of giving.  It was a stretch for me but I asked them if they wanted to go get a present for their Dad for Christmas.  The little one immediately said no.  The oldest said he was planning to draw him a picture, and my middle son hesitated the longest before saying no.  Maybe it was strange to imagine me footing the bill for him.  I then asked if they wanted to pick out a gift for their Grandparents and they were excited about that.

We walked around the CVS after expressing gratitude that we weren’t at Target when we drove by the Target parking lot on Christmas Eve. (We’re working on finding gratitude in everything.) The boys picked out house shoes for their Grandpa, and a blanket for their Grandma.  They wanted something to keep them warm and comfortable.  We wrapped it and when we arrived at Grandma’s house, for the first time they gave their grandparents a gift they picked out themselves.  It wasn’t something I picked.  It was something they chose and they got to experience the gratitude of their grandparents.  The look on my children’s face was all I needed in that moment.

I see where my children are growing and where I need to continue to guide them in so many ways and today was a humbling and encouraging lesson for me.  But it was a day of shifting traditions and seeing how it’s about learning and growing as a family.

Not only have I been teaching my boys to be takers, I was teaching them to live in scarcity, and keeping them from dreaming big.  My older two had modest wish lists.  My little one wanted a trampoline, but that was the most out of the box gift they came up with. Later in the day, Kid3 expressed wanting a Nintendo 3DS.  In the past that meant waiting for the next holiday or birthday.  I explained that I always want to give my kids what they want and we don’t have to wait for a holiday or for him to deserve it.  We just had to wait for when I could do it, but it would go on the whiteboard at home as a goal.  What I didn’t expect was that in my daily examples, I was teaching my oldest to be a martyr.

After breakfast and picking up their grandparent’s gifts, they came in the house and I told them they could open their presents.  In the past, it was always structured.  One present at a time, with all of us watching.  It always bothered me because it was a show of “look what I got you and show me you like it.” It shifted.  It wasn’t about the individual gifts but the overall feeling of getting them what they wanted and letting them know I listened to what they wanted and noticed the things they didn’t say. Today I told them to have at it.  They had the freedom to open their presents with their names on them and I stood back and enjoyed their excitement.  They were happy.  I exceeded their expectations.  Then they asked if I could get a duplicate for their Dad’s house.  I said we could wait until they’re back with me and see if they still need what they want.

At one point, Kid2 was fully hit with FOMO (fear of missing out) and wanted a game his brother asked for.  He raged.  He searched for a different game he lost a while back and he was in complete break down.  I had him come to me and I held him as he cried.  He sobbed.  He screamed.  Kid1 had started looking for the game on behalf of his brother and he decided to do all he could to support his brother . . . Including giving his brother the game I had just given him for Christmas in exchange for $10.  He later threw in his gummy bears as well (his absolute favorite candy). He sacrificed his joy for his brother.

Wow. I mean, this kid!  He’s mine.  He gets my good and my bad, and surprises me with things I didn’t know were possible.  I gave him a Christmas hug in parting and had him look me in the eye. I told him he doesn’t have to sacrifice himself because he matters.  I told him he can’t be a world changer if there’s nothing of him left to change the world.  Now I get to live that to give him that example.

Toward the end of the night, I got feedback that makes me want to address a couple of things.  I should clarify that the dates that look too good to be true are catfish, but there are really great men that are real.  Good morning, good night, and surprise sexy texts are a reality.  It’s super rare that I want to meet in person.  He has to be really special to get my time. If you don’t like what I write, you don’t have to follow or read it.  It’s a choice.  Stand by it or find a hobby.

The part that bothered me was it was suggested I was doing Christmas wrong because I was stepping away from a tradition I adopted but never called my own.  It made me doubt our celebrations long enough to ask my kids if they were happy.  They let me know they had a great day.  They had fun with our family.  The younger two even suggested wanting to go home with me and I melted at the hugs from Kid1. My sisters were a bit surprised at how much my Kid1 has grown.  Our day showed me my next goal and tonight I am having the evening I used to enjoy.  There might be a bit of booze. There will be some yarn work and maybe some reading.  I won’t be up all night setting the tree to look a certain way.  I didn’t have to bake cookies for Santa.  I love the life I get to live!

I didn’t have a traditional Christmas before I got married. We always gathered for Christmas and I think Christmas Eve became our tradition shifting in favor of our growing family.  We gather Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day we get to have our children and in-laws.  This year we had tri-tip, tamales, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, fresh fruit and veggies, and desserts.  Thai noodle soup was the highlight of my night.  It is a throwing together of our huge family and our smaller families.  At some point my brother started throwing dollar bills out for the kids in a “make it rain” dance they love.  It’s chaos, but it’s family. It’s my family.  Our traditions shift and grow, as do we, and I get to make this celebration my own in all of the best ways.

There was a terrific balance of my wants and my kids wants.  There is a give and take where we do what we like, and no one is forced into more than we want.  We went to Grandma’s house for me, and my introvert got to decide when we were done and leaving. My inner ambivert was happy with his timing. There was time with my family and time alone.  There will be space for friends and I’m shooting for solo explorations as well.  I don’t have to cook foods I won’t eat or feel like I have to do things I really don’t want to. This new life feels like freedom and it tastes like I want more.