A Mom Has A Dream

Parents: Let us not wallow in despair.

While it is true that we have not slept past 7 AM for many, many years, and while it is also true that we have been continually anointed with the bodily fluids of our children, while our voices have gone hoarse from repeating the same simple instructions every day only to have them fall on deaf ears, and while the laundry mounts to dangerous heights, I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow…for the next eighteen years–give or take– I have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in every parent’s dream.

I have a dream that one day, my home, a modest three-bedroom containing two young children, a couple of dogs and a cat, will remain neat and tidy for at least twenty-four hours. A dream where my words, like stones in a river, will sink into my kid’s heads and they will act upon them. Parents and children will live together in unity knowing that there is a place for everything, and everything is in its place.

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I have a dream that one day, I will walk into the bathroom and find all the toothbrushes standing at attention. Globs of toothpaste will not sit like fat slugs on the bathroom counter nor will the remnants of that which was spit from their mouths encrust the sink. No longer will I twist the caps back on to multiple tubes of toothpaste since one child insists on only fruity flavors while the other demands mint. One day, my children’s sensitive palates will unite in harmony.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, in the dining room, my children will sit down together at the table and eat their food. We will not barter for how many more bites one must take. All servings–whether poultry or fish, spinach or rice–will be treated as equals. No speck of parsley nor dice of tomato will be pushed aside. And during this time, expelling gasses will cease, water shall not be spilled, and they will lean over their plates so that food does not tumble to their laps and onto the floor with every bargained bite. There will be peace at suppertime.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that my children will not find a new pair of shoes to wear each time they leave the house, but will put the same pair on that they took off earlier and left by the back door, the couch, or under the kitchen table.

I have a dream that one day, last night’s pajamas will make their way to the hamper. Dirty socks will not hide in the shoe bin nor under the bed but will instead be carried to the laundry room and deposited next to their kin with dignity. Clothes, when neatly folded and left in a pile on the child’s bed to be put away will not topple to the floor, but will be carefully laid in the appropriate drawers—drawers which shall be pushed in!

This is my hope, and this is the faith that I go back to their bedrooms with.

With this faith, we will transform ballads of nagging into melodies of praise.

I have a dream that one day, children will look upon their mothers, and their lips will not be dripping with the words of “clean up this mess.” One day, right there at home, little girls and little boys will be able to join hands as sisters and brothers and set the table or feed the dogs without arguing over who did it last night.

And when this happens, when the children have finally learned to hang up their wet towels after the shower, and to put their toys away, when they are able to flush the toilet every time they have used it so that the dog stops lapping up their pee, when they not only clear their plate from the table but also stack the dishwasher, their moms and their dads will be able to join hands together and sing:

                Free at last! Free at last!

                Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

 

 

 

A More Mindful Summer

Not too long ago, I came across a post by Simple As That. It was titled, Eighteen Summers: That’s All We Get and it was about savoring each moment we have with our children. The author of the blog, Rebecca, reminisces about her chubby-legged baby and quickly fast-forwards to that same child’s future high school graduation, pondering whether her tears on that day will be from joy or regret. She then goes on to offer five promises for making the most of each summer because, as she mentions, time is slipping by.

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I was still thinking about that post a few weeks later when I took my children to the water park. Watching as they played in the wave pool, my youngest was gleefully being buffeted by the waves; each time she got pushed back, she smiled so wide that I could see the gap from her two missing teeth. Last summer, she could only venture in the water with a life vest, usually holding onto my hand painfully tight, and this year, she was body surfing all on her own as I watched from the edge, only my toes getting lapped by the water.

Future milestones flashed before my eyes: driving a car, falling in love, learning to fly. I look forward to each one, just as I look forward to each summer I get to spend with my children, for each summer there are new experiences that the previous summer lacked.

Next summer, I anticipate that my youngest will be tall enough to finally ride the bigger slides at the water park. I can’t wait to see the excitement in her eyes and hear her squeal the whole way down.

Time marches on, my children get older, and I’m ok with that.

According to thousands of mothers everywhere, children are growing up at alarming rates. In a month’s time, babies have learned to feed themselves, they have started to walk, they have even (gasp!) gotten bigger. Every day I see posts on social media where moms are begging for time to slow down.

When it comes to my own kids, I’ve never mourned the passage of time. When I observe my children having a new experience, it feels like a gift. Each time they learn something, I am there to witness it. Their growth means they are healthy and thriving, and that’s not something I wish to impede. On the contrary, I want to be the one who pushes them towards their independence. After all, isn’t that my job as their parent?

Gone are the days of leaky swim diapers and timing activities around a nap schedule. This summer, I can bring a book to the water park and do a little reading. I no longer have to hover over my children and stand at the end of every slide waiting to catch them. Their growing up means a little more freedom for them and a little more down time for me. I’m able to relax, and being more relaxed, I enjoy our outings even more. I can pay attention to the details, the ones that imprint these memories forever so that whenever a certain song plays on the radio, or the sun casts a precise shade of pink in the sky, I am towed back.

We will never be able to slow down time, but we can change our perception of it. By paying more attention to the moments so many moms are wishing to hold onto, time will feel like it’s moving slower. It turns out that remembering to post that six-month milestone photo might be one of the things making it seem like it’s all going by too fast. When we are busy multi-tasking, when we are operating on auto-pilot, when we fail to pay attention, that’s when we blink and another year is gone. Ironically, since routine is one of the things that makes time feel like it is moving more quickly, keeping your tyke a tyke would theoretically make the problem worse.

If you really want time to slow down, simply practice mindfulness.

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{via Pinterest}

This summer, I plan to take the time to watch them play, to observe how the sun has lightened their hair, to examine the newest freckles on my daughter’s nose. I want to really listen to their stories and take note of the things that make them laugh. My own mother will spend a week with us this July and not only will she get another slice of summer with me, but she will also get to experience it with her grandchildren: days at the lake spent catching crawdads, watching fireworks at night, roasting marshmallows in the backyard, taking an afternoon nap on the hammock in the shade. I’m sure that she will re-live some memories from when I was my children’s ages and she was mine. Yet if I asked her if she’d like to go back in time and press pause, I’m certain she would say no.

Slow or fast, there is no guarantee how much time we will get, but I’m going to be mindful for each summer I share with my kids. And when they are grown, I hope I have the opportunity to do it all again with their children.

Life is about moving forward. To stand still means missing out on all that lies ahead.

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I am a good ____________.

When my oldest was two-and-a-half, my husband and I went through a difficult time in our marriage and sought counseling to help us through it. Growing up, I had seen a therapist at times when I needed some extra guidance in life, but this was my first plunge into couples therapy.

It was an interesting experience. I found comfort in some of the things the counselor said and did, but other methods I regarded as silly. My husband and I would give each other sidelong glances during the session and then laugh about it on the ride home. There was a purple velvet cushion she used for some symbolic and healing purposes that I have long since forgotten; the conch shell of therapy, we quickly dismissed it. But when my husband broke down and cried over the miscarriage we’d had, I felt our relationship strengthen. It was a loss I never realized he felt so deeply, and having that moment to mourn together helped us to move forward.

While I expected couples therapy to be mostly us talking about our present relationship, what I later realized was that our counseling sessions were very much about us as individuals—our pasts, our childhoods, our upbringings—and how these individual identities were shaping our marriage. We weren’t just dealing with immediate issues, we were dealing with those pieces of ourselves that had contributed to those issues. As it turned out, we both had similar feelings of inadequacy, and we both were beating ourselves up for the problems in our marriage.

Sometimes our counselor would give us homework to complete between sessions, and one time, she encouraged us each to write a list of the things we were good at. I probably poo-pooed the idea at first, but I can’t not do a homework assignment, so I set to work.

I’m a good cook.

I’m a good writer.

I’m a good homemaker.

I’m a good friend.

I’m a good mother.

I’m a good teacher.

I’m a good wife.

I’m a good dreamer.

I added some attributes: loyalty, humor, intelligence, organization, but the list proved challenging to write. I wasn’t used to thinking about the things I am good at, and maybe that was the whole point of the exercise: to find comfort in giving myself praise. Shoot, I’m not even comfortable accepting praise. When my husband tells me I look beautiful, I never just say thanks. I negate his compliment or I roll my eyes. Simply put: I don’t believe it.

Fortunately, with help and because of our commitment to each other, our marriage was repaired, and while we haven’t returned to counseling since, we both kept our lists. From time to time, I’ll come across his or mine, a reminder of how important it is to remember the good in us.

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Photo courtesy of Mary Latham, a former student of mine who is currently on her cross-country More Good Road Trip. You can learn more about her journey at www.moregood.today

As we finish off the school year, I asked my students to write reflection letters where they provide feedback on my class. As I skimmed through them and took notes, I started feeling the overwhelming need for a total revamp of my curriculum and instruction.

Confiding in my co-worker about some of the more critical letters and all the changes I was pondering, she pointed at the one face-up on my desk. “You need to read these letters, and not worry so much about the other ones.”

On the top of the pile was a letter that thanked me for all I had done. The student said how much they loved my class, how much they had learned, and how much they’d miss me.

The point is, we need to spend more time concentrating on the job well done rather than the room for improvement. Instead of torturing myself about that one night when dinner went straight from pan to trashcan and I had to order a pizza, I should recall all those other meals that got devoured, the ones where my husband told me it was restaurant-worthy, because deep down I know, I am a good cook. Instead of harboring guilt from those times when I’ve been bitchy to my husband for no good reason, I should remember the times when I surprise him with a Groupon for a round of golf or hire the babysitter and plan a date night to try a new brewery in town, because the truth is, I am a good wife.

A good mother. A good friend. Good enough.

Am I perfect? Hell No. But I think I’ll try to spend less time obsessing over my imperfections and more time identifying the good.

Whether we are traveling across the country in search of the good in others, or simply searching within ourselves, there is more good everywhere– sometimes all we need is a reminder.

Maybe it’s time you wrote a list of your own. Let me get you started: I am a good _________________.

 

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You can follow Mary Latham on Facebook, Instagram, or at http://www.moregood.today

Mystery Blogger Award

As a relatively new blogger, most of the comments about my posts come from Facebook, which means that the majority of people commenting are those I know personally. I appreciate all the feedback I receive on my writing, but when people I don’t know reach out to me, it’s different. A stranger took the time to comment on what I put out in the blogosphere; they felt compelled to respond. It’s like when your mom tells you that she likes your new hairstyle, it’s cool and all, but when some random person stops you in Target to say, “Great haircut!” then you really start to believe that, Dang, my hair looks fly.

This is why, when I saw a new comment on OMG! It’s My Blogiversary!, I got a little tingle. But then, when I read that Sam from The Caffeine Gal had nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award, by Okoto Enigma, I was even more intrigued and excited. What was this so-called Mystery Blogger Award? (My first thought: Blogger spam?)

Turns out, The Mystery Blogger Award is a nice way for bloggers to recognize and share other blogs, which sounds good to me. Who doesn’t like spreading the love?

There are some rules I’m obliged to post:

Mystery Blogger Award Rules

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog
  • List the rules
  • Thank whoever nominated you and post a link to their blog
  • Mention the creator of the blog and provide a link to their blog also
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  • You have to nominate 10-20 people
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice; with one strange or funny question
  • Share a link to your best post(s)

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Let’s start answering those questions that Sam asked.

What is your favorite post so far? Why?

I think my favorite post was Co-Parenting for the Married Couple. It was certainly the most popular post in terms of it’s views, but that’s not why it’s my favorite. I worked on it for months. I kept revising, and as it was about my marriage, it was deeply personal.

My husband reads all my posts before I publish them and prior to posting Co-Parenting for the Married Couple, we had been bickering more than usual and generally getting on each other’s nerves– as will happen when you live with someone for like, 13 years. I know that he appreciated reading that post; it said more than I would have in that moment and it helped us to realize the big picture again instead of focusing on those dirty socks that are always on the floor.

If you had a pseudonym, what would it be?

It’s not really a pseudonym, but I would want to be published under my maiden name, even though it is French and hard for people to pronounce. The writing me existed before the married me did. Plus, my dad and his brother only had daughters, so I’d like to think that being published under my maiden name would be like him having had a son.

What keeps you motivated in keeping your blog up and going?

I love writing. I love that I have created this space where my writing is housed and that I am writing with more frequency than ever before. Other people are reading my work and being inspired, which thrills me. I’m self-driven so for the most part, I don’t need any other motivation, but I am thankful for the support of my family and friends…that always helps me to keep going too.

Do your friends and family know about your blog?

Of course! My daughters and husband make regular appearances in my posts, so they’d better. Without my children, I wouldn’t have ReadingWhileEating at all. Which begs the question: When they’re teenagers, are they still going to allow me to write about them?

If you could insert one of your favorite characters from literature into a movie/tv series, who would it be and where would you put him/her? 

Sam probably didn’t know that she was asking this question of an English teacher. I had to think about my favorite shows and all-time favorite books to get a pairing that might work. What I came up with was to take Pilate Dead from Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon and put her in the Netflix series Orange is the New Black.

In addition to answering Sam’s questions, I’m supposed to tell you 3 things about myself, so here goes…

ONE:

When I had my first child, I had recurring nightmares about her falling off a Ferris Wheel. Sometimes I would be sitting alongside her, forced to watch from the top as she fell out of my arms. Sometimes I would be standing at the bottom, desperately hoping that I could catch her. She was an infant at the time, a newborn. Why was she even on a Ferris Wheel? It made no sense, yet that didn’t stop it from feeling very real.

Like most dreams of falling, before any impact I was jolted awake, my pulse racing and short of breath. Perhaps they were nothing more than the result of sleep deprivation and the worry that comes with being a new mom; she was so fragile, her survival dependent upon me.

TWO:

Since having children, I no longer can jump on trampolines: I pee myself. My children like to announce this Fun Fact in very public settings or whenever there’s company over for dinner.

When I was young, single, and waitressing on Long Island, occasionally the restaurant staff would go out to the club after our shift ended. One of my favorite co-workers was older than me, already married with a few kids of her own. I remember being on the dance floor when House of Pain’s Jump Around came on. When she jumped up, jumped up and got down, she confided in me that she had pissed herself. Even though she was wearing a skirt and didn’t seem to mind, I was mortified for her. Why? I asked her. “Kids!” She yelled over the DJ while continuing to bounce up and down, albeit with less gusto than before. Every time my children beg me to jump on the trampoline, I think of her.

THREE:

I consider myself a feminist. I am all about girl-power. I fully support Sydney Ireland becoming a Boy Scout and I can’t wait for the day when we have a female president.

Growing up, I always rode a boys’ bike- the frame with the horizontal cross-bar rather than the one that slopes downward so that a woman can wear a skirt and still ride comfortablyEarly in our marriage, my husband bought me a new bike for my birthday: a girls’ bike. Even though it was purple, just like my previous bike, I was disappointed in it, and, at first, he didn’t really understand why. My singing of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better,” didn’t really help matters.

As a feminist, I was destined to have daughters. Just as my mother raised me to be a strong, independent woman, I plan on doing the same for my girls. The other day my oldest started saying, “Just because we’re girls, doesn’t mean we can’t play football,” and “just because we’re girls, doesn’t mean we can’t act like boys.” Damn straight, Sister. Damn straight.

I look forward to the day I get to help her pick out her first 10-speed.

I am nominating the following bloggers, in no particular order, for the Mystery Blogger Award: 

I’d like my nominees to answer these questions:

  1. What is the most challenging part of blogging for you?
  2. What are you most proud of?
  3. What is the last, best thing (book, blog, article, poem) you read?
  4. What does your ideal day look like?
  5. If you could take a ride in the DeLorean, where would you visit and why?

And now, for my favorite posts:

Thank you, Sam, for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award. This was unexpected, resulting in a post that otherwise would have gone unwritten.