The Replacements

The Twitter world lit up over the controversial final call of the Green Bay vs. Seattle game on Monday Night Football on September 24th.  The call (or missed call) was carried out by replacement refs who have been officiating NFL games since the referee lockout began prior to the start of the 2012 season.  Fans have not been happy about the situation and were so vocal about removing the replacement refs that the NFL and the NFL Referees reached an agreement two days after this game to end it. The substitutes, as fans would say, weren’t cutting it.

And how could they? It was known the replacement refs were substitutes whose job was to fill in while the labor dispute was ongoing. They didn’t have the experience the professional referees had, nor the vested interested to hone their skills (though I am quite certain they all wanted to do a good job). They did their job knowing it was temporary.

As a babysitter in my teen years I was grateful for the work and the money. I loved kids, prided myself on being responsible and wanted to do a good job. Yet, I was very aware that the job I was doing was temporary. If I did a good job, hopefully the parents would have me sit again. If I didn’t, not a big deal, finding another family to sit for wasn’t hard to do.

The permanence of parenting didn’t settle in for me until about a month or so after our first son was born. It reminded me of being a babysitter, except this wouldn’t be a temporary gig on a Saturday night, but a permanent one that I’d be doing 24x7x365 for the next 18 years.  The realization that I not only had this new job, but I would also need to be “on my game” all the time was a little overwhelming, but it was clear my presence was required and I needed to commit to be the best parent I could be. No temporary lockouts, checkouts or somebody-else-can-handles. There is no substitution for the real thing.

While there will never be the threat of an “official” lockout for parents, unofficial forms can occur—through divorce or strained partner relationships, demanding work schedules or commitments that keep you outside the home—any time your child experiences your absence physically or emotionally. To your child, there is no substitute for you. You may miss an occasional “call” in parenting, but have the opportunity to make it right.

The Twitter world might not light up over the news that you are a caring and committed parent, but your child’s will, and there’s no replacement for that.

Season to Grow

Our yard is a bit of a mess. We moved into our home in 2005 and swore we would live here five years max.  Here we are seven years later in the same home. I love our house, but as our boys grow older we know we will eventually need to move to a home that has a bit more space. In the interim, it’s become apparent that we are in need of a change—a bit of sprucing up, perhaps.

In 2005, our yard had many good qualities: beautiful rockrose bushes in the front, large rosemary bushes in the back and an enormous plum tree, which provided wonderful shade and privacy for our yard.  The northwest winters where we live are always a bit unpredictable. Temperatures average in the 30s and 40s, but can occasionally drop into the teens. On multiple occasions over the past several years we’ve had snow on the ground for the good part of a week, something we’re not used to.

The rockrose bushes died off first. It got a plant disease and started a slow death that led to its removal in early 2008. The rosemary bushes that complimented our deck in the back, and some bushes that bordered one side of our property died next in the freeze of 2010.  The plum tree, while pruned once several years ago, has overgrown to a point that it needs an intensive pruning this winter.  Our yard has taken a beating from all the running feet playing baseball and football on it, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’ve gotten to a place where we are ready to grow. Grow new plants, revive old ones and see what we can make flourish again.

It’s not much different than us as people. Sometimes we get in a rut or a phase and we let things die off, get away from us, or we simply outgrow it. With the responsibilities that come with parenthood it’s easy for relationships to fade, taking care of ourselves can lose it’s priority, and trying to maintain, let alone enjoy what you have, can feel more exhausting than rewarding.  Yet something happens, a trigger like reconnecting with a friend or awakening where you realize what you’ve let get away from you, and it becomes time for a change, a time for new growth, renewal and success.

I’m looking forward to see what change will bring. In many ways, for my family and me, it’s our season to grow. Add new friendships to our lives, rekindle old ones we have tended to as well as we would have liked, take care of each other and ourselves so we can all flourish.

With each passing season I now ask myself, “how are we growing?” for my husband and I as partners and as a family.

How are you growing?

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I’ve been thinking about the word respect lately.

My concentration around this word began following recent statements made by my six-year-old son to my husband and I.

“How dare you speak to me that way?” He responded after not getting something that he wanted (e.g. TV or a sweet)

“What the heck?” He responded after we told him we couldn’t accommodate his request (e.g. TV, play a game, etc)

Besides being momentarily dumbfounded by what he said, I responded each time saying, “We don’t talk that way to each other. We treat each other with respect.” Defining respect for him has been a bit more challenging.

The dictionary defines respect as:

Respect (Noun): A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

Respect (Verb): Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

I was brought up to respect my parents, but I hadn’t put too much thought into why, until my son responded this way. My sisters and I were spanked by our parents. Most of my friends growing up were spanked by their parents. Spanking was an acceptable way to discipline for many families in the ’70s. I’m thankful that is no longer the case.

We do not spank our children. I have never been comfortable with the idea of mixing actions like love and hitting together. It was very confusing to me why loving parents would spank a child.  Instead, we talk to our son and explain the situation about why we have to take an action or inaction to reinforce a desired behavior. I thought it was working until his outbursts occurred.

I’ve always respected my parents, but had to think about why that was as a child.  Was it because I admired them for their parenting abilities or because I was scared that if I didn’t respect them I would get spanked? I’m certain it was a mixture of both. I knew my parents loved me. They showed me that in tangible ways—hugs, kisses, cheers and time. The spanking scared me. It hurt and the pain endured often felt disproportionate to what I was being punished for.  It kept me inline, but at an unquantifiable emotional and physical cost.

I don’t want my children to associate needing to experience physical harm to learn a positive lesson together. Spanking will not ever be part of my parent rearing equation. But how do you teach your child respect?

I talk to my boys about respect and treating each other with kindness. Listening to each other, responding with consideration and care. I will never embarrass them knowingly, shame them or lie to them. I will continue to explain things to them and help them make the connection between the action and the consequence (positive or negative). I have a saying I use with my boys: “If I ask you for something its for one of three reasons. I’m trying to teach you something. I’m trying to keep you safe, or I need your help.”

I’m not sure respect can be taught. I believe it’s earned, and I’m hopeful in time my boys will come to respect my husband and I for raising them the way we are and will.  In the interim, I’m working to stick to what I believe is key: being consistent and practicing patience. I’m hoping to be an expert in patience by the time they are teenagers. I hear we’ll be in for quite a ride by then.

How are you experiencing respect in your life?

Love is for Free

For most of my life I believed that love was something you had to earn. In order to be loved you had to work hard, behave, be generous (with time, money, energy), do the right thing even if it conflicted with your own wants and needs, sacrifice even if it hurt and give until you don’t have any more to give.  I realize when I write it out that this sounds exhausting and not at all what love should be.

I’m still unsure where this notion came from. Did I learn this from my family, friends, the media or a combination of them all?

I was discussing love with a friend recently who shared a powerful insight. She said said, “Love isn’t earned, it’s freely given.” This was an ‘aha’ moment for me. I think on some subconscious level I always knew this to be the case, but my beliefs and actions were not at all aligned with this belief.

I was struck by the notion that my self-worth had gotten wrapped up in this warped belief of conditional love. When I had this jarring revelation recently, I became for the first time fully aware of how affected I’d been by this belief. For instance: any physical deficiency I had (real or imagined) I felt I had to overcompensate for in order to be liked and loved. Sad, I know, pathetic even. As a teenager and young adult I would get uncomfortable whenever someone showed me any affection. I can think of so many dates I went on where I got just plain freaked out if the person liked me and wanted to go out with me again.  How could they be sure they liked me? They hadn’t even seen my flaws yet, what was wrong with them?  In reality, nothing was wrong with them, and nothing was wrong with me other than my warped point of view. I wish I had been perceptive enough to realize how askew my thinking was at the time. I wonder sometimes what I might have missed out on because of my fears.

Thankfully I continue to learn more about myself every day and I’m so grateful to have had this revelation and to have found a way to allow myself to be truly and deeply loved.

After all, my husband didn’t marry me because he felt sorry for me and I don’t have caring friends because they pity me. Just as I married my husband because I love who he is, and I love my closest friends for who they are. There are no strings attached, no money needed, no conditions they have to adhere to. I love them freely and they love me back in return.

Love is sometimes easier to give than to receive, at least to those of us that are just figuring it out it’s for free.

Can You Read This?

There is no denying it, I’m getting older. We all are, of course, but I think I’ve been in a bit of denial for the past 41 years. I’m aware I’ve been aging, particularly over the past few years, but for the most part there were only minimal signs, a word or name I couldn’t instantly recall, or an attempt to type a word only to look up at my screen and realize I’d written something completely different.  Now it seems the physical signs are everywhere: lines on my face that don’t go away regardless of the amount of product I put on, more and more time and money at the hairdresser’s, having to hold the menu away from my face just a little bit further to read the words. The most recent assault was when I tore the cartilage in my knee when I released the footbrake in my car. Are you serious? I thought after it happened. This kind of stuff only happens to—gulp—old people!

But this is my reality now. With each passing year, I’m aware that a few more lines will creep up on my face, I will continue to spend more and more money at the hairdresser’s, I’ll eventually need reading glasses, and my body will suffer injuries caused by seemingly minor physical activity (egads!).

I’m not happy about any of this, but I can’t say I’m mad either. A little disappointed, maybe.  I somehow convinced myself growing up that when you get “old”, (and mind you, with each passing year what I consider old moves up) you just naturally come to terms with your inevitable decline and are at peace with it. I realized this wasn’t necessarily true when I watched a 2011 documentary on Gloria Steinem called In Her Own Words onHBO. The seventy-seven-year-old Steinem says something to the effect of not being ready to slow down because she enjoys living too much.  Her admitting that made me cry. I feel the exact same way, and I suspect I will in my 50s, 60s, 70s and so on, assuming I’m fortunate to live that long.

For me, life is always an adventure. I love to try new things, meet new people and have new experiences, to learn and grow.

I’m working hard to do whatever I need to do to live a long and healthy life. Mostly this doesn’t mean doing anything extreme, just having some common sense: eating healthy foods, getting regular exercise, and finding ways to relieve my stress any way I can by going to the spa, spending time with my girlfriends, or relaxing with my husband.

Life can be hard, but I’ve really enjoyed the ride so far and want to stick around for as long as I can. It’s not because aging, or even death, scares me. I want to live just for the joy of it.