Love looks like walking away


moms.fortwayne.comIt was 3:30 a.m. and we walked out the front doors of an empty hospital. The halls had echoed with each step we took, leading us farther and farther away from our crying daughter. In the past, the way I showed her I loved her most was to sit by her bedside, stroke her hair, whisper calming meditation techniques to back her down from a cliff she was perched upon, and to simply stay.

Tonight? Tonight I showed my 16-year-old how much I loved her by the way I walked away. Far away. So far away the echoes of my steps could not be heard by her and my ears no longer heard her cries. My heart, however, heard them long into the night, all the way from home, and I slept fitfully.

I want to put words to this hellish heartbreak I have, but I am ruined. I can find nothing to explain what it is like to admit your child to a psychiatric hospital. I can’t believe I have to, that I did, that this is real. There are no words. None work.

I am raw, broken and wounded to the bone.

Flesh has been torn from my frame as my child was ripped from my heart muscles with each step I took, me telling myself it was for her good that I did it. Her spot in my heart is now a hole; one that is a warning to me to get this right so that the hole is not permanent. Get this right or that hole will get larger, be edged with grief, guilt and shame. Get this right or suffer the knowledge that I had the chance to get things right and I chose the easy way out and let her convince me to do what felt better than to do the hard thing of what’s best.

My husband drove us home and he melted beside me as he turned the corner toward our house. It was like watching a steel rod turn to liquid. Slowly he leaked, seeped, bent and slumped. One thought of what he’d driven away from and he became a shimmering pool of hot mess.

I begrudged him nothing. He was strong when he needed to be. We were alone. Melt away, honey.

I, however, couldn’t fully give into the reality of it. I had too much to do. I didn’t have time to feel, dammit. If I began, I’d never stop, and I would fall apart into pieces that could never be put back together again. Instead I chose to go dead inside. I stopped up the tears and built up the dam, plugging the holes. I’d never get through this with all the tears that were threatening to spill over.

I had her things to pack, papers to gather, my kids to explain all this to, and a morning of foggy headed to-do’s of phone calls to clients to explain that I’d need time to reschedule them, I wouldn’t know my schedule for a while.

I sat with my kids in front of me; I continually had to squeeze my arm that was locked around my middle to force my self to be calm and controlled, answering my kid’s questions, trying to seem like I was a mom who had a clue. They needed to believe that what I was doing was for sure the right thing. They also needed to know when we all went into the family therapy session it would be hard for their sister and I explained some things they should understand ahead of time about the situation.

Then I left and went outside for a while. I let myself completely go. I ugly cried till my gut hurt and matched my heart. I let my pain have its way. The acid in my stomach churned until I nearly collapsed under the stress of its boil.

I looked at the clock on my phone. I had no time left for this. My mini moment of honesty had to be over. Time to go back to neutral and find a way to function through the next four hours of visitation, doctor meetings and family therapy.

My stomach sank to my feet. Walking back into that place meant I’d have to leave again. I felt myself begin to retch at the thought. How could I do that again? Didn’t I prove my love by doing it once already? Then it dawned on me, I not only had to, I WOULD do it over and over and over, each time I went, proving to her just how much I am committed to loving her.

Sometimes love looks like saying you’ll stay, other times it looks like walking away.

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Hard things are ALWAYS worth doing


We sat in the car at a stop light and my daughter let out a nervous, “UUUGH!” I smiled at her and said, “Hey, you can do this. It’s gonna be okay.” She was headed in to the orthodontist, about to be fitted with braces for the first time.

Ortho appointments are nothing new for me, as we’ve just gotten kid No. 1 out of braces just a few short months ago. Finances dictate we do kids one at a time. Kid No. 2 had to wait a while longer for hers to begin than her sister did. Long before senior pictures are taken they will be off, and that is all that matters. At least in her book. It’s gonna be a long and painful road till then.

I must be a cool mom. My kid wants to take a selfie with ME! Whoa...

I must be a cool mom. My kid wants to take a selfie with ME! Whoa…

We park and I look over at her. She’s this tough, defensive soccer player. One who just plowed her way through some intensive physical therapy to recover from a soft tissue injury, so she could get back on the field and be the immovable force at the goal. Yet she looks like my little Alli-girl all of a sudden, scared and nervous, unsure of what’s to come. I reassure her. She can do this. Really.

I drop her off and run errands. I can’t wait to see her flash her winning smile that will now be lit with bling. (She’s worth every single penny of that bling too.)

I come in and she shyly waits for me and it’s impossible for her not to smile. There it is. Bright blue bands that match her eyes. She’s a beautiful mess of feisty fire and blue bling. I’m so proud of her I could pop. I could see the pain in her eyes. It wasn’t an easy appointment. I know not just from her sister’s years in braces, but from my own five years of orthodontics. It’s a tough road.

Our kids have so much to do in order to grow up. They have to learn, to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually; then they have to mix it all together and figure out who they are, what they want to be, and begin to walk toward that goal, all while doing hard things like braces. It’s easy to blow it off. As an adult we forget how hard the day-to-day growing up years are. We can say, “been there, done that.” But hey, they are here now, doing that. It’s hard work. And I want to remember each day that it’s not easy to be a kid, choosing to do the right thing is hard, and doing so while having added things that just plain hurt can make a hard day more like brutal.

IMG_3443I tell my kids, weekly, this one simple fact: “Hard things are worth doing.” I don’t want them to shy away from things because they are hard. In fact, if it’s hard to do, it’s a good bet it is probably worth it. Easy things are exactly that. Easy, and everyday. Hard things? Only the ones who really want it go after it and achieve it. Those are the people that do great things. That’s who I want them to NOT be afraid of being. Don’t be afraid of failing, getting back up, and continuing to run hard after a goal. It’s worth the finish line.

At the end of the years in braces, this hard thing will have been worth doing too. In the meantime, flash that blue bling and let the world know you are going after your goal. There ain’t nothin stopping you, baby! You go girl!

Raising future adults — one chore and life skill at a time


So, here I am over at 123 Parenting Lane and thought I would share what’s up. I’ve begun to change how I am doing this parenting thing and I think it’s because my kids are growing up so danged fast.

It hit me a while back that I am not raising kids anymore. I don’t have babies, toddlers or little kids. I have one preteen boy and two teenage girls. Frankly the last thing I want to do is raise kids anymore. Why do I say that? Well I don’t WANT to have grown KIDS when I’m done with the official parenting thing and become an empty nester. I want to have grown adult offspring.
IMG_2233I’ve changed gears: I am now “raising future adults.” This change in mindset has completely overhauled how I do things, how I parent, how I work at parenting and how I see the day-to-day struggles and challenges. I found it actually takes a lot of stress out of the things that we once fought over. With a mindset change, it’s become easier to distance my self personally and see the end game for what it is: a practice game, dress rehearsal, a run-through before the big shindig.

Take cooking, for example. I used to cook all the meals, clean up all the mess, do all the dishes and work hard to make everyone happy. Now? Yeah, I don’t do most of that anymore. Oh, I still have dishes that I do here and there, I still cook some and plan meals, but I’m not the main source of all of it.

We have a weekly rotation of chores. One main chore for each kid, one empties the dishwasher, one fills, one cleans up the bathroom. At the end of the night, everyone takes their own stuff to their rooms and doing this keeps the house relatively sane. They do this daily. Then they each are assigned two nights to create a meal they know how to make or want to learn. Three kids + two meals each = six nights off and only one night for me to cook. My husband helps my son cook his meals. One day he will be on his own for that too.

The kids cooking not only teaches them how to make a meal but also the work involved in prep and getting it done and served. They pick meals they like, but they also respect the efforts of their siblings and that the sibling likes the meal. I rarely hear “I hate this,” or “I want something else to eat.” It’s not an option to eat anything else, and no one will die from eating something that isn’t their favorite. On a positive note here, they also know they have at least two meals a week they like, because they get to pick them.

I sit in the kitchen and work on my laptop. If they need help, I am available to answer questions, give pointers or give a hand. Often they will use the crock pot and even stick the dish in before school. Then there is precious little to do that night. They love that, and we all eat well.

Why am I making my kids cook and do all the kitchen work? Because I already know how to do all that. THEY are the ones who need to know how to do it and how to do it well when they leave home. These future adults need to know how to care for a house and themselves and feeding themselves more than PB&Js. It’s something I want them to leave home with. I remember my friends asking me how to cook stuff when I was in college, and let me tell you they were beyond clueless. When both my brother and I moved out we had cookbooks full of recipes. He’s now an amazing cook and baker on top of being an awesome dad, husband and engineer. We left home knowing things because my mom did this exact same thing with us. She rocked, even if I didn’t appreciate her smarts at the time.

So yeah, I’m done raising kids. They do complain now and again about it. I listen and say, ‘yeah, sorry about that.”  It changes nothing. We are a family and we work together to do what it takes to function and get through this life thing.

It’s important they also know that I don’t love what I have to do daily either, but I do have to do it anyway. Once they leave home, they are going to have to do lots of things they won’t love to do. It’s good practice doing things you don’t want to do and developing a decent attitude about it. After all, they can’t yell back at a boss that they don’t FEEL like doing something, or they hate that job chore, or they don’t like working next to so and so.

Giving them practice doing things they don’t enjoy, but which are needed skills, is just good parenting. It took a while to get it to work like a rusty, badly functioning clock, but, hey, we are plugging away, the hands are moving, and regardless as to if it’s timely or not, we do eventually get it all done and learn things along the way.

Eventually someday, I’ll look back and be glad I had the headaches and stress associated with raising adults, because they will invite me over for dinner and we will have food on the table and their kids will unknowingly thank me with their shrieks of “EWWWWW, I don’t LIKE that!”

I have my answer, and world, you better watch out.


Every now and again, as a mom, you look at your kids, see how big they are, and wonder if you’ve done enough. Have you instilled in them not just the how-to’s and the must-do’s, but have you gotten down to the basics of what really matters? When push comes to shove, have your kids really learned what you wanted to plant in their hearts and their very souls?

Life is busy. It’s full of so many must-get-done lists in a day that it trails off long after the day is over and the hours are since spent and gone. The kids are asleep in their beds and there is still one more thing to put away, wash up, find a match to or set out so it’s not forgotten. How do you make sure you have gotten to the heart of things as you run to and fro? Did the kids notice when you took an extra minute out of the rat race to stop and talk about that “teachable” moment when it floated past the other day? Did they hear any of them over the last few years?

There’s never a good way to know until push comes to shove. Until your kid is square in the face with a choice of doing the right thing over what everyone else is doing, you never really know. Further still, they may know the right thing, they just may not have the gumption, the guts, to take that hard stand.
IMG_2242Alli, my 14 year old, came home from school the other day. She blew through the door in her normal blustery fashion and grabbed food from the pantry and fridge and sprawled in the kitchen and loudly began recounting the day. Suddenly she stopped, got heated, and her eyes went beady and hot. When she is mad, her crystal light blue eyes change into a royal blue, nearly glowing. They flash and dance, bouncing the light. I stopped what I was doing. She commanded attention.

“I was sooooo mad today. In class some of the kids were laughing and holding a group of pencils tight and with a rubber band around them. They waved them and walked around saying,’ WHO am I?’ Mom I was so mad! I stood up and yelled at them and told them what for. I didn’t care if we were in the middle of class. They can’t do that.” She was ticked off. She went on to tell me they were making fun of an autistic kid from class who liked to have his pencils organized just so. Alli has a special place in her heart for him. She has always taken up for him. She gets mad when anyone with a special need or challenge is mocked or bullied. She gets so mad she will physically stand up and confront the bullies till they back off.

Her sixth grade year this particular boy was in class with her and she volunteered to sit with him in class. No one wanted to be partnered with him. He would randomly talk and make noises and gestures. He could not control his vocal tics or some of his movements. But to Alli it was what made him like a little brother. She watched after him like she did her brother on the bus. She got in anyone’s face who would say anything to him.

Summers she works at a non-profit horse ranch where kids come to ride. Her favorite weeks of the summer at the Dare to Dream Youth Ranch are those where they host autism camps. She has always been drawn to kids, but particularly those with special needs. She has a way about her. A sense. She is as protective in the classroom as she is on the soccer field of the goal she defends.

I asked if she got in trouble for her outburst in class. Alli is not exactly a quiet girl. When ticked off, she can be quite outspoken and loud. I know she gets it honestly, as her mother might be a little bit like that. Yeah, she may be a chip off the old block here.

“No, she never told me to be quiet, in fact the teacher came over to me after I sat back down and told me thank you for standing up for him. She said she was glad I did that.” Alli tilted her chin in a way that said, “Yeah, and I’d do it again even if she didn’t like it.” She still had a defiant and ticked edge to her. She gets very riled at injustice and disrespect.

So, when it comes right down to it, in the midst of all the to-do’s and the must-get-done’s, have I gotten around to really getting to the heart of what I want my kids to grow up knowing?

Yeah. I think this passes the test. But honestly? It’s not a testament to my parenting. It’s a testament to my daughter’s strength, her determination and her moxie. She has all it takes to get out there in the world and be exactly who she was created to be. She knows what she needs to know, and she has what it takes to do what is right. And when push comes to shove, she’s gonna do it. I’m proud of her for being exactly who she is and not be ashamed of that for a minute. Frankly? I think I’m learning from her.

I may lie akes at night thinking or worrying about something, but this? Nope. This isn’t one of them.

This post is reposted from my parenting blog over at Will Settle for Chocolate 

Sometimes it takes a hug to make life play nice


IMG_2243We’ve had a rough week around here. It’s not really abnormal, in fact it’s pretty standard, but it’s rough nevertheless.

Each kid has their own hard spot. They’ve each had their own struggles and worries. I’ve found myself floating from one kid, one thing, to the next, trying to be flexible and able to meet them where they are. I’m not always sure what I’m doing.

What am I sure of? Hugs. Never underestimate the power of a hug.

There are many different ways to give and get a hug. The standard one is pretty great. My oldest and I were having a conversation. She was upset, in tears, overwhelmed, and ready to just give up. I said, “No way! We don’t do that in our family.”

Giving up is the easy way out, but it’s also much harder than knuckling down and setting your chin. Truly. It’s easy in the moment to just say, “I can’t do this” and allow yourself to stop trying. The only problem with that is you get further and further buried in your mucky pit and find it harder and harder to climb out. It’s not worth that. Just when you think you can’t do another minute, with a little love, you can.

I had no words, no way to change the reality she was dealing with. I did have arms, though, so I just stopped her, put out my arms and invited her to lie with me on her bed, cuddled up, and we squished our cute pup between us. Our furry baby then slathered on kisses and made us giggle. Nothing in the world changed, but cuddling up in a hug made a world of difference.

From the bus, my middle kid texted me this morning. She was stressing out over a presentation she has to give. She has to have it ready by Monday and has tons of stuff to get done beforehand. She has a science fair project due and then the regular stuff. It’s tough being a kid these days.

While it’s easy to say kid stress is nothing like we have as grownups, it’s simply not true. Every single thing they have to do is just as hard as our deadlines, our financial stress, our worries. Helping them deal with theirs in a healthy way, however, will give them the confidence to handle the adult version later.

So I texted her back and first said I was sorry she was stressed. I asked what was up.  I asked about the deadlines and began to break things down into bites. I found that some deadlines were not today, so we will work on stuff together at home.

I’ll drop all I can to help my kids. I regularly will drop my stuff and work on theirs with them, then pick my to-do’s back up after they are in bed. A little less sleep is worth the fact that they CAN sleep. She sent me silly stickers and we back and forth sent ridiculous selfie pics. She was laughing by the time she got off the bus and I knew she’d carry those smiles with her all day.

My youngest has been making some poor choices lately. He doesn’t like the book he has to read for his Lit Circle group. The girls keep picking the books and he is far from impressed in now reading the whole series versus just one book he has zero interest in or tolerance for. In frustration, he began just NOT reading the book. Mad. What resulted is being behind by 170 pages versus being right  on time.

He is a fast reader, and so when he was so behind, he knew his teacher would call him out on it. He began fretting and worrying, teary, trying to fib his way into a sick day. The rule at our house is if you’re sick you have no electronics, you just sleep and get well. Or read a book.  Hmmmmmm. Yeah, he wanted to be sick so he could score a read-all-day-on-the-book day and catch up.

My “hug” to him was to say “no.” I pulled him into an embrace and we talked about it. I asked what was going on, we got it down to the bare bones and figured out where all the fiasco started. I had already been in contact with the teacher before this over some issues similar and so I knew more than he knew I did. My extra hug to him was to lay down some new rules. He needed to read 25 pages a day, before he touched any electronic device, and then he would be ready for the next Lit Circle group, all caught up, and no more stress over it.

His big take away? The fact that regardless if you like something or not, you have to do it and be prepared. I told him there were lots of things I didn’t want to do, every day, but choosing NOT to do them was not on the list of OK ways to deal with it. This is gonna come up over and over in life, and if I really want to love on my kids, I’ll help them through it, learn to do things anyway and support them while they learn the lesson.

Hugs can be literal arms around you. Hugs can be notes of encouragement, silly selfies and the promise of help and support. Hugs can be consequences, new rules and life lessons that will stick with them forever. Hugs are love, given however needed, at just the right moment, tailored to fit.

Want to know the best part? My kids are learning all about how to give hugs, not just get them. The other day I was stressed out and worried, sure I was gonna fail, and then I found an “I Love YOU!” note scribbled on the papers I was working on. I find random sticky notes that send me hugs when I least expect them. I find silly drawings in places when I’m trying to get things done. I always smile and feel so much better, stronger, able to push on and through whatever it is I am doing.

Hugs. Need one, give one, take one, receive one.  Hugs make life livable.

This post is reposted from my parenting blog over at Will Settle for Chocolate 

The perks of raising a techno kid


IMG_2244My daughter Alli came home the other day and said she had won some art award and that she was to go to an award ceremony at the Grand Wayne Center and get a certificate. She was all shoulder shrugging “whatevs” about it. I was tickled pink and signed us all up to attend right then and there. What I failed to understand, however, was the scope of the award and the fact it was not just a citywide contest, but a national award. We are a bit new to the whole thing, I guess.

We arrived on Sunday and a guy was yelling, “Students to the right, family to the left.”

In a split second, as we were shuffling along like cattle in a squished line of parents and award winners, a prick of panic welled up in Alli as she realized she would not be waiting to cross that stage sitting beside us, but by herself. “I don’t wanna sit alone,” she hissed at me under her breath as we got closer to the doors. I wanted to change it for her, but I couldn’t. So I did what any mom would do, I said what I knew ultimately would be true, but would not feel true for a very long time… “hon, you’re gonna do fine, it will be OK.”

With that, we went out separate ways.

We found our seats and then noticed Alli was not finding hers. It was by schools. So I went up to her and together we tried to figure it out. She was the only one from her school getting an award and so with only one chair to find it was a bit harder to do. While other kids were sitting with friends, Alli was sitting by strangers. My heart sank. I really hated that for her. I wanted to scoop her up or sit right down in the aisle beside her, but instead I slowly walked away, back to my seat a bazillion rows behind her.

My pocket buzzed. My phone was on silent. It was Alli. She was texting me. “I’m scared,” it said with sad faces beside it. With that we began a conversation and though I was a bazillion rows away, I was also only a second away via text. Technology was now this mama’s best friend. I tried to build her up, to get her to believe she could do this, that she wouldn’t trip crossing that huge stage that loomed in front of her, and I may have almost succeeded until the program began and the over-excited emcee hadn’t just declared the headcount for the afternoon at around 2,000 or so attendees, with 750 awards from 52 surrounding counties. The winners were for Scholastic Art and Writing Achievement awards, all of which were currently being displayed over in the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.

Immediately, Alli began freaking out via text at that info tirade. “2,000???” she texted. I told her the truth. It was gonna feel AWESOME when it was over, she’d get a rush, she’d be filled and over flowing with adrenaline and she’d be on cloud nine. She just had to get up there and cross that stage first. And I KNEW she could do it. (What I didn’t say was what she already knew, that it was gonna stink waiting until her school was called, and since it was alphabetical, “Towles New Tech” was gonna be a while down the line.)

I know there was no way for my mom or dad to virtually hold my  hand when I wished they could, back when I was a kid. I know it had to be hard for them to have to simply let go. I can honestly say, letting my kids go, grow up, to do hard things and to go be amazing is far easier when they can check in with me a bit here and there when the going gets tough. Yeah, it’s easier on me and them both.

For that little bit of time, when we were a bazillion rows away, she and I were only a few fingertip pushes away from each other. A few goofy faces sent from me to her and she was laughing in spite of herself. As much as growing up techno kids is scary, it also has its perks. Sometimes I don’t hate it at all.

And I have to say, “way to go Alli — you make me busting-my-buttons proud, girl!”

 

This post is reposted from my parenting blog over at Will Settle for Chocolate