December 21, 2012

All I want for Christmas.

Posted in Life Lessons, My Five, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:06 am by openendedcomment

Dear Santa,

I know it may seem odd to get this letter from me, especially as for the last thirteen years I’ve been you when it comes to gifts and stockings and cookie eating (thank you for that) but in writing to you this year I suppose it’s more about the idea of you…what you stand for…the wonder and the miracle of the season.  I could really use some wonder and what I want may take a miracle, all making you the logical choice for this date.  I know that I haven’t always landed on your “nice” list, I’m the first to admit that to be true.  But from what I understand, you’re a forgiving and jolly sort who can overlook certain things.

This is the season of possibility, of love and togetherness.  Of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street” type of things.  I was raised on it.  I believe.  I promise, I still do and as you’ll soon see I wouldn’t be writing if that weren’t true.

This year for Christmas I want something that money can’t buy.  I’m looking for a gift of Christmas itself, of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men.  Of being what we sing and living what we say.  I have prayed each night and every day, I’ve written letters and put good karma into the world.  I’ve asked directly and I’ve quietly waited…and now as all else has failed, I’m trying you.  You who embody Christmas itself and the promise of your most heartfelt desires and deepest of wishes coming true…even if for just one day.

Please, Santa, please…if you can…please let my children have a Christmas filled with family and joy.  Give to my husband the gift of reconciliation and brotherhood.  To my Mother and Step-Father a time of hope and possibility.  To my Dad a time of knowledge that he is the glue that keeps me strong, to my friends the gift of faith and grace that they may know a year without pain, to my dearest friend the gift of return, that some of what she has put into the world may come back to her.  To my oldest friend the gift of health for her Mother, to my cousin and thousands like him, the gift of equality in all things.  I know this list is long and it may seem I’m asking for too much…a few will do in a pinch…but if there is only one thing I can receive, let it be this, the gift of healing and of strength to the Mothers and Fathers and Brothers and Sisters who have angels not on their tree this year, but in heaven far, far too soon.  I heard the bells ringing for them this very morning, all twenty-six have been given their wings. I’m afraid it won’t be Christmas for those left here this year but someday and sometime  it will be again and when that day comes please, please be there for them.

Thank You, Santa.  You made so many childhood dreams come true that even though I fill stockings now, part of me still believes in the promise of you.

Love,

Heidi

December 17, 2012

When there is no reason.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , at 3:05 pm by openendedcomment

I’ve been reading.  News Sites, Blogs, Facebook…reading everything everywhere and each place I turn it is there.  The stories of children lost.  Stories of parents hugging their children a bit harder, saying “I love you” one extra time and even one picking their child up from school to go to a toy store.  Because they can.

I read another story, of someone criticizing saying “if it takes this to make you hug your child, you’re doing it wrong.” And that one hurt me.  That one actually made me mad.  You’re not “doing it wrong” you were just reminded how blessed you are to have that child and to need to express that love.  To be comforted by small arms and innocence and the hope that is our children.  To need to love them more now than ever is a good thing.  A right thing.

I spoke to a Mother I know on Friday night who was compelled to meet her little boy at the bus stop instead of waiting for him to come into the house on his own because those few extra minutes without him next to her was just too much to bear.  My cousin wrote he had to stop himself from returning to his daughter’s school this morning for one more hug.  I could barely let mine go today. And  none of that is wrong.  It is natural. It is the promise of the possibility for healing and change that we combat what can only be called an act of pure evil with a massive outpouring of love.  Kindness.  Care and yes, smothering affection. As though we were and with enough of it are smothering the flame of evil and hurt burning in those that would commit such atrocities against the very best of us.  There is nothing more right than that.

I hold firm that though I do not and though none of us may ever really know the reasons for last Friday or for any of the other tragedies that occur far too often, that the root of it all is not one gun, one law, one doctor or one game but rather the culture of violence,  tolerance for cruelty and ignorance of illness we have allowed to grow like an insidious vine, cutting off the beauty and life to our most prized flower.  Like the vine, it is not enough to trim it back when it becomes an issue for it only returns, stronger than ever, hell-bent on accomplishing its task.  We must dig it out.  Destroy each fiber and then, as any good gardener must, check and re-check to ensure it never, ever returns.  We have to end this and more than the ending we must care…with tender and vigilant dedication care and cultivate the best we have among us, the children, the future of who we are.  We must provide help where help is needed, be aware of those struggling among us and protect what we old most dear.  Changes must me made.  And change will come.  I believe that. When the grieving as a nation abates from acute shock to an ache and before we file this away as something that happened once upon a time, change must occur.

For now, for today, for many tomorrows we will grieve.  For some the grief will never end.  For them, I will pray.

December 14, 2012

The Catalyst.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 11:27 pm by openendedcomment

This is not going to be a popular post and at this point I just don’t care.  I can’t change what occurs in every other household but I can damn well make decisions in my own regarding my own family and my own children when it comes to something I know to be true to the very fiber of my being.

For months now my husband and I have made the decision that in this home and for our four children, violence is not tolerated, not allowed and not welcomed.  We do not allow them to watch violent movies.  We do not allow violent video games of any sort.  We did meet all sorts of resistance from them when we made this choice but at the end of the day it is not their decision, it is ours.  Just as they are not raising themselves but rather it is we who have the honor and the privilege of raising them,  we are not here to be their best friends but to ensure their safety, health, education and to provide love and guidance whether they like it or not.  We are the parents and that is our role.  Period.

I know that most parents of 9, 11, 13 and 16 year olds allow Halo and Modern Warcraft and all sorts of other games.  I know that almost every single one of their friends play these games.  There was a brief time when we too allowed this.  I justified it with the constant barrage of really, truly amazing parents I know being seemingly fine with it.  Parents with good, no great children that are a part of our lives being allowed to and seeing that they are weren’t affected.  I was an idiot and it ranks right up there with the biggest mistakes I’ve made as a Mother.  Before anyone is overly offended, let me be clear:  Your choices for your children are yours…but mine…mine for mine are just that.  Mine.  My instinct told me no, but societal norm allowed me to say yes and it will take me a long time to forgive myself for that.

Our catalyst was the Aurora, Colorado, massacre.  I watched the news coverage and saw an anchor go from somber reporting of a four-year old killed in her Mother’s arms to a story regarding Lindsay Lohan in under ten seconds.  Within seven hours of the tragedy, she and we moved on.  The headlines on MSNBC and CNN did not last an entire day at the top of the news sites.  They were there, but buried beneath election and celebrity news.  The thought and worse yet the reality that our culture is one in which such soul-crushing pain and violence can be brushed aside within a news cycle is something I can’t comprehend and it boggles my mind that any human being can find this acceptable.  The worst part of this is knowing that children, my children, are being raised in a place and in a mind-set of this kind of life-altering tragedy being commonplace and therefore acceptable…sad, but acceptable.  Painful, but a part of Modern America.  No.  No way am I going to accept that we as a culture can be faced with and can move forward from this kind of thing numb to it all.  How ingrained in our world is the loss of innocent life that we no longer are shocked by it?

I am not a law-maker and I don’t have a time machine.  I can’t change the access to guns and the laws governing them (though I can damn well try to and make a great deal of noise doing so)  I can’t go back in time and raise my children in a place before Columbine…Virginia Tech…Aurora…Oregon…today.  I do not have the ability to raise children who are unaware of such tragedy, who do not accept mass murder of children and “shooter” drills in their school as par for the course.  No matter how much I wish and regret that it is so, no matter that is actually sickens me that this is the case, there is not a damn thing I can do to keep them from accepting this as a part of life.  But I can do something.  I have to do something.  At the very least I may endeavor to maintain any shred of innocence they may have left, these children of mine.  I can hold them closer to childhood, a place this fear should never touch. I can do my utmost to allow them to feel outrage, shock and pain at an act which is the very definition of these things.  I can do that by not exposing them to blood, murder, death and the ending of life on a daily basis through games…winning by the kill…for it is not a game.  It is not entertainment.  It is not normal.  It is not even tolerable and it is not something that anyone, especially a child should be numb to.  To allow it to be so is a tragedy unlike any other imaginable.  To stand idly by and believe that constant exposure to violent death will not affect young minds is, to me, inane at best.  Of course if affects them.  Everything they hear, see, taste and touch affects them.  Why do we attempt to instill our values in our children if not to have them live those values?  Why do we speak to them of love and tolerance and friendship if that is not what we wish?  And if that is true how do we go from that to having them run off to the basement or their rooms to gleefully slaughter enemy soldiers in a virtual world and then fail to see the sickening irony of it all?  And no,  I do not feel that today or any of these  tragedies we have faced in such close proximity are caused by video games or by movies…but the pervasive culture of violence we are raising our children and young adults in can no longer be ignored.  My God, we have got to wake up.

The pain…the unthinkable, unimaginable and overwhelmingly unbearable pain so many are facing tonight and all of the nights to come…I can’t begin to say I understand the depth of this.  I can pray for their healing, pray for it to never happen again.  I can cry and I have cried untold tears this afternoon and evening.  I can feel but I cannot begin to understand.  None of us do and God willing, none will.  It is not the fault of any parent of any child who does these things.  It is not the fault of a game or a movie.  It is not the fault of a law.  But, when so many tragedies continue to occur here and not elsewhere…not to this degree…not with this kind of regularity…when this undeniable truth is faced, it is time we begin to take notice and past time we follow with action.

They are our future.  They are our legacy.  I am not asking any other parent to change their own values and their own rules…that is not my place…I am merely changing my own.  I am doing so because maybe I’m not as alone in this as I think I am.  Maybe I’m not the only parent who has taken this stand her home.  And if I am not, I want you to know that you’re not alone either.  None of us are and maybe, just maybe it’s time we start acting like it.

December 13, 2012

Let’s talk about sex.

Posted in Parenthood tagged , , , , , at 11:29 am by openendedcomment

In nine days, according to the Mayan Calender, John Cusack and a bevy of  very convinced “Preppers” the world as we know it will end.  I don’t exactly buy that (if  I did I assure you I would not be spending one ounce of time on a  computer much less sitting in traffic) but I do believe that my world, as I know it, has come to a shattering and screeching halt.

My two eldest children are talking about sex.  Not as in they want to know about it/let’s have the birds and the bees talk/what-does-that-mean talk but as in they know people who are having sex, one of them has been pressured that he’s not c00l until he has sex and on top of that they are teenagers with raging hormones which I am trying desperately to rein in variety.  It is killing me.  The world is ending and I want to run away screaming from this alternate universe in which my babies are contemplating and coming dangerously close to being in situations where they could have babies…and…I mean…how in the hell did this happen?!?!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know exactly how this happened.  I was once thirteen and then sixteen, too.  I totally get that part of it and that is the reason I am so damn freaked out. What I do not and will not (I fear) get is how I ended up a Mother being faced with this situation.  How and why and just how did they get this old?  And for that matter, how am I old enough to deal with this? What has happened to my nice little world of soccer and hockey and play practice and not worrying about anything other than what time they go to bed when at a sleepover to worrying about where they sneak out to and who they sleep with?!  What on earth is going on that this is even remotely possible..?  I am at a loss.

My daughter, bless her sweet little self, started this revelation by coming home and announcing that she wanted a purity ring.  My husband paused for about .2 seconds and then responded with “OK, let’s go to the jeweler and how big do you want it?” Exactly the response you expect from a Dad the first time he hears his daughter talk about the s-word, he sprinted to buy the modern-day equivalent of a chastity belt.  My son, faced with his first girlfriend and a sophomore in high school is hearing from other sophomores and juniors how great all of this is and as any red-blooded boy would be, is curious.  I am petrified.  We have had all of the talks and we have discussed the importance of this decision and the risks involved and everything else to the point that even I am tired of hearing it.  But what keeps me up is the nagging question of…is it enough?

God I hope it’s sunk in…it has to have sunk in. 

Our daughter, when asked why she wanted the ring and what it meant to her explained to us that many of her friends were engaging in sex and almost every one of her friends’ older siblings in high school is, and as she’s starting high school next year she wanted everyone to know she was going to wait so that she wouldn’t be pressured.  Now, I feel I deserve massive credit for simply blinking hard and taking a deep breath as opposed to  either a) grabbing her and sobbing with gratitude or b) dashing to the liquor cabinet and guzzling something in order to process and calmly respond.  Instead, I asked her how she felt about her friends that were making those choices and what her understanding of the risks associated with it is…and I was impressed with her response.  I asked her to relay some of this to her brother to better help him understand from someone not his parents.  She did.  I asked how many of her friends (her close group) also had purity rings, she responded almost all and the ones that didn’t were asking for them for Christmas.  I now truly love all of those girls.  Talk about “good” peer pressure…

But despite the fact that I am admittedly thrilled with my not-so-little girl’s response and approach, I still feel as though my entire world has been turned upside down…that I am at the edge of a cliff I am nowhere near ready to go down…and I am worried sick about what the next eight years have in store.  My baby, my youngest son, is going to be ten years old in three weeks’ time.  In a matter of a few months I will have two children in high school and one in middle school.  Next year is my last year with a  child in elementary school…and I am left wondering what I’m going to do about it all.  I realize the entire world will not stop turning merely because my children are growing, but for me, it feels as though it has.  I need to be more aware now than ever before.  I have to strike a balance between engaging them daily to understand and be involved in every aspect of their lives while keeping enough distance to respect the young adults they are becoming as being capable (and though I hate to admit it, necessary in order to learn) of making their own decisions.  I have to be just close enough to be aware yet far enough to prevent them from hiding from me.  And as I type this, I have on my computer a picture taken only five years ago…little faces almost unrecognizable as the four people who call me Mom today.  I am proud of who they are becoming but I miss so very much who they were. 

I realize that stopping the world is a bit much to ask, but could we just slow down?  or let me catch up?  Something? (sigh) Oh well, today I have no time to figure out that possibility.  Today I have to work, get children from A to B several times and on the off-chance the Mayans are even remotely right I suppose I should stock up on a  few extra cans of soup on my way home.  And maybe a gun.  In case the ring ever fails.

December 10, 2012

Sugar Cookies and Champagne.

Posted in Life Lessons, Parenthood, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , at 8:06 pm by openendedcomment

This is the first Christmas in forty-four years of life my husband will not spend the holiday with his family.  Every Christmas morning of every year he went to his Grandmother’s home.  It is always difficult when traditions change, when childhood, no matter our age, takes its final bow in the known and predictable ways and places of our lives.  Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Birthdays…for each of us there is that one thing, that one person or activity that we always do or always see because we have always done so.  For him, it was Christmas at Grandma Jane’s.   Cousins everywhere and platters upon platters of sugar cookies so thin you can almost see right through them.   It was thirty-plus people in their Sunday best (because when your Grandmother tells you to dress up, you do), it was coffee and champagne by the case,  catching up on who is having yet another child (Irish Catholic family, someone is always pregnant) and an annual time of  simple togetherness.  It was his connection to a man he loved dearly and knew for far too short of a time,  the Father he lost at twelve years old.  These past few years they and it meant even more.  It and she has been the family he felt he would always have, through these difficult past two years they were the people who he knew would never leave him.  His Grandmother is still with us, but for the first time she’s not up for the Florida to Minnesota trip.  As it is also the first Christmas since his Mother passed this makes it an especially difficult year and despite mine and the children’s best efforts, we can’t seem to get him in the spirit.  I suppose it is like this for all of us at one time or another.  I remember when my Grandmother on my Father’s side passed…Chrstmas with my Nana had always meant Norwegian pastries, Lefse, Herring and the Lutefisk my Poppi would drown in butter.  It meant the Moe family and singing and laughter and seeing a side of my Dad that was reserved for Grand Forks, a softer and more relaxed, quicker to laugh version of himself…something I wonder if even he realized.  It has been over fifteen years since my last Christmas in North Dakota and almost a decade since I saw the Moe family.  I make the krumkake and flatbread, the english toffee and the divinity for my family now…there is song and laughter…though I’ll happily admit that the lutefisk is not a part of the tradition I carried on.  I do this to honor the family I miss, to give my children a grasp of their heritage and a piece no matter how small, of the Christmas’ I knew as a child.  I do it to give my Dad a taste of the home he was raised in.  This year I will do this for my husband, too.  I may not be able to provide the cousins, but I can make the cookies.  If I am lucky, having our little family around him will provide the security and steadfast comfort he needs.  In time our own family will surely grow and perhaps much like a Scandinavian Christmas without Lutefisk, while not identical to what we were raised in, it can become something even sweeter- A holiday that respects and embraces what and who we were raised with while allowing us to make it our own.  This year on Christmas morning we will open gifts according to age, youngest first, and on Christmas morning there will be champagne…just like Grandma’s house…but this year, under no circumstances will we be driving in a blizzard in our Sunday best.  Cheers!