Welcome to Holland…Or Sometimes You Need a New Perspective

I have no idea how I missed this all these years, but two people in as many days this week referred me to this little story.

It was written originally by Emily Perl Kingsley who was trying to explain what it is like to parent a child with a disability.

I think it applies to any kind of parenting situation that is different from any kind of experience you envisioned or for which you hoped. Then again, it can apply to any kind of situation in which you thought you were headed down one road and, for whatever region, it changes.

Here it is:

When you’re going to have a baby (or, I would add, becoming a parent in any way), it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip–to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?! I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place full of pestilence, famine, and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills…and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is coming and going from Italy…and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say, “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away…because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But…if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things…about Holland.

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Don’t Nominate Me for Sainthood Just Yet

In a matter of a few months (this year), hubs and I went from one child to three. Those of you with more than one child know there is a HUGE step from one child to two. Those of you with more children than parents also know there is a HUGE step from man-to-man coverage to zone defense. After that, though, it doesn’t seem to matter how many children are running around your house.

Until you see how much money you spend on food.

Many of you are aware that we currently have three teenagers living under our roof. One was legally adopted from another country. The other two were fake adopted after late Tuesday night phone calls three months apart requesting a safe place to stay for a little bit. All of them have ugly parts to their respective beginnings, brought about by parents who, for one reason or another, just didn’t have the capacity to do that job well.

I can’t tell you how many times we have received praise for bringing these kiddos into our house. Usually we are called saints or heroes, told we are incredibly good or nice people with big hearts.

Maybe.

But don’t put me on the ballot for sainthood just yet.

Because parenting–no matter the form it takes–is hard. It is work. And it doesn’t matter whether you are a single parent (who I think are usually the real saints), have a partner, parent one child or several, parent healthy children or those with significant limitations, parenting is hard work.

And you never get a day off.

On my best days, I hope and pray that all of my children will become healthy, well-adjusted, independent adults. On my best days, I tell them I love them or give hugs or laugh at their jokes and degenerate ways.

Some days I just hope and pray that I don’t maim or strangle them.

I wouldn’t qualify most days as my best.

Many days, I take my introverted self out of the house and put myself in time out because that’s what I need at the moment. Some days, it’s onto the deck with an adult beverage. Just to hear the quiet hum of a neighbor’s HVAC unit. Because that is way quieter than the circus inside.

Eventually, though, I go back into the house and resume my duties, thankful that I have a solid partner by my side.

And maybe that’s worth an award.

Or maybe every parent worth their stuff should be handed an award. Just for showing up.

I am no different (I don’t think) than those of you outnumbered by children. Some days I love it. Some days I don’t. Every day is a challenge and adventure and hard work. I’m not as inspired by my children as other parents are–though, with the stuff they carry around with them, they get points just for getting out of bed in the morning. It’s not the parenting experience I imagined or hoped for. It simply is mine.

It doesn’t make me a saint.

It might mean, however, that I am legitimately crazy.

 

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I had lunch with a friend a couple of weeks ago who asked what I’ve been doing with my time since I haven’t been working.

A fat lot of nothing. 

Riiiiiiight. (You didn’t really believe that did you? Not even for a second.)

What I’ve been doing with my summer vacation. Which basically started with Memorial Day weekend…

Went to ATL for the 2013 new baby tour. It was a road-trip that started at 9:00 PM on a Friday with decaffeinated me behind the wheel. It was touch and go until Suit and Tie came on the radio–and then it was a three hour dance party in the driver’s seat from Gaffney, SC to Suwanee, GA. We rolled in at 2:30 AM. Hey. Whatever works. (Also, WHY ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE ON THE ROAD, TOO?) But those babies are super sweet. And their parents are managing well–all things considered.

Worked on putting documents together and obtaining a passport for my Ukrainian born child to deal with citizenship stuff and learned that bureaucracy is bureaucracy regardless of the nation’s government. When Boy #1 says “This is like being in Ukraine” as you run all over the county in which you live to obtain the right forms and this one government agency only works 8:00-3:00 and you show up at 4:30 and realize you’ll have to make the trek back downtown the next day, you realize that (a) perhaps you picked the wrong line of work (I mean with hours like 8-3, come on) and (b) this mess really is crazy

Took a random, spontaneous trip to the beach with my best friend and her family while the hubs drove my new car home from Ohio and in and around Raleigh until I got home two days later. He hasn’t sat behind that steering wheel much since.

Hubs and I took the East Bloc Boys (our collective reference to the teenage boys living under our roof) to DC to deal with the Ukrainian’s citizenship and–when we realized that wasn’t going to happen without a US passport–proceeded to spend a few days playing in DC instead. Museums, metro stops, and food trucks, oh my!

Attended the graduation of my Hungarian born child (Boy #2 who moved in in April) and sent him off to his first day at a new job

Received the report card for Boy #1 and was more than a little frustrated with the results

Learned that Boy #1 was going to be fired–primarily due to complications with some faulty brain wiring that is beyond his control but increasingly becoming a hindrance–and started planning for the possibility of meds and more testing to see if there’s something more or better that we can do. Also became a little afraid of his options for the future. Meanwhile, he didn’t seem to be too concerned about anything in his world. And then frustration set in.

Interviewed for a job. Was offered the job. Didn’t know at that point where exactly the job would be. But I’ll have a job.

Left the kids at home while hubs and I went to the beach for a few days. Alone. With no agenda. Glorious.

Opened our home for weekly game nights with the youth. Their means of world domination via board game was pretty entertaining. Also, the secret is out about the awesomeness of my cookie dough dip.

I got more creative in the kitchen, making up recipes as I went–often inspired by road-trip snacks and/or food truck experiences. And those culinary experiments generally were successful.

Temporarily found some really good body confidence–long enough to sport a bikini on the beach. For the first time. Ever.

Helped a friend pack up his office to move to a new job after 13 years.

Celebrated a friend’s 30th birthday and another friend’s family adopting a child they’ve tried to bring home for far too long

Opened my home and my dinner table to countless people (we finally had to break out the leaves for the dining room table and USE ALL THE CHAIRS)

Had lunch and/or coffee with people–for more than 15 minutes. Those conversations often stretched over two hours.

Brought a third teenager home to live with us–this time a girl.

Realized once again that my life is a circus and I’m the ringmaster. Until the inmates run the asylum. And then I just leave.

Had beautiful conversations with family and friends

Was truly honored to be invited into some of the most important moments and conversations in others’ lives

Got a job assignment that was totally unexpected but has made me incredibly excited the more I sit with it.

Got thoroughly pissed off with the state government and was ready to junk punch some politicians–or a wall. Supported Moral Monday from afar–lest my anger push me to do something stupid before this job thing really came through.

Started scheming ways to take over the world–in a good way.

Realized that this whole youth ministry thing I started on the summer before college has come full circle. I learned along the way that there are many ways to do youth ministry–and often outside of church. I also made the statement at one point that once I became a youth minister, I’d have a psychologist in my back pocket as a resource. Then I became that psychologist.

Pulled together a stack of books classified as thematic professional reading that I’m slowly making my way through

Seriously considered getting the “Mom’s Taxi” for my car because it’s true. Especially the week of youth camp when I’m the only licensed driver in the house and have two teens to care for.

Tried to let it sink in that I have finished school and have a PhD. Definitely became increasingly thankful for the training, experiences, and opportunities I have had along the way.

Stalked one of my favorite people from a parking lot into a bookstore to make sure it really was her–and then had an hour and a half long conversation standing around another store in the same shopping area.

Became a stand-in on-call fake doula for a baby who was born about two weeks later (and the daddy was home for the whole thing…which meant I could celebrate with the announcement text). 

Consulted on emerging adult male/female relationships

Provided unofficial parenting consultation

Fell madly in love with US Marshall Raylan Givens as I became addicted to the show Justified.

Worked out in the sweatbox that is my garage–sometimes twice a day. Just because I could.

Met neighbors I hadn’t met before because I started walking the dog more after a redistribution of household responsibilities

Seriously considered a new blog about DIY furniture and house projects–to be called pigtails and power tools. This after having to supply my dad with a drill or two after the battery in his cordless died as he was trying to put together a new bed. (Note: one of those drills was the same electric drill he handed down to me years ago when I moved out; also, that old faithful Black and Decker has helped us finish projects the battery packs on the cordless just couldn’t. Moral of the story: well, I think you know.)

Filled up a social calendar like never before

Received beautiful and powerful words of affirmation and hugs from people who’ve watched me grow as a person and professional over the past X number of years

Went back to yoga (kinda) and ate more fresh veggies. (Olives dipped in hummus, y’all)

Loved bigger because hubs does.

Realized that children stuck in rough family situations are my kryptonite

Struggled against having so many people in the house and this basically became my mantra about half the time. 

Saw some movies. In the theater. Even when I kinda didn’t want to. (Side note: Pacific Rim = Godzilla + Iron Man(steroids) + Independence Day speech + Armageddon)

Worked on my licensure application and found that I still had some brain matter that could ooze out of my ears. It’s just about finished though. The application, that is.

Survived monsoon season in NC this year–WITHOUT an Ark of my own

Drank the Candy Crush Kool-Aid (Note to Kool-Aid: new flavor idea!)

Finally was invited to new employee orientation and can for really real get this job thing going.

Ran outside. On some big hills. Early in the morning. And usually thought I was swimming instead. #NChumidsummers

Doled out resources in the form of book titles, notes from books I’d read, links to really great articles, and just putting some thoughts on paper

Read a few really good novels.

Squeezed some babies

Baked. A lot. And apparently even my cookies are therapeutic.

Survived #singleparentweek2013 while Al and Ryan were at camp.

Celebrated some more birthdays. Ran with my girls. Enjoyed some group therapy on a screened in porch. Celebrated new jobs with my people.

Scheduled at least half a dozen meetings/appointments to take me through my last full week of no paid work. What vacation?

And then I went to that orientation, got my shiny new ID badge, signed a bunch of forms and forked over a voided check. This job thing is official. I start Thursday.

 

Dress ‘Em Up, But Don’t Let ‘Em Out

I had to run to the mall this afternoon to pick up some more face soap and see about getting some drab green khakis. (I like colored khakis/chinos–especially my hot pink ones.)

I decided to hit up The Gap since I hear they have a mad Wednesday discount. No dice. Next door, however, was New York & Co.

Hello, friend.

Got my pants–the right size AND length–and was out in a hot second.

But then I walked by Gap Kids and sorta actually paid attention to the displays in the window. The mannequins were dressed in halters and skinny jeans, polos and cargoes. The itty bitty child-sized mannequins were dressed as small ADULTS.

Which got me thinkin’.

We’re content to dress children as small adults but we still micro-manage the hell out of their little lives. In other words, we spend so much time making children look like adults while not allowing them to begin to make choices and decisions for themselves in an effort to learn how to become independent young adults.

And we wonder why girls, at least, experience puberty at an alarmingly earlier age or why girls are sexualized at such a young age. Yet we think it’s cute to dress girls up as mini-me’s in skinny jeans and halter tops.

If boys experience the same thing in terms of sexualization, there’s not much reported about it. We do know that boys receive cultural messages about sex and…well…that’s a more explicit link for another time.

But it goes way beyond sexualization.

I work with college students, many of whom can’t seem to get their shit together. I know this when their mommas call my office…when they come in freaked out about not being able to register because they didn’t complete their part of the process…when they have a hissy fit (I kid you not) about not getting what they want right when they want it. And sometimes, it really is their fault.

But sometimes, it’s their parents’ fault, too.

Because parents have (or ought to anyway) a great deal of control over what their children see and eat and wear. Parents have a great deal of control over the parameters within which they will let their child(ren) operate. But parents will never have complete, absolute control. And at some point, they will send their child(ren) out into the world, thereby relinquishing most, if not all, of the control they had.

If there’s anxiety about letting your child(ren) leave the nest, perhaps we should look at the kind of preparation these children have been given and whether they LOOK like young adults or whether they can BE young adults.

I Feel Pretty…I Feel…Pretty…Please Can I Have Plastic Surgery?

I’ve said for awhile that people in my field (and those similar to it) will have all kinds of job security…mainly because parents won’t stop screwing up their children. The latest: children and adolescents are undergoing plastic surgery–that their parents approve and pay for.

Now. Some of these procedures are legitimate cleft palate kinds of things. No problem there. Those are medically necessary procedures…WAY more than they have a cosmetic basis.

But the 16 year old girl who had lipo on her calves or the teenage cheerleader who had a breast augmentation that took her from an A cup to a D? (The latter because she thought that’s what boys found attractive at the time.)

Seriously?

The excuse…I mean…explanation is that parents don’t want their kid to be picked on by their peers. NEWSFLASH: Even if you fix your child’s nose, someone will still pick on them for something.

Instead of teaching your child about positive self-esteem/body image…and coping skills…you are feeding the everyone-has-to-look-perfect machine…and teaching your kids: Problem? We’ve got a surgery for that.

Remember, I’m not ranting about legitimate procedures that improve the child’s physical well-being (in addition to their emotional well-being). Things like a breast reduction on a teenager who has back problems (as well as self-esteem problems because boys never look her in the face) is acceptable.

We do a terrific job at sending messages that are damaging to people’s body image and self-esteem as it is. Can’t we at least find a way to teach our children that there’s a better (albeit harder) way to overcome those messages?