The Skill of a Lifetime

img_5277So a thing has started happening at my house and I could not be any more excited. My middle daughter is just starting to read. In my opinion, this is a huge milestone for all kids and as everyone knows, reading is especially near and dear to my heart. And the other week, for the first time ever, Spawn #2 picked up Green Eggs and Ham and read the majority of the book – on her very own. I think that child got a year’s quota of high fives and shouts of joy from me in that moment. Now I remember being super excited when Jaycob first learned to read too but I just don’t think I fully appreciated the greatness of it as much mainly because I had a newborn attached to me 24/7 as well as a needy three year old. So unfortunately for the first born, he might not have gotten quite as much attention. Or maybe he did, and I just simply forgot because, well, Mom Brain.

But a few weeks ago as I sat and watched Addy furrow her little brows as she concentrated on sounding each and every word out, I just kept thinking to myself: girlfriend, your world is about to open up in ways you never dreamed it could. It’s hard for me to even vocalize how proud I was/am of her. Granted I know reading is nothing “special” or unique – obviously everybody learns this skill. But regardless, it’s just so gosh darn important. I want to relish the pride and jubilation I’m feeling so I thought I’d write her a brief note so that maybe someday she’ll never forget just how momentous this time is for both of us.

To My Favorite Middle Challenge,

Learning to read is one of the most detailed first memories I have. I’ll never forget the day the letters just “clicked” in my own mind, and they went from being merely letters thrown together on a page to actual words jumping out at me. And while I don’t remember my first book’s title, I do remember it was a “thicker” book (well, thick for first grade) with complete sentences. I remember rushing to my dad when I got home from school and insisting he listen to me read. I was so excited and proud. It was one of the greatest feelings of my life and even today it still ranks pretty high up on the list. I hope you feel the same when you’re older because while you might not realize it now, your world is about to change. And not just because I can no longer spell out words to your father with you having no idea what I’m talking about. (Although I am slightly sad about that.) But because with each page you read and each new word you learn, you are gaining the knowledge and know how needed to change the world. Reading gives you power. It is THE tool needed to ultimately do and become whatever you dream. It can take you places you’ve never dreamed of all the while providing you with new ideas and insight that you might never come up with on your own. It can offer you new perspectives and transport you to another world in the blink of an eye. With reading the possibilities are endless, and I hope you never underestimate the power in this milestone.

Love Always,
Your voracious reading Mother

There’s a lot of things that I do wrong as a parent. I’m crazy. I yell a lot. I love to say no. (Dad, that’s ALL your fault!) But if there’s one thing I do well, it’s modeling my love for reading. Any spare chance I get, my kids see me with a book (even if it’s an e-book) in my hand. They see me reading the history section of our local Barrington magazine (really, the only section I can handle!) They see me reading my weekly Mt. Carroll newspaper. And most often when everyone else is glued to the television, they see me go find a quiet spot on the couch and curl up with a book. I grew up watching my own dad constantly read, and I think that really shaped my own love for it. I certainly hope that among all the negative traits I’m ultimately passing down, my love for reading is one of the positive ones.

There’s been a few times when I’ve caught my second grader still reading with his flashlight in bed at 10:00 at night. Now granted, I’m not happy the next day when he’s overtired and throwing fits, but secretly my heart is swelled with pride because that’s what I used to do. Give me a Christopher Pike book any day during my adolescent years, and I too would stay up way too late reading. Hell, that’s me every night now still. It’s my me time. My time away from reality where I can zone out and forget about all the things I need to do or how many times the kids sent me over the edge that day. Without that time, I couldn’t function.

So while ultimately I want my kids to grow up to be happy, healthy and kind – you know, the staple things that every other parent on the planet wants for their kids – I also can’t help but wish they turn into the biggest book-loving nerds that ever could be. Because someday, whether they like or not, I too will make them plow through Atlas Shrugged over their summer vacation. Isn’t that every kids’ dream?! Hashtag sorry not sorry.

Don’t Let the “Buts” Override the Joys

“Talking About Our Problems is Our Greatest Addiction. Break the Habit. Talk about Your Joys.”

A few weeks ago an old high school classmate of mine shared this on her Facebook page. It immediately struck a cord with me, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Mainly because It’s.Just.So.True. Rarely do I call my dad up with something “good” or send one of my fellow mom pals a text with something great that my kids did. Most of the time it’s simply me bitching. Me bitching about my kids. Bitching about my husband. Bitching about the weather. Just me bitching about anything and everything. Yet over the past few weeks as I’ve been ruminating on this idea, every time I try to think about something I’m grateful for, there always seems to be a giant BUT at the end. I’m grateful for my health…BUT I hate the feeling of getting old. I’m grateful for my kids…BUT boy do they drive me crazy. I’m grateful for my hardworking husband…BUT why won’t he do X, Y or Z? And it just keeps going on and on. I know I’m a Negative Nelly. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. But geez, even for me sometimes I think enough is enough. So I decided to write a post (mainly to prove to myself that I CAN remain positive for once) about my JOYS. The things that make me happy. And there will be no BUTS. The buts are my addiction and it’s true, I do need to break the habit. So here’s my first attempt.

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One of my greatest Joys over the past few weeks has simply been the generosity and kindness of my gal pals. Recently I had a minor procedure done and was laid up for a few days. Now everyone knows I hate asking for help of any kind. I don’t know why I do, I just don’t ever want to be a “burden” on someone else. Yet these ladies simply took charge. I had homemade dinners delivered, goodies for the kids, milkshakes for me. I had numerous additional offers and daily text messages checking up on me as well. Even the women I work out with got together and all signed a card for me. Now these woman will all tell you this was “no big deal” for them, but I beg to differ. Some of these woman work. They’re all raising families, being chauffeurs, cleaners, chefs. Yet they went out of their way to help me. And they did it on their own. That is some good people right there. No buts needed for this Joy.

Now it would be wrong of me to write about my Joys and not mention family. However seeing as I feel this is just a “given,” I’ll keep it short and sweet. My family has each other’s backs. We’ve been around the block a few times in the Village of Hell and we’re are all sorts of crazy, weird and impossible, but that’s what I’m most thankful for. Because given a choice between The Cleavers or The Conners, I’d take the Conners any day. They’re a lot more fun. So even when my phone calls and texts are about 95 percent me talking about my problems, I can always count on my dad to remind me that “this too shall pass” or my faithful cousin, who’s a few years ahead of the parenting/life game than me, to talk me off that ledge. They’re my forever Joys. The lemonade to my lemons. (Sorry, sometimes, I like a good ol’ cliche!)

About a year ago, in my forever hunt for cool vintage items, I met a local woman who has a sweet little antique business that she runs out of her home. Recently she asked if I’d help her with the online portion of her business. Um, hello?! I get to look at and fondle beautiful, one-of-a-kind treasures AND get paid for it?! YES! This woman is grateful for my help, and I’m beyond grateful for simply having the opportunity to “do what I love.” I don’t necessarily believe in all the “you meet everyone for a reason” garbage that people like to say, but I certainly could not be any happier for having met this woman…despite having spent way too much money on all the pretty things that she sells. At least now however, my guilt is justifiably a tad less.

Now obviously there’s a million and one other things that bring Joy in my life. It’s candy corn season. The trees look freaking amazing. My kids are doing well in school. And my husband recently discovered what is currently my new favorite beer. Overall life is good. But it’s just so damn easy to spend so much time focusing on the buts and the negative side of things. (Candy corn makes me fat. Falling leaves means snow is coming. My son writes like he’s in preschool. Beer makes me fat. – See how easy that is??) But here I am, attempting to work on Amy 2.0 and trying just a tad harder to consider that my glass might just be half full instead of half empty. And on those days that I simply can’t do it – a 6-pack and a bag of candy corn make a damn fine way to end the day.

Sink or Swim in the Sea of Schedules

I’ve been a parent for just over seven years. And while sometimes that seems like an eternity, I know it’s not really long at all. However I’ve definitely discovered that there’s a lot of things that I just never was prepared for in terms of this whole parenting gig. I remember being pregnant with my first and maybe kinda attempting to half-ass read a few parenting books in the hopes of “learning the ropes.” (HA! Boy, do I look back at myself and all my glorified, parenting bliss pipe dreams and laugh!) Anyway, at the time I was commuting to the city and working fairly long hours, and honestly who the hell wants to spend their free time reading parenting books?! Besides, what works for one or even a million kids probably isn’t even going to work for yours.

But here I am, seven years into this gig, and my kids are finally getting old enough to get legitimate schedules. And holy shit I thought the newborn sleep deprivation was hard, but this, my friends, is some serious uncharted territory for me. I don’t think anyone ever warned me about the dreaded schedules. Although even if they did I probably would have just shrugged them off and thought to myself, “yeah right, now hard can it be to remember a few activities?” Well let me tell you, my brain is filled with pretty much nothing but awful song lyrics and the kids’ schedule,s and I’m basically maxed out at about 93 percent capacity. That does not leave room for much else. Working moms: I applaud the shit out of you that you’re able to function, use your brain and do all the mom things. Most days I find it difficult walking from one room to another and actually remembering what I was going to do. My daily goal in life is to shower and keep everyone alive. And I call it a win if I only manage the latter.

So yeah, it’s now the end of September and the school year is officially underway and with it comes All. The. Things. Things like dance, Cub scouts, fall baseball, Catechism, swimming lessons, doctor visits, in addition to normal ongoing events like weekly therapy, gymnastics, and all the other random appointments that seem to pop up way more often than one might think. And then there’s that other thing called homework, which praise the Lord we’ve barely scratched the surface in that department. Because amidst the other activities, dinner and like five minutes of free time, when are the kids supposed to do it? Because the thing about young kids is that even if one kid has an activity it really means everyone does, because obviously I can’t leave any of my littles at home alone. And I’m definitely not one of these fancy moms that has an Au pair, nanny or even on-the-call relative to come watch any or all of my kids anytime I need. A girl can definitely dream though.

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My current hot mess “Command Center”

So how do parents do it? Well like any other delusional parent, I turned to Pinterest to  look up “command centers.” Because currently my command center consists of one drawer in the kitchen that is stuffed to the gill with junk. That junk includes homework, school books, important papers, things that need signing, etc. It’s a complete shit show. Oh and of course it’s the favorite spot for my littlest to get into and find paper to “draw on.” So that’s fun and disastrous. But after wasting a month of my life looking at other people’s perfect organization and styled-to-the-max photos, I finally came back to reality and remembered there’s no way in hell I have the time, skill or energy to make these beautiful reclaimed wood-framed calendars and crafty compartments that I had pinned and dreamed up in my head. And I know where my husband would tell me to go if I asked him to add yet one more thing to his ever-growing “wife to do list.” So I looked around at a few local stores and finally decided upon this whiteboard calendar and the accompanying 3-tier letter bin so each kid can have their own bin for homework etc. Of course I realized I can’t even get these hung until I get the mudroom walls prepped and painted, but I’ll get there eventually.

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The current state of my slow-moving organization process.

I’m hoping that having this daily visual of the month’s schedule will better help me compartmentalize (and remember) each person’s activities. I’m currently living out of my iPhone calendar, but it doesn’t allow me to see the entire month’s events at once, something that I’ve come to learn I need. And I know that from this point on, there is no slowing down. Life as a family of five is only going to get busier, but I realize that now is the crucial time for all of us to figure out and establish efficient routines. Without it, I think my brain might eventually just combust. I can’t promise we’ll ever be on time for anything, but dammit I’m determined to at least make all scheduled events. So here’s to planning, organization and big-ass visible calendars!

A Birthday Fit for a King

I’ve lived in good ol’ suburbia since I graduated from college, something like a million years ago. And after so many years of being an official suburbanite, I’m definitely thankful I didn’t grow up here, although I suppose I have lived here long enough that I’ve grown to at least kinda, sorta, semi fit in. That said, however, I think there’s always going to be different things about the suburban way of life that just continue to blow my mind – one of those being the all-out production of kids’ birthdays.

IMG_3987My oldest recently just turned seven and last weekend we had his friend party. He did not get a friend party until he was five, but I’m starting to regret not delaying it until possibly 16. Now in my suburban mind, we kept things fairly simple for his party. He wanted a sports theme, so we rented out a place for two hours, and the kids played a few different games. I brought in pizza, cake, some drinks and called it a day. Oh, and goody bags. Because why wouldn’t kids deserve getting a small bag of junk at every party they attend. [Seriously, has this always been a thing? Who started this tradition? Am I the only one who thinks it’s ridiculous?] Anyway, on the flip side, my small-town mind is still utterly in shock over just how much this “low-key” party cost. I refuse to even acknowledge the total because I swear I could have enjoyed a nice solo three-day trip to Mexico for less. Kidding. Kind of.

Now while the dollar amount is just insane to me, what really gets me is that these kids, mine included, EXPECT this kind of thing. Like every year. How is dropping a few hundred dollars (we’ve been to some that have definitely cost way more) on a little kid’s random birthday the norm? Whatever happened to picking three of your closest friends, having mom bake a Betty Crocker cake and going to celebrate at the nearby park for a few hours? Obviously these suburban kids are not growing up on the same planet that I did. I remember having that park birthday party like ONE time. Any other year I think I might have invited someone over for dinner. And maybe my memory might be slightly off, but either way my dad would have dropped dead before dropping a few Benjamin’s on some insignificant birthday party. I tried explaining to Jaycob just how lucky he was to get such a nice party with his friends and mentioned that I merely went to the park when I was little. I might as well have told him I grew up in a cardboard box for the appalled look he gave me. Like he just couldn’t believe that’s ALL I did.

Things like this just really make question, once again, if I’m doing the right thing by raising my kids in the suburbs. I mean sure, we all want to “give our kids more than we had” but I firmly believe there’s still a fine line between giving them more and not creating spoiled brats. But when yearly elaborate parties are the norm, I find it difficult to tell my kids, “no sorry, you can’t have the party that you want because it’s just INSANE.” So of course, I saddle right up on that suburban bandwagon and do my best to provide an extremely watered-down “extravagant” party. Because all kids should be able to celebrate their special day with their friends. It’s important, and I’ll continue to do my best to make sure my kids get that. I just won’t ever figure out why someone should be forced to sell a kidney in order to pay for it.

Now, here’s where I’m going to go and contradict everything I just said (well at least in terms of the ridiculous cost) because if this party taught me anything at all, it’s that under no circumstances do I want to attempt to save money and host a kids’ (7-year-old boys, to be specific) party at my house. At first I was worried and felt bad for Jaycob because so many of the kids he invited were already busy that day, but ultimately he still had eight friends show up. And honestly even though I wasn’t really even in charge (a couple of teenagers were leading the kids in the games), I think if any more had come I might have just walked out. The energy, the craziness, the noise and just pure chaos with this group of kids was intense. And it’s not even that anyone was misbehaving. They were simply being seven-year-old kids. There was jumping and acrobatics and endless amounts of yelling and nonstop running. These kids were dripping wet in sweat. It certainly looked like everyone had a great time, which of course was fantastic. But truly all I kept thinking was, “oh my God, what if this was going on at my house?! Would I even have a house left?”

So at the end of the day, I ask myself why would I go against my frugal farm upbringing and piss away too much money for a most likely unmemorable birthday? Why would I simply perpetuate what I consider to be a legit problem with children automatically expecting to be handed the world? It’s simple: because I don’t want that kind of crazy up in my house. Survival, people. If it means my kids are happy and I get to keep my house intact; it’s worth it. Because parenting ain’t nothing but a balancing act mixed in with a shit ton of crazy.

The End of an Era

IMG_3529So I did a thing the other day. I sold the high chair. Now let me preface this by saying I have been planning to have a bonfire with this thing for probably at least a year. I had basically given up trying to clean it except for the actual tray. But the amount of crusted on food, dog slobber and God knows what else was enough to make even the strongest of stomachs quake. Hence my dreams of the bonfire. That said, however, I suppose with some major arm strength and potent chemicals, that chair has the potential to have a long, happy life.

Now for the most part, so far it seems I have not been a sentimental person when it comes to my kids’ stuff. Which, I’m actually strangely perplexed by. This coming from the person who has oddly saved every single paper and notebook I ever used from eighth grade through college. And after hauling these heavy-ass totes through three moves I feel like it’s just wrong to throw them out now. So under the basement stairs is where they live, because obviously my freshman year Spanish homework is important, but my kids’ baby items are not.

But back to my point – over the past seven years as soon as my kids have outgrown something I’ve done my best to get rid of it, with the exception of a select few items. I’ve just had no desire to hang on to all that stuff because to me, that’s exactly what it was – just stuff. It didn’t represent my babies or our memories together. That is however, until I had already gotten rid of the high chair. It was one of my favorite gifts from my baby shower – over seven years ago (gasp). It was one of the “nicer” things I wanted. It was wooden, semi-expensive and once upon a time looked pretty. And due to the closeness in age of my kiddos, it was essentially used every single day for the past seven years.

Now I had no problems handing it over to the next era of users. Until of course I went to bed, and on queue, my brain fired right up. And then it truly hit me that this was really the last thing that represented my babies. And now it was gone. Which basically translated to my babies are gone. I have never been a baby person. Not my own, not other people’s. Even after having three, they still tend to scare me. So while so many of my friends swoon over the precious little bundles of joy, I’m totally fine keeping my distance.

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My babies aren’t babies anymore

But still I had three and I love them all. And while I still consider myself clueless because they’re all so different, raising each baby gave me different memories, different experiences, different lessons. So while even thinking about having another baby sends me into an immediate panic attack, getting rid of this high chair solidified the fact that I will never go through those experiences again. And while I hate to even admit this, I’m sad. So many of those milestone “firsts” I’ll never witness again. And while I’m ALL for my kids expanding their independence (in terms of self-care at least!) this is still a reminder that I’m just not as needed as I once was. That’s a hard thing to swallow.

I will never be one of those people lecturing younger moms to “cherish these years because they go by so fast.” I hear that all the time and frankly it drives me nuts. Maybe it’s because deep down I know it’s true. Maybe it’s because I have a hard time thinking about the future because I’m knee-deep in the shit that comes with the present. Maybe it’s because I’m just damn tired. And yeah, yeah, I’m well aware that I can “rest when I’m dead” but still. Knowing how to live and actually living that way are two different things.

That said, however, after experiencing the joy, the grief and even the pride that I’ve been feeling over the past week from letting go of this high chair, I’m trying to use these emotions as my own personal lesson. Because as annoying and cliche as it is that “I’ll miss this when it’s gone” it’s just the plain truth. No, I won’t miss everything. I won’t miss bouncing that screaming baby for hours on end during the night. I won’t miss those level 10 blowouts where you just start tossing everything into the garbage because you’re both covered from head to toe in shit and the garbage is all you can see through your tears. But I will miss those adorable baby smiles that you see when they’re sleeping. I will miss when those tiny baby hands grasp your finger and won’t let go. And yes, I’ll even miss when the baby cries for everyone except me because they know that I’m their mom. Those are the experiences I can’t get back, but they’re the memories that will stay with me forever.

With the upcoming school year approaching I’m going to try to remember to slow down even when things are speeding up. I’m going to try to remember their smiles on their first day of school (because we all know that won’t last). And I’m going to try to hug them for a few seconds longer every night. In between the constant daily chaos, the fighting, the screaming and the tears, there’s always memories to be had. Lessons to be learned. And a life to live. I just need to remember to live it.

Motherhood Ain’t for Sissies

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My Perfect Angels (said no mother ever)

Motherhood is f*cking hard. And lately it seems like every day I’m doing nothing but  failing. Over. And over. And over. I suppose maybe it’s the fact that it’s summer and my three kids are constantly in my face All The Time. Or maybe it’s the fact that not only are they in my face nonstop, but they are fighting nonstop. Over NOTHING. Over looking at each other. Or not looking at each other. Or breathing. Or maybe it’s the fact that no one seems to listen. Like ever. Until I’ve practically gone hoarse from yelling so loudly, but even then it’s questionable if they’ll actually listen or just merely acknowledge I’m speaking to them (or in this case yelling). Or maybe it’s the fact that I take the time to cook dinner every single night and no one eats anything. Yet I get asked for a snack at least every three minutes all day long. But when I offer a minimum of four healthy choices for a snack all hell ensues and tantrums are had by all simply because the only thing that can cure the apparent aching hunger pains of my kids is fruit snacks. Or maybe it’s the fact that anytime I even attempt to do something productive, three hurricanes follow right behind me and destroy everything. Maybe it’s the fact that my middle child is going through some serious shit and I don’t know if I’m capable of handling it, let alone handling it properly. Or the best one yet – maybe it’s the fact that I idiotically decided to try and go a week without having a drink. Pure madness, I know.

Whatever the case may be, so often lately I’ve found myself losing my absolute shit. To the point where I swear I’m having an out-of-body experience because all the while I’m freaking out at my kids, inside I’m telling myself, you’re crazy. They’re just little kids. Be the adult. Shut the hell up. But yet that voice of reason is just never quite strong enough in the moment to help me pull myself together. Instead that little voice just simmers politely until about 10:00 p.m. when I’m trying to go to sleep. That’s when it comes blazing back to life. And what was once the voice of reason now turns into the loquacious mastermind of guilt. It likes to remind me over and over how I SHOULD have handled the situation. How I SHOULD have remained calm. How I SHOULD have controlled the 18 things that just flew out of my mouth in the heat of the moment that are undoubtedly going to put my kids on the couch of some high-paying therapist sometime during their adult life.

As a parent or even just as an adult I’d say it’s safe to say that at least more often than not, we learn from our mistakes. Isn’t that part of the definition of even being an adult? Having the capability to stop, reflect and learn. Yet why does it seem like I can never figure out how to properly keep my cool in a tense or frustrating situation?! Why is it that these little people somehow have the ability to put this spell over me that sends me straight to Crazy Town? Because certainly that isn’t something that any adult has the capability of doing to me (well, okay my husband does, but I think that’s just par for the course). I seriously feel like my hard drive is frying some days as I’m constantly being hounded with a barrage of “MOM!” everywhere I go with three people yelling out three different demands simultaneously. There are times that I just can’t focus on a single thing or even hear myself think, which admittedly I’ve even shouted out loud before.

I often wonder if these are just “normal” mom feelings or if I’m some sort of uncontrollable freak that needs therapy herself. (Dad, if you’re reading this OF COURSE I need therapy for a laundry list of reasons but that’s not my current point.) On a handful of occasions I’ve witnessed what ideal parenting is like when a child is in the midst of a shit storm and I simply sit back and stare in awe. Because as much as I WANT to be that parent, more often than not, I’m the farthest thing from it. So am I in the minority or are those patient, docile parents? Who knows! The only thing I do know for certainty – and back to my original point – is that motherhood is damn hard.

But after all of this hemming and hawing, at the end of the day, of course I love my children with all my heart and want nothing more than to help them be happy, healthy, good humans. So thankfully, tomorrow is another day – another day to love and forgive my children – as well as myself. Because the two go hand in hand and are equally important. Obviously none of us are perfect, but I like to think that we’re perfect for each other.

For Some, It’s More Than Just a Game

DSC_9465Last week I was finally able to attend one of my son’s baseball games. Both girls had napped, and for once the weather was cooperating. I was pretty excited as my husband had shown me some videos, and my son seemed to actually be fairly good – well good for a six-year-old boy, that is. So the girls and I got there and set up camp. Immediately, of course, both girls took off for the sandbox. (By the way, did I mention sand is definitely one of those four-letter words.)

Anyway, my son’s team performed, for the most part, as I expected. They screwed around a lot, cheered each other on, repeatedly climbed the fence and got yelled at, taunted the other team – you know, normal boy stuff. Then one boy went up to bat. And after numerous attempts to get a hit (I’m not quite sure what the rules are for this age because he swung his bat at least seven times), this boy was finally called out. And wow was he heart-broken. He walked back to the bench with his shoulders hunched down and immediately started crying. As in sobbing like he just caused his team to lose the World Series. And he wouldn’t stop. He cried all the way up until it was his team’s turn to go into the outfield.

Now my first reaction was oh, the poor kid. But as I watched him, I began to be amazed and overwhelmed – I’m not even sure exactly what I was feeling – at this kid’s intense emotion over merely striking out. None of the other boys really even seemed to pay attention to his reaction, and no one else, thankfully, seemed to get too upset if they struck out or made a mistake. I mean again, it’s six-year-old kids playing baseball. Practically every move is a mistake isn’t it?! Anyway, it really got me thinking about the pressure some kids feel about the need to succeed. And sure, I get it. I got a little nutty during finals or any test really and felt if I didn’t succeed I’d be ruining my life. (Oh the crazy hormonal mind of a teenage girl!) But this was a group of six year olds that were supposed to be just learning how to actually properly play a sport. And in my opinion, the only thing that should have been on their minds was how much fun they were having.

But is this where it starts? Are six year olds already feeling the pressure to be the best? Of course some people might immediately put blame on the parents. But this kid’s dad was there and he kept encouraging his son and reminding him it’s not a big deal, just try again next time. So yes while there are definitely a crap ton of insane parents out there, this dad certainly didn’t seem to be one of them. So again I ask myself where does this extreme pressure kids put on themselves, or feel from an outside source, come from? Because knowing me, had that been my kid I most likely would have brushed him off and told him to buck up and move on. But for some, that intense need to be the best manifests and can turn deadly. So as a parent, how do you know the difference between knowing that your child simply needs to take a step back and take a few breaths from knowing that they have one foot off the edge of that very dangerous cliff?

I’ve experienced my four year old tell me her day had been ruined because some other little girl decided that she didn’t want to play with her. It didn’t matter that five minutes later they were best friends again. My daughter’s focus, when asked about her day, was on that one minute of rejection. And yes that’s four-year-old girl dramatization at its finest, however it still causes me to pause and think “oh, shit is this a glimpse into her (my) future?” And if so, how will she handle rejection? How will my son handle not being good enough to make some sports team because there’s 476 kids in his class and only 30 kids will be picked to be on the team?

These types of issues that kids seem to face these days – at least in the suburbs where I’m raising my family – are things that I never had to deal with. Hell we had to recruit kids from neighboring towns just to have enough kids to make a team so we could even play a sport. And as for being a successful student, yes I absolutely put in my time and effort because it’s how I was raised, but looking back I wasn’t in the top tier of my class because I was overly smart. I simply studied more than most, and when your class has about 32 students in it, it’s easy to be up near the top. Had I been raised in these suburbs where you’re competing with hundreds of hard-core, studious, and determined kids, I never would have had a fighting chance getting into the University of Illinois like I did. I had wanted to go to Illinois since I was in junior high and I think it was the only in-state school I applied to (and of course my dad vetoed even the idea of paying for out-of-state tuition.) But if I hadn’t gotten in, what would that have done to my 17-year-old impressionable self? Would I have been able to handle that kind of rejection when I didn’t really even have a plan B? And to fully understand that one particular college wouldn’t determine my future, because that job was actually up to me. I would like to think so, but in reality all it takes is one out-of-your-mind moment to make a decision that could cost you your life.

It saddens me to think of my kids suffering, or any kids for that matter, because they did poorly on a test or didn’t get invited to a party or was the last out in the game. Kids tend to focus on THAT moment only and can’t grasp the concept that five years from now, hell five months from now, none of their current sorrows even will matter. Because to them and their developing brains, THAT moment is the only thing they can even think about. And whether it’s intentional or not, kids are indeed always under pressure. The pressure to be popular and have a lot of friends, to get good grades and ultimately be accepted to a good college, to be good at sports and aim for a scholarship. And the list goes on. But as we know, it’s impossible to be the best at everything and sometimes even anything. But that’s still okay.

As I’m writing this, my brain keeps attempting to go off on so many different tangents that can be associated with this post. But for me, I suppose my main purpose in writing this is to simply remind myself of the importance of my job. I’m not curing cancer or making people millions, but I do have three tiny monsters that depend on me to show them and to teach them how to shrug off that strike out or friendship rejection. But not only that, but how to shrug it off and still be happy; maybe not that at that moment, but having the capability and self-confidence to eventually get there. I’ve come to learn that it’s hard as shit to be a parent, especially a good one. But I also won’t forget that it’s just as hard to be a kid. To be engulfed with such intense feelings and emotions that all kids, at some point or another, struggle with and to not necessarily have the maturity needed to be able to properly manage those feelings. It’s hard work. Over the years, my advice to my children is going to change. But for now, my focus is on them having fun, being kids and being nice. Unfortunately, they’re going to feel the competitive pressure their entire lives. But for right now, it should be nothing more than a game.