Here’s Something Thoughtful to Do When You’re 40 and Your Parents Are Out of Town

Sep 17 2014

You’d think when you’re 66 years old and your daughter is 40, you can finally leave home for a few weeks to go on vacation and ask her to water the plants and trust she won’t throw a party and raid your beer in your absence.

You’d think that.

But you’d be wrong.

You know what’s fun to do when you’re 40 and your parents leave town? I mean, other than steal their convertible and act confused about why the mileage is always suddenly higher than when they left, which you’ve been doing for years.

What’s fun is throwing a party at their house because they were foolhardy and unwise and gave you their house keys, car keys and the garage code.

And even better than throwing an unauthorized party?

Is sending them pictures like this… 

photo 1 (70)

…of a police car in their driveway.

And this…

photo 2 (77)

…of beer bottles and some random couple on their bed.

And decorating their house for their return like this…

photo 4 (34)

… just, you know, to let them know you thought about them while they were away. 

Because you’re very, very thoughtful.

And you want them to know you missed them.

And that they should never, ever, EVER leave town again.

Or think you’re responsible enough to water the plants.

The End

P.S. Some of those pictures might be the teeniest, tiniest bit staged and may not reflect the actual nature of the party.

P.P.S. I might have flagged that cop down while he was driving by. And I might’ve asked if he’d do me a favor. And I might’ve mentioned it wasn’t actually law-enforcement related. And he might’ve looked at me like I was propositioning him before skeptically asking how he might help me. And I might’ve said, “I’m 40 and my parents are on vacation and I’m throwing a party without their knowledge.” And he might’ve started laughing before he offered to pull into the driveway and turn on the lights. And I might’ve told him he’s the BEST police officer in the WHOLE WORLD. You know, MAYBE.

P.P.P.S. I also might’ve just met those people who are pictured on my parents’ bed. And they might’ve offered to pose for it after seeing the cop in the driveway because they heard I was sending sketchy pics to my sweet, retired parents. And now I might be working on a campaign to force those bed people to be my friends forever and ever and ever. 

P.P.P.P.S. My parents gave me their house keys, car keys and garage keys, “just in case something happened,” but they didn’t give me their bank codes and passwords. Weird, right?

P.P.P.P.P.S. My parents used to be missionaries, and they love Jesus very much. The Bible tells us I am their reward. “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3

P.P.P.P.P.P.S. Some people think the Bible can be interpreted different ways. Those people are probably wrong.

On Holding Pieces of Each Other’s Hearts

Sep 15 2014

She waited on the front porch on her 16th birthday. She waited for her friends to arrive and for the party to begin.

Instead, the calls came in, one at a time. 

The “sorry, I can’t make it” calls. The “not coming, after all” calls. The “oops, I double booked” and the “something came ups” and the “I have to wash my hairs.”

In the end, no one came.

No one.

And she left her porch to go practice driving with her mom.

Party abandoned.

Heart… well, as you might imagine.

I don’t know how long it took my friend Melanie to start telling the story of her 16th birthday. How long it was before she talked about what happened and what she thought it meant about her value as a person and a friend.

I remember she told me last year, at the beach, in her quiet voice as we watched the waves crash, their magnitude powerful and overwhelming. And it’s a funny thing about stories; when you listen to the true ones, they crash over your heart. Powerful. Overwhelming. And my heart broke for 16-year-old Melanie, even though it’s been 30 years since she lived it.

I knew it was a gift Melanie offered. The vulnerable things always are. The ways we unpack the pieces of our soul and hold them delicately in our hands, like the small, wild things with nervous eyes and twitching wings and hearts running away in their chests. We hold them carefully, trying to communicate they’re safe. That we won’t hurt them, at least not more than they already have been. And then we whisper to our most trust-worthy friends, so softly we can barely be heard, “Come look what I have,” and “Shhhh… don’t scare it.” The best friends look. And are gentle. And say, “Oh, sweet thing.” And try to help.

I don’t remember what I said to Melanie when she told me the story of her 16th birthday. Probably wow. Or I’m really sorry. Or that sucks. Or some other inadequate thing to acknowledge that 30 years may pass, but it’s still important to nod at the pain. To hold the vulnerable pieces. To communicate, somehow, “This piece is precious. Do you know it? I’m so sorry it was broken. You didn’t deserve this. You should’ve been treasured.”

My friend Melanie turned 46 recently, and I was invited to attend her birthday party last weekend.

Her friends threw her a Sweet 16 Party.

Another shot at a Sweet 16, except they called it a Sweet 16…+30. 

And here’s my guess: I bet there was a part of Melanie that was afraid. I know a part of me would have been. Because what if no one shows up again, you know? After they’ve seen the piece of her heart, held carefully in her hands. They have the power to hurt it. 

But Melanie said yes to the party. 

She took the chance at having her heart handled with care, which is the most trusting move I know, to say, “This part was hurt, and I’ll let you hold it with me.”

photo 2 (76)We brought Melanie little, ridiculous gifts, like Hello Kitty loot. And nailpolish. And candy and socks. And sparkly bags. And cards that said stuff like, “I’m so glad I got to come to your party! My mom is such a bitch. It’s not like she said I couldn’t take the car to go out with Jake. I thought I’d be grounded forever.

And we laughed and played and laughed the night away… until we got tired and went home before midnight because we’re old.

And we sang happy birthday, the twenty or thirty of us who came. The twenty or thirty of us LOUD women who came. But first, to the light of a birthday candle already lit, my friend Leslie asked Melanie to tell us about her 16th birthday. And so, in the candle-lit kitchen, with the lights dimmed low and all of us crowded around, she did.

She held out her heart. And she let us hold it with her.

And then we sang happy birthday. Loud. Because that’s who we are. And because we meant it. And Melanie buried her face in her hands and wept. And laughed. And wept. 

And I know I say this every time I talk about authentic, compassionate community. I know I do, but I mean it.

It was a holy moment.

A holy, redeemed, painful, precious, beautiful moment.

And then someone yelled, “FUCK THOSE BITCHES who didn’t come to your party!” And the rest of us chorused, “YEAH. FUCK THOSE BITCHES.” 

And we laughed and laughed. Not because they were bitches, necessarily. But because we were together. And life gets better. And we find our tribe after too much searching. And we find out we are, after all, deeply worthy of love, and worthy of celebration, and worthy of people who show up.

And that was holy, too. 

……..

In honor of Melanie’s birthday,
and in honor of holding pieces of each other’s hearts,
please use the comments to let us hold a piece of yours.

What’s your story?

If you need a gentle friend, this is your space.
I’ll monitor the comments section closely, but I have a suspicion, based on the kindness you continue to show each other here, that I won’t have much monitoring to do.
You are some of the very best heart-holders I know.

What Can I NOT Do Today? A Guest Post by Shawna

Sep 12 2014

What Can I NOT Do Today?
by Shawna of Not The Former Things

I have always, always been a planner person.

This has been true since a very young age – I remember when I was four years old, I wanted my mom’s written-in calendar so much, I would’ve preferred it to any toy. I begged to go to the office supply section at every grocery store, just to stare longingly at the pens and pads of paper. When I was in college, I spent way too much of my scholarship fund in the bookstore. Even today, when a friend pulls out her planner, I have to take a look. It’s been a part of me as long as I can remember.

Throughout my life, I have planned away, making one to-do list after another.

Then, I became a momma.

Then, I became a stay at home momma.

Then, I became a stay at home, homeschooling momma, to exceptional children with special needs.

Then, I became a very tired, overwhelmed, have no idea what to do next momma.

And then, suddenly, the to-do list and planner didn’t quite do the trick anymore. In fact, they mocked me. Instead of being the cherished friends I had grown to love, these tools became yet another symbol of my failure as a mom.

At first, I thought it was the type of planner. (I wish I was joking…) I seriously thought maybe I just needed a different type of planner – one more suited for a mom at home instead of a mom at work. Turns out it wasn’t having the wrong planner.

Then, I thought maybe I just needed to use it differently. I spent an afternoon recreating page after page to more accurately reflect my life – changing travel pages to meal plans, and lists of important numbers to therapist contact info. Turns out it wasn’t the way I was using the planner.

It wasn’t until our lives became so completely complicated with sleepless nights, violent, damaging meltdowns, and what felt like emotional trauma all over the place, that I finally realized – no amount of planning would change our circumstances

Somewhere, in that mess, I began to understand that there would be much, much more on the to-do list, but most of the list would be things I had never had to accomplish before. Things likemake it home safely after a car ride 15 minutes or more, or just make sure only things in this room are broken went straight to the top of the list.

At first I fought it. I was sure if I just tried harder, woke up earlier, stayed up later, and worked faster, I could accomplish every single thing on my list. What’s worse,  I thought my children should be able to keep up as well.

I am here to say, it was just not possible. It brought me to my knees (spiritually and figuratively).

I just could not keep up.

So, slowly but surely, I let go.

I asked my husband what was most important to him – turns out he could’ve cared less about 75% of the things I was freaking out over every day. Then, I asked the boys what they wanted. Playing with them (big sigh and mommy conviction followed) and feeding them were the top requests. In fact, they were the only requests (now that I think about it, my husband’s requests were not that dissimilar…). Suddenly, my list was getting a lot smaller.

WhatNotToDoToday

A year later, I am surprised at how comfortable I have become with all of this. So much so that I worry sometimes that we are too relaxed. (I actually have a good friend who has promised to keep me accountable. If I completely lose it and start sliding down the slippery slope of sluggard-dom and total filth, she is the one nominated to put me in check!)

Now, instead of feeling like a failure when I see my huge to-do list, I am trying to mentally start checking things off my not-to do list each morning.

Silly? Yes.

But I find there is so much more room for grace and freedom, when I am not holding myself to my own unrealistic standard. There is so much grace in saying, “Oh well. A perfectly scrubbed kitchen floor is just not the season we are in.”

There is so much joy in living life with my family, my eyes and heart focused on them, rather than all the things that need to be done around them.

So, what are you NOT going to do today?

………

This essay was originally published at Not The Former Things.

Shawna

Shawna is a wife to a wacky, voice actor husband, and a momma to two uniquely challenged little boys. She finds herself increasingly required to live beyond the limits of her crazy self, and serve a wonderfully complex family – where High Functioining Autism and Learning Disabilities are schooling her every single day. She blogs about the messy and the painful, the sweet and the laughable, and how Jesus is in the midst of it all at Not The Former Things. You can also find her on Facebook

The Way Car Campaigns SHOULD Be

Sep 10 2014

School started last week, and my oldest transitioned to a new high school as a junior. Because we did months of research ahead of time, though, and because this was a transition she requested, it went perfectly.

FYI, by “transitioned,” I mean “didn’t transition at all,” and by “perfectly,” I mean “horribly” and “terribly” and “we’ve scrapped that plan and are trying something else entirely.” 

So… you know. It’s been a rough couple of weeks, trying to figure out how to listen and be supportive and make wise decisions and guide without dominating. For the record, I am NOT good at guiding without dominating. I’m more of an I WILL DOMINATE THE HECK OUT OF THIS and FIX IT and IF EVERYONE JUST DOES WHAT I SAY, WE WILL ALL BE FINE mama, before I remember that I want to be a collaborative and compassionate mama, which kind of blows that whole domination thing to pieces. In short, it sucks. 

photo 1 (69)Before school started, though, we went on a road trip. Abby, me, and her friends, Jenna and Camille. We went for two reasons:

1. We seriously needed a distraction from the back-to-school blues, because sitting home STRESSING OUT about starting a new school wasn’t going to be good for anyone. Not ANYONE.

And 2. GMC loaned us a a car

We had a ridiculously great time, probably because no one brought any siblings, not even one of us barfed, and we were all equally committed to finding every single Starbucks in the Puget Sound of Washington. It was, in all ways, an ideal road trip and perfectly timed.

Now, listen. I don’t know what GMC was thinking, loaning me a car, and clearly they didn’t check with any of YOU before they did it because we are a WHOLE BUNCH of truth tellers around here, and I imagine, because you know me, you would’ve told them NO; DON’T DO IT, GMC! But they didn’t get ahold of you (WOOHOO!), and God knows I wasn’t going to fill them in on All the Things That Can Go Wrong With the Woolseys, so when they said, “Hey. Want to use a car? No writing or online review required!” I thought to myself, “Self? This is a chance to use a car that doesn’t smell like dead cheese. SAY YES.” So that’s what I did, and now here we are.

And can I be honest here? I just hate car campaigns. Because all of them show blissful country drives with smiling, quiet families gazing peacefully at idyllic scenery, and none of them show the kid who insists on putting his boogery finger over the line to piss off his brother, or the teenager slumping and sighing and eye-rolling at the nerve of you taking him on a family vacation, or the baby who gets dreadfully, terribly carsick at the first bend.

So, while driving the GMC Acadia was honestly rad – easy to drive, perfect control, great features, gorgeous interior, really comfortable, lots of room, blah, blah, blah – and I would buy one in a heartbeat if we could manage a new car payment (which, HAHAHA), I wish we could start a whole new way of advertising cars, ’cause let’s talk for a minute about what we really need. 

Show me how easy it is to wipe vomit off your seats, and I am sold.

Show me a car with a feature that repels dead cheese smell, and I’ll swoon.

Show me a car that comes equipped with a mini-upholstery vacuum/shampooer for spot cleaning the chocolate milk spills and squashed goldfish crackers and random body fluids, and I’m in. 

Here’s what you need to do, GMC: show a commercial of a family on a road trip.

You know, a REAL one.

Real family. Real road trip.

The infant with explosive diarrhea up his back.

The dad catching the toddler’s puke in his bare hands.

The teenager demonstrating with every expression and minute movement how annoying it is that she’s required to be in the presence of such disgusting excuses for human beings.

The mama with a mouth guard because she has to bite something really, really hard.

At least two kids competing in a sing- scream-along to Frozen’s Let It Go.

And then show the mama driving: 1. using the Blind Spot Assist feature to change lanes, 2. using the GPS Direction Navigation to find the nearest stop because OH MY GOSH, VOMIT SMELL, 3. using the (seriously – you should make these features, GMC) Mini-Upholstery Cleaner and Dead Cheese Odor Eliminator at the rest area.

Then show the mama using the Reverse Camera to back up and get back on the road safely in the midst of all the distractions … and unapologetically starting the DVD player with wireless headphones for all the passengers to get ‘em all zoned out post-puke-pocalypse. 

And tag your campaign with this slogan: At Least the Car Was Easy.

At least the car was easy! Because every family who’s driven more than a block knows the family part won’t be easy, what with being made of humans and all. But we drive cars anyway, both for convenience and for vacation. We know it’s going to be hard, but it’s also FUN and deeply, horribly worthwhile because we’re making memories, damn it.

Ooh, ooh! There’s another car campaign for you! Making Memories, Damn It. 

Someone should pay me for this stuff. This is marketing GOLD, I just know it. 

Listen up, folks. This is your chance to talk to a major car manufacturer. And I know this isn’t what GMC intended when they loaned me a car. They intended to have me sell you on the Acadia. (It’s really great. Swearsies.) But I’m very bad at following even implied directions, and I think this is too good a chance to pass up. We have GMC’s ear. What do you want in a car? Like, for real

Comment Below with Your Favorite Feature, please:

  1. Mini-Upholstery Cleaner. (Let’s pretend we would clean our cars if we had these!)
  2. Dead Cheese Odor Eliminator.
  3. Or another idea of your own.

 

 

Once Upon a Time, I Cooked Breakfast. Naked. At Someone Else’s House. This Morning.

Sep 9 2014

Once upon a time, I cooked breakfast. 

Naked.

At someone else’s house.

This morning.

Dear The Internets,

Please don’t read this if you are a) modest and horrified by immodesty or b) sweet and therefore easily shocked.

You’re going to have to self-select, here, friends. Do your best.

If you are a) modest but giggly about immodesty or b) only apparently sweet but secretly, deep down inside, a little bit rule-breaky, feel free to continue.

If you’re immodest and/or a lot rule-breaky, ignore this whole introductory letter, because you won’t understand it at all. Like, at all at all. And I think your latest piercing is rad.

Love,
Beth

Have we self-selected for this post now?

Excellent.

My friend turned 50 today. 

FIFTY!

Which, I think we can all agree, is old.

Practically dead.

Or it’s the start of a freer and fuller life. One more comfortable in our own skin. A life in which we’re more willing to be ourselves.

I mean, I don’t know for sure, since I’m still a decade away from 50, but so far, so good, and I’m sure hoping the trajectory continues.

In my family, we have a tradition among the women. When you turn 50, you’re officially inducted into the Aunties. And, I’ll be frank here; the Aunties have all the fun. 

The Aunties swim naked. Sometimes when it’s not quite dark.

The Aunties can have a splash of bourbon with breakfast.

The Aunties make ribald comments and have a Devil May Care attitude, and they’re cheerful and dramatic and reckless in all the best ways. 

The Aunties are opinionated and annoying and a little smug and full of themselves, because they know down to their toes that they’re just fabulous – and right – exactly the way they are.

The Aunties laugh louder than anyone I know. And sometimes they fart as accompaniment. Accidentally, you understand. Except when they let one rip on purpose and then try to blame it on someone else.

I feel like I’ve spent my entire life wanting to be an Auntie. But NOOOOOOOO. It’s an exclusive club, and one cannot – absolutely cannot – gain entry until age 5-0.

But I can still act like an Auntie. And train to be an Auntie. So that when I am and Auntie I’ll have all my Auntie muscles stretched and flexed and ready to play.

And so this morning, when my friend turned 50 (FIFTY!), I woke up at 5:30am, and I grabbed a frilly apron, and I snuck in the side door of the kitchen to cook a surprise breakfast with a partner in crime. 

And, clad in aprons and jewelry and make-up, we cooked and giggled and wished our friend the happiest of birthdays…

Painted in Waterlogue

…with indelible marker on our butts.

And I know this is nuts.

Believe me, I know.

It’s just… I really doubt when I’m 88 that I’ll regret cooking Naked Breakfast.

Or making my friend laugh like a loon on this Day of Celebration.

Or turning a mundane morning into one of Mirth. 

Does it shock you if I tell you Naked Breakfast felt like a small, holy ritual? To be exposed and giddy and goofy… and to glory in it?

The longer I live, the more I know we’re all in the process of healing. Of becoming. Of being lost and found all at once, which is grace. We are, all of us, stretching — reaching throughout our whole lives — to become our truest selves and learn somehow not to merely accept, but to revel in our weirdness and our wildness and our wonkiness… and to discover in that place, eventually, that we’re wonderful.

I guess I’ve decided to be weird and wonderful now, instead of waiting for later.

As a sacred act. 

And an Auntie in training.

And I’d like to wish my friend a very, very happy birthday…

…with lots of bass.

…..

P.S. If you’re wondering if it’s ever hard to tell you this much about myself… and whether I question the wisdom of sharing so much… and whether I wonder if it is too much… the answer is yes, absolutely. But Naked Breakfast was a thing of joy, and I guess I’ve decided I’d rather be me out loud – including Naked Breakfast Me – than hide joy. I think we all face this question: how much of myself is it OK to be? I’ve picked All of Me as my answer.

P.P.S. If you’d rather read about Jesus, you can click here or here or here.

P.P.P.S. If you want to read more about body image, you can click here or here.

The Second Dresser Drawer: A Heartwarming Story of Childhood Terror

Sep 5 2014

“Fine,” said the younger daughter with great reluctance, “you can look in my room. As long as you don’t open the second dresser drawer.

She looked at us with her I’m Not Kidding face, and her Don’t Try Me Right Now lip-pursing, and the I’m a Preteen And I WILL Knife You in Your Sleep stare, and we knew she meant business.

It was nighttime, just before we put kids to bed, and we parents were busily searching the house to find the missing cord to an ancient white noise maker in another bid to help our anxious kid sleep better, but at our daughter’s emphatic direction, Greg and I looked at each other with that quick and silent conversation you perfect over the course of parenting; Do you know why she said that, we thought at each other, because I sure don’t, and WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN, ANYWAY, “don’t open the second dresser drawer?” 

It’s like a when small children get quiet in the other room. There’s an instant sense of foreboding. Nothing good came come of this, you think, and, given the number of times you’ve turned the corner to find a modern Sharpie art mural on the kitchen cabinets or a toddler playing blissfully in in the bin of flour she’s dumped upon the floor, you’re usually right.

“Hey, Aden?” I said. “What’s in that dresser drawer, honey?”

I tried my nicest, least panicky voice. I mean, the kid’s in middle school. It could be DRUGS. Or SEX, although I’m not sure how you’d put sex in a dresser drawer, but KIDS THESE DAYS; ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE. Or what if she’s the head of an Underground Candy- or Chips-Smuggling ring?? Like the mob boss of candy and chips! If so, I’ll have to confiscate all her merchandise and eat it to teach her a lesson. There’s no way I wasn’t finding out what was in that drawer.

“I don’t want to tell you,” she said, and put her head under her blanket to hide on her bed.

“But,” I replied, “I really feel like we need to know.”

And then Greg and I waited.

And she finally whispered, “It’s the doll.”

Except it wasn’t a sweet whisper.

It was a creepy whisper. 

Like something from Children of the Corn.

Or when that kid from the Sixth Sense says he sees dead people. 

“It’s the doll, Mom,” she whispered.

And I whispered back, because whispering seemed important, “What doll, baby?”

Tiffany“Tiffany,” she said.

And I’ve written about Tiffany before. A sweet story about my oldest daughter’s Last Doll. A story that always makes me cry because it’s about the magic of childhood and my baby growing up and passing her doll and the magic along to the littles. It’s all that’s aching and bittersweet about relinquishing childhood. And it’s all that’s beautiful about sisters and brothers who take good care of each other’s hearts.

“What about Tiffany, Aden?” I asked gently, thinking she must’ve cut Tiffany’s hair or colored on her face, and not blaming her, really, for not wanting to tell me. We don’t have a ton of heirloom type toys at our house; we’re hard on the house and the furniture and the toys, so we’re used to things breaking, but we’ve tried hard to keep Tiffany in good condition, and we all tend to treat her like she’s Real.

Aden peeked with one eye out of the blanket and whispered, “She comes alive at night, Mom, and if I open the drawer, even a crack, she comes and stares at me while I sleep. I never, ever open that drawer, Mom, not ever since Abby told me that.” 

“Since Abby told you that?” I clarified.

“Uh huh,” she confirmed.

“Abby, your big sister?” I said.

“Yeah.”

“And how long has Tiffany been in that drawer, Aden?” I asked.

“I don’t know, Mom,” she said. “A long time, I think.”

So I wandered down the stairs to find my eldest.

“AHEM,” I said.

And she said, “What?”

And I said, “Did you, by any chance, tell your little sister that Tiffany comes alive at night?” 

Abby started to grin.

“And did you, oh sweet DARLING girl, happen to mention that, if she left her dresser drawer open, Tiffany would crawl from the dresser and stare at her while she sleeps?”

Abby started to laugh.

“And did you, at any point, think to tell her none of that is true?” 

Abby, cackling, shook her head no.

“So, then. You WILL, I am SURE, march upstairs and tell your sister right now that you made it all up, yes?” 

And Abby, still giggling, said, “Yes.”

And then she said, “Mom?”

And I said, “What?”

And she said, “I told Aden that over a year ago.”

Over a year ago!

For a year – a YEAR – my daughter’s been sleeping with Chucky in her room.

Tiffany2

And if that isn’t a sweet, precious, heartwarming story of childhood terror, I don’t know what is.

The End

P.S. Greg, Abby and I all told Aden that Tiffany doesn’t really come alive at night. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t believe us.

P.P.S. I don’t think I believe us, either. Send help.

Tiffany Photoshop Credit: my little brother, Jeff McDonough. He’s proof a younger sibling can withstand torture by an older sister and be marginally functional as an adult.

This Just In: 3 Out of 5 Children Are Excited to Be Back at School

Sep 3 2014

We’ve been back to school for two days, and we’re sort of drowning here. I mean, we’re not drowning drowning. Not like oh my gosh, we have a NEW BABY drowning. Just a little bit of back-to-school drowning. A little splashing around. A little gasping for breath. A little leg cramping and flailing and maybe-we-shouldn’t-have-gone-so-far-from-shoring. Minor drowning, you know? Like I need a lift back to the shore and a firm pat on the back and maybe a tiny bit of mouth-to-mouth from a hot lifeguard while I lie on the beach trying not to vomit.

I can tell you this for sure because I have my very own pool from which to draw accurate statistics: 3 out of 5 children are excited to be back at school this year.

Three out of five are eager.

Three out of five are happy.

Three out of five talk a mile a minute when they come home and set their alarms for EARLY because tomorrow can’t come too soon.

2 out of 5, though? Not so much. 

Two out of five hate this

Two out of five have been crying.

Two out of five are shaky and jittery and have an involuntary wrinkle between their eyebrows from feeling afraid.

And you’d think we’d be used to this.

You’d think we’d know it will pass.

You’d think.

But you’d be wrong.

Because even though we had 3 kids at 3 new schools last year, and 3 kids at 2 new schools the year before, and more kids at more new schools for infinity before that, this whole Stressed Out Children Attending New Schools thing just bites. 

Dear Internets,

What do you do in that time before your children make friends? When they’re sure they’ll never make them? And they know they’ll wander the halls, lost and alone forever?

Which is how all of us feel when we’re lonely. Like there’s no escape and we’re surely doomed.

‘Cause I’ve tried saying All the Hopeful Things to my kids over the years – all the Rah! Rah! Cheerleader Stuff – and I’ve tried Doing Things, too, and I still haven’t hit on a single thing that works. I’m starting to think that Saying the Words and Doing the Things doesn’t help as much as Being There to Listen, and Waiting in Their Sadness With Them, and Asking What They Need From Me. Which just SUCKS, you know? Like there’s no magic wand out there, and like I can’t force happiness upon them.

So what am I missing, Internets? What’s the magic thing to say or DO?

Please write back soon.

Love,
Me

I woke up late this morning. On my stomach. Face buried in pillow. Pillow with a tiny bit of adorable drool. Mine, though, so that was nice. And Greg asked if I was OK. 

“I’m fine,” I said, and, “I’ll be up in a minute.” Which we both knew was a lie and came out more muffled like, “Uhb eye. Ah be uh-i-na mihna.” I went back to sleep for 15 because I knew – I KNEW – as soon as I got up I’d have to deal. Deal with the children and their feelings and my feelings and ALL THE FEELINGS.

I don’t like feelings. Except when I eat them because then they taste delicious like cinnamon toast and potato chips and chocolate chip cookiesBut I’m trying not to eat my feelings right now, so instead they just taste like afraid and sad and helpless and overwhelmed.

Pffttt.

I tried being the Cheerleader all day today as the texts rolled in from one of the Wrinkled Brow kids. “It’ll be OK eventually,” I wrote, and, “Give it some time.” 

Look at me! FIXING things!

I pulled the I’m Older and Wiser Card next with, “I’ve been there, and even though you think I don’t understand what you’re going through, I do understand it. I do.

BRILLIANT!

I even donned the Authority Mantle: “You have to do this. You have to keep going until December. I don’t even want to consider anything else before you’ve really tried.”

BOOM! If that’s not encouragement, I don’t know what is!

But my kids, oddly, were less than enthusiastic at my fixing and my awesome parenting, and instead of snapping out of their fear and loneliness, they became more withdrawn and less interested in talking to me about how it was going.

It really bites when Being In Control isn’t compatible with We’re All on the Same Team. Just once I want those things to go together.

But today wasn’t that day, so I backed up and said, “I’m sorry; I’m trying to help, and I’m getting it wrong,” and, “I’m sad for you,” and, “I’m here for you,” and, “Let me know if there’s any way I can help.” 

Instead of solving anything, I spent the evening french braiding hair and sitting in bed with my kid and talking about what’s for dinner this week.

I said, in the end, lots of “I don’t knows” and “I love yous” and “We’re in this togethers.”

So, for tonight, 3 out of 5 children are excited to be back at school. And 2 out of 5 aren’t. And I don’t know how tomorrow will go, but I suspect I’ll try to fix less and be present more. Unless one of you can find that damn wand.