Resolve to Mean it

Each year I welcome the holidays with childlike wonder, soaking up the hope and patience that come to visit. Less than a month later I stow the decorations and vacuum the pine needles in a frenzy to reclaim order. Usually the cleaning blitz extends beyond the decorations as I scour the fridge and go through closets. I know I’m not alone as I watch headlines crop up with tips for a cleaner, healthier, cheaper New Year.

Lose weight.              Let go of baggage.                Meditate.

Everyone dives in and I think: Maybe I can make a pledge to reform some part of myself. Then the next wave of articles hit with people consumed by having fallen off the fitness wagon or finding dinner as a family 5 nights a week just wasn’t in the cards. The near-certain failure that New Year’s resolution lists risk isn’t something that I need.

One look in the room Finley and Avery share and I am reminded of so many things I’ve had on my list of things to improve.

We were going to make our beds each morning.
Put dirty clothes in the hamper and carry it downstairs once a week.
I was going to vacuum the carpet more often and match all the socks.
Then I see the space on the chalkboard wall, I was going to write more notes.
There’s a care package to send to Liv in thanks for our beloved Squirrelty.
Then I see the rainbow on the floor from the prism Sean hung in the window.

RoomToResolve

The truth is we have been making the beds more often than we used to. We’ve had more slumber parties too, which is why the extra mattress is on the floor. The unmade bed reminds me that I said yes. A theme over these 9+ years of parenting and blogging has been to say yes more, but no matter how hard I try, I rarely give myself credit for having said it.

The thing that bothers me about resolutions is that they don’t mean much. Coming as they do at this one time of year, I question who they are really intended to benefit. Maybe rather than making resolutions we should resolve to mean it.

Don’t modify what you eat or how you dress; don’t swear off one kind of shopping or revamp how you parent.

Just mean it.

When you say sorry do you mean it, or is it a reflex? I say that I’m sorry so much it’s really more like an umm than a sentiment. I want my words to match what I really think and feel.

When I say that I ought to go to bed earlier or unplug more often, I want to mean it. It doesn’t have to change how I live for the rest of the year or mean that I failed. Resolving to mean it gives me the power to follow through on what I say, because if I don’t mean it or don’t intend to do it, then I just shouldn’t say it.

Sometimes being the mom I want to be means that making the bed right before we turn in for the night is ok. It also means that I say no to the triple chocolate stripe cookies in the plastic bag because amid the yeses I offer, the nos are just as important.

This year I do want to try meditation, but with 365 days during which to do it, I don’t want to call myself a failure on day 31 if I haven’t tried it yet.

2014 will be another precious year in my life, not a list. So if dinner is late or a little dry because I decided to stay unexpectedly put, so be it.

NapTwist

Fleeting Yet Indelible

Yesterday morning, during a break between stockings and presents, I slipped away to the bathroom to put in my contacts. The sun in the backyard reflected against the snow and lit up the bathroom with the most amazing light. The night before I’d fallen asleep on the couch; our cocker spaniel like a heating pad at my side. When I crept upstairs I didn’t even turn on the light as I brushed my teeth. My usual decluttering went undone. Surveying the counter—a medicine measuring cup alongside an Ariel bath throne, a letter F charm necklace, several tubes of toothpaste, a beloved tall, “straw-cup,” craft scissors, Rainbow Loom bands, hair ties, raised gem stickers, and thick rivulets of dried…toothpaste? Soap? Paint?

Instinctively I reached for the spray bottle and a paper towel, but as I moved I watched the water cast wavy shadows on the wall. I inhaled the scent of shampoo and damp towels, scanned the mismatched socks listing out of the hamper, the super hero underwear, and the clear pitcher for rinsing sudsy hair that the girls call, “the grey thing.” The pitcher had a mermaid fin sticking out of it and dog shampoo lay on its side below.

My breath caught and I realized how lucky I am; how incomparably beautiful and privileged this still life is —this life is.

Bathroom_Wonder

The hard-to-explain, yet familiar sensation I associate with being a mom, it’s butterflies in my belly and a lump in my throat, sadness and soaring joy in the same breath, enveloped me. I took a picture with his iPad, the screen embossed with tiny fingerprints and smears. The order I so crave, will soon enough be replaced for a longing for the clutter of child-rearing. Hair to braid and socks to sort, laundry to fold and meals to fix, they are all the chores that can weigh me down, but bathed in the light of a Christmas morning sun I knew that they were get-tos, not have-tos, and I wept happy tears at the mirror.

The Weight is Over

She was sitting in the tub, a fever threatening and a belly full of upset. She’d been trying to get comfortable for an hour; multiple trips to the bathroom to vomit proving unproductive. At one point I even told her how to help herself throw up. It terrified me, like handing a match to a child. She looked horrified, so I’d suggested the bath. We were quiet, nothing but the soft sound of the bubbles settling, until she spoke. “Mom, do you remember the girl I went to preschool with who goes to my school now?”

Tub

“Did she have long, brown hair? Her mom works at the school?” She looked uncertain. “She was bigger than some of the other kids, right?” She nodded, “Yeah, that’s her.” She focused her eyes on the trail of her finger snaking through the bubbles. “Mom? I know her weight.”

She waited. I couldn’t read her face.

“What do you mean you know her weight?” I asked.

“Well, once on an inside recess day we were pretending to be in the hospital. I tried to carry her and kind of made a sound. She laughed and told me that she was heavy. She told me she weighed one…” she paused.

My mind ran through the competitiveness Ave and her sisters have—who is tallest, who is fastest, who wears the biggest shoe. They’ve never lingered on weight. I’ve painstakingly avoided anyone discussing that because Ave, with her athletic build, has always outweighed her sister. From the time Avery could sit up people asked if they were twins. I wonder now if I’ve made a horrible mistake.

“One?”

“Yes, she weighs one hundred and sixteen pounds.” She was watching my face waiting for something.

“Well, that is bigger than any of you, isn’t it?” She nodded. “I’ve told you not to lift people, right?” More nodding. “Listen, here’s the thing, you are very strong. That’s great. People are all different shapes and weights, that’s good too. I want you to try and promise me something. As you get older, I want you to try not to let numbers make you upset, ok? Because here’s the thing, I have always, always weighed more than people thought.” Her head snapped my way.

“It’s true, at the doctor’s office or at school when I’d have to be weighed, no matter what they said, I was almost always 10, 15, or even 2o pounds heavier. Someone who looks skinny might weigh more, someone who looks big might weigh less. It really doesn’t matter. Kids used to tease me about my feet.”

“Your feet?” she asked dubiously.

“Yes, my feet. I had the biggest feet of any girls in my class starting in like 4th grade. Kids will tease about anything. How can you get upset about your feet, right? I did and it was silly. I love my feet!”

She took a deep breath and said, “Can you get me the fish container so I can make a boat?” I passed her the container.

What the hell am I going to do? I thought. Just this summer we were in Cape Cod and despite these 9 years of trying to watch my tongue, I slipped. My mom said she wanted to take a picture of us near a sand castle we’d built. I started to lean over and felt my stomach make a roll. “Oh, not now, I don’t want my stomach in the picture.” My stomach is flat, yet I still have this compulsion to think that it isn’t flat enough. It was out of my mouth before I knew what I was saying.

“It’s ok mom, I’ll sit in front of you.” This picture will forever remind me of the unnecessary shame that I blasted in front of all three girls. The cycle is so ferocious that even as I type this, I am upset that it happened AND I am holding in my stomach.

No

How do I avoid the deep ruts of my self-loathing as I raise these girls? My post-baby body is stronger and more slender than it was pre-babies, but my appetite for perfection won’t rest. Rationally I know that we are ever changing, numbers on a scale, the fit of a waistband; they ebb and flow, nearly always related to our actions, meaning none if it is forever. I am tender with others, protective of my girls, endlessly optimistic, but the hate nips and every so often I do think it swells out of my control.

I don’t want thin for my girls, I want happy.

I don’t want gorgeous for my daughters, I want radiant.

If they inherit my hands and feet, I don’t them to also get my instinct to apologize for being what/who/how I am.

All of a sudden, with a 6 year old who calls her parka chubby, because “saying it’s a fat coat would be mean” and a 7 year old who was scandalized by a weight, and a 9 year old who seems indifferent to food, I think that their health and self-image have way less to do with my constructing a non-judgmental environment and more with me taking a deep breath and exhaling for good the idea that on any day the tautness of my stomach or the line of my jaw make me any more or less amazing as a human being.

S’now Big Deal

Just because a person is born in the Adirondacks doesn’t mean that they automatically love winter. Finley was slow to take to snow. Over time she has gotten heartier, scampering up trails on hikes and developing a fierce devotion to lake swimming.

This morning’s blanket of snow brought squeals and declarations of intentions to “play outside all day!” We hadn’t been outside long when the inevitable happened, a face full of snow that snuck all the way down her snowsuit. She responded appropriately.

 

SnowyFace

Sean was upstairs trying to sleep his way out of a sore throat and Fin’s sisters were literally knee deep in snow in the farthest corner of our yard. “Honey, do you need to go inside?” Alligator tears sprang from her eyes, the crumpled lines of her chin made my own mouth turn downward. “I can take you inside.”

The thing about Finley is that for every instance of playing the baby card, she pulls the cool kid card. She shook it off, pulled out her most radiant smile, and romped like a little Adirondacker the rest of the day.

SnowySmile