Virtues from Motherhood: Thank you Mom

A decade ago I was 17, rebellious and determined to do everything my parents (really my mom) did not want me doing. I was hell bent on being everything that pushed their buttons and made their hair grey. A decade later I’m at dinner with my mom and some of our co-workers. Our co-workers remember me before I was a polished office manager and adult, they remember the days my mom was running out of work to come find me or clean up whatever mess I was making that week. They remember a time where my mom was crying because I was running my life into the ground, and not because I was making her laugh at the dinner table.

Me and my Mom: Summer in the 90’s

I spent most of my adolescence running from her and from everything she was (and is I suppose) but the older I get the more I realize we carry many of the same traits. Nothing makes this more apparent to me then the way our co-workers compare us. Before my mom took her current job, her and I were both office managers. We both ran offices and attended the same meetings and met the same deadlines. Though we never worked together the people who work with us have seen both of us in action. So when someone says “you’re just like your mom” I used to cringe, but now I smile because her traits have enabled me to excel to the levels I have now. Her leadership has been embedded in me since I was a child, but as a teenager I was running wild with it, rather than building a future for myself.

Why am I taking this trip down memory lane? Well two reasons, not everyone has their mother, not everyone has that unconditional love and support of the woman who raised them. Some people have lost their mother both physically and/or emotionally, and I can’t imagine how much that sucks. I also can’t imagine where I would be had my mother not fought so hard to keep me on the right path, and no matter how hard I fought to stray from it, she followed me deep into whatever forest I wanted to explore. The other reason being, I’m glad that i have finally reached a place with my mom where we can go to dinner, where I can talk to her and have conversations and that she is finally proud of me as a person and as a mother.

As you read through this blog post, remember that every mother shows love differently and sadly sometimes not every mom has it in them to be there, but mine does, and I’m thankful. If you have your mom, whether it be upstairs from you or states away, be grateful. And if you don’t have your mom, I am truly sorry, but remember as the child it is not your job, nor is it your responsibility to make her a parent. Remember that no matter where the path may lead you that she does love you, but she might have to do it from afar because she doesn’t know how to express it to you, and that the universe will put people that love you in many other ways in your life, you will never be alone.

Lastly, remember that we are carbon paper to our parents, we are imprints of their qualities both good and bad, yes there are some days I want to rip my eyes out of my head because of my mom, but those days pale in comparison to the days we can go out to dinner together now, because there are far less rip your eyes out days now than when I was a teenager.

Virtues from Motherhood: Life Mimics Art

When we’re born we come into this world pure, pristine and untainted by the world’s harshness, each of us a clean and untouched piece of marble. We all age though, and as we age we begin to lose pieces of ourselves, and our marble becomes chipped as life begins to carve away at us. Like all art however, the artist’s hands are what makes the masterpiece.

In life the artists are the people who we choose to let into our lives and give pieces of ourselves to. But if they don’t share the same vision we do for ourselves they will only damage the marble, leaving scars and cracks along the way rather than adding beauty and light.

It is too easy to allow the wrong artists to touch us; it is too easy to let a spoken word run wild ahead of a broken promise. Still though our marble is beautiful, with so many untouched corners. Even in the worst lighting the right artist will see beauty; let those people into your life. Let the people who see you in your worst lighting, and still add beauty to your masterpiece, stay. As heavy as marble may be, we have to pick up and move from those who only cause damage; those who damage us do not deserve us. Damage is not what artists do.

Virtues from Motherhood: Be Kind No Matter What

Several weeks ago, as I walked Ava to school we saw the mother of one of her classmates, a little boy with special needs. She told me how sometimes the children in her class are mean to him and exclude him from games or skip him on the lunch line. She asked me why kids are so mean to him when he didn’t do anything to them, and I truthfully wasn’t sure what to tell her. The real truth is, the world can be an ugly place sometimes and those who appear different are targets of unkindness.

Shortly after that conversation with Ava I visited her classroom for an event and the little boys mother pulled me aside and told me that Ava had been sitting with and including her son in whatever activity they were doing. I was taken back and didn’t expect a 7 year old to have the emotional capacity to realize this little boy needed compassion. Ava’s teachers verified that Ava stood with him on the line for school lunch or in line for activities at recess to ensure he got a turn and that the little boy seemed to take comfort in the fact that Ava was always around.

The following morning while walking with Ava again, I asked her about the little boy and told her that her kindness makes a difference in the world. What she said next blew me away, she said “Sometimes he annoys me a little bit but I know he doesn’t mean it so I just pretend I didn’t notice”. Her emotional capacity made me smile, that at a young age she realized some people require more patience than others and for good reason. I hope that sentiment lives on within her as she ventures further into the world and realizes not everyone knows how to be kind.

It is easy to be lost in our own frustrations and take it out on others but we also don’t realize just how big an impact we leave on others. We never know what someone is dealing with at home or in their own minds and being harsh doesn’t help them any. It doesn’t take much to be kind, even if it’s just a polite nod on the train in the morning, spread kindness.

Virtues from Motherhood: Cookie cutter moms don’t exist

In the age of social media and popular opinion, it’s easy for anyone from any corner of the world to have something to say. The categories of controversy are endless, and amid them is the subject of parenting and what a “proper parent” should look like. While celebrities are often the target of these online feuds and keyboard wars the “popular opinion” tends to trickle down into the most average newsfeeds. So I thought to myself, firstly who makes these pointless cookie cutter visions of a mother and secondly why is it anyone’s business what I look like or indulge in so long as my child is healthy, fed and well cared for? I see such outdated ideals on what women in general should look like or how we should speak and quite frankly, hilarity aside, it’s appalling. In 2016, there should be no right or wrong way to be a mother especially in terms of appearance.

I was eighteen when my daughter was born so I was told that “I looked too young to be a mother” or “I can’t be a day over 16” or my personal favorite “Babies having babies”. That statement made my blood boil to no end, how dare anyone gage my ability to be a mother solely on my age or by the actions of other young women? Though I may have gotten off to a rocky start to adulthood there was never a time Ava went without, suffered or was harmed, she was always my number one priority and still is. I worked 14 hours shifts at a hostess job when I was 19 to make sure I could give Ava the best of everything, I worked a retail job I despised just to ensure I could throw her the best birthday parties. I did all these things as a teenager, as a young 20 something, as a mom with tattoos, as a mom who likes rap and hip hop and as a mom who wasn’t really concerned with what motherhood should “look like”.

I’ve seen some ridiculous articles about how children of parents with tattoos are more likely to be abused or more likely to live in poverty. Things like that make me chuckle because there’s zero validity to it, none, nada. On the other hand though there is a statistic that estimates teen mothers have less than a 30% chance of getting a college degree before she turns 30. That statistic has been proven and the fact that it has is saddening. While motherhood is no easy feat in itself, it’s not impossible to obtain a degree, teen moms just need more support in order to accomplish it. Instead of condemning these young women for not having kids at that “ideal age”, lets support their dreams and provide hand ups instead of just handouts.

Mother is not a “one size fits all” or cookie cutter persona. We do not all fit under one umbrella, and we never will. Like snowflakes like fingerprints we are all unique, diverse and wonderful. I got my first tattoo two months after Ava was born, I got my most recent last week because tattoo art is something I’m drawn to, it intrigues me, I like it. Last year I got a half sleeve piece dedicated to my grandmother and to Ava, it’s my biggest tattoo to date. At first I hesitated at the idea of getting it because I feared people’s opinion but after expressing my concerns to someone close to me he said “Sam you’re the same great mom with or without it and if you love it get it, all it changes is the outside not the inside”. I love my tattoos, Ava loves them too and she’s always so excited to tell people the tattoo on my wrist, of her name, is in her handwriting. Ava doesn’t remember me without tattoos and she doesn’t think anything of their presence, she has no bias. At the end of the day I am still her mother, her provider and her protector. The same goes for other moms, moms who are tattooed head to toe, without a single tattoo, covered in piercings or rocking some awesome hairstyle, we are all mothers! Not one stitch of our appearance can change how we love our kids and that is something people need to realize.

Ava and I summer 2015

Ava and I summer 2015

Things I want my Daughter to know: Love doesn’t hurt

 

Ava,

Since you were born you’ve probably heard “I love you” thousands of times. You’ve heard it being said to you and to the people around you and at 7 years old, you probably have a simplistic definition of the word. For you “love” is the way people take care of you, brushing your hair, tucking you into bed at night and cheering you on at school events and for now and years to come this idea will serve you well. One day however you’re going to grow up and have a more panoramic view of the world and of love. At some point love won’t just be mommy coming to your play at school or putting little notes in your lunch box, no, at some point love will be something you seek from a partner, someone who knows and keeps all your secrets. Though the idea of you growing up and finding someone you love frightens me, I want you to know that of all the many things love can be, painful, should never be one of them.

Love does not hurt, love isn’t heavy or burdening, love isn’t ostracizing or tiring. It’s important that you never feel like you owe something to the person you love, remember love is not a commodity that can be bartered or exchanged; it is a mutual and constant contribution to one another’s lives. Love is good morning notes next to the coffee machine, love surprising your partner with peanut M&Ms because it’s their favorite when they’ve had a rough day. I want you to have positive experiences of love Ava, I want you to never doubt that you’re lovable and that you deserve the best. If ever you feel like what you have is less than love it’s okay to leave and it is okay to have love for a person but not be in love with them. Love is a freeing experience it makes you feel light and open to life so I caution you, if you ever feel the love you have casts shadows on your life, on your happiness, it is time to move in a different direction.

Most of all Ava I want you to understand that in life we will love many people. We will love people intimately, like family and as close friends and all these types of love are necessary to us growing as a person. Sometimes though, like flowers, love has a season and we must move on to preserve our own garden. When love stops feeling freeing know that it’s not your fault and you just cannot fix it sometimes. This doesn’t mean the love that once was is any less significant it just means that there is more out there for you and you have every right to find it.

 

-image via instagram -Quote from Bone thugs & Harmony.

-image via instagram
-Quote from Bone thugs & Harmony.

Virtues from Motherhood: Dating

Dating by its own account can be a nerve wracking ordeal, picking a time and a place, juggling a busy schedule, and of course what to wear. Then throw in finding a sitter and a night where you have no other responsibilities and you might be inclined to just stay home. If you’re a single mom, or dad for that matter, you know how hectic managing your life can be without trying to pencil in time to get to know someone new.

When you’re a single parent, your life tends to be a cycle of wake up, go to work, pick up the little one and prepare for tomorrow, and if you’re like me throw a full schedule of college classes in there. With only 24 hours in the day finding even one to sit down with a date or potential significant other can be a feat that you end up neglecting altogether. Since Ava’s father and I split in 2011 I have been in one serious relationship spanning just over a year and even that amazes me. I’ve gone on plenty of dates and awkward “you just have to meet my friend” set ups but after one or two meet ups over lunch or dinner I usually end up having to cancel future plans because something comes up, mostly because I don’t have a sitter or I’m just swamped with work and school responsibilities. My family helps me tremendously with Ava while I’m at work and at school and some days I’m out of the house from 9am until 9pm so asking them to watch her yet another night so I can go on a date seems a little selfish of me, not to mention after being a passing ship to Ava most nights a week I want to use my weekend to hang out with her. In my mind a date can wait, I just want to be home.

That desire to just want to flop on the couch and watch Disney movies on a Friday night is often met with skepticism. Things like “Don’t you want more kids?” “Don’t you want to get married soon?”, “You’re still single?!” come whizzing past your head at family gatherings or even work events and for the sake of your job, and being polite, you learn and master new ways to avoid or brush off this questions all the while screaming in your head “I DON’T HAVE TIME TO WORRY ABOUT THIS NOW!”. Don’t get me wrong, the women who stuck it out with their partners, whose relationships work, I applaud you and I’m happy you’ve found that so early in life. But for others it didn’t happen in that order, some of us thought love started and ended with a high school sweetheart only to find that a high school romance may not be strong enough to withstand the seasons of life. So when these relationships don’t work we don’t throw pity parties, we throw on our grown up britches and get on with it. We pour ourselves into giving to our kids, to bettering their lives and to make sure they live the life they deserve, after all they didn’t ask to be here.

What it comes down to and truth of the matter is I don’t want to be in a relationship right now, I simply do not have the time to commit to one and I’m not one to half commit or skirt on any aspect of my life. Right now I’m worried about getting my second degree and securing a good job for Ava and I to live comfortably. I want my own life to be on solid ground before I begin looking to share that ground with anyone else. I’m unapologetic when it comes to being consumed with my own life because when I’m ready to share it … I will.

 

(-via Instagram) I saw this on my timeline a few days ago and I found it pretty funny because sometimes it's spot on accurate.

(-via Instagram) I saw this on my timeline a few days ago and I found it pretty funny because sometimes it’s spot on accurate.

Things I want my daughter to know: Be open to all kinds of friendship

Ava,

Throughout our lives, we will have many friends and many types of friendships. Some friendships will persevere through the major moments of your life and it’s multiple milestones. Others will be brief and only last a short while but might be as equally meaningful as those that last for years. Friendships when you’re a little girl are seemingly simple and are based around liking the same flavor ice cream or the same TV show, they make elementary school memorable and recess more fun but as you enter middle school and beyond, the dynamics of a friendship as well as the ideal type of friends you seek will change as you mature.

You might seek friendships with those who are similar to you or have the same interests, who are “safe”, who don’t try to pressure too far outside your comfort zone, and whose mindset doesn’t stray too far from your own. For a while, these styles of friendships will serve you well with good memories, abundant laughs and dozens of secrets shared but eventually you’ll be forced out of that comfort zone you live in. You may all end up in different schools, careers or even cities and despite the efforts of keeping in touch the dynamics of the friendship will change.

So what are you to do when you shift into the next phase of your life, in a new space, unfamiliar territory with all these unacquainted faces? It might be instinct to discredit people who are vastly different from you, whether in appearance, upbringing, education or interest but instead of avoid something new, embrace it. I can tell you the most meaningful friendships you will ever have are those you never anticipated. Sometimes when we cross paths with people who are from different paths in life, we find our own path is now lined with brighter and more stunning flowers. People who are after more in their own life will bring more to yours. Maybe it’s a different heritage or a different taste in books but small things like this add more meaningful stitches to the quilt of your life.

The moral of my story, Ava is to never discount any type of friendship, big or small. Understand that sometimes you will outgrow a friendship and that doesn’t make either of you, terrible people and even when you feel your life is full always be open to new friendships and new points of view. Unexpected friendships often leave the most memorable footprints in your life. So form bridges with people from all walks of life so when you stop and look around you’ll see you’ve created a diverse and wide world for yourself with many avenues to explore. Never short change yourself the opportunity to get to know a new friend because of the premonitions of an old one and remember there is no maximum capacity on friendships.

Mom

Ava and her friends Riley and Thomas. Summer 2015 (photo was posted with moms permission)

Ava and her friends Riley and Thomas. Summer 2015 (photo was posted with moms permission)

Virtues from Motherhood: Nobody is perfect

 The past week or so I’ve been feeling like I can’t catch up with life. Between mid terms approaching and work getting busier fitting everything into 16 or 17 waking hours is tough. A few weeks ago I helped Ava complete her first research report and helped her practice reading it aloud. We finished it way before it was due but on the due date I totally forgot to send her to school with it! I didn’t realize until I was heading out the door for work that it was still hanging on the fridge. In a panic, I threw it in my bag and rushed to the school to give it to her and by then she’d already realized I forgot to send it with her. When she saw me she was relieved but her little face asking me why I forgot in the first place made me feel so bad. How do I tell her I’m only human and sometimes I’m going to make mistakes because I’m not perfect?

I’m sure as we’ve all matured we’ve realized our parents are only human and not the super-human superheroes we imagined them to be all our lives. Parents have their off days, bad days and moments of weakness just like anyone else and as Ava matures I realize I am no different, I can’t do it all perfect on a daily basis. Mishaps like the forgotten report are small in the big scheme of things but a handful of those little mishaps can make you feel defeated or frazzled. As much as I don’t want Ava to see it, she probably will. At first, this idea scared me because I feared she’d see me as this mad woman who’s always running around but then it dawned on me, if I’m optimistic about life she will be too.

By having an optimistic perspective, I will try not to complain aloud but instead use positive terms and highlight the good in the madness and not what was difficult or something I could’ve done more efficiently. When I started classes this semester I felt really bad about missing bedtime for Ava 4 out of 5 weeknights. I had to take night classes because of work. One night, my brother told me Ava was upset she hadn’t seen me and tried to facetime but I couldn’t leave class at the moment. I was upset I couldn’t talk to her but I got an idea from a book I read a few years ago “Notes on the refrigerator door”, a book about a mother and daughter who left each other notes because their schedules meant they didn’t spend much time home together.

Though Ava is only 7 she still gets the concept. Before I leave every morning I leave her a little note, a funny rhyme or a question and before she goes to bed she writes me back. I come home around 9 every night and there’s this little note waiting for me, sometimes with errors or peculiar pictures but always written with love. It may seem small or trivial but since we started writing notes back and forth she doesn’t get as upset about going to sleep without me and I think she looks forward to writing them every night.

Even though night classes and 15-hour days are not ideal, I’m determined to make it work for the bigger picture, the end goal. I want Ava to understand in the future that these crazy schedules and long hours were for the betterment of our future. She’s already seen me graduate once and she’ll see me do it again when I earn my B.A degree. Whenever I feel like I can’t keep up or I’m falling behind I remind myself that I’m still doing it and that little gestures like notes left for Ava keep the stitches of this crazy patchwork quilt of life together.

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Ava and I in March of 2009, she was just a few weeks old.

Things I want my Daughter to know: 7 Things being your mom has taught me

This week in honor of Ava’s 7th birthday I’m doing something a little different with “Things I want my daughter to know”. This past Saturday Ava celebrated her birthday and it made me realize just how far we’ve come. When she was born I was 18 years old. I had no job and just a high school diploma. Today I am 25 and I have one degree and am steadily approaching a second. So I’m going to list 7 things being Ava’s mom has taught me.

1. There is no greater love than the love a mother possesses for her child.
I discovered this days after you were born and people wanted to touch and hold you. Though I knew they meant no harm I didn’t want anyone touching MY baby. I also felt this on your first day of school, when you began nursery I wanted to sit outside the school all day and I cried after dropping you off. Nobody could take care of you better than I could and it was hard for me to let you go and be a little person. Even now every morning when I kiss you goodbye for the day I wonder what your day will be like and if you’ll need me at any point during the day. There will never be a moment where I am not fiercely protective over you, even when you think I’m being unfair.

2. Sometimes your bad behavior is funny.
I know moms aren’t supposed to admit this but I think it’s in good humor to know that occasionally your out of line behavior cracks me up. The first time I had to excuse myself from disciplining you, you were two years old. Someone had moved your fridge letter magnets up out of your reach and you were not pleased. You attempted to reach them I heard you struggling to and as I came out to assist you, you shouted in anger “WHO THE bleep PUT THIS UP HERE?!”. To which I promptly burst into laughter and had to turn around. Should you have repeated adults bad words no. Did I correct you? Absolutely, but till this day it cracks me up. Every now and then you have little bursts of attitude and though it’s a bit out of line it’s funny to me to see such a large personality on such a little girl.

3. Just because I see the world through rose-colored glasses doesn’t mean everyone else does.
This has become clearer to me as you’ve gotten older and I find just because I gravitate to something doesn’t mean you will. It also means just because something comes easily to me it might be complex to someone else. This became obvious to me when I’ve had to explain to you why certain things aren’t acceptable in school. Though I can see your potential and know the questions to ask you to get you going again not everyone else does and I have to teach you to ask for help productively when you don’t know how to do something.

4. Change in inevitable.
I’ve said this before but the only reason I know how to roll with the punches is because I am your mother. Change is something that panics and stresses me out but I can’t let you see that. So in turn I’ve learned to accept and roll with it as best I can so my flaws never spill over into your life. Having you was the biggest change my life will ever endure but I know if I can be a mother and raise a little girl everything else life throws my way is a cake walk.

5. Kids really are mirrors; they reflect all of what’s around them.

One day when I was running late for something and I had to take you with me I truly saw that you absorbed most of the habits around you. I’m a bit anal retentive when it comes to certain things, and that clearly rubbed off on you because you wouldn’t wear socks that did not match, you downright refused. It slowed down the whole morning but it made me see that everything I do, in your presence or not, affects you in some way.

  1. Admit when you’re wrong.

This is a hard skill for people in general but I would be doing you an injustice if I didn’t teach you to be humble and admit when you mess up. I discover these things often, like when you’re right about where something is or if you did or didn’t do something. Though my first reaction is to brush it off I know I have to admit it was my mistake. Teaching you it’s okay to be wrong is the first part, I also have to teach you how to fix it. Sometimes sorry is not enough and you have to replicate that I’m sorry in the form of actions.

  1. Don’t ever stop finding reasons to smile

I am amazed at how quickly your mood can change, both good and bad, but mostly good. I am amazed that even in the middle of a rainstorm you’ll find something to laugh about or be silly. I then remember that this is a gift of youth that is often spent over time into adulthood but seeing you experience it makes me remember that it was not too long ago that I was care-free and laughing. I cherish that I can share these laughs with you and hopefully let you keep those moments a little longer.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AVA!

Mommy loves you so much and one day when you’re a teenager loathing my rules and expectations I hope you’ll read this. I hope you’ll read this and gain a little clarity into the method to my madness and understand that I don’t set rules with the intent of raining on your parade but instead with intent of protection, guidance and stability. One day when you may have a daughter I hope you’ll relate to my words and they’ll finally resonate with you and you’ll see every choice was crafted out of pure love.

 

Ava celebrating her 7th Birthday at Pizza Uno this weekend.

Ava celebrating her 7th Birthday at Pizza Uno this weekend.

Virtues from Motherhood: Cherish the here and now

When you think about time, you often think of how quickly it moves, or how there aren’t enough hours in the day. What we don’t tend to think about is the value that every small moment has in the big picture. As a mom, time is an uphill battle, it’s always escaping us and we’re always chasing it in return. I’ve learned over the past seven years that it matters less what it looks like and more what it is. Like many new moms I was self-conscious of my changed body and I spent so much time hiding from pictures or avoiding social events, and posting pictures because I was worried what I would look like in the eyes of others. What I learned from that however was that all I was doing was missing out on capturing and being part of milestone and hallmark moments of my daughter’s life. I also found that people, the right people anyway, were not looking at the materialistic things in the photo they were looking at the love present.

This realization was reaffirmed for me while scrolling through Facebook a few weeks ago. I came across a shared post by a woman named Tiffany Watkins who posted a pictures of herself in a bra and undies holding her young son Austyn. In the pictures, Austyn can be seen grabbing moms’ glasses, mimicking her faces, and laughing. His gleeful expression and love of his mom is obvious, but what’s more obvious is her love of him and love of the moment they’re sharing. I loved this post and shared it on my own page, and with Tiffany’s permission I’m sharing it here as well. I think we can all learn something from Tiffany’s post, mom or not, that you should celebrate love, moments, and memories free from fear of appearance or judgment of others.

The post has been shared quite a few times and other women applaud and find courage in her adorable post because in it she’s not just honest but she’s real. I encourage other women to share the love they’ve captured in pictures and share it without that, “oh no look at my legs” or “look at this” reaction that we’ve all had to a picture. In ten years, when you look back at that picture you were reluctant to share odds are you won’t remember that you thought your thighs were too big or your arms weren’t positioned right instead what you’ll remember is the happiness of that moment and the memory it left you with; you’ll remember happiness not self- judgment.

All in all, I don’t think anyone has ever taken a “perfect” picture, but we’ve all taken ones embroidered with love and happiness, and those things should be celebrated and cherished. I applaud Tiffany and I think her pictures are so simple yet mean so much. On Austyn’s first day of kindergarten she may come across those pictures, and not remember how she felt about her appearance that day but how small Austyn was then and all the memories surrounding that time. So my message to women who think twice about posting, POST IT! Share that love, that happiness and be proud of the life you’re living and the life you’ve built with the ones you love most. Don’t let anyone anywhere ever tell you otherwise because having an abundance of love in your life will always trump a “beach body”. Be rich in love not materialism.

Post via Tiffany Watkin's Facebook Account (Tiffany gave me permission to use this post)

Post via Tiffany Watkin’s Facebook Account (Tiffany gave me permission to use this post)