Mexico 2004

Acting “as if”

Recently, Jack decided to list the ways that he and I alike. This surprised me because, more often than not now, he’s rolling his eyes at me, so the fact that he wanted to, not only acknowledge the ways that we’re similar, but list them, made me swell with pride. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. We’re both left-handed
  2. We both have light-colored eyes
  3. We both choose Sour Patch Kids over M&M’s at the movies
  4. We both are early birds
  5. Neither one of us really enjoys rollercoasters

And then, I added, “and we’re both shy.” As soon as I said that, Jack looked at me like I had garlic growing out of my ear.

I think it’s well-documented that both Jack and I are introverts, but I don’t think that Jack has ever thought of me as an introvert. In fact, the day that we were coming up with this list, was the same day that we had more parties to attend than I care to discuss right now (introvert hangover still in progress) and he’d seen me (seemingly) effortlessly glide around all of the parties, talking with people, laughing–appearing, by all accounts the well-adjusted, party-loving extrovert.

When he looked at me funny when I told him that I am shy, I quickly added, “But I’m really good at pretending NOT to be shy.” At that moment, he got really still and quiet and I saw the proverbial “lightbulb” go off above his head.

I don’t think that it had ever occurred to him that he could act “as if” he wasn’t shy.

Acting “as if” is a fancy cognitive psychology idea that really just translates as “fake it ’til you make it.” In other words, what I explained to Jack that day was that yes, I am very shy, but that I can also pretend that i’m not shy when I need to–like at parties. Honestly, that’s probably what often causes this “introvert hangover” that I feel after being social, but it also gets me through a situation and, more often than not, I end up enjoying myself.

The thing that’s really cool about acting ‘as if” is that it applies in most areas of life: I think at every job I’ve ever started, I’ve acted “as if” for the first few weeks. Every time I’ve joined a new gym, I’ve tried my best to act “as if” and walk around like I know where I’m going, know how the machines work know what the classes are all about.

It also works in sobriety. Those first couple of years, I did a lot of acting “as if”–acting as if I WASN’T miserable and searching for a way to figure out who I was. I did my best to act like a secure and sober person and guess what? I turned into that person. How cool is that?

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Mexico 2004

Youth soccer in 2017 vs 1978

We’ve just finished our first foray into the world of youth soccer.

After years of threats, we finally signed our son up to play soccer for the community league. He was initially hesitant, (or pissed, if we’re being real here) but once he was resigned to the idea, he was all-in and his work ethic and dedication was really the star of the show in this whole experience.

Coincidentally, my husband got bamboozled into coaching the team, thrusting us head-first into soccer culture. We couldn’t help but giggle as we remembered the soccer team group photos that adorn my mother in law’s walls of my husband’s team, featuring his dad, (also the soccer coach) circa 1978, in his shorty-shorts, knee-high athletic socks and porn-star facial hair.

Sitting at soccer games every Saturday for the past couple of months–with only intermittent bursts of excitement (mostly cheers of, “Way to try!” “Good hustle” and “OTHER WAY! WRONG GOAL!”)–gave me lots of time to reflect on how our 2017 soccer experience undoubtedly differed from that of my husband’s childhood soccer experiences. While the rules of the game haven’t changed (much) the social rules have changed a lot.

Here are only a few ways that soccer in 2017 differs from soccer in 1978:

The Snacks: My husband has fond memories of the snacks that followed his soccer games. He still speaks of the delicious, fresh orange slices, lovingly cut up by one of the soccer moms (I totally picture Mandy Moore as her character in “This Is us” standing at the kitchen counter cutting up oranges for Kevin and Randall’s soccer games…). And I think that was it: One “Harvest Gold” colored Tupperware bowl full of refreshing orange slices, grabbed at and pawed by 11 grubby-handed little kids–without any hand sanitizer in sight.

My son’s soccer snacks couldn’t be more different. First of all, each week a different parent provides the snack. Now, I’m not sure if the first week’s parents set the bar high and we all blindly followed, or if this is the norm, but the snacks that followed each game this year came in a gallon sized ziploc bag. Inside was typically a piece of organic fruit, a bag of organic (sometimes gluten-free, non GMO) goldfish-type crackers, a protein, such as an organic, antibiotic-free cheese stick and a “dessert” item, such as a small piece of candy or cookie. Accompanying this 4 course meal was a Gatorade pairing (Gatorade “Polar Ice” pairs nicely with goldfish crackers, per my son) or juice box (organic, low-sugar, recycle-able box). All I know is that, when it was time for us to provide the snacks, recreating a similar snack bag for 12 kids cost us about $25 and I wished that I’d had the nerve to bring back the 1978 bowl o’ orange slices.

Water bottles: As I’d sit there at each game, my eyes would drift to the various and sundry water bottles that the parents had with them, as well as those of the players. By and large, everyone in this part of Texas carries some sort of super-insulated Yeti-type of cup to keep our beverages cold in the extreme heat. Most kids have them too. I couldn’t help but think that in 1978 the water drinking options were likely (best case) a questionably rusty sports-field water fountain or (worst case) a garden hose. And that was fine.

Names: I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the names that were being shouted during the games this season. Most Saturdays, it sounded like roll-call at the local nursing home (which I love because I’m a fan of traditional names). “Way to go, Henry!” “Brilliant pass, Amelia!” “Nice block, Mildred”. I would imagine that my husband’s childhood games sounded more like this, “Yeah, Jason!” “Go, Brian!” and “Alright, Kevin!” (with maybe a “Way to go, Jennifer” in there too, provided that girls were allowed to play in this league, which I’m not completely certain that they were).

Talent scouts in the crowd: At the second to last game of my son’s soccer season, there were legit “talent scouts” in the crowd. They were drumming up business for the “select soccer league” and approaching parents of the stand-out players, talking up this select league. I highly doubt this happened in 1978 because I believe that soccer was just that:  A means by which kids could burn off some steam, kick each other in the shins and learn to play as a team. Not a gateway to a career in professional soccer.

Phones: I cringed as I watched parent after parent recording whole games on their phones every Saturday. I cringed partly because I can’t fathom having that kind of memory on my phone that would allow the recording of a whole game (because my phone is full of pictures of my cats, of course) but also, so many parents have their phones in their face the whole time, thereby missing the experience and lastly, who are they going to make sit through the viewing of that game later in the weekend? Poor souls. Siblings who are forced to attend the games are the same–sitting there, playing games or texting on their phones. I’m guilty of this too. My daughter would often bring her Kindle with her to her brother’s games and, believe me, it was a lifesaver, but certainly that wasn’t anything that the siblings in 1978 had at their disposal. I suppose siblings in 1978 had to play in the dirt or talk to friends. Boring.

The Uniforms: My son’s uniform probably cost the entire price of the entry fee that we paid to this soccer league. It’s a professional-quality soccer jersey with matching shorts and socks. (Let us not even speak of the soccer cleats that we bought that cost more than most of the shoes in my closet). He loves it so much and takes the responsibility of wearing it with pride very seriously. While my husband’s childhood team had matching uniforms, it looks to me like they consisted of only a basic t-shirt, possibly screen-printed with the name of the local plumber or wrecker service as a sponsor. They most certainly didn’t cost $130 either…

This soccer experience has been fun and brought back lots of memories for my husband. He really stepped up to the plate (so to speak) as coach and my son embraced the sport as well. I have a feeling that this is something that we’ll be doing every year from now on. It has also been a good opportunity for bonding between my son and my husband–much in the same way that he and his own father bonded over the same sport (albeit with slightly different social protocol–and slightly longer men’s coaching shorts) so many years ago.

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Mexico 2004

3 things I’m doing differently as a mother

Below is a picture of the moment that I became a mother.

This photo was taken about 12 hours after Anna was born…about 12 hours after I technically and biologically became a mother.  However, the first 12 hours of Anna’s life remain a blur to me. Her delivery was tough and I lost a lot of blood. So, instead of spending the first few hours of her life bonding with her, I was in and out of consciousness while she was cared for in the hospital nursery.

This photo was snapped by Kevin the following morning, once I was out of recovery and Anna was brought to me for the first time. I remember being shocked at how beautiful she was. When I saw her the first time, immediately after being born, she was a typical newborn–purple, coated in schmutz and, adding insult to injury was her conehead and wonky eyes–a direct result of the beating she took during delivery (let us not even speak of the beating I took during delivery).

In the moment that you’re seeing above, overcome with the fact that I’d made this perfect, whole and beautiful creature so full of potential, I made a vow to Anna to be the best mother I knew how to be. I knew that there were injustices from my childhood that I wanted to correct and, in that very moment, I knew that I had the opportunity to break a cycle.

I wish that one of the promises that I’d made to her that day was to stop drinking, but that wasn’t one of them–at least not yet.  At that time in my life, I knew that I’d need to stop drinking at some point in the future, but I also knew that motherhood would be hard and that I’d need to rely on “mommy’s little helper” a little too. Thankfully, I did quit drinking in the coming years but here is a list of the other cycles that I vowed to break on that day:

  1. Marry money, honey” : Beginning as a very small child, I can remember first commenting to my mother about a nice house or a nice car…or even a nice purse, my mother’s standard response was always a dismissive, “Well, marry money, honey.” It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I really stopped to consider what that meant. What my mother was effectively saying to me–even if it was just in jest, was this, “you’ll only be able to have nice things if you find a man to take care of you.” Funny thing is, that I didn’t marry a man with money. Instead, I married a man with big dreams and tons of confidence who taught me how to set goals and encouraged me to go after what I wanted in life. And that’s the message that we’re giving our kids too. When Anna remarks on a nice item, my standard response is, “Work hard. Do the right thing. Study. Make good choices and earn it yourself.” I can’t even conceive of ever making Anna feel like she wasn’t capable of earning something on her own the, hard way.
  2. Talking about other people (gossip): When I was a young girl, I knew all of the community gossip. I know now that probably my mother just lacked friends to talk to, but often times, I was the one that she gossiped to. I was included in adult conversations that I had no business being a part of. Even at an early age, I knew who in our community was in an unhappy marriage, who was still pining for their high school sweetheart, whose children might not be biologically related to the man who raised them…basically, I knew way more than any child should know (or any other person NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE RELATIONSHIP should know.). I remember learning early on, that rush of knowing something about someone and how that garnered me the attention of others when I spilled the beans.  I cringe when I think of the things that I knew at such a young age and it shaped who I am and how I’ve handled the responsibility of harboring gossip as an adult. Now that I’m a mother, I’ve made a conscious plan not to ever talk about anyone in front of my kids–that includes my kids peers as well as the adults in our life. Now, all bets are off about what’s said among me and my mom friends at the bus stop before the kids get home, but when my kids are around, I don’t talk about people unless it’s kind words or giving the benefit of the doubt. Little pitchers have big ears…
  3. Talking badly about myself: I grew up with a mother who hated her body. I have vivid memories of her calling herself a “fat pig” and other horrible things. Perhaps she was fishing for compliments, but as a child, all I knew was that my mother said terrible things about herself all the time. So, I grew up silently critiquing my own body. I didn’t want this for my children, so I’ve made a pointed effort never to say anything but empowering things about my body when I do talk about my body (which is seldom) in front of my kids. Our society talks about our bodies too much as it is. I don’t want my kids even thinking about their bodies as anything other than running, jumping, ball-throwing, jump-roping, dancing-machines.

As an adult, I am (mostly) forgiving and (reasonably) accepting of my body. When it comes up in conversation with my kids, I commend my body on its feats of strength and endurance and I very much just portray my body as a vehicle for my soul to travel around in. I try to preach kindness to all–ourselves included–to my kids and we talk about respect and acceptance more than is probably necessary, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

When I made these promises to baby Anna, 10 years ago, honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to hold up my end of the bargain. I knew that I desperately wanted to break the cycle that I grew up with, but I also wasn’t sure if it was possible.

As the years have gone on, not only do I feel like I’ve broken the cycle, but the dialog that I was raised with is a whole way of thinking that I can’t even wrap my brain around anymore. I’m a happier, healthier person than I ever thought possible–and I’m not a half-bad parent either. Granted, my kids will likely have a whole new set of cycles that they will vow to break with her own children, and honestly, I think that’s rad. I think that we should get better with each generation. It’s evolution at its finest.

 

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Mexico 2004

Life lately

April is a busy month for us. We’re up to our eyeballs in kid activities and busy weekends away. I have a lot going on…what about you?

First things first though:

I wrote an original piece for Red Tricycle about why we discuss our finances with our kids. You can read it HERE. It’s a topic that I feel passionate about because I’ve seen how my kids have embraced being a part of these discussions and how it’s changed their view of money. I’m hopeful that by raising them with an understanding of how money really works, they’ll grow into adults who are good money managers.

I would really love it if you passed the article along if you think it’s relevant to your life.

Next up:

Jack is playing soccer. This is the first time he’s participated in a team sport and it’s really fun to see him out there, doing his best and playing as a team.

And Anna’s art was featured at a district-wide art show.  Her piece is entitled: “Jane Goodall–The Nutcracker.” Originality is her strong suit.

And the birds have decided to call our yard home again this spring, which I love. Because, let’s face it–I need more creatures who are depending on me to feed them in my life.

Speaking of creatures who depend on me…this one has been loving the spring weather here and lounging outside with me. This photo is noteworthy because I took it the day that I eschewed all of my responsibilities for the day to sit outside, read books, listen to podcasts and enjoy my birds. You can see the laundry baskets and laundry piled on the bed in the room behind Angie. It was a rare day of no responsibility for me and I loved every second of it. I highly recommend trying to find a day like that for yourself every now and then if you can.

So, that’s my life lately…tell me about yours.

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Mexico 2004

Am I judging moms who drink?

Recently, one of my more popular blog posts was featured on Red Tricycle. When I wrote it, it came from a place of anger. I was sick and tired of seeing drinking normalized among the mom-crowd.

When I posted “Mommy Juice” here on the blog, it was warmly received, because in a way, I’m “preaching to the choir” here. Then, when it went out on Red Tricycle’s page, it was met with resistance–a lot of it. Many women said that I was “judging” them for drinking and that, “just because I can’t drink doesn’t mean that everyone should abstain.

Honestly, I was a bit gobsmacked by the resistance. It hadn’t occurred to me that it would be such a divisive topic and it forced me to explore the question: “Am I judging moms who drink too harshly?”

I’ve thought a lot about it in the past couple of weeks and, honestly I think my answer is that I’m not judging other moms–I’m judging our society–and when I wrote “Mommy Juice” I wasn’t able to properly articulate that.

You see, when I was a new mom, I fell for that same schtick. You know, the “have a bottle of wine–you deserve it after the day you’ve had!”-schtick. Now that I’ve seen that that way of thinking can be really destructive, I have strong feelings about it. What I wanted to say in “Mommy Juice” was–“don’t be like me!”

But here’s the thing: I’m not talking about the moms who have the occasional glass of wine. Hell, I’m not even talking about the moms who have a glass of wine every day to unwind once the kids go to bed nor am I talking about the moms who go out and get wasted on girls’ night or in Vegas with their partners.

I’m talking about the moms who are lonely and feeling “off,” who are self medicating with alcohol and are slowly losing control of things.

According to WebMD, it’s estimated that anywhere from 10-20% of new mothers experience postpartum depression. Of those cases, only half of them seek treatment. This means that half of those ladies aren’t getting the help that they need from a doctor and are potentially self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.

Even though doctors have come a long way in terms of asking the right questions and opening up the dialogue with new moms about feelings of postpartum depression, there’s still a stigma attached to that diagnosis. Motherhood is funny like that. You spend so much of your time second-guessing yourself and wondering if you’re qualified to be the caretaker of a baby. Then, if you’re having even mild feelings of sadness, you’re not bonding with the baby; you’re wondering if you should even be doing this at all…well, it’s embarrassing to tell someone that–even your trusted doctor.

So, yeah. I’m not judging moms. I’m judging our culture that demands that new mothers do it all perfectly and love every minute of it and then leave them woefully ill-equipped with support when it’s needed. When that happens, “Mommy’s Little Friend” becomes wine and it’s encouraged and heralded as a cure-all for moms at the end of their rope.

I think what I meant to convey is  this: I’d for like our culture to take us more seriously. To give us more credit for who we are and what we do for our families. Offering us yet another glass of cheap wine after a hard day feels like a patronizing pat on the head. I think what I’m really angry about is that mothers have become caricatures. Easily plied with wine and simple in our needs, when that’s not the case at all and this attitude is harmful for many.

There. I feel better now.

I’d love to hear your take on this. Do you think that I judged moms who drink too harshly? 

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Mexico 2004

5 ways to cope when you have a weird kid

My daughter is weird. Yes, she’s also incredibly bright, precocious and kind, but she’s undeniably weird. Granted, a lot of people don’t see Anna’s behavior as weird. Those who don’t spend as much time with her as we do probably just see a 10 year old with an active imagination but when you live with her, day in and day out, you would agree that she’s weird.

Understand this: I’m not necessarily using the word “weird” in a derogatory way. She’s not a “lurk in the bushes outside of your house and peep in your windows”-kind of weird. But, she IS a rub against your shoulder and purr in your ear-kind of weird.

Full-discloser: this was Halloween, but still, she felt like her “outsides finally matched her insides” that day

 

You see, my daughter is always an animal. Always. Ever since she was a toddler, she’s loved to play like she was an animal. Now, at the age of 10, it’s still consistently her favorite thing to do. While other girls are playing with their American Girl dolls, Anna is playing with her stuffed animals. While other girls were playing dress up in Disney princess ballgowns from Target, Anna was playing dragon with a homemade felt dragon tail and wings.

But, this behavior has not always been cute. There was the one time that my husband and I caught her licking a strange dad’s leg in the kiddie pool at a resort. She was pretending to be a dog and this kind man was playing along…until she started licking his shin. It ranks as one of the most horrific things I’ve ever seen. It’s hard to say who was more uncomfortable–us or the stranger. The good news is that this episode opened up the dialog about licking strangers and where to draw the line on animal games.

Over the years, I’ve made some mistakes in dealing with Anna’s imagination. I’ve had to learn as I go and consequently have come up with a few helpful tips for other parents who might be dealing with a slightly eccentric child:

1: Teach your child that there’s a time and place to let their “freak flag fly”. I’ve learned to strike deals with Anna. For instance: she needs to be a human in church every Sunday, but is welcome to gallop all over the house like a horse (or whatever creature de jour she’s pretending to be) for the rest of the day on Sunday. She seems okay with this and it works for me too.

2: Try not to make your child feel any weirder than they already are. I’m 100% sure that Anna has been called “weird” at school and, I’ve been known to call her a “little weirdo” (with only love in my heart) to her face, but by and large, I try to let her know that we love her no matter how she is and that won’t change. We’ve also stressed that “weird” isn’t a bad thing and now she seems to take it as a compliment.

3: Recognize that the current strange stage is just that: A stage. The preteen years are rattling at our shutters and knocking on our door right now. There are times when I see a flash of teenage rage in my 10 year old’s eyes, then, before I know it, she’s back to her sweet, 4th grade self. But I know that in a couple of years, we’ll be longing for the days when it was simpler and she was just a cat, trapped in a 10 year old girl’s body, and not an angry teen.

4: Don’t try to change them. Chances are, if you try and change their behaviors, you’ll only make it worse–believe me, I’ve tried. As long as your child isn’t doing something that’s harmful to themselves or others, I say, let them do what they need to do to be happy. There aren’t enough kids getting to be themselves these days, if you ask me.

5: Don’t try and over-explain your kid to others. So many times, when Anna has been in full-blown cat-mode in public, I’d try to explain her actions to people, “Anna is pretending to be a cat today. She loves cats and it’s her favorite game to play. She’s not always a cat though…she’s actually really bright and caring too!” The thing is, most people find children who are using an active imagination endearing and, to strangers who don’t live with it, it is cute and harmless. So, I’ve stopped trying to justify her behavior and just let it all happen naturally. Nine times out of ten, people say something along the lines of, “My son used to pretend to be a fireman all the time when he was that age.”

One of the harder things about being the parent of a weird kid is worrying about what other parents think of her and how that reflects on me as a parent. What I’ve learned though is that, as with everything else in life, it doesn’t matter what others think of you and also that most people think it’s really cool that we let her be who she is and don’t try to change her.

Now that I’m in the thick of it, I finally understand how fleeting childhood is. I’m proud of Anna’s confidence and the fact that she doesn’t give a flip what anyone thinks about her–that she’s willing to be who she wants to be and readily accepts others for their quirks as a result. One day, I know that we’ll look back on this age and have only fond memories of a little girl who loved animals so much that she wanted to be one. The way I see it, there are definitely worse parenting problems to have.

What about you? Have you  raised an eccentric child? 

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Mexico 2004

8 date night ideas that don’t revolve around alcohol

Before I quit drinking alcohol, back in 2010, a typical date night for my husband and I meant dinner (plus drinks) and drinks. Oh, and then drinks after dinner. Then, if we still had anything left in us after the date, more drinks at home after the kids were in bed.

Especially after we had our first baby, when we got a rare date night, we didn’t want to waste our time doing anything but drinking our new-parent frustrations away and trying to find the “old” us that was hidden under layer upon layer of sleep deprivation and Elmo-induced brain atrophy. In fact, back in those days, a date night activity that didn’t involve alcohol felt like punishment. Why even bother?

A rare date night out, sans babies, circa 2009. Lots of drinking going on here.

 

Then, I quit drinking, and I remember feeling very lost when we got our first, long-overdue date night. What the hell were we supposed to do on a date night now if I couldn’t drink? I’d be lying if I said that I remember what we did on those first few sober date nights, but now that I’ve been doing sober date nights for awhile, I feel like I have a better-stocked arsenal of date night ideas that don’t involve drinking.

So, here are 8 date night ideas that don’t completely revolve around alcohol, in case you’re a teetotaler (like me), maybe you’re pregnant and miss being able to drink on date night or maybe you’re just looking for ways to have fun without the hooch every now and then.

1: Go to the movies: There’s a new wave of movie theater “experiences” that incorporate drinking into enjoying a movie. We have Alamo Drafthouse where we live and fancier-versions in the larger cities nearby, but I enjoy a good movie on a date night. I think it’s a real treat to go and watch a movie that I choose, that doesn’t involve a Pixar character, nor an animated version of Justin Timberlake singing top-40 hits. Plus, I’m all about getting candy or another sweet treat that I don’t have to share.

2: Play mini-golf: Going to play mini-golf WITHOUT your kids might seem cruel, but nobody said that you have to tell your kids where you went on date night, right? I think that mini-golf is all kinds of fun. You want to know what makes it even more fun? When you can get fiercely competitive with your partner and play your heart out without having to give up a shot for your kid or wait, as your 1st grader takes 52 shots on a par 4.

3: Costco run: Lame, right? But, imagine this: Costco After Dark. Way less crowded than your usual Saturday, at 11am Costco run. Plus, you and your partner can carefully critique the differences between the latest and greatest televisions that Costco has to offer. You can wander around, gathering samples without having to bite your Kirkland-brand peanut butter cup into 4 equal portions so that your toddler and 4 year old don’t lose their minds in the middle of the store. Better yet? Pick up the toilet paper and kitty litter that you’ve been putting off purchasing and have your spouse load it in the back of your minivan for you. Now, that’s what I call foreplay! Meeeeow!

4: Go to the museum: Many museums offer an after-hours happy hour every month or so. Yes, booze is the primary focus of these events (because, of course it is) but you can take the opportunity to see the museum without the large crowds who are usually there during normal business hours. Typically a museum membership is required to attend these events, but museum memberships are awesome for families to take advantage of anyway. They always pay for themselves in just a couple of visits and they afford you the luxury of going to the museum on a rainy day to see the one thing that you kid cares about seeing and then leaving directly after. No need to try and get your money’s worth out of a single day ticket.

5: Linger at a coffee shop: Since I quit drinking, coffee shops have become a favorite place of mine. I never cared to have coffee after the hours of about 10am before, but now, an after dinner coffee is a pretty great special treat. Coffee shops are also good places to go and have a nice, uninterrupted conversation with your spouse. I love to people watch there also. All good things…

6: Take in some community theater: Most communities–no matter how small or large–have community theater. Some of the productions are really, really good and some of them….well, aren’t. But, on date night, it doesn’t matter. You’re out of the house, sans kids. There’s often beer and wine available in the lobby of these productions, but it’s not pushed on you like it is in, say, comedy clubs. Go check out a local production and remark at how talented (or not!) your neighbors are.

7: Church activities: I know, I know. Now that we’ve found a church that we like, we’re becoming “those people.” But, most churches have opportunities to be social with other couples every now and then (if not more often). I’ve heard great things about “small groups,” that give you the opportunity to meet other people from the church outside of services. Our church has classes and seminars as well that would be good to do on a date night.

8: Shopping: There’s something rather appealing about going shopping with your spouse without the kids in tow. To leisurely browse on your own time and look at what YOU want to look at, without having to divide your time watching the kids play in the indoor mall playscape while the other runs quickly into Sears to grab a refrigerator filter and a new shirt. Use date night shopping as an opportunity to pick out new dress clothes or new granny panties–whatever makes you feel good. Or, shop at a furniture store for your (perhaps fictitious) dream house. No purchase necessary.

I used to see date night as more of a “treat yo self” night. A night that I could escape my day job and drink to alleviate the stress of parenthood. Every time though, I’d end up feeling like a worse parent–especially when I was hungover the next morning and unable to properly perform even the simplest of parenting duties for my kids. Now that I’m sober, date night is truly a recharge night for me. I get to enjoy my husband’s company and then wake up refreshed the next morning, ready to do this crazy job called “parenting” to the best of my abilities.

What about you? Any sober date night ideas to share?

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Mexico 2004

Feeling excluded

Feeling excluded was a common emotion that I experienced when I first stopped drinking.

Now, let’s be clear: It certainly wasn’t anything anyone did on purpose. But it was the nature of the social scene. When people get together–specifically moms of young children–drinking is the main event. When I stopped drinking, I struggled to find things to do socially that wouldn’t make me feel uncomfortable. But it also made me very aware of how much alcohol plays into social events.

Continue reading “Feeling excluded”

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Mexico 2004

Talking to kids about alcohol

I stopped drinking when my kids were 3 years and 1 year old. I’m very proud and (frankly) humbled by the fact that they don’t remember ever seeing me drink–Lord knows that I did–but they don’t remember it.

My babies…

 

As they’ve gotten older, I’ve had a tough time talking objectively about alcohol to them. I have pretty strong feelings about the abuse of alcohol and the flippant attitudes about alcohol use (and abuse) in our culture (perhaps you’ve noticed? Links HERE and HERE)

Here’s the thing though: I’d love nothing more than if–when my children are adults–they can go to Happy Hour with work friends and drink responsibly.

Have a glass of wine on a first date.

Go to parties and let loose (a little).

I want them to have a normal life. I don’t want the burden of alcohol hanging over their heads.

But, I also know that they have–encoded in their DNA somewhere–the potential to have a problem with alcohol. I want them to be mindful of that as opportunities to drink come flying at them from left and right as they get older.

2013, almost 7 years and almost 5 years old

 

So, I talk to them about alcohol sometimes. I want them to know that it can be a problem for some people and that they might be one of those people. But that they also might NOT be. I’ve toed the line between talking about alcohol too much and probably not enough. It’s complicated and seems premature to have these discussions, but I don’t want them to become a certain age, where alcohol is suddenly everywhere, and not know how to handle it.

I’ve talked to them about how a little alcohol isn’t always bad, but that a lot of alcohol is a really dangerous thing…not just for them, but for everyone.

As a result of my teetotaling, they see drunk people on tv and at the occasional outing and they judge them harshly. They get upset when  someone accidentally sloshes  a drop or two of beer on them at a baseball game or when they smell alcohol on the breath of a loved one.

17 month old Jack, hanging out at the keg at a family reunion

 

For that, I feel guilty. I hate that I’ve had to turn alcohol use into a “thing” that they’re aware of, even at the tender ages of 8 and 10.

After mulling it over and over in my head for the past few years, I’ve come to the following conclusion about talking about alcohol with my kids:

I feel like it’s important to keep an open, casual dialog about alcohol going. I don’t want the topic of alcohol use to ever feel like a secret in our home. I want my kids to be able to ask me any questions that they have about alcohol; I want them to know why I don’t drink but I also want them to feel as though it’s their decision to make (when they’re old enough, obviously) as to whether or not they want to drink. I’ll also tell them that, if they find themselves having trouble moderating their alcohol use, that I’m here and will never abandon them and that we can face any problem head-on.

Image courtesy of: www.babble.com

 

I think that the key is to remove the stigma of alcohol abuse and make sure that my kids know that I will support them no matter how they find a place for alcohol in their adult lives.

What about you? How do you talk about alcohol with your kids? 

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Mexico 2004

Overcoming shame

…and admitting that you have a problem.

One of the hardest things for me when I stopped drinking (and still today) is admitting that it had become a problem for me.

You see, I like to uphold this lofty “Superwoman” persona. I’ve got a bit of a competitive streak in me and I like doing my best. Sue me.

So, admitting that I was failing in an aspect of my life was painful for me. Especially being a mother, I felt like I was failing my children, my husband AND myself when I drank too much. Maybe it’s the same for you?

The way that I was raised, you didn’t show your cards to anyone. Everything is perfect. I’m perfect; we’re perfect. It was all about appearances and how we appeared to be functioning in other’s eyes. This has fucked me up. Yup. Effed my ass up.

Last January, I posted a link to this article on Facebook. It resonated so much with me and I wanted to share it, in the hopes that it would resonate with someone else as well.

I got several private messages from acquaintances telling me such things as, “I REALLY needed to read this,” and “I think that I really need to reevaluate my relationship with alcohol.”

That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head: I could use my voice and my experiences to help someone else.

I have been so conditioned not to speak of my weaknesses that talking about my sobriety felt as foreign to me as trying to speak Portuguese. This blog has been a learning experience for me. If you’ll notice, as time has gone on, my posts have gotten more and more real. I hope to continue to dive deep for you.

It comes down to this: What’s more shameful–drinking too much, saying things that you’ll regret, harming relationships…

or

admitting that you’re human and you’re working on yourself?

Do you have difficulties with shame? 

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