An Adventurer’s Guide to Mother’s Day

Almost Saturday….and the mad dash to the mall for the perfect last minute Mother’s Day gift will soon commence. Limitless treasures to choose from….flowers, jewelry, spa days (all are fantastic ideas by the way.) But, there is a secret all us moms are keeping well hidden, even from ourselves…the elusive perfect gift.

I cherish the cards full of scribble, the paper flowers, the hugs and kisses…they are priceless. And the words from our little ones and partners, telling us that we are the greatest mommy in the entire mommy Universe. And the deepest of truths is, for me, as for most of you, the opportunity to be a mom has been the greatest gift I will ever receive…dreamed of for decades. Hundreds of prayers, thousands of tears shed, billions of dollars spent on fertility treatments…it is a quest. And when we reach the threshold and become moms at long last, our focus shifts. We migrate from the dreams of motherhood, to the world of comparing ourselves to every other mother we know and the imaginary ones we create in our minds. And usually, our parenting fails become our new focus. We compare our choice of diapers, the dinners we cook, the screen time we allow, the advice we give, the time we spend, the words we choose…it seems as though we measure ourselves with an invisible yard stick and compare ourselves to the ideal mom-a model of sheer perfection who does not even exist anywhere but our imaginations.

Living in her shadow, we will always pale in comparison. We stand small chance of enjoying our journey as a mom if we cheat ourselves out of being fully present. As we acknowledge our internal battles with “ideal mom”, we can give ourselves that perfect gift that I mentioned before. And before I tell you what it is, I have a little spoiler alert…this is a gift you can only give to yourself. It is small but mighty, free but priceless, a single decision made over and over again which, in a fraction of a second, can enrich a million moments that blend together to make up your life.

The gift: Permission

I, (fill in your name here), give myself permission to do this mom thing imperfectly. My decisions, my mistakes, my successes and my epic failures are all sacred. Perfectly imperfect. I give myself permission to be the perfect mom for my kids just as I am. In the bliss and the chaos, in the triumph and the tragedy, I give myself a thousand gold stars for the tiny, messy moments of perfection that we too often let pass by unnoticed. I give myself permission to take care of myself, to say no, to get it wrong, and to be absolutely and unapologetically ME. And I find at least one other perfectly imperfect person to share this gift with…to remind me when I forget.(and you will forget).

Signed,

The greatest mommy in all the mommy Universe

An Adventurer’s Guide to Experiencing Awe with Your Kids

The eclipse, in all its splendor, really lived up to the hype. My kid and I sprawled out on a blanket in the middle of a nearby golf course to view every precious moment. And with all the fanfare and weeks of searching for the right glasses, it was the tiny things that really made the moment spectacular…the crescents that reflected through the tree branches, the drop of temperature a few minutes before totality, the whir of crickets in the middle of the afternoon. But there was more. I noticed how, for a few hours, there was no magic that was less accessible to the grown ups. Not the color of skin, the money in our bank accounts, the language we spoke or our age separated us from fully being enveloped by the rare spectacle of the eclipse. For those precious moments, we were all tiny; we all shared the glory and goosebumps…we all stood in awe of the majesty of our spine tingling universe.

Lily Tomlin once said, “We’re thinking maybe the secrets about life we don’t understand are the ‘cosmic carrots’ in front of our noses that keep us going. So maybe we should stop trying to figure out the meaning of life and sit back and enjoy the mystery of life. The operative word here is what? Mystery! Not meaning.” I heard those words and a young adult, and wrote them down so I could remember to share mystery with my kid. I realized while lying on the blanket at that golf course, that mystery might just be the very most important gift I could share with my son. And strangely enough, it is by and large, free.

Awe comes loaded with more benefits than you might even imagine. Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science.” In addition to the experience of deep beauty, cultivating the opportunity to experience awe provides a host of other gifts. Children (and adults) who experience awe show many signs of strengthened well being. Awe can expand creativity. It can give hope and help deepen appreciation for life and for one another. It can connect us to nature. Abraham Maslow once offered that “there might be something just a little magical about every day life. And with that little dose of magic, we get the invitation to experience life from a place of wonder, of joy, and with a deepened sense of gratitude.”

I plan to make Awe a regular activity on our adventure list.

Here is a short list of ideas to get your Awe-robics started.

Experience something celestial (Try a rainbow, a meteor shower, an eclipse)
Experience something ancient (Maybe a cave painting, a castle, or a piece of armor)
Explore something giant (Perhaps a mountain range, a forest of redwoods, or rocket ship)
Explore something tiny (How about an ant hill, a miniature collection or a molecular microscope)
Discover a natural wonder (Any of the famous 7 or a nearby waterfall, natural bridge or tide pool)
Discover a piece of unknown art (Take a peek in a museum, an antique store or stop along a scenic route while out for a drive)
Make a wish list (Write down and begin to visit points of awe you want to visit together-whether the Grand Canyon or the giant ice cream sundae down the street)
Make a pilgrimage (Take the time to travel to experience awe from time to time…whether to see a once in a lifetime concert, a visit to Graceland, or a trip to Roswell)
After the experience, remember to write it down. Add or draw pictures together of what you have seen but also write down how the experience of awe made you feel. Perhaps you could dedicate a family journal to your awe-robics and remember to talk and write about these experiences you want to remember forever.

An Adventurer’s Guide to Back to School

My son and I read “The Kissing Hand” as we curled up together…our last night before he became a Kindergarten student. I watched him drift off to sleep, knowing in the morning things would be different. I wanted to do it all perfectly-a June Cleaver kind of breakfast followed by the quintessential words of wisdom that he would remember forever. But instead, we had frozen waffles and messy hair…the things that I will remember with fondness. And I cried. And as I slipped out of his classroom he caught my eye and held up his little hand, just the way the raccoon did in the story from the night before-reconfirming my commitment to the little moments that make up for the messy hair and frozen waffles.
As an educator of 22 years, I felt a little blindsided by all the newness, fear and questions. I have been on the giving end of teaching for so long that I assumed it would feel second nature to me. But there is something about being on the receiving end that is both luminous and terrifying. Feeling like a piece of your heart now resides outside your body and will now experience a life of which you will only get glances. So I decided to build an arsenal…a tool kit of ideas designed to make for calm mornings, talkative rides home in the afternoon, and precious moments of connection as they fit between dinner and bath time.
I hope some of the tools in our kit will help save your sanity and create some magic moments. Here are some of our favorites:
*Create a “Tomorrow” drawer or cubby. Place clothes, backpack and any other supplies needed in this sacred spot. This little lauchpad will save you a world of morning headaches.
*Build a list of after school questions and refuse to take silence for an answer. Open ended questions are the best kind as they are often a jumping off point for deeper conversation. Some of our favorites include:
-How were you kind today?
-What did you try hard at today?
-What do you wish you could do over today?
-When were you brave today?
-What was the funniest thing that happened today?
-What is something that surprised you today?
-What are you looking forward to tomorrow?
*Set up Monday-Friday hangers in your child’s closet. Choose outfits for the week on Sunday. Let them choose with you as the consultant/suggestion maker (choose your battles wisely)
*Carve a committed amount of time to do something together. Even 15-30 minutes each week can make a profound difference in your child and your family. There are thousands of fun games and activities that can be completed in 15 minutes. The most important part is to be fully present. Set a timer if you must.
*Create a “One more time” list of ways to savor the summer one last time. Schedule those activities into the next few weeks. Enjoy a watermelon or a swim at the local pool. Buy some ice cream from the ice cream truck or have a water balloon fight.
*Create a Fall Bucket List of favorite things to do this autumn. Place them onto the calendar as well.
<strong>”Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.”</strong> Michael J. Fox