Tag Archives: family

Dads

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DSCN1081I live with a pretty great dad. He’s so great that sometimes I forget that not all dads are like this. Even though we now have an empty nest, this dad stays in touch daily with his children. He shares jokes and stories and texts to show he is thinking about them and to let them know he is there whenever they need him. Like me, he has had to learn diplomacy when often what we really want to do is rush into a situation they are dealing with and take over, not because we don’t think they can handle it but because that is what we do as parents.  Dads, like Moms, know that parenting never stops.

Dads sometimes get a bad rap. Often when we hear the word “dad” it is joined with negative words like “deadbeat” or “authoritarian”. But just like motherhood, fatherhood does not come with a training manual. My own husband grew up where only women tended to babies and children so changing a diaper was uncharted territory as was bottle feeding a baby. But he was willing to jump in and do it if it meant more time spent with his children. I recall joining the first baby sitting co-op I was in and sitting around with other mothers who commented on how devoted my husband was with our children. I jokingly asked “aren’t all new dads, this is the 90’s after all!” My comment was met with incredulous silence as they looked at each other and then one of them said “no, it’s not”.

That’s the moment I realized how lucky my children were. They not only had a dad who was a good provider they had a dad who would prefer to spend all of his spare time with them. We took our children everywhere with us because we were a family but also because we lived far from our extended family and we didn’t trust our babies with anyone else but ourselves (no offense to the amazing women in my babysitting co-ops!) What that did was expose my children to a myriad of life situations like music festivals, sporting events, camping and road trips exploring art and nature. And lots of time with their hard working dad.sunset-934865_1280

I have been fortunate to grow up around some pretty great dads although I lost my own when I was 17. I was given a gift however. I had always felt as a child that  I could not please my dad or make him proud of me for who I was. But the summer I was 16 found the two of us home alone together for two weeks as my older siblings left for school and jobs and my younger siblings traveled with my mom. Suddenly we had common ground and things to talk about. I confided in him about teenage joys and concerns for the first time and he listened. Little did we know that was to be his last summer. He was a good provider to his family so we always had food and a nice home and clothes. But this was a different thing. This was his time and his attention. After his death I could not have been more grateful to have had those two weeks to myself.

I then had the great fortune to have another man step in to be a father figure. A beloved uncle with whom I was blessed to spend more years with and who always had time for me and my siblings and then for our husbands, wives and children. He was the consummate dad, full of life and wicked humor and love, love, love. It was because of his example that I learned what qualities would make a good husband and a great father. We lost him last year in his very august elder years but were lucky to have a had a strong father figure in our adult years. Not only my children but my nieces and nephews have some pretty great dads as do my cousins children and my friends as well.

silhouette-1082129_1280But now I look at my children’s dad as we grow older. Our hair is getting grey and we have aches and pains that were not there 10 or even 5 years ago. Our children are adults now and parenting becomes an ever evolving thing.  There are times we want them to listen to what we say even as we realize they may or may not. We worry over them. This great dad still jumps into action whenever he is needed; at our son’s wedding he was full of pride and joy and was on hand for whatever task needed to be addressed; when our daughter moved to her new place, he was the first to schedule the U-Haul. He showed up with his tools and ideas to help her furnish her own little nest.  He will always be a pretty great dad not matter what age they are. And for that I am grateful.

 

Tattoo

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20170613_192600I have a confession to make. I just got my second tattoo. It’s the symbol of a  lotus flower with it’s roots deep in the mud. I chose that symbol based on the Buddhist belief that without mud you will not get a lotus flower. In other words, the beauty of our life is grown out of the proverbial mud we must slog through to find what is truly important in our lives.

As a younger person I never thought I would be one to get a tattoo. Tattoo’s have certain stigmas attached to them. The person who decides to get one must be wild and even a little dangerous. There are actually some tattoos that scare the heck out of me and I would never want to meet that person in a dark alley. For some reason the tattoo says more about the person then any other attribute. But mostly it is the fact that those with tattoos agree to have a small needle jab ink into our skin to create some amazing works of art that seems to set those without tattoos apart.

Tattoos have been around since the beginning of the human existence or at least for several millennia and possibly longer. Mummified skin has been found in countries spanning the globe and in almost all societies. Tattoos could be status symbols, amulets against evil or for safe childbirth, the product of religious ceremony and culture or the result of the drunken longing of a homesick sailor for his mom. They can also be a symbol of personal rebellion against the status quo or maybe a badge of honor after a life changing experience. If life’s battle scars make one a warrior then maybe getting a tattoo to mark that battle is like a signpost on the road of that person’s life. I have seen tattoos that illustrate the struggles and triumphs that person must have experienced. Of course I have seen just as many butterflies, flowers, skull heads and hearts, random symbols that can only have personal meaning to the one wearing them.

Our family faced a crisis when my son was in high school and it was news that devastated us and thrust us into an alternate reality where the norm was long hospital stays, endless drug therapies and days on end when family members resided in different cities as we fought off that specter. We had just begun to recover from that year long event when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We faced another year similar to the one before but this time I was angry and determined to avoid the disruption we had previously experienced. That was easier said than done. Halfway through the 8 month treatment, I was not so defiant as I fought just to stay above water day to day. My son had moved on to college by that time and carpe diem was the philosophy I watched him follow. So I was not surprised when he called to tell us he was getting a tattoo. Nor was I concerned. In my mind, we had just had the very hard lesson for the past

IMG_1491 (1) two years not to sweat the small stuff and getting a tattoo was definitely in that category. My daughter started her tattoo journey by celebrating her high school graduation and then again for her college graduation.

I got my first tattoo the year after I finished breast cancer treatment. It is the Celtic symbol for healing and that’s just what I wanted for myself and my family. I often forget that I have it because it is located in a place I only see in a mirror. But I recall the prayer I offered up when that ink was being needled into my skin. And I think of the prayer I offered up when the lotus was being tattooed on me as well. Now that is in a place I can see daily so that I can remind myself on those tough days that at the end of it I am likely to find a lotus blooming. Or at least have the faith that there will be one.

Everyone has scars, the worst of which are often hidden. Perhaps tattoos are a way for some to reflect the focus, the work, the energy it takes to move beyond those scars to continue on that long and winding road of life. Tattoos are not for everyone, no doubt. There are many other ways to mark the signposts of our lives or symbolize the fights we have survived. Or to celebrate life’s beauty or the birth of a child or yes, to honor your mom. My family has chosen to wear tattoos and we all have at least one. Maybe that does make us rebellious or wild. I am okay with that if some get that impression. I see it more as my children marking the signposts of the life they have lived and are living, including that time we all traveled together to the edge of the abyss. Thankfully, there was a gloriously blooming lotus flower waiting for us there.

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Photo by vibrantskys via Pixabay

 

Mother’s Day

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photo by Adrian, Canada

Mother’s Day is the day when people celebrate the woman who has given them birth, the one who has loved and nurtured them, the one who caused them to feel angst and guilt and often it is the same woman. It’s also a day when children of all ages and husbands or significant others feel they must buy that woman flowers or jewelry or take her out for a meal. I have heard cynical rumblings that Mother’s Day was created by the card and flower conglomerates to offset what would normally be a slow business month. Yet even mothers have misgivings about Mother’s Day. What if your children forget or there is no expected phone call or card? What about the extra stress on her loved ones to recognize the day? Hasn’t anyone thought of mothers feeling sad or bad on Mother’s Day?

It seems a time honored tradition to have a day when children can celebrate not only their mother but their father, their grandparent and even their pet. Mother’s Day takes its tradition from ancient Rome and Greece. Indeed the term for “mother” then referred more to the spiritual goddesses who could impact fertility of humans, animals and crops and be a benevolent spirit one could offer tribute to. The modern day celebration in this country grew from the efforts of several prominent women of the late 19th and early 20th centuries to recognize the amazing mothers in their lives. This convinced President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 to proclaim Mother’s Day to be the second Sunday in May. Bring on the flowers!

20170514_201723I confess I have mixed feelings about Mother’s Day although I really felt the love this year. Not because I don’t crave the attention from my children. When they were young, I would get homemade necklaces, paintings of the family cat and small hand prints in clay, gifts cherished even to this day. As adults the only thing I truly relish is their connection. A phone call or a visit. Flowers and brunch are icing on the cake. But what about those who do not have children? Those whose fervent wishes and hopes were not realized? What about those who have suffered the ultimate loss? What is this day to them?

Last Mother’s Day I was gifted with the news of my son’s engagement to his long time sweetheart. This Mother’s Day we are mere weeks out from a beautiful and magical wedding that brought all of our families together. My daughter who lives nearby, spends lots of time with me and, yes, gives me beautiful gifts and flowers. I cherish this attention and her presence because who knows in a year, a month or even a day where we will all be? I don’t want my children to feel a special obligation to me just because it’s the second Sunday in May. I selfishly want it everyday. This past year I lost my own mother. In many ways she had left some time ago as Alzheimer’s slowly stole her memories and pulled her away from us and into her own world where we could not follow. Even so, the touch of her hand or her sweet hug was enough for my own memories to stay intact. I want to maintain the same connection to my own children no matter what happens.

I think what keeps mothers up at night, or at least this mother, is have I done well by my children? Have I been able to give them what they needed? I confess there have been times I have not. I have fallen short. I have allowed my own misgivings to surface so that my children have felt the need to care and protect me. And many times when I knew I needed to be the adult, I know that I was not. I was the angry, sad petulant child and I waited for them to comfort me. Sad mommy. Mad mommy. It’s okay Mommy. Yet the guilt at showing such vulnerability to my little children would stay with me for days.

There were many times when I wished I were that goddess who could seemingly live on little but praise and adoration. Yet I realize that adoration usually came out of fear. Will we have crops? Will the cow give a safe birth? If I were that benevolent goddess mother, couldn’t I guarantee the perfect life for my children? I believe when mothers first hold that tiny frail little body in their arms after hours of the intensity and violence that is giving birth, there is that fervent prayer to protect and be the perfect advocate for that child. I know I made such promises to them and to myself even as my body tried to reconcile itself with what had just happened. But mixed in the good days are the hard ones, lack of sleep, a sick child, worry and fear that translates as anger, hoping a hug will make the world tilt back again. No we are not perfect. Yes we are human. Some mothers make it look easy but all mothers know it is not.

I am so grateful for the Mother’s Day I had this year. I got exactly what I wanted which was connection to my children even though one was far away on his honeymoon. One I could hold and kiss and one I could send my love to. Time and attention. The most precious gifts of all. How very perfect is that?

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