Sliding on the Mom Rainbow

I’ve been sliding on the Mom Rainbow for quite some time now, and I just didn’t know it.

rainYou see, in the beginning, at the very start of the rainbow, the colors catch your attention and you see the upward climb. Your babes are so – present. They are everything beautiful – colorful. They need your eye. They rely on your nourishment. They react to your every pulse. And you to them. Then you climb that rainbow. It seems like at every step you are craving the independence your little one might give so that you might see the growth, the development, the milestones. You can’t wait for them to achieve. To Be. You relish in every moment.

Ahh. That smile. It wasn’t gas. It was genuine. He loves my voice.

And then the realizations of the colors become truer. There is a reality in the climb.

Oh, please. Just keep your eyes closed for ten seconds. Ten seconds. That is all I ask. Don’t make eye contact. Do NOT, by any means, hear me breathe…

I admit I begged this of more than one infant-turned-semi-pro-toddler. I wanted sleep – no I craved sleep – like a drug.

And then they are toddlers, inching their way up the rainbow, sometimes sleeping, sometimes cooperating when you try to wash the sand from their hair, sometimes breathing one final deep sigh before drifting to dreams in your arms.

Shoot! I don’t think I got out all the sand. I’ll try to gently rub away the day’s play.

Shhh. Stay sleeping. Your body is tired, and so is my mommy brain.

Boom. They are reading, writing, and having opinions. They know what they want for lunch, how they want their dolly put to bed, just right, and how you have to sing that last song one more time. The colors of the Mom Rainbow are so bright – everything is alive and active and – well, purely exhausting.

Read this book, Mommy. Do the voice.

I want a bunny. I promise I’ll take care of the bunny. I am getting SO big.

Can we make muffins tomorrow?

How old are you?

I like stickers.

You are my best friend. Well, besides Eric.

Did you notice? Your voice is now their voice. They are participating in the rainbow climb. It is almost like listening to a record (remember those archaic devices?) on skip. The thoughts are chaotic and beautiful. The colors of the Mom Rainbow keep glistening. This is glorious. There are so many things happening. Soccer practice. Church choir. Volunteering together at the soup kitchen. Reading at the library. Days with friends at the park. Living the mommy dream.

And just at the top of the rainbow. The tip-top of the Mom Rainbow, you feel the lurch in your stomach. It is just like what you feel at the precipice of the roller coaster ride. You know the plunge is coming but you deny it. You don’t want it to be so. They are tweenagers, perhaps teenagers, and they are plunging. With or without you. Buckle up, Mom. This part of the rainbow can be a bit steep.

I thought she was my real friend.

Drop me off around the corner so they don’t see you, Mom.

Mom!!! Will you help me with this?!

Mom – relax. This is how all the kids wear it.

Mom…. Where are you?

You are on the mom-yo-yo at this point. They love you. They love you knot. Tied in deep knots of denial, need, fear, and strives for independence. You keep sliding down the rainbow and you have no brakes. You just pray for a smooth landing.

Mom, I have decided on a college! (survive on just breathing)

Oh, Mom. You don’t understand.

I can’t believe this is the last time we will spend Super Bowl Sunday together! Next year I’ll be in my dorm at this time! (insert fake smile to hide the pain)

Mom!?!? Where are you? I need you to fill out this form, wash my uniform, and make sure I’m up on time for class.

Mom?!?! Today was SOOOO long. Can we talk?

And suddenly, as those colors of the Mom Rainbow all start to merge, and you think – OH CRAP – MY KID IS GROWING UP! – you realize this is just the pot of gold. You did it. Way back when you wished for quiet nights. Now you will have them. You will also have a child who grew in your love and learned how to show his or her colors to the world. And what a glorious sight that is. To travel the Mom Rainbow, getting a few splinters along the way – and see your child plunge into his fortunate future.

Sign me up for the next ride, please. Just don’t spoil the ending. This part has been way too good.

 

Busting My Pity Party – and Being Thankful for the Moments

pityAll my Pity Party was missing were balloons and streamers – and a great big attitude adjustment by yours truly. For a few weeks I’ve been looking to May 2nd with a knot in my mother-belly and a woe-is-me feeling of resentment. I’ve been resenting not being able to be everywhere at once, not being in charge of an Almighty Calendar, and not being able to do everything I want to do.

May 2nd will be an amazing day for my three boys – in completely different cities. And since I can only be in one place at one time, I will miss being by two of their sides, taking in the magic of their growing years, and sharing in the moments. So I’ve been perfecting the Pity Party and letting myself be swallowed by the idea that I can’t be everywhere for every child.

My Pity Party thankfully was busted. You see – what I didn’t bother to remind myself is just how lucky and blessed I am to have three sons who each have such wonderful opportunities and plans that I will miss something (and a beautiful daughter who is helping in the chaos). It is a gift that each one, in his or her own way, is leading a life filled with energy, passion, a bit of mischief, and a lot of determination. Even when that takes them in different directions from yours truly.

The true bust of my Pity Party came when I read the post of another mother. For her – May 2nd will have what she hopes to be wonderful moments – but will also likely experience what I imagine to be moments of true grief (not this Pity Party kind of sadness). May 2nd for this mom is her son’s 20th birthday. And she won’t be able to be with her son, either, to celebrate in his moment, for he now celebrates his birthdays in Heaven.

She could – without any argument – have the biggest Pity Party imaginable. Instead, she is planning the kind of celebration that comes from recognizing the blessings, remembering moments, and celebrating with faith the gift of life. In remembrance of Matt, a young man I remember as a younger boy with a gentle older-brother guiding hand, his family wants to mark May 2nd with Random Acts of Kindness. To further bust up my Pity Party I plan to participate in this celebration and use the list inspired by Matt’s personality and favorite things to share some wonderful moments with others.

There are moments when we realize that we got it all wrong. For me – my attitude about May 2nd is one of them. Sure, I wish I could be there with each son during his moments, but I hold in my heart that at the end of the weekend I’ll get to see pictures, hear stories, and relish in their tales of adventures and moments.

My oldest will morph from teenage boy to young man as he wears his first tuxedo and attends prom. I won’t be there to take the pictures, try to straighten his hair one last time before he leaves, or let a tear slip as he escorts his lovely date out the door. But I’ve asked his date to make sure he cooperates for lots of pictures and I’ll hear from my husband how our son looked in his penguin suit.

My youngest will have a day filled with hour after hour of rehearsal for the following day’s ballet performance. Yes – I’ll see the performance – but it is the rehearsal day when I feel like it is my Mom-Duty to calm his nerves, run like a chicken to find his lost ballet slipper, and help apply the stage make-up he detests (big sister to the rescue). So I’ll let that go and look forward to seeing his exhausted smile at the end of the day – the one that says he is enjoying life and giving it his all.

My middle son I’ll have the pleasure of accompanying to the State History Day competition. He and his project partner have worked extraordinarily hard to make it here and I am thrilled to see them perform their project.

These are the gifts my family is experiencing May 2nd. We will also share in the gifts of Matt’s birthday celebration. If you’re like me and are ready for a diversion from your own Pity Party, I encourage you to step outside yourself and celebrate with these Random Acts of Kindness. For it is in all these moments that we find the beauty and peace of lives well-lived.

Is Your Teen In An Abusive Relationship?

teenage girl black & whiteRedefining Teenage Dating Abuse

New research gives parents one more reason to do everything they can to protect their children from teenage dating abuse and violence. Reports just released in the journal Pediatrics show that teenagers who are in abusive relationships appear to be more likely to develop emotional and substance abuse issues when they are older. The study looked at more than 5,600 children between the ages of 12 and 18 years who had been in dating relationships, of which one third reported they had experienced teen dating violence – defined as emotional and/or physical abuse. Five years after their dating experiences, those who reported being in abusive relationships were more likely to be involved in unhealthy behaviors.

  • Girls were more likely to binge drink, suffer from depression, smoke, and consider suicide.
  • Boys were more likely to be antisocial, use marijuana, and consider suicide.
  • Both males and females who were involved in physically abusive teenage relationships were 2-3 times as likely to be involved in violent relationships during their period of young adulthood, 18-25 years.

Recognizing and Redefining Dating Violence

These new reports are disturbing. In fact, the results of the consequences of teenage dating abuse years later are frightening, but the fact that one third of the teens surveyed were in a violent relationship is devastating. And if we shudder to think that one-third of our teenagers are suffering in violent dating relationships, we have to be equally alarmed that this means that roughly one-third of our teenagers are perpetrators of teenage dating abuse.

The teens who were involved in the study were asked if they had ever been called names, insulted, treated disrespectfully, threatened with violence, pushed, shoved, or had something thrown at them during their relationships. Because this study is an in-depth look at the culminating consequences and trends of teens in abusive dating relationships, it possibly doesn’t capture the true and present dangers our teens are facing today. As the study began with teens who were in relationships in 1996 and has followed them into adulthood, it doesn’t cover the new and ever-present component of technology in abusive relationships – and teenagers are nothing if not technology-driven.

It is becoming more and more evident that the use of technology in teenage dating violence is more frequent. Already in 2007 more than 25% of teenagers reported that someone they were dating used a cell phone to harass, intimidate, or put them down. Almost 20% of teenagers also reported that they were fearful of not responding to a text, email, or instant message because of what their partner might do in reaction, and 10% of teens had been threatened through technology (chat sites, messages, etc.) with violence by the person they were dating.

Technology can have wonderful and enriching benefits for our children, but it also makes them more susceptible to things such as teenage dating abuse.

  • Teens are using social media sites to keep tabs on their boyfriends/girlfriends – and seeking control is one of the biggest indicators of a potentially abusive relationship.
  • Teens are using cell phones to have constant contact with their boyfriends/girlfriends, another issue of control.
  • Cyberbullying is not limited to enemies in the 8th grade. Boyfriends and girlfriends can be the victims of their partners’ bullying tactics online.
  • Sexting (sending sexually explicit messages) and taking sexually explicit videos can lead to manipulation and threats to post these things online.

If you still aren’t convinced that teenagers are in more danger of dating abuse with the advent of technology, consider publications put forth by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. In a sobering definition, teenage dating violence is described in 4 ways:

Dating Violence is the use of harassing, controlling, and/or abusive behavior to maintain power and control over a partner in a romantic relationship. Anyone can be a victim of dating violence, regardless of age, race, or gender. Types of violence may include:

  • Physical. A dating partner is being physically hurt, may include hit, kicked, punched, shoved, or otherwise physically injured.
  • Emotional/Verbal. A dating partner is exposed to emotional attacks including jealousy, insults, isolation, harassment, or threats of harm to themselves or loved ones.
  • Sexual. A dating partner is coerced or forced to engage in sexual activity when they do not want or cannot give consent including kissing or touching.
  • Technological. Emotional/verbal or sexual abuse may involve technology like cell phones and the internet. It can also be called sexting or cyberbullying.

What do I need to do?

As parents we first need to be aware that teenage dating abuse exists, and that technology can make it even easier for our kids to become the perpetrators and victims of these behaviors. We need to redefine dating violence to include technology as one of the most prevalent ways through which our children are being abused. We need to have clear and continuing conversations with our children about using technology respectfully and safely. When we can recognize the ways in which even tweens are suffering from dating abuse, then we can take steps to communicate with and lead our kids – and hopefully prevent them from becoming a statistic.

[I orginally posted the majority of this piece at BetterParenting.com, but after hearing a friend’s tale of her daughter’s dating troubles, I thought it was worth a re-post.]