Monday, September 22, 2014

Walking The Step-Mom Tightrope

Usually when people ask me how many kids I have, I say seven.

Sometimes it feels like a lie.

But saying eight feels like a lie, too. Because I didn't give birth to my step-daughter, Karina. I'm not really her mother. I don't even play her on TV.

When Dominic and I married, she was already nine.

I did not want to alienate her by trying to step into shoes that were already filled, and by someone who was doing a really good job.

Karina's mother clearly loves her and is an excellent mom. And as a mother myself, I didn't want her to feel like some woman she barely knew was going to step in and try to parent her child. Really, isn't that the mistake we've all seen people make before?

I thought I was so smart, and I was sure I could do better. Looking back, I was kind of arrogant for 24. But, at least for this, I think I was on to something.

I told Karina, really early on, that I would not try to be her mom, but would try to be another adult in her life who loved and cared about her, whom she could trust, and who would be there for her. That felt like the right balance to me.

That doesn't mean it's been easy.

Often I have wanted to mother her so much. I mean, really, I love this kid. And I am a mom, after all.

Motherhood, by the way, can be sort of like having a virus. A virus that makes you sniff newborns, and coo over kitten videos on the internet.

Anywho, I'm still trying to walk that line where I don't try to do her mother's job. But I also don't want to give her so much space that she thinks I don't care.

And now, on top of both wanting to mother her and not wanting to cross the line, now she's an adult.

Which came on ridiculously fast, by the way.

I don't want to make her feel like I don't trust her, or like I don't think she can't take care of herself. She's an amazing person, caring, smart, responsible. She's everything I could have wanted her to be and more.

Honestly, sometimes I'm jealous of my bestie, who, not ever having to be concerned about those boundaries, just gets to mother her and love it.

Karina had a pretty crappy day, today. so I took her out to get some food that she wanted. Then I made her run an errand with me. We ended up talking about how she hasn't named her car, and I started throwing out suggestions.

"Maybe Geraldine," I said, "and she can be unrepentant, like a Tori Amos album."

Somehow, this was hilarious, and we just laughed.

The joke was terrible, of course, as were most of my jokes tonight....or ever. But she laughed, and I hugged her. I was so glad I could be there for her, right then, in some small way.

Whatever I'm doing, however many mistakes I've made along the way, I've been incredibly lucky to be a character in her story. And maybe that's how we step-parents need to look at it. They're not characters in our stories, but we are characters in theirs. What do we want our impact to be?

If you're a step-parent, I know it can be hard to find the balance, and I know it can be challenging. But if we can get this part mostly right, there are some amazing relationships to be had, some amazing people to get to know.

*****
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Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's Mabon!

Photo Credit PaganPages.org 
It's Mabon, everyone!

Maybe I should explain what Mabon is, just in case anyone is unfamiliar with it.

Mabon is one of the three harvest festivals in the Pagan Wheel of the Year. It is the autumn equinox, where night and day are again equal. Once again, there is perfect balance.

Our last festival, Lughnasadh, was the grain harvest festival. In contrast, Mabon is the celebration of the fruit harvest, and a day of thanksgiving.

There are many ways to celebrate. There are things to make, and things to cook, and meals to be enjoyed with family and friends. And of course, a ritual of Thanksgiving, to the Gods for what we have.

I love to plan for the Holidays. That said, I think the Gods have an odd sense of humor, because my plans almost never work out. Once again, life has completely gotten in the way. The kids have been sick, I've been sick, now Dominic is sick, and I'm really so tired I could cry. So we are doing a big fat nothing to celebrate this evening.

So, when actual life gets in the way of ideal life, we improvise. My big focus for any day like this, is to stop and reflect. How do we see the earth changing, and the cycles of life turning again? What are we thankful for? How can we take our gratitude and turn it into something useful?

These kinds of thing need no special ceremony, no fancy decorations, no long dinners. These things simply need thought and care.

Tonight, I'm so thankful for a new job that will help support our family. I'm thankful for my husband's job that has been so good to us. I am grateful for a house full of (relatively) healthy children who will be tucked into soft warm beds, tonight. I plan to take my gratitude for my gifts, and pay it forward in service and volunteer work.

So whether your celebration is fancy, or humble, or even if you don't celebrate Mabon at all, I wish you Brightest Mabon Blessings, health, and happiness.

Blessed Be!

A couple of Mabon resources:
Pooka Pages Mabon Issue
Children's Story for Mabon

And don't forget to check out The Sunday Stew, the "free, e-publication delivered every Sunday as a loving gift to the Pagan community" every Sunday! They actually let me write for it!

*****
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Saturday, September 20, 2014

I'll Sleep Someday: A Mother's Guide To Sleep

Not much sleep has been happening for me lately. I'm up early, I'm awake late, and I'm moving all day in between.

I'm exhausted. But that seems to be a pretty run-of-the-mill complaint for moms.

So I thought I'd write a quick handy-dandy sleep guide. Which, by the way, I'm doing instead of going to bed. Because clearly, I'm crazy.

For Babies:
  • Sleep when the baby sleeps is bullshit. It's the only time you can get anything done. That said, sleep when your baby sleeps, because it's also the only time you can sleep.
  • If you're not sleeping when your baby sleeps, wear your baby, and get stuff done. (Like sleeping)
  • At night, sleep close to your baby. Co-sleep, or roomshare if possible.
  • If you do not sleep well close to your baby, it's not the end of the world. Seriously, no judgment here. Wherever you both sleep best, is the best place to sleep and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I just like people to consider sleeping close. It makes taking care of a baby and breastfeeding so much easier during the night. Especially when you're so tired you can barely see straight. 
For Toddlers:
  • Insist on naps until they go to Kindergarten. I'm not kidding. If they're not in school in my house, then they're taking a nap.
  • Don't be afraid to make deals to make this happen. For example, if they don't want to sleep, no biggie, but it's quiet time. Find something you can play with quietly, and leave me alone for a bit. There's a yummy snack waiting for kids who are good at this game. Oddly enough, the usually fall asleep even when they promise they're not tired at all.
  • Know that if you lay on the couch or in a chair saying that you're just going to close your eyes for a minute, you will in fact fall asleep. And when you get up someone will be drawn on somewhere, and something will probably be broken. Play that game with yourself at your own risk. My daughters might have cut their own hair once when I tried it. 
School Kids:
  • By this age, sleep shouldn't be an issue. Shouldn't be.
  • If they wake you up on the weekend, give them some activities they can do, and a time in the morning when it's okay to wake you up. 
  • Make sure they always know they can wake you up if someone is bleeding or the house is on fire. 
  • Melatonin can be your friend. Even if it's just for a week to get their rhythm reset. Especially after Summer, sometimes we just need to rework their internal clock a little bit. It's also good when they're trying to sleep but can't because of some exciting thing that's happening.
  • Stop doing too much! Sometimes we get so involved in everything, we give ourselves more work than we are actually capable of doing. We don't have to say yes to everything. That said, I do not actually follow that advice. 
Bedtime routine is invaluable at every age. And while I don't recommend lying to your very young children about what time it is so that you can get them to bed earlier, I will say that it doesn't work if you have digital clocks anywhere. Not that I'd know from experience or anything. 

Sleep can be elusive, not just from kids interrupting at night, but just because of the sheer amount of stuff there is to do all the time. Sometimes I miss my bed so much, I just want to hug it and keep it with me all day.

But I'll settle for climbing in it now, with a cup of tea and some good shows in my Hulu Plus queue.  And I'll remember that this time is flying by, and it won't be long until no one wakes me up in the morning, or keeps me up at night. And because I'm never satisfied, that will probably make me sad, too.

*****
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