Jun 252014
 
Our Messy, Beautiful Summer Week 1: Parenting

A guest post by Wendy D’Alessandro

boy-walking-250During a parent/teacher conference my son’s teacher said to me, and I’m paraphrasing here, “His writing needs work.”

The man must have seen the panic in my eyes and the wheels turning in my head: writing needs improvement…more writing, then…you shouldn’t have slacked off with the summer journal writing…if anyone knows the importance of written communication, it’s you!…tutor…the thought of fighting about going to a tutor makes me cringe…when was the last time my child read a book that wasn’t required reading?

My head swirled with panic and planning and finger pointing (at myself) for having failed at something as important as making sure my kid could write well. Then the dear, sweet teacher said, “Don’t worry, Mrs. D’Alessandro, he’ll be fine. He’s a good kid, thoughtful and kind. You can’t teach that. The writing, you can.”

I almost cried on the spot, and I wanted to reach for this kind man’s hand and say,Thank youThank you for reminding me there is more to raising a child than making sure he excels in every subject at school.

Instead, I waited until I was in the privacy of my car and its tinted windows, and then I cried on the spot. I berated myself for being so serious, all the time, about everything. For being a mother whose focus becomes so clouded that she forgets what matters just as much – actually, no, more – than doing well in school, and that’s being a good, kind, caring person.

I know this. I’ve written about this very topic. A 4.0 GPA does not guarantee a child’s success in life. So why do I need reminding there is more to my child’s life than a stellar report card?

I have no idea.

It’s so easy to talk the talk when it comes to finding balance in our kids’ lives. I know I can talk the talk with my friends and family, and even while writing my parenting column and this blog post. I know the right things to say about discipline and homework and chores. I can offer sound parental advice to friends; and I know my gut instinct gives me better advice than a roundtable of parenting experts.

And yet…

It’s so hard for me to walk the walk. So hard to raise my children the way I know they should be raised, versus raising them in a society that has created this perfect parental myth we feel we need to live up to.

A myth that says if we’re a good parent, then our children won’t stumble and fall, and make lots of mistakes and messes.

Our children won’t struggle at math and not make a travel sports team.

They won’t bomb that really important exam or say something mean to a friend.

They won’t crash and burn when asked to diagram a sentence.

They won’t do stupid things, like vandalize a gumball machine until they get the blue colored gumball instead of every other colored gumball.

We won’t think inappropriate thoughts, like lately we prefer our dog’s company to that of our teenagers’. Okay, that one is mine and mine alone, and I feel small for even thinking it.

In other words, our children won’t mess up because we’ve done everything possible to make sure they won’t fail. We won’t mess up because, darn it, we should know better. And we should know better, right?  After all, there are a million blogs, books, magazine articles, videos and parenting experts telling us how to do it.

And yet again…

Sometimes I still don’t know what I’m doing.

Here’s the thing. Growing up is hard, and parenting is messy. It’s confusing and frustrating. Until you stop, breathe and look at your children. Put aside the fact that they didn’t make their beds today; or you had to hound them to take out the trash; or they said the steak you cooked for them had the consistency of a hockey puck; or they squeaked by with a “C” on their exam, and if they would have studied a little bit harder…well, you know the story.

Look at each child as a person, not someone you’ve been charged to raise. Each is perfect in his or her unique way. Each blessed with special gifts. Each put on this earth to live a life only (s)he – not you – can create. We can only guide for so long, and then we have to let go, little by little, and hope for the best. Pray for the best.

Eventually, we all figure this out. Some of us (that would be me) need reminding from time to time.

***************************************

Wendy D’Alessandro is a mother of three teenagers, a wife and a public relations specialist. She works from home with her Tibetan terrier dog at her feet, and she shares her parenting journey – blunders and all – in her bi-weekly newspaper column, The Mommy Chronicles. Visit Wendy at www.wendydalessandro.com.

This post is part of Momastery’s Our Messy, Beautiful Summer series.

Our Messy, Beautiful Summer



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


Jun 232014
 

Our Messy, Beautiful Summer

Friends…

Six years ago I sat down and wrote my first Momastery post. My dream was that here we would use truth-telling as a tool to heal ourselves and others, and then we’d hear those magical words, “Me too! Me too!” And that this cycle- this truth telling/me too hearing would help us live bolder and kinder and bigger and cozier on this Earth.

In April I asked you to write to me. I asked you to write about the messy/beautiful parts of your lives and you came through BIG. I’ve been pouring through your essays and laughing and crying and screaming ME TOO! ME TOO!! 

You need to have this experience, too. You need to hear from your sisters who are telling their stories so freaking beautifully. I read this quote recently:

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” ― Muriel Rukeyser

This summer we are just going to gently split open the whole world. No biggie.

This week we’re talking about parenting. In the weeks to come our topics will range from marriage to marriage ending, from friendship and authenticity to special needs and adoption. We are going to read other women’s stories as a spiritual discipline meant to grow, soften and open our hearts.

What’s why I read women’s stories: To grow, soften, and open my heart. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish down here- and reading helps.

Here’s your first Messy Beautiful Momastory, friends. Enjoy. 

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Our Messy Beautiful Summer Week 1: Parenting

Head + Heart – My Messy Beautiful

A guest post by Jennifer Allison

A-true-heart-moment

Husband scooped up Little Man and we made a hurried exit from the park, a wave of shrieks trailing behind us, polluting the air like a dirty exhaust pipe on an eighteen-wheeler. Big Sister and I sprinted ahead, pretending we were not attached to these two strangers who were disturbing the peace, garnering glares and stares alike.

These are the moments, the daily events, that cause a non-attention-seeking introvert like myself to shrivel up like a Shrinky Dink in a hot oven.

Before I had kids, I did anything to avoid making a scene or drawing attention to myself.  Now, with kids, my days usually contain at least one giant explosion, usually occurring under the microscope of the public eye.

My Heart knows that this is just a phase, and this, too, shall pass.

My Heart knows that someday I will ache for that little face with big, crocodile tears running rivers down his cheeks.

My Heart knows that sooner, rather than later, I will be older, and he will be gone, and I will visit that same park and feel my heart crack open at his palpable absence.

My Heart will wish him back to age three-and-a-half.

But my Head will counter-argue, reminding me of those turbulent days that passed in slow motion, just trying to survive from one tantrum to the next.

My Head will erase any temptation of approaching those young mothers at the park with a smile and an “enjoy this time, it goes by so fast!”

My Head will know that is not what they need to hear, as they wipe runny noses, doctor skinned knees, and enforce time-outs.

As I’m entrenched in these days now, my Heart knows not to wish my children’s lives away, but my Head can’t help but cry out for an easier path ahead.  A light at the end of the tunnel, where it all won’t be so terribly difficult.

The Head and the Heart are at constant battle, tipping the scale precariously from side to side throughout the day, like a tugboat tossed about in a storm at sea.

Some moments I am overcome by the blessing of it all, these children and their wonderfulness.

And then there are the moments when I am buried ten feet deep in the desperation, exasperation, and frustration from trying my best and yet often feeling like a parenting failure.

That weariness holds me in a Vulcan death grip until I can flee the scene and lock myself in the bathroom to practice deep breathing, scarf a cookie, or play a round of Candy Crush on my phone.

Boiling point is brought down to simmer.  Sea waters are calmed.

And by the end of the night, after the scene at the park is long forgotten, we come back to each other, Little Man and I.

We crawl into his bed, turn off the lights, and I snuggle his plump, warm body, as we find each other’s eyes in the soft glow of the night light.

I savor his little boy scent – traces of peanut butter and soap – and I brush the fringy bangs off his forehead, which not long ago was encircled in curls.

He puts both of his chubby little hands on my cheeks, pulls my face close and whispers, “Mama, I wuve you,” as if revealing the Secret of the Ages.

Warm currents of honey-coated electricity flow through my veins, soothing all the wounds of the day.

“I love you, too.”

My soul inflates, a hot air balloon about to take flight, and I know I can do this all over again tomorrow.

Tonight, and most every night, The Heart wins.

And thank God for that.

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Jennifer Allison is a wife and work-at-home-mom in Houston, Texas, juggling her family, a career in Advertising, and enough other odd jobs to keep her adequately crazy. You’ll find her stalking ’80s concerts, indulging in nostalgic trips down memory lane, making excuses for her parental shortcomings, or waxing poetic about the South. Her passion is celebrating the art of storytelling and connecting with her readers through personal narratives on her blog, Mamarific and on twitter as @mamarific.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


Jun 222014
 

Originally published March 23, 2012

People often ask me about God. They want to know how to have faith.  They want to know what I think God is like. What it feels like to have a relationship with Him. How to have a relationship with Him. What a relationship with God even means. Many want to know how I can believe such an unbelievable thing –that there is some sort of BEING who willed us all into existence and continues to will us on each and every moment, and in spite of allowing what seem to be horrific and unforgiveable events into our lives and world, is somehow perfect and loves each and every one of us with an unfathomable passion.

Well, hell- when you put it like that, it really does seem a bit ridiculous, no?

Things get tricky for me when I write about God because I seem to be too “out there” for believers and too “faithy” for non-believers. Many Christians become concerned when I say that I don’t believe that professing faith in Jesus is a magic spell that unlocks the doors of heaven – On Earth or beyond. And that I do believe there’s a real heaven, and I do believe that ultimately we’ll all find our way there. Even people who use different letters and words to name God than I use. Even the killers and molesters and people holding hateful signs at funerals for gay children will be there, eventually.  I think God will find a way.  He’ll find a way to fix the broken hearts of people who’ve been hurt and the broken hearts of those who’ve hurt others. I actually do believe in a sort of hell, too. But I think it’s here. I think some of us choose hell on Earth, and we sure do pay for that choice. I think heaven is here and hell is here. But I think that in the end – God has the ultimate say. I believe that in the end, in eternity, He chooses life after death for us. For all of us. Even for those who’ve chosen violence and greed and pain down here. I think that Grace is scandalous beyond our wildest imaginations. I have a hunch that Grace will explode out of any box or book into which we try to squeeze her.

And YES, I’m a Christian. Yes, I’m a Christian, I think. Just a different kind, maybe. Please, remember. This is not a place where you have to agree with me. Who does? It’s just a place where people can tell their truth- even me. And where anyone and everyone are welcome to disagree with respect and love.

Still, because of my beliefs I’ve received emails from folks around the world who have informed me to prepare myself upon death to languish in the eternal pool of flames with a millstone slung around my neck.

Last time one of these gems popped into my inbox, I yelled to Craig, “BABE – ANOTHER MILLSTONE MESSAGE!” And Craig yelled back- “No sweat! I’ll help you bedazzle up your millstone. I can TOTALLY see you rocking a rhinestone millstone. NO WORRIES, BABE.”

I love him. And actually, you should know; I’m not as tough as I just made myself seem. Those messages hurt. I used to get angry about them, and angry with Christians who felt the need to save my soul. But I don’t anymore, and maybe you shouldn’t either. Because I figured out one day that from where they stand, they are doing the most loving thing. They believe that I need help, and so they are taking a risk to reach out and help me. To save my life! They are lifesavers, from their perspective. And so even if I don’t agree, I can hear the love in their message and respect their courage. So now, when people want to talk to me about their faith (or non-faith) ideas, I’ll listen- even if I’m being offered advice or warnings or criticisms. Actually, now I get a little annoyed with conservative Christians who I know secretly think I’m going to hell and DON’T say anything to try to save me. What the heck? Getting a little lazy, dontcha think? HELLO….Don’t you CARE that I’m going to get a MILLSTONE SLUNG AROUND MY NECK???? Jeez.

I understand God as a presence who loves me and takes care of me. I have always felt like that I am being watched, carried even, in a loving way. Like my life is a fragile egg in strong, steady hands.  Or like I’m in a little snow globe and The Presence, God, is carrying my snow globe life around with Him, watching, protecting, smiling. Things get shaken up but then settled. And this carried feeling did not begin with my sobriety. It did not start when I became a generally upstanding citizen.  I never felt like I had to be “good” to be loved by God. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember sitting alone in my backyard, drunk as skunk, looking up at the stars, smoking cigarettes, and praying. What the heck were you praying for, an ashtray? Sister said when I told her that story. I don’t know, maybe. Didn’t matter. I never felt like God was mad at me when I was a drunk. I just felt like He was patiently waiting for me to get started. I did, eventually, with His help. As soon as I decided to stand up, He was waiting there with His huge, steady, outstretched hand.

And then at some point I decided that it made sense to call Jesus God, because if I could make a God, I’d make him just like Jesus. After studying the Gospels and my own heart and the world… I decided that faith in Jesus made intellectual sense to me. I don’t believe that everyone has to call God Jesus, though. I know that upsets some of you, but you have to forgive me because Jesus said so.

I’ve read that most people’s perception of God is based on their relationship with their father. That parents teach their children what God’s love is like. So it follows that after being raised by my parents, I would believe in a forgiving, present, caring God. I had good God teachers. But if you had bad God teachers, it doesn’t mean that God’s love for you isn’t true. Just like it doesn’t mean multiplication isn’t true if you had bad math teachers. I think God’s love is true for all of us. I truly believe that each and every one of us is carried, forgiven and loved. That we are ushered into each new moment completely forgiven for the last one;  each and every moment a brand new start. If you are stuck, I don’t think God is mad at you. I think He’s just patiently waiting for you to start. I don’t know a whole lot, but I just KNOW this. I KNOW that there is a presence that loves you more than you can ever imagine, and that He/She/It wants you to know and feel that and rest in that a bit.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to begin a relationship with God – how to start feel like you are being carried or held if you don’t already feel that way. I don’t have faith directions for you.

Tish does, though.

We found this is in our mailbox last night.

Maybe you could start with that?

Believe in Something bigger than you and then believe that Something bigger than you Believes in you back?

Tish and I think God is up threr and we really think He’s he’s crazy wicked wild about you. We think He believes in you.

Love,
Glennon and Tish



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest