Tuesday, August 25, 2009

There's no manual?

Okay God, I need some reassurance that I am doing this right. Because I often feel like I am failing miserably. Where are the instructions? How do I do this whole parenting thing?

I want to raise my kids to grow into respectable adults with good morals and a solid sense of self. To be comfortable with who they are. To accept their weaknesses and accentuate their strengths. Probably all of the same hopes that every parent has for their children. But I wonder if I am doing everything that I can to do help them move toward these hopes for their future. What if all of the mistakes that I am making far outweigh the things I do right? What kind of a man and woman would my children become then?

I think it is human nature to question our parenting "skills," if you want to call them that. I cringe when I think of all of the times I have lost my temper or not paid enough attention, or let my children down. All of these failures come flooding back to me when I feel scrutinized by others. Most of the time when I go out and about with the kids, they are pretty well behaved. I mean, there is always the usual whining for something that catches their eye, or the "I've had enough" antsiness (is that a word??) when I have lingered too long. But for the most part I do not have the kids that are running rampant through the store, picking up everything they see, throwing tantrums when they do not get what they want...you know the kind I am talking about. We have all experienced that.

But the other day as I was shopping for a birthday present, I had the kids with me and they were starting to get bored. I knew I only had a limited amount of shopping time and it was almost up. (I should really set a timer next time.) We went down an aisle where there were a bunch of feather boas hanging and the kids zeroed right in on them. What fun! I let them each pick a color and wrapped them around their necks. Coulby was adorned in blue feathers and Caroline in pink. They were so proud of themselves and I thought it was adorable. They were giggling with each other and happily showing their boas off to an invisible audience as they walked to the aisle right across from me. I had them in plain view, only a few steps away. I was admiring their delight at something so simple when an employee, who apparently did not find it so endearing, walked right up to them and asked them for their boas. Immediately defensive, I walked--more like marched--over and held my hand out to take the confiscated boas from the woman. She gave me this stern tsk-tsk look as she stiffly handed me the boas. I was so taken by her obvious disapproval of my children's shrieks of delight and fashion show, and my mind quickly transitioned into the mommy overdrive that is ferociously protective of her kids. I wanted to say something and my mouth would not form the words. Nothing came out. I used my face instead to send her my message. Literally the epitome of "if looks could kill." I knew my words would not have conveyed my emotions nearly as well. I hung the boas up again, knowing that if I had bought them as planned I would always be reminded of the woman's contempt. Silly, I know, but I just could not bring myself to buy them after that.

When my blood had stopped boiling, I felt the tears stinging behind my eyes. I let that woman get to me; make me doubt my parenting. I do not know why, because not a moment before I had stood my ground with confidence. When I really thought about it later, I think my ego was bruised. Because someone disapproved of what I was allowing my children to do. We all have an ego, and I try not to let mine get in my way, but like I said before, we all question our parenting. It takes just one scrutiny to allow that uncertainty to bubble to the surface, and in that moment, our defenses are down and we are vulnerable. Our ego is vulnerable.

I shrugged this off as another learning experience. It was a reminder that we all do things differently, and some people are more prone to judging than others. The woman in the store was not right. She was not wrong. She was looking at things through her own eyes. And how she sees the world, and the world of parenting, is obviously not going to be the same way that I see things. Since Coulby was born, I have looked at a lot of things differently. I see the blessings in my life, and feel grateful for the smallest of accomplishments my children make. I know that each of thier days, and mine, could have been so different. And I allow my kids to experience all they can because they can. Even if it is just the simplest of things, like feeling feathers tickle their necks as they strut around wearing boas. How grand!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Road Trip: No Boys Allowed!

My ideal environment for writing is one of peace and quiet, but that seems to be a rare commodity anymore. With only two kids, you would think they could not generate that much noise. Oh but they do! My daily life is lived amongst shrill screeches and sibling fighting and very loud boy noises. I am a quiet person by nature, but I have been forced into this chaos, and I honestly think I have mastered the skills to tune out all of the background noise in order to preserve my sanity! Today is no exception. I am filtering out the above mentioned as I write. And now on to the inspiration for today's post...
I have never really thought about the fact that I got 2.5 solid years of one-on-one time with Coulby, and none with Caroline. Coulby had the advantage of being an only child for a while and had all eyes on him. So when I had the opportunity to do something with my daughter, just the two of us, I jumped on it. Well, it involved my hubby taking some time off from work to make it happen (thanks, honey!), and some babysitting arrangements with my dad (thanks, dad!), but everything worked out.
For years my grandmother has talked about having a family reunion for her entire side of the family, including those distant, distant relatives that are related somewhere along the line. She and my aunt finally made this dream come true when they helped organize a reunion in Nashville, Tennessee. I really wanted to go so that I could see family that I have not seen in years, but also because it was a chance for Caroline and I to have some real quality time together. Some girl time. So our road trip was planned. My mom and aunt and I would be traveling with Caroline on a 10+ hour drive. A girl's road trip...no boys allowed!
I am not sure what I expected from Nashville, but what I saw was not what I anticipated. It was beautiful countryside, a nice clean city, and the nicest people you could ever meet. Everyone was friendly. I really loved it! And Caroline was a perfect angel, enjoying every second of her girl's time and all of the attention she got wherever we went. My favorite part of each day was lying down beside her in the bed and watching her fall asleep.
We crammed so many fun things in to the time we had in Nashville. We had a nice dinner with family, a great day of shopping in Nashville's huge mall, a tour of the Gibson guitar warehouse (thanks to my uncle and his connections), a bus tour of downtown Nashville (including The Hermitage; president Andrew Jackson's house), an evening at the Grand Ole Opry, and a tour of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Nothing beat the time we got to spend with family.
I hope that I will get the chance to do something like this with Caroline again in the future, but I am just happy that I got to experience Nashville with her. And I have TONS of photos to prove it! I would like to plan a Christmas in Nashville at the Opry Hotel (which is exquisite and breathtaking), but that is a goal for the future. I think Coulby would really love it! And while I did not buy much in Nashville, I did take home some kick butt cowboy boots! How could I leave the heart of country music without a pair?