On not taking what was never mine.

I'm having to learn to subdue the things I share.

It's a hard lesson for me, really. I have – for years now – been fairly unabashed about being totally frank about almost all aspects of my relatively insignificant life. I've talked about sex, boobs, money, illness, fears, embarrassment. Mistakes. Disappointment. I've lain myself bare over and over. It's been therapeutic, and I've never regretted anything I've said.

This year, though, my big kids entered the social stratosphere. Phones and accounts and the whole nine. Text message mothering is in full swing at the Steen/Marsh household, guys, and it's a beautiful thing.

But now that school is in session and I've realized how anything that I say can no doubt circle back full force on the kids, I feel a little…lost.

This blog is so special to me and I will never fully leave it behind, but the stories aren't just my stories anymore.

My kids deserve a face and a day to day that isn't sifted through for things to talk about, analyze, or recount. I want them to know that I, above all people, respect their rights to be who and what they are on their own two feet. They have always deserved this, and if I have violated this trust in the past then let this be my apology.

 

I will not go away.

I will still be a proud mom and I will probably still embarrass them with birthday posts or letters or general weirdness.

But I am saying this: Max, Ava – I will not steal your rights, whatever they are. Whether it's an experience, a breakthrough, a learning moment, or even a joy…

I will let you tell your own stories.

I hope that you do.

 

In twelve more years, or the last of the offspring birthdays for the year

(Max was twelve on June 14th. Happy birthday.)

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In twelve more years, things will not be as they are now.

In twelve more years, you will no longer be my twelve year old son.

You will be twice as old as you are now.

You will no doubt be taller, broader, more of the you you’re growing into.

You will be my oldest, still.

My son.

The first to make me a mother.

maxflyIn twelve more years I wonder if I will look back to now. I wonder if I will remember your shoulder shrug chuckle and your constant interjection of usually random input. I wonder if you will still need to be told to take a shower and if you will remember your passion for Minecraft and Mario.

I hope I do.

But for now, while you are still my twelve year old son, I want you to know that I am proud of you. That I may never accomplish anything greater than I did when I gave birth to you and your sisters. That you are one of my greatest moments.

In twelve more years I will be just as proud. Prouder. Thank you for allowing me to be your mom. I will spend twelve more years watching you become a better person every day.

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A Thursday nothing.

Is it just me, or is anyone else having a really slow go of things this week? Normally the week always gets a little draggy, but this week I woke up on Tuesday convinced that it was Friday.

Yeah, it’s been that kind of week.

The big kids are finishing up with the school year, and they’re spending the week with Dan, which means I have basically spent most of my recent evenings alternating between watching Sofia the First with Lucy and trying to convince myself that I haven’t in fact forgotten my two oldest children in a store somewhere.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m the only person who has such stagnanty stretches of time. I feel like I’m treading water for no real reason. Waiting for something to happen.

I’m probably still becoming accustomed to not having 1590 assignments to stress about.

Also, for the past six months I have maintained a constant cystic pimple. Like not the same one, but I will get one and when it goes away another one comes up.

Not sure what that’s about.

To my kids

As a mother, I will never think I’ve done everything right. duo

I will always worry that THIS PARTICULAR choice I’m making is the choice that you will remember in twenty years, facing a nodding voice of reason before you fill prescriptions for Zoloft or Prozac or whatever they have by then.

I will always regret the missed milestones.

I will always fear your next step.

I will forever quake in terror that you have to make your own decisions and live for yourselves.

I will eternally wonder what would have happened if….x,y,z. Fill in whatever scenario, I have wondered about it.

I will always marvel at how smart you are.

photo credit Talley Images

photo credit Addie Talley

I will always want to be your friend.

I will always respond. To letters, to texts, to phone calls.

I will always help you. Even if I’m furious at you.

I will never stop trying to make your world better.smooch

I will never understand your fashion choices.

I will always want you to be happy.

I will do whatever it takes to make your life happy.

I will love you.

Whatever may happen. Whatever you may think.

You are my heart.

Love, Mompark

First in the birthday rumble.

I am terrible at being timely with important posts, like birthday posts. My kids’ birthdays all come like ticks on a clock, so I am starting this terribly late.

Lucy. Just a few weeks ago you turned four.

FOUR.
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I would tell you how much we love you, how much joy you bring all of us and how much you shine. But we tell you every day, so I want instead to tell you about a conversation.

You told me not long ago that you had decided you wouldn’t cry anymore, because you were growing up and growing up meant being big. So no crying.
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Appreciating the sentiment but not wanting you to become a bottle of unspent emotion in your thirties, I tried to reason that line of thought out with you.

“Everyone cries sometimes, Lu. Even big people. Sometimes things are sad, or sometimes you get hurt and need to cry. Sometimes crying is good.”

You pondered this for a moment, swaying in one spot and watching your skirt swish around your scabbed knees.

“Well then mom, we can make a deal. When you need to cry you can tell me and then you can cry. And I won’t tell anybody. Then when I need to cry I can tell you and you won’t tell anybody either. And then we can both still be big.”

Deal. That’s a deal.

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I love you, my four year old. Stay this way.

On mothers, being and having

I'm thirty three years old and I've had a mother all of that time.

Triumphant, yes?

I love my mother. She has waded with me through waters that could have killed a boar. She's outlasted every friend I've ever had and hasn't blinked. I know I disappoint her. I know she wishes that instead of beer, liberalism, gay rights and swears I would devote my time to Jesus, Beth Moore, Billy Graham and being a Proverbs 31 woman.

But it's not me.

She knows that and she loves me anyway. Because that's what a mother does, dammit. She loves. There are lots of ways and reasons for giving up on anything and anyone – but she hasn't. She hasn't and she won't.

 

So all of this to say I lucked out in the mother load.

 

Now I am a mother. It's the hardest thing I've ever – EVER – done. My kids drive me crazy and they make every day into work, but I have no idea who or what I'd be without them. They've each made me into someone new. Every day I'm disappointed in something – I wish that Max wasn't so awkward or that Ava wasn't such an overdramatic queen, or that Lucy wasn't sometimes a brat.

But because I have such an amazing mold to try and fit, I know that somewhere in my DNA is a way to see past what's annoying and what I wish I could change. I know that my kids will know one day – they'll understand that I may be short and I may run from their ENDLESS RECOUNTS OF EPISODES OF GRAVITY FALLS, but that I would step in front of any non-guncontrolled bullet for any of them. I would spend every afternoon for the rest of my life signing permission slips and listening to rhythmic cup-stacking (yes, that's a real thing and Ava has decided that she is totally into it and watches YouTube instructional videos), if that were what I needed to do. Let's hope it's not.

 

So…thanks, Mom. I needed you. And you're awesome. Happy Mother's Day.

 

And lo, in the year of our lord 2013

 

I thought about this post all weekend, but I failed to come up with anything particularly spectacular.

Last month my sister had a baby.

This is nothing new, I mean I have a niece and nephew already – and not to sound too crass, but I mean, my kids are the shit so my nieces and nephews can't be too far from.

My sister recently(ish) remarried. A nice, normal guy who loves the piss out of her and is nice to people besides her, which is sometimes a rarity. He's a good egg. And when I found out they were having a baby I could not have been happier – for her, for him. For me because babies.

Children are spectacular, we all know. But having a child with someone you love with all your being and who loves you right back? That's…not even something words can touch.

I wanted that for her. And so when news of little Parker came along I knew what she was in for and I couldn't wait.

The weekend after her son was born, we went to visit.

He was everything I wanted him to be.
He was tiny, he was sweet.
He had her fingers and feet and his daddy's mouth.
He snuggled in my niece's arms like he already knew where he belonged.
He was – he is – perfect.

So for now I'll spare you the tales of my empty uterus and how SURELY I might have another little boy and holy crap he'd be so amazing and cuddly and little and ohmahgahbabies.

No, for now we can just say that my sister's family is complete. And that there is a little bundle of squiggly baby sized love who knew just where he needed to be, and he will probably never know how much joy he brought with him into the world.

 

 

 

 

What’s not known

I’m unsure how this is going to come out.

There are so many emotions and questions and whatever else that I just really don’t know how to put a filter on it all.

I’ve written before about the small town I live in. How it’s connected and homey. How I feel safe and rooted.

And that’s all still true. I see people every day that I grew up with, went to church (or skipped out on church) with. For better or worse, it’s all familiar. All things I know.

My kids are in the same school district I grew up in. The same buildings their dad inhabited. Sometimes the teachers have even been the same. I feel safe (or I have) knowing they’re watched over and protected.

But weeks ago, there was something…unsettling that happened. It was in the week following the Newtown tragedy, which made it more disturbing. I heard through gossip (another gem of small town living) that there had been an “incident” at the school my kids attend. A gun was mentioned. No one knew exactly what happened or why, but there was

this electric tension of scandal.

So I did what any sane parent would do and I asked the kid most likely to talk – Ava. I casually mentioned that I’d heard some things about a gun at her school, and all nonchalantly she says, “But mom, it didn’t even look real to me or I would have told the teacher.”

Turns out there was indeed a gun.
On the bus with my kids, in fact.

What in the actual hell did I do with this information? What was there to

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do? I figured surely a statement would be made, policies would be instituted…something would happen, right? There was no chance I was the only parent who heard or wondered. These people are charged with keeping my kids safe, they want me to believe they’re doing that, right? I of all people know how quickly things can get blown out of proportion and overreactions can happen…when it’s my family, though, shouldn’t I get to decide what’s important and what’s not?

But nothing happened. The administration of the school district was quiet and people went on about their business. I brushed it off, because despite my bark I am really quite a pansy when it comes to speaking up about things. Now, I’m ashamed to admit that.

Last week word comes around that a principal at one of the middle schools in the district (not our school, but the same superintendent) has been suspended “pending an investigation.” Soon after it’s confirmed that he was actually fired, following a complaint of some kind.

But that’s it. Nothing has been said. No reasons have been given. Rumors have flown and minds have wandered and horrible situations have been concocted and spun. A local news station did a story (you can see it linked here) featuring the school district’s attorney, whose house I used to go to for voice lessons. And whatever good they intended to do for their situation by having the attorney speak on their behalf…well, they didn’t do it. If anything it added more distrust and less confidence.

I do not aim to add to speculation. But this is the school system I trust with my kids. With their minds. Their day to day well being. All the things I miss while they’re away from me, I have given to these people. And based on recent experiences, I don’t really trust that they will tell me if my kids aren’t safe. I think I deserve to know if someone charged with protecting my children is capable of…hurting them.

So what can I do? Really, I’m asking. Because at this point we’re all headed to live somewhere in a bunker.

 

Can I be that mom?

Crisis.

Today I might be serious. Perhaps.

I don’t really know how to ease into this, so pardon me for not being graceful with my writing here – I’m just going to kind of dump this all out.

I want my children to know what I stand for. I want them to know, above all, that I believe in choosing your own path and building others up – not tearing them down.

I also do everything that I can to show my support for (and non support of) companies who take stands. I try and support stands for equality, for freedom, for love. I do what I can to keep from supporting stands that I see as hate, bigotry, or exclusivity. Less sugar, more healthy hippie, such as no shampoo. Things like that.

We don’t eat at Chik-Fil-A, we don’t do Boy Scouts, we buy and eat local when we can to keep from giving our money to The Man.

My parents brought me up with their own version of this: there was no alcohol, no gambling, no famboyantry. I didn’t watch the Simpsons or go to the beer tent at the Slugburger Festival. There was no nakedness or anything similar. We lived in a bubble of church people, prayer, family vacations and classic car clubs.

And that’s fine. FINE. I grew up never doubting for one moment my parents’ position on most things. They did a damn fine job.

But I remember things I missed out on. I’d never seen a bottle of wine in person until I was seventeen. I didn’t understand blended families (which, looking at my situation now, is freaking hilarious), I had no idea why people believed differently than me – only that they were wrong.

My children – while they definitely won’t have the problem of having restricted cartoon viewing or lack of alcohol exposure (we have all already had discussions about when they are old enough to drink and how we’ll make cocktails for each other) – may, despite my best efforts, still come out of childhood feeling slighted.

It’s hard to explain to your eight-year-old why you won’t match her in wearing her Susan B. Komen regalia when she thinks it’s so cool. To your ten year old why you don’t want him to be a Scout. To either of them why chicken nuggets and waffle fries have to be passed over.
I don’t want to dictate my kids’ beliefs – I also want to give them the benefit (like I had) of having parents with principles. Things they believed in and stuck to even when it wasn’t easy. I want them to know what it is that we deem important – even if they choose differently for themselves later.