Saturday, September 26, 2015

An Even Dozen

The build up to today has been monumental. For weeks there has been a countdown. A list of everything that would follow...all designed to make me get misty eyed.

My son turns 12. This guy. My one and only baby.

Here are 12 things that make being 12 years old decidedly joyous for him and cause me to sniffle most of the day. These have been shared with me by a very knowledgeable source.

1) Only 365 days from becoming a teenager. Holy cripes!

2) He is now older than most of the kids in his class. Bragging rights rule.

3) The numbers go in order. Get it. 1-2. Yep, think of it as a 12-year-old boy. Ahhh, now it's awesome!

4) Kissing kiddie menus goodbye. It is practically a crime to order from one when you are already 12, even if you really, really, really want the mac and cheese.

5) You need more privacy. Sure, you've been walking in on your mom in the bathroom for the past 12 years, but now...everything...has...changed. Get it?

6) At 12 you are practically 13 so all of those movies that are rated PG-13 are completely within your reach. Or so I've been told, over and over and over.

7) Just three more years till drivers training. And, only four more years till the coveted license. If I start taking Xanax now, I should be good then. Right?

8) Being 12 is just so much better than being 11. It just sounds like you are ready for everything that a middle schooler would do. That's just the way it is.

9) Twelve year olds should really have their own phone. Not just any phone. An iPhone. Really. No, really. (This still hasn't happened in our house. Really. No really.)

10) When you are 12 your mom doesn't need to smooch on you any more. Unless you are scared. Or you get hurt and are bleeding all over and need an ambulance. But, otherwise, I should just kiss his dad. But, never in front of him.

11) Halfway to 24, when he'll be done with college and have his own place and his own dog. Living the dream, baby! I just pray that he's doing his own laundry at this point.

12) Even though you are 12, you can still hang out with your parents sometimes. If they are doing something cool. And, they don't do anything embarrassing. As if...

Happy birthday to you, Connor. I'll see what I can do to honor some of these elements. But, really, don't for a minute think I'm going to stop dancing at times that freak you out (like in the car...). And, when I see your precious face (I can hear you groaning, stop it!), I can't promise I won't still give you a little kiss. After all, I've only been a mom for 12 years, I'm still in training! God Bless You, Buddy.

Monday, March 23, 2015

We Are Family (not a sing along!)

We all have interesting and unique definitions of whom we include in our families. Depending on your culture, religion, or ethnicity, that definition could be wider or more narrow than someone else.

This weekend I had the immense pleasure of witnessing a family wrought out of caring and love for each other regardless of the circumstances that have transpired previously. I am a part of this tribe. This family of friends, relatives, spouses, former spouses, neighbors, and coworkers. We are rather like a spider web, woven tightly with delicate threads that alone are vulnerable but together form a miraculous safety net.

Angie's Army ready to show our support for Angie Gildea at the Irish Jig 5K Run in Grand Rapids. The race supports colo-rectal research efforts.

Our mission this weekend was to cast this safety net out into the universe in protection of Angela Nauta Gildea (check out her blog here and follow along on her journey toward a cancer-free life). Angie was diagnosed only two weeks ago with colon cancer stage IV, the cancer has spread to her liver. Angie is a spunky, busy mom of two young ladies (ages 9 and 10), a professional, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend, a neighbor, a Christian. And, according to the group gathered on Saturday, Angie is destined to be a SURVIVOR. 

Angie cheering on her team at the finish line of the Irish Jig 5K in Grand Rapids.

The complexities of the family gathered to support Angie are unusual. Yet, also representative of the diverse lives we all live now. My son considers her to be Aunt Angie, even though she is not related to him through traditional family ties. But, when the chips are down and the need for one more set of hands clasped in prayer seeking healing work both spiritually and at the hands of a seasoned medical team...we are all family. 

Angie's Army of BELIEVERS gathered after the race at Derby Station to celebrate her future success.

Like most families, we tease, we banter, we call each other out for silliness and downright dumb-headedness (it is a word, trust me!). We forgive when merited. And, ultimately we circle the wagons and call in support to help when one of our own is down.

The heart of Angie's Army and our Family of supporters are the Chick-Lits, our book club. We were missing a couple of ladies, but they were with us in spirit.

As Angie wages her battle, this family will keep our web woven tightly and at the ready to catch her when she needs us...or just to provide a playful bounce now and again, like at the trampoline park. We will not let her down because at the heart of everything is the common denominator of love for someone special and a sincere desire to lift her up in success and happiness.

We all have our roles: the serious one, the goofy one, the smart one, the one who cooks, the one who cleans, the one who dances in order to evoke get the picture. Ultimately our roles do not define us, they are just one more element in our wacky family tree. A part of the nutrients that are needed to establish deep roots. 

Now, that is a family. That is my family. You are welcome to join us, as long as you have heart!

A word about colo-rectal cancer...screenings begin at age 50. But, recently we've seen an increase in the number of people diagnosed with this disease before that age, Angie is only 41. So, be aware of the symptoms and take action if you notice them! Please.

Monday, January 5, 2015

My Singular Focus as a Parent

Clearly I'm an expert parent. I have more than 10 years of experience at the job. Therefore, I now share with you the Golden Rule of Parenting as derived from my vast collection of training and personal experience. You may want to print this out and hang it on your fridge for future reference...or bookmark it so you can easily access this brilliance electronically in the future.

My job as a parent is to assure that my child does not turn out to be a jack-wagon.

That's it. Lesson over. Get out there and get focused, people. 

What? You thought you would be charged with some list of 25 steps to empower your child to express himself with balanced maturity and mental acuity? Or something more exciting (and complex sounding like that). Nope. Just assure that your kid grows up to be someone whom others do not feel compelled to call a jerk. 

You see, if you raise someone who is a jack-wagon they are likely to treat others poorly, cheat at cards or sports, fail to practice good personal hygiene, spit in public, ignore social justice responsibilities, hit into other foursomes on the golf course, use more than their share of resources of all kinds, chew with their mouth open, participate in overly exuberant public displays of affection, drive their vehicle without regard for posted laws or others sharing the roadway, lie, talk loudly in public places, be required to participate in a paternity test on a talk tv show, steal others ideas or property, wear an excessive amount of perfume or cologne, spend time in jail/prison, spill beer on the people sitting nearby at sporting events, humiliate people who are not like them, disrespect parents, the elderly, officers of the law, and military personnel, or push a personal agenda without regard for polite discourse. 

I've got too much going on to remember or enact one of those lists of the top ten things to do to assure that my child becomes a rock star at whatever. Those lists just overwhelm me. But, my foolproof plan is simple and can be implemented by parents of all socio-economic backgrounds, reading levels, nationalities, and mental capacities. It doesn't require a weekend retreat to learn. Just apply this litmus test to every crossroads and conversation with your kid: If I do/don't do this now, will my child grow up to be a jack-a**? If you answer in the affirmative, then regroup and get things going in the opposite direction. Pronto. 

Together, we can do this. We can raise the first generation of youth who are not jack-wagons as adults. Stay focused, parents. Don't get distracted with loving with logic or whatever the latest trend may be...just stay true to this one goal. Go.

You are welcome.