Thursday, March 19, 2015

Growing Up Doesn't Get Easier

I'm a farmer's daughter. Those two words have defined me for a few decades now. There was a period of time when I wasn't necessarily proud of it but over time, I've carried those two words with me like a symbol of my strength. For me, it represents hours spent in soybean fields with a corn knife, summer mornings that began at 5:30, fashion that revolved around black rubber boots. I've never had skinny, shapeless arms, that that's a trait I've grown to love about myself. But a few months ago, I was left pondering whether or not I can still label myself as a farmer's daughter. My father shared that he is scaling back and working toward retiring from the industry. Immediately, I saw flashes of memories growing up. When I was too young to irrigate, I carried an avocado-green Tupperware container from field to field. It was filled with "Teachers", which were really Little People. While my parents changed gates and checked motors, I'd build dirt towns. Flash forward to learning how to drive a tractor pulling a pipe trailer. I'm still perplexed by multiple brakes...and I'll never be comfortable driving one. As I mentioned, my older sisters and I spent hours roguing soybeans. We'd wear tube tops and short shorts with knee-high rubber boots. The shirts, for maximum sun exposure; the boots, to protect our feet from the wet beans. The memories go on and later include my children. Their first exposure to farming. My son fishing with my father in one of three reuse pits. Catching turtles while laying out irrigation pipe. The smell of freshly turned soil, pollinating corn, and dirty water from the reuse pits. The more I dwelled on my own memories, the more my heart sunk for my parents. I can only imagine that this decision is equal parts sad and rejuvenating. They had spent more than 40 years of their lives working the soil, sweating more than most people will in their lifetime. It hasn't made them rich financially but it's my belief that they're ahead of most in character and respect for the land. But how does my father define himself now? Is he a retired farmer, a semi-retired farmer? How can someone who has given so much of himself to the industry ever call himself anything but a farmer? He's earned the title, which is something to be extremely proud of. It's an industry that helped establish this great country, and one that is all too often ignored or criticized. I can't help but feel that this decision weighs far too heavy on his heart and mind. I worry that he feels like he failed somehow. Like he hasn't accomplished enough. Like he no longer has this label to hang proudly for all to see. This could very well be that transitional period that I've heard of...where we begin to take on a parental role for our parents. In this case, it's not to tell him what to do or to drive him to appointments. It's to remind him of his self worth. Offer words of encouragement, a hug that he would never ask for, and our memories so that he might understand that we'll always proudly carry the title of Farmer's Daughter.

The World Needs More Belly Laughs

About six years ago, I noticed a change in my son. The once blonde-haired, bubbly little boy had lost his contagious belly laugh. Even now, I believe it happened over night. And I have searched my mind for events or situations that might have stolen it from him. I've even watched the home video of him the night before his sister was born. His smile lit up the room as he bounced from the love seat to cushions and back around. He made countless trips from the chair to the cushion, each bounce causing this rippling laugh straight from his gut. That rumbling laugh could break any frown. These days I keep a close eye on my daughter, who's belly laugh has stuck with her an incredible three years longer than her brother's. Even at the age of six, little things like dog tricks on really bad TV, cause her to laugh from the deepest parts of her tummy. Warm giggles, eyes-clenched-shut smiles, radiate from her small body in waves. This time around, I find myself stopping to watch, listen and try to memorize these moments. However, earlier this week, their grandparents stopped briefly to see their grandkids. Both, our son and daughter, were tired and were supposed to wind down for the evening. Instead, they chased each other around the house. You could feel their energy and with each giggle, laugh or squeal, it became harder and harder to ask them to settle down. The belly laugh even made a brief appearance from my occasion worthy of noting. There's a huge life lesson to be learned from a really great belly laugh, and although it's extremely cliche, it's true: Laughter is the Best Medicine. It is far easier to let the weight of responsibilities, let downs and the unknown to drag down the corners of your mouth. Furrowing your eyebrows is a far more natural movement that a simple chuckle. If we celebrated the good and the simple "funny" in life a fraction of the time that we delegate to negativity, belly laughs could make a comeback. With that comeback would be positive feedback, stronger friendships and healthier bodies. My belief is that my daughter's role as a little sister to her more serious brother is to remind him to laugh. To be silly. And to be reminded of all the simple goodness that surrounds him. His role for her? To protect, offer guidance and provide a shoulder in those moments she's led to question her optimism.

Monday, January 13, 2014

there is great risk in over-analyzing your past.

I hid out in my bedroom last night as an effort to seek out some adult time...more specifically, adult TV. At some point, I caught the winter Olympics commercial that celebrates motherhood. I've seen people's reactions on Facebook but I honestly hadn't taken the time to find the spot. Either it's that good, or I was in a mood last night... The spot offers snapshots into the life of these athletes through their mothers' eyes. First as babies, then as maturing professionals. I loved the message of the commercial but what struck me was the baby and toddler scenes. I was hit with panic over not having another child. Like so many others, my personal struggle isn't unique. As soon as I was hired out of college, I knew my career would be a priority. I wasn't looking to get married or have a family. But it happened. A week before I turned 25, I was married. And a week before I turned 26, I gave birth to our son. Once he came, my priorities changed a little but I still spent as many nights up working as I did with him. I also knew we wanted him to have siblings. After waiting until we felt we could handle it, we went for #2. I experienced one miscarriage but soon after was pregnant with our daughter. Both deliveries were awful. They scarred me a little bit. Our daughter being significantly worse than our son, I just convinced myself that my health or the health of the baby wasn't worth trying it again. After some discussion, we opted for a dog instead of another human. I've been plagued by doubt ever since. It's hard to convince yourself that your husband is getting too old, in that, we have plans for "some day" and he may not be interested in doing those things by the time our children are out of the house. I also convince myself that I have other goals to focus on. That the world is only getting uglier...but my heart aches to experience a growing child. I won't look into another baby's eyes searching for pieces of myself and its father in its features. I won't get to see my other children take care of another sibling. I know that we made the decision. I know that it feels like time has run out. I just haven't figured out how to get over this pity party that I seem to throw for myself fairly regularly. Of the lessons I'm learning, this is one of how our life choices can haunt us years later. It makes me wonder if I'm mentally strong enough to overcome these feelings of doubt. And it's amazing to think that the two children that I do have...have completely changed me. They are truly gifts. So much so, that at times I feel like I could surround myself with tiny version of them.

Monday, November 25, 2013

You're never too young or two old to admit fault.

My son turned eight last week. His birthday is always emotional for me. I don't know if it's just because he's my first born, or that it was an unplanned pregnancy, or that it's a reminder that we have no control over the clock. How can eight years pass so quickly? Regardless, the day came and went. Like every year, I found myself daydreaming about that day. Details that I play over again and again as I'm afraid that if I don't, I'll forget. I hugged him extra tight that night. Four days later, after his birthday party with six other eight and nine year olds, and then a sleepover for someone else's birthday, I knew he was tired. I was tired. But there was work to be done. I sent Caden and his sister off to clean their shared bedroom and then the playroom. Much arguing ensued. Hitting occurred. What should have taken 15 minutes was taking an eternity. Lately I've been trying to stay out of it. Pick your battles. Make them figure things out. Problem solving seems to be a lost art these days. But I can only take so much. I hate to admit it but I eventually yelled. Like the kind of screaming where you feel the veins in your neck bulge, your face gets hot and you immediately worry that the neighbors can hear you. I was angry. My son didn't miss a beat; returning the rage and calling ME names. I tried being an adult about it. But it happened again. So I spanked him. His mouth kept running. So I fed him a little soap. Bawling now, he still managed to yell at me. So I made him feed himself some soap. Horrid sobbing sounds began and I sent him to his room to calm down. Ending it with he could come speak to me after he calmed down. Minutes passed. More bawling. More like wailing. I waited for him to fall asleep but rest was not coming. Eventually he calmed down, I calmed down and we all sat and talked about it. I always start these conversations with how much I love them and that even if I lose my patience, it does not reflect the amount of love that I feel for them. I apologized for using some choice words. Then I asked why he felt it was appropriate to speak to me in that way. He didn't know why. He never does. More than likely it boils down to a young boy who is trying to figure out how to deal with these new emotions. His instinct is to become physical. But he has a soft heart so he often reverts to using words instead. It's frustrating; I can see it on his face. After a while, we decide to blow off some steam and play catch outside. The day went on and it was as if nothing happened earlier that day. But at night and again this morning, he came to me with a big bear hug, an apology in his eyes and kind words. I know he loves me. I know there is no permanent damage. But it still hurts. My words, not his. My hope is that my apology heals him and shows him that it's okay to apologize.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

there are some skills you can't outgrow

When the doctor announced that we had just brought a little boy into the world, my husband and I decided that, when it came to sports, he would learn equally. You need to realize that I come from a family of three daughters...all of whom played basketball, and my husband came from a family of three sons and a daughter...the sons (and parents) all very passionate about wrestling. At the age of five, Caden started wrestling. It was cute, and I didn't mind taking him to the practices because I had no idea what was going on and figured I could learn a few things. I had also realized that the area we live in doesn't teach basketball until the second grade. Caden enjoys wrestling but felt bad last year when he had to wrestle against his friends. After winning the first time, he came back to the bleachers saying that he thinks he should have let the other boy win. He felt terrible. And he had decided that maybe wrestling wasn't for him. Shortly after, he realized that the following season, he would also be on the older end of the scale, so he thought maybe one more year would be okay. My husband and I couldn't help but laugh. You can imagine my excitement when the flyer for little kids basketball came out. Knowing that he'd miss the first session, my son and I began working at home. We went over the basic fundamentals of dribbling, passing, shooting and defensive stance. We shuffled in a defensive position back and forth across the driveway until our legs burned, laughing the entire time. Those lessons I had learned from my father and coach came rushing back. It was like I had never stopped playing the game. I was still shooting in my dad's shed. Beating up on my older sister. Those are some of my fondest memories as a child and teenager, and I was experiencing it all again with my seven year-old son. I realized afterward that this must be how my husband feels when he works with Caden. Helping our children to experience the same memories we had is part of the circle of life; or at least it's a goal of ours. So what if my son never plays high school basketball...and I end up spending most Saturday's in a gym...we have these moments. And they are truly magical.

we're all a little more than selfish

I gave away my heart when my son came into this world. Even at the age of almost 8, he still captivates me in a way that no one else can. However, our five year-old daughter is exploring a side of herself that is very near and dear to my heart. She has discovered the magic of writing. Pencil and paper. Where you have the power to create anything, to go anywhere that your mind will allow you to go. I realize that she probably doesn't see it that way, at least right now. And her father just see's her autographing his tools, scraps of paper and anything else that will accept ink. But I'm mesmerized by her creative spirit. She is too young to know how to spell. She struggles with letters right now. Even her name might be a challenging read for some. But she's writing nonetheless. When I ask what her creations are, she asks me what it says. Inevitably, we end up creating incredible stories together. Sometimes it's a simple lunch order. Other times, it's a tale about her brother or a friend. However the writings end up, we both enjoy sharing ideas, exploring the unknown and laughing about how silly it all is. My only fear is that she'll lose sight of this incredible gift. That she'll become dazzled by technology and the black-and-white of the world. I may be selfish for loving that my daughter seems to be a creative type, like her mother, but her world is so beautiful right now that I can't help but explore it with her.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

becoming our parents doesn't always suck.

There have been many situations over the last 2.5 years when I've had this feeling of, "this is a dad's job, not mine". Granted, this is more than likely an unfair attack on my husband but it happens...a lot. Last night was no different as my son begged me to practice tee-ball with him. (after a rough game last week we made a pact to at least play catch every night for 10 minutes) He grabbed my glove and everything else and we made our way outside. I have to admit, I grumbled before we even began. Part of the tee was gone, and the shaft was shoved so low that I couldn't raise or lower it...the one time our daughter wanted to participate...I just wanted to get out there and get to work. After figuring out a solution that involved pliers from my husband's toolbox, we were ready. Facing the street and keeping our fingers crossed that Caden wouldn't have a terrible shank off our home or the neighbors. As I began coaching him on where his feet should be in relation to the base, his elbows raised, and where his hands were gripping the bat, I was suddenly standing in the front lawn of my parent's house. My dad being the one saying those things to me. In the summer, it was a daily routine after lunch. Eat and head outside so he could hit fly balls and grounders or let us bat and play catch. I could hear his voice matching mine. Every word was his, not mine. It was incredibly magical. When we finished practicing I was tempted to call my father and share the experience with him. But I knew he wouldn't really understand how profound it was for me. Or how proud I felt for having the opportunity to pass those fundamentals on to my own son. So I just tried to bottle up that feeling...the look on my son's face every time he succeeded in using the correct form or standing ready for the ball instead of swinging his glove around loosely at his knees. The smack of the ball hitting the sweet spot of his glove. Some traits and lessons stick with you...and this is one that I hope sticks with Caden.