Im a “Tween” again.

I’m a “Tween” again

By the age of 42 I had imagined I’d be established enough as to understand my general role in society as a woman, and as a mother. Surely by this age, though ONLY 42, I would be recognised as someone with motherly experience? With some sort of wisdom I could impart on other younger mothers. Above all, I’d hopefully FIT IN.

 

Instead, I find myself at 42 to be a bit of an odd ball. I am not up to date on the gizmo’s and gadgets that the new mothers around me are discussing on social media posts. I am no longer privy to the “in” books and services, as everything they seem to need is now online and via blog, and let’s face it, I haven’t READ any newborn advice and help blogs. There WERE no blogs during my newborn phase! Those mothers can’t turn to me for that. All of my well-meaning advice is dated. Regardless of the fact I have SURVIVED 22 years of parenting!

On the other end of it, I am not quite old enough to dole out grandmotherly type advice or pass adages to my own daughters because I haven’t lived through THAT much yet! I am ONLY 42.

I remember what it was like to be a “tween”. Not a child anymore, but not quite a teen either. It is a hard and confusing time when you just feel lost and stuck. And I am back at that same stage in motherhood. The in-between stage…Not yet old enough to be that wise grandmother, but not that new fresh mother trying to figure everything out. It all seems so AWKWARD…. So unsure. So in need of a mother’s advice, had I had one.

In this stage though, I see just how segregated we as mothers keep one another. We create cliques, whether knowingly or not. A sense of divisiveness does exist. I feel like I did when I was picked last at PE. That happened due to an obvious lack of experience in ANY sport at the time, and my very petite stature all through high school. I wasn’t going to survive PE roughhousing without tears, and classmates  just knew it.

However, I KNOW I have not only survived two decades worth of mothering, I have often THRIVED at it, though in full disclosure, I have also really totally and completely stunk at it. That’s ok, because it is a learning curve. Parenting will always be, as each stage changes.

One big dramatic change for me over the past two years, was learning a new way to parent through the holidays. Halloween, especially. I love the Autumn traditions, everything from crisp walks, to pumpkin spiced anything, and decorating! I loved seeing the fun costumes come out and talk to my girls about what they would dress up as! Two years ago, I had my first Halloween without a trick or treater. I admit, I was devastated. I felt like a chapter in my role as a mother was now over. I wouldn’t experience that again. I wasted that day being miserable. Last year, determined to make up for the previous year of pouting, I dressed up, as I do, and sat at the end of my driveway, armed with the tastiest mini-chocolate bars, and expectantly scanned the street for ghouls and goblins, and the never ending trail of Disney princesses. None came. NONE.

I even decided to get up and yell at the child at the end of my street (I am in the middle!), and screamed, much to the chagrin of my “hostage” 22 yr old, who I had made sit with me. “Hey kid! I have candy! Come and get it!”. I sounded like a crazy lady! It really isn’t accepted in society to yell at children to come eat your sweets. Lesson learned. NEXT year, we will be in a new home, and I hear the neighbourhood is packed. So I will be the fun decorated house, with good treats and creepy music playing for ambience! I am beyond determined to re-love this day. To start new.

Something I would like to see an end to though, is those cliques I mentioned. We deny there ARE any, but they exist. I’d like to see parents respect, admire and ACKNOWLEDGE that others have mothered before us, will be mother’s after us, and we should embrace the similarities that we as women share, with grace and kind listening ears, even when we disagree with another’s approach.

I think a good way to bridge this gap is to simply spend time with mothers and women who are NOT  just like us. Whatever is different from our daily norm. I can learn from someone different, and they can learn from me. I found, by being around older AND younger women, that we are more alike than opposite. For example, the exclusion I have felt from not being invited to my friend’s child’s birthday party, because I didn’t have a toddler. She invited an assortment of what seemed like only acquaintances, and women who she met only once or twice, instead of me. I immediately felt not only excluded, but that somehow I had committed some offence. It was only after taking a breath and asking why I wasn’t invited that she confessed that she wasn’t sure if I, with older children, would even WANT to go. Of course I would have! I cared about our friendship, AND I loved that child! Another time, I myself didn’t extend a hand of friendship to a woman. Her children were younger than mine, which did not bother me as I love to talk to new people, however we differ in life. My hold up? She was beautiful. Like, GORGEOUS. Immediately, that terrified me. I am not sure why. I am usually not intimidated by the way a woman looks. She just seemed so perfect, so put together, and in a way, I convinced myself she was too  good for me. I didn’t have time to dwell on it, because she approached ME in this situation. She had worried that no one was speaking to her because they found out she was getting divorced, and wouldn’t be part of the military community we were all involved with at the time. I couldn’t believe I’d been so quick to make someone else feel so isolated! Especially since, I too was about to be divorced.  I think a lot of the breaking off into sub groups of mothers, is due to a breakdown in communication amongst us all.

I somewhat see a cyclical pattern in parenting, just like in fashion, where what is on trend one season, changes and goes away the next. Only to come back a decade later and be the new cool yet retro “in” thing.

So I am trying whole-heartedly not to judge other mothers, especially those so different from myself, at our respective stages in life and motherhood. I think we are all maybe a little guilty of this? It becomes easier for me to justify this internal judging I do, when I feel criticised in some way as a mother. I immediately jump on the defensive and find something to tear another down about (all in my head, and never towards someone specifically), so that we are on some even playing field in a game neither of us know we are playing. I may currently be considered to be like platforms shoes, flared jeans and fringe, not so on trend and a little out of place, but I assure you. Just like these jeans do, and just like my other in-between mum’s, we will get through this phase, and be hip, retro, and relevant again.

Halloween 2004

The hard stuff, from a seasoned mother. Part 1.

When I was a child and I drew pictures with my sister depicting my future wedding, husband and children, they were picture perfect. If there was a slip of the crayon, or a smudge or smear to damage my future life, I erased the image and started over. I am a brunette, yet  I drew blondes. Except the mystery husband to be. He was tall, dark haired and oh so handsome (though slightly resembling George Michael). Fast forward 20 years, and let me just tell you straight away, besides stating the obvious that I didnt marry George, you cant just rip out a page and start over ever time life makes a smudge on your family.

I told you Id be honest in this series. Right from the get-go of parenthood for me, my proverbial crayon slipped. I gave birth younger than I “dreamed” at 20, to a very premature baby, born with gastroschisis. Gastroschisis is a birth defect of the abdominal (belly) wall. The baby’s intestines stick outside of the baby’s body, through a hole beside the belly button. The hole can be small or large and sometimes other organs, such as the stomach and liver, can also stick outside of the baby’s body. Immediately I aged in maturity 20 years. Having lost my mum when I was very young, I really didnt have guidelines or counsel when it came to this, so trial and many, many an error gave way to a somewhat regular pattern. Two surgeries within 18 months corrected the defect itself though Lauren doesnt have a belly button, a fact that doesnt bother her, and I feel like I got through a tough time and earned some sort of invisible kick-ass mummy award.

Crayon slippings continued throughout my new mum years, as a navy wife to my ex husband, life became tough. I was living in America, and very homesick. One baby more (blessedly healthy) and a divorce later, I found that I was in a oh-no-Im-a-single-mother-what-the-heck-will-I-do status. Except, that wasnt a social media status. I had to put that as “divorced”, but it may as well have been ostracized, because thats what I felt like at times.

To say I was on the ramen noodle diet was putting it mildly. However, I did survive. So did my girls. Who, sidenote, DID turn out to be those picture perfect blondes I was drawing about.

Life, well, it can be very hard. Big hard and little hard and all kind of hard stuff in between. You protect your children yes, naturally, as people do when they become responsible 24/7 for another human being.

So I think that the lesson Ive most learned from the hard stuff in my life, the stuff not like the pretty pictures I drew, is that Im preparing these “babies” to be strong. In hardships. To show them and explain to them that it IS hard. Its not all puppies and play dates and bubble guppies and pony tails. And as hard as it is for some new mothers to accept when they are in the beautiful bask of newborn love and adoration: one day, they WILL leave our homes. They will be out there, potentially facing life outside a perfectly coloured page. So we have to be open about hardship. Transparent about mistakes. Sincere about life and her lessons. Most importantly, encouraging them to not let these things close their little hearts off to the sunshine and flowers that come after the mistakes. To hang onto hope that these things lead to better things. Rascal Flatts say it best “God blessed the broken road..”. So I feel that its up to me to teach them how to navigate a broken path, without Dora and her map. Instead, with faith, God, and a cell phone to mum!

Exactly HOW?? Well, I will share my experience with that in part 2.

Lauren at Day 3 when I first got to hold her.
Lauren at Day 3 when I first got to hold her.
Lauren (19) and Caitlin (12), my blondes
Lauren (19) and Caitlin (12), my blondes

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