Brotherly love

In the beginning, it was all about him. First-born, first grandchild, first nephew…his place in our extended family cemented by the simple fact that he was born.

First.

He was a wise old soul in a little-boy body. Adults loved to chat with him, listening to his volumes of memorized dinosaur facts or advice about which types of plastics are recyclable. He spoke clearly and fluently, forming complete sentences before he had a complete set of teeth. He told jokes that made sense and understood sarcasm. My days were so full of questions and observations that at times I felt more like a tour guide than a mom.

Playgroups at the park were a part of our weekly routine, and I craved the time with my mom-girlfriends. I knew that the social interaction with other little ones was very important for my son, but secretly most of us form playgroups for our own adult sanity. It was in these early playgroups that I began to notice what the other little boys did. They were usually quite physical – running, jumping, pushing each other around just a bit to test their wee-manhood. My son preferred to play in the sand, creating an elaborate “recycling center” with the pails and trucks, only to be confused and upset when the other boys didn’t understand his passion. Being an old soul may make you the favorite of preschool teachers and drugstore cashiers, but it creates quite a gap on the playground.

I worked very hard to match him up with potential playmates and buddies, to teach him to be patient on the playground, and to open his eyes to the fact that not every 3-year-old was interested in fossils or the Latin names of birds. He needed another tour guide.

Along came his baby sister.

Being an only child and having a sibling thrust into your limelight isn’t easy. My son was intrigued at first, somewhat perplexed at how she really wasn’t able to do anything. He would correct me when I would say the baby was “talking” and remind me that no, she couldn’t talk yet. He never seemed jealous or spiteful, perhaps just a bit discouraged at her lack of ability to carry on a conversation or play recycling center with him. When her cries interrupted bedtime stories too often, he wondered why she had to cry at all, since she wasn’t hurt.

And then, a slight shift in the relationship. Around the time my daughter was about 18 months, it happened. I left them in the playroom for a bit while I went to load the washing machine or some other daily task. When I returned, I could hear my son talking to his sister about a game he was playing and giving her a role. Peeking quietly around the corner, I saw her huge grin and I knew she sensed it too.

She was in.

Over the years their games changed and evolved, but they would play for hours together, lost in their pretend world. My role as tour guide had been taken over by a pint-sized, energetic little girl who was eager for the challenge. Having someone who loves you no-matter-what and who will tolerate your thoughts and opinions is an incredible gift. My daughter had provided my son with a different way to view the world, something I had not been able to do on my own.

It was magic.

Both are now teenagers. My son, in his third year of college, and my daughter a sophomore in high school. Role-playing games have been replaced by wise cracks, sarcasm and text messages, or maybe a ride to soccer practice or the mall. I love listening to them talking and teasing each other, analyzing the ins and outs of high school life, pop culture and anything else that seems funny or might embarrass mom. She has finally become the equal he wanted her to be.

And he is her tour guide now.

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This piece originally ran on Moonfrye

Someone Might Color Again

crayons on tableI can’t remember the very first box, although in hindsight I think simply the purchase of it must have made me giddy.

Crayons. He’s old enough for crayons.

In all of my enthusiasm for this super-exciting “next step” my son had graduated to, I am certain I purchased the 64-count box.

And we would have talked about the names of each of the colors, compared the light blue with the navy, lined them up in color groupings and counted them one-by-one. Maybe we chose our favorite colors, or talked about how the sun is usually colored yellow but looks white.

I’m pretty sure we could kill an hour or more with a simple 64-count box of crayons.

Because we had time to do that kind of thing back then. Back when time stood still it seemed — or at least on those long no-nap afternoons when Daddy traveled and Mommy was left to dinnertime chatter with someone who only talked about the garbage man. Back when the time it took to simply get out the door to preschool or the grocery store seemed to fill a morning.

The crayons, they multiplied.

Go out to your favorite chain restaurant for dinner? Come home with a tiny box of crayons, named with colors like “mac and cheese.” Crayons make great stocking stuffers, car-trip sanity savers, Easter basket fillers and birthday party favors.

One 64-count box of perfectly shaped crayons soon gives way to several plastic bins full of a jumble of odd colors and sizes that don’t quite go together. Favorites are worn down to nubs, while some never quite feel right and never even touch tip to paper.

This fall I started (again) to organize and rearrange what used to be our playroom and now is more of a game room.

It sounds cooler to teens if you call it that.

One plastic bin full of crayons remains.

Some are worn down, others broken in half and discarded… never to be used. There are multiple brands intermixed, some never used at all.

Like a jumble of things my kids tried. Things that either didn’t fit, felt wrong or left them wanting something more.

I wish that parenting them now was as simple as that brand-new 64-count box of crayons was. That I could once again offer them something that was full of possibilities and open to whatever their heart — and little fingers — could create.

Now? There’s no going back to that original box. I wouldn’t even be able to create a haphazard collection of the original colors from the remnants of childhood remaining in this plastic bin. In some odd way, this box of messed-up crayons has come to symbolize the trials and errors of my parenting. Some things worked beautifully, while others didn’t take.

I just can’t bring myself to throw them out.

You never know when someone might want to color again.

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This piece originally appeared on Moonfrye

 

 

 

A Plea for my Teens

The Medicine Abuse Project- The  Partnership at Drugfree org Logo**************************************

We are one of the lucky families who haven’t had to face addiction with their teens, but I believe that all families need to have an open dialogue about the issues. I wrote this essay as something I would say directly to either one of my teens.

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I thought we had covered all the bases.

From that first moment I snuggled you in the delivery room, we started teaching you about being safe and feeling loved.

When you cried, we comforted you… and when you smiled, we smiled back. We were absolutely pulled into your orbit and held there waiting breathless for your next move.

As your body grew stronger and you started roaming the halls of our home, we protected you from the obvious dangers: stairs, sharp corners on tables, cleaning solutions under the kitchen sink. Small choking hazards were stowed on high shelves, baby foods introduced in the exact order recommended by the pediatrician.

We immunized, sanitized, baby-proofed, read labels, researched crazy symptoms and rashes. We would keep you safe, no matter what the danger.

As you grew older, new dangers seemed to exist around every corner. We frantically had to switch gears, to add in these new warnings to our lessons about being safe.

Look both ways, hold my hand, don’t talk to strangers, wear your helmet, buckle up, don’t tell people where you live.

More warnings, more dangers.

Your teenage years crept in quickly, until your 13th birthday arrived and keeping you safe was no longer simply buckling your car seat or protecting your head from the sharp corners of the coffee table.

Dangers at this age became bigger, more insidious, more difficult to teach.

Drive safely, don’t DRINK at all, don’t smoke, don’t take any pills that anyone gives you.

NEVER.

You were no longer holding my hand, and I was no longer holding your rapt attention.

Warnings began to sound more frantic, as the potential dangers for teens seem to lurk just outside the front door.

And buried in these discussions of what NOT to do I think we missed a key point.

The underlying threat goes way beyond the immediate dangers.

Addiction.

A few beers with friends or the handful of pills your roommate hands you to “help” you study for finals? You may feel the potential window for danger closes when the sun rises the next day and everything is fine.

But the true danger is addiction. When the small handful of pills doesn’t cut it anymore, and you need MORE.

More pills, more booze, more weed just to get you to that point where your body and mind let go and the drug takes over.

And the scary part is that you won’t see it coming.

Addiction will burn your dreams at the end of that glass pipe. Addiction will take your future and twist it into a never-ending cycle of highs and lows. When addiction pulls you in quietly it promises fun, relaxation, a momentary respite from your worries and obligations. The pills your friends shares seem safe — why would the doctor prescribe them if they aren’t?

But they are NOT safe.

And by the time you understand that addiction is real and horrible and life-altering it will have already wound you up in its tight grasp, ready to fling you out at the world in search of your next high.

Like crossing the street without looking both ways.

Stay safe, my sweet baby. Hold onto your dreams and don’t let addiction derail them.

I’ve done my part… it’s your turn now.

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This post is sponsored by The Partnership at Drugfree.org as part of a blog tour with listentoyourmothershow.com in an effort to #EndMedicineAbuse

I am proud to be a part of this blog tour, which follows a live-streaming event we did on September 10. You can watch the videos here:

Please read about this event on the Listen to Your Mother blog, then visit some of the other amazing and talented writers I am honored to have shared this important event with…

Brandi Jeter from mamaknowsitall.com reading Smoothing Wrinkles
Ellie Schoenberger
from onecraftymother.com reading The Power of Story
Heather King
from extraordinary-ordinary.net reading How Will Our Kids Fill That Need?
Alexandra Rosas
from gooddayregularpeople.com reading End Medicine Abuse
Janelle Hanchett
from renegademothering.com reading I Could Tell You My Story
Judy Miller
from judymiller.com reading Teen Prescription Drug Use and Abuse
Melisa Wells
from suburbanscrawl.com reading LTYM & The Partnership at Drugfree.org Blog Tour
Lyz Lenz
from lyzlenz.com reading Dear Little Boy, You Will Never Be Ruined
Zak Watson
from raisingcolorado.com reading Raising Awareness to End Medicine Abuse
Lisa Page Rosenberg
from smacksy.com reading The Inside World