the nest

the nest

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


This morning I read a blog post regarding how important it is to acknowledge a child's feelings or experience.  GOOD STUFF.  Hard to remember in the moment.  It can feel like we are are indulging them or condoning bad behavior, but it's really not.  There is a big difference between holding out your hand to go and saying "I see you are frustrated with me.  It's hard when I tell you we have to go and you're having a good time, isn't it?" and saying something like "ok we can stay a few more minutes," or "if you don't come now, we won't ever come back to the park."  We all need to know we are understood.

While the blog was particularly speaking to those caring for young children, it's thoughts are applicable to EVERYONE!  We ALL need to feel understood.  The blogger suggests writing the word "acknowledgement" on your hand as a regular reminder.  I'm not sure I'll do that, but I might put it on post-in notes around my house!

 I wonder how my daughters would react if instead of saying "Would the two of you quick bugging each other!" for the millionth time, I said something like "I can tell the two of you are trying to figure out how to be together.  It's frustrating when you want to say something or ask a question and your sister doesn't let you finish or snaps at you, isn't it?"  Sounds too easy, but I just might try it.

Acknowledgement probably works with dogs too!  Lily and Daisy are trying to figure each other out and while they mostly ignore one another, when treats or affection are involved, there is some "frustration" on their part.  I'm getting used to the way they "argue", and while Lily is beginning to stand her ground more, Daisy is pretty quick to back off when I command.  This morning, I made the mistake of giving Daisy a treat slightly ahead of Lily - Daisy headed for Lily's as well and they had "words."  Totally my fault; I know this is tricky for them and it's easy enough the give them treats separately.  Calling them off and then giving them each some love and acknowledging that they aren't sure how this all works and are figuring it out, helped me feel better and they each calmed quickly and went to their respective corners where they are currently snoring away.

It's interesting to think about "acknowledgement" instead of "understanding".  They are similar, but not the same.  Acknowledgement indicates that you "see" something or someone as valid, but not necessarily that you understand, agree or like.  When my son was a little boy he went through a phase where he would simply walk by people at our church who would greet him.  He also did this (and sometimes still does!) to his sisters.  What would make me most upset with him and what I think he finally understood, was that when someone speaks to you and you ignore them, your lack of acknowledgement tells them that they don't matter.  It invalidates them.  The worst thing you can do is pretend someone doesn't exist.  You don't have to like someone to simply say "Hello!"  Saying something like "I can't talk right now, but it's good to see you,"  says "I see you, I acknowledge you," but allows you to move on your way.   This also explains why I ALWAYS respond when a baby or young child says "HI!" at the grocery store.  Nothing used to annoy me more when my children were little than when they would say "Hi" to someone in line and would be completely ignored.  IT'S RUDE!

As my children get older, I don't always "understand" their feelings and choices, but I know that I need to be better at acknowledging them.  I have to let them muddle through and make their own choices and inevitable mistakes, but it's important they know that I hear them and that they can share their innermost thoughts and feelings with me without fear that I will judge them or reject them.  I think I do pretty well at the thoughts and feelings thing, but I need to work on the "choices."  Acknowledging choices I might disagree with is trickier.  I hope they know that no matter what choices they make in life, I am always here for them.  I will love them forever and will do my best to always "acknowledge" their struggles and victories.

Monday, April 23, 2012


So less then one month ago I said to my youngest daughter "We are done with dogs! Lily is the last one; NO MORE DOGS!"  I have said many times "If I want another child I'll have a baby, not a dog." 
This morning starts our first full day with a 90 pound 5 year old Cane Corso/Presa Canario mix testing out our family.  What is this you ask?  Daisy is a very large, very sweet dog.  The two breeds she comes from were bred for guarding cows and farms and fighting lions in Roman times respectively.
To make a short story shorter, we heard through the grapevine that there was this dog in Philly whose owner had gone into the hospital for some tests, and two weeks later was dead from Pancreatic Cancer.  The dog walker was caring for Daisy and trying to find her a home outside of Philly as the possibility that she would end up in the illegal dog fighting world was substantial.  Translation... Dog needs rescuing, she's very sweet, her name is Daisy, she needs us.
Lots of dogs need rescuing!  We couldn't rescue a dog that is at least smaller than my youngest child and isn't a breed that scares the bejesus out of me???
Her name is Daisy.  My first dog as a little girl was Daisy.  That Daisy was an 8-10 lb. Miniature Schnauzer.  This Daisy could eat that Daisy for a snack.
I could go on about how as we launch our children we needed something else to care for, but we are a long way from an empty nest.  There is no reason we have to keep filling it up right now.  But, there she is, lying on the floor near me as I type, looking like she should be guarding dragons.  She looks a little like Fang from the Harry Potter movies. 
We are taking two weeks to see how she fits into our lives and whether she wants to keep us or not.  The girls are in love, especially Katy who slept downstairs to keep her company last night. 
Our other dog Lily is not at all sure what the story is with this interloper.  Time and exposure may tell us that they will be best friends, tolerant siblings, or they may not be a good match in which case Daisy will need to find another home.  I hope that's not the case, but it's a possibility. 
We have to figure out if this is the right nest for her.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

a paradox

I started a class with a group of teen mom's in Hartford on Monday night.  The volunteer mentor's are women who were teen mom's themselves and are GREAT!  The mom's are, well... teenagers.  The kids were hilarious and were no different than those in my traditional family classes.  As soon as the music started, their faces lit up, their little bodies started to move and you could watch the wheels turning in their heads as they started to process a language they were born with the ability to understand.

The mom's were quietly interested.  A little mystified and self-conscious.  I hope intrigued.  Mostly, they were young.  As I have been searching for ways to find more professional satisfaction, I've been exploring how to merge my previous life as a therapist/youth services person with the Early Childhood Music Specialist I am now.  As part of a project I need to complete, the opportunity to run this class fell in my lap and I jumped at it!  How perfect!  Bringing Music Together to Teen Mom's~ what a great way to "teach" them and provided them with some ways to play with their kids.  The very nature of the work I do is that lots of parent education is woven through the fun and hopefully translates out of the class and into the family's life at home.  No matter how old we are or how long we've been parents, we all need to keep adding to our "bag of tricks!"

This all sounds so great!  But here's the paradox.  How do you take a group of teen mom's who have had babies and are raising them, and love them up, play and give them ways to really embrace being a mom, without encouraging them to do it again? 
Indulge me while I muddle through this.  These young women have all been through pregnancy and childbirth - some of them twice - at an age when I could barely get myself ready for school on my own.  Despite their less than ideal entry into motherhood, they deserve tremendous respect.  The newest mom was there with her 2 week old baby who was breastfeeding.  A 16 year old mom, breastfeeding a baby, AND getting out the door at 2 weeks postpartum.  At 29 I don't think I even left the bedroom for two weeks after my second was born!  She wasn't alone of course.  Her aunt was with her and I'm sure was instrumental in bringing her.  The other "mom's" have also managed to muddle through those early years and had toddlers in tow.  I am in awe that they are managing.
But, I don't know their back stories yet.  How much are their mother's (or aunts or grandmothers) doing for them to help out?  Are they responsible for a home?  Are they working?  Are they going to school?  These are questions that will be answered as we get to know each other.  But at the end of the day, they went through pregnancy and childbirth.  My sister's and I used to joke that once you had a baby, you were elevated to "goddess" and should be treated as such.  It's hard work!
So, they've made it through all that and in order to ensure positive outcomes for their little ones, it is only logical that they need to be loved and supported and guided in really bonding with and loving up their babies.  Motherhood is so amazing and the more they embrace their role as a mom, the better off their children will be.
Here's the paradox.  These are young women who need to NOT have motherhood glamorized or put on a pedestal.  They should be going to school and playing sports, making music and going on dates.  How do we validate their role as mother without encouraging or suggesting they do it again?   How do we help them see alternative paths that may include motherhood, but also include education and satisfying work?  Can they successfully master the developmental tasks they still need to master while providing the environment their little ones need to master theirs?
After each of my children were born, I promptly "forgot" the difficulties of pregnancy and childbirth.  I couldn't wait to do it again ~ only extended breastfeeding and a husband with some common sense kept me from having my babies super close together.  Through each stage of raising them, I conveniently "forget" the last phase that put me over the edge.  I call my mother once in a while and say "How on earth did you survive me at 13????"  She says "Oh you weren't that bad..."  I remember.  I was HORRIBLE!
Ranging in age from 16-21, these girls have taken on a role that our society is not really designed to support until you are "older", but "grounding" them or scolding them for this "mistake" is not the same as the other mistakes of adolescence.  So many of the mistakes teen's make can be either chalked up to a "learning experience" or addressed by removing privileges.  It's amazing how quickly they learn when you can take away a car, a phone or internet access.  This is totally different. 
For most women, having a baby is celebrated!  It's a miracle and it's something that only we can do.  How do we celebrate the gift of a child to these young mom's while giving them the vision to see other possibilities for themselves?
In our culture, parenthood is generally seen as something that comes after you have "left the nest".  It doesn't always work that way though and in many places it never has.  Extended families live together and children are raised by a network of adults.  Young women maturing earlier and earlier are physically capable of child-bearing whether they are ready for child-rearing or not.  While my bias is that being a mother at 16 or 18 is too young, if this is a role that brings a young woman fulfillment and joy who am I to judge that.  Is it ideal?  no.  Am I encouraging teen pregnancy?  no.  I do think that once someone has carried a child, given birth and made the decision to raise this little one, they deserve respect and all the support they need to give that child the best start in life.  They are entitled to the same joy and fulfillment that motherhood brings to those of us who waited longer. 
But maybe if these girls saw other options for themselves, had the education and the role models surrounding them showing them how they could be more, they would wait.  Maybe if the choices our children in the suburbs take for granted, like college, work and even travel, were actually choices for them they would hold off on motherhood.  Maybe they are perfectly content with their life - they have these beautiful children who love them, who they brought into the world...
a paradox.

Friday, April 13, 2012

girls and boys and marsupials

Before I had children I was adamant that I was going to treat my girls and boys no differently from each other.  They would all have the same rules, privileges and freedoms and I was prepared to fight anyone who treated them differently.  My boys would be allowed to be soft and gentle and my girls could be tough and strong.
Here's the thing... If you have been raising children, you know that when it comes right down to it, children are who they are almost in spite of us.  We can dress them neutrally, we can insist that they all learn how to clean a bathroom, cook, change a tire and do their own bookkeeping, but we don't determine who they are.  They do.
For all practical purposes, my oldest (and only) boy child is halfway out of the nest.  He is probably out of the nest from his perspective, but I still have a gentle grip.  Not quite ready to completely release him to the world.  As a little one, he was the sweetest, happiest little guy, who loved his mom, dad, books, legos and his baby.  Yes, he nursed his baby when I was nursing his sister.  That's just how you take care of babies, right?  We didn't have guns or weapons of any kind in the house and I let his baby curls get really long.
By the time he was 4 (maybe before) everything was turned into a weapon or a vehicle.  I was sure I had failed as a mother because the influences of the world had taken over my sweet boy.
I know that's not true.  We have our differences and our disagreements.  I know he has and will continue to make choices that I disagree with, but as a whole, he has grown into a sweet, caring, nurturing young man who cares about social justice and loving EVERYONE.  I could not  be more proud of who he is becoming and am excited to follow his journey.
Overall, launching A has not been terribly rough.  Most of the time I trust him and I haven't worried too much about the world - he is well over 6 feet tall, white, male and doesn't make enemies.
Here's where the difference with my girls comes in. 
I still have years to go to prepare them for the world and up to this point (they are almost 16 and 13), they have had many of the same experiences as their brother.  Same rules, chores, privileges, freedoms.  All of a sudden though they are turning into young women.  We have been lucky ~ they are both late bloomers, so some of the challenges that face parents of girls have been delayed for us.  Not anymore.
My middle child, K, has been a dynamo from birth.  We've had no doubt that she will take over the world someday, or at least do great things to make it a better place.  She is an energizer bunny who has no tolerance for hate or evil - much like her brother.
She is also a beautiful young woman.  The challenges that she will face simply because of this make me cringe.  Don't get me wrong ~ Just in my lifetime, the rights and freedoms women experience have exploded!  The journey of women from the 1960's to today is unbelievable.  We have choices available to us that our mother's never dreamed of for themselves, but made possible for us.  The same is true for our girls.  They really can do anything they set their minds to.
Despite the progress made, the playing field is not level.  I worry about them when they are out in a way I never worried about their brother.  I don't trust the world with my sweet, smart girls.  While I struggle not to squash their spirit and vibrancy while teaching them how to be a member of society, the idea that there are many out there who will try to do just that makes me seethe.  They are in more physical danger than their brother, but more so, they are in more emotional and social danger.
The current "war on women" being waged in the media and politics stuns me.  The idea that there are still so many out there who would try to police my daughter's personal choices about motherhood, as well as the latest questioning of whether women really "need" equal pay, boggles my mind!
What kind of CRAP is that?  I have been and will continue to teach my daughter's that they can do and be who they want to be.  They can change the world, while nursing a baby and caring for a family.  Maybe not at the same time, but they can do it.  It will be up to them to determine their path in life; will they choose motherhood, a career outside the home, or both?  Will they do them at the same time or sequentially?  It will be their choice.  I will be there to help clear the way when they need me just like my mom was there to clear the path for me.
While I know that there are forces out there that would try to keep my girls down, I will fight for them. Just like their brother, they have the power to change the world for good and it's my job to fly below them and boost them up when the forces above try to shove them down.
Go girls, go boys, go PEOPLE.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My date with "The Boss"

I had no idea how many Bruce Springsteen songs I knew.  I suppose when he's been playing as long as I've been alive they might provide somewhat of a soundtrack to my life, but when I was younger, aside from hearing him at dances, he blended in with the others.

That was until I had a date scheduled.
I did my research pre-concert and decided that not only did I still really like his old stuff, his new album "Wrecking Ball" was fabulous!  His music told great stories, was meaningful and I LOVED it.  I was ready for the concert.  Until we got there...

In 43 years I have never been to a "real" concert.  I know, it's shocking.  I've been to the symphony, choral concerts, Broadway, numerous professional and amateur theatrical and musical presentations of all sorts.  Tanglewood is one of my favorite venues - again, the BSO, James Taylor, Prairie Home Companion.  I saw James Taylor and John Denver in LaCrosse, WI when I was in college and a number of bands who came to my small college campus.  Oh!  My first concert at 16?  Amy Grant.

Nothing like being a "Concert, Bruce and Madison Square Garden" virgin all at once.  Talk about overwhelming!

So here's the story...  In my Saturday morning classes, there is this lovely family.  Over the almost 2 years that I've known them, we've become friends and I discovered that G does security for the Boss.  How cool is that?  I have colleagues who live in interesting places who have had "famous" people in class, but I live in the country in northern CT.
A few months ago we are chatting about the upcoming tour and G says "Hey, you and your husband should be my guests at a concert."  I start to laugh.  I completely didn't take him seriously - then he says "no, really! You just tell me which one you can make it to and I'll get it all set."
I still don't really get it, but I go home to tell Jeff - who looks like he won the lottery - and check the calendar.  Oooh, April 6th is Good Friday; don't know if that will work.  My Pastor says, "Bruce Springsteen concerts are a spiritual experience.  Madison Square Garden is a spiritual experience. Of course you should go!  I wish I could come with."
April 6th rolls around and all I can think about is "What do I wear?????"  Black and comfy shoes is what I came up with, but  it worked.
We trek to Queens to leave our daughters with my cousin A for a girls night, have some Thai food and head to the subway to Madison Square Garden.  Totally exciting, but still kind of surreal.  We don't do these kinds of things.
Next thing you know we are there, we have our tickets and our "E-Street Lounge" pass and we are hanging out in the "E-Street Lounge" looking around to see if we recognize anyone.  So annoying to discover once the concert starts, that we were hanging out near several members of the band, but had no idea!  Oh right!  They really are just normal people.  So easy to forget when they are up on stage.
G comes to see us, makes sure we have our wristbands for the pit - the front pit - right in front of the stage - and we head in.
Holy Crap!  walking out onto the floor at Madison Square Garden looking around is so surreal.  It is enormous and we were RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE STAGE!  Everywhere we looked there was a sea of people all looking crazy happy and ready for a good time.  Matt Lauer, the guy from the Soprano's, the guy from Law and Order, Brian Williams (Jeff bumped into him, but was to bashful to introduce himself)... who knows who else was there.  We were on the lookout for Matt Damon and Sting, but once the concert started, all people gawking was over.
Over 3 hours of non-stop fabulousness.  I swear that throughout the concert, there were maybe one or two moments when there was no music and those moments lasted less than a minute.  They just didn't stop.  Song after song after song ~ a beautiful tribute for Clarence Clemons, 15 foot knee slide across the stage, body surfing through the pit - Jeff touched the Boss's hand and since I was touching him, I TOUCHED THE BOSS.
OK, now I have to breathe...  This is starting to sound kind of religious.  Actually, it kind of was.  We were surrounded by people who are so moved and inspired by this man.  This good man who loves his work, loves his family and sings about normal, hard life.  He advocates for us all through his art.  A kid in his late teens, early twenties maybe, was so excited that he was introducing himself to anyone he bumped into.   He had tears in his eyes through much of the concert.  We kept meeting people who had been coming to these concerts for decades. Several a year. 
It was a family reunion of sorts.  Not only for the thousands of people gathered there to see and hear an icon, but for Bruce himself.  He introduced his family including his 80 something year old mom.  He beamed out at us he was so proud to share them all.  At the end, he brought his niece and his mom up on stage and they danced out one of the last songs, after which he gently lifted each one in his arms and after a squeeze and a smile, passed them down to the security guy waiting to safely return them to their seats.  We felt loved and included.
Everyone on that stage was having SO MUCH FUN!  Being so close, we saw interactions between performers that we would never have had the chance to see from the nosebleeds.  This is why we call it "playing" music and not "working" music.  They were playing and having such a great time, and we got to play with them.

I had a date with the "Boss".  Now I get it.  I never really understood the passion, but now I do.  I think I'm in love.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

It takes too much energy to be crabby...

I'm done ranting.  At least for now.  I forgot how much energy it takes to be crabby and to "fight."  It's good for me to remember that when something is under my skin, it makes more sense to dive in and make a decision to let it be or jump in and change it.
One of the things that makes me crazy is people who complain all the time, so I'm done.
Things I am grateful for this week that I'm going to embrace:

~ Blue skies and sunshine
~ Healthy kids
~ My BF/Husband/Partner/Love of my life
~ Music
~ Work that is important and happy
~ A home that needs my love (and time)
~ Friends who are patient, loving and sassy
~ Parents who are healthy and fabulous
~ In-laws who I love
~ A Church family I can joyfully celebrate Easter with
~ Hope that individuals and groups of committed people can and will change the world

~ The opportunity to see Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden on Friday night


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Out of the nest or off the leash...

I'm beginning to wonder if the name of my blog is the right one.  Since I started writing it, the thoughts tumbling around in my brain have been a little overwhelming.  I feel a little like Lily when we get back from a walk and I take her off the leash in the yard.  It seems I feel very strongly about a lot of things and have a lot to say about them!
I have so much to get done this week and I finally decided I had to sit down and get some of this out of my "nest" so I can get on with the cleaning, scraping and painting that is supposed to be happening.  Here are some of the things (in no particular order) that get me riled...

1) People who curse loudly and frequently in public.  It's like verbal garbage.  It's ugly, hurtful and rude.  I use my own share of expletives at times, but hopefully they don't assault others ears.   If they do, I'm sorry.

2) Far right-wing fundamentalist "Christians" who don't seem to understand or follow the greatest commandment "Love One Another."  It doesn't say "love the one who looketh and acteth like me. " It doesn't say "love the one who can fend for themselfeth."  It doesn't say "love the people who do it my way." The Commandment is "Love One Another as I have LOVED YOU." PERIOD.  In my version of Christianity, God's love for me is unconditional, therefore I am commanded to love other's UNCONDITIONALLY.  Doesn't mean I have to like them, but if I am going to identify myself as a Christian, I am going to try to live by the greatest commandment and LOVE OTHERS.  The current Republican primary season is charging some of this up for me.  Candidates who claim to be Christians who are so willing to lie, judge and throw anyone under the bus (including those most in need) to get what they want make me want to hurl.  Their god is not mine.

3) The crazy expectation that everyone should be able to take care of themselves.  "Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps" kind of thinking.  If you don't have any boots to begin with it's a problem.  I am so very tired and frustrated by the idea that being totally independent is the only way we can be FREE.  There is nothing wrong with a balance of independence and dependence.  How about interdependence.  Sometimes I need a little help, sometimes you need a little help.  It goes back to number 2.    Perhaps if we made sure everyone in our country had "boots", or food, shelter, basic healthcare, whatever, then they could get on with making their life better, but it's not ok to push the homeless pregnant teenager in Hartford out of the nest unless someone is flying underneath her to catch her if she falls.  I'm not saying we should not hold people responsible for themselves and their families, but EVERYONE has a right to a safety net.

I could go on, but I'm feeling lighter.  I came to the realization that the other reason I am feeling the indignation and anger with the status quo in our country is that I have blossoming young adults in my home who are reminding me what it was like to feel that it's not ok that it's so easy for some and so horrible for others.  It's so easy to get cynical and say "that's just the way the world is."  I'm thankful that my children are reminding me that just because that's the way it is doesn't mean it's the way it needs to be. 
Maybe the nest I'm flying out of is safety and complacency.  I hope there's a net to catch me.