I’m Not Ready

My biggest little girl is starting kindergarten this week. All summer, people have been asking if we're ready, and all summer we have answered the same way. A says "I'm so excited!", and I say "She's so ready." What I do not say is "I'm not ready." I was not ready to send T, but I thought it would be different – I thought I would be different – with A. It is not. 

What will be easier is sending her to a teacher I know, in a class filled with children we know the majority of. I know so much more now than I knew two years ago. It should be easier. It is not.

A is my sweet, sensitive one. She does everything big – high highs and low lows, often within moments of each other, all day long. I worry about A being stuck in the middle, always tagging along with the older or the younger, rarely getting her own thing. As a result, she is the easy one in many ways but she's also the one who ends up just going along. I sometimes tease that she is the one who would go with a stranger who offered her a lollipop – because A is sweet, and trusting, and used to going along. I fear that in school A may not listen to herself because the voices of others are so often louder.

Mostly I am afraid of sending my girl out into a world I have not prepared her for. I have her things ready to go – her supplies are in her classroom, her backpack and coordinating lunchbox hanging on her hook, her new clothes washed and put away and I even sewed her a new dress. I think I am hoping that if I do these things – if she has all the things she needs – she will feel how much I love her and how I am probably thinking of her at that very moment.

But those are just things. I am scared of the things she cannot see but will certainly feel. What if I have not done enough, said enough, taught her enough to prepare her for the hard things that are surely coming her way?

BeautyI said to my sister once that having a daughter ruins you, even if in the best possible way. I fear for my girls in ways that I do not fear for their brother. The responsibility of raising women weighs heavy on my heart and mind. I spent so much time choosing her things for school because it will matter. I have spent five years explaining what it means to be brave and kind, and how sometimes other people will not be either of those things but she will have to be anyway. I have spent five years telling her she can so that maybe she will not believe it when she starts hearing she cannot. I have spent five years – her whole entire life – building her up in anticipation of a world that will try to tear her down in ways that her brother will never experience.

I hope kindergarten will not ruin my daughter. I hope she is as brave and as kind as she knows how to be. I hope that when kids are mean, when she feels sad or when someone says she can't, it is my voice she hears louder than anyone – "you are brave, you are kind, you can do and be anything. You are perfect just the way you are."

ASunset

 

The House That Built Me

My parents are selling their house – my childhood home – after 40+ years of living there. My dad purchased what was then a cottage on Goose Rocks Beach in the mid-70's from an estate attorney. The majority of the transaction happened through the mail – certified letters and contracts going back and forth. Can you even imagine?

Since then, so many things have changed. My entire life has happened, the majority of it within the walls of that house. The house has been remodeled, has weathered more than a few storms, but has largely stood tall and proud throughout the years. It is like a beacon that calls to me the second the beach is in sight from the road – "you're almost home."

"The one with the triangle window," we always said. "Oh yes, I know the one!" people would reply.

Next week, the house will not be ours anymore. It remains to be seen whether it will be remodeled or torn down to make way for something bigger (and not, in my opinion, better). I am not sure which I would prefer, but it does not really matter, does it? At the end of the day, it will not belong to us anymore.

It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to 9 Sand Point Road, but at the same time, my heart is filled with gratitude. A property like that is one of a kind – with 200 feet of private beach front and an unobstructed view of Timber Island – and in a way I think I always felt like it was lent to us for safe keeping. Because you cannot truly own the beach, the sunrise over the Island, the sand under foot or the crashing surf. I am grateful that our family was entrusted with that piece of property for nearly half a century, and a piece of me will remain there always.

But greater than my gratitude for having called that amazing spot "home" is my gratitude for what it has afforded my family over the years. Tied up in that little investment my dad made all those years ago are so many things.

That house was fourteen drugstores called Freedom Drug plus two more called Economy Drug.
That house was my mom staying home with my sister and I when we were little and needed her most.
That house was two daycare centers where a bunch of other kiddos grew up with a whole lot of TLC.
That house was family vacations near and far.
That house was two little girls who grew up hearing "yes" far more than "no."
That house was a BA from Simmons College and a BS from the University of New England.
That house was the wedding of my dreams in Kennebunkport with the people I love most in the world.
That house was my sister staying home with her son when he was really little and needed her most.
That house was medical bills from that time my mom beat cancer.
That house has been the safety net that has caught us all and has never failed.
That house is our past, but it will also provide my parents with the very best future.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for the amazing home you built for our family. I think it is safe to say that it was the best investment of your life.

And thank you, 9 Sand Point Road – you were so, so good to us.
 

9 Sand Point Road

When You Think They Aren’t Listening

Oh look, I still have a blog. Imagine that!

Over the past year while I wasn't writing I had another baby. (Yes, an entirely new human.) And my mom was diagnosed with cancer. (She is now cancer-free, athankyouverymuch.) Neither of those are reasons not to write; in fact, those events might have been catalysts for amazing writing.

But they weren't, not for me. Mostly I felt tired, and anxious, and like there is a whole lot of excess noise out there. And I didn't much feel like adding to it unless I had something to say that felt worth it. So I was very quiet, and I waited for something to happen that I wanted to tell you about. 

And let's be honest. "You", after a year of not writing, is probably my mom, my sister, a few cousins and a handful of good friends. Which is totally okay with me. I love you people and I'm glad you're still here. 

Today was A's last Star Student day. I have been operating under the assumption that sending my now-middle child to Kindergarten next fall will be easier than sending the oldest or the youngest. As I was handing over the Star Student bag and goodies to A's teacher "for the last time", I realized this is not likely to be the case. Luckily, before I could dwell too much on this "last", the teacher said she just had to tell me something about A.

Apparently during lunch yesterday, two little boys were discussing how they love chocolate so much they want to marry it. (Amen, little guys, amen.) Then they decided they should just marry each other instead. At which point another child pointed out that they could not, in fact, get married because they are both boys. So A interjected, "yes they can. Boys can marry boys, and girls can marry girls. You can marry whoever you love." 

Whoa.

Then I got into my car and I cried and cried. Because apparently, my children do hear me when I talk. Maybe not about the little things – flushing the toilet, picking up their toys, interrupting me incessantly, and so on and so on ad nauseum. But the big things? The "it is my responsibility to teach you to believe these things to the core of your being before I send you out into the world to be a contributing member of society" things? Turns out they are listening. They get it. 

A is only four, and when I cry at things that don't appear outwardly upsetting she gets confused and asks "Mommy, why does your voice sound like that? Why are you sad?" So I can't explain this to her. Instead, I will write it here and perhaps some day she will read it and know how important today is to me.

Thank you, my biggest little girl, for giving me a much-needed sign that I'm doing an okay job raising you. Thank you for being so brave. Don't ever let people tell you what you can and cannot do. (Unless it is me or your dad and you are doing something dangerous or illegal.) And thank you for being the thing I waited all year for – for giving me a reason to write again.

You are my little star. All the days.

Be You

What I Have Already Learned From Kindergarten

Kindergarten is a big milestone for T, yes. That I was expecting. What I wasn't expecting was for it – already, on the very first day – to be a big milestone for me as well. 

I have been agonizing over T's first day of kindergarten for longer than I would care to admit. I have been going through the "what-if's" and "not ready's" and the "if-only's" ad nauseum. I barely slept last night, and when I did I had nightmares about T's first day and all the things that could go wrong. I said I was "hoping for the best and preparing for the worst." I am a liar. I was totally expecting the worst. FOR NOTHING. Because today went fine.

We were out the door on time. I got pictures of my children with actual smiles on their faces at the same time in the same photo. We walked to school, and miraculously the rain held off. T was excited about all of it.

I didn't even cry. I DIDN'T EVEN CRY!

Multiple voicemails and text messages flooded in over the course of the morning. "How did he do? How did YOU do? Is everyone okay?" And I replied, "Great! Okay. YES!" (With a cat emoticon smiley face sometimes, because I have a little problem with overusing the cat emoticon.)

As the day wore on, I felt a little silly. Because I was totally okay. A little sad, a lot nostalgic, but really okay. I spent the better part of this summer dreading something that never ended up happening. No tears, no separation anxiety, nothing. What a waste of my time.

Kindergarten Lesson for the Mama #1: Stop worrying. It might just be fine. (And even if it's not fine, did worrying ever change an outcome?)

Now I want to back up a bit to last year at this time. T got invited to his first ever "friend birthday party" for a kid who I did not know. We went because he was so excited, and I spent the entire time feeling completely awkward and out of place. Everyone was very nice, but it felt like they all knew each other and I was the odd mom out. Yuck.

That was just one example. I have spent the better part of parenthood feeling like "the odd mom out." I had plenty of excuses for why this was – "We just don't know many people here, we're not "from" here, my best friends don't live near us and they're really more my people" – when in reality I was socially awkward and afraid of trying to make new friends.

I complained constantly about not having "people" locally. I envied my friends from away who managed to find their "people" in spite of also being new in town. I accepted the fact that I just wasn't going to have new friends.

Okay, now we can fast forward back to today. Remember that flood of text messages and voicemails I referenced? Some of them were from my friends. New friends that I've made in the past year. And not only that – I knew moms at school! Moms to say hello to, and chat with at drop off and pickup. It was amazing.

I came home and realized, "Ohmygosh all of a sudden I have people here! Yessssss!" And then I wondered, "when did that happen?" I realized it happened at pickup from preschool. And when I discovered that another mom from preschool had a little in A's music class. New neighbors moved in who have become wonderful friends. Through ballet and music and t-ball and soccer we suddenly know people. There are birthday parties and play dates and coffee and "mom's nights out" and new friends – for the kids and for me. (Except the coffee and mom's nights out. Those are just for me.)

Kindergarten Lesson for the Mama #2: You Are Finding Your "People."

So as I sit here, sipping my celebratory glass of wine and reflecting on the day, I am feeling unbelievably grateful. And almost excited for what else this kindergarten adventure might have in store – for T and for his mama.

Don’t Open Pandora’s Box…And Other Dont’s

As previously discussed, this week T begins kindergarten. I am preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. And I am learning A LOT about what not to do with our last days together. For example…

DO NOT open the hope chest that contains mementos of everything from your own high school graduation to your child's preschool graduation. I don't care what you are looking for. If it is really that important, ask your husband for help. 

If you open aforementioned hope chest – which from this day forward will be known as Pandora's box in our house – DO NOT take out the baby books, old photos and Christmas cards. Or go through them with your children, marveling over how little they once were and how big they now are. (Note to self: fill in more information in A's baby book before a. you forget anything else or b. she notices that she is CLEARLY the second child.)

DO NOT take you children to Target on a last minute errand at 6 pm. (This is pretty much a good rule any day of the week.) Because they will behave poorly, but when they beg you for toys you won't even put up a fight because the trainwreck that is the voice in your head will say "it's your last time before kindergarten. It is the end of an ERA." And then you will spend 5x as much as usual due to your fragile emotional state.

DO NOT let them dictate their own bedtimes or have "sleepovers" in each other's rooms. It's not June. We don't have time to get "back on track." School starts in TWO DAYS and my kid is going to be an exhausted mess.

Finally, DO NOT drink more than one glass of wine on any given night. Otherwise, you may end up creepily staring at your sleeping almost kindergartener humming "You Are My Sunshine" while your mind plays a memory montage of your last 5+ years together. (As a side note, I think saving all those extra glasses of wine for the post-first day celebration is totally okay. Cheers!)

The Reasons I’m Not Writing

Because work feels crazy. Because I have carpal tunnel in both wrists. Because there is always someone who is hungry, or thirsty, or wanting something from me. Because would rather watch TV. Because I do not have make time. Because I am not ready to say what comes next, but I know I am running out of time.

My kid is going to kindergarten. He is ready. I am not ready. 

Since the day T was born, I have been counting down in my head the days until he begins kindergarten. It feels, by far, like the biggest and scariest milestone out there – I knew it even then. While it is a beginning of many things, it feels like an end. And I am not ready.

I am not ready for school bus rides and field trips where strangers take T and show him parts of the world that we haven't gotten to yet. 

I am not ready for hurt feelings and mean kids and T being left out on the playground. 

I am not ready for homework instead of playing outside after school.

I am not ready to abide by school vacations as the only weeks of the year when we are supposed to travel.

I am not ready to concede the fact that this part – the part where we are unequivocally in charge, and the world is largely what we have built it to be for T – is over.

Most of all, I am not ready to walk him to school, to wave goodbye and see my little boy disappear inside what seems like an awfully big school. And to realize that with each passing day, he will seem a little bigger and the school will seem a little smaller. Because he will be, and it will be.

And that is the way it is supposed to go. 

He is ready. I am not ready. 

 

Come on, Mamas

My sister is working on this project. This project to help us mamas celebrate ourselves. She is trying to put together this slide show with pictures of mamas with a quote saying what they've learned about themselves over the past year. As women. As mamas. As guardians of tiny – or not-so-tiny – humans. To lift us up, during the one time each year that we allow ourselves to do that.

Here's the problem: we're not worthy. We don't think we're worthy. What do I mean? 

My people – my people who are my go-to people, the ones who I call sobbing because I'm sad, or I'm frustrated, or I dyed my hair bright freaking red – are silent over this request. And, when I press them, they say "I just don't know what to say. I don't have any good photos of myself." What I hear is "I'm not enough. As a mama, I am never enough." 

I know this because my own photo isn't done. Because I feel like I'm not doing a good job. I am never doing a good enough job with these tiny humans who have been entrusted to my care. I am failing them. Every. Single. Day.

But if you asked me to do this for any of my people, I would be able to give at least five reasons why they are a great mama. Five things have learned from them over these last twelve months about being a mama. So, anonymously, I say these things to them, my favorite people in the world. They know who they are.

  • One of you learned that sometimes doing the right thing by your kid means that you move to a better school district, you make the best of what turned out to be not what you thought, and you try to move again really quickly before your kid notices just what kind of place you ended up moving to. 
  • One of you learned that sometimes life can change in an instant, and you end up feeling so grateful that it ended up being okay after all. But you hug your kids and especially your husband a little tighter every day, just in case.
  • One of you learned that you can do really hard things. Like be a "tough mudder" and put on a brave face when hard things happen – like losing your family pet or your kid breaking a bone. Because when you tell them it will be okay, your tiny humans believe you. And that is amazing.
  • One of you learned that the third baby is not "one more." It is a LOT more. It is EXPONENTIALLY more. Even so, you are now a "party of five." And it is perfect.
  • One of you learned that being a stay-at-home mom is harder than you thought, and kind of lonely. And you miss your extended family, especially your own mom. But you are rocking it anyway. 
  • One of you learned that you're going to join this crazy ride that we call motherhood, and I know you're going to be a natural at it. 
  • One of you learned that sometimes you have to stop making sacrifices for other people and do what is right for you. Because at the end of the day, if the mama isn't happy then the tiny humans aren't happy. They know. They always know. 

But still….I don't know what I will say on my own photo. But I imagine it will be something like this.

"This year, I learned to breathe more. To yell less. And to wake up tomorrow and try again. And again. And again. It never gets easier, but I am learning to go easier on myself and on my tiny humans." 

So, if I asked you to participate in this project, and you didn't think you could – please reconsider. And if I didn't ask you, please leave a comment and tell me you want to join our little project.

Because if you care enough to think you aren't enough, I am willing to bet that you most certainly are. Xo.

 


 

In honor of Mother's Day and this project, I am going to do my first giveaway. The ROPES Maine was kind enough to send me a couple of their bracelets to help promote the blog. Obviously, I was over the moon.

One, because this is my first giveaway. Two, because bracelets from The ROPES are on my very short list of absolute favorite things. I have many, and my wrist feels naked without at least one. And three, because any time I can talk about Maine and the awesome things Mainers do and what a cool state we live in, I want to do that.

Here's how this first giveaway is going to work. If you submit a photo (via email to alwaysperfectlyimperfectblog@gmail.com or on the Facebook page) for the Mother's Day project, you are entered. If you leave a comment below (you don't have to be a mama to comment!), you are entered. (Up to two entries per person – one for a photo, one for a comment.) The giveaway ends Monday at 9 pm EST, and I will send the winner the green and gold bracelet show on the far right.

If you don't want to take a chance that you're going to win a ROPES bracelet here, or you want one in time for Mother's Day, there are some great local shops selling these. My favorite is spaces kennebunkport. They have a phenomenal website, too, in case you aren't local. 


UPDATE: WE HAVE A WINNER!

A sincere thank you to everyone who participated in the Mother's Day video project. The final product is located here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jC7Vr_5ge6k&feature=youtu.be

Also, congratulations to Layne Woodward, our ROPES bracelet winner! Xo.

For Boston

So, Boston. I've been keeping quiet, not watching the news, turning down the radio – basically burying my head in the sand over Boston. I claim Boston as my own the same way many of us do. I arrived in Boston when I was 18 and left when I was 24, and in those six years some of the very best times of my life happened. 

I feel the way about Boston that I bet many people do about home – the ones who don't return and settle a few towns away like I did. I don't visit enough, but when I do I feel like I'm reconnecting with something that I've lost track of, and I promise to come back sooner the next time.

This thing that happened hurts my heart. And I've decided that I'm going to let it. I don't want to get over it, not yet. I don't want to just be grateful for the fact that no one close to me was hurt or killed even though a few were thisclose. (But I am grateful. So, so grateful.) I want to acknowledge that a lot more was lost that day than lives and limbs. What happened Monday will change that city and that marathon forever. 

When I was in my early 20's, a friend from Boston was killed in a car accident. He was nineteen, and he was one of the best human beings I had ever known. It was a profound loss. The day of his funeral was a gorgeous sunny day, and that really pissed me off. In fact, everything that day pissed me off because the world didn't stop. Most of the world didn't even know  what it had lost. How dare the sun shine, how dare the world not stop when his life did?

I wonder if people feel that way in Boston. I cannot begin to imagine what the victims of this horrible thing and their families are feeling like, but I bet some of them feel like I did then. 

If I were still religious, I would pray but I think I've forgotten how to do even that. What I did instead, when I realized that this Boston thing was making me cry and lose sleep and not feeling better as the days go by, was go to the beach with the tiny humans. I don't even know if I realized why I was going until I got there. I could breathe easier. I could be quiet, and still, and figure it out.

And what I figured out is that to feel better, I've got to feel bad. In solidarity with my city, the city who gave me so much and made me the person that I am. I know Boston is strong. I know something like this can't break a place like that; but it can irrevocably change it. And that's what I'm most sad about. Boston is a city steeped in history – and this is a chapter that it just didn't need. Boston, you deserved so much better. 

I'm going to cry and be sad a little longer. Then I'm going to be brave and make plans to take the train into the city with the tiny humans. It's been too long since I've been "home", and something like this isn't going to keep me away.

 

 

Love is Love

Last Election Day, I wrote a post about marriage equality. It was a big deal to me, especially because the Maine legislature had already voted in favor of same sex marriage in 2009 before a ballot referendum resulted in a "people's veto" of this important law. It felt like our state's second chance to do the right thing.

Now that the issue is on a national stage, I feel much the same way, which is this:

I remember when I was growing up, I thought it was incredibly odd that my parents remembered segregation and the civil rights movement of the 60's. I was all, "dude, you guys are super old. That was, like, ages ago." Except that to them, it really wasn't. And in the grand scheme of American history, it really wasn't. Now, in 2012, on a day where I cast my vote in favor of a second term for our first African-American president, I want the same for my kids.
 
Here's what I mean. By the time my kids are in grade school, I want them to think marriage equality is a given. I want them to make snarky comments about how archaic and antiquated the thought process by which you tell Americans who they are and are not allowed to marry is. I want that so badly it hurts.
 
I generally do not talk politics socially – I do not think it is polite, and I am not particularly passionate or well informed about many political issues. But this marriage equality thing doesn't feel political – it feels like a human rights issue.  (You can read the rest of the original marriage equality post here.)
 
Three little words about three little words – Love is Love.

 

Just So We’re Clear on the R Word

So mostly I'm funny. But every once in awhile, I have to be serious about something that feels too big not to mention and isn't funny at all. Like this.

There is a lot of talk about rape in my air space right now. I am simultaneously heartsick and bewildered. There is black, there is white; there is yes, there is no; there is consent and there is rape.

I don't have kids that are there yet, but because I'm a mama I know they will be some day. And we will have to have "the talk." (One of many horrific, awkward, but oh-so-important talks.) Whenever it is, I will feel like it is too soon, and I will be afraid I am unprepared. But I imagine it will go something like this. 

The Boy Version:

Some day, you will find yourself in a situation – if you haven't already – where you want to have sex with someone. When that time comes, I will hope that you are sober, I will hope that you are safe (as in using protection) and I will hope that you are committed (in some capacity). But even if you are not any or all of those things, there is one thing you – it – must be. Consensual. 

And just so we're clear, consensual does not mean:

  • That she's a certain kind of girl, and she's done this before with, like, everyone. 
  • That she's wearing a certain type of outfit, or even nothing at all.
  • That she's been flirting with you all night and you can tell she wants to.
  • That she didn't – or, God forbid can't – say no. 

Consensual means that she said yes. It doesn't mean she implied it, and it doesn't mean that you assumed it. It means you looked at her, and you asked her, and she said yes. 

As an aside, If you can't look at someone and ask them that question, point blank, you have no business being in that situation. So get out of it.

The Girl Version:

Some day, you will find yourself in a situation – if you haven't already – where you want to have sex with someone. When that time comes, I will hope that you are sober, I will hope that you are safe (as in using protection) and I will hope that you are committed (in some capacity). But even if you are not any or all of those things, there is one thing you – it – must be. Consensual. 

And just so we're clear, consensual does not mean: 

  • That you've done this before, so it is expected that you will do it again.
  • That you are dressed a certain way.
  • That you have been dancing or behaving a certain way all night.
  • That you didn't – or God forbid can't – say no.

Consensual means that you said yes. Not that you didn't say no. Not that you didn't mean it when you said no.

You don't owe sex to anyone. Not if he bought you dinner. Not if he drove you home. Not if you led him on. Not if he's been dating you for weeks or months or even years. If someone doesn't ask you, point blank, and you do not give your consent, it is not okay. 

With both:

I do not expect you to save yourselves for marriage, although I sure would like it if you wait until you are in love. I do expect you to accept that fact that having sex comes with feelings and responsibilities and cannot be undone once it is done. EVER. Behave accordingly.