Back to School… The Aching Heart of a Mother

IMG_1543Over the past few weeks, kids across Australia have headed back to school Lazy summer days are over and the school bell beckons our attention. How did our holidays slip by so quickly? Where did the days, the plans, the sleepovers go? Alas, we are faced with lunchboxes, new diaries, schedules, school fairs, sports carnivals, meet the teacher nights and homework.

This year, I sent off my eldest, Sophia to complete her final three terms of Year 12. Our son, Gabriel, is in Year 9, and our sweet little Ella is in Year 5. How did we get here? Where did the years go?

Whilst scrolling through Facebook and looking at everyone’s back to school photos, I landed on a picture and post by my friend

Katie and her big boy

Katie and her big boy

Katie. Katie’s eldest is heading off to the big school, and by that I mean Kindergarten. Her photo said so much. I could see the sadness in her eyes and the excitement and anticipation in his. The eagerness to step into this new adventure was all about him and that familiar pang in the heart and guts could be seen in Katie. Her comment read: “The only photo I was allowed to get of this big boy starting school this morning. We’ve found ourselves here in the blink of an eye (my blink – not his). Every day has been a treasure and today especially … My big, brave boy walking off to class with his puppy (Teddy) under his arm.”

As I read her words, I found myself lost in a world of grief. I remember the first day of big school for all my children and today, especially Sophia. I commented on Katie’s post and confirmed the blink. We are warned of it when we have our children, but it never seemed real – until now! Whether for Katie, who is embarking on the school years, or myself who is nearing the end of a chapter for one child, I desperately don’t want the story to end, yet I am excited and feel that I am being prepared for Part 2, or the “to be continued”.

As I drove my children to school (yes, I made my 17-year-old let me drive her to school for her final first day of secondary education), I looked over at her sitting so confidently and beautifully beside me. In a blink, my mind raced back to the day when I was driving her to prep, perched in her car seat, lunchbox grasped in her hand, feet dangling and listening to the Wiggles. Today, I looked at this woman who is prepared to face the world, to go out and explore and to live a life she loves. There were no Wiggles in the background; rather it was something she had chosen from her playlist, a new band she had discovered that speaks her language. I felt a tear in my heart.

I thought about the years of school and all the moments that could be found in the BLINK. The hormonal days I’ve had driving them to school, yelling like a lunatic, knowing that my hormones were causing me to be a complete nutter. The days that her hormones were all over the place causing her to freak out over the length of her skirt, shoelaces or the shade of her foundation. Mums of teenage girls, you know what I’m talking about. The times when I forgot it was costume day or, the many mornings I dug through the contents of my car trying my best to create news stories out of discarded straws, matchbox cars or business cards simply because news day crept up each week far too quickly. What about the birthday cupcakes that I didn’t bake and the ones the other mums did, the decorated ones that deserved a spread in bloody Martha Stewart Living? What about the assemblies where awards were given out for picking up the most garbage on the school yard or acing the spelling bee? I made it to some, but others I missed because I simply hadn’t put them in my calendar. It’s in these moments that I scream at social media because undoubtedly another doting mother has posted or texted me a picture of my children because I wasn’t there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful for the photo that was sent, it’s just the personal guilt I struggle with.

Then there’s the parental academic and sports jousting. Thankfully, I did my best to avoid this trap, and I would advise my younger friends to do the same. Trust me, it kills friendships and damages your kids. In saying that, as a mother who works out of the home, I have been guilty of secretly despising the mums who don’t miss a beat. Those who bake, complete every inch of homework on time, never forget a library book, attend every excursion, incursion, book parade and fair. There have been times when this has bugged me, downright annoyed me and left me feeling “less than”.

But today, as I look at my daughter, I’m so glad I learned to be grateful for the picture-taking, baking mums who have filled the gaps when I have fallen short. The ones who have cheered my children on from the sidelines when I didn’t make it or I was away working.  I am forever grateful, and I too have held their children when they’ve been hurt or have forgotten a book. I have been there and although I highlight the times I missed a beat I know that I was there more than not. In fact, my husband and I have made every effort to attend as much as possible for our kids. But, the cookie doesn’t always crumble the way we would like it to.

What I do know is that as we have matured as mothers and fathers and are now looking at the women and men we have raised, we realise that we have grown with them. We have become better. We celebrate each other knowing that our children will make mistakes. They may not always get straight A’s or become the school captain or valedictorian. They might get suspended, talk back to a teacher or upset another student and that’s okay because it is all part of their journey.

To my eldest, Sophia, I want to thank you. Thank you for being amazing. Thank you for always being so teachable and allowing us to shape you, because as we’ve shaped you, you’ve changed us. Thank you for letting me re-live my school years through the many projects we did together – I apologise for taking the reins during these times and becoming a crazed mother. You know I LOVE the project work!!! Thank you for the moments that you have created, the ones that have had us doubled over in laughter and the ones that have seen us go through a tissue box. Thank you for working hard and getting good grades because that has seriously made our job much easier. Thank you for becoming my morning DJ on the days where only JB, Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers or, more recently, Lana Del Rey and the infamous Kanye West would take us to where we needed to be. Thank you for those times we sang Adele’s HELLO and Bonnie Tyler’s TOTAL ECLIPSE OF THE HEART at the top of our lungs. Thank you for getting your driver’s licence and giving us the opportunity to spend 120 hours in the car with you. Hours I will never regret. Slow trips to Canberra, hair-raising lane changes and a few near misses. I’m sorry for those “grandma” moments when I hit the invisible brakes and grabbed for the door handle.

As for your school lunches …. well, I tried my best, shunning processed food in favour of healthier options, but it’s fair to say that dinner is more my priority. Dinner is when we get to gather at the end of the day, linger around the table and share stories of the day’s adventures. Oh, the joy.

To the parents out there who are still tearing up either because, as my friend Katie, your little one has just started, or because, like me, you hope the days linger and slow down, just relax and savour the moments. Take it all in because if you blink, you might miss it. As parents, be intentional about cheering each other on, it will only help our school communities and the relationships we find ourselves in. Life is way too short to concern ourselves with what we perceive other people’s problems to be. As the good book says: “Whoever is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” And in one of my favourite quotes, J.M. Barry encourages us: “Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.” Wise words, indeed.

 

A Cup of Warm Milk

milk-jug
So I’m sharing this article today simply because one of my readers had remembered this article and she shared how it had touched her. She asked if I would repost it so here we go…. I hope you enjoy!

Read More

Parenting Tips | Separate the Truth from the Lie

parenting-tipTo my fellow parents….. Have you ever found yourself wishing that when you left the hospital with your newborn babe in your arms the Doctor or Nurse would have handed you a book saying, ‘Read this and your ride will be smooth – it has all the answers to every question you’ll ever have hidden in these pages.’ Not sure about you but there were times and still are when I find myself reaching for such a book but alas it’s never to be found.

Read More

The Strength of $1.49

 

I know it’s July, and many of my friends are enjoying long, lazy summer days (although for us in the Southern Hemisphere, we are longing for those days to return) and Christmas most likely isn’t on your mind. In saying that, I know a few friends who start their Christmas shopping now. I’ve always admired them but have never been able to keep up with them. In any case, this story is one that I’m sure you will enjoy.

I wrote this some time ago and have decided it was worth a repost/recycle so here it is. How a small $1.49 can make a big difference in a child’s life.

The Strength of $1.49

The countdown to Christmas is here and from what I witnessed this weekend, the shopping frenzy has started. The malls are bursting with people and the hum of conversation almost drowns out the carols that are being played through the internal sound system. The parking lots have become more like scenes from movies like ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’ or perhaps ‘Smash Up Derby’. Finding the perfect spot and securing it, before someone else squeezes in without a nod is quickly becoming the norm. Everyone seems to be in a rush to get the perfect gift for that special someone. Others have lists as long as their arm with names scratched out and check marks in the appropriate columns. Simply put, it’s a crazy situation out there.

Gift buying is such a beautiful thing, especially when it’s well thought out and not just a quick pick off the shelf. For many of us, we have been racking our brains for the perfect gift for our children or perhaps grandchildren. Advertisers are busy sharing their messages about their product through television, flyers and email notifications. They influence us and sometimes help us with our purchasing decisions. Whatever the case may be, there is a message to ‘buy now’. According to retailers, without specific products both your child/grandchild and ourselves will be less of a human being if we don’t have or purchase the product of the season.

You may recall, a few years ago, we read or heard about the chaos surrounding Black Friday shopping in the USA. One 61-year-old man was trampled to death by a rush to buy. Another woman sprayed a fellow shopper with pepper spray, all to secure the product she wanted. It’s in these moments the question of need versus want begs to be asked. Whenever buying, whether it be during the Christmas season or not, I ask myself and my children to determine whether the decision to purchase is based on need or want. I ask this just to give us a moment to pause and to consider.

A few Christmas’ ago my youngest (at the time she was 3.5 yrs old) was still at that tender age when the boxes and wrapping paper (post gift opening) were the most exciting part of Christmas morning. My husband and I had wondered what to give her, we considered the season’s popular Princess Barbie but knew that wasn’t really what made her smile. We found it because advertisers were telling us to, yet it didn’t fit her personality, so what was the point of buying a $40.00 Barbie just because we felt obliged to.

As Christmas day approached, and the excitement in the house grew with the impending arrival of Santa Claus, my little one found herself drawn to the tree. She couldn’t resist the shiny paper, the well-wrapped gifts shouting ‘tear me open’. She joyfully shook every gift and tried her hardest to peek, without tearing the paper. She kept track of the days through her chocolate advent calendar and would check the fireplace (on a regular basis) to make sure Santa’s landing place was acceptable. She was the picture of excitement and a beautiful example of what Christmas can bring to a heart, whether young or old.

Finally, the morning arrived, and it was time to find out what was hidden beneath the shiny paper. Our designated Santa handed out each gift with an HO, HO, HO. The excitement in the room could have been bottled and sold for a hefty price. My youngest ripped and tore and unwrapped like a wild child. She squealed with delight when she saw ‘Darla’ the doll she had been hoping and praying for. There were a few barbies to add to her collection, however not the expensive and very popular Princess Barbie, yet even these caused her to jump for joy and giggle with excitement. In that moment, as we watched our three children unwrap their gifts, every line-up we had stood in, every wintery road we had driven on, every hour of wrapping felt so good and was worth it. Thankfully, we hadn’t gone overboard; we didn’t break our budget yet our kids didn’t miss out on any of the excitement of Christmas.

Finally, a few last little gifts were distributed. My little one was handed a flimsy gift that was wrapped in the ‘left over’ pieces of paper because this gift was mostly an afterthought. Mustering the same enthusiasm as she had when opening her doll ‘Darla’ she tore open this seemingly lesser gift and much to her surprise and overwhelming pleasure it contained a pack of four school notebooks that cost a total of $1.49. You see, our little one loved (in her words) to do homework. From the time, she could hold a pencil she would write, draw and scribble on any piece of paper she could find. So, to keep her homework and art together, we bought her a set of scribblers.

After the lines, the consideration and the conversations about what to get her, our little girl stood in the middle of the room, clutching her new notebooks. She was surrounded by her new doll, her Barbies, some candies and a few other gifts yet with the notebooks firmly held in her hand she exclaimed for all to hear, “This is the bestest present I ever gotted”.

I share this with you to help take the pressure off. We are so conditioned, for some reason, to think that our children need the latest and greatest in every area of life. The pressure can be overwhelming and at times crippling. Through this little story and the words of a 3.5-year-old may I encourage you to be creative this Christmas. Know that your children, like mine, will not suffer, nor will they be forever damaged if they don’t have exactly what they want, when they want it. Sometimes the greatest gifts cost the least.

Use kind words, your arms of love and hearts of compassion and see your family go from strength to strength.
Susan ~

 

For Mothers Everywhere

With Mother’s Day not all that far away I’ve been thinking about what it means and feels like to be a Mother. I’ve heard it said that being a Mother gives you the opportunity to see your heart walking around right in front of you. Fellow Mothers I know you ‘get’ what that means. In saying that, there may be some who are reading this that can’t relate. Let me attempt to bring some perspective to this. Try and imagine your heart outside of you yet it remains beating on the inside. Imagine it walking around right in front of you…. Yes, we are talking about your HEART. If it was right out in front of you, engaging in the world, we would all do everything to protect it from….. EVERYTHING! We wouldn’t want it to get dirty, to be touched by anyone, we wouldn’t want it to be too far away at anytime, nor would we want it to be looked at inappropriately, to be spoken to with disrespect, to be disregarded in anyway…. it’s our heart for heaven’s sake, it gives life, provides so much and is so necessary for our lives to continue..

That, is just a glimpse of what it feels like to be a mother.

Being a mother is such an interesting role to play in this beautiful life we live. I promise, in any one day, you can travel through every emotion we humans experience and it can happen at the speed of light. One moment it can be exciting and you’re so happy you feel like you’re going to burst and you never knew you could love something so much. The next you are questioning your every move, every thought, every decision and yet in the next you are gripped with anger, frustration and even pain. There can be days of sadness and regret… This list doesn’t even come close to bringing expression to what a day as a mother can and does feel like. Thankfully, the way I am wired most days I experience the happier side of being a mother however, there are days that bring you to your knees and there is a cry that comes from the depths of your being that no language can express.

I write this today in honour of all the Mothers who are doing their best, trying their hardest and loving their babies (I refer to even my eldest teenager as my baby!) through every stage and emotion that comes your way. I was prompted to write this after seeing this amazing video that truly brings expression to the emotion and the ties we have to our children. I hope you enjoy… As for me, once I finish writing this article and posting, I am heading out for a big walk (with the dog), some much needed me time and prayer time. I am grateful that it’s not in my own strength that I raise my children.

Small Things Matter

Today on GetRealLive Radio we kicked off our relationship week with a great conversation. We hosted John & Helen Burns who are relationship experts based in Vancouver. There were a number of great things they shared about how they have managed to keep their marriage not only together and not striving but rather thriving. Yes, they have walked through some hard situations and there have been moments where they thought about packing it all in however, they choose to fight and they have recently celebrated their 38th Wedding Anniversary.

During the conversation we transitioned into relationships with our children and they shared openly from their experience. They have raised three lovely daughters and are now enjoying their grandchildren. When talking about developing strong, lasting relationships with our children they shared simple stories about things that they did with their girls, throughout the years. The stories they shared inspired our listeners and myself so much, that today immediately after the show I did something small but significant with one of my children.

As a believer of the mixture of quality and quantity time with our children I decided to put action behind my words and make today count. Following our radio show I began packing a picnic lunch. With the weather in Calgary being extraordinary and the warmth of the sun finally finding it’s way here I thought a picnic was a perfect way to treat my youngest. So, with our picnic lunch securely packed I headed off to school and surprised her by picking her up for  a quick impromptu picnic lunch.

The look on my little girls face said it all. I could tell she was excited, that she felt special and loved. She knew that I was thinking of her and that she mattered. So, with the news of the picnic she made her way to the car, skipping all the way. Once in the car the questions began, “Why did you decide to do this?” “Is Dad coming?” “Are Gabriel & Sophia coming?” “Where are we going?” With every question I responded letting her know that this was all about her and that it was only the two of us. Seeing her through the rearview mirror I was confident this was a moment she would remember for a long time.

We arrived at the park, I put the blanket out, opened our picnic basket and lunch began. We talked and laughed, she told me about her day and asked me about mine. It was divine. Our lunch wasn’t long (she had to be back in time for her afternoon classes) and it wasn’t extravagant but it was impacting, not only for her but for me as well.

Today, I managed and spent my time well. Today, I made both quality and quantity time matter. Today, I did something small for the youngest in our family but in the smallness of it all I know that my little girl felt special, important and valued. I sign this article off with a smile on my face because sometimes it’s the small and seemingly insignificant things we do (in life) that leave the largest mark. Go out and enjoy your family, your kids, your spouse, your friends. Whoever it is in your world, simply enjoy and remember relationships matter.

Susan xo

Listen to interview below on demand or download from iTunes.

Listen to internet radio with Susan J Sohn on Blog Talk Radio