I can’t believe it’s been months since I last posted on here. Every so often, I wanted to find something to post about but I wasn’t sure if what I had to say was important enough when it came to our house hunting hopes. Instead of posting my feelings, I spent more time developing many great friendships and becoming more proficient at my job. My family and I have also had a couple of adventures of our own including a trip to the Children’s Museum in Phoenix, the Phoenix Zoo (where we fed giraffes!), and celebrated Avery’s 4th birthday not too long ago. Unfortunately, as much as we’ve been given great blessings, I’ve also been privy to the greatest loss a person can suffer; one of my best friends lost her 5 year old stepson this week.
I just don’t understand why life is full of such pain; this is the fourth time in my life that a murder has been so intimately known to me. My friend Bart Carroll was murdered when I was 18; he was a great friend in high school and a one-time boyfriend of mine. He only had a short career as a United States Marine that ended with his death at the hands of a National Guardsman who killed him for his car. Ildiko Freitas, a girl I took a Forensic Anthropology course with at University of Wyoming, and her parents were killed when boys they knew killed her and her family for her car. One of my cousins lost her former high school boyfriend,Tarique Mitchell, and father of her first born earlier this year in a tragic shooting that I fear might not be solved. And so recently, my dear friend lost her stepson,Ian Blair, to a domestic violence incident that occurred in his biological mother’s home. There is just no excuse for why all these great people had their lives tragically cut short; there is so much all of them could have accomplished had they lived longer. There are great milestones (graduations, first love, marriage, becoming parents, and watching their kids grow up, etc.) they were deprived of as part of their existence here on Earth. It breaks my heart that their families will also never be the same. I don’t think the answers any of us receive about their deaths will provide us with the closure and dignity Bart, Ildiko, Tarique, and sweet little Ian deserve; we can only hope that some justice is done through our legal system.
So, I have been reminded that my desire to one day be a homeowner is such a small part of my life. While my many house hunting adventures through model homes brings me great joy as we wait to one day be homeowners, those trips are nothing compared to the joy of my friends and family. It’s weird to go about my normal routines and to know intimately that each loss creates a “new normal.” These new normals will have happy moments, great frustrations, and be filled with bittersweet milestones. I have to remind myself to not feel guilty that each day I go to work, make dinner, or walk through homes as we did today for inspiration, I am experiencing a moment that brings clarity or joy to my life when my friends are struggling through their grief. I know not all days will be bad for them, but I still feel selfish for having the luxury of doing so many “normal” things right now with my family. I know we all must learn each day not to take our families and friends for granted and so, I try to remind myself that heartache can appear on our doorstep any day and the best we can do is appreciate what we have, strive to be our best, and be empathetic to anyone in need.
Because I thrive on self-improvement, I try to incorporate the behaviors I learn in my marriage, my parenting skills, and how I treat my friends. This year, I have learned more about how my friends and family members are suffering from all sort of normal human conditions (deaths, anxieties, PTSD, post partum depression, MS, cancer, and seizures, to name a few). I know I am not in a position to fix their hurts, but as a friend and family member I can stand by them for whatever emotional support or physical comfort they might need. Rather recently, I read a book entitled What Smart Couples Know by Patricia Covalt, PhD, which discusses the topic of emotional intelligence in our significant relationships and it has given me insights on how to be a better person and how to relate better to the people in my life.
I know that I tend to feel most challenged by my role as a mother. It is not a role that comes naturally and sometimes I have to keep myself from cringing when other women describe how all they’ve ever wanted to be was a “mother.” I just don’t know how that feels although I’ve been privileged to become a mom and planned my pregnancy. My daughter is wonderful and I am not afraid to admit she puts me through her own four year old version of hell when she really wants to get her way; usually it involved whining,tossing her possessions everywhere, and trying to run off because these antics allow her to enjoy my immediate attention. I don’t know if it sounds awful that sometimes I find playing with Legos, reading simply structured books, and drawing on cardboard a little mind-numbing. It’s not that I don’t want to find activities to do with my child but it gets so frustrating that I live in a world that constantly harps on women to fill their days with lots of educational tasks, brain development activities, and lots of physical activity for their kids. Sometimes, I feel like the world forgets that I am also gone 9 hours a day at my job providing income for my family and that there’s also a commute involved that eats up more hours in my day. My kid is asleep before I leave and when I get home at 6, that precious time is spent cooking dinner, eating dinner, sometimes enjoying simple activities and then Avery’s bedtime routine at 8. Sorry world, that’s only about 2 hours I get to spend with my kid a day during the work week!!!
Thankfully, there’s more time on the weekend to compensate but let me be the first to tell you when it comes to spending time with my kid, I don’t want it to be just kid-centric. I am not going to Mommy and Me gym classes. I like teaching my kid to help out in the kitchen, I like when we take her on house hunting adventures with us, and I like family walks around the neighborhood. I don’t want to get sucked up into this world’s “over parenting and over working” agenda. I need a job to support my family and I also need a job to give me a chance to develop my own identity. I also greatly enjoy being a wife and mother because I have two people who love me dearly in this world; however, we need a family-focused life instead of this “making a kid happy” lifestyle I see constantly around me. My kid is part of my “everything” but everything does not need to be about her, if that makes any sense.
She will still learn math, reading, science, art, and plenty of social skills through our walks, meal preparations, shopping habits, and all hosts of normal day-to-day activities. I just don’t want to feel like I have to sit down with flash cards every day, those letter printouts she’ll trace plenty enough of in kindergarten, and every developmentally appropriate book I find at the library. “Dumbing” myself down to do these activities with my kids annoys the living shit out of me and I get tired of other moms telling me how to parent my kid. While I hope I have years and years to teach her and raise her according to our values and beliefs, I also want her to forge her own identity growing up. I think a good part of that development is going to come from treating her every day like she one more step closer to adulthood.
With Ian’s passing this week, I’ve had to describe the sensitive topic of death with her at an age I never expected we’ve have this conversation. I took her with me to the hospital and while she didn’t get to see Ian, I talked to her during the car ride about how Ian was going to pass away and how sad his family would be. I reminded her that we had to be quiet at the hospital. She listened intently the whole drive there asking questions along the way and when we got to the hospital, everything went out the window. She loved the hospital and enjoyed running around in the lobby and chasing after a remote control car a slightly older boy was playing with nearby. I was a mix of frustrated but also happy that she could still enjoy such little moments. After we took the elevator to go upstairs, she listened better and calmed down a bit. When we arrived on Ian’s floor, she patiently listened to my instructions and smiled politely to people nearby. I knew I didn’t have long to stay because it was around her nap time and while she was behaving, I had a short window to pass along a memento to be later given to my friend before Avery’s defiant “I am not napping” attitude kicked in. We left the hospital shortly thereafter and she surprised me by asking to sit down on a bench and “relax”. Seriously, my kid asked to relax.
Those little moments remind me that I am raising an excellent child and it’s when she tells me to “relax” that I know she’s raising me as a parent. She is a little free spirit who reminds me I don’t need to have everything under control. There isn’t a manual for what I am doing but I can teach her about what life has taught me and she can teach me about the person God created her to be.