Women I Admire

Today is International Women’s Day, where we honor women who have made amazing contributions to the world.  Of course, we have the usual honorees, such as Frida Kahlo, Harriet Tubman, Marie Curie, Benazir Bhutto, Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hanan AshrawiRuth Bader Ginsburg, Mary McLeod Bethune, and so many, many, more.

But I want to talk about some of the women who inspire me on the daily.  They aren’t famous, but they contribute to my life and the lives of many others within their communities.  They are women who are involved in helping others and kindness and giving back and they don’t think that they are heroes.  But they are.  And so, I’d like to dedicate my post today to them.  Here is my list of admired women, in no particular order.

ROSLYN BURCH

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Roslyn is the Family Engagement Liaison for Sam Houston High School in the Arlington ISD.  She serves over 3700 students, their parents, 254 teachers, community members, and local businesses.  She has held this position since 2006.  This woman is AMAZING.  She has  been the point of contact for marrying up parents and students and teachers with various resources over the years.  She began a monthly “Coffee with the Principal” where the principal meets with parents and community members each month and shares coffee and light snacks while discussing ongoing projects, events, and issues at the school.  This idea was picked up by many other FELs throughout the district and is a great way to keep communication open between school administrations and the parents of their students.  Roslyn continues to work with various local businesses such as Texas Trust Credit Union, Vive by Design, South Texas Dental, to name a few.  Roslyn is devoted to engaging parents in the Sam Houston High School family, not only because it is her job, but because she firmly believes that if these parents are able to access a walking club or aerobics lessons, classes in how to use a budget or apply for a credit union account, or find a good dentist locally, then the parents will know that this school is a trusted resource for them, as well as for their children.  Roslyn Burch has taken her role as Family Engagement Liaison to an entirely different level by engaging, not only the families, but the entire community.  She is a woman I admire because she is able to bring a variety of people and organizations together to work as a unit for the benefit of our students.  And that is not a small thing.  Roslyn Burch is also mother to two wonderful children, who remain her number one priority.

SARA MAYO

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Sara is a Special Education teacher at Sam Houston High School.  She used to teach my daughter, Randa, who has Autism.  This woman has not only enriched the lives of all of her students, but also came up with an idea that would allow high school students with significant disabilities attend their own prom, leveling the social playing field and providing accommodations for some of the usual roadblocks that prevent these kids from attending their school prom.  Her vision became an Eagle Scout project for Chase Christenson, in 2008 and has since turned into the Starry Night Prom, a registered 501 (c) 3 Non-Profit Organization of which she is President.  Starry Night Prom is currently preparing to host their 11th all expenses paid prom.  Sara Mayo is also very active in her church, the Arlington Elks Lodge, advocating for special needs students in the community, the Angel Tree project, and RSD awareness.  She is mother to two amazing kids.

VENETIA WILSON

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Venetia is one of those sensitive souls that will cry over any Kleenex commercial, but will fight fiercely for kids who have been dealt an injustice.  This woman amazes me.  She has six wonderful children, two grandchildren, and works a full-time job in the Arlington ISD, helps family members and friends in a moment’s notice, and advocates for the special needs community.  Venetia learned the rules of volleyball in order to support her daughters throughout their high school, select, and club volleyball careers.  She has been known to drive anywhere from three to seven hours to support her girls’ college teams.  She is currently using that same enthusiasm to support her youngest three children in their love for the fine arts, by researching music and singing to help them find the right  paths for honing their crafts.  Venetia Wilson is passionate in everything that she does, from helping other parents to shape their student’s IEP to insisting that Coca-Cola is a vegetable.  She’s an engaged member of our community and an awesome source of inspiration.

MONIKA WORSLEY

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Monika is a recovering attorney, mother of two amazing kids, chronic volunteer, and the craftiest person I’ve ever met.  She is where creativity, intelligence, beauty, and hilarity meet.  Her ability to juggle so many commitments to school, work, and family and still manage to remember to go home and feed the dog, makes her the poster child for Multi-Tasker of the Year.  I love that she keeps her law license current and chooses the cases that she wants to take.  Monika has inspired her children to consider their own impact on the world around them by encouraging them to be kind to others, participate in inclusive events such as the Women’s March, and to appreciate nature in all its forms of beauty.  She is the Co-Chair of Programs and Publicity for the Arts Board at Trinity Valley School in Fort Worth.  She is a recurring donor for the Starry Night Prom in Arlington.  She is an amazing mom, aunt, and sister (mine!) and everything she does seems effortless, even though I know that it isn’t.  She inspires me to be a better me.

 

My list of women I admire is not, by any means, limited to these four women.  It is actually quite an extensive list of hundreds of women and I add more to it all the time.  I am merely shining a spotlight on these four today.  I am planning to highlight more in the coming weeks.  In the mean time, remember that we should all support one another in our endeavors.  Women are awesome by nature and we should encourage that awesomeness in each other as frequently as we can.  It keeps us all strong and promotes kindness and solidarity.

Happy International Women’s Day.

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Conversations Inside My Head and Out

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Daughter:  I can’t believe that I’m going to graduate high school in only seventy-one days.

Me:  WHAT?!

InternalMe:  WHAT?! WHERE DID THE TIME GO?  I’VE LOOKED FORWARD TO THESE YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP AND SHOPPING AND HUGS AND COFFEE AND SHARED INTERESTS AND TV TOGETHER. HAS IT BEEN FOUR YEARS ALREADY?! 

Daughter:  Yeah, I can’t wait.  I mean, I kind of don’t want to graduate but then this big part of me cannot wait until I’m done.  But you know, I will miss it.

Me:  It’s going by too fast.  I’m not ready for this.

InternalMe:  NOOOO!  I WAS JUST BRAIDING YOUR HAIR AND IRONING YOUR SCHOOL UNIFORMS FOR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL LAST WEEK.  I HAVEN’T HAD TIME TO SHARE ALL OF THIS AMAZING MATERNAL ADVICE THAT I HAD PLANNED TO GIVE YOU.  I NEED MORE TIME.  STOP IT!  STOP GROWING SO FAST.  WHY IS TIME MY ENEMY?  WHERE DID THE YEARS GO?  I DON’T WANT YOU TO LEAVE ME!

Daughter:  I’m not sure I’m ready for this, either.  I mean, I am but I’m not.  But I get excited thinking about college and stuff.  Are you…Mom?  Why are you crying?

Me:  I don’t feel like I’ve had you all to myself long enough.  I’m not ready to share you with the world yet.

InternalMe:  WHO’S GOING TO LAUGH WITH ME AND MAKE “MEAN GIRLS” MOVIE REFERENCES AND ACTUALLY ENJOY SHOPPING WITH ME?  YOU’RE LEAVING ME WITH A HOUSE FULL OF BOYS AND YOUR SISTER WHO HATES SHOPPING, COFFEE, LOUD NOISES, AND JOKES.  YOU’RE MY MINI-ME AND I NEED YOU HERE WITH ME.  DON’T LEAVE ME!

Daughter:  Aww, Mommy!  I’m not leaving you.  I’m just going to college and I decided to go to the one that’s only twenty minutes away.  I’ll still be living at home.  We’ll still hang out and stuff.  I love you.  I’m  not leaving you.

Me:  I know it.  But I can’t talk about it without turning into a walking Kleenex commercial anymore.  It’s like I blinked and you grew up without asking me for my permission first.

InternalMe:  YOU ARE THE MOST AMAZING, INTELLIGENT, WELL-ROUNDED, BEAUTIFUL, FUNNY, TALENTED, EXQUISITE THING THAT I HAVE EVER HAD A PART OF MAKING AND I AM IN AWE OF YOU.  I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW BLESSED I AM TO HAVE BEEN CHOSEN TO BE YOUR  MOTHER.  CLEARLY, ALLAH SEES SOMETHING TRULY SPECIAL IN ME TO HAVE ENTRUSTED YOU TO MY CARE. 

Daughter:  Do you want me to stop talking about graduation?

Me:  Yes, please.  Just for a few days until I can let my feelings catch up to the reality of it all.

InternalMe:  YES, YOU UNGRATEFUL CHILD!  QUIT GROWING UP AND LET ME BE SELFISH JUST A LITTLE WHILE LONGER SO THAT I CAN FEEL THAT YOU STILL NEED ME.

Daughter:  I’ll always need you, Mom.

Me:  Quit reading my mind.  Let’s go shopping.

Choosing My Happy

“Happiness is a choice.”

That’s what the sign says on my sister’s kitchen counter.  My eyes are drawn to it every time I climb up on one of her tall kitchen bar stools when I visit.  It’s placement is perfect.  It’s right next to the coffee pot, just seemingly taunting me and asking me if I’ve made the right choice today.  Well, duh.  Of course, I have.  I see the sign in my sister’s kitchen next to the coffee pot.  Obviously, I chose to come see her AND have a cup of coffee; two things that really get my happy on.

But there are days when I don’t.  There are days– okay, EVERY day– when my neighbor opens her front door to let her dog “walk” himself down to poop in front of my mailbox that I really want to choose rage and cursing.  And this is usually the same day that I find an empty fast food drink cup that my son’s best friend tossed out of his car window the night before in front of my house while he was waiting to pick him up.  And this is after I realize that the kids have drunk up the last of the coffee before I have a second cup.  And all I see is red.

And I remember to breathe in and out.  And I imagine that sign in my sister’s kitchen.  And I remember that it speaks truth.  “Happiness is a choice.”  And I breathe in and out again.  And I relax my throwing arm and put my favorite coffee cup in the sink.  I put on my hijab and grab my purse and car keys and head out to put my things in my car.  I walk down to the curb in front of my house and pick up the empty cup from the gutter. I walk over to the mailbox and scoop up the neighbor’s misplaced dog poop and walk two doors up and return it to its rightful place:  In front of HER mailbox.  Then I toss the empty cup over the fence to my backyard for proper disposal later.  And I realize that I AM happy.  I have chosen my happy.  I reach into my glove box and pull out my hand sanitizer and clean any garbage/fecal germs from my hands.  Then I start my car and head happily to the supermarket to buy more coffee.

 

 

XX Year Anniversary of XXIX

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I woke up to that awesome “wall of guitars” this morning.  I was intrigued, yet slightly annoyed, that someone was in my bedroom playing a hauntingly echoing version of Metallica‘s “Enter Sandman” while I slept.  Then I remembered that I had changed my ringtone on my cellphone the other day.  So I pulled my phone out of the trash can by my bed where it had fallen last night when I tried to put it on the night table and attempted to say hello.  I heard my brother-in-law’s cheerful voice saying, “Happy birthday.”  I tried to say,  “Thanks.” It sounded more like a grunt, but he interpreted it as “Congratulations! You won the ‘I got to say Happy Birthday first’ game.”  His linguistic skills were spot on.

After he handed the phone of to my sister to claim her second-place finish, and I checked my text message from my brother who technically was first since he texted at 12:18 a.m., I reflected on some things.  Today  is the twentieth anniversary of my twenty-ninth birthday. That’s a lot of 29s.  And I am nowhere close to the goals I’d set for myself when I was a young teenager.  But that’s good. At this point, my career as a “medical examiner who moonlights as a hot bathing suit model” would probably be washed up.  I’ve got a mom-body, complete with extra padding for warm, sincere hugs and my cooking skills are A+ since my food doesn’t taste like medical hand soap and formaldehyde.  I’m good.

Unlike me at the original 29 year mark, I have built my patience up to tolerate early morning phone calls with honest laughter.  I left my not-so lucrative career of seventeen years to become a broke, stay-at-home-mom who blogs and over-volunteers at the school and with a favorite non-profit organization.  On the “How Tidy is My Home” scale, I still only rank about a 6 on average, maybe a 7.5 if I have more than 15 minutes notice that someone is en route to see us.  But as long as we’re not wallowing in filth (read: I’ve mopped once this month but forced the kids to vacuum a few times) and we aren’t qualified to be featured on “Hoarders,” I’m okay with it.

And while I complain about the little things that annoy the crap out of me, like being the chauffeur of shame hauling young adults to and from work, college, high school, and various volunteer and social engagements, I know that I have a great life.  I genuinely LOVE my family and my friends.  (Thanks, Venetia, Sara, and Cindy, by the way.  The three of you have been my first truly best friends (who don’t share a mom with me) in many years and you have no idea how great that feels or how much I appreciate it.)  I have a home that is large enough to house us all comfortably.  My husband works a job where he is home every evening around the same time and no longer has to travel for extended periods.  And we sit down to dinner every single night together. Yes, we eat as a family every day. I have a great life. And I’m so grateful to Allah for providing this.

I have decided to carpe the crap out of this diem.  I’m going to make a B.A.B.B. (that’s Big Ass Birthday Brisket) for dinner and maybe let my daughter help me choose a birthday cake. (It’ll be chocolate so the masses will be happy. I may get myself a lime popsicle or something, so that I will be happy.)  And I will sit back and allow them to do all of the chores for my big, fat celebration of ME.

**The dirty little garden gnome? No. He has no real significance to this story. I just like him and decided he’d make a lovely thumbnail for this blog post.

 

Anticipation

I dropped her off two weeks ago yesterday.  She left the next morning with her aunt and uncle and cousins.  They were heading west to meet my parents at the halfway point between their house and ours.  That’s not a quick road trip when you live in Texas.  They all had lunch together and stretched their legs and made their goodbyes.  She and one of her cousins climbed into the backseat of their grandparents’ car and continued their journey west.  My sister and her family turned around for the five hour drive back home.

Two weeks without a teenager in the house sounds like bliss during the Summer when you have four others living with you, too.  It’s not.  I am happy that she got to bond with her grandparents.  I am grateful that they took them to see such awesome and amazing natural sites of New Mexico and Arizona.  I am elated that my niece and daughter have had time together, away from their siblings and parents, to build that strong friendship and trust that cousins should have.  But the hole in my heart while she has been away has been difficult to deal with.

I love all of my nearly grown and grown children.  Each one has their own section in my heart.  I enjoyed spending time with my boys this Summer.  I learned that a lot of our conversations are interrupted by my daughters.  With only one daughter, the one who is usually blamed for these interruptions, I realized that it’s not only she who breaks into these moments with the boys.  I need to work on that.

I realized that my two girls, who fight daily because they share a bedroom, love each other to pieces and actually miss one another.  Randa slept in Samiya’s bed the first five days she was gone, just to feel close to her.  She had nightmares the last few days.  She kept getting out of bed, panicked, shouting, “Get in the car, Mommy!  It’s Samiya, trapped in a cave.  It’s save Samiya. Bring her home NOW!”  (She had seen the photos of Samiya and her cousin in Carlsbad Caverns from the second leg of their trip.)  Anxiety and Autism has a way of altering perspectives sometimes.  It took a lot of consoling and coaxing to convince her that Samiya was safe and back at Granddad’s house and that she would be home in just a few days.

Her brothers have missed her, too, although mostly as it relates to the frequency of their turns to wash dishes.  Ismail mentioned to me that he had been texting her throughout the two weeks.  Aiman had been talking to people they regularly game with online and talked to me excitedly about how Samiya had been promoted to a higher level on their team.  Mohamed talked with her, too, a few times by phone while she was gone.

But the person who has missed her most is her father.  He kept asking during the whole two weeks, “It’s long enough, right?” and when I told him that my sister planned to stay the night out there and come back Sunday, I could see his face fall just a little.  Then he said, “We should celebrate her coming back.  I’ll bring home chickens and you grill them on Sunday.  It will be a welcome home party.”  Daddy’s little girl personified.

Today, Randa will be pacing back and forth to the front door to check for her aunt and uncle’s car.  They drove out through the desert again to pick the girls up from Dad’s house.  And I will be washing and cooking and prepping for her return, trying to keep busy so I don’t jump out of my skin with excitement.  I missed my girl.

 

Mothers and Daughters

It’s been relatively quiet this Summer.  Mostly because the two youngest have been taking accelerated courses (Physics and Economics/US Govt) to get them out of the way for the Fall. The two older boys have been working and Randa and I have been sleeping in a lot and just hanging out.

But there are only two days left of Summer school and then Sam is off to visit her grandparents for a while.  And I’ll be lost without her.  The boys will either be working or sitting in front of their devices all day/night.  Randa will be here hanging with me like usual.  But our relationship is different than mine and Sam’s.  Randa’s is more physical with hugs or shouting, whichever she needs to do at the time.  I like Randa.  She likes me, most of the time.  But there’s that level of dependency and seemingly a boundary that isn’t crossed.  It’s not for a lack of wanting to be closer.  It’s just the dynamic of us.

Sam is actually more like a friend.  We have the mother-daughter relationship that is so close to friendship that we actually enjoy each other’s company.  It’s not just me wanting to hang out with her.  She actually enjoys being around me and has farted off friends to stay home with me.  I love that.  It’s the type of mother-daughter I longed for with my own mom but never really had.  I’m so happy that I have it with my daughter.

And I’m going to miss the crap out of her next week.

Milestones

Tomorrow afternoon will mark a big fat milestone in our lives. Two more of our five kids will be crossing that stage at their high school graduation. This isn’t the first time we’ve done this. So why am I so overwhelmed with the feels of it all?

Randa is 20. She’s our “special needs” kid and while eligible to stay at the school for one more year before she ages out of their Alternate Curriculum program, she is bored. She wants to graduate NOW. They told us going in that there was going to come a time when she is going to advance past what they are able to teach her. That time has come. Many would argue that she could mainstream into the general education population. That is just not a possibility with her issues. So we’re going to do more Mommy-Randa stuff starting next Fall. We’re going to visit museums and family members around the Metroplex and take some classes at the fabric store and learn to sew and join a water aerobics class. Randa is excited to start the next chapter after Sam Houston High.

Ismail is 18. He, like his older brother before him, seems to be struggling with the excitement of graduating versus the sadness and anxiety of leaving behind all he knows. I am guessing that boys are like this. (I wouldn’t know, having never been a boy.) He is suffering today as he paces around and asks questions to which he already knows the answers. He’s spent a lot of time on the front porch. Being outside calms his nerves. He is still not certain what he’s going to do. He wants to become an electrician and be a man and not have to answer to his parents and buy a car and get a job, and all of the swirling plans that all boys his age have.

But Ismail is still so tender-hearted in so many ways. And his family is all he’s ever known. No matter where we lived on the globe spanning three countries and several states, we’ve always had each other. The idea of moving away to another part of the state to go to school without his safety net is so intriguing and exciting and altogether scary. So he’s put off making firm plans as of yet. He wants to take a little time off and work. And that’s okay. Ismail has always been one who needs to chew on his idea before he spits out his final answer.

And tomorrow as I stand on that stage, holding Randa’s hand to help her to battle back the anxiety as she walks across toward the end of her high school tunnel, I’ll be watching Ismail, one place ahead of her in the alphabet, reaching his. I’m so proud to be their mother.

Welcome to the Club

My sister called me this morning and asked me to lie to her. I don’t like to lie. I’m not very good at it and I honestly find the truth to be much more incredible, hilarious, and easier to keep up with. But she begged. So I did.

I told her that my husband and I were living the dream in our home with five kids (ages 16, 17, 18, 20, and 21) decorated with hearts, butterflies, and rainbows and that all that stuff we’d heard about how difficult these years would be is just a big box of hot air bought and paid for by pharmaceutical companies pushing their Xanax dreams. I told her that her two lovely early teens would be mature, pleasant, helpful, drama-free, productive members of society all throughout their teen years, just like mine have been and continue to be. I offered her my Groupon savings for unicorn rides at the next Mother-of-the-Year Awards Gala event.

And then I told her that they may want to consider upgrading that wine cellar they have and I’d be her designated driver if she needed to restock. Or I could load all the 12-step program meeting locations into her iPhone next time she came by here.

The truth is Dr. David Walsh wasn’t even remotely exaggerating when he wrote about the whole “teenage brain” thing. They are incapable of making rational and mature decisions. They’re just not equipped to make them. And it requires a hella lot of patience to stand by and point out why the choices they’re making are dumb or not well-thought-out or insane or whatever adjective you want to stick in here.

So, when my sister called and asked me to lie to her about this inevitable phase in her childrearing life, I did. I laughed all the way through it. But I did it because she just needed a little 30-second break from reality. Before hanging up, she said for me to tell my husband hi. He didn’t miss a beat when he replied, “Hi back. And welcome to the club.”

 

It’s NOT a Tantrum

Walking through a supermarket, the severely Autistic person wears gun-range headphones to help block excess noise to protect her highly sensitive hearing from the overwhelming barrage of clanking, banging, muzak, baby cries, squeaky buggy wheels and blips and bloops from cash registers. A woman getting over a cold coughs into her elbow, and the Autistic person’s face grows dark. Her mother notices the scowl and the wincing on her non-verbal daughter’s face. She puts the Cheerios back on the shelf and grabs her daughter’s hands and softly speaks into her face, “Poor lady. She’s sick. Sick people cannot help coughing, honey. It’s okay.”

The mom gently guides her daughter from the cereal aisle and the cussing begins followed by screaming and crying. “Ears hurt! STUPID WOMAN!” People begin to stare. Some people whisper and make angry faces. The screaming continues while the mom gives deep pressure hugs and wipes away tears, speaking gently about good choices and soft voices.

An angry woman walks by with her nearly full buggy with the squeaky wheel and stops to SHUSH! the girl. The mother spins around on her heel and tells the woman she is out of line. “You should shut her up! It’s incredibly rude to the other shoppers for her to be throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket! What is she? Retarded?”

“First, she’s got Autism and she is in distress, NOT that we owe you an explanation. A tantrum is a fit thrown in order to get what one wants. This is an Autistic Meltdown which is brought on by environmental situations. What makes them continue is rude judgmental people like you! Secondly, this is Kroger. If you want quiet, go to the fucking library!” The mother turns her back on the sputtering woman, who has now become just another bit of background noise. The girl continues to cry and loudly repeat the same line from her favorite movie, as though stuck on a loop.

The store manager walks up and smiles. He knows the woman and the daughter, as they are regular shoppers here. He asks if everything is all right. The woman nods that it is. The girl notices the manager’s very large mustache and points at his face. “It’s big whiskers!” she says, wiping away her tears. The man laughs and agrees that they are. The girl smiles and says, “Bye. Come on, Mommy. It’s Cheerios.” The mom grabs the hand of her 20-year old girl and mouths a quick thank you over her shoulder to the manager. She returns to the cereal aisle and adds the Cheerios to the buggy while the girl happily pushes beside her.

 

Did I Do Too Much for Them?

As mothers, we second guess ourselves and the choices we make all of the time. Since these children don’t come with owner’s manuals or anything remotely close to that, we sort of “wing it” and combine our gut instincts with the way that we were brought up and what we admired from parental examples we admired from TV and movies, and that long list of stuff we swore we’d “NEVER do when I have kids of my own!” And for the most part, that tends to work really well for most of us. We do the best with what we have and what we know and we try to do what is best for our kids and hope and pray that that is enough.

I used the great ways that my mom had to interact with us when we were little. She was awesome at distraction tactics when we would fight. There were four of us and sometimes it would get pretty loud. I remember many times that she would just come in the room while we were fighting and just sit down on the floor. She’d pull all of our building blocks and Matchbox cars, Fisher-Price people and Weebles out of the box and start making entire towns right there in the middle of the rug. She’d completely ignore us while doing this. Soon we were sort of staring at all the fun she was having and no longer interested in who broke what, or whose turn it was to whatever. We’d watch and eventually sit down and ask if we could play with her. She always said, “Yes.” And we’d join in and start having fun, too. Then she’d slowly work her way out of the game and leave the room and we were none the wiser, yet peaceful.

I also decided that I liked the way that she kept open lines of communication with us. I employed this, too, with my own kids. But I allowed more expression (like limited cussing when they were at that stage where nothing else would seemingly help them “get it out.”) I never lied to them.  (Okay, I did have them convinced for years that I knew the Minister of Birthdays and Aging and that if they did something really horrible that I could call and have that year’s birthday postponed for another. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds when your kids are younger and are certain that they haven’t earned that year older until they’ve actually blown out their candles on their cake. Truth be told, I did NOT tell them the whole candles thing. That was their own understanding. I just didn’t contradict it until the oldest was about 12 and had figured it out on his own. DON’T JUDGE!)

I would watch some of my in-laws and neighbors and friends who would tell their kids things like, “stop crying and I’ll buy you sweets” or “don’t be scared. The needle won’t hurt at all.” To adults, these seem like little lies to assuage fears and calm kids. But for kids, they are actually HUGE lies that, once told and are proven to be untrue, take away from our credibility and teach our kids not to trust us. I never told my kids untruths about our ability or inability to afford something that they wanted. I would tell them, “No. That is something that is not in our budget” if they were asking for their own mobile phone or wanting to go to the amusement park or join a sports club.

I did not/will not give my kids an allowance. I hated this rule growing up but my dad had it and I’m actually quite grateful for it now. He always said, “I buy you every-damn-thing you need. If there is something you want, come talk to me about it and we’ll decide if it’s something we can do.” So when I wanted a Mickey Mouse watch at 5 years old like my neighbor had, Dad said no. He said it was ridiculous that Michael Murphy had a watch at 5 when the “big dummy can’t tell time.” (I was born in the late 60’s and digital watches were still about 10+ years away.) So, of course, I was heartbroken. But Dad told me that if I learned how to tell time that he would buy me a watch. I accepted his challenge. I learned how to tell time in one week. (And oh, yes, I rubbed that in Michael Murphy’s face big time.) And Dad bought me my first watch at the PX  (Post Exchange for you non-military types.) It was dark blue Timex with silver numbers and hands and had a dark blue band. It was a ladies watch…for grown ups. It was so fancy. He taught me how to wind it and take care not to get it wet. I had that watch for 11 years before it finally broke. I’d earned the right to wear it. And Dad promised it and fulfilled that promise. Trust was built over something little.

When my kids wanted pocket money, I made them work for it. They always had to help around the house and I didn’t pay for that. But if they wanted something extra, I made them work a little extra. My sister-in-law thought I was mean and horrible for making Ismail make all of the beds in the house (a total of 5) after their naps one day and I only paid him 25 piasters. She thought that that was a lot of work for a 6 yr old and that he deserved more than just 5 piasters per bed. I asked what she thought was fair wages. She said 1 pound. I told her she was nuts. I explained that her own sister worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week in a factory making purses and backpacks and she only brought home 250 pounds per month. That averages out to about 1.15 pounds per hour. “He needs to learn that life in Egypt is hard and that people work hard for very little money. Then he will appreciate what he has and will take care of it and learn to work hard himself.” That was ten or twelve years ago. Now she tells me that she wishes that she had done like I did as her kids think that it’s their right to demand large amounts of money to go shopping, buy fast food and go to the movies whenever they like.

I instilled a good work ethic in them. BUT there are other things that I didn’t do right. I still haven’t let them do the other stuff. I handled their confrontations, argued with store owners who wronged them, all the typical advocating for my kids. But they didn’t learn how to do those things on their own. None of them knows how to fill out a job application on their own, their own medical history, how to drive. And I’m not preventing them from doing any of that or still doing it all for them. They’ve sort of just fallen into the habit of asking me to do it and I do it. I fear that I’ve not encouraged them enough to try stuff on their own. I’m afraid to push them out of the nest to test their wings. I know that failure is part of learning and that I have to be a good enough parent to allow them to fail. But it sucks when your job all these years has been to catch them when they fall.

My best friend and I cried together over this earlier this week. She and I have a mess of kids and our oldest are about the same age. She told me that her daughter called from her university on the other side of the state wanting her to put on her “momager” hat and call the school and handle some situation for her. My friend started to do that but then caught herself.

We women are able to have entire lengthy arguments and weigh outcomes of choices all in our minds in split seconds. Men don’t realize this, I think. But we are able to go through every option available, predict results and decide the best course of action to take all within about 3 eye blinks. We’re bionic like that.

So my friend told her daughter, “You know what? This is something you can handle. You need to call and tell them that you don’t want to change dorms again and give your reasons why. I believe in you. You can do this.” Her daughter was pouty but accepted my friend’s advice. Of course, she cried her eyes out after hanging up because she felt she was a “bad mom” for telling her NO. But this is how we have to do it. And it’s hard. And it sucks. But it’s the being there to pick up the pieces if they fall and break during their test flights outside our nests that make us good moms. And while both of us know this intellectually, it doesn’t make it any less heavy on our hearts when our kids want us to do something and we force them to do it themselves.

Have I done too much? Maybe. But we do what we can the best way we know how and trust that we’ve done it right. Excuse me. I’m going to go cry now.