Except for Shawn

You know how people obsess over their first born? They take photos everyday of all the wonderful and cute things the first born does? They are extremely cautious and protective.

Have you seen those parents with more than two kids? That third child or in my case fourth child apparently didn’t exist until he was two. We had pictures from the day of birth and then nothing until his second birthday. It’s as though there was a moratorium on photographs during that time.

It all started when the kids and I were looking through old photographs. Remember when we took rolls film into the store to get them developed? As we looked and reminisced Shawn kept asking, “where are my baby pictures?” “Where are my baby shower pictures?” “Where are the pictures of you pregnant with me?”

How do you tell that baby you opted out of a shower? I had two baby showers or more with each baby, except for Shawn. There is only 15 months and a few a days between he and Josiah. How do you say, I was tired? I was too practical? It was a mistake? Friends and family offered to host a shower for me but I said no. The only thing I wanted and needed was a double stroller. I met with one friend and one family member at a restaurant where they presented me with the stroller. This definitely predates selfies. I’m not sure if we asked a waiter to take our picture.

Then one day a few years ago I put out an APB, I turned on the bat signal, I called, sent text messages asking friends and family to scour their photos to see if there were any pictures of Shawn. A few were located. I was relieved. I showed him the few that were sent to me. He have me that smile he gives when he’s excited but doesn’t want to show it.

I have lots of except for Shawn scenarios. All of the kids were vegetarian for the first 18 months except for Shawn. He was eating meat at six months. Everybody slept in their own beds as babies except for Shawn. I was exhausted so he slept with me to keep me from getting up in the middle of the night to feed him.

He’s not scarred for life over the exceptions. At least I don’t think he is. We have more than made up for the lack of pictures. Now it’s Josiah (third born) who I struggle to find photos of on my phone. He doesn’t seem care though.

Shawn at birth.

Advertisements

Josiah’s Family Meeting

I could write a whole book on how events in my my childhood affect who I am as an adult and the decisions I make as a mom of four. My mother raised three children as a true single mom. There was not a dad around. It was just her. She made all the decisions and her decision was final.

Fast forward to today. I decided to have more of a democracy. Every family member is equal and has a say in all major and minor decisions. We recently took a trip to Maryland over the Christmas holiday. I asked everybody if they wanted to go. If one person had said no then we would have stayed home. We literally had a conversation about putting up Christmas decorations and specifically a tree. I could care less about a tree. They don’t like taking down decorations. We scaled it way back and with a compromise we put a metal tree with lights that’s meant for the yard up in the house. Don’t judge us. It worked. I have the final vote on major things like buying the house we are in now. Everybody went with me to look for houses. My daughter, Melody, wanted one house and even through a mild fit. I told her she could not see what I could see. I was not only buying a house but a neighborhood and a way of life. Living on a cul-de-sac three house from the neighborhood pool proved to be a great choice and worth less square footage.

All of that to say, anybody can call and conduct a family meeting in our house. Josiah had requested to hold one to discuss his new guidelines surrounding waking everybody up in the mornings. Now Josiah is the third child. He is a typical attention seeking, vivacious, charismatic middle child who also likes being punctual. His school bus arrives at 7:40 so he has the alarm set for 6 am.

He had taken on the responsibility of waking everybody up if they were sleeping too late. He’s done a fantastic job at this self appointed duty. He has helped his siblings, especially his sister and younger brother, make it to the bus just before it stopped and opened the doors. He has even saved the day by finding neighbors willing to give them rides when it seemed they would not make it on time. After a year and a half of this daily activity he resigned from the self appointed position because of the stress. He did not provide any notice. It was effective immediately.

After a couple of days he realized how much they had grown to depend on him to get out of the house. He was sympathetic to their plight. During the meeting he said they would each get one free wake up per month. Unfortunately Shawn had already used his. He also told them the unused ones would accumulate from month to month. There was much discussion and shouts of outrage an insult or two and threats of bodily harm. At some point I heard, “objection!” and somebody yelled “order in the court!” It may have been the same person. For some reason the oldest gets unlimited wake up calls because he has a car. That created another uproar among the other two. But it was a good strategic move. Stay on the good side of the person with the car.

In case you’re wondering why the oldest doesn’t take everybody to school on a daily basis, it’s because he has late arrival. He will take them if they have activities in the morning.

I truly feel like I’m helping them find their voices at an early age and most of all realize they are an important part of this family and I value their input and points of view. They might decide there was way too much discussion and not allow their children to have any input. I won’t be offended. Everybody has to walk their own path according to the influences in their lives.

Be well,

Alicia

Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice

I came home from working out yesterday and saw my two youngest sons standing in the kitchen. The baby of my bunch (he’s 11) was holding an egg slicer with an unpeeled cutie in it over a cup and squeezing with all his might. I asked them what they were doing and they responded, “Making fresh squeezed orange juice!” My response was, “Well that’s not going to work.” I did wonder why they were putting so much effort into that when there’s a juicer sitting on the counter. Is that innovation or wasted energy? It’s hard to tell. Nevertheless I’ll pick up orange juice on my way home today.

Remind me to tell you about the family meeting we had last night.

The Sisterhood

Yesterday, I became a lifetime member of an exclusive sisterhood. 

Don’t be jealous. 

Joining this sisterhood is not like joining a sorority where you’re bonded together by a common goal and a mission statement. 

It’s not as glamorous as becoming a member of an exclusive country club. 

Unfortunately it’s not even as beneficial as belonging to SAM’s or Costco club. 

I don’t know of anyone who anxiously waited to join the ranks. 

No one is sitting around contemplating what to wear to the nonexistent induction ceremony. 

There’s no welcome party or monthly meetings. 

This sisterhood is composed of girls and women who have lost their mom’s. 

The ones who no longer have that earthly  representation, in human form, of life that gave them life. 

I didn’t want to be a member. I never signed on the dotted line. 

But now I’m here. 

It’s official. 

I am now a lifetime member of this exclusive club. 

Walk with Me

There are a lot of duties and responsibilities that go along with raising children. As parents or guardians we try to impart our wisdom, morals, values, knowledge, culture, beliefs, political views, financial knowledge etc. It is an extensive list. 

One of the things I’m imparting to my kids is to walk with me. That sounds strange but let me tell you why.

I walk a lot. I walk for exercise. I walk to get vitamin D. I walk to relieve stress. I walk to commune with nature. I walk to get out of the office or house. I walk to contemplate. I walk to pray. Some walks are long. Others are intense. Then there are the times I walk with my children. 

We walk as a group to enjoy family time. Sometimes I walk with them individually. It’s during the solo times that I’m able to connect with them on a personal more intimate level as well as discuss my future expectations for them in regards to me. 

I’m not old but I’m not young. I’m at a good point in my life but the truth is I’m getting older. I’d rather face the facts rather than hide from them or deny them. I like having a plan or two in place. I don’t have anything written down but I do verbally share my expectations of how I want to be cared for, when I’m struggling to care for myself, with my children. 

The walks are a key component of that plan. Let me say this, they are typical kids and don’t always want to go on a walk with their mom. They moan and groan and ask, “why me?!” (Because you are the chosen one, now let’s go.) I have pre-walking negotiation meetings with them to determine which route? How far? How fast? Can I listen to music, ride my scooter run, bring some water? After we settle on the terms we head out. 

Back to the purpose and plan of the walk. When I’m older I want them to visit me and walk with me. “Walk with me when I’m old” is my request. Spend some time with me. Bring music I like to listen to now. I want to recreate fond memories of one of the things I love to do with the people I love being with. As we walk today I’m storing away memories that I hope to unlock in the future with something as simple as a walk. 

Spring Break 2017

A couple of months ago I decided to take a road trip with my crew. As I contemplated where we would go and how long we would stay I looked up at a picture of the kiddos with the ocean behind them and I smiled. That was our first road trip alone. We drove nine hours to North Padre in Texas and spent a few days there then we journeyed on to Alexandria, LA for a retirement party. 

My youngest was two and a half then and we had to stop often for bathroom and hug it out breaks. Sitting in a car seat for hours upon hours just wasn’t fun for him no matter how many rounds of Do Your Ears Hang Low we sung. Our radio went out on the second leg of our journey so we sang a lot to pass the time. I remember being nervous but I was determined not to allow my emotions to take over my desire for the Fantastik4 to see the ocean and for the five of us to have the first vacation without their dad. 

Quick back story, we were not divorced but I had already begun mentally preparing. 

The five of us have flown to the Virginia, Maryland, DC area on multiple occasions to visit my friend Yvonne and her family. From there we have journeyed to Pennsylvania and saw a civil war reenactment. We have gone to New York and experienced all of its glory. 

This year I decided to take a road trip over spring break and drive to San Diego, Creston, San Francisco, Las Vegas and see the Hoover Dam as well Grand Canyon while we were on the road. After a brief conversation with my manager I removed two stops and decided to stay longer in San Diego and Vegas. That was the best decision ever. 

When my oldest is not being a typical 17 year old guy he is quite wise. Years ago during dinner discussion he said to the other three, mom does things for us to make up for things she didn’t have in her childhood. He’s right. I never went on vacations as a child. I never left the state of Texas until I was in college and I only left the Dallas area a few times for day trips. I have been to California and I’ve been to Vegas but I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon or driven through the mountains. 

I’m a certified procrastinator. I just am. We left at 5am on a Saturday morning and I made the hotel reservations the evening before. Shrug. I like living on the edge sometimes. I did not have an agenda. I wanted to determine what we would do when we arrived at each destination. It worked out well for us. The beach in Encinitas, CA was cold but they jumped waves anyway. 

The trip, the journey was also about reconnecting with my babies. Jordan aka the teenager is in the 11th grade this year and like most teens his age he has an active social life. He’s not always home for dinner and when he is home he spends more time in his room than talking to us. 

What surprised me the most was other people’s fear. I was nervous about potentially getting stuck on the side of the road because I don’t know how to change a flat but other than that I wasn’t afraid. We met a woman in San Diego who was visiting her son. I was standing in the lobby as she checked out. She looked at me and told me she was proud of me as a woman and as a mother. She was impressed that I drove from Texas with four children. She said she would not have made the trip with her one. 

Their reactions to the mountains, ocean, Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon made the  journey of 3000 miles was worth every minute in the van and dollar spent. Hearing Josiah say, look at those mountains! It’s beautiful mom. Just beautiful. Over hearing Melody say to herself, “I never knew I needed this in my life”, as she looked at the Grand Canyon made the trip invaluable. 

Watching them skip rocks in the sand dunnes of Southern California, hearing them yell and cheer during the Tournament of Kings in Vegas and most of all watching them reconnect with each other by talking, laughing and loving on each other was my dream come true. 

Come Get Your Kids

“Come get your kids” is a phrase that anybody who has spent any amount of time with me has heard. It’s my mantra concerning the Fan4 regarding visitation with their dad. Soon after he and I divorced, I adopted this expression, I live by it and I whole heartedly mean what I say. Come get them, please. 

I love my children with all of me. They receive more of my time, energy, effort and money than anything else in my life including me. But that’s nothing new. We, as mothers, tend to sacrifice everything for our children and we have a sense of ownership when it comes to them. We put ourselves in a position of dictatorship and determine we have absolute control regarding the children. After all “mother knows best” right? 

For some mothers “best” is never seeing their fathers. Oh they have a litany of reasons and excuses. When they begin sharing their list they sound very convincing. The father of their children is a terrible person and should never have access to the children. That’s right! Keep your children safe and sound from the monster who broke your heart, left you for another woman, doesn’t dress the correctly, never combs your daughter’s hair just right, wants to bring that woman around, lives with his mother, lives in a neighborhood you don’t approve of, doesn’t pay child support, refuses to get back with you, doesn’t consistently show up for visitation, has other children, is a terrible cook, has them sleeping on the floor, only has a one bedroom apartment, refuses to buy organic, gives them sugary sweets… You get my point. It doesn’t take much for the tzarina to pull the plug on visitation. 

If the guy actually has any knowledge of his rights and refuses to bow down to her then she adjusts her tactic and becomes combative. When he shows up she’s gone because she forgot he was coming over. She refuses to open the door. She complains about everything he does or doesn’t do. She tells him he can only have his visitation  with the children at her house for a limited amount of time. She teaches the children to fear and or distrust their father. She encourages them to disrespect him. Her intent is to sabotage the relationship between father and child. After all, she is constantly making sacrifices on the alter of motherhood and everyone must bow down to acknowledge her supremacy, control and fear. Yes, fear is one of the driving factors, a broken heart / rejection is  another. He was the reason their family is no longer in tact. It’s always his fault. 

I was talking to the mother of a male toddler not long ago when she went through her well rehearsed list of why her son would not be allowed to spend time with his father. One of the many reasons  she listed was he’s incompetent and doesn’t know how to be a father. So I asked her, why did you marry and create a baby with a man like him? I informed her, from my perspective, marrying him was a reflection of her character and decision making ability. 

Can I be honest? I mean really honest? I don’t believe that a woman has the ability to be mother and father. I refuse to say Happy Father’s Day to any woman. It doesn’t matter if she’s  widowed, divorced or never married she cannot be a father to her child(ren). There is a different dynamic and perspective that men bring to the relationship. Women don’t have the ability to duplicate a male’s thoughts or actions. I try to temper my offense when people wish me Happy Father’s Day. I’m not a man. On my very best day and his very worst day, my ex is still more of man than I’ll ever be. 

I’ve heard people say they didn’t have the same set of circumstances as I do with my ex. I work hard at this, very hard. I make sacrifices. I negotiate. I keep my opinions to myself at times. I ask him for his input. We make some decisions together. When it comes to extracurricular activities, we have a conversation about them because it requires both of us to commit to games, practices, camps, tryouts etc. 

Am I able to do life with the Fan4 without their father? Heck yes! Do I want to? No! I like having time to myself. I’m not sure I would have began a master’s program. Juggling four children is a lot of work. Knowing that they would go to their father’s house every 1st, 3rd and 5th weekend from Thursday until Monday gave me the time I needed to study and complete projects. Having them gone gives me time with friends. I can’t tell you how many things I do when they’re gone. I would have missed out on a lot of events I attend out of state because I would not have been able to fly all of us and I refuse to drive more than 9 hours with them. See how I made visitation about me? Come get your kids!! Free childcare!! Yes, sign me up. Do they always want to go? No. Do I care? No. He’s providing their basic necessities in the form of food, clothing and shelter. Do I cringe when I see them with uncombed hair, in dress clothes that are wrinkled, wearing clothes that are too little and with ashy knees and elbows? Yes! On my gosh yes. But I get over it each time. 

The Fan4 come back home today after spending two weeks with their dad. I have come to appreciate and even look forward to summer visitation. They are gone for a total of 30 days. I know some of you just choked on the air you’re breathing. I’ve loved every minute of the time they were gone. I haven’t cooked more than four meals, my grocery bill was nonexistent and I didn’t have to wonder about them. I know they are safe with their father. 

When you change your mindset you change your actions. When you change your actions you change your outcome. A change in your outcome is a change in your child’s present and future.