February 28, 2010

Just a Normal Mom Who Knits

Today on the way to baseball practice Ciaran (almost 9yo) and I had an interesting discussion about what kind of mom I am. When it comes to baseball it is more a mom thing than a dad thing in our home. I grew up playing softball until I went to college and still played intramural for awhile. I grew up living and watching baseball with my dad for many years. When it comes to understanding technique, terms and playing the game I just know a bit more than Serona. When baseball season hits it is mom that can often be found outside tossing the ball with Ciaran. It is mom that volunteers to help out with the team and actually understands how to keep a book. I enjoy baseball, he enjoys playing it, he enjoys that we play together, it works except sometimes at baseball itself, where I am not dad and that can seem weird.

On the way to a baseball warm up session in the car today I tried to let him know as gently and directly as possible that I could go either way. If he wanted me to volunteer to help out or have a catch with him I would. If he preferred I could just sit on the sideline and knit acting more like a "normal mom". I wanted him to know that it was his choice and I understood that as he has gotten older it has gotten stranger to have a mom involved in those sorts of activities. I don't want to embarrass him or set him apart in any way that made him uncomfortable. I think he appreciated that I was willing to do either and to leave it up to him. In the car we agreed we would play it by ear.

When we arrived it was fairly chaotic and he said to me "I think I am just going to find another kid to warm up with". I set up my chair, got out my knitting and started to watch him from a distance. He practiced hitting at a few stations and then decided it was too chaotic to stay. On the way out he said to me "Next time we come you can have a catch with me and help out." It was just a micro example of the tender dance we are going to walk over the next few years of pulling away and drawing close again. Of him figuring out what is ok for my public role and what is not and of me showing him respect in this area. It was a good start.

I first became aware of this transition this past winter when we signed up for a fencing class together. He decided he wanted to try fencing and it sounded fun to me as well, something I always wanted to try so we both signed up together. At first he was very excited about it and thought it was cool that his mom wanted to take the class with him. The night of the first class came and as we were suiting up for our first practice I could sense his discomfort and just a strangeness coming from him. I leaned over and said to him. "It is ok if you would rather fence with the kids your age or the boys I am fine." He seemed to think it was very weird both to have his parent there and that it was his mom not his dad. It probably did not help him that the instructor said "I have never had a mom take this class, dads before but never a mom" I wondered at that moment if my son wanted to melt into the floor or if he was glad I was the first, mostly I think he did not like the attention either of us was receiving.

He handled that evening very well fencing both with other kids and with me a little bit. He was quiet on the way home and we talked a little about how it felt strange to him that I was the only mom, one of only 2 girls (the other was 9 years old) and one of only two adults (a dad also taking the class). He asked me if I felt weird or strange about it. I told him I was completely comfortable with it and did not mind those things. I asked him if he was uncomfortable with me being there and if he wanted me to stop doing the class I could and just take him. He was quiet for a minute, tentative but said "No you should stay in the class but I may fence more with the other kids if that is ok" It was fine with me and we kept going back together.

By the end of our 8 week class however he was fencing almost all the time with me and at the tournament we were cheering each other on. At the end of the class he said how glad he was that I took it with him and how fun it was that we did it together and that I was a mom willing to do this. Another mom on the sidelines watched me having so much fun with my son that she told me she was going to sign up the next semester. I could tell by the end he was not only glad but a little proud that I took it with him. He would tell his friends or point me out to other fencers as his mom. He asked me if I would keep learning with him.

I know I have just a little time left before I become very uncool and I am trying to enjoy this time but not push anything on him. I am trying to learn to respect his space while still being the mom I really am. That mom does sports with her kids and is not embarrassed to be the mom there when it is mostly dads. I am however trying to be sensitive to his situation and stay out of situations where it really needs to be dad and not mom.

It is not that Serona is not involved, he is very involved in many aspects and majority of the sports the kids do. I could not teach him how to throw a football, skateboard, ice skate, ski, the list goes on and on where dad takes care of all those details. Yet there are a few where I take on a traditional dad role. I have learned though as a mom with a traveling husband that sometimes I just need to step up and help out more where I can even if it is not my "traditional gender role". Up until this year that has really been fine and a non-issue for our family. Sometimes I get looks or comments from other adults and mostly the boys have made positive comments to Ciaran about how it is nice that I am involved but as they get older I know it changes.

So I am trying to learn how to adjust back into the role of a normal mom who knits on the sidelines and leaves it to the guys. I don't think that is a bad thing either. As boys get older I think male role models are very important and the relationship is different between a boy and a man and a boy and a woman. I am trying to let my son lead this transition and be sensitive to his needs and express to him that I am really okay with whatever he needs. At the same time I am trying to reassure him that I am here for him and always willing to have a catch in the yard or a practice round of fencing when he wants.

Also I am thankful for Serona who spent the weekend teaching the kids how to use various power tools in their pine derby car creations. I don't think I could have spent that many hours in the garage patiently overseeing a 6 and 8 year old using a dremel, drill and power sander to turn blocks of wood into masterpiece racers. My kids would truly be at a loss if mom had to figure that one out!

February 19, 2010

Well it is still winter in Minnesota. Something about snow arriving in October and staying white until April is depressing. It starts to get to me right about now. If I walk outside it still looks like a winter wonderland. The snow is so high I need snow pants to walk across my yard and we are running out of room for places to shovel the snow too. Our mailman recently stopped delivering mail because our mailbox was not cleared out enough. I am ready for it to be done. At least it is warm, only 7 degrees tonight but it will reach nearly 20 tomorrow :)

This is an important time to have friends and to remind each other that yes homeschooling is worth it. Yes you like your life and do love your children and someday we will all be outside again and it will be better. Everyone is cooped up and growing weary of winter. The kids are picking at each other sometimes just for the sheer fun of it. Today while driving around town I seriously thought for a moment about just heading my car south and not stopping until I hit the beach and shoreline, which would take about a solid 24 hours of driving but you start to think that is worth it at some point :) I am still here wrapped in a warm afghan wearing a heavy wool Irish knit sweater unable to sleep.

Still for all my momentary complaints I truly love my life. I love my husband and my children and they love me. Today we brought Serona an orchid for his office and I thought about how blessed I am to have a wonderful husband. The kids and I went to the Mill City museum for just a few hours and I thought about how blessed we are to be able to just pop into a museum for the afternoon any time we want with our memberships and not living too far away. Ciaran had a group of boys over today and as they were having loudest burping contests and trekking wet snow through my house I thought about how blessed we are to have great boys for him to be friends with. Today while listening to Maria complain about doing her logic problems I thought how glad I was to be homeschooling her and have the freedom to add in a subject that she may not get at a traditional school. Tonight while tucking Sirah in listening to all the ways she comes up with to extend her bedtime when I am ready to be done I thought about how glad I am that I am home each night and able to tuck her in and read her a bedtime story. While working on my lesson plan late tonight for the class I teach tomorrow I thought about how much I love our coop and how glad I am that my kids are there and that I have the opportunity to work with some other students as well.

My mind runs from complaints to blessings in the same moments and that is truly what life is made up of challenging moments and the peaks that come along with them. It is easy for me to focus on the challenges in the long Minnesota winter when I am very ready to be done but it is so refreshing to think about all the many positives I have going on in my life right now. I need to keep that perspective right now. I have always been a fairly cynical person. I am not convinced I will ever be optimistic but I am learning to look for the positives that come alongside the challenges.

Today I was drinking a cup of coffee in this mug when I realized how unreasonable that really is for I never fill my coffee cup all the way. In fact today when "full" it was just above the pessimist line of half empty and I got to thinking that it is all about perspective from where you start and where you finish. Then I wondered why sunshine and green grass affect my perspective so differently than cold air and feet of white snow? Bloom where you are planted even if that means you freeze or lie dormant for a few months :) This New Yorker is learning to thrive in Minnesota. This mom is learning how to move from survive to thrive in the winter all while understanding more and more the title of Laura Ingalls Wilder's book "The Long Winter".

Soon I will have mud being trekked through the house, never ending rain and then the heat and bugs of summer. With that comes the beautiful flowers, hours of free time, bike riding, swimming outdoors and long nature walks in the park. So for those of you struggling with homeschooling at this time of year remember soon we will be scrambling to finish all those books. In the meantime I think I am going to read to my kids more, make them hot cocoa and tea, get in some more sledding and spend time in those books while they don't want to be outdoors so we can go outside when the thaw finally arrives.

I will leave you with this thought