From One Mama Bear to Another-

“You just do it. You force yourself to get up. You force yourself to put one foot before the other, and God damn it, you refuse to let it get to you. You fight. You cry. You curse. Then you go about the business of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.” -Elizabeth Taylor

Previously I wrote about “fierce mama bear” mode kicking into overdrive.

I’ve been running on fumes for awhile now. My thoughts are all jumbled and scattered. My sleep is not restful. When I finally quiet my mind and my heart, something sneaks in and starts it all up again.

Being the parent of adult kids is not easy! I’ve always said, “Little kids, little problems, big kids, big problems” and I didn’t fully appreciate how big those problems could get when a child grew up and had adult problems.

And while I fight my own inner battle of wanting to counsel him, give him my opinion, (do something!!!!!), I am going to share some favorite quotes. I believe that there is a lesson in this experience for me and the message that keeps scrolling across the bottom of my mind is PATIENCE and LETTING GO.

  • “Anything you can’t control is teaching you to let go.” -Jackson Kiddard
  • “Patience is power.  Patience is not an absence of action; rather, it is “timing”; it waits on the right time to act, for the right principles and in the right way.”    -Fulton J. Sheen
  • “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” -Leo Tolstoy
  • “Compassion and tolerance are not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength.” -Dalai Lama
  • “Raising your child well is hard. But learning to let them go out into the world and prove that you did your job right is even tougher.”  – J. Craine

It feels like there are so many parents struggling along side their children right now. Regardless of how many parenting books, websites, videos are available, it all comes down to each of us doing the best that we can for our children. Every family, child, parent, situation and problem is unique and there is no easy button to push that will give us the proper solution. Sometimes we know instinctively what to do. Other times we are at a loss.

This post was prompted by an emotional conversation I had yesterday. Listening and hearing everything I was being told- those words that were spoken and even louder, the ones that weren’t, watching him pace back and forth with short agitated steps, the sound of his voice- so familiar to me and yet foreign with a tightness and emotion that gripped my heart, waves of stress just rolling off of him with his every movement- forced me to stop what I was planning on saying and sit down to quietly hear him out.

I realized that he did not need someone ready to jump into battle beside him or in his behalf.  And although my mind had been swirling with a million different thoughts just seconds earlier, I was surprised (and maybe just a little not surprised) at how quickly I was able to set those turbulent emotions and thoughts aside trying to figure out how to help him and how clear it was what he needed from me. He needed me to be there- calm and solid and there. And I believe that I was…. and I am.

fierce mama bear thereIf I’ve learned anything from being a mom (and I’ve learned more than just a little from this experience), it’s that there is no right and wrong- only trial and error. If, as you watch your children continue to blossom and grow, you feel a tiny bit of that change inside yourself, too, then maybe- JUST MAYBE you are on the right track… least for this time!

If you are one of the struggling mama bears, give your kids a hug and yourself a break!



Don’t Poke the Bear

fierce mama bearI remember the first time someone pointed out my fierceness as a mama bear. Oddly enough, it was my oldest son, Michael. He was 15 at the time. There was a problem scheduling his classes and he warned the counselor, “You don’t want my mom to come in to get this fixed.” What flashed through my mind was, “Who was this mom and could she give me some pointers?” It was with shock that I realized it was me.

I have always advocated for my children since the day they were born. I didn’t consider myself fierce. I just did what I needed to do to get my children what they needed. It was as natural to me as breathing. Upon hearing that Michael saw me in this way, I was overcome. I feared that I could never live up to his expectations or whatever this image of me was. I scoured my memory for times he might have seen me acting in this way. I needed examples. I felt overwhelmed.

If you know me, you’ll know that I’m quite reserved, quiet, shy, private. I tend to not have a huge presence in a room and that is by choice. I don’t speak up in large groups. In fact, social anxiety tends to grip me by the throat and render me speechless at times, ensuring that I remain silent.

Except when it comes to my kids. But I guess I need to clarify- I’m not one of those vocal, loud, pushy parents. When I’m fighting for my children, I do it the same way I do everything else- quietly but persistently. I won’t make a scene but I will press the issue. I won’t attack but I will come to the battle armed with enough ammunition to take out an army, if needed. And if I need to use force, it will probably be so under the radar you won’t know what happened. It’s not that I’m being sneaky or deceitful- I just function much better one on one. This is one time when being an over-thinker comes in handy. Since I’ve probably thought up every possible outcome, I will come prepared with counter arguments.

The thing about being a fierce mama bear is that when your cubs grow up you need to step back and act in a way that goes against every parenting instinct you have. When they are struggling, any advice you offer has to be done carefully so as not to appear to be implying you think they cannot handle things. And sometimes it can’t appear to even be advice, depending on the level of independence of the child.

Helping our children stand on their own is something we begin doing the day they are born. It’s part of the end goal so it’s not a huge surprise when it happens. BUT it doesn’t lessen the sting…. especially when it’s your cub.

As I found out recently, even though your cubs might be grown, maybe even with little cubs of their own, that doesn’t stifle “fierce mama” mode when your cub is attacked- especially unprovoked….. double especially with whipped cream on top when your cub is attacked while going above and beyond what the average person would do to be there for another person.

I’m finding it difficult to hold back that uncontrollable desire to protect my child. Once again, by friendly fire, one of my own has been attacked- completely unfounded- and all I can do is stand by and let him fight his battle. He knows that I’m standing there, just in the shadows…. waiting. It’s one of those parenting moments when I have to stay still and let him pick himself up, but once he’s standing again, I will be there in a flash to help. And if he flounders and needs a hand up, he knows that I’m within reach at all times.

Thinking back to those days when he was a small child and he fell, I remember that instinct to cry out, rush over and pick him up. After the first few times of doing exactly that, which resulted in him crying (caused by my reaction- not the fall), I quickly realized that he needed to get himself back on his feet and determine if this was worth the tears or not. It might be considered tough love by some but I’ve stood by this belief- always close by if the situation warranted assistance and if all was well, calling out “You’re okay!”

It’s not that simple these days. The tumbles are much bigger with higher stakes at risk. My cub is hurting and this mama bear is on high alert.

“Every mom has a mission to love,, guide and protect her family.

Don’t mess with her while she’s on it.”      -Vicki Reece


On the Road

I took my youngest, Andrew, back to school this weekend. This was my first time dropping him off by myself. Somehow, three years later, this just doesn’t get any easier. When my husband and I made that drive his freshman year, I recall battling with so many conflicting feelings. The entire time we were helping him unpack and set up his dorm room I pushed down the rising panic that I was feeling at the thought of leaving my “baby” behind and so far away- a 9 hour car ride.

When the time came for goodbyes, my husband pulled a fast one on us and announced we were leaving- without warning. We were standing in the lobby of the student living center. It was bustling with freshmen and their families and the chaos involved in moving your child in for the first time. I looked at my husband in shock and squeaked out, “Right now?” I remember him not quite meeting my eye as he nodded, quite curtly.

I scarcely got a hug and an “I love you” in before my husband placed a firm arm around me and started walking me away. I remember turning back to look at Andrew and much to my dismay, he was standing there looking at us….walking away. He looked so young and scared. I felt like the worst mother in the world. I cried all the way to the car. It all turned out fine. Andrew survived. My husband probably did the right thing by rushing me out.

But this time it was just Andy and me, sitting in the car, saying our goodbyes. I was feeling that familiar panic at leaving him, this time sharing a house (along with all of those responsibilities) with three friends and no dining plan to provide him with meals- no matter how crappy he might think they were. As we sat there, I didn’t think that I had not prepared him for this. I knew it. We had an awkward goodbye hug in the car in front of his house. I couldn’t justify making him get out of the car and hugging me on the street….. neither one of us could do that. Without my husband to herd me along, it was harder to just pull away from the curb. I wanted to sit there and watch him walk into the house. As I turned the corner and headed toward the highway I wondered how I was going to make the long drive home without crying.

Before I continue I should really clarify that I know that Andy will figure out how to live in this environment. I understand that kids grow up and away from their parents and it’s all part of life. It doesn’t mean that it’s easy though. Especially when it’s the kid, who when he was younger, asked if he had to go away to college or could he possibly live at home because he didn’t want to leave us. I knew we would be okay…. I just didn’t know how I would handle a 9 hour car drive all alone with my thoughts.

IMG_3803Lucky for me, that part was taken care of for me, compliments of my GPS. Looking back I can pinpoint exactly where the directions went wrong but at the time, I was slow to pick up on it. It seemed odd that I was getting off at a different exit than I had gotten on when we arrived. It wasn’t until I saw that QEW showed up as a direction on my screen. What was QEW? I was certain of one thing- I had never heard of it or seen it in my directions before this minute.

It was only as I was really paying attention to signs (and crossing a big, vaguely familiar bridge) that I knew that I was not heading in the correct direction. It appeared that I was on my way to Niagara Falls (and Canada)! I pulled off into a Tim Horton’s Restaurant parking lot to get my bearings. I paused and looked around, wondering idly how far I was from Niagara Falls. (It was 6:30am and I really didn’t need to rush home, did I?) A quick check on my phone confirmed that I was only 20 minutes from the US side of the falls. I entertained the idea of spontaneously taking a side trip but that lasted all of thirty seconds before I quickly did the math and realized that I still had a 9 or 10 hour drive ahead of me, depending on construction, traffic, potty stops, enjoying the Falls time and making up the distance I had gone out of my way. I quickly pulled up directions on my phone, after shaking my head in disappointment at the car GPS that apparently thought I might like an adventure today. I threw the car into reverse and nearly took out two men who were enjoying a leisurely stroll through the parking lot, coffees in hand and lively conversation distracting them from noticing my car backing right at them. I stopped, they reached their car, and I turned out of the parking lot…heading in the wrong direction.


Luck was still on my side and I ran straight into a roundabout, which was empty. My momentary panic subsided when I realized I didn’t have to worry about yielding or stopping or doing anything wrong. I was able to turn around and head back in the right direction. For the next hour I had dueling GPS voices with the Australian guy on my phone winning out over the electronic female of the car GPS.

Despite my early morning detour, I managed to make it home in record time. The rest of my ride flew by without incident and my GPS mix-up managed to distract me from thinking about and worrying about and obsessing about how Andrew was going to manage. When I checked in with him during one of my rest area stops, he seemed to be doing fine.

I have a few short days before Kris will be returning from their summer job. Then it will be time to make plans to help Kris move into their new place as they head back to college next week. I can hardly wait to see how that goes!


Empty Nest Playlist

And just like that, the house is empty. All of my chicks have left the nest. One took his family to live in their own nest and the other two are heading back to college. Circumstances make it impossible for me to accompany my college kids back so in a flurry of last minute shopping, packing, laundry and a birthday party…. I find myself alone. Well, actually Ari and I find ourselves alone.

My emotions are a glorious mess and nearly impossible to describe so instead of attempting it, I have created a playlist:

The Sound of SilenceSimon & Garfunkel

You’re Gonna Miss This Trace Adkins

Where Does the Good GoTegan & Sara

EntwinedTim Myers

Hello GoodbyeThe Beatles

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” -A. A. Milne

As our first day as empty nesters comes to a close, we are settling in to binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy, which we are way behind in watching. I suspect Ari will sleep through most of it but as long as she leaves enough room on my chair for me, it’s all good!


Dear Children of Mine

You are at an age when you can be considered an adult. I remember those ages- 20-25. I remember feeling more like an impostor than anything else. I was working full-time, paying my own bills and on the verge of giving birth to my first child. All of those things could have qualified me for adult status. And yet they just didn’t. I was actually pregnant with my third child and 30 years old before I started feeling like a real grown up and not someone who was playing the part.

It’s not easy being in your 20’s. Especially when you are living with your parents, even temporarily (Michael) or seasonally (Andrew) or intermittently (Kris). You’ve all been out on your own and living your lives as independently as most of you can at this point. Then you come home and it’s like you never left.

It’s only natural for you to feel more like a child than an adult. And it’s only natural for you to blame me for it. That’s what children do. And that’s the sign that you aren’t quite an adult yet.

See, having 3 kids in 5 years meant that every time one of you was at a *certain* phase or age, we would pause……..and then the next one would enter said phase. Potty training. ABC’s. Tying your shoes. Riding a bike.

Your dad and I were new to parenting when we started this journey. I had some experience and what appeared to be some natural ability when it came to mothering. Dad was a newbie from start to finish but he is a quick learner so it was all good.

It wasn’t easy. You all had very distinct temperaments and personalities and required different handling. It was a balancing act to keep everything on an even keel while a few of you were rocking the boat. I lost my temper. A LOT. I feel really bad about the amount of yelling I did. It wasn’t fair to you and in recent years I’ve made a concentrated effort to reach out to you and talk about things, instead of reverting back to old, bad habits. Opening up is not easy for me. I’m a very private person, even with those I love.

I want you to know that I did the best that I could. I love you guys so much. I have always wanted the best for you and for you to be the best you can be. I love you as you are- imperfections and all- because in my eyes you will always be perfect. If I can only get through to you on one level- I would want it to be that I hope you know how much I love you.

Being your mother and raising you was the absolute greatest joy in my life. When asked what I’m most proud of- it’s you. It’s always you.

As you know from experience, that love comes at a price. I have always been fiercely protective of you. I will fight to the death for you. And when someone hurts you, I get crazy scary. My anger (which really can be terrifying, let’s be honest) comes from a place of such deep caring that it physically hurts me to see you in pain. I try to keep that in check, especially as you all are getting older. I truly feel that you are never too old to want your mom. And you are never too old to desperately wish someone would fight like that for you. Like it or not- I will always be that person to you.

As you have reached your 20’s, I’ve tried to back off and give you space to grow up. One day you will look at your own children and realize that it is easier said than done. When you fall these days, the cuts are much deeper and the stakes are much higher. Please know that I feel every scrape as if its my own. Your happiness means the world to me.

I am proud of the people you have become. You are loving, gentle, caring people. You are the best.

And as I come back around to the part where I tell you that I realize that living under my roof again makes you feel like a kid again….. well, in some ways you still are. The immature behavior that sparks up confirms it. I firmly believe that you are not completely an adult until you can act like one in the presence of your parents. 

Having said that, let me tell you that you are so very close. One or two of you might be closer than the other to taking that leap but you are all closer than you think. I’m watching it happen right before my eyes- my babies blossoming into adults and it’s amazing.

I am blessed to have you in my life. You bring me endless joy and happiness.

And I hope someday when you look back at your childhood, you can look past any tears or bruises and remember the love and the laughter and the joy we shared.

Love, Mom