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Posts Tagged ‘family’

I am married to a man who has a largish family.  Both of his parents are still alive and my husband is the youngest of three siblings who are all married and have children. He has numerous cousins on his mother’s side of the family and one cousin on his father’s side of the family . Most are married and have kids. And now almost all of the kids have kids as well. OK, that may not be a large family by Reality TV standards, but it’s pretty big for me.

My husband and his family also have lots of friends.  Friends that they have known for 20-40 years. Friends who are now also married and have children and grandchildren.

Every summer my husband and I take the boys to spend a month at my in-laws’ house on Nantucket. This is a wonderfully
glorious time when the kids have time with grandparents, cousins, and friends who are more like family – and lots and lots of beach time of course. For one week of our stay there is a large convergence of friends and family. During the day we go to the beach – occupying a rather large amount of space that gets larger and larger each year as our children grow and spread their wings. At night we rotate amongst the different houses for dinner or cocktails or both – grandparents, parents, and children all together.

I love that my husband has all these amazing friends. They have become my friends too. And their children have become our childrens’ friends. And his family has accepted me (faults and virtues) with open arms.

I chose a beautiful day for my quiet time at the beach

Anyway, I learned something extremely important this summer during our crazy week. By Wednesday I had a meltdown. I was tired from staying up late and my nerves were frayed with all the socializing we’d done.  Other than sleeping, I hadn’t had a moment to myself in over a week. I needed to be by myself. So my wonderful husband took the boys sailing, I have no idea what everyone else did, and I went to the beach by myself.  Of course I wasn’t truly alone because the beach was packed full of people. But I was there with my book, my iPod and no one I knew.

I went back to the house late that afternoon exhausted from a day filled with walking, beach combing, and swimming. But more importantly I went back to family and friends refreshed in spirit.

A day or two later I came upon a new term while reading someone’s blog  – ambivert.

What is an ambivert you ask? Well, an ambivert is someone who exhibits the tendencies of both an extrovert and an introvert.

Most people who know me think I am extroverted.  I can be outgoing, friendly, welcoming.  I need to talk through decision making scenarios. I don’t often withhold my opinion. And I have been known to put my foot in my mouth on occasion. Friends in college often described me as a Dr. Seuss book, I was so easy to read.

That being said, I am outgoing, friendly, and welcoming in familiar situations. Put me in a group of friends and family and sure I’m outgoing. Find me at school talking to parents and fellow teachers, of course.  And you will even find me that way at church where I don’t necessarily know everyone, but I feel comfortable.  See, that is the key. I am outgoing when I am in a comfortable environment.

I’m terribly awkward in situations where I don’t know people. In college, I was the one in the group who hated off-campus parties or going to bars. I still prefer small gatherings of friends than huge parties. And given the option of staying home with my family or going to a dinner party on a Saturday night – I usually opt for staying home.  It’s not that I’m lazy (OK a little bit lazy). After a week of teaching Kindergarteners, dealing with parents at school, helping my boys with homework, shuttling them to different activities, and just being their mom I need time away from people.

Having time to myself is crucial to my sanity. I recharge alone, not with people. This is a fundamental introverted trait. The more I read about introverts the more qualities I saw in myself. Here are a few from Marti Olsen Laney’s book The Introvert Advantage:

  • working on projects in large chunks of uninterrupted time
  • rehearsing before speaking
  • anxiety around deadlines
  • zoning out if too much is going on
  • taking time to sort out information
  • dislike overstimulating environments
  • strong reactions to sensory input
  • feeling drained after social situations

All of these describe me. Yet, I like to talk too much to truly be an introvert.

So I am an ambivert.

I am an outgoing jellyfish who requires time alone in her shell.

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Taking off

My older son was invited to meet a few friends at a place called Jump Street, an indoor trampoline park. He really wanted to go, so I said OK. His excitement stemmed from being invited to hang out with the “cool kids” from school. These kids were not the friends he normally hangs out with, but he has known them since Kindergarten.

I have to admit there was a little part of me that was scared they invited him as a joke. But that was my baggage and I folded it back up and tucked into a tiny corner.

I asked him which parent was staying. Jump Street is about 20-25 minutes away and they are only 11. They are going into sixth grade. I did not receive a definitive answer so I told him I was going to stay – I also didn’t want to make the drive all the way other there twice. He seemed OK with me staying but gave me the “Mom, don’t embarrass me” speech.

I could hear thup thup thup thup over head. Was I being a helicopter mom?

from daytodaywoman.com

My husband and I encourage responsibility in our boys – with homework, chores, etc. We will help with homework and projects, but we will not do for them what they can do for themselves. For example, I will show my sons how to type and edit a report on the computer, but I will not type or edit for them. I will make minor corrections and suggestions on a printed copy because those are teachable moments.

I want my boys to spread their wings and fly, but I also want them to be safe. This was the first summer I allowed the boys to swim at the pool up the street while I stayed home. According to the posted sign, they are technically old enough to be there without a parent. We’ve been going to this pool since they were babies. The lifeguards are great. The boys have their own cell phone. I am five minutes away. To me that is completely different than dropping my 11 year old off at a place all the way across town that I do not know. Yet these other parents, parents I’ve known for years, let their children go to this place unsupervised. Why did I insist upon staying?

I know why. Because the world scares me. There are too many stories in the news about kids being abducted or abused. There are bad people out there who prey on kids. And my son is still a kid. He’s 11.  And I love him to pieces.

I try to strike up a good balance – a not too hands on and not too hands off  – approach to parenting. But this is a whole new world of parenting for me. We don’t allow him to stay home alone yet, so why would I let him go to Jump Street without an adult? What do you think – am I being a helicopter mom? What would you have done in my situation?

______________________________________________________

So I stayed out in the lobby on a comfy couch with free wifi. I popped my head into the big room once or twice and saw my baby having the time of his life. And for the record, I didn’t embarrass him. Not even one little bit.

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Cow Creamer Secrets

A few months ago my boys and I were shopping in Target when I saw the cutest little cow creamers. I never wanted or needed a cow creamer before (you actually have to entertain to need a creamer), but I really liked this cow creamer. For the next few weeks whenever we were in Target we’d walk by the display noticing the ever dwindling herd.

My younger son (YS) began: Mom just buy it.

Me: But I am really trying to not buy things I don’t need. Our house is cluttered enough we don’t need to add a cow creamer.

YS: Just buy it. You like it. There’s only two left!

Me: Nope. We don’t need it.

YS: Mom you really like it… I know, I’ll buy it for you! Can I buy it for you?  It can be for Valentine’s Day.

Me: Baby, that’s really sweet, but I really don’t need a cow creamer no matter how much I like it.

He was truly crushed that I wouldn’t let him buy me the cow creamer. I felt so horrible for disappointing him, I almost let him buy it for me. But I didn’t. I was trying to set an example – we shouldn’t buy everything we like. It’s not just a matter of money.

I kept thinking about my disappointed little boy, who just wanted to do something nice for me.

The next day I went back to Target by myself and bought the very last cow creamer. I stashed it in the back of my closet figuring I could give it to my husband to give to my son to give to me for Mother’s Day. Did you follow that?

Well, I stashed the little cow so well I completely forgot about her until the other day.

We were driving to Barnes & Noble and my younger son was with me. NPR was on the radio and the announcer mentioned that the date was July 26th.

YS: Oh no! I didn’t get you a birthday present yet. Can I buy you a book?

Me: No. It’s OK. You don’t have to buy me a book.

YS: No, mom I really want to buy you a book.

Me: No. I’s OK baby. You don’t have to buy me a book.

Sound familiar? Well, it did for me too! When we got home I looked in the back of my closet and found the cow creamer jumbled in a mess of wool sweaters I never wear. But before I tell you what happened with the cow creamer let me share this dialogue from inside Barnes & Noble.

YS: Mom, do we have any bananas?

Me: No. We didn’t buy any the other day.

YS: Do we have any frozen bananas?

Me: Yes.

YS: Do we have what we need to make banana muffins?

Me: I think so.

He stops to think for a minute. I know exactly where he is going with this. YS loves to make homemade banana muffins by himself. He uses the muffin recipe in my Moosewood Restaurant Cookbook.

YS: Do you think I could make coffee?

Me (smiling inside): I guess, why?

YS: Oh nothing.

That night as my husband and I went to bed I told him that YS was planning to make me breakfast in the morning for my birthday.

Husband: Great.

Me: Can you please help him?

Husband: As long as it’s early.

Me: Oh and can you give him this cow creamer to give to me. He really wanted to get me a present and was sad he didn’t have anything.

Husband: OK. I guess.

On the morning of my birthday I awoke to the most wonderful smell of banana muffins baking. I wish I could make this a scratch & sniff post. Not wanting to ruin the surprise, I stayed in bed reading.

YS poked his head in to see if I was awake. He saw me reading and said, “OK. Stay there I have breakfast ready for you and I have to start the coffee (my husband actually measured out the coffee and YS turned the coffee machine ON). Do you want a regular mug or your big huge mug?” I giggled. He’s so darn cute. “The big mug please,” I said.

He brought me a dinner plate with three small muffins.

YS: The coffee is ready.  Do you want cream in it?

Me: Yes, please. I just bought some yesterday.

When he came back upstairs he was grinning from ear to ear. He was carefully carrying my coffee mug in one hand and in the other hand he was holding the cow creamer with cream.

Beaming. Excited. Proud.

My sweet little boy made me breakfast in bed served with the cow creamer I admired five months before and he had wanted to buy for me. It was the best breakfast I ever had.

Over dinner that night I mentioned how much I loved my cow creamer and how I couldn’t believe YS remembered that I had liked it. He looked straight at my husband with a knowing smile – he and dad had their own little secret. And unless my sweet little boy ever reads this blog, I’ll never tell him mine.

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