This mom wants her kids to keep fighting

balletLike most 5-year-old girls, I wanted to be a ballerina. I was in love with the idea of twirling in a beautiful costume and I wanted those silky ballet shoes that lace up your legs.

My mom signed me up for lessons and I was overjoyed.

It only took a few classes for me to be totally hooked. I would stand in my bedroom and practice my feet positions. I would try to get up on my tippy-tippy toes and pirouette. In my mind, I was as graceful and beautiful as anyone in my class.

Maybe even more so.

I have no idea how long I took classes. Days? Weeks? Months?

The reason I stopped, however, is engraved in my memory.

One day after class, the ballet teacher took my mother aside and told her:

“Ballet really isn’t her thing. She is clumsy, uncoordinated and ungraceful.”

Just like that, the lessons stopped and my dream was gone.

There is nothing wrong with finding out you aren’t good at something. That is part of life and I accept that.

But for some reason, the labels “clumsy,” “uncoordinated” and “ungraceful” became as much a part of me as my brown hair and hazel eyes.

I WAS those labels.

I became convinced that I could not do anything requiring physical coordination.

Not even the monkey bars.

I didn’t even try.

I can remember P.E. being absolutely torturous for me. I would dread the team selections and always try to find someway to get out of playing volleyball or softball. I was terrified of looking like an idiot and I was convinced that it couldn’t go any other way.

I let those stupid labels rob me of more than just playing sports. I let them dictate the kind of person I would be and the type of risks I would be willing to take.

Fear of failing kept me from so many things.

It’s really rather stupid.

Now that I’m a mother, I’m super conscious of labels. I do not want my children limiting themselves.

I want them to fight.

The phrase “I’m not good at that” or “I can’t do that” is banned from our home.

You can learn to be good at anything. All you need is the desire and practice. That’s what I tell them.

I want them to fight.

I encourage my kids to try new things and to never back out of a challenge. Facing your fear is the only road forward.

I want them to fight.

Yet, here I am still frightened of doing things that require coordination.

I have very little fight.

Yesterday we met some friends for ice-skating. My kids have never been and they were excited to try something new.

“Are you sure?” I said on the drive. “We only have one hour. We could go get ice cream instead?”

“No!!!” they both cried.

All week, I had been telling myself that I was going to ice-skate with my kids. That I was going to allow myself to look stupid and fall. It is OK to fail. I can do this.

Yet, the fight left me the second I walked in the door.

“I’m not going to skate after all,” I told them. “We can’t afford for all of us to do it.”

“Awww,” my daughter said. “Sorry mom. That’s not fair to you.”

No it’s not and it has nothing to do with money. That was the logical argument I made with myself to get out of trying.

It’s not fair that I won’t fight.

Clumsy. Uncoordinated. Ungraceful. For. The. Win.

How I wish I could just play catch, volleyball, jump on a trampoline or kick a soccer ball around without it filling me with a sense of dread and anxiety.

As I sat on the cold bench at the skate rink and watched my children my heart was bursting with joy. There they were. All by themselves trying to figure it out. Pushing buckets around the ice with big helmets on their heads. They would fall, get back up and try again. No tears. No frustration.

Determination.

Belief.

Fight.

Maybe I will never have enough fight for myself, but seeing my kids fight for a life without fear is more than enough.

ice

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What makes you happy?

I can remember the conversation very clearly.

“What makes you happy?” a friend asked me.

“My family” I responded automatically.

“What else?” she asked with a smile.

I had nothing. My mind was completely blank. I tried to change the subject, but she wasn’t letting it go so easily.

“What do you like to do?” she asked. “When the kids are not with you, what is it that brings you joy?”

I felt cornered and my defenses went up. What was she getting at? Was my life terrible or something? Isn’t being a mom enough?

“I don’t know,” I said.

The words hung in the air and I started to marvel at them.

I really DID NOT know. I had lost myself and I had no idea it had even happened. I remember feeling a sense of complete awe at the notion that I had nothing separate from my children. How had I let motherhood be everything? How could I have not?

That was a year ago. Since that time I have found some answers.

What makes me happy?

Family. My children continue to be a huge source of my happiness. They make things interesting, fun and challenging. They constantly test my patience, tug at my heart and show me things that I would never have seen without them. They are my inspiration.

Writing. The very act of sitting down and composing my thoughts fills me with indescribable joy. This blog has allowed me an outlet for working things out and just expressing the things I hold inside so tightly. It’s like a coil has been unwound and the words often pour out quicker than I can type.

Friends. Being open has allowed me to really meet some amazing people over the last year. I have been given permission to be myself and it has created space for some incredible connections. The feeling that I am alone is slowing being replaced by that of community, love and support.

Dance. How had I ever forgotten how wonderful it feels to just let your body move to music? There is nothing like letting my entire being be moved by a beating drum. Forgetting everything and just swaying, jumping, prancing and feeling. I can’t live without it again.

Service. I had the opportunity this year to help several friends in times of crisis. I allowed myself to be in a forgiving, open and vulnerable position. What I received was a feeling of self-worth and love that I had forgotten about. “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” — Albert Einstein

It is a New Year. I told myself that I would not write a resolution or reflection blog.

Shit.

Looks like I just did.

I guess pulling out that new calendar makes us reflect, even if we don’t want to.

My kids are obsessed with looking at pictures of the past year and talking about the year to come.

Did you know I will be 10 this year mom? Yes, son. I hate it.

Did you know I will start first grade this year mom? Yes, daughter. I hate it.

So, following in the footsteps of the brilliant Renegade Mothering, I will make an Honest Resolution.

I will not forget what makes me happy.

That’s it.

I think I can do it.

Battling giants and stomping the floor

10274147753_73b9312e43_cThe children were playing on the edge of the woods when then heard loud sobbing. Although frightened by the sound, the children gathered their courage and found a lonely dragon crying. Each tear turned into a precious stone as it hit the ground. The children befriended the dragon and he no longer was lonely.

For years the children would return each Autumn to the woods and visit the dragon. He would give them one of his tears to keep. As the children entered the darkness of winter, these precious stones would serve to remind them of the love, light and friendship they share.

But this year something dreadful happened. A horrible, mean giant stole all the tears. This giant prefers darkness, fear and loneliness and he loves to scare little children. You must sneak into the giants home while he sleeps and steal back the dragon tears one by one. You will need to gather your inner-strength, courage and light to lead you through the task. Good luck.

This is the story that I and others read to the children on Saturday at our school’s annual Harvest Festival. The children would then sneak into the giant’s house and grab a stone.

I watched as one by one they did, indeed, gather their courage and enter the house. The giant was making sounds and shifting in his sleep. He would occasionally wake or say something scary. The children did it. They loved it. Some came back multiple times to conquer their fear.

As I watched this play out over and over, I realized how much I am running from my own fears. My giant is my fear of rejection. My fear that when people get to know me they will leave. My fear that when I speak my truth I will be laughed at. My fear that allowing myself this space and time to heal is selfish. My fear that I will never be happy because I don’t really deserve it.

So I’m facing these fears. I’m walking right up to them. The giant is making lots of sounds but I’m moving forward anyway. Inner-strength, love and light are my weapons.

Sunday was another dancing morning for me and I went thinking about fear. I went with the intention of releasing some of it. What came out was anger. Lots and lots of anger.

At times I stomped the floor so hard that my feet hurt. My hands kept clenching into fists. I realized that I was holding so much anger and resentment. After several hours it started to release its hold. I could feel the anger melting off. By the end of the session I was smiling. Really smiling.

There is still so much work to be done, but I’m feeling lighter.

I spent the rest of the day yesterday with my family. We went to the park. I played catch with my husband. I’m so afraid of baseballs. I saw my mom get her lip split open as a kid and the balls scare me. But I got to the point of actually catching some with my eyes open.

“You are not rooted to one spot,” my husband said. “You can move your feet to meet the ball.”

I watched my daughter try over and over to conquer the monkey bars. Her determination is wonderful to see. She is no longer afraid of falling and can make it halfway before losing her grip. No frustration or tears. I’m in awe of her.

My boy spent his time building with sticks and leaves and floating his creations down the creek. He would throw it off one side of the bridge and then watch it come out the other side. Over and over.

After the park, we all went bowling and then out to dinner. Laughter. Silliness. Balloon animals. Ice cream. Kisses.

Best of all, I was there. Really there.

Questions

OK universe. I get it. You can stop yelling at me. Message received.

This week it seems wherever I turn I keep receiving cosmic messages. Maybe I’m just opening up so wide that things are getting in. Maybe I’m just full of myself and it’s all coincidence. Whatever.

I wanted to write about something else today, but I can’t. I tried. I wrote several drafts about other things, but this has been screaming at me. It kept me tossing and turning all night. So, with only a few hours sleep, I’m being forced to type this.

Last night I saw a musical unlike any I’ve seen before. Everyone should see it. LIKE NOW. I want to buy tickets for my kids, my friends, strangers on the street. Everyone.IMAG1193

“Billy Elliot” is more than just about a boy that wants to dance. It’s more than stellar dancing, amazing lighting and sets. Oh, it’s so much more.

There is a grandmother. She is suffering from dementia. Billy asks her about granddad. “Do you remember him?” She does. And the song she sings had me doing that laughing/crying thing. Here’s the part that killed me:

What is the use of dreaming now?
I had my chance, well anyhow,
If I’d only known then what I know now
I’d’ve given them all the finger

And gone dancing, and not give a shit
and spin around and reel and love each bit
And I’d dance alone and enjoy it
And I’d be me for an entire life.
Instead of somebody’s wife
and I never would be sober.

Heavy. Driving home at midnight from downtown it hit me that I’m almost 40. Am I having a mid-life crisis already? What the hell?? I started asking myself, what would you do if you had no constraints? If nothing could stop you? If you were free?

Too much right. Let’s shelve those for a minute and talk about Billy. In one scene he is auditioning for a dancing school. He is asked how he feels when he dances. Here’s just a bit:

It’s a bit like being angry,
it’s a bit like being scared
Confused and all mixed up and mad as hell
It’s like when you’ve been crying
And you’re empty and you’re full
I don’t know what it is, it’s hard to tell
It’s like that there’s a music playing in your ear
But the music is impossible, impossible to hear
But then I feel it move me
Like a burning deep inside
Something bursting me wide open impossible to hide
And suddenly I’m flying, flying like a bird
Like electricity, electricity
Sparks inside of me
And I’m free I’m free

Crazy, right? And then I asked myself, what makes me feel like that? What could bring me to such passion and heights of joy? Is there such feelings in the real world, or does is only exist in musical land?

The answers aren’t here yet. They are coming. But it’s the questions that are screaming at me. It’s these questions that keep coming and probably will. They are leading me somewhere, but that place is unclear. But I have to ask them. It’s time to focus on them. It’s time to start living for myself and not just others. It’s time to find passion and feel it and be free.

Shit.