Have Courage and Be Kind

cinderella

Okay so I stole my title from the moral tag line in the new Cinderella movie, but if the shoe fits. Ya, I guess I stole that part too. It’s just so happens that at a time when my seven-year old daughter is having some seven-year old girl issue, we went to see this movie and it couldn’t have been better timing. In Cinderella she must deal with her wicked stepmother and step sisters, who, let’s be honest, are as close to a group of seven-year old girls as you are going to get. Cinderella is told by her dying mother to have courage and be kind. For the most part she succeeds, but there is only so far you can push a princess before she starts to push back. So how do you teach your princess to “be kind” without losing that fighting spirit in them that we love so much?

This is not a blog about bullying because I am not picking a side with anybody. Young girls are, well, mean for lack of a better word. And believe me I am including my little darling in that group. One minute they are best friends and the next they are mortal enemies not to be invited to birthday parties. Ever. Strong personalities are emerging, interests are changing and some are maturing faster than others. Why does being seven have to be so hard? And why can’t they listen when we try to help them understand? Is it because their minds just can’t process that what they are saying may be hurtful? Because it seems like we, as parents, say the same thing over and over again and they nod their sweet heads and say “I know” and then they walk out the door and do the exact same thing again. It’s like banging you head against a brick wall. It’s a pretty pink brick wall, but it hurts just the same.

ballerinas pushing

In trying to help them, the natural instinct may be to say something like “you don’t need a friend like that anyway” or “just go play with somebody else” or perhaps “I hope you told her you don’t want to be her friend either”. You know you’ve wanted to. Right? It’s just not that simple though. They really WANT to still be friends with the girl who they are disagreeing with. They are just frustrated and maybe even hurt or angry with them but they perhaps lack the cognitive skill to know how to deal with those feelings in a grown up way. I think it’s pretty safe to say that as an adult woman I have had the exact same feelings. Imagine you are having drinks with the girls one night and a friend interrupts your funny story about what you did on the weekend. You know you should politely wait until she is done with her story and then continue yours but what you really want to do is scream “Don’t interrupt me bitch I’m talking right now”.

So with your little princess do you step in and guide them through the rough patch or do you back off and just let them deal with it in their own way? I know that no matter what I do it is going to happen. At seven and at seventeen. But nobody wants their daughter to be “that girl”. You want them to be the girl who has her own opinions and stands up for herself in a kind and respectful way. Is it just a matter of time? If I keep repeating the “be kind” mantra will it one day sink in and take root or is there more I could and should be doing? Nobody said parenting was easy but crap this is really hard and as a mother and a woman it is hard to take the emotion out and just approach it in a reasonable manner. If anybody out there has any pearls of wisdom to send me please send them my way.

For the most part I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in is. I have friends who have raised confident, mature young adults and friends who are still in the thick of it, like me. We may struggle on a daily basis with the task of teaching our girls to “have courage and be kind” but really, would we have it any other way? My daughter continues to be full of Piss and Vinegar and that is on of The Best Things in Life.

Advertisements

No More Pity Parties For Me

No_Pity_Party

It was Sunday night and my husband was packing his bags for yet another week away. I felt a small pity party coming on. He has a job that requires him to travel a lot. Typically he is away for at least three weeks a month and often that involves being away for the weekends too. It’s hard on all of us. He practically lives in a hotel and misses out on so many little things that happen at home. Our seven-year old misses him like crazy and knows exactly how many minutes it takes for him to get home once his plane has landed. But, as he packed and I felt the typical Sunday evening disappointment of being alone again creeping in, I stopped for a moment. The night before we had enjoyed dinner with our friend Nicole and her son Jacob. Jacob is three weeks younger than my daughter. The love of Nicole’s life and Jacob’s father died four years ago. They are alone all the time.

Lucas was only 29 in late 2005 when he was first diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. It wasn’t found in his lungs though. The first tumor was found in his nasal passages. After a horrific surgery Lucas and Nicole thought they were in the clear. Wrong. During the appointment to have his surgical staples removed they were given some literature and an appointment date with the BC Cancer Agency. They asked why and were told “Oh, it’s cancer. You didn’t know that?”  They were shocked but still weren’t particularly worried though as the doctor didn’t seem to be. But after meeting with an oncologist and doing what every sick person does, googling his condition, Lucas and Nicole realized just how bad things were. The doctors were now saying “we will do all we can” but the odds were not in their favor. Somehow in that horrific, stress filled time of radiation and chemo and sickness there was a bright spot. Early in 2007 Nicole discovered that she was pregnant.

Jacob was born on September 26, 2007. Fortunately, the next eighteen months were free of treatment for Lucas. It was a welcome change from all they had been through so far. I remember those times well. My daughter and Jacob as babies. Lucas playing Lego with the two of them at one of Jacob’s birthday parties. Comparing milestones, as all new parents do. The joy that Lucas had for being a dad. It wouldn’t last though. Over the course of six years the cancer came back 7 times and Lucas had 5 rounds of radiation, 3 rounds of intense chemo, 2 brain surgeries, a hip replacement, and countless other appointments and tests. Sadly on January 30, 2011 Lucas passed away. Aside from losing her husband, Nicole was now the sole provider for her family and at the young age of 38, a widow. Your not supposed to be a widow at that age. But she was and despite the fact that she has an amazing family and support group, she and Jacob were now on their own.

Feb 25 Jacob and Olivia...aren't we cute!

It’s not a particularly fun thing to do, but try to imagine your life right now if your husband was gone. Not just for a week-long business trip, but forever. Think of all the things that you rely on when your spouse walks through the door at the end of the day. I know that I struggle with things when my husband is away. Typically it revolves around discipline. Was I too hard on her? Should I have let that one go? Maybe I should have been stricter? Not having your spouse there to bounce things off of can make you question yourself. It breaks my heart to hear Nicole say. “I would give anything to have him by my side to tell me I’m doing alright. Even if just for one minute”. She often finds herself wondering in those times “What would Lucas do? To Nicole’s credit, Jacob is the sweetest little boy. He does well in school, loves to swim, loves Lego and can keep up with my crazy daughter on the dance floor. No small feat.

Liv and Jacob

Jacob is seven now and a great kid. He is a mini Lucas. Kind, funny, smart and energetic. But he is having a bit of a hard time right now understanding why all the other kids in school have dads and he doesn’t? He’s even gone so far as to ask Nicole “will I ever have a new daddy”. If that doesn’t break your heart then I don’t know what will. Can’t even imagine how you would answer that question. Nicole keeps Lucas’ memory alive as best she can for Jacob. They look at pictures and she shares stories of Lucas. His love of sports and the Miami Dolphins. Most stories, she says, include the word “fart.” Its a boy thing. Lucas liked a good “fart” story too. He was a big kid with a huge smile and a positive attitude about everything. Mostly she tells Jacob how proud Lucas would be of him.

I’m pretty sure that if all of this happened to me that I would find a dark closet corner somewhere and curl up into a ball. I can’t even imagine how hard it would be to not only lose the love of your life but to then be a single mom and entrusted with raising a little boy without his father. Nicole doesn’t understand how people see her as an inspiration but if you met her and saw the love in her eyes for that little boy and the smile that is on her face every day, you would understand. When I asked her if she had any advice for somebody else going through this she said. “Be easy on yourself. It’s a tough journey”.  What keeps her going?

Jacob-the reason she gets up each day
Family-her mom and brothers
Friends
Lucas’ strength of never giving up
Wine-it’s not an answer but some days it sure helps!

So going forward I will not hold pity parties. Whenever I am feeling like the world has dealt me a poor hand or if I feel like I just can’t quite make it through a difficult time, I will think of Lucas, Nicole and Jacob. They were all short-changed in the game of life but somehow have managed to move on and are seeing all that is good in what they do have. Beautiful memories, love and family. The Best Things in Life.