To Be Seen

How would you like to be described? We’re not supposed to care about what people  think of us, but how I am seen through the eyes of others, especially my husband and children, means a lot to me. In my mind, I radiate energy, send positive vibes, live an active lifestyle, and show a kind heart. Well, that vision shattered to bits yesterday after a conversation with, believe it or not, my eight year old son.

img_4070 This dude.

Single digit temps this weekend kept us mostly inside and brainstorming things to do. After attempting to sled on frozen tundra and realizing they couldn’t eat the icy snow that blanketed our lawn, both my kids were clamoring for hot cocoa, popcorn, and a movie. We rented Incredibles 2, snuggled up on the couch and hunkered down in front of the fire. About halfway through the film, I felt my eyelids droop. It wasn’t until I felt Joey’s gentle shake of my arm that I came to.

“Mommy,” he whispered, “this movie made me realize we have superpowers.”

“Oh yeah?” I sat up. “What superpowers do we have?”

“Well, mine are cool – I have great hair that doesn’t move when I sleep or look weird when I wake up, and I can eat whatever I want and not gain a pound.” (I know, I know. There are so many things to write here, but they would all be way off point.)

I smiled at Joey. I couldn’t wait to hear what mine were. Super Mommy who could take down bad guys with her super muscles and agility? Beautiful Mommy with flowing tresses that stopped bad guys in their tracks? Fun Mommy who disarmed bad guys with her charm?

“Your power, Mommy,” Joey continued, “is SLEEPING. If a bad guy comes, you can just BAM!, put him to sleep because you’re so good at it.”


I was crushed. In a semi state of shock. My mind raced down a rabbit hole of toxic thoughts. I wanted to shout: Do sleeping mommies make dinner 6-7 times a week? Do they work out at OrangeTheory Fitness? Run half marathons? Get up at 5am every day? Do they do EVERYTHING??

This was not healthy. I remained reticent, took a breath and pulled myself off the couch. After all, Joey did have to wake me up to share this revelation. I thought about my weekend days. Despite my enthusiasm for activity and the gym, there were plenty of Sunday afternoons Joey could find me prone on the couch. I wasn’t showing my better self. Telling myself I was so busy during the week that I deserved a rest, didn’t erase what Joey saw on the weekends.

Later, when I told Joe, he informed me I should have told Joey my feelings were hurt.

“But, I couldn’t,” I said. “I was too embarrassed – caught off guard. He sees me as The Sleeper, and that’s not how I see myself. It’s like in second grade when my teacher sent that stupid list of awards toward the end of school. I was convinced I would get Best Dancer, and I got Shortest.”

Joe laughed out loud. “Trust me,” he said. “Talk to Joey and tell him how you feel. He’s eight, but he’ll understand. He’ll make you feel better.”

Joe was right. I was never angry at my son; he did not intend to hurt my feelings. He just called it as he saw it. Joey reminded me that kids are always watching, and what we think people notice about us may not align with what we actually show the world. I called Joey up to my room.

“I just want to talk to you about my super power,” I began. “I guess I was surprised that you would pick sleeping. It’s not really how I’d like you to see me.”

“Mommy, I didn’t mean it in a bad way. It’s just -,” he paused. “Well, on the weekends, you do like to snuggle up a lot, and sometimes you fall asleep on the couch. It’s ok.” He rubbed my arm. “Don’t be afraid of a nap once in a while. You deserve it. I love you.”

Joey, I’ll put a bad guy in a sleeper hold for you any day.

Then, of course, I’ll use my Kick Ass Super Mommy powers.




Mirror Images

4:45 pm in the Northeast, mid November. Darkness is looming, and the temperature is beyond brisk when I arrive for pick up at aftercare. My son waltzes in from the playground, waving and smiling at me with an ungloved hand. He’s also sans jacket.

“Hi Mommy, how was your day?” (How can you get mad at a kid who starts every afternoon with that sentence?)

“My day was pretty fun, thanks for asking. I’d love to know about yours, but first, I need to know wh–”

“I know what you’re going to say.” He points a gloveless finger at me. “I am NOT cold. My gloves are in my backpack.”

“Great,” I reply, “but where’s your jacket?”


“Ummmmmmmmmm. I’m prrreeeety sure it’s in Mrs. Nelson’s room.”

Mrs. Nelson is not his teacher.

“Who is Mrs. Nelson? And why would your jacket be in her room?”

“She’s the lady whose room I wait in for the bus to take me here. It’s gotta be there.”

Let’s not go into the litany of reminders I begin rattling off to him, including that he already lost one jacket last week, the one his grandmother bought him, and no way could we lose this one too, it’s expensive, and it’s 34 degrees outside!  

“Here’s Mommy, Charlee,” a voice interrupts my grade a lecture. “I told you she was coming.”

I spin around to see my daughter, holding hands with one of her aftercare counselors. She’s doing the sniff and shoulder shrug thing she does when she’s upset.

“Chachi!” I default to her nickname, kneel, and stretch out my arms. “What’s the matter?”

She buries her head on my shoulder.

“I don’t feel good.” Sniff. “I want you.” Shrug. “I didn’t eat lunch or snack.” Sob. “Please don’t take me to the doctor – I don’t want a shot!! What if I starve to death?!”” She’s full on wailing now. I feel a hand on my back. Joey.

“Don’t worry, Mommy. It’ll be okay. She’s pretty dramatic.”

I pull away from Charlee and look at them with a wry smile.  One thought floats through my brain: They are me. Mirror Images

It’s humorous and sobering when you realize your children have inherited your least desirable character traits. Joe and I don’t even pretend to blame one another when Joey or Charlee exhibit our objectionable temperaments. We own it. Joey has inherited my forgetfulness, a problematic f word. I was the kid who left any/all belongings on the bus, in my locker, on my desk, you name it. Something was, and still is, always somewhere; I just don’t remember where. In middle school, I even threw out my glasses with my brown paper lunch bag. (This may have subconsciously been on purpose; in 1987, my glasses transformed me into Uncle Junior from The Sopranos.) Fortunately, Joey also inherited my desire to make people feel good, hence the backrub. He also thinks like my husband – with reason, logic, and common sense. Thank goodness.

Chachi is all emotion. She dances, sings, hugs, jumps for joy, expresses her love, and her discontent. From the day she was born, Joe said she was smart. I said she was fun. She also cries – a lot. She worries, dramatizes events we see as small setbacks, and when in the throes of emotion, is unable to see beyond what’s happening in her five year old world. She speaks before she truly understands what she’s about to say. Yes, that is all me. This one is tougher to write about because I’m aware of how my emotions and quick reactions have affected my ability to make decisions. (Just ask my twenties.) I’m tons of fun, but I also create tons of worry that is unnecessary. I often say things before thinking about how it will affect those around me. (Just ask my husband.) Figuring out how to coach Charlee through this will require patience and self reflection.

Someone once told me, “No one likes to look at themselves.” Having children forces you to do that – literally and figuratively. Because we share their character traits, Joe and I may or may not react well to the flaws of Joey and Charlee. Our children having some of me, some of Joe, and a whole lot of themselves sprinkled into their human nature makes parenting a wild and reflective ride. They are us, and they are also each their own unique little person; we have to honor and accept that.

This day, I lift Chachi in my arms and tousle Joey’s hair. “Chachi,” I begin, “I guarantee you won’t starve to death. And I don’t know yet if you need to go to the doctor. Joey, we may have to tie a string or something around your finger so you remember your jacket tomorrow. Now let’s go home.”



Parenting like Jack Pearson…

is the equivalent of talking to people like I’m in an Aaron Sorkin drama. Imagine knowing just what to say, in just the right moment, with just the right tone and inflection for each word. Unfortunately, when it comes to parenting, (and life in general), after any incident is over, my verbal reel is award winning. In the moment, however, not so much.

I’m blessed beyond belief with two little ones and a husband who pretty much is Aaron Sorkin when it comes to the perfect line. (I mean that as a huge compliment.) Joey, my eight year old son, and Charlee, my five year old girl, are very different in nature. That means my husband and I learn to approach them differently. Since parenting is pretty much doing then learning, I often turn to Jack Pearson for guidance when I have a less than stellar moment, say the wrong thing, or say too much without saying anything at all. Thanks to Jack, I’ve learned a few things. If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll know just what I mean:

  1. That breathing technique works. When Joey gets upset, he breathes fast and heavy. Nothing feels better, for me at least, than putting his little face in my hands and telling him to just breathe, while locking my eyes with his. Eventually, his breathing slows, and we can talk it out or come up with a plan of action. Note: This does NOT work when Charlee is in the throes of a full on tantrum. In those moments, she is unable to process anything. I just give her a big ole hug and wait it out. (Learned that the hard way and from some books on parenting.) Once the storm passes, then she can learn a coping technique.
  2. On the spot stories can assuage physical or emotional pain. My husband can instantly make up a story to rival the magic shirt one Jack uses on Kate when she feels left out by some mean girls. Joey and Charlee love them. I never realized the importance of a good story when it came to kids, especially when it’s us doing the telling. This is the time they want to listen to us, and I want to take advantage of that.
  3. We can make our own traditions. Thank you, Pilgrim Rick. This is something I embrace wholeheartedly. Whether it’s as simple as taco Tuesday, breakfast for dinner, (aka Brinner/Dinfest), or making our own pizza. (Wait.These are ALL about food! What can I say – we love that f word.)

Sometimes I wish I did more of these – that I wasn’t so rushed during the school year when I’m teaching, that I was more creative, more calm, more present. There’s still so much to learn; I’m just grateful these two little ones are my forever students. I hope they feel the same.

I also learn from my own husband, who is not Jack, but Joe. He plays this game called Daddy Boss with our kids. It’s basically rough housing at its finest, and Joey and Charlee both live for it. They beg him for it. Charlee has been in it to win it since she was two. If a neighbor heard the squeals coming from our house, they wouldn’t know whether to call the police or laugh out loud. Daddy Boss usually ends with Joe suffering some kind of male related injury, but he never lets the kids down. He has not done push ups with our son on his back, (yet), but he has bench pressed Joey into gales of laughter, accepted that his son may never play baseball, given Charlee all the love and respect a man should give his daughter, (He would totally vogue for her), and embraces who they are as individuals. Sometimes I forget those things when we are bickering, or when we are less than stellar humans to each other.  I lead with emotion, while his verbal reel is always on point. That doesn’t always end well for me, but at the end of the day, he – and those two little humans – are my favorite f word.