Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry # 20

I’ve been talking about this confession in some shape or form for a while. My girlfriends (as well as random women standing in line at WalMart) and I talk about it all the time. We’re tired, exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed. But today I realized,

20. I’m actually drowning.

I realized it through an AWFUL situation. Immediately you think something I missed, forgot, failed at but it’s not any of that. I’ll try to keep it brief but give you the whole picture.

So this morning I’m in the backyard with the dog and a baby bunny runs from under the deck. Sophie Joe chases it as usual but instead of darting under the fence and getting away. This bunny jumped in the pool. I totally FREAK out. I have to save the bunny. The bunny is swimming for dear life. I get the dog inside. Call for Sydney to help me and I start trying to rescue the bunny. A wet broom, swimming pool pole and a rigged ramp later, I cannot get the bunny out. It’s getting tired, resting between strokes. I’m begging it to hold on and keep trying. Telling it, ‘you can do it’. It’s struggling now. I swear we’re close to saving it and then it stops moving. It’s DEAD.

I was trying to hold it together, but I started crying. I thought to myself, I’m losing my mind. The girls don’t know WHAT to do. Sydney reassures me bunnies die all the time – we do have an overinflated bunny population running around our house. But I just felt so bad for that bunny.

And then I realized, I AM THE BUNNY.

It’s almost like I’ve woken up in my life and I’m wondering…how did I get here? Surrounded by water. This place where the to do list never ends and the pressure to perform is crushing me. Where in all aspects of my life I feel like I’m treading water or falling behind. And this is not a time where I just need encouragement, a pat on the back or someone telling me you can do it, this is REALITY. I have too much on my plate. I have too much responsibility and too many people or projects depending on me. I have too many jobs to do and roles to play.

I have gotten here and I’m swimming as hard as I can but I know I’m drowning and it’s just a matter of time before I’m dead.

There were times last year I actually thought I was going to die. I still live with the fear that the cancer is just dormant right now but it will come back and kill me. But if it doesn’t, anything could. Now, 5 years from now, 10. It’s going to happen, but I feel like the race against the clock has started. I don’t want to spend these years struggling just to survive.

But what am I doing about it? What CAN I do about it? I see people ditching their McMansions and building tiny houses, leaving their jobs and pursuing their passions. I have thoughts, ideas, dreams but something still holds me back. It could be all that responsibility I have, but my faith in God and myself should reassure me that it will all be taken care of. For some reason I’m still SCARED, and in many ways, I’m sort of comfortable in this crazy place.  The water is warm now that I’ve gotten used to it.

But I’m still drowning and I know it. Drowning is different than being exhausted or overwhelmed cause there are only TWO possible outcomes. You get out of the water or die.

I just need to jump out of the water. One good leap and that bunny would have been out of the water -and alive. I need to JUMP.

I have the tools to get out and to succeed when I’m there. They’ve been developed, improved and sharpened for the last 43 years. Shouldn’t I live the next 43 years on the shore, really living and not just struggling until I die?

I want to know my IKIGAI (eek-y-guy) –  “the reason for which I wake up in the morning.” or,  “sense of purpose”.  This is an important concept in the Okinawa lifestyle and was identified as one of the principles that helps make this region a blue zone. If you haven’t heard of this you have to watch Dan Buettner’s TedTalk on it. But he’s identified 9 factors present in regions where people for generations live longer than anywhere else. Knowing and living your purpose was one of those factors. Not only did they live longer, but they lived more fulfilling and rewarding lives. I know my PURPOSE is not just to tread water until I drown. I know it’s bigger than that.

I don’t want NOT knowing to hold me back anymore. I need to bet on me and my ability to find my purpose and make a way. It’s time to jump. If I don’t do it now, I’m afraid I’ll forget the impact this crazy cancer time has had on me. I’ll get comfortable in my CRAZY again and settle in the struggle. I don’t want to settle.

I’m jumping.

 

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry # 19

I’ve been thinking a lot about dating lately. I have a strong desire to be in a relationship and truth be told,

19. I want someone to fall madly in love with ME.

I mean the REAL me and all of me.

The me whose garage is totally messy cause sometimes to clean out my messy car, the stuff gets piled on the table in there.

The me who has a semi crazy life cause I have 2 daughters who I love but also drive me crazy and I birthed them so they’ll drive someone  else completely insane some days.

The me that’s bossy cause I’ve always been the boss and in the end I really want what’s best not just what I want and sometimes I can’t see that the two aren’t the same.

The me that has an awesome, big job I love, but secretly wants to be a stay at home mom.

The me that leaves dishes in the sink cause I hate doing the dishes.

The me that hasn’t fully unpacked from the last trip but will before the next.

The me that wants to spend every holiday and vacation with MY family.

The me that wishes I could still eat McDonald’s.

The me that has a dent in her car but doesn’t want to fix it yet cause really…who cares.

The me who has clothes size 4-14 and everything in between.

The me whose kitchen has more than one ‘junk drawer’.

I guess I’ve FINALLY accepted that I’m never going to be perfect. And as much as I knew that, a part of me believed that THAT’S what people fell in love with – people they thought were perfect. And maybe, deep down, I believed it WASN’T happening for me BECAUSE all of these imperfect things and many more.

On top of it all, cancer has created many NEW, physical imperfections. My man made, cancer free boobs will never be perfect. My body will always have surgery scars and port scars and drain scars. Thank God for clothes and the dark 😉

But this isn’t a pity party, like why not me. It’s me finally letting go of the me I imagined was lovable and accepting the me I KNOW is lovable.

It’s me no longer fantasizing about married people and how perfect they seem together.

It’s me focusing more on what I have to offer versus what I’m lacking.

It’s me accepting that two people come together and actually make each other better.

It’s me recognizing that truly being myself is the only way I’ll have a lifetime, loving relationship.

It’s me understanding that the man I fall in love with won’t be perfect either, but hopefully perfect for me.

It’s me taking this new found openness and vulnerability and, although terrified, letting it infiltrate my love life too.

I never realized I was creating this barrier. I believed I thought I was ready and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t dating. But my expectations, not of the guy, but of myself were not realistic.

And maybe the cancer idea of ‘damaged goods’ actually makes it easier for me to accept ALL of my imperfections. It all adds character, right? It also makes for some really great stories, that make for PERFECT date night conversation 😉

 

Confessions of a Single Mom With Cancer Entry #18

About a week before surgery, a friend of mine said to me, “You haven’t posted anything in a while. I miss your confessions. What’s going on?” So I thought about why I hadn’t written anything in almost a month and I had to confess this to her:

 
#18. I can’t do it all.

 
I know the world would like women to believe that they can. I’ve even tried to convince myself of it for many years. But the truth is, there are times when we really need to focus on something and other things suffer. For me, I’ve been really focused on my health and not just treatments and meds and procedures, but my health – I finally got my act together in regards to healthy eating, working out, reducing stress and while doing it I discovered why so many of us don’t. We don’t have time and if we make time, something else loses. For me, it was my quiet writing time.

 
At the end of the day, after I’ve come home from work, cooked dinner, done homework, spent some time with the girls, cleaned up at least one of the rooms in the house and put them to bed, I pretty much have one hour before I can no longer keep my eyes open. In the past several months that had been my confession time. But as I prepared for my surgery, it became very important for me to get more physically active to improve my recovery. It was necessary for me to lose some of the weight I had gained during treatments but more importantly to get moving again so that my joints weren’t as sore and achy (side effect of the maintenance drugs). So that hour was spent on the treadmill and juicing for the next day.

 
And it was worth it. I had a little guilt at first about not writing, but I started seeing the benefits of my new focus and frankly, just stopped beating myself up. I knew I could pick up and start writing again at anytime, but our health will not always be there. I think about all those times I made excuses to not work out or to eat things I shouldn’t and on top of feeling bad about my choices, the little voice in my head would start in on me, making me feel even worse.

 
But I realize now, something has to suffer. There are only 24 hours in a day and that’s not changing anytime soon. So it goes back to choices. Most women I know who workout to the point of being triathletes don’t work or don’t have kids or aren’t married. There’s only so much one person can do. Before I was willing to admit that, when I was trying to do it all, MORE than one thing was suffering. I was stressed, so I’d yell at the kids more, I’d make unhealthy eating choices, I’d go to work events that weren’t necessary, and I’d feel guilty about all of it.

 
This trying to do it all, ‘my life is so busy’ stuff is for the birds. So many of us wear it like a badge. Busy is not the answer to How are you! Good, happy, tired, excited, sad, anxious, peaceful, even stressed – those are answers to how you are. Busy is a description that people use 1)because they are, 2)because they want to seem important, or 3) because it’s what everyone else is saying. Once being busy becomes how I actually FEEL, I think it’s reaching a tipping point and not in the good, Malcolm Gladwell way!

 
I saw a sign the other day that said, “Do more of what you love.” At first I thought, yes, that would be nice. But then, I thought, wait, what will I NOT do? If I could, not work and do more of what I love or if I could, not work out and do more of what I love, then I’d have to suffer the consequences of not doing those other things.

Then I realized, I came in on the middle of the conversation. Do more of what you love is preceded by doing a lot of other things first, so that I can do more of what I love. I work out and sacrifice other things so that I can BE HERE with my children because I love being with them and want to see them grow up. I work so that we can go on vacations, share experiences, and create memories because I love doing that with them. I do a lot of things so that I can do more of what I love and that’s what I balance. I don’t do it all. I can’t do it all, not all at once. But my life is filled with give and take.

 
I’m working on NOT beating myself up when I make a choice not to do something or let a certain area of my life lapse. I’m trying to make those choices consciously, recognizing and accepting the downstream effects of it. I know this is going to be very difficult for me. Doing it ALL has been a way of life for me for so long, but it wasn’t a good, healthy life, and that’s what I want – MORE than anything.

Confessions of a Single Mom With Cancer Entry #16

I’ve said it before but being diagnosed with cancer makes you very reflective on how you’ve lived and are living your life. When I started looking back, I had to admit:

16. I have some regrets.

It’s hard to say that because it carries such a negative weight with it. But if you’ve lived at all, I’d bet you can say this.

I have some big regrets and some small ones. Some of them are things I wish I would have done, some are things I wish I wouldn’t have done or done differently. All of them come from choices and decisions I made. They are things like:

I wish I hadn’t been so anxious to start working and would have gone to live in California or overseas right after college.

I wish I would have married young and for love.

I wish I would have pursued singing more seriously.

I wish my kids were growing up in a more traditional family structure.

I wish I would have finished my masters.

That’s just a sampling. There are others. But when I start thinking about these things I look back on them and realize the flip side of any of these situations would have had consequences and likely a different set of regrets. I understand that the grass is not greener on the other side. It’s just different. I also know that many of the choices I did make had wonderful results that I may have missed out on if I had done things differently.

Some of my regrets were really just flat out mistakes – bad choices or decisions. But everyone agrees we can learn a lot from our mistakes. As I’ve become more willingly to be vulnerable, I think I’m learning a lot from my regrets too. But if we focus on them too much, they can create sorrow. They can also create envy. This state of reflection has sometimes created more envy in me than I had before cancer. Not wondering why I got cancer instead of someone else, but wanting to have some things in my life that I haven’t yet, before it’s too late. So I have to work on not coveting now, more than before. I have to work on being faithful that those things will come.

I can’t aspire to the idea of living life without regrets. I have them. But, I’ve decided what I can do is try to live going FORWARD not creating new regrets.

This means facing some of my old choices and trying to be sure I don’t repeat them. It means really acknowledging what I want and not accepting anything short of that. It means taking counsel with people I know love me, even when I’m afraid they won’t agree with me. It means taking more risks. It means following through. It means believing in myself and a great plan for my life….without the burden of NEW regrets.

So, yeh, I have some regrets, and I think that’s ok.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry # 15

I am a rule follower. I don’t park in no parking zones. I never cut in line. I believe rules are there for a reason. But as I was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel of my cancer treatments, I started realizing that I was more than just a rule follower,

15. I was kind of a stick in the mud.

In general, this may not be true. I like to have a good time and my girlfriends probably get to see the wildest side of me. But with my kids I realized I’d been saying no or not doing things, A LOT. I literally had things I wouldn’t do. Like,

1)Chuck E. Cheese was a Grandma or babysitter treat. I literally didn’t go there.

2)I didn’t do rollercoasters. Yes, I’m sort of afraid and I don’t like that feeling in my stomach, but kids should feel it at least once. I knew I didn’t like it because I had tried it before!

3)I didn’t do water slides. Again, I think as I got older, my fear of things increased. But what’s the worst that could happen?

4)I didn’t get in the pool unless I had to, just to make sure my youngest didn’t drown.

These are just a few of the things, I would ‘sit out’ on. I’d find a chair and watch from it. I don’t know when this happened. As a single mom, you typically have to do everything with your kids. But I guess as they’d gotten older and bigger, I’d decided I was tired of always participating.

I feel like with my kids, I had become so one-dimensional. I was the disciplinarian. The rule maker. The enforcer. Like I said, as a single mom, you don’t have much choice. Since they’re kids and they need boundaries and guidance you have to play that role. But somewhere along the way, it had become my only role. I wasn’t any fun with them anymore.

But then, towards the end of radiation, I started doing everything. I went on a water slide with my oldest daughter. I jumped in the wave pool with my youngest and my nieces. I did a line dance with the girls on a cruise ship. And I loved every minute of it. What I loved most about it was seeing how much they enjoyed it. I loved being right there with them when they experienced that feeling in their stomach or the water splashing them in the face.

Yes, there were some things I was just actually afraid of (Cancer taught me it was silly to be afraid of those little things). But there was also this mentality that I DIDN’T HAVE to do those things or I SHOULDN’T HAVE to do those things. There was that feeling of it being a burden to a degree, as hard as that is to admit. The sigh I would let out when my kids wanted me to play with them or ride bikes with them or swim with them. All they wanted to do was have fun with me.

And that’s what I want to do now too. It was a rough year. We all deserve a little more fun. You know what’s even better?  We laugh so much more now – even when we aren’t doing any of those things I used to NOT do. Just in general, cause I guess I’m just more fun now. I might even take them to Six Flags 🙂 …one day!

Snapshot 2 (11-11-2015 10-38 PM)

Check it out! I even did this 2 days after my last radiation treatment!

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #7

There’s this strange pressure you feel after the cancer diagnosis to figure yourself and your life out. I’m sure it’s probably universal, especially if you have a pretty good prognosis from the beginning. You immediately start thinking about life after cancer. It’s part of what I think pulls you through.

So as you’re trying to figure out what you’ll do next and differently, you’re forced to look back on what you’ve done. As I started doing that, I discovered something about how I’ve approached life that I hadn’t expected. I realized that a lot of my life – not just cancer – had just happened to me. I hadn’t necessarily made things happen. So as I think about the future, it’s becoming clear to me that:

7. I’m so much more in control of my life story than I realized.

This may sound really crazy in the midst of something I obviously had no control over. But as I sat in a meeting today, listening to some people’s stories of themselves, I realized I can do so many things and frankly, I’ve prevented myself from doing them. That’s not necessarily bad. I’ve had 3 jobs over the past 20 years. My first lasted 13 years and if the company hadn’t been bought, I’d probably still be there. I like stability, and that has served me well. But there are other things I’d like to do and probably could. Other chapters of my story.

So I had to start thinking about why I don’t or why I didn’t.

The bottom line is FEAR – in many different forms, or for many different reasons, but when it comes down to it, I’m afraid.

Afraid of failure.

Afraid of disappointing others.

Afraid of making a fool of myself.

Afraid of being unsure.

Afraid of being unstable.

Afraid I won’t be able to provide for the girls.

Afraid I’m not as smart, good, or special as I think I am.

But maybe it’s not just fear. Maybe it’s also that I’m comfortable.

Comfortable knowing I’m pretty much guaranteed continued success on this path.

Comfortable knowing that paycheck is coming on the first and the fifteenth.

Comfortable not having to get to know new people.

Comfortable not having to learn new tricks.

Comfortable feeling smart and being experienced.

Truthfully, most of the changes I’ve made in my life have been somewhat forced. So I didn’t have time or the choice to be afraid and in most cases, things had actually gotten UNcomfortable. I didn’t make them because I wanted to. I’ve changed jobs because I had to. I’ve moved because I had to.

I want to make a CHOICE to do something different. I want to CHOOSE a new venture or company, even though I’m secure in my current one. Instead of reacting to what life has handed me, I want to pick my cards and make my hand. I’ve been blessed because the hand I’ve been dealt has been a good one. But imagine how much better it could be if I was driving it – with a little bit of faith. And yes, it could go bad too – but being able to accept more RISK in my life is important. Maybe I’m ready, because the last six months have been a lot about the RISK of recurrence and reducing it, but also accepting, there’s going to be some level of RISK! What I hope is to increase my ability to accept it in my life choices too.

I believe there’s a freedom pass for me, right now, in the midst of this, and it won’t last forever. I believe everyone can accept my need to make different choices for myself. I believe nothing seems that scary right now as I begin to put this behind me. I believe I deserve to live a full, unconstrained life. I believe it’s time to be uncomfortable and ignore my fears. I believe it’s time to be more trusting and have greater faith.

I believe it’s my turn to start making choices and writing my own story. Today. It’s time.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #6

I have to admit, I’m really embarrassed to confess this one. But it’s really important because it’s one of those things that although the cancer diagnosis has brought it to my attention….I’m going to have to work REALLY hard to remind myself of the lesson, once this is all behind me.

6. I’ve always been focused on my looks – not my health.

In my adult life, I have been overly concerned about my weight. I got it honest. My mom’s been on a diet ever since I met her. So the minute I started putting on some extra pounds, sitting around in corporate America, I jumped into the extensive list of weight loss remedies. And over the years, I’ve probably done them all. I tried to put together a list of the diets I’ve been on and I’m just hoping I didn’t miss anything. Here we go:

Quick Weight Loss

Weight Watchers

The Lemonade Diet (back when Beyoncé was in high school)

3-Day Beets Diet

HCG

Nutri-system

SlimFast

The Cabbage Soup Diet

The 3-Day Diet

Apple Cider Vinegar Diet (now that’s desperate)

Atkins

Detoxing

Juicing

The Daniel Fast

And don’t get me started on the exercise list:

Beachbody

P-90X

Insanity

T-25

Tae Bo

A Marathon (yes 1)

Spin Classes

A personal trainer

Private Workout Circuit training (like Curves but not)

24 Hour Fitness Gym Membership

Yoga

Many of these are not inherently bad for you. Some of these are really great for you and wonderful for your health. But I’m admitting I never did any of them FOR my health. I did all of them for my dress size. So many times, I was trying to lose weight for the next girls trip or a reunion or a big event. Never did I stop and say – your weight is unhealthy and could lead to significant health issues. Nor did I think about the damage yo-yo dieting and my fluctuating weight could do. I didn’t think about how eating healthier could make me healthier. I only cared if it would make me skinny.

All of this from a woman who most people would never have considered overweight. I have thought, now, that some of that ridiculous dieting could have had some influence on my current situation. Not that any one of them caused the cancer, but any one of them could have impacted my body environment that was already prone to cancer. I also realize that changing my eating habits for life versus until I was the right size definitely could have had a positive impact on my situation and ultimately my health.

And even though I now recognize how ridiculous it was that I was so focused on wanting that magic pill to make me the size I wanted to be. I found myself jealous when I saw a girlfriend the other day who looks great and when I asked her what had she been doing her response was starving herself.

I was jealous, because what so many people don’t know is that most women on breast cancer treatments gain weight. The steroids and other drugs cause you to retain water, reduce your metabolism and increase your appetite. On top of that, you’re fatigued and probably don’t feel like working out and if your stomach is queasy, all you really want to eat is a loaf of bread…every day! So the treatment to save my life has put on some significant pounds.

I shouldn’t care about that, but this confession is real. I’ve been more concerned about my looks than my health and I’m still struggling with that now. I know I need to change the way I eat now – not to be thin but to promote an environment where cancer cannot thrive and return. Things like starving myself and eating beets for 3 days straight might help me lose weight but they won’t help me live longer.

I have to completely change my mindset about what food means to me. For me, this is life or death. This is no longer a choice or something I can wait around and take care of when that big trip is just 6 weeks away. I have to do it now and I have to do it forever. That sounds scary and hard, but so did chemotherapy and I did that. So did radiation and I’m doing that. I thank God neither one of them were forever, and what I know is that I never want to do them again.

So I’ll change my mind about food, health, exercise, stress. Because I can. Because I’m still here. But I’m not going to act like it won’t be hard. So I’ve confessed it now. Keep me honest.

 

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #5

I don’t know if I’m alone in this or not, but it’s not really nice. So I’m just going to go ahead and say it, I’ve always thought my daughter had a sort of annoying personality. She’s really excitable and over the top about everything. She has to be the center of attention. Loud. Goofy. Unfocused. And I’m not going to lie – I can get easily annoyed with that personality. And rightfully so, if she was 25, 30, 35. But she’s 10! What was wrong with me? The truth is, I think it was more about me.

5. I’m projecting my own insecurities onto my daughter.

I’ve been using this adult gauge to judge and measure my daughter. She’s SUPPOSED to be all those things – loud, easily excited, goofy. It may not even really be her personality. Some of it may just be attributed to BEING A KID! She’s still searching for who she is and what she will be like. Of course she is. So am I! But I’ve been acting like she should have already arrived. How unfair. And it took me 10 years and cancer to realize it.

I now recognize that I actually get uncomfortable sometimes thinking about how she appears to others. Does she seem well parented, well disciplined, smart, polite, dressed well, clean? That’s all about me. I’m really thinking about what others think about me as a person and a parent, not her as a child.

I think about what she wears and how it looks – not if she’s comfortable and how it makes her feel about herself.

I worry about if other kids like her or not or if she’s difficult to be friends with. And some of that could be valid, but it’s still not about how she feels. It’s about how I feel cause she’s never once come home saying she doesn’t have any friends and nobody likes her.

My daughter is not insecure and somehow hasn’t been programmed to even care that much about what people think about her, which is a gift. So why am I practically teaching her to burden herself with these thoughts and concerns?

Today as I watched her on the volleyball court, I saw an excited, sort of uncoordinated, overly dramatic, loud 10 year old flailing around the court. For the first time, I didn’t wish she’d act differently. For the first time, when she looked back at me, instead of giving her the look to settle down and chill out, I smiled at her and encouraged her excitement.

Despite me, my daughter wants to enjoy her childhood, which she deserves. She wants to not be perfect and worried about how people perceive her. She wants to be loud and snort occasionally. I’m not sure when I stopped celebrating who she was as an individual or enjoying her childhood with her, but I’m happy to say I started again today.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #4

I spend a lot of time telling my kids what to do. It’s second nature. I don’t even notice it. I’m sure it’s what we all do but the more I think about it the more I started worrying that it’s all I do. The truth is:

#4. I’m missing the bigger picture.

Let’s take a look at all the things I nag (discipline, correct, redirect) my kids about during the day.

What they eat

What they don’t eat

How they eat (smacking, too much food, too fast)

Watching too much tv

Not reading

Doing their homework

Cleaning their rooms

Using their manners

Being nice to each other

Sharing

Being respectful to me

Brushing their teeth

Getting to bed on time

Being careful

Covering their mouths when they cough

Washing their hands

Not forgetting their lunch

Being on time

That’s a pretty good list from today! I really am not a nag. That’s just regular parenting, right? We lead them. Teach them. Show them the way. But, I wonder if on their side, it just feels like they can’t do anything right.

Well, I’m sitting here today, the last day of school in the strangest year the girls and I ever could have imagined. Actually, we couldn’t have imagined it. My 10 year old says it’s been ‘this’ way since Thanksgiving. And she’s right. Our world was turned completely upside down when we returned from Houston after Thanksgiving and I got the call – it was cancer. And ‘this’ way is the cancer way, which has been a crazy roller coaster ride. One that as a kid was probably really hard to be on, cause as a mom in a totally new situation, sometimes I didn’t know when or how much information to give them. I didn’t know what they could handle or understand. I didn’t know what they needed to know or deserved to know. How would they trust and feel secure in me when I didn’t have all the answers? The one who guides, directs, tells them what to do constantly.

And I made some mistakes along the way. I gave them premature information about my treatment plan and it then changed drastically. I would come home from doctors appointments and say it went fine, even though every appointment seemed to bring to light a new development and often new concerns. Finally one day, my daughter said, ‘You said your appointment went fine when the doctor told you it was cancer’. She was right.

So I had to learn a new way to guide them. I had to be transparent in ways that seemed beyond their years. I had to be honest with them about what I did know and what I didn’t know. I had to be vulnerable with them. All while still being mom and running down my nag list – make your bed, clean your room, do your homework, be nice to your sister – many times shouted from where I laid in my bed- bald.

And guess what? They survived this school year. This crazy, upside down, topsy-turvy, unpredictable school year. Grades were fine. Behavioral stuff – fine. 2nd and 5th grade- here we come!

But truthfully, they did so much more than survive. They changed the list. The things they do everyday- changed. And in my new situation instead of directing, I watched them:

Have faith

Trust

Believe

Stay positive

Encourage me

Support each other

Love harder

Show appreciation

Develop compassion

Share their story

Grow stronger

Express their feelings

I realize now that so many of our days had been strung together by orders barked by me from the list of things I felt like they needed to do to be, I don’t know – good? And they are important. Many are things that have to get done. But they aren’t the most important. My kids were showing me so much more about who they were as people and I was missing it. Blinded by the nag list. But I’m not anymore.

Confessions of a Single Mom with Cancer Entry #2

Growing up, I was a nerd. That’s not my confession cause a lot of people already know that about me 🙂 But I really loved school. I don’t remember a lot about homework. I definitely don’t remember my mom doing homework with me every night. Frankly, I don’t even think we had homework until the 4th grade, which is totally different now. Our kids start getting homework in pre-school! Maybe it’s the way we believe we’re going to keep up in this constantly changing, information overloaded world, but it’s overwhelming for my kids and for me.

Because of that, homework and school for that matter are just another item on my checklist. The truth is, I’ve made it just one more thing they have to do too. I haven’t made it about learning or their education. My 4th grader can’t rattle off the last 5 books she read. The one science project we’ve done started with a Google search of ‘science fair project in 24 hours’. I am definitely not getting an ‘A’ in this category!

This is another really important thing that because I’m a super busy, single mom I’ve let be ‘ok’, but I’ve realized – it’s not ok. So here’s number 2:

2. I haven’t made learning an integral part of my kids’ childhood.

~School is not their job. I confess, I’ve called it that more than once. The problem here is that they don’t have a choice. They have to go to school and get served what they’re being taught. Also, if they don’t like school, what am I teaching them about the future of their lives? Work in a child’s mind is not, by its very nature, something that sounds like fun. School is not their job because they’re not little adults. They shouldn’t have it on their ‘to do list’. School is for them. It’s not the place that takes care of them so I can go to work. It’s a place that should excite them and open their minds. I’m not saying that kids are going to love school. I know for a lot of kids it feels like a chore some years, but I should help them understand the value of it.

~I have a lot of evening events for work. I thought it was ok for my kids to do their homework with the babysitter, but when I sat down recently with my 4th grader, I realized I was missing opportunities to show her things that make math cool, fun and easier to understand. Plus its valuable together time for us. (More on time coming soon!) Our nights are short but homework is not just something to check off the list each night. It’s a time for me to show them the value of school through what they’re being taught. It’s a time for me to better understand where they need help and where they’re excelling. It’s a time for me to praise them. It’s a time for me to teach them a few things too.

~Learning doesn’t just happen at school. It should be a part of our regular lives. But I like my weekends. I like to relax on the weekends because I’m tired from the week. I like to hang out with our friends cause that makes me happy. But I should take my kids to places they can naturally learn. I’m blessed to live in a city with great museums, botanical gardens, and history. I rarely take them to those places cause it gets in the way of the things I like to do. Maybe that’s a little harsh on myself, but maybe I also should be looking for a compromise. Maybe we should dedicate our summer adventures to things like that. I believe these experiences are important because I think the natural learning environment is often where kids really find the things they’re interested in and it sparks their desire to learn more and begins that thirst for knowledge. That should excite me.

This all sounds hard, like a lot of work. But I’m facing these confessions, realizations because I feel like I have another chance to do things right. I also have an obligation because things could have gone very differently. My prognosis could be worse. Would I have felt like I had done my best? I don’t know. But now I know I want to try harder to be the best mom I can be. I’m accepting the examination of myself as a gift and I’m giving that gift to my kids.

So, I’m looking forward to a fun, educational, healthy summer with my kids. I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂