Why I Smile for My Kids

Wow. Parenting is like running a marathon for which you could never possibly train. Step-parenting is like that, but instead of a marathon, it’s a triathlon, and you are wearing a leather bodysuit and heals, and you can’t change, so you better adapt quickly because everyone watching is watching you.

Last week I had the biggest challenge yet. Honestly I feel like I say that every week, but I think this time it’s true. It really doesn’t matter what happened, what matters is how I felt simultaneously incredibly proud of my kid, but also super furious with the person who hurt him, with my fiancé for letting it go on as long as it did, and with my child for being so forgiving.

What? What kind of parent is mad at their child for being forgiving? I guess I will delve into that another time, but the point is, I had a lot of emotions all at one time, which is exhausting. As much as I wanted to cry, and yell, and sleep, and run… I did not. I smiled.

The reason I smile for my kids is because they deserve it. They deserve to see a smile. They deserve to have the reassurance of a smile after a hard event. They deserve to learn how to smile at strangers, to see the world as a good place, and to feel what a smile makes you feel. A real genuine smile makes you feel seen.

Seeing my kids as humans is what makes me the parent that I am. Respecting their boundaries and having them respect ours is hard lesson that we practice and teach. Teaching them to have a voice and to use it in a way to bring thought, understanding, and clarity to yourself and others is why we work so hard to build our children’s confidence. (Frankly, it shocks and appeals me that all parents don’t prioritize this.)

Granted, they are 9 and 11, so spoiler alert– the answer to the question, “what kind of parent is mad at their child for being forgiving,” is: the kind of parent who wants their child to unapologetically say what they think and feel when they are advocating for themselves, and never waiver. The struggle for me is that kids waiver.

Joe had to check me this week and remind me that kids like to please people who are in a position of power. Gosh that is scary. Luckily, my kids don’t care about pleasing me because I am their safe space. That realization was everything.

So, this person who made my kid upset, who shook my family to its’ core, might cause my kid to feel the need to please, but only because he recognizes the lack of forgiving, understanding, and competence in them.

So I smile. I smile so they know they are safe. I smile to trick myself into being in a better mood sometimes, and I smile because at the end of the day, I have amazing children, an amazing life, a desire to protect my family, and those are the best reasons in the world.

Teaching Opportunities

As a parent might, my fiancé subscribes to the age old adage “pick and choose your battles.” To my detriment, perhaps, it seems to me that every battle is the one I choose. And while I do love to have a good heated discussion about right and wrong, today it occurred to me why I am constantly on the battlefield with my kids.

When you pick a battle to fight, you are picking a teaching opportunity. (Un?)fortunately for my kids, I think that everything is a learning experience. And I want to teach them.

This morning I found my kids arguing over a book, at the top of their lungs. Normally that may not be worth a conversation, but the fact that the dogs hadn’t been outside for their second morning walk, which is the responsibility of the kids, made me feel as though a lesson in time management was necessary and perhaps I would sprinkle in a dash of “priorities” for good measure. It turns out, being trained in project management makes me qualified to talk about those two things pretty clearly. As it also turns out, it gave me a moment to think about priorities for myself.

img_9861Of course, my number one priority is my family. Sorry work– I love you– but no. And today at work, I realized that if you have expertise and opinions to share, you will almost certainly encourage a better outcome and product when you communicate openly and honestly. It’s true, adults of all ages, stages, and stations have trouble with communication, I see it daily. My hope is that as adults, as parents, as teachers, we can put our egos and anxieties aside and TEACH those around us.

So anyway, this morning after I asked my kids why they felt that arguing over a book took priority over a puppy potty break, and after some stomping, attitude, and a few hugs goodbye– I was greeted this afternoon by one child who told me how much she missed me today. And another who apologized for being “rude” this morning. I would call that a teaching opportunity success.

Perhaps as adults we can take a hint from kids. The things that seem like a disaster in the moment, aren’t. Mistakes can be corrected through attention, patience, and kindness, and the most successful folks in our midst all had great teachers. We are all good at something– start teaching others about it.

Childless Aunts–I LOVE YOU!

15621702_10208511004472431_8133066518828900771_nOne of my favorite “childless aunts”, a category of which I was a part until very recently, told me that they were the most under valued group of women in society. Well, she didn’t tell me, she posted the article on Facebook. I guess society really has it wrong, because as far as the childless women in my life go, and in the life of my kids, you all are KILLING IT!

I will never be able to explain how much value I place on the women who were there for me in my life. Whether related by blood, or chosen as a relative, it makes no difference, you all count. My mom, who is of course, amazing, happens to have one really perfect child, so she won’t get much more of a shout out on this topic, but my aunt will.

My mom’s sister is a childless aunt. I have to tell you, she was, and is, one of my favorite people to talk to. My aunt is one of the most incredible women I have ever met. She is absolutely one of the reasons that I have been so driven in my life and my career. She listens to me, supports me, encourages me, laughs with me, and I am beyond lucky to have had her as a role model. She also happens to have the same favorite restaurants as I do, and is into the same ridiculous reality TV, like Southern Charm.

15672699_10157968354220243_4607518299365025844_nAs for my my best friends, most of whom are childless aunts to my sweet monsters, you all are amazing. Yes, even those of you with kids (but this isn’t about you, sorry). Emily, the person who turned me onto this mistaken societal notion, is definitely in the top 10 of my children’s favorite people. She also shares my niece, and is incredible competition for her attention. She thinks of every holiday, birthday, and special occasion. Honestly, she is way more fun than I am.

There is so much to be said about women like these. These women will shape the minds and hearts of our children. They also have the ability to give our kids a safe space to talk, great memories when mom and dad aren’t home, and they inspire us, as the first role models that we have, apart from our actual parents. It is almost like we should be thinking 15622315_10157970515100243_466442928479118806_nof them as an “other mama?”

We also must not leave out all of the babysitters, nannies, caregivers, and teachers that watch our kids when we are not around. You make an amazing impression. You raise children. You teach them. Thank you for that. (Megan and Mary, I am looking at you!)


So, to all of the childless aunts, thank you so much for shaping me, my kids, and all of the kids around you. Thank you for the adorable clothes, the beanie boos, the toys, the lunch and dinner dates, and for listening to us when we need to talk about something that mom isn’t ready to hear. You mean more to us as both children, and parents, than you will probably ever realize.

How It All Started, Really.

When you meet a guy who is tall, and hot, and educated, it is hard not to swoon. When he tells you that he has two children, there are a few reactions that race through your head whether you mean to, or not.

  1. Married?
  2. I should probably walk away now.
  3. I’m probably going to stay though…

Normally, I would have cut this conversation short. Something like serendipity kept me there. He wasn’t married. That was a good start. So fast forward through our love story, which I will share later, and I am the other mother to two amazing kids.

The first time I met these sweet monsters, we went for crepes.  We went to the park, also. Although our kids spend the majority of their time with us, they were with their biological mom for the weekend. Much to their dismay, and mine, I was then headed back to the airport, and to Baltimore.

That was the other part I forgot to mention–I was in a long distance relationship. He, in Houston, me in Baltimore. Have you ever tried co-parenting from halfway across the country? To two kids you barely know? I have!

The next time I would come to town, the kids would be staying with us. I would get an immediate dose of child-reality, and if I am being honest, I loved it. When we picked them up from school, the kids blew past their father and almost knocked me off of my stilettos with two of the best hugs I had had to date.

I have basically been in love ever since. Sweet, exhausted, grumpy, snuggle, stomping, laughing, door slamming, hugs and kissses, love.