Compassion, Groundedness, and Being Strict: Are you a Christine or a Lynn?

Disclaimers and yada-yada:   My good friend and co-blogger Cathy and I had the chance to interview Christine Adams, actress in “Black Lightning”  on The CW.  The following is the first of two reflections of our 30-minute chat.  This post is not sponsored.  Check out the show, with a new episode airing this Monday, February 11, 2019.  Now, on with our post:

They are both mamas, both highly articulate and intelligent, and they both raise two daughters spaced by fairly significant age gaps. It could be very easy to blend real life with fiction, if we hadn’t met talented actress Christine Adams to have a frank conversation about motherhood, parenting, heroism and values. Recently we got to know Christine’s philosophies on many topics including her passion for helping disadvantaged youth and how she sometimes just likes to go read her newspaper in peace.

Before we got to know Adams, we only knew her as Lynn Pierce the neuroscientist, American mom, nurturer and glue to an entire family of superheroes in the DC – TV show Black Lightning. It was delightful to meet the passionate Englishwoman speak in her authentic accent and voice. We ended up adoring the real person behind the cool TV character.  Christine’s honesty struck us during our 30-minute conversation about motherhood and how her upbringing shaped the way she approaches her no-nonsense parenting style.

Raised by a single mum – who was pregnant with Christine at age 17, Christine developed a solid sense of herself quite early on.  Her mom was determined to keep Christine on track to avoid her tendency to be a “wild child”, instilling the skills to hustle and survive and be responsible just by the sheer act of not being able to do IT ALL for her. Adamant that “adversity makes children strong”,  Christine reflects on the lessons she learned in her formative years using a few examples of how she had to care of herself at an early age and it’s clear that this non-traditional upbringing shaped her into a caring, effective, and strict (by her standards), mum to her own daughters.

Christine’s character, Lynn Pierce embodies the best mom qualities of TV dream moms Lorelai Gilmore and Claire Huxtable. Understanding, patience, and a sense of humour are her superpowers. She’s got an amazing career, a great coparenting relationship and she’s almost launched both of her girls into adulthood.  Lynn also manages to keep her ex-husband on his toes with the sparks that are obviously still between them. It’s the way that she parents her girls as if they were buddies that we are curious about. This is where the two mamas diverge, and life does not imitate art in this case.

While we really do like Lynn Pierce on Black Lightning and we love how she nurtures her superpower brood, it is a little bothersome to watch how her youngest daughter Jennifer, doesn’t seem to be able to do anything wrong in Lynn’s eyes. Lynn seems too busy being friends with her daughter to get a handle on her wild child tendencies.

Is it possible to be the “friend mom” and the “strict mom” at the same time?  Should you be a Lynn or a Christine to be an effective parent – or a blend of both?  We talked about this “friend zone” of parenting with Christine, who errs on the strict side,  “no cell phones at dinner, friends are expected to use their “please” and “thank you’s”, whining is not tolerated because we have pretty good lives!”  and P.S. Christine is determined that “kids should know how to do the laundry and make dinner.”

Unlike her character,  Christine doesn’t need to be her daughter’s best friend. She wants to do good by them – to teach them practical skills and manners that so many kids these days are lacking when they get to adulthood, even if that means making herself unpopular to her daughters. Christine’s parenting style and values almost seem old-fashioned, but in spite of that, this approach works for her and her family. Her no-nonsense approach to life is shaped by her upbringing, but she also illuminates  her tender, nurturing side when she chats with us about her passionate commitment of working with homeless youth.

Christine told us a story about an early morning walk, when the sun was just rising, and coming across a young woman walking with a shopping cart.  There was a teddy bear sitting atop that cart. The young woman looked aimless. When they got to talking, it turned out that the girl was 17 years old, 7 months pregnant, and homeless.  Christine has great compassion. Christine cares deeply, putting thoughts into actions and actions into commitments. She explained how the Venice, CA youth organization she is involved with called SPY (Safe Place for Youth)  might stand a chance because there are more and more people who care about their homelessness and their stories. Even everyday actions like helping young girls on the street buy tampons and other necessities is something she’ll stand by

The little girl who was so eager for some attention in a sea of grown-ups raised by her own superhero single mom, is now commanding a lot of attention on and off the screen. Keep paying attention to this woman, actress, mom, and advocate. Listen to her messages of level-headed parenting, insisting on please and thank yous, no whining and the one that will stay with us:

Don’t desensitize yourself to the troubles on your doorstep.

Introducing our new contributor

We are always looking to improve and expand the voices we elevate here at urbanMamas. I met Renate many moons and a couple of lifetimes ago, and – thanks to social media – we’ve kept in touch. We recently reconnected in person a few months back, and I am so glad.

Mama to twins who she birthed with her soulmate partner by her side, she has worked her way through college and already had many careers in cosmetology and environmental science. Mamahood suits her swell; many days she spends engaged in her community contributing to LB Littles, tending to her urban garden of 4 raised beds out back, juggling twins, and baking artisan from-scratch gorgeous loaves at RenateBakes.

Renate brings energy, authenticity, eco-mindedness, and thoughtfulness. We are excited to welcome her to the urbanMamas family!

Back to humanity

I like to write personal emails when I’m on a long flight home from work travel.  From last night:

Dear Page:

I’m intentionally starting emails with “Dear” nowadays, even for work emails.  It is a kind introduction that exudes happiness and positive intent.  I also am smiling more at strangers.  I try to say “hello”, make eye contact, and actually respond to passers-by who say “how ya doin’ today?”, to which I’ll try to genuinely respond.  The suggestion by Asha Dornfest to take back humanity by blogging has made me realize that I’ve been trying to make the world kinder and gentler for a while now, with each smile and “dear”.  It’s like the “happiness project” turned into the “humanity project”.

After Tuesday evening, I feel a bit more grounded.  Relieved.  I have a few doses of hope in me now with more women in leadership and other key milestones.  I love to know that we’ve re-engaged, and I can only hope it doesn’t go away, fade, vanish.

The workmate that sits in the cubicle next to me is a new U.S. citizen.  She is a few months into her new status.  She was so excited to participate in our democracy with her mail-in ballot.  She immigrated to the states from the Philippines, and she recounted how voting in her country of origin involved austere measures to supposedly prevent abuse at the polls.  She also shared how her grandfather was murdered because he was running for office (mayor of a town, I think), and because supported the voices of the marginalized.  The regime was disinterested in helping the poor, so they “took care of” anyone who offered to elevate the interests of the poor.

We continue to listen to the Hamilton soundtrack on repeat shuffle play.  We like to go out of order and be surprised.  The kids each have their favorites (Big T likes “Burn”, she’s a teen in angst after all; the big boy likes “Cabinet Battle #2” for all the rap; and the little one likes the opening number).  It’s so amazing how much of the lyric rings true and reminds us that our origins were to “rise up” “to the revolution!”  The founding fathers were so deeply engaged in our democratic process, in making sure that we had a way to be empowered, and yet we fail to recognize and use that privilege.  Are we taking it for granted?

Our biggest girl turned 18 just weeks ago, as you know, and she forgot to order her mail-in ballot and so, therefore, did not participate in our midterm elections 2018.  Her dad was particularly disturbed.  I myself had ballot anxiety as we lost my ballot in the move, so I went into the polling station but I feared that they would somehow not count my ballot thinking I was double-voting.

Well, here we are: the new world of the new world.  We’re on the descent, so …. until next time.

XO.

 

NO WINE: the glass is neither half-empty nor half-full

At the end of a long day, working either inside the home or out, managing schedules, laundry, meals, emotions, tantrums, relationships, and more, we all deserve a treat.  Back in the day, it was Calgon.  “Calgon: take me away!”  My mom’s treat was watching Dynasty in peace and quiet….  while folding a mountain of laundry.

For me, it has long been a glass (or two or three) of wine.  It is a true treat: fancy and frivolous.  I know many mamas without even a moment to rest, let alone enjoy a glass of an expensive beverage.

Well: this is me.  This is my treat.  It dulls the crazy, it fills me up, and it readies me for my catch-up time with the older kids or my husband.  When one glass turns into two or three, I usually resort to konking out on the couch from the chaos of the day-to-day circus that is our household.  In the morning, I wake up to all the things I forgot to do, or just didn’t do because I was too busy enjoying my treats.  I might even feel “dehydrated”, not really at 100% to conquer another day of juggling jobs or kids, meals or errands.  When my dear friend finally bit the bullet and said: “I’m not drinking anymore”, I paused and thought: “That makes a lot of sense!”

At the same time it didn’t.  For as much as we sacrifice, we all deserve a splurge.  Right?

When the splurge has side-effects that keep me from coming back at 100%, I thought long and hard about it.  And, I followed in suit.  I knew in my heart of hearts, it might be good for me too.

The week I decided to stop mid-week treats, a friend texted me from the new local bar.  “Come out and have a drink with us; it’s my sister’s birthday!”  I agreed.  I came over in my pajamas, and I watched the group drink some mescal mojitos.  I actually also ordered one, but I noticed that I didn’t really want it!

The next day, a friend told me to come over.  He wanted to give me some maps for our summer vacation.  I took the kids and we dropped by, just after dinner.  They were finishing their dinner wine, and he said, “Come on!  I’ll pour you some wine.”  I let him, and I watched the huge pour of pinot grigio sit there and go from cold and crisp to warm and soggy.  I just didn’t want it.

At a work networking event that I co-hosted with another woman, my co-host asked me “you’re not drinking?”.  As unusual as it seemed, for me especially, I said, “Hm.  I guess I’m not!”  I was going to, but I just didn’t feel like it!

Increasingly, I am finding more ways to unwind in the evening, mostly I’m spending that time goofing off with the kids, rough-housing, playing monopoly.  Somehow, this has redirected my energy to where it wanted to go all along.  I feel great, happy, content.  And, lucky for me, I can still enjoy my treats when I want – every so often during the week, and usually over the weekend.  Right now, I’m just enjoying how I can control how much control my splurges have over me.

Not all flowers & cheer on Mother’s Day

I went to the supermarket late Saturday night to replenish the coffee.  If I was going to have breakfast in bed the next morning, I certainly wanted some coffee to go with it.  (Full disclosure: I’m sure someone would have replenished the coffee, I just happened to be out near a supermarket that night.)

At the market, I noticed foil balloons of different kinds – “Happy Mother’s Day!” There were also full bunches of bouquets for sale near the cash register.

Mother’s Day is a great day for us mamas.  Our families celebrate us for all that we sacrifice and contribute.  We enjoy treats like: breakfast in bed, gifts, flowers, chocolate, spa time, massages, pedicures, mimosas!  YES: Give it to me!

It can also be a dark day for some of us.  Some of us no longer have a mama to call our own, and some of us can’t even remember the day we had a mama of our own to celebrate.  Maybe we were raised by other men and women who we came to call “mama”.  They were our nurturers, caretakers, and mothers, even if they weren’t our biological mamas.  Sometimes, we are sad on this day, thinking about all those mother’s out there and how their children grew up forever graced with their presence.  The day sometimes makes us feel like we’ve been missing out all this time.

Some of us have life through the horror of burying our own children.  Young or old, this experience is haunting and life-altering, and these feelings will never go away.  Mother’s Day is a day we remember our children and babies: moments of what had been, moments passed, moments no longer, moments that will never be.  Mother’s Day is not all cheer.

Some of us might still have a mama out there, but we are estranged.  We no longer talk.  We haven’t talked in weeks, months, years.  We have history we cannot overlook.  There are reasons we are apart, never to be together again, never to celebrate a Mother’s Day with flowers or balloons again.

This Mother’s Day, I celebrate all of you: we all came from a mama, whether she is still here or not.  We enjoy all the balloons and bubbly, and we recognize that not all of us share the cheer and celebration on this day.

It’s about the moments, not the milestones

I think about missing milestones, not being “there” for those moments. This week, my boy went skiing for the first time without us (he nailed it, of course; he’s a natural). Today, my biggest girl is touring a possible college campus for next year with her dad.  I had to stay back to shuffle the others to their activities, but – oh! – how I wish I was there.  In June, I have to miss my younger girls promotion ceremony, which commemorates her transition from 8th grade to high school (it’s a work thing; my heart is aching because I have to miss. I hate it.).

I come back to a feeling – a pretty strong bond – I share with the kids. At least: I believe we have that bond. Even though I miss things (i.e. events), my eldest comes home excitedly and says “oh my goodness I have so many things to show/tell you.” My second girl sends photos to me from when she is hanging with friends. My Big Boy, while I’m nursing the Li’l Boy to sleep in the bed underneath, will peer over the bunk bed rail and say “mama, can we talk?” And he’ll proceed to tell me about his dream from the other night or thoughts from the day.

So, I guess we’re still tight. Even though I miss events. We still have our moments.

I used to love mornings…

….  but now I don’t.  I have a toddler. He nurses. He busts into my room usually 30-60 minutes before my natural wake-up time. He is usually crying or whining or both. He is dragging his blanket (which smells like some kind of sweat-pee-saliva combo) or his stuffy (which smells the same). He rips of the covers and says “get me!!”  I have to awaken my muscles to hoist him into my bed. He flops this way and that; he’s over the covers and not under, thereby pinning the covers down and restricting my movement. He’s also still whining or crying or both. He also still has his oddly smelling belongings.

I try to find a comfy position to nurse while lying down. For me and my small boobs, “comfy position to nurse while lying down” doesn’t exist. It never has. I close my eyes pretending to get just a couple more minutes of sleep, but it’s nothing but a lie. It’s impossible to sleep or rest or even snuggle enjoyably. I am praying that my partner wakes up and brews the octane coffee. When my prayers don’t work, I resort to a firm kick in the leg that usually just feels like part of a dream so I don’t look like the bad guy.

The coffee is brewing and – on a good morning – the toddler has been taken from me so I can have 30 seconds of peace in my bed alone. That’s all the time to spare, for I am already late for whatever I’m supposed to do. When I finally get out of bed, my back hurts and there is kinks in my arms and neck.  I am perpetually twisted up and uncomfortable.  Every day, the discomfort reminds me of the annoying morning I had.

I can’t remember when it was, but I know for sure I loved mornings. I loved waking up before anyone else and sipping coffee and having quiet thoughts and planning my day. Was that a dream?  I’m pretty sure that was me in a former life. These days, when I lay me down to sleep, I close my eyes hoping that I’ll wake up to that dream again.

The good news is that they don’t stay surly toddlers forever.

 

 

And…. we’re back

Dear everyone:

After several years of fits and starts, we are here again to serve you.  Staying true to our goals, we want urbanMamas to be your resource.  We used to come here to talk about babies, feeding, nursing, sleeping, vaccinating, all of it.  Search the archives – we’ve discussed a lot over the years.  I think we first started in the fall of 2004.  That’s over a dozen years ago when I had a newborn and a 3-year old.

Now, my oldest is heading to college.  My youngest is a toddler.  And, I have a couple of kids in between: an energetic boy in 2nd grade and a middle school girl that is so …. middle school.

I’ll share stories more in coming posts.  I have lots of them!  In the meantime: please reach out.  I’d love to hear from you.  Want to post?  Have an idea?  Want to help run an event?  I’m still here listening – urbanMamas at gmail dot com.  Be in touch, come back, engage.  Thank you for everything!

Mother’s Day Reflections – 2017

Our traditions for Mother’s Day continue: breakfast in bed followed by a family hike.  Toward the end of our hike yesterday afternoon, I realized that I was starting to feel antsy, the Sunday blues starting to set in: Do we have enough groceries for the week? Do we have clean clothes? What are the schedule commitments and any special arrangements that need to be made? The list goes on.  One friend commented on Saturday that she had done all the grocery shopping and laundry already so she didn’t need to worry on Sunday.

Why can’t we have a Mother’s Day on a Saturday?  I feel like I could relax a bit more if I didn’t have to start stressing about the next week on that holiday.  I think 25% of my day on Mother’s Day is eroded by those Sunday worries that start to eat into my Sunday afternoon.

I’m missing the point?  Should I put the responsibility of the chores onto my kids and partner on Mother’s Day Sundays and let myself go worry-free?  Well: been there, done that.  I’ve done it a few different ways: refuse chores for the few days before and after Mother’s Day to see if they will get done for me, how and when I like them done.  This works fine: the kids fold laundry and clean the sink, and it is what it is.  But, let’s face it: no one does it quite like Mom.   Also: I mind it so much less if I have the time to get the chores done and if I get oodles of love for it!

Last night, in the last moments of Mother’s Day 2017, I did the dishes and scrubbed the sink.  My heart felt light.  I am happy doing the things that I do for my family, it’s what I do.  I can’t help it.  And, to me, the contribution they bring to my day is acknowledgement and full appreciation for all it is that I do.  Says one of my kids: “thank you so much for making us food, doing our laundry, cleaning our bathrooms and more.”  (not that I do it ALL, mind you.  These kids DO have chores!) and says another “There’s so much that you do for our family that goes unnoticed…. ” and “P.S. We didn’t pick out a gift for you, but if you want me to do a really gross chore, I’ll do it!”

In the meantime, I think I might just switch our family’s celebration to a Mama’s Day Eve to offset a bit of that Sunday evening stress that usually accompanies the event!

A balancing act: A guest post from a performing artist parent

Guest post from Camellia Nieh, who will be performing with TEMPOS Tuesday and Wednesday.

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photo © Dan Kim

A year ago, my husband I joined a performance group called TEMPOS, blending acrobatics, dance, and physical theater with live music. My husband writes and performs music for the group, and I perform acrobatics. Acrobatics is my passion…it makes me feel strong and alive. Music is my husband’s. We feel so lucky to have found an outlet that enables us both to work creatively together.

Our six-year-old son, Uzi, is less thrilled about our artistic projects. TEMPOS takes up a lot of our time. Friends and family support us a lot with childcare, and we have a fantastic babysitter whom he loves. But Uzi still wishes we would just stay home with him every night. Sometimes he cries when I have to leave for a rehearsal.

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photo © Ty Chance

I feel conflicted about the time I invest in creative pursuits. My husband is less conflicted. He assures me that it’s better for Uzi to see us dedicating ourselves to what we love. That it makes us happier, more balanced parents, and that it sets a good example, too. Fundamentally, I think he’s right. My hope is that when Uzi is older, he’ll look back and be proud of us for being performers. He’ll feel enriched by the evenings he spent hanging out backstage, tumbling with a crew of playful acrobats, or in the music studio in our basement, learning drumbeats and experimenting with the mixing board. Also, my mother sacrificed her personal aspirations to raise our family, and while we’re deeply grateful to her for devoting so much of herself to us, it was also hard always knowing that she felt so unfulfilled.

How do you balance what you love to do with the needs of your children? Do you feel conflicted about the time and resources you invest in doing things you love? Do you wish your own parents had invested more in their own passions, or less?