Monday, January 14, 2008

Yesterday I cried, today I smile

Traveling and seeing the world opens up so many emotions. There are so many stories to tell. Yes, it was only Mexico. But to see a different world through the eyes of three small children is seeing the world through new glasses you didn’t realize you needed.

I could write about the Ukraine family and the uber-controlling, highly-competitive, thong wearing topless mother. And, I will. Later.

I could write about the five year old, toothless, dirty, but smiling Mexican orphaned on the streets that befriended Lola. And, I will. Later.

I could write about the loud, obnoxious, drunken Americans that embarrassed our nation. And , I will. Later.

I could write about Madeline, the hotel maid, who’s only job was to sweep the lobby all day long and the friendship we created. And, I will. Later.

Today. I will write about the 5 minutes that has affected me the most. I didn’t even have to even travel to a foreign land for this…

Breath.

We were standing around waiting for our return flight to Ohio. My parents, whose flight left 20 minutes later then ours, were sitting across from us in the terminal discussing our vacation.

“Next year it will be easier. Fifi won’t need a bottle, or swim diapers, and will be sleeping better.” I try to comfort my overly tired parents.

My parents say nothing.

“Last year, it was harder. I was 8 months pregnant and the kids were younger, they needed me more.” I continue.

My parents say nothing.

“It will only get easier to travel with them as they get older.” I try again.

“They are spoiled. Your kids act like spoiled brats.” My father is the first to break the silence, in Polish.

My mother. My mama. She nods in agreement.

“It will not get easier. You let them get away with everything. Lola… that Lola…. She is STUBBORN and too opinioned. You let her get away with EVEYRTHING” My father. My Tata. He raises his voice, in Polish.

My mama nods in agreement.

I look at them both and my eyes fill up with tears. I turn away so they don’t notice. I gather up the family thrilled that my husband doesn’t understand a word of Polish and that with small kids we can board the plane first. I wave good-bye and walk onto the plane crying.

That. That was a direct attack on my parenting. My kids are 100% reflection of me. I wouldn’t have had any tears if he were to mention that my butt was big in my swimsuit or that I should do this or that . However, he, my very opinionated and very stubborn father attacked my children. My parenting. And my mother nodded in agreement. It has been a while since I have hurt that bad.

Breath.

I sat on the plane thinking about what they said or didn’t say. Many things are lost in translation and the word “spoiled” in English has a different meaning in Polish. What my father meant is… well… I don’t know… my kids are spoiled? If I were to make excuses for them (and I hate excuses), my sweet beautiful children on vacation, they would be that Jay had the FLU sleeping 20 hours of the day. Every day. Lola had a mild fever and a diet that consisted of maybe 600 calories a day. Fifi, well, Fifi is a baby and she ate some sand and maybe rubbed it in her eyes and got pink eye somehow and was miserable.

I sat on the plane with my amazing children and equally as amazing husband. Thinking. Should I punish Lola for not wanting to carry her own sand pail back from the beach? Should I punish Jay for the tone of his voice when he answered my parents during dinner?

No.

No. I have no manual to follow but my heart. I love my children. My parents love me and mentioned their opinions to have me reflect upon them. They have single handling observed the stress I endure each and every day with three small children. They mentioned what they observed to lovingly try to alleviate my stress. My parents are subscribers to the open ended dialogue. Especially my father, who although preaches to think before he speaks, he never really does. (Note: more excuses coming) I have to pick my battles. I can’t argue over every small detail that happens each day. I have to find what is important and be consistent in my parenting. And I am. I am a hardcore disciplinary, when compared to other moms. I pick my battles and I fight until I win and I talk until my heart can no longer talk with my children.

With three small children I can not sweat over the small things. I would be a nut case.

Breath.

I sat on the plane trying to enjoy the movie and snack and children aboard. We arrive in Ohio. We go through customs. We wait for our luggage. And an elderly man approaches us.

“Your children are beautiful!” He screams over the sound of the conveyer belt.

My husband and I smile.

“They are so well behaved. I sat behind you on the plane. Walked behind you in customs. They are really so well behaved in this day and age. You guys must be so proud. What a delightful family.” He is still screaming and the belt is now quiet.

The entire crowd around the baggage claim is quiet too. I look around to see everyone. Everyone. Everyone is nodding silently.

I cry. It felt like an awards assembly, everyone looking at me.

Yesterday, our first full day in Ohio, I was still a little sad about my father’s comment. We scrambled up the family and attended our favorite mass in Church. It was a long mass. A very long mass. A mass that I wasn’t prepared for. The church was packed with people that do not regular attend and although we were on time we were bumped up to the balcony. A place we have never been to before. Fifi dropped her paci on top of a man’s head below. The always clumsy Lola nearly fell over the balcony. Jay, still sleepy from the Flu, nearly fell asleep.

After mass, during donuts in the gym, a woman approached my husband.

“You have the most beautiful family. Your children are so well behaved and under control. You must be so proud.” She says and smiles gently at my husband.

Yes.

Yes. I am so proud of my children. In my world they are perfect. The overly-tired Jay. The dance to the beat of her own drum Lola. And the crying baby. They are perfect.

37classy comments:

Callahan Crew said...

It's great to see you back...I've been reading you for a while and was sad when you left for Mexico! I'll tell you what I tell my sister when she gets the parental judging. They forget how hard it is! I love the beads in Lola's hair!

Holly said...

Beautiful post. It's so hard when our parenting is criticized, especially by those we love. But, trust yourself and your instincts. You're an awesome Mom.

Sue said...

I hate it when my relatives hurt my feelings.

The thing I try to remember is that they are from a different generation when kids really were raised differently. I can't tell you how many times I was spanked with a hair brush - and my parents weren't abusive, it was just - something you did to kids when they were really bad. But I would NEVER do that to my children. I like to think that as a society, we've grown. But most of my friends, and my husband used to get spanked all the time. His mom used to say all the time "Children should be seen and not heard." Old school.

And nobody should judge children by how they behave when they are tired and TRAVELING. It sounds like your children are lovely.

Crystal said...

I would take the complements and the criticism and realize they come from snapshots of your life. You cannot sum up a child in a snapshot. It is the whole big picture that makes them who they are. From what I read here, adding up a bunch of snapshots, they are good, normal, wonderful kids and you my friend are a great mom.

Irene said...

Well, I am glad you are back. But I am so sorry that your vacation ended on a sort of sour note. I do have to hand it to you, I would have hard time just walking away if my parents said something like that to me. I would probably say something I would definitely regret.

Of course, that is definitely a problem I have, I definitely speak WAY before I think.

You seem to be a wonderful mom. And the fact that so many people you didn't even know commented on how well behaved your children are - says A LOT.

Going on vacation with little ones is hard in itself - not to mention your little ones were sick! In MEXICO! They definitely deserved a BIG break. Poor things.

Take care.

Melissa said...

Kids are different on vacation, plain and simple and then to have illness added in, its probably more than you parents could take. I agree with Sue, I raise my daughter a lot differently than my parents raised me.

If your comfortable with how you discipline your children then let what your dad said roll off your back. Yo get to decide how to raise your kids and no one else.

LunaNik said...

just remember that your parents are old school when it comes to raising a family. them old schoolers are tough cookies.

of course you are proud of your children!!! your children have interesting personality quirks, not behavioral problems. sometimes it's difficult for elders to see the difference.

((hugs)) so glad your back!!!!!

Don Mills Diva said...

Wow - what a beautiful post - just gorgeous - and that photo just hit the nail on the head. Your parents were raised sooo differently from how most people raise their kids these days, it must seem like a different world to them. You are obviously an awesome mom and I'm sure they know that too...welcome back.

Stella said...

What a GREAT post! I am so sorry for your parents words. That is so difficult to deal with when you are criticized in such a way.

From everything I've seen you are amazing mom and really, you must be doing something right for perfect strangers to stop you and let you know how wonderful your family is.

Vacation is a different place, different time, really- different children. It's hard- really hard. I don't think that parents always remember that. I am so sorry that those words hurt- they would have hurt me, too. Actually, I did feel a slight pang of hurt when I read them!

The picture is ADORABLE!!

Kathryn said...

You know, your parents (like mine) were raised in a different time. Even the thought of taking such small children on a vacation probably does not make sense to them. I'm sure they were expecting the children to be grateful and amazed every second that they got to go on vacation. But that expectation is completely unrealistic. They were leaving out a few factors. Illness, overtiredness, overwhelming excitement, unfamiliar surrounding, etc., all contribute to how a child behaves. I think when you are away from parenting for such a long time you forget all of that. Plus the fact that you have three so close together adds a whole new element to it.
I'm sorry your feelings were hurt. Especially by people whose opinion you value and who you love. But in this case, I think they were wrong.
I think God sent you those kind words from the strangers at the airport and in church for a reason. You know you have wonderful kids. You know you are a good mom. And so do your parents. Perhaps your parents were also overtired, overwhelmed and not feeling so well, and were not on THEIR best behaivor either.

Kelly said...

And you are perfect too, perfect and flawed, and honest, and real, and capable, oh so capable, of making me cry on a Monday afternoon. SOOOOO glad to have you back.

Amy said...

I'm so happy you are back!!
I agree with most everyone here, you are a wonderful mom and your children are BEAUTIFUL!! I'm a grown woman and I act a little spoiled when I'm sick. I'm sure your parents were just overwhelmed with the situation. I can only imagine how difficult that conversation was for you and kudos for keeping your cool because I think I would have LOST it! As long as you feel you are doing right with your family, that's all that matters! And you know I always say that the true test of my mothering skills is how my children act in public, to have complete strangers compliment your family is an AWESOME feeling! Keep doing what you're doing because from what I've seen, you're doing great!

renatamic said...

you are a wonderful mother, a beautiful person, a talented photographer and a great writer. i only hope that someday my mothering skills are half as good as yours...if they are only half as good, i will be happy.

i missed you! welcome back to the USA!!

andrea_frets said...

What a wonderfully sweet post. It's hard when parents are critical but the comments of strangers is quite telling.

WordyGirl said...

This entry is beautiful! As you probably saw in my journal I am already getting the well-meaning advice on how to raise my kid, and s/he ain't even born yet. You know you are on the right track, you are feeling with your heart and are right to have faith in yourself. Keep it up girl, and welcome back!

chickadee said...

Welcome back! I applaud you for keeping your cool...your parents love you and your children. A week of being together--especially in an unusual place and even under the best circumstances--can be tough. The conditions of your vacation were perhaps not the best (illness, etc.), and the result was just a snippit of how things really are (not an excuse--an explanation). The vast majority of the time, things with the kiddos are great--healthy and happy.

I've been told lately by my in-laws that I'm way to hard on my kids and by my own parents in the past that I let them get away with murder. You can't please everyone all the time. You guys are doing an amazing job with your kiddos. They're perfect. They're perfectly NORMAL. There's no such thing as perfect. Besides, perfect is SOOOO boring.

You're an amazing mom because you're doing the best you can and because you understand that things don't always go the way you'd like...but you roll with it.

Ready to head out for those drinks now??

Carrie said...

Sick kids in unfamiliar territory with people they don't see every day? They can be excused for being a little cranky or whatever it was. Of course you are going to carry their pail and other stuff! I am so mad at your dad and I don't even know you! I'm really glad the other people around you have noticed you and your children and took the time to tell you so. Your post made me tear up a little.

Cecily R said...

Oh, you are so sweet and so good. I have no doubt that the strangers that applauded your children and their parents are 100% in the right.

My dad came with Jon and I on vacation once when Isaac was a toddler. Isaac was naughty. He acted out and I stressed out. I made excuses and tiptoed around my dad. He creased his forehead a lot. I hated it.

I realized that in my case, there were certain things I was not going to do with my dad. Vacationing is one of them, at least while my kids are small.

One reason is because I am much less elegant when it comes to taking criticism from my dad (you handled it beautifully), and another is because I desperately want my dad to enjoy being my kids' grandfather. On that vacation he spent too much time thinking he needed to be a parent, which I see as less fun in situations like that.

Now when we hang out with my dad we do it primarily on my kids' turf. At our house where they know what they can mess up and know better what their boundries are. At places where they are supposed to be crazy kids like children's museums and parks, not restaurants or movies.

It works for us. I so hope you and your father can find a place where you and your kids feel comfortable and where he can see what great grandkids he has.

Kellan said...

I'll have to come back and read your post, I just wanted to say thanks for coming over and leaving the well wishes - I am fine - only need to remember about that bra thing the next time I ever have to call 911.

I'll come back later - I have to go to a meeting. Welcome home! Kellan

Kellan said...

I'll have to come back and read your post, I just wanted to say thanks for coming over and leaving the well wishes - I am fine - only need to remember about that bra thing the next time I ever have to call 911.

I'll come back later - I have to go to a meeting. Welcome home! Kellan

Rob said...

Huh, you had me at thong and topless then we veered off in a new direction! :)

Otherwise, Melissa already said what I was going to say.

I hope you enjoyed your vacation otherwise but I for one am glad you are back!

Buttermouth said...

Welcome back OHmommy!

I know exactly what your going through right now. I too have an immigrant father that can be really hurtful at points...But you just need to remember that his childhood was a lot different than your children's.

He is just trying to relate his childhood to your kid's and after he finds out he can't draw a comparison, he finds someone to blame.

Don't worry, we all know your a great mother. Keep doing what your doing.

Amy said...

You know what is amazing about this experience.
All the people that God sent your way to let you know that you are doing a great job, and your kids are not spoiled.

I know if is hard when a parent criticizes your parenting, I have been there. Your Heavenly Father is sending you a very strong message through the voices of strangers, I hope you see that.

Caroline said...

I love Lola's braids! They're so cute!

Plus, you are a rock star mommy... ROCK STAR.

Stephanie said...

Ultimate goals for raising children:

Humble hearts
Kind
Always thinking of others first
Religious (it's important to me but I realize not all)
Truth-tellers
Appreciative

If you're happy with how you're children are doing and working toward these things (which I believe are somewhat universal for the human race to survive) then they're going to be great adults. Continue smiling and let others comments roll off your back. If I had a penny for every time someone told me to relax about schedule and quit being so anal I think I might be rich. I am the best parent I know to be and while I listen and appreciate EVERY comment made to me, whether I agree or not I thank them. We can all learn from our elders but sometimes they get a little jaded in their old age, too. They get so far removed from the stressfulness of kids running around and playing that they forget they have to be kids sometimes, too. Good luck parenting, you'll do an awesome job because you're kids will see what a wonderful person you seem to be!

Hope every one is feeling better!

Maria said...

Welcome back. I feel so sorry for you that you went through that with your parents. Honestly they just don't understand. It's a different world today raising children. It's so much harder. It sounds like you're a wonderful mom. I'm sure your parents feel bad about what they said. Just give it time.

Monica said...

Wow - long comments tonight. i'll just say I know exactly how you feel and heart you so much. too tired to write tonight. So relieved you're back, my sweet friend!

My Semblance of Sanity said...

I don't know you except through lurking here.

I have never laid eyes on you or your children.

But, I know, because I see your heart everyday on this blog that you are an AMAZING MOTHER.

When it comes to mothering, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS go with your heart...b/c that was your children's first home!

LaskiGal said...

Oh . . . I feel your ache. I know why you need to breathe. You handled yourself beautifully, which can be so hard with family, especially parents.

Criticism often chips away at our souls, but you sound awfully strong and wise--you handled it wonderfully--breathe.

You sound like a fantastic mother and by the looks of your adorable and HAPPY kiddies . . . you are.

Oh . . . found you while you were away enjoying (or trying to) the sun . . .

Huckdoll said...

You know me, I tend not to care about other peoples opinions whatsoever. That said, my mom and dad are my biggest critics and I take everything they say to heart.

It always takes me weeks to get over their critisim.

Jolyn said...

I must just say that it is amazing how you write, never mind that it is your THIRD language.
If your parents want to see spoiled, they should go to Italy: those kids are SPOILED. (We lived there for 3 years recently w/American military...)
I find the cultural differences fascinating, and can only imagine the real struggle you feel to reconcile your two; Americans may not be so blunt as your father, but we often forsake honesty for consideration. Sometimes a good thing, sometimes not.
Just my two bits, your kids seem wonderful to me. It may be the different standards -- but did your parents ever "vacation" with small children? And hats off to you for traveling with them, which is NOT EASY.

the dragonfly said...

I'm sorry you had a rough goodbye with your parents...but I'm glad you had the affirmation at the airport in Ohio.

And welcome back!

MrJourneyman said...

I am super excited you are back.

We all have our own opinions...but really, as long as you work hard to be the best parent you can be for your kids, then the only opinions that matter are those of your husband, children, and yourself ;)

Your family is beautiful and classy!

Peace!

Kellan said...

This was the most beautiful and beautifully written and beautifully sad post - I just love it. I love your perspective and how you tried very hard to forgive your parents - you did good!! I loved this post!! See you. Kellan

Rachel said...

I adore the chubby legs, too darling. The braids are precious on her beautiful little head and he's so handsome. Standing watch over his little sisters.
Strangers would not approach you other than to tell you the truth. Be proud. Parents can hurt us like no other and for some reason, they sometimes want to. I'm so sorry darling.
Just remember the good, remember that's a different generation, raised in a different time and place, raising their own children in a different time, way and place. You are raising them with your heart and you will all be better for it.
*hugs*

Kelli said...

You do the best you can, obviously your parents have forgotten what it is like to have little kids.

Kari said...

I adore that picture. They are perfect. Just perfect.

 

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