Do You Pursue Friendships with the Opposite Sex?

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Cuddling and reading Harry Potter in bed with our daughter is one of the highlights of my evenings. Our nine year old is often talkative and revealing at bedtime, especially as we’re giggling about Ron and Hermione’s constant bickering. Little did I know these beloved characters’ mutual crush would provide fertile ground for an eye-opening, painful conversation.

After a juicy discussion of Ron and Hermione’s flirtatious antics, I playfully broached the subject of crushes, asking if my daughter had a crush on any kids in her class.

“I don’t have a crush on anyone,” she answered, avoiding my gaze.

Certain she was on the verge of opening up to me, I pressed on. “When I picked you up from school this afternoon, I thought I saw you staring at Joe, but not talking with him. Are your feelings for him similar to Hermione’s feelings for Ron?”

“No, mom, not at all,” she said. “I am nervous around him. But I’m nervous around all boys. I’m scared to talk to them, and I don’t know why.”

As tears flooded her lashes, Ava explained that she didn’t understand why she was so uncomfortable when all the other girls seemed to interact well with boys.

So much for my maternal instincts. Where I perceived an innocent first crush, my daughter was experiencing real discomfort. As I held her and brushed the hair out of her eyes, I realized I had little experience-based wisdom to impart on this topic. My own lack of male friends throughout my school years and beyond was not a formula I’d want my daughters to emulate.

The best I could offer in the moment was tell her she wasn’t alone, that I remembered being scared to talk with boys too, and was open to talking more about her fears whenever she wanted.

Sated by my response, she fell asleep in my arms, leaving me to review my own history of interacting with boys.

As one of three sisters with protective parents, I never spent much time around boys. I never made friends with them or really got to know them. For me, boys felt magical from afar; terrifying up close.

My past is littered with experiences of ignoring boys who were nice to me and wanted to be my friend in favor of longing for those who ignored me, wishing they would choose me for relationships. Although I had little actual experience interacting with boys, my obsession with them taught me lessons I don’t want to pass on to my children.

In kindergarten, my rogue classmate Devon grabbed me by the arms after school and attempted to plant a rough kiss on my cheek. I, in turn, hit him with my blue Barbie lunchbox, winning his devotion for the rest of the school year. Lesson:  play hard to get, the boys will love you.

In second grade, I eagerly tried to win over Edward, a scrawny, tow-headed boy who repeatedly ignored me and my offerings of the dry Stella D’oro anise cookies my mom packed in my lunch. Lesson:  Keep chasing, sooner or later you’ll win his affection. Or bring better cookies.

In fourth grade, I graduated to Donald, the tough neighborhood kid who rode his bicycle to my house and threw rotted green apples at my legs to win my affection. After several days of this mating ritual, my younger sister sprayed Donald with our garden hose, ending his infatuation. Lesson:  keep your smarter, braver sister away so you can enjoy the attention.

In sixth grade, my undying devotion to Michael, the nearsighted boy who never acknowledged my existence, led me to commit the first of many fashion don’ts – octagon shaped, wire-framed glasses to match his. Lesson:  do whatever it takes to make a boy notice you.

My high school and college years, with their mix of hormones and unrequited love, offered similar lessons; the more uninterested the male, the better. My motto:  completely ignore me, I’ll follow you forever. Be nice to me, want to be my friend, I’ll look through you to the unavailable guy in the corner.

While my relationships with men have blossomed with time, maturity and therapy, I don’t pursue male friendships. If I’m going to model healthy interactions with the opposite sex for my kids, I need to get some male friends. Stat.

I wonder what Devon, Edward, Donald and Michael are doing these days?

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My Valentine’s Day Post

Don't You Forget About MeI hate to be left out of anything. Whether that something is anything I really want to do is beside the point. Everyone in blogland is posting something about Valentine’s Day today. I don’t have any surefire libido-revving recipes, any devastatingly romantic plans for the day or any genius tips for surviving as a single person on this emotionally-fraught holiday.

Instead, today I have a raging head cold and the focusing-ability of a gnat. And a husband who is out of town. So what will I do? I’ll write something Valentine’s Day related anyway. Cause I hate to be left out.

My need to be included in all things is causing me trouble today. Apparently, my sense of self is fragile. If I’m not included in every party or outing or get together, I get itchy and scratchy and anxious. Anxiety is like bed bugs – nipping at you when you’re most vulnerable and expensive to eradicate. (And what could be more romantic in a Valentine’s Day post than mentioning bed bugs?)

But when I am included in everything, I more often than not feel overwhelmed and anxious (see a pattern here? If not, I’ll draw you a diagram.) I get resentful and ornery when I have too many commitments.

The flip side to my need to be included is that I feel guilty if I plan or attend something and other friends aren’t included. And I believe I have to protect their feelings by not mentioning the plans that I do have. For example, my family gets together every six weeks with two other families for something we lovingly call Suppa Club. I love Suppa Club and wouldn’t change a thing about it other than my guilt.

Every time we have one scheduled and a non-Suppa-Club friend asks what we’re doing, I try to avoid the question and feel guilty that we haven’t included non-Suppa-Club friend in Suppa Club. (If your head is now throbbing after reading that last paragraph, maybe you too can take a sick day? You’re welcome.)

When I am included, I feel sad for those who are not. When I’m not, I feel suicidal. How’s that for a win-win for everyone?

I could understand this anxiety better if I were nine or ten years old and juggling a variety of social plans like our pre-tween daughter, Ava. She has more social plans than Lindsay Lohan has citations. She doesn’t enjoy not being included, but she sure doesn’t feel guilty if someone is excluded. She moves on and enjoys whatever is in front of her.

Last weekend she hopped from play date with friend A to playdate with friend B and told both of them about her plans. (Horrors! What if their feelings get hurt? I can’t even write their names in the unlikely event either of them/their moms will read this post!)

Of course I realize everyone can’t be included in everything. Nor would I want everyone to be. (Other than me.)

BUT, I want everyone to want me to be part of everything. Is that wrong? Even if I don’t want to go and would feel resentful having to show up, I want to be asked.

How old am I you ask? Exactly. My brain gets it, but my vulnerable ego hasn’t quite caught up.

Last week, I asked a dear friend to join a writing group that she’s been part of for the past several months. I wasn’t clear in my own mind whether or not I really wanted to be part of it; I just knew I didn’t want to be excluded.

She lovingly and honestly said “no.” She admitted she didn’t want me to be part of that group, but was willing and interested in doing something separate with me. I initially felt devastated and ashamed; the message in my head that I wasn’t good enough to be part of her group. After processing those fun-for-everyone feelings, I moved on to a different point of view.

Her bravery rocked my world. I am so fucking lucky to have grownups in my life, people who will tell me the truth so they won’t have to resent me and distance themselves from me later on. I feel closer to this friend than ever and grateful she’s modeling sane, honest behavior for me.

Fragile ego? Check. Thankfully, I’m aware of my narcissism  and am willing to embrace it by telling everyone who will listen.

So, if you’re having a dinner party or going to an event without me, please make sure I know about it so I can feel crappy and jealous and loser-ish. It will be our version of Immersion Therapy (and infinitely quicker and cheaper than the regular kind).

What marvelous plans are you withholding from me?

Ruts & Grooves

I'm in a rut, post-holiday blues, procrastination help

Does your life ever feel like this?

Do you ever avoid calling a friend you haven’t spoken with in a while because you don’t have an hour to spend on the phone catching up? After more time goes by, does it feel harder and harder for you to pick up the phone?

Me, too.

I’m feeling that way about blogging right now. I haven’t posted in a while, and I want to come back strong with a fabulous, witty, endearing post. Until I have the time to write that post, I tell myself I shouldn’t post at all.

So, today I’m practicing something different.

I am writing this morning for ten minutes. Writing whatever comes into my head. And I’ve promised myself I’ll post whatever I write, just for the exercise and to get back into some semblance of a writing routine. I love to write, and I’ve been avoiding it. Again.

I’m in an avoidance rut. The more pressure I put on myself to write (or call, exercise, etc.), the more I want to run away and do something else – clean the house for example. And I hate cleaning the house. I am in a rut. Please send help. And chocolate.

I’m telling myself not to look at the computer screen. Not to edit while I write. To just write; open my heart and pour out some words. Breathe in the joy of writing again. Breathe out the pressure and fear. Enjoy the giddiness I feel whenever I sit down with an idea for a post.

Avoidance takes energy. Avoiding keeps me in a cycle of shame; the “I’m not doing enough” message pounding in my head. When I’m in these ruts, ideally I’d keep showing up in the world in small ways, rather than wait until I can do the big ways I tell myself are the only ones that count.

If I can’t do it all – whether it’s catching up with a friend, doing the entire, gut-busting workout or reading and commenting on every blog I’ve ever subscribed to – I want to run and hide. (Watching another episode of Scandal, a television show I had never heard of until two days ago, seems much more important than connecting with living, breathing human beings or doing activities that are good for me or bring me joy.)

I tell myself catching up takes too much time and energy. When connecting with people I love and doing activities that lift my soul feel like something to check off a “to do” list rather than a vision of joy to embrace, I know I’m out of whack. Where’s the fun? Where’s the flow?

Several people I’ve asked for help with this rut have suggested I practice trust. Trust.

Trust my process. Trust the universe. Trust my version/vision of God. Trust other people. Trust my place in the world. I’d like to trust today. I’m not sure I know how. Writing and posting this feels like a step in the right direction. (Who knows, you may even get a phone call from me later today!)

When you’re in a rut or find yourself avoiding someone or something you enjoy, what do you do? How do you get back in a consistent groove?

Lessons Learned (Vol. Eight)

lessons learned, learned lessons, lessons to be learned, family, lesson learned, words of wisdomWe had an exciting week – unpacking all the crap we brought with us over Thanksgiving weekend, watching Ava’s first basketball game (a victory!), finalizing plans for our upcoming Disney trip, shopping and decorating for Christmas, getting haircuts all around and visiting Santa. And that was just over the weekend!

Other than discussing uteri with our four-year-old (and likely devastating her young friend Tomas), I’m not sure I learned much last week except that most days I need a nap. And a massage. Santa wasn’t particularly hopeful he could fit those gifts in my stocking this Christmas. But I think I increased my odds (and his motivation) by slipping him $20.

On to some of my favorite lessons:

  • The only way I could have loved Steve’s essay comparing writing to sex more would have been if I had thought of it. And I’m planning to steal his idea in a few months and change it up a bit – I think I’ll compare sex to writing instead. Good, huh? (Brown Road Chronicles)
  • When I first read John’s funny essay reminding me about life with a newborn, I felt a longing in my heart for one more kid. Just one. A little one. However, after our four-year-old woke up five times last night because of a cold, I’m over it. (Ask Your Dad)
  • Adrienne found the surprisingly perfect place to escape her parenting duties and kindly shares her secret fort location with the rest of us.  (The Mommy Mess)
  • Laura’s moving essay about needing a vacation to spend time connecting with her husband and children really hit home for me. With our hectic daily lives, my husband and I often find ourselves discussing logistics rather than sharing feelings and stories. My favorite part of our trips to Michigan to visit my husband’s family are the car rides – uninterrupted time for Mike and me to connect, laugh and remember all we’re grateful for. (Close Families)
  • Finally … if I can’t get daily naps and massages for Christmas, I’ll take Lisa’s simple, lovely prayer for Peace. (Mommy OM)

What did you learn last week? What do you want for the holidays? Happy Monday!

Lessons Learned (Vol. Six)

Taking time away from blogging and my computer last week felt hard and wonderful.  As I’ve come to realize, this morning in fact, my relationship with blogging is a bit twisted. Exhibit A:  This conversation with my husband, Mike, as I started writing this post:

Me:  “Honey, what did I learn last week?”

Mike:  “How about that you and Ava are both afraid to talk to boys.”

Me:  “True. But I haven’t posted about that yet.”

Mike:  “Oh. So you don’t learn something until you post about it on your blog?”

Me:  “Exactly. Nothing actually exists until I post about it.”

Mike:  “You are what you blog.”

Me:  “You’re a genius!”

I spent a lot of time last week planning our upcoming trip to Disney World and focusing on my in-person relationships with my husband, kids and a few good friends. Although I didn’t post anything, I did learn some interesting lessons for upcoming posts:

  • Hosting dinner parties makes me twitchy.
  • Expressing anger and frustration with my husband and kids instead of at them feels pretty. damn. good.
  • Though I never would have believed it, after years of exercising alone, I’m loving group boot camp with the moms from my daughters’ school.
  • Planning a trip to Disney World is an intense, full-time job, one made exponentially harder when I insist this trip be the one-time highlight of my daughters’ childhood. Pressure, anyone?

While I didn’t read as many blog posts from others as I usually do, I learned plenty from the blog-o-sphere last week. Here’s a sampling:

  • Worried about the forthcoming Apocalypse (12/20/2012)? Missy from Literal Mom has some intriguing, unusual tips for preparing. Apparently, some people need to be encouraged to dance naked in their backyards on a regular basis. How is it possible people are only now learning the joys of this practice? (Literal Mom)

That’s me! What did you learn last week?

Happy Sunday!

Lessons Learned (Vol. Five)

I loved last week!

My candidate won. Our two daughters cuddled on the couch reading together every night with nary a fight. I asked for and received insightful support and feedback on my writing. I had several good hair days in a row. I won a writing award. And … wait, did you just read that? My post, Rushing Is the New Crack, won a writing award from Yeah Write!

Life is good.

Other Highlights:

  • While I’m fairly certain hurricanes aren’t prevalent in the Midwest, as a future precaution, I now know what not to do should one rip through Chicago any time soon. Thank you, Ice Scream Mama! (Ice Scream Mama)
  • Note to self:  do not admit to our pediatrician that we don’t own a thermometer. Who knew a lack of thermometer constitutes a parenting fail? Not this Mary, and not me. I’ve always thought the cheek to forehead method worked just fine! (Giving Up On Perfect)
  • Coco Puffs, Kool Aid and Mr. Salty Pretzel Twists, oh my! I’m not the only one who vividly and fondly remembers the food mascots of my youth. If you don’t remember, Angie’s got you covered with this memorable essay. (Childhood Relived)

Learn anything last week you’d like to remember? Or hope to forget? 

Happy Sunday!

Rushing Is the New Crack

The time is 9:03 am. I have to leave my house in 22 minutes to arrive at my 10 am dentist appointment on time. Instead of writing this essay, I would be wise to get in the shower and get dressed. My morning would run much more smoothly if I pushed my chair back and moved purposefully toward the bathroom without stopping to water a forlorn plant or check what’s trending on Twitter. But I won’t. This essay can’t wait. And earlier this morning, cleaning the crumbs off the counter before I drove my daughters to school couldn’t wait. Unloading the dishwasher, checking my blog stats, plucking a stray eyebrow or Googling an ex-boyfriend typically can’t wait either.

I suffer from “just one more thing” thinking. And though I have no actual proof, I routinely believe I can squeeze in one last task before leaving the house and still get to where I need to go on time. While I’m rarely more than a few minutes late to a meeting or appointment, I’m constantly rushing.

Why is rushing so appealing? I’m convinced I’m addicted to the anxiety, the stress and the adrenaline that rushing brings. The adrenaline makes me feel alive, gives me energy and keeps me from feeling any pesky feelings that might intrude on my day. Adrenaline is my drug of choice, and the fastest way for me to mainline adrenaline is to set-up my day for maximum rushing opportunities.

At times I’m in denial about how long I need to complete tasks. And I enjoy seeing how much I can do in the least amount of time. I’ve convinced myself I can shower, dress, and eat a snack in less than ten minutes, so if I have 11 minutes before I need to leave, I may as well type out one last email. Or check what’s trending on The Huffington Post this morning.

Some days I allow myself plenty of time to get ready, only to add in an arbitrary task before walking out the door.  Doesn’t everyone see the value of folding the socks I’ve avoided all week before leaving the house? I’m talking about efficiency, people.

If I gave myself plenty of time to get where I’m going, I’d have nothing to rail against, no anxiety to fight. And god knows a lot of important tasks wouldn’t get done!  Why would I possibly want to arrive somewhere early and give myself all that unfettered time to think, feel and interact with people? Scary.

I’m loathe to procrastinate on starting a project or paying a bill, but try to get me out of the house on time and I rebel, playing beat the clock with myself and enjoying a constant series of internal calculations:

“If my appointment starts in 30 minutes and my drive time is 23 minutes, I can leave now and be at my appointment with seven extra minutes to spare,” I’ll think. “Or I can check Pinterest for a new smoothie recipe before I leave – that’ll take one or two minutes tops!” Right?

I wish I wanted to change. My husband wishes I wanted to change. What I want is for everyone to get out of my way while I’m rushing so I can enjoy my adrenaline hit in peace.  Is that too much to ask?

Unfortunately, I seem to be modeling unwanted behavior for our two daughters. Or so they tell me.

“Mommmmmmmm, you’re rushing me again!” our nine-year-old exclaims, exasperation clinging to each syllable. “Your two favorite words are ‘hurry up!’”

Who taught that kid to count anyway?

While I’m not proud when I hear our four-year-old scolding her dolls, “Hurry up, girls, we’re going to be late, hurry, hurry,” I am amused that her dolls respond to her urgings only slightly more often than my kids respond to mine.

Look at the time! Two minutes before I have to walk out the door. Forget the shower, I’ll have just enough time to find photos to accompany this post and hit “publish.” And maybe check Zappos for a new pair of boots.

While some adrenaline junkies need this …
Photo By Norcal21jg, via Wikimedia Commons

I prefer to get mine the old-fashioned way.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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