Tag: growing up

Onward, with Jazz Hands

Onward, with Jazz Hands

The kids have told me that my half-jokey-but-really-I-was-seriousness declaration of “Onward, with joy!” as our family motto is basically the un-coolest thing I have ever done in their entire lifetimes, so just imagine their (implied) glee when our friend David texted me the Latin translation 

The Easter Bunny Shakedown, or Why Some People Make Fun of Religion

The Easter Bunny Shakedown, or Why Some People Make Fun of Religion

Quinlan walked into my office the day after Easter, pursing her lips like she does when she senses deep, deep injustice in her presence. “Mom,” she said. Her tone was accusatory. “The jelly beans that were in our Easter baskets were the same ones you 

My Baller Daughter is Ten Years Old and Already More Mature than I am: Counting the Ways

My Baller Daughter is Ten Years Old and Already More Mature than I am: Counting the Ways

Saoirse and her team finished up their novice basketball season this weekend. These girls exceeded all of our expectations (Saoirse: “I didn’t think we were going to win one game!” Her dad–her head coach–sheepishly agreed): they were undefeated this season save one loss, and I never thought a group of 3rd and 4th graders could grow so well together. It was amazing to watch–and reaffirming, quite honestly, to witness firsthand how steady hard work can make even the biggest doubters say, “Oh, okay. I wasn’t expecting that.”

As I said good night to my oldest girl after the last game of her tournament, I told her how proud I was of her. She asked why–what was I most proud of?–and I had to sort through the reasons to get to my answer. (I’m a mom, you know. Ask me how I’m proud of one of my kids and I turn into a mushy pile of Elizabeth Barrett Browning poems.)

Saoirse’s gotten faster this season. She’s more confident, more sure of herself, more in control. The nervous ponytail-fixing days of yore are gone. She’s a better ball-handler, switching from left to right like she figures that if God gave her two hands, she might as well use both. I love that she was ready and willing to pass the ball, that she knew how to work as a team, that she always turned to congratulate a player after a basket. She’s a good shot. I’m proud of her because she was one of the strongest players on the team–I admit that. I can’t help it. It’s fun to see your kid shine. I thought about how she made the last, game-winning bucket of the season, with a rebound that she calmly took, stepped back, and shot from the middle of a defensive scrum. I was so proud of that. I’ve turned into that arms-up-in-the-air “Whoooo!” sort of mom–the one that makes you roll your eyes because seriously, it’s kiddie basketball?–and I’m okay with that. How can you not be proud of the moment your kid gets brave?

But here is what I told her: yes, I was proud of all of that. Yes, I was happy to see how she’d started to shine. But it was something else: it was the way, when she ran down the court, she kept an eye over her shoulder to see where the ball was going. It was how she moved around when she had the ball, aware of what was going on as she kept an eye out for open players. It was how she maneuvered, head up, guarding this person but watching another. It was how, when she did move to shoot, she’d pivot, take a millisecond to size up the distance to the basket, then launch the ball. So I told her:

“You see the big picture now. You’re not just in there, scrambling to get through the play. You’re always aware of what’s going on around you now. It’s neat to see. It shows a lot of maturity, Saoirse.”

It was SO not a 10-year-old-sized compliment, but it was the truth, and my heart swelled when I saw her actually blush, her head against her pillow, her freshly washed hair smelling of coconut shampoo, her sweet face thinking about what I’d said.

She’s 10. And this season she’s learned not to just scramble. She’s learned to look up, look around, assess, and work with the people who surround her. And she’s mastered it.

The big picture. It’s something I struggle with every day.

I have a lot to learn from my 10-year-old.



So Long as They Jump

So Long as They Jump

Saoirse and I were sitting on the couch together the other night, reading. Much to her little sister’s dismay, SK gets to stay up later than her younger siblings. Quinlan, in her imagination, thinks we spend this time gorging on cupcakes, or reenacting episodes of American 

They All Said, Don’t Blink: A Farm Market Causes an Existential Parenting Crisis

Our girls don’t have soccer games scheduled for the upcoming weekend, so most of their practices this week were cancelled (wait, do you hear the choir of angels singing the Hallelujah Chorus, too??). We’ve been running nonstop this fall with soccer and school and family activities (I’m 

Because Why Not

Saoirse told me recently that she’s not sure if she wants to be President of the United States when she grows up, after all. She said that she she might want to open a restaurant called Dolphin’s Diamond D instead, where children have a play area to enjoy while their parents work, and where there’ll be a person in a dolphin suit handing out stickers, and all the food would start with the letter D (Quinlan suggested doughnuts as a dessert. I said that I would gladly support that decision).

I told SK that she would have a good 15 years or so of adulthood before she could become president anyway, so she’d have plenty of time and freedom to open her restaurant if she wanted to do so.

“But Mom,” she said. “I think I might like to work in an aquarium, or with dolphins. I’d like to work at Clearwater Marine Aquarium.”

Quinlan nodded. She said that she’d like to live there, too. I asked the girls if I could move to be near them, since their dad and I like it there. They said absolutely–we could live really close to the restaurant (because now we were back to the restaurant idea, as long as it was within walking distance of the aquarium).

1.28.16. Saoirse Growing Up. SK leggingsBut then Saoirse stopped talking for a moment (and by moment, I mean maybe a quarter of a second, because she was on a roll).

“Mom,” she said. “I think I might like to be a teacher, too. I can’t decide.”

I didn’t mean to laugh, but I did. “Saoirse,” I told her. “You don’t have to decide now. Honey, you don’t even have to decide once you grow up. I’ve had three careers since college besides being a mom, and that’s okay. Just work hard and take your time.”

“And didn’t you work in a restaurant, too?” she said. I looked at her for a moment, out of the corner of my eye. “Yeah,” I said. “I was a waitress. In a Pizzeria Uno.”

“Uno!” she crowed. “Uno means ‘one!'”

“Yep!” I said, although waiting tables at a chain restaurant wasn’t exactly the pinnacle experience of my twenties. “Sometimes I’ve worked two jobs at a time.” Saoirse nodded, then looked away.

“Quinlan,” she said. “Want to play with cars?”

And then they skipped off, leaving me at the lunch table, thinking about how, no, she doesn’t have to decide yet. Yes, she should have a goal, and man, do I want her to work so hard to meet it. But you know? She doesn’t have to decide. I don’t really want her to decide, if it means she’s not going to be doing everything on this earth she’s gifted to do. It took me almost a decade and a half to get the courage to write, and I still sit at my computer, absolutely terrified of it, more scared of writing now than I was before All the Difference came out. But I’m glad that I’m trying. I don’t want her–or Quinlan or Cian–to second-guess themselves.  I want them to be brave. I want them to work their tails off for what they want–if that means working nights and weekends at a Pizzeria Uno after working a full-time job, so be it–and use every skill God gave them while they can. I get upset sometimes that I didn’t have the courage to do this writing thing way before now. I remember feeling so lost back then, but I think I was trying on what I wanted to do for size. That meant that I took out loans and worked two or three jobs at a time and went to school again and paid off those loans, but every single “career” I ever had taught me something, and led me to something even better. I didn’t travel nearly as much as I would’ve loved back then, but I did, though. I did, even if it meant camping in Key West (so. many. lizards) or saving up for that plane ticket to San Francisco. My point is–and this is the point I think about when it comes to how my kids will grow up: I made it all work. It eventually got easier. And from all of that, I made a life.

And honestly? It’s a life I’m grateful for.

1.28.16. Saoirse Growing Up. SK sitting 1Do I want my kids to grow up to have to work a lot and struggle a little? Kind of, I do, at least at first. (Kids, when you read this in a few years, I’m sorry. But honestly: that summer you’ll spend nannying for that horrid family will teach you crazy-huge coping skills, I promise). Now, I wouldn’t mind if Saoirse avoids the live-in-a-cheap-apartment-that-has-a-bug-problem stage (Oh, I don’t miss you at all, 1999!), or the I-can’t-afford-to-go-out-tonight-so-I’ll-just-charge-the-drinks-to-my-credit-card era, but I wouldn’t mind if she has to do some things the hard way. I want Saoirse and her siblings to end up as adults that are a little tough and a lot appreciative of what they have when they get it. I want them to be full of the confidence that comes with paving your own way. My most favorite people in the world are the ones who know what it’s like to build their worlds from the ground up. And when Saoirse stands on the Capitol steps one day with her hand on that Bible, saying the oath of office, I want her to know that she earned every single word that comes out of her mouth.

1.28.16. Saoirse Growing Up. SK sitting 2And I will be right beside her with the rest of the family, holding a box of her restaurant’s doughnuts in my arms. 

Our Saoirse Kate turned eight years old this week. She asked for a chocolate cake decorated like a dolphin, and woke up to a wrapped package of Shopkins on the breakfast table. She’s going to take guitar lessons with a brand new instrument, and her grandmother gave her a Lego Millennium Falcon to build with her dad. We gave her the choice of a birthday party or a family adventure, and she chose the adventure (smart girl), so her gift from us is a dolphin encounter experience at Baltimore’s National Aquarium. For this one day, she is spoiled. The rest of the time, she will work to prove to herself that she will–in the future, but sooner than we’re ready for–handle this world on her own.

She doesn’t have to decide, though. Not now, and not then, I don’t think. Because you know what? Saoirse is smart, and cheerful, and strong. She still hurries into school each day, and runs out of the building to see me afterward with a smile on her face, ready for a hug. She has a knack for sticking to what she likes and what she wants to do, even if it’s not what the other kids are doing. She loves sashimi and chocolate and chicken wings and her grandmother’s meatballs. She wears giant headbands and necklaces and pink, but doesn’t like princesses and would like to rescind her request to get her ears pierced after all. She likes Taylor Swift and dancing by herself in her bedroom and writing in notebooks and leading games with her sis and brother in the family room. She’s still best friends with the girl she met on the first day of 3-year-old preschool, even though they go to different schools and only see each other when their parents manage to lock down a mutual free weekend. She is so full of awesome I’m surprised it doesn’t come bursting out of those perfect ears of hers. I look at her (and her sister and her brother because how can you not) sometimes and just pray she always knows how much good is inside of her. 

She’s only a child, daydreaming about becoming a grown-up. But childhood is where grown-up dreams take root. I kind of like the idea of my daughter becoming Dr. Chef Madame President one day. But maybe she’ll choose something else. Maybe she’ll want to go abroad for college and I’ll cheer her on and then secretly sob by myself when she’s not looking and send her care packages to keep her fed and remind her that she’s loved. Because the whole point of the life she has is to use every talent she’s got and see what happens next, isn’t it? Isn’t that why I had her? Isn’t that what she’s here for?

What a gift to use.



Just the Beginning

We can’t protect our kids from the world (or, in this case, being seven). You know this. I know this. I may want to be in denial about this, and yet. I got a call from the assistant principal of Saoirse’s school (the school that 

And Then She Turned Seven and I Maybe Cried

Last week, somewhere between a family party on Saturday (with my brother and his wife in town from Milwaukee), and a weeknight meal and another get-together that went late, a sudden cold that required two days of school absence and a good dose of Free Willy and Dolphin Tale 2, a Friday evening pizza