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Mom fails

Mom dilemma #3721:  Your child does not turn in a major project. What do you do? Do you email the teacher for an extension? Do you reprimand your child verbally? Do you take away their privileges? Do you blame yourself for your poor time management and cluttered environment? All of the above? Sometimes I feel like I have this parenting thing down. Other days I realize I don’t have any idea what I’m doing and I’m operating from intuition and hope.

I used to think that it was Mondays, specifically Monday mornings,  where I had my major parent fails. Nope, puede ser any day. During the work week, I deal with parents who ask me for advice about their adolescents. I’ve worked in high schools or 22 years. I have been a mother for 10(I include pregnancy). I have more experience and more damn sense being a high school administrator and teacher than I do being a mom. 

I wonder how much damage I have done. Will she fail academically? Will she end up depressed or anxious? Will she abuse drugs or sex? Will she hate me someday? Does she hate me now? I make the mistakes I advise parents to avoid.  I say things which hurt my daughter’s feelings. These mom fails make us all feel terrible.  

Parenting never gets any easier. But the love for my child gets deeper and more complicated. My little person is growing up into an individual with a mind of her own, a will I don’t want to break and a heart I don’t want to disappoint. I pray to be a better parent daily. I wish to be a good mom. I wish M could understand all the different things that go through my mind, all the fears and doubts. I wish it were simple but it never was and won’t be. I can only hope that the love I feel always guides me.

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Mama’s Touch

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I had an important presentation at work this week.  Of course, I had to stay late past my regular working hours; that is how the educational world rolls(two years ago, I did a major presentation after 11:30pm.  Te imaginas?) I had prepared my PowerPoint slides. I had practiced aloud. I had printed out notes. I brainstormed potential questions. Since I had planned to stay at the office, I worked on other pending items.   

Though she doesn’t yet have her own phone, M sometimes borrows her nana’s or grandma’s phone and sends me texts via WhatsApp. I look forward to these exchanges. They brighten my day. After all she is the reason I work as hard as I do. As part of getting ready for my late work night,  I had to make sure she had rides to and from dance class. I also reminded her to feed her dog and practice her piano. Imagine my dismay when she asked me if her dance shoes were at Grandma’s house. I had left my office and driven to a nearby shopping center to pick up some dinner for myself.  I turned around , looked in my backseat and saw her dance bag. I jumped out of the car to grab the bag. All the shoes that she needed were there. While I was annoyed, I didn’t hesitate to come up with a solution. I told her I would drive home to bring her shoes, possibly drive her to the dance studio and then drive back to my presentation. Because I’m her mom and that’s how I do.

I’m hard on myself on the way I parent. I believe all parents are. I have written in the past about how I question where and when I spend my time. I have reflected on the decisions I have made as a mom. I have questioned how my career and my passions affect my ability to be a truly engaged and compassionate parent. When M needs me, I will be there. An extra commute Is nothing. The thought of my daughter missing out on what she loves to do was something I didn’t want.  I can sacrifice the time. I’m usually rewarded with a big hug, smiles, and sweet words of gratitude. I love all that but I didn’t need it. What I needed to know was that I had provided for my child. I have done it before and I will do it again. I may make a sarcastic remark and maybe give some side eye. No matter what, I will always come through for M.

I did make it to my presentation on time. M made it to her class on time with the right shoes. That’s not the Midas touch; that’s the Mama’s touch.  

Parenting pains

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Benita Lopez was no June Cleaver

I went from happy mom to guilty mom within 24 hours. My goal this Lent was to be more patient, to yell and nag less, to be more kind in my tone and facial expressions. My inadequate time management has left me feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. My patience wears thin.

On a typical Monday night, we get to the house at 8pm. M may have two to four pages of math homework to complete with her after completing her weekly 90 minute dance class. I usually have two loads of laundry to fold, ironing that’s been neglected for weeks and a sinkful of dishes to wash. If I was more organized, I’d take care of the household chores and prepack lunches while M and Rambo complete homework. Instead I’m likely catching up with work email and getting the bath ready. Instead, my less than adequate solution is to get up in the middle of night to do laundry and talk with Rambo and sometimes watch one of our Netflix shows. I sleep in. I let M sleep in. Then we’re scrambling. We’re packing lunch, making breakfast, continuing to load laundry, catching up on dish washing, and trying to get out on time.  I need to manage my time better.

It’s not that M is sitting back and doing nothing to help. She packs up her lunch and packs up the car by lugging all the things we carry: purse, backpack, dance bags, piano books. She will empty the dryer. She fills my water bottle. All things considered, she’s becoming resilient and independent.

I need to be mindful of those moments when she’s helpful. My child helps out because she wants to be a contributing member of our household. I hate when I use that voice. I have to get myself out of that mental space. Thank God we pray in the morning; otherwise I’d be a terror at all times.

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Lois might have relatable but life is no sitcom

It’s painful when I realize I’m not doing my best as a mom. I remember how I felt when I was disciplined harshly or when I felt I couldn’t confide in my mother. I give my mom all credit for being an example of tough womanhood that was rare in my family and culture. Still, I was a sensitive child and I often felt alone. I work to be a mom who is also a confidant. I need to work on I-statements and giving encouragement. I don’t want to hurt my child’s heart. The world will do enough of that. I continue to pray for patience so I can be a better mom.

Motivated by motherhood

I had several moments in the last week when I broke my Lenten promise and lost my patience with M. Despite these challenges, M and I have a great relationship. I have fostered close communication. We are similar in sense of humor and in the way we articulate ourselves. People point out she’s your mini-me; she tries on my vocabulary and certain phrases and idioms. We can have relatively deep conversations about different subjects because she’s an observant critical thinker. I appreciate her how she perceives the world.  She jokes, “I’m much pettier than you are.” I replied, “No I’ve been petty for forty-four years.” She said, “I’ve been petty for millions of years.” She says that in fun because she has a better understanding of situations than many kids. I am confident that M will continue to evolve into a good woman because I deeply love her. She doesn’t always feel that. She sometimes says, “I don’t feel like you love me right now.” I am committed to mending our relationship and reassuring her that I will always provide support as her mom.

With the coming of spring, new life arrives. My best friend had her second child last week and one of my dance sisters had her firstborn child that week. I’m excited for my friends who are new moms.  It’s not easy to be a mom but it is motivating to know you have a person in your life who wants what’s best for you, of you, and from you.  The mother-child relationship is like no other.

I know of a fellow writer who publicly declared that her romantic love exceeded her mother love. I am still judging her for it. For the longest time, I was fixated on romantic love. My early blogs were focused on the search for romantic love and its challenges. Mother love is pure, infinite, and endures through many tests and trials. The way society has conceptualized and portrayed romantic love and the way we experience romantic love doesn’t measure up. Mother love is my greatest love.

M enriches my life in ways nobody else ever has. Of all the people in my life, my daughter has truly made me evolve into the best version of myself. I may have my bad moments. Motherhood motivates me and makes my world more beautiful every single day.
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Mothering a warrior

“…But in this country

there is war.”  Lorna Dee Cervantes, from Poem For The Young White Man Who Asked Me How I, An Intelligent, Well-Read Person Could Believe In The War Between The Races 

Within the hour, I will have to wake her.  Last night, her closing prayers were “Bless this mess. Fix it Jesus. Amen.”  My daughter asked, “Who won?” at 1 in the morning, and promptly rolled to her other side so that I could not answer her. Today, like so many other madres, I will have to answer to her and for her.

Mija, like so many little girls in this generation and those that came before her, her own mom included, idolizes Wonder Woman.  We are excited for the movie which premieres in June 2017.ew-ww-39

My daughter has Wonder Woman t-shirts, hats, headband, dolls, and books.  She identifies closely with this character, a woman who is brave, independent, and strong.

I am drawn to the character of Queen Hippolyta, Wonder Woman’s mother, and an amazing woman in her own right.

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In the first movie trailer which debuted this past summer, Hippolyta tells Diana, aka Wonder Woman, “You have been my greatest love.”  In the most recent trailer which debuted last week, Hippolyta calls out “Be careful, Diana” as her daughter embarks on a mission to go to war. Those two soundbites speak to what I’m feeling.  How will I keep the person I love most safe in this world?  How will I protect her?  How will I prepare her to do battle?

The events surrounding the election are no surprise to me.  I have seen the old ways of thinking and hating fester and spread; they never stop doing so.

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While I grieve the harsh truths the election reveals about many people in our nation, I accept reality.  One of the things I told my daughter last night was that now would be our time to fight for what is right. 14938157_1366372526736820_5038582823904846037_n

So our mission begins.

Party girl

M turns 8 in two months but I’m already planning her party.  Actually, we started planning her party in April, a full five months in advance.  I have a list that breaks down guest list, location, and favors.  No, no soy one of those Pinterest moms.  My gluing skills are limited to dance and Carnaval costumes.  While I love to cook, this year we’ll be offering all-American burgers and chips.  Like every frazzled parent I know, I sigh and say I’m done with the big birthday parties every year.  Then the cycle starts anew. 
As a child, my parents always threw us huge parties. My dad’s entire soccer team and their families, my godparents and my brother’s godparents and their kids, and any relatives would come. There would be tons of Peruvian food, a giant sheet cake, a piñata for the kids, and dancing to salsa and merengue.  Because I was an introvert, I found all the people and activities overwhelming. But memories were made.  Like the time the big boys decided to tightrope walk around the fence in the backyard and were threatened by the mean next door neighbor  Or the time we realized we could Tarzan swing across the garage.  I especially like how happy my mom and dad always looked. And still look. Because you best believe mi mama isn’t letting a birthday go by without some sort of gathering. 
Celebrating my 44th. Notice the look on my mom’s face(she’s on my right). 
Unlike me, M doesn’t seem uncomfortable at her birthday parties. In fact, she says she loves the attention, the little diva. Ever the assertive leader, M has helped pick a theme for her celebration from the time she was 4.  They have been often been tied to a favorite TV show.  Lately they also incorporate her Halloween costume (yes, we are a family of planners.)
Yo Gabba Gabba  Dancey Dance Party
Princess Costume Party 
Wonder Woman party 
Wizard of Oz theme. Notice her tee. Her dance recital had the same theme. Why not stretch out a good theme? 
So while I may balk at the work and expense that goes into planning birthday parties, I do love the memories we’ve shared.  They are moments that remind us of what truly matters.  

M’s boho mama

“…what she gave instead was her own DNA, her own boho mama-in-the-black-stockings self, and she trusted that this would be enough.” Lisa Jones, Bulletproof Diva

Five months ago, one of my dance sisters approached me via social media inbox. An outspoken woman, she prefaced her comments by saying she likes to say things directly to folks. What followed was a discussion about my relationship to M.  The conversation truly touched me. It not only made my day, a typical busy weekday at work (which has provided endless writing material, nuff said!), but it helped me reflect on my motherhood for weeks and even months.  How unlikely and yet so necessary that I had the opportunity to do so. 
Motherhood happens.  My choice to have M and the million choices I have made in raising her have sometimes been unconventional and non-traditional, but never irreverent or irresponsible. Because while parenting is intuitive and flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants spontaneous, it is also a huge undertaking. It is THE big deal. No amount of writing and talking about tiger moms or helicopter moms or free range moms or any combination of these can change the fact that motherhood and fatherhood matter.  Yes, I don’t often plan how situations will play out; I can’t.  My seven-year-old has been her own person for as long as she could speak and stand up on her own; basically I’ve been dealing with this independent-minded individual since she was 10 months old. Every day I am learning something new about her, about myself, and about the world through our relationship.  When I get a rare opportunity to really think, reflect, and plan for our relationship, I take it and revel in it. 

About a month and a half ago, one of my closest friends asked to interview me as part of her women’s studies project. She had decided to focus on the parenting choices of the children of immigrants. We enjoyed a deep discussion on motherhood.  I wasn’t discussing writing or dance or education and yet all these folded into the conversation.  That is how my experience as a mother has evolved.  M experiences the vast majority of my experiences with friends, culture, food, and the arts. What we miss from traditional play dates, I hope is more than made up for in making memories.  
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