get out of the way, Mom

Yes, that is a very high wall my boys are on!

Yes, that is a very high wall my boys are on without any railing! Cringe.

For five weeks the boys were in India and the girls were in the US. The girls were busy preparing for a new baby and the boys were, well, not bathing regularly and having their own adventures with their dad. And while they said they missed me, I’m sure there was some relief that mom wasn’t around to constantly be telling them to “be careful,” “don’t fall off that high wall,” or “watch out for snakes, monkeys and open manholes.” You know, the normal stuff mom’s say.

Of course, it was hard to know they are on the other side of the world having a glorious time and I wasn’t a part of it. But I didn’t need to be. Dad was there, and adventure and fun are his thing, not mine (just to clarify, I am fun, in my own way. Break out the scones and put on some Downton Abbey! Yeah!). They made memories of a lifetime, ones they are still talking about because the adventure required bravery, courage and a certain comfort with dirt.

They did not inherit my DNA when it comes to adventure (or dirt), and for that I’m grateful.

Bat-filled caves, snakes, a harrowing drive up a mountain, and a hike down a narrow path that has a steep drop-off. Whew! They did more in one day than I would have thought possible with a six and eight year old. The great thing is that they still talk about it as a grand adventure. Think about it: in one year they saw the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and got to ride on an elephant.

Boys in ParisHow many kids do you know who can say that?

My boys also have started playing with the neighbors. Which is great, they just happen to be playing on the street and not a fenced in backyard (have I mentioned street dogs before?). In all these things I have to hold back my fears or else they would never get to go outside our gated house. The truth is that too often I allow my fears to stifle my children, but I’m trying to do better. I want them to grow in independence and at the same time be safe. It’s a delicate balance.

So as a mother of three boys now, I have a choice: 1) Worry about them so much that I make them a nervous wreck and afraid of everything (my go-to move), or 2) Stop worrying so much about all the things that “could” happen. Protect and educate them when I need to, but stop imposing my fears on them so that they can grow confident and learn how to make their own choices.

One is my natural response because it makes me think that by worrying I’m in some way controlling every circumstance. The other, well, is harder because it means I have to admit that I’m not in control of everything and my boys don’t always need mom hovering over them to be safe.

So sometimes it’s helpful and needed for a mother to say no and protect her cubs in this crazy world. But sometimes mom (and her fears) just need to get out of the way and let them climb, run, get dirty, and just be boys.

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musings on Downton Abbey

Most of you have heard of a little Masterpiece Classic series called Downton Abbey.  I saw everyone raving about it for a while on Facebook, but in my usual desire to stay behind-the-times, had resisted the temptation to get caught up in a British drama. I wasn’t even curious about it. I amaze myself sometimes.

But then a few weeks ago I was having a little bout with culture stress and decided I needed to turn my brain off for a while. So I did. In one week I watched Season 1 and Season 2. I relished afternoon nap-times and free evenings, just me and the colorful bunch of Downton residents. The days following my Downton ingestion I think I may have said a few words like the Dowager, a few like Mary, and when I was in the kitchen it may have been a little bit like Mrs. Patmore when she’s trying to get dinner on the table.  Needless to say I fell in love with the series as many of you have as well.

I’m going back now and watching the series a little more slowly and chewing on it a bit. As such I’m noticing things I didn’t see when I was solely interested in the plot development–particularly as it pertains to a pair of lovebirds I won’t mention right now. So here are a few musings from a new Downton fan. At this point I should warn you, there are spoilers in this blog post. There. You’ve been warned.

Meal Time Manners – I love that the family dresses up and has dinner together every night. It’s important and expected. Now, I’m not saying I’ll be putting on my black dress every evening (oh wait, black is just for mourning and girls in black don’t get kissed according to the Dowager Countess) but I could probably stand to not look like a Holly the Haggard Housewife, even if I feel like it some days. I also want our kids to know how to behave at the table and not lick their plates and eat mashed potatoes with their fingers. Sometimes I’ll look over and my sons haven’t even touched their forks and we’ve been eating spaghetti. And no offense to the Holly’s of the world, it started with an H.

Aesthetics are Essential- For me, this is definitely true. When my house is in order I feel better and even more productive. When there is an Evererst-sized pile of laundry, dishes covering every inch of counter-space and this house is in a state of disarray, I feel out of sorts. Downton Abbey and everyone in it is expected to look a certain way. Clean, orderly, inviting. The servants particularly have to be conscious of their appearance and their actions because…

More than Just a Servant they are representatives of the family they serve or at least this is what Carson hammers into them day after day. Some certainly see it as a just a job, but for many of the servants they feel the pride of being a part of something bigger than themselves and gain their identity from it. This easily applies to modern life, too. What do I represent to the people around me? When they see me what impressions of America, motherhood, Christianity, ect, do I leave people with? Scary thought.

People Need to Feel Useful Season 2 brought this truth out. This particularly applied to the women of Downton who rolled up their sleeves during the war and found out there was more to life than tea-time and fancy gowns. Others were left struggling to understand their place in a changing world–bless Lord Grantham’s heart! Even gentlemen need to feel a sense of purpose in their day-to-day lives, even if it is just managing a grandiose estate, having a weird, albeit brief liaison with a maid, and walking your dog.

British Love is Alive and Well I’m an American and I’ve always been fascinated by Britain like so many other ladies I know. And I confess I do wonder whether or not Brits find us at all interesting or if it is still a bit like Cora’s relationship with the Dowager Countess, who clearly thinks Americans far inferior, even though Cora has the money. Here’s a quote to the point: Cora (the American daughter-in-law) “I might send Mary over to visit my aunt. She could get to know New York.” The Dowager (played by Maggie Smith says) “Oh, I don’t think things are quite that desperate.”

So there you have it. Some of my observations. Feel free to leave your own below or let me know who your favorite character is… Mine’s Lady Mary with all her good and bad points she has tremendous to potential to be great or tragic. Ah, so long to wait until Season 3!