For all the moms: Looking Forward to what’s ahead while living in the now…..

It really hit me today. What was I doing? To be honest, I felt pretty awful. It was a miserable, dreary, Monday and I was busy catching up on chores. It never seemed like anything was ever getting done around here. It was morning and there were tons to do .I was in my son’s room, watching him play. To cheer myself up, I checked weather.com for an update. I was really only concerned about one particular day: this Saturday. That was the day my five year old daughter and I would be going to Radio City to see the Christmas Show. I couldn’t be more excited.  A mommy/Julia day. A fun day, quite different than this current one. I rarely get one on one time with my daughter anymore. And this day kind of sucks altogether. As I looked up, I saw my beautiful son. He was the doctor and busy giving one of his stuffed animals a shot. His patients were all waiting to see him.  “It won’t hurt,” he said.  I looked up with tears in my eyes. My baby boy was sure a handful at times, but he was beautiful just the same. And I was missing this moment. The moment that I will never experience again. All because I was busy checking the weather.  I quickly dropped my phone and put it far away.

Us moms. All of us moms. Whether, we stay at home, work full time or work from home, it is the hardest job out there. And, on really sucky days such as this one, we find ourselves looking forward to what is ahead. Because the days ahead are going to be much more fun than the current miserable ones. November has arrived, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and we have visions of our children in their perfect little outfits. We will spending the cozy day with family. December is the biggest month!  We decorate the tree, visit Santa and wait for him to arrive on Christmas day with a ton of presents. There is nothing more magical than that. With lots of lot of pics to share. Because we all have to show our friends on Facebook all the fun that we are having. Coming back to reality, I turned back to my precious boy Owen. The little boy who likes to give his stuffed animals shots as he looks into their ears and checks their hearts. He always promises his little patients that it won’t hurt.  My own heart was officially broken.

I think all of us make promises to live more” in the moment.”The same promises that we made to ourselves before we even had kids.  Our “future kids” would be beautiful, impeccably dressed, well behaved and our homes would always be spotless. We can do it! Because we are supermoms! Ironically enough, I quickly realized that I had my standards way too high. Instead of my fantasy grown up life, my reality is dealing with Cherrios on the carpet, a sticky kitchen floor (something spilled, not sure what yet), bickering children, and at least one child climbing up a cabinet and trying to snatch cookies. Oh and that is on a good day. At only seven-thirty in the morning. By the time the day ends, I just want to get into bed, stay under the covers, sleep and hide from the world. Because tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow, I will somehow find the energy I have been missing for the past seven years. And do it all. And all would be perfect. Like it should be.

I love to blame the 70’s and 80’s sitcom moms for all the unrealistic expectations that were set. As a t.v. kid, I looked up to all these women. Whether they worked or not, their home was always spotless. And they looked perfect. And any disagreement ended in a half hour. Usually with a hug. I figured that would be me when I grew up.

Growing up, we loved the holidays, but we also appreciated the normal. Like that one Saturday that we spent the day in pajamas watching Family Feud. When it ended, we all got up, cheered, screamed and hugged in a circle. Just like they did on the show. Yup, none of us were dressed yet. The house was undoubtedly in shambles, but it still remains a wonderful memory.

I figured that one day I would be that “perfect mom.” But, I am far from it.  I wanted to be the one that had the perfect home, put dinner on the table every night and went frolicking with my kids all day at the park or doing any other special activities. You know, kind of like Mary Poppins. It didn’t matter that we lived in the city. That was actually the good part. We would be hitting museums, parks and various landmarks on a daily basis. All the while handling tantrums and lugging strollers up and down the subway steps. It would be a piece of cake!

I used to get mad at myself for not achieving this perfect standard but I have learned to let it go. My kids are out and about very often. We do plenty of activities. They  get tons of love.  They are happy. Yes, it is fun (and exhausting!) to spend the day playing in Central Park, but it is also fun to have a “lazy” day once in awhile. I laugh as I think of those two words “lazy” and “mom” together, but you get the point. For today, I am quite content reading my son some of his favorite books, playing with his cars and coloring together. Oh, and trying to write an article or something like that. Maybe possibly trying to do something for myself as well. Some of these activities may get a little messy, but I am going to let it go. Owen doesn’t mind. He is loved. And pretty soon we will be picking up his big sister from school. I will see the joy in his face as he spots his sister in the schoolyard and screams, “Julia!” And then the fun really begins. We will walk home and talk about the day and the afternoon treat we will have. Exchanging funny jokes and stories all the while. Then the chaos begins as we get home and I start to help Julia with her homework. Owen, not happy about suddenly not getting all my attention, will act out. But, that’s okay, because today I have print outs for him to color. So he could do homework just like his sister. Maybe I will make a quick pasta dish. Maybe I can get my husband to cook tonight. Maybe we can order out. I can consider cleaning up once again, but I may not have time for that either. Because today will be a special day. Even with the sucky weather and it being Monday and all. We will be too busy making memories to notice the negative.  Memories in this messy home, where dishes need to be done, and dinner to be made. We are all together and deserve to be happy. I hope my children remember this day as well. Who knows, they may end up remembering it as one of their best days ever. And if they do, I know I will be doing my job right. Not as a superwoman, but as a mom. A title I couldn’t be more proud of.

A Season of Sadness: Facing the Holidays After Loss

It was December 2008 and  our first holiday as parents. What should have been a wonderful time was instead a complete nightmare. Our firstborn son, Liam, had died just three months earlier due to a congenital heart defect. Heartbroken and anxious to find a new place to live, my husband Brian and I went apartment searching. During one appointment, I noticed the realtor and owner in serious conversation.The owner said, “This holiday is going to be hard, it is the first one without her.”  I looked over with both curiosity and sympathy. Who was “her”? His wife? Mother? Daughter? I would never know. All did know was that it was someone he loved. For three months, I had felt as we were in this hell alone. Obviously, we  weren’t. There were others. Others that had to spend what should be a joyous season in devastation. No, we weren’t alone after all.

For many, social media has made us even more aware of loss. It is pretty much impossible to get through any given week on Facebook without a death announcement or other tragedy. Often it is a celebrity. But,  sometimes it is more persona.l It may be someone’s grandparent. Or father. Or mother. Or  spouse. Perhaps even a sibling.  Most devastatingly, it could be someone’s child.

We continue to read these posts. Some of us are just grateful it wasn’t our own father/mother/spouse /child. Others are sympathetic. Still others believe that these things should be kept private; that there is no need for an online “pity party.” During the holiday season, these posts become more frequent. It is a very bittersweet time of year.

I have been writing about loss for awhile now. It do it in memory of both my son and mother.  It never gets easier. It is hard for me to hear of other losses. I have many to remember this season. Obviously, I remember the deceased. But, I also remember those left behind. We are the ones that are suffering. Many of us  are living hell on earth. For some it has been only weeks. For others, it has been years. For all of us, we mourn. No matter how much time goes by.

With two subsequent living children, I had no choice but to move forward. I love my children with all my heart, but they don’t replace Liam. There will always be a piece of our family missing.

As I recently thought of my losses, the tune “Happy Birthday to Jesus” popped into my head. Yes, some may think it silly to sing “Happy Birthday to Jesus” but for my family it was tradition. Every Christmas, my siblings, cousins and I would gather with my mother and two aunts. We would all would sing “Happy Birthday to Jesus.” All three amazing women leading the pack. Unfortunately, all three women have since passed on. To me, it  signaled the end of an era. Will we ever have special moments again? Both my aunts and my mom endured their share of heartbreak and tragedies. But yet, they always had laughs and love to share. Now it was our responsibility to keep the memories going. Our turn to “lead the pack.”

Now that my children are growing up, we are making our own memories.It is not their fault that some family and friends have passed on. For kids, it is only the beginning.They know  no different. It is now our responsibility to continue where they left off.  Early on, I chose to hang on to anger. “Screw Christmas” was my mantra. It wasn’t long before I realized that this bitterness would be hurting my kids the most.

Of course, there is that tricky part to “moving on.” Nothing will ever be the same. Sometimes, we struggle with guilt. Is it okay to be happy again? Should we put up that tree? And the answer is yes. Mostly, because our loved ones would want us to. Early on, friends and family told me the same. At first, I ignored them and considered such a notion insulting. I thought it was just their way to get me to stop wallowing in self pity.  As if my sadness was starting to annoy those around me.  However, one day I started to “get it”.  My sister told me that Liam would want Brian and I to be happy again. At first, I didn’t agree. If that were me I would my parents to be sad at every occasion. “Not Liam”, my sister said. Because Liam was a better person. He was our angel .With this sentiment, I couldn’t possibly disagree.

We all have our own special ways in remembering those who are gone. Last year, I wrote a piece explaining our own way of keeping Liam’s memory alive. Every year, our living children pose with his picture in the background for our holiday card.It is our way of paying tribute to him during the holidays. For my mom, I carry on her love of Santa Claus. Santa was a big deal in my house. I want my kids to experience the same magic. Their grandma wouldn’t want it any other way.

Inevitably, there will come a time when my kids will face the holidays without their parents. Hopefully, if I continue to do my job right, they will make their own memories.  I know life will go on without us, and that is okay. We also know that there is a possibility we won’t live to meet our grandchildren. Either way, my biggest hope is for them to be happy. We all want the same for those we love. We want them to experience joy. Life goes on, but so does love. For all those suffering losses this season, I will remember. And I hope for some smiles in spite of the tears. Most importantly, I wish love for us all.