Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A big old 21st to remember

My youngest sister turned 21 today.  That's a rather big milestone in life.  For most it means a big drunken party, but for Rachael it will be celebrated differently.  She is currently 2 weeks from finishing serving an 18 month mission for our church.  

Whilst thinking of her throughout the day, it made me reflect on my own 21st birthday.  Mine too was rather different from a traditional 21st party.

I got pregnant at 20. I wasn't drunk when it happened, seeing as I had never had as much as a sip of alcohol. It wasn't a one-night-stand gone wrong.  I was a Uni student with virtually no money to my name, but it was completely intentional. 

I had gotten married less than two months earlier to my sweetheart, Anthony, and after that long five weeks, we decided we were sick of the joy and spontaneity that comes with being newlyweds - we needed a baby. Everyone knows nothing brings a couple closer than sleep deprivation, crying, and vomit. 
And that was just my pregnancy.

Being young and stupid, we couldn't contain our excitement when that second line appeared on the pregnancy test and we called our families straight away. I know the 'done' thing is to wait until after the twelve week mark when the risk of miscarriage is greatly lessened, but we didn't really consider that as something that would happen to us (see - stupid) so we announced it immediately. I gloated that I had no morning sickness and felt great. 

Then at the six week mark, what was  up until then a beautiful, developing baby inside my belly, turned into an alien trying to destroy me via my up-chuck reflex. I was vomiting multiple times a day and just wanted to sleep constantly.   

I could only stand the smell of mandarins, oranges, and carrots.  I vividly recall going to do a weekly grocery shop and walking past the Deli aisle in the supermarket holding an orange up to my nose so I wouldn't vomit.  I left the shop with what was supposed to be seven days worth of food - six kilos of oranges, two kilos of mandarins, two kilos of carrots, lemonade, and juice ice blocks.

Society frowns upon men who leave their pregnant wives within three months of marriage so it was shortly after this point we made an important purchase - an X-Box.  Seeing as I was going to bed at 7pm each night it seemed only fair Anthony had some company. 

Whilst pregnant, I celebrated a milestone; I turned twenty-one. Like most twenty-one year olds, I too celebrated my coming into adulthood with my head in a toilet bowl. It wasn't senseless amount of alcohol that inflicted my vomiting though - it was my first born child. 

Anthony was fairly useless when it came to morning sickness and I would find myself yelling for him to;

"Go away! You aren't helping me if you vomit in my hair while you are supposed to be holding it back!"

I praise him for his efforts, but he has a ridiculously weak stomach when it comes to the sound and smell of vomit.  Probably not a good sign when you are months from expecting a baby and cleaning all manor of bodily fluids become a part of everyday life. 

It was around this point in time that it hit me how different my life was from many of my peers.  I was still a full-time Uni student, I still worked part time in a supermarket, but I was a wife and mother. My child was yet to take it's first real breath, but I was a mother nonetheless. These were the things I had hoped for when people asked me the big question;

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

My answer was always;

"I think I want to be a teacher, but most of all I want to be a wife and a mother."

So here I was - just turned twenty-one and what I had hoped for had already fallen in my lap.  I guess there isn't a better 21st present than that right :)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

More than happiness

I have had a few different opportunities over the last couple of days to think about what the future holds for my boys.  I have read articles and posts about the state of the world, and about raising children.  In conversations with other mothers who have children with additional needs, I often express how even though there may be lots of uncertainly in what the future holds, all I truly want is my boys to be happy.  I think I have even written that in a past blog post just a few months ago.

I have changed my tune though.  

So, to my maniac boys....

My dear Tony and Carter,
In case I am struck by lightning suddenly or fall into a man hole and am never seen again, I want to put some words to you on paper (virtual paper - obviously). 
I know I have told you often that we parent the way we do because we just want you to be happy.  You don't always like our decisions, but we make them believing they will truly bring you joy in the long run.  I tell you all I want at the end of the day is you to be happy.

I would like to change this.  

Above all else, I want you to be kind boys.  And ultimately kind men. 

I know that around you people are praised for being good leaders, for obtaining great wealth, for reaching prestige and fame, for being amazingly intelligent, and the list goes on. 

These aren't bad things.  They aren't even bad things to strive for.  Good leaders do a great deal of good.  They can set a fine example for others to follow.   

Great wealth sometimes only comes after hard work.  Money is not an evil thing.  In fact having additional means can allow you to bless the lives of others through looking for opportunities to help those in need.  There have been times in my life where people have given some of their means to us at particular times and I will never forget the love I felt for these people for their selflessness.

 Prestige and fame may come for negative reasons, but they can also come for positive reasons.

  Intelligence is a wonderful thing, particularly when we measure it as more than how well one performs on an exam. There are many ways to be intelligent and I hope you desire to learn as much as you can in as many areas as you can.

I don't want to imply that I would be unhappy if these things came to you in your lives. 

Make no mistake though, if these things are not part of your future, I will still be ridiculously proud of you if I see you to have become kind men. 

Look for opportunities to show kindness to those around you.  I know that kindness is already a part of you, but please don't allow that soft, gentle side to be replaced by a thick skin that seeks to "look after number one".  Putting what you want above others all the time will not bring you great joy. It won't create lasting memories.  It won't help you build satisfying relationships.  Think of others.  Build them up.  If you have a kind thought about someone - tell them.  If it's not kind - consider holding your tongue until you can express it in a better way. 

If you see someone who is alone or on the outter, include them.  It's a horrible feeling being left out-whether intentional or not.  Perhaps one of the kindest thing a young person can do for another is to help them feel like they belong.  There will always be enough room for a new friend if you make it.

I have heard the term "too kind" being used for people who may get taken advantage of.  I don't think you can actually be TOO kind.  So as well as being kind to others, I want you to be kind to yourselves.  You deserve good things that come when you work for them.  You should have fun and laughter with those you love.  You will sometimes have to put your needs first to be able to support yourself and your loved ones.  This is not selfish.  This is knowing that sometimes you need to take care of yourself to again be in a position to give to others.  

Be a kind husband.   Look to your Dad and Grandfathers.  There is no doubt they love their wives.  They lift them up.  They tell them they are beautiful.  They show gratitude to them.  Not a day has gone past in a decade of marriage that your Dad hasn't thanked me for making his lunch or dinner for him.  It may seem small, but knowing I am appreciated has made it a pleasure to do these tasks daily for him.  A frequent kind word of gratitude and appreciation has turned what could be a chore into a pleasure.  Learn the power of kind words in your marriages. 

Ultimately, I do want you to be happy.  It's only natural for mothers to want their children to find happiness.  However, above all else I want you to be kind because I truly believe that if you are kind, you will likely be happy.  Not fleeting happiness, but the kind of contentment where you know you are living a life that you can feel good about and one that helps others feel good too. 

The world has enough who are wealthy, famous, or powerful.  It will never have enough who are kind.