Saturday, April 26, 2014

Awkward Mom vs. Compliments

"Everyone likes a compliment." -Abraham Lincoln. Well, we hate to argue with everyone's favorite president, but Awkward Mom isn't overly fond of compliments. 

So, here's the thing: when someone insults me, I do nothing. I just lie there and let the insult hit me full-on. I lie totally still, probably to make myself a better target. In fact, I usually guide it right towards my heart like some sort of airplane marshaller, waving that hate-arrow right on in there where I can nurse it like a baby lamb rather than the viper it really is. That is what happens, without fail, every single time.

But throw a compliment at me and, suddenly, I turn into the lead in an action movie: I'm bobbing. I'm weaving. I'm sliding under praise-bullets all slow-mo, Martix-style. I'm a honest-to-goodness deflection Ninja with an arsenal of creative weapons to hurl your compliment back at you or just knock it miles away, where it can't touch me or, God forbid, actually land in my heart.

Why do I do this? Why do you do this? (Because I have a strong feeling that most of you are compliment ninjas as well.) It should so totally be the other way. As with any other difficult, border-line impossible, question, I brought it to Awkward Dad. This is what happened:

Me: So, why do I do that?

Awkward Dad: You don't have any practice.

Me: Practice?

Awkward Dad: How often does someone actually insult you or hurt you on purpose? Like once a year?

Me: Yeah, maybe. If that.

Awkward Dad: And how often does someone compliment you? All the time?

Me: Well....

Awkward Dad: Be honest.

Me: Yes, it is at least daily.

Awkward Dad: OK, well, you have a lot more practice dealing with compliments and you have become rather skilled at knocking them away. Probably in some misguided attempt to not get a big head or become conceited or some such nonsense.

Me: Nonsense? No one likes a bragger.

Awkward Dad: Gracefully accepting the gift that a compliment truly is and loudly announcing that you are "King of the World" are 2 totally different things. I don't see you drifting into column B easily.

Me: But this is life long. How do I learn to switch my insult and compliment battle plans?

Awkward Dad: Well, 2 things could happen. You will get tired of battling people. Or people will get tired of battling you. How do you feel?

Me: Tired.

Awkward Dad: Well, there you go. By the way, you look beautiful today.

Me: No, I..... Why, thank you.

Awkward Dad: You are welcome. Nice recovery.

Me: Oh, it was nothing.

Awkward Dad: Well, I suppose Rome wasn't built in a day.

My dear Readers, please stop being Compliment Ninjas. Save all that energy for dodging the Park Perfect Moms, that's a better use for it. Love yas! 

Me: Baby Girl, you are so beautiful.
Super Toddler: Thanks! Can I have a cheese stick?

I am telling you, she has the secrets to the universe all sewn up. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Awkward Mom vs. Earth Day

There are 2 Holy Trinities; the real one, that 12 years of Catholic education, a Jesuit college, and a deep and abiding love of Father Ted has made me fairly familiar with, and the other one. The one that children of my generation hold in esteem so high, we'll never shake it off, even if we become lapsed and forgetful of the real Trinity. Our other trinity of Jim Henson, Star Wars, and recycling. I won't get into the first two because, well, duh. If you aren't worshipping those two in some way, I am not sure we have a whole lot to say to each other. Furthermore, I have covered them both on my blog before and will certainly do so in the future. But not today. No, today, I am here to talk about the calling card and inheritance of anyone currently in their 30s or 40s; our love of Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. I am not in any way saying that those of you of other ages and eras can't admire and take care of the planet and all her people, I am sure you do and are very good at it. I am merely speaking from my own experience with activism. It's a long story, so you might want to sit down. And why are you standing and reading anyway? That's kinda weird.

We can't help it. Our flirtations with activism, that it. Standing and reading appears to be all you. The people I grew up with were raised by parents who came of age in the late 1960s, where activism, hope, and a desire to change things loomed over them like the ever present cloud of ...well, you know. These are the people that raised us, and, whether or not they were full-on hippies, the lessons of your adolescence just shape you. Seeps right on into your soul and hair like the ever present cloud of ...well, you know. Guess I could just say cannabis, right? Might as well honor 4/20 in the same post as Earth Day since they both happened this week. Not that I know anything about 4/20 other than what the internet tells me..... Moving on.

Onto the 1970s and 1980s and a legion of children born of these hippies, wannabe hippies, and folks that just enjoyed a good pair of bell bottoms. On to us. And we couldn't all be Alex P. Keaton, so most of us absorbed our parents' optimism and faith, even as they themselves succumbed to the Big Chill and utterly hideous shoulder pads. Most of us took on this mantle of do-gooderness and ran with it right into the 1990s and our own coming of age. Some of us took it all the way in and are homesteading off the grid in Washington state in a microhouse with a composting toilet right now. Some of us shook it off completely with our Doc Martens and navel piercings and ditched it when we lost our taste for ska music and Kevin Smith movies. But most of us have retained enough do-gooderness and optimism to still check all plastic for the recycling code, buy organic bananas, donate heavily to charities, and adopt our pets from shelters. We've balanced out, but we still care. It is a rare human being who can maintain a life-long activist phase.

Activist phase? Oh, well, that is just a period in someone's life where they dive recklessly into some cause, usually only for a short period of time because they believe so passionately and work so tirelessly at this cause that they burn out completely. This phase usually happens in college, is powered by naivety and drugs, and will fall in 1 of 3 camps; earth, people, or politics. Within these three arenas are any cause or movement that you could wish for and which will suit your particular temperament and/or addiction choice. Long story short: The earth people resemble their hippie forebears with a love for love-making, poster-making, and joint-making. The people people like to build houses, drink, and can always be relied on for a really fun protest. The politics people enjoy staying up late into the night, maybe or maybe not on speed, but certainly on large amounts of caffeine, abusing the words proletariat and bourgeoisie. That your particular cause is chosen by your desire to date someone within that cause goes completely without saying.

I sound like I am making fun of this process and my fellow activist phasers, but I am not. OK, maybe a little, but it is with total love and understanding. I spent time in each of those camps. Wanna know how I had the energy and time to be in each of these camps? Well, unlike most of my 1990s brothers and sisters who had the good sense to hit their activist phases in college, with a slight foreshadowing grunge interest in high school, my activist phase hit when I turned 10. Which was really awkward, but come on. Did you expect anything less?

When I was 10, I discovered the music of John Mellencamp. (You guys really shouldn't need that link.) He was over his Johnny Cougar period, but he might still have been going as John Cougar Mellencamp. I didn't care. I didn't care because I had just discovered his Scarecrow album. The one described as being about "the fading of the American dream in the face of corporate greed." Something had been stirring within me for awhile; a restlessness that had nothing to do with hormones. Farm Aid had kicked off by then, my godmother had gone "back to the land" in a mega-Mother Jones way, and I was looking to fill an emptiness in me that no amount of MTV would fill. I decided to fill it with my burgeoning activism, which I focused on decrying agribusiness and its rape of the land and the noble family farm. This did NOT do wonders for my social standing in a small parochial school in the Chicago suburbs, as you can well imagine.

I also had a growing interest in mental illness and, more specifically, deinstitutionalisation and the impact of that on homelessness. You know what, you can just blame my parents for that; they made me love reading and then they left a lot of their intellectual and social justicey stuff just laying around. So, take all that, shake it up in one smart but unpopular preteen who wasn't having any luck with boys, and you have a recipe for some rather grand and misguiding thinking. In short, my plan was to create communes/family farms, peopled by social workers and the homeless displaced by deinstitutionalisation. It seemed like a good plan to my 10-year-old self, and somedays, it seems like a pretty good plan to my 36-year-old self.

I am rather embarrassed to see all that written out. I was so impossibly earnest. So willing to argue with anyone who disagreed with me. So sure of the justice and rightness of my plans. So convinced that some benevolent government would want to fund my ideas. I maintained my interests through high school, despite the increasingly clear knowledge that my less-than-stellar science skills were going to make farming pretty impossible for me. That was OK. I was going to leave the farming in the hands of the tons of people that were going to flock to my commune. I was going to be a social worker. With a side gig as a famous actress, which would pay for everything. Duh.

And I did. The social worker part, that is. The famous actress part went by the wayside during the first week of college. College was the revelation that it is supposed to be, and, since my activist phase crossed into all 3 arenas of earth/people/politics, I got to spend time with all the activists. I used a new found friend, Mountain Dew, to power my efforts. I was fearless, focused, and incredibly flawed. In addition to a balanced liberal arts education from the Jesuits, which introduced me to a strength and stamina that perfectly prepared me for motherhood,  I worked at a shelter all 4 years of college, gaining all kinds of knowledge and understanding about homelessness and its complexity that obliterated my commune plans but did nothing but strengthen my resolve to resolve the deeper issues behind homelessness.

Graduate school softened the edges, work built up needed boundaries, and having children reignited a flame of passion that was in serious danger of being blown out by stress and overuse. And here we are. I am no longer a social worker, at least, not with any formality or functional license. That's OK. That part of my life is over. Or on hold. I haven't decided yet. But what I have decided, or really what was decided for me by my decision to bring children into this world, is that my activist phase needs to morph into a teaching phase. I have 4 little activists to raise now. It's time to be like my parents; drop social justice tidbits into the dinner conversation, volunteer with frightening regularity, boldly conduct political debates at Thanksgiving, recycle, reuse, reduce. Teach 4 new people to love reading and then start leaving thought-provoking stuff all over the place, mingled in with the stickers and the Little Golden Books.

This all leads me to our recent Earth Day celebrations. (Wait around long enough and I will get to the point.) My children are natural nature tenders and primed people lovers; blame that filtered down 1960s-ness. For Earth Day, Super Kindergartener wanted to plant his garden. It was too cold, so he settled for re-potting the plants he has been growing in the kitchen window; some scary looking cilantro, a sick tomato plant, and a strawberry "bush" that he got for a dollar at Target and required something called a "soil pellet." Super K. has inherited all of my earnestness and earth-ineptness, but he tries. Super Preschooler spared a single look at the sunflowers that are growing out of his plastic cup at an alarming rate, despite a complete lack of water or care. I think he may have planted Kudzu instead. However, he was quite happy sorting some plastic bottles and smashing down some cardboard to take to the recycling center. Super Toddler decided to throw some rocks across the lawn after I vetoed her idea of getting a horse for Earth Day. She tried to complain to some passing cars, but they seemed pretty scared of her and just drove on. Super Baby just smiled beatifically at all of us. Super Kindergartener nixed all car use for the day, so we took a walk and picked up some garbage we found. We talked about Super K.'s garden plans and his siblings pretended to be interested. They really got interested when he told them they could keep some bugs and worms in it. Super Baby continued to smile at us all and we decided Earth Day was an unrivaled success.

My children will hit activist phases soon enough. Someday they will settle on Earth, People, or Politics; if I had to guess I would say it would be Super B. (earth),  Super P. (people) and Super T. (politics), but it all really depends on who they end up crushing on in college. Super Kindergartener is showing strong signs of straddling all three, like his mother. I also think his activist phase is already here and may be one of the rare, life-long, ones. Time will tell. But, know this, whatever cause they decide to support or follow, whoever they decide is worth protesting with, wherever their dreams take them; it is all good. Their mere presences on the planet better it. Their shiny eyes and willing hearts. Their happy smiles and caring hugs. Their openness, fairness, and thoughtfulness. Their gentle understanding that all are worthy of love, including themselves. Their laughter that rings in beautiful choral chaos. Just them, that's all the earth and her inhabitants need. Everything else they do is just extra. Just a little extra super for the world.

Extra Super, Indeed. 

Of course, whatever cause they end up championing, I am gonna have to pretend to hate it. They'll be teenagers after all. Gotta give them something to rebel against, or I might end up with 4 Alex P. Keatons. Shudder. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Awkward Mom vs. Heist Teams

Dearest Super Baby-

You are 2 months old today. I am having trouble believing that it isn't 200 years; your impact on our lives has been epic. I don't really have words for the complete peace that you bring into our family and the balance you radiate. Me short of words is pretty rare, so you know that you are a powerful presence indeed. You are snuggled up to me right now, your head fitting perfectly into the curve of my neck and your tiny fist thumping out a little rhythm on my chest that matches my heart exactly. I could sit here forever, except I kinda have to go to the bathroom. It's not urgent, but things may reach a fever pitch here about mid-letter. Just warning ya now.

You are so serene. So at peace with yourself; it is hard to imagine that you will ever need anything other than the odd diaper that you need nowadays. But the world is big and mysterious. I don't want to send you out there unprepared. My love, I am not very skilled. I can show you how to make good scrambled eggs. I know a decent amount of grammar. And I can tell you who won the Best Actor Oscar in 1967 (Paul Scofield). But then, my skills just kinda end. 

However, and fortunately for you, you are the youngest in a sibling tribe as varied and perceptive as the side characters in a heist movie. They will teach you all you need to know. 

Your oldest brother is a true friend and, as Arnold Glasow says, "a true friend never gets in your way, unless you happen to be going down." 
Super K. is never gonna let you go down. 
Not without a fight, that is.

I asked Super Kindergartener what you needed to know for the future, and he told me to tell you: "don't touch exposed wires." He's right, you know. He is right about most things. Super K. won't let anything happen to you; he didn't even want to hold you for this picture. "I might drop him. I don't want to hurt him." Super K. is the cautious, thoughtful big brother than everyone needs and everyone lucky is born with. He is gentle and kind and a true-blue friend who will not abandon you just because someone cooler comes along. Super K. couldn't care less what is cool because he knows that cool doesn't last and friendship is magic, especially when ponies and princesses are involved.

In our heist analogy, he is the architect of the master plan; the level-headed one, but the one who is willing to go to jail rather than leave a single member of his team behind. The computery one who can hack into any system. The one with no interest in a bloodbath, but smart enough to avoid any violence with some planning and general smarts. Just your average multi-skilled super genius with a heart of gold.

He will teach you in the ways of the Force; honing your natural skills and reluctantly showing you some lightsaber moves, just in case. He'll be the one to show you how to read. He'll teach you how to deal with bullies without throwing a punch. He'll loan you money when you are broke, and he should be your one phone call if you ever land in jail for any reason at all.

When you need to learn how to dance, ask Super K. When you need to pick out a present, ask Super K. When you need to start a fire in the wilderness with nothing but sticks and a pair of glasses, ask Super K. In fact, Super Kindergartener should be your point of reference for any and all boy scouty questions.

The thing is, sometimes, the world contains questions a boy scout can't answer. 
And that, my little man, is why you have your other brother. 

When I asked Super Preschooler what you needed to know for the future, he said "tell him to never jump out of a plane without a parachute." He's right, you know. He is right about most things. Super P. is adventure itself. He was clamoring to hold you while I was taking your picture with Super K. Super P. just kinda popped in here, scooped you up, and went for it. Super P. is bold and confident and passionate about those he loves. He couldn't care less what is cool because he knows that he is cooler. Super P. will set trends and change things, so just stick close and enjoy the ride.

When it comes to heisting, Super P. is that dude they find in jail in the beginning. The one who has all the connections to, and knowledge of, the underworld. Super P. is imaginative and resourceful. He's the one they need in order to obtain certain dangerous substances and/or security combinations, and they need him to figure out creative ways to get around the unexpected problems that pop up. He's a true visionary with his feet firmly on the ground. Super P.'s a little shady, but he isn't mean and he would never hurt you. Now, folks that try to harm you, well, I can't speak to that. No, I can; he will definitely hurt them.

Super P. knows that there is nothing like having a good blaster at your side and there is no one better when it comes to bullseying womp rats. He'll give you the dirty books and he'll be the one to show you how to throw a punch. Try not to loan him money unless you don't care about getting it back. Of course, if you really want it back, he'll probably help you get it back. At the track. You are probably gonna have to bail him out of jail at least once, fair warning.

When you need to learn to slow dance, ask Super P. When you need to make a present, ask Super P. When you need to set a fire to collect the insurance, ask Super P. (I am totally kidding here.....I hope.) Super Preschooler should be your point of reference for any and all questions that you are too scared to ask anyone else.

And then, sometimes, the questions don't matter at all; 
it is all a matter of the journey. 
And that is why you have a sister. 

When I asked Super Toddler what you needed to know for the future, she left and went to get a cheese stick. She's right you know. She is right about most things. Super T. has a lust for life unseen since Falstaff walked the earth. She tried to drag you out of the chair when I took your picture with her, saying there was a cool bug to see over by the window. Super T. is strong and fearless and completely in love with life. She isn't aware that coolness is a thing because, in her mind, the whole wide world is a fascinating place to be embraced. All of it.

In our heist, she is a munitions expert, skilled in numerous forms of hand-to-hand combat, and the one that actually climbs down through the ventilation system to pull off the heist itself. Her like has not been seen before, outside of Catwoman and the Mata Hari. Super T. is unpredictable and whimsical, but never underestimate her. The girl is a force of nature and not always a nice gentle rainstorm either. She can pull a tsunami out of her back pocket when provoked.

Super T. might just be working for the Empire; no one is quite sure. She'll most likely be the one to teach you other languages or at least how to swear in them. Super T. will probably be working for the CIA or she might be freelancing as a private eye, but know this, she'll teach you how to avoid bullies altogether or how to get them in trouble with just a smile and a few skillful negotiations. She'll always be generous with a bucket of money that no one will know the origin of. Super T. will never land in jail, no matter how many rules she breaks; she's like a ghost.

When you need to learn to dance like no one is watching, ask Super T. When you need to live in the present, ask Super T. When you need to set the world on fire, ask Super T. Super Toddler should be your point of reference. Full stop.

I love you. I love you so much that I have given you three other people to help pave your way in the world. Stick close to them and you will be fine. They have a way of bringing out the best in people, and I have a strong feeling that your best is a glow to rival the lights of Paris. Go shine, my love.

I Love You,
Awkward Mom

People might underestimate them,
but that is often just part of their plan. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Awkward Mom vs. Bravery

"The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity." -Robert Anthony

I am actually very brave. I used to think that bravery only came in one size. That size being the police/firefighter/military/folks that jump out of planes kind. Now, that size is pretty darn brave and one that I will simply never attain. That's fine, I am cool with that, but I have come to realize that there are other kinds of bravery. Different sizes, if you will. And the thing about sizes, as anyone who cooks or sews or wears shoes knows, is that sometimes you need a large and sometime you need an extra small. Comparing sizes is about as stupid as comparing baby weights; meaning we do it all the time and it drives us all crazy.

So, let's stop comparing sizes and just agree that we all have our own special braveries. And no, that doesn't mean because "we are all special, none of us are truly special." That's the argument of the small-minded who think the world's skills are as limited as its resources. The world's riches are not limited to iron and ore, but roll forever forward in a vast array of people as endlessly creative as the stars in the sky. (See, I told you I was brave! Who else uses such flowery prose on purpose?)

I know many brave people. Awesome Mom, Phenomenal Mom, and all my other working mom friends, leave their children every morning and head off to work outside the home; engaging in a balancing act only known to the best tightrope walkers. My ally, Rock Star Mom, boldly feeds her children McDonald's at the Crunchy Mom Park, smiling sweetly and strongly at anyone who approaches her; she is killing them softly with kindness, that one. I have actually never ever witnessed my friend Wonderful Mom raise her voice. Ever. She has 3 children under 7, a husband in residency, a million responsibilities, and a self-composure that rivals that of the greatest generals of the greatest armies in the world. Excellent Mom just completely redid her house by herself. Like her whole house. Like solo. With power tools and everything. My ally, Amazing Mom, writes with a transparency and honesty that speaks to your heart immediately and lingers in your mind long after. They are all incredibly brave, in so many ways. Ways that weave and fold over each other to create a peerless quilt of womanly bravery. Victor Hugo once wrote that "Curiosity is one of the forms of feminine bravery." I am not sure I think there are male and female forms of bravery, but I do think that curiosity is one of the oldest and purest forms of bravery there is. One that my friends, and parents in general, tend to have in spades.

One could argue that even agreeing to bring a human being into the world is a massive show of bravery. Bravery of the highest order. Then, someone agrees to raise this child; either through birth, adoption, fostering, step-parenting, or being part of the whole village. Someone says, "Yes. Yes, I will make sure this tiny, defenseless, hungry, probably pooping, little person makes it to adulthood and manages to contribute in a positive way to society as a whole. Yes." What makes us do this? It isn't mandated. There is no law that you have to have children, and many people decide to use their bravery elsewhere. It isn't boredom; like oh, there is nothing on TV tonight, guess I'll raise a couple kids. (Although, Awkward Dad makes the point that boredom may be exactly how some kids start their journey to us, biologically speaking. He's gross.) It isn't required of us in any way, barring the few remaining royals who need to produce heirs, and yet, we continue to take this massive leap of faith and bring children into a world that is pretty scary and dangerous and has no guarantee of remaining livable for the duration of our progenies' lives. Are we all just crazy?

No. No, we are not crazy. We are curious, strong, willing, loving, flawed, generous, and brave people. Brave? Screw that; we are fearless. Have you ever met a child? A baby? There is nothing scarier in the world than that first time you are holding your baby alone. The nurses aren't in there with you. Your mom has stepped out for some coffee. Your partner is passed out in the corner. Maybe your baby starts to cry. Maybe she fusses a little in her sleep. Or maybe, scarier still, he just lies there in your arms and you become terrified that he isn't breathing. You stare at the little child that you are now responsible for and, all of a sudden, the weight of that threatens to crush your shoulders. But it doesn't crush them. You take a deep breath, you square those strong brave shoulders of yours, and you tend to your baby. Doesn't matter what that baby needs, you have got it. You have got this. You are brave.

I am brave. I don't leave my babies everyday with my head high and my brain whirling in a million directions, like my working sisters. I still live in fear of crunchy mom judgement and could never rock the confidence that Rock Star Mom wields. I raise my voice hourly, so the quiet, steely bravery of Wonderful Mom is out. My house skills hover around doing the dishes, on occasion, so the boundless brawn of Excellent Mom is totally beyond me. My writing will never be so purely honest as Amazing Mom. No, those are all the curious gifts of others. But I have my own, awkward, bravery. You must remember that bravery is not going forward because you have no fear. No, it is marching forward even though you are terrified. It is finding something to banish that fear, and that something must be as unique as yourself. You can't wield a weapon that doesn't fit in your own hand, so I don't use my brains, my confidence, my wisdom, my strength, or my creativity. No, I tell Fear a big joke and then steal whatever it is that I want while he is doubled over with laughter.

Like today. Today, I took 4 children to the movie theater. I strapped 3 spring-crazy kids, and 1 baby who couldn't care less as long as there is something to eat, into the van. I unloaded them all at the theater, weaved through a parking lot in a train that kept derailing at the toddler-car, didn't lose any in the lobby, successfully got the baby in free, and paid the cheapest price for the rest. I made my way to the farthest screen, herding all the Supers plus a friend in front of me like wayward sheep, while carrying an enormous backpack (filled with everything we might need, including 5 boxes of snuck-in candy), the baby, the popcorn, a drink, and all the tickets. I let them pick their seats. I let them hold the popcorn and the drink, knowing I would probably never see them again (don't worry, I ate some on the long walk down the hallway). I even handed a box of Skitties to Super Toddler. You don't get much braver than that.

Fearless is my middle name. Mom being my first. (It's a popular combination.)

You don't really get any braver than showing the internet postpartum pictures of yourself. 
Fearless Awkward Mom.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Awkward Mom vs. the Movie Theater - rematch

"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night." 

Well, morning really. It was the first showing of the day....

The first time we took Super Toddler to a movie theater was last July. This is also the last time we took Super Toddler to a movie theater. For obvious reasons. Well, until today, that is. Thinking that perhaps the problem was that the entire family attempted that particular movie outing, I took the opportunity of Grandma's visit, and Super K.'s full day of school, to leave a couple of kids at home and take Super Toddler, solo, to a morning movie. We were the only two in creation not to have seen the Lego Movie yet, so I was hoping for an empty theater. Plus, she's nearly a year older, her behavior must have improved since then, right?

No, it has not improved. She still races through the aisles and talks at the top of her lungs and find the projection room miles more fascinating than anything going on screen-side. I did NOT buy popcorn, so at least we avoided the popcorn dumpage and the wearing the bucket as a hat while running down stairs in the dark that she so enjoys. But it still managed to be magical for me and I will tell you why. I would make a film and show you, but backers are in short supply around here and I have about 20 minutes before they get tired of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and find me here, hiding in the bathroom.

Super Toddler will always be herself; loud, fearless, and unable to sit still. What I think has changed is my expectations of her. (Also, a little planning regarding time of day and lack of food that can be turned into projectiles helps.) It was rather fitting that we were seeing the Lego Movie for my latest epiphany regarding parenting; a film that's message of truly being yourself and allowing your own creativity to shine truly resonates throughout my relationship with Super Toddler.

I really really like movies. So does Super Toddler. I love going to the movie theater to see a brand new movie. So does Super Toddler. I adore that moment when the lights dim and the previews start. So does Super Toddler. It is just that while I want to sit in the middle seat of the middle aisle in quiet so I can feel the energy and delight of the people around me as we all enter a magic portal to someone's imagination and hard work, Super Toddler wants to create her own energy and delight by running around the row and peering through the seats, all the time shouting her feelings and thoughts at the screen like it is her best friend and they are gabbing across a backyard fence. At the top of their lungs. During a tornado.

When I go to the movies with Super Kindergartener, he sedately sits next to me and holds my hand. He squeezes it when he gets scared. He shushes loud talkers and shakes his head sadly when people answer their cell phones. He eats his snuck-in-candy silently while his eyes grow to the size of plates at the wonder on the screen. He does not want to talk about the movie during the movie, so expect eye daggers if you try. He'll happily tell you his favorite part in the hallway, later. Super K. is more like me than is always comfortable for me to face.

Super Preschooler doesn't much care for the movie theater, as the films there can't compete with the visions in his own mind. He is just saving up to create his own movies, mostly likely sometime next year. When he does humor us, he watches the entire movie from my lap, arms tightly wrapped around my shoulders and his face cuddled into my neck. That way he can whisper all his ideas for improving the plot directly into my ear. And I have to say, the boy is usually right about what needs changing.

Today, I decided to just let Super Toddler be Super Toddler. There were 3 other families in the theater and none looked liked they were writing a review or anything. One little boy was quoting dialogue before the movie started, so I figured this wasn't their first showing by a long shot. I avoided the popcorn situation, let her have a little lemonade, settled in a seat near the end, and hoped for the best. I really wanted to see the whole thing, but was prepared to make a dash for it.

I have never walked out of a movie. I always stick it out, even during the bad ones, because my love of film and the movie theater experience is that strong. But I would have walked out of that theater for Super Toddler. It would have broken my heart to have my only daughter not love movies, but I was ready to have it break if that's who she is. Anyone who knows me knows how intensely I love movies, but at the end of the day, this is no Sophie's Choice. Super Toddler has my heart; I love her more than film.

But a wondrous thing happened instead. Given a little bit of room to roam, Super Toddler contained most of her wanders to our row and the few steps next to us. She peeked between chairs and used them to hide from the scary parts. She climbed in and out of my lap to be cuddled occasionally, but if I am being honest, it was really to steal more lemonade. Her shouting was all related to what was going on in the movie. Even her fascination with the projection room holds the promise of a future career in editing. It was all appropriate to the space and her age. I just had to let her enjoy the movie in her own way.

Because that's the truth, isn't it? We all like things our own ways, and watching a movie is no different. There are talkers and shushers and texters and sleepers. There are people who buy food there and people who bring their biggest purses to sneak in most of the fridge. There are people who like to shout support at the screen during the car chases and there are people who are driven mad by the sound of someone opening a cough drop. Some of us hide behind our fingers, some of us can't look away. Some of us gasp, some of us laugh, and all of us feel. And feel together. For a few short hours, we are a family; united in our commitment to seeing this story through. And like all families, we are wildly different and yet similar in passion. We are all moved by screen stories, and I just need to let Super Toddler be moved in her own way. Her own bombastic, energetic, totally unique, free-spirited way. And next time, I may even let her wear the popcorn bucket on her head. One step at a time......

Movies; the stuff that dreams are made of. 

And all the best dreams (and movies) involve independent little girls born to set the world on fire.