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Mistaeks Happen…

BIG BROTHER SUPER HERO 2What perfect timing. In my almost twenty-nine years of mothering, I have joked more times than I can count about the role my children have played in my financial and emotional  ruin. Without kids, I’m sure I would have been a millionaire several times over by now. That was the plan, after all. I would have been living a life of ease, free from the stress of homework, finals, report cards, working concessions, fighting over practicing the piano, keeping track of schedules for football, track, baseball, basketball, volleyball, various summer camps, drum lessons, dreaded piano lessons, school plays, ACTs, college applications, the constant need for hair color, etc, etc. I can actually feel a headache coming on as I stroll down memory lane. But, of course the truth is that, as I’ve also said (maybe not as many times, admittedly), my kids are the best thing that ever happened to me. Yes, every heartache, every tear, every worry and fear, but also every belly laugh and every moment of beaming pride.

So here’s where the perfect timing comes in. As many of you know, my two youngest, Peter and Mary Kate, are both studying percussion performance in school. Peter paved the way in the Percussion Studio at the University of Iowa, and his little sister happily followed in his footsteps three years later. The one year they were together in Iowa City marked the first time siblings had ever studied and performed together in the studio. The head of the Percussion Department had some hesitation about the possible head-butting, rivalry and competition that could arise as a result of admitting siblings and during her audition, questioned Mary Kate about just how solid the relationship with her brother was. Her response was that they were very close and shared a love for music. Peter was her role model. He has since gone on to pursue his Master’s Degree in Percussion Performance at the University of Tennessee, but returned to Iowa City this weekend to perform in the Last Chance Percussion Ensemble Concert (so named because it is the last chance music students have to earn concert attendance credit before the end of the semester). This final concert of the year is open to interested alumni of the studio to perform alongside current members, including You-Know-Who (Baby Sister).

I texted Mary Kate last night to ask how the concert had gone and the following was our exchange that took place:

MK: I just played really bad at Last Chance. It took all my willpower not to cry afterwards. It was really only one mistake, but it was super noticeable and I was especially upset because I wanted to play well for Peter.

ME: Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry 😦  Did anyone say anything about it? Maybe it wasn’t really that bad.

MK: Everyone just said good job. I talked to Ben (her TA) and he said it was only one mistake and the rest was really good. He said I shouldn’t be upset. Pete thought it sounded good, so that makes me happy.

I then texted Peter to let him know how much his presence and kind words meant to her and this was our exchange:

PETE: Honestly, she played really well. Mistakes are much more noticeable when you’re the one playing. She shouldn’t get hung up on it. It was a good performance.

ME: Your approval means a lot to her. She wants you to be proud of her.

PETE: I am!! I thought she did a great job. And I saw her recital (which had been streamed live, two weeks ago) and she was awesome!

I thought Mary Kate’s desire to perform well for her brother was so sweet and his response that he is proud of her, even better. Both conversations were great, but ya know what the best part was? Peter’s response that it was just a mistake and usually the mistake is only noticeable to the one making it. And most importantly…that she shouldn’t get hung up on it. I mean…right??? A great piece of advice for us all.

So, nodding off to sleep last night, I felt pretty good. Life throws a heck of a lot of curve-balls your way. Things often don’t go as planned (my life as a millionaire, for example). But we can’t get hung up on it. You pick up where you left off and move on, and maybe no one will notice the mistakes.

Happy Mother’s Day and remember…don’t get hung up on the mistakes – on the ones we make as we muddle through parenting or on the ones our kids are bound to make as they struggle to make their way in life.

PS: The text messages above were edited for punctuation and spelling, in case anyone was wondering…

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Happy Mother’s Day…Or Why You Should Be Happy The Kids Are Gone

Mothers-DayHappy Mother’s Day! Someone remarked to me recently what a good mother I am, to which I responded that it’s easy when the kids aren’t around. My children are slowly growing up and moving away from Mom and Dad. Does that sadden me? No. It makes me happy and proud. That’s what’s supposed to happen. My oldest son, Mike, is married to the lovely Laura 🙂 and living in downtown Chicago. Brian is finishing up his second year of grad school at DePaul University and also living downtown. He has started working on his thesis, which will be the final piece of his graduate studies and will take him well into the next school year. As his mom, I would love if he could make his career in Chicago, and that could happen, however, I know that his field may very well lead him to other parts of the country. And that’s okay, too. If that happens, we’ll miss him terribly, but he must follow his path. My two youngest, Peter and Mary Kate, only have a short time left to be together, as students in the Percussion Studio at University of Iowa. Peter is set to graduate next Saturday and then, together, they will embark on the Steel Band Tour the following week. (Since it’s Mother’s Day, I will boast that Mary Kate is the only freshman who will be going on the tour…so that’s pretty cool 🙂  As a girl drummer, she totally rocks!) The University of Tennessee in Knoxville then beckons Peter to begin his graduate studies in the fall, a short six hundred mile drive away…

Today, I will spend my Mother’s Day in Iowa City for Pete’s final recital. As a music major, he was required to perform a formal Senior Recital, which is much more than simply a performance. It involves choosing the music, researching the composers and the background of the pieces, creating arrangements of pieces and, of course, a perfect execution of the music for an audience. Pete chose to perform a recital his sophomore, junior and senior years. His formal Senior Recital was nothing short of awesome. The recital which I am attending today, is what he has termed, his “fun” recital. I’m not sure how many kids would voluntarily perform an extra recital, just for fun. I’m guessing not many. And I can’t wait to hear and see him play. My husband and I made the three-hour drive to Iowa City two nights ago to see the last Steel Band Concert of the school year, and, more importantly, the last concert Mary Kate and Peter will perform together. Today, we will see Peter’s  last performance of his undergraduate career. And we can’t wait. Next Thursday, I’ll make that drive again to move MK out of her dorm and into her brother’s apartment as they prepare for their tour. I will then return on  Friday for the graduation on Saturday. After sending four children to the University of Iowa, the drive is second nature. Like running to the grocery store. “I’m going to Iowa. Be back in six hours…Need anything while I’m out?”

So, yes, I’m celebrating the fact that my kids are leaving me. You should be too. And, if your kids are still young-uns, remember that this is the goal.

So, on this Mother’s Day, I will leave you with my unsolicited advice on parenting (in no particular order):

1. Don’t be afraid of the word NO. It may very well be the most important one in your vocabulary. Just ask my kids…

2. Instill a solid faith in God. It’s what will get them through the tough times.They may stray, but will hopefully return if they have something to return to.

3. Let them know that there WILL be tough times. I will repeat the wise words of a priest at church: “Parents, teach your kids that life is not fair.”

4. Laugh. Laugh loud and often. Tease and allow yourself to be teased.

5. Expose them to everything – sports, music, chess, books, theater, etc and see what excites them. And then encourage them to follow their dreams. 

And most importantly…

6. Do not discourage or quash their spirit. “Every child is an artist until they are told they are not”  John Lennon

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