Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Best Teachers

Yesterday Nick and I were talking about feeling guilty for not spending more time with our kids—particularly the fact that neither of us stay home and Ivy and Iris have gone to daycare more or less since infancy.  Nick and I both had brief stints at being a stay-at-home parent when Ivy was young and we both knew without a doubt that it wasn't the life for either of us.  I think he feels the guilt more than I do since he’s gone for days at a time and I’m home every night (more or less), but the girls have a hand in that as well.  They’re VERY good at giving him the puppy eyes and sulking around when he’d rather do something for himself or (GASP!) spend time with me than play with them. 

I've had the occasional snide remark sent my way about how selfish I am for working or even how unfortunate I am for not being able to financially manage staying home with my kids.  I do my best not to engage or simply state that I am a better mom when I can go to work every day.  But it’s really much more than that.

I’m simply not the best person to spend all day every day with my kids.  I’m not the most qualified or the most able to give them everything they need to make the most of life in this world.  Don’t get me wrong—there are LOTS of things I’m great at, but even more things that I’m not so great at.  I firmly believe that there are better qualified people out there to teach my kids a lot of what they need to know.  I've done my best to find them and will happily pay them for their time and expertise.  I've only been a mom for seven years and though I like to think I’m getting better at this whole parenting thing, I haven’t yet experienced the teenage years or high school from this side of the fence yet.

I’m not the best person to teach Ivy math (especially this Common Core stuff.  I’m so confused!).  Her 1st grade teacher is.  I’m not the best person to teach her how to interact with other seven-year-olds.  I have VERY little experience with it.  Her 1st grade teacher has been at this for years!  She knows how to do it and I can trust that she’ll treat my daughter the same as everyone else.  I couldn't do that.  I notice it every Thursday at Girl Scouts—I either give my daughters extra attention or less than everyone else.  But it’s really hard for me to stop being their mom and ONLY be a Girl Scout leader.  I just can’t do it.  Am I the best mom to be the Girl Scout leader?  (I’m the MASTER of circle time!)  No, probably not, but I’m not any better or worse than the other moms so I might as well do it. 
I’m not the best person to teach my girls how to play the piano, so I've hired someone else to do that.  She’s the best and she does a much better job than I could, despite my 13 years of lessons.  I’m not even the best person to teach them how to be a good sister!  I wasn't that great at it when I was their age—a fact I’m sure my older brother could attest to. 

Now, I’m absolutely the best person to teach my girls how to be a good wife and mother.  I’m the best person to teach them how to make the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookies (‘cause I’m the ONLY one who knows how!).  I’m the best person to teach them a good work ethic, how to be a good working mom and how to trust God for everything.  Not because I know how to do those things but because I’m the one they’re going to look to for guidance and I’m the one they’re going to expect to show them such behavior.  Nick is the best person to teach them how a husband should treat his wife and what to look for as they consider the right father for their children. 

Neither of us is the best person to teach them about heart-break—their first boyfriend will take care of that.  But we’ll teach them how to get over it and how to move on.  I’ll never be able to teach them how to handle divorce.  Someday, one of us will have to teach them how to handle the loss of a spouse.  I’m not looking forward to that lesson any more than they might be. 

There’s plenty I’m going to teach my kids but shapes and colors, algebra and chemistry are not among them.  Far better people out there are more qualified than me and would do a much better job.  I want my girls to have a variety of teachers they can look up to.  And I am the best person to ensure that happens.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014


I love my birthday.  No, I mean really.  Like a five year old at Chuck E. Cheese.  It’s my favorite day of the entire year, second only to Christmas.  I LOVE IT!  It’s one day that’s only about me.  I get to be selfish.  I get to expect people to focus on ME.  When people forget my birthday, I get a little upset.  My husband, poor soul, learned this the hard way. 

When we were dating, he forgot my birthday twice.  He had some lame excuse the first year, like being in intensive care at the hospital for mono.  And the second year, he thought having Lasik surgery and being in lots of pain was a good enough reason to let the day pass.  (Please!)  But by the third year, he finally understood and sneaked out of his room while serving in the Navy’s Officer Candidate School to use the phone to call me on my birthday.  (Yes, it was breaking a military rule and he took a big risk, but it was MY BIRTHDAY!)

After that, it became the Robin Olson Birthday Extravaganza!  No longer a day but an event!  The first year we were married, I got a surprise trip to San Francisco for the day.  Now we’re talkin’.  Last year we spent the day at Hershey Park.  And this year—well, this year is one for the books as well.  We spend the evening downtown at a fancy dinner and then, dressed in our finest, took in a play—The Phantom of the Opera.  Yes, the weather was awful and we lost the car, but it was still AWESOME. I got flowers and half a day off at work plus double bonus birthday rewards at Starbucks when I used my birthday reward (free coffee!) and got a coupon for another free drink 'cause I had to wait too long.  Boy, do they know me!  Cookbooks, new CD's and cards came from my family and a Starbucks gift card from the in-laws.  Perfect.

Now, most years, Nick and I have strangely not been in the same city on my birthday.  And it’s not always him that’s gone.  After the first disastrous year, he was in San Diego and I was in Kansas City for two years running.  Then he was in Florida while I was in San Diego.  Almost every year after that, one of us was traveling.  That doesn't mean anyone is off the hook by the way—in 2009, I was in New Orleans for work and was taken out to Emeril’s restaurant.  Holy wow!

In all reality, though I really don’t care about presents or any of that.  I just want it remembered.  Make a bit of a fuss.  Say happy birthday.  Send me a card.  Something—anything to let me know that you remembered today was the day I was born.  I’ll return the favor on your day.  If you don’t know it’s my birthday, don’t worry!  I’ll be sure to let you know.