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Crone thoughts: Being 40-something in a youth-obsessed culture

Obviously, a community called Mile High Mamas appeals to moms and not crones. Otherwise the URL above might be ColoradoCrones.com.

Because of infertility and other factors, I arrived at motherhood late. I am an older mom who never gave birth. So I have already begun thinking of what comes after Motherhood, and I come up with this question:

Am I a Crone?

I am intrigued by the ancient notion of the Maiden, the Mother, and the Crone. Although the idea’s origins  go back maybe thousands of years, I think the notion permeates our viewpoints today.

Where some cultures revere the Crone as a wise-woman and healer, ours has just about nothing good to say about Crones:

From American Heritage: n. An ugly, withered old woman; a hag.

From Webster’s: An old woman; — usually in contempt.

From dictionary.com: A withered, witchlike old woman.

[Origin: 1350–1400; ME carrion]

Carrion!

It follows that if a woman is not a nubile Maiden nor a fertile Mother, she is left in the position of a Crone. And infertility puts some women into this role prematurely. I am much too young — as in decades! — to be considered a hag or withered (even if 40 were not the new 30).

Why does the Crone get such a a bad rap? She’s scary, wicked, and ugly while the Maiden is beautiful, pure and desired  and the Mother is kind, nurturing and bountiful.

As baby boom women age into the realm of the Crone archetype, what will happen to the Crone? Will she get an image makeover? Is there a tipping point where huge numbers of people will simply decide that an aging woman should be valued for her inner beauty and wisdom? Or will boomers continue to fight to the death the inevitability of aging through hideous facelifts?

And my final musing, what would it be like if we accepted the Crone as equal in value to the Maiden and the Mother?

Yes, I suppose I AM a Crone, but not in the dictionary sense — I swear I did not have carrion for breakfast. I am a Crone because I have experienced numerous joys and heartaches. Because I have proven my resilience. Because I have earned the stripes I carry, and I am hopeful to have the opportunity to earn more. Because I have discovered so much along the way, and can now impart some of what I’ve learned to others who are open to learning.

I am Crone, hear me roar.

“For millennia women’s wisdom was honored; crones were revered. Today women are reclaiming the identity and status of the ancient crone. We are coming of age, accessing our wisdom and acting upon it. Croning is the process of becoming active wise women…Engaged in the process of Croning, we can act in ways that embody the changes we want to take place in the world, in our communities, families, relationships, and within ourselves. When we apply our wisdom to effect positive change, we improve our own lives and leave a legacy for future generations.”

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When you imagine yourself past the Motherhood stage, how do you see yourself, your life? What do you think are the challenges of The Crone in modern times?

Mama Drama: Sibling Birthday Blues

Dear Mama Drama:

I have two girls who are three years apart in age. My oldest daughter who is nine has a really difficult time handling it when it is her younger sister’s birthday. She is always excited about the party and getting her sister a present, but when the day arrives she loses it. She interrupts, makes rude comments, tries to take over opening presents, and becomes obnoxious trying everything she can to pull the attention away from her sister and onto herself.

Last year we talked about it before the party and she seemed allright, but she could not seem to handle it in the moment. Every year she ends up making her sister cry and being removed from the festivities.

My husband and I are so exasperated that we are contemplating not having her be part of her sister’s upcoming party this year. This seems absurd, but we don’t know what else to do. Her sister wants her to be there, but none of us want all the drama.

Other than this situation the girls get along well and really enjoy each other.  How can we support them so that we can all enjoy the party?

~Mama with the Birthday Blues

(photo credit)

Dear Mama:

Even though her other parties have been difficult because of her sister, your younger daughter is demonstrating compassion and generosity in wanting her sister to be there this year. Because of this I suggest allowing her sister to be there under very clear guidelines, but having a back up plan for her to leave if she is not able to handle it. Leaving should not necessarily be considered a punishment, but more of a recognition that this is too hard for her.

Talk with your older daughter about your expectations for her behavior at the upcoming party. Let her know you and her sister want her to be part of the celebration, but that in order to do so she will need to be respectful and kind. Discuss specifically what this will look like and role play situations that she has struggles with in past years.

It sounds like in previous years her negative attention seeking behavior went on for some time before limits were set. In order for her to participate in this party you will need to be very clear about your expectations, monitor her closely, and be willing to end her participation if needed. At the first signs of  agitation or inappropriate behavior step in to support her. She may need a redirection, restatement of the expectation, or a support in pulling herself together. Practicing this before hand will give her more confidence in responding in the moment.

Older siblings often are so used to being in charge that they have a hard time letting this go. Have the girls brainstorm ways that the older sister can help during the party without taking over. She could help greet the guests and place presents in a designated spot, coordinate a game, or assist in serving the cake. During times when her sister is in the spotlight like present opening, plan for the older sister to be next to you or her father. Having her in close proximity provides the opportunity to support and redirect quickly and discretely.

What do you do to ease the frustrations of siblings when it isn’t their turn to be in the spotlight?

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to Lisa@milehighmamas.com, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Mama Confessional: How did you keep your kids occupied this summer?

I’d like to say that I’ve taken my kids on outings and that we’ve experienced new and wonderful adventures this month. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could share of our many hikes in the wonderful Colorado mountains, or perhaps tell of a day spent at the Denver Zoo where we took a picnic and rode the train? Naturally we would skip bird world, because we hate it, and then casually wander over to watch the polar bears frolick while chocolate ice cream drips down our chins.

Unfortunately, it would all be lies.

I am taking an anatomy class that requires nine hours a week in class, plus study time. We’ve had to stick pretty close to home this summer and sure, while I use words like gastrocnemius in front of the children so they can appreciate my education, they have at times, been bored. They begin to complain and ask “Why can’t we go on fun outings like other children, Mother?” And I respond by telling them to “Close your mandible. Mommy’s studying.”

We have experienced Netflix, however, and I feel like that ought to count for something. See, we’ve held out for years. We’ve said “no thanks” to cable and have been happy with our network television with very few complaints. We’ve been big-time patrons over at College Hill perusing their ever expanding DVD department on a weekly basis. We have even been known to have an account over at Blockbuster.

But then the best gift that we have ever received (besides the birth of our three amazing children, of course) was a Netflix account. We still don’t know how or why Billy’s 83-year-old mother thought of it. But she did. And we have. And we will not look back. We are forever changed.

A few days into the Netflix experience we discovered

Stay-at-homers or working moms: do you ever envy the other side?

The thing about moms who work outside their homes is that we love to hate the moms who don’t.

Not as individuals. But as a demographic of nameless, faceless minivan drivers toward whom we direct a venomous mix of resentment, bewilderment and envy.

We spot them in their workout clothes and tell ourselves their days must be so mindless.

Every time we mooch their graham crackers, every time we borrow their Handi Wipes and every time we ask them, last minute, to cover for us in carpools, we’re reminded of our own half measures.

What a waste of talent and ambition, we try to convince ourselves, congratulating ourselves on our choices.

I write this after having spent a week off living like a stay-at-homer.

For the first time ever, I got to linger among the moms after drop-off at day camp, joining their ritual coffee klatch.

“We’ve never had your type in the mornings,” one of them told me.

“My type?” I

Mama Drama: Tantrum Trouble

Dear Mama Drama:

My six-year-old son is struggling with anger. He is often very frustrated with his sister or us when he doesn’t get his way and every little thing leads to extreme outbursts. He screams, yells, hits, and throws things. When we try to get him to calm down he yells no and stomps off.

His sister never went through a stage like this, so we don’t have the benefit of experience. We are feeling at a loss as to how to help him and are becoming exasperated with his tantrums.

~Totaled by Tantrums

(photo credit)

Dear Totaled:

Dealing with tantrums is definitely exasperating. Your son sounds like he is feeling miserable as well. When children throw tantrums they are trying to communicate, but are doing so very ineffectively. They can also get into patterns of reacting to situations and struggle to know what to do instead.

You have recognized that your son is frustrated when he doesn’t get his way, so this is a good place to start. Work with him before hand, when he is calm, on strategies for handling his frustrations differently.

What does he get the most frustrated by and

Mama Drama: Competition Quakes

Dear Mama Drama:

My daughter, age 8, signed up for a team sport this summer. We counseled her about the level of commitment it would take and were assured that she was up to it, even eager for it.

My daughter enjoys the practices but gets too nervous for the competitions! The first week she did it, but it took a lot of cajoling. She did feel good about it at the end. But the second week, no amount of cajoling would get her onto the field.

What are your ideas on handling her commitment? If she quits mid-season, should we make her responsible for some of the fees we paid? How do we help her to have a stake in this, without it being seen as punishment?

~ Questionning Commitment

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Dear Questioning:

Your daughter’s eagerness to join the team and actively engage in practices shows that this is an activity in which she wants to participate. Regardless of what she initially agreed to, however, she may have had no idea how anxious she would feel about playing in front of an audience in a competitive situation. Pressuring her or punishing her for being anxious is not going to make the situation better.

I suggest allowing her to continue on the team for the summer, thus following through with her commitment. Talk with her coach and make arrangements that meet your daughter’s needs. She can attend the practices and has the option of playing in the games. If she is too anxious to play, she can still attend the games, cheer on her teammates, and possibly support the team by having a job such as managing the line up. It will be important for the coach to be understanding and work with the team to be supportive as well. Your daughter will improve her skills and increase her confidence by continuing to practice and be part of the team.

Once she knows that you will give her a choice to play without pressure, give her the opportunity to talk about the thoughts and fears she experiences when thinking about the games. She may be afraid of getting hurt, letting down her teammates, being ridiculed, or doing something wrong. Validate her fears, they are very real for her, while giving her some perspective on how you may have felt in a similar situation. Her coach may also have some ideas that may help her.

Many of us experience mild to moderate anxiety and are able to work through it. However, many people experience severe, debilitating anxiety and panic attacks over which they have no control. Their responses often seem unreasonable or irrational to others, but they are very real to the person experiencing them. Your description of your daughter’s response tells me that her anxiety response is more than average stage fright or pre-game jitters and that she needs a lot of support working through this.

If her anxiety continues to be to this extreme or worsens, seek mental health support for your daughter. Learning to identify and manage her anxiety now will make a huge difference when facing other challenges as she gets older.

Many people also find relief from anxiety with Rescue Remedy®, a Bach Flower Essence combination, which supports nervous tension in crisis or stressful situations. Our family has found it very effective in calming nerves and facing fears and it is safe for children and adults.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to Lisa@milehighmamas.com, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Changing of the Guard

I turned 40 last month. I refuse to consider myself middle-aged, but seeing as my mom turns 70 this year and I have a 7 year old son – I suppose you can think of me as middle-ish.

What’s weird about being in the middle is you start having a parental role for not only your child – but also with those who raised you, those who smacked your bottom when you were bad (back when they did such things), those who dried your tears, those who taught you pretty much everything about life starting from the birds and ending with the bees.

It’s a slow process, of course. First your mom will email and ask your opinion on something. And you will look at the screen and think, “Whoah. Did my MOM, the one who gave me her hand-me-down Chevette 20 years ago really ask me if I think this other such and such is a good deal?”

Next is a harder transition.

They get sick.

Recently my mom had major heart surgery, and if that wasn’t traumatic enough – they accidentally found lung cancer. Accidentally. Like they were spilling soup.

The good news is, she came through the surgery well, and the doctors are optimistic about the lung cancer. Although I tell ya, it feels weird to type the word optimistic and cancer in the same sentence.

Either way – our adventures of the past few months have certainly not made my mother an invalid, but in many ways – it has made her a spectator in the management of her own life. My sister has become

Mama Drama: Hair Raising Reading

Dear Mama Drama:

I have three daughters ages 13, 11, and 8. They are all avid readers and generally read well above their age level. My eight year old wants to read whatever her sisters are reading, but as they get into their teens I am not always comfortable with the content.

When there is sexual content or violence, my eight-year-old is often confused, scared, and has had nightmares, especially after reading some of the vampire books.

The girls think it isn’t a big deal, but I do.  I am not sure how to handle this with them.

~ Raising Readers

(photo credit)

Dear Raising:

Your concerns about your youngest daughter’s reading material are valid. The themes in books for teens and tweens focus on different experiences and thinking processes than books for younger children.

It can be difficult to find engaging books for advanced readers. I suggest working with your daughter’s teachers, the school or local librarian, or a clerk in the children’s section of a bookstore to find challenging yet age appropriate books. Searching the internet for age focused book lists can also be helpful, just be sure to read through the books first before you give them to your daughter.

You need to enlist your older daughters in supporting the limits you are setting on the books your youngest reads. Talk with them about your reasons and the impact you have observed reading these books has had on their sister. They don’t have to agree with you, but they do need to understand the influence they have on their sister. She looks up to them and wants to be as grown up as they are.

Find ways for the older girls to mentor and guide their sister. Have them make a list of the books they enjoyed when they were her age and share that with her. Encourage them to go to the library or bookstore to choose books together. With your girls being older you may not still read aloud at night. Consider reinstituting reading together as a family to bring these books to life.

With her sisters encouraging her to read age appropriate books, your eight-year-old will be less resistant to waiting for the right time to read their books.

If you know of some great books for eight-year-olds please share. 🙂

Mama Drama: Food Fights

Dear Mama Drama:

My five-year-old son used to eat a wide variety of foods, but now he will only eat a handful. I am concerned about him getting adequate nutrition and that we are constantly fighting over food. This is becoming a huge power struggle and is a nightmare for all of us.

~Food Fanatic

(photo credit)

Dear Fanatic:

This is a frequent concern of many parents. Some children will eat anything and others are very finicky. Most children go through a picky phase at some point in their lives, but with time move past it. However, if your child has autism or other medical issues it will be important to consult with your medical practitioner or behavior specialist on how to handle this issue.

Food intake is one of the few things children have complete control over as adults make most decisions for them. Offering choices throughout the day is a wonderful way to empower children. They get practice at making decisions and learning about natural consequences. When children feel empowered, they are less likely to engage in power struggles over food and other issues.

When offering choices, make sure the choices are ones you can live with. Do you want to wear the red shirt or the yellow shirt? Do you want to tie your shoes by yourself or with help? Do you want to wash your face first or brush your teeth?

When extending these choices into food, again make sure the choices fit into the limits you are setting. Do you want cereal or eggs? Do want apples or pears? Do you want your noodles with butter or with red sauce? As you prepare meals, be creative with options for how you serve them. If broccoli is on the menu offer it plain, with butter, or with ranch dressing for dipping. If your son doesn’t like a particular food, try it again in a few weeks served a little differently.

Children who help prepare meals are more likely to eat them. Get your son involved in reading recipes, finding and measuring ingredients, stirring and serving the meal. There is an informative article at kidshealth.org that discusses fun ways to involve kids of all ages in cooking.

For your own sanity, and that of your son, it is critical to remember that your job as a parent is to provide healthy choices for your child, not to force him to eat. Only serving the foods your son wants perpetuates his limited diet. Have a family meeting about changing your food perspectives and set a rule about everyone tasting everything that is served. Set a good example by trying out foods you think you don’t really like, too…and remember that if your face is all scrunched up and you are already thinking “Eeewwww!” not even chocolate pudding will taste good. 🙂

If you have ongoing concerns you will want to rule out medical issues such as allergies, celiac’s disease, and sensory processing that could be impacting your son’s willingness to eat certain foods.

How do you help your child have a balanced diet?

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to Lisa@milehighmamas.com, and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! All emails and identifying information will remain confidential.

Habla Teenagerese?

My oldest daughter doesn’t want to take Spanish next year.

I want her to take Spanish next year. It’s an elective only offered to eighth graders, it’s free, it’s available. To my mommy mind, it makes sense.

I explained the benefits of having a full year of Spanish completed before high school. She’ll be a year ahead. Spanish is the wisest language to learn in today’s world and especially in our part of the country.

These arguments failed to convince her, so I trotted out a seemingly innocuous observation about her friends. They are probably taking Spanish, right? I felt terrible hijacking peer pressure this way. Normally, I decry peer pressure but when it’s time to sign up for next year’s electives? Shame-less.

She claimed no, they aren’t. They all decided to take sculpture.

I pictured a lonely, dejected Spanish teacher and an incredibly overwhelmed art teacher saying mon dieu!

So rather than learning an important, marketable, socially-conscious life skill, you want to make vases and clay animals? I asked.

Yes.

Big sighs from me. I flipped through the packet of classes and noted she had to choose by the next day. Tomorrow. Always too soon, so soon, and how did this happen? Weren’t you just born?

How did we get to this point where a Spanish vs. Clay Elephants debate is just a part of a weekday morning?

I could have insisted she take Spanish much like I insist she eat breakfast every day or complete her chores. You will! You will! I am the mother.

I didn’t. I decided to let this one go. There is time. She is far more interested in taking Chinese beginning in ninth grade. During two enrichment courses in previous years, she chose Chinese and learned some basics. She loved it.

Larger battles loom. There will be times when I will exercise my authority and absolutely insist on certain behaviors and decisions in the coming years. But I want her to know I can maintain perspective.

I want her to know I see her side.

I want her to know there will always be room on our shelves for hand-made clay figurines.