Recently, I’ve been given the gift of fresh perspective. I’m not talking about clean windows or rearranged furniture; I’m referring to perspective that can only be gained from a change in circumstances or life experience. And this one, let me assure you, is a biggie.
I am about to become a grandmother. I don’t at all mean this as a boast, but if you’ve seen the headshot that accompanies my written pieces, you will—hopefully—agree that I seem too young to be a grandmother. Truth be told: I am. I was sixteen when I became a mother for the first time. Thankfully, my daughter did not beat me to motherhood; she is a twenty-year-old mother-to-be. Still admittedly young, but in a much better place than I was when I gave birth for the first time. It is precisely this unexpected juxtaposition I have to thank for the fresh perspective I referred to earlier.
By becoming a mom at sixteen, I didn’t have enough life experience under my belt from which to draw, to rely on. I had little choice but to take each day as it came, sort of rolling the dice with every decision I made. Those truly were tumultuous times in my life—not ones I necessarily miss. Yet, the person I’ve grown into is the result of persevering through lonely, stressful and confusing circumstances. I don’t by any means grieve who I’ve become, but I do wish that my sweet baby girl hadn’t been required to come along for the ride during those difficult years.
I had hoped that my daughter would finish college and get married before she started a family. During her teen years I tried with all my might to impress upon her the importance of doing so. But much like her mother, that girl has a will and a mind all her own; she goes her own way. That is where my fresh perspective comes in. With twenty years of hindsight, I have the luxury of looking back on a beautiful life—a life harder than it needed to be, but a life beautiful nonetheless.
In my twenties I spent a great deal of time existing within a tangle of stress. My plans were rigid and my course was stretched taut before me. And then along came the man I now know as my husband and—just like that—it all went out the window. I’m better today than I was then.
Lately, I haven’t been able to pass a toddler in the grocery store without looking just a second too long, imagining what my first grandchild might look like, how her voice will sound, the bounce of her curls. It would be easy to fall back in to a pattern of taut—to a tangled web of worry for both her and her mother. I’m choosing a different approach. I’m choosing to rest in faith, knowing full well that my plans aren’t always the best ones. And that, just like her mother, my daughter will look back in twenty years and see in the rearview an inexplicably beautiful life, no matter how bumpy the road to get there.
If I told you that my husband and I just returned home from an amazing wine country vacation you probably wouldn’t be surprised. But if I told you that we brought our eight-year-old son, Jayce, along, that might catch you off guard, right? I know. Usually the terms ‘family-friendly’ and ‘wine country vacation’ don’t coexist. Oh, but friends, I’m here to tell you about a destination that makes it possible to have fun with the kids whilst enjoying fine wine and amazing food. You didn’t think such a thing existed, did you? Better yet? It’s not far from our southern Arizona home.
So where is this mythical destination, you ask? The place we visited is Paso Robles, a gem of a small town nestled in the rolling hills of California’s central coast. For me, it was the chance to go home again; I grew up in Paso Robles and lived there for twenty-two years. For my husband, it was the chance to visit the town where we met and fell in love. For our son, it was just plain, old-fashioned fun.
When I left Paso—as the locals call it—to move here to Tucson, I had no idea that the little town I was leaving behind was about to bloom into a foodie’s paradise (If I had, I might not have left). Growing up, the kids around town weren’t exactly fond of all the cattle and produce and vines—made for a boring backdrop by teen standards. These days, it is precisely that backdrop that allows the region to boast restaurants that practically define the farm-to-fork philosophy. Those restaurants—and the local wines that burst with layers of bold flavors—are making Paso a top vacation spot for foodies and wine enthusiasts like myself.
Not to worry, though, my husband and I didn’t leave poor Jayce with a sitter while we sipped and savored our way around town. Quite the opposite, in fact. The wineries we visited (Brochelle, Calcareous and Ancient Peaks) didn’t so much as raise an eyebrow when we stopped in for tastings with a child in tow. It helps that he brought along a Kindle and quietly lost himself in his books while we chatted with tasting room attendants and fellow travelers. There was so much more to our trip than wine tasting, though. We stopped in at the local Children’s Museum, where Jayce was able to climb aboard a real fire truck. We went on a scenic horseback trail ride through a gorgeous vineyard (with Outback Trail Rides). Our guide, Mick, was a real cowboy from down under--Australian accent and all. He even wore spurs! I trust I don’t have to tell you how impressed Jayce was by that. And, in what was perhaps Jayce’s favorite excursion, we ziplined over pastures and vineyards on a working cattle ranch (with Margarita Adventures). When you’re eight-years-old, it doesn’t get much cooler than that.
As a mom to four who has never embraced the idea of completely abandoning my own preferences in favor of Chuck E. Cheese outings, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to take more vacations that offer families like mine a mix of beautiful sights, active, family-friendly excursions and opportunities to dine on locally-produced, artisan food and fine wine. Admittedly, lifestyle destinations like those are hard to find. All the more reason I plan on returning to Paso sooner than later.
Tips to make a visit to Paso top-notch:
My daughter wants her own cell phone. She’s in sixth grade. My husband and I have decided our kids aren’t getting phones until high school. Most of my daughter’s friends have phones and so she feels left out. I’m not budging from my position. Can I make her feel better about the situation?
First of all, kudos to you for not caving to the whims of your daughter. I have such respect for parents who have a higher regard for the act of parenting than for comradery with their children. Secondly—now is a good time to brace yourself for some bad news—you may not be able to make your daughter feel better about the hard and fast rule you and your husband have (wisely, might I add) established. Think of it this way: you and I have to fork over some of our hard-earned income to the IRS each month. It’s a hard and fast rule in life and I truly can’t think of anything that’s going to make me feel better about it. Do I still have to abide by it? Most definitely. It’s the same for your daughter. As she gets older, she’s going to be faced with more hard and fast rules that she isn’t going to like. By establishing this one for her now—and, more importantly, by sticking to it in the face of conflict—you are teaching her a valuable life lesson. The Rolling Stones said it best in their 1969 hit, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” It may not be any consolation now because I know it’s hard to watch one’s child struggle, but in all honesty, you are doing the right thing here. Keep up the good work!
My sister-in-law is constantly undermining my authority with my kids. If I say one cookie is enough, she slips them a second. If I scold them for something, she chimes in with a sympathetic comment. It’s driving me crazy. Our kids are the same age and go to the same school so we see each other a lot. How can I make her stop?
Truly, I think we all have someone like this in our lives. I do, at least. For the longest time, I tried to keep the peace by shrugging off the offensive behavior in my life. And when that didn’t work, I would respond gently, trying to make a joke of the situation. There came a day, though, when I had enough. With encouragement from my husband ringing in my head, I took charge of the situation by addressing it the instant it happened, with my children present. We were at a family barbecue and the offending family member told my son he could borrow a bike for a quick ride with his cousin. I had a problem with it because my son didn’t have a helmet. The family member tried to belittle my concerns and override my decision. I addressed the family member with a stern voice and said something like, “The answer is no. I don’t want him riding without a helmet. Period.” Stunned silence followed and it was uncomfortable for a minute, but only for a minute. Since then, I’ve taken the same approach every time and it—surprisingly—has worked. We hardly ever face that same issue now.
I think you need to take a similar approach with your sister-in-law. You might be surprised what difference a little bit of assertiveness can make. Good luck!
Q. I see more and more children with electronic devices everywhere - They use them to be entertained at restaurants, they use them in vehicles. When is it too much? Should we as parents do a better job at having our children behave without some form of electronic entertainment?
A. Your point is well-received. I once witnessed a mom and her child eating lunch together at a sit-down restaurant in Walt Disney World. I am not exaggerating when I tell you that not one word was exchanged between them throughout the course of the meal because the child was preoccupied with an iPad. I couldn’t help but feel so sad for them that even in the Happiest Place on Earth they couldn’t engage in conversation. I do believe that we as parents could do a better job at limiting screen time and encouraging face time (and not the iPhone variety). To that end, I believe we need to take Michael Jackson’s advice and start with the man (or woman) in the mirror. When our kids see us so consumed with our phones and various devices, they take cues from us. I know I’m guilty of burying my face in my phone when I should be actively engaged with the people in my presence. When my kids were little, I used to set a microwave timer for fifteen minutes at random intervals throughout the day and set that time aside strictly for playing with them. Whether it was Barbie dolls or Matchbox cars, that time was theirs and theirs alone; the phone went unanswered and laundry was put off. Now that they’re older, I think I need to revisit that same concept, only this time designate it at as screen-free time and spend it simply by being engaged. The new year seems like the perfect time to jump back in to that effort!
Q. We have a neighborhood child that invites himself over to our house every day when I pick my kids up from the bus stop. This child isn’t particularly well-behaved and I would rather limit the time he spends with my kids, but I feel badly always saying no. Should I give in and allow him to come for playtime?
I’ve been there many a time myself so I know just how sticky a situation that can be. Here’s the thing though: you should not be made to feel guilty when someone else is in the wrong. In this case, it’s a child who is acting rudely by inviting himself to your home. More than likely, his behavior is the result of never having been taught proper manners. In that situation, I think you are being completely reasonable by correcting him. You could say something like, “My kids have a lot of fun playing with you, Johnnie, but it’s not polite to invite yourself to our house. You should wait to be invited. Maybe you can come over one afternoon next week and play LEGOS with Adam. I’ll talk to your mom about it.” In doing so, you are gently directing the neighbor boy to respect not only your parameters but appropriate social behaviors as well. I think it’s a win-win response.
Q. My daughter’s best friend has invited my daughter on a weekend trip to Disneyland to celebrate the best friend’s birthday. Her mother offered to cover the cost of the trip for my daughter completely but I feel awkward accepting and allowing my daughter to go. What do you think is the appropriate response?
A. Is sending me in her place an option? Just kidding. My general stance on accepting gifts (even the most generous ones) is to do so graciously. I believe that when someone gives a gift or extends a generous offer, he or she is doing so with the best of intentions. In light of that, I think you are well within reason by accepting the offer gratefully. If it were me, I would allow my daughter to go and I’d send her along with some spending money. As a follow-up, I’d be sure to have my daughter write a genuine thank you letter to the best friend’s parents once they returned from the trip.
(Editor’s Note: Send your questions to Darcie Maranich at email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
My grandparents—who winter in Yuma—drove up for Thanksgiving. They stayed three nights, during which time we ate, drank and were generally merry. The day after the big meal my grandma loaded the kids into her car and drove them to the nearby Dairy Queen for a blizzard. My husband, grandpa and I, meanwhile, cleaned up the remnants of a card game and visited over a root beer cocktail (it was only fair, since we were missing out on the blizzards). As he often does, my grandpa commented on the state of our society, noting that “these days everybody is going around looking for a reason to be offended.” Normally, I shrug off his comments and chalk them up to a generational gap, but this particular one seemed to be aimed ever so slightly at me.
A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post about the time I corrected a Costco employee when she tried to engage me in a quip about her coworker taking the “short bus” to work. As the mother of a child with Down syndrome, these types of “jokes” are hardly amusing to me. I said as much in my blog post and because he is a loyal reader, I knew my grandpa had read the post. As we sat around the table sipping our grown-up root beer floats, I couldn’t help but feel as though he was grouping me together with the generation who seeks to be offended.
I respectfully disagree with my grandpa and here’s why. I believe the world to be a smaller place today than it was sixty or so years ago when my grandpa was a young man. The way he explains it, back in the day it was commonplace for people to use disparaging language in reference to anyone outside of what was considered “normal.” That would include people in various races, of various sexual orientations and cognitive abilities. I can’t say for sure because it was well before my time, but I suspect that part of the acceptance of that kind of behavior stemmed from a lack of awareness. Fewer people had gay friends or knew someone with Down syndrome and so those lifestyles—the complications and characteristics of their days—were difficult, if not impossible to understand. And so those who were atypical made easy targets.
Today we have so many outlets through which we get to know people. Personally, I can think of at least a handful of people who I consider to be friends, in spite of the fact that our eyes have never met. Whether it’s through Facebook or blogs or otherwise, I have gained a deeper understanding of the lives of people I might not have anything in common with.
My grandpa may not agree with me on this one, but I can’t help but think that increased awareness of and sensitivity to the challenges that other people face can—and should—be considered progress.
It’s not a matter of a whole generation seeking out reasons to be offended. It’s a matter of people seeking out ways to spread awareness. To be more kind. To be more understanding.
I suppose that if I am to be lumped in with a group of people for anything, there are far worse characteristics to be known for.
Posted in Such the spot, Northwest chatter, Columns, Speak out on Tuesday, December 16, 2014 3:53 pm. Updated: 10:06 am. | Tags: Darcie Maranich , Such The Spot , Mom Blog , Politcal Correctness Going Too Far , The Offended Generation Comments (0)
Q. It’s the holiday season and my children are already talking about what they want and what they will get for Christmas. As a parent, what can I do to teach my children to appreciate what they receive, but also understand the importance of giving and helping others who are less fortunate?
A. Holiday consumerism can be a major problem—one that doesn’t seem to have a quick fix. In addressing it with our children, though, there are some things we can do to combat it. Your question mentions teaching kids to appreciate the gifts they receive. I think that’s a great start. I’m a big proponent of deliberate gift unwrapping, as opposed to holidays where kids tear through gift after gift without coming up for air in between. I think the forced slower pace allows for acknowledgment and appreciation. Handwritten thank you cards are also helpful to that end. To encourage cheerful giving, you might consider setting aside time for a special outing for each of your children during which he or she gets to shop for a sibling. In my experience, kids really do enjoy gift giving, when they have an opportunity to do it. To take it a step further, you might have a weekly family activity in December, during which everybody writes something kind about another family member—a favorite memory or an appreciated trait. After the last time, those heartfelt sentiments can be wrapped and gifted.
Teaching compassion for those who are less fortunate can be a tougher lesson for little ones because it’s hard to understand that which they’ve never known or been exposed to. One of the ways I try to encourage my kids each year around Christmas time is to allow them to pack shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child with Samaritan’s Purse. We take a special shopping trip during which the kids pick small toys, hygiene items and novelties for children in developing countries. Later in the year we get an email letting us know which country our boxes were shipped to and then we have further opportunity to learn more about that country. There are other Christian organizations (World Vision and Compassion, for example) that have holiday catalogs that allow givers to choose livestock, mosquito nets and other items for people in developing countries. All of these opportunities for giving—when shared with our children—can be powerful ways to model compassion.
(Editor’s Note: Darcie Maranich is a mother who lives with her family in Tucson. Send questions to Darcie at email@example.com, or read her blog, “Such the Spot” at www.tucsonlocalmedia.com.)
I distinctly remember going for a walk with my husband one crisp morning after Christmas last year. There was much to be done. We had a Christmas tree to dismantle—ornaments to gently wrap and store. There was the aftermath of unwrapped gifts, the discarded wrapping paper to deal with and boxes to break down and recycle (not to mention finding a place for all the new stuff). So, too, did we have a kitchen overflowing with excess food. In short, we were full. Our bellies and most every room in our house showed proof that our holiday had been abundant in every sense of the word.
I don’t mean to complain. By all accounts, abundance is something to be thankful for. Still, both my husband and I were left feeling quite the opposite. All of the stuff—from the roasted chestnuts to the partridge in a pear tree—left us feeling a little empty. We were up to our ears in tinsel and I couldn’t help but consider how our shimmering holiday stood in such sharp contrast to the simple and meaningful celebrations I’ve read about in the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. It was on that morning walk last year that we decided to institute some changes this year. The end goal is to create a Christmas morning more closely aligned with those of yesteryear; we aim to shift our family’s holiday focus to gratitude and the spirit of giving.
Here’s how we’re going about it: For starters, we’ve made a point not to ask our children for a wish list. Any and all toy catalogs that arrive in the mail are going straight to the recycle bin. I’ve also pledged not to buy any new holiday decorations. Our dog won’t be sporting an indulgent Santa or silly elf costume either. In an effort to be accountable to both our budget and our waistline, we’re scaling down the menu this year, too. The kids will notice a change in the gifts they receive. We still intend to give them a magical holiday, but hope to make it more so by emphasizing time and tradition as opposed to blaring and bling-y gifts.
I have to admit to being somewhat apprehensive about the change. I’m worried that my kids will come away from this holiday feeling a little bit cheated. That’s not what I want at all. I want to illustrate for them how very fortunate we are to have all that we do. I guess I’m fearful that all these years of abundance have spoiled them in much the same way that they have spoiled me. My hope, though, is that by investing in meaningful moments, I can make the sting of fewer things pinch a little less.
The old adage that says “less is more” might be a hard sell. But this season of giving and good will seems to me as good a time as any to put it to practice.
This is a popular time of year around these parts because it’s finally cool enough for us all to step outside for a bit and enjoy the ever-so-slightly crisper air. And while there are definitely increased events and festivals happening around town, the turn of the season also marks a great time to explore a bit further. With that in mind, I thought I’d share three day trip destinations that are perfect for fall.
Apple Annie’s Produce and Pumpkins, located at 6405 W. Williams Road in Wilcox, is a fabulous family destination. My kids love the fact that they can not only choose their own pumpkin straight from the patch, but unlike grocery store pumpkin bins, the gourds at Apple Annie’s have to be cut straight from the vine. It doesn’t get much fresher than that, folks. In addition to the pumpkin patch, you’ll want to be sure to meander through the corn maze and then try some sweet corn as a reward for making it to the end. There are also fresh veggies available for purchase along with artisan honeys, dressings, sauces and spreads. Don’t forget to take your camera for some awesome photo ops.
Sonoita/Elgin – Just about an hour to the south and east of Tucson there is a true Arizona treasure for those of us with an affinity for wine. Visitors to the area can stop by one of several local wineries for tastings and the opportunity to meet the winemakers. The cost of tastings ranges from about $5 to $12 with discounts given when you bring a glass from a neighboring winery. My husband and I have visited the Sonoita wine trail many times. Some of our favorite wineries to visit are: Dos Cabezas, Lightning Ridge Cellars, Kief-Joshua Vineyards, Callaghan Vineyards and Arizona Hops and Vines. Visit Arizonawine.org for a full listing of vineyards and a helpful map.
Chiricahua National Monument – Located roughly two hours from Tucson, Chiricahua National Monument is a virtual playground for nature enthusiasts. Less adventurous types might opt to drive the eight-mile scenic loop and then settle in for a picnic, whereas energetic families can hike to their hearts’ content. What makes Chiricahua interesting is its balanced rock formations and pinnacles. Desert-dwelling kids will be awed by the trees and wild animals while mom and dad might just appreciate the quiet or the opportunity to get the kids out and about to expel some energy. Either way, the fall is a great time to visit. Be sure to bring a light sweater or jacket.
If you’ve got fall fever and are itching to get out and explore, you might try one of these options. All three are family favorites for us.
My husband and I recently had the opportunity to sneak away for a weekend alone. It marks only the second time we’ve done so since our son was born eight years ago and so, as you might imagine, it was a treat of the rarest kind. Our destination made it all the better; we flew to Providenciales, one of a string of islands that make up the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. We were guests of the all-inclusive Beaches Resorts. The experience was luxurious in many ways, which of course, I had hoped it would be. While I thoroughly enjoyed being pampered, this particular trip opened my eyes to something I’m not entirely proud of: with age and increased financial security, I’ve developed into a rather spoiled and bratty American.
The purpose of the trip was to attend a social media event for mom bloggers. Beaches Resorts hosted just over one hundred of us and used the opportunity to flaunt their gorgeous properties and impeccable service. I think it’s safe to say their mission was accomplished; I came away with a clear picture of just how top-notch their accommodations are, due in part to the fact that I stayed in another hotel for a single night prior to the start of the event. The first night’s accommodations stood in stark contrast to those at Beaches.
Upon check-in at the first resort we made our way to our room and opened the door to be met by a most pungent, musty smell. And heat— a wall of hot, wet air met us at the door. I walked in and found a spot for my suitcase, noticing a suspicious trail of what I suspect was black mold near the floorboards. Because I’m a bit of a germaphobe, my next stop was the bathroom; I wanted to sanitize my hands after having maneuvered through the airport and customs. To my dismay, the water from the faucet came out more of a muddy yellow color than clear. To make matters worse, it never got hot, no matter how long it ran. Based on the condition of the room, you might be thinking that we hightailed it out of there as fast as our legs could carry us. Not so. It was late and we were without the means to book another room, much less travel to one. And so we stayed. We went to great lengths to avoid touching anything unnecessarily. We closely inspected the sheets before precariously lying down in the bed for one long and uncomfortable night of tormented sleep.
I wish I could tell you that I took the whole thing in stride. I wish I could tell you that I chose to see the glass half full. We were, after all, on vacation in the Caribbean—something that not everybody gets to do. The sad truth, though, is that I whined. My husband was left with no doubt as to whether or not I wished we had just stayed home. My complaints were getting on even my own nerves but still they spilled forth from my mouth faster than I could compose myself and just shut up for the love of Pete. It was not and still is not one of my proudest moments.
The following morning we woke with the sun and didn’t so much as dare brushing our teeth before putting as much distance between ourselves and that dive hotel as we could. Without the means to call a taxi, we quite literally started walking—dragging our suitcases behind—towards Beaches Resort. Luckily we weren’t far into our journey when an off-duty taxi driver happened by and offered us a ride. We eagerly accepted and he delivered us, as promised, to what at the time seemed like the gates of paradise. We checked-in to our room at Beaches, properly brushed our teeth with crystal clear water and then promptly made our way to the nearest on-site restaurant for made-to-order omelets and a mimosa (or three). It was then and only then that all was right in my perfect little world.
As someone who has done a fair amount of traveling, I’ve always taken a certain degree of pride in being humble—in being grateful for the opportunities with which I’ve been presented. This experience opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve got a lot further to go when it comes to truly setting down my very American expectations and living each and every day gratefully, in spite of temporary circumstances.
I recently attended a conference during which I learned that there are children in Africa who don’t even own a pair of shoes. Often times, they own just a single shoe and they will switch it back and forth between feet when one grows too scratched up or calloused. They walk ten minutes to fetch water and then walk ten minutes back home and have to boil the water over an outdoor fire in the family’s makeshift kitchen before they can even think about drinking it or using it to wash their faces or brush their teeth. They sleep under nets to protect themselves from the risk of mosquito-borne disease. They have access only to the foods they harvest or barter for. All of that and here I am wincing over a musty smell in a Caribbean hotel.
It’s easy to forget how fortunate we are to live where we do and have access to the things we have access to. I only hope that this experience helps me to remember.
And be better.
Recently, my young adult daughter texted me a picture of a tattoo so new that it was still red and puffy around the edges. The tattoo had been freshly applied to not just any ribcage, but my daughter’s ribcage. Forevermore the flying silhouettes of Peter Pan, Wendy, Michael and John with Tink hovering nearby will remain inked on her side.
Despite my fondness of all things Disney, this mama was not happy.
Rather than texting me a picture of the damage already done, I would have preferred a phone call prior to. Call me crazy, but after twenty years of blood, sweat and tears I feel as though I deserve at least that courtesy. A heads-up, if you will. Hey Mom, I’m here at the tattoo parlor about to get inked. I just didn’t want you to find out on Facebook. Love you! But no. By the time I learned of her very permanent decision, the pigment had already been set.
And I thought the sleepless nights of the newborn stage were hard. I’m finding that the oh-my-goodness-what-is-she-going-to-do-next stage is even harder.
My situation is made all the more difficult by the fact that I was so young (sixteen) when she was born. Most of my peers—my friends—have children who are much, much younger. While they’re in the trenches with elementary or middle-school aged children, I’m dealing with entirely different troubles. There isn’t a lot of been-there-done-that information being passed along as encouragement and I find myself struggling, thinking I’m the only parent who has ever felt this way.
In my head, I know that I am not the only parent who has ever felt this way. The heart, though, is much tougher to convince.
When—as mothers—we pour our very souls into our children, we do so with the expectation that they will grow and go and value the contributions we’ve made to their lives and that those contributions would earn us a certain degree of respect. Maybe I’m only speaking for myself when I say that I assumed that my daughter would value sound advice offered in love and with her very best interests at heart. That has not proved to be the case and it’s a hard truth to swallow.
I remember being young and sure and determined to go my own way. As I sail these treacherous waters, I’m clinging to the hope that what I’m going through with my daughter now is not a permanent condition but the result of a temporary headwind—a stubborn headwind at that. I’m hopeful that we’ll both emerge from these years without any permanent marks.
Well, besides the obvious one, that is.