About Karen Mares

Posts by Karen Mares:

Happy Mother’s Day: I See You

Beyond Words Life - Happy Mother's Day I See YouThis Mother’s Day, my sweet family bought me this plaque. For a while now, thankfully, I’ve felt visible. I can’t help but be reminded of how many times I felt invisible.

Mothering is hard. We can wrap it all up in a cheesy commercial, but the bare truth is: guiding a human being from point A to point B is the work of a lifetime. So, today, on Mother’s Day, know that you ARE seen.

I wrote this a few years ago after seeing a mom in Target having what had to be a really tough day in the parenting trenches. I remember when Girl and Boy were little, and how hard it was sometimes. If you’re struggling to be a parent, remember – I see you. And that means you’re not alone.

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I See You

I see you, when I’m at Target, or the grocery store. The tired look in your eyes, the kids screaming or carrying on in your cart, and the barely successful effort at smiling. Or at least not bursting into tears, or snapping at the nearest person in your vicinity.

I see you, weighed down by your mind, sometimes your body, and the relentlessness of being a mom. And it IS relentless. It’s day, it’s night, around the clock. You’re wondering where you went. You’re wondering when you disappeared, as you navigate the aisles of the store, fending off your child’s case of “I-want-itis.”

You love them, of course. But sometimes, you just don’t know what to do or how.

I’ve also looked into the chasm between what you thought it would be like and what it is.

I see you, because sometimes, I AM you. Sometimes I’m so physically exhausted I can’t see straight. Sometimes I’m so mentally exhausted I can’t feel straight. And sometimes I’m angry. Sometimes, I’m angry at them for their inability to control themselves: their hands, bodies, voices, emotions. Sometimes I’m angry at myself for thinking, “I just want to be away from them for a little while.” I see that in you, too. I know that question you keep asking yourself over and over again: “Wasn’t I supposed to love this all the time? What’s wrong with me that I don’t?”

There’s nothing wrong with you. You get up everyday, you kiss them and love on them, even when it’s hard on you. Eventually, they do love you back.

But please know: I see you. And if I see you, you’re not alone, and that means neither am I. Happy Mother’s Day. It can be happy. Just hold on.

Grilled Cheese And Tomato Soup

grilled cheeseTwenty-five years ago this month, I was getting ready to pack up my parent’s car with all of my belongings and start college. I was bursting with the desire to leave what I had always known and find the yet to find.

That was when all of my belongings fit in the back of a 80’s model station wagon.

They don’t anymore, in case you were wondering.

I thought I was completely ready to leave my suburban nest and handle it all on my own. I couldn’t wait to make decisions for myself, like I had always wanted. I had a voice, thoughts in my head, words on the tip of my pen, expectations high, and independence was within my grasp.

I was a fool.

My first three years of college were filled with loneliness, homesickness, bad boyfriends, confusion, dumb decisions and a dawning realization that maybe I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was. I got to 21 and was already tired. I was unsure of who I had been, who I had become, and if all the missteps along the way had damaged me permanently.

Half way through my junior year I moved into my first apartment by myself, with the help of my parents. It was a complete dump, like most first apartments are. I remember standing in my dingy little kitchen, with the plugs on the opposite side of where you actually needed them, wondering what I should do next. My parents had left. My soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend was in graduate school in Chicago and I knew that our relationship was in serious trouble. I was alone. It was completely quiet.

The only thing I could think of to do at that moment was to make myself lunch. I walked up to the corner grocery store and bought myself food for my first meal in my first big-girl apartment. Just me, no roommates, no one to navigate around except myself. I made grilled cheese and tomato soup.

It was far and away the best meal I had ever had. This was what real independence felt like. It felt like standing up in the face of an unsteady future and putting one foot in front of the other. It felt like straightening the road in front of me and choosing the direction instead of letting the direction choose me. It felt like growing up.

It tasted like grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Five Freedoms My Kids Enjoy That People Think Are Fading Away

I always read about helicopter parenting, and the extremes that some parents will go to make sure their kids never experience anything negative. I can’t relate. A few years ago, I read a guest post on Free Range Kids that was one mother’s lament that her daughter would not enjoy the same freedoms that she had as a child.

Then, this morning, I read this post on Free Range Kids, and I remembered this post I wrote in 2011. I’ve edited it and am sharing it again.

I stand by my original freedoms. I see more risk in trying to cloister and protect than letting go a little and allowing your children get a taste of independence.

Five Freedoms We Make Certain Our Kids Have:

1. Recess – During school, the kids get two or three recesses per day. If I can get them to school on time, they can have a short one before school begins, so that makes FOUR. Rain or shine, the children are outside; running, climbing, swinging, making up wild games like “Lava Monster” and playing.

2. Getting Hurt – Girl Child got a blister on her hand from all her monkey bar climbing, and it popped and bled at school. She told the duty teacher, went to the office, got a bandaid, and went right back out for the remainder of her recess. No forms, no injury reports, no inquisition, no phone call home….dealt with, done. Boy Child bonked his nose on the handle bars of his bike, bled all over the place, and we somehow managed to NOT sue the bike manufacturer. Kids fall down. They get hurt. 99.9999999999% of the time they come out of it with a good story. I’ve told Girl Child: scars are stories. So are small owies.

3. Playing outside – Playing inside – When the kids gets home from school, they are allowed to get a snack and rest their brains, and then allowed to go outside and play. They ride their bikes, run around, play with our neighbor’s children, and I stay inside making dinner or folding laundry or taking a deep breath. I don’t hover. They know their neighborhood boundaries. When they are at school, they are doing hands-on activities with computers, going on Urban Walking Tours; they are raising salmon eggs and watching them hatch, they go on trail walks in the pouring down rain….no one is having a hissy fit about this. No one.

4. Activities – The SubKids have lots of things they wants to try. We are incredibly fortunate that we are able to give them the luxury of test-driving several activities. That said, the kid’s activities this last school year were Mondays, Thursdays and Saturday mornings. They are not all afternoon/evening, every day. I’m perfectly fine with my kids NOT being Olympians before they’re 15, or a musical/dance/sports/blah blah blah protegé before they’re in high school. Somewhere along the line we’ve all bought into the myth that unless we keep them “busy” they will get in trouble. I wasn’t busy constantly. SubHub wasn’t. No one else that I knew was, and yet here we are, fully functioning human beings who learned as we grew. Not an Olympian in the bunch. My ego isn’t driving my children’s activities.

5. Long summer days with hours spent outside – There are days in the summer where I hardly see either one of my kids. They’re outside, playing with the neighbor’s kids, having water fights, riding their bikes, occasionally coming in to ask for snacks, something to drink, a towel, etc. The door is open, the neighbor’s windows are open so we can all hear what’s going on, and good times are being had, memories are being made, freedom is being tasted.

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Bumper Car Joy

Things aren’t as horrific EVERYWHERE as the media would have you believe. A reality check is in order. Walking out the door isn’t an invitation for your children to be harmed. We harm them more when we try to account for every possible danger and keep them from experiencing life.

Note: no heads or necks were harmed in the making of the bumper car ride shown above.

Running For My Life, In A Green Tutu

I have been saved by exercise over and over again. Depression knocks at my door, and one of the ways I’ve learned to keep it outside is exercise. Particularly running. I get into my own head with good music and all the awful stays away, at least for a little while.

I’ve had ups and downs with it over the years, injuries, bronchitis-induced asthma, and chronic foot aches and pains.

The foot pain has been hanging on for a few years now, making running difficult sometimes.

I’m doing it anyway.

I am running, icing, stretching, cross-training and resting. Lather, rinse, repeat.

If I can do this, so can you. I will run until I can’t. And when I can’t, I’ll figure out another way to get moving. Being able to play with my kids without getting winded means that much to me. I’m running for my life. I’m running to keep the bad at bay. I’m running to refill my glass.

I’m running for them. They deserve a wife and mother who feels strong and able. That’s what running gives me. I ran in my first 5k in several years yesterday, and it felt fantastic. I can’t wait for the next one.

Most of the time I’m not actually dressed in a green tutu. I break that out for special occasions.

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I run for them.