It Takes a Village

By: Ashley Whisonant
it takes a village to raise a child

Most of us have heard the saying, “It takes a village.” I never really understood the full ramifications until the last year or so.

Raising kids in today’s world really does take a village. Surrounding yourself with people that love your kids and want to help is the only way I could make it through motherhood.

Take for instance, the girlfriends in my neighborhood. We are there to help watch each other’s little ones while someone else finishes dinner or homework with an older sibling. We are each other’s sounding board for aliments and aches, husband rants, and work success stories. We laugh, cheer each other on, and work to help each other’s littles.

What about my boys’ preschool teachers? Thankfully they can stand to be with twelve 2 year olds because this momma certainly can’t. They help me and help my boys to be independent. From potty training to letter sounds, we are allies in this kid raising thing.

Maybe your village is an online community of women that encourage and help you. That is awesome. Wherever you can find it, get yourself a village. Without one, it is a lonely road.

Finding Quiet Moments

By: Ashley Whisonant 

As I have written before, being a grown up is tough. I don’t care if you are a mom, dad, single, married, or none of the above! Worrying about bills, work, social life, family, and balancing it all… I have tried hard to find quiet moments to center myself and remember the important things in life.

christmasMaking time to take care for myself has now become more of a priority. I make sure to work out at least three times a week in the morning while my family sleeps. Thankfully, my neighbor convinced me to try an all-female work out group, FiA. We meet in the mornings, varying between 5:00 and 5:15, to work out and get better together. Those moments pushing myself and enjoying fellowship with other ladies has made me a better wife, mother, and employee at work.

Remembering the important part of the holiday season isn’t always easy. I get no less than fifty emails a day about a Christmas special or discount on something. Is that really what it is about this month? To refocus myself, my husband and I decided to make a commitment to going to church every Sunday. We are working hard to teach our boys of thinking of others this season. We found a quiet night after cleaning up from dinner last night. While listening to Christmas music, we wrapped presents as family. Did it take longer with a five and two year old? You betcha. Was it worth the extra time? Without a doubt, yes.

Work hard to find quiet moments this holiday season. In what ways do you find these special, quiet moments?

A Much Needed Special Day

By: Ashley Whisonant

Gray

Shortly after we became pregnant with my youngest, Gray, my husband and I decided we would complete our family with two. For whatever reason, I never imagined myself with more than two or even a little girl. Even looking at a family picture now, I feel we are complete.

I frequently find myself feeling guilty for my second born. With my oldest, Weston, we were mentality present for all his firsts. He had our full attention, all of the time. I remember the excitement of watching him roll over and crawl. The moments of him running to meet me at the door when I pulled in the driveway from work. He was our whole world.

Gray

Gray will never know the feeling of being the only one. He adores his older brother and thinks he hung the moon. I remind myself to take mental pictures of Gray’s firsts- crawling, walking, waving. I work hard to not let life get in the way and give him the same experience as his brother, but it is different.

I needed to do something special for my second. While Weston was camping with my husband, I planned a special day for just Gray and myself. One of his favorite places is the beach. He could run up and down, racing towards the waves for hours. I was determined to have a special weekend with him. 

Gray

When he got up, we painted and shared a breakfast laughing together. Our drive down to Sullivan’s Island was not filled with screen time, but real conversations with my two year old. He pointed out all the things he saw, colors he liked, and we sang Disney songs. We arrived to an almost empty beach-in July! It was as though someone knew how much we needed the time together. I truly lived in the moment with my second born. The laughing, playing, running, and swimming was just what we both needed.

After our day together I realized he is not missing out. My guilt is internal, not with him. He feels my love and knows how much I care about him. I need to let go of my guilt and enjoy the moments with him.

An Aerial View of Childhood

By: Angie Sloan

As a parent, you spend most of your time “in the weeds,” tending to the daily grind of raising happy, responsible, well-adjusted little people. Your ultimate goal is that they turn out to be great adults. You hope they will find themselves in a life they love, surrounded by people who love them as much as you. You do all you can to guide them to this path. You help steer them in the right direction.

Looking back at my childhood, there were a lot of people in my corner. My cheering section was full and I always received the encouragement I needed to succeed. But there were pivotal moments and conversations that I recall that made a tremendous difference in the paths I chose.

There was the English teacher who encouraged me to write. She loved my work and always made time to read my imaginative short stories. I look back and realize that she was a major influence in my love of writing. She told me, “Write from your heart. Keep it genuine.” Even now, when I write something, I have to feel it, or I scrap it before I ever click ‘save’.

At different periods in my life, I worked at a radio station. I remember talking with the program director about various career paths. His words to me, “Never confuse a hobby with a career.” I was almost offended at the time, but hindsight provided clarity. He was saying, love what you do, but don’t lose your love of what you do because you “have to do it” for your livelihood. Great advice!

Jack and Ila coloring at Flight Deck

Jack and Ila coloring at Flight Deck

There were so many other conversations that stick out in my mind. But this post is not about me. It is about having the privilege to witness one of these conversations, as a parent.

Jack, my 8-year-old, is consumed with WWII. Over the course of a year, he has read about 40 books on the subject. He retains everything he reads and loves nothing more than to talk about it. I know more about the war than I ever have, as Jack educates me on a daily basis. He seems to have an understanding of it that reaches far beyond his years. This weekend we went to Flight Deck Restaurant for lunch. Being new to the area, it was his first time going there. He was in awe of all of the memorabilia. He pointed out different planes…that’s a spitfire…that’s a B-17…and so on.

After our meal (which was delicious) the owner made his rounds through the restaurant. He stopped by our table to check on us. I introduced him to Jack and told him how much he loved the place and about his deep interest in WWII. The owner was impressed. It’s not every day you meet an 8-year-old with such knowledge about WWII. As busy as he was, he stood there and talked to my sweet boy for a long time. Jack was thrilled to talk with him about the different planes and battles of years past.

Before he left our table, he extended his hand to Jack. I will never forget what he said to my son. I don’t think Jack will forget either. With absolute sincerity, he shook Jack’s hand and said, “I am so impressed with your knowledge. Tell me your full name so I can remember you, because you will do great things and I want to say I met you when you were a kid.”

Jack smiled and said, “I am Jack Sloan.”

He said, “I am Ted. I hope you come back and visit us again. Remember, Jack Sloan. You will do great things in this world.”

Jack was quiet as he walked away. I could see what an impact those words had on him. I know there will be times in Jack’s life when things are hard. There will be times when he loses his way. My hope is when his path is dimly lit, he will reflect on those words and remember that he is destined for bigger things.  That greatness is a choice. I hope he strives to be like all those WWII soldiers he looks up to.

And I hope that Ted knows that he is now a part of that destiny. Such a simple gesture with such a big impact. Jack will never forget that conversation. And neither will I.

Adoption

By: Jordan Tate

jordan tate

The day we picked you up felt like a dream. I wondered if what everyone else said would be true. I already loved you but I wondered what it would feel like to see your face. The day we picked you up I stared at all of the pictures your caregiver had sent me throughout the week. I was so jealous of her. I was so jealous that she was caring for my son, and that week–it felt like a year. All of the pictures of you looked different, so the day we picked you up I wasn’t exactly sure what you would look like.

But, oh, my son. You were even more perfect than I could have imaged.

The day we picked you up we passed the time during the 4 hour car ride by revealing one letter of your name at a time to my parents and brother, who were riding in the car alongside us on the interstate. I was messaging back and forth with them and with my friends, who were jumping out of their seats with excitement for this day. These friends- you know them now. They are the friends that wept with us when we laid to rest your sisters. They are the friends that pleaded each day for a fast and smooth adoption. They were among the first to know when we matched with you. They had a blast guessing your name.

The day we picked you up my heart beat faster than it ever has before. I had a hard time catching my breath as we walked into the tiny little agency in Alabama where your caregiver was holding you.

jordan tate

They were right. They all were right. Meeting you was just like what everyone said. It was like I had known you forever. I cried and cried and cried and I only fought back the tears when they started to block my view from your perfect face. I cried as I held you. I cried as I remembered your sisters and how holding you felt just the same as holding them except this time it was better. This time there was no pain. It wasn’t hello and goodbye, it was just hello. Hello and I love you.

It was so worth the wait. We didn’t wait long. But if we had it still would have been worth it. I would have waited decades just to meet you and know you and call you my son. You were so worth every part of this crazy journey.

We put you in your car seat and I was shocked at how normal it felt. I was shocked by the normalcy! You see, we met our other children and they didn’t come home with us. Those times were the times I was shocked by how abnormal it was to leave the hospital empty handed. It felt eerie and wrong and terrible. Leaving with you was the best part. Leaving with you was the start of our life together as a family. I sat in the backseat with you and stared at your face. You looked tiny in that carseat. And then it was mother’s day and I was stuck in a foreign state and we barely had any baby gear but it didn’t matter because you didn’t leave my chest except for when your daddy stole you to lay on his.

I don’t understand why it all felt so normal. I can’t express why it all felt so right. But everyone should know this. Everyone should know because there are many ways to grow a family and growing ours this way was a dream I wish everyone could live. There was no hospital. No labor and no delivery. There was just the deep and miraculous understanding that babies grow in hearts, not just in bellies.

The Birthday

By: Angie Sloan

August 26, 2016. Today, my sweet daughter, Ila, turned three years old. Today, another family lost their daughter to leukemia. She was four. I never met her, but she lived here in birthdaythe Midlands and I’ve followed her story for several months on Facebook. Her name was Kaylin.

Tonight, as we sat around the dinner table, laughing and celebrating little Ila’s big day, I reflected about how Kaylin celebrated her last birthday. I wonder what kind of cake she had? What was her favorite gift? Was she sick then? Did her parents have any idea, as she blew out her candles, that this would be her last birthday? Although I smiled and participated in the festivities with my daughter, my heart was overcome with grief for their Kaylin. I felt such guilt for celebrating. Yes, it is my daughter’s special day, but they lost their little girl. Then I felt equally as guilty for not wholly participating in Ila’s celebration. Did this experience not teach me anything? I should be celebrating each and every moment with the people I love.

I have often wondered how parents and grandparents survive the death of a child. I have mentally tried to put myself in their place. I cannot fathom what they must feel. Just thinking about it makes me physically ill. Do they ever recover? How do they go on with their lives? How do they wake up and get out of the bed in the morning? I imagine everything feels empty. I would be overcome with grief and consumed by sadness. How do they do it? How do they go on living?

Then, I think of the siblings and the friends left behind. The older siblings who were once protective of their little brothers or sisters. How do they cope? And the little ones…do they even understand what’s happening? How do you explain this to their friends? How do you explain death to a child?

My daughter seems to sense that something is “off” with me tonight. She’s curled up in my lap, almost as if to comfort me. She knows. As I hold her in my arms, I am so grateful to have this moment with her. To hold her. To feel her warm breath on my chest. To smell her sweet hair. To look down at her long eyelashes, as my tears fall. And I am thankful to have a healthy little girl. Grateful to have three healthy children. Happy to see my house in disarray, because it’s living proof that they are still here. They are here. They are happy. They are loved. Tonight, as we celebrate her birthday, I am so unbelievably grateful.

Because earlier tonight, someone lost their daughter.

In loving memory of Kaylin. May her family find peace as they grieve for this sweet angel. Please remember that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Share this story. Do what you can to make a difference.

Tough Love

By: Crissie Kirby

tough love
“Ms. Kirby”, the voice said, “guess what?” I cringed a little when I heard the voice; it was one of the directors of the SC National Guard Youth Camp. My fear was that, after only a day, Pierce had gotten injured. The words she uttered were honestly more difficult for me to hear.

“Pierce is homesick and wants to come home”

UGH. That was honestly the LAST news I expected to get from camp. I suppose I went into the whole sleepaway camp idea a bit naïve. My children spend a week to ten days away from home with their grandparents. We are a family that does sleepovers for crying out loud. BUT, this mom totally failed to take into account that Pierce had never been away somewhere with people he did not know. And when he went to camp, he, literally, knew no one. No other campers. No counselors. No one.

I was at a loss. Pierce is my independent, never-meet-a -stranger kid. Even as a two or three year old, he would stand on the balcony in Hilton Head and talk to every random person that walked towards the pool. But, oh the tears that I knew were falling and the despair I could audibly hear in his little voice rocked me to my core. However, my core told me that going to pick him up, to rescue him, was not the lesson we sent him to camp to learn. I told him that I wanted him to stay at least one more night. The director and I spoke again and we agreed that maybe it was a combination of just adjusting and being tired and that staying was to his benefit. We made the decision to talk on Tuesday. On Facebook, I posted a passionate plea for prayers of peace and comfort . . . for both Pierce and me!

Tuesday rolled around and I thought we were in the clear. I posted a grateful message of thanks. At about 7:45 p.m. my phone rang. My heart sank as I heard my son’s tears before I heard his voice. He begged and pleaded with me to come pick him up. He declared that he could NOT stay one more night. I tried being nice. I tried being stern. Finally I spoke with his head counselor who relayed that Pierce had had a good day, until he got mail from home. I got my ex-husband on the phone because frankly, I was cracking. The weight of the tears and the despair was weakening my soul. Still, I didn’t feel “right” about picking him up early from camp. Together, the adults made some tough decisions that night. We decided that unless Pierce was injured, there were to be no more phone calls home. That ability was totally taken off of the table. We also made the seemingly cruel decision to withhold ALL of his mail for the remainder of the week. He would get his mail on Saturday after graduation when we were there to pick him up. I asked his counselor only one small favor . . . could he just text me and let me know that Pierce was ok at night. He was immediately receptive and followed through with this and Pierce was none the wiser.

tough loveSaturday morning rolled around and the two hour ride to Summerton and Camp Bob Cooper felt like it might as well have been ten hours long. We arrived and gathered Pierce’s belongings. We waited on the graduation ceremony to begin. My son beamed when he saw us. My heart swelled to see that other than having a little tan, he looked no worse for the wear. The campers marched in and performed their group cadences. As the sun rose higher and the temperature crept up, the ceremony began to draw to a close; there was only the awarding of the two camp awards left. The first was the MVPeavy award (camper of the year). As the description was read off, Pierce’s dad and I looked at each other and whispered that it sounded like it was Pierce they were talking about. What? It was Pierce. Tears fell from my eyes as my ten year old’s name was called out as having been chosen as the MVP of the entire camp. My child, who had called home twice, adamant that he could not spend one more night there, had just been called out for displaying notable assistance to other campers during activities and for having a positive and helpful attitude. Suffice to say, I was, and am, proud beyond words of my son.

However, my pride is not rooted so much in him having received the award as it is in his overcoming a challenge that seemed insurmountable. What would have happened had I caved on the first night, or even the second, and gone and picked him up? I would have sent him a solid message that I would rescue him at any point in time when life gets just a little tough. Make no mistake, tough love is HARD; I cried that week; I barely slept that week; my concentration was at an all time low that week. Every day it seems that we hear, see, or read some article about the increasing role of helicopter parents in today’s children. We see parents who constantly rescue their children from any level of difficulty or disappointment in life, whether it be in school, on the playground, or even in college of all places!! Was Pierce disappointed in my not coming to pick him up? I’m sure that he was. Was being away from home with no familiar face difficult for Pierce? Again, I’m sure that it was. But, when my son looks at me on a regular basis and tells me “thank you for sending me to camp” and how excited he seems to be about attending camp next year, it makes the tears, worry, sleeplessness, and, most importantly, the tough love completely worth it. Are there some situations from which we, as parents, need to rescue our children? Certainly. But there comes a point in time when we, as parents, must learn what is really helping them out of harm’s way and what is just interfering with a part of growing up and requires just a smidge of “tough love”.