On Second Chances

The girls and I were out and about when we bumped into someone we hadn’t seen in a while. This lady and I chatted for a bit, then said goodbye. At some point that day, Grace overheard me tell someone (Stanton, my mom, my sister?) that running into this person had flustered me. Our last conversation, hers and mine, could have been smoother.

“Why don’t you like her, Mom?” Grace asked.

Sometimes, I forget two things: 1) My daughters are everywhere, and 2) they hear everything I say. I also have the fear (which other parents might share!) that someday, one of my children will announce, “My mommy doesn’t like you.”

This fear compelled me to tell Grace, “I just don’t know her very well.” My 5-year-old accepted this response.

As chance would have it, the girls and I saw this lady again, just a few days later. We all stopped, and this time, we talked longer than all our previous conversations. We got to know one another better.

When the girls and I were alone again, Grace asked me why I was nice to her. “Remember you said you don’t know her,” Grace said.

I was holding Anna, the diaper bag and assorted “summertime with kids” paraphernalia (sunscreen, someone’s flip flop, a water bottle). But I paused. I thought about Grace’s question. And the real reason, the answer to her question, was, “I thought I should give her a second chance.”

“A second chance? Why?”

I also have the fear (which other parents might share!) that someday, one of my children will announce, “My mommy doesn’t like you.”

My daughters and I started walking again. I don’t remember the rest of our conversation, verbatim. What I do remember is, I explained to Grace that people make mistakes sometimes. And I included myself as one of these people.

It’s possible that I was wrong about this person. Perhaps I had misunderstood her during one of our previous interactions. It’s true that I didn’t know her very well. Why not give her a second chance?

Our first instinct, many times, in many of our interactions, is to deflect blame. To preserve our good sense of self. We don’t usually consider, “You know, maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m wrong. It’s possible that I’m wrong.”

I thought about the second chances in my own life—all the second chances people have given me. Growing up, there were lots of times I could have been a kinder daughter, a more involved sister, a better friend. My family, and those like family, gave me multiple second chances.

The same is true for my husband—multiple second chances, friends. During all our time together, I’ve been caring and patient, and I’ve also been thoughtless. I’ve said things, at times, that I knew were hurtful. Every time, I hated myself afterward, and every time, Stanton forgave me. The gift of another chance—or, simply, love.

I read once that “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Anyone who’s ever been in a relationship for more than a minute probably would disagree. Love, I think, is saying you’re sorry. Love is second chances—trying again—moving forward, together.

Love is acknowledging, “Maybe it’s me; maybe I’m wrong.”

A few days ago, Grace hosted her very first lemonade stand in our front yard. Earlier in the day, we bought supplies at the grocery store: lemonade mix (I was happy to see my childhood favorite, Country Time, still on the shelf!), cups and a sheet of yellow poster board. We were going to hold it on Saturday morning, but Grace couldn’t wait—so we moved it up to Friday afternoon.

July 11, 2017

“Everything free, tips happily accepted” I wrote on the yellow poster board. Grace added “Grace & Anna :)” underneath.

“’Miley face!” Anna exclaimed.

A bunch of neighbors happened to walk by Grace’s lemonade stand that afternoon, and some thoughtful friends made a point to come by. Many of them presented Grace with their spare change, which Grace delightedly collected in her front shirt pocket. It was a wonderful experience.

Grace earned about $8 in tips—a fortune for a 5-year-old. Later, when Stanton got home from work, her eyes sparkled as she regaled him with the story of her successful lemonade stand—so successful, in fact, that there was not even a full cup left for him to sample.

Looking at my family in that moment—Stanton, Grace and Anna—the three of them happy and healthy, and simply enjoying being together—I felt the gift of second chances in my life. I felt grace. For all the times I could have been more loving, or less judgmental…what a gift to be part of this.

Family. Love. This life.

For all the second chances people have given me, certainly I could give some too.

“You’ll always be the miracles that make my life complete.” (George Strait)

Photo credit: Pixabay

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s newest short fiction e-book, “This Is Just a Story.” Fun, timely and thought-provoking.

Nostalgia for Last Summer

The other day, my girls and I went on a lunch date. Our destination: Pam’s Patio Kitchen, my favorite local lunch spot in San Antonio.

Pam’s is located just a few stop signs away from the neighborhood swimming pool that Little G and I swam in virtually every day last summer. “Little G, do you remember what’s over there?” I asked, pointing farther along the street.

“What?”

“Don’t you remember, honey? The pool from last summer?”

“Oh…yeah.”

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But I could tell my daughter’s 3-year-old memory wasn’t as good as my 32-year-old one. Meanwhile, 5-month-old Baby G squealed from her car seat, reminding us that she was there, too. She doesn’t like to be left out of things.

But Baby G wasn’t here last summer, and for a moment, I felt a flicker of nostalgia for that time in my life, when everything seemed so much easier. There was just one child to take care of. She slept through the night. I had more time to write; I had just finished “The Moms,” in fact.

And I could still wear a swimsuit. Yes, I gave birth five months ago, but my post-baby bump is still startlingly visible. It will be some time before I feel comfortable in a swimsuit again, friends.

Last summer, I felt comfortable in everything I was doing. Baby G, though, has forced me to push the reset button. For starters, I’m rereading (whenever I can) “What to Expect the First Year”—I barely remember any of it, thanks to the first round of sleep deprivation with Little G. And in some ways, I’m forging a new mother/daughter relationship with Little G. This summer, for example, I’ve said to her (more than once), “I’m so sorry I raised my voice to you. I am just so tired.”

Little G looks me in the eye. “It’s OK, Mom. You can do better next time.”

We didn’t have these kinds of conversations last summer. I’m hoping, though, that our conversations now are richer, with the added layers of compromise and forgiveness, give and take. And if they’re not … I’m sure Little G will let me know when she’s older. 🙂 (I’m a firstborn daughter, too. I know how it goes!)

I remember when Baby G was born. Everything was so much easier with her than with my older daughter. All because I had already done it all once before. And because of that first experience, I was conscious, this second time, to appreciate everything more. To hold Baby G longer. To sing “Goodnight Sweetheart” slower. To take our time.

Pam’s, the pool, last summer … The nostalgia I felt, I think, was really an awareness that time moves fast. Even when days feel long, time is skipping forward until this summer, this season, becomes last year’s.

Unless that is nostalgia—“That it will never come again / Is what makes life so sweet” (Emily Dickinson).

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Like what you just read? Then check out Melissa Leddy’s e-books, available on Amazon.com. Writing at its most heartfelt.

7 Reasons to Take a Summer Vacation From Facebook

Facebook LogoLately, my Facebook news feed has been serving up pictures of preschool, high school, and college graduations. Hello, summer, and summer vacation! And I’ve been thinking, maybe I should take a summer vacation from Facebook. Maybe you, too? Here are some reasons to consider a seasonal hiatus from that most popular of social media.

1. You just had your second (or third, or fourth) baby. In the midst of your sleep deprivation, you missed the deadlines to enroll your older offspring in enriching summer camps, classes, lessons, and the like. Thus, you will have no “Carter’s 1st day of LEGO Camp!” or “Audrey @ Dance Extravaganza!!!” pictures to share on your Facebook page. What would your Facebook friends think if they caught a glimpse into your real world—the kids watching “Frozen” in their pajamas until 11 a.m. (again) while you simultaneously feed the baby and prepare lunches of Goldfish and Welch’s fruit snacks (again)? Better give you and your family a breather from comparative picture-sharing.

2. On the topic of comparative picture-sharing … Your best friend from elementary school just posted a photo album of 283 “Unbelievable Memories!!” from her summer wedding and looks-like-paradise honeymoon. She appears thin, tan, and well-rested (sooo well-rested!) in every tropical-themed selfie. Meanwhile, your 3-year-old just told you, “Mom, your belly looks like it still has a baby in it!” (For the record, it doesn’t.) No way will you post your family’s latest “Unbelievable Memory!!”: a day at the local water park with you in your maternity swimsuit (still!).

3. And those upbeat status updates … “Grilling outside tonight! S’mores afterwards!! Don’t you just love the LONG DAYS OF SUMMA?!” Hmmm … no, not always. A sample status update from YOUR “summa”: “Baby slept 5 hours; I slept 3. Baby’s crying kept waking up older kids; everyone cranky. Now how will I keep everyone happy ALL DAY?”

4. Your old office friends accidentally included you in a group invitation to this year’s annual summer retreat at the Boca Beach Club. You want to Accept, Accept, Accept, and Declining is disheartening. Because of course you can’t leave your brand-new baby, and you can’t take him with you either.

5. Another invitation, to your college’s 10-year reunion. Ahhh, the carefree days of jungle-juice-fueled parties and sleeping in until lunch … compared to the present reality of juice boxes and 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls from the nursery down the hall. Better to not recall those sweet, sweet days.

6. Speaking of reunions, who doesn’t love family reunions? Mm-hmm, those stress-free get-togethers where everyone reconnects so well and doesn’t bring up past grievances and grudges … mm-hmm, right … If the reunion organizer mainly communicates via a “Family Reunion 2015!!!” Facebook group, and you’re on a summer vacation from Facebook, then you’re golden, sister.

7. Be present in your life. Really. It may be refreshing to peek out from behind the screen of your phone or computer—to be uninhibitedly present in your life, messiness and all. To take a break from comparisons with the imagery of your Facebook friends. To bow out of obligatory invitations. To revel in the chaos and joy of random dance parties in your living room and spontaneous, sticky-from-Popsicles kisses from your kids.

A summer vacation from Facebook might be as rejuvenating as a posh spa retreat (sorry, Boca Beach Club).

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Melissa Leddy has been writing professionally for 10 years. She’s the author of three e-books, including the popular short fiction “The Moms.” You can follow her writing on her website, and connect with her on Twitter at @MMLWrites. Melissa lives and writes in San Antonio. She and her college-sweetheart husband have two daughters.