Apr 8, 2016
My go to word in describing parenting is relentless. My baby daughter, ungrateful and miserable, can cry at me at least ten times today, what feels like 70 percent of the day, beating me down further and further into defeat. The relentlessness is daunting.
You’re review is in. Fifty percent of today will not meet with her satisfaction and, according to her, you suck at parenting.
My top seven words to embody my experience with motherhood are:
All problems could be solved, you think, if only I had their money or their family. Those people with their 5 extra family members to spread out the stress of the 16 plus hours a-grueling-day of care-taking and giving. If only I had their time and money to buy nicer clothing to cover up my ever-widening butt until I could hire that trainer to help me widdle it down. For now, I wear my ill-fitting sweats, placing my greying thinning hair into something up-ish. My nails and cuticles dry and ragged for lack of care. I have that look of survival and neglect. That wild look that says I’ve thought about fleeing in my fantasies. The dull look of disbelief that this will get better no matter how many times people insist it will. Beaten and hopeless is all the rage in the truthful Mommy circles.
If only I had the money to buy a SUV that I could comfortably load and buckle my child into without having the rain soak my back. Then I’d slip into the front seat and drive smoothly away to drop my privileged child off at that member of the care-taking team whose day it was to take them. Or I’d hire a housekeeper/child care-taking person as a stunt double so I could escape and make art or do lunch or have beauty salon time. Where’s my miracle money? My large ever-loving family? Where’s my get out of hardship free card?
No I won’t be looking forward to “taking care of myself” with a kale and flax smoothie tonight. Instead I’m thinking of making pasta with gravy, cheese, and deep-fried potatoes and a side of beef so that I can feel an ounce and moment of comfort that I never feel in my day-to-day existence. Wash it down with a 12oz glass of Shiraz and pray I can stay awake to watch any escapism television.
Why is it wrong to want it to be easier than this? To want the release of the hardship and grinding daily agony. I want to feel light and unencumbered. I want privilege instead of lack. I want a child who doesn’t make me constantly feel like I’m failing her. I want to stand here in the winner’s circle and not the survivor’s circle. Like my mother did. Like hers before her. Because deep down I don’t believe there’s any other way for it to be but hard.
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Apr 22, 2015
Almost everyday, between the ages of one and two, I had to keep a constant ear out for my daughter’s distress call when she left my sight. I’d barrel forward in my day trying to accomplish my housework or do anything creative but I was always listening. At any moment I might have to drop my task for that tell-tale scream that meant she’d fallen over and hit her head and I had to run, not walk, to see if she was bleeding out from her head. On one occasion she actually was bleeding from her mouth. The one time you choose not to go and see is that one time you’ll regret it.
Injury is imminent every moment of the day from age one through two. You can not hover and yet you are on alert constantly. And I earned such a good case of post traumatic stress disorder that the twitch has come and gone and returned in my top left eyelid in the past couple months. That feeling of the imminence of the other shoe dropping has made Mommy-hood feel like trench warfare.
What’s worse is that I’ve got a girl who’s prone to drama. She knows how to lay it on a little thicker to hedge her bets. Good for her. She’s a survivor. Bad for me, twitch, twitch, twitch. Throw in a good fevered sickness which has me waking up several times at night doing the pogo Mommy reminiscent of the good old “trench” days of the newborn’s first three months and I’m beyond exhausted.
I get to feeling a little hopeless. Like this will always be the way it’s gonna be. And I don’t know how I’m gonna do it. Twitch, twitch, twitch goes the eyelid. And then stuff starts to calm down. I get the nap schedule back into place by sitting in her room in the chair until she stops crying at me and passes out. I take a day or two to go out with my friends to chat and do mindless girl things. I get my toes done finally. And I feel a little better.
And that’s just enough so that when she starts screaming at 5:30 in the morning, I’m not resentful and know she’s at least safe in the crib. And when she’s begun to cry in the other room with her brother, I wait a beat longer to respond because I know they have to work it out. And when she says Elmo Pooh Elmo Pooh Princess constantly at me to watch a movie, she may need to take a nap or Cookies Candy Cake Cookies Candy Cake at me over and over, you know she may be hungry.
And sometimes the best way to deal with her is just to ignore her however I can. Because it’s a little scary for a toddler to be at the control wheel all the time. Children may become overwhelmed because they have gotten everything they want and will continue to meltdown looking for restraints to make them feel safe. Sometimes she needs her keys taken away. And sometimes she needs to be given a lollipop and plugged into Elmo.
Nov 20, 2012
My Husband and I chose to steal away this Thanksgiving to the beach at Ocean City, Maryland for a two-day holiday. The little boy will be with us but it will be the last “vacation” where he’s the only child. Due date is February 27th. A Butterball turkey scored at the Giant for $1.19 lb inspired an early feast this past Sunday complete with mashed potatoes, gravy,whole cranberry sauce, and apple pie. Yum.
I had every intention to set a beautiful stylized table and take pictures. I started on Thursday but each attempt I made to artfully display stuff ended in my unhappiness. And suddenly, it was Sunday and I was cooking. So my boy and I went outside and picked mums and to fill Grandmom’s vase and the two cornucopia vases I love. The freshly polished silver candlestick holders remained empty as I’d also forgotten to buy tapers.
Things never turn out the way you expect.
Today, I needed a few items at the grocery store and dashed off with my freshly snacked boy. Except, he was just awful. I had spent all day repainting his room and I was exhausted. This child was pestering me for stuff left and right and sassing me. He even hit me in the stomach. Not cool. I didn’t recognize him and my supply of patience was fast exhausted. When we were almost done, I asked if he needed to use the toilet. His edge was suspiciously familiar. He denied and declined the opportunity. Again at the checkout, same deal. By the time we reached the car, I asked that he not speak to me until we got home.
And what do you know that rotten little egg did when we got into the house? He went and peed. I was done. I asked him to stand right there as I explained that he just earned five negative points for lying and three negative points for sassing me. His point chart had been zeroed out. Big goose egg went on today’s space. And I asked that, while I made the dinner, he sit and write me out an apology for all the things he’d done to upset me. And this is a picture of what he presented to me.
As I said, things never turn out the way you expect.
I hope everyone gets the nice kind of little unexpected gift for this holiday. Keep your eyes and ears open for it.
Jul 20, 2012
One school day, I reached down into my kid’s book bag and pulled our a triangular scrap of paper. I asked what’s this. Oh something I wrote. And I asked him to read it to me. I was more than blown away.
This is the translation.
Black vs. White
“Ya’ ready?” said White. ”Yeah!” said Black.
“Cloud!” said White. “Mist!” said Black.
They both fainted. “Nobody won!” said the announcer.
When I asked him about the story, he said this, “I like that nobody won, he said. It’s fair. And I don’t want to make White look bad. Or Black.” Out of the mouth of babes.
I love my kid and I love the world I live in. I read this and it makes me hope that our children will make the brave choices. They will choose to not make the differences of people or cultures or opinions a personal problem they need to avenge. And they will look further than themselves and their bank accounts to the greater world beyond them and make choices that embody compassion and integrity. And make a living doing so.
Our children are our hope. And will learn as we do. You can screw the small stuff up but the big stuff is what we choose to courageously stand for every day. Start by not buying stuff sold by people who are evil or not local if you can help it. Or take your kid to the voting booth with you. Or just stop playing the parent role and be a respectful equal to them for a little while. Ask them what they value and what they want to do about it. The empowerment and self-esteem of our children will rescue us from our present world predicament.
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May 6, 2012
Why is it instilled in my brain, as in many others’, that it’s not OK to ask for help? You’re supposed to tough it out. Don’t show you don’t know. There’s all sorts of shame in that game. There have been many occasions when I needed help but didn’t ask for it. And had I known I was worth the asking, life may have been easier at those times.
Last week, I empowered my 7-year-old kid to ask for the help he needed. So distraught before a little league game, he broke down sobbing about his fear to go up and bat. There were too many voices in his head he said. Those of the well-meaning Dads (including his own) and coaches telling him how to stand and hold the bat and swing. I’ve pitched a tennis ball to him. I knew he could actually make contact more than half the time.
So I said, “You have to go to your game because you’re part of a team and they’re counting on you. I can make sure you have a chance to ask your coach to help you. That’s his job.” I was making all of this up but it sounded pretty good to me. Later, at the park on our way to the dug out , a mean little teammate said to my kid, “You better get a hit today”. He didn’t see me standing there. When I caught his eye, I said, “Nice way to support your teammate, kid.” It was the coach’s step son. My kid didn’t flinch.
Sometimes we need to just hear ourselves ask for help. Or hear ourselves say, “You can’t treat me like that”. When we hear ourselves standing up for us, respecting ourselves, we say, “Hey, I’m worth it”. We need to believe in our own worth and prove it to ourselves. The alternative is to prove we aren’t worth it and say nothing. When we say “it’s not worth it”, we really say we aren’t worth it.
At the next game, my husband called the coach over and my kid asked the coach for help. And he was glad to oblige, relieved I’d venture, and pitched to him before the game. The more the boy’s out on that field, the more he belongs. Of course he bats last, but he’s getting the hang of the whole thing. And the last game, he got three singles. He feels entitled to the support of the team and the coach. Shouldn’t we all have that feeling ?