Monday, September 29, 2014

The fundamental fiction of my parenting

It is 2:30 in the afternoon. The house is quiet.  My oldest is at preschool, my youngest is asleep in my bed.

And I?  Am filled with dread.

Any minute now, I need to go wake up my toddler to pick .up her sister.  After a shortened nap for one and an afternoon of school for the other, they are likely to both be overtired.  The  crankiness is haunting me.  I can think of nothing else as my brain shifts into doing mode, fix it mode.

I wonder if stopping at the playground will make it better or worse.

This is the fundamental fiction that defines my life: I can control the moods of my children.

If I could just get the formula right.  More exercise.  No, more rest.  More choices.  More limits.  More something.

This approach would work very well if it weren't for one little problem.  These children?  Are people.

If a train is leaving for Meltdownville at 99 miles per hour, and someone else is driving it, why in the hell am I even bothering to do calculations?

Of course, the first. problem with this fiction is that it doesn't work.  There's no formula for the perfect day.  There's no way to ensure that my children are happy and pleasant and socially appropriate all the time.  And really, even if there were, would I really want those Stepford children in my life?

The other part of the problem, though, is this.  If I have the power to control their moods with my parenting, then I am RESPONSIBLE for all their worst moments.  Because clearly every misbehavior or tantrum is a sign that I am in some way inherently lacking in my role as parent.  That I'm doing it wrong and am therefore letting them down.

And this leads to shame, which is when I lose my temper.  It's why I could discipline a class of 20 high school kids (err, well, at least mostly), but I can't handle my two without spinning out of control.  Because when those kids weren't mine, it wasn't my fault.

But of course it isn't my fault anyway.  So how do I learn to create that distance?  To absolve myself of that power and responsibility?  To just see all the ups and downs and react to them appropriately without making grand judgments about the course and importance of my life?  To do all the right things without expecting those things. to "do anything" ... so that when they don't, I can do them all again tomorrow anyway instead of giving up and disappearing into my couch?

How do I begin to redefine my story?

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Approval

I miss writing.  Part of me has been waiting for lightning to strike, for a good idea to come to me.

But that's backwards, isn't it? Because the lightning comes from writing.

I've been thinking I don't have anything to say, but really I haven't been writing and posting because I'm afraid. Because once I post, all I can do is wait to see how people respond. And how people respond defines me. It shouldn't. It does.

Other people's approval is everything to me. Is the only way I know how to define my worth. The risk of putting "bad" writing out there is real.

Because if I'm rejected or criticized? I am nothing.

So instead, I disappear.

I don't think that's better.

But I don't know what else to do.

I don't like my approval seeking. I'm embarrassed of it. I'm afraid it means I'm doing something wrong, it in and of itself makes me less worthy.

So, here I am. Writing. Good or bad. Sending it out into the world.

It's all I can do.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quicksand

It starts small.
Little mistakes, errors in judgment
Missed opportunities
Disappointed looks that melt the thin veneer
of control in which I've been masking terror.

Changes weigh down
as I trudge forward
keeping my head up
enough to choke on the rain a little.

The trudging slows.
I start to sink.
Until I can't remember how to move anymore
And all I see
are looks of disappointment.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

For the days when you don't feel good enough

Dear mama,

It's okay.

I know that some days you wake up and you just don't want to do it.  You let your kids watch more TV than you meant to. You don't know how your coffee cup got empty (again). You just feel ANGRY, and you aren't even sure why.

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

It's okay.

There are days when instead of thinking "this is the best job I've ever had!" You think, "How did I end up here? How is this my life?"

It's okay.

You want to be grateful.  You want to catch all the moments. You want to be present.  You want to be fulfilled by motherhood.

And you want everyone to just shut up for five minutes.

It's okay.

I often wonder if the internet is to blame.  I mean, I really don't Ma Ingalls sat around wondering Am I present enough?

And on days like this, even the posts on the Internet that tell you why you're doing enough, why your work as a mother matters even on bad days, they can feel like condemnations too.  You hear in your head the voice that says "but that doesn't really mean me.  If they knew what I looked like on the inside, they would see how I'll never be enough."

I know.  Me too. Me too.

Doubting yourself isn't a fault. Feeling disappointed and discouraged isn't a fault.

Feelings are never a fault.

Be who you are, mama. Be the imperfect, messy, tired, insecure, people pleasing, grouchy, angry, overachieving, ULTIMATELY LOVEABLE person who you really are.

You aren't ungrateful. You aren't missing anything. You aren't doing it wrong.

In this global Internet village which is such a blessing and a curse, all I have to offer you us my truth and my listening ears.  Both are yours.  I see you and I hear you, the good and the bad.  It's all real. It's all important.

You're the kind of you I need, your kids need, the world needs. Right now. Messy. Incomplete.

Come be messy with me.  It's enough.

All the love in the world,

Story

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Release

I sat on the couch, my feet tucked under me, my baby curled into my chest.  This is the way all my stories start.

But yesterday, after patting me possessively on the chest and saying "mommy," my littlest looked up at me inquisitively and said, "sister?"

"She's sleeping, baby. Should we go wake her?"

"Sister," she agreed, nodding emphatically.

The museum had been exhausting.  Both girls had run from room to room, touching everything. They'd climbed, they'd built, they'd crafted.

And at some point, halfway through the day, I'd let go.

BG was sitting at the circuit table with the teenage volunteer, pinching the leads of tiny wires to batteries, switches, lightbulbs, asking the same questions again and again. Little sister was sitting at the building table, dropping a nail repeatedly through the hole in a block, furiously shaking off my attempts to help.

So, I sat. And I watched.

And I realized my baby was figuring out more than I could ever teach her as she patiently and diligently experimented. And I realized BG was charming the volunteer and not annoying him. And I realized there was no hurry, no agenda, no need to push or control anything. And I sat. And I breathed.

I was happy.

But now I was home. We three piled on the couch had nothing left.  I turned on Martha Speaks.  And, unfortunately, Facebook.

All weekend, I'd seen BlogHer posts, and although I wanted to hug my friends, I hadn't really been jealous. I've come to terms with who I am, with my way, with my identity. I know that truly? I wouldn't love a conference like that.

I know who I am.  I am trying to believe that being who I am is okay, that it isn't a fault. That my way is no worse than anyone else's. I'm working on it.

But.

Yesterday, when I was collapsing into my couch, both of my children now fusing with my body, I felt jealous. And what I found was that I wasn't jealous of the parties, of the accolades, even of the connections.

I was jealous of the direction. The certainty. The clarity of purpose.

I wanted to feel sure of something.

Sitting on the floor of the museum, the only thing I'd been sure of was that I wasn't in control.  And that was okay.

I guess I have to learn to do that here too.

And to remember that my way isn't wrong.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Joy

She reaches up with her right hand first, grabbing the next rung of the tallest ladder in the playground, grunting as she hoists her right foot up to the next step. I stand on the ground behind her, cheering, encouraging, coaching.

"That's it, baby. You've got it. Now your other foot."

As she pulls herself onto her stomach on the platform, she lets out a high pitched shriek of joy, which little sister, arriving at the platform from the steps, echoes.

As she gets to her feet, raising her hands in triumph, she says, "mommy, am I strong like Kacy?"

"Yes, baby. You are."

Better writers than I have talked about how enjoying every minute isn't a requirement of motherhood, but still I feel the pressure. I think we all do.

And those of us who value honesty, authenticity, vulnerability, we want our readers to know it's hard. We don't want to write just about the moments when we look like heroes. We don't want to make others feel bad by celebrating too much or for too long.

A few months ago, my tiny ninja warrior participated in a study on how children of parents with depression process their own positive emotions differently than those with mentally healthy mothers.  I don't know the outcome. I'm afraid to hear it.

I don't want my girls to ever do anything but shriek for not when they get to the top.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

One of my shame stories

Several months ago, I wrote a post about how I sometimes wish my blog were bigger.  I got a comment from a very well meaning, kind, and successful blogger asking why I wanted that and if I was sure that being big would be worth my time.

And it sent me into a shame spiral.  Which I haven't come out of.

Several months ago.

(This is not intended to call anyone out. Don't dig through the archives to find the comment. You probably wouldn't hear it the way I did anyway.)

I have a lot of shame wrapped around the idea of trying, of wanting.  It was hard for me to say I wanted to be bigger and so I felt like I'd been slapped. Being successful was good enough for this person, but me? I didn't deserve it. I should stay small.  Who did I think I was anyway?

Which of course isn't what she really said.

It was hard for me to say (and so, well, I didn't) "what I do here is important to me. I value it. I think it matters. And because I think it matters, I want it to be seen and heard.  I want people to hear my voice because my voice MATTERS.  It's worthy.  People need to hear me.

I have a story that matters, and when people heart it, they will be better for having heard it." [SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP, scream my demons, IT'S NOT OKAY TO SAY THIS. EVERYONE WILL HEAR YOU. EVERYONE WILL *KNOW.*  YOU ARE WRONG. YOU AREN'T GOOD ENOUGH. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE???]

I know she was asking me an actual question. I heard it as a rebuke.  I thought I was being punched in the stomach.

"Why do you want to be bigger?"

Because I want connection. Like all humans do.  Because I want people to hear me and think, me too. Because I think there are so many more people out there who would think that if only they heard me, if only I stepped out of the shadows.  Because I can change the world. With my words.

"Is it worth your time?"

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.

Months of that festering in my stomach. We have to tell our shame stories out loud or they own us. The only way out is through.