On Being a Good Mom

This week the kids and I traveled to my mom’s house for Spring Break. This is important on many, many levels.

For starters, hanging out with Nana means I get to breathe. There’s no judgment here. No “well, you should really consider…” I don’t hear “If you would just…” The kids get to spend time with her and I’m reminded of all the reasons why I wanted to become a mom. Why it was a dream of mine.

I’m always a more confident mother when I’m around my own mom. It’s been that way since Joshua was born. It will be that way probably for eternity.

There’s something about my mom’s presence that’s just reassuring. Through no words at all she lets me know that I’m doing okay at this whole mom thing. I’m calmer, more patient. I know I’m not completely screwing it all up.

Last week I was called a bad mom. I let those words fester like an infected wound in my heart. I couldn’t help it. Try as I did to let them go, put them out of my mind, I just couldn’t stop replaying them in my head. They were trapped on a loop and I sank into a pit of self-loathing.

This week I’m calling bullshit.

This week I know that even when things don’t go as I’d have them, when the kids get a little crazy, it’s not because I’m a complete screw-up. Could I have made different choices (and have I since then)? Yes, probably. Of course I can. That’s why hindsight is so valuable. But that’s also why it’s called hindsight.

We take those moments and we replay them, sometimes on what seems like an endless loop, and we imagine all the things we could’ve done differently so that they don’t happen again. Sometimes they DO happen again, despite our best efforts to ensure they don’t because that’s just what it’s like, but most of the time we learn and grow and adapt and do better the next time.

I know that I’m a good mom, despite what I sometimes think after the bad moments.  A bad moment doesn’t make me a bad mom. It doesn’t make you a bad mom either. None of us are bad moms because we have bad moments. Do you know how I know?

Because in my worst moments, I’m harder on myself than anyone else possibly could be. I’m hard on myself because I care so much about getting this parenting thing right that when I screw up, it rips me to pieces.

Has this been a blissful and perfect week? Of course not. Emma’s very much a threenager and Joshua is pretty certain he knows what he’s doing even when I’m pretty certain he doesn’t.

But this week I’ve found a little bit of grace, both through mothering and being mothered, and grace is something we all need. We all need the reassurance that we’re doing our best because the truth is that most of us are.

Last week I screwed up. This week I didn’t.

Either way I’m still a good mom.

Dear Lady Who Judged Me Today

I don’t know if it’s just my kids, these ages they’re in, stages of development, the sun and moon in terrible alignment, or something else altogether, but I would rather have a root canal than take my children into a store. Any store.

Mostly, Emma has a serious case of Ants In Her Pants and she wants to talk and talk and grab and hold everything she sees. She’s nearly three. While I have no recollection of Joshua being this way, I was also in the throes of very, very new second motherhood and rarely ventured out of the house with both of them. I have one distinct memory of shlepping them both to two separate Target stores in search of a Rock-N-Play for Emma and Joshua having an epic meltdown which resulted in me practically dragging him out of the store while Emma screamcried from inside the Moby but I’ve slept since then. A little bit. The details are fuzzy.

The details of today’s excursion are not.

Today I was openly and publicly judged for my children’s misbehavior and I’ve got to say that it was definitely a shitty experience.

The scene:

A very energetic almost three-year-old and her six-year-old brother are taken into a Dollar Tree, bastion of classy shopping. While inside, said three-year-old has a very, very hard time not looking at all the things and wandering away to do so, despite being asked and told to stay with her mother. Mother holds daughter’s hand tightly, until it’s time to pay for the three items on the conveyor belt which must be purchased for big brother’s class Easter egg hunt tomorrow morning. Mother regrets not putting toddler into a cart, but she was only stopping in for THREE THINGS.

Then all Hell breaks loose as the toddler AND the big brother begin running a marathon around the store while the mother is trying to pay as quickly as possible so she can corral her children and GTFO. A worker at said store shouts across four aisles, “STOP RUNNING BEFORE YOU FALL AND GET HURT!” and a lady two behind the mother in line says “those your kids?” with that “Mmm-mmm” in her voice that says no children of hers would ever be caught acting like that and then she clucks her tongue as the mother grabs her bags off the checkout stand and begins darting in and out of aisles to find her children in order to march their giggling, energetic behinds to the car.

In case you thought this was some sort of hypothetical situation, let me clear up the confusion. This mother, toddler, and big brother are me, Emma, and Joshua, and this is a totally true story.

A totally true, incredibly humiliating story.

First, I was humiliated by their behavior. I don’t know why they act like heathens whenever I take them in public, but I’d say the two of them conspiring not to listen to me happens regularly and I’m regularly driven mad by it. But I can’t stop running errands and it’s not always possible to run them without children and/or with only one child, so sometimes they both have to go. It’s just…life. Life doesn’t stop because things get inconvenient. I actually cannot order everything on Amazon so as to avoid ever having to take my children in public again and not taking them in public doesn’t actually teach them how to behave in public. It’s a chicken-egg predicament I’m in.

Secondly, I was humiliated by the woman who deemed it her place to openly and publicly judge and shame me for not being able to control my children.

What was I supposed to do? Hold up the line while I chased them down, further angering the people in line behind me for making them wait? Retrieve the kids and then stand there, mortified, while I paid and Emma fought to get down again, throwing a Threenager Tantrum at the checkout?

Which situation would have made that lady feel better? Probably neither.

There was no way I was winning in any scenario other than having perfect, quiet, well-mannered children who listen to everything I say like tiny automatons and never step even a hair out of line. HAHAHAHAH. Those are…not my kids.

When we finally got to the car after doing our march of shame out of the store, I screamed and yelled and shouted and I wasn’t proud of the mother I was as my children began to cry. I was scaring them. I was parenting out of a place of embarrassment and not love.

Hell, I wasn’t actually parenting at all. I was just being angry at my kids who cannot just listen when I ask them to do something simple and angry at myself for dragging them to the store after school. But mostly I was angry at that woman who deemed it her place to say something to me about my children who were acting up in public LIKE I DIDN’T ALREADY KNOW THEY WERE ACTING UP.

OF COURSE I KNEW.

I knew and I had been embarrassed by it longer than she had been aware we were even there.

So thanks for the judgment, lady. That’s just what my Tuesday afternoon was missing.

Flotsam

Look, I’m basically exhausted because March is Birthdaypalooza, I’m averaging 4.5 hours of sleep a night, my children decide to wake up before the crack of dawn every morning and I’m about to embark on three four-hour car trips in the next 10 days. What that means is that this post, long overdue, btw, is coming from a place of not-quite-pulled-together and is really just a bunch of random things I cannot purge from my brain.

AKA: Things I Don’t Understand and/or Which I Find Dumb. 

Let me be clear that absolutely NONE of these things are intended in any way to be offensive. That shouldn’t have to be said, but maybe someone will find talking about corsets offensive so there you go. People are nothing if not predictable and Being Offended is practically an art for some people.

So here we go.

Waist Training. I don’t understand this phenomenon of squishing in our ribcages and waists in order to make them look smaller because what that actually does is make our asses look bigger and I don’t know about y’all, but my Nutella and wine habits are doing that just fine.

But really. We burned our bras because they were constricting* and don’t even tell me you don’t do that shiver and “ahhhhhh” the minute you rip the thing off every day. A corset? HAHAHAHA.

No.

Why is this attractive? Can anyone explain? I understand if you’re dressing up in period attire and need to wear a corset for a dress or you’re into some sexy dress-up, but daily? As, like, part of your routine? Nope.

Pants. Why do pants have to be a thing? Can we just actually not?

(I may or may not also be feeling a little bloated at the moment in addition to all the tired in case you were curious.)

Zits Past 17. I am at least 82.4% certain that my face looks worse right now at 33 than it did at 17. That should be illegal. I don’t really want to dig up old photos of 17 year old me because I would probably weep at my lack of jowls and the crease between my eyebrows, but suffice it to say I should not have zits AND gray hairs.

Speaking of that…

Gray Hair. As it so happens, I do not actually love Nature’s Highlights, particularly because they’re not well-placed, sporadic, and don’t make me look nearly as amazing as Rogue. If I had her hair I wouldn’t complain, but no. I hold my hair up to brush/comb/dry shampoo it and I’m blinded by random glints of lighting off the grays which I swear I did not have until six months ago. YAY.

Bronchitis. It’s the definition of “worst” because you feel fine but you cough like a three-pack-a-day smoker AND pee yourself a little every time you do it. No bueno. Do not recommend. Thanks, Obama.

______
*I know that isn’t why we burned our bras. That is, however, why I would like to burn mine. Bras that don’t fit are the worst.

What Living With Anxiety Feels Like

I spent the end of last week on the verge of an anxiety attack. It wasn’t spectacular, in case you were curious. 

Anxiety is weird. It’s weird to live with. It’s weird to explain to others who haven’t experienced it. It’s even weird to explain to those who have because no two people experience anxiety in the same way.

I do my best to mitigate anxiety, to keep it from creeping in. I steer clear of triggers like the news, high-stress situations. I try to get enough sleep and practice self-care. But then there are days when it’s impossible to ward off the anxiety threatening to overwhelm me so I just…deal. Because I don’t have a choice.

Anxiety, for me, feels like electricity in my skin. And not the good kind of tingles when you’re on the verge of something fun and exciting coming your way. 

My anxiety feels like my skin is threatening to combust. Every part of me is on edge and aware that things aren’t normal and I can’t calm it down. I can’t stop the prickly feeling that is made worse by just about any and everything touching my body. Clothes, kids, Dan, my hair. 

I feel like a wild and uncontrollable downed power line you might see in the movies is just bouncing around inside of me, threatening harm to whatever comes into contact with me. Not physical harm. Just…like I’m a harmful presence in other people’s lives. 

I shouldn’t be there because what if my anxiety jumps to someone else?

I try, in those moments, to get away. To breathe and clear my head. To tell myself that the anxiety I’m feeling isn’t me. It’s in my head. And in my skin. And my guts. But it isn’t who I am. It’s not who I want to be. 

Sometimes the self-talk works. Most of the time I want to bury myself in the bed and wait for it to pass, however long that may take. 

But life–my life–is still happening around me. My responsibilities continue even when I feel like I cannot move.

So I move. 

I fill cups and make meals. I let my children sit in my lap because what they need in that moment is to be close to me even when my insides are on fire. I give hugs and kisses. I try.

I push forward. I choke back the thoughts of running away. Of hiding from the pain and trembling I’m feeling. Because anxiety, my anxiety, is painful. It hurts me and I know that sometimes it hurts others, too.

I don’t know how to begin to understand what will likely be my children’s legacy of dealing with a mom who suffers from anxiety. 

It’s not every day that I feel this way. It’s not even every month. It’s just…there. Like once I’ve held it off for so long, the dam breaks, it comes crashing in, and once the swell of emotion has had a chance to seep into the earth again, or find its way down some tributary, I’m okay.  

I’m in treatment. I take medication to help control it. I know enough to know that there will be days like these, and I tell myself that once the kids are older, they’ll be able to understand. Mom is having a bad day.

I will always wonder if that’s enough and cling to the hope that it is.

More

2015 Word of the Year
I realize we’re nearly two months done with 2015, so the timeliness of my word of the year is, well, not timely at all. But it’s still 2015, so I’m giving myself a wide berth to do what I want.

My word for the year is MORE. And it came to me while watching The Little Mermaid on repeat in the week between Christmas and New Years. Thankfully, I know I’m not the only person on the planet who’s ever been so inspired by a Disney movie she made a mantra about it, and if I am, oh well. I guess I am.

More is such a materialistic word. People want more money, more stuff, more more more. But that’s not what I’m really looking for with 2015 being about the acquisition of more.

Ariel says it herself.

“Look at this stuff, isn’t it neat? Wouldn’t you think my collection’s complete? Wouldn’t you think I’m the girl, the girl who has, everything…?

What she wants isn’t more stuff to fill up her grotto. She wants…yeah, you know where this is going.

She wants more.

I want 2015 to be a year of living a more full life, one where I don’t take things and people for granted.

Slowly, through dealing with Daddy’s death and some of the recent changes we’re making for our future, I’ve come to realize that this life I have is a good one, so it’s high time I started appreciating it for what it is instead of what it isn’t or could be. We can’t live in what isn’t or could be. We have to live in what is.

I know that I have a good life. That doesn’t mean I don’t have aspirations or areas that need work. Of course I do. But this life I have, the one Dan and I have created together, it’s good.

 

I want 2015 to be a year of more time with those I love.

There is never enough time for those we love, so this isn’t necessarily about the quantity of time as much as it’s about the quality. I’m a big believer in the small moments mattering most. The little times where we just sit and listen to each other are the ones that get remembered when everything else starts to fade away because those are the memories that make an impression on our soul and not just our minds.  I never want to turn down a cuddle from the kids or an opportunity to spend time with someone I love. I don’t want to “in a minute” my life away. I want to give those I love the quality time they need.

I want 2015 to be a year of more dependability because mine sucks.

I remember a time in my life when I was a relatively dependable person. Then I stayed home and that all went straight out the window. It’s way too easy for me to say “oh, yes, I’ll do that…” and then forget. Two days (or two weeks!) later it still isn’t done. It was easier to manage commitments when I had a more finite amount of time to spare. If I only have an hour to make phone calls before returning to work, I have to make those phone calls, you know? Being at home all day has ruined my dependability because I can’t remember anything. I’ve made commitments and failed to follow through on them because…because I have. I hate that I don’t feel dependable.

So now I’m making notes, I have a planner, and eventually I’ll figure out why checking email on my phone has made everything more complicated instead of less.

I want 2015 to be a year of more writing and creativity because those things fill up my soul.

I’m not really sure what’s going on with this blog right now. I can’t tell if I’m outgrowing this space or if this desire for more is telling me to branch out and readjust what it is I’m doing here. Maybe the answer is just to get back here and get back to doing what I do.

Where I live. What I live for.