What Jerry Seinfeld Taught Me About Time

If you’ve caught an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee or seen Jerry Seinfeld doing stand up recently, you may have had the same reaction I did…

“When the eff did Jerry Seinfeld get so old?”

Sure, it’s been nearly 30 years since Seinfeld debuted, and thirty years changes a person’s face, no doubt.  But it seems to me that Jerry’s face changed seemingly overnight.  How could that be? How could time have passed that quickly? Presumably, time passes at the same rate for ol’ Jerome as it does for the rest of us, why should it be that his aged appearance seems so jarring?  I’ve spent an embarrassing (and likely utterly procrastinative) amount of time wondering about this and I think I’ve figured it out.  My husband and I fall asleep to Seinfeld every single night.  And with its near dominance of the syndicated world, it’s likely you’ve seen an episode nearly every day of your life too.  So in our quotidian lives, Jerry’s Peter Pan complex takes incarnate form: no matter how much time passes for us, Jerry remains 30(ish) years old.  So when I saw him at 60(ish) years old, even though it really has been nearly thirty years, it seemed that all of a sudden, time had gone an made Jerry an old man.  Funny the way time can trick our perception of the passage of our lives.  Or how the passage of our lives can trick our perception of time, I haven’t decided which. (I do have other things to do, after all.)

Why am I sharing this ridiculous theory on a blog entitled “The Truth About Babies?”  So glad you asked, bear with me a while longer and I’ll tell you right to your beautiful face.

“They grow up way too fast.”  “Never, ever grow up!” “Where has my baby gone?” “Treasure every moment, because one day they’ll be grown and gone and you’ll wish you had.”

Heard one of these in your time in the Parenting trenches?  Only a hundred thousand times, right? Until recently, these sentiments have driven me a little bit out of my fucking mind.  Here’s why:

I have never once experienced the feeling that my macushla Boyo is growing up too fast. I have always felt that he is growing up at the exactly right pace.  I feel, not woefully, but acutely alone in this tiny minority, because there is no shortage of the “Too fast! Too fast!” sentiment bubbling out of mouths, written on blogs, memed out the wazoo, and lamented on social media.  But if you’re looking for someone to echo your thought of, “Boy, my kids sure are exactly as old as I want them to be,” or “it’s okay that he grows up, he’s supposed to after all,” or even “Holy shit, I’m glad he’s not [enter terrible age here] anymore,” you’d be better off looking for someone to admit that they give their kid apple juice on occasion. (OMG, y’all, when did juice become an enemy?? Insane.) I don’t look at my bright eyed two year old boy and wish that he were still a baby.  I like the boy he is today.  In fact, he keeps getting more and more interesting, and in addition to loving him more everyday, I find that I enjoy his presence more today that I ever have before. I don’t even wish that he would stay as he is today, as terrific as he is right now. If this better and better pattern holds, Jesus, just how awesome is this kid gonna get? I can’t wait to find out! I don’t wish that time would go quicker (okay, sometimes I wish that, but usually only when I’m counting down the yoctoseconds until Daddyo gets home from work) but when I get wistful for my boy, it’s not that I wish to go back in time, it’s that I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next, who he’ll evolve into next.  Now, I fully acknowledge that having had a very, very difficult time when Boyo was an infant likely plays an Aida-sized role in my not wanting to go back to that time, but there’s also no denying how lonely it can feel to not understand how anyone would want a baby forever and ever amen.

It also makes me nuts when someone (with a loving heart, I’m sure, and a mind toward speaking from hallowed experienced ground yada yada yada) tells me to treasure every moment, because it all goes by so fast and I’ll wish that I had.  The plain, hard truth here is that there are some moments that are simply not to be treasured.  They’re to be giant-glass-of-wine-or-even-whiskey-drunk away (or yoga-ed or meditated or bubble bathed away if you’re a much, MUCH better person than I) and swept into the heap of “Tomorrow Will Be Better, Right…RIGHT??”  I think it does a real disservice to try to convince Present Me that I should deny my true and honestly earned feelings because of what Future Me may or may not feel about it.  I do believe that Future Me won’t give one flippin’ fig about having my nipple nearly torn off for the tenth time today but Present Me is ready to burn the house down over it.  It’s really supremely unfair of Future Me (or worse, Present Somebody Else) to trivialize my actual present feelings in favor of potential future feelings.  We’re all trying to live in the now, aren’t we?  Be more present with ourselves and our children? Instead of treasuring every moment, wouldn’t it be better to treasure the ability to feel however we goddamn feel right here and now and be able to express it without any kind of tsk-tsk?  I think it might.  If nothing else, it certainly helps keep us in the moment.  So choke on that, Future Me. (Also, can I really be the only one that is kinda looking forward to my child being grown and gone?  Not that I want to skip to that time, but truly, isn’t that the whole point?)

Okay, so having been driven nuts by the things that seem to roll so easily off the hoards of tongues of friends and strangers alike, I have to acknowledge that perhaps instead of trying to get other people to stop expressing shit like this, I should try to reframe my reaction to it.  Instead of feeling marooned on the Island of Misfit Mommies because I don’t want time to slow down, I will feel grateful that I do not feel at the mercy of time.  It must be terribly heartbreaking to feel as though time is sweeping away the preciousness of a child’s life, so instead of feeling as though I am missing out on a (seemingly) universally acknowledged perspective (or worse, judging someone else’s perspective just because it doesn’t echo with mine,) I will be thankful down to my bones that I have do not have experience that particular heartache.  I will consider myself extremely lucky to feel unburdened by the passage of time in this manner, and to take any energy spent thinking, “Why don’t I feel that way?” and redirect it as the more powerful, “I’m so glad I feel this way!”

As to the vociferous Treasurers of Every Moment, so sure that I will feel the way they feel when given enough time, I can only suggest that perhaps time only feels as though it has sped away because they are looking back across its entirety.  Jerry Seinfeld seems to have aged all of a sudden because we only think of him as 30 year old Seinfeld or as 60 year old Comedians in Cars, with no real attention or profundity given to all of the years in between (because, I mean, Bee Movie?  Really, Jerry? That’s it?)  Perhaps the same is true of thinking of our children only as babies and then as grown and gone.  There’s an awful lot of room for the stuff of life in the years it takes our children to grow up so when someone looks at me over my screaming, squalling little nightmare and demands that I “treasure every moment” I will try not to get mad.  Instead, I will try to remain grateful that the stuff of life takes its meandering, languid time.  Thirty years may seem like a flash looking back on it, but thirty years takes thirty entire years to live and thank god for that.

Maybe Present Me is just full of shit and Future Me will feel exactly the way the Treasurers think I’ll feel.  All I can do as Present Me is live as honestly and openly as I can in the Here and Now, so my sincere hope for Future Me, if what the Treasurers predict does indeed come to pass, is that I find a way to focus my energy on coping with Future Me’s wistful feelings instead of wishing I could go back and make Present Me (or worse, Present Somebody Else) feel or do or behave or perceive differently.  Because that seems like an absolutely scandalous waste of such precious time.

 

 

 

 

The Kids Are Alright (And I Am, Too.)

Oh, heeeeeey there, y’all!  So nice to see you again!  Have you done something different with your hair?  Looks terrific!

So, yeah, I’ve taken a nice big break from the blogosphere and with a very good reason.  When I started The Truth About Babies, I was an absolutely soggy, water-logged, bedraggled, near-drowning mess.  I had been completely swept away by the tsunami of new motherhood and was tumbling ass-over-tea-kettle in an abyss I hadn’t seen coming.  This blog, and the words I forced upon the undulating inundation of my feelings saved me were the tools I used to save myself.  I found my voice, I shared my truth, I kicked for the surface, and I rode my self expression to the (relative) safety of the shore.  To be less metaphoric about it, things got better.  And better.  And better.  I could take a break from what felt like a mandatory exercise of writing in order to stay even-keeled, and bob along the surface of calmer seas, finally able to be within the experience instead of anchored outside of it, taking notes.  (Okay, I guess I can’t manage less metaphoric yet…I’m rusty and barnacled…  Damn it.  I’ll get there!)

So why am I back now?  Well, for two very teeny tiny reasons:  the two teeny tiny babies with whom I am pregnant.

That’s right, folks, late this September or early October, Team Us is expecting TWINS! (Identical twin girls to be specific, but more on that later.)

If you suppose that the very first words to come tumbling out of my mouth when I learned this news was a series of fucks and holy shits and OMGs and then brilliant combinations of OMGholyfuckingshits, well, then it seems you know me quite well!  (I made the doctor laugh and physician’s assistant blush, I’ll tell you that.) Daddyo reacted in much the same way when I told him.  I was about 8 weeks pregnant and according to the literature, the fetus was the size of a raspberry.  Hoping for a girl, we had been referring to our little raspberry as “she,” so when Daddyo came home from work and asked about my confirmation ultrasound, he asked, “Soooo?  Is she the size of a raspberry?”  To which I replied, “Welllllll….. THEY are the size raspberrIES.” I lost count of the “Shut the fuck ups” at around 15, but it was a stellar reaction and a happy reminder of how well suited my husband and I are for each other.

The haze of shock lifted to reveal a rather stone cold terror.  Twins, really?  REALLY?  How in the wide, wide world of sports are we going to handle twins?  Let’s just don’t even crack open the financial nut yet…let’s just focus on the mental challenge of twins: I had nearly lost my mind in the Dark Days with my darling Boyo, what if the same thing happened this time around, only double the darkness?  How would I ever manage?

It was during this time of chilly, inky black fear (and the early days of what would be twelve solid weeks of the sickest pregnancy induced gastro-intestinal pyrotechnics the world has ever known) that I noticed a sizeable smear of blood on the toilet paper.  My first thought was, “Oh, I’ve gotten my period.”  It wasn’t until the body slam of remembering that I wasn’t supposed to have my period that I realized that something might be wrong.  I wound up in the ER and among the whirlwind of thoughts that blew through my addled brain, one was clearest:  “Maybe this is the universe’s way of knowing that I can’t handle this.  Maybe it would be okay if I lost one or both.  Maybe this is my body is taking care of my mind.”  Of course this line of thinking was not without its guilty emotional counterpart, but the messy truth is that while I was praying, it wasn’t, “Please keep these babies safe.”  The prayer I prayed was, “Please let the right thing happen.”  In the end, the babies were fine.  The bleeding, while diagnosed as “threatened miscarriage,” was normal…just one of those things.  The universe had spoken, at least for now; I had better get used to the idea of having twins.

Two weeks later I was at the park with Boyo.  He had just set foot on the play structure  when I felt a gush of fluid.  I surreptiously pressed a finger to the crotch of my white jean shorts and when I brought my bloody finger into focus, I froze.  I raced to the bathroom, an outraged and whining Boyo in tow.  I tried to keep my voice calm as I explained that I had to go to the bathroom, but with every step I took, both the gush of fluid between my legs and the panic behind my eyes got stronger.  When I finally got us both squeezed into the stall of the public restroom, I pulled down my pants and stared, frozen with horror, at the crimson crotch of my once-white panties and shorts.  There was  so much blood.  And, if you’ll pardon my candor, big gelatinous clumps of tissue that I was sickeningly sure were my two tiny babies.  The race of my pulse thudded out: Stay calm, don’t scare your boy, stay calm, don’t scare your boy, stay calm, don’t scare your boy. Call for help.  It’s time to call for help.  Does this need 9-1-1?  No, this needs Mama. So I called my mother.  And speaking with the kind of cool that only comes when lit from within with panic, like a ice over a flame, I said, “Mama, I am bleeding and it is bad.  I need you come to the park, park at the lot all the way to the right, come into the bathroom and get me, drop me off at the hospital, and then take the baby home.”  Frozen fire chilled in my ear as Mama calmly said, “I will find you. I’ll be right there.”  The lady in the stall next to me tried to hand me some hand sanitizer “for the bleeding” and I croaked, “It’s not that kind of bleeding, but thank you.”  Someone else had begun to dry their hands with the automatic blower, a sound that terrifies Boyo, and so he began to scream like to bring down the walls of Jericho.  Another woman tried to ask me questions, if I was okay, if she could do anything, but I had no answers to those questions and so was unable to respond. There I sat, sweating and bleeding, panicking and staying calm, softly humming to and rocking my hysterical son, barely but stubbornly withstanding the swirling, cacauphonous frenzy of sights and sounds, while I waited for the cavalry.  A single thought bloomed in the chaos, tiny at first, but growing bigger and more powerful with every guh-GUH of my pounding heart.  It wasn’t a prayer.  It was a declaration.

“I want these babies.”

Nine minutes later Mama was there.  Ten minutes after that, I was in the ER.  Twenty minutes passed and my husband came running through the sliding glass doors.  I stood up to receive his big, strong “I’m here now” hug and whispered the thought that had been crashing through my skull, “I want these babies.”  He whispered back, “I know.  I do too.” Mercifully the wait to be taken to Ultrasound was quick, and it wasn’t long after that we learned that babies, once again, were just fine.  More importantly, my cervix was thick and tight, meaning my little chicks were in no danger of slipping out of their nest.  Despite the terrifying amount of blood I had bled and was still bleeding, the kids were alright.  And, armed as I was with a newfound certainty that I could handle anything else that came my way, so long as my twin babies were safe, so was I.

I know the path ahead is an arduous one.  But more importantly, I also know that it’s a beautiful one.  And most importantly, I know that I can walk it.  I will stumble, I will fall, I will dash my foot upon the stones and I will cuss like nobody’s goddamn business.  But, I will lean upon my family, my friends, myself, and (having dusted off the ol’ blog) I will lean on the power of my own expression.  I will tell the truth…the messy, complicated, ugly, whole truth, and having done so, I will pour myself a cocktail and know, deep down in my bones, that everything will be alright.

Guest Post: Daddyo’s First Year, A Playlist

The first time my husband (a professor of music theory, a U2 fanatic, and sentimental fool) made me a mix tape, we were in middle school.  Today, he writes about the soundtrack of his first year as a father.  

Daddyo here! I have always loved making mixtapes and personalized CDs. Unlike any other medium, music has the ability to capture the essence of the moment. So, for my first guest entry, I’d like to share some music. This post, a playlist of the music I most closely associate with my first year as a parent, has been more than a year in the making. Some of the songs have a direct connection to the ups and downs of those twelve months; others are on the list simply because that’s what I wanted to listen to at the time. In case you are unfamiliar with any of the tracks, I have included YouTube links for each; if you’ve got a Spotify account (it’s free!), the entire playlist is available here: Boyo’s 1st Year.

February 2013: “Hello” by Sugarbomb

Many of my friends and colleagues were surprised when I didn’t choose a U2 song for Boyo’s video and, frankly, I surprised myself. When the idea of making a video first entered my mind, I thought for sure I would use “Beautiful Day” or “Original Of The Species.” Weirdly, though, when I was making the video and editing the clips, those songs seemed forced; “Hello” just seemed a more natural choice.

March 2013: “Shake It Out” by Florence & The Machine

This has been Team Us’ anthem for a couple of years now because, well, Team Us has taken a beating. A lot of that has to do with my professional situation. In January 2013, a mere two weeks before Boyo was due, I interviewed for a dream job at the music conservatory of a big state school. I prepped for this interview for more than six weeks. I was ready for this. The teaching demos went well, the question/answer sessions went smoothly, and I seemed to have a good rapport with the faculty and the dean. I thought I hit it out of the park. I came back from the interview and Boyo was born, so that helped take my attention off the waiting game. A few weeks passed and I hadn’t heard anything. “That’s OK,” I thought to myself. “Don’t get caught up in speculation. At this point, no news is good news, right?” Then, I got news. And it wasn’t good. Needless to say, I was devastated. This was the second year in a row that I made the final three for an amazing job and got rejected. It was the second year in a row that Team Us had put our eggs into one basket only to see said basket slip from our hands and go SPLAT all over our Sunday best.

But I couldn’t wallow in self-pity or sadness. I had to keep on working for I wanted and for what I wanted to give my family. It’s difficult to shake off the shackles of self-doubt. “Shake It Out” helped me and the rest of Team Us keep dancing.

March/April 2013: “Carry On” by Fun.

In the midst of a shitstorm, when things are at their lowest, the big picture sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. At this juncture, our big picture was this: we were coping with the start Boyo’s Dark Days and I was struggling to find a permanent teaching position. To put it succinctly, we were knee deep in crap. And sinking. Then my wife reminded me of Winston Churchill’s advice: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” I was blown away by the simplicity and poignancy of that advice. KEEP. THE FUCK. GOING. Do not stop. You cannot stop. Keep trying. Keep looking. Keep applying.

If you’re lost and alone

Or you’re sinking like a stone

Carry on

 

Keep working. Keep learning. Keep believing. Because one day it will all pay off.

 

We are shining stars

We are invincible

We are who we are

On our darkest day

When we’re miles away

So we’ll come

We will find our way home

April/May 2013: “Believe” by The Bravery

But sometimes, no matter how much encouragement you try to give yourself, or no matter how much encouragement you get from others, you still need to let off some steam. I was angry. Actually, I was more than just angry. I was pissed. I brought my “A” game to that interview and still got rejected. At this point, I needed to be outwardly pissed. I needed to vent. I needed to be mad at the Universe for just a bit because I’d been stuck in the professional mire for such a long time that it was starting to take a toll on my personal life. I was searching for the motivation to keep applying for teaching positions in the wake of not getting much sleep and working in a job that had nothing to do with my profession. Not only did it feel like my career was beginning to stagnate, but it also started to feel less likely that it would ever get back on track.

So give me something to believe

‘Cause I am living just to breathe

And I need something more

To keep on breathing for

So give me something to believe

 

May 2013: “Wide Awake” by Katy Perry

(Yes, I like Katy Perry. A lot.)

I needed something else to think about, something to take my attention away from my discouraging job prospects and Boyo’s Dark Days. So, I signed up to run my first 5K. Endurance running has never been my forte. I’m a sprinter by nature (tennis was my primary sport), so I excel at quick bursts of speed over short distances. When I decided to run this race, I set one goal for myself: run five kilometers without stopping. For experienced runners, this is not big deal. But I was out of shape and mentally exhausted, so this was an challenge for me.

Besides my Katy Perry crush, “Wide Awake” is the perfect tempo once I’ve hit my running stride. It’s a quick pace but a sustainable one after I eclipse that difficult (for me) first mile. Beyond running, however, I was now beginning to wake up to the challenges of my current life situation. I was wide awake to the fact that being a good father while also being a supportive husband and the primary breadwinner is hard ass work. Before Boyo came along, I did as much mental preparation as I could to get myself ready, but practice and game time are two completely different situations. I was starting to realize just how demanding parenthood is, and it was proving much more difficult that I had ever imagined.

Thunder rumbling

Castles crumbling

I am trying to hold on

God knows that I tried

Seeing the bright side

I’m not blind any more

 

May 2013: “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk

Deep down, in my gut, at my core, I knew it was going to get better. It had to. The Universe couldn’t possibly be that unforgiving, could it? I admit that I thought about alternatives and what-ifs and how-longs, but my faith in the improvement of both my professional situation and my family life never wavered. I always believed in my heart of hearts that we would catch a break.

We’ve come too far to give up who we are

So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars

Someone once said that luck is “preparation meeting opportunity.” I don’t know how else I could have prepared for those two job interviews, so in retrospect, those weren’t the right opportunities for my family and me. I didn’t know that at the time, of course, but I never lost faith. I never stopped looking and applying for jobs. I never stopped preparing to seize the opportunity, should it present itself.

 

June 2013: “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake

I was sorely disappointed that I was going to be out of town and away from my family for my first Father’s Day as a father. Of course I was disappointed not to spend that day with my son (you know, the whole reason I celebrate Father’s Day as a father). What was most upsetting for me, however, was not being able to help my wife. I felt awful that I had to be out of town for such a long time (nine days) during such a rough period.

For some reason, I woke up that Father’s Day thinking about “Mirrors” after not listening to it since JT’s performance on SNL a few months prior. As I walked the streets of downtown Cincinnati that morning, I couldn’t help but listen to the song over and over and over again. I must have played it a least a half dozen times on the way to and from Starbucks and then another dozen times or so throughout the day. First to hook me was the beat, but the lyrics kept me coming back. JT’s words reminded me of the convoluted roads that my wife and I took to finally end up with each other. Listening to the song helped me reflect on just how lucky I am to have found her. She and I complement each other and work really well as a couple and as parents. Both of us are products of divorced parents, so we know firsthand what a fractured home can do to a child’s psyche. Before Boyo was born—and on several occasions since—we made a commitment to always prioritize our marriage. We firmly believe that a loving and communicative relationship between husband and wife lays a solid foundation for healthy familial relationships. As thankful as I am that she is the mother of our child, words cannot adequately express how grateful I am that I am her husband and she is my wife.

 

June/July 2013: “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” by U2

Nine days was a long time to be away from my wife. Add an infant son into the mix and those nine days felt like an eternity. But that time away wasn’t for naught. On just the second day of that trip, I had a phone interview for a one-year teaching gig. It must have gone well because the day I got home, there was a message waiting for me. I was offered the job! It all happened so quickly that several emotions were bubbling up at once: elation, vindication, pride. Of course, I was ecstatic about getting a job. And of course I felt like getting a new gig helped wash away a lot of the bad taste in my mouth from my previous institution. And of course I was proud of my wife, Boyo, and myself for making it through some rough times. But most of all, I felt a great sense of relief. Professionally, I was back in the game. Even though it was only a one-year position, there would be a search for the permanent job, and I was going to use my “home-court advantage” to my, well, advantage. Personally, this meant that I had a set schedule every week and I could have a better balance work and family life. That’s still a work in progress, but having a summer break is allowing me to connect with Boyo on a whole new (and tremendously exciting) level. Getting this job meant that a lot of other pieces of our lives could start falling into place. What. A. Relief. Whew!!

 

August 2013: “Roar” by Katy Perry

Oh, Katy. My “KayPers.” She did it again. She made yet another song that I could not get out of my head. But “Roar” was different from her other hits, at least for me. It was different because of its timing. The school year had officially started for faculty, and being a rookie, I had tons of meetings and orientations and training sessions to attend, in addition to planning lessons and getting my office ready for the year. Things were moving fast. But I was ready. I knew what I had to do to turn this temporary one-year job into my permanent job. I was motivated. And I wasn’t going to lose.

I got the eye of the tiger, a fighter,

Dancing through the fire

‘Cause I am a champion

And you’re gonna hear me roar

And, apparently, Boyo was ready for something new, too. After the big cross-country move, a brighter, happier version of his personality began to shine through. I was finally getting a glimpse at who my son really was. It was amazing. The Dark Days were officially behind us, and a bright future was staring us right in the face.

 

October 2013: “Awake” by Tycho

For me, music has several functions. It can be inspiring or deadening. It can be in the foreground or in the background, contemplative or motivational. “Awake” served as an escape hatch. There are no lyrics in this track; rather, it’s a wonderfully subtle electro-ambient arrangement of instruments and layered effects. It’s engaging yet incredibly peaceful. It was the ideal type of music to listen to in the midst of a busy semester. So, there’s no groundbreaking or revealing truth attached to this song. It’s on this list simply because it came around precisely when I needed it to. It allowed me to escape the craziness of the semester, if for only five minutes at a time.

 

November 2013: “Ordinary Love” by U2

We can’t fall any further if we can’t feel ordinary love

This was U2’s first new single in years, so naturally I played it virtually nonstop for weeks. The song, which was featured in the film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, is about love in its various guises. In addition to romantic love, eros, Bono also sings of brotherly love, or agape. Romantic love is wonderful and necessary, but the world falls apart without mutual respect, without agape. In light of the various social movements happening right now, the message of respect, decency, kindness, and fairness is particularly apropos. And it’s a lesson I hope my son learns early and practices often.

 

December 2013/January 2014: “Between Us and Them” by Ulrich Schnauss

It was the day after Christmas 2013. My wife was off having a day to herself, so I was with Boyo for the majority of the day. Up to this point, this was a rare occurrence, not because I didn’t want or like spending time with him, but because that’s what our schedules dictated. This time was not only a brief respite from Mommy duties for my wife, but it was also an opportunity to spend some quality alone time with Boyo. Admittedly, however, I was nervous. I talked with Mommy before our day started so I had a general idea of what to expect and how I should handle this time with him. It was a good start, but I was still quite anxious.

Since Boyo loves it outside, I decided that day’s “Grand Adventure” would be a walk to a local coffee shop. As I was getting him ready to leave, I started to think about the music I would listen to on the walk. I was in the mood for electro-ambient tunes, so I settled on Ulrich Schnauss. I first discovered this music in graduate school while writing my dissertation. It was the perfect “white noise” music to have on in the background while I wrote. But it’s also great foreground music for contemplative moods. It turned out to be the ideal soundtrack for my walk with Boyo. This song, in particular, was the perfect antidote to my feelings of insecurity and trepidation. Schnauss paints a broad sonic canvas here, which helped me relax. A sense of calm came over me as we walked to The Grind. It was the first time in Boyo’s life that I felt like I could do this “Daddy” thing. I wasn’t worried about what anyone else thought I should do. I didn’t worry too much about “the right way” to parent. On that walk, I concentrated solely on how best to interact with Boyo as his father. And you know what? His smile that day let me know that our interactions thus far had been just fine:

Between you and me, Daddy, you're doing just fine!

Between you and me, Daddy, you’re doing just fine!

February 2014: “Invisible” by U2

I hold grudges. And I hold them for a long time. If I feel someone has slighted me, they immediately go on my blacklist and remain there pretty much forever. These slights (perceived or otherwise) provide me with extra motivation to succeed. Without a lot of help from my wife, I have realized, however, that is not the healthiest or most constructive way to deal with anger, and I’m working on it so that I can teach my son a better way to handle rejection.

I’m more than you know

I’m more than you see here

More than you’ll let me be

I’m more than you know

A body in a soul

You don’t see me, but you will

I am not invisible

I first heard this track as an angry song. Then I heard it as a song of defiance, then pride, and (finally) vindication. But the more I listened to it, the more “Invisible” spoke to me as a parent. I’m a family man now. Therefore, I’m a family man first and foremost. Everything is secondary to being a good husband and a good father.  For those who choose to have a family, raising (a) child(ren) properly is the single most important job in the world because, ultimately, it’s what parents leave behind. Our children are our most important legacy. Which is why I don’t understand all the “do-it-this-way-or-else-you’re-a-shitty-parent” “advice” floating around the interwebs. It’s a toxic stew of vitriol and judgment that can do more harm than good. Day-to-day parental operations—Is this what he’s supposed to have for lunch? Is it too little? Too much? Should I let him try to calm himself? Why isn’t he talking yet? Is it too early to think about potty training? Where should we go this afternoon? What tone should I take this time? How can I better teach him colors? Numbers? Letters? —are hard enough without some stranger in my face telling me I’m doing it wrong. Parenting is a team effort. It’s effin’ hard, y’all, so we need to take it easy on each other. There’s lots of good advice out there, and that variety has revealed this truth to me: there is more than one way to be a good parent. One correct empirical parenting method does not exist. What works for your children may not work for my Boyo and vice versa. And that’s OK, because in the history of the universe, there has never been a Boyo. EVER. That’s what makes the hard part of this parenting thing so damn difficult. But that’s also what makes the high points even more amazing. So, I’m going to the concentrate on being the best husband and father I can be. I’m trying every day to let go of grudges and live in a more positive light. Parenting is not a competition. We’re all in this together, after all.

There is no them

There’s only us

A Is For Angry – My Messy Beautiful

This post is part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior project featured on Momastery.  If you’d like more information or would like to participate, visit the site here.

 

Okay, so who remembers the movie Tootsie? For those of you who don’t, check it out because I promise that there is nothing like watching Dustin Hoffman shave his legs to let a little steam out of the near-bursting pressure cooker that is day-to-day mothering.  For those of you who know and love this little bastion of 80s awesomeness, recall, if you will, the scene where Hoffman tells Terri Garr that he’s in love with another woman.  She flips her ever-lovin’ shit in the most spectacular of ways. Before she storms out, chocolate-covered cherries in tow, she pointedly and profoundly declares,

“I just have to feel like this until I don’t feel like this, and you’re gonna have to know that you’re the one who made me feel this way.”

I am a keenly emotional person.  I feel all things deeply, like Mariana Trench deeply, which means that I take the greatest, most profound pleasure in the glinting, glittering joys of life  (from the tiny ones like opening a fresh Cadbury Creme Egg without tearing the foil to the massive ones like both my husband and I being present AND looking (!!) when Boyo took his first steps.)  It also means that I feel desperately wounded, like physically abraded by the awfulness that is smeared all over this messy life, like doggie-doo on the bottoms of your wedding shoes.

I’ve always been like this.  My mother tells the story of a 4 year old me crying in the bathtub because hours before, some mean ol’ grown-up unwittingly pressed the elevator button before I had a chance.  As a childless adult (and with great gobs of therapy and self reflection) I learned to manage my emotional response to the ups and downs of life’s crazy-pants carousel into a more even-keeled horse and buggy ride.  But as a mother, sometimes I feel like not only do I not have the reigns of my steed, but I don’t even have a buggy.  Or a saddle. Or a bridle.  And, um, it’s not even a horse, it’s a dragon and OMG, am I really riding an MF-ing dragon and seriously, y’all, is this dragon riding a shark? Is. This. Dragon. Riding. A. Shark?!

The hardest of all emotions for me to handle is anger.  I am slow to anger and quick to forgive, and my lovely, long, slow-burning fuse coupled with my solidly held belief that staying angry is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die are both traits in which I take great pride. When I am well and truly rabid-dog angry (which is rare,) I go silent, not only because of the rage-induced aphasia, but because I never, ever want to speak from a place of anger.  Words spoken in anger may have a modicum of truth at their core, but truth that is wrapped in malice isn’t the kind that sets you free, it’s the kind that can turn a spoon into a shiv.  Weaponized truth is still a weapon and not to be used on people you care about (which should, after all, be all people.)  So when anger starts to spew up from my Mariana Trench, I go to work immediately on identifying it and processing it. Then, once my words return, I can speak from a healing place instead of a hurting place.  My spoon remains a spoon. It’s a simple plan which requires anything-but-simple execution.

Well, damn if motherhood didn’t just blast my carefully laid, beautifully simple plan to absolute smithereens.  Of all the prismatic rays of motherhood that have taken me by utter, dumbfounded surprise, the acute anger that I have experienced is by far the most startling.  The realization that anger comes more quickly, is more difficult to process, affects me more deeply, and can bleed out, staining an entire day is challenge enough for tender-hearted me, especially considering how fiercely I wish to protect my beautiful Boyo from the damage of my words spoken in anger.  What really bakes my noodle is how unshakably shackled that anger is to deep, dark shame.  If I were to tell the ugly truth, I would say that my one year old son makes me angry, and not just in the “bless his little heart” kind of way, in the bone-deep, red-hot, for realsies kind of way.  He makes me angry in the way that would be totally natural if it were a normal-sized terrorist who were tearing my home to bits, barfing on my boobs, disregarding every single instruction no matter how seemingly small or sweetly spoken, and boldly reaching his hands between my legs while I’m trying to pee. But because it is my pint-sized guerrilla, I’m somehow supposed to think it’s adorable?  I mean, yes, he is adorable, and of course I’m not angry with him all day every day, but seriously, this kid has bitten my butthole just because he was in a biting mood and that’s how high he could reach.  I wish I were equipped for rolling with punches like that, but I am decidedly not. And, I mean, I get that discipline takes practice and absurd levels of repetition, but honestly, when he looks me square in the smoldering eyes and grabs that dog food for the 10,000th time, I feel like this:

GPK_8a_adambomb

And the worst part is, being that angry makes me feel like a terrible mother.  The simple state of being angry with my boy makes me feel ashamed.  I feel as though if I were a better mother, if I were able (like every well-meaning, but infuriating old lady in the grocery store instructs) to “treasure every moment” with my “precious angel” I wouldn’t feel anger of this magnitude.  I have never felt more easily angered than this time when it has never felt less okay to be so.

I am aware enough of the way of the world in general and of mommy-circles in particular to know that am never alone in feeling any deep, truthful emotion.  I also know that the harder the truth, the less it gets told which is a real conundrum, because telling the truth is what leads to connection and when we are connected, we don’t have to endure alone.  No one talks about truly ugly mama-anger, at least not when it is directed at our darling little cherubs.  Maybe that’s because it’s nearly impossible to express real anger without someone jumping to the conclusion that you are either depressed or, even worse, that you are a threat to your child.

The me that I am on a good day feels as though if I could just cut myself some well-deserved slack, and put on my oxygen mask, I would see that sometimes, just like Terri Garr, I just have to feel like this until I don’t feel like this anymore and that that’s not only okay, but that’s all there is. And maybe if I tell that truth, I’ll help someone else tell theirs.  We’re all in this beautiful mess together, aren’t we? Let’s act like it.

MBW-403

 

 

 

 

 

One

My dearest, darling Boyo,

Happy first birthday!!

One year and 35 hours ago, you started your epic journey out of the dark and into the light, a journey in which you very clearly had zero interest.  I must have feathered your little nest with great aplomb, because no amount of Pitocin (bags and bags full!), no amount of pushing (3.5 hours worth!) and no amount of prayer (please, god, get this effing kid out of me!) could convince you that life could be any better on the outside.  So we went in and got you.  Well, I didn’t, but I watched you being gotten in the reflection of the overhead light in the operating room. I watched the doctor turn my Death Star sized belly into an escape hatch and I felt her pull, tug, and lift you up and out of me.  I heard your tiny, tinny cry, got the thumbs up that you were healthy and hale, and then promptly passed out, finally having completed a job of work that I had started nearly two full days ten full months prior.

When I woke up, there you were.  My little poppy seed, my olive, my plum, my orange, my grapefruit, my butternut squash, my watermelon, and now, my perfectly precious baby boy, here, finally!  You had hair like a local politician, thin on top with a horseshoe-shaped shag around the back. You had downy little tufts of fur on your shoulders.  You had absolutely enormous balls.  Your eyes were almond-shaped, open, alert, and unadorned with eyelashes.  You looked so much like your Daddy.   You were so beautiful, Boyo, with your too-long-in-the-bathtub skin and your “Jesus, what just happened?!” expression.  I was so very happy to meet you.

People ask me, “Can you believe he’s turning one already? It goes so fast, doesn’t it?” And, when I tell the truth instead of responding in the way that seems desperately expected of me, I say, “Honestly, I can’t believe he’s not turning ten. Longest. Year. Of my life.” We did not have the easiest year, did we, bud? It took us a good long time to get to know each other, to warm up to one another, to find our groove. That’s okay, though.  It took us the exact right amount of time.  That’s one of the lessons you taught me, my boy.  Our journey is ours and ours alone, special and unique and exactly right.

You have taught me so much, my beautiful boy, but I think the most important lesson I’ve learned in this Year of You is that love is not fragile.  Love can take a beating.  Love absorbs the shock and awe of circumstance and stretches to accommodate us not only at our round, smooth best, but more importantly, at our jagged, ragged worst.  Thank you for that lesson, son.  Thank you for loving me the way you do.  Thank you for loving me through the time it took me to figure out how to be not just a Mama, but your Mama. Thank you for loving me even when I didn’t feel worthy of it.  Thank you especially for that.

It has been my supreme honor to watch you grow from a baby blob into a baby boy, to see your personality bloom from the nascent sparkle in your focused eyes into the sensitive, boisterous, curious, and hilarious little person that you are.  I have been paying attention, my darling son, not only because if I didn’t you’d be elbow deep in the toilet, but because you are such an interesting little man!  Watching you learn, absorb, and interact with the world is one of the most fascinating processes I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience.  By seeing through your eyes, I am rediscovering the tiny miracles of our world.  I watch you delight at the feel of grass beneath your feet, of a breeze upon your face, of sand between your fingers.  When you look at me with an expression that triumphantly exclaims, “Mama, do you see this?! Can you believe this?!” I am awash in bewildered gratitude that I am the one whose honor it is to say to you, “Show me, child.”

Show me, my darling boy.  In the days and months and years to come, show me your mess, your art, your freshly picked flower, your stick, your rock, your beauty, your music.  Show me your smile, your tears, your mad face, your silly face, your careful-or-it-will-get-suck-like-that face.  Show me your room, your books, your toys, your pride.  Show me who you are, what you want, how I can help, what I can do.  Show me how to love you best.  Show me how to be a better Mama to you.

In turn, I will show you how loving and respecting yourself opens your heart to the love and respect of the world and all her complicated beauty.  I will show you compassion and empathy and how they are the keys to understanding other people.  I will show you just how worthy you are by loving you unconditionally and disciplining you appropriately; one without the other does you no favors.  I will show you how to be kind.  I’ll show you how to make lemonade out of life’s lemons, and I’ll show you how (when lemonade just won’t do) to cut a twist and toss it into a killer martini.  I’ll show you that sometimes, all you can do, all you should do, what you MUST do, is laugh.   Most of all, my darling, I’ll show you what you showed me.  I’ll show you that when life is a question, love is the answer.

Happy birthday to you, my machushla Boyo, light of my life, pain in my ass. 🙂  I can’t wait to see what happens next!

All a mother’s love,

Yours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beginning of Better: Part II

Okay, it’s the end of the movie and Jules and Vincent are sitting in the coffee shop, discussing their very weird morning.  Jules is trying to explain to Vincent that he’s quitting the gangster life because he had “what alcoholics call ‘a moment of clarity.'”  Vincent doesn’t get it.  What Vincent does get is a gut full of hot leaded comeuppance, suggesting that Jules’ moment of clarity may have saved his soul and his life.

Even though Pulp Fiction is one of my favorites, (OMG, the quote-a-thon of that movie!) I never really felt a personal connection to any of the characters.  Until now.  I’ve recently had a pretty bitchin’ moment of clarity myself, and it has saved the lost and wandering part of my weary soul. (Read about the moment here.)  My moment happened on Boyo’s eleventh month birthday, and I am still discovering new ways in which that moment changed everything for the better.

1.  I feel connected to my boy in way that I was starting to think I wasn’t worthy of.  Boyo and I have had a long, painful struggle on the road to connection.  I didn’t feel anything close to “baby euphoria” when he was born or in the days after. During The Dark Days (about ten days to ten weeks old) I felt like he was something to be coped with, a pain to be managed, a burden when I was expecting a gift.  The guilt of those feelings was maniacal.  Our connection has since grown and strengthened, but I never felt a sense of being overwhelmed and awestruck at my connection to him.  I silently scoffed at other parents who said things like, “I’m in love!” and “I love him so much I can’t even stand it!” and “sometimes when I look at him, I see God.”  Seriously?  I honestly (and spitting with jealousy) thought that parents used those sentiments because they think that’s just what parents are supposed to say.  I thought they were lying.  Or at least, not telling the whole truth.  I really did.  Because on the rare occasions that I uttered those words, I was lying. That’s incredibly difficult to admit, but it’s true.  I told myself other parents must be lying too, because if they weren’t, it meant that parents who felt that way deserved to feel it.  And I just mustn’t be good enough.

During my moment, though, I felt that connection happen all at once, searing and resplendent and enormous.  It was as though all of that emotion was magma, buried deep within me and that moment triggered it out of dormancy and into an epically powerful eruption of connection.  My darling boy has never felt more mine than he does today and that’s only because it isn’t tomorrow yet.

What a fuckin’ relief, y’all, let me tell you.  My boy!  MY boy!

2.  My patience has restored.  I can’t properly describe the helpless frustration that had besieged me as I wrestled with an appalling lack of patience for my boy.  Under normal circumstances, I have a terrifically long fuse.  I am slow to anger and quick to forgive.  I am indulgent of all kinds of behavior because it feels good to give the gift of allowing someone I love the room to feel exactly how they feel even if it’s bitchy or petulant or arrogant or obnoxious.  I want not only to encourage, but to challenge my son to be his most genuine and authentic self and allowing him to be himself at home is where that lesson starts. But I only rarely had enough patience to retain that perspective.  I was so sleep deprived and weary and felt so terribly guilt-guilt-guilty all the time that a normal reaction to everyday difficulty seemed like a fantasy, unattainable.  Every cry felt like an accusation and every meltdown felt like a condemnation to a hell I somehow deserved because I couldn’t figure out how to love my son enough or correctly or in a way he could feel.  I had little patience for myself, so I had even less to offer my boy.  Brutal.

But now, cries just feel like cries and meltdowns are simply annoying or inconvenient or embarrassing, but nowhere near the end of the world.   Even though I know my levels of patience will ebb and flow, as ever, at least I am once again a believer in the normalcy of my feelings and my ability to bounce back instead of thud to the ground like ice cream off the cone.

3.  My head and heart are reconnected.  You know that feeling of knowing something intellectually, but being unable to convince your emotional self of it?  Yeah, that’s a super shitty feeling.  That feeling has been a constant companion for much of my beautiful boy’s young life.  It’s like I had the thoughts, the words, the right things to say and think, and I thought them and said them all the time, but somehow my heart was lightyears away and it took an enormous amount of time for those true thoughts to take root and blossom into feelings that were sturdy enough to withstand circumstance. Here’s a particularly harsh example:  I knew in my head that I loved my son.  I knew because I am a good person and I love people and he is my son and of course I love him.  No question.  But in my heart, (Boyo, forgive me) I doubted it.  My heart said, “I don’t feel it the way I think it.  What if I don’t love him? I may not.” Again, just the hardest thing in the world to admit, but it’s the whole truth.

My moment of clarity repaired the bridge from my head to my heart and, to my utter astonishment, instantly.  All of a sudden my heart was achingly full of the steadfast, unshakeable knowledge of my head.  “I love my son.  I love my son. My god, I love him so very much.”

The lessons here are pretty powerful.  First of all, just keep on keepin’ on.  Keep at it.  Keep going.  Keep trying.  Like Marty McFly says when he has one shot at his 1.21 gigawatts and the deLorean’s engine just won’t turn over, “This time.  THIS TIME!” If Marty had given up and thought, “Well, I know there isn’t enough fuel and this just isn’t going to happen” he would have been stuck in that zoot suit forever.  When all efforts have been exhausted, try again.  Never stop trying.

And an oldie, but a goodie: When all else fails, fake it ’til you make it.  I didn’t feel like a loving mother.  But I acted like one.  I said the words, I did the deeds.  I let my brain be in charge because my heart needed a minute.  (And by “minute” I mean, “eleven months.”) It worked.  When my egregiously tardy heart finally made it to the party being thrown in its honor, the party was in full swing.  All my heart had to do was pour a cocktail and hit the dance floor.

4.  I have released the guilt.  You know that scene in Superman II were General Zod, Non, and Ursula face the Council and their judgement? Well, I’m not cruel enough (or smart enough, really) to be an interplanetary heavy, but OMG, the guilt that I carried with me for eleven months was my kryptonite. Everything made me feel guilty.  And I felt like every pair of eyes out there were condemning me.  I realize now that the judgement I perceived in others was just a reflection of my own guilty visage, like the Hall of Mirrors in a macabre (No) Fun House.  My own guilt (as unearned as it was) was unceasing, and therefore so was the perceived judgement.

Besides just feeling like I’ve taken a ten pound dump, having released the guilt has changed the way I react to unsolicited advice.  Whereas before I took it as “this is how you should raise your child” now I see it as, “this is how I’m raising mine.”  That allows me to enjoy differing perspectives, to appreciate all the different ways there are to parent beautifully and successfully, while maintaining my trust in my own beauty and success.  No one will do it the way I do it and that doesn’t make my style wrong, it simply makes it mine.  More importantly, it takes the spotlight off every other parent (and all of their opinions) and puts them in the audience where they belong.  This show, this little melodramatic comedy of errors I’ve got going on here?  It’s mine.  And like any good performer, I will not allow an unruly audience member to trip me up.  The show must go on!

You know what else? Since the onerous unearned guilt lifted, you know what has been steadily taking its place? Confidence. Unshowy, unflinching, steadfast confidence. Hot damn and hallelujah, I trust myself again!  This is not say that I feel like I have all the answers.  Far, far from it.  (I mean far, y’all.)  I’m just as clueless as ever.  But I believe, in my head and in my heart and for the first time since wearing the mantle of “Mother” that I can and will figure it out.  I know that I will make mistakes, even big, hairy, awful, “Oh fuck, better start saving for therapy” mistakes.  But they won’t be failures.  I will give myself the gift of learning from my mistakes instead of kowtowing to them, and confidence will be the pretty red bow.

So there you have it.  A single moment has changed everything for me just like it did for Jules Winfield.  He’ll walk the earth.  I’ll raise my boy.  I will appreciate my gilded, glittering moment of clarity, and to put it to good use.  I will march onward and I will appreciate my sturdy legs and my grateful heart.  I will continue to tell the truth and I will continue to encourage you to do the same because it is important and because it sets us free and because it’s the only way to hear the echo of my life in yours and yours in mine.

And then, I’ll have a cocktail.

 

The Beginning of Better: Part I

If you’ve been keeping up with this little story of Boyo and me, you know that lately, I haven’t been in the sturdiest of places emotionally.  (Catch up here.) My knees have somewhat buckled under the weight of of a very difficult year and I feel very much on-my-face these days.  The transition into motherhood has been a brutal one for me, with doubt and guilt and fear having Kanye’d the microphone away from faith and confidence and chutzpah. I’m now in therapy and getting some much needed “brain training” to help loosen the vice-grip these emotions seem to have on my spirit.  Having admitted that I needed help seemed to be a herald of the dawn after a very long, hard night, because the light of better began to glow almost immediately.  And then…

Something happened last weekend, y’all.  Something big.  In the bathroom of a La Quinta in Tallahasse, Florida, I had a breakthrough moment with my boy that has raised me up off my face and onto my feet which are now firmly beneath me for the first time since my beautiful boy made his debut.

It was the end of a lovely day.  Boyo, Daddyo, Puppyo and I drove up to Tally to support Daddyo as he presented some new research at a regional conference for the Society of Music Nerds being held at his beloved Institute of Higher Learning and Championship Footballing. (Go IHLCF!) Daddyo’s presentation was a success, it had been a beautifully clear and chilly day, and Boyo had been a sweet mood all day.  We were just walking back into the hotel after dinner when I realized – OMG! – the SAG Awards were on!  The SAGs are always on cable and we don’t have cable, so I was stoked to indulge in the luxury (ah yes, the legendary luxury of a La Quinta) of our weekend home.

This may seem like an insignificant detail, but it’s not, so bear with me.  When I tuned in to the broadcast, they were showing a clip of The Butler.  A mouthy teenage boy made some quip about his father being “just a butler.” And here comes Oprah. (Of course Oprah had a hand in my big epiphany.  Of course she did.) She smacks her son in his smart-alecky mouth and says something like, “Everything you are and everything you have you got from that butler.”  Okay, so that line was kinda rattling around in my head.

While Daddyo was getting some things out of the car, I started to tackle the question of how the eff you get a baby to go to sleep in a hotel room.  I decided to tuck the crib into the darkened little vestibule of the bathroom and hope that the relative dark and not being in direct line of sight would help Boyo drift off.  Like bloody hell.  What started with a whimper was a full on air-raid siren in just a few short minutes.

I went to him.  At this point he was snotty-nosed and splotchy-faced and doing that rattly whine that makes me want to run away.  I picked him up and held him against me as usual, but the words that came out of my mouth weren’t the usual, “There, there, Mommy’s here” or “sssshhhh” or the opening bars of blazillionth encore of “Grand Ol’ Flag.” I just spoke to him like a person, like someone I know, like a friend who is melting down and needs some talking off the ledge.  I said, “I know, bud.  We screwed with your schedule, and you’re upset.  I get it.  It’s okay.”  And “I don’t blame you, I’d be pissed if someone tried to make me sleep in the bathroom, too.”  As I talked in this real way to Boyo, he began to relax and soon he had melted into me, still sniffly, but calm.  I caught a glimpse of us in the mirror, this big, bright boy in his footie pjs poured over my shoulder like Hershey’s syrup on a sundae. A wave of emotion, slow and steady like unerupted lava, swelled up from my chest, tightening my throat and flushing my cheeks.  When this glowing orange surge of emotion reached my brain, a stark, crystalline clarity exploded, fully formed:

This boy is mine, of me and by me.

Everything he is, everything he has, everything he thinks and feels and does, comes from me.*  That won’t always be the case, but it is right now.  He’s not just a baby, he’s my baby.  He’s not just part of a family, he’s a part of my family.  And if there is one thing I know how to do, it’s teach someone how to be a part of my family.  Suddenly, the cold, wet balustrade of fear, guilt, judgement, and paralysis began to crumble. The ever-present internal whispers of “What the fuck am I doing” and “This was a mistake, I can’t do this”  were silenced.  All of a sudden, my quickening heartbeat began to tap out, “OMG, I know how to do this.  I can absolutely do this!”  This kid is one of us, Team Us, for better or worse, and I happen to be one of the founding members of Team Us!  I have written the book on what it means to be Team Us which means that in order to make all of the decisions that are to come — the good and the bad, the brilliant and the poorly thought out, the “Fuckin’ A” yesses and the “Oh hell” nos, the solid and the shaky, the right and the wrong — all I will ever need to make those decisions is my own intuition and the opinions and suggestions of those I choose to advise me.

In this flash of clarity, all of the extremely frustrating and diametrically opposed opinions of experts and lactivists and concerned parents and warrior moms and share-happy Facebook friends which I have allowed to torture me into paralysis just shrunk and shriveled and were ground into dust by the millstone of my instantly formed and entirely new confidence.

Team You might think that it’s abhorrently neglectful to allow your baby to cry-it-out.  But here on Team Us, we sometimes need time to be upset in order to figure out how to calm down.  Team You might bend over backwards to do whatever it takes to have a chance at a VBAC, but if and when our family is ever blessed with another little soul, you’ll find Team Us in our scheduled vagina-free C-Section.  Maybe Team You believes that television rots the brain and that there is no greater harm you can do a child than to allow him time in front of it.  I don’t understand that, but I don’t have to.  I’m not the captain of Team You.  I don’t know how to raise a You, so I will leave that in your very capable hands.  I’ve got my own team to lead and I can’t do that properly if I’m all wrapped up in how you would do it.  As that thought settled into my open and eager heart, and as I wept sloppily and happily all over Boyo’s head, I whispered wetly, “In our family, no one ever has to go to bed when the SAG Awards are on.”

When Daddyo came in and saw this blubbery joyful tableau, I explained as best I could what was happening.  We marveled together at the completeness of this shift in perspective and of the instantaneous clarity that it brought to me.  We spoke out loud of our gratitude for this day, this moment, each other, and our plenty.  We speculated on how my epiphany would affect us all in the days, weeks, months to come.  Daddyo said, “Well, at the very least, things will be different.  And lately, for us, ‘different’ has meant ‘better.'”

And so Team Us stayed up past our bedtimes and watched TV and laughed and talked  and snuggled and eventually fell asleep, all together in the luxurious La Quinta king sized bed.

When the next day dawned, everything was different.

Everything was better.

Completely!  (And finally!  Sheesh!)

Completely! (And finally! Sheesh!)

* This moment happened to me and so I am telling it from that perspective, but I do not mean to imply that I am the only parent on Team Us.  My husband is the most wonderful, supportive, in-the-trenches partner and I am blessed down to my bones to call him mine.  All of my success as a mother is due, in part, to the unconditional love, support, faith, and most importantly, participation of my husband.

From Me on a Good Day to Me on a Bad Day (2nd edition)

Sweet bleeding Jesus, girl, you have had a rough stretch, haven’t you?  I am so sorry.  Life always has its hard times, but when they start to stack up the way they have, it can feel like the sturdy walls of your sanity are made of Jenga blocks and at any moment, your with-it-ness is going to come crashing down around your ears.

Well, I am standing here on the other side of those hard times and I want you to know that, as with all hard times, these too shall pass.  You’re going to get through it.  You are going to feel better, and soon.  Just breathe.

Right now, you are standing in the shower weeping because your beautiful boy has chewed your patience down to the quick.  He won’t stop making that sound, that grating, rattly, monotone whiiiiiiine that sets your teeth on edge and ignites a rage in your heart that scares you.  He screams his way through every diaper change making you fear that his stomach is in turmoil again, that his ears must bother him when he’s lying down, that the wipes must irritate his bum all of a sudden, that something must be wrong.  He only seems to want the things he can’t have (like your phone and the dog’s face and electricity) which makes you feel like all you ever do is bark “No!” at him.  Even though you know he is going through a developmental leap and that his mood and behavior, while hellacious, are normal, you can’t stop thinking about running away.

Guess what.  You won’t.  And very, very soon, you’ll stop thinking that you have to.  In fact,  your boy is about to come through this exceedingly taxing leap and once he does, he’s going to be the sweetest, funniest, most interesting, most engaged and engaging, fun-to-be-around kid that he has ever been!  He’s about to enter what will be your favorite phase of his little life so far!  He will put blocks in a little saucepan and will stir them around with his fingers and it will be the funniest thing he’s ever seen.  He will make toot sounds on the vinyl ottoman or your shoulder (what your family calls a sproggle and what the Cosbys called a zerbbit) and he will think it is the funniest thing since the blocks in the saucepan and the sound of his pealing laughter will ignite a joy in your heart that will soothe you.  This fantastic little boy is on his way to you.  Just hang in there.  And breathe.

Right now, you are reeling from a crippling lack of confidence.  Yet another parent has just posted something on Facebook trumpeting his parenting practice as the only way to raise a healthy kid and you don’t practice what he practices, so you must be doing irreparable damage to yours.  Right now, you are feeling so inadequate that you are forgetting that just because someone declares something dogma doesn’t make it so. It’s just something that happened to work for someone else’s baby.  You are too buried under emotional exhaustion to remember that there are only two experts on raising your boy and that friend on Facebook is not one of them.  Right now, you don’t believe in yourself, so every move you make feels like a mistake, and every pair of eyes in the world look savagely red with with condemnation.  Right now, you can’t remember why you wanted to be a mother.  Right now, you don’t want to be one anymore.

Guess what. The intensity of those feelings will begin to fade soon.  You’re going to have a nice exchange with that friend on Facebook and you are going to remember that pronouncements and conversations are very different things and that every single thing on Facebook needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  You are going to start turning down the volume on Little Voice, that wretched bitchy internal monologue, and start listening to your kinder, gentler self.  You are going to remember that you are doing the best you can and that your best is pretty damn stellar.  You are going to remember that some days are total shit, and you have to just wash your hands of them and start fresh in the morning.  You are going to remember that kids are resilient and that even though there is no escaping fucking him up, Boyo is a good baby and will be a good kid and a good man because you are a good woman and a good mother.  Most importantly, you will remember that the very fact that you are tormented by these demons of doubt means that you care about doing things right and that care alone makes you, at the very least, a good enough mother.  And some days, most days even, good enough is plenty.   You may not believe me now, but you will.  Breathe.

Right now, you feel victimized by your emotions.  You would describe it as though you are being held hostage by your feelings.  You have feelings about your feelings and thoughts about your feelings and feelings about your thoughts, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.  You feel immobilized by emotion, as though its intensity has become flesh and is pinning you down with its hulking weight.  Your paralysis terrifies you.

Guess what.  Very soon, your best friend in the whole world is going to tell you that he’s never heard you sound so low and it scares him.  You are going to sit on a bench in the middle of an outdoor shopping center on a beautiful day and you are going to call him and you are going to cry your face off and you are going to hear yourself put your feelings into words and you are going to realize that this is more than sadness, more than just feeling blue.  You are going to realize that you need help.  And you know what?  You are going to get it.  Right then and there, you are going to crack a joke about the appropriateness of having an mid-thirties existential crisis in front of a Talbots and you are going to get up, go home, and find out what kind of mental health benefits are covered by your insurance.  You are going to pick a therapist because she has the same name as a character on Seinfeld because reading user reviews of therapists is ridiculous and you are going to call her and leave her an embarrassingly weepy, rambling message.  And she is going to call you back and when you apologize for sounding like a crazy person she is going to say, “You just sound like someone who is hurting asking for help.”  And you will believe her, because she’s right.

And after the very first session, you are going to feel better.

You are going to feel better.

Very soon, you are going to feel better.

Breathe.

 

 

 

 

Guest Post: A Cycle Broken, A Life Redeemed

S is a friend of mine from high school.  She is a business owner and a mother of two boys.  This is her truth.

Sometimes the reality of my new life slaps me in the face like the midnight autumn air currently engulfing my city.  The breeze is a rarity in this part of the world; with the windows open I stare back at the blackness and it stirs my soul, bringing a smile to my face.

This is not a moment of sorrow—it’s a wakeup call—a chance to remember that God in His sweet grace makes all things new.

On paper my life looks like this: I am a divorced, single mother of two biracial boys, one of  whom is adopted, who owns a newly launched business that requires my full dedication.

Immediately following my divorce I was determined to be a strong, independent single mother and prove to the world that I was better than my tainted marriage. I sought the redemption I craved in financial success, but I crumbled under the pressure of trying to prove I was good enough. Praise God that in His mercy He rescued me from myself. He used years of infidelity and divorce to meticulously level my eyes to see Him again.

Of course, it wasn’t that easy.

THE LIFE MARATHON

Just a few years ago, a light mist fell over San Francisco as my best friend and I completed the 13th mile of our first half-marathon. T was fiercely battling Stage 4 blood cancer and was a keynote speaker at the Nike Women’s Marathon. For months, we trained for that day and in the final stretch of the race, tears flowed down our faces as we victoriously raised our arms in celebration!

It was a storybook ending, a moment when impending death collides with life, and the memory is forever etched in our hearts. Next to having children, it was one of my greatest life accomplishments yet, to finish something I had not even imagined doing four months prior or ever in my wildest imagination!

After the tears, hugs and photos, I reached for my phone and dialed the one person I desired to talk to the most—my husband.

By now, the rain mixed with sweat caused me to shiver, but utter joy and adrenaline pumped through my veins. I huddled under blankets and when I reached my husband he quickly answered.

Except—all I heard was crickets.

No “Great job!”  No “I’m so proud!”  No “Your hard work paid off!”  NOTHING!  I was devastated, but this feeling was not unfamiliar.  In fact, I knew it all too well.

Ok, in his defense I was states away, he was caring for our boys alone, he was overwhelmed and maybe even jealous that I was on a “girls trip” with my best friend as we completed a huge task on her bucket list together as she fought stage 4 cancer.  But Crickets, really?! I let it pass as I did so many times before.

It couldn’t have been more devastating, but it had always been this way.  From the day I met him I knew it. I knew in my heart before I ever married him.  I fought it.  I denied it. I rationalized and made excuses. I saw his pattern and choices, but all I could feel was my deep, consuming insecurity.  Seeing through the haze of my past pain, hurt, and abuse, I thought he was the best I could ever find.  I couldn’t let him go.  I would never find any man who would ever love me, accept me, and make a life with me.  So I married him.

I was still running on adrenaline from the race in San Francisco when I returned home and immediately partnered with Living Water International so I could raise money and have the opportunity to run the half Marathon in January 2011. The race is usually a lottery so raising money was my only opportunity to run.  I was determined to run that race! Fast forward to actually doing hardcore training this time, busting it in my sales career to earn a sales incentive trip for less than 100 sales consultants nationwide, all the while striving to be Supermom and Superwife every day.  I wanted it all for my family, my boys, and my husband, but it was never enough for my husband.  While I was trying to create the “all-American” family, he had other plans including years of unemployment, habitual betrayal and adultery, and habits I never imagined as a 5 year old girl dreaming of my prince charming and the sweet family that would be my future.

On the day of the race, my parents were cheering me on loud and clear at mile 4 or 5, and  I was thrilled.  My cousin ran every step of the way with me and I couldn’t have finished it without her.  I crossed the finish line and was literally running the last steps as fast as possible to see the faces of my sweet 3 and 6 year old boys and my husband…but they were nowhere to be found. Again, crickets.  Waiting to get to my belongings and ultimately my phone, felt like centuries.  Where were they? What could have stopped them from being there to give me a high five and a hug after I crossed that finish line? I wanted so much to share my celebration with them.  Devastated, in tears, and wanting to run away from life as fast as I could, I heard my husband over the phone say that he couldn’t find a parking spot close enough so he took our boys out to breakfast instead. Breakfast. Eggs. OJ. Denny’s. What?! Not meeting me as I finished my 2nd half marathon in our city, with absolutely nothing stopping him from being there with our boys to celebrate one of the biggest achievements of my life? To show those boys what can be accomplished with hard work and to see how amazing it feels?? NO. Nothing. No remorse, no sympathy. Nothing. Just couldn’t find a close enough parking spot.

That was THE moment.  That was it.  I knew in my heart I couldn’t do it anymore.  I knew I was enough.  After years of making excuses for him, rationalizing with myself and burying the pain of the adultery, the laziness, and the lies, I was done. I promised myself years ago that I wouldn’t allow my boys to learn and make the same decisions as their father.  They had already realized Dad was out at night and then not at home in the morning. They had already realized he spent his days on the couch not working.  But that fateful day of the race…that was the day.  What could have been an unbelievable memory for all of us became a heartbreaking memory for me and no memory for my boys at all.

DESPERATE FOR A CHANGE

So back to that cool, crisp breeze on my skin as I finished my workload for the day.  We have a new life, a refreshing, crisp life. We are genuinely happy and although it is not perfect by any means I appreciate every day, every opportunity, and every chance we have to grow.  My soul shines bright, my smile is finally genuine and I know I made a step in the right direction to break the cycle… the cycle I swore I would never enter into and he promised would never be a part of our lives. The cycle that taints families all over the world. The cycle that turns a happy newlywed, into a broken mother and eventually a bitter, angry empty nester.  I took a stand for myself and my boys.

The last few years have been difficult and life changing for us with a new neighborhood, a new house, a new school, a new church, new car, new furniture, new friends and everything else new that comes with a divorce and starting a new life, BUT I know in my heart that one day my boys will appreciate it and realize that their mama stood up for herself and ultimately for them. I broke the cycle.

It is my hope that I broke a cycle of choices and patterns that I never wanted my boys to learn or even be exposed to. It is my hope that the broken cycle will allow them to love deeper, discern smarter, and see past the destruction of divorce and to the true love that life has to offer.  Life can be redeemed and our life has been redeemed… beyond anything than I could have ever imagined. We have new friends that love us like family, and I own a business that allows me to work from home and catch every memory.

For that I am forever grateful.

Tip of the hat to you, my friend.  You are stronger than you know.

Tip of the hat to you, my friend. You are stronger than you know.

 

Parenting in Action: Accidental Parenting

Sometimes, the greatest discoveries happen at the hands of completely accidental ineptitude. Alexander Fleming was basically a brilliant slob who discovered penicillin because his petri dishes were dirty.  Thanks, pig! Christopher Columbus brought about the European colonization of the Americas (for better or worse) by totally cocking up an exploratory voyage to Asia.  Good for you, bonehead!  And then there’s Daddyo and me, who finally made and implemented a decision on how to night wean our boy by forgetting to turn the baby monitor on. Well done, morons!

Boyo is nine months old  and until three weeks ago, was still waking up multiple times in the night.  Daddyo and I took turns going to soothe him, trying not to pick him up, trying to stick to a 60 second lullaby or shushing and a couple of thumps on the back (something I’m glad I don’t have to do in front of anyone, because truly, my boy likes a good, solid, are-you-sure-about-this thump.  A gentle pat simply won’t do.)  Good intentions must thrive on sunlight, because in the middle of the night, resolve dissolves into a desperation to do whatever it takes to just get back to sleep.  Having made the decision that our bed is ours and his bed is his, we never bring the baby in to sleep with us, but more than a few nights were spent on the couch or in the guest bed, just trying to rustle up a few more zzz’s for everyone.  Nighttime can be brutal.

My friend CE, whose son is almost exactly a year older than Boyo, told me once that it is her belief that every single challenge of early parenting has its roots in sleep deprivation.  I think she’s right.  It really is the insidious source of the woeful whitewaters of new parenthood that we are all navigating, trying desperately to keep our little craft upright.  Not having enough sleep shortens fuses, sucks energy, and dims the light of hope that hard days won’t turn into hard weeks and months and lives.  Sleep is the great equalizer and without enough of it, the delicate internal balance that new parenthood requires is incredibly elusive, turning even the most confident mother into a blithering, blubbering bewildered mess.  Nine months of doing the best we could without the most important tool in our arsenal was quite enough.  Daddyo and I decided we would have to book a padded room in the local nuthouse or else we had to take back the night.

As a first step in Operation Take Back the Night, we did some basic research into sleep training methods.  We read about progressive waiting and rapid extinction and were leaning towards progressive waiting, because to be totally honest, we just couldn’t wrap our heads around simply putting Boyo to bed and not going back in until morning.  (Plus, seriously?  It’s called rapid extinction??  Come on.)  So, okay, we had a rough plan and a weekend picked out to put it into action.  Go us!

Yeah, go us.  Friday morning dawned and at the first flutter of my heavy eyelids, I realized our bedroom was far too bright considering it was the first time I had tasted consciousness since passing out the night before.  The clock read 5:05.  I jumped.

Daddyo: [sleepily] You okay?

Me:  It’s 5:05.  Did you get up with the baby in the night?

Daddyo:  Um, no.  Did you?

Me:  No.

Daddyo:  Huh.

Me:  Yeah.

[A pause while we considered whether it was too early to dance a jig of glee.]

Me:  We better go see if he’s alive.

He was!  Alive and still asleep.  A miracle!  Our boy had slept through the night on his own just a single day before we were to implement Operation Take Back the Night.  Just as we began to clap each other on the back for having such a brilliant baby, we realized we hadn’t turned on the monitor in our room before we fell asleep.  We had accidentally employed rapid extinction and left Boyo to work out his nighttime issues on his own.  And apparently, he had.  Knowing that the method of sleep training is not as important as committing to it once it is employed, we scrapped the progressive waiting plan and focused our energy on allowing Boyo the time and solitude to soothe himself back to sleep.  We did that by keeping the monitor off and putting our faith in the universe that our boy would be safe and rested when we woke.  Instead of a weekend of slogging through the nighttime doubting of daytime intentions, we slept, greedily and solidly and without incident.

That was three weeks ago.  We haven’t turned the monitor on at night since and I have slept more in this time than I have in over a year.  I drank in great gulps of sleep, going to bed earlier and earlier until I finally said to myself, “If you go to bed before 7:30 again, the Retirement Police are gonna knock on your door and drag you off to Shady Acres.”  I couldn’t get enough and I was surprised to find that even with all that extra sleep, I still wasn’t waking as refreshed or feeling as though I had slept enough.  I suppose when you are as deep in a sleepless hole as a new mother is, it takes a while to climb back out of it.

Our accidental parenting victory was not without its emotional fallout, however.  I had some pretty serious guilt to sit with and sift through.  I had a hard time not knowing what kind of night Boyo was having, imagining him spending tearful hours wondering why his mother had abandoned him, alone and in the dark while she selfishly and carelessly slept. Even in the face of a parenting victory, I felt like a failure.  And worse than that, I felt like a cruel and selfish mother.  Even when my dutiful head tried to talk some sense into my discomfited heart, it couldn’t find words powerful enough to break the spell of guilt.    Once my guilty heart started to interfere with my newfound sleep, I reached out. My girlfriend KUD (who along with a handful of other mother friends are partially responsible for my still being sane and Boyo still being alive) talked me off the ledge, reminding me that although no mother is perfect, I am the perfect mother for my child.  No one else could mother Boyo better than I because he is mine and I am his.  What works for me is what works for him. Her reassurances helped me realize that I am simply putting my own oxygen mask on first, and as I have committed to doing just that for the entirety of my motherhood, I let go of the guilt.

Boyo sleeps for close to twelve hours now, and Daddyo and I sleep close to eight.  My guilt has receded, my patience is restoring, and my energy is waxing like a harvest moon.  We took back the night and we are flourishing.  All of us.  Sometimes, even we new parents get it right.

Even if it’s completely accidental.

Sometimes, the key to feeling successful is nice, low expectations. :-)

Sometimes, the key to feeling successful is nice, low expectations. 🙂