Mom Stays in the Picture

She’s mean.  Sometimes, she’s super-crazy mean.  She can cut you to the quick and devastate your feelings in a heartbeat.  She can take your deepest secrets or your darkest fears and force them to swim up into the very forefront of your consciousness.  If left to her own devices, she can make you feel utterly, ruthlessly worthless.  If it were anyone else, you’d have washed your hands clean of her long ago and good riddance, too.

She’s the Little Voice Inside Your Head.  And she can be a bitch on wheels.

Maybe your Little Voice says you’re boring or ugly or strange or ungraceful.  Maybe she calls you stupid or thinks you’re too short or too tall or makes fun of your acne or thinks you have a mustache or weird boobs.

When my Little Voice gets loud, she calls me fat.

I’ve always been chubby.  I took to food as comfort at a very young age.  Childhood trauma taught me that in world that was sometimes inexplicably cruel, the constancy of chocolate’s deliciousness (for example) was incredibly soothing. Thus was born the emotional-eating monkey that would cling to my back for the rest of my life.

One of Little Voice’s favorite and most fecund stomping ground is in photographs.  How many times have I seen a picture of myself and heard Little Voice scream, “Look how fat you are!  Double chin!  Flabby arms!  Thunder thighs! You’re so groooooooooooss!!” This is probably the reason why I became such avid picture taker.  I don’t have to be in the picture if I’m the one taking it.  This has been a pattern for my entire life.  See a picture that makes Little Voice kvetch?  Just tear it up (I’m dating myself here) or delete it.  Feeling particularly large on a given day?  Avoid the camera completely.  Stand in the back.  Make sure you’re at a lower angle than the lens, don’t get shot from behind.  I know all the rules. And I adhere to them like they are commandments.

Then I had a baby.  Now I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been and things are…um…droopy in a way they never were before.  Now I’ve got perma-circles under my eyes and my hair is rarely clean, let alone brushed.  My clothes are always covered in barf.  And did I mention that I’m the chunkiest I’ve ever been? Besides which, I’ve got the cutest baby in the entire world, so why bother even being in pictures when I’ve got such a beautiful subject and Little Voice doesn’t get mean about him?

And then it occurred to me.  In giving Little Voice the microphone, I am at risk of digitally deleting myself from the documentation of my son’s childhood.

LIGHTBULB!

When he looks through the pictures of this time, I want my boy to know that I was there.  I want him to look back at the pictures of his childhood and say, “There’s Mommy!” not “Where’s Mommy?” I want him to know how much time we spent together, that I took him on walks and tickled his toes and fed the ducks and read Brown Bear a hundred thousand times and sat under big beautiful trees and marveled at the beauty of autumn.  I want him to have photographic evidence of his homemade baby food, his ridiculously adorable outfits, his penchant for slobbery, double-handed face mushes.  I want him to leaf through photos of times he was too young to remember and realize that for his entire childhood, I was never far from him.  I was there, I took part, I was vitally present and involved in this very important time.

If I kowtow to Little Voice, then I risk losing all of that.  Plus, if I let Little Voice do the decision making, then I run the risk of teaching my son that a woman who could stand to lose a few isn’t worthy of attention, respect, or love.  If I don’t actively and demonstratively love myself, just as I am, then I am setting a dangerous example for him follow.  I want my son to love and respect himself, just as he is.  And I want him to love and respect women, just as they are.  I can hardly expect that of him when I don’t expect that of myself.

So, shut your face, Little Voice.  My son doesn’t care what I look like.  My son cares what I smell like.  He doesn’t care if I have a double chin, he nuzzles his face right in it.  He doesn’t think my curves are too curvy.  He thinks they make for the comfiest snuggle spot in all the land.  I think I’ll hand the mic over to him for a spell.  I could learn a thing or two.

 

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm.  Little Voice is so blind!  Look at that fucking kid!  And the look on my face says, "I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such."

All Little Voice can see in this picture is enormous face, double chin, gross upper arm. Little Voice is so blind! Look at that fucking kid! And the look on my face says, “I am so proud of myself for producing the cutest kid on the planet and for dressing him as such.”

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too.  But it was Boyo's first swim ever!  I don't want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

Little Voice has a thing or two to say about this pic, too. But it was Boyo’s first swim ever! I don’t want to be absent from moments like these just because Little Voice is a raging bitch!

 

 

 

 

 

Just Wait, a Revelation.

I started this post as kind of a vent about something that bothers me very much.  But then I had a revelation, a brilliant gift from my brain to my heart and it’s helped me reframe the way I interpret that very bothersome thing.

Here’s the vent part:

I rarely use the word “hate.”  I tend to go for the understatement-to-prove-a-point option of “do not enjoy.”  With the proper placement of punctuation you can really drive it home.  “I do NOT. Enjoy. Rachael Ray. One. Bit.”  And, since I rarely use “hate,” reserving it for things I really, seriously can’t stand makes my point quite nicely.

As in…

I hate static shock. (Nothing lets loose the expletives like seeing the spark jump from the light switch to my fingertip.  Nothing.)

I hate being tickled. (The only thing that makes me violent.  I’ll punch.  I’ll kick.  I’ll draw blood.  And I won’t be sorry.)

I hate opening packaging.  (It’s just hummus.  Why is it so goddamned hard to get into a tub of hummus? )

And I hate when people say, “Just wait.”

Man, that one really irks my liver.  When I was newly pregnant, it was “Just wait til you’re nine months.  You’ve never been so uncomfortable.”  When I was nine months pregnant it was, “Just wait ’til he’s here.  Better get your sleep now.”  When he was born it was, “You think you get no sleep now? Just wait ’til he’s teething.”  It is an endless pattern and NO ONE seems to understand how infuriating it is.  It’s just the most unhelpful thing in the world especially if it’s response to being upset.  Telling me to “just wait” for something worse that’s coming down the pike not only doesn’t help me feel better now, but it completely dismisses my present feelings as insignificant, AND paints an even darker picture about what’s to come.  It’s also terribly condescending and assumptive.  Every kid and every parent is different so what makes you so goddamn sure that my experience will be just like yours? Not to mention the very simple fact that I don’t need a reminder to wait for the future.  WE ARE ALL JUST WAITING FOR THE FUTURE!  That state of being is called the present. Why the hell do people do this?!

Then came the revelation:

When two different beloved family members gave me the “Just wait, you’ll see, you’ll feel differently” recently, I was flooded with white hot anger so quickly, it scared me.  I wanted to scream, “But I’m not writing about how I’ll feel in the future, I’m documenting my present, the here and now, and THIS is how I feel right here, right now. DON’T DISMISS ME!”

But then I actually started to think about why people do this….

What are they really saying? I have lovely friends and family who support me and root for me and want me to be happy and successful.  And still, they say it.  So it mustn’t come from a place of hostility.  Maybe it comes from a place of reminiscence.

My present is their past.  Maybe they’re not commenting on my present.  Maybe they’re reminiscing about their own past.  It’s been a long time since they had a six month old baby.  Maybe it’s hard for them to take my difficulties seriously because the soothing salve of perspective and time has worked its magic and healed their wounds from Battlefield Baby.  Maybe advice, unsolicited advice in particular, is really just nostalgia.  Maybe when they say “Just wait,” what they are really saying is, “I miss my baby.”

LIGHTBULB!  Now I have the framework to transform something that makes me very angry into an opportunity to let someone I love (or like, or tolerate, or am standing next to in the produce section) tell me something about themselves.

So when my boy starts to crawl and someone inevitably says to me, “Just wait ’til he’s walking,” I hope I don’t get angry.  I hope I can give them the gift of talking about their journey instead of feeling like I have to defend mine.  I’m going to ask, “When did your child start to walk?  Tell me about your experience.”

And then, if I ever get this fucking thing open, I’m gonna have some hummus.

 

Just wait. Someday you'll say, "Hey, I know that guy!  I watched him grow up on The Truth About Babies."

Just wait. Someday you’ll say, “Hey, I know that guy! I watched him grow up on The Truth About Babies.”