Tag Archives: relationship with my daughter

Real Mom Talk– What I Think vs. What I Actually Say and How it Enables Toxic Masculinity

Standard

Emily is in first grade now and the mean girl club has started with a vengeance. This has been a seriously rude awakening for both of us. For whatever lucky ducky reasons, my son (who is four years older and five grades ahead of Em), did not go through social crap in the same toxic, manipulative ways my seven year old daughter is already navigating with her peers.

Emily is a sensitive and empathic child, which makes the whole issue all the more heartbreaking. I’ve addressed it with parents, her teacher, and the principal and we’ve come up with some supportive ways to help Em cope with the stress of being a sweet little lamb in a lion’s den.

This week she went back to school after the holiday recess, and happily applied herself to her studies. She loves to read and is thrilled by participating in art. This morning, as I was in the bathroom getting ready for work, she approached me.

“Mama, when you go up to dress, can we have a talk?”

“Of course. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I just need to do some talking about my feelings.” She said with a serious little face.

So, here’s another difference between Em and Jack. Both of them have the same goopy, social worker mom, but my son rarely willingly divulges his emotional space to me. Em on the other hand is all about the deep, emotional bonding.

As I pulled myself into my undies and leggings I asked her what was up. She disclosed to me that after school, when she was playing in the school yard, under the watchful eye of her babysitter, one kid had stolen her hat off her head and her special new toy, and run off with them,  and threw them over a fence.

She told me this calmly and clearly as if recounting the forensics of a crime scene.

My heart sped up and it was all I could do to keep the steam inside my head. I hugged her. Her glossy curls brushed against my cheek and I felt the little bones of her back under my hands.  We talked about how it made her feel and how she solved the problem and what she thought we should do next.

Then she wanted to play on the iPad.

She moved on, but I didn’t. I couldn’t.

I was pissed.

Had it been an isolated incident, maybe I could have let it go a little easier, but dude, I’ve been dealing with this social crap for the past four months now and I don’t understand why it isn’t getting any easier. It also seemed to suck and confound me because the bully this time had been an older boy.

So, at pickup, I approached the kid’s mom and mentioned to her that her son (who is four years older than my first grader) had been physically aggressive to my daughter. I let her know that Em is just super sensitive right now and I’m trying to keep tabs on things, and I knew her kid probably didn’t mean to hurt her hat, toy, body, or feelings, but that was the end result. I told her directly, but politely.

She told me it was inappropriate to mention it in front of her son and that she would talk to him and get back to me…….

Here’s what I REALLY wanted to say, “Heya bitch face, tell your poorly socialized excuse for a spawn to keep his grimy paws off my precious little baby and while you’re at it, maybe you want to have a convo with him about consent and how to treat women because clearly you are training him to be an abusive little shit! Boys will be boys after all!”

I didn’t tell her that at all. I smiled and thanked her for her time and then I went and privately had an anxiety attack that I had confronted this woman who was clearly pissed with me and didn’t have a grasp on where I was coming from.

TBH, I’m pretty much still shaking, even after texting and talking to several friends who validated that I was advocating for my daughter and did the right thing.

It is hard to address these issues with other moms. I appreciate that. Furthermore, I get that the other mom was also advocating for and protecting her son, but oh man, in this day and age, maybe we all wanna double down on those discussions with our sons about respecting the physical space of female bodies and set some good examples for future generations.

IDK. It got me thinking about all the things I sorta wanna say as a mom, but don’t.

Smile and nod. Smile and nod. . .

When does my politeness become complicit? When do I actually enable the abuse of my daughter on the playground by saying what is polite instead of saying what I really mean and feel?

What do you think?

Butts and Privates in Art, or, the Joy of Visiting a Museum With My Child

Standard

Over the weekend, I took my six year old daughter to the Museum of Fine Art. She wanted to go on a mother/daughter outing and who was I to argue when she suggested one of my happy places.

I allowed her to lead me through the galleries. She pulled me along at just under breakneck speed, and I surrendered to the experience of viewing the museum from her perspective.

Paintings and photographs swirled past us, everything melding into a sort of impressionistic blur.

Every once in a while she would stop to admire something.  A portrait of a baby.  A painting of a sunset.  A sculpture of a dog.

We found ourselves in a replica of a 14th century chapel. My child stopped short and gasped at the enormous cross on the wall, and the strange sensation of being in a small room of its own within the giant museum.

We are not religious people and my kids have almost never been to church. But my daughter has a weird fascination with Jesus, maybe because he’s like a celebrity baby and she loves babies. Anyway, there was a serene and sacred vibe in the chapel. We whispered to one another to look at this and look at that.

There were some relics in a glass case. My daughter pointed to a small statue of the Virgin Mary nursing baby Jesus. “Look Mama!”

It was indeed a sweet little artifact and we spent a moment admiring the tenderness of the mother and child bond.  I snapped a pic with my phone at Emily’s command.  As we wandered through the rest of that particular gallery, I noticed several portraits of the Blessed Mother nursing Jesus.  I pointed these out to Emily who found them charming.  She also enjoyed the bare butts.  In one, Jesus was full frontal and she gasped, “OMG Mama, I just saw the private!”

“Yes, Dear,” I said indulgently.  “There are a lot of butts and privates in art. It’s sort of a thing.” So for the rest of our visit, she pointed and laughed at butts and privates.  I felt like I had sort of done my part at educating her on art, reinforcing the normalcy of breastfeeding in everyday culture, and joyfully normalizing all different body types (including their privates) without any shame.

Either that or I was totally irreverent and set a really bad example.

Could go either way I suppose.

As we got into the car to drive home, I asked Em if she had a good day.  “Oh Mama, it was the best day ever,” she replied.  I was somewhat surprised that our little jaunt to an art museum was her best day ever, but that’s cool.

I asked her what she had learned about art.  “I learned that there are lots of butts and privates in art,” she stated.  Gotta hand it to my kid, she pays attention.  I guess our next lesson will be about the reasons behind all the nudity in art (pun intended).

My Boobs Are Sad

Standard

A while back, I mused about what would become of my breasts  when I was done nursing my youngest of my two children, Emily.

Emily weaned completely about six months ago, shortly after her fourth birthday.

I had written so many posts about how we were “almost there” with our weaning, that I haven’t really bothered to write anything about the fact that we actually did “get there.”

Weaning had been a very long process for us that took close to two years, as Emily slowed her nursing sessions to twice per day, and then only to once per day either in the morning or before bed.

I had wanted weaning to be a gradual and mutual decision.  I didn’t want it to be traumatic for either of us.  The beginning of my nursing relationship with Emily had been very traumatic as I suffered extreme nipple damage and had to really fight to keep my supply and the nursing relationship between my baby and myself.

Initially, I felt robbed of the “perfect” nursing experience with my daughter.  I’d had tons of struggles and antenatal depression with my first child, and had ended up needing to supplement with formula with him.

Although I am beyond thankful that all was well that ended well with my son, when I was pregnant with Em, I was really committed to the idea of exclusively nursing.  I felt certain that I had been better educated on breastfeeding due to the trial and error with my son, and that everything would go off without a hitch.

My confidence was shattered shortly after Emily’s birth when my nipples became mangled as a result of her tongue tie.  For 11 weeks, I battled a nipple wound that would not heal.  Finally we got things sorted out, but my supply never got back to what it needed to be to be able to pump milk for her to have upon my return to my job at 12 weeks after her birth.

I took a huge amount of comfort in the fact that she continued to nurse whenever she was with me, and that she almost always refused the bottle at daycare and then would reverse cycle all night with me.  Sure I was tired, but I was thrilled that we were not having to supplement with very much formula, and that Emily was such a champion nurser.

Eventually, I accepted that while our relationship was not what I could label “perfect” from the get go, it ended up being pretty amazing and sweet.

And it endured much longer than I thought it would.

My son had weaned completely at 23 months.  Like I said, we’d had to supplement him with formula, but he continued to nurse first thing in the morning with me until one morning he woke up, asked for milk in a cup and that was that.

I don’t remember having any truly intense feelings related to this weaning.  Sure it was bittersweet, but it was not devastating in any way.  And as a first-time mom, I was thrilled I’d been able to milk it out to nearly two years (pun intended!).

I had figured Em would wean around the same time.  But she didn’t.  She turned two and then three and still loved her milky cuddles with mama.  Around the time she turned three, we started talking about what it would be like for her to not nurse anymore.  Long story longer, she went another whole year and was still occasionally nursing when she turned four.

Then she stopped.

It was so gradual.  It was almost unnoticeable.

To be honest with you, I don’t really think about it all that often.

Until I do think about it and then it is difficult to stop thinking about it.

A client came to my office with her toddler a while back.  The child grew fussy, and she surprised me by offering him her breast, which he eagerly took and settled right down.  It was absolutely the most natural and graceful thing to watch.  I told her how thrilled I was that she was nursing her toddler, but the image stayed with me throughout the day and into the night along with a feeling of deep sorrow.

It had been the first time I’d seen a mom nursing since I weaned Emily.

And this is going to sound crazy, but I felt an actual physical sensation in my breasts like I used to feel when my milk let down.  But it was different.  It was like the shadow of that let down sensation, and I felt bereft.  It was like my boobs actually felt sad.

When you are bonding and nursing with a new baby, your body creates oxytocin which is the chemical that signals the need to produce milk.  It also creates a drowsy, sweet, loving feeling between you and your baby, which for me also extended to the world at large.

So, when I saw this mom nursing, it was like I got a surge of oxytocin but there was no milk and no baby to nurse.  I went home and felt the need to give Emily and Jack extra cuddles.

I think about how I am no longer nursing at other weird times too.  Like when I went to the pharmacy and was browsing the antacids and realized that I could take alka-seltzer again.  It used to be my go-to remedy before pregnancy and nursing, but it has aspirin in it so you can’t use it during the aforementioned times.  So I purchased it with a mix of hey-this-is-awesome and hey-this-is-super-sad.

I’m bummed about weaning in a lot of ways.  It makes me sad to not have that connection with another human any longer.  It is a reminder that children grow so quickly and things change faster than you can ever imagine.  I also blame the ten pound weight gain on weaning, as well as some of my hormonal shifts and mood swings. . . although I realize those should be well regulated by now.

There is no going backwards in life.

And as I continue marching forward, I am having trouble trying to figure out what to do with these floppy appendages that seem to be a permanent DDD cup size now and give me back and neck pain.  They are like an accessory that has gone out of style, only I can’t pack them away into the back of my closet or toss them in the junk drawer.

Once upon a time, they were pert and pretty.  They attracted people and were objects of potential sexual pleasure.  Then I had kids and they became vehicles of nurturance and nutrition.

About a week after I had Jack, I developed a urinary tract infection and went to a doctor.  She was excited to hear that I was breastfeeding and shared that she had nursed her kids and it had been a great experience for her.

“But your breasts are ruined for sex forever,” She had mused.  “They become like these tube socks with golf balls at the end.”

Well. . .

I guess mine are more like balloons with permanently erect, frozen peas at the end, so her very lucid description was a bit off there.  But she was right about one thing–  my boobs are of no use for my sex life anymore.  There is a cognitive dissonance that these soft things that Emily still likes to pat and rub her face on could be used for anything other than bringing comfort to my babies.

So, I guess it is a blessing my husband is an ass man.  Anyway, I digress. . .

Six months after weaning Emily, and I am still wondering what will become of my breasts now that I am done nursing.  I’m trying to figure out how I feel about them, and what to do about the sense of sadness and loss.

At the end of the day I am very proud and content with the nursing relationships I had with both Emily and Jack.  They were conflicted and diverse, but they were filled with love. Even as my boobs feel sad that it isn’t something I’ll ever share again with another human, I am grateful for the experiences I did have breastfeeding.

What was your weaning experience like?  Did you experience any hormonal shifts or depression with weaning?  Talk to me in the comments below.  I love to hear from you!  And please feel free to share my post on social media, or with other nursing/weaning moms in your life.  xoxo and momaste!  

Can We Please Talk About What a Royal Mind F*&K Modern Motherhood Is?

Standard

  
Both my daughter’s daycare and my son’s elementary school send updates through email during the day.  It is a nice way of knowing what is going on with them while I’m at work.

I’ve spoken before about what an existential leap it is to drop my kids off in places and then drive off to another place and be away from them for about nine hours a day.

Actually, if I think about it too hard, the above sentence really screws with my brain.

So it doesn’t take much to kind of push the scale in favor of full blown anxiety attack when my kids are concerned.

Imagine my shock when I got the following email on my lunch break at work:

“Dear Parent:  Please be advised that our school was in Lock Down Mode, as ordered by the local police due to an incident in the area.  We were Lock Down for 30 minutes.  The police assured us that the incident was resolved and we are back to normal.”

The email was time stamped about 90 minutes earlier than when I read it.  Of course the last line indicated that everything was cool as Ice, Ice, Baby.  But the first line of the email had already sent my adrenaline into full-blown-flood-of-piping-hot-lava-panic-mode.

As I tail spun through the office, alerting all my coworkers that I was in the midst of a neurotic episode (and probably alerting some of the incoming clients that maybe they wanted to rethink their choice of counseling agency because the staff here was cray-zee), my eyes filled with tears. 

I longed to run out of the building and race to my baby boy, to hug him and validate that my worst fears had not come to pass.

Two of my coworkers hopped on the internet to see if they could find anything about what happened in my town.  There was nothing on the news.  I finally called the school (yeah, I get it; that should have been my first move, but when panic is in full swing, you don’t always make the logical choice first).  The school secretary assured me that all was well.

I sat back in my office chair and did some deep breathing, trying to calm my racing heart and mind.  As I did so, I checked my email again.

Up popped an update from my daughter’s preschool.  It let me know that they were petting the chicks that hatched in their class’ incubator last week and that they were making nests in art.

And that, my dear friends, is motherhood:  fluffy chicks and bomb threats.

It is a royal mind fuck, the likes of which I never could have predicted.

As a mom, you lose the right to wake up and know what to expect with your day.  You can either get the downy, yellow, baby critters, or you can get the sheer terror of knowing everything you treasure and hold sacred can be squashed like a bug at a moment’s notice.

Sometimes you get both at once, and hardly know where to look or focus because it is all just so confusing and cute and horrifying and your heart is bursting.

As a working mom, sometimes I send my children off to school sick or sad.  Sometimes I hug them with an annoyed huff because we have left the house late, or because they have forgotten something “important”.

Sometimes I leave them crying or cross with me.  Sometimes I kiss them goodbye and give them nary a thought until I join them at home, many hours later, for the chaos that is dinner/homework/bath/tv/stories/bedtime.

And then there are days like this where I ache every second to be together with my babies again, so I can wrap my arms around them, nuzzle their fuzzy heads, and thank the stars we have all made it back to one another safe and sound.

Hawk and Daughter

Standard

IMG_7500

Look, Mama, she said,
I think I see a hawk.
And just like that, the ducks,
who had been so happily nibbling
under our bird feeders,
disappeared to parts unknown.
The yard became quiet,
almost ominous,
as squirrels took to their dens.
Sparrows fled and even
bossy jays could not be found.

Her limbs have lengthened,
and I’m surprised when I look at her
and see her creamy flesh
stretched out over her frame, and hear
her voice sing my name, and I wish
this moment were a marble I could
pick up with irritation from the carpet,
and slip into my pocket.

Pwivacy– Or the Lack Thereof: My Ubiquitous Mommy-Blog Toilet Post

Standard

  
In the three-and-a-half years I have been blogging, I’ve managed to somewhat gracefully avoid what I like to call “the Mommy-Blog Toilet Post.”

You know the one, right?

Where the mom writes about how difficult life is, and that there is no longer any privacy and we all poop in front of an audience, or are being an audience for a tiny pooper?

Yeah.  You know the one.

I guess it is something of a right of passage.  A passage through which I am going to pass today (no pun intended).  Here it goes:

So I was sitting on the toilet one morning last week, and my daughter barged, stark-naked, into the bathroom.

She’s four, and has not yet mastered the fine art of knocking, or allowing people their privacy, or as she would say “pwivacy.”

“Hey, Emily!” I bellowed.  “Can I have a little privacy here?”

She stood there, considering my request.

She then began to shake her tiny tush at me like an agitated squirrel.

“I’ve got a yittle pwivacy for you!” She hollered as she giggled and wiggled her actual little privacy area at me.  Let the record reflect I laughed and she walked away shaking her booty and did not shut the door.

So there you have it folks.  My potty post.

It is nice to know I am in such good company.

Little Talks– Angels at Our Bedtime

Standard

  
At least once a day, Emily tells me she misses Doggy.

The other night she told me as she was nuzzling in my shoulder, preparing for sleep.

“I miss Doggy,” she whimpered.  Then she mimed petting the air in the space between us.  “But she’s right here.”

We are not a religious family.  We do not talk about or believe in God in the “traditional” sense.  But somehow, Jack figured out it would comfort Emily if he told her that Doggy was an angel, and was beside her at any time.

Emily snuggled back down into my arms.  “We can’t see her, though,” she said mournfully.

“No, Honey,” I acknowledged.  “But it’s kind of like love.  We can’t see love, but we know it is there.  Just like with Doggy.  Love doesn’t go away.”

“Do you know I can pray while I’m sleeping?”  Emily asked.

“Oh yeah?”

“Yes.  And tonight I’m gonna’ pray for our dog.  For Doggy.”  She stroked the air by my hip where she imagined Doggy to be.

“That’s nice, Honey,” I whispered into the dark.  “That’s a nice thing to do.”

I didn’t know if I should feel sad about this immense grief my daughter shares with me over losing out dog, or if I should feel proud she was handling it with such grace and dignity.

Emily fell asleep with her head on my shoulder moments later.

I laid there, anchored by the weight of her on me.  I had a list of stuff to do before putting myself to bed, but I stayed for a few minutes, listening to her breath, feeling her hard, solid skull pressing against my shoulder.

And in that moment, Doggy was there, wiggling in and sighing between us, filling us with love.

The Day the Dog Died

Standard

  
The day the dog died started like any other.

I’d only had my little beagle mix for two weeks, but my days had already taken on the shape of walking, feeding, petting, scolding, and picking up after her.

The kids adored her.

The night before she died, Emily was shrieking with glee watching the pup dance and bounce around the living room, full of friskiness.

You don’t wake up in the morning thinking, oh, this will be the day the dog bolts away from me and I never see her again.

It isn’t in your agenda that you’ll get a call from a neighbor, in response to your desperately scrawled “MISSING” flyer, letting you know your small dog was hit by a car, her car, and that she died instantly.

There are not really ways your brain can grasp that she was hit right around the corner from where you so desperately searched and called out until your voice shook with sobs.

And there isn’t really any good way to teach your brain to be content with the image of your dog flying away from you like a flash of lightening, as your final memory of her.

I’d chuckled when I read that beagles rated five out of five stars for “Wanderlust”.  They like to sniff.  They are stubborn.  When they get an idea in their noses, they just have to follow it.  I’d never let the kids hold onto her leash outside, because I knew she was high risk for taking off.

I actually got a kick out of her stubborn streak because she was so willful, but she was so easy to just pick up and redirect.

She was just a little dog.

Was.

Past tense.

I’d searched the neighborhood with my neighbor for an hour, trying to locate her.  Then I called the cops and put up flyers.  I was consoled by friends that “dogs run away all the time!”  “they always come home,” and “it’ll be fine.”

I went off to work figuring the cops or pound would call me and tell me they’d found the naughty girl and I would collect her and chide her.  I planned to hug her and pat her and tell her what a wicked little girl she was…

My neighbor and some utility people who were working right there when she was hit, collected her body, wrapped it and put it in a bin.  My neighbor put the bin in her yard and let me know I could come and get it.

A school bus driver stopped and stood vigil over my dog with neighbors I didn’t know.  These strangers stood and prayed and cried over my dog.  Then my neighbor carried the bin back to our street and put it on the side of her house.

I drove home from work.  It felt I’d never stop crying.  My neighbor had left to pick up her kids at school, so I found the bin in the side of her yard.  I started to uncover the lifeless little body of my dog, but the rags in which she was wrapped were bloody and I could smell her blood.

So I left her be.

I put the bin in my trunk and drove her to the vet.  The wonderful vet who had been helping us work through separation anxiety and all those other quirks of little rescue dogs.  She held me as I sobbed and a vet tech went out to get her body.

They took the bin with her into the back and the vet told me she would look at her to see if I could go back and say goodbye.

She came back a little later and told me it would not be good for me to see her like that.

But she told me it was probably very fast.

She told me that my dog was curled in a peaceful position.

Peaceful.

No, I did not want the bin back.

Another tech let me know she could cash me out when I was ready.  They would send her body to be cremated.  They would wash off her little, pink collar and put it aside for me to come back and get.

Five years ago, I lost my dog who had been by my side for 16 years.  It was agonizing.  But it was not sudden and shocking.  It was humane and peaceful.  As much as it broke my heart, it was a good death.  I was able to hold her and tell her what a great friend she’d been, and she breathed her last in my arms.  I grieved for months after losing her.

I’d only known this girl for a couple weeks.

But it feels like losing my friend of 16 years all over again.

It is raw and tragic and just horrible.

Present tense.

I never thought I would love another dog.  I never thought I could go through the terror of losing and grieving for an animal.

Loving an animal is a voluntary grief we take on.  It is a grief to which we willingly open our hearts and souls, knowing we will love a being who will predecease us.

This dog weaseled her way into my heart.

When you lose an animal companion, the house is terribly empty.  It is quiet and still in a way that is haunting.

The kids sensed it the second they entered the house after their days.  We sat with them on the couch and told them about the dog.

My eight year old Jack’s eyes got very wide.  His face flushed and paled.  He did not cry, but he sank against me and stayed there.  He asked what happened to her body.  I let him know I’d brought her to the vet and the vet would keep her.

I used very simple, almost blunt words.

Mama was out walking our doggy.  You know how tricky she was and how careful we were with her?  Well, she bolted and Mama lost her grip on the leash.  Mama could not catch her.  I tried and tried.  She ran into the street and she was hit by a car.  Her body was too hurt to keep living.  She died.

Emily’s face crumpled immediately into a mask of pain and despair the likes of which I’ve never seen on either of my children.  I watched as she tried to grapple with the information.

“But where is she?”

“Mama brought her body to the vet.”

“Nooooooo,” she wailed.  “I want her!  I want to pet her.  I want our dog.”

“I know honey.  Me too.  It’s very sad.  But we have each other and Mama and Daddy will take care of you and Jack.  We will all stick together and help each other.”

The kids hugged each other and Emily cried in Jack’s arms.  It was a moment of beautiful and mournful sibling truce in honor of their pet.

A while later she went upstairs to my bedroom.  I knew she was looking for the dog.  I heard a keening cry come and ran up the stairs to find my four-year-old girl crumpled in a ball on the floor, having not found the dog but found one of her squeaky toys.

“She can heal?”  Emily asked.  “Will she return?”

“No, honey.  No.  She won’t ever be coming back.”  I did not know if I should tell her that maybe someday we could get a new dog.  I didn’t know what to do other than hug her.

She said she wanted some noodles with butter.  So we went down to do that.

“I’ll never feel happy now,” she sobbed as I cooked.

“Of course you will, sweetheart,” I said.  I wept with her, petting her head and rubbing her back.  “Our hearts are hurting right now, but we will feel better.  I promise.”

“My heart will never be better.  My heart was in Doggy and now it is broken and I’ll never have my heart again.”

I held her and hugged her and said all the things moms say when their children are devastated.  I walked back and forth between her and Jack, hugging and stroking and trying to make sense of not just my own shock and loss, but that of my small children.

The whole night was very painful.  The delicate skin under my eyes puffed out like someone punched me.  My skin burned from the salt of my tears.

Jack could see I was sad.  He came to me in the kitchen and put his arms around me.  His head comes up to my breast now.

“I love you,” he said, looking up earnestly into my face.  “Doggy will always be in our hearts and in our heads.  You are the best mom in the world.  I know sometimes you lose your cool and yell.  And sometimes I lose my cool and call you stupid.  I don’t mean those things.  You’re the best mom in the world.  And if Doggy hadn’t gotten away, she would have lived with us as long as dogs live because you are the best mom in the world.”

He finished his little speech with an extra tight hug.

I didn’t feel deserving of it.

I’d been terrified the kids would blame me.

Because I blamed myself.

I felt guilty as all hell; the image of little Dog darting away from me with her leash clattering after her, scaring her, spurring her on until she disappeared.  It took but seconds.

How could I have let her go?

I’d been adamant about having this dog.  My husband didn’t want a dog at all, but I pushed him into it.  I had to have her.

And I loved her.

For two weeks.

And now she’s dead.

Her ears were so silky.  Her paws were so tiny and smelled like popcorn.  She loved to lick and sniff.  When it snowed, she put her nose right down and tunneled into the snow, sniffing away.  She made us laugh.  She was lazy at night and curled up on the couch or bed with me.  Her belly was soft and a bit fuzzy where it had been shaved when she got spayed.

I loved her doggy smell.

I don’t get it right now.  There is no perspective or framework for me to understand this loss.  And dealing with my children’s confusion and grief is so immediate and important.

We will get through it.  I keep telling myself this.  We are strong and we are a close family.  We will help each other and our hearts will heal.  These are my mantras.

So that’s the story of the day the dog died.

It was a day that started like any other and ended like no other.

I’m thinking we will probably be reading and re-reading and telling and re-telling this story until it feels okay or gets boring.

I’m looking forward to being able to finish the last chapter, for the last time, so I can close the book, and go on to something new.

Parenting: Let’s Commiserate About the Hard Times

Standard

IMG_6572

Sometimes the best you get out of parenting is making it through the day and climbing back into bed.  

Sometimes the most you can say is that you all stayed in one piece.

It’s not much of a mantra, but there are some days it is the only one I’ve got.  Here is the story of such a day:

I wasn’t about to make it onto the covers of any magazines or anything like that, but I’d done a nice enough job on my makeup and my hair didn’t look that dirty, even though it was.

We were supposed to go out and get our Christmas tree and I thought maybe there would be a few family photos.  I still hadn’t given up on the idea of making and sending holiday cards to loved ones near and far, but we were yet to capture the perfect family photo.

So, I took my sweet time massaging dry shampoo into my greasy roots and tugging the mess up into a messy bun that I told myself looked hip and quirky.  I hadn’t wanted to waste any precious family time washing my hair, but I did take a moment to apply a shiny coat of lipstick.

For a moment, I felt great.  I felt pretty and full of hope for a day just as sparkly as my lipstick.

I know it sounds shallow and vain.  But every once in a while, I just want to be that perfect-looking mom of the perfect-looking family.

Jack was ready to go, and my husband was in the shower, but Emily was refusing to get dressed.  She’d been holding an unhealthy grudge against pants and socks for, and mornings were challenging, to say the least.  Jack started flying paper airplanes which caught Em’s interest far more than dressing herself.

“Come on guys!” I said, trying to remain chipper and thinking about how we would listen to the Muppet’s Christmas album in the car and maybe stop for donuts and cocoa.  “Let’s get ready so we can get out tree!”

The kids swarmed around me, tossing paper airplanes across the living and dining rooms.

Now, had Jack not recently knocked a photo off the wall and broken the frame and glass (for a second time I might add) because he was throwing something, I might not have added the bit about not throwing stuff in the house.  But I did.  And Jack countered by screaming:

“I hate you!  You never let us do anything!”

His words shot like icy, little daggers into my achingly festive heart.  I tried to regroup, and offered an alternative that he put on shoes and play airplanes outside while he waited for us to go.  He slammed into his room.

Meanwhile, Emily frenetically dashed around the dining room table in underpants.

By the time my husband came out of the bathroom, I had completely lost control of the situation.  The kids were both screaming, uncooperative and wild.  I was desperately trying to cajole, which turned into threats about Santa and canceling Christmas.

The fucking elf sat on the shelf and did nothing.  Nada.  Squat.

An hour later, the kids were still surly as trolls.  Jack had torn his bed apart.  Emily was still naked.  My husband and I looked at each other in a state of total confusion, trying to figure out exactly what had happened.

I decided that 10:30 in the morning was in fact too early to start drinking, but it was too late to make the trek out for the tree.  We decided we could not reward the poor behavior with a special outing.

Sometimes I really wonder why I had children.

I also wonder why I had such strong-willed, independent, smart kids who seem to never bend to my wishes.

And I wonder if I just completely suck at everything.

Parenting is hard.  I know it’s hard.  Other people commiserate with me about it, and we laugh and secretly feel relief curl up like a cat in our souls because we are not alone with this fear and stress.

In my work as a child and family therapist, I went to a seminar once where one of the sound bites was that “crisis with kids happen when the adult in charge loses control of the situation.”

This might have been the single most UN-reassuring thing I’ve ever heard about parenting in my life.  Seriously.  Sometimes we social workers say some stupid shit.

Because there is crisis and chaos in my house a lot.  Which must mean I lose control of the situation a lot.  Which must mean I am doing something wrong a lot.

It makes me look at my husband and think, am I really that bad of a mom?  Would my kids be better off without me?  

Fuck that.

That’s maternal doubt, depression, anxiety, guilt and angst playing full throttle in my brain.

I know “they” say you’re not supposed to zone out on your phone while you are parenting because you’ll miss all the richness of life while you are scrolling through Facebook or tweeting about parenting stress.

Fuck that too.

Sometimes all you miss is the nastiness of your kids chewing with their mouths open and talking about farts while they eat grilled cheese.

It’s okay to miss that.  Really.

Anyway, I took out my phone and started flipping through Twitter to pass the time while the kids were in time out and we were not chopping down a tree.  I found two things from a fellow blogger.

The first:  “Anxiety mantra.  Get comfortable being uncomfortable.  Live alongside the unpleasant feeling, without giving it respect and it will reduce.”

The second:  “Anyone struggling tonight, please remember life is fluid.  How you feel now is not how you’ll feel forever.”

I believe @butterflymum83 was tweeting about perinatal depression, but her words applied to my situation as well because I was indeed anxious and struggling.

Her words lent me some support and perspective.

Support and perspective are two of the things I’ve found I’m most hungry for as a parent, because they are two incredibly difficult things to find and maintain when you are in the forest of behavior, legos, snot, doll clothing, tears, and plastic food.

Kids are loud, messy, smelly, frantic, unpredictable, and unreasonable little creatures.  They are these things so much more than I ever imagined they would be.  Living with them and their constant chaos is not for the faint of heart.  For a highly sensitive introvert like me, it can be really hard to remember that all the noise, mess, and stink is par for the course and not a sign that I am failing at life because it all makes me so uncomfortable.

It’s really hard not to take things personally.  It’s really hard not to tell myself that my kids had a bad day because I am a crappy mom and I set off their behavior with my own bad attitude or crapulence.

I felt really sad and mad about not going out to get the tree.  I felt really disappointed in the kids and in myself.  And as I set a bad example and sulked about it all, I realized that the only thing I ever really wanted in life was to be a mom and now the only thing I really want is a break from the responsibility and stress of it all.

Please don’t misunderstand me; I love my kids.  There are no words that can aptly describe the hurricane of adoration that rips through the core of my being when I see their faces or hold their sticky hands in my own.  There is no sense in even trying to describe the depth of my obsession with them, how it keeps me up nights.

I even love their stinks, although I could live with a little less of their chaos.

Sometimes are just fucking rough.

I thought of all this as I washed off my makeup, and watched it swirl down the sink in a slimy stream of shimmering suds at the end of the day.

I’d given up on the Christmas cards.  One less thing to do, anyway.

Sometimes the best you get out of parenting is making it through the day and climbing back into bed.

Sometimes the most you can say is that you all stayed in one piece.