Saturday, February 27, 2010

Mommy Needs a Punchclock

The house is dark, and while the Husband snores away, I see on the monitor that Big Kidlet is doing his best imitation of the stink bugs of my childhood spent in the desert, with his tush sticking straight up in the air. How he sleeps that way, lord only knows, but it sure is adorable. Here I sit, the dishwasher quietly humming, and although I would much rather be sitting here writing solo, with both hands for that matter, or maybe even the eyeglasses I've left on my bedside table, that's just not possible because I've got a Little Kidlet co-pilot who wants to alternate between nursing, gazing lovingly into my eyes, and talking my ear off at this late hour, in that order.

Who wouldn't love that? Well, I proclaim enthusiastically, I do, and also confess somewhat guiltily, I don't. By this time of day I'm ready to cry "I give!" and I gave, and now I need to be off duty. Except, you're never really "off duty."

This tweet caught my attention the other day, and which I re-tweeted:
"Having a baby dragged me, kicking and screaming, from the world of self-absorption."

Mhmmm, that about sums it up. But many days I'm still kicking and screaming.

Photo courtesy of the workroom

Friday, February 26, 2010

Pretty Little Boxes: Fitting in With Mommy Frenemies

Good lord, it's been almost a month! That's a big blogger no-no. It's not like I haven't had things to say, haven't in fact composed posts in my head, it's just been an intense and messy time for myself and my family. Little kidlet is just about to turn six months old, and is at that stage where he is aware, wants to participate, but can't yet do stuff, so he gets frustrated. Couple that with the fact that he wants mom right next to him at all times, especially when sleeping, and my routine of putting kids to bed and getting some creative time has been obliterated. I'm lucky if I get a hot, not lukewarm/cold, cup of tea most days. Also, truth be told, I'm not doing so hot on managing my time and tasks very well, and getting caught up in silly stuff of the moment. I've made some strides this week to reassert some order and rhythm, but I'm not quite there yet. In fact, there is the baby again, hold on a sec....

First the good stuff. I've made some progress to start the process of reducing the stuff in my house, and a major victory was working through an issue that my son was having at the program he attended while I have my weekly Bible study. I reached out, I stood up/spoke out for my kid, and things have gotten much better. In fact, I can say that we've had a pretty awesome streak this month of just really enjoying each other, and my fuse has been long and fairly flame retardant.

That was of course before the last few days. Now for the bad stuff. The storm that has been blowing in all day is now raging outside, and a similar storm is also happening inside. My fuse has been very short the last two days, and it's not the kids' fault. It's mine.

I promised myself I would be real in this endeavor, even when it was uncomfortable, so here goes. I have never, and continue to not play well with others. I find it frankly self indulgent and pathetic that by this time in my life I somehow continue to find myself in patterns of trying to fit in, failing at it, and having my feelings hurt because I don't. I really thought (hoped) that by this time in my life that this kind of stuff would have been resolved, but no. It is my least favorite part of being a woman...other women. Sure men can make me all kinds of crazy, but no one is able to really cut me deeply as another woman, either intentionally, or unintentionally. I think that is why I have always been a little afraid of having a daughter--the prospect of helping her navigate through things that I clearly still do not understand how to navigate through myself.

I've been struggling to fit in boxes all my life. "Fitting in" has been a pretty consistent wall I've banged my head into. I just don't, and there are many days I'm really happy and proud of that fact. But there are times when I sincerely wish I could just manage to contort myself to squeeze myself in.

The particular boxes I've been struggling with recently are the kind one encounters when one becomes a mother in community with other mothers. These boxes can be really pretty little things, but the inside, well just say it's not always as advertised. Join the "club," "tribe," "community," receive "support," "encouragement," "acceptance." Open the lid, and don't be surprised when in fact at moments you feel anything but the aforementioned benefits of walking the mommy path with other women.

What hurts me is continually putting myself out there, but not really getting much in return, or feeling downright excluded in many cases. Forming relationships, intimate or casual, is not a strength of mine, but for the sake of my kids (I tell myself) I continue to try. When it comes to my children, it would be a whole lot easier on them I tell myself if I just could get into line with those around me, assimilate. I do well for a while, but then inevitably I let that particular mask slip a bit, and I get hurt and disappointed that I'm dooming my kids to ostracism forever as the children of "that mother." And let's face it, the only person who deludes themselves that the mask is actually fooling anyone is me, myself, and I.

Many times, and even now I wonder why do I bother. Move on, better off without them. But, you can only move on so many times. These are the kids that my kids will know as they grow; I'll be in contact with them for years to come. I think it's important to find a way to peacefully coexist so that my kids don't suffer from having "that mother." I know this intimately, because my own mother was in many ways "that mother." (ahhh, now we get to the meat of it you may be telling yourself) My mother was also "different." She dealt with it by withdrawing and giving other moms and the mommy culture the proverbial bird. I was already unique enough all on my own, add in a mom who also didn't play by the mainstream rules, and it did feel like an added burden. And let's be real, your baggage often gets put on your kid, and how others perceive them, and undeservedly so. I have felt like doing the same thing as my mom repeatedly, although not as overtly, because she is far more bold than I am. And, I really don't want that for my own kids, and I don't think it really solves much for me either. So I continue to try and work it out.

I did get a bit of provident help with this. Also in my in box was the latest GOOP newsletter. For those of you who don't know, GOOP is the personal blog/website for the actress Gwyneth Paltrow. She's gotten plenty of criticism for her blog and what she puts out there, but all in all, I generally enjoy what she sends out. This issue dealt with the timely-for-me topic of "friendship divorce." She often invites "expert" commentators to contribute on topics, and in this issue they focused on how to manage friendships that are no longer working.

I hear with clarity the words of Cynthia Bourgeault:
"The more we can take responsibility for our own emotional well-being, the more we can live comfortably in our own skin, the more friendship can become what it is truly meant to be — whether for the whole of our life or just the miracle of the present: the spontaneous overflowing of our uniquely human capacity for intimacy, compassion, and joy."
It is not the responsibility of other people to like and accept me. I get that. They either do or they don't. But I need to assess how much I can handle, and what degree of relationship is acceptable to me. I also hear the words of Michael Berg:

"If we have a friend that makes us feel worthless, hurts us, or doesn’t enable us to grow and actually makes us feel bad, then clearly that’s a friendship and environment we don’t want to subject ourselves to. We have the responsibility to diminish that friendship. Not only isn’t it serving its purpose, it can have a detrimental effect on us."

He goes on to say that he feels one should not cut someone out of one's life, but diminish their role in it.

Ultimately, I think it will be a day to day assessment, and adjustment of my expectations. I think I will just have to find a median way that acknowledges that these are just women with whom I occasionally gather to let my kids play with others and exchange some chitchat, and not expect any one of them to become bosom friends of my heart.

There, I feel a little better.

How do you handle being on the fringes of the female/mommy culture? How do you make things easier for your kids when you don't particularly enjoy their friend's parents?

Photo courtesy of lonesome-stranger

**For a follow-up to this post go here

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Checkout Line: Bread, Milk, Cheese, Self Worth

I don't know if this is your experience, but I tend to reach for my writing pen, virtual or otherwise, most often when I'm not in a good place. I think overall it's to find a place to vent it, to look at it a little closer (read: over analyze it with a view towards blowing it into an international incident), or just to hear myself yell. It doesn't take a psychoanalyst to puzzle out why I use this device--as a kid if I uttered what I was really thinking and feeling I was liable to get smacked. Hence, railing somewhat uselessly at the blank page commenced early on. Nevertheless, the fact that I feel like I'm bitching so much really rankles me. Yes, I'm bitching, about bitching.

For many years now I've had an etched plaque with a saying that has sustained me through many a rough patch. In fact, when my husband and I were in our early relationship, going through some pretty world rocking stuff, I fairly drove him nuts with each and every utterance of this sage advice: "Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking." I'm sure he appreciated hearing it repeatedly very much, but we survived it, so, annoying--yes, but also useful. What you choose to give your attention to does often determine the direction of your life.

So today I want to bitch and moan about some pretty trivial, but nevertheless making me angst ridden stuff, but I choose to write about something else.

Today, I took Big Kidlet on a walk and I needed to go to the grocery store afterwards. He's not a nightmare in a grocery store, but it's pretty much like wheeling around a wild motormouth octopus some days. I've resolved to let up the reins a bit now that he's approaching three and is exhibiting some better listening skills, and a modicum of impulse control. In other words there is a slight stutter step while he thinks about it before he runs into traffic; a glimmer of a reasonable being is emerging. It's not easy for me. Did I mention that my mother thinks that really there was no problem using a dog run as a playpen when I was a kid? Yes, my example has been a clear owner/owned kind of paradigm, so although I resist it, I have to school the instincts every living day as I make my way through early parenthood.

Anyway, so back to the grocery store. As we approach the store he asks/tells me that he wants to "walk himself" today inside the grocery store. Previously my response pretty much can be summed up as an automatic with alacrity, brooking no argument whatsoever, "no way, no how, not gonna happen." But, these days I'm being a lot more aware of when I decide not to let him try simply because it might be a huge hassle for me. I'm looking long term these days. So I said, "sure, with a few ground rules," which we took a moment to review before we entered. To mark the occasion, I led him over to the "customer-in-training" mini shopping carts, which I previously had jealously eyed when other cute little children sedately (to my eyes) wielded them through the aisles after their (to my eyes) relaxed parents, and regarded as absolutely unrealistic in my lifetime for my spirited little boy. I can't describe the look on his face. I wish I could have a snapshot of it to remind myself each time I decide that he can't do something.

Aside from having a minor coronary every time he came in range of a wine bottle display (seriously this place seemed like it was wall-to-wall wine bottles!), he more or less walked behind me, full of pride, as I placed our groceries in his basket. It was a thing of beauty. He proudly stood in line , handed the groceries to the checker, and generally looked to stand about a foot taller.

It was a good lesson. For today that plaque in my mind says: "Very little is needed to make a happy kid, it's all within themselves, when they are allowed to try, and know they can."

Funny, all those little bitchy things I wanted to write down are like vivid dreams that become hazier and a vague echo upon waking and getting on with it. And my day with my kids has been a lot easier.

  • Macro Goal: Be present for my kids, and do some personal remodeling.
  • Micro Goal: Be aware that I and my kids are what I choose to focus on. Try and focus not on how much my kids need to test their boundaries can be a pain in my tuckus, but on how great it is that they don't have fear to do so.

Photo by beardenb