I’m Starting a Support Group (with an enabled comment section)

Yesterday was a not-good-really-quite-bad-awful-kind-of-day.

Sydney woke up fussing, fussed through breakfast and then started pinching. She was in a foul, no good mood.

I decided we should spend the beautiful morning (IT’S FINALLY SPRING IN MN) outside. So I said, “Let’s go to the park.” Knowing that we didn’t have much time because the flooring installer was coming at 10 to fix our faulty, still quite new, floor.

I negotiated Rex out of his winter coat, and into spring appropriate outer wear, and then repeated the same process with footwear.

Sydney allowed me to put her shoes and coat on with minimal resistance, but then did the whole arched-back-stiff-as-a-board-collapse-in-a-fit-of-shrill-screaming thing when I tried to buckle her into the stroller. I won. Barely.

While at the park, I made the mistake of being the first one down the slide. Awesome. It looked like I peed my pants. We stayed for a bit, but not long enough in a certain someone’s opinion so I had to coax and negotiate with a whiny Rex most of the way home.

The rest of the day consisted of much of the same – negotiating, re-directing, whining, audible sighing on my part, and many other unpleasantries said in my head or under my breath.

When an exhausted Tyler got home from work, I was fit to be tied, and the kids were restless. Those three things in tandem, do not a happy home make.

We ate dinner (and if I’m being honest, we did not enjoy each others’ company), and then decided to take a walk to the park.

You can imagine about how well that went. I will spare you the not-good-really-quite-bad-awful-kind-of-day details.

Tyler and I argued (I’m using that term loosely) when we got home. Yes, in front of the kids. The kind of argument that leaves you both cursing your younger self for “choosing” each other and saying nasty things in your head. It was ugly. I cried…out of frustration, guilt, and sheer exhaustion. Commence shame spiral.

Sometimes, when I have a not-good-really-quite-bad-awful-kind-of-day, the only answer is to “sleep it off.” So that’s what I did. I slept…

But, I woke up (at 5 AM) with no more patience or perspective than I had yesterday…until I went to Target and wound up next to the mother of the toddler in a “I’ve-never-been-this-devastated-in-my-life” kind of tantrum. I wanted so badly to say, “Take heart. I’ve been there. This too shall pass. I’m not judging you,” but she wouldn’t make eye contact.

I imagine she cried when she got to her car. I say this because she looked on the verge of tears inside the store, and speaking from experience, that feeling only intensifies during the walk of shame out of the store.

While I, in no way shape or form, enjoyed watching her public torture, it was comforting to know that I am not alone…it’s not just my kids… or just my life. It’s all of us. We are all struggling [most days].

So, to that end, I’m starting a support group :). We can meet at the grocery store…the library…Target…the mall. Heck, we can meet right here on this blog. We can smile at each other and say, “Take heart. I’ve been there. This too shall pass.” We can refrain from judgement and we will always be kind. We can share our not-good-really-quite-bad-awful-kind-of-day stories, NOT because misery loves company, but because EVERYONE is fighting some kind of battle and EVERYONE needs a cheering section.

Let’s start a support group called “Sometimes Life is Ridiculously Hard.” Let’s share our stories and cheer each other on.

I will start, “Hi. I’m Sarah. I’m a mom. I love my kids. Sometimes I fail. Last night, I fought with my husband in front of my kids.”

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Shame Spiral

Shortly after their respective births, I assigned each of my children (whom I love with my whole heart) a name. He, Rex. She, Sydney.

I say these names with exhausting repetition each and everyday. “Rex, sit here. Sydney, don’t put that in your mouth. Rex, please stop. Sydney, eat your food.”

Some days, however, are different. Today was one of those days.

Sydney started the day “Sydney.” By mid morning Sydney was “she” (as in “she’s really fussy”) and by dinner she was “it” (as in “it won’t stop crying!”)

I sincerely hope I am not alone in the name-to-pronoun morphing phenomenon because if I am, my fear that I’m not cut out for “this” becomes a very real possibility.

Anyway, I experience days when my little people wear me down. Today was one of those days.

Inevitably, when my children (whom I love with my whole heart) become pronouns, I shame spiral. “Why don’t I have enough patience?”… “Surely, I’m the worst mom on the planet (or at least MN).”…”I’m ruining them…” Etc. I then feel like a worthless parent and yell more. [Cringe]

Here’s the thing about shame spiraling though- It’s dumb and pointless and just another thing we parents do to torture ourselves.

Let’s stop.

My sister jokingly said not long ago, “they [her family] are always critical when I yell…they should really be proud of all the times I DON’T yell. That’s the real accomplishment.”

She’s on to something. Let’s flip the script.

So you forgot to pack lunch… I’d be willing to bet you usually remember to feed them…

So you said sh*%… At least you didn’t say f#%^ …

So you yelled at dinner… I bet you told them more than once already that you love them…

Bottom line: What we lack in perfection, we more than make up for with love.  There’s always more good than bad. We just need to train ourselves to look harder…and stop being so damn critical ;).

Just Mom

Confession: Sometimes I think, “I can’t do this.”

I knew it [being mommy] was going to be hard; I just didn’t know what “hard” was. Some days it’s equivalent to getting kicked in the face with a golf shoe…

I follow a lot of “mommy” blogs and lately I have been overwhelmed by the number of posts focused on “empowering women” – posts about how to be more than just a mommy; how to keep the romance alive, nurture you spiritual self, do things YOU love, etc.

Good grief, I am having a hard enough time just keeping my kids alive! I don’t have time for “me time” or “date night”…

Isn’t “being mom” enough? Is my plate not yet quite full?…

Do you know what I am talking about? The suggestions to get mani/pedis, be your best you (code for go to the gym), sneak away for a romantic weekend, have lunch with “the girls,” etc.?

I just went from feeling overwhelmed to completely inadequate… As is if being mommy isn’t laden with enough guilt already? Now I feel like a failure because I don’t really know who I am anymore…

Wait a minute…I do know… I’m “mommy”…and that’s all I really have time for right now.

Forgive me, but in this season of my life – a season that is sure to be “gone before I know it” (as EVERYONE keeps reminding me) – I just want to be “mom.”

I want to wear stretchy pants and pull my hair in a ponytail and quietly accept the fact that I do not look like I want to, but that’s ok because my kids think I am beautiful, and their opinion is the only one that REALLY matters.

I want to lock the door to the bathroom and take a ridiculously long, hot shower and then I want to quietly accept that that 20 minutes is all the “me time” I am going to get this week.

I want to have conversations with my husband, but when I talk to him, I want to quietly accept and embrace the fact that the thing we have most in common right now is our kids… and THEY are enough. It’s ok if that’s all we talk about. For now, we can laugh about the funny thing Rex just said and marvel at the fact that our “baby” is now walking. I am sure a few years from now (when we are a little less bone tired), we will rekindle the romance. For now, our children are proof that what once was [romance], will be again ☺.

I would love to sneak away for a romantic weekend, but if it’s not in the budget or if we can’t find childcare, that’s o.k. Someday, when the kids are grown, we will have all the time in the world to travel and “get away.” I am sure when “someday” comes, we will talk about how much we wish we could “go back” and have a weekend like we did when the kids were small. Because, let’s face it, the grass is always greener.

At some point, all the stars will align and I will find an opportunity to get a pedicure and, by God, I will do so with a Starbucks in hand, but I am o.k. with the fact that said stars are unlikely to align anytime soon.

I’m going to stop resenting my husband for my lack of “me time.” He doesn’t get any either… We are parents. It comes with the territory and the sooner we realize that, the happier we will be in our current circumstances. There is beauty in these circumstances.

Like I said, I don’t think mani/pedis, being your best you (code for fit), sneaking away for a romantic weekend, or having lunch with “the girls” is in any way, shape, or form “not for mommy’s.” It’s not that I disagree with doing those things (AT ALL). It’s just that I don’t need another “expectation…” I don’t need to feel like when I don’t do those things, I am somehow less or incomplete. I think, when those things become expectations or entitlements, we lose sight of the beauty in being “mommy” (messy hair and baby bellies included). We need to be gentle with our often un-showered selves ☺.

I guess what I am trying to say is that “Just being mommy” is a short season. I don’t want to spend it trying to “find me,” and I don’t have to because Rex and Sydney already found me. When they were born, so was I. I am their mommy, and that’s enough…

Accidentally on Purpose

It’s 5:15 AM… The littlest little is sleeping, albeit fitfully, next to me. Her leg is pressed up next to mine. As per the norm, she is making certain that a minimum of one part of her body is touching mine AT.ALL.TIMES. Seriously, I am quite certain that if she could crawl back into my uterus, she would. Most nights she rolls into my chest, tucks her little head under my chin and rests a hand on my face. It’s really very sweet. That said, I never thought I would fall into the co-sleeping camp. Why? I don’t know. It just wasn’t what I pictured in my head. So much of parenting is like that for me. I imagine things one way, and it ends up entirely different.

I make an effort to not make “I will always” and “I will never” statements, but I’m not above admitting that they roll around in my brain from time to time. When Rex was a baby, I attributed his mostly great sleep patterns to my awesome parenting. Then Sydney was born and I realized my successes in the child/sleep department had really very little to do with me and waaaaay more to do with my children. (Sydney’s little leg is now draped across my arm as I am typing this on my iPad. She seriously can’t get close enough.)

What I have realized in my parenting journey thus far is this: I am whatever kind of parent my child needs me to be. My choices are rarely “first choices,” and I oftentimes feel myself compelled to justify or validate them because, let’s face it, that’s the nature of our overly competitive, there’s-a-right-way-to-do-everything society.

Here is a list of my most recent “not first” choices…just to name a few…

1. Co-sleeping
2. Too much screen time
3. Less than stellar food choices
4. Breast feeding beyond the first year

Trust me, I’ve heard it all. “You’ve got to get that baby out of your bed!” “You let them eat that? Tsk tsk.” “You still breastfeed? Gross.”

But this is where I’m at…

Sleep deprivation isn’t good for anyone so we became a co-sleeping family. We sleep. That’s all that matters.

Coffee is better hot so Rex plays on the iPad for a little bit (ok, A LOT) in the morning. Coffee makes me a decent person. Hot coffee makes me a better person.

Sydeny doesn’t have a tremendous appetite and at one point actually met the criteria for failure to thrive. At times we are desperate to get her to eat something anything, and at those times she gets fruit snacks alongside her breakfast. She’ll turn out fine.

We were blessed with a fussy baby who refused to take a bottle (ever) and can only be nursed to sleep. 15 months later and, yes, I’m still nursing. Not what I imagined my life would look like more than a year after her birth, but there are worse things.

It wasn’t my intention to be “that parent” who allows a sometimes ridiculous amount of screen time or to become a co-sleeping, nursing mother to an almost 15 month old, but that’s where I’m at… life requires flexibility, and (even more importantly) adaptability. I am who I am because I make choices given the options placed before me…accidentally on purpose…which [gasp] makes my choices intentional. Sometimes that’s a hard pill to swallow.

My point is this: be intentional, and don’t apologize for it. There will, inevitably, be people who disagree with you. But be whoever you need to be at THIS moment anyway. Be authentic. It may sound cliche, but it’s the simple truth: If you are doing your best, that’s all that matters.

We co-sleep. So what.

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Instilling Responsibility and Pride

It’s hard to believe that Rex’s third birthday is fast approaching. I swear, I blinked and he transformed from a tiny (well, not really tiny… 8# 15 ounce) newborn into a walking, talking, opinionated, silly, loving little kid. I am in awe of that little kid.

While I am completely grateful for the great privilege that is watching him grow, learn and become who he is supposed to be, I am simultaneously humbled and overwhelmed by the great responsibility that comes with being his parent. After all, It is my job to nurture his mind, body and spirit so that he CAN become who he is supposed to be.

What I already know is that I cannot protect him from everything and he will not always abide by my rules or heed my warnings.

Those three things are guaranteed. But, out of respect for him, I can…

1) give him a sense of responsibility and
2) instill in him a sense of pride

“If you want children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders.” ~Abigail Van Buren

To that end…

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We hung coat hooks at his level and placed a basket below for other outdoor essentials. It is his responsibility to hang up his coat and put away his gear because they are his. It would be a disservice to do something for him that he can do for himself.

And I have started allowing him to slice his own apples (with supervision). I cut the apple in slices, and he then cores them with the slicer. The pride that shines through his toothy grin while enjoying a self-prepared snack makes my heart sing.

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After all, in the words of Frank A. Clark…

“The most important thing that parents can teach their children is how to get along without them.”