These days, the raising of little girl days, I think a lot about body image. My own body image, A's image at 8 and Little E's body image at 4. Body image. It feels like a big fucking deal. The ideas and thoughts that they are forming right now may define how their teenage years go and those teenage years will have a lot of impact on the rest of their lives. See, big fucking deal. In fact it feels so heavy to me that at times I'm overwhelmed and feel like it's just too much. Why bother when the pervasive media message seems so much louder than my own chant of "You are perfect and strong and healthy." But I do bother because I think my voice matters to them. Right?! They totally care what I say. At least for another couple of years. Then they will discover the truth: I have no idea what I'm doing. But, about this topic, I am right. They are perfect. I wrote about it for Portland City Mom's Blog.
I wrote about hurting all the damn time, and about what that means when you have littles always watching you, but also about how it's not killing me and that's kind of lucky in the uncertain business of life. You can check it out at Portland Mom's Blog
Every once in a while we catch a break right? We get lucky and stumble into something that makes life better. Here's what has made my life and the lives of my girls better for the last 4 years: Echo Theater Company (formerly Do Jump). I went looking for a "monkey bar camp" for A when she was 5, and I found Do Jump. It was not an easy time for our family the first time that we walked through their doors and it took about 3.5 seconds for me to realize that we had found A's people. They wrapped her up in a blanket of fun and safety (I know right?! Both together), and she has been a different little girl ever since. I wrote a little bit about how fucking awesome it is to find the right thing for your kiddo. Check it out over at Portland City Mom's Blog.
There's more to this post, but it's curse free and it's on Portland Mom's Blog. Check it out! It's super interesting and I'm sure you'll love it.
The amount of mental energy I have put into analyzing and discussing shoes at length with my tribe as of late is staggering and embarrassing and stupid. Kind of. My big girl will only wear Vans. When not wearing slip on Vans, her life falls into disarray. What is this need about? We have discussed sensory issues and we have discussed preferences vs. needs and we have discussed that needing the right shoe is a first world problem. Or is it? We have discussed how immediately replacing her falling apart Vans rather than waiting for the replacement to come via the warranty department is encouraging and supporting this ridiculous demand for the right shoe. Or is it really looking at her and acknowledging that for some reason she is overstimulated by the wrong shoe and it is fucking with her? Our shoes should not fuck with us. They should provide a comfortable and protective layer for our feet that keeps shit from poking our tender little tootsies.
So last time I wrote about A being anxious. When I finished that post, I was anxious too, but also ready to take action. Ready to find her a therapist that understood her, ready to come up with new strategies for taking care of our sweet big girl, ready to fix everything. And then . . . September! Because E goes to a co-op preschool, I have duties to fulfill there and because I am a "hand raiser" I have a lot of duties to fulfill at A's school and because I suck at saying no, there are other things that I do. And then Daniel traveled for work (which almost never happens) and then I had to stand in front of a bunch of people at back to school night and talk for about 1 minute, maybe more, but not much . And then and then and then. Bah!!! The truth is, I love all of this volunteering. I love all this juggling of schedules and time. But it's gotten away from me and I think I'm failing a little bit at the most important part, which is the parenting.
Today a mental health professional told me that she was "concerned" about A's level of anxiety. Concerned that A doesn't believe that we (her parents) are ever safe, that A believes disaster may befall us at any moment. And then she used the words biochemical and my daughter's name in the same sentence. And then I started crying.
I really thought that I wanted this therapist to tell us that the problem was A. That my parenting was fine and reasonable and clearly I have a difficult child. That's what she told us and, as it turns out that is not at all what I wanted to hear. The truth that I didn't realize, is that I wanted to hear that her behavior is well within the bounds of normal. That all kids worry and freak out in the same way, or at least the same level that she does. I wanted her to say, "No need to worry. Work harder at the business of parenting and your kid will feel better and safer."
I just read a blog post about not being a dick. Particularly in restaurants. Why do we need to be reminded not to be a dick?! Why do we need to be reminded not to yell at a toddler that does not live under our roof? Why do we need to be reminded that if you drop a bunch of shit on the floor at a diner you should a) pick it up or b) leave a big tip? Probably both actually. Really?! We need someone to remind us of this?! What is wrong with us?
We are the moral compasses for our children. And sometimes our children's friends. They are figuring out how to navigate the tricky waters of social interaction. They're watching and they are mirroring us. All. The. Time. If we are rude in a restaurant, so are they. If we yell at her teacher when things don't go as planned, so will she. When we let rudeness or meanness spill from our mouths, we are doing our babies a disservice. Rudeness will not serve them well in the long run.
We are also perpetuating a symptom of the human disconnect that we are all suffering right now. We have forgotten that we are human together. That we have the same feelings as everyone else.
I yelled again. I abhor the yelling. It's so big and loud and it scares the girls. It accomplishes nothing. Except that it makes me feel a smidge better. Until the guilt sets in. Which takes about a nanosecond. It does not solve the actual problem. As I write this it occurs to me that maybe I'm not facing "problems", but normal childhood and normal parenthood. ??!! Really, could it possibly just be this hard?! Bah!
My big girl is a stress ball. Her tummy hurts. She cries. A lot. She yells at me. Often. She worries. Often. I'm pretty sure that much of A's anxiety and stress comes from every single little (and big) thing not being perfect all of the time. I get it. I also like things to be just so. But the truth is, perfection is subjective. Often, I don't even get a little bit, what it is that she is looking for. I don't understand her picture of perfect. The crying that ensues from the lack of perfection that I don't even understand irritates me. A lot.
I want to be better at this. I don't want to yell (or sigh that super irritated sigh or throw up my hands and walk away). I want to fold her up in a big hug and just be with her. Sit with those big emotions. I want to be this kind of mama, but so often I don't quite make it. Sometimes I do.
It's hard to remember that she's not doing this to drive me bat shit crazy. It's not actually about me. (I know, what?! Not about me?!) She's just doing the best she can. But there's been crying and yelling and mean words over the clay that would not become a perfect dragon and also the paint got mixed in the wrong way and there was that time that the rock stack was not stacking properly. So much carrying on! And while these things don't matter even a little bit to me, they matter to her. Each project and failed paint mixing is a big deal to A. I will say it again, it is a big deal. To her it is a big deal and that is what actually matters.
But therein lies the challenge, right? How to teach our sweet, crying perfectionists that not everything is a big deal and that not everything will be just so all of the time, but that's ok, because not every damn thing is such a big damn deal! But also don't go diminishing their feelings and ideas. Walk the balance. It's really effing tricky!
I'm Molly. I'm all in for parenting. I'm all in for good food. All in for big and small outdoor adventures. And really only partly in for homemaking. I want a Martha Stewart home and meal, but the truth is, we mamas just can't do it all. Not really. This shit is tricky!
This is a collection of musings and missives about parenting like you mean it. I mean really mean it. About how you can pull off a really mostly decent meal, keep your house kinda clean, do some of your laundry, and also even remember to usually feed your pets. But mostly about how being a mama is hard and we can totally rock it, but maybe that dream of perfection has got to give a little.