‘Ugly, bad and stupid girl’

I see anger and hurt in her little face, but there isn’t time to address it.

I pack her lunch. I make her toast and oatmeal. I put a little watercolor Valentine heart next to her plate.

“You make me proud every day.
Love,
Mom”

She smiles and says thanks, but I can see it didn’t reach her. The place inside where it is hurting is hidden too deep. I can’t reach it with a card or a hug.

It is time for her to leave for school. She moves slowly, layering three jackets over her flower dress.

“Remember,” I tell her. “You control what kind of day you have.”

“Yeah,” she says and gives me a half hug before walking out the front door.

I watch her stomp away with her head down. She doesn’t look back, but I wave from the door anyway.

I drink my coffee and silently pray for her.

The day drains away. Errands. Cleaning. Driving. Driving. Driving.

Carpool reports she screamed on the way to school because she lost a game.

Brother reports she was yelling at some kid on the playground.

She reports everything is unfair.

Great.

The day isn’t over. We have to make a second trip back to school. She brings her knitting and I think maybe this wave is over.

No.

On the drive back home, she starts in on her brother again. It is over nothing at all.

He tries to tell her he doesn’t want to argue, but she clearly does.

She needs to prove her point and won’t stop.

The sound scrapes along the edges of the car and seems to fill every space.

“Stop it,” I say.

She does not. The sound escalates and I try again.

“Just drop it,” I say louder. “I’m serious. I don’t want to hear it anymore.”

I turn on the music, but she continues even louder.

The sound reminds me of arguing with my brother as a kid.

I want to tear my hair out.

I want to tear her hair out.

“I’m fucking sick of this shit,” I blurt out. “Stop fighting. You have been fighting from the second you woke up. I’m over it. STOP. NOW.”

Even as the words come out, I regret them. I want to force them back down my throat, but the damage is done.

She begins to sob.

You fucked up, I tell myself. You really fucked up.

Even so, I am still angry and my heart has turned into a heavy stone.

“Stop crying,” I yell.

“I can’t!” she yells back. “Don’t you understand I can’t?”

“You can and you will,” I say.

She doesn’t.

The rest of the drive home, I fume and she sobs.

We walk in the door and she loudly clomps up to her room. I stomp into mine muttering about respect and how ridiculous she is being.

I put on my pajamas and wash my face. My anger slowly fades and the sound of her sobs reaches me. A stab of guilt and regret does too.

I take a deep breath and walk into her room.

She is hiding under the blankets crying.

“Can I sit down?”

“Yes.”

“Can I hug you?”

“Yes.”

She lunges into my arms and cries into me.

“I’m a ugly, bad and stupid girl,” she cries. “Nobody will ever forgive me.”

I hate every one of these words.

“Oh love,” I start.

“It is true,” she says. “I am so stupid and dumb.”

I hold her and let her tell me all the things. The boy who told her she looked like a pile of garage. The girls who won’t let her play with them at recess. Her fear she will never learn to ride her bike without training wheels. Her anger at being the littlest in the family.

All. The. Things.

With each word her body softens until she is a mushy, soft baby back in my arms. I cradle her to me and rock gently.

“No matter what you do, I will never love you any less fierce,” I say. “You can never, ever do anything I won’t forgive. Ever. You are my girl and nothing will ever change my love for you. Ever.”

The smile on her face radiates and I am bursting with love.

How could I have ever yelled at this precious face? How could I have forgot for even one second how small and beautiful and tender and perfect she is?

“I’m sorry,” I tell her. “I should not have yelled at you. I lost my temper and it wasn’t OK.”

“You are the best mommy ever,” she says.

We melt into a mushy pile of love under the blankets and talk and talk and talk.

She really does make me proud.

Every day.

lola

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Date night with a side of righteousness

MoviesFor the first time in months, my husband and I make it to a grown-up movie.

We grab our yummy snacks and settle in for “The Revenant.”

This isn’t a feel good movie, but it is Leonardo DiCaprio and nature and pretty snow.

So, yep, I’m in.

I put my feet up on the railing in front of me, dig into the popcorn bag and prepare to get lost.

A minute before the theater goes fully dark and the trailers begin, a guy walks in with his four-year-old little boy. He has a blonde skater hair cut, “Star Wars” t-shirt and the sweetest little squeaky voice.

As adorable as he is, I am instantly upset.

This has to be a mistake, I think. He is in the wrong theater.

Nope.

They are here to stay.

Another baby at a rated R movie.

Not cool.

So not cool.

My blood starts to boil and I want to go over and ring the neck of this “dad.”

What the hell man? Are you serious?

“It is none of your business,” my husband whispers to me and grabs my hand in an attempt to bring me back to date night.

I can see he already knows I will not have fun. I will not enjoy the movie. I will fume the entire time.

He throws a piece of licorice my way and silently hopes for the best.

It is too late.

I spend the majority of the film acutely aware a baby is seeing the same bloody images I am seeing. I can hear his little voice asking questions and each time it stabs at me.

Like the damn mother bear ripping apart Leo, I want to maul this kid’s father right here in front of everyone.

I’m sure people would applaud.

I mean, come on man. Are you for real?

The movie is over and luckily the dad escapes before I can reach him, because I have my self-righteous speech rehearsed and I am ready to unleash it.

I hold onto the anger the entire ride home.

I hold onto the anger as I climb into bed.

I hold onto the anger in my dreams…a mix of bloody gore and motherly instincts fusing into disturbing images of human hearts and dead babies.

I hold onto it the next morning as I drink my coffee.

In truth, I’ve been holding onto it for three days now.

Ugh.

I wrote three versions of this blog, with various approaches. From the sanctimonious, “I would NEVER let my kids see a movie like this” to the all-encompassing, “this is what is wrong with our country.”

Then it occurs to me…I just need to get over it.

Now.

The only person I am hurting is me.

No amount of fucking mothering martyrdom will change the images the kid saw. No amount of anger will either.

I hate feeling helpless and I want to mother the shit out of every kid I see.

But the only power I have is over my family.

I can’t protect other kids and holding onto the pain of it does nothing for them or myself.

I have to move on.

So I am going to watercolor paint, clean my house and work on my favorite new writing project.

I’m going to listen to David Bowie and dance in the kitchen.

I’m going to make homemade cappuccinos and hug my friends.

But next time I go to a rated R movie and I see a small child, I might not be able to hold back my anger.

Then again, maybe I will just leave.

Because all I can control is me.

And I don’t want to feel angry and helpless anymore.

 

Movies

Little Peppermint, the house fairy

You might be shocked to hear I don’t like Elf on the Shelf.

I know it is weeks past Christmas, but stay with me. It is relevant.

I don’t like the elf for lots of reasons, enough to fill an entire book and then some. I’ll spare you the long rant. Basically, I find an elf moving around the house at night creepy and I hate the pressure it puts on kids to be “good” and on parents to remember to move the damn thing.

There.

I know. Geez mom. Way to make it all about you.

According to my 8-year-old daughter, we are the ONLY family in the world to not have a spying elf and it isn’t fair. We had no less than 20 conversations revolving around the injustice of it all.

“Mom, you just don’t understand.”

Nope. I don’t.

“I will make it clothes.”

No.

“It will be fun.”

No.

“It is a good lesson to kids on being good.”

No.

She finally realized there was no budging on the issue and made her own. Only this little one isn’t an elf. She is a fairy, she is named Peppermint and she moves around the house the entire year.

THE ENTIRE YEAR.

Bam. Got you mom. Now you have to move the fairy around the house every day or I will lose faith in magic and shit like that.

At first, I played along and moved dear Peppermint all over the house. It was actually fun to pose her in the bowl of oranges on the counter, or hide her in the Christmas tree or have her hanging with baby Jesus in the nativity.

But I got busy.

And forgetful.

And tired.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a fun mom. I swear I am. I play dolls and games and tell stories.

I’m awesome.

But come on.

I have to remember to move the fairy every night.

Every. Single. Night.

It is too much.

Yesterday at breakfast, my girl tells me Peppermint hasn’t moved since a few days after Christmas.

“Mom,” she says. “Do you think Peppermint will ever move?”

I think I see tears in her eyes. Real tears, folks.

“I don’t know love,” I say and silently promise myself to move the damn fairy every day for the rest of my life. “I think she was just really tired from the holidays. I’m sure she will move soon.”

“I hope so,” she says.

Well-played daughter.

The second she is out the door, I take Peppermint out of the doll house bed and put her on the mantle holding a few candy canes.

Nailed it.

She comes home and notices right away.

“She moved!” she says.

“Yep.”

“Can’t wait to see what she will do tomorrow.”

Yep.

We leave the house an hour later for her keyboard lesson. My boy decides to stay home to work on his homework.

When we come back, Peppermint has moved again.

This time she is sitting with a doll playing a game my girl created the day before.

“Wow!” she says. “I can’t believe it.”

My boy comes over all smiles and snuggles up close to me.

“I will move Peppermint mom,” he whispers in my ear. “Just look how happy she is.”

And then my heart exploded.

peppermint

My somewhat fairytale life

I am Alice. I put down my book, smooth my apron flat and look to see the rabbit running by. My feet do my thinking for me, moving quicker than reason. My mind doesn’t catch up and then I’m falling. I grasp for the sides, but it is too late. Everything is now a blurring whirl of nonsense.

I am Pooh Bear. I gorge myself until shame stops me, but then I can’t leave. The exit is too small. I’m stuck. My arms and legs wag uselessly. I’m held fast around the middle and there is nothing I can do but wait for time to release me little by little.

I am Goldilocks. The bears have so much and I have so little. I stamp my foot at the injustice, pigtails bouncing up and down, and then take what I think is mine. Just a little bite of porridge. A tiny sit down. A wee baby nap.

This last year, I spent quite a few weekends away from my husband and children. I happily helped my best friend sell his leather products at fairs and at a giant apple orchard in the mountains.

It left me feeling swept away and rebuilt at the same time.

I’m in a storybook and the pages are being blown around in the breeze. Lessons switching before I fully learn them. Villains disappearing before I can fully see them. Treasures always just over the next hill.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mother for over 10 years, surrounded by my two favorite little humans on the planet earth. I look at pictures of them and I can’t believe all we have done together. So many dinners at the table, picnics in the park, messy crafts and impromptu plays.

I have spent the last few years mourning a life without my sweet, little babies.

I yearn to have my belly and heart swell just once more, the tiny and intimate movements of a life growing inside my own.

I ache to feel another baby at my breast, to watch them break free and smile up at me with milk dripping down their chin.

I hold my baby carrier and imagine just one more little body strapped to mine, the warmth and weight an extension of me.

But the story is shifting.

The pain is lessening.

I used to think happiness would find me when I finally accepted things as they are.

Now I think it is more a matter of just letting the story unfold without trying to guess the outcome.

I’m a planner. I make lists and I’m always looking forward to the next thing. I love having a vacation, a party, or even a weekend trip to plan. I will sit and stare out the window and imagine packing my suitcase, the feeling of seeing something new, and even the weakness my body will feel after a hard day of playing.

I’m always rushing the story.

I’m an impatient time traveler who plans the next jump before even seeing where I am.

I read books quickly because I want to know the ending, but when it comes I feel let down and sad. I’m never satisfied.

Over the past few weeks, I have forced myself to slow down and be aware of what is around me. The feeling of the wood chair beneath me. The softness of the yellow paint on my kitchen walls. The sounds my children make when they are playing together.

I always thought it was impossible to be in a moment, a load of shit really.

But maybe there is something to all this.

I did do some planning in these quiet moments, but in a way that was grander and less specific than I normally do.

Instead of to-do lists, I filled my mind and journal with intentions for the year ahead.

Peaceful.

Joyful.

Creative.

Yes, I have goals big and small. Yes, I will still make to-do lists. Yes, I will still rush the story.

But it feels good to have a moment to look at the book as a whole and not be rushing to find out how it ends.

candle

I’m here, in my pajamas, just living and stuff

His voice wakes me from a dream of floating in the ocean and I drift down the hall to him.

“What’s wrong?”

“Bad dream. Will you lay with me?”

I open my eyes all the way and see him. He is squeezing his panda bear tight with tears just threatening to fall from his daddy’s blue eyes.

Yesterday he turned 11, but right now he is my baby.

I crawl in and he squirms into my arms and fits perfectly. The warm smell of him fills me up and takes us both back to my ocean dream where we float and sway gently. Together.

The last month has been a big ball of life wrapped up in colorful paper, candy canes, pajamas, soft blankets, warm fires and twinkling lights.

Each moment is a story all its own.

I’m laughing with friends, being vulnerable and happy and full. I’m aware of how much they love me and I promise myself to never forget this feeling.

I’m crying alone in my room, covers over my head to muffle the sound. My body shaking and my breath completely gone, I wonder if I’ll ever feel true happiness.

I’m trying on clothes and everything is too tight, and the regret of losing myself to food floods me until I can barely stand to look at myself. I wrap a black cloak around me and try to disappear.

I’m holding my girl’s hand as the opening credits and sounds of “Star Wars” fills the air and I let the tears fall.

I watch my family open the gifts I made and I feel all at once proud and not enough.

I watch my children giggle and play together, both lost in a world of their own creation. The sound of them echoes through every space of our house long after they go to bed.

Each moment is a story all its own.

Yet I feel unworthy of telling stories anymore and scared the words just won’t come. I worry I am a broken record of contradictions and recycled emotions.

I was planning to quit writing this blog.

Quit writing all together.

I was going to give up my dream because fear is big and my blankets warm.

Yet, I can’t seem to do it.

I’m here.

Yesterday I received two powerful emails from readers telling me how much I have touched them in one way or another and I’m reminded of this space here.

My own little space to expose my heart, practice bravery and simply chronicle my struggle to find purpose and peace.

So I’m going to keep going. I’m going to write one word and then another.

I’m going to show up and be here.

Will you join me?

The minivan kiss

My coffee is already cold, but I want a sip anyway. I’ve earned it after running around for the last few hours getting everything ready for the day.

I feel carefully for my Chewbacca coffee mug with my right hand, fully aware at how many times it has ended up on the van carpet or in my lap. No. Not today. This shirt is far too white and I need the caffeine.

I look down.

Thump.

“Did we just hit that car?” my girl says from the back.

“Shit,” I reply.

“Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.”

The van in front of me, the one whose bumper I’m snug against now, turns on the right blinker.

“Shit,” I say again.

“What’s going to happen?” my boy asks.

“I don’t know,” I say.

Then I roll off a few more “shits” and he goes quiet.

Everyone is watching me. I’m sure they are screaming at me as I hang my head in shame.

“You idiot!”

It was just a mistake.

“Get off your phone!”

I wasn’t on it. It was just a mistake.

“You don’t deserve to drive!”

It was just a mistake.

The light turns green and I follow the brown van into the parking lot of a mortgage company. I am shaking now. I’m going to be late. The driver is going to yell at me. My insurance is going to go up.

Shit.

“Sit still,” I tell the kids. “I’ll be right back.”

The driver is another mom, clearly dressed for morning carpool with pajama bottoms and a sweatshirt. There is a little girl in the backseat and a small Chihuahua. She waves to me and the dog licks the window.

We meet at her bumper and stare together for a moment.

“I see nothing, let’s check your car,” she says with a smile.

“I’m so sorry,” I say.

We walk to the front of my van and the license plate is a little wonky, but it is fine. This could have been so much worse. I start to apologize again and she cuts me off.

“I say we just forget all about it.”

She smiles.

“I really am sorry. Is your daughter OK? Was she scared?”

“She is fine. Everything is fine,” she says. “Really. Don’t worry about it. It was just a little accident. It is OK.”

She fixes me with a motherly look of forgiveness and I tear up.

I hug her.

She hugs back.

“Thank you,” I say.

“You have a great day,” she says and walks away.

“You too,” I say after she is already out of earshot.

She gives me a final smile and wave before driving off. The little girl in the backseat is waving to my kids and the dog is still licking the window.

I hop back in the car and take a deep breath to stop my hands from shaking.

“Everything is going to be OK,” I tell the kids.

“They were nice,” my girl says.

Yes they were.

The little black kitten of jealousy

kitten

My phone dings and I look to see a dozen pictures of the sweetest little black kitten.

This darling new addition to my friend’s family, which they are calling Faun, causes me to start ahhhing loudly.

The kids come running.

“What is it?” they ask.

I flip the phone around and show them.

My girl immediately starts crying.

Not just little tears either.

Big, fat ugly tears which quickly turn to sobs.

Oh no.

As much as I’m aware of her wish for a kitten, this possibility didn’t occur to me.

I feel mean, as if I’d done something to hurt her on purpose.

The jealousy and anger pulse from her. She tries to calm herself, but the feelings are beyond containment. I let her cry and rage until the intensity ceases a bit.

“You are jealous because you want a kitten,” I say.

She nods and cries a bit more.

“I feel like a bad friend,” she says through her tears. “Have you ever felt jealous?”

Have I ever. I tell her about growing up and being incredibly jealous all the time. My friends got more presents at Christmas, had prettier hair, more boyfriends and took elaborate vacations my family would never be able to afford. I didn’t even fly in an airplane until I was in college.

I know a little about jealousy.

“Did you grow out of it?” she asks.

No. I have to admit that I have moments as an adult where I feel the pang and sting still. More moments that I care to acknowledge.

I want a kitten too. I want a new laptop. I want a real summer vacation. I want to be smarter, more successful and drive a nicer car.  I want to be skinny.

Longing for things you don’t have is as human as it gets.

“What do you do about it?” she asks and hugs me tight.

I can feel the desperation in her voice and I know I have to get this moment right.

I pull back a little and look in her eyes.

There are different kinds of emotions, each balancing the other out, I explain. Like in the movie, “Inside Out,” where Joy can’t exist without Sadness.

She nods.

“When I think about jealousy, I picture purple,” she says. “Like grape jelly. So I picture her being purple with a pale green dress on.”

“Sounds good,” I reply. “Who balances jealousy?”

I ask this question and realize I don’t have an answer. My emotional growth is about the same as her in this department. Well, maybe a bit better. I don’t cry all the time. Not all the time.

“I don’t know,” she says.

We both sit there for a few minutes thinking about it. Jealousy makes you want things other people have. What is a word for being happy with what you got?

“Contentment,” I finally say. “I picture her as wearing all pink and having a sweet voice. She says things like, ‘my room is so beautiful’ and ‘I love my family so much!”

“Yes,” she says. “Contentment tells me ‘I’m lucky to have a mom that rubs my back and talks to me’ and ‘I have awesome red hair.’”

Exactly.

We list off more and more things which make us feel content.

It feels good and the ugliness of the longing for what others have starts to fade for us both.

We cuddle up closer. She points to the picture on her wall of us nursing when she was a baby. She tells me she looks at it every night as she is falling asleep.

“I just pretend you are laying next to me,” she says. “Then I fall right asleep because I know you love me.”

My heart does complicated leaps of joy and sadness.

I tell her jealousy won’t go away and will be with her the rest of her life.

“Just be sure to let contentment have a voice too,” I say.

We agree to keep this conversation going.

“Maybe when I’m in college I can Face Time you,” she says. “Might even have holograms by then and I’ll project you laying right next to me.”

“Absolutely,” I say.