More than just a little story

I felt her hand on my chest. Her fingers found the soft spot she has always loved. The spot she has been caressing since her baby hands could reach it. She once told me she loves it because it’s squishy, warm and love. I love it as much as she does.

I caress her head and she cuddles in closer to me.

“Tell me about when I was born,” she coos. I have told her this story hundreds of times, but it never gets old for her. Or me. We love this story. The story of how she came into the world and I caught her myself. How I loved her little face the second I saw it. The big tub, her brother leaning over, grandma’s tears, how little she was, her ballet feet.

It’s our story.

She knows it so well that it is almost like a memory to her now.

That’s the power of storytelling.

Memory has always fascinated me. Some things I can recall crystal clear, yet others are slippery and elusive. It’s often in the telling and retelling that a story takes it’s permanent place in my memory bank. How close it is to the actual truth, I am uncertain.

I have so many stories I tell my children about themselves. Each one is selected purposefully. Stories that show how much they are loved, how strong they are and how they have overcome obstacles.

The story of how my son got stitches at age two is a favorite one. He was running to help a friend that had fallen. He hit his face on a park bench. All our friends rallied around us. Both kids love the part about how the nurse wrapped him up like a burrito and he asked for sour cream and avocado. Even in pain he made everyone laugh. I remember that he stared right into my eyes as they stitched him up. He didn’t move an inch. He was brave and in good spirits through the entire thing.

Every time they ask for a story about them, I am happy to tell it.

These are the stories they will remember and tell their children someday.

These stories are the foundation of how they think about themselves and how they fit into the world.

They are so much more than just stories.

I was reminded of this in a painful way this week.

I have a childhood friend that I love. Adore, really. Our history is long and we have lots of stories. Silly ones like swimming in the gutters and ruining our swimsuits. Sad ones like when she moved to England and I thought my heart would never recover from the break. Happy ones like when we used to squirt hoses across the street at each other.

For some reason, she keeps sharing a particular story that really doesn’t capture the “us” I remember. In this story, I am a bratty kid with a very bad attitude. Apparently, when I was about my boy’s age, I wrote her a letter in which I tell her that her mother is a bitch. Her mom kept this letter and they have brought it up several times now. They think it is funny. Maybe it is. But it doesn’t feel funny to me.

It actually hurts.

Deeply.

I didn’t say anything about it for awhile, because it is their story. But every time it is told, it makes my heart sink. It is embarrassing and I don’t remember writing it or feeling that emotion. I must have been really angry, upset or confused. It must have been hard for me to write such an emotionally charged word.

Memories are funny like that.

They remember me as this kid that wrote that letter. They also remember me as being mean and making fun of her for not being smart and knowing math.

I have no memory of either of those truths. I know those things happened…I just don’t remember it. Not even a tiny bit.

My image of myself at that age is a positive one. I loved school and was very good at it. The teachers loved me and I made friends easy. I have such vivid memories of being joyful, playing in the yard and riding bikes.

Maybe that is because those are the stories my mom told me about myself.

Maybe we just choose to remember the good about ourselves; because that is the truth we want to remember.

I have no idea.

What I do know is that storytelling is powerful stuff.

As a parent I need to keep that in mind. Always.

My son loves to hear and tell stories about the massive fits he used to throw. I would sit in his room with my back against the door while he raged and raged. He remembers feeling out of control. Kicking. Hitting. Sometimes even trying to bite me.

He is embarrassed now thinking about it, but I remind him that he was little and was having strong emotions he didn’t know how to express. I tell him that I loved him even in those moments, especially in those moments. That’s what parental love is.

These stories I tell and retell are helping my kids to write their own life story. It is shaping who they are and will become.

It’s an awesome responsibility and one that I don’t take lightly.

It is an honor.

I am OK and stuff like that

treeYesterday I sat in my car for 30 minutes and stared out the window.

I had stuff to do, but really not much time. So instead of being productive, taking a walk, making phone calls, running errands…I just froze. I literally watched some birds in a tree fighting for branch positions.

People keep asking me if I’m OK. They say it with a little head tilt sometimes, and I know it’s out of concern.

I don’t really know how to answer.

“I am doing better,” I say. “Things are good.”

And that is true.

Every morning I get up, do laundry and cook breakfast. I pack lunches and get my kids off to school.

I have set a budget, cut out Starbucks again (a major feat for me) and have focused on really listening to my children when they talk to me.

My house is clean, mostly, and I have started crocheting again.

All good things.

But there are lots of unhealthy choices I am making. I have lists of things to do and really no desire to actually do them.

What I do, instead, is just pour myself into being a great homemaker and mom. I do everything I can to make their lives easier and keep them happy.

The entire time I am doing things, however, this very ugly voice likes to whisper truths to me.

“You are so lazy and fat. Why can’t you take a walk every day? You have time. You are just lazy.”

“You know people who work 3 jobs AND do all the things you do. Maybe you are too stupid to do anything else.”

“Do you realize how freaking lucky you are? You are privileged and you sit around and whine about your life. You are a spoiled brat who doesn’t deserve friends.”

“Don’t meet with people. If you talk to them, they will find out how boring and ignorant you are. You’re a fraud and it is just a matter of time before you are found out.”

“Your kids are going to turn out to be entitled assholes if you keep making their lives so ‘easy.’ You need to stop it. You are not helping.”

These things do not motivate me to do better.

Nope.

But the loop plays anyway and I just freeze and watch birds out my car window like a moron.

Yep.

The other fun thing I have been doing is allowing myself to be drawn into other people’s chaos and disorder. I get wrapped up in it and spend more hours than I care to admit thinking about them and wishing for them to be happy.

I can’t do it anymore. I have said this before, but now I have to make it stick.

I have to.

This is not healthy for me and I don’t end up helping them anyway.

The craziest part, is that I have really amazing people in my life that always take a backseat to the drama. I never have time for them because I wrap myself up in all this other stuff.

I think I’m starting to understand.

It’s ugly people.

You might want to look away.

First, I am drawn to the chaos because I NEED to feel special. I want people to rely on me and trust me. I’ll be the one person you can turn to. I’ll be there when everyone else turns away from you.

Notice how it’s all about ME in this situation? It is not about them at all. I need to “save them” so I can feel better.

I can feel superior even.

Ugh. That realization hurts.

Bad.

Secondly, I am scared. Fearful that I am so damaged that I am not worthy of true friendship.

So. Not. Cool.

I don’t think I am a terrible person. In fact, I like me. I try to find the good in everyone and I REALLY do want to help others.

Trouble is, I don’t know how to do that and I am really bad about boundaries and saying no.

Really bad.

As a result of all this, I have pulled back in the last few years from everyone that I was close to. I have shrunk down inside this depression and kept others at bay. I make excuses and hide behind my kids.

But I am trying.

Really. I am.

My kids had a break from school and I invited over someone I admire and who inspires me. I was nervous. She had never seen my house or met my kids. She is a loving, caring, kind and amazing person. She is the kind of woman I want to be and who I should be around.

The fears were gone the second she came through the door. We had such a lovely, comfortable tea party.

It was so nice.

Last week I invited myself and my kids to another woman’s house that I adore and who I see as an incredible role model. I was very nervous, again. But I fought past those fears and did it anyway. I am so glad I did. I ended up being able to help her re-home her dog to some friends whose dog had died.

None of that would have happened if I had stayed tucked inside and safe.

But I have so much work to do still.

I was supposed to attend an Oscars party. I was excited and looking forward to it all week. I love the Oscars and have never watched them at a party before.

As the days got closer, I started wrapping myself up in self-doubt. I worked myself up into a frenzy of nerves.

“I don’t know what to wear. I have no idea what appetizer to bring. What if I say something stupid? What if…?”

Some friends stopped by a few hours before the party, and I used that as an excuse to just not go. No time to get stuff together, I have to cancel.

My husband knew I really wanted to go and tried to convince me. But I froze. He watched the Oscars with me, but I kicked myself all night. I should have showed up in my sweatpants with some bananas and just not stressed about it. Ugh.

This is stuff you are supposed to have learned in your teens or early 20s…yet here I am.

I see people try with me. They invite me places, they offer to help me and they are kind beyond anything I am worthy of…and I often blow them off.

I don’t mean to.

It just happens.

When I think about myself in the past, I don’t see myself as this introverted person who fears everything. But as I get older, that is exactly who I am becoming. All social occasions now are hard for me to face. I am so scared of what will happen that I’d rather have regret then face my fear.

It’s ridiculous nonsense. All of it.

To all my friends that keep trying with me, please don’t give up. I love you. I do. You have no idea how much. Your phone calls, hugs, texts, FB messages, even (since I’m being stupidly honest) your FB “likes” of my pictures, all help.

I don’t know what happened that made me become this fearful and stuck. Not sure it was a “thing.” It just is.

Yesterday, my daughter and I were waiting for her brother to get out of school. I didn’t want to walk on the campus and talk to people. I was just not feeling like I could do that. I wanted to sit in the car and space out. She was not having that.

She convinced me to take a walk with her. It was a short walk. We walked about five minutes to a spot where we could glimpse the river. She found her favorite hill. She kept going to the top and running down full speed.

“Come on mom,” she said. “It’s so fun! You might crash into a tree, but it’s soooooo fun!”

I climbed to the top of this tiny hill. I saw all the ways this could end bad for me. I could trip in the mud. I could sprain my ankle. I could fall on my butt.

I took a deep breath and ran down as fast as I could.

It was worth it.

hill

What makes you happy?

I can remember the conversation very clearly.

“What makes you happy?” a friend asked me.

“My family” I responded automatically.

“What else?” she asked with a smile.

I had nothing. My mind was completely blank. I tried to change the subject, but she wasn’t letting it go so easily.

“What do you like to do?” she asked. “When the kids are not with you, what is it that brings you joy?”

I felt cornered and my defenses went up. What was she getting at? Was my life terrible or something? Isn’t being a mom enough?

“I don’t know,” I said.

The words hung in the air and I started to marvel at them.

I really DID NOT know. I had lost myself and I had no idea it had even happened. I remember feeling a sense of complete awe at the notion that I had nothing separate from my children. How had I let motherhood be everything? How could I have not?

That was a year ago. Since that time I have found some answers.

What makes me happy?

Family. My children continue to be a huge source of my happiness. They make things interesting, fun and challenging. They constantly test my patience, tug at my heart and show me things that I would never have seen without them. They are my inspiration.

Writing. The very act of sitting down and composing my thoughts fills me with indescribable joy. This blog has allowed me an outlet for working things out and just expressing the things I hold inside so tightly. It’s like a coil has been unwound and the words often pour out quicker than I can type.

Friends. Being open has allowed me to really meet some amazing people over the last year. I have been given permission to be myself and it has created space for some incredible connections. The feeling that I am alone is slowing being replaced by that of community, love and support.

Dance. How had I ever forgotten how wonderful it feels to just let your body move to music? There is nothing like letting my entire being be moved by a beating drum. Forgetting everything and just swaying, jumping, prancing and feeling. I can’t live without it again.

Service. I had the opportunity this year to help several friends in times of crisis. I allowed myself to be in a forgiving, open and vulnerable position. What I received was a feeling of self-worth and love that I had forgotten about. “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” — Albert Einstein

It is a New Year. I told myself that I would not write a resolution or reflection blog.

Shit.

Looks like I just did.

I guess pulling out that new calendar makes us reflect, even if we don’t want to.

My kids are obsessed with looking at pictures of the past year and talking about the year to come.

Did you know I will be 10 this year mom? Yes, son. I hate it.

Did you know I will start first grade this year mom? Yes, daughter. I hate it.

So, following in the footsteps of the brilliant Renegade Mothering, I will make an Honest Resolution.

I will not forget what makes me happy.

That’s it.

I think I can do it.

Stupid, bad mommy

Holding her hands back as she attempts to punch me, I forget about her feet and one connects with my side. Hard. All of her limbs are in motion with the intent on doing damage. She is still small and I can handle her blows.

It’s what is coming out of her mouth that feels like I’m being repeatedly stabbed with a rusty knife blade soaked in poison.

“I hate you!”

“Your a bad mommy!”

“I wish I’d never been born because your so bad!”

“Your a stupid, ugly mommy!”

Each hurtful phrase is followed by a scream that comes from deep inside. It shakes her whole body and seems painful. I hold back my tears and try to remember…she is only 6. She is in pain.

But it hurts.

It feels like I’ve failed at the most important job in the world, being her mother. I’ve failed to give her the tools to handle things.

My poor sweet, sensitive girl.

From the time she started talking it was clear she has strong feelings and emotions. She thinks about things little ones should not and comes up with phrases that often leave me speechless. She is always concerned with how people feel and is often brought to tears when hearing a story about someone sad.

For those reasons, and many others, I have to be careful of what she is exposed to. We limit media and she attends a Waldorf school. But I can’t shield her from every hurt and, truthfully, I don’t want to.

This “I hate you” stuff is new. This is the first full week of school and 3 out of the 4 evenings have ended with an outburst (each getting progressively longer and meaner). After the rage comes the real tears and we get to the hurt and pain. Then, most horribly, it ends with guilt.

“I’m a bad kid.”

“Your a good mommy and I’m just awful to you.”

“I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.”

Those words twist the knife and I want to run out of the room sobbing.

The truth behind all this pain is that my girl wants a best friend. She is obsessed with the idea of having someone she can count on. Someone she can trust. I’ve explained that it takes time to build friendships and that she just needs to play with everyone right now.

“Time is all you need.”

“Just keep being yourself and people will line up to be your friend.”

“You are awesome. You are amazing. Give people time to see that.”

I even brought out the old Girl Scout song:

“Make new friends

But keep the old

One is silver

And the others gold”

She wants it so bad that every interaction becomes “is she my best friend or not?” Then she decides the answer is no and is as heartbroken as she will be when her first boyfriend dumps her.

I’m not stupid and can see the correlation between her pain and my own. I know that even at age 6 she can feel her mothers depression. I am not whole right now. I’m broken and I can’t help but feel that she senses it.

How can I expect her to be strong, resilient and confident when I am not?

I hate this.

I want to give her skills that help her find meaning and love.

I want her to feel whole and confident.

I want her to stop freaking out and saying mean things, because this mom can’t take much more. Words freaking hurt.

How can I do all that? I have no clue.

I know some of the answers can be found by seeking Gods help. It keeps coming back to that. We read her book about guardian angels last night and she found some comfort in that. I’m talking to her more about prayer and we are going to start praying together.

My daughter is amazing. I am certain she is destined to do something great with her life.

I only wish I could fast forward through this hard stuff. But, of course, this is the stuff parenting is made of. The hard stuff.

I just hope I survive.

My boy

The events in Boston are still on my mind. As I wrote this post about my boy, the significance of the 8-year-old that was killed was present with me. I had a hard parenting day and needed to write about it, but I realize that I’m very lucky to have this problem. Damn lucky.

I’m losing it. I’m losing him.

He just won’t listen to me.

Although he is now getting out of bed in the morning, thanks to an alarm clock, he is still not getting dressed or coming down to breakfast without repeated pleas that end in yelling and me threatening to send him to school without food.

No carpool this week because he has created a story of Teddy and Mousey, two of his stuffed animals, that has taken on a life of its own. It involves lots of exploding cakes and moldy cheese. Its been going on since September, but we’ve all had enough. Really. ENOUGH.

In class today I witnessed him ignoring his handwork teacher. Then he was making sounds during the quiet moment she asked for. Cat sounds. Loudly. Followed by giggles.

His karate teacher had to tell him repeatedly to stop daydreaming and to pay attention. When he comes out of class he says, “I had the best chamber kick recoil.”

He was supposed to be brushing his teeth, but instead I find him banging two toothbrushes on the counter, shaking his butt, singing to himself and watching all this in the mirror.

Annoyance.
Anger.
Fear.
Embarrassment.
Disappointment.

I’m not supposed to feel that way. His behavior is not supposed to reflect on me. I try to stop the tirade against myself that I know is coming, but I can’t.

Am I failing him? What could I have done differently? I wasn’t present enough. He didn’t get enough protein. I should have been more patient. Did he get enough sleep? I should laugh more. Give more hugs. He is only 8. Lighten up! He is just a kid. But is he turning into a brat? Is he becoming that kid you don’t want your kid around? Am I that mom? I don’t know what I’m doing. Panic.

Then it’s bedtime. We read two chapters of book eight in the Lemony Snicket series. He begs for one more, but I say it’s late. I’m tired.

He pulls my face toward him. He gives me my kisses. Forehead, both eyes, cheeks and chin. Nose rubs followed by eight kisses on the nose and one big smooch on the lips. I return them in the exact order. He looks at me with his glasses off. His eyes red and tired.

“I love you mommy.”
“I love you too.”
“Did you hear me?”
“Yes.”
He grabs my face.
“I love you mommy,” he says again.

Melted. Renewed. Reassured. Everything is going to be OK. We have another day together and it’s everything.

Taking the plunge

Once upon a time there was a mother who wanted to do something other than dishes and laundry. Oh how she longed for adventure. She would sometimes throw a hot pink sock in with the whites… but she needed more.

This mother loved her sweet children to the point of obsession. She made sure they were bathed at least once a week. She made homemade bread, tucked them in at night and told them how beautiful they were. She drove miles and miles every day so the prince and princess would be taught by the finest teachers in the land. But she still craved something.

Then one day she was told about something called “blogs.” Such a strange word, she thought, as she neatly folded her husbands underwear and tucked it into his drawer.

The next morning she started reading these “blogs” and was amazed. These women were just like her! They also toiled in the daily grind of motherhood, wifehood, sisterhood. They too craved something more. Could this be her something?

And so, she took the plunge. She put it out there. Would people read? Would they care? Would they even notice?

It involved a bravery that she didn’t know if she had. She took a deep breath and just went for it.