The saga of the magical blue unicorn

I have to admit it. She is pretty glorious.

That silver-flecked mane, fuzzy blue fur and pretty pink hooves can cause fits of “ahhs” in most anyone. Then, if you hug her, you’re just done for.

It’s over.

She owns you.

I do think her silver horn with pink rings is a bit tattered. But the ridiculous softness of her muzzle on your cheek makes you forget all about that.

Lately though, she has caused a major upheaval in our happy home and I’m frankly ready to send her packing.

We have a history so it’s hard to just toss her out on her furry blue stuffed bum. But I’m close.

So very close.

Maybe I should start at the beginning of this sordid tale. It all began at a garage sale about four years ago.

“You aren’t getting another stuffed animal,” I tell my kids as we cruise around the neighborhood. “Books, yes. Stuffies, no.”

My children have a very severe stuffed animal addiction.

I’m not kidding.

Seriously, I have never known two children to be more stuffed animal obsessed than these two.

They have “stuffy pits” in their rooms and boxes in the garage of the second-string stuffed animals that get rotated in and out of the pit.

I wish I made that up.

I created this mess, but it is beyond me now.

I’m fairly certain both my children will be carrying a beloved stuffed animal down the aisle with them when they get married.

It’s happening.

Back to the day of the garage sale:

“No stuffies,” I repeat over and over at each house as both children hold up an array of ratty-looking animals proclaiming things like:

“I don’t have a skunk stuffy!”

“But look at his eyes mom!”

“This one told me he NEEDS me!”

I stayed strong and we almost made it home with a few new books.

That was until my boy saw her.

She was sitting on a blanket in the grass, her mane sparkling in the morning light. He danced over to her, swept her into his arms and literally cooed.

I swear. It was a coo.

I braced myself for what I knew was coming.

“Oh mom,” he started. “She is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Just look at her. I need this unicorn. She needs me. I have to have her.”

This is when something crazy shifts in my head.

My adorable little boy is begging me for a pink and blue unicorn. The sweetness/cuteness factor was too high. I tried to resist. I did.

Then he kissed her and hugged her so tight that I thought my heart would burst.

Damn it.

We are getting another stuffed animal.

She was the light of his life for about a month and then she was replaced by some other favorite. Although she wasn’t his “number one” anymore, she never left his bed – the place of honor and love reserved for the best of the best.

Then one day, about a year ago, his sister took her and started to play with her.

“I love her!” she proclaimed over and over.

My boy, in an attempt to feel like he is growing up, gave Miss Unicorn to his sister.

“Really brother?” she said and then cooed.

I swear. She cooed too.

“Yeah,” he said. “She is yours now.”

I could see the look of doubt and regret right away, but his need to feel older and like a super brother won out.

That day.

Since then, there has been a serious of feuds regarding the ownership and care of this beloved unicorn.

“I found her on your floor!”

“You gave her to me!”

“You don’t give her enough attention!”

“You gave her to me!”

“She loves me more!”

“You gave her to me!”

“I wish I never let her go!”

“You gave her to me!”

Buckets of tears and many yelling matches later, sister has held tight to her claim.

It’s been clear to me that she has no real attachment, but that she doesn’t want to give into her brothers desire. Because, clearly, “he gave her to me!”

Yes. I certainly get that.

My parenting philosophy on kids fighting is to stay out of it unless it comes to blows or until I can’t stand to hear it anymore.

Then I storm in, yell and everyone ends up fuming alone in their rooms.

Mother of the year.

Yesterday the unicorn battle flared up again and I thought my head would explode.

“That’s enough!” someone (who sounded suspiciously like me) yelled very loudly. “Everyone just stop talking! Rooms! Now!”

Miss Unicorn then went into a secure location to recover from the trauma of it all. I considered never, ever letting her out.

You’ve caused your last fight you sparkly-mane troublemaker.

Then this morning happened.

My boy was sad. He is going through an emotional growth phase, 9-year-old stuff, and he woke up feeling overwhelmed by everything today. He lay on the living room floor feeling the weight of life and crying his eyes out.

I lifted him up, blanket and all, and cradled him on the couch. (No small feat, anymore. He is getting enormous.)

As I was comforting him, here comes sister with Miss Unicorn.

My brain went into a tirade.

Are you freaking kidding me? Please don’t start this shit. Don’t you see how sad he is! Really? What is wrong with you?

She comes right up to us and rubs the unicorns muzzle on his cheek. She uses the horn to wipe away his tears and smiles at her brother.

“You can have her back,” she says. “Don’t be sad.”

He smiles and hugs the unicorn tight.

“I love you,” they both say at the same time.

I may have cooed.

Thank you magical unicorn.

unicorn

An hour later.

“Well, maybe we can share him?”

“No. I don’t want to do that.”

Shit.

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The hardest dance of my life

As we walk into the door of the karate studio I can feel the tension that has been building in the car reach a climax.

“Please mom,” he pleads quietly in my ear as I sign him in, “don’t make me do this. I just can’t do it.”

He has been begging me all afternoon to let him skip class. He was blaming the sunburn on his back, but I know it’s more than that.

At home, in front of dad and sister, it wasn’t as desperate as it was in the car. He tried everything to get me to turn the car back around. Now that we are in the building and it is time for class, the panic has intensified.

“You can’t do this,” he says. “I’m in pain mom. I can’t do it. I really, really can’t. If it was my old class I could, but this one is hard.”

He whispers the words in a rush with tears in his eyes. He is holding himself back from screaming and I can see his little body tense with fear.

“You have to go into class and tell your sensei,” I tell him calmly. “If he excuses you then we will go home.”

He throws his body on me and I try to hug him. He wiggles away and looks at me with anger.

“Time for class,” his sensei announces.

He tries one more please, but I don’t make eye contact or respond. He takes off his flip-flops and throws them at me.

“Pick those up,” I say. “That is not OK.”

He picks them up, stacks them beneath the chair and walks into class.

I take a deep breath and start texting my friend on the phone for support.

Did I do the right thing? Did I push too hard? What if I just damaged our relationship?

I look up and see that the class isn’t doing basic stretches right and the sensei is making them do extra burpees. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a pushup followed by a jump into the air. I’m so worried about his back.

For a few minutes I consider walking into his class and saying, “please don’t push my boy too hard today. He has been very emotional and he has a sunburn.”

Then I see my boys face.

He is smiling.

Really, really smiling.

My eyes fill with tears. He not only is doing it, but he is amazing.

This little boy of mine is killing it.

His back is fine. It was just his fear of doing something hard and failing.

This is what being a parent is all about.

And it sucks.

I often feel unprepared and caught off guard with the intensity of his feelings.

My heart hurts and I constantly have to tell myself that I cannot save him from pain.

I am not here to make his life easy and happy.

Ugh. I hate that.

My role is to help him find his path and allow him to become fully himself.

He pushes away from me, yet still needs to feel safe and connected.

I try to give him freedom to make choices about his life, but I can’t let him give up when things get hard.

I have to balance my urge to protect and shelter with his NEED to be pushed and challenged.

This dance is exhausting.

And it’s just begun.

At the end of the class he walks out, puts on his shoes and hugs me.

“Sorry mom for how I acted,” he says. “Thanks for making me go.”

boyandme

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

Question everything and then make rice crispy treats

I am not sure where it came from, but my parenting style is basically an obsessive quest to question everything.

My mother wasn’t that way. Her parenting was pretty instinctual. She spanked us when she thought we needed it, gave us plenty of kisses, encouraged us to play outside and rejected the abusive way she was raised.

My dad was very hands-off. He did try to teach us to be civil, not use profanity, and to have an appreciation for art and theater. However, I don’t think he gave parenting much thought.

So although I can’t trace the origin, I have been on an information quest from almost the second of conception of my boy. It started with pregnancy nutrition and growing a healthy baby. I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually played classical musical through headphones on my stomach, just in case that actually would help my baby be smarter.

I even created a website in which I updated WEEKLY, sometimes DAILY, my pregnancy symptoms and the growth of my boy. How obnoxious. Wow.

I then moved onto researching labor and delivery. I read everything I could. I was like a crazed maniac trying to solve some complicated mystery. I don’t know how many books, articles, websites I read, but it was too many. Far too many.

After he was born it didn’t stop. I subscribed to a newsletter that told me every milestone my baby should be on, and then flatly rejected it. I read book after book to try to establish what felt right to me. I questioned EVERYTHING. I took nothing for granted.

Why did I do all this you ask? It’s not because I love my children more than anyone else. Nope. It’s not that I wanted to “one-up” my mom or anyone else. No way. It was because I wanted to be good at something. Really good at it. I wanted to rock this motherhood thing. I wanted to be perfect.

Perfection is a tall order. It will come as no surprise that I was constantly disappointing myself.

I remember when my little girl was just a few days old I got sick. Nursing had been a nightmare. I was confused because I’d had this beautiful home birth and now things were awful. I remember crying, shaking from a high fever, digging my toes into the carpet in immense pain and still feeling guilt that my 2-year-old was watching a cartoon.

What the hell was wrong with me?

When I finally got help the lactation consultant actually yelled at me. It was just what I needed.

“You have nothing to prove,” she said. “We all need help.”

I accepted that because I had no choice. I did not like it. Not one bit.

Over the last six years I have had to learn that lesson over and over. Needing help does not make you weak, it makes you human.

I am still learning to trust my instincts and do what feels right, even when others look at me like I am crazy. I wish I could get there quicker and that I could just relax and stop questioning so much.

This leads me to rice crispy treats.

I have so many food issues that I could write 50 blogs about those and not even scratch the surface. So let’s just say, I’m crazy when it comes to food.

I have consciously tried not to pass those issues onto my kids. I nursed both kiddos until almost 3. I made homemade baby food and didn’t let them taste sugar for as long as I could.

I try, REALLY I DO, to not use food as reward. My kids know what GMOs are and about organic food. They know why I’m picky about the animals we eat and have seen images of what commercial chicken farms look like.

I want my kids to be informed consumers in every aspect, particularly about food. However, I do think that sometimes I am robbing them of simple pleasures that other kids have.

That brings us back to rice crispy treats.

My kids have seen them and tasted them at a friend’s house. I have casually called them “chemically laden poison.” Yep.

That’s not giving them food issues at all. Sigh.

So this week, as I’m busy healing and digging myself out of depression, I decided to just do something crazy. What if we just made rice crispy treats? No reason. No questions.

My first instinct was to buy organic everything and modify the recipe (which is what I normally do.) But I fought that urge. Not this time.

I bought the Kellogg brand cereal and the Kraft marshmallows. We tied on our aprons and prepared to follow the recipe on the box.

one

Look at those happy faces. They were very excited, but they had some questions for me:

“But don’t these have GMOs?”

“You said they are bad.”

“Are you sure about this mom?”

“It’s OK to have them once in a while, ” I said. “We don’t eat them all the time and I thought it would be fun.”

I was proud that they questioned it, but also sad. Maybe they should not know about such things as small kids. Maybe I’m wrong in teaching them about our polluted food supply.

No. Stop analyzing and questioning. It’s just rice crispy treats. Move on.

two

We added the butter and marshmallows. The kids took turns stirring them on the stove top and watching it all melt into goo.

“That’s cool,” my boy said.

three

I honestly can’t remember ever making these and was shocked at how easy they are to make. In just a few minutes we were done.

They decided to use the pumpkin cookie cutter to make them more seasonal. We all wished we had some M&Ms to make a face on them. Maybe next time.

We ate all four for dessert that night and they were unquestionably delicious.

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.