Category Archives: guilt

Tools of Erosion…

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It was my turn to post over at Get Born Magazine today.  I wrote about self-shaming, and the unrealistic place it comes from.  What do you shame yourself about?  Where does that less-than come from, and who are you competing with?

Tools of Erosion

Blogged by Kayenta on September 23, 2012 

I recently read a wonderful piece of writing in which the author said shame is a tool of the less-thans.  To that perspective I would like to add….read more here

The Math on Mommy Guilt

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I had a beer Saturday night with one of my best friends, S.  S and I met in the hospital birth-prep class we took while we were pregnant with our first babies.  Her son is a week younger than N, and has been his friend since birth.  We’ve gone together through all of the issues that come with first-time motherhood, and now we’re talking each other through the completely different issues of second-time motherhood.

Last night, S asked me if I ever just cry at night over worry about my kids.  My reassurance that I do, frequently, cry with worry over everything involving my kids led to a conversation topic most moms are very familiar with: guilt.  S said she she doesn’t think most moms worry like that.  I said she need only look at the blogosphere or ask her other mommy friends, and I am positive she will find a huge amount of guilt out there.  More than we can possibly carry in diaper bags already overflowing with worry, insecurity, inadequacy and fear.  In fact, when I googled “mommy guilt”, it took less than a second to come up with 160,000 results.

So there you go, S, we’re far from alone.  Mommy guilt is this thing we all struggle with, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends.  Is it healthy?  Probably not.  Is it the norm?  Definitely.  We spend nights beating ourselves up over the things we should have done, should not have said, should have heard better.  The ways we are screwing our kids up for life, be it by treating our second children differently or coddling the first too much.  We read book after book about the “right” way to parent, adding with every turn of the page yet another thing we could do better.

This “I could do better” attitude of inadequacy is at the center of guilt.  Of mine, at least.  I am willing to bet it’s at the center of a lot of mothers’ guilt.  How we tell that constant feeling inadequacy to f**k off is beyond me.  It’s a level of spiritual work I will strive toward for a long, long time.  Probably until the end of my life, when I will look back and hopefully not wonder too long what I could have done better.

Discoveries

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Over at Get Born, a post about balancing Mama with Me:

Discoveries

Blogged by Kayenta

I was driving my 12-yr-old sister to a summer day camp last week, and I asked her what kind of music she likes.  Her response was a thoughtful: “Well, I haven’t really discovered that yet, but I’m trying all kinds.” How great, I thought.  To be twelve and know you have the absolute freedom and confidence to discover just who you are.  Wouldn’t most of us like to be in that place?  Trying things out until we discover, yep, this is me! … read more

Sure, Let’s Do It: A Pledge to My Kids

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I made a volcano with N while Baby K was napping this morning.  We used a plastic soda bottle and some salt dough we whipped up (from this seriously easy recipe), then “erupted” it with baking soda and vinegar.  It was spontaneous, and N stayed engaged with the activity for over an hour, which is rare around here due to a lengthy phase where he primarily plays in noisy spurts.

Mid-experiment, I posted a picture of our volcano on my Facebook page, expecting it to get lost among the busy days of my Facebook friends.  I certainly didn’t expect comments along the lines of “you’re so involved with your kids!”  This is actually the opposite of how I feel most days.  So many times in the past three years I have lazily said the words “we’ll do that tomorrow” or “we’ll get the stuff to do that another day.”  More often than not the last few months, it’s been “after we do this stuff that is actually a nonsense excuse, we’ll try that!”

So, this morning when N was gorging on YouTube videos of volcanic eruptions, and he said, “I wish I could make a volcano *sigh*,” I swallowed my near-immediate “we’ll get the stuff for it at the store this afternoon…”  Instead, I looked up a salt dough recipe and surprised N by suggesting we make one NOW.  Not at some indeterminate, never-to-actually-come, later time.

My ulterior motive behind dropping all of the completely unimportant crap I was doing in order to hep N make something so easy yet so enjoyable was so that I did not have to go to bed with regret at least one night.  One night when I didn’t have to feel bad that I pushed off some activity K or N wanted to do because I suffer daily from occasionally have mamatainer fatigue.  This is something that afflicts those whose sole job during every waking minute of her children’s days is to entertain them or help them entertain themselves.

So today I made a volcano, read Baby K’s favorite book until he (not I) got tired of it, and played a lengthy game of “mama and baby mountain lion chase the mountain goat up the stairs.”   When I posted the volcano pic and got the comments of admiration, I felt like a phony.  I get down on myself a lot for the activity fatigue, and I think – hope – I’m not alone.  Playing teacher plus support system plus caretaker plus safekeeper plus maid plus personal chef is a lot to get done in a day, let alone every day.

But this is me officially saying I’m going to spend fewer nights regretting and fewer days putting off.  I’m going to make more spontaneous volcanoes and read I Am a Bunny until I can repeat it in my sleep.  Not every day (let’s be realistic, here), but lots of days.  Because I’ve started to notice they’re growing up, which means soon they’ll be in school, and then college, and then in another town, and before I know it they won’t want me to read about bunnies or help them spew baking soda lava all over the kitchen.  And then I’ll go to bed regretting a whole new set of never-got-dones.

enLIGHTENment. Or, Hello, 2012!

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We have ushered the new year with some very nice days at our house.  Today, I didn’t even count down to naptime.  The boys played well together all day – N only knocked his little brother down once; Baby K kept the high-pitched screaming to a relative minimum.  We laughed and played dinosaurs; we ate snacks and took naps.  Before dinner, I surprised us all with a trip to the new self-serve yogurt shop near our house.  N was excited to sit in their bright orange scoop chairs and eat gummy bears with a little vanilla froyo on the side.  Baby K and I shared a little dish, and he was so pleased with the new cold sensation on his lips.

After the frozen yogurt, our day took one of those sneaky dives that doesn’t even show a hint of brewing below the surface until it rears its ugly head in the form of a public meltdown.   I’m very used to tantrums that happen as an indication that it’s naptime, or tantrums after an overstimulating day.  What takes me by surprise is N’s loss of control in the midst of an otherwise completely mundane activity.  Like driving from one parking lot to another.  I don’t know if he was screaming about cold, or about walking too far to get into the store, or about being afraid that someone would get the red firetruck shopping cart before he got to it.  But all of a sudden, my child was sobbing and screaming that I was parking in the wrong spot when he wanted me to park closer to the entrance.

Much worse than the screaming was the spoiled-as-all-hell tone with which his screams were filled.  Who did he think he was?  I played with him all day, took him out for ice cream, and then drove him to a store, one we could have walked to, because it was winter dusk.  And now he was throwing a fit because we weren’t parking in THE spot he wanted?  I was embarrassed for us both.  I told N he couldn’t ride in the firetruck cart at all, that he would have to walk next to me in the store or ride in a regular cart after that ridiculous behavior.  Which killed him.  Sent him into a slumped-over, howling, hyperventilating lump in his carseat.

I was stuck.  In my head, two voices:  everything I knew I should do as a responsible, consistent parent, and the practical reality.  I had to take this child into the store, where there were other people, and buy groceries for dinner.  I was supposed to stick to the consequence (no fire truck cart) so that I wasn’t rewarding the horrible behavior.  But, again, I had to go into the store with this, and I didn’t want to drag a screaming, out-of-control child through Safeway for half an hour.  So I went with practical.  Made him calm down, talked to him about getting it under control, stopped the hyperventilating.  Let him ride in the fire truck.

Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to my most important resolution for 2012.

This year, I will go easier on myself.  Not to be mistaken for letting myself go, I will give myself a break and quit failing at being a perfect mother.  I will no longer be so busy trying to make it all perfect that I spend all of my time feeling like I can’t.

Instead of listening to the shouting of the parenting books, the rules I know I should follow, and the fear of how others will see my mothering skills all the time, I will forgive myself for faltering and lift a little of the guilt off my shoulders.  Sometimes drawing a hard line on consequences isn’t realistic.  Sometimes, you have to let your kid ride in the fucking fire truck cart and then send him to his room after the fact to give yourself a little peace at the grocery store.  Giving in – or teaching the lesson later instead of right now – once in a while isn’t going to make me a bad mother.  I am even willing to bet that Dr. Sears and the “experts” at Babycenter have changed course mid-meltdown to just get the errand done.

The fit ended, I didn’t feel like N saw me as soft on the fit, he rode in the fire truck and spent 20 minutes in his room when we got home, and I shopped for groceries with two quiet kids.  Problem solved.  Maybe not the perfect mom way, but the perfect-for-this-mom way.  Welcome, 2012!  Cheers to you  and to a year of enLIGHTENment.

If ya can’t take the heat…chill out a little!

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I am a foodie.  Or a bakie, more precisely.  When I was pregnant with N, I would stand over a pot of spaghetti sauce and envision by toddler helping me taste-test and stir the noodles.  In my romantic vision, we would be baking buddies – he would grow up with warm memories of laughing while we baked cookies together and would know the names of each spice on the rack.  It would be beautiful!  A little culinary partnership with me as the patient teacher.

The dream basically came to fruition.  N loves to help me cook.  Only, it looks a little less Hallmark Channel and a little more like this:

I put the ingredients on the counter, pull up a stool, and invite N to join me in making cookies/bread/rice crispie treats.

N goes immediately for the eggs, which he begs to “hatch.”  I spend the next five minutes moving things strategically out of his reach so that the eggs don’t get hatched on the floor.

While I am doing this rearranging, N finds a spoon and the bag of sugar.  I move the sugar and remind him not to touch anything.  As I reach for a measuring cup, he grabs a stick of butter and smooshes it in his hand.

I wipe N off and we reset.  I remind him not to touch any of the ingredients.  I get out a spoon and start to stir.  N asks fora turn, and I give him the spoon.  He stirs…wildly, so that things slosh up over the edge of the bowl and all over the counter.

But it’s okay.  I’m the patient teacher, remember?  We press on.  I ask him to stir a little more carefully so that we have some ingredients left in the actual bowl.  And he does, for a minute.  I tell him it’s my turn to stir again, finish whipping up whatever it is, and take a deep breath.  Put it in the oven, and let N lick the spoon.

It only took me a year or so of baking with N to realize that neither of us were having much of the endearing experience I was imagining we would have.  In fact, I was spicing up most of our cooking attempts with a side of shaming and a splash of huffiness.  Turns out, those things make for a bitter result.

Which brings me to a big problem I have in my mommy life…expectations.  Expectations of what the result of my experience would look like, without enough of N in the plan.  This has happened to us with crafts, games, park time, you name it.  I have to check myself and remember I’m not playing at the park for me, I’m doing it for N.  If he doesn’t want to cover his coffee filter in watercolor to make a butterfly, and I have to nag him the entire time so that I can present a nice gift to his grandma, why can’t I just say, “Okay?  Paint it like you want, and Grandma will love it because you made it.”  Or, even, “That’s fine, play with the paints, and we’ll do a gift for Grandma later.”

Instead, I find myself whining in that ugly, shamey voice, “Okayy.  Paint it like you want.  I guess you won’t have a butterfly to give to Grandma.”  Gross.  Which one is the three-year-old here?  Who’s losing here?  N.  N, N, and only N.  My mom doesn’t give a shit what the butterfly looks like, or if N gives her a half-painted piece of coffee filter for Mother’s Day.  If he had fun and got to experiment with something new like watercolor, that should be the part that counts, right?

So, why is this so hard for me?  Why put so much pressure on myself to have a picture-perfect craft/baking/play time with my kids that I can’t even enjoy or let them just enjoy the process?  Who the hell knows.

But, I’m getting there.  An egg hatches on the floor?  We can wipe it up and get out another one!  N would much rather eat the cookie dough than roll it out and cut the cookies?  Have some cookie dough while I cut the cookies.  Because it really doesn’t matter as long as we laugh a lot and spend the time together.  Plus, I don’t end up with that sour taste of guilt on my tongue each time I bite into a cookie I bitched N into baking.