Category Archives: tears

New Direction, New Get Born Post…

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First, I apologize for my absence!  I’ve got  a lot of things I’m working at sorting through, one of which is the direction I’d like to take the blog in now that it’s been a year.  My little life here with N and not-so-baby-anymore-K has changed a lot this last couple of months – focuses shifted, directions changed – and I’m hoping to reflect all of that in a new feel for the blog.  So bear with me!

In the meantime, here is my post this month for Get Born.  It’s a rambling gush of feelings on the lost babes in Newtown, and I hope you’ll take a minute to cry with me.  Love to you all, and thank you for sticking around 🙂

Twenty Spaces Held

Blogged by Kayenta on December 22, 2012

I have not really written anything substantial about the shooting last week, and this is likely to be a rambling gush of feelings after a week of tears shed, of thoughts held with near constancy for the lost babies’ mothers.  What they must see in what should be a season of light and love.  The void they must face as they look past an empty Christmas and see an endlessly empty lifetime… read more

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.

Perspective

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My apologies for falling off the blog grid lately!  August is the month of many birthdays in my life, including N’s, and we get caught up in the end-of-summer insanity around here.  August is also the month that I begin the seasons-long grieving for everything that summer represents.  I adore the lazy afternoons at the pool, watching my boys splash around and enjoy the sun.  I welcome the break from the school-year routine of hurried mornings and scheduled classes, and I try  not to plan anything other than vacations and picnics from May to September.  Then, the first of August comes as a harsh reminder that the countdown to fall has become.

August also brought birthdays – reminders of the years that have passed so quickly since N came into my life, the years that have passed since my birth as a mother.  And August came to a close by reminding me not how quickly summer had ended, but how indescribably lucky I am to have healthy children whose greatest traumas have been a few stitches and some bumps on the head.

For a bit of background:  I am the oldest of five girls in my family.  I have one biological sister and three sisters adopted from Guatemala.  My littler sisters are 11, 12, and 12, and have been through more shit than most adults, let alone little children, could endure.  But they have endured, amazingly, and they continue to do so.  The littlest, E, was born with small, hard kidneys that would not survive childhood.  When E was adopted a year and a half ago, she brought with her memories of being abandoned in a Guatemalan hospital, living in weakness at an orphanage with not one person to come visit her, and a body that was giving up.  Through diet, medicine, and nightly dialysis, E grew stronger and bigger, surpassing everyone’s expectations as she mastered English quickly and spread her warm vitality wherever she went.

The day of N’s birthday party, E came down with a fever.  The next day, she went to Children’s Hospital, where she would unexpectedly stay for two weeks, and where an infection would whittle away her tiny body.  During her stay, I visited twice, and gained a perspective that I have never had.

I’ve always been grateful that my kids are healthy, as all mothers are, but with a blindness of never knowing otherwise.  .  Visiting E the day after she was admitted, I walked past the room next to hers.  A toddler – one that resembled Baby K in so many ways – was literally climbing the bed to get away from a nurse.  “No, it too owie!”  He cried.  “It too owie!”  He screamed, frantically kicking away from his mother and anyone else who tried to touch him, as I stood staring in the hall with tears in my eyes.

The sight of that baby, so much like mine, coupled with witnessing the intense stress of critical illness on E and my parents, has really brought it all to my heart.  Given me a perspective of opened eyes.  It could so easily be my husband and me, sitting with a crying, terrified child being poked and traumatized.  But it wasn’t – my babies get colds and stomach bugs and stitches.  They scrape knees and get fevers and keep going.   I pray every. single. night that this will continue to be the story of our lives.  And that this story will come to a close with a new kidney and a healing for E, in all the ways she needs.

Growing Pains

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My first baby started preschool last week.  He didn’t cry, or cling to me, or watch the door when I dropped him off.  My god, was that heartbreaking a big relief.  I was the only one clinging, watching, crying.  I had spent the entire previous week freaking out about the impending change.  And by “the previous week’, I mean the last three months.   For the past two plus years, N has been going twice-weekly to an amazing woman who is a friend to me and a second mother to my child.  He grew up with her, and she knows N better than anyone other than me.  When I walk out of her door every Tuesday and Thursday, I know she will nurture him like I would, and that I will return to pick up the exact child I dropped off.

But preschool – preschool is rife with uncertainty and unknown circumstances.  New kids, new interactions, new expectations.  I can’t sit and watch the whole time, can’t make sure his needs are interpreted correctly and met quickly.  It terrifies me.  It’s so…real world.  And the real world can be so hard on little egos, on little souls.  Will he find out the hard way, when some child makes a cruel remark, that not every little boy loves pink Dora the Explorer backpacks?  Will someone hurt his feelings, causing him to make the crushing “I’m sucking these hurt feelings right back in” look that only those who know him best will recognize?  Will he break a rule he didn’t know existed and take the discipline personally?

I know each and every one of these things will happen to N as he moves away from me and discovers the world in his own way.  I just am not quite ready for that to begin happening right now.  I put a lot of thought into preschools that would nurture N’s creativity and his love of learning while still letting him be little, and I’m confident that’s what I’ve found.  But nothing can protect my baby from – *sob* – growing up.  Growing away.  From his Mama.

When we pulled into the school parking lot, I breathed deeply, and N shouted excitedly, “My school!  I can’t wait, I can’t wait!”  I could hear the nerves ticking his octave up, but the excitement was real.  We talked up this preschool business for months.  You’re a big boy, now!  Three-year-olds get to go to preschool and learn so many fun new things!  But I’m sure he could feel what I was really thinking:  I’m not ready!  It’s scaring the shit out of me, and I’m an adult!  How will you ever handle it?!  

N asked me to carry his backpack up the sidewalk until he saw a little girl pulling a backpack just like his.  He ripped the backpack out of my hand, popped the little handle up, and pulled it confidently down the sidewalk.  That backpack was the first thing he introduced to each teacher we met that morning.  His big talking point.  “I got this new backpack!  It’s like a special suitcase just for school!”  A great way to break the ice, with a prop to look at so he didn’t have to shyly make eye contact.  So much like his dad, it tugs at my heart.

As it turned out, I had to be the brave one and actually walk out the door, leaving my big boy behind.  I left him happily playing with some blocks like he’d been there every morning of his life.  It was a proud, heartbreaking, anxiety-ridden moment.  I spent the next four hours trying not to call and check on him every ten minutes.  (I only broke down and did it once).  When I returned, N was standing next to his backpack, waiting patiently for me to come.  He’d had a great morning; his teacher said she’d take a whole class full of kids like him any day.  I exhaled.  Finally.  Looking at him there, standing so tall and proud and grown-up feeling next to his brand new backpack, I knew my worst fears had come to fruition.  I’d dropped off my baby, and picked up a big kid already discovering his independence.  And tomorrow, we start it all over again 🙂

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.

Sugar Highs and Lows

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Somewhere today between the 37th subsequent pretend game of “Fire Rescue” and nearly being stabbed in the eye as N spun around the kitchen wielding a pumpkin-carving knife and a sugar-induced adrenaline rush, I lost it.  It might have been when N jumped from the couch onto my back as I was sneaking in a quick song with Baby K, or maybe when Joe announced he wasn’t feeling good and was going to bed with very inconvenient timing, leaving me to cook for two hungry, tired kids, feed said hungry, tired kids, and then force everyone to enjoy some pumpkin carving.

Whatever it was that did me in, I was done.  Cooked.  Completely over all of it.  Which sucked, because I love carving pumpkins.  Love it.   I don’t go all fancy with printed-out patterns or exciting tools that help me etch Starry Night into a giant gourd.  No, I just stick with faces and maybe a bat or two. But, damn do I like slopping those disgusting seeds onto the floor and sawing out a creation some punk is just going to smash in the street the next night.   It’s worth it for the minute we light the candles inside the jack-o-lanterns and turn out the porch light to watch them glow while we sing “Jack-o-lantern, Jack-o-lantern” to them.

Usually, I love it.  Not tonight.  This is how tonight’s pumpkin carving went:

We (N and I, since Joe was in bed and I had secured Baby K in a bouncy chair to keep him from choking on pumpkin guts) lay out the newspaper and put the pumpkins on the floor.

N jumps onto his footstool to reach the counter: “Mama, I’m going to get some candy.”  Me: “No, you’re not.  You’ve had two cupcakes and more candy than you could possibly need today.”  N begins to pout.

Me, with the great redirect: “Which pumpkin should we start with?”  N: ‘The baby one.  But you need to give him a scary face.”  Fitting, considering N’s current feelings about his too-cute brother.

N, in his teasing voice, back on the effing stool: “I’m going to get some caaandy…”  Me: “If you get one more piece of candy off the counter, you’re going to bed.  Get back over to your pumpkin and scoop its guts out.”  And have fun while you do it.

This negotiation goes on annoyingly for five minutes, finally escalating to threats of cancelling Halloween.

Me (as you will see, I’ve lost it at this point): “if you get on that stool one more time to try to reach that candy, we’re not trick-or-treating tomorrow and I’ll give your costume away.”

Right, like that is going to happen.  For one, I spent four hours ironing purple stripes onto a sweatsuit for his cat costume and my back still hurts from leaning over the ironing board.  Plus, I’m not actually a terrible witch, I just play one most evenings.

So, after the near-miss with the pumpkin knife, a few tears and some screaming (both from me), and an eventual realization that I was going to be carving pumpkins all alone for the first time in my life, I gave up.  We took two hastily-finished jack-o-lanterns outside and I mustered the patience to sing to them in the dark because, well, they need it to fully function as jack-o-lanterns, I’m fairly sure.

Then, in what is more of a routine than I’d like to admit, I tuck N into bed along with my guilt over losing control of our house once again, apologize for yelling and tell him he’s a good boy.  To which he responds, “I know I am, Mama.  I just act naughty sometimes, but I still love you.”  And as I’m walking from the room empty of my earlier frustration, he shouts, “I’m gonna get some candy after I sleep all night.  For breakfast.  Lots of it.”   Sigh.  Next year I’m telling him he’s allergic to sugar.