Am I doing the right thing?
Those are the words that hit me after I’ve had a difficult parenting moment, and when I lay in bed staring into the darkness mulling it over and over again.
It is like a physical pain in my heart when I think about my kids. Am I doing this well? Did I choose right? Was I too harsh? Did I let them manipulate me? Was I too lenient? Did I give them what they needed not just for now, but also for long term wholeness?
There are very few things in life I’m interested in doing alone. One of them is probably showering (I do not want to share my hot water), and the other one is pooping, but even then we can still text. In fact, my most profound and witty texts are brought to you by my toilet seat.
What I know for sure is that there’s no way in hell that I want to do motherhood alone. That’s a great way for me to go completely nutso. I can either cope with a latte and a heart to heart conversation, or 400 new throw pillows from Amazon, and one can only own so many throw pillows (or so my husband says).
Your eyes were strained and wet with tears that you quickly blinked away. You cleared your throat and pretended to be okay. You were not okay. I knew it and you knew it, but I’d already asked you so I didn’t press. The weight of the world seemed to be on your eleven-year-old shoulders and my Mama heart broke at my inability to fix it. I wished I could make it disappear. You were stressed about a test, stressed about a homework assignment, stressed about stress.
My love, listen to me: you are enough. Every day you are enough. If you bomb that test, if you never complete that assignment, if you fail at every little thing, you are enough. Even if you make a mistake that’s so big it seems like it might swallow you whole; you are enough.
We butted heads this morning and I saw that look in your eyes, the one that says she doesn’t get it, she doesn’t understand me. You got mad and I got mad too. It took me ten minutes and a mocha before I started to calm down.
Sometimes we are all tangled up on the couch picking out your dream dress on Say Yes. Sometimes our emotions seem to simultaneously combust into flames.
To my teenagers,
Be patient with me as I learn to let you go.
I know it’s time. I know you’re growing and becoming and that sometimes it’s uncomfortable. Be patient with me because it’s not just you who is adjusting, my love. It’s me too.
I know it’s hard to understand, but hear me out.
Yesterday I snapped at you about something silly. I was tired and overwhelmed and I took it out on you. You looked at me with your deep blue eyes and I knew I was messing up, but somehow I couldn’t stop the freight train of words that were already spilling out of my mouth. Every time I tried to backpedal and change directions I’d ruin it with another lecture; “BUT,” I said, “I just really need you to…”
I knew I was missing it. The whole time I knew I wasn’t being the kind of mom I want to be.
Dear White Moms,
You are my friends. You are my sisters.
We are the same in more ways than we are different, but there are a few things that I need you to know.
I have three black boys. They are the sweetest and most amazing humans I’ve ever met. They are incredibly intelligent, creative, artistic, caring, thoughtful, compassionate, friendly, and respectful. These aren’t just the characteristics of my three black boys, but of black boys all over America.
I always wanted a daughter. After two babies never made it earth-side, I ached and longed and prayed and cried for you. Every dream I had paled in comparison to my dream of you; and then you came. You came quickly like a tornado on a wild night that I will remember for the rest of my life.
What I felt for you was something I’d never felt before. I became a mother to a daughter, and I was born all over again.
Today I wish I could go back. I wish I could go back and hold you as an infant. I wish I could smell your skin and rock you just a little longer. I wish I could be still and feel that moment just one more time.
When I look at pictures of you in your toddler years with your round cheeks and pudgy hands, I smile. Inside my heart breaks a little bit because I wish I could squeeze you as you ask me a billion questions in your tiny voice, just one more time.
I wish you knew that sometimes when the house is dark and quiet, I come in and watch you breathe for a minute. I wonder there in the stillness if you know how much I love you. I think about the things I could have said differently, and I wonder if you let my mistakes roll off of you or if they stuck. I hope and pray there in the stillness that you would know how deeply and widely I love you.
When you’re running on empty and all you can smell are the fumes of your former self, I see you.
You’re not alone. There are women all around you who get it, even if you’ve never met. They’re rocking their babies to sleep, they’re tending sick kids, they’re trying to manage their frazzled tempers, they’re telling their partners “I can’t even explain today to you, it was just chaos”, they’re dealing with a teenager’s hormones, they are laughing, and they are crying. Whatever it is you’re feeling, there is a 1000% chance another mama is feeling it too.
To my “anytime” friends:
You know who you are. You are the ones I can text in the middle of an anxiety or depression spiral to let you know what’s going on, and you text back to remind me of who I am and that it’s going to be okay.
You are the ones that will never judge me or be shocked by my struggle. You are my anytime friends who love me when I’m happy, when I’m falling apart, and everything in between.
I’ll be honest with you, I’ve read a lot of advice about strong-willed kids and none of it has “worked” for me. I’ve tried talking to them and matching their emotions (this was like adding vinegar to baking soda), I’ve tried whispering and it went as well as I expected (they were unable to hear me #theywerescreaming), I’ve tried validating their feelings, listening, comforting, and all kinds of discipline techniques…etc.
My most recent “method” has been pretty advanced, it’s called: surviving.
My heart is yours. You can’t earn it and you don’t ever need to deserve it. I’ve already given it, and I never want it back.
You can push me away, you can roll your eyes, you can slam the door when you walk into your room. I will always be here, right here; I’m not going anywhere.
There are days when we don’t see eye to eye. Everything I say drives you crazy, and every thing you do makes me want to scream. But even on our very worst days, I am here, and I will always be here. There are no words you can say and no ways you can unravel that will push me away from you.
To be honest, the upcoming summer has brought me a little anxiety. I usually love the long, lazy days with nowhere to be unless we feel like it, but this year I’ve been feeling some pressure to “make it epic”.
We aren’t traveling this year or sending the kids to any camps, we aren’t really doing anything monumental except (hopefully) sleeping in. I’ll take them to the beach, and we will eat popsicles like it’s our job, but there will also be days when I work with my headphones on and I’ll need them to play on their own.
I might not “know” you; we may never have spoken; but sister, I am with you.
Maybe I walked past you in the store and our shoulders touched. Maybe we smiled and said “hi” in a coffee line. Maybe I complimented you on your purse or your jeans or your hair. Maybe we brushed against each other for three seconds out of the 2,207,520,000 seconds in an average lifetime. We do not know each other, but that’s beside the point. Sister, I am with you. This life is too hard and complicated and beautiful and painful to be anything other than with each other.
I took this picture today because I want to remember the messy, hard, falling apart days of mothering.
This is me after one of my kids had a giant public meltdown. The kind where I carried her flailing and kicking past teachers and students, and then put on a little show in the corner of the school yard for all who enjoy watching a mom try and tame a wildcat.
Sometimes between babies, and school drop off, and long nights followed by longer days…we lose ourselves. We lose ourselves in the beautiful messy process that is motherhood. We are willing to let ourselves go (mostly). We’re willing to stumble around in sweat pants, sipping luke warm coffee while we pick toys up off the floor. We are willing to give up half (85%) of our blankets for a middle of the night intruder. WE ARE WILLING because never have we ever loved like this, but sometimes, we miss ourselves, and that’s okay too.
It’s okay to look in the mirror and wonder what happened to the woman you knew.
It’s okay to miss her and to want her back.
I’ve been there.
The world has gotten more full of pressure to pretend than ever. Social media is overflowing with perfectly poised photos and empty invitations into an idealistic life. Listen to me dear ones; it is EMPTY. No one, ever, in the history of all the world has had a perfect life. Everyone has pain, everyone struggles with loneliness, everyone wrestles with anger, everyone feels insecure sometimes. EVERY ONE. There is no ticket out of the messiness. We can try and control it until our knuckles are white and cramped, but we will lose our joy in the process.
I had a few moms over for coffee the other day and one of them was telling me about the “imposter syndrome” among moms. I’d never heard of it before, but I’ve definitely experienced it. The imposter syndrome, she said, is a term for moms trying to appear to have it all together, probably because they feel less-than.
Look, I know that’s tempting. I dropped the F-bomb at the kiddy park today when my dog pulled over my stroller and later mom-handled a isntshetoooldforthis tantrum from my four-year-old. In that moment, I remembered how my friend used to use a fake name at the bar, and considered that that might be a good idea for me at the park. Hello, I’m Veronica and these are my kids Kevin, Stuart, Jenny, and Britney. You will not find us on Facebook. Please forget we ever met, kthanksbye.
I am with you.
I was with you when you were in my belly. I was swollen, heavy, tired, and I felt like a moose, but I was with you.
I was with you in the seconds, the minutes, and the hours of labor, when I truly didn’t think I could go on.
I was with you when I held you, and nursed you, and smelled your perfect skin for the very first time.
I was with you at 3am and again at 3:45. I was with you when I stumbled in the dark to get you from your crib. I was with you when I bargained with God for you to sleep.
Friendship is the wine and the coffee for my soul. Doing motherhood without them is like watching a comedy alone (weird, gross, and not all that funny).
I don’t need the same kind of friends as I once did. I’m a lot less patient with barelyscratchthesurface small talk . I have enough mind-numbing conversations with my children (God love em). I need real in my life. I need friends that are real, and friends that I can be real around.
I’m laying on my bed hiding right now. I can hear the kids bickering as they get ready for bed, and a little voice calling for water and a song. I’m tired and weary to my bones. I will get up anyway. I will go kiss little foreheads and pray a prayer. I will get the extra sip of water and I will listen while they tell me about their toe with the sliver. I will say, “Okay sweetie, no more talking. It’s time to sleep now, ” but then I will still say “uh-huh” a couple more times as I sneak out the door.
Now that I’m a mom, I’ve learned that motherhood is a lot more about showing up than it is about anything else.
It’s tempting to pretend that there aren’t ritz crackers hidden deep inside my shag carpet, along with some other things I probably don’t want to know about. It’s tempting to pretend my four-year-old doesn’t rock the same “favorite” dress three days in a row, and that I don’t currently smell like men’s Old Spice deodorant. Sometimes I’d rather my life looked like a Instagram feed of awesome. I’d also rather my butt looked like a bubble instead of a wide pancake, but we all have to live our truth.
The thing I’ve noticed is that when I don’t pretend, I find my people (the ones who don’t pretend either), and to me that reward is everything. Literally everything.
So to the women, the moms, the people, who don’t pretend…
I am with you when the bills are built up and unpaid and when our shoulders are tense with stress and worry.
I am with you when the kids are up sick in the middle of the night, and we brush shoulders as we grab towels and bowls and stroke little warm foreheads.
I am with you in seasons of wealth and seasons of scraping by. I am with you whether we drive a 97 Honda Accord or a 2018 Suburban. I AM WITH YOU.
I was reminded today that when suffering from depression or anxiety it is important to set achievable goals. WELL THAT IS ME. SO, I have taken it upon myself to make some meaningful, achievable, goals for 2018. Feel free to steal.
3-4 glasses of wine a week at least (BECAUSE I AM NOT LAZY).
One day a week where I am still braless and pants-less when I pick up my kids from school. This is so I can keep expectations low and so I can make it easier for my mom tribe to find me. ***YOU WILL RECOGNIZE ME BY MY DIRTY HAIR AND H & M SWEAT PANTS. I WILL BE HOLDING A CRYING 4YO. INTRODUCE YOURSELF IF YOU LIKE COFFEE, WINE, AND DECORATIVE LAUNDRY PILES.
Nothing makes me feel quite as overwhelmed as the words “enjoy every minute”.
Like do you mean right now while my kid is spread eagle on the Target floor demanding a slushy? Do you mean when I make dinner and half of the family is crying because it looks weird? Do you mean when I clean the toilets and I wonder how the pee reached the corner under the trash can?
I can do it; it’s worth it. But enjoying every minute is a different type of pressure.
In truth, there are a whole lot of minutes I feel annoyed or tired.
I am the santa, the elves, and the magic.
I am the delicious smells, the stuffed bellies, and the Christmas spirit.
I am the twinkle lights, the clean bathrooms, and the mistletoe hanging in the doorway.
I am the stories, the advent calendars, and the reminding what Christmas is really about.
I am the greeting cards, I am the coordinator of grandparents and cousins, I am the christmas pajamas for the night before.
I am the traditions, I am the baker for school sales, I am the buyer of last minute presents that were forgotten.
And now I’m tired.
I am mom.
You are not a failure.
I know you don’t always believe that, but it’s true.
We all fail, all of us, but we are not failures.
There have been so many moments when I felt done, when I wanted to run outside and scream. So many moments when I knew I said the wrong thing the second the words came out of my mouth.
Today I met some friends in town for coffee and shopping. I ended up bear hugging my four-year-old on a bench as she screamed and kicked in a level ninety-nine tantrum. A shop owner came out of a pottery store with wide eyes, but her face softened when she saw me.
I’m so sorry I mouthed.
“You are totally fine!” She smiled encouragingly. A minute later a woman and her older daughter walked by and said, “You’ve got this mama! You’re doing a great job!”
I continued on as a human straight jacket.
My ears are tired. Everyone is just always talking, all the time. Do not tell my kids that I said this, but sometimes when they are telling me a story that is never-ending I think about what color I would like to paint the walls and if I should get more throw pillows. I feel terrible about this, but it is the truth.
Sometimes I peek in your door and watch you sleeping. I wonder how I could ever get mad or frustrated at you. Your soft face is squished against your pillow and your favorite stuffed animal is buried under your chin.
Today I was irritated that you left your notebooks and crayons all over the floor.
I was annoyed that I could hear you bickering in the other room.
I was bothered that I asked you to clean up five times before you did.
All of those things are silly and unimportant now, as I pause.
Those things have little to do with you and everything to do with me.
You are my favorite.
I had grand plans of the things I would teach my kids. I would teach them confidence, kindness, and a love for great books. I am still working on that, but in the meantime I’ve taught them some other gems…
Yesterday on our way to church my oldest son realized he’d forgotten something at home and hollered out a perfectly timed swear word. My husband and I looked at each other. I didn’t know whether to be stern, or a little proud.
When we got to the beach today children, sand, and food wrappers exploded out of the car as soon as the doors opened, and I laughed to myself. I picked up a rotten tangerine that had rolled under the car and tossed it in the trash. The boys shook the whole vehicle as they wrestled their way out of their seat belts. They were yelling so loudly I thought maybe I should clarify to people walking by that there were no actual violence happening, just kids “at play”. My third child sobbed because she had an “owie” (also known as a sock imprint) on her ankle, and now she couldn’t walk.
I had a few comments on the blog recently about how people have kids to fill a selfish need for love.
I laughed because even if I had kids to fill a selfish need, parenting is where all needs come to die.
It’s okay to fail, and to fail again and again and again.
There’s something special about my bond with you. It isn’t better or more important, it’s just different. You were the beginning of my awakening, the step through the portal that is motherhood. Your becoming was my becoming. The day you were born I said goodbye to one life and ran with open arms into the next.
I can still picture you cradled in my arms. I stared at your tiny face in disbelief. How was I going to give you, this precious human, the childhood you deserved? I still haven’t figured that out. Every day I make beautiful things and I make messes too, but there’s never been a calling more worthy of my everything than you.
We just moved into a new neighborhood and I met an elderly woman a couple blocks down the street. She looked at me in shock (almost horror) when I told her that we have four kids and she kept saying, “Four? Four??” Then she looked at me square in the eyes. “I guess that will be okay,” she said, “as long as they are quiet.” She was dead serious.
I laughed like it was a joke (because that’s what I do when I feel awkward).
It’s okay to be mad at me.
Sometimes we make decisions for you that you don’t agree with or understand. You feel voiceless and frustrated.
Sometimes I overreact and I misunderstand.
Sometimes you just have a bad day. It’s okay, I have those days too.
Last night, I was tucking the girls in and my four year old reached up and touched my face, “You are young,” she said, “but you do have those lines by your eyes.”
This is my thirties.
I am still young-ish, but I do have the lines around my eyes. Dammit.
I’ll tell you what else I have…
I have friends that grow, cook, and make almost everything from scratch that their kids eat. They are amazing. I salute them while I rip open a box of macaroni and cheese and add an extra few tablespoons of butter. It’s Annie’s Organic on a good day…otherwise we are not above the 19-cent variety.
A friend of mine researches every health related issue, and spends her extra change on the supplements she reads about. It is her passion, and it’s how she loves her family and friends so well. I spend that money on lattes and stretch pants.
Right now as I watch you sleep, I lean in so close I can feel your breath against my cheek. I think about the good moments today. I think about you touching my arm and telling me a story about a slug that you found by the water. I grin to myself alone in the dark. I think about our conversations and I realize how grown up you’re becoming. How did it happen so fast?
You are perfect laying there so still; my heart swells like it might burst. Motherhood has made me so strong and so fragile at the same time. Since the day you were born I’ve worn my heart on the outside of my body. Everyday I fight against the urge to lasso the world and make it tame for you. I wish I could keep you in a bubble.
I wish I could keep you safe here with me forever, but I will use all my strength and I will give you wings instead my love; then I will cry the day you use them.
There I am, standing in the checkout line. One child is having a meltdown because they want a soda and the other one is doing aerial spins in the aisle. She is seconds away from taking out an elderly gentleman. He will never see it coming; she’ll take him out right at the knees. I grab her, which is kind of like capturing a demonic butterfly. I wrangle her and pin her between my legs.
Dear Strong Willed Child,
Today we had many battles you and I. We had battles in the sun, battles in the sand, battles over popsicles, and a battle while I walked you screaming and kicking back to the house. You were red and fuming, I fought back tears. We’ve had thousands of battles you and I.
Today our battles were about little kid things, someday they might be about curfew or boys or doing the dishes.
No matter what, here’s what I want you to know:
I was going to be the Dr. Oz of parenting. I was going to be a guru, and then I realized that I would probably have to teach my kids to stop acting like wild raccoons at the grocery store. I don’t want to be negative but my kids are 10, 8,6, and 3. This is never going to happen for me.
You are not going to get advice from me on teaching toddlers to read, or getting your kids to stop gagging on their vegetables. I could however offer a step-by-step guide to watching them chew on the same vegetable for two hours, until you eventually give up and let them spit it out.
I am not very perfect at parenting, but I do love my kids enough to cuddle with them while they smell like pee, and I feel like that’s kind of a lot.
Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I see that you’ve grown over night. Your face is more defined, your eyes look older. A part of me is excited and in awe; I know you have so much ahead of you. Another part is scared because time is racing and I can’t slow it down. I’m afraid that I haven’t always been awake and noticing, and that somehow I have slept through the magic of your growing. I wonder, have I enjoyed you enough? Have I given you what you needed? Is your heart still whole? Is your spirit unbroken?
I’m not always good at this. I’m not always as good as I want to be at being your mom. I want to be great; and sometimes I am, but sometimes I’m not.
Sometimes I get it, and sometimes I don’t.
Sometimes I do it right, and sometimes I completely miss it.
Everyday I make mistakes.
While usually we are being quaint and adorable like a live Norman Rockwell painting, there are a few other things that get us from WHYGODWHY in the morning to Netflix-O’clock at night.
We clean things so they can be destroyed right exactly before you drop by. I don’t mean to brag, but my kids are capable of making my house a major health code violation in ten seconds flat. Sometimes I think about posting pictures of what my house looks like when it’s clean – just for reference.
Welcome to my home. Here is a picture of what my house looked like one time last week. It could also look like this more often if I had 47 maids and manservants.
To My Kids,
Some people will say that the world is a scary, scary place. Some people will say that there’s no hope and that the future is dark and bleak.
It is scary sometimes, but my dear ones, always remember, there are things that are awful, and terrible, and sad, but there is also always HOPE and there is always GOOD. You have the tools already printed in your heart. You have love, mercy, compassion, generosity, and kindness. You have ambition and courage, and a radical sense of justice…and that is exactly what is needed.
You are not helpless to bring goodness and light to the world; you are well equipped.
Fear will tell you that it isn’t enough, and that there is nothing that can be done. It will say that you are helpless and a victim to fate. It isn’t true, my loves. The world is your canvas. Make your mark on it with creativity, compassion, and purpose…and I promise that you (and it) will never be the same.
The world is still very, very beautiful because it is full of people, people who have greatness inside of them. We must always be believers in people.
Dear First Born,
I remember the day I first held you in my arms. You became, and I also became. I’d thought about motherhood for a long time, about how I’d be and how you’d be. But I was still so unprepared. Heaven and Earth kissed for a moment and I’d never felt so sure and so uncertain all at the same time.
I know you think I wear yoga pants and athletic-T’s because I spend my days doing pilates while my kids practice Mozart on their harmonicas. But, I’m here to tell you, I wear them because they’re stretchy.
To my friends who suffer during the holidays…
I see you.
To the ones that have lost someone and the holidays aggravate an already gaping wound…
I see you.
To the ones who have to share their kids with another home and the days without them are long and empty…
I see you.
To the ones who are lonely…
I see you.
To the ones that have broken family relationships and their hearts ache…
I see you.
To the ones that have a loved one in the hospital…
I see you.
To the ones that don’t know how or if they’ll be able to put presents under the tree this year…
I see you.
I hope and pray that the sweet moments are more than the painful ones.
I hope and pray your home is filled with warmth on the very worst and hardest days.
I hope and pray you don’t for one second feel alone.
Photo by Jeswin Thomas
My goal this Christmas is to simplify. Every year despite my best efforts, I embrace a certain level of “Christmas anxiety”. There’s a reason Christmas is magical, and that reason is moms and dads. I live for the moment they all walk out of their rooms with sleepy eyes full of wonder at presents piled under the tree. I LOVE CHRISTMAS, but sometimes I embrace Christmas frenzy instead of Christmas spirit.
I’ll be honest, my “frenzy” isn’t really magical for anyone, least of all my husband.
My goal is to slow down, spend less, do less, and enjoy more.
I have two boys and two girls. I see a lot of articles about boy moms vs. girl moms and I gotta be honest…I don’t relate to any of them. I am just wondering; what happened to the clean and quiet daughters I’m supposed to have? I currently feel that a blow torch would be the best option for cleaning their room and I need a hazmat suit just to get their laundry. If this is easier then I hope there is some sort of manufacturer’s warranty, because I have yet to experience this peaceful bliss of which they speak. Clean rooms? Soft voices? Less ER trips?