Parenting is Blind Man’s Bluff

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Please, for the love of all that’s holy, tell me I’m not the only one that has a consistently difficult child. I suppose I should feel grateful that I have this little thing called parenting perspective, so I’m not a jerk to other moms, but the truth is that I just mostly feel like crap about it. We’re supposed to shower our kids with love and care, not count the days until they move out. This is the sentiment that started this blog and it is definitively #notpinterestworthy. :/

I’ve made a lot of progress in dealing with my challenging, 6-foot-tall teen, and I still just mostly want to stab my eyeballs with an ice pick most days. I honestly don’t see a lot of options beyond riding out raising him and hoping for the best. Parenting is this really (sometimes) crappy conundrum where you’re solely responsible for the actions of another person when the truth is that you have zero control over their choices. I can lecture myself hoarse, and he will still, ultimately, do what he wants.

This is crap for me. Torture, really. I am probably one of the most reasonable people you could ever meet, but it makes zero difference when you’re a mom. If I had a “real job” as a manager, I would never be expected to sit and smile and be constantly patient while the people around me treated my attempts to accomplish things with all the respect of a talking Charlie Brown head spouting utter nonsense. The logical part of me knows that parenting really is an other-worldly environment full of unrealistic expectations. There is no other place in the world that an adult interacts in that is held to a higher standard, and I live in this space all. the. time. I don’t have a “day job.” I don’t send my kids off to school for most of the day. I’m with them, 24-7.

I’ve always been told that we’re all the “perfect parent for our kids – just what they need,” and I truly hope this is the truth. In reality, I wonder every single day if it is. Did I coddle him too much as a toddler? (He was the baby of the family for almost five years before his brother was born.) Did I not hug him enough? Is he difficult because I have come to expect it from him, and he just lives up to that? Would he be insufferable if I didn’t try so hard to teach him respect for others, boundaries, responsibility? I have no clue. I have no way of knowing, but I still torture myself with the questions and sometimes feel utterly sunk in self hatred of my inability to be the Perfect Mom for him.

I think the hardest part of this is that I know he’s a good person. There is so much potential there, and I can just taste how amazing that would be if he would point things in a more healthy direction. I have no way of seeing the future. I have no way of knowing if any of my minute adjustments to my approach or my creative attempts to reach him will hit the mark. I won’t know until he’s grown and gone and it’s much too late to fix any of it. This fact is so, so hard.

If you know anything about me, it’s that I like to be good at what I do to probably a ridiculous extent. It took my therapist about three sessions to peg this as an inherent quality of mine. This is probably the number one reason I’m crafty. I can’t throw in the towel and “change hobbies” when it comes to what I actually spend the majority of my day doing. Parenting is a labor of love, and it twists my heart and turns me inside out with the sheer hard work of it. So, when you see me pouring gallons of soap or sewing new wardrobes in a month, it’s not because I’m superhuman. It’s because I need to feel a sense of accomplishment. I need something in my life where there is a method and a process and a consistency that I can count on. In this long-term game of blind man’s bluff, little successes along the way remind me that I may, just maybe, have what it takes.

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It’s Been a Swimming-Through-Jello Day

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Today is a bit nuts. I have a million balls in the air. I had to send (and resend) a few invoices for our family business, there is some loan paperwork that I need to upload (we’re refinancing), my kids are all on homeschooling protest today, and I can’t figure out how to get some tech stuff for both the blog and my Facebook business page to work properly. (Check me out at The Essay Assistant on Facebook! I’ll make your writing sing, too!) Truthfully, I’m doing way too many things right now, and it’s all just frustrating me.

I’m not even going to lie. I like instant gratification. Raising kids and building businesses is anything but. Some days everything that flows from my fingers is gold, and sometimes I painstakingly wrench the words from my keyboard. I remember being sick as a kid and drifting in and out of feverish, twilight sleep. My brain would register the experience like I was swimming through jello. I could see and hear and remember everything, but it was sluggish and in slow motion. To be fair, I think I had a vivid imagination as a child because I also remember jerking awake from the brink of sleep and having it scare me – I somehow convinced myself that the devil was touching me. (This may be a sign that you’ve been raised in extremism. Just maybe.) While I have outgrown the latter feeling that was largely a product of superstition, I still have days where I recognize the sensation of swimming through jello.

Having kids is one of the most surreal experiences in life. I guess it’s all I know, so I can’t say how it would be different it were, well, different. I can imagine, however. When my day goes south, it’s like I’m mommy Edward Scissorhands – don’t get too close because I’m likely to accidentally-on-purpose (figuratively – calm down) cut you on my sharp edges. It’s disconcerting when this happens, but it’s also motivating. I’m not perfect. Some days I’m not even close to adequate, but I have a built-in motivation to get up, dust off and try harder.

I am well past the boot camp years of parenting, as one of my friends describes those endless, long years where your kids really don’t pull any weight themselves. I’m lucky to have older kids, even a few adults. This is amazing not only because I get a break and some freedom and some help (and access to their cars because mine is iffy), but because I get to see the product of my many long years of work. All my adult kids, well, like me. I like them. They’re good, responsible people and don’t hate me. They see the bigger picture now and can grant me grace for days where I was barely keeping my head up. I think (I really hope) that they even admire me and want to be like me in my best ways. (Please just get rid of the less admirable stuff. Ha!) They know ALL my weaknesses (do they ever!) and still love me. This is one of the most amazing gifts of motherhood, but it doesn’t come from picture-perfect moments that make good Instagram and Pinterest posts. It comes from swimming-through-jello days.

I just put my youngest kids to bed, and the words are flowing a bit easier than they did earlier. My husband is home which usually means the kids are magically angels, and I’m about to close my computer, relax for probably the first time today and snuggle under a warm blanket. This day is already fading into a memory, and I am so relieved. Tomorrow will better because days that hit bottom can, after all, only go up. That may well be the greatest gift of a bad day.

 

I Forgot My Kids Yesterday

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Don’t go throwing tomatoes at me or anything, but that title is, admittedly, clickbait. I didn’t ACTUALLY forgot my kids. Not that I haven’t done that before. Once. It happened one time. We drove to church in two vehicles, and both my husband and myself thought my youngest daughter had gone home with the other. We realized when we got home that neither of us had her, and were on our way back to get her when she got dropped off at home by a friend from church. We live all of a block and a half away, and she was only mildly traumatized. That’s the only time!

Yesterday, I knew where my kids were. They were at home. With me. My husband was out of town the day before, and I’d gotten up to make my kids some breakfast, then lazily climbed back into bed with a cup of coffee and my Facebook feed. (It’s been drizzly, grey, rainy, fall weather here. It’s kind of a cross between full-on fall and lingering Indian summer considering that my tomato plants are still alive! What the hey?!) Until my sister-in-law texted me, “Are your kids coming today?” Crap! It’s 9:05 on Wednesday! They’re supposed to be at their reading class. Gah! So, I frantically instructed them to get dressed, get their shoes on, find their coats and I did the world’s fastest (worst) hair brush on my daughter before we ran to the car and dropped them off 20 minutes late. (She also lives just two blocks away.)

THIS has happened before. More than once. Heh. Luckily, I work with other moms who also have real lives and understand that some days just go off. To be fair, I don’t have a set schedule that is the same for all my kids on every day of the week. I’m not getting all my kids up every morning and getting them on the bus before I get on with my day. (Though, I have longingly realized more than once this year that ALL my kids would be in school at this point if that was our life.) We go in all different directions with a different schedule all through the week. Normally, I keep track of the littles pretty well, and my older kids just manage themselves. But, when what I can only loosely call a routine gets thrown off, I drop balls. There was probably a time that I would have been bothered by that, but it’s kind of par for the course now.

One of the points of this blog, I think, is to communicate that you’re not alone. Life is complicated. At the risk of being cliche, we compare our own outtakes to other people’s highlights, and that’s not real life. While Pinterest-worthy moments look warm and fuzzy on social media, my life is really full of flubs, mess-ups and dropped balls. I’m more likely to forgot to bring my kids to class than to painstakingly document our afternoon baking adventure. (Just kidding. At best, my kids would be watching my daughters make something. Ha ha!) The good news is that when my children grow up, they will also likely live real, imperfect lives. At least they’ll be prepared. There’s that.

Life Lessons From the Sewing Table

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I’ve been sewing for 21 years, and it’s something that I can almost do in my sleep it comes so naturally to me. Still, we all have days, and not everything works out every time. I had a little hair-pulling moment today when I was “whipping up” a hoodie for myself, and it made me a little introspective.

First, I was watching my friend’s kiddos today because she took a much-deserved day out with her husband for her birthday. (If I’ll watch your kids, you know that’s true love. Mwah!) For some dumb reason, “babysitting” is different in my head than having the exact same kids just “playing over” for the exact amount of time. I have no idea why that is. Maybe because I know that I can’t send them home at any moment if they all start to bounce off walls. Which they inevitably do. My kids still had to do school, and it’s never a good time trying to convince them that schoolwork is a valid use of their time when friends are around. We got through it with minimal whining, though, and I sent them all downstairs to watch TV while I finished sewing. Because, OBVIOUSLY, the perfect time to NEED to get a project done is when you’re juggling 3 children’s school books along with 3 spares. Go big or go home! (My craftiness seriously takes on a life of its own. I either haven’t sewn for months or YEARS, or I’m eating/sleeping/dreaming/breathing it compulsively. It’s just how I roll. I do this with my other crafts as well. My husband is incredibly tolerant of and used to that side of me after 22 years. Heh.)

After I got the kids settled down doing something other than vegetating in front of a movie like I’d planned because they couldn’t find the remote, I started putting my hoodie together. This is a pretty quick process, generally. There was a little more detail work because there’s both a hood and a front pocket, but I was plugging along. After pinning the hood on, I basted everything together (because unpicking is the devil. Ahem.) and checked. to. make. sure. it. was. right. before proceeding. And, OF COURSE, it was FINE. So, I jumped over to my serger and went on to firmly attach the hood on BACKWARDS. Yes, indeed. Upon turning my hoodie right side out and moving onto ironing the hem, what would my wondering eyes behold but the back of the hood nodding at the front pocket. Wah, wah, wah! (Did I mention unpicking is the devil?) But, I did unpick it. Because this was nice fabric that I had a vision for. So, I painstakingly spent about as long as it took me to actually sew it picking out stitches so I could turn around that stupid hood.

I have no idea why our brain does things like this. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring cognitive dissonance in the last while, and it’s amazing how we see things exactly how we want or expect to. It’s nuts, really, but we get used to things and start filtering out everything that doesn’t match that vision – like hoods that are looking backward despite the fact that there was A POCKET to mark the front. I rarely make mistakes like this period and almost never when I’m working with something new or different because all the possibilities are open. I’m not going to wax eloquent about the deep meaning there – I’ll leave those conclusions to you. But, it did make me stop and think, and maybe you’ll find some aha-moment in it yourself. I find those in the oddest and most assorted places when I just notice.

P.S. After all that trouble, I don’t love the hoodie. Waaaahhhhhhhh! I think I should have broken up the floral, it seems slightly short and because I hemmed instead of doing a bottom band, the kangaroo pocket is sitting too low. Jerk. Maybe I’ll throw it in the corner of the closet and reassess next month when I’m less mad at it in general. You know, with fresh eyes, it might seem okay after all.

 

 

Adult Acne Should Be Illegal

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Do y’all do Influenster? You basically fill out some quizzes and answer some questions, and you get matched with free products to review. I’ve gotten a lot of cosmetic items as well as several general “mommy” type boxes that include things as varied as hair ties, pens and coupons for free sour cream. The trick to getting matched is ticking any box that might fit you, so if you have thin, oily and color-treated hair, tell them all that in the event that the one product they’re targeting fits one of those demographics. Make sense? Well, I think I need to tone down that approach with anything that’s potentially a skincare item.

When I was in high school, I had an AP English class where the teacher had everyone write positive things about their classmates. I’m pretty sure I still have these papers in a file somewhere. I, uh, didn’t fit in during high school. I was “smart” and got good grades, but my family were outcasts in the dominant religious culture, and I happened to grow up in a town with a lot of bitterness about the religious history that made that happen, but I digress. I had a small handful of friends that I ate lunch with, none of whom ever came home to my house or hung out with me after school. (I stopped inviting school friends over in middle school after we had CPS called on us for having too much unfolded laundry in our house. My mom was in college trying to earn her teaching degree so that we could escape poverty and was terrified for months that her efforts would cause her to lose all her kids. True story. Seriously, people, offer to help.) So, having people say nice things about me, even if they technically *had* to for a grade was fun. From what I remember, a good half of these kind words were about how I had great skin.

Had being the operative word. Heh. Because, as soon as I started having kids, adult acne introduced herself, plopped down on the bench and made herself SUPER comfy. She’s pretty much been there ever since. Which sucks. Because, once you hit your 20s, you think you’ve dodged that, right? That’s a teenager thing. Wouldn’t that be nice? (I legitimately once had a BIL ask me if I had chicken pox when I wasn’t wearing makeup. Nice. Nope. Just freaking, stupid, *$&%^ acne!! It’s worse when I was pregnant, so I felt fat and sloppy and like I was walking around with chicken pox face. Good times.) At 41, my skin is stupidly picky about what it likes, and changing that up can cause outbreaks of cystic acne. Yay. However, being that I am, uh, 41, it would also be nice to, you know, work on firming and combat wrinkles.

Thanks to Influenster, I know that is a hard no. Every single time I get something that is targeted to aging, I regret it. Number one, they all smell like a grandma, and not a hip one, I might add. And, they cause break outs every. single. time. Grrr. A few weeks ago I received a Perricone firming face serum. I’m sure this thing is ridiculously expensive and it probably even works amazing, but it’s a hard no for me. My skin has been clearer in the past few months than it has in years. (Like, I’ve only had about one blemish at any given time, and they were healing at a decent rate.) I tried this thing ONE TIME, and, I kid you not, I had FOUR new blemishes within 24 hours of applying it. No. Just no.

So, it looks like I need to stop applying for skincare products, or at least only tick the boxes about having acne prone skin. In case anyone is curious, my go-to skin products are either Origins Foaming Face Wash or Harry’s exfoliating Peppermint Face Cream as well as the Origins Gin-zing Moisturizer. All my peeps with acne go shop for those amazing products (if they were on Amazon, I’d link you up, but, alas, bad skin has expensive taste. Try Sephora. You can get Harry’s at Walmart.) while I alternate between rocking in the corner and reading all the notes from my high school classmates about “what nice skin I had.” I guess the good news is that I naturally have okay aging genes, so I don’t have out of control wrinkling or sagging for my age. I’ll take the consolation however it comes.

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I Was Just Having a Bad Day…

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I’ve been a writer for a long time and a parent for even longer, but I didn’t intend to start a blog about either today, really. In fact, today started out as just another day. I had to take my 17-year-old daughter to see her foot surgeon for a follow up of her ankle surgery and go to the post office because my 21-year-old son’s college textbook was stuck in the post office lock box that wouldn’t open. When I got home, I figured I could have my 15-year-son try and determine how far behind he was on last year’s math so that he could maybe be ready to start a new book next week. (Yes, there’s a lot of kids. That’s not even quite half of them. They range from 21 to 5. And, we homeschool. Don’t worry. I’m pretty bad at it.) That’s when things went south.

My 15-year-old is my challenging child. He always has been. Okay, fine. I remember him being a very sweet baby and pleasant if determined toddler. But, by the time he hit Kindy, he was, uh, difficult? Spirited? I don’t even know. I’m trying to be positive here. That was also around the time that his little brother, number five, joined our family. I have no idea if these things are related or not. Anyways, there’s a lot of conflict that involves this particular child of mine, and he communicates poorly, so things frequently get tense and frustrating. Like today, with his math lesson. After my attempt to communicate where his progress stood and whether or not we might be ready for school next week didn’t go well, I spontaneously posted the following on my Facebook page:

I know it’s not a Pinterest-worthy sentiment, but I don’t “enjoy” motherhood. I have a particular child that I’m in active conflict with pretty much daily, and it’s been like that for probably a decade. I’m exhausted and feel like I’m doing a crappy job almost all the time. Not going to lie, some days I find it the ultimate cosmic cruelty to put people in dynamics where they’re socially and morally responsible for another person’s behavior when the actual truth is you can’t control anyone else. Feel free to leave your own confession. I clearly won’t judge. #notpinterestworthy

I’m all about being real. In fact, it’s kind of my MO, you could say. Years ago, when I still kind of felt like I knew what I was doing, I stumbled across a little book called “Confessions of a Slacker Mom,” and that book became my mothering mascot, in a way. My permission to be okay with not always being okay in this gig. So, I don’t sugar coat things, really. I feel like we don’t do each other any favors by pretending that the pristine and polished online world is where we all live. Because, I don’t. Still, even I was surprised at what a response this spur-of-the-moment post generated.

This Facebook post went live at 6:45 on a Tuesday afternoon, and I had over 50 replies by the time I went to bed at 10:00. All from moms with their own stories of living in the real world. Women that thanked me for saying out loud what they all felt and were too afraid to admit. Parenting can feel like an island of isolation and loneliness where the perfectly portrayed world around looks nothing like the life you live everyday. The real truth is that we’re all in this together. I find beauty in the mess in so many ways, and I find sisterhood in knowing that I have a tribe that lives right there with me. I don’t know all the directions I might take this blog, but I hope that the journey we walk will make you feel like someone understands and that you’re not alone. Because, you’re not. Either way, it will be therapeutic for me to write about my crazy, messy, wonderful life. It’s #notpinterestworthy, but I still love it.

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