Thursday, August 28, 2014

What do parents need?

As a parent, I know that alone time gets a new meaning and importance. We will take the walk from the carseat around to the driver's side (thanks, Louis CK) as alone time. We'll take the grocery store trip, the car wash, and the line at the DMV as alone time. It's all perspective.

I get enough alone time. And the alone time I do get actually makes me a bit anxious (it gives me too much time to think of things I might be forgetting, failing, doing wrong, etc.).

But I had this thought when I was talking with other mom friends (apparently, it's thought that this is a mom-only concept...although, I encourage any dads I know to pipe up and talk about it in the comments!):

I've had a lot of alone time.

When my dad died when I was six, I felt really alone.

When I was single and without a loving, supportive, awesome partner, I felt pretty alone.

When I had trouble making friends as weird kid, I felt alone.

In fact, I think I've probably had more alone time than I could ever want in a lifetime. I know, it's not the same thing. But honestly, it's perspective. Do I want to enjoy a movie in peace sometimes? Sure. But I think I need to make sure that I'm not constantly seeking alone time. I need to make sure that I am balancing time to myself and time with my family so that I don't feel like I haven't had time out or a break.

I love my family. Heck, I love YOUR family (yes, that's how many extroverts feel). I love the memories and the laughter and yes, even (sometimes especially) the tears. I love when my in-laws say that extended time with my child allows them to get to know him better...because that's the same for me too. I'm not a stay at home parent (so I also grasp that this plays into "time alone") so time with my kid can be interesting and challenging. But I had to learn that sleep counts for me (a well-rested mama can be your best friend!) as alone time. And that I needed to ask friends to watch (or listen to K cry...) when I needed a bath (and to ask for their tub, too). I also need to look at what I love about not being alone. I don't mind sharing the bathroom, or being woken up early sometimes. I do need to make sure that what I need protected stays protected, so that my kid knows how I stay sane, he knows that he is allowed to protect his time and space, and so I know what might be contributing to a foul mood.

This is a good conversation to have with a partner or extended family because I hear a lot of parents sacrificing alone time because they have no options, they forget, they don't have enough energy, etc. If I want to successfully have another child, I need to keep paying attention to this. Living in community is great too, if that's something that's clearly understood. Not all communitarians are extroverts or love kids, though!

Anyway, I digress.

My point is that I just need to make sure that I get what I need to help me feel balanced. I am not particularly trapped by not getting absolute alone time. For me, it's enough time to eat well. I also need time outside in the sun, time with my family (I NEED this and feel really horrible when I don't see or hear from my siblings and parents!). Getting your needs met (for both parents) is key. If you need alone time, find out how to get it. If you need 5 meals a day, find out how to plan for that. Teaching our kids that life goes on (and usually better) when we meet our needs is a great lesson. A hard one for sure, but a really great one.

So while I don't feel my alone time is that threatened, I am getting more and more clear about what I do need, so that I can be as present as possible when my kid waltzes into the bathroom, with no concept of privacy or "alone time."

Mama, let go

By now, if you're paying attention, you know that I don't like mess. It's not that I'm not messy, but I don't like it. I don't like crumbs (ack!) or spills or stains. You get the picture.

Yesterday was a rough day for this mama. K is frequently in underwear now, and usually makes it to the potty on time. But not yesterday. He had two accidents in the morning (!) and I KNOW I'm not supposed to get upset, but humans, being what they are (imperfect), I got so angry. I had to go scream in another far away room, I was so angry. In addition to the mess, there was a trail of oatmeal on the rug, pen marks, and a bunch of other toddler territorial markings. I was fed up (also, I wasn't feeling well).

I yelled. I'm not proud to admit it. I know my kid isn't even two, doesn't really get my annoyance at stains and mess, and frankly can't exactly control his bladder yet. I KNOW this. But a part of me felt out of control (ya think?) and out came the loud voice. Which of course K was scared of. Oh, that look of horror is enough to get a person in the deepest place in their heart. Crap. I was the yell-y mom. I sort of had yell-y parents. Not really, but I remember a few times. I remember it not working. I remember it scaring me.

But then K did something that got under my skin AGAIN and I think he saw the steam coming out of my ears and said, "Mama, no angry." That got me. Double crap. My kid was basically asking me not to get angry. I felt pure shame right then. I immediately apologized and hugged him tight, and explained as best as I could that it wasn't fair of me to get angry at him about things he couldn't control. I told him I wasn't feeling well, and I was frustrated. He said, "Yeah." Then he proceeded to talk about the yelling all day. Sad. A friend of mine who's a therapist had this to say about repeating a trauma over and over to work through it. Yep, we did that. We talked about it to papa, too.

I don't want to hang out in shame too much because that's not what K's intention is. He's two. He's recognizing what's scary, who's yelling and why, and how he can process all of that. Sadly, I'm one of the people who will likely be in several of those moments that need processing. I hate knowing that.

But I know this too: I am a forgiving person. I am an open person. I have more love than rage. I can change and I have changed. If I don't want my kid to fear me I have to stop shaming myself for being out of control sometimes (the shame is a way I keep reliving the moment myself and it backfires). It's not okay to hit or be violent. But I am not yet capable of not yelling. I am capable of reflection and asking for forgiveness and trying harder.

A mom recommended this technique which I will try next time. I need an answer for myself when I feel the steam rising. I need to let go of the mess (and how I feel about the mess). I need to let go of any possession I feel won't be marked by kids (they will all be marked!). I need to not drag myself through the mud all day.

I share this hear publicly because I know that tons of parents want to be "those" parents. The ones who are Zen calm, have amazing parenting aikido (metaphorically speaking) techniques, and who are straight awesome and gently loving 24/7/365. I haven't met one yet. All the parents I know lose it every once in a while (or more), they get fed up, they forget their tools, they feel helpless and hopeless and all in front of their beloved kids. It happens. It also changes. Don't beat yourself up. Learn about what makes you angry (I should've eaten earlier, done my daily writing, planned an outing or activity, taken painkillers, etc.) and how you can prevent it. Your kids will give you a lot of chances to try stuff out.

For me, reflection and awareness really help. I keep hearing K say, "Mama, no angry." That's what it takes for me. I can't say I'll never yell again. That would be a parent myth I don't want to propagate. I will learn new techniques. I will try new ways of being. I will keep letting go and getting better.

New moms

My midwives at In Tandem Midwifery asked these questions recently:

Did you feel like a good mom from the get go, or was there a learning curve?
Did you feel like there was a baby whispering secret that nobody told you about?
What kindness can you instill on some of our newest mamas who are struggling with their first few days?

I had a lot to say, but I thought maybe I would go into more detail here:

 "Good mom" is so loaded! I didn't know what a "good wife" was the day after I got married, so I tended to treat myself a bit more flexibly when judging myself as a parent. Did I make mistakes that annoyed me? Hell yes. Did I not know answers i thought I should know? Sure thing. 

But with a two year old now, I realize that being a good person means I'm a good mom, regardless of milestones, breastfeeding, diapers, etc. Intention is key. Just like with everything else, there's a learning curve and I definitely have figured out how I learn (trial and error, still!) and I realize, too, my kid is WAY more forgiving than I am! 

My "baby whispering secret" is to listen to my kid, both literally and figuratively. Many books can't simply cover all humans, so it was key to read less and listen more, specifically to MY kid. My intuition was KEY to my success, my feeling happy and rested, and my bonding with my son. 

Also, treating my child like a new little (already formed) human, rather than a blob baby with no skills, allowed him to share wisdom with me...he's been guiding me the entire time! And treating him with respect has been good for me to get in the habit of. 

Observing him (rather than checking charts, talking to doctors, comparing with friends) has resulted in really weird but SUCCESSFUL parenting moments (like I started talking to my kid in the womb and we have had a lot of success with telepathic communication). 

As for the first days, I had to let myself off the hook from my insane (and unrealistic) expectations. I drank coffee, didn't bathe myself or my kid, watched TV during 3am breastfeeding sessions, asked for a LOT of help from ANYONE and EVERYONE who offered, cried, and tried to be as gentle as possible. As someone who wants to look strong, it started to feel unsustainable to "act" strong, when I just needed to feel okay being "weak" or taken care of (now I see that it wasn't weak at all...just different from my normal methods). 

Parenting is unique in that one day you are pregnant and the NEXT day you are in charge of an entire person! I also didn't use language that discounted my parenting (Parenting of the Year Award--said sarcastically--, lazy, bad mom, etc). I don't like knocking myself in front of my kid. I'm a "great" mom because i said so. My kid said so, too.  

One other thing is that sharing the struggle really helps. When we share, we release and someone else can hold us for a bit. We can see it better when we share it. We can help others when we share. That's been powerful.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Montessori learning

K is in Montessori. Admittedly, he started there because it was affordable (based on a living wage paid to a childcare provider that focused on education, it offered more care AND potty training!) and some friends had their child there.

We started mid-year and missed a few of the orientations that explained some stuff. Not a problem, we were fast learners.

K had a rough week or so in the beginning, but eventually was quite happy to say goodbye to us so he could go and explore the classroom in peace, without chatty parents hovering around. Fine by us.

But after the new parent orientation we finally attended, I got what was happening in a much bigger way. While I want my child to feel seen, heard, and have his curiosity encouraged, I am not equipped to handle this job in its entirety. There are people who are trained to observe and educationally (and often times emotionally and spiritually!) guide my child. I saw my child's Toddler guide magically, patiently, and very simply demonstrate how she works in the classroom. Boom!

I'm not saying Montessori is the *only* way or even the *best* way. I'm just saying, for now, it's really working for K. Admittedly, it isn't always working for us as parents, but it's enlightening to really look at my child and see it works for HIM. He gets a LOT out of it. And if/when it stops working, we can re-evaluate. But what Montessori has taught us, is that when we observe our child, rather than mandate or force him into doing things, he really can tell us what he needs and wants.

We don't always oblige for different reasons, but at least we can watch and learn. That's been the best part of the process for me. That observation (active listening!) reveals so much that our children can't just tell us outright. I hope I don't lose that skill as our words and assumptions try to take over...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why not me?

I have another post brewing about creativity but I saw this online today and I thought, "I want to write about THAT!"

Mindy Kaling tweeted "Why the fuck not me?" should be your motto"

I recently had a coaching session with a client where we went over her voices of fear that were keeping her stuck. After she listed all the unsupportive ways she talks to herself, we came up with responses so that the fear didn't get hog the mic in her head. 
It ended up being really fun and funny because she allowed the "sailor" to come out and swear and call the voice of fear a liar. A fucking liar.

So I read Mindy Kaling's (from The Office, and The Mindy Kaling Project) tweet and it made me laugh and think about how we talk to ourselves. 

I'm in a lot of transition (aren't I always?) and I've been letting some of my own voices of fear get too loud. Who am I write ? Who am I to make stuff? Why would I get this job? Why would so and so be my friend? Why would I get famous?

Why the fuck not me?

I can't come up with a very good reason. 

When I am struggling in my life, because I feel trapped or unseen or bored, I want to repeat this to myself, as well as, "Hell yeah!" I need more responses like these to get me out of my hum-drum (often destructive) thoughts.

Anyway, just a quick note and reflection...


My favorite baby

My inspiration

My inspiration