Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cage free vs. Free range parenting

Okay, I admit, the labels we use to talk about eggs is NOT the best analogy, but as my almost four year old son ventured out into the front yard to "look for fossils," I realized that my parenting has changed a lot in the last year.

When he was two years old, he looked and talked like he was three. On the playground he often saw kids, who talked and looked like him, do things that I wasn't sure he knew how to do yet (like jump from a certain height on the playground). So I hovered and helicoptered. I don't care what other parents say, I know the distance I need to be for us both to feel comfortable.

But over time, I noticed that he was venturing farther and farther away (not too far, of course) and we learned to "check back" (he uses his own internal clock to check in with me from time to time so I know he's safe), he learned to try stuff without me prodding or cringing, and eventually, I learned to see how much he trusted himself.

That was key, though. I needed to see how comfortable he felt with himself, not how comfortable I felt about him and his actions. For instance, he's really comfortable in the water. He wears a life jacket and has no problem jumping in, getting his face wet, belly-flopping, etc. I don't think I would have guessed it would happen so early (I was not a fan of face in the water swim methods as a child), but he's way into it. When he does get a mouthful of water, we're right there, NOT freaking out, and asking if he's okay. We aren't alarmists. Freaking out in the water always makes it worse. We see if he's okay and when he nods, we go back to what we were doing.

We still don't let him roam too far away, but we are in communication often. Cage free for chickens means that they aren't in cages but have no outdoor access (so the analogy isn't really accurate, we DO let K outside!) and free range is full access to outdoors, and ability to freely roam. We're not there yet (but we talk about when that might be a lot). But I like the idea that we are paying attention to what sort of freedom K needs. It's not simple enough to say that he can play on his own (he can't, he needs some eye contact every once in a while), but he doesn't need us around every moment, micro-managing. He needs to know where we are, so he can find us, and he needs to know we're paying attention. I believe that helps him trust himself and allows us to see how much he trusts himself. He's also free to tell us to go away. He needs that too (and so do we).

I don't want to undermine that. When he gets older, we'll have to do similar things. I was trustworthy but my parents were skeptical and that irritated me. While I did a few "teenage-y" things, I was relatively responsible. And had they been more trusting, I might have shared more.

Communication is 93% nonverbal and 7% verbal! So trust is one of those things that is probably mostly non-verbal. Saying we trust him is probably not what demonstrates trust. Letting him experiment, explore, play, and roam on his own is what shows that we trust him and he learns that he's trustworthy that way, too.

We're definitely not perfect at it (and sometimes even if he's "safe" I micromanage the use of crayons, pens, and staining things because I'm like that), but it helps to realize that we are in communication about it, even when we don't say a thing.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Letting go of doing, letting go of persona (a double dose of letting go)

The last couple of weeks have been intense and challenging. I'm not sure it's over yet. As is my style, I am dealing with challenges with K, my career path, and just life in general, all at once.
In the midst of that I am being coached around writing a parenting book (very exciting) and developing more income streams. At work I have been encouraged by several people to take more of a leadership role in my job.

I'm officially overwhelmed.

My normal go-to experience (and coping) of overwhelm involves me shutting down, getting very cynical, daydreaming of becoming unemployed again so I can hide, complaining that it's all too much, oversimplification about how problems can be solved, etc. It's how I rebel in that state of mind. It's very rarely effective. It definitely gets me attention.

I'm afraid people won't like me if I make bigger leadership moves (like doing something not everyone will like--I love to be loved!). So if I shut down, that's easier. That gets more sympathy and empathy, which I'm perfectly fine with. Sometimes I'll get help solving the problem (until it shows up again, of course). If I plead innocent in the way life rolls out, then it'll be okay and I'll still be loved, seen, understood.

But in the past couple of days I have noticed that my sleeves are too short on this emotional shirt of "It's not me, it's the rest of the world." I have experienced a growth spurt overnight and all of a sudden, ways I've been living my life don't fit.

In my coaching sessions we talk a lot about being, rather than doing. A part of my mind is like, "Yeah, yeah. I got it. Be-ing not Do-ing. But anyway, let's get back to what I'm doing...Be-ing is for people with free time and lots of money." Oh. Cue the gut punch. Do-ing has been a hallmark of my behavior. If I "do" correctly (and that means perfectly, entertainingly, uniquely, etc.) then I will win in the end. I will get recognition, I will get more money, I will be loved and appreciated the way I crave, and all will be well. And if I am not feeling those things, then I'm just not "Do-ing" right. That's an amazingly simplistic and easy way to view my life. It's also a great way to qualify my effort. It's easy to tell myself I'm not capable, I'm lazy, I'm unlucky, and whatever self-deprecating I can pile on.

Through coaching I learned about my Essence. I learned that I Be (Yes, I am aware of all the strange grammar and hyphenation, but that's a bit of poetic license) these: Integrity, Connection, Play, Curiosity, Beacon. Whether I'm Do-ing or not, I am Be-ing those things. Which I definitely take for granted. Be-ing is not good enough, I tell myself. Just walking around Be-ing is lazy!

And here it goes again...that struggle.

So in the past week I have been thinking a different thought as much as I can. What if before I launch into Do-ing,  I start out from Be-ing? Can I work from a place of Be-ing Integrity? When I get home tired and my kid is happy and excited to see me, can I come from a place of Be-ing Play, rather than seeing the time with him as another way my energy will be depleted? Can I come from Be-ing Connection? That's less about Do-ing and more about simply Be-ing.

Do vs. Be is an old discussion. So old that I think I assumed I could have some awareness and that would be good enough. I'd just switch automatically. But here's the loop: in order to fully Be, I need to be aware of the moment when I slip into Do. My energy dips just thinking about it. I don't act playful, I Do playing. Which is exhausting sometimes. So part of the Do-ing needs to be in the conscious choice of Be-ing.

If I take a moment to Be my Essence (or simply be conscious that I am my Essence already), then Do makes more sense, I feel less drained, more grounded, more spacious, slower (in a good way), more engaged and connected, lighter, more seen and heard, less annoyed, more generous, more compassionate, etc. If I can remember that I don't have to Do anything to be the Essence of myself (it simply exists inside me), then I can always start out from there because I am already always starting out from there.

This is a huge thing for me.

Trauma, and particularly early childhood trauma, can skip over the Be and jump right to Do. Kids are rarely conscious of who they Be. They are their Essence and cannot usually separate that out. But in my case, and I'm sure I'm not alone, I went right to Do. What can I "do" about death, sexual abuse, being liked, staying invisible, being seen, fixing the world, fixing myself, etc.? What do I need to do to get money, succeed, feel happy, win?
A small person might think, "Well, Being (as in being innocence and curiosity) seems to have led to these traumatic (but possibly avoidable) events, I will need to focus more on Do (which is also how we control our world)." It's not logical to adults the same way it is for kids. Kids simply start making hypotheses and then executing and testing against them. Whatever works best, wins. Even if it doesn't work *that* well, if it works well enough, then it stays.

This plays out in parenting all the time. I have a very hard time believing that it's who I am Be-ing that is my best work, rather than what I am Do-ing. I want my kid (and everyone else for that matter) to know that I am working as hard as I can to fix, guide, corral, and control how he navigates the world. Boundaries, limitations, unique experiences, whether we have another child or not, who he interacts with, what he eats, how he sleeps, rules, what he reads, etc. (sadly, the list goes on and on). Working *really* hard to manage all that.

What I don't do very much is come from my Essence. I don't seek Connection first. I don't start out from Be-ing Playful first, and then engage my son. I don't come from Curiosity (I usually come straight from Control and Fear, to be perfectly honest).

I need to develop a daily (probably hourly) practice of consciousness around my Essence (I'm so sneaky, I just turned this into a Do!). It doesn't need to be complicated, just an awareness of when I get caught up and feel trapped, it's probably because I'm moving into Do-mode.

If work is hard, who can I Be? Can I stand in my Integrity and move from there?

I'll never stop Do-ing, I know that. That makes sense. But I can start from Be-ing and then the Do-ing isn't so disconnected and untethered.

One day at a time, but awareness is key.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Letting go of people

I'll share more about this later and I've already shared about isolation in other posts but I wanted to write about it, because honestly, that's why I started this blog in the first place. I'm not the first mom, nor am I the first mom to blog, and I'm still not the first mom to tell the truth on a blog. And telling the truth is the most important part of being a mom to me. At least, telling "a" truth.

My family and community lost a dear, dear friend to suicide this week. I don't know the details but from the snippets I've heard there was some PTSD, depression, and extreme financial strain that probably contributed to this lovely, beautiful woman choosing to end her life.

We don't like to talk about suicide in our culture. We often want to separate out those who commit suicide from those who...well...didn't. "Those people over there" couldn't find a way out. They were sick. They didn't want help. We can tell ourselves a lot of things. We can also flip it and go to self-blame. I wasn't there for her, I didn't do enough, I should've called, I should've, could've, would've.

But it's too complex for those absolute fix it thoughts, too. Life is a conversation, not a mere question and answer session. We toil, we test, we triumph, we try, and we think some more. We roll it around in our heads. We say it out loud to see how it sounds.

What I want to say tonight, and what I will continue to talk about, is that we all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other, to learn about isolation and how it can wreak havoc. We can start talking about it. We can start recognizing it in ourselves and others. It's not just a mental illness thing. Media has a part, consumerism has a part, groupthink has a part, etc. We repeat what we hear and don't even think about how it might be isolating, to us OR others.

Many a person experiences isolation in their lives. If we have lived a life at all, we have experienced it. I just hope we can start talking more about it.

More later.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Letting go of trying hard to be someone I'm not

It's hard to keep up with the blog comparison to how fast my kid is changing and me along with him. But this is important to share.

So I work in a non-profit at the moment, and while I enjoy working for a good cause, I was starting to get restless. I am a restless person, or so I have reflected about my experience of life, so this seemed really natural. I had a million interests growing up, I was really involved in high school, I attended 5 colleges (with credits at 9 colleges by the end), and I have a million ideas at least every day before noon. If you know me at all, this isn't new information. I've just accepted this about myself (and you have too, probably). I'm entrepreneurial to a fault and it's one of those things I love/hate about myself.
When I was in my early 20s my mom asked me, "Why can't you just get a job and stick with it?" I didn't have a good answer, other than, "I just don't like it anymore. It doesn't speak to me."

On and on it has gone for me. Always into something new. I left the same law firm twice to try different things, in hopes of being self-employed so that I could escape the monotony of work. No dice.

And here I am, at 38+ and I'm doing it again. Getting restless and dissatisfied. In addition to working 35 hours a week, and running an airbnb in the summer, I've been wanting to earn additional money. We're doing okay at the moment, but I can't fathom having another child with no increase in income and so I've been looking around. What could I do? What can I do that doesn't require extra education, that won't have me starting at entry level or won't make me bored in 6 months? I like coaching. But I'm horrible at marketing myself (or just confused). Maybe I could do some virtual work or drive for Uber or sell all my belongings or...or...or. This is where the exhausted emoticon goes.

I thought about a complete career switch into Organizational Development, but that sort of requires an MA in Org Dev and with it, more debt. Which if you know anything else about me, it's that I am tired of my debt. When I shared this dilemma (for the millionth time, it seemed) with a close friend, she gently said, "Look, you do this a lot. You have a way you want to be, and instead of just doing it the way you want to do it, you try to shove it into a more acceptable career and then you get restless and then this starts all over again. Since I've known you, you've been a writer in your heart, and I think you should just do THAT."

Huh. She was right. I did do this over and over. I tried to get busy being useful to others, I tried to find a way to shove my creative, artistic, intuitive self into places where it sort of didn't belong, where there was really no place for it to be confortable. Sure, I got a few moments of reprieve and acknowledgement, but not enough for my tastes. I was always ANGRY that no one appreciated my value and worth. I am intelligent, skilled, I have experience in a lot of things, interest in even more things, I am well-read, well-traveled, etc. I stayed at jobs with a crap ton of low self-esteem because I didn't see how to fully be myself in a work environment. I've had great bosses that let me be as much of myself as possible, but couldn't really let me fly because that wasn't what I was hired for. It was depressing.

Being a writer though? That was just a lifelong hobby. I mean I couldn't make money at it. At least that's what I was told once. I needed a backup plan. Artists don't make money, I've heard over and over and over. I mean, some can (the really special/brilliant/lucky ones), but not me. Certainly, not me. Right?

But as this friend's truth washed over me, I had to admit that I really hadn't given it a good shot. I really hadn't let that part of me shine very bright. I wrote daily, I took classes, I graduated (finally) with a concentration in writing, I lived and breathed writing, but how could I possibly make it a career or even just take it seriously?

I've been feeling really stuck lately. I'm heavier than I want to be, crankier than I want to be, I'm exhausted and annoyed, I feel undervalued, underemployed, unheard and unseen. Some of my friendships are strained or distant (usually because of me). I'm overwhelmed easily. I have no energy. I'm constantly challenged by my kid. I have no faith I can have another kid and stay mentally sane. Could writing, and committing to writing as a way of life and possibly, eventually, a career, be the ticket to solving or at least helping ALL of these problems? That one thought, the thought that writing could bring me up to the surface, started to make me feel lighter all of a sudden. Really?

As cliche as it sounds, was 'it' always here, right under my nose, the whole time? How come it took about 20+ people (my first boyfriend in 10th grade told me I'd be a famous writer one day...and many, many people have kept telling me over the years...) to finally let this in? How come I hadn't really invested the time? Was it because that one time, one person said it wouldn't be worth it? Was I afraid she was right?

I'm finally in the "I don't care what people think" part of my life, or at least mostly there, and maybe it needed to take this long to try EVERY OTHER THING first. Even when I claimed that writing was just a hobby, I still did it a lot. Blogs, morning pages, NaNoWriMo, poorly paid online content, letters to friends, a degree in Creative Nonfiction, several book starts, countless short personal narrative pieces. I never stopped. I actually don't think I can stop. When I think about not being able to write I get nervous anxious. I always need a pen around. Blank journals are the best presents. It seems silly looking back as far as I can remember and thinking that this wasn't inevitable. I write for my life and through my life. I write to save my life. I write to save the lives of others. I write to move through the pain, to hear the Inner Voice, to hear the Higher Self. I write to hang on to the shreds of sanity. I write to let go. I write to dislodge the stuck places in my heart and mind. I write to release the anger.

So I took some time to really let it sink in that I am a Writer. Which means that I started to see all the anger and the confusion and the low self-esteem as the symptoms of my not writing, and more specifically, my not committing to writing. It's not just a hobby. It's a way of life. I have never tried to make a living at writing. I had never even attempted to publish (anything) until 2014 and when I sold about 40 ebooks on Amazon and didn't turn into an overnight sensation, I thought that it was true, I couldn't make a living. I didn't really put much more effort into it.

But now I get it. I need to lean in a lot more. I need to commit a lot more. I need to see writing as expansive and flexible and able to hold all those different pieces of me. I need to focus on more than one way to express myself. I have to write more than one book. All those ideas I've had about ways to share words, I need to honor those and actually do them, practice, ship it out (as Seth Godin says). I need to risk rejection and failure and then see myself keep going and keep trying things out. Writing is fun for me. If I am going to survive the hardest parts that are probably yet to come in my life, I need to write more.

I've been reading a lot of Derek Sivers, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Guillebeau and Seth Godin and many others (coincidentally, not a lot of women...hmm). I need to surround myself with writers, with folks who are bucking the norms, who are stepping away from "acceptable" careers and ways of being to be who they are.

So I'm working on a few books, a few blogs, some art pieces, and even some clothing ideas. I feel better, I am able to spend more quality time with my son, I'm able to let go of trying a million more things (so exhausting, by the way), I want to connect with my friends, and in my free time, I just want to write.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A few creative writing pieces...

Evidence - October 19, 2013 (1+years old)

As I pick up your toys from the day's adventures, and hear you talking yourself to sleep in the other room, I smile as each plaything goes back in the toy box. I live the day in reverse, thinking of all the fun we had. The coffee table, helter-skelter from being pushed aside to make room, the pillows carelessly strewn around your playhouse, perfect for wrestling, and crumbs from a recent snack attack are photographed in my mind, to keep forever. 
Righting the furniture to the original placement, sweeping up the crumbs, and turning the living room back into "public space," it occurs to me that the only evidence of our awesome day is the warm, expansive feeling in my heart and the tiredness in my body from pure play. 

In the beginning, your cries are high pitched and emergent
It's as if you don't think anyone is coming back for you

But y'see, we never leave your side. Even when our bodies are apart
we are always sending out mama and papa waves
telling you we're here

Then you get a little bit older and you learn about us coming back
you hear us in another room and turn to our voice

Your body grows and learns to locomote and you follow us around
always wanting us in your view
Like we always want you in ours.

When you sleep, we sneak peeks and cry about your sweetness

Then all of a sudden it happens...

We are always in the process of holding you close and letting you go
And you are always in the process of trusting our distance and expecting our return.

And when those tiny but strong legs learn to walk, we all know something new

We know this is another beginning of not only a phase, but of a separation.

We'll still always be there and you'll still always look,
and the invisible, but very palatable cords between all of our hearts,
will lengthen, but never weaken.

All of a sudden.

The flipside of letting go

It's been a few months and I've been on vacation and upon my return I bought a book that a friend recommended: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

In a hyphenated word, this book is, well, life-changing. The title is appropriate. In fact, it's life-changing AND magic. I read it quickly, but she has a few key points that turn things on their heads. Rather than de-cluttering and letting go with the idea of what you can part with, why not just keep what SPARKS JOY?
I'm sorry, what? Joy?! What do you mean? Well, to be fair, I know exactly what she means from studying energy, dowsing, and intuition for years, but I'm being dramatic.
Because this idea hadn't really occurred to me with regard to my stuff. Sure, many things I have in my home make me smile or remind me of good times, but sparking joy seems a lot different. She didn't say "Gives you a chuckle" or "Reminds you fondly." She wrote, "sparks joy."
While reading the book, I would put it down and look around my lovely house and think, "Crap, not much of this sparks joy."
I've always had the concept of usefulness and almost everything would stay because it *could* be useful *someday* and well, sometimes that day came, but MOST times it did not.

So what does this mean for me, I kept wondering. Would I need to touch every object in my home and ask if it sparked joy? Could I possibly do that? And would that work? Would it really magically change my life? Well, I'm planning my go-through days soon.

Marie Kondo says to do it all at once, and not over a longer period of time. And she says that you should just do it once, not over and over.

Just those two ideas alone are life-changing. I go through my clothes sort of about twice a year. I go through my books once a year or once every two years. 

Parenting while traveling...AKA extreme letting go

I recently did something that many people warned me about. They told me K was too young, that he wouldn't remember it, and that it will be hard. Don't call it a vacation, they said. Don't try to do too much, they cautioned.

Well, I did it. I took my three year old to Europe (Paris and Barcelona). My mother traveled with me and my younger brother at the same age, to far more dangerous countries, and she said that it was a great idea.

We went because the Universe conspired to arrange for us to go. I had the idea that I wanted to go to the Airbnb Open and it seemed like a pipe dream and yet, moment after moment seemed to clear away ALL the obstacles (include some financial obstacles AND in Paris, a terrorist attack!).

I love Europe. I love it in a way that I can't always explain. And J loves it too. So why not bring K, whom we also both love, to the place we both love?

Because you know this blog is about letting go, and you know by now that I always start out with grand ideas, you can assume that more grand ideas were laid to rest while abroad.

I thought my kid would sleep on the plane. I thought we'd be able to eat gluten free. I thought my kid would eat food other than the SAME food he eats at home. I thought he would be able to handle crazy hours, no naps, and long hours of walking (this was just my fault for not really understanding how much I walk in Europe---6-9 miles a day!).

That all faded as the trip went on. By the time we returned on the plane, I was more than comfortable allowing my kid to zone out for 10 hours (well, eight, because c'mon, he needed one nap!), he ate what he would eat, we carried him a lot more (because 9 miles of walking is a lot for anyone, especially ones with little legs), and the frequent outbursts and tantrums were just par for the course.

I had not planned on K pronouncing "croissant" in a French accent, or his playground radar to be so accurate (there are SO many playgrounds in the big European cities!), or his Metro/subway riding to become so adept. Relatively speaking, he was awesome. It was still hard for me to simply focus more on parenting than enjoying Europe, but for the most part, he went out late with us and got up early with us and marveled at the same things we did. We have initiated a world traveler.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Another Mama chimes in...

This is written by a good Mama friend of mine, Kristin Tuttle-Tomaschke. I haven't changed any part of it and other than this small intro, I have not weighed in. Perhaps I will comment down below if others chime in. Feel free!

Why we have to stop calling our sons, “All-boy”
When I first found out I was pregnant, I was immediately sure I was having a girl. My daughter. I remember walking down the street to the grocery store, talking to her in my mind, imagining the afternoons that we would make this walk together. We picked out a name very early on, even before we knew we were pregnant, and I called her by name in those first few weeks.
Months later, I was 30 weeks and very, very pregnant. Everything had changed- we had told everyone, facebook included, our spare room was piled with baby clothes and gear, and our bed was a mountain of extra pillows. We were weeks away from moving and one afternoon I sat on the floor, sorting things into boxes and watching movies. In one movie, I watched two dads adopt a little boy and felt a lurch in my stomach. I think this was the first time it occurred to me that yes, I could actually be the mom of a boy. That it really could happen, and it might. In the coming weeks, I flirted with the idea of having a boy, a son. That I could be that type of mom, that sporty, no-fuss, smart, savvy, mom-of-boys was outlandish to me, and kind of intriguing. In the throes of labor, moments before he was born I asked everyone in the room what they thought the baby would be. Everyone there said girl, including my husband. I said boy.
On September 17th 2012, our son, Julian Rex was born. Two years and three weeks later, our second son Ambrose Aldan slipped quietly into the world to join him. I am the mother of sons. Whatever that means, whatever it says about me and my husband, who we are, who we should try to be- that’s us.
In college and even growing up, I had fantasized about what it would mean to raise a daughter, to teach her to be strong, loud, bold, large. To challenge the status quo, to learn how to sew, to repair things, to move furniture, cook dinner, speak up for herself, use jumper cables, read a manual before calling the plumber. I read hungrily all the articles on avoiding body shaming, silencing, bullying etc. But then I had boys. At first, I told myself, “Just reset.” Okay, so I don’t have to teach those lessons. That’s okay; there are other mountains to conquer. There must be something important I can teach them about being tender and emotional maybe? About being friendly, making eye contact?
If you know my oldest son, you know that it is not untrue to call the way he carries and moves himself through life “barreling.” He was born early, came out like a shot, immediately seemed cool and together in his new world. Even as a baby, I knew him. He made an impression. If he could physically do something, he did it about 100 miles per hour. As a 3 year old, he hasn’t changed. He jumps into things, talks to anyone. He is daring, he is bold, he speaks up. If you get too handsy, he’ll knock you down. If you look at him too hard, he'll walk toward you and not stop until your faces are millimeters apart. He is bossy, he is direct. He pursues what he wants until he gets your answer.
And so it began, even at a tiny age. At the park, walking through the grocery store, at a play gym. “Boys, right?” “Wow, he is just all boy, isn’t he?” “Well, boys will be boys!” I never was quite sure what it meant. If he was hitting/pushing/being bossy was it his birthright? It certainly wasn’t okay. Was this our future, undoubtedly? What of the other boys in the room or at the park or in the shopping carts who weren’t like him, weren’t swiping at the cereal boxes and singing at the top of their lungs? If they weren’t “all boy” were they just “partial boys” or “not boys”? Speaking to that, what of my second son? Born almost two weeks late still in his water bag, Ambrose was cautious from the first. He is also brave, and can be so quick and ornery that I’m truly shocked, but he doesn’t barrel through the day. He watches. When someone takes his toy and runs away, he follows them, moves around the front of them and bends down to look in their eyes. He mimics his brother, loves to run naked, sings from the back seat. He’s hilarious. His sense of humor- even at 16 months- has nuance. When they’re together, people just say it of both of them, “Goodness, they’re all boy, aren’t they?”
Except that they aren’t. To hear my mom tell it, Julian as a toddler is just like me. Youngest of three girls, I recall growing up my two older sisters’ ability to grace a room, to wait, to be shy and interesting. They were both very thin, and very curly haired- a kind of delicacy that could be utilized, and one that I never had. And though we spent countless rowdy, playful imaginative days together, they had a kind of reserved nature that I could never quite get a hold of. They were loud, and funny and full of energy to be sure, but they could turn it off, if and when they wanted. Restraint, a kind of brilliant, sparkling poise. Whereas I was noise, and elbows and round edges, big feet, and LOUD. Ceaseless in conversation and movement. I was Julian, or rather, he is just like me. For a while, when folks would exclaim, “he is all boy!” I might retort, “Actually, I think he’s all Mama!”
The other day we were at the park together, Julian, Ambrose and myself. We found a magical little hut there in the forested area of the park, intricately woven of fallen limbs and Julian immediately climbed inside. He played Star Wars (though he doesn’t really know what that is). He had me come inside, then kicked me out again. He wanted Ambrose to come in, beckoned him, wanted him out. He found a stick, it was a sword, he hit his brother; it turned into a wand, and I turned into a unicorn. “Now DING, Ambrose is a unicorn, and DING, I am a unicorn, and DING you are a unicorn. Mama, we’re all UNICORNS!” As he spoke he leaped from a stump onto the ground, his hand-me-down pink sparkly high tops glinting in the sun.
What do we mean when we say, “all-boy”? I don’t know for sure (and perhaps this is the most worrisome part), but I have some suspicions of what the average person means, and I don’t think I’m wrong: Loud. Aggressive. Bold. Dauntless. Confident. Risk-taking. Messy. Energetic. Self-reliant.
When I look at my son, I can understand why you might say that about him. He is, in moments, all of those things. But, you see, I don’t want to miss him, and of all my mom fears, this is, perhaps, the greatest one. The more I tell myself who my son is or even who I want him to be, the more I fear I will miss the reality, the more complicated, more messy, more beautiful truth. His favorite colors are pink and purple. He loves fairies, ponies, mermaids, ballerinas, princesses. He uses a stick more often as a magic wand than as a gun. His favorite animals are the babies. He loves his toy trucks- and one day I caught him cuddling one in bed, and telling it, it’s birth story. Sometimes things scare him. When the train fell over the edge in Inside Out, he sobbed. If we have to leave a beloved toy behind, usually some kind of car/train/truck, he says he doesn’t want to because, “He’s my best friend!” A few weeks ago he pretended he had a baby. He carried it in his belly, it was born, it was a girl, named Frisbee, and it went to bed with him every night to nurse.
As I watch my second son, still a baby, grow, I don’t want to miss him, either. He is cautious, but watch out, that kid can go from clingy to 3 blocks away in a half second. He is reserved and watchful, but he can be breath-takingly loud when he wants. And sometimes, he does. And here’s the real danger, and the reality that came crashing down on me that day in the park watching Julian go from storm trooper to purple unicorn faster than you can say “Twilight Sparkle”:
I don’t really get to teach my sons what it means to be a girl. They don’t have a sister, their niece is thousands of miles away. They play with plenty of girls, but I’m not those girls’ parents. The closest I come to teaching them what a girl is, and the best I can do at shaping the way they interact with women in the future, is by teaching them about themselves. If being a boy means being loud, aggressive, bold, dauntless, confident, risk-taking, messy, energetic, and self-reliant than what am I teaching them about girls? That girls are quiet, passive, meek, shy, insecure, risk-averse, tidy, reserved, needy.
I LOVE the number of articles I’ve seen passed around lately about how to teach your daughter, and to support all the young girls you know. About how to talk loudly and assertively in meetings as an adult woman. About how to carefully examine the way we hear our female leaders. But I keep waiting for the article that says that how we talk to and about our boys matters just as much, and for the same reason. I haven’t seen it yet, so I thought I would write it myself: Parents, grand-parents, friends: we *have* to stop telling our sons that they are “all-boy” unless we radically clarify and redefine the term. At best, we miss out on the complexity of what it does mean to be a boy; at worst, on what it means to be a human.
If you know my son, you know he doesn’t hesitate to tell you what he’s thinking. As I watch him fly around the room- he’s a bat, he’s Stella Luna, he’s hunting, now he’s sleeping- I know and I love this about him: He is, without a doubt, all-Julian. This is the most I could ever want for him. This is the most I could ever hope for our children.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Letting go allows me to do more...

I go to regular therapy, every other week. I go like people go to the gym (only, every other week works better for mental health than phys health, right?). I need to keep my mental and emotional health fit.
Last night I was sharing that yesterday's "bad day" didn't make me feel like a piece of s**t, like it usually does. I usually take myself "out back" and flog myself when I make too many mistakes. It can be pretty emotionally violent up in my head. :(
But I messed up several things and low and behold, no one fired me, yelled at me, gave me a demerit (no, people don't do this anymore, I guess), or told me I was a horrible person. And I guess, for once, I followed suit. I didn't do that to myself, either. I worked out a plan to fix the mistakes, I mea culpa'd where necessary, and finished the day.

I shared that in therapy because it was strange. I usually come in and try to dig deep into why I made all those mistakes...and many times I blame myself (inappropriately) for not knowing, not paying attention, not being good enough, etc.
Recently, I've been taking SMALL steps (this book helped me start doing that) to commit to my creative endeavors. Prior to taking small steps, I have been paralyzed with fear about wasting time and not creating something worthwhile.
Listening to the part of me that liked the smart, small steps plan from the book, Just Start, I actually ended up starting a podcast AND deciding on a direction for my next book. Aha! Progress! Movement! Concrete steps!

And then my therapist brilliantly reflected, "It seems that letting go is allowing you to do more..." I've been trying to get to THAT (doing more, releasing more of my creative talents into the world) for a long time. And letting go was the KEY. In order to commit, I needed to LET GO. Normally, I am not about creative commitment because I am afraid of making a mistake in the commitment (bad idea, bad direction, no one cares about it, I'm nothing unique/original, on and on...).

This time, with the commitment, I just told myself that smart, small steps would allow me to commit incrementally and then if I must change directions, I would do so when it made the most sense. If it didn't make sense, then I wouldn't have to change directions. I was trying to see the end before I started. Ack.

Anyway, I have a lot more to say on this, that I have recently discovered about myself and I encourage you to get the book, to think about small, smart steps in the direction of your desires, and how letting go can help you do more.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

"Dear Mom of the Difficult Kid"

From Stuff Moms Say..."Dear Mom of the Difficult Kid"

This was nice to read. I am learning with Every.Single.Thing. regarding my kid that I am always taking the road less traveled. He's intense. He's talkative (like non-stop, from waking til passing out..and sometimes IN HIS SLEEP). He smacks me hard in the face when he's angry. Calls me names. I had to use my corporate assessment test to remind myself that I am creative, strategic, his world is no more complicated than mine, and I am still alive. So we can do this. Sloppily at times. Horribly at times. Wonderfully brilliant at times. I do not have a heart of steel. I have a part of the Divine Heart, that must bear witness to the craziness of the world, that my son picks up so easily, as an empath. I am not alone. My kid is not alone. You are not alone.

Now, I know my kid might read all this that I write about my life with him. And I want to be clear that I don't think of him with the label "Difficult Kid." That was the author of the article, linked above. My kid is simply my kid. He looks difficult at times, but he's all I know, really. And it is difficult for me, but that doesn't make HIM difficult. I know, it might be semantics, but it's important. He's himself. This is all he knows too!

He feels deeply. His curiosity is unparalleled (I do not know another child like him in that regard). His language, not just his vocabulary, but the way he forms thoughts, sentences, ideas, analogies, is complicated. He stumps me often. His reasoning is beyond my comprehension sometimes. The only way to prepare for a kid like him is to HAVE a kid like him. So me raising him is my bootcamp, my immersion, my intensive. 

The cliche that parenting is the hardest work you'll ever love is appropriate. I have suffered more acutely, for shorter amounts of time. My heart has broken prior to this kid entering my life. More than ever, a more appropriate cliche is that Life is Suffering. To be in my life, the way I am now, is to experience the suffering of being separated from the Divine. My kid brings me back to that Divine everyday. Whether directly through my experience with and of him or indirectly through my reflection of who I am and who I want to be. Parenting this beautiful child reminds me how hard things can be. And also, how simple they are, too. He goes from 30-60 in 3 seconds. I GET that. I am able to control the impulse (sometimes) to scream at the top of my lungs, to froth at the mouth from something not going the way I planned, and to smack the closest person to me, regardless of how much they love me, but that took a while. I just get it.

So K came to me to remind me. We're complicated. We're intense (ask anyone who knows me...). We developed ways of being in the world to deal with that. I'm just witnessing K's learning about how to cope. It WILL change, I know it will. Because it already has.

So dear parents of kids living in the world, being present, suffering what it is to be human, keep going. Your kids may not tell you right now, but they are internalizing your compassion, your willingness, your growth. Even if they see how hard it is for you, that helps, too. They learn how to handle themselves from watching you. Even when K sees me fly off the handle (and boy, does he ever sometimes...), he ALSO sees me acting calm when he flips out. He sees me take breaks. He sees me set boundaries about what I can handle. He sees me lean on my friends. He sees me laugh, he sees me care for myself. I gotta believe that sticks too.


My favorite baby

My inspiration

My inspiration