Monday, May 16, 2016

She Lost Herself

There's this well known phrase about women, particularly moms, who no longer look like their younger, fitter, childless selves; a phrase that has never, to the best of my knowledge, been uttered in a positive or kind way; a phrase which holds so much power in the attitude in which it is spoken, that it resonated deeply within me as a child, when I would hear adults speak it of someone, with pretentious, gossipy, indignation:

"She really let herself go."

Let herself go where exactly?

Because, as I see it, she probably hasn't let herself go anywhere.

I have been battling feelings brought up by this phrase for a long time now, not that I have ever actually heard it directed at me, but who does? No one. No one hears that insult. That insult falls onto the ears of other pretentious, judgmental adults, and young children. Young children who grow into adults and come to realize, they are likely the ones being spoken about in this way.

See, a while back, I discovered that I am practically unrecognizable to people who haven't seen me in 10ish years. I was briefly excited to see an old friend, until I noticed the tilted head and squinting eyes of "I think I should know you." And it's not her fault. I am currently still roughly 60 lbs overweight from a very large pregnancy. I have very few clothes that fit comfortably, and so I look like a sloppy, hot mess most days, and most days, I hope against all hope, that I never run into anyone I knew back in college...or high school, or anyone who knew my former self. You know, the one worthy of being known and seen. You see, because it is now my perception that I am that embarrassment of a person; the one people have to squint at and do a double take at, and then go home wondering, "What happened to her?" The one who sees the occasional Facebook rants about adults wearing old sweats (of all things) in public, and women who don't wear make up, or do their hair, or make themselves look nice for their men. What horrible and lazy moms and wives they must be, right?

Wrong.

In fact, it's probably the exact opposite of everything you think about them. Last year, I had my 4th child. She was just about as close as you can get to 10 lbs, without actually being 10 lbs, so we'll just say it; she was a 10 pound baby. I gained close to 70 lbs, on top of the almost 30 I was still hanging on to from my third pregnancy.

I had been homeschooling my oldest 2 children, in grades 1 and 2. I had been nursing a baby. I had been trying to cater to the needs of a toddler somewhere in between. At about the 3 month mark, postpartum, my back decided to stop working properly. Putting the baby into the crib, and taking her out, suddenly became breathtakingly painful. I worked through it, remained functional, and discovered one of the possible causes was diastasis recti. This was a devastating blow to my former self, the athletic self, the one with a ridiculously strong core because her other limbs were always injured and core work was all she could do.

It hasn't gotten any better either. Charlotte is now over a year old. I stopped homeschooling the older two children to give myself a break, and maybe, just maybe, more time to take care of myself. I recently went to a dentist for the first time in 4 years, to discover my teeth are falling apart. I take very good care of them at home, but don't have time for many doctor's appointments of my own, not to mention a complete lack of dental insurance. Sooooo, the dentist was my first stop on the "take better care of mommy tour," and now, I might need oral surgery to keep my teeth in my head. Spine specialist is stop number 2, since last week, when I tried a muscle relaxer for my back for the first time (after finally weaning the baby from nursing), it disoriented me, caused one eye to dilate like crazy, and kept me in bed all day with motion sickness from simply standing.

You see, when you are a stay at home, homeschooling mom of 4 children, with no available family nearby to watch the kids for you during the week, and a husband who works during the operating hours of most all other medical places of business, getting out to see a doctor yourself, or do anything for yourself, is a near impossibility. Any available hours for that are quickly taken with everyone else's appointments (including the dog's), and grocery shopping and errand running. See, she doesn't let herself go. She gets completely lost.

She loses herself to love others and make sure they are well taken care of.
She loses herself in a schedule that circles rapidly around her, but doesn't include her.
She loses herself to herself; her own guilt, shaming herself for stealing away any alone time that doesn't involve grocery or birthday or necessary shopping for her family.
She loses herself in social media, a rare outlet, where anyone and everyone is there to invalidate every thought, opinion, or emotion she has; the only place in the world where she is surrounded by thousands, and completely alone at the same time.

And once she's completely lost, unrecognizable to even herself, she battles different emotions. Feelings of complete worthlessness. How did she get this bad? She doesn't even deserves this family. And these kids...these loving kids? While she's so busy, self loathing herself for even taking the time to self loathe, she can't find the time/energy/strength to enjoy what's right in front of her. Her inner struggle is a constant tug of war between wanting to freeze and enjoy every single moment with her rapidly growing children, and counting down the seconds to when they go to bed.

She hasn't let herself go, people. I beg of you, please stop using this to describe women who, to you, might look run down, overweight, exhausted, or seem to be aging poorly. She hasn't let herself go. She forgot how to make herself a priority. She has lost herself, sacrificed herself for the sake of those she loves, not to the point of martyrdom, but just far enough to not quite know how to claw her way back. Instead of judging her, labeling her, or thinking her a negative person who must love misery, love her, and know that she doesn't need pity or even unsolicited advice, but rather love, support, and understanding; to know that just maybe, she's not as alone as she feels.



**Update, I am working toward a healthier me. Do not allow my honest and uncomfortable, heartfelt emotions here to scare you or worry for me. I will soon update with a blog about the journey to a healthier mommy. :) 


Thursday, September 10, 2015

It's Not You; It's Me: Confessions of an Introvert...Unable to be an Introvert

As a little girl, I was shy. By shy, I mean so shy, my parents held me back from starting kindergarten because I spent a whole year in Pre-K refusing to talk to anyone or participate in any group activities.

Years and years of playing basketball sort of changed that for me. By high school, I was an active part of drama club and LOVED getting on stage to perform funny skits in front of the whole school. I enjoyed playing in front of a big crowd. I liked being around people. In fact, sometimes I needed to be around people. But I still loved to shut myself up in my room with a good book or my journal from time to time. I would have identified myself as an extrovert with occasional introvert tendencies.

Fast forward to today. I am raising and homeschooling four children in a 3 bedroom, 850 sq ft home, and I am more convinced than ever, that I am as true an introvert as they come. And I am never alone. Y'all, they never leave.

For a few years we only had 2 children. Close in age, they always napped together, and I had some much needed time for myself. When we had a third child, and Elijah and Chastity outgrew naps, they would spend a quiet time in their room, playing creatively while Isaac napped. Then number 4 arrived, rooms have been switched around, and now Isaac and Charlotte take naps in two different rooms, sometimes at different times, and Elijah and Chastity are always here. Up until about a week ago, at the very least, I would have a few uninterrupted moments to myself in the morning. After my husband would get up to get ready for work, and the kids were still sleeping, I would stay in bed, in the silence. Sometimes I would read a little. Sometimes I would pray. Sometimes, I wouldn't do anything at all, but lie there, quiet but awake. Then, this week, Charlotte, my 6 month old, decided to start waking up anytime between 6:30 and 7:30 am. She's still sleeping all night, and I'm thankful for that, but that missing 1 to 2 hours in my mornings isn't about sleep for me. I get up with her, and the one perk to getting up earlier than usual with the baby is the *almost* alone time. I can sit in silence to nurse her, and be downstairs by myself for a bit. That time rejuvenates me, and helps me mentally prepare for the day. Except that I can't. Because she wakes up early enough to be early, but late enough to make the other 3 believe they should be up too. So, by the time I get comfy in my chair with my hungry baby, 3 other heads are peaking down the stairs at me. And it angers me inside. It takes every ounce of strength I have to say "Good morning," with a half smile, rather than snarl.

It used to upset me to hear mothers complaining during the summer about their kids. Wanting them gone, away from them, and in school all day was a strange desire to me. Now, I totally get it. I am never alone, and the slightest noise that is above average volume, emitted from my children causes a tightening in my chest and a whisper screamed "SHUSH!" which hurts my throat.

My time spent with them just consists of making them food, cleaning up messes, and trying to get necessary things done amidst the hundreds of daily interruptions. It is purely quantity, not quality.

And so, in the middle of all this chaos, when someone...anyone suggests that we get together, especially with their kids and mine or as whole families, I can feel my breathing becoming strained. I make jokes folks, but the struggle is real. It actually doesn't sound fun to me. On a normal day, my interruptions have interruptions, but now you're asking me to function in a day (or several) where my interruptions have whole families of interruptions of their own. I have days, weeks even, where I intentionally avoid phone calls from some of my favorite people. Let's face it, if there is a single moment in this house where no one is talking to me, I'd like to keep it that way. We have local family (if you're reading this, know I love you!), which, including us, consists of 10 adults and 10 children. There are birthdays and holidays constantly. Every occasion for adults and kids alike are cause for celebration, and we can't even fit all these people into our home comfortably. Meanwhile, I'm over here all like, "I'll spend my birthday alone, with some yarn...and a book, thanks!" Under normal circumstances, for normal people, this is a great blessing. And I know this. And I truly love all my friends and family. But it's like taking a person who is already suffocating; having difficulty breathing, into a sauna with the expectation that it will be relaxing and rejuvenating for them. It sounds good in theory, but it only exacerbates the already existing problem.

I think (I hope) I hide this well, because, the truth is, I don't want to avoid the people I love and alienate them. Contrary to what this may lead you to believe, they are important to me! I want to want to get together, and I will continue to do my best to suck it up because I love all the people in my life. But this is my public apology to all of my friends and family who might be under the mistaken impression that I don't like them, I merely tolerate them, or I don't enjoy talking with them.

This is a season. A season in which someone is almost always yelling, screaming, or fussing at me, always talking, always asking questions...the same ones...repeatedly, always interrupting me, or always touching me, stepping on me, tripping me, pinching me, hitting me, or scratching me; a season in which my interruptions have interruptions, cooking up interruptions, stewing in a pot of interruptions and I nurse a headache daily, unable to complete a full thought; a season in which my patience wears thin and my anger stirs with every. single. noise; a season in which I want to smack someone for trying to tell me "enjoy every second, because it goes by too fast!" You don't think I know this? You don't think I hate myself for being so miserable on days when I just need to be alone? I love my kids. I even like my kids. They are pretty great. And I miss them on the rare occasion that we are apart. But while I'm in this season of zero time to myself, for myself, or by myself, and the only time away I get is to get groceries, or see a doctor for a problem that's been going on for years, I don't want to feel guilty for having zero interest in being around people. Maybe this is a disorder. Maybe this requires therapy. It certainly feels dysfunctional. But maybe, just maybe, this is normal, and some other moms out there might be able to read this, relate, feel normal for the first time in a long time, and stop hating themselves for needing space and time to themselves to feel like themselves.

This is a season. A season in which it takes days and determination to complete a blog I need to write out for my own sanity.

Please know that I love you, even if the thought of getting together with you causes me physical pain and nausea.

It's not you; it's me.

No, really.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Top Ten Things I Think When You Tell Me You Would Never Let a Baby Cry (For Shame!)

I am so tired of all the mommy shaming...

the daily sharing of posts to make every mom in the world feel badly about a choice that they made, in a desperate moment, to get their kids to sleep. The fact is, we sit around judging the decisions of other parents without ever having been there to witness that decision making process.

It's as though that business about walking in someone else's shoes doesn't apply to moms. "Don't judge, until you've walked a mile in their shoes, dear; unless it's about parenting, and then anyone who does things differently is wrong." 

I could write a whole book about all the mommy shaming and judging; how we all judge each other to feel better about our own decisions which others are making us feel guilty for. It's a vicious cycle. But I'll try to keep this topic more condensed. Let's talk about crying.

Here is a list I have compiled, of the top 10 things I think, when you tell me you have never let your child cry.

10. You have never put them in the car for any extended period of time.

This could mean any trip outside your home town or city; any trip from, say, 30 minutes to 14 hours or more.  Charlotte screamed the whole way home from the hospital at 3 days old. It happens. She had just been fed and changed, and it was bitter cold. We weren't stopping. The goal was getting home. We recently took a trip to North Carolina with our 4 children, one of which was only 5 months old at the time. We saved our money all year for this trip, but we still didn't have enough money to turn it into a 3 day, 2 hotel stays, trip. We had no idea how Charlotte might respond to the trip either. Isaac made it to Tennessee and back at about 6 months, with very little problem. Charlotte, however, got to the point where she screamed the second we placed her back in the car seat, no matter how long we stopped for. So we carried on, through her screams, because, well, we couldn't just stay in West Virginia forever.

9. You've never vacuumed. 

All of my children eventually reached an age when they were terrified of the vacuum, and no longer slept through it. Tough break. I'd rather they screamed during my once or twice (not nearly enough) a week vacuuming, than roll around in filth, collecting dog hair in their mouths. 

8. You have never made dinner.

Not every night is a disaster, but, as you must know, infants are unpredictable, as are their nap times. I can start dinner while she's napping, and be elbow deep in raw meat 10 minutes later when she decides nap is over. I have other people in this house who need to eat, and if I catered to every single cry, we'd all starve. Also, baby wearing has not been a viable option for me (so don't even suggest it), for a long time. I have back problems which become so much worse, to the point of not being able to move at all, if I strap her on me to go about my day. So, I do what absolutely needs to get done before grabbing her, and sometimes, she goes back to sleep before I get there.

7. You've never had a child claw, kick, scream, and hit you during one of their overtired fits.

Maybe your children are perfect angels and never fight sleep and only cry when they have a real need for your snuggles, or more. I have not always been that lucky. My oldest daughter became mobile at an early age and refused to even nurse beyond 10 months because it was too restricting. It would be 11 pm and I would go to her night after night because I couldn't stand the thought of letting her cry. Every single time, I'd try to nurse her, she'd twist her head away from me so hard, I would hurt her if I'd continued to try. I'd try to rock her, and she'd kick, scream, and claw to get away from me. I'd put her on the floor, and she'd play happily as though all was right in the world, while continuing to rub her overtired eyes. I'm sorry, but I'm not in the business of allowing my children (especially my 9/10 month old) stay up all night, just because they want to play. Maybe other moms and dads are ok with this. We were not. She was trying to manipulate the situation to get what she wanted, though she was clearly tired and fighting sleep, and she needed to learn that it was BEDTIME.


6. You've never cleaned their nose or face, clipped their nails, changed their diaper, or done anything good for their overall health, that they didn't particularly like. 

Maybe you view these as separate and completely different things, but I do not. I've done a lot of things that are good for my children, that they didn't like, and guess what? I'm sure to do more. No, I don't sit there listening to them scream when they are clearly in need of something from me, even if it is just snuggles. Believe me when I tell you that, because most people refuse to hear that, too outraged by my apparent heartlessness. As stated in the above, that was not always the case. I am happy to cuddle my babies, and rock them to sleep, but they are not always going to go to sleep willingly, no matter how long I try to rock them. And, believe it or not, sleep (and lots of it) is an important part of our little ones' health, growth, and brain development. They may not always want it, but they need it, and when I hear a whiny, fussy child, even well beyond infancy, I hear a child who's likely not getting enough sleep. We remedy that quickly here.

5. You've never disciplined your child, in any way, shape, or form.

This isn't a debate about spanking. It could be spanking, sending them to their room, or just a firm yelling, but the hard truth is that children don't like to hear, "No!" They don't like being told what to do or what not to do. They also don't like disappointing their parents. These upsetting things can lead them to cry, and depending on the situation, the fit that's thrown, or the point you're trying to make with them, sometimes, you have to let it run it's course.


4. You don't have any other children.


Maybe you don't, and that's not a judgment on that, choice or not. But I too was able to cater to every cry out of my first born child. It's been down hill from there. When you have other children with needs, other children who need to be fed, and can't be ignored, sometimes, the baby needs to cry a little longer than you might like. I have had the occasional week here where my older children would never get lunch until 3 or 4 if I stopped everything for those midday infant melt downs. If it was bad enough (and believe me, a mother knows when it's serious or not), we did have a later lunch, and we figured things out. But many days, things needed to get done, they got done, and my baby survived and got plenty of cuddles during the parts of the day when I wasn't providing sustenance to my other offspring.

3. You have never left your child with a babysitter, caretaker, childcare provider, or school.

That may sting, and I don't mean for it to. The point is, our children will always cry for us, even when (or especially when) we are doing something that we need to do for them or the sake of our families. My babies and children have cried even when leaving them with family they know and love, because they want us. They desire to be with us, and they don't like being left behind for anything. But sometimes it is for their own good, the good of your mental, physical, spiritual, or emotional health, the good of your family, or the health of your marriage. These things are all important things, and though they may not like it, you are doing what is best by your family.

2. You don't actually have children.

Because...well...they cry. And sometimes, even holding them, doesn't stop it.


1. You just enjoy thinking you're right about everything and judging others. 

This sounds harsher than I intended, but it's still true. Some people become so blindly passionate about particular topics, that they cannot find a gray area. It's black or white, and if you're not with them, you are wrong! That is really too bad, because we moms could find a lot of common ground in the gray area.


The point is this, I would never judge a working mom for dropping her crying baby off at daycare, or a parent for rightly disciplining their child, any more than I would judge the mom or dad who had tried absolutely everything else, before making that heartbreaking, last ditch effort to get her child to sleep. Just stop it. You don't know how they arrived at that decision. Contrary to what you might assume, it is not because they are lazy or neglectful or selfish. So stop trying to make them feel that way.

There is no such thing as a parenting expert.

No one has the proper credentials.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

There's this story about my childhood my dad has always loved to tell; a not so flattering story about my character I might add. See, apparently, I used to really enjoy biting my new baby sister.

I bit her any chance I could get. I was 2 and a half years old, and who knows what was going through my mind, but my dad was anxious to put a stop to it.

So, this one time, we were driving somewhere. In the back seat, my sister was strapped in secure right next to me, helpless to defend herself and no where to go. I bit her. She screamed, and I felt the wrath of our father. Some dad's threaten, "Don't make me pull this car over and come back there!" Well, my dad wasn't one for empty threats. He pulled the car over, walked over to my door, opened it, and bit me.

The memory is more of a foggy dream to me than anything, probably encouraged by the repetition of the story over the years. But one thing is fact: I never bit my baby sister again.

Today, I put the baby down on the floor to play next to Isaac. He smiled and made faces at her. All was well. I turned my back to look up a potential birthday gift for our soon to be 3 year old, online, and then it happened. I heard the blood curdling, tear inducing, heart breaking scream of an infant who had just been given a shot. I spun my chair around to a very concerned, very confused, very fearful for his bottom, 2 year old. He saw the anger in my face, knowing she would not scream like that for no good reason. I saw the mark on her cheek.

Isaac ran to me, "Mommy, she no like dat! She no like dat!"

I could hardly contain my anger. Isaac has been left alone in a room with Charlotte for a few minutes or more before. What on earth did he do?

"Isaac!" My accusatory tone was unmistakable. "What did you DO?!" I ran to her and immediately noticed the teeth marks in her cheek, prominent, already bruising. He was nervously silent, and I already had my answer.

"Did you bite her?!"

"Yeths."

"Why would you bite her?!" Everything was a yell. I was so mad. How did such a sweet and happy boy inherit such a horrible trait...from me. It's possible I was even more angry at myself.

He didn't have an answer. I popped the back of his hand, "Go to your room!"

His heartbroken cry traveled all the way up the stairs while I cuddled my recovering, sniffling baby girl. Knowing my own history, I decided to take care matters before they continued. After a few moments of cooling down, I called Isaac back downstairs to apologize to his sister and explain to him how wrong that was. The problem with trying to talk and rationalize with him, is that his response to anything he doesn't quite understand is yes. Many conversations have gone like this:

"Isaac, is it nice to hit?"
"Yeths, it nice to-"
"NO, IT IS NOT NICE TO HIT!"

...and repeat. We've had that exchange so many times, I can't figure out if he's confused by the word, "not," doesn't understand the difference between "yes," and "no," or just enjoys pushing my buttons. He tends to hit when he's excited. Maybe he thinks they are playing. I don't know, but it's been a point of contention with us for a few months now.

So I sat him down, showed him Charlotte's boo boo, and told him how he hurt her. He had a look of concern on his face, but also confusion. I asked him to apologize.

"Sorwy, Charlotte," he said, after kissing her boo boo.

I asked, "You aren't going to bite her again, are you?"

"Yeths,"

"ISAAC, NO! It is not nice to bite!" I interrupted, frustrated. "That hurt her!"

He still seemed confused, "Sorwy, Mommy."

"Isaac, do you want me to bite you?"

"Yeths,"

I am so confused by his constant need to respond with this, but ok.

"Ok, I'm going to show you what it feels like to do what you did to Charlotte. I'm going to bite you on the cheek, ok."

"Ok."

I leaned over and gently bit until he yelled, "OW!" The tears began to flow. He looked betrayed. I didn't even leave a mark, but he understood that it hurt.

"That hurt, didn't it?"

Crying and wiping his tears he replied, "Yeths!"

"Now, are you ever going to bite Charlotte again?"

I braced myself for a repeat of my ongoing frustration when he cried, "Noooo."

I was heartbroken, but felt the mission had been accomplished. I hugged him and held him tight and told him how sorry I was that I had bit him. The rest of the day went on as usual.

I shared the events of the day with my husband upon his return home from work. I was aggravated, concerned, and confused by Isaac's response to the whole thing. We've talked about biting. He's heard me yell several times when Charlotte has clamped down while nursing. He would run to me and ask, "What wong, Mommy?" When I would explain to him what happened he would say, "She bite you like dis?" and clamp his teeth together, and I would say, "Yes," and explain how that hurts.

"So why would he think this was something she would like?" I asked while chatting with Jelani.

"Ohhhh, I know why he did that." Jelani went on to explain to me how they've played on the floor with Charlotte, together before, and he (Jelani) would 'nibble' her cheeks with his mouth.

My light bulb moment occurred as I remembered turning my back while he was playing in her face, making sounds, "booga booga boo," at her, just before the screaming. Guilt rushed over me like a waterfall. He is not even a smidgen of the horrible child I once was, just because he's mine. He thought he was playing, legitimately. His look of confusion at her response to his playful 'nibbling' was genuine. He thought that's exactly what Daddy was doing! His heartbroken confusion at my form of discipline was real and gut wrenching, and, as I cry while writing this, I have never felt worse.

Epic. Mommy. FAIL.

Jelani laughed, "Well, he'll never bite her again!" But I had to make things right. Or at least as right as I could.

We were going to the park for a walk, so before getting Isaac out of his car seat, I leaned over, "Isaac, when you bit Charlotte, were you trying to play with her? Like Mommy and Daddy do?"

"Yeths," he looked hesitant.

"Like this?" I asked, but as I leaned in to his cheek, he flinched and turned.

"No!"

"I'm not going to bite you, Isaac," I said, with a broken heart. I munched his cheek with just my lips, and he smiled. "Is that what you were trying to do with Charlotte?" I asked.

"Yeths!"

I did it again on the back of his hand. "You can't use your teeth, ok? Just your lips."

"Ok, Mommy!" He was excited that we now seemed to understand each other.

"Isaac."

"Yeths, Mommy?"

"I'm really sorry I bit you."

"It's ok, Mommy"

Before bed tonight, I asked Isaac if he wanted to nibble Charlotte's cheek with me. He still seemed hesitant, and honestly, as he approached her face, so did she, but we both nibbled her sweet little cheeks. Kisses and toddler slobber all over her teeth marked cheek brought a smile to her lips and her brother's, as he relished the chance at righting a wrong.

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1: 19-20

Dear Jesus, 
Give me the wisdom to know when discipline is necessary, and when it is not. Help me to be much slower to anger, and never allow a necessary apology to go without saying.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sanctuary!

Sometimes, motherhood is a cruel form of torture. You know the days I'm talking about. The days when there is no limit to the amount of times you can get puked on, pooped on, or screamed at; the kind of days you find yourself getting your first shower at midnight and intentionally staying up even later just to sit in quiet.

I used to be a people person. I've always required a fair amount of alone time to be able to function at my best, but I've always enjoyed people. Anymore, instead of wanting to make plans with friends, I dread them. I cringe when someone tries to set something up. Plans are so daunting. What if our day is going lousy? What if I want to back out? What if I'm too exhausted? What if the kids absolutely require a nap that day? Nope. Too bad. Suck it up. On the flip side of that, I have, on more than one occasion, really enjoyed a surprise play date. Spontaneity works well for me. Text me, call me, ask me if we have something happening that very day, and I may just take you up on something, but try to plan something with me days or weeks in advance, and I will almost always look for a reason that date won't work. It's not personal. It's just that some days require more intentional, do-the-bare-minimum nothingness than others.

And what's the bare minimum for a stay at home mom of 4, you ask? Well, it usually involves doing all the things I need to do every day in order for my household to function and my kids to live, but allows for me to remain in the same clothes I slept in the night before, and allows me to cuddle my baby longer than I might normally, while reading up about all of you on Facebook.

Yesterday was an I don't want to do anything important all day kind of day. The day before that was too, except that we had plans, so I sucked it up, and I was a miserable conversation partner for my poor, dear friend.

There are only so many times you can get puked on, so many times you can repeat the same dang sentence, and so many times you can get asked the same darn thing, before you inevitably snap. And it's not pretty. Y'all, I'm tired, and it has nothing to do with sleep. I have a 4 month old baby who has been sleeping all night since she was about a month and a half old. And not just all night, but 10 hours all night. I'm still not getting the full 8 or even 7 or really even 6, but my exhaustion is not from a lack of sleep, it's from the constant do-all-the-things days, because our level of functioning depends upon laundry getting done every. single. day. And dishes, oh the dishes! I spend roughly 10 full days a year just washing dishes. WASHING DISHES! And that isn't counting all the interruptions. The bare minimum cleaning tasks require a whole stinking day between all the times I have to feed someone. Oy.

So, yesterday my entire morning consisted of telling Isaac no or acknowledging him when he needed me to look at him do something, while trying to get a pukey, fussy baby to sleep.

- Mommy!
Yes, Isaac.
---------------
-Mommy!
Yes, Isaac.
--------------
-Mommy!!!
YES, ISAAC!!!!!
-Go outside?
No, not right now. Wait please.

-Mommy.
Yes, Isaac.
-Put socks on?
We're not going outside right now. Please wait.


Meanwhile, Charlotte is screaming at me, clawing my chest, banging her head into my shoulder. She grabs a fistful of hair from the nape of my neck with the grip strength of a Marine, while using her other hand to strategically pull the burp cloth away from my skin, and promptly pukes right between my boobs.

-Mommy.
Yes, Isaac.
-Put shoes on?
between clenched teeth, NOT. NOW.

While I'm cleaning up the spit up, Elijah comes in from outside, and utters the two most dreaded words of my day, the two, seemingly most harmless words you can imagine, that really do me in.

-I'm hungry.

It is never simply stated. It is always whined, as though they must be starving, as though I never feed them, as though they didn't just eat 10 minutes ago.

-Can I have something to eat?

And I. lose. my. mind.

NO! NO TO YOU, WHO CLAIMED TO BE FULL WHILE I WAS MAKING LUNCH JUST 15 MINUTES AGO, AND WAITED UNTIL I PUT EVERYTHING AWAY! NO TO YOU WHO JUST ATE 10 MINUTES AGO! NO TO YOU, WHO STILL HASN'T FINISHED THEIR BREAKFAST EVEN. NO NO NO NO NO!

Ok, so I hold it together a little bit better than that, and I start counting down the hours/minutes to when Jelani will be home, and I can pass the baby to him and claim sanctuary.

You know, that one place in the house where no one questions what you're doing in there, how long, or why?

The bathroom.

I don't care if all I have to do is pee. I'm taking the Kindle in with me, and I will sit there as long as I want. I turn that vent on, which sounds like a really old, rusty helicopter, and do a whole lot of nothing in there. I might do my squats, and some core work. I might brush my teeth an extra time. I might even clean. You don't know, and you won't ask, and if the baby cries? Well, that's just not my responsibility, is it? Not from in there! I relish that time alone.

And then, inevitably, there's a knock on the door.

-Mommy?
Yes.
-I'm hungry.

You had to walk...by your daddy, IN THE KITCHEN, to come up here and tell me that!!!!!!

SAAAAAAANCTUARRRRRYYYYYYYYYYYY!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Our Children are Allowed to be Great

In less than a year, two different articles have popped up in my Facebook newsfeed multiple times about how sports, more specifically travel or "elite" sports, are evil. I'd like to say I have a completely unbiased opinion on this topic. But that would be a lie. I'd also like to lie and tell you that travel sports are completely peachy keen, peace is love, everybody's a winner, organizations. But they are not.

The reason for that is this: NOT EVERYONE IS A WINNER.

And before the smoke starts billowing out your ears, I mean that in a very broad, life is hard, you don't always get what you want, sense. Not that people are losers.

Life is full of tough lessons, and one of the toughest, and most powerful lessons is that you are not always going to get what you want, and if you want something badly enough you have to work for it, like really hard, and not just wish for it blowing out a magical candle while throwing a coin into a magic wishing well, while wishing on a shooting star. You get the idea.

One of the biggest issues I have with these articles are the huge, sweeping generalizations. There are tyrant coaches and parents. There are coaches and parents alike who are driven by greed and pride and money. But this is not true of the entire concept of travel teams or "elite" sports. These articles, Where the Elite Kids Shouldn't Meet and The Race to Nowhere in Youth Sports, are, much like just about any parenting article found on the internet, guilt tactics for parents doing things differently. You don't want your kids playing travel sports? OK. You don't want your kids to be a part of an "elite" sports team? FINE. Maybe your kid doesn't want that either, and that is ok. But maybe, just maybe, other kids do.

I was one of those kids. You couldn't lock me out of the gym, and even the most tyrant of coaches who cussed and yelled at me at age 11, couldn't get me to quit. Instead, I took notice that he only did that with the players he felt had collegiate potential, and I took it as a compliment. Negative to a positive, just like that. Did my parents reevaluate that particular program? Yes. And after the season had been completed, noting that this program did not uphold the same family values which were important to us, we took our talents elsewhere, so to speak. I say we, but really, that was all the greatness of my parents. I cried and cried about leaving those friends behind, but they truly knew and understood what was important, and I made new friends.

I was a good basketball player. No. Actually, I was pretty great.

That makes you mad, doesn't it? That irritates you, and gets under your skin just to read it, and you're debating now, whether you want to keep reading this piece of garbage blog, or tell me what a pompous, arrogant cuss word I am.

But here's the thing; our children are allowed to be great. We are allowed to tell them they are great, and acknowledge, nurture, and cultivate their talents, and ya know what? They are completely capable of knowing that they are great at something without being a pompous, arrogant cuss word. There are plenty of well adjusted, kind and humble, talented athletes out there. You just don't hear about them in the news because they aren't raping or beating women, and they're not abusing drugs. See how that works? It's been nearly 15 years since I was in the prime of my basketball career, and it's taken nearly that long for me to actually admit that I was good. I learned, at an early age, that people don't like you when you're really good at something, and the people who actually admit they're good at something deserve nothing but seething glares and unmasked contempt. So, as much as I wanted to be able to take a compliment without turning around and awkwardly commenting on one of my flaws, I wanted friends more. I wanted to be liked. Truth be told, my desire to be liked was so strong, that I believe, if not for my love and drive for basketball, I could have been susceptible to a lot of tragic teenage mistakes. Travel basketball was a safe place for me. I was mostly surrounded by a team of other girls who loved the sport as much as I did, and understood me; girls who wanted to play it more than just the average school basketball season, and we had fun

There's this misconception that if you are working that hard, it can't be fun. Not true. I learned that my hard work turned into fun. Newsflash: Winning is fun y'all! But we didn't always win. No. I learned a lot about losing. Which is why I take such issue with this next paragraph from the first article:

"We're nearing the point in youth sports where we need to stop the "elite" and "select" madness because we're raising a generation with too much self-esteem. They can't handle failure because they've been conditioned to believe they're too good to fail. They're being placed on teams that identify them as better than their peers on the whim of either a parent/coach or a businessman/coach."

Travel ball is exactly where I learned about failure. Playing against the best of the best is where I learned how to lose, where I learned how to appreciate the talent of others, where I learned that I wasn't the best, and where I learned that I wanted to get better. I played in a high school program that didn't lose a league game for 10 years. Even the referees wanted to see us lose. But when I traveled, I met more girls like me, who wanted to practice and constantly improve. Suddenly, I wasn't all that special. I was just another fish in the sea, getting my shot blocked by All-American athletes. It was through these "elite" programs that I learned about having a healthy level of competition where appropriate, and how to leave it on the court. I was friends with some of my competition, and I admired the talents of many players I played against who went on to play in the WNBA or the Olympics. We are living in a society that wants to teach kids about failure and losing, while also keeping them stagnant so that everyone is on a level playing field. If you want to teach kids that they aren't, in fact, the greatest, you need to show them what the best looks like. If you want to teach them about failure, you need to allow them to play against the best, and fail. You can't have it both ways. You can't simultaneously teach them about losing and failure, while not allowing them to opportunity to do so.

Also, with decent (not even exceptional) parenting, there are other ways to teach your children these things and still encourage them in their talents. Encourage them to try new things. Most people aren't instantly good at everything. To this day, I'm not sure if my dad encouraged me to play tennis because he genuinely wanted me to take a break and try something other than basketball, or because he felt the pressure of a community rumoring that he forced me to play basketball, not allowing me to do anything else. Either way, I went out for the tennis team my freshman year of high school, and I wanted to quit. Basketball, for me, was like learning how to walk. I'd been doing it so long, I didn't remember learning or ever being bad at it. Picking up a tennis racket at 14 taught me all about being bad at something. I went from being top of the league in basketball, to bottom of the league in tennis. I lost every. single. match my first year. I had a decision to make. I could either quit, learn to be ok with being bad, and just enjoy the bus rides and dinners out with my friends and teammates, or...OR I could apply what I had learned with basketball; the outcome of practice and hard work. It was a learning process, often uncomfortable, and often to the embarrassment of my parents. I stumbled through, throwing fits on the tennis court when I missed a shot, hitting myself in the calf with the racket (to the point of serious bruising) when I lost a point. I was told that if I smashed my racket into the ground, there would be serious consequences, so I used my body instead. Consequences still ensued...

I was never a great tennis player, and I was ok with that, but winning is far more fun than its less popular counterpart, so I worked hard to do that more often.

It should be noted that my basketball career didn't turn out nearly as stellar as I had once dreamed. I didn't play in the WNBA. I didn't play in the Olympics. I didn't get to play at my college of choice. I was never able to break into the career of coaching, and I'm not even using that free college education I worked so hard to attain. Oh, unless you consider the job of running a household and educating my children daily. Then, sure, I only use it every day. But even though things didn't work out according to my plans and my dreams, I don't blame the system. I don't blame my coaches. I don't blame my parents. Sometimes, things just don't work out, but we need to stop thinking there is something seriously flawed in a system where every child doesn't grow up to become a major success. That's LIFE. And success can be marked in sooooo many different ways.

No one is great at everything, everyone has different talents and gifts, and instead of making parents feel guilty about labeling their children great or, God forbid, "elite," maybe we should all just find different ways of encouraging our children in their gifts.Their greatness does not have to be in comparison to others. Teach them how to compete with themselves, and how to be the best version of themselves they can be.

So what if your child isn't the best kid on the basketball team. Maybe they're great at a different sport. Maybe they are really musically talented. Maybe they are very bright and excel in school rather easily. Maybe they are a beautiful dancer. Maybe they are incredibly artistic. Maybe they have gifts which cannot be measured in medals, trophies, or ribbons. My word, what a joy to hear someone compliment the heart of your child! That they may have a great heart for humanity and desire to serve and help others!

But don't stifle the greatness of other children because it offends you. Don't judge parents, trying to make a better life for their child because you don't like the way they're doing it.

But also, please, tell me all about how we are avoiding raising up elitist, entitled, pompous cuss words by removing the goals? Please tell me, how are we teaching our children the value of hard work and commitment in sports leagues where coaches are told to play every player equally, no matter how many practices they may have missed? Please, please, please teach me about how we are teaching our children about losing and failure in leagues which refuse to keep score, schools which no longer rank their students, and talent shows with no ribbons, because we don't want to hurt their feelings? That's a little bit pot and kettle, don't ya think?

It does not have to be one extreme or the other, but what exactly are you teaching your child when you remove their opportunity to be great?  

I no longer have goals or aspirations to be the best basketball player I can be, but the lessons spill over. I want to lose this 75 lbs (that's right, SEVENTY-FIVE POUNDS) of pregnancy weight. I don't need to be the skinniest, the fittest, the most elite mom in the world. I want to be the best mom I can be, and I just can't do that feeling the way I feel right now. I know that that fat isn't going to burn itself, and my whining about other mothers losing pregnancy weight better than I can, isn't going to do the trick either. So I will hop off my high horse, and work for it. :-P

But seriously, you do what you do. Raise your child how you see fit, and I will continue to encourage my children in their talents and gifts, whatever they may be. I may even instill hope in them, that they might be able to reach their dreams one day, no matter how unlikely, and I may even utilize tools such as travel teams, elite teams, and AAU programs to help them to get there, if they so desire. I just might. But I can do those things, and still teach them how to be decent human beings.

Yours truly,
A less than stellar, average really, former but not bitter, athlete, who truly enjoyed the "race."

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Disastrously Successful Outing

I never get to see the doctor. That is, any doctor that is not checking on an in utero child of mine. My husband only has one day a week where he is off early enough to schedule appointments for kids, dog, myself, etc, during other people's business hours. Friday afternoons. That's all I get. And up until recently, those afternoons were taken up with my OB check ups. Any free ones were quickly taken up by my husband's dentist appointments, children's check ups, car inspections and oil changes. Fridays are super fun. So, as always, I haven't seen a dentist now in almost 3 years, and I've been wearing the same contacts (the trial pair given me at my last appointment, because like a complete idiot, I kept forgetting to order the prescription) for 10 months. By the way, I thought they were 3 month lenses. Turns out, there's no such thing, and they were actually 2 week lenses. So I was even less responsible about my eye care than I originally thought. Woops. So this past week, my eyes got to such a state of dry irritation, that something HAD to be done. The WalMart doctor was booked solid on Saturday, so I, going without contacts or glasses at all, had no other choice but to make an appointment for Monday afternoon which meant taking all four children with me. Oy.

I was optimistic. I could do this. Easy. Make sure Charlotte's nursing schedule works out so that she eats about 30 minutes before we have to leave. Easy. Make sure we complete at least half of our school lessons before we leave. Easy. Make sure Isaac's diaper is changed and the three older children are ready to go out the door before I pack up the baby. Noooo problem.

We did no school. None. I didn't get a single lesson in, between the needs of each child, the dog, myself, there was never the time to get started, so I gave up. Then, I forgot to take into account the number one rule of being a baby. They are always in desperate need of something at the exact time you should be walking out the door. I knew I was in trouble when Charlotte wanted to nurse at about 10 am. She eats about every two and a half hours during the day, so that would mean her next feeding would be at my appointment time of 12:30. Greeeeaaat. I tried like heck to squeeze in a feeding at noon (which was when we should have been heading out the door). Though she acted all about it and hungry as anything, that 30 minutes early feeding resulted in a whole lot of spit up. At 12:20 I was finally getting her strapped in, no time for an outfit change. She spit up more all over the car seat. At 12:25 I was getting everyone into the car. I forgot the infant carrier. Turn around, get it, she spits up some more, this time, hitting her car seat cover. We were in the car to leave by 12: 32, two minutes after my appointment time. 

I also forgot to take into account the nice weather. Oh, as soon as the sun shines in Buffalo, there's a traffic jam any given time of day, so we proceeded to our destination at a snail's pace. I arrived in the WalMart parking lot at 12:48. Now, there is no way of looking like a seasoned, experienced mother while trying to get 4 kids out of a car, including a toddler and infant, and not lose one to one of the ever so famous WalMart parking lot speed demons, who pay no mind to pedestrians.

I had the oldest two crawl out first, while I was strapping Charlotte into the infant carrier on my chest. They were so thrilled to be outside, in sunshine and warmth, that Chastity nearly darted out behind the van. "Stay RIGHT next to me!" I yelled, wishing I could duct tape them to the side of the van while I got everything. As I strapped Charlotte on, with careful burp cloth placement, my cell phone fell out of the diaper bag, crashing onto the pavement, battery flying. No time to put that back together, I threw the pieces into the diaper bag, and asked Chastity to hold the bag...which she promptly grabbed from the bottom, nearly turning the whole, open thing, upside down, "Chastity!" I took the bag back, zipped it back up, handed it to Elijah. Except the keys were in it, and I still hadn't gotten Isaac or the stroller out of the car. I took the bag back, got my keys, got Isaac into the stroller somehow, and by 12:56 we were on our way. That's right. 8 whole minutes at the van. Not even inside yet.

Disastrously successful. That's the optimist in me. I could have titled this, Successfully Disastrous, but I felt that would have been misleading. It was not, in fact, a complete disaster, because once we got inside, everything changed. The doctors were all incredibly patient and understanding. Charlotte slept through the whole appointment, right on my chest. Isaac sat in the stroller, playing with his car quietly while the doctor examined me. Elijah and Chastity sat in the waiting room, just two doors down, reading the books I had told them to pack. (Yay me, for remembering to pack entertainment! Win!) The whole thing took just under an hour, from appointment to frame fitting, to paying. And just as we were about to walk away, the woman who had checked me in, asked me, "What is your trick?"

"I'm sorry?" I asked, not understanding the question.

"What is your trick, you know, to such well behaved kids?" She smiled, "They are so well behaved!"

Oh, you know, frequent whoopings, I thought to myself, but decided she may not find that funny. I laughed, "I couldn't even tell you," I shook my head in disbelief of how smoothly that actually went. "We've just been blessed with these great kids!"

We walked away, and I took the kids to pick out a treat from the cookie isle.

That whole time, I was acting like a spaz. I was throwing tantrums. First rushing Charlotte through a feeding, in a panic about being late, then yelling at traffic, which is completely unproductive. Then muttering under my breath about my broken phone.

These kids were being dragged somewhere boring, somewhere they didn't want to be, when all they wanted was to go to the park. They were ripped from their normal, daily schedule, and asked to be still, be quiet, and behave in strange surroundings. And in spite of my own spaztacular behavior, they did so, no questions asked. They did not blink an eye at the things which were out of their control, and if I don't try, with all my strength, to be more like them, they, will inevitably become more like me.

Yes, they deserved the day off from school. They deserved cookies, they deserve the park, and, no matter how tired I may be, they deserve fun mom! Not beat down, dog tired, grumpy, whiny mom, who begs them to never act that way themselves.

Fun mom is putting on her shoes. Let's do this.