Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category
My second daughter turned three years old four days ago. Since that day, I’ve been thinking a lot about time, growth, and motherhood.
I’ve been thinking about these things. And I’ve been looking at this amazingly, complex little girl, this little person who, aside from her bright eyes, seems nothing like the child I thought had three years ago.
I was convinced when I gave birth to her that she was a “textbook” baby. She would be my child to predictably adhere to the rules of what “most babies do.” Given her predictability, I rationalized she’d be an easy “fill in” for me to finally test the waters in Perfect Parenting.
I never read baby books until I learned I was pregnant with her. I never opened a book because my personality is such that I am skeptical about more complex things in life ever adhering to any formulaic equation leading to success. So with my first daughter, it wasn’t a book that led me to my obsessive compulsive tendencies relating to her growth and development. Nope. Just hard worn anxiety and a perfectionist spirit to not screw up someone’s life.
It was that, I realize now, rather than intuition or any other holistic understanding of life that spiraled my trips into alternative, non-mainstream, nature-y strains of parenting.
But with my second, I wanted to be different. I had to be different to make having two kids under two work. And in that I became obsessed with the idea of doing things right.
When my second daughter was born, I tried following common wisdom from American culture for what should work with most babies.
I put her down for naps, in her crib at night, used white noise machines and swaddling and tried hard not to listen to any instincts that suggested that sometimes, maybe just maybe, I try to do otherwise.
The end result of this was a baby who appeared, at least by my books’ estimation, to be right on track for perfection. Before she could walk, she slept through the night. She enjoyed her crib and fit in perfectly with the perfect life I was trying to create as a family of four.
But the more she grew into herself, the more things changed. Or maybe I just changed. Or maybe things were changing all along but because I was ignoring everything that didn’t fit into whatever parenting formula I was using at the time, I didn’t see them.
I stopped reading the books around this time. This came after me finally realizing the books couldn’t tell me what to do when, for instance, it’s clearly nap time but instead of sleeping, your baby is in the crib crying to be held. And you’re listening to this on your couch with your three year old at your side. But rather than sitting there and listening to her crying, she, the toddler, tells you it’s okay to do what you’ve wanted to do all along.
“It’s okay, mommy. Just go get her. Go hold her.”
You can’t then tell her about my books because that makes no sense. It makes no sense that you’re (at the time) almost thirty and can’t see that your baby isn’t tired, that she just wants to be awake like everyone else, held like everyone else.
Just go get her not because it’s what you’ve been told is right, do it because it feels right.
What the books, most of the books (minus ones like this one which I HIGHLY recommend), leave out is that being a parent is about feeling. It’s subjective, an endeavor that grows easier when you become more in tune with the value of your feelings, your intuition, your heart. I don’t know how to raise perfect children. But I do know that in order to raise children confidently, you have to eventually get to a place where you trust your heart to know what to do with your children. And what you do with your children will never be the same all the time.
There are no prescriptions or theories or equations for good parents or good children.
Being a parent, being a mother, is not about getting it right all the time. It’s about being human and making mistakes and fixing them, breathing, forgiving yourself and saying “I’m sorry” to your children and everyone else who is undeserving of what happens on your bad days.
Being a mother is about trusting the universe, or God if you believe, enough to know that the child you were given is perfect just as he or she is. You need not fix them into something they aren’t or feel bad about who they are. Just love them and yourself enough to trust that this will always be enough. Your best intentions, intentions from your heart, are always enough.
The books leave out that there’s more to being a parent than perfect naps and lunches and bedtime routines. There’s a relationship that grows everyday between yourself and your child and if you let go of how this should be, you’ll see how it is more clearly.
Leading up to my second daughter’s third birthday, I kept getting sentimental, mostly at nights. It would get sentimental about mistakes I’ve made and about how it goes by so fast, and about how I don’t regret any of it, any of these years, this time spent.
In case I don’t say it enough out loud, to strangers who marvel at my babywearing and toddler-hand holding skills, I often do have days in motherhood, in parenthood, where I feel stretched thin. Emotionally. Physically. Mentally.
Even after three children, it is still hard in that way. And I suppose it will always be.
It’s hard because it taxes your heart. You love so much in motherhood. You give so much in motherhood. You go so deep into and out of yourself in motherhood. When you are really in motherhood, when you’ve accepted where you are in motherhood and love it, you willingly let things go. You let go of your ego, your pride, the idea that your body is anything but miraculous, friends, sleep, and sometimes, if only at times, your sense of self.
But you gain,too. You get this when you put the books down and can really see, in gratitude, the one beautiful blessing or blessings you’ve had all along.
My second daughter told me the other day that she feels cozy in my arms.”So comfortable,” she said in nuzzling against her face against my chest. I don’t know how I once did it, but I can’t imagine her in any other way. but in my arms. with her mama.
Now please excuse me while I cry some more about it really being three years since I gave birth to my second baby girl.
Just kidding, kind of. Love, Jessica. ♥
If you know me in real life, you likely know this truth.
I often get lost when I’m driving.
I am okay at reading directions, yes. And I am okay at following directions. But it takes me a long to graduate from absolutely needing directions to not needing them and, thus, feeling comfortable within new destinations.
I don’t naturally have that “sense” that good drivers have, the one that whispers in their subconscious, telling them “I know where I am and, thus, can find where I need to go” even though they may be in a place where they don’t exactly know where they are.
My husband is one of those drivers. He pays attention to his surroundings all the time, even when he’s a passenger in a car. So when he drives somewhere and accidentally makes a wrong turn, he can usually figure out how to get where he wants to go just based off of memory and that “sense,” you know, the one good drivers have.
I wasn’t born with that sense.
I’ve known this for a long time but I don’t think I’ve ever made it a point to process this fact until last month. I was driving somewhere at the time. I had driven to this place at least five times. And I’d been driven, as a passenger in a car, to this place over 30 times, at least.
Though, when I got in the car on this day to drive to this place I should have known, I needed directions. So I used my GPS and as is usual, at this one turn, the same turn as the other five times I traveled to this place, I got lost.
My GPS tried getting me back on track, but it failed.
So there I was in a place that felt both familiar and not familiar at the same time. And I kept telling myself, “I know this place. I’ve seen this street. I think.” I had seen that street and been to that place, though, connecting it all in my brain felt impossible.
I realized then why this always happens to me. When I am driving, I don’t focus as much on trying to make those kinds of connections that would help me on future trips. I focus on the road, yes, and my traveling speed, yes, and what my GPS tells me, yes. But I rarely move beyond that information to make the kinds of overarching placement connections that good drivers make. Instead of doing that mental work, I live in the moment, driving to the “music” of my navigation, doing as she says all while focusing on other things that make my drive enjoyable. Make sense? So, when driving I may see a pretty building and I’ll internalize that and think, “Oh, how pretty!” And I’ll turn down that road with the street sign in front of the building but all the while, I’m not just looking at the sign but at the building too and how I feel in seeing it. So when I’m back in that place, say a week later, it’s the building that I’ll remember first and then hopefully the sign, too.
I was reminded of this yesterday in thinking about my children’s milestones.
I used to obsess over and live for milestones. With my first daughter, I used to anticipate them, mourn when they came, write them here and elsewhere, and wait anxiously for the next ones to come. Then a new one would come and I would dread the pending arrival of the next. I lived for milestones to tell me that, as a parent, I was doing something right, that we were traveling in the “right” direction. I would always make connections between each milestone and it’s relationship to the massive idea that my baby was no longer going to be a baby one day, that one day she’d grow, one day this would all end.
It was sad, really, this way of living, this very anxious and fearful way of living.
But then when I had second daughter and my first exited babyhood into toddlerhood, I learned that growing up isn’t that scary of a thing since there are always even more wonderful things that await the children who can grow. So, I changed and remained changed when I had my third daughter.
My third daughter got her first teeth nearly a month ago. There’s two on top and her bottom gums are swollen with teeth waiting to pop up and out. It wasn’t just a getting-first-teeth milestone that we crossed, however. In the same week as when those teeth made their arrival. She started waving. Her hair grew into this (even more) giant curly mass. She started crawling faster, standing on things, clapping her hands, really using her pincher grasp, dancing, and saying words (kind of).
No matter how many times I do this, or repeat these same milestones, they always feel new to me, kind of like those roads I travel down in familiar yet unfamiliar territory. Even though this is my third trip with my third daughter down “babyhood” lane, it still feels new, familiar, but new. And they (the milestones, I mean) even if not always memorialized remain meaningful and important to me.
Time in motherhood has taught me this:
Everyday your children grow up.
I know that as I write this, as my three babies sleep, they are each working on doing something amazing that once it’s done it will seem as though it came out of nowhere.
I could focus on making the connections between all the smaller signs leading to the amazing upcoming “milestone,” that next tooth, that next social skill, that next fine-motor development, but I don’t want to.
I’m having so much fun in this moment to do that. Like my car drives, in motherhood, I try to remain focused on how this feels, their smiles, our laughter, and all the other things that make this moment enjoyable, heartfelt.
I focus on this moment, this one I can touch, breathe in, feel in, this moment right now, because it’s really all we’ve got, right? Tomorrow is gone. Yesterday may not come. But this? This is here and so am I.
Once day, I will remember them for what they’re worth, meaningful markers, signs directing me to a destination that seems far from right now. I will be thankful for the ones I have recorded, yes, but more so I imagine I will be thankful for all the memories made along the journey, the ones that were like that pretty tree near that street sign, meaningful not just for where they got us to but for how they made us feel.
Oh, and along with defining my inability to follow driving directions and take on my children’s milestones, being guided by “how I feel” when going places is the reason I accidentally ran a half marathon last month.
I intended to run a 10k, but I took the path of the half marathon runners. I only realized my error at mile 9. Yes, I know. “But, Jessica, a 10k is only about 6 miles!” I know. And I knew that then. But I was having so much fun, being outside, running, jamming to my music that I didn’t pay attention until mile 9. Once I realized that my running path was going deeper out of civilization, and after my sister called to tell me she completed her 10k race, I wanted to cry in a forest. But I didn’t do that. I just kept running until the end.
Do you document all of your children’s milestones?
I think I’ve waited two days to write anything about Listen to Your Mother DC 2014 because I’ve been waiting for the moment when I had something more substantial to say beyond, “It was amazing.”
To be clear, it was amazing. The show was amazing. My fellow cast of amazing women were, well, amazing. Our outfits were amazing. The audience was amazing. That we walked in and out of the theater to Pharrell William’s “Happy” was amazing. Our photographer was amazing. Backstage was amazing. The lighting, the podium, the sound check people were, amazing. The weather was amazing. My hair… was amazing.
It. was. amazing.
I’m so happy I auditioned and was selected and overcame my unreasonable fear of speaking in front of an audience. But more than being amazing, I’m thankful. I learned a lot from my Listen to Your Mother experience. I learned about myself, yes, obviously, and the other women in the show, yes, but I feel like I’m walking away knowing more about motherhood and about what it means to be a mother and adult.
I don’t say this often on this blog, but you do know that I’m a stay at home mom, right? I feel like I need to ask this because often upon meeting me in person, new people, who’ve read my blog, are always unsure of this. So they will ask, “So what do you do?” And in my head, I’m like, “well, you did read my blog, right?” But then, I guess, in reading my blog myself, or reading it as if I’m new to myself, I can totally get how this happens. I do freelance writing at times, social media work at times, and other things, but I also have three kids under the age of five who I care for all day long. That and keeping my house from falling into decrepitude is my job, so anything else happens, hopefully around that or, sometimes, between that.
I am a stay at home mom first, though, it’s not included, often, first, in my line of byline credits. Perhaps this, or my often ambiguity in defining myself primarily by what I do has to do with something in my subconscious or maybe it’s because I think of myself in ways that aren’t just limited to my biggest job.
So I was thinking about this when I got home from Listen To Your Mother, when I got home from the high that was Listen to Your Mother. As laundry and the floors awaited me, as I walked in the door to my full time job, I was reminded of this and a book my mother used to read to me called, “Mrs. Hen Goes to Market.”
That book is about a hen who is also presumably a mother/housewife. It’s for children, which is why my mom read it to me and my siblings, But now that I’m older with the “vintage” copy from my youth, I get that it’s really one of those books intended more to soothe the souls of the reading parent, if you know what I mean…
But anyway, about the book. She, or the hen, in the beginning of the book, complains about her life, how everyday it’s the same thing. Everyday she cleans and walks to the market and does all the other things that, well, housewife hens do.
So one day, after feeling so depressed about her existence she decides to do something different. She decides to fly to the market instead of walk. And she has so much fun flying to the market that she decides, in the end, to do it everyday. Her life as a housewife hen doesn’t change. She still must do the laundry and clean the floors every day of her life, but now in flying to the market, all that’s okay. She’s happier now, or she finds happiness in being able to fly to the market. It’s a great story, right? I mean it’s not so great for the children it’s intended for. But it’s really good, brilliant even, for borderline depressed and jaded adults who are those children’s parents. Ahem.
So I was reminded of this story when I got home from reeling from a high of performing in Listen to Your Mother. I am a stay at home mom, but I like to fly. This is why I do things alongside my motherhood pursuits, I think. This is why I write and why I run races and take pretty pictures and draw things. And this is why I decided to stand on a stage in front of many on this past Sunday. It’s the highs that I get from these experiences that make my ordinary life feel so much easier and enjoyable and, dare I say, happier? Yes, happier. And while it’s mothering that takes up much of my days, I think this message or the message of the book can work for most adults. Whether you’re an accountant or bus driver, you still must fly to make that work more meaningful.
So I guess this, 800 words later, is my more substantial thing I wanted to say about Listen To Your Mother DC 2014. But at the core, I’m still stuck on the basic fact that this past Sunday was amazing. And that’s all.
Have you ever been to a Listen To Your Mother show? If not, please put it on your bucket list! It’s really like an experience that everyone should have. No, seriously, you should.
What have you done to “fly” lately?
So, after making my last homemade paint recipe from Pinterest last month, I vowed to never again use all the ingredients in my pantry on something like paint. I made a “simple” recipe that fateful day in March. I made it using like 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and all these other things that could have been used for the dinner…I didn’t end up making.
And the paint turned out like crap. It was thick and like toothpaste. This and this paint recipe was pinned over a thousand times. One thousand times!!! (How does this happen? Or how do 1,000 people pin something that only makes for a good pinnable image. Wait. I know the answer to that.)
But my toddlers don’t or that the paint we slaved away on was crap. Fun to make but crap. Being the good sports they are, they tried painting with the bad paint. But then their paint kept getting stuck on their paint brush bristles, making it impossible for the Princess Strawberry Shortcake they imagined in their little brain to come to fruition on paper. So, naturally, in frustration, painting time turned into eating time. And when that got old, eating time, turned into throw said paint on the kitchen floor. This took all of 10 minutes. 10 minutes! 10 minutes using ingredients that were for that dinner I didn’t make. And after 10 minutes they still wanted to paint. But there was no paint. The paint we made was on the floor and I had no more flour to waste 20 minutes of my life, again.
So that’s when I saw the uneaten, possibly, expired, vanilla pudding in my pantry and thought, “Why not?” So I mixed the pudding with food coloring and we had paint that actually could be painted on a piece of paper.
That’s it. I wish I could make it sound more complicated to convey my effort, but I can’t. I made paint with two ingredients and my kids liked it. And I think yours will, too.
To make, simply add food color to your pudding. More food coloring equals stronger colors. And less food coloring equals subdued, pastel like tones. The “paint” made from this recipe is not only easy to make and use, it’s also really good (or, so my toddlers say).
The moral the story is this. Use what you’ve got and that while it’s good to sometimes follow the lead of the creative, crafty geniuses of Pinterest. Sometimes it’s good, necessary even, to remember that you have a brain, too. That you, too, can be creative and mix something up wonderful in your kitchen using the uneaten pudding in your pantry.
Have you ever experienced a “Pinterest fail”? What were you trying to make and what made it so bad?