Archive | October, 2012

The Fear and Feeling of Failure

26 Oct

           Being a parent is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  Like ever, ever.  And I’m sure that being a parent will be the hardest thing I ever will do.

            There are thousands upon thousands of reasons being a parent is difficult.  My head swirls with them every single day.

            I mean, I am responsible for three lives.  Three lives.  In my hands.  Hands which often don’t feel capable or strong enough to handle that responsibility.  I want to shield my babies from the wrongs and injustices and hurt in the world.  I want to provide for them in every way possible.  I want to protect them and keep them safe.  I want to inspire them to do good and be good.  I want to instill in them self confidence.  I want to create a home that is a safe haven for them.  I want to support their education in every way I can.  I want them to have fun.  I want to create special memories and traditions for them.  I want to give them my full attention always.  I want to be patient and lead by example. 

            I want so many things for them.  And I want to be so many things for them.  And sometimes it all just gets really, really overwhelming.  I find myself questioning my actions and my decisions after the fact.  I am always thinking “how could you have done that/said that/ handled that better?”  I doubt my ability as a mom more than I have every doubted myself about anything in my life.

            And often times I just feel like I’m failing or on the verge of failing.  Which is ridiculous I know.  But even though my desire to give them the best of myself all the time isn’t realistic I still get upset with myself for being or giving them less than I think they deserve.

            “I know that was the 9th time you had to tell them to stop pushing each other but did you really have to raise your voice?”

            “Don’t you think the kids deserve to live in a home where their clothes are put away instead of sitting in a laundry basket on the floor?  You couldn’t have folded those before you went to bed last night?”

            “You think that working will give you kids a better life in the future but what if you’re wrong and it won’t?  What if you should be with them now?”

            “How could you even think that staying home would be better for them?  Won’t you be glad when you have the extra income as they get older so you can afford more opportunities for them?”

            “Did you really just say ‘I can’t stay lay down anymore tonight I’ve got to go do some work?’  How f’ed up are your priorities?”

            “Really?  Fast food for dinner?  You couldn’t have figured something healthier out that you could have made in advance so you wouldn’t be in this bind?”

            “I know you didn’t buy that toy on principal but instead of teaching them they don’t get every thing they want are you teaching them they don’t get anything they want?”

             But what I find even harder about being parent than my own self doubt and self criticism is that there is no method to gauge whether you are being successful or unsuccessful.  In so many other arenas in life you are able to tell if you are doing well or doing poorly.  At work or in business you can track your progress, and if you can’t, well then surely someone else is doing it for you.  If you’re an athlete you either won or you didn’t.  You either improved or you didn’t.  You either put in enough training or you didn’t.  When you study for tests or take classes you either passed or you didn’t. Those things are very black and white.  You’re either succeeding or you’re not.  Even in your relationships you have means of knowing how your behavior is measuring up.  A good friend will let you know if you’re not being a good friend in return, family will let you know if your behavior is subpar, and hopefully your spouse will let you know when you could use a little self improvement.

            But children aren’t able to give you that feedback in the same way that adults can.  Sure, they can give you feedback, but “you’re the meanest!” after being sent to time-out for hitting someone isn’t exactly the feedback I’m looking for.  First, kids can’t give you feedback because they have nothing to compare your parenting to.  There is no standard upon which they can measure you.  And they’re just too young to even be able to comprehend or evaluate those standards.  And secondly, once children are older I think naturally there is a guilt associated with judging or criticizing one’s parents.  I think it can be hard to separate how much you love your parent with how satisfied you were with their parenting style.

            And even as children age and you can measure their successes, that doesn’t mean that those were the result of their parenting.  Many of those achievements or behaviors (or in some cases lack of achivements or bad behaviors) aren’t a reflection of the parents, they are a reflection of that individual person.

            And so when I get in this funk, this place of throwing my hands in the air and asking myself “Now what?” I know that I have to come to terms with the fact that I will never be able to know exactly how well (or not well) I am parenting.  I will have to let go of the self criticism and self doubt.  And I will have to accept the fact that the best I can do has to be enough.  And usually I am able to do this by reminding myself of a few simple things:  1) I love my children, oh how I love them,  2) I make it a point to express to them how much I love and cherish them,  3) I know that they know that I love them and think the world of them, and 4) when I make decisions I am always doing what I think is in their best interest at the time.

            I have to find comfort in those thoughts and know that with this much love, while certainly not perfect, I can’t fail.

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Letters to My Children

23 Oct

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My Darling Cam, 

          The past few weeks and especially the past few days have been trying for me, for a variety of reasons.  And for some reason tonight all that stress seemed to culminate and a rough moment with your sister ended with me bursting into tears and retreating to my room to have a good cry. 

          I tried to hide the tears but did a terrible job of it which is why I quickly escaped to my room.

          Your cries of “Mommy!”  and “Are you alright?” followed me down the hall and up the stairway.  I yelled back “I’m fine, sweetie! Stay downstairs!” numerous times before burying my head in my comforter.

          But you, my dear, were persistent.  You keep repeating “I’m coming, Mom.  I just want to make sure you’re ok.”  And I I could hear your soft steps lengths behind mine as you, too, climbed the stairs and flopped down on my bed.

          When you got to my room, the only words you spoke though were ” I just wanted to make sure you were ok.”  And then there was silence.  For a long,  long time.  I kept my head buried so you wouldn’t see the tears.  But you weren’t looking for them.  You handled the situation with a maturity that I haven’t seen exhibited by most adults.  You simply laid your head on my back and laid your hand on my arm.  And you just let me cry.  You let me have my moment but with your presence let me know that I wasn’t alone. 

            And then a while after my tears had stopped you simply sat up, looked at me and said “Are you ready to go back downstairs?  You feel better?”  And when I reluctantly said yes you replied “You’re ok. I think it’s time we go back down” and you took my hand and didn’t let go until we got to the dinner table.

            I needed that cry.  In truth, I probably need a few more as well.  And you understood that.  You didn’t ask any questions.  You didn’t talk or chatter like you normally do.  You read me and you got it.  You gave me exactly what I needed and more because not only did you let me just get it all out but you gave me a support and an exhibition of love that I wasn’t expecting in that moment.

            I know that during all my days on earth I will never forget tonight.  I will never forget how gently you climbed onto the bed so you would not disturb me, I will never forget the feel of your head rising and falling with my breaths on my back, I will never forget the sight of your hand delicately stroking my arm, I will never forget the look in your deep, blue eyes when you asked if I was ok, and I will never forget how you insisted on being there for me.

            I love you more that you will ever, ever know.  Thank you for loving me like you do.

            All my love, now and always,

            Mom

 

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17 Oct

 

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           Today is Tony’s school picture day.  This is what he is wearing.  What a stud, right?!

           Last night I told him to go in his closet and pick out a shirt to wear for his pictures.  He came back to me holding a tie.

            “I want to wear a tie tomorrow.”

            “You sure?”

            “Yep.  I wanna wear a tie.”

            Inside I was panicking a little because I was pretty sure I had just donated all his collared shirts to the Salvation Army recently and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to find anything suitable to be paired with a tie.  Mentally I was scrolling through backup plans B and C which consisted of trying to convince him to wear another type of shirt without a tie and letting him think it was his decision or running out to Target as soon as the kids were in bed with fingers crossed there would be an oxford shirt in his size that I could bring home to save the day.

         Luckily we didn’t need those alternatives because he pulled this shirt off a hanger with “This will match!” and I knew that it would.

       He grabbed his jeans, pulled this outfit on and made a quick run to the bathroom to see how he looked.  Which was damn good if I do say so myself. 

       We laid it all out on his dresser and this morning he slipped the outfit on again. 

        As I was putting a little gel in his hair this morning (to get it to look “just like Dad’s”) he glanced up at me and said “I might be the only kid wearing a tie today.”

       “So?” I replied.

        “Well, what if I’m the only one wearing a tie?  What if they make fun of me?”

         “Don’t listen to them.  You look so handsome.  And I love this outfit.  Don’t let anyone else stop you from being you.  If you want to wear a tie wear a tie.  Your style is fantastic.  Don’t change what you want to do just  because you’re worried about what other people will say.  What other people think doesn’t matter.  You’re awesome.”

                 When I left him at the school’s front doors I told him I loved him and to have a great day.  And then I said “You look great, Buddy.”  To which he responded with a smile and an “I know.”

                 I can’t wait to get those pictures back and to see this year’s photo in the yearbook.   Because I can’t wait to to tell him how proud I am of him for being confident enough to just be himself. 

 

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A Letter to My Children- On God and Government

16 Oct

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My Darlings,

The presidential election of 2012 is three weeks away.  It appears right now that our country is equally divided.  Tonight is the second presidential debate.  Some will be watching to pick their candidate.  Others, like me, will be watching in the hopes that their candidate articulately outlines why voters should choose them.

Your father and I have promised ourselves that during our lifetimes we won’t push our opinions about religion or politics on to you.  One, because as we are constantly growing, learning and evolving so are our own beliefs.  Two, because we’re smart enough to know that the two of us don’t have all the answers (and sometimes we don’t have any of the answers) and we recognize that there is still so much information that we don’t know.  And three, we believe you three have the right to make your own decisions about your religious beliefs and the government system that you favor.

With that said though, there are still some things about religion and politics that we do believe to our core are true.  And those things we do plan on teaching you.

Here are the basic beliefs that we hold true; the things that serve as the root of all of our other beliefs.  While the details of our opinions might shift or sway like a tree in the breeze, these ideals are planted firmly in the ground.  It is our hope that these values and beliefs serve as the root of your beliefs too.  That from them your own ideas and opinions grow, and fade, and experience regrowth.

We believe our God is a good God.  We believe our God loves each and every one of us and we believe our God wants us to do the same.  We believe our God wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to be kind to others, to be accepting of all other human beings, and to help those who are in need.  We don’t know what will happen come judgment day (and some days we don’t even know what our belief is about judgment day) but we do believe that it isn’t our job on earth to do God’s judging.  We believe that He (or She) is the only being who is entitled to pass judgment on the way people live their lives.  And if He (or She) takes issue with choices that other people are making, well then, when those people reach the pearly gates our God will let them know that He (or She) doesn’t condone their behavior.  And most importantly we believe that we show our God how grateful we are for all they have blessed us with and how much we honor them by trying to be the best people we can be and by sharing love with everyone we meet.

Our beliefs about our God go hand-in-hand with our beliefs about government.  Because we believe that it is not up to us to judge others for the way they live their lives we, therefore, also believe it is not up to us to take away the rights of other human beings.  Who is one person to tell another how they should live, or what choices they should make?  [Obviously there are exceptions to this such as public safety.  Certain behaviors are a danger to society.  Even though I think God will deliver the ultimate punishment to serial killers and those who hurt children, those people also have to be judged by us and taken off our streets.]  Our belief in our God is why we believe that every person should be able to live freely, to be who they are, to be given the freedom to make their own choices.  It is why we believe that we should give and not take away.

There are some people in this world and in our country who hold strong to the belief that their God doesn’t think women are equal to men, who believe their God doesn’t stand for taking a life through abortion, who believe their God doesn’t condone homosexuality, or the eating of meat or the use of alcohol.  There are people who believe their God wants them to have more than one wife, who believe their God condemns sex before marriage and birth control, who believe that their God will sentence them to hell for sinning.  I think that everyone is entitled to their opinions, religious or otherwise.  And I think that those people who believe that their God finds certain behaviors to be unacceptable or “wrong” shouldn’t engage in those behaviors.  If you think your God doesn’t accept abortion, then don’t have one.  If you think your God doesn’t believe in homosexuality, then don’t engage in homosexual behavior.  If you think your God is the only one who should have control over reproduction, then don’t go on the Pill.  If you think your God wants you to have multiple wives, then marry four people.  If you think your God doesn’t want you to drink alcohol, then stick to O’Douls and mocktails.  But don’t restrict the rights of other people to engage in those behaviors just because you don’t think your God approves of them.

Our government is not a place to try and enforce the laws that we believe were handed down by God.  God shouldn’t have a role in our government other than our government ensuring and protecting the rights of all citizens to believe in any God they choose and to practice any religion they want without fear of persecution.

We are all people.  All just human beings.  Cut from the exact same cloth.  There is nothing that makes any one of us more important or valuable than any other of us.  There is no amount of money, no societal level, no skin color, no sexual orientation, no religious affiliation that makes someone better than any other person, just as there is no amount of money, no societal level, no skin color, no sexual orientation, no religious affiliation that makes someone inferior to other people.  We all bleed red.  And as equals, no single person should have the right to restrict the freedom of another person.

Whether you choose to practice Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Mormonism, become a born-again Christian, be a Republican or a Democrat, these are the beliefs I hope you also grow to hold true.  I hope all of your beliefs and opinions about everything branch out from the core belief that God is good, that God loves each and every one of us and wants us to do the same, and that all human beings were created equal and are equal in the eyes of God.

You three are our greatest blessings and we thank God every day for giving us the honor of being your parents.

I love you all so very, very much.

Love,

Mom