The Next Generation

I’m piecing this together from words I’ve said and expressed recently and it just seemed as though I’ve said so much, it was worthy of sharing.

Every damn thing we do stitches together another piece of what our life will mean to us. And what we can handle and who we want to be. You didn’t know if you could handle a situation like this, which is a generalization of life, and now you’re figuring it out. Do what you need to if you’re happy along the way. Happy is not always cut and dry or black and white. It’s intricate and edged with strange little facets.

Parenting is the one of the most difficult areas to know what you’re doing or even know if you are completely screwing up your kids for life. You find your happy moments in the good days, the days that follow the really bad ones where the simplest of improvements can turn everything around.

I got an email from Ty’s teacher this week that broke me a little. Ty, my high spirited, low attention span, impulse control lacking child who fears nothing and no one except at the most surprising moments. He’s loud and loving, forceful and kind. His heart breaks when you don’t ask if he’s okay should he trip or bump his arm or cough at the most random of moments. Wrangling his emotions is an incredibly confusing process for him and it leaves me wondering about the line of nature versus nurture. Whether I’m too kind of a parent in my soft-hearted motherly love or if I’m too stern for him to see the moments when I’m applauding a positive behavior. I spend more time disciplining him than I can rewarding him which leaves us in a paradoxical circle of not enough positive reinforcement because there’s never time and outbursts because he doesn’t get enough positive reinforcement.

He’s already been switched kindergarten classrooms due to some behavior issues (along with a few other kids). But also their inabilities to understand him. Granted, he’s a difficult kid. I love the shit out of him, but it’s so fucking hard. And I’m scared. Of his teenage years. Of his adult choices. Whether he’ll let me help when I need to or if he’ll carry my genetically shared stubborn nature, only learning lessons after the damage has been caused.

The email at hand: “…  I am emailing you today to tell you about an incident that happened during free play today. Ty was playing with a couple other students and I am not sure what happened between them, but it turned into a fight. Ty was standing over another student that was sitting in a chair and he was violently and repeatedly kicking the other student. I have written up an incident report as he was fighting. Ty knows this behavior is totally unacceptable at school. We will continue to help him follow the rules here at school. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

Yes, I have questions. Why choose to use the word violently with a six year old. I realize the difference between maliciousness and child’s play, but he’s six. It’s that fine line of schools being incredibly cautious about bullies in what has become a scary world in which to send your child to school. It opens your eyes when it’s your child who may potentially be targeted not as just as the bullied, but as the bully. And as his mother, I know he’s intense, I know he lashes out, but I also know he’s charismatic and kind; perceptive and complex. The combination is confusing for even him, I think.

It’s an intricately emotional feeling when your child is making you question everything. A deep down pain that makes your brain writhe in confusion and completely unavoidable and intricate heartbreak. All while having to be the adult who should resemble the sane, stable one. You’re doing the best you can yet it doesn’t seem enough. And pieces are broken in you and you see a break in your child, which I see in both of mine in different ways. You realize they may feel the pain or the upset in life you hoped to keep from them.

On the flip side and in my completely opposite battles of two entirely different personalities I’m responsible for, Dylan was terrified to go in the Halloween store the other day. He’s terrified of everything new or uncertain. And it’s him and he’s anxious and he paces and he hugs the parking lot sign post as he screams and hysterically fidgets as adults walk by and two year olds exit the store. In one of my weakest mom moments yet, I called him a wimp after ten minutes of trying to reason with him. I realized as the words left my mouth that it was primarily driven by my own fear of what this could mean in his adult life; his fear. His trepidation. His weakness, which isn’t a weakness at all, but a personality caveat that will likely continue his positive presence as a tender soul. And I cried and told him he couldn’t live life like this and be happy. And we left and I sobbed in the car, next to Dylan full of fear, and Ty who had trotted through the store with no fear at hand. Who had come out multiple times to convince his older brother it was okay inside and he would keep him safe. I felt I had failed my child somehow. In a way I’d never identify. I’d never make mentally tangible; but that would make me doubt who I am as a mother. Because I love the shit out of my kids. Pure, unadulterated, confusing for emotional adults, raw love. And I had let my own fears allow me lose sight of how to comfort when I needed comfort instead. Parenting doesn’t inhibit selfishness. It just makes you realize how terrible it is to allow it to speak for you. In the end, I just wanted him to be okay. I wanted to take his fear and give him my bravery. The badges of honor from walking through life’s fires.

As a parent you realize sometimes it’s going to be hard and scary and tumultuous because that’s just your story. But the complexities of your story are what makes it okay later. For some of us, parent and child are just each wandering with our demons and pitfalls and positives and delights and all the other little facets that will make us stronger later.

Everyone has skeletons in their closet and ghosts in the room, and the ones who turn a blind eye to the battles we all face stigmatize in their perfection proclamations. Leaving behind the brutally honest ones who present in a raw expression of what we battle and feel. We’re humans. Living, breathing beings who have no guide book, have no caretaker like less developed animals. Yet who says we’re not our own animalistic iteration? As feral as that makes it sound, we’re bumbling around the same confusing navigation. Some ignore that, some realize it to a fault, some fail at it and we all bounce off each other’s little bubbles and shift the placement of humanity and interaction.

It’s weird. And it’s hard when you recognize it all. When you feel it all.

And when you recognize you’re responsible for raising the next ones to continue the cycle and evolution.

Sweet Child O’ Mine

TY

I took a picture today. An idyllic, charming spring time portrait of a child’s whimsy. The kind of picture that you share and know becomes a moment of blue skies.

I didn’t share the photo, because it was forcing a moment. I was looking for something after struggling and it lacked substance and accuracy of the life snapshot.

As a parent, fear can be your greatest enemy. Fear of damaging the life you’re guiding and supporting. Melancholy at whether you’re doing it right; and the resounding realization that you’ll never truly know what right or wrong even mean in that role.

The child in that photo was transfixed on a popsicle; sun on his cheeks and determination in his posture. A bright spring day, which allowed kids to play outside and parents to enjoy the distraction.

The child in that photo has made me cry three times in the last week.

I know it’s possibly seen as irresponsible; potentially out of line to place blame on my child for tears. But just as my scolding can prompt hysterics in them, their interactions can sometimes bring me emotional breaks.

Children are bundles of unstable ends coming together. Forming the chapters that start the story of who they’ll be in the future. But for now they’re messy, raw, pure and kindling next to gasoline and matches.

He defies me, shows no remorse for actions, spits attitude at me with gusto and pomposity. He’s his mother’s child in his stubbornness, but hasn’t yet learned you can’t just use it in ways that don’t consider others.

And as I sit in the car, as he says he hates his brother and looks at me with intensity of disrespect, I break down. There has been minimal time I haven’t been raising my voice, or feeling exhausted or like sometimes the weight is a test I’m not sure I’ll ever stop taking.

As my parenting comes into doubt surrounding the situations, it’s very apt to bleed over to my everyday life and choices and doubting myself as a whole. Overanalyzing, mulling over as verbosely as I write.

I stared at that picture and behind it was capturing a moment I wanted to make normalcy while knowing I was merely hanging onto the pieces that gave me the heart swells. To balance the heartache at wanting to be perfect. Life metaphor, perhaps and cloying at that.

The same kid stands at the door, the door I’ve asked of them no less than fifty times to leave closed and he looks small and whimsical and pure. My heart fills and expands like a water balloon in my chest and I hug him. He tells me I’m his favorite thing. I want this to be my memento.

Moments later we hit the downswing and his impetuous actions arise that seem to be what I’m always battling and I feel the moment make me exhale with failure.

And these are our days, rushes of love from a truly kind soul that are combated by unbridled, complex emotional development at its messy worst.

There are the days where I just wonder if I’m fucking up the whole damn thing. Days where I realize there could be moments of this I reflect on when it’s been five, ten, twenty years and I won’t know the lessons until then. Moments where I hope I’m not the only one; that I’m not the roost cause and/or precipitant of what’s happening. Whether for the environment I provide; the selfish moments. If my hurdles have become theirs by default. The moments where I sit and absorb the moment and just feel helpless.

I want the knowledge that he is one of my favorite things be enough to make everything okay. The sage advice “this too shall pass” is slightly inaccurate. Because parenting doesn’t pass. That’s the best part of it. It’s always a part of you. You fight the fight together and come out on the other side hopefully as beautiful humans.

Your favorite things are sometimes your favorites because they’re not only unique to you; but also because they take more work to get and the reward is having them. Your favorite things are the pictures that are left behind. Childhood memories of bright blue skies.

 

Icarus

sun

I made a pros and cons list yesterday.

It was about me.

The cons list went to the back of the paper. The pros list had two things on it.

I thrive on being nice to people. Making them feel better. Doing anything they need. Being there at any time. Showing kindness with no end. Never expecting a return; simply doing it because seeing people happy and supported is amazing. But somewhere along the way in my life, I forgot how to give myself the same kindness. I’ve always struggled with insecurity. Not in regard to life, just me. Who I am and what people say. I have an intense personality and demeanor and I know it makes some people not a huge fan of me; yet I can’t compromise myself accordingly, nor would I. People not liking me, though, stabs right down to the middle of my soul. I find that I base my worth on what I have to offer as opposed to what I like about myself.

One thing that has always given me identity, purpose and drive was my job. I’ve had two jobs since the age of 18. One for 13+ years and the other for 2 and half. In between, I stayed home with my kids; yet found I just wasn’t cut out for it. My first job was my life. I was successful, good at it and sincerely loved the people I worked with and the customers I encountered. Hundreds, maybe thousands of them; different demographics, passions and personalities. I enjoyed every one of them, even the cranky ones.

I thought I’d be good at staying home. But I just have always felt like I wasn’t naturally inclined for kids and have had to work on that. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids, but it’s so hard to remember how to be a kid again and see things from their perspective; at least when they’re angry or misbehaving.

My first job gave me a reason to be, even as I struggled through the strange tornado of life that was my 20s. I grew up there, earned success there and honed my skills to ones I thought I could be proud of. Already fighting the stigma of not having a degree, I had to work additionally hard; learn programs from the ground up to the point of knowing them in and out. Researching anything I didn’t know. Educating myself. Along the way, learning how to work with all different types of people, understand the business world always has its quirks; it’s which ones you’re okay having a part of your daily routine. We’re all human and aren’t perfect. Emotions don’t stay out of the workplace, regardless of what anyone says.

I built my professional life there, sometimes through trial and error. Mistakes were my stepping stones and the lessons I learned were what created positive results. I thought about work all the time, in a positive way. I worked as much as I could, at times being made to take a day off and being locked out of my email. It was how I identified myself. All while still living a life with friends and social activities.

Then I got pregnant. I was certain I would be working while on maternity leave, eager to return to work. Silly me should have known with my history of depression, I’d be slammed with a case of postpartum depression, different perspective and a confusing tornado of love for a tiny person who confused the hell out of me most times. As my maternity leave started ticking to a close, I was gripped with utter fear and mixed feelings. I had no idea how to leave this little person, all while being intensely depressed and emotional. Hormones are no joke, no matter how funny those jokes can be. So I left. I gave my six week notice, whittled down to part time and ultimately, my last day. Bittersweet, second guessed and a whole new territory of life that I had no clue what to do with.

Before I even chose to stay home, I joined a mom group. Thinking it would keep me busy, which it did. Getting my kid (eventually kids) socialized and participating in activities, which it also did. But other than being happy that my kids and I were together, I was lost. I needed to be working, the thought of which filled me with immense guilt over what that said about me as a parent. I didn’t fit in anywhere. All the moms were incredibly nice people, but as had always been the case, I had no place. No defined group, clique, whatever you want to call it. I tried, desperately, but I was so crippled with losing my identity and being uncertain of the new one, I was never fully there. They were my friends, for sure and talking to them got me through some incredibly difficult times. Yet, I never found that I was anyone but just a friend, for lack of a better description. That’s on me and no one else, for my perception of it and determination of where I stood. As for my kids, I did my best, but I was often overwhelmed, lost and unsure I was doing anything right by them.

When I started my next job, I was reinvigorated. My kids had structure in a daycare setting and I had a purpose again! I excelled at my work. I was around people, so many who were good people. I had learned from the mom group that it was up to me to simply put myself out there, never avoid being nice or kind because I thought someone might not like me nor did I need to make them best friends. Just having people in my life should be enough. Professionally, my skills were back in use and I was learning new ones. My life came crashing down around me, through my own choosing and outside circumstances and I fought to get through it. At work, though, I was almost always on. My difficulties were kept quiet on my part and I did my job with motivation and hunger to create work of which I was proud. Through anything else, it gave me identity and a place that I could still do something right and have some happiness.

And now. I fight to understand the unemployment process, try to figure out state assistance and medical insurance for myself and my kids, how I’m going to pay my bills and keep the place where I live. All of which I could fight through, surmount what’s ahead of me if I had a purpose. A place. Something that defined me. Some days I think I have the world ahead of me; opportunities and chances are endless. Then I get that rejection email from the interview I thought went well. And another. And another. It can tear you down. Piece by piece; shoot bullet holes through your pride. Interviews are never going to be objective. There’s always some aspect of emotions involved; human judgment. I’m not ashamed I stumbled over that a few times when I was hiring employees. It’s hard to separate that, and I don’t think you should. You’re getting a human being working for you; not an android. There is going to be a new type of personality you have to acclimate to the work environment in a way that best suits them. Knowing that can mean I leave an interview I was definitely qualified for, wondering if they liked me or not. If they didn’t, I want to know why. What’s wrong with me and if it can be fixed.

Nothing is definite anymore; I fear the next hurdle. What will go wrong next. I can’t relax without stability. I’m truly and utterly terrified of what’s going to happen. But it spills over to me, it spills over to my friends and loved ones. Being a single mom was hard while working, but again, I had somewhere to go. A place to throw myself into. Deal with what I saw as parenting failures. Tantrums that drove me to tears as I ran out of options to diffuse them. Now it can be incredibly overwhelming. I just want to feel as though I’m at least parenting right, but it’s incredibly easy to feel like you’re drowning. Lost in not knowing how to escape the anxiety that utter chaos of behavior can create. My kids are great kids. But they’re 4 and 5 and have had a tumultuous couple years as well.

I fear losing friends, because my depression causes me to barely hold my head up some days. Worry that my inner panic of losing those closest to me will continually project outwardly and create a self-fulfilling prophecy. I’m in here somewhere, watching the me I’ve become and hating her. The misery, sadness, fear, mistakes and behavior. I feel like I yell to get out, to be happy and to like myself, but I can’t get through the invisible barrier keeping me back. Everything is in limbo and it’s easier to guard myself. I find happy moments in showing love to others. Doing everything I can for them. In those moments, I can see me for a second and it’s ok. It fades fast. It never occurs to me to do the same to myself because I can’t find the reason.

It’s like a twisted Icarus situation. I actually fear getting burned, so I don’t even attempt to fly. I took those wings off and locked them away to stay safe. But the ground sucks. It’s cold, and lonely and limited. I stay here and fight myself. I want to feel okay for longer than a few minutes, I want to send goofy and sassy text messages to my friends; not ones where I need support or help. I’m tired of burdening those close to me with my pain. It’s not their issue and I feel as though they need to be able to focus on any they may be experiencing. It’s one thing to be there for a friend, it’s another for that friend to bombard you with intensity. I keep a lot in to avoid being too much. Taking up too much space and making it seem as though I take priority.

I don’t expect life to be carefree. There are always problems, things blocking your way and moments to struggle through. I have periods of happiness; moments where I want to let my breath out and feel at ease. They’re just near the sun and I don’t know how to get there without getting too close.