Thursday, August 29, 2013

Easier...or harder?

Really, are you making this easier or harder?

I ask my older children this, particularly when they’re acting a fool or not listening to me or simply acting like...children.

We’re headed out the door, shoes are scattered, no one is dressed, and I’ve given countless warnings that I’m ready to leave. It’s maddening!

After the warnings, out of my mouth comes that question ...harder or easier? As if it’s their job to make MY LIFE easier, manageable, happier?

When did this shift happen? When did it become about ME and not THEM? Don’t get me wrong. Their needs are at the top of my list but something has definitely shifted in the seven years since my first was born.

Having that first baby was all about tending to her needs, her wants. I knew my purpose in life was to keep this sweet baby girl alive and thriving and growing. When they’re so fresh and newly here, babies’ lives are so precious and fragile, so those basic needs don’t feel so BASIC. They feel HUGE and every decision feels monumental. I had no premonition that she was here to make my life easier. THANK GOD for that because there’s nothing about having a baby that makes your life easier.

And then she turned one. Or maybe it was sooner or later, I don’t fully remember. Maybe I put it out of my memory, who knows. Regardless, there was this time where it felt like she was possibly, just possibly, trying to make me go insane. I had no idea what she wanted or needed or even preferred! She changed her mind and flipped her shit when I’d hand her her pink sneakers instead of her blue ones. She wanted her sandwich cut diagonally and she wanted to hold my right hand and she wanted to get in the carseat herself as I stood in the pouring rain sans umbrella as cars driving by splashed the backs of my legs with dirty puddle water. For crying out loud, she was really trying to make my life feel harder and she was, in turn, making her life more difficult!

Or so I thought.

No, wait. This was all normal? That can’t be it. Because why did I sign up for this? How did NO ONE in his or her right mind WARN ME? We become parents for a bigger purpose, right? It’s a romantic notion, this whole parenting thing. We think it will be sweetness and hugs and photo worthy moments. But it’s not. NOT. EVEN. CLOSE.

No. Parenting is accepting that your kid will be ridiculous. Your kid’s basic needs will turn into these other needs and wants that are impossible to predict. You will have to make educated guesses, and even then, you’ll probably be wrong. You’ll have to just accept that the things they do will not make sense (to you, at least) and when you feel you have it figured out, it changes.

Your kid will make everything more challenging, and you’ll have to just roll with it for a bit. Because they’re learning and you’re learning, and that’s just how it is.

But one day, ONE DAY, I tell you, you will be able to communicate with your kid and they will be reasonable. They will listen and you’ll listen and this whole grand connection will take place. For some families this experience happens early and for others, well, they’re still waiting for their kid to be logical. But it will happen and suddenly you’re both playing for the same team. It feels cohesive and sweet and great.

But if there’s one thing I can share, it’s that THIS DOESN’T LAST. No, your reasonable, sweet kid will turn on you. And you’ll find yourself asking, or at least wondering, are you trying to make me go insane? Are you making my life harder...on purpose? Could you not be ANY MORE challenging?

Know that this is ALL OKAY. It’s normal. It’s part of normal development.

Your kid will make parenting feel easier, then when you think it’s all figured out, they’ll turn on you. They’ll have opinions and inconsistent expectations and preferences. They’ll want you to just make their life easier.

And maybe, just maybe, your kid will turn to you and ask really, are you making this easier or harder?  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Reasonable Expectations.

I wanted to build readership so I took a couple months off from posting. That's cool, right? 

I have three children. Each one was a different story, a different experience for me. I found each new being to be wonderful and lovely and just plain amazing. But then reality hit and I realized my role in this world was forever altered. Heavy shit, I tell you.

Each experience of mothering my children was different. My first was born to two inexperienced souls, my husband and me. She was born underwater and I spent my days dressing her in the many outfits people gifted her and posting on a parenting bulletin board with other mamas having babies in that same time frame. I was home with her and would head to work at around 3pm, where I would stay for a few hours helping students at an after school program. We were fairly isolated where we lived, and if I wanted to pursue social activities I'd pile my daughter and me in our Subaru and drive 30-45 minutes to the nearest "city". It was an otherwise easy situation, enjoyable and full of sweet memories. It essentially made me cocky as hell and tricked me into thinking having another baby was a GREAT IDEA. 

So, my husband and I made a baby. 

And this time it was all different. It was hard. It was exhausting. It required me to dig deep and push hard. I HAD NO CLUE. Yes, he was a different baby with a completely different personality. But what really made it hard were my expectations. THEY WERE FUCKING UNREASONABLE, I TELL YOU. 

I expected, I expected, I expected… 

I expected he would have the personality of my daughter. WRONG. 
I expected he would be sweet and smile a lot and let others hold him. WRONG AGAIN. 
I expected I would breeze through infancy with him as I had with my daughter. WRONG, ASSHOLE!

My confidence dwindled. I had no idea how to manage my children. They were both such babies, two under two. The days after my son was born, I expected my daughter to do more, be more. I expected my son to not cry too much and to be soothed by his father more. I expected to be a mom that had daily activities planned for my toddler while juggling the demands of my infant. I expected to clean, cook, mother, and do all the other tedious shit one must do while running a house. 

I expected that of myself because I didn't know how to LET. IT. GO. I have always expected myself to do more and be more. And it's gotten me into emotional trouble in the past, when I wasn't able to understand how to LET. IT. GO. 

I didn't want to make that same mistake. 

So I found support. I made friends. I saw a therapist. I found work that fulfilled me. I tapped into the resources around me that helped me feel better, be better. 

Things were good, and my husband and I decided to go ahead and see about baby making. It worked. I got pregnant. 

And my whole world flipped upside down and I started to get a better grasp on what I needed. I also changed up the expectations of myself, my family, this new baby and my experiences. 

I expected not that it would be easy, but that I would cope with the loving support of the people around me. I expected that my new baby would have different needs and that I would try my hardest to respond and react to those needs. I expected my older children would help guide our family through the transition of having a new baby in the house. I expected to take each day as it came and to accept and let go. 

This is not to say that my experience was picturesque. No, it wasn't. I had hard times and stress, and I still had to adjust my expectations here and there. But it was all-around great and memorable, and I'd be happy to do it all again, which is NOT how I felt about mothering two little ones five years ago. 

And while I'd be happy to "do it all again", I think we're done making babies. Instead, I'm going to keep my expectations in check, drink a cuppa and keep on keepin' on.