“Momma!!!!! Mommy!” It’s about 2AM and I can’t be sure if I’m dreaming – but then I hear my name being called again, so I pop out of bed and quickly walk (run) down the hall to the girls room. I try my best to mentally prepare myself for vomit or poop every where since we just spent the day prior with one of the girls sick – but when I get in the room I smell nothing, which tells me I’m in the clear… for now. As it turns out, someone just needs to go potty. I help with that, and then return back to bed where I lay awake for a solid hour before I enter anything that even slightly resembles sleep… I happen to be one of those people who just can not fall asleep quickly. As a young adult and new mom I would make up for it by taking a nap during the day, but in this stage of life naps aren’t a thing anymore (dear naps, if you’re reading this, please come back!!!) Sometimes my inability to obtain deep sleep means I can’t remember sleeping at all by the time the sun comes up, which most times means I will definitely need to drink an extra cup (or two) of coffee in the morning.
As I lay there tossing and turning, I mull over some of the things that have been bouncing around in my head lately. Like: why is growing up at times such a lonely experience when literally everyone does it? And why does it seem like people constantly assume that I don’t personally struggle as a parent or wife or human? Why do I assume that of some other people? I find myself reflecting on something I said to a friend the day before when she mentions I’ve always been so calm when it comes to parenting, realizing that this has to be what makes it seem like I’m constantly in control in all other areas. I think back to my jumping out of bed heading to a possible vomit dungeon mere minutes before. It’s true. I was given the invaluable gift of calmness, it’s something that has seen me through some of the harder times in my own life, and has also been something those close to me can depend on during their own hard times. I may not always have an immediate answer, but I will always be calm. In supremely chaotic moments I am often able to remove myself, take out emotion, and just observe, before deciding on which actions make the most sense. During the times where I lose that control, I suffer from immense guilt as a result, as I’m sure most people do. Because of that, it’s pretty rare that I find myself crying in a moment of pure panic or stress – to be honest if I’m going to cry I usually only do it when I’m completely alone and far removed from the situation that upset me. Even those who are close to me have likely only seen me visibly upset a handful of times. It’s a blessing, my calmness. It’s what I think (or hope, rather) could make me a great social worker or counselor one day. But still, sometimes I look around and feel like it can be hard for me to be as vulnerable as I would like to be, or to ask for help in the moment I need it, or to truly feel seen. Because my shield of calm, and sword of logical thought means my body armor is assumed to be made of similarly strong stuff, when really, a lot of the time I’m not wearing any. Very little gets passed that shield. And if it does, I have my sword.
Truthfully, I kind of always imagined that I would be a good parent based mostly on the fact that it was important to me, and also on the fact that my lack of impulsivity started to surface during my teenage years. Despite these two things, I’m not perfect at it, no one is. Parenthood is hard, even if you are predisposed to it, even if you prayed for it. I don’t have sons, so I can’t comment on that aspect, but I know for sure that attempting to raise women who trust in themselves, while trying to grab hold of your own magic, at times feels so damn difficult. On top of that, there’s just this never-ending general sense of emotional tiredness that inherently seems to come with adulthood. I can vividly remember crying from this emotional exhaustion many times during my children’s newborn and infant years, lots of which was spent with my husband away from me. Sometimes I still want to cry from that exhaustion, but instead find myself more inclined to tighten my grip on my shield of calm until the feeling simply passes. That’s the thing – emotions are so fleeting for me.
The thing that gets to me, I guess, is that it seems like no one accurately described to me how dual natured and complex the feelings of growing older can be. On one end your days can feel so hard, to the point that even cooking dinner seems like an insurmountable task. But on other days things are much easier, they just flow, and it’s all so perfect. Nothing actually changed between those two days, except your personal temperament. That feeling of “man, this is so hard” comes and goes and sometimes it doesn’t feel worth mentioning because in the very moment it goes, that is the exact moment you realize how lucky you are to have health, a home, and any happiness at all. That’s probably why people just swallow it. But when the feeling comes back, it hits like a ton of bricks, and it brings a hefty load of guilt with it. How can life be so so good, and still feel so trying at times?
Walking into adulthood can really be incredibly draining. Especially once you are married and have kids, which happen to be the two things that you would never willingly give up. But at times it seems like no one is really talking about that either, likely because those are the two things that our lives are supposed to lead up to- even more so if you are a woman. People are definitely out there saying “growing up SUCKS!” and “kid’s make you so tired- parenthood is HARD!” but it’s rare that people are like “Oh, and also, it’s confusing, cause sometimes you’ll be really happy- but sometimes you won’t fully feel that, and that’s okay.” That’s the conversation I’m interested in having. That’s the thing I’d like to see change over time, having people know that you can totally be sure of your place but still feel… something. I don’t foresee myself being one of the “you have no idea how good you have it, kids” type of people, but I do want my children to be aware that even the people with tough exteriors can feel the heaviness of life from time to time. Even the people who have it all can wake up some days and feel alone in some way or another. And that’s okay, as long as you are trying. Your best is allowed to fluctuate and change. Because parenthood, marriage, and womanhood are hard in their own right but even more so when you start to try to juggle them. Sometimes you can get the parts moving in complete unison, and other times it’s a bit more difficult, and it’s not because of something you did or didn’t do. That’s truly how it is for so many people. You’re not alone in it, at least… you don’t have to be.
I wrote this sometime last week but the further I moved away from this writing- the more I started to realize that all of what I was talking about is likely what makes life so full and interesting. Maybe the point of that hard feeling isn’t just to wonder why they exist or even to know if everyone does have their moments, but is instead the following moment, the one that comes after you feel like you can’t go on – the part where you inevitably realize how good you really do have it.
So, I think about tragedies… a lot. It’s a part of who I am. Day in and day out, I think about the worst things that could happen, I go to sleep and thank God that I didn’t get a bad phone call, I wake up and think “Yes. I’m here” and I do my best not to roll my eyes at 6:45 when my kids walk in the room because thank God, they’re here too. I sleep on the side of the bed that’s closest to the door (or the girls) because even though I know my husband is stronger and steadier than I am, I still have nightmares that something happens and he is in such a deep sleep that he doesn’t wake up in time. I don’t have a password on my cellphone because I worry that something might happen to me in my sleep, and I need Isabella to be able to call for help, but we live in the age of no house phones. She knows about 911, and what an emergency is, she knows our address, she knows my full name and her dad’s full name. In my phone, the favorites list is all of our family members with a big picture of their face so she can easily find a person to call in case she forgets about 911. I teach her about how to react to strangers if they try to kidnap her, and that sometimes bad people pretend to be good. I teach her to scream as loud as she can and kick and hit them in their private areas. She knows the anatomical name for said private areas, and that hers are only for her, and no one should ever ever ask her to keep a secret about them. As Zoey gets older, she learns these things too.
Often times, I cry to myself because I know it’s not enough. I cry because this year Isabella starts school and I worry that someone could just walk right in there and hurt her, or one of her peers, or one of her teachers. And I want her to go off and thrive and have friends and just be a kid, but I genuinely worry about her safety. I cry because when I think about kids in other countries living in war zones, in my minds eye, they have the faces of my children. When I think about mothers giving birth in war zones they look like my sister and my friends. When I think about the men who lost their entire family in war zones, but are still trying to help their neighbors, they look like my husband. And as he puts it “we won the birth place lottery” and that’s really what it boils down to, but I always wonder: how long does that type of currency last? I cry because when I think about someone deciding not to tell anyone that they were raped or coerced into doing anything they didn’t want to do or bullied, I think “oh my god what if that’s my kid one day”. I cry because I worry that one day my children’s children won’t have breathable air, or clean water, and our oceans will have no more fish and our land will be dust, and sometimes it feels like no one actually cares about that. I cry because fuck, I love my body. It gave me my kids, and more than that- it’s a great body that is alive right here, right now and it’s mine. And it may have fat on it but why does that matter at all, ever, in regards to who I am? The truth, the actual truth, is it doesn’t, but I can’t control the fact that there are commercials about drinking “slim” smoothies that are “healthier” than regular smoothies with flashing pictures of women in bathing suits and one day that might make my girls feel less than. I cry because I know that I can try my hardest but I can’t prepare them for or protect them from every bad thing that could happen. I can’t protect them from other people pushing ideals and standards onto them rather than taking responsibility for their own thoughts and actions.
I cry because the ONLY thing I care about is being here, for them, for my husband, for my family and friends. And the truth is that I’m not trying to be the perfect mom or wife or friend but I’m damn sure not here to settle for mediocrity because I could die tomorrow and when it comes to my kids what will they remember of me? They’ll know what everyone tells them, sure. But what will they KNOW? I want them to know in their bones that their mom was worried about them and the world she brought them into, that she thought about them in every single thing she did, in every choice she made for herself and for them. And when she seemed like she was an activist or a bleeding heart or like she cared too much she was actually just being their mom, and she wanted them to feel safe and feel strong and feel loved, and she wanted to help others feel safe and strong and loved, too. I want them to know that I wasn’t perfect, I didn’t want to be, but I loved them more perfectly than anything else in my world.
So yeah, I think about tragedies, because one day I won’t be here to do that, and I don’t know when that day is coming, but I do know that each moment in this life I’m living actually matters. It all adds up to who I am, and who my babies will be, and what they will remember. And that’s everything. That’s my legacy. And I want them to know, to really really know, I cared about that.
Aren’t things. Man, this past weekend was a good one. I know i’m not alone in loving those. The really really good weekends that you feel completely refreshed by. I kind of live for those. I have some pretty decent weekdays, too, but weekends like the one we just had are totally the best. My mother and grandmother flew in from Florida on Thursday, so we went to a fun decade’s themed restaurant for some birthday dinner (of which I have no pictures) for our big three year old, followed by some cupcakes from the bakery before bedtime (because in all the confusion that is life, I forgot to bake a birthday cake- I’M SORRY ZOEY!)
Actually, I think the bakery cupcakes thing is starting to become a tradition anyway, considering we did that last year as well… so yeah, I think I actually did NOT mess up, I just gave in to tradition, that’s all (or at least that’s what I am going to tell myself). On Friday morning we went to see Beauty and the Beast, which left some of us in tears (not naming names here- but five points to anyone who guesses right) because it was so good. Seriously, go see it, if you haven’t already. I’m actually tempted to go see it again! The rest of my Friday was spent running around like a headless chicken trying to get everything we needed for our birthday celebration and dealing with our car being at the dealership, and consequently having to move carseats between said car and rental car, and then back again (because of course if your car is going to need to be serviced for way longer than you expected, it’s going to happen at the worst possible time, every time). Luckily, with my mom’s cousin (my second cousin?) driving in from Arizona that evening, I had a house full of women I love and trust, which also meant I was able to escape to the local brewery for a few hours with my husband for a little date.
Saturday we went to our favorite brunch spot, and then went home and set up for our girl’s Rainbow Party! Helping hands make light work, people. I definitely could not have successfully pulled off such a fun time without my family here to help me. We had some friends over, cooked out, had some drinks, and had the kids enjoy some arts and crafts and decorate their own cupcakes. Such a good time.
We planned on catching the sunset by the beach after all the fun, but by the end of the day we were all exhausted. Izzy literally fell asleep with a book on her face. Sadly, with the birthday party reigning supreme, there was no sight seeing for my family on their visit, which is kind of a bummer because I would have loved to show them the things we love so much about this new home of ours. But there’s always next time, plus now they have a reason to come back (as if the cute faces of our girls wasn’t enough). And of course, we deeply missed all of the people back on the east coast who we know would give anything to celebrate these milestones with us. But that’s why we’re bringing the next birthday party to them this summer (hey, party people!). Over all though, just spending time together with some women we love was much needed, not only for myself, but for the girls as well. Seeing them light up and argue over who sat next to which grandmother was one of the sweetest things to witness.
As time goes on, those moments become so much more than moments, they become the memories. I’m just so thankful that we have people in our lives who love us enough to travel to us no matter how far the distance. Ending my weekend with that sort of feeling is just so incredibly invaluable to me.
Happy Sunday, friends!
Anyone who knows me probably also knows that I am still very close to a handful of women I met in my hometown growing up. My best friends are permanent fixtures in my life, I have known all of them the same amount of time that I have known myself . As we have gotten older we have also found that we have each grown in so many different directions, yet I have truly been blessed to be able to maintain such strong relationships with each of them… to the point where they all surprised me by showing up together in my new home across the country. Talk about lucky. If there is one thing that has not changed since becoming a military wife years ago, it has been the love and support I receive from these women.
But truthfully some things for me personally have changed and I thought it would be cool to share some of that with those who are taking the time to read these posts (have I said thank you?) So here we go… five things that have changed since I became a military spouse:
- I am no longer attached to things. When you move a lot, you purge a lot. Sometimes things get misplaced, and you may never see it again, or it gets damaged during a move… and that has to be okay. After losing my wedding rings during a moving year (yes. I lost my wedding rings, the ring I wear now is actually the promise ring my husband gave me when I was sixteen- kind of perfect that it ended up being the ring I wear every day) I really learned that if something is special then it needed to be watched over and cared for with the utmost importance. Aside from those few items of significant emotional relevance, everything else can be replaced.
- You can find anything on craigslist or at thrift shops. Seriously. I have furnished and re-furnished our places and have only gotten better at it. It may take so much longer to complete the vibe or look you’re going for, but if you are patient and persistent there is gold to be found, my friends. In fact we are planning on picking up a World Market patio set that I found for dirt cheap in comparison to something brand new. People often times are desperate to get stuff out of their homes for a number of reasons (that’s been me before too, I sold an entire couch set for 100 dollars because we really just needed the room). Furnishing our homes this way also helps with any pesky attachment issues I might try to develop, plus my kids are likely gonna trash things anyway.
- Home is directly related to the amount of love in the house, and nothing more. I absolutely love to visit our home town, and nothing fills my heart like seeing my family and friends, but home is no longer a singular place for me. Don’t get me wrong- there are certain things that you can only get in our home state/town… liiiike Silver Ring (actually, cuban sandwiches/ food in general, and the people too, if i’m being honest), Publix subs, and that bath temperature gulf water, as a few examples. But aside from a few specific things, the idea of home in itself has turned into a feeling. It’s the kind of feeling that is experienced in your body, mind, and soul simultaneously. The more places you move to as a couple/ family, the more you come to know that as long as you have each other, you are home. I know, I know… it is super cliche’ and a little cheesy, but it is one hundred percent true for me.
- With that being said. With this lifestyle comes inevitable separation, sometimes for lengthy periods of time. And because of that I have learned that Anxiety is a complicated beast. I started experiencing mild anxiety in college, but I didn’t experience the intense, consuming type of anxiety until around the time my husband started having to be away from us for days at a time. Up until then, I had never had to be completely alone for any extended amount of time. Before college, I lived at home. And during college I lived with two roommates right up until I got married and moved in with my husband (for the very first time). We spent a couple of years living together day in and day out before we moved and he started having to spend time away from us. By that point, I had a little one hanging on my hip and another growing in my belly. And I was terrified of being alone. My imagination could run completely wild, and convince me that someone had likely been watching me for months, or was lurking outside of my home and would know the exact moment I fell asleep. I can be pretty obsessed with personal security as a result of this (and my need to plan doesn’t help). I’m the type that will actually say something to my friends if I think a geotag was too telling. To this day I still get pretty worked up when he has to be gone overnight for work. For whatever reason Parks and Rec helps.
- Living in the moment is one of the best (and only) ways to battle the heartbreak that comes with time passing, whether it is moving quickly or way too slowly. If you’re a parent, you have likely heard the old adage “they grow so fast!” and it’s so annoying, but so true. Once you have a child all of a sudden time starts moving at lightning speed, and it can be borderline unbearable. Time starts to get really tricky though when you add in a military lifestyle. When you are dealing with time away from your spouse, time moves the exact opposite of lightning speed. So on one side you may have your kids growing up right in front of your eyes, saying and doing new things each and every day, and on the other side you’re constantly eyeing the calendar and saying to yourself “do we really have four months left?!” It is truly one of the weirdest feelings i’ve had to experience. Ultimately though, you start to realize that time is incredibly subjective and completely intangible. And the only way to face it head on and not be swallowed by it is to embrace each day for what it is.
Overall, even with all the moving, losing things, separations, and anxiety, I have learned one of the most invaluable lessons: I am capable of being stronger than I ever thought.
Just don’t ask me to give up living on a coast.
Is it just me or do kids completely blow anyone else’s minds? We took the girls to their first dentist appointment today (I know, I know, we should have done this FOREVER ago- but it’s better late than never, right?) and honestly I was so blown away by how well they behaved. Although we have found ourselves on the receiving end of some pretty sweet compliments about these girls (from complete strangers, no less) while we were in high intensity situations, I somehow still manage to assume wrongly about them and I have no idea why. They have proven themselves time and time again.
To be honest, I put a considerable amount of effort into preparing them for changes or new situations we may find ourselves in. If we are going to be doing something new, I try to start talking about it days in advance so we can start working through any feelings they may have leading up to whatever it is we will be doing. I do this for them, but I also do it for me. I am a planner. When I wake up in the morning I automatically start making lists in my head regarding what I hope to accomplish for that day. When I lay my head down at night, I revisit the list and see what I was successful at (and what I wasn’t) and start making rough drafts for tomorrow’s list. Lists, plans, bullet points… they rule my life (seriously, you should see how many lists I have in my phone, on my actual planner, and on my fridge, it’s a bit nauseating). Having an outline for my day is just how I function best. I’m not super strict about the plan, but I like to have a general sense of how I see the day going. So naturally as soon as the girls were old enough to start understanding concepts, I started telling them “the plan.” They know what to expect from me, and what I expect of them. It’s something that I have been lucky works for them as well as it works for me, honestly.
And yet, somehow, I still find myself thinking that they may not be prepared enough. And so there I was, standing outside of the x-ray room with Zoey and her dad, watching Isabella gag and squirm when the dental tech put the bitewing in her mouth, thinking “shit. I did not prepare her for this.” I could feel my heart pass it’s resting heart rate at lightning speed as I saw Zoey’s eyes widen. I looked at Steve, nodded at Isabella, and mouthed something like “help her NOW.” But as soon as he started to interject, she got a hang of what the dental tech needed her to do, and a few seconds later she was done and Zoey was willingly sitting in the chair, following the tech’s every instruction, no problem at all. As our visit went on, they followed each instruction calmly, hardly moving as they watched the movie play on the screen above the dental chair they laid in. At one point the dental tech looked over at me and mentioned that she had a feeling Zoey would be her “superstar patient.” And I realized I had been completely wrong for doubting these little girls. I forgot that while I know them pretty well, they are still their own people. And in reality, while I may have a pretty good instinctual idea about what is good for them I am learning about who they are along side them.
There is a saying… one we all know. “Mother knows best.” From here on out, I’m changing that to “Mother knows best-ish.”
When I was five, I used to see the Air Force fighter jets fly over the military base we lived on, and I thought that one day I would learn to fly… I wanted to see what everyone looked like from up above. When I was ten, I wanted to become an actress. I wanted to step outside of myself, I wanted to learn how to be anyone (I still have the headshots from that time, if anyone wants a laugh). When I was fifteen, I wanted to become a writer, I wanted to tell stories about human nature. When I was twenty, I wanted to become a counselor. I wanted to help people navigate life. At twenty two, I became a mother.
We found out we were going to become parents during our first year of marriage, my husband’s first year in the military, and at the start of my final year in my degree program. We were pretty young, so we knew very little about parenting (and when I say very little, I obviously mean nothing. We knew nothing.) All of a sudden I found myself in roles I had never been in before. Mother. Military wife. College senior. It was hard (that’s putting it mildly). A lot of the dreams I had up until that point fell to the wayside. It didn’t necessarily feel like I was choosing one path over the other, but honestly, there still was a piece of me that mourned all the dreams I had fostered over the years. My first pregnancy was an emotionally lonely experience (that’s a whole other blog post) as I adjusted to these new roles. While I was learning how to be a wife and mother, my friends were enjoying their lives as young twenty something’s. I was enjoying my life too, but that was something that I had to remind myself of. As time moved on, Isabella was born, I graduated college, and we made our first move as a family to an entirely different state. Somewhere along the way I became painfully aware that it was okay to feel moments of envy, but it wasn’t okay for me to live in that place. I had to simultaneously learn to love and honor the woman I would have been, while nurturing the woman I was becoming. I had to grow where I was planted.
I believe it is an incredibly human experience to compare our own lives to that of others. So many of us are naturally competitive, and why wouldn’t we be? We grew up during the age of some of the biggest advancements our world has seen. I remember being in high school and looking around at my peers feeling incredibly envious of how book smart they were. Up until very recently, it seemed like being smart was the new cool. With the huge social media shift in our culture, many of us are highly inclined to check in with our peers, sometimes to see what they are doing, and sometimes to see what we are not. A lot of times we find ourselves silently competing with people who we may not even know, or we only know in a very surface level way. We are constantly looking at tiny puzzle pieces of their lives, trying to see how they fit compared to our own, without even knowing what their puzzle actually looks like.
During my early twenties I found myself struggling with both comparison and jealousy extensively. At a time that I was experiencing so much growth, rather than seeing the change as positive and necessary, I started holding on to the things I didn’t get to do. The me I didn’t get to be. And a piece of me began to pine for something that wasn’t mine. Despite having graduated with a degree in Social Work, I still could not see that it wasn’t my circumstances that needed adjusting… it was my personal perspective on life that actually needed some fine-tuning. As one of my high school classmates recently said on Facebook “One cannot grow by always pointing out the problems.” (Thanks for that quote Pam) It wasn’t until our youngest was born and we were coming face to face with time apart as a family that something inside of me just clicked. If I wanted to be happy, I could just do it. I didn’t have to wait for anything; I didn’t need to look over at anyone else to see what he or she was doing and mimic that. I already had an amazing life. I just had to start living it. Rather than watching the clock, and counting down the days until my husband had to leave us again, I tried to start fully appreciating every aspect of his presence in the moment he was there. And rather than allowing myself to get overly upset when he was away (I had my moments, don’t get me wrong. Pretty sure I started balling uncontrollably at one of my best friend’s girlfriends house when she simply asked me how I was- sorry girl), or when I couldn’t see my friends and family because of distance, I tried to start owning my happiness day in and day out. I made it a priority. Because my happiness is mine to own, and it is mine to sustain.
Of course, some things are out of our control. There will be times where life kicks us while we are down, or when the darkness inside us is too hard to carry alone. For those times, a simple positive mindset probably won’t be the cure all. And to be clear, I do not think that a person should ignore their calling or down play their own potential. But learning how to resist comparison and how to find your own silver lining is an invaluable skill worth learning and mastering. It is so important we realize the only person in charge of our lives is us. If something feels off, learn from it. Let it be a foundation for something that feels right, but don’t let yourself hand over your happiness to mere circumstance. Circumstances change. And because of that I have learned that happiness is not a destination. It is not an end point that you can only reach after completing x,y,z. Happiness is right now. It is often times a literal choice and it can be found when you learn to see the little moments. The ones you hardly even notice. It can be found in that first sip of coffee. In the way you feel after you eat an amazing meal with people you love. In the way you notice the shadows of the trees dance in the moonlight on your wall at night just before you fall asleep. In how it feels to be in nature. In the way your babies hug you and love on you even after you aren’t perfect. Happiness can be found in so many things, but they are things that can be missed if you aren’t careful. Things you’ll glance over if you aren’t putting yourself right in the moment that is your life. The truth about happiness is that you don’t have to chase it; it’s already there.
To be honest, I was in the process of writing something completely different as my next blog post, when earlier this week in the middle of generally parenting the girls, a light bulb went off. Some people know this, others may not, but I suffer from pretty intense mom brain, so my thoughts can come and go before I even have a chance to take them seriously (hence all the effort I put into acting on them in the moment, as mentioned in my last post). When words start popping into my head, if I don’t jot it down in my phone or journal quickly, there is a legitimate chance that they could be gone forever. The same is likely to be true with my extended writing here on Sprinkles of Hinkles. So, when the light bulb went off, and I started actively thinking about a major piece of my parenting style I knew that was what I really wanted to write about next. As they say back home: Gotta get it while the gettin’s good.
As every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, guardian (you get the picture) knows, there is no one way to parent. On top of that, it is beyond true that what works for you and your kids may not work for all kids… it might not even work for all of YOUR kids. Parenting styles don’t only vary by people… they vary by week, day, hour, minute (again… you get it). So, please, PLEASE, believe me, the purpose of this post, or any other post like this, is not for me to hold up my parenting style as doctrine. My only goal is to share what I have found works for us, and where some of that stems from, in hopes that maybe some of it can work for you. Truthfully, even my husband and I have different parenting styles. Like… so so different. So, please, take what you can use, and leave the rest, I will not be offended.
Now that I am an adult- I just keep calling myself that in hopes that one day it will actually sink in- I have started to become aware of the things (or people) that have influenced who I am today. Of course, our family of origin often times plays a major role in who we grow up to be, but when you start to take inventory of your personal likes and dislikes, your wants and needs, you might find that you actually ARE a lot like your mother, but you are also a mixture of so many other people. As humans, our experiences shape us, and we often leave pieces of ourselves with others, while simultaneously keeping pieces of them for ourselves. Sometimes this is a good thing, other times not so much. For now though, let’s focus on the good.
Believe it or not, a major part of my parenting style comes from something I learned in high school. Through out high school, I was heavily involved with our Theatre department… though I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself a theatre nerd. It’s not as if I would make sure my personal class schedule had a theatre class, plus whatever other class our theatre teacher was teaching that semester. I totally did not spend all of my extra time after school in the auditorium with my friends, even if rehearsal was cut short that day. I definitely didn’t geek out over Wicked or Rent, like, ever. Okay, okay. I was a bit of a theatre nerd. And truth be told, I am so thankful I was. Being a teenager kind of sucks (right?) and for the most part I never had to spend much time feeling like I didn’t belong, because our theatre teacher created a “safe space” before it was called that (and before that became a negative thing to have). Some kids find their place on a team, others in a certain part of the courtyard with certain people before and after school. I found my place in my theatre teacher’s classroom and subsequently on her stage, and it’s wings. And so, because of her, I spent some time at theatre festivals, learning about all sorts of theatre related things. But the thing that stuck, the thing I carry with me today, not only in parenting but in so many other parts of my life, is the golden rule of improv: “Yes, and…”
Essentially, when you are part of an improvisational scene (aka you and a partner are kind of making things up as you go) you must always agree and accept what the other person in the scene says. No matter what direction the scene goes in, you have to follow. You know that old saying your parents would say when you did something super questionable at the behest of your friends… “If billy bob jumped off of a cliff would you too?!” Well with improv, the answer is yes. You would. And you would do your best to make it really, really funny if you could.
Honestly, parenting is a whole lot like that. Which is something I think I picked up on probably about half way through the first year of our first daughter’s life. It was around then that I realized that this tiny person had a mind of her own, she wanted what she wanted, and it was in our best interest to find a way to roll with it as best as I could. Of course, “yes, and…” shines brightest during playtime with kids. When you are playing any games, or doing any crafts, following their lead helps them to gain a sense of independence, and encouraging their ideas helps them feel validated in a way that goes further than simply saying, “you’re so smart!” But, really, it can likely work in almost any interaction you may have.
When it comes to our little ones, we never want to be too permissive, so there is definitely a line to walk with this sort of mindset. But basically, before saying no I ask myself why I was inclined to say no in the first place. Before I negate their ideas I genuinely try to make sure that there is a legitimate reason as to why what they want cannot happen, or should not happen in the future. If my answer has anything to do with my own personal feelings (i.e. I am just being lazy, or I’m busy) then I obligate myself to be honest about that. Mostly though, I try to find a way to meet them in the middle by giving them a choice. When it comes to the simple and small things, the answer is almost always yes. If they want to use my lipstick, I let them, as long as they agree to put it right back when they are done. They pick their own outfits. They choose when to stop pouring water in their cups. They can ride their scooters down the block as fast as they want, as long as they don’t go past my designated areas. They can go in our backyard any time they like, go upstairs any time they like, paint and color any time they like, as long as they simply ask me first. But as we all know, there will be times times when we just can’t say yes. Which could either be for their safety, or for our own sanity. For those times, choices can work. By giving a choice, I try to find a way to give a little bit of what they want (that’s the yes part), within the parameters of what I want (that’s the and…)
Lately, Zoey has been obsessed with these small toy animals. I find her sitting alone in front of their mirror giving little voices to each animal, and lining them up on every surface she finds. During her nap time the other day, she asked if she could sleep with them. I thought about it, and told her yes as long as she kept them in a certain area. When it came time for her to go to bed later that evening, to no ones surprise, she wanted to keep the little animals in her bed. And so I asked her to make a choice, she could choose just one, or she could put them all on the dresser. This sounded like: “yes, you can keep one, and put the rest on the dresser, or you can put them all on the dresser, which little animal do you want to pick?” I gave her what she wanted, but also what I wanted.
One of my favorite unexpected side effects of this approach is that I rarely find either of my children unable to follow my own requests. Sure, there are those times where they have a ton of energy, and it takes them a minute to find their way to me, but for the most part, any thing I ask them to do elicits a “yes, mommy” and is done relatively quickly. In some ways I think that children are true masters of the whole “treat others how you want to be treated” so by choosing to NOT constantly negate their wants or make them think their ideas are inherently “childish” they seem to choose to support my needs as well. My biggest piece of advice if you think this is an approach you would like to try for yourself is to give yourself space before saying no. Kids need boundaries, mine have them (more on that later) but they also need to be kids. They need to be little, and sometimes as adults we lose sight of the way they are seeing the world. We lose sight of the value of yes. Imagine how much more wondrous our worlds could be if we let things play out like an improv scene, and chose to smile and laugh along the way.
Is there anything you knowingly keep from your past that informs the way you parent, or even the way you interact with other adults in your life? When I was writing this, I found myself wondering if other people ever think about this stuff… so if you’re not sure, I would totally encourage you to think about it, and let me know what you find! Personally, I plan on making a list in my journal of all the other things I have borrowed from my past, and am super interested to know if other people have found hidden pieces of themselves that they adopted from people or experiences outside of their family and home life. Also, was this post way too long? You can be honest, I can take it! Any and all feed back is welcome!
As my computer mouse hovered over the “buy subscription” button for my potential blog domain, I found myself verbally assaulting my husband with reasons why I was justified to click the button. “Will this be worth it?” I heard myself ask out loud. While I was actually referring to the price tag, there was a hint of existentialism hidden there, so he just smiled at me and nodded (the way he does when he knows I’m not really looking for his input). Don’t worry, I ask him for his input plenty of other times, even to the point of exhaustion… (Just ask him about our youngest daughters birth story). But as soon as the words left my mouth, I knew. It was here. Self doubt, my old friend.
How many times have you had an idea pop into your head, and thought “yes! This is such a good idea, why didn’t I think of this sooner?” only to find yourself days later wondering what you were even thinking. How many times have you gone to the nail salon, dead set on black, but left with nude. How many times have you gotten a trim when you had intentions of changing your look completely? How many times have you found yourself not applying for a job, not going to that yoga class, not hiking alone, not making friends… all because you doubted your own capabilities? This isn’t just a me thing, is it? If there is one thing I know about “adulthood” (I use that term so loosely because holy crap, am I seriously an adult???), it is that self-doubt can often times control how so many of us view ourselves… but it shouldn’t. A couple of years ago one of my new years resolutions was to do things in the moment that I thought about it. If the thought to call someone crossed my mind, I tried to do it right then and there, rather than put it off for another time. If I suddenly remembered that I wanted to clean the car, I walked outside with a garbage bag and some armor-all. I was trying to bury one of my even older friends, Procrastination. And you know what? It actually worked. Eventually I retrained myself to not wait on things. I recited cheesy mantras like “if it’s important to you, you’ll make time, if it isn’t you’ll make an excuse” over and over to myself daily to hold myself accountable. But as time has gone on I have realized that while, yes, I do have a better grasp on my procrastination problem, self doubt can still walk right into my life and hold me hostage where I should be able to run free. The two go together, so if you are going to take one head on, you have to deal with the other. You can’t cut corners on that part.
As a parent, I have questioned my abilities ten fold. Before you have a child, you are free to make judgments and assumptions about how you will parent. But as soon as a little person is entrusted into your care, you feel it. You start to wonder if you are really cut out for it. I remember leaving the hospital, and thinking “if my mom wasn’t here right now I would think these doctors and nurses are out of their minds letting us leave with this baby!” I truly wasn’t sure I could do it now that I had to. And to some extent that whole “who thought it was okay to trust me with a real life little human” feeling doesn’t ever really go away. Self doubt is always there in the back of your mind when it comes to parenting, nagging at you, making you question your choices. Am I totally messing up their sense of self? Should I be doing more? Should I be doing less? If I go to work, will that take away from the dynamic we have created? If I don’t go to work will I create an unsustainable dependence on my presence? There comes a point where as a parent (or guardian, or role model) you have to realize that all you can do is try your hardest to guide your little ones in a way that will allow them to learn how to find the tools that will help them push past that voice (even if you struggle to do it yourself). Because one day you wont be here to do everything for them, and they will need to know how to move forward even when they think they can’t. The caveat is that children learn by watching, and if they constantly see their hero throw up their hands, or never try to reach for more, that is exactly what they will do. I don’t know about you, but that thought alone is enough to kick me in the ass and make me face any and all struggles.
And so here we are, self-doubt and me… still casually hanging out. While I am trying to develop a graceful exit plan, I find us sitting together, shrugging our shoulders when one of us asks if we have what it takes to do *enter literally anything here*. The truth is, I wanted to start a blog early last year. Yeah. It took me over a year to actually pull the trigger on this. And why? I’ve had a few people here and there tell me they would love to hear more of my voice, or they would love to follow along with our family, etc. So what has been stopping me? What’s the big deal? Self-doubt has this weird way of making you think that you can’t possibly “do it all.” But you can. You can definitely do it all. It just takes faith in you. It is okay to be scared. It is okay to question your own choices. What’s not okay, is not trying. Because really, what is the worst thing that could happen if you push through your self-doubt? Failure? If things don’t go the way you imagined, that is a whole lot better than having to wonder about it. Maybe no one will read this blog, maybe only my mom and grandma will (hey Mom, hey Abuela!). But hey, at least I did it. I’m one step closer to doing all of the other things I never thought I could because of this simple little space here on the Internet. Anything is possible, not only when you believe, but when you try.
If you made it this far I just want to take a minute to say THANK YOU for reading. I am hopeful that this space will be a place where I can dig a little deeper, as well as be a landing place for others to know they are not alone. And hey, in the event that you are not completely here for my ramblings, but instead just like to see pictures of my cute ass kids growing up, just know, you are welcome here too, and I will be making sure to use this space as a glimpse into our family life by talking about our adventures together, our milestones, our wins and our losses. Also, I am still learning the ins and outs of blogging and websites, so bear with me. I hope you guys enjoy following along, and again, thank you for even visiting!