Category Archives: Mom Suff

Am I Enough?

This is the question I’m struggling with right now, especially as the new school year starts, as new routines and schedules get hammered out. I’m also putting more focus and energy into other areas of my life that I’ve put on hold to be a parent, and once again, I feel myself dealing with the question: Am I enough?

Am I doing enough?

Am I good enough?

This is straight-up tied to being a perfectionist, something I’ve struggled with over the years to let go of, to be who I am, to do the best that I can and celebrate in what I have accomplished. And yet… every once in awhile… my perfectionist finds a new way to creep on in, to sneak into my subconscious, to create doubts and negative self-talk. A little, tiny voice nagging that I should do more

Read more with the kids.

Play more.

Connect more.

And, of course, there’s always more we could do, more to focus on, more to strive at being better…

A couple months ago, I dealt with how my perfectionist came into my writing process, and it wasn’t the usual way either. It wasn’t during the actual creation, when I put words on page and have learned to trust those words (and my unique author voice). You see, I’d already dealt with that part. Instead, my perfectionist had taken a stranglehold during an entirely different process: the end process. The part where my stories get out to readers.

I would stop dead in my tracks when it came to the editing, the copyediting, and straight-up, the publishing part of my business.

I was surprised. Shocked, actually.

I had no idea my perfectionist, my critical voice, had been sitting there, happy as a clam, completely stopping my work from, you know, actually reaching readers. Since then, I’ve worked through that part of the process, and am even making really awesome, fun strides with my publishing business.

And yet, that’s exactly one reason why I’m now dealing with this question:

Am I enough?

You see, as I focus on my business, it’s taken my attention away from other areas of my life. Mainly, my family. I’m not connecting with the kids as much, we’re not playing as much. Not enough board games or sitting down and doing art together.

Which… if I actually step back and look at my life, I would (hopefully) see how silly my worry is.

I mean, yes, I am putting attention and focus on my business — but that’s part of my self-care. This is super important, this focus on self-care. Especially too if I want to function as patient and kind parent, someone who has the energy and the reserves to help my kids through their big emotions, to even want to get on the floor and play a tickle game, or to drive to the LA County Fair or go to Disneyland.

I am important too, and I’ve finally reached a point with my youngest that I can put energy to this other area, a very important area of my life, which I had happily put on hold to grow our family.

And yet… the worries and the self-doubt are still there.

A huge, huge part of the problem is my brain, of having lived through my own childhood, of living in this American culture for 35 years, still has all these labels, this hierarchy of what is deemed as important.

And, what isn’t.

Sitting on the couch and reading books together, or learning by playing board games (especially as a homeschooler): important.

Swimming with friends for hours, playing with dolls, playing Mario 3D World with Kate, dancing with Eric: not important.

And that, really, is ridiculous.

I intellectually know this. I do.

In fact, I’ve been working on letting go of all these thoughts and worries, of what our world deems as ‘learning’ and ‘education’ ever since Kate was two years old and yet… yet here I am, questioning the importance of play and joy.

For myself. For my kids.

I know I’m feeling more pressure this year (and really, right at this moment) because, technically, Kate should be in kindergarten. I mean, she’s a baby five but, according to most states, she’d be in kindergarten and therefore:

Learning great things of importance! Learning things that are clearly not hanging out with friends and playing!

Agh! It’s enough to drive me crazy.

I know how I feel about education and self-directed learning. I know the value of simple play and social interaction… which is exactly what she’s getting. Right now. Every week. Every day.

And yet, here I am, mentally beating myself up because somewhere inside me, it doesn’t feel like not enough.

Which is my perfectionist speaking.

My perfectionist that can look at the day we had, completely filled with trying to meet everyone’s needs, of driving up and visiting with grandma and grandpa, playing with their big-ass dogs (and my helping Eric to work through feelings of his safety and growing comfort). And then after, going to the park to play with a whole bunch of other, older kids. I can look back over our entire day, and somehow, in some area, my perfectionist finds it lacking.

Here’s what my perfectionist points out to me:

You didn’t play when Kate asked you too.

Why didn’t you join her with painting? Or coloring Pinkie Pie’s tail?

You should put your own work aside. Stop typing up those notes for your online workshop. You’re neglecting her.

(Never mind the fact that I facilitated how many days playing with friends, swimming and playing with dolls, even video games? Not to mention the outings this week, from rock climbing, visiting an ice cream art museum, and spending a ton of quality, fun-time with Grandma??)

Which my perfectionist then chimes in:

Well, what about Eric??

Were you really connecting with him enough?

My perfectionist, with all her negative self-talk, doesn’t stop there either. She’ll point out: See? He’s sorting those colored Legos on the floor. By himself. Why didn’t you join him? Why didn’t you use that as an opportunity to work on his sounds and his growing comfort with turning his voice on??

(Never mind that every moment he’s awake I am aware of his speech, finding new and fun ways to play sound-games that are natural for him and me. That we play tickle games and hide-and-seek games like crazy. But hey, those moments just don’t count.)

This is my own struggle, dealing with my perfectionist and the negative voice in my head that some days (like, right now) feels like I’m in a constant, epic battle with.

You’re getting a glimpse into all these thoughts I’ve got going on, but I recognize them for what they are… and I’m trying to work through them.

I’m trying to pick apart the threads and figure out the real cause of why I’m having them in the first place. And generally, if my perfectionist is involved, it has to do with fear.

Fear, and protecting.

Clearly, some part of me is afraid of something, or feels that I (or my kids) need protecting. Maybe from the great ways I can single-handedly Screw Them Up —

Which, is just silly.

I literally just got off the phone with a friend who, after I told her what my week had been like and everything we did (as well as mentioning my struggle with these these negative thoughts) she said:

“It sounds to me like you’re doing plenty.”

Which, I am.

I mean, I know I am. Helping them through their emotions, taking the time to connect, to empathize, scheduling fun outings with friends as well as stuff for to do as a family (like rock climbing). Then there’s keeping the house in somewhat order, and the endless dishes, cleaned. Oh, and let’s not forget preparing and cooking real food (at least most of the time).

I know I’m doing the best that I can, and I know that my life, and my kids’ life, will look completely different than everyone else’s. For example, a lot of kids Kate’s age are focusing on school, on learning to read or beginning math. But for me, my focus is continuing to help her with language.

I’m getting her out with friends, focusing on my modeling and recasting, having new experiences (ice cream museum or meeting Moana for the first time at Disneyland). Those experiences are a fantastic jumping off point for more words, more language, more conversation.

That’s my focus for her, right now.

And what’s super amazing is all the people in our life who matter most, grandparents, close friends, they all intuitively understand that too. I’m not getting badgered with Kate and reading or anything else that might look school-related. Instead, I’m getting these smiles and looks of amazement over what Kate said or how she interacted with someone.

But other than language, I’m really tuning into what learning will look like for us as a family, and specifically, for Kate.

As a family, we believe in self-directed learning. You might not, you might send your kids to school or you might follow a more classic, homeschool approach. But for us, this is what we believe in… following a child’s interest, helping them to facilitate in an area they’re excited about. It means I need to be aware of Kate and her passions, and when I see something, ask myself: how can I help that grow?

For example, Kate’s aunt was over the other day and she was rolling some dice to build a character for the Dungeons and Dragons campaign Sean’s running. As her aunt was rolling those dice, she was getting quite passionate about what numbers she was rolling. She was trying to create a sorcerer, so having a high strength number and not a high intellect number, was bad.

So Kate’s aunt was having emotions about the outcome.

She was having emotions… about numbers.

Her aunt would get a set of numbers, write them down, and usually, be pissed about some number not fitting into the sorcerer character she wanted to build. So, she’d start rolling again.

And again.

And again.

And Kate, interested, came to the table and watched. At first she got a paper and pencil, and started drawing. Then, later, I noticed she was writing the numbers.

Thirteen. Four. Eight. And entire page-worth of numbers.

I was shocked.

This was the first time I’d ever seen Kate write numbers or even have an interest in numbers. But there she was, writing them all down. And then the day after, waiting for food at a restaurant, she started filling in numbers for a Sudoku puzzle all on her own.

So I asked myself: what can I do to help facilitate this interest?

Let me tell you, just rolling a bunch of dice and writing the numbers down didn’t mean squat to Kate. She just started coloring.

And that’s when I had my realization of why Kate had been drawn to the numbers in the first place, why she started writing the dice numbers down with her aunt…

It was because of the emotions. Those numbers meant something to her aunt. They had meaning. They had a purpose.

And, they were fun.

Kate wanted in on that.

I’ve already come up with some ideas, of how we can go forward from here… like, when we play our weekly Dungeons and Dragon session, to start the game earlier. That way Kate can participate or just watch. I’ve also picked up a role-playing book for My Little Pony (yes, there is such a thing) and am thinking about running a campaign for her and her friends. Sure it will require some adjusting, but it’d give her the chance to have her own emotions about numbers, about gameplay and cooperation, all of which, of course, will continue to build on her language. I even got a board game that mimics a playing style similar to a role-playing game that can scale for different ages. I’ve already put this in motion, inviting a few friends to come over, to try out the role playing game, then get into some amazing board games I have as well…

And this, this right here, is why all my worries are just plain silly.

I know what I need to do. I know what I am doing, and gosh darn-it, it’s enough.

I am enough.

I know this won’t be the last time I struggle with these thoughts. I know too it’s just not my perfectionist at the wheel here. Self-esteem is playing a huge roll, in my comfort to stand up and say, “No. I am going to walk this other path and I’m going to be comfortable doing it.”

The comfortable part is one I’m still working on and I plan on diving down into what this means for me, in how it’s manifested out of my own childhood and experiences. Journaling and really delving into what’s causing these different negative voices and anxiety.

Let me tell you, this self-exploration thing is a never-ending journey and it feels like every time I clean up one wire and one connection under my hood, I find a half-dozen more that need fixing. And, I’m okay with that. I like this feeling, this feeling of moving forward. Of learning about myself and why I tick the way I do.

As long as I try to balance my needs and dreams, of being a writer and an entrepreneur, with being a parent, I’ll be struggling with these thoughts. I doubt they’ll ever leave me… but as I said, I think I’ll get better handling this anxiety, this stress. I feel more confident in my abilities and in what I’m doing.

And also, I know parents who’ve chosen a more normal, mainstream life (meaning school but who are also engaged and supportive in their kids’ lives) also have these same doubts. That they aren’t enough, that they need to do more and more, to give even more of themselves.

I think it’s a normal part of parenting.

Also normal: when you do something different from the mainstream… like homeschooling or being the primary speech partner for your kids or being an entrepreneur —

All those doubts hit you extra hard.

And then you beat them down…

Until the darn things find yet some other way to come at you and try to take you out at the knees…

And you go through the whole process again.

And again.

The truth is, I am doing my best… my best to provide the right kind of learning, the right kind of environment and opportunities for my kids. No way in hell will it ever look perfect or will I ever be perfect. There will always be more I could add to my day, more connection time, more reading time, more social time. In fact, we could swamp our lives with more and yet, still feel like it’s not enough.

And that’s just bullshit.

All I have to do is look at my kids, at their joy and smiles, look back to where we started out journey and where we are now.

Because the truth is, I am enough, just as I am.

 

Self-Care for Parents

 

 

Last week I wrote a pretty open post about the challenges I’ve been living with for the past few months (everything from massive sleep deprivation to potty training), all while fighting this ridiculous inner battle between being “perfect” and what I was actually, physically and emotionally, capable of.

And I realized I wasn’t quite done.

See, while I came to the realization of screw being perfect, there’s still more to the story.

Like how the heck I handled my own self-care when I wasn’t sleeping (and hadn’t been for like five plus months… or to be really honest here… ever since I was pregnant with Eric).

See, I wanted to focus forward. I wanted to improve my life. How I was feeling, my body, my health, all of it, and yet there was only so much I could add to this overwhelming full plate I was living.

You see, my life has, pretty much, been in the hands of my kids. Every waking and sleeping moment was controlled and dictated by them. I had zero say in the quality of my sleep, how long or deep. I didn’t even have a say in the amount (if any) of quiet time my poor introverted self required for me to continue to function as a halfway-decent human being.

Heck, showering by myself? Pooping without someone bursting in and crying or wanting an apple cut up right at that moment?

Yeah. Nope.

Also, I was frustrated with the weight I’d gained from the holidays (and Eric’s birthday, and my birthday, and Sean’s birthday… and, you get the idea). My poor body, with its massive amounts of sleep deprivation that had gone on for months, was pretty much acting like a diabetic so any time I ate sugar or sweets (things that I absolutely love), it would Freak. Out. It had no idea how to handle it, my insulin and hormone levels and all that, just kept going bonkers.

And yep, you guessed it, I couldn’t lose the weight.

I recognized my issue was one of sleep and that yeah, I needed to be eating as healthy as possible these days. But how could I get back on track with my health? My sleep? The only things I had control over were exercising, what I ate and the quality of the food, and my own thoughts.

That’s pretty much it.

Instead of spiraling down in depression and negative thoughts, I asked for help.

I explained to my health coach, Kevin Geary, the situation I was in. And, what was really cool, was he got it. He understood what it meant to be a parent. He understood I couldn’t devote crazy amounts of time and energy in making these super-healthy meals that took you know, like 30 min or more to prep (as if I had that kind of time dedicated just for prepping lunch — HA!). See, Kevin had been living his own life with lack of sleep due to a young child, in trenches himself, so to speak. He didn’t offer me advice that was just plan silly.

Instead, he offered me something that I could well and truly handle.

Here’s what Kevin Geary offered:

Focus more on food deposits than withdrawals (meaning, put in the good, healthy food and eat fewer of the sugary goodness), keep my thoughts positive (which I was already doing), and finally self-care. He asked me to identify three things that were the utmost importance to me, when it came to self-care, and to prioritize them.

This, this right here is the part my last blog was missing. Or not missing per say, but needed adding to.

If you’re living any kind of situation I had been, you need tools to help you through it. Tools to help you survive your situation, your momentary life bump, until things, finally, finally start changing. (This is especially true when you’ve got zero control over what’s even happening to you.)

Here’s what I did:

I came up with my three things that would help me feel whole and happy, each day. I didn’t need to do all three in one day, and some days I did none, but I could recognize those days that had a ton already piled on, and make time in the evening, or definitely the next day. That flexibility really helped.

For me they were: writing (not fiction, since that required a rested, working brain, but writing these blogs), learning (dear Lord do I love to learn, and this could be anywhere from researching history to craft learning for fiction), and finally, play. Play was video games or reading books or watching a favorite TV show.

Before, I had regulated play to: “can only play when your work was done.”

Which, wasn’t necessarily a problem. Unless you’re like me, who has a never-ending to-do list.

I’ve since corrected that line of thinking.

Play is vital to my health and happiness. Some days I’ll play video games first thing in the morning, with my cup of coffee, a kid cuddled up on either side, while they play on their iPads and we’re just hanging out together. Or it’s during Eric’s nap. Or, it’s at the end of the day when they’re both in bed.

Sounds really simple, right?

Totally wasn’t. I mean, if it was you’d think I’d have figured it out before now. But I couldn’t even get to this place until I shifted my way of thinking; that play was important. That play was a part of my own self-care and happiness, and not just this reward for getting through my day or checking off all the boxes on my to-do list.

Kevin’s suggestion worked because it kept things simple.

Three things.

That’s it.

And even me, with my tired, exhausted brain, could still hold those three things. In my head. At once. I didn’t need to look at my list. Or my calendar, to remember. In fact, at any moment during the day I would stop and ask myself: have I done one of my self-care items yet?

Easy to remember.

Easy enough to accomplish.

Most of the time.

But it really worked.

I chucked everything else that I “needed” to do. I focused on my kids and what they needed (like baths — at least every couple a days — you know, stuff like feeding them). Anything that wasn’t essential was put on hold. Trying to do more, even the designated speech play our speech pathologist wanted me to do, I just put it aside. I would get to it.

Once I started sleeping.

And you’re not going to believe this, but I’m starting to. Sleep, I mean. Actual real sleep. It’s actually and truly happening. Anywhere from five hour stretches to gasp! Eight hours.

Okay, eight hours was only once but I definitely don’t want to jinx the upwards progress we’re making here.

If you’re curious (and if you’re living in your own child-induced sleep-deprived-nightmare), two things made it possible. First, we moved Kate and Eric into the same room, and for whatever reason, it was like magic. Magic. They love being together. Apparently, her presence is soothing, even if she’s talking and playing while Eric’s slips into toddler-dream-land. The dim lamp light and the noise machine helped too, I think.

The second big thing is because Eric’s out of our bedroom, and dear mommy isn’t so accessible, Sean can take the first shift if Eric wakes up before midnight. He can get to Eric before he gets to me, and Eric… doesn’t freak out. That’s right. He doesn’t see Mommy, which is like a bull seeing that big-ass waving red flag, so now he’s okay with Sean helping him back to bed.

And me?

Me, I get to sleep.

Wow is it glorious. And as I regain sleep I’m picking up other parts of my life. I’m writing fiction again (first short story of 2017 finished, go me!). Eric’s two-year-tantrums are easier to handle because I can pause and be present with him (compared to wanting to scream and yell right back). I’ve added our speech play back to the list, which I really just call ‘connection.’ Times where I focus and play with my kids. It could be a short game of tickles and running into my arms, or sitting down and doing a puzzle or a board game with Kate.

Bit by bit, I’m adding more back in.

And every day I’m feeling richer and wholer.

I’m still far from being perfect, and I have zero desire to be that perfect parent. No thanks. I like living in happiness, where some days my dishes sit until the end of the day before I get to them. If it means I’ve given myself some “me” time or connection time with my kids, I’ll take it.

Besides, it’s not like the ants have discovered the house.

Yet, anyway.

The more I move forward, bit by bit, day by day, just doing what I can… life is actually improving. We’re coming up for air again and things are coming together. Eric and his potty training has had some big successes this past weekend. He actually went up to Sean and tugged on his leg, before Sean put him on the potty and he actually pooped. I know, some of you probably can’t understand the big deal, but for some reason, with these late-talkers (at least mine, anyway), this bridge… of needing to go and communicating this need… it’s huge. Huge. It’s a super big step for them, one that just takes longer for the pieces to click together.

Well, the pieces are clicking. It just took our own (and really, mine) stubbornness and patience, but hey, we’re getting there.

Progress.

That’s what matters.

So if you find yourself stuck in the crazy intense times with young kids (or… older ones for that matter, you’re just not going to have the poop issues I have), start prioritizing your self-care.

What can you do to take care of yourself?

And make it a priority.

Fit it in.

Somehow.

Some way.

We’ve got to start taking care of ourselves if we want to remain present and patient as parents. Not only that, but it’s an amazing lesson to teach our children, that taking care of our own selves is important.

For me, I’m able to really enjoy life and being a parent again. I’m able to take deeper pleasure and just plain joy in my kids, seeing their smiles, hearing the new words and phrases Kate is putting together every day with these amazing leaps and bounds. And I’m seeing my little Eric grow as his language comprehension starts expanding.

And sometimes, often, it’s just sitting on the couch, with Kate tucked against my one side and Eric sprawled completely on my lap, and just… enjoying them.

Enjoying this moment.

Every day, as parents, we do our best with what resources we have. Let’s remember that,  let’s forgive ourselves for not being perfect but doing our best anyway, and instead, let’s just focus on the joy.

No Such Thing as “Perfect”

 

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably clued in that I’m not sleeping much these days (read: At ALL). And yet… life doesn’t stop because my day, technically, started at 3:30 in the morning. The laundry still needs to get done. Food chopped, prepared, and cooked because we all know feeding our kids (and ourselves) real food is key to being healthy and just plain feeling good. Oh, and let’s not forget the endless wave of dishes.

You know, all that normal stuff that comes from living with kids.

So too comes the normal stuff when potty training a two-year-old… I’ll just let your imagination fill you in on that one.

But on top of all that parenting stuff, all the normal pieces that come with having kids, if you’re like me and have got a late-talker (or two), you’ve got even more on your plate. You might be organizing and driving them to speech therapy appointments, or maybe you’ve decided to just take on the speech work and play yourself because it’s what works for your family.

That’s right. You. The person who both kids aren’t letting sleep.

And yet, moments when Eric does actually take a nap, instead of sitting down and playing My Little Ponies with Kate, a game that, if it were up to her, would go on for hours, I’m pulling out a book. Or playing video games. Or working on a online writing workshop.

I’m choosing, in those quiet moments, to focus on my own self-care. To fill my own cup so I can get through the rest of the day, evening, and chances are, probably well into the next day (or two) before I get another peaceful moment of downtime.

I’m choosing to take care of me.

And I’m feeling pretty darn guilty about it.

Correction: I’m feeling imperfect. Because there is so much more I can and should be doing.

Should… right?

I should be focusing more on Kate when I have those quiet moments. Playing with her and connecting, doing the one-on-one time our speech pathologist wants us to do, activities that are ones of my choosing rather than Kate’s.

Wow. Such a loaded statement for me — and a lot of negativity hiding behind some reasonable sounding words.

Absolutely I should be having one-on-one time with Kate, but not for speech therapy work. Instead, they should be so we can connect. The more we connect the easier the rest of our day goes. Her cup is filled. She’s feeling my love, so when I do ask things of her, she’s more willing to listen and follow along. So yes, that is important.

But… she also needs me to not be a raging banshee and these days, that’s getting really really hard. Massive sleep deprivation with maybe a teensy little end in sight (maybe?). Also, a little boy who only wants mommy and will scream, nonstop, until his needs are met by me (this includes all hours of the day). And here I am, working as hard as I can to keep my steam from flooding out my ears, to remain compassionate and empathetic. To not immediately jump into fight or flight mode but to stay present and connected.

To do all that, that means I need to take care of me.

Just like the flight attendants tell me every time I board a plane: I need to put my own mask on first.

And yet… it’s still hard.

See, I’ve got this little voice in my head and it’s constantly whispering and nattering, pointing out all the things I’m not doing and how things would be so much better if I were. I’ve got a list of activities and goals our speech pathologist wants me to work on with both kids and yet here I am, barely getting through the day as it is. Even when I told her what we were going through (potty training and zero sleeping) her reply was for me to get help.

And the comment just made me madder.

Are you kidding? Seriously?? Going through the system, whether school or insurance, to get my kids seen by a possibly halfway-decent speech therapist who understands the difference between a speech disorder and a language disorder and how to help her. And we won’t even talk about the emotional fallout that me and the kids would go through as I fight for them, fight for others to understand who they are and their unique differences? All for the effort of getting in actual, routine speech work time?

Sorry. No.

That math there, not to mention the time while at a facility and driving there, certainly not the emotional piece, is worth it.

How about I trust, to try and do my best at home, and trust in my kids? That they understand what I’m going through and that I still love them?

That the little bits we get in… like with Eric at the park, snuggling on my lap. How I started kiss-tickling him and he started laughing. I would stop and he would look at me, right in my eyes as if to say: I want more!! To which I said, “more,” and kept on going.

Until I stopped and waited for him to look at me again.

Do you know what that was?

That was living. Living a life, connecting with my son, while at the same time practicing the speech techniques I’d learned from our speech pathologist. Is it not better to have these little tiny moments, dozens and dozens throughout the day, compared to some arbitrary time that goes for another arbitrary amount of time?

In a way, it’s silly (for me, personally). Because except for a brief period, I was never strict with the routine speech time with Kate. It just… it just fell away from our day because it felt too much like work. And what I wanted to do with her, instead, was play.

Play.

And not only is my worrying, my fears of not being perfect, silly because I’m clearly not doing so bad. I mean, I have walking, talking proof here that I’ve got this. Yeah, I still need support, yeah, I’m still learning with each new stage of the game, and that’s why I’m getting support from someone who truly understands my kids and late-talkers. And yet… I’m still the one who understands *my* kids the best and what I know, what I truly, truly believe is we’ve got this.

Heck, the other day, I about fell onto the floor (thankfully, I was sitting on the floor to begin with) when Kate looked at me and said a full sentence in front of her grandma.

I didn’t fully understand what she’d said, so I told her I didn’t, and asked her to say it again. She did. She trusted her words enough to repeat them, even clearer this time, and then she did it in front of another adult.

“May I have the iPad now?”

Again, just picture my jaw smacking into our play-doh crusted carpet. And you better believe, I told her yes.

For starters, did you just see that sentence??? And second, we don’t “teach” our kids manners. I mean, with our language delayed kids, we don’t tell them, to say “please” or “thank you.” Those are meaningless words to kids who rely heavily on visualization. For example, the word “apple” has a clear picture to it, right? But “please?” Not so much. So, we never bothered with manners… except… that’s not fully true. We model it in our own interactions. Constantly. When Kate tells me she went potty (by saying “poo poo”) and then we go and I help her wipe, I always say, “thank you” (I mean, she did go in the potty and then came and got me for help, which is certainly what I want so you’d better believe I’m telling her thanks!). Or when she actually does put her used bowl in the sink, I always show my gratitude (I get real tired real quick picking up 20 barely used bowls off the floor).

But the word “may?”

Wow. That one surprised the heck out of me. Tells me right there too that I’m not doing halfway bad with this manners thing because clearly she’s getting it.

And yet… here I am still facing these moments of feeling like I’m a terrible mom.

Because I’m not perfect.

The other day, Sean and I were sitting on the couch while Eric was actually napping and Kate was quietly content with the iPad. I told him that part of me felt like I’m a terrible mom because she’s on it so much these days, because I don’t use these quiet moments to be with her, to connect with her, to play a board game and teach her further things like turn taking (and like our speech pathologist wants her, to do something I want her to do rather than always her).

And then I told him, as soon as I let those feelings become words, that I’m not a terrible mom, the other half that I knew was even more true:

That I truly, truly need this quiet time.

I’m not perfect.

There will always be something more I can be doing. Something I want to be doing. You’ll notice I haven’t talked about my fiction writing or my publishing at all… even though I desperately want to get started on both, I know I can’t. At least, not until I start sleeping.

And it’s extra hard too to hear from someone else, this speech pathologist and professional we trust, someone who was a mom a long time ago and clearly remembers this stage, tell me that I should just get help.

As if it’s that easy.

Well, it’s not.

Even Sean commented, with Eric, he doesn’t want anyone else’s help. He wants me right now and he’s pretty darn vocal about it.

Now, this isn’t to say her advice was all bad. We’ve been asking for more help from the grandmas, and on days were I’ve gotten almost zero sleep, have asked the uncle and aunt for help. I even had a friend and her kids come over to play with Kate so I could rest. And I’m setting up help with our mother’s helper again.

So, we’re trying.

But… let’s also be realistic here.

When you’ve late-talkers, chances are you’ve got some pretty opinionated and stubborn little kids on your hands. Whatever you decide, how to be help or not, it’s not going to be some simple or quick fix.

And really, let’s just be honest here.

Parenting is hard work.

Parenting late-talkers is even harder.

And parenting is also about seasons. There are times when life is good and fun and maybe a tiny(?) bit easy. And then there are times like I’m living through right now when surviving the day is the goal. When getting to bedtime without losing my shit (ok… at least not too much) is considered success.

And I truly believe whatever the right answer is, it’ll be different for you than it is for me. And my answer right at this moment will be different now than it will be later or even tomorrow.

But let’s just be kinder to ourselves.

Parenting isn’t for the faint of heart, both for the amount of all-consuming love we feel, and those moments when, really, the last thing we want to be is a parent.

And you know what? Doing my best, doing what feels right, every day, every moment, and somehow… the words still came for Kate. Even being my, often times, inadequate and imperfect self, the words still came. And they’re coming even more, day after day, from asking, “Can I have chocolate now?” to “May I have the iPad now?”

We don’t need to be perfect. Our kids don’t need us to be perfect.

All they need us to do is try, and try again, every day. And to love them.

That, I think I can do, my imperfections and all.

Saying No, Doesn’t Mean It’s Forever

 

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I’m right now in the midst of battling my way back to fiction writing and I say battle because that’s what it feels like. Writing is fun, or at least, it’s supposed to be fun, but tearing my conscious thoughts, my constant conscious awareness from motherhood and back into storytelling… that is my battle. It’s like, there’s this switch in my brain that has to go to ‘off’ before I can start saying hello to my characters, before my creative voice can poke it’s head and say, “Oh, hey, the story’s over this way… boy, wouldn’t it be fun if we did that.”

And then, like a dog, I run after and chase that squirrel.

But here’s the problem. The only way I can get to my creative voice, the only way I can get to all the stories that are bubbling inside me, stories that really, really want to come out… I need to feel safe.

Or, I should say, my children need to be safe.

Wait, what??

I know. That sounded confusing, but hear me out. And right here, I’m going to say I am truly envious of all the dad writers. Truly. Now, I usually try to write these blog posts as mother-father neutral, because really, parenthood is just hard and wonderful and you never get a break until your tiny bundle of joy turns six (and even then it changes into a different kind of ‘hard’). However, I’ve realized there’s this difference in our brains, from mothers and fathers, when it comes to our children. How easy it is for dads to tune out the noise and cries (and if tune out isn’t the right word, they can definitely tune down). I’m not at all saying this is a bad thing, in fact, I’m positive it was an evolutionary necessity that when a baby cries, all mothers become hyper aware and hyper focused.

It’s important to keep our little ones alive, after all.

What it’s not so helpful is when I’m trying to get down deep and to lose myself in a story. I can’t do that when my children need me. Or when I hear Kate opening the fridge door from two rooms away. Or when Eric gives this frustrated whine-cry as he attempts to climb onto a chair (which he can do just fine, just not as fast as he wants).

You better believe that my brain considers this as: Emergency!!

It’s like there’s this wall between me and my stories, and it’s the part of me that’s the mother. And if I’m being really honest here, it’s hard not to feel frustrated at times. Sometimes I am. Sometimes it’s okay I can shrug off those feelings. But I want to write. I need to write. When I do I’m a better person, I’m a better mother (patient, understanding, kinder… all because I’m taking the time to fill up my own cup, all because I’m taking care of myself). It’s harder too because I’ve realized I’ve been in this pseudo-writing state for five years (including my pregnancy with Kate). I also have gotten a true decent night’s sleep (or at least a week’s worth) in over five years.

All that takes it’s toll, especially on the part of you that’s a storyteller.

There are times when I get back into the writing, I’ve battled my way back to the stories, have convinced my creative voice, “Hey! It’s okay. It’s safe, you can come out and play.” Only to then have another life event disrupt the process and I feel like I’m smack-dab at square one again.

It’s hard not to feel frustrated. It’s hard to remember that yes, this is such a short time in your life, that your writing is forever and these young years of our kids are not (and please, truly, stop reminding me random people who I meet at Lowes or Costco or farmers market… I know these years are short. I also know I haven’t slept four hours in a row in at least two years and I’m doing my best here).

And that’s why I mean it’s a battle.

One day, it’s all good and I’m accepting and okay with where we’re at. Other days I have this deep, deep ache in me to do more, to tell bigger and deeper stories that I had to stop mid-series because my brain and all my focus were on my two children. I always come back to the same feeling though: acceptance.

Even if that acceptance isn’t always easy.

I just sent off an email to Dean Wesley Smith to pull my reservation for the amazing Anthology Workshop they host every year on the Oregon Coast. I’d known it was a gamble when I signed up. I knew it would be hard to write seven stories in seven weeks. I knew that, even taking my children with me, my being off and in the workshop all day, for seven days, would be brutal on them. But… I missed it. The writing. The company of other professional writers (although, it’s a double-edged sword because I would love to put all my effort and focus into writing as many of them can). But most of all, I wanted to try, I wanted to see that maybe this year, I could go back.

And, ultimately, I couldn’t.

Believe it or not, the writing deadlines weren’t the issue. I knew I could make the hour I needed to write, every day, happen. I might have needed my mother’s helper more, I might have needed to call in favors of grandparents and dear friends, but I could do it. I had control over that after all, just like I have control of when I go to bed and when I wake up (sneaking in the writing before my little ones wake up and need to be fed and loved and changed). But what I couldn’t control was the actual quality of my sleep.

Or when Eric decides his second set of molars should start. And end.

(Yeah… the timing of the workshop timed perfectly with Eric getting his molars in. And teething, especially molars, usually means that I don’t sleep. Like, at all.)

So, sleep was a huge concern.

Also, Eric being away from me all day and being okay with it was a huge, huge concern. Now, I took Kate to this workshop when she was 17 months old and she was totally fine hanging out with Daddy. Totally fine. Eric is a different kid. He would not be fine. So I needed to ask myself, would Eric be okay? He would be only be two. Just barely two years.

I realized that no, he wouldn’t.

So, I could either battle my way through the workshops, fighting this pull of wanting to connect and help my children through a week-long workshop, with my coming and going, and Grandma watching them… or I could give next year a try.

I decided to wait.

It was a decision I’d been thinking about for a few months now, and it was just going to a local homeschool conference and how difficult it was with both kids, that sealed my decision. I needed to wait. I need to wait until Eric’s a little it older, maybe three, maybe four, before I can go back to the coast and all the other professional writers there. I need to be able to separate myself, at least partly, from the needs of motherhood, to say, “It’s okay. They’re safe.”

And to have it be true.

That will come with time. I know it, though it’s not always easy to accept. Saying no now, doesn’t mean it’s forever. It just means until Eric has been potty trained, until he’s comfortable and safe enough with himself, and independent enough and ready to be away from me. And Kate too. The older she gets, the more language she understands, the more words she has. And the more trust she has with the people watching her (which isn’t something to be taken lightly, especially for my little girl).

And it doesn’t mean that I can’t do my own learning. It just means that I need to focus on online workshops right now. Ones that can go with the flow of motherhood where if I don’t sleep one night I can’t do the assignment or the reading the next day, it’s okay. I can adjust. Because I have the leeway, I have the time, to do that.

So maybe it’s not really a battle. Maybe what this is, is actually a river. Sometimes it’s moving fast, sometimes it’s moving slow. Sometimes there’s rapids and everything feels like it’s going wrong or crashing all around me, and other times it’s calm and tranquil and it feels like I can take on the world. But there’s definitely a flow. There’s a flow to our energy, mine and the kids, and what we can each handle in our lives. That flow is a bit off right now because the kids are hitting developmental milestones. Kate and Eric are at the stage where one wants to play with the other, and the other doesn’t, so resorts to shoving. Then there’s crying. Then there’s trying to take the toy away from the other.

I need to figure out this new flow, this new stage in our lives as a family, the outings we go on and identifying when it becomes too much (homeschooling for us means there’s so many choices and friends, from spending the day at Disneyland to going to the tide pools where I slipped off a wobbly rock and somehow managed to save the phone and Eric but not more poor knees )… but through all that, through all the speech play I put in with Kate, my writing it still there.

My stories are coming back, even if really, really slowly. But it’ll get there. I know it will.

My writing, my storytelling, will keep getting easier. My creative voice will learn that when I sit down to write it means that we’re safe, that the children are safe, and we can turn off that part of ourselves long enough to go deep, to find the characters and see where they take us. Because it’s time again.

(Although, as I’ve taken the two minutes from writing this blog to throw another load of laundry in, I heard the distinct squeak as Eric climbed (successfully) onto my chair and reaches for the laptop. Apparently, the time to write is not at this exact moment. But thankfully, he takes huge naps and Kate likes playing video games. I’ll get my quiet and my writing in. I’m getting to be a master at finding all these stolen bits of time.)

So, for me, it’s time to write again. It may not always be easy, and I may have to keep working and trying at stories until finally my creative voice gives up and says, “Okay, fine. Here’s the story. This is where you want to go.”

(I also need to be okay tossing out all those extra words… and all those hours I’d put in that now got smacked out of the way by the ‘delete’ key. And it’s not easy, but I do it. All those extra words were not wasted – never wasted. They convinced my creative voice it was safe. They brought me to the real story and when I feel it, I feel it. And that, this almost pulsing excitement, feels really, really good.)

So, it’s time. Time to have fun. Time to see where these stories take me… as both a writer and a mother, and I really, really can’t wait to get started.

Tired, Tired Wonder Women: A Mother’s Day Post

So, I had totally planned to write about the super-awesome euphoria of finishing my first short story since Eric was born. Then, I planned to blog about rolling with life’s (and the kids’) punches. Then, there was this incident with Kate sitting on the counter, sitting on my very new and shiny laptop, and a spilled bottle of hot pink nail polish….

And then the life of a parent hit and I’m only now just sitting down to write.

Write, anything at all, actually.

Honestly, “Anything at all,” is pretty impressive right now.

I’m hitting my Day 12 (or 13?) of no breaks. No quiet where it’s just me and my thoughts and a very much needed downtime. Instead, it’s been constant, around-the-clock care and company of my kids.

There’s been tears, and a lot of it. Mostly mine, which is an act of God. Truly.

See, last weekend my husband headed up to Seattle to visit friends. Which was fine. I mean, we both planned it, both agreed it was a good time seeing as how we’d arranged help for me taking care of the kids….

But then the planned-for help fell through. So I scrambled and begged family to stay with me (which thankfully worked).

But then Eric started cutting his first two teeth. (Yes. I said two.)

But then Kate did something….

Okay. I honestly can’t remember what it was; my brain is fried & mushy at the same time, but I clearly remember walking around like a zombie, with barely any sleep, and a toddler who was on the rampage for testing my patience and whatever calm I had left in Every Way Possible.

Oh.

And then my husband saw the Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Without me.

I want to see that movie… except to make it happen I’ve got to do it after Eric’s asleep (and not needing to eat), which means I’m staying up way past my bedtime (which is 8:30 because the kids wake me up at o-freakin-early-whenever-they-feel-like-it).

With the writing, I had plans to keep moving forward on the second short story. Get in my 30 minutes a day and inch forward to whatever ending that story takes me towards.

That soooo didn’t happen this week.

This. This right here is the life of a parent-writer.

It might be different for you. Heck, it probably is. You probably didn’t have to scrub hot-pink nail polish off your kid (or the spots that got on your new, shiny laptop), but maybe you’ve scrubbed off the paint you use on your board game miniatures instead.

Every day during this almost straight, two-week child care, I’d look at my state of being, my threshold for patience, my exhaustion, and I’d shake my head.

No writing today.

I knew what I was capable of and I knew if I tried to sit down and carve out some time to play with my stories and I was interrupted… I’d lose my shit. Which isn’t cool. And it’s not what I want for either my writing or the kids.

So, I accepted what life’s dealt me at the moment and moved on.

Plus, that ‘moving on’ has finally brought me to this post I’m writing now. I also took a short trip to Disneyland to pick up a sketch from Off the Page (a Mother’s Day gift from the husband), which I did by myself. With two super small children. For the first time ever. Yep. I’m awesome.

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Not to mention getting my favorite ice cream sundae from Downtown Disney.

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Shared, of course, because I’m a mom.

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The fiction probably won’t happen today, but I’m feeling calmer. More relaxed. The craziness is finally moving away and I can finally, finally get back to storytelling. In fact, I’m looking at my calendar, and the next few days, to see when’s a good time to start up again. When I don’t have the craziness or the appointments, when I can calmly put back in those very precious 30 minutes….

Heck, Mother’s Day sounds like a good time to start.

(Sorry dads, this bit is about moms, and seeing as how it’s my ‘Mother’s Day’ post I figured I could get away with it.)

There’s this funky (and Needed) part of a mom’s brain that never turns off – can’t turn off – when it comes to our kids.

And this part of our brain? It’s clicked on.

24/7.

House stuff. Kid stuff. That giganto, never-ending to-do-list stuff.

I can’t shove it aside. Can’t compartmentalize it so I can get  back to writing, or even reading the barely-started book by a favorite author.

I can’t get lost in that story.

I can’t get lost in telling my own.

The ‘Mom Switch’ is on, full-boar, and it’s only now starting to lower down so I can breathe again. Recharge.

I’ve come to accept this is part of the process, of being a parent, especially a mom, and a writer. It’s hard to get through. Tears and breakdowns are often involved (some days more than others). But I’ve built an amazing support network to help me through those times. Like talking it out with my husband. Calling up friends and leaving tearful voicemails (because they can’t answer as they’re also up to their eyeballs in kids). And my very dear friend, Allyson Longueira (the fantastic publisher at WMG Publishing), who recently reminded me that it’s okay to feel the way I’m feeling.

Okay to be frustrated, resentful, tired. Also okay to be happy and joyful.

All those feelings are valid, and frankly, they’re all part of the parenting business.

In the words of Allyson, “We’re freaking awesome! We’re wonder women. Tired, tired wonder women.”

And she’s right.

So with that said, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.

We have the hardest job in the world, especially when we try so hard to do it right, especially when we try to keep learning how to do it right… or maybe not ‘right,’ but the best we can in the moment we’re living.

BUT

We also have the best job in the world.

Best. Job. Ever.

Give yourself a big hug. We deserve it.