Amazing Parents

Sometimes it\’s AMAZING. Sometimes it\’s just A MAZE.

Great Expectations

No. Not the book. Me. My life.

I am sitting here behind this screen…I say “behind” because sometimes it is a shield for me…..thinking of why I am so dysregulated today. Is it the two funerals I’ve had this month? The out of state visitor? Marriage problems? My dirty house? The flu virus? The shedding dogs? Surgery?

Maybe. Maybe it’s all of them….and more.

But I think it’s deeper than all those things that show up on the surface. I think it’s something inside of me that I can’t see or touch, but I can feel it. I think it is pressure of the silent expectations I perceive in my universe, that I have created for myself somehow. That overwhelming feeling of frustration. That no matter how often I put the shoes in the basket, they somehow end up back on the floor. And that my movie I ordered is showing up two days late, and now I have to “reschedule” some quiet time. The need to see stripes on my carpet from the vacuum. And laundry nicely ironed and hung just so. Bathroom towels folded in thirds. It’s all of that.

Great expectations.

And because I am so busy fulfilling all my external “duties”, it is also the frustration that my kids need things that sometimes I just can’t give them. Like a pony. And also like my available arms and loving eye contact. There are times I have to wash the dishes and re-vacuum the carpet and fold the towels into thirds. I have to. Don’t I? Otherwise my neighbors will think I’m trashy and my friends will think I’m disgusting. So the kids need to learn to wait. Don’t they?

Why should I make my own children wait so that I can please my neighbors? Why would I keep friends that are judgmental? I don’t know. It’s confusing.

I mean, what if I just forget about the shoes and the shoe basket and give my kids what they really need instead? I know I would be calmer, more attentive to my children, more satisfied and full of love. But why is that so hard to do?

My personal theory is that I wasn’t taught by my culture that people come before ‘things’. It’s some sort of subconscious pattern I keep repeating over and over and something I am unknowingly passing on to my kids at the end of each day. That the dishes are more important than whatever it is they wanted to show me. That my phone ringing overrides the book I’m reading to them. That strangers get my attention at the door at their beckon knock, but my own children, my own babies, come second to my email and to the show I’m watching, even though it is a rerun and I’ll see this exact same episode 27 more times before I die.

Yet my baby boy will only be three once.

And my daughter will only play this dress-up game this year of her life before she outgrows it.

And my oldest son is leaving the single digit ages in only a few short weeks, never to see the formative years again. Ever.

And here I am pushing them aside to clean the house and answer the phone, to do all the things I feel everyone continues to expect of me. But I’m tired and I can’t continue to do this. It’s not making the house any cleaner. Like I said, the shoes always end back on the floor. And me and the kids aren’t really happier when the shoes are in the basket anyway. It feels shallow. And it is.

At the end of the day, I just want to hold my kids and snuggle. To tell them things I love about each one of them and for them to believe I mean it. I want them to feel safe and heard and important and strong. I want them to look back on these years and realize that maybe the house they grew up in wasn’t always spotless, but by golly, mama listened to them when they talked to her and they laughed together every day. I want them most of all to remember my smile and the sweet tone of my voice when I speak to them.

And not that I was a slave to all the pressure my community puts on me. But that I was stronger than that. That their great expectations did not define who I was….who I am…..who I will always be.

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March 27, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm | 10 Comments

Express yourself

I’ve been writing a lot lately. Maybe not here, but a lot of other places. Recently I told a friend the story of how I met my husband and everything that happened between high school and that moment. It was a really, really, really long story. But I couldn’t help it. As I wrote the words, all these little details came up for me. Things that people had said, smells and sounds that came flooding back. It felt really good to just write it all out like that. I’ve never really done that before.

As I hit the send button on one of those emails, a little part of me panicked. I saw the little google thing across the top say, “Message sent”. And frantically I looked around the keyboard for the delete key! What had I just done? Had I really told somebody all of that? My secrets and my idealizations? Had I really just laid out all the mistakes I’d ever made and how so much of my life is scary for me?

Wow. I guess I did.

But as the days go by and my friend gives me feedback on everything I wrote to her, I begin to feel so relieved. Like so much pressure has been lifted off. It wasn’t that I was hiding something that came out in that story. It wasn’t anything negative like that. But it was raw, unedited. And I had finally put words to all those random memories that I have inside my head.

I was talking to my good friend Nelly today and she was telling me how overwhelmed she feels lately. One thing I asked her was who she’s been talking to about all these events in her life that are happening? She said she tried to talk to her husband, but he just doesn’t seem to get it. She tried to talk to her mom, but her mom was too consumed with her own problems to be any help to Nelly right now. How many times have we each felt this way? That we just need to talk about it or get it out, but that nobody is there to catch the ball?

I suggested to Nelly that she starts a journal. I don’t know that she had ever thought of that before. But there’s something huge about writing it all out. Saying exactly how you feel. Finding the words to all those abstract thoughts. And finally being able to sit back and just say, “yes, there it is.” There’s something satisfying, even healing, in that.

Talking to Nelly further, she told me a little bit about how she grew up. As she reflected on her early years she told me, “I don’t think I was ever encouraged to say how I felt.” I said, “Yes, and how do you feel today about saying how you feel?” She said one word: “selfish”. How sad is that? That my sweet friend Nelly feels badly for just expressing her own feelings. What a disservice her parents have done to her. Thankfully, Nelly is learning not to pass that disservice down to her own children. But instead, she is teaching them that it’s ok to have feelings and it’s ok to tell them to other people, especially to the ones who care about you.

Let’s pray that we all can teach our children that. And also teach it to ourselves.

March 12, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm | 1 Comment