Parenting

I Often Worry

I often worry. No surprise there to anyone who knows me. I worry about all sorts of things, as all people do. I fall into the category of people, though, who worry too much. Way too much. I know this about myself. I try to deal with it.

I know that parents always worry how well a job they are doing raising their children. They worry if they are screwing their kids up somehow. After all, parents have pretty vivid images of how their own parents raised them and it most definitely affects the kind of parent that they want to be. But, often, there is a huge gap between the parent you want to be and the parent you actually are. And that is, of course, because no two people are ever exactly the same; no two children, no two adults, no two families. That whole “Life is a box of chocolates” thing.  The wishing that kids came with individual instruction manuals thing. Hell, the wish that you had come with an instruction manual!

This piece touched me just now because I often worry as well. I think my husband does too. I wonder how my children are going to remember me, my husband, us.  I wonder how our depression will affect them; has affected them. Because it’s certainly affected everything that he and I have done and do. (Damn you, Depression!!)

I’m curious and anxious about what things look like to them, how things feel to them. Very anxious. Very worried.

Anyway, I enjoyed this piece by Lisa Lim about how things seemed to her.

My Mother Would Walk Miles Upon Miles

By Lisa Lim on Mutha Magazine

“I’d ask, “Mommy, why don’t you have any wrinkles?” “Because I don’t think that hard about things,” she’d answer.” Memories of a mother — and her struggles with homelessness, depression, and varicose veins — in comic form.

via My Mother Would Walk Miles Upon Miles — Discover

The Time Has Come

Oh, dear God, my daughter has cleavage….  

She’s only in the sixth grade!

No, no, no, no, no! This cannot be happening!! This is not possible!!

Oh, wait….. I forgot…. It is possible. It has happened before and it happened to me.

I was just hoping that my daughter could evade it a little while longer.

It happened to my mother, her Oma. It seems to be one of those genetic things.

(God knows I tried to keep it at bay with only organic, non-hormone laden, milk and eggs in the house. Maybe I wasn’t so diligent with the cheese? The yogurt? She prefers the Yoplait. Maybe that’s what did it?? We don’t eat meat, so that’s ruled out. I wring my hands.)

No, it’s definitely genetic. She’s inherited it now at the tender age of 12, same as myself:  The genetic history of having people assuming you are older than you are at a young age; of being on the receiving end of hurtful, misunderstood, jealousy, even from those you consider good friends; of people forgetting that you have a face and a personality; of people suddenly seeming to believe you are deaf and blind; of some thinking that your IQ has suddenly been sucked out of your brain in order to accommodate the blood flow to your new extremities;  of becoming horribly, uncomfortably, aware that your body now seems to have an effect – a most unwanted, unprepared for – effect on other people. Adults’ eyes widen and all males’ eyes descend involuntarily. Even your friends start making remarks. Clearly, they are uncomfortable, taken by surprise, with the emerging you. Just as you are. Clearly, they notice you – at an age that you really don’t like being noticed. Especially if you tend to be on the shy side.

You have to become more careful with what you wear and how you move. You need to develop a thicker skin and a warier mind. Hard things to do when you still consider yourself just a kid. When you are, in fact, just a kid.

All of this burst into vivid clarity for me yesterday as we were attending a school event her little brother was involved in.  My friend, whose son is my son’s best friend and on his team, greeted my daughter and myself with, “Look how tall she’s gotten! I hardly recognized her – she’s grown so much!!”. “Grown so much” obviously code, I realized, for, “Oh, geez, she has boobs!” when my friend discreetly turned wide, sympathetic, eyes to me and slowly mouthed “WOW”.  Her oldest, high-school-age son, a really good kid, as all her boys are, didn’t notice me catching his eyes being pulled to her chest as she sat on the ground in front of him. I glanced downward to see what he was nervously, fleetingly, looking at with suddenly flushed cheeks. 

Oh, heaven help me! The cleavage!! Distinct, unavoidable, cleavage. Cleavage that, unbeknownst to her, and somehow invisible until that moment to myself, was declaring itself like a debutante at a cotillion to which the general public was invited.

How I longed to be able to get her to sit up straighter, off the ground, in a chair against the wall, how I wished it would have been cold enough to have offered her a jacket to zip up to the neck. I knew that if I called attention to it, the effect it would have on her: Complete mortification. Tears.

 I need to find a way to talk to her about this without eroding any confidence, any innocence, she has. Were she in high school I think this would be somewhat easier, but she just started middle school. She’s still more concerned with cute things like otters and puppies, with colored pencils and candy, with funny movies, braiding her hair, and getting good grades. She hates attention, even falsely-perceived attention. She’s pretty damn paranoid about attention, frankly. There’s those genes again.

How am I going to talk to her about making sure she’s covered up, about why that shirt is maybe a little too tight even though it feels comfortable, about why that neckline isn’t the best for her, about not accepting any boy’s random request to bend down and pick up a pencil for him, and also, about not agreeing to any jumping jack contests with anyone, especially when you are not in the gym but rather, the school cafeteria….About why the hell she has to start considering, now, at twelve, the lurking, insulting, scary, uncomfortable, unwanted, things that other people may be thinking without leaving her with a sense of shame about her body? Without leaving her with a hatred for her body? Without instilling a crippling sense of self that is incorrectly, unjustly, bound to her body?

How do I do that? Because it’s time….

You Can Lead A Groundhog to Water

I know, the saying is, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”, but it’s probably even harder to lead a groundhog.

That’s how I feel with my son every morning. And night. And sometimes in the afternoon. He is 9 years old now and he has ADHD.

That movie with Bill Murray, “Groundhog Day”, probably illustrates the way many parents of kids with ADHD feel. Every day is Groundhog Day. Every day you go through the same routine with the same script and the same struggle and every day you try to change something to break out of that infinite sense of deja vu. 

This morning was no different than yesterday morning. He stayed up too late last night. He was in bed at a reasonable hour, but couldn’t, or wouldn’t, fall asleep. Therefore, he had a hard time waking up. Despite this, he did get out of bed with time to get ready, but getting ready is a huge water trough and he wasn’t the slightest bit thirsty. I managed some sort of game that resulted in his being dressed with enough time to get breakfast and brush his teeth, but that’s where it fell apart, just like the day before, and many countless days before that.  He wanted to watch TV. I let him watch a little, but it’s never enough. I turn it off and the wild rumpus starts. I’ve tried not letting him watch TV in the morning, but the wild rumpus still occurs, only worse. In any scenario, it always comes down to those last five crucial minutes that it takes for him to brush his teeth. I won’t go on about it. Suffice to say, we are tardy almost every single day.

I’m not looking for any advice here. Please don’t try to give any. The thing with advice is that it all sounds very reasonable and very sensible and very promising – I’ve done a lot of reading and heard out a lot of friends and actually have a family therapist – but putting it into practice is a whole other animal. (Ahem. Especially when you, yourself, have your own issues to contend with).  Sure, I can set up charts on the wall, set up routines, set up a reward program, etc. etc. but if my kid won’t participate, or if he tires after a day or two of participation and quits, then what? Force him? How? Manhandle him to the ground and dress him myself? Wrestle him to the floor and brush his teeth for him? Stick a pencil in his hand, hold his little fist, force it to the paper and guide his writing? (Something my own mother, in total desperation I now know, tried to do with me – in high school no less – before breaking down into tears, which I had never seen her do before. Let’s just say, that’s not the way to go). Threaten him with a beating? Aggression and punishment only lead to a laser-focus on resentment and unjustness and anger on the part of the punished (I should know).  It does nothing for motivation (because true motivation always needs to come from within); it does nothing for a willingness to cooperate (again, true willingness comes from the same place as true motivation); aggression and punishment do nothing to foster self-reflection.

I haven’t given up on the quite sensible, reasonable, humane, advice I’ve read or been told. I know that consistency is the key. I know that we need to stick with it. 

We just all need to be thirsty at the same time.