The Roller Coaster of a Future Mountain Mover.

“Write hard & clear about what hurts.” -Ernest Hemingway

And this is where I am, after this week. I’m not feeling very funny. I’m feeling tired, physically, mentally, and emotionally. So hold on, because this is what hurts right now.

If you’ve ever met my son (or simply read my personal Facebook page) you know he is a force to be reckoned with. He is larger than life. He can entertain a room with ease. He is fueled by the laughter of a crowd. He can befriend just about anyone, anywhere. We walked into a waiting room just the other day and while I was checking in, 10 seconds after we arrived, I overheard him chatting up the other kid in the waiting room. He just plopped himself down next to this kid’s chair and started talking. He is an absolute delight to watch in action.

Except when he’s not.

Because sometimes he’s really, REALLY not. This week we had a lot of the not. He was “that kid” several times this week. And I know, he’s 4. Four year olds just suck sometimes. But with his big personality and big self come big emotions with huge highs and deep lows. And when things explode, it takes everything from deep within to hang on through them. As I told my husband this evening, “It’s like being on a roller coaster with him.”

And sometimes I just want off. Just briefly. Just long enough to get my bearings again. To find right side up again. But there are times (like this past week) where the ride just never seems to stop. We just go, and we go, and we go. We crank slowly up hills, where I can feel the drop coming ahead, but I feel powerless to stop it, and I know he does too. And then we slam down towards the ground, at a neck breaking speed, usually screaming the whole way down. Then, in between the hills and the drops, we have these utterly beautiful moments where it is all mind numbingly fun and I know I’ve got a ridiculous smile plastered on my face and I remember why I really do love this ride.

He and my daughter couldn’t be more opposite. Where he is big and loud and boisterous, she is quiet and thoughtful and more delicate with her actions and words. My daughter amazes me frequently with just how soft and truly sweet she is. My son can be sweet too, but it’s always in a much more “in your face” way, often catching you off guard, just like everything he does. These are the plateaus on the ride, the parts that are just fun, the parts that don’t feel like they’re going to break me. The parts where I don’t want to scream from frustration with him. A friend of mine asked me a few months ago, “Do you find yourself getting more frustrated with the kid who is more like you?” And I do. He is so much like me. While on one hand that means I more easily understand him, on the other, I also know where the roller coaster has derailed for me. He’s getting to the point now where he can voice his frustration with himself sometimes, which stings me in a deep way, since I’ve had such similar thoughts about my own personality and mind. I think any parent simply wants their child to be more, have more, and struggle less than they themselves did. And that’s why he frustrates me, why he can get under my skin. Because I want him to do big things and be spared the pain of the crashes, even though I know that’s not a practical wish. After all, our biggest opportunities for growth are not in our successes but rather in how we stand up after a fall, and it’s my job to teach him, to show him, what it means to get back up and do it with grace. I have no doubt he will crash over, and over, and over, because that’s just the nature of his personality. He’s a risk taker. He’s Nemo, swimming out towards the boat to “touch the butt”. (I originally wanted to compare him to Simba, but seeing as how Simba’s antics result in the actual death of a parent, perhaps I’ll refrain from that comparison.) He is constantly on the go, on the move, surveying his surroundings, noticing and narrating what seem to the average observer like the most mundane things, because he sees so much in everything.

We were at an event a couple of weeks ago where there were big building blocks at a booth for kids to build whatever they wanted. J immediately dove in and began directing where he wanted everything to go. The lady in charge watched him interacting and finally said about him, “Future CEO over there. He’s going to run his own show.”

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And that’s exactly it. He takes every ounce of my strength some days, and some nights really, and it’s easy to stew in the negatives, the hard stuff, but I have to remind myself that what is incredibly difficult to wrangle in a 4-year-old boy with the energy of the Energizer Bunny will do him favors down the road.

He knows what he wants.

He says what he means.

He knows where he wants to go.

He’s driven by a need for perfection.

He will move mountains. He will make the earth quake. He will do big things. 

And in the meantime, I’m just going to hang on and try to enjoy this ride and remind myself that God and the universe knew what was up when I was given these two small people. My yin and my yang.

Halfway there.

I originally posted this on my personal Facebook page February 20th, 2016. My daughter turned 9 that day. The week of her birthday I had a slow (and awful. It was awful.) realization that we are halfway to my baby being 18 years old and a legal adult. 9 birthdays in, 9 more and she would be an actual, real, legal adult citizen. It was overwhelming, and that’s an understatement.

Anyway, here we have it. 

On this day, 9 years ago, I distinctly recall asking my doctor if we could possibly go home and have a baby another day. I wasn’t ready today, actually. I was 22 years old and knew exactly nothing about what it takes to mother a child. Can’t we just all slow down and take a breather for a bit, do this all another day? Turns out, as you’re being wheeled to the OR for an emergency c-section is not the time to ask for a mulligan. I admitted to my doctor I hadn’t even READ that chapter in my “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” book because I just didn’t think I would need it. At that point I realized what should have been obvious: no one needs that chapter until they need it. I WASN’T READY. But there we were. It was happening, ready or not.

That night, holding my baby in my hospital bed with some ridiculous inflating compression boots on my legs, I suddenly had a terrifying realization that I later confessed to my future husband: they were going to let me leave this building in a few days with this baby. Without anyone stopping me, asking important questions, like ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ I was now in charge of a tiny human. Completely, fully responsible for a life. This little bitty life.EIFH image2-4

Somehow we survived that first year. I could walk the path from my side of the bed to the front door and back with my eyes closed, humming and “shhhh”ing and bouncing each step from weeks 4-8. I mastered the art of giving a tiny squirming baby medicine that tasted like mouthwash. I figured out how to tie a wrap in the dark as well as in a parking lot without letting the ends drag on the pavement. I figured out the right temperature for bath water, and I never let her slip like I was so terrified I would. I figured out how to do homework while feeding and burping a baby. I realized baby socks are stupid. I learned that poop does not abide by any laws of physics, and it CAN go over a baby’s shoulders and this will always happen at the WORST TIMES, and white baby clothing is a cruel joke. I realized you don’t actually want your baby to crawl when you think you do, and watching them take steps at 10 months old is simultaneously incredibly exciting and terrifying. I learned to never challenge the universe when you think the day “just can’t get any worse”, because it will. Someone can always vomit.

Over the years, I have watched that tiny, terrifying, beautiful, squeaky, squishy baby grow into one of the most amazing human beings I have ever had the privilege of knowing. A person who is amazingly kind, with such spunk in her spirit, and just the most beautiful amount of weird and goofy.

What was so hard for me to see on Day One in my panic is so clear now: I am The Luckiest.

I have learned more about myself as a person as I watched my reflection in those tiny blue eyes. I have seen parts of myself I’m not proud of and I’ve been humbled more times than I can count. I have cried tears of every kind; happy, sad, laughing, nervous, angry tears…I’ve cried them all. I have laughed more than I ever thought possible and smiled so much my face hurt. I’ve wanted to freeze time over and over, and yet all at the same time, could not wait for what was yet to come.

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And so here we are. Right smack in the middle. 9. I fiercely miss the days of carrying my girl on my hip, with her head on my shoulder. We’re at a point where it feels a bit unnecessary to reach for her hand to cross a parking lot with me. She hasn’t needed my help to get dressed in years, but I’m no longer making the “Oh, she dresses herself” excuse because she is now capable of putting together outfits that don’t require explanations (usually). Problems that seemed so huge just years ago, like potty training and tying shoes, are laughably minor in comparison to the obstacles I know are coming for my blue eyed baby in the next half. Girls, boys, school, body image, power struggles, learning how to drive a car, learning how to wreck a car, figuring out when to play it safe and when to make that leap.

The whole first half I realize now was about making me into the adult, the mom, the person I was always meant to be. There will never be the right words to make that baby, the one who made me a mama, understand the amazing bit of power she held in her chubby little fingers. But now, there’s more to learn, more to teach, more to hear, more to say, more to do. And I’ll hold her hand as long as she will let me. Ready or not, here we come.

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xoxo
mc

The Softest Hard Stuff

My 4 year old punched me today, in a fit of rage.

Yes, we’re doing Mother’s Day weekend like that round here. It’s our style. Anyway, he had a full out screaming, sobbing, snot-bubble-blowing meltdown over…something. I don’t even know if he knows what he was upset about, truly. But his frustration exploded out of him with a fierceness, as it tends to do with this one.

After we rode the wave of fury and were able to just breathe, I got him into the tub to calm down in a bubble bath, and I knelt down beside it to talk to him.

“Sometimes it’s kinda hard to be a little person, huh?”

“It’s SO HARD. I can’t wait ’til I’m a big person so it’s all easier.”

“Can I tell you a secret? It’s hard for big people sometimes too.”

“But you always make good choices. I don’t.”

“Nope. I make some crummy choices too sometimes. I mean, I don’t haul off and punch people, since the police show up if big people pull that…”

“And then you go to jail with the robbers and the villians.”

“Yes. Right. The bank robbers. Anyway, I don’t always make great choices every day. And half the time I don’t even know if I’m making good choices, because I don’t have anyone here to tell me if I made the right choice.”

He gave me a tiny smile and then apologized for how he’d acted, and it’s in those brief, tiny, soft moments I think maybe I’m really doing something right. Where I feel a little zing in my heart that maybe they’re getting some of this.

No one tells you how hard it will be to have these conversations, these moments. To bite your tongue in the explosions where tiny people wrestle huge emotions and roar out of control. To clench your fists in frustration, grind your teeth with your own rage. (I have noticed there is also a lack of bean spilling about the actual poop involved in parenting, both the amount and the general disregard for laws of physics it seems to have, so I try to warn everyone that there is just really so, so much poop, since apparently no one else is going to warn anyone about that.) But everyone talks about the way a newborn smells, how many little outfits they go through, how you need a wipe warmer, how you don’t really need that wipe warmer, how your heart will explode with that first laugh. They tell you it all goes so fast, and to enjoy every moment.

But y’all…some of this is not enjoyable. It’s hard. It. is. HARD. Physically it’s just ridiculous at times, like trying to carry an infant in a carseat, a toddler, and a 14 lb diaper bag at the same time while crossing a parking lot, or chasing a 2 year old around a park with no fence (which shouldn’t even BE A THING), or the restraint necessary to prevent yourself from going all “Incredible Hulk” on someone in a school carpool line, or functioning on 48 minutes of sleep, or nursing kids with the stomach flu while you’ve got the same problem. But mentally and emotionally it is just an ass-kicking sometimes. The earliest years are spent worrying you’re going to physically break the baby in some way (Can they roll off that? Are they eating enough? Is this fever too high? Can we introduce peanuts?) but as we move on, I’m realizing quickly my fears are going more toward the “Have I ruined this tiny person for life? Did that just ignite a complex in them? Will they tell their future therapist about this moment with their mother?” direction. There is no answer sheet, no hotline to call, no textbook to flip open and look up if you gave the right answer when your 4 year old asked about death, or if you reacted the right way when your 9 year old daughter blushed while talking about a certain boy, or if you’ve told your child they’re “smart/pretty/cute/funny” too many times. I’m just trying to raise kind, courageous, confident people. If they turn out duds, it will be assumed by the general public that I, the mother, screwed up my opportunity, because “didn’t your mother teach you any better?” As a mama, I’m supposed to simultaneously maintain boundaries, rules, and expectations, and also be a soft place for my small people to land when the world is too much.

Hard, yet still soft.

Sums up motherhood, huh? Be tough, but…stay soft. And then the experience itself is so stinkin’ hard…but the moments within it are some of the softest moments that exist in time. The laughs, the hugs, the quiet, the loud, the smiles, the smooches. This mom gig is made up of the softest hard stuff.

To the mamas with one stronger “Mom Arm”, the mamas who hide in the bathroom for just a tiny bit longer for some peace and space, the glowing mamas-to-be who are blissfully unaware of the poop and terrifying preschooler conversations they will one day face, the mamas who can’t hold their baby’s tiny hands here on earth anymore, the mamas who desperately want to BE a mama (or a mama again) and are tired of staring at ovulation strips and negative pregnancy tests, the mamas who are mamas to other women’s babies, the mamas who are both mama and daddy, the mamas who don’t have their mama around anymore to hug on this weekend, and most especially to my own Momma…Happy Mother’s Day. I hope it’s full of the softest hard stuff.

mc

Let’s do this.

For at least the past 5 years I’ve had some version of “write more” on my New Years resolutions list. Actually, it started as “write more” and then it became “get back to writing” and then it moved to “write something”, until finally this past year I didn’t even make resolutions because I was so mad at myself for not even remotely holding myself to it and writing ANYTHING.

So here we are. I’m doing this. I’m kicking myself in the fanny and I’m doing this. I’ve been blessed with a rather humorous life, though I will be the first to admit I have the worst luck. I mean it’s downright comical how ridiculously terrible my luck is sometimes. However, I cope with my terrible luck and the absurd situations I find myself in by laughing at it all. Because at the end of the day, I’m breathing, and that’s a good day, am I right?

My son is 4.5 and around a year ago he developed a habit of reassuring everyone, usually while telling them about something unfortunate he’d just done, “it’s fine. Everything’s fine.” As in, “I colored myself with a green Sharpie, it’s fine. I’m the Hulk. It’s fine.” He was green for 4 days, through 6 baths.

So that’s how we’re rolling through life ’round here. It’s fine. Everything is fine here.

Welcome to the madness.

I’m going to need more Adderall.