Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A little bit of credit

When I first set out on the whole parenthood journey, there were a lot of people who were significantly less than supportive.  There were people, some very close to me, who said I wouldn't be very good at it.  There were people who said they never "saw me as a mom".  There were people who asked me if I was sure I was cut out for this.  That was hard.  That put a lot of doubt into my head.  It shook my confidence to the point where I actually didn't think I could be a good parent, because no one around me thought I could.  That's the weird thing about people.  When a person has faith in you, it's like you can do anything, but the second you feel like no one is in your corner, everything feels pointless.

Then, after my daughter was born, after I had been told while in labor that I "probably couldn't do it" ("it" being labor and delivery), I found myself in a panic at the idea of being allowed to go home with a baby that I clearly had no business taking care of because even while in the midst of birthing her, people still didn't think I could do it.  I panicked that I'd be sent home to care for her without the help of people who know so much more than I do about babies.  I was afraid to leave the hospital, because I thought that once I was on my own, I'd fulfill everyone's prophecy about me.

That's when something kind of amazing happened.  I did just fine.  I took care of her, kept her alive, seemed to know what she needed and when she needed it.  I got her through sickness, and through GERD, and through teething.  I snuggled her when she cried.  I played with her when she was alert.  I did all of the things that were expected of me, and I did them well.  It took me a long time to bond with her, but once things clicked, that was that.  It all worked.  I proved the naysayers wrong.

Then, we got to the point where my daughter was older, and despite the fact that she was thriving, people wanted to weigh in again on my abilities.  This time it was less about someone thinking I could do the basics of loving her and keeping her alive.  This time the thing that came into question was again about me, and about who I was, and whether I was a good enough example for my daughter.  The question of whether my daughter deserved better was brought up several times by people, and it cut deep every time.  It was so hard to hear that people thought that the person I am was somehow going to damage my daughter because I was going to set a bad example for her.  It was demoralizing to feel like you were finally doing something right in your life just to hear that others thought simply by being yourself, you were going to destroy your kid in some way.  I cried over that.  I cried a lot.  I ugly cried.  It was a weight that sucked all of the oxygen out of a room.

I took a hard look at things after that, though, and realized that those people don't matter.  When I look at my daughter, she is bright, she's funny, she's intelligent, she's well adjusted, she's curious, she's social, she's loving and sweet.  If people think that I didn't have anything to do with any of that based on the example I set for her, then they're dead wrong.  A lot of those qualities are just in her nature, but they continue to grow and flourish due to my encouragement and the example I set for her to continue to be this way.  I set examples for her to solve problems for herself.  I set examples for her on how to interact with the people she loves.  My whole life is an example for my daughter, and so far I haven't done so badly.  So for people to comment on how she deserves a better example really just goes to show that they do not know my daughter at all, and deep down they probably also don't know me.  They don't know that I always put my best foot forward for those that I love, and that I desire nothing more in this world than to see my daughter have a childhood that looks the polar opposite of the one I had.  Those people who wanted to talk about me as a parent haven't actually watched me as a parent.  They've drawn their conclusions based on who I am away from my child, or who they think I am based on social media, and not who I truly am when I raise my daughter.  And honestly, that's their mistake, not mine. 

When I take inventory of how things have gone to this point, and how I've handled this life I've sort of fallen into, and I let a note of conceit fall into my thoughts and opinions, I can allow myself to say I'm a damn good mother.  I don't do everything right, but I certainly have more right than wrong under my belt.  I am not perfect, but my daughter is thriving, happy, and vibrant.  So can anyone ask more than that of a child as young as mine is?  My older daughter is also thriving, challenging herself, living a life that she once couldn't have imagined living.  Her boyfriend recently said that our family is what he uses as an example of what a family should be, and he hopes to have one as great as ours some day.  That's high praise.  Far more valid than the people who have criticized from the outside, since he's basically living at our house and sees every day life.  So, yes, I'm a good mom, and maybe I need to say that out loud more often because it's true.  I'll always make mistakes.  I'll always worry over whether I'm doing the right things.  But on the whole, I'm always working to be the best parent I could possibly be, and anyone who thinks that's not a good enough example well......I guess that's their problem.

Friday, August 26, 2016

It's an ok life

This morning while driving to work I heard a song on the radio from a Broadway show, and the song itself was directly related to the show's subject matter, but every once in a while you hit a cluster of lyrics that you relate to and you think "Well, that's for me today".  Early on in the song, the lyrics were:

And if my life's not perfect,
If I'm anxious, bored, or sad,
Well, today may be less shitty--
With whole chunks of not so bad!

And I wouldn't change a thing about it;
No, I wouldn't want to change a thing.
In a world that's unreliable,
These are rocks on which to cling.
Nothing's great and nothing's new--
But "nothing" has its worth.

I liked these lyrics.  I liked them because it's a reminder that even if things aren't exciting all the time, and even if "nothing" is going on, that's ok.  Life might never be perfect, but there are big chunks of "not so bad" every day that you can be grateful for.  That's nice.  That's comforting.  Because we all have bad days, but when you shake it out as a whole, the entirety of life is a lot of "not so bad".

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Time to reflect

I went on vacation recently, which was nice because I really needed to get away from day to day life and re-center myself.  It's hard to appreciate the day to day a lot of the time, because you get caught up in the million demands of your average life, and often it seems as if the day is over just as soon as you feel like you've gotten your feet under you.  Vacation helps me turn off the noise of every day life.  It takes away those nagging responsibilities like cooking, laundry, dishes, grocery shopping etc. for a little while and just lets me be present in a place and enjoy it.  It's nice, and I need it every now and again.

Stepping away from life gives you space to think.  Space to breathe.  Space to sort yourself out.  This particular trip left me thinking about the last year of my life.  It's odd to think about "this last year" in the middle of August, right?  But, here we are, doing just that.  In many ways, the end of last summer was a precipice my life was teetering on, and when September hit, everything started tumbling in all directions.  My husband quit his job shortly after this time last year, and this year he starts a new one that is exactly what he wants to be doing, and he's excited about the work he's doing for the first time in as long as I can remember.  The journey for him to get from walking out on his job to where he is now was a series of events that all just sort of fell into place to lay this path for him, and while I was terrified of what would become of our lives when he walked away from his steady job, I can see now that it was the thing that had to happen to lead to where we are now, which is a much more positive place for our whole family to be.  While I initially was really angry and worried about how his decision played out, for the first time ever, I did the thing that was entirely out of character for me.  I let go.  I didn't try to control the situation.  I assumed that everything would work out in the end, and I let the chips fall where they needed to fall.  I stopped worrying about the next 10 steps down the road and just thought about the short term steps in front of me, and something miraculous happened.  Everything was ok.  Everything did work out.  Everything happened the way it needed to happen.  And, I learned that sometimes it's ok to let go a little.  I probably won't do this as often as I should, but now I know that if there's a voice in the back of my mind saying "It'll be fine", I should listen to it.

The Murphy's Law of my life, however, is that everything can't be going smoothly on all fronts at the same time.  I think it's some sort of curse.  Now that my home life is evening out, my extended family life is in a state of turmoil most of the time, and my friends at this point prove to be non-existent.  I suppose that's not entirely true.  The friends I depended on, the ones I cared about and opened up to, the ones I let see my rusted edges, those are all gone.  There are still friendships out there, many still small and in the early stages getting to know one another, but it doesn't replace the feeling that there were people you could depend on whenever you needed someone.  At least not yet.  Maybe not ever.  It's hard to say.  But, I suppose if I look back at the past year, maybe that idea that I could depend on people when I needed someone was really an illusion.  Between the people who simply disappeared, the people who have said that my daughter deserves a better example than I provide, the people who have backed away slowly, the people who literally refuse to attend anything if my daughter is present, and the people who find me to be somehow too much......did I really have anyone that I could honestly depend on?  When you look at the track record, I think maybe not.  But it felt that way, at least for a time, and sometimes it's the feeling that I miss most.  Now, instead of spending a couple of weekends a month with friends, I spend all of my weekends with my family.  It's enjoyable, though sometimes lonely.  Sometimes you just want to see people who make you laugh, who want to talk about their lives, or politics, or the motherfriggin' Olympics because the Olympics are awesome.  The family time is nice, though.  It's not a substitute for catching up with people you don't see every day, but at least we all enjoy each other's company, and none of us have to feel like we're forcing someone to spend time with us. 

I think maybe that's the lesson I'm supposed to learn here, though.  That there will likely never be other people you can truly depend on.  That you need to rely on yourself entirely, and friendships are best kept at a surface level where no one has to get attached to one another, that way it doesn't matter if those people disappear.  And I think I am learning that, slowly.  I may always envy people who have these beautiful friendships with people who have seen them at their best and worst.  My sister has several of those, and it's sometimes hard to watch and realize that can't be my life, but I think my life is just made to be different.  I'm made differently.  I'm not the person people keep around for years, and I need to be ok with that.  I'm starting to.

The upside to things is that because life at home is going smoothly, I enjoy the time spent with my family.  I enjoy my daughters.  I enjoy the life we continue to build within the four walls of our home.  I enjoy who both of my girls are becoming, and the way their lives are changing.  I enjoy my husband's newfound happiness, and the way our lives are growing together.  There are a lot of good things.  I just hope those good things keep growing, multiplying, and becoming better.