Parental Position

Today I lost it. Don’t judge me. Or do. I really couldn’t care about anything less. As any parent in the history of the world can attest, raising kids is HARD. Most of it we didn’t sign up for, but it’s not a job we can quit so we carry on. Thank God and the stars that the shit we did sign up for is pretty damn spectacular. Otherwise, I think the human species would have become extinct by now. But today was not filled with what I have come to define as “spectacular.” You know what I’m talking about. Those moments where you’re knee deep in laundry and dishes while trying not to burn the meat you are “searing” (let’s face it: the pristine attention one must pay to meat while searing in order to achieve a perfect Martha Stewart-worthy roast is simply impossible with more than zero kids in the house) or over-cook the pizza for Lizzy who you know will refuse to eat said meat, and then one of your kids comes over, looks at you deep in your soul, brown eye to brown eye, and gives you the sweetest yummiest grin while releasing a child size fart into their toddler pants. Those are the butter. Those are the moments you can’t quite describe to a person who lacks offspring. I can’t describe what her hair smells like when she climbs into my bed at 2 in the morning, shaking from a nightmare, nuzzling beneath my chin as though that small space between my neck and shoulder contains the entire world and will shield her from any single possible death-threatening circumstance. I can’t put into words what it’s like to watch a 6 year old that I created timidly and tigerly dig deep down into the soup of her courageous being and belt an entire song by herself in front of the whole K through 8 school. These are the things they don’t tell you about when you are registering for blankets and bibs and 8,000 styles of pacifiers and (are they safe enough? Am I a good enough parent?) car seats, Goddamn curvy spoons, organic cookbooks, night lights, diapers (am I good enough?), shopping cart covers, car potties, regular potties, wipes, medicines. These are the things that fly slightly under the radar and are really only reserved for the we’re-already-parents club. Sorry, but it’s just like that. We get it. I can go up to any parent at any given moment and describe these things to them. I can describe them without even speaking more than a few words, and I receive head nod after head nod in agreement and rolling eyes and awe and camaraderie with these people. Every parent knows these moments intimately. At this very second, my 4 year old is out on the front porch, totally naked, choosing which swim suit to wear while running in the hose her sister holds for her. Moms, dads, you’ve been there. And if you haven’t already, you will. Just like I have yet to experience the world of boyfriends and periods and proms and heartbreaks and college applications and first jobs, first kisses, first real failures, first driver’s licenses. Every parent knows these things. And every parent, on occasion or two or three, also loses it. It’s part of the game. How to navigate these outbursts or how to healthily normalize them also doesn’t come in those pretty shiny brochures the hospital sends you home with after you give birth. You’re on your own for those, folks. What’s most difficult is that each kid is different. What worked with one won’t work with the other. What one hears, the others don’t. It is a chess match and some days I simply don’t WANT to think 4 moves ahead of my opponent. So I lose it. Today I lost it because I was misunderstood…again…by one, two, or all three of the children. They were doing gymnastics routines in the house after I’d repeatedly asked them to tumble outside for safety purposes. I gave up on that one. Sometimes a girl just wants a fucking breather after a long morning and discipline takes a back seat. So I was also filming them on my phone because, moments, and the little one and middle one got confused as to whose turn it was and–oh crap. You’ve stopped paying attention, haven’t you. So did I at this point. I had tried my best to be fair and genuine and all the things a “good mom” is supposed to be and I was having I-hate-you bombs dropped all over me. It’s a wonder my ears and limbs are still attached. When I tried to walk away, I kept stepping on land mines of you’re-the-worst-mom-ever and I-want-a-new-mom grades. So I lost it. I dug deep down into MY soup and released a dragon so fierce that even the real dragons shivered in their caves. I stomped and tantrumed and screamed like a giant wolf at my kids to get out. I locked the door and made them stay out while I took a minute. A minute to really wonder, ‘AM I the worst mother? SHOULD they hate me? CAN I ever win?’ Of course, they’re kids, they don’t mean it, they are just coming into themselves yada yada. Of course. But words always hurt no matter who they are from and some words take us back, real far, into the dark corners of our minds where giant horrific memories sleep. We are not conscious of this process, of course. If we were, psychology would not be an entire field. But the more work one does in this arena of their life, the more recognizable these reactions become, the more one can talk him or herself down from the ledge of utter rage and despair. When my kids yell at me or tell me things (that I know aren’t true: aka parenting 101), I get triggered. I have emotional flashbacks to my own horrific childhood abuse. Disclaimer: My abuser was neither of my two amazingly wonderful parents so we can just end that wonder right there. These flashbacks often come mentally and get expressed emotionally in the form of rage. I’ve learned that those of us who live with complex PTSD (google it) often feel rage as the result of sheer and utter confusion at our outside worlds. Rage is how we construct the puzzle that never quite goes together. Rage is how we keep order because we are so incredibly afraid of DIS-order in our lives. Disorder represents failure, insecurity, not having our needs met, being abused. The fear mounts when things start to feel that way and it gets so vast that rage ensues and we explode. I’m grateful to know this about myself now. And I intend to share it with my kids one day so that together we may break the cycle and so that they can develop healthy outlets for their big feelings in the safety of our family unit. Never have I wanted a job more intently and more strongly than motherhood. Never have I had a job that was both this difficult and this loved at the same time. I take the job seriously, and I do it for free. But motherhood changes you. It pays many dividends for the rest of your life. If you’re brave enough to let it in, if you can allow yourself to experience the full spectrum of emotions that comes with it (yes, even rage) it will show you pieces of your being that you never thought were even there. Let it do that. Let your kids nuzzle up under your chin, breathe in the scent of their I-haven’t-washed-this-in-a-week tangled hair, and take the moment in. I promise you that when you lose it you’ll find your way back to center with at least one foot on the hard ground (and, ok, the other in a puddle of ‘accidental’ pee).

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