The Textbook Generation

You know how sometimes (everyday) we get stuck on generational biases. 

Oh they’re so lazy and entitled.

They don’t know how to write a complete word, let alone a sentence.

These kids don’t know how to take responsibility for anything. 

They’re bored too easily.

They’re so disconnected.

They don’t care about the things that matter.

They were held too long, fed too often, not smiled at enough, sat too long in the high chair, ate too many bananas, didn’t eat enough kale, ate too much bread, didn’t get enough time on their tummies, or their backs, crawled too long, didn’t crawl enough, and smiled at too many puppies before the age of three.

Like sometimes, I just can’t.

Here’s the thing. We’ve all screwed up. Right. You’ve got your list of the things you blame your parents for. I’m already preparing Lily’s list of the things she’ll blame us for… But that’s the thing. That list, that mental list, it haunts me. It’s still present day, and yet it haunts me. She’ll say I was too busy. She’ll say she felt like I rushed her and didn’t take time to listen, that I copped out when it came to making meals, that I sat her in front of the iPad for too long, that I was impatient, restless, and honestly quite self-centered. I mean, she will. And I’m ready. 

But I have listened to the parents of the kids of this generation. I’ve spent hours and hours hearing about their wishes for their children, about the things they hope to do differently, legacies they hope to both implement and change. I’ve listened to parents of every race, religion, and socio-economic status share their hardcore parenting hopes with me. 

And you would be surprised. If you had been able to read some of the quotations I took from new moms and dads over these years, both at work and in my personal life; if I removed the names and the demographics, you would have no idea who’s voices they were. And that’s not shame, how could any of us really know what someone else is thinking. We look out and we make assumptions. I know, I do it too. And somewhere we cluster it all together and we get this thing we love to refer to as the (blank) generation.

And it’s really never a flattering thing. It’s always kind of tongue in cheek, isn’t it. But, it’s OUR kids. I mean it’s OUR hearts. And yeah they can be brutal. But was there ever a day that you woke up and felt like, I’m going to do the worst possible job as a parent today. I’m going to suck as badly as I can, and when they cry, I’m going to be even meaner.

Because, no. That’s not our plan. That’s never been ANY of our plans. Not our generation, not our parents’, not our grandparents’. It’s never been the intention of ANY of the parents I’ve talked to, even and especially those who ended up losing custody. 

So. Why, then? Why? Where do they lose their way, where do we lose ours?

I believe that we lose our way when we realize that parenting never stops. In those first few months (years) of sleepless (at least partially) nights, all of the planning it suddenly takes to get this human out of the house, all of the logistics it takes to keep your own life going. It is staggering. It is an adjustment. It is the most incredible and confusing cluster of fucks. 

So when I get home and I’m worn out because life keeps rolling and rolling and the little one needs a thousand things immediately, that’s when it surprises us. That’s when we start weighing their needs against our sanity. That’s when we start feeling the guilt.

“This is not the kind of mom I thought I’d be.”

“I’m not the kind of dad I should be.”

That’s when it gets slippery, when those thoughts rise up to the surface. That’s when we turn on the television because we need to sit down before we crash. They need us 100%, and we do the best we can with what we know. But put on your oxygen mask before helping others. 

And gosh, attachment parenting. I believe in it. I lived and breathed it. I’m not sorry for an instant. But I was so tired. I was so sore and so spent and my expectations of myself were so high. Nothing ever felt like it was good enough. 

So what will our kids say about us after all? Maybe not at 16, but at 36?

They carried the weight of generations of moms before them, upon their backs.

They read the research and tried so hard to do everything just right.

They were critical of themselves, and of us, when we didn’t show up perfectly.

And… PintEREST!!

Do what you can. Love how you do. And go to bed knowing it’s enough. Because they’ll give us a couple more chances (to screw up again) tomorrow. 

And maybe, the kids are alright.

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MAMA, Why are we Hiking?

Suddenly the train I’ve been riding on has come to a screeching halt. The other passengers have disappeared. Actually wait, were there other passengers? I look left out the window, I look right, down the aisle, no one is there. The engine is silenced. At first, I spin in circles. Spinning and spinning, how can this be? I look down at my watch to see how long it’s been, but my watch has vanished. It’s all getting fuzzy. But the sun shines above and sustenance surrounds me but nothing on earth seems to be moving.

Well, wait that’s not true. The clouds stretched across the sky are moving. The wind that is blowing the blades of grass across the field in a soothingly rhythmic pattern is moving.

But I’m not moving.

I get down off the train and look around. I notice the red dirt beneath my feet is certainly moving. I start kicking at the dirt. I kick and kick as the swirls of dust surround me. Kick, kick, kick, swirls of red dirt fall upon my clothes like paint upon a canvas. Eventually my renegade kicking foot finds its way to the engine. And I’m kicking and kicking. But it won’t start up again. Hands on my hips, I look down at the red dust. It’s coated my shoes and drawn swirls on my pants.

I turn around to see where I even am.

I’m home.

Lily comes out running, “MAMA!” she calls out. “LILA!” I reply. Craig follows closely behind. I turn back. The train is gone. The tracks have vanished and the red dust has turned to gravel.

“What happened?” I say to Craig. “Where did it go? The train, the tracks? The path?”

He lets out a subtle smile and stretches out his hands, one to each of us; leading us back inside. I look down and see the red dirt is tracking footprints across our front walk. I turn back. I see miles and miles of red footprints, going this way and that, as far as the eye can see. Before I step up into the front door, I notice the last of the red dusty footprints on the welcome mat. Craig hands me a glass of ice cold water. Lily wraps her arms around my legs.

I’m home. The miles and miles of steps have sent me home. For now. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. But there’s dinner in the oven and our shows on the TV. Lily needs a bath and clothes need to be laid out. Lunches need to be made and artwork needs to be hung upon the fridge.

Days later, as Lily and I climb a pile of rocks up north “in the mountains”, she asks me, “MAMA, what are we doing.” “LILA, we are hiking.”

“Mama, why are we hiking,” she prods me again. I give this some thought, “Because look out there. Look at the sun and the mountains and the rocks and the dirt. You see all that? That’s a beautiful part of life. And we’re hiking out here so we can make sure we remember to see it.”

Hallo Wean Us From Our Childhoods

Here we are!! The weekend before Halloween; let the parties begin. Annnnnd here we go-

 A). I hate these underwear costumes that  make me want to rip off my own flesh and probably jump off a first floor balcony. Why is this the gold standard of Halloween now. 

Hi! Yep… I’m dressed as a hooker. We live just down the street. This is my daughter, she’s four. I know, so hard being a good role model for our girls these days.

B). I’ll be someone I admire. Who do I. admire. Who… do I…. admire….

C). Ok I need to just pick something. This one will make me so hot and sweaty and angry all night, not happening. This one would fit, but I really didn’t want to dress up as a giant tooth. Giant hot dog, no. Giant banana, no. 

D). Wouldn’t be able to sit down.
E). Wouldn’t be able to stand up. 
F). This part I would have to use safety pins for because, safety. 

G). Who are they kidding with these tights? Where is Wonder Woman already, I need to kick her- 

H). Wait am I in the underwear section again?

I). Oh no, my bad. My bad. I’m in the youth girls section. 

J). Alright I’m done. 

Get a Little Mud on Your Forehead

Has writing deleted my sense of humor? When I decided to start doing this, I figured some of what I write about will be funny, and some of it would be introspective. Basically me, on paper. But it’s like the funny is shut down. Like someone draped a big gray cover over top of it. Closed for the season. Thanks for your business. See you next summer.

Which is fine I guess. I like introspective writing. I don’t have a problem with that. I guess I’m just surprised. Maybe disappointed. Introspective writing feels more journalistic and less for an audience, like I’d intended. The funnier stuff writes itself long before my fingers even hit the keys. It’s a box. It fits nicely. If a word is wrong or something doesn’t sound right; I can usually snap it back right away. Clean that up, andddddd done.

But this quiet, voice inside my head writing is like digging through mud. Up the wrists and almost to the elbows in mud. And it’s slowww. And the mud keeps falling back down into the hole. And right now I just face-planted on top of the mud pile. It’s kind of gross. But it’s cool here, down closer to the earth. And if anyone was to happen by and catch me with my forehead stuck to the ground, I’m not even embarrassed, bro. I feel like it’s the perfect expression of where I’m at. I’m at face stuck to the mud. Hi. My name is Lisa and my face is stuck in the mud.

I’m guessing some people get their feet stuck in the mud sometimes right. But your face. Man that’s like as intimate as it gets. If your face is literally embracing the earth’s guts in such a way, you might be an adult. What’s the worst that could happen anyway. I mean mud getting up your nose, right. I’m being serious. Like mud in your mouth or your eyes would be awful, but mud up your nose would be awful AND panic-inducing. Because, breathing.

What if though, I laid down. Fully. In the mud. What, I can shower after. And anyway, it’s IMAGERY. So then would laying down (fully) in the mud mean a). I’ve lost it or, b). I’ve… found it. It’s sticky and thick and you can crumble it or lather it. It’s cool and the sun is kind of leaving me be. You can dig or make mud snowmen, or maybe even bowls like with pottery. I think I’d just want to crumble it; the parts that are kind of drying up on the top, but still moist enough to manipulate. I think those would be my favorite. Once I got past the fact of this whole thing.

But wait what is it about the concept of the mud face-plant that doesn’t actually feel all that unusual? Have I been here before? Is it possible I’ve actually been here my whole life? And is it also possible it’s actually becoming this really engaging metaphor for feeling life?

Is anyone else forehead down in the mud with me? Come on. It’s actually not so bad. We’ll make mud snowmen and make sure to keep it out of our noses. The sun’s still up, albeit on our backs.

Let’s go #teammud #adultmoments #okaydontleavemeherebymyself

Why Early Education Matters So Freakin’ Much

We aren’t rich. We didn’t grow up being private school kids, we didn’t wear uniforms and use flash cards to practice our math and reading skills. We didn’t go to elite universities and we definitely never thought paying for the early part of our daughter’s education would ever be in the realm of our reality.

I’ve worked in the birth to five population for the past 10 years, and with school aged kiddos for the five years prior to that. I’ve talked to parents for an eternity of hours about listening when our kids have something to share with us, about showing them and talking to them about the world around us. I’ve watched hundreds of toddlers and preschoolers, not even including my own, toss themselves to the ground amid tantrums. I’ve laughed with parents about these moments, and I’ve cried with them about these moments.

I’ve watched so many kids struggle in the school environment, I’ve watched so many teachers throw blood, sweat, and tears toward trying so hard to help them adjust.

The truth is that school is hard for… well every kid. I mean come on, it is. And that’s alright. Think about how many lessons you learned, social lessons, during those years. And of course some kids (research says at LEAST one in every classroom) is struggling with something real and diagnosable; whether it be sensory, developmental, or mental health.

But yet, year after years, teachers and administrators find themselves stuck between 78 rocks and 197 hard plates trying desperately to get these kids off on their way. And it matters, we know it matters, because we all remember how much it mattered to US.

We chose Montessori, at least for now, for our preschooler for so many intangible reasons, it’s hard to explain without it sounding like I tossed a stack of cash at the staff and walked away. And every kiddo needs their own educational experience, there is no one size fit all.

We got a very inquisitive, charming, highly-wired kiddo. She’s just who came out.

So here she was, three years old, academically ready for school but socially a little bit like the kid in the back of the classroom walking in circles with a pail on her head.

And that is why I chose this school. Built on the experience and understanding that there are windows of time when kids are super interested in taking in different skills and experiences, it’s main focus is setting up an environment that will, to be honest, catch their eye and never let go. When I took her on the tour of this school and we walked into the classroom, she took the cutest little deep breath, turned back and looked up at me, and was across the room. The materials are insanely intriguing, and all formatted in a very tactile way to lay learning foundations. She knew at that moment that this room was for her. She knew at that moment that these friends were for her, that these teachers were for her. And it filled my heart.

The sense of community is such a huge part of the atmosphere as well. Kiddos are encouraged to ask their classmates for help before asking a teacher. They are encouraged to respect one another’s space (yeah, they’re three and four) and problem solve together to come to solutions. The expectation is firmly believed that kids will grativitate toward the work that interests them most, and that when they’re ready, they’ll move along to the next, and then the next. As a result, the room is very child-led. She walks in and surveys the room and decides what she would like to explore first today.

Now I know kiddos can have a hard time transitioning out to public school afterwards, and this is something I think about a lot; and take seriously. But the feeling in my heart that I get when I see her so completely focused on something with this utter concentration and JOY is exhilerating. School became so rote for so many of us; this thing we had to do because we had to do it, and why the heck were we not getting paid for it. But I never hated learning, did you? I got frustrated with the other stuff, but gosh, you know that feeling you get when you’re totally entranced with something new and fascinating? That’s how she starts her day.

And honestly, sometimes I’m jealous.

Even if we incorporate the community atmosphere into the classroom as much as we can; that alone could do wonders. I miss the early 80’s where school was a place safe from the outside world of politics. I know you do too. So let’s teach them how to collaborate, how to be respectful of all of our peers, and how to take on learning as a personal goal, not something we feel forced to do. Because the truth is, the only way we get places in life is when we light our own fire and keep it lit. Come on guys, let’s help them light their own little fires.

The Truth

The moment our daughter was born was the greatest moment of my life. The physical pain of labor had started to subside, I saw that she was healthy and adorable, and I realized that I had survived. They cleaned her up quickly and laid her down on my chest. I looked down at her and rubbed her little back. “Oh, it’s okay baby. Don’t cry. You’re okay. Hi! I’m Mommy!”

Then I sank. At the time of course I didn’t realize I was sinking. A few seconds after they laid her in my arms I said, “Okay, baby, the nurses are gonna have to take you now to get you all measured.” The baby nurse smiled at me and said, “Oh, no, mama! Not yet! You can hold her for a while longer!” And I froze.

I… didn’t want to hold her.

I looked forward to becoming pregnant my entire life. When my husband and I met and got serious, I squealed with joy (internally) at the prospect that the future was coming! The doors were opening! All the “you’ll just have to waits” were running close to their expiration dates. My life could now begin!

When I became pregnant I was so happy, so blissful, so relieved, so hopeful. I could not wait to meet this little one. It was the greatest feeling on earth.

So when I first realized I didn’t want to hold my newborn daughter, the first thought I had was Well. Okay. It’s. Just. Because. I. Am. So. Tired. My body was worn, as all of our bodies are after we give birth. I got myself back together (literally) and they placed her in my arms to and we were wheeled up to my room. I passed the smiling faces of nurses as we headed down the hallway. I felt their warmth around me; their pride for us and our little family; and for what they do.

Once we got ourselves settled into our room, I placed her down in the plastic crib next to my bed and ordered myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Periodically the nurses came in throughout the night to check on us. I nursed without a problem and properly documented when we did so, just as they asked me to. Perrrrfection.

My husband settled off to some sort of sleep in the corner of the room and I turned on the television. I didn’t hold her at all that night. I mean, I did what I needed to do, but that was it. The next few days flew by; visitors, information, and soon; it was time to go home.

We wrapped her tiny self up into the car seat and headed home; not without first stopping at Starbucks (husband). Woo hoo we made it!

I’m going to share some of the thoughts I had over the course of the next six months. Having worked in mental health my entire career, I knew these thoughts weren’t alright. But, I figured, I’m handling it. If it gets to the point where I can’t do what needs to be done, then I’ll ask for help. I’m alright. I’m alright.

What have I done; there’s no turning back now.

Why did I have a baby. I can’t do this.

I wish I hadn’t gotten pregnant.

If she doesn’t stop screaming, I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I don’t like holding her; she’s always pushing back and stiffening up. I don’t like to hold my baby.

She’s crying. I wish someone else would hold her. I don’t want to do this anymore.

I don’t want to go home. Once I get home I’m trapped with her again.

Is he (husband) kidding when he just walks in here while I’ve been nursing for six hours straight and announces he’s going to go to the store.

I’m literally trapped in this bed. She won’t stop screaming. I wish I hadn’t had her.

I can’t do this anymore.

I want to throw her out the window. Is it bad that I can actually imagine myself getting up right now and doing it. Am I losing my mind. Why am I feeling this way. I wanted this. I wanted her. More than anything. How horrible of a person must I be. I wish I hadn’t done this and now there’s no going back. And yet I’m looking at the window right now.

And that’s the truth. That’s the truth of how the first six months of my daughter’s life went. And I loved her. More than anything in the world; I loved her. I knew on some level that my thinking was seriously distorted. I talked to a few friends, family, and to Craig. I told them how I was really doing. I listened as they shared their stories with me, admitted their worst moments, and their vulnerabilities.

Finally I talked with my doctor and told him The Truth, and he prescribed me medication to help get through it.

See the thing is, I knew I *shouldn’t be ashamed.* I knew that post-partum depression was *common and needed to be talked about honestly.* But still, I didn’t talk. Still I felt weak, inadequate, lazy, selfish, and ungrateful. And those feelings I couldn’t stomach; the shame. So many people wanting babies who couldn’t have them; so many kiddos who needed strong, secure parents that weren’t available to them. And here I was, a gigantic ball, for no reason other than hormones and a driving need for perfection.

So, talk. Talk to me, talk to your friend, your mom, your sister, your aunt, your friend at work, your DOCTOR. Talk. You aren’t ruining your little one’s life; you’re recognizing your sensitivities. You can’t take the crying? Sister, I KNOW. Put the little one down safely in the crib on his or her back and take yourself a moment a few rooms across the house. Or six moments. Or call someone to come over and take seventeen moments. At Target. Or Starbucks. Don’t be ashamed. DON’T BE ASHAMED to ask for help. Oh, and also, if you haven’t felt this way, also don’t be ashamed. Parenthood impacts us all so differently. And dads too. Dads may need a hand or seven hands also. They know how to ask for help for themselves even less than we do.

It’s four and a half years later now, and the meeting of a newborn baby is STILL both exhilarating and really scary for me. Still. I love little people; they’ve been my life’s work. But newborns overwhelm me.

And that’s The Truth.

But four year olds? And their sass and their fierceness and their wit? Four year olds I can do. It does get better. It does get easier, and it has.

But it starts with talking, and asking for help.