A Tale of Two Mommies

…because more seems excessive…

Tag Archives: personal growth

Life as Pictures…and needs for life

It’s winter. Climate change dictates that we consistently have these random warmer days into January. Certainly it wasn’t super warm,  but not the frigidity one might expect this time of year. This never lasts, only about a day or two before the erratic plunge back into expectation.

I wasn’t thinking of sitting outside; I will use just about any excuse to get out of it, even if I seldom regret the decision to confront the sun. My husband suggested it. Little Man was vacillating between outside on our driveway and going somewhere we weren’t going to go regardless. The driveway won out, though not taking a walk as my husband urged. We hustled outside in a dervish wind. I snagged our vaguely uncomfortable, but better than standing or sitting on wet pavement, chairs. And, my husband and I simply sat in the warmish sun while our kids entertained themselves and made us laugh. Thus prompted a theme I identified for the last year, and what I hope to nurture in the next.

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These are ridiculous cars, yet everyone seems to have one. Little Man wasn’t interested in it until he became much too big for it. When he was younger, he loved sitting in them provided I was pushing him around. I’m a solid pusher…running around with jerky turns and sudden stops. My endurance for the exertion is pretty good too. I’m usually surprised how long I can prolong the effort without feeling as though I want to pass out. But, in the pushing days he loved it; Warrior Queen loves it now. I love that they love it, but my zest for their enjoyment pales with their desire for me to run around the area pushing around this ridiculous car.

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It was a joint pretend play…Little Man filling the gas tank that turned into Warrior Queen’s expectation at a later point. One of my favorite things is to eavesdrop on their pretend play. They both create these stories I don’t understand, but they are always completely engrossed in whatever is happening in their minds. That’s a trait…or habit I’ve always possessed, which makes a part of me nervous that they inherited my brain. But, as they grow into more distinctive people, I’m learning that it is less about genetic matter traveling as following modeled behavior…at least to some extent. I spend a good deal of time considering nature and nurture, and I find myself landing in interesting places on the matter.

I’m never comfortable. Mostly it’s my mental health that dictates my homeostasis. Best likened to chronic pain, my threshold to just be is different allowing me to function. But, I’m not ever comfortable. My life is in a constant state of pushing my limits or I’d be paralyzed in a small windowless room unable to escape. I suppose that’s the reason why there are some things I simply won’t do because it’s exhausting to exist and do something interesting with my life outside my head.

Spending the time outdoors would have been one of those decisions, but I followed my family’s flow. My husband usually the one nudging us outside. It occurred to me suddenly that I inadvertently surround myself with people who know what is best for me with the minuscule, nothing events in life; and push me into decisions I wouldn’t make on my own. Big decisions are all me, but the small enjoyments outside of chocolate and cookies that disappear into my memory are almost exclusively other people…like my husband. I enjoyed watching my kids while sitting in the sun because he knew experiencing this brief warm day in winter was a worthwhile effort. I need that in my existence, and I don’t know if I formally understood that until this particular moment sitting in my vaguely uncomfortable chair.

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A brief walk down the street to the festival of the fire cisterns that have captivated Little Man from toddlerhood.

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Paw Patrol has nothing on rocks.

I’m part of activism groups, and I’ve found that I collect similar nudging people. Little by little I find myself taking on something I never thought I would do…tiptoeing into things that make me nervous, and suddenly my tolerance for scary things shifts.

I will start postcarding when Warrior Queen begins school. I don’t know my exact schedule, likely not weekly. But, I plan to regularly attend groups that do this sort of activism. I don’t really understand how it works, but for a couple of years now I’ve seen marvelous posts of this effort…my longing to participate, but I froze not knowing how to start…what to do. The women I’ve met in my political network groups give me access…nurturing sentiments…and an abrupt push to start something new. I don’t understand how it happens, but I end up committed to something that I never regret…even if the venture doesn’t flourish into my hopes. These women have the connections, so I just dive in! I’m terrified, but I know I’ll be okay.

I’ve made my peace with the anxiety of postcarding…the nerves numbed, and now I’m so excited I practically vibrate. I feel as though these mornings to myself have been too far away to consider in any meaningful capacity, yet I’m now at the edge of somewhat wide open time…to waste…to be productive…I hope to actualize it all!

The plan for postcarding mostly set, my newest focus at the moment is text-banking. I’ve been circling the perimeter of such an effort for a while. To be fair, the candidate text-banking for the 2019 elections doesn’t seem to be in full swing quite yet, which reinforces my anxiety induced procrastination. Candidate text-banking that is a back and forth type of deal might be too much of an effort for my first crack at this kind of thing. But, as I responded to a post about my pride for the past year and my hopes for the next, I lamented my concerns to the fairly massive group of mostly women. I’ve decided to table the candidate work for the moment and start with some environmental issue texting that is more about guilting people to the polls than a specific issue or person. This effort provides polling information, which isn’t such a huge deal in my state, but in areas with voter suppression knowing where to vote, what is needed, and other logistics is crucial. This environmental group will be good training wheels for me. There isn’t an expectation of reciprocity for this first venture. That’s good. I can meander in my haphazard, catawampus way through how these things work; it’s all so foreign to me at the moment, and too many new things at the same time makes my ability to process strategy impossible. At some point I hope to become more involved with the group I initially contacted…when some of the aspects of text-banking are no longer new, and my learning curve will almost exclusively focus on the issues and candidates I’ll be supporting.

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I’ve heard it before…that you fall more in love with your partner watching them with your kids. I wholeheartedly agree, but the notion is beyond something I could’ve ever possibly fathomed. We’ve always had a strong relationship, but the level to which our connection has transformed defies anything I could coherently communicate. Not only can I watch the kids for endless hours, but time stops when my husband is interacting with our children. I might meet very specific and important needs for our little ones, but certain things Mommy can’t do. Those Daddy activities and interactions enrich their lives in ways that deepen my love for him, and the more mundane the instance, the more I melt seeing it. And, then there is the way my husband’s face lights when our little people enter a room or greet him in ways unique to him. I often wonder if he’s aware of how his stature and presence transforms looking at Little Man and Warrior Queen. It doesn’t matter that an entire day could be spent yelling at our precious cherubs, I’ve never seen my husband quite so light and enamored.

I’m a little nervous about the spring semester as well. I will teach two sections of my college class provided there is enrollment for both, a likely scenario. I will be entering the prison in the morning as well as the afternoon for the first time, and have a significant increase in college students as well, not that it’s all that many in totality.

The two sections I’m teaching are old hat, though the afternoon is a different group of men…different gangs with different prison functioning. I’m not sure what to expect, but probably much of the same. Having a sitter for my kids all day is a transition I’m feeling better about, but still uncomfortable for completely irrational reasons.

I offered to donate my time to the university with another program I was planning to run anyway, should it be approved, also a likely scenario, but one never knows until the process is complete. I’ll be running my Education Seminar one evening a month at our women’s maximum facility. I offered to bring some college kids in to observe if it’s permitted. The seminar, however, is a bigger process than it might seem. I’m still attempting to learn of its approval, which I believe is more of a rubber stamp than anything else at this juncture, but since I’m not employed in the Department of Corrections, I can’t know these things for sure. This program was at the request of the prison director I’ll be working with, so I expect everything is fine. But, I always feel uneasy until something is on the books and I’ve started. An additional nagging thought in the back of my mind is worry that the administration turns before this program is established. While this effort wouldn’t necessarily be squashed, a significant delay in an already long process is highly likely…unless I’m already in with a session or two under my belt. Having a relationship with people, and a face for a name is a pretty huge deal with these kinds of things, and I have other ambitions for the programming at this particular prison. I very much want to get started there.

Then there is the added college contingency. I would’t have offered such a thing if I thought it to be a long shot, and it isn’t as though there are committed promises. I merely suggested that I’d explore the possibility if this program is approved. My hope is that I can expand my usefulness with this university, and other opportunities might grow from it.

There are several additional moving parts with having college kids come with me into the prison. Certainly the logistics, which are not all that problematic because I understand the system expectations and am efficient. But, I’ve never run this kind of program before, and new things are always hard for me…probably for anyone. I have high expectations, and tend to fixate on failure that usually doesn’t materialize. Given the nature of this program, a complete crash and burn probably won’t be the case. My creation will be helpful for the incarcerated women; I’m just not sure what to expect from the program itself, and that’s swimming in my mind. It isn’t fear, more getting my head around planning, and just wanting to start already.

The university director I’m working with thinks this is a solid opportunity for his department. He’s planning for it as a noncredit option for the students. I assume credit can’t be awarded because it meets once a month as a single session entity, but I’m not certain if there is something additional I will need to create to make this a thing on his end. Some kind of assignment or written structure isn’t a problem, but a collision of other things I’m trying to organize in my mind with everything else. That isn’t a complaint. This kind of stuff is exciting for me.

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Little Man has always been about the mechanics, cherishing the non toys as toys…the sprinkler bric-a-brack no exception. My husband begged our son to keep the parts in the shed where they belonged, but Little Man simply cannot switch gears once an idea is in his head. My husband decided quite wisely it wasn’t worth the fit that would ensue for absolutely forbidding the activity.

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Watching Daddy do house work is also much more fun than any kind of toy he could be offered.

I relish having all of these pieces to consider with the flurry of other time occupations I’m pursuing, as I watch my children toil with various objects and each other on a warmish day in winter. I value my husband ushering the kids in a ridiculous toy car before he transitions to figuring if any of his various ladders will allow him to accomplish some kind of household task he keeps forgetting about. It was a hard couple of years, and my baseline is never particularly easy; but increasingly I’m convinced that I attract the people I need at various moments in my life. Too much of the time my closest relationships end, often jarringly so. It isn’t always a death or injury. Sometimes we naturally drift…sometimes I’m a shitty friend because I’ve struggled with intimacy my entire life. But, I suppose the nature of life is temporary, so in the next year I’ll take more time to bask in the people who force me to sit outside in a vaguely uncomfortable chair, or press me to do new things they don’t realize are terrifying. And, maybe if I plunge often enough into disquieting unknowns, the world can become a better place in some impossible to measure way, and I can make some new friends while honoring the people I’ve lost.

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Life as Pictures: lessons in saving myself

Where has the time gone? I had been allowing myself rare copious praise for everything I’ve accomplished in the past few months…and then I noticed the last time I posted something. Ugh. Life just escapes…

But, I will detail my excuses because I’m quite proud…for the most part. I always find something that isn’t good enough, which is a torment as much as a driving force. I managed to finish a FORTH program a couple of months ago. It was a request from a director at our maximum security prison. I didn’t think I’d manage it quite so soon since I’d just finished three others at a gruelingly slow pace. But, it’s done. I’m pleased with the content. If the powers that be like it, then I’ll finish the application, and, tah-dah, the DOC will have a social skills program designed for younger gang involved men that I structured around respect. This population is steadfast in the issue, but their notions of respect are not always compatible with societal expectations. This, of course, does not intervene with the allure or complexity of gang affiliation, rather expands their communication skills beyond those directly connected to their culture. When choosing the content and general approach, I hailed back to my time working with gang involved adolescents in a clinical capacity…the conversations on this topic that seemed to have the greatest impact. Though I can’t speak to long-term success of my interventions, at least they didn’t scoff at what I said in the moment…that’s usually the way it goes. I developed a curriculum that standardized my approach; maybe it will do some good.

My education seminar is progressing up the DOC approval chain. I look forward to its blessing. For the most part things are more rubber-stamped the higher up the signature tree. I think it’s in the final stages now. I don’t really work with female populations…there are many more men in prison systems, so it’s easier to get administration in male facilities to respond to my inquiries simply because there are more of them. I have my programming dreams for incarcerated women that focus on children and pregnancy, so it will be good to have an in. When people have a face to requests, it’s easier to make progress. I don’t usually have such a luxury, but this one is particularly important to me on several levels. The seminar I created has value in and of itself. I can’t remember if I described it on an earlier occasion, but I will be providing information about special education, interventions, and policy as it pertains to the education of struggling children. Over the years I’ve run into consistent issues that are challenging to navigate for even the most high functioning family system and professionals. So, I’ll be outlining those various issues for the women incarcerated in our only state facility. Things like transportation, homelessness, truancy, general resources out there and process…a slew of issues that are more common than people like to admit, consequently ignored by larger educational systems. I’m pleased that I can provide some expertise to caregivers who usually don’t have access to it.

My college/prison class hybrid is going well. Two sessions in the prison have been solid. I have an entire group of writers, which has never happened. I almost laughed during my intro the first day. In the overview packet I include a nothing piece I wrote. I mentioned it, and every hand began to vigorously flip through in search of the sample. I don’t know if any of them ended up returning to the piece back in their cells, but it’s new to have men take interest in reading my work. Having such a large collection of writers for the first time; the discussion has a very different feel. Cool is probably a lackluster term, but it is.

I’m not calling Congress as much, which is disappointing to me, though my political bitching has thrived on social media. I’ve met a collection of interesting people very unlike myself and my experiences. I’m trying to surround myself with as many marginalized people as I can, and I can say that’s it’s nurtured compassion and a more appropriate view of the world…I also get better access to what’s happening in the country and world. Most interestingly is that I’ve found peers on social media who are like me. I cried the first time someone sharing my diagnosis found me. I can’t say I’ve met someone else with my mental health issues, and access to disability Twitter allowed me to feel pride in my own learning shtick. So, it’s been good. I’m certainly dancing with the ugly side of social media, but can appreciate what these forums add for those marginalized without a voice beyond screen perimeters. I’m grateful to sample their voices…that these individuals take the time to share their worlds not always well received.

Another new experience, I’ll be working in my town’s polling station for this election. I also signed on to work a morning shift for early voting. That’s exciting to me.

Our volunteering at the assisted living is also going well now that we join a woman who works at the facility. I don’t know what I’m doing, so now most days we just show up and sit there. Last week, though, was the first time I saw the power of having my kids do this. Little Man was playing some kind of weird catch with a gentleman who adores both of my kids, and the feeling is mutual. A man I hadn’t seen before was next to their activity kind of scowling blankly. I was starting to feel bad that maybe my son was bothering him. But, then I saw the corner of his mouth begin to quirk. The small squishy ball rolled to him. He gingerly retrieved it from his wheelchair, half toss, half rolled it back to my son who jumped on it as he tends to do. Little Man isn’t much of a catcher, but he makes up for whatever clumsiness with enthusiasm. When we left the man was smiling. It was subdued, but there and because of Mr. Man.

It continues to be a hard time I can’t quite shake, but at least it’s easier than it was. The first anniversary of a very good friend’s death rolled through the calendar recently. I have yet to hear news of another who was seriously injured over a year ago. Other than no obituary online, I don’t know how he is. I send a brief text update about every ten days or so. I don’t know if he reads them…or can read them. I don’t know if I’ll hear from him again. That’s hard, and I’m not sure if I should hope, so I just kind of numb it out like I’m practiced at doing. But, each time I sent my words there are these moments of holding my breath for a response I know won’t come. And, there are some other losses too that I don’t want to get into. Mostly it’s too painful at the moment to put it to explanation. But, I’m trying to be as positive as I can…more pragmatically than anything else. I have a Warrior Queen and a Little Man to tend to. I can’t afford to live in my funk any more than I already am. I’m good at numb…a lifetime of necessity nurtured my ability to push away inconvenience of emotion for the most part. But, it helps that I have healthy outlets these days. It helps that I’m more connected to others than I’ve ever been.

The deeds that I mentioned above are a double-edged sword of an outlet. Corrections stuff, which are more of an ambition or professional passion for me than anything else, are compartmentalized in a different space in my mind than the other occupations. The more random tasks I volunteer for drift into penance too often. I regularly grapple with unhelpful feelings of what I deserve and personal worth. Too much of me holds that if I give enough of myself, maybe I’ll stop losing friends…or babies. It’s the toll of a lifetime of loss and other kinds of trauma. Intellectually I get that the universe doesn’t work that way, but it’s a compulsion. I think it’s always been there in some form. But, I’m a middle-aged woman now, so I have more options of what to do. I’m letting myself feel bad these days, which is long overdue and good, so I channel those feelings into something else to scrub whatever internal stink I might possess. I genuinely enjoy the charitable work, but I’m well aware of the other role it plays. It’s effective in giving me a needed lift, but my worth does not rise with it. Not so much a self-esteem thing, but it comes from another place, guilt maybe? I have many blessings in my life. On some level I’m trying to deserve the good things, and make the painful ones stop…at least for a little while so I can regroup. This is a textbook trauma response. I get that, but it’s unhelpful nonetheless.

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My newest afghan is enormous, and a lesson in baby steps getting a job done. I might get a row in, but often less…ten minutes to work on it. But, little by little it grows, and another color wraps…then another. I look forward to the day that it warms my legs as I work the stitching. That’s still some time away, but with diligence that time will arrive before I know it. I’ve also found that something this massive and colorful is an exceptional conversation starter. I was raised in an area where people talk to anyone and everyone, even if we don’t really like them. There are many reasons why it’s hard for me to get my conversation act together sometimes, so it’s helpful to have a prop that makes me significantly less awkward. I’m a bit too blunt at times. I’m not necessarily mean, but I don’t have much of a filter; and years of working in a field consisting of events off the beaten social path at every turn, I’m extraordinarily desensitized about pretty much everything. I lost my North Star of propriety a long time ago. Now that I’m middle-aged I mostly just embrace it. I look forward to the adolescent years of humiliating my kids by simply existing.

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Little Man’s preschool is housed on the property of a newly renovated church. After drop-off, Warrior Queen darts over to the stairs beckoning me to follow her. I love her thrill at my chasing her down that very ramp. She giggles as I look like a lunatic to the teachers and children who can watch me running with waving arms outside their window. Eventually I’m able to shepherd her into the car with the promise that after school she can plan in the leaves. The people who tend to the exterior rake them in piles around the tree, and the kids wade in almost waist deep every afternoon. Fall is often wet in my area, but there have been several perfect autumn days. My son in his 90th percentile stature and expansive arms collects a mass of leaves to throw on a friend who is unhappy that his collection is so paltry. Those two have had some discord. My son is not quite a rough and tumble, though he can certainly give back. At the end of the day, though, he’s more silly than aggressive, often confused when peers become mad at him. He much prefers a little girl in his class, and both have asked for a playdate. I like her mom too, so that’s definitely a win. While Little Man doesn’t seem to have the same issues in school as last year, I’m seeing more defined spectrum characteristics. In a couple of months he will be evaluated. It will be good to have more tools added to my belt.

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There is the pretty fantastic exploration pace for kids near us. We were gifted a membership, so I took Warrior Queen while her brother was at school. This picture taken just after her visit to the water area, which nurtured some of my fierce girl’s hair spirals coming to life. My sprite is about two-and-a-half now, so I can no longer just head home and do nothing every day with a baby doing her baby thing around the house. While I don’t make spectacular plans for her, I like to think she enjoys herself and has the opportunity to socialize with other kids until her school program begins in January. She looks rapt at this magnet thing, but Warrior Queen kept returning to the area with the large bin of sand and construction trucks to push granular loads…little girl here loves her trucks, and had a fit when it was time to leave the building to collect her brother.

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Warrior Queen and I worked on an art project…really. It was the two of us, and my role was to ensure the glue didn’t end up sculpting her eyebrows or hair. She chose all of the various adornments. Stickers are her favorite, so I watched her study the pile of them as she delicately pealed them from their backings. She would look up at me and name the sticker picture or ask me for details. Generally my daughter is a chatty one, but at the moment I studied her face in concentration. After about fifteen minutes she suddenly slides off her stool, headed to the next diversion without any thought to our masterpiece. Sniff…I was forced to leave the project, unhappy that it would not find its home in our trash bin…like all of Mr. Man’s artwork that consists of two scribbles on paper and a line of tape stuck to it.

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The same establishment has a diner area. Warrior Queen fed me…this…and coffee…lots and lots of coffee. Then she remembered I don’t drink coffee, and offered me tea. This place has all of these delightful details…like the spices. The shakers are sealed from opening, but the kids can smell their contents. I love to cook, and started this activity with both Little Man and Warrior Queen. We rummage through my collection, open, and smell the various spices. Mr. Man asks what each one is and what it’s for. He will sometimes offer a story about the spice that he pulls from somewhere in his creative mind. Little Man is a marvel with his stories. Much of the time I can’t really follow his train, but I could stare at the twinkle in his eye and listen to his giggles as he makes himself laugh uncontrollably all day. After a final sniff, he holds the container down to his little sister requesting that she smell it as well. As she tries to inhale, but doesn’t quite get the task; my son tells her what she is smelling, and she looks at him adoringly. These moments are almost worth Warrior Queen going into our pantry at random points, snatching whatever spice (usually paprika), and dumping it on the floor. Naturally, these events occur when I’m in the middle of something that can catch fire.

The Not So Sham of SHAMing

Before the idea of having children of my own, I remember repeating the very line that so many utter: Remaining home to rear children is the most difficult employment commitment one can choose.  While this is true, I guess, there is so much about it that escapes all of the nods I participated in.

To answer the question of what I must do all day; sometimes I don’t know, yet the day ends and somehow my children are sleeping. I suppose that’s the point; our days can be filled with anything, and it is entirely on my shoulders to consider. And, really, when declaring the difficulty of the SHAMing pursuit, it isn’t so much the schedule or the explicit childcare needs, but the complete ambiguity of my existence.

Having two small children in tow throughout every day without a break, regardless of any ailment that might consume me, can be grueling. It can be even more so knowing that my child care duties often continue into the evening despite a very involved, supportive, and helpful husband; but so long has this been my life that my former freedoms no longer whisper their truths. In the beginning the tasks were a sudden torrent of immediacy, but the winds died sooner than I expected, and the isolation and loneliness remained.

As elated to have my son with me, I wasn’t prepared for the lack of human contact and complete blank slate my life became so suddenly. On the one hand I loved my time with Little Man; on the other the vacancy of an outside world carried an oppressive weight, but I was too sleep deprived to consider how to remedy my situation. Fortune smiled on me, and I did not succumb to postpartum mental health issues, but I didn’t quite escape a rut of who I was now that my individual importance diminished caring for an infant.

The intensity of my struggles with the transition is likely due to how very sure of my identity I was prior to Little Man’s appearance. Forced to forego my previous career as I knew it pushed me to reinvent myself when I was so very enamored with who I had been. But, aside from recognizing my shift in identity, I had no notion of what a reinvention should look like. My choices seeming vast, much like each day before me.

But, I managed, and by the time my son was eighteen-months-old with a daughter on the way, I entered an inroad for some notion of my new identity. My toddler almost two-and-a-half years old, I almost don’t recognize the woman returning my gaze in the mirror. She is stronger, more empathic, more content and joyful, and astoundingly more ambitious. So trite that my life isn’t about me anymore. It isn’t solely about my children either, as society assumes to be the case. My vantage point is more panoramic. My thoughts drift to my legacy and the path for the humans I birthed who will inhabit the sands I leave behind. With all of my human service involvement it took having my children to understand both notions of humanity and servitude, and with that understanding I found who I am meant to be, even if my story is only a prologue as I write this.

But, as gratifying as my process feels much of the time, I am unable to shirk awkward conversations among strangers and mixed company. When asked, how do I explain my conventionally unconventional occupation? My halted and insecure acknowledgment of remaining home often met with an immediate and ungraceful termination of conversation.

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(“So, you say you do nothing productive with your time?”)

I often feel a compulsion to explain the choice to stay at home or describe the other pieces of my existence: the writing, the volunteering, the consulting. But, it all seems so complicated and unofficial that tending to my children full-time is my default answer.

Like many of the SHAMming mothers I speak with, my most withering challenges aren’t the concrete trials of caring for my children, but rather the all consuming uncertainty of my daily rigmarole. What does it mean to rear a good person, yet tend to my self-preserving needs, all the while in the throws of life interfering?

It is finally an honest answer that I wouldn’t trade any piece of my choice to stay home. I love it. I love the time. I love the experiences. I love who I am because of this choice, even when it isn’t quite so lovely.

Is SAHMing a Gymnastic Event?

I had a morning the other day that left me feeling as though I absolutely kill it as a stay-at-home mom.  My daughter woke up just shy of 6.30, making almost nine hours of straight sleep.  She is pretty much four-months old, and if this is what her regression will look like, I say, “Yes, please.”  I managed twenty minutes of exercise before the Warrior Queen requested her breakfast.  Unfortunately, I fed her just as Little Man greeted his day.  Thirty minutes of bottle time, left my son on the edge of his patience.  I generally shower before retrieving him, but not this day.

The morning routine was all over the place.  All the required tasks before our outing were completed with amazing efficiency, but in such a random order I felt like surely we would be late leaving the house.  My son behaved himself with independent occupation for the duration of my tasks, and  not one toy was launched into our kitchen sink that rivals Mr. Man’s dog stuffed animal that missed its calling as a Center for Disease Control sample.  Usually when I have the capability to complete all of the mundane tasks that a toddler finds excruciatingly boring, there is a gift waiting for me in his diaper that I pretend isn’t there, so my immediate chores can be completed…or so I can use the restroom.  But, with increasing frequency, my son will be wonderfully behaved without harboring a fugitive.  Maybe the plethora of time-outs he’s earned over the past several months and the end of the nap stand-off finally allow me to reap some reward.

Even taking my shower with the almost two-and-a-half year old Little Man roaming the upstairs somewhat freely was reasonably uneventful.  He only flushed the toilet once while I was scouring baby residue off my person, and helped me restore his entire bookcase of literature and toys he emptied onto the floor with marvelous efficiency.

But, my unicorn of a morning did not end there.  I managed to feed Mr. Man freshly made eggs and toast and throw together a spur of the moment pasta salad from scratch.  For those new to my work, food is extremely important to me, and knowing that I was flowing through my discombobulated morning without delaying incident, yet highly aware I missed my breakfast, motivated me to take along something a bit more tasty and substantial than my usual gallivanting feast assortment.

After each accomplishment around the house, I waited to be hailed upon by other shoes.  The snoozing Warrior Queen was bound to awaken suddenly and spew the contents of an entire bottle, and provide an additional far reaching spray all over me just after I change her, right?  Little Man would surely manage to open the bathroom door for the first time and dismantle the toilet I forgot to flush, right?  I kept waiting for my luck to end, but it never did.  I loaded all of us into the car, and we were off precisely when we needed to be.  I even managed to purchase my favorite tea beverage, at a drive-through, of course.  When we arrived at our magic play place without incident, I couldn’t believe the car accident I anticipated didn’t materialize.

But, as I changed Warrior Queen’s diaper with my son roaming the family style restroom; his still small, but growing hands plunging into the toilet water and his sister increasingly unhappy with her lady parts exposed, it occurred to me my miraculous morning wasn’t idyllic.  Some might call it a rushed shit show.  Upon further reflection, either I’ve adjusted to having two small blessed beings in my life to the point of ignoring the annoying mishaps that otherwise would prompt me to tear off my face, or my threshold for happiness is pathetically low.

The Buddy System

My husband and I were talking last night about how we became accustomed to the fairly profound change of having a young child; well, I was speaking of the transformation.  My husband was partially lamenting about not having time for himself any longer once he enters our homestead.  A part of me shares that lament, but I’ve been at home with my soon-to-be two-year-old so long that much of the independence I gave up is a very distant memory.  I also have the benefit of the end of my second pregnancy to haze any productive use of my nostalgia.

It isn’t so much that my husband was complaining; most of the facets of our son’s loud plod through his life are things he loves and embraces, giving purpose and unique happiness to his existence.  But, there is the constancy of care and attention that can drain as much as it bolsters.

As I mentioned, I’m used to it.  There are very few moments that are solely my own.  Sure, I have the daily nap time…assuming my kid doesn’t decide to take Mommy’s bad day and increase it ten-fold by forfeiting this one meager break that cascades into an avalanche of awesomeness until it is late enough to bid him goodnight.  But, when all goes as “planned,” I amaze myself with how much my life’s changed, and how little I think back to the way it was.  This was not the case during the first year.  Maybe I’ve finally found myself along the way, or at least enough of myself to feel comfortable with uncertainty.

While I most definitely appreciate my Saturday free time, it occurred to me during the conversation that my Saturdays don’t hold the same desperation they did in the beginning.  I find myself not having the dramatic personality transformation after that single extended break.

The Warrior Queen may be born in as little as three weeks, and I wonder what it will be like, aside from the predictable sleep deprivation and all the spousal and life hatred that brings.  Little Man was my first for so many things, but my daughter will be my first with me as a person as well as Mommy.

Conquer or Be Conquered!

We registered for a class this semester that gives us unlimited privileges to this indoor playground/toy bonanza.  My son has been four times, and loves it.  I think it’s pretty awesome too; I grab an iced tea (because it is always the appropriate drink for winter), I meet a friend or two to socialize, sit back and chill as my son wreaks havoc and exhausts himself.

Usually Mr. Man lasts about two hours at this little slice of oasis, and strangely seeks this one specific toy to horde every time we visit.  It’s a bathtub toy fishing rod game piece.  He doesn’t actually do anything with it, but will spend almost the entire duration holding it and schlepping it around.  He remembers it every time even though the last visit was over a month-and-a-half ago.  I don’t get the appeal, but it’s his wingman.  Even if he walks away from it for ten or fifteen minutes to do something else, he eventually seeks his prized pole, grasping it tightly as he wanders and samples all the other toy attractions.

In addition to toys there are several structures, some containing pretty terrific slides.  These structures are high, steep, and fast.  There’s no tease of a fluid decent.  Once a kid is mere millimeters from the top platform, he or she will launch into the wall with only wisps of smoke remaining as an indication that a homunculus attempted the feat.

Little Man is a thrill seeker and loves this thing.  This visit, however, he didn’t want Mommy’s help down.  I lift him onto the platform, he gives an excited grin in anticipation, and he’s off…  He was so proud of himself, immediately requesting his elevator for a repeat of the experience.  This time, however, on his belly head first.  I thought certain doom was inevitable, but he was fine.  A couple more times and he needed a break.  He grabbed his fishing pole and wandered in search of another adventure.

We were there four hours with a trifling ten minute lunch break at Big Man’s request.  Throughout the day he periodically beckoned me to hoist him to the top of the slide, but toward the latter end of our time at play mecca Little Man became overconfident and slammed the back of his head toward the bottom.

He needed brief consoling, but as I was holding him he glared at his Everest.  It would not defeat him; he insisted on trying again.  Cautious, but determined he paused briefly at the top in the same sitting up position that had been catastrophic the last run only seconds prior, but he managed just fine…Then he opted to go on the smaller slide.

A few turns on the foothill prompted him to return to his first love.  I hefted him up a few more times until my son determined he tamed his beast.  If only we could all be so brave…

Pursuing a Diverse Diet of Fruit

This was not going to be my next blog topic, but I find myself, once again, perseverating on what to do with myself that doesn’t involve an eighteen-month-old appendage.

A bit of history, I was unemployed when I was pregnant, and kept myself busy with volunteering opportunities that were not all that engaging, but they engulfed time, and I had the freedom to waste my time as I saw fit.  Pregnancy was a type of limbo holding tank; the consumption of parenting unknown in every possible respect, and I drove myself crazy.  I decided that I would pursue part-time employment because that is what every mother who has the option should choose, right?  Because I wasn’t already working somewhere I loved, considering full-time work carried my personal judgment that I would be a terrible person if I made such a choice; we don’t need what would amount to my paltry income when staying at home was the more appropriate, noble choice.  Mind you, I don’t have such a judgment of other women who choose full-time work for any reason; perhaps it was because I was so ambivalent about having my own children for so long that choosing a role as primary caregiver would convince others and myself that I was invested.  Regardless, the choice was made, and finding someone willing to hire a pregnant woman even part-time was elusive, so I remained unemployed and the interesting positions available ceased to appear.

Time trudged; my son was born, and the first year of Mommying was spent with moment to moment things.  The gods of good social fortune blessed me with valuable friendships through that time, something I was hard pressed to find in the fifteen years I’ve been living here.  I organized a new mom social group and waited; for what I still can’t say.

Staying at home has a strange internal clock.  I took up this blog at a transition toward normalcy that I only vaguely understood, but craved it nonetheless.  No longer could I say there was a blur of infant tasks to accomplish that absorbed every ounce of brain power I possessed.  My little man was growing, and I eventually exhibited coherent thought that couldn’t be denied by anyone…mostly…as well as the ability to actually plan a dinner.  Yes, the times were changing.  My friends and I stopped meeting quite so frequently as they experienced similar personal drives.

I’ve written about it, but not as often as I consider it, probably because I actually have readers, and no one wants to read pages upon pages of self-important whining even if my struggle is the same struggle of so many Mommies over.

The core question is, “Who am I?”  In some respects my future is a blank slate, which is horrifying or at least unsettling despite the envy of some for the liberating possibilities, even if they aren’t entirely limitless.  It occurred to me, last night actually, that my personal endeavors outside of raising my wonderful little boy are not as vacant as I’ve managed to convince myself all this time, and it has been, and will likely continue to evolve as all dynamic things do.

I think part of the problem with how I’ve considered my pursuits are that I label them as needing to fulfill requirements I’ve made up, but have no real bearing on anything real.  For so much time I only considered my work legitimate if it adhered to a specific schedule outside the home and I was receiving monetary compensation for my toiling.  I guess if I decide to ever run for a political office, no one can say that I’m not an American…  But, if I stop minimizing my fairly recent accomplishments and look through a larger lens, I’ve managed to meet much of my need for independence while living an example that make me proud that I am a human with the capacity to help improve the world in my small way, as well as enjoy and challenge myself at the same time regardless of the lolls that inevitably transpire throughout this process.

As I said, things are ever evolving, but what I’m living is more than dreams; I’m managing to take risks and do things that are new and interesting, and I feel confident they will lead to somewhere unknown and unexpected down the road.  I’ve been talking around the particulars, but I think we are all friends or at least friendly acquaintances by now, so perhaps the specifics are prudent at this point.

Obviously I’m writing.  This blog has proved more popular than I ever envisioned it would be.  I always assumed this would be a document to aide my memory and perhaps help or entertain a person here and there, yet I have a small, steadily growing following despite my limited exposure and publicizing; a far cry from reaping financial benefit, but why not call this expenditure of time a success?  Even if my readership does not flourish from here, I’ve found a voice that I’ve never particularly had, and that has value…and witnesses…  Along a similar vein, a few months ago I started writing short stories and submitting them to contests.  I’ve had dreams of having something published since college, but I never had the determination nor courage to set finger to key.  And, true, my chances are probably slim in winning one of these literary magazine contests, but an editor sent me a very kind unsolicited rejection last night.  I did not make the finals, but she liked my story quite a bit.  Again, no financial gain, but, wow, I never envisioned something like that either, so maybe someday I will be in print after all…and a check wouldn’t be so bad either…

Then there are my longtime, consistent passions.  For a couple of years now I’ve been an educational consultant and adovate for disadvantaged families, and even though I’ve had several cases, I have difficulty claiming it as an occupation because I don’t accept payment.  Perhaps it is strange to dismiss my work because there is no financial gain, merely a human one…  I’ve had the privilege of helping struggling families form clarity and a plan that is in the best interest of their child.  It seems I have been successful, so when people ask what I do, why can’t I tell them that?  I don’t know.  I’ve enforced a narrow dogma to myself that because the opportunity that would lead to financial reimbursement has not been what I had hoped thus far, the rest of my work cannot be declared as legitimate.  I’m trying to convince myself such thoughts are foolishness as ardently as my conviction that success must be traditional…and paying…

Even more recently I’ve started volunteering through an agency that provides pschoeducational groups and educational classes/tutoring for the Department of Corrections.  This opportunity is developing at a vertigo inducing rate, and the most frustrating for me, probably because I want this so much that it resonates in my mouth every time I think about the possibilities.  My work with the agency started as one thing, and has rapidly changed course in a timeframe that could conceivably be calculated in days, albeit it would be a tad cumbersome.  At this juncture I’ve written a few different group and class curricula, one I want desperately to teach myself.  However, even if the process becomes too complicated to achieve fruition, I managed to impress people with my creations, which is satisfying…granted not as satisfying as formal program approval would be…  At the end of the day, the constant evolution I find myself in with this particular investment will likely have me tutoring small groups of inmates a couple of evenings a week in reading comprehension and expository writing remediation for the new HiSET exam, which is close in some respects to the whole class literacy program I hope to run someday before God retires.  Eventually part of the tutoring responsibility will include supporting other tutors, creating curricula, and likely some program development once this matures from a seed to a sapling.  Again, I won’t receive a paycheck for my work, but I will have the rare schedule outside my home and participate in one of my deepest passions in life.

All of this in maybe the last six months, so why do I torment myself with the fallacy of personal stagnation?  Admittedly, this isn’t ideal on every count, but my next pursuit is to give myself permission to enjoy the fruits of quite a bit of labor and the patience to know that nothing is an end unless I determine it is.

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