I’m Really Tired

Hello. My name is Mom. And I am really tired. 

It may sound as though I am just paying lip service to being tired. That I am trying to relate myself to you on some base level, from one mother to another. I can assure you that I am doing neither of those two things. 

As I walked down the stairs this morning and an army of dishes, waiting to be washed, called out to me from the kitchen, I realized that I would have given my left kidney (not the right one, for some reason) to have someone show up and play house for me today. 

Because I am really very, very tired. 

Some parents or people wear “tired” like some sort of badge of honor. They joke about wanting more coffee. They talk about needing “mom time.” They speak of how “frazzled” they are. But then you come to find out that they just ran a 5k marathon, baked 85 gluten free bagels for their kids fundraiser at school, and on occasion moonlight as an aerospace engineer. 

Yea. Tired. Sure you are. 

Then there are us. The very, very tired moms. 

We don’t go on and on about how tired we are. We don’t go on and on about how we feel like we are surely be bleeding from our eyeballs by now. About how we threw cereal bars at our children’s head the other morning, and basically let them fend for themselves for breakfast. 

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Because I am not proud of myself.

Because being tired really means you’re too tired to talk to someone else about how tired you are. 

So, when they ask you “how you are doing?” in an attempt at conversation, and you want to give them the true answer. That you woke up to find the baby’s diaper had leaked everywhere, and then had to rush the oldest child out the door for school because you both spent the morning finishing last night’s homework, and then you caught the dog chewing on your bra (again), you instead just give up and tell them, “fine. I’m fine.” 

I am not proud of myself for leaving the house last night to meet a friend for a bite to eat with food in my hair. Or that I left the house with food in my hair, and then carried on a twenty minute conversation before it was discovered.

I am not proud of the fact that I left my house in a pair of maternity pants last night because that was the most expedient option, though it actually made for a good decision since we were grabbing something to eat at Taco Bell. 

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I want to write a cute post about how tired I am, but that would be disingenuous to you moms (and dads) out there who are really tired. 

There is nothing cute about tired. There is nothing cute about leaning over the edge of the counter with your hands in your hair and just wishing to be somewhere, anywhere else. 

My toddler is feral. She drowned my phone in the bathtub a little over a week ago, and she believes anything that is on the floor is a mountain to be stood on, even at her own peril. I am sure now that she has an invisible third arm that she uses for evil instead of good, and that she believes the floor is lava, and her only hope is to be carried around all day. Carried when she isn’t trying to stand on my dining room table to swing from the chandelier, that is. 

We keep getting notices home from school, threatening the end of the world because children are popping up everywhere with lice. As I was scratching my head against the front door trim this morning, I suppressed a shutter and allowed myself to just not even go there. Because if I do have nits in my hair, my best option, the less painful one, is to just shave my head like Ripley in Alien 3. 

I hate that when I log onto Facebook, and I see people with photos of their vacation, their overnight stay at a Bed and Breakfast, or their Sunday spent playing video games because it’s raining outside, that I die a little on the inside. That I become incensed. 

I hate that sometimes, I think everyone else gets to have a life except for me. That is, a life free from the threat of lice, the perils of bra-chewing-dogs, and mornings spent only being obligated to wake yourself up and wrestle pants on to yourself.  

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There isn’t a way to make it all better. You don’t want anyone to say anything to you when you’re feeling this worn out. There is nothing they can actually say. 

You want someone to give you a blankey, a cup of warm milk and to send you off to bed. There is no way to talk yourself into feeling better when life is like this. There is only waiting for things to start to resemble a normal existence, the hope that one day, things will either change, or you will change and be able to cope better with what life is throwing at you. In this case, lice. 

The truth is that we are tired because we are fighting the good fight. We are doing work. 

This is not necessarily thrilling work, unless you count the thrill of discovering that your youngest child now knows how to unlock the back door. This is not luxurious work, unless you can sort of count that yogurt your toddler threw at your face as a facial. 

But this is good work. 

We are tired because we are doing good work. Kind of like Batman. He didn’t have the help of being a demi-god in a red cape. Sure, he had billions of dollars and a butler. But he is human. He bleeds just like us. 

So, we can rest a tiny bit easier know that we are sort of like Batman. 

Just whisper to yourself “I am the night,” when things get real, parents. 

Onward. 

 

Raising Daughters – why I’m not sweating it

It’s International Women’s  Day!

And for the first time in my life, I am actually seeing people mark this occasion. I’m not saying it’s never been done before, I’m merely pointing out that I have never actually seen it acknowledged in a widespread fashion before today.

It’s kind of cool, cus Hey! I’m a woman! Go me! 

I figured I’d join in on the fun

I’m raising two daughters. One of which likes to drop random items in the toilet for fun, the other of which burns with the fire of the sun sometimes, and at others simmers like a gentle rainfall on a tin roof. 

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“Sometimes, my daughters drive me nuts,” said every mother. Ever.

As someone raising daughters, sometimes I feel like I am raising Faberge eggs. Do you feel that way, too? Like you’re one step away from messing everything up? Or maybe you’ve read so many things about the way you’re supposed to do it, and you don’t entirely remember what it feels like to trust your own gut anymore.

A few years ago, in early October, we took our children to the store to pick out Halloween costumes. We casually strolled down an aisle of costumes together, the children marveling at the variety of choices, my husband and I bemoaning the price tag that comes hand in hand with Halloween fun.

Our little boy went first. We let our son make his selection entirely on his own. There was no second guessing him. He went straight for the action and superheroes without giving it another thought.

But when it came to my daughter, who was barely two and choosing her costume herself for the first time, I completely floundered.

While she gravitated towards the princess costumes, I, the mother-who-wanted-to-get-it-all-right-by-her-daughter, flailed about, and made sure to point out all of the other costumes to my tiny, curly-haired daughter. 

The Batgirl. The Superwoman. The scary costumes. The witch. The cat or mouse. EVERYTHING. 

I wanted her to know there was a bevy of options laid out before here. I wanted her to know that she didn’t need to feel pressured to choose anything with tulle or pink on it. Her costume didn’t need to shimmer or sparkle. She could be anything she wanted to be for Halloween and for the rest of forever, so long as it meant that I didn’t screw it up as a mom.

Still, she chose the princess costume, and she was blissfully content while I’m sure I managed to grow a few more gray hairs by the end of the entire process. 

I was so torn over the matter.

I understand the widespread disdain for the superficial princess packaging. I get wanting our children, our daughters, to see past the false veneers of hollow feminism and masculinity that are around every corner. We know that young ladies are especially susceptible to their surroundings, sensitive to the images and ideologies that we thrust on them carelessly, and sometimes subconsciously.

All children are sponges, and they pick up on all of the nuances that lurk in the shadows on every screen, every billboard image, every page of a book.

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We are actively paying attention to what sorts of things we present to our girls as true pictures of womanhood, of what it means to be feminine. This is a good thing. 

But at the same time…I felt horribly guilty for all of my posturing towards my daughter and her choice.

I wanted her to know all of her options, which is never in and of itself a bad thing.

I wanted her to feel like she was in control of her own agency, that there were more choices available to her besides the stereotypical options girls are sometimes offered. Again, all well and good. But I did all of this instead of just listening to what she wanted in the first place and and consigning myself to being okay with her decision. In my efforts to get it right, I sort of missed the mark.

In the process of wanting every woman to know that she has a menagerie of choices, we sometimes demean the choices that they actually make. We are the collective peanut gallery, second guessing everything about her life. 

We make the assumption that she couldn’t get on without us, the peanut gallery on standby, while pointing out everything that she could do differently. We make the assumption that a person who doesn’t choose more “modern ways” of doing things is making a huge mistake. We are aiming to check off boxes on a list, instead of searching for what truly gratifies and fulfills us on a spiritual level.

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I’ll be honest: I used to take umbrage with feminism. Because there I was, a new mother, craving to be home with her babies. And yet I felt like the shoes of feminism didn’t quite fit me. I felt like, in the eyes of some, I was a woman who was moving backwards in her life, instead of forward. I didn’t sense the emphasis on being a great mother, on being a great parent.

It felt like it was all about empowerment in the workplace, in the public sphere. Where was the empowerment for those of us at home? We must it be only A, B and C that work for everyone, and nothing else? 

I eventually learned to become comfortable and in control of my choice to stay home. I knew that my day to day life, with my husband or with my children, our routine, could be what I chose to make of it. I knew that my relationship with myself, as complicated as it is at times, was mine and mine alone, my responsibility. I learned, I mean really learned, that my faith breathed new life into the way I valued myself, as I have slowly learned to shed the skin of being perpetually self-concious or feeling like I don’t measure up.

I am learning a new way to be myself with each passing year. I am reconciling myself to something greater with each day that passes. And I hope for the same things for each of my daughters, whether they are eight, seventeen or thirty-eight. 

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Sometimes, we get over zealous with wanting to offer so many suggestions that we trounce on what makes the people around us truly happy. Sometimes, we don’t realize that in our zealous efforts to treat a girl the same as her male counterparts, we are instead singling out her choices to be examined even more extensively than her male counterparts. 

My daughter can be a princess if she so chooses. She can be a superhero. She can be a doctor. She can be whatever her heart desires, so long as she pursues it with all her might. So long as she understands that the greatest things we can accomplish in this world is loving others. So long as she knows that she is a valued, wonderful person, no matter what.

So, Happy International Women’s Day, ladies. Whether you are at home with your babies, working hard to shatter glass ceilings, working from home, winding your way through this world with your best friends and a glass of wine in your hand. Whether you are a mother or not, married or not. I hope you know that you are mighty, you are strong, you are loved and you are brave. 

 

 

 

 

His Way is Better

We held hands as we listened to the radio. 

I’m sure neither one of us actually heard the music, though. It felt like the longest car ride we had ever taken. 

We had just lost our second dog, Lucy. She was our first pet, adopted in the spring after we moved in together. 

While we crouched down in the floor at the vets office an hour before, tears streaming down our faces, looking at our now asleep shepherd, my husband uttered the words that have haunted me for the past three days.

“Our youth is gone.”

Lucy and Gatsby were one of our first major decisions as a married couple. They were the first things we loved together. One of the first things we shared a camaraderie over. They were probably one of the first things we argued about, too.

We loved them together in the California sunshine for almost a year, before we packed up and drove across country back to the cornfields of Maryland. We loved them together while we fixed up our old farm house. We loved them together when our family grew to welcome our children.

I close my eyes from time to time, and think back on California when life gets too hectic. It was a place that is so unlike the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and yet a place that my heart beats for with all the familiarity of a place I’ve always known.

Who doesn’t grow accustomed to seeing the ocean on their way to work every day. Who doesn’t like to see flowers blooming all year long? How could you drive up the coastline of California and not fall in love?

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We were just married, learning how to live with one another and how to love each other past the point of “I do.” Sometimes, that was really difficult. 

We welcomed those doggies into our home together with open arms. First Lucy in the spring. It wasn’t long before we decided that she needed a companion, and within a few months time we brought home Gatsby. They took to one another instantly. 

From there, we frolicked our way through the rest of the year before reality sank in and it was time to go home. We were all stuffed into my old Chevy Blazer, and we bemoaned our luck that we would be following an Eastbound storm front during our entire journey. 

It didn’t stop raining for three days. 

The dogs sat in the back next to each other, and they patiently trusted us to navigate the roads and the weather. We drank a lot of gatorade, ate a lot of chips and the car perpetually smelled like wet dog for three days. 

If it wasn’t already true before, we were affirmatively family from there on out. 

Today, I stood in the yard looking over at the two fresh mounds of Earth piled side-by-side while the wind hit my face, and I realized that life is different now.

In less than a month, they are both gone. Together. 

I want to say that they’re somewhere, frolicking together. I want to say that Gatsby met Lucy at the Rainbow Bridge, and his boisterous, bouncing welcome was offset by her easing her way into the great beyond. 

The truth is…that is probably not the case. And it’s where my faith begins to crumble. 

I don’t know where animals go when they pass from our world into the next. I know that it’s not as painful to lose a pet as it is to lose a person that is close to you, though after what has happened this week I am sure I am hardly prepared to know the pain of losing someone. I know that man and beast are different. 

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And that’s something I’m stuck learning to be okay with. The not knowing part. It hurts more than I ever anticipated.

As I walked about in the yard today and my mind turned to them, as I was heavily contemplating the reality that I don’t really know where they are, or even if I really know where I am anymore, a calming thought settled itself into the back of my mind: 

“His way is better.”

The other night, we covered our son’s face in kisses as he cried salty, real tears of sorrow over the loss of his pet. Wallowing though our own grief shifted instead to helping our son understand his feelings as we told him the truth – that sometimes, life is really, really hard.

There will be things that you love, but you might lose them one day. Because everything has a time, and time eventually fades for each one of us. 

It was the first time that we had to introduce him to the reality that we need saving. Real saving. Because we all meet our end. And, good or bad, what we do with our time matters. We always foolishly assume we have more time than we truly do. 

This is the curse of man. 

It was the first time my children realized what we have all been saved from by the savior who hung near death on a cross. Whose blood soaked into the rugged wood and whose breath slipped from His body as he cried out in real despair and let go. 

I watched my Lucy let go just hours before, and finally be at peace. 

It became real to him for the first time. Everything lets go, eventually. 

We let go to be held.

And he let go, too, and grieved with us in a very real way. 

So, today, I tried to let go.

I know that I’m not entirely the same person I was ten years ago. My husband isn’t the same, either. I know that sometimes we want to find our way back to those kids who naively brought home two dogs on an impulse, and spent all of their money on sushi and wasted away their Saturdays on nothing. 

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Over there, yonder…

I hate that we have to claw our way back to that at times. We have to fight to find a face in the mirror that we recognize. One that we can actually come to terms with as time marches on.

Right now, we are not the responsible parents who work 24/7 for the welfare and happiness of their children, and who know how to deal with life by bearing a stiff upper lip.

We are the very real people who brought those dogs home believing that all we needed to do was love them and that good things last forever, and we are suffering and reconciling what the last ten years have meant to us as we look at one of the last remnants of being young and carefree let go. 

We have spent the better part of the last month sifting through our memories together. Not just of our doggies, but of us. Of what life used to be like. We each hold different pieces to the past, and we try to mold them together to find the most circumspect picture of what it used to be like; of them, as we try embed the memory of how their fur felt into our memories. 

Sometimes, I hate that that is all we have left. Sometimes, I don’t know what I would do without it. I don’t know what else to do but hold those memories close as we make new ones and start over again. 

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I know that for all that hurts, pain lines the very heart of hope that beats fast, even underneath of agony and despair. It beats true. We just have to find it sometimes. 

And I have measured the years by the gray on their faces, and the gray in my hair.

I measure my time by the growing notches on my wall, the worn treads on my shoes and the clothing my children grow out of.

I measure my time by the scars and the things that wear out and the things I have lost. It leaves a bitter taste in my mouth as I must accept that with times passage, things are left empty. 

Why must I measure my life from the things that I have lost instead of what I have gained? Three tiny faces, three sets of hands to love with and smudge my windows. Three heads of hair to brush my fingers through. I measure my time by the way I have loved, and with each passing day, as I move closer to letting go, I remember that in their hearts, I am held.

In His hands I am held.

With each passing year, more unfurls inside of me that I didn’t know was there. I don’t always see it this way. I grieve the chapters that end before I think they ought. I grieve the pages that have already turned and am terrified of the ones to come. The series of goodbyes and endings that come hand in hand with a long life lived.

He says that He is the author of my story, and as He wrote the stars in the heavens and named them, and His face hovered over the waters of the deep in secret, He says He knows my story.

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He says He knows me. I find my way back when I find myself in Him. When I lean into Him and I let myself truly taste joy, and really grieve my sorrows. He reminds me of who I am as the gray fills the top of my hair, and the wrinkles etch themselves on to my face.

As the reality hurts, and the final goodbyes pierce my heart. He reminds me that I am still His, no matter what.

I am still held. Sometimes, that’s all we have.