Growing up is Hard

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I'm not sure this is my story to tell. I may never post it, but it's such a heavy weight, I need to write about it just to get it out of me. I've said it a million times, and I'll probably say it a million more: momming is hard. Hard as shit. And as you kids get older, it doesn't get easier. It just gets harder in different ways. My oldest baby. Heaven help me. That child. She's always had trouble focusing. Controlling her impulses. I'll never forget, years ago - she was maybe five, we were walking through Best Buy, and she suddenly rears back, and spits. Right in the middle of the store. Afterward, she looked so confused and surprised by what she'd done, I couldn't even be mad. Her answer to "What were you thinking?" is often and honestly answered with, "I don't know!" Because she doesn't know. She has difficulty focusing in school and finishing her work. Or she blazes through it and does a poor job, so she can move on to something she wants to do. She gets in trouble often. Not big trouble, but a little. For speaking out of turn, saying inappropriate things, acting out to get attention. She desperately wants to be liked and will act out, trying to get a laugh or a smile. She's always been like this. A one-hundred percent sanguine temperament. Her excitement and enthusiasm will continue to escalate until she explodes, I guess, unless somebody brings her down. It's always conflicted with my much more phlegmatic-melancholic temperament. And yes, we have had her tested a couple of years ago. And yes, she does have a diagnosis of ADD with impulse control problems, with potential for anxiety and depression. Obviously, that is worrisome to me. We briefly tried some non-stimulant medication, and it did nothing. We then found a natural supplement that was very helpful for a couple of years. And yes, I am very reluctant to give my child a stimulant medication. She can't afford to have her appetite suppressed. I also have serious, valid concerns about the effects of long-term stimulant use in young people. But, now. Oh goodness now. It's just so much harder for that baby than it has to be. In case anybody can forget, twelve is a fucking hard age. You're so caught between being a kid and you're just on the cusp of being a teenager. You want to be independent, but still want bedtime stories and to be tucked in at night. Plus, all those adolescent hormones have started swirling around in your body, making you all crazy. In addition to all this, she has two younger sisters. One of them is an angel child who never gets in trouble and is universally adored, and the other is an adorable little shit. But neither of them have the same issues she has. The other day, we were running errands. She had wanted to come. Then her little sister wanted to come. This made her cranky. We spent the whole, long trip, with her being rude and, as we like to say here, ugly to her sister. Finally I had had enough. "I am really, really sick of your attitude. I'm over it. Literally all she's trying to do is talk to you, and you're being such a jerk. We're going home, right now, and you need to meditate on what your problem is and get over it." Well, that's the gist of it. There was probably a swear word or two in there. Then the breakdown came. Right in the middle of Home Depot. Now, I've cried in the middle of Home Depot before, and it sucks and it's embarrassing. And I wanted to cry too, partly because I want to cry all the time, and mostly out of frustration. We get in the car. I tell her the only way I can help her is if she talks to me. This is what I hear: She feels like she's being replaced by her sisters. She feels dumb compared to Morgan. She feels like she's always getting into trouble. She feels like they're so much better than she is. She just wants to be normal. Hearing all these things from her nearly broke my heart in half. "Sweetie," I say, "You are normal. Everybody struggles with stuff. But things right now are harder for you than they have to be." I've mentioned before, she's already got some kind of stigma against mental health care. She feels embarrassed to need more help than she sees her peers as needing. And I've been kind of leaving it up to her, asking her periodically if she needs more help than she's getting, if there's anything I can do, if she wants to talk to somebody. And her answer has always been no. I don't feel I can, in good conscience as a parent, leave it up to her anymore. After all, she is still a child, and it's still my responsibility to care for her health. Mental and physical. So we have an appointment next week. We're going to start finding a way for things to not be so damn hard for her. So she can start to recognize that she is smart, and beautiful, and talented in her own unique way, just like we all are. God knows, growing up is hard enough as it is. As parents, isn't it our job to smooth out as many bumps in that long road as we can?
Posted in Children, You are Enough | 2 Comments

“I Love you and I Like you”

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For somebody I live with, I don't really spend a lot of time with my husband. He works long, crazy hours, often leaving before any of us wake up in the morning, and returning in the evening, usually after dinner and baths have been administered. Obviously, this is hard for me. All the stuff that it would be really helpful to have a partner for, I usually do alone. Cook dinner, give baths, keep the children from going Lord of the Flies on each other - I do it all by myself. It's hard on him too. Thirteen- and fourteen-hour days aren't easy on anybody, and he's tired. Very tired. Fortunately, we're able to text throughout the day, so I can keep him updated about important stuff that happens. Or, occasionally, about poop. (I'm told by my twelve-year-old that I talk about poop way too much. Whatever, I'm not gonna stop). But still, we don't really spend a lot of face-to-face time with one another. And when he comes home, he wants to spend a few minutes decompressing. Totally understandable. He's had a very long day. And I want to go hide in the bathroom where nobody can get me. All totally understandable. I've also had a very long day. This lack of togetherness can make it hard sometimes. I forget to tell him stuff until weeks have passed, usually because it was too long to text, or I thought I texted it and didn't, or I didn't have time to send a text because I was spending a million hours ferrying children around that day. And, of course, I've forgotten about it by the time he gets home, or I've totally lost the will to speak - that sort of thing. But I will think I've told him, and then be sure to get annoyed when he doesn't remember, or didn't have the consideration to simply download the information from the hive mind we obviously share. Or we get annoyed with each other. (Probably me more often than him. I like to think I'm more adorably quirky than annoying. Since I'm writing this and he's not, I'm gonna go with that.) Sometimes we each have needs that we don't feel are being met, and this can make for some friction, especially if we're both exhausted after a ridiculous long day. We're really good, usually, about talking about stuff, but sometime that can take a couple of days. Occasionally, though...Occasionally we will have an entire twenty-four hours together. Just us. No minions around to make us crazy, no time for me to get cranky because it's 8:30 at night and I've been a kid-wrangler going it alone for the past fourteen hours. And it's really nice. I mean, we do the obvious stuff that two fairly young people do when you leave them alone together unsupervised by children. But mostly, we just hang out. I'm always really happy to remember I actually like my husband. I like spending time with him, and talking to him. I like it when he laughs at me for yelling "Help! Emergency!" when I drop my Red Dragon roll on the table and then shoving it in my mouth with my hands. And he's pretty funny when he's not crazy-exhausted and stressed out. I like to talk to him about stuff that doesn't involve relaying tales of our children's bullshit. I've been saying for a while that it's fairly easy to love someone. In fact, I think a lot of couples who terminate their relationships probably still love each other. It's a little more difficult, however, to like somebody most of the time. To take the time to know them, and look at them, and listen to them. Of course, nobody can like somebody all the time. Sometimes we all turn into heinous assholes, if only for a little while. But to be able to say, "Hey! I remember you! And I think I like you!" That's pretty damn good. To quote the ever-wise sage Leslie Knope, "I love you and I like you."
Posted in You are Enough | 1 Comment

Radical Self Care

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Ok. So I've been feeling for a while like I wanted to talk to somebody. I feel...adrift. directionless. Occasionally staring into the dark black, expressionless eyes of my old friend Depression. Often I don't even know how I feel. I don't know what my goals are. Sometimes I find myself looking at the accomplishments of others with envy and resentment rather than pride and happiness for their good fortune. I know that life is not a zero sum game, and that there's room for everyone to succeed. But what am I even trying to succeed at doing? I'm really fortunate to have a pretty good support group. People who are willing to listen to me when I need to talk about something, and give advice when I need it. I have a yoga practice that helps me. But lately, I need more. Nobody should have to try and unwind the mess in my head without being compensated. I can't seem to do enough yoga to level everything out and find the answers I'm looking for. Or the questions to ask to get the answers I'm looking for. Also, all that is too much a burden to place on a person. I need professional help. I need someone to help me unravel things and get a handle on who I am right now. It just occurred to me to wonder if I'm having a midlife crisis of some kind. I'm too young for that, aren't I? Anyway, I was talking to a friend the other day, telling her I was in the market for a therapist. My oldest overheard and asked "Mom! Are you saying you have mental health problems!?" How? How does my twelve-year-old already recognize the ridiculous stigma against caring for your mental health? Why does she think this is somehow worse than the huge bucket of vitamins and supplements I take every day just so I can function like a normal human? How is talking to somebody once every couple of weeks about your problems (real or imagined), somehow something to be ashamed of, but not taking five or six prescriptions a day to manage physical health problems? Heaven help me. So I said to her that, yes, that's exactly what I was saying. I do have mental health problems. I have for many, many years. I think I would qualify occasionally crippling depression and anxiety a problem, wouldn't you? And it's in my head, so, yes. Definite mental health problems. I also explained to her that the right, responsible thing to do is to care for your mental health just like you would take care of your physical body. I talked about how we should never be ashamed for helping ourselves, and how important it is to recognize when you need help. The world is a crazy place. Life is crazy. Why should we have to figure it out all on our own? So I'm off, to search for somebody with a comfy chair and a box of tissues to pour out my heart and soul to. I hope with all my heart that when my precious daughter feels like she needs more help than she can get from anybody in her life, she will do the same.
Posted in You are Enough | 2 Comments