Parenting. Letting Go. And a Letter to my Son.

I am 2 years into this kind of parenting (yes I count the 9 months of being pregnant because it’s about time someone starts counting that) and I finally know what it’s all about. Bold statement, huh? I can feel the moms of 3+ grown adults rolling their eyes from here. Bear with me…or quit reading. Your call.

Parenting is one giant lesson, experience, invitation in Letting Go. Letting Go of preconceived notions about yourself, and about your child. Letting Go of exterior pressure, messages, and societal insults. Letting Go of expectation, mom guilt (that bitch), five year plans, and spontaneous summer vacations (at least for a few years). And the worst one? Parenting is one giant lesson, experience, invitation in Letting Go of your child.

I am of the mindset that our children do not belong to us.

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, they belong not to you.”
–Kahlil Gibran

This poem in full is posted on our fridge, and we’ve held to its truths that resonated with us long before we had our son. But since I am being bold here anyway, I’ll go ahead and say that Kahlil Gibran has left out an important piece. I do not believe my son belongs to me. And yet, I cannot escape the deep seeded truth — those ones you feel in the depths of your gut — the ones that you feel so sure of that you don’t care who disagrees because regardless of exterior pressure, messages, and societal insults, they are your truth. And that alone is enough. I do not believe my son belongs to me. But, I know that I belong to my son. Continue reading

To My Husband, On Father’s Day

It’s hard, isn’t it? Parenting, partnering, life. I hear glimpses of the toll it’s taking on you — the deep sigh you breathe when our son calls out for attention just as we have curled up in bed. The slight smirk you give when he and I stand in the window and wave goodbye to you every single weekday morning. I know that smirk. It means your heart is somehow breaking and healing at the same time. I hear it in your apologies for forgetting to put an extra snack in the diaper bag so that he would survive the car ride peacefully. Or maybe it’s so I can survive the car ride peacefully. I forgot which one since I was too busy convincing myself I was not going to survive the car ride with a snackless baby.

It’s hard, isn’t it? To wake up a father, without a father, on Father’s Day. Hell, it’s hard to wake up a father, without a father, on Monday. Or Thursday. I see glimpses of the toll it’s taking on you — the pause it brings when our son kisses the framed picture of you and your parents. Each time you muster up the words “that’s my dad, your Grandpa Jim” and you leave it at that. And I stand back watching your heart break and heal at the same time. Grief is never without complication. And yet you seem to hold it — the grief, the complication — so seamlessly. As if, maybe, life and grief have always coexisted for you.

It’s hard, isn’t it? To wake up next to a woman who you once knew so fully, so wholly and watch her deteriorate and rebuild herself over and over and over again as she learns how to be a mother. And a wife. And a woman. I wonder if she felt as much a stranger to you as she did to me. I feel the toll it’s taking on you — the helplessness you feel as her body and mind break open to bring new life to your family. I feel the burden you carry as you desperately try to do more in attempts to match her sacrifice.

It’s hard, isn’t it? How we live in a world of competition and comparison and yet, sacrifice and suffering and joy cannot be compared. Nor can they be separated.

It is good, isn’t it? Parenting, partnering, life. I hear glimpses of the unhinged bliss you hold — the laughing till we cry as we watch and re-watch videos of our son trying to swing his little golf club and hit the ball. The mutterings of ‘god he is so cute’ as we pull our mattress into his room for the night so we can be closer to him. I sometimes think you are actually telling God how cute our child is, since we have both agreed that we aren’t so sure about what God does and doesn’t know these days. I hear your bliss in his laughter. And somehow in his tears, too. You have always been a safe place for tears.

It is good, isn’t it? To not have known a safe place and yet to have somehow created one for yourself. And for your son. To wake up a father, to a son. To show up a father, to a son. Again and again and again. I see glimpses of the joy it gives you when he mumbles ‘Dada’, as if he is knighting you as a good man. It’s as if you knew you always had a father in you even if you didn’t have a father fathering you. I see the redemption unfold in games of chase, running through sprinklers, and unwavering calmness in the face of a meltdown (mine or the 15 month olds).

It is good, isn’t it? To partner with your best friend and watch new parts of her unfold as she becomes a mother, even if the new parts are slightly more rageful than you would prefer. I think you’ve always known she had a fire inside. I feel the deep love you carry in the way you still carry me — whether it’s to bed or through depression. And now, I feel the deep love you carry in the way you’ve come to let me go — to give me space to be alone, write, rest, or drive to the ocean. Carrying is never without letting go. And yet you seem to live in their tension so seamlessly. As if life, maybe, has always been about holding on and letting go for you.

It is hard, isn’t it? Parenting, partnering, life.
It is good, isn’t it? Parenting, partnering, life.
I fear that it will always be both.
I also fear that we might be made for both.

But I am grateful to do both — the hard and the good; the parenting, partnering, life — with you.

And our son? He might not be able to talk much, but you can see it, feel it, hear it in his entire being — he is grateful, too.

Love,
Your Wife

Slowing Down.

I have slowed down. A lot. Over the past forty-ish days, I made a conscious effort to minimize my calendar, closet, and cell phone/social media use. In turn, I maximized my presence. Which looked a lot like nothing, until I realized that nothing is the beginning (and end) of everything.

Our society sends us messages all the time about how busy means you’re productive and productivity is a direct result of importance. Somehow being busy has become an indicator of success. And success an indicator of worth. A favorite tag line in this culture: good things come to those who hustle.

Hustle basically means forceful hurrying. And why are we hurrying? Because our calendars are full. Why are our calendars full? Because we are busy. Why are we busy? Because we are important.

The cycle is vicious. And wildly false.

One of my favorite writer/teachers, Jen Pastiloff, says “being busy doesn’t make you important or cool. It just makes you busy.” It just makes you busy.

Here’s the truth: I’m not busy. By this society’s standards. I don’t have a job (by this society’s standards). I stay home with our son. I barely ever cook — who needs to with a Trader Joe’s freezer section nearby? My husband shares housework and yard work with me cuz we are one of those modern families where all the people who live in the house help keep it clean. Ya know those progressive thinkers where adults are actually expected to be adults.

I had much higher hopes for myself when I envisioned being a stay at home mom. I envisioned doing workout DVDs while the baby napped, deep cleaning our home weekly, and even packing my husband’s lunch. (That last one makes me laugh out loud…hard.) I envisioned having my baby on a firm schedule and teaching him about sleeping 12 hours at night. Our current culture is obsessed with sleeping babies. Coincidental? We need our sleep to keep up with our busy lives. Our busy, keep-up-with-the-American-rat-race lives. No wonder why the baby sleep industry is a million dollar one.

The cycle is vicious.

Before this post starts to sound too much like an encouragement to live off the grid and deep in the woods, let me say that yes, good things can come to those that hustle. At the same time, I am learning that good things come to those that slow down, too. And maybe, good things come to those that do nothing. Because, maybe, it’s not about what’s coming to us, as much as it’s about what’s already come; who has already come. 

Maybe we already have the good thing we are hustling for.

Maybe we already are the good thing.

So what’s a day in the life of doing “nothing” look like? It looks like waking up slow, good morning kisses, a cup of coffee, a shared meal, goodbye waves in the window, reading books and stacking blocks, blowing kisses and long walks. Naps. Nothing always includes naps. It looks like visiting grandparents and aunts, writing snail mail, video chatting and taking silly pictures. It’s time spent in the yard running through the sprinkler without any regard to how soaked the grass is getting, how muddy your feet are, or if the winter white of your legs is blinding passing cars. There’s no room for self-scrutiny in the sprinklers.

Doing nothing looks like kissing away tears after a tumble, and loud deep breathing in a (sometimes futile) attempt to stay calm while the baby toddler screeches in frustration at you.

It looks nothing like being busy. And for me, it looks everything like being present. I cannot be both, fully. I cannot be busy and present – or as present as I desire to be.

And yes, I am aware that as a stay at home mom I have the luxury of doing “nothing”. But I’m also aware that I have struggled with this transition. Because turns out those messages society has told us became the messages I was telling myself.

I needed to be making money to be of any worth. I needed a fuller calendar to be of any importance.

Do you know how awkward it feels when you get texts from friends about how busy, busy, busy they are and then they ask what you’re up to and you check your phone calendar in hopes of finding anything besides a national holiday marking one of your days?

I was searching for worth, importance, validation in meaningless activity; in forceful hurrying.

What happened when I slowed down? I noticed. So. Much. More. AND. Cared about so much less.

We have one standing appointment every week. Mondays at 11 am. Mama therapy group. That’s it. One measly commitment. And sometimes we don’t even make that because we are napping.

Even still, I am important.

Even still, I am of great worth. 

The worst part of parenting is the self-discovery. AND. The best part of parenting is the self-discovery.

Good things do come to those who hustle.

Good things also come to those who stop hustling, sit their asses down on the floor that probably should be swept and stack blocks with their baby. 

Good things come to those who realize that we are the good thing. 

A Note On My Phone

Here’s a real life peak into all the thoughts that make their way into one Note on my phone. This is what one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott, calls the “shitty first draft.” Usually these thoughts get refined and reconstructured several times before being published on this blog, but in the spirit of keeping it real, enjoy the unorganized, unedited version.

I’ve been trying to find ways to keep myself busy. When I think Life is asking me to not be busy. To slow down. To be. With my son. And myself.

You know all my son wants is to be with us? To have us near? He knows nothing of this world and culture – he knows nothing of societal expectations or definitions or pressures. He knows presence. Nearness. He knows love. He doesn’t know that I just googled if hyperpigmentation that happens in pregnancy ever fades. He doesn’t know these dark blotches on my face aren’t “right”. He just knows my face. And how to kiss it. Everything he knows is everything I am trying to learn.

That presence. Is. Simply. Enough. Continue reading

The Mama In Me

There are few things I know about myself. I am working on this – I want to know myself better, more fully. But one of the things I know that I know that I know is that there is a Mama in Me. I just got finished watching an episode of Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday where the idea of identity came up. And how “child of God” is who we were when we came into the world and “child of God” is all who we will be when we leave this world. Oprah responded with the notion that that truth is some serious spiritual wisdom.

I felt a tightness in my belly; I disagreed. And disagreeing with Oprah feels like one of the more foolish things someone can do. But, I do. I disagree. Or maybe I believe there is more. That I did not come into this world as just a child of God. Unless “child of God” encompasses the Mama in Me. Continue reading