Saturday, August 9, 2014

Musings of a Mum: 2 years (and a few months) old

Prologue:

Dear Bowie,
 I've not written a letter to you since you were 13 months old.  Sit down with a big mug of something peaceful and drink it in, my baby girl. It's a long one.

Mum




Dear Bowie,

Recently, we've been visiting public pools, learning to swim.  At first you were trepidatious and clingy, but then you began to kick!kick!kick! fantastically. Though shivering, you laughed and bobbed up and down with Mama.  You kicked as Daddy helped you glide across the top of the water.  You clung to a red bouncy ball for dear life, and you didn't want to get out.

You love water.  I admit that I love this about you, in part because it's also a love I share. Last weekend, you determined to go in Gpa's fish pond.  You loved it, and we all gathered about watching and enjoying the summer air on skin.

It's a great time of year to be born, if I do say so myself.  Everyone should try a summer birthday, just once.



I just read last year's letter that I wrote to you.  I expressed a lot of fear about the loss of my baby and how I was dreading the inevitability of your independence.  But like you, I have grown up a lot this year. Motherhood feels more and more natural as you integrate into our life, as we become more complete as 3 humans sharing a soul-space.



I have been reading a book called "Brain Rules for Baby," and it's got me thinking about social intelligence. Since it's the main focus of how I am interacting with you these days, I thought you might like to know where I am coming from.

On Happiness:

The majority of parents say that the biggest goal for parenting is, "I want my kid to be happy."  Humans have spent years and years attempting to define what the word happiness really means.  Well, scientists have come to the conclusion that a truly happy human is a connected human.  That is to say, a human's personal happiness is inextricably derived from her relationships.  Yes, your relationship with yourself, but even more so - your relationship with others.

This makes sense to me.  Our very DNA decided long ago that collaboration was better than competition. A single celled organism knew it had no chance of survival alone, so it decided to mate.  And mate, and mate, and mate...and billions of years of this mating produced us. The human body - the walking quintessence of collaboration and connection.  All temperament and personality traits aside, all humans need connection to other humans.

This has become my focus for you.  But how do you teach a child how to be a good friend?  There are a lot of practical applications that I am still discovering, but the ideals as stated in "Brain Rules for Baby" are two-fold.

1. Emotional Regulation:  

A person must develop emotional intelligence before they can be socially smart. They must learn when and how to express their feelings.  Many people who were never taught to do this (for indeed it is a lesson to be learned, ideally from your parents) are again and again miserable creatures with toxic relationships.  So instead of trying to talk you out of feeling badly, I try to model sitting with how you feel...with naming it and not obsessing with trying to fix it. You cannot regulate emotions if you cannot name what you are feeling. This is much more difficult than I imagined, since being a parent means protecting you.

2. Empathy:

Again and again, the word empathy continues to find its way onto my parenting radar.  It is the cornerstone for teaching a child almost everything.  Sharing, potty-training, self-control, etc. For us, it has been a focus in sharing.  Instead of intervening and snatching a toy out of your hand (even though I just told you that 'we don't take toys from our friends') in my attempt to enforce sharing, I simply let you and your friends work it out.  When you refuse to share, I try to model empathy. I explain that I understand not wanting to share, and that it's hard to give your toys away.  I ask you what toys your friend can have.  Instead of me controlling you, I try to find ways to empower you.  Sounds great, yes. But, this has lead to you getting toys snatched from you and crying.  Your heart is broken, it's obvious.

You are an easy student.  You had already begun your own emotional education by acting out sadness.  You put your lip out and say, "Sad."  Then you say "HUG!" Then you say, "happy."    I have no idea who taught you that, but it's achingly beautiful to behold.  Your baby, the hose, the kitty, your friends, Mamma, the stool - all of these have been deemed sad, then hugged, then made happy.

But that is now.  We've been through a lot in a year.  You've gone from baby to human.  Where once you needed everything from me, and I needed to be sure I wasn't getting lost in you -now you need less and less from me and I can't even find the place inside where you don't reside.

______________________________

A Letter of Journal Entries

______________________________

I've spent hours with my journals, highlighting whenever I spoke of you. Though I didn't write you monthly letters this year, I found myself writing of you in my quiet time.  The following represents excerpts of your progress throughout the year. 

Bowie Andromeda
13 months old, July 2013

July 2013:

"Have I begun to miss Bowie?  Last night, as I began to wander from the social gathering mentally, I began to dream of Bowie's silly grin and when I go in and wake her up.  Her sweet cheeks, her pathetic "ohhhh."  I am not eager to return to the work of a toddler, but I miss the personality of Bowie."


Bowie Andromeda
14 months old, August 2013

August 2013:

"An interesting concept came up in therapy last week.  We were discussing Bowie and how's she scaring the shit out of me right now.  Exerting her will and showing her independence.  She has increasing powers of dislodging my guts; I cherish her more and more.  It's unnatural to have a premonition that one's heart is in danger, and still persist in loving.  So here I am with my heart bleeding out, and then I hear myself want space from the person threatening to expose me.  

It began many weeks ago when she started presenting more of herself to me and I began to resent the new work of keeping her entertained and the mind-numbing repetition of parenting/discipline.  I thought I must not like her.  Well, if I have the power to dislike her - Fuck. She has the same power.  And that's when it hit me newly, that we will have two distinct and different personalities with absolutely zero guarantee that we'll get a long.  I think I mistakenly equate getting along with one's parents as a sign of their abilities as a parent."


Bowie Andromeda
15 months old, September 2013

September 2013

"Bowie won't stay put these days. She wants to be where I am, discovering what I am doing, tasting what I'm eating.  What a delightful phase, actually.  Only weeks ago, I didn't like it.  I couldn't find myself time in her new goings on.  But I've adjusted.  Joel says it's his favorite so far - she's questioning and curious and expressing herself (and LOVES Dad right now, incidentally)."

Bowie Andromeda
16 months old, October 2014

October 2013:

You took your first steps at your friend Greta's house in mid-October. 

Bowie Andromeda
17 months old, November 2013

November 2013:

"I'm now always looking forward to seeing her.  That little lady is now stuck in my gut."

"She is climbing up on the couch by herself this week.  She loves to snuggle the cat, kiss her, try to pick her up, and torture her.  She loves to push 'no' even more and it's shocking to me how quickly I became enraged after a few hours of this.  She thinks time outs are a game.  Test, test, retest...I see her brain doing it.  I know it logically, I know it when I step back.  I was so frustrated today and when Joel came home, I went to my teeth cleaning with pleasure.  When I returned, I was able to handle her volatility with compassion and gentleness.  Just step back."

"If I return to full time work, I will mourn the loss of our mornings together.  I've learned to tame the productivity beast I wake up with and can ritualize the morning. Bowie is most resilient and independent during this time as well - this gives us both free time.  She wanders about, typing on the old typewriter, playing with her toys, signing for me to help her with books or climbing."


Bowie Andromeda
18 months old, December 2013

December 2013:

  • How easily and deeply you laugh
  • Your obsession with and preferences for books.  You will bring us the same book to read 6-8 times.  We will then try to pick a new one, and you will heartily cast it aside if you don't approve.  Sometimes when the house is too quiet, I'll go searching and find you in your room sitting on your rocking chair, reading to yourself.  Currently, it's: "Llama Lama" books, "The Going to Bed Book" (despite your disdain for the 2nd to last page?), "The book of 100 words," "Moby Dick," and "Jane Eyre."
  • You've begun to pretend with dolls.  Real babies used to make you nervous and you cried when they did.  Now, when Phoenix comes over and cries, you pat her arm and say "Mou-Mou."  You repeat this throughout the week with your dolls, but concerned about MouMou.  Your sweet spot has always been apparent, you are snuggler with a gentle soul.
  • You are so curious.  You love to watch me make coffee or brush your teeth with my sonic care or see what the heck I am always look at on my phone.
  • No matter how cranky or sad or upset our day becomes, it can always be reset by going outside.  Just the mention of it is enough to get your attention.
  • I marvel at how much you understand and how clearly you can already follow verbal instructions.
  • You love to water the plants.
  • You love to say "Abbey" and "kitty."
  • You are verbally aware, mimicking and repeating everything - and you recently impressed me with "applesauce."

Bowie Andromeda,
19 months old, January 2014

January 2014:

"Bowie's been so good at understanding directions.  Just now, I asked her to go find her books behind the couch.  She looked that way and went over there, found a plastic puzzle piece and brought it to me.  I then pointed at the puzzle under the other couch, saying "this goes with your puzzle under the settee" which she went to promptly.  It surprised me."

"Joel and I took B out to dinner.  She did so well.  She sat well while eating and ate a lot!  Suddenly she's a little girl - preferring ketchup and wiggles."


Bowie Andromeda
20 months old, February 2013

February 2013:

"I hear my husband speaking praises to Bowie as he gives her a bath.  I hear the shower gently pelting the bath water, a new routine of hers...to sit in the bath but run the shower.  Playing in warm rain.  Joel encouraging, laughing, instructing her..."what to relax?"  He holds her afloat in the water on her back.  She recently looked up at him intently and quietly whispered "Papa."

Sandhurst Co-Op Preschool
In February, you started Co-Op preschool.  I was nervous the first day because I wasn't sure you were ready for it socially.  But you stood in the middle of circle time and smiled at each and every mom and child there.  We went every Thursday morning until Summer came, and while you loved the 2.5 hours of singing, socializing, and especially snack - you fell asleep on the 10 min car ride home nearly every time.  If I had to venture a guess, I'd say the stimulation of people tends to exhaust you. Boy howdy, can I relate.


    Bowie Andromeda
    21 months old, March 2013

March 2014:

In March, I somewhat suddenly returned to work.  Once again, I was nervous about the transition and once again you reassured me with your secure attachment and resilience.  You loved your new nanny, Jenna, from the beginning and we are all doing much better for me being at work, despite the emotional wrenching I had to go through to leave you with someone I didn't know as well as I liked.  It was a very rough time for mamma, and I will spare you the pro/con list I made in my journal. 

Bowie Andromeda
22 months old, April 2013

April 2013:

"Bowie is fun lately.  My patience and ability to enjoy raising a toddler is grown and I like that feeling.  I bought her a chalkboard/magnet board and she loves it.  She recognizes the letters 'B' 'Q' and 'O.'  She knows shapes too.  Square, triangle, circle, diamond, and crescent (she calls it moon, of course).  She screams 'NO' a lot and dislikes sharing, so I'd say she's right on target.  She's insane about wanting to be outside these days. She says "ahsigh!" and looks for her alien rain boots.  She loves those boots*."

*see boots below
Bowie Andromeda
23 months old, May 2014

May 2014:

"I DO IT!"

"B is remarkable, we love raising her together.  She makes us continually proud.  I can see where she will struggle in life, but those ares of struggle are also gateways to her own soul, how she will know (and hopefully learn to love) herself.  I would be doing her a huge disservice to save her from struggle - if I even could."


Bowie Andromeda
24 months, June 2014

June 2014:

  • You have so many words, including 4-5 word sentences.  At your 18 month old appointment, the doctor asked how many words you had.  At that time, it was around 50.  I have now given up counting.  
  • You did the cutest thing a few months ago.  You have a mobile of planets above your bed, and we periodically review them with you.  You can identify 4 of them without hesitation, but back when you could only say 'earf,' you also asked to hold it.  The planets unhook from the string, so Daddy gave you the earth.  You demanded to sleep with it, and when we entered your room the next morning with you still sleeping, you had the earth tucked tightly up into the crux of your arm.  
  • You show a solid attachment to the people in your life. You love your aunts and uncles and know them all by name, often asking for them throughout the day.  
  • You love and hate loud noises, fascinated by them, but often comforting yourself against their intrusion, "It's okay, I got you, I'm right here."
  • You know all your colors, can count from 3-5, and did your first big job in the potty.  
  • Hearing you say "Andromeda" or "hellicopter" (budertopter) or calling me 'Candace'  or demanding to be naked is the cutest thing in the world.
I could go on and on for my interest and noticing of you. Perhaps every parent feels awed by their child, but what's truly remarkable is watching a human child develop in your care. It's the greatest experiment of our lives.


Love Forever and Always,
(I mean it. "Just try to get rid of me" as Grandma Denise used to say):

Mum


Friday, July 18, 2014

unlike yourself







I think we give ourselves a bad rap sometimes, we melancholy, analytical, introverted, grumbley-type folk. We don't understand why everyone else is so happy and colorful all the time, and assume we have an inability be happy or colorful at all.

But I see in color, I do. I prefer not to wear it as my identity, but it doesn't mean there isn't room for me to claim a part of it.  There is room, so much room, on this strange and vibrant planet.  As I walked up my drive tonight after an evening facial (my annual b-day treat to myself), I saw it more than usual.  I grabbed my camera and let myself be one of those colorful people.

 Conversely, I hope that those colorful folk find ways to realize they too are melancholic, like to wear black, and allow negative feelings to just be instead of chasing them away with self-help or external distractions.

Why in goddess's good name do we box ourselves in so rigidly?
I know why.
It was a rhetorical question.

The composition of one self is as vast as the composition of one solar system.  We contain multitudes, we see moments of our greatness flicker (two points for guessing the two literary references here).  It's like a mother with ten children - each of them must be a certain kind of person so as to easily know them (Jane is the athlete, David is the beauty queen, etc).  It's  a sad practice, but it makes sense.  So let's not judge ourselves too severely for it.

I began to straighten the kitchen from the hasty family dinner of pizza and salad and thought about what makes us who we are.

What if we have less control than we think over:
who we are
what we think
how we feel

Science seems to be backing me up here*.  We inherit the temperament and personality traits we come to love or despise in ourselves.  Some are born grumpy and it's nearly statistically impossible that they change into a happy-go-lucky person. We can change habits, relationships, and outlooks, but we simply cannot change the building blocks of self.

Similar to the subjection and consumption of women, somewhere in the course of human history, society decided that humans prefer upbeat, energetic, free-spirited people.  Conversely, we were taught to distrust quiet, introspective, inhibited-types and soul-crinkles.

I'm one of those people, and I distrust myself all the time. Society could just have easily come to value solitude and sadness.  It's hard to be me, but it's hard to be you too - I am guessing.

And yet we I spend so much time trying to reconcile myself to the world around me, terrified not only of being misunderstood by others, but fucking petrified that I will never, ever make sense to myself.

So I plan to embark on another mental retraining.  To accept all and everything I am - understood or not.  And not just resign to its presence, but accept it like I fully accept my daughter into my love.  To divert the steady flow of compassion I have for everyone else and let myself tip-toe in it.  To refuse to feel shame because I feel less free-spirited than others, because I like to calculate risks before I take them, because I need to know what to expect before I can proceed without anxiety, because I dislike small talk with strangers, and that despite everything - I will always be a highly-irritable curmudgeon, snapping at you for leaving empty ice trays out on the counter.  I will always live in an abundance compassion, insight, and thoughtfulness for others while simultaneously dreaming about the next moment alone.

Since I cannot change my DNA, I shall determine to change how I see it.

crm



*See "Brain Rules for Baby" by John Medina.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Bowie Andromeda, 2 years old

At 10:17pm, Bowie Andromeda Morris will have completed her 2nd cycle around the star we call Sol on this planet we call home.

Happy Birthday, B.


Friday, June 20, 2014

reacquaintance

You learn the lessons of one season.  Hell, you damn near master them.
The seasons change.
You forget not the lessons necessarily, but the urgency of them.
So you pick up something you've not wanted nor needed for the latest era,
and reacquaint yourself with
yourself.

All
lonely
gritty-haired
magic hour
versions of yourself.

Maybe not the now you needing it at all,
but for nostalgia sake.
For acceptance of a written, closed novel.

Who and what you used to love and want to see
changing all the times around the clock.

in everything,
a turn.










{crm}

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mother Yourself

I have red flags of the soul. Do you? Certain feelings or old thoughts or familiar self-speech or particular actions begin to emerge when I run on adrenaline too long or persist in an ill-suited pace.  



Rather unbeknownst to her, a conversation with my friend Kristen today broke loose something glacial inside of me today.  I needed to have a come-to-Jesus conversation with myself, which I did at least try to do in the form of a journal.  But that wasn't working because I was spiraling, spinning into complaint after complaint (which has its place, believe me).  And one of those red flags flew right in front of my pen.  

I was tempted to stop the spiral into bad feelings by instead focusing on all that was right with my life.  This is highly unlike me and while it works for some, forcing myself into a place of gratitude has only ever shrouded me in shame. That I was tempted to trick myself into feeling better was the first sign.

So I sat down with Kristen instead.  I wrote her a long letter fessing up to my own darkness, a darkness I've been avoiding (for many reasons).  Because I was able to talk to her, I found a way to talk to me.

Another sign that I'm teetering into an unhealthy soul-state is outward blame.  I have a theory that there are two kinds of people.  Group A are internalizers.  They tend to see every conflict, every road block, every trial as somehow something they are responsible for, something they did to themselves.  Group B are externalizers.  They see the conflicts as something someone else is is doing to them. Someone else hurt them, someone else is making them feel bad, someone else is being unjust.  

Both are not ideal, of course.

(SIDENOTE wherein I preach about conflict:
I fully realize that I there are times to accept that someone has indeed wronged you.  Willingly or not, they have crushed you in some way. Ive most likely become an internalizer out of pride, since having to admit that someone hurt you means you are vulnerable.  But I also believe there is a way to confront that is best for the relationship, and a way to confront that is only best for you.  Ideally, we can recognize and avoid this by hearing ourselves.  Are we demanding change from someone without ourselves confessing to how we've contributed to the conflict? Are we reacting out of hurt and think it would be best to tell them so, but instead all we do is just hurt them back?  How is this going to help anyone?  In true conflict resolution, where a goal really is a relationship afterward, there MUST be confession and humility on both parts, but we cannot demand it from anyone but ourselves.)  

I am an internalizer, for better or worse.  And I've begun to realize that when I start to blame others for my personal pain, I am in a really bad place.  Usually, I can see it more wisely.

But I fully confess that this happens only when I am taking care of myself.

Ah, self-care.  You illusive bitch.  Why don't you stay around?

Enter the second red flag of the soul.  The last few weeks, I've felt like the world has conspired against me.  "No one does as much as I do, "No one is as thoughtful as I am," "No one cares enough to meet my needs," "Everyone thinks I'm ridiculous," "Everyone hates how Type A I am." 

Immature and ugly, yes.  
The truth, no.  
(Well, even if it is, it's not based on fact.  It's based on assumption. The worst of any basis.)

And today, as I confessed these ugly thoughts to a very safe lady, I realized I had been ignoring this red flag. Furthermore, it had evolved down a familiar path of self-hate where these thoughts become accusations, "Why am I so uptight?" and then into insults, "You are so damn frigid and special-needs." "Everyone is merely tolerating you," "You are so ill-equipped to for life and always have been," "Stop being so damned planned,"  "You are too difficult to live with" etc, etc.  

Truth be told, I hadn't realized it was this bad.  And even now it surprises me that I let it go on this long.

The birthing place of self-care, for me, has always been in solitude.  The more I avoid myself, the more I experience anxiety.  The more anxiety I feel, the more fucked up I assume I am.  The more fucked up I assume I am, the more I want to be someone else.  The more I wish I were someone else, the more I close off from people who love me.  Illusions and lies, all of them.

This pertains to Mother's Day quite pointedly, I think.

I began to think about how many mother's are going to be disappointed tomorrow.  Not because they are ungrateful bitches and entirely unable to please, but because no one can know what a mother does as well as she does. 

ONLY:
  • She knows the inner-conflict of of feeling very angry with a child she would die for.
  • She knows the pain of her body enduring pregnancy and labor and nursing and picking up a 30, then 40, then 50 lb sack of flesh and hugging it tight even though her arms are burning and her back is screaming.
  • She knows the planning and organization required for family life.
  • She knows the tug of inner voice vs child voice, especially when brushing her teeth or trying to put on makeup.  
  • She knows the shame of resenting people that don't know about all she does, but loves them anyway when they say generically "thanks for all you do."
  • She knows she should want to be with her kids on Mother's Day, but would rather spend an entire weekend alone in her home, reading, writing, drinking wine in the morning, crying at independent films, taking uninterrupted showers, calling her friends without having to plan it, cook herself whatever she wanted. 
  • She knows the inner disappointment at herself for being too tired to fight temptations of having another bowl of ice cream instead of going for a walk.   
  • She knows the futility of sweeping the floor every damn day, but still does it.
  • She knows the unbearable inner pain of leaving her child with someone else so she can do something adult and have her own income.
  • She knows the sting of sacrificing herself, her education, her relationships, her body, her sex life, her hobbies, her tastes just for the supposed joy of it.
  • She knows the deep-seeded judgments of others when people are nasty to mothers online (or any faceless place where opinions are thrown out as truth and anyone can comment on them to affirm or deny her own fears)
  • She knows the desperation of knowing she'd easily give up Mother's Day in a heartbeat for more help and respect during rest of the year.

Ah, but at least there is Mother's Day!  
Yay, Mom doesn't have to cook!

Is that all?  Is that supposed to be enough to make up for all the thankless tasks I perform every day?

____________________

As I begin to spiral into this pitiful realization that Bowie won't be an angel tomorrow and Joel won't be a perfect husband and I will still have to lift fingers and still be patient, I realized I was expecting someone else to love me the way only I knew I needed it.

I need a way back to myself.  The only way thus far has been through solitude and more reflection.  Frankly, that sounds impossible in this new life of me back at work, but it can't be.   

Mother's Day, 2013.  They day Bowie began to crawl.


I am asking you what you need to be loved.  Then asking you if it's possible, one more time, like any real princess would do...
Can you save yourself?
No need to wait.  No one can do it like you can.

True courage is birthed in these hopeless feelings, where we decide to press on in our own way, in our own time, with arms wrapped tight around our own selves.

~crm