Hello? Are you still out there? It’s me, Lora. You may remember me from the “Monster Stuffie Giveaway” contest where I asked everyone and their mother to refer their friends over to F-Words to follow my blog. Then I wrote one post and dropped off the face of the Earth. You’re WELCOME friends!
Oh, you’re thinking, THAT Lora. And now you’re thinking, THAT Lora who can’t seem to GET OVER HERSELF. Announcing her big comeback? Woo. Hoo. Let life begin anew. Anyway…
I guess before I start back in on this whole blogging thing, I should provide some sort of explanation. Well, here it is. I went nuts. Crazy. Insanseville. I don’t like to throw around words like “nervous” or “breakdown,” so instead I will lay them lightly at your feet and pray that you tread lightly.
Anyway, as luck would have it, going nuts was exactly what I needed.
You see, I don’t know if you remember, but I had a bake stand at our local Farmer’s Market, was writing a blog and was trying to raise three young children. Turns out, those three things don’t really go together.
I’ll give you the Coles Notes version. My first sign should have been that I developed a stress induced rosacea rash that covered my entire face. But that wasn’t obvious enough. Then of course the clumps of hair I was finding post shower were just some weird, random occurrences. Still no blip on the crazyometer. The fact that I did not sleep, sit down or stop at all, was also just a little too subtle for me. No, I needed a full blown hammer to the skull and guess what? I got it.
The hammer came in the form of a sweet, little, long-haired, crown-wearing, 4-year-old girl.
My daughter, Ruby, started to have a bit of a nervous breakdown along side me. One day she was her normal, happy, witty, little self, and the next day she was a shell that looked like Ruby, but contained only questions about how germs were going to get into her. It CONSUMED her. She totally disappeared. I can still remember the fear in her eyes. It was excruciating. I know that I have a tendency to exaggerate sometimes (“sometimes” itself, being an exaggeration), but I am not exaggerating at all, when I tell you that for days, she only used her voice to ask questions about germs. The kid who talks and talks and talks about every little thing, didn’t want to talk about anything other than her immune system. It was terrifying.
Of course, in my mind I immediately cut to 10, 20 then 30 years down the road. She’d never be able to communicate, she’d be dependent on me forever, she’d never fall in love, she’d never go to college, she’d never have children…etc. I spent about two days in that panic. I called the doctor, the psychologist and anyone I could think of that could direct me in any way.
In my panic, I began scouring the internet reading about psychological disorders in children (which, I will add, does not do much for the old anxiety levels). Much of the research I found reported that most psychological problems in children come from a lack of connection to their parents. When they are floating around without anyone to connect to, they are afraid, but cannot pinpoint why, so they find alternate ways to express their fears. In Ruby’s case, this was by asking incessant questions about germs.
Of course when I read this I thought, but I AM connected, so that doesn’t apply to me. But once I started to think about it, it was clear as day. I was lost myself. I was so busy doing EVERYTHING I could possibly think of to stay at home with my kids (including trying to justify to the WORLD why I SHOULD be at home by trying to overcompensate big time) that I thought, surely my children know that this is all for them.
But they didn’t.
They didn’t know, and they didn’t care. Because at the end of the day, all kids want is a parent or someone who knows what the heck is going on, to love them, guide them and keep them safe. They need to know that in a world where they cannot feed, comfort or provide basic necessities for themselves, they get top billing on someone’s list of priorities who can provide those things. In my state of frenzy, despite my best (misguided) efforts, I was not giving my children the impression that I was able provide those things for them. I was so stressed out I could barely see straight. With me “gone” so to speak, and Chris at work almost all of the time trying to keep us afloat, no wonder the kid(s) felt lost.
With this realization, I put down my blog. I put down the bake stand, and with it, the idea that I had to make money; the little we were working with would just have to be enough. I also put down my friends, family, chores, phone, internet (even Facebook!) and focused solely on mom-ing her back to health. When someone called, I didn’t answer. Unless it was my mom calling to check in, I just gave her the short form then excused myself to mom again. (She could be trusted to spread the news of progress amongst those who were waiting to hear). I spent my whole day and my whole night smothering Ruby in attention, love, patience and security. And in just over a week, she was fine. Then I moved on to smothering Emma and Ben, and you know what? There’s a reason you can’t spell smother without the word “mother.” It’s awesome and more importantly it’s instinctual.
In this society, we are told right from the start to distance ourselves from our kids. Get them to sleep on their own. Don’t pick them up when they’re crying. Push them away from you and in to time-out to teach them a lesson. Let them go to daycare to “socialize.” All of these things are normal in our society, but every one of them gives me a sick feeling in my stomach.
I know that being a mom involves a lot of crying…and when it’s as a result of trying to shed your frustration in the only way possible, I believe that it’s healthy and normal. But when I think of the mom’s crying real heart-broken tears with their kids as their little ones, some only 3-years-old, march off to full-day junior kindergarten…or crying alongside their babies screaming in their cribs, in the name of establishing a sleep schedule…or crying trying to wean their babies at the appropriate time, it just seems wrong. All of these scenes where mother and child are crying together make me wonder, why the hell are we fighting our instincts so hard?
Well, the truth is, in this society, we moms have got a lot of other stuff going on, and it’s easier to “get used to” these things that make us uncomfortable, if it’s going to make it easier for us to get on with the other parts of our lives. Due to financial pressures or societal pressures or husband pressures or whatever pressures…there’s a LOT of pressure. The word “contribute” gets thrown around an awful lot, and since raising the next generation isn’t enough of a contribution, we are forced to hand our children over to other people to raise while we provide the necessities, which I believe are debatable depending on who you speak to. The point is, it takes some major cojones to look society in the face and say, “I can’t afford to do it, but I am going to be a stay-at-home mom, and just that.”
It is TERRIFYING to think of sending these little, defenseless people, whom we love most in the world into the brutality that is the school system, without the best backpack, clothes or whatever edge they can get over the other kids so they won’t fall to the bottom of the scholastic food chain. But I think that while we’re clamoring to pull all of this together for them, we miss the opportunity to look them in the eye and say, “You are enough. You are amazing. And you are worth all of my time while we have it…even if we never get to go on vacation, eat at a fancy restaurant, or I am wearing the same underwear I bought on my wedding day.” That last part may or may not apply to myself. But really, I think, more than anything, we are missing the opportunity to send them out of the home and into the world with the most powerful tool they could have – a safe warm home base, that they can always return to no matter what the mean girl at school said. A place where they are the star of the show, where their boundaries are established and clear, where there is no winning or losing and the love is truly unconditional. A place where their only job is to grow and flourish as themselves. We’re missing the opportunity to send them off with real, soul hugging, confidence.
In the past few months I have grown more than the sum total of the rest of my life. I’ve become a better version of the person who started this blog. I read through it recently, and I hate how the last third or so of it sounds…it’s so bitter and hurried and blind. And THAT is who was raising my children. Not okay.
…Insert deep breath…
So. In a nutshell, I’ll be blogging again, but this time I’ve actually got something to say. And I won’t be killing myself trying to make sure I get a post up every day. If I can promise you that I will continue lean heavily on cheap tricks like sarcasm and low blows, will you continue to walk with me on this crazy, exhausting, joyful, excruciating journey we call parenting? Even if my next post takes me another 4 months to write? Only time will tell I s’pose.
I am ecstatic to report that Ruby is totally back to her old self. And so am I. We’re doing better than ever…with me being the parent, and her being nothing but a kid. In fact, a few weeks back this conversation took place:
ME: Why is there always a huge mess wherever you kids have been?
RUBY: ‘Cuz that’s what kids do. We’re just doing kid stuff.
And that, my dear Ruby, is precisely what you should be doing.
Also, I have to thank you for the emails and notes of concern. I really appreciate them, and in a time when I was floating around like a balloon, you guys held my string. And of course, to my husband, family and friends who helped me through this, and never let a lesson pass me by because it would have made the conversation easier…thank you the most.