Courage to Say No


We are getting into the beginning of the holiday preparations and thus begins a particular battle with my daughter: the Christmas “wants”. The List.

My husband once told me, “You don’t really care of people like you or not. What really bothers you is if people are upset with you; you can’t stand it if people are upset with you.”

It’s true, I greatly dislike it if people are upset with me, particularly if I do not know why. However, there are times in which I do need to step forward beyond that fear. There are times when I need to have enough courage to let someone be disappointed and upset with me. And this is one of them.

My daughter’s Christmas wish list has been rather reasonable up to this point: books and dolls, a scooter…but there is one toy which has become the bone of contention. It is a unicorn. Now, my girl is currently mad for unicorns, which is not a problem in and of itself. It comes several different hues with multi-colored hair, dressed in a crop top and what looks like a cross between a diaper and high-cut denim booty shorts. But this particular unicorn has a singular function. You feed it a concoction made up of ingredients included with the purchase of the toy. Then you sit the unicorn on what looks like a child’s training potty, and said unicorn then poops out slime, to which glitter and color can then be added. Yes, you read that correctly: the function of this unicorn is to poop slime.

This is the toy that my child wants more than anything else for Christmas. This. It is one of a line of toys centered around either pooping or vomiting slime. I am not okay with this. I am not okay with this thing costing almost fifty dollars either (fifty bucks, you guys!). I have promised her to think and speak to her father about it, but I can tell you with 99.9% certainty that this particular unicorn will not be joining my daughter’s menagerie.

You may disagree with my parenting choices, and that’s fine. I know that they are my choices to make.

I do not like having Elizabeth disappointed with me. I do not like having her upset with me. I do not like her thinking that I do not want her to be happy (because I do).

Yet here I am, breathing deeply, reaching for my courage, and preparing to deny my daughter the thing she wants most in the world right now. I am preparing myself to stand under the weight of her possible displeasure and disappointment, even while she possibly receives everything else she has asked for.

Courage, dear heart. Courage to love my daughter, stand firm, and say no.

First-Time Courage


Tonight, my daughter will embark on a milestone of childhood: her first sleepover…and an away-from-home sleepover at that. This little girl is Elizabeth’s best friend ever, and her family has already taken Elizabeth to heart with their kindness and generosity, for which I am immensely grateful.

I have no problem admitting that my child is far braver than I ever was as a little person. She loves the New (especially New People). I hated sleeping away from home and, whenever I tried, I would usually end up calling my parents to come get me. I was such a creature of homeostasis that I always preferred for my friends to come to me for sleepovers. In fact, I am not sure I can remember a time when I actually stayed at a sleepover that wasn’t at my own house. Huh.

Again, my girl has proven herself to be far braver than her mom at times. Admittedly, she is a little nervous amidst her excitement. I absolutely get that and have been encouraging her to be brave, reminding my dearest girl that having courage and being brave do NOT mean being unafraid. Rather, it is still being afraid (even if just a little bit) and choosing to do the thing anyway. I remind my girl that her friend loves her and that it is obvious that her family already does, too, and will take excellent care of her. Also, she gets to spend 24 whole hours with her best friend! How cool is that?

So, this afternoon, I will watch my daughter step into her courage for something brand-new, exciting, and maybe a little bit scary. I will hug her, kiss her, wish her the best time ever, and remind her that I love her always and am very proud of her and her bravery. Then I will breathe deep and let go.

This is scary for me, too. As scary as her moving into her new room upstairs bit by bit. It means change, growth, a shift in how things have always been. But it will be fun for her and good time with her best friend; she will enjoy it. So I will have Courage so that my daughter can have Joy.

Courage, dear heart.

Image from Today’s Parent

When I am Graceless


There comes a point in just about every evening when a switch is flipped within me. A moment when I go from gentle, loving, patient, ever-bearing Mommy to a weary, prickly, cranky woman who wants nothing more than for her child to go the eff to sleep and for a lion’s portion of quiet to reign in my house again for the little time that I have left before my body requires me to sleep before  getting up and doing it all over again. In those moments, I have to admit to being largely graceless.

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Musings on a Third Birthday


Today, my daughter turns three, I am running on 5 hours of mostly-full-though-still-broken sleep,  and her gifts were  JUST wrapped a few minutes ago by her Mamaw while I kept her distracted in the living room.

It’s been a nice build up to Bizzy’s birthday. This week, as we have been out and about, she has been spreading sunshine around to others: waving, smiling, saying “Hi, everyone!”, and wishing people “Merry Christmas!” It’s done my heart good as I have tried to concentrate on the moments that make this season wonderful and not let myself be trapped by the expectation, comparisons, and stuff that made me regret it all at the end of last year. Fewer presents and more meaning. Less doing and more being. Fewer obligations and more space for magical moments and divine appointments.

Today, there will be no huge birthday party, no me running around to pick up party platters, birthday cake, and decorate a party space, no leaving my mom to mind and dress and prepare Elizabeth for said party while I go hither, thither, and yon. No running around desperately trying to be a good hostess as well as an attentive Mommy. No cleaning up afterward, trying to figure out where all the leftovers and cake are going to fit in the fridge, especially with Christmas Day foodings in 6 days. Nope!

All of that that is #offthebeam this year (thank you, Jen Hatmaker). As fun as it might have been for Bizzy last year, it was so much stress for me that I was a wreck by the end of the day and I didn’t get to enjoy my daughter’s birthday really at all. This year, we are going back to basic and easy: a relaxed day (that hopefully involves a nap or two for me), a family dinner out at a Chinese buffet that she really likes, presents, and a small cupcake (with a Christmas tree in frosting) for my girl to indulge in.

My little girl is three years old. I am running on five hours’ sleep, and I am so very pleased and proud to be the mother of this wonderful, fabulous, maddening, fierce, spiky, friendly, smart, lovely little person.

 

Ghost Of Fridays Past…


Last night, after a trip to the gym, I did the unthinkable: I braved the mall on a Friday night, two weeks before Christmas. In my defense, it wasn’t my fault. I had things that I wanted/needed to return so that I could purchase their replacements as soon as possible. As I speed-walked through the mall, determined to be done as soon as possible, I couldn’t help but be accosted by the realization of just how long it had been since I had traversed the mall on a Friday evening. I was also suddenly inundated by memories. Memories of Friday nights past. Before the Big Change, i.e. before baby.

In Friday nights past, Ben and I would often get out of work and head straight to an early dinner. We liked to hit dinner early so that we could enjoy our meal before the start-of-weekend dinner rush. After dinner, we could make our way over to the mall or to Best Buy (depending on our movie location) to kill time before making our way to the movie theater to catch whatever flick suited our fancy that weekend.  We would peruse the DVDs at Best Buy, the shelves of the bookstore, or the racks at Hot Topic at the mall, enjoying our geekery in its myriad forms.

I miss those Fridays, if I am being completely honest. I miss strolling around the mall or the store on my husband’s arm, just meandering with no rush, timetable, or out-of-sight worries to keep me out of the moment. I think that is one of the things that I miss the most right now: being able to consistently stay in the moment, whether it’s a date on the couch with Ben, a conversation on the phone or online, reading a book, or journaling. I love my daughter, make no mistake, but she commands the lion’s portion of my time, attention, and strength.

A friend of mine (and fellow mommy) sent me an article by Wendy Wisner today entitled “The Hardest Thing About Being a New Mom” and something that it said struck to the core and heart of a great many of my feelings.

“Oh, the things they don’t tell you about motherhood. […] I’m talking about your identity. I’m talking about the fact that in one quick instant, you go from being woman, girlfriend, wife, professional, artist, lover, free-thinking-doing-being-person to MOTHER. Just like that. And mother, at least at first, is bigger than all those other things, whether you want it to be or not.

But I wish someone had told me it was normal to feel like the person I’d been before kids had been smashed into sharp little pieces of glass.”

I must be honest: I feel this way sometimes. A lot of sometimes. Like all that I was, who I was, has just been smashed to smithereens and I don’t know just how to see myself as anyone other than “Mommy” anymore. And that, truthfully, is very difficult sometimes, especially since it took me the better part of twenty-some years to find an identity that was just and wholly me, apart from anyone else in my life.

Please, do not mistake me. I love my daughter. Love her to the moon and back. But I do want to be more than just Mommy. I want to be Melissa and all that means along with being a mother. I am not entirely sure just what all that is right now, however. I do not know whether “teacher” is still part of that or not, how long “pastor’s wife” will be part of it, what part writer/blogger has in it.

I wish someone had told me that I would eventually find all those pieces of myself — that I would sweep up the glass, put it together again. And that the new me would sparkle, bend light, make rainbows.

I wish someone had told me I would come out of it all intact, kick-ass, more resilient than ever — a mother.”

I do not feel like I am to this place just yet. I am still searching through those pieces, figuring out what they are, and how they fit together into the ‘me’ I am now. The mosaic that is me, composed by all these differing pieces, is coming together, maybe slowly, but it is. I have a few of the pieces, I dare say a few of the very important ones, and I will continue to grow and hope to fit some more of the pieces together in the coming year.  I dearly hope that I can say, as Ms. Wisner does, that I will sparkle, bend light, make rainbows, and, yes, be more kick-ass and resilient than ever.

Those Friday nights past are bright spots in my memory, as are my Friday nights present. Evenings of pizza and tag and kitty-cat finger puppets and singing before bedtime, of cuddles on the den couch leaned against Ben with my book while he plays “Fallout 4”. And I am hoping that my Friday evenings yet to come will be even brighter as we all grow together.

 

BloPoMo Day 1: That Mom? That’s Me.


Author’s Note: Cross-posted from my motherood blog.

Today, not half an hour ago, I was that mom.

I was the mom who walked into the gas station Subway with a crying toddler, who was angry because we were there instead of on a walk.

I was the mom with the toddler trying to stealthily sneak off because she believed that we didn’t need dinner and wanted to leave the Subway.

I was the mom with the toddler throwing her Lambie around because she was angry that I wanted her to stick with me.

I was the mom with the toddler who gave a scream and went prone on the floor in the middle of the checkout line, right when it was time for us to move forward for our turn.

I was the mom who stepped over her prone toddler to pay for the aforementioned sandwiches for dinner.

I was the mom who, but for the grace and integrity of the hoodie that I was grasping, would have had a toddler who planked herself face first into the asphalt.

I was the mom with the toddler who tried to stalk off through the parking lot, proclaiming she was “going walk”.

I was the mom with the red face. I was the mom with tears threatening. I was the mom trying staunchly to disbelieve that there are other people in the world, much less other people occupying the same commercial space as I was in those moments.

I am the mom with cranky tears still threatening and a mug of room temperature vanilla chai that I never got to enjoy.

I am the mom who, at this very moment, is catching her toddler throwing chips and, probably soon her sandwich as well, out of her high chair and onto the floor.

So, in all honesty today, this is for me. If you get something out of it, great. Really, though, this is for me. But thanks for not judging me.

DISCLAIMER: The linked article below is NOT mine but was posted at Stuff Moms Say.

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                                             Click me to go to the article.

When a Mom’s Voice is Silent


Author’s Note: Edited and revised on 9-14-15.

I think I was just called out by a friend. I don’t think she meant to or even realizes that she did but, yes, I feel like I have just been called out, in a good (very good) way, to vulnerability.

Vulnerability is not easy. It’s the proverbial exposing my belly but I also know that some of the best conversations and growth I have had with friends and family is through being vulnerable and exposing those tender, soft parts of my heart and soul. So, here I am and here it is:

I do not ask for help well. I don’t.

When it is emotional support I am in need of, that I can ask for because that can be given at a distance without me having to meet someone’s eyes in what so often feels like my weakness. But when it comes to physical help with the person offering standing there in front of me, that is almost impossible for me to ask for. Most recent example: I had a rough day with my toddler daughter the other day; she and I were at odds all the day long. I was tired; I was frustrated; I was angry. My girl was driving me mad and I had been graceless in response. My husband, bless his heart, asked me point blank if I wanted him to take our daughter for a while so I could have a break. And I couldn’t — could not — make myself say yes. Everything inside me screamed, “Yes! God, yes! I need a break! I need quiet! I need away!” But the words were stuck somewhere far away from my lips and would get nowhere near them. I physically could not force the words out of my mouth. I knew I needed help; moreover, he knew I needed help. But I just could not manage it, could not ask for it. And that is really scary sometimes. Scary that I cannot ask for help. Won’t ask for help. Even when I need it. Especially when I need it. It hurts and I’m sure it hurts the people who try to help me, too.

So why can’t I ask for help with my daughter when I really need it? Bluntly honest? Because I see her as my responsibility. Yes, she is our daughter but  was the one who wanted to stay home with her. I was the one who put my husband in the position of having to be the sole breadwinner with this desire, allowed that weight to settle on his shoulders alone for the first time since we got married seven years prior. So, as I took on  the roll of SAHM, I often feel like I need to be there and do my job, regardless of what sort of day I have had. Now, I know what just pushing on in such a vein will do: eventually, I will twitch out of my skin and collapse into a puddle of stressed, exhausted tears, most likely after some sort of blowup with my husband that really had no need to become such a mountain-out-of-a-molehill.

need  time to to care for myself. I need time to recharge and, for me, that requires time alone. “Alone” doesn’t happen with my girl, even though we do have periods of quiet when she is in the mood to do her own thing. But, even so, I am often reticent to call for help because something says, and loudly, “You are her mother! This is your job! You need to do it!”That voice is insistent. It is loud. And it silences me at times when I need t speak. When I need to ask for help.

Now, it isn’t all gloom and doom. I have a great support system, and I get great joy from my daughter, from teaching her, being taught by her, and watching her grow and develop into a little girl. While my difficulty in making full/often use of my support system frustrates me and I despise frustrating others, I am better than I used to be. I am doing better at my self-care and strategies for helping Elizabeth develop more independence.

Asking for help is still hard, very hard sometimes, but I know that it is something I need to do, in whatever way I can manage. Right now, those few ways are: asking the grandparents to take her out to lunch for a few hours, having a friend over to give me an extra set of hands and dose of attention for my energetic girl, or letting her have Daddy-time while I hit the gym for an hour. This is a start.

I know I am not the only one for whom this is true, and it isn’t just mothers either. Many of us, though staunch advocates for others, often have a hard time advocating for ourselves and our own health, care, and soul rest.

Another dear friend of mine commented to me (after reading the first draft of this post): “While I don’t have a daughter to chase after, sometimes having depression and panic attack disorder can feel like I have something to chase around (or be chased by). So, when I’m feeling overwhelmed, people can tell I can lie and tell them that I’m fine. That I don’t need help. Even though I do. And I feel like a hypocrite because if someone else were to do that I’d call them out and insist on trying to help them.”

I appreciate this perspective and his opinion is one that I value very much. Sometimes asking for help for ourselves is one of the hardest things in the world, harder yet to work towards overcoming it. I have made a start, small ways to ask for help when I need it, and I am hoping that it will help me to get one step closer to finding my voice to answer with the specific words, “Yes, I need help.”

Until then, please, keep asking.