When I started .ing back on another format a few years ago the premise was i would write about all things i was doing. gardening. living. working. loving. writing. All things Heather is doing. heatheringheather. or for short .ing.
some things have changed over time, as my life has changed and i have found myself writing primarily about my personal journey of self discovery and growth. figuring out who the F heather is anyway. its been very therapeutic and i’m so thankful for all the messages i’ve received of encouragement. thank you thank you. its my therapy and i’ve gone from only posting to a few people, to posting only at midnight when i thought only my die hard friends would see it, to posting as the mood strikes. even in the light of day.
one area i’ve rarely actually blogged about is my role as a mother. there are a lot of things feeding into this. some cut really deeply (that i’m not going to write about) and some are more understandable and easier to talk about. so lets start there.
what sort of promoted this, was i know quite a few people who have small children. i really enjoy following their lives, their struggles, their successes. its so fascinating to watch. because i’m so close to the other side of parenting. and it brings up long forgotten memories and smiles about my own as little kids. it makes me thankful for where i am in MY journey.
add to that i just got through the holidays. December has never been a good month for me. historically it just hasn’t. i’m not one of those people who excitedly breaks out the holiday decorations. i’ve always tried to make the holidays a happy time for my kids. we have several die hard traditions we stick to. and we enjoy them. I particularly enjoy them. they are traditions Steve and I created with them when they were very small and most years since we split I’ve upheld them all. i take great pride in that. because most of the month i want to crawl under my covers and stay there. this blog isn’t about my holiday blues. but i was looking for some pics of my three together and found this:
This is the first christmas my kids spent in two households. They were 9, 5 and 2 and two months. Steve and I had been separated since Feb. of this year. The point of this being, I don’t write about parenting much, if at all, because some of my deep rooted guilt and fear trump my successes with my kids. Mostly i keep my head down, knock on wood a lot and hope i can raise them all right. period.
I had my boys out to dinner last night. My boys are 16 and 13. if you have had teens, you know that at 13, and 16 the amount of time they want to hang with mom is small. I’ve found the best way to get them to talk to me, is to feed them. in a restaurant. where they have to sit at the table for at least 45 minutes. i followed that up by a group trip the grocery. where surprisingly i have had the best conversations with them. i don’t know what it is about the grocery that brings out the chatty in my boys. but its astonishing the number of things i’ve learned about them there. especially with my middle who hates to talk. whenever i see him sliding, i take him to the grocery. i think its the fact that they don’t have to make eye contact. and i won’t cry at anything they have to say. its a fairly safe place. anyway. last night wasn’t about any big revelations, but just in general over the course of the evening, watching them. i was just so happy. not only were both of them in good moods, and not only did we go the whole evening without any bickering but they both showed me in little ways that i’m not doing a terrible job.
i remember when my daughter was in 2nd grade. and her dad and i went to her parent teacher conference and the teacher was going on and on about what a polite, helpful, quite, good natured child she was. how she was always readily helping others, readily helping the teacher. a care taker. and i had been having a really hard time with her. because Taylor was an independent, strong willed, very vocal child from a very young age. and we tended to butt heads A LOT. and i remember saying out loud “why isn’t she like that FOR ME”. and the teacher looked at me with a mixture of understanding, and also a little pity and looked me in the eye and said “you are doing a great job”. but i didnt feel like i was. most days felt like a failure. because there was so much, every day i felt like i could be doing BETTER.
the unrelenting pressure to be a GOOD PARENT is omnipresent. every meal of macaroni and cheese felt like a failure. every time i lost my temper felt like a failure. every time i locked myself in my room and screamed into my pillow so i didnt beat my child felt like a failure. the very fact that i WANTED to hit my child made me feel like a failure. and to this day, i feel more regret about my skills as a parent with taylor than the other two. i had JUST turned 23 when she was born. and i wanted a baby really badly. but i had zero clue what i was doing. thank GOD i didnt have the internet scaring the hell out of me. i did what i thought was right. i nursed her when she wanted to. i let her sleep how she was happy. i wrapped her in blankets and put her in her crib on her side like the books said. i picked her up every time she cried. i bought her trucks and baby dolls. i read to her every night. and i simply loved her as best as i was capable. but what i lacked was maturity. i lacked the self awareness to understand my own psyche. to understand that maybe part of my frustration was largely linked to my unhappiness in OTHER areas of my life. because being her mother was my primary role, one which i LOVED, when i stumbled and fell it felt like such a monumental moment. i had ONE job to do. and when i didnt do it well? well. fuck. …
but what that teacher said, stuck with me a long time. i largely think our lives paths are pre-determined. and i think my children were placed with me for whatever reason. but their success i think are largely theirs. my role is simply to assist them as best as i can. to do my best to get them from point a to point b and be their touchstone. their check in point. their safety net. to love them as hard as i can. my role isn’t to raise good offspring. my role is to raise good humans. i don’t feel my children are a reflection of what i am, or what i’ve done. good OR bad. i’m trying to raise children i can give to the world to make it a better place.
so when my teens lash out. get mouthy. hole up. i try to remember its not how they are with ME. but how they are out in the world. and last night i got to have both. i got to have two sweet boys out with me for a few hours, and i got to see them interacting with the world and see them doing a good job. they hold open doors. they say please and thank you. they smile at people. they think of others. they are good little humans. and they are also good offspring. we came home and they carried in all the groceries. they helped put them away. they thanked me for dinner and for the groceries we bought. before they took off to do what they wanted for the rest of the night they asked if there was anything else they could do. yes i’m bragging. i have good boys. and i have to thank Taylor in part for that, because as a kid she was forced into the role of helping me raise them. and she set a good example to them of how as a family we had to work together if the household was going to run smoothly. (or as i recall it, she wrote the book on “how to keep mom from completely falling apart when she gets home from work”)
they’ve picked up where she left off when she moved on to college. its a team effort. all of it.
so when i see young parents stressing about these little minute details, that i remember stressing about like what to feed them and when. or issues with sharing. or every time they pushed. hit, colored on a wall, threw a fit in the grocery. mouthed off. threw things. had temper issues. or parents who worry about gender profiling or gender roles or the fact that our culture still separates happy meal toys by boy toys and girl toys (and i can write a WHOLE LOT about my struggles with all that over the years), i have to smile. because i caused myself endless stress about all of those things. its not easy. but.
and as a mother of teens i have a whole new bag of things to worry about. and i do. every day. and every day i still do a self check of “omg am i doing ok?” and i’m not sure i will ever relax. about any of them. even the one down at college kicking ass and taking names.
because i still just knock on wood a lot. and hug them a lot. and feed them. and bake cookies. and take them to the grocery. and try to talk to them. and mostly cross my fingers. and hope like hell that as adults their amount of smiles are bountiful and their amount of time spent in therapy is small.
sidebar: i love this photo of my kids. taylor and i had just had one of our classic arguments where in our similarity we were about to kill each other. and my kids had been bickering like crazy and i remember thinking “omg i’m such a horrible parent, why is this SO HARD”. and then they went out to the water and took a bunch of pics and i got this. because they are awesome. even when i’m not being. thank you universe, for letting me have these three in my life . . ..