Monday, June 13, 2016

To fail is not failure

H is a perfectionist. She comes by it honestly. Her momma was/is a born perfectionist. I spent my entire childhood and adolescence in the mind frame that if I tried once and was not immediately excelling at whatever it may be, then I should find something else that I was good at. Eventually this evolved from being very leery of trying *anything* new because there was always that risk of being imperfect, not the best; essentially in my brain: a failure. And thus I stuck with what I knew and what I was great at because I couldn't stand to let others down by being less than.
As an adult, and most specifically due to motherhood, I have *mostly* learned from, and outgrown, my perfectionist ways. They still creep up on me every now and then.
But this made it so, so easy to notice these tendencies in my daughter at a very early age. 
I'm still figuring it out, but I am absolutely determined to help her handle her perfectionism in healthy ways and cultivate it for good.
No one ever told me it was okay to not excel at everything. No one told me that being challenged and thus, not instantly the best at something, was a good thing. No one told me that simply not being good at something at all was perfectly acceptable. No one told me that is was okay to do something I loved even if I wasn't good at it at all.
And so H will know these things (as will her brothers). 
She is the only 6 year old in her gymnastics class. Her classmates are all 10 and 12. H loves gymnastics passionately (I've come to realize that ballet will never have her heart as I wished it would, and that's okay!) She did not immediately excel at running round-offs and back bends and cartwheels on balance beams. She had to work *so hard*. Sometimes she'd get mad or frustrated and that little girl in me would want to say, "It's okay to stop. You don't have to do this." Because I knew the pain and frustration of feeling like you're less than. Don't worry though. I put a muzzle on that little girl and duck taped her into a closet and the momma in me instead let her lament her frustrations to me and listened patiently. And then I validated those emotions and pointed out how far she's come. And how far she'll go with more hard work. Being challenged is a *good* thing. That's how you learn and grow.
She auditioned for a show choir recently. I held my breath. She can carry a tune better than her momma, but she's definitely no prodigy. But I encouraged her to try it if she loved it, and prepped her that it was also okay if she didn't make it.
After her audition I asked her how it went and she replied with, "Mom, I was amazing, of course. I've got this."
Ya'll, this girl *has got this.*
And she made it (I'm pretty sure all the little kids did). And she's over the moon and ready to challenge herself. Which is a good thing. Because I eventually gave up a deep love of performing because I wasn't half as confident as H. I didn't know it was okay to be confident and not be the very best.
So this morning while H was reading a book to me and got jumbled up on a long word she's never come across and immediately began sobbing (see this is where little Ki and momma Ki are two useful people to have in my head. The momma was like "wtf, this is not a rational response" and the little girl was like "this is so rational. I get it. Would you like me to throw that book across the room for you?") I was able to help her.
"I'm terrible!" She screamed at me. "I don't know that word! I'm such a failure." (Note to self: discover who introduced her to the idea of being a failure and cut their tongue out. In a very kind and loving way that is for the good of all humanity, of course).
"You are not a failure. Even if you never learn to read this word, you are not a failure. You failed to read the word correctly, yes. But we rarely get things perfect the first go around. To fail something does not make you a failure. Not trying does."
She cried for a few minutes on my lap. Then she picked that book back up, and she nailed that word perfectly on the second try.
I'm just making this shit up as I go. Some days I feel completely ill-equipped for this parenting gig. But I remember that there is a reason God chose me to be the momma of these three beautiful babes. 
And just like I've told H, so many, many times. "To fail does not make you a failure. Simply not trying does."
And so every day I try my very hardest, but I give the perfectionist in me a lot of grace. Some days I am challenged, and that's okay.  I am not the best at any of it, but I'll keep doing it because I'm terribly passionate about these three tiny humans. And that's all that matters 

Friday, June 10, 2016

In which society failed my child

When I think of B, I think of crazy, long, blonde curls.

He is so much more than that hair though; don't get me wrong. He's funny, sweet, sensitive, creative, friendly, loving.

But sensitive might be the key word right now.

I can say to H, "Please don't do that" and she will look at me with a face that says, "I will do whatever I please, and we both know it." I can say "Please don't do that" to B and he will break down sobbing as if I criticized the very core of his being.

I've always feared a little more for him than I have my eldest child. Because B takes everything so deeply to heart. It's such a beautiful attribute of his. But also one that carries so much weight and will be a hurdle for him all of his life.

For months now B has been asking to cut his hair. B, the sweet boy who has always so fiercely loved his long hair, who'd stand still and let me brush it rather than have it even slightly trimmed. B, who defended his long hair to anyone and everyone.

But slowly, the weight has been too heavy a burden for him to carry.

So many people calling him a lovely little girl.

So many people, even if jokingly, telling him he needed a hair cut.

Those people, all of those people who thought they had any right to comment on his appearance at all, much less dictate to him how he "should" look, they should all be deeply ashamed of themselves.

Because today that criticism became too much for him.

Today society failed my child and crushed a part of him.

Instead of noticing what a funny boy he is or how strong he is or how well he plays soccer or how knowledgeable he is about dinosaurs, too many people focused on his hair until he decided he'd rather give up something he loved than to constantly be criticized by others.

Yeah, that sucks.

He's four and all ready learning how much people just suck.

I'm angry for him. So angry that other people felt compelled to impose their gender norms on him. So angry that I couldn't do a better job protecting him from that. So angry that not only did every person who made a negative comment about his hair, even in jest, fail him, but that I, his mother, failed him by not getting through to him that no one else's opinion of him matters. All that matters is how he feels about himself.

I talk so regularly to my children about how it isn't important what others think of us. That we all have our quirks, and that we should dress and look and act (within appropriateness) however we please, even if others don't agree. But for sweet, sensitive B, that just hasn't been enough.

He needed to hear from more than just J and I that he is so perfect however he chooses. But he didn't. All he heard was how he should change.

Well. He did.

And a part of him will be forever changed.

Also, if you think this is about hair, you don't understand at all.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thriving with high needs

When I was pregnant with M, I told J several times, "if we have a baby as vivacious as H, I'm not sure I will survive."

H was high needs. She still is. It took me over a year to accept that label. I equated high needs to bad for some reason, and there is nothing bad about H. Challenging; yes. Exhausting; yes. Amazing; yes.

But in the throes of her infancy, it never actually felt that difficult. I assumed it was because she was first. I didn't know any better. I assumed all babies breastfeed for 45 minutes at a time, every 45 minutes, and never slept for more than 45 minutes at a time. Ever.

I remember telling my doctor when H was 3 months old, with a genuine smile on my face, "I get to wake up and see my baby every single hour. It's so awesome!" Why my doctor didn't send me straight the looney bin right then is beyond me. I mean, who says that!? I was clearly just high on baby.

And then chill, laid back B came along. He slept in 3-4 hours stretches, people! From day one. No freaking joke. I would sit him in the bouncer and take a 3 minute shower and he wouldn't scream. I put him in the car and could make it to the grocery store without him vomiting all over himself from crying. I mean, I still had his older sister to contend with, but he was so polarly opposite that I actually assumed there was something wrong with him. Whoops. (There isn't!)

When people ask how M is, my first response is always, "He's so laid back." Followed with, "If all babies were this easy I'd have half a dozen."

Want to know a secret though?

He is just like his sister.


He's just as vivacious and demanding as my firstborn, and it phases me even less this go-round.

Maybe because I know what I am in for. Because I know what to expect (which is to never have expectations with babies or kids; they're cray cray).

Maybe it's because I know that as his weight in my arms grows heavier each day, it only means we are growing closer to the day he no longer wants to be held.

I mean, I have a 6 year old. She'll tell you. She's practically a grown up.

As long as sweet M is tucked into somebody's arms, he's happy. Tucked into the crevice of my arm or laying on my chest, he'll sleep for two hour stretches. (J just side-carred the crib to our bed after I asked him to. At this point, he's just going through the motions, he isn't fooled. He knows that baby will never truly sleep in that crib. We both know it. And at the end of the day, we both want that tiny, warm body cuddled with us at night anyway. That's our baby.)

I've also given myself a lot more grace since M came into the world.

Our meals have been wholly simplified. I enjoy cooking nice, elaborate meals for my family. But in this season, it's not going to happen. I hired someone to clean the house. Yep: open mouth, insert foot. I always said I'd never do that. If I'm home all day, I should be able to clean the house, right? Wrong. I've got three kids who I'd rather spend my time with. And I'm okay with that. In this season of life, I'm okay having help so that I can spend more time playing with my children. Because some day I will have all the time in the world to clean my house, and I know I will miss it painfully.

It's all ready going by so fast. I'm floored so many days that I have a 6 year old. And just this week I made arrangements for B's 5th birthday party. I repeat, B's 5th birthday! Oh man, one whole hand full. How can that be? Him turning 5 is more jarring than H being 6. My wee, laid back, peaceful little baby is nearly 5. An energetic, sensitive, hilarious, almost-5 year old.

And M. Sweet M. M who doesn't sleep. M who doesn't like to be put down. M who has given me a run for my money in the feeding department. M who just keeps growing like he doesn't realize he's my itsy bitsy baby. Sweet, lovely, wriggly M. My wise little dude.

He's just as vivacious as his sister.

But I have the ability to meet his needs, as emotionally and physically depleting as they may end up being some day, just like I do his sister's. It's kind of the same way as when you have only one child, you wonder how in the world you could every love another human as much as that one? And then  you have a second and realize your love has grown exponentially, it hasn't been divided at all. That's how it works with meeting their needs, too.

I had days before there was M where I wondered how I could ever meet the needs of a third child. I felt like I was so stretched thin with only two, that I was on the brink of not being quite enough, what would happen with a whole other person being dependent on me? But then there he was, and there I was. And it was just like I'd been doing it all along. Some days I do feel stretched thin, some days I wonder if it's enough, but never any more so than I felt when I had just one; because those are feelings you have no matter how many small progenies you have, I suppose.

So we have another baby as vivacious as H, and we are doing better than surviving. We're thriving.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Body after baby take 3

You know what's annoying? Like really annoying. When someone comments, "You look great for having three kids."

What the fuck is that supposed to mean?

I only look good because I've had three kids, but if this was my body and I hadn't had three kids, then it would look like crap?

I've carried three babies in this body. Each one gave me stretch marks that I will take to my grave, and cellulite on my ass that will be there no matter how much I weigh.

And guess, what? I'm totally fine with that.

But bigger shocker, even if I hadn't had three babies, I'd still be totally fine with my body. Blasphemy, I know.

After H and B, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight by they time they were each three months old. And I didn't do a damn thing to get there. Benefit of being 21 and 23 when I had them, I suppose.

By the time B was 4 months old though, PPD was kicking my ass. I took it into my own hands and went on a crazy strict diet that behooved both myself and B (who had some food issues). I started working out every single day and if I missed a day I was hard on myself. Like, what kind of person misses a workout when they're trying to better themselves? I was hardcore.

I got skinny. Really skinny. Skinnier than I was in high school.

And everyone told me how fabulous I looked. And at that time, there was no "for having kids" added to the end of the sentences. Nope. I was skinny and got compliments every where I went.

Know what sucks?

I was miserable.

Fucking miserable.

It was like people were saying, "hey, you might be a mental basket case right now, but that doesn't matter, you look good!" Like fitting into societies beauty ideals was more important than being healthy and happy.

Thank God that didn't last.

But it certainly made a lasting impression on me.

At my unhealthiest mentally, and even physically (I was half starved and breastfeeding two babies on demand), that's when people went out of their way to comment on my appearance.

Ya'll, that's messed up.

This go-round, I have not lost all the baby weight by month three. Not even close. I'm still hanging onto an extra 15-20 pounds (I haven't gotten on a scale, but I have bought bigger pants, ha).

I'm okay right here.

Right now.

I've got a baby to hold and love on and a restricted diet all ready to meet his needs. I hike with the kids and walk miles while they bike ride and we hula hoop in the yard and play tag and trek around the zoo. Sitting down is like a miracle.

But I'm not setting that baby down so that I can do "real" exercise. I'm going to blink anyway, and he'll be running around and I will have all the time in the world to worry about what the size label on my jeans say.

So right now it just doesn't matter.

And when it creeps into the back of my head, because it does; I'm a woman, I've been listening to this shit my whole life. I just remember that there are lots of women out there who would do anything to be lugging around an extra 15 pounds of baby weight.

Quite frankly, I'm one of them. I'll keep this weight forever if that's what the trade off is for sweet M. We fought hard, and struggled privately, and shed so many tears thinking we would never actually have another baby. So 15lbs is a mighty easy price to pay if you ask me.

And I'm happy. So freaking, over the moon happy right now. And I'm healthy, even if I'm not quite at the weight I'm typically most comfortable at. I can't argue.

It's fortunate that I'm not an individual who has ever cared what others think or say. At least I have that going for myself. 

Also, I look good.

Three kids or not, thank you very much.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Mary stood

I'm not one to talk about religion very much, it's just such a personal thing.

But lately I've had Mary on my mind.

I picked up my Bible the other day; something I haven't admittedly done in years.

I've been exhausted and spent with sweet M's late afternoon/early evening wailing. I was prepared for this. All through my pregnancy I reminded myself that I only produce colicky babies. Although I hate that word. "Colicky." It makes me think that a baby is crying for no reason. And I think there is always a reason. Even if I don't know exactly what it is.

The story of Jesus' crucifixion is a powerful one. He allowed himself to be tortured, nailed to a cross, and murdered so that the souls of all people could be saved. Even if you're not religious, it's still a powerful story. This guy had the ability to stop what was happening to him by calling out to his Father, but he chose to endure it in hopes of saving people. In today's world, we'd call that a hero if nothing else. And that's still pretty cool.

But as I read this story, for the first time in my life as a mother, what really struck me and pulled deep at my heart strings was Mary.


The mother of God.

A simple human.

But she was so strong. So mighty. So collected.

While many mothers would have screamed, begged, pleaded, been absolutely hysterical as their son sacrificed themselves for the good of others, Mary stood strong. Mary stood brave. Mary stood.

She watched it happen.

The baby that nourished from her breasts. The toddler whose sticky hands no doubt wrapped her legs in hugs. The gangly child who lost his milk teeth and smiled a toothless smile to her. Her heart, disconnected from her body.

That was her child.

And yet, Mary stood.

She was strong, and brave, and as composed as she could be. She knew that in those hours of agony, and during his hour of death, her child, Jesus, needed her to be strong. Needed her to be brave. Needed her to love him like no one else ever could.

So when I read this story, the gift Jesus gave to us is so blatant; the gift of cleansing our souls.

But when I read this story as a mother, the gift Mary gave her son is so beautiful. And a gift that only a mother would, and could, know to give.

For her child, Mary stood.

A colicky baby will never come close to the torture I'm sure Mary felt; not a fraction of it. Her pain is that of which I could never even begin to imagine. But goodness, if in her darkest hour with her child, in such unfathomable emotional pain, Mary could be the calm, loving, strong presence her child needed, what in the world can I not do for my children?

I mean, Mary stood.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Let it be

Today was one of those days. Yes, one of those. You know what I'm talking about.

Where you feel like you're deep in the trenches and desperately wondering if you'll make it out in one piece.

I have six laundry baskets of clean clothes sitting in various places in my house that I cannot seem to get put away.

I've re-washed H's sleeping bag three times because I don't have the energy to pull the clothes out of the dryer and put the sleeping bag in.

There are endless mountains of dishes in my sink and I cannot figure out where they are coming from because I feel like washing them is all I'm doing in my "free time." I put free time in quotes because when free times is washing it really free time?

I've pretty much given up getting H's reading book done before summer. I guess that's the beauty of homeschooling; we can go off of "mom is frazzled" schedule.

I'm trying to remember if I brushed and flossed everyone's teeth today and lamenting that I probably won't find the time to work out or read more to the kids other than what we read while at Barnes and Noble. Mostly, I'm feeling like something has to give today, because all my marbles are rolling.

Sweet M is too cool for sleep. So while I walk around like a zombie, trying to coax him into a slumberland that sounds heavenly to me, he's all "naaaah, lady, not for me. Try again later!" So instead I examine the umpteenth rash that has sprouted on his face and likely means my all ready dwindling diet is going to lose something else. And let me tell you, my babies never get rashes and reflux and projectile vomit from foods like lettuce and beets. No, that would be too easy. It's from things like dairy and coffee and eggs. Foods I actually enjoying eating. So there is that.

So as I'm laying in bed at 3pm with M in my arms, too afraid to move or make a peep because he's finally asleep and H and B are playing so nicely...somewhere...I look down at that sweet face wondering what kind of crazy I got myself into and right there, right in my arms, is exactly what I need. A sweet, perfect baby wearing a onesie that reads, "there will be an answer, let it be." Lyrics from one of my favorite songs ever (and the onesie from one of my favorite people ever).

Let it be.

And I take in that sweet, perfect baby smell. And I listen to my lovely H and B in the room next door, chattering away and coming up with great schemes and ideas, and sweet M holds onto my finger for dear life, and it's okay.

Lord knows that more days than not I do not have my shit together. And throwing another monkey into this circus has just added to the beautiful crazy of it all.

But I also wouldn't change it for the world. One day the laundry will all be put away. I will be well-rested and very definitive that I flossed my teeth that day. I'll be able to eat anything I want and I won't have to worry about ensuring my kids get an education amidst all of our crazy days.

But that's because they'll be grown up. There won't be any babies to keep me awake all night or to watch, milk drunk, in my arms while they sleep. There won't be any sweet kids asking me to read them books or help them to find their pink tutu. I won't have hampers flowing with clothes for small people because they'll be grown and gone, and goodness, I know I will miss this. So much.

So for now, I'll just take it all, no matter how hectic and exhausting some days are. Because it is exactly what I want. What I need.

A deep breath.

Let it be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The ease of three

I know, I know. Just by the title I have people shooting daggers at me.

As if I’m over here being some super woman with her shit together like it’s no big deal.

Trust me. I’m not.

Not even close.

But three kiddos?

Yeah, it’s not so hard.

Now before you get twitchy, let me explain.

One little baby was challenging.

Two little babies were challenging.

Three little babies are still challenging.

But with each addition, the challenge changed. It was different.

Before sweet M was even conceived I read an article (maybe a study, but I don’t think it was that fancy, so probably not) that three is the most stressful number of kids to have. The article was so compelling it actually made me stop and think, “huh, are we sure we want three kids?” for entire thirty seconds.
The premise was that once you have three you’re outnumbered.

Well, sure. When you and your partner (if you have one) are together. But I spend my days running this gig solo while the lovely J supports my retirement leisure by having a paying job outside of the house (he knows I appreciate him immensely for that!). I was all ready outnumbered with H and B. But we ventured all over the state, drove 12+ hours just the three of us, even flew to Hawaii sans J – all like a boss. I got this.

Three is just adding to the crazy. Now we have to slow down a bit more. I have to read books to kids while I’m nursing a baby and brush kids’ hair and teeth one-handed. After I’ve got two big kids tucked away in bed I have to lull a sweet babe to sleep before resuming downstairs to my normal evening routine with J.

Is it the same as having two kids?

Is it harder?


Is it easier?


It’s just different.

But really, in some ways, adding sweet M was the easiest addition of the three. I’m way more relaxed and laid back at this point. When he has his fussy period in the evening I just hold him and tell him I get it, he needs to cry and I will just love on him until he’s done. With H and B it seriously stressed me the fuck out. Them crying and me not able to “fix” it was absolute kryptonite for me. Of course I don’t enjoy hearing my baby cry, but it isn’t stress inducing this go-round.

I don’t feel the need to be wonder woman and do it all.

With H, I really felt like life just needed to resume as it was. Everyone kept telling me not to change anything, just to simply include her in it. Way easier said than done, fyi, but I gave it a really good go. And was pretty much not loving it. And with B, yeah, I really felt like I had to keep my shit together and be amazing because I had PPD and felt like I was a terrible person who had to keep that shit under wraps. Surprise! I was still amazing.

But with the third? I stayed in bed for two weeks nursing a sweet baby and let J run the show and my friends bring us dinner and completely let go of my utter need to be a control freak and do it all. Who cared if the floors only got vacuumed every other day or there were dishes in the sink? The world wasn’t going to end.

I think the more relaxing transition into three has made all of it that much easier. Basically, between J’s gentle coaching and my determination to be a peaceful and calm parent, a lot of my type A personality had all ready dwindled from my being. But what was lingering on was pretty much lost once sweet M came into the world, which made having three that much easier.

I also found my really strong, big-girl voice. You know, the same one I’m telling my daughter to use all the time. I can say no and I do say no and I’m really battling my overwhelming need and desire to please everyone all the time. I’m accepting that I am only in charge of my own happiness and not anyone else’s. If others feel hurt, mad, whatever, because of something I do or say, that is on them, not me. I’ve never based my emotions off of other people, so I’m working really hard to give myself the same freedom of not being responsible for others emotions.

I feel like with each babe I’ve become more laid back and relaxed with life in general. A better person, at least for myself and my family. So I guess it’s really not surprising that three has been pretty much an ease.

Can you imagine how great four would be?