Tuesday, March 18, 2014

life when it's not so perfect

Dear Em,
I was reading through these blog posts recently, smiling & laughing to myself as I read, when I realized something. I mostly post about the happy things: new milestones, precious moments, updates on our house. In real life, not every day is happy. In fact, some days are really, really tough. I've felt like our lives were swallowed up by greyness during most of January & February. It's not that I mostly post the happy because I want you (& everyone else) to think that our lives are happily perfect. It's just that the happy moments are mostly what I want to remember. They're the things, at the end of the day, I try to hold close in my heart. 

For sure, our lives are not perfect, not at all. So, I wanted to share with you a few things about life & parenting when things are not so perfect... 

- There isn't a manual for raising a child. There's a gabillion manuals called books & "studies" for raising a child. Half of them contradict the other half. Most of them contradict how I was raised (& I feel like I turned out mostly OK). Many of them were probably written by people who have never had children. All of them were written by someone who doesn't know my child. Mostly, these books and studies just make me angry because they never seem to suggest that doing things one way might benefit some people & doing something different might benefit other people. They always seem to indicate that if you don't do things one specific way, you're damaging your child forever. I just don't think many things are that black & white when it comes to raising a child. A child's nature, a child's abilities, personal preferences, family dynamics, & the needs of a child don't fit as neatly into a scientific box as I think many of the researchers think. And if I see one more article about how parents should not get upset & take their child's actions personally, I think I might scream. Parenting is a personal thing. Whoever writes these articles has clearly never woken up at 6:30 with a 3/4 year old screaming in their face & repeating the word "NO" for no other reason than they are not a morning person- EVERY FREAKING MORNING. Don't tell me not to take it personally. Tell me I'm doing my best & then leave me alone. Thanks.

- In many ways, I feel like we raise you pretty similarly to the way I was raised. Of course, Daddy & I talk about how we want to handle certain things, but, except for a few areas, Daddy didn't come with preconceived ideas of child rearing (he insists you won't be allowed to date until you're 30, but I'm working on that one). I think we kind of take a little of how I was raised, a little of how Daddy was raised, a few of our own ideas, some inspiration from others...& mostly wing it. 

- I'm pretty sure my parents think we're raising you nothing like how they raised me. This became most apparent to me when my mom told me that your daddy & I remind them of the parents in the movie Parental Guidance. You haven't seen it? The parents in the movie have created a home full of impossible to understand technology & utilize seemingly ridiculous modern parenting techniques. It didn't exactly feel like a compliment (maybe this is why your Papi laughs at me every time I discipline you?), but then I thought about you possibly having your own little love some day, & I imagine I'll probably feel pretty similar. 

- I take time for me. You are my first priority. You are the most important thing in the whole world to me, but I have to make me a priority too. If I don't take care of me, I won't be any good to you or anyone else. I've taken weekends away with my girlfriends. I go out to dinner with friends or just Daddy. I occasionally spend long mornings in bed. Daddy & I go on trips without you. I do miss you like crazy, but I don't feel guilty about taking time for me. I was a whole other person before becoming your mommy. I'm still a whole other person. I take time for me so I can give you the best of me. I think we both need it sometimes. But when I come back from me-time, nothing feels better than your sweet little arms wrapped around my neck.

- I'm happy to be a working mom. I know everyone makes their own choices & some choices are made out of necessity...& I don't really care about other people's choices. It's not about other people's choices. Daddy & I worked really hard to find you what we think is the best possible care while we are at work. There was a time when I first returned from maternity leave when I thought we were making the wrong choice, when I felt like I would burst if I couldn't hold you in my arms whenever I wanted to. But I think we're all happy & thriving in the choice we made now. I've seen your smiles. I've seen you learn new things. I've seen you make new friends. I'm not even sure I would be able to give you the same patience & undivided attention. I feel like we have a whole team of people helping to raise you, & we couldn't be more blessed with the team we have. Sometimes I feel like I'm a better mom because you can enjoy school during the day & we can enjoy each other after. To me, our time feels that much more special. I'm not saying it's always easy. Sometimes it's really hard. Your Daddy helps out at home more than a lot of Daddys I know. Sometimes I can't give you the attention I like, but in the end we make it work. We're all a stronger team & we're happy with our choice. 

- I don't know how I would do it without your Daddy. I literally can't do it all, & I thank God I don't have to. We have a great team helping to raise you, a team of family & friends & teachers & coaches & doctors. I can't express how blessed we are with the support we get. Still, I don't know how I would do it without your daddy. Daddy is my sounding board. He is the one I create plans with. When we clean the house, we do it together. He helps me consider & reconsider new ways of doing things. He takes you for fun days or fun mornings so that I can have some me-time. He reassures me when I feel like I'm doing everything wrong.  He is the one who empties the dishwasher, because I when I went back to work with a newborn I just couldn't hold one more thing on my plate. He helps me get you ready & out the door in the morning. He doesn't always do things the same way I would, but that's OK because he does them so I don't have to. In this crazy parenting thing, he is my partner, & he is the best.

- I began throwing out my absolutes the day you were born. I don't think I've stuck to any of the things I said I/my child would never do (except I've never put you on a leash...though I absolutely understand why some parents choose to). So, I try not to make any more absolutes (except when they go something like "God, please don't ever let my daughter...). And anyways, I kind of feel like most absolutes come from a place of judgement. Like when you see someone doing something & you think I will NEVER do that. When I find myself going to that place of judgement, I try to remind myself that every child is different, every parent is giving his/her best, & what works for us may not work for others.

- There are days where I don't feel like I have anything left. There are days that fill me with frustration. There are days when I'm exhausted. There are days when your behaviors and your actions and your words take me to my emotional breaking point. There are days when I'm not proud of how I react to those moments. It's on nights like those that I find myself crying after I've put you to bed. I find myself wondering if my parenting has damaged you forever. I find myself asking your daddy if I'm an awful mom. Sometimes Daddy is just as frustrated, but almost always he is less emotional. He takes me in his arms & tells me I'm not an awful mother, that you are a great kid, & that this phase will also pass. Then we talk about how our parenting style is working (or not working at all) & things we should consider trying instead. When I wake up the next morning, all I can do is hope I can do better, hope I can be better, hope for a better day. 

- Knowing everything I know now, I would do it all over again without a second thought. I would choose you every...single...time. You are the most challenging & most amazing thing in my whole life. The good days outweigh the bad every time. The precious moments outweigh the really tough ones. I may not always know what I am doing. I may not always do the right thing, but I feel like we will figure it out together. I feel like being your mother has made me a better person. It's something I don't take lightly. It's something I will cherish & hold dear in my heart forever...even when life is not so perfect.

I love you so,

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