Category Archives: Mommyhood

But I Can Imagine Life Without Her

There’s this thing we do with unexpected blessings. We say, “Now, I bet you just can’t imagine life without her!”

But I can imagine life without her.

In that life I’m a more robust partner to my spouse. He doesn’t have to watch out to save me from despair. I don’t have to be relentlessly vigilant against the resentment that builds between partners as logistics take the place of deeper connections. In that life I can be left alone at home with the kids. Instead, we have a family rule that I can’t be left alone with the baby, or the baby and Boy Woww—the two youngest—because I’m likely to be lying on the floor catatonic when my husband returns, having tried to make dinner but instead been destroyed by whining, tugging at my clothing, screaming, and gnashing of teeth.

There’s a dark side to maternal mental health that we wash over with things like “But they just grow up so fast and in the blink of an eye they’re gone,” and, “Life just wouldn’t be the same without them.”

And we put things into extremes: either you’re a selfish mother who aborts a baby, or you are stalwart and your life is better for your gentleness and morality.

None of it is true.

Or maybe all of it is true. I’m increasingly holding two opposite beliefs and reckoning with the fact that both are true.

I would be the selfish mother to abort a fourth baby. It would destroy me, but I would do it to save myself, my marriage, and my family. Things I consider to be sacred. But at the same time, I chose life with this baby, and I wouldn’t wish her away even for a hillside full of horses and a kitchen overflowing with bacon and ginger.

I want her. She took my heart of stone and cracked it open. She was made in God’s image and her life is precious.

Being a mother defines who I am. I feel a deep sadness imagining a life with my spouse without children. But that doesn’t mean that motherhood hasn’t almost broken me.

We make hard decisions. We make mistakes. We try to survive. We have to stop pitting one group of women against another, when it’s all true. Given the right circumstances, we are always the other whom me judge.

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The Pants Is 8

This guy turned 8 this month with characteristic passion and intensity.

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The waters are rough.

K-Pants 2017

But worth sailing.

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On his birthday he said to me,

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“For two years it was only me.”

Me and K-Pants Hiking 2017. MomsicleBlog

“Do you wish you were an only child?” I asked.

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“Of course no,” he said.

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And that made me happy. Summer awaits.

 

And We All Fall Down

 

I checked in with K-Pants recently, about the love thing. You might remember that last year he was feeling like there wasn’t enough love for him.

We’ve had a lot of discussions about what kinds of things feel like love, and how I can make sure to show him love in a way that soaks in. I like to be intentional and specific with K-Pants, because what seems like a few hungry hours without food to me, is scurvy to him.

With K-Pants I think, Maybe if I fill an underground well full of love, then when storms rip branches from the trees above, we’ll still have that cool, protected reservoir for our relationship to drink from.

So…

I volunteer in his classroom. I walk him to school. Sometimes I meet him for lunch. I take him on adventures—to ride horses and climb K-Pants-sized mountains—because that’s where I shine, and that’s where he shines.

And a few weeks ago I checked in with him. I said, “K-Pants. Remember the love problem? Where you weren’t feeling enough love. How is that now?” “Good,” he said. “What about me getting mad?” I asked. “You don’t get mad anymore,” he said.

That’s not true.

I get mad on a regular basis. Some days I yell. But thinking about it, I yell less frequently and less like a wild banshee.

But then right after this, I ruined it. I’m not sure exactly what made me crack. I think it was weeks of afternoon exhaustion. Parenting K-Pants after school is a tension-filled dance.

  • Me: How was school? Did you do any Pokémon trades on the bus?
  • K-Pants: (aggravated) Why are you asking me that?
  • Boy Woww: Did you get a new Aloha Pokémon?
  • K-Pants: I’m not telling you, and you can’t see it.
  • Me: I think you’re hungry. There are a bunch of snacks in the bag back there.
  • K-Pants: I’m not hungry. And I don’t like these snacks.
  • Boy Woww: I made an artwork at school.
  • K-Pants: That’s so weird. It’s so totally weird.
  • Me: Let’s ignore K-Pants. He’s grumpy.
  • Boy Woww: [crying]

Even if you’re patient, watching one member of the family try to destroy the rest by sucking out the joy and the kindness leaves you ragged and overwhelmed. And you start to think maybe this kid is malicious.

I know he doesn’t want to be, but his habits are powerful, and his habits are destroying us. Really our habits—our collective interactions—are destroying us.

Later that night I screamed at him. And he said, “I HATE YOU!” And I said, “I DON’T CARE IF YOU HATE ME. I CARE IF YOU ARE RESPECTFUL AND KIND.” And he went downstairs. And then he yelled up, “I’M HUNGRY!” And I yelled, “THEN MAKE SOMETHING FOR YOURSELF!” And then I made him help me unpack the groceries (because after school I had taken Boy Woww to speech therapy, then K-Pants to baseball, then did the grocery shopping during practice, then arrived back to cheer him on during the scrimmage, then had K-Pants ask me for a fancy baseball backpack like the other kids have [answer: no]).

Then we went home, where I yelled at him like a crazy banshee. It had been building up for weeks, cracking the seams of the pressure cooker.

Then Boy Woww, the middle child, came upstairs and said, “Mom, what can I do to help?” It made me feel even worse, because he’s living into his role as the quiet peacemaker. And K-Pants is living into his role as the difficult one. And together we’re in this entangled Groundhog’s Day mess.

All this to say that this is how, on a beautiful Mother’s Day afternoon, when blue sky seemed to be momentarily winning the battle with the rain clouds, I found myself sitting in the car outside our parent coach’s house as K-Pants met with her. He loves her. We’ve just started this process.

Soon she’s going to be coming to our house to observe. Before that my husband and I will talk with her via Skype a few times, and do the homework she assigns, and try out new strategies (or try to be consistent with strategies we’ve tried in the past).

I really like the fact that we’re working on this problem as a whole family, because it’s not just a K-Pants problem. Our whole family seizes and constricts in predictable and not always productive ways when K-Pants melts down.

We’re all exhausted from it, and we’re looking for a change. Wish us luck.

In the End, It Was Not the Summer of Postpartum Depression

I just finished cleaning the car from summer, taking out beach toys and swimsuits, dozens of granola bar wrappers and an air-dried Jack In The Box cheeseburger remnant. Now I’m prepping for muddy fields. I’m checking our umbrella count and fleece supplies. I’m washing the sand and caked-on peanut butter from picnic blankets.

One week ago we were here.

Oregon Coast Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

I took this piece of sea glass from the ocean’s dance.

Sea glass on sand. MomsicleBlog

I’ve been rubbing it softly between my fingers, and it takes me right back to the cool air of the coast blowing in off the infinite sea.

I had been worried about summer. Summer could have been a fire lookout far out in the forest in need of repairs—timber beams creaking, a stair on every case rotted, nails coming loose from the freeze and thaw cycle of postpartum depression.

Instead we enacted my get-into-nature plan. We bolstered the lookout with steel and replaced the old nails and the softened steps. We had a nanny with us four days a week; we kept the car ready for the beach at a moment’s notice; we didn’t coordinate much, we just went.

And I made sure I was never alone at the top of the tower.

We headed out from base camp and toward water wherever we could find it within a two-hour radius.

In the Water Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

We didn’t do a single camp.

Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

I look at our checklist and feel proud.

Summer 2016 Checklist. MomsicleBlog

We captured summer and held it in our arms and rode on its back through the sand of what seemed like a thousand beaches.

Oregon Coast Summer 2016. MomsicleBlog

I want to draw our treasure map again and mark all its special spots. I want to go out with passion and purpose.

But it’s time to focus on fall and school and soccer. Autumn feels crisp and dead to me: Its smell makes me nauseous.

I have to change the way my senses respond—to look for how routine can ground and nourish us. Somewhere in me fall’s small ember burns. I have hope for early bedtimes and good books and hot baths and getting my body stretched out and my muscles strong. I have soccer practices to help run, I have freelance work that’s exciting and scary.

Summer wasn’t drowned by postpartum depression. It’s time to find oxygen to blow into fall.

Happy 5th Birthday to the Guy with the Most Imaginary Friends

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlogDo you remember Berry, Cherry, Pepper and his double-decker minivan, Pizza, Tootie Pig, and the bald-headed kids? Boy Woww is the ring leader of this rag-tag group of pretend friends.

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog

To them, he’s The Most Interesting Man in the World. And now this pajama-wearing, curly-headed dude is turning five.

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog

He still says, “MAHMMMM!” sometimes when I come into the room, like I’m a rockstar.

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog

He’s a fun little surrealist, who says that Pepper, when it’s your birthday, leaves your birthday number out in the world for you to find.

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog

Happy birthday, dude. Hope you find your “5.”

Boy Woww Turns 5. MomsicleBlog