Daddy Issues are A Thing for a Reason

For anyone who’s ever wondered what my problem is, why I’m “so sensitive” or why I struggle with feeling a sense of self-worth, why I can be so outspoken about other people’s journeys but not my own, why I have anxiety and depression, or why it’s so important to me that I do a really good job parenting my children…

My dad just posted this on Facebook:

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Not ironically, not jokingly, and I have no problem believing that this might be true.

I unfollowed him. Naturally. But it doesn’t matter. The damage has been done.

 

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How Those Parts Started Peeling Off

I’ve been watching/reading/listening to some inspiring stuff lately. It’s pretty much all I’ve been able to do with my new work schedule and baby girl’s penchant for chaos. But I’d really rather be writing my own stuff. I want to be sending my thoughts out into the universe to see if anything sticks to the debris floating around out there long enough for anyone to notice.

Meanwhile, I’ve got Beyonce, Brené Brown, and Hannah Gadsby all echoing in my head,  telling me I’ve got to be my authentic self if I want to put something real into the world.

Then I finally finish reading that thing I wrote right after my daughter was born. 53,000 words of mostly true postpartum insanity that basically ends with me sliding on my sun glasses and almost running my husband over in my driveway. And guess what.

That might be it. That might be my big authentic story.

I’m still in hardcore editing mode and all the stuff that comes with self-publishing a book doesn’t seem doable in less than bite-sized chunks over the next couple of weeks and/or months. But I feel like I need to release just a little bit of that tension out into the world.

So here it is, Chapter 1 of Fully Functioning Fangirl: a postpartum decent into absurdity

Superwoman with Needles in Her Pores

That little dance you do with a stranger when you both attempt to pass through the same space at the same time? My husband does that. Constantly. Inadvertently, though, so I can’t even yell at him. Every annoying thing he does is inadvertent. Doesn’t make it any less infuriating.

This morning, he has managed to subconsciously anticipate my every move and finds a way to stand exactly where I need to be exactly when I need to be there. I wish he was the kind of mathematical genius who could apply this talent in other areas, but he’s not. He’s just an oblivious dude who’s always in the way. He gets it from his dad. That man stands in doorways and plants himself in the middle of small spaces. Again, he doesn’t do it on purpose; he just has a sixth sense for maximum spatial disruption and minimal awareness.

When it happens for the sixth time, I’m holding a full bowl of water for the cat which, because that little bastard’s hovering around my feet trying to trip me again, he gets to enjoy externally. His hiss begets a “What the hell?” from my husband which prompts a squeal from the baby he’s holding which is what makes his getting in the way extra annoying. If it wasn’t for her, I think, maybe I could just push him out of the way.

And I want to. I want to push him. I want to grab him and shake him and scream in his face, “I’m so sick of this! I’m so sick of you! None of this is what I thought it would be!” That flash of anger, the sudden flush followed immediately by a thorough loss of energy, that’s my world right now. Nothing makes sense, nothing seems real, and nothing feels good anymore.

Now my socks are wet, as are his pajama pants, as is the top half of the cat.

“Jesus Christ, dude!,” I actually say out loud. “Why are you even here? There is no reason for you to be hovering over the cat food with the baby. Can you just get out of the way for once?”

“I was just walking her for you so she wouldn’t cry,” he snaps back but he’s been on his phone the whole time. His “helping” me with breakfast time means wandering around holding the baby and checking sports scores on his phone while I do all the actual work of making breakfast and loading the dishwasher and feeding the cat.

“The baby is asleep. Put her down in the bassinet and do something useful.” I mutter.

This is what mornings have become. Before the baby was born, we had a routine. Everyone had a job. Things got done. That was what, a few weeks ago? And since then, everything has fallen completely apart. Now it’s just chaos. And by “it”, I mean me. My brain, my emotions, my reactions to everyday events are all freaking chaos. I shouldn’t be this angry. Things have never been perfect with my husband but it’s never made me feel like this, like I want to throw things at his stupid head every time he speaks or acts or breathes in my direction.

“I was trying to help,” he grumbles but he does what I ask. The baby is asleep in the bassinet, the toddler is sitting quietly playing and I’m melting into the floor like a plastic toy egg set on fire, just bubbling and steaming and reeking toxic fumes into an otherwise sterile environment.

“I’m going to shower,” he says without even noticing. He doesn’t want to see it because if he did, he might have to do something about it. And he doesn’t know what to do.

The toaster dings and that sets my toddler off. “Mom, that my waffle? That my waffle, Mom? Mommy, me want my waffle.”

“Yes, baby boy. Hold on a minute!” It would have been nice if my husband had helped clean up the water, or the cat, or stayed in the kitchen for two minutes so he could get the waffle to the whining child, but of course he didn’t. Of course, he left everything to me.

It’s the lack of sleep, I keep reminding myself. It happened with my son when he was a newborn too. Sleep is the glue that holds sanity together and without any of the sticky stuff, all my parts are peeling off.

I need to eat. I haven’t eaten. Why do I keep forgetting to do that?

I take the kid’s waffle out and throw a whole English muffin in. It probably won’t cook in the middle and I’ll probably eat it anyway, along with any leftover waffle my son doesn’t eat. When he first started eating solid foods, whatever leftovers of his didn’t end up on the floor ended up in my face. There never seemed to be enough time to feed myself in those days.

But that’s another of the million things I said I’d do differently this time around, along with an epidural during delivery and pumping milk as soon as possible.

Pumped milk meant independence. If there was baby sustenance readily available without my presence, I’d always have an escape route as long as I could get some other adult to come to my house for a couple of hours. I’d settle for the mailman some days, I swear. Just drag his skinny ass and safari hat into my house, hand him a bottle and a box of LEGOs and finish his route for him so I could take a break.

Today’s going to be one of those days, I can tell. The mailman better cross his fingers that he shows up while I’m in the bathroom or elbow deep in baby poop or he’s going to find himself on the wrong side of a kidnapping.

I’m so irritable, I think as I yank open the toaster oven, I can feel it prickling my skin, the anger forcing its way out like needles through my pores. If I had a moment to sit down and suss it out, maybe I could figure out its root, but the baby’s crying again because she’s cluster feeding and no amount of milk is enough. The waffles are too hot and my son is having a stomp and scream fit. And the cat is crying because apparently, he wanted to drink his water, not shower in it.

“Mommy, foo my waffles!” the boy cries as I plop down on the loveseat with the baby. My nursing pillow is missing again and between the crying and the tantrum, I don’t have the patience to look for it. I hike up a knee, prop that little bundle up on an elbow and pop a boob out of my V-neck. One problem, at least, has been solved. As always, on to the next. In the amount of time it takes for me to get my son to stop crying and bring the damn plate of waffles over to me, it’s already cooled, but I blow on it anyway.

*ffffooooo* “There you go, bud. Now you can eat them.” It’s good enough. For him. For her. For everyone else who doesn’t seem to be complaining. But not, so my gut keeps telling me, for me.

 

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Stock photo image searches of “sad woman” result mostly in beautiful women posing in the rain. Search for “peeling” and you FIND some stuff.

Guess Who’s Got Issues

From the manuscript I’m currently editing, I think I’ve established a thematic pattern:

I know you’re supposed to respect them and honor them and everything. And you have to appreciate what they do because, I mean, they brought you into the world and clothed you and fed you and brought you to school and Science Camp and everything, right? But does that mean you can’t… like, see them for who they are? Like see their flaws and think, ‘maybe I don’t want to be like that.’?”

 

I cracked the saddest smile. I knew exactly what she meant. I knew how heartbreaking it is to love someone unconditionally when you’re fully aware of the conditions they’ve put in place to continue loving you. “I think…” I started. I wanted to say it right this time. “Your parents are probably the hardest people to see clearly because you want so badly to love them and be loved by them. But they’re not perfect. They’re just people, like anyone else. And sometimes, they screw up. I think it’s still possible to love someone and still see their flaws. I think it’s probably a good thing because it gives you a way to … to like, maybe not repeat their mistakes or patterns or whatever. Does that make sense?”

It’s also in…

Like Two Opposite Things when Heather is talking about her otherwise perfect-seeming mom who gossips to the point of ruining friendships and how she’d rather use the info she gathers to help people instead.

Lay Her Ghosts to Rest where Catori is recognizing that the culture her workplace has established nurtures terrible habits out of efficiency, effectively causing the employee burnout it purports to resolve.

And in a more personal memoir I’m having trouble finishing because it’s so much about breaking old unhelpful patterns for the sake of my own mental health and the healthy parenting of my children.

Ahh, writing is the best therapy. Besides… therapy.

Shout out to Dr. Jonice Webb and her book Running on Empty for helping me figure these things out!

woman looking at sea while sitting on beach

Helia, is that you? Nah, can’t be. She’s not hiding in a sweatshirt. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Mom Politics

I was having a conversation at work today about my “skill set” and how much more valuable it would be in a different environment. “With just a little more training, you could be making at least three times what you make here,” this person said.

To which I responded, “I could be making more as a shift supervisor at Dunkin Donuts than I do here. It’s not always about money.”

Except that it is, actually. And I know for a fact that I’m not the only one.

My options as a mother in America are:

  1. I work full-time and put my kids in daycare full time and if I’m lucky, I’ll break even.
  2. I work regular part-time hours and spend what money I make on a caregiver for the time I’m at work.
  3. I keep on doin’ what I’m doin’, working a super flexible per diem schedule with no benefits, no paid time off, peanuts for compensation but I can be with my kids most of the day 6 days a week.

Childcare in America is broken. This is not new news.

But also, as valuable as my skills are, yes I do need more training. And you know what I do not have the mental capacity for? New Skills. Classes. Training. Stuffing new things into the full sack of crap that is my brain.

And of course, I had to explain this.

Right now, I have two jobs with two sets of responsibilities that I need to keep track of because in both circumstances I have bosses who actually look to me to figure out what to do. I have two young children who can’t yet manage any little part of their own lives so it’s up to me to keep track of feeding, potty, diapers, bed times, nap times, clothing needs, medicine, putting away toys, school schedule, karate schedule, babysitter schedule, basic life skills, advanced life skills, future planning. And if that wasn’t enough, I also have household schedules, chores, problems that need solutions, future planning, organizational planning, seasonal issues AND half the time, I have to keep track of my husband’s life too.

Like, where is there room for another coding class in there?

I don’t have the time to improve my skills. I don’t have the brain space. I don’t have the money for a paid course. I can’t compromise the jobs I currently have to make advances toward a more profitable future.

Not now. Not yet. Talk to me in five years when my kids are in school full-time. Maybe. Because the schools near me are so bad and the education system in general is so poorly managed, I might end up homeschooling just to keep my children from getting bullied or raped or SHOT.

I don’t need another coding class. I don’t need to ramp up my skill set to improve my life. It’s not all on me to fix this shit. Our society as a whole needs to shape the hell up.

America, you’re in a time out. Go sit in the corner and think about what you’ve done to the children.

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No Respect for Funk

My son this morning: Mom, I think I’m done with my cereal. Can I get down?

My brain: Get down, get down. Get down, GET DOWN! Get down on it! Get down ON IT!

My mouth, in teacher tone: You know… in the 1970s when Mommy was born and Gram and Gramp were young adults, “Get down” meant to bust a funky dance move.

My son: That’s not true.

Me: Oh, but it is. I have proof. *plays Kool & the Gang, Get Down On It super loud while dancing around the kitchen*

My son: Can I go now?

Me: HOW YOU GONNA DO IT IF YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO DANCE? BY STANDING ON THE WALL?

Baby Girl: *claps and laughs*

My son: Mooooooom! I just want to get off my chair and go do something else. Can I just goooooo? Pleeeeeeeease?

Me: *nods, dances, points at him as he walks away* GET YOUR BACK UP OFF THE WALL, DANCE!

My son: Staaaaahhhhppp!

Me: Baby, someday you will appreciate all of the wonderful things I try to teach you.

 

Kid Magic isn’t Minimal

I would really like to read and then possible live The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up but I’m so damn busy cleaning up after my children that I don’t actually have time to read it.

apartment architecture chair chairsThis is not my dining room.

 

My toddler has entered the second cat phase of her existence: getting into boxes. Naturally, she has to empty the boxes first. So every toy bucket, every laundry basket, every blanket bin, every storage ottoman has been DUMPED all over the floor so my kid can get in it.

You want to know what doesn’t bring ME joy? All the shit my kids love. All their plastic toy pieces and ugly stuffies and page after page of green scribbles. I hate it and I want to throw it all away.

But I don’t. Because they love it and throwing away the shit little people love is like telling them that their interests and passions don’t matter.

So it’s probably a good thing that I don’t have time for magic tidying right now. Maybe when they’re teenagers. Then they can keep all their crap in their own rooms.

 

 

Mommy’s Little Helper Ain’t You

So I’m on the floor of Trader Joe’s this morning, my cart full of groceries and my preschooler, my arms full of screaming writhing toddler in full-on tantrum mode, when some old lady comes over and touches my son’s face.

Listen, I know there’s some new trend of “helping” struggling moms in public by trying to distract them or… de-escalate or something? And admittedly, it’s a much better trend than the ole bitch about how crappy a parent she is loudly enough for her to hear you one of yesteryear. We’re working toward compassion as a society and I think that is wonderful.

However…

Woman, I had it under control. My son is at that age of obliviousness where he continues to monologue about whatever he’s thinking about even as the apocalypse hits so he was fine. He was talking about The Grinch and didn’t need a stranger touching him to make him feel better. In fact, he was like, “Mom, why did that stranger touch my face? I didn’t like it.” So thanks for making me apologize to my son for not protecting him from unwanted touching. That’s my first of all.

But after that, she tried to get in my face–actually, between my face and my daughter’s–to tell me how beautiful my daughter’s eyes are. And you know what? Yeah, yeah they are. They’re even prettier when she’s not clamping them shut and screaming with the full force of her mysterious banshee powers. But that’s not really what’s important right now, is it? (Also, she’s more than pretty eyes, bitch. She’s smart, strong, fearless and amazing and she doesn’t give a damn about your shallow compliments).

Mind you, I wasn’t also crying on the floor. I wasn’t screaming, I wasn’t losing my cool. I was very calmly balancing an angry python who could strike out and bite me with her venomous fangs at any moment. I was whispering in her ear and kissing her face and trying to soothe her, actually. I was asking her to tell me what she needs (because she can so she should), asking her if she was hungry, if she wanted hugs, if she needed naps. Eventually–you know, after I swatted away all of the “helpful” people distracting me from taking care of my children–she said Yes she wanted an apple. So I gave her an apple, sat her in the front of the cart, and she sat there calmly and ate for the rest of the shopping trip. Homeboy at the register gave me the apple for free too so I win at life all around today.

Ya’ll, I got it under control. For real. If I didn’t for some reason (because sometimes I really don’t), I’d leave the store, buckle my children into their car seats to keep them safe, and drive somewhere uncrowded to do some crying until I could get my own self under control. Then I’d take care of whatever was making my kids upset. And everything goes back to being ok again.

As for the “helpful” people in public, I mean… consider your motives AND the actual situation before you decide to insert yourself into someone else’s circumstances. Maybe ASK if they need help first and respect them if they say no.

And DON’T TOUCH OTHER PEOPLE’S BABIES without their permission! Like, I shouldn’t even have to mention that. Do you want me touching your baby? Do you want me, a total stranger, to touch your face when you’re upset? Do you want me to get in your face while you’re struggling with your life problems?

That woman is out there somewhere congratulating herself on a job well done while I’m over like, This Bitch.

adult age elderly enjoyment

“So I said, ‘what beautiful eyes you have’ and she said, “The better to see where to aim my fury at your oppressive patriarchal values, gender traitor!'”

I’ve got enough to do without being a martyr to someone else’s hero complex. Please take that misplaced altruism over to someone who really needs it.

Nothing Good Happens in the Extremes

For any endeavor to be successful, you have to have a overarching goal, right? You have to have a way of knowing if you’re getting what you want out of your effort or if you need to make an adjustment because you’re just not where you thought you’d be when you started.

When I started writing with intention, I also started setting goals. I want to write a whole complete novel. I want to self-publish. I want to connect with other writers.

Within that goal, there are smaller goals or mile-markers or strategies or whatever, whatever but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a very general WHY AM I DOING THIS?

Today I was thinking about what the overarching goal of parenting is and my answer ended up being a spectrum of Raising a Successful Adult where the median outcome is “child grows up and is able to care for oneself without my help so I can die in peace or, like, fulfill my youthful ambitions and then die in peace.”

But that’s just where I’m at.

Because where I got stuck in my thinking was at the two extremes of that spectrum where JUST BE NORMAL seems to be staring down BE THE MOST SPECIAL. I started lumping the terrible parents I’ve known onto one of those ends.

On the JUST BE NORMAL side is where you find your “disowned my kid for being gay” parents along with your “my kid doesn’t have autism, he’s just shy” parents and the “what you do with your big emotions is, you just shove ’em way down deep and don’t acknowledge them” parents.

On the BE THE MOST SPECIAL end, you’ve got your Beverly Goldbergs, your “you must be teaching it wrong because my daughter is brilliant” parents, those “go easy on him because he went to bed late and maybe don’t point out any of his mistakes because it’ll hurt his feelings” parents, and your, “you’ll never amount to anything as long as you only take seven out of the eight offered AP classes this term” parents.

Those parents never do notice the irony of their techniques backfiring, do they?

This is all just to remind myself that my kids are who they are and it’s my job to help them figure out who that is in a loving, encouraging, respectful environment with just the right amount of boundary-setting, rule-enforcing, and push toward self-discipline.

I mean, I don’t always succeed and my son is already king of arguing a loophole until I have to give in out of respect for his moxie but, you know, I try.

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People Who Thrive on Routine

I love a good routine like I love a good Writing Rule, following it only as far as I need it to take me and then bending and changing and maybe even breaking it outright if that’s what’ll work.

You know who that doesn’t work for? Preschoolers. You know what a preschooler does not thrive on? Changing the routine for no reason. You know what my son’s preschool did today? They started lunch 15 minutes early which is 5 minutes before I arrived which was 10 minutes early.

My son usually leaves before lunch. Mommy comes to get him BEFORE lunch. So in child mind, when lunch started and Mommy didn’t show up…

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Thanks preschool. Way to exert your expertise in child development.

The Heart is Also a … thing that does things

I haven’t been writing much and maybe that’s because I busted my butt in April to “win” Camp Nano or maybe it’s because I’m So. Super. Busy. and when I do get a spare moment of not working/parenting/sleeping, I just want to sit down for three seconds!

Either way, not writing time is prime definitely reading time, even if it means reading two paragraphs at a time on my phone while my infant is occupied with something that probably won’t result in catastrophe and my son has fallen down a YouTube hole full of toy unboxing videos.

That’s why it took me almost two months to read The Sun is Also a Star.

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What I liked about it was the short chapters and switching perspectives. I also love when I learn stuff not related to character development in a fiction novel. I loved the unique (to me) perspectives of the characters and the exploration of the effect of parenting styles on the emotional needs of their children.

What I like most is that about 1/3 of the way through the book, I learned they were making a MOOOOVIE of it starring Riverdale’s Charles Melton and Grownish’s Yara Shahidi. I spent the last third of the book imaging them as the characters and it made my heart grow three sizes. Which is too big. Very uncomfortable inside my chest.

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My next book to read two or less paragraphs at a time is Freakonomics because I like to balance heart biggening with brain biggening because that’s… how balance works?

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I mean, I started out with a big heart so…