About A Morning Grouch

I'm a half-assed blogger who uses writing for procrastination and stress-relieving purposes. I blog under the pen name, A Morning Grouch, which downplays the fact that I am more than capable of being generally grouchy throughout the entire day. The good news is that I am, at least, a GRATEFUL Grouch. I believe most of what ails me can be cured with a good laugh (or cry), a long run, and a hearty glass of red wine.

Have a Loved One Who is Struggling With Depression? Here Are The 5 Ways to Best Support Them.

September is Suicide Awareness Month.

September is a designated time for us to share stories, resources, and awareness. Over 40,000 people a year in the U.S. die from suicide. That is a horrifically high number. I don’t know how many others suffer from depression and anxiety and grief as a result of those losses, but it seems like it must be astronomical.

Here are a few things I’ve learned that I think are worth passing on this September.

1. Be Nice. This may sound overly simplistic, but it couldn’t be more important and a lot of times it couldn’t be more difficult. For me, a red flag that I’m sinking into a depressive state is my irritability. I snap at people and I say rude things – things I don’t even mean. As a result, I piss off people around me and I end up feeling horrible – sinking me even further into the hole sliding into. It’s strange because I don’t even notice I’ve sunk that low until I find myself repeatedly acting like an asshole. Instead of yelling back every time or screaming, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?” like you probably want to, a gently phrased, “Are you feeling okay? You don’t usually snap at me so much.” could go a long way. So could a touch on the arm or a neck massage. Emotions are strange – and depression lies and makes you forget that you were ever capable of feeling well – so you just might help your loved one realize that what they are feeling and how they are acting isn’t typical for them.

2. Take something off of their plate. A common symptom of depression is extreme exhaustion. Offering help with even the simplest of tasks (washing dishes, picking up something from the store, making a freezer meal) can help your loved one feel like they can handle life a little better. Forget the phrase, “Let me know if I can do anything.” Instead, ask if there is anything you can help with at a specific date and time, or offer up 1 or 2 options of specific help that you know you could provide.

3. Ask them if they have self-harming thoughts. Not everyone who has self-harming thoughts, or even suicidal thoughts, is at that moment actually contemplating suicide. However, it does give a huge heads up that professional help is needed. Most people don’t offer up to others that they are having self-harming thoughts and most loved ones don’t think to ask. Even though it can make us uncomfortable – THIS IS THE QUESTION WE NEED TO ASK. If they are having those kinds of thoughts – tell them they NEED to make an appointment. With ANYONE.  Depression lies and tells us that everyone probably has these thoughts even though this is not the case. A general practitioner is a great place to start if your loved one isn’t already seeing someone. Tell them to use you as an excuse for making the appointment. You aren’t expected to help them figure this out on your own – but you can refer them to a professional who can.

4. Share your own struggles. You might not have experience with anxiety or depression or other mental health troubles, but if you have battled – let them know. Sharing your own experiences lets them know that it’s okay to not feel okay. It opens up the opportunity for your loved one to speak about struggles that are often hidden inside because they of the stigma that surrounds those topics. It will help them feel not so alone. Be mindful not to tell them what will work for them – because what each person needs is different.

5. Take care of yourself. If the person you are supporting is very close to your inner circle, you need to be mindful of compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is when the physical and emotional toll it takes to support a loved one starts to affect your own health. It’s important to be supportive, but you cannot do that well without taking care of yourself. Do not feel guilty about taking care of yourself. I don’t know who made up the phrase, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” but it’s dead on. Remember that you are not responsible for fixing your loved one’s depression all by yourself.

If you have been affected by the suicide of a loved one, know that it is not your fault. We can only do what we can do, and as much as we would like to think we can control the actions of those around us, the reality is we cannot do more than offer the support we are capable of offering.

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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This is How Behavior Charts Will Always Be Implemented in Our House

My daughter is an age where she is developing new skills at a rapid pace. She is putting pieces together she would have missed before. She is figuring out how to do things, which inspires her to figure out more. It’s wonderful to watch, and even better to be a part of. She’s young enough to include me in her process and her celebrations. In many ways, it’s like we’re doing all of these great things together.

This age she’s in is full of moments that make is easy to be a mom. More than easy, really. I’m so lucky to be a part of it all I can’t help but smother her with kisses and squeeze her in my arms as much as possible. I praise her effort, her persistance, and her achievements. I burst with excitement and gratitude and positive energy.

At this same age, my daughter is also pushing her boundaries further than ever. Boundaries I created. She is testing the limits around her. Limits that I put into place. She is asserting herself as her own person, making sure her voice is heard. When I’m not marveling over something amazing that she’s telling me, I’m listening to her shouting out, “NO!” in my direction. LOUDLY.

This age she’s in is full of moments that make it seem impossible to be a good mom. I try to hold it together because I’m supposed to be the adult here, but sometimes I really suck at adulting. Sometimes I explode with frustration and anger and monstrous meanness.

It seems to me that I am bombarding my daughter with an outpouring of emotion on a regular basis but exactly which type of emotion it is varies depending on the moment. During the good times, everything is laughter and tenderness. During the bad times, everything is chaos and crisis.

A few weeks ago, my daughter and I had our roughest week together – ever. She was whining and crying and no-ing left and right. I was turning red and yelling in response. We both cried a lot. I took away her sandals as a punishment one day after she threw them at my head. It was an ugly week for both of us.

I knew I had to help her turn her bad behaviors around, but I felt a bit like a hypocrite after exhibiting some frightful actions myself. So, when she told me I was acting ugly and stupid I didn’t correct her – I told her she was right. I asked if she was willing to make an agreement with me – to work on listening and acting nicer.

Each day if she acted nicely she’d get a smiley face and once she earned five smiley faces she’d get her sandals back. Since I also needed to listen and be nicer, I explained that I had to follow the same rules she did. I’d “grade” her each night and she’d “grade” me using a sad or happy face system. She told me that if I got a sad face I’d have to lose a shoe. I agreed. She demanded that she get to pick out which shoe. I agreed again.

She seemed pretty happy about our arrangement and we shook on it. For the first time all week it seemed, we hugged and left each other full of smiles, tender touches and all the feely-good feels.

Our system worked. She didn’t say no to every request I asked of her. I worked on speaking calmly and kindly. If I ever started to raise my voice, she’d remind me of our agreement.

“Mom, I think you might lose a shoe today.”

“No way. Not today, babe!” I’d reply as I held up my hand for a high five.

By the end of the five days, she earned her sandals back and I kept all of my shoes. We celebrated with ice cream.

So far, our nicer habits have continued without continuing our charting. Here’s hoping they stay that way for awhile – and if either of us need some smiley’s to promote positive behavior – the other will be there to go along for the ride.

I’ve Been Giving My Threenager a Bad Rap

 

Today my three year old self-reflected for the first time in her life. Or, maybe she didn’t. But for the first time ever, she shared her self-reflection with me. That – for sure – is true.

That’s the amazing thing about having kids. You get to witness their first-evers and those first-evers last……forever? I don’t know the expiration date on that but while it lasts, it’s amazing.  Captivating. Thrilling. Watching your kids accomplish new physical or mental feats is tantamount to climbing Mt. Everest, or being treated to an all-inclusive resort that boasts five-star chefs and excellent bar service, or traveling to an exotic locale and capturing video of never-before-witnessed natives in their natural habitat. It’s unparalleled.

My daughter is a spunky little feisty-muffins with a penchant for silly faces, word play, cackling laughter, a side of sass, and possibly a slight anger management problem. She gives her fuzzy blankie with the pink hearts on it a hug more readily than she’ll give me one, and after three years of holding her, when she snuggles in close to me I know well enough to be wary of getting head-butted. She runs, hops, jumps, or skips, but NEVER walks. (Unless you ask her to run, hop, jump, or skip. Then she walks as slow as a sloth.) She is a tiny-yet-mighty strong-willed mystery. She is a beautiful conundrum.

Since she has been able to speak she has bested me during every verbal exchange we’ve ever had.

“Put your pants on.”

“YOU put your pants on!!”

“Put your foot in the leg hole”

“YOU put my foot in the leg hole!!”

———

“Sit down.”

“YOU sit down!”

“Sit down or you’re going to go to time out.”

*she stays standing*

“Do you want a time out?”

“Yes.”

———–

“Don’t hit.”

“YOU don’t hit!!”

(I don’t hit! … but do you see what she does? Here I am defending myself to you because of her.)

———–

Usually, when I observe my three year old, I’m in awe because she surprises me so much. She surprises me with her many clever made-up words. She surprises me with her sense of humor and her creativity. She surprises me with the power of her fury. With her wit. Her breath-taking beauty. Her stubbornness. She surprises me with her cruelty – which might just be curiosity – but either way can be brutal. Her surprises never end. When I ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she tells me she wants to be a donut.

We are not on the same wavelength – she usually doesn’t do what I expect she sh/would. She doesn’t do what I would do. She is a wild child being raised by a nerdy bookworm.

Sometimes this is infuriating. Sometimes it is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Since I can’t always predict or understand her behavior, she tests my patience. My flexibility. My coping strategies. In other words, my ability to be a good parent.

That’s all a little scary and intimidating.

Is that what “threenager” means? Scary and intimidating? Probably so.

My little threenager – who sometimes gets a bad rap for head-butting me in the jaw or screaming through clenched teeth as she punches and kicks (so hard!) – that kid of mine self-reflected today and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Here’s what happened. Every night we have our routine. Potty. Pajamas. Teeth. Books. Usually after we read a couple of books we lay together in bed and chat. Most nights, I take a few minutes and tell my children the strengths I see in them. I tell them they are hard workers and they are readers and writers and artists. I tell them they are good sharers and good sisters and they are nice and kind people. There are a multitude of variations to the list, it isn’t always exactly the same.

Tonight after I told my three-year-old she was a nice friend she said to me, “Ruby was mad at me today.” Her pal at daycare that she’s known practically from birth. They were born days apart.

“Why was Ruby mad at you?”

“Ms. Jodi was mad at me too.” she adds. Her beloved daycare teacher.

“Why were they mad at you?” I rephrase my question. I was used to her telling me she had time outs or had bad days. Not every day, but enough for it to be somewhat typical.

“I didn’t share the blocks.”

“I see.” I snuggled in closer to her and kiss the top of her head before resting my chin on it. A slightly risky move on my part.

“How did that make you feel?” I asked her.

To be honest, I don’t know what kind of reply I was expecting. Usually she’d make up a silly word and giggle, or ignore the question and make a joke about poop, or change the subject and talk about Anna, Elsa, or Olaf.  I don’t think I was expecting her to actually answer, but tonight she did.

“Bad.” She looked up at me and stared me right in the eyes. She didn’t even head butt me in the jaw.

Whoa. She feels bad when she doesn’t do the right thing. When she makes others mad. This was huge to me. She released a bombshell I was not prepared for. I was blasted with an wave of pride.

Sometimes her behavior makes my eyes water, not because of the remarkably strong toddler-inflicted pain she is capable of administering, but because what she says is so refreshing to hear.

“Sometime nice people don’t act as nice as they know they should. Nice people just keep working to act nicer.” I reassured her.

I know this, after all, from decades of experience.

Maybe my three-year-old and I aren’t that different from one another, after all. I suppose that shouldn’t really surprise me.

 

 

Their Pull

Boy and girl, though young and immature, both recognized Their Pull.

Pulling like an electric current around a giant loop.  A tingly, weighty, attraction.

Attracting them towards each other – their hands, their hips, their hearts.

 

Hearts and bodies aged, and the older they grew, the stronger Their Pull.

Pulling them with a sharp yank if they tried to push back.

Back to back they sometimes stood, until Their Pull flipped them around to face each other once again.

 

Again and again, they chose each other. No one else Pulled so tightly.

Tightly, they clung to each other, even if only via The Pull so others could barely see it.

It tugged ferociously when one hand grazed the other’s fingers, running lightly from knuckle to wrist.

 

Wristwatches and necklaces removed, they stood before each other bare.

Bare and exposed completely – Their Pull did not notice flaws.

Flaws and all, Their Pull kept them connected – their hands, their hips, their hearts.

 

 

 

 

Dear Husband, You’re The Perfect Dad, Even if You Don’t Know Where We Keep the Children’s Shampoo.

My husband is the perfect partner – both as my companion in marriage and my teammate in parenting. He is my other half. My knight in shining armor. The man of my dreams.

He’s my favorite.

What some imagine when they hear me say this is that he regularly loads the dishwasher or consistently folds mounds of laundry. Some might think he regularly bathes our children or packs up the diaper bag when we get ready to leave the house.

But, those people would be sorely mistaken.

In fact, my husband almost never carries his own plate into the kitchen or sets foot in the laundry room. I don’t remember the last time he gave our children a bath, but I do remember the last time he helped them brush their teeth because he yelled down the stairs and asked me whose toothbrush was whose. When it comes to domestic tasks, we tend to follow stereotypical gender roles and the “light” housework type duties end up on my to-do list, not his.

Here’s a classic example: when we watch Netflix together on the couch, I’m basically his waitress. I bring him ice water (from the fridge, not the faucet), or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (with enough jelly, but not too much) or whatever else it is he’s craving. He has this persistent habit where he’ll wait for me to get up – to use the restroom or whatnot – and then “since I’m up” he will ask me to bring him something upon my return. He will wait as long as it takes in order to remain firmly planted on the sofa.

And even though I’m a strong-willed feminist, I happily oblige. Because some things are more important. Like:

He is tender and loving. He is the master of cuddles and kisses and rubbing backs. He tells us, “I love you” and “I’m proud of you” and he says it like he means it. He paints his daughter’s fingers and toes, he dances with them in the kitchen, and he sips fake tea out of tiny china cups when they ask him to. He gently positions their hands around a baseball bat to show them how to hit the ball from the tee. He shows them how to properly pass a soccer ball with their insteps. He wipes away all of our tears with his thumbs and he kisses them away with his lips. He’s learned that he can’t solve all of our problems, but listening to them can provide the greatest of comforts. He loves his daughters, and he loves me, and we all know it. He makes sure of that.

He is proud of his family. This includes not only us, but his grandparents, parents and sisters, his aunts and uncles, his cousins and nieces and nephews. He values our company and he boasts about our strengths – even though we all possess different ones, and even when they aren’t the same as his own. He applauds his relatives when they achieve their goals – mastering a new riff on the guitar, scoring a goal, reading a challenging text, participating in a performance, getting a new job, running a race, or earning a degree. He smiles when he watches his daughters doing something they love and he says, “She’s awesome” on a daily basis. He boasts about their strength, their determination, their newly acquired skills, their stubbornness, and their goofy antics.

He takes care of all the things. He turns off lights, and vacuums out cars, and always puts things back where they belong. He researches for months to find the best deals on cars, lawn mowers and furnaces. He is the leader in our household when it comes to budgeting and saving, home renovating, and investment planning. He takes the time to figure out the best plan of action and he spends even more time executing his strategy. He’s always working on a project that involves rewiring, patching, painting, wrenching, tearing apart, or putting back together. He’s the one who handles the hours-long phone conversations with the cable company. That alone should earn him an award.

He doesn’t do the dishes or the laundry, and he has no idea where we keep the children’s shampoo.

And that’s fine.

He does a whole lot of other stuff. Important stuff. Stuff I’m not so good at. Plus, he loves us to pieces. We are so incredibly lucky.

 

Think Suicide is Selfish? Here’s Why You’ve Got it Wrong.

This has been a pretty fucking horrible week. On Wednesday, a suicide hit way too close to home and it’s been awful.  No, it wasn’t Chris Cornell, it was someone much closer to my inner circle, but both events on the same day evoked an overwhelming amount of emotional commentary – both on social media and in person.

Unfortunately, when suicides occur there are some people who blame the victim. There are many who lash out in anger at the one who caused others pain by taking their own life. It’s understandable to be angry about a loss, but when anger is directed at the person who took their own life it shows a significant lack of understanding of how depression works.

I don’t know what was going through our friend’s mind because I was not in it. I just know how depression manifests and how destructive thoughts can flit through the brain and how depression is able to justify them.

Here are some answers to things like:

1. Don’t they love their family? Don’t they understand what impact this will have on them? OF COURSE THEY DO. They know it well. They hate the thought and they’re sick about it. The fucked up part is that their brain is telling them that not being here is the better option to that horrific outcome – that living without them is helping their family live a better life than living with them. DEPRESSION LIES and it says things like, “You’re a burden” and “You’re dragging those around you down” and “You’re making everything worse.” I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to not believe your brain, but it’s pretty much impossible to not listen to what your own mind is telling you.

2. How could they do this? How could they leave their loved ones forever? Depressives feel like they are already gone inside, so they don’t see leaving as leaving because they’re already gone. They might not look that way, they might not act that way, but they feel that way. And they’ve been feeling that way for quite a long time at this point. DEPRESSION LIES and tells them they are gone for good, even though therapies and medications can often bring them back. Depression is a convincing liar. It is a seasoned actor that masquerades as truth. It’s a macabre magician’s act that makes someone think they’re already gone even when they are standing right there.

3. Why weren’t they more grateful? They should have been more thankful for what they had. As irony would have it, practicing gratitude makes severe depression worse, not better. This is contrary to popular belief because for people without mental illness, their emotional state depends on REASONS. So, focusing on all the good you have around you helps your mood. But, depression doesn’t give a shit about reasons. It doesn’t give a shit if you are poor or rich, weak or strong, ugly or beautiful. It doesn’t need ungratefulness. It doesn’t need back stories or traumatic experience to exist. Depression is like a parasitic worm swimming around in your brain but you never once visited the tropics. And that’s the kicker – when there is no “why” depressives often feel guilty. After all, they have everything to be grateful for, right? Nothing to complain about. Because of this, their feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness increase. They don’t feel worthy of your love, their friend’s love, their kid’s love. How could they be, when they don’t even feel worthy of their own depression? They know how good they have it and yet they still find themselves in a state of intense internal turmoil and emotional distress. DEPRESSION LIES and the more grateful the person is, the more monstrous depression makes them feel. No one in a remotely normal state of mind can understand how this is possible, so if you fall in that camp, consider yourself privileged.

4. Every problem can be fixed, how didn’t they see that? Whoever wrote the whole “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem” bullshit clearly never suffered from depression. You don’t need REASONS to be depressed. Neurochemicals don’t tend to care about your problems or your social life. Most depressives are not sad about a particular event. They might not even feel SAD. They often feel things like hopeless, or worthless, or nothingness. They often feel empty for absolutely no reason at all, other than their own chemical imbalance. When the problem is your own self, you don’t have a “temporary problem”. You just have YOU. DEPRESSION LIES and tells you that you cannot be fixed.

DEPRESSION LIES. It’s a horrible asshole bitch that breaks people – it breaks good people, strong people, loving people, grateful people. It does not discriminate. It’s an equal opportunity fucker.

Dark Days

I come with the hardest form of artillery. One is two and the other is four and they have small, smooth feet and cute tiny noses. They have the loudest of voices and the most beautiful of spirits. They bring giggles and hugs and peanut butter crackers.

When I can juggle it all, I bring my strongest ammunition, but even when I do I know we cannot beat the beast that we encounter. Sometimes though we can soothe it. Temper it. Entertain it.

At the very least, we can be there with it.

I know which wars I’m likely to win and which ones I’m not. Since I refuse to surrender, all I can do is show up to every battle and keep on fighting and take any gains I can get. Any small moments of victory.

I know I can’t win them all.

I can tell it is a good day by her gaze. She looks alert, she looks at me, she follows the conversation with her eyes. She smiles – more with the crinkles around her eyes than with the movement of her mouth, but still. On those days, I talk. I talk and I talk and I try to think of interesting or clever things to say. If I’m lucky I get a chuckle, a nod, a smile.

A win.

On bad days, her eyes are glazed. She is not able to be fully present. It’s hard to describe but easy to observe. She doesn’t have the energy for much in the way of eye contact, conversation, or responsiveness.

“Bad day?” I ask.

I am not really asking, I just want her to know that I see it.

“Bad day.” She confirms. She shuts her eyes and squeezes them tight for several seconds before opening them slowly as she exhales and shakes her head, as in disbelief at the shit she’s dealing with.

I’m glad she can tell me. She doesn’t need to explain.

I do not need her to justify her pain to me. Or her reaction to her pain. I just need her to know I’m there.

In many ways, I get it.

Life is hard. It is sometimes too much.

On those days, I’m quiet. I massage her arms. They are frail and bird-like and her skin is softer than any other skin I’ve touched. It is smooth and supple and if it is a little bit dry, a small bit of lotion revives it immediately. I rub her back, her shoulders, her neck. I brush her hair. I hold up her insulated mug of ice water to her lips so she can drink it through the bendy straw. When she gulps it down I think of the 34 ounce jugs she used to keep on her counter, refilling them throughout the day to ensure her hydration. I wonder now how many ounces she consumes when I’m not there to hold the jug to her lips.

Every once in a while I bring in a single serving of pink moscato and hold it to her mouth after she’s had her water. She gulps down as fast as her weak lips and her weak throat and her weak stomach will allow.

Parts of her body are weak – too weak to move a whole lot – her arms, her legs. But other parts are hearty and strong. Her heart, her lungs.

Her depression.

She hates her weakness and she hates her strength.

When I leave her, I give the others the update.

“She’s having a bad day.” I say.

“Why?”

“What?”

“Did something happen?”

At first, I’m confused. I thought I already explained when I said “she’s having a bad day.” It takes me a minute, but then I realize.

Some people only have bad days for reasons. Because of things that happen externally. And certainly she has some external reason, but for the most part it’s her insides that are broken.

People who aren’t broken on the inside don’t understand that bad days are just a given for depressives. Some days are just harder than others for no reason at all.

“I wish I were dead.” She can articulate this on the good days. Because sometimes that is what a good day looks like for a depressive.

And her “good days” aren’t really good days. They’re not full twenty-four hour periods. They are more like flashes of light in her darkness. Brief cracklings of lightning that illuminate a pitch black sky for a quarter of a second at a time. Sometimes maybe a half-second.

All I am is a spark. A brief bit of lightening. Powerful, yet fleeting. There and gone, in an instant.

 

Stay With Me – Ignoring That Pile of Dishes In My Sink

Last week I felt like I was constantly rushing. Rushing downstairs when I woke up to make the coffee and get myself ready. Rushing to rouse the girls and help them get dressed and brush their hair. Rushing out the door and heading to daycare drop-off – making sure I pulled into the parking lot precisely at 7:15. I knew I had a one minute buffer but if I arrived at 7:17 I would pull out of the neighborhood later than I should and I would get stuck behind the bus  – which would make me panic throughout the rest of my drive about being late to work. After work, I rushed to get a quick workout in and then rushed to pick up the girls. I headed home to tidy the house a bit and make dinner and before I knew it the whole process started again. It wasn’t very pretty.

Thankfully, there were moments when my children reminded me I needed to slow down.

“Mama!” she called from upstairs.

I was unloading the dishwasher so I could load it again with the dirty dishes that were overflowing in the sink and I hadn’t yet started prepping dinner.

“Come down, babe!” I yelled up the steps. If she came down, I could talk to her while I got some work done.

She didn’t come down.

“Sweetie, come down!” I yelled again.

She still didn’t emerge.

Annoyed at being disrupted from my list of chores I wanted to check off my list, I went upstairs and saw her sitting on her blanket, leaning her head against a pillow in her “fort” (which is really her closet). She looked up at me and let out a muffled sigh.

I took a deep breath and ducked down beneath her hanging dresses and sat next to her. She leaned into me.

“What’s up, kiddo?” I asked.

“Sister doesn’t want to play with me.” she replied.

I put my arm around her little shoulders. “Sometimes sister wants to do other things. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like you, it just means she wants to do her own thing right now.”

“I’m sad,” she said.

“I’m sorry you’re sad.” I sat with her for a couple of minutes and then kissed her on the head and started to get up to head back downstairs.To where my work was.

She put her hand on my shoulder. “Stay with me.” she insisted.

I looked at her small shoulders hunched over and the downturned corners of her mouth and I took a deep breath and sat back down. To where my work really was. We sat next to each other in silence. I tried not to count in my head how many minutes we were sitting, and how many dishes I could put away in that same timeframe. I reminded myself that I enjoyed sitting next to my child.and feeling her warmth and her weight pressed against me. I reminded myself that sometimes the dishes really can wait. I leaned my head against hers and rubbed her back.

After a few minutes of silence, she said, “Thanks for helping me. I feel better now,” and she popped up and walked out of the “fort” ready to head back downstairs.

The anxiety I had felt about taking the time to head upstairs had been totally unfounded. In reality, it had taken only five to seven minutes of total time, starting from when I yelled up the steps from the kitchen. Five to seven minutes to help my daughter to feel loved and secure and able to regroup. Five to seven minutes are so important when you think about it that way.

The pile of overflowing dishes will get done, eventually. They won’t sit there forever.  My kids won’t need me for that long.

A Fading Heart

Baby Grouch is still small but she isn’t really a baby anymore. She pretends she is a waitress and asks, “What would you like today?” and she says, “This is my coffee.” as she takes a swig of milk from her sippy cup. She “reads” her favorite books – We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Baby Giggles and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. She’s heard them so many times she’s memorized every word.

Currently, one of her favorite movies is Tarzan. Her favorite part is when Tarzan presses his hand against Jane’s and notices that their fingers align perfectly. She holds her own hand up, palm facing out and fingers pointing to the sky and says, “Go like this.” I press my hand into hers and I hold it there until she pulls away. It always surprises me how long this sustains her attention and how her tiny hand is able to push against mine with a firmness many adult-sized hands don’t possess. Tarzan leans his head into Jane’s chest and his eyes widen as he listens to her heartbeat. Baby Grouch puts her head against me and smiles when she hears mine. She pulls me close to her and I hear her rapid whumpa-whumpa-whumpa in return.

I get transported to the 12-week appointment where we waited anxiously to hear that sound. Just a week before, we stopped hearing the rapid beating from Baby A and Baby B so we were very nervous about whether or not we’d still hear Baby C. It took forever for the nurse to find that sound and when she finally did I pretty much lost it in the office.

She’s always been the fighter.

When she’s not playing Tarzan, she sings at the top of her lungs and she bangs loudly on her drum set. She presses so hard when she colors that waxy smears of crayon obliterate the image printed on the page. She deftly snips with tiny scissors and cuts a single sheet of paper into a million pieces that litter the art room floor. She screams when she’s happy. She screams when she’s not. She screams so loudly it hurts my eardrums. She demands that I pick her up and then put her down. She yells “Help!” and when I ask her to try again and “I can do it!” when I offer assistance. She tears off her shirts and her pants so they don’t encumber her as she leaps off of the sofa. She giggles when she lands on the floor with a thud.

She is tough.

When she takes off her shirt and tosses it aside, I can’t help but notice that the heart-shaped birthmark on her back – once blood-red – is almost imperceptible now. The doctors told me it would probably fade away but I wasn’t so sure. It was so bold before. For me, it’s always been a stark reminder that there were others with her for a brief time.

Sometimes I watch her with amazement and feel the odd sensation of deeply missing something I never really had in the first place. Sometimes I stare at her in awe and think that what I’m missing is what allows me to retain a small shred of sanity.

Lately, one of her favorite songs is a Phil Collins number from the Tarzan soundtrack. Like her favorite books and videos, she likes to hear it over and over and over again. I sing it with her, I sing it to her, I catch myself singing it even when I’m by myself.

“You’ll be in my heart. You’ll be in my heart….allllllwaaaaays.”

heart

How Parenting and Being in a Gang Are Basically the Same

They sport their affiliation with their clothing or jewelry. Is their necklace hand-crafted from organic seed beads? Does it boast a little silver Tiffany tag? Or is it made from the macaroni noodles a toddler strung together? It’s a little more subtle, but it’s similar to spying a colored bandana or a tattooed area code on a forearm.

They’ve got territory that’s theirs and territory that isn’t. Elite preschools vs. in-home daycares vs.baby-wearing to work through the toddler years. Janie and Jack vs. Old Navy vs.Thrift Stores. Twistars vs. swim class at the Y vs. catching frogs and jumping in mud puddles on nature preserves. Whole foods vs. fast foods vs. Neighborhood Sustainability Gardens. There is not much crossing paths between groups.

They’re part of a family. Not a family they came from, but a family they chose. They count on their crew for survival – to keep them sane, to keep them grounded, to keep them feeling like they’re doing things right. They’re following the rules of the group, even if the rules are stupid. It feels good to pretend they know what they’re doing.

They’ve got intimidation tactics. They’re posting photos of their homemade baby food and organic veggies. They’re writing angry forum posts about how your child is going to have life-long hip injuries from that baby carrier you’re using or listing all the reasons their child is safer than yours in the car. Or, they walk past you in in the store flaunting their children’s goldfish, chicken nugget, and oreo cookie diet.

They fight over stupid shit that feels worthy of a life or death altercation. Things like breastfeeding and sleep training and when to introduce what kind of solids. Things like time-outs, t.v. time and, and the best way to throw a birthday party. Their “family” honor is at stake.

Someone’s bound to get hurt – whether it’s gang wars or mom wars –  if someone messes with one of their family members. Parents might not always walk down the street in packs, but they most definitely appear in swarms online.

Rat-a-tat-tat.

parenting

Parenting cliques. Which tribe are you a part of?

 

Here are some common gangs in your area and tips about how they can be identified:

 

GANG: hippie.jpg

MOTTO: “Feed them farro”.

GANG SIGN: The Gyan Mudra.  Alternate: Connecting fingers with thumb to form a circle, which symbolizes a multitude of things such as, the Sun and Moon, a whole (as in Whole 30) and a “zero” (as in zero preservatives or artificial ingredients).

TERRITORY: Yoga studios, local natural food stores, baby-wearing meetings, the great outdoors (particularly in non-landscaped settings).

ATTIRE:  Rainbow colored (as found naturally in the real rainbow, not as in artificially colored rainbows), earthy green, tans and ochre colors required.  Paisley pattern allowed. Second-hand preferred. Beaded bracelets and crystal amulets as accessories.

PRIZE ITEMS: Organic, all-natural, baby carrier (the kind that doesn’t ruin delicate baby hips), crystal body deodorant, nutritional yeast, essential oils (especially frankincense), heirloom tomatoes, any book by Dr. Sears, crocheted teacup coozies.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES: Eating chocolate that is not at least 60% cacao or that is not fair trade. Letting their child cry it out.

KEY LINGO: Sustainable, Free-range, Antioxidant, Breath, Spiritual, Attachment.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to crops.

 

GANG:

richlady

MOTTO: Go Get ‘Em!

GANG SIGN: A loose hug where no one actually touches accompanied with a fake smile and a slow, subtlety judgmental sweep of the eyes down, then back up.

TERRITORY: The pool at the high-priced gym, the benches in the high school football stadium, all-inclusive resorts on the right beaches in Mexico.

ATTIRE: Color coordinated outfits showcasing this year’s name-brand fashions.  Preferably fashions not available in stores but purchased from an in-home hosted party.  Perfectly coiffed hair, well-applied makeup, groomed brows.

PRIZE ITEMS: Ceramic Starbucks thermos, Current Books Focusing on Achievement and Success (such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or The 80/20 Principle), Beta Brand Yoga Pants.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES: Pinteresting incorrectly, not enrolling children in a minimum of 37 activities per year, kids attending less than elite preschools, overall not being good enough at everything.

KEY LINGO: Cost, Achievement, Production, Accomplish, Meta-cognition.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to clothing.

 

GANG:

sweatshirt.jpg

MOTTO: Cheers!

GANG SIGN: A straight up middle finger accompanied with a wry grin. Because this crew does not give a fuck.

TERRITORY: At the bar (with kids in tow), or at home (formula feeding, or kids running amok since they are not enrolled in activities).

ATTIRE: The same jeans you saw them in last year and a t-shirt from a 5k they ran in 2008. Most likely also wearing the resting bitchface expression.

PRIZE ITEMS: Books (any kind), Beer, Coffee, Large bags of popcorn, Ball jar filled with ice and moonshine.

QUESTIONABLE ACTIVITIES:  Formula feeding.  Oversharing.  Going out in public after not bathing kids for over 7 days, and/or not showering self for over 3 days.

KEY LINGO: Damn, Shit, Ass.

DIALECTIC USAGE OF THE PHRASE “IN SEASON”: Used in reference to seasonal brews on tap.

 

 

Which gang do you affiliate with? Share if you dare, just watch out for the rat-a-tat-tats that might come in response.