I’m Not Gonna Lie… I Have NO Idea What I’m Doing

It's Not Easy Being a Zombie Mom From Hell When All Eyes Are On You. Of Course, The Only Eyes That Really Matter Are Those of Your Children. Photo Credits: Photogen.com

I can remember poring over the dog-eared pages of parenting magazines and baby books as an expectant mother – sometimes even scribbling chicken scratch in the margins. I can recall making lists of concerns to take with us during trips to the pediatrician to make certain no sniffle, no sneeze and no funny shaped freckle was ever overlooked. Before either daughter even arrived, their rooms were lovingly painted and decorated in anticipation of the happy childhoods they would experience both inside and outside of those four walls. Once they were here, I carefully planned every meal to make sure their nutritional needs were being met and plotted every outfit to make sure they coordinated perfectly like the happy children whose faces are plastered on the cover of a magazine. Back then, I would take the time to learn, explore and experience. Back then, that is, before I became the Zombie Mom from Hell.

I’m not really sure when it happened or why – but at some point I stopped doing all of those things. Sure, I still lay out their clothes on occasion and every once in a while, I cook something that might be considered “good” for them – but somewhere along the way, that ubercharged gusto to achieve Super Mom-dom died. It’s not that I love my children any less – on the contrary, my love for them grows with each passing day. They are and will always be the moon and the stars to me. But sometime between goodnight stories and training bras, I figured out that I have NO idea what I am doing. Rather than pick up a book to discover the secrets and get back on track, I forge ahead on an uncertain path – moaning and groaning like the walking dead. I stopped being careful and started being careless, tossing out swear words like earthworms to my innocent baby birds. I throw insensitive remarks about hygiene at my oldest daughter – a sweet and sensitive pre-teen, and hit my youngest where it hurts by denying her hugs when she misbehaves. All the while, from the outside looking in – I HATE what I’ve become and like a twenty-something with a horrible hangover, vow to never do it again. That is, until I do it again.

To be fair – I never set out to be perfect, and I’m really not all bad. I still faithfully run carpools, pack lunches, shop for groceries, help with homework, and dutifully play the role of room mom in my daughters’ classes – all while running a successful freelance copywriting business. . I walk them to the bus stop in the morning and I’m there to greet them at the end of the day, afterschool snack at the ready inside our cozy home.  I will always find time to snuggle with them on the couch, hands in a bucket of popcorn and a movie on the big screen TV. We host Wii Challenges when we’re at home and head out on regular adventures when we’re out on the town. Most importantly, I always kiss them goodnight and the sun never goes down on a day when they haven’t heard their mom say “I love you” at least once.

I guess this is just my ugly, aching midlife crisis. The desire to be a good mom is still there, but – like any respectable zombie – the life has been unexpectedly leeched from me. How on Earth do I guide when I haven’t the slightest clue where I’m going? Heading at warp-speed toward the teenage years with two girls in tow, it’s in everyone’s best interest that I claw my way out of the grave and get back to the business of actively living my life. The magic elixir is not to be found in the bottom of a bottle of Riesling (believe me, I’ve looked) and merely casting a wish into the universe won’t make it come true – I have to dig a little deeper and remember that I’m not alone.  I know there are other women out there in this big wide world who feel exactly the same way that I do. C’mon girls, we’ve got this! So we’ve said and done things that our children may use to determine how NOT to raise their own kids one day and we may serve as the subject of a colorful cocktail party story or two when our babies are all grown up – no use crying over spilt milk. It’s what we do from this day forward that really counts. We’ve got to find a way to be there for our kids – mind, body AND spirit. They may not be helpless babies anymore, but they still need us. It’s time to shed the guilt and the gray zombie shell – and jump back into our families with both feet. After that, we just have to feel our way…

 

Published in: on February 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm  Comments (7)  
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The Dream I Never Knew I Had

When I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a star on Broadway. It wasn’t just a dream – it was a longing, an ache somewhere deep down in my soul. Before I was ten, I had memorized every song from Annie – The Musical and, as I got older, I committed to memory the lyrics from Hair, Fame, Cats and Phantom of the Opera. I took drama classes, joined a local children’s theater group and got as far as the Alliance Theater and the stage at the Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta. I loved it with a hot fiery intensity, and yet I let it go. I turned my attention to boys and BFFs, and merely dabbled my way through Show Choir in high school and Glee Club in college before letting it go completely. To this day, I still sing at the top of my lungs in the shower and in my car, and I never miss an episode of Glee or American Idol.  I have no regrets – I know now that it wasn’t the path I was meant to take.

When I was a young journalism student at the University of Georgia, I dreamed of becoming a foreign correspondent. I yearned to travel to distant shores and learn about the people who lived there. I wanted desperately to join the ranks of H.R. Knickerbocker, Edward R. Murrow, Morley Safer and Peter Arnett. I practiced my pronunciation of difficult leaders’ names and perfected a clipped speech pattern until I felt it was reminiscent of a blend between Walter Cronkite and Jane Pauley. I wrote make believe reports with a poetic flair, and performed them before my bathroom mirror with hairbrush in place of a microphone. Then two events occurred to crush my dream: 1) I registered for a Broadcast Journalism course and froze every time I stood before the camera, and 2) I watched CNN’s 24-hour reporting from the Persian Gulf War.  The mental image of Bernard Shaw, John Holliman and Peter Arnett seeking refuge under a table in their hotel room during the first bombing of Baghdad terrified me rather than set a fire in my belly to hop the next plane and join them. In truth, the only time I had ever traveled beyond America’s borders was for a high school graduation cruise to Mexico – I hardly ever left the Southeast, let alone the state of Georgia. My sense of adventure was relegated to living inside my own head (which really turned out to be a perfect situation for an unbeknown aspiring writer).  I have no regrets – that wasn’t the path I was meant to take, either.

Instead, in college, I found my feet firmly planted on another path.  I met my best friend for life, who also happened to be my future husband. He taught me to stop looking to the future, but rather to live in the moment.  The future suddenly seemed wide open – something I no longer needed to define and could not confine to any one dream. We married shortly after graduation, and built our home in Georgia. Talk eventually turned to growing our family, and I felt the excitement building – just as it had when I dreamed of standing onstage or under fire in some war torn nation. It was strange – I had been a TERRIBLE babysitter growing up. I was never really comfortable with small children, never knew what to say to them or do with them. It didn’t come naturally to me – or so I thought. What kind of mother would I be? It took ten months to become pregnant, and with each failed attempt – I found myself wanting that elusive baby all the more. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for those parents who wait years for a successful pregnancy. Once I learned I was pregnant, I felt the love growing inside me right along with that sweet baby. When she arrived, everything fell into place. My first daughter was joined by a second just two years and eight months later, and I became completely fulfilled. Being a mom was a dream I never knew I had. While I would never claim to be the World’s Best Mom – I yell too much, cuss too much and occasionally brush their hair more vigorously than required – I am a far better mom than I ever would have imagined. Thanks to them, rather than looking to tomorrow and dreaming of what COULD be, I am living for TODAY and wishing it could stay this way forever.  Rather than dreaming of a happily ever after – I get to live it every day.

Lump In My Throat

I have been blessed.  (Some days – although few and far between –  I feel I may have been cursed.)  God, in his infinite wisdom, has granted me the blessing of being mom to two little girls.  My heart has ached for them since before they ever breathed their first breath.  I fretted about the number of fingers and toes they would have, whether they would be healthy, whether they could possibly love me as much as I love them.  Once you give birth to a baby, they start pulling away a little bit more every day.  Blink your eyes and they’re crawling, blink again and they’re walking.  It’s true what they say – “They grow up so fast!”  On one hand, you want to freeze time – hold them in that perfect place forever.  On the other hand, you can’t wait to see what they’ll do next.  Your love just grows right along with them.  The one constant – the one thing that never changes is you never stop fretting.

My mother-in-law gave me a book the Christmas before I gave birth to my first daughter – Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”.  If you’ve never read it, it’s brilliant – but one particular quote stood out to me on the subject of children. 

Gibran wrote:

 Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let our bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

 

I try VERY HARD to remember these words.  I know now that my mother-in-law believed them with all her heart, even though she is no longer here for me to discuss them with – and I miss her desperately.  Her death, at the tender age of just 59, had a profound effect on me.  Beyond the loss of such an amazing force in my life, my husband’s life and the lives of my children – I had to come to terms with my own mortality, with the finite nature of our existence here on Earth and the limited amount of time I have to watch over my children.  I don’t want to miss a thing!

 

And yet…  there is so much I wish to shield them from.  As my oldest enters into the early awkward phase of her youth, my once divine little bow-head now more resembles a virtual stranger to me.  Practically overnight, she changed.  My daughter, who I once knew every inch of – every single fat roll on her chubby baby body – every single tickle spot on her sweet smelling skin — is growing up, up and away.  This past December, she asked me to chop off her long, beautiful locks – she wanted to donate them to Locks of Love, so another child – who had cancer and had lost their hair, would have hair.  Her gorgeous smile was suddenly transformed by the appearance of adult teeth too large for her little face.  And, as of just a few days ago, her lovely hazel eyes are now hidden behind a pair of thick rimmed glasses she proudly chose herself.  She’s in the gifted classes at school and sobs if she doesn’t make honor roll.  She uses big words and tells terrible jokes.  Her head is always in the clouds, if her nose isn’t stuck inside a book.  Who is this kid?

 

She’s my baby.  She’s also the kid I wouldn’t give the time of day to when I was not much older than she is now.  I am dying inside at the thought of another child not being able to see what an amazing creature she is – or, God forbid, hurting her in some way – ANY way.  My sister –once a sweet, cherubic child – bent and nearly broke under the weight of the ugliness spewed from the mouths of other children in her school.  She battled bulimia for years as a result.  I don’t wish to see my baby crushed that way.  It’s a lie, you know – words CAN harm you every bit as badly as sticks and stones.

 

Thankfully, somewhere along the way, my goofy sweet first-born was given a confidence level that I could never attain.  I was shy and silent at eight-years-old, and still struggle as an adult.  She is completely secure in her own skin, and man does that kid love to TALK!  I hope that never changes.  There’s a part of me that wants to warn her, that wants to tell her about all the bad things that COULD happen.  That’s where the lump in my throat comes in.  I never really understood where that term “lump in your throat” came from.  Now I know – it’s all the words you want to say, but know you shouldn’t – trapped like a knot just below your mouth and slightly above your adam’s apple.  They are words dying to come out, but wise enough to stay inside.   These words often dissolve into silent prayer – a simple wish for their happiness.  That’s how I try to send my “living arrows” forth – with a quick hug and a kiss, an “I love you” and a silent prayer.  As I drop my little girls off to school every morning, I kiss them goodbye and watch them as they are swallowed up inside the double doors of their institution of learning.  Every morning, I drive away with that damn lump in my throat.  I’m afraid it’s here to stay.

Published in: on February 11, 2009 at 5:33 am  Comments (3)  
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