Having a baby sent a surprising jolt through my sex life. I was expecting that aspect of my life to be as dry as the Mohave until my child left for college, but I was wrong.
Sex became a forbidden fruit I constantly craved. The strange sex dreams pregnant women often have started for me after the baby came out.
Before the baby, sex was a daily staple in our relationship. It was lovely and relaxing–and it was totally expected. Throughout pregnancy it did slow down a bit, but could still be done on a whim and without limits, with the exception of my protruding belly.
The constraints of a baby spiced things up and taught us to pre-plan our sexcapades, which was actually sexy. And while the anticipation was delicious, there was also another feeling: guilt. The guilt was horrible.
Crisis: a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.
Yes, there is a set definition in the dictionary for the term ‘crisis,’ but it has varying meaning for each individual. For me, a crisis is when my honey, my partner, my boo, ruptures his spleen snowboarding, spends his birthday in the hospital, and our toddler spikes a 104.1 temperature. Crisis.
If you were to ask me the day before said crisis, how I thought I would react to said crisis, I would have come up with a PG way of saying, “I would lose my s***.” Hypothetically, I didn’t think I would do well during crisis, especially when the lives of my nearest and dearest were in jeopardy. But, I’m shocked and pleasantly surprised to report that I handled the s*** much better than expected, and most certainly did not lose it; the hypothetical s*** that is, there is some very real s*** awaiting me in toddler’s diaper.
Back to the handled crisis at hand, we had traveled to Mammoth to enjoy the barely skiable layer of snow that had accumulated on the mountain. What happens when non-winter temperatures hit minimal snow in a winter-sports recreational hotspot (pun intended)? Ice is formed, dangerous ice. As we were sliding down the ice, Eric hit an especially icy patch of ice and unintentionally performed numerous somersaults. I witnessed this, and being the sympathetic lady I am, sailed past thinking, “Eh, he’s fine, I’ve seen him do worse.” As I waited, and waited, and waited some more, at the bottom of the run, my growing anxiety consistently heightened, until I saw him gliding down the mountain, unassisted. ‘Oh good, he’s fine.’ If those were indeed my last words, I’d label them my ‘famous last words.’
He pulled up in front of me looking a little pale, but “okay,” then collapsed. Not okay.
This is when “hypothetically” I would have lost the poo, but I didn’t, my mind cleared, my legs moved and I found medical assistance. I then filled out paperwork, traveled in an ambulance, filled out paperwork, waited for the results of a CT scan and blood work, filled out paperwork, and waited. All the while, somehow maintaining a calm, cool, and collected demeanor. I held it together, did what needed to be done, went back to our temporary Mammoth home, put the baby to sleep, and cried. And cried.
My being, my collective mind, body, and spirit had held it together until it was okay to let it go.
Throughout the following week of more hospital, healing honey, and fever baby, I got through it by attempting to follow the wisdom below, that people much wiser than myself have passed on to me:
-Honor Basic Needs: Eat. Check. Hydrate. Check. Move Around. Check. Shower. Check. Keep baby alive. Check.
-Take Care of It: Don’t dwell on the fact that there is a ruptured organ in Eric, an Eric in the hospital, and a really warm and perturbed baby attached to my chest. Take care of it. Make sure Eric has what he needs, comfort the baby, feed us, and fill out paperwork. Move through it Bailey, move through it.
-Release It: These circumstances were scary and far from ordinary. I’m not just not a robot, but not someone who easily represses emotions, sometimes to my detriment, but that’s for another blog post. I allotted myself a private hour at the end of each evening to cry, journal, or eat some leftover Thanksgiving pie, something cathartic. The catharsis transformed me from a pressure cooker, to a frazzled-hair, fairly stable, ‘let’s take care of it’ doer.
-Grow From It: I’ll be trite, and remind everyone that there is something to be learned from everything, even crisis. I’ve had a hefty dose of ‘life is fragile’ and have soaked in the importance of slowing down and really savoring all the amazing people in my life, Ruptured Spleen Eric and Fever Baby Hudson in particular. Going through crisis reminded me that nothing matters nearly as much as the health and happiness of my big and little honey, and myself. “We” rarely include the word ‘myself’ when writing the previous sentence, but how can we give anything good when we haven’t replenished our own supply of good.
Take Away: Live, love, laugh, eat, breathe, do, smile, cry, release, shower, and take caution when sliding down ice.
Have you ever felt, at the end of a long, exhausting, and non-stop day that you accomplished nothing? Like you never stopped moving but have nothing to show for it? No sense of accomplishment? No warm and fuzzy ‘I’m such a great parent’ aura? No fat paycheck? Nothing but frazzled hair, brain, and body?
I’m embarrassed to admit, that until recently, I didn’t know that there were people who didn’t end every day feeling that way. Say what? I can end the day feeling happy, accomplished, energized, and only somewhat frazzled-haired? Tell me more.
After examining the pattern of my days I noticed that I rarely finished anything in one go, even diaper changes. Yes, unfinished diaper changes get messy. I would start a project, task, workout, meal, or bathroom visit, and would quickly be interrupted by a lovely baby, phone call, remembrance of another “more important” task, or something of that nature, and would shift gears, leaving the last activity half completed, and leaving half my mind with that activity, while moving on to the next. Starting to get a whiff of why I always ended my days be-frazzled?
Even though we think we can effectively multi-task, and do two million and five things at once, our mind can really only focus on one thing at a time. So, if the mind is thinking about the directions to the doctor’s office, and the hands are working to wipe poop off a wiggling child’s everything, something has got to give.
One thing my mind was able to hold on to, regardless of what it might be thinking, was guilt. I felt guilty for the task I had left behind, I felt guilty for not being completely present for the task I was currently doing, and I felt guilt for feeling guilty. A fraction of my guilt stemmed from mistakenly labeling myself as a ‘P’ word (a procrastinator.)
During further examination of my patterns, I realized that I was not actually a ‘P’ word, but a ‘W’ word, (a waffler.) I was easily swayed by what others thought I should be doing, and couldn’t make up my own mind regarding what was actually important for me; and because I’m the mother of a small child, I also had to consider what was important for him.
Solution? Okey dokey; I decided that I needed to start putting my phone on silent, saying ‘no’ when necessary, and forgiving myself for putting off tasks when it was in the name of spending time with my kiddo. In addition to those action steps, I also needed some metaphysical solutions in there, which came in the form of being present. Really really really being present in each activity I was partaking in. If I was writing, I was writing. If I needed to stop writing and shake the sillies out with my son, I was no longer thinking about writing, I was shaking my sillies out. When my son then occupied himself with something else, I could then shift my focus back to writing, because that was the main task of importance I had identified for the day, besides chillin’ with my mini homie of course. Guess what happened at the end of those days? I felt fulfilled! I felt accomplished! I had put aside phone calls, laundry, and other important tasks that I would get to tomorrow (on their set day,) but today I wrote, and played with my run-ddler (a toddler that runs.) Sticking to the tasks that I had identified as important was so empowering, it helped me remember that I am indeed the master of my own universe, regardless of how badly I occasionally want to pass on that responsibility to someone else.
If you, like myself, have grown tired of un-bedazzled frazzled days, try out these action steps, sprinkled with some metaphysical:
–Be Present. In whatever activity you’re engaged in, practice being present, being completely mindful of what you’re doing. I say ‘practice’ because this does not come easily (at least not for me!) it takes conscious intention to make mindfulness and being present a subconscious natural part of your experiences, every last one of them. When you’re in this activity, leave the other one behind; write it down on your special list if you need to, but leave it behind, you’ll come back to it, it will get done, but this is what you’re doing, right now.
–Forgive yourself. If you occasionally find yourself having to start-stop-stop-start something important, that’s okay. You’re not weak, uncommitted, or lazy, you’re human. As long as you can recommit and refocus yourself when the time is right, you’re doing great. It’s never a bad time to tickle your kiddo, kiss your partner, or hug your mom; the laundry can wait.
–Listen. Listen to yourself, your child, the person on the phone, the breeze in the trees, the persistent woodpecker sculpting your yard, listen. I’ve recently learned to listen and it’s been quite wonderful, less pressure on me to come up with something interesting to say, and more connection and respect with the speaker (or sound maker) whom I’m listening to. It’s near impossible to not be present when you’re actively listening, take a load off and listen.
-Give Thanks. Appropriately, I’m writing this on Thanksgiving! What a perfect day to marinate on the value of giving thanks to and for everything and everyone, yes everything and everyone. Even the perceived muck that we inevitably deal with, usually on a regular basis, has a purpose (and not just the purpose of pissing us off.) Time spent honestly reflecting on past “mucky experiences” usually reveals a valuable lesson, or subsequent amazing outcome from the seemingly mucky muck. Add gratitude to your present moments, say thank you for the poop in your baby diapers, if they weren’t pooing, you’d have problems. Give thanks for the missed job opportunity, a better one is coming. Give thanks for the espresso maker that exploded coffee grounds all over your kitchen (ceiling included,) your kitchen will never be cleaner after the one hour clean up. True story. Adding active thankfulness to your tool belt of conscious turned subconscious daily states of being, you will notice a shift from worry, to being, well happy, and isn’t that what it’s all about?
Happy Thanks-for-everything-and-everyone Day!
My child has ceased being cool with me doing anything without him. I go to the bathroom, he follows, I walk two feet to pick up the phone, he follows, I walk to the changing table…. He runs the other way. I guess there is an exception to every rule.
Because I have a 2.5 foot shadow my ‘solo exercise’ sessions have become a thing of the past. My weights have become dusty and my ‘too shabby for public display’ comfortable workout garb have grown lonely stuck in the back of their drawer. My shadow and I have taken to the streets. The only way for mama to get her sweat on, without risking stepping on sneaky baby, is to strap baby into a moving harness, that is not located in a moving vehicle, he’s not into that.
When we first commenced our tandem jogs, I was fascinated by the colorful cast of characters we would pass on the way; fellow runners, pairs of chatty Cathys, recreational bicyclists, ‘I’m going to work’ bicyclists, ‘move out of my way’ bicyclists, solo-talkers, and other ladies with babies.
When you pass someone on foot you have to do something, even if that something is ‘awkwardly look away,’ you do something. In the beginning, I would base my something on the other person’s something. If it looked like they were going to smile, I would smile, if it looked like they were going to avoid eye contact, I would avoid eye contact, if it looked like they were trying to work out a toot, I would start working on my own toot.
As our daily (or almost daily) jog-walks continued, my courage to be the leader in the something grew. At first, my something was to smile at the passing people, pets, and critters. Some people returned the smile, some people ignored us, and one day someone actually said something! Now they were courageous, they were actually talking to strangers! I needed to get me some of that stranger-talking courage.
The next morning, equipped with my baby, and experimental courage, I headed to the bike path that was sure to be flush with stranger-talking opportunities. As we neared the first pair of ‘ladies who walk’ I mentally conjured up the novel greeting I would use, ‘Good morning.’ As they passed I smiled and said….’Morning.’ Morning? What happened to the ‘good?’ My morning blessing had transformed into a ‘hey look it’s morning’ statement. The women smiled and mumbled back their own ‘morning.’ Where have all the ‘goods’ gone? I needed to stave off the laziness of my greeting and add some serious blessing in there. My chance was approaching, an older gentleman walking some poodle mix; labri-doodle, mini-doodle, oodle-poodle, something like that. As he neared, I prepped the smile, and willed the ‘good’ to precede the ‘morning.’ Here he comes; (smile) ‘goooood morning!’ Yes, my first ‘good morning’ was a bit exaggerated, but I did it! He was so shocked by the full morning blessing he stopped and talked to us! The adorable toddler, who was likely delivering his full-lipped irresistible smile, may have had something to do with it as well. This kind man and his oodle-doodle stopped and asked how our morning was going. We inquired as to how his morning was shaping up and we learned that he was on his way to his toddler-grandson’s house. We happened to have a few extra toys in our overloaded stroller and were able to impart one on him for his grandson. This exchange took less than 60 seconds but when we were once again on our way, our way was much merrier. Wow! It feels grrrreat to make connections with strangers.
After that I was a bike trail smiling-talking-greeting-blessing machine. We’ve also given away a few more toys (much to Hudson’s chagrin.) I would return from our runs feeling full, full of love, joy, and usually pee. I also noticed that Hudson had ceased to get pissed off half way through our jogs, it seems that the excitement of the varying interactions had worked to distract him from the fact that he was not able to sit and dig in the mud bordering the trail.
My resolve to be ‘little miss chipper lady with baby’ was occasionally tested when we would pass an ‘ignorer,’ but hey, maybe they were having a bad day. Although my ego would take a little bruising every time someone looked away as I would let out my over annunciated ‘Hi, good morning,’ I finally realized that it wasn’t personal. Or was it? No, I don’t think it was. Even if that person was, for some reason, peeved at me for smiling and speaking to them, I knew that I was just sending them some love, and I feel good about that.
These morning outings became my mediation on the goodness of humankind. I felt so much more connected to myself, my baby, and everyone else after getting over my shy ego, and becoming a connected being. This simple act of acknowledging other people on our runs spilled over into other parts of my life; it now takes me three hours to go grocery shopping because I stop smile, chat, and listen to my fellow shoppers (even if they’re not talking to me, eavesdropping can be highly entertaining.)
My Get Over Myself Checklist (Because every blog post needs a checklist right?)
-Meditate. Set a timer and meditate for 5 minutes every morning, clearing out any gunk of negativity that may prevent me from sending a bit more love out there.
-Smile. Smile at everyone, even that person that gave me the stink eye, smile even bigger at them. Smile at myself in the mirror, smile at my baby, even when he’s griping at me about my inability to properly toast toast (it’s always too crispy!)
-Let it go. If I’m thrown some negative energy, not so nice words, or a non-smile, I need to let it go. I’m still working on this one, but the times I am able to let negativity wick off me, I feel so much lighter. Why take on the weight of the negativity of others? That doesn’t serve them and it most certainly does not serve me. Let it go, because what’s the point of holding on to it?
-Listen. I’ve felt so much more connected to everyone and everything since I’ve begun to practice active listening. I never realized how vocal the crows outside out bedroom window were! I was never really listening. I never realized how interesting my friends and family are. I was always thinking about what I was going to say. I never realized how close my little 17-month-old love bug was to being a full-blown ‘talker.’ I was always talking back to him. Until now, I’m listening! Come and talk to me.
-Love. When it doubt, spread the love. When not in doubt, spread the love.
Here’s to making connections! (Even with grumpy people.)
‘Authentic:’ genuine, real, bona fide, true, valid, legitimate.
I used to loathe the sound of my recorded voice, wait, no, I cringed at the sound of my voice on a voicemail, video, recording, or anything else that delivered me a harsh dose of, ‘Is that what I sound like?’ I was so apt to cringe at my voice replayed to me because I felt like it lacked authenticity. Now, when I was leaving said voicemail, or goofy ‘Hudson’s first outside poo poo!’ video commentary, I felt very authentic, I was being true to my eccentric, imperfect, cheesy self, so why was I interpreting myself as so authentically inauthentic?
Me thinks this stemmed from the identify crisis that comes along with becoming a mamasita; or at least the identity crisis I experienced after giving birth to a human. I went from being that lady, to this mama, who now encompasses that lady. Ahh! Who am I? And who is that high-pitched goo goo gag gag lady on that video? Me. It’s me. Hello, my name is Bailey, and I am a high-pitched baby talk addict, please help me.
As irritating as I found that voice on the recording, I’ve come to terms with the fact that that’s me, at least a part of ‘me.’ The clear and concise (low toned) voice recording I left on my client’s voicemail was also me, at least a version of me. The odd voice I’m using as I type this sentence, (which is a muddled mix of a bad Scottish, Southern, and Baby accent,) to entertain my antsy toddler, is also a version of myself, albeit one I attempt to keep hidden behind closed doors. I’m extremely grateful that I have multiple versions to draw from, because if Scottish-Southern-Baby was my only option, I would probably be unemployed with a very odd (yet likely very entertaining,) group of friends.
I’m starting to come to the realization that we all (more than likely) have many versions of ourselves, and are able to tap in to that elusive ‘authenticity’ when all our versions bloom from our core principles. Okay, well that sounds good, but how do we tap into our authentic core? I’m still working that out, and will likely continue to attempt to work that out for many lifetimes; but, for now, here are a few of the first bricks I’ve laid out in my yellow brick road to authentic-core-self-discovery, that likely ends in a place much more bizarre than Emerald City.
Free-flow writing is the most effective free-therapy I’ve ever stumbled across. There is something profoundly liberating about scribbling out your wild (and sometimes mundane) thoughts as they meander (and sometimes steamroll) through the mind. Another beautifully messy aspect of free-flow writing is that you’re not turning it in for a grade, or perusal from an editor, so you can write as illegibly as you would like. My free-flow handwriting is frightening, and I love it, no one will be able to decipher the peculiar outward expression of my inner mind, even if they wanted to.
When you’re free to let it all flow, without any judgment, you’re unencumbered, independent, on the loose; you’re capable of tapping into your authentic core. I’ve “received” the answers to some real zingers while free-flow writing, it’s as if the fairly wise creature I (for some reason) keep caged up within me, is able to come out and play, while laying some wisdom on me in the process. My logic was, the more I free-flow write, the more comfortable this wise free-flow creature will feel in venturing forth; I named my creature (who has no gender,) ‘Authentic.’
How To: Grab a notebook, some paper, a free spot on the wall, or any other writable surface, a writing utensil, and set a timer for 30 minutes. Now, write. Don’t pause even for a moment to consider what to write, and don’t pause, even for a moment, to look back, analyze, or judge anything that you’ve written. Let it all out; be free. Even if you just write, ‘I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write, I don’t know what to write,’ for the first 5 minutes, you’re doing great, you’re tuning in to you.
One lovely afternoon, when my lovely toddler, was taking a lovely abnormally long nap, I had time to spare after my 30 minutes of free-flow writing. I was feeling footloose and fancy-free and decided to do something terrifyingly raw, continue writing, but write a ‘self-description’ of myself. Who does my creature ‘Authentic,’ think I am? I dove in, I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and cried at little. Because I knew no one else was looking, I told myself what I really thought of myself. Some of it was good, some of it was questionable, and a lot of it was quite crude; but I sensed that it was authentic, and it felt AH-mazing.
How To: Grab your writing surface, utensil, and trusty timer (set for 15 minutes,) and GO! Much like the free-flow writing, you’re not analyzing or judging what you’re writing, you’re just writing; the only difference is that you have a set topic, ‘you.’
(In an attempt to keep this post PG, I left out the photo intended for this paragraph.)
Nothing like the naked body to give you a solid dose of authenticity. With the exception of my forgotten naked streak, during my toddler years, I used to have the desire to wear a bathing suit while showering (I didn’t, but I wanted to,) because I was so uncomfortable with my true self; mind, body, and spirit. My naked body didn’t have any protection; it was raw, exposed, and scared. As I slowly peeled back the layers (literally and figuratively,) on my journey to authenticity, I found it to be quite liberating to just be naked every once in awhile. People at the grocery store looked at me differently, but at least I was being authentic, just kidding 😉 When you’re naked, you’re no one but ‘you,’ you’re not wearing the ‘hippie’ skirt, ‘girl next door’ cut offs, ‘professional’ blazer, ‘stoner’ hemp stuff, or ‘sex kitten’ strip of uncomfortable lace, you’re just ‘you.’ When you partake in enough nakedness, besides the benefit of honing in on your authenticity, you also begin to develop a true reverence for your body; cellulite, full thighs, stretch marks and all; which is like a thick layer of cream cheese icing on your authentic cake.
How To: Take off your clothes. And no, you can’t leave your socks and underwear on. Hair ties are okay. Oh, and don’t forgot to put on your invisible cloak of self-love.
Watching and/or Listening to Your Recorded Self
SO HARD FOR ME TO DO. As you may have gathered from my opening paragraphs, I don’t like listening to my own voice. So, I figured the best way for me to get over this was to lock myself in a dark room, and play my most irritating voicemail on loop. Because I’m not always one to choose the “best way,” I instead opted for sitting in my living room, and spending 10 minutes, once a week, listening to these voicemails, watching home videos, or recording myself while I talked to Hudson, and then playing it back. My ego took quite a beating the first few times I subjected myself to this torture, but then, the proverbial light at the end of the voicemail began to shine through, and I actually developed a kind-of-sort-of healthy respect for my voice. My ego also shrunk a considerable amount, which was quite nice, as it had been growing fairly weighty and unmanageable. Be gone heavy ego. This self-torture helped me realize that that voice, along with its’ various versions, was me, authentically. It may still be a bit irritating to me, and maybe a few other people, but hey, that’s okay.
How-To: Gather up some home videos, and/or other items that have the honor of containing your voice, countenance, or both, and then listen and/or watch them, multiple times if possible. Go into the experience with an open mind and heart, and above all, compassion. You may love what you hear/see, or you may get a bit queasy, but move through it, you can do it.
I’m still trying to figure how to meditate; our society doesn’t quite foster an environment of stillness. Yet every meditation attempt I’ve made has been deliciously fruitful, even if I’m not always doing it “right.” For me, the main purpose of meditation has been to connect with my consciousness, and the universal now. The Earth does not shift every time I meditate, but my awareness, and appreciation for, well, everything, does shift every time I meditate. Meditation forces me to stop being ‘mom,’ or ‘dishwasher,’ or ‘daughter,’ or ‘short order cook,’ or even ‘female,’ and throws me into being me, just me. It’s scary, and amazing.
How To: Take care of your basic needs (make sure you’re fed, watered, free of a full bladder, and not running from a lion,) and sit in a quiet and comfortable space. I prefer to mediate in a cool environment, with low lighting, and loose comfortable clothing, but a deep state of meditation is possible anywhere, all you need is your mind. Once you’ve made it to your special physical space, close your eyes and allow yourself to travel to your special internal space. In the beginning, to avoid looking at the clock every 27 seconds, I found it helpful to set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes. As you become more comfortable in your practice, try upping your time. May the internal peace be with you!
Staring Contest with Yourself
If I look at myself in the mirror long enough, I start to hallucinate, really. Sometimes my nose grows, my hair gets fuzzy, my eyes bug out, my skin pales, or darkens; weird stuff happens. Who am I? And who is that strange lady staring back at me? It is wonderfully disconcerting to have a staring contest with yourself. Ever heard that ‘the eyes are the windows to the soul?’ You’ll believe it after losing a staring contest with yourself. Looking into your own eyes can be so uncomfortable because you’re exposing your soul; your soul becomes naked when it’s being examined by itself, and it prefers to wear a bathing suit in the shower. Staring at, and into, yourself, is a sure way to feel uncomfortably authentic, until you don’t feel uncomfortable anymore. I usually experience the passing of the ‘uncomfortable’ like a warm wave of acceptance and love washing over me. I’m standing there, feeling odd staring at myself, wondering who is going to blink first, wanting to look away, and then suddenly the wave hits, and it’s all good.
How To: If you have some makeup on, wash your face. If you don’t have any makeup on, wash your face, it’s refreshing. Now, find a clean mirror, turn on the light, find your eyes, and stare into them until you no longer feel uncomfortable.
To have a cosmically cool moment with a loved them, engage them in a staring contest; and you can’t laugh 😉
Yes, I’ve already mentioned this, but it’s so great it’s worth repeating. Go do some free flow writing.
I’m currently in the process of discovering and rediscovering my authentic self and would love to hear how you learned (or are learning) to love your voice emanating from the speakerphone. At this moment, I have an authentic desire for my son to fall asleep so I can enjoy the pint of vegan mint chip “ice cream” waiting for me in the freezer. Here’s wishing you an abundance of happy authentic-core-self-discovery!
I feel emotions physically. If I’m verbally insulted, I feel like I’ve been shoved in the chest. When I fail, I feel like I’ve been kicked in the butt. If I make a mistake (and I make many,) I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. But, the worst of them all, is walking away from my screaming child as I go to do any “grown up” activity that is too difficult to accomplish with a toddler in tow; when this occurs I literally feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. As I frantically text the babysitter, moments after I say my farewell, as my guilt laden tears plop on my phone, I quickly receive a photo of my smiling tot, who was shrieking those heart wrenching wails just thirty seconds prior. He’s fine; but me?I’m a teary guilt laden mess, with an aching heart.
The more I subjected myself to the above mentioned scenario, the easier it became to ‘cut the cord’ for a few hours, and the wails were downgraded from ‘Code Red Heart Wrenchers,’ to ‘Code Yellow Heart Tuggers.’ A tug is much less painful than a wrench.
Regardless of the severity of my emotionally charged physical pangs of guilt, I always questioned whether or not I was making a mistake, partaking in whatever “grown up” activity required I leave my offspring behind that day. The addition of the possible ‘mistake’ served to add a gut punch to my heart wrench.
Because I’m a modern day mama who has loaded way too many awesome goodies on my plate, I make mistakes, a lot of mistakes; parenting mistakes, occupational mistakes, relationship mistakes, birth control mistakes (kidding! hopefully.) The mistakes are bountiful, and they too come with wrenching and tugging.
In the past, when these mistakes have occurred, I’ve either a) Frantically acted to do anything possible to rectify the mistake as soon as possible, ASAP, go go go, now now now. Or, b) Stuck my head in the sand and willed myself to forget about the problem until “tomorrow.” This usually consisted of a big brownie and a dose of too much television after I had coaxed my mistake-distracting-small-diaper-wearing-human to sleep; only because we had not yet set up our sand box.
The problem with “solution” a) was that so many stress hormones were released in my body as I panicked through my hurried problem solving, that it took hours after the problem was resolved for me to recover my equilibrium.
The problem with “solution” b) was that my butt would get sunburned, and my guilt and need to rectify my mistake would still be there tomorrow.
These were not solutions. Because I’m as far from perfect as polar bears are from Texas (with the exception of zoos,) all my non-perfect mistakes cast me into an almost constant state of sunburned butt panic. Because the aloe vera and chill pills began to get expensive, I had to find a better answer.
Enter, c) Forgiveness and reconciliation.
When a big ole perfectly un-perfect mistake would make itself known, I began to methodically go through the following steps:
1.) Take a deep breathe. Set an alarm for three minutes and focus on nothing but breathing. This quick yet effective meditation would balance me, and prevent me from getting sucked into a nauseating tailspin. Finding this state of calm would allow me to logically analyze my mistake, and resulting problem, without convincing myself that the world would surely end because I accidentally sent that photo of my naked baby with a diaper on his head to a client.
2.) Ask, ‘Is there a logical action I can take to resolve this problem?’ ‘When is an appropriate time to act to resolve this problem?’ Are there steps that can be done to resolve the problem? If so, is this an appropriate time to act? For example, in the case of my accidental email to a client, I noticed my snafu at 1am, not an appropriate time to call or email a client. Because I wasn’t in a glazed-eye crazy ‘I must act now’ state, I wrote myself a note to call the client in the morning, and went to sleep.
Mistakes and resulting problems have varying degrees of complexity, so my advice to myself (and you, if you’re looking for advice,) is to write out a plan, which covers the steps that need to be taken to resolve your problem, and when these steps should be completed. Make a commitment to yourself to act on these steps when planned. The gut wrench of a mistake is child’s play compared to the severity of a delayed-mistake-resolution gut wrench. Center yourself, create a logical plan for resolving the mistake (if one is possible,) and do it. I’ll be trite and say, ‘Just do it.’
3.) If there are no steps that can be taken to resolve the mistake, what can I do to release the problem, and move on? Sometimes I/we make mistakes that only screw over one person, me/ourselves. Or, sometimes we make mistakes that have no problem-solving steps that can be taken. In these situations, we definitely want to take stock of where we went wrong, determine what we could have done differently, and file it in our mental ‘Next Time, I’ll do a, b, and f Differently’ section. Beyond “learning our lesson,” in the case of the solo-screw-up, or no problem-solving-steps-slip-up, where there is no one to apologize to, or take to the hospital, we just have to make peace with ourselves, which leads me to…..
4.) Forgive. Whether or not I had to take action to resolve a mistake, or just had to learn my lesson from my solo-screw-over, I often had lingering guilt and personal resentment about my (usually not so massive) MASSIVE mistake. Even after filing away my ‘lesson,’ or receiving the ‘It’s no big deal! You’re baby is adorable and REALLY chubby’ email from the client, I would still feel guilt for not being ‘on top of it,’ ‘ahead of the game,’ or dare I say it, “perfect.” Something had to give, so I decided to forgive.
When I first set out on learning how to forgive myself, I was convinced it would be a long tough trail of peaks and valleys, taking months of dedication to learn the ‘art of forgiveness.’ But, what I learned, after a good run, and a ‘jolt-from-the-universe Ah-ha! moment,’ was that the ability to forgive was just a choice, just like the choice to me happy. I can be happy or not be happy; I can forgive myself or not forgive myself. It’s all my choice; no one else will make the decision for me. I choose to forgive. I make this decision on a daily, and sometimes hourly basis; it’s not always easy, but it’s always liberating. Oh, and if you have the inclination to blame someone else for the mistake, forgive them too.
When I first began this practice, I had this list typed up (or down) in my phone, and I would immediately pull it up before acting on an impulse, crying, or allowing my inner-voice to tongue lash me. At this point, after making 134,789 plus mistakes, I pretty much have it memorized, but still keep it handy. If it strikes a chord with you, write it down, try it out, and let me know how it works for you.
If you have your own tips, tricks, and techniques for working through mistakes, and forgiveness, please share them with them, I need all the help I can get.
can be taken to resolve the mistake, what can I do to release the problem, and move on? 4.) Forgive. Forgive. Just do it.
You made it to Part 2, go you! If you have not yet had the “pleasure” of devouring Part 1 of this scintillating parenting dilemma saga, here is the link, pop on over.
Are other (*ahem* sometimes judgmental) folks watching?
I would love to say I live by the credo, ‘What other people think of me, is none of my business,’ but I do find myself adjusting my parenting tactics just a smidge, depending on who is watching. Is this something I am working on? Yes. Do I someday wish to be a card carrying member of the, ‘What other people think of me, is none of my business’ Club? Absolutely. But, for today, my reality is that I still somewhat care what other people think about my parenting abilities. Well, maybe not all people, but at least those nearest and dearest.
Am I divulging this tiddy bit about myself so you’ll follow my lead? No. But, if you happen to be one of my fellow parents who secretly cares a smidge, or a smatter more than a smidge, about what others think of your parenting, I want you to know that you’re not alone.
Luckily for me, I have a pretty supportive village that is helping me raise my child, and a partner who I feel comfortable engaging in sometimes exhaustingly honest conversation with, about everything, but especially our varying parenting philosophies, methods, and tricks.
Okay, so we care, maybe we don’t want to care so much about those opinions being delivered via a sideways glance, sigh, tensing of facial muscles, uncomfortable body shudder, or outright, “Do you really think that is the best choice for your child?” but we do, we care. What do we do about this? How can we remove all the external (and corresponding internal) chatter from our head and learn to follow the lead of our ‘more wise than we give it credit for’ intuition? We can start by actually listening to our intuition, and not the “sage” advice of great aunt Know-it-All. Many times, our body has a physiological response when our actions are contrary to what our intuition is telling us. My physiological response occurs in my stomach. I experience an ‘I have to poo’ and ‘I feel a tad nauseous’ combo when my actions contradict my intuition, especially if my little sweet noisy angel is involved. Now, every time I feel that pang in my stomach, I head to the bathroom, or I make a conscious decision to listen to my intuition, even if it elicits a sideways eye twitch from an on-looker.
Am I saying ‘No’ just for the sake of saying No?
Even when we are a self proclaimed ‘yes person,’ we sometimes fall into the habit of saying ‘no’ to everything, especially when it’s related to our precocious baby wanting to flex their newly developed skills, or draw on the wall with paint pens.
One day, when I was home alone with Hudson, I suddenly noticed, to my horror, that the only word I had muttered all day was ‘no;’ horrified. Most of my ‘no’s were justified, but it didn’t matter. I was in the process of creating a ‘no baby,’ and he most certainly was born a ‘yes baby,’ who am I to suck the ‘yes’ out of him? I needed to change my tune, or at least my language.
First off, I made the commitment to myself to actually process what Hudson was requesting before shooting off a ‘No.’ Am I saying no just because what he is asking for is an inconvenience to me, or am I saying no to protect the body or property of another living being? If, my ‘no’ originated from my desire to not be inconvenienced, I needed to seriously reconsider that ‘no.’ I want my child to learn, grow, and experiment; if that means I need to clean up the occasional/’all the time’ mess, so be it, my baby is in his lab doing extremely important experiments with his new world, and I spend a few minutes cleaning up the aftermath, no biggie.
If the purpose of the ‘no’ I was about to spit out was to protect another, or their stuff, it was justified, but I needed to rephrase my ‘thall shall not pass’ response. What was my baby learning from the word ‘no?’ To say ‘no?’ That needed to change. I needed to become a participant, not just an observer, in my child’s development. Instead of saying, ‘No, you can not throw your uncle’s keys in the ocean,’ I rephrased it to, ‘I can see that you have the desire to throw something in the ocean. I need to take these keys from you because your uncle uses them to drive his car. If they’re in the ocean, he no drive no car. If you would like to throw something in the ocean, here is a nice big sea shell that is too big for you to choke on.’ Okay, my ‘no’ replacement usually isn’t so wordy, but you get the idea. Instead of saying my robotic ‘no,’ I started to tell little one why I needed him to not do that, and redirect his attention over here, to the sand castle that is waiting to be squashed.
Is the ‘Yes’ I’m giving more for my benefit or his?
On the flip side of the previous few paragraphs, it’s easier to just say yes, well, at least in the short term. In my desire to go from being the ‘no mom’ to ‘yes mom,’ my consents to baby requests began to get out of hand. I started to become addicted to the ease of saying ‘yes’ to questionable requests.
Baby: (Point point point, frustrated grunts.) While trying to reach the remote control that was sitting just out of his chubby handed reach.
Me: (After baby’s eleventh grunt-turned-high-pitch-wail) “Okay fine, here’s the remote.” (Hand him the remote, after removing the batteries.)
Baby: (Grin, and waddle away with his newly acquired precious.)
Me: (Peace and quiet, happy sigh.)
A moment later, the vibrations of a watery kerplunk reach my inner ear and I remember the small tub on the porch that is filled with the perfect ‘remote killing’ elixir, water. It was a goner. I rushed outside and immediately regretted my decision to say ‘yes’ to the ‘I want that thing with buttons’ request from baby, and ‘yes’ to the lazy voice within me that said, ‘Just dump out the tub of water tomorrow.’ Although the yes’ seemed easy at the time. I now had to find time to drive forty five minutes to the ‘Dead Remote Replacement Center,’ so I could watch my ‘so bad it’s good’ TV shows on the rare nights baby is asleep and Eric is working. (He only likes good TV, and baby only likes no TV.)
As this ‘remote in water,’ and similar occurrences, began popping up in direct relation to a ‘yes’ I had dolled out absentmindedly, I realized I needed to put a reign on my use of the ‘y’ word. I was giving an affirmative response to requests my intuition knew I should decline, which would then cause me to turn around and deliver a big fat, ‘NO, don’t do the natural thing a toddler would want to do with that object I just let you have.’ I was confusing my child and myself. Solution? I still say ‘yes’ way too much, and get myself into tricky ‘take backsies’ situations, but not as often. I now attempt to take a pause, and mentally run through the most likely scenario my ‘yes’ will elicit, before spitting out a, ‘Sure, do whatever you want, eat that piece of chocolate cake on the white carpet.’ If my logic and intuition throw back a, ‘Duh, no,’ I muster up the brain power and creativity to find some other fabulously awesome activity my son, and my intuition, will love.
Is it healthy?
Back to the cheesy chocolate cake mentioned in Part 1; should I let the baby try some of the cake he so obviously desires? As I attempted to ponder this question, through the cacophony of baby wails, I spotted a bushel of broccoli sitting on the countertop. Hmmm…. I further pondered, ‘Is it the cake that he wants, or the something new that he wants? He’s never had broccoli before…it’s a long shot, but I’ll try it.’ I sauntered over to the tiny uncooked green trees on the counter and did my best ‘ohh look at this yummy morsel’ performance, and slowly passed over a small batch of the broccoli to my now quizzical baby. He hesitantly reached out and grasped the broccoli, thoroughly examined it, and gave me the most satisfying grin I’ve ever received. He commenced to take a small bite, spit it all over the floor, and walked out of the kitchen leaving a trail of pulverized broccoli behind him. Was I upset? Absolutely not; my child no longer wanted cake and I had the ‘Mommy Aha Moment’ (that I’m sure all you smart parents had long ago,) that if my baby had the unrelenting desire for a new object or activity, that I had no desire to grant him, I could just offer him something else “new”, that was healthy and/or (somewhat) safe; or I could still revert to simply say a firm, ‘NO.’
This parenting thing is hard. But, I’m smiling right at this moment, as I hear my baby opening and escaping through the bedroom door he learned to open this morning, because this is the best non-job job I’ll ever have.
“Outide, outIDE, OUTIDE!”
Translation, “Mother if you do not take me out into that 106 degree Fahrenheit heat, I WILL wear you down by shoving my tiny Crocs in your lap every seven seconds. And NO, that book you’re trying to distract me with does not amuse me. Outide.”
Baby: (Purposeful finger point.)
Me: “Do you want a strawberry?”
Baby: (Forceful head shake, and more punctuated finger points.)
Me: “Do you want some water?”
Baby: “No, no, no!” (Bordering on hazardous finger points.)
Me: (Internal Dialogue) “Oh, you want that piece of chocolate cheese cake you’ve never had a bite of, therefore you should not know that you should greatly desire it, and I don’t even know where it came from. Did I sleep shop again?”
I then set baby down, because his persistent wiggles are becoming hard to manage, and he plops his squishy-diapered bottom on the floor below the devilish cake and persists to hold an ‘I want that mystery food’ vigil, while screaming of course.
Being a parent is hard; it’s also greatly fulfilling, enriching, smile inducing, humorous, etcetera, etcetera, but it’s also really hard.
Where do we draw the line between setting healthy boundaries and just giving the little bugger what he wants, to gain a moment of peace?
I am not the perfect parent, shocking right? But, I do actually think, mull, and ponder the decisions I make regarding my diapered offspring, likely to the point of mild obsession.
These are a few of the questions that zoom through my mind in between my son’s insistent inferred (or sometimes incredibly direct) request (aka demand,) and my decision to grant my assistance in said request, or practice the art of gently redirecting him to a more appropriate activity (I’m still in the finger painting stage of this ‘art.’)
Is it safe?
Good question right? If I grant baby’s request will his health and/or safety be in jeopardy? Seems like this would be a no brainer; but my brain won’t let it be so. If I never let my child partake in activities that may potentially harm him, how will he ever learn how to climb a tree, make paper snowflakes, or blend a smoothie? Yet, on the other hand, handing the 14 month old the knife he’s ‘mine, mine, mine’ing at, and letting him chop up his own apple, probably isn’t the best idea. I usually find myself weighing the potential of the request to be mortal, or just band-aid worthy. Band-aids I can handle; but what if he then develops an intense attachment to the dinosaur band-aids and “they” one day run out of stock? Geesh.
Moral of my dilemma, don’t let baby do anything that could easily lead to an ambulance ride, and consider facilitating his persistent request if I’m able to provide my rapt supervision, while he boldly explores this beautifully challenging world, and learns to expand his own physical and mental capabilities.
Is this a slippery slope?
Letting your bay go diaperless on the sandy, deserted, (and carpetless) shores of Costa Rica is one thing, while allowing a diaperless bottom to roam above our very much carpeted living room at home, is something entirely different. Yes, yes, I know “they” say that you’re supposed to set the same boundaries for baby no matter where you are, to learn consistence, and a lot of other really great developmental stuff. I absolutely get the logic and agree with this philosophy, but I’m also a real live mom who can’t always set consistent boundaries, everywhere. Some moms can, and they are awesome, they’re rockstars, I consider myself a groupie, and I’m okay with that, less pressure.
So yes, I do bend certain boundaries for baby depending on the who, what, where, when, and why. But, when the answer to the following question is ‘yes,’…. ‘Are we at home in an environment where this particular situation will likely arise again, and again, and again?’…… I better stand my ground. For example, the bare bottom poo poo carpet situation; I had to nip that in the butt (pun intended.) How to keep baby from removing his own diaper? Stick some difficult to remove pants on him, now no one can get that diaper off.
Aren’t we blessed that every single one of us is beautifully unique? Even when this means we can’t just do exactly as our best friend, or that mom blog, says to do and have it work perfectly with our custom personality our remarkable one-of-a-kind kiddo? We get to soak in other people’s ideas, opinions, and suggestions, process it all, then do whatever we think is best for our unique families, in the moment, depending on the who, what, where, when, and ‘why did you cover your entire body with purple permanent marker?!’
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post (that I considered too long for one post,) that I will be posting tomorrow. If you’re reading this the day after tomorrow, then Part 2 is already posted. Yay! You’re a rockstar for reading this.