Mothering from the ground up

We are all screwing up.
Every single one of us.

Even the moms on Instagram with five kids in fashionably coordinated outfits with a million+ followers who make homemade granola and have succulent wall gardens hanging in their kitchen.

They are screwing up too. I promise.

If I reflect back on all the ways I screwed it up with Eliana it almost makes me want to vomit. I had no clue you guys. No clue what I was doing. None of us do.

My biggest mistake was loving her but not doing things in love. I didn’t discipline in love. I set extremely high and sometimes harsh expectations for her and when she failed or disappointed me all I showed her was frustration. It was extremely unfair of me and exhausting for the both of us. She is a natural people pleaser just like me and I was slowly teaching her that I could never be pleased. I was slowly breaking her spirit.

And then I had Roma. Oh, Roma. God bless that child and her spirit. She changed me. Continue reading “Mothering from the ground up”

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Pain Collectors

“That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt.”
– John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

We all have it. Sometimes it’s public. Sometimes it’s private. Some people deny it. Others shine it. One day you give. The other receive. Pain lives on the edges of our picture frames and in the crevices of our dusty bookshelves. It’s old, it’s new, it’s a moment, it’s forever.

Pain is inevitable.

It isn’t something that graciously passes some people by while eviscerating everyone else. Sure there are varying levels and varying situations, but pain is pain. No matter the trigger behind it. Let me repeat: pain is pain.  

 
The internet can be such a wonderful tool. It has so many useful purposes, outlets, and connections. It can bring complete strangers together and form incredible bonds of friendship based solely on the mutual love of reading. It can raise support for children fighting cancer. It can help a family devastated by a natural disaster. It can heal.

But it can also kill. And it doesn’t kill quietly. It rages war.

I’m very cautious in using the internet to share the really delicate parts of me. The ones that need to be handled with care because I’m afraid of being shut down. I share them with the people I know and trust in the flesh who will love on me and remind me that whatever I’m going through is important. It’s important because I’m important. And it doesn’t need to be compared to someone else’s pain. Because pain is pain. 

But some of us have a problem with collecting it.

We go through something tragic, something monumental and it changes us. Pain changes us. And that’s ok. Change is good. Pain can ultimately be good. It grows us. Shapes up. And usually allows us to understand the pain of others with a greater sense of intimacy and delicacy.

But somewhere, in all of that tragedy, we’ve started to collect our pain–a row of gold statues that we shine, dust, rearrange so they are just perfect, and stare at for hours on end. We place our pain on the best shelf, with the best view, so everyone can see it. But not because we want you to journey with us through our pain but because we want to say,

“Mine. Mine. Mine. My collection is bigger and better and more painful than your own.”

And it’s not. The only real truth about pain is that it’s different. Yes, there might be a distinct level of minor pain vs major pain when we talk about the physical body, but I’m not trying to compare a paper cut to brain surgery. I’m talking about life pain. The whole of our days. The sum of our years. The pain we carry in our souls–emotional, yes– but it can be physical, too.

I was reading a blog post the other day by a dear friend of mine who is finally seeing the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Months and months of pain that have finally led her to a new journey of restoration. I ventured into the comments section to read about the women who had been encouraged by what she wrote and to be filled with their hope. And that’s when I found a pain collector.

Now, I don’t believe this person meant any harm in her comment. I truly believe she too just wants her pain to be acknowledged. For someone to come alongside her and hold her. Validate her. Tell her, “Yes, yes. I hear you. This is hard stuff. This is painful. I’ll help you.” But the delivery of that pain translated into–my pain is worse than yours.

The situation looked like this… A woman was lamenting about the struggle she’s had in mothering–trying to keep her head above water while being surrounded by her ocean of littles. And then came a response comment from another woman… Try being a single parent. It doesn’t get harder than doing it on your own.

Do you see where I am going with this? That mother of littles can’t try being a single mother. She isn’t one. All she knows is that her days are hard according to what she’s accustomed to handling. You know who steps in after that single mom comment if we keep collecting our pain instead of learning from it?

The mom with no kids.
The mom with infertility.
The mom who isn’t a mom, but prays, wishes, and dreams about it every single moment of her existence.

And then you know who steps in after the mom with no kids? The single woman in her thirties who is home alone on a Friday night because she’s tired of the bar scene. She’s tired of e-harmony never panning out. She’s tired of putting herself out there to only discover she can’t find someone to share her forever with. She’s tired, but her exhaustion isn’t from a house full of kids and a husband who is disgruntled from work. So is her pain any less valuable? Is her loneliness any less important?

We’ve all collected our own pain. We’ve all made these comments where we try and one up someone’s situation because we think our own is worse. And it’s not. No matter the situation your pain is not worse than someone else’s. It’s just different. Pain is pain.

We need to start thinking before we speak. Question our words and the intentions behind them before assuming that what we’ve got going on is more painful than someone else. If pain demands to be felt than it also demands to be processed. Everyone deserves to feel what they are going through and to share that with those they love.

We need to stop collecting the pain and start learning from it. Pain is constant. Allow the world around you to feel it. Allow yourself to feel it. And in that process help each other to heal. Don’t slap the pain of someone else with your own.

An adult who loses a parent should be loved upon and allowed to grieve as if still a child.
A mother of one should be supported in her trials as much as the mother of five.
A child with a drunk father should be fretted upon as the child with none.

Pain is pain. And all pain demands to be felt.

 

Dear Dad, I Remember

251170_230722910276855_6729367_n17 years ago Mom sat me down on my bed and told me we needed to talk. I could tell by her face and the tone of her voice that it wasn’t good news. She looked at me, grabbed my hand, and then said, “Honey, I can’t explain why and I’m sorry I have to tell you this, but your father won’t be coming home any time soon. Honestly, I don’t know if he will ever be coming home. And I know this doesn’t make sense and I know you might be upset…” The tears started to puddle in her eyes and all I could do was swallow back my own emotions.

Because she was right. I was confused. And I wanted to ask questions. But I was also thirteen and I didn’t know if I wanted to know the answers. I can’t remember where Heather was exactly. Volleyball practice maybe, out at a friends house. But there Mom and I sat and all I could do was say, “Ok.”

I trusted Mom. And I knew that whatever was going on she had her reasons. I was scared and angry, but there was nothing to be done. So I just accepted it. I remember being worried about Heather finding out because Heather is Heather and very different from me. She wouldn’t accept anything you or Mom said without putting up a good fight. And she loved to fight.

In my small, simple, adolescent mind I became immediately consumed with this concept that you and Mom were going to get divorced. And maybe you were. Maybe it was discussed. Maybe it wasn’t. But three days later it didn’t matter because you came back. And with your return there was a new weight to our home. Things had changed. Life had happened. And mom was hurting.

I remember her crying more often. The two of you whispering more often. And no one talking to us about any of it. I thought that one day–when I was older–it would all make sense. That we would have answers. That we would talk about it. But we haven’t.

And guess what, I don’t want to. I’m married now and I have skeletons of my own. And if there is one thing that my husband and I have come to understand it’s that not everyone can handle your story. Your truths. Or your mistakes. They can’t be trusted to understand, accept, or even forgive. You and mom figured a way out of it all and that’s all that matters to me.

Because you know what else I remember…

I remember you spending every afternoon with me for two weeks teaching me how to shoot free throws so that I could try out for the basketball team. I made the team because of that. I made the team because of you. And I am still to this day great at shooting free throws. Did you also know I tried out for you? Because you loved the game so much. Because you loved the Lakers. Because honestly, I sucked at the sport except for free throws.

I remember you never missing a single swim meet, volleyball game, basketball game, or softball game in all my ten years of being an athlete.

I remember you believing me when I said that the little ducks on the valance Mom sewed for my bedroom window truly did come alive in the middle of the night. And that they grew teeth and scared me.

I remember you moving me into my college dorm, wearing matching USA shirts with Mom, and running away after you hugged me goodbye. I remember Mom calling me two hours later to “check-in” on me and let me know you had both made it home safely and that you had also spent the entire drive crying. She told me your shirt was soaked with tears.

I remember you teaching me how to drive a car. Check my oil. Fill it up with gas. And how to get back into your Chevy truck and drive it home after backing it up into a Ferrari. Fifteen years later and I’ve never hit another car since.

I remember you sitting down at Mom’s sewing machine the night before Pajama Day in high school and figuring out how to take an old bed sheet of mine and turn them into wickedly cool hot pink pajama pants.

I remember you teaching me how to properly eat a pop tart: slightly toasted and topped with buttered.

I remember you calling me the morning after my wedding night to check-in on me. Because you were happy and excited and nervous. And it wasn’t weird or awkward. Because you loved me and you loved Hector and you just wanted to make sure we were ok. And we were. We were great 😉

I remember you calling the police when I was three hours late home from work because I was stupid and had gone to Jack In the Box with a boy. And was only two blocks away from home, but didn’t want to call and check-in because I wasn’t suppose to be out past 11pm. I remember that you’re leg was still in a cast and that you had gone to my work yelling and screaming that no one had walked me to my car that night. You thought something bad had happened to me. I listened to weekly jokes about my father and how he came inside the market waving his crutches in the air like a mad man. I loved you for that. Because I was a dumb teenager and you were a worried father.

I remember you pushing me for hours on the rope swing in our front yard. Teaching me how to ride a bike. How to hold my breath for long periods of time. How to cliff jump into Lake Havasu.

I remember how patient you were with me when I didn’t want to ride the rides that went upside down at Six Flags. How patient you were with me when I didn’t want to do anything that scared me or made me uncomfortable… which was a lot.

I remember the dozens upon dozens of days when we’d wait for you to get home from work and we’d cross our fingers hoping you had stopped at 7-11 to get us slurpees. I loved slurpees.

I remember the day I got my acceptance letter to San Diego State. I remember how worried you were about me going away to college. I remember you sitting down with mom and telling her that you couldn’t keep me from going because you thought maybe that’s where I was suppose to meet my husband. Seven days later, seven days after that terrible drive home where you cried for two hours straight from leaving me in San Diego I met Hector. Four years later we were married. Nine years later and you have Eliana, Roma, and Lucia as a result of being able to let me go. And find my life.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

I remember it all, the good and the bad Dad. But isn’t that life? You had a temper, but you loved to laugh and dance stupidly to Elton John music. You didn’t go to church with us growing up, but you were always present. For everything. I always knew you’d be there and you always were.

While there were moments in life where you may have failed, you didn’t fail me. I love you so much Dad and I’m so thankful and grateful that you are mine.

Happy 32 years of Fatherhood. You’ve kicked ass every single one.

Dear Daughters

You are being raised into a world of choices and opportunity. Opportunities with choices and choices with opportunities. The problem is the world expects certain things from you. The world wants to compartmentalize you and restrict you, but it also wants to see you soar and succeed.

Why?

Because the world has no idea who it is or what it stands for. It is everyone and it stands for everything. It is full of questions with contradictory answers. It hates and it loves. It gives and it takes. So my daughters, rule number one of your life is to not chase the world.

If it must do anything … let it chase you.

There are many other rules you will learn within the Art of Being a Woman and I’d like to warn you ahead of time of the ones you do not have to follow.

1. The Girly Girl
Over the years the idea of being a “Girl” who is in fact girly has somehow grown disdainful. Most women do not endeavor to be viewed as “The Girly Girl”. I do not rightfully know how this came into place, but I dislike it. As I grew up, most of the girls around me strove to be known as  “Tom Boys”. They didn’t like being associated as a weak, ultra feminine, delicate “Girly Girl”. They wanted to be cool with the boys, play sports and get dirty. They felt that losing their femininity made them more powerful. And that my sweet daughters is just not right.

What I want you to know is that you can get dirty, play sports, be aggressive and tough all the while wearing a dress with pink nails. Your femininity is the most beautiful thing about you. Being a girl isn’t a bad thing. It’s the BEST thing. It doesn’t make you weak, it makes you graceful. It doesn’t make you dumb, it makes you compassionate. It doesn’t mean you can’t achieve anything your heart desires. Do not let the idea of being beautiful, delicate, graceful, feminine or any other concept of womanliness detour you in life. Let it empower you. Being a woman is a gift. And yes, I will teach you how to change a tire in three inch heels–I do not raise helpless women–but if somewhere along the road you find a man who wants to do it for you, you let him.

2. Slutty is Sexy
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Sex appeal, being sexy, being desired does not come with DD boobs in a crop top or your butt cheeks squeezed into a mini skirt. Confidence is sexy even if you’re in sweatpants three sizes too big. Knowledge is sexy as long as you’re not flaunting it. Flaunting anything is not sexy, it’s a demand for attention. And you do not demand attention. You are given attention without having to ask. Respect is sexy. Kindness is sexy. Being you is sexy. And to the right man, being you will always be sexy. No. matter. what.

3. Biting Your Tongue
You are being raised by a mother who has a large mouth. My lack of self-control growing up got me into trouble many times, but it also kept me out of trouble more times than I could count. Men will try to quiet you. Women too. I will not. I will try and teach you how to control it. How to use it wisely. But more so I will teach you how to voice your opinions, voice your self, so that no one questions who you are. So that no man would consider you a toy to be played with. No woman a tool for her manipulations. That in the darkest moments of your life, in the times when you feel there is no way out, you will feel the words within you, the boldness of your self pour out and not be contained. That you feel safety in using your voice at all times. You have not been given a spirit of timidity and I want to see you soar.

4. Beauty is Everything
You are beautiful. Beyond my wildest dreams you are more beautiful than I could ever have hoped for. But be wary of beauty. The power. The pain. The fickleness of it all. The world has made sport of hunting even the prettiest of eagles. You, even in your innocence and youth, will not be made an exception.

Be wary of the world dear daughters. It only wants to take.

xoxo, mommy

Stupid Murphy

A few nights ago I found myself chatting it up with a dear mom friend of mine at 2:33am in the morning. Yes, exactly 2:33am. Ask me when’s the last time I showered and I’ll scratch my head and count backwards on my calendar. Ask me how many times my children woke me up and I’ll remember those blaring blood red numbers like Ricki Lake’s naked boobs in The Business of Being Born.

Some things you just can’t unsee.

Anyhow, we were discussing parental disclaimers when having children and how I apparently skipped over the small print on page 578 of The Official Guide to Parenthood that unofficially does not exist. The part where they explain the side effects to bringing a second child into your perfect harmonious world of blissful living.

The part where parenting begins to get really gritty. The part where you really begin to hate Murphy. As in his law. Or her law. I’m not even sure if the law has a gender. But either way… I. Hate. It.

I’ve experienced circumstances outside of children that had me quoting this stupid law as a witty response to an unbelievable occurrence, but you never fully understand the repercussions of such a law until you have kids. Trust me when I say that anything that can go wrong WILL go wrong when you have kids. Even if you have thee best children on the planet (which if you’re reading this than you don’t because Moms with perfect children don’t read Mommy blogs. They read recipes with more than 20 ingredients. They are off showering because they can. They are outside planting that spring garden because the children are playing quietly in their bedrooms. They can enjoy silence because silence doesn’t mean that someone found a misplaced jar of fingerpaint and are now dousing your recently steam-cleaned cream carpets in electric green paint. No. No. No. Moms of perfect children don’t even need the internet. What in the world could they possibly google or post a FB status update about that is worthy of reading if their children are perfect?) Continue reading “Stupid Murphy”

Kill them with Kindness

I’ve had a recent revelation about parenting and its completely changed my entire perspective on how I approach Eliana. It’s funny because its so simple, and yet, the simplicity of it, is what has caused us to overlook it.

It’s my opinion, that parents these days try too hard.

Please note the words MY and OPINION. I am not a parenting expert and being that I have only been on the job for roughly 17 months I still have a lot to learn, but I still have my opinions and we are all entitled to them. So, yes, I think parents try too hard. They are either trying too hard to TEACH them everything under the sun so they can show the world how they have created midget-Einstein-genius-freaks or they are trying too hard to please them in effort to keep them in a 24/7 blissed-out coma. Either way, I think their heart is in the right place and they mean well, but its not a style of parenting I personally want to adopt (although I am guilty of doing both).

My recent parental awareness, shall we say, came from one simple little word: kindness.

Which, you might be thinking hmmm how odd. Kindness? Yes, you heard me right, kindness. It’s not something that I believe parents think about all too often when it comes to their kids. For the most part we try to spend our days loving them, disciplining them, providing for them and caring for them, but showing them kindness? For me at least, it wasn’t really on my radar. Continue reading “Kill them with Kindness”