Monday, October 16, 2017

The Terrible Tweens

It's hard to be 11. Every age has its issues, but as my third baby navigates the dreaded tween years, I think these years are among the roughest. A friend once warned me, "Little kids; little problems. Big kids; big problems," and I have seen that play out in extremely painful ways...especially over the last year. Still. Tweening is tough.

This morning, my itty bitty girl had a rough morning. She decided recently that her naturally curly hair should be straight, so our morning now includes a 15-minute flat-ironing ritual. After some painful periods of trial-and-error (including my quitting a job that required ME to get ready in the morning as well), our routine has been pretty chill. This morning, however, the moment I heard her voice, my guard was up. It was that whiny, whimpery, slightly smart-ass'y voice that presses the rage button deep within me. Does your kid have a voice like that?

Pre-Brené  Brown, when one of my children spoke in that voice, I would lose. My. SHIT. Scream, yell, have a holy fit. Post-Brené-Brown, occasionally, I calmly reply, "Can you please not speak in that voice? Because that voice triggers stuff that makes me want to smash every glass object we own on the tile and then tackle you in it." Don't underestimate parenting with hyperbole. It can really diffuse the situation. And sometimes, I still lose my ever-loving shit because I'm a work in progress.

Back to this morning. Clothing issues. I have no long sleeved-shirts. I hate all my clothes. I'm not going to school. All screamed in the voice. I tried telling her that she actually had lots of lovely clothes, but she was tired and crabby and it was a gloomy Monday morning. It was all of these things telling her a bullshit story.


I almost dropped the flat iron. Full disclosure: I almost threw it.

But then it hit me:

Here is a MOMENT. The moments I read and write and think about all the time. The moments when we just need someone to see us. Hear us. Be with us. So I gently put the flat iron down and asked, "Do you think I don't understand and I'm telling you this stuff to shut you up? Because I completely understand. That's why I can tell you with 100% certainty that it will be okay. A good portion of the population lived through 11 already. It can suck, but it is temporary. Even though it might feel like the end of the world right now, it isn't. And I promise it will be okay." Since she knows I don't make promises unless there's not a single chance I'll have to break it, she believed me.

And she was good.

I beat myself up all the time for the 899,999 things I should or could have said or done better. I try to be kind and compassionate all the time. I fall short all. the. time. Consistently, I circle back to this: It's not about me. Remove myself from the equation and 899,996 times I do or say the right thing. When I remember to check my ego at the door and meet people where they are, everything works out better.

Too often I get sucked into that quote: "Don't let people pull you into their storm; pull them into your peace." - Kimberly Jones

Too often I don't separate other people's emotions from my own. This is especially difficult with people who once made their home inside my body.

But today, for 35 seconds in my bathroom, I did the right thing. And now, I just have to do the next one.

Please tell me your tween stories. The horrors, the celebrations, the fails and wins. Let's slog through this together because misery loves company.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

You Belong to Me

As often happens in my life, when I start focusing on one thing, all kinds of contributing lessons show up. Synchronicity, divine appointments, conjuring things up, call it what you want...I call it all three. A few weeks ago when Chloe and I went to see Stevie Nicks, I really really r e a l l y wanted Tom Petty to show up to sing their famous duet, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." I tried to conjure him up, but my powers failed. 

Then a few days ago, he died. Facebook and I are on a break, so I hadn't heard. My brother text me, "Tom Petty died." Although people dying isn't something we usually joke about, I hopefully responded, "Are you serious?" Yeah. Fuck.

I am going to go off on a brief tangent, but I'll get back to this.

One of my favorite pieces of parenting advice came from my daughter's friend's mom who advised her daughters: “Be your own girl.”* I wished at the time that I had some similar profound advice to give Chloe. I also thought (and still do) that this mom had it all together. She lived in a beautiful house and drove a clean mini-van. She was kind and patient and genuine. I never heard her yell or swear. I was torn between wanting to be like her, wanting her to be my mom, and wanting to turn my kid over to her, apologetically pleading, "I'm definitely gonna fuck this up. Can you maybe...raise her?"

Back to synchronicity. For the first 40-ish years of my life, I felt a sense of being left out. Not belonging. I write about it a lot. It was always my big trigger. Nothing makes me throw up titanium walls quicker than the sense that I don't belong. 

This week I started reading Brené Brown's Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone. Reading is an inadequate description of what I've been doing actually. I read. I cry. I write down 15 quotes. I text my husband, daughter and friends. Then I read another paragraph. Experiencing the book. That's a better description.

But in reading, er, experiencing this book, I'm forced to sit with those feelings of not belonging. The chameleon role I've played over the years. The times I tried to fit in with different feel included, part of, less alone. 

Full Disclosure: I never truly fit in. Not with my family of origin. Not with people in school. I felt a real sense of belonging with my grad school people, but that was short-lived. 

I longed for people to get me, thinking if they just understood me, certainly they would like me, and I would finally belong. The level of fundamental fucked-up-ness in that sentiment is staggering, but it's the truth. That's how I felt. Un-sugarcoated. 

I don't anymore. I no longer seek acceptance and understanding. I'm comfortable in my own skin, but it feels sad to look back. I want to grab that younger version of myself who strived so hard for acceptance and say, "Stop! You don't need to do that! You belong to me!" I would scoop her up the same way I scoop up my kids, my husband, my friends. You are loved. You are enough. You are good. It doesn't matter what the world says. Believe me!

So what does this have to do with Tom Petty? I'll tell you. I promise. Also Maya Angelou. Bow down.

Each podcast I listen to, each article I read about Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown talks about a particular Maya Angelou quote she wrestled with: 
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”

Earlier this week, a lifelong friend posted these lyrics from Tom Petty's Wildflowers

"You belong among the wildflowers
You belong in a boat out at sea
You belong with love on your arm
You belong somewhere you feel free."

I had mindlessly sung those lyrics so many times and never let them settle into my heart and soothe my soul. 

Brown says, "True belonging doesn't require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are."

I'm never going to fit in. I'll never be skinny, pretty, quiet, ladylike, blonde, smart, conservative, or whatever enough for everyone to like me. I'll always say fuck; it's my second favorite word. Lovely is my favorite, if you wondered. But I am good and happy. I belong over here in my own lane where I can cuss and drink beer and love freely. I belong to me.


*Also a line in Stop Draggin' My Heart case you didn't know 😉