February 2016 archive

Somebody Needs This

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I saw this today and I knew someone else needed to see it.

Since the day I started trying to get pregnant with my son, I’ve been blogging. I have shared my wins, my losses, and my ridiculously embarrassing situations. Because of that? A lot of moms email me.
A lot.
Why do they write me? It’s not because they think I know things they don’t. It’s because I know things they know too, and I admit them. I admit that I have taken anti-depressants and a dance class and I tried formula-feeding Abe and I went to therapy and I cried and I was really angry sometimes…For years, I’ve admitted that I’m a whole human wife, mom, divorcee, and now step-mom in a blended family who is trying to make sense and be OK.

Being a dad and providing for a family is really hard and stressful. Being a mom and holding a family together is a life-force.
It’s everything.
On top of being everything, you have to tell everyone else in your family how they’re everything to you, too. The heartbeat of your family starts with you. And your family generally reciprocates by leaving dishes on tables and dirty clothes on the floor and by forgetting the ONE thing you asked them to remember.

Which means you have to be everything to you, as well.

Is it fair? Not always. But my girl Oprah says, “Stress is resisting what is.” This is what being a mom and wife is; full of love, kinda messy, lonely sometimes, hilarious, exciting, exhausting…everything. So be everything to you starting right now.

This blog tonight is for the mom who knows she needs the zoloft or that pedicure or the dance class or the angry outburst or the bag of tootsie rolls. Take the nap. Get the help.
Stop judging yourself.
Stop judging each other.
Don’t even look at other moms.
Look at yourself, in the mirror, and ask yourself what you need.
Unless the answer is illicit street drugs or physical violence, then you should give yourself what you need. Starting now.

You Pick

You may have read a few weeks back about my son’s recent diagnosis of ADHD. The joke around the house now is that he puts the “H” in the ADHD. (It’s not a great joke…) We’re feeling confident about how much more we understand about ADHD, and how we can help him here at home. Now the issue is helping him at school…
Late last year we started the process applying to schools in our city. Abraham will be blessed in going to a private school and there are PLENTY to choose from. Little did I know the process of choosing a private school would feel like trying to get my 5-year-old into college…
1. We started with a smaller private school in a wealthy suburb. The school hosted a small open house for parents. I arrived to a fully-gated, entirely fenced, un-enterable school. I really appreciated the safety measure, but it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to get in. Once in, a huge room set the scene for a long and rather ceremonious series of speeches about how wonderful the school was. I sat there thinking about how I could improve their technique and presentation-style. A quick tour of a working classroom revealed…perfectly manicured children…I started checking my zipper. My skin started itching. I couldn’t wait to escape. Which I couldn’t…because as soon as I inconspicuously left the classroom, I hit the never-ending face and had to find an administrator to help me get back out.
2. The next school tour was very personal. And very long. Two hours long. I walked nearly every classroom of this school with the tour guide and while I didn’t have any trouble getting in, I couldn’t get out of the tour unnoticed. There were only 3 of us. Want to know something about the 4th grade science class? I could tell you. Want to know about the K-3 musical instruments closet? I’ll show you where it is…It was a lovely school, but felt a little antiquated. I wasn’t sure it was right.
3. The following week I toured a big, fancy, everybody-wants-in school. I was impressed. The school felt like a mini Country Club sub-division. Classrooms were small houses. Placed on the river, the scenery was stunning. Tennis courts, Swimming pools. Movie stars. And as we entered the classrooms, I felt rather at home! Then I started picturing Abraham in some of the classrooms…and that made me nervous. I imagined him jumping up, being fidgety, grabbing toys or pencils…come to think of it, where are the toys? I wasn’t sure Abe could even get into this school, but I’d come to learn that it would be a long process.
4. Finally, a fourth school. This one felt kind, loving, nurturing, and transparent. I walked in to a little sign in the office that said, “Welcome, Erin!” and a name tag for my tour. It was a short but informative tour, the classrooms that were filled with playful little kids, a playground covered in colorful students.The teachers were kind, but focused on the task at hand, and to top it all off…the musical theatre program was in FULL SWING!!! I loved this school, and we applied right away.
In order to apply for schools 3, Abe had to be privately tested by a school psychologist. Then he had to come on a separate day for a classroom observation. He was put in a classroom with other possible students and given a lesson…for an hour. Abraham can’t focus more than 5 minutes, let alone an hour. I was fairly certain this would be the end of our stay in the fancy school.
Applying for school 4 was easier: one Saturday morning observation while I sat in the library listening to their school strategies. It was comfortable, it was easy, and Abe loved it. I was praying he got into this one!

My guess was that he would likely get into at least one school, and that would help us make our decision. Both good schools.
This week we found out…he got into both schools.
After all that visiting, applying, testing, and observing, we’re now left with a decision! Is it a great place to be? Yes. But lord…now the decision about his future lies in my hands. And frankly I’m so nervous, I’m about to just flip a coin! Or better yet…you pick!

Want to Want to

Have you ever heard yourself saying this? “I want him to WANT to do the dishes.”

keep-calm-and-make-me-feel-betterI was talking with a friend last week about how I ask my son to do something like clean up his room or feed the dogs, and sometimes it’s just a big hurumph. And it makes me feel badly that he’s annoyed or aggravated that I’ve asked him to do just ONE thing to help me out.
Or when I ask Bear to show me how to use a wall anchor after he’s sat down from a long day. He gets irritated that he then has to get up to show me. I mean yeah, he worked 12 hours. And yeah, he hasn’t really shut his brain off yet today. But then I feel badly that I’ve bothered him and why can’t he just be happy about showing me?!?!
As we were discussing this phenomenon of asking for help and feeling badly that someone isn’t excited to help us, another friend asked, “Well, why does someone have to WANT to help you in order to help you?”
And that got me thinking. What’s my ultimate goal in asking someone for help? Is it to solve a problem I can’t solve alone? Lift a burden? Or is my goal for someone to be HAPPY about helping me?!
Reality check: My family isn’t in the service industry. They aren’t in retail. They’re not being paid to be nice while they help me. (They’re not paid at all.) They’re human beings who aren’t always overjoyed about hanging a TV after work or picking up their towels.
Ever notice the days when your happiness is reliant upon the members of your family being happy? Like if everyone isn’t smiling and saying, “Thank you” for dinner then you can’t enjoy yourself? Hanging your hat on someone else’s happiness is a lovely term known as co-dependence. And every time you want someone to WANT to help you, you’re actually just asking them to make you feel better about asking for help. And that ain’t their job.
It’s like setting a trap and waiting for your loved ones to fall into it. “I’m going to ask you to help me make the bed, and if you aren’t HAPPY when you do it, then my feelings will be hurt…even if the bed gets made.” If you asked for what you meant, you’d ask, “Can you help me make the bed and then make me feel OK about asking you to help me make the bed?”
“No.”
No would be the answer.
Here’s another trap: someone asks us what we want, well tell them, so they give it to us, and then we’re upset because they only gave it to us because we ASKED for it. “I told him I like roses and then he bought me roses, but he only did it because I told him!!”
Girl.
Do you want the roses, or do you want him to be Ryan Gosling’s character in The Notebook? Here’s some information you may or may not have heard before: men are simple and they just want you to be happy. They are black and white creatures. They fix stuff. If you tell them roses, they aren’t going to pick you wildflowers after a long walk through the fields and meditation about how much they love you. They’re going to go to Kroger or Publix and buy you roses.
If you want the wildflowers, you should get them yourself. Or point out the wildflower field on the way to Home Depot with him.
In fact, most people are simple. They follow instructions as given. They operate on the information they have. They get irritated when they have to do something they don’t want to do. I mean, do I like doing the laundry?! No. In fact, it’s irritating. But literally no one in my household is focused on the fact that I’m not happy while I’m doing the laundry.
They’re focused on clean underwear.
I’m super guilty of hoping that my family will be happy about my asking them to do things around the house, and plenty of days of the week I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter how they FEEL about helping me. It matters that the trash goes out. Whether it’s me taking it or someone else who lives here, I get to choose to be happy.
And so do you.

 

Romance

My amazing Bear gave me an incredible Valentine’s Day. I don’t want to make you jealous or anything, but instead of doing something cliche and typical like jewelry or a beautiful card or poetry or an amazing weekend getaway…he took me to my mom’s house.
And together, we resurfaced her swimming pool.
Swoon.
Right?!
Now, truth be told, I kinda got us into this. Last year my mom became concerned when big dark areas of her pool appeared from the depths below. Bear pointed out all that was happening was the paint and some marcite had worn off over 25 years, and it was a fairly easy fix. Get a submersible pump, empty the pool completely, wash it with a soft bleach, scrub it, apply muriatic acid, let it dry, apply fixes and two full coats of pool paint with 5-8 hours drying time in between, and then apply touch-ups as needed so as to avoid blistering upon refilling the pool. Et viola.
You know. Simple.
When Bear sounded so smart explaining this and looking so mighty and strong, I suggested that HE do the work. For free!! BECAUSE FAMILY!!!!
My mother agreed and Bear was officially volunteered to completely refinish her swimming pool. Yaaaaaay!
The trick was finding a weekend with no rain and temperatures above 50 degrees. Because you can’t resurface a pool while it’s raining and the weather was particular to the product he was applying.
We live in South Florida. Do you know how often it doesn’t rain in the afternoons in South Florida? NEVER.
I did some research, followed the weather patterns, and suggested that February 12 had the right temperature, the right weather patterns, and a low chance of rain. It’s just that when I made that commitment I realized, oh. Hey. Hi. That’s Valentine’s Day Weekend. And I just signed us up for hard labor.
Swoon.
Right?!
12722310_10154567915159829_1742751852_oWe did it, though! I took a nap and did some work while Bear did the first parts I couldn’t help with. Eventually he got to the kindergarden level of construction that I could help with, so I grabbed a paint brush and jumped in! Well. I didn’t jump in. The pool was empty so I gingerly took the stairs. And stopped to eat cookie dough a few times…But we did it! We finished it! And it looks awesome!

After a long day at work Monday, I suggested we go see a movie. A fun Valentine’s Day movie! Something romantic. Something funny! A ROM-COM! We could do a Make-Up Valentine’s Day! We would go to a restaurant of his choice and then together hold hands and watch two people fall in love and face peril and desperately try and get back to one another.

“You know. I heard Deadpool was good,” he said after a discussion about all the romantic movies.

And here, ladies and gentlemen, is where we witness the payback. You make me do back-breaking labor over Valentine’s Day weekend? I make you watch a 90-minute long sex joke with a crap-ton of gratuitous violence for Make-Up Valentine’s Day.
Well done, Bear. Well done.
(It wasn’t a HORRIBLE movie.)
So for every single person I saw posting sarcastic memes about being single while everyone else was having romantic weekends, take note. Sometimes you’ve gotta resurface your mom’s swimming pool before you watch one-million dick-jokes with your future husband for Valentine’s Day. And that’s real life, y’all.

Nurturer Shmurcher

pie_3248297kI am not the nurturing type. If you go by my Jungian Archetype, I’m a Jester. I like to laugh, I like for people to be entertained by and with me, and I like to make people feel good by listening to them and caring about what they have to say. I like to encourage people, which literally means “to put courage in”. And I might just do that with a pie to the face.
That being said, I was sharing with a client today the fact that I’m not a very good nurturer. I explained to her that I will probably not censor my feelings or opinions as we choose colors and images and fonts for her brand. I will point out when she’s being dramatic and make note of the fact that she can do that somewhere else. I will not cater to her feelings of overwhelm, nor try to talk her out of self-doubt. I will show up consistently and fully for her to help her reach her desired goal, push her past her fears, and make her laugh a lot throughout the process. Maybe with a pie to the face. Because that’s funny.

And this is me.

This is me with my partner, me with my son, me with my friends. And I’ve often felt really badly about that.

I shared with that same client today that I envied her nurturing side. I envied how romantic and feminine she could be while I was wearing the same sweatshirt as I was on Tuesday. I can empathize and care about another person’s feelings all day. But I will never like pink. I won’t enjoy talking for hours and hours on end about feelings. And I won’t rush with imperative concern to my son’s side when he trips and scrapes his knee.
I will tell him to get up.
So her response made my ears perk up:
“It’s funny to hear you say that you are not a nurturer. I have felt SO nurtured by you, SO supported, and I just adore you. If that means I have to have a pie ready for when I meet you in person, so be it! You’re the best.”
You hear that? I’M THE BEST.
But beyond that, pie-to-the-face and all, she felt nurtured. I had never thought about it this way, but it would appear that even without the typical hallmarks of a deeply loving supporter, I actually do nurture in my own way. And other people notice it. They even like it!
There has been so much in my life lately that has made me question my own worth. Not being the woman I think I should be, the mother, the partner, the right size, the kind of friend…we all go through this, but when I’m going through it, it’s way worse than when you go through it. I’m sure of that. It has to be! Because so few other women share the feelings of utter despair they feel when they don’t measure up. We just keep smiling and doing the dishes and hoping eventually someone notices we’re nearing the end of the rope or maybe When Harry Met Sally comes on TV and turns it all around for us. And then, out of the blue, we find out that for just one person, one CLIENT even, we’re enough. More than being enough, we’re enough just the way we are. In my mind they’re like little life preservers God tosses to us so we can get over the next wave.
I thought about throwing you all a life preserver today, but then I decided that would be kind of nurture-y and that’s not my thing. So I want to encourage you to BE a life preserver today. Toss out a little truth, a little love, a little hope. Maybe no one needs it today. Or maybe someone REALLY needs it today. And do it in a way that is honest to you. Whether that’s a sweet compliment or a pie to the face, I promise that the person on the other end will understand what you’re trying to do.

 

I BREASTFED HIM FOR A YEAR

Back in November, Abraham’s dad and I both started getting not-so-good reports from his preschool teacher. He’s in Junior Kindergarden this year and an August baby (the oldest in his class). We got notes home that he was disruptive, disobeying, and even hitting his friends. I watched closely for any of these behaviors at home, but he was awesome at home. He did his chores without my reminding him, he said please and thank you; yes he struggled with the inability to control the volume of his voice, but what 5-year-old doesn’t?!
It was then that the school psychologist in me started wondering if this was not a behavior issue but something a little deeper. (Did you know I have a graduate degree in school psychology? I pay $500 in student loans every month so that I can use my degree to diagnose…my child.) Soon after my radar turned on, Abe’s dad suggested to me that we have him tested for ADHD. Knowing what I know of that diagnosis, I was very skeptical. I’ve seen many an intern score an observational ADHD survey from a teacher and slap a diagnosis on a kid who had no business even being tested. The fact that we live in Jacksonville, not exactly the most progressive city on the map, didn’t quell my fears either. But his dad was insistent, and sometimes that insistence is a parent-gut feeling…so I agreed.
Abe’s dad, his fiance, and I all piled in to a little office last week with the psychologist who completed his testing. She was young. Younger than I’d prefer. But she had letters after her name and a good sense of who Abe is by her own descriptions, so I listened. She explained that Abe is a “joyful” little boy who had lots to say and was very polite. She described his intelligence as “above average” and his ability to gather information visually as being “gifted”. She was impressed with his physical control when he was asked to stand on one leg or hold a pose like a statue for 2 minutes. Then she got to the attention testing section of her report.
Let’s just say…it didn’t go…well.
And then to be more specific…he was…”Well Below Average.”
There’s passing, there’s not passing…and then there’s Abe.
I can’t say that I was in any way surprised or disappointed. But I was introspective for a few days. I considered all the times that people told me I let him play on his iPad too much, or that I shouldn’t take him to movies. I remembered that I breastfed him for a year, so I gave myself points for that. A clean diet with no simple sugars, more points. Divorce. Divorce might take away points…I mean. Is there anything I did to cause this or cause it to get worse?! I’M A SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST. I KNOW IT’S GENETIC AND RELATED TO A SPECIFIC PATHWAY IN THE BRAIN THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DIVORCE OR TV. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a bad mom and therefore my kid has ADHD.
I go to Abe’s classroom at least three times a month and I see him. He is impulsive. He doesn’t control his emotions very well. He does drift away during circle time. He can’t even SIT during circle time. It’s hard to watch your child struggle with the inability to talk out a problem at school before he loses his mind over the injustice of a stolen lego piece. ADHD isn’t a simple case of five symptoms and five behaviors. It’s different in every kid. So when I think back to the camp counselor last summer who told me he “would never get away with his bad behavior in a public school”, I want to call her and shout at her, “MY BOY’S BRAIN DOESN’T WORK LIKE OTHER BOYS’. HE’S NOT BAD. HE DIFFERENT. AND I BREAST FED HIM FOR A YEAR!”
I’ve spent the past week attempting to disassociate my personal reactions to Abe’s diagnosis and allow it to be a guidepost on his little educational journey. I suspect this will be an ongoing challenge for me to maintain my composure as I explain to teachers year after year the best ways to capture Abe’s attention and calm him down because I’ve been doing it since he was born. I pray that his inability to focus works in his favor and he doesn’t notice the other kids doing things he can’t, like finishing an assignment in one sitting (even if it is just cutting out the letter “S”). More than anything, I just want his friends and educators to love him for the silly little guy he is.

11986491_10153310838166865_2465092216982342567_nAbe can’t sit down at the table and color a picture or focus on my voice when kids are running around and there’s lots of noise. He can focus when he uses the iPad to write his letters or do math problems. He pays attention to TV shows about how things work. He’s capable of reciting to you the full plot of the movie we watched last night. He can build the hell out of some magnetiles. That’s just him. And I’m not going to feel badly about using the tools that hold his attention and limit his impulsivity to help him gain access to education, entertainment, and frankly, the world. (Except for when I feel badly about it.)

Being a mom is hard.

Ride or Die

I get my fair share of the “Not Good Enough” voices. Those little monsters that remind you nothing you do is actually worth very much or important to other people and if you THINK it is, you’re a self-centered sociopath who everyone on Facebook makes fun of…
Last night at a party, a dear friend shared that she really connected to my writing. A warm little bunny in my tummy whispered, “See? Some people like it. You can keep writing and just not worry about who thinks you’re good and who doesn’t.” Then the bunny wiggled it’s little tail, giggled, and went to sleep.

Not everyone that you meet is going to be a Ride or Die. (For those of you white people who don’t know, Urban Dictionary defines Ride or Die as “the people in your life who are there through thick and thin. They’ll do what it do to make it through with you. The ones that’ll stick it through till the end.”) You might THINK they’re RoD once they’ve been with you 5, 10, even 20 years. But you turn around one day and poof. They’re out.
As I’m wandering through this “sad part” of releasing my divorce, some new crud is coming up at the thought of the people who I thought were RoD friends. These people who watched me proverbially writhing in pain on the ground in a big puddle of divorce muck and in a really sweet, loving voice whispered, “Call me if you need anything, OK?”
I mean…yes. Yes. I NEED something.
They’re the ones who found the loopholes in the Ride or Die friendship. They picked out the parts that might offend someone else, or might make them uncomfortable, or might require them to grow, and they dropped a card down next to me and said, “I’m always available” and walked away feeling satisfied they “showed up”. But as I get older, I’m getting really clear on the people who use those loopholes instead of getting down in the dirt with their love.

I’m also noticing that in order to have Ride or Die friends, you have to be one.

One night in my Senior year of college, I decided it would be a good idea to snoop into my ex-boyfriend’s email to figure out if he really had cheated on me with another girl in the theatre department. I expected to find nothing but innuendoes, but instead I found a 2-page letter he wrote to her about what a wonderful time he was having with her and how much he adored her. And I, in turn…how you say…lost my ever-loving shit. I immediately called my girlfriend weeping and throwing things around my room and trying to described what I’d read but mostly just making blah-blah sounds. “I’ll be right there,” she said. And she was.
She walked into my room, me a pile of tears on my bed, and she curled up behind me. She held me while I cried for a while. What she did next, though, is the kind of friend I always want to have in my life: she cleaned my dorm room. She put everything away and folded my laundry. She ordered me a pizza and some soda and she sat on the bed with me while I ate it laying down. She tucked me into my bed and kissed me on my cheek and left me to fall asleep, all cried-out.

She’s not my friend anymore. She hasn’t been for a long time. And I wonder, now, if we aren’t friends because she showed up like a Ride or Die and I never did. I didn’t clean her room when she cried or hold her when she was scared or order pizza when she was lonely. Why not? Because I was selfish. I had “my own problems” and I was “really busy.” It never occurred to me that the next time I needed her, she wouldn’t show up. And I sure don’t blame her.

From this point forward in my life, I want to be Ride or Die for the ones who did it for me these past two years. Even though life fills my schedule everyday, I want to say, “You know what? We’re eating tacos instead of a homecooked meal because my friend needs someone to show up today.” It’s the reason I make Bear’s breakfast every night and set up his coffee. It’s the reason I stop what I’m doing when I think of someone I love and TELL them. It’s the reason I go say goodbye to my friends’ dog before he dies, invite a girlfriend out for dinner when I feel like she needs it, hug an extra long time when I just know… And you know what? These things inconvenience me. That’s just the truth. But the people who sat in my living room after I broke my leg and listened to me babble in a pain killer-induced haze about how sad I was that I couldn’t have my son…they probably had other shit to do. But it meant the world to me that they showed up and never once smiled and winked and said, “Call me if you need anything, ok?”