Monthly Archives: August 2010

what kind of mother? part 3

I know what kind of mother I would like to be; but can I handle it?

As evidenced from my current emotional state, I am not very strong.  That’s putting it mildly:  I’m a hot mess.

I look at my messy apartment and think about the parents I know whose children don’t know what dirt looks like.  Will I poison my kids if I keep cleaning with vinegar instead of the latest antibacterial whatsit?  Does being a parent mean I will have to dust the baseboards more often?  Am I failing them if I don’t really give a shit about where they leave their shoes?

I look at my finances and think about the families I know who own houses, who can afford piano lessons (ha!) and new clothes and trips to Disney World.  I read articles about people who “have kids they can’t afford.”  Will I deprive my kids if their clothes come from the thrift store and their vacations are to Grandma’s house?

I look at my history with depression and terrible self-image and I hope to whatever higher power might be out there that I don’t pass it on.  If I can’t hold it together all the time, am I dooming my kids to the same problems?

I think I can be a good mother.  I know for sure that I won’t make exactly the same mistakes my parents made, but I also know for sure that I will make different ones.  There is a deep, illogical place inside of me, though, that is sure beyond a doubt that I can do this.

If only I can have the chance.

what kind of mother? part 2

I look at all of these parents and I wonder, what kind of mother would I be?  What would I pass on to my hypothetical children?  In what unique and unstoppable ways would I fuck them up?  What do I have to give?  Given the opportunity, could I handle this?

Here’s what I would like to give them, if they ever arrive:

Love.  Just love.  Unconditional and unlimited.  The best expression I’ve ever read of this kind of love is from Siddhartha (yeah, I know).  Siddhartha’s father says this, after he realizes that Siddhartha is determined to go out into the world to seek enlightenment (which his father doesn’t want him to do):

“You will go into the forest,” he said, “and become a Samana.  If you find bliss in the forest, come back and teach it to me.  If you find disillusionment, come back and we shall again offer sacrifices to the gods together.”

If you find bliss, come back. If you find disillusionment, come back. Go out into the world and do what you need to do.  I will be here when you get back, and I will be here no matter what happens to you out there. That is unconditional love.

If my children ever get here, I will love them fiercely.  I think about them a lot, and I wonder  who they will be.  I hope that I will be able to see them as people, whole people with their own needs and desires, and not as extensions of myself.

I hope that I will be able to teach them compassion and love.

The rest is just trappings:  I think about specific things I will teach them, like how to make pancakes, or how to find Cassiopeia, or what Mahler sounds like, and I realize that the specifics don’t actually matter that much.  Those things will make up the fabric of our family from day to day, along with mundane stuff like bedtime and shoes that match, and I hope that our children will enjoy them, but if my kids never love music that’s still OK–as long as they know that I love them anyway.

what kind of mother? part 1

At my job I come in contact with a lot of parents.  All of them definitely want what’s best for their kids, and they’re doing the best they can, just like I would be.  But.  I do have an inner backseat parent.  I’m not proud of it, but it’s really easy to judge them for all the ways they are self-evidently fucking up their kids.  Each situation is unique and each family is unique, but there are some trends:

  • The overbooked.  These parents can only sign up for piano if we have an opening on Tuesdays at 6:15.  Church youth group goes till 6:00, you see, and cooking class is at 7.  Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are karate (we’re working towards the brown belt), and Thursdays we have math tutoring.  Not for low grades–just to get ahead.  Saturdays are totally out because of the traveling soccer team.  When the kids do finally show up for music they’re dead tired and usually wearing the uniform for the previous or next activity.  Soccer cleats are BAD for piano pedals.
  • The absentminded. These parents space on registration deadlines, payment deadlines, lesson times and locations, and even their teachers’ names.  Their kids miss out on a lot because the parent is chronically behind the 8-ball.
  • The overly involved. These parents insist on being allowed to attend classes along with their middle and high school age kids “because it’s such a joy to watch her learn.”  They want to stay in the dorms with their kids during the summer camps.  They want to know the names, ages, and schools attended of any other kids their child may be potentially interacting with.
  • The overly ambitious. These parents all have gifted 2- and 3-year-olds.  These precocious kids simply must be allowed into the Suzuki violin program (which starts at age 4…for good reason).  Their kids’ gifts and love for music absolutely must be nurtured immediately with violin lessons, not the age-appropriate toddler classes we also offer.  There is no time to waste.  We don’t let these folks into the Suzuki program; the violin will still be there when their child turns 4, and the lessons tend to go a lot better for everyone when they wait.  Some of these parents later thank us; others flounce away in a huff.

Like I said above, it’s easy to judge, particularly after 30 minutes on the phone with an angry mom (it’s rarely the dads who call me), but I do always remember that they’re doing the best they can, just like I would be. Probably most of these people are great parents who love their kids and are doing right by them, and it is absolutely not my place to judge them.  Now, on matters of pedagogy (like the no violin lessons for 3-year-olds thing), I don’t hesitate to tell them what is likely to work better, but most of the issues above aren’t really about music instruction and it’s none of my goddamn business how they choose to run their lives.

There are a lot of ways to live.  Maybe the overbooked kid thrives on structure.  Maybe the absent-minded parent is dealing with something a lot more important than piano lessons and is prioritizing the best they can.  Maybe the overprotective parent is afraid their kid will eat the wrong thing and trigger their scary, scary allergy.  And definitely the overly ambitious are calling me out of love and pride in their toddler, whom they see as uniquely gifted.

So it’s really not my place to judge, and I do my best to meet all parents where they are, and give them answers and information that can help them make good choices for their kids (“good choices” being here defined as choices that result in the kids having positive feelings about the performing arts–because they’re not getting it in school, and it will stay with them for the rest of their lives even if they don’t keep up their practicing).

an empty cage

I’ve been here before.

Crying all the time.  Too tired to think about anything but the next have-to that’s in front of me.  Angry and anxious, complaining every time I open my mouth.  Sleeping too much, or not at all.  Eating constantly, or not at all.

I’m a real fun gal.

I am getting a little scared and am starting to forget what pulled me out of the hole the last time.  Metta. HonestyTherapy. I have to work at it, and I know I have to work at it, and it’s not fucking fair.

I am so tired.

I remember what it felt like on the bottom.  Everything was foggy.  I didn’t know what I thought, or what I felt like.  I moved slowly, I talked slowly, but inside I was tied up tight.  The knot in my stomach was constant and the inner monologue never stopped.  “What’s wrong with you?”  “Why can’t you just be grateful for what you have?”  “Don’t you know how good you have it?”  “You are so fucking lazy.  Get up off your ass.”  “You stupid useless bitch.”  “All you ever think about is yourself.  Selfish goddamn useless waste.”

Then the small voice inside me would start to think that if I could just lie very, very still for long enough, everything would stop.  If I could squeeze into myself and get small enough, and still enough, and quiet enough, maybe I could just fade into the scenery.  Nothing would happen and nothing would continue and nothing would hurt and nothing would.

It doesn’t work that way, though, and my life didn’t stop and there was no time for fogginess and slowness.  I had to keep going, and eventually I found myself in a therapist’s office, trying to talk to a total stranger through the wet fog of my brain.

What the fuck is wrong with me?

I don’t want to go back down.  I have to work harder at this.  Meditation.  Metta.  Honesty.  Countering my negative self-talk.  I am a good person.  I am a kind person.  I am a passionate person.  I am a person.

a work-related whine

Thanks for all of your comments on my last post.  My doctor told me that I should expect to be able to go back to my normal activities after 4-6 weeks, and that a full recovery could take even longer.  (In particular he told me that the numbness, caused by nerve damage, could last years.)

Of course the reality of work is that “4-6 weeks” was read as “not quite 4 weeks.”  That’s what I was approved for from FMLA, and that is what I took.  Unfortunately on my last day before my leave, my coworker was offered a much better job out of state, so during my leave she was pretty much just preparing for her departure.  That left my director holding the bag when I returned to work lo these two weeks ago, since there are only the three of us in the office.

I have been working significant unpaid overtime since I’ve been back, just trying to stay afloat.  There has been no possibility of easing back into things.  I am being asked to “just help us through this crisis” until we’re able to hire a replacement for my coworker.  So I’m doing my job, her job, and the huge backlog of work that built up while I was on leave.  This is part of why I’m so tired and so frustrated, and it’s why I am impatient with my recovery.  I need this job (since I’m washing out on my search for a new one so far), but I honestly don’t know how much longer I’m going to be able to sustain this pace.

A lot of lip service has been paid to allowing me to do what I need to do to get better.  I’m not supposed to be working through lunch, I’m not supposed to be working overtime, I’m not supposed to be walking from building to building.  In practice, though, there is no one else to do these things.  Either I do them or no one does.  I am feeling really stuck, and I’m just not physically ready for it.

what made me think this would be easy?

Just a recovery update today, for those who are keeping track.

  • On Tuesday it will be 6 weeks since the surgery.
  • The incision doesn’t look much different to me, but my husband says it is lighter in color.
  • The swelling is down for the most part, though every time I do any significant walking (more than a few hundred feet) I get more swelling and some pain.
  • I can only wear sneakers and one other pair of soft-soled mary janes.  All of my other shoes make my incision and lower back hurt.  It makes me realize how important good shoes are to your posture in general.
  • I can lie on my side now without pain; still can’t lie on my stomach.
  • I can eat without nausea, FINALLY.  I have gained back 4 of the 9 or so pounds I lost because I am getting zero exercise.
  • Work is still totally overwhelming and I am basically going straight to bed when I get home at night and on the weekends.
  • No sex drive at all.  I am just too tired.

I am starting to feel like I must be malingering, although I know I am absolutely not.  It just boggles the mind that it could possibly take this long to get better.

the persistence of rss feeds

UPDATE:  I restored the original post.  It appears below this one.

I put up a post the other day and almost immediately thought better of it.  It was whiny, insensitive, and took out my frustration on people who have nothing to do with my problems.  It was up for about five minutes.

I took it down, thinking no harm done, no one has seen it yet.  I hadn’t figured on the persistence of memory RSS feeds.  The title of my now-vanished post stayed there on people’s blogrolls; it was delivered unto Google Reader and email subscribers; apparently I can’t unring the bell or unsay the words.

I am unreasonably upset about this.

I am unreasonably upset in general, though, so there is that.  I know, we’re officially Not Freaking Out about the SA results, which is good, and my husband is an amazing human being who somehow puts up with my unending drama, but I am just at the end of my rope.

But at least now I know to think before I hit “publish.”