Saturday, October 30, 2010

On Parade

I am thinking there is something about the stretch of time from October to December that makes moms particularly vulnerable to Supermom-itis. There are so many opportunities to prove that you are all the things that a Mom "ought to be" -- Halloween costumes, Thanksgiving crafts and dinner, and Christmas... don't even get me started on Christmas... pictures in the pumpkin patch, pictures with Santa, cookies...

Am I the only one who finds herself starting to compete even against my will? It is so strange. I will be thinking, with the logical part of my brain, "just do your best and have fun." And yet my Supermom brain will start scheming, making lists of all the Things I Must Do, getting morose because I can't possibly accomplish everything... and it starts to run away with me.

This year I am working on having a sane holiday season. It might be a crazy thing to hope for, but I have recently been struggling so much with expectations vs. reality, and it is time for me to really get realistic about the holidays, and act in accordance with the realism.

Why is it so easy to fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to everyone else, and why do the holidays bring out the worst competitive streak in me/us? It's a great mystery. Something to think about.

For this year, I am going to try the following:

-presents that are simply "good enough," rather than "absolutely perfect."
-foregoing my annual tradition of baking Christmas cookies. I have two young kids, and I'm just not going to do it. :p pphhhlbbt
-shopping early, in small batches, often without the kids, when possible.
-spending time with people instead of spending money on things.
-scheduling time for quietness and family time, even in the midst of the holiday hoopla.

Is it too ambitious to forego ambition? Can I strive not to strive? What do you think?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Grand Parents

At the local stay-at-home-mom venues (museums, parks, kid-friendly restaurants) I have been seeing a lot of grandparent + toddler pairs and trios lately. Sometimes just Nana and baby, sometimes Grandpa too. Something that strikes me about these little groups is that they are always smiling and enjoying each other, whereas the other moms and I have our hair falling out and are trying not to yell at the kids in front of each other... even though we know we all slip and do it when we are alone. Sometimes we're barely conscious -- just trying to shuttle the kids from one obligatory event to the next without any major snafus.

So what's the difference?

I don't mean to discount the stress that moms are under -- it's real, after all -- but the grandparents have a way about them that just might be contributing to the peace:

They are rarely trying to "get" the kid(s) to do anything in particular. Generally they are just going at a slow pace and doing only one thing at a time.

They talk to the children -- and actually listen to what they say in response. This might seem super obvious, but in the haze of daily stress, it's easy to overlook and just keep saying "uh huh," and "oh really?" without really listening. But the kids can tell the difference.

Ice cream is usually involved.

I think I can definitely take a lesson from all this. While I can't be "grandparent-ish" all the time, I can take advantage of the chances I have to slow down, listen, and dig into a hot fudge sundae.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Balance Beam

This week I have been trying to slow down and pay attention to what is really going on.

To be fair, this sort of thing happens to me a lot -- cyclically -- I gallop down the road thinking everything is fine, and then all of a sudden I am done, totally empty, like a used tube of toothpaste, and I haven't got the slightest idea what happened. So I have to dramatically cut back and figure out what's going on.

To be more concrete in my explanation, I realized all at once about a week ago that I was not eating enough, exercising too much, still somehow not losing weight, being a little too obsessed with losing weight, and also completely exhausted from not sleeping enough at night. All of these were problems that needed dealing with, but it was hard to know where to start.

I signed up for an excellent calorie tracking website, to get my calorie totals back up where they need to be, and I have had three great days with that. I am cutting back on my employment, which gives me the shakes and the chills and the heebie-jeebies, but I'm doing it anyway because it's the right thing to do. I realized I am obsessed with staying employed, and not just employed but extremely employed, because I feel like it will somehow "save" me from housewife syndrome -- no woman can be a dull drudge if she's earning a bunch of money, right?? But this is in the same category of doing things just because someone told you not to. Living reactively and acting from a sense of fear is not authentic, not joyful. I should not work excessively, because then I don't rest enough and I become a pain to be around.

Which leads me to the latest and most important change to incorporate. C stayed with B's mom overnight and I got a nice little mini-break from the stresses of toddler-mothering, and I read some great material sent to me by a friend, which stresses a sort of present-moment type of parenting. There is a lot of wisdom in what I read -- things like, just make the next interaction you have with your child a positive one. It's so simple, but it's so profound, and it is exactly the kind of idea that I was looking for.

God heard my cry and answered my prayer SO quickly on that one -- just two nights ago I was praying to find a better way to relate to C, and then it literally fell in my lap -- through Facebook, no less -- and it was the answer, as surely as gravity holds me to the earth. A peaceful afternoon and evening, even in the face of some high toddler emotion.

And the greatest of all -- so healing -- several spontaneous hugs from C. I love knowing that he feels comfortable to just come up and hug me, whenever he needs to.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

So Heavy

I have to apologize in advance that this will be a plodding and serious blog post. As always, read if you want and feel free to ignore.

I found out today that I have been undercutting my daily calorie needs, by quite a bit. The calculators I found tell me I should be eating 2,100 calories a day and I have been eating about 1,000 to 1,200. I had been getting more and more impatient, wondering how much more I could cut, when I am already feeling dizzy and sick a few times a day as it is. Then, I learned that this is not because I am out of shape, but because I might be sort of (literally?) starving a bit. Which seems strange because you would think that if I were starving I might have actually lost some weight. But that is neither here nor there. This is not a post about weight loss.

Discovering this, that I was eating not just a little bit under my goal but actually quite a lot under my goal, the whole time feeling like I was an overeater, was an unpleasant wake-up call.

Coupled with this, I got enough sleep last night for the first time in about six months. I have been sleeping in general 5-7 hours of sleep broken by 2 to 3 feedings per night, so all in all, not a whole lot of sleep, but apparently enough to keep ticking. But last night I slept enough and woke up to a new kind of consciousness this morning. Good, but not good at the same time. Realizing my calorie snafu, in my new state of consciousness (i.e., non-zombie) I realize a very heavy ugly fact: somewhere on this road of parenting and [failed/attempted] weight loss I have left behind part of myself. It's lying on the road somewhere miles back. To be honest I think that I might have laid it down on the day that C was born, that terrible day, something so integral to myself that without it, I can't remember what it was to begin with. A piece of self? A range of emotion? A capacity for something? Maybe that part of me that used to join clubs in high school, or the bit that was good at arts and crafts, or the singing self. Not robbed from me, not stolen by the patriarchy, but laid down by me because my hands were full for the moment, but then the train sped off with me on it and now the tracks cross at their vanishing point in the distance.

I suppose now the thing to do is stop starving myself; though it was accidental, the undoing of it must be on-purpose. And sleep more, sleep as much as I can, and be nicer to her/me. What did I leave, and where will I find it again?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Soap and Windows

At the ice cream shop last week I had a brush with my old preemie-birth PTSD, once again through the sense of smell. I was washing my hands at the sink there when I caught a whiff of the soap -- the same exact soap that they had at the NICU when C was first born. It is so strange, I am telling you, one little sniff and suddenly there I am, that weird feeling of being piloted around in a wheelchair, the way the wind blows across your face even though you are inside, because your husband is pushing the chair really fast, because he walks faster when he is pushing a wheelchair, and he walks pretty quickly anyway. The cabinet of gowns, the hot water sink, the little telephone where you call and ask permission, may I please come in and see my baby? The worst part was the walk from the door when they buzzed you in, all the way to your baby's room. Once, they moved him without telling us. What's it like to get to your baby's hospital room and see an empty bed? I relive it every time I smell that damned soap.

Note to self: bring hand sanitizer to the ice cream shop to use instead of their soap. I don't want to start associating ice cream with IVs and little beeping machines.

This week our air handler went kaput but we were blessed even in needing this pricey repair. Just one week earlier and the heat would have been too much to bear, but this week we just left the windows open, ran a few fans, and got along great. Truthfully I like the fresh air circulating around the house, and I feel, strangely, as if we all cooperate better. Part of this might just be the relief of fall (and I can't help thinking how much the Florida summer is like the northern winter -- the time when you need all your mental faculties and stoutheartedness to get you through) but I think part of it is being subject to the whims of the outside. We band together as a family because we have no choice but to take the weather as it comes.

It will be nice to have the handler repaired (especially come April and May of next year) but part of me will be a little sad to see it go. Something about open windows and swirling fans that that particular smell of Florida in fall makes me feel like I am a kid again, and the good part of being a kid -- sundresses and sandals, make believe, and sandboxes. I am back there again only this time much richer with my own little darlings.