One breath. Just one. I am one breath away from myself. A breath to steady, a breath to pause, a breath to slow and settle inside. A single breath for the world around me to stop its frantic pace, it’s hurried steps, it’s overflowing activity. One breath. It’s all that I ask. I find that I need much more solitude to breathe these days. I long to wander, or run alone through paths and along lonely stretches of pasture and forest lined roads.
I feel less alone, oddly enough, when I am alone. I can breathe. I can feel the air inside fill me and I can let everything go with that same breath. When I am amid a crowd of strangers, I can lose myself. But I am entirely found with those who know me. I love these people, they are my beloved. They color and flavor my life with joy. Still. Still. That breath. That single and solitary breath. The space between my life and my dreams, my heart and my soul. One breath.
This is me. Stalker mom. Waiting through the movie in the cinema parking lot because I refuse to be a “drop off mom” to my children’s utter horror and my friends utter delight and gratitude…From “soccer mom” to “stalker mom”: one woman’s journey through parenting teens…I’m the mom who showed up and figured on staying through play dates when my kids were small. The one who called and asked the caregiver “do you have guns in the house?” and stood my sweaty and panicky ground through the awkward stammering of the person on the other end who managed to be surprised I was asking. I’m the mom who still goes inside to talk with the parents to make sure one will be on premises the entire time (a deal breaker if there won’t be one). I’ve been eye rolled more times than I can tell you by both my kids and some parents who clearly view me as an over protective helicopter parent. That’s fine. Im cool with being lame. I don’t hover around while the kids are hanging out, or sit next to them in the movies. Nope. Im the stalker discreetly distanced, engaged in another activity, near enough to know when things are TOO quiet, or too…handsy…shall we say. I’m also close enough if a situation changes and things get uncomfortable. Yup. I’m dope with my rep.
There’s excellent precedence for this: I remember my own wayward and misspent youth. I was a normal kid. A really GOOD kid. Honor society, drama club, band, church teen folk group, held down a part time job at Ames department store all the way through high school and STILL managed QUITE a lot of less than saintly (and certainly my share of “handsy”) activities all while managing to make it home by curfew. A 10pm curfew. That’s saying a lot. In other words: I was a normal, hormonal teen, not yet reliably capable of making CONSISTENTLY good choices, particularly when it came to impulse control abandoned mob mentality shenanigans. I, like all teens, was a work in progress. Trying out my own opinions and desires and decision making skills. It’s called growing up. It takes a while and I’ll be the first to let you know when I get there myself.
I have excellent parents who actively engaged in our lives. They were candid, loving, decently reasonable, and firm with setting boundaries. I modeled my own style after theirs. I may have resented the hell out of their rules when I was under them, but the truth is I felt safer for having those boundaries in place. Safer from the world, and safer from myself. So for the forseable future (and with 5 kids….that suckers gonna take a while to get here) I will be the woman following at a distance in the public gardens, reading a book in parking lots everywhere, and shoving my face and my hand through the door to introduce myself and scope out the lay of the land. If you need me, I’ll be there. I’m STALKER MOM. And kids? You’re damn welcome.
There is no “poop fairy”
It kills me. It kills me when I read articles by women who talk about the messages they might be sending their children by working outside the home. In 2016 women are still at war. We don’t make the same pay as men for the same job. We are underrepresented in too many arenas. What is worse though is that we seem to often be at war with each other. Stay at home working parents versus outside the home working parents. Boob versus bottle. Everyone feels cheated by their choice or their need and worries about the messages they might, or might not be passing on to their kids. One such article I read tonight was authored (http://www.scarymommy.com/my-working-mom/) by a SAHP. She writes about the need to send a positive work ethic message to her kids. What kills me is that she continues to say “even though I don’t work…I can tell my daughters girls can work too! Grammy works!”
This is (consciously or subconsciously) a denigration of the incredibly hard work of WORKING AT HOME as a full time caregiver, household manager and a multitude of other things done in the course of a day as a SAHP (stay at home parent). I look forward to the day women stop differentiating and judging their self worth based on where they work during the day. At home or elsewhere. I have worked both as a full time stay at home parent, and worked outside of the home over the years, and with 5 children. Regardless of your choice or need, every parent struggles with the messages they send as role models. It’s not rocket science. Teach them by word and by deed to be a good person. Don’t be afraid to fail. Do the thing that brings you joy. Make a difference with your unique gifts. Use your voice to speak your mind and don’t apologize for having that voice.
A strong and powerful woman is a woman who knows her self worth no matter what the world tries to tell her. That is the message we need to teach our daughters (as well as our sons) regardless of where we “work”. Every job has its challenges and sacrifices, working as a full time parent, or outside of the home. Our children do not learn to value our work ethic by seeing our paycheck. They lean about it by witnessing us work hard at whatever we do. They do not learn how much we love them by where we work, they learn about our love by experiencing it. So if I’m the first to break the bad news, I’m sorry, but there is no “Poop fairy”. I’m begging you, please stop throwing it at each other like monkeys behaving badly. We are the only ones who will have to clean it all up. Here ends my rant but my deep desire to encourage women to support each other, and to stop competing and comparing for validation, will never end. You matter. Period.
Everyone who knows me, knows I am “directionally challenged”. It’s is perhaps, apart from the well documented freak show of my mental stability, one of my most infamous traits. I’ve gotten lost so many times I decided to reclaim this as a positive and have called it instead: “finding places I didn’t start out looking for”. It’s cheery and risky at the same time, but I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun (between the rampant waves of panic attacks and fervent prayers) along the way.
My children are so used to my swinging the car around that when jersey dividers force you to pass your left and double back before you can take it, they don’t believe I’m not screwing up again. It’s rugged. Still, so many lovely and unexpected tours and experiences….
Today I played taxi service/chaperone to teen hangouts. I studiously and responsibly parked a little ways off and gave them some “independent time” while secretly stalking them until I was comfortable enough to wander off on my own for a nice stroll. A path should be well marked. A path should be wide enough to be distinguishable from worn animal tracks so that small children in fairy tales, and people with my particular challenge will be less likely to wander off, following pretty things, and leaves and feathers floating in the breeze off the “path” and into the wild. Not every one feels this as I do, at least not the people in charge of idiot marking trails. Today I went wandering and wandered off the path, enchanted by neat rocks, turtle families, swans, and super awesome things. I discovered that I was no longer actually ON any path so I made my own. That’s ok. I brought snacks, and water. This ain’t my first rodeo. If I can’t FIND the path, I sure as hell know how to barrel through the woods howling and whipping branches out of my face until I find the others.
Rainy days irresistibly tempt me to wander into my memories, make me feel dreamy after a long, drenching run. My feet take me places my heart longs to see, the miles just melt into each other and I am free. Soon I’ll be curled in a soft blanket staring out of my window, my eyes fixed on far distant places I’ll travel to someday. In body or in spirit, it almost matters not.
Alone in a crowd. This is something I actually like and crave. I’m a solitary creature by nature. I love my runs because it’s just ME, throwing my body at the day. All thoughts gone in place of the pleasure of wind, sun, ambient noise, the sights along the way. People are all around me doing their own thing, engaged in whatever endeavor causes us to cross paths with a smile and a mouthed greeting, no expectation beyond this brief acknowledgment of the other. I lose my self in the experience of allowing all thought and anxiety, the have-to’s of my life to recede into a corner and allow me to simply…be. I am comfortably couched in a booth in a back corner of a cafe, a book that I love, a very strong cup of coffee that I love possibly more, like a tiny island of peace. I am here 2-3 times a week at the same time and have the gift of a single hour all to myself while one of my children is undergoing an intensive out patient therapy program. Apart from this one hour, I will be in groups and meetings with other parents like me, worrying, anxious, doing our very best to support our children and each other. The investment in time is significant, but if it were not for the necessity of this place, I would never have gifted myself this single hour on a regularly crazed day. I would be trying to figure out how I could squeeze another item from my to do list into an already over full schedule. It is something I am adept at. The ultimate multi tasking, never stopping, always on the run kind of girl. Because I can’t seem to help myself from always feeling the desperate need to fill every moment (an excellent strategy I’ve mastered since childhood to redirect panic and anxiety: a busy person has little time to worry about worrying all the time!) the world put the breaks on hard. My child, among many gray hairs and sleepless nights these days, has actually given me the gift of the time alone, anchored to a small cafe nearby while I wait for my call, the time I crave and need to restore my own heart and soul, and along the way, my body. So I am alone. It’s beautiful. It’s luxurious. It feels like a wide awake nap. It opened the door for me to realize that I deserve this gift: to be with myself, only nurturing the deepest parts of ME when the rest of my time is spent (and I love this) nurturing the minds and bodies and souls of others.
We can’t always come last. Like the saying goes “you can’t fill from an empty cup”. So I am learning to nurture myself. In each day I look for where I will schedule ME. Maybe a run on a gorgeous trail, maybe several chapters curled up under thick blankets on my favorite couch, the one that has sun pouring onto it through the he window it is pushed up against. Maybe it’s spent writing (which you can all see, I LOVE to do…) and maybe it will be anything that sparks my desire. I am adding myself to the schedule because if I don’t, I will lose myself and miss out on the pleasure of my own company. I love, and live for my big, noisy, chaotic brood, our wild, unruly and untamed crew. I adore the busyness they bring, the huge swell of sound they fill the air around me with, and the unadulterated joy they unleash in my heart. But I need to find “me” somewhere in all that wonderfulness. I need a quiet space between my ears, inside my body, filling my soul so that this life doesn’t roll right over me. So this is my tiny island vacation before I swim back to the mainland. Isn’t it wonderful?
I am a hot mess. I have always been a hot mess. I am imperfect, impatient, and impetuous. I am passionate, impulsive and rash. I start every day with adrenalin surging like a tidal wave through my body. I love to perform and yet I struggle with anxiety, and panic. I tend to pull away and inside myself when I am overwhelmed. And I am often overwhelmed. I find during these times that it is a struggle to even leave my home on hard days. When people see me, they see my smile, hear my laughter, see my candor and willingness to be openly foolish, and perceive a confidence I am challenged to bring forth. I have lived like this for as long as I can remember. I begin each day with the firm belief I can manage my path, and I assure myself that I can do more, even though many days the best that I can manage is slow breaths and steadying thoughts. I am not ashamed to share my struggle. I believe in reaching out, reaching down, and reaching back to help myself, and to help others who also struggle under the weight of burdens that lie hidden from view. So adept are we at concealing our challenges, our personal pain, maybe wanting so much to be free of it that we would rather hide it from the world than to let the world see us as we truly are: Gloriously human. Deeply and wonderfully flawed. Change within is not gifted, it is won. It is fought for and worked for. We are constant works in progress. Fluid. Plasticine. Able to adapt and overcome. We are each amazing. Over the years I have come to embrace myself with compassion. Some days I soar, and some days I put one foot in front of the other with great determination. I am human, and I am blessed to be so beautifully and wonderfully flawed.