Finding a thick skin

When I first started writing my blog, the only people reading it were my close friends and family. As I gained traction in writing, I also slowly gained followers – more friends, friends of friends and absolute strangers. I love writing about my adventures in parenting and sharing my insights and vulnerabilities through my posts. And I love hearing people’s reactions – positive and negative – to what I write about. My blog is a wonderful outlet, and a great way for me to capture today’s moments that will become tomorrow’s memories.
mama and girls
So, each time Kveller picks up one of my pieces and publishes it on a national platform, I feel giddy with excitement that something I wrote is getting shared with a much broader audience. They’ve published pieces I’ve written ranging from kugel to missing my oldest’s dance recital. It’s a very empowering feeling.

Then, last week Kveller published a piece I was particularly proud of – a diatribe on our family’s rules which stemmed from an argument with my 4 year old about having to wear socks. The piece is playful and ends with a lists of 16 family rules – some of which are serious and others that make me giggle from the broken record I’ve become saying them. And this piece, more than any other that I’ve written, elicited a lot of commentary from a broad audience on Kveller’s website and Facebook page.

Two rules, in particular, struck a chord with the Kveller readership – leave a house that has a gun in it and kiss your grandparents hello and goodbye. Who knew that these would cause such a stir? That by writing that my kids should leave a home with a gun in it, I wasn’t properly educating them about gun safety? And that by telling my children to kiss their elder relatives as a sign of respect, I was exposing them to a future of abuse and body confusion?

I understand the arguments the readers were making and I appreciate that people took the time to read my post and share their opinions. I welcome feedback and comments – it’s fun to see how my writing impacts and influences others. But some of the comments on my last post made broad judgements about my parenting and ventured to say that I was wrong for having some of the rules that we do. While one reader said that each family’s rules are unique to them, other readers said things like I’ll make my kids a doormat by encouraging them to be nice to everyone or that I should never ever tell my kids to kiss a relative. By making such strong statements in response to the rules in our family, I can’t help but think about the litany of arguments, judgements and lines in the sand we draw in these ever present mommy wars.

mama and babeBreastfeeding. Bottle feeding. Formula. Breast milk. Pacifier. Thumb sucking. Attachment parenting. Cry it out. Organic food. Non gmo food. Regular ol’ food. Extracurricular activities to provide structure. No extracurricular activities to provide freedom. Stay at home mom. Professional mom. The list goes on and on. We all have such strong ideas, ideals, and approaches to parenting. We can read books about it. We can quote studies. We can wing it. We can do our absolute best and still feel like it’s not enough. And, although we are our own harshest critics, the commentary on my latest post reminds me that we can be each other’s harshest critics too. Instead of drawing a line in the sand of what we believe to be the right thing, why not open a dialogue in which we each speak out own truths while accepting those may not be the same truths for somebody else? I’m not upset or offended by the comments readers made, but am more so inspired by what the readers could have said.

We all know that raising kids takes a village, and in my experience that’s absolutely true. But the definition of village is loose and long, extending from our inner circle to the adult who attempts to discipline our kids on the playground. We need to find a way to lift each other up and support each other as we forge our own path, whether or not it’s the one we would take ourselves.

Finding inspiration at 2am

Inspiration might be a strong word for what I’m finding right now… Blogging material might be more accurate. Or sanity in writing. Or solace in readership. But, for purposes of prose, we’ll call it inspiration.

It’s 2am and our 4.5 week old baby is confused by day and night and has them conveniently switched in her head. More so, tonight she has decided to try her hand at staying up for hours at a time… Something she hasn’t really done before and not exactly something I’d like her to be experimenting with between the hours of 10pm and 2am. I’ve tried everything – rocking, swinging, feeding, burping, shhing… And after a minor meltdown (mine, not hers), we’re trying the repertoire again.

This is compounded by our oldest daughter, age 4.5, getting out of bed mid meltdown (still mine, not hers either) to tell me she misses me and wants to spend time together. Though time together at two in the morning is not my idea of quality, I understand her sentiment. My first baby has had to mature twice in order to be a “good big sister” when each of her sisters was born. And even though she has been wonderfully loving to her sisters and forgiving of my absence when they were newborns, the feelings she’s having of missing mommy are real and warranted. But not something I can solve at 2am, much as I’d like to try.

And this is compounded by our middle daughter, just shy of 2.5, stirring from her fever-induced sleep where she lay burning up despite the dose of Tylenol she had before bed and the eye drops we gave her for the pink eye that developed over the course of the day. She is uncomfortable and wants to snuggle in our bed, where she slept last night as her fever began to set in. She’s in need of love and attention too, and it’s coming out in an actual physical response.

Three sweet, beautiful girls, each needing time, love, and attention. Each craving it at 2am, when we are all at our most vulnerable. As I sit nursing the baby with tears streaming down my face from sheer exhaustion and my husband negotiates the older two girls’ needs and requests when they should really just be sleeping, I find myself overcome by the simultaneous overwhelm of it all… The good parts and the hard, the tears (theirs and mine), the endless exhaustion, the reality of “holy #$*@, there are three of them,” and the deep unfailing and unconditional love I’m filled with.

None of that changes the fact that it’s now nearly 3am and I just want to go to sleep, but it’s comforting to know all those feelings and emotions are there and they’re real.

So thanks, readers, for keeping me company during a particularly rough night and for giving me an outlet to express those emotions… It’s comforting to know you’re “listening.”

Finding my vulnerabilities

girls snuggling

Morning snuggles

There’s nothing like yelling at your child at 4:30am for wanting to snuggle with you to make you take a cold, hard look in the parenting mirror. That’s what happened to me last night.

I don’t yell much as a mom. I use a stern voice when necessary and I set boundaries and carry through on consequences that we set. But, it’s very rare for me to raise my voice to the point of a yell. So when this monster emerged from my throat last night, I think it equally startled my four year-old daughter and myself.

Yes, I was exhausted. Yes, I am nearly nine months pregnant. Yes, I have an unrelenting cold and sore throat. All those factors, though, do not take away the guilt and sadness I felt when I saw my daughter’s face last night after I yelled at her. She wouldn’t cooperate after I explained to her why her baby sister couldn’t sleep on the edge of the bed to make space for my first born to snuggle closer to me. And somehow, apparently, this gave me license to yell.

What happened after the yelling, though, was wonderful. At 4:30am, while the my younger daughter snored in the middle of the bed, my four year-old and I had a mature heart to heart. I apologized to her and explained why I had gotten so upset, and took full responsibility for my actions that didn’t match the situation. And she listened, processed, and explained why she hadn’t cooperated in the first place. Like, really explained… in a way that a mature child, not a little girl, would. Together we discussed and came to a clearer understanding of where the other was coming from, and then together came up with a solution to the snuggle issue that worked better for both of us, which included setting up some pillow buffers for the baby and me sleeping between the girls.

This morning, out of our sleepy haze, we talked about it again. Where I worried that I’d either scarred her for life or that she wouldn’t remember the teachable moment we had together, she surprised me and articulated a summary of our discussion. In that moment, I realized that showing some humanness is okay. It’s okay for my daughters to know that I have vulnerabilities and breaking points. And while that doesn’t mean I intend to yell at my kids again any time soon, I will take this experience as an opportunity to show them that just because I’m mommy, doesn’t mean I’m not me. It doesn’t mean I don’t cry or make mistakes. Seeing my vulnerabilities from time to time actually helps them, and me, to be stronger.

Have you had an experience that made you take a cold, hard look in the parenting mirror recently?