Resolution

I’ve been somewhat avoiding this space, and somewhat not. I’ve been formulating how I would come back here after an overwhelming (for me anyway) response to my last post.  A few things came up for me around this.

I got SO many wonderful responses from friends, acquaintances and even Norman’s friends – I get this parenting thing is universal.  That my story can be so similar to what happened to somebody yesterday, or 20 years ago.  In the moment, it feels so lonely.  My impression is most parents have that this only happens to me moment.  So – thank you, everyone, for taking the time to say Breathe and You Did Good and That Seems So Hard and I Have One Just Like That…it really made a difference for me.

I recently saw Heather Armstrong read from her recent book.  One of the audience questions was around taking things personally.  She’s pretty out there – in a sense that little is censored (from what she talks about).  I kept thinking those first few days – I couldn’t do that.  I don’t have the thick skin to tell the haters to fuck off and their words don’t matter.  Let me clarify.  For topics so close to heart like nearly having a parental breakdown, too close.  For any of my various rants, political stances, personal missions – absolutely – in the face of that I could give the big old F-You finger to any ignorant, narrow minded responses.

To finish the story, Sunday I was too spent to talk to A about Saturday night.  Monday was my “night off” from house and family and I went to see Wolverine – X-Men Origins.  It was OK.  I wasn’t a reader, I’m not an uber fan.  I liked the previous movies.  Don’t get me wrong, seeing Hugh Jackman’s physique and naked ass were fun – and maybe Star Trek set a really high bar for the rest of the summer movie season…anyhoo…

Tuesday night.  I told Norman I wanted some alone time with A to talk about the other night.  We had a good family night, dinner, games, etc.  At night time, after stories, I laid down with A.  Told her we needed to have some girl talk.  I asked her why things got so escalated, what could we do differently, was there anything she wanted to say to me?  It all stemmed from the treatment of guests.  That I was willing and ready to read her story before the little friend, it sent her over the edge (after the 90 minutes of back and forth).  So we talked about the difference between rules and guidelines.  That guests fall into the guideline category.  Yes, I would prefer she defer to them first.  If Mommy says we can change that up, it’s OK.  It’s not a rule.  She seemed to have such a sense of relief.  We had a good talk about the difference between a Rule and a Guideline.  I know she is still processing.  I know one day she will look at me with that face and ask – Is this a rule or a guideline?  Ah – that kid o’mine!

On the screaming Kill Me! part.  What made her so incredibly upset that it seemed like the logical course?  That I’m not going to divulge here – it’s a very personal discussion and something Norman and I have talked about how to approach and resolve.  Just be rest-assured that I’m taking care of my kid.  After all – I’m a good mom – so why wouldn’t I?

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Another test of parenthood

Last night was an incredibly hard night for me as a mother.  Let me stress to you IN-cred-ib-ly hard.  One of those moments where I doubted every choice I have made since seeing those two blue lines and how the hell did I get here and shouldn’t there be men in white coats at the door?

I have a very dramatic child.  We’ve taken to calling her the Emo one of the family (yes people, Emo, not Elmo).  She is bright and cheery and loves all things pink and girly.  She is smart and finds math to be her favorite subject in school.  She is expressive and creative and “puts on shows” at the drop of a hat that lead you to believe I’ll have a second house in Hawaii one day on her coat tails.

There is also a dark side to my child.  She spins webs of despair in a New York minute.  She easily gives up when things aren’t going how she would like them to – or if she doesn’t learn it quick enough.  She tells us she is stupid because she can’t do something right.  When she goes low – she goes really low.

Last night she had a friend here for a sleep over.  This is a little girl from her pre-school/daycare.  It’s been very hard on them since September as they are in different elementary schools.  They are also fire and ice – professing undying love at 3:00 pm and not 9 minutes later scream hate at each other for whatever button was pushed.

A was quite excited for this sleepover.  She was also anxious because she told me she knew she wouldn’t behave.  Being an only child, A hasn’t had much experience in home-front compromise.  She’s also still learning how to be a gracious hostess and take care of her guests properly.  I reviewed the schedule of activities with her and assured her that she will be having so much fun with her friend, it wouldn’t be an issue.  Yea….I can’t believe she bought that either.

In fact, all did go very well.  We went to a children’s theater performance, playground, made popovers, did arts and crafts….ate dinner and had a treat and watched some Fraggle Rock.  At 8:30 it was time to go to bed.  We set up the futon in the guest room so they could sleep together and tell girly secrets and read books together until gentle slumber.

8:30pm – we go up for jammies and teeth brushing and story picking.  It was the point we sat down for stories when things started going downhill.  Which book do we read first?  A’s?  Or our guest?  This very quickly melted into a battle of wills. 

  • Why does my friend get to pick the side of the bed she sleeps on?
  • Fighting over how many blankets are on the bed.  Guest wanted 3, A wanted 1.
  • Why can we only have 3 books each to read in bed?!  I want to have 5!
  • Meltdown over deciding who got the HSM book light and who had the flashlight
  • Why one could read in her head while the other had to speak out loud and now i can’t hear what’s in my head because she’s talking too loud!!
  • I don’t care you are offering to read my book first, She is my guest and you have to read hers first.  I won’t let you change that rule.
  • Oh great! Now you are reading her book when you said you would read mine first and you went back on your promise…

I could go on for many more bullet points.  A total of 44 minutes of arguments that changed over every 90 seconds.  I was on the verge of locking the door and walking away.  I really wanted to give up.  I tried all my Patient Parenting tricks.  Instead, I grabbed A.  I took her into her room, put on her bed and told her not to move and not to talk until I came back.  I took a walk around the house and took a few deep breaths.  I apologized to our guest and explained A was very very tired.  Went back into A’s room to invite her to come in and read stories together.

She slithered down the side of her bed to the floor.  She crawled into the hallway and continues to scream at me.  Throwing things back at me like “you told me not to move out of my room” – “you told me not to talk” – “you told me if I didn’t behave we would have to sleep in separate bedrooms!”  I got her into the guest room, her little friend suggested that A take 10 deep breaths to help her calm down.  We started doing deep breaths, except for A.  When we got to the fourth, A looked at my directly, hardcore eye contact, sobbing, heaving breaths, her face full of exhaustion and fiery anger screams “JUST KILL ME!  JUST KILL ME ALREADY!” 

I lost it.  I started crying.  “Why would I ever want to kill you?  You are my A and I love you and I would never ever never want to hurt you.”  She continued to chant Just Kill Me over and over and over while sobbing.  I took her out of the room and tried to calm her down, hold her and rub her back.  Well that just pissed her off more – I picked up the phone to call Norman (who was 2 blocks away baby-sitting for friends) and through tears gave the condensed version and said he needed to talk to her.  I had to hold the phone to her ear.  Hearing one side of the story it was more Kill Me and Yes and No and We Tried That and I Don’t Care and You Don’t Love Me….  She walks away.

I go back in the guest room and she is quietly on the bed, holding her teddy bear, calm.  Looks up at me with those over tired eyes “I’m sorry Mommy, I told you I wouldn’t cooperate.  I love you.”  I read them stories.  I put them in bed.  Night light on, talking off and shut the door.  They only got up once to ask for music.  Asleep at 10:14pm.

My nerves were shot.  I didn’t want to watch TV, didn’t want a drink, I didn’t even want to eat – I just sat on the couch dazed.  I started obsessing on how I could have a child that at 6 years old looks at her parent screaming Kill Me like she really meant it.  Where did I go wrong?  What lesson did I miss way back when that could have avoided this?  How have I scarred her young brain?  Why the fuck am I a mother and what am I doing here and can I run away?  Seriously.  I was concocting scenarios of how I could get out of the mother gig and crawl into a cave somewhere.  I could not find any grace for myself.

I eventually fell asleep. 

So how does this story end?  I was woken up at 6:21am this morning.  By two incredibly happy, bubbly girls giggling and asking if we can have breakfast.  As if last night never happened.  I went downstairs, turning on the coffee machine first.  They were rattling off and talking about what to do next.  Throwing questions at me like can they go outside yet and when is swim lessons and are we taking them together today.  It was as if the time between 8:30pm – 10:14pm the previous night never occurred.

I was still destroyed.  I felt broken.  I wished I could crawl back into bed and ignore life and the day.  Wake up Monday morning to start working and get away from this incredibly hard parenting thing.  But when you are a parent, that cannot happen. Life goes on and 6 year olds can only do so much for themselves.  I took a deep breath with every question and request thrown at me.  I took a deep breath before I responded to either of them.  I took deep breaths and while they were doing more crafts – I snuck off to the living room with my coffee and Sunday paper.

Now it’s 5:43pm and I’ve had some time alone in the house.  No spouse, no child, my 2 hour, 45 minute respite every Sunday afternoon called Hebrew School.  I am feeling much better.  No longer shattered or thinking I’m not a fit mother.  Just wondering, where the hell do I go from here? 

Sanity Hacks of (fill in the blank) Mom

First and foremost – my friend Jen did a presentation at Ignite Seattle!  She deserves credit for the inspiration of this post.  Particularly since she did all the work anyway!

The last time Jen and I got together we had a chat about the Stay At Home Mom versus Employed Career Mom… 

sidebar – what the hell do you call mom’s that work at companies that pay them salaries and give benefits and such for their work?  because SAHMs – they *are* working moms too, so it doesn’t quite feel right to label myself that. and by no means do I imply a SAHM isn’t employed or have a career.  let’s not rat hole here shall we?

Our discussion was around this unspoken/spoken/ignored/acknowledged divide between the two types of moms.  Particularly seen in the Mommy Blog space.  Seems each camp has some beef with the other.  Making judgments about not being a good mom, setting the wrong example for the children, blah blah blah.  Gawd almighty!!  Do women need yet another category to create a chasm between us?  Can’t we support each other in choice?  Believe you and me – I could not do what SAHMs do. I totally respect women that raise their families in that fashion. 

So I watched the video the day it was published.  I really enjoyed Jen’s approach and her thoughts on sanity hacks.  I thought about it through the day, how particular passages were not only funny, but SO freaking true!  Example – I have seen Finding Nemo so many times, there have been entire screenings that I only watched one character the entire time.  Boy those Pixar people are masters at their craft!

The next day I had a different thought.

I could take that same deck, change up the pictures, replace one or two words – and do the presentation from the Employed Career Mom point-of-view. Really, each thing Jen focuses on to stay sane, I do the same thing to some degree.  The story would just be a bit modified.

Can we stop fighting against each other and start fighting together?

Maybe then – we can unite and get some REAL food in the school lunches.  Not the pre-packaged crap they serve now.  Maybe we could pool resources and networks and make the PTA unstoppable.  We should all show up at Olympia (or your respective capitals) and demand the kinds of laws, programs and initiatives that will protect our families, enrich our lives – and not have to battle for every 4 years or every budget shortfall.  (don’t get me started – school budget is another post all together!)

So really girls – we aren’t all that different are we?  Just stop and think about it ok?

Grateful

Today, Microsoft announced more layoffs – (per MSNBC Microsoft moves forward on plan to ax 5,000).  Although the title of that article seems pretty harsh in these times when so many are impacted by the economy.  It was a pretty rough day at the office.  Personally, I didn’t know until 2pm that my job was intact.  I saw many co-workers and friends impacted today. 

I’ll keep moving forward, thankful, grateful, relieved that I have a job tomorrow and the day after and even next week.

It certainly puts things in perspective.

Now – to work on my list

What I Do?

It’s inevitable when my family visits, or when we talk on the phone, or an email comes in…they want to know about my job.  They want to talk about my projects and programs and area of the business.

OK – first of all – Microsoft is really big (duh!)  And they ask me about other orgs that I don’t know a whole lot about.  No – not sure what Office is going to do about feature Y in Excel and blah blah blah.  Or they pick up on the latest news story and expect me to be fully versed.  Like I’m getting any more data than they are?  And when is Microsoft *finally* going to This-That-or-the-Other-Thing?!?!

Secondly – Isn’t it enough to know I’m a project manager?  That I’m working on Project M and it’s stressful right now since we don’t have all the details in place.  Or that we launched on time and now we get a breath before round 312 starts up?

Done. Stop. End. Fini.

That should be enough.

I don’t want to explain to them what Project M is or new aspects of version 312.  It’s not easy stuff.  If I even try to make an effort to share, their eyes glaze over.  I talk about work details enough at work.  Can’t I leave the specifics back in my office or laptop and not in my personal life? 

Why don’t we talk about that joint-owned condo downtown with the other ‘rents so visits last longer?  (bonus – Norman OR I can have a quiet place to escape for an evening and play “being single”)