i’m four days in to this new “month” and already i find myself judging my progress. primarily because i haven’t done anything yet. i warned spiderman about a week ago that he was going to experience a drastic reduction in his “screen time” (i didn’t use those words with him, by the way) and although he whined about it at the time the next day he reminded me that he “wasn’t going to watch any shows today.” Now, that isn’t what I had said, i had mentioned something about it being next week and I was going to keep reminding him to get him used to the idea over time, but I took advantage of his misunderstanding and didn’t turn on the TV and then took advantage of his misunderstanding the next day (that this was a one-time thing) and did turn it on… it appears i am not quite ready to commit to this “reduction in screen time” myself.
this morning, i stopped at trader joe’s on the way to dropping spiderman off at school… on the way there i was dreaming up a clever facebook status update for the morning (come on, don’t tell me you don’t do this too…) today is my day off between jobs and i am cramming as much self care into it as possible. i am getting a facial and a massage, going to therapy, making a week’s worth of delicious healthy meals to have on hand, and just enjoying my time with myself… and last night i did something (with food) that was very classical self-loathing (i’ll tell you about in a few days after i’ve gotten over it) and have recommitted this morning to radical self love, so i decided that i would say something like “the day (lifetime?) of radical self love begins now.”
Then I parked my car and chose/experienced all of the following:
- Left kid in car–FAIL
- Kid was in the car watching netflix on iPhone–FAIL
- Was braless, in same clothes i slept in, hair a mess, with yesterday’s mascara smeared under my eyes–FAIL FAIL FAIL FAIL
- They weren’t open yet–FAIL
- I was there to buy chocolate brownie CLIF kidz bars because that’s what spiderman is addicted to having for breakfast–FAIL
- and then when I got past all of that and the checker asked “what are you up to today” my answer was something along the lines of “just dropping the kid off at school and then it’s my day off.” it was one of those things you say when you’re braless and unkempt in trader joe’s and you really don’t want to be noticed by other human beings (sometimes i wish i had an invisibility cloak)–FAIL. Geez, why didn’t I try out my facebook status update on him? Why wasn’t my response “radical self love.” I would have loved to see the awkward facial expression… I live for that shit.
And then I started to realize how much I had already started to misinterpret this month’s focus. I call this month “just the two of us (being the parent i want to be)” and while that can be interpreted in all sorts of healthy ways, I have been reading it as “just the two of us (being the parent i want to be—who is PERFECT all the time because she must be capable of being so and anything less than that would be an aberration). Even beyond that unfortunate misinterpretation is the way I’ve been trying to fit this month into the entire fulfillment project… In my head I’ve been trying to make this all about the kid. After two months of being incredibly self absorbed I figure I’ve recharged enough to give myself completely to him. But this month can’t be all about spiderman (which it hasn’t been so far, which is why i feel guilt/shame/regret and am looking for things to call failures), this month has to be about me… just like all of the other months. This month can’t be an experiment to see if I can ensure my child’s happiness and good fortune by being the perfect mother, this month has to be about experimenting with my role as mother to see if I can find fulfillment in that.
…and now ladies and gentlemen, we have found the core issue…
You mean there is a question about whether or not motherhood fulfills me? Um… yes.
Isn’t it supposed to be the most important part of who I am? That’s what I hear…
Aren’t I supposed to love and be eternally grateful for every moment of it? (sigh) Affirmative.
Aren’t I always supposed to say and believe things like “oh, it’s so worth it”? Uh huh.
It’s certainly one of the most important things I do, but not the most important part of who I am. I do not love nor am I grateful for every moment of it (that’s what we’re going to work on though… i can choose to love it and be grateful for it). And not only have I never said “it’s so worth it” (because I think we do each other a disservice by spouting such generalized untruths), but I have only believed it in a few fleeting moments nearly five years into it.
i hope that if spiderman ever reads this he’ll forgive me for my honesty. what’s true is that i love my son more than i ever knew it was possible to love another person. it’s also true that the most joyous moments i have experienced in life are connected to my relationship with him. from the moment he existed within my body, and then even more so when he came out of it i have felt fiercely protective of him and fully accept that by creating him i am responsible for his care. and just like anything else i do… i’m going to do my best.
what’s also true is that these past (almost) five years have been the most challenging of my life. and me feeling this way… is not okay. and now i’m going to talk about it… which is also not okay.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It is “okay” to feel it and even talk about it in some spaces, with some people, but in general… the program we’ve inherited from our society tells us that we are supposed to love being mothers.
So this month is going to be about choosing to find fulfillment in my role as spiderman’s mother. In general, and especially lately, I get a fair bit (of fulfillment) from it… but that’s fairly new and I’ve got some old stories in my head and old experiences to process that I’ll probably be writing about. I’ll also be writing about some of my parenting philosophies as I try to examine them and why I take ownership of them and where there is room to continue growing…
I experience a certain tension of parenting that is ever present in my mind: I am aware that the choices I make as his parent are important, yet I am also aware that I do not get to take credit for or claim responsibility for the results… That being said, there are a few things that I want to accomplish this month, and here they are:
- Reduce the screen time (all screens). Get down to no more than an hour on weekdays and no more than two hours on weekends. (why? I use it as a crutch the entertain or engage him when I have something else I’d rather be doing… it’s frying his brain… his temperament is greatly affected by the amount of screen time he has…)
- Change the way we eat. Eat meals together–at a table–just us and the food. (why? because it seems important… I don’t know why. I’ll figure it out.)
- Encourage his independence, autonomy, and self responsibility (why? the kid never went through the “i do it myself” stage and has always been in the “you do it for me” mode. this is dangerous for both of us.)
- Teach him what I’ve learned. Let’s see if meditation, physical activity, healthy eating, and making art are effective in helping him feel fulfilled too (why? because i said so)
The day (lifetime?) of radical self love begins now.