What a Shame!

I’m never writing another blog post. I’m done. It’s too scary, too vulnerable; the feelings are too hard to control. And control is my middle name. It’s actually Lynn, but I’m convinced Control was my parents’ first choice. 

An aside:  while many parents today go out of their way to find unique, often unusual names for their offspring, in my mother’s family, a hearty Italian crew, her parents opted to take a less creative route in their naming. They recycled names with ease and impunity. Two of my aunts are Marie Angela and Angela Marie. Two of my uncles are Anthony Michael and Michael Anthony. And don’t get me started on all the Josephs and Marias! My family is a biblical naming wonderland.

I digress. Back to me and my feelings. Posting these blogs over the past few days has highlighted my feelings of fear and vulnerability in ways I haven’t felt before (and have felt all my life). I tell myself I don’t have the tools or the strength of character to handle this kind of public vulnerability. Granted, I’m defining the word “public” loosely. As of today only a handful of people, most of whom are dear friends and family members, are following my blog. But, but … I’ve never been one to let pesky facts get in the way of my opinions. I’m talking about feelings not facts here, people!  

Even after many decades of practice, I still care too much what other people think of me and not enough about what I think.

I spoke with a mom friend this week who commented on my blog. She asked me an innocuous question about the personal stuff I share on my blog. I immediately felt shame that I was doing something wrong by writing these blog posts. I doubt this mom was insinuating anything malicious. I’d like to assume she was being curious, interested and loving. But that way of thinking hasn’t yet taken hold in the synapses of my brain. Shame is still my go-to feeling, the roadblock that keeps me from growing, keeps me from trying new things. I’d rather focus on this mom’s reaction than on what feels right for me.

Apparently I’m modeling this insecurity for my girls.  This morning Rhys donned a new hair clip and asked Ava “Do I look pretty?” I interjected before Ava could reply. “Rhys, do you think you look pretty? Your opinion of yourself is the most important one.” She gave me a look that meant either:  “WTF are you talking about, Mom?” or “Butt out, Mom. Don’t locate your insecurities in me!”

Yes, I’m insecure about how others view me. I love the saying “it’s none of my business what others think of me” and while my brain believes it, my heart and gut have yet to catch up. I don’t like to learn new lessons, behaviors or skills. I like to acquire them, just not through the practice required to learn anything new, especially a new skill to replace one that has a well-worn groove in my psyche. So, rather than getting any more practice, I’m quitting. That’s it. I’m done.

While some of my legion of fans likely will breathe a collective sigh of relief, others will urge me to work through the shame and come out the other side. Ugh. Who would willingly sign up to do that? That must be the ultimate mark of mental illness! But, I am also aware that it is much more fun to obsess over what others think of me than to feel my own feelings of fear and joy. And today, right this minute, I’m willing to try something different (put my “big-girl pants” on).

So … here’s what my rational, loving, kind and trusting self has to say on this topic:  I love writing this blog. I’m having so much fun writing AND I’m enjoying the positive responses I’ve been getting from you. I’m human. I like validation. I’ll be explicit and ask for what I want even though it scares the shit out of me:  I’d like your continued support. I’d like your feedback.

Sharing myself in this way is a risk I’m willing to take. For today. One post at a time.

Thank you for reading. If you’ve gotten this far, I’d love it if you took a moment to comment, follow my blog, like my blog on Facebook (see button on sidebar above) and/or take this quick poll:

Tent City

After reading this interesting article in the Chicago Tribune about a suburban homework club, I casually asked our babysitter if she could try something new to help Ava better enjoy her homework time. I described the article and suggested she play homework club tutor to both girls. Here’s what I came home to:  completed homework and happy, laughing children clamoring for more time at homework camp! Genius, Hannah! Genius.

I wish I could write an ode to our creative babysitter. Or even knew what an ode is. Maybe some time in a homework tent would help …


Works in Progress

I recently went to Ava’s parent/teacher conference where I admitted to her teachers that I’m a negativity worshipper. I love to hear everything that’s wrong with me and my children so we can focus on “fixing” those things instead of celebrating all the positive, wonderful, loveable things about us.

Give me one, juicy negative issue to attach to or I’m not happy. I can twist any positive feedback into an indictment of my parenting (any chance this a marketable skill??). It’s not my favorite trait. 

I decided to flex a different muscle at this conference by asking Ava’s teachers to tell me all the positive things about my daughter’s participation in third grade so far. Ava’s teachers seemed happy to humor me. Here’s what I heard:   she’s doing great – she’s engaged, inquisitive and participatory and she’s finding her voice more and more in class. They acknowledged that Ava has interesting opinions and perspectives to share yet struggles to trust how valuable she is to the class. Yikes! Like mother, like daughter. Ava comes by her talents and insecurities honestly. Painful to see how closely the proverbial apple falls (especially if I’m looking for my next negativity fix!).

I’m grateful her wonderful teachers are looking out for Ava’s unique, magnificent voice.

A Toy For Me

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Sentimental Journey, Ava doesn’t part easily with any of her many treasures. Where she has a hard time letting go of toys, I have an equally hard time taking them in. While I will happily spend money on gifts for my daughters, husband, friends and relatives, I often find it excruciating to spend money on things for myself, especially things that I consider to be frivolous or unnecessary. Perhaps this is an issue for therapy?  If you don’t think so yet, please read on …

Toys for my girls? Absolutely. For me? Not so much.  Even if I want said toy.  A lot.  For more than a year.

I’m talking about an iPad; a “toy” I have coveted from afar and have been unable to receive, gift to myself, or take in as a gift from another. Don’t ask me why I want one. I really don’t have a reason. It’s an unjustified want. But as someone who has struggled to let myself want things for much of my life (and someone who often finds it hard to know or ask for what I want), my strong wish for one is enough for me. Or so I thought.

Last Spring, over the course of ten days, I bought and returned two iPads. I couldn’t let myself spend the money (or so I told myself). It’s not that we didn’t have the money. We did. As I’ve come to realize, it’s never really been about the money. It’s about buying into the pesky messages in my pretty little head:  I don’t deserve it, I don’t need it, it’s not a necessity, it’s a luxury item and we have bills to pay. It’s about believing the fear that screams:  What if this purchase puts us out on the street? There we’ll be, a family of four with no shoes, no food, no clothes (because we gave them all away in a massive de-cluttering spree) and an iPad. I don’t want to be responsible for that! No iPad for me, thank you very much!

I put my desire for this toy on the back-burner until this past Christmas when I asked my husband for one. I was direct, clear and concise. “Mike,” I said, “I would like you to buy me an iPad for Christmas this year.” To which he replied, “Ok, honey. I’m curious. Why do you want one?” That was the specific question he asked.

Here is what I heard:  “ Why do you need one? Who do you think you are? You don’t deserve to have something so frivolous. Can you justify why you want it? What productive, efficient tasks you will perform with this iPad?”

Thankfully, the people in my life, including my supportive husband, do not speak to me as cruelly or aggressively as I speak to myself. However, not only am I able to talk myself out of wanting something, apparently, I also am able to talk my husband out of same … I received a red tandem bike from him for Christmas. WTF? Definitely a question for therapy!

After expressing my disappointment to Mike and owning my own difficulty in taking in this damn iPad, I came up with a new strategy:  I would earn the money! Any money I made in the coming months would be earmarked for my new iPad fund. Fabulous! I told the girls my plan and when I received payment for a small consulting project, I made a big deal of telling them the money was earmarked for the fund. What a wonderful role model I am!

Except … While I don’t want to model materialism for my girls, I’m equally loathe to model deprivation for them. I want them to learn that it’s ok to want and there’s nothing shameful about spending money on yourself. What message am I sending if I can’t buy something for me that I really want (and we can afford)? Ugh.

With this thought in my head, I asked Mike to journey with me to the Apple holy land. Before we left, Ava asked me, “Mom, do you have enough money in your iPad fund?” Busted! I looked at her sheepishly and we both started giggling. I looked her in the eye and said, “No, honey. I don’t. We do have enough money in a different account. This is something I really want and we can afford it.” Ava’s response:  “I’m happy you’re getting it, Mommy. You can borrow money from my account if you need to.”

With Ava’s blessing, my husband and I made the sacred journey to the Apple Store last night. I’m grateful for his support and patience with my process. I’m also grateful for Sal’s help. Sal is the Apple Store angel who helped me. I did great until it came time to buy a protective cover. The decision of whether I needed one and what color to choose did me in. I bought and returned a charcoal grey cover inside of five minutes. Sal just smiled. “Lots of people shut down when deciding on the cover color. It’s usually the final straw after having to make so many decisions,” he said soothingly. “You can choose the cover another time.”  Perhaps next Spring. After therapy.

Sentimental Journey

It’s clean-up day at our house. Because I said so.

We are blessed to have incredibly generous friends and relatives and with two young girls, our house is filled with an abundance of books, clothes, toys, games and the like. It’s also been designated a hazardous waste site, overrun with same toys, clothes, books, etc.

Clutter makes me crazy, and Mama needs some breathing space (and control) today. So … we’re movin’ stuff out. I’m anticipating power struggles with my girls of mammoth proportions!

Ava hates to get rid of anything (and her “anything” ranges from miniscule broken pieces of old crayons – “Moommm, we can melt them down and make new crayons” – to the scraps of paper she makes cutting out her myriad paper doll clothes). She’s a born recycler!

This morning when my husband emptied out the wastebasket in the girls’ playroom, Ava cried, “Stop it! Stop doing things without asking me first. I may have things in there that I want to keep!” Mike replied laughing, “Ava, why do you put things in your garbage can that you don’t want thrown away?” “I don’t,” she yelled, “Mom does! Mom cleans up and throws away stuff I want.”

Apparently, I have to get smarter about my stealth clean-up (e.g. use a different garbage can and get rid of the evidence). Or find a way to pass the blame to Mike or our babysitter.

Ava also seems to hold onto the emotional attachment to things for our family and is emotionally connected to every item she’s ever received. And every item my husband or I have ever received. (Yes, I fear she’s a hoarder in training. I’ll keep you posted.)

While I’m all about cleaning out and getting rid of excess “stuff,” Ava reacts strongly (read tears and wails) every time I fill a bag with clothing that Rhys has outgrown to give away to a charity or another family. “We can’t give away those old leggings,” she’ll wail, “I want my daughters to wear them!”

While I’m grateful she wants to make me a grandmother (a blessing I’ll be happy to welcome once we get the playroom cleaned up), we don’t have the space or the disposition to keep every item we’ve ever interacted with for her future brood.

To mitigate Ava’s separation pain and suffering, we’ve negotiated a compromise:  Ava gets to pick out one or two items for her future daughters’ layette and I photograph the rest of the clothing en masse before giving it away. Not exactly an efficient system, but a solid compromise.

Yes, I’ll admit to feeling my own twinges of sadness giving away the cute outfits both my daughters have danced, played and loved in. I may even have my own stash of favorites for my future grandchildren … Thank you, Ava, for helping me remember.

Prunes & Popsicles

Yes, that’s a photo of my daughter Rhys’ hand after spending an hour in the tub this afternoon. She was home sick from preschool for the second day in a row, and I needed a break. Some kids get to watch unlimited TV when home sick. Mine get unlimited tub time. 

Rhys goes to preschool three days a week and her missing 2/3 of school this week severely cut into my schedule.  As a certified control-freak, I don’t let go easily when my plans get mucked with two days in a row, not even when the reason is my precious daughter who is extra cuddly and adorable when sick, runny nose and all. (Note:  The adorableness of her pretending to give me a hug and instead wiping her nose on my shirt wore thin quickly.)

Yesterday, I rose to the occasion, willing to cancel my plans and happy to cuddle and read stories to my feverish little pumpkin as she threw her used tissues on the floor from her perch on the sofa. Today, not so much. 

After a long wait in her pediatrician’s congested waiting room and a negative strep throat swab, Rhys was feeling better and wanted to play. I, on the other hand, wanted to get something accomplished. Anything. I needed a fix. A “check something off my list” fix, accomplishment being my addiction of choice most days. Thus the tub. Oh, and the popsicles. All you can eat. Each one bought me a few precious minutes … I’m not tellin’ how many!

Genius On Board

What did my daughter teach me today? From Rhys, age three, I learned the genius of demanding a butler, valet, cook and driver at your disposal 24/7. My self-sufficient daughter, who in pre-school happily washes her hands, hangs up her coat and puts away her toys without issue, prefers to employ a servant to complete these mundane tasks for her at home. Yes, I realized I’ve set up my employee status. Right now, I’m working up the courage to ask my adorable boss for a raise (or at least some extra vacation time)!