One of the things that plagued me as a human was this overwhelming sense of insecurity. I didn’t value myself and thought that everyone else had a rule book that I somehow missed while they were handing them out. *I was probably daydreaming about being a big star one day, which was usually the case. Others seem to know what society expected of them and there I was herpderping around just saying things like “Hi, I like your dress it looks old timey. Do you want to be friends?” I couldn’t navigate social norms well. *remember as a way to fit in I fashioned braces out of a paper clip. I didn’t know how to fit in and I wished that I understood what people expected of me. All I knew was that, whatever it was, I certainly was not doing it.
As a mother this insecurity doubled down and I was aware that I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to human, adulting was really hard and then Mothering was the hardest thing of all. I had a very hard time to keep clothes on my first child. She was always wearing some sort of shirt with no pants combo. She was basically Winnie-the-Pooh. I honestly was trying to keep her clothes on, she was an unwilling participant. When the time came for me to have to bring this child into the mainstream of society I thought I was ready. Sure she is naked half of the time but come on other kids do this too, right?
Her first day of preschool I was asked by one of the other moms *and apparent nanny poacher “How much do they pay you to be their nanny? You are great with the kids.” This question broke me. I was not believable as the mom. I was twenty five and could have passed for twelve. I was already young and I didn’t have the swagger of “They must think I’m too young to have children.” or “I have lost all the baby weight and that is why they think these are not mine.” I was devastated. My sister worked in the school and as I was leaving one of her students asked if I was her mom. **fuck you little bastard, If I’m a mom it’s to an adult in her twenties. Sure it was not being called the nanny, but I’m her younger sister. I was feeling both too old and too young all at the same time. How does this even happen?
One day I was talking to one of the mothers and she had all of her shit together, so naturally I wanted to be her. She was telling me about how to raise my children. I being young, naive and totally wanting to fit in, grabbed my pen and pad of paper to write it all down. *we didn’t have cell phones then. “You have to raise your daughters to be confident and your sons to be sensitive and you have to make sure they know who’s in charge.” I’m not even saying that these things are wrong, but she was just pointing out the wish list. She wasn’t tell me how to accomplish these things, mostly because she wasn’t trying to control my mothering, she was just talking as mom’s do. I, however, did not know this because I was desperate to do the right thing. I wanted my children to fit in better than I ever had.
Nothing made me question myself more than the time I was out grocery shopping with my child sitting in the grocery cart. My child asks to hold the yogurt. I am okay with her holding the cups of yogurt especially when we go through the checkouts. That way she won’t throw in six candy bars and twelve packs of Hubba Bubba. The way I shop is produce, deli, dry goods, meat, household items, health and beauty, frozen foods, dairy and breads. So yogurt is basically the last thing on my list. My child is holding it and then decides that she would prefer the kind with the fucking cows on it. She takes the yogurt and throws it out of the cart and the yogurt containers, that are not built for such force and action, totally splits open. The trajectory was a downward motion causing the contents of the container to follow basic physics to then splatter in an upward fashion all over the mother standing there trying to hold her shit together. Where’s my list? Am I teaching what I need to? Fucking lists!!!!
Now that I am older and wiser I can honestly say that the reason I could feel both too old and too young all in the same morning is because I didn’t have any grasp as to who I was. I was an empty canvas for everyone to paint. The only problem is that when you let everyone else paint your canvas it looks more like graffiti. And not the cool graffiti that actually looks like art, it is more like the kind of graffiti that you find in the gas station unisex bathroom. You know the kind that says things like “Jenny sucks balls for free” and under that it says “this is Jenny and it was a buy one get one deal. You have to pay for the first one still” There is always the Pam + Bob and then someone crosses out Bob and writes Ted and then someone crosses out Pam and writes George and then someone else writes Ted definitely likes women ask your mom.
That was me and my canvas for a very long time. This led to a very unhealthy way for me to see myself and the way I approached parenting. I was like “You will listen to me because I’m your mom!” and also me “Ice-cream for everyone who spells their name correctly on the brand new living room wall I’ve specifically told you not to write on.” The judgement of myself was so caustic that I just felt so inadequate and then I became inadequate. My rules as a parent were all emotional based and depending on the mood I was in. So in other words, inconsistent and incredibly confusing for my children.
When we moved to a new state I was liberated. I didn’t have to wear that old filthy bathroom graffiti canvas around. I gave it a fresh coat of paint. I started to paint my own picture of who I was. I was the mom that was going to listen to my children. I was going to set boundaries that were livable. I was going to learn with my children and remind them that I didn’t know everything but I would help them find the answers that they needed. I believed more in the journey of getting to know myself and my children. My children and I went on tremendous adventures together. We explored nature and we learned new things like how to ride a horse. I didn’t become wise like I thought was expected of me. I simply accepted myself as I was, and I tried to become the person that I wanted to be. Then I tried to teach that to my children. You don’t have to fit in, you can be a stand out as long as you accept yourself and others and be kind to all.
As a parent we think we have to know everything. We think that somehow we should be like everyone else, that apparently knows what they are doing. Here’s a little secret, we are all struggling. We are all doing our best. We are all standing there with a toddler who has dropped yogurt on the floor in the grocery store and it has splattered up the front of us. Guess what? You can still go to the checkout and pay for your groceries even if you are wearing yogurt. They still accept your money just the same. They still tell you to have a nice day. People are mostly concerned with themselves as long there is no real threat to another. They may laugh at the yogurt, because to be honest, it’s a little funny. Other than that, your day can go on as it was going to go on. You’re just going to have to change when you get home.
Moral of my story: Don’t be so hard on yourself, you have the capability to do this. Parenting is a tough job, but it is not an impossible job, and trust me you got this. Also, stop worrying about what everyone else thinks of you, it’s more important what you think of yourself. You get to repaint the canvas. Get rid of all those awful, hateful things other people wrote on your wall and rewrite your story. As the Nanny said to the little girl in The Help “You is kind, you is smart, you is important.” A little self-love goes a long way.
Until next time. 🙂