When Landry was three she pointed to her veins and asked me what those blues lines were on her body. I lost my mind for a brief nano-second and told her it was the blood in her body. She proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes wailing and crying as she insisted we plaster band-aid’s over every inch of her body. We went through an entire Sam’s Club box of band-aid’s over the next week as she would sporadically remember the blood and begin to weep and wail again.
Unfortunately, band-aids don’t fix crazy.
I love motherhood, but the transition from not being a parent to actually being a parent is similar to spending years laying on the couch for years and then deciding to run a marathon that same day. On one leg. With a stab wound to the kidney.
Maybe that’s why people that get married later in life decide not to have children. They have enough experience to question whether or not they are capable or willing to tackle the life encompassing marathon of raising a child. It’s the arrogance of your 20s that allow you to boldly decide that you are able to raise a fully functioning adult while you can’t pay your light bill and are still on your parents insurance.
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.
wing itI miss the arrogance of my 20s because I’m nearly 40 and I know a laundry list of ways I could mess these kids up for life. I haven’t read any parenting books entitled, “Your Kid will be Amazing with your ‘Winging-It’ Parenting Style.” If I had to make that initial leap into parenthood with the knowledge I have now, I’d have still jumped into it, but I would have been filled with a lot more fear.
That first step into parenthood is a round of Tsunamis’s hitting you over and over. Your job, marriage, body (oh God, your body!), your sleep, home, your love of your dog, your appreciation for your own parents, your car, clothes, your hopes and dreams all change in an instant. These changes, while epic, are at least talked about or written down in several books. You will not be ready for these changes, but you will at least know they are coming.
I read every book available. I took an actual 30 minute class, provided by the hospital ,on how to change a diaper. I paid $50 for someone to show me how to change a diaper and was tragically grateful for every second of that class.
ParentingEarlyKnowledge of a situation does not mean preparedness for a situation. I had to hunker down in survival mode longer than most women. I’ve been caught in an endless riptide. Some women pop right out of the hospital bed and don’t seem to miss a beat. Here is a high five from me on one hand and me flipping you the bird with my other. I feel both emotions equally for you.
My first born is almost 11 years old, my youngest is a hair shy of 5 years old and I am just now finally feeling like I can take a deep breath and take a good look around me.
I’ve taken that deep breath and the view from here is terrifying.
Every single time a woman with older children would tell me that this early stage of parenting with no sleep, endless vomit poop and pee everywhere, random weeks of sickness that you are not prepared to handle without a $200 pediatrician visit, finding a place to breastfeed your wailing child in public, never being able to sit down and relax, ongoing potential marriage crisis from lack of attention, giving up your entire life in ways you never expected, and very few glimpses of freedom was the easy stage; I wanted to punch her in the face until she had snot and pee on her own clothes. Every. Single. Time.
Now that I’m caught up on my sleep and everyone in the house (excluding the geriatric dog) is able to take care of their own bathroom issues I’m glad I didn’t punch any of those women in the face.
Now I’d like to have them on speed dial and clutch them to me for comfort.
I’m supposed to raise three children to be fully functional, God loving, happy, well-adjusted, contributing members of society. Me? Oh sweet Lord, what I have I done to these poor innocent children?
I have this vague image of God gathering my children to his breast one by one pointing down at me from Heaven. I imagine him telling their little souls all about me and asking them if they are willing to take on the burden of being my child in this journey through life before they come back to him. Then they strap on their warrior attitudes to begin the battle that is surviving childhood with me as a parent.
For those of you about to do battle, we salute you!
Not unexpectedly, I’m a talker. I don’t bottle things up inside, I like to talk things out when faced with a problem. Let’s get it all out on the table and brainstorm. If brainstorming means meeting your girlfriends on a patio of a restaurant and discussing children while you nosh on nachos and down a Korona, all the better.
It was the blind leading the blind.
Circled around the patio table were 6 very educated women. We all brought different range of experiences, different world views, various motives that drive us, all ages and both sexes of children, and just one religion amongst us.
We couldn’t agree on one damn thing. Not one. It wasn’t even the small details we were debating, we couldn’t agree on basic themes or general life goals we shared for our children. The only consistency seems to be that we all have a plan that our children choose to only follow loosely and some of them don’t follow the plan at all. The stinkers!! Our big notions and plans turn into hastily prepared band-aids slapped onto the craziness that is raising children.
No one has the answer because there is no simple answer. We are all winging it.
I left that girls night mortally offended by one of my dear friends. She didn’t just disagree with me, she told me my entire life goal was flat out wrong. My back was up, my feathers ruffled and when I came home I slammed my keys on the table dramatically and muttured to myself in self-righteousness as I got ready for bed.
I had stated that I really just wanted my children to be happy.
Happy2My friend turned to me and told me that wanting my children to be happy is not an appropriate life goal. What?! The hell you say! That’s the moment my muttering started and the slamming of keys commenced. But as with most disagreements, our opposing views were based in a large part to miscommunication.
My friend is completely justified when you take the initial definition of happy. When you define happy as being delighted over a particular thing, you can see how that could not possibly translate into a reasonable life goal. You would be constantly giving up relationships, responsibilities, and anything tangible if you are constantly seeking that elusive and bright and shiny moment that might be around the corner. Something that could disappear in a moment. That would be wishing my child a life of no substance, no depth, nothing real.
So in that sense, she was correct.
happyBut just like Shrek’s onion, happiness has layers. I wish my children a life filled with a happiness that is defined by contentment and joy.
Happy is not the same thing as funny. It can be part of it, but it isn’t the entire picture. Seeing humor in a situation isn’t the entire picture or we wouldn’t have comedians committing suicide right and left. You might even argue that comedians have a higher percentage of depression, addictions, suicides than other famous personalities.
Being happy is also not the same thing as being an optimist. In high school, I won the Rotary Optimist award. I went to a fancy luncheon and received a plaque. But being able to see the bright side of life and choosing to see it are two different things.
Make no mistake, happiness is certainly a choice you have to make. You have to make it deliberately and move toward it with purpose and intent until it becomes a habit or a reflex.
I had a moment in college when the elusive concept of happiness became crystal clear.
I changed my major quite a few times in college so I had an entire second round of roommates after my first set graduated in the typical 4 year span. I had been working at a radio station and my humor had been turning more often to a sarcastic, witty yet tinged with mean tone the DJ’s worked like a charm over the airwaves. Think talk-back to your parents in a Disney Jr. teenage sitcom mindset.
One of my new roommates was Beth Coffey. I had known Beth for years in a very vague sense. Our schools competed over various sports and academic activities so while she wasn’t a stranger, I didn’t know her.
happy3Beth had a zest for the ‘now‘ that can not be faked or duplicated. Beth wasn’t just happy, she would make the bad epically good. Beth could take a situation that most people would drown in despair over and make it into an envious experience. She didn’t simply turn burdens into blessings, she made them into experiences people would seek out. It’s one thing for people to envy your successes. It’s an entirely different ballgame to have people envy your failures.
She didn’t have rose colored glasses, her glasses were crystal dipped in gold colored in neon with rainbow sparklers shooting out the side.
The first time I truly started to realize this was a quality I would fight to emulate, we had rejoined a large group after being separated for a long lunch. It had been a lovely lunch but when I heard it described by Beth, I literally paused to make sure she was talking about the same lunch I had just shared with her. She didn’t lie, she wasn’t faking her enthusiasm, she wasn’t intending to compete with others, and she didn’t even exaggerate. She just viewed it through her very happy outlook on life.
I’m not saying she is perfect or never got upset or angry or mean. But you could tell she made a choice each and every day to be happy and to see the best in every situation. None of that snarky, judgmental humor at someones else’s expense for her.
unicornPeople were drawn to her in droves. Droves. If I had to choose between an exciting outing and spending the evening cooking out on the patio with Beth, I would choose to be with Beth. Every. Single. Time. I wasn’t alone in this choice, I would see people make that choice the entire time I lived with her. It was a phenomenon. When you look at life through the lens of true happiness, it doesn’t matter what you are doing. It doesn’t matter because you are grateful and content and find joy in the moment.
Snarky and witty just doesn’t hold a candle to happy.
trainI had been funny. I had been an optimist. But I hadn’t made the decision to see the best in every situation, to find contentment and joy for no reason every single day. After meeting Beth I made that choice. Some days I’m more successful than others but, I have spent every day since meeting Beth waking up and choosing to see the best in each day and to find joy in the moment, blessings in my burdens.
It changed my life for the better.
My life has not gone according to plan and I imagine my children’s won’t either. So I’m winging it. I’m winging it and my goal for my children is for them to be happy. For them to find joy in the mundane, blessings in their burdens and gratefulness each and every day. Happiness combined with some real world pragmatism and a never ceasing work ethic and they will be unstoppable.
Because band-aids can’t fix the crazy, but happiness can.