I’m Offended. Here’s Why You Should Care.

My birthday is coming up and the craziest thing has been happening: I’ve been telling people I’m turning a year older than I am actually turning. Either it’s the old age, or the fact that my husband just turned that age (he’s a year older than me). But I’ve been doing it.

The fact is: I was born in 1982, which makes me – what I like to call – a late stage millennial. I’m like an older millennial who can see some of the ridiculous shit us millennials are doing, all while doing it. And loving it.

Like avocado toast and blaming the financial problems we millennials face on the crippling behaviors of Baby Boomers. Or using mason jars for drink ware. Spending my time reading labels, and breastfeeding my kids well past two (and in public!).

There are also, though, a lot of millennial things I can’t get on board with.

Millennial men’s haircuts, I can’t stand. Right now my husband is sporting a hairstyle that makes him look less like a Nick-the-film-editor; and more like David, the wanna-be goth who wears black lipstick and works at my local Starbucks as a barista. (It’s awful, and sorry David – I hope you can forgive me.)

I also cannot do the whole MLM candles, essential oils, and workout programs thing. The thought of taking forty-five selfies of myself a day, and posting story after story on Instagram in which I just sit there and talk – all in an effort to sell something – is …undesirable to me. That isn’t to say there’s anything against people who do it (and in fact I find myself envious of the people that can take so many photos and videos of themselves while I have to take 537 shots before finding an angle that suits me).

It’s just not my jam.

The conflict I really have with myself as an older millennial is the being offended thing. It is so typical of me as a millennial to get offended by things to such the degree that I do. (And isn’t that just the mark of our era: to always find a reason to feel offense at something someone else said/did/posted?)

And yet… I completely get it (the being offended).

Yesterday someone’s post on Facebook so severely offended me that I told literally every person I talked to about it for the rest of the day.

Today I was at Target and found myself feeling offended no less than four times.

Then tonight I made the error of going online, and …well…

Basically, it happens a lot.

The thing is: if you spend any time scanning the comments sections of online, you’ll see that it is hot topic now to not only get offended by things, but also – on the flip side – call out anyone that takes anything personally. Honestly, it makes me a little sick (or maybe offended, how meta would that be?) to see how crass people can be about it.

I get it: some people have taken it way too far. Like over the edge of the cliff and halfway down the river in the ravine far.

But also, in other instances, I think a lot of people have missed the point.

Take today, for example. It’s April Fools day, and while there have been a myriad of dad jokes and corporate brands having a good time posting dumb shit on the Internet for us all to enjoy, there have also been some steadfast reminders going around about what is too far.

One of those things that goes beyond clever and turns into just, plain crass is the ever-predictable fake pregnancy announcement. What better way to fool your family and friends then by posting a faux memo for the entire world to see that you have a bun preparing itself to fly out your lady hole. Then on April 2nd you let the truth be known that your womb is, in fact, still childless, and everyone had a good laugh. Right?

No. Just no.

I guess if I’m in my 50s and everyone’s going through menopause, it has the potential to be silly. But I’m 36, almost 38 (scratch that, 37) and a fair number of people in my group of peers has lost a child, miscarried a pregnancy, or had a tremendously difficult time getting pregnant. And while those people may all have a sense of humor, I often wonder if for everyone that thinks it’s silly, there isn’t someone quietly hurting as a result of the insensitivity of the whole prank.

I’ve been saying this for years: fake a marriage, fake a gigantic Amazon delivery. One year we put candy melts on brussel sprouts and fooled my husband into thinking they were cake pops. Awesome!

But don’t fake a pregnancy.

The best equivalent I can think is going up to a friend whose Grandma died on March 31st, and saying “my grandma died – APRIL FOOLS SHE IS ALIVE!”

I’m not one to take life so seriously, but I know when the time for jokes is over and the time for compassion begins. It seems that others are starting to figure it out as well, because this time, I saw an article going around about this very topic: how not funny the April Fools pregnancy announcements can be to some people.

And as usual, the comments proved how awful humanity has become.

The comment that I read on one of the postings that stuck out the most for me summed up perfectly what is wrong with the our culture (or at least one of the things):

“When are people going to understand that it’s not my responsibility to worry about what everyone is offended by?”

Who the fuck said anything about being offended?

From there I got sucked down the comment hole, in which I read heinous reply after heinous reply, all from the likes of women named Candy and Monica, with big haired profile pictures and those stupid cause filters laid over the photographs, quite obviously meant to cover up their total and utter lack of humanity. Yeah you are really passionate about lupus, but don’t give a fuck about people’s feelings, Tiphani with a ‘ph.’

That’s when it hit me: it’s super cool to make fun of millennials for always being overly sensitive to people’s sensitivities; and yet a lot of the time, what we are talking about are actual matters of human compassion.

The same woman who says it’s not her responsibility to worry about what others feel (because that’s what that comment is saying) is the same person that will drive by a homeless veteran and call him a drunk. It’s a weak viewpoint, weakened mostly by narcissism.

This is where things get dicey. Because you don’t want to be one of those people who’s just up in arms about everything. But also, you need to be compassionate towards others: even if it doesn’t affect you. And it’s dicey only because there’s a fine line between the two, one that is incumbent on all of us to walk along carefully.

So I’m pretty offended, obviously, about this whole issue. April Fools. Fake pregnancy announcements. Being offended. People saying people are offended too easily. Millennials.

And you should care for the same reason I do: the world of Candys, Monicas, and Tiphanis lacks the thing that makes us who we are. Our humanity.

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The Best Way To Support Your Adult Kids That Are Parents, Is To Keep Your Mouth Shut

Over the years, I have learned one thing that I hope I remember when I am older and my kids are older and have kids of their own: to keep my mouth shut. Don’t foist my opinion on them about how or what they are doing as a parent. Don’t make comments under my breath in regards to their mom’ing or dad’ing decisions.

Just. Keep. It. Shut.

Even if I don’t agree with something they are doing, or feel it’s hurt me or attacked my own decisions when I was a parent…the reason why is because their choices as parents are theirs to reap and sow. And as a mother-turned-grandmother (God, I shudder at the thought) I am not on the inside of all the aspects of parenting THEIR kids during THEIR time (times change, Mom).

Now it’s one thing if they come to me and ask for an opinion or advice. But if they don’t, unsolicited advice or comments or, as they most often come across, criticisms, should be considered better left unsaid.

My father, who lives with us, is the worst with the under-the-breath comments. I am constantly having to tell him to stop, which he doesn’t. It’s insensitive and hurtful, but never a direct confrontation. So I’ll give him that.

It usually goes something like this:

Me: “Ava, today your chores say put away the dishes.”

Ava: [whines]

Dad: “I’ll help you baby…I’ll be right there, you just put away the silverware.”

Me: “Dad please don’t help her, you’re just making it more difficult for me to get her to do her chores.”

Dad: “I’ll help her if I want.”

Me: “Dad, please let me be the mother.”

Dad: [Slams something down on the counter and starts walking away] “Yeah, a real great mother.”

It’s pleasant.

The thing about *my* dad, though, is that I have enough years and not-give-a-shit enough with him to be able to just let that roll off my back. I mean it stings at first, and I’m sure a psychiatrist is somewhere out there just rubbing his hands together, waiting for me to crack and spend years in his office at $300 a pop, but for now we’ll stick with…I get over it.

But this highlights an issue I’ve noticed more in public, among other parent-friends, and with my husband’s family, to a greater degree than with my dad:

Sometimes, the biggest Mom Shamers (or, if you will, Parent Shamers) are our parents.

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Many of you read my social media shit show saga just yesterday. If you missed it, you surely missed out. In any event, as a follow up my husband called his mother yesterday morning, much to his dismay because she had no interest in 1) letting him talk 2) actually listening to what he had to say 3) doing anything other than screaming over and over again that she is a victim and 4)…

To. Shame. Us. As. Parents.

The backstory is as follows: a couple weeks ago, we secured a new home. A better home. A bigger home. A home with a yard.

We had previously been living in and caring for a family-owned condo, and we knew that there was a high probability that said family would be upset we were moving out. Not only because they wouldn’t have us taking care of the lemon of a place anymore, but because then they’d have to find someone else to get in there to pay the mortgage. Now we could have been wrong, but there’s always that risk with them…so we had to play it safe for our own mental health and decision-making ability.

We wanted to be able to make our decision about the new home without the the opinions of others. Yes, sometimes asking for advice is the best thing to do; but on this one, we wanted to do it ourselves. It’s hard to make the right choices for your family enough as is without the opinions of every Tom, Dick, and Susie squawking in your ear like pigeons.

So we didn’t say anything at first to them, until we had made our own choices.

What complicated the issue was that someone saw online that we had been looking at places, and my husband’s mom heard about it (because what kind of a family doesn’t gossip and talk shit about every. fucking. thing they come across?) and she flat out asked us if we were moving out of state. This is a sensitive issue for her because her other son, my husband’s brother, along with his wife and toddler just moved … out of state.

“No of course we aren’t moving out of state” was our resounding response. Because we weren’t. My husband works in film, that’s actually a stupid question to begin with. Unless he were to move on to work at Girls Gone Wild in New Orleans (um, he actually did apply there years back – they pay well I guess)…we are LA area for life. It’s just the way it is.

But we didn’t continue the conversation beyond that. We changed the subject, because we weren’t ready to talk about it. We hadn’t made our final-final decision on anything yet. And, honestly, the way she responds to any kind of change in other people’s lives is not usually the most positive.

Even just us making a decision for ourselves like “I’m having surgery that day, would you mind giving me one day to recover before coming to visit” turns into a hurtful barrage of comments and attitude, and …opinions and shaming.

As a side note: the kids were there when this whole moving-out-of-state-freak-out happened, and we had talked to them and told them we didn’t want them to lie to Grandma, but it’s really important that they let Dad talk to Grandpa about it privately once we’ve made our decision for sure. Because of the sensitivity of it.

You see, I believe that it’s really important to, yes, teach my kids honesty; but at the same time to teach them that there is a time and a place for everything. And, more importantly, that it’s important to set their own boundaries on what they do and do not share with people; and even more importantly than that to set boundaries on the influence others have on their own happiness.

THOSE are the life lessons that I think are important, especially in light of our daughter already being worried that Grandma and Grandpa would be mad we were moving out of the family-owned home. She didn’t want to move into the new house at first because of that. To me, as a parent, I have failed if my kids believe they should make their life’s decisions based on other people’s bullshit.

Flash forward to yesterday, my husband had this conversation with his mom about the social media shit show, and her main focus was to actually talk about how that conversation about not moving out of state (just being clear: we aren’t, we are moving 2 miles down the road) was an example of how she doesn’t agree with our parenting. She doesn’t think we should be teaching the kids to lie to her and keep secrets. That she should be able to extract whatever information she wants from them, and that by teaching them to have boundaries on how much they share and how much they let others have say in their lives and happiness is bad parenting. Bad parents raising liars and sneaky, sly people that do things behind people’s backs.

What was my initial reaction? To feel shame.

But then I felt the opposite of shame: pride. I felt pride because in her negative reaction, I realized that our decision in this with the kids was actually the right one. That she validated our decisions as parents with her behavior; and more importantly that we actually sometimes make good choices for our kids. I’m not teaching them to be liars. In fact, we are very emphatic with our kids about honesty. Rather, we are teaching them about healthy boundaries – something so few people have, and everyone needs.

Now before all of you are like “oh damn, I can’t believe she’s putting all this on blast on the Internet,” I just have to say: very few people in my husband’s life – from the beginning of it to the end – give a shit enough about me and what I have to say to read my blog. Let’s say none of them do. And, remember from yesterday, I lost (deleted and blocked) 31 friends on social media.

But really… I shouldn’t have to hide what’s right. If you don’t like people finding out about your bullshit, you should probably not pull the bullshit.

And, I’m a writer. The old adage is you shouldn’t ever say or do anything around a writer that you don’t want out in the open. I’m fairly certain that the only reason my husband actually loves me is because I call out all the shit he is too afraid to call out.

Moreover, there is absolutely nothing wrong with talking about what is going on in your life that is categorically, without a doubt wrong. It ain’t up for debate. What kind of people have we become that feel we have to hide everything about our lives and not speak up about what is right and wrong?

People that are ashamed, that’s what kind of people.

In the end: isn’t that where this whole parent shaming thing got going anyway? We aren’t only just shamed for doing whatever we do, we’re shamed for talking about it too. We’re shamed for talking about our decisions, we’re shamed for talking about how we came to our ideas as parents, and we’re shamed for feeling ashamed.

Lord help us.

The Worst/Best Part Of Having a Panic Disorder Is You Can’t Hide It Forever

I had a blow out panic attack in my doctor’s office today. He knew I had anxiety, but I don’t think to the extent that it is there. Likely because I’ve done an extremely good job of concealing it for a long time.

Or maybe he did know and was just taking it one step at a time. I don’t know, I’m not the doctor but I think it’s probably that because he walked in the office after the nurse had made me lie down, and the first thing out of his mouth was “HEATHER…WHY are you worrying so much right now?”

The thing is that very few people in my life know about just how bad my panic disorder is. In fact, very few people even know that I have one. My husband does, but even he didn’t grasp the full effect it has on me until today, when in the doctor’s office I was made to lie down on my left side until my blood pressure and heart rate went down, because both were THROUGH. THE. ROOF. as I sat in there hyperventilating, completely unaware of what was going on.

The first panic attack I can remember ever having was when I was 11 years old, visiting my grandparents at their new home near Yosemite. We were in the grocery store and suddenly I just had a terrifying feeling like I was in a dream and my heart was pounding. I had no idea what an anxiety attack or a panic disorder was at the time. And I just dealt with those types of situations over and over again, as the years went on, until I finally researched what was happening to me just 6 years ago.

So it started when I was 11, and I am now 34 and have only known what has been going on for 6 years now. I mean that I knew what was going on (that I was having a multitude of symptoms I could not explain), but I didn’t know why it was going on (that I have a panic disorder).

And since knowing why, I have done literally nothing legitimate to take care of it.

Why? Because when I started trying to figure out what to do, I was told by closer family and society in general that this should be kept “private” or that I should be ashamed of it. That. I. Should. Be. Ashamed. Of. A. Mental. Health. Issue. Completely. Beyond. My. Control.

And that I should just calm down.

Also, in a situation with family that gossip about each other’s personal and health issues TO NO END – where you can’t sneeze without everyone hearing and speculating about it – the need to keep things utterly secret so as to avoid all that unnecessary speculation was paramount. I don’t like it when people speculate about my personal life.

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Incidentally, I started writing my blog roughly 6 years ago too. Coincidence? I mean come on now. 6 years ago was when I also developed the coping mechanism of making fun of everything and joking my way through my unrelenting anxiety, which was getting worse and worse by the day.

But the jokes can only go so far, and of course people that think you should be ashamed of your uncontrollable panic disorder also like to shame you for just being yourself to try and cope with it. Suddenly the speculation turned to being that about my blog and I started to wish I could *just* write for bloggers and strangers, because whenever close family or friends read it I would get text messages and emails in response, as well as “unfriended” by many online.

Then only recently, I realized that to cope with the social spectrum of my panic disorder, I had made it a habit to just drink wine. I don’t mean – like – alcoholic status drank wine, but anyone that has ever known someone with an addiction knows, it often starts as a way to cope. Which is exactly what I was doing.

And I’m not going to lie – I love my wine. But if I were to be completely honest, as delicious as wine tastes, it gives me a headache and makes me feel like crap. And yet I still drank it as a social lubricant. Often.

Until I realized what I was doing, that is.

Now, it has been months since I drank wine. I don’t tell as many jokes anymore, because I never know who is going to read them or how they are going to respond; so basically I’ve stopped being *myself* in as many venues as I needed to to feel comfortable.

And I worry endlessly about everything.

I worry about money, as I talked about in my blog post yesterday.

I worry about the health and safety of my kids, and how one little thing will set off a chain reaction of other problems, many of which amount to more money worries. This is mostly because of a couple things that have happened in the last few years that should have been as simple as a bruised knee or a minor cold, but that got blown into huge, costly, and long-term problems.

I worry about what people think of me as I write blogs/homeschool my kids/parent in front of others/basically just live my life.

And I worry about my own health.

This is a new one for me, and it’s gotten out of control. Of course it doesn’t help that everyone around me acts as though I’m suddenly some fucking invalid because I have some allergy problems and had an asthma attack a couple months ago. Regularly, I go to the doctor and come back with a clean bill of health, and yet even just this last weekend my mother, as well as several other of my and my husband’s family members, made comments like “well you aren’t in very good health you know.” Um, OK…I’m not sure where you got that one, but…I guess I’ll go ahead and let your negativity work me up (which is exactly what I do).

I could go on…in a nutshell, I spend all my waking hours worrying.

So today, as I was lying in the doctor’s office, my heart pounding, trying to catch my breath, my blood pressure up to dangerous levels (I actually have low blood pressure, normally), a few very shocking things were presented to me. They shouldn’t have been shocking, but for someone who has been coping with a debilitating panic disorder for 23 years by basically pretending nothing is wrong, they were.

  1. I have a panic disorder and that is nothing to be ashamed of;
  2. I cannot hide my panic disorder forever;
  3. Ignoring, rationalizing, telling jokes, and drinking wine may be short-term solutions, but when those are gone the panic is still there. In fact, it’s worse;
  4. If people want to be negative and toxic to me about who I am – in whatever way they want to, be it giving me a hard time about a blog I wrote or a joke I told or the way I homeschool my kids; or speculating on my general health and happiness with others – I have every right, regardless of who those people are, to cut them out of my life permanently;
  5. It’s OK to say “NO” to people if it’s a situation I don’t feel safe in; and,
  6. If the doctor says to take the fucking Xanax, just take the fucking Xanax.

Yesterday I wrote a blog about people swimming in debt but being OK as long as they just pretend everything is fine. I think this is a lot like that, in fact maybe that’s really what I was trying to write about. I am literally swimming in this mire, or more like drowning but you guys get the point.

Now I can go on and pretend that everything is fine. Or I can deal with it head-on.

The only question, though, is how? That is where I am like a fish out of water – I have no idea truly where to begin. I do know that I want to feel like myself again. To start, I think it has to be found in my #2 realization today: I cannot hide my panic disorder forever. Perhaps the best way to start dealing with it is to stop concealing it.

My Child-Rearing Philosophy Is Simple.

Or is it?

I grapple with this myself on the regular.

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My philosophy as a parent in theory is really, and truly, very simple: don’t raise assholes. As I said, in theory this is easy. Raise good people. People that are kind. That care for others. That experience empathy. That know how to set healthy boundaries. That practice mindfulness. And so on…

Do all this by example. All of it. Let me be clear: ALL. OF. IT. You are not going to raise empathetic and kind people if you, yourself, are not empathetic and kind. You are not going to teach your kids about healthy boundaries and taking care of themselves if you, yourself, let people walk all over you, and let it affect your own physical and mental well-being.

But there is one area in not raising little terrorist assholes, who one day grow up to be the likes of Donald Trump or Ann Coulter – willing to stomp on anyone to get ahead, drop anything and anyone for the next best thing, all while spewing hateful words every single time they open their mouths…

…it’s in not letting other people raise assholes of your children either.

Without going into too many specifics, we are surrounded by a lot of people in our daily lives who have otherwise undesirable characteristics. Is that a nice enough way to say it? just-a-friendly-reminder-that-getting-shit-faced-is-not-always-the-key-to-having-a-good-time-5e363My husband and I are just very far on the opposite end of the spectrum from a lot of people we regularly encounter in that regard. We have high standards for the way we treat people, and as a result expect to be treated the same. We do not believe in getting shit-faced in front of the children, and we don’t have anything to do with gossip even when it’s just being spoken in our presence. Above all, we believe in being kind, understanding, honest, empathetic of other people’s feelings, and trustworthy.

Not everyone agrees with us on these things, though. Look, not everyone agrees on the way to live their lives. And, people have different priorities.

At some point, though, my husband and I started to realize the profound effect being associated so regularly with people who do not share our values (again, a nice enough way of saying it? …you never know who is reading this blog…) – how much those people were affecting our ability to raise good kids.

We have a couple of people (again, the vaguery) that constantly promise things and then drop said promise for something better that comes up. Now I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes things come up – you get sick, your car breaks down… Sometimes it’s something innocuous – like we kind of-sort of have standing weekly plans together, but something came up one weekend and the kids got disappointed but the plans were never really set in stone so… But then other times, like in the most recent event, it’s “yes I will be at your tennis tournament that weekend” and then the very next day decided instead to go with friends and family to a casino to drink, gamble, and waterski.

Um…shitty…

We are very fortunate that this hasn’t – yet – taught our kids that it’s OK to make a commitment only to drop it if something better comes along. But what left me with a chill down my spine that I could just not shake this afternoon was when my daughter said “you know, I guess from now on I’ll just tell them I’ll do things with them only to cancel for something better too.”

My parenting philosophy to not raise assholes seemed so easy. Just be good, show them what it means to be good – even when it feels like a slow, agonizing death inside to do so (like not saying nasty things about other people in front of them); and it’ll all turn out well, right? Wrong. The impact of others, though -especially as they get older – seems to have more and more of a profound effect on them.

And now raising kids gets hard again.

It sounds like just a petty reaction, do unto others so if they flake on me for something better, I’ll do the same. Won’t become a long term habit, right? Feet, meet slippery slope – suddenly in front of my eyes flashed a day when my kids thought it was legitimately acceptable to tell someone that you’ll do something only to flake because someone asks you to go gambling and drinking, or water skiing, or whatever it is you were asked to do that seemed more fun.

I mean…that’s what other people do. It must be OK.

So now my husband and I are tasked with figuring out the next phase. The next phase of not raising assholes, which not only involves showing by our own examples, but making sure that the examples they are shown by others are in line with our own values as well.

Talking about how others act in a way that is undesirable is clearly not enough. So then how do you even go about surrounding yourself by the people you want your kids to grow up to be?

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My Maternal Instinct Has No Kill Switch

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My mother used to tell me that “they say once you have kids, your maternal instinct never goes away.” I suppose this could help to explain why a lot of mothers experience that Empty Nest Syndrome after their kids grow up and move away from home, or why many women mother their husbands. But then there’s the problem that anything starting with “they say” is usually reducible to nothing but a pop and cocky Old Wive’s Tale. So when my mother told me this (and especially because we are talking about my mother here), I pretty well dismissed it.

Over the years I wondered if I should have taken it more seriously, though. Since the abrupt appearance of children in my life, I have learned that this Old Wive’s Tale may actually (against my very rational and empirical judgment) be the truest thing there is about being a mother. About human relationships on the whole.

My wonder started slowly. At first, I just worried a lot. About a lot of things. Things I never would have worried about before were suddenly a natural thing for me to be concerned about – like whether or not it’s safe to let a child walk down to the mailbox on her own, or what kind of plastic the drinking cups I’m buying are made of.

Then the feelings started. Some things didn’t feel right. Or – on the flip side – sometimes it felt like there was no other way. Suddenly I would know if something was wrong, even when no one was home. Twenty minutes later everyone would come clamoring in the house complaining – someone fell, a bruise, a scrape, can I please apply seventy-five Minnie Mouse Bandaids to make it better?

Around the second or third time this happened, I began to accept the irreversible bond between children and their mother (the woman who cares for them); the bond that has little to do with blood relation and everything to do with the metaphysical and spiritual connection that absolutely no one and nothing but each other can break.

I’ve blogged recently that my ten year old was being required to have a try-out visit with her biological father. She used to see him infrequently even though he lived close by, every other weekend when it was at its most. Then he moved to Houston – suddenly expecting to have tons of vacations per year where she would be uprooted from our home and taken to stay with him and his wife. Eat three square meals of Taco Bell a day. Get eaten by scorpions. Shoot guns. And so on.

Quite obviously these were unrealistic expectations, especially given the history of the situation and the precocious and sensitive nature of my ten year old. Rapidly his behavior became harassing and obsessive, though. Suddenly I was a terrible person who forced him to move away, of his own free will; and I was robbing him the rights God bestowed on him because he had no idea how to properly function a rubber, lo those many years ago.

That was too far, wasn’t it?

Needless to say, it stressed us all out, and my little Pookie – with the most delicate and fragile heart – broke into a million pieces at the thought of having to communicate with him regularly, and be taken from her home to a place she did not wish to go. Thousands of dollars were socked into therapy to help her get through the try-out visit, and right at the moment when she started to get better – to forget about him and the fact that she had to take the trip – she had her required birthday Skype with him. As the Skype came to a close, he finished with “OK, see you in a month” and she fell apart all over again.

Now that month – the most difficult month – has passed. We are there, in Texas. In Houston, having arrived roughly four hours before we scheduled to have him come pick her up from the hotel room. He didn’t show up, though. He sent his wife. The interaction was awkward, and immediately sent up a red flag that after all this time he could not even be bothered to come pick up my delicate, little angel himself. Nonetheless, I packed up her things and walked them to the elevator, where I said goodbye, reminded her where her cellphone was and to take her allergy pills every day; and as the elevator door closed she shouted “Mommy!” only for the door to close and whisk them to the parking garage.

Since she shouted that single word – “Mommy!” – I have tried to ignore the feeling that something terrible is happening. Surely they cannot be that stupid and ignorant – he and his wife. They are neglectful, manipulative, emotionally abusive, unrealistic about parenting, unhealthy, and flagrantly stupid – but even the worst of the worst people can keep a child alive and in one piece for 10 days. Right? RIGHT?!

They say once you have kids, your maternal instinct never goes away. 

This thing – this instinct that there is something wrong – has no kill switch, and so each moment that passes I am paralyzed by these fears that continue to creep slowly over me like spiders over a fly stuck in a web, threatening to consume me. I cannot just shut them off: these feelings that there is something wrong and that I need to get to her, all-the-while feeling as though I cannot because I have no real excuse to other than a feeling that will not go away.

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Can We Just All Agree To Abolish The Term ‘Tween’ Already?

Tween

Sometimes I get the impression that my friends that are moms are not really my mom friends. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but people I have known and called friends for years don’t seem to really identify with me as a mother. We don’t really talk about our kids with each other. And I’m not entirely sure we see eye to eye on a lot of stuff.

Maybe it’s because many of them are just starting to have kids and I’m an old pro at this point.

Maybe it’s because I talk about things other than my baby’s shitty diapers or my kid’s constant wetting of the bed. Sometimes I talk about books I’ve read or movies I’ve seen; or even articles I’ve written.

Maybe it’s because I’m an asshole.

I’d bet money it’s the latter. Whatever the case may be, as some of their kids grow older; and as my interactions with the world go beyond people I have known forever into the realm of mom bloggers and others in book clubs and different community groups I am a part of, I’m crossing people with older kids and different experiences that are using a word so glaringly annoying I just want to talk about it and make a motion that we abolish it.

It isn’t just that it’s annoying and inspires panic within me, either. It’s that it sounds stupid, obsessive, and even a little pedantic.

I’m talking about the term used to describe a child ages 10 – 12. I’m talking about the term ‘tween.’

Supposedly, the term is meant to describe a child that is sort of in the in-between. Getting ready to go through puberty; but still playing with Barbies and LEGOs. Not yet a teenager, but starting to act like one. Overemotional, slamming doors, and already using the word ‘like’ way more often than necessary; and yet still snuggling at night before bed.

It’s a confusing time, no doubt. I myself remember the complexities of being 10, 11, and 12. I remember still playing with Barbies and dolls. I remember continuing to play dress up with friends, and I also remember slamming the door emotionally on more than one occasion. Your feet start to get bigger, little boys’ voices start changing. It’s all starting to happen. And it sucks. It’s as if these people – the proponents of the term ‘tween’ – have forgotten how already upsetting childhood and change can be, without having a label attached to it. Have we not already learned our lesson about labeling our children?

As innocent or cute as it may seem, I feel that it’s degrading and embarrassing. Tween. It sounds vaguely familiar to teeny or weeny, and quite frankly a lot of the kids that I hear described as tweens look to fit both of those descriptions. I can just picture a mother calling her son a tween loudly as she drops him off for school only for him to get beaten up by a bully over the fact that his mother just highlighted his emotional insecurities and pending, already humiliating, puberty for the entire world.

Not only that, but nine times out of the ten a day that I hear or read people refer to their children as these teeny-weeny in-betweens, it’s actually meant to talk about themselves. And with Elizabeth’s 10th birthday, suddenly I have a tween! Where did the time go – oh she’s a tween, next a teen then college! OMG someone poor me a martini I have a tween, oh dear God I’m getting old!!!

Just as your child is not an extension or accomplishment of you, but rather an individual in and of him or herself; your child’s pending puberty and teenage years are not, and never will be, a statement about you or your age.

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – I think this incessant labeling of our kids who still just want to be … wait for it … CHILDREN … as ‘tweens’ is just another example of how we are forcing our kids to grow up way quicker than they should. It’s obsessive to place a label on a period of time that is no more different than the two or three years that preceded it. It’s pedantic to be so technical and have to place a name to imply or inform the world that boobs are about to sprout and little balls are about to drop. I have a ten year old and she is no more ready to be a ‘tween’ or a teenager than she was when she was six. She still plays with Barbies, watches Berenstain Bears, snuggles at night, calls me Mommy and thinks boys are gross. When a family member told me he thought she had a crush on a family friend I laughed and said “what, because she’s polite?” – and this was not out of denial, but rather an absolute knowledge of my daughter that makes me confident in the fact that she still doesn’t give boys the time of day, and that’s completely OK because there is absolutely no reason for her to. She doesn’t have a Smartphone or an email address or her own iPad or a Facebook profile – and she will not be receiving any of those any time in the foreseeable future. And there is nothing wrong with any of that. By contrast, what I do think is wrong is to encourage our kids to grow way too fast and embrace these ‘tweeny’-‘teeny’-‘adulty’ things and situations that children should be in no rush to embrace.

What I hope my friends that are moms, and mom friends (if I have any, which I don’t think I do), consider is the enormous impact something as dumb as a title like ‘tween’ can have. And, that rather than teaching our kids to label and to grow up so quickly, and to feel more awkward than they already do – we teach them to stop giving a shit about all of this and to just feel comfortable being who they are, changing as they do naturally, and feeling absolutely no shame for any of it.

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Today, I Wave My Surrender Flag

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We all have these days. Days that are so insurmountably horrible that it’s all we can do to curl up in our pajamas, head buried under the covers – hoping and praying that tomorrow will be even the slightest bit better.

If only one thing goes right tomorrow, I may survive.

It’s really rough being a parent sometimes. Most times. Everyone thinks that after the baby stages, things get easier – the sleeping normalizes; the feeding is regular and doesn’t always result in projective spit up all over your nice, new cashmere sweater. Suddenly being a parent is as simple as walking down the street to get the mail. Right?

Please say that’s right.

Unless there are a series of land mines and snipers between you and your mail box, I would argue that there is nothing more wrong to assume. Parenting post-baby years is still a war zone. Some days, I would argue it gets even more difficult as time goes on. Or, perhaps, things stay equally as difficult, the challenges just change. Infant sleeping patterns are replaced with school dramas; projectile spitting up is suddenly found in the form of a child that cannot – no matter what you do, and how old they grow – stop wetting the bed at night.

As parents, it is our job to navigate these challenges, carefully. To pay attention to them and to do everything within our limited humanity to develop superpowers and avoid difficulties for our children, at all cost. Lest temporary problems become lifelong debilitations.

For years, now, I have known – in the deepest, darkest depths of my soul – just how challenging motherhood can be at times. Of course it is all worth it. Of course there is – nine times out of ten – more good than bad, as the drum of days continues to beat on. But I have known. I have felt it: the simultaneous beating of the struggles and the pain and the hardships.

But either as a result of internal feelings of inadequacy, or external pressures from society and others mothers who just seem to do it so well, we bury the feelings of the battle cry that motherhood is, in fact, a war zone in which only the most astute and resilient survive.

To say the last few months in our home have been difficult is an understatement. Each day has brought a new set of challenges, a new series of emotional hardships that I find myself more and more incapable of understanding. It started with a move – of my ten year old’s biological father, halfway across the country, and out of our daily lives. Without going into all of the complexities involved in her relationship with him, I will say that we rejoiced; but only after she rejoiced. Which she did, even more than I ever could have imagined she would. Life was going to be normal, finally. She wouldn’t have to sit at his house every other weekend anymore, miserable and crying and fed donuts and Twinkies; returned sick and depressed. She could do sports like other kids, and love my husband as the father she always wanted him to be. And never have to worry again that after a weekend of “visiting,” her biological father would suddenly decide to not return her to Mommy and Daddy.

Within a week of his exit, though, suddenly we were reminded (by him) that life would not really be normal. With his move came a new set of obligations, most notably: a ten day trip at springtime or Christmas time (depending on the year), and a whopping five weeks in the summer. My daughter’s separation anxiety from me grew to heights it had never been before; suddenly she was depressed and had days where she was all-but-functional.

From there, life began to fall apart.

Most days suddenly had the potential to include some form of stomachache, crying, pouting, distraction, hyperventilating, fighting, and insomnia – if even the thought of her upcoming trips cropped up in her precocious, ten year old mind. And up until now, I have been fairly successful in squashing these down before they got out of control. On some days, before they even had a chance to occur. Life really was going to be normal, even if it cost me everything. And every, waking minute of my time was spent trying to be a superhero with my own human limitations – a superhero whose one and only strength is to prevent all the bad from entering her heart.

Now that we are within four weeks of the first trip, though, the war zone is more toxic; the tension can be cut with a knife; and on today I was slapped with the unfortunate fact that I am not a superhero, I am only a mom. And a flawed one, at that. No matter what I do, some days it really is not enough.

It will never be enough.

Under the covers, my head buried – I am hoping and praying that tomorrow will be a little easier. That it will have a little less crying; less hyperventilating. That my newfound understanding that I am not a superhero, and that I cannot prevent all of the bad feelings from rushing through the floodgates of my ten year old daughter who wants nothing more than to be a normal kid.

Today, I wave my surrender flag after the guerrilla warfare of motherhood has beaten me down in ways I never – not in a million years – thought being a mother would do. Hopefully tomorrow just one thing goes right. And maybe it will be that my surrender and retreat gives us all the strength to make that happen.