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.

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Yes, I Judged A Kid Today. I’ll Do It Again Tomorrow.

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I am a believer in a lot of things. They range from really stupid things, like what color nail polish is appropriate to wear to a funeral (the answer is: clear); to very big and grandiose things, like whether or not God exists. If I learned one thing in graduate school, it’s that we  all have to have beliefs. It’s essential to our success as functional and happy human beings.

On the bigger side of things, I believe in love, compassion, and understanding. I believe in a universal “right” and “wrong.” I believe in not judging a book by its cover, most of the time. And I believe in boundaries.

I would go as far to say that I’m a big believer in boundaries; in fact, I believe so much in my belief in boundaries that I place boundaries on my beliefs.

I talk a lot on this blog about being understanding and compassionate towards others, especially parents. I want to understand that friends put their newborns in front of the television – knowing that TV is bad for developing infant brains – for a reason that is understandable and explainable. I bite my tongue often when I hear of friends birthing at home, rather than in the safety and security of a hospital or hospital-affiliated birthing center. I struggle to not judge other mothers, or other women or men even, for the choices they make: to work instead of attend a child’s school play; to bottle-feed over breastfeed; to serve McDonald’s night after night instead of healthier, at-home options. I try very hard to not look at a situation and say “what a shitty parent” over anything, even the most horrifying offenses (i.e. drug use, alcoholism, listening to Pitchfork) – I am not living in that person’s shoes and have no idea what they may or may not be going through. As with many parents in particular, my first instinct is to judge; my second instinct is to put that judge-y shit in check and act with love and compassion.

But then there are instances such as today, when I placed a boundary on my beliefs in compassion and decided to let the judgment out.

Yes, I judged a kid today. I’ll do it again tomorrow.

Last night I was bored and couldn’t sleep, so went through the typical humor sites to keep my wandering mind occupied, since my Kindle was dead so my book was unaccessible. A couple of pages into the most recent EpicFail.com posts and I came across this: a photo titled “Respect Fail” of a kid flipping off his teacher.

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My first mistake in putting boundaries on my compassion and making my judgment was to post it on my personal Facebook page and call the kid a dickhole. Let’s be clear: this kid is a fucking asshole. I don’t care what the circumstance was for him to do this – it was wrong. There is a line of right and wrong, and this crossed it so far into the territory of wrong, there is not a single fucking excuse on this planet that could even set it on the fence.

But posting that brought out the Mama Bears and the Papa Bears, very likely defensive about their own choices to parent in a way that would excuse this behavior of their own children for reasons they believe to be valid. It brought out the non-conformists who want to understand and fuck the man and be punk rock parents that are all about ending the corruption of authority, all that other happy horse shit that could otherwise be described as an unrealistic view of what it is to help our children enter the world well-adjusted.

Then it turned to being about how I’m a hypocrite and I live in a shitty town in California where people repress children’s feelings and create psychopaths that don’t know how to stand up to authority. My yoga pants were mentioned no less than five times (whateverthefuck that has to do with anything). Someone said “shame on you” because I obviously have no idea what some kids have been through – maybe that kid just lost a parent and is a total douche now because he’s really hurting!

All of the debate and the very sad statements aside, there is one thing I want to address, and one thing only:

Yes, I judged a kid today.

I judged that kid because regardless of whatever is going on in his life, he is a symptom of the bigger problem of our culture. Our excuse-making, back-patting, nobody-fails, everyone gets an award for participating, blame the teachers, scream at authority, fuck the man, it’s everybody else’s fault but my own – culture. A culture where people don’t want to call things as they are, and pussy-foot around it in the name of being nice and understanding.

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When I was ten years old, my mom abandoned my father and I to move across the country with a guy who was still married (and subsequently went back with his wife a few years later). No one let me get away with bullshit like this because of that. If I spoke to my dad disrespectfully, I got grounded. If I got bad grades, I didn’t get to go to pool parties in the summer.

When I was in middle school and high school, kids did stuff like this all the time, for no reason other than that they were disrespectful pricks who needed a lesson in respect. They got in trouble for it. I remember my friends’ moms grounding them for ditching school; I can think of countless times that people were yelled at by their parents, rather than their parents yelling at their teachers. I remember a boyfriend’s mom calling him a jerk…she said “you’re really becoming a jerk, you know that?” Maybe it was right, maybe it was wrong for her to name call him. But you know what? He was being a jerk. A big one.

But today I say what anyone would have said years ago – that this kid is a dick and needs to learn respect, effective dissent, and appropriate conduct towards authority, and everyone loses their fucking minds. People are taking it personally – attacks on them, attacks on their kids. Just another sign that I am a mean, heartless person who should not even be allowed near children with a ten foot poll.

In the end, I think this all boils down to something bigger than all of us; something that all of our free-loving hippy shit about being compassionate and loving and understanding does not apply. It’s about bullying, it’s about respect, it’s about authority, it’s about responsibility. First and foremost, it’s about us. We – as parents and adults, leaving our children a world much different than it was forty or fifty years ago – owe it to our children, to the little dickwad in that picture, to stand up and say this behavior is wrong. To say that maybe our behavior that allows it or contributes to it, or maybe even models it, is wrong. To look at other things that happen – kids destroying grocery stores; toddlers being allowed to crawl all over million dollar art installations at museums – and consider just when the fuck children became the masters and commanders of society. To admit our flaws and move forward together to make better people who would never – not in a million years, no matter how awful the teacher may be – think about flipping off a teacher while friends laugh and take photos of it with their camera phones. To give our children the tools of respect for others and themselves, and the resources to effective and healthy dissent and expression of their feelings.

Maybe I’m just as bad, because I’m calling this poor innocent child names. Maybe I’m the asshole for not understanding the context-less nature of the photograph. Yes, I judged a kid today.

For this, I’ll do it again tomorrow.

Even B(itch)es Need Breaks

… now before you all get your party hats on and begin celebrating at the thought of me taking a break from B(itch)logging, think again. I’m not talking about a break from writing on my most spectacular blog of misanthrope and ridiculous encounters. I’m talking about a break from life.

That’s right, this b(itch) needs a vacation.

“But your life is a vacation, isn’t it Heather?” is what I am sure some of you are asking. I assure you it is not. Sure, I sleep until about 9 every day and have cocktail time around 3, but a cakewalk my life most certainly is not. Homeschooling and managing a household with a husband that is gone at work for a minimum of 12 – 16 hours every day (plus often on weekends) is tough work. Not to mention trying to write a book in the process of it all, I’ve been racing towards burn out for some time now.

Now I’m going on vacation for three weeks in just under two months, but at the rate we’re going right now I won’t even make it to that point. I’m not trying to pretend like my life is more difficult than others – I know in some ways I have advantages in ways others do not. But this does not mean that I am blind to seeing the results of burning the candle at both ends either. This past week I’ve been sick with a sinus infection and finally my Ear, Nose, Throat doctor has broken the bad news that it’s time to seriously consider sinus surgery. For years he has threatened me with this and only this time he has outlined to me how much worse my sinus and allergy problem has gotten in the last year or two.

I really don’t want to have surgery. I’ve had other operations in my life and they are absolutely miserable. So I’ve decided to go another route: I’m taking a break in hopes that a little R&R will clear my head (and my nose).

Of course things will fall apart if I just ignore everyone and everything, so I’m setting up some perimeters right now. I’ve also planned this entire week to prepare everything for me to take such a “vacation from life.” That means spring cleaning, purging our house of old things we no longer need, stocking up on bulk food items that we only purchase a few times a year, planning homeschooling for the remainder of spring, getting everything ready for the actual three week vacation that’s swiftly approaching, as well as a host of other things – all are happening this week. Getting all of that done is not what I’m worried about, though; what I’m worried about is sticking to my guidelines.

So here they are and I’m counting on you, my faithful blog followers, to hold me to them.

B(itch)’s Vacation From Life Rule Number One: the vacation will last through and including April 15th.

This is my 30th birthday. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m not taking the turn very well. It isn’t that I feel old per se, it’s that I used to hold 30 up as the year I wanted this laundry list of life’s achievements to be completed by. Even my short list revision that I made a few months ago probably won’t be finished in its entirety though. So why even bother – I’m vacationing until I’m 30 and it’s going to be the most relaxing remainder of “the 20s” that anyone’s ever had.

B(itch)’s Vacation From Life Rule Number Two: I will not tolerate people making me feel defensive about taking my vacation.

I’m starting to get a little sick and tired of people making me feel like I have to defend my lifestyle. One great example: we have a cleaning lady come once a month to do the real tough stuff. We have a family full of allergies and so it really is the best thing for us to do to make sure we’re as sanitary as we can be – and that lady cleans in ways I never could. In addition to that, one of those surgeries I mentioned above was a spinal fusion when I was only 15. That’s right, the B(itch) is robotic – I have stainless steel rods fused to my spine that corrected my scoliosis, and while I do a lot of physical work around the house, there is only so much I can do before my back starts causing problems.

But having the cleaning lady doesn’t mean I never clean, though. I live with total slobs – I’m constantly cleaning up after them, as well as cooking and doing all their laundry. And the old “I’ll do the cooking, you do the dishes” never really seems to have caught on quite as it was supposed to. Whenever the cleaning lady is mentioned anywhere, though, someone always feels they have a right to tell me that I shouldn’t have her coming (often my husband’s family).

Well on my vacation from life, I will not be tolerating that. If someone doesn’t like that we have a cleaning lady once a month, or that I’ve decided to relax a little rather than run around like a chicken with my head cut off – well, that’s the way it’s going to be and anyone that doesn’t like it can suck it. I’ll be telling that (in so many words) as well.

B(itch)’s Vacation From Life Rule Number Three: while on my vacation from life, I will not be doing any of the following…

1. Folding laundry. I’ll wash the shit, but I’m not folding it. Time for others to pitch in.

2.  Going to see children’s movies in the theatre. (I’m sorry, but it’s time for the husband to take a turn on these… I’m pretty sure none are coming out anytime soon anyway and I watch enough at home to make up for it.)

3. Driving more than ten miles to go to any family-related events (with the exception, of course, of when we are on our actual vacation).

4. Organizing anything. Everything is so terribly organized our place looks like a museum. If shit gets messed up, somebody else is going to fix it. Or it can wait until after April 15th.

5. Arguing with anyone. If something needs to be discussed that may turn into a disagreement, it’s going to have to wait until after April 15th as well. I don’t see this becoming a problem, but just so everyone has been warned.

6. I’m not doing any dishes, unless someone else does all the cooking.

B(itch)’s Vacation From Life Rule Number Four: I will only work on my book if I feel so inclined to do so. 

I will not work on my book because I feel I have to. I will not write for anyone but myself. I will not go to any writers groups, writers critiques, or share anything with anyone. I will not feel indebted to anyone to work on my book quickly. My poor manuscript is a little torn and tattered at this point and I feel it’s because I feel obligated to write, rather than doing so out of a genuine desire.

B(itch)’s Vacation From Life Rule Number Five: Internet and telephone time will be limited.

I spend too much time being available. Every day from 11 am until 3 pm, my phone is going to be turned off so I can do all the things I really want to do – read, write, have fun with the homeschooling projects we do, investigate the Korean Hooker Hostage, watch Desperate Housewives, among other things. And I’m only allowing myself to use Facebook, Twitter, email, and my blog. There will be no obsessively reading the news, no checking every social network out there. No Tumblr, no Pinterest. No LinkedIN. No networking.

So that about sums it up, faithful blog followers. As of this week, I’m on a vacation from life. But vacation from life sounds a little cliche doesn’t it? So does much needed me time (even though that’s exactly what it is). Earlier today I said that this next three months is “the three months of Heather,” but really I think “the three months of the B(itch)” has a much nicer ring to it.

So begins The Three Months of the B(itch).