When I sit by myself in the dark, in the quiet, stripping away all the things that make my life loud — children, social media, the television, and my own thoughts – I am left with thoughts that pound so loudly in my head that I cannot ignore them. Continue reading
Yesterday, a terrible thing happened.
Let me preface this by saying that I am struggling to adjust to summer break. Struggling. Like … it’s good? But also horrible? Can something be good and horrible all at once? Because I’m pretty sure that is exactly what parenthood is.
Making the transition from having all three kids in school for 6+ hours per day (and working during those hours), to having them home all the time and trying to get my work done in addition to mothering in a loving fashion, is not going great. As I have already established in multiple blog posts from previous years, summer is effing relentless.
Thankfully, this year is somewhat easier than previous years simply because my children are getting older and more independent. Pepper will be 3 next week, so I think we’re finally on the upswing after a very dark time in the Valley of Motherhood.
Yesterday afternoon, we got home from playing at the park. The boys jumped out of the van, heard some kids next door playing, and asked if they could go over to play. I granted them permission and took Pepper inside. Her clothes were filthy — covered in layers of peanut butter and dirt — so I stripped her down to a diaper.
I ran to the bathroom with her trailing behind me, always my little shadow. And then, my mom called. She’s not feeling well and I can barely hear her on the phone. I was straining to understand what she was saying — did she just say she needed to go to the hospital?! — and naturally, my toddler got really loud at exactly that moment. As her shouting drowned out my mother, my stress level started to rise.
I went to my bedroom and closed the door. My daughter cried from the hall, and when she stopped, I was thankful. When I emerged only a few minutes later, the house was quiet. A panicky feeling started to rise in my chest, and then it felt like my heart stopped.
Our back door was standing wide open.
Screaming her name, I ran outside. She was gone. Or hiding. Or missing.
I heard a woman’s voice — our across the street neighbor — yelling at me that she just saw a little girl cut through the fences in the backyard.
“She went that way, sweetheart! I was standing here watching her!”
I was barefoot and it did not matter. I ran. I ran until I found her. I couldn’t feel my feet. I couldn’t feel my body. All I could hear was my own voice screaming her name, and my heartbeat deafening my ears. That is what blind panic feels like.
My 2-year-old was wandering one street over from ours, wearing nothing but her diaper. She was holding a toy pet carrier with a little stuffed dog inside. I will never forget the way her face looked when she saw the horror on mine.
“NEVER AGAIN,” I said to her.
“Not with my dog?” she said.
“NEVER, EVER. Do not ever leave this house without a grown up,” I said, as I wiped away my tears.
I’m sharing this story to demonstrate how quickly children can disappear. How many times have I heard stories of toddlers wandering the streets and thought to myself, WHERE WAS THE MOTHER?
That mother is me. I was right there. It happened anyway.
I’m a damn good mom. I am capable. I am aware. I am not negligent. But children are fast. And sometimes quiet. And things happen. So today I’m hugging my babies tight, grateful for their safety, knowing that sometimes other mamas aren’t so lucky.
I remember a very long time ago when we had a baby and I was worried that Robbie was going to say inappropriate words in front of it. I was also concerned about food additives and a whole host of other things that I no longer have the time or energy to care about, like whether or not it was okay for my child to breathe in the fumes from Clorox Wipes and what was actually in baby formula.
Fast-forward to 5:00 this morning when our third child climbed into our bed, alerting me by repeated bludgeoning to the head and face, and I flung my arm over to hit my sleeping husband.
“Pepper’s in our bed,” I mumbled, as her knee dug into my gut.
“PEPPER’S IN HERE,” I repeated. Now she was pulling on the sheets, attempting to smother me to death with her battered sheep lovey.
He wouldn’t take his CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask off, which is pretty much a passive aggressive way of saying fuck you, I’m not dealing with it. I’m basically blind and deaf at night; I have terrible eyesight without my contacts or glasses, and I’ve been wearing earplugs for over a decade, so I’m familiar with passive aggressive ways to pretend to not know something is going on. I am well versed in it. Also, I have sleep issues, and that makes me difficult to deal with.
Okay, fine. It makes me a raging bitch.
Once someone shakes me from deep, precious slumber, it can take me literally an hour to fall back asleep, and even once I do finally konk out again, the quality always sucks from that point forward.
What was that? Did you just ask why?
Because I lie there and my mind starts racing thinking of all the things I need to remember to do in three hours when my alarm goes off, and then I start wondering what I forgot to put on my mental to-do list, becoming angry at myself for not setting the coffeemaker to turn on by itself at 6 a.m. because I AM NOT GOING TO FEEL LIKE MAKING IT AFTER MISSING THIS MUCH SLEEP, and the anxieties just spiral off from there like tiny insomniac tornadoes.
So, back to the child that was poking me in the face: once I realized that I was going to have to put her back in her bed, I yelled, “FUCK, FINE, I’LL DO IT.” So much for worrying about my husband’s mouth in front of our kids.
And that is how much things change between the first and third-born child.
This is a post about kindness. We need more of it. And you want to know what we need less of? Stupid motherfuckers.
I took my middle child to an urgent care clinic today for impacted poop. That’s right: poop.
Now, I have been a mom for 8 years and feel like I have a pretty good handle on what is urgent care-worthy. I tried everything (and I do mean EVERYTHING) to help him get it out, but after 2 hours of misery I rushed him to a doctor. It is Saturday and my husband is at work, so I ran my other two kids to my parent’s house and went to the closest urgent care that was open.
I paid $100 –they made me, before we could be seen — and we waited. And we waited. And he was crying and sweating. And it was terrible. Finally, they brought us back. I was so relieved. The nurses were two kind, older women. I felt like maybe it was going to be okay, until the doctor came in. He proceeded to look me up and down and after tossing a cursory glance at my son and said, “We don’t deal with that here. There’s really nothing we can do.”
That was before he began flirting with me.
“So … are you from around here?”
“Yes. What do you mean, there’s nothing you can do?”
“Where did you go to high school?”
“Not here. Why can’t you try to manually remove the poop?”
(More mindless chatter until I interrupted him to ask again why he was refusing to even look at my son’s situation.)
“Well, constipation is common in children his age, and he just needs some magnesium citrate. But he could also see a pediatric G.I.”
“The reason why I’m here is because there is literally poop lodged in his anus that I have not been able to get out. I tried. It needs to be removed. He can’t even walk.”
The doctor proceeded to look down my four-year-old’s throat and say, “Your mommy is pretty.”
THAT IS WHAT HE DID.
FUCK YOU, MOTHERFUCKER.
Let me tell you something, idiots of the modern world: moms don’t want to be flirted with when their child is writhing in pain. We also do not enjoy being talked down to like we are nothing but walking, talking vaginas. If I wanted to pay $100 to be objectified, I would have gone to another part of town.
Because I didn’t know what else to do to cope with my rage, I posted a rant about what was happening on my Modern Mommy Madness Facebook page, and a wonderful woman named Jennifer contacted me. She married into a family I’ve known my whole life, but until today I’d never had the privilege of talking to her beyond a brief hello. And now I think we might be best friends.
Jennifer is a mom and a nurse at a local E.R. and she told me if I brought my son to her, she would do whatever was necessary to help him. I almost started crying right then and there. I know it’s only poop, but when your kid is in pain and you are out of ideas and someone tosses you a lifeline, it’s a game-changer. I needed a lifeline. We immediately went to the hospital where she works.
Medical professionals who are actually good at their job and don’t spend their time hitting on women instead of treating patients are amazing creatures and I love them. I love them like I love the teachers who so painstakingly teach my children how to write their names. Just as I don’t have the skill set to teach my children how to read or write without screaming into a pillow, it turns out that I also don’t know how to properly extract impacted shit from an anus that does not belong to me.
Truth be told, I didn’t think I would make it through the experience of holding my son’s legs as Jennifer carefully and professionally pulled poop out of my child. The doctor came in to shake my hand and all I could think (or say) was, “HOW DO YOU PEOPLE DO THIS EVERY DAY?!”
The hospital bill is astronomical. For shit. An astronomical bill because of literal shit.
However, the point of me writing this is not to bitch about money or medical bills. It’s to say that when you see an opportunity to help another woman and you do it, you can SAVE HER. Literally and figuratively, save her.
I hope I can pay it forward and throw someone else a lifeline. I think that we women often shrug things off and think we can’t make a difference in this world, really. Well, I’m here to tell you that WE CAN.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some wine to drink.
I performed yesterday for Baton Rouge’s production of Listen To Your Mother, and it was amazing. If you are interested in seeing a video of the performance, there will be an official copy uploaded to YouTube soon and I will be sure to post about it here (unless I look like a damn fool, in which case I will never mention it again).
Here we go.
I … am a control freak.
Therefore, motherhood has always been a struggle for me. I lie awake at night mentally preparing for the next day, scheduling and planning and strategizing, and without fail, something always goes wrong. Papers are forgotten, shoes and keys are misplaced, and someone always has to poop at the worst possible time.
Yet day after day, I continue to try to control the chaos. It’s like I just can’t learn how to let go. But, as well all know, life has a funny way of teaching us lessons that we really don’t want to learn.
It was the day before school was scheduled to start back after Winter Break, and the kids and I were having the best day we’d had in weeks. I’m fairly certain it was because I was giddy with excitement to send them back to school, and they were equally as giddy at the thought of returning. Either way, we were having fun.
I was standing in the middle of the living room minding my own business when one of my children jumped onto my back, throwing his arms around my neck. I fell backwards, hitting my head on a piece of furniture.
The emergency room doctor diagnosed me with a concussion: a traumatic brain injury that altered the way my brain functions, because that is the kind of thing that happens when you grow up and decide to become a mom.
I don’t remember much of the weeks that followed except that I kept trying to do laundry and my husband kept telling me he would take care of it, but he didn’t display the same sense of urgency that I have, so the cycle continued. I kept trying to do it, and he kept trying to stop me.
He insisted that he would feed the children breakfast and ordered me to stay in bed. I laid there obsessing over what he might be feeding them. Did he rip open a box of Cheez-Its and let them go to town? Or worse — Oreos? Were they getting enough fiber? Were they hydrated? Would he remember to pack their lunch boxes?
I tiptoed down the hall to listen, and every single time, I was caught and put back to bed.
This was hard.
I was put on “brain rest.” Do you know how impossible it is for a mother of three to rest her brain? I pushed earplugs into my ears and stared at the white walls in the dark for many more hours than I was comfortable with, and realized as the minutes ticked by just how much of a control freak I really am.
People kept telling me not to do things. “Don’t look at screens,” they said. “Don’t read. Don’t think too much. Don’t drive. Don’t write. Basically sit in a dark room by yourself and stare at the window until you feel like jumping out of it.”
I got tired of being told to relax. Sitting on the beach with champagne is relaxing. Massages are relaxing. Going to Target alone is relaxing.
Recovering from a concussion is not.
At my follow-up visit, my doctor said, “You seem a little on edge.” Well, maybe I’m on edge because every time I let my guard down a child jumps on my back and concusses me. Maybe THAT’S why.
There are 5 stages of grief when a mother is sidelined due to injury or illness.
Stage one is denial. I was in that stage for a solid 2 weeks, trying and failing to continue mothering as if nothing was out of the ordinary, all the while doing things like squirting ketchup into my toddler’s sippy cup.
Ketchup and juice are totally the same thing.
We acquired a pet during this stage. My family tells me that a stray cat showed up one day, and I am the one who suggested that we buy cat food to properly feed her.
I have no recollection of this.
Stage two is anger. This was when I realized that I was not going to be able to power through a head injury like I did with, say, a common cold. Moms don’t take sick days, and I did not have time for this. I. Was. Pissed.
I put a mug of water in the kitchen cabinet and waited for it to heat up so I could make some tea. I drummed my fingers on the counter, waiting impatiently for the timer to ding. When it didn’t, and I realized what I’d done, I was angry.
When I forgot our yard man’s name, I was angry.
When I went into the house to write him a check and couldn’t find the checkbook that was in my purse, I got angry. And then I forgot what I was supposed to be doing, and never returned outside to pay him.
Stage three is bargaining. If only we hadn’t had all of these children. If only I hadn’t turned my back to my child that day. If only my husband hadn’t taught them how to wrestle. Someone should have stressed that we NEVER TRY TO WRESTLE MOMMY.
I should have never let my guard down. But now it was too late, and I still could not recall our street address, and I was positive that I was going to have the dumb until the day I died.
Stage four is depression. I OWNED that stage. I really rocked depression. At one point, my hair smelled like old socks and I didn’t even care. During this stage, I actually enjoyed staring at the ceiling and walls.
My family members, who fancy themselves comedians, tried to help me see the bright side of things.
“You’ve been different ever since the accident,” they said. “You keep insisting that we call you Harmony.”
They called me Tina for a full week.
Stage five, the final stage, is acceptance. I accepted that my memory may never be quite the same. I accepted that we have a cat now, and her name is Magnolia, and every time I load our kids into the minivan I have to keep her from jumping in.
I accepted that this is the new, quirkier me.
I accepted that I will always be a control freak, and life will always find a way to put me in my place, because I chose to become a mother.
And motherhood is really hard on control freaks.
Everything is chaos until I tuck my daughter into bed. She is so calm, so sweet, so complacent, as she snuggles down in her big bed under fluffy covers. I smooth her hair, hand her the two tattered lovies that she sleeps with every night, and lie down next to her.
Every other night I pray and sing, but tonight there is a lump in my throat and it’s too big to let anything out. I just lie there in the dark and listen to her sweet toddler voice as she says take a bath, go to bed over and over and I think to myself maybe this is all I need to be well.
Maybe when life feels too big I need to focus on what is small.
I’m a late bloomer and rehabbed people-pleaser, and it wasn’t until I gave birth to our first child that I finally grew the hell up.
He broke my tailbone entering the world. I was bucked off a mule at age 8, which broke my tailbone and left it pointing inward. I was never aware of this until 20 years later when, after two hours of pushing, the doctors determined my baby boy was stuck behind it.
And so, because the universe knew I needed it, I was given a very challenging first child. I was forced out of my comfort zone in every way, having no other choice but to learn to ignore what everyone else said and go with my gut.
I grew up.
I learned that my mother does not always know what is best. She knew what was best when she was raising me, because she is my mother, but she does not by default know what is best for me now or what is best for my children. There comes a time when things change, and it can be disorienting. But it’s also necessary.
I realized that it doesn’t matter what other people think about my parenting or my children, because they are mine. Mine to screw up. Mine to encourage. Mine to raise into functional human beings. Mine. No one else’s.
I stopped apologizing, for the state of my house, for the food that I did or did not cook, for my appearance, for my child’s personality. One day, I simply ran out of fucks to give. I don’t owe the world apologies for being who I am, and I certainly don’t want my children to grow up under that assumption. Part of growing the hell up is realizing how fantastic you are and owning it.
I found inner strength. Parenting my strong-willed oldest child broke down every wall I’d ever built. It caused me to question every belief I’ve ever had. I had to throw out everything I’d read in every single parenting book and start from scratch. I am no longer a delicate flower—I can throw a 60-pound child over my shoulder and haul him out of Target if I have to, and he knows it. It took time, but eventually I discovered a durability in myself that I didn’t know existed.
I realized that I am a damn good mom. It was a slow progression, but one day I realized that I haven’t completely screwed up this complicated child. In fact, I’ve done an amazing job with him. He is still challenging, and there are still days that I struggle, but because I have grown the hell up I don’t question every choice I make anymore. I am confident in what I say and do because of everything listed above.
That boy who has given me so many gray hairs in just seven short years has also shaped my spirit in countless ways. He helped me grow up.
And thanks to him, I also always know when it’s going to rain, because my aching tailbone tells me.
© 2015 Harmony Hobbs, as first published on Scary Mommy.
Last week I made an enormous ass of myself at my husband’s place of employment.
He’s a manager at a car dealership, and I don’t know what kind of people the other managers have coming to visit them at work, but I highly doubt Robbie will ask me to stop by and visit him again anytime soon.
I could offer up a thousand reasons why I was so stressed out, but the summarized version is that I was out running errands with two of my children, trying to beat the rain. We were right across the street from where he works, and I thought, you know what, I should call Robbie and ask him to come meet us for lunch. That would be a nice thing to do. So I did.
I’m a good wife. A thoughtful wife.
He said he could not meet us, but would we like to stop by the dealership instead? He just moved to a new store, and I have not met any of his new co-workers yet or seen his fancy new office.
I looked at the sky, which was black. I looked at our two youngest children, who were both covered in cinnamon sugar. I looked at myself, and quickly looked away. This was NOT a good time to make a first impression.
“Of course,” I said. “We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
The dealership was very busy, and because I was distracted by all of the activity, I pulled in the wrong way and a mail truck was blocking my path. Robbie emerged from the building and watched as I tried and failed to maneuver our gigantic van into a parking spot as our over-excited children shrieked and screamed “DADDDDDDDY! DAAAAAAAAADDY!” from the backseat.
My 4-year-old unbuckled himself and slammed into the back of the front passenger seat as I rolled over a curb. “WHY ARE YOU UNBUCKLED?!” I screeched as I threw it into reverse. By now a crowd was gathering. Robbie visibly cringed as I tried once more to squeeze our vehicle into a too-small spot. And that is when it happened.
Maybe it was all the errand-running. Maybe my nerves were shot, and my blood sugar was low and I was over caffeinated. Maybe I should have declined his offer to come visit and maybe I should have worn a more flattering outfit and MAYBE I HAVE NO BUSINESS DRIVING THIS MOTHER FUCKER OF A VAN.
Muttering unrepeatable phrases under my breath, I squealed off, again in the wrong direction, trying to turn around. By now everyone was definitely staring, and I was furious — with myself, with my husband, with the screeching children, and with life in general.
I drove directly into a dead end portion of the Hyundai lot and screamed. Then I realized that my window was rolled down.
Two salesmen were watching me, and I imagined the following conversation taking place:
Salesman #1: Hey man, do you see the new finance guy’s batshit crazy wife attempting a 3-point turn in that tiny area surrounded by brand new cars?
Salesman #2: DUDE.
Salesman #1: I hope she hits one. That would be AMAZING.
Salesman #2: It’s looking like she might.
Salesman #1: Damn, she made it out.
I finally made it back around to the appropriate parking space. My husband unloaded our stunned children and I sat in the car, too mortified to exit the vehicle. “We can sneak in through the courtyard,” Robbie said. “There’s a back door. No one will see you.”
I got a baseball cap out of my bag and pulled it low over my face. I avoided eye contact as we sneaked in through the back door. Because that’s what my life has become.
Last night I had the most terrifying dream that I was in the kitchen cooking and a fire started, and it just kept spreading and spreading until I was entirely surrounded. I was YELLING for help, but my family didn’t hear me. They were all in the next room.
That is what grief feels like.
There have been times in my life when a friend confided something shocking to me that I didn’t know how to deal with, and I handled it poorly. When I was 15 and away at boarding school, my best friend back home got pregnant. She informed me via a handwritten letter that was delivered under my dorm room door, because it was 1995 and that’s how things were done before the internet.
I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to do or how to process the thought of becoming a mother when we didn’t even have a license to drive. I’m pretty sure whatever my response was, it sucked. Just like when my high school friend called one day in July to tell me that he was gay. GAY?! I didn’t know anyone who was gay. I stammered and mumbled and got off the phone as fast as I could, because I didn’t know how to be with him in his fire.
These are the things I think of as I grapple with grief over the fact that we don’t know how much time my mother has left. It could be years. It could be days. No one can tell us for sure, because cancer is fucked up and unpredictable and incurable. And I am here, in this fire, burning. Seeing people fidget and stammer because they don’t know what to say because grief is uncomfortable. Death is uncomfortable. Dealing with loss when no one has died is a strange thing that isn’t easily explained.
Yesterday I ran into someone I haven’t seen in a long time. You know how sometimes you meet someone and you just really love them and you don’t even know why? Well, there is a lady named Virginia that I feel that way about. I LOVE VIRGINIA.
She asked me a question — “How is your mom doing?” — and really asked it. She wanted me to tell her the truth. Most people might think they want to know the truth, until you start to tell them and they realize how horrible the truth is and they get weird and then you feel even worse because not only are you carrying around this emotional weight, but now you’ve gone and made someone else uncomfortable with it, too.
When Virginia asks a question, she expects an answer. And when I tried to glaze it over, she stopped me. She wouldn’t let me glaze it over. She stood with me, in my anger and in my grief. Do you know how rare that is, for us to stop our lives momentarily to really connect with another human, and stand with them in their mess?
I needed that.
The world needs more Virginias.
What I didn’t know in 1995, but certainly realize now, is that all people really need is for others to genuinely acknowledge their suffering … even if it’s impossible to extinguish the fire that’s causing it.
My platform is rooted in honesty.
Lately I’ve felt like a liar because I used to be a humor writer, I think. But then a lot of bad things happened in my life, and I couldn’t find humor as much anymore. But you guys stick with me anyway, even when I write about things like my mom having cancer and about my need for anxiety medication and my uncle getting murdered in my childhood home, and my head injury which, let’s face it, COMPLETELY KNOCKED ME OFF MY GAME.
Here is the truth: I got very depressed in February. Maybe I was depressed in January, and December, and November, and October. I don’t know because I’m in the thick of life right now. I’m swallowed up. I’m in the weeds, you guys. It’s disorienting and I have claustrophobia and I hate how this feels. I hate how it makes me anxious, and my anxiety manifests in anger, so I find myself yelling at my family a lot when they are just doing normal family things like smearing toothpaste on clean hand towels and leaving crumbs all over the floor.
They deserve a better me. I deserve a better me.
So I started therapy — for myself and for my oldest child. It turns out that I am not crazy, it’s just that the anxiety medication I was on was making me depressed and also I have a lot on my plate and my brain was bruised.
Maybe the knock to the head changed my brain chemistry, or maybe I just didn’t need that particular medication anymore, but either way I flushed all those tiny white pills down the toilet and breathed a sigh of relief.
I breathed another sigh of relief when we were told that our child isn’t crazy — in fact, he is quite the opposite. Extremely bright and polite to everyone except for his parents, so we can rule out Oppositional Defiant Disorder (thank God).
Maverick has ADHD. And I’ve long suspected it and I knew it, deep in my soul, but I just didn’t want it to be so. I knew he was hard to parent. So, so hard. He never has been much of a sleeper; he stopped napping at 18 months old. He’s extremely defiant and stubborn and loud and messy, more so than other boys. But he’s also brilliant and charming, just like his Daddy.
OMG … his Daddy.
His Daddy has ADHD, too.
THAT MUST BE WHY I FELL IN LOVE WITH HIM, BECAUSE HE WAS SO QUIRKY AND BRILLIANT AND UNPREDICTABLE AND NOW WE HAVE BEEN TOGETHER FOR 13 YEARS AND SOMETIMES HE MAKES ME WANT TO SMOTHER HIM WITH A PILLOW BUT I DON’T BECAUSE I REALLY DO LOVE HIM.
I married the right man for me, but it doesn’t mean that we are without our struggles. When we come out on the other side of this difficult phase, I’d maybe like to just forget it ever happened. It’s hard. Marriage is hard. But would I want to tough it out with anyone else?
Back to Maverick, all of the parenting tactics that work for other people? None of them were working for us. We have very low lows and very high highs and as much as I struggled, I fought for my son because I believe in him.
But then I reached a point where I was out of ideas. I needed help.
The day I sat in that dark gray chair decorated with silver studs and the counselor said, “You have done a fantastic job for the past 7 years, but you must be emotionally exhausted,” I burst into tears.
Yes. I am emotionally exhausted.
“Parenting is supposed to be exhausting,” she said. “In fact, if you aren’t exhausted, you probably aren’t doing it right.” She went on to say a whole bunch of other validating, complimentary things that gave me hope and let me know that I did a good thing by seeking help.
People say all the time that it takes a village to raise our children, and lament the modern loss of the village. I say that we have to make our own damn village. My village consists of a therapist for myself, a therapist for my child, teachers for all three of my children, and a handful of extraordinary friends.
Extraordinary friends get a phone call halfway through getting hair extensions put in and head over right away to drive you to the hospital because you’re feeling weird 6 weeks after a concussion and need to have your head scanned again.
Extraordinary friends learn your actual weight — which is not the weight on your driver’s license — because you have to say it out loud in the E.R. triage.
They also understand that they are never speak of it. Ever.
Part of being a grown up is knowing what you need and then going out and getting it, because grown ups are responsible for their own happiness and well-being. So today, my friends, I ask you to take stock of your own lives and make sure you have what you need.
And if you don’t, then WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING READING THIS?! Pick up the phone and make shit happen.
Sometimes I wonder if other people find themselves angry, only to realize that the thing that upset them so much is something that they did. I feel like this happens to me a lot. I’ll find myself standing in the bathroom saying half-aloud, WHO LEFT THE TOILET PAPER ROLL EMP …. oh.
Me. I did. I am the one who failed to refill the toilet paper roll.
I have a feeling that the transition into dementia in about 30 or so years won’t be that difficult.
“I’m your Venus, I’m your fire. At your desire…”
I was singing “Venus” by Bananarama at the top of my lungs in the car (don’t judge—you know you do it too) when my son piped up from the backseat.
“Why are you singing a song about penises?”
I stopped singing.
“‘I’m your penis, I’m your fire. At your desire,’ is that what the song is saying, Mommy? Because that does not seem appropriate.”
Children: They wreak havoc on our lives, turning what used to be normal upside down and shaking it with their grimy little hands. Sometimes it feels like they are literally trying to kill us—or at the very least, commit us—and then they make up for all of it at once by saying or doing something absolutely unexpected.
Motherhood is chock-full of the unexpected. I now tell my friends who are new mothers to throw out every baby book they acquired during pregnancy. Burn them. They are of no use to you now. There is no way to know what to expect, because children, and people in general, are full of surprises.
There is simply no way to prepare.
The first time I gave birth, someone handed me a baby. It took a while for it to sink in that he was mine. I stared down at a tiny human who was somehow completely like me and also nothing like me, and realized that everything I thought I knew was wrong and none of the knowledge I had worked so hard to amass during pregnancy applied anymore.
This actually worked out perfectly since I was too tired to remember it anyway. I threw it all out and started over.
That’s parenthood in a nutshell.
Parenting is a job so complex that experts have been trying to guide us in it for decades, and yet still none of us have it figured out—including the experts. They waffle back and forth on co-sleeping and breastfeeding and what is safe to eat and drink during pregnancy. If you can imagine it, there’s been an “expert” study done on it.
Throw it out.
We are to love our children, provide for their basic needs, and follow our instincts. Those things look vastly different for each family, because we are all different. Trying to force your situation into a neatly labeled box because someone else told you that’s what is best is only asking for disappointment and guilt.
It’s hard to set aside your own expectations and allow yourself to be fluid enough to bend, to be open to seeing your child for the unique person that he is, and to adjust accordingly. But motherhood is as much about refining yourself as it is about refining your children.
There comes a point when you realize that you are the expert.
After explaining to my son that the song was about Venus, the goddess of love, and NOT about penises, I realized once again how lucky I am to have the kind of kid who yells unexpectedly from the backseat. Not once was that topic addressed in any of my parenting books.
“I don’t want my penis to catch fire!” he shouted.
“That would be terrible!” I yelled back.
There is really no guide for moments like this. And that’s OK. The best part about being a parent is not knowing what’s next.
© 2016 Harmony Hobbs, as first published on Scary Mommy.
Toddlers love to make fools of us.
Have you noticed? They wait until you’re in a busy parking lot unloading a month’s worth of groceries to melt down and act demon-possessed. They scream for waffles and you finally break down and make waffles and then they scream “NO WAFFLE! YUCKY WAFFLE!” and throw it on the floor.
You are so hungry from all of the intense parenting that you dust it off and eat it yourself. But then they cry because they are hungry.
They cry because you ate their waffle.
A toddler will proudly recite her full name and phone number over and over, yet when asked to repeat it for an audience (after you have bragged about it incessantly) she remains silent because she’s too busy pooping her pants to be bothered.
Last week, our city was shut down due to severe weather. All of the kids were home, but Robbie was at work because car dealerships never, ever close, even in the face of imminent tornadoes and hail. After all, someone somewhere might still trek out in the middle of destruction to buy a brand-new car, because obviously the best time to make an investment is when you have to drive it home in a hailstorm.
I was already having a hard day because between weather warnings, Asher, the 4-year-old, got super sick and threw up everywhere. I asked Maverick to take his little sister somewhere else in the house to play while I cleaned up the mess. It took me a good 30 minutes to get myself, Asher, and the house back under control, and by the time I was done, the other two were done playing.
Maverick pulled me aside and said, “I think Pepper has one of my marbles.”
I looked at her. She stared back silently.
She had a marble in her mouth.
After I freaked out and removed it, I made a huge production of telling her that only food goes in our mouths. She just laughed.
A few minutes later, I was standing in the play room when she walked up to me with a AA battery in her hand. I took it from her and asked, “Where did you get this?” I discovered that she had removed the bottom of an LED candle that requires two AA batteries to work. I had one of them, and the other one was missing.
I forced myself to remain calm as I searched for the missing battery. It was nowhere to be found.
“Pepper, where is the other battery?”
She looked straight at me and said, “I ate it. It’s in my tummy.”
That is when I panicked.
I made Maverick help me look — his little brother was still sitting exactly where I’d left him, with a mixing bowl in his lap in case he needed to throw up again — and we couldn’t find it anywhere. I asked her again where the battery was and she said, this time more emphatically, “IT’S IN MY TUMMY.”
I called 911.
The nice lady on the other end of the line said yes, my child definitely needed to go to the E.R. I told her to send an ambulance, because I didn’t know which one of my family members I would be able to get in touch with, and I was home alone with the kids … one of whom was projectile vomiting.
The next 20 minutes were a blur of frantic phone calls and adults arriving to help — first, my dad, followed by my in-laws, and finally, the ambulance.
The EMT’s acted like they had ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD, meandering slowly up to my house and into my kitchen. I mean, I understand that a child swallowing a battery is not as emergent, as, say, a child who fell in glass. Because that has also happened in our house, a few years ago. But still — to me, this was emergent.
They slowly nodded their heads and said yes, she needed to go to the hospital to get checked out, but they couldn’t take her. Not because taking her would leave us with an astronomical ambulance bill. Not because they needed to leave and assist someone who was about to bleed to death. Nope. They couldn’t take her to the hospital because they didn’t have a car seat.
I’m going to let that sink in for a moment.
“GET OUT OF MY HOUSE, I’M TAKING HER,” I said. And we left.
The emergency room was packed. Cell phones were blaring with severe weather warnings and they had us all crammed in the interior of the hospital, away from windows and doors, so there was nowhere to sit and there is no telling what kind of illness we picked up there.
Once we were in a room, the nurse was incredulous: “You think this kid ate a AA battery?” And I said, “THAT’S RIGHT” and tried not to snicker as he had this ridiculous line of questioning with her wherein she repeated everything he said and made him look like a absolute moron.
Nurse: “Hi, there.”
Pepper: (Silent stare.)
Nurse: “What did you do with the battery?”
Pepper: “What did you do with the battery?”
Nurse: “Did you throw the battery away?”
Pepper: “Did you throw the battery away?”
Nurse: “Did you put the battery in your tummy?”
Pepper: “Did you put the battery in your tummy?”
We got an X-ray.
Our toddler did not eat a battery. She was also growing increasingly annoyed with us and with the entire situation. I was past my breaking point and started feeding her half-wrapped candy from the bottom of my purse just to keep her happy until we could get the hell out of there.
We paid $150 to the hospital for their services, marking the THIRD TIME WE HAVE DONE THIS SINCE 2016 BEGAN, and went home.
The tornadoes headed East.
Robbie went back to work.
And I mustered, from the very bottom of the deepest reserves, the energy to uncork a bottle of wine.
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mother of three, recovering from a brain injury, then I’m your gal.
What’s that? It’s never crossed your mind?
WELL. Maybe it’s time your eyes were opened, my friend, because it’s dangerous out there.
On January 4, 2016, the day before school was scheduled to resume after the longest holiday break ever, I was standing in the living room with my back to the couch. My oldest child, age 7, leaped onto my back in a crazy ninja move normally reserved for daddies. I fell and hit the back of my head, and the rest has been … let’s see, how can I put this? FUCKING TERRIBLE.
*I won’t allow myself to wallow in despair and whine about the struggle of not being able to drive for almost 3 weeks, or go on and on about how embarrassing it is to wear sunglasses in the grocery store because the lights are too bright. I’ll skip the part where Target mailed me a new Red Card and I lost it (in my own home), ordered a new one, then found the old one, and couldn’t figure out which one to activate.
These are not real problems. These are First World Problems. I try not to feel too sorry for myself, even though I totally feel sorry for myself. My life — and my freelancing career — were finally sort of on track. I had plans. Goals. Things happening. The holidays were finally over, my kids were going back to school, and I had projects to work on.
I don’t know if you know this, but Type A people typically struggle in the role of stay-at-home mom. I can’t just cuddle with my kids all day, as nice as it may sound. I have too much shit to do. Not that I don’t love to cuddle, I guess, it’s just … it’s hard for me. My personality doesn’t mesh with all-day cuddling. I AM NOT A LAID BACK PERSON.
It felt good to see my “hobby” turn into an actual part-time job. I need to work to feel sane. And then I got concussed, and all of that stopped. In addition, I’ve had to scale back to zero on everything. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Watching my life grind to a halt has been a lesson in patience that I have absolutely zero interest in learning, which likely means that I will continue floundering like a fish out of water until I learn it.
Since the accident almost two months ago, so many things have happened. Just this week, I forgot my oldest was getting out of school early. When he arrived home, no one was there to greet him. He was alone and afraid AND a candle was burning, because I lit it and totally forgot about it BECAUSE I WAS TOO BUSY FORGETTING ABOUT MY SON.
On a different day, a Saturday, I took a shower and emerged to find a very quiet house. The kids were wandering the neighborhood, shoeless. We’re those people now. The ones with barefoot, aimless children and a not-quite-right mother who yells a lot. A lot.
I waxed off half an eyebrow with a Sally Hansen at-home waxing kit.
I saw a neurologist, lost the paperwork from the visit, and had to ask a friend who my neurologist is, because I certainly could not remember. This is the same friend (Audrey Hayworth, say hello) who was getting extensions put in her hair when she got a call from my husband asking her please to take me to the Emergency Room for yet another brain scan, because something was wrong with me.
She literally got out of the extension-installer’s chair and hauled my ass to the hospital, and now apparently she’s the person I have to call when I can’t remember my doctor’s name.
Everyone needs an Audrey. People with concussions really need one.
We have a pet cat now. Her name is Magnolia. I have no idea when she showed up or when she became ours.
I’m afraid if I don’t write these things down, they’ll be lost forever … kind of like the last 2 months of my life. I’ve been living, of course, but nothing is right. The edges are still blurry. My emotions aren’t the same.
Also, I know I’m still healing because I have begun to rely on my husband, the man who loses everything, to help me find things. My, how the tide has turned. I now take back everything I’ve ever said about Robbie misplacing things, because just the other day I spent 30 minutes looking for a receipt in my purse. I was nearly in tears by the time I handed him my purse, because I knew he would be able to find it.
He produced the missing receipt within seconds.
I’m sure there are plenty of life lessons to be learned in all of this, but there one thing I know for certain: many years from now, after I have fully healed and life is normal again, I’ll look back on this time and think to myself, “Huh … I don’t remember any of that.”
*I definitely allow myself to whine about everything. I have been absolutely horrid to live with lately and my family deserves a medal but WAIT A MINUTE, THEY DON’T, BECAUSE I AM THE ONE WHO WAS NEARLY KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY SO GIMME MY MEDAL AND 15 POUNDS OF CHOCOLATE.
My awkward phase was brutal. When I see throwback pictures of myself at age 13, I cringe so hard that it basically tricks my body into vomiting.
Okay, not really. But almost.
It was during my peak of awkwardness that I had a bad perm, glasses and the wardrobe of a 40-year-old. Not much has changed since then.
I remember what it felt like to have crushes on boys who thought I was unappealing. I recall the sinking feeling of being shut out of the cool crowd and how heavy a lunch tray can feel while navigating an unfamiliar cafeteria.
I remember the dread and the agony, the frizzy hair and the acne. It sucked.
The awkward phase, while excruciating, fortified my character. It was uncomfortable as hell, but I had no choice but to dig deep and find the qualities that now sustain me through the difficulties of life. I think we all know people who never had to dig deep in their earlier years. More than likely, they now struggle as adults with life’s difficulties. Let’s be real: It’s difficult to cope effectively with adversity if you’ve never had to face it.
During this low point in my life, I learned empathy because I knew what it felt like to suffer. I discovered my sense of humor, because laughing is preferable to crying. I honed my instincts and refined my bullshit-o-meter. I discovered hidden talents which didn’t involve my looks—obviously.
Despite the tragedy of it all, I do not intend to shelter my children from experiencing their own version of the awkward phase. Honestly, I welcome it. I hope it’s epic. I want them to see what they’re made of. Winston Churchill famously stated, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
I eventually emerged on the other side of hell and went on to discover important things like tweezers and contact lenses.
Now I have a daughter, and she has the kind of cherubic face that makes people stop what they’re doing and stare. We recently walked through our gym hand-in-hand as a water aerobics class was being held, and a literal hush fell over the room. The instructor stopped instructing. Arms drifted down into the water and heads turned as they watched my child toddle by in her Hello Kitty swimsuit and baseball cap.
I can’t blame them. She’s adorable.
The instructor stopped me later and said, “Your little girl is so beautiful. I forgot what I was doing because I was so busy admiring her!”
“Thank you,” I said, as we continued on our way.
My daughter is oblivious to her beauty. She’s a happy, charismatic child, intelligent and charming. She knows her colors and shapes and recognizes numbers and letters, but because she’s beautiful, all people want to talk about is how pretty she is. “But she’s also smart,” I insist. “And funny.”
No one hears, or maybe they don’t care, because they’re far too busy staring at her wide eyes and dimpled cheeks—and I understand, because I do it too. But I want all three of my children to have strength of character. I want them to know that they have so much more to offer this world than what is visible on the surface.
I want them to be confident in the knowledge that because they survived pimples and name-calling and brutal body odor as an awkward teen, they can also survive rejection and adversity as an adult.
I want them to be kind because they know what it feels like to be on the other side of cruelty. I want them to understand what it’s like to be on top of the world, and then have it all come crashing down in homeroom.
The awkward phase is where life lessons are thrown at you from all directions. It’s painful, but worth it in the end.
Bring on the headgear.
© 2016 Harmony Hobbs, as first published on Scary Mommy.
We don’t attend church.
We should. I’d like to. But first, we’d have to find a religion that Robbie and I both feel comfortable with, and then we’d have to physically go to a building. Dressed presentably. All 5 of us.
However, I do pray with my kids. We pray before meals and before school, when I remember. My favorite thing, though, is praying with them at night before bed. It makes me feel better, like no matter what kind of shit day we’ve had, if I can end it all on a decent note then we’re all going to be alright.
Tonight I was so tired. I just wanted them to put themselves to bed and let me lie down, but that isn’t how life works. Robbie works all the time now, and I have a lot on my plate and … blah, blah, blah.
By 7 p.m. I am just done.
I tuck Pepper in first, followed by Asher half an hour later, and then finally Maverick. By the time I get around to Maverick I’m spent, which is unfortunate because he asks the most difficult questions of the three and he likes to wait until bedtime to ask them.
A few examples:
“Mommy? Is ‘bitch’ a bad word?”
“What does it mean when I raise my middle finger?”
“What countries have you visited outside of the U.S., and why did you choose them?”
“How do you say ‘it’s hot in here’ in Spanish?”
“Can two boys marry each other?”
Tonight, I was spared the difficult questions. I think he could sense that I was exhausted. I tucked him in, feeling sad that I was too tired to talk more, thinking of his little brother and how I wished I’d given in and read him a second book — but he wanted to read that book about cats that takes half a lifetime to read, and I just could not do it.
I thought about my two-year-old and how she kept asking “What’s this?” and pointing to her wrist and then my wrist, and I maybe should have spent more time talking to her about our wrists and how they magically connect our hands to our arms.
Maverick chattered to himself as he settled into bed and I thought the aforementioned thoughts. I smoothed back his hair as I started praying, but I was too tired to make it a good one. I basically said, Thank you God for giving me Maverick. Please help me be the best mother I can be for him. And please, please help him to be a good boy.
My son looked straight at me and laughed.
“That was silly,” he said.
“I know. I’m just so tired.”
“No, you don’t understand what I mean.” His eyes bored into me.
I sat up straighter. “What?”
“Of course I’m going to be a good boy,” he said. “You’re a good mother. Why WOULDN’T I be good?” He patted me. “Silly Mommy.”
I was thankful for the darkness that hid my ugly cry.
Is there ever a time when your child reaches a point where you can finally sit back and think to yourself DAMN, I DID A GOOD JOB? Because I look forward to that.
Maybe my kid is right, you know. Maybe I am already the best mother I can humanly, possibly be, and that is enough.
My writing is, for the most part, unedited truth.
I take pride in putting myself out there so that other women will hopefully read my words and say, “ME, TOO!”
I’m here to remind you that you are never the only one.
There is always someone else experiencing the exact same frustration that you are experiencing as you snap on a pair of rubber gloves and extract yet another toy from the poop-filled toilet, wondering aloud how the hell you keep finding yourself in this situation.
I am here to assure you that your child is not the only child who screams “I WANT TO LET THE WATER OUT OF THE BATH TUB!” followed immediately by, “I DON’T WANT TO LET THE WATER OUT OF THE BATH TUB!” followed immediately by, “I WANT TO SLEEP WITH MY KITTIES!” followed immediately by, “I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP WITH MY KITTIES!”
You are not crazy. You are not alone.
There have been times when I felt so overwhelmed by the constant demands of motherhood that I just laid in the middle of the living room floor like a cartoon character and let my children stare at me until my lower lumbar started to ache.
I never had lumbar problems until I had children.
You are not the only mom who forgot to be at a thing or failed to send that paper or complete that form before the deadline. I’ve done it. ALL OF IT. I had high hopes for what kind of mother I would be and I’ve continually fallen short.
Today I yelled at my sons.
Yesterday I was struggling to put the third row back up in our van and the back hatch slammed down on me just before the third row somehow landed on my shin. I threw an epic, adult-sized tantrum in broad daylight, right there in my driveway. I threw things and said things and I’m pretty sure my neighbors either think I’m crazy or a terrible mom.
Maybe they think I’m home with my kids because I’m too much of a lunatic to hold down a regular job. That was certainly not the case when I started this stay-at-home-mom gig, but after yesterday … I’m beginning to wonder.
God, motherhood is hard.
And I feel sorry for myself.
But I do have good news, and that’s that children are resilient creatures and they seem to have the ability to see past the exterior and deep into the depths of our soul. Children know if you are good or bad and if you truly, deeply, love them.
I love my kids. I love them so much that I keep getting up, yes, every single day, to try to do better than I did yesterday. Except when it’s PMS week. During PMS week, I don’t give a damn about trying harder or doing better.
During PMS week, I just try not to kill people.
Yesterday, my middle child had a Mardi Gras parade and we (the parents) were supposed to decorate a float for them to ride in. Everyone else’s were totally tricked out, because of course they were, and my kid and my friend’s kid were literally thrown together into a white wagon with no decorations.
We drank our coffee and applauded ourselves for being there.
My oldest child came home from school upset because a kid in his class, a little girl, keeps making fun of him for being “too hairy.” I told him to tell her that little girls who make fun of other kids for being too hairy turn into gorillas when they hit puberty.
He just stared at me.
If I am a truth-teller, and I believe that I am, then this is my message: it’s hard to be a mom and no one gets it right.
Backing away from writing even though I didn’t want or expect to (because of my concussion) has forced me to focus on the little things in life that bring me so much joy. I miss working SO MUCH and I will eventually get back to normal, but I am trying really hard to choose joy in the meantime.
It’s hard not to when she’s staring right at me.
Almost 8 years ago, I became a mother and kind of lost my shit. That is when I rediscovered my love of writing. Some people use knitting or cooking or Cross Fit to keep their shit intact. I write.
Eight years feels like nothing. Eight years feels like a million.
When was the last time my mom and I went shopping and she didn’t look so tired by the time we were done? When was the last time my youngest let me rock her to sleep? When did my 4-year-old start pronouncing “birthday” correctly?
When did I begin to get wrinkles around my eyes?
My husband and I have been married for over a decade. He has wrinkles around his eyes, too. I wonder when I first saw them.
Ten years feels like nothing. Ten years feels like a million.
I’ve written before about being in a season that seems never-endingly, suffocatingly difficult. But all things come to an end, right? They must, because my children are changing right in front of me, so quickly that I can’t pinpoint when it happened.
That is the saddest, and yet most hopeful, phrase a mother can hear.
My child accidentally concussed me on January 4. It’s an interesting story that I am saving for my Listen To Your Mother audition next month, so I won’t go into it here just yet.
For some reason, even though I couldn’t remember my own birthday, I totally thought I was fine. “You don’t need to take me to the hospital,” I said to my mother-in-law (who is a saint). “I’ll be …”
Then I trailed off. And I was slurring.
“Did I already tell you that you don’t need to take me to the hospital?”
She steered me into the car.
For a full two weeks after my injury, I insisted on trying to carry on with my normal activities as though nothing had happened. I remember almost none of it. It was almost exactly like that time I had about five too many mimosas at brunch and thought I was still okay to drive, and then I backed into another car trying to get out of my parking space. Everyone who was dining on the patio turned around and stared. I was mortified.
BAD, TERRIBLE, AWFUL LIFE CHOICES.
Clearly, I was not fine after suffering a head injury. I was saying things I normally would not say, and doing things I would not normally do, and after embarrassing myself all over town it eventually it sunk in that I really was not going to be able to “power through” this.
And then I got really angry.
The anger phase sucked. I couldn’t exercise, I could barely drive — I say “barely” because I could manage to putt 10 mph for two blocks to get my smaller two to preschool every day, but anything faster than that triggered my vertigo — I wasn’t supposed to look at screens. I did anyway, until I ended up in the emergency room a second time (pictured below).
I missed writing. I missed my online communities. I missed feeling connected to the world outside of my home.
I was alone, with nothing to do, a lot.
I had time to think. SO MUCH TIME TO THINK. At first I was like, maybe this is a gift. Maybe I can learn from this. Maybe I need to work on becoming more mindful.
And then I realized … mindfulness sucks. Mindfulness blows. Mindfulness is the worst possible thing when you are a writer who is unable to write. I had the most amazing, deeply profound thoughts.
And then I forgot them.
Because I had a concussion.
I’ve been on anti-anxiety medication at three different points in my life. The first time was after the birth of our first child. The second was after the birth of our second child. And the third time, is now.
I’ve always been an anxious person. As a child, I remember feeling stressed by my parent’s spontaneity. I wanted to know where we were going every time we left the house — my mind raced ahead, planning and preparing. I didn’t like surprises, which was ironic considering I was the only child of two people who have always enjoyed “winging it.”
When I was 6, I began chewing my fingernails. At 9, I started pulling out my hair. I marveled at the strands, each one a different color. Blonde, brown, red—all of them glinted in the sun. One day, I stepped out of the shower and noticed the wide, bald strip running all the way down the middle of my head.
I remember my mom telling me it was okay, that she could cover it up with a side part. I was home-schooled that year, which fortunately spared me from whatever happens to kids who bald themselves in the 3rd grade. It took the remainder of the year for my hair to grow back.
I switched to chewing my cuticles.
At 12, I turned to food. During one particularly stressful Christmas break, I spent all day, every day, at my Grandma’s house eating cheese sandwiches and homemade fudge. I ate until I felt sick. I ate to feel better.
It didn’t work.
I have never been a medicine taker. My mom used to make poultices and tinctures out of tea bags to cure whatever ailed me; we avoided the doctor unless it was absolutely necessary. In fact, until I had my first child and experienced the kind of irrational desperation that made me want to drive my car into a building just to make the pain stop, I was judgmental of people who turned to medication to help them cope. I thought they were weak.
I was wrong.
The funny thing about people with anxiety is that the mere idea of obtaining a prescription for medication is anxiety-inducing. What if the doctor thinks I’m lying? What if she thinks I’m one of those people who fill the prescription and then sell the meds on the black market? I better dress nicely for my appointment, so I don’t look like the kind of person who engages in criminal activity…but not too nice, because I don’t want to look like I run the crime ring.
Other worries included a paralyzing fear that the apocalypse would arrive and I would not only be unable to see (because I wouldn’t be able to obtain new contact lenses), but I would also lose my fucking mind because I wouldn’t be able to get the anti-anxiety medication that I WOULD CLEARLY NEED TO TAKE IF THE WORLD WAS COMING TO AN END.
I worried about one of my kids getting their hands on my pills and eating them. I worried about turning into a unemotional shell of a person. I worried about which was worse: slowly slipping into alcoholism, or taking medication for stress. Which one would I be judged more harshly for if people found out? Why did it matter?
For a long time, I fought it: I exercised and coped as best I could, but the day finally came when too many things were stacked too high, and they all came crashing down in one fell swoop.
It was time to get help.
My doctor didn’t treat me like a liar. She didn’t judge me. She affirmed, validated and assured me that my emotions were warranted. She patted my arm kindly, a gesture that I assume meant that she didn’t think I was there to con her.
She told me I wasn’t weak. To my surprise, I believed her.
I still read the entire warning label that accompanied the drug prescribed to me, and worried that I would be one of the 1% to experience numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in the hands or feet. I was still concerned that I was losing my mind, but decided that I no longer cared because the tightness in my chest was finally gone.
Medication freed me. I can breathe again, big gulps of air.
People say that it takes courage to ask for help, but I believe that it takes courage to admit that you needed it in the first place.
© 2015 Harmony Hobbs, as first published on Scary Mommy.
I am still supposed to be on “brain rest,” and I put that term in quotation marks because I have three small kids. On Monday, I was on the phone with a neurologist’s office trying to make an appointment as the two boys threw ashes at each other from the barbecue pit outside.
By the time I was done making my appointment — which, by the way, isn’t until February — they were covered in ashes from head to toe. So yeah. Brain rest.
Sometime last week I had a really good day and I wrote an essay, which I submitted to Babble and it was published. I have little recollection of any of it, but I have to say … I’m pretty proud of my work. Check it out by clicking here!
I got a concussion last week, but this blog post is not about that. Don’t worry, I’ll tell the story eventually — but right now I want to talk about how I managed to epically humiliate myself as a result of said concussion.
Are you ready? Okay.
The guy who cuts our grass is Robbie’s childhood best friend’s brother. I would really prefer for Robbie to cut our grass himself, because nothing is more of a turn on for me than a man doing physical labor, but he works a lot now that he’s back in the car business. So we pay his friend’s brother to do it.
I can’t ever seem to recall the guy’s real name, because everyone calls him Wolfie, and I’m not sure if I am allowed to call him that or not, so I don’t call him anything. I just smile and wave.
Yesterday morning I took the little kids to preschool and I was quite proud of myself for doing so, because it was the first time I’ve been able to operate a motor vehicle since getting concussed without feeling like I was completely and utterly drunk. When I returned home, Wolfie was at our house. I was not thinking clearly begin with, and his presence caught me off guard.
Let me go ahead and explain that I normally think quite clearly. It’s not typical for me to be fuzzy-brained, even with three kids, but I was in the E.R. with a concussion 9 days prior to this occurrence and I am still not myself. So I rolled down my window and said good morning, the whole time thinking, “OH SHIT, WHAT IS THIS DUDE’S NAME AND WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER IT EVEN THOUGH I NEVER SAY IT ALOUD BECAUSE I’M NOT SURE IF I AM ALLOWED TO CALL HIM THAT NAME.”
A few minutes into our conversation, I realized he was looking at me funny. Maybe it was because I was acting funny. So I then felt compelled to explain to him that I got a concussion last Monday and his expression turned from slight confusion to mild horror, so I followed up with an explanation of how it happened and watched his horror turn to utter shock.
Then I told him I was going to go inside to write him a check and that I would be right back.
“You don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “I can just bill you.”
But no, I had to go on and on about how I hate letting bills pile up and I definitely wanted to pay him today, so he shrugged and said okay. He stood in my driveway with his weed eater turned off, waiting for me to return.
Except that when I got inside I couldn’t find the checkbook.
And then I couldn’t remember his real name — first OR last — and how much we pay him to cut our grass. So then I just sort of pretended that I forgot.
He eventually turned the weed eater back on and proceeded to spend the next hour mowing our grass. But then he was done, and he knocked on the back door, because I was supposed to have returned with a check over an hour ago.
I was too mortified about my lapse in memory and series of bad choices to do what I should have done, which was to hand him a blank check and ask him to fill it out for me.
Truth be told, I was afraid if he knew how bad my mental situation really was 9 days post-concussion, he would refuse to leave me alone, and after almost 2 weeks of having other adults up my ass telling me what NOT to do I just couldn’t handle it.
So I laid on the floor.
He continued to knock.
I called Robbie.
“I’m in a weird situation and I need your help.”
“What KIND of weird situation?”
“Ummm … what the guy’s name who mows our grass?”
“He’s here, and I’m pretty sure he thinks I died.”
Basically, Wolfie is the nicest guy ever and when I did not come to the door, he called his brother, who called my husband and asked if he needed to KICK THE DOOR IN TO CHECK ON ME.
Robbie thankfully explained that I was fine. A tad off, obviously, but fine.
I cannot put into words how mortified I would have been if he had kicked in the door. But also? I totally deserved it.
So the next time I see Wolfie, I’m going to hug him and apologize.
Or I might lie on the floor and play dead.
I hope that by the time you read this letter you know how much your father and I love you and how we want nothing more than to give you the world. But one day you will come to understand that if we gave you the world, you wouldn’t appreciate it. You wouldn’t live in it with the same pizzazz and gusto as you will if you have to work for it.
We want you to work hard to earn what you have.
It is hard to watch you struggle to learn things on your own, and sometimes I have to fight the urge to swoop in and do things for you, but I try really hard to stand back. I watch and I wait. Usually you can figure it out on your own.
That’s what life is like as a grown up.
Don’t rush to adulthood. It’s hard here. But also, we don’t want you dragging your feet when you’re old enough to be responsible for your own laundry and bills. My job is to put myself out of a job. Don’t expect me to treat you like you’re 7 when you’re 17.
We want you to follow your dreams, live your life to the fullest, and become who you are meant to be, but following your dreams is really hard. No one talks about that part. There will be times when you have no money. Your pride will take a beating. You’ll wonder why you’re putting yourself through this torture. You will feel like you have nothing new to offer. You’ll want to give up, because everything is terrible.
You might come back home and sit on the couch and stay there for several days. It’s okay. We’re here.
But one day out of nowhere, doors will start opening and they will keep opening if you keep working hard and treating other people with respect, and all of the sudden you’ll realize that you are LIVING the dream you once had.
To push through the hard stuff, you have to be persistent. You have to be fueled by something.
What fuels me is the fear of being forced back into a mauve cubicle. I also fear failure. I’m not sure what will fuel you, but it’s usually a terrible experience. That’s why when bad things happen to you, I’ll encourage you to press on. Better things are coming.
They really are.
I hope that you fall in love with a person who makes you feel like the best version of yourself. I hope you find someone who makes you laugh and who inspires you. If you can’t find someone like that, get a dog.
I insisted on having the three of you because I know what it feels like to be the only child. You are each other’s people, and I hope that you all stick together when weird family stuff happens. If you start acting crazy when I am on my deathbed, I will come back and haunt you.
Motherhood is my greatest joy. It is my greatest achievement, producing the three of you. But I am many other things in addition to being your mother. I have to be, to hold onto who I am. Never allow yourself to be absorbed into anyone else, even your own children.
Whatever you are, be that.
And whatever that is, I will always love you.