Lessons In Body Acceptance

Yesterday, my 8-year-old and I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. While waiting, he checked his weight and blood pressure on a fancy machine that I’ve never seen there before. When I realized that the machine also checked Body Mass Index, I told him I wanted to weigh myself. As the numbers flashed on the screen, I swallowed hard.

“Is that really how much you weigh?!” His mouth was literally hanging open in shock, because little boys who weigh 68 pounds have no idea how much adults are supposed to weigh. Also, I’ve been stress eating for literally 6 months straight, so you do the math.

I forced myself to erase all emotion from my face and voice as I chirped “Yep!” and got off the scale with as much dignity as one can muster in the pharmacy waiting area of a Rite-Aid drug store.

I wanted to say that I need to lose 15 pounds.

I wanted to say that I feel fat and gross and I need to take better care of myself.

I wanted to say that I’m healthy, I exercise, and it’s just a number.

I wanted to apologize, explain, or drill into his head that it’s never okay to speak about a woman’s weight.

Most of all, I wanted to grab him by the shoulders and say NEVER REPEAT THAT NUMBER TO ANYONE, DO YOU HEAR ME????

Instead, I smiled, put my arm around him, and we walked out of the store. The first step in teaching our children self-confidence is to demonstrate it, even if we have to fake our way through it sometimes. It makes me wonder how many times my own mother masked her true feelings in order to teach me lessons in body acceptance.

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Image via Courtney Privett. Find her on Facebook here!

My weight is a number that changes every day, my weight does not define me as a person, and my job as a mother is to instill in my children what things actually matter in life.

That number is not one of those things.

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How Raising A Strong-Willed Boy Forced Me To Grow Up

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.

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This photo was taken on my first day back to work after a 4-month maternity leave, January 2009.

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.

With the threat of a C-section looming, my son and I furrowed our brows, rolled up our metaphorical sleeves and did what we had to do. I pushed with all my might and he re-broke the bone, forcing his way out. It sounds awful, but really, what’s a broken bone when you’re pushing a human being out of your vagina? It was just another source of discomfort in an already uncomfortable area (and it makes a pretty fantastic story).

I was so unsure of myself when I became a mom. When I think about that person—so nervous about changing her baby’s diaper that she had to have “help” doing it for much longer than I’m comfortable admitting—I can’t be mad at her. She had no idea what she was doing. I give her grace. But also, she really needed to grow the hell up.

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.

Cat and boys

A typical scene at my house. Poor kitty.

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.

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Going Nuts

Maverick is now at the age where he quietly listens to grown up conversations. He doesn’t jump up and down screaming. He doesn’t try to talk over us. He doesn’t interrupt every 5 seconds. He doesn’t pull on my leg and yell “MOMMY!” the whole time. He doesn’t throw tantrums.

He’s 7 now. I like 7.

My son is a joy.

It was hard getting to this place. It took years for me to learn how to be the mother that he needed. I didn’t understand what I was dealing with and I made a lot of mistakes, but we learned and failed and apologized — together. Because just like he needed to be taught self-control, I did too. And just like he needed to be taught to listen, so did I.

And now we’re here, just enjoying the feeling of not drowning.

Last weekend, I took Maverick with me to my parent’s house to see family that was visiting from out of town. We all talked for hours, forgetting he was there. He sat and listened intently, his big hazel eyes shining with interest. Every once in awhile I stopped and watched him, relishing how grown up he is.

My mom has cancer, and while discussing her treatment options with us she mentioned that she definitely would NOT be taking a particular kind of medication because it might make her, and I quote, “act like a squirrel.”

Me: “What do you mean, ACT LIKE A SQUIRREL?”

My mom: “It might make me think I’m a squirrel. Like I’d want to climb trees and hoard acorns.”

Me: “I … I don’t understand.”

(Pulls out phone to Google medication name + “squirrel-like behavior.”)

My mom: “I don’t understand it either, but all I know is that I will NOT be going that treatment route.”

My dad later explained that when the doctor mentioned to my mom that this treatment might make her act “squirrelly” he interpreted it to mean that it might make her crazy. The unpredictable, irreversible, no-cure-for-it kind. So maybe she might end up thinking she was a squirrel, but most likely it would either make her cancer-free, or crazy. She’s not willing to take any chances when it comes to her sanity, so she struck that option from the list.

I can’t say I blame her.

On the way home, Maverick asked a million questions from the backseat about Grandma becoming a squirrel.

Fast forward a few days and I find these sitting on the kitchen counter.

Hoarding acorns just in case.

Hoarding acorns just in case.

“I’m collecting acorns for Grandma,” Maverick said. “Just in case she goes squirrelly.”

The best thing about 7 is that this newfound grown up behavior is tempered by innocence and fun. I told him I’d start a collection bowl for the nuts he gathers during the day.

Just in case.

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Truth Or Dare.

My oldest child is in 2nd grade. Here’s one of our typical dinnertime conversations.

Maverick: “Truth or dare?”

Me: “Truth.”

Maverick: “Aw, man! Everyone picks truth! I always pick dare when we play it at school.”

Me: “That’s because people are too chicken to do the dares. Like me. I’m chicken.”

Maverick: “They dared me to eat grass and I ate it. I ate it a few different times.”

Me: (silence)

Maverick: “Well … grass AND leaves. I ate them both.”

Me: (silence)

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Seven.

You are 7 years old today.

I was taught that seven is a perfect, magical number — God created Heaven and Earth in 6 days and then rested on the 7th. The number seven shows up repeatedly all throughout the Bible, meaning, I assume, that you will be absolutely angelic for the next 365 days. Because seven.

You have given me so many gifts in your short life, I cannot imagine what else there is to experience. And yet I know, because of what the past seven years have shown me, that my mind is too small to imagine the joy that is yet to come. I could weave my words into an eloquent summary of what it means to be your mother, but that wouldn’t suit us. I’ll stick with what I know and keep it simple.

You are ear-to-ear grins too early in the morning.

You are pizzazz, personified.

You are stubborn and so incredibly difficult. Like … so difficult. You dig your heels in unlike anyone I have ever known, and it’s terrifying and wondrous all at once to know that I am supposed to shape you into a man of character, because you already have so much character. How am I supposed to know what to do with it?! There is so much of it, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger, like pizza dough.

Being your mother makes me uncomfortable because I have to admit almost daily that I don’t know what the hell I am doing. But I think you think I’m pretty great, so that helps.

You are fun.

You are full-volume.

You eat like a chinchilla, and you get that from your father.

You like to catch people off-guard. When I least expect it, you’ll say “Mommy! How many Sith Lords does it take to change a lightbulb?” And I will stop whatever I’m doing and think about it, but before I can answer, you blurt out: “NONE! BECAUSE THEY PREFER IT ON THE DARK SIDE! Get it?! DARK? SIDE? HAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!”

Oh, Maverick. My life would be so boring without you. Like I tell you all the time, you are just right, just the way you are.

SEVEN!

SEVEN!

Happy 7th birthday, kid. You are a gift to me every single day.

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This Is How We Do.

My oldest child started 2nd grade today.

I woke up at 5:30 a.m., a full hour before my alarm was supposed go off, unable to go back to sleep because it felt like Christmas morning.

I did all of the things mothers are supposed to do when their children start 2nd grade. I lovingly fashioned pancakes out of the instant mix that comes in a bottle that you pour water into and shake really hard.

I made sure I had a bra on, just in case the neighbors could see me shaking that bottle of pancake batter.

First day of school!

I laid out Maverick’s navy blue uniform shorts and told him to ignore the lint that blanketed them — clearly, washing them with new towels was a mistake — and made sure that his tennis shoes were double-knotted.

We missed the bus, but I assured him there was plenty of time for us to go through the carpool line. I corralled the other pajamaed children and loaded them all into our van.

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Maverick has been telling us for months that he wants to be an “asteroidal physicist.” Last year and the year before that, he just wanted to be a regular scientist. I’m not sure what changed, but I do know that I was Googling “asteroidal physicist” before I had my coffee this morning, and that was intense.

We rounded the corner and waited in the long line of cars at the elementary school, and because I am a good mother who tries to do the right things, I attempted to have a special moment with my child.

You know what I’m talking about. That moment when you and your kid connect on a deeper level, and he or she understands for a fleeting moment the depth of your love, and you relish the feeling that you’re doing a really good job until you find yourself screaming “DON’T EAT THE TOOTHPASTE OUT OF THE BATHROOM SINK!” yet again.

It’s special.

I turned around in my seat to look at him, blinking back tears. “Maverick, I am so proud of you and I hope you have a great day. Your brother and sister are really going to miss you tod—”

This was the precise moment that the teacher who was on carpool duty opened our van door and Maverick yelled “BUH-BYE, SUCKAS!!!!!!” at the top of his lungs as he leapt out.

She stood there for a moment, frozen.

I smiled and yelled “HAVE A GREAT DAY!” as if this was perfectly normal, as though the Hobbs family yells that phrase every time they part ways.

Her face never changed expression as she slid the door closed.

I’ve decided that the next time I drop my children off somewhere, I’ll kiss them all goodbye as usual, and as they smile and wave at me like the little darlings that they are, I will roll down the window of our beat up van and shout “BUH-BYE, SUCKAS!!!!” as I peel the eff out.

Because this is how we do, SUCKAS.

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Resisting The Summer Slide.

Me: Why do you want to bring your composition book camping this weekend?

6-year-old: So I can write down all of the things I observe, like the flowers and the birds …

Me: (silently listening)

6-year-old: I have to keep my brain operating at an advanced level, or the “summer slide” will happen. That’s when you forget everything you learned over the summer.

Me: (silently listening)

6-year-old: The only “slide” I want to experience is a slide at the playground.

That’s my boy … 6 going on middle age.

WHEN DID HE GROW UP?!

WHEN DID HE GROW UP?!

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The World Needs More Kind People.

I’m an imperfect, mess of a person who married an imperfect, mess of a person. Together we have spawned three imperfect, messy people.

Robbie and I recognized early on that we didn’t know what the hell we were doing. That became clear 7 years ago in our Intro To Parenting class when the instructor said “Raise your hand if you’ve never changed a diaper!” and we were the only two people in the room with our hands in the air.

Our unborn child was screwed. We knew it, the instructor knew it, and the 15 other couples in the class knew it.

Because of our apparent lack of knowledge, we have made it our practice to set the bar of achievement at a reasonable level. We encourage our children to do their best and we are proud when they succeed, but more than that, it is important to us that we raise them to be kind.

I don’t just want my kids to be kind to people who look and act like they do. I want them to be kind to everyone. Yes, black people. Yes, brown people. Yes, yellow people. Yes, gay people. Yes, strange people — and don’t call them strange, because we’re strange too.

Yes, homeless people. Yes, punk rock people. Yes, baby people. Yes, old church people.

Yes, even your own brother and sister.

PEOPLE ARE PEOPLE. BE KIND TO THEM. This is our family motto.

The thing about parenting is that you never really know if what you’re doing is working. You just do the best you can, and as days stretch into weeks you keep trudging along until something happens that lets you know that you have either failed miserably or done something right. Recently something happened that let me know we’re doing something right.

My 6-year-old’s teacher sent me a text letting me know that she selected him to receive the “Good Citizenship” award because of how kind, helpful, and patient he’s been with a boy named Gabriel in their class.

“Who is Gabriel?” I asked. She replied that Gabriel is a little boy with autism.

“Maverick is so patient with him,” she said. “He’s made such a huge difference.”

Maverick has mentioned to us a handful of times that there is a really funny boy who does silly things and I had no idea what he was talking about. We have friends who have kids with autism, so Maverick may not even realize there is anything different going on with his friend.

The next morning at breakfast, we asked about Gabriel. “OH!” he said, “Gabriel is my friend. He has a disability. I know all about disabilities. Gabriel’s disability is that he just can’t stop being funny!”

As I turned away to hide my face, because I was doing that ugly cry thing that moms do when they are moved by something, I heard Maverick say “His favorite color is rainbow! Isn’t that awesome?!” before shoveling more cereal into his mouth.

Several days later, I found myself standing in a sea of other proud parents. My son sat quietly through the awards ceremony; he had no idea that his name was going to be called, and certainly didn’t know the reason why.

I watched him, feeling the condensation drip from my iced coffee, wondering when the transformation happened. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, he’s changed. A year ago he would have had trouble sitting there quietly. And now, just look at him.

Raising a kind child.

Me and my kid.

Later, I arrived at his classroom for the end of year party. “HI, MOMMY!” he yelled, in typical exuberant fashion. He was sitting outside next to a little boy I’d never seen before.

“Hi! Who’s your friend?” I asked.

“Oh! This is Gabriel!”

“Hi, Gabriel! I’m Maverick’s mom.”

Gabriel smiled. I liked him already.

The world doesn’t need three more assholes. The world needs three more kind people.

I hope my children can be those three kind people.

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First Grade Journaling.

First graders at our neighborhood school are required to write in a black-and-white journal every morning. They aren’t allowed to bring it home and they aren’t allowed to draw in it.

This afternoon, I got a text from Maverick’s teacher. It was a picture of today’s entry.

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The year is supposed to be 2015. I hope he didn’t lose points for that, because I keep doing it too.

One of the most traumatic events in my life thus far was the day that Asher, who was only a year old at the time, went to the refrigerator looking for juice. It was on the same day that Aunt Nancy and Uncle John were coming to see our new baby girl for the first time, and Robbie and I were busy cleaning the house.

I heard him saying “Mommy, juice,” but I was busy and figured I would get to it in a minute. Always the self-reliant middle child, he went to the refrigerator to get the juice himself. He then proceeded to lug out a gigantic bottle of wine that was stored in the door, dropped it on the tile floor, slipped, and fell in the glass. Just thinking about it makes me upset — my heart starts to race, my stomach flip-flops.

I NEVER drink white wine. I don’t know why I bought it. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was living in The Blur, so I probably just saw it on sale somewhere and thought YES, I NEED THAT. I need ALL of that. EVERY LAST DROP, right this minute. I don’t have time to rip the cork out with my teeth in the parking lot and drink it immediately because the baby is hungry and screaming, so I’ll just take it home and chill it. Isn’t that what people do with white wine? I usually drink red. It’s much more low-maintenance. Yes — I’ll chill it — and as soon as I get the chance, I’m gonna down this mofo like the sleep-deprived bitch that I am.

That chance never came, because my child beat me to it.

When the ambulance arrived, our entire house smelled of alcohol, the baby was screaming, and I was covered in blood, crying with a toddler on my lap. The biggest chunk of glass that lodged itself in his ass left a large, crescent-shaped scar on his butt cheek that still makes my heart sink every time I look at it.

Maverick wasn’t home when it happened, but one of his most favorite activities is to meet a new person and tell the exciting tale of The Time Asher Broke A Bottle of Mommy’s Wine. If you hear the story from a charismatic 6-year-old, it’s actually quite entertaining.

His teacher informed me during our textversation today that this story, as told by Maverick, is one of her very favorites. “This one’s a keeper,” she said, referring to the journal entry. Yes, indeed it is. I never made baby books for any of my children, but I do have THIS.

I’ll just store it right next to the bloody chunk of glass I have stored in a box in my closet.

Mommy Doesn’t Pay Her Bills.

Remember last week when our water got shut off because I forgot to pay the bill?

No?

Oh … it’s because I forgot to tell you. Well, our water got shut off because I have too much on my plate and can’t remember to pay anything on time. As soon as I realized what was happening, I called the water company, paid the bill plus a reconnect fee, and all was well. I feel like I have to clarify that I got the water turned back on, lest you believe that we’re living in squalor. But if this were real squalor, I wouldn’t have internet access, now would I?!

Oh, wait. I spoke too soon.

This morning it happened again, this time with our TV and internet. I tried to turn on Curious George for the kids and the message from AT&T popped up which said, basically, “Pay up, bitch.” I stood in the living room, terrified of the thought of life without TV or internet while my oldest child stood next to me and read the words on the screen.

“YOU FORGOT TO PAY THIS BILL, TOO?!” he gasped.

Yes. Yes, I did, because I have too much on my mind. I forgot because I am a wife to a very messy man and a mother of three little kids and I recently got serious about my writing because I’d like for it to become more than just a “hobby.” I forgot because I was too busy thinking about story ideas or emails I needed to send, and I heard splashing and didn’t know what it was and it turned out to be your little sister splashing in the toilet with both hands, with her mouth open. I forgot because you and your brother beat the ever-loving shit out of each other every time I leave the room. I forgot because bills are stupid and they are the opposite of fun.

My husband saved the day by paying the bill from his work computer, and all was right in the world once more.

A few hours later, we found ourselves at the pediatrician’s office for checkups. I love our pediatrician. She has three boys and doesn’t judge me or my children. She just gets it. Her office is new, and small enough for everyone to hear what is said if you bellow it loudly from the front desk, which would be good if, say, you needed an emergency tourniquet. But bad, if, for example, you’re me.

As we were getting ready to leave, I stopped at the front to ask the doctor and her husband (who also works there) what I needed to pay before we left. My exact words were, “Is there a bill?”

That is when Maverick said, in his very loud, bellowy voice, “MOMMY DOESN’T PAY HER BILLS.”

I tried to laugh it off, because thankfully I have a great relationship with our pediatrician, but I could feel my face reddening as he continued: “NO, REALLY. LAST WEEK OUR WATER GOT SHUT OFF AND TODAY THE TV GOT TURNED OFF. MOMMY REALLY DOESN’T PAY THE BILLS.

DON’T GIVE HER ONE.

SHE WON’T PAY IT.”

Yeah … so that happened. Let’s just go ahead and file this under Embarrassing Moments In Motherhood, and then strike it from memory.

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