Lift Women Up (or get out of their way)

I have long considered myself a champion of women. One of the most fulfilling parts of being a writer is empowering others to own their truth by sharing mine.

Honesty is strength; sharing our struggles with each other allows us to be vulnerable. It heals and encourages us. It is one of the million tiny steps that it takes to travel from darkness to hope, and every time I’m honest, I grow stronger — which makes the risk of truth-telling worth it.

Ever since becoming a mother, I have made it my mission to speak truthfully about the beauty and the bullshit of parenthood. I know that one day, my kids will probably read my work and either end up in therapy because of it, or become inspired to write their own truth. Mothers carry so much invisible emotional weight on their shoulders. Weight that no one will ever understand or see, because it comes from places that cannot accurately be imagined or described.

Today, I’m going to try.

I fear that my daughter will one day fall in love with a boy who has a crazy family. This fear is rooted in the fact that I once found myself in this exact situation, and it ended with me getting my face beat in and spending the rest of my life recovering from the heartbreak and anxiety of having people I loved turn on me.

I fear that my children will have unprotected sex. I did.

I fear that they will be so afraid of losing my approval that they will stop telling me the truth.

I do not fear that they will experiment with drugs. I fear that they will experiment with drugs and never be able to stop.

I fear that they will marry the wrong person.

I fear that I will die.

I have many fears, but my greatest fear is that my children will not be strong enough to lift others up, and will instead tear others down. Producing children who grow into adults that destroy others would absolutely devastate and shame me as a parent.

Fear causes us to destroy others rather than empower them. Can we just put fear aside for a little while, cram it into a box and stuff it under the ratty underwear in our dresser drawer? Fear holds us back, while bravery propels us forward.

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Image via download-images.com. All rights reserved.

Fearlessness allows us to experience life in such a way that not only do we change, but we are also able to change the people around us: by loving them, lifting them up, supporting them, and offering our applause. Everyone struggles, but women REALLY STRUGGLE. It’s ironic that women — the ones who need support the most — are often the most destructive to each other. Ask me how I know.

My greatest moment of destruction was at the hands of women.

My greatest moment of achievement was because of women.

Women gave birth to this world and we continue to give it life, so either lift us up or get the fuck out of our way.

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Throwing Out Everything I Thought I Knew About Being A Parent

Last week, our son was diagnosed with a form of autism. He’s 8 years old, which means that I am struggling with the knowledge that for the entirety of his short life, all I’ve done is nag and berate him for things that he truly did not know how to control.

“Parent Coaching” is a nice way of saying “You need to re-learn how to parent your unusual child.” Yesterday I attended our first coaching session alone, because Robbie was stuck at work and unable to go.

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HOLY CRAP.

I learned so much in those 45 minutes. Parenting Maverick has been a huge mystery, a constant uphill battle, and now suddenly all the information is unlocked! It’s flying at me at warp speed — all I have to do is to hang on and keep up.

I learned that when he’s beginning to get upset, we have been approaching him in a way that upsets him even more.

I learned that once the rage cycle starts, he won’t hear or be aware of anything else. That’s why sometimes he denies having said or done certain things after the fact and refuses to apologize. He honestly doesn’t know he did them. OH MY GOD, THAT IS SUCH A RELIEF. I literally thought I was raising a sociopath.

The therapist also made a huge deal over how impossibly, impossibly hard it is for any human being to handle a child on the spectrum without losing her shit. Because it’s not just difficult, and it’s not just challenging. It requires superhuman mindfulness and patience that I have not yet achieved, but hopefully, through the miracle of modern medicine and practice of breathing techniques, I will one day master it.

I learned that my expectations need to be run over, smashed into smithereens, and destroyed. I’m going to have to eradicate every idea I’ve ever had about my child and what he is capable of. I’m going to gather all of the knowledge I’ve gleaned from parenting books and articles and burn it, because none of that applies anymore. I now know that my child thinks differently and copes differently, and it is our job to be flexible.

Even though I have so much to learn, we are definitely on the right path. As the therapist talked to me, my eyes were opened to what I’ve really been dealing with all this time. We’ve already put some strategies into place, and guess what? Things in our house are already so. much. better.

I feel more hopeful than I have in a very long time, and I am grateful to be on this journey with my fascinating kid. I promise to do better now, Maverick. I promise to do better.

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Finding The Missing Piece

For almost 9 years, I’ve operated under the belief that I must be not that great at parenting, despite all my efforts. After all, I’d never changed a diaper before I had my first child, so it’s not too farfetched to assume that my struggles are due to my own ineptitude.

Despite my insecurities, part of me knew that I must be a passable mom, because when the nurse handed Maverick to me on September 3, 2008, for the first time in my life I felt a sense of purpose so distinct that it was palpable. As we stared at each other, I thought, we were chosen for each other.

As the years marched on I’ve questioned myself more and more, but that unforgettable moment of meeting my son for the first time was what I always went back to. When faced with a seemingly insurmountable situation, I remind myself that I’m meant to do this. After all, we were chosen for each other.

I was so overwhelmed with the stress of raising a child who didn’t seem ordinary (in addition to his two younger siblings), that I turned to the only thing that has ever helped me process my thoughts: writing. I wrote and I wrote, and people responded, because let’s face it — none of us know what the hell we’re doing. I needed to understand why motherhood was so hard, and why it was only becoming more difficult. I traded ideas with women from all over the world. I read all of the parenting books and applied all of the principles.

Maybe we needed more Jesus. Maybe we needed probiotics. Maybe we needed more sunshine. Maybe something was so significantly lacking that it was screwing up our family dynamic, and if I could just find that one missing piece, everything would fall into place. Maybe Robbie and I needed more date nights. Maybe we needed more money, a different house, a new school, more kids. We tried it all, and nothing worked for longer than a few days at a time.

Although Maverick does not seem overtly unusual, I knew something was off. I struggled to put my finger on what it was, and naturally everyone had an opinion. “He’s too smart,” they said. “He’s just bored.” Robbie kept telling me that Maverick probably had ADHD, just as he did as a child, and assured me that our son would be fine.

“Nothing is wrong with Maverick,” he said, countless times.

Maybe something was wrong with ME. But I needed to figure it out, because we were chosen for each other.

I tried harder to create an interesting, stimulating environment at home to help satisfy his craving for information. His memory is incredible. He can recall in vivid detail the time I took him to the park when he was two years old and he had on his red t-shirt and lost his truck under the monkey bars. He quotes facts about famous scientists and the surface of Jupiter; after hearing a song only one time, he can repeat all the lyrics. He can add large numbers in his head, quickly.

I cut out red dye #40. I cut out processed foods. I limited screen time. I spanked, a lot. I tried time outs, a lot. We took away toys and privileges.

I cried. A LOT.

The older Maverick got, the harder he became to handle. His emotions were big — exuberant one minute, and terrible, raging fury the next. He was scary sometimes. Robbie works insane hours, and I was in way over my head. We now had a family of five, and while Maverick loves his siblings, he lashed out at them often. Every day was filled with drama, and I kept hitting rock bottom.

Over and over again, I found myself in terrible situations with my kid, not knowing what to do to make it better, and quickly running out of ideas. When no one has a child like yours, it’s very lonely. My friends offered support, but they had no advice.

Our pediatrician said he was perfectly normal. When speaking, Maverick makes eye contact and articulates like an adult. He understands humor — when he was 5 years old, he did a stand up comedy routine for the school Talent Show that brought the house down. Despite what the doctor and everyone else said, I knew either something was going on with my kid, or something was terribly amiss with me as a parent.

We were chosen for each other. This is what I kept telling myself.

I swallowed my pride and got professional help. By then, Maverick was 7 years old. They suggested psychological testing, but it was expensive, so we waited on that, and toughed it out through talk therapy. I hoped that they could tell me how to best parent him, because I constantly feel like our relationship is war-torn. My son thinks I do not like him. My son questions whether or not he is worthy of love.

Talk therapy, as it turns out, does not help much without a diagnosis. We said that we wanted to go ahead with testing.

“He’s a very complicated case,” said the psychologist, weeks into the testing process.

“No shit,” I replied.

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One of the best things about this kid is his zest for life.

After months of evaluation and many more issues at home, Robbie and I were called in to go over their findings. As we sat in the doctor’s office, I thought about how it took not one, but two, doctors of psychology to diagnose our son. I thought about how tired I am. I thought about how I would do whatever they said would make things better. But most of all, I thought about how we were chosen for each other.

And then he cleared his throat, and in one simple sentence, the psychologist explained why motherhood is so hard for me.

Maverick has a form of autism.

The way I felt when he told us is almost exactly how I felt when my mother told me she had been diagnosed with cancer — utter relief to finally have a reason for all the madness, followed by grief and guilt. The grief I feel over Maverick’s diagnosis is purely from all of the mistakes I’ve made over the course of his life because I truly could not understand his behavior. I misinterpreted almost everything he did and said, and that makes me profoundly sad.

Guilt and grief aside, I am incredibly proud of my kid. I’m proud of who he is and what he can and will accomplish. He has an enormous responsibility because his brain is special, and I look at this as a gift. His super brain is his gift from God, and Maverick is God’s gift to me.

We weren’t sure how or when we would tell him about what the doctors said, but it turned out that we didn’t have to. Two days after we learned of the diagnosis, I was tucking Maverick into bed when he sat up and said, “Am I autistic?”

“What makes you ask that?” I said, shocked.

“Well, I asked you that a long time ago and you said no. Do you remember?”

“I do.”

“Well, am I autistic?”

“Yes, Maverick, you are. You have a form of autism. It was hard for them to figure out, because most kids with autism aren’t as social as you are. You’re actually really lucky, because you’re good with people and you have a super brain!”

We spent the next hour lying in his bed, talking about how he’s always known he was different from the other kids, which is why he’s always gone out of his way to be kind to the weird ones. I told him that we’re going to learn about his brain, together, and that he is a very special kid.

“So special,” I said, “That it took TWO doctors to figure out what kind of brain you have.”

We were chosen for each other, and I couldn’t be more proud of us.

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Just Tell The Truth

Maverick is 8 years old. He was only two when I first began writing publicly about motherhood — obviously, a lot has changed since then. The older my children get, the less inclined I am to tell their stories. I will not, however, stop telling mine.

Honesty is a big deal in our house — after all, trust is the foundation upon which everything is built. When Maverick looked up at me with his big toddler eyes and asked me if Santa Clause was real, I told him the truth. When he asked me how babies are made, I told him the truth. When asked questions about gay marriage, women’s rights, racism, sexuality, our bodies, and religion, I always tell the (age-appropriate) truth, even — and perhaps especially — when it’s uncomfortable.

It’s much easier to lie. Lying allows us to temporarily skip past discomfort; telling the truth means that I have to get at eye level with another human being and say something that might be hard to say or even harder to hear. Robbie and I have, over the course of 13 years together, finally learned how to be honest with each other.

No, I don’t want to eat there. No, I don’t feel like having sex right now. Yes, I like that shirt better. No, I don’t like it when you forget to shave.

Honesty makes me feel secure. I like having things out in the open, where I know what I’m dealing with. I find, though, that not everyone feels that way. An awful lot of us prefer to jam everything under the rug and just pretend it never happened.

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Recently, Maverick lost a handwriting workbook that was worth a large portion of his grade. He told me he lost it at school, and when I asked about it again a few days later, he assured me that he’d found it and turned it in. A few weeks later, his teacher texted me to ask if I could help him find his workbook — he told her he’d lost it at home.

He lied.

My knee-jerk response was PUNISHMENT. He lied to me and to his teacher, so clearly he deserved a consequence, right? As I mulled over what his punishment should be, it occurred to me that the punishment was the natural consequence of dropping a letter grade in a subject at school, in addition to losing his parent’s and teacher’s trust.

“I can’t help you if you don’t tell me the truth,” I said.

He looked surprised.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that if you would have told me right away that you lost your workbook, we could have looked for it together. We’re on the same team. But if you lie to me, you don’t give me the opportunity to help you.”

I think that’s true for all of us. In order to repair our lives, relationships, and world, we have to start telling the truth. It’s not going to be easy. There will be sweaty palms, hurt feelings, sleepless nights, and maybe some people will stop talking to us altogether. But also, we’ll find out who our people are.

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Time Is Change

Today was my annual eye exam. I completed the paperwork, removed my contact lenses, and settled in.

“Have you noticed any trouble seeing things that are close to your face?”

“Uh, no? Why?”

“Well, you’ll start noticing some vision changes pretty soon. Don’t worry, bifocal contact lenses are a good option for you … unless you’d want reading glasses.”

Wait. Hold up. Bifocals? I’ve reached bifocal age?

I remember turning 30 so clearly: going out with friends, drinking too much tequila, kissing Robbie at Vulcan Park. I remember that birthday, but none since. The time between ages 30 and 37 is muddied by sleep deprivation and hormonal shifts; thankfully, now that my youngest child is nearly four, I’m beginning to emerge from the fog.

Maybe a small part of me knew when we decided to start a family that pieces of ourselves would fall away, dissolve, and disappear. That is aging, after all — but aging is time, time is change, and change is uncertain.

I do not like uncertainty.

Maverick is changing. He won’t hold my hand in public anymore, and he shies away from my hugs. It hurts way more than I expected it would. I wasn’t ready. But yet, much like my eyesight, I can’t prevent it; I just have to lean in, gracefully, and pretend that my heart isn’t breaking.

I remember being 8 and not liking my mother for some unexplained reason.

I wish I could go back and be nicer to her.

Much like everything else in life, the bifocal situation will be determined by how I choose to view it. I could lament the fact that I’m pushing 40, wallow in grief over the loss of my youth, OR, I could give myself a kick in the ass and be proud of the fact that I don’t look nearly old enough to need BIFOCALS.

Today, I choose the latter.

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I’ll Never Show My Face There Again

I respect and love my husband, which is why I would never, ever purposefully embarrass him at his place of employment.

Accidentally (like this day)? Perhaps. But definitely never on purpose. No. We need his job.

I had a good streak going for the first 13 years of our relationship; I never bothered him at work, and I never showed up looking crazy, homicidal, or inappropriately dressed. We never made out in the parking lot. We kept it professional, even when we worked together.

However, this year, things have taken somewhat of a downhill turn. 2016 has been the worst. It started with me getting a major concussion and is apparently ending with me making a complete ass of myself every time I venture out into public.

The kids are on Thanksgiving Break, which means that I have all three of them at home all day, every day, until November 28. No, I’m not counting down the days until they go back to school, why do you ask? Is it the crazy look in my eyes, or the increasingly-high pitch of my voice?

Yesterday I had to take my 5-year-old to the dentist, which required a lot of arranging and re-arranging of childcare because the first rule of motherhood is that you don’t bring more than one kid at at time to the dentist. I was rushed and short on patience and time and after we were done, I went to Robbie’s office to pick up my oldest, who was there waiting.

I decided to leave my purse in the van, because frankly, I was sick of lugging it around. I helped Asher out and locked the doors. We made the long journey inside the building — and as a side note, today was their Thanksgiving feast, so all of the employees were milling around, because OF COURSE THEY WERE — and we walked to Robbie’s office where Maverick was sitting alone, playing on his Nintendo.

“Where’s your Daddy?”

No response.

“Maverick? Where’s Daddy?”

“Oh, hi. Uhhh … I don’t know where he is.”

“What do you mean?”

I looked around the office. Robbie’s sunglasses and keys were on his desk. It looked like he’d just been there, so where did he go? I stepped into the main part of the building to see if he was out talking to someone, but he was nowhere in sight. After waiting a few more minutes, I picked up the receiver of the phone on his desk and called his cell. It went to voicemail.

Briefly, I considered walking back to the van to get my phone to text him, but when I looked over at the boys — one who didn’t even notice we were there, and another who was busy stamping every single important document on the desk with a rubber signature stamp — I realized that I didn’t want to leave them together, alone, in the office. I also really didn’t want to bring them with me. After a few more moments, I decided that I didn’t have time for this shit and I asked his co-worker where he was. The co-worker, with a plateful of food in one hand and a fork in the other, shrugged.

I’d been there for 10 minutes and I was over it. I scrawled a note on an envelope telling him that I was taking Maverick and asking him to call me, and we headed out. As we walked by the men’s restroom, it dawned on me.

He was in the bathroom.

Now, I know it’s not entirely rational, but that made me irate. Who poops for 15 minutes? Who poops for 15 minutes at work? Clearly, he does this at home — but the fact that he gets to do it at work too?! THAT BULLSHIT SENT ME OVER THE EDGE.

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After he walked us out to the parking lot and helped load the kids into the car, and after I made sure the doors were closed so they couldn’t hear me, I turned to him and said the following in my big, strong, outside voice:

“What were you doing in there?”

“Pooping.”

“THAT WHOLE TIME?”

“Yes.”

“What else do you do?”

“I read and I poop.”

“That’s just not normal. Do you do that every day? If I worked with a man who disappeared into the bathroom for that long every day, I’d think he had a problem. I’D THINK HE WAS JERKING OFF OR SOMETHING. WHAT IF PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE IN THERE LOOKING AT PORN ON YOUR PHONE? WHAT IF YOUR CO-WORKERS THINK YOU’RE THE KIND OF MAN WHO WOULD JERK OFF AT WORK?”

I stopped talking when I noticed the stricken look on his face. He took a step toward me and said, very quietly, “There’s someone right behind you.”

And when I turned around, there was one of his co-workers, pretending not to hear me shouting about masturbation.

I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be showing my face there again anytime soon. I think it’s also safe to say that I won’t be invited to.

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Girl Power

People who have known me a long time know that my views have changed pretty drastically over the past few years. I think that is a healthy thing. Being open to growth is, in my opinion, a vital part of being a functional adult.

So, things were already shifting for me before I had my third child.

A girl.

Before I actually understood what it meant to be a feminist, I didn’t think I was one. I mistakenly assumed that feminists ruined things for the rest of us by burning their bras and telling men not to open doors for them. I thought feminists were angry women who loved to hate on men.

I LIKE having doors opened for me. I LIKE my bras. I LIKE men.

I enjoy being a girl.

I’ll tell you a secret: once upon a time, long, long ago, I told some friends that I didn’t think a woman could ever be capable of running the United States of America. I know. I said that. I actually believed that. It’s mortifying.

“Men are better at that stuff,” I actually said, WTF. I cringe every time I think about this, but I’m trying to set the stage for my story.

Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to have very patient, smart friends who didn’t ditch me when I said women aren’t capable of running a nation, who taught me that feminism does not mean that you don’t want to be a girl, or be treated like a woman worthy of respect. Being a feminist means that you embrace your gender and celebrate it. Feminists believe that girls can be and do anything, that they deserve equal pay and opportunities, and most of all, they encourage each other to be brave and bold because feminists believe in the power of women.

Some feminists, like myself, choose to quit their soul-sucking corporate career to stay home and raise a family. Other feminists choose to skip marriage and children and sail the world’s oceans instead. Feminism means that we do what we want, because women are capable of making their own decisions. Period.

So. Not only did I realize that I am a feminist, but I also realized that I’m also in charge of raising 3 other humans to recognize and believe in the power of women. That’s a tall order, but one that I’ve embraced with pride. Teaching my daughter to be brave and bold has been one of my greatest joys as a mother. Seeing her stand up for herself, rather than shrinking away in fear, fills my heart with warm, cuddly fuzzies.

People don’t expect her to be fearless, because she’s pretty. Still, in 2016, this surprises people.

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Feminists in training.

On Halloween, we took the kids trick-or-treating in a friend’s neighborhood. A little boy (his father later said he was 5 years old) dressed as a policeman was driving down the sidewalk in a ginormous, battery-powered, child-sized cop car.

Pepper walked over to the boy and pulled on the passenger door.

“I want a ride,” she said.

All of the adults oohed and ahhed. Look how cute this is! The little ladybug wants a ride in the cop car! THIS IS SO ADORABLE, GET YOUR CAMERA OUT.

“Give her a ride, Jimmy!”

Jimmy’s mom leaned over and removed the bucket of Halloween candy from the passenger seat. Pepper pulled the door open and climbed in before turning to the boy and saying in her loud, clear, voice:

“You’re in my seat.”

The boy just looked at her, so she said it again, louder this time, and with conviction:

“You’re in my seat.”

Thus began an epic stare down between Jimmy and Pepper. He looked at her like he was unsure of what to do, and frankly a little scared, and she looked at him like he best get his ass out from behind that steering wheel.

I stifled my laughter as I watched his parents silently freak out that their son was being bossed around by a girl, in front of other people. After a few moments, Jimmy gave in and let Pepper have the driver’s seat.

She assumed her position and immediately gunned it, and I thought to myself that I’ve literally never been prouder.

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Grief Is A Thief

Grief is a thief. It steals my moments, creeping in when I least expect it, removing joy from experiences because it might be the last time I do this thing and how can I enjoy something if I’m not sure if I’ll ever have this moment again, like it is right now?

I remember the last time I went shopping at the mall with my mom. It was on Mother’s Day two years ago and we got caught in the rain. She giggled so hard at me walking through Dillard’s with wet hair and soaked clothes, and took photos with her (obsolete) cell phone. That was the last time we walked around the mall, and I don’t know if we will ever do it again.

We used to go shopping all the time when I was younger. We both have an eye for decorating, and we love a bargain. I inherited her creativity, the ability to make something out of nothing on a very tight budget. We share a deep love of color and strategically-placed throw pillows. But then I got married, and we moved away.

7 years. I missed 7 years with my mom. Just typing that makes me incredibly sad.

I also know that moving away was good for my marriage. We were able to solidify ourselves as a unit without interference. We were free to make terribly stupid financial decisions with no one around to tell us so, and that independence turns out to be serving us well as we walk through the trenches of parenthood with ailing parents.

Most of my friends don’t know what that’s like — their mothers are still vibrantly making passive aggressive comments, baking quiche, and cruising around town as they always have. They are enthusiastic babysitters, reveling in the “golden age” of their lives. I have young parents, just 58.

They’re fantastic.

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My parents in April. They’re going to be mad that I put a photo of them on the internet.

Having a sick parent when I’m also a parent is lonely and hard and there’s a lot of cursing and a lot of wine and a lot of pretending nothing is wrong and a lot of crying in the middle of the produce section. Mostly there is a lot of Robbie having no idea what to do to make it better, because he can’t fix this one. He can’t make my mom not have cancer. All he can do is hold my hand while I deal with it, and all I can do is thank God I married the aimless drifter with the scruffy face, the one who wanted to someday own a bar — a BAR!

That man is the one who rubs my feet while I cry because he doesn’t know what to say to make it better.

He is my anchor.

Grief is a darkness. It’s a black blanket that coats me, criss-crossing my face and down my abdomen, squeezing out my breath. Sometimes, if I lie down, it is a weight that makes sitting up an impossibility. So I lie there, and I wait; eventually, I can stand up again.

Grief is so damn heavy.

Grief is a liar. It tells me I’m too weak to survive the circumstances that brought it about. Sometimes I believe it.

Grief is a truth-teller. It exposes every raw edge of my character in the middle of the grocery store on a Monday. It grabs me by the throat in the bookstore and sometimes I have to cancel plans or turn back home to repair the eye makeup that I just cried off in the car.

Grief is a prioritizer. It shows you what is actually important, and what isn’t.

Spoiler alert: a lot isn’t important.

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Believe In Your Kid

I’m bottoming out over here.

Parenting is so hard. People like to talk about the warm and fuzzy stuff and leave out the hard as shit part, probably out of fear of being judged for their honesty.

Well, I don’t mind being honest. Figuring out how to manage other humans who don’t know how to do anything until you teach them is a ridiculously complicated, difficult job. Throw in some external stressors and a genetic tendency towards attention disorders and motherhood goes from “complicated” to “I REALLY DON’T KNOW IF I CAN DO THIS WITHOUT DYING BECAUSE I ACTUALLY FEEL LIKE I MIGHT NOT MAKE IT OMG I’M DEAD I DIED.”

Today, I hit a new low in parenting where I found myself alone with my kids — well, actually, they were all inside of the car and I was standing outside of the car trying to pull myself together — in the driveway of my parent’s house. All the other adults were safely inside, probably talking about me and wondering how I was going to discipline my oldest son for the events that had just taken place. My husband was at work, and I was alone, staring up at the sky, desperately trying to come up with something to say to my kid that wouldn’t scar him for life.

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Sometimes it feels like I am screwing everything up. Like … I’m positive of it. Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with my child, and other times I wonder what is wrong with me. I worry about what kind of man he will become, whether or not he will choose to use his talents for good or for evil. He’s got so much potential, but like all children, there’s no way of knowing how he will turn out.

That’s what makes parenting the hardest, I think. The not knowing. If I knew what was going to happen in the end, like what kind of adult he’s going to turn into, maybe I wouldn’t care so much about screen time and carbonated beverages. Maybe I would be able to let more shit go. But because there’s always a nagging question in my mind of whether or not I’m truly giving my children my best, I do care. I try and it’s hard and I struggle and I fail a lot and it’s literally the most humbling experience of my life.

So today when I hit bottom, feeling empty like there was absolutely nothing left, a thought entered my mind.

Believe in your kid.

My mother would tell me that was God. Maybe it was, but that sounds crazy, so let’s say it wasn’t. I don’t know where it came from, but it was clear as day.

Believe in your kid.

I can do that,” I literally said out loud, like a crazy person.

I mustered up some courage and made the decision to believe; to believe he is good, believe he is trainable, believe he has love and good things in him, and most of all, believe that I am the best mother to guide him. Believing in my kid means that I have to also believe in myself.

So, I do.

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One afternoon last year, my eldest child bounded off the school bus, burst into the house, and announced that he was in a club.

“I was invited in today,” he said.

“Oh really?” I said. “That’s exciting! Who else is in it?”

“A bunch of girls who like me.”

“That’s what is known as a FAN CLUB,” I told him.

The reason why it’s okay for me to laugh at the expense of my children and share these stories with the entire internet is because I spend about 75% of my time as a mother feeling like I’m right on the verge of coming unhinged. Not because I don’t love motherhood — I do — but my 5-year-old put his hand through a window the other day and my 3-year-old really, really likes to eat hand soap.

I used to blog almost daily about the shenanigans of my kids, but suddenly I found myself in way over my head. It was all simply too much to type. I found this jumbled-up mess in my drafts folder, a snippet of a random day from a few months ago:

Pepper is in a tantrum phase and all three of them got muddy so I brought her inside (much to her dismay) to give her a bath and while she was in the tub the neighbor’s grandson came over to play and I found Maverick trying to destroy our carport ceiling with a fence slat — a fence slat!!! — and the neighbor just had a stroke and his caretaker was rolling him up our driveway and Maverick is so fucking loud — why is he so loud?! — and Asher came running inside, muddy, because he wanted to change shirts.

While that was happening, I heard splashing. But I really didn’t have the strength to investigate. But then I worried she was drowning. I go look. She’s fine, but there’s a roll of toilet paper in the toilet and all of the shampoo had been squeezed out.

It’s just an endless rant, really. However, there has been a slow shift over the course of this year: with so much going wrong in the world, it’s become easier for me to find the joy in motherhood. Maybe it’s because I have perspective that I didn’t have before, or maybe it’s because I’m medicated. There’s really no way to know for sure, and frankly it doesn’t matter.

Our kindergartner has been saying “Freakin’ Einstein” for months and I just recently realized he is talking about FRANKENSTEIN. I kept wondering why he kept tacking “freakin'” in front of Einstein — what was that about? — until finally, I heard him say “Freakin’ Einstein has bolts in his neck.”

OH. Yes. Frankenstein does have bolts in his neck. It all makes so much sense now.

See? Joy.

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Other sources of joy: finding things like this.

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