Pick Up The Phone: Being Responsible For Your Own Happiness

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?

No.

Mommy and Mav

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.

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The Unexpected Is The Best Part

“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.

MJ.jpg

Practicing his Michael Jackson dance moves.

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.

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“I DON’T WANNA DIE!”

Maverick thought it would be hilarious to teach his siblings to scream “I DON’T WANNA DIE!!!!!” when they’re in the car.

Our days just became a lot more interesting.

11822511_10156169512270508_6396230565025311162_n(If you liked this post, then you should follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!)

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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A Beautiful Mess.

Today almost got the best of me. 

I have three snot-nosed children who spent the entire day covering me in sneezes. I didn’t get a break from wiping noses and squashing catastrophes, aside from the hour I spent in Zumba class. If anyone wants to know why I am always grinning from ear-to-ear in Zumba, it’s because I am so happy to be there. No one snots on me and we dance to Michael Jackson. It’s pretty much heaven.

By the time this evening rolled around, I could feel myself LOSING IT. The snot, the slobber, the mess, the screaming … it was too much. Pepper was crying, popcorn was all over the floor, Asher was ripping into our mail and Maverick was refusing to do his homework. The whole situation was an absolute mess. And so I looked around, took a deep breath, decided locking myself in the bathroom was not an option, and dove right in. 

By the time I wrestled the toddler into bed, I was furious at Husband for not being here to help me. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed and exhausted that I don’t know what else to do but to get pissed off. That’s when I start sending angry text messages to him like “THIS IS NOT A ONE-PERSON JOB,” just in case he’s forgotten how hard I’m working.

I envision him sitting in his office with his feet propped up on his desk, enjoying silence and stillness and perhaps an uninterrupted snack, and then I get angrier. Because HE gets to poop in peace. HE gets to listen to normal music without worrying that his 5-year-old will learn the lyrics to Blurred Lines.

It’s so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that he has it easier, when in reality, he doesn’t. He has a stressful job too, and while he is stuck there he probably imagines an idyllic scene at home like this one below. Boys playing nicely, sun setting, a perfectly-makeup-ed wife holding a jolly baby as we all eat ice cream sandwiches.

 

Yeah, right.

And then, Asher snapped me out of my anger. I had him on my lap, singing Silent Night which is just what I do no matter the season — because all Mommy wants is a silent night, and I always hope the lyrics sink into his little head and make him sleep well — and he looked up, put his hands on either side of my face and whispered reverently “Gentle. Gentle.” Like he was touching something holy. And all of the sudden I realized I was. 

When it feels like I can’t pour any more of myself into them or I will disappear, one of my three angels reminds me that what I am doing is worth something much more than I can see or imagine right now. Man, my life is such a mess. A beautiful, beautiful mess.

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