Can We Really Do This? Pandemic Edition

Remember back when 2019 was a little intense and all of us looked forward to 2020? We had no idea what was coming, bless our little privileged hearts.

But it’s fine. Really. Everything is absolutely fine.

Remember when I almost relapsed last summer on diet pills because I was so stressed, and I swore I would never again stay home full time with the kids? I had no clue that was just a teeny, tiny preview into what was awaiting me: full time isolation with my three children, without access to the things that I grew to depend on for my sanity and well being, WITH NO END IN SIGHT.

Making the best of it!

Last summer seems like a breeze compared to this. What the hell even is this? I honestly can’t decide, because my thoughts and feelings shift minute by minute. Sometimes it feels like a gift, a blessing, something divinely orchestrated to open my eyes to the simple joys that I spent so many years drowning out before I got sober. Other times it feels like a dystopian nightmare, like we’re on the verge of societal collapse and there is no way any of us can do this if this virus doesn’t kill us first.

Can we really do this? Or are we, the American people, too soft, too spoiled rotten? Someone said that an Amazon employee tested positive for the virus, and now people are freaking out that Amazon might stop delivering things like bike helmets and creamy peanut butter to our doorsteps.

You fools took all the creamy peanut butter in my town and all that is left is extra crunchy. Peanut butter manufacturers should know by now that nobody likes that extra crunchy shit, you could just as well buy a can of peanuts and smear them on bread, because that’s exactly what it tastes like. The same people who are buying up all the good peanut butter are more than likely the ones hoarding toilet paper, because greedy people are like that. It’s cool, though, because I bought up all the fiber supplements, so the joke’s on you, motherfuckers.

No one knows when — or if — school will resume for the 2019-2020 academic year. None of us were aware, when the kids climbed into school buses or cars at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13, that they wouldn’t be returning the following Monday. We can’t tell our kids for certain when (if?) they will be able to see their friends or teachers again, let alone when libraries and parks will reopen.

I’ve started focusing on reminding them that their friends are safe in their homes — just like we are! — because my kids are only friends with people who come from intelligent homes. And what I mean by intelligent is that the adults in the household can comprehend basic instructions and aren’t out shopping together as a family and then crowding around a food truck afterwards, touching everything.

That’s just stupid.

We are all doing impossible things all day long, trudging a minimum of 6 feet away from each other up a slippery hill. And YES, it is all too much. Way, way too much. I don’t have the answers, people. I am only here to validate our immense and bottomless angst.

Via @happyasamother on Instagram!

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Removing Dip Powder Nails At Home

When the kids and I quarantined ourselves 11 days ago, my husband continued to go to work. He’s a Sales Manager at the biggest Chevy dealership in town, and for whatever reason, car dealerships are considered necessary during a pandemic.

First of all, who the hell is out buying cars right now? You do not need a new car. You need to stay at home like the rest of us who want this horrible self-isolation thing to end ASAP so we can get back to regular life. No, I’m not wallowing in self pity at all, shut up and mind your own business.

Robbie says he is thankful that he still has a job, because people are being laid off right and left. The rational side of me is thankful, too. The irrational side, which sometimes finds me eating chocolate icing directly from the container while I cry on the floor of my closet, is royally pissed.

When it sunk in that nail salons, hair salons, and other such things were closing up shop for an unknown period of time, my first thought was oh shit, my roots, immediately followed by oh shit, my nails.

If you’ve never had dip nails before, allow me to explain. I’ve been a nail and cuticle biter for as long as I can remember. Gel manicures tend to last two days at the most, and any attempt to do my own nails produces a result that looks a lot like that of my children.

My therapist was the one who told me to try dip nails. After the first time I did it last summer, I was hooked. It didn’t matter what I put my hands through, the manicure looked amazing. It’s like concrete, so there’s no way to pull it or peel it off — awesome, right? Except when there’s a pandemic. Then it isn’t awesome at all.

Reader, please join me as I embark on a journey into the unfamiliar territory of do-it-yourself tutorials. I hope you’re excited, because I can hardly contain myself.

You might be wondering why my face looks a little … off. Well friends, I realized several hours too late that I’d only filled in one of my eyebrows. If that doesn’t sum up my entire existence at the moment, I don’t know what does.

The materials I used in the removal process are as follows:

  1. 100% pure acetone
  2. Aluminum foil
  3. Heavy-duty nail file
  4. Cotton balls
  5. Glass bowl

This situation reminds me a lot of the time I decided I could give myself a bikini wax at home: arrogant and misguided.

I told myself that surely I could do the removal just like they do in the nail salon, which was a lie, of course. I’ve already explained to you that I’m not even capable of painting my nails decently, so I think we all know how this is going to end.

Here are the steps:

  1. File off the top layer of each nail
  2. Soak a cotton ball in acetone
  3. Put cotton on top of fingernail and,
  4. Wrap with aluminum foil.

My right hand was easy because I’m left handed. I really struggled to do my left hand, so my kids stepped in to help. I’ll let you guess how that went. After realizing this wasn’t quite going according to plan, I ended up taking all the foil wads off my fingers and sticking my fingers into a bowl full of acetone.

I soaked until I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers, then pulled my hands out of the bowl and used a rough paper towel to wipe off the melted dip goo.

Repeat eleventy hundred times, and you get this:

After cutting my nails and filing the remainder of the dip off (that’s a lie, I totally gave up on filing and decided to just live with it until it grows out), I found a cheerful shade of polish that adequately covered the black spots that I still have on my fingers.

So, yeah. I’m pretty anxious to be released from isolation/social distancing so I can once again let the professionals work their magic, but until then, I’ll be sharing the wonders of DOING IT YOURSELF DURING A PANDEMIC!

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A Homeschooler I Am Not

Ok, look. I’m going to level with you: the past few weeks have been harder than anything I’ve gone through in my life, and that’s saying a lot.

After writing my previous blog post, I basically had a 48-hour meltdown wherein I cried, stamped my feet, and felt sorry for myself. My body felt like it was filled with lead. I had the overwhelm, big time, and my kids were even more anxious (read: hyperactive, emotional, excitable, awful) because their mother couldn’t seem to get it together.

Eventually, I got ahold of myself. I mean, this pandemic isn’t going away. I have no control over an invisible virus. So I’m going to focus on what I can control: living through a pandemic while in recovery for alcoholism, in isolation with my three children, for an unknown period of time. Because WOW.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, slash, writer, for almost 8 years now. To go from what used to be our normal life, to 24/7 parenting without access to libraries, parks, other children, zoos, the swimming pool, or anything other than our own home and yard, is CRAZY DISORIENTING. I mean … you know. We all know. I don’t have to explain to any of you how hard all of this is, because you are already there.

Part of me feels ashamed to complain, because I’m aware that millions of people don’t have it as good as we do right now. My husband is in the car business, and right now vehicles are considered a “necessity” along with hospitals and groceries, so his work load isn’t slowing down anytime soon. And as much as I worry about him going out there into the wild where the viruses live, and as bitter as I sometimes feel because he gets to leave for work and I do not, I’m thankful that we don’t have to worry about our livelihood (at least, not yet).

For 12 hours a day, and it’s just me and the kids.

At first, I tried to homeschool them. It sounded like a good idea. Routine is always good for kids — how hard could it be to carry on what their teachers were doing with them before schools unexpectedly closed down?

WRONG.

It turns out that stressed mothers are terrible teachers. I was stressing myself out as well as my children, so we just … well, we stopped. There was no big announcement, no dramatic throwing in of the towel, I just fucking quit doing it.

And guess what? Nothing horrible happened. My kids didn’t become dumb overnight. They’re still learning, just in a different way. Today we went to a pond and threw out food for the turtles. We’re cooking, cleaning, and learning how to work together under duress. I’m trying really, really hard not to yell.

It’s a work in progress.

My greatest challenge is that I am trapped with my kids during a time that I would absolutely LOVE to numb out, maintaining my sobriety without access to the 12-step meetings that have been such an integral part of my recovery, and surrounded (virtually, not literally) by people who are conditioned to cope with Bad Things by drinking. This is Louisiana. We are famous for our ability to roll with the punches and do it with good cheer, because we’re loaded all the time.

This is what I found myself writing to a woman who is 142 days sober and struggling with the isolation/motherhood problem:

Hi! Mom of an 11 year old boy with Asperger’s and ADHD, a 8 year old boy with ADD, and a 6 year old girl here. First of all, YOU ARE DOING GREAT. None of us are doing this perfectly or even that well, but if you are sober and your kids are loved and safe, then give yourself a huge pat on the back! You are demonstrating every single day what it looks like to love yourself so that you can truly love them.

Now, isolation and motherhood are both huge triggers for me, so this is what I’ve found helpful:

1. Telehealth sessions with my therapist (if you don’t have one, this is a GREAT TIME TO GET ONE). I’m scheduling them weekly. I know cost can be a problem — look for a counselor without all the fancy letters after their name. There are plenty and trust me, they’ve got mad availability right now.

2. Reaching out to all of my friends so I don’t feel alone. I use Zoom, WhatsApp, and Marco Polo, in addition to all the regular ways of communicating.

3. HARD exercise. Wear those kids out! Wear yourself out! Get the anxiety out of your body by doing something outside in the sun or even a Zumba video inside the house. Just move your body, sweat, and get the kids to move too. I cannot stress enough how crucial physical exercise is to my sanity/sobriety/mental health. Hard exercise is the only thing I’ve found to keep my anxiety at a manageable level right now.

4. Give your entire household grace because what we are doing is BATSHIT CRAZY and HARD AS FUCK, DO YOU HEAR ME? We are doing the impossible, and doing it sober. If someone would have told me this is what I’d be doing in 2020, I never would have believed them. But I am. We are.

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A Very Sober Halloween

This is the first Halloween that I’ve been sober for as long as I can remember, and I have a lot of feelings about it.

Part of what grieves me about the absence of alcohol in my life is all the fun I used to have while drinking. Clearly, there was lots of bad stuff too, or I’d still be doing it, but when I’m feeling sorry for myself I only remember the good times.

Before Robbie and I had kids, we went to Halloween parties every year, sometimes more than one in a night. We were the people who meandered from party to party — no curfew, no babysitter to worry about, and very few responsibilities to wake up to the next morning.  Because of this, I equate drinking to having very few responsibilities, which isn’t accurate at all, but that’s my way of romanticizing the past. As time went on and our family grew, my sense of responsibility, worry, and fear grew as well. Escaping responsibility and worry was one of the biggest reasons why I drank — and the more I drank, the more I drank, because I’m an alcoholic and my body craves it.

Also? My responsibilities did not go away. At all.

Last year, I was excited about the kid’s costumes — it was the first time in years that I’d planned ahead far enough in advance to avoid making a very last-minute trip to the store — but by that time in my drinking career, I was pretty much a miserable person, wracked with anxiety, sadness, and an overwhelming sense of dread. None of that is evident in the photos, but I remember.

WJHAbrunch

I carried a cup of wine with me the entire time the kids were trick-or-treating, ducking back into my friend’s house to refill without telling anyone. Today, as I was feeling sorry for myself thinking about all the carefree, happy parents who will be able to enjoy a beer or cocktail tonight, I remembered being drunk last year, after dark, with all three of my kids scattered in different parts of an unfamiliar neighborhood. I didn’t allow myself to consciously feel shame at the time, and it certainly wasn’t problematic enough for me to consider stopping my habit, but today, I let myself go there.

I’m ashamed that I was so deep in addiction that I couldn’t stomach the thought of taking my kids trick-or-treating sober. I’m ashamed that I have missed out on so much of their lives because I was either drunk, or miserable, or both. I’m ashamed that I wasn’t able to fully appreciate my life because I was too busy running from it.

Thankfully, this year will be different. Although we are all far from perfect, I no longer feel like running away. I’m learning how to embrace the good and the bad, and although it’s really, really hard, it’s better than trying to escape.

For the first time in my adult life, I’m not trying to escape reality, or my emotions, or my fears. How appropriate that this Halloween night, the scariest thing I’ll have to face is myself.

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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.

15151383_10158097447635508_719407248_n

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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I Don’t Want To Go Back In Time

I cannot tell you how deep I had to dig to keep my emotions in check this summer and how deeply I will fall into a cocktail (or five) when school starts again.

But today, I snapped out of survival mode and realized that I made it. I MADE IT!

My oldest starts 3rd grade tomorrow. “I don’t need you to drive me to school on the first day,” he said. “I can take the bus.” He looked at me and grinned and all the sudden I could see what he’s going to look like when I send him off the college, and I felt momentarily sad.

His little brother is starting Kindergarten at the same elementary school this year, and my long time dream of putting both boys on the school bus and waving goodbye will finally be realized. Can I be honest? I’m not sad, or weepy, or wistful for when they were smaller. I’m proud. I’m elated, actually. I’m happy to have made it to this point in one piece, and I don’t want to go back in time. I want to revel in this.

No one wears diapers anymore.

Everyone talks in coherent sentences.

I’ve taught 3 human beings how to use the toilet and how to stay with me in the store; things can only continue to improve from here.

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Summer, 2016

I see photos of myself from 8 years ago when I first became a mom and I feel a little sorry for that version of me. I don’t want to go back in time and be her again. I don’t want to hold my babies or rock them or see them in their infancy or wish for time to go backwards. I MADE IT, which means I have overcome obstacles, which means I have hope to continue overcoming obstacles, which requires me to continue moving forward.

This summer, I got soaked with water by the boys, who thought it would be funny to spray me after I asked them repeatedly to turn off the water. My kids kept me so busy that I never got around to changing clothes, until hours later, I realized that they were dry again.

This summer, we were lazy. I let them have unlimited screen time and we all ate junk food and laid around the house like total couch potatoes. It was amazing. Now I understand why people make this a full-time thing.

This summer, I didn’t work out. I didn’t weigh myself. I put on the same, falling-apart, ill-fitting bathing suit day after day and got in the pool with my kids. I’m 10 pounds heavier than I was last summer, and caring a lot less about how fat my thighs look.

This summer, I really enjoyed my kids. I did. But now, I’m ready for them to go to school, because I need to shake off the experience of having people with me 24/7 for three straight months, and that can only be done by using expletives and bargain shopping alone. By myself. Without anyone hiding in the clothes racks.

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How Things Change

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.

Nothing.

“PEPPER’S IN HERE,” I repeated. Now she was pulling on the sheets, attempting to smother me to death with her battered sheep lovey.

Nothing.

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.

Bedtime

I can’t be mad at this cutie pie.

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The Day My Pride Died

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.

I snapped.

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.

pRIDE

This is the actual dealership where my pride passed away.

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.

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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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