- Every milestone is worth celebrating. It doesn’t matter how small.
- Perfect is not real.
- Sometimes, my self-care is THE most important thing.
- Take the long view. Big picture is everything.
- This, too, shall pass. It always does.
- Humor goes a long way.
- Be responsible for the energy I bring into a room.
- Be gentle.
- Notice what my face is doing.
- I get to be human. I get to be human. I get to be human.
- Forgive myself.
- Forgive my kid.
- Other kids and families might do things differently not better, not “normal” just different.
- Advocate for my kid with persistence, patience, and love.
- Saying no is really important.
- Saying yes is really important.
- Get on the floor and play.
- I’m not in control of, well…barely anything.
- People act out when they are afraid.
- I act out when I am afraid.
- People stare. Smile back.
- I am a superhero.
- My kid is working as hard as I am.
- Hold onto joy every time it shows up.
- Get help.
We are sitting at the dining room table for yet another teary session of math homework. She has used up all her focusing tools- chewing gum, lighting a peppermint candle, choosing which problem to start with…nothing is helping. Then I see the light in her eyes change. They grow dark and serious in that intense way I know so well. She is fighting for truth.
“Mom, why can the kids around me do math but I can’t? I learn it but I can’t remember it. The other kids remember. Why, mom? It doesn’t make any sense.” There is shame in these words. And desperation.
I’m not planning to have this conversation today. I didn’t wake up knowing that I would be called on to deliver this news in a way she can digest it. My wife and I are still digesting it ourselves.
We go through periods of intense grief and even anger about her special needs. Spending time with other people’s kids can trigger it. After a morning babysitting my dear friend’s toddler, I spend the afternoon sobbing. This three-year-old has social skills that are more advanced than my eight-year-old. We travel to Texas to visit cousins and breathe through frustration as my daughter’s anxiety and hypervigilance exhaust everyone in the house. We go to IEP meeting after meeting and are overwhelmed by how many professionals are engaged each week in supporting my kiddo’s learning. After weeks of her violent PTSD fits, we refocus on caring for ourselves so that my daughter’s needs don’t take over our entire lives.
But here she is, asking for the truth. So, I share with her what gets me through my moments of fear and grief and doubt and anger. I share with her the truth about her resilience.
“I’m telling you the truth. Are you listening? Do you remember how you were born very tiny and that you came out early? One thing that happens when babies are born early is that their brains don’t get enough time to develop. This is not the baby’s fault! This is nobody’s fault. It happens to many babies who are born early. It means your brain has worked extra hard to develop and grow ever since you were born. And guess what? Your brain is doing very well. Very very well. That’s because you have a powerful quality in you. You are FIERCE. That means you are somebody who doesn’t give up. Even as a teeny little baby, you were so fierce that you fought to live. You fought to grow. And now, you are fighting to learn math. It is harder for you. You are right about that. But working hard and not giving up are wonderful qualities to have. You also have mama’s who love you and teachers to help when things feel hard. You are not alone.”
I hadn’t researched what to say. I hadn’t prepared for this question. I just opened my heart up and felt around for what she needed to hear. Of course what really happened is that I said the words I needed to hear.
I think healing the dissonance between our fantasy of parenting and the truth of it will be a long road for my wife and I. But moments to ignite our empathy and focus on our daughter’s amazing gifts help. They help a lot.
I’ve started groups and communities all my life. In 8th grade, I started a drama club at my little Catholic school because it didn’t have one. I really wanted to be in a school play and there was no opportunity. So I went to the English teacher and pitched her the idea. I was in my first play that spring.
In high school, I organized the drama club to go back to my elementary school and teach acting workshops to the little kids. I still have video (on VHS!) of my BFF’s helping 4th graders to project and make bold acting choices.
In college, I started a group for my peers to come together and create rituals for connection and women’s empowerment. Each of us got to lead our own circle, taking charge of the agenda and activities. I remember one month we made journals to take with us on post-college adventures. I wrote in mine the whole time I backpacked through Europe the summer after graduation.
I didn’t start earning money for my start-up skills until my early 20’s when my wife and I started our own business. I’d strung together some gigs as a teaching artist and one of them lead me to The Marsh Youth Theater in San Francisco. The education director at the time wanted me to put together a summer of camps serving younger children than she felt able to serve on her own. And we were off! In the 12 years since, my wife and I have grown that summer camp to serve 500 kids a summer and feature a girls empowerment curriculum. I’ve written and published books, bridged our classes to after school programs, lead professional development workshops for educators and now, write freelance articles for parenting websites. My family business, Spotlight: Girls has just raised over 300K in investments to franchise our camp nationally.
The point is, I have always done what I wanted in terms of my career. I didn’t always know where the money would come from but I did always honor my gifts. As I set new goals this year toward courageous earning, taking center stage and practicing radical self-care, it helps to remember where my path began. I have always manifested the thing I wanted to see in the world and called upon all my creativity to make it happen.
What did you want to do as a kid? How much of that did you hold onto? Here’s to making it happen.
This morning was
The refusal to get dressed
The loud NO!
The “I don’t want to go to school”
Even the need to pack up her toothbrush, her glasses, her breakfast
The curbside drop-off
As she kicked and hollered
Shoes in a bag
Because she refused my help for an hour
My wife’s frustration
As she sat in the back seat
Her own feet bare
As she secured the seat belt again and again
For our angry daughter
After we get-a-way
for 2 days of
Crashing against the headland cliffs
11 hours of sleep
Champagne picnic as the sun sets
So, it was expected
That today would be hard
It was Unexpected, though
When our daughter
Who had refused
for an hour
Choosing to derail
and come undone instead
When this wild-animal-powerful-girl
Was lifted, kissed and placed
Gently on the grass
In front of her school
It was Unexpected
To see the
4th grade Safety Monitor
Taking his duties
He did not bat an eye
As we drove off
And she screamed.
We paused, of course
On the corner
To watch her put on her shoes
And go into school
Whether she wanted to or not
The 4th grade safety monitor
Held his post
And helped my little girl
Find her glasses
Which she had thrown
In the Grass
You know the moment. When your child’s eyes glaze over and they gear themselves up to throw an epic fit in Target…in the grocery store…at a friend’s house…on an airplane…and there you are: heat rising up the back of your neck, cheeks flushed and mind racing as all eyes turn on you. What’s she going to do? The adults nearby want to know. What’s Mommy gonna do? Your kid wants to know. What am I going to do? You want to know too.
These moments are the stuff mothering is made of. What happens next? For me, my thoughts turn quickly into action, so I’ve learned to pay attention to what I tell myself during tense parenting moments, especially when I’m in public.
Wanna know the things I say to myself when I’m embarrassed about my mothering in public? Check out the post I wrote for Rookie Moms this week! So honored I got to be a guest writer on this awesome site and give an adoptive mama’s perspective.
It’s the first day in 14 without my
and my nervous system is
in a kelly green vintage shrug
My coat of armor as I
Enjoy the quiet absence
of Her questions
and the Luxury
of being my own
10 of these 14 days felt so wonderfully
with my little girl
but then I started
that is my
Parenting can be so
If we choke on our
and forget our own
Here’s to me
my right to
Silence and Space
And won’t it feel good
to miss her
I cannot wait
to miss her