Hard. 

It’s hard not to feel like I’m failing at something when my kid behaves in an unattractive way. It’s hard not to fault myself for his shortcomings. It’s hard, in fact, not to see them as shortcomings. I realize that when I’m able to see things neutrally, it gets easier. 

I have a kid with some really challenging behaviors. When he is compromised, he is a different person. When he is tired or hungry or overstimulated or struggling with transition, his ability to cope bottoms out. He is not a laid back kid. He’s intense. He has intense feelings, he listens intensely, he thinks hard all the time, he worries. So when he is at all challenged, whatever tiny bit of coping skill he has developed over his short life all but disappears. 

And it’s also hard not to compare. Other kids his age can lose a game, get disappointed, and manage chaos with much less fanfare than he. I worry all the time that he is too coddled or too catered to. Worry that he has not had to experience transition or disappointment or chaos enough. And in the moments when he is challenged (which looks so often like whining and complaining and stubbornness and entitlement and brattiness) my embarrassment at what I view as my failure makes me yell at him or threaten him or show frustration, which usually exacerbates it. 

“I’m trying as hard as I can!” he will  say emphatically — usually through tears. I struggle to understand why, at 8 years old, he can’t just deal with disappointment without whining and crying and carrying on for as long as he does. 

It feels like it’s taking me forever to learn him, but maybe I’m starting to get it. Tonight, when he was unable to “be a good sport” as he got further and further behind in a board game, instead of yelling at him, I rubbed his back and told him I understood it was really hard for him. I tried to remember that acknowledging his struggle wasn’t condoning his behavior and also that trying to have a real conversation about it at 7:45pm after an exhausting week of camp and in the middle of his first friend-sleepover wasn’t going to accomplish anything. I suggested putting the game on hold, watching some tv before bed, and then trying it again in the morning, which is when he is historically the most agreeable and rational. 

I think, this time, I handled it like a pro. This time, I didn’t ascribe his behavior to my own or his faults. I didn’t worry so much about teaching him a lesson. This time

But there’s always tomorrow. 

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Bullets. 

  • Working parent guilt is real. And perhaps more potent when you’ve been an effectively non-working parent for the kid’s whole life. 
  • My kid, as it turns out, is probably an introvert, which is really hard to accommodate when he needs to affordably be in someone else’s care all day, every day.
  • I like my job a lot. 
  • I like making dollars. 
  • I miss my friends and my life of leisure. 
  • Anxiety=overthinking=anxiety. And repeat. 

Track.

The only thing I feel on top of is my new job — and even there, I have a never-ending to-do list. The takeaway: It’s really hard to take on a full-time job while you’re still doing another one. Between college teaching and Hebrew school teaching and freelance writing and PTG-boarding and classroom volunteering and parenting, I had cobbled together a more-than-full-time job (which unfortunately only paid like a very part-time one). And then I added an actual full-time job on top it all that.

The good news is that I love my new full-time job. The tasks I have to complete are varied and interesting and fun and allow me to be creative, which I love. I also have swell co-workers and the environment is very chill. I definitely feel like I hit the jackpot with this one. Unfortunately, I also feel like I hit a brick wall.

I am overdue on a freelance article, my Hebrew school progress reports were due two weeks ago, I haven’t gone grocery shopping in nearly a month, I burst into tears at Little League games, and I haven’t made nearly as much progress on my Candy Crush as I am accustomed. It’s pretty much a shitshow.

Plus, I’m sick. The Who, busted on lack of sleep and a different playdate at a different house each day for a month, caught a cold a couple of weeks ago and because he thinks it’s funny to lick his lips before he kisses me (gross) I got it, too. Of course, because the stakes are higher for me and the universe is a bitch, I got it much worse than he did. It’s going into the second week now and I’m still regularly peeing my pants with every cough. (Another thing for which I have The Who to thank.)

I am really looking forward to this long weekend and one whole day off by myself on Tuesday (mostly — I did volunteer to babysit for a friend’s kid — a deposit to the village from which I have been making many withdrawals). I’m going to use the time to recuperate more fully and tie up loose ends and maybe make a grocery list and a meal plan so that I can pull this train back on the track before it derails entirely.

2 Weeks.

Job redux: two weeks in.

I never knew how good for me working could be. I mean, I have had full-time jobs before, but they have never made me feel this way. They always felt like just the thing I was doing until my next thing, which, in effect, they were. With the exception of my first job out of college, teaching kindergarten, every other job was a placeholder. Either one I wasn’t good at (ahem-Explore/homeschool aide-ahem) or just one to pay the bills (ahem-Cahners/CellOne-ahem). Aside from teaching six classes a semester across three different institutions, I have never worked at a job that felt like it might be a career — and even then.

Is this new job a career? I don’t know that I’d say that. Not in this current position anyway. Do I think I will be an admin forever? I hope not. But the field feels right. The work feels right. The parts about working for a non-profit, working for children and families, working with digital design — none of that feels like a placeholder. And that has made a huge difference.

I feel respected and appreciated in a way I haven’t felt since…ever? I don’t know that I’ve ever had a job where I felt like my employers believed I was just the person for the job and were so glad to have me. My jobs have all been of the dime-a-dozen ilk. A million replaceable customer service reps. A million replaceable adjuncts. That’s not to say that I’m irreplaceable in this job; everyone’s replaceable. But just that I’m not disposable. That’s how I have always felt at work — entirely disposable. And having spent the last 15 years feeling disposable, it’s no wonder that now that I don’t, I’m happier, calmer, kinder, and more peaceful. Of course, the tripled paycheck doesn’t hurt either.

Just two weeks in. Still in the honeymoon phase, maybe. But also, maybe it will keep being a honeymoon. Or maybe not. Either way, now I know how it can be and I feel like I won’t settle for anything less again.

NFL Draft Experience.

Here are ten things I learned today, in no particular order:

  1. In case I ever thought it was just coincidental before, I now know for certain that standing in bright sunshine and high heat for a while will lead to a panic attack.
  2. Some people who smoke are very indignant about it, even when there are kids around.
  3. People will stand in line for a long time to do very little.
  4. Kids are often more logical than adults.
  5. I will pay $6 for a lukewarm bottle of Gatorade if it’s hot enough and I am thirsty enough.
  6. The NFL’s viewership must really be suffering if they’re willing to do all this for the draft.
  7. It pays to be a Patriots fan in Eagle-town at an event like this. Shorter lines for photo ops.
  8. Sweatbands are a good giveaway idea.
  9. The new ice cream store on our street is super.
  10. Video games in air conditioned basements is the perfect end to this day.

Work.

I have only ever been a stay-at-home mom. This is not to say that I haven’t worked, because in fact, I have worked consistently since 6 weeks after The Who was born. But it has never interfered with the stay-at-homeness of my momming.

Until now. I’ve wanted this. I’ve been thinking about getting out of the adjuncting game for years and only finally just pulled the trigger on it when the exact right full-time job came down the pike. And now, with my start date simultaneously approaching and looming, I am starting to get sad about all the things I’ll be missing. Even the things I complain about — like the morning routine of getting him dressed and out the door. My face won’t be the last thing he sees before he runs down the sidewalk into school. My “I love you” will be faint in his head from hours earlier. And when other parents show up midday for classroom volunteering, it’ll never be me.

When he comes out after school, sweaty from an afternoon PE class, shucking off his backpack and asking to play on the playground, it won’t be me who is greeting him. In fact, he won’t even be coming out to the playground most days. He’ll be riding a bus to a friend’s or being greeted by someone else’s parent.

I am grateful for the help of my village. I think that’s important to say. That I recognize that in my absence, he will be sent off to school by his other mom, he will be picked up by good friends of mine who also love him. It’s the best possible scenario, so I recognize how lucky I am (and he is) to have that. But it won’t be me. And I will miss it. I will miss him.

Do better.

So, we saw Shrek: The Musical today at the high school. It was totally impressive in terms of production. The music, the acting, the singing, the costumes, sets, lighting — it was all better than any other school performance I’ve ever seen and better even than some “professional” productions. I was actually pretty blown away by the talent in our little town.
As a show, however? A wicked bummer. Admittedly, I’d never seen or heard or read anything about the musical. I’d always found the premise of the movie a little off-putting (You’re beautiful to me because I love you, but you’re pretty much hideous to everyone else (when Fiona is an ogre)/I’m falling in love with you, despite your looks (when she’s a “beautiful princess”)  and I suspected this theme would carry through to the musical. But what I didn’t expect was just how actually offensive and hateful some of the lyrics would be.
Like these lyrics from “Don’t Let Me Go”:
You and me, we belong together.
Like butter and grits,
Like kibbles and bits,
Like yin and yang,
Sturm and Drang,
Like Eng and Chang, attached at the hip
But not an old lady hip that might break
I’m gonna be on you like a fat kid on cake!
I mean, the conjoined twins joke aside (which is pretty crappy) there’s a “fat kid on cake” joke. Really? The best they could come up with to draw a laugh was to perpetuate the stereotype that fat kids can’t stay away from baked goods? (And, not for nothing, but my kid, whom the school nurse seems to think is underweight — a blog post for another day — loves cake more than anyone I’ve ever met.)
Then there’s this one from the same song:
DONKEY (spoken):
Like Cupid and Psyche, like pop rocks and Mikey,
we’ll stick together like that Velcro stuff, I’m the fuzzy side; you’ll be the spiky.
Ooh! Like little kids and pajamas with those funny things at the bottom, you know, feeties.
Like donuts and’ oh, what goes with donuts’
DONKEY:
Donuts and diabetes!
Do I really need to unpack this one? Two things inextricably linked? Kids and footie pjs. The two sides of Velcro. A pastry and a disease. Obviously.
And here’s this from “When Words Fail”:
Oh look the moon
Is out tonight
You remind me of that moon
Because it’s big and bright
And by big I don’t mean chubby
Obviously you’re not fat
But your personality is biggish
Is what I meant by that
Sorry ’bout that fat thing,
I’m on the hefty side myself
I have to blame the gene pool
Ok, first of all, if he’s talking about loving her for who she is and finding her beautiful inside and out, why is he obsessed with describing her physicality? I thought it didn’t matter. I thought that was the message. And second of all, why is fat an insult? (I mean, this is rhetorical; I know why the world thinks fat is an insult.) Why wouldn’t he have called her a redhead by mistake and tried to wiggle his way out of that? And why does he have to qualify his calling her fat by calling himself fat, too? And why does her personality have to biggish? Why ish? why can’t she have a big personality and have that be admired? Again, all rhetorical. I get it.
And then, finally, in “Finale”, Fiona says:
You take me as I am
Love me as I look
Standing here in all my glory
I am sweetness
I am bratty
I’m a princess
I’m a fatty
I’m a mess of contradictions in a dress
I’m glad you’ve gotten to a point where you’re cool with who you are, Fiona. Except you haven’t. You’re cool because someone loves you anyway. Despite your perceived hideousness. And that doesn’t give you the kind of ownership over “fatty” that I say needs to exist before you use it so cavalierly. There’s way too much body hatred, way too many insults, way too little self-acceptance in the lyrics of this show for anyone to be at the point where owning “fatty” as a self-description feels ok to someone who actually is one.
Obviously, there’s a lot more in the lyrics that are problematic, too, (like when the Big, Bad Wolf laments being called a “hot ‘n tranny mess”) and I think we’re all expected to overlook it because it’s a cute show for kids. Right.
So, again. I enjoyed myself today. My kid and his pals enjoyed themselves, too. And the high schoolers and everyone involved in the production did a stunning job. But y’know, shame on you, writer of the book and lyrics. Do better.