Thursday, July 27, 2017

Parenting Is Hard

Parenting is hard. That’s probably the understatement of the year. Parenting is so hard that there is an entire industry built around it to try and support parents. This can be confusing though, as there are philosophies that directly contradict one another. And this isn’t just a cloth vs. disposable diaper sort of decision. It’s so much bigger than that. This is a decision about how you will bring up a kid in the world. It’s a decision about how your child will interact with the world for next couple decades. It’s high stakes.

I grew up in a fundamentalist evangelical home. We weren't the extreme family. We didn’t have family devotions or homeschool or boycott Halloween. But we were faithful and we listened to the teachings around us. In our church, the predominant message I received was that we were to do the “right” thing and our parents knew what was best; further, we were full of sin and shame so we had no right to complain. Jesus would save us and we would be fine in the end. Never mind today, soon you will be in paradise (where you will be dead). At least that’s how my child mind processed it. 

Now that I am the parent I have become incredibly uncomfortable with this model. The problem is it's disrespectful (to me or the kids). It doesn’t allow for personal growth or problem solving, and it doesn’t show dignity to my children. While we were with extended family this summer (on both sides) I repeatedly found myself in conversations and occasions where the kids were not given autonomy in simple tasks, nor given the respect of allowing them to feel their feelings and voice their frustrations. It was hard for me to know what to do in the midst of it, because my approach is different. 

In the culture I grew up in, we tend to treat kids like Pavlov’s dog. Do something enough times and they will get in line. But this approach isn’t very humane. Do we want our kids to just become conditioned to do something? Or do we want them to choose the right thing, even if they have never encountered this particular decision before? When we simply condition our kids we rob them of the opportunity for personal growth. We take away their autonomy. Why do so many of us choose the Pavlovian way? I think it’s because we are afraid. There are real consequences for making bad decisions. Failure is hard to endure. We pretend that good people don’t fail. But failure is what success looks like before it’s deemed success. When we take that opportunity from our kids, it simply delays that failure for a time when we are not there to guide them through it. And that denial is so much worse than actually walking through failure while you are young with a trusted adult or two to help you.

Kids are constantly learning, and they need instruction. Adults are too. And when it comes to instructing adults we are kind and careful and sensitive to their frustrations (at least we try to be). But when it comes to kids, shouting, hitting and generally shutting down their emotions is quite common – even encouraged. It’s confusing to me that we would treat people in this manner, especially when we are trying to teach them how to engage with the world, how to be good people. Kids are humans too. It seems ridiculous to have to say it, but it needs to be said. And kids need to be treated as humans.

So I find myself in a strange place right now, where it may look like I'm allowing my kids to run roughshod over me, but where I know what is actually happening: I am asking them to respectfully voice their frustrations while I try to validate what is real for them. AND in the midst of that, I am ever so slowly guiding them through the decision making process that will allow them to make better and more purposeful decisions. It’s exhausting work. It's slow and takes repeated effort. But it’s the job of the parent to do it.

My version of parenting often looks too permissive for my extended family. I want to scream at the top of my voice that I am doing the work, sitting with my kids, helping them to be beautiful, respectful humans, that they aren’t finished becoming just yet! But then that would be me focusing on me. And really, that’s not at all the point of this thing called parenting, is it? The point is to set aside what others see, and to focus on the very real work of helping these people become who they truly are so they can navigate a world that is hard and frustrating. That’s my job.
And I know that’s what’s really happening.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

When Did Compassion Become a Four-Letter Word?

I am disgusted right now watching America teeter on the brink of becoming a place I don't recognize. There is so much selfishness on our political landscape, and it feels like it is seeping into many other areas of our lives. We have turned our gaze to our own navels and are making decisions based only on what is best for me - the rest of the nation be damned. And in truth, we've chucked civility out the window with it. Why not? If I'm only concerned about me then why should I bother respecting anyone else's views? They are likely wrong to begin with.

Well, I don't want to live in that world. I don't want to be part of a nation that calls itself "great" while refusing to see what is actually wrong. I don't want to be part of a nation that brags about itself to the peril of it's citizens. The emperor indeed has new clothes. I want a country that knows it is broken and is working to fix that. I want a nation of people who still recognize the human dignity in one another and share a common purpose in the American Dream. I want to live in a place I can be proud of again.

When did we become a country that finds it appalling to care for our disenfranchised? When did we become a society that is only out for itself? It's disturbing to me that the majority of those promoting such egotistical policy are people who claim to follow Christ. Or at the very least they are part of the citizenry for whom morality played a large part in casting their vote. And yet the selfsame voters are willing, even lobbying, for laws and executive orders that take away the very thing that has made our country great: treating our citizens with human decency. We have been called to love our neighbors and instead our country has taken up the mantra of the toddler: mine, mine, mine. This self destructive worldview needs to stopped it in it's tracks. It's not making our country or it's citizens great.

What have we become, that this nation finds it acceptable to leave so many people out in the cold? We choose to close our eyes to the circumstances that created an oppressive system and then shout, "help yourself!" at those clawing to get out; pretending that it's not our problem. We are an industrialized nation founded on the principle of compromise, a nation that rallied together to send men to the moon, a nation that has created solutions to myriad problems, and yet, we cannot find it in our hearts to protect our most vulnerable citizens, to supply life saving drugs to people who need them, and to generally insure dignity for all. Where has America gone?

Giving dignity to others does not take away your own. It's not a slice of cake; it's not finite. No, dignity is a renewable resource. It just keeps growing. In fact, dignifying others is what made Mother Theresa's work so great; it's what spurred the abolition of slavery; it's what allowed us to be a nation if immigrants; it's what provided so many Americans with a solid education. You want to make America great again? Dignify the humanity of others. Remind yourself that you have been able to survive (maybe even thrive) because of the opportunities afforded you. We are all looking for opportunities to become better humans. When you offer your compassion to your fellow citizens you make this country a better place. When you get out of your precious bubble and actually risk loving others (by giving them health care, by offering up an education for everyone, by feeding the food insecure, by mandating hate crimes legislation), you are making this country the land of the free and the home of the brave. You are fostering life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This is what it means to be American.

It is an embarrassing time to be American. As for me, I am going to keep fighting for the dignity of my fellow Americans. And I would encourage you to do the same. We need more, and we deserve better than this.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Culture Wars or Why I Can't Be a Christian Anymore

I don't love the phrase "the culture wars." It might be that I am a pacifist and wish to avoid conflict altogether. It may have something to do with the evangelical environment in which I was raised. But mostly, I think, it has to do with the idea of there being a right and a wrong side. As if there were actually only 2 sides to an issue. As if the same outcome would be the right outcome for all people. It seems to me that only in the arenas of religion and politics do we ever make that assumption. And it doesn't bode well for any sort of resolution.

This week I've been reading a book, Torn, which spends a good amount of time discussing how the church has promoted the idea of The Gays vs. The Christians. And it has me thinking a lot about how my experience in the church has mirrored this author's experience. I was spared the awful experience of revealing my sexual orientation to all of humanity while steeped in the world of mainstream Christianity. Because really, is there any kid who wants to reveal his/her sexuality, whatever it may be? I would have fallen over dead with embarrassment if I had needed to do so, whatever the reason.

Instead I had the misfortune of being a liberal Christian. To the outside world, this sounds like a non-starter. Who would care if a person is a liberal Christian? There are so many other things to be concerned about. But for me, this was the deal breaker. I found myself, at the ripe old age of 28, in a Christian community that found me anathema. It didn't matter that my theology was carefully considered, or that I had bathed my positions on many social issues in prayer. It didn't matter that I had taken classes at a Christian college or spent time on my own learning how to do inductive bible study. What mattered to the church, in the end, was that I was not like them. I didn't fit. I was outside the lines and I was simply wrong. Very few people cared to ask me why, or even try to understand where I was coming from. And, as it turned out, it was an impossible place to live.

In the end, it just became too hard to fight against it. I was exhausted from battling the constant wind against me; if I wasn't leaning hard into it, pressing forward, it was beating me from the side, leaving me drained and worn. I just couldn't shield myself anymore. And maybe that's what the good Christians around me were hoping for, that I would cave in and see things from their side. But in truth, I was beaten down into a severe depression and wanted nothing more to do with my abusers; it was too much and I left. And the sorrow of leaving almost broke me. I loved my community and my God. I had visions of being in leadership and raising my family there. I was a true believer.

It took years of talk-therapy, prescription medication, and support from my closest friends to get me to a place where I could recognize that I do still believe in the grace and mercy of Jesus. But I never want to be called a Christian again. I can't bring myself to be associated with the very people who turned their backs on me, told me I was wrong for just being me. And it wasn't until I read this book, about a man who had the same experience because he is gay, that my experience was crystalized for me.

I don't know if this is a typically Midwestern story, or if it has more to do with Christianity as a whole, but it has shaped my life more than anything else. I wished for a long time that I could be the sort of person who sees life as black and white. (I see every shade of gray instead.) I wished for a long time that I could have a simple faith and just be like the rest of the church. (But I am too much of an empath; I see so many sides, and that just raises more questions.) Today, I have stopped wishing, and I have realized that I like who I am. I actually enjoy being me. But I have not been able to experience that same joy in the church. I don't know if I will ever be able to. I certainly don't want to raise my children there because they are free thinkers too, and I cannot in good conscience subject them to the same fate.

Perhaps one day I will see things differently, but I don't expect to. I know I will not subject myself to being part of a faith community that cannot love me as a whole person: gay, straight, rich, poor, male, female, liberal, conservative, creative, analytic, transparent, private, married, single, black or white. I believe God made me the person I am with the strengths I possess. I honor that by freely being me. And I believe that about others too. I expect to find all sorts of people welcomed into my community.

Ironically, the church taught me that I would only find true community and friendship within it's own walls; but you know what? I have found some incredible friends who are not there. And they love me and support me without needing me to hold to a certain doctrine. For that I will be forever grateful. And I will continue to keep forging my own community, because I have no other choice. I need my people, and I need to serve others. So we find one another along the way and support one another as best we can. I still believe that people are mostly good. But I am wary of those professing loudly their faith.

(By the way, I'm sure you have a great church, where you find fulfillment, love and community. Many of my friends do and I am truly happy for them. But please do not invite me to attend yours. I am bone tired of visiting churches only to realize that they will welcome me as long as I change. Perhaps one day I will announce that I am ready to try again. But today is not that day. Thanks.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Just Keep Breathing

Four years ago we discovered our middle child had a life-threatening allergy. We discovered this the way most parents do: you feed your tiny, defenseless child a food that may or may not be dangerous to them and wait to see if there is a severe reaction.

We had a suspicion that he was allergic to peanuts after being on an airplane where they were served. Our baby started to break out in all manner of weird hives. Hives were not unusual for him, except that these new hives didn't look like the hives he would get from new clothes, or immunizations, or fever, or disposable diapers, or anything else we had experienced. So we suspected. And then we spent a harrowing day in the ER while our child continued to blow up and look like a prize fighter. They told us they could not confirm a diagnosis, but that they too suspected a nut allergy and we should see a specialist.

So we went to a pediatric allergist. That day our sweet 2-year-old was put through a torture test of pricks and intense itching to confirm for us that yes, our child was allergic to nuts of all kinds, and peanuts, and that we would now be trained in how to use an EpiPen incase he stopped breathing. BREATHING. It's universally acknowledged that breathing is an essential part of staying alive. It's a horribly frightening thing to realize that your kid could find himself unable to breathe just by eating (another universally acknowledged way to stay alive.) Suddenly the world seems like a much more dangerous place.

So we educated ourselves. I spent months learning about nut allergies and teaching the people around my child how to look for such poisons in our foods. I remember seeing a Mr. Peanut commercial around that time and thinking, how are they allowed to sell that stuff on TV?! I was incredulous. The day we cleaned out the pantry of all nut products our oldest kid cried, as much for our loss of food selections as for his brother's potential consequences. It took us a long time to become habitual in managing this allergy for a toddler. Jack was not allowed to eat any food brought into the house by concerned friends. No one was allowed to prepare food for him who didn't understand the danger of cross contamination. No cookie exchanges during the holidays. We inspected every item that came in the house for Halloween or Easter or Valentines Day. Pitch-ins at social events became a huge inconvenience; either we packed him a separate meal and still had to watch him like a hawk, or just didn't go. A preschool that was nut-free became our top priority. Suddenly I realized how much food was a central part of gatherings. We couldn't even go the the playground without a well meaning adult offering our kid a snack. It was life altering.

But today, we don't feel the consequences of his allergy in the same way. Four years later, it's just part of our lives, the way managing diabetes becomes part of your life. It's old hat and just the way we roll. Which gives me hope, because this week, that same adorable child was struggling to breathe, again.

This time it wasn't due to foods, but just a function of his lungs. Our precious boy has asthma. We've run into this before, in much smaller ways: the cold air in winter making him short of breath while playing outside, running around the yard in summer when the allergy count is high, but never anything as wicked as this. This time, he was struggling to breathe, and could not catch his breath. His entire body was working to take in just enough air. Off to the ER we went. And thank heaven we did. He was in need of some major intervention. After a full night and day, lived in the every-two-hour increments of breathing treatments, he was back to normal, breathing like the rest of us. Something I take for granted every day.

It's terrible to watch your child struggling to simply exist. Especially with nothing at hand to help. I am so grateful we now have the tools to help our kid when he is in distress. The doctors and nurses and therapists who helped us negotiate this were incredibly kind. I am grateful to them and their willingness to keep telling this exhausted mom what we can do to make things better again. I felt confident leaving the hospital that we would not need to be back soon. And Jack is the same happy-go-lucky kid he has always been.

So now we are working to find our way through this diagnosis too, until it becomes just the way we live. And we will. Because that's our choice. We will forget what it was like before the asthma diagnosis and this will just become our new normal. Just like we have forgotten the ways peanut butter was a large part of our life. We will do this because we are fighters, and our kid is a miracle.

We will choose to find a way to just keep breathing.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Sci-Fi Surprise

Until recently, I hadn't seen myself as a sci-fi girl. Growing up I liked Star Wars and I would watch Star Trek late at night while babysitting - pickings were slim back then, all we had was network television. But this never really struck me as being a "sci-fi geek." I realize now that I may have been deluding myself. Even though I wasn't a fan of Buck Rodgers, and Fantasy Island was too intense sometimes for this 9 year old, I had completely bought into the genre long ago. I loved the idea of what might be, what was possible and what we should all be wary of.

As I have gotten older I have realized that I am a sci-fi geek, and a big one. It's time to own it. The first time I fully embraced this side of myself was with the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. That show was incredible! If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend watching it (you can find it on Amazon and iTunes). It's so worth it. It explored many themes with an amazing cast. Somehow the unbelievable was made believable. And then, all of a sudden, we were wondering which characters were machines? Which ones were human? How would you know? Which of course is so relevant to our current human discussions about what makes you an alien, how would I know, and just exactly why would it matter?

To me, this is one of the greatest things about science fiction: it explores what it means to be human. In all my favorites (and there are many: Doctor Who, Firefly, Star Wars, any Marvel movie or series), the genre asks this constant question. Sometimes it asks it in a campy superhero way, and sometimes, as with Battlestar, it's much more complex and cerebral. And I generally love that exploration. I didn't want to commit that geekiness earlier in my life. For heaven's sake it's hard enough to be a girl, let alone a sci-fi geeky girl! I wanted it to be about entertainment. But let's get real. The thing that makes grown men and women dress up at comic con is this intense connection to a story that explores what it means to be human -- and somewhere in that story, that fan-girl saw herself. She recognized the person that was being questioned or resisting evil. And she saw herself. Of course I want to be Princess Leia, and The Doctor's Companion, and President Roslin. Why wouldn't I want to see the world through that lens? A lens at once complicated and simple; seeing both the complexity of humanity and the simple solution of finding love, compassion or truth. That's what sci-fi does. As far as I am concerned, we need much more of that.

I also think it's a little easier to see some of our own, real-life, questions when they are put in a different framework. Doctor Who is great at this. Is it ok to punish one segment of a society for the benefit of another? What will the consequences of our actions be years and years into the future? Sometimes seeing it play out in another world helps to clarify one's position here on Earth. I actually think Star Wars has some commentary in a similar way, especially about women and our expectations and stereotypes around them. I love seeing so many strong female role models in the Star Wars world! Why? Because even with the Women's Movement of the 70s, we are woefully behind in giving women their equal place in society. We are still fighting, and I love to see mighty females we can emulate.

So there you have it; I'm a self described sci-fi geek, cerebral and nerdy and all in. It's helpful at a time like this to have another world to sneak off to. It's a way to find compassion and humanity when many of the humans around me are expressing something completely different. You may not feel it so strongly, but I assure you, I do. Every time another black life is taken, every time another trans person dies, every time another woman has to fend off an attacker, every time a jewish center is threatened, a little bit of my hope in humanity is snatched away. And presently, that risk is higher than it has been in a long time. Make no mistake. The resident in the White House has opened this door. Your votes can close it. Think about that next election cycle when you are weighing the cost of your health plan in the balance with the cost of being human. For me, there is no contest. We have to protect the rights of those who are most threatened.

Help me sci-fi fans, you're my only hope.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Feminism and the Four-Year-Old

I didn't set out to be a feminist. I mean, as a kid, I was so shy it pained me to be called on in class. Calling attention to myself, even inadvertently, was to be avoided at all costs. Fit in, sit down and be part of the group; that was my motto. (It will be hard for some of you to believe this, but you can check it out with my family. They will tell you it's 100% true.)

But sometimes what seems like the best laid plans are just a stop gap measure until you find your voice, know yourself and feel good in your own skin. I feel lucky that I found that in me by the time I was in my 30s. It started in college, and I was realizing that I had been hiding for a while; but it wasn't until I was a mom and had faced down some life shit that I really embraced who I was. (Can we make that our new hashtag? #lifeshit) And hallelujah for finding my true self!  It was so hard trying to be someone else. I am glad I found me while I still had time to take her out and enjoy life.

But, finally being aware of who I am includes (very often) realizing that I am not like all the other ________________ (fill in the blank). I am constantly feeling the abrasion of not quite fitting into the molds around me. And I have realized that I am much more a feminist than I would ever have guessed. I'm not ashamed of it, I think it speaks to my need to see all the people. Men and women. Recently I found myself uncomfortable with this innocent scenario that played out at preschool:

Mom with toddler boy: Hold the door and let them go in honey; Ladies first!
Me with my daughter: . . . . . thanks . . . . (sigh). . . .

It felt gross, not for the first time, but especially because I had my daughter (my fiercely independent daughter) with me. And I did NOT want that to be the message of her world. It very clearly sounded like, "you know women are the weaker sex, so we do all we can to help them out. They need to be treated especially delicately. They just can't do all the things this big hard world expects of them, so be sure you help them whenever you can. That's a sweet lad."

Now I am sure that wasn't what that mother was thinking. At all. I am sure she was teaching her son a lesson about politeness and respect. Which I would have been completely on board with if she had just left the whole "ladies first" business right out of it. Hold the door for me because you wish to be polite, or because my hands are full. Pull out my chair for me because you respect me or love me. But DO NOT hold the door for me because I am a woman. I am capable of doing that myself. As are most women, and most men. Please, please, please, do not tell your child that their world view should include women as the weaker sex. Because that just promotes the idea that we deserve lower pay than men, do less work than men because we are not capable of doing the same work as men. I don't know a single woman who would actually claim those words, but be not deceived. When you point to the fact that I am a woman and then treat me as weak, your message is loud and clear.

When that mom said "ladies first" it made me feel the same way it did when my grandmother told me my black friend was "articulate." Holy lord. Please, oh please, do not start that backhanded double talk with me. Those phrases belong in the same drawer. Let's label it "covert discrimination." There is no need to prop me up. I have legs to stand on and the will to do it. And don't you dare try to shackle my strong, vibrant, curious daughter with those words. No, no, no. And don't shackle your son with that world view either. We have come much to far to let that happen. It does no one any favors.

I implore you, continue to be polite. Hold the door for someone because they are human and deserve to be treated respectfully. Pull out the chair of your loved one, because you want them to feel special. But I beg of you, do not tie these actions to gender. We all deserve more than that, don't we?

Friday, March 03, 2017

You Don't Look Sick

I have a chronic illness. It doesn't always show up the way other illnesses do, although some days it does. And sometimes it's hard to remember that I even have this condition, because it can feel like it has just disappeared. Sometimes I can go weeks, even months and forget all about it. And sometimes it's impossible to forget because it's constantly present, reminding me that it's mine; the symptoms can last for days. It's my own little mystery.

My illness is called General Anxiety Disorder. It's a mental illness. And that totally complicates things because saying "mental illness" to someone can be a deal breaker. There's still a lot of stigma out there surrounding mental illness. Somehow it's different than saying, MS or lupus or Crohn's. All of those diseases could have been the subject of the paragraph above. And having those sorts of chronic illnesses elicits a different sort of response. But once you say "mental illness" it's like there is a shift in the room, and the person you are speaking to leans back, just a bit. At least that's how it feels to me when I say it out loud. I am suddenly afraid that my credibility with that person just went out the window. And the truth is, at least a little bit of it probably did.

Anxiety can be a bitch because I don't look sick. I might not be showing symptoms that other people can see or recognize (at least the people who don't know me well), because I have mastered the art of Assuming The Role until I can get out of the room and into my car or back to my safe space. But the thing is, some days I honestly feel velcro-ed to the sofa, finding it difficult to peel myself off for any reason. It takes a monumental effort to just breathe in and breathe out. Then again, on some days I think I might explode from the feeling inside me - the feeling like a fluttering bird is stuck in my chest, banging to get out, but with no door to open to free it. It's hard to concentrate when something like that is happening. Some days I can't get my brain to stop cycling through the list, the monstrous overwhelming list, of things I have yet to do that may never get done, that seems impossible to triage because everything damn thing is so important. And incredibly, I still have to be the parent on those days. Those are the days that I pray I don't do too much damage to my kids. It's hard to explain to little ones that I am just not feeling like myself and I am so sorry for the yelling (or forgetting, or ignoring). The intersection of self care and child care is not easy to navigate.

I mention this because ever since November and the presidential election I have been feeling that anxiety creeping back into my chest. It doesn't always happen all at once, but when it does start to show up, I can recognize the feelings. And I have been monitoring myself for the past 4 months noticing the warning signs. It's definitely the political climate and the chaos that has ensued that has brought this back on. The need to become involved, and actually being involved, with the democratic process has helped stave it off. But it's definitely back now. And I would stake good money that I am not alone. The sort of upheaval that this election and it's subsequent government has caused is exactly the sort of trigger that most of us need to start the ball rolling on anxiety and depression. It's a hard time to navigate mental illness.

I had a recent conversation with a friend who couldn't quite understand why the election hit me so hard. I know it's not the same for all of us. Some of my friends are fine with the outcome. And some are just as scared as I am. For me, I see all the protections I counted on for my community and my kids eroding. I see a government hell-bent on becoming a Theocracy or Fascist State, neither of which make me feel safe. Being me is a whole lot riskier than it used to be. I live in a state without a hate crimes law, so the rolling back of transgender rights has real and scary consequences here. And I live in a state where our former governor (now the Vice President) made it clear that I am a second class citizen. He signed a law that made it ok to discriminate against me. So when I say that I don't feel safe, please recognize that as a real and honest fear, based in the reality of where I live. Where will it stop? We have already given up so many of our human rights. I have no reason to believe that it won't go further. Well meaning people have encouraged the climate we are now in, and furthered it, taking away my protections. Why would I trust it to be any different 6 months, or 4 years from now? Imagine for a moment what that might do to a person who is already at risk for anxiety. And now imagine that my prescription for medications that help me cope is at risk too, because the ACA is on the chopping block. It feels very unsafe right now.

So be kind out there, walking around this world. Nearly one in five Americans suffers from some sort of mental illness every year. That's a lot of struggling people. There are the mines you already know about (politics and religion) and the ones you don't (anxiety and depression). And maybe you will find it in your heart not to lean back when someone is brave enough to share their mental health struggles with you. Maybe, just maybe you can lean in, just a little. It would mean so much.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Motherhood: A Collision Course

You could scroll through this blog and discover what I am about to confess right here and now: I don't love motherhood. Please do not misunderstand me. I love my kids with a fierce, fierce love. I will protect them at the expense of my own self. I love my husband more that I can express. I love knowing that my people are become good and decent human beings. My family is a bunch of rock-stars. Get to know us. I am 100% sure you will agree.

But motherhood, that job is not my cup of tea. In fact, almost on a daily basis, I want to GIVE. IT. BACK. And I have had jobs that were hard. I worked at piloting an alternative middle school program - we made that from scratch and took all the kids no one else wanted, and I will tell you that was exhausting. I worked at a charter middle school in one of the poorest cities in the nation, working from 7am - 5pm (that was the required time on the job), keeping middle school students focused, safe, and off the streets. That was exhausting too. But none of that even holds a candle to how intense motherhood is for me. It will make you bloody and bone-tired and then ask you for more. It will take you right up to the cliff and kick you over. It is like standing in the middle of Times Square naked and hungry staring down a bear. Motherhood brings it. All the time. It's embarrassing and risky and exhausting.

I used to say (a lot) that I wish someone would have told me about all this before I decided to have kids. Perhaps other girls were paying better attention. Perhaps I just have an intense bunch of kids. Perhaps other women do a better job of sucking it up than I do. Perhaps this is just my own reality, and not that of any other mom. I really don't know. And in a way, it doesn't really matter to me. But I think it's incredibly important that I don't sugarcoat any of my experience as a mom for my kids. It's the hardest job I may never love. And it's the hardest job they may never love. And I want them to know that it kicked my ass on the regular, but that these kids are so important to me, I got up and did it again. Day after day. They are that important. 

This is my truth: You will feel under appreciated and beaten up by motherhood. And everything will go wrong, right after the help who was there yesterday (your husband, the grandparents, the babysitter) has gone. And the shit never hits the fan from 9am to 5pm Monday - Friday when the pediatrician and plumber have office hours. And speaking of off-hours, everything will feel personal at 3 am: puking, crying babies, fire alarms that won't stop. All of it. Totally personal. And no matter how prepared you are for all the contingencies, shit will find you. Sometimes you will have to do whatever you can to stop the bleeding (even if you have to use a tampon in your kid's nose). And the poop issues are prolific. Yours, the dog's, the kids', the over abundance and the lack thereof. Motherhood is definitely all about the poop. And you won't get "caught up" on your sleep for another 6 years, so just stop expecting that. And odds are good that showering regularly is no longer an option. You will not hear me saying to enjoy every moment, because sister, there are moments that absolutely need to be forgotten in the abyss of time never to be thought of again.

Here's what I want to say next: and it will all be worth it. But I hesitate to say that. I am not all the way through it. I have not come to see my kids as adult children with all the emotional and physical distance and time to prove that out. I am hopeful that it will be true. I am operating under that assumption. And the one kid that is close to leaving for college (Lord Jesus is that right?) gives me the sense that it is true. But I can’t give you that hope yet. All I can do is say that I believe making people into decent human beings is incredibly hard work, but what else can we do? We need all the decent and good humans the world can hold. So I persist in trying to make mine into that sort of human. And in the process I am pretty sure that I am also becoming a better human. I am being taught all sorts of lessons about human dignity and grace and mercy and love. And that my friends, is worthwhile.