Dear World, I feel compelled to speak out and let you know just what’s going on behind the curtain. I know you’re all watching, thinking Have they all lost their minds? I get it. But here’s the real deal: We are … Continue reading
Darkness. I lay in the darkness feeling numb. Am I awake? Praying for that feeling a relief to wash over me like slipping into a steaming bath. But that warmth does not arrive. Instead panic flashes. Hot and dry in my throat. What am I going to say to my children? I need to be brave. But how can I dig for that courage when it’s not there? It’s buried deep under fear, panic, shame and sheer disappointment that runs white hot through me.
For months, I have pushed this possibility to the side. For nearly a year, I’ve laughed this off as an embarrassing joke. But what I have really done is forced myself to believe in humanity. Challenged my fearful mind to trust that good will win- it has to, right? That the majority of humans care beyond their doorstep. Feel a sense of duty to protect our so very fragile society and vote with their hearts. The disappointment I feel is for the reality that what’s in my heart is not in the majority of the hearts across our country. I struggle to reconcile the notion that I’m the minority in my values.
5:49am. Cub walks in to my room and crawls into bed. Warm, innocent hands wrap into my own. Did Hillary win, Mom? I hesitate. Waiting. Like I’m expecting something wise to come. Instead, No, baby. She didn’t is all that falls out. He rolls over to face me. Searching my eyes and my mouth, his breath whispering, heart pumping. She didn’t win I say again. This time a little louder, pushing my voice past the hardness in my throat, testing how the words feel in my mouth, how it sounds to hear myself say it. Cubs eyes fall. He knows that evil won today.
The piercing, jagged truth is, he knows what this means. I openly shared my feelings for not supporting Donald Trump. My children know all the reasons this man did not earn our vote. I shared these reasons because I genuinely did not believe that others would be able to see past the truths, the facts, and support him. Of course I knew some could but I had no idea so many would. So now I feel duped. So does my kid. So now what. What do we do?
Well for starters, I am not going to be silent. I am not going to roll over and make the best of this. I am going to Stand Up. I am going to look for places where I can Stand Up. And Standing Up now means something different. I won’t be silenced by Facebook, like I realize I have been for so long. Words on a screen that mean nothing. No action. Look, I shared an article! Now that I’ve let everyone know what side of an issue I’m on, I can go back to posting pics of my kids, recipes or memes. For fucking real? You know whats different about activism now than during the 60’s? You actually had to show up to Stand Up. You couldn’t just post a pic of a Civil Rights March, hashtag it and call it a day. You actually had to show up.
I hear people say about the election outcome, We did this. Guess what? I actually didn’t do this. And I am sick of being the We. The We are the people who voted for this man. The We don’t hold the same values as what’s in my heart. The We are the people who are just going to go about their business and ignore the fact that evil won. That gender discrimination, racial ignorance, anti-Muslim and anti-immigration won. I am not the We. I am the Me. And the Me feels like the only thing I can do right now is Stand Up. I vow to seek out injustice. And DO something about it. No matter how small that is. I will no longer smile apologetically at the woman holding a “WOMEN’S RIGHTS MATTER” sign outside Planned Parenthood. I will hold a sign next to her. Are you Muslim? I’m in your corner. Are you an immigrant? A refugee? Are you black? Consider me your ally. Are you gay? I will hold your hand. Are you a strong, powerful woman? I’ve got your back, girl. I will not look for fights but I will seek opportunities to show that I am not the We.
And I will do this in front of my kids. I will encourage them to do the same. To say nothing is not an option for me. And as angry as I was at 5am, I feel that anger replaced with a sense of duty. I have deactivated my Facebook account to push myself to use action as my platform, instead of a social media account. I’ll dearly miss the pics of your adorable kiddos but this feels more important to me right now. I need to challenge myself to act instead of post a status or share a comical clip from the Daily Show. Now, I have a sense of how to move forward. I may not be able to influence laws from my tiny town in a tiny state but I can let people know how I feel about them. I am not the We. I can show up. And I will Stand Up. And I hope you will too. Because it’s the only way I know to get through this right now.
With all my heart, I wish you Peace, Mamas.
So I love to cook. And I also never get to cook. I do have a recipe that’s tried and true. And your kids will eat it. Because mine do- well, except Zook but he doesn’t really count. He’s been … Continue reading
Are you a Mama who works? I am. And while I am certain Mamas who stay home have their share of struggle, I am going to talk about Working Mamas.
For the last few months, I have spent enormous amounts of time and effort planning a training for my entire agency. On Cultural Awareness. I had planned out the lunch- which was a struggle in itself- have you planned a meal for 50 colleagues? It’s exactly the same level of fun and easy as feeding 17 three year olds. So the morning of the training, I needed to get three kids on the bus by 7:23am so I would have enough time to prep and run errands for the training. Piece-o-cake. Shit cake.
I picked out clothes night before. Made sure eveyone had “cozy pants” and not the jeans that apparently are seamed with jagged shards of glass. I had stayed up to make a loaf of pumpkin bread- which at least two out of three children will eat. I got up at 5:15am to shower and get myself ready. Things went downhill from there. Zook threw is clothes back in my face. The cozy pants I’d picked out were blue and not gray. And on Tuesdays, blue cozy pants = bad. I hadn’t gotten that memo. So I am hunting through four baskets (yes you read that right) of unfolded, unsorted (which I am about 85% sure was clean) laundry for the gray cozy pants.
Meanwhile, some kind of fight has broken out somewhere in the house over who gets to eat the first slice of pumpkin bread. Giving up on the treasure hunt for the mystical fucking gray cozy pants, I run toward the sound of screaming. There’s some crying involved at this point. After determining that Cub was indeed the first downstairs and (somehow) this entitles him to the first piece of pumpkin bread, I break the news to Mooch and Zook. Zook punches Cub. I determine that this violation means he will now get the third piece of pumpkin bread. Because, duh. There’s some more screaming but now everyone seems to be moving their greivences to the table. Just ask Zook has finally stopped crying over being relegated to the third slice of pumkin bread, Cub announces that he’d really like to have oatmeal and slides the slice of pumkin bread to Zook who complains that he won’t eat it because it smells like Cub’s breath. I shit you not.
So finally, at 7:18am we run out the door to the bus stop. I’m standing there, sipping my coffee, taking that deep breath as I see the bus round that corner… I am there. I’ve made it. Another 30 seconds and I can hop in my car, flip on Adele and blissfully sit in traffic for 40 minutes. Buuuuuusssss! I yell gleefully. Too gleefully. Because just as the doors to that bus open, Zook trips and slides across the gravel. Screaming. Blood. More screaming. The bus is waiting. Now this is a moment where time stands still. I am staring at this screaming child, and pleading with the universe to make the crying stop. I am actually done. This is where I punch the clock. The bus is here- this is the handoff. I get coffee and Adele now. Nope. He refuses to get on the bus. Like refuses. Um, what the hell am I supposed to do with this? I have to go to work. Like now. But I still need to be a Mama. First I am a Mama. Work will wait.
Today, a dear Mama friend fell apart. Giant, soft tears fell from her eyes while she described to me how she feels like every day she’s failing. Failing at home. Failing her kids. This I say to you: I know the struggle. I know her well. It’s waking to the sink of dishes you were too exhausted to clean up the night before. It’s forgetting the library books. Again. It’s throwing some shit in a pan and calling it dinner when all you wanted was to try that new recipe. It’s digging through piles of clothes that never make it to the drawers before ending up in a heap next to the washer again. It’s realizing at 7am that your child is Star of the Day and needs two dozen motherfucking peanut-free, treenut-free, gluten-free snacks. It’s cyring on your way to work- not only because you have all of this on your mind but because it’s the only ten minutes you have alone. It’s crushing. And oh yeah, now you have to hold your shit together for an eight hour day and host a Cultural Awareness training for 50 peope who are going to complain about the lunch.
This I say to you: You are not alone. You are the most compassionate, strong Mama I know. Your heart is filled with so much love for your children. And oh, how they adore you. We are all in this together. And sometimes, we fall apart. Sometimes the pressure of it all bears down and panic creeps in. I need to be more. I am overwhelmed. I am failing. But you are not. You’re doing it. Every. Single. Day.
Just keep on working it, Mama.
How do we learn to love our children? When does it begin? Where does it grow from? Is the love just there all of a sudden or does it bloom over time?
This last fall was one of tragedy. I watched a Mama lose her baby. This Mama waited a near-eight months to meet her child and spent a mere 12 hours with her. Then this Mama lost her baby. In seconds, that tiny, beating heart slowed to a stop. And just as quickly as she was there, she was gone. Yet the longing, the seed of adoration was planted. And now this Mama will spend the rest of her life longing for a different ending. A do-over she will never get.
As a Mama with three children, these last couple months have been humbling. And it makes me wonder where the love comes from. That feeling that washed over me when I took in my new babies and cried because the love so violently gripped my heart. I have that same feeling even now, when I lay next to a sleeping child, whether he is nine, six or four, as I watch him sleep. Peacefully, trusting and innocent in my arms. Where does it come from?
I watched as this new Mama grew that love. Witnessed as it rose in her like a building wave, crashing into her heart, breaking into her soul. The love seemed to scare her, feeling foreign and unexplainable, yet coursed through her like nothing she had felt before. And then the being for whom this crushing emotion was felt, was gone, leaving her raw and starved. So what is the Mama to do with all the love that was left over? That love that wasn’t there the day before seems so familiar now. That love collides with a loss so profound it cannot be explained, for the word grief seems painfully pathetic in comparison to the feelings this loss actually illicits. But the woman is now a Mama. She is changed.
I have learned that children do not make the Mama. The devotion to a life other than your own is what makes the Mama. It’s a love with which we are all familiar whether we make the same decisions about bedtimes, school, discipline or vaccines we all share that unfathomable adoration for our children. And to hold all that love in your heart for a child who is not in your arms, at your breast, in your sight, forces one to conjure a strength so powerful that it almost seems impossible to trudge on. But even without the child, she is still a Mama. The Mama is in her now. And she will never again be the same.
And after witnessing this, I will never be the same either. I’ve come to recognize that the love of a Mama is the most basic of our actions. An unlearned emotion which all of a sudden and uncontrollably just exists. The love of a Mama is only known to another Mama. The love of a Mama is Primal.
Yup. Sold our sweet little farm house and moved all that shit out. Figured it was time for an update. We have moved in with the ‘rents while our new digs is being thrown together. Thrown together on an amazing piece of land, in the same, picturesque town in Vermont with which we have fallen in love over the last eight years. And by digs, I mean, house of our dreams. Well, realistic dreams, at least. But now we are waiting. Our shit is in storage and did I mention that we moved in with my parents…? Which I am dying to write about but since they may be reading this and I don’t want to end up truly homeless, I can’t. But you’re really missing out on some go-od stuff folks…
So unfortunately, I can’t tell you about how on our second night back under this roof (in nearly fifteen years) we listened to my parent’s argue about whether my mother snores. It was only when my mother smugly thought she had convinced us of her silent slumber habits that my father presented to us an audio recording of the previous night, evidencing the see-sawing. As they giggled on the opposing couch, I glanced at my husband. Eyes wide, we exchanged the same what-the-fuck-have-we-gotten-ourselves-into look.
Nope. I can’t tell you that. And I also can’t tell you about trying to explain Facebook to my father. Dear. God. I can’t tell you about an argument over who’s drinking the orange juice with pulp or who missed their morning wake-up call for the shower, making everyone late for work. (Yes, we are really sharing one shower.) I can’t tell you about how hard it is to live with people around all the motherhumping time. And I can’t tell you that I am sure the adjustment for us was equally as profound for my parents.
But what I can tell you is that two weeks ago, I watched someone very close to me end a long term relationship. I witnessed her heartache and break. And then I helped her move her stuff out and in with family. What I can tell you, that was never as apparent to me before is that family is everything. Everything. Witnessing her fall, only to be caught, held up by people who love her was eye-opening.
We spend so much time focusing on the things we have. We work to buy more things. We pay bills, go on vacations, buy toys, clothes, electronics. At this moment, near 95% of those things are in a 12 foot by 15 foot concrete storage unit. And we are still happy. All that shit we thought we needed- buying and using- and without it, we are still happy.
I can deal with the nit-picking about OJ and the annoyance of breaking down a grocery bill or deciding how to split up the Costco case of toilet paper. I can deal with waiting for the shower now and then so my mother can shave her legs or with the car shuffle in the driveway. Did I mention that two weeks in, the washer broke…? Eyes on the prize: A new home. It’s family stuff. And I am at this moment very grateful for this family. And most of the stuff that comes along with that. As far as the audio of snoring or explaining Facebook to those over age 60… Well, ask me again in a month.
Today has been one of those days. One of those days.
The day began pretty typically for a Saturday with the Hub leaving for work at 6:00am, kissing me gently on the forehead as I barely have the strength to move, both arms trapped under sleeping boys. As he walks out, I lay, trying to remember when and how they ended up pinning me to the mattress. I have no clue. I move. Eyelids snap open. Coffee. Heading into the kitchen, I am struck by the most debilitating pain in my foot. Crumbling to the floor, clutching my foot with tears starting to sting my barely awakened eyes. A Lego. A mother-humping Lego. And it’s still stuck in my foot. Right in the sweet spot between the ball and the pad. I can barely contain it but I am thinking it. Really thinking it. Fuck. It’s not out loud. But it’s more oozing from the pores in my forehead. I am sweating obscenities.
I manage to recover. With no help or concern from the little beasts gobbling granola bars and fruit cups from the couch, little eyes glued to glowing screen like they’re in some kind of trance. I survey the house. The living room is pretty bad. The sink is piled with dishes. I efficiently, almost smugly, loaded the dishwasher the night before last (yes, you read that right) only to find that we were out of detergent. And then I forgot to get it yesterday. So now, this morning, not only is the dishwasher full of dirty dishes, but all the dishes from yesterday are piled in the sink. Sweet.
Looking over to the playroom, I am filled with anxiety and dread. That has to be cleaned. You see, we are in the beginning stages of selling our house and have people coming to look at it tomorrow. Tomorrow. And they are such a sweet young couple… The sight of that playroom may affect them so profoundly that they may never again be able to stomach the idea of bringing children into the world. But more importantly, they probably wouldn’t buy our house. I sit. Staring- glaring in at the mass of plastic, knowing that I will have to find a spot for each and every piece of shit in there.
Fuck. Again, not out loud but in my soul, I am breathing this curse in deeply and spitting it out from far in the back of my throat. Silently. And with a smile. Because that’s what we Mamas do, right? We hold shit together. For everyone. With a smile. Because if we can’t, everything falls apart. Everything falls apart. No pressure.
Mooch has a birthday party today and we have yet to choose the perfect gift so we are off to pick out something ridiculously pink, frilly and girly. Just have to pick out clothes for everyone. Walking into my bedroom, the fury of my looming task in the playroom returns in full force. Standing in the doorway, looking down at the heaps of laundry I must also deal with. But later. I dig in, searching out shirts and pants and underwear, and socks. God, I hate looking for socks. Hunching over, trying desperately to find the match to a dinosaur sock, I am so engrossed in my quest that I don’t even hear the smallest child sneaking up and pouncing on my back, catching me off guard, sending me face first into an over-turned laundry basket. Fuck. This time, it’s mostly in my head but the Fffffff slips a little. Hi Mama! Got you! And he runs off. The quest is over. Mooch will not be wearing matching socks today. I walk out of the room, but not before I take one long look back… Knowing I will have to tackle this later.
Mooch is pissed about his mis-matched socks. Zook won’t wear his coat. Cub is bitching at me for something but I can’t even hear him over Zook’s angry wails. We manage to make it into the car. Zook continues with the sobs- now because he wants to take his seat belt off. I stop to pick them up bagels. Silence as they chow in the backseat. The toy store is uneventful except leaving- which is always stressful. Always. And ends with me yelling that I am leaving as at least two kids run screaming, partially believing that I may actually be gone. I am beat. But we have a gift that looks like something a fairy barfed up so I think we are in good shape for this party. Mooch steps in cream cheese. And now it’s all over the car. My wallet falls to the ground into a mud puddle. Along with the card for the gift. Cub stands, looking at my wallet, acting like a sponge, soaking up the murky water. Pick it up, I am saying to him. But he’s just standing there. I’m not putting my hand in that… I vaguely hear him say as I am wiping cream cheese off virtually every surface with upholstery. Scooping my water-logged wallet up, I glare at Cub. I get in and just as I swing my arm down, I feel a bump. Hear a splash. Looking down, I see that someone has left a full bottle of milk on the center console. Without the cap.
Fuck. This time it’s out loud. Instant shame. Did I just do that? Was that out loud? Did they hear that? I desperately scan the rear view mirror. Yup. They totally heard that. No one says anything. Nothing. Deep breaths. I put the cap back on the milk. Put my seat belt on, after about ten deep breaths. I pull out of the parking lot. I know I should say something but I am just not quite sure what that should be so I just drive. Finally, I just blurt out, I am sorry. That was a really bad word. Mama was really angry and frustrated but it’s still not okay for me to say bad words. Quiet. And then giggles. Breathe Mama.
It was a day. A bad day. One of those days. But now it’s over. Now, they are up in their beds. They know their Mama isn’t perfect but they know she tries her hardest every day. The playroom is clean. The dishes are done. And the laundry, well that’s still up there. But tomorrow is another day.
Ever have one of those days (weeks or months, really) where you start to feel lost? Where you question everything about the way you are raising your kids. Usually it’s easier for me to push those feelings of insecurity back down with my foot- like packing down the garbage I should have taken out two (three) days ago. Packing it down is just not working right now.
Lately I have been doing a lot of reading about alternative parenting. I have never considered myself a traditional parent by any means but I am starting to feel like I have fallen into that category in the last couple weeks. Sit at the table until your plate is clear. No talking until your coat is on. Don’t talk while I am talking. Seriously? Seriously. What is my problem? Where has the kind-hearted, patient, sensitive Mama gone? My kids want her back. And I do too.
She’s probably buried under that pile of five loads of laundry. Or trying to climb out from the stack of crusty dishes in the sink. She could be digging her way out of permission slips, math games, book orders, dental appointments, grocery shopping, preschool meetings or meal planning. Or she could be smothered by researching “clean” recipes, heathy fats and GMOs or she’s trying desperately to fit working out in because goddammit she has to put on that bathing suit in a month. Oh wait, you have a job too, Mama?
So that’s where Mama went. Come back Mama.
Trying. Wishing desperately that I could find the balance. The thing is my life is so full. But the fullness I focus on are the parts that don’t matter. What will my kids remember? Will they remember laundry piles, dishes, permission slips, book orders, dental schedules or the ridiculous task of creating a meal plan which is “clean” and compatible with the eating habits of a three year-old? Nope. Will they remember what their Mama looked like in her bathing suit? Nope. But will they remember Mama not playing with them? Will they remember being forced to sit at the table alone, in the dark kitchen while everyone else is playing a laughing together? Probably. Definitely.
To let go of all that extra stuff is so hard though. Harder than anyone admits.
I need to remember what’s important. I need to color with Zook. I need to race cars across the floor with Mooch. I need to read Harry Potter with Cub. I need to jump into football playoffs and superheroes and sharks. I need to chase and tickle and cuddle them. The things I need to be buried in, smothered by and consumed with are my children. And I know I can get back there.
Mama is coming back. Mama is back.
Cue the sucker punch to the bread basket. We stopped for a quick bite after finishing up some Christmas shopping tonight. So we share about our day. And it was over some fries and burgers that this came out of Cub. “Mom, I know what happened with the Twin Towers.” Oh, are the kids talking about this in school? Keep calm, Mama. But I can’t. The knot in my stomach is creeping by it’s fingernails up my throat. So I do what any logical person would do to push that knot back down: I cram more fries in my face. As fast as I can, really. Gross? I know. But I can’t stop. “No, no one is talking about it, I watched a video about it in the library at computer time.” You did… Were there other videos? The fries are barely keeping the panic at bay. “Oh yeah, there’s ones about the nuclear bomb and Nazi’s. I think the bomb is also called a Nuke.” Okay, okay. Okay. We’ll talk about this later when your brothers aren’t sitting right here. Who wants to tell about their day? “I want to hear more about the nukes!” said my five year old with such enthusiasm that the fries were no longer cutting it. After a few long pulls on the chocolate shake, I successfully change the subject.
So that’s how it went down. I binge-ate and my kid knows about the largest and most horrific act of terrorism our country has seen.
As we drove home, the boys sang along to a Miley Cyrus song and argued over which superheroes are the strongest. You know, normal, annoying shit kids should be talking about. Meanwhile, I tried to process the conversation and my feeling about it. Because I am a social worker and we social workers just love to process. Why am I so upset about this? I knew he was going to find out at some point. He should know. It’s a huge part of our history. And that’s when it hits me. It’s not really part of our history because it’s hasn’t really been long enough to be history.
I remember that Tuesday morning. You remember too, don’t you. A glorious fall morning. I was serving serving coffee at a small cafe. My second year of college had just begun. Pink shirt, black pants- which were probably a bit to tight but really brought in the tips. The radio blares Hotel California. The phones rings and it’s my soon-to-be-husband. Two planes flew into the World Trade Center. My mind sort of stops for a minute. Why? How did the pilots manage to crash their planes into two buildings right next to each other? I hang up the phone. Thinking, thinking. A customer bursts through the door. They bombed the Pentagon too, turn on the radio. My hands leave fog marks on the stainless steel counter. And the rest of the day is a little blurry. Customers come and go. We don’t tell people to have a good day. In fact, we don’t really say much of anything. We just sort of make eye contact. Like the kind of eye contact where you just want to tell someone, I know. I feel the same way. How could this happen?
Then came the death tolls and the shaky video footage. And the screaming people running down stairs. The brave souls who entered to get strangers to safety who never came out again themselves. All the cable channels were shut down. You know it’s bad when Food Network is offline. The only thing we Americans could watch was the news. And holy shit, did we watch the news.
Recounting all of this during my drive home brought me to tears. This is not history. This is now.
And that’s just it.
When my kids ask about slavery or civil rights, colossal mistakes in our nation’s past, I can say things like, We know now. People acted out of stupidity, ignorance and fear. But how do I explain something to them that exists today? Seriously. Someone please tell me how I am supposed to make sense of terrorism to my child? Please. Still to this day, men and women (and in some cases children) strap explosives to their bodies and go to schools, town squares, places of worship and marathons, with the intention of taking their own life and as many other lives as possible. This isn’t history. This is now. Right now.
As we sit on his bedroom floor, I finally muster up my courage. Tell me about the Twin Towers. And he does. And asks if it’s true. Yes, honey. It’s all true. But what I don’t understand, says my gentle, thoughtful eight-year-old baby, Is why would those men do that? Like a dump truck of bricks, this shakes me. To my core. I don’t know. I can’t understand why anyone would hurt another person. I can’t imaging something that would make that okay. Me either. Does it make you feel scared? Yeah. And sad. Those people died. Yes. There were many people in those buildings when they were hit. Oh. I meant the men who took over the planes died. I am sad for them and the other people who died too.
This is the silky, fluid innocence that I can literally feel slipping through my fingers. Sad for the people who died in the buildings but also for the men who died trying to murder others. Why can’t this world be filled with kind souls like this child? Oh wait, it is. We shape them. Society shapes them. We can’t protect our children from the terribleness of the world, the complicated sticky mess of a society in which we live. And that makes me feel powerless but we also need to remember that innocence, kindness and empathy don’t need to be cultivated. Those attributes already exist. I believe to my core that humans are born good. I could have said, those men deserved to die because they killed others. Hate breeds hate. I don’t want to raise him to hate.
So maybe the answer is that I need to be honest: I can’t make sense of this because there is no sense to be made. He seemed to grasp this tonight. This is the first of many, many conversations which will test us as parents. I am not in the business of handing out advice but what I can say is that being honest with my kids seems to work. It feels vulnerable and raw and like I don’t have all the answers but I think it also propels my children to process things that they don’t understand. To mull them over for a while. That it’s okay to not have an answer as long as you continue to devote thought to it and talk it over as you work your way through. I am just a Mama who is terrified of failing at this Mamahood gig. So I process. So I throw my plea out to the universe hoping that I am able to find my way. That I can be the Mama they deserve.
For real. This, the eve of his third birthday, also marks one month since Zook last nursed. A few months back, I posted about my little guy giving up his nightly boob. Sad, but not really surprising. He was two and a half… So although we did not nurse before bed, he awoke craving his mama’s milk instantly as his eyes opened. And it went on like this for quite a while. I had no clue that it would go on this long. But it did.
Zook is my last baby. Our family of five is complete. What is apparent to most parents after two children became a blaring reality after he was born: Children are a lot of work. And making sure that they all survive the day is also a lot of work. So I relished in our nursing relationship- the Journey as many call it- because I knew this was the last chance I would have to grow this bond with a child. I never thought of myself as an extended breastfeeder- not that I had any judgments about people who breastfed past a year… or two… or three… I just did’t think it was for me. And then I was that Mama.
He just never appeared to be a toddler or (gulp) a preschooler. He just looked so much like my baby that I was blind to the progression of his increasing age. With each passing month, I thought surely it would be any day. I was sure that after his second birthday, he would give it up but just like so many other things, the books were wrong about this too. After his second birthday, I began scrutinizing about each session. I gave myself such a hard time. And it was stupid because I was the only one putting the pressure on to kick this. My husband was more than supportive- half because he relied on me to “give him a boob” to get our
insanely temperamental sweet child to shut the F up calm down in any public setting. And the other half of the reason he was so supportive was because he saw how much it meant to our little guy. Don’t you think he’s a little old? I would say. According to who? He’d answer. But do you think he still really needs it? I’d say. Look how much he loves it. If it still works for you, don’t take it away from him. He’d say. For real. (Reminder: Hug this man.) So I just decided to go with it.
Slowly, he would miss a morning booby sesh. Then he would miss a day. And then two. And then three… And then. It was gone. Still, one month later, the sadness creeps into my throat. But I am comforted by the idea that he weaned me as much as himself. Had he cut me off, I would have been heart-broken. (Yes, folks, this was about me too.) So he weaned me. Slowly, and on his terms. This happened just the way it was supposed to. It was true self-weaning. It was hard and there were times I wanted to give up- just as much as there were times that I wanted to offer when he didn’t need it. But I let him decide what he wanted- what he needed- and trusted he would find his way. I trusted him to find our way.
Now, I’ll admit that I boarder on control freak (who am I kidding, I am a total control freak but I can’t really admit that because it sounds horrible… but this is Real) and because of this, I have a hard time letting my kids decide what’s best for them. Of course you have to wear a hat, it’s 30 degrees outside! You need to fill out your reading journal! Take two more bites of breakfast! Finish your milk! Now what if we treated them like… humans? Humans who are capable of making decisions for themselves. I know I am making a huge leap here but if letting a near-three year old decide when he’s done nursing has taught me anything, it’s that we don’t give our children far enough credit for knowing what they need and when they need it. We make so many decisions for them. And some of them are necessary but are they all…? I am not so sure anymore.
For some of you reading this, you may be welcoming me to the room: you’ve already made a decision to raise your kids this way. To some, the idea of letting your kids make autonomous choices may seem ridiculous. To the latter group, try to entertain this idea. I’m still totally forcing my kids to wear their seatbelts, brush their teeth and use their manners but if they choose not to wear a hat, maybe I will let them (and shove it in my purse to hand off when they start to cry that their ears are cold) or maybe I will allow them to leave the table without finishing breakfast… they will be hungry but they won’t die. Maybe they would make a better choice the next morning.
I don’t pretend to know where to draw that line and I am in no way telling you how to raise your kiddos. But what I am saying is that our children are crazy smart. They know what they are doing more of the time than we acknowledge. Consider this. My three year old clung to my breast until he slowly decided he didn’t need it anymore. And then he was done. On his terms. I let go of the control. And it worked out really well. Bye, bye Booby. Hello Independence.