F Minus in Motherhood

This one goes out to the moms who have been feeling like they’ve earned themselves an F- in motherhood lately. I see you. I get you. We’re in this together!

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. I don’t really know why. I suppose, maybe a little case of “lack of inspiration”? I try so hard to make sure when I spend the little bit of time I can find to write, that I use it to write something motivational. Something that can make a difference in someone’s life. So, when the things I am thinking about don’t seem super uplifting – I stop writing. But, maybe that’s the problem. Maybe that’s exactly what people need to hear. Maybe people need someone to be “real” and tell them about the tougher times too. So, here we are. Here I am, hoping on top of my soap box. Buckle up, this could be a doosey.

The internet is great, right? Our fingertips have access to answers to all of our questions within seconds (well, depending how well the WiFi is working that day.. ;)) But, is it really all it is cracked up to be? I mean, long before Social Media – people were already judgmental. I think social media has just made it easier for people to become even more opinionated. I mean, we actually have to defend ourselves when posting a photo. If the photo was taken in the car, we have to give a disclaimer about where we were parked. If you take a photo of your little one in a grocery cart not facing the right way – you have to mention they are buckled securely and you never left their side. If you post too many photos, you are judged for not enjoying the moment. If you play on your cellphone while your kids are playing at the park, even while you’re 10 feet away, you have to be prepared to be judged. Don’t worry though, the judgy mom on the park bench over there will use her cellphone to take the photo of you using yours – but that’s perfectly acceptable, right? It’s crazy, isn’t it? Hey, I’m guilty of it. Believe me, I have no high horse to sit upon. Earlier today, I was watching a video on YouTube about Jessica Alba’s new house and she didn’t have a fence around her pool with a soon-to-be-toddler and I had to catch myself. It’s none of my damn business. I have zero reason to believe this woman is not aware of the importance of pool/water safety, and I have zero reason to believe she doesn’t have a plan in place before her little one is cruising on his own, so why did the thought even cross my mind? We have to start lifting each-other up. We have to realize none of us are perfect parents. We are all just trying to figure out this ride, and not everything is written in those “What to expect when you are expecting books”. Some of it you just figure it out as you go. Some days you feel like a bad-ass, and others you feel like you totally bombed. 

I am a lot of things. I am a mom, a wife, a friend, and a manager. I’m also empathetic, opinionated, and emotional. My personality has a tendency to confuse people. I enjoy being alone, but also am outgoing & social. My environment dictates how I behave. My friends used to joke it’s “my ability to be a chameleon”. Sometimes I am obnoxiously loud, and other times I am suspiciously quite. I can read the energy in a room, and adjust. There are times I want to turn up, and other times I just want to be alone with a keyboard and process my thoughts. Recently, I met with a counselor. I thought it might help me find a little clarity. I don’t know that it helped me find clarity per-say; but she did give me something to think about. Some of the things we were talking about, she noticed everything I had to say – went back to how it could affect my son. She pointed it out and asked me if I would have the same opinion or thoughts if I didn’t have my son. My initial reaction was “Why would that even matter? He isn’t going anywhere!”. Then I got to thinking and realized – I think something some people don’t realize about me.. and sometimes I even forget about myself is that – to me – being an adult is being a mother. I literally know no other way. I became pregnant at 18 years old and gave birth to my son three days before I turned 19. I didn’t have a college experience, or a decade to make mistakes, party, or whatever else it is 20-something-year-olds do. I was already in hustle mode, so basically everything from the time I saw those two pink lines – just felt like progress. I have no idea what it is like to be an adult without being a parent. So, when I think about the decisions I would make if I didn’t have my son – I truly don’t know because I have no idea who I would have become if he didn’t come into my life when he did.

Maybe that’s why the last year or so has felt so life-changing. I’ve felt like I have suddenly become so self-aware and really trying to (as clique as it sounds) – “find myself”. I suppose most 20-something-year-olds use their 20s for self-discovery & self-growth. I have been so focused on surviving, and being the best mother I knew how – I didn’t have time to think about myself. Now here I am, 31 years-old with a 12 year old son, and I am not really sure where I fit in. Most of my friends around my age are just starting to have babies, and most of son’s friend’s parents are 10+ years older than I am. I guess I am somewhere lost in the middle. 

I always thought as my son got older, the looks people gave me – would happen less often. I always thought his teachers would start taking me more seriously, and I thought things would eventually get easier. HA! Who was I kidding? 😉 However, I have to admit – I have learned so much over the last 12 years about how to handle the curve balls life throws at us and I have gotten better about caring less about what others think (that’s still a work in progress ;)). Just to be clear, most of those “A-HA!” moments come after an emotional breakdown. 😉

In the last few months, my sons’ teacher expressed a couple concerns. He requires constant reminders to do his work, to turn in his work, and has a tendency to loose things. Obviously, I am not living under a rock over here, I am well aware of these things. However, when you only have one child, sometimes you don’t realize it’s not the “norm” until someone points it out to you. Even then, when someone does point it out, you just feel helpless. You want so badly to wave a magic wand and make it all better. You want to fix it, and help your child master these life skills. But you can’t. You simply cannot do it for them.

My son, is typically an A & B student, Student Council President, plays the drums well beyond his age, writes incredible stories, draws fantastic pictures, speaks with a large vocabulary, has no problem public speaking, is an entrepreneur, expresses more empathy than most his age, and has hilarious jokes. He has great negotiation skills (sure, sometimes when they aren’t appropriate.. ;)) & listens (even when you don’t think he is.. ;)). What I have come to realize this past year is – grades aren’t everything. Re-read what I just said about my son. The person I just described could become a professional drummer in a famous band, a published author, an artist, a motivational speaker, a politician, a comedian, or a business owner. Will he need school for these things? Absolutely. Is it worth focusing on 100% of the time? Hell no.

This isn’t something I would normally share on a public platform, however I think it is important to let other mamas out there know – the storm doesn’t last forever….

Around the same time the teacher’s concerns were brought to our attention, was around the same time we noticed our son was worrying more than usual. He was becoming really hard on himself, and started worrying about things he never worried about before (things like AZ Merit/ state testing, grades, and riding the bus). I felt an immense amount of guilt. I felt like a complete and total failure. Was he being so hard on himself – because of me? Was it something I said? Something I did? Do I work too much? Does he know how much I love him? What have I done wrong? Gosh, his teachers must think we are awful. Man, if they gave out report cards for this parenting thing, I’m sure there would be a big fat F- on mine!

Then I had to bring myself back down to Earth, and remember – this isn’t about me. This is about him. So that’s where my focus went. How can I help him? We worked with the school as well as worked at home to dive in & help however we could. The problem with parenting though is, every child is different. So, there is no checklist you can sign off on to achieve a specific result. Instead, it’s basically trial and error until you find what works for your child. I may not know much about this motherhood thing but what I did know is it is all the little things that add up to the big stuff. I spend a few moments to set up little reminders on his phone to go off and remind him I am thinking of him and I love him. I know it makes him smile, and Lord knows I would do anything to see his smile. <3

I purchased a book called “Outsmarting Worry” by Dawn Huebner PHD – and it was a game changer! Now, I won’t give all the credit to this book because my son is the one who truly did the work and has conquered his fears – but this book was truly incredible. 🙂 I could go on and on and on about it, but I will try to keep it short. The book is written for kids in a way they would understand, and brings up scenarios that real kids really worry about (including test taking and riding the bus! Who knew?!). It talks through how the brain works (in a simple way), and talks about looking for the evidence, looking for your “knows” – when the “what if’s” starting running wild. My son and I sat down together and read the book in one day. Although, he didn’t want to talk much about it, it was obvious some of the things mentioned in the book stuck with him.

I think what I found most interesting in the last few months were the things we have heard him talk about. I remember sitting down for dinner one night and asking him how his day was, and he casually talked about how “so and so has depression, so and so has ADHD, so and so also talks bad about themselves and is thinking about going to the school counselor too.”  He went on to tell us about how one of the teacher’s at his school, has a son with anxiety. When we asked “how he could possibly know this?”, he told us a very casual story about how her son had gotten so upset about going on a field trip, he had made himself sick, and had to be sent home. According to my son, she shared the story with his class and was explaining his struggles with anxiety. My husband I were honestly surprised to hear this was a discussion in class, but understood the follow up question from our son asking if we think he has anxiety too. I mean, who wouldn’t feel like they must have something “different about them” too when it seems like everyone around them has something? Has it become the “cool thing” to be diagnosed with something? How do we better come together as a community and help our kids understand? I realize this may be an unpopular opinion but I am going to throw it out there… Self-diagnosing can be very dangerous and I think it is important while we are having these open conversations with children, we are making it clear the same symptoms can mean a number of things, and not necessarily everyone has some sort of something that requires a diagnosis, medication, and counseling. (Note: the book  I mentioned earlier – Outsmarting Worry – does a great job of explaining how everyone has worries and everyone has to learn how to deal with them in different ways! I cannot rave about it enough. The disclaimer I probably need to give before anyone jumps down my throat – I am well aware some people truly do need additional support and there is nothing wrong with that. What I am saying is, we need to be clear with children so they are not under the impression if you are worried about something that must mean you need to see a doctor right away).

We were so surprised these are the things the kids talk about at school. Such big, serious topics for such young minds and hearts! Earlier this year, we had heard about a classmate hurting themselves, and we have just been so mind -blown, to say the least. We were told 6 of the kids in my son’s class regularly saw the school counselor. I’m no expert, but that seemed like a high number. As parents, we have to remember – it’s tough being a kid. It was tough for us, and it’s even tougher for our kids. They have access to YouTube, social media, etc. and are finding out about things well before we ever might have intended them to. I feel it is our responsibility as parents to protect our kids, and let them be kids for as long as they can be. There is plenty of time to be grown up, but you only have a short amount of time to be a kid. <3

Report cards are not the “be all & end all” in life. Report cards represent how well a child studied for a test, or memorized facts. It does not tell us about the other important stuff – like if your child sits with the child sitting alone at lunch. It doesn’t tell us about their happiness, confidence, or compassion. I will be the first to admit, I was super lazy in school. I was constantly grounded and it was a struggle for my parents. I can’t tell you many nights ended with my dad frustrated, me in tears, and my math homework still half way unfinished. Full disclosure – I was not great about school or chores. Based on those things alone, my parents had reason to believe they should be concerned about the adult I would turn out to be. Guess what? I turned out just fine. I live an amazing & successful life with my loving husband and amazing son. <3  Some people simply don’t find their “thing” until later on. Does this mean we won’t continue to push our son to be the absolute best version of himself? No way. It simply means, we have to balance how much weight we are going to put on something like a report card. There are so many things our kids are trying to balance, and it’s easy to loose sight of this. So, if this means my son is capable of straight A’s but brings home Bs and a couple Cs – then so be it. Some people just blossom on their own time and that’s okay. If the purpose of life is to be happy, my son has already achieved this goal. 🙂

I realize this rant has been all over the place, but I guess the point is, we all have our days where we feel like we’re screwing up this parenting thing. But, repeat after me – I am not a bad mom. I am a good mom having a bad day. Everyone has an off day every now and then. I remember reading somewhere – “it is the whole sum of a childhood that makes a kid who they are- not just one bad day.” <3 Be strong mama, you’ve got this!

 

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