Day 141/365 It’s Okay If You’re Not Okay

It starts early.

Well meaning people telling us how to feel (and how not to feel).

When we are little and we take a fall, our loved ones immediately tell us, “You’re okay!!” before they even give us an opportunity to assess the situation ourselves.

Am I okay?

They seem to think so.

Maybe I don’t feel okay.

Maybe I feel scared, or hurt, or confused about what just happened…

But they said I’m okay.

I must be okay if they think so.

I guess I’m okay.

{But what if I’m not okay? Is it okay to not be okay?}


We send a confusing message when we tell a child how to feel.  Maybe we tell them not to get so angry, not to get so frustrated, not to upset people with the truth of how they feel.

Yes, we should teach our children strategies for coping with life. Yes, we should teach them that there are appropriate times and places in which to fully express their feelings.  We should teach them to be kind as well…but not at the expense of teaching them its okay to feel how they feel.

We must teach them it’s okay to feel…

ALL

THE

THINGS….

Not just the one’s that make other people feel comfortable…

Not just the one’s that feel comfortable to us.

I even do it to myself sometimes, muttering under my breath, “You’re okay” even when maybe I’m not. Not in that moment.

It’s the first thing I said to my ex when he revealed a life changing secret to me….

“It’s okay.  We will be okay.”

Is it? Are we? Is he? 

How could I know?

When I take the long view, I think…

Yes – we will be okay.

But there’s a whole lot to feel about the situation besides okay. We can’t brush those feelings aside without allowing ourselves (and each other) to feel them.

So…

When life gets hard, or when my children stumble and fall, I want them to know they have permission to assess the damages themselves.

I will let them feel.

I will listen.

I will let them decide whether or not they are okay.

They will know that whatever they’re feeling…

THAT is okay.

134/365 Help

“Can I help?” she asked, sidling up to me in the kitchen at Miskiania.

“That’s okay, I’ve got it,” I replied. I was making breakfast for twelve people and I wanted to just bang it out myself.

“Please?” she asked again, looking at me pleadingly.

“Okay, grab the whisk,” I said.

She beamed.

In that moment I realized before long she may stop asking if she can help, especially if I have a habit of brushing her off when she does.

Someday in the not too distant future I may be begging her to spend some time with me, side by side in the kitchen.

Before long I began to suspect that her altruism was largely motivated by proximity to bacon, but I savored the moment just the same.

Day 115/365 Doing Our Best

In my line of work as a childcare/preschool Administrator, I work with many parents of young children. As a parent of two myself, I can completely relate to their struggles.

This was not always the case.

Years ago, before I had my own children (which is of course when one possesses the most kick-ass parenting skills) I was a caregiver for a group of toddlers at a local preschool. I can remember having a good laugh one day when my coworkers and I looked in a child’s bag for spare clothing and found nothing but a tutu.  His parents were good natured, and later they had a good laugh along with us, but I know there was a certain amount of judgement on my part.  I’m sure I was thinking something like…

“A tutu?  Really?  That’s all this poor kid has for spare clothes?”  

Because, after all, what is so hard about sending your child to school every day with everything you’re asked to bring?  How hard could this parenting (or this parenting plus career) thing be?

To those parents, and to all parents that I, in my ignorant bliss, judged, I sincerely apologize.

Here’s a quick list of things I thought I’d never do…

Forget my child’s lunchbox at home.

Check.

Send my child with her lunch in a huge cooler because I ordered the pretty flowered lunchboxes too late.

Check.

Arrive at school with no spare clothing for my child (not even a tutu).

Check.

Carry my child into daycare kicking and screaming.

Check.

Carry my child out of daycare kicking and screaming.

Check.

Send the wrong lunch with the wrong child, inadvertently smuggling a peanut butter grenade into a nut free zone.

Check.

Remember the store bought Christmas gifts for my children’s teachers, but misplace the gifts that were actually made for them by my daughters.

Check.

Find aforementioned handmade gifts in February and enthusiastically present them to my daughters to give to their teachers as Valentine’s Day gifts.

Check.

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So many times I have had parents apologize to me in some form or another for something they perceive as a parenting fail.

To them I say –

No parent I know is aiming to fail at parenting. We all love our children. They are our hearts and souls. So, repeat after me…

I am doing my best.

We are all doing our best.

I know, sometimes our best feels shitty. We feel like we have phoned it in, lost the plot, dropped the ball…

We don’t live up to our own expectations.

I have a couple of things to say about that –

First of all, if you care enough to feel like a failure, chances are your kids feel really loved.

Seriously.

Think about it. You obviously love them a whole heck of a lot to be putting so much pressure on yourself. Stop apologizing for being a human being, doing the very hard work of raising other tiny human beings.

Second, if you’re lucky you’ll get to do it all over again tomorrow.

Let’s face it, for many years parenting is kind of like Groundhog Day – you’ll have another opportunity to do things differently tomorrow…and the next day…and the next.

Every day you’ll do the best you can do that day. 

That’s all you can do.

That, and…

Be kind to yourself. It’s contagious.

 

Day 59/365 Trapeze, No Net?

Yesterday I wrote about how being partnerless on Mother’s Day feels a bit lonely. I wondered why I felt this way this year, when I’ve been a single parent for the past three. Somehow being without a partner was feeling heavier to me this year.

Running it all through my mind in a stream of consciousness way…Mother’s Day….Mother’s Day without a husband, not so bad…Mother’s day without a husband and without a fatherwounding. Why?

I feel the feminist inside me dying as I write this, but I think it’s about traditional roles. “The dad” (and then the husband/dad) is the protector. The mom is the nurturer.  Here I am nurturing my ass off and where is my protector?

He’s gone.

They are both gone, albeit in entirely different ways.

When you get married, (if you’re lucky) your dad “gives you away.”  They literally ask that at the alter, “Who gives this woman…” (Actually, writing it down this way, it seems so perverse; creepy even. I’d like to think I was not a possession to be given away, but…)

It’s all about symbolism, right?

I was his only daughter.  To “give me” to someone else – it meant something to him. It meant he was trusting another man to love me as deeply as he did, to honor me and to protect me. To respect me. To keep me safe from harm.

I’m sure some readers are rolling their eyes or suppressing vomit at the moment – but I believe all that. I’m an independent, self sufficient woman and I still want a man who makes me feel safe, protected, and looked after.

There, I said it (wrote it, whatever). Deal with it.

When all of that safety and care fell away in my marriage, I still had a man in my life who made me feel safe and cared for. In fact, he was the best man I’ve ever known –

My dad.

I was not conscious at the time of the emotional safety net he provided during my trapeze act, for I never needed it.

Going off on my own with my four and seven year old daughters in tow, I was strong (as strong as I could have been at the time). I was capable.

Deep down, though, I suppose I always knew that if I fell – really fell – he would catch me. He would keep me safe.

So now…

I guess I feel a bit like a trapeze artist who has suddenly looked down only to realize the net – the one she always knew was there for her –

That net has vanished, and it’s scary as hell up here.

Even though she knows it was never really the net that kept her safe; it was herself.

Just the same, knowing the net was there made it feel safer to take risks…

It made it easier for her to step off the platform and to trust herself to make it to the other side in one piece.

She knows the show must go on…

She’ll steady her breath, fix her gaze ahead, and stay balanced,

…but she’ll miss that net.