The gig is hard and we all have a moment (or 57,000) when we wonder what exactly we are doing…or we have hit a limit or a wall. The thing is, we must keep going and it’s so great we have a truckload of love to see us through. Even so, I need someone to get out and help me shovel some out or find it or carry it some days.

Here are 5 things I need when I am stumbling through parenting:

1. Validate, but don’t hate too much. 

Please, oh please tell me, “Of course you are feeling ______!”  “It IS hard, isn’t it?!”  or whatever it is you can see in my heart…and stand in that place with me… “It IS annoying that they ___________!”,  “I don’t know why he does that, my man/kid does it too….”  BUT I don’t need a whole lot of kid/partner bashing. It just makes me feel bad later because I really do love those people… and while it’s so natural and normal to get sick of each other and express it, I don’t want to live in that place.

2. Tell me a story.

Tell me a story of your experience, failure and triumph,  the funnier and more honest, the better. It doesn’t have to be my same problem and there doesn’t have to be a solution but it makes me feel less alone and more connected.

3. Don’t tell me to read the book, just cliff note it for me! 

Unless it’s DEFCON 4 and you just know that book will save my parenting ass, skip the suggestion and just tell me the best parts of the book. I have zippo time to read but am so open to any wisdom anyone has to offer. Also, remind me of all the development stuff I forgot that actually explains everything and tells me my kid is normal- and that I have forgotten it’s all part of growing and learning for both of us. Or tell me parenting books suck and just follow my intuition.

4. Remind me what you (and I) love about my kid.

Remind me of all the magical parts of my kid… “I know she is driving you crazy now, but remember when…?”. Tell me what you love about her, and stand in my gap for just a minute. Offering to take her for a bit so I can regroup will score you extra “being the village”  friend points. It will also makes me want to climb mountains to do the same for you.

5. Believe in me as a parent.

Tell me to take care of myself, remind me I am and want to be a good parent, be gentle with my mistakes but also believe in me enough to give the gentle nudge to keep going, or own my own shit, or ask a thoughtful question filled with grace. I don’t want to be around other mothers to just complain together, I want to be around people that also make me want to be a better parent.

and when in doubt, bring chocolate (or vodka) and quiet love.

*this little list was inspired by christa, jen b. and jen l. who do this for me day in and day out…much love.

What do you need when all is falling apart in your parenting world? or it’s just been a shitty day with lots of mistakes and love/care attempts?

jackie boy, (because that’s what we called him back then, he thought it was his actual name for forever), age 6, 2009

With another kid just turned 6, and the realization that our time with little kids is dwindling…I went hunting for memories over at the ole’ PBS Supersisters blog. I came across this little story…and I remembered that night like it was yesterday and reminded myself the truth about trouble (I kinda need it.)…whether we are 6 or 60, we can probably all stand a little more love when we are screwing up.

March 17, 2009

It was late and they were fighting again. Jack knows just how to push Lucy’s buttons to get that shriek out of her. I try to ignore it most of the time because that little girl can sure hold her own. This time however, she cried, it was the hurt feeling cry. It seemed the usual little sister and big brother bother had a little mean thrown into the mix. It was a sign something needed to be said.
“Jack, buddy, I think you’ve reached your limit my friend. I gotta take some Wii time away tomorrow.” I said.

There was a look of instant panic. It’s kind of rare at our house to have an actual punishment, lots of logical consequences but this, the Wii, it was a biggie. He started crying and it soon escalated into a full out tantrum. A tantrum at the age of six. I was kind of stunned. I started questioning my decision a little since the response was so strong and so rare for this kid. I guess maybe it had been building for awhile and a release was in order. There were so many big feelings and that can be tricky sometimes. I wasn’t sure what to do but then instinct took over.

“Jack, do you know what can happen sometimes when you are getting into trouble a lot?” I said.
“No, what?” He said while trying to catch his breath in between the sobs.
“You can forget that you are loved. And the truth is, when lots of trouble is around it’s a time when you need love the most. Do you think that could be happening to you right now?” I said.
His little face kind of changed. His eyes crinkled and his own hurt feeling cry started.

“Yeah! I need more love mom, I need more love.” He threw his arms around me and buried his head in my chest and sobbed big, heavy sobs.
“I know Jackie, I can tell. And I know you are a kind boy with a good heart, I know this about you, it’s okay. And papa is away and he is the one who snuggles you so much, I think you are missing that too.” He nodded and we sat together in the moment.

We climbed in bed, all four kids. My arms too full with babies to even hold him but he snuggled up against me. He fell asleep with a red and puffy face and a quiet sigh, the drama behind us. I closed my own eyes knowing we would all wake up to less Wii, but maybe a little more love.

inspired by this.

We are hitting a new development frontier over here, and as we all feel so wobbly on multiple levels, I have been keeping a little list in the back of my mind on what I am discovering along the way (i.e. mistake making turned learning lesson). So here’s to every parent of a tween boy:

1. Laugh at the fart goodness. I know we have been discouraging all potty humor since the high holy days of preschool, but the truth is, farts are funny. There is something to be said for the amazing skill of burping the alphabet, whoopie cushions and mastering the art of the under arm fake fart sound. Don’t worry, you can still hold court at the dinner table, but get down and farty with your boy every now and then.

2. Hang out in his room. While you are still a couple years away from the lines of total sacred privacy being drawn, go hang out in his room with him with no real agenda. Lay down on his bed and bounce a ball off the wall, sort through comic books and don’t even try to pick up any laundry. Being together in his space may give you new insight into the things he cares about and the ways he might want to connect.

3. Listen, listen, oh, and listen (i.e. stop talking). Whenever I see that angsty, moody look on a growing boy’s face, I just want to pepper him with questions, playing emotional detective till I solve the adolescent case. Usually just one or two questions and a lot more listening do the trick. Your boy will find his words given the chance (without rescue) and is hopefully building the ability to communicate what he thinks and feels for the future.

4. Hey there Mr. DJ! While I would happily stay on the Regina Spektor Pandora station from now until the end of time, my boy is making Grooveshark playlists with everything from Queen to Cee Lo Green. Power music? Nobody understands? No worries, everybody needs the soundtrack of their life playing no matter what stage you are in. Remember my emo phase? Oh wait, still in that one.

5. Bring on the brag. Does he want every adult in the room to know he rocked the landing at the bmx track or just unlocked a secret character on Mario Kart? Let him share, add some details yourself, let him try on being seen and sharing his power in new ways. Chances are some dude in the crowd has been dying to talk about video games since he was 11. Atari, Nintendo 64 anyone?

6. Play just to play. Even though he has baseball twice a week or Robotics class every Monday, go out and throw a ball, program a lego creation, with no performance required. In all his efforts to achieve, make the winning basket, or score the highest grade in the class, he is probably happiest just playing HORSE or sitting on the floor with 57,000 legos.

7. Hold him tight. We instituted a new 15 minute a day hold/sort of hug each other ritual after a rough patch of trying to understand one another. I threw out the idea like spaghetti on a wall and surprisingly it totally stuck. So every morning I crawl up in the top bunk or he finds me, and we just sort of hold each other, no words required. In the midst of all this growing up stuff, I forgot how much we both needed this connection. Back rubs work too.

8. Break the rules. Now is the time for a burger or pizza run at 10pm, way past your bedtime with the windows down and music blaring. Night biking trip? Forget the showers, plan a boys adventure, watch a movie trilogy and never leave the couch. Experiences on the edge bond us to our boys and remind us as parents what it was like to be carefree.

9. Learn the lingo. Is Minecraft taking over your Mac? Have you Kinect-ed yet? Do you know every last football stat for Adrian Peterson? It’s okay, I have no idea either, but it is fun to start collecting the info that your boy is storing in his head and heart. You get mad parent points when you find the latest funny you tube video or even just really listen to all the minutia and can ask thoughtful questions. We all pretty much want that.

10. It’s all still in there. While the push pull of independence in every day life is tiring for every one but all of the boy and soon to be teen is jumbled up in there together. The need to question, cry, still be a kid, become your own self, fear, strength is all pretty rad. No boy, no person actually has to be just one, he can be all the things.

11. Be in it together. There is nothing like a new developmental stage to remind you of all your own old junk. It’s okay to be awkward, stumble through, just like your tween. Everybody is learning and growing, and he probably will respect your honesty when you tell him you are trying to figure it out too. The truth is, we all are walking through this life and it is almost always better together.

*thanks Kell for #2!

Please help this mother out, add to the list in the comments! What are the ways you are kind to your kids that really connect you?

The swear jar found its way to our shelf this week. It is not for my children, it’s for me. I love to swear, I really do. Never at my children or to them, mostly my friends and Jorge. Anytime there is a reason to exaggerate anything, to be funny, to be shocking, it just feels these are the only appropriate words for such situations. It isn’t something I hide from my children exactly, I know, it’s awful on so many levels.

I was talking to a friend on the phone this week about her life, her terrible boss, it was sympathy swearing. After I hung up, I saw Josiah sitting on the bench looking low. I asked him if he was okay, he nodded and off we went to pick up the girls from preschool. As we pulled away from the car pool line, he said,

“Mom, can we talk about something?” (his lower lip starting to quiver).

“Yeah, what is it?” I replied.

“Remember before?….” He burst into tears. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, or make you feel bad, I really don’t, but it just bothers  me when you… when you swear.” 

It was obvious he had been holding it, for much longer than this moment. You could feel the courage it took to tell someone you love that something about them is, well, wrong and not good for you or them. And then I had a strange reaction, I was slightly annoyed, felt terrible and very proud, all at the same time.

“Yes, I hear you. Wow, that was very brave of you, to tell me that, I’m really proud. ” I said.

He nodded his head. “It took me all morning to gather up my courage.” he said,  his eyes full of tears. And I venture to guess it wasn’t because he thought I would be mad as much as he didn’t want to hurt me.

“I’m so glad you did. But I have a question? Does it bother you because it makes you uncomfortable or does it just feel wrong?” I inquired.

“The wrong one.” he said.

“Okay, yes, it is wrong. I never want to make you feel bad either. I will stop but I must tell you, it’s gonna be hard.”  I admitted.

“I know.” he said. And he does know.

“The thing is Josiah, when I was a kid and an adult, I tried so hard all the time to do everything right, and NEVER do anything wrong to feel okay and for people and grownups to like me, to love me even, and because I thought it made me a good person. But then I had to discover that maybe I was a good person even if I didn’t always do the “right” thing all the time. You know what? Swearing was my first try to not be so perfect, to make me feel human and I found out I could be loved and good. But I think I got that lesson down now and it just stuck, so maybe I don’t need to do it anymore. Thank you for helping me to realize it might be hurting people I love and I certainly don’t want that. I love you.”

“It’s okay mom. I understand.” he said with a half smile.

“I’m so proud of you, man that was big. We probably needed it, to tell each other how we feel because we’re headed to all this teenager stuff and were gonna need to do that a lot to help each other, huh?”

“Yeah, I think we can do it.” he said.

“Me too, me too.” and I sighed.

There is nothing like having your ass butt handed to you about the poor, ridiculous behavior that you kinda love. It’s so good/hard when your kid requires you to be a better person than you are ready/want to be at the moment. You discover that your sailor swearing self can somehow still be a good parent,  with the occasional quarter in the jar and all.