Some ancient Japanese guy… Lao Tsu I think? said:
“No tree would be foolish enough to fight among its branches.”
If the tree was ‘Parenthood,’ and moms were the branches, I’d win the foolish award. Although mine are the only limbs I’m fighting with.
My mom used to joke:
“I had 4 sons, and Karen was the only one who grew boobs.”
That’s how I grew up. I hung around my brothers and their friends… I was ‘one of the guys.’ I played boy sports, and did boy things – like painting my body with 1000-year-old muck from the bottom of the local swimming hole, crab-apple fights (this was a great idea… stab apples with sticks and whip them at one another), catch and snuggle with any amphibian or stray animal that came our way, and dissect the fish we’d catch at the local lake to see how eyeballs worked.
“How much will you give me if I swallow this one whole?”
Eventually I did grow boobs, develop an affinity for fashion, and maintained a hunger for adventure and knowledge. Some cool dude found that intriguing, married me, and gave me 3 children - who all have vaginas.
Three little girls came out of me, and I have never had the slightest idea what to do with them. It’s like, I’m missing the gene that most moms have that makes it natural to do crafts, bake things, and make stuff all sparkly.
Plus, I spent 18 years being a Trauma, ICU, and Flight Nurse – so that only adds to my imaginary testicles.
When my girls were little and wanted me to play Barbies with them, my version was more Reality Show Barbies. Barbie would send Ken up to the roof to fix shit. Ken would get distracted by Barbie in a towel through the window, while he’s firing off the nail gun, and slip and fall off the roof. Barbie Fairytopia plays the part of the air ambulance, and swoops in to fly Ken to the trauma center...
My girls would be like:
“NOOO! Mooohhhm! That's not the way you play it!"
For the women of my generation, there’s so much pressure to do the mom-thing right. There are 1000s of minivans driving around with bumper stickers saying: “Swim taxi to my honor roll student,” beneath the family member avatar decals in various sports poses – even the dog looks like a fucking champion.
And when Supermom, donned in yoga gear, steps out of the ‘swim taxi’ in the pick-up line at school – oh wait, she’s the one volunteering to get your kid in the car – she chats about the ultra-cool activities that her kids are in like the Shakespearean… Pottery… Performance Classes…
Who can keep up with this schizzle? The Room Mother. The PTA Board Member. The ‘Autumn Festival’ and ‘Spring Fling’ Committee Member (can’t we just wait for the County Fair in Summer for funnel cakes and made-in-China stuffed animals that you pay $137 for in tickets to balance on a roap, or squirt water at a target for 30 seconds?)
And why must I coerce my kids into programs, activities, and sports that they don't want to do so that I can feel like we’re ‘keeping up,’ lest run the risk of completely SUCKING as a parent. Mayday! Mayday! We’re in a flat spin, heading out to sea. Everyone’s kids have an agent but mine!
In order for your kids to not be losers, select at least 2 from the following:
- Swimming (practical for those Caribbean vacations that we don’t take because we’re too busy volunteering for Spring fling or Lunch mom.)
- Lacrosse (how fancy…is that French?)
- Field hockey (nothing pisses me off more than someone else’s kid’s hand-eye coordination, and a potential college scholarship.)
- And (fucking) fall soccer (fucking fall soccer.)
- My favorite is when some parent asks my kid: “and what sports to YOU play, honey?” And she answers: “uhhh, Minecraft?”
And then there's me thinking:
They seem pretty happy in front of the TV. I mean, they get to go learn new things, see new places… and there’s no danger.
There was a stretch of motherhood where I tried really, really hard to keep up with the supermoms, and all the social norms.
I signed my kids up for every program or sport that came home on a flyer in a backpack. I’d over-volunteer at the school to make the other moms feel inferior to me.
And oh God, I was the Girl Scout “Cookie Mom.” Has anybody ever done this? It’s insane. It’s like starting a small business, except you get no money for it, and people knock on your door at 10 or 11 o’clock at night looking for Thin Mints.
I hated motherhood.
I don’t even like children.
I kept thinking, “why am I doing all of this?” Because I SUCK at it, and I haaaaaate it.
And while I was trying to keep up, and resenting the pressure, this voice in my head (“The Gremlin”) would take over my thoughts and say really snarky things in response to those “I suck” attacks:
“Oh, my kids used to do that, but they tested out.”
“We’re too busy with wilderness survival lessons, training for the EMP, and prepper clinics… a lot of good soccer skills are going to do YOUR kids when they’re being eaten by zombies.”
“Dr. [make up a name], from The University of [mention some impressive Ivy League Institution], says that for every activity a kid is in before the age of 16, their IQ is lowered by 10 points.”
“We stopped doing travel sports because we felt it was dangerous to drink and drive.”
“Swimming lessons? Waste of time. We just tell our kids to hold their breath and flail their arms till someone comes – that’s what lifeguards are for.”
“Our kids are too busy meditating. And we let them stay in pajamas as much as possible because it supports their Pranayama breathing practice.”
So then something happened.
I was invited to attend a wreck-your-head-and-sort-your-life seminar called “Byron Katie’s School for The Work.” Over the course of the 10-day school in Ojai, California, there were various peel-your-skin-back-to-reveal-your-insides exercises.
One day in particular centered around:
“What are you most ashamed of?”
Mine was: “I’m ashamed that I don’t like being a mother”
What I realized that day was that that’s not true. I could site a shit-ton of evidence that I actually love being a mom… when I’m doing it MY way.
When I’m letting my balls hang out.
When I’m not trying to keep up with doing motherhood the way that society says I should do it. Without the “they have to be this,” and “they have to do that,” and take these classes, and do travel sports and shit.
When I’m tour guide to life.
When I show them what’s so cool about being here on this planet – all the things that I love about being alive – we are in flow as mom and daughters.
Like when we go out in nature – I LOVE to watch them watch bugs. And I love when we climb up a mountain, and they bitch and moan most of the way, and we get to the top, and they’re like “Whoooaaah. Look what I just did!”
And when we play ‘who can smile with the most food in their teeth’ at dinner. (Kale and blueberries are the MOST hilarious.)
That way, being a mom is so fun. And for them, being a kid is so fun. And I’m really good at it... who isn't really good at being themselves?
The only thing getting in anyone’s way of being a great parent, and loving every minute of it, is our thinking that we’re ‘doing it wrong’ … which isn’t even true.
Most of what we think is true about how to be a parent has only been popular for a couple decades, and some of what was considered normal before that we wouldn't dream of doing now - like, "THE BEATINGS WILL CONTINUE UNTIL MORALE IMPROVES!" Yet, we put all this pressure on ourselves as parents try to live up to it what's popular like it’s some Holy Portion of the Parenting Dead Sea Scroll.
Just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it’s right. I recently read this article about how bad it is for kids to focus on one thing or one sport before the age of 15: https://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2016/09/pediatricians-say-children-shouldnt-specialize-single-sport-until-age-15-16-i . And I bet I could find some other research to support it.
So who knows what’s true? You do – for you. And so do our kids – for themselves (until we talk them out of it for long enough.)
For me, there’s such a difference between doing motherhood authentically as myself - the 4th son who grew boobs - rather than trying to be like the “swim taxi to my honor roll student” moms.
Their way is fantastic too, if they're enjoying joying it and not resenting it.
But if you're doing it someone else's way because it's popular and you hate it. Stop. Relax. Listen.
Your kids are going to feel that you don’t like being a parent if you’re doing it in a way that’s not authentic for you. You’ll be miserable, and they’ll feel like a burden. No kid should feel like a fun-sucker. Every kid can be a life-enhancer, when you’re having fun doing it your own way.
Go figure. We WERE given a manual – it’s just not something you read, it’s something you feel. It’s built into the system – the same way Sea Turtles know where to bury their eggs, and cats know that it won’t hurt their kids to pick them up by their neck skin (that always freaks me out,) and Whales don’t have to look back to see if their kids are still along side them.