Uncomfortable

What’s the best parenting advice you ever received?

I used to answer this question with, “Expect the unexpected.” It’s a damn good of piece of advice because parenting is a never-ending game of whack-a-mole, but almost 11 years into this gig, I’ve come up with a different answer. “Get ready to be uncomfortable.”

Pregnancy is uncomfortable. 
Pregnancy loss is uncomfortable.
Pregnancy after pregnancy loss is uncomfortable.
Childbirth is uncomfortable.
Bringing a tiny human home from the hospital is uncomfortable.
Not sleeping for a decade is uncomfortable.
Asking for help is uncomfortable.
Not going back to work is uncomfortable.
Going back to work is uncomfortable.
Leaving your baby with someone else for the first time is uncomfortable.
Making “mommy friends” is uncomfortable.
Potty-training is uncomfortable.
Taking a small child into a public restroom is VERY uncomfortable.
Carrying the physical and mental load of motherhood is uncomfortable.
Standing in a bounce house is uncomfortable.
Playing Candy Land is uncomfortable.
Catching vomit in your hands is uncomfortable.
The first day of Kindergarten is uncomfortable.
Not being invited to a birthday party is uncomfortable.
Realizing your child is nothing like you is uncomfortable.
Realizing your child is EXACTLY like you is uncomfortable.
Giving a kid medication is uncomfortable.
Letting go of unrealistic expectations is uncomfortable.
Watching your kid disappear down the block on his own to go to school or a friend’s house is uncomfortable.
Seeing your child physically or emotionally hurt is uncomfortable.
Letting your child make mistakes is uncomfortable.
Witnessing the world chip away at your child’s innocence is uncomfortable.
Trusting that everything will be okay is uncomfortable.

Realizing you’re not nearly done on this wild ride and that it will never end is—you guessed it—uncomfortable.

If you dislike being uncomfortable like me, know this: You are not alone. Also, sometimes our greatest and proudest parenting moments result from being uncomfortable.

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Harry The Bee

People either like costumes or they don’t. I fall squarely in the don’t column, although that wasn’t always the case. I enjoyed dressing up for Halloween when I was a little girl. I remember a few epic costume parties in high school and college. But somewhere in the space between being a kid and having kids, the allure of Halloween costumes faded away.

It was in that middle place that I had a molar pregnancy that resulted in cancer in my uterus and a lot of time to ponder if I would ever have children at all. It was easily the scariest thing that ever happened to me, and it sent me down a deep rabbit hole of fear, anxiety, and depression. Ultimately I healed, but not without a lot of time, therapy, and Harry the Bee.

Harry was the Boston terrier my husband and I got when we couldn’t have a baby. The Bee was the Halloween costume we bought for him on a whim at a chic pet store that sold uber-expensive canine clothing and accessories to people who didn’t have to worry about preschool tuition payments.

We also bought Harry a dry clean-only argyle sweater, but in our defense, we didn’t know about the washing instructions until it was covered in dirt. The sweater was undeniably an impractical purchase, but the bumblebee costume was worth every silly penny.

It’s true that parenthood gives you fresh eyes, which make things like Disney World, Christmas morning, the ice cream truck, and Halloween fun all over again.  Eventually, we had two healthy children, but until that future arrived, Harry was our baby and dressing him in a bumblebee costume for Halloween unearthed a sensation of joy inside of me that had long been dormant.

Harry saved me when I needed to be saved and made me feel safe in a world that without warning had become insecure. For eight Halloweens and through all of the ups, downs, ins, and outs of marriage and motherhood, Harry was my anchor.  Year after year, he and his black and yellow stripes and bumblebee wings reminded me that everything would be okay.

Last year, on Harry’s ninth Halloween, he was too weak to wear his bee costume.  He had insulinoma, a cancer in his pancreas, and despite our best efforts and interventions, we couldn’t save him. October 31st was, in fact, Harry’s last day here on Earth. We whispered our goodbyes all throughout the night and held him close the next morning when he was finally released from his pain and suffering.

In the days that followed, we got rid of or donated most of our pet supplies, but not before letting the kids decorate and fill memory boxes with items, including photos, drawings, and squeaky toys, that they wanted to keep to remember their big (canine) brother. My husband also tucked away some sentimental items. A harness and a tag, I think. I kept something special, too. Harry’s bumblebee costume.

The irony isn’t lost on me that we lost our sweet Harry the Bee on Halloween.  A year later, I’m not sure I’m ready to celebrate this holiday without him, but if Harry’s life and death taught me anything, it’s that joy hides in the most unexpected places and almost always lies at the end of a deep rabbit hole.

~In loving memory of Harry the Bee~

This essay originally appeared on Mamalode.

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I let him go anyway.

Have you ever dropped your kid off at school in the morning and wondered if it would be the last time you ever saw him? I did that today. I don’t know why.

Maybe it was because of the “Super Soul Conversations” podcast interview I listened to yesterday with David and Francine Wheeler, parents of Ben Wheeler who was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Maybe it was because of the screwed-up world we live in. Maybe it was because I was up most of the night with a sore throat. Maybe it was all of it.

I saw my son’s ten-year-old body, heart, and mind frozen in time forever with his blue hair and every color of the rainbow eyes. His dry wit and sarcasm. His love of dogs. His wild curiosity. His hatred of homework and fear of food. His difficult path. His footsteps that no one could walk in but him. His smile.

I let him go anyway. Because that’s what we do.

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