Category Archives: raisingchildren

Strep Throat…A Small Price To Pay To Have My Darkness Fade Away

What do you do when you want to write…but your mind feels blank…yet your heart feels weighted and heavy in a way that it needs emptying? I don’t know what to do with my feelings tonight…I am dealing with an illness (lupus) that has managed to completely wreak unexpected havoc on my body and mind, on my spirit and even on my home for that matter. And tonight (and many other nights, days, afternoons, mornings…I AM THOROUGHLY PISSED OFF! ) I am also confused and sad and honestly,  I simply and sadly feel as a person I am CHANGED.

I have always been an emotional person…a “feeling a lot”,  (perhaps too much) type of person. My ability to tune into my own feelings and as well as deeply empathize with the feelings of others has pretty much guided the course of my life. I am a psychotherapist by profession and I truly love my job, it is sacred and beautiful to travel with others on their own inner journeys.  However, right now,  I am definitely in the midst of some deeply painful shit…and though I have an abundance of dear friends, parents that love me beyond words, a husband who has been by my side for almost 20 years, two beautiful boys…tonight and so many nights as of late, I feel so completely and utterly alone.

I know, at least I hope, that  I will be able to  find ways to integrate these dark feelings in with the light…I will have to find ways to weave the painful shredded fibers in with the hopefully stronger, fabrics that make up relief and healing. I pray I find ways to ease the relentless questions of my mind, find a way to  stop the unending search for answers, the hows, the whys, the what the hells?  The what if’s?  Yes, those, “when the fuck did this happen?”  type of questions, the ones that I am sure may never be answered nor would they be particularly useful if even if they were. I mean do I really need to know…”Yes…it was that bug spray, that spray paint, that north wind that caused this disease to activate.”  I can’t turn back time and undo any particular event that may have contributed to this process…so it is just toxic to live there.

I have been having terrible nightmares as well…a side effect of some medication, in my opinion. So,  I feel infinitely more apprehensive this evening, in these late hours of the night.  Yet, as I nod off to sleep, quite literally, falling in and out of consciousness while writing this…I realize that my 13-year-old son has snuggled up next to me, his head leaning on my hip, his size 10 man feet dangling from my bed. (Now…this is not great since he has strep throat and a 101 fever) however, just for tonight,  I am willing to risk just about anything to steal what is sadly becoming…a more limited number of tender moments, the one’s that he used to offer up so freely and abundantly . Yet, tonight …on his own thirteen year old terms (which apparently could be a side effect of him being kind of sick and weak? HEY…I’ll take what I can get! ) Tonight…he is being generous with his snuggles. When he came in to say goodnight, he actually took my arm and said “mommy…I love you so, so much”…This unsolicited declaration is not common place anymore, so if that was the only moment, I would have savored it.

I am also realizing… just as I write this…that some of my heavy heart is also entangled in the thirteenth birthday of this beautiful boy. He is a May baby…just like his mamma. He is dancing on the cusp of crazy adolescence, while still hanging on a bit longer (thank God) to the threads that keep him my sweet little boy.

So, just for tonight,  I worry and grieve and choke back what feels like an endless supply of tears because it feels this sickness is stealing away parts of my life. The parts of me, that at no point and time, and I mean NEVER, NOT EVER… not one damn time, have I offered up for the taking!  These dark feelings try to grip me and drown me in sorrow, they try to take hostage my sleep and my inner peace. But on this night….I lay here in bed, with my laptop humming, my husband sound asleep to my right and my son somehow fitting perfectly into the small space that is left on my other side. All of a sudden, I feel acutely aware of the abundance of gifts in my life.

I am not as alone as I thought just a mere 20 minutes ago. How can I not  cherish the beauty of what I DO have? Pain and fear are making it all too easy to focus on what I don’t have.  While I fight and battle with this pain, this disease and all its unknowns, I begin to realize that there are a few things that I do know and I know them with absolute certainty!

My thirteen year old, the tough guy, the one who  drives me to the brink of insanity almost daily…the one who pushes every damn button I have and laughs as he get’s the crazy to come dancing and jumping right the hell out of me! My boy…the one who gets the reactions he had hoped as he encourages his younger brother to join in the game of  “let’s drive mommy to the brink and watch the show!” Yeah…that’s my boy.  However, for now… he remains snuggled up, sound asleep by my side. His breathing is a steady rhythm bringing unexpected reassurance about mostly everything in the whole world right now. You know what? I am thinking these days may be numbered and that kind of makes me cry even as I type this…Tears. So in this moment, I will simply cherish his sleepy, fevered head by my side, cherish it with every ounce of my being.

My eight year old tried to wrangle his way into our bed earlier and we had the “NO WAY” discussion because he is “too accustomed” to his sleepy mommy and daddy just caving and saying… “sure…come child, disrupt our sleep…because we are too tired and old to fight you off.”  So,  tonight…he stays tucked under his Spider Man Comforter, head nestled in Avengers pillows. The night is young at 12:19 am, so he may still find his way in, during the wee morning hours. But for now, it seems my heaviness, my darkness, is unexpectedly lifted.  I think it’s by this writing, it is by this process of letting my thoughts flow out into words, however poorly written, I just don’t care. Really, I don’t…They are out of my head and on the screen and I can’t help but feel a bit lighter.

I also feel lucky…or is it grateful? Yes, It is Grateful. Tonight I recognize that I have my struggles, my pain, my illness…but it is certainly not all that I have and is most definitely NOT all that I am. Chronic pain can try to steal the brightness from my life…but there is no possible way that it can know this secret…the secret that deep, pure and unconditional love is simply and fully immune to being stolen! It just can NOT be stolen by a thief and his cruel and stealthy ways. For it seems that tonight, I am veiled in protection, I am cloaked in peace. All by this little man who drives me to unimaginable levels of frustration by day…but on this particular night, he is the sweetest of lights. He is the thread weaving together the good and the bad. He is the integration between pain and freedom.

He may likely never know, how on this night…when I felt like all of my chips had been cashed in and the cruel “thief” known as pain tried to steal all of my good…that he was my protector…and that was just from being by my side, his unexpected snuggles and his drifting off to sleep. I listen to him breathe and I feel grateful and I feel blessed. I feel honored by his presence tonight.

I also feel like within 24 hours I will likely be infected with Strep Throat…which can’t be good when dealing with an f’d up immune system, but I feel like this…what’s a bacterial infection if not just a tiny price to pay? Payment for the precious snuggle and sweet, sleepy, unconditional love that is being so freely offered tonight. I don’t know if it’s the fever or the antibiotics or genuinely a boy just needing his mom…honestly, it doesn’t much matter, I’ll take it.

So thank you my boy…thank you for getting me out of my funk…and most likely giving me yours.

He Is My Husband Now…We Are Gay

We all gauge the multitude of so-called successes and failures of parenting moments by different variables. We (us parents) each have a different set of lenses in which we view our children, how we may “think” they are doing. Whether we are talking in general, like their grades, behavior or  mood or  we are looking at more of the minutia. Little snapshots in time, that sort of show you something unique in your child’s development or personality. It can simply be a look, a statement, a small conversation…watching them play, when they don’t know you are looking…those tiny moments that go on, but often are a reflection of who they are “right now” and even perhaps a foreshadowing of who they may  become.

Now…I have two boys. They are both vastly different in both looks and personality alike. They are five years apart. Despite their differences, I try to raise them in quite the same manner, with the same fibers of morals and values being loosely woven through our years together.

O.K…I will cut to the chase. One is a teen and one is in second grade…I am, what one might describe as a bleeding heart liberal. A heart on my sleeve kind of girl. I am a social worker by trade and by human make-up. For as long as I can remember, I have tried to be the voice for the voiceless. The cheerleader for the underdog. The advocate for the marginalized and oppressed…YOU GET IT.  My husband, is also a mental health professional  and is a Latino male, who despite his best efforts, still carries with him what I might describe as this  “semi” machismo  perspective. He has come a long way and is also himself, incredibly liberal but let’s just say when my boys were little and I bought them baby dolls and a stroller to push them in (which they did often and around the neighborhood) …he seemed kind of was perplexed, he “sort of”  tried to discourage me from letting them… (I wasn’t having it).  I would have to say that his reaction was rooted not only in his cultural roots and norms and gender and social norms but also…rooted in FEAR. ( we all know, having a baby doll turns you gay right? )

“Not my boys…not baby dolls? They are not GIRLS!”  As the years have gone by…he has softened a lot… has a greater understanding of why I would encourage that … and as for my boys, despite my best efforts…they don’t seem to really embrace there feminine side right now, and that is o.k. It seems, at least right now, they are kind of these brutish, loud, wrestle each other to the ground primate type of kids. (which does not mean they are not sensitive emotionally) But they are rough, crazy, sports nuts who are dirty and what societal/gender stereotypes may reference as or  consider “All Boy”. Whatever… I still send the message that it is o.k to cry, to openly talk about feelings, to be sensitive and most importantly to not feel pressured to conform to social norms “just because”.

One of the other things we do together, though I watch next to no television, is watch several weekly sitcoms. One is Modern Family…think what you may about the show, but it has allowed us to crack up together, to explore a vast range of family issues and also to have on-going dialogue with my kids about homosexuality. Questions come in many forms like…”why are those guys married mom AND they have a baby?”  Just one of the questions my younger one has asked. My teen…he kind of  get’s it already and knows I am open about  whomever people love they just  love. My little one has asked questions over the past year, and more recently, he seems to “get it” a little more. (not sex…he does not know what that is yet, outside of kissing) But he knows a girl can love and marry another girl…a man can love and marry another man. That God made us all different and amazing and that is o.k.

In a world where gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual youth have so many struggles, higher rates of clinical depression/ anxiety  and a significantly higher suicide rate, I feel it is my job as a parent to keep an open dialogue with my kids. To send the message that no matter who they are, whom they love or even if they were confused….they will always be accepted, loved and supported, at least in our home. Now, obviously my son is in second grade, so I don’t go into great detail. I just answer what he asks and try to communicate that however you are, it’s o.k and you will be loved.

It’s kind of hard to gauge how they are doing on that. My older son had a sleep-over…with a diverse group of boys. He mentioned one would be pretty late because he has dance. (now being most of his friends are on sports with him…I talked to him about this… just out of curiosity because I never met this boy…what kind of dance, how late will he be?) He answered without much thought…” he’ll be pretty late and he will be hungry…and ummm, I don’t know, he does ballet, jazz, hip-hop…yeah…he is  kind of feminine, but I don’t think he’s gay, but honestly…who really care’s anyway?” (For a seventh grade boy…to me this signals, he is getting it!)

Now, my younger son…was snuggling with his big, muscular, Latino father (otherwise known as my husband) I walked in to his room and said jokingly “Hey you…You are always snuggling with my husband…you better give him back to me !”  He glanced up at me, with wild and sleepy eyes, as my hubby lye half asleep and boldly said “HE IS MY HUSBAND NOW…WE ARE GAY!”

Let’s just say my husband was no longer asleep…He gave me the look of “You did this” but then smiled… and I thought to myself:

“YES…PARENTING WIN!!!”  (yeah…I know…I may have clarify a few things as time goes on) but he was being silly and I thought to myself…So far, So Good!

JUNE CLEAVER HAS NOTHING ON ME…

Right before I gave birth to my first child…I had just finished a thirty page research paper on Infant Mental Health. I got an A PLUS. Outstanding.
While I lie in my bed, in the hospital, staring at this little guy, all seven pound of him…I thought about that paper. I thought about the nurses trying to help me breast feed, I thought about the way they just expected me to know what to do. Cleaning his umbilical cord…diapering…listening to his what sounded to me like erratic and shaky breathing.(I was pretty sure he was in heart failure…i was wrong) YEAH, The knowledge I had so recently wrote about was simply put, not applicable to this child, in this moment. The information was just not accessible to me in any way that felt like it would help me be able to keep this little creature ALIVE.

I JUST KEPT THINKING; HOLY CRAP IT IS MY JOB TO KEEP YOU FROM DYING!!! I felt love that was deep and wide and unexplainable. I felt fear that I never knew existed. The research paper and seminars and my clinical background offered about as much comfort as soaking wet jeans on a freezing and rainy day. My love for him felt GIGANTIC..but this little being seemed so incredibly and unbelievably “breakable”. So Fragile. Like he could just stop breathing or choke or come undone just as easing as a pair of frayed, thread bare shoelaces.

Again the two prominent thoughts that took up residence in my brain were… GOD, THIS LOVE IS UNREAl,I AM SO HAPPY YOU ARE HERE and HOLY SHIT I HAVE TO KEEP YOU ALIVE. It was a loop that repeated every four minutes for years…I kept it to myself. At least for a while.

So it goes…baby goes home, we adapt the best we can to this amazing little dude and BOOM; fast forward… I have NOW spent the better part of 13 years PERFECTING the art mothering. I am a psychotherapist…I specialize in women, children and adolescents. I am a freaking expert people! An EXPERT on the human condition and our emotional health. Right?

When raising a child…and experiencing a newborn, an infant, a toddler for the first time. Do you know how much comfort my knowledge base has brought? I will answer…sometimes (a tiny bit) but most of the times…it would be none. In fact, I think it made me feel worse because there was the whole “you should be fine with this, you should know this ” thought process that was incorporated into my thinking…and that just added to the baffling nature of becoming a parent.

NOW,Let me enlighten you further (and by you…I mean ME) enlighten by way of brief,(doubtful) yet salient list of my…(Cue Leave it To Beaver Music)

TOP MOTHERING TIPS I WISH SOMEONE GAVE ME 13 YEARS AGO… BUT DIDN’T. SO I AM GIVING THEM TO MYSELF NOW, IN THE FORM OF A LETTER TO MY PAST SELF FROM THE CURRENT AND FAR MORE SELF-AWARE AND SEASONED MOTHER OF TWO. (clears throat and read’s aloud to invisible self of the past) Feel free to read aloud with me…

1. Dear YOU, you ROCK STAR of a brand new mommy…first of All. Let me start with this, congrats on that childbirth thing. First order of business, that no one is going to let you know…your lady parts are going to hurt like a motherfucker for way longer than anyone prepared you for. Bring home that foam donut thing to sit on. You won’t be sorry. And ice packs . And Tucks pads. And the water squirt bottle in the bathroom. And don’t feel bad about “borrowing” changing pads and baby supplies from the hospital. You know…that thing they have that is all filled with supplies for the baby? They have a ton of that shit, you don’t… and you are kind of on the brink of crazy. take it. (turns out they want you to have it anyway and it is not STEALING)

2. I know you are terrified and think your baby will DIE. Babies can and do die and it is heart-wrenching, mind-blowing and horrendous. However…You will spend the better part of the first five years worrying in excess about the possible impending death of your child. Here’s the Good news…thirteen years later…that fragile, tiny, breakable baby is still alive and doing kind of remarkable. (not that there haven’t been challenges, but nothing to the extreme you have imagined) IN FACT…he did so well you even did it again! The really important message I want you to hear is this; even though bad things do happen…BABIES AND CHILDREN TURN OUT TO BE WAY MORE RESILIENT THAN YOU THINK. THEY ACTUALLY DON’T DIE AS EASILY AS YOU HAD IMAGINED…

3. PARENTING is hard. Parenting with postpartum anxiety and depression is even harder. Good for you for getting help. Managing your own anxiety and depression turn out to be one of the most important parts of being able to take care of these crazy little men who are living in your home, sleeping in your bed, eating all your freaking food, messing up your shit and stealing your heart. (side note…don’t go off your MEDS even if you feel a “little” better) As it turns out, Serotonin is something you can’t simply “imagine” or “will” into your brain, but I digress…

4. You will not be the BEST MOTHER…You will make mistakes. Your kids will fall out the crib, get stung by bees, fall off chairs and need x-rays. They may even suck the helium out of a balloon and “kind of” faint, they might tear their cornea, fall on the steps and need more x-rays. of their face. OH BOY…a lot more unexpected and terrifying shit happens. But: SPOILER ALERT…They SURVIVE. YOU are not going to be the “best mother!! “WHY?”…Because it does not exist! Even if you buy organic food and read every parenting book or have “Waldorf style” wooden toys that you can’t afford. Even if you commit to a certain “style” of parenting…family bed, cry it out, Ferber, attachment, helicopter, tiger-mom, WHO GIVE A #$%@!!!!! FYI. For your sanity and self-esteem and quality of life, it simply does not matter what “parenting theory” you cling too…You will still fuck stuff up. And your kids will still be awesome and think you are awesome and will love you.

5. About that sanity thing…You could seriously CLAIM the shit out of some peace of mind, IF AND ONLY IF you remember the following…even when the house is a mess, the sink is full, there is dog hair everywhere, the kids are SCREAMING…YOU ARE SCREAMING…YOUR HUSBAND IS “NAPPING” THROUGH IT… You are still a good mother. Your children feel inherently safe and loved. NOT Because you didn’t yell or you bought gluten free, organic pumpkin bread or you had “family game night” or “taco freakin’tuesday”. Your children feel safe and loved because you LOVE THEM. As it turns out…kids really don’t care if the house is messy or their bed has no top sheet or if they have frozen waffles for dinner sometimes…they DO care that you go to their Lacrosse games and get snacks for the team. They care that you read books at school and show up for “MY FIVE SENSES” THE MUSICAL! They care when you let them snuggle with you at night, even though you honestly don’t want anyone in your “personal space” (about that…you won’t have that for awhile)

They forgive you more than you can imagine. They don’t hold grudges like grown ups. They mess up. They are loud and wild and wrestle and break your furniture. They GET SICK, SCARY SICK AND THEN…THEY GET BETTER. THEY ARE RESILIENT. So don’t spend too much time doubting, second guessing and emotionally beating the crap out of yourself down that long road of parenthood.

6. I must reiterate to you the capacity that these little dudes have to show you forgiveness and how they will crack you freakin’ heart wide open to be able to LOVE WITHOUT CONDITIONS. Mamma…being a mom is so incredibly hard and that is something no one person could possibly prepare you for. You are terrified…I know. BUT I want you to understand, that 13 years out…I think you are a rock star and you are doing a bang up job. NOW, LISTEN UP. THERE is a thought that you seem to have that will continually haunt you for the better part of this journey…it is this: ” IF I AM A GOOD MOTHER I WILL DO__________FILL IN THE BLANK” AND you fear that if you don’t do _____________, you may fundamentally fuck up your kids and they will spend 15 years in therapy talking about the suck-fest known as “MOM”. HERE IS THE TRUTH, AS YOUR 42 YEAR OLD WISER SELF BELIEVES. (see NOW..#7)

7. No matter how “good” you do, Someday’s your children think you suck. No matter how bad you do, your children still love and want to snuggle with you. No matter what “approach” to parenting you take or how infrequently you change the sheets or wash the floors, at the end of the day…if you have loved your kids (despite them being a huge pain in the ass sometimes), IF you have shown up despite being bone crushing exhausted and tucked them in at night even though you wanted to hide under the covers and look at Facebook…If you have made the frozen waffles for dinner and somehow convinced them this is an incredible dinner; well it seems that all of the mistakes seem to gently fall away. THEY LOVE YOU WITH THE SAME RECKLESS ABANDON THAT YOU LOVE THEM AND THAT IS SOMETHING YOU CAN’T IMAGINE. Not when you first see those little eyes of a seven pound newborn staring up at you. It is something that permeates your soul over time. They love you in spite of yourself. They accept your hugs AND your apologies. They mess up, they scare you…you mess up and scare them and at the end of the day…even on the worst, the messiest, the sickest, the scariest, the busiest, the WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING HAVING KIDS’ kind of days (yes those exist), you still all end up being each others favorite people in the whole freakin’ UNIVERSE.

8. AND Lastly…carry on sweet mamma. It’s all a series of learning and there is no “figuring it out”…Just hang on, reach out, don’t judge yourself, other parents, your husband or your kids…and you will be FUCKING FINE. YOU will be GOOD ENOUGH…you are not a perfect mother, but you are THE PERFECT MOTHER FOR YOUR CHILDREN. CLAIM THAT SHIT AND WEAR IT WELL. (and tell some other parents along the way what an awesome job they are doing, because you would be surprised how many feel just as shitty or terrified as you do)

xoxoxox