Friday, May 23, 2014

No Bad Days For Me!

        News flash: Someone has finally discovered the allusive Parenting Manual!
         It's true. And somewhere, in that unofficial, impossibly hard to find parenting handbook, there is a rule about bad days.
       Apparently, when your a mother of more then one child, your not allowed to have a bad day. Seriously. No bad days ever. Because your a mom. Because you decided to have a child. You signed up for this. This role as mother was a choice, and you made it. More importantly then that, you chose to do it more then once. And if by some chance you forget that rule and have a bad day, the punishment will be that everyone, everywhere will automatically place all blame for your bad mood on your children.
     After a long week of one person after another coming down with the flu (including myself), after the tenth time cleaning up vomit, I allowed myself a bad day. A grumpy, don't get dressed or showered, screw doing the dishes kind of day. As someone randomly stops by for a visit, I hear my punishment being handed down. "Well, this is what you signed up."
      I know, I know. One random event doesn't prove that rule, right?
     As March rolls around, John and I join the millions of Americans, parents and non-parents alike, who begrudgingly start the process of filing tax returns. As I make a simple joke about the groans I hear from John who is working hard on his computer crunching numbers, my punishment comes flying at me out of nowhere, "How bad could it possibly be for you guys at tax time, you have 6 kids?!"
    Stupid me. Obviously I deserved that one.
    8 months after one of our little ones, who was still getting up every 3 hours all night long, I mentioned how worn out I felt. "At this point, you should know what to expect."
    The worst is really that anytime I mention being tired, the blame automatically goes to my kids.
   Why? Why is it automatically assumed that it's because of my kids that I am tired? Can't I be tired because I am coming down with something? Can't I be tired because I have a unnatural amount of weeds growing in my garden and spending a whole day hoeing wears a girl out? Maybe I stayed up too late watching every episode of Merlin available on Netflix? I am married to hot young Italian, maybe he chases me around the house all night long? Those are all reasonable assumptions! Why does it have to be blamed on me being a mom.
         I should be allowed to detest doing laundry. That hate came long before having kids, just ask my mom! It was one of my weekly chores. Quite frankly, as a sister doing her teenage brothers laundry would make any person hate doing the wash! I hated it before kids, I loath it after kids. Not my kids fault. I just don't like stinky drawers.
     If your one of those lucky people who happen to catch me in the grocery store with all my kids (which is always), that face I am making is not their fault. I have RBF. Google it. It's real and I have it.
Resting Bitchy Face.
      Again, not my kids fault. I blame my mom. And my Granny. Heck, I blame my great-grandmother. Great ladies, bitchy faces. It's genetic. We just naturally look pissed. We were born needing Botox and too smart to go get it.
  I could also be making that face because I just got asked for the tenth time that day "Are they all yours?" or the ultra pathetically sympathetic ,"God bless you"  with the head the head shake. Seriously?!
 This lady nailed it. I usually get all of these during one grocery shopping trip.

What kind of face would you make if someone asked you crazy personal and unnecessary questions in the middle of a grocery store?


And sometimes, my bad days are because I'm a mom.
   I am not a morning person. Never have been, never will be, and yet, somehow, I have been blessed with two little boys who think 5:30 (no matter the bedtime) is a great time of day.

Sometimes, cleaning up spit-up and poo isn't as exciting as it should be. Sometimes, I should be allowed to complain about having to load the dishwasher for the 3rd time that day, and not get told, "It comes with the territory."
Sometimes teaching long division to one child and the alphabet to to another while trying to ignore Daniel Tiger singing in the background and chasing your 2 year old up to the toilet so he doesn't spray all over the kitchen, and giving fashion advice to your super-sensitive child and giving the evil eye to the four year old for carrying the baby by one arm, and getting pelted in the back of the head with a Nerf gun, all while trying to pour milk into a baby bottle, is a little bit much.
     I'm allowed to have bad days!
Maybe it's just that people have forgotten how to give pep talks. Maybe people have lost their ability to sympathize. Maybe people haven't seen the movie Bambi.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My Two Dads part 2

      It took several years before things worked out and I finally got to meet my little sister. It felt more like several lifetimes, and it kind of was. We change so much throughout our lifetime that by the time I turned 27 years old, I had been several different people. Every experience in my life changed my outlook, changed the way I experienced the things 
that were happening to me and around me, and changed the way that I viewed the world. 
This piece of my life in particular has changed me the most. 
       At times growing up, I felt so lost and unloved and unwanted and broken, and other 
times I felt so strong and confident and so full of love and forgiveness for all the things that 
had happened. There were so many things in my past that I was part of, but had no memory of, no control of. Things that made me who I am today, but things that I felt so disconnected from. I wanted a chance to be able to prove my worth to the people that are my family, but 
who were really strangers to me. It's such a conflicting feeling to know that I have people out there who are part of me or part of my past, and who I want to be part of my future, but 
they are people I had never met. It's one of the most confusing feelings. I am not even sure 
there are words to describe it.
           Because I have two younger brothers that I grew up with, I am lucky to know the joys of being older sister. I love, love, love that role and the closeness that I feel to my brothers 
made it that much harder, knowing that I had a little sister that I was disconnected from. 
felt robbed that I didn't get to talk to her, share life experiences with her, give her sisterly 
advice, and that I missed out on having all the memories of her growing up, doing the crazy 
things that siblings do together. 
    To top it off I have a father who I have wanted to meet, wanted to get to know, and never had that opportunity. It feels like part of my heart is sitting in a different place than the rest of my heart. There is still love and longing there but it's disconnected from the rest of me. Sometimes I would go through pictures and stare at the picture so hard hoping that there  
would be some kind of memory, or connection made just by seeing their faces, that I would 
know who they really were. I hoped that I would know what they were like, and that all the 
pieces that were missing by not having the time with them would be filled. 
      When things finally looked like I was finally going to get to meet my sister and she was 
heading towards the east coast, part of me started freaking out. I was so excited and I had all these ideas and plans in my head of how I wanted things to turn out, but not knowing what 
she was really like, I didn't know how to figure out what to do together. I knew that my 
father would be the one driving her out to meet me and I knew there was some reservations about how things would turn out. Understandable reservations. All the plans that were made for she and I to get together made sure that it was all about two sisters getting together and getting to know each other. 
        When she was finally on our way to my house she text me and let me know that my 
my father would like to meet me too. Every emotion possible flooded me. I had never felt so petrified in my entire life. I ran upstairs and wanted to scream and cry and yell all at the 
same time. I looked in the mirror, checked my clothes and brushed my hair again. 
wondered if when he saw me, my home, my children, and my husband,  would he think that I turned out good or that I was a loser  I must have checked the mirror 50 more times 
before they pulled up out front. I felt like I was getting ready for a blind date, when you are wondering if you're good enough for the person stick around or if they're going to cut the 
date short because you were not what they were expecting. I wanted everything about me 
that wasn't good enough when I was a baby, to be enough now, but I didn't really know what it was that was wrong with me, and I had no way of fixing it to make myself  good enough for that moment. 
       I stood in my kitchen, watching out the window as my husband  and my kids went over 
to meet the two of them, shake their hands and bring them to the front door. I am not sure my heart beat a single time as I watched everything happening out front of my house. My 
little sister walks in the door and my heart fired off one hundred beats per second. I had so much love for the stranger standing in my front door, that it took a lot of self-control not 
squeeze her so hard that I'm sure her head would have popped off. Part of me wanted to 
bury my head in her shoulder so I could just enjoy that moment and not have to remember 
that there was another person standing behind her that I was terrified to meet. I wanted to 
just take in the moment and see beautiful she was, how sweet her voice sounded and how 
excited I was to be the big sister to this amazing young woman who walk through my front 
        I was expecting this huge wave of anxiety to hit me the minute I let go of her and had 
to see him face-to-face, but by some tender mercy, there was a smooth transition from 
letting go of her to being introduced to him and hugging him and somehow, there was not the
awkwardness I expected there to be, hugging a stranger. Every feeling of fear, anger, and  
uncertainty that I had felt for so many years disappeared for that moment, because I felt 
relief, and quite possibly love, from both of them. As we walked up to the living room to go 
sit and talk, I was again surprised at how smoothly things went. Even though they were 
my family, they were strangers. Every time that I was worried there was going to be an 
uncomfortable pause in conversation, I remembered that the two people sitting in front of 
me were the two people that I wanted to know more about then I could possibly fit in one 
day and that there would never be enough time for all the questions and information I was 
hoping to absorb from them. And even though the time together did not last near as long as I hoped for, the peace that I felt when they were with me made it worth it. 
     Through all of this, I have tried my best to be as objective about everything as I can. I 
wanted to go through each experience feeling each feeling and taking in each moment 
without too many expectations. As children we have certain needs and expectations of our 
parents, and every interaction we have together, shapes who we are. My children have been going through this experience with me. I have done my best to be honest without sharing too much and to open without putting their own feelings at risk. I have learned so much about 
parenting through everything that has happened. I have had a million different scenarios run through my head, trying to change what has happened and what might happen, trying to 
feel less pain, trying to cause less pain, and trying to make everything as simple as possible.        But..... Life is not simple. It's painful. It's hard. It's messy. 
     But..... The things that we learn from the pain and the mess can be beautiful.
    I will never stop wanting there to be more. More connection, more interaction, more love, and that will always put me at risk for more pain and hopefully one day, that love. What an 
amazing thing I can teach my children: That life will never be easy but that we KEEP trying, that some people are harder to love and harder to feel love from, but we NEVER stop loving, and that the bravery it takes to do those things not only makes us STRONGER, but makes 
life a worthwhile experience.   

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Two Dads part 1

  In the 5th grade, we were given an assignment to write a short story about ourselves. Mine was titled, "My Two Dads". Although I grew up in a home with a mother and father, my mom had been married before, to my birth father. As an 11 year old, writing  that part of my life story didn't seem like that big of deal. Actually, it felt like the only interesting thing that set me apart from all the other kids in class.  Growing up in the 80's and 90's, divorce was slightly less common then today. In public, this seemed a more private, taboo topic, but at home, my mom had always been completely open and honest with me. Somehow, she had managed to put her feelings on the subject aside and willingly answered all of my many questions, as unbiased as possible. In fact, she had done such a good job of making sure to not bad mouth my birth father, that she made him sound absolutely wonderful. Obviously, since they ended up divorced, there were marriage issues, but she explained everything to me in such an understanding and forgiving way that those problems weren't the ideas that I held on to.
            She told me stories of a fun guy who was incredibly handsome, who made her laugh, who liked to dance, and who drove a little too fast. She told me of being so in love it makes you oblivious and of being so hurt it makes it seem impossible that you will ever recover. She explained why she felt he made his choices and why it wasn't my fault. She explained why I was so lucky to be adopted by my dad and how blessed we were to have this family, most importantly, my little brothers.
            As a child I was taught that we lived in heaven before we came to Earth, that we lived as spirit children of God and that we all knew each other and we chose to come to Earth. Most importantly we knew what we would encounter in this life: love, pain, joy, heartache, growth, and death. We knew every experience we would have and we still chose to experience this life. I was taught that one of the reasons we knew we could survive the trials we were most certainly going to experience, was that we were going to be given the gift of family.
            In my heart, I knew that having "My Two Dads" was just a part of the life that I had wanted so badly before coming to earth. There were very few times growing up, that my knowledge of my birth father had a strong impact on my life. I was very lucky to have a relationship with my biological grandparents and aunts. We weren't incredibly close but long distances and divorces can do that. I knew I had cousins that I wanted so badly to have a stronger relationship with. My grandparents did their best to be as open with me as they could and willingly answered any questions I felt like asking. But as I got older and less selfish, I realized that my questions were like tiny scratches in an old deep wound and that the questions I really wanted to ask, no one had the answers to.
           The first time that this part of my life story caused me pain was when I was visiting my grandparents on a trip up north from my home in Florida. Like always, I was looking at all the pictures on the fridge and taking in all the faces of my cousins, trying to match names with the faces, realizing that they got to see each other often and that I was more of a stranger. I moved on from the fridge to the other pictures on the walls and on shelves until I saw a face I didn't recognize. I looked around to see if she was in any of the other pictures, to see if this was somebody I was supposed to know or recognize, but this was the only one. As I turned to ask my grandmother who the little girl was, I saw her turn and look at my mom. I knew something I was asking was making this awkward feeling, but I just wanted to know who she was. My mom said something along the lines of  "If this is what I think it is, go ahead and tell her."
           As it turns out, my birth father remarried and had a daughter. I had a little sister. A little sister. The one thing I really wanted (I loved my brothers, but there was 2 of them and 1 of me), and I had it...but I didn't. I am sure the next thing I said hurt my grandmother more then I could understand at the time, but it was an honest question in my mind.
"Is he going to keep Her?"
           From that visit on, I thought about my birth father and my half-sister often. Everything that I thought I understood, didn't answer any of the questions I now had. I went through periods of anger and judgment to feeling worthlessness and rejection. Sometimes I would go months without it crossing my mind and other times it consumed my thoughts. My mom even reached out once to try and set up a meeting, but he wasn't ready. I am still not sure how my mom put her own feelings on the matter aside and remained so encouraging. I have had friends whose parents divorced and allowed their own hurt feelings to be pushed on the kids. I know of kids who have had to choose "sides" and I have seen the damage. I am so thankful that she chose to deal with her own feelings instead of pushing them on me
           Being a teenager became just slightly more complicated. I used to think that if I became really great at something, that my birth father would hear about it from my grandmother and he would see I was worth it. Each time we went back up north for a visit, I had this hope of seeing an extra truck in the driveway as we would pull up. It never happened and my heart would break a little knowing that this wouldn't be the year I would meet him. I wrote poetry and put all of my feelings and questions into a little book.
         Then I met my husband. We were only 15 but I knew he was the one. John had every quality in a human being that I needed. He filled in some of the pieces that were missing in me and his family was great. Both sides of his family amazed me. His mother's side was huge and loud and slightly dominating. I loved it because I had grown up with very little extended family around and seeing how much they loved to be around each other made me feel safe. His father's side was smaller but just as close knit and just as loud. Between the birthdays, baby showers, graduations, and sports events, there were family get-togethers almost weekly. It was like a tornado of family that I loved getting sucked into.
       John and I got married and had our first child during our sophmore year of college. It was hard. We had to live in an apartment in my parents basement for the first two years of marriage to make ends meet between paying for college and raising a baby. John worked so hard to get us both through school and nursing school hours were hard with a newborn. I started my first hospital clinicals just 7 days after having our daughter and only 5 months later, I was pregnant again. Our second daughter changed our world. She made a real effort to get to our family as soon as possible and almost showed up 3 1/2 months too early. After a very long hospital stay, she came at 36 weeks.
The first time I held both of my daughters at the same time... It changed me. My daughters loved each other. My oldest would sing her gibberish when her little sister would cry and immediately the crying would stop. Seeing John as a dad made me fall deeper in love with him then I knew possible. He loved his girls. He never complained or resented his role as a parent.When he would call home on his lunch breaks he would ask me all about the girls and then he would talk to them on the phone. No  matter how tired he was from working outside 12 or more hours a day, he would get on the floor and play with the girls.
         Having my kids only raised harder questions in my heart. How could I feel so much love for these babies, how could my husband be so in love with fatherhood, and how could there be someone who didn't feel those things for me? Was I thought of at all? John and I could barely go a few hours without wanting to find out what our kids were up to, how could someone go 22 years with out wanting to find out about me? Every time I would see my grandma I would want so bad to ask whether she ever told Him about me. I wanted to know if He ever asked what I was like or even if He just wanted to know if I turned out okay or if I was happy. But I asked because I knew those questions would cause pain, either for her or for me.
        Around the time I was pregnant with our fourth, I decided to start doing some searching on Facebook. Got to love Facebook. Within a few minutes I was able to find 3 girls who might possibly be my sister. I had an idea about her age was and where she lived. I sent all 3 girls a message trying to find out if they were the person I was looking for.  I don't remember exactly what I wrote, but I was trying to be as kind as possible, not knowing whether or not she knew about me, but at the same time not trying to seem like a creeper on Facebook. I quickly heard back from one of the girls and she wasn't my sister. Two days later I received another message back and it was the girl I was looking for. I found my little sister and better yet, she knew about me!  Just knowing that I wasn't a secret in her life was huge for me. Looking back on it now, if she hadn't known about me.... I am just not sure how well my self esteem would have handled that.
          The night I got her email I practically jumped on my couch and was so terrified to read the message. I had to have John sitting beside me the whole time because I was so scared that at any moment my world would come crashing down. I was waiting to hear that she wasn't allowed to talk to me or that even worse, she didn't want to. I wanted to know what she knew about me and what she thought about everything. I wanted to ask a million questions but knew that I was a 24 year old talking to a 14 year old and that I was the adult who needed to be careful with her feelings. There was this fine line between wanting to know all about her and what she was like growing up and then asking questions that would come across as wanting to know more about him instead of wanting to get to know her. We wrote messages back and forth for weeks trying to find all the things we had in common: a love of orange juice, horses, and Harry Potter, just to name a few. John sat up with  me for many late night as I had to talk through all of my feelings and as I was trying to figure out the healthiest way to form a relationship with this wonderful girl who is my little sister.
        Its been 6 years. 6 years that have flown by and dragged on, all at the same time. Sometimes I feel impatient at having to spend another birthday separated from part of my family, upset that I still don't have the same relationship with my sister, as I do with my brothers. I adore my brothers. I think life would be unbearable with out them and so much better because I do have them.  I get angry that everyone involved can't just choose to be okay and that we can't just be one big happy family. It's hard because there are so many people involved and that means so many different feelings and issues that have to be worked through. It hurts that I have waited this long and hurt this much, and my feelings still aren't the ones that matter.
     We all have families that have different issues and our relationships with family members are some of the most complicated relationships in life. They are the relationships that can heal you with something as simple as a hug and the relationships that can break you with something as simple as words. I know that family is God's greatest blessing to us, even though at moments it can be the cause of some of the worst pain imaginable. I watch families that seem to have it all together and envy them on some level, wondering how they have it all figured out, even though I know that no family is perfect.
      John asked me "What's the point? What is it in this post that will help others or help you?" I first thought that it might help others who have children like me, that were blessed to have "extra" family. Then I thought, maybe it would help others to know how lucky I consider myself to have a mom who was open and honest with me and never made me feel that the path our life had gone, was for a reason. I think that if it had been this big family secret, that maybe I would have felt that I had something to be embarrassed about or that there was something I had done wrong. But as I began writing I realized that it isn't really about the fact that I am a child of divorce or that I have two dads; it's about the fact that we all have relationships in our lives that we need. We all have family members who we have grown apart from or that we haven't taken the time to get to know well enough and we all have relationships that need healing.
         The reason that family relationships are so important, the reason they are our greatest gift no matter how broken they may seem, is that those are the relationships we chose to get us through this journey of life. They teach us what we need to learn in order to be better and stronger. Sometimes we learn what we "should do" and sometimes the lesson we teach each other is what "not to do". Most importantly, family relationships teach us to stop focusing on ourselves. If we spend this earthly existence focusing on ourselves, on our own feelings and on our own problems, then we have wasted a life. If we can take a step back from those family relationships that are causing us pain or discomfort, and try and figure out what we need to learn from it and what we can do to help our family members, we could all avoid so much pain. Our families were meant to have the strongest effects on our heart.
          I guess I have a lot to learn because I was sure blessed with lots of family.

(This post was turning out so be so long I had to write it in sections. Hopefully I can finish it up over the next few weeks.)