Monday, June 11, 2012

School's Out Haikus

The school year is done.
Summer camp's not yet begun.
Work. Play. Clean. Cook. Drive. 
My two little boys
Run skip jump scream crash whine. (Sigh.)
This is "summer fun"?
Can't keep up with work
Can't keep up with kids, house, food
It's time to breathe, and let go.
Instead of learning
ABC's and 123's
We found hidden toads!
Since last summer's end
I can touch the pool bottom! 
I have learned to swim!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Caring, Tending, Ministering, Mothering

Part of Speech:verb
Definition:tend to
Synonyms:attendbaby sit, considerfosterkeep an eye on, keep tabs on, 
look after, mindmind the store, ministermothernursenurture
pay attention to, protectprovide for, ride herd on, sittake pains,
tendtreasurewait on, watchwatch over
Antonyms:disregard, ignoreneglect

My older son, Big Boy, has been sick.  My husband, GEH, has been sick.  Friday, I started feeling sick. Friday night, Big Boy and GEH got worse.  Saturday we all went to the doctor. We all tested positive for strep throat. We all needed rest.  We all needed care.  Tot-Tot started whining, too.  We all needed antibiotics.

I don't know how to handle times like these.  It's a struggle for me to care for people when I need to be cared for myself.  When I must nurse while I need nursing.  When I must mother while I need mothering.  (I should mention that my children don't stop being children when they are sick.  Illness rarely, if ever, slows them down.  Neither germs nor viruses nor bacteria can slow their unstoppable play-drive.  There has never been a napping sick child in my house--not once in 8 years. Childcare must, therefore, continue.  Someone must watch the kids.)

The most painful part about weekends like this past weekend is that I don't know how to do it.  I don't know how to be a nurse and a patient at the same time.  It's an inescapable bind.  And I worry, too, that the bitterness, sense of isolation, and depression I experience in these moments will impact my children.  That I won't be a good enough caretaker of them when I am sick myself, when I am irrationally angry at my husband (and our lame excuses-for-parents) for not being superhuman, for not being able to conquer his own illness and care for everyone so I don't have to.  I hate this bind, and I hate the mood I get in when I am stuck in it.

This weekend, when I was in a rut, an image of Big Boy, caring for his sick stuffed dog, Wheels, came to mind.  Big Boy has had Wheels since he was about a year old.  Wheels is very dear to him.  One day, he was playing a game of tossing Wheels up in the air.  Wheels kept bashing his hard plastic nose on the kitchen floor when he fell, and I warned Big Boy that this could break his nose.  Big Boy persisted in his game, and, sadly, Wheels's nose broke off.

Big Boy tried not to show it, but he was devastated.  I got out the crazy glue, and we put Wheels's nose back on his snout, right where it belonged.  Then we made him a special hospital bed to aid his recovery (and to ensure that he wouldn't be jostled before his nose was fully reattached).

Assuming that Big Boy was feeling ok, I left the room for a while.  When I returned, I saw this note had been left on Wheels's bed.
It says:
"Get better, Wheels.  I was so sad when your nose fell off.  I didn't mean to do that.  I'm sorry. -Big Boy"

Remembering this story this past weekend was a huge help.  It was a good reminder that my care taking has been good enough.  My son somehow knew how to care for his dog.  He knew how to apologize and to wish him well.  And he did it all on his own--no one had instructed him to write this note.  In fact, I didn't even realize Big Boy knew how to send such a loving message!  This all said to me that things have gone well...he has taken in enough of a sense of caring from us that he knows how to give care.  And what more could I want?  What more is there to teach him?

So, when we're all sick, I suppose the best we can do is take turns.  We each get to be patient and nurse, at least for moments.  Thank you for the lesson, Wheels.  You helped me make it through a rough patch.

Friday, May 25, 2012


If you've read my blog, you probably know that I am a psychologist. I work part-time in my own private practice where I treat a number of parents. I love to work with parents, especially new parents who are raising young children. This group needs a lot of support, and I have always felt that our society does very little for them. Of course, I'm a new(ish) parent myself, so I typically relate to their struggles. Many of the parents I treat in my practice had very difficult childhoods, where they were typically neglected, demeaned, hit, rejected, abused, and/or made into their parents caretakers.  These patients often struggle to rewrite the family script--their goal is often to not do to their children what was done to them.  I cannot tell you how much I admire them for their willingness to look realistically at their own stories in order to change the psychological family trajectory.  (And, let me tell you, they are doing it, and their children are thriving.)

I just read a recently-published book by the late Elisabeth Young-Breuhl called "Childism: Confronting Prejudice against Children." Dr. Young-Breuhl was a psychoanalyst and political scientist with an expertise in prejudice. This combination of careers allowed her to look at her patients through a unique lens--one that simultaneously saw individual psychology and cultural influences (i.e., prejudice). Let me tell you, this is a heartbreaking book. It is heartbreaking (to me, anyhow) because it captures a deep truth.

Here is a crude summary of what Childism says: 
~We live in a culture that historically has not valued children as individuals with the right to be respected and taught.
~We have viewed children as our property, to be treated as we like.
~Many of us have wanted children to meet our own needs, rather than recognizing that children's needs must always come first.
~We, as a society, allow parents to hit their children, in the name of discipline. (If you hit an adult, you can be charged with assault. If you hit a child, we call it "spanking" and say it's for their own good.)
~We have established social systems for "child protection" which further traumatize children who have often already suffered horrible traumas.

The bottom line is this: we don't help parents to help their children. We don't, as a society, openly acknowledge how hard, stressful, frustrating, relentless, and intense it is to raise a child. We don't offer needed support to young families. We allow severe economic disparities to exist, putting tremendous stress and strain on large portions of our population. And when this population has children, we do not step in to help relieve the pressure of parenting under dire conditions.  Then, when the children of these over-stressed parents (who often have untreated trauma histories of their own) start to act-out, we medicate or incarcerate them. We cut spending on education and early intervention, but some states will spend as much as $200,000 per year per child to jail children. Young-Breuhl argues convincingly that we have to stop this shit.

We have to start looking at the cost to our society of not valuing our children. We have historically been so self-absorbed that we haven't see beyond our own generations. We have not looked ahead. We have only looked at now. And this short-sightedness has taken us in the wrong direction. And our kids pay for it. And if things don't change, their kids will pay for it, too.

For the sake of contrast, take a look at a couple of policies in Sweden: 
~Parents get a total of 13 months of paid maternity leave and the father is required to take at least 1 month of it. (There has been a discussion about changing this to 15 months and requiring the father and mother to each take 5 and then split the last 5 as they feel appropriate.)
~Parental leave can be used to take off time for parenting classes before your child is born.
~Parents can save up their maternity leave for more than 5 years (i.e., use it for doctor's appointments, school visit days, etc.).
 ~Daycare cost is based on your family income with a government imposed maximum. (Currently about 1/10th as much as in the U.S.!)
~If you have a new child, your other children get a month of free daycare so you can concentrate on the new one.
~Sweden has outlawed spanking, and has implemented other forms of non-violent discipline (for the greater good of their society).

I know that these ideas may not apply to you.  Certainly, we are all unique individuals with a wide range of values, principles, and histories.  But I encourage you to read this book, to recognize and tolerate its truths, and to work hard to change our national attitude toward children.

And if this is all too depressing, check out The Irreducible Needs of Children by Greenspan and Brazelton instead.  Maybe I'll write about that book next.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Compassion in a Narcissistic World

Lately, I've been struggling with having compassion for others. Although it comes easier some days, many days I find myself in an "I'm right, you're wrong" stance. This happens, of course, when people disagree with me. Or when I'm feeling victimized. Often those times occur simultaneously, which is no surprise.

Luckily, I've discovered that there are ways out of this bind. I'm working on building my skills in this area, so I'm writing about it now (from the bike at the gym!) to organize my own thoughts.

Jessica Benjamin wrote a psychology paper about the "doer / done-to" dynamic that happens in relationships. She emphasizes how easily (in our all-about-me society) we fall into a victim-perpetrator way of being together. You may know what I mean...this kind of togetherness consists of the one-way street of feeling used or attacked or taken for granted by someone else. It's the forgetting that there is another side to every story. That there is more than just you. That the "perpetrator" has a one way-street of his own, and is likely feeling as "done-to" as you are. And, to complicate matters more, in any relationship, there is more than two one-way streets. There are two-way streets and, especially in families, highways! The psychology of how people come together is endlessly complex and multiply-determined. And, given that truth, how are we supposed to get along??

Today, I finally found a minute to organize my kids' clothes (new season, new sizes). The task of organizing hand-me-downs drives me nuts. I hate doing it. Yet it must be done (sigh of resignation). I do this (dreadful) chore in our guest room, where there is a bed to put the clothes on. I haven't been in this room in months, and in my absence, our cat has moved in. And covered the entire bed, including blankets that don't belong there, with her fur. And her puke. Yes. The bed and my collection of cute toddler naptime blankets are crusted in cat puke and fur. So, now my dreadful project just got worse, since I have to clean the bed, too.

Here is a sample of my internal victim monologue: "Who put these blankets here? I'll bet it was GEH. He slept up here once. Can't he tell baby blankets from adult blankets? Doesn't he know the cat would wreck them?? And that stupid cat...I'm so done with her. Can you say lethal injection? And my kids...maybe they did it. Ugh! Why does everyone have to make my life HARDER??!? I am going to go wreck all of their stuff and puke all over everything! And I'm not making dinner ANY MORE!"

This is me being "done-to." Being narcissistic. Driving wrecklessly down my one-way street. The trick in these moments is to flip my perspective. To imagine the tired, sick, delerious state GEH was in when he went to sleep in the guest room with too-small blankets. Or to imagine the fort my kids may have been building in there with the blankets. And (now here is a stretch) to imagine my old-lady cat gagging on furballs (delish). Essentially, the trick is to appreciate many perspectives at once. (While also trying to not lose my own, but that's another blog.)

I do this better some days than others. But when I do, I feel more relaxed and connected to everyone. I feel the relief of intimacy, which is not possible when you're being (mentally) victimized.

What's that song "life is a highway"? That's pretty much it.
Happy cruising.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Top 10 Reasons Why I Hate Target

10. Too much diet coke. Not enough diet pepsi.

9. Zero brand loyalty. Where did the jarred Muir Glen organic tomato-herb sauce go? It's been replaced by Giada's big-booby sauce? Seriously??!? Come on. (Eye roll.)

8. I hate how much I hate Target. Because I hate it so much that I avoid going. Then, when dwindling toilet paper supplies finally force me to make a Target run, I have to stay LONGER. Hurt me.

7. Hunger. Thirst. Blood-sugar crash. Need to pee. Sweat. No basic needs can be met when you're surrounded by shit from China and processed food that we really can do without. How does this place make any sense?

6. TARGET-HEAD: State formerly known as air-headed or spaced-out or brain-dead. Time is lost in this state. Then you're sucked in for longer into the Target misery vortex!

5. Existential crisis, stemming from reason number 7. What are we doing to ourselves? How did humanity evolve to such a state where citizens have so little time that we're essentially forced to spend time among masses of artificiality??!? Really? This is what we want for ourselves? Really??!?

4. Cranky cashiers. Hey, listen, I wouldn't like working at Target, either (since I HATE IT THERE). But, I'm doing my best to be kind to you, Cashier Person. I know it can be hard to understand kindness and pleasantries in this unkind, bitter, narcissistic world we inhabit. I feel you. But even a flittering little smile has a resounding impact. Try it. Come on...Just give me a tiny little twitch in the corner of your know you want to...

3. So few dads. So many moms. Are we any closer to sex-role equality? Or have we just boxed ourselves into this corner where women now work AND shop? Have we forced ourselves into spaces like Target because we really, truly, don't have time for both work and family-care??!? Let's rethink this. Dads, ya hear me?

2. Plastic bags. You cannot stop the insertion of items into plastic bags at Target. There must be a rule: each plastic, environmentally-toxic item must be wrapped in still more plastic. Even milk jugs go in plastic bags. And don't even think you can ask to skip the bags...remember the cashier in reason 4? She could give a shit about your eco-friendliness.

1. Child abuse. This needs no elaboration. Just stop...please make it stop. Love parents so they won't hurt their kids! Come ON--our society needs to GET WITH THE F'N PROGRAM.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Return to Innocence

Blogging has taken a backseat to life in the past months. But I just re-read my entire blog, and I have a new motivation to resume writing this virtual space--the blogging playroom. And for no other reason than my own gratification...I am glad I have this record of my thoughts, feelings, and struggles. For myself.

The past several months have been intensely hard. But in a good way. I've been struggling through some seriously heavy stuff in my analysis (intensive therapy), and am feeling, finally, freer than I've ever been in my life. Thank f'n god!

What has been so awesome about my newfound emotional freedom, really, is my increased joy in parenting. The happier and less tormented I am, the happier my children seem. These days, my kids are where it's at.

I know I have written this in the past, but my children constantly offer me the chance to heal. As I've been struggling lately, my sons have given me deep emotional comfort and simply being there, wanting, needing, and loving me. Their joyful innocence brings me back to my own. It heals me at my core.

Return to the innocence, baby.
Return to the innocence.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mom Freedom Haikus

Going to L. A.
To spend time with a dear friend.
Drink. Shop. Eat salad.
Missing my old self,
I reconnect with old pals,
And then I feel young.
Time apart from kids
Is so rejuvenating
And yet I miss them.
I was me back then...
And I find I am still me...
Enhanced. With two sons.