Monday, August 17, 2015

Two Truths for all Types of Parents

No matter your parenting situation, some truths are universal. Single parents, mixed families, foster parents, adoptive parents, grandparents acting as parents, LGBT parents, parents on assistance, parents with yachts and mansions, suburban parents, city parents, teen parents, first-timers, and plenty-of-timers. For anyone who loves and cares for a child, at least two things are true.

You are tired.

You have an infant, and she sleeps in two-hour intervals that do not correlate to your adult slumber rhythms. Or your 3-year-old developed night terrors and nothing you do convinces him the toy dinosaur isn't terrorizing the room come midnight. Or your elementary-aged child had her first friend fight, and no one is sleeping until the entire drama is analyzed, cried over, and analyzed one more time for good measure.  Or your teen is out and about, driving at night for the first time.

Or absolutely nothing is wrong at this exact moment, but the worry of all the things that could be wrong make sleep elusive. Go ahead—tip toe down the hall and hold your ear to their slumbering mouths to make sure they're breathing. You won't sleep until you do.

It's hard to get quality and consistent sleep when your heart is constantly racing, breaking, and bursting for your kids. Seven to eight hours of shut eye don't happen when your brain is constantly replaying the day, wondering if you did good or if you've ruined your children for life with some little mishap or foible. And if your parental worry wasn't enough, all the caffeine you chugged just to keep up with your kids all day isn't helping.

The only good news is that some nights are easy. Cherish the easy nights: turn off the television, put on your most comfortable sleepwear, and slide between the sheets for a few extra minutes. You'll probably need them tomorrow.

You are doing the best you can.

Parents are comparers. We look to what other people are doing in this sea of childrearing to validate what's going on in our own little lifeboat. Even if you don't think you do it, you probably do. Even if you are confident in yourself and your parenting, you can't shutter your eyes to what's going on around you and it is part of the human condition to make comparisons. And now, you can see what is going on with hundreds of parents on a daily basis via social media.

Except, we all know the stream of videos, statuses, and pictures we see doesn't tell the entire story. You aren't going to see all the toddler tantrums, teacher's notes, poor grades, and exacerbated shouting. You get Instagram pics of the one evening mom or dad was able to get it together enough to make a full-course meal. You don't get pics of the time dinner was cold cereal or ice cream—whatever the 9-year-old decided to serve her younger siblings—because mom simply just couldn't do anything else that day.

The truth is, if you love your children, you are probably doing the best you possibly can in the moment. So are all the other parents and parental figures who love their children. And every single one of them has those days. You know the ones: The day that ends in tears or aches or overeating or over drinking or just collapsing onto the nearest flat surface that doesn't have food or dirty dishes or an open marker on it. Even the parents who seem on top it have these days. In fact, for some of those parents, every day is that day.

The good news is that you almost never do as terrible a job as you think. And if you are genuinely trying and you genuinely show love to your kids, then you are doing important stuff. Sometimes, it is all you can do to make sure they have food in their bellies and clothes on their backs.

Some days, you just don't have it in you to check their homework and put all the food groups on a plate and read them an intelligent-sounding book before bed.

And that's okay.

Don't stay up fretting about what you didn't do today. Get some rest—you have a big day tomorrow trying to figure out more of this parenting thing.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Twitter: Suggesting sleep solutions for babies everywhere, but without images

I was making this post on Twitter:
When I attempted the hashtag "babies", Twitter was all, "We think you might mean #babiesinthecup." And I was like, "No, no. I really just meant #babies." Plus, "inthecup" puts me over the character limit.  Learn to count and follow your own rules, Twitter.

But, I was curious. What's going on with babies and cups that has Twitter randomly suggesting it?

I searched Twitter for #babiesinthecup, and Twitter -- oh, helpful Twitter -- was all, "how about photos of babiesinthecup?" Obviously: Yes, please. Show me all the babies in cups!

You know what Twitter shows you when you ask for babies in the cup?

Not babies in cups. Two babies in hats, though. Hats are just cups for heads, right? You might mistake hats for cups if you are in the habit of drinking brain juices . . . Which raises some pretty frightening questions about Twitter in general.

But then I realized what was really going on. Twitter was suggesting that perhaps babies who don't like cribs might enjoy sleeping in cups instead. But not just any cup: THE cup. Too bad Twitter isn't letting on which cup that is.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Becoming Do-Stuff Ninja

Early in 2014, I had plans. All the plans. "It's go big or go home this year," I wrote to a friend, and he agreed. It was the year things were going to happen. The year we would, to steal from Neil Gaiman, "make good art," and it would be glorious.

And stuff did happen in 2014. Stuff that blasted life all to pieces well into 2015--for me and I suspect for my friend as well. For me, not a thing happened according to my plan. I know my plans aren't always the right plans, and I know God has plans that are beyond my understanding...but seriously, you guys. ALL TO PIECES.

In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.
Proverbs 16:9 

I didn't do all the things on my list. Instead, I helped my husband search for a job three times in one year. I didn't move forward on all my creative writing goals. Instead, I kicked my legs furiously just to remain in place with paying freelance work. I didn't run a 6k. Instead, I barely waddled through pregnancy and ended up with a heart condition.  I didn't make good art. Instead, God made a baby.

And, it was glorious. It was also terrifying and hormonal and exhausting and soul-sucking and soul-giving. For a while, I wasn't even a person. I was just a thing pushing forward one step at a time. ALL TO PIECES.

But now, I'm becoming person again. I sing the just-because song. I laugh the just-because laugh.

I plan the just-because plans...but perhaps I'm wiser now. I plan both smaller and grander. I plan in secret and in public. I plan all the things and none of the things. Schrödinger's plans: They are there and they are not until God opens the box for me.

Even so, I'm nervous about planning. I wrote to the same friend tonight, "If I say 'I'm planning and I'm going to do things,' do you think the world will bitch slap me like it did last year when I said that?"

"I hope it doesn't for your sake," he responded. "I'm still reeling from my bitch slap myself, so I'm not sure if I want to do that. But you go right ahead."

I suggested perhaps I should do things and keep it hush, so that the world wouldn't notice. He agreed. Maybe the world just won't notice. Become a do-stuff ninja, I said. 

Ninjas are quiet, so they can hear. A do-stuff ninja doesn't make all the noise with his own plans, so he can hear when God is communicating the real plan.

Ninjas move quickly, but they know when to pause. A do-stuff ninja doesn't run so quickly and stubbornly one direction that he doesn't notice when the path has changed.

Ninjas are fighters, survivors. A do-stuff ninja might  break down and cry when things go wrong, but the tears don't keep him from taking action.

Ninjas are equipped--they have training and weapons. A do-stuff ninja knows that, even amidst the doing of stuff, practice and training and learning are always required.

A do-stuff ninja lives in a world all in pieces. And he picks the pieces up. And he does stuff.