Sunday, October 5, 2008

The big G.

Lately, it's been in the front of my mind a LOT.
GUILT.

I seem to be a carrier. It has become such a characteristic of mine that I am actively seeking ways to dispel some of it. It's like a tangible force, following me around as I make my way through this parenting journey. It makes my stomach hurt sometimes, it makes me doubt myself to the point of tears, and it makes me constantly fight the comparisons between myself and other moms.

I am quite sure that my guilt has two very distinctive origins. The first, and most devastating one, is the family we left in Ethiopia one year ago. I could write for a week about the emotions that thinking of them evoke. I know that some of you adoptive parents can relate. I never, ever imagined it would be so hard. I find myself in a panic, knowing that soon, Charlie will being asking the questions. What if I don't know the answers? What if he is angry? What if I don't know enough about his culture? What if he can't understand why he is here? Guilt. Guilt. Guilt.

My other guilt source is far more simple, yet somehow just as terrifying to me. It's the everyday, I-know-he-should-be-eating-veggies-for-snacks-but-dang-he-really-likes-these-cookies type of Mom guilt. The nagging feeling in my brain when we let him play Nintendo for an hour, because he so loves that Mario game. That nagging voice tells me that things have changed, and even though we grew up eating Little Debbies and playing video games, that now you just can't be that relaxed. It's not enough now, even though we grew up healthy and happy and so close to our parents that to this day, people are amazed by our bond. That voice nags me if I decide to read a magazine, or a blog, or do anything for myself when my kids are awake.

Why can't it be okay that I let Charlie do his own thing for a while? I can't let go of the idea that if he is awake, and I am not playing with him, reading to him, or doing something, anything, to make him happy, that I am being selfish. This part, I believe, is somehow related to that first source of guilt. And, I am almost embarrassed to admit, it's already starting with MJ. The other day I looked down at her, content in her bouncy seat, and was struck by this feeling that she must be so bored, and that surely there is something I can do to help entertain her. Of course, I coo and talk to her all the time, but the voice tells me it's not good enough. Perhaps she should be learning her ABC's by now. Ridiculous.

Then we have discipline. Anyone who knows CF personally, knows that he can be quite independent. Well, okay, stubborn. He doesn't always react when we tell him to do, or not to do something. It's hard to be in that situation, especially around other parents, and feel like everyone is watching to see what strategy-of-the-month from Parents magazine you're gonna try. And if it will work. And how composed you are while you perform said strategy. And it sucks to wonder if you are doing it right, or if you are royally effing up your children. I know in my head (somewhere amidst all the dust) that people probably understand, and most likely feel the same from time to time. But at what point do I get to let go of worrying and just do what I feel is right?

With all the times I have berated people (okay, not to their faces) for implying that Charlie and Mallory will be different to me in some way, why should I not be able to handle letting Charlie down? Why can't I realize that it's normal for a pissed off two year old to throw his head back and declare that he 'no longer loves youuuuuuuuu'? Is it adoption? Is it just me and my GUILT? Maybe I will feel the same way when Mallory is older, and that will help answer that question. But I cannot let it go that far. I can't be easier on him, because in my mind, that is just as bad as being harder on him. Either way, I have got to be vigilant in keeping things equal. There is no problem with the love....So much love pours out of me for both of them that I know there will never be any indiscretion there. It's the other parenting stuff, the hard stuff, that worries me.

I just want to learn to be tougher without being a meanie-head. I don't want to worry like this every time he gets in trouble. I don't want to look at the faces of the other parents I am around and try to read judgement in their expressions. I want to be a confident mother, a parent who knows what works for her family and what doesn't. I don't want to go into a rambling rationalization, to myself or to anyone, about what I choose to let my kids eat, watch, play, or listen to.

While I am letting it all out, here...here are some things I know will either do one of two things: confirm the Guilt's accusations that I am indeed, a rotten mother OR bring me to the realization that I am not alone in this, shall we say, relaxed parenting style.

Charlie loves Indiana Jones. He loves Star Wars. Yeah, some parts are scary-ish, and some parents would never, ever let their kids watch those movies. And yes, he sometimes watches more than one (and by one I mean two) hours of television per day. I am every child psychologist's nightmare. I do remember my sister and I happily splitting our time...some days we rode our bikes, and some days we watched movies all day. Ah, the old days. I am sure my parents weren't in the living room beating themselves up about it. I want that, too.

Sometimes I make him Spagettios for dinner.
Sometimes I let him drink Coca-Cola. (caffeine free. I may be a sucky mom, but I'm no fool).
Sometimes we hook up the old school Nintendo and watch in awe as he beats level after level.
Sometimes I use the TV as a babysitter.
Sometimes I skip his bath if we haven't gone anywhere.
Sometimes I just shove Mallory's bottles in the dishwasher.
Sometimes I heat them up in the microwave.
Usually, when we go shopping, I buy Charlie a prize.
Sometimes at night, I am too tired to read to him.
We eat McDonald's.


There is also another, quieter voice that I hear as I reread that list.
It sounds something like this:

"Okay, that stuff is not that bad. What about all the stuff you do right?"

Like keeping them fed, and happy and clean (mostly).
Like making sure that Charlie experiences as much as possible.
Like not making a hair appointment so we can go to the fair instead.
Like finally getting into a routine during the week.
Like letting Charlie stir when you do decide to cook.
Like washing clothes 7 days a week.
Like teaching Charlie all the words to 'Three Little Birds'.
Like getting a minivan!

I have been wanting to write about this for some time, but have been afraid to. I am not looking for pity, or compliments, just maybe...reassurance. That it's not just me living with this big, ugly shadow following me around all the time. I'm looking, mostly, for words of wisdom from so many moms and dads out there that I look up to and admire. I am looking for the way, maybe not to shed the Guilt completely, but to, once in a while, be able to look it in the face and say
"You know what? Screw you."

18 comments:

rebekah said...

Heather-there's so much I'd love to say but I'll just do this. My confessions:
1. Quinn is about to have ice cream just before dinner. He and I just polished off a whole bag of Pirate's Booty.
2. Right now Matthew is in his crib awake from his nap and I am doing this instead. We also stay in bed in the morning awhile after he's woken.
3. I used to let Quinn watch the Simpsons. But he was hitting too much.
4. Both kids get baths when they smell like puppies.
5. I rarely brush Quinn's teeth, and I know he's too old for that. He also goes to school with messy hair.
6. Sometimes I say no to invitations for Quinn to do something just cause I don't want to deal with it.
7. Quinn watched a good amount of tv this summer.
8. Cereal and/or toast are appropriate for dinner.

I'm sure I have more but refuse to allow myself to acknowledge them.

Karen said...

Heather
You're not alone! Daddy's out of town and we've had pizza twice since he left, and tonight there will be cereal for dinner. And the kids will do just fine!

Anonymous said...

Alright, I'm usually a lurker, but I feel a need to comment today. Although I don't have children of my own, I work in a child care center if that counts for anything. I can totally understand the way you're feeling, but please realize that these things you're feeling guilt about are the same things that 90% of parents do too. I've been reading your blog long enough to see what a GREAT job you're doing with your children. They are healthy, happy, and loved... which is (unfortunately) so much more than many children in the world. So they watch a little TV and eat some cookies... so did we, and we turned out ok. Keep your chin up!
-Becca Andrews

Melissa Jackson said...

When i was reading this all i could think is me too! and again, me too.... When i fist had Austin i tried to be the best mom Parents magazine described, i tried to be that mom every one would say, "wow how does she do it?" I even tried to be that mom after the twins were born then i realised who cares how every one else runs their family and how they raise their kids, i know i am doing my best and that is all i can do. At the end of the day you have to do what is right for you and your family. As long as you love them that is all that truly matters. You can't feel gulity for the way you maintain your family, your kids grow up to fast to worrie just enjoy them and know we all do the things the things you feel bad about you are just one of the few people who have the guts to admit it. Everything you described you feel guilt about i was thinking i do that to. So if this makes you feel better here is my list of things the magazines would disagree with that i did today alone...

1- I let Aiden and Maddox fuss in their cribs for about 30 extra min. this morning while i got a few more min. of sleep.

2- I let Austin watch TV in my bed for an hour while i got that extra hour of sleep.

3- I put the twins in their high chair and Austin at his pic-nic table with Vanilla wafers while i cooked breakfast, then needless to say no one wanted breakfast b/c they were to full of cookies, while i used the TV for my baby sitter.

4- I bribed Austin with candy to behave while he got a hair cut, then let him get another spiderman toy at the grocrie store even though he did not really do good getting his hair cut, but i need to bribe him again to do good at the grocrie store.

5- Friday i begged Austin to stay home from school just because i did not feel like getting all three boys out the door and we were running late. ( i really wanted to go to school so i had to end up taking him any ways)

ok, i could go on and on but you get the point, we all do it, we do it every day things we are not proud of as a mom but at the end of the day who cares, the kids were loved, fed,safe, bathed most days and they were for the most part happy so we did our job! I think you are a great mom and do sweat the small stuff life is too fast and our kids grow up to fast.

Love ya! ~ Melissa

April & Doug said...

WOW! Really if all that makes you a "Bad Mom" then well I'm in A LOT of trouble.... And since you've opened up a confessional... (and I LOVE Rebekah's list.. b/c they are very similar to my own!)

1. I agree - - - cereal/ toast is appropriate for ANY MEAL!
2. My children don't always gets baths every day (like I would prefer.. okay I'm lying.. I'd rather them be bathed EVERY day!) and sometimes.. it's not even every OTHER DAY (sort of like the puppy comment!)
2. Grant eats spaghettios, chicken & rice, pretzels, fritos or just whatever he wants!
3. Doug has given him Oreos for breakfast on more than one occasion.
4. Sometimes (when I am in a super hurry!) I prop Gabe up to drink his bottle (horrible mom!) unless...
5. When Peyton is here every other weekend - she's my back-up. She mainly feeds Gabe.. well okay she feeds him the majority of the weekend (not only am I a horrible mother I suck as a step-mom as well!)
6. Grant falls asleep in his highchair at least 3 times in a week...
7. Laundry - ha! If we all have something to wear.. it's a miracle at this house!
8. Brushing Grant's teeth seems ridiculous since...
9. I still allow Grant to carry his cup around all day long.
10. There have been times I have allowed Grant to go to bed with his bottle/cup (it's rarely happened... but there have been days!)
11. When my mom gets the kids so I can clean up the house - - I really just sleep the entire time they are gone!
12. If Charlie watches two hours of tv a day.. I'll just say you are doing waaaaaaaaaaay better than me in that department.
13. I am so frustrated with the issue of potty training... I'm to the point as long as he's there by the time he starts KINDERGARTEN- I'll be okay!

and I refuse to admit to anything more!

Melissa Jackson said...

i re read my comment and wow i have some type o's i think you can figure out what i was trying to say but it is kinda tough to type with two 1 year olds at your feet and a 3 year old acting like Spiderman. But the main thing i wanted to clear up is the last line says "do sweat the small stuff" i ment to type DON"T sweat the small stuff. Oh well there again no one is perfect!

stephanie said...

I think I love you.

stephanie
http://mubarek.wordpress.com/

Jess Addison said...

There is a special place in all of us for guilt. I'm not sure any of us can get rid of it, but I try to replace it with confidence. You are a great mother. I'm sure I've done dumb things with Chase on several occasions, but I know that every day I do the very best I can for him. That's all we can do. You can't compare yourself to people in your Parenting magazines, or think that everyone around you is judging your choices. Every mother has put their child in front of the tv with a happy meal and walked away. (Well, every mother I know!) Just do what is right for your family and don't worry about what other people think because you rock! xoxo

Anonymous said...

I don't see any kind of guilt for future imagination thinking as if... would happen. You are a terrific mother/parents (with your husband) paying sacrifices with love for love. You are planting your motherhood love in your son’s brain that he would always love, appreciate and do anything for you. He is your son and will be always. His mother's job in Ethiopia is done and finished. He is a handsome boy born to be your son not anybody else. Giving birth is not an automatic right to be a parent but raising a child.

He may or may not ask about his birth mother for curiosity. But you will be always the unconditional mother to him.

When he will find more about Ethiopians that they don't care about the human skin colour and unlike the rest of Africa they never been treated badly because of their skin colour, he wouldn't care who his birth mother was. This kind of feeling will be the same with other adoptive children from Ethiopia, too.

Treating them first as Americans and teaching them about the Ethiopian history is very important for them to know themselves from where they came from.

Africa is a big and divert continent. All the people living there are not looking like the same and have not the same past and present situation. Above all Ethiopia is unique and is the mother of Egypt or Egypt is the daughter of Ethiopia as history says. When the time comes and the conditions are there, tell him about the good side of Ethiopia that would help him to grow well and achieve the best. Treating him as an African can influence his thinking about the negative side of colonization and slavery despite Ethiopia was not part of it.

Be proud the way you are mothering your children. You are wonderful. But the Guilt issue is just a disrupt thinking doesn’t feat with your relationship with your son. You know, you love him. He also knows he love you. You were/are the only one for him when he needed a mother travelled long journey and paid emotional, physical and material sacrifices to rescue him. His birth mother left him thinking her job was done and finished. The next job, which is the very important one to rise him is yours and you are doing it very nicely.

I’m just your blog reader.

The O'Prys said...

Wow I'm glad I'm not the only one with Mommy guilt. Thanks for this post it has given me assurance that I'm not the only one who suffers. I have not known you long, but what I do know is that you are a great mom! Coke and spaghetti o's are fun. I say that as Hunter just had cereal for dinner last night. How do you get toddlers to eat vegetables? I have the hardest time.

Anonymous said...

Wait til you have the guilt of which school to go to (private, homeschool, public) or which activities to involve him in because of course he needs to do those things, right? It never stops. Right now, 3 or my 4 are watching Curious George, eating goldfish. When Randy was in Ethiopia picking up Turner, I took the other 3 out to eat at least once a day. Only 2 of my 4 will eat what I make for dinner. The others eat PBJ or grilled cheese or pancakes. (NO veggies at all) We make cookies or cupcakes almost every week and eat them all AND lick the bowl.

You're doing great! Don't fret. It's part of being a mom, GUILT. You fret because you think you've slighted one over the other (even when you know, one needed you more that day than the others did) You fret because you chose to fold laundry over playing tea party for the 10th time that day. You fret because your house is a mess. You just FRET. It's part of the territory. Not sure it ever stops.

Jan

Mrs. Baker said...

If this was a game of never have I ever...I would have just drank a LOT of beer.

Guilty of almost all of the offenses.

I ate twinkys and drove to school with my mom who smoked with the windows up.

We cant be all organic, smiles, and rainbows all the time.

Sometimes we are just perfectly imperfect...CHEERS!

cathy said...

oh honey, i so love your honesty! you are awesome.

Catherine said...

I agree with Jessica. Don't worry so much about it and take one day at time, doing what you think is best for both Mallory and Charlie.

I think that is really all we can do as Moms.

Sandra said...

I don't think the guilt ever stops!!! I feel guilty about everything: GOING BACK TO WORK, not spenging enough time with my 2 older children or my husband, not eating right, giving in to junk food for the kids, not doing more outings, tv and video game time,things I'm doing for Aiden that I haven't done for my other 2children, I use my older 2 as babysitters when needed, etc. I could go on, but I checked your blog during my only free time-early morning! Looking at the comments we're not alone;)!!!! Anyway, I've seen you interact with CF and you seem to be doing fine! It will work out! Yesterday, I saw something on GMA or Today on nature vs. nurture. Nature seems to have the advantage and we can only guide them. Maybe that will give us all a little hope;)

Kari said...

Heather, I love your honestly and I KNOW that you are a good mom!

Clearly you can see you are not alone and definately in good company. We all have those days where we surely aren't going to win mom of the year! Oh well!! Please don't beat yourself up over the things that we all do. If CF is only watching 2 hrs of TV, you have got most kiddos beat. At least you CARE about what he is doing, there are a lot of people who don't.

I know what you mean about some of the guilt following you around in relation to the adoption piece of it. I don't know what to tell you there as I have still not reconciled all of it either. Let's just say we all may be a work in progress for a while!

Can't wait to get to see you in December. And, I can't wait to hear you freak out about how cold it is up here!!!

Love you guys and miss you tons!
Oh, and sorry to hear about the elbow incident, but I laughed my butt off reading your post. It looked like you had a totally radical time dude! :)

Anonymous said...

hey heather

i went through the same thing when i used to keep kids. I was there second mom I was with them as much as their mom was. You should not have guilt all of us parents do the same things you are doing. My kids do not get a bath everyday, they et just bout anything they want, they do their own thing even if it is watch tv al da. This week they where out of school and we watched tv. baked, and did crafts everyday. Just remember to keep not show favortism which i am sure you don't. Always remeber they are just kids and they are going to make mistakes and a spanking every now and then dose not hurt but only give it to them if they need it. It is not guilt it is something eery mother and/or father goes through with kids. Keep you head up and remeber if you need anything 90% of the time I am across the road andover the hill....LOL

Sam

Tish said...

thanks for this post. just what i needed to hear today.