Separation is Hard

I like to think of myself as a pretty chill parent. I let my kids lead for the most part. We still set boundaries with our children, as you should in any relationship, but I don't have a lot of actual "rules", more like rituals. Anyway, because of the whole one less car issue, I made the executive decision to have Macy ride the bus to school for the rest of the year. She's changing school next year (for exciting reasons I'm sure I'll talk about some other time!) and we are required to drive her there. So this is clearly a 5ish week change. But my darling daughter is me to a tee. She resists change. When I mentioned to her that it was a real possibility, she was upset. We were walking home from school and she essentially raced away and walked home without me. I figured she needed time to process her feelings and wasn't surprised. We had a bus incident (I'm sure it'll come up here eventually) when she was in kindergarten that I had in the back of my mind to revisit so she doesn't have issues with independence in this area and karma intervened. Here we are, taking the bus. 
So we're confronting some past trauma for both of us. We're also making an unexpected change and not really by choice. We're cutting into the precious Macy/Mommy time we have each morning and both of us share Quality Time as our primary love language. And yet, once Daddy explained through the emotional haze that this was a necessary step for all of us (it's really the safest, best choice for the family with one vehicle right now) and that sometimes being in a family means doing things that we don't want to do. Personal sacrifice is part of community and that's an important lesson (one I'm still really wrestling with on the church level) to learn. 
Waiting patiently for me to return after a potty break.
20 minutes, people!
Once I realized that on top of feeling like there's too much change for her (new school next year and getting glasses) that Macy's primary concern was not having as much time with me, I determined that I would get up earlier and make her lunch the night before. Of course, we were ready way early and rather than read together, which I was fully expecting, Macy was ready to skip to the curb and wait for the bus for TWENTY minutes. That kid. This, she also gets from me. Once the change is determined, you face it with gusto. We chatted with the neighbor boys and got the skinny on where to sit (and apparently where NOT to sit. Bus politics have not changed, my friends) and I introduced her to the bus driver. 
Lots of roadside hugs
I came home feeling sad and relieved. This time is different. When you revisit something that was scary, the fears start talking and shame voices gain traction. Sadness or grief pay a visit. If you don't know the word for this type of experience, it's called "triggering." I'm mostly nostalgic that my little girl is growing up and I'm proud of myself for making a hard decision that's still the right one for the whole family. Sometimes my perfectionist brain thinks that what is best for the whole family might harm the individual (this is a theme for me from the trauma of our post-partum depression experience). And sometimes, that's true. But in this case, I believe this is also what's best for Macy. If we can still get her need for quality time met, she will gain confidence and independence through this that will help prepare her to change schools in the fall. I guess all of that is to say, it's okay that "normal" adjustments are hard for you. I know so many people who don't bat an eye at this type of change and probably think I'm silly for feeling all the feels. But I do. Perhaps because I have so many feelings, it has made me the right mom for the daughter who is just the same. 

Is My Child Ok and Other Such Fears

I feel like I have a list of things that I need to process. They relate to many areas of my life and they all drain me emotionally as my life and/or my deliberate avoidance hits the snooze button on sitting in these feelings. One of the things on my proverbial list of things that require a journal entry and possibly some tears is my continual evolution as a mother. In particular, we're at the tail end of a long process of developmental screening for my 2 year old, Penny. As a caretaker, particularly because I've had the strange fortune of essentially raising my two daughters one at a time (Macy started kindergarten 3 weeks after Penny was born, so I'm getting 5 years of one-on-one time of life preparation with each of them before they launch into full-time school), I am good at adapting to my children. This means that I can accommodate their preferences and personalities and mold our daily patterns around what suits them best and for the most part, I'm happy if they're happy. (This is also what makes me a fabulous world traveler, if we're bragging here). My daughters are really different so it was interesting for me to approach parenting Penny in a new way. It's also been 5 years and she's a second kid, so I've changed a ton as a person as well as a mother.
Penny is a really unique kid. She can be so stinking charming. And she can be incredibly intolerant of anything she does not consent to or like. She wasn't an early talker and was frustrated often by that as well as by life in general for awhile there. Things have opened up for her as she's gotten more comfortable socially and better able communicate with words (she was always communicating but the screams didn't go over as well as her words do now:) That being said, I know how to be a buffer for her in stressful social situations, when she's tired or hungry and when her toddler-esque language requires translating. Macy did not require such a buffer (as much) and was more independent socially. It's amazing what you get used to as a parent as you adjust to your child and whatever life requires of you to be what they need. Just ask a post-partum mother who's up nursing every 2 hours for months on end. It sucks. But you can get used to it. It's wild, really, what becomes normal. And then the phase ends and you back and think "how the hell did I do that?" You just did.
As was out in the world with my charming grouch, I began to see which aspects of Penny's development were "normal" and which aspects might be more atypical. I'm perfectly fine to be raising a non-conformist and don't feel the need to use her behavior to make me look good. Sure, sometimes it's emotionally tiring to deal with moments where your child is behaving in a way that doesn't give you positive attention from strangers, but I don't let that dictate my parenting. I just let that give me permission to increase my self-care on those days (and by "self-care" I mean "chocolate intake"). And so I began the process of developmental screenings. Because ultimately, the mommy buffer must stand down at some point and in the meantime, I'd like professional guidance on how to buffer best. And boy, it's a lot of screening! They check fine motor, gross motor, adaptive, speech, social/emotional and sensory skills. This required me to sit on my couch and watch strangers test my child. So many moments I wanted to jump in and explain, rephrase, or just stop the testing. It is so incredibly vulnerable to have your child's abilities be ascertained and placed on a bell curve. How reductionistic to see this magical person be graphed based on the average of her peers! I felt like I was being tested, that if she couldn't answer a question it was because I hadn't asked it, that her potential to be typical rested in my ability to draw her potential out. (This is a really fun experience for a caretaking perfectionist, by the way. I highly recommend cancelling your next vacation and calling up the early intervention people. You won't be sorry!) And while I knew these things weren't true, that she would be her no matter what hoops I jump though, it was very emotional for me to sit back and allow her to be assessed so thoroughly and by such capable professionals. You can't pull one over on these people! 
And as you can imagine, having the sit down after all the tallying has been done and being presented with reams of information about your child is difficult. How can anyone tell me anything about my child that I don't already know? Who are you to explain my child to me? (The professionals through this process have been incredibly gracious and kind. These are just the big feelings the process unearthed.) And what do they have to tell me? What is possible and maybe impossible for my child's future based on the information within these reams of paper? If I burn them up, is the information still true? I'm not going to get into the details of Penny's results because this blog is about me (also why I haven't written much about my husband's job loss and season of part-time employment) but it all came down to this moment. At the end of her initial assessment, the two professionals asked me, "Ultimately, what are your goals through this process? What do you want to see for Penny?" And I said, "You know what? There are behaviors about living with Penny that have been difficult to parent. There are things we'd like to work on. But really, what I want for my child is to reach her full potential as a person, whatever that is. I believe that she will show me that. And I just want the tools to help her be that person. I want to know if my expectations of her are fair. I want to know when and how to accommodate her and I want to know when and how far to push her. Because the world will not accommodate her once she's on her own. I want to build her up and then I want to send her out as prepared for whatever lies ahead as best as I possibly can. And she will take that and do with it what she will. I want to know how to support her and to be whatever she needs however she needs it." And if that isn't motherhood, I don't know what is. 

Motherhood is Full of Something...

Motherhood is full of a lot of things. It's heavy. It's wonderful. It's exhilarating. It's full of shit both literally every day (if not, kindly call your pediatrician) and figuratively on a bad day. Here are a few things I've learned as a mother. Kind of like a public service announcement, if you will. 
1. There is nothing more socially awkward than hanging out with a family who parents differently than you do. Whew. Kids constantly interrupt conversation between mothers enough without constant play intervention from us. But not enough intervention is awful too. Nothing is worse than when another kid makes your child cry and their parent does absolutely nothing about it. Motherhood does require some homogeny to survive whether we want to admit it or not. 
2. Being a mother is really hard and really easy. It's hard because everyone has an opinion and seems to relish dumping it on mothers all around them. Many of those opinions are not shared by the mother, but the shame is still palpable and makes us feel defensive. To me, unless a child is in immediate danger or the mother is actually asking for advice, keep your freaking mouth shut or offer grace and understanding. It's easy because being with your kids and talking with them, living life with them, sharing with them (unless it's expensive chocolate) is really natural and lovely most of the time. And when it's not, it's just because you need a break.
3. Kids are suprisingly human. Meaning, they aren't as moldable as we were led to believe. Yes, we can shape their environment, their exposure to ideology, the imposed consequences to certain behaviors. But that's honestly about it. Their personality, their instincts, their decisions are their own and they start in the womb, dude. It's pretty bad ass, actually. Children cannot be controlled (unless they are being abused) and I find that fascinating, wonderful and at times, infuriating. It takes the pressure off having to make them be anything. They will be whoever they will be. We control ourselves, that's it. I have found that accepting this reality and empowering them to become whoever they are supposed to be is my ultimate goal as a mother.
4. I don't really worry about the future. I know. It's weird. But whenever I find myself spiraling in fear or needing to be in control of things I cannot control, it's because I'm borrowing trouble. "If I let them do this now, how much worse will everything be then?" Eh, let's deal with that then. So, I'm focusing on mothering 7 year old Macy and 1 year old Penny. And frankly, dealing with my own shit.
5. Speaking of, motherhood does not put all your own shit on the back burner. It informs your parenting because you're a person and people have "stuff." This is not because of some failure on our parts. It's on purpose. It's part of releasing control. We can't control them and deal with all our own stuff. Trying to control your children can be a great distraction from addressing our own pain, baggage and lack of direction as adults. Don't let it. It breeds resentment, a lack of confidence on their part and ultimately, doesn't work.
6. Plants seeds. One of the things we do get to shape is their initial exposure to how the world works. Of course, life happens to children too and eventually, they will sift through all the values we teach them and dump some and cherish others. But until that happens, teach your children the mindset you wish to see more in the world. Macy and I talk regularly about the value of all people, tolerance in regard to gender and orientation spectrum, the beauty of all skin colors, ownership of her body, sexuality, taking care of the planet, feeding the poor, honesty, and giving yourself grace. These are things that matter deeply to me. If you want your child to live in a more _________ (insert value here) world, teach them to be that person. I love being able to change the world by teaching my children these values.
7. It's okay. It's okay to not know what to do. It's okay to screw up. It's okay to feel overwhelmed, angry, exhausted. No one should have to raise a child alone. It's not fair to the parent or the child. Lean on your partner if you have one. Call your parents and your in-laws. Talk to other parents. Use a babysitter. Parents are better when we take ownership of our own humanity and accept that we are learning as we go and we have real needs. A healthy household acknowledges that it's not the parent or the child that needs to be taken care of. It's a balance. Parents take care of themselves and their children. It's not a fight to see who wins.
That's all for now. I guess the best thing I can say we give our children is us. Be yourself. It's enough.