Weaning Day

It dawned on me on Monday that Penny was beginning to wean. Her several weeks-long unpredictable nursing patterns finally translated into the truth (I'm slow on the uptake. I literally just bought my first fedora. I hear they're not cool anymore): Penny is ready to stop nursing. There are so many good things about this. 1- She's initiating it, so as a caretaker there's no possibility for guilt on my end. Having my child increasing in independence over time is one of my main goals as a parent - developmentally-appropriate independence with support available as needed. Check. 
2- Tim and I can finally put to rest any illusion that my presence is critical to making life with Penny work. With all our post-partum baggage, this is really healthy for me. My leash, at least physically, is being severed. 3- We can travel! We will celebrate 10 years of marriage in January and we're really hoping to take a trip to commemorate that huge occasion next year. 4- I can go back to underwire! (Okay, so maybe these points are not all of equal value).
Even though we're "ready", it is still a major transition in our relationship, probably the biggest one since birth. The change is physical, emotional, logistical. I liken it to a breakup where you're trying to end the romantic relationship while still attempting to remain friends. 
Your connection is changing and it's sad, awkward and liberating all at the same time. In some ways, you cling harder because they're the person you're used to turning to when things get tough, even though the transition is within your relationship. 
As with most transitions for my kids, I'm thrilled for them while simultaneously sad/nostalgic for myself. I've always been sentimental and processing these things when they happen helps me to minimize the fallout in other areas of my life (let's not even discuss the car I backed into today in the Office Max parking lot. Seriously, who even buys office supplies in retail stores anymore?!?!)
So, we spend a fantastic day on Tuesday celebrating Penny's "weaning day." It felt like the 1 year old version of a bat mitzvah with a little first day of your daughter's period mixed in for good measure. I took her somewhere she'd never been (Portland Children's Museum) and watched her utter delight as she everything freely (there is no greater gift to an active toddler). I got to gaze at her in admiration while she raced around curiously. Occasionally she'd stop and search for me, making eye contact. She may not need to nurse anymore, but she's still checking back to make sure mama's only an arm's length away.
I'm so proud of her persistence, her amazing ability to connect and also remain her own entity. She's fierce. Already her own advocate and bent on discovery, Penny moves as quickly as her little legs can carry her (and the higher they can climb up, the better). Not one to give up easily, my little Pen takes risks. She's such a gift! I'm so grateful to be her liason into the world. At one point, she was literally connected to me and now I get to be the one to show her around. 

Look out, world. Here she comes!

On the Cusp of Something

I'm in that weird vortex between two seasons of life. We all are. I've got one foot in fall and one foot in summer. Macy starts 1st grade on Wednesday. In some ways, this is awesome! I love the fall and frankly, I'm totally over sweating. I want to break out the skinnys and the boots. I want to have pumpkins on my porch and my child in school all day. I love her, but she is my mirror. And sometimes it's hard to look at my precious firstborn and not see myself in all my glory. I see her pleasing. I see her perfectionism. I see her enthusiasm. I see her insatiable need for love and attention. I see her wanting more and more from her loved ones. I hear her voice talking on and on. I see her passion, her anger, her smile, her fear. Sometimes it's overwhelming. Sometimes for my own sanity, I want to set her on a shelf for awhile. It's terrible, but it's honest and there's no way I'm the only parent who feels that way. I'm just that person who always outs themselves in brutal honesty.
I'm ready to slow down. I'm ready to take more time and energy for myself. I'm ready for some quiet. But the perfectionist in me also feels let down. Summer is over. All the things I wanted to do this summer that I didn't get to do are scrolling through my mind like a parade of shame. All the hours I let my kid watch TV while I hid in my room, I remember. I really tried to cut myself some slack this summer, but I still wish I was capable of more, that I could just go on forever. There's a grace in me being unable to do and be everything I want to be (and everything I feel pressure to be). Because if I could go on forever, I would. I would not eat, sleep, rest. I wouldn't. And that is one of the beautiful things about being human. I don't have a choice. Thank God for that.
As a caretaker, I often pull up short when my own needs present themselves. I don't realize I need to eat until I'm starving. I tuck self-care in the nooks and crannies of taking care of everyone else. This is common for women in this "season of life" when you have small children. But when I have noticeable emotional needs, it surprises me. Gah!
When I was in college, my therapist mentioned to me that small transitions require extra self-care for me. (Yes, I'm in therapy now and I was in therapy then. Best time/money spent ever). I need to give myself a little extra grace when the seasons change, when my schedule changes, when my friends leave and when new ones come. The changes don't have to be "bad". In fact, they are often the changes that I anticipate that throw me the most.
This seemingly small transition from one season to another is greatly exacerbated by Labor Day. I know, weird. It's such a non-holiday. But in our family, it has served as a benchmark of pain the last few years. 3 years ago, it was on Labor Day that we walked away (not by choice) from ministry forever. It was on Labor Day weekend last year that I took my husband to the ER and had him admitted for pervasive suicidal thoughts, with 7 week old Penny in tow. He then went to a respite facility for 2 nights, finally with dear friends for 3 weeks in town. In those weeks, I was raising our newborn alone (with MASSIVE support from friends and family), caring for a traumatized 5 year old starting kindergarten, and myself in a frightening post-partum experience. It was, by far, the worst thing I've ever endured. I learned I was capable and that I need help. I learned that marriage is a choice and depression is not. 
Well, Tim had a minor surgery on Thursday that landed me in a medical facility waiting for his medication and discharge for 2 hours with 2 hungry, tired kids. We then ended up in the exact same ER as last year 90 minutes after he was home from the surgery because he was vomiting all his pain pills. I missed Macy's Back to School night because I was juggling my now very mobile daughter while my husband was treated. And since then, I've been racing around caring for the 3 of them on our final days of summer. It's all way too familiar. Tim will have to get a stent removed from the surgery sometime this week, which means there will be another procedure. I've found myself crying in parking lots, crying in my kitchen, crying now at my computer. This is an anniversary I wish to never revisit, a season of life I would like to bury forever. I wouldn't wish the way I witnessed my spouse a year ago on anyone. Sometimes life has a way of sticking it to you, right in your weakest places, making the world that I usually see with naively rosy glasses suddenly feel cold and untrustworthy. 
I know today is not a year ago or 3 years ago, for that matter. As familiar as this feels, it isn't the same. This weekend gives me an opportunity to continue to grieve the pain that was last year and previous years. But it also serves as a reminder that we've come a long way. I choose to sit in that rather than focus on how far we still have to go. But sometimes on nights like this, it feels heavy. I try to be present, to sit in the mess. As you can imagine, perfectionists don't like messes, particularly emotional, familial un-fixable ones! I have a savior complex. Being "in process" myself, not being able to control the processes of my family members, and waiting for simple moments that come more often now but not often enough is not an easy thing for me. 
I'm learning that we don't get to choose our life, only the way we're living it. I choose to live mine honestly. I choose to tell my story when I'm crying in parking lots and when I'm laughing with my kids. It's all part of my story. And I have to believe that ultimately, my story is good, that I'm part of a greater story that matters. Our suffering has value. It's not a punishment. It's a reality, a critical piece of our human experience. In some ways, it is what most greatly unites us. I want to connect with the people around me, with their humanity, with their compassion, with their story. I don't want to live in an ivory tower, rising above everyone else. Of course, I'd love to get out of the trenches for awhile. I don't want to stay here forever. But if being in the trenches makes me a more open, honest, compassionate and generous version of myself, is it worth it? I think it just might be. Luckily, it's not up to me to decide if I stay in the trenches or not. We usually stay in longer than we thought we would or intended to. We're antsy and ready to rise above the ground. I believe I will, stronger than ever, in time. But for now, I'll be down here if you need me, in the trenches.