Withholding vs. Advancing

I just finished deconstructing “The Little Engine that Could.” It had me thinking about the things we tell our children and the things we don’t. The things we show them and the things we don’t. For years, my role as a parent has been a balancing act of secreting certain information and thrusting out nuggets of truth. For a long time I felt like the parenting version of 007. Sneaking into the pantry to devour a cookie that children did not know existed, hiding tears in a bathroom and watching them play on the playground, while contemplating whether I was really marriage material.

If my children only knew…

In my life, there are two categories that will forever remain distinct. Before being hospitalized for mental illness and after being hospitalized.

Before vs. After

If I were to summarize this distinction into something other than time demarcations, then I would describe the difference like this.

Withholding vs. Advancing

Before, when I withheld, I thought that I was too much for the world. I had too much feeling, too much anxiety, too much enthusiasm, too much giftedness. During all of this, I also felt that I was not enough. I did not have enough discipline, organization, self-compassion, resilience. What a paradox! No wonder I wanted to end things.

Now, I think there is probably no such thing as too much or not enough. Everything is simply a matter of perspective. Am I too much for people with religious, conservative views? Maybe, but my mother and sister don’t think so. Am I not enough for non-religious, liberals? Maybe, but my best friend doesn’t seem to think so.

I’ve also come to realize that, for me, the idea of being too much comes from outside of me. The idea of being not enough comes from within me. All of the things I know that I am will be judged by the world. And all of the things that I doubt that I am, will be judged by me. Before, I tried to resolve the problem by hiding. After, I am trying to resolve the problem by recognizing that the ways I am not enough – are the things I need. I need more routine and self-discipline in my life. I need more organization in my life. I need more self-care in my life. It’s not that I am not enough. It’s that I don’t HAVE enough of certain things. Now, after, I try to give myself those things.

I see all of this play out in my parenting as well. Before, I hid things from my children – to protect them, to avoid them, to be perfect in front of them. After, I reveal things to my children so that I can advance their knowledge.

I say, “Children, there are cookies in the pantry. I want to eat one, but I am not going to because I know that it isn’t healthy. I don’t want to set a bad example for you.”

Sometimes, I say instead, “Children, there are cookies in the pantry. I want to eat one, even thought its bad for me. Do you want to eat one too or do you want to make a healthy decision right now? You can decide what is right for you.” I’ll never forget the first time I did this. One of them actually said ‘no’ to cookies! Who knew?

Now, I cry in front of them. Sometimes I tell them why and sometimes I say that I don’t want to talk about it. But they know that it is okay to cry – to cry in front of people and talk about it, as well as not talk about it too. No one has to cry alone, not even moms.

I also tell them when I doubt myself. I tell them when I’m not sure I’m being a good parent, but that this is the best I know to do right now. I tell them if I’m worried I’m not a very good wife, but that daddy says I am and so I will take him at his word. I tell them when I’m taking risks and feel fearful. I tell them when I’m playing it safe too.

In this way, I do not withhold from them. I only advance their understanding of the world.

And in this way, I do not withhold life from myself, but rather advance into new territories.

Before vs. After




Ten Things about Me

  1. I am an idea geyser. For real, give me a topic and I will spout of ideas for hours. One day, I was driving down the road with my husband and we passed an automotive repair shop. I said, “I wish more women were mechanics.” Then, I proceeded to outline a future non-profit that would teach women in need various trades – electricians, plumbers, mechanics, etc. It would be called Maintenance Mavens. Seriously, these ideas are everyday occurrences for me.
  2. Make love, not war. I totally have opinions. Everybody has opinions. I just don’t really think they are worth fighting about. In fact, I’ll concede my opinion simply to make peace. Sometimes people think this makes me wishy-washy, but truly NOTHING is so important that it should destroy our friendship.
  3. I am a metaphorical gypsy. I say metaphorical simply because I’m not much of a traveler. I mean, I’d LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to travel. I just don’t have money to travel. Anyway, metaphorically, I’m a gypsy. I move from one idea, one opportunity, one adventure, one skill to the next. I never stick with anything that long, which is probably why I’m good at quite a few things and excellent at….
  4. It’s immaterial. Long ago, long ago in a galaxy far away….in high school, I wanted to be rich and famous. Then, somewhere between graduation and getting married, I ceased caring. My house is not pretty and I don’t have a lot of things. Sure, I’d like nice things, but its not worth 80 hour work weeks for me or my husband. I’d take poor over powerful.
  5. I have lost dreams. I sang. At recess, I sang. No foursquare for me…I’d just walk around singing. That was my dream. I’m not really sure if I gave up on it or if I couldn’t hack it or if I stopped wanting it. I just know that it feels lost, as in missing. I miss it – the singing. I was even pretty damn good at it.
  6. I am absent-minded. For real, on the Fourth of July, I left my phone on top of the car. My husband drove to work the next morning with it there. It fell off about two miles from my house. My ten-year-old used Find My Phone and we went and discovered it in the middle of the road, completely in tact. Perhaps this would make me insanely lucky….if only my other absent-minded stories ended this way. *sniff, sniff* We will save those bad boys for another day…
  7. My inner dialogue isn’t kind. My therapist blames my parents. I blame my perfectionism. Either way, my natural inclination if anything (and I mean anything) goes wrong is that I’ve fucked up. It’s me, not you. I’m the mess. Sad, but true. I wish I could change it, but did you know that you can’t? Seriously, psychologists disproved the whole “you can change your thoughts” idea years ago. Research has proven that our thought patterns are largely formed by the age of eight. The new trend in therapy and psychology is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (vs. cognitive behavioral therapy). The idea is that we can’t change our thoughts, but we can change how we respond to them.
  8. I am open-hearted. I really like people and I want them to succeed and be happy. I don’t assume that the rest of the world is out to get me. So yeah, I’ll let a total stranger borrow my phone and then, I will probably be screwed when they steal it. Oh well, it’s only material.
  9. Authenticity is paramount. Seriously, being forced to do anything = death. Probably, this is the reason I’m always pursuing some sort of entrepreneurial endeavor.  I can’t sell things to people, because I’d be like “This item is pretty good, but I wouldn’t buy it so you probably shouldn’t either.” I also can’t pretend to like a bad idea or be in a good mood.
  10. I heart Giraffes. Awhile ago, I discovered that Giraffes eat Acacia trees. Not really that significant, except that Acacia trees have thorns! Would you eat thorns? Me either. This completely fascinates me and so now I’m obsessed with Giraffes. I mean, who can turn thorns (pain!) into energy? Giraffes, that’s who!!!