Sadness Moves On

I’m not overly enthused about writing here today. I’d much prefer to sit at some fiction and dream. I also know that this type of writing – the kind that causes me to delve deeper, it is probably the most important writing I do. I grow from it. Sometimes things which make us grow are not fun or exciting, but rather fairly difficult.

In our house, the theme of late is that sadness moves on. From the toddler to the nearing-forty daddy, everyone in our little house has been dealing with sadness. And so, as we talk to each other, we remind one another that feelings pass and shift and move. The eclipsing pain is not going to stay for every moment of the rest of our lives. It is temporary.

For the toddler, this looks like us singing a Daniel Tiger song (Thank you, Mr. Rodgers!). “It’s okay to feel sad sometimes. Little by little you’ll feel better.” For a little while, he would get upset about anything and just haul off and hit one of us. First, we would move away from him and say no, but this didn’t seem to be working after several months. Instead, I got closer to him and patted his back while using words to describe that he was sad and why he was sad. This started working immediately and we’ve had much less hitting. Of course, then he might cry and cry and cry and cry. So we added the Daniel Tiger song in. I think he’s mostly distracted by us singing and that’s what helps, but I’m hoping someday that he’ll actually get the full message.

Then, there is the 8 year old. She likes to do this sort of the rage-screaming thing when something upsets her. Again, I’ve been using the tactic of drawing close and comforting, acknowledging the feeling. It’s amazing how much closer we are becoming, because of this.

Evan’s been having a hard time at school. He’s having hours long behavioral episodes in which he bites himself, hits his head and attacks others. He does NOT do this at home. So I’ve been coaching his teachers on acknowledging his emotions and comforting him. Frankly, I don’t think they believe me that this works! We are going to schedule a day where I could come in and demonstrate. Although, I’m fairly certain that he’ll be so happy I am there that I may not get the opportunity!

I just want to acknowledge that his teachers are awesome and caring, loving people. As a teacher, it is so hard to watch out for the interests of ALL children in your classroom. Additionally, an authoritative voice is recommended to them in training. **Side note: Authoritarian is the volatile, commanding voice. Authoritative is the respectful, no-nonsense voice.**

Evan doesn’t respond well to either Authoritarian or Authoritative communication. He is at a three year old developmental level. Three year olds need soothing, calming presences in their lives. People often describe the terrible twos and threes. What is really happening in those situations (in my opinion) is that these children aren’t able to communicate the things they think and feel. We must teach them to do this in a caring way by acknowledging their thoughts and feelings verbally. Often this requires removing our agenda and even calming our own emotions. For instance, with Rhese we sing “It’s okay to feel sad….” Whereas, the alternate model would be to say, “You are okay. Go pick up the blocks now.” Or even more horribly…”What is your problem? Go pick up those blocks NOW!”

I can’t tell you how much changing our approach to the feelings of small people has helped!

Alright, back to our family. I was on a tangent…

The oldest is doing a stellar job at the sadness thing. She can identify that she is sad and communicate it. Our new thing is teaching her to communicate what she needs and wants in those moments. She will say, “Mom, I feel sad about not having my old friends nearby.” Then, I will respond, “Okay, what can I do to help?” or “What do you need?” Just this weekend she walked up to me and said, “Mom, I’m sad. Can I have a hug?” Really, she’s magnificent. I’m not sure I’m even able to do that most of the time. (more on that in a bit)

Hubby is dealing with a job that is atrociously stressful and does not compensate for overtime or education and experience. In other words, his job stresses him out and lack of money stress him out. Not to mention, this has been par for the course going on ten years. There is an ongoing drudgery in his day-to-day.

I’ve been wanting to rescue him. Take a job and fix this financial situation. I’ve offered. We’ve even bought and then returned interview clothes for me. Yet, my truth is that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing – writing, teaching the kids how to deal with sadness and dealing with my own sadness. Its about all I can handle. I wouldn’t return to work for anything – except to alleviate my husband’s pain. It is so tempting to give up what I need to help others. I’ve done it in the past so, so, so many times.

The truth? It is his responsibility to create a life he doesn’t want to hide from. Just as it is my responsibility to create a life I don’t want to hide from. We have to do that individually before we can achieve a collective relationship or family we don’t want to hide from.

Life is hard. It’s hard to get what we need. It’s painful to not have what we need. It’s discouraging to not get what we want. Its difficult to communicate to others our sadness and pain. It’s even difficult to acknowledge sadness and pain to ourselves, let alone others.

I came here to write with not much to say. I thought I would describe how, lately, our family lesson is “Sadness moves on.” I didn’t want to write here. I didn’t want to say much about me. What is my sadness? Yes, I want to help my husband, but I can’t. That is sad, but its not the low-grade fever that is consuming me.

My low-grade fever pain is not being able to heal Evan, not being able to fix things for him. Though I will NEVER give up on Evan, sometimes it feels like I’m so close to it. This song speaks to my heart so deeply. I’m so in over my head with this little boy. Sometimes, I just wish God would just give him one sentence to tell us something, anything. My son is lost to me in ways that were never meant to be. I just wish he and I could…I wish we weren’t broken. I truly love him the way he is, just as he loves me the way I am. Yet for us, because of autism, something is missing.

And this life feels hollow.

Candidly,

Ash

Talking to Myself Makes Me Less Crazy

We like to ratchet up the stress here. You know, as soon as one problem is solved then another appears. I’m using a tongue and cheek tone, because I honestly don’t want to connect with the way I feel about our latest turn of events.  Alas, the cathartic writing forces me to the keyboard and screen to bleed. y

Today, Evan is home from school because he was suspended for biting the teacher’s assistant. So far he has pulled out three of the floor vents, destroyed 5-6 crayons, climbed on top of the entertainment center (yes, by the TV!), destroyed our soap wand for the kitchen sink by tearing off the sponge pad and then pouring all of the soap all over the counter and opened the oven numerous times to play with the glass on the inside. Yay, an oven obsession! Because that’s not dangerous or anything.

It’s 10:00 AM.

So far I have moved a load of laundry, cleaned our shower, signed up for a fitness challenge with friends and now I’m sitting down to write. The truth is that a day with him, though he is delightful, is exhausting. Add in that he is suspended and that after 10 suspensions he can be expelled? Well, I’m surprised I’ve managed to do much of anything.

Very rarely am I at a lose for words to type, but on this issue I have so much apathy. I’ve shutdown so magnificently. Sometimes, I think that is a good thing, because things still get done and I’m not overwhelmed by my emotions. And yet, I know there will be a fall out.

Repressed emotions = Negative Self-talk

I used to think my inner critic was evil, a virtual gestapo in my head. I mean, if she wanted, that critical voice could convince me I don’t know how to read. She’s that potent.

Then, my therapist suggested that the negative self-talk was really just a giant clue – a clue to what was bothering me. This morning I woke up and went about getting breakfast to the tune of “I hate myself.” Literally, the thought was on repeat. It’s not a new thought and one that I am (unfortunately) accustomed to.

I didn’t really acknowledge it and went about my business. Then, the task “write” popped up on my phone and suddenly I just feel a blank void. I didn’t  have anything to write about. How strange (I always have things to write about)!

What is going on with me?

Oh, that’s right! I hate myself has been the background music for this day. I sit with a  blank stare, looking at the shattered screen of my laptop. I know its time to delve. I begin asking myself a serious of questions.

“Why do I hate myself today?”

The reply comes.

“You are terrible at entertaining Evan and keeping him out of things. You suck as a mother.”

“Geez, don’t hold back or anything.” I say to the negative committee in my head.

“Well, you asked! I answered.” The mean voice in my head says, folding her arms across her chest.

“Great job, self! Way to inner dialogue.” I say sarcastically to her.

I pause. I’m supposed to consider what feelings those thoughts bring up instead of having a sarcasm war with myself. Let’s see…

“When the mean voice in my head says mean things about my mothering abilities, it hurts.” I say.

“Yeah, no shit! I’m trying to get you to do better. The kid can’t even talk, doesn’t know how to play, dress himself, read… Geez, we’re lucky he shits in the pot most of the time!” The angry voice says to me.

“It’s just that…even if I do better, work harder…he might not learn. He probably won’t learn. I’ve tried before. It didn’t work.” I say in defeat.

“Yeah, precisely. We need to get this show on the road, muscle up! Let’s go lazy ass!” Angry voice counters.

“No, I don’t think you are hearing me. Look at all I’ve done this morning, while also cleaning up all his messes and managing not to be angry or cruel to him.” I defend. “I can’t do better than this.”

“Really?” She says skeptically. “Because if you can’t do better, then this really sucks. It really sucks that THIS is life.”

“Yeah, I know. It sucks. This life sucks.” I say softly.

“I was just trying to get you motivated, to make it better for you.” The angry voice softens and turns into a good friend.

“I know.” I say.

“He’s really not going to get better, huh?” She says.

“No – I don’t know. Maybe.” I say resignedly. “At least, there is nothing I can do to make him better. We’ve tried all of the *things* that *they* suggest. Seven years of ABA therapy and he still can’t attend school without the threat of expulsion. He still can’t talk. He has no more skills today than he did at three years old, except the potty training, of course.” I shrug.

“Well, there’s that.” She says knowingly.

“Yeah, he shits in the pot. Go us!” I say half-heartedly.

“You know, I’m proud of you for trying to do stuff today – to be productive. For cleaning up the messes and not losing your shit with him.” My new friend says.

“Yeah? You don’t hate me.” I say to myself in surprise.

“No, I don’t hate you.” Former gestapo girl shakes her head. “I was just out-of-tune with . what was really going on. So we’re just going to be sad today?”

“Yeah,” I reply. “Sometimes it passes – the sadness.”

“You don’t say! Huh,” She shakes her head. “I thought it was forever.”

“I know. Me too.”

And so I go about my day, not thinking I hate myself anymore, but feeling really, really sad. Luckily, it passes when I accidently put the hot dogs in the filing cabinet while making lunch. Evan’s sensory toy ended up in the refrigerator.

Life as a mom – sad, happy, tiring and, as always, hilarious.

Candidly,

Ash

 

Ordinary Kingdoms

I know I’m not the only one. Descending into mom martyrdom is inevitable. What am I talking about? Those moments when I take out the trash, because no one else has or will. Of course, then it breaks open all over the floor that I just mopped, spilling litter box contents and all manner of disgusting filth. Then, the baby walks over and tries to eat said cat litter. Suddenly, everything goes into slow motion as I visualize the child being admitted to the hospital for some rare form of sepsis caused by cat feces. In the span of only seconds, I am irate at all of the people in my little “kingdom”.

Suddenly, every moment in which I have been patient, held space for small people’s emotions and cooked meals when it was the last thing I wanted to do…they are unappreciated, desecrated and wasted. I recall every complaint from the small people about chores, the menace building internally. How many hours a day – no, minutes actually – have they spent cleaning? Three? Five? Ten?Compared to the hours I spend?

Yes, I am a full martyr now, dying for this little “kingdom” called family daily.

When it comes to cleaning and upkeep, I like to think of it that way – as a kingdom. When things are going well, the kingdom is Arthurian and epic. There are knights in shining armor washing dishes and princes and princesses not afraid to get dirty in the knitty gritty. Sifting a litter box, taking out trash, scrubbing a toilet? They become paramount tasks on par with dragon slaying.

On the bad days, the kingdom has descended into chaos. Every member of the court is riding off into a delusional sunset, thinking the dragon is slain. Meanwhile, I am actually fighting the dragon on spindly fumes of energy, giving my life for the great chivalrous art of domesticity. The worst part? Domesticity is the last art I would waste my life on – given the choice.

I mean, what would happen if I dropped the sword and followed the court into the delusional sunset that is domestic bliss without effort? When will it be my turn to complain and throw a fit about scrubbing the dried cereal off the bowl?

Thus, the martyrdom begins. Perhaps a temporary boycott is in order, a silent manifestation of my angst, a cleaning hunger strike of massive proportions. I refuse to pursue the art of domesticity and abdicate my throne to the princes and princesses. Let them partner with the king and see how well things go!

Of course, then they return home from school. One of them actually hugs me and says something about love. Another hands me a picture from art, in which I am stick figure (hallelujah!) with a giant glowing heart encircling me. Suddenly, I’m so glad this is my kingdom.

Instead of the rant, I simply remind them of their teeny-tiny chores. When the complaining starts, I offer to hold their little crowns while they scrub the toilet, wash the dishes and slay the dragons. After all, they’ll be kings and queens someday too.

Perhaps chivalry and domesticity are not dying arts after all – even if they will always be second rate to jousting, bard singing and dragon slaying. Before I set my heart on martyrdom again, I’ll try to remember this.

Provided no one is admitted to the hospital for a cat feces infection…

Candidly,

Ash

 

 

Illusions of Sadness

When my first child was about six months old, she started to spend a lot more time playing, trying to roll and crawl. She was adorable. I loved her infinitely.

I did not love playing with all of the rattles and various infant toys. In fact, sitting with her, playing with her, it was not my favorite – at all. I was, of course, guilt-ridden by this. How awful is it to NOT want to play with your child? I reasoned that it was because she was so small. I mean, rattles are only so enchanting to adults.

Maybe that was all it was.

I didn’t have much time to figure it out, because we proceeded to have two more children in the following two years. Three children in three years made for endless messes, exhaustion and lots of sibling entertainment. Playing with my children wasn’t as much of an option in those days. Yet, every now and then, on a low-key weekend, I would remember with great mortification that I had such little tolerance for play.

Seven years later, our fourth child was born. It was so different this time. First, my mental health was addressed thoroughly in prenatal and post-natal care. It meant that I couldn’t nurse this small one like I had the rest. It also meant that I enjoyed caring for him since I wasn’t fighting with my mental illness 24/7. Yet, as he turned the corner of six-months-old, I found my old familiar “enemy” emerged.

Playtime.

This time, after years of therapy, I could feel all of it.  No longer shutting down all emotion, I now felt all the emotions.  All of the happiness and joy, but also all of the guilt, all of the sadness. I could no longer chalk my dislike of playtime up to boredom, because I didn’t feel boredom.

But what was it that I felt?

I spent a good number of days sitting with the discomfort while we played. Actually, I spent weeks that way. I wondered if I had some sort of inner deficit because maybe my mother didn’t play with me or enjoy the day-to-day play. It was possible, but it didn’t really resonate. As the youngest of three siblings, I knew I had plenty of playmates around from the very start. Plus, it just didn’t resonate with that feeling inside me. I wasn’t sad. I was just taught – like a rope stretched tightly.

An inner tensions, that’s what I felt as we played and I pretended to be surprised by simple peek-a-boo. If I sat playing long enough, then the inner tension would manifest as frustration. Not really with the baby or in that moment, but in snappy responses to the older kids or a penchant for eruption at disruption.

Then, one day, and it took much too long for this to occur to me, I realized that tension was basically anxiety. As I watched him attempt to capture a rolling ball, something clicked inside of me. Anxiety takes us away from the present moment.

All of this time, I had been playing with the little ones – I had actually been somewhere else. Sometimes, I was imagining all of the things needing to be done elsewhere. Other times, I was imaging the future in which my child would finally realize that the source and basis for all of the problems in their life was one thing – me.

An utter, incapacitating fear gripped me. What if I was doing all of this incorrectly? What if I was screwing up an entire human being? I tried deep breaths, to stay in the moment, but I couldn’t and we ended our already short fifteen minute play time early.

For days, I tried to reason with the anxiety, to improve this playtime experience, but nothing would alleviate the escalating tension during our play.

The intimacy of playtime gnawed too sharply at me – my inner rope fraying as the strands were severed one by one. As I began to see the way that anxiety affected me during play, I started to see it in other areas too. The distraction of playing on my phone while he slept in my lap or took a bottle.  The avoidance of starting new foods or routines.

Yes, my parenting was riddled with anxiety. I started breathing through the routines of our day, staying present in the moment, but found trying to do it for an entire day? Way too difficult. I narrowed my focus onto just breathing and experiencing playtime fully. I reminded myself that there indeed was no wrong way to play. I wasn’t screwing this up. Slowly, I found the joy in that one little area.

One by one the areas of my parenting, the moments in my day, became softer, richer, more alive. I remembered how often my therapist had said, “Anxiety keeps you from living.” I knew it to be true, deep in my core.

It was the start of something very precious, not just for my children and family, but for me as well. As I worked my way through the areas of my life besides parenting, I found deeper meaning and less fear. With less fear, I felt more free and I began to do one of the things I had stopped doing years ago – writing.

Now, hear this, I’m not saying I don’t have anxiety anymore. It is just as large and infiltrating as before, but I’ve found a way to cope, to live, to grow.

I hope you have or will too. Wishing you well.

Candidly,

Ash

 

Your Future Self Will Handle It

I have goals. Lots of them. Dreams, too.

Yet, I find myself disconnected to them more than I’d like to say. By disconnected, I mean that they don’t seem worth fighting for in the moment. The desire is gone. The push to make it happen? Absent.

I know I’m not alone in this, but I do think that I’m more susceptible than others. I’m a ‘feeler’ much more than a ‘thinker’. My emotions are too often my guide. Ignoring them is like devaluing them to me. I can’t put them on pause and press play later. I do think, maybe, there are people who are able to do this.

I am not one of them.

I also think that, as a parent, I don’t get as many opportunities to feel my emotions as, say, a non-parent. When all four of my children are home, I am constantly in a dialogue with myself to keep things steady, calm. It’s that holding space thing. I do it for my children and sometimes that means I don’t do it for myself.

I’ve spent all my energy mastering the monster within (AKA Scream Mom) and the brownie calls to me with it’s sweet relief. Yes, I have that long term goal to lose weight. I am so very tired though – of not giving into myself, of choosing the right thing, of pressing pause on my desires.

The brownie is gone. Eaten.

I gave myself something, I try to reason. Yet, inside I know.

I know that I also stole something from myself – something from my future self.

My future self…

In my therapy program, there was a phrase that we often said to deal with anxiety.

My future self will handle it.

It was a way of recognizing that in this moment, I could do nothing to change the outcome or sway the future. So many times, there is nothing to be done, but wait for the inevitable hammer to drop. Yet, while we wait, we destroy the present with fictional pain from the future.

Sometimes, too, there are things to be done, ways to prepare for the future. In my scenario above, I could have NOT eaten the brownie. It would have prepared me for the future – a future with a healthier me in the spotlight. Damn, she’s hot!

Yet, sometimes, in fact most times, I find that valuing the current me is more effective. Here is what I mean…

As I ate the brownie, I reasoned that I had given myself something, but it felt suspiciously false. I knew that all I had given myself – was a pudgier gut down the road.

“My future self will handle it.” I automatically reasoned. Oh, well there it is. How will my future self handle a pudgy gut? With debasement and internal angry dialogue of course.

Damn it, future self!

And then, like a dawning morning, a light presented itself. My future self could find ways to meet present desires that don’t include brownies.

Things like watching my own TV show while the children are school. A TV show with romance, swearing and adult themes – something I NEVER do during the day.

I could also go online and find a flourless brownie made with protein powder and applesauce. I could give myself the gift of making something ONLY for me. (And yes, even chalk flavored brownies can be a gift!)sf

I could light a candle and honor all the things I gave up for the small people in my life.

I could spend 15 minutes distracting myself from the brownie urge with something else that I like – something like a game on my phone, one of those cool adult coloring books or knitting a winter hat in spring.

The point I am trying to make is that sometimes giving into your short term feelings is a good way to move forward. If I hadn’t gifted myself that brownie, then I would never have thought of all of the things I could have done instead. I just would have obsessed about the damn brownie that I didn’t get to eat!

(Or maybe I’m just reasoning my way out of my current brownie guilt? Quite possible.)

If today you are struggling with disconnect from your goals and dreams, then maybe find a way to honor it, to give in. Sometimes, it’s exactly what you need to move forward, to reroute your map into the future.

And if not? Your future self will handle it.

Candidly,

Ash

 

 

And this is Love.

He wailed from inside his small bedroom, screaming kicking, biting no doubt. It had been going on for 45 minutes. When would the child stop to breathe? When would we get peace?

My husband paced back and forth, letting out a mammoth sigh.

“I’m sorry.” I said from my perch on the couch. Then, I realized that I had no idea why I was apologizing. I do that. I apologize for existing. It’s subconscious, but I’m working on it and starting to recognize it. So I re-phrased.

“I’m sorry that something made you sigh.” God, that sounded stupid, but I tried. I tried to come to the moment as an uninjured person.

“It’s just that I get so frustrated with him sometimes!”

Him. The nine-year-old boy wailing and screaming, hitting and biting. Oh yes, frustration made sense.

“I think that’s only natural. Normal.” I responded.

“Sometimes – and I don’t ever – but it comes to my mind to spank him.” Yes, yes, spouse, I fully understand. I have those moments too. I let silence reign though. I knew there was more, because I had felt more.

“He shoved his little brother today and it was all I could do to make him sit in the chair for timeout.” Wow, impressive, spouse! I would have sent him to his room, banishing him from my line of vision. Silence, again.

There is nothing to say in these times. There is no fixing this situation. We have no answers. I have no answers.

When I Have Nothing Left

All I can do is hold space. Hold space for myself, for my spouse, for our son. Fifteen minutes of our silence passed, as our son continued his assault in the next room. We moved on for the night after that. Started a show briefly, until I couldn’t take it anymore.

I went to the medicine cabinet and grabbed some Tylenol. Maybe this nine-year-old, our son, was in pain. Maybe that was why he had been screaming so long? We had tried everything else – food, water, milk, singing, hugging, shoulder massage, head squeezes, making him a burrito with a blanket. Nothing had worked so we had taken a break. Talked a bit. Held the space away from him – for ourselves, because we were at our limit.

Yes. Perhaps this is pain? An earache, headache, toothache of some sort. A simple problem made mammoth by the muteness of my son’s voice.

I opened his door, hoping this would work. I spent fifteen minutes trying to get him to chew the grape flavored Tylenol, as well as keep him in the room. I maneuvered in his way to prevent escape. I knew if he left the room, then he would get to the other side of the house and wake up his siblings.

It didn’t work. Nothing worked. Sometimes nothing works.

Most times, nothing works.

He slipped past me and out through the doors, a useless barrier to the living areas. My husband stopped him before he got too far. Trying to gently, but authoritatively guide him back to his room. I watched in awe as my son mostly complied.

Oh to be stronger than my nine-year-old, to have some command of the situation! I envied my husband.

I stayed in the living room then. Holding my space, attempting to ignore the wild screams of my son as my husband repeatedly redirected him to his bed. Finally, gathering my strength, I returned to the room.

My husband, as I had expected, continuously picking him up and taking him to his bed, murmured  softly, “It’s time to sleep, Evan.”

I crouched low beside the mattress on the floor. We removed hard objects from his room long ago – too dangerous. I shoved the thought aside – the though of what a nice room with decorations and toys would be like – what a typical boy’s room held. The sadness cauterizing my heart, I swallowed and breathed it in and out.

Trying Again

“Evan, it is time to sleep. You must stay in your bed to rest. What do you need to rest?” No response, just screaming and rushing for escape. My husband’s strong arms returning him to the bed.

“Evan, I see that you are upset. We hear you. You are upset.” A slight calming, a glance at me and then wailing again. This time he flopped to the mattress instead of trying to escape.

“Evan, I see that you are upset. I hear you.” Screaming and wailing, a glance in my direction. He laid down, crying still. His bottom lip turning out.

“I see that you are upset. What will help you rest?” Crying only, no more screaming. Avoiding my eyes, he signed ‘eat’.

“Okay, I will go to get you some food.” Wailing again. “Daddy, will stay here to help you be safe in bed.” He was up and screaming, trying to escape with me.

Walking into the kitchen, I hurried to pour milk in a glass. Thinking again, I dumped it into a plastic water bottle. Glass is not safe if he rejects this. Grabbing a granola bar, I walk back to the room, my breath a prayer. “God, this is NOT okay.”

I entered to see that my husband had kept him in the bed, but I knew I could not give him his food – what he wanted, until he was calm.

“Evan, you need to be calm before I can give you anything.” The cry began to dissipate. I dropped to my knees. “I can give you this food when you are calm.” He stopped crying then, his breath shuttering in and out as he tried to calm. I handed him the granola bar. He twirled it in his fingers and began to cry again.

“I hear you. Do you not want food? Drink?” He signed his version of “drink”.

“Okay, you need to sit up for a drink.” My husband gently raised his back to let him know it was okay. We handed him the milk, guiding his shaking hands and the water bottle to his mouth. He tried to drink, but didn’t tilt the bottle far enough to get anything and then began to cry, thrusting the water bottle at my husband.

“It’s okay, Evan. It’s milk. You like milk.” I said. We tried again. He drank this time, gulping.

“Good, buddy, good.” I soothed. He had better control of the water bottle now so I let go.

His breath was still shuttering in and out. I started stroking his leg, thinking of how hard it is. I noticed he was holding his breath again.

“Keep breathing, buddy.” I said and demonstrated a big breath in and blowing it out. “Breathe it all out.” Amazingly, he does. My husband glances at me the way I looked at him earlier – in awe.

We are two pieces of this puzzle.

Moments to Hold On

We sat in silence, the three of us, breathing. Evan twirling the granola bar, nibbling and sipping. Breathing. Calm.

Five more minutes passed. He was still calm.

“We love you, buddy. You are special to us. We want you to be safe and calm and happy – to have what you need.” I said, knowing we all needed to hear it. More silence. And then, he signed something I had not seen in over six months.

Hug.

My husband and I both desperately jumped at the chance, our eyes meeting on the other side of our son, as we clung together – the three of us.

Three pieces in this puzzle.

He wanted a hug – not a squeeze, not sensory pressure – a real hug.

Love.

He loves us. We love him.

We gently eased away the water bottle after giving him a last swig. We left the granola bar, even though I knew it would mean vacuuming and washing his bedding, yet again, in the morning.

As we returned to the kitchen and the house was silent. I looked at the clock.

11:35 pm.

We spent three hours putting our son to bed tonight.

And this is love.

Candidly,

Ash

A New Type of Revolution

Sunday, I was at Target entirely as a means to be out of the house. We needed absolutely nothing. Sharing a car with my husband has given me serious cabin fever.  If I get a chance to leave and spread my wings, then I better go – somewhere, anywhere.

My latest Target finds were two $3 square wood plaques, painted in spring colors. The first says, “Every day is a fresh start.” And the second says, “Wash your worries away.” When I saw them and their price tag, Oprah boomed over the load speaker, cheering, “She FOOOUUUUND IT!”

Not really.

It felt so good to find those little items. Target is like that. When you walk in the door, you can feel the gods of peace and tranquility descend, as you grab a cart simply to lean on while you walk. I mean, rarely do I actually need a cart at Target, but I always get one. It’s what you do to prepare for “The Item” or “The Items”.

“The Item” is the thing you have been looking for your entire life. You have never ACTUALLY seen it before, but you know that somewhere, out there a fairy godmother is blinking it into existence. Think “I Dream of Jeannie” with crossed arms, a precise head nod and full wink. Sometimes, if you are very lucky, Jeannie creates a SET of “The Items”. If this happens, then you will invariably stand in the checkout line with guilt. I mean, finding “The Items”? Your girlfriends will for sure be jealous. Your husband? Anxiously moving money around in the budget.

I cannot tell you how many times “The Item” has been a water bottle. I don’t know how Target does it, but their selection of water bottles is a verifiable phylum in the animal kingdom, of which there are innumerable species. I swear to god, they discover a new one each week and every damn time I think, “This is it!!! I’m going to drink 64 ounces everyday for the REST of my life! I’ll be like the Jillian Michaels of water drinking!!!”

Except the next time I go into Target, I can almost guarantee that I will be dehydrated from the steady caffeine drip that is my Mountain Dew.

Why the Target Rally Cry?

I don’t know how many memes I have seen about moms in Target, but it’s a lot. In fact, as a socially awkward mom, I find that talking about Target is a sure fire way to make a friend. I mean, in the rare event that that they hate Target (I’ve never actually come across one of those moms), then what would you talk about? Aldi? Whole Foods? Costco?

I think there is more too it than just shopping. I think there is more to it than buying things for ourselves – more than finding “the item”.

I think moms are desperate for self-care.

Independence, alone-time, pursuing an interest, buying something for yourself without hearing about the 87 things your child saw that they wanted – these are things we don’t get very much. I don’t think people talk about the hidden burdens of parenting enough. Sure, we complain about poopy diapers, messy kids who refuse to do chores and squabbling siblings. Those aren’t the real, draining factors. They are just tips of the iceberg. Underneath, lies a hidden, colossal anchor.

Someone is dependent on you.

You are responsible for someone. Just existing in that context is weighty.

I have had days when I just needed to exist. I did the bare minimum for myself and for them. I have had days when I closed the bathroom door to go potty (do people still say restroom? Huh. I guess that word isn’t in my repertoire anymore), as I listened to the small being wail and thrash against the door. How dare I tinkle for 30 seconds by myself!

The worst part for me (I’m sure not everyone feels this way), is that I feel guilty for that 30 second tinkle.

Which is fucking ridiculous.

Then, there is the matter of pursuing interests. People talk about how you forget to connect with your partner when you have children. Then, suddenly, one day you have an empty nest and you are fumbling your fingers, looking to the other person like they are a stranger! But the real problem isn’t that you don’t recognize the person across from you. The real problem is that your don’t recognize yourself. Who is that looking at me in the mirror?

It’s the caring for children and ignoring the care of ourselves that leaves us unhappy. We are desperate to fit one more thing into Suzy’s schedule so that she can grow up, hopefully get a scholarship and live a full life. While the entire time, we fail to live our own full lives. And what kind of example is this to our children? This failing to live full lives, it only teaches them to do the same when their own little angels arrive.

A New Kind of Revolution

In Target, by myself, I can walk up and down the bedding aisle 87 times and find every endcap clearance shelving in the store, without a child begging for toys or a Vanilla Bean Frappuccino at Starbucks. I can fulfill my wants and desires for the hour and a half that I roam the store and emerge a human once again.

THAT is why the Target craze exists.

But what if, nobody freak out now, we liked being in our homes just as much? Now, there is an idea that could change the world. There is an idea worth fighting for.

But also, I just need to run to Target and pick up a few things to make this home more enjoyable… Shop on, sisters!

Candidly,

Ash