It’s been a day. You know how people say this, “It’s been a day,” and nobody ever says, “oh, what do you mean?” It’s like The Pill. Someone says The Pill and you know that means THE PILL. Not headache medicine, not Vitadmin D, but THE Pill.
It’s been a day.
And while I can certainly give you details, let’s face it: You KNOW what that means. There’s a list of things that started out great and went to crap. Quickly.
There’s a joy and a sorrow of working at home. It’s that on one hand, you can do a podcast for work while wearing a snuggie. On the other hand, if the children don’t have school because of snow, you might end up seeing something akin to a nuclear paint explosion in the family room. Just for fun, let’s say, they might toss in four hundred and three straws because that’s how they roll.
Maybe there is blue paint dotting the kitchen floor from one end of the room to the other.
And maybe, just *maybe* there are a few big deadlines and a few additional gray hairs that bring one particular mom to her wits end about the time her daughter loses her absolute blessed mind and refuses to go to karate.
She loves karate. *LOVE* She was going on and on and on the entire way to Karate. “I smile because I love Karate!” “I love it when I get to kick!” “I’m learning so so much!” So when we pull up, I tie on her Gi, and turn to usher her to class I’m floored when she starts pulling on my arm crying. “What on earth?!” I have no patience. I look in to my daughter’s terrified eyes and I question their sincerity. “WHAT is going on?! Go. You will go. This is not acceptable. Not ok. No, you just told me how much you love this. What are you doing here? Oh, comon, you WILL STAY and watch. Sit like you are respectful.” I got hard on her. I went all 1972 on her. I was channeling Okinawa and playing the hardest cards of all, “Do this or you don’t get any more hot chocolate. EVER!” Ok, so I got lost in the moment.
She stayed. She did not participate. She sat, tearfully afraid, the entire two hours until her dad picked her up. I ask them at home, “So what was going on? Why didn’t you participate?” I’m fire and brimstone. I’m seeing her 15 year old self backing out of commitments. I’m playing the Future. “I was afraid of breaking the boards today, Mommy.”
My heart broke in bits as I hugged my honestly scared daughter.
“Oh honey. You need to tell me what is going on so I don’t get mad and think you’re playing me.” Her eyes, big, round, soft, nodded. She hugged me. “I can understand being afraid, sweetie. But you need to say that to me. Don’t make excuses about being too tired. Let me know, ok?”
There are times a parent will think they are doing their children the best of intentions. I am making you strong! I am helping you get over your fears! I am not letting you fake a way out of your commitments! And sometimes there are times the parent will get the biggest lesson of all: I am not listening to your fear. I am not understanding your voice. I am lost in my own world.
There is a joy and a sorrow of working at home. Today I had both. Thankfully, there is one moment I did not fail to appreciate:
Some things truly do not change.
It’s funny the things people will say when you enter a difficult situation. My family was uprooted from the upper-middle-class subburbs of a major metropolitan city with 300 days of sun at the end of Jr. High. We settled in a mill town in a small rural area of a state that sees 30 days of sun a year. The entire time my parents sang chorusses of “But you can remake yourself! You can be anything you want! You get to start fresh!”
Dude, I was 13. I was fresh. I had no idea who I was in the first place. Also, these people don’t peg their pants like we do and why aren’t they wearing neon?
Did I mention it was 1989?
Similar in a way only I could make the metaphorical leap, learning Java in grad school brought me to tears. I remember telling people I’d rather have sharp pins stuck under the bed of my toe nail for fun. “But you’ll refresh yourself! You’ll learn something so useful! You’ll be renewed!”
Did I mention it was 2004 and Java was the defacto language for All Things Ever? And oh, memorize this chart and create a program like pong. Thank you.
I feel the same queasy, uncomfortable awful when I’m asked to write a bio about myself. “You can be anything! Put your strengths out there! Say who you are but, you know, better!”
Oh god, so don’t write a professional bio that says I sweat more than most women when I’m nervous, forget about calling it the “glow” and oh, can you hand me a towel because I need to dab my armpits.
There is no cussing in a professional bio. This greatly limits the number of words I can think of to exclaim my powers.
I enjoy writing. Writing is, in my case, the way my brain organizes thought. I do it daily. I write to remember dates, bill, commitments. I write to create flow charts of thought from jumbled masses of uncertainty. I write because it is the one expression I have which freely flows above second guessing and doubt.
So why do I clam up in a sweaty gassy mess when I have to write a bio?
I’ve been meditating on my bio for the past two weeks. Literally. I’ll sit in yoga in child’s pose and try to picture what it should say. This is not as morbid, but nearly, as trying to write your obituary. Only I have to be accountable for the words I write and I don’t get to say glowing things like, “The greatest accomplishment of Leslie’s life was catching the Rainbow fart of a Unicorn. For this, she won a nobel prize.” Instead, I have to live with the consequences of this one pass intro to who I am. I have an entire blog full of WHO I AM but here I sit, dumfounded, trying to tap out a 3 line bio.
Who knew asking such a small, normal task would lead to so much self inflicted doubt and struggle?
I’ll just be sitting here…
People so often lump a person’s “core” within boxes. Boxes of artificial labels society places on ideals. “Republican.” “Pro-Gay-Marriage.” “Working Mother.” “Christian.” “Athiest.”
Our values in my family are above labels. They are paragraphs of ideals, gray areas of judgement. They are curated over years and formed through connections. They are intangible but visible.
Between work and family and bills and co-workers and clients and rainy drizzly days and sick kids, it becomes rare if not impossible to have those conversations. The lists stack up, the mail remains unread, the dishes grow hard with food someone didn’t finish. Perspective is lost and ideals get boxed. Identities fail.
Within that space, the failure, the questioning, the near-palpipal-self-doubt, I boarded a plane to Glens Falls last Tuesday to work with a firm I’ve freelanced for two years with. And, more importantly, within that firm I’ve had friendships deep and connecting above labels and distance.
Arriving in obvious discomfort of my own skin, sharing a hug by littles who barely know me, and a glass of beer of a website I helped build, I found again the conversations, the gray areas, the perspective. Within hours the labels dropped away and connections cleared and values were defined. I was refreshed.
As the week sped too quickly along, I remained optimistic. Exclaiming beauty at every space. The snow! A ski resort a mile away! The sun! Lovely people! And the office, oh the glorious office filled with humans who work and laugh and rally. A lovely office of people I’ve known and connected with two years ago and work so well together who have the same taste in music sans a few Country Songs.
It’s painful to see the alternate versions sometimes.
The grass beneath the snow in a state three thousand miles away beaming greener and more fresh smelling than your own.
The children who face-time with friends they’ve met once and squee and exclaim love for me and mine.
The hospital with the blog I coded.
The Brewery with the owner begging us to move there, bring our family, stay in Glens Falls and thank you for coding his award-winning site.
The sun beaming in the windows of the office above the store anyone should be proud to own and support those whose craft and brand are breathing it to life.
The underground bar owned by a couple of wit, sass, and class as comfortable to be around within minutes as a friend you’ve known for years.
The lines blur. Home. Values. Family. Truly, there are places just as fitting and as lovely as the one we’re in now. Some days, perhaps, possibly, even more so.
As I come back to my own, the reality of the days catch up again. My husband, my rock, the amazing man who takes our small children while I pursue so many dreams and propel in a career I could not have without him, takes his turn to work on his own boxes. He leaves for work an hour after I arrive, after hugs, and kisses, and I miss-yous. He trudges to work and stays over-night tackling his own deadlines and expectations.
These are the values we own. These are the labels we wear proud. We work hard. We love our family. We snuggle and exclaim with joy our children’s delights. We go above and beyond the expectations and push ourselves to achieve more than we thought. So long as the days continue to march, we teach our children the value of ethics.
I count myself thankful for all those who share this core. Who remind me it’s possible. Who dance with their children and believe in their work. Those who also connect above boxes and labels and share a belief over beer.
My children were playing “little fucker” at Home Depot?
Now, look, before you get all judgy, let me just preface this with a post I wrote two years ago to prove I have no idea what I’m doing as a parent. Ok? I had a plan. I had a theory. That theory sucked.
In retrospect, the “time and a place” mantra could work. Teaching your children that anyone can say anything as long as it is the appropriate time and place is rather discerning. I don’t want to shield my children from the world but would rather teach them how to navigate the gray areas of society including cussing, standing up for oneself and when an appropriate toilet joke is funny.
I guess at 5 and 3 they’re not discerning yet.
Case in point:
Mr. Flinger and I took the entire family to Home Depot. (Clue One: that’s best to do on a date because children lose their ever-loving-minds.) We have expectations that mimic parents of the 70’s. We tell you to sit in the cart and you will sit, wait, talk quietly among yourselves until we have thoroughly discussed the options of shiny silver and chrome for the new locks to the house AND YOU WILL LIKE IT.
The children looked at us with wide eye, “But we don’t have any toys,” LB gasped. “Use your hands. You know what makes a good toy? Your hands. And? You won’t lose them and you’ll never get them taken away,” Mr Flinger solves the problem. (Side note: This has been repeated to me half a dozen times so it did in fact make an impression.)
The children begin playing “where is thumpkin” and other hand gesture games appropriate for their age.
The discussions went forward about types of locks, shiny locks, keyed locks, locks of what size and shape and on and on and on until I hear, or I think I hear, one child say, “Hey.. Fucker!” and the other reply back, “Hey! Fucker!” I glance up at two men standing next to the cart where the children are sitting. Their expressions are both half laughing half shocked. I stride over, “Did they just say….” “I think so,” replied one man. “Oh, uh, I don’t know WHOS kids those are. No, I’m kidding, I’m the proud mother.” He looks me up and down and says, “Oh, you’re their mom?” “Yes, and .. uh.. I’m sorry… Uh.. lemme just move them…”
I lean forward as the children continue their “little fucker” play which involved a thumb telling the other thumb he’s a little fucker and then the other thumb quips, “hey! fucker!”
A proud mother indeed.
Since that time I’ve changed some things around here. I now say “Oh MOTHER OF PEARL” and “For PETES SAKE” and “HOLY MOSES.” I like to think I’m still a little badass. In fact, sometimes I know I’m in the company of other mothers when someone shouts out, “SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!” in exclamation.
Having children truly does change you in ways you never could anticipate. It’s true. Those little fuckers.
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