Locusts Out of the Smoke

I’m really disappointed in my gender. Overnight, like a plague of locusts, the new wave of judging, comparing, and soapbox lecturing has spread across America like the Coronavirus. It’s infecting thousands and the damage it’s causing is truly terrifying. This time, instead of the subject of breastfeeding, natural birth or disciplining, it’s over something I don’t think any of us saw coming—homeschooling. 

It happened overnight. Suddenly, mothers all over the country were thrown into the world of homeschooling. I don’t know about you, but this is something I never ever wanted to take on. Unfortunately, I no longer had a choice. It was as simple as an email on a Sunday evening. Dear parent, it’s over until the 13th and chances are, they won’t be coming back even then. There’s a bundle of supplies and tools we’ve put together for you that you can pick up (use gloves) at school. Good luck and God’s speed. 

I didn’t ask to be thrown into this. None of us did. But we had no choice so, most of us leaned in—pivoted and made a plan. It would’ve been great if it ended there. All of us mamas just swam in our own lanes. That we shared value and ideas openly and with love to anyone out there who might want to adopt some of the things working for us. No strings. No judgement. True community mama tribe mentality that we’ve got each others backs. 

But, as usual, it didn’t go that way. Suddenly, current homeschooling parents who were gracious enough to pass along sample schedules to us novices were being attacked for their methods. I mean, some of these women may have spent hours on Pinterest and in their excitement of potentially offering value to someone, passed it along to anyone maybe looking for an outline. Random moms were critiquing them for trying to be teachers—telling them that they read articles saying kids don’t need their mom as a teacher. That school setups in the house would ruin the kids. That kids just need to be outside playing. 

It gets better.

In retaliation, the more laid back moms, who were enjoying making homemade cookies, coloring contests and letting the kids sleep in, were getting told that it was actually them ruining their kids because children need routine and a schedule. That now more than ever they needed that feeling of normal that a school routine gives them. That if their children weren’t given educational information they would lose what they had learned and be behind when they finally got back to school. That their lack of scheduling was laziness. 

Moms somewhere in between felt like the rope being used in tug-of-war—pulled this way and then that—then this way and than that on what was “right” for them to do. Moms who upped their wine intake were told they were alcoholics. Moms who didn’t drink were prudes. Moms who didn’t change out of their pajamas were ugly. Moms who dressed up for the day were vain. Moms who taught were in the wrong. Moms who didn’t teach were in the wrong. Every. Single. Thing. WRONG…and not just wrong, so wrong that it was causing permanent damage to their child (or so we are being told).

Stop for a moment. Feel the weight of that statement. You’re stressed out over what’s going on right now. Maybe you aren’t working or maybe you’re working from home. Maybe your spouse lost a job. Maybe he’s home and in your way. There is a virus running rampant that could potentially kill people you love—kill you. You have your kids home and they don’t have school. They have no clue what just happened. Remember that plate I’ve talked about in past blogs—it just fell onto the floor and shattered by the weight on what’s been put on it. You try to do what’s best and you are being told daily by social media, articles, media, “experts,” that what you’ve chosen is wrong and that in your incorrect choice you’ve failed as a mother. Just the lovely little cherry on top of our sundae isn’t it? 

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen or experienced this. We always thought that mean girls were brutal but those mean girls have nothing on mean women. And what hurts the most—what legitimately rips apart at my heart most is that it comes from the hands of other mothers. When we will we ever learn? You could no more parent my kids than I could parent yours. The only thing that we need to focus on in this moment is doing the best we can with our own children. We need to swim in our own lanes. Our family needs us in our own lanes now more than ever giving it our all. 

I will also say this, our insecurities and judgments are all just mirrors of our own fears of inadequacy. Those moms slamming structured moms feel like they are failing because they aren’t structured. It feels good to read an article from Dr. Fran, telling us they’re the ones in the wrong. Those structured moms slamming go with the flow moms are insecure that they can’t be more laid back. Hearing Debbie in Denver say so makes us feel better.  It’s all a big coverup for insecurity. Can we all just agree that we are freaking insecure about this whole motherhood thing? None of us has it figured out. None of us is perfect. But I truly believe that in our hearts we all just want to do and be our best for our children. Can’t we all just bond over that fact instead of slashing at each other until our spirits are broken? 

So you do you. I’d like to invite you to a safe space with me. I can’t protect you from everyone, but I promise you that in this incredibly uncertain time, you can be certain that I have nothing to say about whatever decision you’ve made for your family—because it’s your family not mine. If you want to go roll in the mud all day—go for it. If you want the most beautiful color-coordinated schedule—go for it. If you want to drink a bottle of wine—invite me (virtually). I hope you keep sharing anything of value (not judgement) that you come across. I love seeing schedules or recommended books and activities. I love new ideas for games and scavenger hunts. I love pictures of you hiking outside or inside making slime. I get a chuckle out of you in your jammies all day or in bed until ten. I relate to all of it. Quite frankly, I just love connecting with moms. I love how different and unique we all are and I find joy in watching you in your element as a parent. Don’t fall in with the vultures—they can drag us down so easily. God gave us mamas a unique light to shine upon all the people we come in contact with—please be a mama of light for us all in such a dark time. We need you. 

Open Drawers

Let me paint a scenario…

You’re tired. Like, really tired. You have solo parented for the past two weeks while your husband is working in another state. Your mind is like a chest of drawers and every single drawer is open—did I pay the gas bill, sign homework folders, need to practice math flash cards, eye appointment for one child tomorrow, haven’t seen dentist in over six months and need to book all kids in to see one, laundry sitting in dryer needs to be folded, should really sort closets, door handle isn’t on yet call contractor, did I send money for the kids hot lunch, I want to workout Saturday but have no one to watch the kids, Volleyball practice this weekend do I have that covered, I have to do passport picture for the little one, I haven’t communicated with my team in awhile and my business is hurting because of it, I need to mail five packages of product, voicemail from aunt have to call her back, did we do thank you notes from Christmas, I’d like to try homemade dishwasher pods–and on and on and on.

With these thoughts rolling around your mind, you walk into your daughter’s bathroom and stop short. The spray that’s supposed to be for her hair was used on Barbie and now it’s mixed into some type of slop with that expensive lotion you gave her and it’s spilled all over the counter. Nail polish is out and dripped on the white cabinet. Last night’s wet towels are piled on the floor. The sink is caked with tooth paste. There are plastic horses all over the floor over by the shower and there are LOL doll pieces actually in the shower. There’s no toilet paper on the holder and there, in the middle of it all, your child. Oblivious. Even more oblivious to the fact you had told her to clean up her bathroom yesterday. She’s about to explain how this makes complete sense in her mind but you stop her. You yell. You yell and the entire time you’re yelling you can see her face crinkle up a bit as if bearing a blow and she crouches back a little scared but not really because you’ve never hit her, so it’s just the volume that’s a little shocking. Tears well in her eyes and you, exasperated, almost tear up yourself because you are so mad, annoyed, confused and frustrated. Now another two drawers open in your mind chest—first, that you have to figure out how to get that nail polish off of your newly renovated cabinets and second, you yelled. Again. That one goes into the mom fail drawer. 

I hope that some of you reading this—I mean even one of you reading this can relate. Can you? If not, I’m really sinking fast. Let’s keep the scene going…

Later that night you, crippled with guilt, cry into the phone while you tell your husband you’re a failure as a mom. You explain what happened and how you yelled, again, and how bad you now feel. You’re convinced you’re a terrible mom and that you are ruining your child. He is kind. He tells you that you aren’t and that you’re an amazing mother. You keep crying. You get off the phone still feeling rotten, wipe the snot running down your nose from your ugly crying and creep downstairs to her room. She’s asleep but you wake her up. She is over it, but you aren’t. You go into an explanation about why you yelled and that you’re sorry for yelling. That it doesn’t mean what she did isn’t wrong. That it doesn’t mean you aren’t mad. But that you shouldn’t have yelled so hard. She can’t see you’re still crying in the dark and she’s half asleep and tells you it’s ok (and she means it). You hug her and tell her you love her a million more times, tuck her in and go back upstairs to finish sobbing because that didn’t really help either. 

Anyone still with me?

Confession. I’m a yeller. I yell at my kids. I’d like to explain a few things—clarify if you will—before I continue on with this. I shouldn’t have to and I actually think the more we explain the more we give away our power but I have no power here. I never yell at my children in public. I don’t belittle them or call them names. I’ve never hit my child in any way. I don’t ignore my children. I affirm them daily—literally say affirmations with them every single day. I tell them I love them all the time. I hug them and kiss them and hold them frequently. I don’t make fun of them. But I do yell when I’m upset with them. 

Why? I wasn’t raised by yellers but I never did anything like above scenario either. Perhaps I yell because I can’t put myself in their shoes and that’s frustrating. I never would have done some of the things they do and so it’s really, really hard for me to comprehend why on earth they would do it. Maybe I yell because I don’t understand.

I yell because I’m lazy. It’s much easier to yell down the stairs at them to hustle up or stop banging the piano while Carolyn sleeps than it is to go down and talk. It’s a big house. Yelling is easier.

I yell because not only is my plate full but it’s overflowing with gravy from that extra helping of mashed potatoes I thought I needed. But whose isn’t these days? The cats’ litter box is full and they have no food or water and I’ve reminded them twenty times to stay up on this. Snap. The overfilled paper plate breaks. I yell.

I yell because I don’t know what else to do sometimes. There’s no takeaway from that—kindly chatting, warnings, threats, love even ignoring doesn’t work. I don’t even have my partner here half the time, so I yell. 

Are you sitting there judging me while you read this? I’ll let you know that you can. Judge away. No amount of your comments or judgements will come even close to how much I judge myself or how much I beat myself up and belittle myself over my yelling. This is why I hate (yea, hate) “educate yourself” posts that moms like to share. You know the ones? I usually see them pop up on my feed the same day I’ve yelled—“yelling will ruin your child’s spirit,” or “do you know what you’re doing to your child when you yell?” and “You might as well beat your child with a two by four because that’s how yelling affects your child.” They usually have awesome images too that really make you feel good. Educate yourself they say. I’ll say this. The term “educate yourself” is the most uneducated thing you can say to someone. Someone make me that shirt please…or a wine glass.

Do you really think for one second I’m not aware of the consequences of yelling? That I’m not aware of the studies or theories or alternatives to yelling? It’s like Jolene from Georgia doesn’t actually care, she just posts that to reaffirm she’s got things all figured out and doing it better than us scum that yell. Educate yourself Jolene. Do you think people who are overweight don’t understand the risks of being overweight? That they don’t know? Do you think smokers aren’t aware of the negative effects of cigarettes? Of course they know. No amount of you educating or hanging it over their head from your soapbox is going to change that. The only thing it does is encourage me to beat myself up a little more. Thanks, Jolene. I will tell you that the mental narrative I have with myself over this is something that no person should ever hear spoken out loud. We do this to ourselves don’t we mamas (and dads)? I don’t need the posts. I don’t need your judgement. I don’t need your advice. I already have a whole drawer open in my mind—remember that mom fail drawer I mentioned? That’s the one. It’s filled with replayed scenes and fails and negative thoughts about what a rotten, fail of a mother I am. I loathe this drawer and try to keep it closed as much as possible.

Are you waiting for me to go into a Rachel Hollis moment? Here’s my flaw but here’s how I came out of it, beat it, got it all figured out, coached you on it and now have a book and tour and millions to show for it? Unfortunately, not this mama. I’m willing to be raw and vulnerable with you though, which is hard enough. I admit my flaw, am aware of it and I am willing to work on it. That’s it. That’s all I got.

Here’s what I did come up with. Upon some recent prayer and reflection, I decided for Lent this year I’m giving up yelling. I have a rubber band that I’m wearing on my wrist all of Lent to try and condition myself like Pavlov’s dog. Each time I yell or go to yell, SNAP. It may not solve everything. It may solve nothing. I may still yell but I hope to be much more aware of the yelling and hopefully it curbs it or stops it before it happens.

So this lent while others are giving up things or doing new things for their forty days, you’ll find me with a rubber band on my wrist working at fixing a flaw that I’d very much like to go away. I will say this—I still think children need discipline. When they misbehave, I’m not a big fan of sitting down as two adults and talking it out (I’m the adult last time I checked). I’m going to try to replace the yell with quieter stern moments but you bet your bottom dollar there will be quiet stern moments and consequences for misbehavior. I have no desire to let them see me as an equal or to have my sole purpose be their best friend. I’m their parent and hope there’s a little bit of fear, a lot of respect and even more love. God gave these three to me and no one else for a reason—no one else on the planet is better equipped to raise them than I am (and Kurtis). No one. Even with the yelling. But I know God is tugging at my heart as well. Tugging at me to listen to him and to work on this at the very minimum during this Lenten season. Maybe you’re feeling called to do the same. Maybe it’s something different that you struggle with or want to do better or even something you want to start doing. Regardless, let this post be a reminder that none of us are perfect. We all likely have parenting flaws we would love to magically disappear. You have a mom fail drawer too, don’t you? I bet you do. We all unwillingly play the comparison game (even Jolene from Georgia with her stinking posts). We all struggle with feeling like we fail our children (on occasion or daily). All of it. However, let this honest confession from a flawed mama also be a reminder that you aren’t alone. That we really are in this together. The next time you go to compare yourself to someone else, maybe snap a rubber band on your wrist as a reminder that she’s likely struggling too. Maybe she’s even a yeller like me.