“Because sometimes you just have to dance like a madman in the Self-Help section of your local bookstore.”
― David Levithan
“You cut your own hair?” Marcos, my friend from English class, asked me. In fact, I did, and it was hardly difficult at all, and I told him so. “So,” he said, “you cut your own hair, you draw really good, you sing and play guitar really good, you’re a mother, and you write? Do you know what you need? You need to stop being an overachiever, that’s what you need.”
I told Kyrsten, my sister, what he said, and she agreed with him. She told me that perhaps the reason behind my dissatisfaction with my current lifestyle and evrything that happens with me is because I am an overachiever, because I expect, or desire, so much more than I am given. Which led me to the question: Is the overachieving state of mind an unhealthy one?
All my life, I’ve been told what a smart girl, what an innovated and talented girl, I was. That’s what everyone expected of men adn, eventually, what I came to expect of myself. I’ve even developed this odd complex where, if I can’t do something amazingly and creatively, if I can’t do something worthy of praise, I don’t want to do it at all. I’m currently failing my Economics class, because I hardly ever complete my assignments to my way-too-high standards, so I don’t turn them in at all.
I pride myself in good work, and if I end up doing something that appears to me as mediocre, or, God forbid, average, it damn near destroys my self-esteem.
I was watching Sex and the City last night. It’s my go-to show when I’m feeling a little blue, which is actually pretty often, if you want to know the truth. I purchased every season of it at a garage sale for $5! I’m a total sap when it comes to a good deal like that. Probably the worst thing a lonely, single, hasn’t-had-any-action-in-over-a-year girl like me can do to herself is to buy every single goddamn season of Sex and the City for $5. All the sex and the romance and the friendships and the sex (yes, again) isn’t really helping me out.
I remember asking my sister what one would call the Sex and the City fandom, if there even is a fandom, and she replied, “I don’t know. Single women?” I couldn’t agree with her more.
Anyway, I was thinking to myself last night that, instead of spending every single night in watching Sex and the City, I should get my sorry ass out of our crowded two-bedroom apartment, and go have some actual goddamn sex.
Or at least try to make some new friends. Whichever comes first.
I know, it’s the day after thanksgiving, but yesterday was crazy-busy and by the time I had the time to type something up on this damn blog-that-nobody-reads-anyway, I was so tired that I just fell asleep in my clothes, on the couch, with my makeup still on.
Anyway, with it being Thanksgiving and all, I thought I’d write a quick little thing about what I’m thankful for.
I am thankful for Juliana. I know, it’s probably the obvious thing for me to write about, but it’s absolutely true. Here’s why: Two days ago, while Julie was in here little play area looking at the pictures in and pretending to read her copy of Where The Wild Things Are, I played some music to get me in the mood for cleaning the kitchen. The song was “Diane Young” by Vampire Weekend, and as soon as Julie heard it, she ran over and just started dancing like a madman. She laughed and she spun and she even tripped over her feet a couple times (Bad dancer, like both her parents. Figures.), but she kept on smiling anyway. So then I thought, to hell with cleaning, and we had our own little dance party right there in our cluttered mess of a living room. We danced so much that our neighbors downstairs had to tell us to keep it own. We had such a good time that the mess didn’t matter. It really didn’t.
Sometimes, I will be so frustrated with everything that is going on and everything that needs to be done that I forget to slow down and just enjoy things. Then, just as I’m about to implode, Juliana will come along and do something so simple, like flash me her goofy half-smile or give me a big, slobbery, baby-kiss, and things are alright again.
Julie is asleep. Honestly, I should be asleep, too, but I wanted to first record how heartbreakingly beautiful she is as I look at her now. Her hands are folded neatly on her chest, like Sleeping Beauty, awaiting her True Love’s kiss. She looks like a little doll. She’s so beautiful, it really does break my heart. She looks so much like her father, who is arguably the most attractive man have ever met.
She has big, dark brown, almond-shaped eyes just like his, and eyelashes that are so long and dark that I don’t think she will ever need even the slightest bit of mascara. She has these big pouty lips that form into a dorky half-smile exactly like his. It was the first thing I noticed about both of them, and the first thing that made me fall irrevocably in love with both of them as well. She has his black hair. So black, it almost looks dyed. Her hair isn’t as curly as his, but it still falls in gorgeous little ringlets on her shoulders and down her back. She’s only 14 months, and already it has grown halfway down her back.
I don’t know what features she gets from me. If you want to know the truth, I don’t really see myself in her at all. But it’s okay. It really is.
I am listening to her small, quick, sleepy breaths, and I am content. For now.
I have two sisters: Kyrsten, who is a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, and Kyra, who is a 13-year-old 8th grader (which is arguably the worst year of anyone’s life in the history of the universe). It’s strange watching my little sisters, whom I have always been something of a second mother to, grow up. I see them get excited over crushes or the possibility of a new relationship, and I see them utterly heartbroken not much later. I see them go through different phases (punk-rock, hipster, too-old-for-kisses-from-mom), and i see them hang out with people I have reason to believe aren’t necessarily the best influences on them. I also see my mom worry for the same reasons, and I can’t imagine how much harder this all must be on her.
I know Julie is only one-year-old, but I constantly find myself worrying about her as a teenager. Because I know she will have to suffer through the 8th grade and that she will probably smoke with her friends as a sophomore and that will probably be tempted to lose her virginity on prom night. I know that she could have her heart broken by assholes, and, for all I know, she could be the asshole doing the heartbreaking. I know that she will probably come home smelling of alcohol on her sixteenth birthday. And I think that, worse than my fear of these things happening is my fear of forgetting that these things are almost inevitable. Because that’s just what teenagers do.
I think that a lot of parents forget how damn difficult it is to be a teenager is, and they somehow convince themselves that their kids are exempt from all the angst, low self-esteem, uncertainty and peer pressure that most certainly comes with it.
I have always felt like mother and every other adult around me put me on this pedestal, and whenever I fell short of their expectations, I felt inadequate. Simply for being a teenager, I felt inadequate. And I don’t want Julie to feel that way.
I’m not saying that I will personally hand Julie cigarettes and condoms, but I do want her to know that I understand and that I remember what it was like to be young. I still don’t know how I will react when I am faced with these challenges, but in the meantime, I will try not to forget that she is human and that all humans, especially teenagers, are allowed to make mistakes.
Sorry I have not posted in a while, but I’ve been busy being a bad mother.
I say this because–after reading dozens of parenting books ranging from What To Expect: The First Year to The Secret’s Of Happy Families, and online forums with hundreds of opposing viewpoints–I have come to realize that being a “good mother” is damn near impossible.
If you decide to work or finish your education, you’re neglectful; if you decide to be a stay-at-home mom, you’re smothering. If you discipline your child, it’s pretty much a guarantee that she will one day be sitting on a shrink’s couch; if you let her run wild, she will be doing drugs by the seventh grade. If you carry your baby in a sling, you’re depriving her of the time she could be using to develop her fine motor skills; if you don’t use a sling, you’re robbing her of the much-needed security she’d receive by being a heartbeat away from you.
Why is this so hard? Shouldn’t maternal “instincts” come naturally to me? Shouldn’t I know what’s best for her? Why do I constantly find myself rummaging through online forum after online forum to decide something like whether or not the fact that I share a bed with her will have an effect on her chances of becoming a functioning adult? (To be honest, I still don’t know the answer to this.)
How did my mother manage to care for 4 kids? How did John and Kate manage their 8 kids and get through every episode without punching a hole into every single wall of their house? Juliana is a pretty well-behaved kid, for the most part, and still I find that I have trouble getting through the day without ripping a good chunk of my hair out, or wanting to curl up into a ball and give up. And worse, I feel guilty for feeling this way.
Are good mothers supposed to feel annoyed when their toddler urges them to stop right in the middle of reading a deeply interesting novel, or an important essay for class? Are good mothers tempted every night by the bottle of wine in the cupboards above the fridge? Are good mothers allowed to feel secluded and depressed and frustrated that their every thought revolves around a single person? Do good mothers cling to every bit of alone time they have?
A good mother is, to quote other sources:
“Mary Poppins, but biologically related to you and she doesn’t leave at the end of the movie.”
“She lives only in the present and entirely for her kids.”
“She has infinite patience.”
“She remembers to serve fruit at breakfast, is always cheerful and never yells, manages not to project her own neuroses and inadequacies onto her children, is an active and beloved community volunteer; she remembers to make playdates, her children’s clothes fit, and she does art projects with them and enjoys all their games.
And she is never too tired for sex.”
She is everything I am not.
While I try every day to be the best mother I can be (without losing my sanity), these thoughts plague my mind. Parenting, as I’ve experienced it in the past year, is a horrible mixture of laziness and guilt with a heaping tablespoon full of uncertainty. I am never sure of myself. Every bit of parenting advice I’ve received have only assured me that, no matter how hard I try, there will always be something that I am doing wrong. Always.
I will never stop trying to be the best mother I can be, and maybe that comes hand-in-hand with beating myself up every time I make a mistake: big or small. I know I still have a lot to learn, and that books can only help so much, but if there is one thing I have come to accept of myself as a parent, it’s my own fallibility.