Wednesday, January 12, 2011

from a place of Imperfection

Some mothers are sweet and soft spoken and would never know how to say something sarcastic or angrily reactive. And they never, ever shout. I've always wanted to be like that.
Some mothers are naturally rather gruff and stern.
I'm somewhere in the middle. Like many others, I suppose. And sometimes I even find myself at one absolute end or the other.

I've been saying often lately that I don't believe we're all meant to be the same. Homogenized. That goes beyond my image of sweetly mothering, rather what I mean is something bigger - something that looks more like saints can come in all shapes and sizes. I mean that (as I said to someone recently) there is Mother Theresa or Thich Nhat Hahn, there is Richard From Texas, and there is me.
Very different ways of life expressing Itself.

Mothering problems come most swiftly when we're ill prepared. And by 'problems' I mean being reactive and terse instead of behaving with kindness and absolute empathy.
Most of the time I try to do things to keep myself firmly on 'friendly' ground. The house kept up... feeling good about who I am....the babes well-fed and well loved... (have you ever noticed how easy it is to pass around love and joy when everyone in the family is genuinely happy? Living in joy is a very good idea.)
But it's not always possible to live life from a place of Perfection. One doesn't get to choose to interact with others only while standing on blissful ground... in a Zen place.
But I've had some opportunities, lately, to realize that my center -my usual ground - is much more trustworthy and pleasant than I had supposed.

I told you about when I woke up a while ago, and Trev was still up. I was mostly still asleep (and very unreasonable) and clipped at him "Go to bed." We had a conversation in the morning -his morning- about it, and we came to an understanding. Thank goodness my children know enough to come to me with "Hey... we have a problem..."

But here are my scenarios.

Trevy gets really wound up sometimes when he's playing a new game. Completely frustrated. Screaming and crying sort of frustrated.
Keeping going - wanting to live like this - is completely foreign to me. "If you're not enjoying yourself, then put it away," has been my thought often, if not my direct response.
Yesterday as this was happening, I didn't voice it, however.
By just observing, instead of being pulled into the emotional turmoil (it's so easy for me to be emotionally affected by things), I came to realize that this process is something he has to do for himself.
I don't mean he has to walk it alone, I mean that this is something his Self has told him he must do. He feels compelled. He must go through this process. It's mandatory that he conquer and complete this mission.
It doesn't matter that it was a Godzilla game. And a few months ago it was Bowser. And something before that, and something else before that.
When I woke up last night - a mouse, you know - I could hear that he was still up. Sometimes laughing. Often talking. It was early (for him)- 12:40, I think.
As I wrote it got quieter, and at around two I supposed he had gone to bed.
At three I thought I heard him, again, so I went into the den.
Sure enough, he was up, and on the computer. Now this game is just an older game, one that he has to play online. It isn't something we have software for. And you don't get to "save". So there's lots of "game over"'s and you have to do the whoooole thing in one stretch. If your objective is to win, that is.
"Hi Mom." he says softly. "I finished my game."
"You did???" I asked. "Wow, Bud. Congratulations." I hugged him and spoke softly back. It was three a.m., after all.
"Yeah." Phew, he blows, "Finally. I finally finished it."
Do you see that?
Tenacity. My son has chosen to take upon his character something that looks like determination and tenacity.
"I'm gonna go to bed, now."
"Alright. See you in the morning. Love you."

I think a lot of folks just wouldn't see this situation as a pleasant and loving thing. They might be too busy trying to swallow the "three a.m." thing.
But here's the thing... when you let go of certain ideas - restrictive ideas - you come to find yourself on more loving -and friendly- ground.
If I had a more close-minded outlook, then it's totally conceivable that I could eventually drive this character trait entirely out of my son. It's completely possible that I would have inadvertently taught him that if things are too hard or too emotional, we should just walk away.
Yeah. That doesn't look very pretty.
Instead, evidently, I stand on pretty solid ground and let him choose for himself the Me he wants to be. Such an understanding gives me hope and encouragement... that I might be a better, more supportive, and much more loving mother than I had supposed.

Something that isn't such a surprise to me, but comforting nonetheless, is that thinking like an unschooling Mama doesn't always -or maybe even usually- mean just hoping for the best. I do a lot of that, for sure, but I figure it's certainly no more than every other parent since the beginning of time.
I've learned that when I'm questioning, or nervous, or fearful about something to just address it. If I'm wondering about thoughts or things about my children - I just ask. Or I just find out. I can trust myself to pay attention to things, and to step up -with love- when necessary.
A few weeks ago as I was watching Maddie write, I was pondering the fact that Trev doesn't. I wasn't getting weird about it, and I wasn't thinking labels and that there was something wrong with him, I was just thinking about it.
I did a bit of research about it online, brain development, and that sort of thing, and started questioning if there was just something different about his mind, and he just wasn't developmentally ready for fine-tuned hand skills.
Uh - this would be the same child who can do six things while he wins video games. But whatever. I told you I worry about odd things sometimes.
So I brought him to me, and just put it to him. "I've been thinking about this, and want to check on some things. It's not a big deal, but I have some skill things that I'd like for you to do real quick for me, if you would..." I was honest with him, but didn't say "I'm worried about you," probably mainly because I really wasn't worried, just curious. (I figure everyone comes to things in their own time.)
I don't even remember the little tests, now. Something I got at some 'fine motor skills' development website.
It was clear within less than a minute that there was no problem. After a couple of minutes, I kissed him and thanked him and we both went back to what we were doing before I started thinkin'.
I'm learning to trust myself to not get freaky, and that if I have questions, I can just ask them. So I find myself again standing upon firm and pleasant ground.

I mentioned that Madd has been fascinated with poo and bodily functions. (Thus the Baby Alive for Christmas.)
She did some things that I deemed very odd and didn't know how to interpret, which I'll not be mentioning specifically here because I don't want her to be embarrassed or ashamed now or later. (Nothing to truly disturb or scare a Mama, just "What in the world?!?" type things.)
We had some issues over it. Some things were funny, but some were rather disturbing to me, as I can get freaky over Mess.
She would do something, and there'd be a big hullabaloo, and she'd say "I promise to never do it again."
And then something very similar would happen again a few days or a week or so later, and she'd promise to "never do it again".
And then it happened again.
And then the last time was a baby with poo on it, under her bed. Real poo, mind you.
We went around and around. Me feeling like (and possibly acting like) the world's most horrible mother, and her crying and promising she'd never do it again.
I tried my best to get to "why", but we never really resolved that.
This can't happen again, I kept thinking.
She can't be trusted.
How can I make this never happen again?
My reactions and and all of my words were coming from this unenviable place.
Finally I was able to stop, and just Stop.
What's the most loving thing to do?
The most loving thing to do is to hug her close, tell her I am very sorry for being so unkind, to tell her we'll just start over, and that I completely trust her.
So that's what happened.
And I truly believe that it's been resolved - that by giving Maddie my absolute trust and faith, she trusts me also, and will come to me with her questions and curiosities should she have them again.
Firm ground, you see.

Last night I looked around, after having been preoccupied for a couple of days.
Our home was a mess!
I had a flash of panic and mania - yet again I come from a place of imperfection.
And then I gathered myself together, and just said "Tomorrow. I'll be able to clean this all up tomorrow." And my panic and worry left.

So I've found myself to be standing firmly in a place where I'm much more capable and loving than I have ever believed of myself.
While I think that operating from a sense of love will do that to (and for) you, I also think that living with openness and mindfulness allows all of us to better see what's really going on.
By questioning what's happening, our usual reactions, and whether or not we are operating out of a full sense of love, we eventually find our centers -including our reactions and our automatic responses- to be increasingly more demonstrative of our most loving selves.
We find that we can love others better and more willingly, and we can finally be open to the idea that we can be trusted to be so, even when we're coming from a place of Imperfection.

So after all of this we make the amazing discovery that we, ourselves, are worthy of trust, and worthy of love.
Much more worthy than we ever thought ourselves to be.


  1. I often find in my head, "My daddy never would have tolerated this...I shouldn't tolerate this..." I HATE THAT!!! My father and I do not even speak today, so obviously his way was not the right and loving way. But still it creeps in...and now that you mention it, it is almost always when I am coming from an "ill-prepared" place--when I am running on too little sleep, when the house is a mess...

    Very thought-provoking post, as usual, Stephanie. thank you.

  2. Yes, very thought-provoking post. I'm not sure that I have such firm and pleasant ground to stand on, but I know that I need to take the time to step back and see exactly where we *are*.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts :-)

  3. I think that the biggest thing I learned from this particular process and evaluation is that by being open to love with my children, my "center" has moved more firmly and deeply into a place of love.
    I'm able to see that I'm changing (my automatic pilot is much more trustworthy than it used to be), and love for them and the willingness to be open has carried me to a place where I finally feel that I may actually be worthy of it.
    It's like I'm almost ready to embrace the idea that I'm good enough.
    That's huge.

  4. That is huge! And wonderful!

    I think you make me aware that to progress down that path, towards acceptance and understanding, it is necessary to take mindful steps, rather than absentmindedly push on.

    That's why I like coming here :D

  5. Haven't stopped by your blog in awhile for I haven't been on the computer as much these days. Just wanted to say that I like your new layout w/ pretty header, etc. And ... this is a really good, thought provoking, honest post. Happy New Year to you & your family.

  6. My middle child is very much a child that has to finish a game. Sometimes he has cried with frustration,stomped and squealed and yelled. But he has stuck to it. Frustrating though it is for the rest of us, I think that this persistence will be a positive character trait in years to come. Me, I give up really easily, and almost envy his ability to focus and see things through.

    Trusting in your child is the key to it all really isn't it? But you're right, you have to be in a solid zone to be free to do that. I guess that's why us mums really need to look after ourselves sometimes :)

  7. Big Mamma Frog -
    If you ain't got it, you ain't got it to give.

  8. This post resonates. I see the truth and I recognize much. I will ponder, read again, and ponder some more.
    Thank you for the food for thought.

  9. I struggle with that place of love sometimes. I can see it and know what to do but it is like seeing the "what I should do" from a distance. It helps to see someone else talk through their process.

  10. Oh Stephanie, I loved reading that!So much ties in with where I am. Thank you so much.xxxx

  11. "So after all of this we make the amazing discovery that we, ourselves, are worthy of trust, and worthy of love. Much more worthy than we ever thought ourselves to be."

    Exactly. We are human, after all. All of us.

  12. Interesting thoughts. I'm going to have to chew on it awhile... Thanks for sharing these thoughts. :)

  13. Thanks for this lovely post. It has given me much to think about and resonates deeply with me and the way we parent and live. Thank you so much for the gift of this post. One that I am sure that I will come back to time and again over the years.

  14. Amazing post... All the honesty that we don't even dare to think about let alone blog about... You rock!!!

  15. I loved this post, Steph. Thank you.

    I learned a while ago to really pay attention to what was bugging me - often it's not what I thought was bugging me. Is it really my kid or their behavior? Or is it that I'm hungry/tired/hair is in my face? That's helped so much.

    It's nice to read about that from a more eloquent momma.

  16. Oh I love this post. Just a couple days ago I was thinking about how I feel about myself as a mother.I've felt pretty crappy lately. It came from a place of worrying about what others might think,
    not trusting myself, or my children.

    This really is such a beautiful, honest post. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  17. beautiful post, Stephanie. i can totally relate with pretty much seems that our families are evolving sort of side by side, parallel to one another, but in different hemispheres ;)

  18. Thank you for giving a tired mamma a bit more oomph for tomorrow :)

  19. This post is so thoughtful.
    The idea that children need space and trust beyond what we might deem as necessary really resonates with me. I'm growing more towards this.
    Thank you for your honesty. You are a wise Mama.

  20. Echolage - Me, too. I've often lamented that I can see the choice as an option, but in my anger I simply don't/didn't want to choose it. There are lots of reasons for that, no doubt.
    Some probably come from feeling powerless as a kid (so working through such things now), some are probably ego, some just I don't know what.
    Oddly, I'm not worried about it anymore. It's like I've made some shift -a monumentally huge shift- that has placed me in an entirely different place on the spectrum.
    I don't see myself as a horrible mother anymore.
    It's like I've taken a look at the evidence, and I've come to an understanding that I can be trusted.
    That's why I wanted to share this - going from "I'm not good enough" and even "I'm the worst mother ever" to this new place (understanding) was done by choosing love and being open, even though my intention was simply to be love and open for my children. I had no thought that it would provide me with self love, too. But it did.
    So I wanted to encourage others that like me feel they constantly let themselves down, never are good enough, are always making do their own examinations, and to find they're actually much better than they had ever thought.
    That they're worthy.

    Thanks Se7en! I appreciate the cheer. :)

    Darcel - Not thinking you're good enough sucks. I suggest taking another look around like I did and maybe you'll come to an entirely different conclusion! :)

    Everyone - thanks so much for you kind words.
    I'm so glad we have such an easy and wonderful way of communicating and sharing and growing with eachother.

  21. About the "horrible mother" thing...
    I know it sounds harsh and possibly inappropriate. And it might sound pitiable.
    But the thing is, I've just really felt that way most of the time.
    Being an idealist can have serious drawbacks. :)
    I see very clearly the way I want to live and behave, and when I fall short of that, it leaves me angry and devastated. And coming from a place of anger and devastation isn't a very good place to start.

    Nothing anyone's been able to say has convinced me that I'm not horrible, but by really being mindful about where I was going (for years, really) I've now come to a different opinion. :)

    Sorry - I know I'm saying the same things over and over, I just wanted you to understand why I would say "horrible mother" - didn't want you thinking I secretly lock the babes up or something. :/

    Some of us are just really hard on ourselves.

  22. As it did with others, this post also resonated with me, and is very close to the thoughts swirling about in my own head and indeed, in conversations I've been having with my children, of late. I know I can never have too many reminders to react in the "most loving way", and perhaps most especially with regards to myself, for that "firmer ground", I seek. Also, I'll just state that it sounds like we operate in similar ways--I'm edgy about Mess, too, etc. And in fact, woke this morning feeling the need to put our home in good order.
    Thank you for this post.

  23. It's definitely been a journey for me I must say. I'm a totally different parent than I was 2 years ago, and I'm thankful for that. It's been a journey and continues to be a journey, but it comes much more naturally now than it did then. We have to be patient with ourselves just as we have to be patient with our family, as we're finding a new path. It doesn't (or didn't in the beginning of the journey) come naturally because we were raised differently and are in the midst of a society that highly disrespects children at just about every turn.

    For me, the defining moment came when, after the umpteenth time of losing it, I said to myself "you can only apologize so many times and then it just starts to be meaningless". My kids (or rather Damek because at the time he was the more aware one) always forgave me, but with more of a hint of hesitation each time. I felt even worse when he forgave me as I told him "no, it's not alright, the way I treated you is not o.k.". That was my catapult to do some serious self reflecting and that's when every decision started to be made from a place of "is this going to hurt or harm our relationship", and I acted more and more accordingly.

    I think your last statement is a clear picture for lots of us and the reason why we're going down this "radical" (it pains me to think that we have to be radical in order to step out of the mainstream and treat our kids with respect & kindness) parenting path because we ourselves did/don't feel worthy of trust or love because we weren't trusted or loved unconditionally ourselves.

    I'm happy and peaceful with where I'm at now on my journey of radical parenting, it's been a lot of work trying to break the mold, but to be here looks pretty good and feels even greater and will continue to do so as we continue our journey together as a family:)

  24. Stephanie, it's like I can feel your energy all the way across the sea. It's buzzing, alive, attuned, aware, deep DEEP in thought and reflection and mindfulness…it's like it's vibrating through me as I read your words.

    Your words are incredible. So open. So completely, heart wide open. Thank you for sharing them with me/us. Thank you for the honesty and the reflection and the trust, so that I can carry your words around with me, feel where they resonate.

    And they do resonate, inside and through me. They make me think of who I am as a mother, ways I love my mothering and why, and where I am fearful… Your words make my own heart open wider.

    I am grateful, so grateful that I found you!

  25. I read your post earlier this morning again. I didn't want to say before because I didn't want you to think I was some weirdo, but I got chills through certain parts of your post just like I did the first time I read it.

    I know that horrible mother feeling. I've had it ofetn.
    I bet it feels great to feel that you can be trusted and you are good enough and worthy of this life you've created for yourself and your family.
    I'm getting there. I can feel myself making this shift deep down and it feels good.

    Like someone else mentioned, I can feel your energy, and it's pretty darn amazing :)

  26. Darcel - I would never think a part of another mama's journey was creepy.
    More like sacrosanct

    Helena - Thank you so much for your incredibly loving words.
    It's so nice to hear of hearts opening wider.

  27. Just happened to be checking my Facebook page in time to see Darcel urging this as a must-read. And I must say, I agree. I will come back and read this again. And again. And probably again after that, just to get it to sink in a little deeper. The imperfection and the horrible mother? Oh, that's me. To. A. Tee. I'm getting better, but there's still such a long way to go. Thanks for sharing this glimpse in your own's giving me a lot to ponder about where my own next steps may lead.

  28. WOW! Have just read this straight through, twice. This all resonated with me so much. I thought I was the only one who thought they were a "horrible" mother. :)

    "I see very clearly the way I want to live and behave, and when I fall short of that, it leaves me angry and devastated." - This is me, too. It's a vicious cycle of negativity and I'm so thankful for my meditation practice that helps to keep me centered; blogging, which has been a great opportunity for reflection; and the meeting of amazing like-minded mamas that help put things into perspective.

    The scenarios you've shared (Trev and Maddie) were particularly helpful - to see how another mama handles things that I too struggle with. I'm getting closer to being the mama I want to be and in this moment trust that I am enough.

    Thank you for your beautiful open-heart, your honesty and your wisdom. You really do rock. xoxo -Debbie

  29. Debbie - I've been expecting you. :)
    I figured you'd pop in at some point! <3 <3 <3
    I read that as "and the meeting of absent-minded mamas." lol.
    Blogging is so awesome. I can start out with a question, and by the time I write it all out, I have a certain understanding, and then other mamas come up with questions and ideas, and pretty soon everyone has questions and quests and ideas for themselves. So, so amazing.
    I'm so thankful for it.

  30. You know me so well...I can be very absent-minded. :) xoxo

  31. So so true. I have found the more I accept who they are as they are and embrace--or at least understand, all their idiosyncrasies, habits, wants, etc., the easier it is to accept all of my own :).

  32. I would really like to print this out and stick it in my diary. I want to keep it for re-reading over and over.

    I often feel like a bad mother, more so to my daughter. I grew up without my own mother, and so I sometimes struggle with the mother-daughter relationship. I feel so much that I am set adrift with no map, with only my own internal compass to guide the way, and the inadequacy of that compass strikes me down quite often.

    I know I come from a place of imperfection, and just knowing that makes me feel under qualified to do what is needed!

    So thank you for this post, for your honestly and your wonderful way with words.

  33. I love your thoughts. It's so important to give kids room and encouragement to be the best people that they want to be. Of course, it's also okay to be grossed out by poo and to say, "No poo under the bed because, just no!" You're not saying, "You're a bad poo child!" You're just saying, "No poo!" Or possibly, "Yikes! Poo! You've inadvertently caused me to touch poo!"

  34. NO idea how i missed this...although perhaps i wasn't *meant* to see it until just now.

    So much of this resonates -- my Savannah is much like your Trev -- and, if i'm to be honest, just like her mother.;) I do need to be more mindful of her process and not get caught up the waves of her emotion....

    and i'd love to write more, but Sebastian needs the computer...;)

    thank you for sharing this...



Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!