"With the possible exception of the equator, everything begins somewhere."
---Peter Robert Fleming
I'm sure it would launch World War 3 (or are we up to 4 now? I lose count.) to determine but I suspect the equator does actually begin somewhere or more likely everywhere. Each point on the line is a start or end, depending upon how you look at it.
And if you think I'm talking like TS Eliot right now you are probably right.
What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from.
---T. S. Eliot
2008 is a year with a beginning, middle and ending.
Let me explain how I've arrived at this earth-shattering bit of amazing insight. (You hear the jokey tone there, right?)
(Bear with me, okay? I know this is long. I'm sorry. I won't post for a day or two so take your time. And know I am deeply grateful you'll give me any time, much less the time this might take...)
"Where there are friends, there is wealth."
---Titus Muccius Plautus
The New Year's Eve party was really tremendously fun. The hosts had just enough things to do that everyone had a good time but nothing was so structured that you felt put through any paces. I was so impressed with how into character everyone got for the game. It was hilarious. My neighbors/friends have hidden depths of dramatic and creative talent (or no longer quite so hidden).
They also have some explaining to do about the backs of their closets and the costumes they found therein...lol. Let's start with Jon, who still has (somehow) a shirt I know for a fact he had and wore to dance clubs in the 80s. At the time it was widely agreed to be a really super rad shirt. Now it gave us all pause.
I do have photos. I have lots of photos. And they are hilariously funny, most of them. But. I'm not alone in any of them. I'm sharing the frame with other people who haven't signed off on their image being shared.
You'll have to take my word the guests looked fabulous and it was all a good time.
You'll also have to take my word that it was no trouble at all to find accessories that would suit the 80s. What's up with that? I had a slew of bangle bracelets, you can see the necklace, and big black hoop earrings. The dress is right off the rack. I'm ashamed to admit I still have hot rollers. Not that I use them, just have them. I forgot how time intensive it was to get ready to go out in the 80s. Dude. I am like totally grateful for the grunge movement of the 90s.
I'll spare you a boring recount of the party. It's never as fun to hear about it or retell it, and things that were hilarious in context often leave others whistling in boredom. But I will tell you about the next day.
It's all about being able to sustain a conversation for longer than two minutes without interruption.
When Jon and I woke up---on our own timetable (which was disgustingly early...I'd hoped for 8 a.m. at least but our routine is apparently deeply ingrained)---and were able to get up and move about without fielding 45 demands and 22 arguments all before we even got downstairs for coffee...it was an unparalleled pleasure.
It's difficult and controversial to say anything negative about parenting and kids.
But I will.
First, a caveat---of course. Don't blog posts about parenting complaints always contain a caveat post?
Here's mine: I think each parenting comment should never be evaluated on its own. That's a challenge with a blog, where people probably have not read or retained every word I've ever written. I believe, however, that we should give people---whether exulting or ranting---the benefit of the doubt that they are well-rounded and offer the other side of that coin at some point too. So while I am going to get a little bit negative here about parenting, I do love my kids and I do love parenting. But sometimes it can be a challenge, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. It's often the little things that build up so that you are swamped and underwater without ever having seen a big wave. That's been the situation here. I got swept under water and haven't been able to completely pull my head back up the the surface, parenting-wise.
I used to think it was or should be unnecessary to offer a caveat, but I've changed my mind. I think it makes perfect sense.
Venting is a process. It's the middle, and the middle is the means by which we get to the end. I have faith that people will eventually get to the end.
However, that's a hard view to maintain, especially in the moment. I think too often we focus on the end, rather than understanding the means. Most people do usually process through the beginning and the middle and reach a balanced end. (Stuck is another post.)
However, while I believe this, I find it a challenge to practice at times, especially because I am (a) a solver and (b) a parent.
B is the biggest challenge of all. As a parent I am often put in the role of moving the process along and showing how to solve.
It gets to be a habit, sometimes a nasty one that carries over to adults (sorry) and what's more, as a parent, I am often in a rush, and distracted. Or interrupted. That's a pretty huge impediment to communication, especially quality communication.
That's really, really frustrating, especially for a communicator like me. I like to talk. I process out loud. I'm a methodical (read: needs time) processor. That's what makes me and Jon and good team: he's a good listener and encourages and reminds me to stop talking and listen, and I encourage him to talk.
"Who speaks, sows; Who listens, reaps."
So for the first dozen years of our relationship, we moved like a well-oiled machine.
Enter the monkey wrenches: Patience and Persistence.
They don't intend to be monkey wrenches and that's a sort of unfair---albeit it funny---characterization.
But it is true that kids disrupt. (Listen, seriously, all your protests just now are no greater than my own. I'm 100% with you about the "but kids are blessings, kids are great, we love kids, they have enriched us too" comments. But remember, this is one side of one coin in the middle so bear with me.)
That's something Jon and I got to talk about yesterday morning: trying to work as a team with constant disruption and interruption.
"There is nothing so annoying as to have two people talking when you're busy interrupting."
Patience and Persistence understandably interrupt. A lot. Constantly. God love their future partners in life because as much as I love those girls, the truth is they are very high-maintenance. I realize that if you look up high-maintenance in the dictionary you'll find a photo of kids next to it as illustration. But I've met a lot of kids. And all kids are not created equally.
Some just have more going on.
My kids have got a lot going on, and have from the very beginning. Persistence was so eager to hit the ground running in life that she tried to come out half baked, at 24 weeks. We managed to convince her to stay in for a while longer but when the time came, she shot out in less than three hours. And she hasn't slowed down since. She's a rocket. Patience is more like a steam engine, chugging fast and steady.
They've received lots of labels so far, but "busy" and "spirited" are the top two.
You know your life is special when other moms say things such as:
"I don't know how you do it; your kids are so busy, I'd go crazy."
"Wow, your two are more work than my four." (Thanks, Sis.)
Keeping all that energy aimed in a positive direction is a lot of work, very draining. I usually have a lot of things I need to talk to Jon about (kid discipline issues) and a lot of things I want to talk to him about (do you think I've lost my mind? oh yeah and how was your day?) but at the end of the day I look at him and he looks at me and we feel so old and tired and unable to talk. So we promise to get a good night's sleep and talk the next day. When we hit the same point the next day, we stare at one another with the same exhaustion and lack of speech ability.
Knowing this, we often try to sneak into another room and talk in the moment.
That's usually an exercise in frustration and futility.
Hands down that is the hardest part of parenting for me personally, as myself (versus me as a parent, which holds a separate set of challenges): the constant buzz of activity and noise.
I need down time, quiet time. Without it, I just keep losing my charge. I don't get to process. And stress just builds up, volcano style, inside me.
I also need to talk to my partner.
"Such is human psychology that if we don't express our joy, we soon cease to feel it."
"That which we are capable of feeling, we are capable of saying."
We do make time for date night. Often we join other people or go somewhere and do something, so it's not necessarily a relaxed morning at home where conversation can organically unfold. We've sat across from one another at many a restaurant table either quiet (which can be good too) or sharing small talk (which can be good too). But sometimes the silence is charged.
This is because we often have a sitter at home and we are aware of the meter running for time and cost. We better make this good, worthwhile, whispers the pressuring voice. Pull out all those things you've wanted to talk to him about for the last two weeks, it pressures again. There are all those issues to discuss, kid problems to solve, things to work out, hisses the voice even more urgently, that's what you need to talk about.
So I don't sit quietly because I've got nothing to say (as if!) but because I've got too much. Also, I don't want to be out and talk about Issues. I want to enjoy my time out, have fun. And I'm tired. And I'm glad to not have to do anything. For anyone. For a few minutes.
I'm just grateful to be eating with someone who doesn't need his food cut, who doesn't snitch off of my plate, who isn't begging to be up and running after about 2.4 minutes of sitting and eating, who isn't whining about something not tasting right or being too hot or too cold, who isn't kicking anyone under the table...you get the picture.
So as much as we enjoy the quiet, relaxing, uninterrupted meal, we get home with this feeling of unfulfilled expectation.
We haven't had all the big talks and reconnection of communication we feel we probably should have.
(Oh Should...how well you pave the road to hell.)
Yesterday morning, New Year's Day, we just expected to take it easy before heading over to my sister's house to celebrate 2008 (no, no Kool & The Gang at the party...shocking), have lunch and retrieve our children.
What happened was...we talked. Just shared thoughts, ideas, opinions, chit and chat. Without fear of interruption, without actual interruption, without 37 different things going on, we just sat around and talked. It's amazing how the conversation flowed and evolved, without distraction, expectation or interruption.
I know I processed a few things, and I think he did too.
In a way, parenting in the busy lives we lead can be a bit like crisis management. Or playing in the 4th quarter of the championship game when the ball's in play. Man on man! Zone! Defense! Offense!
But no pressure.
It's only the future success and happiness of your kids on the line. ;)
"The future depends on what we do in the present."
Sometimes I don't think we're aware---honest?---about how difficult and trying parenting is. Oh we say the words but I don't think we necessarily allow ourselves to feel the relief and validation the words can bring.
This is a tough job, and the pressure is enormous.
When I share a feeling with another person and that person says, "Oh Julie, how great!" or "Oh Julie, how rough!" it is such a huge relief, that little, simple validation.
But I don't do that for myself.
I've got such a stiff upper lip mentality.
Tough? Soldier up girlfriend!
Trying? Straighten your backbone chickie!
Stressed? Pull it together.
The parenting gig is something I willingly---and with huge effort, which adds its own layer of extra pressure---took on. I wanted to be a parent. I chose to be a parent. And it hasn't happened in a vacuum, this parenting. It's happened amid pretty much all ten of the top ten stressors.
We have soldiered on, but eventually you run out of resources. The soles of our boots are worn, our bellies (metaphorically speaking) are gaunt, and our uniforms are tattered.
We notice this because our kids are finally big enough that we are starting to get some breaks, and that enables us to see how flat out stressed we've been for the last six years.
I mean, we've known it's stressful, and we've noted it out loud, but this is the first time I've given myself permission to accept it, and relax. It's the first time I think, yeah, we need to make a few changes and we can.
Perhaps while you are going through a trying time you need to soldier up---it's how you get through. Still, it seems like somewhere in there you need to acknowledge just how much is being asked of you and where that leaves you, emotionally, physically and mentally.
If you're like me, when you start that line of thinking, it opens the door for comparisons:
"Other people manage all this just fine, without losing it."
"Other people have it worse."
"I need to pull it together, these are all blessings."
Perhaps this sort of thing comes easily to some people. But for people like me, it doesn't help.
I need a little time in the middle, you see.
And I finally got the exact space and time I needed, for that middle. On New Year's Day.
"With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts."
In a way, midnight on New Year's Eve can be a letdown. Another ball dropped, another kiss with a loved one, another toast of champagne, just one more minute passed on the clock. What's the big deal?
The big deal is which minute just passed: one year ended and another began.
So here's to a great middle---the year 2008.
In other news...
The Hump Day Hmm is returning next week, as promised. Here are the topics (and remember you can always suggest one or more):
January 9 --- Tell us about a person who inspires you or who is important to you, and why. Make us feel the love. It can be someone you know personally or someone who has done something you respect.
January 16 --- Tell us about what the arts (music, dance, art, etc.) mean to you and what you think the effect of de-emphasizing it in schools means for the kids, the community, the culture and the future. (I may be opening this up as an essay contest for 7th graders. I promised to run an essay contest for 7th graders and this might be a good topic. I have to clear it with the teacher. If it clears, I'll be posting the essay winners during that week.)
January 23 --- Tell us about the most important cultural issue from your perspective. Is it something that ought to be emphasized more in politics? Is it a political issue? Why or why not? Does it affect how you vote?
January 29 --- Tell us about a key point or vivid memory from childhood. Describe the event, and tell us why you still carry it, and how it works in your life.
It's a popularity contest and my friends are my competition...
The always awesome Slouching Mom nominated me for a couple of blogger awards. These are the sort that you register and vote for. I'm alongside some of my favorite bloggers and blogging buddies. This creates for me a rock and a hard place. It's an honor to be nominated and to sit alongside fabulous bloggers. Slouching Mom is my BFF just because she nominated me. That's so incredibly cool and nice and warm fuzzy invoking. It feels good. So do the few votes I've managed to get.
But. Popularity contests make me anxious, especially when I compete against friends.
However. I am on the boards. And I do have enough pride to hope I make a decent showing. I do care, now that I am there and involved. I do care, also, about the bloggers I know and like who are up there, as well, and want them to have a good showing, too. You can vote for multiple people in the same category. So you don't have to choose among us. You can vote for me, Slouching Mom, Lawyer Mama, and Wheels on the Bus Emily.
And vote for them, too. If I can't pull it off, I sincerely hope one of *us* from our lovely corner, one of our blogging buddies wins.
So, if you like, please, go register and vote for me. I've put the links on the sidebar and will add them here.
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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