Lately I've been drawn to practice forgiveness. I have felt a desire to lift the weight of resentment and let go of hurt I've held onto that others may not even know they've caused. What I've realized is that when I am content with who I am I don't need the validation of others. If I don't need their validation for my worth, then they can't hurt me. I can let go of the negative feelings and view them from a place of compassion instead of anger. I no longer bear a grudge or feel wronged because I am free from the chains that non-forgiveness held on me.
This letter is my apology to you. I wronged you. You were unaware of my trespass against you, but that doesn't make my fault any more acceptable. While you were busy parenting, I was busy judging.
You let your child sleep in your bed. How weird is that? You obviously do that more for yourself than the baby. I was wrong, I'm sorry. You aren't even talking to your child at dinner. Could you pay attention to your baby who is screaming your name? I was wrong, I'm sorry. You gave your child your phone instead of engaging with her or giving her a coloring book. Do you want her brain to rot? Are you that lazy? I was wrong, I'm sorry. Your child has snot running down his face and food in his hair. Do you not care about hygiene, could you clean it up? I was wrong, I'm sorry. Your child is throwing a huge tantrum and you are rolling your eyes as you carry her away. Be a better parent. I was wrong, I'm sorry. You said no and now you're giving in. You do know you need to be consistent to raise a well-behaved child, don't you? I was wrong, I'm sorry. You just snapped at your child in public. If that's how you speak to him in public I hate to think about what an awful parent you are behind closed doors. I was wrong, I'm sorry.
I now realize you are doing your very best to get by. You're exhausted, your child has been screaming at you all day and won't nap. You haven't had a good night's sleep since you found out you were expecting and you wonder if you'll ever sleep again. Even though it may not look like it on the surface, you are aware of the scene you're causing. You would be embarrassed, but you are so overwhelmed that part of you doesn't care what others think. Yet, at the same time you feel like you're completely failing as a parent and wonder if you are doing irreparable damage to your child in every moment.
For these and all the other judgments I made, I'm sorry. I was wrong. And lucky for you, karma is a b*tch.
Someone who gets it now
I decided to go complaint free for a week. I knew there was a high likelihood that I wouldn't be successful, but went with the "shoot for the moon and you'll land among the stars" philosophy.
It's funny how sometimes things happen in your life right when you need them. Well, within hours after making this decision, we had a bad day. The airlines lost our car seat, and then we accidentally bought a front facing one, and then Walmart wouldn't let us return it. Eventually we were able to return it, and the airport found our car seat, but the point is that normally I would have been irritated and frustrated by all of this. I'm sure I would have complained. However, because I had just committed to being complaint free, I was very mindful of my words and thoughts. By not complaining, I actually felt a decent amount of peace throughout the situation. I also feel like it kept my husband calmer.
As far as the rest of my complaint free week went, I found that at first I was preoccupied about what makes a complaint. I wasn't sure if I was "allowed" to make statements like "I'm tired" or "I'm hungry." Are those complaints or are the just statements? Upon reflection, I realized that what really matters is the intention behind what we say. I can say I'm tired, but I can also complain about being tired. The attitude, tone, and intention all matter.
Moreover, this practice and reflection gave me the chance to engage in active re-framing. Normally when doing the dishes I would probably say something to Henry about how even though I don't like doing dishes, we need to do them to keep the house clean. Yes, that's true. But, it's also slightly negative. It reminds me that I don't like doing dishes. Instead, I changed my conversation with Henry to the fact that doing dishes makes me grateful that we have dishes, that we have food to eat, and that we have a home and kitchen to store the dishes. By omitting the part about not liking the chore and attending to the gratitude component of it, I not only taught Henry a lesson, but gave myself the opportunity to take a positive outlook.
So, you're probably wondering if I was successful. Did I make it through the week without complaining? Of course not. But, was I more mindful about my words? Did I stop to listen to my internal dialogue and notice my thoughts more often? Yes. And, I think that's the point. We're human, we all complain (maybe there's some super positive non-complainers out there, you are amazing!). However, if we can all take time to slow down and notice what we think and say and attend to how those things affect our attitude and perspective on life I think we will be better off. And, if our words can be a little more positive, or at least a little less negative, as a result, I think everyone will benefit.
Being you. Shouldn't that be the most basic and simple thing there is? After all, we are ourselves so shouldn't we be ourselves without effort? One would think. Yet, I find myself not being me. At least not completely. I worry about what others will think. Will my followers like what I post? Will I lose followers if I post what I want and not what they want? I worry about why certain pictures don't get many likes or when I lose followers. I fear upsetting people or appearing rude when I don't respond to a comment, call, or text. I live my life trying to please others and striving to anticipate the reactions my actions will get.
How exhausting that sounds. Maybe that's why I'm tired all the time (okay, maybe not having slept through the night in about a year has contributed to it too). But seriously, why do we work so hard to please others? When can we stop trying and just be? I say screw it. We get one life so shouldn't we live for ourselves?
That doesn't mean not caring or acting selfishly, but it does mean accepting who we are and living true to that. Knowing our priorities and acting in accordance. Being silly or nerdy or smart or artistic or whatever we are at heart. Embracing our gifts and letting what makes us uniquely us shine, regardless of how others respond.
The other day someone called Henry "too fat" on instagram saying that he was unhealthy. While I know better and shouldn't care what some internet stranger thinks, it still hurt. That's my baby. You can be mean to me, but don't criticize him!
It got me thinking about how he will grow up in an age of internet and social media. As prevalent as mean girls and bullying may have been during my childhood, it is made easier by the anonymity of the internet. You no longer have to have the courage to be rude to someone's face, you can hide behind your computer screen or phone and speak hateful words. I don't want Henry to have to experience that. As his mother of course I want to shelter him from all pain and hurt. Yet, I also know that is unrealistic.
I do hope to teach him about kindness, however. Maybe Thumper said it best, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Maybe that's too extreme. I believe that we should be able to voice dissenting opinions and share criticism, however I'd rather be too kind than fall too far on the other end of the spectrum.
I hope to teach him that everyone is going through something. No matter how put together and confident someone appears, they have experienced hurt and have insecurities. We all do. So, rather than attacking, we should strive to build each other up. Treating hate with kindness and cruelty with love. Showing others how we want to be treated. Demonstrating respect and love for all living things (and even kindness toward non-living things).
I hope to help him recognize that often those acting the most cruel and hateful are hurting themselves so that he might be strong and confident in the face of any attacks he undergoes and also an example of love and kindness to the world.
Henry and I are up "celebrating" my birthday at 2am. It's a big one for me, my 30th. I remember being 25 and looking forward to the legitimacy 30 would bring. As a yoga instructor, I would do a pose and then be told it was only because I was "young." I felt like nothing was attributed to hard work or talent and that I was viewed flippantly and taken lightly by my more mature clients.
As I hit 30 I think about the milestone that is. Mostly I'm amazed at the fact that I remember pictures of me at my dad's 30th birthday and am now celebrating mine. How was he 30 and now I am? The same age! I was only a little older than Henry and now I have a baby and am turning 30 myself. It makes my mind spin.
What I realize, though, is how lucky I am to be alive. How incredible is it that I get to celebrate a milestone that many do not. How blessed am I to have another day of life, another year of life. How fortunate am I to be surrounded by my parents, sister, husband, and son as I celebrate my birthday. How exciting is it that I get to grow older.
Birthdays are often celebrated during youth and dreaded once one hits a certain point. The concept of aging is one we don't handle well. I like to think of it as a privilege, though. Every year older I get is an opportunity to experience more life and spend more time with those I love. What could be better?
I saw a post on instagram earlier today that was discussing the harms of screen time for babies and children as well as the negative effects of parental screen time in children's presence. It also talked about how parents must speak 2,100 words to their child per hour to ensure optimal language development.
While I know this post was well meaning and did contain good advice it made me want to offer the other side of the coin. While I do think there is value in minimizing screen time and maximizing verbal communication, I also think there is value in moderation. After reading the post I found myself feeling immediately guilty and like a bad mother. After all, I was reading it in Henry's presence. But I quickly stopped and reminded myself that I am a good mother. I do so much for Henry and his health, happiness, and well being are always at the forefront of my mind.
Do I check instagram in is presence, do I text when he's around, do I use my phone to take pictures and videos, do I occasionally watch TV while his breastfeeding or even while we're playing or cuddling? Yes, yes, obviously, and yes. Does that make me a bad mother or does it doom Henry to a less intelligent, successful future? I don't think so.
I think it's important to check WHY we do or don't things as well as the purpose and intentionality behind them. Do I worry with everything that I do whether or not I'm giving Henry the best upbringing? Absolutely. But I also hope I can teach both of us to let go of that worry and live presently, acting in each moment in the way we feel is best and right.
Moreover, I think there is a power in silence and simply being together. Of course language development is incredibly important, but I think that incessant talking can have a negative effect as well.
My point in addressing this subject is to raise the idea that with as much information as there is out there about ideal child rearing, sometimes you have to listen to your gut and trust your instinct. Whether it's about screen time, language development, or any other parenting topic, make informed decisions, and choose the path that is best for you and your children.
One day I'll forget how tired I was and remember only the joy of holding you in my arms.
One day I'll forget the pain of holding you all night and remember only the sweet warmth of your hand against my chest.
One day I'll forget the challenge of nursing you through the night and remember only the honor of being so needed.
One day I'll forget the hours of missed sleep and remember only the moments of togetherness we shared.
One day I'll forget the frustration you brought and remember only the love you gave.
One day I'll be up all night because I miss the nights I was up all night with you.
So tonight I'll love being up all night with you.
A few years ago I started setting New Year's "intentions" in place of "resolutions." Rather than a specific goal I choose a few mantras I want to live by over the coming year. Often they are the same year after year. Often I am working on the same goal, seeking to improve the same trait, looking to embody the same attribute. I turn to these intentions when I find myself needing guidance. Some years I set one, others I set multiple. This year I chose the following six:
I am AUTHENTIC. I resolve to be myself, unashamed and unafraid to let my true self be seen. Being wholly me in all my interactions, relationships, and roles, without apologies or reserve
I am PRESENT. I will be present with Henry, with my husband, and with my family. I will live in the moment and accept it as it is, neither judging nor comparing myself nor my life to my past, my future, nor to others.
I am STILL. My yoga practice and workouts will serve the purpose of giving me peace and stillness. I will do them for myself, not out of obligation or for others. I will take time to sit and just be. My heart will be calm and my mind will be free of worry.
I am CONFIDENT. I will be decisive and driven by my own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs rather than acting out of a desire to appease or win the approval of others. I will recognize my strengths and beauty and treat myself with the love and kindness I deserve.
I am CONTENT. I will be accepting of my circumstances and trust that each moment is exactly as it should be. I will find joy even in difficult moments and take time to savor the most beautiful ones.
I am NON-DEFENSIVE. I will be slow to react and quick to apologize. I will listen before responding, accept fault without giving excuses, and practice patience in all circumstances. I will trust that others will be forgiving of my mistakes and will practice forgiveness of myself.
Everyone around me (well, everyone in my instagram network) seems to have the "easiest baby," the "happiest baby," "the best sleeper." It leaves me feeling like I am an anomaly. Do I have a hard baby? Am I just a bad mom? Am I not cut out for this? Do I have unrealistic expectations? Am I just a wuss and everyone else is going through the same thing as me but is handling it much better? It leaves me with these questions and feelings of insecurity and frustration.
In the age of social media it's so easy to compare. Not just about motherhood, but about my home, my number of followers, my body, my yoga practice, and on and on and on. We all know that it's not smart to compare the public lives of others to our own private lives. Of course we all put our best face forward. Yet, it's human nature to compare.
Maybe some of these people do have an "easy" baby, maybe they don't, but it shouldn't matter. I have Henry. He's my baby. He may be easy or he may be hard. He's the only baby I've ever had. Regardless, it doesn't change the way I parent nor does it alter my experience.
So, if you don't have the easiest baby, you're not alone. If you do have the easiest baby, you're also not alone. I will live and love my experience, accepting it for what it is, loving my baby for who he is, and embracing myself as the parent I am.
I am a definite people pleaser. In school I always took pride in the fact that my teachers loved me, I had a panic attack in high school when I thought a random teacher (not even my own) was mad at me, I want validation that people like me, and I hate any form of conflict.
If we let the opinions of others define us, then we will never know who we are.
I started writing this post before Henry was born (five days to be exact) and I never finished it. It's funny to read it now because my whole perspective has shifted. Of course I am still naturally a people pleaser. I want others to like me. I get self-conscious when I don't get many likes on an instagram post or when I see what I've lost followers. (How silly does that sound?) I want my parents to be proud of me as if I am still a little girl. I want my husband to think I'm the best wife and mother. I want Henry to feel as if I've done everything right.
Well, that's not going to happen. At least not all the time. I will make mistakes, as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a person. I will have people who disagree with me. I will have people who judge the decisions I make as a mother. I will lose followers and may never gain much notoriety. No matter how hard I try, I can't please everyone, and I will lose myself in the process.
I want to practice extended breastfeeding, letting Henry choose when he is ready to wean. I currently bedshare. I believe in gay rights. I love to eat. I'm a vegetarian. I still cuddle up in bed with my parents. I take naps with my sister. I like South Park. I watch reality TV. I don't like practicing certain types of headstands. You get it. The list could go on forever. You may think some of what I said is ridiculous, and you may agree with it all. That's okay. It is who I am, and that's that. I'm not good, I'm not bad, I'm just me.
So, of course I will still be tempted to please everyone. It's in my human nature. But, each time I acknowledge that I can just be me, my spirit will be a little freer and my life will be a little more joyful.
As I write this post I am breastfeeding my baby as we lie tummy to tummy with his head rested on my arm and his arm laying against my chest. I need to brush my teeth and get ready for bed, but every time I set him down he wakes and cries to be held again. As much as I need to leave and get other things done, I don't want rhese moments to end.
Of course I want my baby to grow up, strong and happy and healthy, successful and accomplished, independent and well. But, at the same time, I never want my baby to leave my arms. I want to keep him young and dependent on me forever. Always holding onto me, begging me to hold him, briefly opening his eyes to make sure I'm still there after he falls asleep on me, resting his head against my chest, and giving me wholehearted love and affection.
So for now, I will linger a little longer, let everything else go, hold him a little closer, stare at him a little longer, forget what others think, say, and expect. I will cherish every second for I know they will pass all too soon. These moments in which my heart feels like it could explode are what really matter in life, everything else can wait.
I write this sitting on the floor in the middle of boxes that were supposed to be picked up by movers this morning. Our whole moving plan is contingent on things going according to plan as we have a tight time frame in which we can move (plus things like our electricity are set to turn off and it's summer). Due to a mix up in paperwork, we don't have movers and we are in the process of trying to find a Plan B.
Normally I would be paniced, and of course I feel uneasy about it, but I am finally finding a permenant peace. In the few short months my son has been out in this world, I have learned a patience and calm that trancends circumstances. Of course I still get anxious and upset, but I find myself at ease even in situations like these.
It helps to have a bigger picture. I recognize what is truly important in this life, and know that as long as I have my family I am good. Everything else will work itself out.
I think patience comes easier for some than for others. For me it doesn't always come easily. When there is something I want to accomplish, I want it done now. When I'm sick or in pain, I can be patient for a few days, and then I am over it. I get frustrated when learning a new skill that doesn't come completely natural to me and get down on myself when I feel that I have fallen short of either my own or others' expectations.
Currently my body is requiring me to have patience. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and for the last week I've lost mobility and experienced increased pain every day. Right now I can barely walk and even had to rent a wheelchair to go to Disneyland yesterday. I am frustrated with myself, I'm scared about how long this pain will last, and I worry that others will become annoyed with me because I am so limited. This is when I must practice patience. I must be patient with my body and myself, being grateful for this stage of my life exactly as it is.
Worry won't get me anywhere, nor will frustration. Instead, I can appreciate the good in what I'm going through. My body hurts because it is growing a baby, my baby, our son. I have an increased love and appreciation for my husband and how incredible he has been to me. This pain reminds me that I am not always in pain, and my lack of ability highlights how much I am normally capable of. Sometimes we are placed in situations that require us to learn a lesson that isn't easy, but if we can focus on the good, and patiently endure, then we may just come out the other side a better person.
Wouldn't it be nice if life always played by our rules? When we want (or feel like we need) something, it automatically manifests. If we could wish, pray, or work hard enough and get what we're looking for.
Unfortunately that's not how life works. Sometimes no matter how many wishes we make, no matter how much we pray and plead, and no matter how hard we work for something, it isn't meant to be.
I'm dealing with that right now. Wanting and working for something so hard and seeing the likelihood of its fruition slip away. It hurts. It's frustrating. It makes me angry. It makes me sad. It's tempting to let it run into all aspects of my life.
But, as a person of faith, I must remember that I am not all knowing. I can't predict the future. As much as I think I do, I don't know what my family and I need. Maybe sometimes we have to let things slip away for something better to come. Maybe sometimes when we don't get what we want, we are getting what we truly need instead. Maybe I'll look back with gratitude that life didn't play by my rules.
I may never know, but I have to find peace and contentment with where I am today. Celebrating the times life has played by my rules, and gracefully accepting the times it hasn't.