Anyone But Me (A tale of middle school)

When I was in the 6th grade I would pass notes back and forth with a good friend. We drew funny scenes with imaginary characters and then wrote a little story about the character.  I don’t remember the particulars of the scenes, but I do remember laughing a lot.

One particular day the scene I drew was not funny. I drew an unflattering picture of a mutual friend. I made her look fatter than she was, made fun of her clothes, and drew arrows at her hair mocking her ponytail. I don’t remember the description I wrote, but it was probably equally mean-spirited.

I remember erasing the first drawing I made to make her look thinner because something inside of me was telling me to stop. I also remember getting a feeling in my gut to NOT pass the note. I wasn’t yet familiar with that intuitive voice inside, so I passed it along anyway.

Passing that note happened to coincide with the holiday season, and my group of friends were doing a Secret Santa. We would leave clues and presents in the locker of the person we had drawn to be our gift recipient. On the last day before holiday break, I opened my locker excited to find out who my Secret Santa had been.

What I saw inside was the note I had written hanging and surrounded by festive holiday streamers. Below it was a sign that read, “Next time you write something mean you should be careful.” Turns out, my Secret Santa was the friend I had made fun of.

My heart completely sank and I felt instant shame.

I don’t remember how everything else unfolded. I don’t remember if I apologized or if I just hid from the friend I had written the note about (probably the latter).  What I do remember was from that from that point on I was an outcast in my group of “friends.”

Around that same time, I had to miss a sleepover party because I had a dance show. When I came into school that Monday morning a friend came rushing towards me. “Everyone was talking about us the party”, she told me. When I asked her what she meant she went on to tell me a number of cruel things the girls had apparently said about me. The one thing that stood out and still hurts to this day is how they said I tried to be funny but wasn’t. They said they had to fake laugh at my “jokes.”

In addition to the note and sleepover drama, during this time I also really pissed off a friend (the same one who I had passed that note to by the way). She and I had a big crush on a boy named Steve (yes, he’s now my husband). Without telling me she asked him out, and they began “dating.” At the time I think that meant they would occasionally hold hands in public. Anyway, when someone asked what I thought about her asking out Steve I said, “No comment.” My lack of a comment got back to her and she was MAD. She didn’t want to speak to me anymore either. With that, I lost another friend.

From that day on, I wasn’t allowed to sit at the table with that group of girls anymore. I would sit at a different table feeling totally excluded and completely worthless.

In the midst of all this, I remember being in dance class and watching an older dancer perform. I thought, “I wish I was her.” I was hit with the absolute sinking feeling of TRULY wishing I was anyone else but me. To be her, I thought, would be so much easier. She was pretty and talented. I bet she had friends at school who let her sit with them. I bet she didn’t have problems like awkward, unfunny, ugly me.

Looking back, I know why I wrote that terrible note. It was because I felt terrible about myself. It felt good to project that feeling onto another person and get momentary relief. Many years later I was able to apologize to that friend for writing the note. I told her it was cruel and I should have never done it. She accepted my apology and laughed it off. She seemed a little uncomfortable with how serious I was about saying I was sorry.

Looking back, I’m happy I missed that sleepover. Instead of gossiping about other girls (which I most likely would have done), I was performing on stage.

Looking back, I’m not sorry I said “no comment” about my friend dating Steve. I really liked him. I married the guy for Christ’s sake! And I could have said something so much worse.

Anyway, I was wondering why I’ve been thinking about all this stuff lately, and maybe it’s because of the state of our world. There is so much animosity and hatred. There is a fighting and cruelty and misunderstanding. And it makes me wonder- where does that come from? If a person feels worthless, if they wish they were anyone else but them- how do you think they treat others?

I’m totally serious when I say- maybe how middle school girls treat each other is a microcosm of the darkness of the human condition. There was fear of anyone or anything different. There was projecting worthless feelings onto each other.  There was creating an “us” and “them.” At any moment everyone could turn their back on you. Middle school was rough!

My story is such a small one. It can by no means be compared to the serious horrors happening in our world right now. It does remind me though to stop and ask, “If that person is treating others like that, how must they feel?”

 

 

 

 

 

A Deep Exhale

Yesterday Em and I had a busy and stressful (for me) day. We had a follow up appointment with an orthopedist concerning Em’s hips. Being that she was a frank breech baby she was born with a risk of having hip dysplasia. For that reason, she was given an ultrasound on her hips at 6 weeks old and 3 months old.

We had a bit of a scare about her hips when she was six weeks old which left me a bit traumatized. You can read the back story here.

Our appointment was way across town which meant trekking across the city in the cold. I felt tense but breathed deeply and Em handled it like a champ.

We got there a half hour early. I know people say once you have a kid you’re always late but I haven’t found that (yet). Being late for something makes me SO anxious that I’m usually ridiculously early, even with my baby. I’m not saying this is a good thing. It’s just what always happens!

Being so early made me panic a bit wondering what the heck we would do for a half hour; however, The Hospital for Special Surgery happens to be amazing and very child-friendly. 

There was a woman playing ukulele in the waiting area! She asked for requests and gave Em her own show. She sang Itsy Bitsy Spider and I’m a Little Teapot. Em was entranced and so was I. When she sang “You Are My Sunshine” and changed the words of the first verse to be happier (like I do) I cried.

We got called in early and met with the lovely doctor who said Em’s hips looked great but they would do an x-ray just to be sure. When I asked how safe an x-ray was he explained it would be the same amount of radiation as a plane ride to California. We did that plane ride with Em so using that analogy soothed my worries.

We went across the hallway to get her x-ray and Em said “hi!” to everyone we saw. The receptionist. The 10 year old boy wearing headphones and watching a show on his phone. The mom waiting with him. The technician who walked by. She also pulled out my ponytail, snuggled into me tight and kept kissing me. Did she know I was scared? I don’t know. But she made me feel better.

As for the x-ray, I consider it a miracle moment. She laid perfectly still as we sang the ABC’s. It was shockingly easy as pie!

In the end we got confirmation that Em’s hips are developing normally and we don’t need to go back. I’m more relieved that I can explain here. The only way I could describe it is that Em having hip problems has been weighing on me since I was pregnant and learned she was breech. Now it feels like that weight is released and I am ten pounds lighter.

When we got home, I was physically and emotionally SPENT. My back was killing me from wearing 21 pound Em in the carrier all afternoon. I rolled out my mat. I rolled out Em’s mat, and this video is what happened.

I just want to say I’m so grateful for my healthy, sweet, social, communicative girl. My heart explodes every single day and I’m a way better person because of her.

Mom Hair

Today I got back from a nice afternoon out with Emmy. I thought I was pretty put together. Then I saw myself in the mirror.

You see, Emily loves holding onto my hair. Every single time I hold her she grabs a piece. It’s almost like my hair is the equivalent of a security blanket for her. So I guess at some point she grabbed a chunk of hair out of my pony tail and held tight. I somehow didn’t notice that I had a large strangly piece of hair and continued on my merry way.

I guess this is my “mom hair.”

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See What’s in Front of You

I’ve learned a whole lot in my first year of motherhood, and there’s one big lesson I want to share.  I’m learning to see what’s in front of me rather than getting carried away with my worries.

This past year with each big change in Emily’s development I found myself getting overwhelmed and even scared. A few milestones that stand out in my mind are switching her from her bassinet to her crib, introducing her to solid foods, giving her supplemental formula, and teaching her to fall asleep on her own through sleep training.  All of these changes seem small in hindsight but seemed insurmountable at the time.

I found myself becoming obsessed with the BEST way to do things. I told myself if I made the “wrong” decision I would cause serious damage to Emily. I’m not kidding when I say I would run away to crazy places in my mind.

The thing is when I look back I see that even if I did things differently, Emily would be totally fine.  There’s really no best way to do things. What’s most important is really seeing the human being in front of me rather than getting caught up in the “shoulds” of parenting.

Case in point the latest “problem” I’ve been pondering. In the past month or so Emily has gotten into the habit of falling asleep while drinking her last bottle of the evening. For a few days I found myself in a dark cloud of worry while I gave her that last bottle. I would tell myself, this is a very bad habit. I would tell myself, this needs to stop ASAP. I would run the phrase, “You should always put your baby down awake” over and over in my mind and convince myself I was somehow failing. I would feel shame.

Then tonight as I held Emily in my arms while she drank her bottle, she played with my hair and her eyes began to close. I looked down at her sweet serene face and I thought- SEE WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU. Right there in my arms was my sweet baby girl playing with my hair and falling asleep in my arms. I mean, she still fits in my arms. How amazing is that?

I reminded myself that the beauty of that moment was fleeting. Emily won’t always fall asleep in her mama’s arms and want to play with her mama’s hair. This was a moment for me to cherish NOT a moment for me to run away with fear, worry and shame.

If I push aside all of the “shoulds.” If I stop comparing myself and my child to other moms and children. If I really sit down and feel what my instinct is telling me, I know we are okay. I know when the time is right we will take the bottle away. I also know Emily is a capable human being who can fall asleep on her own just fine when we decide to make that change. She’s okay. She’s more than okay.

Moms and dads out there- please hear me when I say this. SEE WHAT’S IN FRONT OF YOU. See what’s there today and try not to get carried away with the tomorrows. I know how easy it is to fear that you’re somehow failing or doing things wrong. But if you can pause, breathe and see the human being in front of you, you’ll remember that nothing else really matters except that deep love you feel inside. Enjoy the little moments of today because they pass by and become the big moments of tomorrow.

You’re doing great. Just keep on seeing what’s in front of you.

 

 

 

Get out!

Today while Emily was napping the contractor who has been working on our apartment came by. He wanted to check on the floor he had recently fixed in Emily’s room. He had given me no advanced warning. When I told him she was napping in there he said, “I’ll be quiet.” I paused a moment in disbelief and said, “No. Sorry. She needs to sleep.”

He’s a very nice man and certainly didn’t mean to piss me off, but come on!

What strikes me most when I reflect on this now is the fire I had inside of me in that moment when he said, “I’ll be quiet.” I pictured Emily taking a serene nap and a man she doesn’t know suddenly entering her room. No way! My internal mama bear instinct was screaming “GET OUT!” I didn’t say this to him, but I was definitely thinking it.

Mama bear instinct is real. This past year I’ve been stuck by how loud it is and how protective I feel of Emily. I never knew I could feel this way about another human being! In the past a weak point of mine has been creating clear boundaries with others. My need to people please often came before my ability to take care of my own needs. That’s not the case with Emily. I have no problem saying NO if it’s not in her best interest.

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care lately. I’ve been reimagining what it looks like and how it feels. I’ve been asking myself- what if I were to offer myself the same love, attention and respect I offer to Emily every day? Today I’m thinking that sometimes the ultimate act of self-care may be to just say,”GET OUT!”