From Band Practice to Being Vulnerable

I’ve been trying to change my mindset. Please don’t call it a New Year’s Resolution. Instead, I like to think about it as a long-overdue change in my perspectacle prescription. I’ve made the choice to soothingly bathe my brain in gratitude-filled love juice instead of pickling it in ire and self-pity. I haven’t been doing too well.

Tonight, Z left for band practice at 4:30 p.m. He expressed what a monster rehearsal it was going to be; likely a 7 hour fingerprint-shredding, song-hammering, beer-drinking, socializing grind. Ok, maybe he didn’t mention the beer-drinking and socializing part, but that’s all my abandoned mind latched on to. “Let’s just say I don’t feel sorry for you,” I thought snarkily but conveyed softly. When he leaves for band practice all I think of is how I’m “left alone” to take care of my own kids. God forbid. But I also think about how band practice signifies that he has a life away from the boys, a very important thing to have. He has band practice and I have friends who live multiple zip codes away. He has to practice his base guitar at night and I have to switch the laundry over and wipe down the dining room table from Ike’s dinner-turned-food-finger-painting-project. He has bandmates to kick a few back with and I have a cup of tea at night as “something to do.” I am leaving quite a bit of the big picture on the cutting room floor, but my big picture also feels very small sometimes, when I allow it to.
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Parenthood is such a time and mind warp. In the heat of trying to get a 1-year old strapped into his car seat, it feels like a 10-minute battle (which it actually could be). But in what feels like a few months that same child is climbing into the car on his own and going maverick by unbuckling himself as he sees fit. It may feel like a huge deal to not let a 13-month old watch any tv, but when child 2 comes around he’s hanging out while his 3-year old brother watches his second (ok, I’m lying, probably his third) movie of the day because mom and dad have no idea what to do with him on a single-digit degree weekend. Time doesn’t move the way you’re accustomed when you have kids. And your mind can have a funny way of warping around the smallest details or, worringly, glazing over something that may become a big deal down the road.
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The thing is, working too hard at being a parent almost feels like the wrong thing to do. Raising kids is crazy hard work, but when I feel like I’m working too hard to raise “good” kids I feel my temperature rise, my patience shorten, and my sensitivity to guilt become uncomfortably high. When I try to feel my way throught it, when I use my instincts over my brain, that is when things feel more natural. Things aren’t necessarily any easier and the battles don’t always lessen, but the guilt goes down and I can maintain my patience more when I don’t feel like I’m fighting against a 3-year old. Because, let’s face it, then can win. They may be tiny, adorable warriors but they know how to fight.

So I’m going to try to use my instincts to replay Zach leaving tonight: I still feel that jealous sense of abandonment, but I am also seriously happy that Z gets to do what he loves best – play music. I want to hold it over his head that I’ll be spending all night alone with the boys on a Saturday night, but I also know that that is just a mean thing to do and the beginnings of an internal and marital fight that I don’t have a need for. As much as I try to feel out my parenting, I need to try to do the same with my wifering spousering being with other people, including those over 3-feet tall and who can run the DVD player on their own. I’ve been reading about vulnerability and how, according to Brené Brown, it is a sign of strength and not weakness. It seems like if we really care about someone, we should allow ourselves to be vulnerable to them. If we can’t open our hearts and hurts to them, then who can we truly lay ourselves out for? I often feel that my beating, bleeding heart is laid out for Connor when he does something that hurts or disappoints me. It isn’t up to our children to mend us, but we owe it to them to see what being vulnerable is and how real and human it is to be open and exposed. It’s an emotion that should be shown in times of great happiness and those of sadness, too. Vulnerability is easier with kids than adults because kids haven’t felt the shame that comes along when one adult bears themselves to another. Guilt is something that we often put upon ourselves and struggle with daily if not from moment to moment, but we have the power to not shame others. We put enough on ourselves, why try to throw another chip onto someone else’s shoulder? They may feel like they’re carrying the weight of the world without your help.

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