Not surprisingly, motherhood is packed with an assortment of learning experiences. You learn that you can function on roughly twenty minutes of sleep. You learn that actually, no, four diapers is not enough to pack for your first long outing with an infant.
You learn enough about this tiny new human in your life to fill several books.
But you learn a lot about yourself, too. Sometimes it’s great. (“Hey! I am pretty good at X!”) Sometimes it’s not.
Recently, I learned that I am incredibly uncomfortable with failure.
I don’t feel like that sentence adequately describes the emotional turmoil I experienced when I had this revelation. Let me back up.
A couple of weeks ago, we attempted potty training. Yes, I heard from all the people that this was probably crazy. Yes, I realized that I was also packing for an out-of-state move, so, in hindsight, I should probably have predicted a few bumps.
But Vivi is so smart! She was already exhibiting all the traits of a toddler ready to potty train! She had even successfully peed in the potty a few times! And I had read a book! (Because I have always read a book.) I was so prepared to power through a week of intense training and emerge proud, victorious, and diaper-less.
And then real life set in.
I’ll spare you the gory details, but the essential details of this training method say your kid needs to be naked until they start to get the concept of going in the potty. Obviously, this leads to quite a few accidents. Meaning I was cleaning up a lot of pee. And, yeah, some poo. To be fair, Vivi was actually making really good progress. She went from being totally clueless about what her body was doing to being able to tell me about a second before it happened that she needed to potty. But a week after we started, I hit a breaking point.
For one, I was out of time. I had blocked out one week, and I simply couldn’t dedicate the rest of the month to this project because of the aforementioned move.
For another, my nerves were shot. It’s almost embarrassing how frazzled needing to catch Vivi peeing left me. But every night when I could finally put a diaper on her to go to sleep, I felt like it was the first time I exhaled all day.
One night, every time I would start to drift off, I would fall into a dream where I would be looking at Vivi just as she started to pee on the floor. I would wake up literally lunging to grab her, adrenaline pumping through my already exhausted body.
In short, I was a wreck.
It probably didn’t help that my life was completely turned upside down. We still didn’t know where we were living post-move, I had so. much. packing. to do, and we were beaten out on a house that we wanted to buy. Plus, I hadn’t really left the apartment for five days. Nothing felt like it was going right, and every time I would have to get on my knees to wipe up a puddle of urine, it felt like a personal insult.
That night I kept having the horrible lunging dream, I finally got out of bed around 3 a.m. to read the part of my book about troubleshooting. In short, it said that if your child is 18-20 months, they are capable of being trained, but they are most likely going to need more time. Time I didn’t have.
So, at 3:32 a.m., I made a deal with myself: I would give it two more days, and if Vivi didn’t show serious signs of picking it up, we would put it off until we were settled in our new place. A bunch of people had also warned me that moves can cause even well trained toddlers to regress, and the thought of taking steps backward was literally bringing me to tears.
Two days later, Vivi had improved, but not to the point where I felt like I could comfortably leave her unattended or even leave the house with her diaper-less. So I called it. The diaper went back on, and life continued as it was. (Except that now Vivi tells me whenever she’s peeing in her diaper.)
It was then that I had to face the music: I had failed.
Granted, no one likes to fail. But I realized that it embarrasses me on a deep, dark level. And, having realized, this, I felt embarrassed that I was so embarrassed. Because this wasn’t really failure, right? It’s a set-back. It’s bad timing. Why do I care so much? But I found myself in a position that, no matter how much I tried or focused on the problem, I had to admit defeat.
Defeat is really not my forte.
But, in happier news, this experience has also taught me how to let myself off the hook. Yes, things didn’t go according to my (arbitrary) plan. But we’ll try again, and Vivi will probably pick it up quicker with this experience under her belt (and once she’s in an environment where everything isn’t topsy-turvy). Vivi doesn’t hold it against me (or maybe she does? Guess we’ll have to wait for her memoir to know for sure…), so I can let it go too.
Parent readers, tell me about your own parenting “failures.” Did you beat yourself up as much as I do?
Vivi goes everywhere at a full-tilt run now. For someone for whom time must seem to move so slow, she’s in a near constant rush to get to the next thing.
I think she gets that from me. Lately, we’ve been thinking a lot about next steps for our family. It’s something we’re always discussing and dreaming about, but just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you take every step at once.
I’m not good at patience. When I know how I want to decorate a new apartment, I want to. It everything at once so it’s done rather than wait and budget. When we plan a trip, I want to pack NOW and get on the plane tomorrow, which is an impossible way of life with a toddler.
When I watch Vivi take off, arms pumping and feet stomping with all their might, I want to scoop her into my arms and snuggle her too tight to let her keep moving. Too tight for her to keep growing up.
It doesn’t work that way, of course. Vivi keeps on growing even in my arms. Just like time will continue to march on whether I’m there counting the seconds or not.
Part of why I’ve continued this blog is because it’s my living diary. It allows me to reflect on so many important parts of my life and be right back in that moment. I thought about quitting it many times, but, in all seriousness, I kept it because I always felt like it would be a nice way to remember my hypothetical child’s life too. That’s a big part of why I’ve kept it around this far. So when I look at Vivi rushing around to the next thing, changing every single day, literally over night, I’m reminded of how important it is to record. To remember.
So relax. Stop and smell the roses. Why be anxious about tomorrow and all that. Like I said, I’m working on it.
And maybe my precocious little toddler is just the daily reminder I need to savor the moment.
And while I have your attention…
Thank you to everyone who responded to my last post. As usual, y’all restore my faith in humanity almost every time I let myself show a weakness, and I truly appreciate it.
I’ve been putting off writing this post — writing any post — because, honestly, I wasn’t sure how to write it. And I didn’t feel like I could just skip it or gloss over my egregious absence.
I’ve been dark for a while. I decided long ago (never to live in anyone’s shadow…wait, focus, Justine…) that I wouldn’t apologize for gaps in posting because, gosh darnit, it’s my life, and if I want to live it instead of writing about it, that’s my prerogative.
But this wasn’t me being too busy to write. This was me going dark. In a lot of ways.
In short, I’ve been depressed. In the interest of not over-inflating things, I’m okay. I know other people deal with much more extreme versions of depression. Mine is a cyclical thing that I can usually anticipate with the days getting shorter and the weather getting colder. For me, depression comes in the form of exacerbated insecurities, claustrophobic feelings of being trapped, and feeling unloveable. It typically lasts anywhere from two weeks to a month, but this time it stretched over two months time, and that messed with my head. I felt like it would never end.
So, yeah, it’s a real trip.
And when feeling like holding my head just barely above water is just about all I can do, things like blogging about home decor and recipes and funny little things about my day aren’t even in the realm of possibility.
But what am I telling you for? If you’ve ever experienced depression (and I believe most people have and do), you already know.
Again, though, I’m fine. I only share this because, well, it felt dishonest not to. But I honestly feel like I’m finally on the other side of it — we’re on our way up out of the valley; the light is clearly visible. I’ll be returning to your regularly scheduled home decor and recipes and funny things about my day now.
But I wanted to say it. I wanted to share it. Because, odds are, you are feeling that way or have felt that way or will feel that way someday too. And you’re not alone. And it’s important that we all know that.
I think of myself as a pretty self-aware person. I have described myself that way numerous times in life (and on this blog). I have a tendency to overthink and overanalyze and (unfortunately) that often results is a lot of self-critique. For better or worse, though, if I have a problem, I’m the first one to know about it.
Or so I thought.
Because then sometimes something happens like my friend Madison talking about postpartum hair loss, and I read it and think, “I didn’t really have that. I mean, I have been hating my hair for a few months lately. It just seems like I can never get the texture I want anymore. And it doesn’t hold a curl anymore. And the color always seems a little off. And OH MY GOSH HAVE I BEEN HAVING POSTPARTUM HAIR ISSUES THIS WHOLE TIME?”
And then, just like that, I don’t think I know anything about myself.
So I do a little internet research and scour the comments of Madison’s post and order some collagen and wipe my brow because PHEW that was a close one.
But then I think: Have I lost touch with myself?
It’s not a crazy thought. I’ve spent the last almost two years consumed with caring for another person. And while I felt super connected to my body during pregnancy, lately I feel disconnected. Adrift. Maybe a bit numb.
And I’m not sure how I feel about that. (HA.)
It’s possible that I need a break. We’re going out of town this month to get out of the city and see some friends, and I could not be more excited for a change of pace and scenery. This city is wearing on me, folks, and it’s especially ugly in January.
Maybe a little refocusing is exactly what I need.
I had a moment a few days ago that I’m not really proud of where I got unreasonably jealous of someone to the point where I nearly started crying.
That sounds horrible and pathetic, right?
You didn’t ask for my excuses, but, in my defense, I was also tired, after having to welcome in a plumber for an emergency visit at 7 a.m. and then having to clean up after said plumber and then having to clean up after Vivi about 8,000 times before 10 a.m., and I had just started my period. That sentence is barely coherent, but the point is, I wasn’t at my best mentally or emotionally in this horrible and pathetic moment.
So I saw something on social media (because OF COURSE #MILLENNIALLYFE) and immediately spiraled into a dark place.
I’m happy to say that this doesn’t happen often. When I was younger, it did. It happened all the time. But I worked on it, and I worked on myself, and it’s a small relief to me that, no matter how horrible and pathetic it is when it happens, it really, truly does not happen that often. (And, also, again, I had just started my period. BUT ENOUGH EXCUSES.)
The point is, it happened, and even as it did, I realized what an unattractive moment it was. I do not like jealousy in others, and I really don’t like it in myself. So I started making a mental list of all the good things in my life, because oh my GOSH, you guys. I have it so good.
I have a wonderful husband, who had actually just sent me breakfast that morning because he knew I was dealing with the plumber situation and might not have time to make myself something. Who, even as I type this, I hear reading aloud to Vivi in her room, making her giggle as they practice animal sounds with each turning page.
I have the most perfect baby, who astounds me and makes me laugh out loud (usually multiple times) every single day. Who is excessively talkative and confident and boisterous one moment, and then suddenly sweet, melting into my lap and spontaneously stretching up to kiss my chin for no reason at all except that she loves me.
We are all so healthy, and I’m not a momma who has to spend hours and hours at doctor visits and in special hospitals, holding her scared baby’s hand and unable to do anything except pray, pray, pray for something good.
We have a warm, safe home, and I don’t have to worry when I see the temperatures dropping than any of us will go to sleep cold and shivering.
We have so. much. food. And it never even crosses my mind that I can’t grab a banana or a squeezy pack or a string cheese the moment Viv whines in hunger at the park.
I’m able to work from home, spending every day with that precious baby and not missing a single moment or milestone while I help to support my family with a career I actually enjoy and find fulfilling.
We have so many luxuries, be it spur-of-the-moment coffee or the ability to order dinner in minutes or new clothes or an overabundance of technology and entertainment.
I have my faith, which sustains me through everything and brings so much purpose and contentment to my life.
I have everything I need, and so, so much more on top of that.
As I washed my second load of dishes for the day (dishes dirtied by that abundance of food, which was eaten by that ridiculously healthy baby), I repeated my list to myself and tears came to my eyes for the second time that morning.
The thing is, there will always be someone with more than me. Someone with more things, more money, more free time, more whatever. But you can guarantee they have their stuff to deal with, too. And me? Well, I have everything I need. (And so, so much more.)
One of my favorite things about being Vivi’s mom is watching her develop a sense of humor. It has always been fairly easy to coax a giggle out of her, but lately she has started to realize that she is funny.
Sometimes I watch her do something just to get a laugh out of me or whatever adoring audience has gathered around, and I have to marvel at that instinct. Sure, making someone laugh always makes me feel good, but what an amazing thing that babies feel that high too.
As a result, Vivi is just so silly. She’s constantly babbling, waving her arms, running around, and putting on a show. She fake sneezes, shrieks with joy, and blows raspberries on my tummy (giggling like a fiend all the way).
Her silliness is a reminder to me, too. My days are so full, and it’s easy to get caught up in my to-do lists. It’s easy to get frustrated or distracted. But when I see that huge grin spread across her face, the one that puts all five of her teeth on display, I can’t help but put down what I’m doing for a tickle fest or another round of “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
I want to be a good, responsible mom, but I also want Vivi to remember that we had so much fun. We danced and sang and talked in silly voices and laughed and laughed and laughed.