Ok, that was dramatic. I’m not going anywhere – not for too long anyway.
I’m working the outage again as it’s the only way we can justify that trip to Disney World we want to go on next year.
I will be employed as an operator and trainer during the nuclear refueling process. My duties are top secret, invaluable and require skills that I’ve acquired over years of training and preparation. I am irreplaceable and its become quite clear that I am an essential component to a successful outage.
Just kidding, I’ll be a night janitor.
But for the next couple months, I will be a no-show. All of my spare time will be spent drooling on a pillow and showering. I wont even be able to come back with fun stories, as I’m pretty sure working at a nuclear power plant is much like being a member of fight club, even if my only fight will be with a mop bucket and a toilet brush.
Tommy (my boyfriend) and I were sitting around a fire…
We were talking about going to college next year and what it would be like – how hard it was going to be to say goodbye to all of our friends we grew up with – then we switched to stuff too big for a couple of 17 year olds to even be thinking about.
“What about after college?” he asked
I figured a little honesty wouldn’t hurt, plus scaring him would be funny too…
“Eventually I’d want to get married, get a dog, have some kids, buy a mini-van, settle down…”
I grinned “Scary stuff, huh?”
He shook his head “No, actually. Just thinking I’d like to do that with you”
Joke was on me and it was my turn to be stunned silent….
He broke the ice and started joking about mini-vans. We promised each other…swore to each other over a case of beer and a bonfire that we would never ever under any circumstances – foreign or domestic – own a mini-van.
Oh, how the mighty had fallen.
8 Years ago…
“Oh my god babe!! You did it, you got the truck!” I squealed as I ran out of our trailer and into the driveway. Tommy (My fiancé) had just started working at his new job as an electrician (and me as a Vet Tech!) and he could buy himself the truck he’d always wanted. It was red and huge…I had to climb to get into it. Tommy laughed as he hoisted me into it.
It was a used truck, but it was new to us…and perfect for him. I could see the pride in his smile as he walked around it…adjusting his ball cap and kicking the tires the way men do. He felt like a grown-up today…his first dream truck. I wasn’t sure what he had planned to do with it – haul things, tow things or maybe just have fun with me in the bed of it – but I knew he felt like a man today because of it. It represented a new life, a life where we stood on our own two feet…a life where we could afford some of the things we wanted. It represented going forward, growing up together.
“Where do you want to go babe?” He asked as he sat down in the driver’s seat beside me and wrapped his hand around my thigh, giving it an excited shake. I squealed again and clapped my hands, stomping my feet happily on the floorboard. I was so overwhelmed with excitement for my best friend.
“Anywhere Tommy….anywhere! I don’t care…I’m so friggen excited”
Tommy laughed with me as we pulled out of the driveway.
It’s a good memory, one of my favorites. I will always remember that day and how proud of him I was.
5 years ago….
“Babe…don’t do this” I begged
“Ash, its ok” Tommy’s (my husband’s) smile was sweet and his eyes were bright, like he didn’t resent me and somehow still adored me.
“No Ash, no ‘buts’. You want to be home with Maddox (our son), I want you to be home with Maddox. I want you to be home with this little one too” Tommy rubbed my belly where our second baby was growing. “I want to go to work and know my wife and kids are exactly where they want to be….and to know they are safe and sound”
Tears leaked from my eyes as I thought of giving up my job – a job I got by working my ass off for a degree that I wasn’t even close to paying off yet. But I was tired of leaving my home and Maddox. I wanted to be with him every day. And I didn’t want to miss out on our next child – I wanted to be the one taking care of her, I wanted to be the one who found her first tooth pushing through her slobbery gums – I wanted to be the one who watched her crawl and walk for the first time. I wanted to be a mommy…I didn’t give up on the dream of being a veterinarian technician, I was just trading it in for a new dream, a better one. The dream of a stay at home mom.
I shook my head. “You love that truck Tommy…I don’t want you to sell it”
The only way we could justify me staying home, was to get rid of Tommy’s red truck and the big fat payment that came with it. I didn’t think it was even an option…I didn’t want it to be an option. He loved that damn truck.
“Too late babe, its already done”
“What did you do?” I asked, hands on my hips.
Tommy rocked back on his heels and his grin widened “Well, you know how when we had Maddox – we had to get rid of your two door focus so we could have a family friendly vehicle?”
“Yeah?” I asked suspiciously. I had loved my little car, it took me to college and back. It was my little vessel while I lived out some of the greatest times of my life.
“Well, I know what that car meant to you …what it represented, I know what you gave up when you sold it”
“Yeah?” I asked suspiciously again.
“I also know what it did to you when we had to trade it in for a minivan of all vehicles….and I know how it felt because…”
“Oh my god! You didn’t!” I gasped – my eyes probably bugging out of my head. Tommy threw his head back laughing and said “Oh but I did, babe”
I ran over to the window, and sure enough…an old green minivan sat snuggled beside my newer silver one. I put my hand over my mouth. I couldn’t believe he did that.
Tommy’s arms wrapped around my waist and he rested his head on my shoulder. I placed my hands over his arms and we both stared out at the minivans together.
“It looks like we’re the Duggers…nineteen kids and counting” He droned in my ear. We both burst out laughing, I did a little crying.
“Ash…my dreams are no more important than yours. If your new dream is to stay at home with our kids, then that’s what mine is. Quit your job, be a stay at home mom – change your mind in a year and go back to work if you want. Your dreams are mine, and I want you happy…I’m not happy if you aren’t” (And he’ll go on to prove this time and time again as the years go by)
Two mini vans, one and a half kids, one trailer…and we were on top of the world.
The trailer is gone, I don’t have the silver mini-van anymore – it’s a blue one now 🙂 and two months ago Tommy pulled into the driveway with his new truck. Our kids are growing and I’m still lucky enough to be home with them to watch them do it.
Life is good.
People all over the world make sacrifices much bigger for their families than my husband did for his with his truck. I know that. It’s not like he gave up his kidney or something – I get it. But I didn’t need a Kidney, if I did – I can promise you he’d be down a Kidney. It’s just how he is. He puts everyone in his home first. He’s content in last place, I don’t know if it’s because he can see us better from back there – or if he just likes to look at my butt (No laughing, please), but he’s back there every day – cheering on his family and doing everything he can to make them happy.
Tommy will probably hate this post because he doesn’t like couples boasting – being mushy. It drives him crazy. He doesn’t take compliments easily, he’s too humble. He is pretty private too – which is a huge contrast to how I live my life (obviously). I put my life right out there for the world to read and judge, and even though he is the exact opposite – once again, he lets me do it because he knows I enjoy it. My writing and MadStella are new dreams he supports whole heartedly, happily and encouragingly.
He’s selfless, he’s kind and he’s a badass husband and daddy. I like to think he knows how much I adore him – but just in case….
I was born with a temper. That, or I developed one on the way home from the hospital. Dad was probably driving too slow and I experienced my first bout of impatience. I don’t know, but I’ve had this chip on my shoulder since forever.
I like to think I’m pretty self-aware and that I’ve known about his temper for some time now – long before I had children anyway. So when I was dreaming of becoming a mother (and in that dream I was a boss – I rocked being a mom. I was cool, but not too cool, I laid down the law but my kids trusted me to tell me everything. I wore aprons and had dinner on the table – veggies all perfectly proportioned out. I was patient, I played on the floor with them, we baked a crap load of cookies all the time and I held their hands and ran through flower fields and shit – I was ah-mazing) – but knowing what I knew about myself – why did I think my temper would just vanish? Why did I think my faults would slip away into a smoky abyss and I would be left standing there with two kids and a mom of the year trophy in my hand?
I set myself up to fail before I ever failed for real. Yeah, I set myself up good – and boy have I fallen….
You know that mom in the mall parking lot screaming at her kids – “Oh my god, just get in the damn car already!!!! What is wrong with you??”
And the mom in the grocery aisle reaming her kid out for apparently – idk – killing someone? Because that’s the level of angry that mom is at.
I always looked at them and thought “I will never, ever scream at my kids like that. They are children – what could they have possibly done to deserve that level of anger??”
Well, I’ve learned that it wasn’t something the kid did – it was a million things the kid did. But no, he still didn’t deserve it.
I became a yelling mom – no – a screaming mom. Like, lose my shit so bad my throat hurt kind of yelling.
*Cheeks turn red, hangs head in shame*
Yeah, not good.
Then I tried the Orange Rhino challenge. Ever heard of it? Basically you try to not raise your voice for one year – or maybe it was a month? Idk. I didn’t make it 7 hours and it was a school day.
I failed the Orange Rhino challenge, but I learned something anyway – I’ve lost control. Like, mega control over myself.
Somewhere along the way I became a controlling mom who wanted everything to be just so because routines help a scattered mind like mine. Keep cleaning, keep going – if you stop you get behind.
“No! I said no toys in the living room, I just got it clean! Bring it back to your room!”
Piles of tiny Legos made my right eye twitch, dumped bins of dress-up clothes made my head hurt – and don’t get me started on that 5,000 piece “make your own jewelry” bead set my bitch of a sister bought my daughter for Christmas.
But, let’s put a pin in that for a moment – shall we?
Here’s another way I screwed up my kids…
I spend about a minute and a half on makeup – but if you ever see my hair down and curled, just know that it was an almost 2-hour event to get it that way. And I’m not including shower time. I’m talking like two feet of thick mane that needs to be root boosted, moussed, dried then each tiny chunk by tiny chunk needs to be rolled into a curling iron and held long enough to hold a curl but not so long that I burn it clean off. We’re talking hairspray, going through again to curl the pieces I missed, more hairspray.
I didn’t just wake up like this, mmkay?
…. That’s why, a day last summer, Stella was driving me crazy when she wouldn’t stop touching it!! I was batting her chunky little hand away all day. She wasn’t the greatest of listeners, I mean – she was 3 – but usually after a few warnings she’d acknowledge that I’ve said words out loud and in her general direction.
All day long her fingers were getting caught in it, pulling on it – making it go all frizzy, taking out the curl that my naturally pin straight hair was already trying to do anyway. It was a losing battle. Why was she doing this to me?
“Stella! Please stop touching mommy’s hair”
“Stella, ouch that hurts – you’re pulling on it, please stop”
“Seriously, this is why I never wear my hair down”
…Again and again, until finally….
“Why Stella? I have asked you a hundred times to stop – why do you keep touching my hair?”
And you know what she says?
“Because mommy, it’s so beautiful and I love it. I just want to touch it. I’m sorry *tears welling* I won’t do it anymore. I didn’t mean to mess it up”
Hearing her say those words with such honest guilt and sadness was like putting my heart through a meat grinder. What have I done? What kind of asshole had I become? She just wanted to touch it because she thought it was pretty, because she loved it. Man, if I didn’t feel two inches tall in that moment.
I knelt down in front of her and took both her hands in mine. “No baby, uh-uh. You didn’t mess it up, you didn’t mess it up at all. Mommy is the one messing this up, big time. And I’m sorry. C’mon, let’s go play with mommy’s hair – we can do yours too if you want”
Her face lit up (see the pieces of my heart at her feet?) and she squealed in excitement as she ran to my bathroom. We spent a lot of time in the bathroom that day, playing with our hair and letting her demolish my make-up. It was a good day, but it could have been so bad without me even realizing it.
After that, it kind of opened my eyes to what my kids were silently saying to me. I’ve tried to be more patient and try to have a better understanding of why they do the things that they do.
She saw something that was pretty – and so she wanted to touch it.
My son with his muddy boots and wet coat jumping on me – he wasn’t thinking about my new outfit being ruined – he’s just thinking about getting a quick hug from his mom – because he loves her and wants random snuggles even when he’s mid puddle jump.
When my daughter flips the cereal box upside down and makes it rain – she isn’t trying to make a mess – she’s exploring, experimenting – seeing what everything looks like on the floor.
When my son threw his football in the house and busted my favorite willow tree figurine – it’s not that he didn’t care if he broke something – it’s just that it’s snowing outside and he wanted to play with his football.All fixed….
When I’m talking to a grown up and the kids interrupt me – it’s because I haven’t finished (or done a good enough job) teaching them their manners, not because they’re trying to be rude.
These were kids doing kid things, this was age appropriate behavior, and I was stomping around the house demanding they act like little adults. I was living with a stick up my ass for so long that I don’t even know when it got stuck up there in the first place.
I got off track. I was so busy being a mother, I had forgotten how to be a mommy. I lost the dream.
I forgot how to smile at a mess. I forgot how to shrug my shoulders at a sink full of dishes. I’ve literally cried over spilled milk!
…ok, that’s a lie. I cried over spilled wine – but it was so good 🙁
Screaming at your children in anger is not a reflection of the child’s behavior, it’s a lack of your own self-control. It’s a lack of knowing how to communicate, and that’s on you – not them.
You see your anger as your strength “Oh hell no, they did not just talk to me like that – I’ll show them whose boss. They WILL respect me” – trust me, this is you at your weakest.
Volume and tone are strengths when used correctly, they are weaknesses when you don’t know how to control them. Children are not your soundboard; your words are not bouncing off of them – nor are they being heard. It’s now just chaos and noise and negativity that their little brains are trying to absorb and understand – but they can’t – because you just Wont. Stop. Fucking. Barking. It’s hurting them. It’s affecting them.
And you’re like “They’re so used to me yelling, they don’t even care anymore – I’m just background noise to them so why bother changing?” – They aren’t just “used to it” they are conforming to it, they are accepting it – and it’s unacceptable. Don’t teach them this “normal”
Screaming in your child’s face is like being at your desk on your first day on the job and your boss screaming at you for not doing something correctly. All he accomplished was making you feel unsafe, uncomfortable and embarrassed – or worse, stupid. You’re not going to go to your boss when you need help or you have a question – he’s just going to fly off the handle. You’ve lost trust in your leader. You’re learning. They are learning – lead them.
Remember the clock and the candlestick giving advice to the Beast? “And above all – YOU MUST CONTROL YOUR TEMPER!”
Don’t be their beast. Be their mommy.
Do I still yell at my kids?
Yes, yes I do.
Mmm…yeah. Pretty often.
But I’m trying…
I talk myself off the yelling cliff – Every. Single. Day. Sometimes I jump, free fall into a fit of rage – but mostly, now, I’m able to ask myself before the shit losing – “Is this them being kids, or me being weak?”
Usually, it’s just them being kids. But sometimes, after I’ve asked a hundred times for someone to stop jumping off of something – my lungs are strengthened. (I’m not telling you to never yell, I’m telling you to do it as little as possible – so when you do, it actually has an impact)
As moms we give up a lot, more than what we ever expect to before we’re parents. Sometimes it’s like shell-shock. We give up our youth, our sense of time, our personal space, our personal hygiene – we give it all up in small and large increments and intervals. Some days are good, some days we feel so unappreciated that we wonder if we are invisible. We wonder if anyone, literally anyone, can see that we are barely keeping our heads above water. Sometimes, the days just drag and sometimes they’re so chaotic that you lay down in bed and wonder – “Shitdamnfuck did I feed them dinner?”
Becoming a mother, for me, took away my identity for a while. I like to think I found it again, but it’s not the old me either, it’s a new version I’m still getting to know.
This life is a trip and having kids is wonderful – but raising them is like dodging one emotional land mine after another. Everything we do and don’t do can change who they are and how they feel about themselves – the responsibility of it can be so terrifying and overwhelming. Sometimes we feel so unappreciated, that we forget to appreciate our children. That’s when you know you’ve reached a breaking point and shit needs to change.
I never wanted to be the mom who didn’t let her daughter touch her hair or wasn’t down with getting dirty and playing with worms. ‘Dream mom’ might have been unrealistic – but at least she saw her children as opportunities to have fun – and not just tiny people she had to keep alive and clean.
Lessons learned, right?
When shit isn’t working, don’t be afraid to take a look at yourself and acknowledge your faults. Faults are easy to see when you take an honest look at yourself – its forgiving yourself for them and then taking the opportunity to change that’s so difficult.
And seriously – FORGIVE YOURSLEF – you’re a mere mortal beneath your super-mom mask.
You’re doing a good job mama 🙂 Find patience, find a soft voice and trust me – let that girl run her fingers through your hair.