Tag Archives: boundaries

Excuse Me While I Apologize for Living

Every once in awhile it feels like life is conspiring to teach me a lesson. As if God is pointing a celestial finger at something in my life. “See! Do you see? This.”
fingerofGod

The unrelated incidents begin to pile up and a pattern emerges. And I start to see. “Ohhhhhh. This.”

  • I deal with a biting incident at our new church (my son, not me) like a mature, well-adjusted adult – bursting into tears, sobbing “I’m sorry we’re so much work…” The ladies in the nursery both comfort me and call me on it. Why it is so hard for me to receive the same kind of help I’d happily give others?
  • I’ve got a sore throat and a head ache. I need help with the kids. I apologize all day long, until my husband totally loses his cool. “I’ve never met anyone who apologizes so much for their own existence! You are not the only one in the mix.” This is a recurring problem.
  • I read My Sister’s Addiction about the compulsive need to be needed. She quotes Mark Nepo

    “I have been learning that the life of a caretaker is as addictive as the life of an alcoholic… we briefly numb a worthlessness that won’t go away unless constantly doused by another shot of self-sacrifice…”

    This is me. So me. Ouch.

  • I have trouble leaving my son at preschool. Even though he’s totally happy and well cared for and  I have class and I really need the break. I walk down the stairs slowly, so slowly, pushing down a ridiculous upswell of guilt.
  • I make a new friend who is passionate about teaching children to be advocates for each other, especially those with special needs. My kind of people. She tells a story about her daughter learning to advocate for herself, an important first step in becoming an advocate – Short Hair Don’t Care. And I find myself in tears. Again.
  • A blog post appears in my inbox, I mean to delete it (no time to read), but click on the link by accident. Iced Tea, Decaf and the World Changing on its Axis is about a woman going to school while her husband helps cover for her (sounds familiar). She talks about the lessons of her mother’s generation:

    Women are the ones who sacrifice for their families. Not men. Not children. Women. In  her world, God could not be calling any woman to do something that would cost her family anything. Not.Possible.”

    And I start crying (of course), because deep down, I must believe this. Even though I know it’s crap. And I don’t want to.  And it’s not what my parents taught me.

Clearly, I have a problem. I’m pretty good at giving. I won’t back down from a spirited debate. I’m a strong personality in many other ways. But some strange mixture of pride and insecurity makes it hard for me to ask for help. To accept the help I need. To accept that I need help at all. This is more than just a life skills deficit, it’s a spiritual problem.

I go to extraordinary lengths not to put people out, not to be a bother. If they bring me the wrong thing at the restaurant, I’ll usually just eat it. If someone does me wrong, I usually just eat that too. I make myself small.

Also, I’m really weepy these days.

This morning I had a chance to put some weight behind my resolution to speak up, to stop apologizing for what I need.

The good news, the absolutely thrilling and exciting news, is that a short story I wrote has been published in the university literary magazine. The editorial staff put a ton of work and effort into the annual publication. They did a great job!

As someone who’s done a lot of copy editing I know how easy it is, almost inevitable, to miss something. And they did. Unfortunately, the word missing is crucial. A climactic statement at the very end of my story rendered nonsensical.

It still works. I’m still 99% tickled to see my name in print. I know it’s too late to do anything about the print copies. I tell myself it’s not a big deal, stop obsessing. But I need them to fix it before they post the PDF version online.

That was a hard email for me to write.

So here’s me, taking up space in the world. And that might put people out, or rock the boat, or make a mess. And I’m learning to be okay with that.


Parents Need to Get a Life

I’m tired of it. The saintly, June Cleaver-ish, I-simply-exist-to-service-my-children-and-husband ideal that I keep running into. There’s a religious version. And an organic-hippie version. And a sleek, modern-day tiger-mom version. And yes, even a special needs, therapy-is-our-life version. Their parenting may look very different from each other, but they are all entirely consumed by it. And it’s not just the women. They’re martyr parents.

martyrmomIn this day and age, parenting is the last bastion of acceptable nobility. We no longer expect to lay down our freedom, our identity, our dreams… our lives on the altar of marriage, or country, or vocation. But when Jr. Me arrives on the scene, we’re prepared to gift wrap all of the above. And pat ourselves on the back for doing it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of selflessness. It’s something our culture could use more of. It’s something I could use more of. But good parenting is about a lot more than sacrifice.

To clarify, I’m talking to good parents here. Not the pseudo-adolescents who barely show up, much less engage their offspring. Nor the workaholic yuppie with a trophy child they stash away until family photo day rolls around.

The rest of us. Most of us. Regular folks who desperately love our kids and feel desperately overwhelmed and underqualified a lot of the time.

To compensate, we read more. We do more. We sleep less. We are the hardest-trying generation of parents who have ever lived.

And sometimes we forget that good parenting isn’t about giving more, it’s about being wise.

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a long haul. And we need to conserve our energy and recharge our batteries from time to time. That’s not selfish; that’s smart.

The Center-of-the-Universe is subpar housing. No one should live there. Certainly not an impressionable child. The most miserable adults began as children who believed they deserved what THEY wanted, when THEY wanted it, no matter the cost to others. It is good for children to wait, to pitch in, and to sacrifice for others, especially their parents. It builds this old fashioned thing called respect.

Kids grow up. Ouch. I know. And it happens so fast. Which makes you want to soak it in as much as you can (unless they’re really whiney; then you send them to visit the Grandparents). But someday when they need you a little less, or when they are grown and gone, your life will go on. If you have no life anymore, you are in for a shock. You are more than just a parent.

Life is happening now. Life can’t be put “on hold” until your busy child-rearing years are over. Although we are technically “adults,” we are still growing and learning and becoming. If we neglect ourselves we will be stunted phsyically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. One of the worst mistakes a parent can make is to sacrifice the health of their marriage to the immediate needs of the shortest family members. In the end, everyone suffers for that.

Whatever stage in life you are at, whatever unique circumstances you find yourself in… find something that is your own. In those first few crazy weeks/months, that might be nothing more than a quick, hot shower. Take it. Own it. It’s good for you. And that’s good for them. A good parent has their own life.

The week our baby girl was diagnosed with Down syndrome, we met with the hospital social worker. She handed us stacks of brochures and articles and tax benefit forms. But the best thing she gave us (apart from heartfelt congratulations) was this advice:

“Don’t change your whole life for her; let her fit into yours.”

Down syndrome will always be a part of her life, but we don’t build her life around it. Down syndrome will always be a part of our lives, but we don’t build our family around it.

Nor do we build it around our son’s adoption or his special needs. Or our eldest daughter’s consuming passion for dance. Or our 10-year-old’s absolutely-essential, must-have-or-she’ll-never-be-happy-again, latest trend/toy/hobby/obsession. In our family, everyone gets to have a life.

A good parent gives selflessly and sacrifices and often puts their kids first, but NOT always. A good parent has hobbies and friendships and goals and needs. A good parent goes on dates and takes long hot baths and reads books and takes holidays. A good parent can say NO, and a good parent actually does.

So here’s me, and I’m my own person.

Along these same lines… I love this article: Stress Less Parenting: What Everyone Can Learn from Lazy French Mothers What do you think?


<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: