Stuff I Reluctantly Learned from Homeschooling, Vol. 7

Wow. Has it really been 3+ months since my last post about what lessons I’ve learned from homeschooling?

Since most of it was a blur, I’m not sure how much I will have to say about 2016Q4. But since I’m a completist, I will give it a go. Here then, (with my shortest preamble yet!) are the lessons I reluctantly learned while Homeschooling for October – December 2016.

1) When the kids are having a hard time listening and following directions, it’s best for everyone to take a break. Even if the break lasts a month (or two).

(ie: Mommy needs a time out.)

You see, few things infuriate me as much as children who don’t listen or follow directions.

Also I hate sloppiness. And the fidgets.

And I particularly hate when they look at me instead of the zhuyin (Chinese phonetic system) when they are reading and aren’t sure if they are reading correctly.

I mean, do I look like I have zhuyin and can tell you how the word is pronounced?

Friends, pregnancy makes me really pissy. 

My poor, poor children.

I was so mean to them and so impatient and quick to anger and scream.

I cut short many a lesson due to me completely losing it and yelling at full blast on their every stumble or perceived imperfection.

Nothing encourages language retention and making mistakes and learning for fun like a mean dragon fire-breathing mommy.

I have since learned (and re-learned) to just take a break. And to repeatedly tell Cookie Monster and Gamera that it’s not their fault that Mommy feels awful and that they are wonderful and beautiful and smart and that the time out is for me and not because they are bad.

But mostly, I broke my children and tried to put them back together after they burst into tears because they couldn’t please their mean mommy.

Trust me when I say that everyone is glad that Sasquatch is out instead of in.

Apparently no longer being in constant pain makes me a much more pleasant person.

2) Accept help.

I am a control freak. Everyone knows this. But even us control freaks need to acknowledge their desperate need for help and assistance sometimes.

Thus, it was with great relief that on rare occasion, my mom would listen to the kids read in Chinese (I’m talking on ONE occurrence – but it was still appreciated!!), or Hapa Papa would have the kids do math.

It was especially easy because I wanted Cookie Monster to do repetitive drills/workbooks to make sure he not only understood the concept of addition/subtraction/multiplication/division but to do them so often they became automatic.

Gamera was a little more difficult since she can’t read and her Singapore Math books require a lot more reading than Cookie Monster’s rows and rows of math problems. So, that required more effort on the part of Hapa Papa but hey, it’s not like I had to do the work.

3) Outsourcing homeschooling is AWESOME.

I mean, this is really why most people do NOT homeschool and send their kids to either public or private school, right? Having someone else do the teaching is fantastic!

Of course, I prefer the flexibility homeschooling allows. But my willingness to also hire private tutors or have them attend small classes is a great way for my kids to make friends with other kids (albeit, few of them), as well as give me a break from at least some of my children.

4) Paying for things in advance is a great way to force your kids to persevere in classes.

My kids were less than enthused about attending outdoor education classes. But after me telling them they had no choice because we already paid for these classes and HFS they were expensive – my kids grumbled for weeks.

But they went and had a good time.

They had such a good time that after awhile, the real reason they hated going no longer was as much of an issue. It just became something they had to do. (They didn’t like the fact that we had to leave before 8am to get to class on time and drive a long time because it cut down on their morning iPad time. Spoiled little brats.)

Now, they very much enjoy class and even don’t mind going to class in the rain. (They’ve even been brainwashed because Cookie Monster told me that rainy days are the best because then Mother Earth gets her water. Also, he gets to jump in mud puddles.)

This even applied to my kids and their kungfu lessons. Since they took such a long break from kungfu in the summer, it was hard for them to get back in the swing of things. Their muscles were sore after classes and because they were more advanced than they used to be, the forms were harder and it required more effort.

So, of course, they complained.

They complained because since we missed so many weeks in the summer due to our Taiwan Trip, we had to make up the sessions and often went to kungfu 3-4 times a week. Apparently, that is too much for them.

Well, again, the fact that we had already pre-paid came in handy and I brooked no dissent. After awhile, they again got used to the new reality and their bodies adjusted and they are happy about kungfu again. (It helps that they just got their yellow-black belts and have upgraded to a more advanced class.)

5) Homeschooling is flexible enough to withstand a lot of disruption.

I briefly touched upon this in the previous points, but seriously. I was worried about how being miserably pregnant and then happily unpregnant but with a newborn was going to affect homeschooling.

I need not have worried.

Yes, yes. We skipped a lot of actual schooling at home because I had a baby and all. But you know what? They played a lot with each other, still had their other classes, and in general, we took things slowly.

And because we adjusted our rhythm and tempo, my kids did not suffer really and since they’re pretty far ahead on math and yes, even Chinese reading, I wasn’t really worried.

Also, despite the fact that I still had to shuttle them to a lot of classes, it was STILL a lot easier than shuttling the kids to and from “regular” school. The thought of dealing with pick up/drop off and the traffic and rush in the early mornings hurts me.

Our laid back lifestyle was MUCH better and much preferred.

Plus, kids learned a lot about babies, helping with cooking, and home responsibilities. That is also learning. 

Alright. I think that’s the gist of the last three months. Here’s to another month of homeschooling! Happy 2017!

I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

What is it about life that it just piles and piles and piles on top of everything and everywhere?

I mean, I realize that entropy is the default state of being and the Second Law of Thermodynamics so why fight against The Universe?

And yet.

No matter how much (or let’s be real, little) I do, it’s never enough. I always feel behind the 8-ball.

Is this a Woman Thing? Or a Mom Thing?

I mean, I don’t really hear Hapa Papa bitching and moaning about the state of the house (although, lately, it seems to be pressing on even him) or feeling as if he’s always behind or never caught up on shit.

However, now that I think about it – and I mean this in no way to diminish what Hapa Papa does because he is quite the involved father and provides pretty much all monetary support for our family – he really only has two major areas of responsibility: providing monetarily for the family and being an involved father.

Everything else is on me. Now, usually I don’t mind because quite frankly, I’m a control freak and I rather enjoy having everything be what I want it to be (or think it should be). But then, when things aren’t quite right, it’s all on me.

Hapa Papa is an easy-going guy and a good sport, so other than a few things, he really doesn’t have a particular opinion on whatever new parenting philosophy I’m trying this month or homeschooling or sports (wait, he does have an opinion on sports) or food or household chores or whatever. As long as it doesn’t particularly bother him, Hapa Papa mostly just gets out of my way and lets me do my thing and tries to support me as much as he can.

He is a good man.

But just like I (God-willing) will never have to feel that singular burden of providing financially for our household, he will never have to feel that singular burden of everything else. The staggering amounts of minutiae in the daily lives of five living and growing human beings.

I am overwhelmed.

(Although, I can’t say I have ever felt whelmed.)

It doesn’t seem as if it’s that much. I mean, I am a competent person of above-average intelligence and ability, right? Right?

So why do I feel so shitty? And so dissatisfied?

And now that I think about all the stuff that is within my purview, it really is a lot! I mean, I am not exaggerating when I say that Hapa Papa only needs to think about (and do) his career/making money and being a good father/husband. (And to clarify, Hapa Papa does a ton more than the “average” husband – so please know that I definitely appreciate him!)

Here’s just some stuff off the top my head that I have to take care of on a regular basis:

– Follow up with Car Rental Company to make sure they submit the missing paperwork to our credit card company re: a claim
– Follow up with Health Insurance Company re: multiple claims/missing money
– Submit FSA receipts
– Take care of all benefits
– Physicals and dental appointments for the whole family
– Saving/Investing
– Paying everyone and every institution that we need to pay
– Enrolling/Scheduling kids and their classes and paying on a monthly/quarterly basis
– Shuttling kids to all their activities
– Feeding/Bathing/Clothing/Maintaining/Keeping Alive/Disciplining children (and self and Hapa Papa)
– Keeping track of extended family birthdays/special events/visits/illnesses/etc.
– Keeping in touch with family friends
– Scheduling car maintenances
– Insurance (life/health/car/home/flood/umbrella WHATEVER)
– Shopping (food/clothes/home/educational/etc.)
– Cooking
– Cleaning/Laundry/Dishes/Garbage
– Mail (absolutely my LEAST favorite)
– Diapers
– Potty Training
– Parenting
– Taking out the garbage
– Compost
– Returning library books
– Sleep training
– Homeschooling
– Ovulation/Fertility Tracking (if we are still trying for a fourth)
– Taxes
– Anything that requires a phone call or a live human

Look. I know this shit is what life is made of. And again, it’s not like Hapa Papa doesn’t contribute in terms of housework (I am always elated when he unloads the dishwasher – one of my LEAST favorite activities even though it is incredibly simple). Furthermore, Hapa Papa is amazing at giving me space to decompress and disappear from the family. He gives me entire WEEKENDS (on a regular basis!) so I know I have it good.

But if I have it so good and am still feeling crushed, how the fuck are other people doing this?

Is everyone else just better at faking it?

(Ok. I do know some people who are terrible at faking it and when I look at them, I judge. I know. I’m a hypocrite. But seriously. Come on, people. Get your shit together.)

What do you think? Are we all just sucking at “adulting”? Did our parents have these problems, too? They must have, right? Let me know in the comments.

Food Insecurity

At almost every meal time, I briefly think that our family is “food insecure.” Not in the true sense of the word – by no means are we that at all. But if you asked me what we ate for the last week, I would have no idea. And if you asked me what we were going to eat for our next meal, I’d semi-panic and want to crawl in a hole and avoid the question entirely.

How is it possible that I go shopping every week, have a fridge and pantry full of food, yet we rarely have anything to eat?

In fact, I think one of the reasons Glow Worm is so short is because all he does is snack all day and doesn’t actually eat real food. (I’ll just go back and hide now.)

It’s pretty telling that my favorite time of every year is when I go to San Diego and visit my friend for a few days and she provides all meals and snacks for those blissful three days. I don’t have to think about anything!

It’s heaven.

Anyhow, lately, it’s been pressing upon me more and more so that we have to make some changes as a family about what we eat and how we eat it.

It all started when I slowly started realizing that whenever I had even minimal amounts of caffeine or sugar, I would start shaking. My whole body would feel jittery and jerky and I would feel jumpy and just “off.” And every time I ate a granola bar that my kids eat all the time (especially Glow Worm), I would feel really weird and my heart would start racing. I would get to thinking, “If I, as a fully grown adult woman, couldn’t handle the sugar content in a “healthy” granola bar, what the hell is it doing to my children?

I mean, maybe the reason Glow Worm is quite insane and is never tired has more to do with his diet than his temperament? Perhaps the kids would eat more of their normal meals if they didn’t always have snacks?

So, I don’t really know what to do. I flirt with the idea of cutting sugar or having only unprocessed foods in the house (OMG – that makes me so sad to even think about), or to go all hard core like the 100 Days of Real Food lady and that just stresses me out. I know I have the tendency to go full tilt all in extreme and then burn out super quick.

It seems impossible. And really hard. And a lot like work. (You all know how I feel about anything that even remotely resembles work.)

My mind races to think of what schedules I need to rearrange for shopping and food prep. Do I start freezer cooking? Use a crock pot? And are any of these dishes actual Chinese food? Or things my kids would eat?

And of course, I have a ton of excuses: the kids never eat what I make so why bother? We’re always on the go, how can we have fewer processed foods but still have an active lifestyle (and by active, I mean that we’re constantly driving around from one thing to another). What about all the food we already bought? It seems crazy hard – especially with my kids’ multiple food allergies.

And so, I’m hesitant to even mention my thoughts for several reasons. The main being that if I talk about it, I might actually have to do something. The others being that I know that my complaints are totally a first world problem and that I feel a lot of shame.

After all, there are 870 million people worldwide who don’t know what – if anything – they will have to eat. Even within the United States, there are millions of children and families who experience actual food insecurity. (1 in 7 Americans experience hunger because they or their families cannot afford food.) And here I am, complaining about my petty problems.

So, even though I have no idea what to do with our food situation, I hopefully can at least remind us that as America is gearing up for the holiday season. I encourage you to donate to your local food bank, volunteer for Meals on Wheels, donate your time to help pack food supplies, whatever. If you are at a loss of what to do, consider donating on a monthly basis to your local county food bank. We currently donate $150/month to the Contra Costa County Food Bank and I consider it part of our tithing. It has not been difficult to do considering it’s the very least I can do – which is give money.

In addition, this year, instead of just telling folks to not bring gifts to my children’s birthday parties, I’ve asked people to bring food items to donate to the local food bank instead. For Glow Worm’s birthday, we raised 118 pounds of food. I might even have people do so for our annual New Year’s Eve party.

I mention these things not to seem righteous or holy, but merely acknowledging that the rest of this post is horribly incongruent with real food insecurity. But since the context is my life, I can only write what I know.

However, I do want to also highlight actual hunger instead of my cheap facsimile so as we get ready for the holiday season (I know it seems early, but it really isn’t!), to keep in mind ways you can help – even if it’s just with your time and energy and strength.

I would also encourage you to set up a monthly contribution (or at least a reminder to donate during the summer months – which are notoriously low on donations) instead of just doing something during the holidays. People are hungry year round – not just on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Anyhow, I have no idea how to end this post (as always). But I would love to hear your feedback (especially if you and your family have made major food changes) and advice! Happy Monday.

 

Someone Get Me An Adult

People, people, people. I just can’t get my shit together.

Seriously. I think I’ve somehow landed myself in a minor depression again. I care about stuff, but not enough to do anything about it. I kept telling myself I’d get it together after our LA/SD Trip. Now, I tell myself I have to get certain stuff done before our DC Trip. (But only the stuff that has actual deadlines.) But really, I’m telling myself to get to it after school starts.

My kingdom for a “wife”! (That’s probably what Hapa Papa thought he was getting, but too bad, Sucker!)

I will settle for someone to just follow me around and nag me until I do things. (Better yet, I would prefer someone to just do things for me.)

Why is adulting so hard? Why is life so hard? (Cue sad violins and people giving zero fucks at my privileged, pampered life.)

know I’m being a whiny asshat. I know it’s sad and pathetic and whatever other invectives I hurl at myself. But here I am all blech-like.

To quote Fat Bastard from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, ” I can’t stop eating. I eat because I’m unhappy, and I’m unhappy because I eat. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Substitute eating with whatever (well, also, the eating) and there you have me in a nutshell.

I want to say a lot of my paralysis is because I’m conflicted of what I want and why I want it. But that only covers some of the problems like parenting/disciplining/interacting with my children or homeschooling. I know all I have to do is just fucking shut up already, sit down, and think about what I want. I just choose not to do it because then once I know, I have no excuse not to do it and then I have to do it!

Which then, brings those problems into the column that is the most problematic: life.

How is it that I am so incapable at life? I know if I just got off my ass, my bathrooms would be cleaned, my laundry folded, my carpets vacuumed, my home decluttered, my bills paid, etc. I know because I’ve done them before. At least a million times before. And I think lately, that is the problem. What is the point? Why bother doing anything at all? I WILL JUST HAVE TO DO IT AGAIN TOMORROW.

Or depending on what it is, in about ten minutes.

I mean, seriously. I do at least three loads of diapers a week (not including regular laundry). After I spent half an hour mopping the kitchen floor, one of my kids spilled their milk. And thought about eating a cookie so immediately, my floor was covered in crumbs. I vacuumed my crunchy carpet and almost instantly, my children chose the crumbliest, flakiest food to consume and then promptly walked all over my family room.

I used to care about things (back in the days before Gamera and Glow Worm were born) but each successive child has sucked the will to do anything out of my body. I am now the opposite type of parent I thought I would be. Just a sad, deflated, screaming mom completely run over by her irregular children.

I think I need an accountability partner. Someone to check in with and make sure I get stupid shit done. Maybe I don’t need a wife after all. I NEED A MOM. Just not a mom like me.

The Terrible Fear In Tenderness

“You know it’s okay to love your husband, right?” Dr. T asked me.

“Yeah, but you know, that would conflict with the image I’ve cultivated for myself,” I replied, only half-joking. “It runs counter to my inner narrative.”

There are few Facebook posts that grate on me more than the ones of folks gushing and humble-bragging about their “brides” or “smoking hot wives” or “hottest man in the world.” It always strikes me as insincere. (And before you get all huffy about it, I realize that people are are free to post whatever they want on Facebook and if I don’t like it, I don’t have to read it. I know it’s my problem and my personal preference. I’m not trying to tell people what or what not to post. Chill out.)

I don’t even like pretending Hapa Papa and I like each other let alone love. Personally, I find it more comforting and secure to pretend that we are together out of mutual laziness (eg: my lack of wanting to train a new partner and his lack of wanting to learn – and fail at – a new set of “rules”) than because we love and are devoted to each other.

I trust Inertia. Feelings? Not so much.

Over these past 6-8 months in counseling, I am realizing more and more just how little I actually feel on a daily basis. My close friends seem surprised since I am often angry or frustrated or laughing or disappointed – but I don’t actually feel anything deeply other than rage and frustration.

I rarely am present.

I am most often anesthetizing myself with food, Facebook, or texting. I kill time, waiting for my kids to sleep so I can actually “live” my life, only to feel such regret and shame when they are finally down because I wasted my day with them and I know these days are fleeting.

I am there but not there.

As if I’m an alcoholic but instead of vodka, the phone is my drug of choice.

I feel intense shame, guilt, and grief for I know all too well the slipperiness of time. I know the sting of abandonment and neglect. The worthlessness, the confusion, the self-blame left in its wake.

How much greater the insult if your mother is actually physically present but STILL doesn’t want to be with you? At least my father wasn’t actually there. It seems as if that detail makes all the difference.

Of course I love my children and my husband. Yet I rarely feel it. I rarely live it or embody it.

Dr. T says my anger is an armor, a way to protect myself from feeling my feelings. As a child, I was never really allowed to feel my feelings so I never learned to deal with them. My father would yell at me, “I know what you’re thinking! Don’t you dare!”

As if he could fore me to feel any differently just because he willed it so. As if I were not my own person. He had the audacity to forbid me even my own thoughts.

So I stuffed everything inside and out leaked anger. Rebellion. No hurt. No pain. Shove it all down.

I seethe.

In college and as a young adult, I was in relationships that were roiled in emotion. When it was good, I had SO MANY FEELINGS! When it was bad, I wanted to die. When Hapa Papa and I started dating, I sought solace in his evenness. His zen.

Though my relationship issues smoothed out, my rage didn’t go away. Like a gasket being popped or a pipe bursting, rage would arc out every now and then. Then things would be okay for awhile until the next incident.

When Cookie Monster was born, I vowed to never raise my voice at him and I held it for about eighteen months. It’s easy to love an infant and an only child. Not so much when they turn into defiant little humans with thoughts and feelings of their own. Especially when you’re pregnant again or have more than one child or pregnant when you already have more than one child.

Now, I catch myself screaming at Gamera to stop crying. That I don’t want to see or hear her cry. (There is something about Gamera’s crying, acting like a helpless little girl that triggers my inner Hulk Smash.) This unbearable weakness.

In my calmer moments, I weep.

I do not want Gamera (or my other two) to stuff their feelings until all they know is rage.

What a heartbreaking legacy.

I have been working on being present with my children and with my life. Truthfully, though Dr. T has been encouraging me to be mindful since day one, I am only just now starting to kinda maybe sorta understand what she is talking about.

It depends on the week.

But now that I am actively trying to make changes, I find that I am overcome with fear any time I start feeling any tenderness or love.

I will be playing with Glow Worm at night before his bedtime instead of waiting in his room for him to fall asleep while on my phone (as an unintended side affect, my vision may improve, too). Glow Worm will be laughing and chuckling in that glorious rasp of his and all I can think of as I am happy and glad and horsing around with my darling baby boy is, “If I die now, will Glow Worm even remember this?” (This is hard for me even in the writing. Fear’s fingers are long and far-reaching.)

If I die now, will Cookie Monster or Gamera remember me enough to tell Glow Worm how much I loved them? How I played with them or acted around them? How much joy he and they brought me? How can they tell him of our sweet before bed tickles and laughter if they aren’t here to witness it? How will he know the safety and security of my love and our moments if I’m the only one who will remember because he is too small? Will the truth of these formative experiences be enough to to carry over into his muscle memory so that when he thinks of me, though he may rely solely on the borrowed memories of Cookie Monster and Gamera, that at least he can have this “feeling” all for his own?

How could Hapa Papa possibly love Glow Worm as much as I do to pass it on to him? And even Cookie Monster and Gamera – they are all under six. If I were to die today, how much would they actually recall?

Would their memories of me fade and be lost? To be doubly robbed of my physical being as well as their memories?

Or worse yet – what if all they remember of me is my anger or absentee parenting? What if all they feel is my judgment, cold and harsh?

These are my thoughts when I actually allow myself to feel , even partially, my joy and love for my children. A gripping fear that all this happiness and sweetness and tenderness is fleeting; biding time until it will all be inevitably ripped away.

How much less painful then, to keep these feelings at arm’s length; at bay, a safe distance from my heart?

My fragile, fragile heart.

But now that I think about it, how much worse then, if it IS fleeting, to have been so afraid of joy and its inevitable loss, to have not felt it in full when I could have had it? How much worse, then, to preemptively rob myself and my children of my presence and memories?

My fears seem so cliché.

Well, clichés exist for a reason.

I suppose if I were braver, I would be existential about it. That if I am fated to lose my loves, I better get to holding them close. Especially if it turns out I am wrong. If I don’t end up losing my loves but then am not present, won’t I have lost them in the end anyway?

Prophecy is a paradox.

Perhaps it is like a muscle. Perhaps the more I exercise the “mindfulness” muscle, either my “fear” muscle will atrophy due to disuse or (the more likely scenario) my “joy” muscles become strong enough to cancel out and perhaps someday, even overpower my instinct of fear.

Who knew love required so much math?

The Right Philosophy Won’t Save You

Ladies and Gentlemen, as I’m sure many of you have realized by now, I am a Control Freak.

I know. It caught me unaware, too. (I kid, I kid!)

And I am this way, a grasping, clamoring, rigid, inflexible, unreasonable person because I am afraid. I try to control everything because I am controlled by fear.

I find it most prevalent in my parenting. I’m sure it shows up in other ways, as Hapa Papa has surely experienced personally, but I notice it most in my parenting because strangely enough, my children happen to be little humans and do not obediently truck with everything I demand of them. (For me, this is the single, most infuriating and crippling thing about parenthood.)

I think I would have far fewer full on nuclear standoffs with my children if I just saw my belief systems as what they truly are: a way to order and control my children. (In fact, I believe this to be true for all belief systems – whether they be religion, political affiliations, even science. They are our methods to order and control our worlds.)

Instead, I fool myself into believing that what I’m imposing on my children is a life or death battle – the key to them growing into upstanding citizens and good people. I draw these ridiculous lines in the sand wherein if they don’t finish their yogurt for breakfast I am going to let them starve to death and never feed them again or if they don’t put on their helmet I’m going to throw away their scooter and all their other fun ride on toys and never let them go to the park again.

I do so because deep down, I am convinced that if I just make my kids do XYZ, then they’ll get into Harvard (or UCLA) and then they’ll become a doctor or something and be successful and have a good and happy life. Yes. All this from eating their fucking yogurt.

Until I had children, I never realized just how superstitious I was as a person. After all, wasn’t I an enlightened and educated person? Didn’t I believe in a God who was bigger, more powerful, and more merciful than even my education and religion? Didn’t I also believe in science (albeit, less powerful but still pretty awesome)? (And no, I do not find God and science to be mutually exclusive.)

After I had Cookie Monster, I used to pray over him when I nursed him to sleep at night. I would start out praying for Cookie Monster to have one or two traits that I thought would be key to him being a good person – but then, I would just keep adding to the list – and then qualify the entries with other “must haves.”

I wanted him to be happy, but not too happy. Suffer, but not too much suffering. Just enough to give him character and compassion for others. Be smart. Work hard. Have enough money but love the poor. The list kept growing longer and longer and more and more qualified, until I realized several things:

1) My laundry list of things was indicative of my True beliefs – the REAL desires of my heart. They were the things that I thought made a good life and would make Cookie Monster happy.

2) I have NO idea what makes a person happy or have a good life. Plus, my prescription for what I thought a good life entailed may well have turned Cookie Monster into a horrible person.

3) Ultimately, I want Cookie Monster (and all my children) to become people whose desires are after God’s own heart. And to beg God to allow me to be unbroken enough to recognize it when I see it.

But let’s be real. That last prayer is terrifying. God is not safe. God takes who you are and changes you. And that change usually hurts. A lot.

It’s hard to admit that having the right philosophy about child rearing or race or sex or religion – all that good stuff and the stuff of contentious culture wars – all that stuff won’t save us.

No matter how great our theory, we still have to go through the messiness of life. Kids still get cancer. Spouses still cheat. We might lose everything. All sorts of shitty things still happen – and we have no control over any of it.

I am owed nothing. Tomorrow isn’t promised. It is not guaranteed. God isn’t obliged to me. Doesn’t need me. Doesn’t even maybe care about my elaborate prayers or rituals or must haves. I mean, he probably cares WHY I do these things – but the things themselves? May as well be empty gestures. Superstitions.

That is what I find the most maddening. Isn’t that why I subscribe to these various thoughts? These various dogmas? To guarantee my kids won’t be drug addicts, will get into Harvard, won’t be teenage parents, and won’t be sick or poor?

But what’s the worst that could happen? (Well death, I suppose. But if I truly believe in Heaven and the goodness of God and how this life is just a preview, then though I be grieving, is it really the WORST?)

I can’t even open myself up to these “worst” possibilities because my overactive brain will continue to spin out of control and next thing you know, I have barricaded my children inside of our home and only allowed Hapa Papa to go out to work because some risks are acceptable in order for me to keep the lifestyle to which I’m accustomed. (Jokes! Them be jokes!)

Times like these, when fear threatens to overwhelm, I can’t even turn to God.

Why? Because God doesn’t promise me that life I want. He doesn’t promise me that everything will be smooth sailing and easy. He just promises to be with me. And what’s the use in that if I didn’t get what I want? (Of course, I bury these thoughts deep, deep down. You know, as if it were actually a secret from God. Mercifully, God has done little to shatter my illusions thus far.)

No, instead, I turn to statistics. Cold, hard numbers. The odds are ever in my favor and that is enough to comfort me for a little while.

Here’s the thing about my small, fearful heart. I do not believe that God is really that good, let alone that God is actually enough. I don’t believe it and I NEVER want to be tested and taught that is so.

I believe. Help my unbelief.

Truthfully, even if I had the “correct” theology, it won’t save me. No philosophy or religion will.

Or even in the narrow scope of parenting, no matter how perfect I am in my parenting (be it Attachment Parenting, Free Range Parenting, I Don’t Give A Fuck Parenting), my kids could still end up a drug addict, in prison, homeless, or dead in a variety of ways.

All my tightly clenched fists have done is unravel me. I am falling apart. My words on paper seem together, but I am not. I am a hot mess right now.

I feel as if I’m coming apart at the seams. As if something inside me has shaken loose and won’t play ball and go back to its proper place: hidden.

Change is hard, my friends. I confess, since my last breakdown back in November/December, I’ve gotten into a more placid place and evened out a bit. I had deluded myself that 4-5 months of therapy was all I needed and BOOM! I am healed!

But, no. The things that drove me to therapy just got ably pushed down and buried after the first few weeks. I have been deflecting and skimming the surface of what I am now for the past few months, mistaking candor for vulnerability.

They are not the same. And I am not very vulnerable.

I feel cracked. And I fear I am cracking like a mirror to be shattered rather than an egg birthing something new.

I really want to be made anew.

 

How Did My Mother Do It?

I know I’m not unique in this feeling but can I just say that I often feel like a failure as a mother. I realize this is perhaps our generation’s invention and that we clearly have too much free time or guilt on our hands because in the grand scheme of things, who cares as long as our kids are happy, healthy, and alive?

But I honestly feel constantly torn because how I’m raising my kids seems markedly different from the way I was raised. For sure, a lot for the better (see lack of abusive father), but a lot not necessarily so. I realize most of us parents (but particularly mothers) feel like we’re failing because we compare ourselves so much to one another. So much so that this crushing sense of failure is completely fabricated in our own minds. Plus, most of it is perspective and seeing only part of someone’s life.

For instance, some people actually think I’m a Tiger Mom when in reality, I am far from it. I mean, by the time I was Cookie Monster’s age, I could already read, write, do addition, subtraction, knew my times tables, had played piano for a year, and could ride a bike. Cookie Monster can do none of those things. (Although, I suppose he can read and write over a hundred Chinese characters so that’s something. And now that I think on it, he can do very basic addition.)

I mean, compared to my own mother, I am a million miles behind already.

Also, I really don’t know how we eat.

I don’t go out to eat often with the kids so I must be feeding them something, but what exactly, I’m not sure. I buy a lot of fruit and snacks from Costco but not produce because although I hate the idea of frozen vegetables, I hate throwing away money even more. And when I buy produce, I really should save myself the extra step and throw my money into the trash can directly.

I feel conflicted because when I was growing up, my mother worked full time and yet still managed to come home and cook a Chinese meal of rice, soup, and at least 4-5 other dishes. I’m lucky if I can make pasta and dump ready-made sauce on everything.

It’s not even that I can’t cook. I can. I actually cook rather well. It’s just that I’m SO LAZY. And why cook when my kids will just refuse it anyway?

But I feel bad because food is such a huge part of culture and my kids aren’t getting much Chinese/Taiwanese culture this way (except when we go back to Taiwan – hmmm… clearly, another trip should be in the works, right??). Are my kids’ fond memories of food really going to be quesodillas and nuggets? This makes me want to cry.

But I really am SO lazy. So I make quick and easy and 80% guaranteed chance of eating type foods. And I make a lot of hearty soups. Not my mom’s – or white people’s – but some random hodgepodge. It tastes reasonably good, I guess. (But apparently, I make it too often because Cookie Monster really hates repeating meals. Little punk.)

Sigh.

My stomach is SO SAD.

I know I wrote last time about how it was a royal PITA getting Cookie Monster’s kindergarten registration stuff ready. How did my mom stay on top of this crap BEFORE the internet? I barely got it together and everything was online!

Did I mention that my mother worked full time? Sure, we had a nanny briefly, or a child care provider, but from when I was 9-10 years old, we were home alone. We were very independent and I could make rice, cook basic foods, and we watched hours of TV (with no ill effects), didn’t see much of our mom (who was for all intents and purposes, a single mom supporting us on her own without any monetary support from my dad while he was wasting our family’s money and fucking his way through Taiwan, but I digress) but I never felt deprived.

Somehow, she managed a career, our education, piano lessons, Chinese school, church, food, art lessons, horseback riding lessons, tennis, speed reading classes, and who knows what else, PLUS the daily task of keeping a household. ALL BEFORE CELL PHONES AND THE INTERNET!! AND THE INTERNET ON CELL PHONES!!

FFS, I’m a SAHM and other than preschool, my kids have no lessons. I can barely clean my house and feed my kids. WTF IS WRONG WITH ME?

AND HOW THE FUCK DID SHE DO IT?

My mom was a motherfucking Rock Star.