Parenting: so easy a caveman could do it.

I’ve always been hesitant to post the struggles of my kids online. From time to time, I will share something funny that happened, for instance, several years ago when Bryce ate his own poop. Every so often, I’ll also proffer a tale of a day that included fits, crying, disobeying, or general parental exhaustion. I try not to do this at the expense of one of the kids, but rather a ‘we’re all in this thing together and my kid does the exact same thing as your kid,’ a shared camaraderie of knowing that none of us are in this alone, although we often feel that we are. And if you say that your kid doesn’t throw fits, cry, disobey, or exhaust you parentally at times, you’re a giant fibber.

Most of what I try to share, as it relates to parenting, regard my own shortcomings, of which I feel there are many.

I feel like many parents follow a general evolutionary timeline. Before kids, perhaps while expecting a baby, we’re hopeful but naive, although we don’t think we are. I’ll explain. We plan all the different ways we’re going to love our child and offer them encouragement while also challenging them to be great people. We say to ourselves and our partner that we’ll accept and love our child no matter what life throws at us, not matter how difficult they are, not really understanding what that means because meanwhile we’re silently judging everyone we know who has kids outside the womb for feeding their kids junk food and sometimes yelling at them.

When we have our children but they are still little and perfect and can do no wrong, our world opens up. We think, “How did I ever think this was going to be easy?! Parenting is so hard!,” but its not really parenting, its just caring for something and unless you have really great help, you don’t really get a break. Its still pretty easy to be self righteous at this point, because now you are technically a parent, so you think you know what you’re talking about. I remember a friend with older children telling me she yelled at her kids to get out of the house come school time, and I was secretly horrified. I pretended I understood, but Addie was still between 6 months and 2 years (its all a blur) and all I felt for her was elation and love. Not annoyance at getting up in the night, no postpartum blues, it was really just idiotically easy, thereby, super easy to judge everybody else. I remember coming home and telling Tony, “So and So actually *yells* at her kids. I can never imagine doing that to Addie. I just love her so much, and I don’t want our house to be a ‘yelling’ house.”

Ok Katie from 6 years ago. You were being kind of dumb.

What happens is that with each new stage of parenting, we are taken down a peg. What we once silently judged about other parents now happens to us and we are overcome with empathy and understanding, and we think “Oh how did I ever judge them? I get it now.” And yes, you do now understand what its like to have a tantruming kid in the store and not want to leave, but we still judge parents who have older kids for allowing them to have cell phones or talk back or watch a billion minutes of screen time. So while yes, you do empathize with what you now understand, we still judge what we don’t. Maybe I’m just a terrible person and no one does all this except me. The jury’s still out!

I think that our only hope for ourselves as parents is that this process of repeatedly realizing that we really don’t know what we’re talking about happens enough that we eventually become humbled.

What I can say is that not only parenting, but life while parenting, is much harder than I thought it was going to be. Life throws things at your kids that is so unfair. Challenges that they shouldn’t have to deal with, that other kids may not have to deal with, and you find yourself thinking, “Well they have it easier because of such and such,” when really thats just another form of judgement. And its also not true. While not everyone is open about their struggles with everything, or nor should we always be, especially when it comes to our kids and its not really ours to share, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t struggles. We never really know whats going on under others roofs. I once had a friend who said that whenever someone was rude to her, she imagined that their cat had died that morning. Well, imagine everyone who yells at their kids *also* had a cat die that very same morning. Millions of cats everyday meeting their untimely death. The point is, we literally have no idea what other people are dealing with. I know that doesn’t change much, and we still make judgements and assumptions because we’re all human and thats what we do, but its probably something we should write on our foreheads or something. Well, you should write it on your forehead. My humility and lack of judgement are probably the two greatest things about me. And as for my family and kids, they’re perfect, and my parenting is 100% to blame.

 

Heroe’s in a Half Shell

If I had to pick a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle to be in love with, I would have chosen Raphael. And I did, when I was between the ages of 8-10. Back then I think I was blinded by brunt machismo, red headbands, and cool fighting things (which I now know are called ‘sai’s). I’ve since evolved (albeit at the age of 33 I’m still thinking about which Ninja Turtle I would marry), and I would now choose Michelangelo, without question. I’ve come to realize that life isn’t always funny, but someone who has a good attitude, provides comic relief, and loves pizza are some of the most important things to look for in a life partner.

I’m mostly always glad I didn’t marry a turtle (and not because all of their real life movies were terrible and they probably stopped getting paid the big bucks), and appreciate the human partner I’ve chosen in Tony, although that is beside the point. My kids have become pulled into the turtle universe lately thanks to Nickelodeon reviving this childhood namesake. Not only is it pretty good, has a super awesome rap title song (its legitimately catchy), but it reminds me of the hours that I spent when I was little in our red basement watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Before you write me off as irrevocably creepy, I wasn’t actually in love with the turtles, it was more a crush on a cartoon character who wasn’t human. So, maybe that is a little weird. Nickelodeons’ version even has pretty cool actors doing the voices, Sean Astin and Jason Biggs (until he made a mistake in the twittersphere and was subsequently replaced with Seth Green). As I cuddle on the couch with my kids and watch TMNT, not only am overcome with what good taste in cartoons I had as a kid, I’m bowled over with this overwhelming feeling of “try as you might, you just can’t go back.”

I don’t know if this is a common feeling, but I’m sometimes saddened by wanting to go back in time. Whether its a certain vacation, a time when I didn’t have to pay bills, back when I lived with 7 amazing girlfriends and our greatest bicker was that I had stuck someones expensive bra in the dryer and shrunk it, or to a friendship before the plaque of life and misunderstandings and hurt got in the way, I find myself wanting to go back. I don’t want to miss out on the time I’m in right now because its incredible, but I also feel like its more heavy and real and full of responsibility and mistakes than it was when I was 21 (well duh said everyone in the room). Maybe it is more that I want to go back to my 24, 25, 26 year old self and hold her hand and tell her what really matters, and to be on the lookout for those things, so that I don’t take them for granted. Maybe its shaking my 31 year old shoulders and telling her to stop worrying about silly things like losing weight after my son, or whether or not to keep nursing (sorry for everyone I talked to during those horrendous few weeks of trying to decide, I even annoyed myself), to stop worrying about people who don’t love you, or overlook the stupid things that people who actually do love you say, and move on, because we all say and do stupid things. Like all the time.

I just wish I was wise enough in the moment to know what mattered in that moment. Remember English class? Sort of? Having to painstakingly underline the theme of every paragraph, however boring, did impress on me what really mattered to the story. Like, when the main pig in Animal Farm was totally scary and you better get out of his way, or that the Great Gatsby was telling us that theres more to people than meets the eye, regardless of how expensive the parties are that they throw (please forgive me if you’ve studied these books in depth and I butchered the themes…its been a long time since I was in English class). Sometimes I wish life was more like it was when I was sitting in Mr. Hanrahan’s 10th grade honors class, and I was only expected to know what was important to the story, not what was critical to succeeding in my actual life.

Though maybe this all really is just me. I’ve always been introspective, often erring on the side of excessive and sometimes useless self contemplation….but I think its more than I just want to do life well. I want to heal relationships, I want to live a passionate and meaningful existence that involves more than summer camps and running my kids back and forth to school twice a day. I think most people want to leave an impression behind when we finally shuffle off this mortal coil. I’m just not entirely sure how to do it well yet. Though at least I’ve figured out, beyond a shadow of a doubt, which turtle I’d bring home to meet Mom and Dad.

Cowabunga Dude!

 

Hi, I’m a new octopus.

As a general rule, I think that we understand basically nothing about things until we’ve been through it. A pretty broad, generalized statement but bear with me.

I assume many parents can identify with this feeling: I used to look at children throwing fits with their parents and think, “Just get your kid out of the supermarket! Arg! Eye roll! Judgement!” And probably something else that was really nice. Now with two children, I can tell you there’s no way I’m putting everything back just because my child is throwing a fit. The other day the cashier said to me after my son screamed that she just wouldn’t allow him the privilege of going to the store anymore. I’m pretty sure that would make his day lady, because as we all know grocery shopping is to 2 year old as spas are for mothers.

Its really hard for me to understand the stress that Tony feels balancing work, being a dad, a husband, still trying to help me out at home. I only know the desperate feeling of wishing that I was an octopus but with even more hands than that. Actually, if I had to pick something to be, I would be a cross between an octopus and something with 2 heads. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like you could balance all your thoughts/to do lists between not just one, but two brains? Clothes shopping would be difficult, but I think I would feel less general unrest.

Until we got a puppy I no empathy for people getting up in the middle of the night to toilet train a dog. Well, actually I still don’t. Tony did all of that but I can imagine that it was pretty rough on him.

I don’t understand what its like to train for a marathon, to work and raise kids, to not have kids, to be a supermodel. I generally don’t understand much of what is beyond my scope of experience, and I like to think that I’m past the point in my life where I’m judgemental of things I haven’t yet walked through. Until very recently, I didn’t understand what it felt like to feel new. 

We’ve been at the same church for almost 10 years. While we have experienced new things and people in these past ten years, we always had a home base, a community, a place where we felt known. For reasons that don’t translate well to blogging, we felt like we had to leave our church. I’ll preface by saying the church is great, the people are great, but it felt like we had been swimming upstream in so many areas for so long that it finally seemed like it was time to go. We don’t take leaving lightly. As anyone who ran into me that week will tell you (what I’ve taken to referring to as my week of tears) it was really tough to go. Why leave a place thats so comfortable and where everyone knows us, our kids, or stories, and where I basically don’t have to try very hard anymore? Isn’t that what we’re all going for, to feel known? Well I thought so.

Well, why did you just stay (eye roll)?….is what you might be thinking. What I would tell you is that sometimes the right things seem very wrong, and I think they can often be difficult. We trusted Jesus, and stepped out. We’re still trusting because going into new churches can be hard. I want to point outside and say, “there’s a place super close where not everyone thinks I’m a spaz, and my kids behaved, and I don’t think I seemed so stressed out and insecure.” Its hard to put on a good face when your 5 year old is clinging to you sliding across the floor and your son won’t put down his snow leopard and you just peel them off you and promise hot chocolate for the 2nd week in a row if they just. stay. downstairs. I want to convince people that I’m worth knowing, that it looks rough on the outside, but I’m worth your time if you can just see past all this. 

Our Maybe New Pastor gave a sermon today about doing hard things. He said that stepping out in faith re-actives your faith. I think that this is because you’re doing something that FREAKS YOU OUT and so you HAVE to ask Jesus to walk with you. He also said that sometimes we have to take a giant step back to take a big one forward. Maybe thats what we are doing. Taking one giant step back for the Seaward family so we can go forward in some crazy insane way.

So I started this blog with this idea that we can’t understand until we go though something. I guess that this is all loosely connected, though I can say this has been one of my weaker analogies. I feel like we look at people and make these assessments of how they should handle things, because thats what we would have done, or how they should parent their little terrors (parenting is SO HARD), or how they should handle relationships, or weight, or work, or stress, and what we’re missing is how tough it is to just live and feel like people love you and are walking through life with you even if you’re doing it wrong. I don’t think its our job to always understand what someone is going through, but I DO think its our job to understand that we don’t understand. Get it? Love people. “Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a hard battle.” Google says Plato said this, some say it was Ian McClaren, I thought it was from Lord of the Rings. Either way, pretty darn true. I can’t tell you how hard this particular road has been for us, and thats going to make sense to some and not to others, because the details aren’t something we shout from the rooftops, but people who’ve reached out and loved us mean the world to us. I think Jesus asks us to risk things, but He also asks us to love each other, and I’ve got to think that this means we’re meant to love each other through those tough, socially awkward, “What do I say here?” times.

So when in doubt, just say something. Hopefully its something nice.

 

 

 

I smell a rat.

Or squirrel, which technically takes longer to decompose, and would be culprit no. 1 as to why the dead stink in our basement hasn’t deteriorated yet.rat

When I was pregnant with Bryce, I would wander periodically into Tony’s office to chat, as wives are prone to do, to ask for help with Addie or to lie on the bed, stare at the wall, complain about swollen feet. One day my spider pregnancy senses detected an odd odor emanating from our crawlspace. I pointed it out to Tony, who couldn’t smell it, and brushed it off.

Well summer got hotter, and as dead things do, whatever it was kept rotting away in the crawlspace and wafting their deadness out into our basement.

Smelling super gross.

Eventually, after some prodding, Tony acknowledged that yes, something probably had died underneath, and agreed that it was time to do something about it. We got in there, grabbed some bodies, disposed of them, and pretty soon our home smelled back to normal.

A few good things came out of this: we got bodies out of our crawlspace (a great practice to keep up no matter where you live), and I got a great sense of what it smells like to putrefy.

We currently live in a rental home that I love for so many reasons. After a difficult experience of home ‘ownership’ (its hard to own something when you’re 200,000 underwater), I learned to love renting and all of the ease it affords. I think we’re pretty good tenants. Tony’s planted a pretty great garden, essentially hosting a farmers market for my girlfriends in the summer, who come over for wine and take home kale and cucumbers. We unclog our own toilets (apparently something not all renters do), and generally keep the place up quite nicely.

We experienced the perks of renting when our downstairs ceiling fell in because of a water leak. Our job to fix? No! That was a wild mess belonging only to the landlord. After a long stretch of construction in our downstairs bathroom, I thought, “Gee, I hope he never has to tear the ceiling out again… while we live here.” All looked good until…the dead smell came back, which I am now an expert at identifying. Because all bodies (except those who eat daily at McDonalds) eventually decompose, its only a matter of time before the business is finished and you’re just left with a skeleton, but because our smell has been going on for about two months, it got us thinking that something much larger has gone to take a ‘dirt nap’, though not in the dirt just yet.

One day we called our landlord, who came over and verified that the only way he could get rid of the smell would be to tear out the ceiling once more. We actually really like our landlord, so neither Tony or I had the desire to put him through that terrible project again. We can live with the smell until it eventually goes away.

I remember being really freaked out when this happened the first time. “Things DIE in here?! And then just rot?!” This is just something that happens? When you think about it, it totally makes sense. Theres no way to keep everything out of your house, walls, your crawlspace. I think the most you can hope for is that it isn’t in a difficult place to get (like in your bathroom ceiling), so you could dispose of it before the stench really starts to bug you.

The other evening Tony and I sat down in the living room, and I felt like I had a quarter life crisis (32 is still mostly a quarter…) all over him. I have some dead rats and I think I ignored the smell for too long. I really miss being a school counselor. I worked so hard for a long time, and I love working with students. I want to use those skills again.

Parenting well is really hard sometimes. Discipline is really hard. Figuring out your kid, what works for them? What doesn’t?

(I think) we’re buying a house, assuming all the little pieces fall together, but it a process that is mostly out of my control, and thats rough for me.

And the pressure is starting to build up.

And I wonder what can keep the vermin from piling up. There is no way to stop them from getting in, because life happens, and it can be stressful, and its not always fun. But you can only ignore stink for so long. For me, it reveals itself through a crummy spiritual life. Impatience with my kids or my husband. A little extra road rage. And the smell is this litmus test for whats really going on inside.

I haven’t had any huge epiphanies, except to say that I realize how much I need to process more during times when there is a lot going on, and thats when its so hard to do so. When you start to see ugliness coming out of you, thats the most difficult time to stop and make changes. When you finally start to smell the rats, that means they’ve died, and something has to be done, but thats the last thing you want to do at the moment. I’d rather run away and sit on a beach with Tony, but I don’t have the babysitters or the airfare.

What I need is to get up early with a strong cup of black coffee and time with God. A good conversation with my mom, a friend, or Tony help. To go to the Y. Have a nice beer and then good conversations help too. I need it all. And I need to do it more, instead of letting it all pile up. Because when it boils down to it I can’t get enough of my kids. They’re fantastic and hilarious and wonderful. So is Tony. So is getting a house. I’ll figure out the work stuff. Everything is too great to get pinned down in the muck…its just that everyone needs a good crawlspace clean once in a while.

 

 

 

 

How tot soccer can bring adults to tears.

soccerI’ve struggled a ton since I became a parent and my children actually started walking, talking, defying, running into roads, hitting each other, hitting other kids, generally, just being little humans.
My struggle has mostly come from this voice inside that constantly questions if I’m doing it right. Or messing them up. Am I creating the need for therapy because I lost my cool in the mall parking lot last week and needed to sit in the car by myself and lamaze breathe myself to a good place?

Last week we took Addie to soccer camp. She liked it about 30% of the time. It was a new experience for all of us. I know we all laugh and think that its funny when its someone else’s child sitting in the soccer goal, but when its ours, an internal war of voices comes floating to the surface. The voice mostly jabs at my parenting ability, how discouraged I was, worrying if other parents think I’m being mean to my kid by making her stay on the field, and spends too much time looking at the things that went poorly. The failures.

Then the grace comes in, with her, and with myself. I remember that don’t I remember what its like to be 4, but I do know what it feels like to do something that feels big and new and scary. That its hard to walk into a place where you don’t know everyone and learn something new. And yes, Addie didn’t behave well the entire time at camp, but I also don’t behave well the entire time as an adult. It happens too often that I think of things I said or did and realize that I probably should not have said or done them.

It matters that we stay, try, apologize when we have to, and are willing to put ourselves in new, scary, and big situations, or whats the point? I want to teach Addie that even though soccer camp didn’t go great the whole time, she went, she put herself out there, and she tried. Those things require courage, bravery, and grit. More than being good at soccer, those are the things I want to teach my daughter. And then I think of those voices that tell me I’m not doing everything well enough, and I think that yes, I mess up all the time. So many things I do I wish I had done better, or differently, from things I say (this one comes up too much….) to new skills I try. But I want to be better, and live outside my zone of comfort. I don’t want to just do things I’m good at. I want to do things I’m bad at so I can get better.

I want to run a half marathon.

I want to take adult swim lessons so I can learn how to actually breathe while I’m doing laps. Right now I drown a little.

I want to take a cooking class.

I want to go zip lining.

I want to write more, and get better at it.

I want to do things that scare me a little, like make new friendships, and skydiving. Seriously. I want to do this someday. Maybe.

I want to try something thats so hard that I fail, and have to try it again. And again. Because  I think failure, as challenging as it can be, whether its failing to be the parent we wanted to be, the friend I hope to be, or whether I fail at something new that I’m trying, is a good thing. Failing doesn’t diminish my value as a mom or person.  I think failing shows bravery and determination. I showed up. I tried. I had a good attitude (I hope). I want to try something new and risk that my life can be even better, even if its scary. Or hard.

So, I guess soccer camp was kind of good. We went out there, and we were (all) brave. And it gave us new things to shoot for next year. Like not crying after camp. If I can teach Addie to be brave, by practicing courage myself, and letting her see my failures, and wins, then I think that will be a huge success.

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