I was so shielded from existence while growing up that as an adult, I'm pretty much scared all the time. I'm afraid of anything new, even things as simple as going to a new restaurant, because I don't know what to expect and how things work. I'm always afraid of making an ass of myself simply because I don't know how to function in some sort of situation.
In some ways, this is very beneficial as a parent. This general fear of being caught somewhere unprepared has lead to some smart things like keeping an extra diaper bag in the car with all size cloth diapers, sippy cups, bottles of water, a change of clothing, and long lasting fruit pouches. If somehow I end up stuck somewhere with the kids, I can change a diaper and give them a snack. On the other hand, since I've always remembered to pack my purse or real diaper bag with the daily essentials in the year and a half that my girls have been able to eat real food, I haven't actually needed to dip into that bag, and only fed them the snacks from there to prevent them from getting too old.
By the way, if you run into me somewhere, I'm the person to ask for a spare tampon, diaper, box of raisins, swiss army knife, nail file/clippers, deodorant, whatever. I've got a convenience store in my purse. I'm handy that way.
I know I write about my general life fear a lot, so much that I've probably written this exact same blog post several times before, but that's because it's such a constant thing. Every time I triumph over it some little tiny way, it's a victory to me. My comfort zone is minuscule and I've lived almost 40 years pretty much operating within that comfort zone.
Now, even as a kid, I knew this was wrong. Every time all of cousins were sent off to play at the beach and I heard my mom yell "Dad's Name, watch her!" I knew that there was something off about not being able to just play like other kids. This is a part of what's lead to a lifelong overwhelming sense of inability. All the other kids are capable of not dying as they go to play, why do I need the extra supervision? Because I suck at life and am incapable of figuring things out I guess.
This deep rooted insecurity holds me back, A LOT. I've been dealing with trying to find a job in the last few weeks and it's created some major emotional turmoil for me that I don't think K fully understands. He doesn't understand that I'm terrified of anything new because even if it's a good thing, I'll somehow screw it up and it will backfire on me. I picture things like parking wrong in downtown Seattle for the interview and coming back to find my car towed and not being able to get home or breaking the bank to get it back. He just has no comprehension of the random fears that pop into my head and my incessant need to prepare for any possible thing that can go wrong before I attempt something as simple as driving somewhere I'm unfamiliar with. Nothing seems to scare him, or make him uncomfortable. It's one of the things I admire about him and really wish I could learn how to be that way myself.
I vowed from the time I was a kid not to do that to my kids. Since becoming a mom, I've read about European parenting and how American moms are shocked to find three year olds up in trees or whittling a stick with a knife and how shocked we yankees are that the parents are cool with such dangerous activities for such youngsters. I've read how it's this ability to let kids explore and possibly get hurt from time to time leads to more confident and capable adults. I take those articles to heart because intellectually I agree with the philosophy. Instinctually is another matter.
So I'm constantly at odds. Keep my kids safe, but give them enough freedom to figure things out. In this age of over the shoulder parenting, it's even more difficult to go with the European philosophy because I'm afraid that other parents will interpret my very thought out decisions to allow my kids to be in a little danger with negligence and then I'll have CPS at my door or something. Reading the article about the mom who had to deal with a year of the threat of jail for leaving her kid to play with an ipad in the car for 5 minutes while she ran an errand, well that kind of thing terrifies me. Todays parenting is SOOOOO much more restrictive than what I grew up with, and yet what I grew up with was far more restrictive than I think is healthy. I want to raise my kids with more freedom than I had, yet the freedom I did have would now have society screaming "where was the mother!!!!".
Anyway, I've had a few wins in the expansion of my comfort zone this week. Here they are:
- Yesterday, I took the girls to a park I have never really seen before. I play a game called Ingress and it's really been helping me find new parks and trails and stuff. People tell me to take the girls for a walk and since my immediate neighborhood isn't stroller safe (no sidewalks), I haven't had a clue as to where I was supposed to be taking them for these mythical "walks" that people tell me about. The game has shown me a lot of places in my neighborhood that I didn't know existed. It's been android only for a while but the iphone version came out yesterday. If you haven't heard of it before, you really should check it out. If it can get me to explore new places and get my fat ass walking on occasion, it's something special. Anyway, I had seen this park on the intel map several times, it's near my house and I never really knew it was there. So I loaded up the girls in the van, and off we went. I got them in the stroller, and set forth along the trail. Doesn't sound like a big deal, right? But to me it is a big deal. One of my comfort zones - always being within a few minutes of either home or my car so if I find myself some place I don't like being, I can leave in an instant. This is both due to fear of the unknown, and a complete hatred of all things exercise. But yesterday, I got on the trail and committed myself to walking the entire loop knowing full well there were no paths through the middle that would allow me to escape if I wanted to. Rewards:
- The trail was lovely. To my surprise, the girls didn't get pissy, I think they enjoyed seeing all the nature even if they were strapped to the stroller.
- I got some exercise and didn't die. My ankle wasn't too thrilled about it, but I did it anyway.
- I ran into another ingress player and his family and we chatted for about a half hour. Lots in common. I might have some new friends!
- They helped me get the stroller back up the gravel hill to my car. With my bum ankle and general out of shapeness, I was dreading this final necessity. In pushing the girls umbrella stroller up the hill, the mom said "oh yeah, this much weight up this hill, you would have had a rough time with a bad ankle, this is hard!" Her stroller was more of an off-roading stroller and only one kid. She's in shape, so having her say it was hard took away some of my "I suck" feeling since I assumed it was hard for me because I'm just such an incapable fat ass. Nope, apparently it actually was hard for anybody.
- Taking Teeny Tiny out alone, I learned that I AM capable of chilling out as a parent, that a lot of my tension really does come from having to keep 2 safe at a time. Again, I took my tension as a personal failing, but it's really not all me. A significant part of that is because I have twins which is truly a different parenting experience.
- A facebook post in my moms of multiples group wrote about how they look at all the kids having fun at the beach front parks and give a wistful sigh that they can't enjoy that park yet because there are no gates to contain twins. It's not just me who feels that! Then another mom piped in with how now that her twins are three, they are just now starting to tentatively venture out to these kinds of parks to test the waters. Then a whole bunch of other twin moms saying "me too!" and "I thought I was the only paranoid freak who can't just let her kids play! Singleton moms just don't get it!" Nice to get some reassurance that it's not just me, it's my situation. Hearing from other twin moms, and seeing myself loosen up as the girls get a bit older, well apparently I can look forward to being much more relaxed in a year or two when the girls are able to follow directions and actually learn how to keep themselves relatively safe. Whether or not they'll choose to follow directions is a different story of course.
- A friend of mine who had her kids spaced pretty far apart sometimes gives me this look, kind of a rolling of the eyes and condescending smile at how tense I'm being trying to keep my kids within arms reach at the park and then she'll take one of my kids to play somewhere to help me out. It's really been making me feel kind of crappy and judged. Now that I have some reassurance that really, most twin moms are like this and she really doesn't get it since she's never had to deal with two toddlers at a time, I'm going to need to mention this to her and ask her to stop. You just don't understand the thought process that goes into being able to rescue two that might need rescuing at any given moment. You can't allow one kid to trap you by sitting on your lap while the other one goes to play because it means you're physically incapable of running to the other one if necessary (like Teeny Tiny who enjoys running into the path of someone on a swing). You don't understand that constant assessment of the situation like a twin mom because if your kid is on your lap, you just have your kid on your lap! If they are different ages, then the older one can probably be somewhat controlled by voice as in "stop or you'll get kicked!" so it's still ok to have one on your lap and keep you relatively trapped. These are things you simply can not do with two children who have just turned 2 and don't yet know how to respond to voice commands. The learning process is also slower because you aren't able to give them as much freedom to run off which gives you the opportunity to teach them NOT to run off. A 2 year old singleton is likely going to be a little farther along on that particular learning curve than a 2 year old twin. So seriously my friend, I love you, but quit rolling your eyes at me. It's hurting my feelings.
- I was out grocery shopping yesterday and saw a pair of parents kind of frantically fidgeting their fingers in their babies mouth. So I asked "teething?" Nope, the kid had gotten some paper into her mouth and they were afraid it would hurt her. They had that very first time parent frantic thing going on and I was actually able to calm them down a little bit. Me! I calmed other parents down! The kid was 8 months old but looked more like 8 weeks old. Just a little slip of a thing (healthy though) wearing 3m size clothing. Just like my own kids were at that age. I asked if she has been given solids yet, how big was the piece of paper she ate, and then I was able to convince them that it was such a small piece of paper and her stomach is starting to digest new things, she probably won't feel thing. Of all the foreign objects she's going to eat over the next few months while learning to crawl, a tiny scrap of paper is the easiest for her system to deal with. Can you believe it? I was the "meh, she'll be fine" mom!
- Middie Biddie is starting to climb. She's been in daddy's chair a few times and today climbed onto their activity table. First instinct was to yell "get down!" and take her off these things for fear she'd fall. But I suppressed that instinct and let her be on these things. I asked "do you know how to get down?" and just kept an eye out in case she found herself stuck and needed help getting down. She figured it out fine. I informed K last night that she can now climb on his chair so he needs to keep things much further out of reach on his desk. Look at me, allowing her to do things even though my instincts are screaming at me to tie her a pile of nice safe pillows on the floor!
- As I was typing this, Middie Biddie brought me a package of chopped macadamia nuts she found on the kitchen counter.
- First instinct - oh crap, how did you reach that! I have to go check what else might be in reach on that counter!
- What I actually did - opened the package and gave her some.
- I went on a job interview in way downtown Seattle. I found a place to park and did pretty good at talking to new people who were there for the sole purpose of judging me. It's too bad that the math works out that even if I were offered that job, it would actually cost me money to work there. But in a bold move, I proposed a different job as a freelancer doing occasional overflow work from time to time to supplement the person they are able to hire for this position. I saw the wheels turn and who knows, it might turn into something. As I was leaving, one of my worst fears realized. I went the wrong way down a one way street!! It was only about 10 feet, and someone passing me called out their window "wrong way!" I didn't freak out (ok, maybe a little), realized that the "street" was only about 10 feet long and I was already somewhere that I could turn to get on a street going the correct direction. Thus the reason I hate downtown Seattle - it's full of little places where you can find yourself going the wrong way or suddenly going up a major hill that some cars can't handle, traffic and pedestrians, ugh, I just hate it. But I did it, I messed up, and I survived.
- After having the girls trapped in the car for a little while because I was looking for a park the other day and not finding it, I parked my car across the end of my driveway to create a bit of a barrier to the street and let the girls loose with some sidewalk chalk. From time to time, I actually allowed one or both of them to go around the corner out of my sight without freaking out. I planted my butt firmly on the ground to prevent myself from running around like a crazy person and to only chase if absolutely necessary. After a minute I would call out to come back where I can see you and they usually did.
- I bought a few treats for the girls to have. I'm so afraid that they are going to be picky eaters and only ever want chocolate and carbs like me that I've been pretty strict about their food. When they were little and only ate a few bites a day, I was pretty adamant that those bites have some sort of nutritional benefit. I'm starting to realize that they do have a pretty healthy diet and now eat enough that not every single morsel needs to be perfect. To ease into loosening up, I bought some frozen chocolate covered bananas from the ice cream aisle. I also got a popsicle tray so I can make some treats to beat the heat.
- Quick tip since I love re-purposing things. You know those tall thin bottles that we were all given with our breast pumps? I made too much smoothie not to long ago and I filled those with the leftover, stuck a straw in the middle, put saran wrap over the top with a hole for the straw to help hold it upright, and boom! Smoothie popsicles! Just run the bottle under some water to loosen it up and it pulls right out.
Ok, I realize that reading this blog post, most of you are probably wondering just what the fuck my issues are since these victories are things you can all do without a second thought. Yes, I know I have problems. This blog post is just me recognizing those problems and giving myself a little credit for doing things that normal people can do, but that make me uncomfortable. For pushing myself beyond my itty bitty comfort zone. Kind of like a hoarder patting herself on the back for throwing out a candy wrapper. It may be a normal, daily thing for you to do, but these things are hard for me.