Is There a Course for That?

Still emotionally dealing with the Boston Marathon, that our family attended. (We are all safe.)Will try to chime in my thoughts when I am feeling stable. Tonight, well, tonight was a sneak into the crib at 1am with my littlest baby to stroke his hair kind of night.

Lately I am doing some big soul searching. It is painful to sort through the mind, shake out some dust, check out what is going on in my mind and heart and I don't know if I like everything I am seeing under the hood, so to speak. I am digging back a little trying to understand where I am right now. I couldn't sleep, so I arose from my bed to tackle tomorrow's to do list. I am finding my college degree, not surprising, Psychology, is not helping me in my current career, which is at the moment defined by cleaning up goo I cannot identify, and signing my kids up for stuff online with forms called 'Infinitely Complicated Registration Wizards' etc.

And speaking of, my hard-earned, very expensive diploma does not help me with other advanced skills I have been steered by life into mastering. But I didn't know back then as a college freshman I should have taken these classes:

How to Find a Therapist 101-401
How to Ditch the Wrong Doctor After Two Visits
How to Deal with Medical Trauma in a Marriage 
How to Cook for 12+ people 101, 201
How to Decide what is Normal and what Warrants Professional Help?
How to keep a kid with Sensory Processing Issues Safe, or Avoiding CPS 101 and 201
Breastfeeding in Front of your Father-in-law: Journeys into Extended Family Relationships
Future Homeopathic Food Hippies: Your Friends may Consume Part of their Placentas but you Don't Have to 
White People: Why Some Insist Reverse Racism is Possible and you Want to Barf
Coping and Dealing: When One Finds Oneself a Somewhat Liberal Christian
Secondary Trauma: How Families Cope with PTSD resulting from Someone Else's PTSD
Home schooling: Wear Denim Jumpers or Don't, Either way, Don't be Afraid
Open Adoption: It's Best 97% of the Time
Ethics in International Adoption. (Well, looks like I wrote my own course in it)

Perhaps the best course I could have taken would have been titled something like, Your Undergraduate Experience: It Doesn't Get Easier Than This, Life is Going to Sock you in the Face so Enjoy This Now

In actuality, I loved college. And despite my degree not taking me to another more advanced degree or a career that I had all hand picked when I graduated, I need to remind myself what it did prepare me to accomplish in respect to my current circumstances.

See, I went to school full time as a Psych major at Brandeis University, then ranked in the top thirty universities in the country. I worked anywhere from two to four jobs each semester to afford my housing and the very small amount of food I bought as well as pay back student loans that were already sending bills.  I worked at the library, driving a campus van, at an events center, as a lifeguard, a babysitter and an Residential Adviser. I was a section leader in orchestra, took ballet classes, practiced karate, visited my friends aerobics classes, took voice and violin lessons, sang in small chamber choirs and recitals, participated in and eventually directed an a Capella group, and attended church each Sunday, all in addition to classes.
Me on the left, carefree and still blonde with my awesome college roommate at her rugby match. I had no idea what was in store.

I did NOT achieve a fabulous GPA the university level. We are talking a laughable GPA. I even missed a final once. I hung on by the seat of my pants. Sometimes I didn't pick up my phone because I was afraid someone was calling to say "You are late for work" or "You are supposed to be here at our study group!" I knew I was a bit out of my league. I had to get comfortable with discomfort, letting things go here and there, sometimes in entirety, my work and output being imperfect. Sometimes I couldn't do the things I loved, sometimes I kept doing the things I loved and the thing I had to do suffered.

The maelstrom of activity, the back-to-back-to-back schedule I kept up, with many sleepless nights, looking back looks awfully familiar. Back then I was passionate and energetic and determined and reckless and had to do my own thing come hell or high water, which both came in their turns.

That girl has morphed into someone who now must multitask like crazy, let things go, advocate for those I love like no one's business, be relentless, go on little sleep, sometimes ignore the phone, know when to hang on, when to let something slide and each day wake up to do it again. Now other lives hang in the balance. I am accountable to more than just myself. But I kinda smile when I think that time in college, where I took on a little more than I could handle, was practice for motherhood in a big way.

I weep sometimes when I think of how poorly I mess up every day. I am impatient in moments I know they need me to give them a pass. I am angry when I know they aren't trying to ruin things. I let other people, on the phone, in my life, tick me off and it gets taken out in a terse, raised voice to my little people. Sometimes, I am overwhelmed. Sometimes they aren't just being lazy and belligerent  and the shoes truly do not fit anymore. Sometimes, they aren't throwing a tantrum and the cries actually mean a leg is caught in the crib bars. It is so painful to be aware of my frailty and not know how these frailties may unintentionally weaken armor I am trying to build around my children.

I would  like to allow myself to be proud of myself for all that I do juggle, and be proud when it works and when there are smiles and love and giggles and connection and learning. Yet it pains me that someday they, the six little people, shall rightly sit around discussing the merits of how I took them on this journey. They will dissect with clarity and precision where I went wrong, my failings and faults. They will know, as I do, where I didn't quite give them what they really could have used.

I hate that I will fail them. I hope they can forgive me. I hope I can forgive myself. That would be a college course worth taking.

Big questions for a girl, (woman, though I don't always feel it) who still needs to figure out a poorly designed website and make sure her baby can play t-ball this spring. He's been asking for two years, he's finally old enough for the real thing, and I don't want to let him down. Surely, that $120,000 piece of paper hiding in a frame in the basement can help me navigate this essential item on my to-do list. Right?


Barb Aloot said...

Oh, this hits home. I am not actually reporting from uprisings across the world, exposing the truth and changing the world as was Plan A in my undergrad days. I am not even doing arts reporting (Plan B), and I have yet to write the Great American Novel. I've pretty much given up on that Pulitzer Prize. Sigh. But yes, the practice with sleep deprivation, stress and endurance has proved helpful. (I also worked throughout college.)

One thing I struggled to learn in college: Surviving Imperfection 101: Learning to Endure Your Own Human Shortcomings and Accept Those of Others, Including Your Parents. I need to do further, more advanced study, but I think it is okay for our kids to learn that one at home before they go off to school. I hope it is anyway, because my son gets a tutorial every day watching me.

Jamey... said...

I should have taken: Simultaneously Deciphering and Effectively Meeting the Valid but Baffling and Always Always Always Opposite Needs of Multiple Quirky Children At Once Without Losing Your Own Sanity while Managing a Household, Feeling Like a Successful Adult and Sporting a Smile and Cute Hairdo 101, 201, 102, 202,and so forth... ;)

AnnaJ said...

This morning I am so sad in my having not taken the class in "Parenting Your Almost Adult Teen Daughter Through Graduation". We cried a lot last night and this morning she is barely talking to me. We survived by the skin of our teeth it feels like and I am grateful for your post. Being a good, efficient, caring, loving mama, setting limits and being honest is hard. Thanks for opening yourself up.

Paige Chapman-Layland said...

Why oh why didn't they offer a semester of "How to turn a blind eye/deaf ear to the eye-rolling, sighing, and cruel comments of the early adolescent male."
Probably should've signed on for "Diplomacy 101" as well.

Deborah said...

Oh, I had no idea when I was in college! I knew nothing about being an adult - I thought if I could cook for myself and not ruin laundry, I was all set. And now, there is so much to learn, and i'm feeling stupid for being 34 and not having figured it out yet. Nobody told me it was much harder than having a career.

Lara said...

One of my favorite quotes in college and even now...
"I never let my schooling interfere with my education."
Mark Twain

While Brandeis gave you the needed understanding and ability to cope with your life now, it wasn't the end of your schooling. Learning never ends it just comes in different forms.

If you find your kids sitting around as teens or adults in the future dissecting their childhood you should take it as a victory because they are together, reminiscing the good and bad, and they love spending time together. When my siblings get together to discuss our lives we laugh so hard and it makes us realize what we put our parents through and how much we love them for who they are and how they raised us.

findingmagnolia said...

Oh, gosh. I'd like to take quite a few of the courses on your list. For "How to Decide What is Normal and What Warrants Professional Help," we are having a full cognitive and psych evaluation done. The prerequisites for that, of course are "How to Find a Therapist" 101 and 201. I'm still not sure we've signed up for the right class, but at some point I realized I couldn't see the forest for the trees and needed someone to tell me what is typical and what is not. This is for my child, of course, but I'm pretty sure I need the same for myself at some point.

I was recently thinking of my own brief foray into therapy for myself (and how some of the same issues are cropping up again), and part of what it did for me was allow me to see my parents as humans who could make mistakes and likewise would need to be forgiven. I hope and pray that my children are able to understand this about me. I hope we talk about it enough and I apologize enough and I am humble enough to let them know that I understand that I have failed them sometimes, and am sorry and will always try again to do the right thing when I have hurt them.

The course I would add to this list would be "Stress Eating: Knowing When Enough is Enough" or maybe "How to Make Peace with Eating Something Instead of Fixating on It Guiltily for So Long That You Eat the Whole Container." It's an elective. :)

marlo said...

I love reading about your family complete with adventures, pain, mistakes, laughs, and celebrations. As a mom with an adult child and former teacher I can tell you that all of those aspects of your family life are what will allow your children to become fully developed adults. And do you dissect your parents mistakes? No, children who have been raised with love recount the stories of both the highs and the lows fondly because good stories need both perspectives. So pat yourself on the back for giving them both. The class I wish I had taken--The art of knowing when to talk and when to listen.

amy said...

I was thinking about this post today and I have no doubt my kids will be laughing at all my mistakes when they're adults. But I do feel that I have to own the mistakes that I make today. I apologize often to my children and let them know that I was wrong when I yelled at them or got frustrated. Just because I'm an adult doesn't mean I've got life figured out. Time and time again I'm going to fail but I plan on owning it, apologizing and improving myself every time and hopefully my kids will know that I tried with everything that I had to be the BEST. MOM. EVER!!

Captain Murdock {Godwilladd.com} said...

LOVE your course list. You seem to be a mighty fine juggler from my end of the arena.

Cherie said...

That was some great writing, and I loved your course list too. I loved a conference talk where E. Holland said, "Remember that God has ONLY had imperfect people to work with." You're doing your best! And I am always in awe that you get through the day and have time to blog.