Friday, November 13, 2015

Also, kid, sorry, but you're going to have to pay for it yourself

There is a thing that happens sometimes, when moms are talking to each other--yes, Scott, it is a thing that happens in meatspace and not just a fake trend from the internet, and I know this because I have done it myself--where they will make a joking reference to their kids' future therapy as a sort of preemptive acknowledgement of their flaws.

Have you heard this sort of thing?

"Oh, my kid always wears his older brother's hand-me-down Halloween costume. Guess he'll have something to talk about in therapy, ha ha."

"Oh, yes, we never bought her a Tickle-Me-Elmo doll, guess we should take the money we saved and put it aside for therapy, tee hee."

(Considering I am a mom I should know about some kind of modern trend to substitute for Tickle-Me-Elmo--side note, I never got one of those and that's okay because I found them vaguely terrifying--but I do not. Maybe I should complain about my lack of pop culture awareness in therapy.)

And I totally get why this is a thing. It's the same impulse as "My kid fell off the table and bust open his lip, please mail me my Mother Of The Year trophy." We're preemptively and a little sarcastically criticizing ourselves so that other people don't jump on our Facebook status or casual comment with, "ACTUALLY have you thought about not being such a sucky mom?"

(Pro tip: If you regularly feel compelled to begin sentences with the word "Actually," you are probably kind of pretentious. Maybe dial it down a bit.)

But it makes me wonder: Why is therapy a thing we invoke like the boogeyman of motherhood, where only the bad moms who suck at everything have kids who go to therapy, LOL? Is that really the standard I aspire to, to have kids who don't go to therapy?

Given my genes, sorry, current kid and future kids, you're probably doomed to some kind of chronic mood disorder. Sorry 'bout that chromosome. But even aside from that--if I have a kid who's totally neurotypical and totally healthy and still goes to therapy, I think I will have actually done a really good job as a mom.

Because you know what going to therapy means? Going to therapy means that you have the self-awareness to realize you're struggling. (And we all struggle, thought some more than others, like Animal Farm.) It means you have the humility and good sense to know when to call it and say, "Hey, this is more struggle than I can handle on my own." And if they talk about me in therapy, well, I already knew I'm human, and it seems better for them to talk that out with a therapist than to just let it fester, or to hide it from the world because they think we need to maintain a perfect shiny family image even in front of therapists so we can't ever say, "Yeah, my mom was awesome most of the time but a few times she wrote blog posts about how I'm too much work."

If I can't be the perfect mom, then I'll consider second best (and good enough) to be "mom who gives her kids the tools to deal with all the mistakes she made."

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On worthwhile endeavors and fixed points

A long time ago, when Tad was maybe six weeks old, I was talking on the phone to a very pregnant friend and she asked me, "Is he worth it?" And I paused. And she teased me a little. And I told her to ask me again when I wasn't quite so sleep-deprived.

Almost two years later, I'm still not quite sure how to answer that question. How do you take the utterly delightful human being that he is now (he likes to do things over and over again just to make you laugh, asking "Funny?" to make sure you are enjoying it; and he insists on regular group hugs; and he declares "Wow! Amazing milk!" before he begins to nurse, which I never would have anticipated when I was sobbing my way through those early growth spurts) and weigh it against a year of crippling hormone-induced anxiety and months of equally crippling hormone-induced depression and two years of sleepless nights (he's slept all the way through the night three times so far and we consider that a cause for celebration) and SO. MUCH. SCREAMING? I don't know how you do that, how you decide what's "worth it" or not. I mean, the theological answer is that he's a human being and infinitely valuable and therefore "worth" any amount of suffering and sacrifice but the human answer is that I honestly still don't know if I would have pushed so hard for parenthood had I known just how difficult it was going to be.

But I'm grateful that I wasn't able to make that informed decision, that I could never have believed what the last two and a half years would be like even if somebody told me. I think it's right that he's here. I think it's sort of inevitable that he's here, like the Tenth Doctor always talking about fixed points in time. He's not "worth it" or "not worth it"; he just is, as inexorable as the fires of Pompeii--and just about as good at destroying one's living room.