A raging case of The Mondays.

When Mommy Shorts contacted me about participating in her Monday Mornings campaign with Allstate, I was admittedly on the fence. But, there was something so lovely about the transparency of the series that spoke to me. Ilana of Mommy Shorts started Monday Mornings to showcase the hidden beauty in the Monday morning routines and rituals of families through the literal lens of another. It often takes a totally foreign perspective to get us to say, “I’m a good mom. I’m doing alright with my small people.” So, I said, “Yes” and Allstate said, “A woman named Bad Parenting Moments? What could possibly go wrong? Yes!” and like that, an unlikely partnership formed.

As I drew closer to my Monday morning coffee date with all of you, I started to get unbelievably and insanely nervous. Photos of the piles of shoes on our floor? Photos of my bedhead? Photos of me pouring cereal when I should’ve, could’ve made scrambled eggs? The inevitable photo of me pointing with utter exasperation to the back door – 5 minutes late and no one has their damn socks on? Why? Why would I do that?

And then I said, why wouldn’t I do that? I share so much with all of you. Why wouldn’t I share my family and our bruised and battered Monday? So, here it is. Our Monday morning with cream and 1 sugar.

Through the chaos, I found moments of real beauty; emphasis on the REAL. And it struck me how Allstate’s mantra of Keeping you in Good Hands and Helping you live the Good Life, is eerily similar to my Monday morning mantra. In the few, minuscule moments of quiet; before the house stumbles awake, I always ask for patience. I ask for the ability to be the best mother I can be. I ask for the grace to forgive myself when I, undoubtedly, fail. I ask for the good life for my children. I ask for the universe to hold them safely in her hands. I ask for the ability to find joy in simplicity and I ask for my children to thrive despite my many shortcomings. I fit a lot of asking into those two minutes.

So, here we go….

A big pile of my family’s Monday on your doorstep. Thank you for being a part of our day. (photo credit and huge, loving thanks to Belinda Lashway)

IMG_2136 IMG_2141 IMG_2143 IMG_2144-2 IMG_2146 IMG_2149 IMG_2151 IMG_2153 IMG_2154 IMG_2155 IMG_2159 IMG_2162 IMG_2169 IMG_2171 IMG_2172 IMG_2162 IMG_2176 IMG_2178 IMG_2180 IMG_2191 IMG_2197 IMG_2201 IMG_2203 IMG_2213 IMG_2214 IMG_2217 IMG_2225 IMG_2238 IMG_2241 IMG_2245 IMG_2246 IMG_2247 IMG_2248 IMG_2250 IMG_2251 IMG_2253 IMG_2254

IMG_2255 IMG_2256 IMG_2260 IMG_2262 IMG_2268 IMG_2270 IMG_2273 IMG_2275 IMG_2277 IMG_2287 IMG_2291 IMG_2292 IMG_2301 IMG_2309

 

Want more? Of course you do. Here are a few of my absolute favorite Monday Morning posts:

Monday morning with Shaneka

Monday morning with Sara

Monday morning with Laura





“You’re fine.”

After four children and several years of parenting, you could say my emotional responses to certain things have changed over time.

I know the particular sound a child makes when its foot is caught between two crib rails. I know the difference between hunger and boredom and I know, I know, I know when you are fake upset or fake crying.

I’m like a crying Yoda. The Navy Seal of crying. *Field of Dreams whisper* If you fake cry, I will not come.

Today my four year old was pretending to be very upset about something really, really, devastatingly unimportant. It was the usual wailing and coyote howls straight from the Tom Cruise school of over-acting.

I ignored her. That’s how I roll. I stirred my coffee very slowly and made no movement to rectify the obviously concocted plight.

She finally came downstairs and said, “MY STRIPED SHIRT IS DIRTY! IT IS MY FAVORITE! I CAN’T WEAR IT TODAY!” and then she melted into a puddle of tears and barely passible grief and I said, “You’re fine.”

Later today, a mock shriek of epic proportions came from the swing set. “MOMMY! MOMMMMMYYYYYYY!”

I continued to wash dishes.

She finally stomped in and said, “There is dirt on my feet!” and I said, “You’re fine.”

Four is a lot like really bad dinner theatre. The actors are really into it. This is their moment and they think that everyone filling the room is just as into it as they are. They often fail to notice that the filet looks like dog shit and that the attendees are hoping for a massive coronary, praying for a swift death. “Dear Lawd, please take me away from all this tragedy and terrible acting.”

Since she is my third 4 year old, I’m kind of like that friend you have who continues to lose really stupid bets. I’ve been here before and I’m not impressed by the terrible theatrics and yes, my filet will always look like dog shit.

A friend recently pointed me toward a magazine article that severely detailed the “10 things you should NEVER EVER say to your child!”. I found one of my stock answers, “You’re fine/ok” was among them.

And I had to excuse myself from the internet while I kicked a whole boat load of rocks.

Because,

1) Calm down, parenting magazines

but guess what, no biggie…

2) I’m fine.

and

3) She’s ok.

I tell my 4 year old that she is fine because she is and if that’s the kind of brash, harsh reality that I shouldn’t be exposing my children to then…oh well. I’m sure we’ll be fine.

It’s the same way I feel about lots of things people “should” you about. You should do this and you should do that and you should consider…” but, no thank you, I believe I will not.

I tell her that she is fine because she is and more than that, no matter what any magazine tells me my job is, I truly don’t believe my job is to make every tiny cardboard lizard into a terrible, ferocious fire breathing dragon. Sometimes, we do need to acknowledge that a dirty shirt isn’t the end of the world.

She fell off of the swing a few days ago. She was hurt and scared and a bit confused. The wind was knocked out of her. I ran over and scooped her up. She cried and buried her face in my hair. I said, “I’m here! I’m right here. I’m sorry you’re hurt. I love you.”

The world is like that. Humanity is like that. We don’t need our community to run to our aid over every teeny-tiny perceived threat to our psyche, but, when we’re really hurt, we really show up for each other. I like this model; recognizing the times that call for a soft shoulder while acknowledging that sometimes, that gnawing inconvenience is not the end of our world even if it may feel like it for a few minutes.

Someone is going to continue to stir their coffee when you complain about your shirt, but, they’re also going to scoop you up and love you when you fall.

And I’m going to continue to say that she’s fine when she is and I’m going to continue to love her through the hard stuff when she’s not.

I can live with that even if I’m doing it wrong.





Grace is the new black.

I’ve never aligned myself with any school of parenting. It’s just too tedious – to try and cram yourself into every tiny, open orifice, like that guy on Spring Break.

I’m not organic enough to qualify for much more than the frequent flyer club at Burger King. I turn the crowns into crafty shit though…so, I’ll pass on your sincere yet ill-timed childhood diabetes lecture to the next patron in line.

I admit, I’ve placed my child in car seats with the puffy coat on, but, I’ve also taken it off before rolling toward our next late appointment. All of us miserable either way – throwing granola and tantrums as we pull into the parking lot 20 minutes late to a local class we’ve undoubtedly overpaid for. But, don’t worry about my dedication to timeliness. Next week, I’ll roll to a near stop by the door 15 minutes early. It all works out in the end.

And, I promise, I’m not angry because you have something important to say or because you know something that could be of sincere use to me or because you’re a safety girl for car seats instead of condoms.

It’s not what you say, but, how you say it. And just like content of the soul equals the content of your character, the content of your assumptions equal the rate at which my eyes move into the slanted, death stare of my people – gently willing you to please, please stop. Please stop.

There is no one who loves my children more than I do. Not you. Not you. No, not you either. I will kill and steal and knock over your Lego tower. And, I’d be happy to hear your opinion on the subject, but, no one asked you. These are not your children. Lady Justice is kind and knowing because she makes sure I know nothing about your children either. It’s best this way – the general observance of humility. How we choose to turn our focus in instead of pushing out knowledge in the name of love dressed as sanctimony.

I know that hurts to hear because best intentions are the bridges we burn ourselves on.

And it’s not so much that I have a cross to bear, but, that you want to bear one for me; picking up my slack, while you instruct me and while your children watch television…hey, what do you know, just like mine.

We’re really not that different and, it’s not that we can’t learn from each other because we can and we do when it’s said with love and prefaced with a soft shoulder – if someone lost comes crying. But, remember, not all those who wander are lost – J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that. He was the shit. I think that’s something we can all agree on.

It wouldn’t hurt to extend some grace. Because brother; because sister…trust me, it all works out in the end.





Dearest Readers…

Dearest Readers,

When I carefully plucked the name Bad Parenting Moments out of a fever dream or after inhaling a carton of suspect Chinese food, I must have realized I would pigeon-hole myself in the dreaded compartmentalization genre of “mommy-blogger”. At first, the pressure of writing only about parenting was intense. My most popular posts, perhaps the posts that brought you to me (and, thank you for being here) are about my parenting misadventures. It is a huge part of my writing ethos. I am a mommy. I write about mommyhood. I fail. I laugh. You hopefully laugh too. We move on together. It’s an equation that works.

As my children grow, I am running out of the buckets of early childhood development mismanagement material. They now mostly behave at restaurants. That’s a lie. They mostly misbehave. Still, I’ve already written about that. They now can communicate in more than just gurgles and manic pointing. I’ve already written about that. They still do not listen. They never will and I already wrote a post about that. And, when it comes to the reinvention of universally shared material, parenting ties prostitution as the world’s oldest profession. It’s all been done and done and done and now, our vaginas are falling apart and our backs hurt.

So, what now?

Well, I’m going to keep writing. About my marriage – when my husband agrees to it after sex or a few cocktails. About parenting – as I enter this new and not as boy band level popular phase of child-rearing. About what it means to be a mother and a woman – and how the two criss-cross over battered, well-worn tracks. About life, fears, regret, hope. Some will be funny. Some will not. Such is life.

I will not do Top 10 lists. I will not sell you down the river for a packet of post-its. I will not write poor content simply for “hits”. I will write because I love to write. I will write as if the most important people in the world are reading it. And, they are. You’re still here, right?

I will continue to thank you for being here. Thank you.

I’m heading down a poorly lit path. It looks rocky and my children may hit you with one of the large, dead branches they plucked along the way. Grab your own rock and stick. Let’s do this. Let’s beat out a new path together.

Yours in good times and definitely in bad,
Bethany (Bad Parenting Moments)





Sibling Killvalry

Children number 2 and 3 are trying to kill each other. If I look back, oh lo those 3 years earlier, the signs of future discontentment were there. As I sat nursing my 2 week old, my son walked up, stared down at her tiny body, put his head on her shoulder ever so gingerly and said, “Go away.”

Love.

Since then, they have cultivated a moderate to surly disdain for each other in words and action. Every morning it’s the same:

Son: “She’s STARING AT ME!”

Me: “She’s sitting directly across from you at the table. People really have no choice but to look at you when they are directly across from you.”

I would then look in her direction to confirm the complete normalcy of the stare to find her in a Damien Omen gaze. Head down, wide, evil eyes fixed on him in a blinkless stare with the grin of Lucifer painted on her face.

The power of peas compels you!

The power of peas compels you!

I have found them running toward each other with safety scissors. I have found them in a mutual head lock so intense that I’ve changed the fabric of my cells from solid to semi-gas to pry myself into the spaces between their hatred of each other.

If they are awake, they are at each other’s throats as in, they are literally strangling each other.

Oh look, a sweet embrace.

Oh look, a sweet embrace.

Oh nevermind, it was just a vicious headlock. Proceed, young offspring.

Oh nevermind, it was just a vicious headlock. Proceed, young offspring.

On the brutal days, by the cocktail hour, I can be heard on our street, and possibly two counties over, screaming, “I give up! You can just figure it out. May the odds be ever in your favor!” and then, after the world’s longest drag on a spritzer, I’ll realize the error of my ways only to find them engaged in tactical war games; one having commandeered the tent, mapping strategy while the other sets the rope swing as a trip wire just outside the tent entrance.

Everyone always says, “Oh, it’s just a little sibling rivalry! They love each other! That’s what kids do!” and I say, “Help me. Please. I beg of you. Also, do you know how to undo a sheet-bend knot? I found the 3-year-old tied to the recycling bucket with a note saying, Free Sister. Warning: She bites.”

Until murderous rage turns into mild like and then something hopefully resembling love, I guess they’ll just have to ride this out in specially constructed fire-retardant suits – think Iron Man with access to where the heart should go so my good intentions can sprinkle, “LOVE EACH OTHER!” fairy dust on their current tiny, grinch-like sibling admiration.

Until that magical day, I will hold out hope that a random, dual run-in with a bear won’t play out like this:





Desperately Seeking Ingalls

Often, as I’m sitting with the children, I’ll start thinking about parenting in general. When this happens, I usually find myself pouring over the stories of the idolized families of my youth. The Ingalls, in particular.

No one ever yelled when things went wrong, there were plenty of bedside or kitchen table chats and we all learned something.

It was a beautiful life, but, not without heartache. It was as real as I wanted real life to be. It was flawed and difficult, but, love conquered all. Everyone wore their insides as clearly as the bonnets or coats dressing their bodies. The love for each other so obvious it was their most beautiful accessory.

This world of parenting is so starkly different in comparison. The access to absolutely everything we need and most of what we want. With so much to be thankful for, I find myself lusting after those days of less.

Carrie running down the hill and quiet evenings in dark rooms with the squeaking of the bunk bed stairs signaling some naughty adventure. I would not sew, but, my husband and I would bond over a table he made. Possible, but, not realistic. The world has changed. We have adapted.

I know, intellectually, it is not living like the Ingalls that makes one an Ingalls. It is living a genuinely giving and loving life. Family first. Family forever.

I love my children. There is no doubt. Like an internal bleed; you can not find the source, this love is everywhere. But, I am constantly comparing my reality to the pie baking, cart and horse mother lodged in my subconscious. Parenting does not look the way I imagined. It sometimes feels more routine than full of grace and spectacular teaching moments. There are hazy days and days when I wonder if I’ve been connecting at all as we wander through moments that feels like yesterday and every day.

How can something that looks so different still be authentic? Still be good enough? Can I be a both a great writer and a great mother? When they say, “Mommy, you’re the best mommy ever?”, will I ever believe them?

I have to remind myself that I am their Ma Ingalls even with my typing fingers and my flaws and I may not make them clothes, but, I write their stories. We are all part of each other and we need each other desperately even though I can not always mend hemlines and hearts over only the light of the hearth.

And, it is indeed a beautiful life, but, not without heartache. It is flawed and difficult, but, I still think love conquers all.

This reality is just as real as my beloved Little House on the Prairie, though it looks and feels different to the touch; this family is perfect in its own way in this home where family is forever and kitchen table chats bring laughter, spilled milk and so-and-so dipped in my ketchup and yes, even sometimes, those big moments when we all learn something.





The Greatest Story Ever Told

Shockingly, these outfits didn't provide adequate birth control.

Shockingly, these outfits didn’t provide adequate birth control.

During the second trimester of my final pregnancy, I began the pitch.

“This really feels like our last. I think you should go ahead and get a vasectomy. Because, you know, it’s easy, fast and because I’ve been vomiting for 5 months. Also, my legs are now the size of prehistoric mammoth cubs and because, DO IT.”

This was met with a less than lukewarm reception. To be fair, when my head spun around, it killed his reconciliatory spirit. He was not ready and, was not convinced I was certain we were finished ushering stage divers into the world from my great beyond.

As we inched closer to our daughter’s arrival, I became no less certain of my doneness. My pleas changed shape. I leaned in to my knowledge of my mate and went the James Brown route.

*Deep voice* “Hey baby. Yeah, you! You know, if you get the snippety-do-dah now, by the time my 6 week postpartum check-up rolls around, we’ll be able to rock and roll in a totally natural way. Uh-huh. You pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down? Hey, sexy, while you let that marinate, please pass me that tube of cocoa butter. That’s right, you can watch while I grease up my stretch marked hips. Shhhhhhh, just be pretty, baby.”

Alas, this did not inspire the wheels on the vasectomy bus to go ‘round and ‘round. It instead blew a tire just shy of Decisionville. Population, 2 testes.

After the birth, I knew. I knew it hard. And, again, my pitch changed shape into the much loved, “I’m not touching you!” technique. After that yielded no results, I began the full court press of nagging him until either he got a vasectomy or died from nagging related complications.

Finally, weary from my nails on his ear chalkboard, the appointment was made. On the day of his procedure, our baby was 14 months, 1 week and 6 days old, but, who’s counting?

The vasectomy patient is coddled like a newborn. There are talks and more talks and even more talks and then drugs. So many drugs. Two weeks before the vasectomy, the patient is given a prescription for an RX cocktail to take the edge off and make things generally hunky-dory pre-op. When he came home with his bag o’ pain killers, I cracked my back against the dishwasher where you could still see the shape of a baby’s foot on my lower spine. You shall have no sympathy from me, sir.

Finally, the day arrived. There was an air of excitement, mostly caused by my incessant high kicks executed with such force that I split atoms. As I drove my husband to the Vasectomies R’ Us clinic, his drugs hit. I looked over and noticed the birds circling his head.

“Hey honey, you ok?”

“This is why people become drug addicts.”

Indeed.

I had three of our children in the car so assisting him into the lobby was bordering on impossible. I pulled up next to the curb, opened his door and watched him stumble toward the office building. As soon as he touched the handle of the door, I floored it out of that parking lot. This was as close as I had ever been to the prize and I could not risk a) the drugs wearing off and b) him having a last minute change of heart. That sonofabitch would be cabbing it home if he backed out now.

Exactly 30 minutes later I returned. I unloaded the kids. We walked in to the office and found him leaning over the receptionist’s desk, slurring his words with the staff in hysterics. As we got closer, I heard:

“SEE! SEE! SEE! THIS IS WHY I JUST HAD THIS DONE! LOOK AT ALL OF THEM!”

Half the men in the waiting room went sheet white. Every woman in the waiting room laughed. I grabbed my Courtney Love impersonating husband and helped him to the car.

On the way home, he explained the surgery:

“I told the nurse that she was the first woman to see my junk since you.”

“How very proud she must have been.”

“I know, but, I told her to not take my current size into consideration since it was cold in the room and, I was on drugs.”

“Well, that makes sense.”

“I told the doctor that I think I have super sperm that will self reverse the vasectomy.”

“That sounds fun! What did he say?”

“He said that was highly unlikely, but, what does he know anyway? He’s not the one with magic sperm.”

“During the procedure the doctor asked me to drag one leg when I went back into the waiting room to freak the other guys out!”

Hey Honey, what’s that?”

“Oh, it’s a prescription for a month’s supply of Vicodin.”

“WHAT DID YOU SAY?”

“I said I get a month’s supply of Vicodin.”

“You get a month’s worth of pain killers for this?”

“Well, the penis and balls are very important.”

That’s what she said?

After returning home and sleeping it off, he decided he could bring himself to play video games, but, only the ones that required minimal physical investment.

“Honey, look, I found a game where I only have to slightly move my wrist from left to right. This is perfect.”

“Sounds great. Can you please call my doctor because I believe my eyes are lodged in my brain stem. Also, can I have one of your Vicodin?

This could be where it ends, but, no. Not even close because, you have to provide samples to make sure the sperm have been stripped of their super powers. The laboratory that processes the sample is 20 minutes away. Samples have to be no more than 30 minutes old. No problem! I’m sure the laboratory has a room made for this, right? Right? Wrong. Logistics made it very clear that this was going to be awkward.

His first sample day arrived.

Armed with an instruction sheet, a paper bag and a plastic cup, he made the trip. After a consultation with me, a nurse and possibly, a life coach, he decided he had only one option. A public restroom. The problem with public restrooms is that they are so often filled with the public and, contrary to the numerous arrests resulting from the use of these love dens, they are not romantic spaces. Especially when you have a doctor’s note and people are wandering in and out to use the facilities and you have no other choice but to be that guy in a public restroom. My husband is that guy, but, he was that guy for me and, that is actually kind of romantic in a totally back-alley, hooker finds love and makes good kind of way.

He has to repeat this whole ordeal in 2 weeks. And now, honey, you finally have my full sympathy.

In closing, may I just say, VIVA LA VASECTOMY!

(Editor’s note: No husbands were harmed during the writing of this post. Husband in question gave his two-balled blessing. Amen.)





‘Twas the Night Before Mother’s Day

‘Twas the night before Mother’s Day and all through the kitchen
No one had planned anything, and the kids were a bitchin’
The dishes were piled head high by the sink
Mom took a break to pour a quick drink

Like a lunatic, the toddler was jumping in bed,
While visions of next morning’s mimosas danced in mom’s head.
Dad playing Wii and mom was still cleaning
The baby was cranky from teething and weaning.

Then, out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Mom grabbed a pan in case something was the matter
Away to the window she flew like a flash,
Tore open the blinds and saw raccoons in the trash

Mom headed out to beat off the beasts
While the kids started shouting for mom to make boat sails for their fort made out of sheets

The kids started screaming about cake in the morning
Then mom’s “special visitor” came without warning.
The Midol was empty
The wine was all gone
No one was listening while mom’s voice droned on.

Mom finally lost it
“I’m done with this shit. I give up. I fold. I’ve had it. I QUIT!”
She grabbed her best yoga pants
and headed for Rome
She made it to Taco Bell
Then headed back home

“I’ve brought make-up NACHOS!”, mom called from the door
The family descended, “NACHOS! What are these for?”
“I left. I was gone. Didn’t you know?”
There was no reply heard over the gluttonous nacho eating show

Mom headed upstairs to put on her sweats
Take out her pony and cool her hot jets
Then, she heard them exclaim as she walked out of sight,
“We love you, Mommy! Have a good night!”

“I love you too!”, she shouted down
She took a deep breath and put on her pre-schooler’s “WORLD’S BEST MOM!” construction paper crown

Being a mom isn’t always a dream
Sometimes, kids are assholes. Sometimes, we scream

But, it IS all worth it when you have some:
Perspective
And humor
And wine
And Tums

Good friends
And patience
And family
And time
Carbohydrates
Butter
Tequila
And lime

And, the singular thing that is mom’s cornerstone.
Love, the glue that makes your house, a home

So, whether you’re home making muffins and crafts
Or, out with your girlfriends getting massages and trashed
I hope that you have, what do the old-timers say?
A wonderful, kick-ass Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to you and yours from me and mine. And, big, big love from one imperfect mother to another!

xo,
Bad Parenting Moments





Something sticky this way comes.

Kids love s’mores. That is a universal truth. With the promised birth of Spring temperatures, we decided to rescue the fire pit from its seasonal grave, the garage. As my husband gathered wood for the pit, a bear pelt and club his only protection from the elements and our two domesticated indoor/outdoor cats, I went to secure the spoils from our local market. It was all very much like the gathering of nuts and berries.

I returned and like rabid dogs, the children descended. Already smelling of smoke. Faces lined with dirt and fingernails now in the category of digging yourself out of a shallow grave dirty.

“WHAT’S IN THE BAG? Is it…S’MORES?” *insert gargle of saliva and crazy eyes*

“Maybe. I mean, it could be. I honestly don’t know. We’ll see!” *runs inside to find a hockey mask and Barbie knee/elbow pads*

My husband didn’t have a s’more until adulthood. I’m not sure if I believe this, but, he does. He claims that his first s’more was consumed while working as a young adult counselor at summer camp. He doesn’t remember details, but, they found him later wrapped around a tree with marshmallow caked to his fingers and face. S’more overdose. It happens.

I’m a firm believer that childhood needs s’mores. As does adulthood and, I am sure that a valid argument for having more children is prolonged access and exposure to s’mores. I haven’t fully fleshed out this argument, but, it seems air tight.

So, we made FIRE. We secured fixings. Children were adequately foaming at the mouth. We made s’mores and s’mores and then, s'(ome)more.

It’s funny how something so simple sparks not only the beginning of a season, but, also serves as a marker of childhood and, of the much anticipated summer to come when sticky fingers become par for the course until late August. Around a small fire, a season magically appears in the not-so-distant horizon painted in marshmallow dreams.

The problem with s’mores is that they are the heroin of the dessert world. Once you start the s’more season, you must prepare for the junkie’s rationale. Lying. Cheating. Stealing. Carcasses of bags of marshmallows opened with their tiny teeth. Trails of graham cracker crumbs leading to an underground s’more den. Chocolate massacres. It’s ugly. It’s beautiful. It’s terrifying.

As we brought our small s’more savages back inside to strip them of their smoke-filled clothing while they gnashed their teeth and protested with beastly marshmallow muted growls, we looked knowingly at each other across the room with a look that said, “Hide the bag of shit before one of them chews our arms off in the middle of the night.”

Welcome, Spring. Welcome, s’more season. Welcome, new pantry locks.

How many children can we moderately safely place around a fire? There's only one way to find out.

How many children can we moderately safely place around a fire? There’s only one way to find out.





A little bit of struggle.

STRUGGLEBPM

When I was young, I didn’t go to summer camp or take dance lessons. I had discount sneakers missing the coveted blue tag. I was frequently ashamed, always strategically trying to hide myself behind my book bag or the large metal frame of my chair in 3rd period.

We had food and a place to live and plenty of money for step-dad’s Jim Beam. Once, I came home to find a pile of new clothes on my bed. Shock and joy were quickly replaced by guilt. I felt terrible when I hated them. They were awkward and barely stylish. A lot like me.

My mother did not allow us to play video games. She was a drill sergeant about please and thank you. We were in charge of answering the phone. We practiced in the kitchen, twirling the cord around our bodies, “Hello. This is Bethany. How may I help you?”

No one was happy. Not even the cats who would find foolproof exit strategies. Death or running away.

One night, on a cross country move, my sister and I plotted our escape in a hotel pool. We continued the conversation the next night as we waited outside of a bar alone on Bourbon Street while he finished, “one more quick drink.”.

I made a lot of big mistakes. I was foolish and reckless, but, lucky enough to never have to pay the piper in more than growing pains and moderate regret.

Life was not perfect. Not even close. I still turned out ok.

A mother to children I love. A writer of honest words. A timely payer of bills.

Looking back on a childhood I did not love, I must acknowledge that I was still able to construct beauty out of cardboard and journals. When I was not handed everything, I learned how to make a stool out of pillows to expand my reach.

If I’m honest I must admit that, in the life I’m creating for our children, the scales are tipped in the direction of excess. I struggle to provide them with the swing set I never had and then become frustrated by their lack of appreciation for it. As they request yet another trip to the park, I cringe, watching the shadows of an unused slide in the back yard.

I am constantly caught between my desire to make them happy and my desire to ensure their independence. Finding no balance; only swinging the pendulum between the gratification I feel when I see them enjoying childhood to disappointment that they are not enjoying it enough. This, coupled with my diminished tolerance when they do not appreciate what they have, although, they have no sad stories to spark that appreciation. Their view of childhood is relative. Sadness in the shape of not getting that extra ten minutes of Wii play. The Earth shatters. I roll my eyes.

Working on my perspective has been difficult. As thankful as I am for the breaking of a cycle, I mourn the loss of the independent streak, becoming undoubtedly muted as I place them in emotional bubble wrap and discourage the activities that helped build my own internal brick wall. I was safe on the inside as long as I had paper and my sisters. They turn to me for something I gave myself. I put one foot in front of the other and hope, as an outside party, I am successfully helping them build their own internal fortress instead of building it for them.

Hoping that I’m able to leave enough just outside of their comfortable reach. A little bit of struggle is a good thing.