~quinn’s forty-fourth month~ storm season

~written november 2018~

as my blog was gaining momentum, i started writing more in the moment, more from the heart, as well as including more about me in addition to quinn, my ideas, my past, my hopes. i was more aware than ever that i needed to process and integrate my experiences through writing, and that it would save time and sanity if i did so in real time. as i’ve been splicing together these loose ends of the rope, i’m now down to tucking in the last pieces of tapering twine as i close in on the beginning of the past 8 years of consistent blogging.

it was the beginning of storm season, both in the season of the year and the season of parenting i found myself in. we opted out of setting up our tents one stormy saturday, choosing instead to bike trailer ourselves to market in the rain to pick up our csa, chat with the few other hard core market goers and vendors, and let quinn splash around  a bit.

storm clouds were gathering in the mama realm as well. the mountain of my ideals promised of a rain shadow, but i was still climbing up the other side where the moisture piled up, sliding back down in each deluge, unable to bridge the disconnect between what i believed i ought to do, and what i was actually doing. reacting to my ineptitude with self-criticism made me even less able to scale the peak and emerge into the sun.

even as i was celebrating his growing autonomy and self-possession, i was struggling against him on non-negotiables. we had developed a great communication around choice and lived our days with a “how can we” approach to resolving incompatibilities in our agendas. the troubles seemed to arise on the few have-to’s of household harmony and health and safety.

quinn was reacting strongly to feeling powerless. waking up at the beach from a nap after leaving his dad’s, and deciding, “i didn’t waaannnaaa come to the beach!!!! wahhhhhhhhh!” was one example. more frequently it came up at bedtime, when i needed to brush his teeth or a put a diaper on him for sleep, and the resistance on his part was formidable.

in exhaustion, i would default to my routine, allowing him as much choice in the process (offering certain amounts of time for him to get ready for said activity, offering choices of venue) but because i had always honored his personhood, he felt strongly that he was not going to do these things, and no partial choice in the matter was going to sell him on it. he knew he was not in full control of these situations (i was not going to allow flat-out refusal of dental care, with his need for extensive dental work that also took place during this month).

on a few occasions, i would end up having to restrain an unwilling boy and brush his teeth through his clenched jaws, with him kicking me throughout. in addition to feeling like this violated every parenting principle i held dear, it was also unsustainable, and the kid was big enough to inflict harm on me with those kicks. i would end up some nights feeling completely defeated, disgusted with myself, unable to see possible solutions. at the end of one particularly problematic week, i was yelling through tears at him that all i wanted was to be a good mama and take care of him and i felt like he was preventing me from doing that. obviously, this was not the solution either.

i was still centered enough in my principles to believe that he felt safest with me, as i had protected his little integrity and worked hard to keep it intact, and therefore he was most likely to exhibit these behaviors with me. i was where he could work through his feelings of powerlessness, because i was in it for the long haul, i was striving to parent from a foundation of unconditional love and empowerment. for the most part i had been able to live that, and celebrate his unique experience of being quinn, not an extension of me that i expected compliance from. however, in these situations i was floundering, and i was beating myself up over it. an increasing feeling of panic and overwhelm started to loom like a thundercloud.

luckily i had a community of mamas with whom i could be real, and some of them were able to remind me to orient towards self empathy, rather than self-criticism. one friend spent an hour and a half on the phone with me, helping me break down my emotional journey as a parent, and that outside perspective was crucial to understanding my own needs. there was a part of me that was resisting engaging or being present with quinn, begrudging having to pull my attention away from other things to attend to him. in my heart i wanted to engage with him and play, but i would notice myself “one minute”-ing him and not following through, and also failing to do any “front-loading” with him. then to make matters worse, i was judging myself for not being able to snap out of it and front-load, judging the part of me that was resisting, wishing i could do away with that part of me.

the resistant children in both quinn and me had very good reasons to resist, and both deserved a loving response- my friend helped me see that my resistant child needed it first. she told me, “there is a side of you that is needing more caring.” then she provided some of that exact thing i needed.

i had been doing lots of self-reflection and digging through my old journal “archives” and when i pictured the “me” who was resisting engaging with quinn, it was the me who was really trying to get a handle on some things about who i am, digging up pieces of myself to give them back to myself. this self kept wanting not to be interrupted, saying “this is important,” but i kept sending her the message that she shouldn’t be so resistant.

i was grappling with the dichotomy of extreme loneliness vs feeling like i stood to lose my self-sufficient sense of empowerment if i delved into relationship again. this was surrounded by fear that the two could not be reconciled, that if i were to quench the loneliness, i would inevitably lean too much and lose my self-reliance. in theory, i understood interdependence and could see it as a healthy goal; i knew i ultimately wanted a relationship where i could keep being who i was, and interdependent, just not dependent or codependent.

my self who was resisting… she needed time and space; to get in touch with my value system, gather up pieces of myself (and she kept clamoring about how important it was!) my friend was able to convince me not to kill her off.

my disapproval of myself was tied to my disapproval of my kid. we discussed how there seems to be a time in a parenting journey when we stop approving of our kid. it was easy to approve unequivocally at first, even when the newborn baby was pooping on us, but somehow at some age, we started acting like they somehow no longer deserved complete approval. my own response to realizing i was withholding approval of my 3-year-old was, “what is wrong with me??” i started berating myself, withholding approval of myself. aha.

i adopted a new mantra: i approve of myself.

i adopted the strategy to look at each time quinn and i would have another one of these moments as an opportunity for growth, vs. dreading each inevitable next one.

at that point, i was able to reconnect with my normal intentional connection focus with quinn, and in turn, it was as if the universe granted me the time i was needing for self-gathering, somehow magically creating spare minutes out of the chaotic days. the strong wind of disapproval had reversed its direction, and instead we were going back in the right direction, towards the peaks. this gathering became efficient as i built a spreadsheet to help me organize the tidbits from old journals and sort them by date to make the re-integration task seem like it might not be insurmountable. looking back i can see what a corner i turned in allowing the “me” to do this work, in agreeing, “she’s right, it is important,” and embracing the effort to honor the side of me that needed to be this dorky and try to figure out “me” and piece “me” back together.

how this all related to parenting might seem tangential, but more directly, i needed to offer myself the same measure of kindness and understanding in this area as well. if i was going to be able to scale the peak and make it to the sunny side where my reality and my principles aligned, i would need to stop berating myself for imperfection. someone learning to ride a bike may have read a book about it, and seen someone else do it, but they will still need to build their skill, and they will fall off at first. i may have had my philosophy figured out, but i still needed to build my skills. berating the person learning to ride a bike would not help them learn; it would take practice, and gentleness.

that rainy saturday afternoon we went to help a friend process another 30 pounds of tomatoes she had scored for $8 but was uninspired to deal with. together we made tomato jam, a spicey cloves-ginger-thyme concoction that was quite good on a bagel with goat cheese. we made a batch of salsa with the remaining tomatoes. the rough housing boys had fun, and after no nap, quinn went to bed at 6:00. i was rewarded with some of that mama bath/reading/journal time i was needing so desperately.

sunday started out rainy, too, so we did laundry and grocery shopping chores. then after an early naptime, we were greeted with partly sunny skies! we had time to go to the beach before quinn had to go to his dad’s. despite a few scattered showers, our days were starting to clear, and it seemed we might reach the peak after all.

just thereafter we had a sweet, sweet day. it was sunny and warm, and not windy. truly summerlike, moreso than the weather we had all summer. we spent the whole morning outside in the yard and then at the community garden and playground. there were lots of good moments, sitting together in the grass having a snack. nice and simple. we were in sync. we read all 184 pages of nim at sea in the span of two days.


on my lunch break during work, i took myself to the beach to eat my leftover pizza. i was no longer required for the daily nap, a bittersweet but ultimately beneficial development because i never needed to enter my coparent’s shop anymore. on this particular day, not only was it sunny at the beach, but the annual dragonfly migration was going on. i saw hundreds of dragonflies fly by me that day.

later that year, i would write a post about dragonflies, and all the things they may represent in our lives. i can’t help but notice some of those features jumping out at me, all these years later, concerning the time frame during which i was witnessing their exodus.

tuning into deeply felt, but ignored, emotions certainly hits the nail on the head. visualizing and manifesting positive outcomes absolutely fit what i was seeking to do at that time. maneuverability and movement, propulsion into new ways of being and doing would definitely have been a helpful sort of energy to guide me through a time of transition and re-evaluation, of getting unstuck and propelling me forward. or transformation, if you will. they spend up to a couple of years in the mud as nymphs before they emerge and fly away! i was glad to be feeling like i may yet emerge from the mud. seeing around things from different angles; seeing color and light and coming to understand who you truly are. need i say more?

weathering these storms may have made me into a stronger person and a better mama. once i let go of having to always do things right, the storm clouds became slower to gather, and i became more adept at taking a breath and letting the clouds slip on past, without dreading each one and fearing for the worst. more of our days were sunny again, full of light and pomegranates. as mama of an eleven-year-old, looking back on being a mama of a three-year-old, i know that i cast my thoughts back to this time frame to remember my ideals and refocus on my goals as a parent, as well as to sigh in relief over the added years of perspective that help me sweat the small stuff less than i ever did then. in turn, looking back then on a pomegranate can flash me forward to the present in the most indescribable way.

i need reminders, so i cycle back around and the integration process continues. but then that’s why i take myself to the beach on occasion, and every now and then, i glimpse a dragonfly glimmering in the sunlight…

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