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Parenting is really hard. And we’re all doing a really good job.

2013 December 13
by Rachel Turiel

parenting hard5

Love it when the chickens and the magpies play together.

I went back to see Hottie Healer last week. The good news is small amounts of dairy and fruit are now OK. The bad news is that eggs and sauerkraut are now not. But, I already knew this due to my recent PhD in internetresearchology. And really, it’s all good. It’s all starting to make sense. It’s all about healing my gut, rebalancing my flora, and it’s working (plus I’ve been eating small bowls of yogurt and applesauce feeling like the fucking queen of Tupperware Heights), and no one has taken away my coffee yet, so there’s that.

After HH does her cryptic magic, testing me for foods and supplements, uncannily nailing the secret particulars of my insides, she looks into emotional blockages to healing.

“I’m picking up a little stress.” She continues to test me. “Hmm, you’re taking care of others, worrying about their well-being. Does that sound right?”

Later, I told my friend Sue this and we laughed, because, hello…motherhood!. Any parent knows, soon as your newborn squints up at you all cross-eyed and utterly helpless, your heart pounds with fierce devotion followed by maybe the smallest bit of concern about those weird googly eyes. Which is to say, motherhood is like submerging yourself in an ocean: vast waters of boundless love inextricably and forever salted by your own fears. While baby Jesus was visited shortly after birth by three wise men acknowledging his greatness, the rest of us were visited by nurses whispering of hepatitis vaccines, car seat regulations, and newborn screening tests.

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The early morning ice-scraping team.

Meeting my children was like discovering a new heart muscle, one that swelled not with blood, but with pure unconditional love, except for the one eensy condition that I protect them from all harm, chokables, phthalates, bullies, vaccine injury and the diseases vaccines protect against. I remember walking on the swinging bridge over the Animas river with baby Col sleeping in his little sling-pouch, feeling dizzily certain that only if I walked very fast and summoned all my mental powers would we cross to safety without Col flinging his little body into the water below.

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When Col began walking I was at first relieved that he was no longer mopping every public floor with his crawling knees, until, like a very small swami, he began summoning every thundering car, rabid dog and toxic puddle to his 24-pound, very fast, person.

Fears change. Our electrical outlet condoms have long been removed; the kids eat plump, whole grapes without me even watching. Now, I worry about the complicated swirl of emotions that sweep in and out of their tiny bodies, like storms, like typhoons, like tsunamis. And I worry about my response to these emotions. I worry that Col’s tooth has been loose for six months, that when Rose is old enough, she’ll wear cheap cosmetics lousy with parabens.

For this stress of “worrying about others,” I was prescribed: discernment over what truly needs worrying about.

Isn’t that beautiful?

I get to choose.

I’ve been practicing.

parenting hard

Rose, lifted and carried by four young gentlemen.

So, when Rose conducts evangelically fervent modern-day trading posts with her friends, “I’ll trade you two lip balms for three rings, one necklace and five stickers. Okay? Okay?” maybe I needn’t worry that she’ll be at the helm of some dubious MLM scheme someday. Also, Col’s current anxiety-caused narcolepsy over doing math that he’s perfectly capable of doesn’t mean that he’ll be the next Will Hunting, cleaning toilets for a living when he’s actually an unrecognized genius. Also, I’m pretty sure that when Col and Rose get together for Thanksgiving as adults, he won’t shoot rubber bands into her gleaming turkey, and she’ll have no need to communicate with the pincers of her thumb and pointer finger. Which is to say, everyone is ultimately going to be okay. Really. Really.

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The power of heating an 800 sf house with passive solar in the southwest = sundresses in December with no heat on.

Yesterday I came home from an ecstatic cross-country ski to Dan mediating the latest version of a sibling battle so repetitive and predictable, it’s like Col and Rose are actors in the worst reality TV show ever, directed by someone who doesn’t believe in character development. The huge bummer is it involves biting (occasionally, pinching), then horrified, surprised tears. And, there is no clear victim. We’ve discussed it in family meetings. We’ve identified pathways to change the pattern. Each kid has vowed to do their part to de-escalate and avoid violence. In the hot, panicky moment though, nothing has worked.

Coming home refreshed, I stepped in as relief pitcher, spelling Dan on the mound of obligatory post-fight mediation. Afterwards, everyone went their separate and solitary ways. An hour later, Col and Rose found each other like happy, playful puppies on the couch. And while my nervous system was still decelerating, the kids’ short term memory had been completely wiped clean.

After I got the kids to bed, I resisted the usual post-bedtime debrief in which Dan and I dissect and analyze and generally devote more energy to the most energy-sucking parts of our day. I climbed into bed and said, “Parenting is really hard. We do a really good job.” We hugged and didn’t say another word about it.

I think that’s the discernment she’s talking about.

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Rose’s homeschool co-op’s Random Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar: give a hug, give thanks, pick up litter, do something without being asked.

PS: Incidentally, after writing this, I got some advice from the parenting dream team about Col and Rose’s repetitive fight pattern. I am blooming with new understanding and skills. Which is to say, discernment doesn’t mean neglect, it doesn’t mean suffering alone, or giving up on challenging patterns. I believe in seeking help. I also believe in not over-thinking, in cutting ourselves some slack. And I also know that parenting is really hard, and we’re all doing a really good job.

17 Responses leave one →
  1. December 13, 2013

    Beautiful, honest post. Words I can certainly live by. This parenting – it’s amazingly hard, but balanced by the fact that it’s also extraordinarily wonderful. I guess that’s what keeps us going, day after day doesn’t it?

    In my humble opinion, I think you’re doing a fantastic job, mama. I say that because when I face a parenting dilemma, I search your blog and look to your words for advice. You are my hero.

  2. December 13, 2013

    indeed it is and you two are awesome parents as are your kids (awesome I mean, not parents).

    About family meetings, I am wondering if you have used the Wheel of Choice and/or Positive Time-Out. If y0u’re not sure what I mean, we can set up a skype call and I can explain it a bit further.

    Hugs to you. So nice to have Rowan home. KC and he are out playing in the snow.

  3. Molly permalink
    December 13, 2013

    I am saving up now for a mountain trek in the future, when Col is 15 or so, that he can guide me on. We will just bring maybe a notebook, or whatever Col says to bring. I picture Rose doing installation art that includes her own person in some way, by her late teens being bored with mere self decoration for its own sake, and seeking ways to find meaning in our presentations of self to others. I will go to the openings. Even if they are in a cave in Moab, and possibly if they are in New York.

    Thanks for the tip. This week I will save my worries for whether my kid has slept and eaten enough, and attribute all behavior to these two factors, rather than DSM-IV related explanations.

    • Emmanuelle permalink
      December 16, 2013

      Love this evocation of Col and Rose’s future selves !

  4. dale in denver permalink
    December 13, 2013

    “Discernment.” Word.
    What a wonderful prescription. Thanks for that.

  5. Ellie permalink
    December 13, 2013

    Rachel, you have no idea how much I needed to read this. Also, this is beyond exquisite: “Any parent knows, soon as your newborn squints up at you all cross-eyed and utterly helpless, your heart pounds with fierce devotion followed by maybe the smallest bit of concern about those weird googly eyes. Which is to say, motherhood is like submerging yourself in an ocean: vast waters of boundless love inextricably and forever salted by your own fears.”

  6. Carrie permalink
    December 13, 2013

    Totally relate.
    Great honest true post…

  7. December 14, 2013

    cuz this was so good. cuz it is so true.

    • December 14, 2013

      *ETA: supposed to read *shivers* cuz this was so good, *tears* cuz it is so true. xo

  8. Julia permalink
    December 14, 2013

    Love this post. Thanks Rachel!

  9. Andrea permalink
    December 15, 2013


  10. Jo Hadley permalink
    December 16, 2013

    Uh oh. NO eggs and saurkraut? I thought particularly saurkraut was a do-no-wrong always in the right kind of probiotic powerhouse. Should I be more discerning in my focus on this one little piece of what you wrote?

  11. Emmanuelle permalink
    December 16, 2013

    As a kid I had countless arguments/fights with my brother Matthieu, who is two years younger than me. The fact that we were indeed expressing our exasperation through these fights prevented us to accumulate grudges against each other.

    Instead, I resented our dad who had little patience for our fights *and* would not listen to our explanations “but he did this… but she didn’t want to play with me…”

    As soon as I left home as a student, Matthieu and I became close friends. And we still are, across the ocean, even though we see each other once a year. (Snif !)

    (I’m the eldest of three – my other brother, Benoît, was born ten years after me, so we never did have an occasion to fight : he was by sweet baby brother and I was his loving big sister :o) which is still the case somehow…)

    So this is just to say: I am pretty sure Col and Rose are developing strong bonds *and* learning through you and Dan how to deal with our fellow humans and loved ones in a tolerant, empathetic, balanced way.

    Also: congratulations from a yogurt and applesauce *addict*


  12. February 10, 2014

    Love this post! Kids fight. Oh yes they do. But like you said, in the end, it will all be okay.

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