In a little over a month, Max will be 2 years old.
I Two years marks the transition from talking in terms of “he’s xx months” to “years.” Years. He’s getting older, which means I’m getting older, which means soon I’ll be in my empty nest with an aging Chihuahua, a husband who walks around in a those light blue old man jeans while fiddling with something in the basement he’s been working on for…17 years…and myself with gray hair and a purple track suit. It might not happen that rapidly but the point is that Max is growing up.
He’s also growing mischievous.
The photo is what happens when I leave Max under Chris’ watch for one minute. Chris was writing a shopping list when I came into the kitchen and noticed above art work. Creatively executed across our stainless steel dishwasher with permanent black Sharpie. Moments like this immediately throw you into a rage of HOW and then WHERE and finally WHY. As in: HOW did this happen? WHERE did he get the marker? And, upon opening the kitchen drawer in which you find six permanent black markers, WHY do we have all of these Sharpies?
Are we planning on personally body marking the entire neighborhood!?!?
Parenthood. Every day you think you have it under control, you’re one step ahead of him, you’ve got your eye on him when he walks, fully clothed and shoe-ed, in the kiddie pool in your backyard. Despite what your legions of followers believe, you are not Facebooking instead of watching him. You are sitting outside – watching him – when you momentarily do something insignificant – like blink – when disaster strikes. It happens that quick. He senses a disturbance in your steady gaze and – makes his move.
This is also how you end up with deodorant smeared all over the bathroom wall.
(though they are small, they are FAST)
Another example of damn fine parenting: The other day, Chris had to ride 90 minutes, I had to run 50 minutes. While he sat on the trainer, I stood at the bar in the basement with the laptop, setting up a playlist and thinking about getting on the treadmill. We were both “watching” Max which means that we are both in the same room as him and thinking – what trouble could he POSSIBLY get into with two adults within 5 feet of him at any given time? See – he runs by. He’s fine. Max loves the basement with all of its wires, boxes and Daddy items. Anyone who thinks that kids need fancy toys need look no further than this:
You can spend 20 minutes trying to plug a set of headphones into a trainer. And then listen desperately like a shell up to your ear swearing you heard the ocean.
I’m assembling a set of tunes that will take me through 10K intervals when I feel something on my leg. Know that many times in parenting you feel things on your leg. Kids are obsessed with parent legs – for sitting on, hiding behind or hanging off of. But this time, it felt different. Max was rubbing something on my leg. It took a few seconds but when I finally looked down I realized something wasn’t right. And at that moment, Max flung whatever he was just holding on to the floor. And then ran away. This is built in 2-year old fight or flight mechanism – rather than fight against the parental throes of WHERE DID YOU GET THAT _____ (sharpie marker, screwdriver), they just flee. In this case, Max fled the scene but left behind a piece of….
My child was rubbing my leg with a piece of dog poop.
I did what any normal parent would do – I nearly piss myself laughing. Then horror and the thought process sets in: HOW did that just happen? Better yet – HOW long was he holding a piece of poo? And WHERE did he find a piece of poop? Next, it cuts to the core of my housekeeping abilities. WHY is there dog poop in my house?
At least once a day, I am faced with existential issues like this – am I really a good parent? Am I doing everything I can to make him a well-mannered, smart and independent adult? More importantly, do I really live in squalor?
I consider myself a confident person. Not much shakes my belief in who I am. Yet parenting does almost every day. I’ve not yet mastered the ability of taking belief in myself into belief in my parenting abilities. I’m constantly comparing myself to other mothers – are they talking more to their child? Are their snacks healthier? Are they paying more attention? And wondering if I’m doing everything I can to be the best parent I can be to create the best person Max can be. It’s a doubt that sometimes leaves me feeling unsatisfied and frustrated with myself – I can’t do anything right, I’m not perfect, I’m the most distracted uninvolved parent in the world.
It’s negative self-talk at its worst. It’s not that I expected parenting to be like puppies shitting rainbows (I’ve been waiting WEEKS to use that phrase in context, and let me tell you, if my puppy indeed shat rainbows I would not have spent 5 minutes of my life wiping puppy shit off my leg), but I expected to feel a lot more sure of myself with it. After years of teaching kids and teaching other adults how to teach kids, I realize all of that education was bullshit. Like many things in life, you have to learn your own way and build yourself up along that way to build confidence and competency at anything. It’s not something you can learn from “education.”
I have to stop myself from comparing what I’m doing to what other moms are doing. I have to stop worrying that there might be something better – a better meal, a better way to do bath time, a better way to improve Max’s talking. I wonder if these worries are exclusive to women. Chris seems to move about in parenting with ease and awkward grace. Max and Chris together is like a duststorm moving at 120 mph through my house yet at the end of the day – they both seem quite satisfied. At the end of the day, I find myself questioning – did I do it right? Did he enjoy himself? Is he really connected to me? Are these worries exclusive to mothers only? Is worrying about and wanting the best for our child part of our motherly genetic makeup? Is self-doubt ingrained into women?
These are the thoughts that cause my space outs in parenting – those moments where your eyes glaze over and the next thing you know, your kid is nearing the street when they were just standing right next to you. Like training, you can overthink parenting and overthinking always has consequences. It’s easier to recognize than fix. And sometimes when you’re in the middle of it, you can’t stop thinking enough to see the way out – which is usually right next to you.
Parenting is a lot like training. The results are not immediately apparent. I’m not sure if what I’m doing now is going to pay off – all I can do is trust the process and be confident in my abilities to execute that process. Like training approaches, there are dozens of different ways you can succeed in parenting. There is no formula. It’s art and it’s science. The more I try to change who I am as a parent, the more frustrated I become. I’ve realized the best way to parent is to just be me. I read somewhere recently that confidence is courage with ease. It takes courageousness to be who you are, but when you do that you feel what can only be described as ease. It feels right to be me.
So IJ’ve learned to put on my parenting blinders and parent away – not worrying about anyone else’s training plan. This takes a lot of confidence. But it works. Honestly, it’s not lack of preparation, lack of talent, or anything else that usually stands in the way of our success – it’s distraction that takes us away from our end goal. It’s hard to sustain the focus required to succeed when you’re always looking at someFone else’s plate. It’s hard to believe when you’re always inviting self-doubt and negativity.
I’ve strayed from parenting to training – which is the messy mix of my life these days. The two cross paths constantly. I’ve realized that as I sit at the sandbox and judge myself for not being IN the sandbox with my kid like the other mom sitting there – I’ve just sabotaged myself. In training, the other mom at the sandbox – or the distraction – is social media or chatter at the local training session. For as much as I enjoy social media and training with others, as I get deeper into race season, the more I need to step away from it. I find the less I look at it or listen to it, the less my mind fills with the nonsense thoughts that fill our head as we process and judge everyone else’s random thoughts. Even if I don’t care what anyone else is doing, the very fact that I attend to it means it needs to be processed and then filed away. That’s a lot of mental work. I don’t think any of us need that – the training and recovering from the training is enough work in itself.
Whether it’s parenting or training, you rarely need to change the plan, simply follow it. Give it time. If it’s not working for you, you’ll know months from now. At the end of a year or the season. So quickly we want to fix or change things to make ourselves immediately feel better. When all that we had to do to actually ‘be’ better is stay the path. I know in my heart there is a reason for the way I parent. It’s not the same as anyone else but it works for me. I believe the same about my training. Now I just need to spill over into other areas in my life and enjoy the empowerment of confidence.