Warning, seriousness to follow. And when I’m serious I ramble a bit, so apologies in advance.
Sometimes I have to take a moment and smell the roses. Things are good.
In an All-American effort to keep working harder and keep self critiquing only to work harder, its nearly impossible to live in the moment and just take things as they are.
Occasionally I need to remind myself that things are good, that I’ve come so far from how I could have ended up, that I’ve achieved so much in a lot of ways. And even if they aren't, it's OKAY!
I was reminded of this when we had new friends over for a play date. Over coffee and the sounds of our children’s laughter I had an educated conversation with one of H’s coworkers. It was so nice to speak with someone who shared a very similar outlook on life. We talked about the kids and I blushed in embarrassment when I gave Little R a bottle. It was close to nap time and he was getting cranky. Oh, and did I mention that he’s 18 months old? I can see our pediatrician, hands off as she is, scowling across the ocean at us. However, we’ve been through so much transition over the past several months, and, well, I seriously doubt he will be 2 or 3 or 5 years old and still wanting his Ba-ba. H and I have always parented off of instinct. We were also blessed with a very independent first child who let us know when he was ready to quit things. In Little R's case, I'm glad he isn't a thumb sucker, nor does he like pacifiers, so I feel blessed that we are down to 2-3 bottles a day, only before nap and bed time.
“I know…he shouldn’t have a bottle at this point. I feel awful that he still does,” I explained. Wow, well that was self-deprecating.
And then my guest scoffed at my embarrassment, “Bah- whatever works for you and yours.”
I could almost here the collective gasps from all my suburban neighbors back in Nova, ready to rattle of a list of reasons/recommendations/judgments as to why “whatever works” is precisely not okay.
But for me, a fifty ton weight was lifted off my shoulders. Why am I so concerned about how things look or what others think?
It happened again during another visit, with a new family here for the military, when I was chatting about how I think Little P is too over the top for the playgroup, and I feel bad taking him. I feel like maybe the other moms think him overbearing. “You probably fit in better than you think!,” she surmised.
Yep, she’s probably right. And even if she isn’t, what does it matter? What matters is whatever works for me and my family, and that means getting my boys out to socialize, even when it makes mommy nervous and shy. It's times like this when I really miss CG (Colorado Girl), because she's like my kindred spirit introvert soul sister. We get each other so well its scary at times, and she's always the best at encouraging me to follow my gut and get over myself for what's right, or to tell the world to f*&# off if it's appropriate.
Being overseas is just solidifying my opinion that Americans really have overthought and over analyzed things to the point of absurdity. (Read more about that here.) We’ve lost all capability to operate off of our instincts, whether romantic or parental or from common sense. Mothers are constantly comparing themselves to one another or grading themselves off of whatever book they read recently. Not to mention the obscene levels of judgment shown toward every other women they know. I mean, obviously my close group of friends are loving and wonderful, but we all frequently discuss the judgment we get from others around us. Not that we are innocent victims mind you. I’ve been guilty of this very thing I hate in others, reading about the latest thing to keep a baby happy, then celebrating success for the nanosecond that it works, followed by allowing my ego to inflate to the point where I feel like I can tell everyone else how to do things. I try, at least, not to do that, and I’m usually too shy to actually speak my thoughts, but it doesn’t make it okay that my internal monologue is lecturing and pontificating like a PhD student.
I recall last year that I ranted about our neighbors who kept their twin girls up much later than we did, and we could hear them crying and fighting to get them to eat dinner at 8 pm…. I was so quick to silently ridicule their schedule, and say “well they just really need sleep” as I smugly enjoyed a drink with my husband. What I should have realized was that we rarely heard them on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when their girls slept in, probably offering them some precious extra zzzs. My kids never sleep past 7 am, and rarely past 6:30.
When did Americans become such know-it-alls, in such an amazingly UN-knowledgable and UN-educated way? When did the encouragement of innovation and individuality and instinct die out? To each their own right? I mean we love to throw out cliché after cliché that we claim describes our lives, but in reality most of us are secretly comparing and judging with the rest of them.
And if we aren’t actually being judged, or doing the judging, we all have this nagging inner judgment because we are so paranoid that we are Doing. Everything. Wrong. That kind of negative thinking puts us on the defensive, and so turns this vicious cycle round and round like a cheap county fair ferris wheel.
The thing that gets to me, though, is that for introverts like me, who already have a hard time fitting in and meeting new friends, this cycle makes us retreat even further into ourselves. We trust no one. I’ve been catching myself assuming that I’m unwelcome here because of what I’m used to from back home. And I know now that it isn’t the case. So I’m going to try a little harder to come out of my shell.
I’m finding life abroad refreshing. I feel as independent as ever, because I always have been. But independence and confidence are two very different things. Everything happens for a reason. I think this lifestyle we've chosen is going to bring me new confidence and strength and a renewed faith in humanity because I’m meeting so many wonderful women who have also chosen this crazy life. And they too, are able to distance themselves and gain a similar perspective that I have.
Whatever works for you and your family. That's the practical thing to do. That’s what you should do. That's what I am going to do.
Love and Happyness to all,