I can’t tell you.

by Alicia on June 27, 2017

I wanted this space to grow with my kids. Tell their stories and the story of my motherhood and how those two things grow together, just like when they were little.

But I didn’t know these girls then. My girls. I didn’t know them. I couldn’t have predicted who they would become and how they would grow up into people I’m now meeting for the first time.

When they were little, I could tell you all about the choices I made in parenting them, how I came to my conclusions, how I fucked up, how they reacted, what we all learned, and how things were going to go looking forward. I always thought this space would continue to hold those stories as they grew. But it can’t. I want so badly to keep talking about mothering these incredible girls, because writing it is how I sort out my experience with it. Writing is how I articulate and learn from what I experienced.

But writing about them now feels unsafe. Or at least, it feels presumptuous and intrusive.

higgisonladies2017I’m parenting the hardest I have ever parented. These issues we deal with are Big Fuckin Deals. The words I say now will be the things they talk about on scholarship applications and, for better or worse, the voices inside their heads when they’re fighting with their roommates, or deciding whether they really like this boyfriend/girlfriend. These talks we have are about their bodies, their self-image, trusting their inner voice. I cannot presume to know anymore what that inner voice can, should, would be. I cannot tell you details about their lives because they don’t belong to me. Not the children nor the details.

And it’s hard. Because raising daughters brings up a lot of feelings about my own self. Part of my hesitation of telling them anything is because I wish I could tell myself those things and believe it, all while I’m hoping they trust me. When I’m talking, I’m not drawing from some brain library of knowledge I’ve handcrafted. I just tell them what I wanted to/ still right now want to hear. So I never know if they think I’m full of shit, if they think I’m way off, if they think I’m brilliant, if they can use what I tell them. There’s no wealth of knowledge to apply. And this is why.

Because I can’t out my daughters. I can’t tell their secrets. I can’t use their actual life as a handbook for you because they didn’t sign up for that. They haven’t given me permission, and they don’t know enough about their future to assess if they would regret giving me permission to share now. And I couldn’t write it anyway, I’d have to let them do it because my voice is the side story now. These girls have their own stories, that aren’t fully entangled with mine. Most of my stories have to do with them, most of what I love to talk about starts and ends with them. They do not feel the same about me. And I can’t ask them to let me take over their stories and shape their thoughts, in order to make the verbs pliable for a generation of mothers like me who want to know The Right Way To Do This.

I don’t know what that is, The Right Way. I can’t tell you.

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She’s got a whole life, my girl.

A whole life outside of being my daughter.

Isabella still suffers from anxiety. She always will. It is not a sentence, it’s just a fact. Similar to how her hair is blonde and that she’s almost as tall as me already.

She adjusts with the pressure, and we adjust with her.

 

Isabella, March 2017In truth, I really thought our lives would drastically change. I thought raising this girl with anxiety would mean unpredictable stress and sadness and questions and so. much. time. spent on keeping Bella confident and on track and heard.

The actual truth is that in all that planning for the hard parts, I didn’t take into account that my kid was a whole person who would take on the planning of her own life with anxiety. I did not foresee that she would only need gentle nudges from us. I was still hard into blaming her anxiety on something I did and then having to fix it by being a better parent. Some kind of More Parent than I already am. Surely I had not given enough of something, surely I had to be more involved, surely I had to pick up some pieces I had dropped.

Nope. She needs none of that.

We have this team of people that assembled around us- I can’t even tell you that I did the hard work of sifting through options and that I was smart enough to pick the very best. Because our Very Best Team was already around us and they came out willing to help. (Sidebar: a major part of our team was support just for me. People that I could turn to and cry and say unthinkable things and admit failures and ask hard questions. Words fail to encompass the enormity of the way those people held me in my life.) The VIP on our Very Best Team? Is Isabella.

She never once backed out. When there was a setback that crushed us all, she went back to school the very next day. When there are hard and scary things facing her at school, she’ll ask us what kind of options she has, she’ll ask us if we think she can do it. Then she just…does it. It’s wild, you guys.

I’ve never actually been able to watch a person actually grow into themselves until these moments with Bella. It’s been quite a lesson for me to watch my daughter turn a thing that at one point shut her inside herself completely, now use that same thing as fuel to turn herself into the actual human being she wants to be. A person who changes frequently. And it’s inspiring as hell.

 

So what was the thing that worked?

Figuring out alongside Bella all the things she actually wanted in her life. And then working her way around having those things plus anxiety. Bella has to remind herself of the choices she has in each circumstance that causes her anxiety. Bella has to breathe deeply and sometimes go be alone and sometimes talk to a friend or a parent and sometimes opt out. We remind her of the steps when she forgets. We talk, a lot. We talk so much.

 

I give her almost no advice, actually. I ask her a lot of questions when we talk. Because she is a person I’m just meeting. I have all of her backstory in my rear view, but she now makes a lot of choices about herself, for herself. I can’t tell her how to do life. I can prompt her to consider a few important things, but I can’t tell her they’re worthy of her attention. She makes those choices. She decides how to get through hard things, she learns her own lessons from those experiences, she is collecting her own building blocks of Isabella.

 

She’s earned some babysitting money while watching her sisters for us. She’s joined and dropped out of school things. She’s stood up to some bullies. She’s made some bad choices. Some days she wears makeup and some days she wears sweatpants. I like this girl. It’s been fun and very challenging to relearn how to parent her. From the outside. Learning where to step in and when to step out. When we disagree, it’s intense because we’re both building trust. Redefining a mother-daughter relationship is hard work, and I’m truly loving it.

Motherhood may not always be my jam, but the kids I’ve managed to get out of this deal are turning into people I want to hang out with. I ask their opinions, and they ask mine. Mothering older kids is a mess of ugly and beautiful things. These girls teach me more about being a woman than I taught myself in the 24 years before I had them. I like discovering who they are, and I like watching them discover it too.

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external validation is some shit. #dothething

by Alicia on April 26, 2017

I’m barely going to preface this long absence for you by saying these things:

  • Bella is doing amazing and my family is surrounded by incredible people who bring our very best qualities into the very best lighting
  • it’s been awhile, I haven’t wanted to write here
  • I’m taking a writing workshop and it’s beautifully kicking my ass and I love it

 

External validation is actually some shit.

Like. I edit out so much of my shit because I’m like “oh, this might piss off someone” or “this is challenged by this theory or parenting method or lifestyle choice” or literally whatever and I actually in the end don’t care because I don’t think about it after I hit publish but at the time I’m pretty worried about it.

Why?

For what purpose?

I write. I like it. I am a writer.

I am a writer.

I write.

If I’m truly just writing, then it’s just for me. You can disagree and that’s ok because I didn’t write it for you. You write for you. I’m going to write here for me. And in my notebook. And in the one I keep beside my desk when I forget my notebook. And in my Google Drive. And in my iPhone notes. And anydamnwhere because I’m busy and that’s how it all works and when there’s inspiration and Muse and space, I have to quick and dirty get the words down. And that’s not probably how you pictured your Writers, and it’s maybe not how Writers work but it’s how this writer works.

Sometimes I have to transcribe what I shouted into my phone recorder app during a drive home. Still writing.

Sometimes I’m up at 11am trying not to look like I’m crying. Still writing.

Sometimes I’m hammering out swears at 9pm on a Wednesday. Still writing.

Sometimes I get two sentences in and lose the thought. Still. Fucking. Writing.

 

It’s all very unsexy, this process.

It’s all very uneven and it feels like you’re the only one who does it this way and that’s ok because you are. And it’s still writing. Your shit isn’t original, and that’s ok. It’s still writing.

Write because you love it, because it calls to you, because it makes you feel a thing you can’t get anywhere else.

Write because you’re good at a thing.

Write because it’s the only way to think through the stuff that rolls around your brain.

Write because it’s brilliant…even for a second.

Write because you’re the only one who will say Those Things exactly the way you’re going to say them.

 

 

Write because it’s beautiful.

To reveal your soul and leave it out on display.

To pull out the parts you keep buried because that’s safe, and reveal them because that’s inspiration.

External validation is some shit.

Write for you.

Write because you can’t think through it unless you write it.

Write because you think in prose.

Write because it matters.

Do the thing.

#dothething

 

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Together, we are better

December 29, 2016

Life is…tough, right now. I keep saying I’m overwhelmed, stressed, unsure- when anyone dares ask how I’m doing, right now. And it’s all the truth. I’m all of those things, almost all of the time. We suddenly and tragically lost the Principal of my daughters’ school, Paul Bisson, on Christmas Eve. I say that from […]

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“Take care of yourself”

December 20, 2016

“Take care of yourself.” That’s what they tell you to do. When you’re the parent and everything is going wrong. “Take care of yourself. You need to have something left.” But how? How is that supposed to happen? “You’re doing the best you can.” True. But not good enough. It’s not enough. There has to […]

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