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.

{ 1 comment }

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

 

{ 2 comments }

Together, we are better

by Alicia on 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.

Tecumseh Vista Academy logoWe suddenly and tragically lost the Principal of my daughters’ school, Paul Bisson, on Christmas Eve. I say that from a personal perspective because he well and truly was the kind of Principal that made you feel like he was yours. To 1000 kids, he made each of them feel that way. He was instrumental in making me feel like a whole actively able person with an army of help at my immediate disposal when dealing with how to help Bella feel comfortable in and at school. He was empathetic and shared his own personal parenting experience, and shared his laughter, and made me certain this was a team effort. For a set of parents at the edge of what feels like a steep cliff? That hand to pull you back, with authority and kindness and depth? It means everything.

And then I read this article on how lonely being the Mom to a middle schooler is and I cried. Because dammit it IS lonely. And there ARE no blogs to read, no circles of parents sharing their ups and downs. We’re supposed to know it by now, right? But the truth is the truth gets less and less clear the more our kids age. And there aren’t absolute definitions of success. If I got my toddler to eat a celery stick, I had a community to brag to and a defined way I could share for others to replicate. Got my kid to sleep in her big girl bed? Share away! Look at my tangible accomplishment! And most of the time, persistence at those steps yielded similar results when repeated. It was the best feedback loop.

There’s almost none of that left in parenting my tween. Rarely can I try a thing twice and have her feed back the same response. That’s if I even get a second chance. No one talks about this stage, or the parts they talk about are the parts that worked out. It is incredibly lonely. And I want to say that I stopped talking about Bella because I wanted to protect her privacy, but some of the reason is I wanted to protect my own vulnerability. I wanted to not have to say: I’m trying everything and very little is working. I wanted to avoid having to admit: everything I worked for feels like it’s meant very little. I know the truth is not that simple and that many things I’ve done in our 11 year relationship has produced an incredibly close and bonded mother-daughter partnership.

But sometimes Bella is an utter stranger to me. And sometimes I don’t like the mother I’ve become.

Sometimes I barely like the person I’ve tried so hard to be.

Not all the time. But yes, sometimes I blame myself and the choices I decided to make.

I have told a few friends an absolute truth about myself, discovered painfully and recently: I encourage vulnerability in others, and loathe it in myself.

Paul Bisson had a motto: together we are better. It never meant much to me, I mean it sounded lovely for some baby kiddos he had to herd at his elementary school, but it really didn’t touch me. It’s funny how the universe shows you a mirror, because I have been broken down so far, so fast, so deeply and right to the very core of the person I thought I was. Of the mother I thought I was. And out of that depth I gained little lifelines from people, from all the corners of my life who came down to my darkness to leave me a flashlight. And they waited until I found my way to them. Those people waited in the dark and made a place for me, the place they could help.

And I let them.

It took a crash so hard that I cannot describe it, but dammit I let them help me. They poured into my cup so I can pour into my family’s cup. Without them, we would all be empty and wanting and struggling and in pain. And we are all still in pain. But we are feeding off the courage of others. Off the good will of our village. Off the kindness and small acts of big justice that people who see us are willing to do on our behalf when we just cannot.

Together we really are better.

And I will forget that time and time again. But I’m going to try and be here for this experience. For all the depths it drags me through and all the joys we reach, all the successes and challenges…I’m going to try not to leave someone else lonely, if I can help it. I’m going to try to be honest about the struggle, and plain about the worry. And maybe if I can leave some of it here I won’t carry it all on my fragile shoulders, and you can know that there’s a place here for you to leave your junk too.

{ 4 comments }

“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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Listen To Your Mother 2016, do the thing

May 18, 2016

I’ve auditioned for Listen To Your Mother twice. In 2015 I wrote a piece I worked on for daaaayyyys. I edited it, I asked for feedback, I read it on camera to myself to hear what it sounded like. I didn’t get chosen for that show. It sucked. Not the piece, I still think it’s good. […]

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