Posts Filed Under I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M DOING HERE.

To the mamas who show up when I can’t

by renegademama

I’ve talked a bit of shit about things like the PTA. There a few reasons for this. The main one is I have a fucked up sense of humor primarily rooted in negativity and general disdain.

Don’t I sound fun?

My dad and I have a running text thread of things we hate. Just, you know, as we go through our day and hate things, we write them to each other.

You might think I’m a miserable human walking around in a perpetual state of annoyance, and if you thought this, you’d be correct. Sort of.

I am basically always irritated. The question is not so much if I’m irritated, it’s whether or not I’m acting on it.

But I’m not miserable. I’m far from miserable. At least I think I am.

Because I don’t actually hate everything. I just like to pretend I hate everything. Because it’s fun. And funny.

Stop making me explain myself. I feel weird. This is getting way too therapy hour.

My fucking point is: I cannot attend meetings because I hate them and everyone in them within five minutes.

All that patient talking. The thoughtful consideration of others’ ideas, even if they’re terrible. The discussing. The planning. People saying words like “paradigm” and “check in” and “ballpark timeframe.”

There’s always somebody in the room who:

  • misses the fucking point entirely;
  • gets the point but is so caught up in meaningless details we are clearly never leaving the meeting ever;
  • is chewing ice;
  • enjoys the sound of his own voice so profoundly he just talks for the hell of it, meaning once again we’re never leaving the meeting ever.

And therefore, I am either:

  • sitting silent trying to focus on not letting my unchecked rage show itself via my eyebrows;
  • on my phone so I don’t speak;
  • at a breaking point wherein I finally speak and then regret it immediately because I was a dick or tried to be funny even though it never works; or
  • smiling like a drunk person on mushrooms trying to make up for that thing I just said.

Accordingly, I am not the person who should attend meetings. If at all possible, I should stay away from groups of humans trying to accomplish things together.

Sartre said “Hell is other people.” What I’m sure he meant was “Hell is other people trying to accomplish something as a collaborative team.”

I do better if somebody just gives me a job. Like, Janelle, help these kids shape clay into the shape of a rhino horn. Hold their hands and make sure they don’t fall into the river. Cut these fucking bunny ears out.

Cool. Good talk. I’m gonna nail this.

I can bring shit to class. I can pay for stuff sometimes. I can bake lemon bars that will make you come. (You see? Bad fit for parent meetings.) I can teach like a motherfucker. I can go on field trips as long as you don’t make me engage excessively with the other chaperones.

These are things I have accepted about myself. We all have our talents.

This is my fault. Not yours.

And I know this. And thus, my shit-talking about overzealous parents devoted to kid activities is partially based in the fact that I genuinely find such things intolerable, and would rather touch the nerve currently exposed above my tooth due to a receding gumline with a piece of ice (I need to go to the dentist, I think), and the rest is because I, in fact, find these things funny. Me, and you. I’m an asshole. You’re very serious about “spirit week” or whatever the fuck.

Let’s laugh at ourselves.

But right now, at the end of the school year, I have to tell you this: I am so fucking grateful for the mothers who show up that I could puke.

Yeah, I know, “Dads come too,” but sorry, when I go, I see about 98% mothers and thus, I get to address the mothers.

A few weeks ago, this was sent home from the school:

I read it and thought Oh no. The garden. I fucking love the garden. The kids love the garden. SOMEBODY SAVE THE GARDEN.  

I considered volunteering, but I can’t. I have 20 hours per week in my office and about 900 hours of work. I can’t regularly take half a day a week away from that time.

I stared at the paper and wondered if somebody would show up, if somebody would pull through. I wished I could do it. I felt this actual, physical pull toward all those mothers who come through.

I had to rely on them.

A week or so later, I got an email (that I actually read – score!) thanking volunteers for stepping up and taking over the garden.

The garden lives another year.

And I tell you I almost cried. Because let me tell you, mamas who show up, you are taking care of all our babies when we’re not there. You are holding their hands and helping them put little seeds in dirt and you are showing them where their finished painting goes and helping them fix their sculpture after it falls over or that asshole Billy smashes it.

You are taking pictures we can’t take and uploading them and singing songs we can’t sing and you are loving these little ones in our place.

It’s so cool, really, when you think about it. When you think about mothers (and FINE, the 2-4 fathers) showing up every week for reading circles and song circles and art circles and garden time. All that shit I make fun of. It’s a lie. I love you and I love you for showing up when we can’t.

I love you for being a person I don’t know who helps my babies.

I can’t be there, but damnitall to hell, Karen, I am grateful for you.

Be as annoying as you want. I won’t be there, and for sure some of the shit y’all come up with is overthegoddamntop, Karen, but you saved the garden. And in doing so, sister, you saved my ass. You kind of, over and over again, save my ass.

And I don’t even deserve it.

I’ll bring you some lemon bars and not speak. And I’ll think of you when my little one smiles, telling me what she did at school that day.

 

***

 IN CASE YOU MISSED THE DINOSAUR PORN PASSAGE: 

“Let’s not talk about how we all became better versions of ourselves the day we became parents, and, please, would you stop pretending you did? Because your holier-than-thou shit makes me worry you watch dinosaur porn after the kids go to bed. Your steadfast focus on seasonal cupcakes and organic kombucha concerns me. Look, I’ve got some too. I know all about gut flora. But please. Is that all there is?”

 

A Few Ground Rules for Humans in Public Spaces

by renegademama

I’m traveling for a couple of weeks to do book events and I have decided that there are a few things humans simply should not do under any circumstances. How am I equipped to make this determination?

I’m not. I just tend to hate people.

Okay, fine, I don’t hate people. I am deeply disappointed by large groups of them. Or small groups, really.

And I don’t experience them too often. You know, out in the wild.

I live in a small-ish town where I think I know 2/3 of the population. My life is largely driving kids around in circles and looking at laundry. When I go to work, I sit in an office alone, staring at a screen, my only human contact being with other people in the building as they pass by, and the occasional visitor who can’t figure out how to get to the law firm on the third floor. (Take the elevator, guys.)

I just wish there were a few motherfucking GROUND RULES.

Like as a whole, we agree not to do certain things. Maybe we could sign a contract called We Hereby Agree Not to Be Dicks in Public.

Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  1. We will brush our teeth.
  2. We will wear shoes in airports. Actually always. I get that you’re so spiritual you need “constant grounding with the earth against your skin,” but you’re fucking gross and definitely walking in urine.
  3. We won’t talk loudly on our cell phones about our trips to Nepal because everybody  knows we’re purposely speaking loudly to humble-brag about our financial status (e.g. “I can afford a trip to Nepal”). Nobody cares, Karen.  
  4. We won’t gather in large groups in walkways, forcing every other human to walk around us simply because we feel like standing right here, okay, not 2 feet to the left. Or the right. RIGHT FUCKING HERE.
  5. We will not be mean to customer service people. We will remember that they have to deal with Karen all day.
  6. We won’t be Loud Funny White guy on the plane “giving everyone a hard time” because somebody, at some point in his life, convinced him he was adorable.
  7. We won’t eat crunchy food in public. That includes, but is not limited to: apples, corn nuts, chips, ice, nuts, and pretzels.
  8. Maybe ignore number 7. That’s probably just me being a dick.
  9. When all the other seats are full, we will not put our purses or luggage on the seat next to us, because we realize that inanimate objects are less important than even Karen, who needs a place to sit to talk about her trip to Nepal. (Life is trash.)
  10. We won’t be the Lyft driver who tells a woman in the backseat clearly not interested in speaking that she “looks like a dirty margarita type of girl.” That way, she won’t have to respond, “I’m a 39-year-old woman and don’t drink, but when I did, it was bottom-shelf whiskey, so, fail?”
  11. We won’t let our kids jump on hotel beds and squeal at 5am. Look, I have annoying ass kids too, and my parenting is subpar, but there’s no excuse for that shit. 
  12. We won’t be the person scowling at the overwrought mother frantically trying to calm her baby during the plane landing.
  13. We won’t eat onion sandwiches or potent vinaigrette-covered salads or anything actually with onions in small spaces.
  14. Maybe ignore that last one too. I have a bit of a “situation” with public consumption of food and the sounds and smells it produces. 

You know who we will be? The dude I saw in Portland wearing short striped shorts, hiking boots, a muscle tee, handlebar mustache, dark-rimmed spectacles and a mesh cap.

He was cool.

Also all the strangers at the airport who laughed when I made eye-contact with them and mouthed “I’m going to kill him” in reference to the over-zealous dude sitting RIGHT NEXT TO ME YELLING into his cell phone with his knees apart so they almost touched mine.

And the lady on the plane who asked “Are you alright?” while I sat writhing in my seat because of back pain, then told me to “walk the aisles for a few minutes even though the seatbelt light was on because whataretheygonnado kick you out?”

Look for the helpers out in the wild, folks.

***

 

DID YOU KNOW MY BOOK CAME OUT SIX DAYS AGO?

Perhaps you haven’t heard.

You can buy it at any of the places below.

Also, as a side note, let me tell you how struck I am by the responses from readers so far. Holy shit. Thank you for the messages, emails, comments, posts. I can’t respond to them all, but I read every single one and am blown away.

Do you ever grow tired of being the one who’s supposed to know?

by renegademama

Being a parent is a truly ridiculous task. Let’s think about this for a moment: Everyone is a jackass. Everyone has major, seemingly irreversible character flaws that land us in jail at worst, in hot water with other humans at best. Nobody knows what the fuck they’re doing, and then we’re handed a tiny human who the world has decided we are totally and completely responsible for turning into a sparkling gem of humanity.

And of course, this is mostly on mothers. Let’s be real. What do we say to asshole trolls online spewing nonsensical vitriol in grammatically incorrect comments?

“What? Did your mother not love you properly?”

Sure, we’re joking. But are we fucking joking?

What do we blame for men who rape? BAD MOTHERING. “Oh, he must have been abused by his mother.” “Oh, his mother must not have loved him and now he hates women.”

Kids who shoot up schools? Bad mothers.

Kids with bad manners? Bad mothers.

Overall, nondescript assholes? Bad mothers.

I asked my husband, and he can’t recall a time when he read in a men’s website, Instagram feed, or other male-dominated platform a meme in neutral colors saying something like, “Everything a child becomes is based on a mother’s love.”

I HAVE SEEN TWELVE IN THE LAST WEEK.

“Oh, fathers, it goes so fast. Enjoy every moment.”

“Hey Dads, you become the voices in your children’s heads.”

Nah, we just get excited when they bathe a baby or brush a kid’s hair – How devoted! How amazing!

Meanwhile, we shred mothers for not balancing work, the rearing of a child’s body, heart, and mind, household cleanliness and organization, no paid maternity leave, diminishing rights over our own bodies and increasing maternal death rates – we shred mothers for not doing all that with a goddamn smile in size 6 jeans.

Actually, size 6 is probably plus-sized among the ones who make those sorts of decisions.

Why the fuck is this all my job? And more importantly, when did we start believing we are cut out for such a thing anyway?

 

Today, I am tired of being the one who’s supposed to know. I am tired of being the one who can’t fuck up lest I ruin the inner children of my children, resulting in the type of people who yell at the checkout guy at Target because shit is priced too high.

I am tired of love not being enough. Of adoration and devotion and deep, deep longing for safety and serenity for my children – of that not erasing my penchant for yelling, impatience – and my indescribable need for solitude and silence.

I don’t know how to help all my kids. I don’t know how to surrender to my inability to help them.

I don’t know how to save them from themselves. I don’t know how to save them from me.

I look at their faces and I want the answers. I want to say just the right thing to set them free, and teach them truth, and help their little souls become what god or the universe meant for them to become. They feel like diamonds on loan from the cosmos. No, fuck diamonds.

Like planets that fit in my pocket.

Like whole universes and stars and gravity. Massive, ridiculous things.

And me, this tiny ball of bones and skin, standing before them and chattering on with nothing more than my own mistakes to guide them, my own fighting attempts for serenity, meaning, peace.

I know a few things. I know what honesty looks like. I know what the truth is. I know how to work hard and keep working even when you can’t. I know what loss is, what shattering grief feels like, and how fast people depart this earth.

I know what love is, that it’s built, not found, and I know we fuck it up, and hurt each other in spite of it.

I know it’s best never to leave angry. I know the fights are rarely worth it but we do it anyway. I know lasting friends are rare and sometimes, they leave too.

But I don’t know how to save my children from themselves, to wrap them in protection from their own demons, to show them how to see what their young eyes cannot yet see, what life may have to teach them through the serious of mistakes and gut-punches it offers.

And I’m tired. I’m tired of looking into myself to find just the right action, just the right words, the perfect ball of brilliance to illuminate, teach, and heal.

I’m tired of looking in and finding just me.

It’s too much, you know, what they expect of us. It’s too much to think we can do it. People pretend they can. I’ve noticed they generally have the most fucked up kids of all.

So here I am, kids. Your mother.

I think of my own mother. So desperately imperfect. So cracked in places I thought as a teenager would destroy me.

The other day I started a fight with her. I was a real asshole. The next day, I called, and she asked me out to lunch, and I cried actual tears when I said, “Yes, please, Mom. I want a do-over. I want to do that night again.” I felt like a child.

And she said, “Of course, honey.” And I thought I had never felt more loved than in that very moment.

I suppose at the last, that is what we mothers have for our children – the chance for a do-over, the chance to try again, to love through our sins, and theirs. To be loved in spite of them, even, and show up again, when nobody else does, until the tables turn and we are in their arms, asking for a final, meaningful goodbye.

Until then, we try.

I can’t always be the one who knows. I am not. But I can be the one to love you.

I’m here for the do-overs, kid. Take my hand.

 

***

TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY, MY BOOK DROPS INTO THE WORLD! 

Preorder it now to have it May 1

And make sure you email me a copy of your confirmation so I can send you a cut chapter called “I Can’t Even Be Fat Correctly.” I think you’ll like it.

 

 

 

31 things we all do while thinking we’re the only ones

by renegademama

I’ve been a mother for 16.5 years, and I still do things that shock me, experience things I never thought would happen, and every time they do, I think, “Am I the only one? I bet I’m the only one.”

I know intellectually I’m not. My brain is like, “Obviously, Janelle, you are not the only one. Don’t be silly.”

But my heart seems to ache a little, as if I could avoid mistakes or missteps or outright bad behavior were I a better person. A better mother. A low-grade saint of some sort, perhaps.

So, let’s just clear the damn air here.

And look, maybe you won’t do all these things – although I have because I’m something of an overachiever (don’t be jealous) – but there will come a time when you wonder am I the only one struggling so royally here? And the answer, my friend, is NO, and that is my fucking point here.

Okay fine here we go.

31 things you’ll do as a mother while vaguely suspecting you’re the only one 

  1. You’ll have some bulletproof theory or plan to which you are staunchly devoted. And then you will abandon it. This may be conscious, or you may just forget it one day and be like OH RIGHT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO THAT.
  2. You will sometimes feed your kids super unhealthy food even though you know better, and when asked, you may low-key lie.
  3. You will swear you won’t co-sleep. And then you will. You will swear you’ll co-sleep and then not. You will swear that devil dust formula shall never touch your baby’s golden tummy, and then you’ll try pumping at work and be like: “Oh fuck this all the way to Christmas” and that formula will transform into manna from heaven.
  4. YOU WILL ADHERE TO A PARENTING PHILOSOPHY WITH ALL YOUR HEART THEN ABANDON THAT SHIT BECAUSE, well, a variety or reasons, really.
  5. You will forget birthday parties and realize your child has to go to school the next day and get reminded of how she missed it. You will make a solemn oath to put that shit in your calendar.
  6. You will put that shit in your calendar and forget anyway.
  7. Your kids will say things so fucked up and disgusting relating to hygiene that you’ll wonder where, truly, you went wrong in their rearing. For example, you may realize your kid doesn’t wipe “because it takes too long.”
  8. You’ll wonder if perhaps you aren’t even raising humans, but instead some weird version of formerly unknown mammal.
  9. You will go to the beach and not bathe the kids for three days and therefore the sand will stay in their hair and they will go through life like that.
  10. You will hook your kids up to television so you can clean the house or have them contained or simply can’t parent today.
  11. You will walk into a room fully intending to clean it, look around, and walk out.
  12. Same with laundry.
  13. You’ll wash the same load 4 times because it keeps mildewing in the washer.
  14. You will make vague, impossible threats.
  15. You will make legitimate threats.
  16. You will fail to follow through on both.
  17. You will cave after establishing legitimate punishments because you fuckin feel bad for some reason.
  18. After doing that a few times, you’ll be like, I really need to follow through on these punishments or my kid will grow up to be an asshole and I’ll lose all credibility and MAYBE THEY ARE ALREADY RUINED.
  19. You will sometimes cave to tantrums even though you know this is a horrid way of parenting. You will do this because the end of the tantrum in that moment is worth more than your child’s overall character.
  20. You will let your toddler scream in Target and not give a shit because you’re too old and tired.
  21. You will probably not tell the truth about how often you feed your kid shit food, cave to tantrums, release yourself from the bonds of parental standards, and/or not follow through on STEADFAST PUNISHMENTS.
  22. You’ll ruin a vacation by fighting with your partner.
  23. You’ll ruin some high-stakes event by yelling or being a nondescript asshole.
  24. You’ll know you are the asshole but find yourself unable to stop.
  25. You’ll say you’re sorry.
  26. You’ll try to be better.
  27. You’ll do it again.
  28. You’ll forget something super major that no way normal mothers forget. For example, the school enrollment deadline. Wait. Is that just me? Seriously. It might be.
  29. You’ll try to make it to two events at once, for a friend and your child, and you will not make it the child’s event, and that event will be your son singing in a school play, and you will walk in the door just as he says his last line, and then you will walk back outside, and cry until you can’t cry anymore, because you let him down and fucked up and knew better.
  30. You will wonder if you’re the only one who could possibly screw up like that.
  31. You will hope you aren’t, and rely on honest friends, and ignore the ones who say I WOULD NEVER.

And I think, at some point, that will almost be enough to convince us.

I forgot one: YOU WILL THREATEN TO ANNIHILATE YOUR KIDS IF THEY DON’T SMILE FOR THE FUCKING GROUP PHOTO, which will totally ruin the holiday moment.

 

***

You know what comes out in 21 days? 
MY MOTHERFUCKING BOOK.

Check it out, and preorder now to have it in your mailbox on May 1:

 

 

 

And don’t forget to email me a copy of your confirmation (to fatcorrectly@gmail.com), or a screenshot, so I can send you the chapter I had to cut called “I Can’t Even Be Fat Correctly.” It was very sad to cut, for obvious reasons.

***

Why aren’t we talking about parenting teenagers? I’m lost AF.

by renegademama

Can somebody please explain to me why we aren’t supporting the hell out of parents of teenagers?

We have pregnancy groups, newborn groups, baby groups, toddler groups. All the mommy groups. Of course, who knows if those are good for much beyond increasing insecurity and vague shame, but whatever. At least there’s a place to go to meet other parents sitting on the outside of the group wondering what the hell is going on.

There are endless articles and forums – again, most of which are useless – but still, they offer a sense of everyone going through the same shit.

I have a teenager and a near-teenager and I’m going to say something really loud so it’s really clear: Parenting a teenager is the hardest, loneliest, most emotionally trying phase I’ve ever experienced as a mother, and by far puts the biggest strain on my marriage, and our family as a whole.

There. I said it.

And it’s LONELY. Did I mention that? Because there seems to be an expectation or idea that the kid is “already raised,” that they’re “done.” That since they can bathe and dress and feed themselves, parenting them isn’t as difficult as caring for a newborn.

Of course this isn’t Parenting Struggle Olympics, but I have to say, in my experience, newborns don’t have shit on teenagers. Okay, they may literally have shit, and newborns are physically more exhausting, but when it comes to emotional and mental toil, teenagers have proven significantly more trying than those tiny bundles of squishy milk breath.

And here’s why: Setting aside postpartum depression and anxiety, newborns are relatively simple. They’re difficult, but overall, kind of simple. They need clothing, holding, feeding, changing, bathing. It’s an incredible amount of work, but it’s a clean difficulty, a straightforward work, and if we surrender, and stop trying to control the little monsters every waking moment to FIT INTO OUR EXCEL SPREADSHEET OF BABY, we settle into a little groove.

And oh, they offer so much in return, and so immediately: Smiles, coos, new developments every damn week. Baby breath. Chubby thighs. Their little bottoms in the air when they sleep. Omg I want another baby.

And babies, well, they tend to not go for the jugular.

I can’t recall a single time my infant said a thing that touched my deepest insecurity as a parent, a personality trait I’m ashamed of, a real flaw I have that is suddenly being held against me by a human whose cell phone bill I pay for.

I can’t remember a time when my newborn pushed my button so hard I texted her father and said, “I’m kicking your child out of the house today, so say goodbye.”

They are complicated, these teens. They are mercurial things with a sense of what about me that defies all reason. Your whole day can revolve around a teenager’s activities, needs, and wants, and at the end of it, if somebody does something that doesn’t align perfectly with the teen’s idea of what he’s owed, he’ll look at you and scream: YOU DON’T EVEN CARE ABOUT ME and slam the bedroom door.

Leaving you wondering what, exactly, you just did all day if not demonstrating my care for you.

 

Even when they’re in a good mood, they’re a lot. Talking constantly about themselves, or not at all. The former is exhausting. The latter causes great worry that they’re smoking meth under a bridge while selling illegal porn to minors.

Mmmkay.

Teenagers can clear a room in 30 seconds with their attitudes. And about the most immature shit. They look so much like regular humans, but then you see them entitled and arguing with a 7-year-old or toddler or getting pissed because the family movie isn’t the one they wanted and you’re like: Would you please make a decision: Are you 16 or five?

Yes, these teenagers are going to need you like no kid has ever needed you, and they’re going to need you no matter what else you have going on that day, or how badly you need to get out the door, or how many other kids need you.

Sometimes, I spend so much on my teenagers, I have nothing left for my other kids. My husband and I fight. The little kids get forgotten. There’s a lot of guilt there, for me. The teenager tantrums fill the house with a gray, heavy angst. We all feel it.

And then, when you try to point this out to said teenager, they defend themselves with their last breath and just can’t see their own attitude while they roll their eyes and talk to you like a rat the cat just dragged in. It’s dizzying, and you wonder if you seriously fucked up somewhere.

 

But that’s not all, and this is the part that makes the whole thing so excruciating: They are these soaring, powerful creatures who you look at sometimes and cannot believe they’ve grown so strong, so whole, so complete in themselves. You see them standing against a wall, doing nothing, and the way their body holds their fire – you can feel it, the way it fills space in the room, pushes against the world with all the hope and newness and life you once had.

They are your past, and they are your future, and the days are so numbered. A glimpse of your own mortality. A glimpse of what you could have done at their age, when the world was yours to conquer.

The pain I feel looking at my child and knowing she’ll be gone in a couple of years, that the magical “eighteen” is right around the corner, the one I saw when she was a newborn as a distant fantasy that could never possibly come – when I held her in the crook of my arm and she seemed she’d always be mine – yeah, well, it’s almost here.

She’s pulling away, and walking away, and the end is right there.

We text. We talk shit. We send messages to each other on Instagram. She legitimately makes me roar in laughter and beam in pride. These kids are remaking the world. They’re loud, critical, politically informed, and know how to use the motherfucking internet. Their voices are roaring and they will be heard.

And…one of them just screamed at me for requesting they do the dishes.

I don’t know how to parent teenagers. I don’t know how to hold myself up in the face of their scorn – some of which, let’s be real, is valid. It’s a swallowing of my pride when I know they’re right, when they point out my own hypocrisy or irrationality, and I owe it to them to say, alright, you’re right. And I owe it to them to stand my fucking ground when they are wrong, and to try again and again and again and again to address the character flaws in them I know will cause them pain, to smash the entitlement, to teach them to work. To teach them to love. To teach them never to leave the house without saying “I love you.”

This is the complexity that sits in me and I feel alone. To shift from a rage I never knew was possible toward one’s own kid to a sadness so deep my bones ache at the thought of her leaving – once again, nobody prepared me for this shit.

And I suppose that’s really it, what feels so different about this stage: That when they’re newborns, we look ahead and we see so much to come. We see toddlers and preschool and grammar school. We see so much time.

But now, I look ahead and I see an end I never want to arrive. I wonder if it’s already here. I wonder where the time went, beg for it back, and watch her move through the world with a power I recall from when it was mine.

I suppose the answer, again, is in the surrender, and I suppose I’ll find it, again, because there is no choice, and ultimately the mother’s job is in the letting go.

 

a scratched-up photo of my first kid and me, when there was more time

 

*****

Did you know I wrote a book?

Amazon said it was one of the “best books of 2018 so far”

and it has over 200 5-star reviews (thank you thank you).