A year ago, I published a post called The Struggle is Real.
A year later, it still is. I could reblog that post and one of the few changes I’d make is to note that I traded stupid parenting books for stupid parenting podcasts (not Add Water and Stir, of course!).
A year later I would add the following:
Imposter syndrome is real in parenting. I am making it only because I’m faking it. And by “it” I mean parenting. For all of the parenting wins and Jedi mind-tricks that were wildly successful, I am beaten down by the epic failures I feel like I succumb to on the daily. I am beat down and down trodden.
And there is no end in sight.
It is stunningly easy to forget to practice self-care. Every few weeks I manage to remember I should be taking care of myself and within three days I have forgotten again. In those moments of clarity I plan to log on to the sitter site and book the nannies for regular visits, but an hour later I have forgotten, having gotten caught up in more drama than I care to write about.
It’s affected my waistline. It’s affected my relationships. It’s made me feel weary and teary more than I ever feel happy or joyful. And even though I know if I just take the time to create the structures I need to be ok, I simply push them down as I jet to problem-solve the next crisis. I really do worry at times whether I will simply get sucked all the way into the drama that is Hope, and lose myself.
This month’s self-care win was finding a new therapist who takes my insurance. Her initial reaction to the craziness that is my life was validating.
Now to call the sitter agency and schedule some regular respite.
I think I can. I think I can. I think I can…
Scarred kids do dumb, risky things sometimes. Sure I may know how to deal with it in the moment, but I still have enormous trouble understanding the misfires and disconnects that exist in Hope’s mind. I intellectually get it. I’ve read all the research about PTSD and the PET scans of kids with trauma. But damn, son, this ish is mind-boggling when it’s not a journal article but a real, live human being up in your ish. I know we are building and rebuilding, but holy crap, it just never seems to end. It’s like a bad video game with thousands of villains; you kill one and there are 30 in its place.
Hope starts high school in a few months. I have no fears about her academic performance, but her social interactions are increasingly risky given this need to have more people like/love her. It’s devastating to know that I’m not enough; even though I knew I wouldn’t be. But I can’t get her to just be careful or even to know that her behaviors are often what drive good people away and draw scary people close.
It’s messy and terrifying.
I have no idea what’s next. None.
I’m not even sure when we tripped into this crazy period. I’m sure that I probably could’ve predicted it, but I didn’t. And I can’t even say that it’s really her; maybe it’s really me with all the problems. Maybe she’s really doing better than I think she is. She probably is.
I don’t know. I know that I’m tired. I am sad.
I was not prepared for this level of sustained challenge. I wasn’t prepared to have my heartbroken over and over again. I wasn’t prepared for just how lonely I would be. I wasn’t prepared for how many people around me would ask questions about my daughter, kindly, and how often I would lie and say things are fine or great.
When I first started doing diversity work, I went back to therapy just so I had a safe place to dump all the ugliness that comes with wading through racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and the like. I didn’t want to dump it on friends or family. I remember a colleague asking me how I did managed to do this kind of work and not flinch, and one of my mentors who was standing nearby saying, “She wears the mask.” It was a reference to a Paul Laurence Dunbar poem that I love because it’s so true, We Wear the Mask.
I think of that moment and that poem whenever someone asks me how Hope is doing, and I say we’re doing great. In many, many, many ways we are. But in many ways we are not. It is still a very real struggle.
We Wear the Mask
Paul Laurence Dunbar
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
And I know I’ll keep wearing the mask.
I have no idea what’s to come. I hope that the struggle has changed a bit a year from now. I hope the struggle isn’t quite as real a year from now.