Jane Shenandoah, my daughter of the stars.
This is you, at two years old,
Wearing vintage glasses and being totally silly.
You're sassy and wild, deep down.
You've got a will like steel.
You're learning to shape it, and care for it.
And it's hard sometimes,
But someday, it's going to take you to places,
That are wild, and free,
If there's one word that describes my last few weeks it's this: tired. I've been using an app called Stop, Breath and Think the last week or so and every time it asks me how I'm feeling today I spend at least 5 minutes searching for that word under all of the options (it's not there, by the way, but I still look for it every single time. Slow learner maybe?). Almost exactly a year ago I was having some scary physical issues, which ended up being diagnosed as stress induced. I was exhausted all of the time (a sharp contrast to my normal self), experiencing heart palpitations and pain in my chest, and having a hard time breathing. I've taken a lot of steps to take better care of myself since that time, and I'm much better, but there's still a lingering "crash" that happens when I allow myself to get too stressed out about too many things. These past few weeks I've felt the remnant of that, and I've had to remind myself that even the things I do for myself, like this blog, can find themselves on my mental list of things that "need" to be done, and things that need to be stressed over when they're not accomplished. So I've been a little MIA, and I'm learning to be ok with the fact that it's simply a reality of this phase of life from time to time. Sometimes the necessities in life eat up all there is of you, and while that isn't healthy for long periods of time, I'm beginning to understand, and be ok with the fact that it's just how it is for me, right now, at this little point in time.
Also, age two is hard, guys. Maybe it's not hard for everyone, or maybe "hard" looks different in different situations. And maybe, if I weren't trying to accomplish some of my own dreams at the same time that I'm trying to mostly stay with a two year old at home, it wouldn't be as hard. I don't know. But regardless, the last several months have added up to a constant level of underlying exhaustion. Jane Shenandoah is the most beautiful little thing to enter my life. I lay with her at night when she's asleep and tell her that I'm sorry for not knowing what the hell I'm doing sometimes. For telling her I have to work instead of play (and then she says "PLAY?!" in her sleep) sometimes, and for being frustrated with my and Dirk's hearted headed, strong will, manifesting in her. I still find that I have so many expectations for who she is and who she will be, instead of learning who she is as we go along. My parents took my siblings and I everywhere with them when we were growing up (business meetings, EVERYTHING), and I have fully expected to be able to do the same. But this girl, this girl isn't me. Or my husband, or my siblings. She's different, and I've been pushing against some of that since the day she came into this world.
Jane came into this world with a plan about how things should go. I still remember my sweet friend Jenny Anne holding her the first time she met her, and watching her fight to do everything herself as a squirming one month old. She looked at her and said "oh my, you're so strong, and you know exactly where you want to go in this world, don't you?" no truer words have ever been spoken. To spite all of that, I've still hung on to the idea that if I just parent well, stay firm, be consistent, she will be able to function the way I want her to. Sure, things will blow up occasionally, but we will still be able to sail into a meeting, clad with an ipad, and get shit done, at least part of the time. It took the last consultation that I tried that at, going exactly the opposite of how I had planned it, for reality to really hit me hard: this is not my failure as a parent, or her failure as a child...this is who this child IS. If I'm honest, I've seen it all along, and I probably should have come to terms with it a little sooner.
We took Jane on a three week European vacation with my whole family through four countries, traveling entirely by train, when she was 4 months old. Given the circumstances she did incredibly well. I, on the other hand, was kind of a basket case. I was breast feeding exclusively (TMI, I know. Just wait, it gets better), partially because I believed that was best for my baby and partially because this was how my mom did it and it worked for her and she fed us wherever and when ever and all was right in the world. However, like I've mentioned before, Jane has always had her own plans for things, and at this particular point in time her view on the situation was that she needed to be fed every three hours (exactly every three hours. No sooner, no later), oh and by the way, everything needed to also be completely silent. Little old french man over there talking? Yes, you, please shut up. Her view was also that if everything couldn't be completely silent then she would not be able to eat, and would then proceed to scream at the top of her lungs. So here Jane and I were, battling all through Europe, on an endless string of awkward feeding situations, with both of our stubbornness fighting it out. Until Italy. When I undressed for the third time in the last 10 minutes, on a train that was literally shoulder to shoulder full of loud italian commuters, my child screamed at the top of her lungs which translated to "SHUT UP OR I WON'T EAT" and I'm pretty sure we spilled milk on our neighbor, I finally had the thought "why am I doing this?" Why am I fighting her. Why don't we have a bottle. Why don't we try something else. Why am I about to lose my shit just because I wan't this child to be someone she's not. Let's get real.
If I'm honest, there's also a lot of me that's afraid of what people will think. I cried my eyes out the day I decided to wean Jane. Partially because it hurt to give that up, and partially because I felt like I was failing in everyone else's eyes (for the record she literally didn't care. At all. She stopped in one day and never looked back). And I know that plays a part in my ongoing struggle. I know what the old ladies in the grocery are thinking when my child screams and pitches a fit, and I desperately want them to know that they're wrong, sometimes even at my child's expense. I want them to know that my will is strong, and that I have literally NEVER given into her when she acts like this, yet, her will is strong too, and she still does it. Over, and over again. But here I am again, making choices based on someone else, and keeping myself from being able to actually get to know my daughter because of silly expectations and a sometimes crippling need for approval.
I had a really beautiful talk with my mom this week. I told her that I loved how they raised us, but that I also had inadvertently come to view it as the standard, and that I finally realized that I felt that something was wrong if things didn't look exactly the same. I've realized this before, and now I'm just facing it again, in different place, and a different time. I'm remembering to love this girl for who she is, right now, and accept the person she's going to be. I want to give her an image of life, and freedom, and grace, instead of my crushing expectations that need to be lived up to.
Here's to getting to know these little people we bring into the world, in the same way we want to be known ourselves.