what it really means to be an adult: some thoughts

Lately I’ve been working on my awareness, checking in with myself to gauge my mental state. I started when Clara weaned a month ago, because the hormone fluctuation has had a significant impact on me in the past. I was pretty down for a couple of weeks, and now I seem to be back to “normal,” although given that five of the past six years have been spent gestating or nursing, I’m not sure I remember what normal is just yet. My observations are showing that I spend a lot of time teetering on the brink of feeling overwhelmed, and just a wee push sends me over the edge and, if left unchecked, I fall into stress, anxiety, and then a meltdown or a panic attack.

If I pay attention to what I’m feeling in any given moment, then I naturally assume that my feelings are true, that everything is fine and lovely and my children are wonderful, or life is falling apart and stepping on one more Cheerio is a sign of the end times, or no one likes my Instagram picture and therefore I am meaningless. I might be a wee bit dramatic there, but I find that I am dramatic, if I’m letting my feelings run the show.

But feelings are big. The more I help my kids learn how to handle their feelings the more I reinforce my theory that grownups don’t grow out of childhood, they just add more layers. Grownups are children who have internalized a parent that tells them to eat vegetables and go to bed on time (as I am not doing right now). It’s hard to listen to the parent in my head when I am full of feelings that tell me that everything is terrible and what good is anything. But my inner parent says go outside, go for your run, you will feel better. And the parent is right. So the feelings are not exactly wrong, but lacking the bigger picture.

I’m trying to learn to pay better attention to my inner parent. The one that says that checking Facebook usually makes me feel worse, not better. The one that says that I don’t actually want sweets because I end up feeling gross. The one that reminds me that being the adult in the house means that I have to clean because it needs to be done whether it is fun or not, and that a clean house makes for a drastically improved state of mind. It’s difficult. It’s a strange thing to realize that probably every adult you admired as an kid was making it up as they went along. It’s equally strange to start hearing your five-year-old say she wishes she was twenty so she would be able to do things on her own, and remembering those feelings, and realizing that dang, that dream did not manifest in the expected form.

I think that slowly discovering the inner parent was the work of my twenties, and listening to her is the work of my thirties, or maybe the rest of my life. I hear worrying statements from people older than me that indicate that it’s an ongoing struggle, feelings vs inner parent, or id and superego, if we’re getting technically psychological. I feel like the appropriate response to this is to have a temper tantrum because it sucks and it’s hard, but in fact I will click publish, brush my teeth, and go to bed. Like a grown up.

training wheels

Lucy outgrew her stride bike. We’ve taken it for a couple of rides since we brought it in from the farm but she was clearly too tall for it. She requested a bike with training wheels AND pedals, so I did my research. Canadian tire was all out of bikes for the season, so we went to the bike shop and tried one out. We came home to talk to Daddy about it, and Lucy spent all evening and all morning talking about “MY black and green bike with training wheels AND pedals that I LOVE” and after some deliberation, we went back to pick it up. She figured out pedaling and steering and looking up really quickly, and has even gone for a bike ride of reasonable length with great success (in addition to lots of trips up and down the driveway and street). Here it is!

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I’m really proud of her, and clearly she is proud of herself. There are still such awesome milestones ahead of her that open up the world for her – riding a bike is huge, because she can get so much further. Learning to read will be amazing for her. I’m trying to help her explore her possibilities and give her the tools to be strong, capable, and brave. She slips so easily into my biggest pitfalls of perfectionism and performance anxiety. She already will try something once and then say “I can’t!” and give up. I’m working on the language that I use, trying to emphasize that it’s okay if things take practice and it’s okay if she can’t do it yet. I wish it wasn’t this way, but there are still a lot of ways that poor gender stereotypes can sabotage her – girls are bad at math, girls like pink and homemaker-style play, girls care about how things look. It drives me nuts that she can’t just be a kid and like what she likes.

When I was looking at bikes, it made me furious to see how they are marketed. The “how to buy the right bike” posted said outright that girls are looking for bikes that are “pretty and fun” while boys are looking for bikes that can “handle adventure.” Even if I didn’t have a (very jealous) little boy who will be using this bike in a few years, I still would be frustrated that the options are bikes with cruiser-styling AND pink AND flowers AND baskets AND streamers, or bikes that are built like mountain bikes in black and red or other “intense” colours. There were no neutral options at any price point that I could find, and it just makes me frustrated that no one, boys or girls, can choose “pretty and strong” or “fun and adventurous.” They’re not mutually exclusive! Boys and girls are allowed to be different, and they should be, but they don’t have to fit into pink and blue boxes.

And that is the rant I’ve wanted to get off my chest for several days now. Boys and girls are both awesome. Let’s move on now.