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Friday, August 9, 2013

Dear Hands-Free Mama, How?

My kids turn five tomorrow.


I don't have anything close to babies anymore. I have real life big kids, and it scares me.

It scares me because all this parenting stuff is going to start counting, now, isn't it?

When they're little, all your quirks, your mistakes, your flaws, they're hidden inside the home. There's nothing, really, to compare them to, and you figure, hell, I've got a few years to perfect this, right? I'll be okay.

But what if I'm not?

Moment of truth, now, isn't it?

I can't hide behind being a new parent. I can't hide behind "that's a mistake I'll never make again," because I've tried that, and trust me, I'll make that mistake again.

My family is not one for awesome, life-changing epiphanies.

Just like my kids, who are not the type to "not get the cookie, and then they never cried again!" I'm not the type who can read something like this, which has been going around my Facebook for the past few days, and change. (And I love Hands Free Mama. Her post on yelling was fabulous, and spoke to me more than that post I referenced just about about slowing down. But while it spoke to me, it didn't change me.)

I'm too far gone.

I want to change. I do. I want to be a better parent. I want to be a parent who can happily color with her kids for three hours before teaching them to read and write, fetch them snacks immediately because I'm aware they're going to be hungry before they even are, and do it all with a smile and validation for their existence. I want to give them the unending attention they seek on a constant basis. But I don't.

To illustrate, while I was writing that paragraph, one of my kids asked me to explain a coloring game to her, and I did. The other then asked me when we were going to go grocery shopping (she got a distracted-sounding "soon." Then she asked me to make her a snack, to which I replied, "in a minute." Then she came up to me and hovered around my shoulder for a moment before leaning into me in a makeshift hug. I paused to hug her back, and she went back to coloring on the couch. So, while I am writing about not wanting to give my kids the brush-off, I'm giving them the brush-off. However, I am actually going to go make her a snack right now, so hold on one moment.)

Okay, I'm back. And just so you know, full disclosure, my other daughter has now brought her coloring book over to my lap and is coloring under my elbows as I type this, talking to me about the delicate matters of coloring versus scribbling. Obviously, my children need more of my attention.

On the other hand, compared to previous generations, I give my kids a literal ton of attention. We do reading and writing every day. I take them outside twice a day when I can. I don't play as many games with them as I could, but, seriously, I hate little kid games (board games), and if I try to help them do blocks or puzzles, they get mad at me. They'd prefer I just sit there and stare at them working on their pieces of art and architecture. And I'm guessing most parents can do that. But I can't.

Like, Hands Free Mama said, every minute I'm doing that is another minute I'm not crossing something off my list. And I just have this stupid feeling that I need to get stuff done. What I need to get done, I don't know. All of it, I guess. I don't know.

But I do know that I'm too far gone for a little, "Come on, bro, buck up and do this thing right" revelation to help me. I need more help than, "And then my child asked me if she had to rush and I broke down in tears and resolved never to ask her to hurry up again. And then I never did."


I'm so serious. How did you do that? Because I can resolve all I want (and that's only if it gets past the point where I say, "yes, you have to rush, dammit.") and still not do it.

I forget, or worse, I don't want to. I give myself an excuse for that instance, and then the next. Or whatever. Point being, I can't just read some inspirational story and change my life.

But I want to. I want to be a more patient, more caring parent. I want to shower my kids with all of my attention all the time and have that be enough to keep me contented and calm, like the perfect mothers we all want to be, strive to be. Where the kids are the most important thing (and not in the way that they already are, because obviously the kids are the most important thing), but like where you just dote on your kids in that healthy, glowing way where the family love and bonds and growth are shared and strengthened every day.

But I can't. I guarantee you I will both tell my kids to hurry up today, and I will yell at them at least once, too. And no one wants to hear that story. Hands Free Mama can tell it because she's reformed. She's a used to be, and she's been able to toss all that rubbish to the curb. But what about me (and any out there like me, if there even are any), who is right in the thick of it?

To see someone who says she was once like me and now she made it all better should give me hope. But it just makes me sad. It makes me want to cry with the weight of my failings because I see it and I know that people can change. Just not, apparently, me.

Where's the step between "I saw my kid well up in tears and resolved to never do that again" and then actually not doing it again?

I need more than, "I failed and then I decided to stop failing and then I stopped failing."

Where is the how?



  1. I know I don't spend as much time with my kids as I would like (and omg what a relief to get away from my toddler when I work in the afternoons!). It's exhausting to be constantly attentive. It's even more exhausting to try to overcome the ever-growing sense that I'm not doing this parenting gig well enough for my kids, that they're going to look back on childhood and remember how I let them cry when I couldn't take it anymore.

    I don't think I'm capable of perfect parenting. But even though I yell at my kids (okay, my toddler) once a day or more, I also give her loves every time I notice her doing something awesome. I'm not going to be Perfect Parent, but I'm letting myself be okay with doing a really good job part of the time. And I cross my fingers that she'll remember that. <3

  2. Hello there. First, I would like to start by thanking you for so honestly and courageously sharing your struggles. I know that is not easy to do. Thank you for bravely writing the hard-to-say things that you have written here. Second, let me say, you are not alone. I receive emails daily from those who are struggling with the same questions you have posed. I want you to know that my journey has been going on for 3 years (and I am still a work in progress!). It took a total breakdown one morning to motivate me to make changes in my life. I started with small changes/small efforts to put away my daily distractions and be fully present with my children. It was very hard for me. I began with 10 minutes. But even in 10 minutes of pushing aside what was distracting me from my life gave me a spark of hope. It took a year of small steps to get back to the person I wanted to be. Because readers kept asking, "How? How did you transform your life? Where did you start?" I wrote a book. It is my hope that my guide will help others take small steps in their lives to find a place of joy and connection to what matters most to them. The book comes out in January, but in the meantime, I welcome you to write to me. I could offer you some other ideas for getting started. My email is Again, thank you for being so real, so honest, and so open. I am grateful. I wish you all the best.
    With thanks, Rachel

  3. I like you just the way you are. I bet your kids do too.



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