This Kind of Work


September 2, 2014 by Julia

Well, here I am, feeling crappy about not writing, and about ready to write about not writing, which is probably even more tedious for you as a reader than it is for me. Posts about writer’s block are kind of a last resort for me…but I don’t know how else to get unstuck. I have to unclog the drain, if you will. Feel free to skip this post if at any moment it resembles a glob of matted hair.*

Lots o’ semi-sorta-big things happening round here, which are probably not all that interesting to you. Jack is finally potty-trained. (Woot!) Jack is done with naps. (Wa-waaa.) Fiona started first grade. (Woot!) Jack starts very part-time pre-school next week. (Double-woot!) I am excited for fall weather and getting back into a routine. (Shocker, I know!)

Me talking about how great fall is

All this growing up is happening around me, and I love it.

Although I did have a moment this morning during a community pre-schooler activity. I thought, “Wow, these kids are cute and so full of life, and once Jack enters Kindergarten, I will no longer get to come to these things. That is…yes, a little sad.”

It is strange to think about ending this phase of my life as a full-time caregiver to small children. It’s been six and half years of trying to civilize the precious little dictators, while trying to maintain some sort of something for myself. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t embrace it all, deep down, though – even as I bitch and moan about how terribly draining, frustrating, confusing it all is.

I embrace the challenges of parenting. (I can say that now because the kids are asleep in bed, not actually challenging me at the moment.)

Part of the reason I like it is because I am fascinated by people – how we become who we are, how we think and feel differently, our preferences and interests and talents. There is so much good writing and research on identity, social patterns, and the pursuit of success or happiness, and I have yet to tire of it.

And having a child presents a unique opportunity to know someone intimately, from the very beginning. Not only that, but we can learn what true acceptance of someone else feels like. Love is very rarely an issue for parents – that part comes naturally. But to accept our children, in all of their quirks and inexperience and loud feelings and personal struggles? That is quite a challenge. It is one that has taught me more about the practicalities of love than any other experience, possibly.

Because when children sense when we are judging them for who they are or what they feel, they will dig in their heels, or declare even more loudly that their lives are truly ruined by the lack of dessert. I think most kids know when their bad behavior merits parental judgment, and of course they need boundaries for what they can get away with. But when we tell them they “need” to change their feelings or personality, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t feel like “tough love” or whatever phrase we use to justify ourselves. Kids know that in reality, we’re not accepting them for who they are.

None of this is cut and dried. That is partly what fascinates me about the art of parenting. What constitutes mamby-pamby parenting (you all know what I mean, right?) as opposed to tender, sensitive parenting? At what point are you allowed to just be a human being, with natural reactions to insanity? There are times when I can’t stomach the repetitive whining or worries for another moment, and I have to step away, regardless of whether or not that feels like judgment to my kid. I can’t try to be a constant therapist. There is a reason therapy has a time-limit.

And helping them work through personal blocks or struggles is always tricky, frustrating work that demands a positive approach despite our own feelings. Our children’s challenges often reflect our own lifelong struggles, and trigger insecurity on our part.

Trying to distinguish one feeling from another, our healthy motivations versus our fearful ones, is like examining threads of corn silk.

But even as I fail and learn and relax or worry, I do love this kind of work.

I live for the moments when I catch myself acting in a way that does not communicate love, am able to make a switch in my attitude, and can see my child immediately calm down, or open up, or achieve a goal.

I get all idealistic and hopeful when I start writing. The longer I go without writing the more cynical I become. When I write, things clarify into something I can care about.

This has been extremely useful to me as a parent, searching for goals and meaning amid the piles of laundry and tantrums. It’s here, guys. There is meaning. Try accepting your child and see how they blossom.

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*(A little rambly, but better than matted soap-scum hair, I hope.)


11 thoughts on “This Kind of Work

  1. Lisa says:

    “Me talking about how great fall is” lol

    Also, best family photo ever.

  2. Lucy says:

    I just want thank you for writing. It gives my life meaning to read these! So true about how “their challenges are often reflection of our our insecurities and lifelong struggles. Such great advice and candid reminder to be accepting of our children. I really needed to read this tonight btw.

    • Julia says:

      I know we talked the day after you posted this comment, but I just have to publicly acknowledge how much your support means to me! (Even if I’m 11 days late.) Thank you, Lucy.

  3. Lucy says:

    Also, I totally agree that the family photo is awesome!!!

  4. There is something to be said in the comparison of parenting to writing – I want to know how their stories turn out. Watching my daughter grow up and seeing what kind of person she is becoming is fascinating to me – except when it’s not. The preteen eye-rolling and attitude makes me nostalgic for the bubbly toddler days (although losing naps just about killed me).

    • Julia says:

      I love that analogy, Michelle. Parenting is definitely fertile ground for the study of human nature…which is what most of the best writing is about, in my opinion.

      And I fear the teen years. Maybe even more than I used to fear the end of naps.

      (And sorry for the late response here. Thank you SO much for reading – I am always flattered when good writers take the time to stop by!)

  5. Vickie says:

    Wonderful post, Julie! I wish I had had this much parenting wisdom when I was raising my kids! 🙂

  6. Vike Thurston says:

    This is one I wanted to come back to again. Think of all those sermons you’ve heard in your life on “unconditional love” (and I’ve given a few of those myself). I would trade your blog for any of those sermons, because it is clear that you are going to the heart of unconditional love and ACCEPTANCE in your journey with Fiona and Jack. I am so grateful for their sake and so proud of you, Ju.


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