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you do you
don't walk into fire, and other words of wisdom
Last week I was taking Charlie to swim lessons and we were discussing what kind of music we like. He really enjoys the fact that we both love Harry Styles and was telling me so, a conversation that soon revealed that we do not in fact like all the same songs, a shock to him. He assured me we have the same 4 favorite songs, but there is a song - DIS song Mama - that I like that he does not like. I said something about how everyone is allowed to like what they like, and that we don’t all have to like the same things. And then I asked him if he’s ever heard me say “you do you,” and does he know what it means when I say that. He said no, so I began trying to explain YOU DO YOU to a 4 year old in term a 4 year old would understand. It’s one of those things that we all just GET, but when you try to define it, it’s actually kind of difficult, APPARENTLY. Like the other day he asked me what does “usually” mean and I was like wtf well it means I don’t fucking know…and now, I dare you to try to define “usually” without using the word as part of the definition because don’t forget that’s against the rules!
usually, it’s fine
Anyway, I’m explaining YOU DO YOU and really proud of myself because the most perfect words are exiting my mouth as if I know wtf I’m talking about, and I’m having one of those proud parenting moments where you’re speaking, and in your head you’re like WOW I AM ON FIRE RIGHT NOW LOOK AT ME DOING THIS THING SO WELL, and I’m thinking about how cute it’s going to be when he loves my explanation and begins using YOU DO YOU in his own daily adorable speech and I’m going to be able to smirk at other parents like LOL MY KID IS HILARIOUS AND IT’S BECAUSE I’M THE GENIUS WHO TAUGHT HIM ABOUT YOU DO YOU.
This is what I say about YOU DO YOU (or something like this because of course I don’t remember my exact brilliant phrasing). It means that you do what you feel is right for you, you do what feels good in your body, you do what makes you comfortable, you do what you think is best, and safe, and good.
I mean IS THAT NOT GREAT!? If there had been another grown up present I probably would have requested a high-five, I was so proud. My pride was a glowing halo about my day-5 messy bun, a la the Renaissance’s best depiction of The Virgin Mary.
So I wait with baited breath for his response to my moment of unparalleled inspiration, this very precious teaching moment. And without so much as a second of pausing for thought, he goes, “YEAH MAMA AND ALSO WE DON’T WALK INTO FIRE.”
you do you but don’t do fire?
Towards the end of August I’m planning to take 2 weeks off of work to hang out with Charlie - just him and me - before he starts his last year of preschool which will be 5 days a week and a full school day (which simply means I don’t have to pick him up at the ridiculous time of 12:45pm aka the middle of the mf day).
When we got the class placement and I realized he’d be gone from 8:30 to 3 every day, I had a very strange - for me - reaction to this, as I am queen of Desperation for Childcare and will accept anyone’s help with my children for any length of time including multiple sleepovers at the drop of a hat. In-laws want spontaneous dinner and bedtime duty? Come on over! Grandma wants to extend the single overnight stay to 3 nights? Absolutely! Both grandmas want to have him for entire weeks at a time? Cheers!
I obviously am no stranger to that very odd phenomenon all parents experience which is when we need time away from them, revel in that time away, and also miss them terribly when they’re gone.
i love you, go away
Anyway, what I’m saying is, for someone who embraces having my time be my own, I was really sad when I was confronted with the reality that he’s going to be in a big boy school schedule starting this year until forever. SOB. And also, JOY. Because, dichotomy.
I soon realized that I am more capable/privileged (capable because of privilege, maybe) than most of giving myself a remedy for my sadness: time off! My feelings and desperation for childcare are multifaceted and contain more layers than the most expensive Pinterest-worthy wedding cake, but it occurred to me that I literally designed my life like this on purpose so I could be flexible to do fun things whenever I want to (mostly). And I realized that hanging out with my 4-year-old on my own schedule, planned, by my own design, will be FUN (mostly).
To be clear, he was a complete monster the other night at bedtime, throwing toys from the bath and having one of those horrible full-body flailing screaming tantrums. It’s becoming clear to me that we’re never really fully “out of the woods” with these kids. It’s so much of living life while holding two opposite things inside our bodies, starting from pregnancy. Thrilling and painful. Frightening and exciting. The newborn stage, exhausting and full of love beyond reason. The toddler phase, full of adorable literal toddling, and irrational rage for all involved. Etc. You love your kid, you hate the phase. You love your kid, parenting is the worst. I actually mostly hated being pregnant and was not at all excited, but you get the point.
A friend said this to me this week, and I loved it so much I’ve listened more than 3 times and wrote it down to share because it’s so much more than gold:
“The mother I aspire to be is a mother who can hold a bunch of fucking contradictions in her hands, and model to her children how to do that in a fucking complex chaotic world. I am being a mother who is both devoted to my children…and is also completely autonomous, and spends a lot of time thinking about how to be a person, [regardless of their existence]. It sounds like those two things can’t be true at the same time, but they are.”
We were talking about a mother’s shame and the shaming of mothers, a black tar pit into which I will absolutely be diving at a later time. But for now, her words speak to me about this part of the journey too.
Now. I love you, go away.