I don’t know how you do it

You should stop whatever you’re doing right now and go read this amazing piece called “What My Son’s Disabilities Taught Me About Having It All.” I really love what she has to say about how realizing that we have “enough” is the greater key to happiness than “having it all.”

This is kind of a tangent, but one thing that really struck me about the post besides the much-needed reminder that I do in fact have more than “enough,” is the author’s annoyance at everyone constantly telling her they “don’t know how [she] does it” with the “it” being get through her life with a severely disabled son. I don’t share her challenges, but I also get this a lot. People tell me they don’t know how I do it, with the “it” being twins, or a daughter with spina bifida, or my own near death experience and health issues. She writes, “Other friends declare, ‘I couldn’t do what you do.’ If I am to conform to their expectations, I’m not sure what I am supposed to do.” I’m not sure what I’m supposed to be doing, or what people think I really am doing, either.

How do I “do it?” Well, for starters, I don’t always “do it” well or with any amount of grace. I get frustrated, and angry, and overwhelmed. We “do it” because we have no choice, because we love our kids, because we want to survive, because we have a lot of help, because I have a great partner, because there is no other option, because there’s a lot of beauty in it, because it could be much worse, because, because, because…

I guess the bottom line is, for every person who says something like “I don’t know how you do it” to someone, there is that someone thinking, “Well, what other option is there?” A lot of the time, it feels like a nice way to say, “I’m so glad your life isn’t mine.”

We all have challenges. We get through them. We all have our blessings, and we need to be grateful for them. I’m thankful to Marie Myung-Ok Lee for reminding me to do just that. Particularly as I write this after a challenging day that led to me having to set down my screaming baby to go take a breather in my bedroom. And I am thankful that in that moment, I had a husband to take over, to transfer her to her bed when she almost immediately fell asleep, and to clean up the kitchen and give me a hug when I returned from yoga breathing and listening to the sound of our ceiling fan.

How do we do it? BOUNCY SEATS ARE THE KEY.

testing our patience

If you asked pretty much anyone who knows me, they will confirm that I am generally not a patient person. I always thought that it was a good thing that I married Jon, because he brought a calm, steady patience to the table, mediating my fly-off-the-handle tendencies to balance me out a bit. While pregnant, I was sure our children would like him better, because he’d be the endlessly patient one, and I’d be the frustrated, snippy one. It’s also a fact that I generally fall apart and begin to freak the eff out when sleep deprived, with deprivation meaning anything less than 8 consecutive, unbroken hours of sleep, possibly less than 10. (Seriously, ask Jon sometime about that incident where I *sobbed* on a red eye flight.)

But, as Jon noted during an epic Etta screamfest yesterday: maybe it’s maternal instinct or something, but somehow I’m the one with more patience with the babies. Now, I am generally opposed to making biological generalizations about things like “maternal instinct” and other forms of gender essentialism, so I have another explanation, one I offered to him: it’s just that, if I freaked out over all of this, I would literally be freaking out every day for the rest of my life. Being patient is just a self-preservation technique for living with two tiny humans who occasionally like to SCREAM THEIR EVERLOVING FACES OFF FOR SEEMINGLY NO REASON.With whom I am often left all alone.

That’s not to say I don’t sometimes *feel* like freaking the freak out. This newfound patience is not without limits. Heck, there was even that one afternoon where I handed screaming Etta to Jon and literally flopped on the floor toddler-tantrum style, in a silent flail that expressed all the frustration and exhaustion I felt. There have been evenings where I swear, if I have to do one more baby-related thing, I will just lose my shiz, so I have to sit and drink wine and read fashion blogs for 30 minutes while he handles the babies, no, do not even ask me to draw up a syringe full of one of their myriad medicines. I have a feeling these moments will keep occurring.

In the meantime, it’s been a strange world to be the patient one. I basically don’t even know how to deal with Jon being frustrated and impatient, because it’s such a complete role-reversal. Not that he (or anyone else in a similar situation) isn’t totally justified in his frustration, but he’s usually the rock and I’m usually the tornado, and we whirlwinds don’t much know what to do when our rocks go flying around. Not that he’s really flying off the handle. My husband is so naturally even-keeled that his impatience and frustration looks like anyone else’s level-headedness, but still, I find myself getting frustrated with his frustration, as if I’m saying in my head, “BUT YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO FREAK OUT! YOU HAVE TO BE THE CALM ONE, ALL THE TIME, EVERY DAY!” Which is, of course irrational. He gets to feel his feelings, just like I do.

All of this is to say, this whole parenting thing is a strange new world. I was afraid of the ways it would change us, but it’s changing us anyway, like it or not.

In closing, here’s a triptych of Etta demonstrating how we freak the freak out around here:



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