Archive for November 18th, 2009

Watch Me!

Carla: I was at the playground with the kiddles this afternoon (side note: playgrounds suck the energy out of me. I don’t know why) and as I listened to the constant stream of  “watch me” calls from my children (which may or may not be related to my feelings about playgrounds), I thought about that need children have to be noticed, to have someone pay attention to their various feats of strength and daring and creativity and silliness. And I thought about how that need never really goes away. At least not for me.

Now I might be a total fame whore here and none of you will resonate with this, but I think one of the reasons parenting is a challenge for me is that no one really notices it. Of course people will certainly let you know when you aren’t doing it the way they think you should, but for the most part, our feats of strength and daring and creativity and silliness are unseen.

When my kids say, “Watch me!” I (eventually) respond with my full attention and give them high praise for whatever they just did: “That was really cool!” “You are so strong!” “I can’t believe you can hang upside-down!” I wonder what our days would be like if we had an appreciative audience offering behavior-specific praise. It would be nice to hear someone say, “Carla, I like the way you woke up from a dead sleep at 3:00 this morning when your 4-year-old appeared at your bedside telling you she threw up.” Or “You are so good at appearing to listen as your daughter moves into minute 34 of her daily middle-school update.” Or “Nice work feeding the kids, hauling everyone to the soccer game, cheering on your son without getting too much mud on your nice shoes, then getting yourself to a meeting with three minutes to spare.”  Or even, “The way you resisted breaking down in tears when you dropped that gallon of milk and it spilled down the front steps was really impressive.”

I don’t find motherhood to be thankless–my family is pretty good at thanking me for the work I do to keep their lives chugging along. It’s that I have never worked at anything with the intensity and focus with which I parent. I have never cared so much and tried so hard. And for the most part, that effort is invisible. I had coffee with a friend of mine a few weeks ago and she told me about a woman she met who said those very words about motherhood: “I feel invisible.”

So what do we–or at least I–do about this?

Caryn: Get over your fame whore-ness, is what you do, missy. As one woman once told me, “This isn’t about you; it’s about the kids. There’ll be time for you later.” So, what did I do with her little words of wisdom, totally trashed her in my book, thank you very much! Because I, too, am a fame whore. (I think this is one of the things that first bonded us, Carla. All those years ago….)

Anyway, I am also with you that I don’t think motherhood is “thankless.” That’s never been one of my gripes. Not even societally. I think people actually go annoyingly overboard in hyping the importance of moms (part of Carla’s whole “Cult of the Family” bit). And my own family is pretty good with the thanks. For the mom stuff.

The hard part is the stuff that’s invisible because we can’t use it or do it or get it made public enough. It’s the stuff of who we are, what we love to do, what we think is funny or sad or insulting or aggrevating. I mean, Facebook helps, but in our day-to-day lives as moms surrounded by little wonderful creatures who need us in big, actual, important ways (I’m in the middle of White Oleander—and finding it hard to read about motherless children and ignore the weight of our roles), it can be not only difficult to indulge in things worth watching or having people notice, but we feel like fools calling attention to ourselves. At least that’s my issue.

But we gotta get over that. I think we need to bring our moxie out of the realm of Facebook and blogs and into real, actual life. Say who we are. Do what we love. And yell, “Watch me!” every now and again. But not too often. Nobody likes a showoff.

P.S. Can we introduce “fameho” to the Rev lexicon? With motherjudger? As in, Don’t motherjudge the fameho. Or is it better two words?

Carla: I think two.

This is part of why working was good for my soul. It was nice to have someone say, “You turned this piece around–nice work” or “That’s a fantastic idea! Let’s run with it.” What can I say, I’m a girl who needs feedback.

So Revolutionaries, what do you wish someone watched you do today? What feat of strength and daring did you pull off that we need to know about?