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?


11 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Robyn on November 18, 2009 at 9:40 am

    Yesterday I fired my obstetrician and hired a midwife to do a home birth. I’m thinking that is pretty daring. For me, at least.


  2. Posted by Heather on November 18, 2009 at 10:09 am

    Nice job, Robyn!

    My husband and I quite our jobs and moved from MN to CO and are living with friends until we find new jobs. Not many people have offered praise for this, which has been hard and unexpected for me. I look at is as exciting and energy giving and hopeful. Others tend to give crooked looks and comments about how strange it is that we would do such an irresponsible thing, especially in this economy! Of course, we have friends who support us completely, as does our family. But still! Come on! Get excited for us! At least we have the nerve! (I don’t mean that to be rude, just expressing my want for affirmation and approval.)


  3. Posted by Carla on November 18, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Heather, is it okay if I affirm your decision–and really, I am excited for you and so in awe of the way you jump into life–while still hating that you are gone?

    Good work Robyn!


  4. Posted by Robyn on November 18, 2009 at 11:32 am

    Way to go, Heather! What an adventure! Carpe diem.


  5. Posted by Lisa J. on November 18, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I totally get this–there is no annual performance review for being a mom. Which, depending on the year, might have been a good thing in my case.

    But here’s the cool thing: now that my kids are older, I do feel like I’m finally getting that feedback, and it’s so satisfying! There’s nothing–and I mean NOTHING–better than seeing them become who God made them to be. My oldest is starting to think about college next year, and I am constantly in awe that he’s turned out so well (in spite of all the ways I tried to screw him up). Seeing him make good choices and do cool things completely independent of me makes all those life-sucking trips to the park worth it.


  6. Posted by Melissa on November 19, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Right now I think I am getting too much feedback and praise on my parenting (if that’s truly possible). Not that I don’t appreciate being recognized for my commitment, patience, and creativity in parenting a child with mental health issues and severe behaviors. It can really keep me going sometimes, but it mostly drives me crazy. How am I supposed to respond to being told repeatedly that I am doing an amazing job of parenting or when people say, “I could never do what you do.”?

    Being watched and assessed by so many people (e.g., friends, family, therapists, psychiatrist, social workers, adoption professionals, personal care assistants, etc.) feels less like playing at the playground and more like being watched at an Olympic sporting event. The crowd has been cheering, but they are way up in the stands and it’s starting to sound like white noise. The judges are giving high scores, but I don’t want or need a medal.

    The “watch me” I’m craving is to be seen as a person, separate of my parenting choice. I’m no saint or super hero. Parenting my teen is all consuming and I feel a little lost in all of it. I don’t have too many thoughts, conversations, or activities at this time in my life that don’t include my daughter, so I recognize there isn’t a lot of just, plain old me shining through. I’ve got no jumps, spins, or hanging from the monkey bars to show anyone right now. Just want to be seen. Makes me think of times when my daughter repetitively says (for no apparent reason) “look, look, look, look, look, look, look, look, look, look, look…” and I respond by saying, “I see you.”

    And yes, you could do what I’m doing if you had to.


    • Posted by Christina on December 14, 2009 at 6:29 pm

      Speaking as one of those “professional-types” and a new parent myself – I know what you mean. Note, I do not say “I know how you feel” because I don’t. I have only watched this story from the stands, as you say, though I get off my butt and try to actually help as often as possible.

      I hope what you get isn’t more praise & assessment, but a break. And times when someone takes care of YOU for a while. You deserve it. Yeah, I know you know this. But sometimes it helps to have someone else say it out loud.

      One quick thing (and please forgive me for having the arrogance to offer comment when I know nothing of you or your child,) if you are doing this kind of specialized parenting, the “plain old you” IS shining through. The only way to survive that job is with your true, honest (fallible) self. Especially if you’ve maintained your sense of humor! It’s too messy and hard to do any other way. I hope, though, that you can have some space in your life to think and speak of things in addition to parenting.



  7. Posted by Heather on November 19, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Carla – yes! I know that you guys are behind us 100%! Thank you.


  8. I brushed my teeth. Some days lately that’s as good as it gets!


  9. Hey, you must be doing something right to get over 34 minutes of info on ONE MIDDLE SCHOOL DAY! I don’t think I’ve gotten that many minutes on the year….


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