Monday, October 22, 2018

When the Going Gets Tough, Moms Get Going

If you've followed Chasing Roots for a while, you may have noticed that I write less and less about Will (and Hallie, but Will more specifically) both here and across my social media platforms. I still post pictures and occasionally add captions, and I like to provide updates on his academics and extracurriculars, but I rarely talk in detail about the challenges of parenting a tween, his poor choices, or the "darnedest things" he says. In case you were wondering, this is because we never experience any challenges in parenting a tween, he never makes poor choices, and he never says anything ridiculous. (You can sense the sarcasm in that sentence, right? 😂)

Back to reality...

I made this gradual change not because I wanted to do so, but because as Will gets older he deserves a say in what his digital footprint and social media presence look like.

Not hitting your brother - just one of the many issues
I have gone to my community for help tackling.
As a writer I have always prided myself on sharing the truth. I have no interest in painting for readers a picture of my life that isn't real and honest. I talk about the good stuff. I talk about the bad stuff. I talk about the funny, the challenging, the heart-breaking, and the uncomfortable. For me, the point of social media and one of the primary reasons I spend such a significant amount of time in this online space is because I want to share what life really looks like, so readers - specifically moms - understand that none of us are wading through this mess called parenting alone. We've all been there, and if we haven't, we will be at some point in the future.

Being our messy, imperfect, authentic selves helps create a space where others feel safe to be themselves, too. Your vulnerability can be a gift to others, how badass is that?

~ B. Oakman

It's easy - and considered acceptable - to share like this when our kids are young. We talk about the challenges associated with sleep training, teething, baby proofing, and potty training. We seek advice on how to squelch behaviors like biting, tantrums, peeing on trees, and ripping the pages out of library books. We even delve deeply into the really tough and often controversial stuff, like breastfeeding, postpartum depression, vaccinations, and diagnoses.

But when our kids get older, the climate changes and it is no longer considered acceptable to have these conversations publicly.

I get it. Like I said above, my kids - all kids - have a right to censor the information about and photos of them before all of it makes its way to the internet. However, when kids grow older, the problems also grow...bigger, more complicated, scarier, and increasingly consequential...and we as parents need our networks, our communities, our tribes more than ever. We need moms to listen to us talk about the challenges, from whom we can seek advice, and with whom we can delve deeply into the really tough and often controversial stuff. But suddenly this realm where we've gone for support and guidance and acceptance and hope has all but vanished.

I think about it this way: how can I - with any credibility - support parents of children with life-threatening food allergies if I don't tell you my son has a life-threatening food allergy? How can I - in any meaningful way - walk beside parents through a child's Tourette Syndrome diagnosis if I don't tell you my daughter has Tourette's? And how can I find MY people - the ones to help me through the inevitable challenges to come - if I don't share what we as a family are going through?

One possible solution, of course, is to find your tribe. Your safe space of close friends with whom you can share without judgement and without fear of what you divulge becoming public. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have found my own beautifully generous tribe, and I go to them frequently for help of all kinds. But not every mom has a tribe they can trust, or even a tribe at all. And not everyone's tribe can provide the resources and support needed when the problem, illness, or situation requires experience.

Another possible solution, at least in certain circumstances, is to take the child's behavior out of the equation and focus on the adult's reaction, plan of action, and feelings. Under this solutional umbrella, I would continue sharing my messy and imperfect self, but separate that side of me from the parenting issue that caused me to feel messy and imperfect in the first place.

But beyond these two avenues, and I've written this a lot lately, I don't know exactly where to go with all this. I suppose I'm putting everything that's been swirling around in my brain out there so that perhaps we can collectively - together as an online community - come up with a way to support each other as our children get older. A way to, when parenting feels dark and lonely and frustrating and hopeless, lift each other up without jeopardizing the relationships we have with our kids or sacrificing their right to privacy.

I think we can do it, because while it is often said, "when the going gets tough, the tough get going", it should probably instead say, "when the going gets tough, moms get going".

If you have a suggestion - or even just a thought on all of this - please share it. Comment on this post, or comment on my Facebook page or the Chasing Roots Facebook page beneath the link to the post. Every comment will be an entry to win a copy of the documentary, happy, because we could all use a little of that right now.

I will randomly select our winner a week from today on Monday, October 29th and notify our winner our winner on Tuesday, October 30th.

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