Friday, October 10, 2008

The "Smart One"

I imagine it's true in every family, but I've been thinking a lot lately about how in our family, everyone got assigned roles--and pretty early, it seems to me. For as long as I can remember, my brother, sister, and I have all had pretty clear labels in the family structure. I was "the smart one" but also "the disorganized one" and often "the emotional one." My sister was "the organized one" and "the social butterfly" (read: the pretty one). My brother, four years younger than her and six younger than me, seemed to have his own set of rules. He is the only boy so inherited the "boy" identity: the sporty one, the daredevil, daddy's boy. He's also the baby, so he got to be the special one in some ways. (I think that sounds resentful, but it's not meant to be. I don't think any of us really chose our family roles; he just took what he was handed.)

So fast forward: We're now 32, 30, and 26. And in many ways, we're still acting out these same roles. My brother has moved halfway across the country. My sister has lived all over the country and has settled (for the moment) here in Minnesota with her husband and 1 1/2 kids. I'm the mother of three obsessing over whether I'm assigning them roles the same way they were assigned to us. My parents split up in a very, very messy divorce just as my second was being born (he moved out when I was 8 months pregnant.) Now my dad's remarried and I have a step-mother and step-sister to wrap my head around (particularly tricky, as step-mom is my age, and step-sister is in kindergarten, just like my oldest). The family as we knew it is gone with the wind. The more we think and talk about it, the more we realize it was never really there. And yet there I am, still trying to live up to being "the smart one," still accepting that I'm disorganized and will never be any better. And my sister is realizing that she went through much of her life thinking she had almost no emotions, and she's only now trying to get in touch with the ones that have been there all along.

My oldest is sweet and sensitive. He's been that way since the day we brought him home from the hospital and I slept on the couch with him in the bassinet next to me, eventually bringing him in with me--where he then slept for the next year. My middle son is, as my husband says, "a force of nature." He's surprisingly sensitive, but I am often reminded of Stampy from "The Simpsons," head butting people just for kicks. And my youngest, our girl, is so far pretty sweet and easy going. And I'll admit to wanting to dress her in sundresses and hair ribbons until she eventually screams in protest. So how do I look at these three and stop myself from assigning them the roles of "the sweet one" or "the strong one" or even "the girl"? Long after they're at all relevant, my siblings and I are still acting out our family roles and trying to outlive their impact. I know I'm going to screw them up somehow, but shouldn't it count for something that I see this one coming?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things are not improving

So I hate conflict of any kind. I accept that. I even accept that I'm going to pay for it, mostly by being walked over. But how did it get this bad?

I'm the oldest of three children, and I'm very close to both my siblings, a brother and sister. And to this day, I resist telling them things because I'm afraid of what they're going to think of me. I'm having a problem with one of my day care families, and I've been trying to sort through things with the mom. We've been emailing and we've spoken (just barely) a couple of times. And through this, I really need all the insight I can get--this is both a business and a personal relationship, and I'm trying to sort out how to balance them and how to stand up for myself in both aspects of the relationship. But it all started with some time off that I took, which may have been a misttep on my part (I've apologized repeatedly for the "inconvenience"). And as I'm talking to my husband, to another day care provider who has answered questions and helped me out in the past, and trying to sort through things in my head, I'm still not telling my siblings about this, mostly because I'm afraid of what they're going to think. I'm afraid that they will both come at me with a list of reasons that all this is my fault.

I've had the same problem in any area I can think of. In my old job, before I started day care, I remember standing in the parking lot and crying one afternoon because I hated it there so much--and I later realized that this was 5 years (!) before I finally left that place. What kind of person stays with a job for 5 years after they realize they're deeply unhappy there? Either a person with no other options (thankfully not my problem) or a person who is secretly convinced that they deserve every bad thing that happens to them. I'm not for jumping on the "we're all clinically depressed because of the breakdown of society" bandwagon. I don't go for the romance, that was so appealing when I was 14, of wallowing in self-pity until I eventually die a very beautiful death. But it is frustrating that this many years later, I still find myself in the same position of being walked on because I can't find the guts in myself to tell people that's not okay.

I come up with lots of reasons not to confront this parent directly: I'm afraid I'm actually wrong; I think if I back off, she'll calm down and we can move on; her son is E's best friend and he doesn't have a lot of friends (also my fault for not getting them out in the community enough). But I think the truth is I'm terrified. When I had to talk to her in person yesterday about this problem, I realized when she left that I was shaking. At what age do you have to suck it up and become a grown-up, and how do you start when you've really had no practice?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Welcome to the Blog, My Dear

The time has come to join the technology generation. Now that I'm the mother of three kids who will all grow up with cell phones, PDAs, mp3 players, and other technology that I haven't heard of yet but which they will all positivly die without, I guess it's time for me to try to keep up.

A little about me: I'm 32 and grew up in Minnesota. I met my husband the day after Christmas 1999, and we were married in Itasca State Park in September 2002. Our oldest son, Z, was born the following August. In December 2005, our second boy, E, was born. And this past March, we had our daughter, M. Until E was born, I worked outside the home, but since March 2006, I've been doing day care. It's been a phenomenal way for me to stay home with my kids, though I do get a little nuts for grown-up talk sometimes. I crave adult conversation and have recently joined a book club and the PTA mostly to get to talk to grown-ups. I swear I used to have actual friends, but between the kids and staying home and my old friends sort of disappearing, I'm pretty much down to my sister and a few "virtual" friends. Not that I object to "virtual" friends--they're a damn sight better than nothing. But I would love some more actual people in my life--you know, people who are potty trained.

Things get stressful and you start looking around wondering if this is where you really expected your life to end up. That's when you start blogging, I guess, sending your thoughts out into the universe to see if anyone else out there has any insight, or whether your thoughts are even worth anyone's time. We'll see.