That You Want It Doesn’t Make It Best

That you want it doesn't make it so.

We all wish; we all want. We all wish and want differently from each other. That you want it doesn’t make it best.

You just want your kid to be normal.

I hear you. I do. Because that is a perfectly healthy and reasonable thing to want for your child.

You observe that in your own life and in the world more generally, people who are normal have it easiest. They don’t have to fight as hard for what they deserve. You want a good and happy life for your child, so why wouldn’t you want them to be normal?

This is not snark or sarcasm. I hear you. I understand. I empathize.

Keep on wanting your kid to be normal if that is really want you wish for deep down. You are entitled to that wish. You are entitled to want a clear-cut and easy road for your child’s development and your experience as a parent.

Keep on wishing and wanting and feeling everything you feel.

But know that the moment you brought your child into the world, you entered into an agreement with your child, your family, your society, your species, and yourself.

When you became a parent you agreed to let what you want for your child come second to what is best for your child.

There is no shame in admitting that you want things that aren’t for the best. Everyone wants things that are not in our best interest or the best interests of those around us.

We want to eat ice cream for dinner every night.

We want to give our boss a piece of our mind.

We want to spend our paycheck on a new gizmo instead of groceries and rent.

We want to steal that puppy and snuggle it forever.

We want to sleep just five more minutes.

There is no shame in admitting that you want things for those around us that aren’t for the best, for the people we love.

We want our spouses to never look at another person as a sexual being as long as they live.

We want our parents to get back together.

We want our exes to come back to us so we can make them happy.

We want our friends to come out and party tonight.

We want our siblings to quit their jobs that aren’t right for them.

We want our children to grow up to be presidents and astronauts and ballerinas and virtuosos and NBA All-Stars. To graduate from high school and college and their PhD programs with a 4.0 GPA. To speak six languages fluently. To win every scholarship. To master every instrument. To be friends with all the good kids who won’t lead them to drugs and turn them into tiny felons. To never get sick. To never give up. To never fail at anything ever. To always be happy.

We want our children to be perfect.

Of course we do.

We push our children, our friends, our families, our lovers, ourselves, to be the best we can be.

And then we step back, because we know that we are all human. We are all exactly who we are individually. We all have the right to pursue our own happiness. We all want things, and we all want different things.

We can want whatever we want, but we show our love by respecting that what we want might not be best.

You want your child to be normal. You want them to have an easy life, where everything is fair and just, where they get every wonderful thing they deserve. Good. Keep wanting that.

But just as you gawk at the meddlesome mothers and helicopter parents who push their children to be perfect and then are shocked when those very children rebel, or fail even a little, or opt to be homemakers instead of presidents, or presidents instead of homemakers…

Gawk at the parents who force their want for normalcy onto their children and are shocked when those children are unhappy and frustrated and desperately seek their own path, learning not to trust their parents for the support the want, need, and truly deserve.

Your child does not exist for you to get what you want, even if your wants are founded in love and hope.

Your child exists as a human being, who deserves love and respect and individuality.

You exist as a human being as well, and deserve love and respect and individuality just as much. You get to want and wish and hope, and deserve no shame for any of it.

No human always gets what they want. No human ever has to stop wanting.

You wouldn’t expect your child to stop wanting to eat ice cream for dinner or to stay home from school or to stay up late watching scary movies. That doesn’t mean they are going to get it. That they want it doesn’t make it best.

You can’t be expected to stop wanting a perfect, normal, successful, happy, healthy life for your child. That doesn’t mean you are going to get it. That you want it doesn’t make it best.

 

Unpacking Unproductive Perseveration

Ashamed bunny is ashamed. Or maybe guilty? He's mostly ashamed that he can't tell the difference.

Ashamed bunny is ashamed. Or maybe guilty? He’s mostly ashamed that he can’t tell the difference.

I did a Bad Thing.

Not end of the world bad, but still a Bad Thing.

I posted something to my personal facebook that I shouldn’t have. It isn’t the first time I’ve facebooked wrong, and it won’t be the last time. Online social networking has far more positive consequences for me than negative, so I’m not about to delete my facebook account just because this happens once or twice a year, but damn when it does happen it’s just not getting any easier to handle.

The Bad Thing this time is a little different from other times, because the Thing I said was not mean or rude, intentionally or otherwise, but was inappropriate in a different way. Specifically, I posted about how something that happened in a video I was watching for work (a research study, where the anonymity of the subjects is important) made me really happy, as it was a display of awesome parenting and an awesome child.

I did not post any identifying information, both because I know that is 100% not ok and also because I didn’t have any identifying information for the subject or the subject’s family. Based on the video, however, I guessed at a few things (like age) and mentioned a few things that I could tell from watching the video that were not identifying information, but were not anonymous (like gender, and a description of a toy in the home).

Within two hours more than twenty of my facebook friends had “liked” the post, including quite a few friends from my job, and from my unrelated SLP program – so people who know about confidentiality, research, and protecting children.

Then I got a private facebook message from a coworker very kindly and elaborately explaining that the post was too specific and exactly how it was so, and requesting that I be more careful about posting in such a public forum when the anonymity of these families needs to be secure.

Let me be clear: my coworker was absolutely correct.

I was a little taken aback at first, because I had made a point to leave out identifying information and had even deliberately changed something, and also because I simply didn’t have any specific information on the subject.

But of course, protecting the anonymity of the research participants and protecting the integrity of the study are both much more important than me posting an amusing status to facebook.

This was not lost on me. I immediately deleted the status, and sent the coworker a short note thanking her for pointing it out to me. A few hours later when I had more time, I sent her a slightly longer note (remember the one she sent me was very long, thoughtful, and articulate) reiterating my gratitude and assuring her that being appropriate personally and professionally is something I am continually trying to improve.

So…that’s the end of the story, right?

Well, no.

That’s the end of the Bad Thing.

That’s not the end of the Haunting of the Bad Thing.

To recap: I made a poor judgment call and from that made a mistake with the potential to impact other people negatively. It was called to my attention. I immediately corrected for my mistake as best I could, accepted responsibility, and as graciously as I could thanked the person who called it to my attention.

So why, why, twenty-four hours later, am I stimming and twitching and listening to my mind spin and whirl and race a million miles an hour screaming to me, “You did a Bad Thing! You are a Bad Person! You are in Big Trouble!” as I hide under the covers pretending I’m not here?

Guilt has a purpose. It’s an important emotional response. It is a reminder that actions have consequences, and that our decisions impact ourselves and the people immediately surrounding us, but can also ripple out in unexpected ways.

But what purpose is this guilt currently serving?

If I allow myself to feel something other than guilt today, does that hurt someone? If I am happy or relaxed or calm for some part of today will that undo the lesson I learned yesterday? Will my post reappear and the family see it and recognize themselves in it despite my privacy settings and deliberate changes to protect their anonymity? Will the be furious at how I presented them as a completely amazing and inspiring family?

But see, wait, look…the more guilty I feel, the more I want out of it, and then the more confused I get about why I’m guilty. In those lines just above, I started thinking about how I didn’t say anything personal, and I didn’t say anything negative. But then reading it back I remembered that I’m not supposed to be feeling guilty for the content I posted, but simply for the fact that I posted it. Now I’m feeling guilty for feeling guilty for the wrong thing, and not feeling guilty enough for the right thing!

This, of course, is where the perseveration tendencies that serve me well when I need to ace an exam or learn everything there is to know about the ballet world or talk about my favorite television shows or make lists on lists and lists of lists

…this is where that perseveration turns from adorable to destructive.

Because while a degree of guilt here is warranted, and even necessary in a way as I want to learn to be a more social creature, the extreme nature of my self-inflicted guilt trip is harmful to me, and even to those around me.

Patrick, for instance, has not had my full attention since the Bad Thing happened. Even when looking directly at his face I can only process about two-thirds of what he says. I’ve spent most of my time at home isolating and fuzzy and coping with sensory overload. Today was my first day back at the office, and while the coworker who had messaged me was not in today, I had to meet several new people, and because of my guilt-spinny brain I couldn’t understand a thing any of them said. I know my new office-mate is a post-doc in something I am very interested in and I would love to know more about, but I could not finish a thought when speaking to her, and she will undoubtedly have to repeat every single thing she said to me as we “got to know each other” this morning. Even the people on the bus must have suffered slightly from my guilt, as I was incapable of focusing enough on my surroundings to know whether I needed to shift where I was standing to make room. Also, I am pretty sure I was muttering to myself a lot, and while that doesn’t really hurt anyone, it doesn’t exactly help me make the impression I’d like to make either.

Many people, I’m pretty sure, can make a mistake, accept responsibility, correct what they can, learn from the experience, and go about their lives with the lesson learned and tucked away.

But me? I make a mistake, and it consumes me. I lose track of everything but the overwhelming sensations – emotional and physical – of guilt. And when guilt consumes you, it is indistinguishable from shame.

And shame, of course, is good for nothing. Shame teaches no lessons. My shame doesn’t help you, or anyone, and it hurts me. It hurts me now and it hurts me always.

My overwhelming shame won’t make anything better.

But what is there to do? I perseverate. It’s just what I do.

Sometimes it’s about owls and art supplies and it’s adorable.

Other times it’s about Bad Things.

And I just have to wait for it to pass.

Television Perseveration – Episode 9: A Series Finale Worth Waiting For

This is my season one finale I guess. Meh. It’ll probably get renewed.

This post is a reaction to the finale of HIMYM, but there are no spoilers in this post. Ok I guess technically my little doodle could be spoiler-ish, but you’re probably ok.

-|-

The gang says goodbye.

The gang says goodbye.

Tonight was the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. The big old goodbye to the show and the hello to the mother.

We found out endings and beginnings. We got closure. We got names and faces. We got fifteen years or so of the Future Gang condensed into an hour. We could let go without ever really having to say goodbye.

This show is a story about storytelling. It’s not about falling in love with a woman. That’s never been anything to do with anything. This show is about the hows and the whys and the wait-for-its.

This show is about embedding narratives and timelines. Of introducing pivotal characters only to be completely dismissive of them the next weeks. Of breaking into laughter with gut-wrenching sorrow. Of breaking into sorrow with belly laughs.

This is a show about what happens when human people, in this case fictional human, grow up. When they become themselves. When they watch the people they love become their own people. When they try to keep change from happening and seek it out at the same time.

This is a show about maturity – both evading it and having it land like a ton of bricks. This is a show about clichés for the sake of clichés, for the sake of the story, and never for the sake of the characters.

This is a show that has been human from the start. A New York City apartment about three times as big as it should be because that’s how Ted chooses to remember it. A dorky guy who manages to snag (and shag) one hot lady after another on his quest for true love, because he chooses to remember those ladies that way. A series of anecdotes about goats and pineapples that are somehow unforgettable and yet also impossible to recall correctly.

This is a show about how we see our own lives. How we have the ability to redefine our stories, our friends’ stories, our narratives of past, present, and future. How no matter how many times we change our story, we cannot change ourselves.

I anticipate being in a very slim minority, but I thought this finale was completely perfect.

Because this has never been a story about an ending. This has never been a story with a beginning. This has always been a story about stories. This has always been a story about the moments that matter because you let them matter, regardless of where they lead you.

Because there is no better way to end a story about storytelling than to circle back to where you started, to take a look at what you’ve been able to change, and what core parts of yourself you will never be able to shed. And then to let the story continue, privately, silently, off-air.

Because the story of becoming yourself never ends.

Getting Artsy for Fun and…Well, Just for Fun

When the days are long and the nights are longer, sometimes the most responsible thing to do when you get your long-awaited paycheck that finally gives you the cash you need to get out of this town is to immediately deposit it and blow a hundred bucks on art supplies, coffee, milk, sugar, a bottle of wine, and two pounds of Sour Patch Kids.

Best $80 I ever spent surrounding the first pages of my art journal that I started back in 2011.

Best $50 I ever spent surrounding the first pages of my art journal that I started back in 2011.

Because I know you want the details of what is in that picture up there, starting at the easily identifiable top item and working around the journal clockwise:

  1. KMM watercolor kit. 10 pages of watercolor paper, two brushes, and 36 surprisingly beautiful shades of totally non-crappy watercolor paint. So cool. Every kid ever had to paint with watercolors in school and had to use those super shitty sets of eight that totally sucked and couldn’t saturate and were always missing the good colors anyway. Gross. My intense hatred of having to paint with that shit as a kid means that until yesterday, I had never been willing to give watercolors a fair shot. I figured real watercolors, the kind that actual talented watercolor artists use, were likely pretty cool, but I just kind of assumed that anything affordable would be as shitty as the ones we used in school. I was wrong.
  2. Bic Mark-it permanent markers. Set of 36. These are basically your standard Sharpies, but I prefer this brand because the quality of the ink and the felt tip is the same, the price is lower, and the smell is not as strong as Sharpie brand but is still strong enough to be satisfying. Also, duh, there are thirty-six of these bad boys in super awesome colors. Some of the color names on the back include Prairie Berry, Tiki Hut Tan, Fandango Pink, Cloud Nine Grey, Woodsy Brown, and Margarita Green.
  3. KMM crayon gems. Set of 12. This is a collection of standard color crayons that are shaped like cut gems. Each crayon gem is about three inches from point to point, so large enough that you have to hold it with your whole hand instead of your fingers. One cool thing about these is the ability to use points, edges, and faces to color, but let’s be real. The actual appeal of these is the awesome tactile experience and coloring with gross motor instead of fine motor movements.
  4. Crayola SuperTips magic markers. Set of 24. This is my preferred version of just regular old markers. The tips are really nice to the touch, and they can make both really fine lines and nice broad shading if you tilt it right. I actually already owned this exact pack, but used up most of the colors. At least I know they won’t go to waste!
  5. KMM double-pointed crazy crayons. Set of 7. These looked too freaking cool not to try. There was a huge, just like, ultimate JUMBO crayon that was made of flecks of like every color imaginable and I almost got that, but I figured these would feel better in my hand. If it’s not clear from the photo, they are large crayons made up of different colors of wax melted together, so that if you were to color with them the result would be a rainbow of the colors included in that crayon. Also, finally a set of art stuff in an odd number!
  6. Bic Mark-it permanent markers – metallics! Set of 8. Exactly what it sounds like. Same appeal as #2 above, but these eight markers are SHINY. And for those of you keeping track, that brings the permanent marker count up to 44. The total marker count once you include the washable ones is 68.
  7. Crayola Twistables colored pencils. Set of 30. I almost got a really beautiful KMM set of pencils, but opted for these because I’m a big fan of the no-sharpener needed quality. Also, I owned a set of crayons like this and I liked them so much that I actually am ok with coloring with crayons now. That’s new. Very new. I used to hate crayons. Colored pencils are my favorite “clean” art medium (as in, not paint or pastels or anything that you couldn’t do in bed), so I’m looking forward to these.

You’re jealous. I can feel it. Even you over there who totally hates arts and crafts, you are so freaking jealous right now. And you should be.

I recommend saving up $40-60 and planning a Target adventure.

Oh and I just have to mention that Target had this magical, whimsical, wonderful section of the art supplies aisle dedicated to the brand Kid Made Modern (KMM), which I had previously never heard of. Check them up. It’s a super cool company. For instance they have a series of videos called “Go Make Stuff” that have no product placement. They are just art projects for kids that also include a nod to professional artists and designers that inspire the projects. Like this one:

I’m not a child or a parent, so I’m not all about the child projects for myself. I am super about their products though! The products all look pretty fancy (not fancy generally, but like “my kids don’t need something so nice” type fancy), but they are all really good quality and really affordable! In fact, they were the same price or cheaper than their Crayola counterparts, but from what I can see they are much better quality. For instance, the watercolor set I got was $9.99 and the crazy crayons were $2.99. Not bad! And seriously, why wouldn’t you want your kid to explore painting on quality, affordable stretched canvases designed with kids in mind?

But whatever, this post is not an ad. It is about me and my awesome art happy times.

Yesterday when we got home with our art stuff, coffee stuff, candy, and wine (and also some presents for Patrick’s family, because he’s a cool dude who loves his family and his brother and dad just had birthdays), Patrick set up to play guitar for a bit while I oogled my new stuff (and took pictures of it, obviously).

I didn’t know what to start with, so Patrick suggested watercolors.

Fine, one more cool video from KMM, showing suggestions for how to use their watercolor kit. I just found this while browsing their site, and I’m loving the way it talks to kids. It’s totally validating of just exploring the way the paint looks and feels, but also presumes competence (important for all kids!) and offers a couple painting techniques to treat a project as less craftsy and more artsy. Love it!

 

“Ok! Yeah! So, what should I paint?”

Like I said, I hated watercolors as a kid and so I haven’t used them as an adult. I therefore have no clue how to use them properly. I love charcoal, chalk pastels, and oil paint, with occasional dabbling in acrylics and inks, usually just to add texture to my other stuff.

But watercolor? This was new territory. And from what little I know about the medium, I know it’s hard. The one common thread between charcoal, chalks, and oil paint? All fudgeable. When you don’t like something, just paint or draw over it. Smudge and shift and gum erase all over the place. In fact, when I work with charcoal most of my work goes into strategic erasing. I love it. I feel way more creative that way.

Watercolors are the exact opposite. While there are ways to sort of error-correct if you act quickly enough and are willing to have it be obvious that you covered up a mistake there, generally speaking when you make a mark it stays there. Whereas techniques for just about every other medium are background to foreground, watercolor is the reverse! You have to start with the foreground, with the most detailed bits. Because there’s no adding stuff in later. You have to know exactly what you want your finished product to look like before you begin. Very very very difficult for compulsively perfectionistic people like me.

“Paint me playing guitar,” said Patrick.

OH CRAP. New medium, and now I’m supposed to paint a person? Like, with a face? Part of having prosopagnosia means that every single face I draw looks identical. It’s frustrating.

But hey, this is just for fun. Really. I just splurged on art supplies because I knew it would help me de-stress and enjoy myself.

Let’s go!

This was the result an hour later:

Eh? Eh?

Eh? Eh?

I know it’s not exactly fine art, but for my first ever attempt at watercolor fun times, I think it came out pretty cool.

Also, I freaking love those paints. I’m sold on that KMM brand. I really am.

So now the real question is, can I justify bringing all my new stuff with me when I visit Patrick’s family this weekend? I mean, they are all super fun to spend time with and very rarely do I need to go isolate when I’m over there. So I know that rationally I do not need to pack it all because I won’t use it. I’ll be having fun doing other stuff.

But then again…

It can’t hurt, right? ;-)

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