"But also," an annual exploration of September Grief

"But also," an annual exploration of September Grief

This time of year is hard.

It's hard when you have kids, and you're transitioning from summer to school, and the children are exhausted and you're exhausted and everyone is raw from the sudden change of pace.

It's hard when you're Jewish, and you're thrust into the High Holy Days, and whatever level of involvement you might have with a Jewish community, the onset of autumn means reflection, and celebration, and solemnity.

It's hard as an American, particularly today, when the beautiful blue skies and comfortable sun are as much a reminder of tragedy as the blustery tweets from the White House.

It's hard when deep in your bones, you know summer is ending, you know the cold and gloom and dark are breathing down your neck. There's a reason World Suicide Prevention Day lands this time of year.

And when times are hard, it becomes impossible to be perfect.

I know, the expectation to be perfect is bullshit. There is nothing and no one who can meet those expectations, but they remain nonetheless. And nobody is harder on me, at least, than me. Under the weight of these strains, even the happy burdens, I crack. I fail. And while Leonard Cohen was right when he said that the cracks are where the light gets in, the cracks also let in the dark.

It's so hard. Even one bad MINUTE and you run the risk of ruining your kids, or at least that's what your brain says. One bad day where you lose your shit and scream your head off and storm out. One night when it's all too much and you've been running nonstop and you're tired, so goddamn tired, and you just can't do any more for anyone and you leave dinner unfinished and tell your family to fend for themselves. You tell yourself you have broken a sacred trust, shattered the faith your children have in you as a provider, as a source of comfort, as a rock they can cling to in their own moments of chaos.

But also, you tell yourself, kids are fucking resilient. And smart. I remind myself that eight-year-olds can handle so much more than we as a society seem willing to entrust them with now. In general, I don't think we do our kids any favors by protecting them from personal accountability and responsibility, and during moments I'm certain are proving I'm not good enough, it comforts me to remember that adversity breeds ingenuity and compassion. I tell myself, the children will be fine if I storm off once or twice, announce that I quit parenting and that I won't accept being lied to or manipulated or ignored by my own children anymore.

You teach people how to treat you, I tell myself, so you must be teaching the children to treat you like you aren't a whole person.

You aren't a whole person to them, says the voice in the back of my head, my conscience or guilt or socialized self-doubt. You are their safe place, you are where they're allowed to be horrible little shits and know you'll always love them. You have to show them you love them even when they make you want to jump off a bridge.

I don't, I answer. I deserve to be treated well, even when I am a safe place.

And kids need to learn how not to be awful.

But also, the voice in the back of my head says...

But also, other people are awful, too. And if the kids show up tomorrow at school all with the same story about how Mommy quit motherhood and now they have to make their own breakfasts, I can expect a call from the principal at best and a visit from the cops at worst. Because of a shitty week. Because of a shitty minute.

But also, it's important to have enough of a village that if a parent does truly snap and walk away for real, forever, there are people to take care of their kids.

But also, what the fuck good is a village to have if all they do is police you when you fuck up? Where is my village when I'm struggling and need other people to reinforce some self-reliance and reliability in my children, and they constantly undermine me because they see my eight-year-olds and six-year-olds are babies who can't be expected to properly wipe their own asses, let alone clean up a mess they made. Even though kids have been effectively doing more for millennia. Even though they always made it hell for their parents.

But also, childhood is so short, so fucking short, and it takes so little to ruin it. Or to ruin the trust you build with them. And that is something that can never be fixed after it's gone.

But also, childish naivete is SUPPOSED to be temporary. Kids are supposed to learn there's no tooth fairy, and everyone dies, and their parents are mortal, and life isn't all fun, and they have to do things they don't like sometimes, and it doesn't matter if a food isn't your "favorite" because sometimes it's the only food you have and if  you don't fucking eat it you have nothing. That's floor level SURVIVAL that if kids don't learn can keep them from ever coping with inconvenience, let alone hardship, and what the fuck kind of adult is that?

But also, does it have to be the parents who ruin childhood? Can't parents just be 100% loving all the time and make things better when the universe sucks?

But also, I am human. I have to be human to be a model for the rest of the human interactions my children will ever have. What the fuck kind of shit am I doing to my kids if I put myself on a pedestal? What kind of self-esteem issues do you end up with when you're forever comparing yourself to a sanitized, fictionalized version of a person that never comes two steps away from letting it all fucking burn?

But also, why does it hurt so bad when you're the mama and you make your kids cry- even if they made you cry first? If it hurts so much, it's got to be bad, right? Right?

But also, why can't parents just be fucking human beings?

Why can't I just be a goddamn human being?


I did return to parenting, of course. It took me a few days to let go of my anger and sadness and guilt, and I'm not where I wish I was. I'm not calm and collected and peaceful. I am short tempered and on edge, I am tired and I am sad. I am surviving September as best I know how.

It's the best any of us can do.

If you're struggling, know you're not struggling alone. Know this is a time that is hard for all of us, has always been hard for all of us. Know you do not have to be perfect to deserve your own compassion. Know you are loved and understood by a part of yourself that is often drowned out by the but also voice.

Who you are under the stress, that is a whole person. You always get to be a person.

Take care of yourselves this month. This week. Take care of yourself always.


Read more about failure here: Wishes and Regrets

Read my most recent post here: It's Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, so here's an Expert!

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