Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mama's New Freedom

I can so clearly remember sitting on our garden bench in our front yard, coming to the distinct realization that Kaya would, in fact, be OK. OK in the world. OK in her language. OK overall. The sun was shining. It was beautiful outside. Our weeds were tall and primed for picking. Suddenly, in that moment on the bench, I realized that I didn't have to worry so much about everything that I was worrying about in regards to "screwing her up", because I'd recently seen clear signs of 'secure attachment'. The proof was in the pudding, in other words, and for a while--a few moments, or days or possibly even weeks I think--I could let go of my fears and quit worrying so much.


That ride was really wonderful, feeling that temporary freedom from my worries.

But then, I bumped into something else. Something else that was clear cause for concern. At one point, it was her yelling at the dogs right after we did. Another day, it was her tendency to say "no" more than I was hoping she would.

Always something.

I'm not going to go anywhere close to the notion that I am beyond freedom from my fears. But, I am going to say that I feel this overwhelming freedom from the fears that have been driving me for many, many years.

I know. I know.
It seems like I just contradicted myself.

Suddenly, similar to my bench epiphany, I truly grasp the concept that something can be this, AND that, and simply BE this and that. I get that Kaya can cry and shout and laugh and giggle, and that's just what she does. She can speak 400 words of German and 200 words in English and that's simply what she does. There doesn't have to be a reason behind everything. Or anything, for that matter. In fact, I now believe, and would even be so bold as to say that I 'recognize', that there isn't a reason behind anything...until we give it the meaning that we give it.

Something happens.
We assess the happening and attempt to make meaning out of the occurrence. That's what our brains are designed to do, right? Figure stuff out. "We are meaning-making machines," said someone to me recently.

My mom was sick when I was a kid. I heard her say, on many days, on many shopping trips, "I have to find a bathroom." Over time, I came to tell myself that "no matter what I do, she'll still be sick. It doesn't matter what I do."
Later in life, I moved in with my dad. At the end of the day, right before my dad got home, I would run around the house cleaning-up, afraid that if I didn't, I'd get yelled at. Sometimes, he'd come in to the family room and yell at me. "It doesn't matter what I do, I still get yelled at," I told myself.
My dogs pull on their leashes sometimes. In those rough moments when Kaya is crying, when I'm tired, when she's hungry, and I'm hot from my run, it's easy for me to sink into the belief that, once again, "It doesn't matter what I do. My dogs will still pull." Or even a step further, "I haven't trained them well enough." Or even, "We wasted the money that we spent on training because we didn't practice the skills that we learned. I suck, and clearly don't make the best use of my money."

My mom got sick.
My dad yelled.
My dogs pulled.

I can now see that three things happened. And from those three things, I created a hell of a lot of meaning that led to a number of feelings that affected me AND everyone around me in a variety of ways.

My sister probably made different meaning out of my mom's being sick. I bet my Aunt Sue made even different meaning than either my sister or I did.
I would imagine that my dad's friends, especially those with teenage kids, made much different meaning than I did out of his yelling at me. I know my dad made different meaning, too.
Do my dogs make meaning? That's a topic for a completely different post (maybe even a different blog altogether), but I bet that my friend Lena wouldn't jump to the conclusion that I wasted my money on the dog trainer that we hired.

Here's where that freedom part comes in that I was talking about earlier...

If everybody makes different meaning out of different events, it makes sense then that we have the power to make whatever meaning we want to. Even NONE.
If I want to, I can just recognize that things happen and that's it. That's all. It doesn't have to MEAN anything.

With that understanding, I am now truly free. Truly.
My dad can yell at me, or even disagree with my opinion, and it means nothing about me.
Geoff can think that I'm 'nagging' him, and it doesn't mean that I'm a nag. Or even that I'm nagging at all.
I can speak English with Kaya when I'm upset, and it doesn't have to mean that she will revert to English with me when she's 5. Or when she's mad. Or that she'll even speak German, or English for that matter, when she's 4.

There's no guarantee of anything.
All we have is right now.

Yesterday is memory.
Tomorrow is a projection.
Today is happening. Right now.

I read what I wrote right there and am immediately reminded of MULTIPLE books and authors that I've read, whose concepts I yearned to apply, really apply, to my life...not just to those moments right after I read the book, or right after I got back from my camping trip in the desert, but really to my life and the relationships that I am in RIGHT now. When it's hard.

Again, I won't go anywhere close to the idea that I've "got" it forever. Or that I won't slip up like I have in the past. But I also recognize that I won't go there partly because I'm afraid of what others will think, and of how I might not be able to trust myself, if I'm wrong later...

"Remember, Tamara, when you said that you "got" it, and now you're yelling at your dog and worrying about your kid?!"

I also recognize that part of "getting it" is the realization that it won't be permanent...that life will be hard, and it will be hard to remember, and I will naturally attempt to make meaning because that's what our brains our designed to do. And it's what I've been doing for 36 years (Ok, maybe 33...).

This morning, Kaya was crying through screams at the breakfast table. She was pointing at the cereal I had, indicating to me that she wanted some of what I had, with cries of "du auch, du auch" (you too...[she hears me ask her "du auch?" but doesn't yet understand that "du" is you, and "ich" is I...]). She had a full bowl of yogurt and cereal in front of her, complete with cereal like mine.

I didn't want to give her any more. I wanted her to finish what she had before giving her more.

But my patience was thin. I was feeling fearful of being able to "deal with" more screaming and crying, on top of the whining and begging dogs.

So I gave her more.
And I yelled.

My mind unraveled into a tailspin of doubt and regret. I need more therapy. I thought I was done for a while, but maybe I'm not. I thought I "got" this concept, and now look at me.

I hear my internal dialogue louder than I want to. I try hard to turn it off, but it hides itself behind the whining and crying.

Then she giggles. And smiles. And the voice takes a turn.
I can do this. Look how cute she is?! How can I deal with these ups and downs? That wasn't so bad. I didn't yell that loudly. I can apologize and make a difference. I read it in a book. It's based on brain research. If I apologize, I won't screw her up.

10 days ago, I felt completely trapped by the "voice" inside my head. Are they thinking that I'm schizophrenic or have multiple personalities now that I just said 'voices'? Should I reword that? Now, however, I feel empowered by my ability to recognize that the dialogues are going to come and go, and that I can release myself from its grasp with the help of those who understand.

I feel SO excited about what this new freedom is going to open up for our lives with Kaya, and for Kaya's outlook on the world. I feel so excited about the possibility of empowering our daughter with the same freedom that I've finally found from the entrapments of my personal stories.

And this freedom feels SO amazing...


  1. Yay! Shorty! You didn't even take the time to focus on the fact that you take the time to go on runs and clear your mind, too. You are doing a rockin' job... If you ever need a reminder, just call me and I'll remind you.XOXO

  2. Tam, this is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your new-found freedom with me and the rest of our family.

    Love you!


  3. Wow, what an amazing post! I so admire your thoughtful honesty and the willingness to put yourself out there, the "good" and the "bad" (ha, ha). It takes guts, thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Sara, Jules and Johanna,
    Your comments are so meaningful to me, not only in the words you write, but the fact that I know you are out there, in it along with me!
    Lots of love,

  5. I absolutely love the level of honesty in this writing. It is so rare to find real, true sharing in today's writings because most people are far too scared of being vulnerable and being judged. Big kudos to you for your bravery and openness. Without the honesty this would be an interesting and entertaining piece but would most likely lack the heart and the deep insights that come as a result of being so 'authentic' with the readers.

    Excellent writing,


  6. Brandon,
    I feel the same way about your input that I do about our Group #3. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Actually, in addition to being so appreciative of your comments, AND that you took the time to read my writing, I am impressed at your ability to respond and express yourself. Maybe you have some editing in your future...? =)

  7. You are so amazing in your authenticity that it moves me to relate to my own struggles with IT..the endless internal dialogue that pulls me down into a dead end ..but then something happens , this inspiring reading that leads to the only real certainty of right now..the isolated and still concurrent moment in now...
    I acknowledge your courage within all fears..the courage of exploring this possibiity of transforming,impacting others lives like mine

  8. Thank you for sharing, it's so wonderful to find another mum managing all the anxieties of non-native bilingualism alongside all the ordinary anxieties of parenting!

  9. I'm going to bookmark this for my own reminder. Your courageous honesty means more and goes farther than any books I've read. Thank you for taking the time to share your exciting journey with the rest of us. You are a true inspiration to me!!

  10. Wow, Tamara!

    I totally get your new sense of freedom. And I think its awesome you captured your 'now' so freshly. I wonder what its like for you coming back to read this from where your 'now' is, well, now :) Thanks for sharing!


  11. What a lovely idea for a blog!

    Especially interesting for me as I am also raising my kids "inside" a OPOL (one parent, one language) family.


    Read Aloud Dad

  12. Nice post.

    Just wanted to mention my observation that when Kaya says "du auch" she is exhibiting her own ability to make meaning. In this case she's not revealing a dictionary understanding of the phrase but is instead using it to convey the meaning it has for her RIGHT NOW. It means she wants more cereal, and she associates you saying it to her when you give her some. I LOVE seeing language abilities unfold in kids. They have a fresh approach and can help remind us of all the ways there are to make meaning (or not) of this crazy world.

  13. Thanks, Abigail! I really appreciate your presence here, and especially love hearing what you wrote about making meaning (or not)...I've been living with that awareness more and more lately, and am curious to read more of what your you blog?

  14. I read this originally as interested in language issues (raising a tri and possibly quadrilingual child) but what resonated with me most was the inner dialogues, particularly the "I am crap because I didn't follow through with what I learned from dog trainer and my dogs still pull" I must have told myself that 1000x or more. Thank you for being so honest and reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles.

  15. Thank you, Cordelia, for being open to receiving something that you weren't initially seeking. I really appreciate your feedback and LOVE knowing that I've made a difference out there, esp. with somebody I've never even met face to face!!


I LOVE reading your comments, they make such a difference! Thanks for sharing!