Becoming a Better Mother

Motherhood wins are so few and far between. Everyday is a battle, hard fought, and sometimes lost. Some days are superhuman with a home cooked dinner and laundry folded and put away. Some days are a loss when the kids stay in their pajamas all day and dinner is cereal, Cheez its, and anything else packaged in the pantry.

I think my favorite thing about motherhood is that it is always changing. Every day is different when you are a mom. One day is everything you ever dreamed about, perfect kids, in clean clothes, who eat their dinners without protest. Then the next day, no one gets out of their pajamas, the only thing they will eat is Cheetos, and you realize you haven’t showered in days. Motherhood forces us to change and adapt. Motherhood forces us to put our best foot forward even when we don’t want to, even when it feels like we can’t. Motherhood allows for do overs every single day as soon as the sun comes up. The best part, because of the dynamics of motherhood, it forces us to evolve.

I’m evolving as a mother. I’m becoming a better mother, the kind of mother I always knew I could be.

A week has passed since Caitlin had dance tryouts. Last year we missed the tryout day, so all we had to do was show up to a couple of technique classes to see where she fell based on her skill level. Then she was placed on a competition team. It was easy and painless. This year, since she wanted to try out for multiple competition teams, we went to an actual audition put on by the dance studio. She was excited and understandably nervous. I told her it would be just like any other class, and to do her best. I also took the chance to explain to her that while her tap skills were at the same level as the other girls in her age group, her jazz and contemporary dance skills were not. I didn’t say this to be discouraging, I said this so that she would be prepared when she got there. She understood, she hasn’t been taking jazz or contemporary as long as the other girls, so far she has just been focused on tap.

The audition didn't last as long as it was scheduled. After auditions we found out that there would not be a competitive tap group for her age this year. We were both disappointed, understandably so, since Caitlin loves tap and is very good at it. Caitlin started to cry, and we talked a little, she said she was sad and a little mad. Her friends that were also at the audition, offered her hugs and kind words, and she dried her tears a little as we packed up to go home. I thought we were in the clear, just a little disappointment and a little sadness and minimal tears.

I was wrong.

Once we got home and Dad asked about auditions, the tears started to flow.

“Mom it was awful. I was horrible”, were her exact words.

And my helpless heart broke. Shattered really.

Caitlin told me how the jazz combo they learned was really hard and the music it was set to was really fast. She told me that she was the worst in the group and she was so embarrassed. As we talked, I reminded her that all the other girls in her age group have been taking jazz for close to five years. Caitlin took jazz twice for a total of about twelve weeks. I reminded her that tap was where she was strong, and it was unfortunate that they were not doing tap for her age group this year. She told me it was unfair, and I agreed, remembering all those times I tried out for things and didn’t make them. Caitlin kept insisting that she wasn’t going to be on any competition teams this year, and the tears continued to flow. I did my best to reassure her and offer her comfort. Then I remembered that I had been here before. I had personal experience in disappointment.

When I was twelve and thirteen I tried out for cheer. Both times I didn't make it.

I had a story to tell. I had a way to identify with my child in a way no other could. Yes. This was a moment.

I told my daughter the story of trying out for two different cheer squads and being very disappointed when I didn’t make either of them. I told her that I had dreamed of the uniforms and the cool “letterman” jacket and the pom poms. I told her about how I had my heart set on being one of the popular girls in Junior High, hanging out with the cool kids after the games, getting to wear the uniforms on Fridays. I told her I knew exactly how it felt to be in a situation when you feel like the worst, the most unprepared. I told her that I completely understood what it felt like to be embarrassed.

It sucked, for lack of a better term. No mom wants to sit there and listen to their kid think they are the worst, or that they are embarrassed. As hard as I tried, I realized that I couldn’t make her feel any better. Nothing I could say would change the way she felt about herself in this situation. What could I do to make her feel better, to take away the pain and disappointment? Suddenly my wheels were turning, there were four girls in Caitlin’s age group interested in competitive tap this year. Four wasn’t big enough for a group, but then I remembered that there were a few girls missing from tryouts. Where were they? Vacation, sick, not trying out this year? I grabbed my phone and in a moment of weakness and despair, I was ready to text the mom’s that weren’t at the auditions and see if they were interested in tap. Three more girls would make an acceptable competitive tap team. In minutes I could save the day and make everything better.

I didn’t make everything better. I didn't swoop in like a superhero and save the day. 

I stopped myself, because I realized, just as I was searching for the mothers in Facebook messenger, that I’m not always going to be able to save the day. As Caitlin gets older, I’m not going to be able to swoop in and compile a tap team, help her make a cheer squad, force the cute boy in English class to like her back. This dance audition was the first in a what may be a long line of life disappointments. I know, that sucks to type, sucks to realize. But that's life. And I don't remember all my disappointments as a kid, but I remember the ones that stung. Sometimes things sting. It's best that she learns that now. As her mother, I will always want to make it better, I will always want to fix heartbreaking and disappointing situations. That doesn’t mean I should. It doesn’t mean that I will always have that kind of power. As much as I wanted to make it all better, as much as I wanted to fix it and make all her competitive dance dreams come true. I didn’t. I stopped myself, and instead gave her the best advice I could.

Instead I explained the saying, “Everything happens for a reason”. Super cliche I know, but now that I’m a lot older, and perhaps a lot wiser, I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. I explained that maybe she wasn’t going to be on a competitive team this year so that she would have more time to participate in a school sport. Maybe by skipping all the hours at the dance studio, it would open up time to do other things, maybe she could join a swim club, or I could sign her up for an art class. I tried my best to explain that when things we really want don’t work out, it’s not the end of the world, even though it feels like it. Then I added for good measure, “And I know that none of this makes any sense”. Because it doesn’t when you are nine, or thirteen, or even 38 and you still haven’t made much of a career in writing.

Off track. I realize.

I remember when my mom gave me the “Everything happens for a reason” speech. It was the first time I tried out for cheer and didn’t make it. I remember I was so excited and so convinced that I was going to make that squad. I also remember being so disappointed that I cried the rest of the afternoon. She gave me the speech again when I tried out for the second squad, when that one boy in Junior High didn’t like me back, then again in High School, and then again in college. My mom has been giving me the “Everything happens for a reason” speech forever, and then somewhere around adulthood, it's meaning finally clicked.

In the end, I don’t think that Caitlin fully understands the reasons why not making a competitive dance team may not be the worst thing ever. I didn’t at her age. The speech didn’t make her feel any better about her audition. It didn’t make her feel any better about not being about to compete this year. It took her mind off of her current disappointment and heartache as I was able to share my own. It allowed me to be the kind of mother I have always hoped I’d be. The kind with sage advice and a kind word. The kind of mother that didn’t drag her own shit and anxieties into the conversations. I was the kind of mother that I had, the one who would appear to have her mothering shit together. Finally.

We are still waiting to hear if Caitlin has made any of the competitive dance teams for the upcoming year. All's not lost, we are taking all available classes over the summer, filling our days with jazz, ballet, tap, and pep. She will be on a competitive pep team in the fall, and I’m sure if that is all we do, it will be plenty. I hope that one day she can see that too. I hope that this is the first in many lessons in disappointment and heartache that we can work through, together, and that I will always be able to keep a level head and not “fix” it. Even though I will always want to fix it.

No matter how simple motherhood seems on the surface, it gets dark and messy pretty quick. There was a time when I thought the baby and toddler years were going to be the death of me. This tween stuff is just prepping me for the real life of teenagers. My girls will always be met with challenges, some of them they will win, some of them they will lose. I hope that I’m always prepared to help them through the challenges that life brings. And if not, I’ll do what I did that day after auditions; take them to Target to buy clothes and ice cream. I’m not even joking. It’s what we did. Mother-Daughter bonding at it’s finest. It’s the best thing I could teach them as a mother: Target and ice cream can fix everything...

And that’s how I know, I’m becoming a better mother.

I shouldn't blog about this.

I couldn't come back to this blog and write a bunch of fluff after the events of last Thursday. We are all adults here and my hope is that you can read this, understand a little more about me and move on. I'm not here to debate, I'm just here to write about the things I cannot stop thinking about. Since it's my blog, I get to do that. Since you are a reader, you can just close shop now, you can keep scrolling, you can just forget this post ever existed. As a warning, I will tell you that I'm a Mexican American (half Mexican half white) and a registered Democrat. I'm pro-choice and I voted for Obama. Twice. If that makes you sick or compels you to throw your phone, go a head and close this window. I'd rather us stay friends and keep scrolling and like the pictures of our kids and weekly Starbucks drinks. Thank you. I respect you and your beliefs and feelings too, because I will scroll and keep my mouth shut as well. XOXO-Megs

Let's talk about the things we aren't supposed to talk about.
Politics and race.
I'm just going to write this. I'm going to tell you all how I feel, and I hope we can just be respectful and say, wow, that Megan she sure does have opinions and since I don't agree I'll just keep scrolling. Here is your out. Here is your warning. Here is your spoiler alert.
I'm a democrat. I'm going to write like a democrat. I'm going to tell you how I feel as a half white half Mexican almost 40 year old female and registered Democrat.
And I want you to decide if you want to pass go and hear me out, respectfully. Or if you just want to scroll.
Go. Scroll. I'm fine.
Still here? Thank you. Also I have no fear that this post will go viral because I’m not that talented or cool, and this is hot button issue stuff, but hot button issue people don’t read my blog, so… Here goes everything that’s been on my mind for an entire week.
Do you remember that scene in The Breakfast Club where the popular kids find the nerdy guys fake ID? And they all make fun of him when he tells them that he has it so he can vote? It's my favorite scene in that movie because I was that kid. I've been wanting to vote since the 1988 election. Bush v Dukakis. I watched the DNC on my little 13 inch tv in my bedroom. I'm not even joking. The year I turned 18 the presidential primary in California fell on my birthday. I begged my government teacher to find a loophole so I could register as a voter before turning 18 so I could vote on primary day. No such loophole in case you are wondering. I voted for the first time in 1996, casting my vote for Bill Clinton, so late in the day in fact, that NBC called the election in his favor before I even got home from my polling place.
Why am I mentioning this?
Why does this matter?
It matters because I found myself googling: "What happens if no one votes in a presidential election?" Thursday night. Because picking a president seems impossible right now. I feel like no one is the better choice, and the political climate right now is flammable. And maybe not voting at all, as a country would be the best option.
I know. It's radical. It's almost off the charts, conspiracy theory, Bernie Sanders free college level crazy. But think about it. What is our greatest freedom in this country? Our right to vote. How to we rebel against the age old political machine we think is archaic and out of date? Stay home. Don't vote. I can't believe I'm even saying it. Still, on Thursday night, when the world felt like it was on fire, and there were no coherent statements from either side, or even from our current sitting president, what are our options come November?
I’m also bringing this up because  I can't in good conscious pick a candidate.
I'm sure you are thinking that the obvious choice for me, the Democrat in this situation would be Hillary Clinton.
For the most part you'd be right. She is the candidate that my party has chosen for the general election. She is a woman, a working mother, a working grandmother. In the 90s while her husband was president, she was criticized for her unwillingness to stay in the standard First Lady role. Instead she fully immersed herself into her Husband’s politics and committees, even devoting herself to establishing nationalized health care for the United States. Which failed, as we all know.
Clinton should be my choice. When she received the nomination it was on the very anniversary of women's suffrage. Ninety seven years to the day that women won the right to vote, a woman was selected in the primaries to represent the Democratic Party in the general election. There is something poetic and just about that. All those women almost 100 years ago, marching and losing their husbands and children, even their lives,  all for the sake of securing their right to vote, their right to have a voice. On the very day that they won that right a woman is standing on the cusp of being voted into the highest office possible. The privilege is not lost on me. Even my grandfather, in his eighty five years, took my hand just a few days after Clinton’s historical nomination and said, "Isn't that fantastic? A woman? She really did it. She worked hard and did it". I don't think I could have grown up in a family led by this man, and not understand the power of this moment. My grandfather has always been the first to tell me I could do anything. I could be anything. I could be just as good as any man. So how can I not cast my vote for her?
Honestly. I don't trust her. It's not just Benghazi, although that's part of it. It's also the fact that she has always seemed like a, "By any means necessary" kind of woman. Even when her husband was in office. She has met any scandal head on, and somehow always came out “clean” on the other side. Once during a late night debate between me and my husband I looked up The Clinton Foundation... Don't do it. Because it's a very gray area with very little real info. And it may make your stomach turn. As November approaches I find myself so torn, because on the outside it seems very simple, but the more I read, the more I see, the more complicated it gets. There is just something that bugs me about her.
That leaves Donald Trump, and that is just not possible for me.
I tried. Believe it or not I tried to be open minded. Let me remind you that I live with a staunch Republican. Let me remind you that every single time we vote we cancel each other out. Let me remind you that we have stayed up until 2 in the morning fighting about politics, the right to choose, the second amendment, and president Obama. Not on the same night but on multiple nights. When I tell you that I tried to open my mind to Trump, I really did try. I did some research. I read articles and even visited his website. Yes, I gave that man some serious pageviews. I made it through a few Fox News reports, which is saying something because I do not Fox News.Ever. In the beginning it wasn't scary. He had pieced together a platform that wasn't radical in any way. Sure his rallies were getting out of control, but could I trust the media to really get the story right? Was the media biased and spinning his rallies out of control?
Then he started talking about the “wall”. He started encouraging violence at his rallies. He started to talk and when he opened his mouth it sounded like racism. The more he talked the more I started to close myself off to him. Then he stated in an interview that the judge handling his Trump university case could not make an unbiased ruling, could not conduct his job in a fair and just manner because, "he is a Mexican and I'm building a wall". Trust me. I watched the video multiple times because I just couldn't believe it.
I have a problem with this because I'm a Mexican. My father is a Mexican American with English as his second language, although you'd never know. My grandparents are Mexican Americans, who speak accented English, and use a Spanish English hybrid most times. I grew up in the care of my grandma, while my parents worked full time. I went to a predominantly Hispanic elementary school. To look at me you may not realize that I'm of mixed race. My new surname is Crutchfield, no longer Hernandez. I don't speak a bit of Spanish unless you count the bad words and a few body parts or the way I say “carne asada” or “tortilla”. Still, I have roots. I have family members who have been called "wetback", "lazy", "dirty", and worse. I have family members who have been discriminated against when it comes to jobs. Even discriminated against because of relationships.

Remember my awesome feminist grandpa I talked about a few paragraphs ago? Well that grandpa is my mother’s father, and represents the other 50%of my race. He's also the same man that refused to attend my parents wedding because she was in fact, "Marrying a Mexican". It was 1974, it was California, and it is part of my personal history. Today my grandpa is my grandpa. He loves my dad and has for most of my parents marriage. He warmed to the idea quickly according to my mom. My grandpa has loved me all of my 39 years and has never once said a derogatory thing about me or my father. It's ancient history for my family, but it reminds me that there was a time that not everyone, including people I love, were as accepting.
Hearing about bias against any race sends me into a tailspin. That is why I cannot in good conscious support Trump either. By talking about people not being able to do their jobs or make unbiased judgements based on their race, plants the seed. It plants the seeds that people, humans, cannot see past their own color, their own race. I firmly believe that we all carry our histories with us. I know that there is discrimination in my family history. Just like other races do as well. This isn't about forgetting your history, this is about advancing because of it. If we allow a man to make sweeping statements about race when it comes to abilities and beliefs, how long will it take before it becomes personal? How long before the seed is planted and grows into something more? How long before my child is looked at and doubted because she is brown?
Because my child is brown. My beautiful, intelligent, creative, nine year old is brown. Just like my dad and his mother, my grandma. She is always going to be brown, and never before have I feared that she would be discriminated against because of it. Today, right now, in this political climate, I'm reevaluating that. If a presidential candidate starts questioning abilities based on nationalities, cultures, and let's be honest, possibly on color, how long before that comes back and effects me? How long before it effects my child?
All of this brings me to last Thursday. A bloody and horrific day for America. There are two sides to every story, and so I will say that I grieve for both sides. I know that there are videos and eyewitness accounts and I watched the news early into Friday morning, crying at the helplessness and brutality of all of it. I can agree that black lives matter and also say that blue lives matter too. I can think that there were horrific and tragic outcomes in Baton Rouge and Minnesota, and also say the same for Dallas. Just because I support law enforcement doesn't mean that i believe they are immune to things like racism and hate. No more than any other movement in this country. I think that there is still a racial divide in this country, and still believe that law enforcement should be respected at all times, obeyed at all times, and able to do their jobs the way they were trained. Supporting ideas and trends that have to do with socio economics and race, being a registered Democrat, while still supporting the police state, does not make me less of an American. It does not signal traitor or treason.
So why does it feel that way?
There was so much hate and vitriol Thursday. The feeling that we had to take sides. By the looks of my Facebook feed my own friends and family stand about 50/50. Divided. Right down the middle. I feel like we, America, is on fire and there is no water, just wind fanning the flames. I feel like this is the test, this is the chance to make a difference or fail miserably as a county. But how do we do that? It feels like the divided states of America. Nothing about us is united right now.
Everything feels like a live wire. This post? I may lose friends and followers. Why because of my political association? Because I feel like racism has never felt as heavy to me as it does right now? Because I feel like there is real lack of respect for law enforcement? I can feel both you know. Not all officers are bad, not all people are racists, not all humans have hate in their hearts. We can empathize with all. It's what separates us from animals. Feelings, emotion, love, logic. Humans can do this and should, but we don't always and we find ourselves here.
I wrote this long and probably boring post because I'm worried. I'm worried about my country. I'm worried about my friends. I'm worried about people I don't even know. I'm concerned because for the first time in my life none of my beliefs make sense. I find myself questioning all my beliefs, all of my codes, all of my reasons. I find that I don't completely agree with one political party or another. I no longer agree with some policies that I was so adamant ten years ago. I question long standing political and social beliefs that I've held. It's scary. It's isolating. Yet somehow it feels like the new Normal.