Monday, June 12, 2017

The Adequacy Curse

Good morning.

First things first: Congrats to the Omaha-bound LSU Tiger baseball team. Any errors in this blog, be they grammatical or coherency-related, are the fault of last night's baseball game, which I watched into the wee hours of this morning while typing this up. 

Last week I haphazardly stumbled through a blog about my inability to devise & adhere to a schedule since being released from my duties as a teacher (for the summer, not forever) & the negative impact that has on my life. "My life" entails mine & the children's sleep schedule(s) (or lack thereof, recently), my eating habits, & my mental health, which may have taken the hardest hit. 

Today I want to discuss a specific book quote that's been niggling me for several weeks now. During the month of May the book club read The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. I thoroughly enjoyed the book & recommend it. The boy of the book's title is deceased when the novel opens, & the novel is the story of the young boy's parents grappling with life in the aftermath of his death. It's not as depressing as it sounds. 

The boy was a scout &, prior to his death, spent several Saturdays helping an elderly lady (Ms. Ona) around her house. After the boy's death, his father steps in to fulfill his son's scout duties. As had his son, the father befriends Ms. Ona, who is over a hundred years old & quite the character. The father (Quinn) learns more about his son through Ms. Ona, & gradually begins to better understand the boy with whom he didn't connect well in life. The novel is well written & laced with the right amount of comic relief &, as I mentioned, I highly recommend it. 

I highlighted a lot of lines in the book, but there's one segment that hasn't left my mind since I read it. It's been several weeks now since I read this, & I've read another book in the interim, & so I know this impacted me because it's still sitting there, begging for attention.

During one of their conversations, Ms. Ona & Quinn have this exchange: 

     He said, softly enough that she might not catch it, "I was a rotten father."
     Ona nodded, noncommittal. "There are worse things." 
     "Like what?" He really wanted to know. 
     "Being an adequate mother." She took a swig from her coffee mug. "Rotten fathers are a dime a dozen, who even notices? Whatever kind you were - and I'm sure you weren't as bad as you think - you probably did the best you could, and nobody expects much more out of a man."

Maybe my timing's awful, what with Father's Day approaching, but I don't quote this now to have a debate regarding Ms. Ona's assertion about men & what's expected of them, as fathers or otherwise. The part that jumped off the page for me is the, "There are worse things . . . Being an adequate mother." 

I know. Adequate is an interesting word. It's clear opposite is inadequate. When sidled next to inadequate, adequate seems better, more desirable. Satisfactory is a synonym for adequate, as are sufficient & enough

When I was moaning about social media last week, I thought about this quote from The One-in-a-Million Boy. Another potential social media hole that can easily swallow a mom is the share & compare hole. As I tried to emphasize last week, I am not opposed to the Internet or social media. I share pictures of my kids & I enjoy seeing pictures of other people's kids. I think, were a poll taken, "sharing pictures of children" would top the list of people's favorite type of social media post, likely beating out the following post genres:

-traffic rant 
-political rant
-any post containing grammatical/spelling errors 
-news article with gruesome picture attached 
-sports team update
-reality television show hysterics
-pictures of food 
-pictures of cats 

While I am certain nearly everyone is cool with the precious faces that often decorate social media, the Internet is sometimes a dangerous place for a mother. I discussed a few of the reasons why last week, but today, with this idea of adequacy in mind, I want to say something - or maybe a few things - about scrolling through your feed looking at everyone else's kids & the myriad of activities in which they seem to participate - no, not only participate, but excel. First, check on your own kids. One of the things I'm attempting to do to better our days at home this summer is do my mindless social media scrolling for a few minutes in the morning with my coffee, & then step away for the rest of the day, or at least until the kids are asleep. 

Second, if you can't just laugh & smile & enjoy the pictures, maybe don't look so often. If there is a mom whose every post makes you feel like complete trash about yourself as a mother, consider unfollowing her for a little while, or just cutting back drastically on social media completely. Are there areas in which all moms can improve? Yes, of course. Should I beat myself up because the kids & I have not risen with the sun & picked berries this summer? No. Is it healthy to look at other people's kids & think mainly of their ability to produce insulin? No, no it is not. 

Unless you're engaged in literary analysis, comparing & contrasting is almost always a bad thing. It's unhealthy, it breeds discontentment, & yet, I am certain it is something Satan makes good use of these days because we're all online all the time showing the world all the fabulous things we're doing. If I could redo something in life, I'd go back to graduate school & write a thesis on the ways social media changes, well, everything, but maybe specifically grieving &/or rearing children. I think in both cases - grieving & child-rearing - there is no question but that social media has significantly altered these processes, & I also think in both cases there are pros & cons to the changes ushered in by technology. I think a positive of social media is the community it can potentially provide young mothers who're often isolated at home with small children with whom they cannot have intelligent conversation. The Internet allows you to converse with other mothers who share your struggles & who may have great advice for you, & you can do this while still in your pajamas. There are positives to be sure, but there are potential negatives that, I think, are reason for some moms to take a step back.

Moms, we were all once teenage girls who treated each other miserably at times & fretted constantly about the many ways we perceived we didn't measure up (or the ways we were inadequate). As moms (especially as moms to little girls who're watching), the comparing & contrasting is detrimental. As someone in my thirties I think about the female friends I have & the diversity among that group. We are not all the same size & shape; we are married & we are single; we have five kids & we have two kids & we have no kids; we enjoy a wide variety of activities; we homeschool & we send kids to public schools & private schools. What is eye-opening to me is confronting the fact that I likely would not have been friends with some of these ladies in junior high. In junior high you're mired in the sameness mentality - those who look like me, talk like me, dress like me - , & often in junior high you are horrible to those who're somehow different from you either because you're jealous (even if only on a subconscious level with which you're not in touch) or because you think entirely too much of yourself & treat others contemptuously because they don't measure up to you, & obviously you're THE standard. Maybe next week we'll talk about why I teach seniors & not eighth graders, eh? 

Diversity is not usually encouraged or celebrated among junior high girls; conformity & uniformity are expected & encouraged, sometimes in harsh ways. Teach your kids that this is ridiculous by not worrying about where your Facebook friends went on vacation, what new car they bought, what new dress they have, what fabulous birthday party they attended, what invite they received that you did not. Very little is a secret these days because everything is plastered online, so the best course of action is to demonstrate, by your example, contentment with your own station in life. Be happy for others & content with yourself & what you have. Teaching them this, ladies, is mothering far & above the adequate threshold. 

Adequate is not a word a mother wants used to describe her, & yet, some days it is hard to meet the adequate benchmark. It is. It is hard to get in bed every night & say, honestly, "What I did today was sufficient to meet their needs - all their needs." Compound that with the fact that women generally desire to be far more than adequate at, well, everything; therein perhaps lies the problem. Sometimes you have to choose your adequacy battles (don't let Facebook choose them for you).  

Saturday I needed to get some work done pertaining to my graduate course; absolutely none of it got done. I spent three or four hours at the park with Trey & the kids & some great people from church because it was Family Fun Day. I was an inadequate student Saturday; I was not an inadequate mom/church member Saturday. I am not going to take the time to upload Family Fun Day pictures at this moment because I'm ready to get off the computer; I am, arguably, an inadequate blogger on this  humid Monday, but I can live with that. 

I am, 

inadequately yours, 


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