Monday, May 14, 2012


Shame. It fills you. Eats you. Sucks the life force out of you. Leaves you wallowing in so much disgust and self loathing you are powerless to break free. I rarely talk in 'you' terms, but that's how you know how hard this is for me.

I feel so much shame right now. All this traveling and transition has stirred a lot of dirt from the bottom of my pot. Ugly dirt. Dirt I never had the courage to acknowledge. But now it has been rubbed in my face and the consequences of not looking at it are worse than the fear.

My six year old son is hurting. He is in an unstable, insecure environment. He doesn't have his father around. His mother is struggling hard to keep it together. So he's doing what he does best. He's acting out. Really acting out. Throwing the kind of fits you can't walk away from, because he follows you from room to room. Yelling. Poking. Kicking. Throwing. Threatening. Saying the things he knows will hurt me most. And he does this because he knows what will happen. If I can't walk away, I can't compose myself, step back, breathe. I can't control myself. He knows this. He knows my breaking point. I can't even lock myself in a room because there are no locks on the doors here. He knows this. And so he pushes and pushes until I break. And when I do, he can finally relax.

I'm not the bad one, he can now say. She is.

Yes. I am. In those moments, I am the bad one. The out of control one. The child. I am the one deserving of all the punishment he's been giving me. So it all works out.

It is a sick, terrible cycle. It is a cycle that can only be broken with a slow and massive effort. It can only be broken with a force of love so strong it breaks us both.

So here comes my shame.
Do I love him enough? A parent is not supposed to ask this question. I am supposed to love my child so fiercely. I am supposed to see in him what no one else sees. When the world judges him, I am supposed to stand up and say, no, you just don't know him like I do.

And yet, the words that come to mind are, if you only knew...

As a young teenager I remember my mother and sisters talking about motherhood. They were discussing how inherently maternal they all were. 'But not Tovah. She's just not the mommy type.'

This little comment, forgotten by all present, except me, planted a deep seed of doubt. Is it true? Am I not going to be a good mother? Should I not have kids? Is there something about me that me makes me incapable of that kind of love?

Years later, I am the first one in the family to get married. I am the youngest of three sisters. I am the first to have children. And I have three. They tell me what a great job I'm doing. They tell me that they now look up to me. They even ask me parenting advice from time to time. But underneath it all is a doubt that I am the real deal. That I'm actually capable of doing any of this. That it's not all just a show, and no one has peeked behind my curtain yet and revealed me for the fraud I am.

I can wave the fact that I'm disorganized. Plenty of 'real' mothers are. And sure, I kind of suck as a housekeeper. But I mean, we can't all get our thrills from the perfect platter and ironed sheets. And I'm not even formally educated. But really, educated mothers are fairly recent in the history of mankind.

But the one thing I am supposed to be able to boast, as all mothers before me, is how much I love my children. And yet I find myself constantly wishing he were just a little different. A little less... Him. And the good things about him are so amazing. I do see that. His stubbornness is such a strong show of his perseverance. His enthusiasm is infectious. His inner glow, is brighter than any child I have ever seen.

And yet. I keep trying to change him. I don't trust him to turn out ok. I feel like if I don't intervene at every possible opportunity, he will become unlikable. That's so awful. First, why do I care who likes him? And second, even if no one else does, I should. And often I do. But sometimes I don't. And lately that sometimes is happening more frequently than the often. And that is not ok.

So here's where I try to take positive action through perspective. If I can't accept him for who he is, chances are I'm not accepting myself. And the more self acceptance I can embrace, the more I can let him be him, and embrace the fullnes of who he is. And chances are, if I can accept myself, he'll have a much easier time accepting himself. And the more I accept him for who he is, the more I will be able to appreciate and love all that makes him, him.

And my first step towards self acceptance is airing my shame. Not many things exist in a vacuum. Shame thrives on it. So I am stepping out. Reaching out to you, my readers. Not looking for your acceptance, just your presence. Be a witness to my shame and help me transform it into a chance to experience humility, growth, and a place of connection to any who have ever experienced anything similar. Many times I have experienced the pain of feeling I am not enough. Not beautiful enough. Sexy enough. Smart enough. Experienced enough. Wise enough. Funny enough. Talented enough. Calm enough. Patient enough. It goes on. But never has the pain been so acute as to when I feel I can't love enough.

This weekend I turned thirty. I'm ready to enter this fourth decade as a time of acceptance. I am what I am and what that is, is forever changing. I await with a broken, and therefore open, heart.

1. Breathing
2. Reflection
3. The hospitality of family (so amazing!)
4. The sun rising again tomorrow.
5. The yellow lillies on the table
6. My daughter's accident free day
7. A forum to share myself


  1. oh honey, this breaks my heart. because i've been there. i know this so well i am crying as i read it, crying that you're suffering through it now.
    don't doubt yourself, just feel it.
    i love you tremendously.

  2. If you can, and if he'll let you, when you both reach the boiling point, HUG HIM and let him hug you! Cry together, laugh together, suffer through it all, and meet on the other side with a smile. Sometimes we just have to stop-everything.
    You are all under a lot of pressure and change...try and see it as a time to grow closer. I want you to know that your love and caring is apparent and strong. Look at your children and find the peace you are searching is right there in each of them.
    Remember too, if you need to talk (even though we are not close) I can always listen (or read). Us Mamas have to stick together. Rochel G. <3

  3. I have been there with my first born. My shame makes me not even want to write about it here. I feel like it's a secret that I hope she never finds out. I try to forget those times ever happened and focus on the love and pleasant side of things. Our relationship has improved a lot as she's gotten older, so I have the option to "not look back". But we still get into unhealthy cycles and she sure knows how to push my buttons. I'm afraid of when she's a teenager. You are not alone. I love you and him too, even though I don't know him well I can see his glow :) I love the idea of positive action through perspective. I hope you get some sleep. And in a year, B"H, you'll feel settled and you'll almost forget about this in-between challenging time.

  4. I am in awe with your honesty time and time again! Its so welcomed but all of us moms out here! Tovah...your a wonderful, beautiful, sexy, capable, wise, giving etc etc etc women! Your a fabulous mom, and nothing can take that away not even the moments were you just cant like your kids! Your not alone! ....were here for you tovah! I know your too far to simply drop your son off at a playdate...or meet us up for a cup (or bottle) of wine...but were here listening and sharing your pain! From what I have learned...its time that heals, its time that gives us the chance to move on. Just know you have lots of fans out here cheering you on and sending you virtual hugs and positive vibes! Hang on hun! XOXOXOXOX

  5. Your son is so lucky to have such a courageous momma who is willing to examine herself and face the parts that feel ugly, bad and wrong. Your courage continues to inspire me and I have no doubt that it effects him as well!

  6. Perfection is an imperfection because it lacks process.Welcome to being human. Did you think you were so unique? There is no shame in it, it is the only path to humility. to realize we are not as exceptional as we think we are. We are all just doing our best with what we have in each moment, just like that woman at the county fair smacking her obese 3 year old for spilling her orange soda. Does she not love her child enough? Would she kill or die for her child without hesitation? Yes. She would. We live, we learn, we fly, we fall, we get up again, and the air smells deliciously sweet.

  7. Hold on Tovah - it will get better. Until then, I can only say that I am continuously in awe of you, your family, your journey and your honesty. The fact that you are able to compile a list of things to be grateful at the end of a (really!) hard day is not only praiseworthy, but admirable and exemplary for the rest of us.
    Sending oodles of love, acceptance, and of coarse, encouragement - keep on going!