Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Awkward Mom vs. Complaining

"The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects." Wow, Lord Jeffery. You must have been a hit at parties.

Well, workshopping my story went as I figured it would. There were tons of lovely comments about my great description, my funny tone, and my young-mother insight. The criticisms were mostly what I had expected. "Too long," takes no one by surprise, does it? "I don't really think you need all this superhero stuff, it's confusing," doesn't worry me, as the story I took wasn't very superpower heavy and I have decided that you really have to regularly read my blog to understand the whole Awkward Mom component. It doesn't read well out of it's element. This affects most comic characters, unless you happen to be Batman; he kinda fits in everywhere. Comments about my grotesquely excessive semi-colon use; totally expected that. What surprised me was this one; "So, you are complaining on and on about being hassled as a mom and the story doesn't really go anywhere." Now, that is true. The story doesn't really go anywhere; Plot and I are old writing foes. But was I complaining? Do I complain? Do I complain about being a mom? That one stopped me cold and, I think, warrants it's own blog post.

We all have phrases that run through out heads; little nuggets of wisdom gleaned from a childhood steeped in platitudes and pithy sayings. These run through my head with some regularity, guiding my daily actions. They are always in my mother's voice:

"If you are sick, drink a ton of fluids."
"Put on a coat!"
"It's just dirt. It'll wash off."
"Personality is much more important than looks, but sometimes it takes boys longer to figure that out."
"Get the big bowl, I'm making clam dip."
"Failure isn't the end of the world."
"No one likes a complainer."

Stoicism, in general, runs in my family. My mom always says that "the Awkwards hug with their hands in their pockets." This leads to incredibly hilarious ends when Awkward Dad (who was not raised in a stoic family) hugs family members upon greeting, leaving, and often several times within.  Other than awkward arm-less hugs, stoicism has many fun side effects, the main one being a utter and total fear of being outed as a complainer. In my mind, complainers are selfish and negative people who always ruin the party with long, depressing stories about their imagined ills. Now, expressing one's feelings or related a story which isn't all sunshine and roses are not necessarily complaining. If I am ever confused about whether or not I am complaining, I usually refer to the 3 Ls; length, legitimacy, and levity. I always thought that I was completely within this L window, especially when discussing my children. And especially especially here on Awkward Mom. Now I am not so sure.

You all know about my lack of interest in reading parenting books. Some of this stems from the Pollyannaness of many of these books. "Here, stick to my perfect parenting policies (available for $19.99), and your parenthood will be popular, poised, and perfect!" Phew. Life, especially parenting life, isn't all sunshine and roses, and to treat it as such reduces the actual sunshine and roses parts flat and boring. The valleys are necessary to appreciate the peaks. Looking at the bright side all the time burns your retinas and blinds you, making it impossible to see your way out when things actually do get bad.

Hence, Pollyanna, while a sweet girl, was wrong. However, that is no reason to turn her into Wednesday Addams. Constantly dwelling on the negative side of life only works for a few months in one's teens while going through a goth phase. Other than that, all it does is make one's life depressing and predictable. Sure, it is reassuring to always expect the worst to happen and be pleased when it actually doesn't, but a negative outlook reduces one's expectation of self as well, allowing a lazy and defeatist attitude to set up shop. Lazy, defeatist attitudes are notoriously difficult to evict and may cause one to waste precious years (usually one's 20s and 30s) in misconceptions that one's actions don't matter and there is no point to anything. Nietzsche quoting may make you popular in college but it is no way to really live a life.

Neither Pollyanna not Wednesday is gonna be fun to be around, and I wanna be fun to be around. Therefore, I seek a balance between the two; in my relationships, my actions, and my writing. It frightens me a little that my writing could be perceived as complainy. Not because there aren't things about parenting worth complaining about, but because that is never my intention here. My intention is to relay the funny sides of parenting, thus revealing the inherent joy in messy, regular parenting. It is joyous at the same time as it is painful; a catharsis of sorts. In telling you all of my painfully awkward forays into parenting, I come to understand the secret strengths and lessons hidden within.

But tragedy is much easier to play than comedy, even if all I am doing is ostensibly comedy. Confusing, I know, but I'll explain. Basically, it is pretty easy to see the funny in the outrageous encounters I have with Perfect Mom or the exhausting treks across the museum or the tripping mess I turn into at the doctor's office. It is less easy to me to relate to you the 1, 463, 300 beautiful parenting experiences that I am blessed to witness and participate in each and every day without sounding like a Hallmark card. I am a little embarrassed to tell you how impressed I am with Super Preschooler's wit and maturity. How much I love listening to Super Toddler talk. How I could seriously watch Super Baby walk for hours. Just walk. I am desperately in love with my children. But most of us shy away from these public expressions of pure, unadulterated joy. They seem too mushy, too sentimental, too much. Much much too exposed. Especially for someone who was raised to hug with her hands firmly in her pockets. Laughing at my failures as a mother is a lot easier than sharing my successes. Or maybe I am just as afraid of bragging as I am of complaining and have overcompensated in some strange ways.

Whatever the reason, someone reading my work found it complainy. Perhaps that post even was. That's OK. Stoic I may be, but perfect, I am not. I am gonna complain sometimes. Of course, I am also gonna gush sometimes too. Pollyanna and Wednesday Addams are both welcome at my parties and in my posts. I have a feeling that getting those two together might result in some legendary catharsis, and even if it doesn't, it is gonna be fun to watch them fight.

"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes." Thanks, John Wooden. Come party with me, Polly, and Wednesday. We'll even let you bring Lord Jeffery if you don't think he'll eat all the clam dip.

In keeping with being cool with gushing, just watch Super Baby walk. 
Seriously, I could watch this for hours. How does she make something so basic, so adorable? 
Magic, that must be it. 


  1. Love your 3 L's re: complaining!! I totally agree (and agree that you are within your L frame, completely!) I grew up in a family of huggers, but with a definite stoic, suck-it-up and move on kind of vibe (mainly from my Mom's family, including my maternal grandmother, who lived with us.) I would be really taken aback if someone thought I was the complainy (probably not a word) type as well.

    P.S. Lucy has to be one of the cutest baby walkers that I have ever seen, by the way. Watch on.

    1. I keep watching it, I hope that isn't too creepy. :)

      Those stoic families; they'll get ya every time.... Thanks for the read and confirming my 3 L frame!

  2. Omg, omg! So cute! I am bouncing up and down with the cuteness. How do you get anything done around the house when there's walking to be watched???

    I don't think you're complainy at all. Maybe the person meant it in a different sense than we're taking it. Like how doctors call all of your symptoms "complaints," even if you used a very matter-of-fact tone and no histrionics. Writing about things that went wrong isn't necessarily the same as "whining."

    I know exactly what you mean about tragedy being easier to write, and I think JRR Tolkien said it best:
    “Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling anyway.”
    So it is with motherhood and blogging! Although I think we can substitute "awkward" for "palpitating" and "embarrassing" for "gruesome."

    1. It is super hard to get anything done, it's true!

      I think you are right; I don't think the person meant it in any negative way, just a comment about the writing. He was dead on about the plot though....or lack there of. :)

      I am not sure; a lot of parenting is pretty gruesome...the quote might work as is. :)

  3. Ooh, I could really relate to this one. I've been working on a post about motherhood that may sound complainy, and I wonder if it might be offensive to people who are in more difficult situations than I am, but it's MY experience of motherhood right now, so I've decided to just go with it.

    As for bragging, I think about that too, especially in the public blogging world. When I was growing up, my mom's rule was that we could only brag to our grandparents, but now that I'm the mom, sometimes I just want to express how cool I think my kids are. I'm not sure what's the right balance.

    I certainly don't think you are complainy OR braggy. I think you're in-the-moment and you're honest. You said it best when you wrote, "In telling you all of my painfully awkward forays into parenting, I come to understand the secret strengths and lessons hidden within." I think that's what you do so beautifully.

    1. Thanks!! I am glad that I am not complainy or braggy; right down the middle is where I am most comfortable in most things. :)

      I have a feeling that your potential post is not complainy at all, if your other writing is anything to go on. And I am glad you are going with it!

  4. Oooo I like you! even with all the semi colons. I tried to teach my boys about semi colons two weeks ago... yeah, it still doesn't make sense; but they sure are fun punctuations to work with. :)

    ps. found you on top mommy blogs.... nice to meet you.

    1. Hi Leah! Nice to "meet" you. I am amazed that you are teaching your boys semi-colons! Ambitious! And yes; they are super fun. :)