Adam’s Gate

So I quit Whole 30, and I am here admitting it, even though it makes me sound like a giant failure and I feel a lot like a giant failure!

But first, let me tell you about this other thing, and maybe make you understand.

Every morning I drive Eli to Kindergarten. We park on the street, and we walk in together. Most of the kids get dropped off in front, but parents are encouraged to walk kindergartners all the way into the classroom, and I’m fine with it, so that’s what we do.  The kindergartners are in a special section of the school all by themselves, they have their own playground, even, and there’s a little gate called the Kindergarten gate where for 20 or 30 or 40 years, the kindergartners have lined up to be let in and out.

Except not anymore. No more kindergarten gate.

After Adam Lanza opened fire on a classroom full of first graders, Eli’s school called a special safety meeting and they decided that because no one could stand there and monitor the kindergarten gate, it would be closed at drop off from now on, and so we have to walk all the way down the block, past the special gate, into the cafeteria, and then all the way back through the inside of the school to his classroom.

I am not complaining about this, mind you.  It takes an extra five minutes or so, and we leave five minutes earlier and it’s a longer walk in cold weather, but parents lost their babies. An extra five minutes walk is fine, in the face of that. It’s nothing, obviously, in the face of that.

But the thing that has happened is that now, for me, that gate will always inextricably be linked in my mind with Adam Lanza.  That gate is closed because of one reason and one reason only, because of him.  And although I of course do not believe that we should erect monuments to murderers or pay tribute to anyone who has done such a horrible thing, this was not something I planned. It was just something that got stuck, and now every time I walk by that gate, there it is. The gate that is closed because of Adam Lanza. Adam’s Gate.

When Eli first returned to school after the morning after, it was hard. Even though it was not about me, even though my stress at leaving my child is nothing compared to my child being gunned down in school, it’s still hard to send your child into a classroom after your eyes have been opened, after you have realized that gates or no gates, if someone is willing to trade their life for your own, or that of your child, there’s nothing much you can do.  You just have to trust in god and fate and the odds.  It’s a shitty shitty feeling, really realizing for the first time how little you control when it comes to the life of your child. And for those first few days, it felt so strongly as though there was just absolutely nothing we could do. Nothing.

But the truth is, as I have come to realize, as I am reminded every morning by Adam’s Gate, there’s not nothing we can do.  Because the truth is that as much as I would never ever ever ever condone or understand or explain away murdering children in cold blood, I will admit to you with a deep breath and a leap of faith in my safe place here on the internet, there’s always been a dark place in me that understood. Not so much with Newtown, but with Columbine, yes. I would never condone violence or murder or guns or any of that, but if you had to put me in one of two groups, I wouldn’t be in the “really popular in high school group.” I’d be in the “understands what it’s like when high school is a living breathing nightmare” group.  And so that dark part in me understood. I understand. I know what it’s like to live through 8 periods of hell every day and I can’t unknow that.

And the truth is that I think that dark place is in my son, as well, and although I try my hardest not to assign personality traits to him that aren’t there, and although he has been to known to surprise the hell out of me, and although I love him with every fiber of my being, I see so much of me in him it takes my breath away.  And so although it feels as though there is NOTHING I can do to protect him in a world gone mad, the truth is, there is much I can do to protect him, because it’s not only my job to keep him safe from the Adam Lanzas of the world, it is also my job to make sure he does not become another one.  And that is something I have control over, at least some small measure of it, at least when it comes to our home and these childhoods.

And so I am admitting to you right now that I am a yeller. I am impatient and crabby and mercurial. I am strict and mean and I wish every minute of every day that I was a better parent, and I know I need to do a better job, and this is the hardest thing I have ever done, and the most important, and I try harder every day and I fail every day, but this, how I treat my children, if I am yelling and screaming and grabbing little arms too hard? It matters tremendously. It matters more than the number on my pants, it matters more than the number on the scale, it’s more important than anything else. And I AM in control of that.

Unfortunately, Whole 30 made me crabby. Really really crabby.  It made me mean. It made me angry.It tweaked something in my brain and I have a history of eating disorders, so I’d say it wasn’t a good tweak. I have incredibly sensitive blood sugar and when it get low I become a raging irrational bitch.  I don’t even like hot chocolate, and I couldn’t stop thinking about pouring vats of it down my throat while I screamed at my kids for driving me nuts.  And I felt a deep sadness come over me and I started to panic when I couldn’t tell if it was normal, if I needed to go back to the brain doctor, if it was PMS, if it was chocolate related, and I just couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t do it.

So I gave up. I ate six peanut M and M’s and I ate some brownies. I felt better immediately. I kept all my dinners as Whole 30 as can be,because I am having fun with it, I am really enjoying it, it mirrors the way I love to cook and it makes me creative and it’s fun! But I also ate at Wendy’s one night when we were working late on a house project and if I start to feel the rage come on I go pop some fish oil and a corner of a chocolate bar.

And you know, I’m good with that. Because every morning when I see that gate, when I vow again to try harder, to yell less, to be a better mom, to say I love you more, to say yes to another cuddle or to a nighttime fort, I know it’s not something I’m good at, I know it’s something I have to fight for. I know how important it is and how bad I am at it, and if a few squares of chocolate are going to help me get there, so be it.  It’s not just about me anymore. It’s about me, and Eli, and Katie, and always, there in the back of my mind, every time I see that gate, about Adam.

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46 Responses

  1. Thank you for writing this… And for your honesty in the challenges of parenting.

  2. What a touching post. And a very important sentiment. Thanks for putting it out there.

  3. Loved this post so much that I had to click through from Reader to give you a pat on the back.

  4. Oh, God. I tend to be a yeller, too, and I hate it, because it makes me think that it clouds EVERYTHING I do as a mother. That it makes me a Bad Mom, even though I don’t really think that I’m a bad mom. It’s hard to admit THAT kind of parental shortcoming, though, isn’t it. It’s much easier (for me, anyway) to say that I messed up by letting him watch too much TV or giving him nonorganic snacks from a box rather than my oven or, you know, whatever, than it is to say “I screamed at him for acting like the two year old that he is.”

    I remind myself of many of the same things, even though I don’t have a physical gate to remind me to. Just the intense desire to…be better.

  5. Oh lady, from one yeller to another, you do whatever it takes. We all do.

  6. You. God. You are an incredible being. I hit Nate yesterday and again today and I am NOT a hitter . I am not. And I did, twice, and without enough emotion. I’m not doing well with this round and there are 16 days left. Its time to sit down with myself. I admire the crap out of you!

  7. We are surrounded by the illusion of perfection from Pinterest and Facebook and Instagram, and this was so perfectly honest. Thank you, thank you for sharing. We all fail in some way every day, and it’s more than okay to acknowledge it.

    Or write it in chalk on a jar and Instagram it, whatever.

  8. Thank you for writing this, for being honest and real. This mom thing IS HARD it’s not all kisses and story books and play dough.

  9. De-lurking to tell you that I think you are an amazing woman. You are one of my very favourite writers, and this……this is why. I thank you for your honesty and your willingness to share what should be shared. Hats off to you, Elizabeth.

  10. No diet is worth it if it mak es you angry. I like that post you did a while back about the slowest diet ever. I think that’s the way to go. Your own way.

  11. I just had to click over from reader, just like someone above said she did. This post really spoke to me. I, too, am a yeller, and I hate it about myself. It is something that I have to think about constantly. Just keeping my voice down. I don’t like the way my kids look at me when I’m yelling. I know this about myself, and work at it. It’s hard. Thanks for letting me know that it’s not just me. You are the best.

  12. I clicked through Reader as well. Thank you for writing this. I am a yeller, and so is my husband, so why are we so surprised that when my son gets frustrated wtih us, he yells? I have really been trying to make an effort to be calmer because how can I tell him not to yell at me while I am screaming at him?

  13. Thanks for your honesty, Elizabeth. Good post. None of us is perfect, we can only try every day, right? I feel I am making lame statements after such a post, but I wanted to say *something*, so pardon my lameness, if you please.

  14. What you’ve said here resonates with me so deeply. I’m a yeller, parents were too and I have memories of my grandmother chasing me around the house with a wooden spoon, yelling. I try every single day to be a great mom, to have patience, to nurture my very sensitive kids. Some days are easier than others, but at the end of the day if a glass of wine or a brownie helps me to calm down, take a deep breath and be a better parent I’m not going to feel one bit bad about it. I try to eat as healthy as possible in a way that works for our lives and have come to terms with the fact that paleo or whole 30 will never work for me and that’s okay! We all do the best we can and at the end of the day that’s what matters.

  15. Like so many others, I want to thank you for your honesty. I’m a yeller too, and it’s the part of my parenting I struggle with the most. I think I’d make the same decision if there was something in my life that was making me even more short-tempered. We all do the best we can with what we’ve been given and hope like hell that it’s all ok. 🙂

  16. Thank you. Just, thank you. I, like so many others, find you to be amazing, refreshing, and oh so enjoyable. I think this was so brave, to share a little imperfection. We all have our struggles, and there is no room for judgement of others in life…

    A side note – I’m so sorry you had such a rough time in school. I would have been oh so happy to know you and be your friend. My school years weren’t awful, but they were quiet, and lonely sometimes. I would have had your back; you deserve it! Hugs to you.

  17. Nicely done. I’m a yeller, too. I also know the pain of adolescence. It sucked, but I’m better for it and I’m sure you are, too.

  18. Stunning. Your words are just stunningly beautiful.

  19. I don’t like the phrase “took my breath away” because it really seems so trite to me, one of those phrases that people use, but don’t actually mean. But this post? I seriously couldn’t breathe when I finished it. You are such an amazing writer.

  20. This is why you are one of my all time favorite bloggers. You are so self aware and honest, and you express yourself beautifully. You are also an amazing parent. Thank you for this post!

  21. Man. You are one person that I just don’t think understands how BEAUTIFULLY you write. I don’t think you get that when you write stuff like this? You’re making a whole bunch of people feel better. I hope that you do.
    I get the high school feeling, my God, what an awful place. I just want to tell freshman classes that life will be SO much better in 4 years, you just have to hold on for 4 years then life won’t be so ugly. I’ve seriously thought about home schooling my kids so they don’t have to go through that.
    Anyway, this is a long winded, probably not so eloquent way to say, YES, me too, and thank you.

  22. You know what my son said to me today? He said, “Daddy’s so silly, isn’t he?” I asked, “Why’s that?” And he told me “He does everything wrong.” I said, “Does he?” and he said, “Like when you tell him.”

    The other day he told his grandmother our whole house was breaking (no doubt bc he hears me bemoan things like this all the time).

    Wow. My parenting–or perhaps, more, but it’s inextricably linked, my wifing–needs to be looked at. But also, am I making him a depress-o like me?

    And honestly, I am glad you quit that plan if only bc with the food and the nice dressing and all the books you read, I was feeling like a big fat yoga-panted, can’t get through Ethan Fromme in two weeks, schlub!

    Ha! I kid. Kind of. But really, it’s good you had the realization it was messing with you. I tend to be an all or nothing person and am working very hard (with my eating disorder therapist) to see that I can pick and choose what’s right for me. A little this, a little that.

    You are a wise woman.

  23. Oh yes! I am a yeller too and a mean one. I am trying hard to remember that it’s not just that we made it to school, it’s how we got there and how I made them feel.

    Thanks for this post and your honesty.

  24. Good grief, Elizabeth. This was gorgeous (all of it, but especially the end) and heartbreaking (your school years), and inspiring (especially the part about fighting to say yes to another cuddle, etc). All moms struggle, apparently many of us with yelling, but not all moms work to rise above it. You are truly doing your part to make the world better, two little people at a time. Also, this is the best brownie recipe ever: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/brookes-best-bombshell-brownies/detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Title&e11=brooke%20brownie&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page

  25. Oh I love this post. You have such a way with words. You are ordinary and normal and wise and extraordinary.

  26. So, okay, I guess I’m late to the party and everyone’s already said what I wanted to say. I love that you are a mirror to my life in so many ways and you make me feel so, so, so much less alone in my mothering ways. Thank you for that. I actually shared on my blog the other day that I screamed so loud at my 5 year old boy (like you, I have the Kindy boy and toddler girl) in a parking lot and I think people within a 10 mile radius could hear me; so I always think on this Lous CK bit to alleviate the guilt – hope it gives you a chuckle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EBOI06r6c4

  27. Yeah, I didn’t do Whole 30, but I cut out the coffee, wheat, sugar, and dairy for months. Four, I think. Even though my health was noticeably better, I noticed that I was much meaner to my kids. I was way more exhausted, too. I’m eating all the crap again. Also, I think I’m nicer.

    Anyway, you’re not the only one.

  28. Well I’m glad you’re keeping the bits of whole 30 that WERE working for you.

    And there are SO many sacrifices worth making for family. How awesome that are you aware of which ones are for you guys.

  29. Posts like these make me so mad I didn’t write them myself. Which, given my extreme selfishness, is high praise. I would be surprised to learn that there’s a parent among us that can’t relate to this on some level. Me? I can relate to this on a lot of levels.

  30. When what we are doing in our lives to “better ourselves” (in whose eyes, I don’t know) starts to interfere with the way we treat those around us? It’s absolute time to make a change. I’m so proud of you for not only recognizing it in yourself, but being brave enough to share it all here. And also, being able to adapt Whole 30 to work for YOU. There are no hard and fast rules (or at least, there shouldn’t be) and if eating a bite of chocolate here and there makes you a better parent? DO IT. 😉 xoxo

  31. I’m clapping at everything here and thinking of you. Beautiful post, word, everything.

  32. This left me teary and speechless. You are one amazing person.

  33. Thanks for this. You really do write so beautifully, and say what so many others are thinking in such a clear way. I’ve had a hard few days of parenting, and even when I know in my heart that it’s not easy for ANYONE, it’s good to hear someone else say it sometimes.

  34. Oh, that whole gate thing pisses me off. Certainly I’m not one to say the school is WRONG (I’ve never been there! If they say it was something that should have been done all along, I’m sure they’re right!) I just think changing policy in response to something like this is giving Adam Lanza what he wanted. You are giving this asshole what he wanted and it makes me sick that an entire kindergarten’s worth of parents think of that every fucking morning.

    And, yes, they probably would anyway, because of course. They’re parents of kindergartners and how can you not? But I’m guessing everyone thinks about it specifically when they see the gate and that’s not OK to me. Not ok at all.

    I realize burying our heads in the sand is not an appropriate response and, since that’s my default, perhaps my opinion is skewed. Certainly there are people who want something, anything, to be done, even if it’s just for illusion’s sake, but I’m just the opposite. Even if the new way is safer and a better idea, it pisses me off.

    (I should work on a “other places becoming a little safer is making sure we’re tempering the evil with a little bit of good” attitude but I’m not there yet.

  35. Magnificent post Your honesty is refreshing, and your self-awareness is enviable. Another commenter mentioned how well you were doing on the “slowest diet ever.” When I was looking at your pins, it was amazing that you could see those slow changes in the various photos you have there. So if you go back to that, you’re still good. And you’re happier, and your family benefits. Win/win!

  36. I don’t know that I can come up with words that are adequate to describe what I feel about this post. I can’t, I think. But I love it, and I relate to it, and I’m so, so sorry that this gate will make you remember that tragedy every day. I GET you on the yelling (so much!), and I yell more when I’m hungry, too. Goodness it’s so hard to feel like a great parent, and whatever we can do to feel like we are getting there, however slowly, is awesome.

  37. Wow.

    This is the best post I’ve read in a while. I just. It’s so…Everything. So honest, so raw, SO well-written.

    You are an amazing human being. And mom. And blogger. And everything.

    (Also, I cannot do super restrictive diets. It makes me think too much about food and it takes over my life. It’s not sustainable for ME and just makes me indulge later. I do better with seesaw balance. I am SUCH a moody eater that if I feel like eating something? I want to be able to eat it. I think our healthiest self is honoring our cravings. That’s why I crave salt after running! And protein after weight lifting. And so on. When I don’t listen to my body, that’s when my mind is in trouble. And Mike and I have gotten into many arguments on vacation when I don’t eat breakfast or whatever in time and I become Super Bitchy.)

  38. You have reduced me to tears. Just last night I was thinking about how my daughter will talk about me when she’s older. I thought about how she will remember the times I was angry, grouchy, yelling, and just plain mean. The times when she would apologize to me for hurting my feelings, when I had seethe about how she didn’t like the lunch I had fixed and sent with her to school.

    It is so courageous of you to admit to being a yeller. So often, we are expected to be perfect. And we don’t know that other people experience the same occasional anger or even rage that we think there’s something wrong with is for feeling common human emotions.

    We can’t be or do everything. But we can prioritize what is most important to us and you did that by recognizing that peace in your life was more important than following a rigid food program. I admire you so much for doing what is right for your kids.

  39. It’s okay. I am that mom too and it is so, so, so hard to try (and fail) at doing a better job every day. I’m sorry, I wouldn’t wish that feeling on my worst enemy because it is just awful. But we keep trying, don’t we?

  40. This is one of the best things you’ve ever written.

    I was a big time yeller back when my older kids were young. I can never take those years back and give them the happy childhood they deserved. That right there is my biggest failure.

    In the past 20+ years of being a mom, I’ve lived through so many horrible events done by horrible people. It is a daily conscious decision to not be horrible to my children. And yes, sometimes chocolate or a Wendy’s meal brings me back to the new me, when my mind does stray and I find myself being short and raising my voice and all that nonsense.

    Our local schools have doorbells now — since 9/11 I think — and still, each and every time I stand there ringing the bell and showing my ID to the tiny camera, I am reminded of the horrible people that did horrible things that resulted in me being locked out of my children’s schools. I know the bad guys are locked out as well, but for a brief second I feel like a bad guy while waiting to be allowed to enter.

  41. Ok i read this yesterday and still cant wrap my head around it. blaming going off a diet of whole food on sandy hook, thats a new one. your are proliferating and probably have created your sons “dark place” with your ridiculous behavior.

    • First of all, of course you didn’t use your name, because anonymity is the cloak of cowardice. And secondly, did it ever occur to you that if you can’t wrap your head around something someone else has written, it’s possible that the problem is yours and not hers? It’s fine to disagree with other people’s arguments, but not while you fully admit to not understanding them. Stop and think before you respond. And I think you owe Elizabeth an apology for your totally unwarranted last sentence.

  42. What a touching, beautiful, honest post. Parenting is hard, and it takes courage to admit that it’s not always easy and sunshine and roses. This is so well written.

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