The Thing About Choices

Let go of the past and know you did your best at any given moment.

Today I responded to a post on a FB group for parents of children with OCD and anxiety. A mother was requesting advice with regards to her son who was being bullied at school. She was considering pulling him out of school and wanted others to weigh in.

My reply to her post was rather long, because her situation was one that I was presented with not too long ago when Jake was in high school. Now that Jake is nearly 22, he and I have had several conversations about our decision to homeschool.

What parent hasn’t questioned the choices she’s made for her children? Add special needs to that equation and the ante has just been upped. The choices seem to carry more weight. What if I make the wrong choice? What if I ruin him? What if I’m wrong?

The What-If game is a dirty game to play. It’s a game I own a lot of stock in and, let’s just say, the return on my investment isn’t going to make me rich. I have wasted so much time and energy rethinking my choices for Jake over the years. Come to find out, so has Jake.

He often talks about all the things he missed out on by not going to a brick and mortar school. School dances. Class trips. Clubs. Basically any kind of socialization. This was a huge topic of conversation when we made the choice to homeschool Jake. I knew he would miss out on some key high school experiences, but I also knew that he wasn’t learning anything at all, and he was having trouble finding his tribe. I also argued that not all forms of socialization are good. And I firmly believed in every word I said, every argument I countered.

I made every effort to replace those experiences with local groups. But they all fell short. Jake was just too smart, and on such a different social path than his peers. He is an old soul. He doesn’t really understand his generation and the way they act as a whole. I wonder if it would’ve been any different if he’d remained in school?

The things that I didn’t consider that he’d miss out on were tests, taking notes, and homework. None of those seem like such a big deal, right? But going to college has forced him to learn those skills rather quickly. And they are skills. He’s doing just fine it just took him a minute to get up to speed.

So when Jake and I talk and he says that he “missed out on so much” I feel like I let him down. I made the wrong decision, and he’s paying for that in spades. But then I think of all the things he gained from being homeschooled. He was able to follow his passions (higher maths, and sciences like Quantum Physics) and focus on them. He didn’t have to deal with all the extra stuff being fed to him. He was able to learn at an accelerated pace, rather than following the pace of an entire class. And these are things he’s grateful for.

And yet I still feel guilty. The only consolation that I have is that I made the decision that was right at that moment in time. It was a mutual decision. It was what Jake wanted, and it was what I wanted for him. And, honestly, that’s really all that matters.

As parents we spend so much time second-guessing ourselves, beating ourselves up, and carrying the weight of regret around like it might make up for what we now feel was a “bad” decision. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m here to tell you, eight years later, it doesn’t. There is no relief that comes from feeling regret. It changes nothing. All is does is make you physically, mentally and emotionally sick.

What we have to remember is this: at the moment of your (now regrettable) decision, you made it feeling wholeheartedly like you were making the best choice out of the options available to you.

There is a line from the song “Move On” in the musical “Sunday in the Park with George” that is what I want you to take away from reading this.

“The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.” Read that several times. Let it sit inside your heart and offer relief.

No matter how you feel, no matter what you think in this moment, the choosing that you did for your child was never wrong. It came from a place of love and that’s all that matters.

Remember that. Every time you find yourself feeling guilty remember that. Every time you feel like a bad parent remember that.

Be kind to yourself. Make the right choice today for you, and choose to remember that.

And if you’re interested here is the song in full.

No Body Is Perfect

Something occurred to me the other day as I was watching a movie on Netflix. There was one particular scene that made me wish I could go back to my late teens, early 20’s. The girl was trying on some clothes and admiring herself in the mirror. And it was that comfort that she felt in looking at her reflection that gave me pause.

I cannot recall ever looking at myself with such confidence. Ever. To be honest, it’s still something I struggle with on a daily basis. Watching her made me sad. And I’ll tell you why.

If I go back and look at pictures of myself around the same age as her, I now see a young woman, that should have felt more confident, more at ease in her body. Not because I was all that, but because I would soon be past those days of youth, and regret that I didn’t embrace them, embrace myself more than I did. My low self-esteem held me back from so many things.

I hated how I looked and felt that if I looked different the world would open up for me. So, I became anorexic in high school. I didn’t set out with anorexia as my goal, but it seemed the smaller I became, the more people noticed me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t being ignored prior to that, but I wasn’t exactly being “seen” either. Losing weight got me compliments. Losing weight made me feel better about myself.

The pictures from those days paint a different reality. I was sick. Not only mentally, but physically. There are so many things I would do differently if I could go back. I imagine that if I had projected more confidence (real, or imagined) I would have had the life that I so desperately wanted.

In some ways I feel like that girl now – just decades older.Wanting to fit in the pages of the magazines, but finding that I’m exhausted from decades of trying to fit a mold that was invented by an industry that constantly set me up for failure – then and now.

Over the years I’ve seen the standards being tested by different body types. But it still bothers me that women are being categorized by body type at all. Plus-sized, full-figured, skinny – all these define women by shape. We are bombarded with headlines about losing weight. Flooded with photos of beautiful, happy, people who just happen to have the perfect body.

I’ve been fed, and have been “eating” these images since I was in 7th grade. And even though I know there is no one size fits all, and that photos are altered, it has never stopped me from second-guessing how I look.

My body isn’t perfect in any way. It doesn’t look the way I wish it did. And I’m not sure that it ever will after a lifetime of being brainwashed.

But at the age of 51, what I’m trying to focus on is not what my body looks like, but what my body has done:

  1. brought two beautiful souls into this world
  2. survived heart surgery
  3. run a 1/2 marathon
  4. survived a suicide attempt
  5. overcome an eating disorder

I encourage all of you to give a shout-out to the body that has gotten them this far. After all, you wouldn’t be here without it. šŸ™‚

Happy 2019

Another year already? Now the mother of a 13-year-old and nearly 21-year- old. My second go round with a teenager.

I’m a half a century plus one; and it seems like I just graduated high school last year. Funny how the mind never quite catches up with the mirror.

I’ve been told that I “don’t act my age”. I’m not sure how a person my age is supposed to act. Why are certain things relegated to the younger crowd? I refuse to take part in that system.

I wear clothes from Hot Topic and Forever 21 (when clearly that was a memo my body didn’t get). I watch shows like Riverdale and TheĀ ChillingĀ AdventuresĀ of Sabrina the Teenage Witch that are geared toward the more hormonal crowd – although as a middle-aged woman I can fully attest to the fact that hormonal fluxes are not ageist.

I read YA fiction, peppered with a good dose of apocalyptic horror and self-help books for good measure. And I like to draw cutesy girls and animals. I dress up at Halloween and I still believe in magic.

That’s who I am. I’m not the number 51, nor am I the ache in my knees when I kneel down in front of the John Green section at Barnes and Noble. I’m not the wild garden of silver that is sprouting from the depths of my scalp, no more than a person with depression is her disease.

I am deeper than a number. Wider than a name. Stronger than an idea.

I am a being of eternal possibility.

I am a being of eternal possibility.

I am a being of eternal possibility.

Say this slowly. Taste the words. Let them melt in your mouth.