On Compassion and Wall-Licking

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Tariku and I hit the beach Sunday morning, hoping that the weather would be a bit cooler by the water. He’s been asking to see the ferris wheel, so we went to the Santa Monica Pier. There was an arresting art installation there called “Arlington West,” designed by Veterans for Peace. I didn’t have much time to read about it when we were there, so I looked it up when we got home. Here’s what I found on their website:

Each Sunday from sunrise to sunset, a temporary memorial appears next to the world-famous pier at Santa Monica, California. This memorial, known as Arlington West, a project of Veterans For Peace, offers visitors a graceful, visually and emotionally powerful, place for reflection.

In accordance with the Veterans For Peace Statement of Purpose, the Arlington West Mission Statement is to honor the fallen and wounded, to provide a place to grieve, to acknowledge the human cost of war, to encourage dialogue among people with varied points of view, and to educate the public about the needs of those returning from war.

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We were there early, so we watched as a brick wall of a vet worked in the hot sun, setting a small pot of flowers and a pair of combat boots at the foot of each blue cross. The blue crosses represent the soldiers who were killed this week. I found it to be a powerful visual representation of loss. Go check it out if you have a chance.

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T and I spent the rest of the morning locked in a battle of a different sort. I’m not sure what’s going on right now between us, but we’re either unbearable sweet and snuggly or it’s an all out war. Tariku insists on repeatedly doing every dangerous thing I tell him not to do, including dashing out into the middle of bike paths and parking lots. He responded to my entreaty not to touch anything in the public bathrooms by licking the wall.

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As a parent of a child who was adopted at 11 months of age, it’s difficult to know if T’s struggle for control is a result of his age and fiery personality or if it signifies some attachment issues that might warrant attention. Either way, I don’t always have the patience to employ my parenting tools. I switch to exhausted, survival mode and find that I’m the grim mom with the set jaw, toting her screaming kid through the parking lot in a fireman’s carry.

I feel doubly terrible about my poor public parenting moments because we’re so visible. Not only are we a trans-racial family, but two out of three of us are tattooed to the gills. I feel a responsibility to contradict the negative expectations many people have of our illustrated tribe. And I want to be a positive representation of adoption in the world.

But that’s a pretty grandiose self-concept. I’m not a representation of anything. I’m just another tired mom with a two-year old and right now, I’m struggling. I gain compassion for other parents by the day. And compassion is the whole point, right? If I could give Tariku one thing, it would be that. I guess this is a chance for us to learn about it together.

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7 Responses to 'On Compassion and Wall-Licking'

  1. Anonymous says:

    Jillian, Me and my dumpling are going through the Exact same thing. Some days I feel like it’s a power struggle, other days I feel like maybe she is battling something deeper. Whatever it is, I look like an absolute maniac out in public…as she acts like a wild beast and I run around chasing her saying, “no…no….NOOOO”. The only saving grace so far seems to be the football hold and silly band bracelets : )

  2. Jacqueline says:

    Jillian,
    i really enjoy your blog and your honesty. you are being a great mom. there was a comedian that once mentioned that after he had kids he stopped feeling bad for the screaming children in public and starting feeling compassion for the exhausted parents. You are not alone.

  3. Carrie says:

    I find the football carry is one of the best parenting tools – you can’t always reason it out, sometimes you have to remove yourselves from the conflict

    As bad as I have felt for using it in public, older wiser moms have given me the thumbs up; love unexpected support!

  4. Tracy says:

    Jillian, hang in there! It does get better. ;-) Anyone who judges you certainly has never had kids because EVERY mom goes through this at some point! (Maybe not the licking the walls part, but definitely the defiance part) ;-) I have way more compassion for parents now than I did before I had twins. Parenthood is definitely a humbling experience.

  5. Catherine says:

    Ditto with the previous comments… I have a 26 month old and we are in the same phase… maybe it’s the working mom, dropping the kid at daycare retaliation phase that mine is going through, whatever it is, I think most if not all Moms are going through it or have gone through it… hang in there! your blog keeps me sane :)

  6. KT says:

    Boys, at this age, are impulsive monsters. More likely than not, there is nothing wrong with him, and even though it is tres lame, those time-outs/naught chair/whatever the kids are calling it these days- can be effective, although it will seem as if your whole days is spent lording over a sitting, squiggly child as you time two minutes of time out. Mine is 16 now, he has finally stopped most of this nonsense although I did wake up today and find him riding his bicycle in the house (and he weighs 160 pounds) and it’s a man sized bike. So, so not cute.

  7. Mx3Mommy says:

    I have just found your blog this morning (from a Kevin Bacon series of unrelatedness) and have thoroughly enjoyed it, but have just had my “aha” moment in this entry. Thank you, thank you, thank you for extending my vocabulary. I NEEDED to hear/see “trans-racial” used to apply in my own interactions. This particular “aha” came with a (en)lightening bolt and a big picard face palm (homeresque) d’oh.
    Yes, all the tv/pop culture references are because you are hip and in CA and I am not. :D

    Bless you and your family…

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