Category Archives: Kristin

When the Worst is the Best

I have this habit of trying to do it all and be it all, seeking frantically to find the way to exist in that magical, elusive state called The Best.

But this year, I have discovered that while this mythical-seeming state actually does exist, it is nestled in the more hostile country of The Worst. As much as I’d like to pretend The Best is a sovereign nation, the two are inextricably entwined. And, for the first time ever, I am realizing that this is okay. As I alluded to last week, I see how the common and the fabulous coexist in my life, nearly always in the same thing, and this juxtaposition is part of what makes life real and, sometimes, what makes it beautiful.

The reality has sunk in, as it usually does, while muddling through this parenting thing. As the girls mature, we have started to include them in decisions other than what to wear and how to do their hair. You know, things that have more permanent, influential and visibile consequences than being cold, mismatched or uncomfortable for a day. While we will have the final say at this phase in their life, we have found (through lots of trial and error) that on many decision, it is important to ask for their input and acutally seriously consider what they say.

Iowa has this fantastic dual enrollment option, which allows kids to attend between 2 and 5 hours of public school per day and be homeschooled for the rest. This year, after much deliberation and for a variety of reasons, we (Nick and Nora and I) decided to dually enroll Nora in 2nd grade. She goes to school with everyone in the morning and leaves two hours early.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

We all (mostly) love it. Nora loves having extra time at home. But, because she misses the end of the day, that means she often misses the fun stuff, too – birthday celebrations, class parties, costume parades, fun projects.

Nora was dually enrolled in kindergarten, for a different set of reasons. And we would always let her stay till the end of the day when there were special events.

This year was different. Nick and I decided at the beginning of the year that we wouldn’t be making exceptions. We wanted to teach her that there are consequences to all choices, even the best ones. We told her that the privilege of having extra time at home meant that she would be missing things at school. She agreed.

The first time there was something special, I braced myself for a torrent of whining. But to my surprise, she said, “Mom, I’m feeling disappointed that I am missing it. But, I know that I get to go home and have tea outside and do fun things with you guys. So I’m okay.”

What??!?

Maybe it’s just me, but I hear this unspoken message everywhere to find the best, and be the best, and to never settle for anything less. And so I embark on the noble quest for the best, discarding anything that is less. I confuse trying my best with being the best and consequently never learn the important lessons that come through working hard at something for which you may never be the best.

I can see how this mindset has permeated my parenting. Much like I have a deep desire to protect the girls from all pain, I want them to experience the best. All the time. In everything.

But not the worst.

And really, I’m finding it’s pretty easy to do that while they are young like this, and I can control so much. I can manipulate circumstances to enhance the best and minimize or even eliminate the worst. And I am realizing that I am walking a fine line between responsible parenting that strives to create a safe environment for kids to grow and mature, and dangerous parenting that strives to create the perfect environment. When we talk about choices and decisions, I find myself discussing all the benefits of each possibility. Rarely (unless I’m trying to sway a decision), do I talk honestly and openly about both the best and the worst.

Recently, I was chatting with my sister about the popular critique of her millennial generation, namely, their collective repulsion at taking a good job (or any job, really) instead of the best job. And it made me wonder. In our nobly intentioned desire to have our kids find their passion and become the best that they can be, have we set them up for a never-ending quest for the mythical, sovereign country of The Best? Have we actually succeeded in creating people who won’t settle for less? Ever?

Property of Kristin Giuliani

So much like I’m feeling challenged to prepare my children for the reality of suffering, I’m realizing I need to do a better job of discussing The Worst as a inevitable and necessary part of life. I am a naturally (and usually, unrealistically) optimistic person, so this is not easy for me. But, I’m working to train myself to see the worst parts as evidence of the best parts.

The tricky part is trying to teach them to recognize the (often subtle) difference between The Worst that is simply a byproduct of a particular option and The Worst that is destructive, damaging and divisive. I don’t want to raise apathetic kids. I want to raise kids who can and want to recognize and address problems.

I am hoping that the experience with Nora will extend to the rest of life – that by giving them a realistic view of what life is they will have

The serenity to accept what cannot be changed, the courage to change what can be changed, and the wisdom to know the one from the other.

An Apology to Everyone I Know, Have Known or Will Know 

Dear every person I know, have known or will know,

I’m sorry.

You may not know this yet, but you will. I am an incredibly frustrating person. And I have or will (mostly) unintentionally offend you.

No, really, it’s not just you. Everyone finds me incredibly frustrating and offensive at one point or another. Or many points.

It’s not something you did. It’s not something you said. It’s me. It’s how I am wired. Who I am.

You see, I love my family. I love my friends. I love learning about, listening to, and discovering new people. I love your stories. I love your jokes (even if they’re terrible). I love being a shoulder to cry on and the arm that helps carry your burdens.  I love to laugh with you and get coffee with you and act like a 4th grader with you. I love to hug your kids and listen to them tell me all your secrets. I love you.

But.

There are these three things about me that make friendships, relationships and all human interaction…hmmm…exhausting? Challenging? Stressful? Depleting? Anxiety-inducing?

They make me into a Triple Threat. Only not in the good, Broadway-star way.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

Kristin = Introvert

First, I am an INFP, with a very, very heavy I. That’s I for introvert. Now don’t take this the wrong way, but you people exhaust me. You sap my energy. Even when I’m having a total blast. It’s like jumping on a trampoline. I am having so much fun nearly flying that I don’t realize how much work it is until I get off and try to walk up the stairs. Bottom line: if I don’t have time to be alone, to recharge, then I am a useless, crabby and resentful human being.

Oh, and new or quasi-new people terrify me. My whole life I have tiptoed close to the border of social anxiety. Somehow people are always surprised when I tell them this. I credit this to the hours in elementary and middle school spent acting with our fantastic community theater (thank you, Renee and Penny!) – they had the patience to gently coax the hidden Kristin out from inside the painfully shy shell. Though I am now able to mingle at parties, small-talk at work events, and function as a professional adult, it still takes me hours, sometimes days to talk myself up to go to a large social gathering.

Kristin = Introvert + Constant Contact with Needy Littles

Second, I stay at home with my three beautiful, but extremely present and needy girls. All day. Every day. So I’m almost never alone. Even when I get up at 5 am and just lay in my bed, someone always knows and magically wakes up. It’s kinda freaky. I don’t know how they do it.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

Kristin = Introvert + Constant Contact with Needy Littles + ADHD

Finally, I have ADHD. Yup. Apparently I also hide this well because most people are surprised about this, too. I wasn’t diagnosed until college, but wow. Everything throughout my life makes so much more sense looking at me through the ADHD filter. So I am very easily distracted. And forgetful. And impulsive. If I had to exist as an adult in the era prior to phones that keep your schedule and beep at you, I would be in major trouble.

Property of Kristin Giuliani

Kristin = Introvert + Constant Contact with Needy Littles + ADHD = Relational Disaster

So this lethal combination of traits is why I have 32 unread texts on my phone. Because on some days, after a full day of kids, activities, small-talk, deep-talk, volunteering and work, even reading a text is too much human contact for me. And then, if I don’t respond to a text right away, I get distracted and forget to reply. This is also why I almost never “like” things on Facebook. It’s not because I don’t like what you’re doing – it’s because I don’t even look at what you’re doing. Because even looking at what other people are saying and doing tires me out! And don’t even get me started on the phone. The phone is my kryptonite. Being an adult who has had to hold down a job has helped me get over my excessive phone anxiety. But (and it pains me to admit this), whenever possible, I make Nick call for me, even to order food. And this is why I will go months without calling even my very best friends, with whom I really do want to connect. But most of the time, when I do have a spare moment to chat, it’s because it’s a rare moment that I am alone and not doing something I have to be doing. And I just can’t give that up. And then, when I’m recharged, I forget.

Yeah. I’m a hot mess.

I used to hate these things about me. I used to wish I were someone else. I used to pray that God would turn these things off or make them magically disappear. I wanted to effortlessly know the right thing to say, to be able to small-talk, to chat for hours on the phone, to be pumped to go out after a full day of work, and to be exhilarated to attend large social gatherings.

But, then about 8 years ago, I realized that these things, frustrating though they are, were a part of me. They were the byproducts of my gifts. They were the worst that gave rise to the best (a topic for next week’s post).

I finally understood myself. So I could love myself. And I’m glad that I am who I am.

But, even though I have made a lot of progress, I know I still need to work on those things that impede relationship. And I know I’m still frustrating. Even to myself.

So, every person I know, have known or will know, I’m sorry. And thank you. Thank you for your patience. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your understanding.

And thank you for being in my life in spite of me.

Now go away, and leave me alone.

😉

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Fabulous Friday: Madeline’s Concoction Kit

It has been a challenging week for the Giuliani household. I’m not sure if it was the weight of Madeline’s anniversary, or the crazy, stormy weather or the anticipation of trick-or-treating. But there were tears, and screaming, and yelling, and fighting, and refusals to go to bed, and refusals to wake up, and refusals to get dressed, and refusals to get undressed, and whining (oh the whining), and nightmares, and 6 am wakings, and stepping in cat puke. Always the cat puke.


Sigh.

But yesterday, we had two glorious hours of calm, creativity and cooperation. All thanks to Madeline’s concoction kit.

Madeline loves to create, and experiment, and explore, particularly with edible ingredients. So after years of her depleting my baking cupboard, we finally wised up and got Madeline her own stash. She loved it so much that “concoction ingredients” were on the top of her birthday list.

Her newest obsession is perfecting a functional (i.e. flight inducing) pixie dust recipe.


Of course, when cleanup time came, the concoction session ended poorly for everyone. Back came the screaming, and whining, and fighting, and complaining.

But, for those fabulous two hours, it was totally worth it.