What was not in my plan was the spontaneous stop by our local tattoo parlor. Sure, I knew it was there, sitting next to a Mexican restaurant that I've also never frequented, but I'd never paid it much mind. I mean, I am a 33 year old mother of four. Some places are not intended for people like me-- well, not since I graduated from college, at least. You see, I started college in 1996. In 1996, computers existed, but they still cost a long discussion with the soon-to-be roommate over who would get the computer for the room, an entire summer's work worth of savings, and a special trip to the UVA tech lab to get internet installed so I could check an email that never received any messages since no one else in the world had email. But I digress. Computers were just coming into vogue-- and so were belly rings. Back in 1996, a belly ring wasn't expected on the mid-drifts of sexy young co-eds (which I like to think of myself as back then, despite the fact that pictures will most likely prove otherwise). A belly ring signified "alternative, different, mysterious, rebellious". (Which is also what I liked to think of myself as back then-- just like 99% of other college girls.) And one day, a few months into the semester, my roommate and I decided to do something alternative, different, mysterious, rebellious.... but not a tattoo- no, that was TOO much for us (that trip)-- so we got our navels pierced. I'd say it was a bonding experience, and it most definitely was, but it was more than that. It was a permanent scar on my poor stomach that has since then been further abused by the insertion and growth of four children. Because while I could (and did) remove my piercing when I got pregnant with my first-- which, yes, I turned in to a mental ceremony of sorts-- a shedding of my old life and immaturity in preparation of a new life of wisdom and parenthood-- the scar remained.
And that scar bugged me. No, not every day. I'd go months without even noticing it (I do make a concerted effort to not stare at my navel every day), but then, when I did notice it, it would bug me. So on this day, with inspiring caffeine in hand and no children in the backseat, I spontaneously swerved into the tattoo parlor, marched inside, begged the piercer not to laugh at me, and had my belly ring reinserted. Be warned, other nursing mothers who may attempt this, it is practically impossible to suck in your stomach without sticking out your chest, so I almost left there with a pierced nipple. Regardless, the piercer did get a bit more than he was bargaining for since he had to strategically work around my four-kids worth of belly fat, six years worth of nursing breasts, and my constant verbal justification for why I was doing this while he attempted to insert the needle straight through the remnants of my past rebellion over fifteen years ago.
But my point is this: that was an idiotic thing to do. But because I'm stubborn and it cost $60, I refuse to remove it, despite the fact that Micah refused to come near me for a good four hours, pointing and screaming "out! out!" every time she saw it, and Kayton informed me that no "old person" should ever have their navel pierced. Right on both accounts.
But the New Year is the time to make changes, right? Time to look back on your life and take charge of the things you want to change-- time to remove the scars or, at least, cover them with something beautiful. That's what we do this time of year. We take stock of our mistakes, our lapses in judgement, our laziness, our "things that need to change", and we promise to change them. While, chances are, we won't be successful, it's an evaluation time. A time for a new strategy, a plan, an implementation of the new goals we've created for ourselves that we hope will lead to a greater success during this year. A time to look at our weaknesses and the threats to our success and exchange them for opportunities to grow and ways to strengthen ourselves. And so, I complied, by analyzing myself (my navel) and making the necessary changes.
The thing about analyzing yourself is that YOU are only one perspective. And, personally, while I think my perspective is the only accurate one, I am willing to acknowledge the need for outside consultants on this matter in order to avoid complete bias. But this is where the real issues come into play. Any of you that have friends and/or family members (and I hope you all do) know that every one of your friends and/or family members has an opinion on your life. On your life, your marriage, your parenting skills, your career--that's sort of their job-- to sit back and subtly and surreptitiously critique your life, judge your actions, and then tell you what you should do- to be more like them. (Something which we want to avoid since we've been sitting back, subtly and surreptitiously critiquing their life and judging their actions). The problem with other people's opinions (other than the fact that they belong to other people and, therefore, can't be worth as much as my own) is that once you ask someone's opinion, you are obligated by politeness to acknowledge the value in it, then you must either A/ follow that advice (despite the fact that you don't want to) or B/ PRETEND to follow that advice while being careful to completely avoid it and any direct evidence that you have avoided it. Of course, Option B often results in angry friends who want to know why you didn't just listen to them in the first place and (my favorite): "why ask my opinion if you weren't going to take it?"... uhm... because, well, I was curious?
Now, I'm no stranger to angry friends. One of my neighbors was angry with me because my dog barked at Santa Claus (although I thought the barking less offensive to Santa than Micah's screams of terror and monkey-climbing to the top of my head to get away from him). I have a family member who hasn't spoken to me in two years because she's angry at me. I don't know the reasoning behind that one, and I've quit wondering, to be honest (although I do believe it has something to do with offered opinions). My husband gets angry with me relatively often (typically when I promise to get out of bed to iron his shirt and then- accidentally- fall back asleep). And one of my children is always angry with me about something- any given day, feel free to take a poll and see what results you get. But what I've discovered is that people being angry at you is like an impromptu New Years. It forces you to look at yourself, question your actions, and determine a course of action to improve in the future.
Since someone's always angry at me for something, I am always being forced to question my decisions. There's just something about Parenthood, specifically, that forces you to question every single thing you do, compare yourself to your child's friends parents, to your parents, to those parents you see on tv- specifically in Wife Swap or Super Nanny and, in absentia, on Jersey Shore (okay, we KNOW we have to be better parents than those parents). But that's okay--because it's by questioning ourselves and seeking new ways to do things to cover those "scars" that we may or may not be inflicting on our children as a result of the things we choose to do as parents that we become better parents. It's only by recognizing that we may have done something wrong, upset someone, made an error in judgement that we can improve and make changes. And no, just because someone (spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend) gets angry doesn't mean we've done something wrong. But it's a signal to evaluate. And we should always be evaluating ourselves. Not just at New Years, but on every New Day. And that is my first New Year Resolution.
The second is: the scar on my tongue from the piercing that I had to take out when I started my first real job? It stays a scar.