Smack Dab in the middle

How did we get into the middle of this frosty November?

Ok, well, I *know* that we got here, but wow! Days are just slipping past. When trio were small, people told me that the days are long, but the years are short. As they get older, I feel as though the years and days are short: they rush past, full of school and work and activities and dinners and moments.

I try to catch the moments with trio, treasuring and realizing each time they ask for a hug, or to tuck them in, or we all sit together for dinner, there is one less opportunity for a connection. They grow up. They need me less. They begin to branch out. Their interests evolve outside the house. And, also – I continue to grow. My interests shift outside of their needs. I begin to understand myself more.

My oldest is now a High School-er. I’m striving to let him make mistakes and uncover his own path, but still be present for support and guidance. I’m grateful that he’s able to articulate his needs (needing more space, sometimes, and other times needing defined boundaries) so we can try to remain connected through this new and dramatic phase of growth.

The most glaring shift on the horizon for us is his involvement in an afterschool club. Three times a week, he needs to be at the school for 6 hours (or more) for an astounding total of 18+ hours per week outside of a typical school schedule. He is poised for growth – guidance from other adults, peer relationships, technical skill development, autonomy, personal awareness… I’m so excited for him! Our house routine and systems will shift and change in concert with his needs. On evenings when he’s home, his homework will take precedence over housework/chores and his personal downtime. The other two will need to step up and support him and the house in new ways which will lead to growth and development in them.

It’s going to be amazing!

And it’s going to be hard!

There will be tears, and frustration, and uncertainty.

Change is tough. Growth is necessarily uncomfortable.

As the mama, I have an opportunity to model and practice patience, humour, and mindfulness. No doubt I will also be practicing humility, and forgiveness; and seeking forgiveness from trio as I stumble and strive to figure this all out.

My sense, as I go forward, is to be present. Plan and aim to make tomorrow and next week smooth, but stay in the moments as they come up. I can’t help but be empathetic when I’m present. And I imagine we’ll need LOTS of empathy in the coming weeks!

xo
Mto3

 

 

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Saying no and other issues…

Did you ever watch Who’s the Boss with Tony Danza and Judith Light? There are so many classic episodes, but the one that sprung to mind recently was the episode when Angela tried a ‘positive parenting’ approach and never said No (S7e7). Parents are always trying to figure out what will work with their kids, as well as what works for them.

Anyway, that’s sort of the approach that I took with trio. Instead of giving an outright no, I’d try to reframe their request with what they *could* do in my response to their question. I found, when they were small, that it helped to hear what was possible, rather than just shutting down their desire with a flat out No – unless it was unsafe or there was a bigger issue at play. But on the day-to-day, I didn’t want them to be brutally rebuffed at every question (because man, don’t they ask a lot in a day!) – I was worried about tantrums and rebelliousness (ergo it was easier for me too).

My teenager is now actually asking to be told no. When he asks for a Nutella sandwich after dinner and before bed, I tell him what he can have instead (cheese, banana, peanut butter, etc). And his retort is “A No would have sufficed…” But I KNOW that his next question will be an exasperated “Well! What *can* I have then??” Part of parenting is always being wrong (but geez, I totally thought the best part of parenting was always being right!! Sigh.)

Peeking under the surface of this exchange, I hear him asking for clearer boundaries. Since I’ve never had a teenager before, I’m open to learning alongside him and striving to figure out what this means for me as his parent. Maybe there is problem solving that I’m inadvertently denying him. By supplying the answer to his unasked question (What can I have then??) I have prevented him from taking the next step in his own path of discovery. And really, the food-snack issue is just an analogy for other ways in which I’m precluding his self-awareness. It’s about food just now, but soon he’ll need to uncover his own path about social relationships, time management, finances, and other adult-y things. He practices with these smaller issues so he can better navigate those more challenging pieces of life.

There will be times that he might need my support in decision making and those times would be appropriate for me to ask questions, rather than giving conversation-stopping-negatives or supply him with an unrequested answer. I’ll hold out for those moments and Just Say No when it makes sense.

As always, I’m so grateful that he’s my first. He’s been so great with articulating himself so I can hear and learn these sticky webs that we’re all trying to navigate.

xo
Mto3

Well.

That was a busy entry into our school season! Two kiddos shifted into new schools and routines (uhm… high school!? Hello! How is it possible that I’ve got a total teenager?) and I have been left reeling with my own issues of easing back into the groove.

The summer was a blaze of togetherness, adventures, and now that vacay is behind us, we’re settling into normalcy: homework, chores, after-school activities, and work.

Yay autumn!

Summer days!

Aah. Summer! ☉

School days, seemingly chaotic in the moment, are actually idyllic compared to the hot, non-routinized, always bumping into each other summer days. Whoever romanticized the summer hols mustn’t have had children! 

Sure there are isolated moments when kids aren’t fighting, and you have enough money to check off the bucket list of fun-time activities, and day camps are blissfully drama-free … but really? Those are the few moments that are social media snap worthy. 

My days revolve around a mix of device/tv time requests, shouting and frustrated kids, sunburns, too much indoor time, and a million freezies wrappers on every surface of the house. *not even exaggerating. 

Pinterest has some amazing “kids-get-device-time-if-all-these-things-are-done” lists that are so inspiring and so improbable that I just gloss over them when they creep across my feed. 

Until I decided to give it a try. I was tired of redirecting kids (ok, I was already tired of all the *imagined* redirecting) so I crafted up a list, and hung it by our whiteboard/listboard. 

There was a little bit of push back, I’m not gonna lie. My oldest also thought it was ridiculous for me to have a “notes and comments” section. 

It’s been a few days and it’s been so well received! Kids are avoiding devices first thing in the morning. They discuss which jobs will get done. We discuss how this helps the whole family. They play outside together. They share books. 

Let’s hope this continues! We may run out of jobs around the house hahaha!
Just kidding. We totally won’t.

Xo Mto3

and the pendulum swings…

Is there anything in the middle on the parenting continuum between ‘I got this! I know it all!’ and ‘Oh-my-word, how much more can I screw up!?’ I’d just like the arc on the pendulum to be a little shorter. Or to spend more time in the fair-to-middling section.

My mum used to lament that babies don’t come with manuals. Yah, I know. In today’s age, I wish that we could download a program that will automatically switch on when we are about to say or do something that we will regret. Or that might negatively affect our kiddos.

I get it. The only way to navigate parenting -and the things that come up in us as parents/humans- is to go through it, be as self-aware as possible, and make amends and learn when possible. Sometimes it’s super hard to even realize why we’re reacting.
We may just feel the heat creep up our neck to make our head explode – or we won’t even feel it, it’ll just seem like a sudden explosion. Other times we won’t want to explore why we’re having a reaction to what a kiddo did/said because we can feel it’s unfathomable depth and we’re still scared of what’s in the dark. It can even happen in good times: kiddo’s desires are overshadowed by ours and they can’t see a way out to tell us their truth. We won’t be sailing along all smooth and calm all the time. And that’s okay.

We have to take the fumbles and the misses and the shining successes. It’s what keeps us engaged in the game. It’s where we learn and connect and grow. It is *very* uncomfortable in the moment. And in the moments that follow where we wish things could have been different. This is where we can check in with ourselves. 
Why
is it so uncomfortable? What’s coming up inside us that causes these feelings? Where did they come from? When was another time I felt this way or had this situation? If that’s too much reflecting, a body check is helpful too – where on my body am I feeling the uncomfort-ability? Hop back into the game. Apologize when appropriate. Share your thoughts. Take the learning.

Twice tonight I reacted with trio. I didn’t feel I was particularly yell-y but two seemed to shut down, so I know I missed an opportunity. Seriously – we talked about hair cuts last week. And the night before grad is when you ask? I’m supposed to help decorate your gym tomorrow after school. And then the other two need to picked up from school, then we have dinner and get back to the school for the Ceremony. Whew. I was sharp in my shock. I guess I sounded rough. I was worried that this was important to you and I just want to try to support you, and it came out all wrong.
It’s hard not to kick ourselves when this happens, and to try and create some space for self-reflection. Why was I so sensitive to what was happening? How can I shift this? What might I be able to do next time? Can I talk to them about it? What is missing in my life that might fill-my-bucket?

If it seems that this line of thought heads down a dank old rabbit hole, it’s important to stop and shift. Do something else. Squeeze a mental hug. Remember that I’m learning too. Breathe. And keep shifting away from the spiral.

edited to add:
No one is sleeping tonight. It’s nearly midnight and each kiddo has woken up at least once and wandered and said hi and had drinks of water and peed. But, happily, my oldest and I chatted it out and shared and talked, and even thought I think I could have better handled the moment at bedtime, it led to a wonderful connection opportunity between us.

We’re all works in progress. It’s hard to realize that as the parent, when I thought I was supposed to have it all together, and know all the answers. There’s no downloadable program after all, so it’s helpful to remember that I’m human too.

xo
Mto3

Adulting. Yah, that.

Be the adult you want your kids to be.

Whoa.

That quote from Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly runs through my mind at unexpected times. When I’m driving. When I’m talking to others. When one of trio are standing before me. When I’m frustrated. In quiet moments with trio.

It’s not that I need to be perfect. Or always calm. Or super knowledgeable.

I read it as being open. Smiling and extending love. Asking for help, and giving help when asked. Offering help when it seems to be needed. Being kind. Apologizing. Sharing time together. Questioning and debating. Following through. Standing up for others.

Being authentic to yourself.

Helping trio discover their authentic self.

There are moments everyday when I have an opportunity to model the adult for trio – even if they’re not there to witness it.

There have been several times recently when an opportunity has presented itself to be the adult I want trio to be. Each time, it would have been easier to close my eyes and ears and put my head down and mind my own business.

  • A man in the grocery store didn’t have any cash or cards to cover his bill – he only had a Visa gift card, and it wasn’t applicable at this store. His bill was $17 and he had cat food, some veg, and a frozen meal. I offered to include it in my bill. He was so thankful and offered the gift card in exchange. He said he was just out of hospital after a heart attack and his cat needed to eat, and he needed something for tonight’s dinner. He was nearly in tears.
  • At a stop light, Lil Miss noticed that the pick up truck in front of us had it’s trunk open and there was a gas can in danger of falling out. The light was about to turn green, so I hopped out, pushed the can back in and closed his trunk door. Another car was trying to shout to the driver what was happening, but the driver had no idea. He eventually understood and waved his thanks to us with a big smile.
  • At another grocery store, a woman’s card kept declining, and the woman didn’t understand the cashier’s words well enough to figure out what was happening. The customer behind me split the woman’s bill with me ($75 was too rich for either of us to absorb on our own).

My good friend has often commented that she feels community is very important. We are as strong and healthy as each other. It makes sense, therefore, that we should strive to help and support each other. We can do this by seeing and hearing a need and moving to reduce that need.

I had a scary moment at the weekend when I thought the water pipes in my house had burst (don’t worry – they didn’t) but I saw that the problem far outstripped my experience and I called for help. Letting trio see that I help when I can, and I ask for help when needed allows them to see that we are all on both sides of the helping hand. And it’s ok.

For me, that’s the adult I’d like trio to become. That’s (part of) what Brene’s quote means to me.

xo
Mto3

Gotta catch them all!

The moments.

The little moments when a kiddo leans against me. Or asks for 5 more minutes of snuggles. Or follows me around the house while I’m trying to get work done. Or lingers at the dinner table. Or holds the door open for me. Or doesn’t let go of a hug.

As an out-loud reminder to myself, and also to trio, I comment that I enjoy these times as they come up. It grounds me. It is a concrete acknowledgement that their time of being small(er) is temporary and they won’t always find as much comfort in my presence, and they won’t always be present around me. It keeps me in-the-moment and centered in gratitude.

The natural progression is that they will gradually not need me around them so much. In fact, part of my job as a mum is to help them figure out how to derive comfort from their own inner core. This reminder helps shift me away from feeling tired, or overwhelmed, or irritated (yes, when I have a huge pile of things to do, it can feel irritating when I need to make room for their needs too). Most of the time, the mindshift works and I drop instantly into the present. But other times I just don’t have enough resources inside me to make that space for them.

By saying it out loud to them, I think that conveys my love to them, and that they’re important.* I hope it also lets them know that it’s ok when they start to drift away from me and into their own lives, because I understand that there is a nucleus shift away from me as-the-center and into their own center.

When I take a step back from the day-to-day, I see the bigger picture of how our lives will diverge and I want them to have as many skills, tools, and a bucket as full as I can make it – and teach them how to fill their own bucket.

It’s as though we are all on a path and many times I’m the only one walking, and they are hanging off me and holding my hand. But as we walk, they begin to have a path of their own: a path that veers away from our family path and then rejoins, and then separates again. It’s the steps when we’re walking together that I treasure. Those are the moments I strive to see with a grateful heart. The times when we walk together will become less and less frequent, and I can celebrate that I’ve taught them as much as I can on how to walk with strength – alone and apart from me and the family path.

As a solo parent, it becomes evident that it will be just me on the path (eventually). I want to be able to celebrate that I’ve learned, and taught myself, as much as possible on how to walk alone. With strength and confidence. Just like them.

xo
Mto3

*I hope it doesn’t make them feel guilty that their needs are trumping whatever is happening in the moment. Or that it’s a chore for me to give them some time…