A riot of colour into adulthood

There comes a moment when parents notice the children they knew are turning into the adults they will become.

I’ve seen glimpses of that in my children, and once I noticed a threshold had been crossed, I began watching for other signposts that will let me peek into my children’s future selves.

It can be very obvious that kids grow up. Like when I was trying to scold my teenager who *literally* loomed over me – alas, frowning “up” doesn’t seem to be as impactful when I’m trying to compel him to remember to put his dishes in the dishwasher. Or when I get his old sweatshirts that no longer fit him. Or when they take the initiative to have a shower (without prompting!! Whaaaat!)

The stunning beauty is when they make connections in the world that you haven’t, about topics you don’t really know.
Or when they’re interested in books that you haven’t been able to get through (Catch-22. A doozy).
When they show startling empathy and understanding for a classmate, and explore their perceptions with you at the end of the day.
Those first few times they ride their bike to an out-of-neighbourhood friend’s house.
When they see a need in the house/community, and they figure out how to make it better.

Part of the balance that is required in parenting is recognizing where they’re at and where they seem to want to go, and somehow offering them a chance to see more and imagine greater possibilities. A subtle shift in a kaleidoscope creates a new pattern with the same set of colours and shapes – helping kiddos see that shifts are possible leads to growth and development. Even if they don’t do the shift you were expecting, your help in creating awareness allows space for (re)imagination and future change.

I’m raising trio in a way that lines up for me as a parent, but also in a direction where I hope they can land as adults. As a solo parent without a co-parent, I am missing the benefit of hearing another perspective and not having another person’s ideas directing trio’s adult selves. There is a risk. It is super valuable when I talk with friends and hear their approaches, and when they are comfortable enough to challenge/question/explore my values and ideas. They are helping me tilt the kaleidoscope so I can continue to tilt for trio.

In what ways have you seen glimpses of adult in the kids in your lives? If you’re a single parent, how do you find being the navigator in your child’s development?

xo
Mto3

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Sunday … Funday?

 

I have no patience on Sundays.
I can’t remember who first noticed that I am quicker to temper and feel more pressure to get things done. But it is definitely true: I am practically a mom-ster on Sundays.
Kids suddenly never listen.
There is always a mess left for me to deal with.
No one knows who’s turn it is to feed the dog.
I have to do everything.

Last Sunday, my taller-than-me 14 year old attempted to mollify my Sunday irritation by saying, “Okay. Calm down,” in response to my slightly raised voice.
So, as adults reading this, I’m sure you know how well that works when it comes from a partner or other adult. Let me assure you – it didn’t work coming from my teenager.

I’m sure I’ve had better parenting moments. I could feel my brain going offline. I knew I was shifting away from my prefrontal cortex and into my limbic system… away from my reasoning self and into my reactive self. It just felt so important and *necessary* to tell him in a loud voice that FIRST – ‘calm down’ isn’t something to *ever* say to his mum, and that SECOND – it never works on anyone. Once I left the room, once I had some space, I could see that he had been trying to help. That my reaction was rooted somewhere else.

There is a line in parenting that allows for humour and lightness instead of big reactions: I’ve seen in mostly in fictional parenting, but oh, how I want that easy-ness and bigger picture perspective when parenting gets tough. It harbours just below my surface, out of reach but visible. There have been a few times that I managed it – to the utter surprise of trio! – and I’m sure that it can be more helpful than my lecturing.

Part of attachment parenting is in the repairing that comes after a break. Instead of ignoring that I lost my cool, or they said something hurtful, or that I said something mean, the point is to reconnect and grow back together. Egos have to be acknowledged and left behind to have these conversations. That’s tough to do for me – especially when I felt undermined by his Calm Down comment. I haven’t explored it very deeply: maybe because he’s male? Maybe because I’m a single mum? Maybe because I’m outnumbered? Maybe because I have control issues? That’s for me for another day.

After our conversation about why I had such a big reaction, there has been a LOT of teasing using the phrase ‘Calm Dooown’ anytime one of us shows even a little irritation at an innocent comment. Thank heavens for humour.

This Sunday had a few “Calm Down” comments – especially when we tried to navigate a completely jampacked Costco, only to find they sold out of their already cooked chickens; and when Sobey’s had the same issue (although more were coming out in “15 minutes” … but really meant 30 minutes); and when we were finishing our weekend chores. The best part was the acknowledgment that these were things that are frustrating, that we were all sharing the same annoyance, that we could use humour to lighten things up. Oh, and I’m sure they loved teasing me.

Our Sunday turned out fine. There were a few stumbles, but we can all point to the fact that it’s Sunday and that usually lifts me out of my grump enough to see some positives.

Our “funday” is usually Saturday, Sunday just is too jammed getting ready for the week. But, I think I’ll try to find time for at least an hour of free play for the 4 of us to stay connected.

We’ll try to create a partial Funday afternoon.

xo
Mto3

I’m like, *so* busy…

It turns out, when I’ve got a fast paced day, week, or month, I’m more able to tackle projects and finish activities than when my pace is looser and slower.

Case in point: this blog. I’ve been …like… busy – volunteering at school, working at my job(s), parenting, keeping house, and being with family and friends. But at any given point, I  have time at the end of the day to do whatever – laundry, playing Candy Crush (oh man.), watching Dexter, cleaning house, finishing up on last tasks, prepping for the next day… but I inevitably choose to spend time ‘relaxing.’ So I write a list for tomorrow to write in this blog, or finally wash the sheets in the hamper, or scoop the fur from the bottom of the stairs, or develop my 5 year plan. And then I can feel accomplished that it’s on a list, and also justified in ‘relaxing’ tonight.

Each January for the past few years I’ve been lucky to take on a full time contract for 3 months (so helpful for post-Christmas bills!) and I’m lucky that my boss is flexible, and I’m lucky that I enjoy the work. Switching into a full time position after being self-employed and self-directed is a shift for the whole family and requires all of us to be hands on.

So now (and I’m sure many of you are already familiar with this pace) I am working outside the home all day, and still fitting in my other job(s), parenting my children, keeping house, volunteering with the school, and having time for family and friends. And yet… I’m not overwhelmed. I feel capable and accomplished, and pleased when I remember to pick up milk on the way home and remember to stop at the post office on my lunch to send a package. Suddenly carving space to write this blog feels easy. Playing the shell game or ‘which hand’ with the dog is a no-brainer. Meditating for 10 minutes takes no time.

Huh? Why is this?

What happens in my brain and heart that makes it possible to do *more* things when my day is even more planned than ever?

Kiddos absolutely help. It’s amazing that they are older and are able to take on greater responsibility around the house. We’ve started the rotation that trio is responsible for a dinner night (Lil miss chose perogies, and my oldest will make burgers), and we rearranged our chores so that the bulk of it happens at the weekend.

I wonder if, in the fast pace, I realize I only have a certain amount of time to do any one thing so I’d better-do-it-NOW or else it literally won’t get done. Or I feel more efficient so the likelihood of me sticking with an activity through to completion increases. Maybe it’s something to do with procrastination (no time for THAT), or maybe it has to do with favouring sleep over Dexter (sorry man, you’re less than second place now).

I’m sure this feeling will ebb away and there will be days when I feel scattered and overwhelmed.
But right now, I’ll luxuriate in this amazing and strange experience of not feeling …like… *so* busy but feeling able to greet the road as it rises to meet me.

xo Mto3

 

 

 

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

 

 

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