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

March Break Mayhem and Completed Contracts

It’s been super busy here the last few months. Normally I work several work-from-home part time contracts where I have flexibility and autonomy, but I happily took a full-time contract for 3 months in a corporate setting (all day adult interaction! amazing!). And phewf. It was a difference!

About 8 years ago, when trio were very small, I assuaged my single-parent financial anxiety by going back to school and getting a full time position straight-away. This meant my wee-three were in daycare and after school programs, I was run ragged, and my house devolved into a border-line disaster. My anxieties around scarcity were reduced (during this time I packed my freezer and pantry and house-hold items that could rival Costco’s warehouse!) but our day-to-day was us just getting by.

When there was a management change at my not-for-profit and I was let go, I thought my world was ending. What began as a temporary fill has led to opportunities and growth that I don’t think I would have been able to explore had I remained in a full time position. And as I usually work from home, my recent absence after school (and before school) has really allowed trio to stretch their independence, and encouraged me to rest on family and friends more than I usually do.

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Oldest & youngest

Being outside the house so much was great, and being back in the home has been amazing. It feels as though we’re getting to know each other … maybe what I feel is that we’ve all grown over the last few months and we’re wiggling ourselves into a new fit. My oldest is seeking out the basement office-space for his own. We’re talking about finishing the basement (uhm – something none of us have much experience!) and as I type, he and his brother are working at bringing down his side of their previously-shared bedroom; after they load the dishwasher. My wee girl and I sorted through her bedroom disaster and repurposed a shelving unit from our previous-office-space into her room. Whoa. Her space finally feels there is an organized way – books, toys, stuffies: they have a home now. And even though I still lose my cool on occasion (urgh, it really bothers me when they yell and fight and nitpick each other), most things we meet with humour and patience.

Finally my ex-husband-of-10-years is off our cable bill (they wouldn’t allow me to make ANY changes to our package without him…grr) and I made a decision to switch to a new provider. Look at me making household decisions by myself. But that means we’re without tv and internet for a solid week. Oops! It has led to a different March Break than trio were likely expecting. We’ve spent a lot of time at the library enjoying their wifi. A lot of time sorting and decluttering, and renting movies and tv series (Veronica Mars! woot woot!).

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Li’l Miss enjoying wifi

Quiet tears and being present 

The last few days have been kinda hard for me. I’m feeling raw, slightly fragile, and yet frenetic at the same time.

There is something so soothing and warming when someone just meets you in your sadness and hangs out with you there. It’s a gift when someone can do that naturally.

Lil miss came in to my room after I excused myself from the after-dinner kitchen-tidy argument that had broke out among trio, and just crawled into bed beside me, being quiet while I leaked tears into her hair and snuffled against her forehead. Amazingly she didn’t seem uncomfortable – she just seemed to intuit that a cry was ok, and gently asked if I had anything on my mind that I wanted to talk about.

We chatted a bit (honestly, I was crying the whole time, even when I was smiling or chuckling about what she said) and her message was

3-be

Gradually the boys came up, and although they appeared more uncertain with my emotions, they laid on the bed and joined the chatter. We joked and laughed (through my tears, sheesh) about this old song* we used to listen to and still sing together sometimes. Because it *is* alright to cry.

I literally could have cried and laid there with them tucked in around me for the rest of the night. But. I hustled them out to choose a movie and lay out popcorn and chips, and I sat on the bathtub edge and continued to cry by myself for a little while longer.

While it may be true that I’m feeling less resilience for regular-level stress because my knee really hurts, and I’m not sleeping well, and Christmas is late in my house, and I haven’t baked *any* Christmas desserts this year…
…but I’m also keenly feeling the loss of Mike and I the last few days. Every once in a while my heart catches a glimpse of understanding and then recoils in horror at the feeling of letting go of the love.

Being vulnerable and sharing (thanks to Brene Brown and my book club):
My heart was secretly hoping that he and I would eventually be able to figure out how to be together. My mind and spirit acknowledge that he and I aren’t in alignment right now, and maybe never will be. But fuck – that’s hard and painful for my heart to fully grasp. So there are these very uncomfortable moments when that understanding pierces me and it hurts so much.

So I strive to take the advice from Lil Miss – I can be present with my sadness and feelings and tears. It’s mutable. I am, too. Everything is. And there’s beauty and magic in that.
It’s not a reach to be positive and know that I am ok and will bounce, and there are happy times ahead. In the moment of tears, it’s hard to deeply know and believe, though.
Be grateful. Be grateful. I hear this and feel not only grateful to Mike for all of the gifts and challenges from him, but also for the quiet acceptance from lil miss. And the support and love I feel from my friends. For opportunities. For my warm house and full freezer… I am profoundly grateful for them, and all of it.

Last year I posted my 30 days of gratitude and was full-up of holiday spirit – and this year I only just put up the tree yesterday. (It’s cool – I’m present, positive, and grateful)

I have 7 more days until Christmas and would like to post a truncated 30 Days of Gratitude … so, 7 days of Gratitude. Already I can feel my heart lifting.

xo Mto3

 

*”It’s alright to Cry” by Darius Rucker on the first “For the kids” cd… I cannot find a youtube copy. That CD is certainly worth the purchase, if you’re looking.