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. 

Breaking up is hard to do… especially as a mum

Unexpectedly, during a conversation with my guy, he and I saw unbridgeable gaps in our relationship and so decided to end it. 

Even though my head could hear and understand what he was saying, and even though I had already realized these gaps, my heart has been slower to catch up. As my first “real” relationship after my marriage ended, I knew I had a lot to learn and had a lot of room to grow. He was perfect for me while I was navigating this new path, and I deeply appreciate and cherish him for that. 

But I’m sad, nonetheless. 

After about a week, I realized I wanted to talk to trio about him and I. I finally felt capable of saying the words “we broke up” without throwing up or crying, and didn’t want to wait too long because I anticipated one of them would ask “when did this happen?” and couldn’t handle the deception of either lying to them about it, or letting them know it happened a long time ago. 

So without much preamble, I just baldly stated that we decided to end our relationship. They had questions, and I tried to stay open and honest and respond with age appropriate answers. At one point I teared up a little, and that alarmed my oldest (he was very concerned if I was Ok) and saddened my youngest (she didn’t want me to be sad), and my middle just sort of let it wash over him. 

The perspective my oldest shared was amazing – he recognized that it’s not as devastating as a marriage break up, and that having misalignment is ok because there is the capacity to learn. He kept checking in to make sure I was ok, and asked poignant questions like, if he told me he loved me and wanted to get back together – what would I say? 

I’m glad I waited until I was no longer so cry-y, and I’m glad that throughout our whole relationship trio and I chatted about what was happening in my dating life (to a certain degree!!)

Having kids helped me maintain my rudder during the tumultuous years after my marriage ending, and they continue to ground me and highlight my path as I experience other relationships. 

I feel deeply blessed that I had the experience of this relationship, and for my kiddos who are with me on my journey. The path may be rocky or difficult to discern, but I trust my feet and my heart. And I know that I can’t get lost, maybe especially because I’m a mum.

xo 

…blossoming into adults

In an unexpected (and yet, strangely expected) way, my parenting approach is shifting as my children age. My *philosophy* remains the same: firmly rooted in attachment parenting with a dash of old school/non-helicoptering, but the way it shows up in 3 tween/teens can’t be the same as when they all occupied single-digit ages.

They all have expectations and responsibilities, however there are no chore charts or weekly have-to lists. I’m the team leader, but we all have opportunities to discuss and share what we would like to do on the daily and they know that I have final say. They also know that if I tell them that something needs to be done, then it outranks device-time or leisure activities.

My frequent ‘growing edge’ is to try and remember that, even with their larger bodies, they are still kids mentally and emotionally. I will forget that they might need softer speech or increased understanding/patience from me – because they look so darned capable and mature! And I think that really comes out when they have an emotional reaction that I wasn’t expecting. It’s almost as if I get frustrated when they are upset – I know that it’s not a big deal, so why don’t they? Because they’re still kiddos. Riiiight.

This happened during the dreaded after-school-hour when they want to decompress but I don’t want to spend the hour picking up three sets of shoes, socks, bags, lunch containers, homework, agendas, snack wrappers, plates, cups, and coats. So I insist they have to do *stuff* before they get free time. This always erupts into shouts of who ‘calls’ the xbox or laptop or tv. And one kid is inevitably disappointed and frustrated. It isn’t as though this is the ONLY time tonight that they’ll get their devices, so it makes no sense to me. I snapped at my poor 11yo and I finally asked him “What is WRONG??” and he said that he was fine until my voice started getting so angry sounding. Oh. Ohkay, yah. I get it.

It really helps me to be aware of what my underlying motivations are (I am not a Roomba, constantly collecting and seeking out things to pick up!) and what theirs might be (they want to unplug and chill out – much like me with my knitting) and then we find a balance.

Combined with my self-diagnosed ADHD, and 3 kids, and a shifting workload, I forget things ALL THE TIME. If I say it out loud, I assume it will be completed, and I get pissy when I see bags/shoes/wrappers/homework/underwear (huh?! Where did that come from??) in the front hall because I expect them to tidy it up upon entering. That adds to my frustration because now I either have to tell them again during their declared device-time, or I have to deal with it. Blegh.

The new balance I’m striving to find is that between letting them take responsibility for their own selves and giving them the latitude of caring for our common spaces – both of which have many opportunities for my frustration levels to rise!

I’m sure this will be an ongoing theme. What are your strategies?

xo Mto3

Raising Men

Many years ago, it was tough to reconcile that my two oldest were these small baby-ish bodies that were going to morph and mature and be molded into Men. And that I was supposed to do it with very (very!) little influence from those humans who had already walked this path.

Whaat!

Well. I’m here. My baby boys are changing in front of my eyes. I’m truly (truly!) not sure when it happened, but my oldest is now the size of his father, and when he hugs me, he has the same heft and presence as another adult. No longer do I need to crouch over a little bit when I check his teeth for cleanliness – in fact, I need to go up on my toes (this happened this morning: not gonna hide it. He was 2 minutes late in catching his morning bus, and said no when I asked whether he had brushed his teeth. The solution? He gave me a toothy grin and asked ‘how do they look?’ and I assessed the fuzziness and gave him a piece of minty gum. Mhm. That is 730am parenting of a teenager at its finest.)

His size, the size of his shoes (it’s the same as his age: 13!!), his deepening voice, his constant hunger, his sleeping in. I can no longer deny it. My baby is growing up. And once I swallow the lump in my throat, I find even though he doesn’t really look like my wee babe anymore, he still is – in some ways. He still needs help clipping the nails on his right hand. I have to remind him to clean his ears. To take a sweatshirt on these autumn days. He accepts my hugs, and *occasionally* seeks them out. I will still do things for him that I know he’s capable of doing: making an evening snack, helping make his bed, getting him a drink while I’m in the kitchen… At some point, he will no longer ask me to do those things.

Without an in-home example of a Man, he has still managed to figure out that complimenting the chef is a wonderful thing to do. He does after-dinner tidy-up with his siblings and I. He mows the lawn. He does laundry. He helps his siblings with homework. He has a paper route and is active in his Scouts community. He texts to let me know when he’s out with his friends to keep me looped in. He sets the table and takes out the garbage. He loves fast, expensive cars. He loves first person shooter games. He interacts and chats with adults with confidence, humour, and respect. He makes an effort to problem solve and chat out issues.

As he matures, I believe it’s becoming less important to have an example of a Man in the house as it is to have learned about being an Adult. And I can do that. I am doing it. We’re doing it together. Figuring it out, and navigating as a team. I’m sure he’s collecting experiences and examples of being a man* from his grandfather, his scout leaders, school staff, and he gets to choose the pieces that he would like to emulate.

If time travel were possible, I wish to tell my 10 year younger-self that it’s ok if I don’t know anything about raising boys! It turns out that kids don’t need gender-fication as they grow up. It’s just raising children into adults.

x Mto3


*An endearing thing happened the other day when we bumped into a friend at the park and we met her husband for the first time. My dear 13 yo commented afterwards about the qualities he saw in the husband (kind to animals, friendly with strangers, polite, funny) and said he wasn’t surprised our friend married him because he seems like a good guy. I love that he was watching the man and picking up traits he admired and find valuable.