Un-scheduling

It’s possible in the summer to become less scheduled – there is way more time to do and be and find your own pace. No school. Less work (for me). More friends with free time. Pools. Beaches. Parks. Visiting. Vacationing.

Vacations. This is the second year that trio have gone to their Dad’s for a portion of the summer. Last year it was 2 weeks. This year it is three. Three weeks. They have a ton of fun things planned to do, as well as some free time to do yoga, berry pick, and play in the backyard with their step-dog. Being somewhere else for them definitely means vacation and fun.

But what does it mean for me? I’m at home with our same mess and our same clothes and our same space. It’s the same grocery stores and parks and the same weather.

The fridge doesn’t need to be stocked with snacks. Laundry will be done in small batches and it’s solely my socks to match up. My shoes are the only ones at the front door. Bedtime is whenever and so is wake up. I can have tuna from the can for dinner.

And what else does it mean? My sense of time is all mixed up without having people to care for: to feed and tuck in at night and wake up in the morning. That also means no one to redirect and hug and encourage and clean. No one here to giggle with or feel frustrated with or hang out with. No arguments to mediate. No achievements to celebrate. No one to help with cleaning or feeding the pets or mowing the lawn. No one to tell what to do.

But amid all the lack, clarity emerges.  I have uncovered that, within myself, I am a Mother first and foremost. A mum and then me as a person, as a woman, as a sister or friend. Without the label of “mum” to help shape my days and hours, I’m not sure what to do with my time or what I even *want* to do with my time. I didn’t realize that my mix of my own-self and my mother-self wasn’t as balanced as I thought. During their absence of the last week, and knowing I have another 2 more weeks, I feel at odds: I have to acknowledge I’m not as in-touch with me-as-a-person.

Good to know.

For the next two weeks, I’m giving myself permission to choose my own adventure and to unschedule myself. Maybe I do want to declutter the basement, but if I don’t, that’s ok. Maybe I want to go kayaking for an afternoon. Maybe sit around Indigo and browse books. Maybe do work. Maybe clean the house. But I will find my own pace.

Allow me to encourage you to do the same this summer. Find opportunities to tune into yourself, for yourself. Maybe you have only one afternoon, but take it for only you.

Summer means freer days and less scheduling. Make this summer extra for you as well as others in your care.

xo
Mto3

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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

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

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

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…

The last few weeks have been very … enlightening for me. Maybe because of how I’m interpreting the end of my recent relationship. Maybe because of the things I learned about myself while I was with him. Maybe because of my meditation and yoga practice. Maybe because of the amazing people around me.

Maybe because of all of it and I have my eyes and heart open in a new way.

Usually my paid work is inside my house – coaching, remote administration work, training prep – and I am so grateful for the flexibility to be able to be present for trio, my doggo, and the self-direction. And gawsh, it can be quiet and lonely and I can easily get sidetracked with my long-range projects.

I have the amazing opportunity to work in a temporary position for a little while outside the house. With people! Lots of people! Projects with definitive finish lines! Using excel (I LOVE excel!) and chatting with people in short bursts. I can even wear jeans most days. How perfect is this!

The gratitude I feel is over-fulling.

The shift into new routines has been mostly smooth – trio has to pull up the slack, and they’ve tried to do so amazingly. I’m grateful that they’re resilient, open hearted, and communicative with their needs. I love our after dinner KP time: messing around in the kitchen, tidying up and prepping the next day while listening to music. Any combination of kids usually ends up in the living room – last night they were doing these weird throwing jumps, so funny! They will often absent themselves at different points and snuggle with Loki.

My neighbours and friends have been so supportive – helping bring the kids home from school, and offering up whatever. It’s so uplifting.

Being at a job where I feel competent, successful, capable … where I’m a person first … where I can stretch and gain comfort at being authentically and wholeheartedly me … it’s been so opening for me. I’m sure I’m making mistakes, and I know I’ve said things that I’m embarrassed about – and I’m still standing. People still talk to me. My life hasn’t fallen to ruins. I walk on.

This work experience has given me a rather safe platform to practice my recent learnings:

  • To be grateful
  • To not make assumptions
  • To be compassionate (with myself and others)
  • To lean into uncomfortable feelings
  • To be aware

Working in an temporary environment allows me more freedom than I would have guessed – I like to feel good at whatever job I do, but there is an awareness that I’m not desperate for this work. So while I strive to do my best, and be a considerate colleague, there’s no stress to try and do and be a certain way.

There’s something to be said about embracing impermanence. Extending that sense, that freedom, into other areas of my life might be interesting.

xo Mto3