A little sick and tired…

In many ways I consider myself an ‘experienced’ mum – multiple kids, wrangling on my own, a mix of boys and girls, a chaotic combination of abilities and personalities… In other ways I know that I’m learning every single day – and some days the lesson is harsh.

Last night, Lil Miss didn’t want to eat dinner – her stomach was uncomfortable. She had been at a friends for the bulk of the day on Saturday, played hard outside all morning on Sunday, and trio and I went out in the afternoon. The boys were saying that my homemade ham-and-bean soup was good (better than my typical ham chowder), and the fresh buns I made were so good with the cheese and chive egg-wash. She turned up her nose and said she didn’t like it, and frequently wandered away from the table during dinner.

I’m not going to lie: the day had been rather frustrating. I was feeling short tempered and easily aggravated, and overwhelmed, and that everything is my fault – the messy yard, the cluttered garage, that we didn’t get to take pup to the park again, that I needed to go to the grocery store… *and* the to-do list was full of Spring Cleaning chores. Trio just wanted to play video games, watch The Flash and chat with their friends. But they’re all quick enough to complain that we “ran out” of Nutella. Or that they can’t unearth their skateboard from the garage pile. Or their sweatshirts don’t fit anymore. Or irritated because the van door isn’t opening. I’m the One who has to deal with it all.

Usually riding over these reactions is easy for me. I can understand and sympathize and rally the troops in a way that meets all our goals. This weekend I could not. I was sick and tired of being the One. She who will cook. Clean. Rally. Encourage. Mediate. Remind. Be patient. Coax. Shop. Remember *everything.*

I just didn’t have it in me this weekend.

So when Lil Miss refused my cheap-o Dinner-on-a-Dime, I had little wiggle room in me to cajole or insist or seek to understand. My heart was playing the tape that I’m not good enough to do it all. And is she objecting because our dinner wasn’t the usual roast & potatoes – it’s a close-to-the-poverty-line week for me, and my fear of making a bad career choice echoed in her refusal. I vaguely wondered how this might be better if I had a partner to help in these moments. My mind and heart was full of my own feelings and deficiencies and concerns and fears. I knew I was actively missing an opportunity to connect with her, but… well. I didn’t want to. I felt wrung out.
I managed not to yell (as I had already done that a few times in the last day or two), but just told her she could eat her dinner or leave the table for her room if she was that sick.

Ugh. I know.

She didn’t want to leave the table, she wanted to be around her family, and had no other ways to tell me that she was feeling ill. She reluctantly had a bite of delicious soup and promptly threw up all over the table – looking startled and unsure. My poor middle son nearly followed suit until I managed to encourage her to dash to the bathroom. I divided my time between cleaning up her mess, and comforting her in the bathroom. Pup certainly helped with cleaning the floor (ohmygawsh, it’s so gross when he does it, and yet so helpful too – totally mixed reaction from me!).

In the moments before she was sick, I could see she looked pale. I could see this was unusual behaviour from her. I knew there was another reaction I could choose, and yet I didn’t. She sweetly thanked me for taking care of her, and told me that I was right – that she was sick and should have been in her room.

She remained flat out on the couch, and after the 3rd time dashing up the hall, I gave her a pot to keep beside her. The boys and I tidied, and put out the garbage, and we all chilled on the couch watching The Flash until bedtime. My oldest and I enjoy Sunday Night tv together: typically The Walking Dead, but the season finale was last week. He really wanted to watch another program with me, and shoo his sister upstairs, but she was still so pukey, I couldn’t leave her be. He and I will watch it tonight.

I realized that I might have experience parenting small children, and I’m familiar with what that might feel like inside of me, as a mum and a person. I made space for their emotional development and needs in an easy way that didn’t trip many of my tapes or emotions. It’s harder, I’m finding, to parent teens and tweens – they look and sound like older people, and yet their emotions and insides are more similar to children. They are capable of judgement and derision and haughty stares in a way that is totally expected and normal for their development – and yet, creates strong reactions in me! I know they don’t have the life experience or the emotional maturity to understand how that might impact others. When I choose to connect and strive to understand and try to climb out of my own spiral, I find we navigate these challenges better together.

The tough lesson for me this weekend is to still trust my gut instinct – a blip is just that, and not a harbinger of a New World Order. Hm, and to trust that trio are still the same people as when they were smaller – loving, happy, zany, independent – but are also trying to figure out who else they can be.

We’re all trying to figure things out together.

 

xo

Mto3

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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

Fifth Day of Gratitude – 

Writing these days of gratitude, I’m aware of things I’m grateful for *all day.*

My daughter’s spunky personality. The warm hug my oldest gave me. The forgiveness from my neighbour when I forgot to pick up her son from school. My book club for reminding me that it’s ok to make mistakes (uhm… who forgets a child at school??). The chatty connection  with at young staff member at the toy store. The waiter at the restaurant. Strangers who share an emotional moment. Making my sisters laugh.

I forgot how much we notice when we shift our awareness – when we seek positives, we see positives. There’s always time to raise our eyes and look at the good which surrounds us, especially when we aren’t feeling so ‘good’ inside. 

It’s only been two days, and yet my heart is lifting. I also realized that *this* is christmas spirit. It’s not baking cookies, or finding a great gift, or even spending time with people. It’s carrying lovingkindness and finding lovingkindness in everyday moments. 

There’s no one “thing” for which I’m grateful today. I’m grateful that there are SO many amazing things out there to be seen: to generate a shift into a more open and macro view, and to spread the amazing things around to others. 

xo Mto3

…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. 

 

 

Cue the dad…

Tomorrow marks one of the two weeks when trio’s dad comes into town. I have my heart in my throat – I’m getting ready to miss them, and I’m getting ready to have some time to myself.

It’s a weird mixed bag of emotions – and I wonder whether other parents feel this way, regardless of how frequently kids are with the other parent. I struggle between wanting to “use” this time for myself and only myself, and do things around the house that I don’t normally have time to do.

Things I wonder if I will do while trio are with their dad:

  • De-clutter the basement: It’s a terrible mix of my work stuff, their lego, and miscellaneous storage-d items
  • Finally vacuum the basement: I can’t even see the floor most times
  • Go for a massage! Ooh! A little bit of pampering
  • Take pup-po for a long walk every afternoon: with no dinners to make, I will have time
  • Paint my bedroom: this would feel so good to accomplish!
  • Go out for dinner by myself: have you ever done that? {nose wrinkle} I would love to, I never have done it and I feel it is a rite of passage
  • Re-paint the baseboards on the mainfloor: I didn’t know *this* was a thing, I’m embarrassed to say. I usually ignore baseboards.
  • Practice Yoga in the living room!
  • Empty their closets and re-organize them

I don’t usually make lists about what I can do when they’re with their dad. Until this last visit (or the one before it…), they usually don’t have sleepover. Because they’re too young, because they don’t know him well, or because … maybe some other reason. So if I made a list and they called for me to collect them, I might feel unhappy or annoyed or dissatisfied that the week didn’t go as I planned.

So, what I usually do when trio are with their dad:

  • Read on the couch: this feels like *such* a luxury!
  • Go to bed early (when it’s a sleepover)
  • Catch up on pinterest: and then I imagine all my de-cluttering feats
  • Eat cereal for dinner: why bother cooking? All those dishes and time…
  • One big room clearing-out in the house: their bedrooms, the living room repainted (it’s only been 3 times that they’ve been away long enough for me to start and finish a task)
  • Do some knitting or crochet: it’s almost meditative
  • Talk to trio every night (when it’s a sleepover): or worse, not at all

My knitting nest

I don’t really do anything. I may go out for dinner with a girlfriend or a sister. I may finish reading a novel. I may start a novel after lollygagging around the library.

With trio not being present for an extended period of time, it’s almost as though my motivation to do anything leaks out of my feet. And when they come home each night after dinner to sleep and get ready for school the next day, the whole routine is off. Its like I’m just waiting for them to come home so we can continue our lives after the cameo appearance of their dad.

I never intended to be that type of mother: she who’s life is so subsumed in her children. But again, I never intended to be a solo mother: she who’s life must be [momentarily] subsumed into her childrens’.

 

Soundbite: Since separation nearly 9 years ago, their dad lives on the absolute other side of the country and will travel in with his wife twice a year to visit his family and trio. The time during the week is usually from after school until after dinner, so the weekend will be for sleepovers at his family’s house. 

A moment in which to luxuriate

Empty plates? Cold veg in the serving dish? Salt on the table cloth and warm milk in the bottom of the plastic cups.

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…and with all that, a corner has been turned.

Trio and I will chat, and laugh, and discuss the coming week, ask questions, and connect in the aftermath of dinner. The cooling plates cozied between our elbows on the table. The crispy bits of the roast being picked at between comments. The napkins being folded, and unfolded, then folded again while we consider interesting points of views. We bang our feet against each others’ under the table, or tickle ankles with our toes, or touch the shoulder of the person sitting beside us this meal.

It certainly doesn’t feel very long ago that meals were nearly untenable marathons of repositioning bums, picking up forks, feeding babies then toddlers then babies again, getting drinks of milk (no! Not that cup!), and ketchup (always ketchup).
I had a love-hate with my self imposed insistence that we sit at the table and enjoy dinner together. It certainly wasn’t in deference to my cream love seat and all that ketchup.

Being outnumbered as a single parent means, for me, that our connection to each other as a set of four is paramount. There are many ways to connect one-on-one. But in a group, there aren’t many experiences as binding as preparing food, eating together, and then cleaning up together. It is different than any other activity we do as a group. At a deeper level, we seem to understand we are nourishing each other – that we are giving and creating something more than playing a board game or shoveling the driveway (important family stuff, abso!!).

To just be together in those after moments: we’re choosing to stay together, even though we’ve finished eating, to maintain this closeness, this full feeling. It’s an unexpected gift as a parent.

Keeping it real: we fought throughout the whole KP duty. I felt trio knew enough about what cleaning meant to handle it while I took Pup-po out for his business  (biting cold and an uncooperative dog grumped me up by the time I finally got back in the house and saw trio had done very little KP) … so there *might* have been some nattering and griping and grumpiness during the clean up.

… and then reconnection again at bedtime when we all piled into my bed to look at pictures and snuggle a bit…