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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…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. 

 

 

A Flibbertigibbet! A will o’ the wisp! A clown!

They could have been singing about my daughter. She often puts a song in my heart, and sometimes it’s this one.

 

…except once I began to understand her, and tried to get inside her head on how it works in there, she was no longer a ‘problem’ and a will o’ the wisp seemed more magical than flighty.

Now when this song plays in my heart around her, I just swoop and pick her up and we dance together.

(Thank you Rodgers and Hammerstein)

Gen X and wtf happened…?

Reading hilarious You know you were an 80s kid when… posts make me laugh too! (Oh Huffington et al)

It feels so good to realize that *everyone* had to wear a cold, metal-smelling key on a shoelace around their neck because their single mum was working because child support tables hadn’t yet been invented, and she had to work so late because she wasn’t making as much as her male counterpart.

Or that we all totally ate microwaveable Stouffers on a TV tray in the family room while our mum stayed in the kitchen, smoking and drinking gin, and we had to feed our younger sib because we were so mature at 9 because there was no one else to be in that role.

Haha! And remember when we had to return soda cans to scrounge up enough to buy 5 cent candy and we had to walk to the store – all because of the recession which meant Mum certainly didn’t have enough money to splurge on candy or “extra” gas – and damn straight we had to eat all of our dinner: there was *literally* nothing else to eat because inflation.

It was easy to be afraid of our parents (and anyone else’s parents… or any adults) because everyone and anyone was allowed to yell at you! Or maybe even give you a smack if you made some transgression an adult didn’t like – or because the adult had already downed a few stubbies on the porch with the neighbours – or because the adult had some long standing un-diagnosed PTSD from any one of the recent wars they had to endure. Oh, and because children weren’t seen as requiring any protection as there were no laws specific to their safety. Telling our own parents didn’t help, they usually agreed with the other adults!

What the heck is wrong with us, Gen X’rs? Waiting until we have nest eggs (even though we don’t – we were never taught how to save) until we have our own children, and insisting that we try to nourish and wrap their little bodies with gentler things than what we had. We’re ridiculous!

We didn’t have the internet, and yet we were able to research and write essays (in cursive, by hand, with pen and carefully applied WhiteOut). Oh – but the same interweb which allows our young ones to do homework and learn is also the same place which yields so much hurt and garbage. For 80s kids, if someone was bothering us, we could go home and it would be safe there (even though we had to do chores). The only “perv” we might encounter was a creepy dude who flashed us once at the park, or the threat and rumours of a man flashing us in the park. Online we can find example after example of adults – other Gen X’rs – striving to take advantage of our children. Geez – I guess all that coloured food dye and additives that ran rampantly unregulated wasn’t a great idea after all.

It wasn’t easy for friends to become more important and more meaningful than parents because our social time together with our pals was limited. The family had to take turns with our link to the outside world – we could only talk on one shared landline phone. Our privacy was only guaranteed if the phone cord could stretch to the nearest bathroom. Our kids have instant and constant connection to their friends. ALL. THE. TIME. In their bedrooms. In the bathroom. At dinner with their families. During Church service. During the drive to the mall (parent chauffeured). It is easy to feel aligned with their friends at the expense of another peer or parent when they’re all “safely” behind a screen and are out of touch with how their words might affect Madysyn or Ella.

Seeing what others are doing through selfies or hashtags or text messages creates anxiety in our children: they think they are being left out, or that they need to be more and do more in order to be included in the fun. As adults we see this in our experience of social media: The Jones are going for another trip to Jamaica? How is this possible? They just put in a new salt-water pool! 123 people have already liked Jennifer’s status and she only posted 18 minutes ago! We all know the thrill (or the crush) of the number of “likes” we receive on a post. We compare and see the amazing Pinterest success of our friends and the career success of our LinkedIn connections. How can our children be immune to the very thing that can motivate and drive us (Adults! With years and years of experience).

I’m still unclear about what Generation X’s parenting problem is- the fact that we didn’t have it all? Or that parenting is hard? Or that there is the internet now?

Bottom line: the divide in our families is deeper and wider. Our kids are being driven into the arms of others, while we 80s kids have flashbacks of our own neglected youth and tighten our grip on our adrift children. Hmm… seems hindsight isn’t 20-20, and those rose-coloured glasses are a comfy fit.

 

Turns out I’m the student *and* the teacher

Why is it so hard for me to create a new script between Lil Miss and I?

I still have these expectations of her that she wants to meet, but just cannot. And while I sometimes find it easy to make space for her, other times I hear:
judgements from others;
my fears of what she’ll be like as a teen;
and my inadequacies at having more helpful interactions with her.

And then I get mad at myself but take it out in other ways.

And how can I help her sibs understand that she’s not being malicious (but can I be sure she’s not being malicious??). And how can I encourage her to blossom as an individual when she hears such negative things all day long – in her own head and from other people’s mouths? When everything is such a challenge for her? When just copying words from a blackboard is an exersize in frustration?

Why do I hold onto this expectation? I couldn’t love her anymore than I already do. How can I let go and still encourage her to do and be good in the world? How do I accept her as she is, yet let it be known that her actions aren’t always acceptable?

How do I feed the love and starve the fear?