Momfession #49: The phone call

mom on phoneThis evening, I had to make a quick business call from home. Thankfully, it isn’t something I have to do often any more (once, I had a psycho boss that would call my cell at all times of day or night just to “chat”). I knew it would only take a minute, and the kids were playing relatively quietly in the living room, so I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. “Hey guys,” I said, to both kids and the hubster who was playing on his iPod, “I’m just going to make a quick call for work…can you just keep it down?” They all seemed to acknowledge that they heard my request, so I dialled the number.

Not two rings in, something happened. My kids instantly went from playing with each other and speaking in normal tones, to running around me in circles, screaming. They became possessed beings, laughing maniacally and chasing me while I ran from room to room, laptop in one hand, cell phone wedged between my shoulder and ear. I apologized profusely to the person on the other end of the line, who certainly must have thought I had 10 kids instead of two, and tried desperately to sound light hearted and playful, while mouthing “STOP IT” and putting on my best mean mom face. I ended up in the only room in our house with a lock on the door: the bathroom. As I attempted to finish my call, with my laptop balanced on the sink, my two lovely children screamed and pounded on the door. And where, you might ask, was my husband this entire time? In the living room, still playing on his iPod.

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Momfession #46: The other side of bullying

Every Monday evening, our entire family attends a program for boys with behaviour challenges. Gabriel goes to a “boys group” and they play games and work on developing strategies to deal with their anger and frustration that don’t involve violence, expletives, or hurling large items at their teachers. Mike and I go to the parent group, where we learn parenting techniques to help assist us in raising our challenging sons. And Kailyn goes to the daycare, where she makes crafts and dances. It is difficult to make it there for 6pm every Monday; the kids eat “dinner” (PB&J’s and goldfish crackers) in the car while I fight rush hour traffic and Mike acts as mediator between two very tired and cranky children who would rather be home. But, over the last two months, we have seen some positive changes in both ourselves and Gabriel, and albeit small, they are enough to keep us going.

Tonight, our topic du jour was bullying. Perfect, I thought…this is something that I have been wanting to discuss. How do we get our kid NOT to pick on other kids at school, when at home he is a loving, empathetic child (most of the time)? Surely, since this was a program for kids with behavioural issues, we would be discussing the “other side” of bullying: what do you do when your kid is a bully. But, the discussion didn’t go that way. Instead, we discussed how to find out if your kid is being bullied, what to tell him, and how to advocate for him. And, while I believe that those are all very important things to learn, it left me wondering: what about us?

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Momfession #43: Psycho

mom_yelling_at_kidThis weekend, we took a bike ride to the park. It was a gorgeous, unseasonably warm October afternoon, and our kids needed to get out of the house. After a 10-minute-long bike ride in which my son moaned the entire way that his legs hurt! (it turned out that his tires were severely deflated, but being the awesome parents that we are, we only figured it out after we yelled at him to “keep up, slowpoke!” about 20 times), we dropped our bikes and headed for the playground.

About five minutes into our playtime, I noticed a rather loud woman yelling periodically at her kid from the bench behind me. Her son appeared to be the same age as mine (about seven), yet she was screaming at him to “watch out for the swings!” and “don’t run so fast!”. I immediately began to judge her as some overbearing helicopter parent. But I stopped quickly, reminding myself not to be so swift to judge others’ parenting techniques. And then, she did something that I just couldn’t ignore.

Two 12-year-old boys walked into the playground. The woman immediately called her son over and very loudly told him, “not to look at, or talk to that boy Stephen.” The boys looked a bit rough-around-the-edges, and I recognized one of them as being a former classmate of my son’s (in his special behaviour class), so I figured one of the kids must have given her kid some trouble at some point in the past. Then, the woman (also very loudly) added, “and don’t say, ‘hey there’s that kid with Aspergers!’” Hmm, I thought. OK so she knows the kid has special needs…not sure why she thought she had to tell her son (and the whole playground) that. I immediately got edgy, but I kept my mouth shut.  Things quickly started to deteriorate when she began telling the other parents in the playground that the kid was a BAD KID (“I even heard he broke some girl’s ribs this summer!” she shouted, “and that friend of his is in a special violent offenders class!”), and then moved on to provoking the kid by yelling, “you’d better watch yourself” across the playground. The incident ended with the kid throwing sand at the woman and her son, my husband intervening and attempting to calm him down, and me very sternly telling the woman to leave.

The entire event only lasted about 20 minutes, but it had such an effect on me that I just can’t shake it from my mind.  I can’t help but think that there must be parents that have said similar things about my son. A small part of me even worries that our son will end up like those boys when he gets older. But the thing that really bothers me is that I am not sure if I would be much different from that woman, if I didn’t have a child with his own challenging behaviours. Of course, I would never resort to calling a 12-year-old a psycho (she seriously called him that) or taunting and provoking him. But if that kid had bullied my kid in the past, I could sort of see where she was coming from.

My husband and I have spent the last four years in various therapy sessions, parenting classes, and doctor’s appointments in order to try and help our son. But what we have realized is that it has also helped us a great deal. We have become more open minded, more tolerant, more loving, and more honest with our kids. We have learned to celebrate the tiny successes, and that bad days will pass. Most of all, we have learned to accept our child for who he is, challenges and all. Although the days are hard and progress is slow, I don’t think I would change this experience for anything. I truly believe we are better parents, and people, because of it.

Momfession #38: Karate Kid


We haven’t had the greatest success with extra-curricular activities. When our son was  three, we started him in a preschool soccer class. It was a frustrating experience: while all of the other kids listened to to instructor and nicely ran back and forth in the gym, our kid ran in the opposite direction. Or hid in the net. And sometimes purposely kicked the ball at other children. I would sit in the observation area, glaring through the window, mouthing “pay attention!” to him through the glass. My husband decided he couldn’t be the one to take him to the class; it was that frustrating. What followed was years of the same; in gymnastics class, he refused to warm up with the other kids. In baseball, he would walk slowly to first base after a hit, and when he fielded the ball, he would just hold it instead of throwing it in. At swimming lessons, he would swim off while the instructors were teaching the other children. In karate, he was pulled to the side countless times for misbehaving and made to do push-ups. As his parents, it wasn’t just frustrating. It was downright embarrassing. No matter how many times it happened, it still bothered me to watch all of the other kids behaving nicely, learning, progressing in a craft…while my kid just ran around in circles. I longed to be that parent who could just relax and enjoy watching their kid in class, instead of the one who was a constant ball of stress.

So that’s why what happened last week was nothing short of a miracle. After three years of forcing him to go to karate every week, something has finally clicked- and he is catching on faster than anyone expected. He spent the last week at karate camp, and at the end we were told that he is learning so well he will be invited to the elite class. We were blown away…our kid, the one who can’t pay attention, in an elite class?!

Yesterday, my daughter and I went to his Saturday morning class. I sat in the viewing area, and a mom sat next to me with her three-year-old daughter in tow. Her son had just started karate a few weeks ago and she asked me which kid was mine. As I pointed him out, I noticed that he had been pulled from the class and was working with a small group of children who were all at a higher level. “Wow,” she said, “he’s really good.” I nodded in agreement, looked down, and noticed that my daughter had slid over in her seat and asked the woman’s daughter if she wanted to sit down with her. Right then, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride. Here I was, watching my typically-behaviorally-challenged kid perfectly demonstrate the third kata to his peers, while my more-cranky-than-not toddler was offering her seat to a child she just met. Maybe we’re not so terrible at this parenting thing after all, I thought. It might take our kid a bit longer than most to shine, but when it does happen, it is sweeter than anything I could imagine, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Momfession #35: Appreciation

I try not to be a judge-y parent, I really do. That’s why I write this blog, after all: to remind other parents that it is OK to not be perfect, and that we are all really just doing the best that we can. But the other day, I just couldn’t help myself.

A few days ago my husband and I attended a parenting workshop called “Managing Challenging Behaviours”. It was the only one available out of a handful of workshops that I really wanted to attend, including, “The Explosive Child”, “Taming Tempers”, and “Managing Conflict” (unfortunately, the “How a Glass a Day of Wine Will Make You a Better Mom” class was full…but I am taking it as a distance ed course as we speak). We definitely deal with some challenging behaviours at home, and I hoped that we could not only learn some strategies, but commiserate with fellow weary, helpless parents at the same time.

And, for the most part, it was a decent experience. There were a lot of parents in there who needed help just like us, and we got some useful information. But, in a room full of parents who were going through divorces, struggling to parent children with eating disorders, and singlehandedly parenting several young children alone, the couple sitting next to us stood out. While Mike and I talked about the challenges of parenting a child who is explosive and violent at times, they interjected that they had a hard time because their child complained while practicing piano for a full hour a day. While the man behind us talked about not having a relationship with his depressed teenage son, they brought up an incident where their son wanted more Pokémon cards even though they just bought him some. And after a single father of two small kids talked about his struggles with discipline, the wife said the following: I know…I mean, sometimes it just seems like my son doesn’t appreciate what I do for him.

That statement made my blood boil. Here we were, really struggling with how to deal with some significant behaviour issues and this couple was upset because their eight-year-old doesn’t APPRECIATE them?! Are you kidding me?

No kid appreciates their parents. And if you’re doing this parenting thing for appreciation, you’re in the wrong business. It is by far the most difficult, stressful, frustrating, and unappreciated job on this planet. I have no interest in being appreciated by my kids. In fact, it isn’t their job to appreciate me. Their job is to be kids…to play, and learn, and love, and make mistakes. And to know that my husband and I will always be there to catch them when they fall, hug them when they are sad, and support them every step of the way. Period.

We may not be the perfect parents. Actually, I am certain we aren’t. But I know that we are doing the best that we can. Our kids might not notice right now, or even when they grow up (I am convinced that all kids end up on a psychologist’s couch blaming their parents for some wrongdoing eventually), but I honestly don’t care. I get so much joy out of watching them grow into these interesting, loving, wonderful beings that any amount of appreciation from them is meaningless. In fact, their mere existence is really all the “atta girl” that I need.