Momfession #59: Family vacations

Oh, hello there loyal Momfessional readers. Not sure if there are any of you left, after I  virtually abandoned you over the last several months, but hello anyway. I’ll spare you the “I’ve been busy” excuse and just say that it is nice to be back.

So this week, we took our first camping trip of the summer. I had planned it out months ago; we would be going to somewhere more remote than we had in previous years (well, as remote as you can get while car camping), about 3 1/2 hours from home. I was excited to go somewhere less populated and experience more “nature” and I was certain the kids would be blown away by all of the hiking, fishing, canoeing, etc. that I planned to pack into our three days away.

But, things didn’t quite end up the way I had envisioned.

It started when we were unpacking our car, after driving the 4+ hours it ended up taking to get to the site. And it went something like this.

Me: Ummm, hey dear husband, where’s the other bin with our camping stuff?

Him: What bin?

Me: The bin with our equipment in it. Like ALL of our cooking stuff, our flashlights, matches, propane, tools, etc. The one that we can’t do much without? OMG WHERE IS IT? SHIT!!

I moaned, sat down, and put my head in my hands. I had packed for days, written lists, pre-made all of our meals. And now we were four hours from home, with frozen food but no way to cook it. And no flashlight. And no way to start a fire. And no rope to hang the tarps with for the rain that was supposed to fall while we were sleeping.

I guess you could say I over-reacted a bit. I blamed my husband. I growled at the kids. I might have cried a bit. Then, we hopped back into the car and drove off, searching for some sort of camp store (which we did find, and ended up spending $100 in, just buying essentials).

And that’s pretty much how the camping trip went. My husband and I bickered, our kids misbehaved and were bored, we didn’t sleep, and a massive thunderstorm came through exactly while we were trying to pack up to leave. Thankfully there were some highlights: the surroundings were beautiful, the kids loved the beach, and they were obsessed with the park badges that they got to earn for doing things like keeping the campsite clean. But on a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it a solid 5.

The funny thing is, while I was editing and later posting our pictures on Facebook, I realized that, to an outsider, it must look like we had a perfectly idyllic trip. There we were: smiling, laughing, hiking, eating s’mores, and building sand castles like the “normal” family I had secretly wished we could be while we were in the midst of our dysfunction. I felt like a fraud.

And then I realized, maybe everyone else is a fraud too.

How many people do you know that actually tell the truth about their family trips? We don’t hear the stories about how mommy yelled at little Jimmy when he stepped in poop on the trip to the farm. Or how daddy got lost on the way to the beach and mommy told him she knew she shouldn’t have let him drive because he always gets lost. Or how the kids woke up every hour screaming because they weren’t used to sleeping in a completely dark hotel room, and mommy and daddy lost their patience around 4am and yelled, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, SHUT UP!

No one talks about that because those things aren’t supposed to happen. And we feel guilty that they do. We feel like terrible parents, jealous of those other parents who seem to have perfect kids and amazing trips  filled with laughter and good times, while we pray for night time to come so that we can break out the wine and have some peace before collapsing into an exhausted heap.

Yet, here we all are, likely going through similar experiences, but only telling the “good” side of things. It’s wrong. We should be more honest about life as parents. It isn’t always perfect. Scratch that; it’s NEVER perfect. We shouldn’t strive for perfection and we shouldn’t pretend we have it.

The other day, a colleague asked me how my vacation was, and I replied immediately, “It was great!”. And then I stopped. “Actually, you know what? It wasn’t great. It was average at best. My kids were nuts, we forgot a bunch of supplies (which I blamed my husband for), and we got poured on. We’ve had better trips. But we did have a nice hike and the park was beautiful.” Perhaps it was too much information for a pre-9am water cooler chat, but it made me feel better.

So the next time you’re asked to recount your latest family trip, do me and all of us imperfect parents out there a favour: throw in a story or two about something that didn’t go according to plan. I promise we won’t judge.

 

Momfession #52: Married with children

I’ve had several conversations lately with friends, colleagues, and even my husband around marriage. As in, what makes a good marriage? What to look for in a partner? How do you keep the marriage going through all that life has to dump on offer us? After each of these conversations, I realized something that I thought too important not to discuss. Many of us feel less-than-satisfied about our relationships from time to time. Some people suffer only the occasional relationship slump, while others are dealing with major, possibly life-changing relationship issues. But no one (that I’ve talked to, at least) has a perfect relationship situation.

So why, then, don’t we talk about it more? I find that pretending a relationship is “perfect” happens so much more often than the “perfect parenting” that I write about. On the outside, many couples look like they have it all: an amazing relationship, happy kids, a lovely home, great jobs. But no one talks about the fact that behind the closed doors of their fabulous home lie sexless nights, arguments, and feelings of dissatisfaction.

So let me be the first to admit that my relationship isn’t perfect. I love my husband dearly, and I know he loves me, but there are times when we really don’t like each other. I have a tendency to score-keep (I washed the dishes, made dinner, did two loads of laundry, and all he did was POUR THE MILK= 3-1. What an ass.) and am extremely controlling (as in, everything needs to be done the right way, RIGHT NOW). While he isn’t the greatest communicator and tends to hold grudges. Pair those awesome qualities with two children that love to argue, two full-time jobs, finances to manage, a four bedroom house to clean, dance/karate/swimming/therapy appointments, and a cat that lives to piss us off (literally), and you end up with some not so great moments. There are many nights when we sleep in separate rooms, often with one or more children by our side. We often go days without having a real conversation. I sometimes feel like I haven’t really looked at my husband in a very long time. And sex? It comes and goes, mostly depending on how exhausted I am from the day’s activities.

It might sound like a pretty dismal circumstance, to an outsider. But I am pretty sure that these are all things that most married couples with kids could attest to. Marriage isn’t easy, and once you have kids, forget about it. Life is no longer about you as a couple; it is about you as a family. And often times, the couple part gets put on the back burner for a few years. I think the key to surviving the child-rearing years as a couple is to understand that it won’t last forever. I read a quote somewhere a few years ago that has stuck with me. It goes something like, the days are long, but the years are short. And when it comes to marriage and kids, that is absolutely true. I know I am going to turn around one day and my kids will be grown. I am sure I’ll be a bit saggier and my husband perhaps a bit rounder around the midsection, but we’ll be alone again. And we’ll be able to look back at a beautiful, totally fucked up life that we stumbled through together. The journey is anything but pretty, but remembering that life is not about one single bad day/week/month helps to keep me going through the rough times. And to be honest, it also helps knowing that others have dealt with similar challenges.

So that’s where you come in. Tell me I am not alone. Tell me that you and your husband/wife/partner have had similar issues. Comment below and let’s band together in our imperfect relationships. Who’s with me??

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.

Continue reading “Momfession #49: The phone call”

Momfession #48: Whatcha want? Whatcha really, really want?

mindfulness

Yesterday, I was working from home when I received a Groupon email. It was advertising a highly discounted, two month membership to a local gym. Since I have been feeling especially disappointed lately with the 20+ post-preggo pounds that I still haven’t shed (three years later), and my general lack of activity, I clicked on it. But as my mouse hovered over the “buy now” button, I spotted the candy-covered gingerbread house that my kids and I made for Christmas, perched nicely on the counter, just five feet away. My eyes darted from the frosting and gumdrops, to the fit, smiling, six-packed lady on my screen. “Sweet, cookie goodness now, and the hope of a tighter ass in two months,” I thought. So, I went for it. I grabbed a giant chunk of gingerbread roof and got ready to make yet another New Years promise to get in shape. But just as I was typing in my billing info, I stopped, and a single, clarifying thought entered my mind.

Do I really want to do this?

Continue reading “Momfession #48: Whatcha want? Whatcha really, really want?”

Momfessional #47: Freaking out

stay-calm-and-carry-on

I was reading 46 reasons why my three-year-old might be freaking out the other day, and I couldn’t believe how accurate it was. The post was hilarious, and, while sharing on my Facebook wall, I added a few things that especially cause K to freak out these days:

  • The TV is not a touchscreen like the iPad or my phone
  • Her “plain pasta” has a speck of sauce on it
  • She wanted to choose her own orange vitamin, out of the bottle that only has orange vitamins left.
  • Her nose has a caterpillar in it (AKA it is stuffy)
  • I was squishing her when I laid in bed with her
  • I didn’t lay in bed with her
  • The (sleeping) cat tripped her
  • I didn’t warm her pants up with my hairdryer before she put them on
  • I won’t let her wear underwear, even though she refuses to use the potty
  • Her brother is looking at her
  • Her brother isn’t looking at her

The list goes on, and on, and on.

Continue reading “Momfessional #47: Freaking out”

Momfession #44: Let’s (not) talk about sex

The other night, my son walked in on us. Like, you know, WALKED IN. While my husband and I were…otherwise engaged. We don’t have a lock on our bedroom door, but since my son usually falls into a deep sleep pretty quickly (at night, I often put laundry away in his room with the light on!), we didn’t think twice about it. That is, until the door flew open unexpectedly and we scrambled for cover. He looked a bit confused at first, and we tried to play it cool. “Mommy, why aren’t you wearing any clothes?” I told him I was getting ready to take a shower. “But why are you in bed then?” I responded that I had gotten cold and decided to warm up in bed. “Uhhh…but why is Daddy with you?” he continued. Oh, well, of course, Daddy was being nice and trying to warm me up. “But WHY is Daddy naked too??” Man, that kid asks a lot of questions. My last answer to him was so ridiculous I couldn’t believe that it was coming out of my mouth: well Gabriel, sometimes Daddy and I take showers together, to save water. And he bought it. Or it could be that he decided he was tired of asking questions. Either way, he headed back to bed after that. But I was left wondering why I felt so compelled to lie in that situation. After all, I tend to be a pretty honest person, even with my kids. So why lie about sex? It is a natural part of life; why should I hide it? Won’t that give my kids a complex later in life?

I grew up in a fairly modest household. We didn’t walk around the house naked. We didn’t really talk about sex. I went to church on Sundays, and Catholic school during the week. The only times I heard about sex were when I was being told not to do it. It was something that happened behind closed doors, between a husband and a wife, and if you did it before you were married, you were a bad person. And while I turned out fine and am a fairly well-adjusted adult, I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to grow up not associating sex with feelings of guilt and shame.

So perhaps that is why I felt a twinge of guilt for lying to my son when he caught us in the act the other night. Because it is something that I don’t necessarily want to lie about. But how do you come up with an age-appropriate explanation of sex for a 7-year-old? And if I do try to explain it to him, will THAT scar him for life? Maybe there’s some “how-to-not-give-your-kid-a-complex-about-sex-when-he-walks-in-on-you” expert out there that I could consult. Or maybe I should just get a lock for our door. It is certainly less expensive than sending my kid to therapy down the line.

Momfession #37: The Santa question

believe_in_santa_claus

Tonight, out of the blue in the car ride home, my seven-year-old said, “you know what Mom? A lot of my friends say Santa Claus isn’t real.” My heart skipped a beat. I knew this day would come eventually, but not so soon. Not until he was at least eight, I thought. And definitely not on a muggy August afternoon. So I said, “Oh yeah? Well what do you think?” I was hoping that, by turning the question around he would just say he believed in Santa and that would be the end of it. But, it wasn’t. And what happened next is what I had been dreading. He asked me, point-blank, in a very serious tone, “Mommy, tell me the honest truth. Do you and Daddy put the presents out on Christmas?”

The question itself might not seem like a big deal, but I have this thing about brutal honesty with my kids. We don’t have cute names for our genitalia in this house, for example. We call our body parts by their proper names (and then wince when our toddler decides to talk about her vagina or her brother’s penis loudly in public). When a pet dies, or when someone is sick, we don’t hide it from them. We tell them honestly what happened, answer their questions, and help them to deal with their feelings. When they want us to buy them something that is too expensive, we tell them that….we don’t make up excuses for why they can’t have said item. Recently, my son even asked me if I believed in God, to which I gave him an honest answer (no) and then sat with him to attempt to explain in a child-friendly way about different belief systems and religions.

But the Santa thing is a tough one. How do I preserve the magic of Christmas without outright lying to my kid? How do I ensure that our younger child doesn’t get gypped out of that same wonder and excitement that our son got to experience when he was her age? If I tell my son the truth, will he ruin Christmas for our daughter? Will the holiday lose some of its magic for us all?

So, I did the best I could. I looked him right in the eye and said, “Gabriel, do you think that I really would have given you a Nintendo DS for Christmas last year?” With that statement, his eyes lit up. In that moment, he made the connection: there must be a Santa because Mommy doesn’t like him playing video games and there is no way that she would have purchased that for him. I breathed a sigh of relief. The moment had passed, and I hadn’t outright lied to my kid. I was safe, for now. At least until he starts thinking about the Easter Bunny…I have no idea how I am going to sell him on a giant rabbit that hides chocolate eggs. That one is just creepy, if you ask me.