Momfession #56: Heartbreaking work

It all started with a conversation I had with a potential client over coffee. Both being mothers, we began talking about the challenges that we and all parents face when raising kids, no matter what stage those kids are in. She has a teenaged daughter, and, after telling her about how hard I felt those sleepless-nighted, poop-ridden, hyper-vigilant baby and toddler years are, she proceeded to enlighten me about life with a teenager. She painted a less-than-pretty picture which included slammed doors, secrets, and still sleepless nights (I guess some things never change). While we talked I began to feel a slight shiver spread across my body, but it left as quickly as it came. I have years before I have to deal with that stuff, I thought.

A few days later, a friend of mine posted this video on their Facebook wall. If you haven’t seen it, take a few minutes to watch. It so poignantly revealed how fast life goes, and how quickly your kids grow from sweet-smelling, helpless beings to independent, responsible adults. Again, I felt it: this time, a bone-chilling sensation that made the hair on my arms stand up, coupled with a tightening in my chest and a wave of nausea. What the heck is wrong with me? I thought. Why am I so bothered by the idea of my kids growing up? They’re still so little!

But last week was the real clincher. I received a phone call from my son’s school one afternoon. I was told that he and another eight-year-old were “being silly” and were making sexual-ish gestures and innuendos. I dealt with the teacher quickly, assured her that he was not exposed to any sexual material in our home, that he must have heard about that kind of stuff from his friends, and that we would have a conversation with him that evening.

When I got off the phone, I was shaking so hard I had to leave my office. Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt like I had been sucker-punched in the belly. And one thought began running through my head.. “Not yet. He can’t grow up yet.”

The longer I am a parent, the more I realize how hard this job really is. When the kids are little, you think it is tough. And it IS. Sleepless nights, screaming babies, and diaper explosions are not for the faint of heart. But as they get bigger, it gets harder. True, once they start taking care of themselves the morning routines become a bit easier, but the tradeoff is that they begin to lose their innocence. They need to become independent, and you have to let them go a bit more every day, releasing them into a harsh, often confusing world filled with innocence-killers around every corner.

They will hear and see things you wish they hadn’t. They will learn about adult topics from their friends, no matter how many times you give them “the talk”. They will make bad decisions and you won’t be there to stop them. It breaks my heart every time I think about our kids growing up and losing their innocence. It makes me want to grab them as tightly as I can, and squeeze them as long and hard as humanly possible, for the rest of my life. But that’s not what being a parent is all about. I think it’s about building your kids a solid foundation, so that when it comes time for them to make their own decisions, they are well-equipped to make good ones.

And as I am learning more and more each day, it is simultaneously the most beautiful and heartbreaking thing I have ever experienced.

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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 #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?

Continue reading “Momfession #46: The other side of bullying”

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 #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 #40: So long, farewell

The other day, I sat outside for over an hour in a torrential downpour watching my husband play baseball. It was cold and muddy, my ballet flats and jeans were soaked. As I crouched under a tiny umbrella that had seen better days, one of the players said something about how awful it was to be a spectator in such terrible weather. And without thinking, I replied, “Actually, it isn’t so bad. I would take sitting here alone, even in the pouring rain over chasing my kids around any day.”  He gave me a funny look, and I realized how terrible that sounded. But what was more terrible was how much I meant it.

My husband and I, like most parents, don’t get to spend a lot of time alone. We are actually luckier than most, though; we have a very strong network of family who live nearby which allows us one night a week out (usually to play on one of our many sports teams). On the weekends, we rarely spend time alone. After all, we hardly get to see the kids during the week, with a strict commute/work/school/daycare/sleep routine that allows us about an hour of “free” time to spend with them each day (at which point, we are usually so exhausted that it is spent watching Netflix). So, we pack our weekends full of bike rides, splash pads, apple picking, local festivals, and playdates, and make sure we are doing our best to spend every moment building memories that will last their lifetimes. However, somewhere between building forts in our living room and jack-o-lantern carving, my husband and I get lost.

I hate to admit it, but there are definitely times that I forget why I fell in love with my husband. We get so bogged down by the stresses of life and children that our relationship sometimes feels more like a series of transactions than a marriage. I make dinner, he sets the table. I do the dishes, he gives our daughter a bath. He drops the kids off, I pick them up. Days pass before I realize that we haven’t had a “real” conversation (except if you count discussing the frequency of our preschooler’s bowel movements a conversation). It is amazing how lonely it can all get, if you let it.

Which is why this weekend was so amazing. Two childless days, with no responsibilities other than hanging out with my husband, and watching him play baseball (in the rain). When his games were over, we ate pizza and watched TV together. We took walks and held hands. We spent time with some friends. By the end of the weekend, we both felt a renewed sense of excitement and love; and we both agreed that we need to spend more alone time together.

I know some people who have a really hard time leaving their kids. There are some that even admit they have never left their kids, because they would miss them too much. I definitely love my kids, and I do think about them when I am gone. But I definitely don’t pine for them all day when I am away. Am I a terrible parent because of it? Maybe. But I also think that part of being a good parent is taking care of yourself, and your relationship. When they grow up, my kids will probably not remember the weekend or two a year that their parents skipped town. But I am pretty sure they will remember the love that they felt from us, and the friendship, respect, and love that my husband and I had with each other.

Momfession #39: Summer Mom

end_of_summerIt’s the last “unofficial” week of summer for anyone who has kids in school. And while I love back-to-school shopping, the excitement of the first day of school, and the promise of cooler days and fall colours in the near future, I can’t help but get a bit depressed. Over the last two months, I have had someone amazing come into my life, and when summer ends, so does our relationship. I’m talking about Summer Mom. You know…the lady who lets you eat freezies every day, allows you to stay up wayyyy past your bedtime, and who says “OK” to playing video games on a frequent basis. I have come to love Summer Mom so much that I don’t want her to leave. I have been thinking a lot about it lately, in fact. What if I let Summer Mom stick around a bit more? What if I became a bit less rigid and more lenient when it came to parenting throughout the year? Would my kids turn out the same in the end? Does it really matter if they play video games, or eat candy? Would our lives become less stressful and more enjoyable?

Sometimes I feel like I am the only person in my kids’ lives who is concerned with ensuring that they don’t become spoiled, entitled, or downright bratty. I know my husband strongly believes in the way we are raising our kids, but even he is more lenient than I. It feels like I am constantly battling against everyone else who comes into contact with my kids, trying in vain to offset the limitless, present-filled, sugar-coated experience that they have with family and other caretakers. But now I am wondering…what if I just hopped on board the “yes” train and went along for the ride? What if I decided to let my Summer Mom mentality continue into fall? What’s the worst that could happen? Cavities?

Other moms, tell me: do you have a summer version of yourself? If so, what do you think about letting her stick around for a while?