Parenting is All About Figuring it Out

It would be really easy if you could look in a book and learn all about how to be the best parent. You can’t, though. It would be great if children fit into some textbook mold so you can know what to expect. But they don’t. The reality is parenting is about the unexpected and walking around like you have no clue what’s going on most of the time, but are just really happy that everyone survived the day. Even if it did require a Deathwish french press coffee in the morning and only God knows how many other cups of instant caramel latte you consumed throughout the day.

I had my first child at 18. Imagine all of that insane wisdom that came with it for my friends in their future. When they mentioned a birth plan, I laughed. There is no planning it. There’s a “dream”; not a plan. I guarantee for the most part, nothing will go as planned. My birth plan at 18? Not to die in childbirth. I like to set the bar low. My birth plan at 29? Can’t say that it was much different. Just simply having a healthy baby and not dying in a pool of my own blood was sufficient enough. When I hear people start planning out their home birth, I do roll my eyes. I do judge. That’s great and all, but what about the unexpected? People need to learn to not be so rigid if they are going to have kids. Because the unexpected is your life now.

I have been very open about the differences between my oldest and my youngest. My youngest, who seems to be in an endless loop of observations and interventions. When he went to preschool for his IEP, I was happy that he was going to get the help that he needed. Or at least that first year, that they would be able to see that he needed speech therapy and set it up. They did. He got it for his second year of preschool. Then he satisfied his IEP and he went into Kindergarten with no plan. Aside from some anxiety issues, he didn’t do terribly in Kindergarten. For a kid who never spoke before 4, he was not only on par with his class in speech, he was exceeding some. He was a little “active” and had “attention” problems, but we all attributed them to his sensory disorder. It was fine.

Then at his parent teacher conference back in November, it was suggested that they do an occupational therapy evaluation on him because of some issues such as his handwriting and need for noise cancelling headphones in class. His teacher has been great. Eventually I finally got a letter a couple of months later. I was anxious to see what the results were. If they mailed it, that means they didn’t need to setup a meeting for an IEP, right? It turns out, it was a letter to inform me that there was more testing needed. It was stressful. When you have been dealing with evaluations for practically his whole life for various things, it does get into your head a little. It isn’t about me thinking he’s less than anything because of these interventions. It isn’t about what other kids will think of him. It’s all about wanting to do the best for your child. If he needs the help, I’m going to make sure that he gets what he needs. I want him to succeed. I want him to thrive. I just hate the waiting game, because that means you just sit around worrying until the results come in.

No one expects watching their young child go into surgery when they are planning out the nursery. No one expects struggling through evaluations when they feel that first kick. No one expects that they are going to agonize over every decision that they make because who knows what the repercussions are for their future. There is no greater responsibility in the world than being a parent. My best advice that I have ever given to any other parent is: “At the end of the day, as long as you did everything that you could to make sure everyone made it out alive, you did exactly what you were supposed to.” You can’t control what happens, but you can give them the best odds possible.

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When You Get Into the Inner Layers

I admit, I look pretty together. People come to me for advice like I have a wealth of knowledge. I wouldn’t necessarily say I have knowledge. I have experience that I gained from really just winging it. Every bit of parenting “wisdom” that I have? There was no real knowledge behind those decisions. There was gut instinct and a crapshoot hoping that things would work out. Sometimes, I just get lucky. That’s really all life and even parenting is, right? Just a crapshoot where sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time you’re just hoping to break even. Even someone as seemingly chill as I am have complicated layers of breakdowns and anger problems, that fortunately (but unhealthily) I can keep in check by ignoring them. I’m really good at that.

But really, it’s those inner layers that we need to pay closer attention to. There’s a distinct difference between just getting by (on an emotional level) and living through the day. It’s that difference that impacts the mental health and suicide statistics. Some people just give up “just getting by”, if they were even fortunate enough to get to the “just getting by” point. There’s also the “barely waking up in the morning”. Of course, these aren’t proper “clinical” terms. These are the realistic terms. Mental health issues aren’t cut and dry because people aren’t.

Ignoring issues are great until you get to the meltdown. When my iPod died, wiped itself of my entire music collection, then wiping my computer of said music collection, I melted down. It wasn’t the fact that this product died, even though there is a sweet engraving on it from my husband, it was about the music that I could never get back. It was about my reliance on this to help me through my writing struggles. Whenever I had writer’s block or needed to focus on my edits, I’d pull out my trusty iPod and things would melt away. Whenever I felt down and was struggling emotionally, I put on my headphones and listened to the music as my problems just went away with it. My music is my therapy, my writing assistant, my workout coach, and it was a love of mine. And it went away. It seems dramatic, but it’s gone. CDs that are no longer in my possession through bad luck and other misfortunes are now gone. It may not have been the thing behind my meltdown, but what it was is something that could’ve helped me prevent the meltdown or pick myself up quicker when I hit the “funk”. But… it’s not there anymore.

Realistically, it was a crutch. Some people ease their issues with medications. I’m lucky where I was able to have this crutch to help me. Even on the “barely waking up in the morning” days. Sure, talking about things would be easier. But who has time for that? Plus, I’m a natural recluse. When I have a problem, my first instinct isn’t to reach out, it’s to curl in. It’s to write it out. Sometimes I throw it out afterwards, sometimes I keep it and make something of it. I’m pretty sure the meltdowns in “A Special Place for Noah” was definitely an accurate representation of that time in my life. I like channeling emotions, not discussing them. I’d like to think that’s what makes me good at what I do. I’d like to also think that’s what makes me a good friend.

I’m here for you. I’m here to listen to what you need to say. I think one of the biggest problems today is that there are a lot of people struggling but no one feels like there is someone that they can talk to. While I relish in that solace on my difficult days, other people can only thrive when one is willing to give up an ear (or their eyes) for just a few minutes. If you don’t have anyone else, I’m here. Sincerely.

When Getting Away Includes the Kids

My husband and I recently won a night away, our choice to take the kids or keep them home. Last year, we won the same trip and opted to go by ourselves. We learned a few things on that trip, our first away from our youngest on an overnight. (Our youngest is 6.) The first thing that we learned is that gambling really isn’t for us. We were more in awe of the food options and the pop culture store than anything else. We used our spending money as follows: about $50 on gambling and then the rest was spend on random junk food, treats for my parents who watched our kids, and the big chunk of money was spent on things to bring back to our kids.

We thought that the kids would enjoy the arcade and play area. Our oldest, who’s a swimmer, would love the pool. My husband, who doesn’t wake up early when he doesn’t have to, woke up at 9am so that we could hurry home to be back with the boys. We didn’t enjoy being away from them. The same thing happened on our honeymoon. We only spent a weekend away, because we missed our oldest. Vacations away aren’t fun to us. We look at the long game. You blink and suddenly they’re off to college. In just 2 years, our oldest will be potentially out of state in college. 2 years. A weekend away seems like too much especially when you’re that close to watching them leave the nest.

People think we’re strange. We get lectures about how we’re only weakening our relationship for not taking time to ourselves. That we couldn’t possibly have a close and strong relationship by only really going on a date night once or twice a year. But the thing is, every couple is different. Some people love going out, reliving their dating lives. Some people are homebodies that would rather be at home playing video games together or watching television together after the kids go to sleep. I always say that date night is every night in our house. I’m cheap and honestly, I don’t like people enough to be in a crowded room of them while I try to pretend that I’m not completely socially awkward.

I don’t need lectures about taking time for myself or time to ourselves to work on our relationship. Some couples need that and other’s don’t. I think when you’ve reached over a decade together and you still like each other and are still madly in love with each other, you don’t really need all of the extras. I need the little things, like surprise coffee during the day because he was driving around at work and just thought of me. I need little things like him surprising me with supper because he knew I was stressed or sick and he didn’t want me to have to cook and clean as well. He needs someone who lets him have that hot wing before bed even though we all know he’s going to complain all day about it. He needs someone that will let him play video games without harassing him about not paying attention. Luckily, I don’t require a lot of attention. In fact, I like the quiet.

So with the trip that we won this year, we are taking our kids with us. They are only going to be so little for so long. We have a strong foundation, a solid relationship, and we don’t want to miss out on experiences with them. We’d rather that than a night away where we keep talking about how we miss them or text our oldest to remind them both that we love them. Every couple is different and if they are working together, then there’s no need to judge. Their lives are not yours to have any say in.

Eventually, We All Go Down

This is an overdramatic title about illness in the family. I’m talking bad colds, the flu, whatever other god awful plague that enters into your home. I’m not sure if it’s just me or not, but this year is the worst year for illnesses as far as I can remember.

Around Christmas time, I got hit with probably the worst cold and eventually sinus infection that I had ever had. I couldn’t leave the couch. I couldn’t even look at food. It was great for losing weight but I’m still suffering from these effects. My husband, who honestly hardly ever gets sick enough to miss work, ended up missing 4 days of work from illness and the year just started. In one particularly awful experience last week, he brought strep into this house. To which I naturally took Clorox wipes (ignoring my allergy of these products) and continued to disinfect every inch of my house that he could have breathed in let alone touch. I pulled out our air purifier, which has a UV setting to kill bacteria. When in doubt, Purel was our friend.

My boys have been sick a lot too. There were even some cases where the illness lasted 2 days in my youngest, someone who also hardly gets sick and it never lasts more than a day. Every day I feel like I’m getting a new warning from my youngest child’s school about how strep is going around. Everywhere on Facebook, people are going down. It’s coming for us and I don’t even know what it is. But dear lord, has it been a rough one. The best way to avoid this: not have kids. In fact, not having kids is a solid bit of advice to help you avoid a lot of unpleasant illnesses. But they’re so cute, aren’t they? Until those little monsters puke in every inch of your house and you’re torn between dousing everyone in Lysol or just burning the whole house down because it’s been infected and you just need to let it go. (Just to clarify, I mean the actual house, not my children.)

This cold and flu season needs to stop already. I’ve had my fill. I say this as someone who feels like I just got hit by a truck, probably because I’ve spent so much time dealing with everyone else’s complaints of dying that I have finally been smacked in the face with the latest plague that these children have brought into the home. I don’t normally complain about this… but can it be spring already? As much as my allergies hate this, I would rather deal with that nonsense than this.

The New Project Grind

The post-it notes are starting to get a little insane right now. So many projects that I’d like to do but am getting a little overwhelmed at my to-do list. I have my comic that I have been planning to launch in mid-March or early April. I keep debating on whether or not I should do a podcast. This blog is growing, which is exciting. Then there are other novels and books in the works as well. The list seems never-ending and I have no idea where to begin. Then roadblocks keep coming up when I do. The struggle is real.

The first project on my to-do list is the launch of my comic, which honestly should have been a lot easier than it has been to launch. I had one software that I really enjoyed, but then lost the key during the move and can’t find the receipt to prove that I had purchased this item. (ClipStudio Paint, in case you’re wondering.) That was the software that I used for my first adventure in comics. Then I bought Comicado, which is no longer in development and doesn’t work well with my Surface. Maybe this weekend I’ll reinvest in another program or I’ll just figure out how to make due with the software I do have.

Then there is my podcast. I understand that podcasts can help bring traffic to my blog and that there is a real SEO marketing reasoning for having one. I have the equipment for it due to streaming, minus the audio software. Fortunately you can get some nice options for free. But what would I do it on? Would I focus on gaming subjects? Would I discuss parenting? Politics? Do I just cover a random assortment of rantings like I do here with my blog? What would you like to hear from a BluishOblivion podcast?

Finally, there are my book projects. I do have 2 ideas for children’s books that I feel deserve my attention. Then there is my failed NaNoWriMo attempt. I partially want to wait to finish that until next NaNoWriMo, to put another 50,000 words into it but I feel that would be too long. I think my priority will be my children’s books since “Dear Child” seemed to be the most popular of my books. But can I follow such a well-received book?

I’m having difficulty balancing the time with my freelancing gig and all of these projects, as well as family obligations. I’m having a hard time prioritizing these projects. So I ask my readers: which would you like to see? A potentially weekly comic on Wednesdays? A monthly podcast? Would you like me to work on my next book? I’ll let my readers help decide.

The Art of Raising Grown Ups

Recently I wrote a blog about “Raising Adults”. The idea is that we’re not just raising kids, we are raising young people to become strong and functional adults. When you realize that every decision you make could potentially shape the life of a future generation, that’s a lot of pressure that you put on yourself. Why do I take this approach? Because I’m a realist. I know that being a parent is a hefty job that carries a lot of responsibility. If you teach your kids that they don’t have to do anything and that life is going to just be sunshine and rainbows for the rest of their life, they won’t necessarily grow up ready for the world. Instead, I try to balance childish whimsy and reality to ensure that my children won’t contribute to that culture of “entitlement”.

It’s a rough and thankless job. Other people will always judge you on your worst parenting day. Your kid just threw himself down in the middle of the candy aisle because you had the audacity to say “no” to them? You get those looks. Sometimes they are looks of sympathy, of “we’ve been there bro”. But most of the time they are looks of “can’t you just give him what he wants?” and you put yourself in a dilemma. Do you give in to the terrorist’s demands or do you stand your ground? My gut always tells me to stand my ground. And I do.

Does your kid still have accidents? How is he not potty trained yet? Why does he still sleep in your bed? Why do we even have to answer these questions? Yes, boys are prone to have accidents for later in life than girls do. Yes, my boys were late potty trainers. I felt as though they shouldn’t be forced into it, rather nudged along at their pace until they were ready. Does that mean that I’ve failed as a parent? Yes, my child still ends up spending half the night in our bed and he’s 6. You can only fight so much before your body is too exhausted to care.

Those are the things I get judged on. I don’t get applauded because my oldest is a talented athlete and high honor student. I get judged because I have expectations that he does chores and does decently in school. I don’t ask for A’s. I ask for his best. I don’t get applauded because my youngest is the sweetest child who is adored by the moms and everyone else who meets him. I get judged because he’s a little on the wild side and prone to anxiety attacks. They perceive a failure on my behalf and they pounce on it. Moms are an especially easy target because we already doubt ourselves on a regular basis. We’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve failed miserably every day before we’ve even had our coffee. (Then we know we have afterwards.)

Instead of telling other moms about how every decision they have made failed their child, remember that every child is different. Not everyone has a child that comes with the perfect manual. We have to raise each of our children differently based on who they are. You think that just because you have 2 kids, you already know everything. But you don’t. They are each their own person, with very different personalities and challenges. I couldn’t take the same approach to raising my youngest as I did my oldest. That would be irresponsible. It wouldn’t work. What you need to do is find something that works for you. What helps you teach a specific set of morals and work ethic to your children. You can use 2 different approaches and still end up with a same result. The reason is because you adjusted your game plan.

It’s easy as parents to just think that you have to go at this one way. But you don’t. Being a good parent is about adjusting with the challenges until you find something that works. If you stick with it and keep your head held high, you can do it. You’re not failing. You’re trying. And that’s better than a lot of kids get.

It’s Time for Election Talk!

Does the thought of politics make you audibly groan? Do you think to yourself that it can’t get much worse than it is right now? Then I’m here to make your day: Election 2020 is not so rapidly approaching which means we get a full year and a half of election discussions! Yay! I know… so exciting. I’m here to add to that excitement.

That entire first paragraph was all sarcasm, in case you couldn’t gather that. There is nothing exciting about this. When I was a kid, getting to the age where I could vote, there was an episode of “South Park” about the election. The premise: You could vote for the Turd Sandwich or the Douche, joking that there are never any good options for president so you just have to stick to the one that is the least awful. Unfortunately, this seems to be a reality today where you go into the voting booth and think to yourself “which of these is the least terrible option”. I’m sure that’s exactly what our Founding Fathers had in mind when they came up with this system.

That’s exactly how this 2020 Election is shaping up. I groaned when Elizabeth Warren announced her intention to run. Then a couple of other people did too, and honestly I couldn’t even tell you what they look like or who they are because they are that unknown to me. If the Democrats have any intention of winning, they should probably learn from the mistakes of 2016. Hilary Clinton was the choice that they wanted, not the people. Not the rational, more centrist Democrats. The celebrities did. The ones who desperately wanted a woman president did. Imagine how progressive we look if we did? It would have worked if they had chosen someone more universally likeable. As an Independent, there was going to be no way I was going to vote for her. (And fortunately, thanks to the Electoral College, I didn’t have to.) There was no way I was going to vote for Donald Trump. I went 3rd Party and no regrets. My conscience is clear. I didn’t vote for either of these shady people who I felt had no business representing our country.

By the way people have already thrown their hats behind Warren, it will be a Hilary 2.0. She will be shredded by the conservative media for her need to do anything to make her more likeable/relatable and the fact that they can’t let her live down the whole Native American thing. She will be eviscerated. She’ll lose, probably big time. Unless people are that sick of President Trump by then that they just say “eff it”. Again, I’m glad I can go 3rd Party without worrying since Massachusetts will never vote for him and the Electoral College decides elections.

If the Democrats were smart, the would worry less about putting up candidates that make them look like the “Progressive and Diverse” party and more about putting up a capable candidate that has a shot of winning. They practically handed President Trump the election by putting Hilary up there. And they are certainly going to make that mistake again.

None of this would matter if people realized that there are other options. Instead of wishing for a change in the politicians, make the change in the politicians. You’re the voter. You’re the boss. You don’t have to vote for someone because they are the “same party” as you. You don’t have to vote for someone because they are a woman. You are supposed to vote for someone with the same ideals and vision as you, or at least as close as possible. You are supposed to go with someone who you feel could put together the broken pieces of what’s left of our country’s solidarity. Vote your conscience; not a letter.