Did I Do the Best I Could?

“Did I do the best I could?”

That is the first question that I ask myself as I’m pulling back the blankets on my bed to attempt that sleep thing people keep telling me all about. I sit up, then flip on the television to see who’s streaming Overwatch or WoW since I ditched the cable box in the bedroom. I sit on the edge of my bed, watching them play and taking mental notes of “I didn’t think about doing it that way” or “I could never pull that move off”. Then my mind wanders back to the original question: “Did I do the best I could?”

Every day I ask myself this question, and it’s a general question. I want to remember if I drank enough water or if I did enough to exercise that day. Probably not, is the answer. Did I do anything that would help me be more successful as a writer? I didn’t. I probably started 5 mental projects and 2 “Google Drive” projects, maybe notes on NaNoWriMo with it coming up in 2 months. Those are the passing questions, ones that I don’t really bother to reflect on as much as I should.

When I ask myself this question, I have an understanding with myself that I’m talking about my kids. Did I do enough for them today? If you ask me, the answer is usually “no”. Maybe I didn’t feel like cooking them a healthy meal from the heart.. or any meal and I just got them fast food because I was too busy. Then I guilt myself into thinking that I have cheapened their day because I was too lazy. You’re a mom, you’re supposed to do it all right. The sink has dishes that I never washed, pushing it back a day so that I could have a 10 minute breather. Those dishes make me feel guilty. Seeing a mess in the house makes me feel like I’ve failed my family for the day. I think to myself “so what if the laundry stays in the dryer a day or 2, my kid wanted to go to the park so we did that instead.” Did I do enough?

When I’m trying to wrangle my very active son in Target while he races around trying to figure out which toy he wants, I get those looks. You know the, control your child looks. He’s not unattended. He’s not being disrespectful. He says “excuse me” and “sorry”. But he wriggles out of my hand. Did I do the best I could? When they don’t go to sleep when they’re supposed to, I wonder what I could have done differently. The answer usually comes back to: I’ve failed as a mother and people should take my kids because I’m obviously inept. I expect my children to do chores, then get angry comments about how I’m raising my children to be slaves. I failed again. I didn’t notice that my child once again has dirty ears, because for some ungodly reason I could wash them 20 times before we leave the house and it still happens. They don’t know about those 20 times, they just know my kid is dirty and I’m an incapable mother. I didn’t pay close enough attention that my child had a moth hole in his shirt, so I’m obviously neglectful. It doesn’t matter that I was doing what I could to get my child to wash his hands after using the bathroom before putting his hand in the cereal box while picking out his clothes for the day. Maybe I should have inspected the clothes before putting them in the closet.

It’s amazing how none of these failures are really failures. These are failures that other people have put in our heads. Our messy home means that we were too busy playing toys with our kids or engaging in conversation with them. Maybe we don’t have the time to clean, then chasing around our children to clean after their every move. Try that, it doesn’t work unless you have a nanny or maid helping you out. I try my best every day and I still come short of these goals, most of which have been placed on me by society and other people. I’m not perfect. I yell at my kids. I hide in a room in the house, wondering what horrible act I have committed for a day to be this horrible. I don’t sleep at night because sometimes I think about all of the ways I failed as a parent that day, then I think about past failures as a parent. Some nights I even fall asleep resigning myself to the fact that maybe I shouldn’t even be allowed to raise my kids because I’m obviously not cut out for it. That’s reality. That’s the reality that you don’t see on TV.

I’m not a perfect parent. Can anyone truly say that they are? All you can do is try. Guess what? You are going to fail sometimes; it’s what you do next that matters. You will lose your collective poop. There will be tears, most of which will be your own. That’s why you need to ask yourself “Did I do the best that I could?” If you did, that’s all that matters. Your kids don’t remember those little screw ups of having their hair not combed before getting on the bus or that time you accidentally zippered their face while walking to school because you were in a rush and they were still throwing a tantrum. They will remember that time they had stitches and you held their hand the entire time. They will remember that time you were the most “embarrassing” cheerleader. They remember the trips to the museum or the random walks to the park. They don’t remember the time you didn’t do the dishes because your child wanted to do an art project. They remember doing the art project and having that special moment with you. Stop worrying about what other people think, because they’re clueless. They don’t know your struggles that day to even get your kid to school. They don’t know you. What matters is your child giving you a hug and kiss, smiling as they say “I love you, good night.”

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Can I Just Homeschool the Boys Already?

That is what I texted my husband today. I’m pro-school. I look forward to those precious moments that I have to enjoy snacks without sharing with my kids or getting work and projects done or even just enjoying the house being clean for at least a few hours while the Hurricane and Tornado are at school. Homeschooling my children never even crossed my mind, except to decide that it wasn’t what we wanted.

Every time a school shooting takes place, I hold my boys a little tighter. It shouldn’t be that way. There has to be a better way. Even in a relatively safe location like mine, there are enough violent cities close enough to me to know that anything can happen. School shootings can happen in my quiet city as they can happen anywhere. That is scary. It is scary to know they are supposed to be safe while at school, but they really aren’t.

I received a call from my oldest kid’s school informing me that all week they have been doing lockdown drills. Since this weekend, there have been numerous “hoax” threats against schools in the area, including one threat towards a school in my city. It’s scary. I’m glad that they caught the individuals who made the threats. It should have been comforting to know that these were hoaxes and not credible threats, but it wasn’t. Anything can happen anywhere, and it is scary as a parent to not have any control over that. Especially when a bullet is found in a classroom in a school very close to us, just across the bridge in the next city.

I’m not going to make it about gender. In these cases, girls were involved in the threats. I’m not shocked by a girl doing it when statistically boys are. Girls are just as capable of malicious intent as boys are. I would even argue a point that of all my friends to cross, I would be more afraid of my female friends (honestly, me, I would be more afraid of me) than I would be of my male friends. Gender has nothing to do with these threats. Society has everything to do with this. Maybe they found it funny to cause panic. Maybe they didn’t care about the consequences because they didn’t think they would have any. I hope the books get thrown at them and they get hit in their bratty little faces with it.

If our children aren’t safe in schools, where are they safe? This is not a gun issue. If someone wanted to harm our kids and do that much damage, they could easily make bombs to cause destruction and death. This is an issue of what we are going to do to protect our kids. I’m scared. I can’t let them see it. But I’m really scared. We need to do better.

The Importance and Trials of Being Patient

When you are a parent, you want to make sure that you are constantly doing the right thing for your child. You really do agonize if every decision you make is the right one. Parenting is not a part-time job and it certainly isn’t for the weak. You are going to make bad decisions and that’s okay because you are also going to make some pretty amazing ones. You can read all of the parenting books and child development/psych books all you want and it still won’t prepare you for what you could potentially face. Even the most trained professionals in the field can screw up their children and the sooner you realize this, you can move on and just do what you need to.

I have made it no secret that my youngest son has certainly come with his own set of challenges. From a minor birth defect that needed surgery to dealing with Early Intervention/IEPs in preschool, it has been seemingly one challenge after another. He has spent a lot of time in evaluations and ended up with a blanket diagnosis of having a sensory integration disorder. While there has been some debate whether or not that is something he actually has, it is something that he will grow out of. We just need to be patient.

He has always had his own quirks. Things need to be a specific way. There needs to be a routine. He needs to know exactly what is going to happen every day and any variation in that could potentially lead to a meltdown. This is something we have grown accustomed to. We love him and if he needs a routine, he gets a routine.

Recently, my husband and I have slowly started to upgrade our home to a “smart home” to try helping with the bills and making our life a little easier. (Especially for me, who has to climb on the couch to turn the light in the living room on.) The problem is, this is a change. My husband was replacing a light fixture in the hallway, and our son lost it. “Our house is falling” is all he would scream as he sobbed and did his run/pace/freakout mode. 2 days later, we are still in “disaster control” mode to remedy this problem. We just need to be patient with him.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to us that this happened. When we were picking out flooring samples, he also freaked out. He freaked out when I made a joke about winning the lottery and buying a massive house so I can have a dog sanctuary. “Our floor is falling!” “You can’t sell our house!” He does not like change. He does not like surprises. We just need to be patient.

Yelling at a kid when they are like this will only make matters worse. It can seem like the reasonable thing to do, especially if you are in public and everyone is staring while they do it. In these most difficult times, you need to be patient. You won’t always be patient and you know what? That’s OK. You are human. After you lose it, you pick yourself up and can be patient. Patience: it won’t fix everything but it certainly won’t make anything worse.

When Racism Attacks

This was not the post that should have happened today. You will get that one tomorrow. In fact, this was the post that I hoped I would never have to write. Sadly, it turns out that hoping was not enough to avoid this. The hope that the world is in a better place is full of disappointment.

On days when my oldest has baseball practice, we all pile in the car to go. We take this opportunity to let our youngest blow off all of that energy. It usually doesn’t work, but at least he has fun? Normally this is uneventful. Yesterday, it was not. To preface this story, this playground is a very diverse one. Off all places, I certainly would not have thought my youngest son’s first brush with racism would be here. I was actually hoping it never would happen, but deep down I knew it was going to happen eventually. But I definitely did not expect it to happen here, at 4 years old, at the hands of a little girl a few years older.

This little girl was playing Frisbee, so naturally Georgie wanted to join in. George is a very sweet and friendly child, everyone who meets him seems to just love him. So being 4 at a park, he tried to join in. Then it happened. “No! I’m not playing with you, Chinese boy.” George was hurt by this and started to cry. We were appalled and very pissed by this. However, George thankfully didn’t realize the true scope of what just happened. He was sad because the girl didn’t let him play. We didn’t expect it because the girl (who was white) was playing with another girl (who was not). But alas, here we are. While calming George down, it was made very clear and loudly that some kids were not raised to have manners and he was immediately removed from the park.

I am not sure if my husband was more mad about the situation itself or the fact that she got the wrong Asian country. Either way, it’s bad but apparently it stings all the more when it isn’t even the right nationality. It seems that being called the wrong nationality is offensive across the board. I couldn’t relate to the situation; I’m a white girl who grew up and currently lives in a middle class neighborhood. I have never experienced racism nor have I ever participated.  I was raised better than that. My husband, on the other hand, is half-Korean. He grew up with this. Even today, he has to deal with racial slurs being tossed his way. I am offended about this for my son’s sake; my husband is offended and completely understands the situation. Thankfully, George didn’t understand this time. But what happens next time?

I don’t blame the little girl. This is something that she would’ve learned from her parents. I blame them entirely for somehow, whether purposefully or inadvertently, teaching her that this type of behavior was perfectly acceptable. I knew this was going to happen to him eventually as we still live in a culture where racism is somehow deemed acceptable. Too many people think that racism is eradicated or that now only white people are victims of racism. No one is safe and this problem is only going to get worse.

I spent a lot of time looking at my son after this. I never really saw him as an “Asian” boy. We make sure that he knows he is Korean, bringing up on the culture and food, but that this is not what defines who he is. He may be Korean, but ultimately he is just my little Georgie. I didn’t notice the unique pale of his skin or the adorable semi-almond shape of his eyed, these little subtleties that I just thought made him absolutely adorable are the things that this world is going to focus on whenever they see him. I hugged my baby so long yesterday, apologizing to him for the harsh realities of his future.

I was not prepared for this. I hoped I’d never have to be ready for this, but here we are. I may not be able to understand the pain of being picked on for my race, but I certainly know that I have to start educating myself on how to handle this when he can understand. I hope this is a one time thing, but I have this sick feeling in my stomach that this is not the last time. It will probably happen when I’m not around to protect him or he’s too old for me to cuddle this away. Our culture needs to change. We need to be better. Our children are depending on us.

When It Comes to Your Children

Children are unique beings. You can even look at your children and pick out some of their differences from their siblings. You may even find that your children are complete opposites of one another. This is the exact place that my boys are in. For instance, my oldest is this sweet and patient child. He was always curious, but very timid. He was calm and rarely found himself in trouble. Even now, he is a child that is well-regarded by every adult who meets him. And how can they not? He is very polite around them and speaks articulately to them as if he is a little adult. In fact, he may very well be an adult stuck in a very small teenager’s body. (I still cannot believe that I have to refer to him as a teenager.)

My youngest, on the other hand, makes other people tired just watching him. He is the definition of “trouble”. He’s curious, adventurous, and very, very willful. He is definitely not calm and he is nowhere near patient. Still, much like his brother, every adult that meets him falls instantly in love with him. He’s not a bad kid. He just requires a little bit more love and attention than other kids. In his 4 years on this planet, I have gone through situations I had never been through before. He needed surgery at 9 months old to remedy a birth defect. He was the first child to require special services at home, with a speech pathologist and a developmental specialist. I have to deal with IEP meetings and teacher conferences. This is the important point to this post.

In 2 weeks, we will have a meeting for his IEP, transition to Kindergarten, and if he stays in the program. We will also talk about his recent evaluation which revealed George to have a sensory integration disorder, something that sounds a lot worse than it actually is, and how the schools need to adjust to his needs. We will find out if he still gets speech therapy in grade school. We will find out if he still has an IEP. These are important things to know because with things like the IDEA act in question right now (who knows what is going to happen especially with plans to get rid of the department that is responsible for enforcing this act). Will my child continue to get the help that he needs?

Without the help that he has received, which fortunately I never had to fight for, will he thrive as well as he has? He’s a bright 4 year old that may still be behind on his speech but he can read. He is exactly the type of kid that would have once been left behind by the school system because he’s different. Realistically, he is a child that would have just been tossed in a special needs classroom in the past and forgotten. Which is a shame because he is a very bright child that if they could just get him to focus and settle down, he could go on to do great things in the future.

What is the point of this whole statement? There are a lot of things that charter schools and private schools do well, but when it comes to children like mine they are not the best places for them. These are schools that are best for children that fit in a specific mold and are not different. There is a place for public schools and there are a lot of great public school districts (like mine, for instance) that are going to suffer if they start losing money. Some districts need help to change to become better schools but that should be something to focus on rather than punishing the school districts who are thriving. When you start to take money from the schools that offer services to children in need (such as IEP students), there is a strong chance that these kids will lose these services. These children will be forgotten again. This is what I’m afraid of. When it comes to our children, sometimes we are the only ones who are willing to fight so we need to be their biggest advocates and put on the gloves.