I’m Not That Kind Of Mom

There are those moms that go all out at every holiday. I don’t judge them. Good for them for having the money, energy, and patience to go through all of that. I don’t think they are any better or worse than me; just different. And that’s okay because we all have our own parenting styles. Some holidays do get more priority in my book than others, for instance the only one that I actually care about which is Halloween. Easter is just another money grab from the candy company, I spend enough on it at Halloween.

By the time Easter hits, assuming I remembered, I’m all tapped out from birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Halloween to even bother with the holidays that I don’t really concern myself with. I don’t make heart-shaped anything on Valentine’s Day, which is honestly another holiday I often just forget about. I don’t turn everything green on St. Patrick’s Day. I don’t even like boiled dinner or corned beef and cabbage. I eventually suck it up and do it, but I don’t like it. This year when Easter hit, I just grabbed whatever was left in the store and made something of it. Fortunately, my youngest child’s favorite candies weren’t anywhere near sold out. The only toys that I could find was sidewalk chalk and giant $12 plushies. Yes, I saw the price, said “No way”, and just grabbed the chalk.

Do I go the extra mile? Half the time I barely think my kids are going to make it out of the day alive. I’m frequently reminding them of why putting random stuff in their mouth is a choking hazard, why you can’t live off of just salt & vinegar chips or chocolate, and other things that I feel like are a more important use of my time than whether or not I spent $100 on an Easter basket. Which I would never do, because I’m also extremely cheap.

I bought the ham. We had a nice low fodmap Easter dinner to stick with my husband’s new diet. We went for a walk and let the youngest run free at the park. We sat outside and let him draw all over the driveway, sidewalk, and front steps with his chalk. I’m trying to teach my kids the importance of the little things. It doesn’t matter the stuff they received. It’s just stuff. Those aren’t really the memories I want them to have. I want them to realize that stuff doesn’t equal love. It doesn’t mean anything. The actions, those little moments, those are the ones that I want them to treasure. Are they absolutely spoiled in stuff and in love? Yes. But being spoiled doesn’t mean that I have to teach them to equate material items and cost of things with how much another person loves them.

I only spent $20 on the basket items. My youngest doesn’t care. He cares that he was remembered. He cares that the Easter bunny gave him his favorite candy. We don’t need to go broke for material things to prove that we love people. We need to remember those little things, like how much they love Reese’s and Starburst jelly beans. How much they love to help make the Easter ham and spend time with their family. Material items are just around for so long, much like the people in their lives. They won’t remember all of the material things. I’d rather make the memories so that they can carry those memories long after I’m gone.

Parenting the Free-Spirited

I get it. I wasn’t a normal kid growing up. I was spirited. I did things my own way. I didn’t want to be fit in a box with labels and I did everything that I could growing up to keep people on their toes. I was a unique, free-spirited child that enjoyed a bit of mischief and psychological warfare. I’m really not afraid to admit that I still have these same tendencies. This attitude has kept me sane and surprisingly out of the typical drama that adults deal with. Because I genuinely don’t care. The other parents want to make fun of my custom Chucks or my really warm hat and stained winter coat, let them. I’m not dressed like a blizzard is coming at any moment for them; I like being warm and cozy in winter. and if you want to look stylish and freeze, that’s your issue.

My children each have a bit of this free-spirit in them, though my oldest child is far more reserved. It’s challenging, especially as a parent, because you want them to follow basic rules of behavior but at the same time you don’t want them to lose that free spirit. My youngest has been the biggest challenge with this, primarily because he doesn’t have time to bother with whatever social norms are expected of him unless it really matters to him like when he’s teased for his uniqueness. For instance, when kids at school made fun of his Skechers shoes because they weren’t Nike or Under Armor shoes and my husband proceeded to buy him a new pair of shoes because my husband was scarred from some incidents where our child was teased for being Asian and it was important to “minimize what they could tease him about”.

He has always just marched to his own drum. From his alternating between sleeping, waving, and acrobats during ultrasounds, we knew from the start that he was going to be his own man. He was born in September and by Thanksgiving, he was rolling around like a madman. I remember telling the pediatrician and he laughed at me saying “It’s too early for that”. He didn’t laugh when my spirited little child tried to roll of the exam table and the doctor looked at me and said “Yeah, you have a mover on your hands.” Developmental milestones meant nothing to this child, whether it was inch-worming by Christmas or not speaking until he was 4, my little guy decided he was going to just do things his own way.

There’s a fine line that needs to be walked here, one where picking your battles gets a little harder. Because it ends up that everything is a battle. Bedtimes are rude and I’m the worst for enforcing them. How dare I expect him to wear pants when guests come to our house? You do want to encourage the independent spirit, even if there’s a bit of defiance behind everything he says. When you don’t encourage the independent spirit, you end up with someone who follows whatever is the popular thing at the moment or blindly follows a political party without questioning it. It’s not about raising someone to be molded in your image or into this perfect, ideal child; it’s about raising someone into the person that they are supposed to be.

It’s going to be a complicated struggle. You will end up sobbing behind the closed door of your bedroom because you’re on the verge of breaking down. But the most important thing is to not break their spirit in your goal of trying to teach them how to be both good people and free spirits. I wish I could offer some advice on the best approach, but I’m just winging it where some days are better than others. But that’s kinda my advice on anything parenting related. We’re all just trying to make it out alive with children who grow up to be reasonably functioning but not totally damaged adults.

The Anticipation and Hesitation of Sending Them Back

After winter break has concluded, it’s anticipated that the kids will finally be returning back to school. My youngest will be going back 4 days a week and a remote day. My oldest will be returning for 2 days a week with remote learning for the rest of his week. Once upon a time, I would be cheering for the ability to send them back. Not that I didn’t love them… but doesn’t every mom need a break? Wearing all the hats moms are expected to wear on the regular is difficult enough some days; adding in the extra responsibilities of teacher and principal just are too much for me while trying to work and get everything else done. I partially blame this for my lack of creative drive to get my own personal work done.

It is anxiety-inducing for me. What if they do bring the virus home with them, with my husband potentially missing 2 weeks of work or me getting very sick/suffering from the aftermath? My body loves being unique, meaning that usually the rarer conditions/side effects typically happen to me. I blame my Irish immune system. My body loves playing tricks on me, such as having bad allergies but also being allergic to Benadryl. You learn to adapt and laugh at the insanity.

Back to the point. As anxiety-inducing as this is for me, I’m also a woman of logic. Statistically, they won’t get infected at school. It’s also the best thing for my youngest, who thrives in a situation where there’s far more structure. Where the teacher can be the one to keep him on track because apparently I do a piss poor job of it. Also, I don’t know common core so I taught him old school math. I apologize in advance for what that’s going to look like in the classroom. Plus, he can finally talk to his friends in person. I just hope he follows the “no hug” rule, which will probably be difficult for my boy who is know for being a bit of an affectionate guy that the other moms just love.

I’m putting a lot of trust in these schools to not screw this up. I’m putting a lot of trust in other parents, who somehow still drop off their kids despite the fact that they have the flu. I just hope that I don’t regret that. I’ve seen the impact this virus has when people get symptoms and the aftermath of that. I have a lot of people relying on me to have my crap immune system give out on me because other people didn’t want to do the right thing. But… I mean.. yay school?

Hooray, It’s a Snow Day!

Though right now, is a snow day really any different than any other day aside from the fluffy white covering everywhere?

At the beginning of my district’s school year, they announced that they were getting rid of snow days. The kids are going to be remote anyways, so what’s the point? Save the days. I, if I’m being honest, 100% agreed. Let the kids get out sooner since the classrooms in our district are super hot in the summertime. Plus, it reduces the sun exposure my poor Irish skin has to be exposed to when picking up my son from school.

Apparently I was in the minority with this belief. The parents were fervent in their belief of snow days. “But the magic of snow days!” I get the point. It gives the kids a mental health day to play in the snow. Fine. Let them have snow days. I’m open-minded enough to see that there are other point of views that are better than mine. Plus, the added benefit would be that I wouldn’t have to argue with my spirited son about his school work while also trying to do my own work. It would be a win-win.

Except, that’s not really what parents wanted apparently. Today, there was a snow day called based on the forecast. Seeing it outside now, I can see why. The local forums weren’t as happy. “Why bother having a snow day?! They are remote anyways!” As much as we want to, we can’t have it both ways. We can’t just have a single snow day when we fight for snow days. You get snow days when they seem fit. The poor school district just can’t win. Either way, parents are going to be pissed at them and that pissed group is just as loud, abundance, and opinionated as the other group. Let the kids have a day where they aren’t at the computer for all those hours. Let teachers regroup, especially my poor son’s teacher. I know he isn’t easy, but he’s so cute and lovable.

I applaud my school district. They are doing what they can to make things as normal as possible right now. They are trying to do the right things for their students, teachers, and parents. It’s just extremely hard to do the right thing when everyone seems to have their own opinion as to what the right thing is. Managing the expectations of everyone when no one is on the same page must be stressful enough. I think instead of fighting them every step of the way, maybe we give them some room to navigate these unprecedented circumstances. They are learning this at the same exact time we are. If we are not going to adapt, we are teaching our kids to be stuck in their ways and this just won’t serve them for the future. You need a little flexibility to succeed and thrive, both professionally and mentally.

We can’t control everything in life, as much as we may want to. I gave up trying to control things a long time ago and I couldn’t be happier. Sometimes you just have to watch things happen because the only thing that you can control is your reaction to things. Take the time to cherish this snow day, because you’ll blink and your kids will be moved out and you will wish you had this day again.

The Daily Adventures of the Verbally Abusive 8 Year Old

I feel like every day of remote learning is tearing away of what’s left of my sanity. Should the schools be opened because I’m losing my crap here? They should open when it’s determined to be safe enough. I chose to be a mother; I signed up for all of the mentally challenging parts as well as those joyous moments. My kid being more than a handful was probably my fault. I tried my best. I really did. The first one came out so well.

Joking aside, I have spent a good majority of most mornings being screamed at for entire chunks of the morning. He’s screaming about being tortured. How he’s forced to do schoolwork against his will. How sitting at a desk is torture and schools don’t care about kids and they just want to torture him and all he wants to do is play video games and revel in his defiance of everything that the adults say.

I wish I could say it was the remote learning crushing his spirit. The truth is that my spirited special boy is his own person. He spends his school day trying to work smarter, not harder. By trying out outsmart the teacher by logging minutes on things when he just “AFKs” and lets the minutes log while he pulls up game sites and YouTube on his Chromebook. It’s exhausting running in his space in the dining room, while he breaks the 1000000th headset of the school year and reminding him of all the work he should be doing. Then he shows me the work is turned in and everything is fine. It isn’t. He didn’t do it and just turned it in so that it looked completed to me. Then I get the message first thing in the morning about how he needs to the work he didn’t do the day before. Which starts this vicious cycle all over again.

I try so hard. I’m worried he will fail the 3rd grade because he doesn’t care about school. He’s 8 and doesn’t care about school. He doesn’t want to go to bed when he should. In fact, if he’s told to do anything against his will, he turns into a gremlin who ate after midnight and the wrath is felt by everyone in the house.

I try not to argue. You can’t argue with a 8 year old, especially when they start complaining about how they are suffering and being abused for having to do school work. I try to be patient, when all I want to do is scream at the top of my lungs and start physically pulling out the hair that is already falling out due to stress.

This is just a phase. He has anxiety and a sensory condition. It’s difficult to navigate this time, which is already pretty tricky. I take comfort in the fact that I’m told my husband was just as bad at that age. But, he turned out well as an adult. Not sure my husband put a metal toy in between the surge protector and the Chromebook cord out of boredom during school, causing the power in the entire room to go out. At least my oldest learned how to reset the fuse at the box, a valuable lesson for any adult to know.

We will make it through it together. We will navigate this tricky phase and come out better on the other side. The best I can do is make sure that he knows that he’s loved and supported, no matter how long he screams at me for being an abusive torturous mother for forcing him to do his work. I can hug him and let him know that he’s fighting for independence and I get that, but that at the end of the day he still just needs mommy cuddles. It’s hard for kids to manage their emotions, especially when they don’t even know what they are going through. It just takes some patience… and a bottle of wine after they go to sleep.

Remote Learning Will Never End

I feel like every day since remote learning started, I’m the fail mom. The one who has no idea what she’s doing because she is awful at technology. The mom who seems like the worst parent, because every day I get messages about how my child isn’t doing work. How he struggles with focus. It’s a rough journey that was supposed to end a few weeks ago but due to a spike in cases in the area, was postponed. The phase-in process for my youngest was supposed to take place on October 26 and was postponed indefinitely. My oldest was likely not going to school until the second semester. Again, who knows since his school was completely shut down due to a potential outbreak in the school (not cases contracted within the school, but people who attended parties outside of school, which led to potential exposure and quarantine of a portion of staff and students).

I wasn’t thrilled about sending them back, as I’ve mentioned several times here. I signed them up for in-person because I predicted that they weren’t going to go back for a while. I also did it because my youngest does need extra help because he struggles with focus. He needs to be at school with a teacher who knows how to accommodate his 504 plan. Sending him back does make it even more important to stay in my bubble. Not just to keep myself safe but to make contact tracing easier. Because my husband already spends a lot of time at various places throughout his work day that it makes it even more important to stay safe in a bubble.

I’m running out of ideas on how to make remote learning easier for us. I’m running out of ideas trying to play teacher while managing my workload. I don’t want to respond to the teacher, snapping “I’m doing my best here”, because I know that won’t help. She’s doing the best she can too. She probably doesn’t mean to come off judgey. Or maybe she does but doesn’t get to see that I am active in their education. I do ask to see if they did their work. I’m trying to do everything right and I fall short just like every other parent who is at home by themselves, trying to wear more hats than fit on their head.

I want this all to be over. I want this virus to just vanish as everyone tries to convince us it will. (In fact, I heard a rumor it was going to vanish after the election.) I want people to do their part so that the ones who’ve been doing the right things all along can finally get back to enjoying things. I want my kids to be safely at school. Maybe soon, I tell myself. Maybe soon.

It’s Okay to Admit You’re Drowning Sometimes

Fun fact: I don’t know how to swim. I’m not entirely sure if this has to do with me having just one more irrational fear when it comes to it or if my problem lies more in the sun. More exactly, a family history of skin cancer and what some refer to as an obscenely pale complexion. This doesn’t bother me and my oldest is actually a talented competitive swimmer, primarily thanks to my mother giving him a solid core to work with. That type of drowning, definitely do not recommend.

With everything going on right now, and I don’t just mean the pandemic complicating life, it’s okay to admit that you’re drowning. It’s okay to admit that you’re drowning under the stress of working from home, remote learning, doing everything that’s expected of you on a daily basis without you having a breather to yourself. (Maybe that’s just me.) I admit it. Some days, I barely feel as though my head is over the water. I’m still standing every day, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It just means my parents taught me to go down flailing.

It sucks right now. I really does. There’s no place for solace, because everyone is arguing about everything. It’s politics this or racism that. It’s insulting people because they want to err on the side of caution while there’s an ongoing pandemic going on. It’s people who have other inner struggles going on that are just being worsened by the constant load of crap being piled on them by people hiding behind keyboards like they are some type of superior human being. So, it’s okay to admit that everything is crap right now. There’s no weakness in that. There’s no shame in saying it. If people want to be jerks about your complaints or declarations, don’t worry, they are probably even bigger jerks in reality. It’s not you; it’s them.

It’s because of what everyone expects of us. We lose jobs and income, but we’re supposed to just magically find something else. Spoiler: that’s not always easy depending on your career history or education or core skills. Or, if you have to be home with kids who are remote learning. We have family that spends more time obsessing over your failures than praising your accomplishments. There are people who just like belittling people for whatever reason. There are so many things that are out of our control right now, it’s no wonder so many of us feel like we’re floundering.

Normally, I end with some lesson or words of positivity. Some days, finding that positivity is harder than others. Today, I think the comfort can be found in the fact that you’re not the only one who feels like you’re drowning. We all have our moments, especially lately, where it’s hard to catch your breath. What matters is that you find that bit of courage and strength that’s hidden away to help yourself through the day, whether it’s inspiration from the stunning foliage or a chocolate bar sitting on your desk or just having that perfectly made iced coffee. I can’t guarantee that any of this is going to get better anytime soon. But I can say that you’re awesome and that you got this.

I’d Rather Be Honest Than Impressive

The daily yoga program I use is 3 Week Yoga Retreat on Beachbody on Demand. Until I can successfully do the entire program without doing child’s pose or regretting my life’s decisions, I refuse to move onto a more advanced program, if there is one. During the “Expansion Week”, the instructor kept emphasizing the point of foundation and not risking injury to look more impressive. And every time she says “I saw a quote the other day that said ‘I’d rather be honest than impressive’ and I think that’s a really great quote for out yoga practice on and off the mat.”

She’s right. The quote is 100% right. I see moms on my social media or across the internet who write notes to their kids when they make up a snack bag or on holidays make these elaborate crafts or food items with their kids. And I’m just like “They woke up, probably had clean clothes, and were fed. And they went to bed alive.” I’m excited when I can do the bare minimum of “momming” without wanting to drink a bottle of wine at the end of the day. I’m not an impressive mom. I’m not winning any Martha Stewart awards for a perfectly clean house. Heck, some days I consider it an accomplishment and a successful day if I made it through without wanting to cry in the shower.

But I’m okay that I’m not impressive. I’m okay that I’m a mediocre mom who tries to do more than what I think is the bare minimum, despite rarely even making that bar. I’m okay that I may not have an impressive career that people are interested in more than “wow, freelancer… huh.” Maybe it’s because I’m too apathetic to care about what other people think. I assure you it isn’t my self-confidence that makes me not care. I am what I am and I’m in okay with that, even if other people aren’t.

There are just so many expectations for us, whether we put them on ourselves or let others dictate it. I wake up at 6 every morning, assuming I’m not already up for 3-4 hours before that because insomnia (as is the case now, while writing this). Then I either start my day of getting the husband out the door, kids on remote learning, making sure everyone is set for lunch, including making lunch for my husband to take to work. Fit in workouts, cooking supper, my own work, and if I’m lucky I can at least do the dishes. Housecleaning is my last priority because honestly, there’s just not enough time in the day to do everything else that needs to be done. My house is constantly in disarray during this remote learning time. It’s certainly not impressive.

The point here is that it doesn’t matter. You don’t need to be impressive. You don’t need validation. You don’t need to compare yourself to other moms because your kids just want you to be happy, to love them, and be there for them when they need you. My kid may run around with a dirty shirt that was clean in the morning but covered in hot sauce throughout the course of the day due to his eating habits. That’s okay. I’m not putting him into a clean shirt because neighbors might think poorly of me just so he can run around and dirty a second shirt in a day. I guarantee, you’ll be a lot happier if you stop trying to be perfectly impressive and start just being present.

Making the Best of a Situation

I think one of the best things about children is that they are resilient. They always heal quick. They are fighters, not letting tiny things like us saying “No” stand in the way of anything that they do. They don’t let a scraped knee keep them from running around a playground. This resilience is what will help them overcome what’s going on in the world… but only if we teach them.

I see people upset about canceling trick or treating and Thanksgiving dinner, and potentially Christmas. Imagine the kids! But the thing is… kids will get over it if we teach them to. They aren’t going to be 40 years old and remember that one year that they didn’t have a birthday party or get to wear a costume and get free candy. They aren’t going to remember that one year that they didn’t go everywhere to eat food for the holidays. They will remember the pandemic, but they will remember how YOU taught them to handle it. Those experiences that you gave them in place of the ones that they would normally have. You could choose to mope about this crap… or you could teach your children to overcome it.

I choose to teach my kids new experiences to replace the old. I choose to not let things that I can’t control determine my happiness. If we can’t go out trick or treating, why not have an outdoor movie night by the illegal open fire in our backyard? They can run around with the dogs and glow sticks and enjoy the quiet night. Instead of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner where we go to 3 different houses or invite people over, why not do something fun like a traditional Korean “small plates” (banchan) dinner? I for one, am thankful to not have to slave over a Thanksgiving dinner or have to run around to 5 different places or even spend money on an overpriced Halloween costume. I’m choosing to teach my children to adapt, take things in stride, and find something good while everything else around them is blowing up into a huge pile of crap.

If we dwell on the things that we are missing out on, we are teaching our kids not to be resilient. We are teaching them that they have to be miserable rather than choosing to find the positive in any situation. If we teach them that they shouldn’t be resilient and adaptable, how will that affect them as adults? Well, I imagine you’ll teach children that they have to sit down and take it rather than make the best of a situation. They will tell their bosses “No, I don’t like this so I’m going to act like a brat about it”, then they get fired. Instead, when you teach them resilience, they won’t let things bother them. They’ll be less stressed. They’ll find the best in the situation and use that to overcome whatever challenges that they face.

… Or you could teach them that the world revolves around them and they shouldn’t adapt. Why should they adapt? They are used to one thing and that’s all they know and they shouldn’t change. Right? That’s something that makes a lot of sense and won’t contribute to raising another entitled generation….

And… They’re Going… Maybe… Sorta

Finally, the school committee voted, on a new plan that was just proposed and wasn’t even discussed last week. One person abstained. Seriously, why be on the school council if you can’t own up to making a vote on such a hard choice. If you think it’s hard and messy right now, imagine being one of the parents who have to make some very difficult decisions right now. Yes, it’s a mess, but votes matter to constituents.

The new plan is a modified phased in approach, where the vocational students, vulnerable students, and those with IEPs/special needs attend school on the first day. Then 3 weeks later, they phase the next group of kids. Then the keep phasing kids in every 3 weeks until finally all the kids can be in school together. All of the kids in the schools together, while there’s a pandemic going on, right in time for flu season to hit. Then we get to play the fun game of “Is it COVID or Is It the Flu?” I do love a good mystery game…

What do I like? I could send my youngest, who receives services, to school and know that there won’t be as many kids. Maybe even less than 20 in the entire school, and it would be less risky for him and myself. Since he doesn’t really see his grandparents, because of you know… a pandemic, it’s only me that I have to worry about dying. Also, that means I get rid of my kid finally after having him 24/7 for what feels like a century. If you knew my precious little Loki, you’d get it.

There, I mentioned everything I like about the plan. One of the arguments is sending the kids for their social and emotional development. So my kid, being in a room potentially alone with a single teacher (because apparently the fine details aren’t important or something), isn’t getting that development from interacting with peers. Because he’ll have no peers. If they do intermix classrooms, how would that work of they separate the kids? How do you argue that they need to form a relationship with the teachers if that may not even be their teacher when full face to face opens?

Then, there are the high schoolers. They didn’t even have a plan out for the seniors returning to school. Are they just not returning? When they do return, what does the cohort system look like for them? Does my son still get AP classes? Will he have to suffer in classes he didn’t want rather than those he was really excited about, like his forensic case studies class? How are they going to ensure that the buses aren’t overloaded? Is the attendance policy voided for the year due to the circumstances, or are we going to have to pay hundreds of dollars in medical bills (if we’re lucky) every time our kid has a cough so they can be cleared for school?

As parents, I think we deserve more than “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there”. I definitely think that we deserve more than what we’ve seen on this school council to the point that I think we need to really reconsider the people who serve us. I think that if I had the funds, popularity, or even anything that I think would be a good quality in a school council member, I would run because I think I would do better. I think that you shouldn’t be able to abstain because you’re angry or because you’re too scared to vote either way. I think you should push for exact details before voting on a plan. If not to make an informed decision, to at least get details so the people your plans actually impact can know what to expect or what to do next. I think that you shouldn’t be as confused, or more confused, than your constituents who are watching the meeting. And I especially don’t think that you should make things even more confusing for us.

I understand the importance of being in school for kids. I understand being a working parent who doesn’t particularly like the idea of remote learning, because working from home while being a teacher is hard. Yes, I’m fortunate I do work from home and can accommodate the remote plan while others can’t. But I also can’t say I have any faith at all that my children will be safe going back to school, especially since I have more questions than answers. And honestly, the fact that so many people don’t actually know what the decision was even after watching that meeting shows just how awful the whole situation is. If we didn’t understand what’s going on, it’s the fault of those people in charge.

So what’s my plan? I guess I’ll find out when they can tell me what their plan is because I have no idea what’s going on. Or hope that the Governor scraps it and calls it a day because some school districts can’t get their stuff together.