The Appropriate Adult Response

It’s hard when you think you are being judged, even if it may be all in your head. The idea of being the perfect mom and wife tends to conflict with the actual realities of the situation. You try to do it all and even when you get through 90% of your self-inflicted to-do list, there always seems to be that one person that reminds you of what you didn’t accomplish during the day. Then it’s the last 10% that you failed at that makes you crazy. That you obsess over.

It was that 10% that led me to the place where I sat on my kitchen floor amidst a pile of Lysol wipes that I’m allergic to, hands covered in rashes, having a mental breakdown in the middle of my kitchen. That’s an appropriate adult response, right? It’s all of those little things that accumulate into one massive meltdown on a random day. A day which I wish I could have said was a long time ago, because I’ve realized that I’m never going to be a “Supermom”. I’ve made peace with my place of mediocrity in the place of moms. But no… this was yesterday. Even after accepting my mediocrity in a lot of things in life, I’m still sitting here with “Unsteady” by X-Ambassadors and “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men on repeat lamenting over my perceived failures of the past month, year, forever. The voices of people in my head, reiterating how badly I suck at things. With every worry sitting on my chest, making me think that I can’t breathe.

It was a rough day. One I had to pull together because it was my oldest son’s 16th birthday. Was my oldest hitting this milestone a catalyst for my breakdown? I wish I could say. Was it watching my son get screamed at for waiting with his friends on a sidewalk before school, then watching him run anxiously in the back of the schoolyard? Was it the realization that I definitely wasn’t going to finish NaNoWriMo, thus solidifying my fears that I suck at writing and need to quit? The thing about snapping is it’s always a snowball of a dozen events that end up causing a blizzard.

It doesn’t matter that I did complete nearly 30,000 words of the 50,000 word challenge, which may seem respectable. It was a failure to me. It doesn’t matter that my house was “decent looking”, I failed to make it museum worthy. I burned some onions while making sausage, peppers, and onions for supper. Maybe I should quit cooking? Maybe I have been wrong my entire life about everything?

That’s the whole thing though, isn’t it? Other people make us feel like our best is never going to be good enough. That comment about your house looking like a jungle is something that you obsess over until you start believing that you are less than. When people put you down because of your job. When people point out your single flaw, you obsess and destroy your sanity over it. You don’t need to tell another mom how you think they are failing and telling them about how they could be better. Trust me, they already know.

Why? Why do we always do this to ourselves as moms? What lesson does that teach our kids? How can we tell our kids, who are having anxiety attacks because they think they are failures or broken, that they are perfect despite the fact we think those things about ourselves?

You have to be okay with yourself. As long as you are doing the best that you can every second of the day, then maybe it’s okay that everyone views you as some mediocre mom. You’re never going to be perfect. Sometimes being supermom is just about being super good at what your kids need and want, not what you think everyone else thinks you should be doing.

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Why I Let My Teen Trick or Treat

But Brianne, Wednesday isn’t a blog day according to your schedule. Except, on my favorite and arguably only holiday I don’t complain about celebrating, I have decided to honor it with a lesson in parenting teens. Tomorrow, you’ll get your blog on Question 2. Today, I’ve decided to talk about another hotly debated topic: teenagers who go out trick or treating

I always leave the decision of whether he is “too old to trick or treat” to him. There are a few reasons why I do this and I will defend it forever. The biggest reason why, just shy of his big 16, I let him trick or treat is because there are worse things that he could be doing. He could be vandalizing someone’s house or at a party getting drunk or high. (I’d like to think that he would never do those things, but I’m realistic. I can’t be around him all of the time and you really never know what can happen.) Instead, I know the only thing he is getting high on is sugar. I feel as though that is a much safer option, especially considering he’s an athlete without an ounce of fat on him.

Then, there is the control factor. A major reason why teens lash out is because they feel as though they have no control over anything in their lives. Even though he is a teen, the general rules of child psychology and child development still apply. By giving choices, you are encouraging your child to grow up confident with the ability to make decisions. Even something as small as letting them decide that they want to trick or treat helps encourage healthy mental and emotional development. They feel as though they are in control over areas of their life and you don’t have to worry about everything being a power struggle. It shows them that it’s all a give or take.

Then, there is the point of letting him be a kid. I’m not sure why parents are always in a rush to make their kids grow up. I’m not sure why we put those pressures on them then wonder why kids are always in a hurry to grow up. I have the sobering realization that my child will be going off to college in just 2 years. If he still sticks to his choice of schools, one of them will take him out of state to New Hampshire. I’m not going to already have his bags packed. I’m excited that for at least another year, he’s still my kid. He’s going to grow up fast enough as it is. I’m not going to deny him his childhood while he still has it. I was a mom at 18. I didn’t have that luxury, but I’ll be damned if my kids don’t get that chance.

You may think that last statement means that I have an emotionally immature child that I baby even though he is almost 18. If so, you obviously don’t know him or read this blog closely when I talk about him. My son is the type of kid who goes to the dentist and asks for stickers so that he can bring them home to his little brother, because my youngest loves stickers. He’s the type that is always willing to help his friends or do something to help the world be a better place. He’s excited to help me cook or even prepare supper himself. My child isn’t stunted by my decision to let him still go out on Halloween. I’d like to think that maybe he’s just a little bit better because of it.

Remember these things when you see a teen roll up to your home. Think about how they could be egging your house instead of asking for candy. Think about how they could get alcohol poisoning at a party, or even worse drive home. Think about how quickly our babies become apathetic adults. And smile that for at least 1 day, they can enjoy what’s left of their youth.

Happy Halloween, readers. Be safe and have fun eating your candy tax.

And We Never Sent Out the Thank You Cards

Apparently even today, thank you cards are important even for birthday parties. The world ends if you forget. It obviously means that you are an ungrateful, horrible human being if you forget to do something that only takes but a moment of a time to send. How dare you?

How dare I. My youngest son had his birthday in September. I’m usually very diligent, sending out the thank you cards to the ones who like them within a week. To be fair, they were promptly written out. That’s the last we saw of those cards. Did we send them? My gut tells me no. My gut tells me that they were shuffled around in the hub of activity that is our house. There is the option of resending it, only the realization that I forgot a seemingly simple task over a month ago may have past the proper time to send it according to etiquette rules.

The fact is, we were busy. I spend more days that not reading emails from my youngest son’s teacher informing me of struggles he’s having in school. I have to manage the anxiety of my youngest son without letting mine get in the way. I have to spend more time than I’d like to admit in a day explaining that no, there isn’t a tornado or the fact that a paper was accidentally brought home isn’t the end of the world. It’s not easy like the days of monsters hiding. Now, monsters seem to be everything and there’s seemingly nothing I can do to stop it.

Every morning, I wake up at 6. I make sure my oldest is up and ready for school. I then start work. I’ll get started writing out blogs, most of which I end up tossing in the pit of despair known as the “Drafts” folder. I consider if I even want to blog today or revive the “Deleted Blog” series, where I put out those aforementioned blogs that I have (for whatever reason) decided not to post. I opt against it. (Though honestly, writing this now I probably will start using these as filler when I’m stuck with writer’s block or busy with appointments and can’t put a blog out, just for consistency’s sake.) I edit emails for clients. I lurk Reddit for Overwatch League/Overwatch news (and other things, because I’m now a constant Reddit lurker) to help me come up with ideas for blogs. I accomplish a lot in that one hour, which people don’t realize because “I don’t have a job”. I do. This is my job.

Then the morning gets crazy at 7. This is when I start the struggle of waking up my youngest. I listen to him cry and yell at me because we’re going to be late for school. Then as I walk him to school, some days I have to listen to him sob about how he doesn’t want to go to school. I walk back to the house to calm him down only to hear “WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE FOR SCHOOL!” By 8:30am, I realize that I have already been beaten down by failure for the day. It takes the rest of the day to work my way up from this feeling of being the worst mom on the planet. I spend the rest of the day working. I finish up my blogs and make sure they are scheduled to post on time. I stream to get my name out there, to raise my “brand awareness”. I work for my clients, writing articles and doing whatever else needs to be done. Sometimes, I don’t even finish everything I need to for work until 11pm. This includes family responsibilities of cooking, laundry, and trying to calm down my child because something set him off. If I’m lucky, I’m passed out by midnight. Sometimes the estimate is a lot later. Sometimes I wake up a lot earlier and get started.

At some points during this schedule, I have to handle making sure my oldest gets his overpriced class ring. I have to start getting him signed up for swimming. I have to research new ways to work with my youngest on managing his “quirks”. I spend a lot of time doing things that people don’t see. But, I obviously had time to mail out a thank you card and there’s no excuse for that level of inconsideration. It doesn’t matter that every day feels like you’re drowning because something has gone wrong so much that you sit back and wonder what you failed at to get to this point. The simple act of not sending out a thank you card epitomizes the guilt that I feel on a regular basis. The guilt that I’m not doing enough. I look at my house right now. It’s not a complete disaster, but it’s pretty messy. Will I get around to cleaning it today? That’s going to be a hard “no”, but I figure I’ll just not sleep tonight to get it done. Or I’ll pass out of exhaustion and get judged for another failure.

That’s the problem though. As a mom, I’m programmed to feel like I’ve failed at everything. We’re taught to think that our best just isn’t good enough. We’re supposed to feel guilty for our shortcomings. I spent too much time on my “not-work” because “writing isn’t a job” and I should have been cleaning for 8 hours while making sure I handle sending out a thank you card. My life is simple enough, right? We dwell on these perceived failures. I’ll probably think about that thank you card and wonder if it ever made it out all day. I’ll worry about being judged or have people think that I didn’t appreciate them because I forgot proper etiquette. I’ll worry all day about my child at school, who just now had a moment of hysteria about going to school. Because today, like yesterday, I have failed. Even if I didn’t really fail, I failed. If you know a mom, she probably feels like she failed today to. Let them know that they didn’t. They need to hear it more than you think.

The Most Important Ring… No, Not that One

I’m not a very sentimental person. Every now and then something hits me in a sentimental way, but otherwise not really. I think I’ve only looked at my wedding pictures to choose which ones get put on the wall. I don’t save report cards or spend a fortune on photography for them. I don’t even know where my high school year book is. Sentiment is really not something I specialize in. This fact probably adds onto my reputation for being cold. I like to think that I’m not cold; just overly rational. Just like I like to think that I’m not cheap; I’m just “thrifty” or “frugal” or “fiscally conservative”.

Last week my oldest son came home with an order book for his class ring. I never had a class ring. I don’t even think I wanted one. My son, he bleeds Colt blue and gold. (Which is hilarious because as it turns out, his ring will have neither blue or gold on it.) He lives in his championship swim coat or his “name” swimming hoodie. Sometimes both, depending on the weather. He probably has a dozen other hoodies for his school as well. He’ll probably want the beanie too, come swim season. Needless to say, he wants this ring. I refused to look at the book because expensive things tend to make me get nervous.

Finally, I sat down with the book. I never swear in front of my kids, but I was certainly going off on that book. “That ring is more than my mortgage!” “I could buy a month’s worth of groceries with the price of that ring!” I said “No”. I admit it. I said “No”. The only selling factor for it is unlike every other expensive thing that I’ve bought him, he can’t chew through a ring even with his rodent teeth. I want to give my boy the world… but between that and needing to come up with money for Senior dues, and everything else. It seemed  unrealistic to me to purchase this high ticket item, especially for a kid that seems to lose everything.

However, my husband is a sucker. He’s everything I’m not. He’s not frugal. He’s very much a sentimental guy. And he has this inability to say “No” to either of the boys. His boys get the world and that’s that. If he had a daughter, I’m pretty sure she would break him. He asked our son if he had a ring in mind. “No, I didn’t want to get my heart set on something and have you guys say I couldn’t get it.” Reasonable. He’s overly logical like me. My husband responded, “pick one, within reason.” My not-so little boy’s eyes lit up. He excitedly picked through until he picked “the ring”. I gave a max of $400. This ring was right there at the max, only to go over with the price of the $20 box and such. I cringed. He looked further and saw a ring that he liked more, could get everything he wanted, and even with the $20 add on, was just under this $400 limit. (It’s a black metal with a topaz, his birthstone.) He was going to put the tennis and swimming icons on it. Get a crest. He was excited. He even picked it out right down to the look of the gem.

Me? I’m happy that he’s happy. I keep obsessing over the numbers, because that’s what I do. For the price of this ring, he better wear it. So help me, he better wear it. My husband, walks away the hero for the day (and ever in the eyes of everyone in this family.) Maybe today we’ll go to the school and order it, while I cry. Not because my son is a sophomore who is going through all of these rites of passages. But because I’m about to plunk down $400 on an overpriced class ring. I just hope that maybe I’ll get a coupon for the yearbook or something.

Being Taught Your Place in the Gender Roles Game

How many times have you heard, “You’re a (insert gender here), that’s not how you’re supposed to behave…”? “Boys will be boys.” I even roll my eyes muttering “boys…” at my children. It’s a conditioned reaction that we’re just used to. The gender roles are very clear. Women tend to women things and men tend to man things. That’s just how it’s supposed to be.

I have been given awful looks when I mention that as soon as it was age appropriate, I taught my older son to do laundry. “But, he’s a boy…” Yes, but he’s a boy that’s going to be self-sufficient. His wife will thank me. I’m not going to do my adult son’s laundry if he never gets married nor do I think his wife should be forced to do it. My younger son now helps with laundry for the same reason. I get the same awful lectures when I mention how I’m teaching my older son to cook. I give the same reasons of self-sufficiency. How do I know he’s going to get married? I don’t believe in marriage so why should I force him to be?

I thought we had moved away from these ideals of traditional roles, but they still seem alive and well. “Why did you fix your screen window? You should’ve waited for your husband to do that.” Why should I have waited? It never would’ve gotten done and I wanted to be able to let fresh air in without bugs. I’m more than capable of it. My Mom never taught me to be demure. Or maybe she tried and my Dad told me to ignore her. I don’t even remember. But I definitely don’t remember ever wanting to be a princess waiting for a Prince Charming. Though there was a time when I wanted to be Phoebe from Mystic Quest. My Mom taught me the basics of sewing. I could hem pants, patch clothing, and fix buttons. My Dad, Mom, and older brother taught me how to cook. My Dad taught me about tools and bought me a tool set for a Mother’s Day present shortly before my husband and I bought our house. I was fortunate that my parents never really pushed those roles on me, though I have no idea how to mow a lawn but I’m not sure if it’s because they thought I was too weak as a girl to do it or because I’m so clumsy that they didn’t want to bother. It’s probably the latter.

I don’t believe in teaching my children about those traditional gender roles. Sure, they see that Mommy works from home and takes care of the kids while Daddy goes to work. Mommy cooks supper for everyone. Mommy is the one that comforts everyone while they’re sick and Daddy does yard work. Daddy handles the pest control situation of removing dead mice that our cat destroys or killing the earwig that scared Mommy out of the shower. But I will teach them everything that I can to turn them into modern men. They will be able to do their own laundry, and even offer to take care of their partner’s as well. They will learn to respect women, that they are not there to be their slaves. They will not raise their hand to a woman or disrespect them when they say “no”. They will learn about consent. They will learn that being manly isn’t about knocking a woman down or “putting her in her place”. Women are not to be controlled or manipulated just like women should not control and manipulate men. Relationships are partnerships, not ownerships.

My boys will learn to be self-sufficient, respectful men who are going to change the world for the better. I want them to know that being sensitive and compassionate isn’t a weakness. That Dads can cook, do laundry, and take care of babies. That around the home, there’s no such thing as “man’s work”. That in the real world, they need to respect a female boss just as they would a male one. My hope, is that other parents do as well. There is such a focus on “teaching little girls”, but I feel like there’s not enough about “teaching little boys”. All kids should learn to take care of themselves. Girls should know as much about cooking as they do about fixing a pipe in the kitchen (within reason; some jobs are better left for professionals). Women shouldn’t have to wait for their husbands to fix a clogged toilet or a cabinet door. Kids should all have a well-rounded education in “how to function and be self-sufficient” no matter what their gender is.

 

 

Just Breathe

I say this far too often on a daily basis. Before, I would say it to myself. Now, I have to say this to myself and my youngest son. Sometimes, when I use this affirmation for both of us when I’m trying to pass it off as using it just for him. I’m okay with that if you are. When breathing doesn’t work, I shrug it off until I get my 15 minutes alone in the shower after my workout. Crying in the shower is the most effective approach. If anyone asks, I could say I just got soap or shampoo in my eye again. It happens a lot naturally, so it’s pretty perfect. I’m a clumsy person.

My son doesn’t have a diagnosis of anxiety disorder. He has a “sensory integration disorder”. I’m certain that if I mentioned it to my doctor, which will probably happen at his yearly, that he would get the diagnosis. My own experiences, in addition to everything I learned in college in my child development/teaching/psych classes, make me very certain of it. He picks his eyelashes and eyebrows out and sometimes pinches himself. After suggesting that he didn’t do these things, he started to obsessively pick his nose. As disgusting as that was, it was better than the alternative. I chose to pick my battles. He freaks out over seemingly bizarre things, like when we were fixing a light in the house he suddenly thought that the house was falling and going to explode. (Anxious with an active imagination? He is my boy.) I answer “What happens if…” questions all day long. I’m not an expert, but the signs seem pretty clear to me.

In the past, he had crying fits that, no exaggeration, could last for up to 4 hours. Sometimes longer. The original thought was these were caused by his inability to communicate with us. (In my book, “A Special Place for Noah”, these parts were true.) It was stressful. If my husband and I didn’t have a strong bond before having kids, I think this would have easily broken us. He had another neuropsych eval, got a diagnosis of sensory integration disorder, and that was that. It was never mentioned again. His anxiety was just caused by being overwhelmed by his surroundings. He’d grow out of it when he was around 6 or 8 they said.

He’s 6 now. The past few days have been rough. Going to school causes tears suddenly, reverting him back to those fits from back in preschool. He won’t let go of my leg. I’m no longer allowed to walk with him behind the school due to “safety concerns for the other kids” (which is funny considering they cut back on attendants outside) so I have to leave him right before the back. Instead of leaving, I stand there while my 6 year old cries and won’t let go of me. This has caused the new part-time VP and one of the paraprofessionals to have to take him back for me. Every day he’s fine until that point. He has focusing issues in school and has had more of these moments in class.

This leaves me in a terrible position. I know this needs to be addressed. My worry is that too many doctors jump straight to drugging my child. I’d rather solve the problem as much as possible without medicine. I’m not anti-science. I’m pro-vaccination. I’m anti-potentially giving my child medicines that could actually alter his brain’s chemical makeup while it is still developing. How many studies have been done on the end result of medicating young children? I mostly manage my own anxiety issues through my work and through my hobbies, like exercising and knitting/crafting/art things. Being able to focus on those things occupies my mind so I don’t have to medicate. I don’t want a zombie for a child. I want my child to be as active as he’s supposed to be. I want to do whatever I can for him. But I’m at such a loss right now.

Now, it’s a waiting game. I have to meet with the teacher, scrounging up what I can from his old IEP in case she couldn’t find it in his records. Maybe listening to her and figuring out what his trigger is to help him cope better with it. (It’s my experience that you can’t avoid everything that makes you anxious, though I do this as often as I can get away with. I’m an emotionally unhealthy person. I’m okay with this too.) His physical is scheduled late due to a new system at the office, which caused me to be too late to schedule his appointment even though it was 6 months out like normal. Hopefully he lasts until November. I have to hope that maybe a switch will just flip again like last time, where it suddenly stopped happening. Instead, I have to sit around worrying about what I’ve done wrong. Did I not give him enough attention? Do I spoil him with too much attention? Was I too strict? Was I not strict enough? That’s what we do as parents, isn’t it? We sit there and blame ourselves when it’s really just how they are. We all have to adjust. In fact, parenting is equal parts constantly adjusting and psychological warfare (which I also say is a huge part of marriage as well).

The point is… all of our kids have their own issues. You could sit down quietly about it and pretend your kid is perfect on social media and feel alone about it. Or you could talk about it as much as possible. My kid may not have issues as serious as others, but he has them. He’s smart, sarcastic, lovable, and funny but he’s anxious and compulsive and impulsive. He may get judged for his actions. But he’s mine. And I love him.

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.”