Amid the Parenting Struggles, It’s the Little Things

There are little things that parents who have had “normal” children take for granted. It’s ok. I get it. My oldest child has always been, and is still in a lot of ways, the “perfect” child. He’s so well-behaved that it feels like I have to pick at something small to make him seem worse than he is. Sure, he doesn’t help out around the house as much as I’d like but what teenager really does? He gets straight As, has a plan for college, and is pretty much loved by everyone who meets him. He won’t even pull out his phone in class without asking permission first. He is just too good. He crawled, walked, and spoke well before the milestones said he would. He could read at an early age and was reading at a college level before he went into middle school. He’s smart, athletic, and adorable. And most importantly, he’s kind and protective.

It’s a shock to go from that to a “abnormal” child. I use the quotes in both cases because I’m using society’s definition. No child is normal or abnormal. They just do things their own way. My youngest started following the same trends, hitting most of his motor skill milestones as early as his brother or in some cases earlier. I had no idea that there was going to be a problem. I knew at some point before his first birthday that he didn’t say his first word. By that time, my oldest had already started 2 word sentences. I didn’t think about it. Every kid is different. Milestones, blah blah. Except by 2, he was still practically non-verbal.

When I wrote “A Special Place for Noah”, I reiterated a simple point: every little thing matters. The joy I feel every time my youngest looks me in the eyes to have a conversation with me just can’t be described. He’s engaged. He makes eye contact. Even at 3 by the time he started preschool, he still barely spoke or looked anyone in the eyes. It’s tough knowing that you are doing everything that you are supposed to and still sucking at  your one job. He went from not speaking, to speaking at us, to now actively engaging in conversation. He reads visual cues from an expression on our faces. He’s empathetic, comforting his friends. He plays with kids now, not just next to them.

It seems silly to other parents that don’t understand. They don’t understand that every time a child makes eye contact with you, when they spent so much time avoiding it, is a huge moment. Any time that they don’t have a meltdown because their routine was messed up in some way is a huge moment. All of these little things matter. I don’t care if you think I’m ridiculous in celebrating these little things. Great, your child was potty trained by 2 and speaks exceedingly well for their age. Guess what? That perfect mom isn’t telling you all of the story, only the parts that makes her look like supermom. I used to look at my youngest after seeing posts like that and wondered how I screwed this all up. But I didn’t. I did everything I could. I’m doing everything that I can do. That’s enough for me to go to sleep fine at night.

Some kids just have a slower path but eventually they all get where they were meant to. Sometimes you just have to remember that everyone is different, some requiring a bit more time and patience.

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Mom Confessions: The Sad Truth

We’re not perfect as moms. If we were, we wouldn’t need to judge other moms so much. Talking to that mom who looked at me as if I were abusing my child for not babywearing. Those things are way to expensive and the ones that aren’t, I just didn’t have the patience to deal with. It’s ok. My children turned out just fine despite my poor decisions of formula feeding/bottle feeding breast milk and putting ketchup on everything even if it disgusts me because sometimes that’s the only way to get a kid to eat something.

We all have those dirty little secrets as parents/spouses. I’m here to admit mine.

  • Sometimes I lock myself into the bathroom or my bedroom. I don’t do it to cry. I do it because I secretly bought myself a treat and boys are ravenous beasts that sense you enjoying food and just magically appear. No, those Lindt chocolates are just for me and I do not feel guilty sitting on my bathroom floor to enjoy them in peace.
  • I bring my youngest to school early on rainy days. He’s only been late once, due to a doctor’s appointment. But on rainy days, I make sure I get there as soon as possible. Not for any other reason then to get rid of him quicker, especially on his more difficult days. I’m sorry to his teachers, but you spend enough time with him to get it.
  • I don’t cry in front of the kids. Not to teach them a lesson about holding your emotions in, because I think that’s unhealthy. It’s because they can sense that weakness to destroy you. It is my job to destroy them not the other way around.
  • I promise things to my kids as a reward for their good behavior. The thing is… they are already going to get it but this way I can make them do chores without complaining. You’d be surprised how well this works.
  • I sneak their PopTarts and then when they complain about someone else eating them, I point out how much they mindlessly eat food all day long and eventually they remember eating them. I don’t like PopTarts, but sometimes  you need something sweet with your morning coffee.
  • I let my husband win the rare fights that we have. Not because I think I’m supposed to be submissive. Not because I’m the better person, because I’m definitely not. But because I know that I can hold it over him in the long run when I really need it. A successful marriage is about the long game.
  • I don’t negotiate with terrorists. You want to throw a tantrum to get what you want, call grandma. It isn’t happening here.
  • I am the God of the house. By that I mean, I can and will steal the router and make them suffer.
  • I view parenting as a very minor case of psychological warfare. I know their weaknesses and I’m not afraid to use them. That’s right, it goes both ways.

Remember, it’s fine. Don’t let other people tell you how to live your life. You’re not perfect and that’s perfectly ok.

 

I’m a Failure as a Mother

With mother’s day approaching, it is important to talk about mothers. I saw a joke that said “Dads can do so little and get credit for it. Women can do something little and become villains for it.” It’s true though, isn’t it? “Oh… you formula fed your child? You must not love them enough to sacrifice your time and energy to nurse.” “What do you mean that you like to cover up when you nurse? Do you like eating with a hood over your head?” First of all, I do. In fact, I have a hood on over my head while eating a PopTart that my son didn’t finish but I couldn’t bring to throw away while children are starving while drinking a coffee. (deep breath) “Oh, you don’t baby wear?” “Oh, you’re babywearing wrong, you’re a freaking monster.” I could really go on and on about this, but I feel that my sarcasm got the point across just fine so far.

Most days, I think I have my stuff together. I nail my work deadlines. My kids are doing well in school and their various activities. But my house is a literal disaster zone most days but I only have so much energy to clean when I know 10 minutes later a teenager and a 5-year-old are going to tear through the area and destroy everything that I have worked so hard for. It’s like building a nice card house; it took you forever and it only takes 2 seconds to have a room full of cards. Luckily my kids are nice to me, they skip the card house and just throw the cards, the box, and anything else that they can on the floor. It’s more efficient that way.

I cook good meals, most days. Some days I give up and just make mac & cheese because I gave up on life that day. But I try really hard. Most of the time, it’s nothing organic though. That’s way to expensive and confusing to me, plus I’m certain organic is just used as a marketing ploy to steal my money. I’m too smart for that, mostly.

Most days, I feel like a failure. That’s easy when your kids learn to say “You’re the worst mom ever.” I know, how dare I expect you to do things like wear pants. I go downstairs and see a basket of laundry that I swore I was going to bring upstairs yesterday to fold and put away. I’m pretty sure that basket is still downstairs. I don’t even remember anymore. My youngest thinks his clothes just magically appear in his closet. Which doesn’t matter because his clothes are apparently not good enough anyways.

Through all of the tears (mostly mine), it’s hard not to feel like a failure. You could do 100000 things right during the day and in the one moment you fail, you think that you really are the worst mom in the world. Here’s a little secret though: You’re probably not. I always tell my friends (and myself) when we’re having those “slump days” as moms, remember these things:

  • Did you try to feed your kid?
  • Did you try to wash your kid?
  • Did you try to read to them/spend some quality time with them?
  • Did you all make it through the day relatively unscathed?

Then you did it. All you can do is try. I served my kids an amazing meal. I can’t force them to eat it. That’s not my failure. They were picky that day. They can fend for themselves if they don’t want it. Is my kid wearing the only two socks that were remotely clean, maybe not really and they don’t match? Probably. Does that mean I’m a failure? Not to me, he was given breakfast, hugs, kisses, and is off to school on time with only a few tears from both of us. My sanity was mostly intact. Does that mean I’m a failure to you? Probably, but I did mention that I have a teenager and 5-year-old right? I don’t care if I’m a failure to you. I don’t have time to.

Happy Mother’s Day, because even if everything has gone wrong today they still love you the next.

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 Art of Teaching Civil Disobedience

I was a bit of a rebel growing up. By that I mean, I did whatever I wanted with really little care of what people thought about it. That is still mostly how I deal with things today, though I do accept that sometimes for the sake of my family that maybe I should take more care. For instance, as much as I don’t care if people think me having blue hair is ridiculous, I wouldn’t show up to one of my husband’s work events like that. His colleagues would judge him for that and it could affect his career. I get that.

I have always believed in the power of civil disobedience. In posts about the “Black Lives Matter” movement and any other protest, my theory has always been that protesting is a privilege that we have here and it should be nurtured whether we agree in the cause or not as long as it is peaceful and civil. I’m a firm believer that the masses can influence change and that there is power in numbers. I believe that as American citizens that it is our civic duty to stand up for our beliefs to try and inspire change in the world. We were given that right to keep the government in check. We were given that right to fight against injustice. We were given the right to have words that we can freely speak. We are so fortunate to have these rights. People who speak against the protestors, questioning their patriotism should realize that their protest is displaying a love of patriotism. Our soldiers put their lives on the line to protect this right, an important foundation in what it truly means to be American.

In my local government, there is an issue with teachers and their contracts. Without getting into the debate about the problem with teachers in America (the problem isn’t how much the schools get rather how they appropriate the money, in my humble opinion, though we do need to invest in our teachers because they are educating the next generation), there is a work-to-rule in effect due to contract issues. The students at my son’s high school yesterday decided to do a walk-out. He mentioned it over the weekend and I made my stance on the topic very clear: If he believes strongly enough in what is going on, then do it knowing that there will be potential consequences from the school. I, however, was not going to punish him. I made this decision for a few reasons.

  1. I 100% support our teachers. They do a lot for our kids, it’s the least we could do.
  2. I was not going to punish my child for civil disobedience. Kids could learn something from ignoring apathy and caring about a cause. I was not going to squash a potentially teachable moment for him. At almost 15, he is learning how to navigate the world. He is learning about his own belief system and developing his rational thinking skills. He is learning to be an adult. Part of that is to stand up for when you see injustice. I will encourage his intellectual growth. If he wants to stand up for something I may not agree with, I would still let him do it because he needs to develop his own belief system not just repeat back mine.

As we walked up to the school last week, the first day of this work-to-rule, my youngest son asked why his teachers were outside. I explained to them that the teachers need help to be even better. He stopped and looked up at me: “Why don’t they give my teacher what she needs? She is always nice and says ‘Good job, Georgie.’ We should be nice to her too.” My 5 year old seems to have more sense than a lot of adults out there. Also, the fact that he didn’t start talking in sentences until he was around 4 was very much thanks to the teachers at his public school preschool. He is starting to learn.

We are parents, tasked with raising the next generation of children. That is not something that we can just cruise control through. This is something that requires teaching valuable lessons to them through leading by example and encouraging their emotional and intellectual growth as well as their physical growth. My son ultimately decided he didn’t want to take the suspension and risk his swimming/college career with a sullied school record. Instead, he wanted to figure out better ways to help the cause. That was his choice and I was going to be proud of him no matter what he decided. He needs to learn what he feels is morally right. I am so proud of the adult he is becoming.

 

Everyone Has Those Days

As a parent, it can be extremely hard to stay positive. You see parents boasting about how their angels ate their organic meatless Monday meal perfectly and ate an apple that wasn’t covered in sugar or candy for dessert. I’m lucky if I can get my 5 year old to eat anything that isn’t a hot dog, Burger King, or covered in so much ketchup that the ketchup is the main dish. I’d like to think I’m in the majority on this one.

I will never be that all organic mom that can leave the house in yoga pants with confidence and a kale only smoothie for my detoxing. I can guarantee that I’ll either have a tea with sugar or a coffee with an obscene amount of creamer in it. I can guarantee that 9 out of 10 times my children will be on time. I can guarantee that I will grab whatever jeans and t-shirt smell and look like they could be clean. I can guarantee my hair will be disheveled as if I’m purposely trying for that bedhead look. I’m not. That is probably actually either bedhead or I was trying to pull my hair out because parenting can be infuriating.

There are a lot of things that you cannot guarantee as a parent and you have to cling to those things you can be sure of. I can guarantee that if I even say “Please” and “Clean” in the same sentence, my teenager will roll his eyes at me and groan about how unfair life is. I can predict that and hold my breath to avoid getting annoyed. Not everyday is going to be perfect as a parent. In fact, you may have more bad days than good ones. That’s okay. I admit that I lose my shit more often than I should. Just yesterday I spent 40% of my day raising my voice and yelling at my kids. Was it effective? Not really. Did it make me feel better? Nope. Did I eat a bunch of lemon Oreos to soothe me? Oh yes, that absolutely happened. If I had bought my peanut butter M&Ms for NaNoWriMo early, those probably would have been devoured too.

Remember this anytime you see a mom on Facebook that seemingly has their life together: They are likely losing it just as much as you do. The problem is they sweep it under the rug to give this illusion of perfection to make them seem better. I have no shame. I don’t mind admitting that I bribe my kids with cookies to eat their supper. I’ll admit that my youngest said “mom, you need to have more patience with me” for me to respond “I’ll learn patience when you learn to listen”. I’m okay with not being perfect because I refuse to achieve an unrealistic expectation of what it means to be a parent. My children have clothing, a roof over their head, and are still alive. That’s really the important thing. My sanity is apparently optional.

A parent is someone that wakes up with pee on them because their child had an accident while sleeping in your bed. A parent is someone who complains about running up 4 flights of stairs in a nightmarish situation for you because Open House is important to engaging in your child’s education. A parent goes to an elementary school Open House where it is so packed with children and parents that you just want to keep a hold of your anti-bacterial pocket buddy because you know you are going to get sick from it. (Spoiler alert: I did get sick from it. I should have had the anti-bac out.) A parent promises that they will not cook more than one meal but sometimes will actually just cook another meal because you have been beaten down and want to keep whatever shred of dignity and sanity that you have left. A parent is beaten down more easily than they care to admit. A parent will always, always, always second guess their every decision. They will think about what they could have done differently in every scenario, big or small. Most importantly, a parent loves their child unconditionally even when they consider the possibility of eBaying them or finding another parent that will want to take them off your hands for a while. Totally unrelated note: anyone want to set up a play date with their children outside of my home where I don’t need to be present?

Joking aside, I always come back to this same point: You are enough and you are doing okay. Too many times other moms feel the need to rub perfection in other people’s faces and those “imperfect” moms are left feeling dejected. I’m here to tell you that we all feel like we did a crappy job at this parenting thing some days. Some days your child has an anxiety attack and you have to breathe through it with them and it’s not your fault that they are that way. They were made exactly the way they were supposed to be. And they were given to you because they were the child that you we meant to have. You can handle it. You can do it. Just breathe and accept that you are going to lose your shit and cry in the laundry room where no one can hear you and you know for a fact know one will ever go. That’s okay because more moms than you think are right there with you.

My Not-So Little Boy Started High School

Sure, this is a few days late, but the beginning of the school year is always a busy time of year especially when you are simultaneously prepping for a birthday party. Milestones are aplenty in the LaRochelle household these days, with the “baby” going to kindergarten later this week. (On Thursday, so I can cover the inevitable tears over the moment.) But Freshman year is a milestone all its own. This is the beginning of essentially the end of childhood. This is where you decide on colleges, possible career choices, first dates, long(ish) relationships. High school is a big milestone.

… And my oldest baby just got there.

I expected tears. I expected being a nervous wreck. It didn’t happen. I made him cinnamon rolls, listened to his concerns, congratulated him on his achievements, and let him know that I knew he was going to do great things in high school and beyond. He nodded and smiled that smile that only people who know him could truly appreciate. That smile let me know that he was going to be okay. Or at least as okay as any teenager who had trouble falling asleep and woke up at 4 AM could be. When he came home, he expressed how much he liked his teachers, how he had friends in every class and had lunch with one of his “baseball bros”, and then passed out for 5 hours. I did say that he was up at 4 AM, right?

The fact is I have done everything that I could to prepare him for this. I have tried to give him the confidence he needed to take on the world. I tried to give him the compassion to be an amazing person. I tried to instill charity, love, and kindness. At this point, we will find out if I gave him enough. Essentially my time of teaching him is over. Now, I just have to hope that the foundation he was given was strong enough to see him through.

That’s the hardest part of high school as a parent. Hoping that you gave him the strength he needs to face the cruel world and the kindness to come out on the other side. It is his time to make decisions, hopefully inspired by everything he has been taught. I am here to give him advice, hugs, and cookies. Ultimately, that is all I am here for now. He will make his own decisions, forging his own path. Unfortunately, this also means being okay when he inevitably falls. Because at the end of the day, we can only pick them up afterwards and hope that they learned from the fall.

High school is an emotionally tiring journey for both the kids and parents. We have to be okay with that and trust that we did everything that we possibly could to give them what they needed to succeed.