When Getting Away Includes the Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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Eventually, We All Go Down

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

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

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

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

The Art of Raising Grown Ups

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Raising Adults

There comes a time, a very sad time, when your babies are no longer babies. You spend so much time raising your children and then they don’t need you anymore. But remember…. they do. It’s just instead of raising children, you need to start raising adults. Parenting is about the long game; the war, if you will. That’s the important thing to know about parenting. Getting through the day is about picking your battles. Winning the war is about standing strong on those battles that matter most. Bribing your kid with a smoked sausage firecracker treat to wear pajamas to school on Pajama Day is fine. Bribing your kid on the regular sends a message. Again, it’s picking your battles.

Earlier this year I wrote about raising teenagers. About how this is the time to let them sink or swim, hoping that you taught them enough to help them stay afloat. How you move more into an advisor role rather than an authoritative role. You can’t fix their problems for them anymore; you just hope that they have learned enough to figure it out or trust you enough to help guide them to the answers. That’s what you are doing when you are raising adults. When your child hits high school, they need to have the skills to “adult”. Trying to cram everything in with just 4 years to go is nuts, but a gradual lesson as they age into this milestone will make a huge difference.

For instance, when my oldest was tall enough to use the washing machine, probably around 12, he was expected to do his own laundry. I taught him how to do it, supervised him for a while, then I just trusted that he could do it. This is a life skill that he is going to need. I let him help cook in the kitchen growing up, teaching him recipes along the way. Now, he can do a decent enough job cooking some meals on his own though he’s never cooked supper for us (but I’m confident that he could pull it off). These are ways to raise an adult. I don’t want to raise him in a way where he expects his partner to take care of him. What if he never has a partner, loving the bachelor life? I’ll be damned if I’m doing laundry for my 30 year old child.

I started to “raise an adult” when they are a little younger. I was focused on how to make them into self-sufficient adults. I wanted to raise them with a solid work ethic but with compassion. It’s about the long game. Whether we like to admit it or not, everything we do as parents has an impact on the type of adult your child will become. It’s an insane amount of responsibility with an insane amount of pressure. This leads us to always second guess what we are doing. Guess what? We’re going to screw something up. Our kids are going to grow up just as flawed as we are. It’s about accepting those flaws and hoping that they learned enough from you to use their strengths.

Even in high school, our kids need us even if they don’t want to admit it. You can be firm about expectations for behavior or grades, but you have to be compassionate about the social issues that they are going to be struggling with. There’s peer pressure, bullying, and all sorts of things that will have a huge impact on your children for the rest of their lives. I can remember every bad bullying event that happened to me growing up, and it’s haunting sometimes. We have to make ourselves available to our teenagers, listening without judgement. They may not “need” you anymore, but they want you to still have their back. They still need to know that you love them. They need your support and guidance. They are not-so little adults right now and in 4 years, they will be entering college or the workforce and you need to do enough to prepare them for that.

How Have You Been Shamed Today?

I’m glad people are rising up against shame. Though, to be honest a lot of people that I see complaining about things like “mom shaming” tend to do a lot of that on their own as well. That’s completely besides the point, I think. Maybe not. I think I just shamed anti-shamers for shaming. I have too much of a headache already, but I promise you this isn’t a post about being disgusted with the concept of being shamed. I’m here to share with you about how I’ve been shamed today (generalizations, I just mean lately) in hopes that you will share your “shame”. We can bond over our shame and feel better knowing that you have a friend that feels the same way. Even if I’m just some random blogger.

It’s all about the weight.

Alright, admittedly I’ve been having a bit of a struggle with my weight since I lost a ton of it before moving. I could go on about stress, how medicines screw with your body, but apparently those are all excuses that I’m using. I shouldn’t work out though, because that’s bad for someone as fat as I am. All I need to do is more housework and I’m going to be super skinny again. My first question is: am I being shamed about my weight or my house here? Honestly, it’s probably both. Do I have unhealthy habits? Absolutely. Do I need to be reminded of that every day? Probably not. I know, I used to be so beautiful and skinny. I don’t need to be told that I’m neither anymore.

Listening to the advice of professionals is bad for you.

For a long time, I did get a lot of negativity by taking my son to get tested as requested by the specialists that I shouldn’t have had. He’ll talk eventually, he doesn’t need speech therapy, a developmental specialist, and to go to preschool on an IEP. They are just making things up to get more money and you just let them. So and so had this problem and they are perfectly fine now without all of this nonsense. Oh you’re allowing him to get screened by an occupational therapist? He’s fine, there’s no need for this. Oh he has anxiety? Why is that? What did you do that screwed him up? He is who he is and I’m going to do what I can to help him out. He needs a support system, not judgement. I need a support system, not judgement.

Can’t you just suck it up? (TMI INC.)

Females are conditioned not to talk about issues that they have with their reproductive system. Now with celebrities and movements like “SpeakEndo”, people are starting to talk more about their issues. My entire life I had issues with bad cramping and an obscene amount of bleeding which was made worse by the fact that it would come whenever it wanted. I could go months without one, probably why as a teen I didn’t even realize I was pregnant until late in the game. I was told I couldn’t even get pregnant so why put me on pills to prevent it or help my problem. Things got better before they got worse. I missed days at college because I just couldn’t make it out of bed. I had headaches that would blind me. Dizziness, vomiting, extreme pain. I’d find a pill that would stop it, until it didn’t, causing me to try so many different types of medicines that I did end up starting to gain weight from hormone switches and all that fun stuff. Finally, it would get so bad that I was practically bedridden for the entire 10 days that I would have this issue. I needed 3 heating pads, couldn’t hold any food down, and I was completely useless. Finally, something worked and here we are. But throughout the process and now, I keep hearing, “just take Advil and suck it up”. Do you know how many different types of medicines I’ve tried to stop the pain? I’ve had contractions that were less painful. My clothes and furniture always get ruined. People don’t understand, and shame me for not being tougher.

How can you live like this? This is a jungle.

Imagine a day, where you can spend the entire day cleaning. Your house is spotless. The toys are picked up. You have no dirty dishes. Your home is the epitome of clean. And then your kids and husband gets home, leaving trails of disaster behind them. And somehow, somehow, it always ends up looking so much worse than it did before you spend 3 hours scrubbing every aspect of the home. It’s always then, that someone shows up or you have to take a picture of something adorable that you want to share with the internet. Never share with the internet; it’s a terrible, horrible place.

Aren’t you too old to dress like that?

I’ve very capable of dolling up when I need to. However, I’m a jeans and t-shirt type of girl. I like my Chucks. I never want to not wear my Chucks. I want to be 100, wearing bright blue freaking Chucks and it’s going to be amazing. Yes, I do wear video game t-shirts and hoodies. I love D.Va and I will wear my hoodie despite the fact it has a slime stain on it, some chocolate stained on it, and it’s ripped. You can buy me a new one or a few of them to replace them if it bothers you that much. But I do have a soft spot for a cool and functional handbag. So I’m okay with that.

What do you mean that you make your kid do chores/discipline them?

I’m a believer in disciplining my children in a manner that will work for them. For my kids, time outs are typically the best approach when they reach of age to understand what they did. I ask them as they sit down what they did wrong. Usually they nail it, sometimes they need me to calmly explain what they did and offer solutions of how they could have handled it better. Sometimes I yell. Again, I’m only human. You would not believe the amount of hate that suggesting time outs gets me. I say “no” to my kids, picking which battles I want and what I’m willing to say “yes” to. Children need boundaries but they need a loose enough leash to learn. Yes, my children do have chores. My youngest feeds the dogs and cleans his room. My oldest is expected to do his own laundry, take care of the trash and recycling, take care of his cat, and tidy up our (very small) living room. Granted, my oldest hardly ever does tidy up the living room and it’s a fight to get him to change the litter box. But I have reasonable expectations for behavior and I’m willing to bend a little on the chores when they meet those expectations. Most of all, I want my boys to be respectful of others and show kindness. And I want them to make sure that they get their homework done.

So how have you been shamed today?

One Person’s Small Victory

When I had my first son, my big accomplishment would be making it to work without a gummy snack or some other food smeared on my clothes unknowingly. That was a small victory that many moms cherished. The moment that you can go to the bathroom or take a shower without an audience is a victory. I don’t think I truly appreciated these small victories as much as I should have.

Yesterday was my youngest son’s Christmas concert. This could have gone a few different ways. 1) He could have had a meltdown before going on stage, causing me to sit on the sidelines with him while the other classes performed their songs; 2) He could have had a meltdown while on stage (or standing in front of the stage), halting the entire concert and making a scene; 3) He would stand there, staring off into space, while doing something else that would draw attention to him; 4) He would be the perfect child, singing and dancing with his peers. I love my son, but holding out for option 4 was not a reasonable option. It would be great if that happened and I got fantastic pictures of my otherwise normally musical son performing. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I was okay with that.

The battle was a weekend long one. “I don’t want to go to school.” “I don’t want to sing.” “I don’t want to dance.” I considered bribing him into option 4. I’m not above bribery. I know I’m going to get the people that will tell me how awful of a mother I am for that. Listen, I’m just trying to make it through the day with what little sanity I still have.

I wasn’t going to make him sing or dance. I wasn’t going to make him dress up for the event. Part of parenting is knowing your kids; knowing which battles are really worth it. Fighting with him over going to sleep? Worth it. Fighting over a Christmas concert or dressing up for it? Not high on my priorities. I’m just trying to get through the day with as little tears as possible, from both sides of this table. Some kids were dressed in gorgeous dresses or looked way too adorable in full suits. Mine wore a long-sleeve shirt with a pocket and jeans. That was fancy enough. He wasn’t the only one dressed in normal clothing. He wasn’t even the only one who wanted nothing to do with the singing. He didn’t dance. But boy did that kid have a killer bow game going on. He knocked his bow (okay.. “bows”…) out of the park. Did I see him trying to do The Floss while up there? Oh, he definitely started. He looked out of place. He stood out. But he did his best. And I could not be more proud of him.

When you have a kid who seems a little too different from everyone else, it’s easy to feel self-conscious. It’s easy to ask yourself what you did wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong. I may be judged by the fact that I proudly recorded my son even as he stood and did nothing. Why? Because he was there. He showed up. He didn’t have a meltdown or freak out. He showed up and got up their bravely, happy that he saw his mommy in the crowd to support him. That’s my job. My job isn’t to change him. He’s not broken. He’s flawed, just like the rest of us. But he’s not broken. He doesn’t need to be fixed. I’m here to guide him, to support him every step of the way until he becomes an age where I have to sit back and hope that I did everything that I could. And I know that I am doing everything I can to build a solid foundation for him, because a solid foundation is what will hold him up for the rest of his life.

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.