Where are the leaders?

Tonight I’m grateful my living children are sleeping safely. Today in the news, I watched a child get get pepper sprayed and an elderly man attacked. 

We’ve taught our boys to know police officers as helpers. The police in our town have been there for our family when we needed them. Not just a little bit. They were at the house in a blink when I called 911, one watched over us while it was happening, made sure the boys were safe, called our pastor, they all handled the situation with respect and grace. Later, an officer hand delivered a gift to our family from the police department. We talk about race, white privilege and our responsibility to speak up and use our privilege to create change, black history, … but not this, yet. 

Knowing that the police in my country will pepper spray a child, and attack an elderly man, let alone discriminate, harass, and hurt people of color, has me thinking of a new dialogue with my boys about the people who are there to protect us. How do I explain to my little boys that those events are happening here, not some far-away place we see on TV? How do I explain that the uniform doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good? That’s not right. Police officers are there to protect the people, not attack the people. I don’t have answers to these questions. I don’t know how to tell my boys any of this.

I’ve been posting on Facebook about cops on their knees. Now I see that brutality is overwhelming the peace. I try so hard, after all of my trauma and loss, to be positive–to listen to Mr. Rogers and look for the helpers. Today, the images of what looks like war, coming from all across my country, are spreading too fast and smothering anything positive. What I’m seeing is chaos. And pain. And confusion.

Black lives matter.

No justice, no peace.

Say His Name–George Floyd.

Say their names–which one?

Arresting a few cops does not bring justice.

Now, how is the policy change going to happen? How is the cultural change going to happen? How can we guarantee accountability? Where is the justice?

Where are our LEADERS?

My babies have been through enough. They’ve lost their brother, Covid-19 and quarantine added a new layer to our grief and trauma (which they’re handling like badass rock stars), and now the entire world is in even more turmoil. Of course, it’s justified turmoil. Overdue turmoil. Necessary turmoil. Painful, gutting turmoil. Righteous turmoil. If-you-thought-the-political-climate-revealed-character-you-should-see-what’s-happening-now turmoil.
But turmoil, nonetheless.

I’m feeling disheartened. And scared. And obligated to simultaneously protect my boys and educate them on what’s happening. We have a moral responsibility to stand on the side of justice.

But after all I’ve been through, after all we’ve been through as a family, we just want peace. Trauma survivors do not wish for more trauma.

The protesters are saying “by any means necessary”, and I get that… I mean, the best I can as a white person.

But, God help those cops if they EVER try to harm my beautiful children, no matter how old they are. George Floyd, a grown man, called for his Mama. As a mother who has lost a son, I can tell you that peace does NOT exist without justice. I don’t know if I’ll ever know peace until I’m with my boy again.

I truly hope that the protests around the world will put us on the path to justice for every mother who has lost a son to police brutality. I truly hope that the protests around the world will put us on the path to justice for racial inequality. I truly hope that from the protests around the world emerge true, worthy leaders for our country. I truly hope that we find this path during our lifetime, so that I can watch my living children grow up in a world of true equity.

And there I go, defaulting to that positivity.
That won’t bring change. Marching, protesting, persevering brings change.

Where are the leaders?

I can lead by starting in my home with my family, and take responsibility for learning the right ways to be an ally. I can lead with my voice. 

Maybe some are leading by attending rallies, and this inspires their neighbor to do the same.

How can you lead? 

Let’s do this now, because I can only imagine magnifying the pain of losing my son to suicide to equal the pain and grief black and brown people collectively and historically experience in this country. I’ve heard them say they’re tired. And I can tell you, as a grieving mother, they really are.

Zen and the Grief Machine

I’ve been spending less time trying to control things and more time noticing what is. Sounds Zen, right? I’m not sure if that’s it.

Last night, Binker talked to me about choosing a band instrument for next year. I was surprised, because he’s a singer–he loves being in chorus. I thought for sure he’d choose choir in 5th grade. And, the instruments he was talking about were random, and I really think he has no idea what he wants to do.

I’m finding myself stepping back a lot more with these kinds of decisions. It’s not a conscious thing, it’s just happening. I’m noticing him. I’m noticing a 4th grade consciousness grappling with how to even make this kind of decision. He’s like a loose piece on a desk or chair–I could grab a clamp, stick it on, twist it tight, make sure that piece doesn’t fall off! I could add glue, stand there a while, make sure that clamp stays on–here is the instrument you should play, but really you should choose choir… But I’m finding myself waiting to see if he can get himself put together. I’ll catch him if he falls.

I’ve learned that I really don’t know anything. I could think I knew what was best for them, and gaslight them into choosing that. But what if I’m wrong? (It’s been known to happen.) If I leave it to them, it’s on them. And maybe they’ll learn something about making decisions. Shit, my life choices haven’t all been sparkly perfect. In fact, I’d probably change….uh, MANY of them…decades, even. (My own parents can kindly zip it, please.) I can’t presume to know that a child’s choice is the wrong one. Plus, there are no wrong choices if we’re talking Zen and stuff.

When I was set on Tuna continuing piano, it was Latefordinner who had to convince me he was a drummer. I remember it in slow motion–the two of them standing there, trying to convince me. Tuna looking helpless, Latefordinner stepping toward me, holding my face, speaking in that low, super slo mo voice, “Thhe boyyyy iiiissss aaaa DRUUUUMMMMMMERRRR. Hhhee doessssn’t neeeeeedd morrrrre piannno lessssonnnns.” My shoulders slumped. What the hell did I know, anyway? The boy was a drummer.

Why this shift to just guiding? Sadly, I have to give some credit to Tuna. Grief depletes your energy like…man…like you’ve lost some of your own life. Like that machine thing in The Princess Bride that sucks years off of your life. It’s like you’re hooked up to that thing 24/7, but it’s invisible and you have to carry it on your back, and pretend it’s not there. With your new limited mental, emotional, and physical capacities from carrying around the grief machine; you’re forced to slow down. There’s no more extra effort to make things perfect. Things just are as they are. That machine won’t let you do any more than BE there. It drains you of all but the bare minimum to keep going. Of course, you’re still there underneath it–I’m still there for my boys–I just can’t carry anyone else’s burdens anymore. Silver lining: Their strength grows when they carry their own.

So, I don’t know if that’s a Zen thing, or just self-preservation. Is there a difference? Don’t know that either. An old friend used to call me “Zen Jen”. Maybe this grief machine is forcing me back to that simplicity. Stupid insight. I’d rather be less enlightened and have my Tuna back, but if we’re talking Zen and stuff, I guess this is just what freaking IS now.

Radical Piece Protector

It’s a radical concept to some–I listen to my children. They are individuals with their own ideas, opinions, feelings, experiences, and perceptions. When one of them tells me he’s scared, I listen. When he says he couldn’t breathe and his stomach hurt at school, I recognize that he’s describing a panic attack. When he can’t sleep and begs me not to go, I hear him. I respect my children and believe them when they tell me their feelings. If they can’t count on me to trust and protect them now, how will they trust me with their hearts in the future?

Squishy is grieving, and he has severe separation anxiety. He’s now scared people will leave him. This extends to everything–pets, TV shows, and objects. When one of his mittens fell out in the car and he didn’t have it for recess, he wouldn’t use any others and ran away from his teacher. He ended up surrounded and secluded, and then had a panic attack. His brother died suddenly last year, but no hugs while he’s upset. No understanding that his mitten missing translated as everything being out of place and nothing would ever be right again. This is grief. I’ve been told they can’t help him with anxiety at school. Almost every day I pick up my baby boy with a face puffy from tears, and exhausted with worry about the next day at school. He. Is. 7. Years. Old. And so, we pulled him from school… for the second and last time.

I pulled him the first time in the fall for similar reasons, and because he was being physically restrained and secluded almost every day. I homeschooled/unschooled him for two months, and a lot of healing happened in those two months. He opened up about Tuna for the first time, and he relaxed a lot. He started to like learning. I thought that was a good amount of time for him to breathe and heal, so with high hopes for success, I sent him back to school starting with half days at the doctor’s suggestion.

My hopes were wrong. He was miserable. He hates school. Our family is hurting, and anything that adds to our pain (that we have the power to change) is now unwelcome in our lives.

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When you lose a child to suicide, the person that was you becomes a shattered mirror, smashed to tiny shards, skidded and scattered– stuck underneath in the small dark places–impossible to sweep up. There are pieces of me that are lost forever. They’re lodged in floorboards and bare feet. They’re in a landfill with rinds and wrappers. They’re dust.

And there are just a very few pieces that I found and kept. I’ve tried to repair them–to put them back together–but they don’t fit now, so they just lay there, broken. Now, I’m searching for pieces that will fit where the gone-forever ones should be. When I look into them now, I see shifting fragments of the self I used to know. Where I’ll find the pieces to repair them, and what they’ll even look like, is a mystery.

But, there is one piece I keep apart from the others. It shows me the same piece of me each time I look. I’m protecting this one–giving it it’s own space. Every time I check to see if I’m still there, this piece shows me my boys.

When I only have fragments of myself left, and my two living boys are whole and alive, I will do ANYTHING to make sure that piece is protected. When I entrust anyone to hold that piece, and there’s even a slight chance that it could break, I’m taking it back. That means that if my boys tell me they don’t feel safe, the most important thing in the universe is to make sure they do. PERIOD.

When we still had Tuna with us, there was a lot more worry about the “shoulds”. I like to think that we’ve always been this way–fiercely protective of our children’s mental and emotional safety (We definitely ignored the “shoulds” more than most people I know)– but they did hold us back from the right decision more than once. Now, the things we thought mattered are meaningless.

Now, there are zero “shoulds” for us. There is no room here for anything or anyone that tries to impose on our fragile family well-being with a “should”, or a “have to”, or a “keep up”. If it’s a radical concept to anyone that we listen to our children’s voices, and that their mental and emotional health come first; I hope they may learn to unconditionally follow their hearts and guts. There is no time on Earth for anything else.

May no one judge the grieving in their process, only love and support them in every way, and forever. As trauma survivors we’re doing our best. We have no room for struggle. Zero room for trouble, unless someone threatens the well-being of that one whole, beautiful, fragile piece of me. Then, I will bring that piece back to peace and safety before you can say “should”.

Because Boys 2.0: Not Entirely Because Boys

Screenshot_20181202-233843_ChromeOnce upon a time there was a storyteller with three sons.  She wrote about them, and many readers in the land praised her work. The boys’ ridiculous antics made the townspeople slap their knees, and their stories spread far and…well maybe just a little ways away…

The storyteller eventually moved to the land of Full Time Job where she thought she was exhausting all of her creative energy, and that must be why she stopped telling tales of her boys. But then, there came a day when the real reason revealed itself in a disguised message, delivered from the nearby town of Facebookland. On the surface it was indeed an interesting exchange, but between the words came another voice: “It is time to do another brave thing:  It is time to tell your whole story, and spread your truth far and maybe wide this time. This is why your writing has stopped until today.”

So the storyteller opened up and shared her whole story and sold lots of books and became a successful writer.  The end.

I hope you liked my totally true tale of the storyteller who is actually me. Yeah, it’s all true…it’s just that that ending part isn’t true YET.

If you’re just joining us, I started this blog about my three boys in April of 2014. Tuna is now 13, Binker is 8, and Squishy is almost 6.  I’ve shared a lot, but skated around the whole truth: I am a special needs mom.

It’s time to include that part of my story.  It’s time to talk about it. So, just as I jumped in and wrote one of my first entries about floor food, here goes: Tuna is gifted, has Tourrette’s Syndrome, ADHD, and food allergies. Binker is autistic, has ADHD, and is gifted. Squishy is autistic and we suspect giftedness. These diagnoses make myself and Latefordinner special needs parents. 

There. Done.

I have my dear friend to thank for unknowingly jump-starting my blog again, and showing me it’s time to come out. 

I’ve chosen to keep writing here, rather than starting a new blog, because I want you to understand why I stayed in the special needs parenting closet–those of you with neurotypical children may have related to the chaos when you read my stories. However, the differences in special needs families add several layers of challenges that I left out of those stories.  The wonderful news is that neurotypical families can relate to our stories!  We really are “normal” (because no one is normal, so we’re all normal), so there are tons of things we all have in common. Whew! That’s comforting for special needs families. My charge now is to talk about those unspoken layers.  It’s time to pull them out of the closet, dust them off, and show you how they fit if you’ve never worn them. And if you do wear them, maybe we’re matchy!

I hope you’ll stick around for some knee-slapping, eye-opening, ignorance-squashing stories–Because Boys 2.0: Special Needs Edition. AKA “God Doesn’t Give You More Than You Can Handle”, and “You’re Their Mom For a Reason”. Also, “I Don’t Know How You Do It.” 

(Psst, I don’t either.)

(Pssst, actually it’s magic. Special needs moms have magic. Don’t tell anyone.)

 

 

Because Dog: The Cat Person’s Guide to Mentally Preparing for a Dog in 79 Easy Steps

Step 1:  There is no way to mentally prepare yourself for a dog, especially if you’re a cat person, and even if you are already a parent of humans.  The End.

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Just kidding.  Here are the steps that don’t actually work to prepare you for anything but you could read them anyway if you want: 

Step 1:  Be a cat person for 40 years.

Step 2:  Realize that life is short.  Boys and husband have begged for years, so let them have a dog.

Step 3:  Regret this decision immediately.  

Step 4:  Remember step 2.  

Step 5:  Repeat steps 2 and 3 multiple times.

Step 6:  Do not give local shelter your first born child.  WTH is that all about?  We have three healthy boys and three healthy cats!  I’m pretty sure we know how to take care of living things.  No one did a home visit before we left the hospital– “We’re sorry, your house does not yet have socket protectors or a baby gate, you cannot bring your child home.  Also, we need to call three people who know you and also have children to see if you will be fit parents, as well as a pediatrician who will release all of your other children’s medical records to us.  If these do not meet our standards, we will give your child to someone else.”  That place was MENTAL.  

Step 7:  Do not reinvent the wheel–go back to the wonderful shelter where you rescued your kitties.  

Step 8:  Visit several times over several weeks.  Become discouraged.  Repeat steps 2 and 3.

Step 9:  On the 5th visit,  decide to give a dog a trial run at home with the shelter’s “Pajama Party” program.  Watch the family fall in love over the weekend, and maybe do the same (but don’t tell anyone).  

Step 10:  Decide to keep the dog.

Step 11:   Panic.  Repeat step 2.   Panic.  And so on, indefinitely.

Step 12:  Become more broke than you already were because boys/kids.

Steps  13, 14, 15, 16 and 17:  Spend 95% of your time cleaning up pee and poop in the house, spend 95% of your time cleaning up poop outside,  spend 95% of your time washing dog-smell bedding,  spend 95% of your time saying “Good Girl!” (Freaking exhausting for this cat-person who believes in intrinsic motivation. Do you really need that much praise?  I mean, I like validation, but can’t I just remind her once in a while? And does she really need to follow me around all of the time?  Yes, I like you too, now stop needing me constantly.  Geezus, it’s like an insecure boyfriend who keeps asking if you’re mad at him), spend 95% of your time saying “Oh my God!! Drop it!  What the hell are you doing?! Where’s the dog?! Get down! NO! Leave it!! Don’t eat that!! DOG!!! And, OH MY GOD THAT IS DISGUSTING!!!!”

Step 18:  Nearly have an anxiety attack because holy crap what have you gotten yourself into and how are you supposed to function in life if this thing is causing turmoil all over the place and the poor kitties are scared to death and you have no time to even think let alone sit down.

Step 19:  Watch it get a little easier every few days.

Step 20:  Watch yourself melt when the dog shows you unconditional love and affection. (Deny it if mentioned.)  Realize that she really needed us.

Step 21:  Watch your boys smile, laugh, relax, and be comforted and understood by this difficult and adoring creature who has just thrown a giant wrench in your life. 

Step 22:  Feel completely overwhelmed and want to run away because boys AND dog.

Steps 23-76:  WINE

Step 77:  Watch your husband light up every day and brim with emotion because he has wanted a dog his entire life.  

Step 78:  Allow your ever-shifting standards to sway, step away and look at yourself standing in the center of the storm, and hang on for the ride.  

Step 79:  Remind yourself that change is the only constant–my ever-present undercurrent of consciousness.  Change is the only constant.  And man, it sure makes my heart happy to see my family smile.  Also wine.

 

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Such is life

I made a new friend in one of my classes.  She’s around my age, and we have some things in common, so I did the “hey, let’s connect on social media” thing.  We walked out of class, talked for a few minutes, and then got to talking about having coffee after class one day.  But I had to get going because Latefordinner had to take Tuna to one of his things.  I had to hurry home to be home with the littles. She asked me if I had ever been to this place in town, or this other place…she had to go shopping there, and go eat over there.  Shopping?  At a little place?  You mean somewhere other than Costco or Target?  Wouldn’t that other place be Amazon?

You see, this new friend who is around my age and also in college, doesn’t have children.

She said, “You’ve never been there?!”

“No, I have no life”, I said with a smile.

We laughed, and I found myself floating away from this new friend in front of me. We do actually have things in common–we feed off of each other in class discussions, and we both lean toward holistic practices, plus there’s the age thing.  Age…it really is nothing.  Her laughter was coming from a very different place of understanding, in which someone my age actually did have a “life”, and was not a mother.  I wonder why she laughed, actually.  Probably just because I did. Politeness.  She’s nice, so I’m sure she didn’t actually think anything of it.  But of course I did.

We separated, and I had that unsettled feeling, hearing the echo of myself saying “I have no life” in my head.

It was such a quick realization this time.  No pondering the depths, just hearing the echo come back saying:

“You have SUCH A LIFE!”Echo-Canyon-2.jpg

And it’s true!  My life is FULL, and RICH.  Not with the freedom to shop in little shops, or eat out all the time; but with my full, rich family.  My family gives me SUCH a life.  My life is enriching and busy and chaotic and messy and scary and exciting and boring and breathtaking.  My life is a roller coaster of exhilaration and fear and love and boys and marriage and school.  My life is PACKED with NEWNESS every day, jammed with sameness, overflowing with opportunities to grow and thrive and teach and learn.  Every. Single. Day. of my life is SUCH A DAY. 

Psh, no life.  Why did I even say that? What a thing to say. I don’t have time to have no life. That is the stuff of midlife crises. There is no crisis when every age is SUCH an age. Every life we live within this one is exactly what it should be.  There is no need to call motherhood  and marriage and college less than life, because it is exactly what completes me now. Accepting SUCH a life is crisis-prevention.

Try it: Tell yourself you have no life.  If you don’t hear that echo back, YELL IT BACK. Every one of you has SUCH a life.

No life my ass.

Zen Cheerios

I wonder, if someone filmed me throughout my day, would it look like other mothers’ days? I wish I could SHOW you what it’s like.  I know we aren’t totally normal, but are we that different?

This morning, I managed to get everyone to the van with enough time to squeeze them to school mostly on time. I sent them all out to the van, came out, and of course no one was actually in the van.  That would be too simple. They were all wandering around outside.  Before I could say anything about why the eff they weren’t buckled in and ready to roll, Tuna announced that Binker had to poop.  Me: “Then why aren’t you inside pooping??!!”

So he slowwwwly walks to the door, and I tell him to “HURRRRYYYY UUUUP!!!” Seriously, how does it take three minutes to walk inside and sit on the toilet?

So the rest of us are waiting in the driveway….waiting….waiting….I check on him a couple of times…………..He is the world’s slowest pooper. He took at least 87 minutes just wiping. And we’re officially late.  We pull out of the driveway at 8:20–exactly when we should be arriving at school. I should start recording the number of times we’ve been late because of poop.

Before all of that, my house wasn’t the vision of three angel children getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, putting on shoes, and going to the van. That’s ALL THEY HAVE TO DO.  Those simple steps.  That’s IT.  I have seven million things to do.  They have FIVE things to do.  Why in God’s great Universe do they not understand, after years of school mornings, this simplicity?! I have charts, timers for when it’s time to get shoes on, timers for when it’s time to go out the door, I even remind them every step of the way while I’m doing my stuff (making lunches, sucking down coffee, putting out fires…). They can’t find the right socks, they are fighting with each other, they are playing with Legos still with bare feet…and this morning Binker was constantly whining about how he didn’t feel well enough to go to school–over and over and over he whined at me while I was trying to think!  Whined at me while I sprayed him with Mucinex and shoved Tylenol down him–You’re going. to. school. damnit! (He was totally fine.)  It’s SO hard to just THINK when three little boys need a million things–things that they don’t even need–right NOW.

The hardest part is keeping my cool.  I have challenged myself to keep it cool for four days in a row.  So far this week (it’s Tuesday) I’ve reset my challenge twice.  So much for that.  How about three?

Then Squishy and I have our day doing this and that (Today. Other days are crazier), going here and there, accomplishing things, playing…and then it’s time for pick-up. Armor on. Enter whiny tired Squishy after the day and the playground, talky talky talky Binker, grumpy hangry Tuna…all talking and whining and fighting with each other over the stupidest shit in the Universe, all at the same time.  It’s great fun. Not headache-inducing at all.  We get home and Squishy has a three hour long meltdown about Angry Birds, Binker gets emotional about his old bed that we sold, and Tuna is about to pass out because he couldn’t sleep last night. I really don’t know how I managed to feed and bathe them (help from Latefordinner).  Falling asleep didn’t take long, thank all of the Gods of this great Universe for that.

So, with three angels slumbering,  I sat down at my computer to do my homework, and realized that this blegh post was in order.  Seriously. Because there has to be another parent out there who deals with the intensity, who deals with the morning rush, who is late because of poop. It’s a major challenge for me–to keep my cool when poop makes us late.  To keep my cool when Binker is on the top bunk with Legos when he should be putting shoes on.  To keep my cool when the cat gets on the table and eats Squishy’s cereal. To keep my cool when Tuna wants to discuss the meaning of life before coffee–every single day.

Your lessons will continue to present themselves until you learn them.  These effed up days are not about my kids learning how to get ready on time (well, they sort of are, but not completely).  These days are about ME learning how to find that center of the cyclone while lateness and distractions and poop are happening around me daily before coffee. I have three days left this week to rise to my own challenge of keeping my cool.  I really hope I don’t have to reset again tomorrow.  This is a tough one, because I think that these smart boys should just get it.

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I have memories of sitting on the heater vent in the winter mornings, my mom throwing my clothes at me, telling me very nicely to get dressed. Man, I don’t remember her yelling at me like I do at my boys. I remember watching the last remaining cheerios in my bowl move toward each other, making shapes out of three or four circles together. I would make a ripple in the milk, and they’d re-form into new shapes–faces, animals, boats…  It was like cloud-watching in a bowl.  I wasn’t thinking about the clock. I had no concept of time or school bells. I was cold first, then having a warmer zen moment with my cheerios. I am constantly disrupting my kids’ zen moments with these stupid deadlines.  I tell them “I didn’t invent the clock.  We all just have to follow it if we want to succeed in this world.”  How does a little dreamer child even come to understand that?  The kids need to learn, yes, and the adults need to REMEMBER. We are all born dreamers, the clock is man-made. Maybe I’ll meet them in the middle–they will learn the clock, and I will re-learn zen cheerios.  I should at least try, and probably harder than they do.

Maybe each household’s morning looks different, but these kids are probably pretty similar. If you struggle with your routine, I hope you can try with me, to not be quite so normal. I hope that some of us can remember that what some consider “different”, is actually closer to where we began–little cloud-watchers outside of time.

Man, I hope I remember that tomorrow morning when I have to get them out the door again.  We can look at clouds on the way.

I’m Starting with the Mom in the Mirror

There’s a book called Mindset by Carol Dewck.  It’s becoming widely read by educators, and many parents. A friend of mine just wrote an awesome piece about it here.  The idea of cultivating a growth mindset has been popping up for me, beginning with a consultant at my boys’ school handing me the book three years ago. I put it off, being busy and all, and I think I actually over-borrowed her book by a year or something.  Oops!  So I finally read it, and the gist is that we can choose to have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset.  You can change your way of thinking, and you can choose to try hard at things that aren’t easy.  Of course there is much more to it, and you should pick up that book.

This seemed like a really simple concept, and I pshawed the idea that needed to change my mindset.  Of course I had a growth mindset! My mind has had a lot of attention!  I spent my late teens and twenties working on myself, understanding how I worked, and I came pretty darn far with that, thankyouverymuch.  I needed those years for that.  My mindset was solid.  It was my kids who needed some help here, not me.

The last couple of years brought parent-teacher conferences where I heard that my boys were awesome, except they needed to learn to persevere when things didn’t come easily right away.  I would heavy sigh, internally blame it on Latefordinner, and say “I don’t know where they get that!” That’s not how I do things!  And I work on it with them.  I take them for very long hikes in the woods and make them figure out how to get back, dragging them for miles when they want to quit.  I make them do chores for screen time, teaching them new chores and following through with my rules.  I use the mantra my parents used: “You can do hard things!” I make them problem solve, forcing them to figure things out before I help them. But the desire to work hard still doesn’t seem to be ingrained in their psyche, in their mindset.

The other day Tuna got a new Transformer.  He was frustrated because it wasn’t easy, and Latefordinner wouldn’t help him.  He reminded him that he used to get frustrated when he was four (he’s almost 11 now), but now he had to big-kid-up and figure it out.  Tuna carried that thing around with him all day, working and working on it until he could transform that thing in 10 seconds.  And he did it!  He was so proud of himself.

Then he came to me and wanted ME to try it.

Asking me to do Transformers is like asking me to sew something–I might throw a tantrum and smash stuff.  I have avoided Transformers for seven years now, passing them off on Latefordinner, because I CAN’T DO THEM. I HATE doing them, and no one is going to make me!!

So I wouldn’t do it.  I actually snapped at him  and asked why he even wanted me to do it.  Did he think it was funny that I’m not mechanically inclined?  Did he want to watch me fail? No, I wouldn’t do it.  I don’t sew, and I don’t do Transformers.  I had the fixed mindset that I couldn’t do Transformers, and I refused to try something hard. I told Tuna I would not try.  Now, there are some things in life we just don’t have to do as adults–taxes, sewing, washing cars, dishes…oh wait, gotta do those. BUT, when my child came to me and wanted me to try his Transformer, it was an opportunity to teach him how to do hard things.  I stomped my foot and refused!

The whole thing didn’t sit right with me. I knew I was being hypocritical and childish. I almost blew my opportunity to model the growth mindset. …..until I realized what I was doing.  I took me a day, actually.  Once the lightbulb went off–I think it was Latefordinner’s account of telling Tuna to work hard that flipped the switch– I went to him and asked him to teach me, and to be patient with me. I explained that I really should work harder on the things that don’t come easily.

It turns out he is an excellent teacher!  And, I was a pretty good student.  Transformers are hard when you’re me.  I can do hard things.

How many other times had I unknowingly taught him not to try?  How to quit?  How to not even begin?? How many other opportunities have I blown?

mirror-on-face

The good news is that Tuna (10), Binker (6), and Squishy (3) are still young enough to catch on, and they’ll have minimal damage.  I am always brought back to the mirror in parenting.  I used to call Tuna my little mirror–he shows me the truth of who I am–he is a reflection of me.  Somewhere along the chaotic way I lost that, (I think because it’s a bit overwhelming to see three different perspectives of your own reflection, like a three-way mirror), and this has been a shining reminder to do some inward reflecting.  It’s the same concept as putting on your own oxygen mask first before helping others–how can I grow their mindsets if I’m in denial about my own?  I’ve spent too much time projecting, not realizing that I’ve been giving away my opportunities for growth. Mindsets, like reflections, are never solid. We are never ever done growing. Who was I to think I didn’t need to change?  I really hope to hear some hard work reports at conferences this year.

This parenting gig is hard! Good thing I can do hard things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

!@#$%^&*()

tuna code picture

I came out from putting the littles to bed to find Tuna running out of my room looking guilty. He said he left something for me to solve. Uhhh, anyone? Runes? Gah, my kid is smarter than I am.

Me: “I don’t know this code.  Runes?”

Tuna shakes his head, smacks his forehead, “You don’t know your history, do you?”

Me: “I know quite a bit of history, just not this code.” (little punk)

Tuna: “Ok, here’s another hint: think Free Masons. You need to look it up and learn it.  Then we can leave each other notes.

Wtf?  Because it’s too easy to just write notes in English?  And why/where is he learning codes from the Free Masons?  I mean, I agree that they’re fascinating (in fact, we had a conversation a while ago about them); but seriously? Can’t we just do something relatively normal around here? (Stupid question, duh!)  This kid…

He came back in a while later ( he’s supposed to be in his freaking bed), and asked if I solved it. NO!  No, I haven’t solved it. I had said I’d put it on hold.  I have homework (and now a blegh post) to do.  GO TO BED.

I know I did stuff like this as a kid.  I absolutely love it that he is interested in stuff like this (he is obsessed with history, especially ancient Egypt). I will learn the darn code and write him maybe one reply, and then we can do the cute note thing with actual words. I get it, he doesn’t want Binker reading our notes.  But maybe cursive will do for a while??

I love that kid.  And, wtf?  And, what the hell does pig pen have to do with the Free Masons?

And he’s the one smacking his forehead.

*Apparently there is a code called a pigpen cipher. Apparently other people know this. Apparently I didn’t.

Whatever.

Smug-Faced Bitchy McJudgerton

You know what I don’t do?  Fold wash cloths.  Or underwear. I don’t care if my 3-year-old goes out to swing in his underwear. I don’t exercise every day.  I don’t feel guilty when I tell Latefordinner that I have to get out of the house ALONE.  I don’t make my boys keep their rooms clean. I don’t keep my room clean. I don’t keep a garden.  I don’t take for granted that Latefordinner supports my need to get out ALONE. I don’t stress if I eat ice cream. I don’t like negativity. I don’t want to keep writing about what I don’t do….

Except for this one thing I didn’t do yesterday–I didn’t do what I swore I’d never do (stay with me), and that’s NOT JUDGE ANOTHER MOM, EVER.

I ran into the drug store yesterday for some things, and was deciding on which gum to get, when I heard a mom two aisles behind me say, “No, we have that at home.  Put it back.”  I heard  a tiny person whining, and then, “I told you to put it back.  I’m going to count to three, and if you don’t put it back you’re getting a spanking.”

Then I heard “Three, two, one.”…….Smack!

And the baby boy cried and cried, and said “Ouchie!  Owww!  That hurts!”   And the mom walked by, baby on hip, sobbing two-year-old in tow.

And you guys, I did the thing.  I did that thing that is so devastating to mothers everywhere:  I looked her in the eye and shook my head at her. And she looked me in the eye and I could read her mind, “you bitch, you don’t know me.”  I could have just minded my business, but I broke my oath to never judge a mother, and I judged. Openly. I’ve been given that look before, but not for hitting my kid.  I get that look when my kid is acting up, and I am not dealing with it the way the glaring woman would. I get that look for what I don’t do.

So, here’s the thing: she spanked her baby boy in a public place.  He was sobbing, and my heart hurt for him.  Why, after all my years as a seasoned mother, and firm believer in non-judginess, did my heart not hurt for her?  Maybe she didn’t know any better.  Maybe she thinks she’s doing the right thing.  Maybe she just doesn’t know what the hell she’s doing and needs to get her damn head on straight before she messes her kid up…uh, I mean…ugh,there’s the judginess.  She didn’t beat him, she smacked his butt.  She didn’t yell at him, she counted to three.  She didn’t look angry…and that’s the thing…why would you be violent if you’re not angry?

First: I don’t believe in hitting children.  It is psychologically damaging; and does nothing to teach, nurture growth, or effectively discipline.

Second:  Even though I don’t believe in hitting children, I have lost my temper and smacked a butt a few times. It very rarely happens, I’m not proud of it, and I have apologized to my children each time.  I have explained that mommy can make mistakes too, etc. Of course we also talked about his behavior, but a child’s behavior is just his way of asking for help.  It’s HARD to remember that sometimes, seriously, like when they’re being complete jerks and you just want to SMACK them.  But you don’t (99.9% of the time). Because you don’t believe in hitting. Because you are the grown up.  Because you want to lead by example. Because hitting hurts.

Third: I have never hit my child because he wouldn’t put something back on a shelf by the count of three. In a public place.  Or in any place. That’s just ridiculous.  Yeah, I’m judging.

BUT, Shaking my head at her probably just made her angry, and hurt, and probably did more to isolate her more than maybe she already is.  Shaking my head disapprovingly probably did nothing to help her. Judging her, even if I do disagree with her actions, does nothing to help.  Maybe she felt sorry, and helpless, and hopeless.  Maybe she needed a hug (even though I just wanted to hug that baby boy). Maybe she is looking for another way. Maybe no one is supporting her.  I wasn’t sure where this would go when I started writing, but now I know: What I don’t do is feel good when I judge.  What I don’t do is help when I judge.  What I don’t do is really know anything when I think I do.  What I don’t do is withhold compassion where it seems to be undeserving.  

Because those who need compassion are the ones who act out.  Because a mother’s behavior may be her way of asking for help. Looking again at her non-angry face, I can now see that she was just as scared as her boy.  She really didn’t know what else to do.

I firmly reaffirm my resolve to support other moms, even if I don’t agree with their actions.  I hated what I saw.  It broke my heart. But, I don’t know her. Who knows her story?

So here’s what I DO do:

I do yell at my kids sometimes.

 I do sometimes yell into the backyard like a redneck so the neighborhood can hear me.

I do follow through with what I say, even if I regret having to do it.  

I do not like it when Binker sticks his tongue out at me and runs away. Wait, that’s a negative.

Ok, um, I do feel helpless as to what to do with him sometimes.  He’s like a honey badger. Seriously.

I do feel helpless when Tuna loses his temper at Binker and tackles him to the floor while screaming in his face about making annoying sounds.  Binker silently provokes, Tuna loses his temper. Tuna gets in trouble. Binker gets reprimanded……and on and on until I sometimes lose my temper and send them to their rooms with no solid discipline or clear idea of how to handle it from there.  

And every mother feels helpless sometimes.  And every mother needs help sometimes. And sometimes that help is silence.  A nod. A smile. A hug. A look of solidarity, even if you know what she should do when she doesn’t have a clue.

What I don’t do is agree with that mother’s choices.  

What I DO do is have compassion for her.  

Because we all make mistakes in the great oneness of motherhood,

and I hope to receive that compassion when I would otherwise be judged by Smug-Faced Bitchy McJudgerton (me yesterday).  

Yep.