Friday, September 26, 2014

OMG, stop it with the overly sentimental posts about giving children attention

I'm not the world's greatest blogger, and I don't pretend to be.  I don't necessarily want to market myself on blogher.  I write for my own benefit mostly, and it is great that I have friends and friends of friends who read it.  Most of the time, if someone makes a comment about my blog (or my FB posts), it is usually along the lines of, "What you wrote is exactly how I feel, but I'm too embarrassed to admit it."  

I try to walk the fine line between getting too sentimental stupid about raising my children and feeling like I hate every second of motherhood, and that is a delicate balancing act.  

But let me just say it right now, I cannot stand those posts about the guilt over not giving ones' child attention.  The ones about telling a child to hold on or wait a second or not jumping up the instant a child asks his/her mom for something.

Historically people had 6+ children and didn't have time to give their children oodles of individual attention.  They were too damn busy working to feed their kids.  Their kids were too busy working to ask for attention.  Or the parents were working, and the kids were running in the streets.  And somehow humanity has kept going all this time.

Modern day parenting is an anomaly.  This ridiculous obsession with parenting, with mothers in particular being the central character who controls whether children become absolute saints or sinners, started in the 1950s and has only gotten worse.  

Do you know what happens when I actually make a concerted effort to give my children my undivided attention?   I have to watch N do 15,000 very poorly done cartwheels.  She is 10 years old, over 5 feet tall and totally uncoordinated.  I have to listen to Graeme talk about Minecraft in a stream of consciousness the likes of which James Joyce only wishes he could have done so well in Ulysses.  

Sometimes when I try to give my children attention they flat out ignore my efforts.  N will say, "Momma, will you play dolls with me?"  So I go into her room to play dolls and she dorks around, doing g*d knows what but not playing with me.  I'm sitting on the floor in a mound of doll clothes, brushing plastic hair, and thinking, 'I am 41 f*cking years old and have no desire to do this especially when my kid wants me to play but then doesn't sit her a$$ down to play."  

I cannot tell the number of times G has asked me to come to school to eat lunch with him.  I go, and he says not one fricking word to be while I'm sitting next to him at the table.  The other first graders jabber away at me until I have a colossal headache, but G ignores me completely.  

Do you know what kind of sh*ts kids are whose parents stop the world so that they can speak or play or whatever?  

I can love my children, help them with homework, eat lunch with them a couple times a month, read with them every night, and not drop every single solitary thing I am doing so that they can show me some goofy "feat of childhood" that isn't very interesting, amusing or amazing, like burping their ABCs.  

Sometimes my kids need to understand that they have to wait for me to finish what I'm doing.  They don't always come first.  Sometimes they don't even come second.  

That isn't poor mothering about which I should feel guilty.  
That is learning about real life in a loving environment.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Heavenly 7

Dear G,

What a year we've had.  It is hard for me to believe you are the same kid from last September, or even from January.  Sometimes I'm not sure whether you've changed a bunch, or I've changed the lens through which I see you.  It is probably both.





We had a rough time there for awhile.  We saw Ms. Stacy for counseling, Ms. Sarah for psychological testing, and we continue to see Ms. Carolyn every week for OT.  As you get older, you may or may not remember all these appointments and treatments, but I hope if anything sticks it is that Daddy and I will do anything that is within our power to help you when you struggle, especially if that struggle is with things that are beyond your control.  We aren't going to save you from every valley in your life, but we are always there to walk with you and hold your hand.

Daddy recently moved some home videos of you as a baby to the Plex system, so that we can watch them on our television, and I get so tickled whenever I see you as an infant.  Such a happy, laughing baby.  Deep belly laughs that brought me joy then and now when I see you on the screen, crawling away as I'm singing "London Bridge" because you know I'm going to tickle you when I say "We all fall down!"

You blow me away with how you think.  My little existentialist.

Tonight, you were reading me a book about dolphins for your 10 minutes of reading homework, which got us talking about mammals.  You proceeded to launch into questions about whether we descended from apes, and how humans and apes are different now.  You said, "Mommy, you need to get me some more books about how cells changed and became different things.  It is fascinating."  I had reserved a bunch of Steve Jenkins books from the local library and one of them, Life on Earth:  The Story of Evolution, has you riveted.  

That you think about stuff like this at T-minus 18 hours until 7 years old makes me wonder what kind of thinker you will be as you mature and understand the complexities in life with greater clarity.

This week you lost 2 teeth, a top and a bottom, and it just cracks me up to see that goofy smile.  You already have an impish grin, and the lack of chompers makes this even more obvious.




I love you so much G.  You are smart and sensitive and funny and head-strong.

You chatter about Minecraft all the time, and I have no clue what any of it means.  You often get sucked into watching cartoon shows that are all subtitled, but you don't care.  You love getting together with your best friend, Asher, who seems to understand your Minecraft speak better than I ever could.  Your legs continue to grow, making you all even more gangly and uncoordinated than you were before.  You and M select characters in books and then wrestle as if you were those characters, which is sweet but usually ends up with somebody crying.

When you wake up tomorrow, you will be 7.  I hope you have an excellent birthday and a year as amazing and wonderful as you are to me.

As long as I'm living my first baby boy you'll be,

Momma



Life as a SAHM--then and now

Way back in the day, I thought life as a SAHM was hard if N didn't take a 2-hour nap on a given day.  I was all disgruntled if I didn't get plenty of time to scrapbook.  Her scrapbook and baby book were up to the minute.

Time passed.

Then I thought life as a SAHM was hard when M was an infant, G was 2, and N was in kindergarten because the boys were so on me all the time, either nursing or sitting on my "wap."  Life was also hard because I was always in.my.house.  With naps on-and-off during the day and the boys being pretty content to be home much of the time and watch Sesame Street, I yearned to be out doing stuff.

Time passed.

Now I think life as a SAHM is hard because I am never at home.  I couldn't have a full-time job because I am up--to-the-gills busy with my non-job of keeping up with my house and laundry and homework and volunteering at school and trying to get to the grocery and piano lessons.  Oh, and the part-time teaching and freelance writing.  I long for days when I don't have to do anything or go anywhere or check anything off.my.list.

When I can clean my bathroom and just look at it being all clean for 10 minutes.
When I can sew Girl Scout patches on N's vest or iron D's shirts or play a game of chase with M.

Today I put pictures of M's 4th birthday in his baby book;  he turns 5 in a little under 2 weeks.  I haven't yet written anything on his "My First Day of School" page, which was also last year.

It is finally starting to click that this SAHM thing is always going to be hard in one way or another.  While I don't know what I will think is hard in the coming stages and phases, I feel pretty certain that I will look back longingly on whatever I just left and realize how much I miss it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Thoughts on the bucket challenge and what we do with our personal challenges

I did not participate in the ALS Bucket Challenge, although I did film my neighbor and my daughter.

No one challenged me, but even if they had, I still wouldn't have done it.  After seeing 10,000 posts of friends/neighbors/countrymen dumping frigid water on their heads, I posted something that sort of drew a little ire from friends/neighbors/countrymen.

I wasn't trying to dismiss ALS or do anything that in any way negated the good that can come from raising awareness about horrible diseases that affect people and will hopefully lead to cures or, at the very least, better treatments.

But ALS isn't my pet disease.  Mental health is because it is what I have personally lived.  It is what I struggle with daily.  At this time, it is not life-threatening.  But mental health can be life-threatening (just ask Robin Williams' family).

Cancer is probably my #2 disease.  My mother was treated for breast cancer in 1996, and my father was treated for melanoma in 2007.  We were very fortunate that their cancers were caught early and didn't require chemotherapy.

There are plenty of other diseases that often don't get as much attention as ALS did through the Ice Bucket Challenge but are equally terrifying.  Just ask Heather Von St. James.  Her husband, Cameron, contacted me and asked that I help spread the word about mesothelioma.  That is the disease that has altered the course of their lives.  September 26th is Mesothelioma Awareness Day, and I am happy to give it a little space in my corner of the bloggy world.

I don't believe that g*d reigns down disease and death on people, but I do see the the power of g*d's purpose and promise in what we do with our diseases, our frailties and how we treat others in the midst of their diseases and frailties.

This has been my experience with my anxiety and OCD.  By sharing my story, I have given comfort and support to others.  There are few good points to having a chronic mental health condition, but helping others has been a positive of the experience.  It makes me feel so grateful when someone emails me and says, "Reading your blog makes me feel less alone."  It makes me feel grateful when someone says, "May I ask you a personal question?" and then asks me about my medications or seeing a psychiatrist.  I can do nothing about having anxiety/OCD.  I can take my medication, take care of my stress level, and see my doctor regularly, but it could morph into something different, require different or more medication.

The power I do have, what I can control, is what I do on the inside.  How I deal with it.  Whether I mine it for something good and share my story.

I suspect Heather feels similarly.  I doubt she is glad she was diagnosed with mesothelioma soon after the birth of her daughter and had to suffer through treatment and all the worry and doubt and despair that goes with it.  But there is empowerment in sharing the story, in raising awareness, even if it doesn't involve cold water and buckets.

Perhaps I've read too much of The Grapes of Wrath, but I like to hear the smaller voices, the ones that don't get all the coverage and hype.

They, too, have deserving stories.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Things that make me want to jab pencils into my eyes....

or, preferably, someone else's eyes.

Every person who ever struggled with a class in elementary or middle school should have children, if for no other reason than to be forced to sit with that child, listen to him or her cry, whine, moan, sigh, and generally freak out while doing whatever particular class the child hates.  The past two nights I have, in my heart, thanked my mom for sitting with me at the dining room table when I was crying over math as a child and not killing me.  (Or maybe she should have killed me and then I never would have had to suffer through college calculus or sit at a table with my own whining, crying, cringing child?)

Two nights of having my child take her disgruntlement with math out on me makes me want to have t-shirts made that say this.

Of course, D has been dealing with it as well (when I force him to spell me so I don't bite and spit out N's head into the recycling bin) so he needs a t-shirt as well, except that says "Fatherhood:  The Big Fat *****."

And this homework situation leads into the other thing that makes me want to jab pencils into my eyes which is the whole dilemma of middle school.

As much as I like choice, I wish I didn't have a choice when it comes to school selection.  I wish I just sent her to the closest fricking school and there was nothing else available for 900 miles.  Though I think my daughter is bright and a generally cool kid, I don't think she has the chops to compete with a whole slew of more bright and talented kids.  I honestly think my daughter would function better in a small pond.  She isn't especially competitive or motivated so being around kids who do math and other academic things for fun would intimidate her.

But sending her to a particular middle school near our house, which I think would be fine, might limit her on high school selection (since we have all this stupid choice).  So do we push?  Do we make her write essays and do the dog-and-pony show?  Is it worse to not challenge her as much as we could or challenge her too much?  Do we do all this junk now on the off chance it will make any difference at all when it comes to high school?

These kind of questions should be reserved for college.  I don't want to have these conversations for middle and then for high and then for college.

And sending her to private school is not an option.  I guess technically it is an option, another choice, but I am not a fan of private schools even though I am a product of them.  I really do believe in public education.  I really do believe in her meeting and being with all kinds of kids from all kinds of situations because I think this makes your worldview wider and your compassion greater.  I pay my taxes and don't particularly care to spend additional money to keep her away from the "unsavories" (which is why I think an awful lot of people send their kids to private schools even if they don't say that publicly).

(With that being said, if N becomes as boy-obsessed as her dear old mom was as a preteen, I will totally send her to my alma mater for high school.  It was an all-girls private school and kept me, at least for 7-8 hours a day, off the "Wow, I love boys" distraction wagon.  If there was a all-girl public high school option I would be all.over.that.

It feels absurd to stress this much over education when so many people, so many girls, aren't even allowed to get any kind of education at all.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The visceral pain of anxiety

I have just begun reading Huck's Raft:  A History of American Childhood.  I decided I needed to read this to have a better perspective on what childhood has really been like throughout time.    Too often I get sucked into the notion that I am not providing a "good enough" experience for my own kids.  I worry that they are playing too many videos games or not getting outside enough.

I'm a only a little bit into the text, still in the 1600s, but I am struck again, as I always am, by how much death was very much a large part of life.  A large percentage of children died before age five.  Diseases were neither understood nor particularly treatable.  Spirituality focused much more on the hereafter than on the here because, I suppose, the hereafter was going to be a much longer stretch of time.  It is hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that this is still the case in so many parts of the world.  I live such a sheltered life.

I think on this because last night I suffered a bout of panic that I was not expecting.  It hit me quickly and its full strength passed quickly, but I still feel sensations of it inside me.  The squeeze, the tightness gripping my chest and abdomen.  It is as if a tender bruise has been left in that space.

When that feeling hits, it is like a wind smacking one's chest.  A horrible Holy Spirit of terror seizes one's heart, and it takes minutes for the brain to understand what is going on.  For the brain to start thinking rational thoughts, to parse through all the irrational shreds of ideas that tear through one's mind.

N left this morning to go to the lake with her grandmother, my MIL.  She is spending the weekend with my MIL, my SIL, BIL and niece.  She has done this numerous times over the past few years.  I don't realistically think anything bad will happen.  If N was in peril of drowning or anything, my MIL would go down with her in the act of saving her, which wouldn't make me any less sad but I know my MIL is vigilant.  It is not who N is with or where she is.  It is that she isn't with me.

Perhaps my worry is based on the fact that N was sick this past week with a viral infection.  Two days home from school, and she is still sniffly.  My mind wanders, and I imagine her sniffling amoeba-contaminated lake water up her nose, developing a brain infection and dying.

Perhaps my panic is less about her than about the month-long struggle with M's ear, which we now know is fungal.  Per the ENT visit yesterday, his ear is looking better since Monday's visit, and we will continue on this Rx for 10 full days.  M still may require surgery to clean out, again, all the funk of this seemingly never-ending saga of ear crud.

Perhaps my panic is knowing that my children are slipping away from me.  My baby will be 5 in October, a fact that would make Puritan families rejoice.....that a child had survived that long.  A fact that makes my heart weepy.

When I hear of people discounting anxiety, depression and other mental issues, saying people who suffer under these aren't "strong enough," I wish I could make them feel the gripping pain of anxiety, that physical sensation of brief but intense panic.  It is more physical than the early stages of diabetes or other chronic disorders ever feel.

It feels utterly devastating and leaves a residue of sadness in its wake.  

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Goings on of a spiritual / flaky religious person

LABELS
I don't call myself a Catholic, and I don't call myself a Christian.

I haven't attended Catholic masses (other than a baptism or first communion) in close to 20 years so that label doesn't work anymore.  I've only been attending a Christian church for not quite two years so I don't feel comfortable applying that label either.  Plus, to be completely honest, whenever someone says they are a Christian my brain goes into neutral and I briefly lump them into the "potential-psycho-proselytizing-anti-gay-anti-science-talk-about-Jesus-constantly" category.  Then I get to know them and figure out that they aren't this way at all (or much).

The police engage in racial profiling, and I tend to religious profile, although attending a small Disciples of Christ congregation and teaching at a Christian cottage school have helped me do this less frequently than I used to.

In all honesty, I don't want a religious label of any kind, although I think the spiritual / flaky religious person idea from the title of this post works best for me.

WHO'D A THUNK IT?
Next month I will be trained to facilitate Worship & Wonder on Sundays with the children aged 3-8 in the church.  This is what the boys participate in when I take them to church.  It helps introduce them to God in a way that I am unable.  My introduction to God would go something like this:
"Boys, there is this big thing I don't understand.  Now you go try to understand it.  Good luck."

Ms. J at preschool (who also attends church) thought I'd make a great W&W person and told me so.  She has seen enough of me at preschool parties to know I like kids and have a way with them.   Having known me for 7 years she also probably knows I am a sucker for compliments and will gladly agree to nearly anything if someone tells me, "Oh you'd make a great such-and-such."

(This, however, will not work if PTA people do it to me.  I'm not falling for that.)

I think, though, that learning the W&W stories will help me in a way that a Bible study wouldn't.  I have zero interest in doing a Bible study.  Though I will discuss and analyze literature all the livelong day, I don't want to do it with the Bible.  I fear I would leave a Bible study group as I left Catholic masses when I was in my early twenties:  with a headache and extremely pissed off.

Of course, I didn't think I'd be taking my kids to church so time and feelings change, and I reserve the right to backtrack.

N has aged out of W&W so I am trying to figure out a way to keep her engaged since sitting in a pew can be so.effing.boring.  I listen happily to sermons as a 40-something, but I very much remember my years and years of attending Friday school Mass and Sunday Mass and sometimes Holy Day of Obligation Mass on a Saturday which meant I was at church for 3 days in a row, which I thought was tantamount to torture.  (And still might if someone made me do it as an adult.)  Sharing the tales of my childhood woe helps minimize the once a month or so that I drag her to church.

JACK HANDY THOUGHTS
Last night G asked, in between dinner and dorking around on computer games, "How do you know if God is talking to you?"

This is what I both love and hate about this kid: he gives absolutely no warning that he is gonna slam me with some deep, existential, theological question.  I usually just sorta stare at him for a minute, going "Uhhhhh," until my brain clicks back into the on position.

Tonight's question after he told me what he did in PE today was "Will we really see God when we die and go to heaven?"  This kid is 6, so I cannot even begin to imagine what kinds of thinking he will do when he is 12.

Now my initial thought was, "Ahem, if you end up in heaven," but I kept that to myself.  I said, "Well, I assume we see God because I think that would be one of the benefits of being in heaven.  Actually getting to see God."  He said, "Well, I'm not sure."  And that was that.