Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Addendum to A post about guns, rights and schools

The TOY gun never made it into the building.  The boy in question was playing with it on the school bus, and it was confiscated by the bus monitor.  When N's teacher found out the boy had brought a gun on the bus she lambasted him about how stupid it was to do this.

The counselor showed me the "gun," which looked like something on the order of a Buzz Lightyear toy--blinking lights and "pew-pew" firing sound.

No harm, no foul.

I felt a little embarrassed but as any parent knows nowadays, any mention of guns and schools in the same sentence has you in a panic.  

A post about guns and rights and schools

My feelings about guns are generally like my feelings about sports.  I don't dislike them, per se, I just don't have any interest.  I don't own a gun; I don't want to own a gun; I've never shot a gun.  If other people enjoy guns, good for them.  One positive thing about guns is that for the most part I don't see people jamming up my FB feed about their raging excitement over a local gun show or their play-by-plays of how many rounds they got off at the range (like sports enthusiasts tend to do).

If someone wants the privilege of owning a gun, like a car, I think they need to use it and store it responsibly.  Especially if they have children.

Supposedly a child in N's 3rd grade class brought a gun to school yesterday.  That is all I know at the moment.  I don't know if it was real or a toy.  I don't know if there was even really a gun.  It happened at dismissal so, by my estimate, there wasn't time to send a letter home to parents.  N's 8:00 ensemble practice this morning at school has been canceled due to an "unscheduled staff meeting," which I assume has something to do with this alleged incident.  But maybe not.  All I have in the moment is hearsay from two not 100% reliable sources---N and one of her classmates.

I am trying to withhold worry and judgment, but that is a difficult task.

Regardless of whether this incident is real or not, I can't help wanting to pop the parent of the child who may or may not have brought a real/pretend gun to school.  If it is a real gun, the parent should be charged with reckless endangerment for not locking the gun away so the child had no access to it.  If the gun was a fake, the parent is a colossal idiot for allowing her child to bring a play gun to school (especially if it is a very real-looking version).

As a parent who checks N's backpack as soon as she walks in the door in the afternoon and before she leaves for school in the morning, I have a hard time wrapping my head around a dinky 3rd grader snowing his momma.

It is possible there never was a gun....just a child talking trash, as it were, and another child taking his talk seriously (which is good).  Or trying to get another kid in trouble just to be spiteful and mean (which is mean).  

I have mixed feelings about the strengthening of background checks and other regulations on guns.  As best I understand, background checks do not work for the dangerous felons.  If someone has a criminal history, he/she is not going to take legal means to acquire a gun.  It also seems to me that many of the people who get guns (which are then used to kill a whole slew of people) have stolen them from parents/neighbors who did get the guns through legal means.  Or they have mental illness, and I'm not certain with HIPPAA rules that mental illness issues are even on background checks.  I am clearly not in the know when it comes to gun rights.

I compare gun rights to reproductive rights.  I have never owned a gun and don't want to.  I have never had an abortion and don't want to.  I wish there wasn't a need for guns or abortion.  But as much as I don't want "big brother" regulating my reproductive life in any way, shape or form, I understand why gun advocates don't want "big brother" butting its nose into their gun interests and purchases.

But just like use of a gun demands responsibility, so does reproductive issues.

I will be stopping by school this morning to do some volunteer work, and I will be getting answers to my questions about this alleged incident.  I feel sorry for the principal and staff (and any principal and staff that has to deal with any kind of incident like this, be it real or fake).  Word spreads like wildlife among parents, even if the word is not completely accurate.  I have mixed feelings about posting this since it is possible some people I know whose children go to the same school will read it and worry.  I feel sorry for the classmates of N and their parents, who perhaps spent the night as I did, waking up and wondering what the real story is, if there is a real story at all.

The only thing I know with 100% certainty is that it is a damn shame I am even venting about this issue on such as personal level.  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Ps

It has been about 15 months since I started taking piano lessons with N.  Apparently, she and I seem to have a little talent (or our piano teacher is a big ole liar).  One of the best things about taking piano with N has been that I have a really good reason to keep practicing and attending lesson each week:  the example I am setting for her.  When I took guitar lessons/classes in years past, it didn't take me too long to give up.  Perhaps guitar just wasn't my thing.

I think I'm sticking with piano because doing anything---working out or playing an instrument or figuring out a problem---is better when you have someone doing it with you, to spur you on, to give you encouragement.

Over these months, I have learned how to read music and am able to "get" music jokes that I see on FB periodically.  I was struggling for a while with moving my hands around rather than sticking with certain positions (like C or G position). Right now I am working on "Caisson Song."

I am hopeful that the boys seeing and hearing me and N play piano will increase their enthusiasm to play when they are older.

Piddling is one of the biggest problems I have with being a stay-at-home mom and is the reason I check FB over and over.

Having children underfoot makes it nearly impossible to get anything done if it requires considerable thought or time.  If you can't get it done in 12 minutes, you are going to get seriously disgusted with the interruptions or have to stop so many times to retrieve toys, wipe butts or get snacks ready that you just give up in tears and start drinking LONG before 5 o'clock .

I am NOT a good piddler, but certain activities are perfect for piddling:
1. Sewing patches onto Girl Scout vests
2. Gluing boxtops onto collection sheets

That's it.  Everything else takes more involvement and is pointless to try when you have kids.

Summer break is coming fast.  While I will be glad to have a break from homework and projects and various extracurricular activities, I am not looking forward to the difficulty of keeping 3 children of 3 different ages and abilities happy and entertained for 10 weeks.

With N needing to work on math this summer in preparation for AP classes next year and G starting kindergarten in the fall, I am thinking I will institute an actual, written out "Plan of Action."  As usual, there will be field trips to local places of interest.

I think this summer is going to be "fantasy" summer with me and N reading the first Harry Potter book, The Lightning Thief (her pick) and The Hobbit (my pick).  I am hoping that the promise of allowing her to watch the movies once she has completed the books will keep her happily immersed this summer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The universe is, I think, trying to tell me something about life beyond SAH motherhood

I had a telephone interview yesterday, wrote up a resume, and asked some current and former colleagues for references.

I also engaged in a tremendous amount of stewing over this 1-day a week teaching position.

If I am offered this job and accept it, I would miss seeing G off on his first day of kindergarten, which was making me feel terribly guilty yesterday.

Nevermind that the boy gets up at the crack of dawn, which would allow me to snap his photo on the front porch as I have on his first days of 3- and 4-year-old preschool.
Nevermind that because his older sister attends the same school, they will both ride the bus to school and I wouldn't even be going up to the school to get him settled (cause isn't that what big sisters are for???).
Nevermind that the boy has seen so much of the school between having speech therapy there and being there constantly for events with his sister, he knows his way around pretty darn well anyway and could likely get to his kindergarten classroom himself.
Nevermind that I have a husband with a very flexible schedule who could do the honors if necessary.
Nevermind that I have been in attendance at every other single solitary thing G has ever done in his 5.5 years of existence.

But damned if I don't feel a sinking sense of doom at the prospect of missing this

I am being irrational.
And I think it is because I am "scurred."

Nine years of stay-at-home motherhood is equal to the entire period of time I worked after graduating college with my bachelors degree (5 as an editor and 4 as a teacher).

I don't feel like the same person I was 9 years ago before I was a mom, and so I worry that I am no longer as good of a worker, a teacher, a colleague.  Do I still have it?  Is it possible to feel like an entirely different person and still be the same person professionally?

It seems the universe, in bringing these jobs to my door more or less, is sending me a message.  I have not been "looking" for teaching jobs in any way, shape or form.  A teaching job was offered to me earlier this year completely out of the blue.  Information about this 1-day a week job came to me at a skate party by a woman I barely know.  When life keeps sending me similar signals, I can't help but think it means something.

Being the eternal optimist (snort), I wonder if life is trying to tell me, "Carrie, quit yer bitchin!" I declined the first job because I would have had to put M in daycare 3 days a week, and I just couldn't do it.  I couldn't give up that much time with him.  I wonder if, with this 1-day a week job, my guilt at even the prospect of not seeing G step onto the school bus is proof that I need to just shut up and carry on for the next two years until M begins full-time school.

But I know I would be the world's biggest fool to not accept a 1-day-a-week position because I would miss the 2 minutes of my kid stepping onto a school bus.

Fear can make really goofy things take on monumentally critical importance.

As much as I yearn for a rediscovery of myself and the things I used to love (like teaching), I'm scared of what such a change, even a little change, would mean for me.  I have gotten very used to my routine, so much so that I am bored stiff at the prospect of it staying exactly the same for the next two years.

I think I should file this under "No one can have it all."  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

We're all capable of the unthinkable

In 2004, when my brain decided to start acting out on its own without consulting me, I was gripped by fear.  I had been under the false belief that I control myself, but there is nothing like having a nervous breakdown to show a person what's really real.  I could no longer control the thoughts that ran through my mind, and within short order I couldn't control many of my body's physical components---tears, sleep, the ability to eat.

When I would see a plastic bag and envision N with it around her neck suffocating, I thought it meant I wanted this to happen to her.  When I held a knife to cut an apple and envisioned stabbing N with it, fear paralyzed me.  I knew without a doubt I was going crazy.  I had other even more unsavory visions that I do not discuss publicly because they are so upsetting (for anyone who thinks I truly do express every single thought I ever have, I do have some restraint).

The adage is somewhat true that if you think you're crazy, you probably aren't.  These horrible visions were my worst possible fears running amuck within my mind, and I wasn't able to shut them down.  I wasn't able to recognize them as worst fears and realize that a thought is just a thought, however horrible and disgusting.  I can have whatever awful terrible thoughts I want (or my brain wants), but acting on them is the problem.

The ultimate effect of all this, which was terrible as I was going through it, was a profound sense of freedom and compassion.  It was freeing to know that my mind can sorta do what it wants, regardless of what I think it should do.  I also developed a greater sense of compassion for people who are mentally ill, whether they are fortunate enough to recognize their mental illness and seek treatment or whether they do not even realize the full extent of their illness and disability.

People do the unthinkable, like the Boston bombing suspect or women who kill their babies or  men who sexually abuse children.  We fear for our safety or the safety of our families, but we also fear for ourselves because we are all capable of such acts.  We defend ourselves against the unthinkable by believing if people are neighborly or live in certain neighborhoods or look a certain way or whatever they are not the kind of people who could do such things.  But they are, and we are.

All of us likely fall somewhere on the DSM, but as my therapist told me, "A disorder isn't a disorder until it disorders your life."  Or in many cases until it disorders someone else's life when a person acts on a thought or belief that to them seems normal but to others is "sick."

As a mother, I have many fears for my children but perhaps the two worst are that 1.) they will take their own lives and 2.) that they will have take the lives of others.  I look at my G, who is very much like me in terms of personality (obsessive and highly sensitive) and I worry that he will end up like me, only worse; that he will have a mental disorder that cannot be easily managed with some antidepressants and therapy.  But the truth is that any of my kids could go off the deep end. My husband could.  I could.

I do not believe that people who go off the deep end do not give warning signs.  I think people around them either don't recognize the signs or cannot believe that their loved one is capable of the unthinkable.  When I was diagnosed with OCD and GAD, it made so many feelings and behaviors from my childhood clear to me.  I don't know if my mother ever had the thought that something was "mentally wrong" with her daughter, but I do know she chalked it up to "that's just Carrie" and thought it was odd or excessive or not the norm.  Had I done something unthinkable, I don't think my mother, in her heart, could have ignored all the signs that something was amiss, even if she wouldn't ever publicly admit it.

Love is blinding.  Love makes us want to see the beauty and purity in our loved ones.  And maybe there is simply something wrong (or more wrong) with me because I seem to have a knack for seeing the unpleasant and wondering where it might go off-the-chain wrong.  Or maybe I just dislike hiding behind pleasantries.  I think it is important to talk about the things that others find taboo or unpleasant or embarrassing.  Maybe we could understand more if we were more willing to speak the truth than to hide behind "I don't understand how or why it happened?"  We think that if we saw it coming, if we saw signs, we could have stopped it, and I just don't know if that is really possible.  But our fear of seeming culpable makes us gloss things over.

There is danger in knowing everyone is capable of the unthinkable.  Capable does not mean everyone will act on that capability.  I remember one student I had my first year of teaching who was, without a doubt, royally messed up.  He was, in my mind, a walking time bomb, and he scared me.  My relief was palpable when he was sent to a different school.  As far as I know, this kid has never done anything that made the papers.  He wasn't the former student of mine who killed himself in a local McDonald's after threatening his girlfriend with the gun he then used on himself.  He was disturbed, but not disturbed enough?

As sad as I feel for the people who are killed by unthinkable acts and their families, I can't help but feel a sense of compassion for those who commit the acts and their families who try desperately to make sense of it all.  The innocent are mourned and glorified, even though in life they were as imperfect as the rest of us.  The guilty are condemned and demonized, even though in life they were probably less horrible than their horrible actions would suggest.

There is no peace and tranquility regardless of which side of the unthinkable you are.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

You're still allowed to wallow even after tragedy strikes others

There are times when it takes everything in me not to fall apart.

The tragedies are not mine, but between the Boston Marathon bombing and the suicide of a 13-year-old girl who attended a nearby school, I feel tremendous sadness.

I momentarily think I should not complain about being woken up 4 times between 5:20 a.m. and 5:37 a.m. today.

But I decide that while I am grieving for others inside, I am not going to discount my feelings about my own life.  It is possible to feel gratitude for my life and still want to scream at my temporary dissatisfaction with my life at the same time.  If there is anything I've learned since having children, it is that feeling two diametrically opposed emotions concurrently is not only possible, it is par for the parenting course.  Maybe I always understood this, but being a mother makes me understand it to a degree I didn't comprehend in my childless days.

I think that if any of us could speak to our ancestors they would probably smack our cheeks and call us pussies.  Even those among us who have suffered terrible things would likely be put in our places by our ancestors.  Parents who have lost a child might feel their grief pales in comparison to parents of old who lost 4 and 5 children to measles or diptheria.  People who work two jobs to maintain their health insurance might feel their fatigue pales in comparison to people of old who began working at age 6 in the mines.

Shoot, we don't even have to look as far as our own history.  We can look at millions of people who live in the world in this day and age and find plenty of opportunities to discredit any feeling we might have that isn't constant gratitude.

But I refuse to disavow my own experience because I don't suffer as deeply or as long or in the same way as others.

I hope there is wisdom in being able to hold all these oppositional emotions and recognize that each of them, in their own way, has value.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

More on SAHM burn-out, jobs and spoilage

Earlier this year, I was offered a job out of the blue and declined to take it.
The idea of being away from M three half-days a week and putting him in a daycare was overwhelming.  Before I even knew how little it would pay me financially to do this with childcare costs included, I felt terrible, terrible guilt.  

Last week, I was told about a 1-day a week position in a school, and once again, my enthusiasm was unabashed until the following morning, when I wondered if I could even handle a 1-day a week job.  Would it be worth it to even examine the possibility, to call the school and tell them I might possibly be interested but only if I can work on a Monday or Tuesday when M is in preschool and only if my mom is willing/able to pick him up and stay with him until I get home?  Am I so desperate to revive myself as an individual that I will pay someone else everything I would make just to have some time doing something of value to the world at-large?

It took me years to realize there is no perfect marriage, and then I had to figure out there is no perfect children or perfect version of mom.  Now I am working on, "There is no perfect working situation once you have children."  Freelance writing comes close, but the pay isn't nearly enough.

Sometimes I think being a SAHM has spoiled me rotten.  I cringe when I have to go to Target on a weekend.  I mean, from where did all those people come????  And in a way it has made me lazy.  The idea of getting dressed up and talking in an adult/professional manner and being somewhere by 7:45 a.m. seems impossible.  I am 9 years out of practice.

And as much as I like the idea of working outside the home just a teensy-weensy bit, I don't know if I can justify all the rigamarole that will happen for as little money as I would make.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Nap and nursing milestones, track and other updates

G is done with naps, hence the reason for my failure to blog with any regularity.  Our afternoons are mostly spent in front of the tv, with me doing piddly house jobs that allow me to check in with him.  His newest love is "Ben 10" on Netflix, which he pretend plays all the time.  

I have to laugh at how much of an anti-tv nazi I was when N was a small child (until I got pregnant with G and borrowed every Disney Princess movie ever made so I could feel pukey on the couch in piece and let N zone out to Aurora, Cindy, and Belle).  At this moment, M is happily eating cereal and watching "Yo Gabba Gabba" on the queue, and I am thrilled to have a moment's peace.  (This morning has been spent cleaning pee-soaked sheets, using a snake/Drano to unsuccessfully degunkify the shower drain, and dealing with my ever-demanding, high-maintenance 5-year-old.)

Lack of blogging can also be explained by my recent work on some freelance pieces.  Any time I had for writing was of the "I'm being paid for this" variety.

In other child milestone news, M is weaned.  I have been more than ready for awhile, but he kept hanging on.  I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd nurse a child to age 3-and-a-half.  Maybe I will actually get that mammogram my gynecologist has been asking me to have since I was 35?  You know you are DONE breastfeeding when you are eager for a mammary squishing.

I am officially one of "those" moms who has over-scheduled her child.  For the past few years, N has asked to run Cross Country, but with two practices a week plus a meet, I simply couldn't make the commitment.  N and I have piano lessons every Monday evening and Girl Scouts every other Wednesday.  

A few weeks ago, though, she brought home information about a short Track season with only one practice a week and 4 or 5 meets in all.  This was more reasonable for our schedule, so I gave permission with the understanding that if she whines or acts like a turd we won't do it again. She has her first meet this Saturday, so that should be interesting.  I'm proud of her for giving it a go, and I'm actually relieved that she is having an opportunity to do a sport (just so I can give up the guilt that I'm the one holding her back). 

The weather has turned warmer, allowing me and the boys to get outside more often.  They have rediscovered the sandbox, and the sunshine has done wonders for my mood and energy level.  I had been wondering if I was having thyroid issues, but I think it was prolonged winter having its way with me.  

Geez, this is a dull post.

I guess I shall move onto more exciting activities, like disposing of N's stash of Valentine candy that has been sitting on her desk for the past 2 months.