The Imperfect Parenting Advocate

Everyday we are all inundated with tales of perfect children being perfectly parented by pristine, perfect parents. As much as I may wish that I could claim even one of those stories of perfection as my own, alas, perfection in any form was not my destiny.

Tonight was a typical Tuesday evening. The kids and I tumbled out of the house juggling Thumb Chucks, bouncy balls, keys, sweaters and whatever else they managed to smuggle into the van and off we headed for an appointment with the foot doctor for one of the boys.

We navigated our way through town and got there with two minutes to spare. Everyone piled into building and the kids all gathered around the water cooler. Moments later, we filed into the examination room and everyone crowded around the patient chair. The kids bickered over who got to sit in the other chair, who got to play with the skeletal model foot until the one kid who was actually there to be examined said “everybody stop looking at my foot!” and the foot doctor kicked the offending three out into the waiting room so that she could continue her job in relative peace.

Once back in the waiting room, two of the boys started to wrestle, so I stepped out and tell them to take it outside. Conveniently, “outside” just happened to be completely visible from the examination room windows, so we were all treated to a shoving match, some screaming, and a tongue-out-spitting finale. Sweet.

Then, my youngest son decided to share this with us: ” ‘K, so at school, I had this plan to get out of doing work.” He pulled up his sleeve to expose a previously skinned elbow and continued. “I was going to pick the scab and make it bleed so that I could go to the office and get a band aid. Buuuuuut Madame had band aids in the classroom.” He shrugged.  “So my plan didn’t work.” He shrugged again and smiled sweetly, clearly having no idea how devious the plan he just shared might sound to the average listener. The foot doctor and I looked at each other and I could tell that she was unsure how I was processing this admission of attempted deception. As usual, wherever possible, I chose to laugh. Because I try to refrain from crying in public. It tends makes people feel uncomfortable and then things are just awkward. And today was one of the few days that I remembered to wear mascara.

Our lovely foot doctor had now been witness to a bar-style brawl in her parking lot and heard a thwarted, yet diabolical plan of a third-grader to avoid doing his school work, and this only represented 3/5 of my children.

Time to head home, our work there was done. I re-arranged the bodies in the minivan for the ride home with the idea of limiting the opportunity for further brother-on-brother violence. This time, I was mostly successful. Only one primal scream for the entire eight minute drive home. #winning.

Needless to say, by the time we pulled into the driveway I was 88 years-old and they were back to laughing and being ridiculous. Good times. Always good times.

And that, my friends, is how a typical half-hour outing goes with my crew. Please form the line up to babysit my babies on the left…

Kid conversations. Or, Being schooled using a banana analogy

So, this conversation happened at my house tonight:

10 year-old: UGH! This banana has a HUGE bruise! Blech! *insert lots of gagging noises*

6 year-old: *insert hand gestures and adult tone of voice* Okay. I’ll tell you the story of how I ate my bruised banana. Ready? I opened my banana. It was bruised. I just it ate through it and didn’t say a thing about it. Not a word. And that’s how I got through it. Just eat through it. See?

My six-year-old is wiser than me again. You’d think that I’d be used to this humbling truth, but the fact is, I am not. It takes these moments in time, these overheard conversations to remind me that for as much as I think that I’m teaching them about life, it is they who are teaching me.

Because Miss Moon’s banana story is a lot like life. Sometimes, you just have to keep moving forward, not complaining about anything, and just get through it. Sometimes, it really is okay.

Like Miss Moon and Shia say, sometimes, you just have to do it.

He has a suspicious mind, that one.

It is no secret that my Paxton loves him some apples. Like, he LOVES apples. All four of my smalls do, but Pax, in particular, is the most emotionally invested in them. Our household will easily go though 20 or more pounds of apples in a single week. Raw.

But right now, it is also the second-coming of teething season here at headquarters, as all four of them are now in one stage or another of losing baby teeth and growing ‘grown up’ teeth to replace and displace them. So, biting into an apple, at times, becomes an issue. Particularly if the apple is lovely and crunchy the way I prefer and the way they used to prefer our apples.

So, being the mindful and caring momma that I am (stop snickering!), I starting to set a bowl of apples out on the counter for those of them who either were in the ‘sensitive to cold’ or the ‘it’s wiggly and hurts to bite down’ stages of his or her teething journey. And Paxton, seeing the apples so readily available on the counter, just started to default to the bowl instead of the refrigerator every time he wanted an apple (often 6-8 times a day – no lie).

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But one day last week, he by-passed the bowl and opened the fridge. He found himself eye-to-drawer with an entire produce drawer full (15 lbs, give or take) of freshly washed and ready-to-eat apples. He dug around for the largest one, closed the fridge and took a bite. Then he turned to walk out of the kitchen, shooting me the side-eye and saying suspiciously, “Oh, I see you’ve been hiding apples from me. Huh.” He took another bite and sauntered out of the room, clearly a changed boy whose trust had been compromised on the deepest of levels.

He still tells me he loves me everyday but I wonder, if, in the back of his mind, the idea now lurks that I’m just not quite meant to be fully trusted.

He’s keeping a close eye on me now. I can feel just it.

EDITED TO ADD: I don’t know WHY the picture is sideways. It appears to be right-side up on my screen, in WordPress, in my previews and in my media library. But here? On Facebook? It’s freakin’ sideways. The universe is messing with me again. Like I really need outside forces playing with my fragile grip on sanity. ????

February life lessons from my kitchen table

Late again. I know. But I needed to make sure that February was well and truly over. And when I figured out that it probably was, we were blessed with a legitimate, can’t-get-the-cars-of-the-driveway-busses-are-cancelled snow day. After a brief attempt by one small to attend school, everyone was home and time slipped away from me again.

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???? this day – everyone safe and sound at home.

???? this day. Miss M. wanted to go to school to show off her new smile (lost tooth) so we walked over, only to find out she would be THE ONLY student there. Managed to convince her to come home again. ????

???? this day. Miss M. wanted to go to school to show off her new smile (first lost tooth) so we walked over, only to find out she would be THE ONLY student there. Managed to convince her to come home again. ????

So here we are, March 4th, finally wrapping up February and putting words around what I learned this past month.

1. As good as my intentions may be, I make more mistakes than I do meals a day. And often times I make the same mistakes over and over and over again. Until one could honestly wonder if I am doing it intentionally or spitefully or without regard or care. The answer is no. I’m not. I walk through my days honestly trying my very best not to upset, insult, offend or maim anybody. I came to terms with the fact that I fail more often than I succeed and the result is shitty. I do not have a dull mind. I’m not stupid, oblivious or otherwise simple. Yet somehow, I manage to say the wrong thing, the wrong way at the wrong time almost daily. It’s exhausting. I’m sure for everyone, but definitely for me.

2. Parenting hurts my head. When I think about it too much, my head and my heart ache. From both sadness and happiness. Being a mum, my children are not perfect but they are perfectly mine they each create a prism of joy in my life that is uniquely their own. I find that I often must stop myself from wishing they will never grow up, that they will stay small and close to me forever (too late for that now though, ages 5 thru 22, so no real babies here anymore). All the while still wishing for and working on helping them to grow and achieve and follow their own life paths. I’m a mess of contradictions. As much as we all say “enjoy this time, it flies by far too quickly” and no matter how many children I have had, I never feel like I have fully appreciated and cherished each age and stage enough. I always have a list of things that I wish I would have done differently or better or more, and I worry that my children may feel cheated that I did not do those things with them. I just hope that they know that 1) they are my favourite and 2) I always have their backs no matter what.

3. My super power is losing and gaining the same 10 pounds indefinitely. Not 8 pounds, not 12 pounds. No. It’s 10. That’s my pound number. I feel like if I broke out and lost 15 pounds, the spell would be broken and my excess weight would vanish over night. Then I could choose a new super power. I’m thinking along the lines of a healing superpower (like John Coffey in The Green Mile ????) or telekinesis (like Matilda). I think those would be way better super powers to have instead of being the master of the same 10 asshole pounds.

4. I need to learn how to let things go, even if someone else is holding on. Or maybe I have to learn how to separate my feelings from those of others. I’ve only learned that I need to learn how to do this, not that I already have. My moods, feelings, motivation, happiness are, to my dismay and horror, very intertwined with that of those around me. If someone I love is in a terrible mood, unhappy, angry or down, I fall down that hole with them rather than staying ‘up’ and being okay, able to help them out of it. This does not apply to young children. I tend to  be able to lend them the support they need to feel better. Although that may be because their needs are less complicated? But with adults, like my eldest son or husband, this can quickly become a vicious circle with no end because he may need something from me to help him to feel better but now, I’m in no position to help him because I’m upset and lost inside my own head and feelings. That is not the person I want to be, but in all honesty, it’s who I am right now. Any ideas how I can disengage myself and let someone else have feelings without adopting their moods or feelings as my own? Maybe how to stop taking everything personally and be an objective listener rather than defensive listener?

5. I liked being an only child. And by liked, I mean, I loved it. But I am so glad that my children have each other. I loved being a family of three when I was growing up. It sounds terrible, but I loved not having to share my toys, my clothes, my parents love. I know that I was taken to more places, given more experiences and attention, went on more vacations all because my parents could afford it – because there was only me to provide for. But now that I’m older and they are getting older (as much as I HATE acknowledging that), I realize more and more how nice it would be to have had a sibling to remember a shared childhood with, to get our kids together with, and who would be like having another part of my parents around longer.

Well. February certainly appears to have brought about my inner maudlin. So, good-bye and good riddance February and hello March, you fierce and sexy minx. Let’s make good shit happen, shall we?

I've also come to realize that I talk about killing people an awful lot. But don't worry. I'm highly unlikely to follow through. It's just my twisted mind at work.

I’ve also come to realize that I talk about killing people an awful lot. But don’t worry. I’m highly unlikely to follow through. It’s just my twisted mind at work. That, an I find all the wrong and inappropriate things hilariously funny, so I share. Because I’m a giver.

My heart was broken last week + a rant

Some of you, maybe all of you, may know that I supervise lunch hour and afternoon recess at a couple of our local schools. At one school, I police kindergarten lunch hour and mediate sandpit disputes and check boo boos and administer band-aids and ‘side hugs’ as needed. Then the bell rings and I say a quick ‘have a good afternoon!’ to “my” kindies and rush off to my next school where I supervise afternoon recess in the yard. This is my second year doing this, so many of the students remember me from last year (and I remember them!) and that awkwardness is mostly gone when they approach me. For the most part, they all pretty much know what answer that they are going to get from me in most situations. And they know that I will march beside them and help them to figure out their disputes. And they know that if they’ve crossed the line or run out of chances, that I will send them to visit the office for further discussion.

But last week was different. There were no disputes to settle. There were no lines crossed. There was just a little boy, close to, if not actually, the same age as one of my boys. He has bright eyes, a wide smile and always looks just a little bit more mischievous than your average bear.  On this day he was sitting in the grass, on the edge of the sandpit playing with a few other boys and they found a chunk of asphalt in the grass and ran it over to me, excited to show me their discovery.

“Coal! We found coal! Lookit! Lookit! Missus!”
“Ah, guys” I said smiling at them “that’s not coal, it’s a lump of asphalt. Like the stuff the basketball courts are made of. A piece must have broken off some…” Most of the boys wandered off at this point.
“Court?!? My mom’s going to court today!” Exclaimed my cherub-faced friend
“Oh, is she a lawyer?” I half-asked and half-hoped.
“Nah. My dad’s in trouble,” he said, still sitting, legs splayed, on the grass and looking down and picking at his pant leg. He shrugged his shoulders.
“Oh. Parking ticket?” I replied, with concentrated effort to keep my voice light and smiley.
“Nah. He’s in trouble for breaking a window and running away from the police and then at the hospital…” He looked up at me and added “they done a divorce.”

*Cue shattering the of my heart.* I felt it in my chest, broken. I felt the tightening above my ribcage and understood why this little dude had so many ‘line crossing days’ last year. And I felt so angry for this little boy, who has been told too much and witnessed far too much and who, despite his assertions to the contrary, it’s not “okay.” And I could see in his face that he has no way of really making sense of what the hell the adults in his life are doing to him and to each other.

Lord, I’m old and I don’t understand what the hell the adults in his world are doing to him. Or why. Or how. Or if they even understand the pain they are inflicting on this perfect little human THEY chose to bring into THEIR family. And then chose to blow his world all to shit and expect him to deal.

He did not need to know that his dad broke a window. He did not need to know that his father was arrested. He did not need to know that his parents are in court again. But he knew. And somehow, he was still able to find his smile for me that day. And try to reassure me that it was “okay” and “no big deal” and that it was okay that he couldn’t see his dad right now because he could maybe probably be able to see him soon because of “the yellow house.” Which I can only assume is an access/visitation center.

And you know what? I GET it. You meet someone. You fall in love, like, lust or whatever and you have a baby, by design or circumstance. And then things just don’t work out. Maybe there are substance abuse issues, maybe there are maturity issues, maybe the romantic relationship was just never really meant to be. For whatever reason, “forever” didn’t last. But as soon as you have a baby, you are a family. FOREVER. And like it or not, you both have to figure out a way to make sure that your baby still gets to have his FAMILY. So, you put your shit aside (I don’t care if she cheated on you or he’s an asshole) and you make nice. You celebrate family events together because you are a family for as long as you have that child in common, you’re a family and you OWE it to your child to be an adult.

We should be teaching our children to be brave, not forcing them into it by making them deal with adult situations and emotions long before they're ready.

We should be teaching our children to be brave, but not by forcing them into it by making them deal with adult situations and emotions long before they’re ready.

And believe me, I am not casting stones. I am speaking from a place of hindsight being 20/20. My eldest son grew up without his father around for most of his life and for no other reason than his parental units were too young and immature to see the bigger picture and both thought that we each knew what was best for him. Neither of us realized or acknowledged our duty to act like and to BE a family, that even when angry with one another, that duty existed because we decided to bring another human being onto the planet.

Single parenting is hard. Co-parenting is hard. Parenting in any capacity is hard, and that is why I’m constantly striving to do parenting better and to NOT repeat past mistakes. Oh, and I am happy to report that my son now has a relationship with his father and his father and I are finally mature enough to be friends again but even if circumstances were different, and friendship was not realistic, I do believe that with maturity and this magical hindsight, that we would still now be able to be cordial with one another, if for no other reason than to align for the amazing human person in whom we share a common interest.

I guess after this post is written and all is said and done, my real message is simply:

Please let us stop breaking our children’s hearts. One ounce of kindness at a time.

*End rant*

Absolute truth. Do your best, always do that.

Absolute truth. Do your best, always do that.