She Just Needs to Be Heard!

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The other night I took the time to re-read some of my published words. Some words seemed to come from another world that I had forgotten. Others jarred me back to reality from the fog I have been living in since the positive sign on the pregnancy test changed the course of my life.

I am on a new journey now, albeit reluctantly.

8272758921_df6a8055fe_oI am learning as I go, trying to figure out how to make everything work, how to not let my dreams and hopes be buried yet again under a pile of anger, resentment and responsibility. Trying to work out how all the many pieces are going to fit together in at least some attempt at a coalescing and functional reality.

Most days I just crawl back into bed and try to forget….

My body aches with the exhaustion of figuring it all out so I sleep to forget, to ignore, to pretend that everything will work itself out and that I am strong enough to bear the weight of all the pain, the frustration at yet again re-writing the script of my life, even though deep down I doubt my ability to keep it all together.

Yes, I am working on believing that this pregnancy is happening for a reason, that this baby is an amazing gift to our family but some days I just want my old path back, without the added complications of the needs and space of a new child to worry about. Yes, that’s my inner two-year old throwing a temper tantrum. At the end of the day all my inner two-year-old wants is to be heard. She can’t let go of her anger and frustration until she is heard.

14956794780_c404fa5ec1_oSociety struggles to make space for the real temper tantrums of two-year-olds let alone those of the inner two-year-olds of adults. When our youngest children throw temper tantrums we shame them into behaving or isolate them in time-out corners until they submit to our wishes. What if instead we helped them work through their anger and frustration and just allowed their emotions to be okay? Perhaps there would be less adults running around with repressed inner two-year-olds screaming to be heard. Perhaps there would be less shame around feeling uncomfortable feelings. Perhaps it would be okay to just be angry.

My inner two-year old is refusing to be silenced. She needs to be heard and loved so I can move forward and re-write my script in the best way possible, where I don’t sacrifice all my dreams yet again to the overwhelming needs of my family. Where we find a better balance for everyone with what we have in the place we are right now instead of always believing that when we have more money or when we have a bigger house or when the basement is cleaned up or when my 18-year-old goes to treatment and gets better, that then we’ll be able to work everything out and make our dreams a reality.

Even if all that was achieved, there is always another hurdle, another excuse….

So let me let my inner two-year old out to throw her temper tantrum. Let her stomp, scream and cry. When she’s done, just hold us, love us and help us figure out our way forward

If you make space for my two-year old, I will make space for yours….

I Hold Your Anger Ever So Close

Taming the Beast

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10726509325_44e1195b13_oMy home is messy.

I used to keep an immaculate home. I washed the dishes every night or at least frequently enough the kitchen was usually pretty clean, and the rest of the house received regular scrubbings and cleanings too. I worked really hard to maintain the cleanliness and then my depression returned full force and just getting out of bed and into work every day was a huge effort and accomplishment. Then more children came along with more stuff to call their own and between my depression and our expanding family’s ever-expanding piles of stuff, I lost control and I have yet to get it back under control.

We live in a small three bedroom condominium and there’s very limited space for each person. It’s not impossible but it takes work and it takes compromise and it requires mutual respect of each others’ space. All of which we struggle with as each person has different needs and different ideas. My husband is a collector of super hero and sci-fi paraphernalia. He places a much higher value on his stuff than I do on my own so I sometimes don’t honour the value he places on things just because I don’t feel the same way about stuff in general. I’m trying, but it’s hard when I barely have a bookcase worth of space to call my own, while he has several bookcases and shelves. The children have no boundaries and their toys and book bags and whatnots and whathaveyous end up pretty much anywhere it’s convenient for them to drop them when they are finished with them. Yes, it’s part of the problem. My husband tries but there’s no consistent measures being employed to set these boundaries and maintain them. It’s on my to-do list…

To give a measuring stick of the mess we live in, we would not qualify for an episode of Hoarders but watching Hoarders makes me feel better about my mess. And it shouldn’t. Just because Hoarders is worse doesn’t make my situation less poisonous, suffocating or overwhelming. I hate living like this but I feel like I’ve surrendered to the beast simply for the sake of my sanity. Going to war every day with the beast and feeling like I was always on the losing end of the battles was and is emotionally exhausting, so I put up the white flag and surrendered. I let the mess envelop me and define me. I took on the mantra of this is me, this is my home and if you love me and want to spend time with me, you must accept my mess.

Yes, I have good days where I get up and say, today is the day I tame the beast and I’ll pick up my bucket and scrub brushes and go to war against the disorganization and dirt, but it’s always short-lived because as one place is improving another is falling apart or while I move on to tackle the next area, the first place falls apart all over again, and so I surrender yet again and the beast is victorious.

It’s not one battle that will win this fight, it’s a systemic planned attack with everyone working together and the adults setting good examples for the children. I can’t get mad at my daughter for not cleaning up her room when I haven’t seen the floor beside my bed in weeks. I have to take the lead, show her (and my other children) how it’s done and encourage them to work with me, but I feel so overwhelmed and I figured out why this week. I went to an Angel Healing session and I asked a question and as part of her answer she said, I sense your house is very oppressive.

It was like a light went on. That is the exact word to describe our home. Oppressive: weighing heavily on the mind or spirits; causing depression or discomfort.

At first glance it doesn’t seem so bad but it’s the emotional stuff people don’t see that really makes my home feel oppressive. The gunk, the unresolved anger, the frustrations, the unspoken emotions, and the soul grinding pain that lives just below the surface and robs us of our ability to live happily. It affects all of us to some degree or another and it won’t stop until we face the mounting pile of repressed emotions.

We’re very good at throwing things in boxes and sticking them in corners and pretending they don’t exist because taking the time to open them up and go through each piece of paper and item to decide what to do with it all feels overwhelming and impossible. There are probably more invisible boxes of emotional detritus that need clearing than there are boxes of stuff we need to go through but we are even better at ignoring the invisible stuff.

We’ve all found ways to cope with the invisible piles of emotional gunk that oppresses our living space. We’ve pushed it down and hidden it away, pretending it’s okay when it’s not. We’ve put up barriers between each other to keep a safe distance so we don’t accidentally trigger one another. If someone is accidentally triggered it rarely ends well. We have all developed defensive mechanisms and they are very quick to kick in.

I’m passive aggressive, I use guilt trips and am quick to assume the martyr role. My husband runs away, pushes away or lashes out if you insist on getting too close, mostly with painful words. My 18 year-old fumes, swears and hits things. My 10 year-old whines, throws temper tantrums and she’s learned a few techniques from me as she resorts to guilt trips and “feel sorry for me” lines. The four year-old is still working on finding his place in this little game we play.

My husband and I have set a horrible example for dealing with conflict and difficult emotions. Until he and I can sit down and put all the detritus and craziness on the table and face our parts in this game nothing will change.

I believe in living by example and it extends to everything not just cleanliness skills. If children see you model good conflict resolution skills they will learn them too. If children see you lovingly deal with difficult emotions and honouring the individual’s trials with help and on-going support, they will mirror that back into the world. If children see you own up to your mistakes and apologize they will learn that too and if children see you trying to work on your weak points, they will know it’s okay to have weaknesses but that you need to always strive to do better. Having a weakness is not a valid reason to hurt others, and the excuse “that’s just who I am” is a very poor excuse to hurt the ones you love.

We must all strive to do better by each other. That is the true gift of loving someone, and it starts with a willingness to unpack and sort through the gunk that’s holding us hostage in our home. We really want to move, but I’d rather not take all this craziness with us. It’s time to purge, it’s time to clean it out, it’s time to tame the beast!

Who is in Control?

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Lack of choice

Other’s voices singing in your head.

You must do things our way.

Change direction.

Don’t argue. Don’t stop.

Just do.

Do it our way.

Who controls me?

Who controls us?

Is it my three-year-old?

Or is it society

disapproving of my ways?

Is it my ten-year-old?

Or is it all the clutter

in our lives

keeping us from authentic connections

with each other?

Is it my seventeen-year-old?

Or is it the emotional baggage

born of years of anger

and frustration?

Or is it mental illness?

ADD/ADHD,

Aspergers,

High-functioning Austism,

Depression.

All of us dealing with it

in our own way,

but never tackling it as a team.

Who is really in control

of our lives?

I have been exploring the idea of control. What is control? Does my youngest control my life? Some people apparently think he does and are concerned about me. Should they be? He’s three. He’s at a very busy stage, learning so much all the time, and I try to provide healthy environments for him to learn and grow in. I have a couple of memberships, we try to attend playgroup as much as we can and we’ve started regularly going to the library to return and discover new books.

He is becoming more independent all the time but still needs me for a lot. I let him do some things that some parents would think are crazy. He’s used sharp knives under supervision, he plays out front of our house and in the gardens while I work in the kitchen. I let him more or less freely explore his environment, make messes with soap and water on my kitchen floor, let him clean – he loves spray bottles and he loves pretending to clean. Yes, sometimes it makes more work, but no one ever said parenthood was clean and tidy!

I’m struggling to understand what is meant by control and how, as was suggested to me, my Facebook posts are giving off the impression that my three-year-old is controlling me. I spent some time re-reading them and there were some expressions of frustration and exhaustion but many were recounts of our adventures or a clip of something he said that I thought was amusing. I don’t even post that frequently, especially since we stripped the data service from my phone so when I’m away from the house I have no internet access anymore. I have to wait until I get home to upload my pictures and put up a status so often I don’t even bother.

So who is reading my status updates and concluding I’m being controlled by my three-year-old? I just don’t see how they are making that connection from my words. As I mentioned, I sometimes express elements of frustration or fatigue and legitimately so, parenthood usually entails some degree of both, but add in my health issues and yes I often do too much and the fatigue and frustrations can get the better of me. Does that mean my three-year-old is in control? I don’t think so. If anything my health issues are running that show. I’m working hard to take that control back but it’s a work in progress.

At the moment I am a stay-at-home mom by choice. If I really wanted a job I could find something in retail but then our lives would be controlled by a chaotic, often unpredictable schedule, and by the time I paid for any daycare, I’d probably be no further ahead financially, and certainly not enough to make the added stress worthwhile. So I have chosen to make my family the priority, even if it has meant choosing a financially frustrating path while I work on building a business for myself that will hopefully begin to fill in the gaps within a year or so, hopefully less. I just need some support to find the time to do that work so that I’m not up all night working on my studies which drains my energy for looking after the children and family during the day. No one can run 24 hours a day, not even a mom…

The three-year-old may be part of the reason for my lack of time but he is not the only reason, and I don’t feel like he is the controlling reason. He is just being three, curious, rambunctious, full of energy and very loving. His behaviours are normal. He doesn’t like to be alone. He’ll play independently but he likes to be able to look up and connect with a familiar person. He is more reserved than my older two were, he’s slower to join in to large groups, preferring smaller groups or one-on-one interactions, but he amazed me the other day!

We met my husband for lunch at McDonald’s, one with a playland, and for the first time my three-year-old went straight to climbing, never asking for help, and when there were other kids to play with he went up and introduced himself and asked their names. It surprised me and filled me with happiness that he was finding his strength and his voice. I didn’t have to force him, or train him, it happened naturally when he was ready. He played for nearly three hours on the playland and still didn’t want to leave but we had to get home to meet my daughter off the bus. I spent the better part of that three hours while he was playing, writing, mostly uninterrupted. It was really amazing.

I’ll take my moments when I can get them but my three-year-old is still at an age where he relies on me for a lot of his needs. Yes, I could plop him in front of a TV or let him have my phone all the time, I’d probably get a little more done but is that truly preferable? We do enough of that when we’re cooped up indoors during the winter. Now that the beautiful weather is here it’s really hard to keep anyone indoors and that’s how it should be. So we walk the dog, take even more advantage of our memberships because we don’t have to fight with layers of outerwear or clear the car off. We go to parks and beaches for the day, pack picnic lunches and explore wherever our feet take us.

I try to squeeze in time for the things I need as best I can, unfortunately cleaning, studying, writing/blogging and reading often find their way to the sidelines. But I am okay with that. My kids will be young once and only really need me for such a short time in the scheme of things, I’m going to enjoy the ride. If that looks like control to the outside world, well I guess it is what it is.

For those who are concerned my message is this, parenthood is a tough gig. I have three children, all with unique needs and personalities. Some days I do feel like I’m being pulled in too many directions, and like I’m going to burst from the frustration. Add to those three different directions, my family as a whole entity’s needs, my husband’s needs, my marriage’s needs and my own needs. It’s a tight rope walk of epic proportions and it’s too easy to stumble and fall, it’s too easy to sacrifice my needs for the bigger picture, or unwittingly hurt someone or overlook someone. If you are truly a friend and you have these concerns, the best thing you can do is be part of my safety net. Listen when I need to talk, don’t judge my mistakes too harshly because I’m harder on myself than you can ever be and if I am to learn self-forgiveness, I can’t also feel like I’ve wronged you somehow too.

Most importantly, if I ask for help and you are able to help, then please help me, not with criticism but genuinely true understanding, love and support, and if you aren’t sure exactly what I need, just ask. Sometimes it could be as simple as an ear to listen, or a shoulder to hold me up, other times it could be physical help with the kids or the house. It is always immensely appreciated, and often rewarded with baked goods.

I threw a temper tantrum today…..

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… and I’m not proud of myself.

My thoughts are very dark, very angry.  The lid came off.  I dropped all the balls I’ve tried so hard to keep in the air and going round and round….

Maybe it was the car accident this weekend that’s put me on edge…. More than I’m admitting too.  I’m trying very hard to stay positive.  I’m not hurt, the kids weren’t with me, etc…. But it’s hard not to be affected by it somehow, the process is stressful, physically hurt or not.

I just wanted some help today from my teenager who is off over the exam break.  I even gave him a warning last night before we went to bed that I would be needing his help today.  That I wanted to tackle a job or two that I could use his help with.  They weren’t crazy, difficult jobs.  Just helping me move boxes around and maybe do some dishes.  He’s the first one to complain at the constant disorder of the house, but when I ask for help, it’s not easy getting any, and he’s not the only one who is hard to get motivated.

I started asking him to get up about 10 am, at 1pm he was still in bed.  I called him multiple times, I tried to entice him with food, I nagged and finally, I just lost it.  I said some things I shouldn’t have, my anger spilled over and I became very ugly.  I even kicked an empty cardboard box down the stairs.

What made it worse? My three-year old started yelling at me, feeding me back the same anger I was dishing out.  He was just imitating me… It was very hard being on the receiving end of it.

So then there were tears.  Body shaking, hot, angry, painful tears…

I hid in my room away from my three-year old so he wouldn’t see it.  Only the dog was there, and I’m not sure she even knew what to make of it.  I don’t cry.

I texted my husband and let him know what had happened.  He’s the one who is supposed to lose his cool, and I’m the one that’s supposed to do the patching up.  Who does the patching up when I lose my cool?

Right now, I’m not ready to apologize for my anger.  I’m just sitting with it.  If there’s anything I could use, it’s someone to make me a cup of tea….

If there’s anything I could use, it’s someone to make me a cup of tea….

Earl Grey, two sugars, please… And yes, leave the teabag in!

I am not the person I used to be….

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Discipline

Discipline the behaviour, never the child.

As you saw from my last entry, my views have changed a great deal and my knowledge in the field of pregnancy, infant and child care has increased dramatically.  But that’s only part of the changes.  Internally I’ve gone from someone who can’t hold her own in a discussion, who was afraid to speak up, who lacked the confidence in herself to just trust her gut feelings to someone who can bring valid, respected information to the table, who can stand up for what I feel is right and trust my own instincts.  Now I’ve taken it a step further and I’m using my writing skills to share what I’ve learned so far, while I continue to learn and build on the foundation I’ve created for myself, all the while sharing that journey, even the slip ups, of which I’m sure there will be many, with anyone who will listen.

This past week my new skills and knowledge were tested, and I believe it was my added confidence in the fact that I know what I’m doing is right that brought things to a successful remediation of the issues.

My 17-year-old has some mental health issue that make him difficult to parent.  One of those behaviours involves a lack of self-control and it has a way of getting him in trouble.  Suffice to say there was an incident this past week that put my husband over the edge.  In the past my husband would’ve meted out the first punishment that went through his head in that moment of anger and frustration, and rarely are those punishments reasonable or fair.  Thankfully he had to leave for work, so he took his anger and frustration to work with him, while I did some investigative work and checked in with my son’s social worker at his school who has been helping to bridge the gap between the initial crisis this past Fall and us getting into Family Services for more intensive counselling.

The evening of the incident was blissfully quiet thankfully and the next day I made some last-minute arrangements with my brother and his wife to watch the younger children while my husband and I went out for lunch to discuss the issues.

Normally in the past my husband is the more dominant player and I go into shut down mode the minute he challenges me or my ideas.  Now that my confidence levels have improved I can hold my own, I can explain myself better and I can negotiate a compromise that is acceptable to both of us. In the end I think we came away from that lunch with a very good plan, and a fair decision for disciplining our 17-year-old’s recent behaviour.

Personally for me, the experience felt amazing and boosted my confidence tremendously.  I won’t lie I was on cloud nine over the final outcome.  We had a concrete plan to deal with a problem and we’re also hoping with family support my husband and I will be able to have more regular alone time to check in with each other and work towards solutions on various issues.  Now that I’ve found my voice, I’m hoping that we’ll actually be able to make some good decisions that will have a lasting impact on our family and our relationships with each other.

Also, in case you didn’t pick up on it, my wording through this post changed.  When I first described the incident, I referred to punishing my 17-year-old whereas by the time I got to the end of the story, we were disciplining the behaviour.  That distinction is incredibly significant.  When you take the first approach it breeds only resentment and anger.  The second approach targets the behaviour only so the discipline is easier to mete out and follow for both parties.  It’s why no matter the situation, a child should never be punished or disciplined through anger.  Take a step back, take a deep breath and once you are calm again and thinking rationally, come up with an acceptable action for disciplining the behaviour and never the child.  In fact, it’s often a good idea to assure the child that you love them and there’s nothing they can ever do that will change that.

This past week’s challenge with my oldest and my husband proved to me that this is the right way to manage these situations and if we continue managing them in this way, our children will be much happier, and so will we.

If I knew then what I know now…..

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NewbornshotI have a 17-year-old son and a 3-year-old son and the way I have parented them has been completely different. Even with my 3-year-old I wish I’d known some things when he was real little that I know now.  Over the last 18 months I’ve explored and read information on birthing practices, baby care, nutrition, particularly breastfeeding, circumcision, attachment parenting practices and so much more.  And I believe I’ve read pretty widely and many different view points which has led me to feel for the first time as a mother confident in my parenting choices.  Before I did what I knew and took advice only from a small group of women, which while it was not bad advice by any means, it was lacking, and not intentionally lacking either.  Practices change, improve, as information sharing becomes easier, and old ways of doing things are discredited. Every mother only wants what’s best for their children, and the wealth of information available now is mind-boggling.  I have waded through a great deal of that information and here is my list of what I wish I had known then that I know now.

  1.  Circumcision is wrong.  It’s not up to us as parents to make that decision for our sons.  It is their body, and most when given the choice do not choose it.  My oldest is circumcised because 17 years ago I didn’t know any better.  Most of the men in my family were circumcised, it was what I knew as normal.  My 3-year-old isn’t and I’m glad I just decided not to by default because I was too tired to look into it.  Now I’m glad I didn’t and wish I hadn’t with my oldest.  Aside from inflicting incredible pain on an infant too young to understand, there is just no medical reason to do it.  Thankfully in Canada we’ve come a long way and most boys are left intact now, but I still believe that this is an important message to spread as there may still be people who believe the outdated information.  I encourage you to check these sites for more information:

http://www.wholenetwork.org/

http://www.savingsons.org/

2.     Breastfeeding and more importantly, extended breastfeeding – as society has termed it – is incredibly healthy for both mother and child and completely normal.  I will admit I used to fall into the camp of thinking breastfeeding past a certain age, about a year, was wrong, but now I have learned better. The health benefits don’t stop as a child grows.  Breast milk changes constantly to meet the needs of the child, even when tandem nursing children of different ages.  Breast milk is liquid gold, and the benefits of breastfeeding an older child is huge to both mother and child.  In the mother extended breastfeeding can help lower the risks of illnesses such as breast cancer and ovarian cancer.  In the child it provides continued immune support against common ailments and is the perfect building blocks to help them grow strong mentally and physically.  Emotionally it is an easy way to help soothe a child in pain or who is over tired.  No matter what formula companies may say, they can never duplicate the amazing, adaptive qualities of breast milk.

That brings me to my next point on breastfeeding; support systems.  In Canada, partially because of our maternity and parental leave benefits, there’s a decent support system in place and it has definitely improved since my 17-year-old was born but there’s always room for improvement.  Even with my 3-year-old I wish I’d had a stronger support system and that when he was three months old and I decided due to my extreme post-partum depression to quit, someone had said “No, what do you need to keep breastfeeding?” because the truth is I didn’t want to quit, I just didn’t have the support I needed or the words to express my frustrations.  I sometimes wonder if I would still be breastfeeding him.  He totally loved it and still will reach for my breasts occasionally like there is a lingering memory there.  So support isn’t just about hospitals supporting skin to skin immediately after birth (weighing and even cord clamping can wait, unless there is a medical reason to whisk the baby away, the baby should always be placed skin to skin on the mother’s belly right after birth), or providing good qualified breastfeeding consultants if they are needed both in hospital and after discharge, but it also includes community and family support, especially in the first 3-4 months after birth, which is labelled the fourth trimester for a reason. Community support also includes supporting a nursing mother when you see her out in public.  Women should be applauded and encouraged for providing the best possible nutrition for their children and not made to hide or feel ashamed in any way.  As a by-product of encouraging breastfeeding in public, it also normalizes it for the next generation.

3.     Birthing practices is one I’ve spent a lot of time reading about.  I started my training to be a doula a year ago but after doing the weekend course, decided to put the practical side on hold as I still have a young family to care for. I continue to read extensively on birthing practices and absorb all the information I can.  I’m an advocate of natural birthing practices as much as can be possible but each labour, each woman is different and at the end of the day just needs to feel supported and loved as she moves through this rite of passage to motherhood, whether it’s for the first time, actually most importantly if it’s for the first time, but also for each subsequent child she births as well.  Birth isn’t just about delivering healthy babies, it’s about birthing strong, confident mothers, and the quality of care and support will have a huge impact on how a woman sees herself both as a woman and as a mother.  I have learned an incredible amount and I will revisit this topic again in future posts. Suffice to say my views on the pregnancy and birth process have changed quite a bit over the last 18 months, and I hope will be an integral part of my career path. I’m actually already signed up for two Sacred Pregnancy courses this summer where I hope to extend my knowledge and care skills exponentially.

4.      There are other areas as well that I have learned so much about, like attachment parenting for example.  Some elements of the practice I always knew deep down but society insisted on different approaches, and especially with my 17-year-old I didn’t have enough wherewithal to argue the status quo.  For example, I left my 17-year-old to cry it out because 17 years ago that was an acceptable method.  Now, never, not even with my 3-year-old.  About 8 months ago he suddenly developed a fear of shadows, and after that his easy bed time routine evaporated.  It became a long protracted affair, but when he cried, I, or my husband, was always there.  And now, he’s learned to handle shadows and scary monsters, but even more importantly, he also knows without question we are here if he needs us. The relationship I have with my 3-year-old is the most connected and natural of all my children. Attachment parenting does not breed spoilt brats, it breeds confident, happy, well-adjusted children.  Yes, it’s more work but the rewards are worth it.

Below I’ve listed my favourite websites and Facebook pages for information on all the above.  It’s just a sampling, I have many, many favourites and can’t possibly list them all.  There are some amazing women and yes, even men, changing the face of pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and parenting in general.  I encourage you to check them out.  I’m sure I will be writing more on these subjects in the future, both to provide information and to relate how they apply to and affect my life.

http://www.handsfreemama.com/

http://www.evolutionaryparenting.com/

http://www.ourmuddyboots.com/

http://www.drmomma.org/

http://freeyourkidsblog.com/

http://www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com/

http://www.littleheartsbooks.com/

https://www.facebook.com/Consciousparentingnow

http://www.positive-parents.org/

http://www.birthwithoutfearblog.com/

http://guggiedaly.blogspot.com/