Motherhood


I got my son a 6 inch long plastic lizard.  Supposedly if you soak it in water long enough it will grow to four feet.  The other night i was in the bath and Angus suggested that he put the lizard into my bath water when i was finished so that he could super-size him.  The conversation went like this:

Me: so he’ll grow big hey?

Angus: yeah as big as yer butt!

Me: ha!

Angus: no, Mom <chuckle> not *that* big

He’s lucky i love him :-)

I had a stash of money on the counter and Angus (age 7) asked for some.  So i gave him a toonie (a two dollar coin).  He started to walk out of the room.

I said: hey, what do you say when someone gives you money?

He said: Yaye!

I was looking for “thank you” but i think he’s right.  Anytime someone gives you money you should say “yaye”.

I read an article on work/life balance and really like what Emily Hickey had to say.  She’s the CMO of Hashable and has a young child.  She owes her sanity to meditation, having a great spouse/support system and looking for the soft factors at work (like liking your co-workers).  Here’s what she says:

Humor and lightness really have to be at the core of the family and you have to be psyched that you have a family and sort of constantly aware that you chose to do this and be pretty joyful about that choice. I actually think it’s sort of a trick to be enjoying your family at that level on a daily basis versus just being overwhelmed by logistics and lack of personal time.

The other night I was racing around getting ready to teach a yoga class and my son was in a Mood.  One of those lotsa energy, kinda crazy moods.  He took a bag of megablocks and dumped it out in the hallway and started playing with them.  Not building anything but driving a toy truck into them and spreading them around.

Now i personally need the house to look somewhat decent for yoga.  I don’t want someone coming to my home yoga studio to chillout and open the door to total chaos.

Since someone standing at the door can see down the hall I decided these blocks *needed* to be put away.

So I asked and cajoled and helped and we got the blocks put away.  Whew.  Then as the last one went in the bag he had an impulsive moment and dumped them all out again.

I was pissed.  The Control Freak in me was so mad that I had *just* gotten that done and he promptly undid it.  And the Practical Person in me was just cheesed that he did such a dumb thing – it’s not logical to undo what needs to be done!   And then the Impatient side got in there because I had decided this task needed to be done before yoga class and time was a-ticking!  And the Yogi in me was pissed because i was all stressed and instead i should be all calm and dripping with yogic peacefulness and how dare my child mess with my serenity?

What transpired after that will not show up in Stellar Moments in Parenthood. I did the my-way-or-the-highway thing.  The you-get-back-here-young-man stuff.  The kind of freaking out that only results in him feeling just as emotional as I am. I was not a good example of grown up behaviour.

It’s hard because I was raised in a pretty authoritarian household.  We listened to our parents or we got a spanking, simple as that.  And while I’m not doing the spanking thing, I have a hard time pulling back on something once I’ve asked him to do something.

Once I’ve asked, i feel i have to follow through or i’m giving in or letting him off the hook or all sorts of bad things that’ll ensure he’s a gang member by 13.  But the bottom line is that when he’s in that Mood there’s no point.  He’s not in a place where he’s going to learn or cooperate or get any value from my Important Lessons.  It’s best to recognize it, get him going on the next thing and let go of the rest.

Man, it takes a lot of discernment to make it through that process.

And i had zero discernment because i was Mad.  I’ve learned from situations like that that if i’m angry i need to deal with that first.  Before doing One Other Thing.  It’s not the situation’s fault, it’s my anger at my kid that’s going to make me do something regretful.

I look back on it and think, why couldn’t i tell him i was disappointed that he undid our good work and leave it at that?  And why couldn’t i either ignore the blocks or pick them up myself?  I could have chosen to be all yogic and dripping with peacefulness regardless of what my son did.  And really, isn’t that the essence of being peaceful?  Like that Gandhi quote that you see at the bottom of people’s emails, “be the peace that you want to see in the world”.

Since that time I’ve set my intention to try to stay aware enough, when things get challenging with my son, to notice when I get triggered.  Then I can deal with my own Mad first, and my son *only when i’m thinking clearly*.

Taking the long view really helps.  When my son is heading off to college will i say, “dammit at least i taught him to put the blocks away when i told him to.”  While cleaning up after oneself is important –  putting the blocks away, that one day, that one time?  Probably not important.

I was listening to an On Being podcast this a.m..  It’s one from Mother’s Day where Krista Tippett talks to Sylvia Boorstein about nurturing.  She asks Sylvia about being a mother and Sylvia says that her kids are grown up, most of them are in their 50s and she says “they’re all good people. They’re nice people”.

That really struck me.  There is probably a million things that I want for my kids.  Sometimes I stress about it and worry about – even though I’m not naturally a worrier, motherhood seems to drive me to it.  What Sylvia said basically boils down my hopes for them.  I hope they turn out to be nice people.  Everything else is gravy.

I used to be a vegetarian and it was mainly an excuse to eat all the pasta and bread i could possibly consume.  This is not a good way for me to eat.  Even though that’s what i love to eat, my blood sugar rises and crashes, i get wicked cravings, i never feel satisfied and it makes my ass look like a tortellini.

I’ve discovered that I’m happier eating low glycemic foods like whole grains and making sure I get some protein in every meal.   When i was a veggie I ate tofu regularly but I realized I’d gotten out of the habit.  I don’t want to be a big-time meal eater.  I love the idea of meatless mondays and that other one about not eating meat until 6 pm.

The challenge is that the kids are huge meat eaters.  They have not met a domesticated mammalian food source that they didn’t like.  But you gotta try right?

So at the grocery store i got a couple of packs of tofu (the stuff lasts so long!) and hoped that I could figure out a way to make it so the kids wouldn’t turn up their noses at it.

I cut it into chunks and threw it in a plastic container with a huge dump of teriyaki sauce, some squished garlic, some soy sauce and a bit of mirin sauce to add sweetness.

I shook the container once in a while to make sure the chunks were all coated.  Then at dinnertime i tossed them in a hot frying pan with sesame oil and got them toasty on two sides.  I took them out of the pan and then sauted veggies and did a stir fry thing with peanut sauce (the kids looooove peanut sauce) and noodles.

Honeybunny said excitedly – “look kids!  Mom made Delicious Flavour Chunks!”  Just in case “tofu” sounded weird.  The kids got really excited.

And no, i don’t feel bad about “positively positioning” things with my children in the hopes that they’ll do what i want.  There’s plenty of other times they don’t do a thing i want, i feel like we’re merely trying to address the balance.

It worked, the kids loved the Delicious Flavour Chunks.

In fact, the next day we asked Angus what he wanted for lunch and he said, “can i have some more Delicious Flavour Chunks?  I want all the chunks you can fit on my plate!”

Lucky i had that second package.  But don’t get too excited that I have a veggie in training.  He may hate them next time he sees them.  And thanks to the Parental Zen skills I’ve learned, I’m OK with that.

 

 

I got after someone yesterday for not keeping her mouth shut.  I don’t make a habit of telling people what to do, and I know, I was opening my pie hole to tell her to shut hers, the irony is not lost on me.

But it was kind of a hot button topic.  She’s a brand new grandmother and I asked how things were going with Grandbaby.  She said she went for a visit the other day.  The new parents are also dog parents of what is usually described as a Shitty Little Dog.  I’ve never met the pooch but I guess she’s yappy and wild and untrained and generally runs up and down the walls and that’s when she’s being good. 

Grandma said that the dog was far too close to the baby and they didn’t stop her and this just wasn’t ok.  So she called them the next day and told them so.

And I said, um, no you can’t do that.  They’re the parents, you just can’t go there.  She said, “I know!  I know!” but she couldn’t resist.

And like I say, it’s an issue close to my heart because I have the world’s best relationship with both my Mom and my Mom-in-Law and it’s mostly owing to the fact that they’re fun and positive and easy to have around.  They love my kids and manage to overlook every lousy parenting thing I do.  Or at least don’t tell me when they’ve noticed.

I remember one visit, my Mom and Dad came for a couple of weeks when my oldest son, Big, was 2 years old or so. 

I still felt completely out of my league with the parenting thing.  I don’t feel that way as much anymore.  Mostly because he’s six and I figure if I’ve kept him alive this long I can’t suck too badly at parenting.  I’ve got  track record. 

My friend tells me I’m in the “ok” zone of parents because I bake decent cookies.  She loves my Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip ones the best.  She figures what else could a parent need to achieve if you’ve got your cookie bakist badge?  I can think of a few things but that’s nice of her to say.

I realize now that part of my discomfort was about feeling uncomfortable.  I’m used to being better at things.  And there are the times parenting when it’s just chaotic and nuts and noisey as hell and out of control and I don’t do so well with that. 

I’ve learned now that you have to trust it’ll change as fast as you can say, “my kid is bananas B- A-N-A-N-A-S!  Before you know it your kid’s asleep and you’re on your butt enjoying a glass of wine saying, ‘wow glad that’s over’.  It changes so fast and so radically it makes you enjoy the sweet times and the boring times and sometimes even the drudgerous times so much more.

Anyways, back to the visit.  My Mom was a great help.  She’d play with Big and help with stuff around the house.  Her and Dad babysat so we could get out for dinner.  They were fun to have around and we laughed a lot.  And there was one time where she said, “you guys are *such* great little parents”. 

It came as such a shock, and a welcome one.  Because I thought there’s no way that’s true, but if there’s even a grain of truth in it,  a speck, a molecule – then that is the best possible thing I could hear. 

So I guess that’s what wanted to pass along to New Grandma.  Ignore the Shitty Little Dog.  Don’t let yourself be seen as a Hater by tired hormonal new parents – at least if you want to be invited back.  Allow yourself to be out of the control of the situation.  You probably learned that being a parent.   I guess that’s why parenting is good training for grandparenting.

My baby boy drove me bananas yesterday morning.  Leo’s only one and a half but seems to be going on two or three or whatever age starts with “Terrible”.  He didn’t want to put his pants on, or his bib or his boots or get his dirty bum changed.  He was just in Screw You Mom!  mode all morning. 

And for some of the time I was cool.  I put his bowl of cheerios and milk on the table out of his reach and told him “no bib no eat”.  Yes, we talk like Cavemen in this house. After 4 or 5 times of coming and checking back, hunger finally got the best of him and he aquiesced.  He put on bib, dug into cheerios.

When it came time to get him ready to go to the babysitters I’d run out of patience.  There was the point where I was walking him to the car, yelling over my shoulder to HoneyBunny standing in the door, “I can’t get a job soon enough so someone else can fight with my kid every weekday!”

Yup, that’d be one of my finer moments in parenting.  But hey, in my defense I believe that half the battle of parenting is knowing when you need a break and I was so there.  If you go beyond break time, it goes seriously down hill.

Driving to the babysitters I tried to let go of my anger and frustration and find some equalibrium again.  I did some deep breathing.  I worked on getting some distance from it and letting the emotion go.   After drop-off I felt much better. 

I find that’s Challenge #1.  As much as I try not to get rattled in the moment, Life Happens.  Especially kids.  And before you know it your buttons are pushed.  So Challenge #2 is to let go of it as soon as possible so you can get on with your day without letting a little dark storm cloud over your head define your day.

I’ve also discovered there’s a Challenge #3 to this.  Can I go back later to whatever rattled me and find a way to feel positively about the person?  Can I reframe the experience so it’s not just left in my memory as THE HORRIBLE SUCKY THING THAT HAPPENED TO ME.  Because no one needs that lodged in their head.

And I believe that snarky is ok here.  I tried out a few things like – wow, Leo is such an independent little spirit, he’s going to rule the world ( if he doesn’t ruin me first).  Or, wow that kid sure knows what he wants, no one’s going to push him around (except hopefully me at bathtime).  And so on.

Extra points for making yourself laugh.  Or even smile.

This is probably easier with a child who is the fruit of your loins then say, the boss who drives you bananas but I think it’s still worth trying.  For example, wow my boss sure knows how to make a decision, he really sticks by his guns (even when it’s clearly the wrong move). 

See? Don’t you feel better already?  You’re creating some distance and feeling more in control of how you think about the situation.

Because as nasty as Challenge #3 is to do, finding the positive in this thing that completely rattled you is important.  The fact is that person will rattle you again.  Unless they’re disappearing to Vegas and changing their name to Poker Shark Pete – they will likely push your buttons again some day.  They’re your own personal set of buttons.  They live to be pushed. 

But maybe next time the positive you came up with will help you put off being rattled a little longer.  You can say, why there’s my boss being a strong decision maker again!  He’s awesome! Is my evil plan becoming more clear? 

So to recap:

  1. Try to keep your cool in the moment.  Breath and count to 10 before telling idiots what you really think.  It’s not really effective with bosses and toddlers anyways.
  2. When that completely fails, try to let go of your bad feelings about the whole thing as soon as you can.  Don’t replay it in your head a million times so you can feel Right and Justified all over again.  Let it goooooooo.
  3. When you’re calm again, try to go back and reframe the situation in some way that will allow you to see something positive, and feel even more objective about it. At the very least, use something like, wow that person can sure rattle me! 

I hope this has helped someone other than me.  You can feel jealous, I have the advantage of another 18 years or so of practicing these steps.  Either that or hoping my son disappears to Vegas before high school.  I should tell him about a royal flush just to keep my options open.

I heard a great story the other day.  A friend of a friend had always wanted kids.  When she dated it was always about finding a mate and a good Dad for her kids because a family was numero uno on her bucket list.

So she finally finds the right dude.  And they try to have a family and it doesn’t work.  So she goes through long difficult fertility treatments – no pregnancy.

Finally they adopt a little girl and now she’s three.  Her husband is 52 and has been diagnosed with MS.  It’s starting to afffect his mobility.

Last week my friend’s friend discovered she’s pregnant at 50.  She wasn’t using any fertility aids and she wasn’t using an birth control because she didn’t think she could get pregnant.  It just happened.  At 50.

Wow.  Oops Babies are a trip.  I know all about it.  I cried when I discovered I was pregnant with mine.  But I’m thrilled with him now.  Leo is the happiest kid to have ever graced my life.  I love him like crazy.  When he says good-bye to me and gives me that earnest look and opens and closes his chubby little hand I just want to grab him and eat him for lunch.  They grow on you like a bad fungus and then you can’t imagine life without them.

But the pregnancy part can be terrifying.  Even if you’ve planned it you have your moments of, “uh-oh what *exactly* have i done”.  Cause you don’t know.  And you haven’t met the kid.  And if you think you have babies all figured out and you’ll be in complete control, you’re *really* snowing yourself and your “uh-oh” moment will hit you later like a ton of bricks. 

But when it’s not planned?  Yikes.   So I felt for this woman who will likely be going through menopause when she’s teaching her child how to ride a bike.

I asked my friend how her friend is doing with the idea of an Oops Baby.  I understand she’s saying ‘bring it on’.  They’re over the moon.  Good for them.

Angus, who’s six, turned to me and said this:

Angus:  Mom, the teacher brought a rainbow fish into class

Me: Wow a fish, what was it like?

Angus: It was gooey and it looked like this (he makes his eyes wide and his mouth into a little “o”)

Me: You look just like a fish – where did it come from?

Angus: The ocean Mom.  All fish come from the ocean, you should know that.

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