Thursday, 30 April 2015

Fighting Off Super Mom

     I've been doing this parenting thing for 20 years now.  When I say "parenting", I don't mean being a parent, I mean bringing children into adulthood.  I know that parenting does not end in your child's adulthood.  My first baby was born 20 years ago, and my last will be a "child" in our house for another 14 more years.  This is a total of 34 years in the parenting game.  If this was a paid job, then I would receive a watch or something, but I'm pretty sure I will receive grey hair with bald patches of hair that after having been pulled out, may not grow in again.
    We began this parenting adventure as young people, we were 24.  We had Elly when we were 38.  That is a pretty wide space.  When I first began the adventure I was naive.  I was young, and insecure.  I felt like my child had to be perfect.  He had to be the smartest, the best behaved, the best dressed.  Everything that he was reflected who I was.  I took my self worth, self esteem from him.  I realize now that is a pretty big thing to put upon an infant.  Poor Gabe was my guinea pig.  I needed to show everyone what an amazing mother I was.
     I would like to say that I was able to see the error of my ways early on, but sadly, no.  It is only recently that I have come to see my folly.  We are separate, my children and I.  My self worth, my self esteem has everything to do with me.  I want to be the best mother to them because I adore them, and they deserve the best that I can give them.  I am proud of the people that my children are, and yes much of who they are is reflected on the parents that we are, but much of it comes from the individuals that they are.
     So what has any of this to do with "Fighting Off Super Mom"?  The simple answer is EVERYTHING!  Being a super mom was all part of the feelings of inadequacy, you know fake it 'til you make it.  To be a good mother I had to do it all.  My self worth came from being an amazing mother.  Don't get me wrong, I still want to be an amazing mother, but because my kids deserve it, and I deserve to live a life without regrets.  My self worth no longer comes from the outside, but from the inside.  Why does self acceptance take so long?  I wish that I could travel back in time and tell that younger me to take a chill pill.  
    Back when Gabe was still young, and Gracie was just a baby, I was heavily involved in the school.  I was the one who volunteered for every class trip.  I volunteered in the classroom.  My friend Lisa Carter and I organized the fun fairs.  We gave time away from our families to raise money for new playground equipment for the school, I'm taking hundreds of hours.  We were Super Moms.  I said no to nothing.  Somehow by being "Super Mom", I felt that everyone would think that I was such an amazing mother.  Some of them may have, some of them may have thought I was a bit pathetic.  Now it kind of doesn't really matter.  The only people who I need to impress with my awesome Mothering skills are my children.

    So what this long and blabby story is really about is my new sense of identity.  I no longer "need" to be liked.  Don't get me wrong I still "want" everyone to like me and think I'm great, but I would like to think that I am not so pathetic about it.  Now I have learned the word NO.  I now volunteer for things that I want to do, because they will be enjoyable, as opposed to volunteering so that people will think I'm so great.  I'm pretty sure they didn't really think that I was so great, but rather such an easy mark.
    This year our school is having a Fun Fair.  The kids LOVE the Fun Fair.  I have never actually seen my children enjoy the Fun Fair.  I have planned, organized and worked the Fun Fair for 13 years now.  This year I decided to allow other parents the opportunity.  I let them take control.  I wanted to help, but instead offered to be a sounding block for things they may need help with.  I offered to put together a window display and wrap the Silent Auction baskets, because I like to creative projects.  This will be the first Fun Fair that I will enjoy with my children, I'm kind of looking forward to this new freedom!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Hell Did Not Freeze Over, But We Got a Trampoline Anyway

    I've said this many times, but I will say it again... I'm a bubble wrap parent.  If I could prevent my children from ever feeling pain I would.  I was most firm in feelings about trampolines, still am.  The Canadian and American Pediatric Societies have both strongly discouraged the purchase of home trampolines because of all the injuries they cause.  It seemed like every other family in the world had one, and we were the only jerks (ok specifically me) who said no.

    I kind of had visions of the Simpson's trampoline episode.....

    For many, many years now I have denied my children the joy of jumping and breaking bones... I know I suck.  Here's the thing that I know that you may not, it only takes a second for your entire world to crumble.  I never in a million years thought that I who gave birth to strong, healthy children could have one healthy, robust child die.  It happened on such an ordinary day.  I know that life is unexpected, and I feel as if it's my job to protect them... and to protect me from heartache.  

    You may wonder why when I have denied my children what they feel is a basic human right to a trampoline, do you see happy little faces bouncing on said toy?  The reason is simply I gave it some thought.  

    As a child my sister and I would climb to the top of our barn and jump into the straw below.  There could have been any number of horrid things in that straw, and yet we survived.  I honestly cringe thinking about the things that my sister and I did.  We grew up in the 70's.  It was a time when children explored, and were allowed to explore.  We built forts with nails and old bits of wood.  "When" not "if" we stood on a nail or smashed our fingers with a hammer we went for our tetanus shot, just that simple.  We walked off injuries.  I shudder honestly to think of the things that we did (crawling through culverts, ect, ect).  If it seemed like a good idea, we did it.  We never checked with our parents to see if we could, we just did.... I have a few scars to prove it, but I survived.  I survived, and that ability to explore helped to make me who I am.  I learned through trial and error.  Now I am not for even half a second suggesting that I would ever in a million, trillion years allow my children to jump off the roof of a barn into sketchy straw.... but I need to let them explore.

    Right now I am working on letting them have some freedom.  It sounds funny to say it, but honestly it is really tough.  I have to quiet that voice in the back of my head that screams "Life is fragile, hold your babies tight".  We lost our Gabe, it was a car accident.  There was black ice, there was a deer, there were other people driving just too fast... it was an accident.  I was taking my two children to see a movie, that is not a risky activity.  Bad things happen to good people.  It's up to the good people to decide how they will deal with it.

    For a long time I held my babies in close, suffocatingly close.  The pain of loosing my child was so real, so new, so raw.  I was afraid to let them out of my sight.  Over the years I have allowed my iron grip to loosen a little bit each year.  No matter how hard I want it, no matter how hard I try,  I do not have the control over life and death.  I cannot prevent my children being hurt, I can lesson the odds, but in the end it is outside of my control.  What is in my control is to allow them the freedom to make choices and maybe get hurt.  If they are hurt it's my job to hold them, and make them feel my love, and encourage them to make more choices, some of which might imply getting hurt.

Rowan opted to wear Pj's all day

    So here I sit, the owner of a trampoline, against my better judgement.  They might get hurt, oh who am I kidding they are my kids, they will get hurt.  Sometimes life is filled with bumps and bruises, that's just part of it.  I need to let them get hurt.  I can control some of it.  We have a one at a time rule.  We bought a trampoline that came with a safety enclosure.  We have a rule that there has to be someone out watching.  It's the best that I can do.  I need to let them take risks, safe risks.  I need to let them get hurt, have scars (and cool or goofy stories to go along with those scars).  Life is about taking risks and reaping the rewards or learning from it.
    In the end, bad things happen to good people.  We do not know what lies around the corner for ourselves or for those we love, this I know.  What I do know is that we should live in the now, squeeze every single bit of joy out of it and store it for a time when we need it.  Bask in the good, and realize that the bad just shows us how good the good is, because without the bad, we cannot appreciate the good.  Taking risks and learning from them is an important part of life.
    The trampoline has brought a lot of joy so far.  I love the looks on their faces, that unimpeded, absolute joy. It's great exercise and it keeps the kids away from the electronics and in the fresh air.  They might get hurt, but then they might get hurt doing anything, life is uncertain.  I need to remember that and let them have their childhood.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Letter to Stupid Soccer Parents

    We are headed into soccer season.  This means that my husband will become obsessed and talk only of soccer until the end of June.  It also means that I will have to bite my tongue to prevent myself from flipping out on the other children's parents.  There are so many things that I would like these idiots to know.... but alas unless they are avid readers of this my little blog these words will remain unsaid (unless they get me really angry, or I finally bite through my tongue).  So here is what I would tell them if I did not dislike conflict so much....

Dear Stupid Parents;

    I am writing this letter to you because my husband is too nice to tell you what I am about to share with you.  My husband is a good man.  He is a kind man with a big heart.  Every year for the last 14 years (that's right 14 consecutive years) he has coached your children or someone else's children.  It is not uncommon to hear "HI COACH" on our travels, from kids as old as 20.   He has done this coaching out of the goodness of his heart, there is no financial retribution, and honestly most years there is no gratitude from the majority of the parents.  He has never received any acolytes,  as a matter of fact I'm not even sure that the soccer association has any idea he has put in this many years because none of them has been with the association that long.  He has never received any kind of recognition from the soccer association, because he quietly goes about changing and inspiring children.  He is giving up time off, of which he often has very little.  He is a funeral Director by trade and works for a small family company.  He is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Death knows no schedule and so when someone passes away, he is one of the first responders.  His time is very valuable to us his family, and yet he donates it to you.
    Every year we pay a fee to the soccer association, just like the rest of you.  Did you know that your fee goes to pay insurance, equipment and referees?  Did you know that not one single penny of that goes to my husband, as I told you before he is a "volunteer".  So many of you seem to think that since you paid money you are entitled to be a jerk.  You feel entitled to award winning coaching, and feel that your child should be put on for every shift and should also be entitled to hog the ball every game (even though soccer is a team sport) because you paid $30.  So many of you feel that you would be so much better of a coach, and have something to say about my husband's coaching style, and yet every year it is him shouting for your children, cheering them on, and you might make one or two games.  I feel at this point I should remind you that this is "House League Soccer".  That means it is for fun and exercise.  If you want your child in a pre- olympics type of situation, may I make this suggestion to you ... take them else where.
   Did you know that my husband lies awake at night and worries about your child?  He thinks about every child's strengths and weaknesses.  He tries to find ways to help each child to be their very best, much as we do with own children.  He carries scars with him of what he considers to be his past failures.  The one he beats himself up for the most wasn't even him.  There was a quiet mild mannered father who came to all of his son's games.  When this little boy took the field, the mild mannered father disappeared like Jekylle to Hyde.  He would scream, berate, basically destroy this little boy's self worth. It was the last game,  and there was a shoot out.  Being a new coach, and thinking a coach's job was to win, Christopher put this little boy out there to take the penalty kick.  This little guy was an amazing player, and so to Christopher, he was the best choice.  He took his shot, all breath was held, and he missed.  It was at this point the father was bright red in the face, and the little guy crumbled.  He literally crumbled, he collapsed like he had been shot and became hysterical.  Christopher still tortures himself about it.  " I should never have put that boy in that position.  I knew what the father was like, I knew it was too much stress".  That incident was over 10 years ago, and he still carries it.
    I feel like I should wrap this letter up here.  To you parents who don't have time, or feel inclined to volunteer your own time to help the children of your community, but feel like you are privileged enough to be a negative influence, please stay home, or keep your mouth shut.  Your positive input is welcomed.  If you want to say thank you, hand my husband a coffee with cream, or offer to bring next weeks treats, your input is welcome.  There are parents who request to have Christopher as their child's coach, because they see the value in their children having fun and getting exercise.  These are the amazing parents who ask if they can bring treats, who offer to help when help is needed.  These are the parents who take the time to learn all the team member's names and cheer for them all.  These are the parents who make a point of going up to other people's children to tell them what a good job they did.  These are the parents who know what this soccer game is about.  It's about making your child's childhood positive, providing them opportunities.
    This is supposed to be a fun game, a time to get exercise, meet new people, learn team skills but most importantly it is about FUN.  If you scream at your child's coach, if you scream at the ref, most importantly if you scream negativity at your child, you are missing the point.  Not only are you missing the point, in my opinion your are damaging your child, so STOP.  Remember why you are there.  This is house league, it's supposed to be fun, how about you remember this.  If you want to be competitive, join your own sport.  This is about your child, not you living through them.

    Thank you for your time, I hope that as the new soccer season approaches you will keep in mind what I am saying.  Please remember that your child's coach is most likely a volunteer, and they should be treated the way you would like to be treated!


The Coach's Wife

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Spread of "Hate" words

    This morning I sat listening to my girls talk about swearing at school.  This may seem like bad parenting, but hey I never professed to be perfect (especially when you read further), there is a rule that I have at our house, the big kids are allowed to swear as long as I don't hear them, not in front of any little people, and no other adult hears them, and if they get in trouble for swearing at school they are on their own.  Lets face it ... swearing is a lot of fun, and does come in handy when you smash your toe.. it's so expressive.  Having said all of this I don't swear in front of my kids, well again I can't pretend to be perfect.  In cases of pain, the F-bomb has fallen from my mouth, but always under great duress.  
    This morning the two big girls were talking about classmates who swear a lot at school.  Gracie said that one girl in her class calls people the "N" word.  I was shocked to my core that anyone in this day and age would still say "THAT" word.  It is such an ugly word, why when the world is full of so many wonderful descriptive words would anyone choose to use that ugly word?  It was at this point that it felt like I was smashed in the back of the head by a horrid realization, words have more weight than I have ever given them credit for!
    Growing up I was never allowed to use the "N" word, even when all the other kids would use the "Eenie Meenie Minie Moe catch an "N" word by the toe", instead we used "tiger" by the toe.  We were not allowed to call anyone "a retard".  We were not allowed to call anyone "gay" or a "queer", or "homo".   I felt like I was being denied something magical that everyone else at school had.  It turns out my mother was right (please don't tell her that I said that).  I was being denied the right to the use of hate words.
     When I grew up and was out from under the oppressive "no hate words" ban of home,  I threw around "retard" and "queer", although the "N" word has always been off limits.  I'm going to be honest here, up until this morning I did.  I never used them as "hate" words, but rather descriptive words.  I would never ever call a mentally challenged person a "retard", nor would I ever call a homosexual person a "Gay".  I did not use them in a hateful context, but rather a descriptive context such as "that is such a retarded dvd player".  I felt like because I did not use them to spread hate, or put people down they were acceptable to use.  They were just words and could only be hurtful if that was the way they were intended.
    I personally know mothers who have mentally challenged children and they have long pushed to remove "retard" from our vocabulary.  There have been public service announcements about it.  I cannot imagine how difficult the role of a parent with a disabled child is, I would never pretend to even imagine.  I say this, but thought that their objections were hypersensitivity.  After all I told myself, I never say it in a hurtful or mean way.  I would never ever in a million years ever call a mentally challenged person "a retard",  I'm not a monster.
    This morning in my outrage that someone in this day and age would ever use the "N" word when they know that it represents hate, I was struck with my own hypocrisy.  I was judging this child and her parents for using a word that represents hatred, and yet I felt comfortable using almost equally hateful words.  It occurred to me that there is never ever an acceptable time to use the "N" word, so why would I tell myself that to use "retard" or "gay" was ever acceptable, even if not meant in a cruel way.  Those too are hate words.  They are used to put people down and keep them down.   I sit here and feel ashamed that it has taken me this long to realize that.
   So there is my big moment, my smack to the back of the head by the universe.  I who pride myself in my kindness and generosity have been using words that would suggest I am anything but.  I have never used these words to put down the people they are intended for, but I have used them as descriptive words.  Words have power.  We... no I need to remember that words have power.  They have the power to make someone feel less than.  If I would never intentionally hurt anyone, why would I use words in my everyday language that would?  
    From this moment on I will remove "hate" words from my vocabulary.  I will remember the power of words, and even if a cruelty is not intended, by using those words I am a contributer.  Now that I have clarity, and knowledge (it only took me into my middle age to figure this one out) not only will I not allow myself to use them, I will not allow my children to use those words.  The world is full of so many beautiful and descriptive words, why would I choose words that are anything but?