Loading clothes into the white washing machine

I’ve received a lot of parenting advice over the years. Some bits, solicited. Others not. Some have been helpful. Others not. Some have “worked”. Some have not. Some in fact, have backfired. There have been certain tidbits that I have downright ignored. Some that I maybe even took for granted.

Just recently, one of those items came back to bite me.

It had been a long, painfully boring, yet somehow stressful weekend. Alone, for yet another stretch of days as my law enforcement husband was off at work. For a long period these times had fallen on weekends, which was starting to take its toll, to say the very least. After 40 hour work weeks and mounds of stress, the prospect of long weekends being the sole parent to two boys under the age of 4 was less than exciting.

On this particular day, my nerves were fried, my patience was gone and my emotions were running high. I knew it would take just the smallest thing to completely break me. So when our “smart” washer decided to flash up an error message (which never make any sense to me) and then proceeded to shut me out of actually doing anything about said message, like just shutting it off and re-powering (isn’t that the solution to everything?)… I lost it.

What followed was a loud, rage-filled, embarrassing display that included me banging my fists against the washer door, screaming, “Come on you stupid thing. Work! I hate you!”, kicking it repeatedly and then subsequently crying. Yes, I cried. Over a washer. 

What I wasn’t aware of was that my precious little then-3-year-old was watching from just a few feet away. He didn’t seem to react and instead just innocently asked, “What’s wrong mama?” I recoiled at scene that had just played out, and the fact that my child had just witnessed my outburst.

I tried to whisk the thought away and worked to distract him, likely by an episode of Paw Patrol or encouraging him to play with his little brother. But I was embarrassed beyond belief.

Weeks passed and I thought nothing of it, until I caught sight of my 3-year-old playing with his lunch box one day. He opened it, placed a few items inside and closed it. What followed was a loud, rage-filled outburst that included banging his fist against the box, throwing it on the floor and screaming, “Come on you stupid thing. Work!”

(Insert extremely wide-eyed embarrassed emoji here, right?)

I was horrified. In that moment, those sage words passed down by parents before me flashed through my mind. “Be careful of what you say. Children are always listening. They will repeat everything you say. They are little sponges. And they have an affinity for ‘the bad stuff’. Oh…. my…. gosh.

I couldn’t believe it. My children WERE listening. They WERE watching. They were starting to REPEAT. And it wasn’t good at all.

#ParentingFAIL

I felt like a terrible mom. I felt like a terrible person. I felt like a terrible everything. I couldn’t believe that was even a representation of me. And yes, these moments happen. It happens to everyone (please tell me it happens to everyone?). But it made me weigh out the way my children see me, and I truly believe that 80% of what they see is really and truly good, kind and respectful. But even 20% bad is not good enough and I must work on my words. I must work on my actions. I must be the best kind of water that these little sponges soak up.

As cheesy as it sounds, they are the next generation. You’d have to be living under a rock to not think that our society needs some pretty serious work right now. I hope I can contribute to making it better. To making them better. I have to.

Because, they’re listening.

 

Menschen mit Kinderwagen und Hunden

“It takes a village to raise a child”
-African proverb

We’ve all heard the quote and probably uttered at some time when seeing a throng of friends and family surround and support their band of children. I’m not sure I really understood the quote until I had my own kids, and promptly realized… I am village-less.

As a working woman and an older mom I never quite got the time (or the rhythm) of making “mom friends”. I was disconnected from that world until I entered it and by then, it was probably too late. I tried, but always fell short and sort of decided I was better off on my own. I’m not sure I still stand by that decision, but… why is making adult friends so dang difficult?! That’s like a whole other blog post right there. 

I was born into a small family and married into a small family. We are spread across the state and now, even across the country. The grandparents are still working for the most part, save for my father who is ill and not capable of care. A few short weeks after I had B, the hubbs went back into law enforcement and so commenced the long shifts, opposite schedules and physical and mental exhaustion. So it has been left to me. To mother, to parent, to raise, rebuke, correct, educate, cook, clean and every other task that composes life. And it is hard. Immeasurably hard and lonely.

I don’t have a sister to drop off the kids with so I can get a quick hair cut. Grandma isn’t around the corner to snuggle the boys while I get some room to breathe. There are no play dates, park outings or coffee dates with girl friends. There are long hours of work which are immediately proceeded by chaotic daycare pick ups, a wrecked home, empty fridge, endless To Do lists, frenzied bedtime routines, collapsing in exhaustion and starting all over again at 5:45 the next morning. The hubbs fades in and out like a ghost who can sometimes lend a helping hand, but more often then not, is headed to bed or out to work himself.

Weekends are not filled with rich family time, but instead attempting to re-set my wrecked home, about 100 loads of laundry and dirty dishes and entertaining the little monsters long enough to squeeze in an overdue shower. There is no free time. No hobbies. No interests. No me time, or “self care” as it is now being called. Oh, how I desire some self care time!

Though this is not meant to be a long, feel-oh-so-sorry-for-me post and I am sorry if it’s coming off that way, it is my commentary on this village concept we are so quick to throw around but so short sighted to accomplish. Motherhood is part of that American Dream thing that everyone talks about. It was that thing that I longed for and that our society told me I needed in order to really accomplish anything in this life. But was it meant to be alone? Was it meant to be so lonely.

I read an article fairly recently that summarized what I feel on a daily basis, “Having It All Kinda Sucks.” Though my day to day experience is a bit different, the sentiment is very much the same. Except, I’m a lot less organized in my thoughts and I pretty much think this having it all stuff is complete BS. Yeah, I have a job, but we still have no money. I have a great husband, whom I rarely get to spend time with. I have two beautiful kids that I adore, but have lost my identity as I have tried to enrich theirs. I have a loving, wonderful family, but they are all managing their own crises’. I have a career, but don’t have the ability to dedicate myself to it because the greater responsibility of holding my family together. From the outside, I may look like I have it all. But having it all sure can seem empty at times.

I do think it takes a village to raise a child. It should take a village. I think that’s how God designed it to be. It’s just really hard to swallow that proverb when the actual model is not available to you.

I beg you, if you have the time, the availability and the compassion, lend a hand to a mother bird you see alone in her nest. She could really use a village. Be her village. And don’t ever take your village for granted.

2015 will be over in just a matter of hours. I only have one thing to say to that… GOODBYE AND GOOD RIDDANCE. Okay, so that may be a bit dramatic of me, but 2015 was just plain sucky for me. Though I’m not one to air my dirty laundry on any social network (including this blog), for me, 2015 included A LOT of yuck, including many months of postpartum depression and anxiety, major life changes, having to put our dear dog down and my dad being diagnosed with Alzheimer disease. That’s just snippet of the burdens I’ve carried this year. It was just ugly.

2015 was not kind to me and I wish I could say that I was better, stronger, and that I “chose joy” more often than not, but that would be a lie. And, if I am one thing, I am no liar. To be utterly raw and real and vulnerable, I really hated this year and struggled to find some lesson and truth in everything that God allowed to cross my path. I wanted to be healthy and happy. I wanted our lives to feel stable and safe. I wanted my sweet dog to live forever. And I certainly wanted my daddy to not have to endure a terrible and terminal disease. But that is not how life goes. I’ve accepted that and I’ve struggled to not allow these circumstances to define me, but rather to draw me closer to God. More than anything, I have struggled not to give up hope, and to keep dreaming and planning for my future and the future of my family.

For that reason I continue to plan my annual goals (I don’t call them resolutions, because I approach these things differently than a blitz of effort followed by a crash and burn). For the sake of accountability and just to breathe these goals to life, I thought I would share them. 2016 Goals

  1. Commit to weekly time spent practicing my photography and other creative pursuits. This was the first thing to go when life got really busy with two kids and work and everything else that fuels each day. I miss it and I find I am much better mentally when I get a creative escape.
  2. I am still sort of embarrassed by this fact, but we’ve never taken a family vacation. We’ve taken trips and my husband and I have escaped together, but not without first dropping the kids off at a grandparent’s house. This year, I really want us to go somewhere together, and I really want my kids to see the ocean for the first time.
  3. Read more. That one is that simple. I love to read. I don’t make time for it. I want to this year.
  4. Take charge of my health, both physical and mental. I feel like motherhood has wrecked me in more ways than one, but I’m really starting to feel it in my body this last year. I have no energy or motivation… and I have very active boys, so that is not going to cut it long-term.
  5. Simplify. I am probably the most excited about this one. Our house has been a holy wreck since the boys arrived and I have just about had it. It’s not just that it’s messy, it’s that there is no peace. There is no peace because of the clutter and excess of “stuff”. I am so over “stuff”. This year will be all about simplifying EVERYTHING.
  6. Friendship. I have said it before, but I don’t have a whole lot of friends, and that is mostly by choice. But the ones that I do have are the cream of the crop. The best of the best. I really mean that. I fear that because of the chaos of my life in recent years that I have not been the best friend to them. This year, I want to be a real friend.
  7. Write more. Same as #3. Love it. Don’t get to do it. Want to do it more.
  8. This is a tough one, but this year, I really want to focus on my marriage. Again, without airing dirty laundry and disrespecting my husband online, our marriage has taken a real hit this year. It’s not surprising when you factor in depression, anxiety, new jobs, illness, two children under 3.5 years, etc. But I’m ashamed at the lack of effort I’ve put forth in fighting for a better relationship with my husband. I am going to work hard this year to restore and build it up.
  9. The difficulties of this year did do one awesome thing this year and that was to bring me much closer to the Lord and to really strengthen my prayer life. This year though, I need to focus on words of truth. I want to really commit to spending time with my bible. Not just reading, but really studying. Really living it. Breathing it. Believing it.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year and pray that 2016 brings blessings, new and awesome opportunities and growth. I would love to hear some of your goals for 2016 as well. All my best, friends.