This Parenting Life…

The greatest joy is watching them grow, and it happens in the blink of an eye.

Raising kids is a never-ending learning process. I have two teenagers and little one who is just about 8, going on just about 35. They are all girls, not sure if that makes things easier or harder, or just different. I consider myself a strict parent, but I do allow a good amount of freedom to my girls. I have rules, and they are expected to follow them, but I love when my children form their own opinions on topics and express them freely. Down with the old saying, “Children should be seen and not heard.” I believe that children are a gift for us to mould, but also to learn from as well. I have learned a great deal from my daughters, and I bet they have no idea.

My oldest daughter has taught me patience. Not because she is badly behaved, quite the opposite, she is a stickler for the rules. She is that child would tell on herself, knowing she would have consequences, simply because she knew she did something wrong and wanted to come clean. She needed to clear her own conscience, and she needed reassurance that it would be okay in the long run. She looked to me for that validation. She also knew that no matter what she did, I would always be more upset if she lied about it than if she had just told me the truth. So I do what any good parent should do, I listen, I enforce consequences, and offer time off for good behavior. Wait, that sounds more like a prison guard.

My second daughter, my middle child, is my gypsy in the wind. She was always so carefree and easy going, until middle school. At that point she became far more anxious and concerned about others’ opinion of her. She is not the tattle on herself kind of girl. She’s more the, “My older sister watches me and narcs on me if I do anything too stupid,” kind of girl. I watch her like a hawk, mostly because she is naive and thinks the world is full of good people. She doesn’t understand the world has some horrible, sadistic people in it and we are only trying to protect her from those people. Her anxiety probably couldn’t handle it at this point. She is sweet, caring, a little sassy, sensitive, and driven by emotions.

My third daughter is very much a mix of the first two. It is quite odd, really. If you took my first two daughters and smushed them into one person, you would get my last. She is smart, sassy, always on the side of right, but not going to narc on herself. She is an emotional being, and yet very logical and rational. In some ways she is the easiest because I have so much experience with each aspect of her personality from the previous two girls. She is cute and quirky, bright and affectionate. An all around awesome kid, just like her sisters.

My children have taught me how to love myself. Through loving them and wanting to be the best mom I could ever be, I learned the most important thing to teach them, self-love. I have to exemplify that which I want them to embody. If I want them to be strong, independent, self-loving women, I have to BE that for them, put my money where my mouth is. In order to be good parents, we have to be good to ourselves first and foremost. We have to exemplify to our kids how valuable human life is, especially our own. If we want them to grow up and be happy, successful, contributing members of society, we have to be that in our own life.

I have learned more being a parent than I could in any school, conference, or type of training. I have learned about myself, my children, and people in general. Parenting is not easy, but it is fulfilling, rewarding, and the most important job ever. It is our duty to our children and ourselves to be good to ourselves, work towards attaining our goals, pursue our dreams, and maintain our boundaries with others. Make YOU your own top priority.

Spring Not Much Break

This week is Spring Break for the kids, aka littles, aka minions. While I would love nothing more than to whisk us all away for a great vacation full of fun activities, lounging beachfront, and all the food we could stuff into our faces, it just is not happening this year. I do want to give them a fun week though.

So far we have planned some museum visits, some park time, and maybe a hike or two. My oldest has to work towards the end of the week, and technically, I am working all week. The delicate balance of motherhood always feels like a tightrope act with no safety net. I am sure some of their friends will return with talks of trips all over the place, and I just hope that my three enjoy what we can do this year.

Parents often get caught up in trying to provide their kids with the biggest and the best, and not just in vacations, but in everything. I really do find the old adage to be true, kids want us, their parents. Our children want our time, our attention. Our children want to know we are present, and the location is a bit less important. While it would be fun to be able to take them on some awesome vacay, and spoil them rotten … in the grand scheme of life, our time together is more impactful on their lives.

Spending time with kids at the park, hiking, or finding the hidden gems in your area are great ways to take advantage of your staycation and still have fun. Reader’s Digest put together this awesome bucket list for all 50 states. Find your state and explore what it has to offer. Feel free to add to the list in the comments. It’s always fun to share new family friendly ideas which everyone can enjoy.

Coffee Talks…And Talks…And Talks..

Coffee mug mockupEvery day this week I have cried. I have lost a good number of my VA clients due to them leaving the main company I contract for, my oldest child likely has Lupus, and now my mother is not speaking to me. Just a few items on the laundry list of reason why I have shed umpteen million tears this week. What are the sayings,

“God never gives you more than you can handle.”

And the ever popular…

“That which doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.”

Let me just say this, I will be bench pressing a couple Buicks later, and I WILL be charging to watch. Hey! I must earn that lost income back, somehow right? During therapy today, I dumped all this crap in my therapist’s lap, and then sat back waiting for the pearls of wisdom to ooze from his well-trained psyche. He yawned. No, I am not kidding…he yawned. Apparently, I was boring him to sleep. After he recovered from his near-nap tiredness he gave me some half-assed recommendations for increasing my work, but nothing overly tangible or actionable. More like, hey, you might be able to increase your business by more self-promotion.

I left feeling both better and worse. I felt better because I had a huge brain dump and getting all that out just felt better. I felt worse because I have no solutions for anything. Don’t get me wrong, I never expect him to solve my problems, but he is usually efficient at helping me help myself. I feel like I was left blowing in the wind out here. I told him the problem with my self-promotion is that my self-loathing always gets in the way…. he laughed. He thought I was joking, but I was not. Ultimately, he said he could help me with that, but again, no actionable items were offered. I know you are probably thinking at this point I need a new therapist…hmm. I do need to work on self-promotion, and possibly through doing so, I will stop a bit of the self-loathing thoughts that spin on the hamster wheel inside my brain.

As far as my kid’s health, really, only time, and more doctor’s appointments will tell. It is VERY likely that she has Lupus. I should probably treat her as though she does, do the diet changes, and whatnot. Hopefully in a month when we go to the rheumatologist they miraculously tell us she does not! At least this way if she they confirm she has it, we will already be adjusted to the dietary changes necessary and be working towards controlling flare-ups. I am still trying to wrap my mind around the idea that she has it. I just need to come to grips and keep it moving.

My mother has not spoken to me since Friday, and I have no idea why. She was very aloof when I texted her on Mother’s Day and did not answer when I called her. I told my therapist I have too many issues going on right now to deal with this passive aggressive bullshit. I am taking a mental vacation from her, until she gets over whatever it is she is upset about or decides to call and just talk about it. She knows everything I have going on now, and if the silent treatment is what she feels is appropriate, then silence she will get in return. I have no patience or time for cutting off communication. I tell my kids, my friends, family, significant other, I NEED words.

Wednesday afternoon, and I have two more days just to this work week alone. I am exhausted, mentally and physically. I need a drink…. of coffee. Do people without PTSD suffer from the amount of mental discord I do? I often wonder this. If I did not have PTSD, would I react the same way? Could I have been one of those people who is happy-go-lucky and just lets things roll off their back like water off a duck? I cannot even fathom what that would be like in my life. I have trauma after trauma, and I cannot even fathom just letting it go. I would love to, don’t get me wrong, but this is my norm.

Did I mention my 6-year-old brought home a picture that has me worried about her mental stability? Yeah, well, she did. She is scheduled to see her therapist tomorrow. Her teacher gave the students a page that said,

“What CREEPS me out is…”

The sheet had a place for them to write sentences and a place for them to draw a picture of whatever creeps them out. Now, at 6 I would think about things like spiders, snakes, clowns, Barney the dinosaur. My child, she said death. Yes, DEATH! My brain took a while to digest this, as I swing between a few emotions. On the one hand, I was thinking how mature she is, because that would be an adult answer. But then, I kept wondering how much fear she has inside that she even THINKS about death, like AT ALL. I decided to ask her about the picture. Boy was THAT a mistake. She became very upset and tried to throw the picture in the trash. It was as if she thought this would make it go away and I would totally forget about it.

I think if we had not endured the verbal, emotional, and mental abuse we had during the first 6 years of her life, I would be more surprised at this paper. But, because I know what she has been through, because most of it was aimed at me by her father, I honestly think this is somewhat “normal.” You know, a normal reaction to a totally fucked up situation. I will find out tomorrow because I am bringing that thing to her therapy session.

Up to Thursday now, and after dropping off my middle, and sending my oldest to school to at least complete her AP test, I start getting ready to take the youngest to her therapy appointment….but wait! A call from the high school, oh fanfuckingtastic. My oldest has passed out right before the test and I will need to come pick her up. Sigh….I was in the shower, literally, one leg in, one leg out, and now…my whole plan has been shot to hell. I hurry up and finish, getting myself and the youngest ready much faster than I had anticipated. I scoot over to the high school, pick her up, and head out to the counseling appointment for the youngest…which is 45 minutes away. On the way I call and make an appointment with our family doctor for the oldest, who has now passed out 4 times in 6 months. Thankfully, during the appointment we learn the reason for Death….apparently she has been watching too much Life….the show on Netflix all about nature and the cycle of life. Thank goodness, it is just a normal reaction to something. Oh yeah, and her therapist actually suggested I get her IQ measured, because she feels she is really advanced intellectually. Finally, something I actually enjoy hearing!

Appointment over, grab dog food on the way back home because I actually remembered we were out, and we get home just in time for our family doctor to call me and tell me to take the oldest to the emergency room for an evaluation. Ummm…excuse me?? I now grab the middle kid from school, run home to leave middle and youngest home while I take oldest to the ER…this was so NOT in my plan. Three hours later, we are discharged with instructions to follow-up with our family doctor…say what? UGH! So first thing tomorrow I get to call and make an appointment with our family doctor, again.

We are relaxing, FINALLY, and unwinding from our hectic, crazy day. My oldest leashes up her massive pup, and goes to take him outside. The moment she opens the door, insanity ensues. The shepherd from upstairs was coming down, and going past our door the very second my kid opened it to go out. The dog lunged at our dog, with my kid right there in the middle. She did the very best thing she could, she slammed the door shut, our dog inside, psycho dog outside. I jumped up and she was already crying and upset from what just happened. I went outside to see the dog and owner still walking away. I waited…stewing. When she returned we had a chat about what happened. She apologized and took ownership of her dog’s behavior, THANK GAWD. She said since she was pregnant about a year ago the dog has been protective, but only when on leash, and only against other dogs. We agreed to be mindful of when we each walk our dogs, and she apologized again. I wasn’t thrilled, but I don’t want to go to jail, so I’m certainly not gonna push the issue….

Every day things like this happen in my life, and I cannot determine if I am special, or if this is just life. It is all I know, but I feel like those around me, for the most part, do not have the amount of drama and trauma in their lives that I do. I feel like I know people that lead happy, peaceful lives in their middle-class suburbia, and not just on Facebook, but actually lead them in real life. I don’t know, my life need a filter… or ten. Can’t wait for next week….not.

What Nobody Tells You, But You Really Need To Know…

 

A newborn baby

Ever notice how becoming a parent not only opens you up to an entirely new universe, but also shows you how full of crap people are as well? Yeah, I know you know. When I was pregnant with my first child, all the moms I knew that breastfed made it sound like breastfeeding was such a natural, easy thing that just happens. Once I had my daughter, I quickly came to realize either I was already a horrible mom, or these women had mislead me to a degree. After 100 different positions, nipple shields, and cabbage in my bra, she and I got the hang of it. It was the beautiful experience they all said it would be, but it was a bitch getting there.

People also go on and on about the terrible two’s…but no one tells you to watch out for three-nagers. My girls were angels at 2 years old. I thought I had made it home free, until 3 came along. All this talk of, “no,” and my personal favorite, “why?” Everything was WHY WHY WHY. Because I said so, that’s why! OMG, I sounded like my parents, and then it all made sense. I spent a year, three times over, explaining with age appropriateness why we did everything we did, from pooping in the toilet to breathing air. WHY WHY WHY me?!?! Because I am a parent, that’s why. Nobody warned me about three….and I do wanna know why.

Things were smooth sailing for a while there, and I got cocky. I thought I had this parenting schtick down pat. It was then that it happened. It happened all oops upside my head too, my oldest became, a teenager. I am not sure when exactly it happened because she was 7, I blinked, and then she was a teenager. Makeup, boys, sports, and now…driving. Someone get me off this crazy ride. My oldest two are now BOTH teenagers, both girls. Yes, I have all girls, and yes, we are cyclically aligned with the moon and the stars. It is a wonder we each survive month to month. I must be doing something right.

Nobody warned me the issues that teens face these days. I mean, you see it out there online, but often it seems unrealistic and fake newsy. But I am here to tell you, online bullying, predators, and the whole kit and kaboodle are real, very real. We have to walk this tightrope of allowing independence and hovering with protective might. I swing back and forth between wanting to lock my teenage daughters in a closet, and wanting to send them to live with the traveling circus. My kids rarely get into trouble and for the most part, are fine, upstanding members of society. I just want to protect them from those who are not.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, I read all the books, made note of all the advice, and listened to everything my mother guilt tripped me about. I thought I was prepared. But just like war, nothing quite prepares you for parenthood. Although, I do think some more realistic examples could be provided. I see some of my friends and family on social media, and I think, “wait, Joan’s life is a hot mess, how does she look so together on Facebook?” Or I see an adorable picture of my friend’s kids, and I ask her how she got them to sit so nicely, only to find out that was 3 hours and 55 threats into the photoshoot, and she had just threatened them with losing all their electronics. Only to get a split second where the photographer was able to snap one single photo in which they did not look completely possessed.

I wish parents would share more of the true stories. I think we could all commiserate and sing Kumbaya together. It isn’t about failing, it’s about persisting. I was proud of my friend for hanging in there, and claiming her one picture worth of glory. But share the war story, so we can all know it is not JUST US, and we do not sit around questioning….WHY??

Just An IV Please….

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This could not be any truer today, and I have one phat ass. I have been up since 2:10am ET, which was 4 hours and 9 minutes ago. My dog woke me up because he had to go potty. We have this pup who is half Great Dane, and he has a really sensitive tummy. Apparently, the organic peanut butter I bought is too oily for his belly. He had some in his Kong last night, and VOILA, up at 2 am to poop. UGH. So I get him outside, relieved, clean it up, and back inside. He goes right back to sleep, lucky bastard. I am not quite so lucky.

I did eventually fall back asleep, sometime after 3:30am, only to be woken 12 minutes later by my 6 year old wanting to crawl in bed with me and snuggle. It was fine though, because I had fallen just deep enough into dreamland to be in the middle of a disturbing nightmare about my ex, thank you Complex-PTSD. My 6 year old waking me up was actually a relief, because I did not like where that dream was going. Especially since the dream started with my ex having a psychotic episode, and then trying to convince me he was going to get me back….I am still unsure how he meant that in the dream, get me back like retribution, or get me back like back together. Honestly, both are equally as horrifying.

So when my 6 year old woke me up that was it for me sleep wise. I did get some killer snuggles though, and she went right back to sleep. The rest of my time has been spent thinking (obsessing) about the things I need to get done today, and what excuses I can use to not do them. You know, put them off until it becomes an emergency type thing, then run around like a chaotic mess doing everything. Proclaim my day has been so productive because I got 15 things done, when in reality, I could have just done one of them every day for the last 2 weeks, and NOT made myself insane. But where is the fun in that I ask you….nowhere.

Of course, on a day like today, by noon my brain will be mush, and I will be lucky if I remember my name let alone get things accomplished. Oh yeah, and today is a random early release day, so my youngest gets out of school at 1pm. Hmm, what are the odds I will remember that without a reminder? And cue the dog crying to go out again…

Life is a many splendored thing, who said that anyway? I have no clue, but I want to be that person in the yoga memes you see, doing yoga at sunrise on the beach, with a kick-ass toned body, not a hair out of place, and a huge smile on their face. I bet they don’t have kids though. I mean I can’t even pee alone, let alone have all that without a child needing something, or arguing with another child, or some event that requires parental involvement. And now the dog wants to eat…he really is just another child.

Someone pass the coffee….

Teenagers….

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So getting right back into things, I need to vent about my 15 year old. What the actual hell is wrong with teenagers? Was I like this to my mother? UGH! My daughter forgot to take her meds this morning. She texted me about it, to which I asked if she wanted me to bring them to her after dropping off my youngest. She said, “Yes, por favor.” Yes, my very caucasian daughter speaks to me in Spanglish, she’s fun. Anywho, I dropped off the youngest and ran home to grab the meds.

The moment I walk in the door, my 15 year old’s dog starts howling from his crate because YAY! GRANDMA IS HOME….Grandma…yeah. I grab the meds, change my hoodie to another hoodie, because it was more presentable. I did not want to walk into the high school with a hoodie that is 5 sizes too large because my daughter would look at me like I had 5 heads. No worries though, because I threw on my coffee hoodie, grabbed the meds, and the howling moron dog, and ran out the door. I let the dog pee, and herd him into the car. He is 50 pounds, and only 4 months old. Yes, let that soak in. He is half Great Dane and half Lab. Four months old, 50 pounds. Yeah.

I arrive at the school and grab my driver’s license, the medications, keys and my phone. I get buzzed into the front door, and check-in at the office. They have to scan my license and give me a sticker to wear as a visitor’s pass. Next, I have to go over to the clinic and wait for my daughter. On my way the bell rang, and all of a sudden the previously empty hall was FILLED with GINORMOUS teenagers. What are people feeding their children these days?!?! I don’t think one of them was my height, or shorter. did my best to bob and weave through the masses, and duck into the clinic. The nurse lets me know my daughter is on her way.

Here she comes, my amazing kid. She is gorgeous, smart, funny, and athletic. She is everything I always wished I could be, and through all the shit she has endured through her life, she still keeps it all together. She is my hero in so many ways. I showed her the three bottles I brought. She tells me she only needs the one and she will take the others when she gets home. My hero then proceeds to brush me off, and run out the door barely even saying two words, and no, those words were not THANK YOU.

I left the building kind of in a stupor. While this may not seem like much to many parents, it is to me. We have been through a great deal, and I dropped everything to bring her the meds, WHICH SHE FORGOT. I practiced deep breathing all the way home. I am still deep breathing 2 hours later. I have counted to 1,328. I am not angry, but I feel disappointed, because my kid knows better. I guess I will say something to her after she gets home from practice.

I get that teenagers want to pretend they were hatched from eggs and do not have parents. I have been there, but still, I feel like this is an instance where all I wanted was common courtesy. Maybe next time I will leave on the 5 sizes too large hoodie, and put some holes in my pants, and wear mismatched shoes, skip brushing my hair. We shall see, or she will just remember to always take her meds before she leaves for school.

Help Me Mom…

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I cannot fathom losing one of my children. I cannot even consider what parents who lose a child go through during the grieving process, and for the rest of their lives. Yet, I feel as though I was close to losing one of my own children. Two weeks ago, my oldest daughter had homecoming. She went to the football game Friday, slept over at a friend’s house, and attended the dance the next evening. I picked her up from the dance, she looked so gorgeous. The next two days she spent in bed. I thought she had overdone it over the weekend when she spent Sunday in bed. When she stayed home from school on Monday, I knew something was wrong. She stayed in bed, complaining of exhaustion and joint pain. The pain is something chronic, we have spent years dealing with the issue. The exhaustion, I attributed to her hectic schedule. I did not give her a problem about staying home, but I did let her know Tuesday she would need to get back to school. She never made it there, because by Monday evening we were in the emergency room.

Late Monday afternoon my daughter came to me, crying, saying she needed help. I sent the other girls in the other room, and tried calming her down. She was inconsolable, but I could not understand why. I know we have been through a complete upheaval and trauma for the last 8 years, but I honestly thought we were all on the path to repair. She was crying, and hiding under her hair. She was rocking back and forth telling me the bad thoughts would not stop. I kept asking questions, calmly, trying to understand what was going on in that moment. Then she uttered the words, “I do not want to hurt myself, but I cannot control all the thoughts anymore.” At this moment I realized, my daughter literally was struggling for her life. She was battling thoughts in her mind that were telling her to kill herself. My child was battling suicidal thoughts. I struggled not to break down.

I sat there, shocked, scared, and struggling to keep talking to her without having a nervous breakdown. What do I do? I have to help her, I have to protect her, even if it is from herself. I tried to calm her down, and assess the situation. Could she be calmed enough to wait until the morning for help? She said no. Should we go to the emergency room? Is there somewhere else I should take her? Do I call 911, or take her myself? What do I tell the other two kids? My mind was swimming. She was alternating between complete silence, and borderline nervous breakdown. I told her I would take her to the emergency room if she felt she needed help right now, and it could not wait. She said yes. I made sure a friend could keep the other two kids, and we left for the emergency room.

I sat there filling out the papers, looking at my beautiful, tortured soul of a child. Her hair was greasy, but still borderline perfect. Her eyes were red from crying, but still captivating and deep. Her body was twitching and anxious, but still in peak, athletic condition. My daughter looked so together, and yet so broken. I wanted to trade places with her, I wanted to take away all her pain, and make sure she never hurts again. They took us back, and I watched as the nurse systematically removed all the long cords and sharp objects from the room. I watched my daughter as she began to realize why the nurse was removing items. I watched a bit of the reality set in, and I watched her face fall a little bit.

Blood work, urinalysis, and mental health interview done, and here we sit. The mental health professional sits us down to review our options. Inpatient treatment at the local mental health facility. Three-five days of treatment, possible medication, and therapy set up after discharge. Option two, partial inpatient, ten days of 8-3 in the mental health facility, but she would come home at the end of the day. Long duration, and more school missed, but she would come home every day. I looked at my daughter, and I let her know I would support whichever decision she wanted to try. She asked me what I thought she should do, so I told her, let’s talk through it together and decide. Ultimately, she decided to go with inpatient. It turned out to be 7 days, not 3-5.

The first two days I was a disaster. I cried, uncontrollably. Guilt, sadness, and fear took over my soul. I visited her as often as I could, almost every single day with little exception. She is home now, and seems much better. She is on antidepressants and antianxiety medication. She is also starting therapy, and back at school. I have dealt with depression throughout my life, as well as anxiety. I have never felt suicidal, but I see how it impacts a person. I see the struggle in her eyes. I will always be her biggest cheerleader, her greatest supporter. I will always be her champion.

Mental health issues are still taboo to a point in this society. My daughter was scared for her life, scared about losing control and hurting (or killing) herself. She came to me for help, she came to her mom to fix it. Watch for signs in your children, and other loved ones. Let them know it is okay to struggle and need help emotionally. Support your loved ones in their emotions. Give them the support they need, and do not be afraid to seek emergency help. Suicide is irreversible. Do not wait until it is too late.