Still A Good Mom

We’ve been home a lot the last few weeks. First L. got croup, so we were home for a week waiting for the worst of the symptoms to pass. Then it was a long weekend, and then after three days of work, both my and L.’s classrooms were closed due to a positive Covid case. Ever since, there have been more and more cases added on, and now that we’re close to L.’s return date…G.’s classroom found a positive case. Now I’m looking at even more time at home. We aren’t able to really go anywhere; the children aren’t symptomatic, but L. is a close contact so we’re being careful just in case. We’ve gone to the beach a few times, early in the morning before anyone else came. We go to empty parks. We go for drives for coffee and just to get out. But mostly, we’ve been playing at home. It hasn’t been awful. G. learned how to ride her bike. We have a sandbox and a climbing structure and a swing set. We have lots of things to do outside. The problem is, first it was 30+ degrees outside, and we could only handle being out for short periods of time, and then it started raining every day.

This is worst case scenario for my anxiety. Long blocks of uninterrupted play time with my children, with no buffer, no escape. (Isn’t that an awful thought, being alone with my children flares up my anxiety?! That’s a whole other thing to unpack, some other time). The mess. The noise. The chaos. I was dreading it.

In actuality, it hasn’t been awful. We’ve had moments, but that’s it. Just moments. Not days anymore. Just moments.

I have a very specific kind of guilt. When I get overwhelmed, I tend to disassociate. I want to disappear. Usually by mindlessly scrolling. Which means I leave my children to play independently for blocks of time, and then I feel guilty for leaving them unattended for blocks of time, for ignoring them. They usually start to whine for attention, I start to snap because I’m interrupted from my disassociating, and then everyone feels awful. So, I always feel the need to be playing with my kids, which overwhelms me and kickstarts the whole cycle all over again. Cue the guilt. Because we’re home and she had no kids to play with here, G. asks me to play quite a bit, and it all came to a head when she was constantly telling me I was doing it wrong, and changing everything I touched, and telling me what to say, what to do, how to play. I was annoyed, and told her, no. I’m not going to play if you’re constantly telling me what to do. It’s not fun for me to be bossed around. And ever since, she’s toned it down. She lets me join and actually play. It’s so much calmer, and much less tortuous than it had been. It feels wrong, to not like to play when my whole career is based on playing with children. It makes my skin itch, a little. Like sometimes is wrong. But that’s part of the issue. I don’t like to play the games that four year olds like to play.

This issue of independent play still bothered me. I still feel so much guilt for saying No, you can play alone for a while. In an intellectual, professional way, I know that long periods of uninterrupted, self-driven play is important for creativity and problem-solving and brain development, but it was so hard for me to leave them alone to do their work. As much as people knock on Instagram culture for creating unrealistic standards, it’s actually what’s really helped me. In an earlier post, I mentioned an account that I follow, and she had really settled a lot of the contradictions in my head. She laid out how she handles independent play in her house, and it made so much sense to me. She talks about setting time for connection – genuine connection – and then setting time for independence. That’s when she gets her own work done, and spends time on herself. And it makes sense to me. A lot of my children’s behaviours aren’t attention-seeking, they’re connection-seeking. By spending uninterrupted, focused time with each of the kids, they started looking at me to entertain them less and less. They still ask me to play, but they accept the boundaries a little easier when they know that it isn’t forever, that I will be available to them in a little while. And now they play. They play alone, they play with each other, but they play. The screen time detox that I set into place weeks ago has helped (and so has losing the tv remote) and they start their day off with quiet place, and I start my day off in a quiet place, instead of immediate stimulation. And they play, without constantly asking me to join or to help, or to direct. They just come in and out of play. When they need sometime from me – food, a drink, a few minutes of connection, they come, we hang out, and then they play again. It’s been liberating in a way, but there’s still residual guilt with it.

I’ve started telling myself, I can let my kids play alone. I’m not ignoring my kids and damaging my bond with my children by letting them play independently. We find new ways to do things that we both enjoy. My counsellor suggested it, to find ways to spend time together that feels comfortable for all of us. We go for walks. We colour. We snuggle and read books. We make TikToks together. But we don’t really play together. We connect in other ways. It doesn’t make me a bad mom if my kids play alone.

This is my new mantra.

Not playing with my kids does not make me a bad mom.

Not playing with my kids does not make me a bad mom.

Not playing with my kids does not make me a bad mom.

Fantasy play and Screen Time

I am a mom of contradictions.

After a 6 am whining session that ended with L. throwing my TV remote at me, I decided we needed a screen time detox. No cartoons before 9 am. No cartoons for longer than an hour. Only ones that aren’t just bright colours and noise.

And then at nap time G. got her tablet and watched YouTube for 3 hours. C’est la vie.

It’s important though, to have balance. I hear it all the time in the discussion around food. Try not to give junk food power. Don’t make it forbidden, that makes it more enticing. No one food is inherently “bad” or “good”. It’s all just food, the important part is finding the balance. Some food feeds your body, some food feeds your soul, and both should be acknowledged.

In my work, I’m a play advocate. I’m 100% play focused. I don’t do “crafts” unless the kids want to. I don’t do circle time. I don’t have any academically inclined activities like letters and numbers unless the kids are interested in it. My classroom plays and plays hard. I talk a good game about the negative effects of too much screen time on young children. I know how it affects eye muscle development. I know how it affects neural development. I know how it affects speech and language development.

At home, I know that if I don’t get a break, I will lose what little progress I’ve made. Quiet time where I can choose what I want to do rather than follow what my children want to do is important for my own mental health.

However, I have discovered an interesting consequence of G.’s screen time that I didn’t see coming. She has been watching a series on YouTube of a girl who plays barbies and acts out all kinds of scenarios, different characters, different life experiences. Even since, G.’s own dramatic play has grown exponentially. She has new conversations, new experiences, and she’s more willing to play by herself for much longer than she ever has been. She’s always kind of been the kid who wants to roughhouse, who jumps all over everything, who wants to ride bikes and climb and yell and dance. Which is fantastic. I love this about her. However, I have a house full of toys that have never been touched because she had no interest in independent play. Now she’s playing. She’s world-building in a way that she never has before.

There’s a well-known researching on children’s play named Vivian Paley, and I’ve been re-reading her work on fantasy play in children, and it’s fascinating watching it play out in real time right in front of me. She talks about how fantasy play is universal, they follow the same themes and the same scripts. I’ve heard the phrase “mom, pretend you’re… and I’m….” so many times in the last month that I’ve lose count. And it’s the same phrase that Paley observed in her research. There was an interesting point made though – we have lost touch with the story tellers of our culture, the elders and grandparents who used to pass down fairy tales and other stories. Now, children get these stories from the play of others. I’ve also been following a respectful parenting Instagram account that shared a reel about worthwhile TV shows, what makes a TV show overstimulating and how to find shows that are better for your children, and they made an interesting point about how high quality children’s programming can actually build on children’s dramatic and fantasy play skills. This isn’t a point I ever really thought about beforehand. Outside of daycare, G. has no one to play with other than a one year old brother. It isn’t like before, where we played with older cousins, or neighbourhood children. Covid meant that we have been alone for so many months. For such a social child, this has been especially hard for her. In screen time, she has found a new way to play, new narratives to explore, new fantasies to play out. She has found a new source of story telling that wasn’t accessible to her before. Who am I to say that this is a bad thing?

So yeah. We screen time. But, we do it responsibly. And when we notice it’s too much – when they have a hard time transitioning away, when they start to stare obsessively like someone on a heroin high, when it causes tantrums and becomes a NEED – then we take a break and we detox for a little while.

It’s balance. It’s a contradiction. It’s finding a way to parent in a modern world with modern tools and limited access to social supports. It’s life. I’m still going to preach limited screen time, but I’m going to do it in a realistic way, offering realistic suggestions. Because I’ve seen the benefits of how screen time can affect play, and it isn’t all bad. Come join me on the dark side.

Little Fires Everywhere

We had a grass fire scare last night.

It was 8km away, on the other side of a river, but I almost panicked. I had bags packed. I had food packed in a cooler. I had all my important documents together, my external hard drive packed, chargers all together. It was all on the floor by the front door with a note taped to the door reminding me of all the things I needed to grab if I had to leave in a hurry. Then I sat and I refreshed the local question and answer page on Facebook, checking for updates, wondering how I would be told that I needed to leave and imagining what it was going to be like having to evacuate.

Of course, it was contained within a few hours and I felt like an idiot for being so freaked out.

But this is anxiety, isn’t it. Its prepping for the worst case scenario because you’re scared you won’t be able to hold it together if the worst case scenario happens. It’s being able to envision, in pain staking detail, all the ways things can go wrong. It’s remembering what happened to people you know who were caught in a forest fire, who had to leave everything behind, and being terrified that is what is about to happen to you. It’s ignoring the fact that there is 8km and a river between you and the fire, and only hearing the wind is blowing in your direction and that it hasn’t rained in weeks. It’s accepting this as your new reality and preparing yourself for it, because you are sure that you won’t be able to hold it together for your kids when the fire hits. It’s planning where you’re going to go, where you’re going to stay, how much gas is in the car.

It’s always looking for the escape route.

Anxiety is doing this with every. fucking. thing.

My new therapist talked to me about the link between anxiety and creativity. That creative people are more prone to anxiety because they are able to create entire worlds in their heads that feel as real as the world around them. They are able to imagine, in excruciating detail, exactly how everything can go wrong. When you live your life like this, how can it NOT affect you? I’m a writer. It’s what I’ve always done, it’s how I’ve processed, how I communicate with myself and with other people. I’m not so great with the talking but I can write. So it’s not surprising that I can tell myself stories all about how things will fall apart. This is the narrative that runs through my head. And I can be convincing. I had myself running around my house at 10pm taking pictures of everything I owned for insurance purposes over a grass fire that was only vaguely in my area. Who does that to themselves?!

I don’t know how to function like this anymore. I hadn’t really even thought about all the ways my anxiety manifests in my life until I started to see a new therapist. This one is a real therapist, not just a counsellor, and she’s tough. I cried a lot. She made me have an anxiety attack – on purpose – so that I could just sit with it and experience it and realize I will be okay. It was not the most positive experience. But, I’m hopeful. Still. Three therapists later, I’m still hopeful. I think. I just want a way to live like a normal person. I don’t want to fight fires any more.

The Importance of Watching

I think, sometimes, as an ECE, I forget to use what I know about children in the context of my own home. I have all these play experiences set up, pretty much any kind of toy you can imagine, but I forget to do the rest of it – observing, documenting, reflecting, planning.

Take this week. We were home all week because L. was a close contact to someone with Covid. So, I plan for all this time home. We have sensory bins, cars, blocks, a play kitchen, a ball pit, all these wonderful things. L. just wants to sit and drive his cars, and that’s what he did. G. just wanted the sensory bins. And good lord. I drove myself absolutely nuts with the idea of “She isn’t playing with it right!”

Seriously. What the fuck?!

Apparently there is a right and a wrong way to play with water beads. Who knew?!

After several days of constantly saying Please stop pouring the water beads on the floor! and You’re getting sand everywhere, try to keep it on the table at least!, I gave in and I just watched and I discovered she was baking. She was filling small containers with sand and making cupcakes with bead sprinkles, she was making donuts with and without play dough icing. She made coffee to drink with our sweet treat. I was so obsessed with the mess (that piece of anxiety has a whole other post hahah) that I almost missed what was really going on.

So, I decided fuck it, if she wants to bake, let’s do this thing. That afternoon, I left the kids with the hubby and I went to the dollar store. I bought flour, salt, vinegar, baking soda, baking powder, lemon juice, corn starch, vegetable oil, plastic condiment containers, spray bottles, and little bowls. It was the best 20$ I ever spent.

Of course, I began with the carefully laid out materials, set out attractively, with the mixing bowl and the spoons. That lasted about 36 seconds. Once she realized that she could just do whatever she wanted, it was on. The first round, she mostly just mixed liquids. She added different food colourings, she wanted the oil and water bubbles dance, then she added in some of the dry ingredients and watched how the colours swirled and how the textures changed as she added different ingredients to the mix. In the end, she used every bit of her “science”. Thank god I bought doubles of everything.

The next day, she went with the dry ingredients first, then experimented with how the different liquids interacted with each other. She was thrilled when she learned that lemon juice reacts with baking soda the same way vinegar does (same reaction, less smelly). As she mixed everything together, she told me that it felt like dough, and asked if she could eat it. I told her to go for it, but she didn’t really want to follow through. She watched how the coloured liquids made the dough have different layers of colour throughout, she felt the difference between the gritty salt and the soft flour. It was a full sensory experience.

And that was it. She mixed and she kneaded, and she was so involved in her play that an hour and half went by before she was ready to move on. And honestly, the mess took less than 10 minutes to clean, so I don’t know why I was so fixated on that. Today, she was playing with a set of stacking rings – again, they were donuts. Maybe this week we’ll try to make our own donuts; I’m pretty much down with anything that ends with donuts. Maybe we’ll make our own bread. Maybe she’ll be over it in a few days. Who knows?

I just know, the next time I’m obsessed with the mess, with them not playing with things “right”, it’ll be my reminder. Just watch. Just wait. Something amazing will come, just wait and see.

Weight

She sat alone in the dark, rocking her child back and forth.
The child was heavy in her arms.
The weight felt foreign, an extension of herself that didn’t quite fit.
It had demands that she never quite felt she could meet.
Before had been easier.
The physical connection had been a reassurance, an innate confidence in his moods, his needs. Every kick had emotion, every roll an intention.
Now, the physical touch drove home the separation.
His needs were no longer hers but a mystery.
A puzzle she had to piece together.
This tiny creature loomed larger than life in the dark.
In daylight, her face and her scent were all he would accept. 
By nightfall he both desired and detested her comfort.
And she was exhausted. 

As she rocked, she thought about the child beyond the door.
The one who seemed so mature compared to the child in her arms.
The one who desperately wanted to be the child in her arms.
The one who wanted to be both grown and little, yet didn’t manage to be either.
This child had also been an extension of herself.
Their bond had had time to be nurtured, there was confidence in glances, in sounds and gestures. She was familiar and comfortable and comforting.
Until she wasn’t.
Suddenly this child had become a new entity.
One with feelings that couldn’t be processed and thoughts that couldn’t be expressed and needs that desperately needed to be met. 

And she failed her. 

Again and again she failed her. 

As the new weight pressed her down, she could feel it pushing on the child.
Sometimes the weight was too much and she pushed the child to carry it. 
Such a large burden for a child who wanted to be small. 
No matter how she tried, no matter how much of the weight she shouldered, she could not lift it completely off the child. 
So there was guilt.
So much guilt it was suffocating. 
The weight sat right on her chest.
Constricting.
Some days it was all she could do to breathe.

As she rocked, she breathed. 
Back and forth. In and out. 
She felt the weight in her arms finally relax. 
She heard laughter beyond the door. 
Tonight, she wanted to join the laughter, to find out what was hiding under all that weighed her down.
But the door was so very far away and she was so very tired.
So instead, she rocked back and forth, matching the motion to the inhales and exhales.
Looking at the light that leaked around the door.
A door that seemed like so much more than a door.
There was life behind that door, one who’s pressures she resented and who’s memory she clung to.
A life that used to be hers.
One that she may never fully find again.

The weight of that loss settled in amongst the others as she sat alone in the dark, rocking her child back and forth.
The weight of her new life.
One she was not certain she could carry.

How it Began vs How it’s Going

L. had a child in his class be diagnosed with Covid19 this past week, so we’ve been quarantining at home for the last week. My hubby was home too, so it’s just been a houseful for the last week. There’s been reno’s and playtime and snacks. So many snacks.

Now that our kitchen is finally getting done, I decided to reorganize our kids supply cupboard. I got new storage containers of different sizes, new squeeze bottles and shakers and strainers, and beads and mini erasers, and all these things that could be set out as table top activities for my kids to do.

Of course, because they’re my kids, they didn’t want to do any of the things I had planned for them to do with it.

The first thing G. did was use the beads for filling the muffin tin, rather than beading because of course. She made me muffins, which I had to eat by dumping back into the bucket – her exact instructions. And then she took the mini playdoh cups and stuffed them full of beads to make donuts, and then she threw the kinetic sand in for good measure. L. took the mini erasers, threw them all on the floor, laughed at the pictures, cried to join his sister, put the playdoh in his mouth, and then ran off to play with his cars.

Sometimes I forget that how my children like to play. I spend all day watching children play, learning their quirks and their likes and their strengths. I forget to do that with my kids. I bring out this experiences that have no meaning for them, or just aren’t something they like to do, or I get stressed out when they don’t do something the “right” way. I forget how much G. likes to bake, and how much L. likes to move things. I should be setting up mixing and measuring stations for her and ramps for him, but no. I have to set up the “proper” play experiences, like puzzles, or blocks, or all these things they have no interest in.

So honestly, that’s what this is. It’s going to be learning stories about my children. I’m going to honour their play experiences the same way that I would any of my children at work. I’m going to relearn who my children are and what they know and all the beautiful things they bring to the table if I just let them be.

Follow along to see how it goes. You’ll likely see my lose my mind, one mess at a time.

2 week wait

Today is day 10 out of my first two week wait. I could take a pregnancy test if I wanted to.

So why don’t I want to?

Every other time we tried to get pregnant, I took so many pregnancy tests. I wasted so much money, so much time, so much anxiety on pregnancy tests. It was all I could think of, even though I know that worrying wasn’t going to change anything, and testing too early won’t help the anxiety. I knew these things, and I still took so many tests. And now this time, I don’t want to test at all. I’m too scared of the answer, no matter what it is.

When we talked about having a third child, I was all for it. I wanted another so bad. I have so many friends that are pregnant and I was so jealous, I wanted that so badly.

Now that the time is here and there’s the possibility that I could actually be pregnant… I have so many regrets. Not regrets, that’s not the word. More like, misgivings. I have misgivings.

I found a notebook I had been journaling in when I was newly postpartum with L. He was around 3 months old, and I could feel this fog of blackness just settling around me. I was numb. I read through all the words I had written and I could feel those feelings again, and all I could think was why? Why am I trying to put myself through this again? Why would I open myself back up to the possibility of that? It was so cold and so lonely, and I had so many regrets about upsetting the status quo. It took so much to find a new normal that I don’t know if I really want to fuck with that again.

Then another part of me wonders, if getting pregnant broke my brain, maybe getting pregnant will fix it. Maybe the flux of hormones will reset whatever is out of whack in there. Who knows?

So I’m just waiting. Waiting to see if my period come or not. If it doesn’t come by next weekend then I’ll suck it up and I’ll test and I’ll know for sure one way or the other. And we’ll deal with whatever the answer is. I think maybe I know what I want to happen. I don’t think I want it to happen yet. I don’t know if I want it at all. I may have made a mistake. If I have this many misgivings, it must mean that I think I’m making a mistake, right?

I don’t know if I can admit that to my husband.

WAP for Preschoolers

I had an interesting conversation with my husband a few weeks ago about societal views on female sexuality, morality and children.
In other words, we discussed WAP and whether or not it was appropriate listening material for our 4 year old.

Me, I’m all for it. I have never once censored her music. She listens to rap, she listens to heavy metal, she listens to pop and classical. She loves Five Finger Death Punch, and Blue by Eiffel 65. She does ballet to the Nutcracker Suite and twerks to Britney Spears. She’s got the most well-rounded music taste of any 4 year old I’ve ever met. I’ve always been a big music lover and that’s one thing I really wanted to instil in my kids. And not once have I any issue with G. using inappropriate language.


For real though. She’s been learning that there are things that are appropriate and okay to say at home, and things that are not okay to say at school, and I think that’s a good thing. She’s learning context. She’s learning to read her audience. It’s my job as a parent to teach her these things. It’s not their job as an artist to censor themselves for my children. If I wasn’t prepared to teach her these things, and think that she was capable of learning these things, then I would make different choices. If you parent otherwise, that’s what works for you, and all the power to you. Your family, your choice.


So back to WAP. My hubby decided that it was not appropriate for G. to listen to. I hit him with the “Missy Elliot is okay but this isn’t? So she can listen to Work It, but not this?” “Yeah, but this song is just gross.”
Turns out, the word pussy is gross. What about it makes it gross? The fact that women are owning what they want, what they like, and what they need? It’s okay for countless men to sing about all the things they want us to do to them, what they want to do to us, but we can’t take ownership of that and say what we would like? I can hear “Slob on my knob” but not “pussy’s wet, come take a dive”?

Bitch Please. For someone who makes fun of “snowflakes”, you’re getting awfully offended.

We’ve been having lots of these conversations lately, especially because we are raising both a boy and girl. The expectations are different, but the outcome is the same. My daughter will learn to protect herself and my son will learn to protect others. My children have and will learn consent at a very early age. G. is allowed to say No, I don’t want hugs right now. Or I don’t feel like having cuddles. I was very firm on that. She has always had the right to say no, and I have always respected that right. I’ve modelled it for them. If I don’t want them climbing on me, or if I’ve had enough of the game we are playing, I say stop. I tell them this isn’t comfortable for me anymore and I end whatever is happening. Doesn’t matter. Stop always means stop. If G. has had enough of L. climbing on her, she has the right to say stop and we will stop him. If L. isn’t laughing anymore when G. is pulling him around or messing around on the couch with him, we tell her “Look at his face, he isn’t having fun anymore. Time to find something new to do.” They are learning to respect the word no, and to use it. I am determined that they will never be scared to use the word no.

The flip side of this is that I do not want them to be scared of hearing the word no. No does not mean that I don’t like you anymore, or that you’re somehow less than because someone said no to you. They are saying no to the situation, it is not a rejection or reflection of who you are as a person – how you react to the word no is. What comes next is the true measure of your character. Are you going to lash out? Will you name call? Claim that she’s playing hard to get and double down on your advances? Or are you just going to say okay and find something else to do that you both enjoy? Will you take the rejection personally or see it for what is it, a boundary that they have asked you not to cross?

I don’t like everyone I meet. I don’t want to fuck everyone I see. How can you ever assume that every other person wants to fuck you? How does that even make sense that you are allowed to have preference but others cannot, especially if that preference excludes you? Not all feelings will be reciprocated, but that doesn’t make you less. And it’s my job as a mom to make sure that my children understand that. Their worth is not tied up into how much other people want to fuck them. You are more than your body or your ability to score chicks. You are more than a notch on someone’s bedpost. You are more than someone else’s judgement on you, and others are more than your judgement on them.

So my kids hear the words stop. They hear I don’t like this anymore. They hear I don’t want to do this anymore. And they listen. They know that no means no, and that they have the right and the privilege of using it anytime they need to. L. will learn as he grows that he will be intimidating just by the fact of his existence and that even if he knows he’s a good guy, others can’t know for sure just by looking at him. He will learn to be patient. He will learn to be understanding. He will learn to respect boundaries. His sister will learn to set them. She will learn that not every person she meets has good intentions, and she has full permission to leave any situation that makes her feel uncomfortable. But she will also learn basic self-defence, because not everyone will respect her boundaries and that thought makes me sad. It makes me worried for what she can and will likely experience because of the reality of being female-presenting in today’s society.

Let’s circle back to WAP one more time. When females take control of something that’s “a man’s game”. How does that make you feel? Is it the word itself? Does that make you uncomfortable? Or are you just uncomfortable with the notion of giving up a modicum of power? You big sexy man beast, make the girls weak in the knees, panty dropper, you. Don’t like the idea of us dropping our own panties? Deal with it. Don’t like the idea that we don’t want to drop our panties for you? Maybe it’s time to do some self-reflecting. There are conversations to be had around songs like this. About power dynamics, consent, the power of word choice, and why this song is triggering. So until you can tell me why my child can listen to men sing “face down, booty up, that’s the way we like to fuck” but not women sing “give me everything you got for this wet ass pussy”, you can keep your opinions to yourself, because they’re likely not welcome here. I’mma raise a girl that takes as much as she gives, and a boy that gives as much as he takes. Welcome to the 21st century – your women have rights now ✌🏻

Easter Magic

Motherhood is hard. We can all agree on that. However. Some days it’s hard in different ways. Sometimes it’s not just hard in a “I need to get away, I can’t handle the pressure anymore, if anyone else cries or screams, or stop listening, I’m going to lose my cool”. Sometimes it’s hard in a “I just want to sit on the couch and eat nachos and watch tv, but instead I have to create some fuckin’ Easter Magic up in here.”

But you always do it. You always create that fucking magic. You get your ass off the couch and you write that note from the bunny and you bite that carrot so it looks like the bunny ate it, and if you’re really brave you make powder footprints around your house (spoiler alert: I’m not that brave. Or that masochistic. Who do you think is gonna clean that mess?! The bunny’s not gonna clean shit.) And then you deal with sugar loaded toddlers who are so overstimulated and then you deal with the inevitable sugar crash, and you smile and you play and wonder at the magic of it all.

Except sometimes it doesn’t feel like magic. It feels overwhelming and overstimulating and you know you have to keep your cool because you want them to feel that magic, you don’t want them to remember holidays with a tarnish on it. So you hide in the back and you take timeouts in the bathroom to breathe because if you have to wipe one more chocolate handprint off your couch or calm one more crying toddler who’s been told he’s had enough chocolate or if you hear Mom come play with me! Mom, can you get this? Mom, do that! Mom! Mom! Mom! you are going to lose your ever-loving shit and then no one is happy and that makes you feel even worse. So you smile. And you drink coffee. You put on Easter cartoons and you ignore the chocolate handprints (might as well just clean the fucking couch once instead of over and over). You think back to your own childhood and wonder if your mother ever felt like this. And then you make plans to discuss all of this in therapy in two days 🤣

Holidays are when I miss myself the most. When I feel the loss the hardest. I know others who are grieving their loved ones, and I’m sympathetic. I’m grieving myself. I’m not sure which one is harder. The one where you know you won’t even see them again, or the one where you are scared of that exact outcome. These are the days that I force myself to confront my deepest fear – what if this is it? what if this is how I am now? What if I never go back to being patient, or having fun, or able to play? How am I going to be the parent that I want to be if this is all there is? What do I do then?

Seriously. What do I do then?

That bunny owes me some chocolate.

Different Actions, Same Intentions

My challenge from therapy this week was to put myself out there more. Challenge my negative thoughts more. Be more open to possibilities. Here’s how it went:

  1. Try to initiate more sex with hubby – or at least be more vocal and up front about when you want it and encourage the actions you want to have more of.
    Result? My period started the morning after he came home. It’s the first one since I got preggo with L., so it’s not really an area I want any contact with at the moment. Nothing is going there that isn’t absorbent. Nuh uh. Nope. Not unless you want to get shredded by the cheese grater currently attacking my uterus.
  2. When you get negative thoughts about your body image, counteract them with something positive. So, I asked a friend to come to a yoga class with me. It was a low-intensity class, as per Covid regulations, and I figured it would be a good way to ease back into yoga in a group setting where other people could see me. It was my closest girlfriend, so there’s no worry there about judgement, but I also invited a new friend, one who does spin class and has no babies and has that tight little body that I have never, EVER had so I was intimidated. What is she going to think about my flabby arms and my gut that hangs over my tights when I bend.
    Result: the class was actually…easy. I took the harder option every pose, and I could get pretty deep into the stretches. I was so proud of myself. I could feel that muscle memory from all the nights of yoga I’ve been doing. So yeah. I might not be losing any weight, but my flexibility has grown, and my muscles are slowly getting stronger. That’s my mantra. The weight will come with time. I just have to be patient, like I said I would be back in January but am struggling to keep now.
  3. Get more into the zones of regulation with G. and start to find strategies that help her (and I) get back to regulated
    Result: We ended up watching Inside Out, as per the recommendation of my counsellor. And we talked a little bit about how Anger is the red zone, when you feel like you’re going to blow your top any minute. Fear is yellow, when you’re twitchy and worried and you can’t seem to calm yourself. Joy is green, when it’s all happy and bubbly. And Sadness is blue. She seemed to kind of get it, but also to not care that much. But the idea is there. We also talked about how all the emotions are good, but we can’t let one dominate over the other. We have to feel all of our feelings but not let them take over. We’ll see how that plays out once Daddy goes to camp and Mama’s home alone with the kids for four days straight.

It’s been a good week, all in all. Shane is helping more around the house because our dishwasher broke and my eczema is too bad on my hands to do dishes. G. has been playing more with Daddy because she lost tv time due to some misbehaviour at bed time. L. is miserable because he’s teething but what else is new, it just means he wants to snuggle more. I’ve been coasting, it almost feels like. I feel like I’ve stepped back and just let Shane take over most of the parenting duties, sort of. Or not parenting duties, but house duties. He’s been doing the majority of the cleaning, he plays with the kids. I do bedtime, I do the morning routine, I pick up the kids from school and take them to all of their appointments and cook their meals, remember who needs a bath and who needs their hair washed and what we need from the grocery story. It’s getting more and more even, which makes it feel like I’m slacking because I’ve been doing all of everything for so long. It’s hard to let go, or at least to let myself let it go. Mama is the only identity I’ve been holding on to for so long that I’m finding it hard to step back and trust that it’s okay to let my husband do some of the cleaning and some of the parenting. I can’t do it all. It’s okay to take time away in my office and write, or go to the basement and go for a run on the treadmill, or go out for a drink after a yoga class with girlfriends. I’m not a bad mom or neglecting them. I’m not dumping them on my husband to get away. It’s okay to take that time, because for so long I haven’t allowed myself. I’ve always been too scared of what would happen when he leaves again, and I have to start taking it all on again. I want to say that I”m storing up some me time for when I don’t have any, but there’s that little inner voice that says I’m doing it for the wrong reasons, that I’m just finding a different way to escape them. Rather than hide behind my phone, I’m hiding in my office. Different actions, same intentions.

So how true is it? Am I finding a way to give up some control, take back a bit of myself again, or am I just disengaging in new ways? Something to bring up at tomorrow’s session, I guess.

Til then, cheers bitches.