Parenting, Self-Care

Who Moved Gilligan’s Island?

Space and time didn’t seem to really matter much until the last 11 months brought a lot of time but not much space, into our lives. Space from those in your household, that is. It is now February 2021, and our world has collectively battled COVID-19, but in our own separate ways. However, we are bound by the commonality that until we get through it, we are together. Difference of opinion doesn’t matter. Mask beliefs do not matter. The pandemic is still here. It is currently winning. So how do we get through this long and even an longer haul than perhaps some of us thought we would have to endure?

I was on the phone with a college friend today. It was my “mommy time out”. It doesn’t seem to happen much these days which seems odd if you think back to my opening time and space comment. After a day working in front of the computer the last thing I often want to do is get on the phone. One moment we were crying and the next, laughing. The human connection is so profound, I have realized through all of this. Confinement raises fear. Fear raises uncertainty and uncertainty breeds doubt. Doubt that we will navigate through the next months to year of this pandemic. When will we be safe to freely “move about the cabin” and be amongst one another without the fear of the other being a carrier? Or, go back to reading mouths vs. eyes (has anyone else asked people to repeat themselves more these days?).

Knowing we are feeling the same undercurrent of longing for any part of “normal” I tried to explain how I felt, to sum up the load so many are carrying on our backs. Aiming to help, she offered this. “When I was pregnant with my 4th child I heard a comparison made by a comedian and I think he summed it up perfectly. Having a 4th child is like drowning in water and someone tosses you a baby!” Not a scene we ever want to actually have come to fruition but a brilliant depiction to sum of all feelings of being overwhelmed without the option to stop and take a day trip, to attend a family function or hang with your friends, above all else, decompress. Our conversation led me to the thought of treading water. Getting through the past 11 months has been like treading water and being pushed in 1 direction only to have someone constantly change the destination and the duration to get there. Pepper in the heaviness you have all faced; job loss, illness, separation from friends and family, losing loved ones. Then, toss in a sudden rainstorm or squall coming along, while you are treading water. The heaviness of it all can be felt by the wet clothes on your back and the inability to touch the bottom of the ocean. But still. You keep treading. You keep your head above the water. You keep going. Even if the destination changed.

Recently, a few highlights and changes signaling a creeping, crawling entry back to normal, have come up. A child starts back to in person schooling and has outdoor recess for the first time in almost a year(pure joy). You watch your two sons learn and grow together, something they’ve never done before as they attend different schools. You share an office with your husband and you realize a different way to spend time together as husband and wife, sharing office humor and your own version of water cooler chats. Even still, without the complete freeness we were used to just a year ago, that heaviness comes back, the permeating feeling, what do we look forward to?

We agreed on the fact that “back to normal” is a backwards direction. I am not headed that way. The forward direction for me is going to be to take the observations I had while being forced to socially isolate. What’s important? My family. I have A LOT of it and have not seen them as much as I have wanted. Being one of 5 kids gives you an insta-family of 20+ people. On average, there are 1.66  birthdays per month. So if I missed yours, please understand. My Mom. She is the #1 person I cannot wait to hug, take to dinner, travel with and laugh over silly things with. My faith. Without a belief in something larger than myself, I exist thinking that I am in charge. My freedom. When you have to think about the impact of where you go from a health perspective, it rings the bell of how sweet freedom and privilege simply is.

As many struggle with opening up about the difficulty they are having in getting through this pandemic, I ask a favor. The next time you are with someone, whether it be the grocery store check out or picking up your child at school, ask the person next to you, “How are you doing?”. Note that it feels hard getting through this right now. Do it. They are feeling what you are feeling but not everyone admits it. One question could make a difference. 

Parenting, Self-Care

Embrace the Perfectly Imperfect Chaos Mom(and Dad)….

August 15, 2018. The date I figured I had two weeks to get my act together for the annual “return to school” march. Embracing this time of year as a signal of new starts, growth and development for my kids and the chance to restart, I had forgotten what else comes at this time. STRESS. CHAOS. Trying to embrace it vs. battle it.  I am not alone in my mom “wins” and “fails”.

This year my boys are once again in separate schools and with that comes the continued complexity of different schedules including different days off. My youngest started kindergarten and let’s just say, the get to know me kindergarten craft didn’t get done by last Friday(insert mom fail). When picking him up at school, I embraced him into a hug and asked how his day was. “Mom, you didn’t send in my get to know me bag.” GULP.  Heck, I didn’t even know what he was referring to. But alas, there it was, sitting on the counter. I thought it was done in school! It seems I am not alone. After polling my friends, a few other brave parents shared their back to school “fails” so I decided to compile a list in the hopes we could all see how much we’ve in common!

  • I dropped my daughter off without shoes. I thought they were in the car but then they weren’t. With no time to go back home before work, she waited in the main office at school until my husband could bring a pair to her. GULP.
  • Day 1 of being a high school parent! Apparently I missed the previous email about signing a technology agreement in order for my son to get his chrome book. Did so so much to make sure my son himself was prepared – that I neglected to do what I needed to for him.
  •  I was not there to get my daughter off the bus after her first day of kindergarten! She had to stay on the bus and go back to school where I had to pick her up at the office. I had the wrong time to be there; I was home, baking cookies for her, but they wouldn’t let her off the bus. She still remembers it. And my heart breaks every time I remember that she held her tears and disappointment until I hugged her in the school office that afternoon. It was an epic fail, but I’m hoping after 7 years I’ve made up for it.
  • I had my daughter’s physical form all set in August. Sounds like a success. No, a fail when you can’t find it on day one of school. I put it in her old backpack and she threw it away. Can’t attend school without proof of a physical that year….
  • My son was reading at the school mass and I had watched him and listened to him practice for days. Only to show up too late due to work to miss the “live” event.
  •  I didn’t realize there was a completely new/different uniform for middle school. Can you say, “one of these things is not like the other.” 
  • I showed up to my third born’s kindergarten meet the teacher night at 4:30 PM wondering why there was no one in the parking lot. There was no one in the parking lot because it started at noon. At least we can laugh about it…when the mom got a message about her friend needing support in picking up her kids the following day, she joked, “No thanks, considering you forgot when to show up to your son’s kindergarten back to school event…” That was probably my favorite response. Of course her friend was kidding but it’s what the mom needed in that moment. It highlighted utter acceptance that we as parents don’t get it ALL right ALL the time. And that’s OK.

Pain in the face of a parent who feels like one single incidence of missing an event, forgetting a shoe or jacket or even what seems to be forgetting a simple form is all too familiar. But why out of all the good we do accomplish, meetings that are made on time, lunches that are packed with love, breakfasts that are made, clothing that is laundered, new shoes that fit, do we hang our parent hat on that one fail? Is there something innate that makes us think we cannot be a good parent unless we are perfect?

A few years back I wasn’t well. My sons were both under the age of 6 and I knew mom was going to have some fails. But yet I was not ready to hand them over to another mom. So I would rather have anticipated those fails than allowed someone else to handle them. Why? Well, because that in of itself was a failure to me. Webster Dictionary defines the terms as follows:

Definition of fail
failed; failing; fails

intransitive verb
1a : to lose strength : weaken
1b : to fade or die away
1c : to stop functioning normally
2a : to fall short
2b : to be or become absent or inadequate
2c : to be unsuccessful

Ah! Weak and inadequate resonates with what I think is unacceptable. But are the small skips in the perfect parent checklist really fails? Or are they just slips from the overload of constant expectations of perfection? Think about it. There are very few in this world that have never achieved anything less than a perfect score on EVERY single test they have taken. Parenting is a test you cannot study for. If you took a test you hadn’t even cracked a book open for and achieved an “A” or even a “B” you would be applauding yourself. Yet, here we are, as parents, knocking ourselves for getting tripped up from time to time when there is no coursebook on parenting.

So I will ask you to consider this. The next time you feel like you’ve had a gigantic fail, if your child is too young to know the difference, let it go. If they are old enough to understand, use the above analogy and then tell them you are not perfect. Give them the heads up that you are likely to have another mom fail soon.