RSS Feed

Yelling at Strangers

I am so tired, I feel that shit deep in my bones.  After a busy work week, with plenty of added jobs, I also had my daughter’s birthday party to prepare for.  In the past we have had her family party at our house or my sister in law’s house (they have a big house with lots of space and a pool, which they have generously offered to us to use for the party many years).  This year, I decided to keep everything super simple.  No theme, no extensive decorations, no tons of planning.  I’ve done it all in the past and I usually end up exhausted.  Frankly, my daughter doesn’t care about all that stuff anyway.  She simply wants a day with her family, playing with kids, opening gifts, and ice cream cake.  She REALLY wanted an ice cream cake, which I found out later on.  This year, I stepped outside my comfort zone and rented a pavilion at the beach. Our town allows you to rent out a pavilion at a reasonable fee.  This spoke to me.  Laid back, beach day, with sun, sand, water, and a playground close by to keep everyone entertained.  I pictured getting leis for the people coming, keeping the food cookout style, and I would simply jump on the grill and it would be a relaxing day for all.

I booked the pavilion, and figured all was well, until my anxiety popped up.  I had this unshakable feeling that we would arrive to set up only to have strangers at the pavilion, and I would be forced into getting someone from the rec dept to have them leave.  I asked the woman at the rec dept what would happen if that situation occurred.  She said “go to the gate and they will have someone come over and sort it.”  Ok, sounded decent, and I tried to not worry.

Then the weather turned. A scan at the Weather Channel app was a rollercoaster of emotion.  I also realized they have likely no idea what the upcoming weather would be.  The weather changed day to day, varying from horrible thunderstorms to partly sunny and warm with a nice breeze.  Each day was a new adventure as far as the meteorologists were concerned. Every day I waffled between seeing we’d have a lovely beach day or a monsoon.

The day before the party, (THE DAY BEFORE!) my phone rings.  When I heard the woman on the other end say she was calling from the rec dept, I KNEW something was wrong.

“So, there is an issue…..we made a huge error on our end…….DOUBLE BOOK………we want to make it right….other alternatives……heading to the beach now to see what can be done…..”

Unimpressed-Dog-Meme-08

I offer to meet them at the beach, and headed off with daughter in tow.

I arrive at the beach and meet up with two women from the rec department.  They honestly couldn’t have been nicer, and were up front with the fact someone had booked the pavilion in June for a gender reveal party and somewhere there was a mix up.  The pregnant woman who booked it had come in freaking out and irate after hearing about the issue.  I can tell they were nervous about speaking with me but were grateful when I kept calm about it.  They offered a different area, said they would set up tents etc, and offered a few options.  The wind that day was coming off the water so hard it was blowing my hair straight up in the air.  I looked at them and said “Look, if the wind is anything like this tomorrow, which it likely will be with storms coming at night….a tent is going to LAUNCH”.  After all was said and done, the options they gave me didn’t feel right and likely would have been a nightmare.  My other brother in law graciously extended an offer for us to have it at his house since they have a large deck and lots of open space.

I excused myself and stepped aside to talk quietly with my daughter.  She said she would be perfectly happy wherever her party was held When she saw me look upset the plans had been all turned upside down, she whispered in my ear “mama, it’s not your fault.  I appreciate all your hard work, but please don’t be sad, it’s OK!”

I’m not crying. I swear.

I walked back and told the women my daughter was ok with us moving the party and the other woman could have the space.  One of the women leaned over and told my daughter how kind and special that was, and how nicely she and I were taking a bad situation and making the best of it. I was promised a full refund, but that I would need to bring the parking passes I had prepaid for all the guests in to get refunded for those.  I wasn’t happy I’d have to retrieve them all, but agreed I would try to bring them in.

I headed off to get my daughter an ice cream cake, which I found out she had really wanted (but would have been impossible at the beach). I let her pick the flavors, the design,etc, and I had a very happy little girl.

THE MOST IMPORTANT THING: The party was a success, we all had a great time, and my daughter was thrilled.

Yesterday I took the passes I had and went to the rec center.  It was my daughter’s actual birthday and we had a lot of stuff planned.  I was still recovering from all the work involved for the party and I felt that extreme tiredness in my SOUL.  One of the women I had spoken with at the beach was at the counter and smiled when she saw me. She wished my daughter a happy birthday and handed over a huge bottle of bubbles for my daughter as a gift and as a thank your for being so understanding.  I thanked her and explained I didn’t have two of the passes, but could they let it slide due to the circumstances? She said she’d have to clear it with the other woman, but felt she would probably say yes, because we had been so gracious about the error and so lovely to work with.

Just then, another lady who works there and who I have watched berate another employee there in front of me chimed in and started getting loud with the woman helping me. “WHY WOULD YOU EVEN SAY THAT? WHY WOULD YOU SAY SHE PROBABLY WOULD?” The woman helping me looked extremely uncomfortable.

Not today, Satan,

Not today.

“HEY! DON’T YOU YELL AT HER!”  I shouted.  “This office made a mistake, and could have ruined my daughter’s birthday party.  These two women have been honest about the error, tried to make it right, and are trying to rectify the situation in a positive manner, which is the ONLY reason I have not created a big issue here.  This is not the first time I have seen you berate your coworkers, so why don’t you sit there and go back to your paperwork and make sure this situation doesn’t happen again?”

She huffed.

“GO HUFF IF YOU WANT BUT DON’T YOU BELITTLE HER!”

Yeah.  I became that person.  I became the woman yelling at a stranger over a partition wall because I hate seeing nice people given crap for something when they are just trying to do the right thing.

The woman getting yelled by Grumpy St Bitterbritches is always super sweet and friendly to me.  The last time I went to the office to get the parking passes I watched the other employee belittle another woman who worked there, get sarcastic with a town resident, and make a sarcastic comment to another.

Not today.

I can let a lot slide if people are honest and apologetic.  Accidents happen, mistakes can be made.  A sincere apology without excuses goes a LONG way with me.  My daughter and I had been very accommodating all things considered, which the 2 women we spoke to at the beach were clearly grateful for.  I am sure they saw it was a birthday party for us and a gender reveal party for the pregnant lady and thought it was going to be miserable for them either way because of the mistake.  Instead, it went relatively smooth.  They knew I wasn’t thrilled, but I was honestly kind of ok with it.

To be honest, everything was less stressful for me in the end.  No worries about weather (we had everything outside but moved inside later on so we missed the rain).  I had a fridge, freezer, and everything I needed at my fingertips.  My daughter had the cake she desperately wanted, and a good time was had.  I got to invite more people.  At the end of the day, things fell into place.  Plus, I am getting refunded the money I spent.

But don’t test me, bitter lady in the back of the rec office.

Mama don’t play that.

 

 

Advertisements

She Can Do It All, Until She Can’t

wonder

I grew up the daughter of parents who never made me feel I couldn’t do something just because I was a girl.  I was taught I was equal to men, could hold my own, and to be fiercely independent.  I lived in a two parent household, and my parents stayed happily married until my mother died.  Of course, there were some stereotypical roles that fell into place.  My mother was a stay at home mom, and my dad worked to support the family.  My mother cleaned the house to spotless perfection and looked after me, dinner was on the table each night at 6, and she was the arranger of all the plans.  My mom was the glue that seemed to hold us all together.  My father traveled extensively for work, sometimes even for weeks at a time, and my mother was always the figure in the home who held down the fort.

With that being said, my mother always made it clear that she had been the primary breadwinner before we moved to the US.  I knew she stopped working to look after me, and also because it made more sense financially.  She always told me to make sure I was ok on my own if I ever needed to be, and to make sure I always had my name on the house, cars, and other assets as well as my husband.  She’d had friends who had gotten divorced and ended up screwed because they hadn’t looked out for themselves as well.  In other words, while my parents lived in many ways an old fashioned set up, I was always taught to be a modern, independent woman who could look after herself, and why that was so important. I also learned that I could be a good wife, a good mom, and that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do just because I was a girl.  Women in today’s society are told we can have it all, the career, the family, the home, and all that comes with us.

We can.  Many women do.  But sometimes, it’s really hard.  Like, really, really hard.

I hesitated to write this, because it’s hard to be vulnerable.  Usually when I admit a vulnerability, it gets thrown back at me.  That being said, I am who I am, and unapologetically so.  I own my mistakes, I own who I am, both on my best and worst days.  The other week someone tried a jab at my parenting when I “lost” my daughter.  (More on that in a future blog). Yet still, I owned it. At the end of the day, I am bluntly, without apology, or explanation, myself.  With me, you know what you are getting.  My filter isn’t very good, and my face will say my thoughts anyway.

So with all the things.  The work, the parenting, the house, the jobs, the peopling, the endless obligations that have stacked up….it’s gotten to be a bit much to manage on my own. My husband is always supportive of me in everything I do, but he works long hours and our schedules are opposite, so much of the stuff around the house and scheduling the kids falls to me.  I am trying to hold all the pieces together of the life puzzle and I ran out of hands.  I’m left tired and drained.  They always say on a plane to put your oxygen mask on first so you can help others.  I have been doing the reverse and I ran out of air. The more I couldn’t focus on a few things, the more everything started to spiral where it got to be just a bit more to manage.

This week I hit a wall.  I’ve only had it happen a few times in my life, but this week was one of them.  This week something snapped.  The year of yes came to a crashing end and I just wanted to say no. I looked around and for all I was doing, it just wasn’t amounting to what it should.

And I stopped.

I cried a little, I’ll admit it.

And then I did what I hate doing the most.

I asked for help.

I hate asking for help. I always think it’s an imposition.  It feels like I am failing at something, and I sort of hate that.  The funny thing is, I always encourage others to ask for help, and always am willing to help others.  I suppose we are always hardest on ourselves, right?

I’ve suffered from depression since I was a teen.  I went through some very bad times with it, went on medication, until I finally got it under control.  The fact is, I will likely always have it, but for the most part I rarely suffer these days.  I haven’t been on meds for it for years, but I do stay very mindful of when it feels that it’s starting up.  Yesterday I realized I need to stop and breath.  I looked around, and realized I needed to ask for help to ease the burden of things for a little while.  I called my dad and said I wanted to come visit and have a mini vacation.

I had an honest chat with my family and the response was amazing. I said I am overwhelmed, and they stepped up to ask how in turn they could each help. That’s family. Even the little things stack up to help.  This morning, my husband offered to run the kids to camp and returned home with a coffee for me.  He called from work to check in, just to make sure I am ok.  He knows that usually, I keep it all together, but when I am struggling, he is there to check in…just to make sure I am hanging in there and to see if I need anything.  The reminder that he is there to back me up and lift me up if I fall is a great source of comfort.

The next week or so is going to be busy.  Much to plan, to do, and to coordinate.  That being said, I will be pausing to breathe more, saying no when I get overwhelmed, and asking for help if I need it.  I will try me best to take care of me a bit better than I have been.  Maybe I’ll even use that gift certificate for a massage my aunt sent me.  Seems like a perfect time to use it.  Rest and recharge amongst the chaos, so I can minimize the chaos.

Yesterday, when I felt my worst, I looked around at ALL the THINGS that needed doing, and I felt like a failure.  My mom had always made things seem so effortless.  I look back and realize how much I took for granted.  I realize I looked at her and she made it all seem so darned easy.  I came home from school to find my laundry done, the house clean, a meal on the table, and I never really comprehended the amount of work that went into making all of that happen.  I also realized she would have told me that while she was a stay at home mom, I work full time.  I have less time for some of the things than she had. I know she would have reminded me of the times when she seemed short with me or stressed that she too struggled with getting it all done.  She would also remind me that sometimes, you just have to go and take a nap and figure it out later.

When you grow up and you watch your mom do it all, you think you can too.  There is a big push on social media and the media in general to be the mom who can be perfect.  Everyone portrays themselves to be super moms.  They post and pin and they present the perfect outside image.  Their immaculate houses, their vacations, their endless smiles.  The fact is, I’m sure there’s a lot of women who feel they too need to pause, take a deep breath, and escape from it all for a few.  To not have ALL the THINGS in their heads and to do lists every moment.  So I’m waving to those ladies, from my yard that needs weeding, my house that needs cleaning, surrounded by all the jobs I need to do but have no time to do them in because there’s only so many hours in a day. I hear you. I see you. I’m one of you too.

 

It’s her birthday

Today would have been my mom’s birthday.  I think we’ll take the kids for ice cream.

I always try to find something happy to do on days like this. They kids know I miss her, every day.  They know that some days, I get a bit sad.  Sometimes, I miss her enough that I may get a bit teary eyed, usually when I realize she is missing something amazing. Grief is a tough thing to show kids, and to talk about with them.  It’s important to let them know that grief is normal, natural, and ok to go through.  In fact, it’s important to go through it.   What I don’t want, is for them to think that it’s ok to get lost in the grief, to wrap the grief around you so tightly that you don’t let the joy in.  It’s easy to do, especially as someone who suffers from depression. If I am not mindful, I know I can get too deep in the grief.

The past few years, we have done fun things for her birthday, to celebrate life.  One year we took a trip to the lake to my aunt’s house.  Another year, ice cream at Carvel.  Each was a simple joy that taught the kids that I want to celebrate my mom in small ways.  If the mention of her is always tinged in sadness, they will associate her memory in a negative light.  I choose to associate her memory with happiness and treats, laughter and funny stories.  It makes it easier for me, and frankly, she would hate if her memory was carried on in a sad light.  She was much too vibrant for that.

To be fair, got teary eyed for just a few brief seconds, and I’m not sure where it came from exactly, but I am back to feeling positive and looking forward to spending the night with my husband and kids.  My favorite 3.  I have so many wonderful things to be happy for, so many wonderful memories of her to share, and knowing her as I do, I know that would be the very best gift I could have given her.

Happy birthday Mum.

 

Keep it Simple, Stupid.

Posted on

Oof, it’s been an exhausting few weeks.

June is always a chaotic month for us.  We have family birthdays nearly every weekend, the end of school, the beginning of summer, and there’s always some extra chaos peppered in for good measure. I always reach July hot, sweaty, exhausted, and ready for a nap.

We entered June in a bit of chaos after hearing that our whole school district was getting shifted.  While we will stay at the same school, most of our school friends will be leaving.  It’s very depressing, and if I’m honest, it’s even more depressing because the whole situation smells like racial and economic segregation to me.  I chose to put my kids in a diverse school, surrounded by kids from all racial and economic backgrounds, in order to mimic the real world they will enter after they finish their schooling.  It feels like we are going backwards in this country sometimes.  Racism seems more on the forefront that it has, and I’m becoming acutely aware that people have a general distaste for poor people. I am concerned that some of the decision making was done for the wrong reasons, and it sickens me. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

As I mentioned, I also joined the PTA.  I am not sure at the moment if I am a good fit.  I am very much an eternal optimist, peppered with sarcasm, and frankly, I’m a bit of a savage.  I’m the mom most likely to drop the F bomb.  I go at things 150%, but I think that scares folks.  I need to figure out if it will work, and I need to do so quickly.

June had the usual nonsense by the usual.  The problem is, people don’t realize I’m hot, I’m cranky, and I am smart enough to always stay one step ahead when under fire.  I’m a survivor, with a smattering of OCD, that touch of savagery, and I always will be.

It was also the anniversary of my mother’s death.  You’d think by now I’d handle it like a pro.  The fact is that over the years, it started to get a bit easier, and then it got harder.  Harder because I realize all the things she is missing out on.  I watch my kids grow and see them accomplish things, and I know just how stinkin’ PROUD she would be.  I know that some things would just be so much easier if she was here.  I have my “other mothers” who are women in my life who have stepped into that mom role for me, and for that I am eternally grateful.  I even have a woman who says she considers me one of her grandkids, and signed a recent note “love you like a granddaughter”.  A someone who has lost both of her grandmas, this made me feel so touched.  These women who have stepped up as “other mothers”, they are moms at heart and soul, who not only mother their own kids, but see a kid in need and step in, even if that kid is in her 40’s. This year was a tough one.  I can’t explain why, but I wasn’t having any nonsense from anyone, and pretty much holed up in the house by myself.  My husband knew it was a tough day for me, and came home from work early armed with buffalo wings.  We curled up on the couch, ate, drank beer, watched a comedy, and all was right in the world again.  He’s the best.

The other turn of events was that I treated myself to a dress.  I had no damned business buying that dress, mind you, but I was obsessed with it.  I had seen it when I went to buy a dress for a family event, and I LURRRRVVVED it.  I tried it on, and I fell in love.  The problem was, it was out of my budget, a bit snug, and frankly, not going to work for the event I was attending.  I left without it.  My heart was sad.  I watched it go on sale, 10% off, 20% off…but it was still more than I can justify spending.  The day I was holed up mourning my mother’s passing years ago, I got an email that said the store had a massive sale.  The dream dress I loved was on sale, for almost 70% off.

I bought it.

No shame in my game.

Ok, I feel a little shame.

It’s not exactly a dress I will get tons of use out of.  It’s a bit formal.  HOWEVER, I do have a big party coming up later this year so I can justify buying it for the price I paid.  Oh yes, I noticed the sku ended in my mom’s “lucky number” so I convinced myself she’d say “oh go ahead”.

Camp started today.  My son LOVES his camp.  It’s not fancy, by any stretch, but he loves it.  I had asked my daughter if she wanted to go to camp, and she declined.  She prefer to spend time with family members, or at home.  I did keep her in a sport activity once a week, as well as sign her up for a camp that’s a half day.  She did her first day today, and when I showed up to get her on my lunch break, she asked to stay.  It was damned near 95 degrees out, but she was having fun.  It made me smile to see the kids tired, sweaty, and worn out tonight.  It seemed like they had had a productive, fun, and tiring day.  I topped off the evening by cooking on the grill, and it felt like a summer day.

Know what else felt like a summer day? When my home office was about 100 degrees.  WooNELLY it was HOT.  Thank goodness for a window AC, although I can’t run it while I’m working on certain projects.  This heat is awful.  I’m not cut out for heat at all.  Well, technically  I am not cut out for anything too hot or too gold.  I’m like an old version of Goldilocks.

So now starts our new normal.  School days have been traded for camp days and field trips.  Early mornings, later nights, and events at every turn.  The little one has her birthday this month.  God knows what we’ll do for a party.  I always figure it out though, usually by the skin of my teeth.  Keeping it simple is normally a good plan, so I think we will go with that.

Keeping it simple sounds really good right about now.  Roll on July…but keep it simple, ‘k?

 

 

When The Chickie Wanders

The other day, I wrote about our adventures with trying out more of the “free range parenting”.  That post is here: Let Them Be Chickens.  I’ve found it’s been super successful in teaching my children responsibility, street smarts, etc.  That being said, we hThe daad a wrench thrown in the process this past weekend, so in the interest of being open, I’m going to share it.  I’ve already been attacked for it, chastised, etc, but if I cared about any of that, I’d have different kids because I’d be raising them based off of everyone else’s opinions and not my own.  That’s not how this whole parenting thing works.

So this weekend, my daughter asks to go outside to play.  I was in my office doing something for work, so I said sure, and that would watch her out the window.  I watched her grab her scooter, her helmet, and start going up and down the sidewalk.  Up and down, up and down.  She came to ask me if she could go to a neighbor’s, and I told her no, not today.  I watched her scooter, do some gymnastics in the yard, then hope back on the scooter.  After a few minutes, I realized that I hadn’t seen her ride by.  I called her name, but got no answer.  I yelled louder.  No response. I went outside….and she was nowhere to be seen.

Utter panic set in.  I called for my son to check the house and the back yard. I went to the neighbor’s and asked if she was there.  She wasn’t.  I checked at another neighbor’s, and she wasn’t there either.  The neighbors called other neighbors, and within minutes, a group of people banded together to look.  I didn’t even hesitate…I called the police and my husband.

Now this was scary.  Worst case, had someone grabbed her?  That being said, her scooter was nowhere to be found.  My husband pulled in, along with the police, and I showed them pictures, gave a description.  My husband walked the street and saw her scooter in a neighbor’s driveway.  She was in their yard playing with a friend from school.  I don’t know the family, so I hadn’t thought to look there.  She was crying when she realized what had happened, how worried we were, and that the police were there.

Once she was home, she went inside the house, and the police officer asked to speak to me.

Some of what he said:

“Don’t be afraid to let them outside to play.
“What you are doing is correct.  If you helicopter over them, they will not learn to be self sufficient.  We see kids all the time that if their parent is 10 minutes late they become paralyzed with fear, because their parents haven’t taught them to be ok by themselves for a few minutes”
“It’s important to have a plan.  You have one, she just needs reinforcing on the plan.”
“The days of people driving by and snatching a kid off the street are pretty much long gone.”
“I know you’re freaking out right now, because things went awry, that you’re a bad mom.  You’re doing good. ”

So today, it has been an inside day.  My daughter learned a harsh lesson about being responsible and following the plan.  My standard of “You will get privileges as long as you are responsible with them” is in effect, so she will need to earn back her chance to go back outside to play with the neighborhood kids.  She apologized unprompted and explained that she had done the wrong thing in not communicating to me what happened.

Out of this scary situation, came some really positive things.

  • I have amazing neighbors.  Within moments, keys were grabbed, cars mobilized, and other neighbors called in to help look for my daughter.
  • I reached out to the neighbor who has the house where she was, and we have planned to schedule a playdate and to communicate if the kids are playing together.
  • I saw the very best of our police department.  They got here in moments, asked me quick questions, and banded together.  Once she was found, they talked me of the proverbial ledge and reminded me that we have to raise kids to be productive members of society.  They joked with me, each other, and when it was done, they gave me a thumbs up for how I handled it and left.  Super kind, and super efficient.  I couldn’t have asked for better.
  • I have some great family members who were supportive and understood what I am doing, why I am doing it, and that sometimes things go wrong.  No judgement, no hassle, just support.
  • At the end of the day, I have been pretty vocal about what happened.  Sure, there’s been those that judged or had some negative things to say.  Shrug.  I had fears of that before saying anything but at the end of the day, I own my choices of how I parent, and own who I am.  If people don’t like it, don’t follow my lead, and do you, boo.  I’ll do me.  I definitely am left feeling confident about owning who I am.

 

So, we excelled, we faltered, and now we begin again.  Lessons learned, and we were fortunate that out of a scary situation, a ton of positive results happened.  So we begin again, with a plan a bit more fine tuned.  Someone said to me “perhaps this is exactly the lesson she needed”.  I believe it is.  She learned a lot of lessons that day.  She learned about responsibility, about sticking to a plan, communication, and why all of that is so important.  I just need to reinforce all of those lessons going forward.

 

 

Summer Mommin’

So, in our house, it’s officially summer time.  Summer for me really doesn’t start until the last day of school, the first time grilling, and the first day I feel like I am dying from heat stroke.

This year, summer is a little different than usual.

Friday was the kids’ last day of school.  My son headed to a friend’s for an end of year party, and the little one and I headed to the annual beach party.  It was the first time I had gone.  I took the time off work, and we headed to the beach.  This year, the tone was a probably a bit more somber than in years past.  With the redistricting going on in our town, many families from our school were getting pulled out through no fault or desire of their own.  Other families I have known for years through school and soccer, like me, had kids leaving for middle school.  It was a day and time of transition. It was my first day at a school event as a member of the new ptsa board as well.  I was overwhelmed with the amount of parents who came up to wish me well, and to offer their help as the new board transitioned.  I was reminding what a great group of parents we have.  Of course, I now feel an even deeper sense of responsibility to keep the traditions alive.

Saturday was a family birthday party for my niece.  It was a really nice, relaxed atmosphere.  It was also, however, a reminder of how fast time flies, and how quickly the kids are all growing up.  The years are passing by so quickly, not only with my kids, but with the other kids in the family as well.  My nephew, who will be 10 is perilously close to being the same height as me.  How is that possible?  After her party, I fired up the grill to make one of my favorite dishes, and we as a family had an easy night in.

Father’s day came in, which started out busier than usual.  I am dog/house sitting for a neighbor, so I looked after the animals, cooked breakfast (2 lbs of bacon is no match for this family, apparently) and got loads of compliments on a new dish I tried.  We then attempted to assemble ourselves and head to an amusement park (yay for season passes!).  By the time we got there, it was late in the afternoon, but we had plenty of time to hit the water park for some lazy river relaxation and wave pool laughs.  It was relaxing, fun and the kids were thrilled.  My husband seemed to relax and enjoy the time.  I got talked into going onto the new coaster at the park by my son and husband.  I was terrified, and I hear there are videos of my screaming, but it was admittedly a ton of fun.  I surmise that those season passes will get used a couple of times as we battle a very hot beginning of the summer.

Again, we are still working on our beginnings of “free range kids”.  Time spent outside as much as possible, with breaks for cooling down.  My friend around the corner and I take turns texting when the kids are in transit.  They roam between the houses and play in the yards.  Bike rides, scooter rides, and kids just being kids.  I know there are kids who have been doing this for years, but I’m a suburban mom who has been told for YEARS how it’s just not the SAME as it was when I was growing up.  I was told that we need to keep the kids inside and not let them out unless we can be right THERE staring at them to keep them safe.  Meanwhile, I had kids who couldn’t do basic things like safely cross a street because they had never needed to, because I was always there.  Things I knew and did as a kid safely and easy, my kids couldn’t really do because they had never had to do them.  I had always been there to do it for them, and if I couldn’t do it, then they just didn’t learn it.  I started to have visions of my kids being unable to cross a street at 25, and I knew something had to change.

We are starting off small.  It’s hard for this mama to let go a little bit.  When I tell people what I am doing, I get “looks”.  No camp? No constant supervision at every moment and turn?  I get looks like I am mad.  How would I manage without someone to constantly monitor them?  Well, I say, we’re doing an 80’s summer.  A summer where there may be boredom, and you’ll have to think of things to do.  A summer of go outside and play with friends and nature.  I summer of reading, and playing with toys.  A summer of being a kid, but learning new responsibilities.  A summer of figuring out your own fun sometimes.  Sure I’m nervous, and I keep an eye out the window on them.  That being said, I have to teach them to be independent.  That’s what a good mother does.  Teach them to fly on their own, but be there when they need you should they fall. The hardest part of mommyhood for me is having these two little humans who carry my heart around, and going from doing every single thing for them to teaching them to eventually manage without me. There are always the lasts.  The last book you read to them out loud, the last time you bandage a cut before they just grab the first aid kit and do it themselves.  All those lasts, that you never know is a last until you suddenly realize they are doing it themselves now.

For now, I am hiding from the heat as best I can, prepping for a hot week.  There will be complaints of lack of stuff to do, but at least it should be minimal as they are just glad to be out of school.

 

 

Let Them Be Chickens

freerange

So, it’s official.  I am officially on the PTSA board of our school as of today.  I am still wondering if I have done the right thing, and also just what I have gotten myself into. My default is to jump in with both feet, and have already been brainstorming some fundraising ideas.  I was told to relax, hold back, and take a “let’s see” approach.  That’s not really my style.  On one hand, I am chaos personified.  I’m the mom screeching into the parking lot at the last minute, but I get there.  I am the mom who gets it done, even if it doesn’t look pretty.  There is some method to my madness, and I usually need at least a baseline plan in place to keep the stress levels down.  I’m not very structured, but I need a basic idea of a plan to get started.  At the moment, I’m floundering and I feel dazed.  I’m not a fan. I will therefore sit back, and try very hard not to think too much about things.  It just won’t be easy.  I’m more of a doer than a not think about it type of gal.

After getting voted in, I was chatting with a mom friend about the changes, about summer, after school care next year for her daughter, and she asked how I manage to work from home when the kids are home.  She was surprised by my answer.

“Well, the older one will play video games or read and entertain himself pretty quietly, and the younger one plays outside or with the neighbor kids.  I’m trying this whole “free range parenting” thing out.”

She looked stunned.  The video game comment gave her pause and a raised eyebrow.  The free range parenting comment made her appear quite surprised.

The fact is, my son is an old soul.  He is extremely smart (way smarter that me, to be honest).  He’s responsible, a rule follower, and very mature.  (Not like me).  He gets great grades and is respectful and kind.  That, along with some chores, is his “job”.  As long as he is doing his job, and his grades are good, I don’t sweat the small stuff.  I let him play video games with his friends after school.  Sure, I keep the time down to a decent amount, but I let him play.  It’s a form of socialization, and he enjoys it.  It’s also sparked an interest in coding, which could be good for him.  He accompanied me to the apple store and jumped into a coding class there.  The instructor was very impressed with his knowledge and demeanor.  I may take him for more.  Currently, my son and his bike have disappeared down to the school to go hang out on the field/playground with his friends.  He has his sister’s ipod which has wifi, so he can text me if he needs me.  I’m only a few minute drive away.

The little one looks most forward to racing outside each day.  I can see her from my home office window.  I can call to her.  We have a system, and it works.  She never leaves the front of the house without telling me where she is going.  There are also a group of great kids in the neighborhood that she plays with.  The parents know each other, watch out for the kids, and text each other when kids are on route from one house to another.  It’s working.  I now have a happier child, who enjoys being outdoors and playing with friends.

For years, I have struggled with balance.  Work vs home, fairness  with the kids, and a constant battle of how their childhood is vs mine was.  When my son got older, my daughter was still 4 years younger, so it was easier to keep them both inside.  With my work schedule, there wasn’t any time to just hang with the neighbor kids.  Growing up, I raced home, did homework, and jumped on my bike.  I rode the back roads about a mile from my house to my best friends, and we would go back and forth between our houses, playing, riding, laughing, and making memories.  I did this when I was about 8 or nine.  My parents trusted me to do right, to call when I arrived, and to do be responsible.  And you know what?  I WAS.  I DID.  I called, and I was responsible.  I knew quite clearly that bad behavior, or not doing as I should would eliminate my freedoms.  Looking back, I believe my mom would drive the neighborhood to make sure I was safe and keep an eye on what I was up to.  I fell off my bike once and she was there in minutes, without a phone call.  (no cell phones when I was a kid, folks!).  Nowadays kids have technology at their fingertips.  Luckily they have ipods and the neighborhood is a wifi hotspot, so they can text me if they need me.  That’s more than I had as a kid.

playborhood.jpg

The fact is, kids were kids, but in many ways, we were more grown up than today’s kids.  We had more freedoms and we learned to handle those freedoms appropriately.  We learned responsibility.  We had street sense.  The small freedoms I received made me feel more grown up, and I behaved better.  Why? Because I didn’t want to lose the privileges I had been given!  Cause and effect is an important learning tool.

It occurred to me one day my kids might not really know how to cross the street safely.  As in, which lane cars drive in, where to look, how to listen for cars, how to double check.  I was horrified.  The fact was though I was always with them and guided them. I started teaching them more street sense.  How to manage if I wasn’t there.  How to be safe, and to help their friends be safe. I started taking them on bike rides, to learn the layout of the neighborhood, where cross walks are, and how to read the traffic signals.  It’s an ongoing lesson, but an important one.  I keep an eye on them, but I am allowing more freedom and choices their way as they get older.

I notice other parents doing the same more than before.  Maybe I’m just more in tune with it because giving the kids so much freedom is a bit daunting at first. The fact is, I am raising future adults.  I have to balance teaching them a healthy dose of reality (ie. stranger danger, car safety, etc) vs teaching them to be independent and responsible.  I need to teach them that outside is where magic happens.  Healthy habits, spending time in nature is good not only for the body, but for the soul.  Not to mention, they sleep AMAZINGLY now.

I’ll still be nervous.  I’ll still keep an eye on them when they don’t know I am watching.  At the end of the day though, this free range parenting, allowing the kids more freedom and responsibility has thus far been a good thing.  The better they do, the better I will do. There are parents allowing their kids to navigate the city by themselves, take the subways, etc.  I’m not there yet.  We’re keeping with the neighborhood and going from there.