The Facebook Cry for Help

I don’t ever want to be a chronic case, but every now and then, the ‘Facebook Cry for Help’ really gets you what you need.

This morning was another immensely challenging start to the day with Noah. I had let him play with my phone in bed, but then asked for it back to send an important text. He went postal and started with the punching and screaming. My initial approach was calm, explaining that hitting hurts, and if he kept hitting, he wouldn’t get the phone back. This didn’t work. I tried sympathizing with him, while still being firm. This didn’t work. Finally, I told him that if he kept hitting and kicking me, he would have to leave my room. I’m not proud of this, but when it continued and even ramped up to pinching (and trust me, the little monkey is quite strong) I plucked him from the bed, set him outside my room, and locked the door. Bad parenting, 100 percent.

Now, with the whole house awoken by the sounds of toddler screams, I didn’t need to send any texts. I got some helping hands from the other parents, and my bewildered tween gave me that look she gives when I’m feeling overwhelmed. A look of trepidation and uncertainty. I project onto this look, “She thinks I’m a terrible parent.” because I think I’m a terrible parent in this moment. Then my partner returns with my son, and she tells me he’s too young to have separation be a consequence for bad behavior. She’s right, of course, she usually is, but I’m falling so fast into the spiral I can’t hear her. Instead I break down, citing exhaustion (partially true) and ineptitude (what I believe is mostly true) as my reasons for making a mistake.

I made a mistake. I make lots of them. These mistakes are often around issues of parenting. Now that my animal brain is mostly switched off again, I’ll hazard that most parents do this. Here, the mistake is less of an issue than what happens inside my head when I make it.

Noah felt like the only thing I was really good at. I figured it was because I got to start from scratch with him. And maybe because of our biological tie. I told myself that I would always be great at Noah, and I could always hold on to that. Well guess what? Noah is approaching three, and I’m more and more feeling like I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m also thinking I put a crap load of unrealistic pressure on myself to be perfect.

The challenge isn’t parenting resources. There’s an abundance of those. The real thing that I need is to be able to love myself through my mistakes, and not fall into the well where I feel so terrible that I believe with great clarity (in those moments) that everyone is better off without me. How can anyone learn or grow from such a place? How do I stay away from there?

I posted a cry for help. I got lots of loving advice. These words of encouragement worked. I saw my pain reflected in others’ who have had similar experiences with failure feelings. I was gifted with this wonderful video created and produced by a Facebook friend, Tamara Levitt. If you are struggling with feelings of failure, you must invest ten minutes to watch this, it was beautiful.

My narrative started to shift. Maybe just admitting I was sucking at parenting made me a better parent because it opened doors to improvement? Maybe these profound feelings of shame are a clue that I need to access more self-love and compassion when I am feeling challenged? Maybe I should shelve my work responsibilities and spend the morning watching parenting videos? There were suddenly possibilities beyond “I should leave because I’m ruining everyone’s life.”

Progress is realizing how much faster that turn around has happened. A matter of hours today instead of days. It would have taken me days to feel worthwhile again, not long ago.

This morning after the other parents brought Noah downstairs to play, I had a good bawl. Then I splashed water on my face, got dressed, and went downstairs to try a restart. I got hugs from everyone, including the still wary Hannah. I played with Noah who was right as rain. I fed him, we snuggled, and then I took him to school where he got extra hugs and kisses from me when I dropped him off.

Next I’m going to set up a Skype session with my therapist so I can talk about self-love strategies. Avoiding the pit of despair will bolster me with the confidence I need to get through this challenging toddler time.

I’m not sure what else I can to do be better at this, but this is a start. And another lesson learned; keep breathing, ask for help, apologize, forgive and the shift from desperation and pain to possibility and hope is inevitable.

Poolside Pondering

Don’t you love those Mondays when you hit the ground running, totally organized, motivated and ready to start the week? I had the opposite of that this morning. Now as the dust has settled, I’m stealing a few moments for a bit of poolside pondering.

While I feel a near desperate need for productivity and routine, it seems that life, or more specifically, toddler-hood continues to conspire against me. This morning, I woke to the crankiest boy in the world. Screaming (primal) was his mode of communication. Kung-Fu took the place of cuddles (my bad, I let him watch Kung-Fu Panda, and now nobody is safe).  True, his molars are coming in. True he thinks it’s bullshit that his sisters get to stay home while he has to go to daycare three days a week. Still, what happened to my sweet little baby?

He refused to get dressed. He refused to eat breakfast. We started to run so far behind that I had to take him along to our vet appointment. This was a delight, of course, and by the time we were done he was happy to roll into his class and share his adventure with “the friends”. I got home wondering what the rest of the day would hold in store.

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So far, so good. I finished my final draft of the non-fiction book I’m working on. I managed to write this post. I’m currently acting as a lifeguard to my daughters and their friend who are splashing in the pool. Soon I will vacuum our house. My to-do list continues to get done, when I allow for some breathing space, some deviation from “the plan” rather than getting all wound up. When I tune into the needs of my children, who need at least one of us parents to be nearby while they eat up the lazy days of summer, I can still have my own little bit of productivity.

Lucky for me, I get to be their front line. I get to work poolside with a happy puppy snoring at my feet, paws wrapped around the bone she’s buried and dug up about five times now. I’m so grateful for our three-parent life, all of us working together to make our days full and happy. I’m so grateful for this new home, which will keep our children and their friends amused all summer.

How has your Monday surprised you?

This One’s For You, Robbie M.

 

A visit from good friends had me in tears in my kitchen last night, but let me back up a little.

In the fashion of all great deadbeats, I’ve vanished from your lives again. Maybe you didn’t notice. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes at the suggestion that you would notice my complete and utter lack of writing. I’ve noticed, and as usual, I’ve been hurting from the absence of words to share. I’m a deadbeat. I’m owning it, and it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting you.

My excuses are almost always good. I went through a huge and cathartic reckoning where I had to account for some pretty heavy-duty shortcomings, and make amends with some pretty important people. That shit ain’t easy. It’s humbling, and painful, and it’s private, so I couldn’t really share the details. It took the piss out of me, and left with this raw combo of self-hatred, and newly acquired self-love. The latter is so weird and unfamiliar, that I had to constantly work at it to scrape through the few weeks leading up to the next big thing.

We moved. We’re still in the country, far away from city life, but now my nuclear family has a home of our own. There were bountiful blessings living with our in-laws, but it was most definitely time to find our own home, and it’s the perfect home for our unique family. What a gift from the Universe! Our pre-teen daughters get their own bedrooms and bathrooms (Hallelujah!) our little boy gets his own room and mommy has a private grown up bed again, and we all have a beautiful pool to enjoy. Hosting friends in our own space is a healing that I didn’t even know I needed. The house is wonderful, but this big change is not without some growing pains. For example:

I haven’t really slept well since mid May. Life stress leading up to the move, and trying to transition Noodle into his own bed has taken it’s toll. I need some great strategies to help transition this little guy so that he can sleep on his own, and I need a full night’s rest.

The dog is making us crazy. She’s SUPER high energy, very mouthy, not yet housebroken, and deaf. The children are somewhat terrified of her, because she’s drawn blood from all of us. I  bit off way more than I can chew here, I realize. It’s in my nature to throw my hands up from this frustration and walk away before I can reap the benefits of a mature relationship that has weathered the shit storm, in this case of puppy hood. I will fight that nature, because I really hate my ‘run for cover’ impulses, and I’ve committed to giving this dog a better life. She’s so beautiful, and when she looks at me with those hazel eyes…well, I’m keenly aware that neither of us are going anywhere. Sorry daddy, you’re just going to have to deal with this unruly fur baby of ours.

We’ve radically changed our diet and lifestyle. Our whole family has given up carbs of all kinds and sugars of all kinds. The adults stay below 30 net carbs per day, and our kids only get sugar from berries. No more wheat, grains, rice, etc. All gone. For just over two months now. A huge change, and I’ll tell you more about it in future posts. Why such radical change? Basically because the excessive amount of sugar in our diets is killing us, the information we are fed about ‘proper nutrition’ is a lie created by big agricultural corporations, and because I want to live as long as I can, in the very best shape I can be in. Reading, listening to podcasts and finding and cooking new recipes has eaten up so much time, but it’s been so very worth it.

But all of this is bullshit, isn’t it? There will always be excuses for why I don’t write, and I’ll never realize my dreams if I continue to cower behind life. Something else is always going on, but in the midst of this, there will always be time to write. If I don’t write it’s because I’m afraid. It’s because I’m succumbing to that external voice that tells me I have no right, that I have nothing to say.

I’m sorry that I fell into that well again. I’m sorry I haven’t been a better blogger. I’m sorry my novel is gathering dust, and that I judged all of those women in my last writing class for continuing to hammer away at the manuscripts they’d been working on for years. This writing business is unbelievably hard when I’m not doing it, and effortlessly easy when I am. It’s not easy to be a great writer, let’s be clear, it’s easy to find the words. They flow like honey, and I can barely type fast enough to catch this.

And so, in my kitchen last night, when my friend shared how much his brother enjoyed my writing, and was missing my posts, his brother who I never would have pegged in a million years as the kind of person who would like my style, I was moved to tears. My writer’s ego is huge and fragile. I realized in that moment that this guy is exactly the kind of guy I want to get to with my words. The kind of girl he would marry is the kind of girl I want to reach with my fiction. I felt like I was getting just the kick in the ass that I needed to pick up where I left off here.

So Robbie, this one’s for you. Thanks for reading, I appreciate it more than you can ever know.

 

 

The Motherfunk

To say that there has been a lot going on in our lives would be something of a massive understatement. It’s unlikely I’ll be posting with any regularity until June, so my apologies. In the meanwhile, I have something fun to share, just in time for Mother’s Day. Friends, particularly Toronto friends, let me introduce you to The Motherfunk!

Oonagh Duncan is a key soldier in my Army of Amazing Women, and she’s a personal trainer and fitness goddess who can now be seen regularly on the Steven and Chris Show. Here’s a clip of the Motherfunk in action. I laughed so hard watching this, that I can only assume the actual workout would be a total riot:

Now, Oonagh is shifting her MOTHERFUNK! program to a monthly charity event for Sick Kids and she wants to get a huge turn out and raise a shit ton of money. It’s a noble cause, a whole lot of fun, and a great way for new moms to get moving. Here’s why Sick Kids is so near and dear to Oonagh’s heart:
Some of you have already heard my story about why I’m so passionate about this cause. When I was pregnant with my first son, it was a crazy hot summer and my friend had a backyard pool (I know, right?) She was also pregnant and feeling the heat so she extended a broad invitation to anyone she had ever met who was pregnant to come and float in her pool on Tuesday afternoons and eat ice cream sandwiches. Best. A regular group of women started to show up and we shared way too much information about our bodies with each other, as one does during a first pregnancy. We called ourselves The Whales and, five years later, we have been through two rounds of babies, two trips, a near-divorce and two miscarriages. What started out with ice cream sandwiches has become what I’m sure will be a lifelong bond. Unfortunately, the Whales have proven a statistic anomaly as two of our babies were born with very serious congenital defects. William (now 4)  was born with serious heart problems and Oliver (now 2) was born with half of one lung. They were pretty scary times. In both cases, the staff at Sick Kids Hospital probably saved their lives…and their parents’ sanity. Which is why I want to raise a ton of money for the Hospital. 
Here are the details:
What: THE MOTHERFUNK! Toronto’s best dance party…that involves wearing a baby. Featured on the Steven and Chris show and named one of  Top 10 Fitness Trends by SHAPE Magazine
Who: Oonagh Duncan, pre and post natal fitness specialist and canfitpro Pro Trainer of the Year
When: Every second Thursday of the month, starting may 14th (right after Mother’s Day)
Where: Swansea Town Hall, 95 Lavinia Ave in Toronto
What time: 11:15am-12pm
How much: Pay what you can, suggested donation $15…100% of the proceeds go to the Sick Kids Foundation
 
Here’s an image and a link to the page on Oonagh’s site: http://fitfeelsgood.ca/parent-baby-groove/
If you like me, you’ll love Oonagh. She radiates positive energy, she’s tonnes of fun, and every day I wish she had a You Tube channel so I could enjoy her work outs long distance. (Oonagh, get a damn You Tube channel already!)

Due Diligence, Disclosure, and Determination

So, our latest addition to the family, the adorable puppy I mentioned in my last post, is utterly and completely deaf. How do we know? Among many other tests designed to give off as little vibration as possible, we smashed the metal bottoms of two chafing dishes together over her head while she was sleeping and she didn’t even stir. Now I know why she barely ever barks. In honor of this unexpected wrench, today’s post is about due diligence, disclosure, and determination.

Determination

Sending Shanti back to the rescue wasn’t really an option. Deafness, though not ideal for a first-time family puppy, isn’t a deal-breaker in our books. In fact, I’m finding it kind of amazing to push beyond my voice to train this pup, and I think she’s teaching me to access parts of my senses that could really use a work out. My initial response, upon learning that our dog can’t hear, was to be really annoyed by the rescue organization that we adopted her from.

Due Diligence

Nekky called them to share our discovery and to ask for a reimbursement of enough of the adoption fee to cover the cost of a vibrating collar. To be clear, this isn’t a shock collar, it’s a collar that vibrates (like a cell phone) to grab the dog’s attention. Kind of a must-have in our circumstances. I was beyond satisfied when the contact at the rescue agreed to refund half the adoption fee and issue a tax receipt for the remaining half. She also said she would alert the other families who adopted Shanti’s sisters, in case the deafness was something they brought to the party too.

I couldn’t understand how the vet check the rescue claimed to have conducted (we got a receipt from this vet, and I wondered if it was real) could miss something so major. It seemed like a basic thing to check for. My own vet, our next-door neighbor, assured me it could be a very easy mistake, especially if the vet had all three puppies at once. We missed it ourselves, as the sleepiness of our puppy and the adorable chaos of her sister and the toddler at the foster home made things a bit distracting.

Disclosure

Would we have chosen this particular dog if we knew she was deaf? No way. I will freely admit to wanting our first puppy to be as simple as possible. I’m going to believe the rescue org when they say they had no idea that our dog was deaf, because I think most responsible rescues would be up front about such a thing to ensure that the dog finds a suitable home. Days after picking her up, we are already in love with her, bonded with her, and invested in her. We didn’t want to teach the kids that an issue like deafness meant that the dog had to go. Blindness, maybe, because I don’t even know how you would train a blind dog, but deafness is a highly workable dog training scenario. Dogs smell, see, and then hear. People hear, see and then smell. So, despite this surprise, we carry on as planned. We have an awesome trainer who we will work with once Shanti has her next round of shots, and in the meanwhile I’m grateful for the epic amount of information available.

We’ve already taught her how to sit, and come. Now we just need to get those puppy teeth under control!

Have you had a deaf dog? Know anyone who has? We’d love any tips or tidbits from you.