My husband is leaving me and I think my sanity might be hitching a ride.

October 22nd, 2013

He’s leaving. It’s not forever, but he hasn’t left yet and I’m already petrified about how on earth I will cope.

I am becoming a surfing widow once again. He is off on the trip of a lifetime and I really hope it is that; the only trip like this he takes in his lifetime. No, not really, I actually hope he completely loves it, the waves pump and he has the best time away with some awesome mates. I absolutely want him to go.

I’m just a bit frightened about what life looks like without him for two and a half weeks. You see I am the breadwinner at the moment. Not as some people think because I am desperate to get back to work, but actually so he could resign and spend some time finding something he really loves doing. So at the moment he is the main carer for the Wild Child and The Stink. He loves it, which is great. He is awesome at it, which is even better.

I have worked often in the last four and half years, I have always done the drop off and pick up and all the looking after. Even while I’m working full time, plus a few other jobs on the side, I have done a few pick ups and drop offs and dinners and lots of all the other stuff so it’s not that I can’t actually do it all, it’s that I might need some help. And this is where the main problem lies, I’m not great at asking for help. My really-amazing-better-than-my-family-because-they-actually-help friends don’t wait for me to ask, they offer and thank god for that. But even then I feel guilty.

I feel guilty that even though I can help out my friends in return, I feel bad that they offer, when my family either can’t or don’t or say no. I know that staying home for two weeks without working wouldn’t be any easier, but it might be less stressful, and financially not much different once the trip and the child care is paid for. I’m okay with feeding them baked beans, or even sushi on the way home. I’m okay with showering every second day, washing clothes on the weekends and being a bit cranky at school. I’m even okay with him being away for my birthday and having the in-laws turn up that night. (Okay I might have drunk a bottle of wine to get through that, but it’s my birthday and I can if I want.)

I just have to view it as an adventure and take the kids on the journey with me. We can all sleep in the big king bed we finally got, we can all hang out and be feral on the weekend together. And if it doesn’t work, we can all hide from the world at home, or the beach, eating icy-poles and reading books.

So if you see me in the next few weeks and I stink, look hungry, are full up to the eyeballs on caffeine to stay awake and don’t recognise you, please don’t take personally, I’m sure the madness will only be temporary. Hopefully it will come back with my surfer boy.IMG_0836

 

 

My kids have superpowers and I’m not a fan

October 7th, 2013

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There is no doubt that any ordinary kid, toddler in particular has the capacity to send their sane parents completely bat-shit crazy!

Mine had a head start, but still, they have achieved outstanding success.

Part of the problem are the superpowers that my children possess. Now I know this might sound like a good thing, and I’m sure that their friends will also love these as they get older, but at the moment they are killing me.

The Wild Child has, for a long time, harnessed the Stay Awake Forever super power. He has been the master of sleep deprivation since he was born; mine, his and his dad’s. He can not only stay awake for hours past what is normal, but he can wake us up repeatedly and still be up before bird fart. If he surfs when he is older, his mates will love that he can stay up late and then he will be the first up doing the surf check. He is a freak.

As for The Stink, well his super powers are only now becoming apparent. This child who for a long time went to bed without any of the high drama of his older brother, has developed a power of his own. The power of Night Vision and Motion Detection. We now have to be in his room until he falls asleep. And like some kind of predator watching his prey, at the first sign of any movement, his little head snaps up and the call of ‘MuuuuuM!’ is released. And we start the process again. I’ve tried playing dead, but I just fall asleep.

Between the two of them they are developing new super powers daily. One minute they can turn themselves into Food Missiles, the next they develop Extend-a-limb where any precious/ spillable/ breakable/ expensive item can be swiped off and smashed into a million pieces. The Tornado is an ongoing super power that gets improved daily as they can swiftly turn anything tidy into a giant mess in a heartbeat. Not to mention The Humiliator, Actually that could be their Super Hero identity! My least favourite is The Siren. This is where at any particular moment that I need to listen to an important conversation, news on the radio, or just wait in a queue, The Siren starts. Mostly this is The Stink doing his best impersonation of a car alarm. And even his cuteness doesn’t make that sound okay.

God knows what they will develop as they get older. Being surrounded by teenage boys at my school, I have a fair idea of the noise, dirt and smell that is my future as the mother of boys.

I’m just going to have to work harder on my super power. Invisibility.

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Just love. That is all.

September 16th, 2013

Please don’t judge me I’m doing my best.

We are all doing our best. Sometimes its not the right thing to do, we all know that, but sometimes its the right thing for that moment and until you know the rest of the story, that is okay.

Whose business is it anyway to pass judgement on the choices we make for our kids? Unless of course a child is in danger, the parents can parent however they like. Once upon a time it was only the old ducks in the shops or the doctors surgeries that would cluck about the way that child was behaving. Now everyone has an opinion. And unless you are super skilled at completely avoiding the world that intrudes through your phone or your computer, you can be bombarded by other peoples comments over and over again. And it can make you feel like crap.

I had not heard the expression ‘this too will pass’ until my eldest was nearly two. I dont know if it would have helped the many hours we had spent rocking him to sleep, or justifying to other people why we were pretty unsociable and grumpy because of the little sleep and early mornings we were still having. But maybe it would have helped us put it into perspective.

Now I know better. I am the mother of two wild little boys and I am over justifying their bad behaviour to others, especially those who are supposed to just love, not parent, not judge, just love. They will be judged their whole lives, my two mischievous monsters. Kinder, school, sport, public, cousins, friends everywhere. It is natural to compare, I get that. But sometimes it’s better, and more helpful to just accept and love. Sure they might be attention seeking, or annoying, or embarrassing or infuriating. And sure the response to give in, or yell, or punish, or not is the wrong thing to do at the time. But have no fear, there will be many, many other opportunities to do that.

For now, for today, I’m just going to love. Love what they are great at, love how much they love each other, and love that they are pretty oblivious to the bad press they generate for themselves. It wont be long before they can identify the look of reproach of people who should love them, but dont right at that moment. They will get it from their parents too. So for now, while I can, I will cuddle and laugh and tickle and ignore.

Because that is what is right for right now. And how can anyone pass judgement of that.

 

Just a little tiny ray of sunshine

September 8th, 2013

I have a bit to do with Gen Y these days. And my oh my they are a funny bunch, but I’m starting to feel sorry for them. It seems as though every time I tap into some kind of media, even my favourite weekend newspaper magazine kind, the pages are splashed with notions of happiness. We are obsessed with happiness, finding it, keeping it, having it, sharing it, seeking it, being grateful for it.

And in the competitive nature of social media and the constantly checked in world we live in, it actually leads to far more unhappiness than we are prepared for.

Life is lots of things. It is monotonous, repetitive and boring. It is surprising, uncontrollable and delightful. It is devastating, cruel and unfair. And sometimes it is deliciously happy. The beauty of that moment of sparkling joy is its brevity. It is the contrast and the unexpected nature of the blissful moment that fulfils its promise. To stop, mid conversation, walk or chore to feel yourself fill to the brim with happiness is pure delight. Today for me it was in the middle of a kids rock concert, (okay so it was my town’s version of the Wiggles), as I watched my two, totally different little boys love the moment, I did too. I was there on my own, quietly sitting and watching them dance their hearts out. As they chased each other around and made sure they knew where their brother was, and where I was, and just lapped it up, I smiled.

For that moment, I completely appreciated my two healthy, wild, confident, unique children. I loved their energy. I loved their smiles. I loved being in a room filled with people doing something good for parents who had experienced the never-ending nightmare of losing a child to SIDS. And the funny guys on stage were the closest thing I’ve been to a rock concert for a while, so that wasn’t too bad either.I guess I bothered to notice it, or recognise that this was happiness, and that is a big deal for me.

Life is really busy at the moment. Really, really busy. Im back working full time, plus three other part time jobs and while my husband is doing a fabulous job at home looking after the boys, I feel completely stretched every minute of the day. Exhaustion makes happiness a little more elusive, but maybe it also makes it sweeter when it appears. So today was a nice surprise and it made me realise, no, remember, to just lower my expectations and keep my eyes out for the moments. We get caught up with making every thing perfect and I am terrible at just focusing on the negatives. In a long day with two little people, there are lots of moments of tension or frustration. Working full time amplifies these as I immediately regret any negative interaction with my kids, berating myself for wasting what little time I have with them in an argument.

But that’s parenting. Some days are revolting, or so they seem. When you actually think through the day, half an hour, or three separate ten minutes are revolting and the rest is pretty good. This is the bit that is worthy of my attention, not all the bad stuff. And that’s what I’m trying to remember. We don’t have to be ‘happy’ all of the time, but we do have to spend all of the time bothering to notice when we are ‘happy’.

Now if I can get that tattooed on my body somewhere, I can really start embracing the Gen Y mentality.

Yes neighbours I am the crazy woman yelling at my kids.

August 25th, 2013

I just a read a post from someone else’s beautiful blog about her daughters happily playing outside on their organic farm, and then the sun shined through the clouds. And then I threw up on myself a little bit.

You see even if I lived on an organic farm, my two boys would not inspire that kind of post.

Instead you get this one.

My wild child turned feral today. Completely. Out. Of. Control. Feral. Wild animal thrashing about, screaming like his leg had been chopped off, punching into his brother, throwing stones at the new car, kick the dog, throw the train set kind of feral. And all because I said no.

I believe in boundaries. I believe in consequences. I believe in teaching kids limits. Well at least I did until I witnessed the complete maniac my four old turned into on a fairly ordinary Sunday afternoon. He was not allowed to go over the neighbours house. He had asked to go over this morning, and their Dad said no. So we told him he wasn’t allowed. Response, go anyway.

I don’t do defiant well. Ask any kid I’ve ever taught. I see red, quickly and fiercely. At the moment defiance is flavour of the behaviour month in our place. If he doesn’t want to do it, he doesn’t. Hence today. Complete meltdown. Eventually we got him in the car where he calmed down and channelled some kind of freak angel child for the next hour at the park. Lucky for him.

And then afternoon comes. My folks turn up. Rare occurance, but not enough of a novelty to save the humiliation for another time. Seems they aren’t special enough to turn on the charm for anymore. So this afternoon when he is told that his Dad’s rule of not playing at their house for the week, comes into effect, the meltdown is repeated. Of course by now, Dad is off surfing and I get to invoke my most common role as most un-fun parent. I say no. He goes over. I return him to our house. He loses it. He loses it so bad, I nearly cry, and every single strategy I have is completely disregarded. Put in his room= throws toys at the wall, put in time out in the drive way= throws stones at the new car, cuddle him = kicks me, put in the pram to go to the park = starts laying into his brother. And all the while, the neighbours are pulling back curtains and locking their doors everywhere. Especially the ones whose house he was trying to go to.

My parents are at a complete loss. He is mental. My dad even tells him off. Takes no notice. My Mum tries some nice calm primary teacher talk, too busy screaming to care. So all I have left is throw him in the car, still screaming, well by now, both of us are because I am embarrassed, furious and terrified of what is happening to my little boy. The guy across the road just stares at me as I drive past wondering what kind of psycho he lives across the road from. I fight back tears and take my new car for a spin round the block. (Don’t even ask me what colour it is, because I have no freaking idea.) It works. He stops, I calm down. And then we pull in the driveway and the kid next door is out the front again. I talk him through walking inside without being completely mental again.

To face the horrified faces of my parents. It is worse that they see him for the absolute worst behaviour he has ever displayed in his life? He is not the golden grand-child anyway, but now he might be lucky if he gets a christmas present. Or can they at least see his naughtiness and not just my whinging aside as overreactions. Maybe now the fancy cafe they’ve booked for Father’s Day next Sunday might not have as much pressure attached to it. My Mum, the primary school teacher, cannot think of one possible strategy that might work, instead just citing the most mental kid she teaches in Grade 2.

We get to the park. He is fine, good even. Me, well let’s just say thank god there is a bottle of white wine in the fridge.

And at least it was my parents, the in-laws don’t need any more ammunition.

Maybe this full time work caper isn’t such a bad option after all.

Here goes

August 7th, 2013

Now clearly I am no Ruby Rose, but I have wanted to write about mental health since I began this little venture of mine.

Today I am braving it and there are lots of reasons why. But mainly because there are lots of us out there with really poor mental health, living with it, battling it daily. This post is not for every day we win the battle, this is for the one day we don’t, or can’t and what those battles mean for those around us.

In some ways I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I was able to get help and support that didn’t cost me a cent, that was private and professional and made a significant difference to my wellbeing. I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder quite a few years ago. Some people don’t like labels. They are scared of how that makes them feel. Or actually how it makes other people around them feel.

But for me so much started to make sense. My teenage years of feeling furious, terrified and completely emotionally overwhelmed started to have an explanation. My poisonous affair with vodka started to make sense. My volatile friendships that were punctuated with typical teenage angst, atypical break ups, and complete confusion about how these people who were supposed to be my friends made me feel, all became clearer. I was as much to blame as anyone I grew up with, and believe me they all had issues of their own, and then issues on these issues.

So as a professional, educated woman, in a stable relationship I finally had a glimmer of understanding about how I could finally shed some of those parts of myself that I didn’t like, and didn’t understand. Some of the relief came from an explanation that how I felt and how I behaved had reasons, and often reasons I couldn’t help. And to be honest, some of the relief came from the medication. I appreciate being cautious about medication. What I do not, and will never understand, are people who are completely resistant to taking medication that is prescribed by a doctor, proven to work and will have significant results on someone’s health. If we had diabetes, we would take it. Asthma we would take it. A heart condition we would take it. And yet anxiety, depression, or a disorder like me, we resist. We figure we will be okay, or that someone will find out, or the side-effects will be terrible, or like me, that we will never be able to exist without it.

Some of us can manage without it, even actively improve our mental health. But for so many of us, we cannot. It might be Post-Natal Depression that completely swallows us up, or anxiety that undermines every shred of self belief, or like me, emotional instability that has us lashing out, hiding away and disappearing under a blackness that threatens to change us forever. And then sometimes those magic little pills work in a way that is so effective and so subtle that we mistakenly think we don’t need them anymore. And sometimes we don’t. Pregnancy and breastfeeding meant I couldn’t take my meds for two years, and I have never gone back on them. Sure I have bad days, fiery moments, manic highs and the roller coaster in between, but I have got much better at managing it.

But I am aware of it, every minute, of every day. And often a few at night. And that is absolutely the key. I know what to look for, what the warning signs are and what to do about it. I don’t always manage it as well as I should, and I’m sure many people with a range of health problems could say the same. But I am so much better off for what I know. Because doing nothing is not an option. Not for me. Not for my husband. And not for my kids. They deserve the best Mum they can get, and so much of my energy is invested in doing just that. Even if in the future I might need some help along the way.

 

What full time work feels like now

August 2nd, 2013

 

It’s been three weeks since I have been back full time at a paid job. I have never stopped working full time, my other job just got longer and I stopped getting paid for a while. Now I am back in my old job. A job I used to love, but often found overwhelming, stressful and demanding. How time can change your view on things.

I still love this job, and I’m lucky to have had lots of really great moments over the last three weeks where I have been reminded of why teaching is awesome. Each day is different; you work with like-minded, but differently experienced people which means interesting and funny conversations. The boys I teach are pretty great. They are willing to share something of themselves, they are keen to know a little bit about you, and they give most things a really good go. My first week back provided two of the best lessons I have ever taught in my whole teaching career. I learnt more about those young men in 50 minutes that perhaps some of their teachers who have taught them all year know about them. They were willing to share stuff about themselves that their classmates later said they never knew, and they had been at school together for five years. It made me remember that each of these boys I teach have a pretty important story to tell, we just have to ask.

And it made me realise how important my job is as a parent.

And therein lies the complexity of this topsy-turvy time. My husband is home for three days with the wild and child and the stink, and on these days I can breeze out of the house on time, get a coffee and get to work nice and early like I did every day, once upon a time. As my mind flashes to my little boys at home, I can smile knowing they are doing something fun with their dad. It’s like every day has become the weekend for them. Holes get dug, Lego gets built, the shed is open, and there are tools out and about.

But on those other two days when neither of us are there, the stink is sick, the babysitter (mum) is too sick to mind them and the mad rush is on to get them out of the house, then back home and dinner cooked in minutes while they are tired and hungry, it’s a bit more difficult. The saving grace at the moment is my beautiful life-saving friend who has my boys with her. I know they are happy, loved, playing and fed. Once the new day-care opens its get a bit harder again, but at least then, every day will be a work day for me as my husband stays home permanently. Maybe then the shift will be easier. I hope so, because it’s about then that my other three jobs kick in to gear.

It makes me realise that this teaching gig aint that hard. Even with kids who would rather be anywhere that in that classroom reading a book. Even when meetings drag on, forty essays need to be marked by tomorrow and the baby has been up all night and I’ve got two hours of tutoring after school. It’s a nice shift for a while. It’s nice to feel like you know what you are doing and that at the start of the day you know which battle you will fight that day.

I miss my boys a lot. I think about them whenever I look at a clock and wonder what they will be doing. When I’m tired and it’s only lunchtime. But I remember that I’m just as tired when I’m at home. And anyway it’s my husband’s turn to get a crack at that life for a while. I’ve been able to juggle it all for four years and spend the majority of my time with my boys. Now it’s turn to run a house and be primary parent, and it’s my turn to walk in
the door tired after a day at work and have my boys run to greet me.

Well it’s not quite that much of a swap yet, but we are getting there.

Birthday cake and a dollop of embarrassment on the side.

July 28th, 2013

I don’t know about you, but during the winter in Vico, the highlight of our weekend can often be a birthday party. Pre-kids, you know that life you once had, this meant getting dressed up and hitting the town for lots of bubbles and laughs. It was fun, sometimes messy, but always fun.

Ah how life has reversed. Now it is always messy and sometimes fun.

The only bubbles on offer are the snot bubbles coming out of kids noses who are freezing themselves silly outside in the cold. And instead of the beer niggles the next day, my sugar coma induces a fresh reminder of what embarrassment my offspring have put me through in the latest public encounter.

One of the toughest things about having kids for me is seeing the parts of myself that I don’t like very much rearing their ugly heads in my little boys. Now I have never gone around hitting people at parties who stole my balloon, and thankfully the wild child has realised you don’t make too many friends this way. But it still seems that  even when he is being as good as is humanly possible for him, he still manages to have another kid in tears.

Today was an accident, but another gorgeous little one was in tears and it was my kids fault. No big deal and yet it makes me feel like an old version of myself. Saying the wrong thing to someone at a party and upsetting them, or more often, myself. So the highlight of my weekend now entails chasing my kids around in the rain, sweeping up the glass The Stink smashed on the ground, apologising to another mother for my kid kicking a ball too hard, having sentence long conversations and carrying a crying wild child around who cut his finger.

The food was delicious and the hosts were their usual lovely selves. There were lots of people there I would have loved to chat to, but even after four years of being a parent, I still can’t work out how to have a decent conversation with anyone socially while The Stink is up to his armpits in a bucket of water or the wild child is kamikazying off the top of the cubby. I have endless admiration for those parents who either don’t have to worry about what risk taking behaviour their kid is trying out, or are cool enough not to worry if they do.

Instead I hover, helicopter whatever you want to call it, trying to avoid the public humiliation I clearly didn’t avoid today. In fact if I wasn’t there when the ball got kicked then I probably wouldn’t feel bad.  I might have actually been able to stop and listen to someone else for five minutes instead of squeezing my one sentence into a conversation and then dashing off. It’s not a big deal, and one that wont last forever. But I’d already had a crap weekend and then my highlight got spoilt too.

Can’t wait for next weekend though, a massive birthday for a community organisation and a christening. Let’s just see if we can top this one. Strangers and a quiet church service. Surely nothing could go wrong with that picture!

At least there will be cake…

 

Secrets and heartbreak

July 22nd, 2013

I learnt something this weekend. I learnt it the hard way. I didn’t like it much, but it’s a good lesson to learn.

Everyone has a secret. At least one, some people have a few. Every now and then part of that secret peaks it head out, sometimes it slaps you in the face and sometimes it sneaks back away. For a moment the person you think you know becomes someone else. They remind you of another time and place. They remind you of pain and heartbreak. They remind you that we all keep parts of ourself hidden.

You learn things about people that absolutely blow your mind. They consume your thinking for a day, or more, because although it seems absolutely totally unbelievable, there are a few clues that keep flashing back to make you question just how much of your life you take for granted. I take everything on face value. I accept first impressions as the absolute truth about how that person must be, and often how they always were. I’m notorious for not always finding the right group to fit in when I start somewhere new. I latch on to whoever I think seems similar to me, and then once I actually get to know them I realize that I’m far too bogan for that friendship to work. So I try and weasel my way out of that new-found group of besties into another one. And I am not lying when I say I have done this, it happened at uni, at two work places, even in Mother’s Group.

I have secrets of my own. None that I am particularly good at keeping, but some that have stopped rearing their head quite as often. And I need to remember that in every conversation I have. Whether it be with strangers at the park, or the café, work colleagues who I am delighted are back in my daily life or even my dearest friends and family. You never quite know what the reality is like for them. What their day has entailed before they arrived at wherever they are now. Or whatever they might return to after they leave.

Sometimes its stuff we know and forget or gloss over. Sometimes its stuff that seems trivial to us. Sometimes its things that they are using every part of their body to suppress. And sometimes all it would take is a genuine conversation and a little bit of time to share. But most importantly, sometimes we don’t actually need to know the details, we just need to stop for a moment longer, listen a little more carefully and take a little more care. Maybe then our own secrets become a little bit lighter too.

Take that mother guilt

July 15th, 2013

I went back to work today. My first day of full time work in my old workplace for five whole weeks.

And I loved it!

For the first time since I have had my boys I walked back into my old school, that I love, and did not feel one ounce of guilt. Well, that is not entirely true, for a brief moment as I walked across the yard saying hi to people I haven’t worked with for ages, I felt a bit guilty that I didn’t feel guilty. How’s that for good old Mother Guilt.

Most of it was because my Wild Child and The Stink were home with their beloved Dad. They had swimming lessons this morning and the sun was out, so no matter what, it would be a pretty fun day. And part of it was that this was my husband’s idea. His work is an absolute debacle, so before we went on our trip he suggested we try this out for a bit and he could work part time for a few weeks. It might be the future normal in our house so it is an absolute luxury to be able to try out the switch before it might become a long term thing. And the final part was that I miss teaching, not fill in, chat to the kids and do some other work up the front teaching, but real create a lesson, build relationships and see some learning happen teaching. (The other 25 periods I can still much around on the net.)

I got to leave my house without too much crazy rushing, I even had time to do my hair, put a tiny bit of make-up on and get a coffee on the way. I got to have many, many conversations with adults I admire and some who make me laugh in a dangerous way with my wobbly pelvic floor. I got to talk about ideas and improvements and skirmishes and solutions. Someone even asked my advice, and a few hugged me in a way that made me wonder what exactly those year 10 boys had in store for me. I got to remember that this was a job filled with great people and with mostly great kids and that it was something I was okay at.

Sure, it was one day and I was a long way from the politics and kids swinging from the rafters that teaching is filled with. But it was also different. Different for me, different for my boys at home, and at this stage, most importantly it was different for my husband. I walked in the door to a happy house, everyone was a winner.

Now for tomorrow when my husband leaves at 7am and I wrangle the kids out the door dressed and fed and packed not much later to a wonderful friend for daycare. Only problem is The Stink hasn’t been there before and given he cries when we arrive at anyone else’s house because he thinks I am going to leave him there and never have, tomorrow will have a double dose of guilt. As I peel the barnacle off my leg and leave him screaming with a stranger, work might not have quite the same pleasure.

But that’s okay, at least I can talk to someone about it. And I might even get to have a cup of tea while I’m at it.

 



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