Sunday, February 25, 2018

When We're Apart

When we're apart we clean out all of the closets.

We set up elaborate new systems for handling the kids laundry, and pack away the cot (which has been on the to-do list for six months). We use our time apart to take steps to make life easier & better.

Usually our home hovers just on the edge of acceptably clean, rarely organised, and always at least slightly chaotic. Personality profiling once told us "your house will typically be a mess, but that's okay because it's not going to bother either of you." And that is the realest judgement I've ever heard about the two of us and our life together.

So when we're apart, we suddenly, separately, become more organised. Less closeness, more cleaning. Less sitting-down-together-over-a-gin, more I'm-bored-might-as-well-clean. What matters more to us is the time we spend talking and dreaming and ideating together.

When we're apart we keep work obligations to a minimum, and focus on the kids. Less meetings and spreadsheets and photo editing; more playdates, bedtime stories, and being available for schedule changes if one of them gets sick.

When we're apart whoever stays behind gets full control of the show or movie selections, they get to stretch out in the middle of the bed, or have one of the kids to keep them company. They get to set their own calendar without ever having to think "let me check with him/her first...." Parenting becomes a solo mission, where suddenly you become a stronger parent because there isn't anyone else to hand the reigns to if you need a break. It's hard, but you rise to the challenge as humans do when there aren't any other options.

When we're apart whoever goes off on an adventure gets full control of how they spend their time. Calls home are completed when possible, but it's known that that's not a priority. (Calling the kids can sometimes derail or distract them from the fact that they are doing just fine with their total attention and control over the present parent! Reminding them they miss Mom or Dad often ends in a puddle of chaos and emotions.) When we're apart we get to chase activities or events or even meals without trying to please anyone other than ourself - or ourself and whoever we may be adventuring with, because neither of us is likely to do anything that doesn't involve other people! The adventurer gets new experiences and they get to bring home stories to share. Seperate stories get built by who's home and who's away, so that when we come back together we have even more to talk outside on the balcony.

When we're apart we miss each other. And missing each other is good. Missing each other makes us so certain that this relationship and this life are exactly where we want to be.

When we're apart we both tend to create a structure that highlights all of our priorities instead of hiding them. Having an overall life that is happy and a day to day life that is easy are our major priorities. And I love that even when we're apart we both work separately towards the same goal.

Apparently it's been nearly a full year since we took a
photo of just the two of us?!?! Unacceptable.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Parenting Expert in My Head (or lack thereof)

I sent Trip to sleep in his own bed tonight.

While Toff's away he's been sleeping with me. We keep each other company, and I enjoy the one-on-one time I get to spend with him. (Plus, he's a really good cuddler, and I know my days of him wanting to snuggle with Mom are mighty limited!)

But tonight he did something to make me mad. Not just one thing, actually - several. He carried on at dinner time, screaming and crying when I wouldn't let him have more than one bowl of cereal right before dinner. (It sounded more than fair to me, have a bowl of cereal, and if you're still hungry you can eat the butter chicken I had already started making. What a fun way to have dinner on a Saturday night!) He disagreed. But more than that, the incident that earned him his punishment was that he was, yet again, mean to his sisters.

I had banished all of the kids downstairs while I finished cooking because everyone was screaming. Screaming at me for not letting them splash milk from their bowl all over the counter as they squelched their hands through left over cereal, screaming at each other because one of them hit the other with a piece of ribbon, just screaming. Everyone was screaming. And then, after their banishment when I went down to check on them, I got there just in time to see Trip spit on his sister. Is there anything more gross than being spat on?? Is there any other relationship in the world where it's likely to happen more than between a brother and sister?!? (Seriously, I would honestly like to know if you think there is!!) And more than any other little tidbit that comes with raising kids - the being mean to your siblings is just one I cannot stand. I know it's a unique relationship, and I know they are testing limits and building trust, and that in the end they will love each other like no one else in the world ever will. But the screaming! And the hurting each other! And the spitting!!

I feel like the worst mom in the world, typing this. Because even to me it sounds like I was too hard on them. I just sat in bed by myself and watched a movie, and at the end of it I just felt so lonely and got the biggest surge of guilt.

Should I have punished him? Should I have gotten mad at everyone when they were screaming? Do I need to scream back or send them away or throw the tea towel down in a huff or even - yup, I've done this too - told them to just shuuuuut uuuuuppp.

With every parenting decision I make, there is always a voice in my head wondering if it was the right choice. Or the right action. Or the right words or the right tone or the right timing. Because there  may be parenting experts out there - but they are not in my head and they do not need to make a decision when three kids are screaming at me. Or when someone offers them a cookie but before I say yes I have to do that weird parent calculator thing in my head to figure out if the addition of that sugar minus the amount of sleep they had last night, divided by how much sugar they're likely to have for the rest of the day or even tomorrow, plus the amount of patience I have left to deal with the likely tantrum if I do say no.... There's a lot going on here, folks. And there isn't a parenting expert in my head. There's just this one little parent. Who loves these kids more than anything. And above all else, I want them to grow up being kind. SO is the best way to do that to simply model kindness? Is it possible to teach kindness while at the same time being mean and punishing them myself?!? Is that just teaching them to be mean? Or is it teaching them that sometimes, to be kind to someone, you have to help them learn a lesson, even if they have to learn it the hard way?

So tonight, Trip is in his own bed. But tomorrow, if he can choose kindness towards his sisters, then he can come sleep with me again. And in the end, this is the choice I have made. I can't go back in time and make a different one. But I can show up, and help him learn the lesson this time - even if just for this one day. I may not be a parenting expert, and I may make the wrong choice on occasion, but it's okay because I am the only mom these gorgeous little kids have. And because of that, I'm the best one they could ever have. I do have a deep seated belief that our kids are going to turn out just fine (whether because of our parenting choices, or in spite of them!!)

Thanks for listening, friends. I feel a little less guilty now. And maybe tomorrow I'll at least try not to tell my kids to shut up. (As long as no one gets spat on.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Three Kids at Bedtime

I have three kids.

Right now they are 6, 4, and 2.

(Meggie in the middle would correct me to say that she is 4 1/2, of course. Which would then prompt the baby to say "I four half, too!!")

My favourite time of year is coming up. From Meg's birthday in April, all the way to Trip's birthday in September, when Meg's age goes up before Trip's does and they will be 6, 5, and 2. And then my favourite, favourite month of the year comes up - in August when Charlie's age goes up, too. So that for one month of the year our life sounds exactly as crazy as it actually is. Six, Five, Three. Who has kids that close together?!?! Who is just that crazy???!!!

Obviously we all know the answer to this question. I have never pretended to be normal, and have only recently realised that I am the craziest person I know. I mean, I know I'm crazy, this is not news by any means. But I did have an aha moment just the other day when I had to tell Toff that there isn't anyone in our circle of friends who is crazier than I am. Which might actually mean that I am crazier than think I am!! This wasn't upsetting news for me, only an interesting epiphany.

I have been called out, on numerous occasions, of acting crazy in public. Quite frequently by new friends, and also quite frequently when I hadn't even been aware that I had been acting crazy at the time!!

But, back to the kids!!

The kids!!

Putting all three of them to bed the other night - smelling their sweet, soft hair (Charlie smelled like birthday cake) and gently kissing the soft slope of their cheeks - I tried to recall what bedtime used to look like.

And I couldn't do it. I have no idea how we used to get three kids to bed a year ago (when they were 5, 4, & 2). Or the year before that. I have no idea how I got Trip to bed when he wasn't even 2 yet and Meg was a newborn. No idea. I think probably it wasn't a feat I tried by myself too often. (Thank you, sweet husband, for juggling your crazy business-running life so you can be home for bedtime!!!!!!!) So I imagine that when we had newborns Toff would put the big kid or kids to bed while I put the baby to bed. But I have no physical memories of lying in bed with them or reading books or bringing one last sip of water to their bedside. I think I blocked it out!

Typically, my mind only blocks out memories of stressful times or negative memories, which works in my favour. Toff's memory system was built the same way, so that the two of us simply have no memories of past arguments (not that there are many.....although maybe there are and we've blocked them out?!! Ha!) or stressful times in our life. And I'm so glad we found each other, because I imagine that this ability may be stressful for a partner if one of you could remember the negative aspects of your relationship but the other couldn't.

Once again... back to the kids!!

The kids!!

Bedtime, at the moment, is a fairly smooth affair. Of course, it still requires three adults on most nights. So maybe it is only smooth based on sheer numbers! After dinner the kids get a bath, which usually involves Trip pestering his sisters - both of which have figured out how to scream like their life is depending on it in order to achieve the quickest possible interference from an adult, who usually arrives only to find out that he is simply repeating a song about poo he made up that they don't want to hear right now. (Gosh, no wonder I block this shit out! It's annoying me just writing about it!!) Kids! ...Specifically, siblings!! Anyhow, after that they all get their pjs on, teeth brushed, then hop into one of the beds to read a book with Dad. Then each of them gets their turn to be lied with by Mom and Dad, both. Lucky little kiddywinks.

You see, I'm writing this down just so I can remember it. But probably, I don't need to remember how easily they will fight with each other, or spit water at one of their siblings just to annoy them. Or how much water ends up on the floor. Or how many times I have to say, "don't hit your sister," "don't jump on your brother," "don't lick that," "don't throw that or chew on that or say that."

Hey, actually, I just had another epiphany! Maybe there is a reason I block some memories out! We shouldn't remember the annoying or bad things we go through with people we love. That's no fun. Remember their sweet face when they are sleeping. Remember how he bends down to peer into his sisters face after going to visit the face-painter, and says "Meggie! You're beautiful!" Remember that. Remember when they are sweet and gentle and caring. Remember when they hold a friends hand while walking away from school, or fall in love with a new friend and can't wait to go visit them, or offer to share their favourite snack with a little buddy. We don't need to remember when they were difficult or challenging - we grow from those moments, and we become better equipped to handle them in the future - but our memory space is so much better used in all of the sweet memories!

Oh wow, I'm so glad I figured this out!

So goodnight, sweet friends! May you have so, so many sweet memories to fill your head up with that there is simply no room for the bad ones!