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The Kids Will Be Okay: You haven’t failed them.

Recently, I have run across numerous articles on parenting and blog posts about failure as a parent, which – if taken to heart, would make me cower in a corner sobbing and rocking myself, reflecting on my own failures as a mother.    They all run along the same topic – being there for your child, like on a leash attached – bowing down to their every call and desire.  They read as though it’s requirement to fulfill your child’s every wish and need for companionship and socialization with yourself in order to be a good mom—as if self-reliance and independence as a child mean you have missed out as a mother.  The one I read yesterday was titled, “Dear Mom.  I needed you.  You did not come.” The little girl was in bed, and after being tucked in and read to, her mother promised to come back — upon coming back, she found her child already asleep with a note scribbled on the ground – I needed you and you didn’t come.

Heartbreaking.  Devastating. I cried.  I saved it.  I shared it.  Other people shared it.

Then  came bed time…and quite frankly, it ticked me off.

I don’t have one child.  I have three – all under 5 years old, all in separate bedrooms.  My husband works late or is out of town more nights than I can count, and I feed, bathe, and put the kids to bed alone – and a lot of the nights he is home, they (especially the girls) just want Mommy.  He tries, he begs…they yell.  The only way I get to lay with all of them until they all fall asleep is if they all sleep in my bed – in which case – I don’t get to sleep in my bed and they giggle until midnight…which happens at least once a week when my husband is traveling.

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So, I am doing my juggling act, making the rounds through the three kids in the three bedrooms, circling from one to the other – tucking in, reading, tucking in, singing, tucking in, playing action figures, and circle again.  I am promising each to come back when the other two are asleep.  And I do….I always come back – even if they have fallen asleep and tuck them in one last time, kissing their forehead.  They know that.

The thing is – it’s bedtime, they all three “need” me.  They all want their own time to lie down staring into their stars projected by their magic plastic turtle onto the ceiling and talk about their day or what they want to do the next day or their imaginary play house or say their numbers forwards and backwards twelve times.  They all three “need” me to lay with them until it’s completely dark and they have drifted to sleep two hours later.  And they work it…  they werk.  They manipulate, they spin stories, they guilt me — whatever they can do to keep me in the room longer, to prolong bedtime.  They can be mean little boogers about it too – “do you like laying down with Oliver better than me?”, “Mason’s mommy reads him 5 books at bedtime, you read me two.” My favorite is my two year old that lies and screams that she “threw up puked” so I come back in quickly–then dies laughing when I run in her room.

There is one small problem with this —and this whole concept of “being there” at your child’s every whim.  There’s just not enough of “me” or anyone else with more than one kid to do it – nor do I think you should.

In large part, the moms I see writing these articles are parents of one child.  One child to whom they are solely devoted.  The moms I see reading and sharing  these articles, the ones who are so touched emotionally by them are mother to 2 or 3 or more kids.  It’s not a fair comparison.  It’s apples to oranges – truly.  You peel an apple and you still have one apple.  You peel and orange and it’s split 8 ways, with never enough to go around.

Yes – I try to give my kids the one on one time they want at night (and every day for that matter)- but too many nights, one falls asleep before I get back to them – two of them are left crying because one is sick or actually in “need” – or like last night, three of them are left crying while I desperately search for my son’s dog dog so he can sleep.

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I haven’t made every tee ball game because we undoubtedly have had one of the three sick or the time of tap class conflicted with tee ball.  I’ve missed parent watch nights at ballet because we’ve had two others sick at home.  I’ve missed sending things for school that I needed to because the paper got lost in the shuffle of 20 papers on the fridge from three kids and I missed seeing them.  I’ve been late in the carpool line – once – by two minutes – because my youngest had a pooptastrophy all over herself and the floor of my house.  I have disappointed them. I have “failed”.

It’s hard.  Parenting one kid is hard.  Parenting more than one child – sometimes it feels impossible.  If you have more than one child, you cannot physically “be there” all the time, for everything.  I will always, come hell or high water, be there when they are truly in need – and for everything that matters.  But I (you) cannot walk around taking abuse and beating myself up because I can’t do it all—-all the time, and maybe I did leave them in bed to do the dishes and they fell asleep, but you know what…They’ll be ok.

I can’t be in the room when a teacher scolds them for the first time, or a bully pushes them on the playground, or their first crush makes fun of them in the lunchroom, or when they’re terrified their first day of college, or their boss yells at them on their new job.  I can’t always physically be present in every capacity of everything they do – with one kid or with three.  It’s my job to prepare them for those days, to give them the foundation to know – it’s ok.  They’ll be ok.  They’ll be better than ok- they’ll learn from their experiences and get past them smarter and stronger.

My kids are loved deeply – with everything I have and am.  I live and breathe them – like literally, this morning – after I failed to find dog dog last night – I woke up to Oliver in my bed two inches from my face and snoring into my mouth.

My kids are not now, nor will they ever suffer from me “not being there”, because I am here.  I am here for them.  Always.  If I make a promise to them, I keep it.  Period.  I am their home base.  Their anchor.  That’s my job.  My job is to love them. It’s to make sure they have the strength, the confidence, the self esteem to know they are ok.  They will be ok.  No matter the situation, they can come to me.  They can call me.   If they truly NEED me, I am by their side.

They are also learning patience, compassion and a sense of self-reliance and responsibility.  Yes – they have to wait for me sometimes, and that’s ok.  Yes – sometimes their brother or sisters are in greater need of me at the moment than they are —and they learn to be concerned for them versus their own wants at the time.  And – yes, sometimes I have to leave them to ‘do the dishes’ because they have more than likely been sitting in the sink all day or for two days because I have neglected them already to spend time with them.  While, I treasure each and every moment I have with all three of my kids individually and live for those middle of the night cuddles and conversations,  I need them to know that when I can’t be with them – they will be ok.

I have not failed by teaching my kids that they will be ok.  I have not disappointed them in a scarring way because I didn’t make it back in before they fell asleep. And I am not going to beat myself up because my kids made me feel guilty, awful, like a blubbering mess because they wanted me to stay in the room with them for longer than I possibly could – because I have two other children who also needed me.  These kids will be ok.  They will be better than ok.  They will be happy, thriving, successful adults, because they are being loved and supported, but they are also being taught that their mother is giving them her all – and just because they fall asleep before she makes it back in the room – or because she’s running a few minutes late in the day – any given day – she’s not a disappointment, and she’s not trying to disappoint them – she’s doing her best.  Always.  She is always doing her best, and while she may not answer to their every whim or be able to be there beside them in some trying times, she is still here for them and always will be when they need her — and she is teaching them how to do their best –and sometimes, in life, there are disappointments.   Sometimes your best isn’t enough, but when it’s not – it doesn’t mean you’ve failed.  You’ll be ok.  You’ll learn, you’ll be smarter, you’ll be stronger, you’ll try to do better next time – and you’ll still be loved.  Always.  You’ll be okay.  When there just isn’t enough of me to go around – I want my kids to understand this, because when they are facing the bully or the boss  — I want them to know how to handle it without disappointment when I can’t be there.  I want them to know that I am with them – I support them, even when I am not standing physically beside them.  I don’t want to miss a single moment with them, but where you encounter the situation daily of a shortage of time, mind, and bodies to go around—you will inevitably miss moments.  That’s not a failure.  As long as you are there when they truly need you – when they are sick, injured, hurting, happy, celebrating….they’ll be ok.  And….You’ll be ok.  You will all be better than okay.

 

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Lost in Translation: 20 THINGS THAT JUST DON’T MEAN THE SAME THING ANYMORE

It occurred to me last night ( a glorious night – where we actually succeeded at getting the kids fed and in bed early, ate our dinner alone and watched a movie – what??!?!?),  as I was sipping on a glass of some really good red wine – and then a second – that was of course even better – just how much the meaning of things (words, signals, actions, etc), have changed in our life since having kids.

We’ve gone from a kiss at the door to a casual nod across the room, with my inability to move, as my poor husband walks in the door using his work backpack as a shield, captain America style.  There is no telling what lies ahead as he opens that portal to chaos… flying wood blocks, Thor’s hammer, a camelbak full of juice, a wet dog, a glue stick, a child, slipping on a magnatile, stepping in obliterated gold fish- or worst of all – me.  Something or someone will inevitably attack him.

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This sets the scene for our communication in the evenings.  From the time he walks in until we hit the hay –  it’s an all out warrior dash style, dirty, ugly, fit pitching race.  Race to get the kids fed. Race to get the kids to bed.  Race to get the house back “straight” (let’s face it – it’s NEVER clean).  Race to get in bed – and Race to – wait, what race.  I’m awake – like wide awake – and Ken’s snoring.  He’ll start it all over again at about 5am, and I’ll be up most of the night, then get up with the kids around 7 to start the circus all over again.

So, the shift in our lifestyle and schedules has changed – not the so much the way we communicate – but the meaning of what we say. . . see if you can relate…

20 THINGS THAT JUST DON’T MEAN THE SAME THING ANYMORE

  1. ” Hi.”  6 years ago Hi was a sweet, coy, playful – I’m glad you are home! How are you? How was your day? I love you! – vs.- now, it’s usually said with a low grumble and means – batter up.  Your turn.  Good Luck-I’m checking out. I hate you for leaving me here alone all day to start with.
  2. “Having a glass of wine”  – Meant a bottle, or at least splitting a bottle. – vs.- now, it’s more like I pour a glass, maybe take two sips, sit it down and forget about it – until the nightly clean-up, dump it out, stare longingly at the bottle with two glasses worth left in it, turn it up for a swig or two and dump the rest, knowing it will spoil before I get around to having another glass.
  3. “Dieting” This week – we are eating healthy!  Salads for everyone!! – vs. – now, we’ve really got to stop eating Oreos at bedtime – how about a brownie instead? (did I mention we stress eat?)
  4. “I appreciate you” – thanks for picking up my dry-cleaning or making dinner! – vs. – now, thanks for keeping our children alive and safe and not turning into to a mumbling mess in a a straight jacket in the corner – or – thank you for killing yourself day after a day to provide for our family so we can sit and stress eat brownies together.
  5. “Sleeping In” – 10:00, maybe even eleven if I put the pillow over my head and shut the blinds. – vs.- 7:15.  That 15 extra minutes is pure gold…like better than chocolate or maybe even my Starbucks coffee.
  6. “Clean” as in a clean house or floor – as in the cleaners haven’t been here since Tuesday – trash that it hit the floor, and scrubbing ovens and baseboards – vs.- looks ok, Unknownsmells ok, rinse it off – it’s good – and throw the toys in the baskets and stack everything else on the dining room table – I’ll deal with it…umm… scratch that, just stack it on the table, then we’ll have some clean clothes downstairs for an emergency.
  7. “Chocolate” – godiva, as dark as possible, and sinfully rich. – vs.- stale mini mm’s I found in the center console, melted together, that I used two days ago to bribe the twins to stop fighting.
  8. “Left-Overs” – Chinese take-out, best eaten on the couch or in bed with a movie. – vs.- Ooh!  I found a skittle!!  Check that – wasn’t a skittle – possibly something plastic.  Ouch.  Mental note – when eating found candy – only go for jelly belly jelly beans (the ones that the color hasn’t faded on and that aren’t sticky – that just means they probably sucked on them or licked them – ugh.)  They hold over well and are quite distinguishable from other unknown items.
  9. “Sharing” – trading bites of some delectable dishes at a great restaurant or eating a bowl of ice cream with two spoons – vs. – never actually getting a bite of “my” cookie because the kids wanted a bite and I gave it to them first and they contaminated it beyond the point of safe consumption with dirty finger nails and snot – before forcibly shoving it in Ken’s mouth to “taste it – it’s good dad”.  Mmmm…..
  10. “Cussing” – the F word.  Like anything else was probably fine – except the F word.  That was swearing – but we still said it – like – all the time – vs.  Shoot, Sugar, and a few others have been found as suitable replacements in a pinch but otherwise, Shut-up, Stupid, any word for the male genetalia other that “peepee” or “penis” is pretty much off limits, any word for the female parts except “hootie (don’t ask)”  “hooha” or “vagina” is forbidden, and every 4 letter word that comes to mind when your threenager loses their “f’ing” mind in a kicking, slapping, biting, tantrum of a fit in the middle of the Target floor over a pack of princess puppy puffy stickers.   418715770_640
  11. “Exercise” – P90x, Baby!!  or Running – like, compulsive running – vs. – I’ve carried a 34lb, 3 years old on my right hip for 2 hours straight.  Tomorrow…tomorrow I’ll switch sides.
  12. “Knee problems” – an old sports injury to my left knee that caused pain in the rain or when running, easily fixed with ice – vs. – joints that crack loud enough when I stand from a squatting position that they wake a soundly sleeping baby it took an hour to get to sleep- therefore I crawl on all fours like a stalking dog out of her room to keep from straightening them.
  13. “Cuddling” spooning for hours until we fell asleep despite the arm that was numb and the inability to breathe – vs. – Ken squeezing the life out of a king size pillow he hugs and holds between his knees so he can cuddle something since we have a 17 month old deposited sideways in the middle of our bed and I can’t go to sleep with anything but the covers touching me after being pregnant.
  14. “Silence” that awkward thing when we didn’t know what to say but rarely ever happened because we felt compelled to fill the air with something just for the sake of talking to each other – vs.- that invaluable 5 seconds where no kid is screaming, crying, fighting, laughing, wallowing on the floor, or needing anything, no dog is barking, no phone is ringing, and if you speak, I’ll cut you – like bad, like probably dead.
  15.  “Travel” this thing we did a few times, kind of like a vacation, that was SOOO cool!! and fun!  It was FUN!  I wanted to try it again…and then we did… with kids…NOT Cool.  I need a valium just thinking about it.  Strollers and car seats and 80 suit cases and 500 pieces of clothes I’ll just have to put back up when we get home and snacks and drinks and I’ve gotta peepee and now I’ve gotta pee pee and we just freakin’ peed for Christ sake!  and I’m hungry, and my brother hit me, and she bit me and he touched me, and she has my dogdog, and dogdog has to peepee.  You know what – screw dogdog – he’s a $3 stuffed animal from IKEA, he does not have to peepee….and we need gas, who has to peepee?
  16. “Lingerie” – some lace something from VS that cost more and had less material than the average pre-baby “I’m still sexy” undies – vs. – the leggings I’ve had on going on three days that have some unidentified substance on the butt with an old stretchy maternity tank top because it pulls down long enough to cover said substance – and my bathrobe – annnd … don’t forget my Uggs – gotta take those dogs outside before bed.  HOT, right?
  17. “Fooling around” – Quite obviously we all know what that means in the context of “getting-lucky” before kids  – vs.- the now typical use is in the context of “would you quit fooling around and let’s go” – referring to me spinning in circles in the middle of the kitchen trying to recall what I have forgotten to bring with us while Ken waits for me with the car running with the twins in it screaming—-oh yes, the baby, and her shoes, and bottle and food and diapers and snacks….and my shoes, wait – my shoes, where the heck are my shoes?
  18. “Getting Lucky” – basically my husband was getting laid.  Period.  Or maybe that I scored $10 on a $5 scratch off. – vs.- it generally means we got the kids in bed before 8 and no one had a mortal melt down or puked – meaning we can be in bed before 9 – SWEET!  or better yet, we got a sitter for all three kids and we are eating big kid food instead of nuggets and fries – we never get that lucky.images-1
  19.  “Birth-Control” – well, with three under three, and married 4 years,  quite obviously whatever we did wasn’t effective, and I’m not qualified to give advice other than – don’t use that method – vs. – what I will call the 5 layers of defense – 1 & 2. 3 year old twins 3. a 17 month old that sleeps with you 4. Abstinence (see #3) 5. Just to seal the deal – The Big V (if you don’t know what that is – you clearly don’t have more than 1 child).  There will be NO and I mean NO more babies made in this house.
  20. “I Love You”.  I’m madly and crazy “in” Love and committed to you – basically – I worship you and all of our “compatibility” – vs.- a deepness to the meaning of love that can’t be defined in you for your spouse before having children, a need for them, for their support, for their love, patience, understanding and unconditional love in return – and a need for you that can’t be learned or grown over time without looking at a life (or three) that you created together and knowing that together you are stronger, better, whole – together.  You are an extension, part of one another – not just as parent’s – but as a couple – as a family.

This list could be infinitely longer, because life has inexplicably changed, as has the meaning of so much in it.  But, with someone to lean on – a partner – a best friend – a companion – the playful words, phrases, things we did before kids haven’t gone away – they’ve just taken on a deeper, more meaningful – truer – form.

And the baby is crying…  peace out.

~B