Mom Fail

As a parent, have you ever had felt despite your best efforts, you just¬†can’t do anything right?

I’ve certainly felt this way: when my sons have rejected clothes, toys, food and me! It’s a terrible feeling. You’re trying to do your best by your child, and don’t feel like you’re getting it “right.”

A girlfriend and I were swapping Mom stories one day. Here is how the exchange went:

“I had no idea how much work the Daddy Daughter dance would be to coordinate.”

“I know what you mean. Hang in there. The event will be great.”

“I got my kids to school 30 minutes late today. Mom Fail!”

“No way. You’ve got to cut yourself some slack. You’ve got a lot going on.”

“Thanks I needed to hear that.”

“Absolutely! You’re doing great. Keep me posted on how things go.”

Later in the day, it was I who needed my friend.

“I’m in the ER. Swallowed something he shouldn’t have. ūüė¶ Ugh. How many times have I told him¬†you¬†only put food and water in your mouth!?”

“Oh my gosh, how are you doing? Are you okay?”

“I’m okay. I will feel better when he get’s a clean bill of health.”

“Prayers coming your way. Keep me posted.”

“Thanks.”

a while later…

“Just got the green light. He will be fine. So thankful. Appreciate you being there.”

“Great news. So happy to hear it. Talk to you soon.”

 ** ** ** ** **

Both my friend and I started out by sharing how we’d “failed” as moms. Of course, as a parent you go¬†through ups and downs. An ‘up’ for me, is when one of my sons accomplishes something or has an insight that he’s proud of, and I quietly think/hope I may have influenced or inspired it. A¬†‘down’ comes when I have to argue or be stern with my boys to get them to do something (homework, eat, etc.) or they experience something avoidable (like¬†swallowing something¬†that isn’t water or food). In these moments, my¬†mind wonders to think¬†if only I were a better parent. Ever have one of those moments?

As a parent, we can, too often, beat ourselves up when things don’t go right. There is no perfect parent, or perfect parenting. There are an infinite number of styles, and if your motivation is doing what’s best for your child (not what your child wants, but what’s best for them), you are probably doing a pretty darn¬†good job. My friend and I may have felt like parental failures, but only in the moment. Upon reflection, it was such moments that allow us to¬†stop and reevaluate how we are doing as parents, and adjust (or readjust) as needed.

How have you dealt with moments when you felt like¬†you weren’t at your parenting best? How did you¬†recover from¬†it?

 

It’s Just Brunch

When you first had your child did you worry about when you could return to activities you enjoyed prior to becoming a parent?

When I first entered motherhood, I had two realizations: I love my son, and I loved my old life, how can I honor both?¬† I was stumped. As a new parent, I thought sacrifice was paramount to being a ‘good parent’, and anything¬†else was selfish. This kind of understanding and thinking was a rookie mistake on my part. What I learned was that while parenting requires sacrifice, it also requires taking care of yourself so that you can give your child the energy and attention they need from you.

When my son was young, my husband and I were lucky enough to be in a PEPS group (Program for Early Parenthood Support) and were surrounded by other families who were just starting out as parents like we were. We were encouraged to have a Moms Night Out (MNO) where the dads would watch the kids while the moms had dinner, and vice versa, so the dads had an opportunity to do the same. I lived for those MNO in the early days and looked forward to them. But as our kids got older, and required less of us physically, the need by all the moms¬†for these MNO diminished. We probably haven’t had a MNO in years.

In those early days, I needed a reprieve from being a parent. I needed to be with others my age for adult conversation and interaction. I was very mindful of this need in the early days of being a parent. I’ve gotten a bit away from it as my children have grown and become independent.¬† That is, until, a girlfriend of mine reached out to go to brunch. As a working parent, she realized with all the stresses from work and home life, she needed to connect with others and became proactive about doing so. Thankfully, I was one of the friends she reached out to. “Let’s do brunch,” she said. Oh, brunch sounded nice. I hadn’t done brunch without family members present¬†in a long time. I mean a loooong time. I loved the idea, and eagerly accepted her invitation. I loved having brunch with my friend. She reminded me that¬†it’s okay to start reclaiming your independence and take time for those activities that are important to you — like keeping up relationships and having a good meal that is kid-free.

What kid-free activity¬†have you reconnected with¬†since becoming a parent? Or what activity do you want to? What helped you or what’s holding you back?

Parenting is a Team Sport

Have you ever felt like parenting is a competition?

It’s a topic I often cover when speaking to parenting groups–being a parent can feel like many things including a rite of passage to see how we (as parents) can out do each other, or how our kids can. It starts when our child is very young — whose sleeping better through the night, eating better, rolling over first, standing up, walking, etc. We are proud of our child hitting a developmental milestone,¬†and want to believe their success¬†is largely due to our parenting skills, but¬†in reality it is more a mixture of our child’s innate capabilities and disposition, which may or may not have been¬†influenced by us.

While we may feel like competition is only between¬†other parents, a topic that isn’t often spoken of is competition between the parents themselves. Competition between parents can be just as common, and is not limited to couples who are divorced. Competition between¬†a couple can be more subtle in how it shows up: a child feels they can confide in one parent more than they can another and the parent who is left out feels sadness the child doesn’t have (or maybe want) to have the same relationship with them, or competition can arise when one parent connects/relates easily with their child, while the other struggles. There are many different ways the feeling of competition can arise, but parenting is not a competition; it’s about doing what’s right for our child, not us. This can be hard to keep front and center when we have our competitive juices flowing.

My husband took our oldest to his flag football game over the weekend. My younger son and I were going to meet them there closer to game time and were just about to head out the door when my husband called and said, “Don’t go anywhere, we’re coming home.” When they got home I asked what happened. I found out that our son was getting frustrated with what the coach was asking him to do. He was struggling to do the practice drill and was showing his frustration. Instead of being respectful to¬†the coach and listening to what the coach was saying, he was getting more and more angry, and talking back. My husband told my son to calm down and be respectful, or we’re going home. My son jumped at the chance and said, “Fine, let’s go home.” I could tell by the look in my husband’s eyes when he told me that he hadn’t thought his threat would turn out the way it did. He had thought our son would calm down, and listen to the coach, because he wanted to play in the game. But he was stuck, like many of us when we may threats and are kids call us on it (anyone have to leave the restaurant or theatre — places you wanted to go, and then your child starts misbehaving or act up, and you threaten you’ll leave if they don’t calm down and they say basically indicate they never wanted to be there in the first place?¬†Ugh!). I said, “Oh no, you are going to the game. That’s not fair to your team, but you’re not playing. You have to earn the right to play and you lost that right in the way you acted. ¬†You are going to go there and support them — you are going to be their #1 cheerleader today, and you’re going to apologize to the coach for your behavior.” My son looked at me like he couldn’t believe this hadn’t happened earlier, and said, “Okay.” We got in the car and went to the field. He didn’t play, he did cheer and he apologized to the coach — not once, but twice. My hope was that he would understand you can never walk away when things get tough, you can’t let your actions let down a larger group (your team), and there are consequences, sometimes uncomfortable ones like apologizing to a coach, when you behave a certain way.

Later that night my husband and I were talking about what happened. Without discussing it, we¬†easily could have been filed this incident in the competition file, where one parent did the “right”¬†thing and the other did the “wrong” thing (one is a better parent than the other — see how easy situations can have that competitive feel?)…but that’s not the way we viewed it. Instead, one of us experienced, with the best intentions, a misstep and the other helped them recover. We are a team, and¬†need each other’s help. Parenting is a team sport, not an individual one. We have certainly had scenarios where my husband helped bail me out of a misfired threat. We learn each time we experience this together, and allow ourselves the chance to discuss, reflect, and think about how we would handle the situation differently in the future. We get better together.

Have you ever felt like you were competing with another parent or your spouse? How do you parent as a team, versus as an individual?

Go Team!

Playdate

When my boys were young, I longed for when they would have playdates…at their friends homes. I have to admit I liked the idea of them developing friendships outside of daycare and school, but wasn’t so sure if I wanted to host these occasions. Cleaning the house, making sure we had the right food (and understood any allergies and parental preferences), and having some activities in my back pocket in case we needed to keep the kids entertained (e.g. deter them from destroying the house) created a lot of anxiety, and made me tired just thinking about it.

As I reflected on this recently, I thought about playdates we have as we mature, though we don’t refer to them as that. By junior high it’s called “hanging out” and changes into “date night” or “grabbing dinner or a drink with your friends” as we become adults. Adult playdates seemed must easier to do before my kids arrived. Much like coordinating a kid playdate, coordinating an adult one can be just as stressful: who can we get to babysit, can we squeeze in¬†a “relaxing” event with our busy schedules, and juggling doing something “fun” that may take away from my sleep.

But, I love my friends, and my husband, and know while stressful, scheduling activities with them¬†are necessary. It’s what keep me connected and gives me energy back (though it does take energy to plan). Similarly, my kids need to have playdates to develop friendship skills and practice their manners.

Presently I’ve probably hosted as many playdates as my boys have attended. It’s fun to see them play with their friends and good to meet their friend’s parents. It does take some work, but the ultimate payoff is their smiling faces.

How often does your child have playdates? Do you prefer to host or have your child hosted? Do you live for playdates or dread them?

Time to Relax

I’ve blogged before about the need we have to recharge ourselves and give ourselves back energy. We risk burning out, may experience negative feels (anger, resentment, frustration) more easily, and make it tough to bring our full self to anyone (child, spouse, etc.) or thing (work, friendships, etc.) if we don’t do it.

I was fortunate enough to be able to give myself a big energy boost recently. I met up with some of my girlfriends and spent four fabulous days with them. During our time, we had deep connected discussions, I slept¬†peacefully (with no interruptions or small people jumping on me unexpectedly!), I was able to relax and let all (or at least most) of my stresses go. It was only for a few days, but it felt great. I missed my children and my husband, but knew they were having fun and everyone was fine during my absence. It was hard to get away when my kids were younger, I felt tremendous guilt when I had to leave them even for a day. I felt guilty for putting all the responsibility of taking care of our boys on my husband. It was misplaced guilt. My husband enjoyed and still enjoys taking care of the boys by himself, it gives them a chance to be together and have their own special time, just like I’m having mine.

It can be difficult to find ways to give yourself that needed rest or energy boost you need, especially without feeling guilty, but it’s so needed, and can be an excellent opportunity for new connections and a recharge for all.

How do you relax? If you experienced any guilt, how did you work through it?

Time

There never seems to be enough time, does there? There is always something going on, or needs to be done and time can easily get away from us. I often wish there were more hours in the day or that I had a Time Turner necklace like Hermione had in the Harry Potter series. Something to allow me to get everything done that I need to, and allow me to spend the quality time I want to with my family. Alas, time turners don’t exist nor do I anticipate the length of the day changing anytime soon. So what’s a parent to do?

I was fortunate enough to lead a parenting group discussion this past week and participate in another that had multiple speakers. With everything going on this week, including all the Halloween events, it¬†could have easily been an overwhelming seven days. What I found was that speaking to the group of parents and participating in the other helped me¬†in many ways. I was engaged in both discussions and felt alive versus going through the motions. I felt energized and whole. I learned valuable insight¬†during both events. I was reminded of the power¬†of, and energy boost I get from, being fully present not only with the adults around me, but also with my children. I was prompted to re-evaluate¬†time — where I spend it, where I want to spend it and who I want to spend it with? The answers, though once difficult to articulate, now come with ease. I want to spend my time learning and sharing what I know with others. I identify strongly with being both a student and a teacher.¬†I want to spend time with people who see value in what I have to offer, regardless if it’s a captivated audience (my children) or those that proactively seek me out. I want to spend time with people I care about most, my children and husband, and others who are special to me.

One of the speakers this past week shared a wonderful quote that I think summed up time best. “The days are long, but the years are short.” I think this statement captures time as a parent beautifully, though the days never seem long enough, and the years seem to get shorter and shorter (or go by quicker and quicker).

As we enter the beginning of the holiday season, where will you spend your time? Where do you want to spend your time? And who do you want to spend it with?

Close Friendships From Afar

Having a close friend, or friends, move away can be hard.

When I was five, I had a friend named Mary. She is the first friend I can remember from my childhood. She lived in my neighborhood and I really enjoyed our playtime together. I recall one day being at her house and being told by my mother as she was picking me up to leave that this is the last time I would see Mary. “Mary is moving away,” my mother asked. “Why?” I responded. Mary’s mother chimed in that Mary’s father had gotten a job in another city that would require them to move. This was also the first time I can remember being pretty devastated. I couldn’t understand how adults could possibly separate children that had such a good time together. The job Mary’s father had, couldn’t possibly be as important, I thought.

It was the last time I saw Mary, and like any child my sadness at the situation faded as I realized the world went on and I would make other friends.

We have belonged to a parenting group since my oldest was born. The group has stayed together and met regularly ever since, even after many of us had our second child. We are a tight group, a supportive group and we deeply care about one another. One of the five families recently moved away. It was hard to come to terms with. You realize when people leave how you wished you spent more time with them while they were here.

I’m grateful for the time we had with this family, and even more grateful we have technology like FaceTime and Skype to keep us connected even though our dear friends moved far away. Seeing their faces makes them feel closer, and helps keep our connection strong.

I think about my children and what they think about their friends being so far away. Are they experiencing what I did with Mary? I know they’ll move on, but my hope is that through technology and occasional visits, my husband and I will model how with a little effort you can retain the best of friendships, even when you thousands of miles apart.

I’m reminded of my Girl Scout Days and the song, “Make new friends but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.” So true.

How have you dealt with relocation — your own, or friends or family? How did you help your children get through it?

Hidden Messages

My husband is a self-proclaimed non-romantic. A bummer, I know.¬†I have often dreamt of him having a romantic-switch buried deep down inside just waiting to be turned on. Of course, I’ve tried everyway I know from hints to outright asking him to try to be more romantic, attempting to will the switch on, and unfortunately the magical switch has remained dormant.

I used to think that him not being romantic had everything to do with me, as if there was a hidden message I should be reading into about me (e.g. perhaps I’m not worth being romantic for), instead of it having anything to do with him. I have learned over time and from some very wise sources that my husband is who he is and while romantic notions may be how I envision love being shown to me, he shows me his love in many others.

I started to think about hidden messages and how we can easily misconstrue what peoples actions or inactions, words or lack of words mean. This can occur not only between spouse or partners, but also between friends, and with our children. Specific to our children, meaning can be derived in the tone of voice we use, in the words we say or exclude. Do your children understand what you are communicating to them and why? Or are they reading into what you are saying without verbalizing it, much like I was reading into my husband’s non-cues?

While coming to the terms that having many romantic experiences in my life may not be in my future, I’ve recently learned that I may be wrong and that there is hope. Before my husband left for a business trip, we discussed how to stay connected while he was away. I told him how much I valued his¬†observations or acknowledgements he makes about me or our relationship. He shared how much being able to see me and our boys meant to him. We connected via video chat each day after his departure, and he unveiled a hidden surprise. He left me notes hidden around the house. One for everyday that he was gone. How romantic! These hidden messages mean more to me than he will ever know. They not only helped carry me through the time while he was away, but have created a wonderful memory for me that I will treasure. The message was received loud and clear — I am worth being romantic for, and I still have a lot to learn about my husband.

Are there hidden messages in your relationship with your spouse or child? How do you ensure they are receiving your intended message?

Summer BBQ

One of my favorite parts of summer is having or going to a summer BBQ. Having good food while communing with good friends makes it something special.

As I watched the kids playing in the backyard, running around and laughing at the new game they created, I was struck with memories of my own childhood. Simpler times, where friendship and joy seemed easier to come by. It was living in the moment and recognizing the specialness of an occasion without anyone having to tell you so. As parents we can get caught up in trying to create great memories for our children. Buying them a special toy, planning that one-of-a-kind party, or taking them on a trip that stretches the budget. All are great, but require preparation and lack spontaneity. I’m reminded that its the simple things, like being together and enjoying each others company regardless of the time or place, that makes the difference, not the where or anything else.

The BBQs of my childhood were special, and I believe the BBQs my children attend will be special memories for them.

It was a good reminder for me. Keep it simple, and enjoy.

What are your favorite summertime memories?

Let‚Äôs Have an Adventure

What family vacations come to mind from your childhood?  Road trips? Camping? Visiting friends or family?

As a child, my family was a ‚Äėroad trip‚Äô kind of family. We drove everywhere, regardless of the distance. Our trips were educational. We saw a lot, learned a lot, and after a while, got on each other‚Äôs nerves a lot. But we enjoyed the experience together and have many great memories as a result. As a young adult, I often felt like many of our family vacations were FFF ‚Äď Forced Family Fun, but in reality, they were an adventure.

An adventure is defined as an exciting or remarkable experience. I can remember getting ready for our trips, packing our suitcases, and thinking about the games we’d play in the car. It was exciting, we were going to see and do something new. Even if we were going to see our relatives or go to a new place, our road trips were never quite the same.

This summer, we have planned many adventures for our family. There will be camping, long drives, and lots of time together. My husband and I can’t wait. The kids seem excited too. I wonder if they’ll think back and have fond memories of our time together, or if they’ll think of these trips as Forced Family Fun.

We are building memories, and I’m treasuring each one. To see my sons faces once we get to our destination, to see them enjoying finding bugs in the outdoors, roasting marshmallows over the campfire, watching waterfalls in awe, or seeing their joy as they jump into a pool, I’m not sure being a parent gets much better than these moments.

What adventures do you have planned for this year?