I’m Not Ready for the Growing Pains

I am not sure I am well equipped to handle the emotional ups and downs associated with being a mother to a pre-teen/teenager. I am moody and dramatic enough by myself, I doubt adding someone else’s pubescent mood swings into the fold is going to equal smooth sailing around here. Yet, even though I knew having sweet babies would equal prickly teenagers it never fully hit me until yesterday.

I drive my kids places all the time. We basically live in our car. Well, I do anyway. Yesterday I took my son to get a sports physical. He sits in the middle row. He stares at his phone. He doesn’t really talk to me. I ask questions, I comment on things I see, and I even go to the extreme of turning the music up loud at stop lights and dancing and singing to thoroughly embarrass him. He rarely responds unless a head shake or eye roll counts. After the physical I stopped for food and decided we could take the time to eat it inside and not in our home away from home – the car. Small talk was had, a couple smiles were shared, and when we got back to the car he sat in the front seat. He never sits in the front seat. I saw him make the decision, I could see it on his face, and even though I wouldn’t dare disturb this tender moment with actual outward emotion, I smiled on the inside. He still had his phone, but this time he read out loud the Reddit thread he was reading. He let down his guard and let me enter his world. Listening to him comment on what he was reading allowed me to learn his feelings on many things and laughing together over other people’s stupidity is always just good fun.

This was, of course, short lived. We arrived home to find his brothers had done something to make him angry. While, I was trying to solve this problem he took the time to yell and scream and insult his brothers. Trying to diffuse the tension in the house I told him to take the time to throw the ball to his dog. A strong willed and defiant NO left his lips. He stood there staring at me. In this moment I see him and  know he is trying to become his own person, his own man, and is testing the waters. I again tell him that he needs to throw the dog the ball. Again he stares at me and says NO. At this point it has changed, for me at least, into disrespect. I am the mother. I told him to do something, nothing that would hurt him or others, and he is digging his heels in. I tell him no phone or electronics for a week. Finally, he cedes the point and goes.

He comes back in calmer and asks if he can now do his electronics. I remind him they were taken away. Oh, this elicits all types of anger. I am unfair, I have favorite children, I do not love him, too bad he isn’t good at things like other siblings, any negative trait he has he inherited from me apparently, and on and on. I could yell. I normally do. Yet, instead I let him rant. I ignore it. I continue to make dinner. He keeps edging closer to me trying to get me to engage. He pushes me by saying just because he does or says something I don’t like doesn’t mean it is disrespect and he can’t wait to be a parent so he can do it the right way.

In this moment life has come full circle because I respond by telling him that when he is a parent he can do it however he chooses, but right now I am the parent and he is the child and he has to do what I say and follow my rules. I have become my parents. I used to think that I would do it right. I would fix all the problems with parenting that I saw in my parents by doing it the right way. I yelled at them just like this. Life sucked and was unfair. They just didn’t get it. They just didn’t know how it felt not to be loved. I had these same thoughts. It feels like it was just yesterday in some ways. Now here is my son throwing those same words at me.

Later that evening we are watching a movie. We reach one point in the movie where I feel the need to comment about what the character wants or needs. When a few minutes later this happens in the movie my sons smiles at me and says, “Daddy, says we are both really good at predicting what will happen in movies.” He laughs and smiles and we chat a bit about our shared ability. When it is time for bed he hugs me and says he loves me.

I am not sure I am prepared for the highs and lows that await me this year and the years ahead. I hope I remember that while I was fairly emotionally exhausted dealing with our personal highs and lows yesterday that for him it is even harder. Growing up is hard work. That doesn’t mean I let him walk all over me, in fact, it means I have to step up my parenting game and stand firm on my rules and decisions. I have to be the constant in the insanity that awaits him. He might not always like it. He may even think I just don’t get it. Maybe sometimes I won’t. Still, at the end of the day he needs to know I am home. He can give me a hug and say I love you no matter what we went through.IMG_1322

Disturbing Van Finds

Since school is only a few weeks away I decided I should clear our car of the summer mess. We have traveled in it, used it to get to point A to point B around town, and have let it sit out in the sun unused. It is a minivan. I really don’t venture into the back row at all. The kids in the far reaches of the van are fairly self-sufficient, so there is no need for me to crouch down low and work my way towards the nether region of the van. The middle row is the quick stash place where I toss stuff too large for the passenger seat, but may still need to be able to reach easily. The front seat area is full of receipts mostly. I like the think of it as a large purse. There are receipts from the grocery store, Wal-Greens, McDonalds, and 7-Eleven. There are various levels of empty bottles and cans. You will also find discarded jackets, sunglasses, socks, and shoes.

I started out by grabbing a few things and throwing them in the garbage or recycling and then heading back to the van. This was a little too much back and forth for me. I decided the best method would be grab handfuls of stuff and just toss it in one big pile. Almost everything in this large pile was fairly mundane: books, water bottles, sports equipment, paper, stale fries, even the old hamburgers weren’t surprising to me, but there were two things that really stood out.

1. In the third row in a cup holder hidden underneath old wrappers was something oddly colored and a little squishy. Kinda moldy looking-maybe. It was an apple. Well, it used to be an apple. Now it was on the way to being applesauce. Why not just toss it? Why cover it up with other garbage? I am guessing that smell I kept trying to Febreeze away was rotten apple.       

2. On the floor on the middle row was tooth. Y’all- whose tooth is it? How long has it been    there? Why is it in the car on the floor? So many questions!!! No one has lost a tooth in the car. No one lost a tooth on any of our vacations this summer. This must mean that someone brought this tooth into the car with them. Why? Also, why leave it in the car if you went through the trouble of bringing it with you? I am very disturbed by this.

This is just me cleaning my car. Imagine the disturbing things I would find if I actually took the time to clean my house. Probably why I rarely venture upstairs to the boys section of the house. I would have nightmares about the stuff up there. unnamed

Game, Love, Tennis

I was staying at the Ritz-Carlton in Grand Cayman. This sentence alone is mind blowing to a ‘white trash’ Kentucky girl. There were so many amazing and beautiful things I could write about: the jet skis across the ocean, the sting rays I got to swim with, the snorkeling out in the clearest and brightest water I have ever seen in my life, jerk seasoning on everything!!, and sun bathing at a resort that will just bring you the most delicious pina coladas you have ever had, but instead I would like to tell you about tennis. This was a vacation away from children. All 5 kids staying with their Granny and Pappy. The dog chilling with our best friends. I picked parasailing and sting rays as the things I really wanted to do. The parasailing, unfortunately, did not work out due to weather conditions. My husband got to pick as well. He agreed my options were awesome, but as far as resort perks go he really wanted to try the aerobic tennis session. Yeah, sure this sounds awesome. I would love more than anything to do aerobic tennis. I am in pretty decent aerobic health. I have been working on it over the last few months. I have no doubt I can do the aerobic part. You see it is the tennis part I feel like I may not be able to do. My husband played in high school and has sporadically kept it up as an adult. Through him I have learned to love watching tennis. As far as learning to play? Well, I am not the best student. There I said it. What a load off of my chest. I get frustrated if I can’t do it right away. I get angry if I don’t understand why my movements aren’t correct. I am doing it that way!!!!! After a few attempts at teaching me while engaged or newly married we both gave up any ideas of tennis for exercise or as a doubles team. I am still an avid couch tennis watcher. I drive my son to his tennis lessons. I do not however play tennis. Like, not at all.

We are on this amazing once in a lifetime vacation so I am down with doing aerobic tennis. He really wants to, and I am not opposed, it is just that one little fact of my not knowing how to play tennis. He assures me it will be fine. It will be a large group and lots of beginners and lots of fun. So we order the golf cart to drive us to the tennis courts. We grab tennis rackets from the pro shop and meet our aerobic tennis group. By group I soon learn we actually mean me, Pete, and three others. Three others who live on the island and come to almost every aerobic tennis session at the Ritz. They are on super friendly terms with the tennis pro who is leading the class. Of course they are, they come weekly. We start out by lining up and everyone doing forehands then running to the back of the line in order to repeat. I realize now that everyone will be able to see that I have no real idea how to even hold this racket in my hand. I just go last and try to mimic what I see others doing. Y’all I had no idea what I was doing. Where does my dominant hand go? Top? Bottom? Do you use one hand? Two hands? WTF is going on here?

This all leads to us doing volleys, lobs, backhands, and really who knows what else because I don’t actually know how to do any of these strokes. Like not at all. The pro is like- ‘Oh, do you use both hands?’ No, more like I am left handed and am just hoping some other people are left handed and I can try to do what they are doing.

Do you think I was a total natural? Nope. All these fabulous tennis people are watching me run up to the net and swing and miss over and over and over again. I even manage to get hit in the face, chest, and arm a few times. The pro decided to do some pairing up of the group. He puts me alone. I am last. Everyone goes up and does all these cool strokes with ease and together. I go up and get smashed in the chest alone with everyone else watching. I think the aerobic part of this is just playing tennis. Just running back and forth across the court.

The last part of the session involved standing at the back line and doing 10 perfect strokes. Hahaha. I see the pro tell the best of these players that they have to repeat a stroke. It happens to each person. Now it is my turn. I am wondering just how long I will have to try, how many attempts until he says fine we will just quit? I think I had hit maybe 5 balls in 50 minutes. Obviously, I am very talented. Luckily, or embarrassingly, he has me come up to the half court line, and guides me by saying—Swing!! It doesn’t take as long as I feared, and the regulars are cheering me on. When I finally get to 10 they all clap and tell me I did a great job. I must say that I was relieved by their kindness vs my fear they would be quite snobby and rude about it.

However, I will say I hope my husband appreciates that I was so game in this situation. I hate making an ass of myself in the sports arena. This is probably why I never made it very far in any sport. I am not super graceful. I am the girl that spills ketchup all over her white shirt walking back to the table. This was love. This was a total giving up of any pride and strictly doing it for another. Love isn’t always grand huge magical gestures. Sometimes it is playing tennis in front of experienced players when you don’t even know what to do when the instructor says we are going to do volleys. It is also admitting that yeah, maybe you did have fun even though you’re clueless the whole time.IMG_0853

You’re Welcome

For breakfast my eldest son requested cereal and two pieces of toast. So of course, I obliged. He ate the cereal and then left the toast. Um? Just moments later he opened the pantry trying to eat something different. Well, I still had that toast ready for him to eat and let him know that it would be all he was eating this morning, as he requested it specifically. He was not at all thrilled and the eye rolling and sighs began.

Another son has been wanting hard boiled eggs lately, so yesterday I prepared 6 hard boiled eggs for him. I only had him in mind. I laid the eggs in front of him and the response I received was, “ Why did you give me these?” He grumbled. He put his head on the table. He was not thrilled.

So it seemed to go all morning before school. I helped to find shoes, backpacks, and packed lunchboxes. I do this every morning. Sometimes with more or less headache involved, but today it was on the more side. They were all just done with even attempting to help. They moaned and groaned and huffed and puffed as I scurried about here and there. Finally, I was done.

I looked at all of them just sorta sitting there on the couch. I said. Hey guys, “You’re Welcome.”

They still stared on. So I told Alexa to play “You’re Welcome” (from Moana). I sang and I danced and pointed right at each of them every time it said you’re welcome.

My oldest son stood up and walked to the bus stop once I was done. The other kids where in shock, I think over how awesome my musical number was. I told them I was going to do this every time they didn’t say thank you. I don’t know how they feel about that, but I feel better already.IMG_0391

What the Crap?

I was at soccer practice for one of my sons and had my two youngest with me as well. They played at the playground while I watched practice. About half way through my youngest comes up to me and tells me he needs to go to the bathroom. So I grab the kids and walk across the park to this little shelter with a bathroom. These bathrooms aren’t great there isn’t even a light that turns on. Still, they do have a toilet which is all we really needed. The ladies toilet was being used so we just sucked it up and went to the men’s toilet. My son decided after a couple minutes that he would pee only. He didn’t feel comfortable enough to poop in this dark shelter toilet.

We made it back to the playground and the kids went back to playing on the playground while I watched their older brother. At the end of practice I was scanning the playground when I noticed this small child with his pants off squatting under the playground set. I knew right away. I knew that was my child. I wondered if I could pretend it didn’t happen. I wondered if maybe I could claim he wasn’t mine. If you don’t look at it then it isn’t really happening-right? He took a step out with his underwear and shorts in one hand and his other hand holding up his shirt. He looked at me and said,” I need a bath.” Yup. He really did. I mean yeah. I had to take him home in my car too. There was poop up and down his legs. Both sides. His hands had poop. His butt had poop. He was covered. I nervously glanced under the playground set and saw a big log. At least it was solid. At least it was just one. At least his shorts were already covered in poop so I could just crawl under the playground set and grab it. When your child poops on the playground you try to look for the positives. We left that playground when all the other kids and their parents and siblings were leaving that playground. My son walked across the playground no underwear, no shorts, shirt being held above his belly, and the lower half of his body covered in poop smear. After a quick stop to the garbage to dispose of the evidence we went to the car.

I took my older son’s water bottle, found a tissue box, and cleaned him off the best I could in the parking lot. I put those shorts back on cuz the underwear were not very usable, and buckled him in the carseat. It is a sure sign that he is my youngest by the fact that I wasn’t angry, I didn’t yell, and I wasn’t even that embarrassed walking him out of the park. After I got him in the car I just asked him why. Why when we had gone to the bathroom did he decide to go under the playground set? His answer was very simple. He wanted to go at home where he was comfortable going, but he got to a point he just couldn’t hold it anymore. He didn’t want anyone to see him so he hid under the playground set.

I mean- “What the crap?” Really. In every way. At least he is honest. A little disgusting but honest.IMG_0150

Gotta Send My Baby Away

What is it with the baby of the family? Why do we (or maybe just me) treat him like a baby even when he is clearly not anymore? I am so done with having children. I have had my fair share, and seeing babies no longer elicits any sort of pull from my uterus, but I am having a hard time letting the youngest grow up. I basically kicked all my other children out the door the moment they entered preschool age. By two no more being held constantly and once you could walk any real distance the stroller was put away. Not saying that I forced it. I mean I am a baby wearer and a constant holder of babies (when they are babies), but I had too many kids to keep it up past 2 years old. You’ve gotta get dressed, wipe your own butt, and help take care of you otherwise it might not happen. This last kid is different though. I put his clothes on him still and he is 4. I still call him a baby. I will grab him sporadically throughout the day and tell him he needs to sit on my lap or cuddle. I tell the other kids to stop picking on him  even though this child is a devil at times. I lay down with him at nap time and bed time. He still sleeps in my bed.

I still do my fair share of ignoring him. Don’t worry the tv is still a second parent to him. He plays blocks and cars and bad guys alone in the play room. I find myself saying not now or I am too busy or later just like I do with the other children. I actually play less with him than I did with my oldest. However, it is hard to stop thinking of him as a baby.

While he is here I have a purpose. I am a stay at home mom with a kid at home. When he leaves, what then? Do I suddenly go out and find a job just because my kid is at school? Do I stop prioritizing my kids and start prioritizing me? The older kids need me just as much, and the afternoons and evenings are crazy here, so maybe I stay at home to rest up for the evening shift of parenting. I run the errands and do the chores during the day so I can be chaperone and chauffeur during the night. I don’t know. I keep putting off thinking about it. Just like I am putting off signing my baby up for preschool. I have had it on my to-do list for two months. Ever since registration opened up. I have all the papers for it in my purse ready to go. I just haven’t. I have lots of excuses. We had to go to the store and then it was nap time. It was raining too hard to get out. It was nice outside and it hasn’t been nice in months so we stayed home. I have to do it. He can’t hang out with just me, the tv, and himself next year. He needs to break away and find his own legs in the world. Even if it is just the world of preschool. It is just, well, he is my baby.

Once he is gone, everyone is gone, and it starts a different chapter in my parenting world. It is sad and lonely and scary. I have been a mom with a kid or kids at home since 2007. That is a long time. Almost my whole adult life has been about babies-being pregnant, nursing, and then repeat. I was a pro. Now, I am about to see what days are like with no one here. Just me. What if I don’t like me? Maybe my crazy dog will become my baby? Do you think 80 lb. dogs like being pushed around in a stroller? I would definitely get some strong arm muscles trying to carry him around all day.

It is hard to let go of different parts of motherhood. You spend so much time and energy cultivating certain aspects of motherhood that when it is time to open your arms and let go, sometimes you just can’t, at least not all the way. So we nag about the coat, pry into the friendships, and get on your case about the homework. Maybe we even cut your meat when you can do it yourself just because we need to be needed. I will sign my baby up for preschool, maybe not today because it is raining, but I will. IMG_0035

May Madness

I have displayed a picture of my 12-year-old’s shoe. It is a symbol of the current state of affairs in this house. It is May. Thank goodness because in April it snowed twice. Though May isn’t really starting off well, we haven’t seen the sun in a week and there are flash floods. Woot- Go Spring! While there is a hope of seeing the sun soon, there isn’t much of a hope that the chaos in this house will subside anytime soon.

My kitchen counters and table were recently covered with end of the year projects. Big things that took more than a day to complete. Things that just sat on the counter. The dog ate part of one and we had to fix it. Thank goodness they are at school now. I don’t have to worry about them at all. Except that my 12-year-old came home devastated because his was too top heavy and fell off the display table at school and broke into pieces before the open house. We decided to just skip open house after that. No need to see the broken project in a school when I had seen the whole project on my kitchen counter.

I don’t mind packing lunches, but at the same time my lunches are never amazing. I keep it at a steady level of dull all year. This way there are no expectations and there is no tapering off at the end of the year. Though sometimes I get tired of the monotony so I tell them they get to play a game called- pack your own damn lunch. I don’t supervise or watch. I have no idea what goes in their lunches on those days—I don’t care.

I am a bit tired of checking folders and signing things. So sometimes I don’t. I liked to mix things up. My 9-year-old is a bit concerned about my slacking. He came up to me with a handful of papers and said, “Mom, why aren’t you checking my folder anymore?” I guess since there are end of the year field trip papers I need to sign. I should probably be a little more dutiful in that area.

Spring brings spring sports. That means practices and games and driving. Always driving. I love soccer. I love that my kids play soccer. I am glad that they are able to practice so much. I love that it means less time on electronics and less time with me having to directly parent them and play referee. I don’t love dinner and sports. I might start off with grandiose plans of meal planning or crockpot using. Instead, we get hot dogs, cereal, chicken nuggets, and maybe one good meal that I keep bringing up as a leftover option. My 4-year-old just carries around a jumbo container of cheese balls as his dinner. Whatever.

In this monsoon season we are currently experiencing I am thrown though. The spring sports are all cancelled. They can’t go outside because it is disgusting. So we just sit sit sit. Video games, youtube videos, movies, tv shows, a few board games scattered here and there. Fighting. Name calling. Teasing. Punching. Tattling. Crying. Lots of crying. It is really fun. It makes me eager for summer.

My 12-year-old came home with blue tape on his shoe. I guess the sole isn’t attached to the shoe anymore, so the teacher gave hime some tape. I like how I didn’t notice. I like how he didn’t tell me. I also like that I didn’t run out and buy new shoes. I was like I am gonna order you some and you will get them in like a week.

So the end of this school year around here means that shit gets done just haphazardly and on our own time. We sort of piecemeal it together and hope for the best. IMG_9890

It Was A Matter Of Survival

For a little while now there has been a tugging at the back of my mind. It goes something like this, “I don’t think they understand. It was a choice between surviving and not.” I grew up in what basically amounts to a dysfunctional home. There wasn’t much healthy about. Even before my mother got sick and died there was anger and hate and fear. The only love I felt was from my mom, and she was broken too, but she made sure to hug us and say I love you.

I have siblings, but we aren’t the call each other on the phone everyday and text all night kind of siblings. Life in a house like that does different things to different people. We broke and built ourselves back up in different ways. Our strengths and weaknesses were magnified, it was a pressure pot, and there was no way we were going to leave unscathed. However, you don’t experience life and loss together without knowing when shit hits the fan you will be there for each other, no questions asked.

I remember being 4 and telling my dad that I knew he hated us and then running to hide from him in my mother’s arms. I remember watching Oprah after school with my mom one day and someone on the show said, “Marry someone like your dad.” My mom turned to me and said, “Don’t marry anyone like your dad.” I remember being in 5th grade and realizing that I could leave and not come back. I clung to that the rest of my youth. My remembrances could go on and on. They flicker in and out of my head. I try to turn them off, but randomly they break through.

My mom died when I was a senior in high school. Everyone made sure I went to college. I believe there must have been some group meeting. They didn’t want me to stay near my dad. They didn’t want me to become the mother to my younger siblings. They wanted to me to leave. I was moved into my aunt’s house for the summer. Maybe it started then. Maybe it was a choice and maybe it was just survival. I didn’t go back. My house was only 20 minutes away. My siblings still lived at home. I think about all the should haves, could haves, and it makes me sad. It makes me regret that I didn’t. I was older, I was the one who should have comforted them, held them, stepped in and started saying I love you and hugging them because I bet they never got another hug from a parent after my mom died. I didn’t though. I was selfish.

I went to college. When it was time for summer break my heart was racing because what would I do? I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to go back. Not ever. I had already been kicked out at Thanksgiving for daring to tell my dad he was a horrible father. I had avoided as many reasons to go home as possible. Again, I felt like I was abandoning my siblings but years of pain and sadness and even hatred don’t just disappear. The day before I was to leave I was asked to stay on as a summer residence assistant. I volunteered to work every summer and break that was allowed to work after that.

Slowly and over time my hatred began to slip away. It was more just apathy. Time changes us all. Distance helps make it easier. The relationship I had with my husband when we first started dating and even into the first year of marriage wasn’t healthy. There wasn’t much of a chance that it would be. Through all the crazy and loss of a baby at 22 weeks gestation we made it out on the other side stronger. I realized I didn’t have room in my life for anger, it had been weighing me down for too long. Once I started having children we went back to visit more often than before. Once we crossed the bridge into my hometown I would always and still always feel my breath catch. I get knots in my stomach and a tightness in my manner that doesn’t leave until we do. I wonder if my siblings know that I can be silly. I can be goofy. I can be more than uptight. I can laugh.

A couple siblings stayed. A couple moved away. To the ones who stayed I wonder if they see that I had to leave in order to grow up, in order to be functional, in order have a chance at smiling. I suppose it was selfish, and I could have done it in a better way. I could have been a better big sister. I was just a kid too though, one who had been broken before my wings were even given a chance to grow.

Recently, my dad got sick. Quite sick and we all thought he would die. I went home. My feelings on this were all over the place. I understand that my father’s life wasn’t great growing up either. Adulthood wasn’t how he had planned, and we are all broken in different ways. So on one hand I feel sorry for him. On the other, we all have a chance to make a change. It can be hard, but even the slightest effort and improvement goes a long way. The concern was with him because no one should have to live in a shell of a body. The concern was mostly directed towards the siblings who stayed. The ones who would continue to stay. The ones who felt it differently. He got better. I left.

I admit that I am selfish. I also admit it probably won’t change. The scars of childhood run deep. I don’t text to check in with him. I don’t call on the phone. I don’t ask for updates. I can justify it by saying my whole life he never called me to check on me. All through college I heard from him maybe 3 times. When I got engaged I called to tell him and he asked,” Do I know him?” The list could go on. The fact that I knew at the age of 10 I needed to leave just amplifies how deep that truth runs in me. My anger has subsided, my outbursts minimized, and my self destructive thoughts lessened (with the help of medicine they are gone). My self-worth, self-esteem, and self-confidence will never be optimal, but I can finally walk in a room and not look at the floor, I can (usually) talk to others and not feel as though they are all better than me, and I don’t use a loud insecure voice to cover up my weaknesses. I am not strong enough to go back for long. I am not brave enough to tempt fate by stepping into the role of dutiful daughter. I worry that the apathy I have cultivated over the years will slip back into anger. There are too many people who depend on me now for me to go backwards. I have to keep looking forward. I’m sorry, but it’s a matter of survival. IMG_9804

Childhood Lives Here

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Life Gone Crazy

childhood lives here.

runny noses
sticky fingers
wet kisses
childhood lives here

I’m bigger than you
better than you
faster than you
childhood lives here

holding hands
wiping tears
fixing fears
childhood lives here

sleepless nights
early mornings
coffee by the pot
childhood lives here

matchbox cars
childhood lives here

santa claus
easter bunny
tooth fairy
childhood lives here

did you know
why is it so
are we there yet
childhood lives here

moving too fast
moving too slow
never just right
childhood lives here

I’ll love you
I’ll hold you
I’ll let you go
childhood lives here