Wednesday, August 8, 2012

And Then a Status Turned Into a Blog

On the phone with my mom last night and she said, "You've always been extremely organized. Everything in your life is documented, scheduled and posted. I taught you that." (And then we both laughed)
Anyway, I've been thinking about that since she said it, and she's so right on that it's scary. When the kids first came to live with us 3.5 years ago I had a detailed schedule, including menu, that was posted on the fridge and followed to the minute- complete with timers and alarms for myself. About a year later their therapist, my therapist, and a whole gaggle of family and friends told me to get rid of it because it was hampering their development. At this point I'd like to point out that within the first year I taught my then three year old to read, write, and do simple addition, my then two year old could spell his name and write most of the letters, and the baby had gone from not being able to hold her own head up at 5 months to walking and using simple 3-4 word sentences by 11 months. The proof was there, telling me that I WAS doing something right- and this list doesn't even include the emotional progress that had taken place and the drastic change in my kids. The social workers said that they didn't even recognize them anymore! Nonetheless, when people with a lot of letters after their name told me to change it, I did. They've gone to school, they're professionals, they must know so much more than I do about this whole thing. So out the window it went.
The last two years our family life has just progressed deeper and deeper into hell. I'm not trying to claim that my kids were ever perfect, and neither was my parenting, but while on the schedule my kids had normal, age appropriate behavior issues. Since the schedule was thrown out we've been dealing with violence, lying, sneaking, stealing, playing with fire (have I mentioned that my kids are currently 6, 5 and 3?!?).. it has gotten so bad that Grandma has even kicked them out of her house more than once. That's BAD.
Three days ago I sat down with my husband and we talked about just what we're going to do. We had exhausted every option- time outs, calm talks, yelling, charts, rewards for good behavior, consequences for bad behavior, stickers, grounding, taking away toys, taking away privileges, taking away treats and day trips, giving special treats and trips when they're good, ignoring it, Love & Logic, 1,2,3 Magic.. nothing made any difference. When I say it didn't make any difference, I don't mean that it only worked for a bit and then stopped working, oh NO. I mean it never changed their behavior AT ALL. Not for one day, not for one hour, not for a second. We took the classes, read the books, had the kids in play therapy, group sessions with other adoptive families, and no matter what we did, it wouldn't stop. We were at the end of our ropes, our kids were hopeless, we knew without a doubt that we'd be visiting them in jail within 20 years.
So we thought and we thought and two days ago, the schedule came back, with all of its alarms and timers.. and you know what?? I haven't yelled at my kids or put anyone in time out in 48 hours. I'm hearing please and thank you consistently, there's sharing, there hasn't been one episode of violence, not one lie.. my kids are back!!
I'm not saying that a schedule is right for everyone and I'm not claiming it's going to change your kids behavior. What I AM saying is that I needed to trust myself more. I knew what was right for my kids all along, the proof was right in front of my face, the entire world saw it, but once someone came along with extra letters after their name- I threw it all away. I trusted them to know my house, my family and my children better than I did... and I was WRONG. I'm going to do what works for us, no matter what anyone says or how many degrees they have. I'm going to trust that I DO know how to take care of my kids, I CAN meet their needs, and I know how to make them happy... and I hope that you will always believe that about yourself as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Two Words For You

I remember very clearly the day the abuse started. I remember being cornered in the garage, I remember the sound of the zipper coming down, I remember running around the car trying to keep him opposite me, I remember that he was faster than me, and I remember the smell of his breath- like beer, cigarettes, and green beans, a smell that still makes my stomach turn. I remember not being able to comprehend what was happening to me. I was five years old and I was scared, cold, and alone. I remember when it was all over I ran inside and curled up on my mom's lap and buried my face in her shoulder. I remember the drive home. I remember my mom asking me repeated questions like she knew what had happened even though I hadn't told her, and I remember not knowing the words to use to describe what I had just experienced. My mom never brought me there again.
Fast forward to age 14. I woke up one day, put on a purple t-shirt and a pair of black shortalls (which were all the rage then) It was summer and those tiny dark purple flowers were all over the ground in the woods behind my house. My parents were at work and I had the house to myself so I went out to explore and pick some flowers. There was a shadow that came over me, like trees blowing in the wind. The shade felt so good. Then I was grabbed from behind and forced to the ground. I'm not yet ready to share all that I remember from that day and maybe I never will, but I'm ok with that. I remember the feeling of a knife against my rib cage and I remember every detail of a gold watch that was ticking loudly next to my left ear. I remember someone growling at me and telling me to lay there with my eyes closed and count to 100. I did. After I got to 100, I went inside and showered for hours, scrubbing my skin until I bled.
After that go around I sunk into a deep, dark, lasting depression. Where there had once been a vibrant, outgoing, extremely social teenager, there was now a shell of a  person that didn't shower or leave the bedroom. My grades had always been good, but that next school year I started failing classes. My mom again started hounding me- what happened? why the change? did someone hurt you? The same questions over and over again. I didn't answer any of them, even though at age 14 I knew the words, I knew what they called it, I didn't want to be one of "those" girls. One of those untouchables, one of those dirty people. Nobody ever loves those girls, and I desperately needed to believe that someone could love me.
At 15 I met the guy I was sure was going to change my life, and he did. We were blissful and content and everything was perfect. I started to come out of my shell and I felt thisclose to being alive again. I remember the first time he slapped me. My face stung, yes, but what stung more painfully was the realization that even though I had tried to hide it and I never told anyone, I ended up being an unlovable girl anyway.
There was no hope for me. My life was never going to be acceptable, let alone good. Something was very, very wrong with me and that's why everyone wanted to hurt me, because this thing, whatever it was, inside of me that was visible to everyone except me... this thing that let them know that I was no good, it was going to haunt me forever. I would never escape it. So I had two choices- I could accept that and live my entire life as a victim to whomever happened to choose me that day, or I could take control, the only control I would ever have, and I could end my life. It seemed like the easiest decision in the world. I took a handful of pills, but apparently not the right kinds cause I woke up. I took a different handful of pills, but those ones didn't work either. The next time I tried, I used a piece of broken glass. I still wear that scar, and I'm still here. I wasn't meant to die, and trying to make it happen was exhausting. I resigned myself to being used by everyone who crossed my path and I sunk into yet another depression.
For three years I was abused by every man I came in contact with. I was sold like property behind pool halls, I was beaten, I was called names, I was threatened, I had a gun stuck in my face pressed against my forehead, and I never did anything to stop it. In my head I didn't believe it could ever stop, no matter what I or someone else did, so there was no point in fighting it. Just accept my place in this world and suck it up. After all, if I'm too stupid to even figure out how to kill myself, I'm obviously too stupid to get out of this mess.
It hasn't been an easy road, or a short one, but I've made it. I laugh- often even, and I smile even more often than that. I find joy in simple things. I wake up and most days I'm excited about life. This is due to a lot of factors- years of intensive therapy, the right drugs at the right times (although I haven't been on any for a number of years now), cutting just about everyone out of my life, taking self defense classes which taught me that I CAN protect myself, and finding two or three friends, just two or three, but they are the ones that get me. The ones I can freak out in front of, the ones that I can tell this stuff to and their face doesn't get that look on it, the look that says 'you disgust me'.
Eventually I found a man that doesn't want to make me a victim. In fact, he wants me to be strong and he wants me to stand up for myself and fight, and he tells me how proud he is when I do it. He doesn't want me to be powerless, he wants to give me more power than I ever had. He doesn't think I'm stupid, he tells me how smart I am- even smarter than him. He doesn't think I do everything wrong, in fact, it's difficult to get him to list one thing that I don't rock at....  And at first I called him a liar. I told him he just wanted to trick me into feeling safe so that I'd be easier to take advantage of. I told him I would never believe that he wasn't just like them. I told him being with me was pointless and it wouldn't get him anywhere. Do you know what he did? He stayed. He looked me straight in my eyes and told me that he'd wait for as long as it took because I was worth waiting a lifetime for. I told him every detail of my sordid past and I purposefully made it sound as disgusting and shocking as possible so he'd go away, and all he did was sit down next to me, put his hand over mine, and tell me that he loved me. No matter what I tried I couldn't get this man to see how bad I was. He just kept telling me over and over again how incredible and inspiring I am and how he's the luckiest man in the world just because he gets to speak to me, and over time he almost had me believing that too.
I have recovered. I have moved on. It is not due to this man, my husband, but it IS due to who he let me be, or forced me to be at times. When I go out on a limb and I feel like I'm going to fall, I look behind me and he's there, always there, telling me that I can do this, I can do anything. And I can, because even though I fight my own battles and I fight them alone, there's always someone there afterwards to listen to my struggles and my fears and my triumphs, and he never falters. He believes in me and through his conviction, I believe in me too, even when it's hard to do. I laugh often. I smile constantly, I love everyone and I'm working on becoming a driving force for good in this world. I'm excited about life, and I'm on my way to accomplishing great things. So, to all of the people before who tried to hurt me, I have two words for you,

                                          I WIN!!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Fear of Being Alone

In my 30 years I've gone a lot of places and I've lived with a lot of people, but I realized something in my search of self this weekend; I've ALWAYS done my best living alone. That doesn't mean that I always had the best of everything when I was alone, or I didn't ever struggle, but I'm talking about the actual experience of living. I have always had to be alone to feel that experience fully. Maybe that's what's missing. Maybe I need to wake up excited, I need to feel my emotions, my struggles, and triumphs. I need to actually LIVE, not just exist. I'm hoping to find that again in this new chapter. I want to feel my life. I want to be immersed in myself.
I think I got so wrapped up in the roles I play for other people; wife, mother, sister, friend, daughter, neighbor, employee, volunteer.. and I forgot to save a part of my life for me.
I never talked about this with anyone because I was afraid of the backlash and judgement, but I have had self-harming thoughts for months now. I never followed through with any sort of action, but I would be driving and think how easy it would be to just yank the steering wheel to the right and end it all. I would be standing in front of the stove making dinner and think about just laying my hand down on the burner, or "accidentally" slicing my fingers when chopping veggies. I know I've said that I was "miserable", but really, truly... I was freaking MISERABLE!! And all because I, as a human being with needs and wants, was not allowed to exist. I made no time for that.
I spent the last year trying to force time for myself, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn't figure out how to add me in without having to choose another role to cut out. So, I started cutting roles. The easiest one to do without was the volunteer one so I stopped going, and I wasn't happier because it turns out that's what I was using as my time away. When that didn't work I started pulling away from my friends, but that backfired. I couldn't pull away from work, the kids, or my family so I was stuck. The Makeshift Dad and I talked and talked about what we could do to fix this and he started taking time off of work and staying with the kids so I could rediscover myself, but his days off turned into catch up time for me and I spent the day doing chores... and I wasn't feeling more fulfilled.
I know when people hear 'My husband moved out last week' it brings to mind pictures of awful fights, destroyed families, and marriages in shambles. Our marriage was never 'bad'. Of course he did things that made me wanna rip his face off, and I'm sure I did things too even though he never told me, but we weren't fighting constantly, there was no big problem per se- he just married a woman who was never meant to be coupled forever. We're still a family, we're still the best of friends, and we still spend an insane amount of time together, but I wasn't meant to share my living space with another adult forever.
I am happiest alone and always have been. The triumph is greater when it's done alone and the suffering is more intense when there's no one to share it. The good and the bad, I need to experience it all.
I can no longer allow my life to consist solely of things I do for others. I need to reclaim my existence. I need to feel free to explore everything that makes me who I am. We tried and tried, and this is the only way to make that happen.
I am happy. We are happy. What everyone else thinks does not matter. My kids still smile and giggle, they're still secure with both of us, and I'm excited about what the future will hold for us all.
Sure, I'm scared. I've been alone at many points in my life, but this is my very first time being alone with children. There are some huge unknowns looming over my head and I'm definitely feeling the stress, the vulnerability, and the angst. But did you catch that? I'm FEELING those things. I am coming back to me. Slowly but surely, I am. I know I will evolve. I have no idea what that will mean for me, or who/where I'll be at the end of this, but I have no doubt that whoever I become will be closer to my essential self than I am now and that will be a gift. The greatest gift I could ever receive and I'm doing it for myself. There is power in knowing that. I have power now and it courses through me right alongside the fear. I will be unstoppable. I will be everything I was meant to be. I will be courageous and I will always listen to the power before the fear. I will not allow myself to walk around with my head down. I am incredible, amazing, strong, and I will do this. I will do this no matter what anyone says or thinks because I'm listening to me now and my soul is screaming, not whispering, that this is right.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Things That I Will Like

As you know, if you're on the Facebook page anyway, the Makeshift Mom and Dad will no longer be living together as of tomorrow, or this weekend depending on how the moving goes. I'm well aware that at first glance this post is going to look like some bitchy ex-wife had a field day, but truly I'm writing it for the reminders. To physically see all of the things that I will NOT miss because quite frankly I don't think there will ever be a day that I don't want to just lay down and die. I can't always see that I will have new, different opportunities to be happy. I don't know if I'll ever not want to cry. I can't imagine a day that doesn't hurt so bad that I don't see the point. I don't know if I'm going to be ok, and I'm not convinced that I can do this alone.. and no amount of friends are helping me not feel so completely and utterly alone. I don't remember what my face feels like when my eyes aren't burning with tears, my mouth isn't pinched, and I'm not chewing holes into my cheeks. I can't be sure when the last time was I held down food. To make that all a whole hell of a lot shorter- I'm freaking miserable and I want to curl up in a ball and never have to do anything again until I die. However, since that's not a real option and all, I'm going to remind myself of all the things that I will enjoy about my new life.

1. I will never have to sit through another Rush song! YES!!!
2. No more Adult Swim, baby!
3. I just might be able to have a blanket for one entire night. Provided the dog plays nicely of course.
4. No more tripping over huge clown shoes that get left in the middle of the floor.
5. There won't be potted meat anywhere near my kitchen ever again. Blech!
6. My laundry pile? Yeah, that'll be cut in half.
7. One less person to interrupt me every single time I open my mouth. Oh my God! Does this mean I could speak in whole sentences??
8. Who's gonna make fun of my reality show addiction? NOBODY!!
9. I will never be hit, kicked, elbowed, etc as I sleep.
10. Chances are I will never have to look in the freezer for electronics, towels, tools, or anything else non-foodlike.
11. Whatever kind of "music" MxPx sings will never be heard in this house again.
12. All of those little hairs that go everywhere when he shaves will be gone! It could be that I could go three whole days without having to clean the bathroom, and that my friends, is what we call a miracle.

To be sure, this is going to shake things up, but see?? There will be things that I will like!
Logically speaking, I know this is for the best. We wouldn't have decided on it if we didn't think so, but that emotional crap is throwing me for a loop. As long as I just deal with logistics, budgets, and lists I'm flying through with no issue whatsoever, but the other half of it.. not so much. It's a long road and I have complete faith that at the end of this journey I will be changed for the better, I just wish it didn't have to suck so bad to get started.
I am going to try to maintain my positivity, for the kids if nothing else, and we are playing well together and there is no screwing over of anyone. We're very good friends, in fact, we've been 'just friends' for a number of years now, and we can do this without causing any undue damage to each other or our family. So don't worry, there is no chance that I'm going to do something stupid, but give me a minute while I mull it over anyway.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Fire, Revisited

As some of you may know there was a fire in my complex on Monday. It started a few houses down and stopped about 35' shy of my front door. The kids and I were evacuated and it was the scariest thing I had ever been through in my entire life.
Today, almost a week later, one of the neighbors was having a bonfire. Since the weather is gorgeous we've had our windows open all week and the smell of smoke drifted into the dining room as we were eating dinner. For me this created an instant panic response. I jumped up from the table so fast that I smashed and sliced open my knees, ran to the front door, threw it open, and before I knew it, I was on the sidewalk turning in circles and scrutinizing every house I could see for signs of danger.
My family was very fortunate. Nothing of ours was damaged and except for a slight smoke smell that dissipated within a few days we were unscathed. Our neighbors and friends were not so lucky. After all was said and done five families are homeless. One family lost everything they had, including a cherished pet, and the other families have been spending their week coming back to the complex trying to salvage whatever small amount of personal belongings that they can.
All week I've been watching my friends walking back and forth to the dumpster with their heads hanging low as they throw armful after armful of what was once treasured memories over the side. It is heartbreaking to witness. They look up and their eyes are empty and dead. The despair is palpable. The neighborhood is silent and still. No more kids riding bikes and playing loudly outside. No more cars driving. It's almost like a ghost town. All of us still here try to offer help, a smile, water, food, clothing, anything we can think of, even though we know that nothing can fix this. Nothing will ever make this ok, and nothing can erase this from their minds.
What I remember most is how fast it was, even though in the moment time seemed to be dragging on and on, when I was allowed back in my house only about two hours had passed. Two hours was all it took to completely change lives. Just two hours and life was altered with no possibility of going back to what it was before, not for us and certainly not for our neighbors. For the house where it originated, it started and everything was gone within 45 minutes. I've never seen anything be that destructive in such a short time. Yes, I realize that tornadoes, tsunamis, etc are much faster, but none of those have ever happened next door. This was the first disaster I have ever witnessed first hand.
It left an impression that I'm not sure I'll ever shake and maybe that's good. Maybe I can turn this into a positive thing. It has already made me much more aware of what's going on around me and maybe once the sadness passes it will remind me how quickly everything can be gone and I can gain some perspective and appreciate the time I've been blessed with. Maybe.
For now, I'm still scared, and I feel guilty for that every time I talk to my neighbors or help haul a box to the trash. For now, I feel hopeless. For now, I want arms big enough to wrap up the world and protect it the way I do my children. I want to heal them and I want to help them and I have no clue how to accomplish any of that.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Confessions of The Makeshift Mom

I really like lists. I have a notebook full of lists. Things I want, things I need to do, things I should buy, things I should avoid. I have daily lists, weekly lists, monthly lists, and seasonal lists. I make lists for fun. Sometimes I make lists about making lists. I will rewrite the same list 3 or 4 times just so I can get the bullets equally spaced or make my thoughts follow a clear pattern. I probably have a list disorder. That being said, here we go- (and I didn't rewrite this one so it jumps around)

I am very high stress. I am just not happy with myself unless I have multiple projects going at the same time. Projects can range from moving furniture and redecorating to getting the house set up to adopt a baby. Once a project is done I fall into a depression until I find the next project.

I am very hard on myself. I have gotten to the point with it that I have had to seek professional help at times. I have a voice in my head that never stops and it says things like, "You're stupid.".."You've got to be the clumsiest person alive".."You're ugly"... "That wasn't good enough. Who are you trying to kid? You're never going to be good enough."... "People are never going to like you." This voice has been with me for as long as I can remember.. or at least since 6, which is my first concrete memory of it. I am so hard on myself that I constantly judge how I'm sitting, how my mouth moves when I talk, how I walk.. everything. It impacts my social life and my life with my family. I have been completely alone and tried to switch on the light but missed the switch the first time and I have felt my face burn and the tears well up because apparently embarrassing myself in front of myself is just too much for me to handle. Yes, little things like reaching for something and missing it will cause me to get teary and I will replay it over and over again in my head for weeks (literally) and beat myself up over it. I will think how no one that witnessed that could possibly like me, they're going to think I'm clumsy and stupid. They're not going to want to see me again, they will stop loving me. Little things send me over the edge so when someone actually does criticize me, it's life altering. I can't get it out of my head. I remember every criticism I've ever received since grade school and I STILL listen to them over and over.

I have battled eating disorders since middle school. It started as anorexia, but on my 17th birthday when I passed out at Target and hit my head on a shelf and wound up in the hospital and my mom found out- she made me stop. Ever since then I've gone back and forth between being anorexic and being an overeater. My weight fluctuates by over 100 pounds depending on the year.

I pretend to be strong. I pretend to be funny. I pretend to be a bitch. I pretend to not care. But the truth is that, while on the outside I appear to have it together and I appear to take nothing from no one, I internalize everything and every word stays with me for years. I am fearful, I am weak, I want to be loved but I don't think I know how to accomplish it. I want to live a life that makes people sit back and say 'wow' but I don't think I'll ever get there.

I may be married with kids and living life cleverly disguised as an adult, but I'm still that broken child who couldn't save herself, and maybe I never will. Maybe I'm never going to be amazing, maybe I'm never gonna make a difference. Maybe more people will hate me and maybe my next project will fall apart. If that happens I'll pick up the pieces, paste on my fake smile, and carry on like my world didn't end. Exactly as I always have.

And maybe, just maybe, all that matters is that I continue to carry on. No matter what.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Marriage, or Lack Thereof

My husband received news today that his ex girlfriend just finalized her divorce. She was the serious one right before me and when we first started dating he was still all hung up on her. She had painted him a picture of what was supposed to be their souls entwined for all eternity (if their souls resembled cave drawings) and I slept with that damn thing over my bed for a year before I could finally convince him to take it down and pack it away. She would call and he would answer no matter what we were doing and then completely ignore me for hours while they chatted. He, and his friends, had pictures of the two of them together in their homes on display until well after our wedding. That kind of 'all hung up on her'. She's always been a source of contention for us and it took a long time before hearing her name didn't make me sick to my stomach. (And for those of you thinking I have problems with all exes cause I'm a jealous twit- my bff is his ex, the one he lost his virginity to and, no, we didn't all grow up together or anything. I met her when we were engaged, so I do take this on a case by case basis. I judge people as people, not as titles.)

Anyway, at first when he told me this I bristled a little cause, really? I kinda thought we were past this now. But as it turns out I had no need to bristle. Apparently what had happened is that her hubby was diagnosed with a terminal illness and she decided she was too... young?, or selfish in my opinion, to handle it so she walked away. Now I'm not saying that taking care of someone who is dying is easy. I watch it in my own family and I see the tears and the hopelessness, and it's heartbreaking, but to leave your spouse in their darkest hour? Wow. I just can't fathom it. I can't understand how anyone can know that someone they promised to love is scared and hurting and NOT be moved to help.. not have an emotional connection, or response, or whatever you want to call it. When did marriage become a 'so long as it's convenient and I'm having fun' thing?

I don't live under a rock. I do understand that the divorce rate is astronomical as are the rates for a lot of other things that might cause a divorce. My own parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents are divorced... I'm talking every single person for two generations. In our wedding card my grandma wrote, "Please show us how it's done." So what I'm getting at is this.. The divorce rate is high, but is that due to people mistreating each other more freely like I was taught, OR is it due to people just becoming more and more selfish and not wanting to actually do what they promised to do cause it's not fun anymore?

My marriage hasn't been peachy. We've been married for 3.5 years and we've experienced infidelity more than once, substance issues, irresponsible financial decisions without involving the other spouse, and most other transgressions that I believe are normal for most marriages and even some that I'm not ready to open up to the world about quite yet, but here we stand. Because we're somehow better? Absolutely not. Because at the end of the day we made a promise to each other and our word is important to us. So far we've never found anything we can't work through. Sometimes working through it took months and/or hundreds of dollars in counseling that we had to pull from thin air. Sometimes we had to force ourselves to work on it. Sometimes we had to talk ourselves out of leaving for good and sometimes we cried and never laughed. Sometimes we didn't speak for days. Sometimes when we did speak all we did was yell. Yet here we are.

When were we promised that marriage, or life in general for that matter, was always going to be easy and fun? When did marriage become some fleeting thing we did for a moment or two? And is it possible to get it back to the lifetime commitment it once was- at least for most of us? To be fair, I'm not talking about all divorces and I'm not against divorce all the time, I certainly think that there are justifiable reasons for it, but to leave because your spouse is dying and you don't want to deal with it? That's gotta be the most selfish, child-like thing I've ever heard. Nothing worthwhile comes to you without work. Ever.

On the upside, my husband, I think, is finally done with the past and has realized, or said he did anyway, how lucky he was that that wasn't him and that he's far better off here- not that I'm a saint, but at least he has no fear of being left on his death bed.

So what do you think? Can anything be done to save the sanctity of marriage? Should we bother trying at all?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Guilt, Plus Shame, Equals Pride

If you're on the Facebook page then the fact that I injured my hand last week is not news to you, but just exactly how I managed it was not really touched on- due to my guilt and shame. But here it is-

Monday evening I went out with a few friends to the bar. There were drunk people there as you'd expect but one of them in particular seemed to be drawn to me as someone to spew venom at. For thirty minutes I sat at the bar while he told me that my husband and son were "diseased" and "dirty" and that I was "stupid" for allowing them near me or in my home. He has never met my husband or son so at first I accepted this as the ridiculous things that fall from the mouths of intoxicated persons. After awhile however I was growing frustrated with his behavior interrupting my night with my friends and I excused myself to go outside to smoke. He ended up following me outside and proceeding to be inches from my face while screaming loudly about the males in my house. At this point I am no longer afforded the chance to respond and he continues to get more out of control. After 45 minutes I must admit that I slapped him and turned to walk away... the guilt would be bad enough if that's where the story ended, but it doesn't. He said, "I dare you to slap me again." I literally shrugged and said ok and slapped him a second time. He continued to chant 'again, again' and before I knew it I was slinging back closed fists and letting them fly with absolutely no restraint. My friend tried to pull me off, and I remember shrugging her off, but it served as enough of a wake up call that I walked away and went inside- hysterically crying. I have NEVER in my entire life hit someone with a closed fist and the last time I slapped someone I was in 8th grade. I felt subhuman. I felt that I had betrayed myself and my values, as I believe that violence is never a solution and when all else fails I should just walk away, but even scarier than that... I liked it. I LOVED IT! There was a rush, a sense of power, a feeling that I can't even describe and it drove my mind to all sorts of scary places dealing with what kind of human must I really be... What am I capable of when I don't keep myself under control?... And, the most scary, now that I know I like it, am I gonna be able to control it? I rolled that around in my mind for days and finally came to the conclusion that this doesn't have to be a bad thing if I use it appropriately.

I called a few gyms last week and ended up settling on an MMA trainer to begin this new phase. I had a meeting with them last week and I got to check out the gym and talk about what kind of classes I'll be signing up for. I'm starting with a Functional Fitness class, which is an MMA class but without much full contact. Instead it focuses on the kettlebells, battling ropes, and strength, endurance, and overall conditioning. After 6 weeks of that, if I'm still interested, I will be adding in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and a grappling class. While I was there they had me play fight with an instructor and hit a punching bag a few times. The general consensus is that while I'm certainly in need of strength training and technique pointers, I'm a "natural" and they think I could do this for real.

I figured out how to turn my shame and guilt, and I had tons of both, into a positive new direction for me. I just can't be taking on large drunk hockey players on the side of the road- this is not my essential self. However, I can take classes and develop interests that allow me to release that aggression in positive ways, or at least acceptable ways, and in the end that's really all I need. I thought by now I'd know most of what there is to know about me. I shouldn't be able to shock myself anymore, but as it turns out there are corners of my mind that not even I know about. I'm not just a boring wife and mother of 3 that spends her days cleaning, cooking, and running from one appointment to another- and that makes me smile.

For those of you wondering about the "incident"- My right knuckles and the side of my hand are still bruised and swollen a little, but at least I can now do twisting motions and open milk jugs and doorknobs, which is helpful, and although I haven't seen him since that night, I've been told that he has an "impressive" black eye, and he would like to apologize to me.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

This Post Should Have a Really Catchy Title About Parenting, But It Doesn't

Today I got a call from a friend, asking me for parenting advice. Apparently her child has been disrespectful and refuses to follow the rules. She doesn't know what the problem is, she's counting to 3 like the books say and then putting her in time out, what could be the issue?? So I have to step in and say, "The issue is that you're following a book, dear."

Don't get me wrong, I love books, and when I say love, I mean LOVE. I have literally thousands and I collect first editions and classics. I read books over and over again until the covers fall off and I'll read anything you put in front of me, anything- Harlequin novels, WWII history books, self help, religious texts, mysteries, true life crime, college text books (for fun!), I even own the report of the Warren Commission, and, yes, even parenting books- anything and everything. I don't think I'd live without books, and I'd probably save them in a fire before ever thinking to check on my hubby. I love, love, love them, BUT, they are not the be all, end all, and they do not contain the answers to all of life's mysteries. Do you know why? Because each book contains one person's point of view, and one person alone does not have all of the answers. Kind of a no-brainer, huh?

Does that mean I'm the type of parent who flies by the seat of my pants and makes shit up as I go? Absolutely not! I am not nearly that brave- I need a plan, a schedule. I have taken tons of classes, read hundreds of books, and I've learned one thing. Nothing is right all the time. Parenting requires a tool box and each and every "tool" you pick up goes in that box. Some jobs call for the hammer, some for the screwdriver, but none of them will work in all situations, none are suited for all jobs. (By the way, that last part there, I stole it from a Love and Logic course I took last year.) And now I'm all side-tracked...

Back to my friend. She calls today and asks me what she should do with her unruly daughter. Keep in mind, this woman has watched me parent for years, she may not know all the ins and outs of how I do it, but she must have the general idea, you'd think that nothing I would realistically say at this point would come as a shock. You'd be wrong, as was I. I told her that what she needed to do was stop with the chances. Stop counting. Stop warning the child and not doing anything. How scary does this sound? "That is your number one. You can throw that toy at me two more times, but then you're going to be punished." Do you think how you should immediately straighten up? I bet not. Hell, even I start thinking how awesome it is that I get one more freebie! No parent actually says those words verbatim, but let's just assume that our children aren't complete morons and can figure out the basics of 1, 2, 3, shall we?

Here's how that scenario would play out in my house: The child throws a toy at me. I immediately tell said child to march to time out while I think of a punishment. The child sits there until I ask this question, "Are you ready to talk about it yet?" They always say yes, we discuss, and a punishment is handed out. Typical punishments in this house include, but are not limited to, extra chores, early bed time, loss of tv, being grounded to your room, losing game privileges, and the punishment changes according to child. My son would die without tv but doesn't care about being grounded to his room. My oldest enjoys extra chores but can't stand being in her room. My youngest hates going to bed but can live without games. You have to hit them where it hurts, NOT literally, if you want them to make any changes. They're short people, not stupid people. Am I motivated by someone telling me that if I say that again I won't be allowed to do laundry anymore? Nope. In fact, that kinda makes me want to make up a song using nothing but whatever offensive word I've said. (In all honesty, it was probably 'motherfucker' or 'little pussy bitch'. Any song writers here?)

Anyway- Yes, my children will go to time out on their own without dragging their feet and without being yelled at and will sit there quietly until I tell them to get up. That in and of itself was borne from many times being carried to time out kicking and screaming and having time start over repeatedly if they weren't quiet and still. I wasn't handed well behaved children, I worked for them. And for about 18 months I worked really, really hard and I was spit at, kicked, hit, called names, battered and bruised,.. you name it, my kids did it. However, since my kids aren't idiots, they caught on and learned that it's easier and quicker to do as you're told the first time, cause what happens when mom has to tell you more than once is that mom gets angry, and when mom's angry, the punishments get sooo much worse.

So I tell her that that's what I would do and she is shocked. Genuinely shocked. And she says, "Wow. That sounds really mean. I don't think I could be that mean to my daughter." That kinda knocked me back a bit. Am I being mean to my kids or am I holding them to higher standards? Am I crossing a line or showing them where it is? I felt like she had kicked me in the stomach and I started to worry. After all, what's the difference between 'mean' and 'controlling and domineering'? I would prefer to think that my kids make their own decisions about their behavior and I'm just motivating them to make good ones, but am I wrong?

I sat on the couch for about 20 minutes thinking this over, at one point with teary eyes, when suddenly it occurred to me. The difference between my friend and I is that I am not looking for more friends, and she desperately wants them. She wants to be the fun mom, the one who never says no, she wants to be a friend, and I don't think that there is anything inherently wrong with that. I enjoy having fun with my kids, but really I don't care about any of that friend crap. I have the rest of their lives to be friends with them, and if history is any indicator, we'll become friends only after they move out anyway, so right now what I need to do is be their parent. I can't parent them and direct their decisions when they're my age and out on their own because that's my time to be a friend. Right now I can't be a friend because it's the time to direct so that when they're my age and out on their own making decisions they won't need a parent.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that different things work for different kids. My parenting style works in my house, but apparently wouldn't in her house. If I took on her parenting style in this house, I'd be a sitting duck. Just because something isn't going to work in your house doesn't mean you shouldn't listen. You never know how you could modify someone else's idea to work for you. Besides, listening is just plain respectful and modeling correct behavior to your kids is just as important, if not more so, than telling them what the expectations are. Parenting.... Tool Boxes... make sure yours is filled with lots and lots of stuff so that you'll never be in a situation that you don't have a tool for. And THAT last part came right out of the mouth of my father.

(See, Dad, you were right after all!!)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In retrospect, I may have over-reacted. I'm admitting that here because I will never actually say it to them.

Tomorrow starts another half-year of homeschooling in this house. sigh. Part of me is really looking forward to having the teacher role again. I love coming up with all the fun activities, playing, and getting dirty with my kids. Less excited about giving up my afternoons alone.

Last Wednesday I got a call from my aunt at 12:45 pm. The school had called her looking for me cause my child had a fever over 101. Here are a few points I'd like to make about that.
    ~ School starts at 12:30. The bus comes at 12:05. They were not sick when they left. I am NOT a parent that sends sick kids to school. Sick kids do not leave this house. Period.
    ~ Both my husband and myself were home that day. Nobody called our house or either one of our cell phones, or even my in-laws who live in this city. Instead they call my aunt and my mother, who live in the next county over.
So, I'm fairly pissy before I even get there.

Now, the original message was that my youngest has a fever. When I get there however they inform me that I'll be taking my son home as well. No, nothing is wrong with him, but ya know, why have any kids in the classroom if you don't have to? Ugh.

While I was there I went to the office to ask why I didn't get a call. The office bitch jumps down my throat about how irresponsible it is of me to leave my kids there with no way for anyone to get ahold of me. She had called me repeatedly.. or at least as repeatedly as you can call someone within 15 minutes of school starting. What if there had been an emergency? Here again, I am NOT a parent that engages in this behavior. I demanded that she show me which number I gave her. She pulls out our file and what do I see? My house phone, cell phone, and my hubby's cell phone all written on the card- complete, legible, and labeled, just as I knew they would be. Grr.

I am getting very, very pissed off at this point, but I have a sick kid that needs my attention so I take my kids home. Once home I whip out the thermometers, four of them to be exact, and do you know what? Neither of my kids has a damn fever!! This is the second time, frickin second time!, that my children have been sent home with a mysterious, disappearing fever this year. I called the office for a few reasons- to ask if the kids had been given Tylenol or something that would help the fever (of course they hadn't been, I knew that) AND to report that once again those damn people sent my kids home for no apparent reason. While on the phone with the office bitch she puts me on hold and I overhear this- the office bitch saying to someone, "This bitch is pissed!" and then the questioning of the teacher. According to the teacher what had happened is my youngest didn't like what was being served for lunch and she wanted to lay on the bean bag chair instead. I know my youngest pretty well and I am certain that it didn't go that nicely, she probably was throwing a fit and stomping her feet and just generally acting like someone who just turned 3. I'm guessing that the teacher didn't want to handle her tantrum and sent her home instead. 

When the office bitch, which is what I called her out loud since she felt free to call me a bitch, got back on the phone I offered to bring my kids and all 4 of my thermometers to the school and test them against the one in the classroom, which had since been cleared so I could see no reading on it whatsoever from my child. The ob, office bitch get it?, told me that it would be unfair to take away from the rest of the kids and spend time on that. Then she said that they had decided at the school that my kids wouldn't be allowed back in school on Thursday either, I'd have to keep them home til Monday cause there is no school on Fridays. WTF!!? That is when I told her, "I'm all done talking to an illiterate office bitch. I want a superintendent or a director on this phone immediately." Come to find out my children's school apparently doesn't have anyone in either of those roles. How is that ok? Don't the teachers need someone to direct them, tell them what the new state guidelines are..someone to do whatever the hell directors and superintendents do??

Had that been the only problem I might have just bit my lip and let it slide, but there is more to the story than that. My son has come home from school twice this year with nasty rashes/welts and I have taken him to the med center. The most recent time was Monday, two days before all this happened. The very first time I had to bring him, in October, he was diagnosed with hives and given anti-histamines, and we went home. No big deal, and I didn't address it with anyone. Shit happens, right? The second time, on Monday, when I brought him he was diagnosed with bug bites. I was told to go home and search our beds looking for bug casings and to check the dog for fleas. I was kinda hoping for chicken pox to be honest. Bugs make me sick, but I went home and did as I was asked, complete with magnifying glass, and there are no bugs here. Not anywhere. He didn't have them when he left for school that day, but was covered in them when he returned. 

SOOO.. this school causes my children to break out in hives, is having some sort of bug infestation, and my children fall mysteriously ill and the only thing that fixes them is walking into my home?? I am not ok with that. I find that unacceptable and thus, starting tomorrow, I now homeschool. Ahh, life, what a joker. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

My Daughter is Perfect and Where The Hell Does That Come From?!

    I don't often publicly sing the praises of my children, but today I'm going to do just that. Well, at least for one of them, because I am seriously the luckiest mom ever and someone just HAS to know about it. And maybe cause secretly I think you should all be just a little jealous. I'm joking, probably.
    My oldest child is the most perfect child on the planet and I'm not just saying this cause I'm biased, although I definitely am. Her teachers, bus drivers, friends' parents, neighbors, etc. all tell me so. She's years ahead academically, her behavior is flawless, she's sweet, giving, thoughtful, she's everything that everyone wants in a kid.
    I never have to yell at her. I do occasionally have to speak to her about her choices, and by occasionally I mean once every two months or so, but I just say that she didn't make a very good choice and I'm disappointed and we're good to go for awhile. Even her "bad choices" are trivial, ridiculous things. Like she picked up all the toys in the play room but forgot the Barbie in her bedroom or she didn't put the toothpaste in the medicine cabinet, instead it's behind the sink. Nothing major and they happen so rarely that I hate to even say anything to the child at all, but then I start to feel guilty cause I'm yelling at her little brother and sister constantly.. constantly!.. and I don't want them to feel bad cause I never have to say anything to her.
    She's sweetness and light and everything right with the world. The only thing that ever upsets her is when she can't help me around the house. She begs to fold laundry, literally cheers when I tell her she has chores, enjoys cleaning, wants to help in the kitchen, and if I don't have anything for her to do at the moment she gets upset. It's the only time her smile fades.
    She dotes on her younger siblings. You can commonly find her curled up on the couch and reading books to them, or breaking up an argument, or helping them with buttons and zippers, reminding them to use their manners, the child is amazing. If she's playing with something and someone walks up to her and wants it, she walks away and finds something else to do. No tears, no whining, no arguing, just walks away from it.
    I spent years trying to teach that girl to stand up for herself, open her mouth, don't back down.. basically trying to turn her into me, and do you know what happened? She was kicked out of school for not being emotionally ready, she was painfully shy, she couldn't interact comfortably with her peers, she was a mess.  

    About a year ago I decided that what I needed to do was build her confidence. So I stopped pressuring and reminding her to be more like me and just let her be herself and what has happened has been beautiful. She has blossomed into the most wonderful human being I've ever met. She even volunteers to be in front of the class and she has more friends than I can keep straight. Her teacher is head over heels in love, which is a completely mutual emotion.

    The problem I had in parenting my first one was that I thought I had control. Silly me! I control nothing. About the best I can do is suggest things, stand back, and hope for the best. In the end they're gonna do exactly what they were meant to do, be who they were meant to be, and nothing I can do/say/believe/think/force is going to influence any of that. I'm glad that I've learned to step back and let them blossom, and I'm even more thankful that I live with a walking, talking reminder to do so, cause sometimes I really need the reminder. Who woulda thought that the moment that I chose to relinquish control would be the moment that everything fell into place? There's probably a lesson in there somewhere that I can use in the rest of my life... Nah, probably not.