Burn The Needle

I sit here, sewing a broken string from my blue linen blouse with the same needle I used to dig out a nasty splinter that had gorged into my right hand the other day. The thought of this doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m reusing this tool for another necessary purpose. I burned the needle. I sanitized it. And I started again on a new task. It actually feels good.

The multi-tasking of objects and time is nothing new in our household. If it’s not utilitarian or joyful for more than one occasion, then I’m done with it. If it hasn’t seen the light of day in 6 months, or it’s a one trick pony, it goes in the garbage or donation bag. If it doesn’t have a place on the shelf or space in the day as an activity, then I’m not buying it. This is all in an effort to simplify and multi-task. In retrospect, I think this has had both a positive and negative impact on my family. That may not surprise you. I find myself cleaning up too often after the children’s messes, and I am certainly not teaching my son who lacks executive functioning the tools to organize. While my husband’s habits for collecting and accumulating piles has greatly diminished over the last 10 years, sometimes I still find his secret stash. A little shelf hidden in the laundry room or a drawer filled with useless receipts, lollipop wrappers and printed coupons for Malax which you inevitably get when you pick up a prescription at Walgreens. I always toss them. I don’t think he’s noticed yet. Does he just fear my need for organization or does he appreciate a clean desk space like I do??

Let’s cut to the chase. Life with kids is messy. You lose yourself in it. You disconnect from your spouse. You run yourself ragged. You set yourself on a path and when you come back together as a family you really just throw all expectations out the window. You learn flexibility.

I didn’t so much raise the white flag in 2018 as much as I hit the pedal hard when the racing flag was raised. My husband and I focused on our careers which included an often hectic travel schedule for me and “on call” nighttime work hours for him – meaning we’re both always exhausted. Sometimes I miss things, like my birthday. Or his birthday. And I work extra hard to attend kids activities like lunch with mommy in the cafeteria so they don’t feel the burden of that. They still think I sit at home all day dreaming up that night’s dinner. But I’m also learning to balance all of this, and to say NO when I can.

2018 also saw the end of preschool days in our family, and the start of Kindergarten and 2nd Grade. Baby toys got tossed or donated to make room for action figures and a computer for playing Fortnite. Our youngest son broke his arm and was rushed into surgery followed by three days in the hospital. Our eldest went through months of neuropsych evaluations for his IEP at school. The last two months alone have included countless visits to doctors, schools support team meetings, family therapy on the weekends, and even a brief stint with marriage counseling before our therapist moved to Arizona and we realized we didn’t have time for it anyway. My only goal through all of this was quality family time.

Yesterday I burst into tears because I didn’t plan a special New Year’s Eve for the kids. I just wanted to go to bed. I was exhausted. December included two busy work trips for me, hosting a kids party for 60 people at our house, endless therapy appointments, and literally 24-hour nonstop parenting with a kid in an itchy cast that wouldn’t sleep in his own bed, let alone for more than 2 hours at a time. We chose not to travel for the holidays this year. The kids won’t be sharing that they went to Florida or California when they went back to school like most of their friends. It was my one day off and I couldn’t even enjoy watching a dumb TV show because I was feeling the guilt. Would they forget the small joys that we DID gain when we gave family activity-themed gifts under the tree?

I often see Facebook posts of families with kids on the town looking at Christmas decorations or shopping on a bustling street surrounded by strangers, late night dinners at restaurants, children happily sampling new dishes and flavors. I talk to friends who’s kids actually entertained themselves for an entire summer with no plans other than a sports activity twice per week. I’m not sure how to feel about this. I know it’s not my reality. And I guess it kinda hits me hard.

What I’ve come to realize this past year is that my normal is not anybody else’s normal. To compare is totally unfair. We must accept and cherish what we can because we have also gained so much this past year. And even on the worst of days, when you think you have nothing left, there is always a little more to give after having a 2 minute break. Certainly, Robby and I are transparent about our struggles and really open communication is our only salvation. We are dedicated parents. But we accept what is damaged and then use our tools to mend and reframe. We burn the needle.

So while I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, I can share that Asher’s resolution is “to work harder and believe in myself”, Everett’s is “I dunno!”, Robby wants to be more patient, and I’m going to simplify. Worry less about other people’s expectations, and more about my own. I’m really going to use my tools in considering whether something is a ‘big problem’ or a ‘small problem’ to quote our OT, and I’m going to burn that needle between uses.

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Yo-Yo Parenting

 It’s happened again. Another weekend gone by of overly-ambitious family planning, followed by self-doubt, and soon disappointment in the promises I can’t keep for myself. The weekend started with an inspirational vegan cooking class, and ended with me eating a skillet cookie with ice cream. 

My goals may seem simple: make my kids laugh, have a selfish moment, learn something new, remind my husband why we fell in love, have a boost of confidence, strive to do better, acknowledge I’m far from perfect. 

Some days start off being positive, but end up just feeling insurmountable. There really isn’t a word to encapsulate the bitterness you feel after a particularly rough day of parenting. It’s like the YoYo diet self-loathing effect, when one special moment of joy comes crashing down into pitiful pain the next, over and over into an endless vortex.

How does one value the little time you have to yourself when the weekends are no longer your own? How do you find inspiration when you live in a world of diaper checks? How do you find passion when your day is measured by Toddler-Time-Outs, or mental clarity when a sneaker has been thrown at your head, or laughter and joy when heads are turning because your family is “causing a scene” at a restaurant? How can you feel attractive when you only have five minutes to get dressed?

Case in point: this morning we were eager to get the kids out of the house at 9:00am, when my husband casually asked me if I needed to get dressed before we left. Then he started to put the kids shoes on. Not HOW MUCH time I needed, or if I needed a shower. We’ve simply progressed to IF I needed to put on clothes. I was in a sleep shirt, no bra, no makeup. Not sure if he noticed. New goal for next weekend – make eye contact with spouse in the morning.

I know our kids are young and energetic and this too shall pass. I’m getting sick of hearing that advice. My low point of the weekend was really when I got puked on and we learned that Everett is allergic to walnuts. BUT my highlight was when the kids dragged me outside today to do “water play” in 80 degree humidity when all I really wanted was to sit alone in private misery and read a book. And in the end, the joy on their faces from the simple act of being soaked in the mud with a hose pipe was nothing short of spectacular. This is the reminder of “living” I strive for each day. And even though I feel miserable and lost and so so tired right now … I know that’s okay, we are bound together by the brazen and the beautiful, and tomorrow is another day!

Daddy’s “selfish” moment trying to do yoga in the morning but getting discovered…