Parenting Conundrum — Help? AN UPDATE!!

I’m one of those people that doesn’t ask a lot of advice from people. Especially about parenting. It’s not because I know everything and don’t think that others have anything to offer me. It’s more that, when I read blogs or internet threads where advice is dispensed, there is so much that is variable. There’s a lot of, “Well, this worked for me….not sure it’s the right thing for everyone” and “Every kid is different” and an awful whole heckuva lot of “It depends.”

Why would I write a blog post now to ask for advice? Well…a situation has occurred multiple times at my house the last few months and I obviously have not handled it well since it continues to happen. So, I’m coming out of hibernation (why haven’t I blogged lately??) to ask for some ideas and/or advice on how to handle something.

You don’t even have to be a parent to help me on this. Think about siblings doing similar things…or friends.  🙂

Set the stage, here: I wear makeup. Some people might say I wear a lot of makeup and some people might say I don’t wear enough. Just about everyone could give me some tips on how to do it better, I know that.

Girls like makeup! Go figure!! 🙂 (Photo Credit)

I have three daughters in my house. They are ages 13, 11 and 8. None of them wear makeup on a daily basis and the oldest will wear it on weekends (the school rule is no makeup). The oldest also has some makeup she’s received either as gifts or that I have purchased for her in the last year or so. The younger two haven’t expressed much interest in makeup at this point and they do not have any in their possession.

Here’s the recurring situation: Someone uses my makeup. No one owns up to it. An accusation that I don’t really remember how I left my things typically ensues. And that is typically followed by suggestion that maybe NO ONE messed with my stuff. Today, the suggestion was that my husband must have used it.

I know someone used the eye shadow applicator because I see that the person applied blush (rouge-tinged bristles — when my eye shadow is clear/very light neutral color) with it. I wipe this brush clean each time I use it as the bristles are a special material that helps apply the powderless kind of eye shadow. Once it was used for blush, the culprit did not clean it off AND inserted it back into its sleeve the opposite direction of how I keep it.

I know someone used my foundation brush because it was damp (perhaps it got dropped in the sink??)

I know someone used my eyebrow comb/brush because it was missing (in this instance, it mysteriously or miraculously showed up in its proper location within a day of my registering annoyance that it is gone and I know someone used it, and then lied to me about it).

I know someone used my makeup (in general) because things are out of place. I am meticulous with my stuff and I store it exactly the same way when I am finished every single time (thank you, OCD). The child using it clearly doesn’t understand why anyone would do that — which is why said child thinks she can get away with not owning up to it and trying to convince me that perhaps my husband (???) is the one who has been dabbling in my makeup (Yep — that was actually uttered this morning).

Here’s the thing: I think it’s NATURAL for a girl to want to wear some makeup. I wear makeup because I like it! I am sure my girls want to wear it, too. And I am not opposed to them learning how to use makeup and wearing it (just not to school since that is against the rules). I am hurt because this situation where they use my makeup without asking makes me think that they believe I would not let them use makeup. I think I’ve been fairly reasonable about the whole makeup and clothes things with my girls. I’ve been flexible, but held firm on certain things — but none of the things I’ve felt the need to “hold firm” on have been makeup related.

So, if one of my girls asked to use my makeup, I would most likely say “yes” (if no rules were being broken) and also see if it were time to get her some (more) of her own.

Here’s another thing: I don’t like lies. If I confront a child of mine with a question like, “Hey, did you use this makeup thing?” I expect an honest answer. When I believe I am being lied to, it hurts my feelings and also makes me angry. I think it hurts me more than angers me, though, because I don’t know why my kids want to deceive me.

THIS situation occurred this morning: I came home from working out and was getting ready for work, used my foundation brush and found it damp, then found my eye shadow brush had been used and put away incorrectly (completely different from how I store my brush). My first thought was that it was the oldest. When confronted, she denied it. I can’t imagine it had been either of the younger two, but I asked them and they said they hadn’t. used it.

No one every owned up to it. I went about my routine getting ready. I thought about how I could get the truth from my girl(s).

My solution for this time is that no monthly allowances will be paid until the person who used the makeup (and did a pretty shoddy job of putting stuff back) makes herself known to me. I don’t JUST MEAN November allowances — I mean no more allowances EVER until the person owns up to it. Allowances are these girls’ only way of obtaining money (well, the oldest gets babysitting jobs…) so I am hopeful this will work. I even said, “you can come to me individually, if you want. I promise you that the anger I feel toward being lied to will most likely be overcome with happiness to forgive and move on once the truth has been acknowledged.” And, knowing how I felt in the past with situations like this, I believe it to be true. Once I know the truth, I can address the initial lie, discuss the harm that it caused the relationship, but then move on from it. Especially with one of my dear children.

I did tell the girls that the longer I am lied to, the more angry I am about the whole thing and that I wouldn’t have been all that angry if the person had just owned up to it from the get-go.

Photo Credit

Let’s be clear about something: My anger = disappointed look, a little bit of yelling. So, the fear of me being angry that they use my makeup without asking first is a little weird, in my opinion.

So —  my question(s) for you, readers:

1) Is there a better way (i.e., more efficient) to get the information from my girls, than just withholding their monthly allowance? (I do suspect the oldest, but man, she was figuratively digging in her heels even as we drove to school…)

2) How can I stop this lying? I’m of the opinion that when kids start lying, they start with small things (like saying they didn’t use mom’s makeup without asking, when they really did) and when they get away with it, the lying moves on to bigger things until the kid is just an all-out liar. I don’t want to push my girls away, but I’m really hurt by the lying. And it’s my job as their mom to call them on it, put a stop to it and make sure they understand what they do to our relationship when they lie to me.

3) Once this is settled, I fear that I’ve got a trip to a makeup counter in my future to get a full set of something for at least the oldest. But I don’t want to “reward” this bad behavior (if, in fact, she is the one who used the makeup and then lied profusely — AND wanted me to consider that CRAIG used my makeup!!!)

Please respond in the comments or even tweet me or IM me or e-mail me. I am not lie-awake-at-night stressed out about this, but I’m quite interested to read your thoughts.

I called to talk with the kids after school and asked my oldest if anyone could tell me the truth yet. She said that the youngest confessed to it while they were at before-school care this morning. So I got the youngest girl on the phone and she also told me that it was she who had gotten into the makeup. We talked about how I was not angry that she wanted to play with the makeup, but that I do wish she had asked first. I likened it to the times recently when she has gotten upset at her brothers coming into her room and playing with her dollhouse without her permission. I also told her that it really hurt my feelings that she lied about it.

So, we talked about respecting people’s property and being honest.

I guess the girls will get their allowances now, and I probably don’t have to go to a makeup counter yet. The 8-year-old has a few years of “playing” before using makeup becomes a real thing, haha.

Thanks for the comments so far! Stuff like this always gets to me!!


The WOTHM and School Struggles

Whenever I think about writing another WOTHM / coping post, I think I must have already said all that needs to be said on the topic, right? (For the newbies, WOTHM=Work Outside The Home Mom) But of course, not. Because life is always moving forward and there will be a new challenge just around the corner, pretty much all the time.

My new challenge involves my baby girl and school. I don’t know if it was always this way or if it’s a change in the way school is done now from when I was a kid. For your frame of reference, however, these days, parents are expected to be pretty involved in homework for the kids up through a certain grade. Reading WITH them, Reading TO them, having THEM read to you, correcting and working through math problems and grammar exercises are all things I have had to spend some time with each of my kids up through about 4th or 5th grade.

I’ve been pretty lucky that Sarah and Dani were strong readers and able to do a lot of this on their own earlier than some kids. Dani never liked being read to (still does not like to be read to) and prefers not to read aloud. I suspect this is because she is a speed reader and it slows down her experience to be read to or to have to read aloud. Sarah enjoys being read to and reading aloud and we did this through 4th grade. Now that she is in middle school, however, she does her reading independently. I try to read whatever book she is reading so we can discuss it, if she wants to. As she has gotten older, there is less time for that anyway, so it’s a sort of no pressure situation. I say I’ve been lucky because I haven’t had to spend as much time with kids and homework the past couple of years and I have seen that as good because I work full-time and then all the kids have their activities and I’ve added some of my own. The time just doesn’t seem to be there.

This year, the luck ends. I feel like a failure right now because I see that my Helen is struggling a bit in 3rd grade. Helen has never been one to read without being assigned. She reads quite well. She’s fun to listen to as she reads aloud as she uses proper intonation and inflection. But she does not really like to read. I think she runs into a problem I had as a kid where the material wasn’t interesting enough to keep her focused and she will read a paragraph and still not know what she just read because her mind wandered. So she has to re-read it and that makes her mad. Her comprehension skills are not strong either and this impacts not only her reading, but her grammar and her math word problem computations. I feel like a failure because I haven’t spent the kind of time with Helen that she needs.

My sweet girl, who wants to be “just like her mommy”
more than anything in the whole world

Our schedule is hectic, no doubt. Craig heads off to work shortly after I get home (and sometimes before I get home). Sarah has volleyball games and practices in the afternoons/evenings. Dani has cross country practices and swim practices all nights of the week except Wednesday. Dominic has a worksheet to complete a couple of nights a week and Vincent just needs regular attention so he’s not zoning out watching a screen all evening. You notice that I didn’t include anything with Helen in that list. That is how busy we are without spending extra time with Helen on her homework. And I’ve been working out in the mornings so I still get it in while I can’t go in the afternoons/evenings right now.

This is where the rubber meets the road with regard to a WOTHM’s life. It’s all about balance and sometimes, there just isn’t any. I had to have a serious talk with Helen last night, putting a plan together to help her strengthen her skills. We’ll be doubling up the amount of time I spend with her reading each night and we’ll be doing about 5 extra math word problems each night. I may even throw in flash cards for her addition and subtraction math facts because she’s not fast enough with those. This will be in addition to extra spelling and handwriting practice that I already had recognized she would need.

Helen said I was “being mean” and I had to reassure her that no, I am not angry and no, I am not being mean. I had to tell her, “I am being your mommy. I have to help you.” And then…I hugged her while she cried. I know her tears were those of disappointment — she thought she’d disappointed me. And so I hugged her and said, “I love you” over and over because the last thing I want her to fear is that doing poorly in school would ever make me not love her. And I told her that, too.

Then…I sat at my computer screen for about 10 minutes. And I cried. I cried because it feels like I have failed my daughter. I cried because I love her so. I cried because I worry that even with a plan in place, she might still not improve — and that scares the bejeezus out of me. I cried because I see so much of myself in Helen and I knew exactly why she was crying and why she thought I was being mean. Because when I was a kid and I didn’t live up to people’s expectations — it hurt. I didn’t want Helen to hurt. I want to expect great things from Helen, but I don’t want to expect the wrong great things of her. I cried because I face week after week of having to run myself ragged to get the kids to school, get myself to work, get the kids to activities, scrape the money together to pay for those activities — all the while trying to keep myself sane, healthy and as together as possible. And…I am not going to lie to you. Sometimes it feels absolutely impossible.

This post isn’t going to have any answers. this post is simply laying it out there that I have struggles that feel insurmountable on a fairly regular basis and my only option is to power through. I can cry and worry that no matter how well I execute my plan to help Helen that she will still fail. But in the end, I must still power through that plan and try my best. I must set benchmarks against which to measure Helen’s progress and I must also assess my expectations of Helen and be sure I am aligning them with HER personality and HER gifts and not her older sisters’.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment in expectations, however, has to be my own. It’s tempting to start to believe everyone when they tell you they “don’t know how you do it” and how “incredible” you must be to have so much together. It really is tempting…and sometimes you do start to believe it. But then the dose of humility that must, and always does, come slaps you across the face and you realize that you haven’t been doing one or more of the things you need to do to continue to raise your family, keep your home in shape, and maintain forward traction in life. And it’s time to reassess and change up the plan.

So that’s where I am today. Just like with weight loss or getting better at CrossFit, I am choosing to look at the next day as a new beginning. So what we were doing wasn’t working? Let’s try this and see if it does. I just wish that when it was time to change things up, it wasn’t so much like throwing a bunch of stuff to a wall and seeing what sticks. But I suppose that’s life sometimes.


Parenting "Village" — Do You Have One?

I remember when I was little — like, really little, before-the-divorce little — and my parents always told me that any adult/authority figure who was in charge of me was like my parent. So, if I was at a friend’s house, their parents were my parents while I was there and I was to obey them as if my own parents had asked something of me. And if I was at school, all teachers were my parents-at-school, and I was to obey them and listen to them just as I would my own parents. Shoot, even if we were hanging out at the Y, swimming on a summer afternoon, any adult or lifeguard was like my parent there, too.

I remember thinking how I never could get away from parents.

I also remember that if I got into trouble with a parent who was not really my parent, I actually got in trouble twice. The first punishment could be a timeout or even a little spanking from the adult/authority figure I had misbehaved for. And then, when that parent told my parents about my misbehavior, I got punished again.

I remember that misbehaving wasn’t worth all the trouble.

Now I am a parent and I tell my children the same thing. I tell them their teachers are their “parents” at school. I tell them they must behave for their friends’ parents and if they don’t, those parents have authority to pu them in time out or whatever mode of punishment fits their misbehavior. My kids know not to complain about teachers or other kids’ parents to me because I typically will side with the adult in the matter.

But things are different now. When I was a kid, I think most parents held the same view as mine did. Most adults/authority figures didn’t hesitate to correct me when I misbehaved and they sure didn’t hesitate to tell my parents about my misbehavior. These days, though, I don’t feel the same solidarity among parents. As a matter of fact, I believe I know which parents I can expect this from and it’s not a large number. I know that I can bring bad behavior to the attention of the parents of a few of the kids we know and they will be grateful that I addressed it and will also address it.

I’ve been in authoritative volunteer positions and been in the situation where a parent registered displeasure with my reactions and/or disciplinary measures because the child had simply told them that I “didn’t like him/her” so the parent was not happy. I’ve also been in the situation where I have taken corrective action (obviously not knowing whether the parent would be supportive or not) to realize that I cannot expect support from all other parents/adults when their children misbehave. My opinion of what constitutes bad behavior can be vastly different from other parents. Lots of parents say, “That’s just the way kids are!”

This blog I read via HuffPo recently really hits home on all five things this nanny cites as reasons why parenting is in a crisis these days. But #3 is one of the most important, I think, and also one of the hardest things to regain, once it is lost:

3. We’ve lost the village. It used to be that bus drivers, teachers, shopkeepers and other parents had carte blanche to correct an unruly child. They would act as the mum and dad’s eyes and ears when their children were out of sight, and everyone worked towards the same shared interest: raising proper boys and girls. This village was one of support. Now, when someone who is not the child’ parent dares to correct him, the mum and dad get upset. they want their child to appear perfect, and so they often don’t accept teachers’ and others’ reports that he is not. They’ll storm in and have a go at a teacher rather than discipline their child for acting out in class. They feel the need to project a perfect picture to the world and unfortunately, their insecurity is reinforced because many parents do judge one another. If a child is having a tantrum, all eyes turn on the mum disapprovingly. Instead she should be supported, because chances are the tantrum occurred because she’s not giving in to one of her child’s demands. Those observers should instead be saying, “Hey, good work – I know setting limits is hard.”

I really enjoy my time with my nieces and nephews because my siblings — having been raised in a similar manner — will parent my children and allow me to parent theirs. We enforce the same sort of punishments for bad behavior and expect good behavior from all ages of child. Once I understand where parents of my kids’ friends stand on this issue (and that’s not always easy to determine) it makes it easier to monitor those play dates and friendships because I know whether the friends live to the same expectations as mine or not. 
It’s frustrating to see bad behavior that I feel the need to simply shake my head and turn my kids away. I wish I believed that correcting bad behavior would have the intended effect of helping another child grow. But knowing that some parents would simply be angry with me for correcting their child keeps me silent. And if the bad behavior is pervasive enough, I simply urge my children to stay away.
What is your experience? Do you expect other parents and adults in authority to discipline your kids and inform you? Do you feel comfortable disciplining unruly children?

Middle School Word Vomit (Fair Warning)

I don’t think it would be an earth shattering revelation to anyone for me to say that middle school rates probably the worst ever time in many people’s lives. I know it really was a stinker for me.

And, I don’t think I’d be telling mothers of middle schoolers anything they didn’t know by saying watching your kid go through middle school is probably rated right around the same spot.

I am having trouble with this tonight…it’s weighing heavy on my heart. I’m writing about it so maybe I can go to sleep at some point.

Sure, everyone hates middle school and everyone hates watching their kids go through middle school, right? Except. I don’t think the experience is created equal for everyone. Sure, it’s not the most fun time in life for pretty much anyone, but let’s be honest…for some it’s worse than for others.

I’m thinking there must be something in my genetic makeup that makes it particularly awful for me. And what really stinks is watching my sweet daughter go through it and knowing it must be my fault that it sucks so bad for her.

I mean, surely the moms of the girls who are invited to everything, included in all the pictures, have girls texting and calling to arrange “hangout” dates — it can’t possibly be THAT difficult for them, right?

And of course, the moms of the girls with all the confidence, the moms of the girls whom all the other girls in the class want to be like…it can’t be THAT hard…you know, to watch your girl “rule the roost” and even watch your girl be kind of mean to other girls, but those other girls want so badly to fit in that they don’t even get all that mad at your girl being mean to them. Shoot, watching THAT daughter go through middle school can’t be all that terrible.

Here’s the thing. My daughter is one of those steady-eddie girls. She is honest with others. She sticks by her friends through thick and thin. She doesn’t have a bad word to say about anyone (unless or until they’ve been mean to her…then she’ll at least speak her opinion, even if it is negative). She is smart and kind. Sure, I’m her mom, so I am sure there are some faults I would forget…but for the most part, even the things I correct her on, are pretty minor. (Well, Sarah, I might not have said it quite THAT way….an example of something I might say these days.)

And, to my knowledge, there’s not a big reason anyone dislikes my daughter. I think she suffers from about the same sort of thing I do, socially. She’s not the first person on anyone’s mind. No one is clamoring to be her friend. She’s the last one picked when they are picking teams, right? She’s the one left off the party invites (and has been throughout middle school). She’s the one who would be left off the table if the girls were allowed to pick where they sit at lunch. Yes — I’m the grateful mom for the lunchroom seating assignments because I know my daughter would most likely be one hurt without it.

Even the girls who claim to be her friends…when the oh-so-glam girls beckon, they drop my daughter like a hot potato. They aren’t mean to her, but they don’t bring her along. 

The only thing that makes seventh grade better than sixth grade is the fact that Sarah has matured and just kind of shrugs it off and expects it now. When it started happening in sixth grade, she clammed up and stopped talking to me altogether and went through some depression type behavior. Now, she talks to me about it, admits that it bothers her, but seems to figure it’s par for the course. Sad.

She admitted to me over the course of this year that it has bothered her when the only reason certain people texted her was to get help with homework. Apparently, she’s put a stop to that somehow. But then it bothers her that people will say to her individually that they are good friends, but will never allow a public picture of themselves with her. These kids are new teenagers and are on Instagram and Twitter…and I know it bothers Sarah to see that no one takes a “locker pic” with her. And even when she has a friend over to hang out, no pictures are posted or mention is made publicly that anyone’s hanging out with Sarah and having fun. It all seems so stupid and trivial (I KNOW!!!) but when you look at it through a 12/13-year-old’s eyes…THIS is the sort of thing that can suck the most. The adult in me says to Sarah, “In the grand scheme of life — this stuff doesn’t matter.” But the rejected 7th grade girl inside of me cries a heavy cry over it that night.

Sarah and I had a great conversation a week or so ago about setting realistic expectations with the kids she goes to school with. I have a hard time calling them her friends, because to be quite honest, once high school begins, the current crop she attends school with will change and, I would imagine, so will whomever she calls a friend. But it was hard to say, “Sarah — we’re almost through 7th grade and you haven’t been invited to stuff…let’s not expect it. Then it doesn’t hurt so much.” It was hard because I wish I had a more positive message to give her. But this was how I coped (eventually) and it’s all I know how to do.

Sad, isn’t it? I’m teaching my child how to build walls to protect herself. I wish it weren’t necessary. But, the sooner she learns not to expect people to invite her or include her in things, the better off she will be. Is that just a jaded mother speaking? Perhaps. But, I think with two middle school years under my belt, and the experience I’ve witnessed so far…I’m not too far off the mark.

Will teaching her to build walls and protect herself make watching her finish middle school any easier? No. Even if she protects her heart from the crushing blows of exclusion, there will be something, I am sure. 

And, I have heard people say it’s this way for everyone, but I have a really hard time believing that. I think it’s difficult for everyone for sure — difficult in that, everyone’s going through puberty and adjusting to new/different expectations in the classroom and all of that. But I believe it’s harder for the kids on the “outside” — the kids no one thinks of, the kids who feel like an afterthought inside. 

It’s difficult for me to put a finger on how it’s happened that my daughter finds herself on the “outside”. It really must be a genetic “gift” I’ve bestowed upon my children, yay for them . Regardless, I sure wish I knew how to make it easier. Maybe I could write a book and become wealthy. 

Or not — because that’s the thing about when middle school sucks for you — you feel like you’re the only one having such a hard time.

NFP Awareness – For The Kids

12 years of using NFP in our marriage have not yet presented an instance where I have had to explain it to my children. In the context of a new pregnancy, it’s been easy to explain that God sent us the baby and we’re excited to meet him/her when the time comes. The kids are always excited for a new sibling.

Our daughters are getting older and so far, I have had discussions with both of the oldest two about changes they will see coming in their bodies in the near future.  I have had THE talk with my oldest (just turned eleven).  But that really centered around what sex was and how it worked and all that stuff.  So the other day, I mentioned I had an NFP Awareness poster to put up at church and Sarah says, “What is NFP?”

Well, honey, I’m so glad you asked!  Or am I?

I have an opportunity to help my daughters understand their bodies.  I have this glorious chance three times in a row to help my daughters be knowledgable and powerful about the decisions they make in their lives.  I can present all the information I did NOT have at my disposal as I was navigating the crazy waters of teen-to-young-adult life.

I plan to discuss this soon with my oldest (she asked “What is NFP” in the van while we were about to leave and go somewhere, so it really wasn’t the time or place to give her the low-down).  Through what I envision to be multiple/separate discussions, here are some points I hope to cover…

  • Changes in her body that can help alert her to the fact she may begin menstrual cycles
  • High-level discussion re: changes in boys’ bodies (i.e., boys’ bodies mature into mens’ bodies, etc)
  • How she can protect her body and keep it healthy both in generally and reproductively
  • Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3 – and how she can pay attention to how she is feeling in each phase, and how it works together with the information she already knows (how a baby is made)
  • Charting — I emailed the lady mentioned in this blog post by Simcha Fisher, but never got anything…I will probably need to call her.  But I really want to get those charts for girls (I mean, who wouldn’t love to have a spot to chart that they were craving pizza!?!?)
  • Discussion on chastity, making good choices
  • High level — what forms of contraception are, how they work, various reasons people think they should use it
  • What sexually transmitted diseases are
  • That I will probably start taking her to see my doctor instead of the pediatrician whenever she needs a doctor visit
My own confidence will see me through these discussions.  I’m glad I know what’s going on with my body.  I feel good about telling her how to handle the coming changes.  I’m grateful for my faith-based view on these things.  But more than that, I am thankful for the science of the matter.  The information at my disposal to pass on to her is so rich in objective measures and ways to help it all make sense.  I don’t have to simply attempt to scare her into abstinence – giving her all kinds of horrible scenarios of what might happen to her if she has sex outside of marriage.  I can explain why it makes sense to reserve sex for marriage (avoid STD’s, have maturity to discern the right time for children, etc) but give her the tools to see the natural purpose for sex played out in charts where she can see her body preparing to conceive each cycle, make it through the fertile phase, and being able to predict the day her cycle will end and a new one will begin.  I can reinforce that she doesn’t need a pill full of hormones to make her body into something it wasn’t designed to be.

I am grateful for NFP because I can show my daughters a better way.

As we close out this NFP Awareness week, I really do hope that if you are part of a couple that hasn’t tried NFP, that maybe you’ll try to overcome your fear.  I hope that you will think about it and perhaps agree to give it that honest-to-goodness try.  I bet if you do, you have a good chance to find that your body will thank you.  One big benefit just might be that you will have a fresh perspective to educate your children and give them the power through the knowledge to make positive choices for themselves.

Forward Motion

Work used to be my biggest “problem” I thought.  It was rough there for a long time.  I dreaded getting up every morning knowing I had to go in and face the day and the people with whom I interacted.  There was a general lack of respect and trust among the group of people with whom I worked directly.  The grass was greener in any other department.  And, my manager.  Well, the best way to describe what was going on was that we were not on the same page.  At. All.  I have wondered many times why the woman hired me at all.

I had a bright spot in that I had someone to commiserate with (my dear TOOJE).  But commiserating, while good for my feelings, doesn’t really do much for the work environment.  I also had some people I turned to outisde the department to voice my concerns and to share my very real desire not to return to work most days. 

My work environment changed drastically since my return from maternity leave.  Within two weeks of my return, I had a new manager.  I wasn’t sure it would be perfect, but I just knew it had to be better.  I had gotten to that point of believing there was no way it could get any worse.

The new manager provides frequent and useful feedback, delivered with a communication style that puts me at ease.  It took awhile to get used to this.  I often joke with my friend that I have had to overcome (may still be overcoming in some instances) “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.”  Not to diminish what people who really do go through PTSD go through, but it was the best way to describe my knee-jerk reaction to thinking I was about to get blasted whenever the new guy brought up anything to “discuss.”

I have to admit I have been on a roll at work lately.  I’m happy with the work I’m doing.  It really seems like the new manager and I are on the same page and even when we aren’t, there’s an open environment for sharing the disagreements, airing it all out and finding a solution where we can both feel a level of “win-win.” 

It has alarmed me, though, to recognize that while I’m rollin’ at work (you know, corporate version of kickin’ ass and taking names), I feel like I’m struggling at home as a mother. 

My post Saturday came on the heels of an evening spent around a TON of kids, all running around and just being kids and I realized how completely uncomfortable with that I was.  Additionally, parenting has started to feel hard.  My children are getting older and I’m fearful of what lies ahead.  I am fearful mainly because it’s new and now I really am hitting the part where it matters how I approach things.  I had spent quite a bit of time Friday night awake…and not because Vincent was up in the middle of the night.  I was starting to have some anxiety about whether I am repeating what I perceive as mistakes in my own upbringing.  What I often forget whenever I want to pine about what I didn’t like about how my parents did things is that I turned out okay.  As a matter of fact, even though I struggled at times growing up…I still knew right from wrong (even though I chose wrong at times) and I learned how to love and how to sacrifice.

Going back to the work angle:  Even though my current manager has had to put up with a bit of my own reactions and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, I don’t seem to ever feel like holding him responsible for my feelings of resentment about the two or three years previous.  And, chances are, I am performing better at work because of my new environment, but it is on my own shoulders that I didn’t perform to this level even when the environment was poor.  Even though I had a manager who was not on the same wavelength as me previously, that doesn’t excuse the fact that my attention and performance on the job during that period dropped off a bit. 

The same can be said for parenting.  While my parents’ choices may not be my own, my reactions to my situations with my children are.  What I noticed over the weekend, after writing on Saturday was that I allowed my kids to be a little bit louder and I didn’t get all uptight.  I gave a gentle reminder that the baby was sleeping and I’d prefer he get his full nap, please, but didn’t scold them for playing together.  When Sarah wanted to “be her own team” in the game of Sorry! instead of being paired with a younger child, I allowed it and didn’t even give her a glare over it. 

Sometimes, writing out how I feel and putting it up there to re-read and for others to see and provide feedback, gives me the jolt I need to do what I’ve known I should do, but didn’t have the guts before.  I’ve been so scared of making mistakes, that I’ve just micro-managed my kids.  And…um, hello, I hate to be micro-managed!  I can’t speak for everyone, but it tends to be something most people dislike.

I will move forward keeping all of this in mind.  I hope I can start “rollin'” at home in my role of mother the way I’ve been “rollin'” at work.

The only way to go is…UP.

Sometimes I Wonder Why

Sometimes I wonder why God gave me five children.
I don’t have the temperament for it.  
I like my house clean.  
I like my house quiet.  
I don’t like kids running around, carrying on.  
In short, I struggle when kids are just being kids.

I was a kid who had a smart-alec mouth.  I was a kid who ran around, carrying on.  I was a kid who got disciplined for being in places I was not supposed to be.  I was a kid who got smacked.  I was a kid who got spanked with a large wooden board (the kind that left bruises).  I was a kid who got spanked with a small wooden board (the kind that really stung when it hit because it was so light).  
I don’t think my parents could handle normal kids either.  I think my parents preferred that we all be “little adults.”
And so, now, I find myself reflecting on my parenting style and wondering why I stress out about normal kid behavior.   And I know it’s because of my experiences.  
My parents would tell us before we visited places (when we were younger) “Now you kids need to remember that children should be seen and not heard.”
I got my nose put in the corner if I was caught running around, causing commotion at any events we would go to.
Because my parents would say (in the car before entering a restaurant or a party):  “If there is any misbehavior, there will be whippings when we get home.”  (sometimes insert “the belt” or “the board” for “whippings.)
So, as a child, I learned that the best way to control the behavior of my children was to threaten with whippings.  Tell my children to “be quiet” and to “sit down” and to “stay put.”
I don’t know how to let kids be kids.  I don’t.  I don’t know how to set the appropriate boundaries and give my kids some freedom within those boundaries. 
I need to learn how to do this because I find that my actions and words while I try to “control” my children are putting distance between them and me.  
Don’t get me wrong.  I know I need to be the parent.  I know I need to discipline.  I don’t have a problem doing that.  However, I am noticing that I don’t know which behavior actually needs disciplining.  I discipline (at times) for small things…things where my kids haven’t even done anything wrong…they’ve simply been running around and carrying on a little too much.  They just need a gentle push to go outside to let off that energy, not a scolding.  Sometimes they are just loud.  I forget that…Kids are loud and it’s okay. 
Sometimes I forget that my kids need to work their differences out among themselves and I shouldn’t be involved all the time.
So yeah.   

Sometimes I wonder why God gave me five children

Was it so that I have five chances to really screw it up?  Or was it perhaps because I needed to get to the point of stretching myself this thin for it to hit home that there’s no way I can continue to discipline the way I have been and expect to keep my sanity?

I need some help.  I don’t want to push my kids away.