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The Worry Of A Child.

Last night I had to do a little bit of freelance stuff before I went to bed. Something I hoped would take 10 minutes but I couldn’t find the problem which meant I wasn’t going to get to go to bed when I wanted. I was tired as it was the end of a long day and I was very overwhelmed with my To Do list and Nikki was whining and pouting about the fact that I wasn’t going to come to bed and lay down with her.

Listen, Nikki. I’m stressed. I can’t figure this one problem out and I’m tired and you making me feel guilty is not really helping.

Then she started sobbing and I got even more frustrated.

That’s not helping either! Now I feel shitty for making you cry! Why can’t you just say, “Good luck, Mom. Hope you can come lay down with me soon.” Why do you have to freak out and be so dramatic?

So she stifled her cries, wished me luck, and I went back to work. I never solved the problem but was so tired I had to go to bed anyway. I went to go give her a goodnight hug and kiss these notes were on the pillow next to her.

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Sorry I made you feel bad word. I don’t want to go to sleep knowing I made you feel bad – so when you come in here please wake me up and give me a hug.

Nikki is showing worse anxiety at age 9 than I have at 39 and I currently suffer from worse anxiety than I’ve ever had in my life. Her problems do seem to help me address mine though because – especially lately – I’ve been trying to work with her and that means I have to work with mine.

We talk a lot about how I’d like her to tell me what she needs instead of just melting down. If she’s having a bad day and needs some extra love, let me know. Don’t just freak out over something that is really not the problem. We’ve been talking a lot about what it means to be sensitive. She cries a lot “for no reason”. We talk a lot about how that also has a good side and I believe it’s what makes her kind and loving and the kind of kid who hides notes for me on Mother’s Day.

Where I used to worry about Wesley becoming a sociopathic serial killer, I now worry about my daughter being so unable to cope with anxiety or emotions that she’ll be medicated her whole life. I’m certain medication is in her future because if her stress/anxiety gets worse with puberty, she’ll need something to help her cope. But I want her to learn skills before then to help manage the somewhat normal levels of anxiety and extreme emotions.

Sometimes she can get lost in drawing or writing, she’s a very creative spirit. I’ve been trying to encourage that activity if she gets overwhelmed. I think I need to be better about pushing that because I think last night would have been a perfect time for her to use those habits to work out her worry.

And I need to quit being a dick to her.

I need to remind myself, even when I’m frustrated and stressed, that she is just now learning how to navigate this world as someone with sometimes toxic levels of empathy and emotional sensitivity that she can’t seem to manage. I need to take a pause before I respond to her like I did last night, and while I might have valid points, those points are – well…pointless…if she can’t process them because she’s sobbing uncontrollably.

She makes me want to be a better person so I can teach her how to deal with all of those overwhelming emotions. Whenever I’m having a particularly rough time lately, I find myself thinking, What would you tell Nikki?

I did wake her up and give her a million hugs last night. I hope it helped. I’ll try to be ready with boundless love for her again this morning.

My poor, sensitive, anxious soul. That’s what it is – once soul in two bodies. I’m hoping as we each make efforts to heal ourselves, we’ll help the other person as well.

Parenting is tough, yo.

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Where We Are At

This was SUPPOSED to publish yesterday. I just assumed no one felt it was worth commenting on. I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this morning that it was still in “draft” mode. So, maybe you get two entries today!

WOAH. I’ve dumped some serious word babble on this here blog this week. Let’s lighten things up and let’s start with the best picture of my kid ever.

11402751_10153930932008496_5973684110158484163_n His hair is just curly enough to be adorable at this length. Donnie kinda wants to cut it but Wesley likes feeling it “swish” around his face. But – he has basketball camp coming up – so Donnie insisted we find him sweat bands to wear in his hair to keep it out of his face when he plays. That on top of him losing both of his front teeth in the same week and his love of a crossbody bag Donnie brought home from his last business trip (it says “Visual Studio” on it – HA!) and this picture is just all sorts of awesome. It captures so much of his personality and it cracks me up every time I look at it.

If you follow me on Twitter or if we’re real-life Facebook friends, you’ll know that Wesley offered a profound statement yesterday: “Everyone has a butt. Unless you’ve been murdered and the person who murdered you chopped off your butt.”

That kind of stuff is a regular occurrence around here and it’s fantastic.

He has been slowly easing out of the terror phase of the last few years. He definitely handles his anger better, does a lot of deep breathing. He also understands the pain his anger inflicts on others and is much quicker to offer sincere apologies. But really? His anger just seems less. He’s not as quick to be angry as he once was. And when he turns that corner it’s not as hard to get him back. It doesn’t go from one jackass retort to a night of punishments anymore. He’ll deliver the jackass retort, apologize, and then make a joke about naked butts.

I’d love to say “THIS IS WHAT WORKED!” and regale you with some sort of method someone taught us but really? It was a little bit of everything and a whole lot of failures. Some things suggested by some people worked some times but everything failed most of the time. The only thing I can say that helped 100% was that we quit with timeout.

Whenever Wes would do something minor, like make a jackass retort (Yelling, “No!” when I told him to do something.) I would send him to timeout. But – he would refuse to go. So…the small retort turned into hours of fighting, sometimes requiring me to physically carry him to timeout and hold the door closed. He would kick me the whole way there and then destroy his room while I had him in there but I felt like I had to do it because I told him to go to timeout and he didn’t. You HAVE to follow through.

So, I stopped sending him to timeout because the follow through was impossible.

I would just take away his DS, or tell him, “Okay. No TV for the rest of the night/week/lifetime.” I distributed a punishment that required nothing on his part, it was all me. He would still get pissed but it didn’t turn one small smart aleck comment into a night of abuse from him towards me.

The other thing is that I worked on my own anger. Donnie was not as big on this part of the process but since Donnie wasn’t the primary caregiver, his behavior wasn’t as important as mine. I really, REALLY, worked on how I handled when I yelled and how I yelled. I am not perfect by any means, but I tried to show him I was working on it and I reminded him that I was trying to be a good example. “You don’t like it when I yell at you, do you? I don’t like it when you yell at me either.” That’s not a guarantee, but I do think it’s necessary. That was a lot of what we talked to our counselor about – anger management. He talked to him separately and then he talked to me about it.

So…no timeout, manage my own anger, and really try to set aside alone time with just him and I. We have the periodic date night, sometimes at his request, where we just go to dinner together. I think that helps.

But really? I think a lot of it is just he’s older. The older he gets, the more understanding he gets in terms of the scope of his world and the effect of his behavior on those around him. This summer he’s also going to a daycare where they WEAR HIM OUT and that is super important for someone with as much energy as he has. He swims and plays basketball all day and many nights he falls asleep watching TV at 6pm. IT IS LOVELY.

And that’s where we are with Wesley right now. He’s “all boy” which I found to be an annoying phrase before I had Wesley, but now that I have him I realize what people mean by that. He’s wild and insane but also loves a good fart joke and to talk about his butt. He’s still very sweet but also is already showing some of that teenage attitude. The sarcastic/annoyed, “I’m sooooorrrry!” accompanied by an eye roll and arms in the air is the thing I want to strangle him for the most now. THE ATTITUDE. Man, where do they learn that shit from? I’m assuming some hooligan at school because it’s always the hooligans, but I don’t know.

All in all? Better. Much better.

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Having “The Talk” With Your Kids

No…not the Sex Talk. The How Not To Be An Asshole On The Internet Talk.

Which should now be as important of a talk as the Sex Talk, in my opinion.

My daughter started her online life with a private Instagram account. I approve who she follows and I accept who follows her. I do let her follow some of her favorite celebrities, accounts that I also follow and know to be “safe”. However, this small exposure to the weirdness of the internet has already moved us to have The Talk. It started first with her noticing commenters on Grant Gustin’s account being all obsessive and, “PLEASE FOLLOW ME, GRANT! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH.” So we talked about how weird that is. But then she saw someone on Stephen Amell’s account tell him he was a horrible actor and his show sucked and I thought she was going to cry, just reading that.

“Mom! How awful is this? It’s okay not to like someone’s show, but why would you be so mean about it?”

I’ve also been thinking about this topic a lot lately as people with a target become more vocal about their own bullying and harassment. Women online have recently been trying to publicly address the threats and harassment they get (See John Oliver’s Report on it here.) I also read John Green’s Tumblr post about being called a sexual predator – although I can’t find the original now – and I was mortified. Then there’s the attacks my Mommy Blogger friends have been getting for over a decade, attacks that are so malicious that when I got one tiny taste of it 7+ years ago I didn’t sleep for a month. Someone did a whole blog post calling me a terrible parent for not bathing my kids every day (which I had referenced in a post) and I almost took down my blog over it. That tiny exposure to the hate and meanness prompted me to turn down a request once from a big online magazine to syndicate one of my posts. “I know this sounds crazy,” I told them, “but I don’t want your traffic on my blog. It’s an honor to be asked, but I don’t want your crazies in my neck of the interwebs.”

So! What do we do about it? Some bigger names have been trying to address their harassers one on one. NPR did a story recently about a girl who made contact with a guy pretending to be her dead Father and he ended up apologizing and changing his ways. But that doesn’t always work and celebrities don’t really have time to do that with all of their harassers, and chances are a lot of them are dangerous. So, while it sounds nice when it works? It’s not practical.

Basically – we have a huge population of assholes who got access to the internet before anyone publicly addressed how ugly of a place it could be and the effects on that ugliness. We gave assholes the gift of anonymity for them to get out all of their asshole habits in a way where they have no accountability. I really think most of these people are probably not assholes in real life, but online they are. So, why do they not tell a women she’s fat to her face in the office, but they have no problem doing it online? Why do people not apply the same basic rules of respectful human interaction online as they do in person?

Because their Mom never told them not to.

Or their Dad, or grandparents, or best friend…but you get the point.

We all learned not to be asshats in person, but who taught us not to do it online?

NOW! If you knew not to be an asshole online without being told? Then congratulations! Seriously. Pat yourself on the back.

But, to prevent another generation of assholes overtaking the online world and forcing my favorite people to stifle their creative contributions for safety reasons and to protect their hearts from the damage this stuff inflicts? Then let’s talk to our kids.

First: Talk about Bullying

You have to have the bullying talk first. And you may not be motivated to have that talk if your child has never bullied or been bullied, but you should have the talk anyway. Use a story of someone else to prompt it. “I found out my friend’s daughter was being called pizza face at school! Do you ever hear that kind of treatment? Here’s why it’s wrong…” Have that talk. Explain the ripple effect of one mean insult. How it puts that person in a bad mood and then maybe they’re rude to the checkout lady at Target who is then in a bad mood and goes home and yells at her kids when they didn’t do anything wrong.

Explain how that can work the other way. I saw someone get out of their car in a drive thru lane to hand a credit card to the car in front of them who had dropped it. So, that person bought the meal of the person behind them. That person laughed, and bought my meal behind them. (I only bought a Diet Coke, they got off easy.) So, I laughed and bought the meal of the person behind me. That one small gesture, getting the credit card, turned into several people doing nice things for strangers.

Which would your child rather do? Start a chain reaction of asshat-edness? Or awesomenesss?

Show them Online Examples BEFORE They Develop Bad Habits

It’s so easy to blow off a quick mean comment on an article or a blog. It’s easy to type it, forget about it, and move on. So easy that people do it ALL THE TIME. Read them comments on YouTube. Read @ replies on Twitter. Ready comments on AL.com. Show your kid examples of how many mean people are online every day leaving horribly mean comments for strangers online. Let them see that stuff BEFORE they become jaded internet users. Tell them how disappointed you would be if you were 60 years old and found out your grown child was leaving mean comments about people online. Make your voice the one they hear inside their head before they do that stuff.

Tell them it is NOT a victimless crime, which is how it seems to be treated. Remind them that kids have killed themselves over online bullying. Remind them that celebrities have had to give up their online accounts because of it. Whether it’s Chris Pratt or the kid in their Biology class, NO ONE deserves being bullied online.

Teach them to stop reading/watching/listening to something they hate. That’s what I don’t get, people will come on YouTube and be like, “I don’t know why you’re so popular. Your videos suck.” Well, um…DON’T WATCH THEM THEN. Teach your children that no one is forcing them to watch the TV show they hate or listen to the band that angers them. Just don’t read that blogger’s writings…it’s so simple. The decision to read the writers you hate and then leave mean comments or write mean responses on your own blog, just creates the ripples of asshat-edness. We only have finite time in this world, teach your child the value of that. Spend time reading/watching/enjoying things they LIKE, not things they HATE just so they can be mean.

But…teach them about constructive criticism. About how, if they really want their opinions to be heard about something they didn’t like, there’s a way to do it respectfully. If they want to voice their hatred of a book they read, they can do it with respect – not just write some sort of trashy diatribe about the author. There are ways to deliver negative criticisms without bullying or being an asshole. TEACH THEM THE VALUE OF THAT.

And teach them that famous people in big movies have feelings too. They may not read every word, but they often go on record talking about how much it stings when they see those mean comments – especially on Twitter. Once accidental click in the “reply” column and they see horrible insults cast their way. Teach your children that those words matter and why would they want to create those ripples of meanness? How far would they spread? What if those ripples touched someone they loved?

The only way this is going to change the environment is if we raise our kids differently than we were raised. Our parents didn’t know to talk to us about this stuff because it didn’t exist yet. We MUST talk to our kids so we can create a safer place for creators online. Especially talk to our sons because most of the harassment online is from Men to Women. We need to teach our sons that rape threats are never funny and that they are always serious. We need to teach them to imagine women they love, moms, sisters, grandmothers…on the other end of those insults. How would you feel if someone said that to your Aunt? Your Grandmother? Your little sister?

And we need to all REPORT THAT SHIT. If you see a threat in a comment or an particularly awful tweet to a celebrity, REPORT THAT SHIT. Flag it as “inappropriate” – whatever the click is that allows you to turn in a commenter for harassing or threatening – DO IT. Teach your children to do it. The only way these networks are going to be able to manage the quantity of mean shit that crosses their comment boards, is if we help as a community.

The internet is never going to be a place populated by only rainbows and unicorns, but maybe we can try to reduce the population of trolls in the next generation.

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The Dreaded Call From School.

Being a stay-at-home-Mom has so many challenges that I gave up. I gave it a fair shake…TWICE…but it was simply too difficult for me and I knew I was a better Mom if I worked in some capacity. Other than those two short stints around the birth of my children, I’ve worked away from home (or gone to school) my entire career as a Mom. Now, I did work from home for the last two years and that allowed me to escape most of the SAHM challenges and even some of the Working Mom challenges because I got to pick up my kids from school and be there if they were sick.

But now I’m back to working in an office and I’ve already been reminded of one of the SUCKIEST PARTS of working outside the home: The Call From School.

Not the urgent one: Come get your kid now! She’s puking! He needs stitches!

Nope. That one’s fine. That one doesn’t happen often and it’s just part of life. If you have a shitty employer then maybe those calls are a problem, but hopefully they’re rare enough that it’s not too big of an issue.

No. The AMBIGUOUS calls. The GRAY AREA calls. The calls where they say, “Here is what’s wrong with your child. We wanted to call you because you might want to come get the child because of the thing we’re calling you about.”

Might.

My first instinct is ALWAYS to say: “Nope. He/She is fine. They’re overly dramatic about everything. I’ll see them at 5pm as usual.”

But holy CRAP if that instinct is not followed by the guiltiest feeling in the world.

But what if they’re NOT fine? What if they’re really hurt/sick?

Because we all have those stories. That time we thought our kid was faking or overreacting and then…BAM! Flu for 5 days. Broken wrist. Black Plague. Something serious that we blew off.

Now…most of us also have countless other stories of times our kids were overreacting. But still…that one time they weren’t gave us a supply of guilt to last a lifetime.

So. We get the call from school and we have to deal with that battle. Do I get them? Do I not? And all you have is the judgement call of the person on the other end who technically can’t tell you either way. But they always hint. Because they don’t know your child like you do…so they don’t know your child overreacts. “She won’t eat.” “He won’t straighten his arm.”

I have stood my ground before and said, “He/She will be fine. I’ll get them later.”

But twice this summer at this new daycare with a director who maybe has a delivery that always sounds like she thinks if you don’t come get your kid, you’re an awful parent – I’ve had the call. TWICE. ALREADY. And both times I left work to go get the kid. Nikki had a fall and hit her head at the skating rink. Wes hurt his arm. And both times? NOTHING. I spent 4+ hours with Wes yesterday at the doctor and then at the imaging center for X-Rays and the whole time I was thinking, “He’s fine…” because I would see him use/straighten the arm when he wasn’t thinking about it. And you know what? HE WAS FINE.

Remember that guilt battle we have when they call? That battle over “Should I go get my child or not?” Well. NONE of that guilt even REMOTELY compares to the guilt you feel when you are actually kinda irritated that the radiologist came back and said, “You all can go! No break!”

11391551_10153889478233496_6549019713958181595_nYes. Part of me was actually irritated that it wasn’t broken. A small part of me, BUT STILL. I took 4 hours off a day that was already insane, I had to reschedule an appointment that afternoon, ALL FOR NOTHING.

I promise. I’m fully aware of how shitty that makes me. I still feel guilty about THAT now.

PHASE 1 of guilt: The Phone Call and The Decision – Something is wrong with your kid, are you going to get him/her?
PHASE 2 of guilt: The Diagnosis – Are you disappointed your kid is healthy/well? Are you relieved your kid is actually sick/hurt?

And then, because this has happened TWICE already this summer…I had a “talk” with my kids last night that went something like this: You better not let them call me at work again unless you are gushing blood, bones are poking through the skin, you are vomiting, or you have an ACTUAL fever of over 101. You all do NOT have a good judgement of pain or injury and you overreact at everything. Sometimes we hurt and sometimes we feel like crap. That does NOT mean we are actually injured or sick. You have to accept that sometimes you’ll get hurt and sometimes you’ll feel like crap but you have to just SUCK IT UP, not call me at work.

So, PHASE 3 of the guilt? Was sitting in bed last night, replaying that conversation and realizing how really shitty all of that is. And that it is totally contrary to the whole, “If you need me for anything, I’ll be there!” message we try to convey as parents.

But you know? That message has it’s limits if you have a job and other people who depend on you to do that job.

(This is me basically trying to make myself feel not as guilty about all of the insanity yesterday.)

And now is where you tell me similar stories that have happened to you so I can feel – not less guilty – but at least not alone in my guilt.

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Soooooooooorry.

We break from the Harry Potter programming to discuss parenting and insanity.

Specifically…my parenting and my insanity.

Yesterday I went 3 for 3 with getting angry with my kids and failing at expressing that anger in any sort of productive way. 100% fail! Woot! #WinningAtFailing

But with the little ones, it ended in a good decision: A NO MORE SECOND CHANCE policy in our house. I’ve been trying to break Wes and Nikki of this snarky attitude they have towards me lately – it’s what I call the “DISNEY TWEEN” attitude. All of those Disney/Nick tween shows make the adults the butt of EVERY joke so they’re all rolling their eyes and getting annoyed with those dumb adults which means my kids now think I am one of those dumb adults. I’ve banned most of those shows (although I may ban more of them) trying to reprogram them, and I’m constantly doing the whole, “Excuse me?” thing to get them to repeat what they said in a better way…but as of last night? I’ve given up.

NO MORE SECOND CHANCES.

The latest bit I hate the most is the, “SOOOOOOOORY…” they give me when I’m pointing out something they didn’t do correctly.

“Wes, is that where your dish goes?”
“SOOOOOOOORY…”

With the tone of an annoyed teenager dealing with a nagging adult. You know, like you hear an unspoken, “Jeeeezzzz, chill out, lady…” afterwards. And while I might sometimes be a nagging adult? They are NOT allowed to be annoyed teenagers. YET.

So, the first time they dish out the attitude or rudeness? Punishments are distributed. BOOM. That’s the new policy. Because pointing out the attitude ninety million times a day and making them re-phrase or re-say what they’re trying to say with better word choices and less negative tone? None of that is actually changing their initial behavior. Now the habit is just: Snarky Attitude FIRST, then when Mom gets mad, deliver the message better but possibly with a stifled eyeroll underneath the surface.

I just really need my kids to talk to me with at least the same amount of respect I give them, more would be ideal, but I’d really just be happy with mutual respect at this point.

Also? I’m tired as crap. I’m still so very behind on life it’s not even funny. I had about 90 minutes of potential “free” time Monday night where I could maybe catch up with stuff that wasn’t house or work related (because those two things are taking top priority right now) and I couldn’t move out of the bed where the kids were watching TV. I zoned out on their shows and then just rolled up to bed. And then woke up at 3am because that is my new lovely schedule. The exhaustion is making my emotions super-raw and I’m basically crying at everything. It’s not about the lack of sleep even, I’m getting at least 5-6 hours a night (although I’ve discussed that I need much more than that to maintain my sanity) but it’s just exhaustion over my LIFE. There’s just too much going on. It feels even worse since so much built up on my vacation, but I just am having that terrible sensation that I’m in waaaaaay over my head right now and I can’t even begin to figure out where to get it all sorted out. I JUST NEED THE HOUSE TO SELL. I keep telling myself that will make things easier. Also, soccer season is finally over this week, that will help substantially. Of course, that’s been cramping into my Tri Training so now that soccer season is over I’ll just replace those hours with workouts I haven’t been doing, so it’s not like I’m going to suddenly have free time to just RELAX.

I forced myself to do some doodling in the car during Nikki’s soccer practice last night. I haven’t done it in weeks/months but I knew I needed some time to let my brain just zone out on something mindless because I could NOT stop crying after I picked up the kids yesterday. I needed to reboot my brain, if that makes sense, so I just zoned out on some doodles in my bullet journal. It helped, for sure. Need to remember that it helped and force myself to do that more often.

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Sorry for the off-topic rant there at the end. Just need to document that stuff periodically in case we ever decide to sell a house again.