Tag Archives: summer

We Are All Momming As Hard As We Can, So Can We Stop Already With the Mythology of Summer?

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A friend recently remarked that she was super impressed with how much fun, enriching stuff I do with my kids.  She mentioned seeing a group of photos I’d posted on social media of an outing my daughter and I took to a local farm, where we pet a lamb.

It had been an enchanting excursion.  I won’t deny it.  We were by the ocean and the scenery was lush and pastoral.  Emily chased after chickens and we walked up to a fence to look at a bull with gigantic horns that looked like something out of a story book.

Then we got into the car to go home and Emily told me I was the worst mom in the world and she hated me because I wasn’t taking her to a restaurant for lunch.

So, I thanked my friend for her compliment of my pictures.  And then I let her know Emily’s five-year-old opinion of me.

Sure I could have taken the compliment and allowed my ego to be stroked. But I happen to believe reality is important. 

I also let my friend know that every photo of us doing something energetic and interesting represents a minuscule slice of our actual existence. 

 For every five minutes we are out doing something exotic, there are about three hours spent lolling around the house watching television, having tantrums, bickering, eye rolling, and sighing.  Heavily.

I also do not incorporate photos of my never-ending laundry, toilet scrubbing, and refereeing sibling rivalry on social media.  No one does.  We all post the highlight reels.  We post the pics that say “Look at me winning this impossible quest!”

We perpetuate our own mythology along with the collective mythology of modern day parenting. 

It’s what we all do.  Sorrynotsorry. No regrets. Because we are all on this seemingly never-ending struggle bus ride fraught with constant motion sickness and punctuated with momentary glimpses of something lovely out the window.


We all do it, but we all forget that we do it.  That’s the problem.  And that’s what leads us to compare with one another and feel like everyone else is out there having a better time.  All the other moms are out there momming better, harder, and faster than we are.

Summertime seems to highlight this dynamic.  At least it does for me.  There seems to be this unspoken expectation that we are all going to be shiny, happy summer people, and that in addition to all the normal mom duties, we are also going to bring it in the areas of crafts, activities, and day trips to exotic ports of call like we are a deranged cruise director.  Oh, and shit, I forgot about incorporating baking and sensory play.  Gotta do it all.

I’m here to tell you, you do not have to do it all.  I’m here to tell you, it is perfectly okay if this flurry of activity is not a realistic expectation for you.  If you are tired, frustrated, or out of good ideas–  it is all okay.  If you just don’t feel like going outside today, also okay. Stay on the couch.  Put in some Disney or Doctor Who.  It’s all good.  We all eventually get to the same place.

I personally don’t have the time or energy for being super creative mom of the year. 

Of course it is important to do things with our children.  In no way do I espouse neglect or unlimited screen time.  Balance is key.  Exercise is important. Hugs count. But…..  

We do not need to be in constant motion and contact with our kids.

Kids need a break too.  I’ll speak for me and mine.  As a children of working parents, my kids have really  long days–  as long or longer than mine sometimes.  Emily can usually be flexible and roll with the flow, but Jack needs a lot more down time.  This makes it even trickier to balance their needs with my own.  Societal demands, pressures, and expectations have no place in this equation for me.

It’s really hard not to let the social media highlight reels feed into the mythology of what summer and parenting is “supposed to be”.  A lot of people I know have gotten off of social media for just that reason.  

I’m learning to enjoy the posts of other parents without feeling threatened or pressured to do and be more, more, more.  Because really, we are all already doing more than enough.

We are all more than mom enough.

See You in September?

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Hey Guys,

How’s your summer going so far?  What’s life like for you?  Do things change a lot for you in the summer?  Does the change in summer routine affect your blogging/writing habits?

Life has been a flurry of activity lately.

Getting the kids ready for camps and transitioning out of the school routine into the summer mode.

Making potato salads and picking strawberries for strawberry buckles.

Optimizing time out and about in the pleasant weather.

Celebrating my 42nd birthday.

I honestly do not know when I would have the chance to sit down and actually write a thoughtful blog post.  Someone always needs something–  a fresh application of sunscreen, or bottle of water, or help getting into/out of a bathing suit–  and as soon as I sit down I have to get back up, or I feel guilty for not spending all that glorious time with the fam.

Then at night I am just to tired to construct anything, so I climb into bed and watch tv until I fall asleep.

Even now, I am running late for work, sitting here with wet hair and a dog who is anxiously trotting around me because she needs to go out.

I’ve coughed up a couple poems lately because it is what I’ve felt moved and inspired to do.    But also because it is what time would allow.

There is this other interesting thing happening. . .  I don’t feel the same urgency to write as I did when Emily was a newborn and Jack was four.  It’s like I’ve gotten to this spot where I feel like I know the kids for the moment and things are going okay.

Don’t get me wrong.  Life is still super stressful and I’m still juggling way too many balls for my comfort and feeling like a lunatic about 87 percent of the time.

But it’s like I’ve been here and done this and have run out of desperate things to post.

It’s like I would just be writing the same post about how stressful it is to be a working mom to two very strong willed and passionate children.  (Wonder where they got those obstreperous qualities anyway. . .)

I’m sure this will change and life will present me with a bunch of new stuff. . .  but I’m kind of bored with writing about how fucking relentless motherhood is and I just want to kind of sit in the pocket of quiet that my mind is offering me at the moment.

So, while there may be a few poems or photos this summer, I think I am going to cut myself some slack and think about being in the moment as opposed to writing down every moment.  I might also think about some new ways to retool Momaste, because growth and change happens.

Yes it does.

Thanks for being here with me on this journey.  You will never have any idea how much it has meant for me to have your compassionate witness.

So, I’ll see ya in September, or sooner, or later, or you know, whatever.

xoxoxo,

 

Me.

Hey Kids, Remember the Summer We All Got Bat Rabies?

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It happens every summer, right around this time.

I scroll down my Facebook newsfeed and see all the families frolicking in the sun and surf, touring historical monuments, or taking in theme parks.  Moms do yoga on the beach and go out for cocktails with their pals, then post pictures of the “much needed girls’ night!”

Or maybe they are having some awesome backyard barbecue, with all their friend and family.  There’s inevitably a bouncy house or a water slide.

Everyone is having a grand old time of it.

And I am wondering why I suck so much at life.

Because I haven’t gone out with my girlfriends and my family hasn’t gone to the beach, not even once.  We exhausted our finances going to a funeral and getting rabies.

I did post an adorable family photo from the emergency room on Facebook with the caption, “Saaayyy rabieeeesss!!”  Because I’m ironic like that.

Ok, to be clear, we didn’t actually all get bat rabies.  We had to undergo prophylactic treatment because we had a 2% chance of having been exposed to bat rabies when a bat flew through our house.  It’s a long story and I’ve told it about 25 times over the past couple weeks, so I just can’t tell it again right now.

In a nutshel, it was an exponentially awful and expensive process due to an infinitesimally small risk.  But when you have kids, you don’t fuck around with the 2% that might be rabid.  Because that shit will kill you.  No lie.

Due to spending our life savings (ok, our life savings was only $750, but still…) on the hospital copays and extensive follow up visits to treat our 2% chance of having bat rabies (no, I’m not bitter. . .  not at all), we couldn’t afford that trip we had planned down to the Cape to go to the waterpark and eat twice our collective body weight in salt water taffy.

Life is full of disappointments, isn’t it?

But the good news is we are immune to rabies for at least the next year.  Bam!  What’s your super power?

I’ve been feeling a little sorry for us over the past couple weeks, since that stupid flying rodent found it’s way out of our bedroom eaves and into our lives.  My husband has dubbed this “the summer of suck.”  In addition to the above mentioned drama, the kids have also been particularly difficult and nasty with one another.  Damn.  It’s like they have rabies or something.  The fighting in the car is particularly awful, and makes us not want to go out anywhere with them, but that is an entire blog post in and of itself.

I’ve been thinking about how when Jack goes back to school to start third grade in a week, if he is asked to write a summer theme, he will write about going to a funeral and getting rabies shots.

Whamp whaaaaa.

After the first protracted night we spent in the ER waiting for our immunoglobulin and vaccines, we had to go back to the “Rabies Clinic” (Um, yes that is a thing) for three subsequent booster shots.  The clinic is in the basement of our local children’s hospital.

The fact that we are getting treated as a family at a children’s hospital has its perks.  Like the nurses are super sweet and gentle.  They have playdoh, storybooks, and stickers at the ready to give the kids.  I bet they would have given me stickers and a story too, if I had asked.  They were that nice.

They also made a big deal about how awesome my kids were about getting their shots.  And to be honest, my heart did swell with pride because both Jack, 8, and Emily, 3, were amazingly cooperative and mellow about the whole thing.  Which is surprising.  I have probably the most high strung, anxious and rigid son, and my daughter is three, so it goes without saying she is not yet tame.  They didn’t fight, and were supportive of one another.  As the four of us sat, waiting together I had a moment of “Aw, look at us doing something as a family and getting along!”  I’m not sure what it says about my parenting skills that the best my family has gotten along all summer was at the children’s hospital.  Maybe it’s because we were being supervised.  Whatevs.

Neither of them cried, not once.  Which is more than I can say for their mom.

The other thing about getting treated as a family at a children’s hospital is you get a crash course in realizing how crazy lucky and blessed you are.

As we were in the waiting room on our first follow up appointment, I saw a nurse run past with one of those big, forensic cameras.  Because I am a social worker, I know she was probably going to photograph some poor child who had been beaten, attacked, bit by a dog, or sexually abused.  I know this because I’ve been to those shindigs with clients before, and they are no fun.  And because I am a social worker, and I am cynical and jaded, those last two sentences can roll off my tongue and I don’t even bat an eye.

Usually.

But being in that waiting room with my own children casually playing nearby made me realize just how disturbing that other scenario is, and just how good I have it.

Then, as we were waiting for the valet to bring our car around, a woman rolled up with a child in a wheelchair who was connected to all manner of tubes.  After they passed by us, Jack asked me what was up with all those wires on that guy.

With my heart in my throat I told Jack that we were really lucky because there are some families who have to come to this hospital for much more serious reasons than us.  I explained that child probably needed that stuff to help keep him healthy, and that his body worked differently than Jack’s, which is why he needed the wheelchair.

And I realized that rabies shots were probably the best possible reason we could have for spending out Saturday morning at the children’s hospital.

Realizations aside, it hasn’t been the best summer.  I had big plans this summer to take the kids on exciting outings, do different day trips, and at least get to the beach once.  No where on that bucket list did I intend to spend close to $2000 getting painful vaccinations and going to mourn the loss of my grandfather.  Now summer is almost over and I just want to fill the proverbial bucket with wine and call it a day.

So, I took the kids out to get them a reward for being so brave and positive about the rabies.  Jack chose a Harry Potter wand that was redonkulously expensive.  Emily chose a package of fairy princess crowns.  They trotted out to the car, super happy with their purchases, and for once they weren’t fighting.

As we all buckled up and drove off from the toy store, I peeked at the kids in the rearview mirror.  Emily had one of her crowns on and Jack was waving his wand around.  I contemplated capturing the moment in a photo for the newsfeed.  And for once, I wasn’t being ironic.  It’s the little moments.  The little times when everyone is getting along and nothing big is happening.  Those are the times I like the best.

“You guys happy?” I asked.

“Yes!” They both replied.

“Sorry you got rabies, guys,” I said.  They knew me well enough to know I was joking.

“Mama,” Jack said, “We didn’t actually get rabies.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” I said.

Silver linings and such.

Blank

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I’m sitting here, staring at a blank screen, wondering what to say.

Lots has gone on in the past week.

Some of it wonderful, some of it not.

But I don’t really know how to say it all, and I don’t know if any of it is even worth saying.

I thought about writing about the three year anniversary of my blog, which passed last week.

I thought about writing about Emily skipping three or four nursing sessions in a row and how we feel closer to finally weaning.

I thought about writing about a visit with my sister that went good and then not so good.

I thought about writing about tears and disappointment and about the books I’ve been devouring this summer.

None of it seemed really enticing or motivating.

Summer with the kids has improved.  We’ve had some really fun days and some good outings.  The other day when I was home with them, we didn’t do much of anything besides a trip to Target, milkshakes, and the playground, but it was just very happy and relaxed.  That was nice.  I needed that.

I am beating around the bush, I realize.

My grandfather died last week.

It’s a weird thing.  He was my last surviving grandparent.  The other’s I lost decades ago in my teens and twenties.  But he had always been there.  He lived about 5 hours away, so the past few years of raising children, I only saw him a handful of times.

There are a lot of memories.  They come bubbling up, and feel mostly happy.  He lived a very full, wonderful life.  He travelled the world. He served his country.  He adored his family.

He died peacefully in the nursing home, in the wee hours of the morning with a hospice aide at his side.

In a way it is sad.  In another way, it is really a beautiful circle of life, come to a peaceful completion.

But it brings up other issues.

Like my estrangement, or not really but kind of quite, from that side of my family.

My own fears of death.

My wonderment at trying to explain religious services and traditions around death to my two small children who have not been raised in the church.

My frustration with trying to help two young children understand why we must travel hours and hours away to “say goodbye” to someone who isn’t even there anymore.

My desire to make death not sad or scary for them despite my own fears and feelings.

My stress with spending all this money on traveling that I don’t really have and then feeling guilty and miserly because. . .

My fascination with the transition of death, and how I’ve seen it called a “transition” and that has been helpful.  And interesting.

So, I’m taking it all in and trying to be mindful that it is there, trying to accept it and not judge it, and just sit with it in a kind way.

I’m not really ready to write about it yet.  It feels kind of big and scary, and I want to try to get to know it and make friends with it before I really delve in and make any decisions about what it is or isn’t.

I’m not in a bad place and I am happy and comforted to know you are all there, and will be there for me when I decide to come back and write, or not write.  At times I’m sad and confused, but not in a way that is incredibly painful at all.

Mostly, I’m just blank.

And I’ll leave it there, and be okay with it.  For now.

Lotus

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“No mud, no lotus.”  — Buddhist saying.  


 

It’s been a busy week…  In a good way.  

All I’ve really got for you are these photos of some lovely lotus that grow near my home town. I took these photos last week and was eager to share them with you. 

I think they speak for themselves. So, I am going to leave it at that. 

Momaste. The mom in me honors themom in you. Xo

  

All photos property of Momasteblog. 

Update to “The Kindness Games”– Keeping Your Cool With Kids During Summer

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Momaste, y’all!

A few weeks back, I posted about something I was trying with my children to help us all get along during the beastly dog days of summer.

On our first day home together, after Jack finished his second grade year at school, the kids were at each other’s throats and I was at my wit’s end.  I just wanted everyone to get along and play nice in the sand box.  So, I invented a reward program to encourage them to be kinder to one another.

Everytime I “catch” them in the act of being kind/polite/generous/supportive to one another, they are rewarded with a point.  When they get 50 points I will take them to a bouncy place like Chuck e Cheese, or they can pick out a cake, or earn some other desired reinforcer.

It took off like gang busters.  My kids were bending over backwards to be nice to one another.  And in general, our days off together on Mondays, when it is just me home with them, are going really well.  We have been able to enjoy a series of fun outings that required cooperation and getting along.

They have earned about 35 “points”.  Not too shabby…

But our weekends have been hellacious.

For whatever reason, when both my husband and I are home with the kids on Saturday and Sunday, the children are “off”.  They bicker, scream, insult, and tantrum with one another.

It is a very weird dynamic that I can’t quite figure out.

The children both ADORE their father, so I wonder if they are doing some major attention seeking with him and if there is a sense of competition between them when he is around. . .

It may have to do with the fact I’ve been really scheduling almost every minute of our Mondays so that they know what to expect and when, but our weekends are a bit more free-flowing.

Transitions during the weekends have been particularly hard for Jack, which really sucks for everyone in the house because he totally flips the switch and the proverbial apple cart with his antics.  There have been a couple occasions where Em and I have just left the house to escape the tirades, leaving my spouse home with Jack until he cools off.

So, it is a work in progress and a mixed bag, but you can bet I will keep you “posted”!!

How is your summer going?  How are you keeping your cool with your cherubs this summer?  

The Kindness Games– Keeping it Cool During Summer With Children

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At about 11:42 a.m., on the first day of my children’s summer vacation, I was about to lose my mind.

The sibling rivalry.  It is going to turn every hair on my head gray and drive me to drink.

And I am only home with my children one day a week!

I’ve had one day a week at home since my oldest, was an infant.  When it’s one on one, my kids are delightful.  They are funny, intelligent, generous, and lovable.  Emily and I enjoy baking, going to the playground, and running errands together while Jack is in school.  And while Em naps on the weekends, Jack and I go on jaunts for fro-yo, or to a local museum.

But put the two of them together, and it is a maddening exercise in patience that makes me feel like an epic failure.  It is a Sisyphean chore of breaking up fights over who got more ice cream and how to pronounce “Netflix”.

I shit you not.

One day, I stood in the kitchen and listened to my children argue about the pronunciation of our internet movie delivery system.  Emily is three and still has a speech impediment and insists it is pronounced, “necklace.”  It is actually pretty adorable, but Jack has no patience for her antics, adorable or no, and stood there until he was screaming at her that it was NOT “NECKLACE”!!

On the first day Jack was home with me from school, I had a brilliant idea of doing some family painting together, since it is something we all enjoy.  Doing things “all together” is a big deal for me, since there is so much “divide and conquer” in our family.  The age gap between my kids–  almost four and a half years–  makes it rough for the four of us to have family fun, since they are at such different ages and stages.  Honestly, my husband and I sort of dread being left alone with both of our children at the same time.

So, painting.  We all love that, right?

I thought we could all chose a house “rule” and paint a canvas illustrating the rule.  Mine was “Be Kind.”  Jack’s was “Mind Your Own Beeswax.”  Emily’s was “Cooperate.”  And the children decided their father’s rule would be “Don’t Forget to Smile,” since that is what they say to each other every day before he leaves for work.

Sounds idyllic, right?  I pictured us all painting peacefully on the porch while the summer breeze blew gently through our hair.

We made it through the craft store to get the supplies with no drama, and got back into the car in one piece, planning how we would paint our canvasses.

The drive home was when it started.  The bickering.  The sniping.  The blaming.  The hateful, spiteful, angry back and forth between them.  The he said-she said that escalates until one is saying “shut up!”,  the other is calling out “idiot!” and I am questioning what grand error in judgement on my part led to motherhood.

I pulled over and came to a screeching halt on the side of the highway, sliding a little in the sand in the breakdown lane.

“If I hear one more word from either of you,” I shouted into the back seat.  My heart pounded.  “So help me, if I hear one more word, you will both go to your rooms for the rest of the day and then I will sign you both up for summer camp on your Mama-days so that I won’t have to listen to you fight!”

I’ve heard that siblings fight.  I’ve heard it’s normal.  But it really alarms and upsets me.  I just want them to get along.  I want everyone to be happy.  Being kind is one of the most important things I can think of, and I am desperate to impart that to my little folk.

But if I am being honest, here, being kind is really fucking tough when I am feeling scalded under the collar and can no longer ignore their nasty banter.  There has GOT TO BE a better way to teach my children kindness, aside from hollering at them to BE KIND!

I spent the rest of the day pondering this, in between making lunch, playing Stratego with Jack while Em napped, a pool date with the neighbors, bathing the kids, and making dinner.

i find that, much like the winter holidays, there is a cultural fantasy that summer is the most wonderful time of the year, and if you are not basking in the sun, sipping lemonade in harmony with your golden bodied brood, there is something wrong with you.

In reality, it can be really stressful to have everyone home in the same space, getting in one another’s faces, and playing cruise-ship activity director to children who may be bored within the first 20 minutes of the day.  For someone with anxiety or depression, this stress can feel exponential, especially if you feel you need to be out and about in public with kids who are going in different directions.

Having the added pressure of feeling like it should be all happy-fun-pleasure-exciting-smiley-good-times just adds to the stress, in my opinion.

Shortly before dinner, I told the kids, “I have a special announcement to make at dinner tonight.”  They both came to the table eagerly and on time.

My announcement was that I had concocted a game for them to play.  They would have to act as a team and earn points together for being polite, sweet, and helpful with one another.  Every time I caught them in the act of being nice, they would earn a point.  When they get to 50 points, I will take them on a special excursion to Chuck E Cheese, or the movies, or give them a decorate your own cupcake party.

They took the bait.

Without any hesitation, Jack started speaking tenderly to his little sister, and Emily lapped it up like a kitten in the milk of human kindness.  I finished my dinner and did the dishes in peace, listening to my beautiful children converse and compromise with one another on what they would share for dessert, and which show they would watch before Jack went to karate.

They earned eight points in under an hour!

Maybe you think this is bribery, but I prefer to think of it as positive reinforcement.  It is a gentle nudge to get them on track, working together in harmony towards a common goal.  It helps them to learn that being kind feels good.  It also gets them into a good habit, and hopefully at some point it will become second nature and they will not need the reinforcement.

So, this is what I am trying to keep my cool this summer and be able to actually enjoy the time I spend with my cherubs.  I will let you know how it goes.

What do you do with your children when you are all home during the summer?  Have you found any wonderful techniques for helping your children work together and get along?