Rope, meet the end

Today I threw a white board marker to the floor with a very loud 4 letter expletive. The finality of the words I’M DONE made the entire room quiet. The room being my 2 kids and the outburst-er being me. I didn’t mean it, but I wanted to. I wanted to SO BAD. I wanted to walk out that door and never fucking home school again. Not for one more second. 

I later apologized, explaining that I was wrong for flipping out, that I was scared and frustrated and have no right trying to teach fractions. To which my son astutely replied ‘We understand. You also can’t work and make any of your own money and you’re not even paid to do this teaching job’.

After, I walked into my room and sobbed at the failure and tasks ahead of me. Failure to produce any family income, failure to find any sort of zen in quarantine. Failure to take this time, be mindful, productive and a good ‘fun’ mom. Failure to plant a cool garden, paint a piece of furniture, bake bread, workout or even find business opportunity in this new weird world. 

I am in awe of store owners and restauranteurs that have gained new directions and maintain thriving businesses in this shit hole of a situation. So what is wrong with me that I can’t seem to get anything done? Am I lazy, or crazy or setting the bar too high? People love to give advice… ‘Stop home schooling! Be chill! Spend quality time with kids! Don’t worry so much!’.

I get it, I understand that I am my own worst critic. I understand the message given, and the love surrounding the advice. People just want to help each other through this, and that is wonderful. 

The actual problem is that some of us mentally can’t accept this advice. Some brains are not wired to be like Oh! You’re right, I am totally going to calm down now, thanks!

Some of us find it impossible to work around the issues we are facing, some of us feel like we are drowning. The OCD that short circuits in chaos, the anxiety brain that creeps in to strangle you because your life is irrevocably altered for an uncertain amount of time. The depressive cloud that covers you in a dark blanket as you huddle over your phone reading about all the nurses and essential workers that have so many more problems then you but you just can’t seem to make yourself move. The alcohol memes on social right now that tell you to drink away your problems, that jugs of margaritas at 9AM will calm your LOUD brain…until the raging hangover brings back the guilt and self loathing amplified by a thousand.

Some of us have serious mental health roadblocks that are multiplying at a rapid rate and no amount of advice is going to magically solve our problems.

My crux is that I physically CAN’T just chill the fuck out. I have very strong OCD tendencies that make it extremely difficult to work in chaos. I have heightened anxiety in an unorganized house, my need to tidy isn’t superficial, it’s a necessity for my brain to thrive. 

If I get too overwhelmed, my brain shuts down and enters a depressive state. I spent 2 years of hell in this place; I don’t ever want to return.

I can’t walk by laundry on the floor, then sit at my desk and creatively design a logo or write a new chapter in a book. If there are dishes all over the kitchen it’s impossible to quiet my brain enough to form a thought or learn something new. I ask my family all day long to please help me, please help me. They think I’m nagging, they think I’m being too picky, they think I am crazy nazi cleaner who needs things a certain way just because it’s prettier that way. 

They have no idea what it’s like to live in my brain.

That I am home schooling hours each day because somehow my daughter fell through the system cracks and still can’t read. That tasks that should take her half an hour, take 3. That I feel personally responsible for her struggles because what sort of good mother, who is a writer, has a child who can’t read?

Every morning I get up at 630 to do my hair and makeup not because I am vain and superficial, but in actuality if I didn’t, every time I would walk in front of a mirror, the self loathing would become so debilitating that I don’t think I could make it through the day.

I don’t tidy incessantly because I love doing it. I do it because I require it. There is a reason I work alone at home. I need to sit at my desk and be able to focus, to think through the creative process, to be physically ready for my day, to be able to work on something without constant interruption from the littles asking what a Haiku is, how does one simplify fractions or how to spell 400 words.

There is a reason I get up early, not because I love the sunrises, but my brain requires me to wipe the surfaces clean, to make sure laundry is on the go, to empty the dishwasher, make the bed, tidy the kids stuff, get dressed and put makeup on. If I don’t, my mental health spirals. If I am not prepared when the kids roll down stairs, I suddenly panic. My anxiety ramps, my brain shuts down.

I don’t write this for sympathy, or for people to say I’m doing great, or that I’m a good mom. I don’t write this for anyone else but for those who are going through this particular form of hell along side with me. There is nothing that I can say that will change the way you think, to make it better. You are suffering, and I am too. I just wanted you to know that I see you and I understand what you are going through.

xo

am I really a piece of garbage? all signs point to yes.

Let me elaborate.

Finn had a homework assignment: Ask your parents how they helped someone with bullying or in general when they were his age – so like 11-14 years of age.

Well I had to think.

A lot.

So did Troy.

Like I thought for almost an hour and came up utterly blank.

As parents we ingrain in our kids so many life affirmations with such strong conviction to be the best version of themselves. We preach:

No bullying! 
Be inclusive! 
Wear pink! 
Volunteer! 
Give blood! 
Be better, do better!

But when was the last time we looked back from when we were their age and how we acted?

At Finn’s age I was bullied all the time so I kept my fucking head down and went about my day. Now, when my kids come home from school and tell me someone was a jerk my first reaction is yup, kids suck, get used to it. Then I sort of come around and tell them to make sure you help out other kids who are bullied or to get involved if you see something not quite right. But when I was a kid, did I do that? Fuck no. I kept my head down, I went to class, I got teased, told I was the ugliest human in the world, my clothes were ridiculed, my obsession with boy bands was pathetic ( I mean, fair ) but my parents never were involved, at least I don’t think so, and nothing in school was EVER done. You ignored it and carried on.

Then Finn asks again: Did I help anyone else out who was bullied? Truth be told I have no idea. I mean, maybe I did but I can’t think of a single instance in which I intervened or remembered someone being bullied in front of me.

Did I do anything essentially good like volunteering? And I’m like uh nope, sorry Finn, turns out I was a piece of shit. I couldn’t think of one selfless thing I did as a kid. I volunteered once for the Canada Games, but only because my friend forced me to. My one act of service was to parade around the mall as the mascot but I was the WORST at it and they made me take the suit off in like 2 minutes. Basically I was fired from volunteer duty.

Troy retold his charitable experience of doing a bottle drive for his soccer team, but under his breath he also told me that the day after he donated the money, him and his friends did an extra bottle drive for a fake chairty to buy beer. So while we laughed hysterically to our piece of shit stories, it rang a bell in me how much we expect our kids to be better, be smarter, be more helpful, be the best version of themselves.

And while I agree with this in theory, I feel like an utter hypocrite. Maybe it was my narcissistic generation but everyone sort of did their own thing and moved on. I transferred schools every 3 years so being bullied was second nature to me. I was either too fat, too ugly, terribly boring, or simply NOT considered. I was exponentially shy but was also not encouraged by my parents or teachers to be better or do more. I was told to get my ass to school, get good grades, do homework and watch tv. 

So no fecking wonder our kids are suffering terrible mental health, poor self esteem and the trillion other emotions they get thrown in their faces 24 hours a day. We are giving them the world to pop on their wee shoulders and brave it selflessly, with conviction and also while helping everyone out along the way. 

That’s a lot.

I have no real solutions to this issue other than my own self reflection and realization that I was a piece of garbage kid which is fine because a. I can’t do anything about it now and b. I think most of my peers were also pieces of shit. 

But I want to sign off with an addendum to Finn’s failed school question… perhaps next time we should weave a heartwarming life experience from our vast knowledge of 80’s movies he will never watch. Maybe next time when asked whether Troy was bullied we will say, YES he was, by a gang of guys called the Cobra Kai, but he never gave up, he befriended an unlikely elderly neighbour who taught him the value of hard work and perseverance and ended up defeating those bullies at the world championship Karate competition.

And me, well, I was so selfless, I once spent my entire vacation slaving away to learn the Mambo with an underprivileged tough guy so that I could fill in for my good friend Penny so she could get an abortion and have a chance in this world. I mean, SELFLESS.

Homework aka the single worst thing I can ask my 8yo to do

So let me start by saying that I am not a therapist, I have zero idea what I am doing. 

Hard stop.

Obviously I’m making a shit ton of mistakes (like most parents, even though most loathe to admit it) so by no means am I advocating what to do. That being said, this might resonate with some and if anything give you a laugh at what a shit show it has become.

Back story:

So 5 months ago we decided to put our 8yo daughter in Kumon – the reading program. We were like, so obvs she needs help to read because she would sit there and stare at the wall making up words and then when calling out her mistakes, she would scream and throw her book down telling us she IS READING. Riiiiight. 

We made the decision, signed her up and thought we are the best parents in the world – she is going to rock grade 3! We were WINNING…

Except we weren’t.

Kumon is a daily assignment that never ends. They teach self regulation and ‘go at your own pace’ learning which is cool…unless you have a Wren. I mean, let’s be real, most kids would think holy fuck I don’t get any days off of homework? This blows! But what choices did we have? We were positive this would help and she would be like – wow all that hard work paid off, thanks mom and dad! HA HA HA HA that still makes me laugh.

My daughter does NOT like to be told what to do, but also has trouble focusing. She will sharpen a pencil for 12 minutes and then throw that lovely sharp pencil to the floor when you ask her to focus and keep going. When she is frustrated she will say she’s stuck even before opening a book. When you politely tell her she hasn’t tried, that book is thrown to join the floor pencil.

She also does NOT like to be doing homework every day when her brother does fuck all after school, I mean, fair, I don’t blame her on that one. I’ve learned through many years of struggle that she needs a choice system. She requires a certain level of control over her life or she implodes in frustration.

This is true in all aspects in her life. When getting ready for school she would physically slow down if I told her to hurry up. If I told her to brush her teeth 75 million times she probably heard me say it once. But if I said, ‘ok, if you brush your teeth then I will help you with one extra task before school’, that would get her going. If there is choice, she assumes some power, all is happy.

When faced with her resistance over Kumon we would bargain, reward with weekly prizes, coerce, beg, play music, eventually we would yell (sometimes a lot), and some days when she felt like doing it, she could be done a 10 page booklet in 12 minutes. Yes, TWELVE FUCKING MINUTES…but sometimes, well perhaps 50% of the time, she sat there with one booklet for 2 hours. I knew she knew what to do. I KNEW it. But since it wasn’t a choice for her, she fought tooth and nail. She would focus on what she didn’t get or what she could be doing and no amount of reasoning would work.

She would throw fits. Break pencils in half, chuck her booklet in the air. Scratch her paper so hard it would be ripped to shreds. Oh hey Kumon teacher, wrens book looks like a tiger attacked it, yes we know…

I would sit with her, sometimes for hours to complete one book. It was painful for us as parents, but also for her brother who NEVER has homework and would have to sit there while she hated her life, taking the stress on himself by begging her to complete the damn book so that they both could watch TV. If I let him watch TV in another room while she was trying to do Kumon, well, it would be akin to asking her to sit still while I peeled her finger nails off.

I tried to draw with Finn while she did her work so he could be amused, no dice, she wanted to draw with us. I switched to making him do math or spelling but then she constantly asked for my help even when she knew the answer just to get my attention. She was dictating our whole family dynamic and that made me furious. And yes I know that you can’t do that, that you have to be the parent but let me tell you that unless you have dealt with this type of child before, you have no idea what a 4 hour tantrum looks like, and what it does mentally to a family. 

It’s horrifying.

All this being said, Kumon fucking works. She went from basically a kindergarten level of reading (at the beginning of grade 3) to chapter books in just 5 months. It’s fantastic….for a lot of kids. Not for mine.

So as I sat (hid) in my room this past weekend, after a 4 hour power struggle/fight over Kumon…I frantically googled WHAT THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WHEN YOUR KID HATES HOMEWORK.

I expected a bunch of ‘they have to to suck it up’, ‘sit until it’s done’, ‘they don’t get privileges until it’s done’ type advice because that’s what I heard as a kid and it fucking worked. Instead I got some tidbits of incite that resonated…

Kids are born with free will

HELLO, sort of a simple statement but honestly as a parent sometimes you forget that YOU DON’T CONTROL YOUR KIDS. I mean you can direct them not to touch a hot stove or stick a penny up their nose but kids don’t learn free will, they are born with it and some kids want it immediately. Other kids, like my 11yo, could happily give up their free will, live at home in a trailer in our back yard to get mommy cuddles until he is 50…yes, this is his life plan to date.

So as much as I want Wren to understand how important homework is, I can’t make her want to do it. I mean, crossing fingers, but they say that if she starts to fail, she will recognize on her own that she is fucking it up and will make that ultimate decision to be better. I mean, in theory right? But it makes sense. If I don’t let her choose to want to learn, she may end up living with her brother in that trailer in the back yard, not by choice, but as an effect of her never choosing to learn.

Parents have got to stop placing the kids success on their shoulders. 

We felt massive guilt over her reading issues even though we read to her all the time. We did all the steps you are supposed to do to get them to read but somewhere along the way she fell through the school cracks and reading turned into a punishment for her. We pushed her into Kumon thinking it would solve the issue and while it forced her to learn to read, she now hates to learn…see the problem I’m getting at?

I felt this same anxiety this year with my 11yo’s class speech. Normally I sit with him, help him craft the right words, insert timely jokes, and really enjoy the time I get to spend wordsmithing with my kid. This year he wanted to do it all on his own and I had to step off and let it go.

It was fecking hard.

Especially when his speech turned into a Ted Talk/Improv comedy act with some sort of Geronimo exit/tumble back to his seat at the end. But his success has to be because he wants it. I will not always be there telling him to re-write that part or to do a little bit more work on XYZ. I need to step back and let him reap the rewards for good work he is solely responsible for but also process the disappointment from a shit mark if he cuts corners. He needs to learn what failure feels like to crave success.

I can’t force Wren to love reading. She may or may not ever love it. I can’t control her, I never could and that is a hard pill to swallow. So with a cringe in my jaw, and a forced pleasantness I went to ask my daughter whether she wants to continue with Kumon as we were finally going to give her that choice. Of corse she emphatically leaped with joy and quit immediately. 

I shared a pained and furious look with Troy but we both zipped our lips and contained our disdain. We are angry but we are also recognizing that this pattern can’t continue. It hasn’t gotten better, but feels like it’s gotten worse. Instead we gave her the choice to quit, but to gain an hour of daily study time each day to work on anything she likes. She can chose whatever she wants to do in that hour, but all electronics are off and both kids have to work on something. Once that hour is up they can do whatever they want, and I can finally go and finish The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel.

I have no idea if this is the right thing to do, but fuck it, it can’t be worse then listening to a 4 hour tantrum over how her life is ruined because of a 10 page booklet. You’re 8, life is about to get a whole lot fucking harder little kid so buckle up and choose your battles.

If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying. Life advice from an 8YO kid.

That 8YO kid was a stranger at the top of Mount St. Louis but it might be the smartest advice I’ve ever heard.

The back story….

Four years ago on Thanksgiving weekend with our neighbours, we all declared ‘WE WILL BECOME SKIING FAMILIES!’ It was impulsive. Expensive. Perhaps stupid and did I mention like really fucking expensive? But no matter, we jumped on the bandwagon and went to the ski swap the very next day.

Skiing came quite easily for most, although I can’t deny the panic attacks, self doubt and frustration that I know we all have felt at one point or another. I couldn’t ever say I have ‘enjoyed’ skiing for a great big chunk of these 4 years, but the apres was on point, and obvs the cute outfits :)

I mean, we live in Canada, winter is inevitable, so why not embrace it and enjoy what many folks cannot. Great sentiment but when you find yourself on a lift reminiscent of a lawn chair, the wind whipping through you in the middle of a snow storm, seated next to your 10YO and he’s like this doesn’t seem safe to me, you start to question those life choices.

I have fear of heights, fear of speed, fear of falling, let’s just say I have had more moments of self doubt then anyone in our group, but I still went. I went with tears in my eyes, and have stomped my feet in anger at the hubs more then once when he pushed me too far out of my comfort zone. I’ve had that fear slap me in the face while at the top of a ‘green’ run in B.C. in which the entire group stood at the crest of this ‘absolutely a black diamond and NOT a green’ run in panic and thought WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING HERE.

But I went on. Although Big White was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, I’ll admit it was a bit life changing. The lost luggage, then the found luggage party, our friends who drove in a snow storm for an entire night just to be with us, the losing Wren in a tree well, the ‘Fuck this shit’ mentality in the midst of a blizzard with no idea where we were or how we would get down the hill. I mean, it was a terrifying thing but maybe that was why it was so great. I conquered that bitch and it made me feel powerful, and when we all sit around and reminisce about the trip, which we do frequently, I can tell I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

So while yesterday was my virgin ski run of the season, it was by far the best first day out I’ve ever had. I didn’t feel awkward or anxious going up the lift. Even though it was a tad icy, I manoeuvred the runs fairly easily and realized I was actually enjoying a sport. I KNOW! Kelly enjoying physical fitness is like bizarro world times 10. I felt like I had turned a massive corner. 

I never actually met the little kid who sparked the title of this story. It was told to me by my neighbour, who stepped out of her comfort zone yesterday and attempted the all terrain park. While gathering her courage for the jumps, she told a bunch of kids to go on ahead as she was most likely going to wipe out. But instead of rolling on through he turned to her and said ‘If you aren’t falling, you aren’t trying’, and patiently waited his turn.

In retrospect he probably wanted to witness an epic wipeout (she didn’t) but the lesson was simple and clear regardless. Falling is going to happen, whether on the slopes or as a metaphor for life, but assuming I don’t break a hip in the process, it’s all worth it.

Kids Birthdays Suck

I know, I’m horrible.

But let me plead my case…

I hate kid birthday’s for so many reasons (my own is even one that I abhor but that is a whole other post):

  1. I hate other kids parties that are like an hour away in solitary industrial parks that you have to wait around for 2 hours at a Starbucks while your own kid goes bananas resulting in this exclamation: OH WOW A TRAMPOLINE PARTY, I WANT MY BIRTHDAY HERE! PLEASE MOM! But then I realize it costs like 350 bucks for 10 kids to jump for an hour plus cakes and gifts and this little party turns into half a grand. Gross.
  2. I also hate the fact that both my kids have birthdays 3 weeks apart. I mean, normally I like party planning but this is a bit of the muchness. I can’t even enjoy the food because I’m saddled down with cake from Wrens soiree, then Halloween hits and I’m like ingesting 7000 candy bars, and then Finn’s cake #2 and I’m like there is no way to stay on target for calories now because Christmas is right around the corner, so basically I eat crap for 3 months and gain 15 pounds.
  3. I hate the guilt. I would love to throw my kids a party at home, but I literally can’t. My house is small, like teeny. Like 1100 square feet wee with no big basement or living space that kids can run amok in. I’d throw them outside but both birth dates are end of October and beginning of November so like, outdoor fun is never to be counted upon. So my house is shit.
  4. Oh and let’s not discuss fucking Pinterest in which we see photos of amazing cakes and parties that look professionally catered and decorated. It’s like hello mom, you suck if you can’t get your cake to look like mine, I mean, it was SO EASY. Easy my ass. I attempted Pinterest cakes in the past. Shall I share the lego cake disaster of 2017 once more?

All of this leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. I hate that even as I write this, I still feel massive guilt over never having a large party for my kids. They don’t particularly seem to mind but perhaps in 20 years their therapist will be tsking her judgement over my neglect.

So as we approach the first one of 2018, Wrens 7th, I have been told by my husband this morning that KIDS LOVE PARTIES WITH LOTS OF MAYHEM AND GIFTS AND I NEED TO SUCK IT UP. Ok fine, I get it. But at what price? Upon researching a few things, I realize my bill begins at 225 bucks as stated previously which means I’ll be forking out about 500 bucks per kid assuming these venues aren’t booked yet, which let’s be honest, I’m late as it is. Parents are so on the ball these days it leaves me to wonder what kind of social life they lead themselves to have booked a kids party months in advance.

I barely know what I’m doing next weekend.

I also want to add that while I conceded to this big party for little Wren, she can only come up with one name of one girl in her class that she wants to invite. Exclusive much Wren? Finn came up with a few more, but really, they seem to want only the few kids I’ve invited in the past which leads me to think maybe I should just have an afternoon gathering in my kitchen where the wine is at least plentiful. I’ve suggested combining the two parties at one venue but the looks of disgust were enough to leave that idea to die.

My brilliant (or so I thought) suggestion was to ditch the birthdays and take the kids to the city for a weekend getaway. Get a hotel with a pool, eat at a nice place of their choice, head over to the aquarium and maybe the ROM but it has been kiboshed. Jerks.

Oh and also, I have to deal with my husband who seems to know what a 7 year old girl would like to do. I know my daughter, she likes art and music and princesses, much to his chagrin. I suggested an art venue in which the kids make unicorn crafts but nope, husband is like BORING. They need to play dodgeball and run around screaming and tackling each other. What is wrong with a nice quiet creative venue in which they kids make pretty collages? As a kid, I would be so into that and so would my daughter. But, again, I digress.

I fecking hate birthdays.

So as I leave this post, I’m still annoyed, but feel marginally better for professing my ire about these ‘over the top’, expensive as shit afternoons that make Christmas look fun after it’s all said and done. And those who know me, understand how loaded that statement is.

I hate Christmas too.

Kelly the Grinch, out.