Let me first start by saying that I love my kids. I do. I know how lucky I am to have three healthy, able children who are active and read and make stuff and all that happy shit.

But daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

After week bajillion of familial flying by the seat of our pants, it occurred to me that this level of parenting is eating me alive. This level of parenting needs a Safe Word, because it is spanking my ass a bit too roughly.

I never saw us as the family that let the kids become over-scheduled. Each kid has typically been allowed one sportsy thing, and one non-sportsy thing. Fine. Since most of them share a non-sportsy activity (4H) and one of them wasn’t old enough for sportsing, this was a relatively safe family “rule.”

But exceptions and special circumstances have swirled together to create something not unlike juggling rabid monkeys at the circus. Who have sports equipment.

Funk wants to try softball. Cool! She loves trying new things! But as I pointed out, we moved to a new gym over this summer, and gymnastics isn’t really a sport you “take a break” from for three months and expect to come back where you left off. So ok. Funk can have two sportsing things. Because we want her to try something new and not specialize at 8, but she loves gymnastics and we don’t want her to have to catch up all Fall from taking a break.  This means that she has two days of gymnastics, and softball practice, and a game, every week. Something 4X a week, minimum. OK. Doable.

Noise is doing only one sportsing thing– baseball,  which he loves. But his level of sportsing has elevated, so they practice a couple of times a week,  on the weeks they don’t have two games. So… That’s usually 2-3 times a week. Honestly, he could use a lot more practice, but I ain’t sayin’ shit. I’ll take a gift when I get it.

Squeak wasn’t supposed to be old enough to sign up for anything yet, but he’s been begggggging to play baseball for years. And he’s 5 and can hit a pitch. And throw home from first. So he’s ready. They let him play even though he wasn’t technically old enough, so for the first time, he is also a “big kid” who is sportsing right alongside his sister and brother. Add to that his 2X a week swim lessons (because he was terrified of the water and I am not taking a water-phobic kid to Florida basically by myself without swim lessons and this lady is the kidwhisperer) and that’s lessons/practice/games 4X a week. And Squeak isn’t old enough to be left anywhere by himself, so no matter what the other monkeys need, a parent has to be with him at all times.

Now add in 4H camp, 5 days with Grandma, prepping for the 4H County Fair (sewing and painting and woodworking and photography and rockets and and and and)

And then you see why this parenting needs a Safe Word.

On any given night we have three kids in three locations, with two adults (sometimes) trying to keep all the monkeys in play. So the typical day is to wake up (late, always frigging late), feed kids, drop off everyone, go to work, maybe use my lunch hour to run someone a glove or googles or whatever, usually get off work and dash to a kid who has to be somewhere, pick up another kid, cram some kind of random foodstuffs in kid mouths, elsewhere across town Hubs is picking up a third kid and getting them to something, do the things, come home, maybe bathe kids (if they have been in a body of water this totally counts as bathing, IMO), and put kids to bed (late, always frigging late.) We stay up too late because these moments after the kids’ (late) bedtime and unconsciousness are the only moments to ourselves, or with each other.

And then it starts all over again.

They tell me I am going to miss it.

And I believe them. In between practices and games and scrimmages and drives are some of the best moments I have with my kids, watching them try and succeed and fail and try again. We have great talks and good laughs, and I get to be with them, even if it is in the in-between.

And even though I feel as though this is all too much, I can’t volunteer a single thing to be cut. I think this is just how it has to be right now.

And so all I can do is just hold on for dear life to these monkeys and try like hell not to drop anyone.

So the blog has been fairly Funk-heavy, when I post at all. I do apologize for that, but anyone who has parented knows that the kid with the most pressing issue tends to rotate– for a while it will be Noise, and then Squeak, and then Funk. Also, I find myself less and less willing to write about Noise, because he is getting to the age where his stories are his own. (Man, I wish I could tell you about the day they watched the puberty video at school! Classic Noise story, that ended with me having to explain sexual intercourse. Ugh.) 

But back to Funk: I didn’t want to leave you hanging about this post. OH EM GEE, guys. I need something bigger than caps lock. OHHHH EMMMM GEEEEEEEEEE. The change was instant, dramatic, and phenomenal. 

Funk SKIPS into practice. She skips!! With actual skipping! She does gymnastics for three hours straight twice a week, and no matter how hard the skill she is practicing, there is a goofy smile plastered across her face 90% of the time. Her coaches give her high fives and use her as a positive example for the class (and they use other girls, too, which spreads that love) and tell her how proud they are of her and HIGH FIVES, MAN. She feels supported and not afraid and there’s no drama and I don’t even flinch a little bit when I write that big ass check every month or drive back and forth 20 miles (though car pool buddies are totally welcome.) Because my girl is getting her groove back, her thing, the thing that gives her peace and freedom and confidence and an outlet for her very busy brain. 

Skills that she would not even try after her beloved and trusted coaches left/were fired are coming fast now. Double back hand spring. Cartwheel on the high beam. She’s soooooooo close on her kip. That child is even doing front tucks off the vault into the foam pit, y’all. If you know anything about Funk, or gymnastics, you can appreciate that this is an amazing amount of advancement for the number of practices she has been there.  While part of it is a switch up in skills coaching, a huge part of it is that she feels appreciated, and cared about, and she trusts the folks in charge. 

Most importantly? She is so much happier. She feels better about herself. Her life is better. As Funk’s love for her sport and her confidence increases, I can more fully appreciate everything that was slowly lost over the past year. 

I can’t believe it took me a year to pull a toxic, harmful person out of my daughter’s life. I will have to live with that for a while. 

It has been three weeks– it could all go to hell– but for now I have not one single regret about leaving. I can say with confidence that unless CMS were to leave, and major changes implemented, we will never go back. Even if this goes to hell, even though she misses her friends terribly– we will never go back. 

Funk got her groove back. 

Funk has done gymnastics at our local Parks and Rec since she was a toddler. While we’ve tried other sports (too short for basketball, not aggressive enough for soccer) gymnastics has always been her happy place. That’s really important, because she has a fair amount of anxiety in general.

“When I am doing gymnastics,” she said all the time, “I don’t feel stressed out or worried or angry. I’m happy. I just feel free.

Last year, some of Funk’s favorite coaches decided that some of the girls might benefit from a competition team. After all, what good would basketball practices be if you never played a game? How would you assess your golf skills if you only practiced your long ball and putting, and never played out 18 holes? Competition is a vital part of gymnastics.

Funk competed at the very lowest level, at the lowest level of commitment. It didn’t cost much extra, we had $15 leotards, but she loved it and she flourished. If she loved gymnastics before, after that first season it became an obsession. Funk went from someone who “did gymnastics” to being a GYMNAST.

After the competition season, over last summer, our gymnastics program fell under a new Director. She had more experience than our past director, but she also came with a LOT of baggage. From the beginning, she was often thoughtless in the way she spoke to other coaches. She rubbed parents the wrong way. She had a sordid past that was whispered about in the parent waiting room from the moment she stepped on the scene– a past that, if uncorrected, made her not the best role model l for our girls.

Whatever you are thinking about? Yes, that. And that. And that, too.

But I waited.

I believe in fresh starts. No one would want to be judged forever by their worst moments– I sure wouldn’t. We owe each other that grace, I think.

So I waited.

I stepped up as president of the Booster Club. I volunteered to sew leotards for the whole team, to save everyone money and so the girls could have something a little fancier than they had the year before. I baked cookies for bake sales, I volunteered at events. I ran meetings. I tried to advocate for our girls.

Over time, it became obvious to me and many other parents that not much had changed for the Director (Let’s call her Critical McSoulcrusher, or CMS for short.)  One of our very first interactions with her involved receiving an email sent to all parents that called us “uneducated” and told us that all of the problems we had were because of US. There was little information exchanged, other than what was expected of US, and how we had failed in those (previously uncommunicated) expectations. When information was exchanged, it was often incomplete or completely inaccurate. She treated the parents like stupid children who were only there to write checks, and the coaches under her even worse. I received the brunt of this, because of the role I had volunteered to take on.

This blog post could never be long enough to catalog all of the many, many, MANY awful ways CMS treated people, me in particular. It was bad.

Never one to keep my damn mouth shut, I involved her supervisor. CMS was “talked to.” That happened a few times, but nothing seemed to change. There was never an admission of wrong doing, never an apology– only excuses followed by why it was our own fault. Then I talked to CMS’s boss’s boss. Nada.  With each new transgression, each more unbelievable than that last, I just kept going up the chain. Nothing.  Surveys were taken, but no results were ever shared.  Some parents and myself launched a letter and phone campaign to have our concerns heard. NOTHING.   I knew we were in trouble when the Director of the entire Parks and Rec yelled at me for “harassing his employee” though he had never spoken to me before.  He didn’t doubt the veracity of these transgressions, mind you… but his answer was to stop letting the girls compete– to go back to a purely practice-only gymnastics program. In short, punish the children to make the parents stop making waves.

What did CMS’s transgressions look like?

Pointing to a bunch of 6 year olds at their first competition and saying to our girls, “look at them, they are 6 years old and better than you guys.” (Though true, how or why was this helpful to our girls?! She said this kind of thing all the time, pitting our girls against each other and making them feel bad about themselves.)

Telling my seven year old that she was yelling at her because she was upset her own uncle had been brutally murdered a few days prior. (My daughter doesn’t need to know that real people get murdered in real life at SEVEN.)

Yelling at the two other coaches AT A COMPETITION, in front of judges and the girls.  (Um, whoa. Just whoa.)

Texting through the entirety of another competition, instead of watching the girls. (Not coincidentally, the team of girls who had won the least at meets.)

Throwing two twelve year old girls out of the gym for rolling their eyes at her, leaving those girls completely unsupervised. She did not call the parents, she did not even step foot outside the gym to see where they had gone. One of the girls walked out of the facility unsupervised, in a not-stellar area of town. (Um. SUPER WHOA.)

Repeatedly ordering me to write a check to her for expenditures that were a) not voted on by the Booster club and b) had no receipts.  (I quit my role with Booster club after this happened the second time. I told her to stop emailing me, that I would send everything she sent me to everyone, because they were so hateful and rude. Her quote? “Release the check to me and I will release YOU.”)

But unarguably the worst transgression? She was tearing down our girls. One by one, I watched Funk and many of her friends start to dread gymnastics practice. It wasn’t the burpees or the falling off the beam that turned them away– it was CMS. CMS never, ever had anything nice to say to any girl that wasn’t a favorite. She only criticized. She only spewed warnings. Long diatribes about how right she was (even if she was wrong), how much experience she had (experience isn’t the same thing as being good at something), and how ONE DAY THEY WOULD THANK HER.  She never apologized. She argued for tough love, and told us she wouldn’t coddle our girls, since the world would not.  The problem, she said, were the other coaches– who were nice to the girls when they should be hard.  In a meeting with Funk, she once came close to paying her a compliment… but then said “don’t get me wrong, you still have a LOT of BAD habits…” (And then went on to list them.)

YEAH. FUNK IS SEVEN. She has plenty of time to learn how hard the world is, how ’bout you back the eff down?

We stuck it out, so Funk could compete, but by March her confidence was shattered, her favorite coaches were fired by CMS for insubordination (daring to challenge her dangerous training approaches and hypocritical policies), and Funk left every practice and meet in tears.  In the beginning we talked to Funk about how “different coaches had different styles” and “seeing something through is important, even when it is tough.” We even pulled out the old “CMS wouldn’t be so hard on you if she didn’t think you had talent.”

But by the end of the year, the talks were more like “Funk, it’s time you learned that some people in this world are just mean, thoughtless jerks. And CMS is one of those people. And you get to decide if you are going to tell her that what she said hurt you, or let it go, and that might seem like a lot for an eight year old but she is YOUR coach and she will not care what Mommy says if I try to talk to her about this. You don’t get to call her a jerk, though.”

Instead of being Funk’s Happy Place, gymnastics became the place where she felt she was never good enough. Her beloved coaches she had known since she was 3 years old were gone, and she felt alone and hopeless in the face of an adult that seemed to openly hate her.

Gymnastics no longer made her feel free. It made her feel less than, in every way.

My little girl, who saw herself as nothing less than a future gold medalist at the Olympics a short year ago, became a girl who wouldn’t try ANYTHING without being spotted, because she “knew she would fail.” Because CMS told her she would. She lost skills she gained with other coaches, because she didn’t trust CMS to spot her, or because CMS had convinced her she could not do it.

And then came the day when I mentioned to Funk that she had gymnastics practice and she collapsed on the floor in a heap.

“I would rather quit gymnastics forever,” she said, “than ever be in the gym with CMS ever againI love gymnastics, but I can’t do this anymore.”

Nope.

So much nope.

We start a new gym in June. I cannot say if I waited too long to pull her– maybe I should have months ago, even if it meant taking the competition season off, even though she was begging to stay with her friends– I will always second guess how long I let this go on. I can say that we won’t take another day. I did everything in my power to change things, to advocate for my daughter and the other girls I have come to love and be proud of over the past few years. I loved the parks and rec program, and I believed in what it taught our girls, and its place in our community. I did everything I possibly could. I can’t say I always kept fighting the fight for the right reasons (sometimes it was a stubborn refusal to let CMS win, to let her have this thing that we loved, even as she was killing the thing we loved) but for the most part, my reasons were true. I hope the damage done is reversible. I hope Funk can love gymnastics again, that it can be her happy place, where she feels free from the anxiety that haunts so much of her day-to-day life.

There is nothing left to try, and nothing left to stay for.

And so we are gone.

Enough is enough.

If you know me in real life (or even just FB) for five minutes, I have probably shown you video of Funk’s back handspring. It is a source of endless pride for me, but for reasons other than how cool it looks. (Although, let’s face it, seeing someone who shot out of your vag like a cannon flipping across the floor seven years later is quite amazing.)

Of course it is impressive on its own merits– it’s something not everyone can do, and if I am being completely honest, the one thing that kept me from being a varsity cheerleader in high school. (On my head. Every damned time. Which is why you don’t send a ballet dancer to do a gymnast’s job.)

No, what really makes her feat impressive is how hard she has worked on it. Not just physically– but mentally. Like many things in gymnastics, half of being able to do a skill is being in the right head space. Funk had her back handspring a year ago. Then, she fell down and hurt her head, and her confidence. She lost the skill for months– would not even try. Then she worked up to trying with a spot. Even though her spotter barely touched her, as soon as she was on her own– she would fall. Then she had some encounters with her not-usual coach that left her full of self-doubt– convinced that she was not ready or able to do the skill.

She cried herself to sleep countless times, convincing herself that she just COULD NOT DO IT. I cheered, I thumbs-upped, I clapped, I cajoled from the sidelines. (I may have even repeated feedback I had heard her coaches give over and over. “BLOCK!”) Her usual coach cheered, thumbs-upped, spotted, and gave helpful feedback.

But no matter how upset Funk got, or how hard she worked, or how much I cheered, or how wonderful her coach coached… until her head was in the right place, it was a lost cause.

One day, she’d have it.

The next practice, it would be gone.

That doubt in her mind became a handspring monster, and it stole her confidence AND her consistency.

So, she has worked and worked and cried and visualized and worked some more. She has succeeded some, and failed some. She is learning how to not let that failure define her next attempt.

And it seems like we are there. She CAN do it. She WANTS to do it. And most importantly, she KNOWS she can do it.

It is stunning visual proof of her tenacity, her budding self-confidence, her ability to conquer her own ceaseless worry, and her hard work. It makes me so, so proud.

(I realize that this would be a great place to post video of her back handspring, but I can’t figure out how to embed the dang thing. Here you go.)

Both Noise and Funk are intellectually gifted– in Kansas, where gifted education is state-mandated special education, this means they are in the 98th percentile on the relevant tests that measure such things. (Word’s out on Squeak, but so far he hasn’t shown the primary indicator [early reading] that clued us in on the other two.)

This has a bunch of implications that are at least 47 different blog posts, but one of the typical results of this kind of special need is often a hypersensitivity and worry about world events, or things that they believe could happen to them.

Which means that while you and I are still worrying over our Christmas present shopping, Funk can’t sleep at night because of Sandy Hook, which was a year ago. She cries herself to sleep because of the Boston Marathon bombing (eight months ago.)  She can’t stop thinking about the kids in the Philippines after the typhoon. She frets with her certainty that we will be hit by a tornado. All things are possible to her, and most of those things are bad for someone.

This worry, when combined with perfectionism (another common trait among gifted kids) means that Funk is almost constantly worried. Not “man I hope I pass this test” worried or “I hope it doesn’t rain on field day” worried, but an inability to sleep, biting-her-nails to stubs worry. Most topics of worry result in the death of herself, her friends, her family, or just people in general. Noise went through this same phase at about this same age, but Funk’s has so far been much more pervasive.

Now, before you get all “Funk should see a therapist” please know that she is in general a happy child, and her quality of life is good, and this is not debilitating for her. However, it does mean we have a lot of conversations at night that start when I walk in and Funk is sitting up in bed, crying.

“What’s wrong honey?”

“Oh… you know…. I just can’t stop thinking about how scared those kids at Sandy Hook must have been and what will happen if a guy with a gun comes into my school and what if me or Noise get shot or what if Mrs. Teacher gets shot trying to save us because I know she would or what if the school catches fire and who will help all the preschoolers get out and I just can’t stop thinking about it!!!!”

So, together we are working on tools to help her reason with her own self– to mitigate the worry and practice calm. (This is the most hilarious thing ever, since I am a horrendous worrier who also struggles with this skill at forty. Nevertheless!)

“Honey, do you know how long I went to school?”

“……..”

“I went to school for 13 years of regular school. 4 years for my Bachelor’s Degree, and 2 more for my Master’s. Do know how many times I ever had a shooting on my campus, or even saw a gun?”

“……twice?”

“Never. I never did. Not one single time. And my schools were not even half as half as safe as yours is. There are thousands and thousands of schools in this country. There are millions and millions of students in school. Most of those kids will never experience something like Sandy Hook. 99.9% of students won’t. Does this seem like something you need to worry about?

“….no? Maybe? But it *did* happen to those kids. And whoever it did happen to is not the 99%. And that could be me.” 

“That’s true. Bad things do happen to people sometimes. And I wish I could promise that nothing bad could ever happen to someone you know, but I can’t promise you that. I can reassure you that it is extremely unlikely, though, and I can promise you something else.”

“What’s that?”

“I can tell you this. You are loved, and everyone around you wants to keep you safe. And here is my promise: I promise that you don’t have to worry. You might choose to worry, but you don’t have to. For a couple of reasons: first, you’re a kid, and your only job is to be a kid. Let grownups worry if there is worry that has to be worried. Second, worry won’t change anything. Worry has no power. Worry’s only power is to rob you of sleep and strength, leaving you full of doubts and fear. I cannot promise you that there is nothing to be afraid of, because everyone has fear– that’s healthy and it totally okay. But I can promise you that daddy and I, your teachers, your family– we are going to do everything we can to keep you safe. And worrying about the million random things that will likely never happen to you or anyone you know doesn’t actually change anything except you.”

It’s hard, because I know that she knows in her brain that she’s safe, but I also know that in her mind, because it happened ever, it could happen to her. And I really want to tell her “it will never happen to you!” but that’s not something I can promise. So I shouldn’t. I can remind her of the fire and lockdown drills, and the fire station fifty feet from her school, and all of that– but because it happened one time at one school, she knows it is possible at any time at HER school.

I hate to see her hurt for the world, but I love her heart so much– she is genuinely in distress because anyone has to go through anything bad. But I want her to feel empowered, not beat-down by the truth of that. Bad things happen: be a part of the solution when you can.

 

With Pinterest, and blogs, and Facebook, and Instagram, it’s easy to get caught up in this idea of what we *should* be doing. Things we *should* be able to do. And, for me at least, this sends me down a spiral of do more be more try harder that can be horrible on my self esteem.  But here’s the thing: I just suck at some stuff. And I’m not going to get better at it, either because I have zero aptitude or minimal willingness to work at getting better. A rousing list of my unlikely-to-improve inadequacies:

1. Gardening/Outside Maintenance: I have a black thumb. Pretty much I mow the lawn and that’s just about it. Oh, and I scoop dog shit. That’s the low level of House Beautiful we have going on at the Pair gardens. I don’t even have house plants, because I can’t keep them alive. I suck at any living thing that can’t make a noise when I fail to water/feed/care for it. (Which means I also suck at pet fish.) I don’t weed, I don’t edge, I don’t trim or plant. And it’s ok. 

2. Christmas cards/Birthday cards/Notes: It’s not because I don’t care. I do totally do. It’s because I suck at it. I may write, but I don’t have stamps. So it sits. Or I have a stamp but I can’t find your blasted address. So it sits. Or, in the case of Christmas cards, it’s just… not going to happen. And I refuse to feel guilty about that, even though others may judge me. (My subtle grandmother gifted me personalized stationery for five years in a row from age 8 to age 13. I had most of it until after I married, when I finally threw it out because my name changed.) I adore getting cards, and I do wish I had my shit together enough to make you feel the same way. Feel free to cross me off your card list if reciprocation is important to you, because the day you get a Christmas card from me it will probably mean that either a) one of my kids did them, or b) I am dying and working up a way to tell you. It’s not laziness, it’s not self-centeredness, it’s not personal (I love you, I DO!)  I just suck at it. And that’s okay.

3. Having a spotless house every day: my house is messy. It is not dirty, but it will never be featured in a magazine. It is comfortable, it is cozy, and it is strewn end to end with toys, crafting supplies, and lone socks. I anticipate that it will be thus for the foreseeable future. While my house was *somewhat* cleaner when I was at home with the kids, it still wasn’t spotless, because that just meant the kids were inside the house more hours of the day, spewing socks, snacks, and craft sticks. I know how to clean. I’ll do it for company. I just don’t spend much time doing it on a daily basis, and I don’t anticipate that this will change. My life is made up of a finite number of minutes. So I am going to minimize the quantity of those minutes that are spent cleaning toilets. Upkeep– dishes, laundry, bathing children, vacuuming the inordinate amount of dog hair my single dog produces– eats away at enough of those minutes. So dusting can go fuck itself. And that’s okay. 

4. Momentos: ugh with the STUFF! I love my children. I take their picture regularly, I love hanging out with them, and I think they are awesome. But I am not keeping all of the noodle art/clay finger bowls/glitter bombs that come into this house. I am just not. I have no desire to change this about myself. I love that my children create, and I feature their works of art prominently for a time… and then I throw them away. I use my small house as an excuse for this, but in reality I just don’t see the point in keeping all of it. To what end? So that I can be smothered in Crayola marker sketches in my nursing home? No. I keep a few things, and pass the rest on to that great art gallery in the sky. And that’s okay. (Although I will admit I have been unable to discard a finger bowl yet. Current count: eight.)

5.  Playing with my kids: this is only partially true. I love playing with my kids some of the time, some of the things. Not Barbies or dolls or Littlest Pet Shop or Legos or cars or trains or Star Wars. Honestly the only reason I play this crap is because it makes them happy. Now if they want to craft or play a game or jump on the trampoline or play tag or play Wii or even just hang out, I am all over it. But the idea of sitting there, while my tiny Napoleon dictates every character and piece of dialogue, makes me want to poke my eyes out with a stick. I have been known to walk away from Squeak in a hot session of playing cars, telling him, “for the last time, I AM NOT YOUR PUPPET.” It’s just so gawdawful boring and even though I make myself do it… Yuck. I suck at it. And that’s okay. (Mostly because they are growing into a phase where they play things I actually *want* to play.

I know these things about myself. And I am not ashamed. And I won’t feel guilty for them. I give myself permission to accept that no one can be good at everything, and these things– are not my things. I still have a huge list of things I suck at that I am working/should work/will work to change and grow at, because that’s important, too. I am not “done.” We are not “grown” simply because we reach what is considered an adult age. I have plenty of growing to do, just not with the above. And that’s okay. 

For the time being, I have shuttered Seams Fine, my sewing business. As much as I fully intended to keep going, it just wasn’t working. It was a heavy discussion in our house– Hubs was adamant from the get-go that me going back to work shouldn’t kill this thing I started– but in the end the call was mine. And I am totally at peace with it. 

I get home at 5:30, I feed kids, we run kids here and there, we homeworkbathsnuggleread and put kids to bed. “My” time starts at 9pm… but I also have to sleep, too. It’s rough to do any of it without sleep. I hated to eat up my time with the kids with sewing for money we can live without. I had precious few moments for sewing anyway, and I didn’t want to spend that time sewing things that didn’t feed my creativity or my heart. 

I started noticing this low-level of anxiety when I approached new orders. Like they were just one more thing I had to get through before I could do the things *I* wanted to do. And to be honest, a lot of my life feels that way right now. I think that’s mostly just adulthood. There’s a ton of shit I have to get done before I can do the things I want to do, or that are purely self-serving– like sewing for fun, or exercise, or going out with friends. A lot of times the sheer quantity of what needs to be done for me to get to the “me” things is so overwhelming I don’t even make the effort. It’s easy to get sucked into just existing. 

So when I got a recent order (and no, the thrill of someone being willing to pay me for sewing NEVER wore off) and I found myself nearly in tears… I knew it was time. I declined. I put Seams Fine on hiatus. (Let me tell you the fact that I turned down money shocks no one more than it shocks me!)

Right now, I’m going to save those precious few minutes for the things I want to create, simply because I want to create them. Or to read. Or to exercise. I am taking that sliver of time back for myself. And I don’t have to earn that time because it is mine. 

There’s really no way around it. Noise is a weirdo. 

Image

 

Sure, he’s funny and handsome and smart and (somewhat) athletic. He’s a voracious reader, sweet to his siblings, hilarious to be around, and a good, good guy. His feet smell like any other nine year old boy’s feet, he loves computer games and baseball and he flings himself around the house making battle noises like any other 9 year old boy.

He is amazing.

But dear lordy he is also so strange.  I won’t go into the stangeness…es, because he is becoming his own story, not mine, and I need to respect that. That part isn’t important, anyway. 

Sometimes, this “difference”– this atypical behavior– is a struggle for me as a parent. I am ashamed to admit that Noise’s quirks and oddities are sometimes embarrassing to me out in the world. The strange things he does in our house– that I am completely used to– are SO BIG and SO LOUD and SO WEIRD when we are outside of our house, and I sometimes react harshly.  It’s not because he is being “bad”– just that I am having a personal reaction where none is actually required. I worry that he will be shunned, or judged, or if I am being honest– that *I* will be judged by others because my kid sometimes doesn’t behave like I see other kids behave.

In truth, I don’t have to feel any sort of way about Noise being a weirdo, so long as he is being polite, socially appropriate, and following basic norms. The world is full of delightfully strange folks. Noise is completely comfortable in his own skin. He doesn’t seem to mind that he’s often not into what other kids are into. He doesn’t seem to care that he doesn’t dress the same as his peers. He has never been where his peers are academically– so it doesn’t bother him that he’s read books they haven’t, or knows things they don’t. He has a healthy social life, a good group of friends, and pretty much thinks he is hot shit. 

So putting my own shit on him isn’t necessary. 

I just have to remind myself of that when he’s (insert strange behavior in public). It’s not about me. And it’s horribly self-centered to try to make it about me. 

 

I’m a shit disturber. I say that with neither pride nor shame, only as a statement of fact.

I have a quick tongue, little fear, a shrewd mind, and a social justice heart. (And a NoCo STL attitude.)

It’s a bad combination.

The problem is, and always has been, that I have a rough time choosing my battles because they are all really important to me. At times, I can just let things roll. Watch and wait. Follow the proper procedures. But then I get fed up. And unfortunately, when I get fed up with one thing, that tends to snowball into the other things I am trying NOT to confront as well.

It’s as if my inner animal rises up ans says, “ALL RIGHT. THAT IS ENOUGH!! I HAVE. HAD. ENOUGH. RAWWWWWWWRRR!!!”

And so I engage.  In all the things, because hey, why the hell not?!

That translates into a life where I have a lot of little shitstorms raging at the same time.

That’s going on right now.

I have a work situation going on. I sat on it for a bit but then it became clear that it was going to affect my ability to do my job, so I had to engage it.

I have a situation going on with one of the kid’s coaches. I sat on some awful knowledge for a good six months, but then it became clear that nothing was changing. It was getting worse, and nothing was being done about it, so I had to engage it.

I have a situation going on with someone at the kids’ school. I have tried for years to follow the proper procedures, and nothing has ever changed. So I had to up my engagement on that issue.

And the more shit I stir up, the more I feel like The Problem. My mom always told me, when I was struggling as a teen, that if I have a problem with everyone, then maybe the problem was me. Even though I feel very much in the right about each of these situations, maybe I am just stirring up shit that doesn’t need stirred. Maybe a better person could just let it go. Maybe my expectations are too high, my ire too easily raised.

Maybe I am making le mountain out of le molehill.

I hate feeling like The Problem. I hate the drama, I hate the nervous tension, and even though I am not afraid to deal with conflict it’s no way to live day to day. I can’t really bitch about hating the drama when it’s there because I instigated it.

But on the other hand, I refuse to believe that I am supposed to just sit there and let it all roll. How is that right? Is it better not to fight for what is right? Is the easier way the best way? Is my peace worth knowing that my choice not to engage might affect my children, or my livelihood?

And so I engage. And I slog through it, and usually peace is eventually made. Until the next shitstorm.

I don’t feel very much like a grownup when it’s going on. I don’t fight dirty, I am (mostly) respectful, but I do say what I need to say. I offer eight ways to help be a part of the solution. I sandwich my criticism. I give appropriate, timely, and constructive feedback. And it’s freaking exhausting.

For the first year of his life, Noise was kind of… lumpish. Sure, he had personality to spare, but he didn’t really get into anything on account of being the fattest baby ever. He didn’t know the word “no” for a loooooooong time… because he couldn’t get into what he couldn’t reach.

When “no” came, he was super sensitive about that. Any correction or disapproval from me, his dad, his teachers, and he would just burst into tears. Sometimes it only took a look.

As time has gone on and Noise has gone through school, he has grown out of the crying thing. But he has always been a mild-mannered, super-sweet, kind child who mostly did as he was told. He rarely argued with us, and he RARELY sassed us. He might have been talkative in class, sure. Definitely flighty and distracted. But not sassy. (That would be Funk.)

Oh, fourth grade.

This year I have heard from my spies inside the school that Noise has taken to running with some kids who are very well known for that kind of attitude. They act out in school, and when they get caught, they are not remorseful and do not change– they simply mouth off and keep acting that way. 

And it seems Noise has gotten sort of swept away with that. He has been somewhat disrespectful at school. He has sassed his teacher. He snarks off to his dad and I. It’s not constant, and he knows that I won’t put up with it. It is totally age and developmentally appropriate, and something that we are working on. Something I take seriously. 

But also, I see children as a mirror. Our own behavior is held up for us to see. The smart-ass commentary coming from my child’s mouth could easily be something I would say. Snapping at folks or being defensive is something he might have picked up at home.  Each of my children have said at various times that they feel there is more fighting in our house this year, and I have to agree. I don’t know if it’s because of the ages/developmental stages they are at, or the stress of me returning to work, or them not getting enough time for relaxing and play, but there is definitely more fight in Chez Pair.

So it’s not really shocking that this would translate to more fight in Noise. 

So we work on it with Noise… but we have to work on it with us, too. 

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