Goal 8: Try not to be too hard on myself

When I was a child, my parents were very hard on me. They expected perfection and I tried to deliver. The better behaved I was, the more I was loved.

I was punished for not being good enough. My parents had a hard enough time with my autistic sibling, they didn’t need any problems from me.

When I got a bad grade in elementary school, my dolls were taken away from me for a semester.

I am hard on myself to this very day. If I don’t accomplish enough in a day, I feel very anxious.

So it is no surprise that when I had kids, I tried to be the perfect parent. I thought that if I was the best parent I could be that my kids would turn out the way I wanted them to. If I was loving enough, they would get good grades and like school. If they were disciplined right, they wouldn’t try drugs, etc…(Insert problem here).

Let’s be totally honest, if kids do something wrong the first place society looks is at the parents. What did the parents do wrong to have a child like that? I am just as guilty. There is some truth to that statement, but some kids just make bad choices against their parents wishes.

My own mother faced a lot of blame for having a violent autistic child in the 1980’s.

I tried to be the best parent I could be and that has to be good enough whatever my children choose.

It was so easy when they were babies. I had full control. I decided where we would go. I picked out the little outfits that they were going to wear. They ate what I made.

I tried to share my values and beliefs with them. But I’ll admit, as honest as I am, I lied to my children all the time. I lied to them about who I was. I tried to hide my faults. I pretended to like cartoons and Barney when I really wanted to be head banging to hard rock and watching horror movies. I didn’t swear around them and said a lot of nice words like please and thank you.

Hey, get me a beer was replaced by may I please have some more milk. Gangsta rap music was replaced with catchy tunes like I love you, you love me..we’re a happy family..

I hated pretending to be perfect and being someone I wasn’t. I always just thought that was a part of being a good parent though.

Then my kids grew up. I no longer picked out their little outfits. We stopped reading books together and listening to baby music. I was slowly more free to be me.

Part of the process of letting go is learning to fully be me again. It is losing some of my identity as a mother. Part of that is also showing my kids who I really am. I will share my book with them when they are ready and someday my blog as well.

I also have to accept that the choices my children make might not be what I have in mind for them. I have to be less hard on myself and them when they screw up. I also have to be less hard on myself when I am not perfect.

Perfection should not be my goal. If it is, I will live a life of disappointment because it is unattainable. Plus it annoys the crap out of my family. It is difficult to unlearn something that is so ingrained in me. But it is worth a try.

Maybe I would be a better person if I was a little less perfect. Now doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?

 

Oh boy!

A couple of weeks ago, my best friend Cindy told me that she is going to be a grandma!

Oh boy! (Or girl!).

And so it begins…My first friend to become a grandma.

My daughter’s best friend is going to be a mom.

And so it begins…Her first friend who is going to be a mother.

And so it begins.

And so it begins…

That’s life!

 

Season’s greetings from your favorite demon slayer

Wow, Christmas is less than a week away already!

Tomorrow I am hosting a Christmas party at my house for the entire family…while I am working out of the house…and cooking a meal for over a dozen people…Nothing says overachiever (or insanity) better than that.

I really didn’t want to have a Christmas party on a day we had to work and the kids have school. I wanted to have the party on Sunday, the day after the extended family Christmas party. But my sister-in-law Carla couldn’t miss the kids Christmas program at her church. I guess that wouldn’t be such a big deal to me if she actually had kids. But I can’t complain too much, she is the only person that was ever able to get my brother Mark to go to church. So Friday it is.

Carla wanted to have the party in January. After we scheduled the party for Friday, Carla wanted to switch it again. I finally told her to let me know if she would be unable to make it which is a polite way to say that I am NOT going to change the date again unless it is back to Sunday.

My brother Luke and his family will be staying over for the weekend. Luke didn’t want to make the far drive out a couple weekends in a row, so we ended up scheduling the Christmas party for Friday night before the extended family party on Saturday…after I am done working…instead of Sunday (which I preferred) because of Carla’s schedule.

Talking about work, I only have 4 days left until I am unemployed. I was angry and despairing about it at first, but now I think I should throw myself a big party on the last day and get on with my life. Maybe I’ll have a bonfire and burn all my work clothes!

Angel is home from college. Soon all of the kids will be done with school for Christmas break.

We bought Alex a boxing club membership for Christmas. He has been bugging me about joining for over a year. Boxing seems kind of dangerous, doesn’t it moms?? I was the kind of mom that had to close my eyes at middle school football games. I enjoyed watching Alex wrestle, but there were a few times…Somewhere in my mind he is 8, not 18. I still feel the need to protect and mother hen him. Although I know he would end up protecting me if push came to shove.

Alex says that boxing helps him express his anger in a healthy way. Maybe I need to start boxing since anger is no stranger to me. Can you imagine me showing up at the boxing gym? Oh my gosh! He has been working out every night. He is like me, all or nothing. The hard part is to convince him to give it his all when he wants to do nothing. He is a stubborn one, also like me. But he is doing better! He just might be ready to move on with his life come spring.

I just want everyone to know how thankful I am that you put up with me! Consider this my Christmas card…I haven’t actually sent one out in years. Lucky you! I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. And if anything exciting happens, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

 

Is it normal?

I imagined the way it would be in my mind. Thick heavy intricate snowflakes dropped with a plop on the cold empty ground. There were horses with jingling bells pulling a sleigh behind it. Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane. It’s a picture of us trying to find that perfect tree. Even the boy with the face tattoo is there. He is the one taking the family picture of us finding that perfect tree. A ray of radiant light shines through the snow on the right one. We are all smiling and happy.

It wasn’t that way at all. It was raining and the kids had other plans. Paul ran out to the closest tree lot by himself and picked out the tree. But it was that way once. The problem is that I still expect it to be that way now. I spent some time that afternoon crying curled up in my bed playing lullabies that I once played for my babies. Is that normal?? I am off my rocker, literally and figuratively this time.

Is any of this normal?? Paul and I have been struggling lately with this very concept. This will be the last Christmas break that our whole family will be together. Angel is not planning on coming home after college this year. Alex will be graduating (hopefully) this spring and moving on. Arabella is still seriously interested in becoming a foreign exchange student.

I put a lot of time into this whole motherhood thing, and now my kids don’t need me anymore. Who am I now? I am excited to have time to myself to do the things I always wanted to do. But I never thought that the letting go process would be so painful.

Our son is really struggling right now. Although he is 18, we still have boundaries and rules because he is living in our house. We have been asking ourselves if his behavior is within the realm of normal. It was hard to let go of our firstborn, but she was heading off to college and we knew that she would be okay. We feel unsure about the future of our son.

There are really only two scenarios. Our son is completely normal. Then the problem is with us. We need to let him go even if he has to fall on his face a few times. He has to figure things out for himself. We need to let him go even if his future isn’t what we planned on it being.

The second scenario is a bit more troubling. What if he has mental health issues? Then I think it is our job as his parents to make sure that he gets the help he needs. But he is an adult. Is it our job to try to fix him?

Would you try to save someone from drowning if you knew that they knew how to swim??

I think that our son is normal. But what is normal? People have been asking us if he is depressed. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure. I want answers. I want to be guaranteed that he will be okay.

Letting go of a kid to go to college is normal. It is painful, but you are also happy that they somehow became fully functional adults with you as their parents.

But what happens if you think they are not ready yet?

This has been my struggle lately. I probably won’t get all the answers I’m searching for. Plus it doesn’t help that I have unrealistic expectations in my head of how I expect things to be…the way they once were, but no longer are.

Is any of this normal?

Taking the long way home

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Last night Angel and I got back home from the Lana Del Rey concert. We ended up taking the long way home…

We headed out to Minneapolis early Friday afternoon and got to our downtown Minneapolis hotel by late afternoon. It was still cold outside with wind chills below zero. Even though we were only a couple blocks away, I was concerned about walking outside on a cold frigid night.

The hotel had an indoor walkway that we could walk to the concert in, but it closed at 8 PM. Although we had a map, we got turned around several times in the walkway. There weren’t as many signs as we thought there would be. Someone stopped us and gave us the wrong directions. We met up with another couple that was just as lost as we were. The girl was wearing a mini skirt and a jean jacket. I told her that she would have to walk back outside on the way back.

Surprisingly, despite getting lost, we made it to the concert a little early which gave us time to go through security, find the bathroom, and get a drink before the show. I spent $15 on a 4 oz old-fashioned that tasted like utter crap. I watered it down with Angel’s soda but it was still undrinkable. Gross!

Angel’s friend was going to meet us there and sit by us, but she came down with the stomach flu. The show itself was phenomenal. It was the biggest concert I ever went to. Before that the biggest concert I was at was back in the early 90’s seeing Reo Speedwagon at the county fair. This was Lana’s first concert of her new tour, so being the first show and being an inexperienced concert goer, I really didn’t know what to expect.

I was thinking about bringing ear plugs, but Angel said that would make me look way too old. I was already instructed not to look like a mother. Some of the young girls barely wore any clothes which concerned the mother within me a whole lot on such a cold night. There were a few other middle aged concert goers. Most were in their early twenties. The whole row behind us seemed to be in their early 20’s and were all smoking pot. The young couple next to me was making out the whole time. Seriously, I could have used a better drink.

Afterwards, I was satisfied that my ears did not ring. The acoustics were great. Lana played a lot of songs that we knew and she had a great performance. We walked back to the hotel in the cold. I had a hard time pulling up the hotel on my phone’s map. I was a little afraid that we would walk around the city in circles until we froze to death. Although my daughter is an adult, I felt responsible for her safety. We were very cold, but we were able to find our way back before we froze to death.

The next day we had lunch plans with an old college friend that lives near the city. She hadn’t seen my daughter since she was a toddler. It has been over 8 years since we last saw each other. We had a really nice visit, but had a long drive home.

I fell asleep on the way home which hardly ever happens. In my defense, I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night and felt rested. I was the only one that knew how to get home and since I was sleeping, we missed the exit. I woke up to different scenery. We drove a few more miles before I had the nagging suspicion that something wasn’t right. Sure enough, my little siesta cost us an extra hour of driving.

What good is knowing the way if I couldn’t show the way to go?? Seems like another whole philosophical blog topic, but I am much too tired to form a thought. I would like to think that we circumvented a crash on the interstate. But the truth is that I am getting old and tired..I fell asleep and wasn’t paying attention.

However,the long way home was a more scenic route with its rolling hills, cranberry bogs, marshes, reeds, and woods. I wanted to stop several times to take pictures, but I also wanted to get home and felt bad for making our trip a lot longer than necessary. So I snapped a few pictures when we stopped for a stop sign.

Angel and I did a lot of talking on our long trip home. It was nice having some uninterrupted time to visit. Next weekend she will be leaving to go back to college. It will probably be a couple more months until we see each other again. Despite taking the long way home, we had a lot of fun together..

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In the cold dark light of the full moon

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It only takes a little light to reflect the cold barren emptiness of a winter tree on the snow.

It has been cold in Wisconsin. The wind chills haven’t been above zero since who knows when..probably a couple of weeks. We haven’t noticed that much. We have been busy with the holidays.

We know the drill. It happens every year. It doesn’t snow when it is bitterly cold. The cars make strange noises when attempting to start. You don’t want to get a car wash or your car doors will freeze shut. Everything creaks, crackles, and moans under the heavy weight of the bitter cold. People die.

People die! I knew it would happen on New Year’s Eve especially. The reports of the deaths. I live in the drunkest state next to one of the drunkest cities in the United States. I predicted that if the Packers were having a better year, the death toll would be higher. The bitter cold usually starts this time of year, but this year it hit us a little early. It started over Christmas…the home Packer game…Christmas weekend and New Year’s Eve…the drunkest time of the year near the drunkest city in the drunkest state. The roads are hazardous not just for the cold, ice, and snow ya know.

Drinking is our culture. It just is. I am a big proponent of designated drivers, but sometimes you can’t trust that will even work. People get carried away. Blame it on the cold harsh climate.

I worried the weekend of New Year’s Eve. My daughter Angel drove to Madison to go to a party with friends. My son was who knows where. Every day I would be in touch asking where he was and what he was doing. Every day my son stopped home and my heart rejoiced that he was alive. It’s not always them I worry about…it is the others on the road. How do I keep them safe? It is surprising that I am letting go at all.

I worry about the drunks on the road. I worry about car trouble in the bitter cold remote areas with no cell reception. Or what if I am sleeping and don’t hear the phone? I worry about car accidents on slippery heavily wooded winding roads.

My deepest fear is that my children will die if I am not in control. If I don’t pay attention, they will be gone. If I don’t notice a problem, they will slip through my fingers forever. It is really rather horrifying since I am not in control. I never was in control even when they were babies. I couldn’t control if they got sick. I couldn’t even control if they decided to sleep through the night. As they got older, the feeling of being out of control grew and festered in my soul.

I try to let go and let God, but then grab the reigns back again chaffing my hands not able to get a grip. This worry, this anxiety, has been a constant thorn in my side. I feel if I let go of my little iota of control, then my children will die and I am responsible. It is completely illogical and irrational as most fears are.

Do all mothers of teenagers feel this way? Or do I just take it to the extreme since I am anxious to begin with? Or maybe having 3 teenagers is enough to set the sanest person over the edge?

Storms of Christmas past

This year my youngest daughter had her first high school choir concert on the day that my grandma died.

Let’s take a trip back in time to 1967. I wasn’t born yet. My mom was 19. My dad went off to Vietnam.

It was Christmastime. My grandparents were in the process of moving to a new town for my grandpa’s new job. My grandma was 43 and pregnant. Her oldest child, my aunt, was out of the house, married, and expecting her first child. My mom was in college. There were five children left at home and a new baby on the way.

My grandma wasn’t feeling well with her eighth pregnancy. She was on bed rest at the hospital but wrote letters to her family at the new house where no one knew them.

There was a snowstorm the night that she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. After the little baby girl took her first breath, my grandma took her last breath.

This month the baby girl turned 50. She had a big weight to carry the day she was born. She took the last breath of a mother of 8 when she took her first. I think she always felt guilty about it although no one could logically blame her for something not of her choosing. Then she took the life that her mother sacrificed to give her and made a big mess of it.

This month Uncle Rick threw my aunt a 50th birthday party before the choir concert. It was both a joyous and solemn occasion. Before the party, the siblings tearfully read the last letter that their mother wrote the night before she died. It wasn’t carefree and happy like the rest. It was as if she knew it would be her last.

At the choir concert that night, I sat with my mom on the 50th anniversary of her mother’s death. She told me that her mother was my age when she died and she was the same age as my oldest daughter. I felt sorrow for my mother. She really needed to have a mother in her life as the path she beat down was always rocky.

That night, I watched others perform my daughter’s songs from when she was in high school. My oldest daughter was not able to be there. It was hard to hear someone else sing ‘her’ songs. It hurt. Time was slipping by way too fast. It was also difficult to sit next to my mother on the anniversary of her mother’s death. I could feel the loss, the sadness, the nostalgia, the longing for something that was no longer there envelop me.

When did it happen?

A couple weeks back on my way into the gym, I saw an elderly lady with two little kids. The little ones outran their grandma and entered the building with me. I got quite a few smiles and happy looks from strangers. People thought the children were mine and were giving me the ‘your kids are sooooo cute’ face.

When did my kids stop being cute?

I felt a little sad for awhile. I hadn’t realized that I haven’t gotten that mother of little kids look for a long time.

When did my kids grow up?

This past weekend, my nieces who are 8 and 10 stayed overnight at my house last minute. Angel was babysitting for another little girl at our house that was 8. We had a girl party. We played Just Dance and painted nails. Even my ‘baby’ was a big help entertaining the girls.

When did my daughters transition from girls to young women?

When it was bedtime, I put a show on to try to get the girls to settle down and fall asleep. But I was the only one that fell asleep. I really don’t know how kid movies can captivate children, they are soooo stupid. Who writes those shows??

When did we stop watching cartoons and kid shows?

The girls had a hard time sleeping at night. Little Gracie complained about the bass pouring out of my son’s room. It wasn’t that loud or maybe I’ve grown used to the noise of having teenagers in my house.

When did my kids stop being little kids?

The next day we had the family over for Christmas. The little girls were bursting with excitement over the presents under the tree. Gracie got this bird that cracked its way out of a shell minutes after she opened the gift. Then she was supposed to raise it as a baby, toddler, and then finally a kid. But not as a teenager nor adult. It glowed different colors to communicate based on some color code on the box or something. Seemed like a big waste of money to me. But boy was that the rage.

When did our kids stop waking us up on Christmas day?

My kids got mainly clothes. Clothes! Arabella got a waffle iron. Adult stuff! No more toys. The teens mainly looked bored. The kids squealed with delight. The adults sat around acting excited about the gifts of the little kids, but it really wasn’t all that exciting anymore…the transition from child to adult.

When did my kids stop playing with toys??

I was able to find some excellent gifts for my teenagers though..

For Angel, I bought her tickets to see Lana Del Rey in concert next week. We will be traveling quite a ways, so I got a hotel room. I also bought her a Lana Del Rey t-shirt. I am excited to go with her, but was instructed not to dress like a ‘mom’.

For Alex, I got him an Ancestry DNA kit to find his heritage. It was something that he mentioned over a year ago and was very excited to receive. Rumor has it that he might have Native American roots (my husband never knew his father). Now we will know for sure. There is some mystery in what will be found.

For Arabella, I took her in today for a makeover. She got blonde highlights and black low lights. She looks very pretty and grown up.

I do miss the wonder and excitement of the younger years, but there is a certain joy to be found in letting go…

Thanksgiving break..

This morning as I was leaving for church, I noticed a letter on the ground in my driveway. I drove back towards my house to grab the letter. But it was just a receipt for glue. Glue?? Next to the receipt, there were pills strewn across the ground. What were the pills??

I started my cycle of worry for the day. Unfortunately, I spent a lot of time worrying over the holiday.

Since we last talked, Angel came home from college. I’m amazed we made it this long living in a small house. Angel’s things cluttered the family room. We ran out of hot water one morning from showers. The girls bickered about sharing a room…one liked it quiet and dark to sleep…the other liked to go to sleep with light and noise…

I worried about Thanksgiving. I was afraid of how Matt would respond to Luke’s kids…but Luke and his family didn’t show up. They stayed home sick. The day was relatively uneventful except for a clogged kitchen sink.

Over the weekend, we found out that Alex’s ex-girlfriend Baylee started going out with Alex’s good friend Jake. This has caused a social media war. Horrible things were said online that shouldn’t have been said. People are choosing sides. Jake was the drummer in the garage band Alex was in. The band has been disbanded. I am terribly afraid that there will be a fight in school tomorrow. I have been really stressing about it and am trying to let it go. I tried to talk to Alex about it but he wants me to leave him alone.

I am struggling with the desire to let my kids go yet at the same time still wanting to hold on to them tight. Although I get along great with my son normally, he causes me so much stress that I want him to go to school far away.

This weekend we had a school choir tree lighting ceremony that Arabella sang for. As I watched the choir sing, I was reminded of the times that it was Angel performing. It was like time fast forwarded. I was reminded of other things that we did together when she was young and felt sad that those times went by so fast. I want to grab on to those moments while they last for all of my kids, but can’t.

Paul and I took a walk around to look at the lit trees. We were surrounded by young parents with small children fascinated by the wonder of the Christmas season starting. How did we get so old? I felt happy and sad at the same time. We are coming to the end of a long season of our life and soon will be starting another..

We did enjoy our time with Angel. Paul brought home a Christmas tree that Angel did most of the work decorating. Our cat found his warm snugly spot under the tree. It is very calming.

Angel is on her way back to school as I type these words. She is driving my car back. While she was here, the brakes started going out on her car. We didn’t feel that it was safe for her to drive it back. Alex’s car broke down this past week as well. What are the odds that two cars break down in the same week?? My kids are driving around cars that are as old as they are…At least they have cars to drive.

As soon as I got home from church, I googled the pills that I found in my yard. They were extra strength Tylenol…Whew! I also checked the receipt for the glue. It was purchased at a time when my kids were home..There were so many people in and out of the driveway the past few days…probably more cars than we had all summer. It could belong to anybody. The receipt could have blown over from the neighbors yard. Why do I waste my time in worry?

 

Narcissistic worry

Last week I read a wonderful post about narcissism. Then I got to worrying…Oh my, am I a narcissist??

Growing up my life revolved around my autistic brother Matt. It was all about Matt…Matt…MATT all of the time. I wanted it to be all about me. ME! ME! ME!
Aren’t I great??

I was on my own for a very short period of time. I graduated from college, got married 2 months later, and got pregnant 2 months after that. I have been a mother since my mid-20’s.

Right after I was out of my parents house (taking care of my brother)…I ended up having three children. Since then it has been pregnancy, having C-sections, breastfeeding, diapers, sick kids, lost teeth, sibling warfare, birthday parties, braces…to today where I have 3 teenagers. My life involves taxiing my kids around, dealing with difficult issues such as sex, drugs, and lets throw rock and roll in there too. Why not?? I have to deal with underage drinking, bad grades, messy rooms, rebellious attitudes…all the normal issues of dealing with teenagers…plus cooking, cleaning, and laundry.

I secretly fantasize about being an empty nester. I want it to be all about me. I don’t want to have to worry about anyone else…I don’t even want to have to take care of pets anymore. I am sick of having to get a pet sitter every time we want to leave. I hate it when the pets bring fleas into my house…or when the dog gets into the garbage…or puke on the carpet…the constant crying for food the minute I wake up in the morning or right when I get home from work…the poop on the floor right outside of the litter box.

Last month my brother Luke and his family lost their family dog. The were heartbroken at the death of a member of their family. Last week they got a new puppy. I feel guilty for not wanting any responsibilities. I will gladly take care of the pets I have until they are gone…but after that…I don’t even want a fish!

I am also a completely vain person. I envision myself always looking great in a bikini while I gaze at my reflection in the pool. I want to tell my classmates that I was carded this year. I am getting younger while my classmates are so old and weathered that I don’t recognize them anymore. I couldn’t possibly look as old as they do, right??

I also have Mary Poppins syndrome. I think that I am practically perfect in every way. I never admit to having any faults. I strive for perfection.

On a side note**I wouldn’t recommend making deviled eggs for Thanksgiving if you are a perfectionist! Grrrr..

As a child I was punished for making mistakes. One bad grade in elementary school and all of my dolls were taken away for a semester. I was so afraid of making mistakes and not being good enough.

Sometimes I think that harshest judges have been most harshly judged.

I’m working on it, okay?

Yesterday I just realized that my criticism and annoyance with others could be viewed as annoying..

As I sit here gazing in self reflection…I realize that I am probably not a narcissist. I just need a little responsibility free time to myself. I love my family and pets, but sometimes taking care of them all the time can be overwhelming. In a few years I probably won’t know what to do with all of the ‘me’ time.

I figure if I am so worried about being a narcissist, that I am probably not one. Narcissists don’t worry that they are narcissists…Do they?? No, just anxious people worry…Boy, do I feel better..

To think…for a few minutes I thought it was all about me!