Archive for the ‘motherhood’ Category

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Yell at your Kids   2 comments

I know, this is self-evident, right?  We all know that you should not yell at your kids.  Maybe you are a parent who yells at kids because they are being frustrating or doing something wrong.  Sorry, I’m not actually talking about that kind of yelling.

And sorry, I don’t have a five step method for not yelling.

I’m talking about the kind of yelling that happens for no apparent reason, at least from your child’s point of view.

I used to get really frustrated because we were often late.  Looking back it’s fairly obvious I just needed to plan ahead better.  I would make some adjustments every time I had another baby, such as adding another five minutes to the pre-boarding ritual, but we were still the same amount of time late to events.

Clue one that I needed to hear was the day when we were heading out to co-op and about to be late again.  Guess what happened to the kids on the way out the door?  My oldest son–probably about eight years old at the time–moved so fast to get out of the way of his crabby mom he literally knocked down his little sister, who then fell sideways onto the stairs which were close to the door in our tiny two-bedroom house.  Had carpet, but no, she hit the wood.

So my baby girl has an injury on her face because I am a grump and can’t control my emotions when I’m displeased with circumstances.

I wish I could say that this was an effective wake-up call.  It started the process, yes.  But it was not enough to fully reform me.

Over the years, there have been any number of incidents in which one child, usually the oldest, would attempt to correct or direct the other siblings.  When I would investigate further to find out why he was being so bossy, invariably, the bottom line was he wanted them to do what I wanted, so I would stay happy, so there would be no yelling.

The classic example comes from a camping trip at spring break.  We are in our pop-up on a warm night in Florida with the fan blowing on me (because yes, I’m the big baby who needs the fan more than anyone else in order to be able to sleep).  It’s dark and I’m sleeping, but eventually I begin to register seismic events in the camper.  Slowly, vibrations that I know are not being caused by my husband, because he’s the solid peaceful log next to me, invade my world.  I pretend there are no vibrations a few times and doze back off, but eventually I realize that ignoring whatever it is the kids are doing is not going to work this time.

There is not only movement but conversation at the other end.  I finally ooze upward, turn on a flashlight, and ask what on earth is the matter.

My youngest child who was 7 or so at the time, was not able to sleep because of bug bites from the sand flies.  But, his brother started their explanation by highlighting his attempt to keep the younger child from waking me up.  He knew the consequences could be dire–but wait a minute aren’t moms supposed to take care of kids at night when there’s a problem?  I thought my kids knew this.  However, the fear that the roof of the camper would blow off short circuited getting actual help.

Thankfully I am at least decent in a crisis, even a sleep crisis.  I told the others to relax and gave the youngest my anti-itch protocol of liquid antihistamine, Calagel applied to the bites, and time with mom, a favorite book and the fan.  Within 20 minutes he was calmed down, and I tucked him back in on the kids’ end of the camper.  Yes, I did put the fan on him, and somehow I managed without it.

Fast forward to this summer, five or so years later.  We took my oldest son to his summer job and moved him in to his apartment.  Something he said that day made me realize there was a possibility that the way he handles conflict is based on cross-examining himself to be sure he isn’t doing anything that would piss Mom off.

I realize now, as a mother with almost 21 years of experience, and as a mother who has loved her kids well in many ways, that my typical short circuiting has meant that my kids have developed in the light of my temper.  Sure, I don’t lose it nearly as much as I used to, but what I have already done has had a long-term effect on my children.

I don’t know how much counseling they will need to get past their fear of making others angry, but I don’t want them to have needed any.

I wanted my kids to live their lives based on what they believed they are meant to do and be, not based on what they hope will keep the peace.

I wanted my kids to live their lives from a foundation of trust and hope, not out of anxiety.

I share my faults with you because I want you to know that hindsight is a truly powerful teacher.

Maybe, you can benefit from mine.

 

 

Advertisements

Posted August 1, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood

Tagged with , ,

The Baby Bird Bond   Leave a comment

Saying goodbye to your high school graduate is difficult for anyone.  I found that out three years ago.

But I wonder if it may be more difficult to release a child into adulthood when you homeschool.

There is no way to take a scientific angle on this, because who can compare the grief and joy different mothers feel?  It doesn’t matter how your child was educated: home, public, private, Montessori, special ed, traditional school, un-schooling, child-led-learning, Catholic, alternative.  You’re going to miss him terribly.  It cannot be avoided.

At the same time, the transition, it seems, must be different when the child has been educated at home.

For one thing, you’ve spent so much time with him.

For another, the process of fledging probably takes place earlier and over a longer period of time if you’re not the primary educator.  I don’t know this, of course, since I never had a child in a school.  I would think that earlier opportunities for the bond to be stretched, and stretched more often, would be common with public school.  If he were getting on a bus every day, it would have been different.

As it was, there were piano lessons and co-op, where he both learned and taught.  Later on in high school there were entomology camp, a summer college class, and volunteering.  But none of these took him away from his siblings and his parents for 8 or more hours a day.

So, we had years of time together.  We watched Monty Python together, listened to classical music on the way to piano.  We sat around in the living room talking.  We went camping for two weeks at a time in a pop-up camper, after the early local experiments with tent camping generated some great stories that I wouldn’t want to actually repeat.

And the same is now true with the younger siblings.  We have a lot of time together.  Sure, it is full and it goes by quickly.  There are activities, therapies and appointments.  But it’s being spent more or less together, which is something you don’t get to experience if the kids are going to school somewhere else.

So it follows that when your bird flies the nest for college or work or the Peace Corps, you’re going to feel it.  The gap.  The missing piece of your life.

Your friend and companion.

Posted June 6, 2016 by swanatbagend in homeschooling, motherhood

Tagged with

Bittersweet   Leave a comment

My twenty year old son called me last week to tell me he needed to change our plans for the date he would need to be picked up from college.  It wasn’t that his final schedule had changed and he could leave earlier.  It actually was that something else had come up, and he needed to stay longer in his university town.

Honestly, when he calls these days, if I don’t get to the phone, I don’t always recognize the voice coming out of the answering machine, especially if it’s at a distance and I’m doing something in the kitchen.

All I know at first is that a man is leaving a voice message.

I call back.  “What’s up?”

“I need to change the day you come pick me up.  Dr. Cassetti just told me about a kids’ entomology camp they have here each summer.  The training is Thursday.”

Our plan had been for Wednesday, which is when the dorm closes anyway.  (That is, it was our second plan, the original had been to leave right after his last final on Tuesday, but we ditched that as too crazy.)  So, he says he wants to find somewhere to stay, move his dorm stuff out, and get to this training.

“How about I come get you after the training on Thursday?”

“Well, that would mean we’d be traveling during dinner time, and that always makes you grumpy.”

I laugh.  “True, but as long as I can stop for a hamburger, I’ll be all right.–But is there some other reason you’d rather I not come on Thursday?”

“There are some things I haven’t been able to get to that I need to wrap up at the lab.”

He’s working with a professor there who is doing termite research.  End of semester is always very busy, and he was taking organic chemistry this semester, on top of other commitments, so I’m not surprised there are loose ends.

What does surprise me is the sweet: he has so much going on that’s good that he needs to stay there longer

and the bitter: he’ll be home later than I expected.

He is going back this summer to continue his work with the termite research.  I think he has already accumulated maybe six credit hours working with the termites?  He has a sublet apartment, and a part-time paid job.  Now, he’s adding in the summer camp for kids.  You should see him telling children about the wonders of insects.  He lights up.  Like a firefly, if I may be pardoned the expression.

It felt odd that his reason to stay longer wasn’t really because he was concerned about my not getting dinner Thursday evening (although that was certainly a concern), but that it was because he had further work he needed to do.

I don’t actually know who moved him out of the dorm.  Or if the camp is paid work.  If he got some of my last emails, or, really a dozen other factoids about what he’s doing right this minute.

This plan, this life, this summer internship, is a good thing.  A really, really good thing.

But at the same time, I know that he travels on in his life toward his future–where by definition I cannot follow.

Posted May 21, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood, parenting

Tagged with , ,

On the Nest   Leave a comment

Last Friday was such a happy day for me.  My usual normal is two children at home, still homeschooling, and one at college.  So after eighteen years of what I would call quantity quality time, we’re not all together most of the time.  The oldest has been gone for two and a half years, with exceptions for breaks and summer, so you’d think I’d be used to it by now, and I would have to say, yes, I am used to the new normal.

However, there’s a lot to be said for having all the chicks at home.

And March 11 I got my oldest chick back into the nest.  I felt so very happy that night.

We even got funny pictures and a video of me, literally sitting on my chicks, clucking over them, while they all peeped.

Now I know just a bit of what it’s like to be a chicken.

Posted March 22, 2016 by swanatbagend in motherhood

Tagged with

It’s a Wonderful Life – Part II   Leave a comment

Every now and then when I meet a new mother who has had a cesarean, or in early September which is the same time of year at which these events occurred, I remember.  I remember the feeling of shock that fall was already on its way–when I thought I was having a summer baby.  I had a due date of August 9th.  But he didn’t come until the 24th.  Then I didn’t get home from the hospital til the 27th.  Then before I knew it Labor Day was at hand.

The yellowing and wilting landscape personified my inner state.

Everything in my world felt like it was spiraling to an end.

I was sleeping again, which was an improvement and an escape.

Eating had started getting a bit better.

So I was functioning on some very basic level, but while the body was healing, the mind definitely wasn’t.

I wasn’t able to define it until several years later, but I was dealing with post traumatic stress disorder brought on by an unexpected cesarean at the end of a 30 hour labor with my son.

I had planned the birth of my first baby very carefully and thought I had the best care providers I could find.  All was well until I went past the time limits they were comfortable with.  Then my nurse midwives began to tell me I was too tired to go on, and their support for my natural birth went out the window.

I ended up in the ER an hour later, with a general anesthesia, for what they called an emergency cesarean.

That is not a good start for any major life transition, and it completely rocked my world.

I won’t define post traumatic stress in this post, but there is plenty of good information about what it is and what causes it on the net.  Suffice it to say, between new motherhood, the changes in hormones, a traumatic birth, the physical recovery from that birth, and wanting to generate positive feelings for my new son, and not having them–I was a big mess.

I really thought the world had come to an end.

It’s been twenty years now, and I’m happy to say that I was wrong.

It had not.

The reasons it did not come to an end were several: my husband, my parents, and some friends.  They were worth more than their weight in gold.  They were much more helpful than the counselor I saw for a month or two.  They were more important even than the medication I was given that let me finally sleep after a week with no sleep, and of course, that’s saying a lot.

These people were the reason because they kept on loving me and telling me the truth–that I would get better and that reality as I saw it was not reality.  Some of these friends took time every single week for months to call me.  They asked how I was doing, listened to and helped carry my despair, but kept encouraging me.

My husband put up with all my junk and kept on taking care of me, and of our baby, encouraging me to do normal things like go for walks, make dinner, go to church, with the assumption that one day, things would snap back to the reality I was actually living in, which was that everything was OK, even if I didn’t currently think it was.

So–

I have a life now, 20 more years of it, that I wouldn’t have lived if I had had my way and put an end to it.

Thank God for his indescribable gift.  It really is a wonderful life.

True Story (for my daughter)   2 comments

Long awaited child

I sweated, cried, raved, moaned

I was in pain to birth you

And all this for years before you finally came

In August

Your water gushed out of me like the falling rain

that early morning

And again I waited

Early Saturday I woke to a meteor shower

The Perseids were falling in the east

One a minute, dropping fast

We watched them for an hour

Till dawn came

Again I waited

Early Sunday I woke to a shower of another kind

Again I sweated, cried, raved, moaned

Till dawn came

And you fell from my womb

A hot, ripe star

 

I wrote this in 2000.  Mothering published it in 2002 in the same issue in which my friend Jill McCorkle’s VBAC article was printed.  On this, my star’s quinceañera, I share this poem about her birth.

Posted August 13, 2015 by swanatbagend in motherhood, reflections

Tagged with

I Told the Bedtime Story Last Night   Leave a comment

My now fourteen year old daughter took over the stories some years ago, during the time we spend together before I tell her good night, and we’ve either read lots of Rick Riordan books, or she narrated portions of the novels that she’s working on.  It’s been fun.  But last night she was talked out with a cold following on performing in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, and she didn’t have anything to say.

I burst out with, “Would you like me to tell you a story?” not thinking she would say yes.

I got a nod though.

Cast about in my mind for what on earth to say.  I’ve always been a story reader, not a story-teller.  My idea of a good day is one in which I read out loud to my family a minimum of twice, so….I didn’t feel like doing a fairy tale.  Or a variant of something I’d read that I thought she’d like–would take too much time to come up with.  Nor did I feel particularly creative.

So I started where many parents do–with something that really happened.

“Once upon a time, in a little house high up on a hill lived a mommy and a daddy and a little boy, and their three cats and one dog.”  That’s all true.  1998.

Went on from there to tell her all that was missing was a little girl to live in the house as well, the one the mommy had been wishing for for many years.

There were the elders visiting and praying for the mommy.  There was the helpful doctor who kept trying different ideas for why the mommy was not having a baby.  There was the surgery the mommy had (details omitted here) that took care of the problem.

And there was the story of the answer to the question the mommy asked herself a few weeks after surgery: “Am I pregnant?” which was answered immediately by an internal voice, with these words: “Yes, you are. And it’s a girl.”

My daughter really liked this story.  And so did I.

Posted May 27, 2015 by swanatbagend in motherhood