Kids and Thorns – The Impossible Task of Perfect Parenting

 

This post is not the normal type of post.  This one has nothing to do with finances.  But being a parent is at the heart of our financial journey, so I thought I would share some of what life looks like in our house….

In case anyone is misled by pictures of smiling children in the most adorable Halloween costumes – but seriously, those are the cutest, right?  I have to let you all in on something – our life is not all roses.  Whoever (or is it whomever? I never get that right) thought up that phrase forgot, roses have thorns.  Today was a particularly thorny day.  And, I am not talking a little prick on the finger thorny.  I am talking those big huge vines of thorns that sprung up in Sleeping Beauty. Massive – huge – black – ugly – thorns.

 

I would hate for anyone to look at our life and think that we have our shit together.  (Whoops – I should’ve warned you, I am not in the mood today to keep my potty words to myself.)  Some days in the Mays house, it mirrors the apocalypse.  Children turn into little demon-babies and Momma gives Linda Blaire a run for her money.  Today was not my proudest moment.  Not by a long shot.

 

You see, when you sign up for this parenting gig, no one tells you that one day one of your precious angels, that really should worship the womb that birthed them – or the heart that grew them, will scream in your face how much they hate you and call you out on your poor parenting.  In their eyes, you ARE supposed to be perfect.  They have NO idea – that it really is the most impossible task. Impossible from the start.

 

Impossible when you let the baby cry in the crib a little longer than you probably should, because you just need ONE second so you don’t crumble into a sobbing mush ball too.

 

Impossible when your four-year-old, trying to be a big boy, isn’t quite tall enough to reach the cereal and tips the box spilling cereal dust all over your freshly swept floors. And then, out of sheer frustration, because that was the first time you had swept the floors in three weeks, you chastise him for not asking for help. Yeah…so clearly NOT perfect.

 

Impossible when your special needs boy, who has had such a hard time at school because it is JUST TOO MUCH for him, misses out on a treat like his brothers. Guilt hits you in the pit of your stomach.  The look on his face. You ARE an awful parent.

 

Or when your adult child points out all the ways you have screwed up, like you aren’t aware, pouring salt into every insecurity you already have about your parenting. Ah, how do they know? There is no fooling anyone around here.

 

Sometimes it is just a perfect storm for these types of days.  Then, I stop and wonder, do other parents have these same types of days?  Maybe we ARE doing it all wrong.  Maybe it’s not the perfect storm, maybe WE are the storm?  I think I have seen that meme somewhere. I don’t think this is what they meant though.

 

What if WE are creating the chaos.  I don’t know what to do with that.  If that is the case, how on earth do we fix that?  Parenting is permanent.  You don’t get to say, “whoops, my bad – I am defective – here’s the kids back.”  Nope, this gig is for life and that’s a really looooong time.

 

I am not quite sure how to repair the destruction caused when these storms have let loose in our house.  I suppose it starts by taking a look around and first assessing the damage. Then starting with the stuff we can tackle ourselves and, maybe – if necessary – we call in the National Guard. Do they have a hotline?

 

As I write, it is 3:30 in the morning and my house is quiet except for my faithful boy Odin.  Thank goodness for the loyalty of our furbabies.  Now that’s the real deal unconditional adoration right there.  My brain is still reeling from just how god-awful a day it was yesterday.  From reports of really sucky behavior at school by half of the Littles to the horrible fight with my daughter. The worst?  My sweet little four-year-old was a witness to all of it.  UGH.  You see?  Bad parenting.

 

As I think about how events unfolded, I cannot forget the divine intervention that also took place.  You see, sometimes God just knows when and where to place people in your life – just to let you know he IS STILL THERE.

 

Even in the middle of the chaos, there is still soccer practices to get to, groceries to pick up and webinars to attend.  Thank goodness for technology, Wi-Fi and mobile hotspots. This is how post-millennial moms get all the stuff done. While setting up my laptop to listen to a scheduled webinar at the park, so I can be “present” at soccer practice but also keep any eye on my other boys, I happened to see a friend’s old neighbor and fellow foster-adoptive Momma there on a Thursday.  Not her normal day or time to be there, but you see – God.  That’s kinda how he rolls.

 

As we were catching up, the conversation naturally flowed to the common struggles we both share of having babies born with disadvantages.  That’s a really nice way of saying our babies were born to moms who abused their bodies with drugs and a whole host of other things while carrying our children.  In utero-trauma is a thing – and it has lasting consequences.  You think when you adopt a baby you can love them to healthy.  And for the most part, that is true.  But health is a spectrum.  There are varying degrees. My boys ARE healthy.  They are sweet. Active. Thriving.  But they also suffered in utero trauma and that means that sometimes their brains do not react the way we want them to. They have difficulty with relationships, boundaries, self-regulation. Handling noise – any stimulus – emotions. ALL.THE.EMOTIONS.

 

As we sat and talked and I watched her struggle with her youngest, who was having a really hard time and openly defiant and refusing to let her mommy have more than a 30 second attempt at conversation at a time – I was grateful.  Grateful because in that moment I realized we all have our struggles.  We all have our challenges.  Moments of chaos happen to all of us. And we are all just doing the best we can.  She described some of the difficulties they were having and I could see tears welling up.  I hear you Momma.  I share your frustration.  Your exhaustion. Sometimes it is all too much.

 

In the middle of our fragmented conversation, her phone rang, it was her 13-year-old calling to tell her she made dinner and it was ready and waiting for them. After getting off the phone, she began packing up and shared with me how awful a mom she is because her first instinct was not to be grateful her daughter had made dinner, but to be irritated that she now had to pack everyone up and leave practice a bit early to get to the dinner waiting on them.

 

I get it. I totally get it. How many times has my first instinct been not of kindness, appreciation or gratitude. To not see the effort of my children and their intention behind an action. Yeah, I get it. We are selfish beings by nature.  To some extent we cannot help it.  It takes intention. It takes awareness.  And sometime we are so exhausted by life that we are just too tired to be intentional or aware and our human-ness is revealed.

 

So, when my daughter yells at me and tells me I am selfish, and I want to scream with all my might that I am not – I need to acknowledge she is right.  She is right about a lot.  I am selfish and I am not as good of a parent as I want to be – in fact, I miss that mark by a lot. But I also need to give myself a little grace and also realize that we are all flawed.  Most of us moms and dads are just trying to do the best we can with these precious treasures we have been given. The roses are beautiful – but the thorns serve their purpose too. They protect the roses from being eaten – allowing them to grow.  Maybe that’s the purpose of these really awful days too.

 

Love and Prosperity, 

Your GirlFIDay

 

 

 

 

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Flipped @ Forty – Family

Flipped @ forty family PINTERIST

Photo by mohamed taher 

Anyone want a 3-year old? The one I have is part Tasmanian devil, apparently. That or channeling Linda Blair (Millennials and younger, look that up.). So far this morning (before 8:30) there have been 3 time outs, screaming hysterically because we are going upstairs to play. The torture! Throwing a tantrum in his room because I shut the door until he can calm down then screaming and kicking “I WANT IT OPEN!” He peeks out after being quiet for, literally, ONE SECOND. After which, I tell him to wait a little bit until I come get him. He immediately screeches, you know the one – the glass shattering high pitched shrill one, then attempts to slam the door, unsuccessfully, as it slowly swings back open. Promptly followed by screaming and kicking, “I DONT WANT IT OPEN!!!!”
Fun times at the Mays house. Day drinking is “a thing” right? I may have to try to like wine.

Looking back, the four older kids were SO EASY. The two Littlest Littles, I tell you….I’m noticing more and more grey in my hair. They are all named Ezra and Isaiah. Who thought it would be a good idea to start over at forty?  Me, you say? Well, then.  Some of you need to check your “friend cards” for not warning us at least.

This time around it was supposed to be so much easier.  (Bwahahahaha! The joke’s on us.)

It ain’t easier and it sure ain’t prettier.

So, don’t you dare believe all these moms and dads who post pics of their perfect children and lives…this is the real stuff. The nitty gritty – Calgon take me away – crying in the closet – I need another Xanax – stuff.

Starting over at 42, having already gotten my two oldest children almost to the finish line, I don’t know what I thought it would be like.  We never had the traditional get married, buy a house, have babies timeline. When I was a new mom at 25, I was still in college and working.  We were broke and struggling.  Though I would have loved to have showed up and helped out in my daughter’s class, and gone on field trips and finger-painted in the middle of the day, if Momma didn’t work she didn’t earn any money.  She couldn’t ditch school either.

Those were some lean times.  I feel guilty sometimes that my now 22-year-old got the shaft.  I joke, she grew up with us.  But it’s the truth really.  We had NO IDEA what we were doing and we were doing it alone, without parents nearby. We were flying by the seat of our pants.  Those were the years that if we didn’t donate plasma, we didn’t have gas in the car to get to work to buy the food or pay the rent.  Plasma donations are what made our budget, if you could call it that, work. We would not have made it without it.  But we learned to do a lot with a little.  I could make $20.00 feed us for a week.  Not the most nutritious meals – but it was sustenance and that’s all we needed. We look back to those times and know we could survive just about anything.

And I know that about my daughter too.  I like to think that having grown up with us and struggle with us, has contributed to the vibrant and independent woman she is.  Of course, I still worry about her and I still carry some of that guilt. And because of that, I tend to say “no” far less than I probably should. But that’s normal, right?

My now 16-year old son was born during the time when my husband and I were just starting our careers.  He got to see us achieving, what we perceived as, the American Dream.  The new mortgaged house, in suburbia, two financed cars, we finally got a dog – she was free at least.  His life was much less chaotic.  There was no moving every year or two for cheaper rent.  He is my calmer child.  And that makes sense.  Life was calm then.  For a time.

Then there are the Littles.  We were both 42 when we became parents all over again.  First with Jake and then Aydyn, Ezra and Isaiah – all at the same time.  We had four little ones age three and under.  Three of them in diapers.  We had cribs everywhere. Toys everywhere.  And laundry.  Always laundry.

I like to say it was managed chaos.  It’s still managed chaos.  Some days, it’s much less managed and mostly just chaos.  Even with all the chaos – being a mom all over again in my, now, mid-forties, as opposed to my mid-to-late twenties -it’s quite a different experience.  Certainly, our external circumstances are different.  But I am also different.  WE are different, both as individual parents and as a parental unit.

Our focus has shifted. We are much more “present”.  More confident in who we are as parents.  We do not have the undercurrent of worry anymore. We are more intentional about taking the time to enjoy being parents, a luxury we did not have the first time around.  The benefit of perspective and life experience is pure gold.

That’s not to say we have got it all together.  It’s just different.  I am still awkward.  I’ve never felt I was part of the “super-mom, mommy and me, PTA” crowd.  When I pick up my boys and see all the fit 20-something mom’s in the coordinated active wear, delivered monthly, and messy buns, I feel out of place.  When I am in the check-out line at the grocery store with my boys, I am thankful when they call me “mommy” – ensuring I am not mistaken for  “Grandma.”

My bones and muscles get sore much more quickly.  And It seems really, really unfair to have age-spots appearing and greying hair while my youngest is still in pull-ups.  It should be a rule that can’t happen.  Those things should only happen when your children reach a certain age – no matter how old YOU are.

And then there are the days like today, where all HELL has broken-loose.  (Not H-E-double hockey sticks – but HELL, all caps HELL.) These are the days where I question what business I have being a 47-year old mom of preschoolers.  A day when in the midst of questioning my abilities as a Momma, I’m met with parenting suggestions from someone who does not have children – and it almost sends me over the edge.  She meant well and is a fabulous woman – but it’s comments like hers that underscore my own insecurities as a parent.  Days when I am doing it all wrong.  That something must be wrong with ME, that my kids aren’t the Angels that everyone else’s kids appear to be.

Where there is the slightest fear that I might be raising little serial killers.  It certainly appears that way when the second I am taking a business phone call and have to step out of the room, the two Littlest Littles proceed post-haste to actually attempt to murder each other with their bare hands.

(That’s sarcasm folks.  Don’t get your panties in a bunch. My kids are fabulous and well loved.)

And then….divinely inspired kind words float through the time and space of the Interwebs and my mom-tribe encourages me….  “You are not alone.” “Been there.”  “It will pass.” It’s like fresh air.  Calming my trembling spirit.  I am truly not alone. And we are certainly not the only ones who feel as if they are failing at this parenting gig most days.

Age has given such perspective in so many areas of my life.  In my career, in relationships.  I am so much more forgiving.   Willing to freely share what I know with others.  A desire to reach back and grab as many people as I can on the journey.  So why is it so hard to be that confident as a parent?

We are certainly not perfect.  Not by a long shot.  But there are perfect moments.  When my four-year old climbs up into my bed to give me a hug and squeezes me as hard as he can.  When my seven-year old excitedly shares with me a book he wants to get at the book fair, remembering that I told him it was one of my favorites as a child.  Sitting down for dinner and looking across the table and seeing all of my children together enjoying just being together.  It’s the moments that make all the difference. Oh, how I would love to freeze each and every one of them so I don’t forget them. Forgetfulness….another side-effect of aging (sigh).

And all the other times, in between “the moments”, I am grateful that I have my own tribe of “super-mom’s” on stand-by to reach back and carry me forward.  It almost makes me forget about my age-spots and grey hair.

Love and Prosperity 

Your Girl.FI.day 

Friday Night Under Five – Stuffed Pasta Shells

Pasta Shells PINTEREST

The Vegan version of these shells are seriously OFF.THE.CHAIN delicious.  I was surprised we had leftovers.  We would not have if my daughter had not made two huge pans (pictured above).  It’s when we have wonderful, filling and flavorful meals like these that I know we can live this (mostly) plant-based lifestyle for the rest of our lives.

If you are new to a plant-based diet or simply trying something new.  My advice is to keep trying new recipes.  Sometimes one person’s take on a recipe is just not a match to your taste-buds.  Make some modifications or try a different recipe.  Expand your horizons.  If you had told me, even just two short years ago, we would be eating a predominantly plant-based diet, I would not have believed you.  It is only because we have been willing to try, to venture outside of our comfort zone – that this has worked. You may just be pleasantly surprised if you give it go.

Pasta Shells (Vegan and Non-Vegan Variation)

1 jar of Marinara or Spaghetti sauce

Ricotta “cheese” (See recipe below) (or a 16 oz. container of part-skim ricotta cheese)

Vegan “meat” crumbles (We prefer Gardein Crumbles) (If using real meat – a pound of ground meat of your choice)

A Bunch of Cooked spinach (You can either chop and boil fresh spinach until just tender or buy a small package of frozen and defrost and heat in the microwave) (A bunch as in a bushel not as in A LOT.)

1/4 finely chopped medium onion

1-2 tsp. Paprika

½ tsp. Salt

¼ tsp. pepper

1-2 tsp. Garlic powder (or minced garlic)

Large shells (you can use jumbo shells or manicotti shells )

Vegan Mozzarella “Cheese” (or Mozzarella Cheese)

Parmesan Cheese (Optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Boil large shells in a large pot with a splash of oil in the water so they don’t stick to the pan.

While water is heating and shells are boiling cook your meat or meat substitute. Add a bit of water to keep it moist and season with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and 1/4 a chopped onion. Add more seasoning to taste.

Once the “meat” is fully cooked, turn off heat and mix the cooked spinach with the meat. Once all of that is mixed add-on the ricotta. Make sure all three ingredients are fully mixed. (You can add a bit of Parmesan cheese here or a Vegan parm substitute.)

Once your shells are soft drain the water in a strainer and run cold water over the shells until they are cool to touch.

Get a glass pan and spread half the Marinara on the bottom.

To fill the shells a quick hack is to get an extra large zip block bag and cut off one of the bottom corners. (Don’t make it too small or the ricotta mix won’t come out) put the zip block bag with the cut tip down a large cup. Fold the sides of the bag over the cup. Then spoon the ricotta filling into the bag. Once the bag is full you can use just as you would a “frosting bag” and squeeze the filling into each of the shells.

A spoon works well too – just a little messy.

Use your “frosting bag” to fill your jumbo shells with the ricotta stuffing until your pan is full.

Use the remaining marinara sauce to top the jumbo shells then sprinkle some mozzarella over the whole dish. (Optional: sprinkle with additional parm. or parm. Substitute.

Bake for 20 minutes or until heated all the way through.

Serve with green veggies and garlic or hot crusty bread.

 

Ricotta “cheese”

2 cups boiled/ softened raw cashews

3 TBS lemon juice

1 TBS minced garlic

1 TBS maple syrup (you can also use Agave)

1/4 cup non-dairy milk (we use unsweetened almond)

1 1/2 TBS olive oil

1 tsp. pepper

1 tsp. salt

Basil and parsley for taste

Blend till smooth. Be sure to scrape the sides