You always think, okay, now parenting starts …… then you realise, no, now parenting starts

 

Do you recall when you were pregnant/or waiting for your baby and you were kitting out the nursery, and doing extreme reading on whether this wet wipe is good or that cotton blanket is good, and so it goes on.

You spent oodles of energy on getting things just right — because this was the beginning of parenting.

Then you had your baby, and you went all soft lighting and you dreamed of your baby and your baby was everything.  And you were so damn happy.

If you were in the unfortunate category, you got a load of post natal depression, and you then started to look at your baby and though you loved your baby, you sort of hated your baby.  Everything was difficult, everything was painful.  You wanted to run away.  And leave the baby behind.  But you didn’t, and every day was hard, and you thought, okay this is parenting.

Then it got time to enroll your baby into a school and you drove yourself mad trying to find the right school, where everything was eco friendly and they only fed your child organic strawberries and it was all love and goodness.  You got onto various waiting lists and it was so freaking stressful — and then you thought, this is parenting.

Then your child gets into a school and suddenly there are all these issues/shit that appears that you did not know about.  Social skills, possibly testing for ADHD or another set of letters.  You worry about your child being bullied, or being the bully.

You march along when you see a bite on your child — and the bite becomes your everything.  You talk to a hundred people, join a few groups that talk about biting.  Either your kid is the bitten or the biter. And you think, okay this is parenting.

And so it goes on.

There are so many stages in your child’s life — that become your life and you keep saying or thinking “okay, this is fucking parenting — what ever was happening before, was just a minor preempt.”

This weekend I had a “this is parenting” ……

 

My son is 16 years old.  He is a lovely sweet boy who for 98% of the time is a real cool guy.

He is a standard issue 16 year old where everything is about his immediate enjoyment, his friends are his reality, his face is normally facing a screen of some sorts.

But the upside is that he is polite, funny, gets excited about stuff, and is a joy.  For the majority of the time.

Parenting him has been easy for the most part.  I have three children, and the youngest is a thug, so I will be honest, my attention is often drawn to her and keeping her out of the 28’s gang, and to stop her being the “bully” at school.

16 year old is very into his mates.  Like they are everything.  Bro-mance has nothing on this.

He likes to be with them, or they are all together at his dad’s house (my house is too small to have them together in one place) — so he often bows out of things and asks to go to a friend, and I normally give him permission.

A few weeks ago we had a day where he was all over the show and he did not tell me where he was, and I was having to keep phoning him and finding out where he was.

That evening we spoke and I explained how important it was that I knew where he was — that he was honest with me, and that he was safe.  So we had this great conversation and it went really well, and I walked away from that going “dude, totally aced this parenting thing… look at me” and then I high-fived myself.

Fast forward to this weekend.

He asks to stay over at a friend for Friday.  He tells me the friend, and gives me the mom’s details.  He has stayed over several times and his friend J is within walking distance from the house.  I agree, check with the mom, she says that everything is cool and off my 16 year old goes.

Now I will confess I did not think through Saturday — I thought I would give him flexibility and he can hang with his mates and he can be back late in the afternoon.

I had my daughters’ friends over — so I had four girls with me on Saturday.

I started to feel slightly uneasy as a certain point — around 2pm —- as I had not received pings from my 16 year old.  I felt that the “chain of agreement” we had discussed, was falling apart a bit.  Totally actually.

I sent him a few “where are you messages” and got some vague responses.  I sort of let it past, as I was a bit distracted by the 4 girls and attempting to roller skate and not break a knee, and I thought he will be home around 17h00 and then I can calm down.

Late afternoon swings by — I now turn my attention to my 16 year old, who is not home and is showing no movements in that direction.

I start asking him where he is — vague responses.  I start to step up my messages, and I am getting no response or vague responses.  I start to call my son, and it goes to voice mail.

Nothing makes you dial your child 150 times than going straight to voice mail – when you know he has his phone sewn to the side of his face, so does not leave his phone anywhere away from his body at any given time.

I am getting no feedback on where this child is.

My head has already orchestrated him OD’ing and being on the side of the road (nothing supported by reality —- but when you brain moves into the range of “shit to worry about” there is no stopping the escalation).

This child is not responding.

Eventually I am at my wit’s end — I think it is around 19h00 now — I tell him I am putting the girls in the car, and we are going to the police station and reporting him as a missing child.    We are at this point of the evening.

He then called me back and said he is fine and safe, and I can punish him tomorrow and then he puts the phone down.

I have no idea which opium den he is in, which child trafficker has him and where he is being held hostage.  I am freaking the feck out — now keeping in mind I had been escalating for about 5 hours.

I am like a pressure cooker, that just needs another 3 – 5 minutes of applied heat and I am about to blow the freaking ceiling off.

Further calls go straight to voice mail.

I lose my shit (some more) —- short trip at this point.

I phone his dad who is travelling in India or somewhere equally far away.  I just felt if I had managed to break and kill our child he should know.  He also tries to phone said child, and also to voice mail.

I call one of his friend’s mom and explain to her that my 16 year old has gone AWOL and is there any chance that he is with J.  I said I think he is with his friend Avw — whose details I do not know.  She said she does, and calls the mom.

The parents are off camping.  The thinking is the boys are all together at a home without any parental supervision, and parental permission in my case.

J’s mom does not tell me the address.  I think she realised that I am at that point where I would arrive there with a 200kg gorilla who  would just yank my child out of there with or without his consent, and probably cause a scene and leave some blood on the door frame.

I am not sure how a gorilla got into my train of over imagination and over reaction.

Eventually J’s mom says her son has stopped answering the phone and says she will drive over there and check on what is going on.  We are now at about 22h00 on Saturday night.

It appears the boys are just hanging out.

I still do not know where he is, I still do not have any control over this situation.  I am trying to be calm but I have now sort of moved into how to move this from a three child family to a two child family.

Sunday swings by — I walk up feeling drunk, I am exhausted and stressed and literally every nerve fiber is frayed.

I go through another day where this little fecker just does not come home.  Eventually I send him a few threatening messages.

My 16 year old arrives around 17h00  – 18h00.

By this point I am already scraping his name off the door.  My sense of humour.  My upbeat manner is long long gone.

My 16 year old walks in without a care in the world.

I am going to end the story there, as we are not sure yet how to deal with his punishment.

I need to wait until my ex gets back from his overseas trip, as it is important we are on the same page here.  He moves between both our homes and it is pointless me instigating a punishment regime that is not being used at the other house.

The theme of this post is “so this is parenting” …. and really this weekend taught me that what ever the stress I had before regarding breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, buying purity of making his puree, the wooden toys which are better than the plastic toys for him, worrying about how he holds his pencil, his keeping up with the learning levels of the class, whether rugby is safe for him, will he have friends, will he fall apart because of the divorce, how will he adjust to the new living situation, am I working hard enough to keeping an open channel of communication with him …… all of this ….. all of this just disappeared into the mist of “my son went AWOL and I had no idea where he was for more than 24 hours” ………… and this people, this is parenting.  Hard core.

#fuckthisparentingmalarkey

 

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Is there anything I can do for you?

I was really having a rough day yesterday.

There is just too much going on – I am trying to be all things to everyone, and I am working myself into a bit of a lather.  I have some financial commitments which are a bit challenging and I am starting to really feel “jittery” and wound up.

I have always been averse to the hour in the car driving the kids home.

Maybe because by that point, I have had a long day – and being trapped inside a car with three kids who are all vying for my attention, is usually the tipping point.

Last week and this week have been especially challenging to get Georgia to take her medication each day.  Even though it is crushed and placed inside chocolate spread and neatly placed between two Salticrax biscuits.

Georgia is the same child who can eat a half portions of ribs so fast she bites her finger.

Georgia is the same child who will mow through an adult plate of spaghetti bolognaise.

This child can eat.

But present her with a biscuit and tell her she HAS TO EAT IT is an exercise in frustration and humility if ever there was one.

On Monday it took more than 30 minutes to bribe/threaten/cajole/force her to eat the biscuit – and towards the end I had totally lost my rag.  Screaming at your child in the morning, is a less than ideal start to neither the child, nor your day.

Add a few other things – and by the time I had to fetch the kids – I was feeling edgy at best.  The usual fights ensued as we drove home – and when I got into the driveway, I just could not face walking into the house.  With them.

I thought about running away from home.  But where would I go?

I thought that a little stay at a Clinic might not be a bad option.  But that requires pre-booking, a letter from the medical aid and an emergency visit to my psyciatrist – and he wasn’t answering his cell when I called him.  I do think he is filtering his calls.

I decided instead to just sit in the car.  And stare into my lap.

Connor eventually came through and opened the door.

Connor:  “Mom are you okay?”

Me:  “No, not so much my boy – just having a really rough day…”

Connor: “Is there anything I can do for you?”

There always has to be one child who can see you inside your madness.

When you make your child anxious ….

I was watching the slightly annoying show that is “The Worst Mother in the World.”

Nice idea, but I am a bit over Super Nanny and the range of similar shows, and no longer lie spread out on my bed as I watch other parents struggle with bratty kids – this could have been retitled “The Most Annoying Mother in the World” but I digress.

This one turns up, and generally the children are not the problem.  The problem is the parents who are a bit of the “helicopter” variety.

So there I sat, ready to judge.

Instead I said: “Yes, that is a bit extreme.  Hey, that one is fine, I don’t see any problem with not letting your child ride his bike on the road.  Okay, that one is fine, she is clearly not a helicopter parent ….. that seems fair…”

And so it went on.

It does not take a genius to work out that I was siding with the helicopter parent as being reasonable.  Why?  Clearly because I have some problems of my own.

Light Bolt Moment – watch out:  Anxious parents create anxious children.

Seems a fairly simple principle.  I would be more excited if it was not true.

The presenter mentioned that 10 years ago the biggest problem facing kids at school was “relationships” – now it seems to be “anxiety”  – she did not give me the scientific report reference, but the statement seemed logical to me.

I am not an overly anxious parent when you look from the outside.  I appear a bit glib, a bit jaded, a bit been-there-done that, almost lacksy-daisy you may say.  I almost appear relaxed (…oh how we laugh …..the we are the voices in my head and my internal anxiety driven centre)

What you do not see, or might not realise, is that I am a very anxious parent.  (For the record, my parents were what ever is the opposite of helicopter parenting ….. like the totally polar opposite)

I find parenting very stressful.  I worry about my kids in all sorts of ways.  Few of them reasonable.  Few of them sane.

If my children move out of my eyesight, in a public area, I can feel my heart rate start to climb, and I feel very anxious.  I get very agitated.

I prefer not to go to a public area with my kids, it is not relaxing.   But I still go – because that appears normal, but I go, and the entire time I am there, all I want to do is leave and go home, where I feel safe(r).

I don’t feel comfortable if my kids play outside, in our garden (which has high walls) unless an adult is watching them.  They can play in the backyard if I am in the kitchen.

They are not able to play in the driveway, which has a huge gate, unless I am sitting on the steps watching them.

I never let my kids cycle/scooter in our cul-de-sac unless I sit with them.

The entire time I am there I am so anxious that it makes me feel nauseous.  I set rules that they must stick to if we are in the cul-de-sac, and I feel like I am running around ensuring they do not hurt themselves, or a car does not come flying down the road and knock them over.

I usually can go about 5 -8 minutes in the cul-de-sac  and then I need to hustle them inside.  I just can’t take the stress any more.

It is like that with a lot of things.

But the idea that “hit home” for me last night that the things that I am anxious about:

1.  They will not get lost, they will get stolen by pae.dophi.les.

2.  They will not just move out of my eyesight, they will get stolen, forever.

3.  They will not get jeered at whilst at schools because they are doing something strange, they will become “that kid” – the kid whose life is made a nightmare by jeering and taunting.

4.  They will not bump their noses/bums on the floor of the pool when they dive in, they will snap their necks and be paraplegic.

5.  They will not slip when running around the pool and hurt themselves, they will fall into the pool unconscious and drown.

6.  They will not gag on a sucking sweet, they will suffocate and choke.

7.  They will not just move out of my eyesight, they will get stolen, forever.  (getting stolen is a bit of a recurring theme … so I have mentioned it twice)

8.  We will not have a fender bender in the car, someone will drive in to us and we will all die – so wear your seatbelt all the time, because it is just a matter of time as to when that person drives in to us.  I literally (not figuratively) shit in my pants if the kids take their seat belts off and the car is moving in any way what so ever.

9.  I do not move my car unless the kids are like 8 metres from the car, I think that if I move, and they are out of the car, they will fall under the tyres and I will drive over them.

And so it carries on.

I have realised that the anxiety I feel – and there is a lot of it – can so easily be transferred over to my kids and become their reality.

I know what it is like to be anxious all the time.  We are not talking mild anxiety here, we are talking escalated debilitating anxiety that physically makes me sick.

I don’t want that for my kids.  It is not as much fun as it looks.  And I know I make anxiety and depression looks like what the cool kids are doing this year! Not so mcuh.

The only way I can try to help them, is to step away from things that make me uncomfortable, and just let them be.

Let them do what they need to do to be kids.  It does sometimes mean averting my eyes, as I feel a mass of vomit come up my throat, and all I want to do is run up to them and sweep them up and scream no.no.no!!

I understand helicopter parenting – but at the same time as we want to say “but I need to do it for the safety of my children” what are we actually doing?

We are reacting to the stressful life style we live in – and we are then anxious for our children’s safety. (Watch one news bulletin, and you could not be anything but anxious.)

But in our quest to keep our kid’s safe, we are doing them an injustice.

We really are sucking the “fun” and “exploring” out of their lives, and instead giving our children “anxiety” “worry” and “suspicion” ….. I think it is less likely that we will have kids who discover, who explore and who really savour life if we continue standing on the sidelines gasping every time they appear to slip out of the finger of death and disaster.

I am the same, really, so I am not about to get on to my pulpit and start telling you how to change.  I am as stuck in this as you are.

I think that is why nature provides moms and dads (metaphorically speaking).

Moms are usually wildly paranoid and anxious with their kids.  Whilst dads prefer to send them out at 7 to tend the sheep, and fight off the wolves.  Dads also teach kids to swim.  Dads throw children up in the air (and usually catch them.)

Mothers sit on the side lines and worry and wonder how long this stupid monkey play has to go on until we can sweep our children up and hold them against our beating heart and smother them in kisses.

But anxiety-motivated parenting it probably one that solves today’s problem – today you are worried about your toddler/young child dying – but they (inadvertently) create an entire new set of problems when your child is no longer able to be with you 24 hours out of the day.

No, I do not have the solution, just putting it out there.