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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Parenting …. no one tells you about when they get pubic hair ….

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Parenting is a very tense relationship.  With adjustments and readjustments and basically some shitty times, with some cool instagram photographs thrown in to keep you mildly sane.

Often you forget it is tense and you lie on the couch and go to sleep.  You will be forced awake (stuff jabbed in your eye, a child on top of you, the cat using you as a clawing post ….. kids screaming and fighting) and then you will start to rethink this entire “relationship” and why you got in to it, and how you can get out of it.

You will imagine various scenarios that usually include leaving your kids with your parents.  Or just plain leaving them on a corner somewhere.

When I say “leaving them with” I mean dropping them off in the dead of the night.  With a sticker stuck to them with instructions like “Feed this one Pronutro, check that teeth are brushed, check she is wearing panties ….. no matter how “like a princess” you dress her, she will look like a thug when you collect her from school.  No I do not know where the clothing is that fits her has gone either.”

You keep thinking you have survived or at the very least just got the hang of this parenting malarkey when your children will present a new facet you were not expecting, and ill prepared for.

Maybe I just have not read the notes on this section of parenting ….. that What to Expect when you are ….. sort of drops off in the toddler years.

Guys there is an entirely area here you should get your shit together on.  What to Expect … The Teenage Years.

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Connor is turning 14 in December.   Needless to say he has been 13 for far too many months already.

It feels like last week when he was 9 and he agreed with me most of the time.  His feet did not smell like a chemical experiment involving sulphur and he actually spent time outside of his room – he was polite, and a sweet sweet boy.

This year he has given me a clear insight in how parenting a teenage child is going to go.

Or the alternate but more apt heading “How I am failing at parenting a teen…”

It has not been pretty.   I have not come out of this process covered in glory, in any way.

It has led me to screaming, talking really loud, using pauses to prevent him answering back like “AND AND AND AND …… AND” and basically with what ever we were talking about getting so blown out of proportion that eventually I can’t even remember where I stand on an issue.  Or what we were arguing about.

I am fucking exhausted.

The problem with the exhaustion/feeling defeated is that I am waiting for every conversation to escalate into this screaming, arms waving and door slamming conclusion.

Connor and I have been fighting like maniacs for the last few months.  It feels like since last year to be honest.

If I say something is white, then he will counter it is black and then will try to convince me of his view point.

I do know that “Just fucking do what I told you to do because I am the fucking parent.  OKAY!” Is not the most winning statement one can make as the parent, but holy shit balls, sometimes (too often I am afraid) I lose my shit.  Like lost.  Like the series LOST.  That far gone.

I try and remain reasonable.  I try and remain calm.

But there is only so much backwards and forwards I can endure before I start to look for cakes to throw out the weekend.

We have had a sad shortage of cakes in our home.  I might be going with some Ultra Mel Custard in a carton soon. That one is going to not only need the strong throw, but it needs that propulsion follow through so it bursts as it hits the floor/concrete/dining table.

I am not sure I am on Custard Carton level as yet.

At one several point I thought “you know fuck this shit” and I started picturing packing up his clothing and what ever he needs to survive for the next few days.  Dropping/dumping him at Kennith’s house.

The fact that Kennith was not there at the time was a very small detail I was able and willing to overlook.

Kennith phoned shortly thereafter to ask me something totally arbitrary.  He got hit with the version of me that is screaming, sighing, spittle forming on my chin and basically at the point where I am willing to shift from a three child family to a two child family.

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I really was at the end …… the absolute end ….. the place were postcards are sent from …… end of this shit.

Kennith had Connor for the weekend and spoke to him —- I assume.  Connor came back and he was far better.  There was less fighting.  The respite was joyous.

He used to do me the favour of screaming at the girls for me, which I thought was rather endearing.

Then this weekend came along.  For various reasons I was feeling on edge and I just needed the shit to work, you know the stuff to get sorted, everyone to be at the right place at the right time in the right coloured underwear.

Connor was going to a birthday that I could not drop him off at.

I managed to organise my friend to drop him off.  Great.  He let me know that he was going to sleep over at another friend that night — I said fine, “take the bag that has been packed for you – take it with you to the party and then take it with you for the evening.”

There was no confusion there was only one bag.  And who had to take it.

I happen to go past the house, see the bag is there, pick it up and take it with me thinking I will drop it off at his friend’s home later.  I can’t work out why he would leave it, but this is Connor, he has left his school bag at home before.  On his way to school.

He goes to the party – and the mom drops him off at his evening sleep over place.  I am high fiving myself for a plan that seems to be working.

Then I start to get the SMS’s asking me to pack things in the bag …… that he should have with him.

The more I tell him that this is not going to happen (because I am not at home, and the bag is with me) the more the “please moms” start.  It goes on and on and I really start to develop a tick in my right hand eye.

He then escalates this to his school project and starts to ask me when this is going to be ready.

I made it clear from the outset he needed to build this project himself.  By himself, for himself.  He insisted on asking Wayne for assistance and I said no as Wayne has some other obligations and is not going to be able to do it.

He whinged and whined (no shock there) and I said that he needs to ask Wayne, and arrange it with him.  I am telling him not to, he is choosing to, and what ever happens is his problem.

Connor being Connor forgot to mention the project is due for Monday.  This is Saturday night.

He mentions it now in his messages.

I lose my shit.  Like. Shit.  Lost.

I realised I can no longer do messages, this requires a phone call.

I call Connor.  It is not a good conversation.  I am not screaming as much as talking really loud.

What we established is Connor does not have a hearing problem.

He clearly recalls that I told him NOT TO TRY TO GET Wayne to do this project.  What Connor is arguing is that I only told him ONCE!!

It appears once is not the right number.  I asked if he could give me the magic number of repeating myself over and over again …… I think he thought I was being a bit aggressive and told me I didn’t understand.

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It was just another situation that deteriorated into both of us feeling angry and hurt and not being heard by the other.

I was really angry.

The amount of planning and organising this day required was akin to the Normandy Invasion.  Then the one person you give the clear instruction of TAKE YOUR BAG THAT IS PACKED AND WAITING IN THE DINING ROOM does not, because he comes up with another plan.

The school project actually did my head in —- totally.  I was so spittle on my chin angry with him.

The problem with these things is as a third person you can offer really good advise as the person looking in, but as the one involved, you lose your sense, you lose perspective and you forget exactly how many years you get for murder.

On the drive home from school yesterday I had a little “it’s late but it is still related to Saturday because I was so freaking angry” explosion.

I drew some lines in the sand.  He still wanted to argue with me, and then I said the thing that you just don’t say to your child “SHUT UP” —- I actually said shut up to my kid.

I just wanted him to be quiet so I could tell him what I needed to tell him, instead of getting into a haggle about every point.  It was either telling him to “shut up” or me shoving a gag down his throat …..

Connor looked at me as if I had slapped him …… it wasn’t my finest hour in parenting.  I have to return the rosette best parenting award on Thursday.

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If anyone tells you the most difficult part of parenting is choosing the nursery linen, deciding on breast or formula, and working out whether co-sleeping is a good idea.  Laugh.  Laugh.  Hard.

This all.  This all fades into nothing, when you are sitting there arguing with your child, who unfortunately in some cases can argue you into circles.

I miss the days of the Waltons when no one would speak if Ma and Pa were at the table.  They would all defer to the parents say things like “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” and it all seemed like a very happy place.

I think I am ill prepared for this hormone soaked, pubic hair sprouting phase.

Please tell me this shit gets better ……. soon!

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Check out more of Brian Gordon’s comics on > http://www.fowllanguagecomics.com/comic