Finding the Quiet

This post is for all parents who have found themselves swallowed up in the giant whirlwind that seems to be parenting. Whether you are working full-time, part-time or at home full-time, the fact remains that there never seems to be enough time in the day. Somehow work, socialization, school schedules (Lord help you if you have kids in different schools with different drop off and pick up times), extra-curriculars, homework, to-do lists, housework, meal preparation, social obligations, family functions and squeezing in that "quality" family time all add up to the fact that we all seem to be in a race to get to....well, to what exactly? Where ARE we going?

Everyone says, "Oh it just goes so fast. You just blink and it's gone." But, why? I totally get the saying, "the days are long but the years are short," but they don't have to be. We need to find ways to give that true quality time back to families. It is important. Time does go by fast, and each season of your life only has so many chapters. We need to take the time to savor each one, but how, when our entire culture seems Hell-bent on destruction through over-scheduling? Everything about American society is fast. We have fast food, and fast cars, convenience foods and convenience stores, drive-through lanes and express roads. And where are we rushing to? The answer is usually, we are rushing to work. And then since we work so much, we are rushing to play as hard as we can in order to squeeze every drop of organized fun out of our too short weekends which are slowly and gradually being encroached upon by the working world.

Where do families find peace and space in the hectic rat race? Why is our entire society built to celebrate the income producing work, but shun the reproductive work of caring for the home and the family?

We relegate food preparation to companies and restaurants and now we face controversy over what is in our food. We relegate housecleaning and landscaping to poorly paid immigrant labor and then complain that they are taking our jobs. We farm out childcare to whomever can provide it most reliably for the cheapest amount of money possible, and then we demonize poorly run childcare centers and babysitters who are found to be guilty of various criminal behavior. When exactly did we lose sight of the family as the lynch pin of society? Suddenly a family is "a choice," and often one single people feel that they shouldn't have to "pay for." They feel they "work harder" or "work longer" and that families shouldn't be given special treatment.

My charge to them, as they complain about their co-worker heading home to care for a sick kid yet again, is WHO do you think is going to provide your social security when you retire? Who will be your future nurses, doctors, golf caddies, waitresses, teachers, grocers, farmers, insurance salesman and cab drivers? Imagine what the world would look like if we all stopped having children because our "choice" wasn't worth it. Now, keep that in mind next time the Mom or Dad in the cubicle next to you has to take a long lunch to pick up her kid's medicine or attend a parent-teacher conference. It is not "a choice" so much as a social necessity for the continuation of society and it is high time it was treated accordingly. It is not only an important job, but one that is literally necessary for the perpetuation of society as we know it today.

We need to get off the treadmill of fast-paced America and reconnect with our basic roots. Yes, our country was based on perseverance and hard-work, but I doubt that Ben Franklin or Thomas Jefferson envisioned an 80hr work week, a commuter marriage, or the subsuming of the family into the economic sphere when they proffered that wisdom. Somehow we have taken the idea that anyone can make it in America with a little hard work and perverted it into the idea of working ourselves to death in pursuit of success in a perceived competitive world.

I choose to see our world as collaborative rather than competitive. I think we all need work together to find the will and means to support each other in ways that help us all cut back on the "noise" of our lives and find the quiet spaces. We need to stop treating family as "a choice" that parents should carry the entire burden for. If we did I think less people would stress about squeezing in quality time. Instead they could simplify, knowing that family was valued, knowing that support for parents was there from ALL walks of life, not just other parents. In doing so I believe it would allow quality time to grow out of the moment in a very real and organic way. Knowing that you had the time to find those quiet moments and savor them might make those flying years a little more bearable, and maybe make them seem like they aren't going by quite so fast.

One Bad Day.....

This entry will be quick and poorly edited, but much needed since I feel like I have been on hiatus since January. My neglected blog is yet one more casualty in what has become my crazy life.

Starman has reached that charming toddler stage where he is into EVERYTHING!!! He has mastered the ability to scale anything in the house, so nothing is safe, but he still lacks the self-control to listen when I tell him no. Also, he's teething and he is, without a doubt, the WORST teether on the face of the planet. He screams non-stop, refuses to sleep or be comforted and it goes on for days and days for each tooth that comes in.

Add in a trip out of state to visit my birth father's family (the post-visit blog, which I promise is coming soon, is still rattling around in my head) add in end of the year stuff for the girls and I seem to be meeting myself coming and going these days. I am pretty sure I have a husband too, but I haven't seen much of him between our two crazy schedules, so spending time with The Husband has gone on my wish list as well, along with time to write and the more important, time to sleep.

That being said, I have a quick thought, in the weekend leading up to Mother's Day weekend: Why is it that we feel obligated to criticize other people's parenting?

Yesterday I had a very bad day with the girls. In all fairness, I had a bad day all by myself, the girls just pushed it over the edge. It may have been because they had a very long week with too many after-school commitments. It may have been because I had a very long week with too many after-school work commitments. It may have been the anxiousness of heading to the doctor (that always brings out the worst in my kids) or it may have been because I had all three and my oldest, Snowflake was having trouble with the fact that it was all about her little sister, Raindrop. Maybe she was just mad I took her out in the last hour of school which is art, her favorite class. I don't know what it was, but despite being impeccably well-behaved in the waiting room, and in the office room waiting for the doctor, the SECOND the Dr. walked in, all....hell....broke...loose. They were jumping off the counters and running around. They were getting into cabinets, interrupting the doctor and making so much noise I could barely hear. Snowflake was poking her sister making her cry. Raindrop was refusing to open her eyes and look at the pediatrician because she was just sure she "needed glasses." (She also purposely failed the eyesight test with that in mind). Poor Starman just watched the carnage quietly from the stroller.

Now luckily the kids' doctor knows and loves us. She knows I am a good parent and that my children (mostly) have manners. The worst part for me was when we had to give Raindrop her shot (please friends of mine who are anti-vaccinations, just skip the next paragraph, I am too tired to debate the issue and the following scenario will probably make you think I am a the worst parent ever)...

Anyway, Raindrop took one look at the needle and started screaming hysterically. She then proceeded to bite, hit, claw and kick anyone who came near her. After holding her down screaming at the top of her lungs (pretty sure they heard her in Canada) while the whole time Snowflake is not helping with, "I certainly don't act like that when I get my shots. I am a big girl. You are just a big fat baby" I was shaking and vacillating between laughing and crying. When it was all finally over, the nurses had to turn and comfort me because I started bawling like a baby and felt totally traumatized.

Flash forward. I shared this traumatic parenting experience with someone close to me who immediately made the comment that this scenario wouldn't have happened if I wasn't such a push-over parent. The gist was that if I didn't "spare the rod" my children wouldn't be so spoiled and I would not now be in tears. Seriously!!!?? Since when does having ONE bad day with your kids, who are still little and were at the end of a very long week, suddenly mean that my entire parenting structure is called into question? Last time I checked EVERYONE has a bad day...sometimes, like yesterday for us, moms and kids have bad days all together at the same time. That's when things really look bad. But, where is the support and the sympathy from people? Admitting that parenting is hard is the cornerstone to building a more supportive community for parents, which is something this blog seeks to promote. We can't do that if the very fact of admitting that our children aren't perfect immediately opens us up to public commentary on our parenting skills. No wonder we are, as a society, so obsessed with protecting our kids from every bad choice or misdeed.

I had a long talk with my girls last night and they were very apologetic. I sent them to bed two hours early (not without supper, since we all know that is a CPS-worthy offensive these days) and I heard much noise upstairs. Eventually I stomped up the stairs to see what was going on and found that they had cleaned their room AND their brother's room as an apology. They told me how sad they were that I was disappointed in them and that they understood why I was so frustrated. We sat down and had a long talk and I asked them for ideas about how they thought I could get them to listen better. I honestly told them that certain people thought that I should spank them. I then asked if they thought that would help them to remember to mind better? Horrified Snowflake said, "No Mommy! That's horrible. We don't hit people, especially when we are mad. We think you are the best mommy because you don't yell at us anymore. You are an Orange Rhino now and you never spank us. That's why we love you so much." When I told her that was how Mommy and Daddy were both raised she got very sad, put her hand up to my cheek, and as if it were the saddest thing in the world she said, "Oh I am so sorry that happened to you Mommy."

That moment reaffirmed my belief that I am doing the best I can with my specific children. I do not judge others for their choices in parenting, especially those parents who came before us and who hailed from a different culture in a different time. In turn though, I expect not to be judged for mine. My kids are kind, caring, well-meaning and polite (most of the time). They are ahead academically and have healthy friendships and an almost remarkable grasp on their spiritual compasses. As benchmarks for success go, they are doing ok. They are also human and prone to lapses in judgment. They make mistakes and have to pay for them in real-world style consequences. Maybe I am making the wrong choices, maybe not. But, the only people who have cause to judge that are me, The Husband, and my children.

So, in honor of Mother's Day, if you have the chance, please do not judge a Mom just because of One Bad Day.