Friday, February 22, 2013

Do you ever parent outside your comfort zone?

I was reading this great blog today and she ended it with the question in my title. If you have a minute check her blog out, if you have two minutes follow her blog because she is always posting about cute crafty things, life in Australia, life with kids and the challenges of being a writer. Its really good stuff and i always look forward to seeing her blog show up in my google reader.

My immediate response was, "Hell yes!" For me, parenting exists completely outside of my comfort zone. I live a life where I always have to know where the nearest bathroom is in case some tiny bladder should need it immediately, where I walk the fine line daily of what is and is not okay for my sons to do with their privates and where I want to buy them everything I see or hear about that they might like and instead say no to 90% of it so I won't end up spoiling them.

I can certainly say that I have a lot of new skills in my wheelhouse since becoming a parent but I am not sure these skills will ever fall into my comfort zone. Just today I was talking with a parent at school about boundaries for our sons. Her son is 6 and she was explaining that he can't ride his bike alone etc... yet. This discussion came to mind immediately when I read the blog question because letting my sons do anything outside of my eyesight is something I am not comfortable with. However I am beginning to notice that its necessary. My almost 9 year old twins can now ride a half block radius on their own (with many threats and regular recitations of rules) and I even let them go to check if their friends are home (but they can't play at their houses, I don't know some of the parents very well). My 6 year old can play in the yard without me now but I stand in the window and watch and worry while he does (or send his brothers to spy on him) We're trying out this thing where I pick the three of them up in the drop off lane at school, half the time they still get confused and call me from the office even though I am there waiting for them. My main new skill is constant worrying. It makes my husband laugh at me constantly and makes others accuse me of hovering. I don't think I used to be a worrier.

But, I'm beginning to realize that they rely on me a little too much. I LOVE, let me emphasize LOVE, that my sons know they can come to me for anything and everything but I am beginning to realize that I need to create opportunities for them to learn to rely on themselves. Like letting them play where I am near, they are safe, but where they need to figure out their problems on their own. Opportunities where they need to remember their schedule for the day and get where they need to go on the school campus without me. Opportunities to turn in imperfect homework so their teacher can see where their skill set is at, not just where I can get it to with cajoling and bribery.

This part of the parenting life cycle brings me to wonder what a comfort zone even is. Then I think about the fact that we're bringing another life into this crazy mix and my mind starts to go a million miles a minute. Right now my 3 boys are relatively at the same level (I baby the youngest one, but if you've met him you understand why, it's impossible not to!) but I am going to upend their world and their comfort zones by bringing a baby home in June. They are going to have to become adaptable and this baby is going to have to be born adaptable because we are headed towards a lot of scheduling conflicts, lapses in patience, extreme tiredness and who knows what else.

Is it good to get outside your comfort zone every once in awhile? Will we survive everyone being outside their comfort zones all at once? Where's your parenting comfort zone?

Friday, February 1, 2013

A whole lot of awesome going on

I have been meaning to write this since last Friday but the awesome keeps happening so I haven't taken a moment to slow down and get my thoughts out via blog.

Last Friday I had a terrible meeting at school regarding Larry that ended really well. I know that doesn't make a lot of sense but I can't think of a better way to say it. My sons teacher is beyond amazing. She is also pregnant and has a large class of 3rd graders to deal with and yet she still makes time to make accommodations for my son regarding his health, his behavior and his academic struggles. Without her I don't know what we'd do or how we would handle our current situation. At the terrible meeting when I cried in front of everyone and had trouble finding my voice to speak up for my son she handled it. She wouldn't take no for an answer and awed me with the way she advocated for my son as well as speaking up for herself.

As if all this wasn't enough to nominate her for sainthood she pulled me in yesterday after school to let me know that Larry had made some huge gains this week. Too often we get too busy and overwhelmed with the daily craziness and the bad stuff that has to be handled in the education system. As a result we rarely get the chance to tell parents what their kid is doing right. Not at my kids school. I get to hear the good, the bad and the completely weird on a regular basis :)

Last Friday I also got the chance to catch up with a mom friend. She came by with her two little ones and we took a walk to the park. At one point in my life I had lots of mom friends and we were constantly swapping stories, sharing ideas and commiserating. Since my kids have started school the numbers have dwindled and I don't get to have "mom talk" nearly as often as my soul needs. This particular friend is also one that I admire and feel I can be 100% honest around without fear of hurting her feelings. She knows who she is and feels things strongly but is amazingly open to others thoughts and opinions, this combo makes for great conversations. I left that play date feeling renewed and refreshed as a parent.

Now for the weekend. At the last second my husband convinced us all to attend a street fair called fourth Friday. We ended up having a great family night with yummy food and tons of fun activities for the kids. They all smiled so much their faces must have been hurting by the end of the night. My mother in law got to come too and that made it extra special since she left for a long long trip this week. You have to squeeze in that quality time whenever you can right?

Saturday came along and we went to a BBQ to see my husbands cousins that were visiting. I still get tears just thinking about this night. All was going well until we sat down to eat. One cousin had brought their fiancé and he was telling us about himself. As he began to explain his allergies etc... We realized he had a lot in common with Larry. We started comparing and as we did Larry got quieter and quieter and acted very uncomfortable. Dinner ended and I realized he was upset about us talking about some of the things that make him "special" in front of everyone. I gave him the opportunity to go inside and be by himself which he gratefully accepted. The fiancé heard me talking to him and went inside to find him after a little bit. I went to check in on him and found the fiancé talking to my son about how hard it was to grow up "special." He shared funny stories of allergic reactions and asthma attacks and then explained all the stuff he can do and how he handles it all as an adult. As the Fiancé talked I watched my sons shoulders relax and then I saw his eyes get a little sparkle back and finally I saw his whole body look at ease as he listened intently. We still have a lot to figure out with Larry but that night gave him something he sorely needed, commiseration and understanding, a feeling that he was okay.

Sunday brought my husband playing cards with my sons for hours. Life doesn't get much better than when I get to watch my husband interact with our sons. Watching him teach them and watching their confidence and joy soar as they try to beat him at a game. As a bonus this also means I can take a nap or a bath or paint my nails, do something to focus on myself for a little bit. I also got to go to the movies with my husband late that afternoon. Dates with him are awesome. It really doesn't matter what we're doing, as long as its together its good. Some of our best dates have been the two of us running errands together. Of course it doesn't hurt that I planned this date, organized the childcare and picked a movie that he really wanted to see that I didn't care about. I'm pretty sure it gave me like a 1000 bonus points.

This week has been tough but good. I reaffirmed to myself that I am very good at my job. Sometimes things stack up and I lose focus and get stressed but this week I kept my head on straight and got a lot accomplished without stressing myself out.

Homework time is always a struggle for at least one of my 3 wunderkind. This week I tackled it head on and had way more patience than usual. I don't think I could do this all the time but this week homework time was a breeze and we handled all the stresses that came with it. We tried out a new system for one of my sons. It required waaaaaaay more work for me but I could see the difference in his behavior and in his final product so I deem it worth it.

I made it to the gym 3 times! I have an amazing friend who goes to the gym with me twice a week. We meet up and talk while we walk on the treadmills. I love this time and love my friend but between our kids and life getting in the way we have to cancel on each other a lot. I could really feel the difference mentally and physically when we got back on schedule. This friend is the worlds best listener and anyone who knows me knows that I can talk all day without getting tired so we are a perfect match. Don't worry, I listen to her sometimes too.

This post is getting ridiculously long so I'll sum the rest up in one paragraph. My sons had a great tennis practice and I called the police on some grandparents that were fighting at the park. We had our friends over to our very messy house all day Wednesday and I didn't let the mess ruin everything and instead made the choice to enjoy our time together. I bought a maternity pillow so I'm finally able to sleep soundly and I discovered the many magical qualities of the 20 minute nap. Finally,my husband looked over at me watching tv the other night and commented on how happy I looked. It instantly made me wonder how grumpy I normally look but then I just got to sit back and enjoy that my husband notices things like that and that I have so many reasons in my life to look happy.

See. A whole lot of awesomeness going on.