Friday, January 20, 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On

I was so happy to get back from the holidays.  There's nothing like sleeping in your own bed after being on the road with kids for a few weeks.  And there's nothing like returning to your routine.  I would be lost without our routine and I rely on it heavily.  Last Monday I realized that even a "long weekend" is enough to throw me off.  Sadly, I am the kind of Mama who is burnt out after spending a few days straight with my kids...without our routine.

I won't get into details, but the highlight of last Monday morning was driving around downtown Washington trying to find a parking spot so we could go to the Natural History Museum.  I had forgotten that everyone else would be doing the exact same thing as the museum is located on the National Mall and Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  After 45 minutes of circling the museum to the North, South, East and West, and having every spot I had identified stolen by a more aggressive driver, I lost it.  I hit my steering wheel, started crying and mumbling crazily that I was NEVER going to find a spot and that I was just going to have to GIVE UP.  My daughter was already crying as we were supposed to be meeting her friend inside the museum and my son started wailing because he wanted to see the dinosaurs. 

I like to consider myself a good driver with relatively crafty downtown navigation abilities, but I simply could not find my parking mojo on Monday.  It killed me to do it, but I actually had to give up and create an alternative plan to try and make it up to my kids.  We headed to Georgetown to watch the ducks on the river and grab a snack by the C&O Canal.  I recovered the morning, kind of, but felt so terrible about my inability to keep my cool in front of my kids.  What kind of example was I setting as I blubbered my self deprecating nonsense, occasionally yelling at parking spot stealers while pounding my steering wheel in frustration?

I don't want to be that kind of Mom. I want them to learn how to keep their cool.  I want them to learn how to not take the wrong things too seriously.  I want them to learn how to find humour in the every day struggle (although we did manage to laugh about it on the drive home as I fed them cookies and played their favorite annoying Little People CD). 

All this is to say that I am tired of not being able to stay as calm as I would like when I am presented with life's constant little challenges.  I don't want to yell and freak out when things don't go my way or when my kids do the things that kids do.  I don't want them to be afraid of me and the possible reaction I may have. 

That's a lot of things that I want and that I don't want.  But other than tattooing "Keep Calm and Carry On" in some highly visible location, how can I deal with this unsavory part of my self?

I went to a lecture at the little guy's school last night on "How to Raise a Responsible Child" and I was reminded how important my role is in developing my kids' character.  They learn from what they see and I need to teach them by setting a good example.  This is SO OBVIOUS yet so hard to remember on a minute by minute basis. 

When I lose my cool, they must think that it is OK to lose your cool.  When I am checking emails and not listening to them, and then get annoyed and snap when they keep "bugging" me, they are learning that it is OK to ignore people while you fiddle with a technological gadget.  And when I yell at them in the grocery store (or any public place, really) because their behavior is less than exemplary, I am embarrassing both myself and them because I should be able to think of more creative ways to handle situations that I have been consistently confronted with for the past 5 years.  If I can not be a responsible parent, how can I expect them to be responsible kids?

Yikes!!!!!  They are going to need years of therapy because of me!!

So I am taking a small step.  I got home from last night's lecture and signed up for Managing Anger: A Parents Guide which is being offered at the Parent Encouragement Program (PEP), the same folks who held the preschooler classes I took last winter.  It is only 3 sessions, but I am hoping the 6 hours of instruction, thought and discussion will help me learn how to better deal with my parental frustrations.

Because as much as I'd like to make it to yoga and work on my deep breathing techniques, I think I am in  need of a supportive classroom environment where I can remember that I am not alone in this.  Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done and I want to make sure that I am doing it to the best of my abilities.  What is that wise old saying, again?  Nothing good comes easily?  Well I am going to work on this and while I would not call it a New Year's resolution, I am hoping I can become a better Mama so my kids will end up better people. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy New Year!

I meant to say that a few weeks ago; Happy New Year!

I have been thinking of you every day, and when I noticed that there are actually folks who check on this site daily, I felt a huge pang of guilt.

I rapidly progressed from being over run with guilt to feeling plain old overwhelmed.  How am I going to update you on the past month and a half of chaos?

So I have decided I am just going to do a brief recap of all the things which would have been worthy of their own posts.  That is the only way I can free myself and start blogging 2012 style.

My first born child, the one who made me a Mama, turned 5 years old on December 7th.  We hosted a lovely pottery painting party for her.  I think it all turned out pretty well, considering the insane amount of time I spent obsessing over how to handle the politics of a 5 year old girls birthday party (in the end I decided small is sweet and big is just too much to handle, emotionally and financially!).  She seemed pretty thrilled with the whole experience but was bummed to learn that she would have to wait 12 months to experience the joys of another birthday. 

We were honored to attend Art Night with the babe at her school the day after her birthday.  Parents and children get dressed in their finest, bring in a pot luck dinner contribution, and experience a gallery type soiree.  The collection of Mattisse inspired art was stunning, but really, what was stunning was my daughter's amazing piece.  As I can't truly explain it, I have decided to share it here with you.

The day after the babe's birthday party, I cut off my son's long hair.  I sat him at the dining room table, brushed his locks one last time, and hacked of a huge chunk with my trusty little scissors.  That beautiful head of hair had been 3 years in the making and I had decided I was done.  I was done picking out food after every meal.  I was done having to wash it so much because of the blobs of dirt and soy nut butter I would discover at bath time every night.  I was done explaining that my son is actually a boy, not a girl (I do not exaggerate when I tell you that I did this every single day). 

Don't get me wrong, I loved his hair.  I thought he was absolutely stunning with his long hair flowing behind him when he ran.  But frankly, his behavior has become a tad undesirable of late, and I was beginning to associate his long hair with his newly developing rep as a ruffian trouble making punk.  So I chopped it off, put the hair in a Ziploc baggie, and packed my family off to the barber shop where my husband and son both had a hair cut.  A new father-son barber shop tradition was born that day (December 11th) and my son has not been called a girl since.

But wait, there's more.  That Ziploc baggie with my son's beautiful hair has been sent to India with my Mother in Law.  The hair will be scattered into the river where my husband's hair was placed after he had his first hair cut (actually head shave) as part of the (Hindu) Mundan ceremony.  I feel good the little guy's hair wasn't just swept up off the barber shop floor.  And while I miss his hair, I love that my little boy went from baby to boy in one simple act.  It's hard to explain, but something changed the day we cut his hair, and I don't regret our decision.

The kids and I then flew to Canada where we had a 2.5 week long adventure visiting family and friends in Ottawa and Montreal.  During the visit my husband celebrated a birthday, and my son, the little guy, turned 3.  He is a Christmas Eve baby and hasn't really had a true birthday party yet.  Luckily he hasn't seemed to notice and was happy to get a chocolate cupcake with a candle so he could make a wish (although I am not so sure he understands the "wish"concept).  We brought the kids to Christmas Mass with my folks and sister which ended in total disaster but managed to rescue the evening and have our Happy Birthday celebration and cupcake eating together as a family.  I think we may have to step it up for the little guy next year, though. 

We concluded our relaxed visit in Montreal with a smashing New Year's Eve party at my Mother in Law's place.  We welcomed 2012 by packing up our car (my husband had driven up to Ottawa closer to Christmas) and hitting the road.  Yes, we did the unthinkable.  We drove from Montreal to Washington in just under 11 hours.  We made 3 stops and powered through Quebec, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.  And ya know what?  The kids were awesome.  I have no idea how we all pulled it off, but we did.  Now that we know it is doable, my family may become an international road tripping kinda family.  Because we certainly aren't going to be able to keep paying the ever increasing prices for plane tickets!

I think I may have overwhelmed you with all this in one post.  But I had to get it out of my system.  Tackling this update was hanging over my head and while it may not be pretty, at least I have made it official.  I hope you had a great holiday season and I hope you have recovered from all the craziness.  All the best to you and your loved ones for an awesome, healthy and happy 2012!