Tag Archives: parenting

The beginning of the last week of school

What worked and what didn’t

We have made it to the end, my kids and me.

This time of year always makes me a little sad.

This year, with everything that has happened, I’m not really sure how I feel. Relief that we can take a break from screens and get on with the business of being in the world, yes. But sadness at not saying a proper goodbye to teachers and friends are with me, too.

And the uncertainty about the next school year… That feels nervous and scary.

Three months ago, when we started this learn at home journey, it took some time to get up and running and familiar with the Google platform the schools use. Once we got going, the tech was the easy part.

Staying motivated was more challenging. Feeling like I was good enough to support my kids, wondering if I might be pushing too hard at a time when the world had gotten a bit scarier and my kids might be feeling things they never thought they’d have to contend with, those aspects attacked my motivation and left me wondering what the point of it all was. Those were hard days.

Knowing that the work didn’t count towards marks unless it improved your standing after March 13th was a welcome relief on those days, but it also made us feel like nothing mattered anymore on the good days.

I learned more about myself and my kids than I thought there was to know. Like, there are two kinds of people in this world: those with patience in abundance and those who need to learn to have patience.

That’s the catch, the learn to have patience part. How do you teach that if you haven’t mastered it yourself?

Not too long ago, kids (and adults) had very little in their lives that provided instant gratification and entertainment. Stories came in the form of books and they took a while to read. Hot summer afternoons were often spent figuring out what to do to stay cool and entertained, which involved a lot of downtime just lazing around with nothing to do until you figured it out. Nowadays, hot summer afternoons are spent inside scrolling Netflix or TikTok on digital devices, searching for the next dopamine hit.

My patience wore thin quite a few times over the last few months. Between working and supporting the learning my kids were doing, I was spread thin. I was tired and torn between competing priorities daily, and some days my kids needed more from me and I just didn’t have it to give them.

Early mornings are best. The will power is strong, the mind is sharp. Unfortunately, children who do not do learning in an environment with morning bells and late slips tend to sleep later and work at their own pace. Ironically, this is something that I’ve always wanted for my children. And as far as their learning went over the last few months, allowing that “get up when you wake up naturally and work on something until you master it” was the right thing to do. My stamina and patience may have worn out by mid-morning, but my kids were just gearing up and doing great work.

But the patience still must be practiced. The kids and I both have to stretch that skill. We have to become people who can focus and wait.

What comes next

As we head into this last week of the 2019-2020 school year, we have some reflecting to do. There is a chance that the schools won’t re-open in September, or they will open only in a partial way. We have to wait and see. In the meantime, we have the summer to practice our patience, read books, brush up on our tech skills and get ourselves ready for whatever the future holds.

I hope you have a wonderful summer full of the things that bring you joy and that you are recharged for whatever the world hands us in the next season.

Being alone in a coronavirus world

All day, every day with the kids. Geeesh! This is tough. I love ’em. I really do. But I need to be alone. And not going-for-a-walk alone or going-for-a-drive alone. I need to be in my house alone. I don’t know why. I’ve been thinking about it all week. My mother has often expressed the same need and I’ve understood.

Quick updates on our learn-at-home experiment and get-outside experiment

Learn at home is going better this week. Both kids have settled into a morning school routine, school work is being done and I’m supporting in a minimal manner because they seem to have gotten the hang of it.

Neither kid is particularly happy about all this computer work and would rather be doing hands-on classwork in real life with their project mates in a classroom setting, but their computer skills have multiplied seemingly overnight. And I’m seeing increased confidence coming out of that.

Getting outside has been a bigger challenge. I haven’t been doing it. Full stop.

Being alone

Back to the being alone thing. I’ve let my kids spend too much time in their bedrooms, by themselves this past week just because I want at least the main floor of the house to myself. I’m feeling guilty about every minute that I don’t interact with them. (Although, I’m pretty sure they’re craving alone time, too, and are happy not to have me around every afternoon.)

Sleep deprivation, chronic pain and various other ailments continue to plague me, although I’ve seen some improvement (probably because I’ve been alone and could focus on me instead of everyone else).

Maybe I’ll go for a walk this afternoon and invite the kids to come with me. It would do us some good to get outside and spend time together. It would also probably alleviate my feelings of being responsible for everyone’s feelings.

Or maybe I’ll stay inside and take up drawing as a hobby.

How are you coping this week?

Hard things are not easy

I’ve noticed a theme in my reading lately. Over the last three weeks, I’ve read Girl, Stop Apologizing by Rachel Hollis, Women Who Run With The Wolves by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs and I’m in the middle of Untamed by Glennon Doyle.

I’ve also read The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce, which I wasn’t going to list here because it’s a fictional story about a woman who is dying, not a self-help book. In retrospect, it fits my theme: doing hard things.

Also, over the last three weeks, I’ve been working from home, supporting my children as they do school from home, parenting in the usual way and navigating new parenting rules, keeping up with friends and family, trying to keep space for my marriage and managing my mental health (but not very well). These are hard things. And I thought I was doing OK. I really thought I was doing OK.

Things seemed almost easy. For sure life was different. But I was once told by a therapist that all my stories and everything I’d talked about in therapy led her to the same conclusion: that I was good at adapting to and solving problems.

And this physical distancing COVID-19 thing is simply a problem to be adapted to and solved.

But then my chronic pain flared up, a bad case of hives and additional joint pain jumped on board and proper sleep evaporated. Oh and my body won’t stop buzzing (whether or not a I drink coffee).

So, not doing so well after all.

I haven’t written on the blog for a few days because I’ve been filling my journal with dark thoughts, paranoia and self-defeating lies.

Today, it’s raining. It’s gloomy. The weather kind of matches my mood. It was sunny yesterday and I tried really hard to let the sun in, but it was just.too.damn.hard. I went for a walk, which only made my pain worse. I tried to focus on work and enjoy the sun beams streaming through the windows. No luck there either. The bright and sunny day brought into focus how little time my kids were spending outside and how much time they were spending on their various screens. Which spiraled into a vortex of parenting guilt.

I know, I know. These are different times and we should go easy on ourselves. But boundaries still need to exist otherwise there’s chaos.

Today, I’m giving myself permission not to do the hard things, like fake it ’til I make it. I’m going to be sad and in pain and exhausted. And I’m going to nap and drink water and go for a walk on my treadmill while listening to a podcast I enjoy.

And I’m going to start to heal…again.

(Because books are always a good balm for my agonies, I read a lot. And this past week, the sweetest and most beautiful story that has kept me going is The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. It is so tragic and uplifting and sad and real all wrapped up in a person’s struggle. I really recommend it, but read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry first; also a very good story.)

Trust and guidance

So, day 5, and I’m officially questioning my ability to parent.

This is not new. I’ve often questioned my ability to parent small humans. But never in this context; never in the context of survival, of coping, of making it through whatever the universe throws at us and working hard to keep it together.

Clearly, I’m not keeping it together very effectively. Day 5, people, and I already wish that I could go back to the office and send my kids to school.

And I’ve got great kids. They are actually not arguing with each other (very much) and they have spent a ton of time outside together without me, so they are proving self-sufficient.

But, in facing the days and weeks ahead, I’m questioning my ability to get them to focus on things like learning, school work, chores, music and soccer practice.

I know what drives this questioning voice in my head. I know what little Miss Judgmental is getting at every time she speaks up. I’m not good at putting aside gratification. I’m not good at making myself do hard things. I’m not good at staying focused.

And because I’m not good at all those things, all those skills that are required to teach and guide and encourage young minds, I’m going to fail at keeping my kids engaged during this time away from school. And my kids are going to languish. They are going to do only what they find (instantly) gratifying. They are not going to focus and use this time productively.

But what if I flip the switch? What if I trust my kids to use this time they have been given? What if we start from a place of understanding on both sides: what I want and what they want? What if, after coming to an understanding of expectations, I just lay out the day’s tasks and options each day and see what they do with that guidance?

Shall we experiment? No judgment. No nagging. No whining. Just trust and guidance.

Let’s call it experiment #1 and see where it takes us. The first day is Monday.

Living in a new land must be hard

I’ve always had a deep respect for anyone who picks up and moves to a new land, whether because they have to or because they want to.

My mother left her home province when she was just a teenager and moved to a much busier place than she was used to. She followed her brothers and a sister, so she did not arrive alone. But she did arrive cut off, for the most part, from what she left behind: family, friends, the only way of life she had known.

My husband did the same about 30 years later. He also followed his siblings to another, busier province in search of his future. He did not arrive alone and he was not as cut off as the generations who came before him. But he still faced a new way of life, albeit not as different as what he’d come from compared to my mother 30 years before.

Having grown up in a province that offers me everything I could want, it has never occurred to me to leave. I’m not really an adventurous person. I’m mostly content with staying close to home. And if I’m completely honest, the unknown is scarier than I mostly want to admit. And so I have a deep respect for my mother and husband who both made a conscious choice to uproot themselves. I grew up here and continue to stay here because of their long-ago choices.

I was recently chatting with the mother of one of my daughter’s friends, She and her family moved to Canada a short time ago and, as we were chatting about mundane things, it really hit me how very different and potentially difficult her life might be. I don’t know what prompted her to move her family to Canada or why they chose Canada, but while chatting about my daughter’s birthday party, a school book club and other very common things to me, it occurred to me how very different life here is for her.

She has had to learn a new government system, understand a new education system for her children, become accustom to a new language, new shopping habits, new products, new weather patterns, new foods, new customs and traditions, and her children are learning things at school about this country and not the country they came from or their roots or their traditions, and all while keeping their own language, customs and traditions alive for their family. That’s a lot to manage.

In our chat, it struck me that she has had to adapt to a whole new life all while managing the same parenting, work, family and social issues that I deal with. What must that be like?

There are days when I can barely cope with the things that I have to do to move my family and myself forward, and I’m doing those things in an environment that I am used to and around people who are essentially the same as me, with no language or culture barrier. Layer those very basic and simple daily activities on top of having to do it all in a foreign country where everything is different than what you grew up with and where your natural support system is reduced or non-existent. That woman has my respect.

I chatted easily with her, enjoying her company, all the while in absolute wonder at how gracious she was as she apologized that her daughter could not make it to my daughter’s birthday party. I don’t know what her life is like. I don’t know what it’s like raising a child in a country where I didn’t grow up and facing different expectations from my child because her friends get to live differently. I can’t imagine it’s easy. But I have the deepest respect for her efforts and a new intention to get to know her better.