"Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.If, in our heart, we still cling to anything - anger, anxiety, or possessions - we cannot be free."
Thich Nhat Hanh
In Walmart today, I was hoping for freedom, but instead, I had heaps of anxiety in my shopping cart.
I had a moment today. During that moment, I was pretty sure that I was not going to be able to pull THIS off. THIS new life. My Dad is in the beginning stages of dementia. He gets confused often. Reality and dreams are not separate things to him. He refuses to wear his hearing aids. So I get frustrated, tired and I find myself shouting at him often just to do everyday tasks. I am also the mother of four-year-old who woke up way too early this morning. Every request is followed by a whine. Every thought he had was announced to everyone around us.
Now, go to Walmart for a "few things". Luckily, it was one of their mini-stores. My Dad moves slowly and seems lost. My son reminds me that he is ready to go. My Dad hasn't seen my son in a long time so he is trying to tickle and pinch my son as much as possible. My son does not want this kind of attention. So, I move fast. I have a list, I am ready for battle. I send my Dad down an aisle to get what he wanted. He forgot what it was mid-way. I check on him peeking down the aisle every 30 seconds. He's gone looking at something. Cue another whining session from my son.
By the time I get to the checkout line, I am chock full of anxiety. My son is refusing to give me his cereal to checkout. My Dad is all over my son making him complain even louder. My woman standing behind my Dad is giving me the look of complete disgust. The checkout person is trying to help me but her questions just seem to rattle me. "Do you want this chap stick in your bag?" What? What? Oh yes. Dad, stop. Boy, stop. My Dad keeps bumping the woman behind her. This is why she is giving me the hairy eyeball. He keeps backing up on her feet. Instead of backing up, she looks completely disgusted.
When we reach the car, my son refuses to get in. He tries to jump in front of a moving car. Groceries dropped on the ground. I have to move him physically into the car. Then, I have to help my Dad into the car. With my leftover energy, I put the groceries in the car.
I sat behind the wheel. I take a breath. I am not going to be able to do this. I am wishing that I was back at work.
I know that situations like this enter our lives to help us learn about letting go of anger, anxiety and frustration. Instead of taking a breath, I focused on the clock and trying to get to my son's gymnastics class on time. I know I can survive this, but man it's so hard sometimes.
I want freedom. I want to not have to worry about all of the things that have to be done. I will get there. It's a journey.
Why does anyone write a blog? It's a question I ask sometimes. Why would anyone find comfort or familiarity to my story? Maybe it's because we are all at home wondering if we are doing this right. Maybe when you secretly dare to think about being a single person and having a kid, nothing else in your life supports that crazy thought but there's that blog from that lady who is doing it. I don't know, but it's OK. I gain some perspective in the writing of it just to articulate my thoughts about what is happening. So, thank you.
My life is taking a new turn this month. I am gaining membership to a new group - the sandwich generation. I have a young child and in a few weeks, my Dad will be returning to town to live in Independent Living. I will not be his caretaker, per se. He will live in a place where others will check on him daily. His meals will be prepared and his place cleaned. I will stop by regularly to ensure that things are going OK and take responsibility for his medicines.
Before I go further, I need to explain a bit about me. I know how to put my head down and get lots of work done. I wake up early and stay up late to work multiple jobs and go to school to make my household run. Honestly though, sometimes I get overwhelmed by my life. I can't fit enough hours behind the computer, my son is complaining because he wants more time with me and our finances are super tight. I worry, I cry, I become distant, I freak out a little, then I am OK. I give myself the space I need then I return. Typically after a night of worry and panic, I go to bed early and run on the treadmill the next morning. After that, the world seems more approachable. What's required of me seems less and manageable. I say no with confidence and streamline as much as I can. That's how my world turns.
When I learned that my Dad wanted to move cross-country back to my town, I freaked out a lot. It all seemed too much. How can I make sure that he is OK and my son is OK? Every minute of my day seems planned already and nothing is just for me. How am I going to handle this new layer? (Insert the above paragraph here.)
I am on the other side of my freak out. Thanks to the kindness of my friends, I have found almost enough furniture for this apartment, a truck, moving help and babysitting for my son during move-in day. My Dad will come to town the day after I return from a work trip out of the country so his apartment has to be ready before I leave.
He will have new responsibilities for himself - cleaning his clothes, taking his medication without a nurse reminding him, keeping his place clean, and reaching out to his local friends for social activities. Graduate school for me will have to go on hold for the spring semester. My son and I will add regular weekly visits to see my Dad to our calendar. Today, I just have to do today. Then, tomorrow, I will do that day.
So, now I'm a single mom sandwich who has a lot on her plate but the ability to pull it through today. Thanks for listening to me.
You know that thing that kids do. They act up. You call them on the bad behavior. They stop, You look away then back at them a few seconds later to see the bad behavior continue with a smile on the child's face. You do, don't you?
He's four. He's four. As I try to calm myself and say, "He's four". My boy is articulate, kind and full of energy. He also make bad choices at times. Some people call it testing, kids test the boundaries of how far they can go. I understand that he will grow out of it and he is displaying the antics of someone strong of will. I get it.
But, some days, it wears me down. It's too much. Today at his swimming lesson, my son acted out big time. He disobeyed his swimming coach by running away both in the water and around the pool - more than twice. I called him on it. He obeyed for half a minute, long enough for me to leave the scene and return to my seat. Then it started again. We left the pool area with him screaming and me dragging him by the hand.
It's the afternoon. He is sound asleep. The house is quiet. The TV has a blanket over it to remind him that he has lost TV privileges for several days. I am tired and weary. I have been crying. I don't have advice for others in this post. Some days, parenting feels like the most difficult and impossible thing ever. I just hope a different person wakes up from that nap.
My son loves to move. Every time we get into the car, we have a race to see who can run the fastest. He is always demonstrating a new move he can do which lately involves gymnastic-like jumps off the couch. So really, I should not be surprised.
Last night, we went to a dance concert to see his godmother dance. For the last few years, I haven't taken him since it's in a formal setting meaning a chair and the understanding that he has to sit still. But leaving him at home means paying a sitter. It's expensive and we don't have a lot right now. Plus he complains stating that he wants to go too. So I decided this year to take him.
Four year old boys can't sit in formal chairs in a new place without talking or moving or trying to kick someone for more than 30 seconds. Before the show even started, I was plagued with guilt for everyone around us. My attention was divided between his body and the stage. We moved to a new location after intermission to give him more space to move. It helped and exhausted me at the same time. In that quiet space, my son knew that I could not verbally scold him. I had to let it happen. His movements included jumping, climbing and chewing on his water bottle.
Most people were unaware of this struggle. My son's outbursts were typically at the end of every number when clapping was happening and the lights were dimmed. He looked handsome in his collar shirt. He got to see his god parents, but I made a decision right there.
Minus work and my random acts of exercise on the treadmill, I don't have a lot of things that are just for me. He does - dance class, swimming lessons, play time, etc. I was looking forward to the dance concert and seeing my old dance friends again. Instead of chatting with anyone, I had to stay on top of my son.
I know. He has to learn how to sit still. It's a skill just like walking, running and climbing. Right now, he is not there yet. I told him in the car that next time, there will be a babysitter. He was upset. He refused to sleep in protest. At 11pm, I found him asleep in the fetal position on the floor with his lights on in his bedroom. This morning, we chatted about it. I reminded him that moving is just part of his nature and learning to be still is a skill that he hasn't acquired yet.
So my son is learning to sit still and I am learning that it's OK to put him in another person's care for a moment and be present somewhere else. It seems silly I know, but this lesson for me seems so hard to learn.
This week, my son's allergies and asthma knocked us back a few days. I was worried that he had a stomach issue as well so I insisted that the doctor's office see him. It's 4:30pm, the end of a long, vomiting day. My son is tired wanting to be carried everywhere. His name is called in the lobby and I stand still carrying him. He is about to throw up.
Like every visit before this one, the first thing they do is weigh him to help dose his medicine just right. My son refuses to let go of me and holds my hand on the scale. We both look exhausted and carry a slight vomit smell on us.
The nurse asks, "Are you the mom"?
I get it. I am white, he is black, we don't match. I pause, bite my tongue and say yes.
She places us in our room. We wait. We are outside the area where other kids are being weighed. No one else is asked that question. Instead, the nurse immediately calls every woman "Mom" and every man "Dad".
I am sitting on the examination table beside my son trying not to think about the question, but I can't. My son is analyzing the poster on the wall. I can't stop thinking. One thought, "Why didn't I ask are you the nurse?" I stew a bit in my juices then my son throws up all over the examination room floor. My focus changes to cleaning it up as quickly as possible.
I understand the need for this question. Medical professionals can't assume we belong together even though his arms and legs are wrapped around me, he is calling me Mommy and not letting me out of his sight. But why do they assume with everyone else? Why not ask every parent if they are the parent?
I need to get over this. This is just one question in a lifetime of questions like this. I need thicker skin and a sense of humor. I need a snappy comeback. I need to be a role model for my son. But sometimes, I just get mad. And tired. My son and I never think about being different in our world. Everyone who knows us knows we are bound together. Yet, every time we enter the medical arena, I get this feeling that we are outsiders. Why can't this question change?
Worry has never paid any of my bills or given me any comfort.
I am trying to learn to lay my worry down and lose it forever.
Some days, I actually feel closer to this state, but I am fooling myself.
Being parent comes with some degree of constant worry.
How do you know when to let something happen and when to step in?
It's an everyday struggle.
Today was the solar eclipse.
I picked up my son early from preschool and took him to the downtown park.
There were many people there doing the same thing including lots of kids.
This event was beside his favorite park so he wanted park time.
This park has this large sideways merry-go-around that can hold many kids.
It's a frequent place for big and little kids to sit, hold on and go fast.
My son loves this thing. I dislike this thing. Kids fly off, Kids get kicked. Kids fall down.
But it's fun, it's fast and it's where all of the kids want to be.
On his first approach, a kid accidentally kicked him in the stomach.
He ran crying to me.
After he caught his breath, he wanted to try again.
So, I sat down and watched. I marveled at his bravery.
He wanted to do everything the big kids were doing.
He targeted one kid in particular and chased him around the park mimicking his moves.
The other kid was twice his height and much older. My son hung on his every move.
I learned how to watch close by but give him his space.
My worry levels soared.
Then, I tried to calm myself down.
I have to let him learn to be independent. As long as he is safe, I can give him space.
He fell a few times, then popped back up with a huge smile on his face.
He loved every minute of it.
Then the eclipse happened.
My mind thought of my worry and how I needed to let it go.
My son is powerful, social and brave.
I must learn how to be the mother of someone powerful, social and brave.
Worrying so much will not serve me.
My son has no idea...
That I have a little cry once a month as I pay the bills and figure out how we will make it through the month. He loves his preschool. It's doing wonders for him, but I sometimes have I work three jobs just to make sure I can make that can happen. It's OK. It's temporary. It's doable.
My son has no idea...
That I get up at 4am to start working so that I can give him more me time when he is awake. I need more sleep, but I don't want to lose more time with him. So I get up early and stay up later than I should just to work all the hours I need and give my son one-on-one time with me once he is awake.
My son has no idea....
That I worry about the day when other kids will start teasing him for having a white mommy. Maybe it won't happen. It hasn't happened yet. There are so many families made up of different races nowadays that maybe the shock of seeing us together will not make others notice. I hope my worry is for nothing.
My son has no idea....
That Anakin Skywalker is going to become Darth Vader. He loves him so much. "He's one of the good guys, mommy". He doesn't realize that George Lucas is going to break his heart shortly and turn his favorite good guy into the meanest bad guy. ARGH I will hate that day.
My son has no idea....
That the big draw for me at the gym before I pick him up is getting 30 minutes to myself to watch bad TV. I rarely watch TV at home. I am too busy sneaking in more work. But those 30 minutes watching cheesy home improvement shows on HGTV make going to the gym bearable.
My son has no idea....
That we just can't afford a dog right now. Between the food, the dog walker, the vet bills, etc, we just can't. I am trying my best to kick the can down the road. He seems OK right now, but I just hope to keep this up until next summer when our finances are not so tight.
My son has no idea
and that's OK.
He's a kid. He needs to enjoy his time with his Legos, his friends, his dance class and Star Wars. Kids should not have to worry about how households work and finances.
He has food in his belly, plenty of toys and a safe, clean house to call home.
And he has me.
That's all he needs to know.
I haven't posted a blog post in two months. I have taken on some over-confident single parent moments. My Dad is now living on the opposite side of the US from me in a new Assisted Living place. I wanted to see him there for myself to make sure he was OK. That meant a five-hour cross-country flight with a four-year-old boy alone. Over-confident, bordering on cocky. Yep.
Overall the trip was great. When the first flight took off, my son squealed with delight. The travel there was two flights with a layover. It was awful. I thought changing flights would give him time to stretch this legs and get some energy out. No. Imagine an over tired woman, dragging a weeping child from terminal to terminal who ate every snack I packed on the first flight. By the time we got to our destination, he was over tired from not napping and hungry since all snacks and airline cookies were gone. After many requests to go potty, he announced abruptly while in line for the car rental shuttle that he must pee right NOW.
After our first cross-country flight level meltdown, the rest of the trip was easy. Then the strangest thing happened. I was in our rental car driving beside the ocean. My son hurt himself in the rental car office and his eye was swelling but he was fast asleep so the crying had stopped. We were in the final leg of our travels and I let myself take a breath. This is not a vacation but I was going to try to have vacation-like moments. My GPS seemed confident that our destination was only one hour away. Then, my phone rang.
The day before the trip while I was packing, I interviewed online for a great job. It was something like what I do but different. I found out about the job the last day to be considered meaning you had to apply now or never. I took a chance and applied. An interview followed. The day after the interview and the end of my first travel day, I was called and told that I was the committee's first choice. Glee ensued. I immediately called my best friend. I was in shock from the exhausting day of travel, the stress of my job and now the promise of something new around the corner.
This is why you haven't heard from me in a while. I have been transitioning. I have been with my current employer in my present-day position for 12 years. My one income pays both our mortgage and preschool. Changing jobs is not a small decision. It changes our entire family workflow.
I told myself for years that I could not change jobs as a mother with a kid in preschool. My needs had to wait. My kid needs consistency at this young age. We have already changed preschools once already and it was hard work. But my heart yearned for more. Could I really keep answering the same questions and do the same thing everyday? I took a risk and asked the universe for change. Then it happened. I look like I have been eating light bulbs. I am nervous yet very excited about the challenges and opportunities coming my way.
My son can see a difference. He seems OK with it. My new job is around the corner from our house. Once he goes to school next year, I will be so close and ready to react quickly instead of the 25-minute car drive.
So you see, we have been preparing ourselves for happier times.
It seems strange to say that I take some comfort in knowing that other parents with four year old children experience the same frustrations and setbacks as me. When a crisis happens and I want to run out the front door, I know that other parents have the same thought. It doesn't make me feel better per se, but a heck of a lot less alone.
Today was a school-wide picnic for my son's preschool. Most of the children were running around enjoying all of the toys happy with their parents. My son saw this situation and immediately clammed up. He hid behind me and then ran to his favorite jungle gym. My efforts to move us back with the rest of his classmates failed. Eventually he latched on to one friend and played with her very intently.
My son is quickly over stimulated by environments like this. I know this. When I heard about this event, I told myself that we were not going to go, but our other events conveniently ended before the picnic started. So, I decided we should go. I know better. I know situations like this mean over stimulation, acting out, shutting down and a dramatic ending of some kind. I just hate for my son to miss big events like this hoping that maybe now he is over it.
So, during this event, I got to have half of a conversation with another single parent who was sharing her recent woes with her child and the high levels of frustration is causes. I suggested a juice box party - fruit for the kids and wine for the mommies. As a single parent with a high energy preschooler, I need my fellow parents around me to keep me sane and remember that all of us are going through the same thing.
When I don't get enough sleep, people ask me if I feel OK. My eyes hang in their sockets. My posture seems challenged. When my son does not get enough sleep, he believes he can fight it. He runs, jumps, flips, screams, you name it until he hits the wall. Then he cries, "I am tired". Then you move fast to get him ready for bed.
My son has allergies and I don't. I have no clue how awful this season is. Once my son lays flat in the bed, his nose and sinuses fill with stuff and he sneezes all night long. Misery desires company so sometimes he will call me into his bedroom just to let me know that his allergies are happening.
So I am trying all of the tricks - saline up the nose, diffuser with essential oils in his room, early bed time, etc. Some tricks work, others don't, but the reality is that my son is still sleep deprived. Cue behavior issues and hitting his Mom (me).
Tonight, he took something from a little girl in his class shortly after he saw me. He was made to apologize which took some doing. So once in the car, I told him that he was not getting any TV. He picked up a toy, threw it at my head that was attached to my body driving the car. The toy smashed against the windshield into pieces and my heart stopped beating for a second. Fury. Anger. Fury. Anger. My son could have killed me and wrecked the car. More fury. I sat there speechless scared about what would come out of my mouth. I drove home in silence. We talked about it at dinner, but it has taken me the entire night to recover from the shock of the event.
I am delighted that we are finally getting sleep now. I am ready for his body to calm down and to find peace. Our battles need to end. Overtired four year old boys who act out are wearing me down.