Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Whiplash Parenting

Ya'll... I feel like I am located within an insane asylum on a pretty much daily basis.  I don't mean that in a "my kids drive my crazy" kind of way.  I'm speaking more to the mental toggle that is the ups and downs; the severe highs and low lows of parenting that occur within moments of each other.  The emotional whiplash that comes from observing and correcting children antics.  There can be this monumental feeling of "Good gracious I am failing and am raising sociopaths" and then the other end of the spectrum... the elation of  "Look at these wonderful character traits... I'm raising beautiful people!" These very same thoughts can occur within moments of each other, often!  The mental strain of motherhood is unlike any other. Amiright?

To backtrack, my kids are 10(b), 9(b), 7(g), 5(g), and 3(g).  They have the capability to be so incredibly thoughtful and sweet.  They can be helpful and capable, good solid human beings, not only on their own, but working together in collaboration as well.  They do things that make my heart swell and affirm why I had children in the first place.

Then... well then they can be barbaric, incapable of speaking in a normal human pitch: the yeller, the whiner, the crier, the link-up of voices that mimic a full high school cafeteria level of noise... They can show absolutely no respect for the livelihood of each other and can be so cutting and mean.  Defiant, rude, irrational, irresponsible (how hard is it to put the milk away and put shoes in their shoe bin?!)...

Then they revert back to polite and capable. Dude, I can only take so much back-and-forth.  Anyone else feel me?

Tonight Emily cleaned the whole dining room after dinner, by herself, then within a few seconds of joining the rest of the children again, she did something to make Annie scream. ::face palm::

I don't know if this is everyone's kids or just mine...

I mean, don't get me wrong, the highs are awesome.  Seeing the times that they care for one another, respect you, listen and obey and do things without being told make the whole journey worthwhile.  During those times I truly feel like I am seeing their future selves.

But then...

When June is on a vendetta to get Josh admitted to the hospital,  Josh is egging on June and whining that he's getting hurt (but does NOTHING to get himself out of the situation),  Elizabeth is crying over Josh stepping on her homework,  Emily is angry because Elizabeth colored on her picture,  Annie is screaming because the pony shirt is dirty in the wash and she wants to wear it, and the dog is zooming around because the kids riled her up.  In THOSE moments, it feels like a fast track to loony town.

Then moments later, somehow, peace emerges and they sit together harmoniously watching a show calmly.

I think motherhood provides the mental conditioning necessary to face pretty much any task, vocation, or moment in life.  Dealing with the above conditions for the last 11 years, I feel pretty sharp.  Either that or my mind is slowly slipping and they are sending me to an early grave.

Whiplash parenting... anyone?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Dear Elizabeth - 11/23/2017

Dear Elizabeth, 

Right now you are 7.  You are in 2nd grade and blossoming.  You are really good at math and a rule follower.  Your teachers adore you EVERY year.  You started gymnastics a few months ago and are obsessed... working on skills whenever you have the chance.  You are proving to be one of the mellowest Conrads, but with a fierce passion and strong will despite your pleasant  nature.  You feel deep and tears come quickly.  You don't want to do wrong, be wrong, or get corrected and your heart is soft.    

All of these things are items that I've noticed in the last year as you have grown and matured.  However, there is something else recently that I decided is worth a letter to you.  This is my first letter, by the way.  I tend to start and stop on my blog so maybe this will be the first and only, but I would like to think that this will be the first of hundreds that I write to you kids as you age.  Anyway, what I noticed lately and something that I have prayed for, but wasn't sure had been answered in my favor, is to have a child (preferably multiple children) with a servant's heart.  I would love to cultivate hearts that want to give back and want to serve.  

Elizabeth, you have a servant's heart.  Today, I was getting ready for Thanksgiving and the house was a mess from breakfast and a morning of playing, and the typical chaos was reigning.  I decided to quick clean up before we left and nobody wanted to help.  Honestly, I didn't even ask.  I just decided to quick clean as much as I could.  You walked in shortly after I had started and I cut you off "Elizabeth, I'm cleaning and if you are down here, I am going to give you a job," I said curtly.  You happily replied, "I will help clean. What can I do?"  You didn't pick the things you liked to do best, you wanted to know what needed to get done.  You picked up toys and took them to the livingroom. You cleared the counter.  You vacuumed the kitchen.  You wanted to switch the laundry and was annoyed that it wasn't ready to be changed.  You really seem to love laundry.  You helped in any way I needed and you know what?  We got the kitchen and dining room cleaned in time.  

Every time I am cooking, you want to help.  When there is a task to complete, you complete it with a happy heart. Even your own jobs: homework is done to completion without me asking.  You are always dressed and ready in the morning.   Elizabeth, I am so thankful for you.  For your gentle, pleasant, giving heart.  Your ability to get joy from helping others.  

Sure, your siblings annoy you and when you see someone doing something wrong, you are quick to correct them yourself.  You can be quick to anger and strong with your tone and those frequent tears aren't easy to handle as a mom.  You are human, but I feel so much admiration and gratefulness when I watch you and see your little servant's heart growing.  You are truly becoming a beautiful girl inside and out.  I am enjoying watching you grow.  Thank you for how intentional you are in life.  Thank you for helping, especially when nobody else wants to help.  

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Motherhood loooooow

My emotions are much calmer than last week which is so so good because that was a little scary.  I felt very depleted and empty and ineffective.  Each of those are pretty awful ways to feel. Most of this stems from motherhood.  Hardest job I've ever had.  I shoulder the kids behaviors intensely and recently seeing some (end of summer, probably pretty normal) frustrating behaviors, I felt like throwing my hands in the air and waving a white flag.  I try to parent well.  I try to be present and intentional.  In addition to that, I'm adventurous and we have a good summer, and then a steady school year with structure and reliability.  I try very hard to be a good mom, and not in the "Go me" sense but the "raise them right" sense, but when I do all of that and then see lying, destruction, rowdy antics, disrespectful tones, and defiance... there eventually is a straw which temporarily breaks me. Seeing those behaviors are just a gut punch.  I try to continue on, but I start to react instead of respond.  My fuse shortens and my anger increases... I start to hate how I am acting and hate how they are acting and that final straw descends. That straw fell about a week ago.

Thankfully, I had a week of an alomst understanding, silent husband.  He wants to "fix" things but knows to just sink to the background because in those moments, I don't need things fixed, I need to process.  I need time. I need to think.  I need to go slow. I had a week with the kids in school, and a new book in hand, uplifting podcasts in ear... I also had a week of good conversations with just the right people.  Hard truths, refreshing words, lots of thinking and a few solid suggestions later I am renewed.  My head is on straight again.

And thank goodness... man that dark place is zero fun.

When I feel the hard feelings coming in, I tend to shame myself "Why did you choose this life, you aren't good at it!"  "I don't see everyone's kids acting like that!" "Did you see that stare you just got?"  "Did you hear how your kid was just talked about?"  "You are awful at this mom thing!" And my mind reels.  Those words feel so true.  So real.

So I write all of this in case there is someone else out there, trying their best, but feeling those lies.  This week, I feel calmer.  I feel able.  I feel comfortable in this role as a mother.  I don't feel superior... I don't feel mastered... but I feel ok. And ok is ok.

Onward, mothers!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Pardon my mental baggage...

When I started blogging, I did it for 2 reasons.

1. I wanted a way to tangibly remember my kids' childhood and my own journey of motherhood.

2.  I wanted to remember the reality of them, and not my mind's rose colored memory.

When I began blogging I wrote about the day to day.  I wrote about highs, I wrote about lows, funny anecdotes, and the seemingly mundane.  I wrote in a stream of consciousness.  I didn't proofread much.  I didn't focus on grammar or the perfect picture to accompany. I. just. wrote. And that worked for me beautifully.  My two goals were achieved and my blog had a steady flow to it.

I always intended to write about the real, but my real got REAL... too real, big hard emotions real. Life got harder and my resolve to show the real started to falter... Why?  Because the day to day got hard.  Big life stuff with marriage and kid behaviors and health and sensitive topics were flooding life.  I wanted to share, but also needed digression.  This particularly pertains to marriage.  It's HARD.  We dealt with some bigger things, personality clashes, each of us crashing down at different points, and I didn't want to showcase that.  That was all between Jim and myself.  I couldn't pull it into a blog.  It didn't feel appropriate.  So I went quiet.  Now, from all the observing I've done about marriage I don't think we are the exception.  Our marriage has been worth ever struggle we have crawled through and the end goal has always been in sight (hand in hand enjoying each other's company when we are 80), but the path to that goal it's a linear climb.  So when kid life got harder, marriage got harder, life got busier, and Susie got swamped, my blog got dropped.

My own thoughts became less fun.  My frustrations became more real.  I've had times of feeling apathetic toward motherhood.  I've had times where I question if I am doing anything right.  I have times when I just feel numb.  Through all that I kick myself because some of the sweetest memories have ticked by, undocumented because all these real life hard feelings covered them and prevented me from sharing here.

When I became a mom I was calm.  I was level headed, cool, collected, and unruffled.  When I started to rip from that place, I stopped sharing my journey.  However, I am ready to come back.  Life isn't calmer.  Life isn't easier.  There has been a tremendous amount of growth.  Life has been goooooooood, amid the normal amount of hard, but my mindset has been murky.  Beyond that, when I was blogging I got further sucked into how to be a "blogger" and I stopped writing.  I felt like it was too much to be a blogger so it didn't make sense to keep blogging.

You know what?  That's crap.  I don't care.  I don't know how often I will blog going forward. I won't be running things by a blogger's rule book.  I don't know how uplifting this blog will be, but this is my place.  I am going to write... I'm going to write the good, bad, and ugly.  I'm documenting... because I regret not documenting the last few years.  Don't say I didn't warn you if there are a fair amount of ACK!! posts amid the fuzzy and warm ones.  Real life isn't fuzzy and warm.

See you on the flip side

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Glimpses: the reassuring moments in parenthood

I think parenting and the experiences within varies due to your own personality, life experience, and expectations.  My perspective and parenting path might not line up with yours.  With that said, for me... I've put a lot of stock into how my kids are being raised (and by stock I mean pressure, and stress, and worry, and self-critical bs).  I've thought and thought about if I'm doing it right and I have analyzed a lot.  I've toggled with nature versus nurture and inborn characteristics versus my very own scarring of them.  It's mentally exhausting.  The biggest lesson I learned in motherhood is that the mental exhaustion far exceeds any practical exhaustion (and I've had a rough sleeper, friends!).  There is so much thinking... so much... and the kicker is that you can think all you want and try to figure out if you are doing it right, but you don't really know that answer until your kids are grown, and your time to raise them has passed.  Talk about a steep climb. "Create this project, from scratch.  Please keep tweaking it, but you won't know if it's working properly until 20 years from now.  If you see that it's faltering at that point, well, too bad.  Your re-drafting time has ended.  Society now has to deal with the malfunctions."  Granted, that's giving nurture a ton ton of credit... nature holds a strong hand  too.  Regardless, for those years where you are trying and trying and not sure how you are doing as a parent, I want to share something that I've seen.  This something the provides a glimmer of hope, even if fleeting, and should be tucked away and saved for those times when you feel as if you are raising serial killers and sociopaths.  

I've read and heard "look for the good.... catch them being good."  That is a good tactic because it's the bad and the naughty and the messy that jumps out and grabs our attention.  If you start to notice the good, you will start to see the glimpses.  

The glimpses are small moments in time when your child does something that is genuinely kind, or virtuous.  These glimpses reveal core character and are small bits of reassurance to tell you "well done, keep going!"  These glimpses are not to put you on a high horse, because if you go there.... Murphy's Law tends to take effect and the evil spawn version of your child will come out and reign for a bit.  These glimpses are small, often.  They come and go quickly.  Soak in the glimpse, tuck it in your heart, put a smile on your face, and keep fighting the good fight.  You won't truly find out  if you should have done something different until they are grown, but these glimpses are like the glasses of water set out along a marathon.  There's still a long way to go... miles and miles... but the water is momentary boost helping fuel you on for the miles ahead.  

The worst time for catching glimpses is when you have only preschoolers, toddlers, and babies.  Those years, for me, feel so hard and with little recognition for the work put in and the glimpses tend to pass quickly as toddler emotions reign.  My first three were born within 3 years.  I had a 3 year old, one year old, and a baby and I felt defeated pretty much all the time.  My oldest was an epic tantrum-thrower and bull-headed as they come.  My second would cry at the drop of a hat and he was painfully clingy and whiny. My baby was wonderful. God threw me a bone there (until she was 2.5... things got real after that). Three of them, one of me, and strong personalities- d.e.f.e.a.t.  

My oldest was by far my hardest at that point.  I saw so many negative attributes and fought so many fights with him.  I didn't know how he would turn out.  I recently watched a home video from that time.  It was a "dance party" that they were having.  My oldest was dancing around with the end of a piece of bread -think Panera-.  At one point he's alone on the video and my 17 mo old, #3, comes toddling in.  She makes one small gesture to him and then the glimpse happened.  I think I missed it back then, but as a slightly more seasoned mom (5 kids ages 9 and under now), I saw it.  He saw her gesture.  He took the piece and ripped her of a chunk.  He gently handed it to her, he picked up his  piece and continued to dance. 



That glimpse took maybe 10 seconds to complete, but seeing him now, he still has the heart where he will share and help out the younger ones without any struggle.  Those fleeting 10 seconds revealed so much and during a time when he was so very hard for me to parent.  He saw her need and without any struggle, he shared something that was only his.  I didn't ask. I didn't demand.  I didn't even see it happen.  But it did.  I'm sure the remainder of the day was him fighting with his brother and going up against me.  The world didn't stop spinning and he wasn't perfect from that moment on.  A glimpse is a small sign that you are, in fact, doing something right in parenting, but you have to be aware to catch it. 

Glimpses come in the form of other people's genuine kind comments about your kids.  They come in the form of rules followed with intent.  They come in acts of kindness.  They come in the moments when your child thinking outside themselves or make a good decision.  They come in outings gone smoothly.  They come in polite exchanges with adults.  They come when they don't think they are being watched.  They come in any shape and size and duration.  Sometimes they are a millisecond and sometimes they linger, but however they come... when they do come: see them.  Savor them.  Allow momentary relief and feel free to share what you saw with your child, praise them.  

Parenting so often feels like an uphill battle.  It's loud, messy, stressful, and long, but if you look for the glimpses, it can sweeten the journey.