The world as seen through the eyes of an exhausted, caffiene addicted, homeschooling, atheist mama.

Posts tagged ‘Parenting’

It’s good for the soul

I haven’t written in a long time. A really long time. Since early May, in fact. I feel bad about that. Or, I would feel badly about it if I actually didn’t. My intentions were so fucking good, so I don’t feel too bad that I didn’t bog all three of my followers with whiny shit. I just figured we’d move to Dallas and everything would be okay and I’d start blogging about all the wacky and crazy adventures we were having out there.

I didn’t want to talk about how much I miss my brother and how I don’t know how to deal with the loss of the only other person in the world who lived, and could vouch for, my childhood.

I didn’t want to talk about how sad it is for BB to miss his cat and how it breaks my heart to comfort him as he cries.

I didn’t want to talk about how Hubby was let go from his job and we were left scrambling for a way to pay our rent.

I didn’t want to talk about how he found another job that took him to Dallas or about how he left us behind, me with my grief and BB with his, to pack up and say goodbye to the only life BB’s ever known.

I didn’t want to talk about how hard it’s been to be a single mom for nearly two months or about how exhausting it is to pack up an entire life all by myself.

I didn’t want to talk about all the tears my son has cried over leaving his house and friends. I didn’t want to talk about all the tears I’ve cried over the same. I didn’t want to talk about how moving makes me feel like a six-year old, how I don’t want to be an atheist homeschooler in the bible belt, and how freaking scary it is for me to open up and make friends.

I just thought I’d move and then I’d give a happy update about how well we’re all adjusting, how awesome Hubby’s job is, how awesome all our new friends are, and how I was worried about homeschooling in the bible belt for nothing because there are TONS of great secular homeschoolers out there.

That was truly my intent. Please believe me.

But no. That’s not at all what’s happened.

Hubby was laid off last week and he’s back home now. He’s home and all the the money we lost trying to move us to Dallas is just plain gone. He was let go on Friday morning and he got home late Friday night. Just in time for Father’s day on Sunday.

And that was good. Oh. That was so good. Having my husband home again. Getting to spend Father’s Day with him. That part was good.

But that other part, the part where he’s unemployed and has no real prospects on the burner…that part sucked.

Wait.

It still sucks.

So the two of us spent the whole of today looking for work. It doesn’t matter what; we’ll do whatever it freaking takes to be okay.

And I was sad and scared, but I thought “At least we have a house to live in.”

Oh. Dumb, sweet, naive Mom’sEye.

Our landlord has decided he wants to sell the house and he still expects us to move out at the end of June.

Fuck.

Fuck.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. FUCK!!!

What the hell? What’s going on? What the fuck is happening????

Where is the Zombie Apocalypse already? Why why why???? Why can’t everything be okay for once????

I was an abused child. My brother was an abused child. His abuse eventually killed him. My abuse made mothering the most difficult and triggering thing in the world. But I thought I was doing a good job. I don’t do drugs. I don’t drink excessively. I don’t beat the shit out of my son, cheat on my husband and spend my days chasing random men for my next high. I’ve never made my son homeless, I’ve never blamed him for my own shortcomings. I’ve been a really good person. I’ve been the best person I could possibly be.

Maybe I’ve not made all the best choices, but when your mother is an abusive drug addict, how do you learn to be responsible? I did the best I fucking could! I don’t spank. I don’t hit. I don’t scream. Sure I yell sometimes, but I’m not abusive. I’m not.

I’ve tried to break the cycle and shit is supposed to be better because of it.

But it’s not.

We’re two fucking weeks from being homeless. We  have no jobs. We have no money. We have no family to rely on or to help us.

I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to wrap my head around the shit that is my life. I don’t know how to wrap my head around the knowledge that I brought my son into this life and I’m just setting him up for future failure. He doesn’t deserve this. Me? I do. I can accept that I deserve all the fucking shit that the Universe wants to throw at me. But my son? No. He deserves more and better than I can do for him.

How does a mother deal with that?

I’m so tired. I’m scared and I’m sad and I’m grieving and and I’m tired. More tired than I’ve ever been in my life. More tired than anyone should ever have to be.

Why don’t you blog? asked Hubby.
Because I don’t want to whine and be depressing.
Eh. Just do it. It’ll be good for your soul.

And so I did. I’ll let you know if it was good for me when life gets a little better.

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On Being a Mother and a Daughter

Four years ago, I cut my mother out of my life. I have mentioned that I talked to her while planning my brother’s funeral. Of course, I had to. Stuff needed to be done and I had to have some of her input. Her son had just died and she needed help planning things. My brother had just died and I needed to take care of things in a way that I felt would honor him. I went out there to lay my brother to rest, not to mend fences or re-hash the past. I drove 12 hours through barren dessert for a reason that was much bigger than her or me. I went out there with the intention of putting all of my own baggage and shit aside for a few days so that I could focus on the task at hand.

But I hadn’t spoken to her in years, and I’ve spent those years agonizing over whether or not I did the right thing in telling her to back off. I spent those years mourning for the mother I needed but knowing I’d never have her, no matter how many chances I gave. I spent those years fighting the demons of my childhood–trying like hell to be the kind of mother she wasn’t. Trying like hell to be the mother that my son deserves.

When you grow up in an abusive home,  that abuse is always inside you, just looking for a crack in the armor so it can get out. As a mother, I’ve struggled with finding appropriate ways to deal with appropriate childhood behavior in my son. The appropriate reaction to a kid who doesn’t want to eat his salad is not to throw him into a wall or force the food down his throat. Hell, even toddler could tell you that. But that reaction is in me and it takes a lot of work and self reflection not to let that reaction out. When you grow up hearing that you can never count on anyone, that everyone will eventually let you down, that you should never get your hopes up because you’ll always be disappointed, when you you grow up hearing  “get the fuck outta my sight” , “you ruined my life” and “it’s your fault”, you start to take it to heart; you start to believe “it” is your fault, whatever “it” may be. You start to believe that since your own mother felt you ruined her life, then clearly you must not be worth much to anyone else. You start to think you are worthless, ugly, stupid, unlovable, unloved. When you grow up knowing these things are truth, it’s hard to back up enough to realize that what you know as truth is nothing but a pack of lies that were spoon-fed to you so that you wouldn’t struggle, so that you wouldn’t question, so that you wouldn’t complain or cry. They were lies that were spoon-fed to you so that the one who was really and truly responsible could absolve herself of responsibility.

It has taken years of anguish and hard work to realize that I wasn’t at fault and that putting up clear boundaries wasn’t selfish or wrong, it was a necessary step in becoming the mother I want to be–the mother my son deserves.

While driving through all that barren land, between calls to the funeral home and family members, I was trying to wrap my head around seeing my mother again. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared shitless. I didn’t know how I would feel or react when I saw her. The ball had been in her court of a long time and she never bothered picking it up and tossing it to me. God, I was terrified that seeing her would make me feel like a small child again. I was so afraid that I’d just fall right back into the role of trying to please and appease, knowing perfectly well that I would fail.

As it turned out, I needn’t have worried. Apparently, all the agonizing I had done over the years since I cut her out had been part of a healing process. I saw her, I hugged her, I let her hug me, and I took care of business. But I never felt that rush of guilt I expected to feel. I also didn’t feel an overwhelming need to mend the fence, either. I pretty much felt…empty. I felt like  the desert that I drove through–capable of sustaining life, but just barely.

A desert landscape

I was capable of being gentle with her, I was capable of  being kind and compassionate as she dealt with her guilt and grief. I was able to be patient as she tried to find the words she needed to express her wishes or thoughts concerning my brother. I was capable of keeping things on task as we sorted through his stuff and chose clothes for him to wear. I was capable of holding my tears back so she could shed hers. It turns out, I was totally capable of being a wonderfully decent human being.

But I was incapable of falling into those old patterns. I was incapable of just forgiving and forgetting. I was incapable of pretending that my brother’s death was the thing that would make me see that life is fragile; life is tenuous and unpredictable, so I need to patch things up with the only mother I’ll ever have, before it’s too late.

My brother’s death helped me to see that by letting go of my mother, I have become a better mother. His death has showed me that I am a strong and healthy woman in part because I was able to put up boundaries with my mother. My brother’s death helped me to see what my son and husband couldn’t: It’s not my fault. I am not a horrible, vile, evil person for making the choices I have made. I am a good mom, I am a good wife, and I deserve all the love my family has to give me. I deserve to be happy, I absolutely deserve everything she taught me I didn’t deserve.

I wish her well in her life. I wish her happiness and love. I wish her health and friendship. And if or when she can do the things I need in order to have her a part of my life, I will be here. The ball is still in her court, I’ve just stopped caring whether or not she throws it my way.

Promises To Myself

I will allow myself time to feel the sadness when it comes.

I will acknowledge the pain and the regret.

I will hold his memory in my heart.

I will breathe in and out. In and out.

I will allow myself to smile.

I will acknowledge that laughter in not a betrayal.

I will take time to enjoy the way the sun feels on my face.

I will make sure to eat good food and drink lots of water.

I will allow myself a break when I am overwhelmed.

I will acknowledge my fear but I won’t let it consume me.

I will write. I’ll write for me and I’ll write for my brother. I will write so that I don’t forget–so that the things we went through together will not be lost. I will write so that my son can read about his mom when he’s older. I will write so that he can better understand my quirks and fears, so that he can know how hard I try to break the cycle I was born into. I will write not only to honor and remember my brother, but also to honor and help the living and yet-to-be-born.

I will remember.

Goodbye, Little Brother

My little brother died yesterday.

He wasn’t really little. He was less than two years younger than me, but I practically raised him. We went through hell together when we were kids. My parents would disappear for a day or two at a time when we were little and I had to figure out how to scramble him an egg when he was hungry. When he had a bad dream, he woke me up and I helped him go back to sleep. When I was about ten, he developed a fear of the boogey man after we had been  home alone for a couple of days. I was afraid of the boogey man too, but I didn’t tell him that. I told him that the boogey man was called the boogey man because he carried a boom box into kids’ rooms and boogied the night away.

He said I helped him be brave and strong. The truth is, he made me  brave. I couldn’t have faced the demons of our life if I hadn’t had him to help him face them.

He gave me a nickname around that time: Little Mama. He said I was more a mother to him than our mother was. The nickname stuck and eventually our parents started using it. At the time, I took it as a badge of honor. I was a good person. I was helpful. I was responsible and I was grown up. Looking back, it breaks my heart that I had to take on that role. And it breaks my heart that the only kind of mothering he got was from a sister a couple years older than him.

Don’t get me wrong. We fought. A lot. Siblings do that. But we also depended on each other. Siblings do that, too.

As we hit puberty, we started to get on each other’s nerves, but we were still really close. All the moving, all the uncertainty, all the fear bonded us in a way that seemed unbreakable.

When I went away for college, I cried for the entire first year. I felt so much guilt for leaving him behind, but I knew I had to get out of there. I knew I’d die if I stayed where I was. We started to drift apart. Bad shit happened to him and I wasn’t there to help him through it.

He told me he resented me for abandoning him.

How could he not? I was the only mother figure he had, and I left him with a strung out mother who dragged him half way across the country to live with her drug smuggling boyfriend.

I had BB and we tried to reconnect, but I think he was too far broken to ever let me back in all the way. We fought. A lot.

Apparently grown siblings do that.

I abandoned him again. He was so angry with me and we couldn’t have a conversation without fighting, so I just stopped contacting him. He stopped contacting me. We just let each other slip away.

I didn’t expect him to die. In the back of my mind, I always thought we’d come around again. I always thought that’d he be there for me to bounce my memories off of. I thought he’d be there to help me make sense of everything we went through together. I thought he’d always be a witness to our childhood.

But the only person who could attest to what we went through together is gone. The only other person who has the same memories as me, the only other person who can validate my past, had a seizure and died.

My brother is dead and I’m alone with my memories. The good ones and the bad. I’m alone with nobody to understand-nobody to laugh when I sing “Pour Some Sugar on Me”. There is an entire lifetime of memories that are only half-memories now.

Jer, I’m so sorry for all you went through. I’m so sorry you felt I left you, and I’m so sorry I didn’t get to tell you goodbye. No matter what you may have felt or thought, I always loved you, I always worried about you, and now I’ll always miss you.

Love,
your sis.

Ten and Thirty

I read a really interesting blog post about communicating with toddlers this morning, and it hit me. Parenting a ten-year old isn’t so different from parenting a three-year old. Sure there are the obvious differences: a ten-year old is more capable of reason, doesn’t poop in his pants, and can often articulate what he is feeling. But the nuts and bolts of it are pretty much the same.

Last night was tough. I look back and try to figure out where the night went sour, but I can’t pinpoint the moment. What I know is that the day was good, then just as suddenly, BB was pissed off and yelling. Hubby and I did our best to just let him feel his feelings, to ignore the scowls and growls, and to continue on with our evening. We did a great job of not yelling, of not punishing, of trying to be supportive of whatever it was that BB was going through. At first.

“At first” isn’t really a fair description. We held it together for a really long time. Long enough for us to eat dinner. Long enough for us to start cleaning up, long enough for us to discover that BB had thrown half of his green beans on the floor, long enough to get the dishes going and half done.

Talking to him and ignoring him weren’t helping, so we told him he could just take a shower and go to bed early if he couldn’t calm himself down.  Yeah. That worked. He locked himself in the bathroom and refused to open the door. Maybe I should have just let it go at that. Maybe I should have continued ignoring the situation, but I didn’t. I felt myself unraveling. The last time he locked himself in the bathroom was a nightmare. We tried using that little key that comes with indoor doorknobs, but he held on to the lock on the other side. So we ended up with a very broken doorknob that he couldn’t open from the inside. We had to break in through the bathroom window and remove the ruined doorknob.

Visions of broken doorknobs ran through my head like some cheesy montage from an 80’s movie. I unraveled a lot faster and and I started to yell at him. I threatened him, I told him to grow up and stop acting like a little toddler. Words flew out of my mouth and I couldn’t seem to stop them. He finally opened the door and I was able to convince him to take a shower. I left the bathroom and went to get a drink of water. When I turned back around, I heard water splashing on the floor. BB thought it’d be funny to shower with the curtain open just to make a mess. A mess in the bathroom that he and I had spent half an hour cleaning earlier in the day.

Dinner: on the floor.
Bathroom door: locked
Bathroom floor: soaked
Mom: a yelling, screaming, scary maniac.

I was not pretty. I threatened to take away his Legos. I told him he had to mop both the kitchen and the bathroom in the morning. I told him I don’t know why the hell he was acting like a toddler instead of a ten-year-old. I told him I was disappointed in his behavior and I told him it made me sad that I worked so hard to cook a great dinner and he just ruined the whole thing. I told him it made me sad that he seemed to care more about his Legos than he did about me.

Yeah. I laid the guilt on pretty thick, and I couldn’t figure out how to shut myself up.

In the end he went to bed and cried himself to sleep. He said I was right. He loves his stuff more than he loves me or his dad. He decided he needed to get rid of most of his toys, Legos included, so he could appreciate family more.

That’s not where I thought the night would go. I tried to fix it. I held him while he cried. I listened to him dramatically proclaim that he needed to yard sale or donate his legos and other toys. I apologized for screaming and threatening to take his stuff, and I assured him that I love him and that it’s not necessary to dump his things. I handed him tissues and told him not to make any decisions about getting rid of stuff until the morning. I tucked him in and kissed him and told him again that I love him. And I shut the door on my still sobbing child.

When he was two or three, I would have never told him to grow up. When he was two or three, I would have never told him that he cares about stuff more than  he cares about us. I would never have handled things the way I did. Sometimes I forget that ten is still so young. He’s just a kid. A kid with two very stressed out parents and a cat who’s been dead for less than a week.

We had a great talk this morning and I think we’re okay. He no longer wants to get rid of his stuff and he is willing to mop the kitchen and bathroom floors. I am looking forward to starting over, this time with better communication.

Neither of us knows what was going on with him last night, but what I know is that he’s just as entitled to have a rotten evening as I am. And as his mother, if he can’t communicate what’s going on inside his head, then it’s my job to love and support him while he’s sorting through his shit.

My boy is ten, but sometimes I need to remember that ten is a helluva lot closer to three than it is to thirty.

Death Without Heaven

Sometimes I can understand why people hold on to religion. In times of crisis and grief, the notion that there’s something bigger than us, something with a plan, something that cares and directs us down the path we’re supposed to go, can help you put one foot in front of the other.

As a parent, it’s my job to help my son make sense of the world and deal with his grief. Religion would sure be handy for that. It would have been so easy to hold him yesterday and tell him “I know you’re sad about Pnut, but he’s in heaven now. He’s happy now. He’s chasing shadows and rolling in grass and drinking from a little stream. His earthly body is gone, but he’s not.”

But I don’t believe that, so my challenge as a parent who happens to be an atheist is to find a way to help him cope without spoon feeding him bits of stories that I don’t believe. It’s hard. How do you comfort your kid when you need comfort yourself? I don’t claim to have all the answers, or even some of the answers. I just know what Hubby and I did, and I believe it was good and healthy for BB.

We allowed him to feel his emotions, talked about good things, we let him hold Pnut, before the vet came, after the first shot when he just fell asleep, and after the second shot that stopped his heart. After the vet left, we all held our wonderful cat and we reminisced. We cried as a family and we allowed the other pets to sniff his body.  We reminded  BB that as painful as it is to see him lying there like that, his body was just a body. Pnut wasn’t in there and he couldn’t feel love or pain anymore. We talked about his body rejoining the earth and we talked about holding him in hearts and memories.

And an amazing thing happened. BB stopped crying, pulled out some paper and colored pencils, and drew a picture of Pnut lying on the blanket where he died. He worked at the dining room table for a long time, and we told him he could have all the time  he needed. Once in a while he’d come over and look at the shape of his tail or legs, once he came over and opened Pnut’s eyes to try to find just the right shade. BB found his own way to deal with his grief: scientific inquiry and artistic expression. It was so inspiring to see, and I felt humbled and small next the wise soul of my ten-year old.

It turns out he didn’t need God, heaven and platitudes. All he needed was the freedom to feel his emotions and to find his own way to handle them.

Pnut: My favorite cat. This is my gift to you. I love you with all my heart.

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Yawn

Hubby’s been out of town since Sunday and I’m feeling really really pooped.  I just can’t sleep well when  he’s not here.  I guess I miss him too much to sleep. 

The weather isn’t helping much, either.  50 degrees and rainy. I love the rain, but I wonder why it always seems to happen on our co-op park days. 

I feel like a walking train wreck.  My house is a mess, the landlords are landscaping the back yard so that’s a mess too and we can’t really play out there, I have a mountain of folded laundry I need to put away, and the cats won’t stop meowing at me.  I also have to find time to go grocery shopping today, which I know BB will not be agreeable to.  All I want to do is curl up and read a book.  I’m almost done with one I’ve been working on for a couple of months, and I just got a new book from the library.  A Dean Koontz novel.  There’s something about a Koontz book that takes me away.  When I start to feel a need to move away from Bronte and Hardy and into the pages of a Koontz, I know that I’m stressed or hiding from myself.  It’s the equivalent of pulling the covers over my head and not facing the world.  But I don’t have that luxury.  I have a six year old to attend to.  A six year old who wants me to sit on the floor and play endlessly with his Rescue Heroes, Planet Heroes or Playmobile.  A six year old who deserves a mom who will play with him, not a mom who curls inside herself and hides.

So, ready or not, it’s time to start my day.  A nice hot shower followed by another cup of joe will hopefully do the trick for me. 

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