I Am a Shitty Parent (and that’s ok) -part 3

If you haven’t read part 1 or part 2, you can do that now. It’s not necessary, but it gives a little bit of background.

Having written this post a full year ago, and never having posted it, I find it encouraging. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve reached a place where I no longer consider most of this post to even apply to me anymore. If I can do that, anyone can. 

Like most good parents, I spend a considerable amount of time beating myself up over my parenting or feeling inadequate and trying to be a better parent. Unlike most good parents, I actually am kind of a shitty parent. I wasn’t made for this. I love my kids, but I probably shouldn’t have become a parent.

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I am addicted to my screens. I’m not always on my phone or watching TV or on the computer, but when I am, I am oblivious to the world. It’s a problem. I completely zone out!

20140426-015512.jpgNot great when my daughter is breastfeeding (missed bonding opportunity), my son is asking for a snack (parenting fail), or my husband asks me a question (talk about making a person feel unimportant). I also feel the need to constantly check my phone for emails or texts or Facebook. If I don’t have my phone with me, I actually start to feel an almost physical itch, a need to look at my phone. I get very uncomfortable. If my hubby and I are watching a movie and he pauses it for any reason (to go to the bathroom or grab a snack etc.) I instantly pick up my phone and start checking for updates. If my phone isn’t in the room, I’ll actually get up to go find it. And as soon as I pick it up… ZONED OUT!

Why is this ok?

Well, it’s ok because I’ve noticed the same addiction in my son and I’m tackling it head on. At 5 years old, he will pee in his pants if he is watching a TV show, playing video games, or even watching my husband check his email! He is so absorbed by the screens that he can’t even hear the signals his own body is sending him. So we’ve made some changes.

  
Monday-Friday the TV and computer stay off all day until after the kids have gone to bed. Then, and only then, The Captain and I will watch a show together snuggled on the couch.

I’m also consciously changing the way I use my phone. I’ve committed to not using my phone around the kids which of course I fail at every single day. I’m trying. I’m not perfect, in fact we’ve established already that I’m shitty -and that’s ok! I also try not to check my phone every time I get the urge. I resist it, if only for a few minutes at a time. Then, I try to stay ‘present’ and do only what I had set out to do on my mobile device (whether that be check Facebook, my email or write my blog), I try to stick with only one task.

There are a couple blogs that I’m following to help on my journey like Zen Habits, and Hands Free Mama. But in the end, it’s up to me. I’ve got to fight it, because my relationships with my children and my husband have to be more important.

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Avoidance, and why it doesn’t work. 

  This is my bathroom. MY BATHROOM!!

Admittedly, it’s still an ugly bathroom. BUT. IT’S. CLEAN. 

I’ve always had a hard time cleaning, but never more so than the past few months. Did you know that the more stuff you have, the harder it is to clean? And did you know that when you’re focused on someone else’s junk, you stop noticing your own? And do you honestly realize how much crap you have that you don’t even want or need?

So now that we’ve established the what, let’s talk a little about the how. 

First of all, things got so out of control that I eventually stopped trying (to preserve my sanity). This lasted about a year. Do you have any idea what happens when you ignore hoarding for a year? I’ll tell you what happens; mice. Mice happen. Mice are bad. Mice are very bad. Mice are “friends threaten to call child welfare” bad. 

So the next thing I did was call my mother… Ok, so I didn’t even do that right away. It took 6 months. I reverted further and further from the rest of humanity trying to hide my shame. I cleaned poop, and killed mice, and bleached, and trapped, and tried everything I could think of. Then… When all of that failed, when I was completely and utterly broken… 

I called my mother. 

And she, like the amazing woman I had somehow forgotten she is, dropped everything. She and my father drove from the other side of the continent to rescue me, their 30 year old baby. I’m not some pampered only child either. No, I’m just number 3 of 4.  That’s how amazing they are. My parents spent 5 days here you’d be surprised what you can accomplish in 5 days. And my mom introduced me to the Japanese KonMari method of tidying. Or more specifically, 

“The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up”. 

Seriously. Read it. NOW. 

Thanks Mom. 

I Am a Shitty Parent (and that’s ok) -part 2

If you are my mom, just don’t read this. Seriously. I’ve spent way too much time and energy trying to find a tactful way to say what I’m about to say, but there isn’t one. Sorry, them’s the breaks. Don’t read this.

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So yeah, back to being a shitty parent. It’s sad, but true. I’m impatient, I yell, I get frustrated, and I generally suck at being a parent. I never know what I’m doing, or what I should be doing, and asking my mom for advice is like asking the garburator to help remove a sliver.

And why is it ok?

Well, the shortest answer I can think of is: my mother-in-law, Helen. (We talked about her a few posts back) She is absolutely the most loving woman on the planet albeit helpless she just oozes that unconditional love stuff. She even tries to kiss me… On the lips! Which, I will admit kind of weirds me out but at least it’s better than living with the ice queen. Although, I have to wonder sometimes how she’d react if I suddenly called her for advice when the kids were crying and my nerves were frayed and I just wanted to cry.

I’m my mother’s defence, I think her coldness, her brutal methods, her perfectionism, her inconsistency were all signs of mental illness. She’s never been treated. And I love her. I’d defend her with my life, and I feel kind of bad for her.

I didn’t have the best parenting role models. There were two options for discipline in my parent’s house; Mom- psychological torture or Dad- physical abuse… Or both. Sometimes it was both. I can tell you I’d have chosen the psychological ‘discipline’ at the time if I’d have had any say in the matter. It seemed less painful in the moment. Looking back, it was probably the most damaging. I was made to believe that I was a nuisance, unwanted, unloved. I was taught to become compliant, invisible, less than everyone around me. This generation of entitlement that I supposedly belong to? I wasn’t even entitled to feel safe and loved in my own home. I became self-destructive and was suicidal for many years because I believed that everyone was better off without me. I SERIOUSLY thought that my son would be happier, healthier, and more well adjusted if I killed myself so that he could be free of me. How fucked up is that???

Then suddenly, after years of being torn down and belittled and hurt in ways I can not even begin to explain, I became a human being. I don’t know exactly when it happened, maybe at 18, or 21, or when I got married or became a parent. But I was in. Suddenly, my psychological health mattered. I had rights. I was entitled to emotional health. I was loved, even complimented! But I was also given parenting advice that sent me screaming in the other direction!

“Find the thing that is the absolute worst for him, whether it’s social isolation, being invisible, losing freedoms and then draw the line. Tell him where the line is, then don’t say anything until he crosses it, then hit swiftly and suddenly with no exceptions. He’ll learn.”

Learn what?? That I’m cruel? That his feelings don’t matter? That he has no control of his world at all and it can be ripped out from under him without warning?

So yeah, I’m a shitty parent, but I try.

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And I’m learning to love first.
Aha Parenting is helping, so is Helen.

I’m Procrastinating Again

So I realise that I’ve promised you a post a few weeks back about why I’m a crappy parent (and by extension why my mother was a crappy parent), but I’ve been procrastinating. There are a lot of reasons for procrastinating, but the greatest reason is that my mother knows about my blog. That means she reads my blog although she might not, but I like to assume that I’m at least important enough to get a read once in a while. So, because I’m acutely aware that my mother is watching maybe,I censor myself. It’s difficult to call your mother a crappy parent when you know that it was mostly not her fault and would probably hurt her feelings, but it’s true so I will do it… Just not today.

Yup, I’m procrastinating again.

I Am a Shitty Parent (and that’s ok) -part 1

There are three reasons I’m a shitty parent; I have BPD, I had a crappy role model sorry Mom, and I’m an addict. Now, before anyone panics, I’m not on drugs (prescription OR elicit), or an alcoholic. I’ll address all three of these reasons in this and the following 2 posts. Why they make me a shitty parent, and why that’s ok.

First, I have mixed-episode bi-polar disorder (and a splash of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder just to make things interesting). I didn’t always know I had this, but my entire life I did know that for me, the world was much harder than it seemed to be for most people. I had irrational anger issues, was impatient and easily frustrated by others, was moody, had trouble connecting socially, and was explosive and unpredictable. This does not make for a good parent. In fact, it is about the most damaging parenting style there is!

So how is this ok?!?

Well, fortunately for me and my family I hit rock bottom when my son was 2 years old. I checked myself into my local hospital psych ward Oh the stigma!, and got connected with the most brilliant Doctor who (ha ha, I just said Doctor Who and it wasn’t even on purpose *geek*) gave my condition a name, a treatment, and hope. He explained to me that mixed-episodes are frequently misdiagnosed because the mania and the depression happen at the same time (which is hella confusing let me tell you), so most doctors will only treat the depression making the manic episode (which is less like euphoria, more like homicidal agitation) even worse than it was before. So after a brief period of drug-induced fog, I was released from hospital and started to experience the most incredible sensation that I could not ever remember experiencing before even in childhood. I was happy. Not jump off the roof, over the moon excited kind of happy because an amazing thing happened… That was normal for me. But deep, calm, radiating joy that filled my whole body and changed my entire perspective on people, the world, and life. There were still problems in my life, but I could see them objectively. I kept feeling happy, I felt it every day. Every. Day. After about a month I stopped waiting for it to go away. Captain Kirk gave this feeling a name, he called it “contentment”. He said that’s how most people feel all the time, they’re just used to it.

Then I got pregnant with Power Puff. Oops. She was planned… Just not for another year or so.

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All of a sudden I was off my meds. That was hard. I couldn’t take my medication while pregnant or breastfeeding. Well, what’s 9 months? We’ll be fine- Wait! Breastfeeding!?! Oh boy. Well, what’s 3 years? I’ll live. How bad could it be?

Now, 3 years might seem excessive to some, but 9 months of that is spent being pregnant, and the World Health Organisation recommends

“breastfeeding 2 years and beyond”

So, being a postpartum nurse on a maternity unit I feel I should at least do that, so that I can be a role model for my patients. I’m pushing through, but this past week has made me really strongly consider whether or not I can make it until September.

If I have another episode, I will be resuming my meds and weening my daughter.

The Rage of Mixed Episode Bi-Polar Depression

I wish I could describe the blind rage that is mixed episode bi-polar type II.

I am obviously having an episode. It wasn’t so obvious to me when it first began, probably because it snuck up on me. It’s like when you’re swimming in crystal clear water and you can see the bottom of the lake. It doesn’t look that deep until all of a sudden you try to stand, but you didn’t realize your feet can’t touch bottom. Your head bobs below the surface and you breathe in a lung full of water. Suddenly, you’re panicking, thrashing about in the water. You can’t breathe, you can’t swim, and the shore looks so far away. You glance around wildly only to realize you’re all alone. Everyone who was there just a minute ago seems to have disappeared and you don’t know where to turn to get help.

I am mad at everything. Not all the time, which is the deceiving part, just whenever anything goes wrong. I flash from just fine, to blind rage in a split second. I feel like 90% of people are idiots (which of course they are, but usually it doesn’t make me angry), and I rage against their ineptitude.

“Seriously? Are your signal lights broken or what?”
“Why on earth would you throw garbage in the recycling bin?”
“I told you 10 minutes ago to put your pajamas on!”
“What is wrong with you?!?”

But the question should be, “What is wrong with me?” What happened to the patient momma who could laugh at her children’s mistakes? What happened to the understanding wife who would give my husband a neck rub when I noticed him start to forget things and make blunders? What happened to the friend who was a great listener and had infinite patience and warmth? Was I ever that person?

I am mad at everything; my husband, my children, strangers, me, the weather, my house, the sun…

I hate people. I hate inanimate objects. I hate myself.

And I feel guilty for it.

Dear Kindergarten Bully: Please leave my son alone.

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Today was anti-bullying day. I don’t know if it was just our city or perhaps the province, the whole country, or even the world. But it was wear-pink, bullying awareness, and whatever else day.

It was also the day my 5 year old cried, begged, and pleaded for me not to leave him at school. With his eyelashes all stuck together, big fat teardrops rolling over his bright red cheeks and off his chin, and boogers streaming from his nose he begged me to let him stay with me. He promised to be good and told me he loved me sooooo much and could he please come back home because he hates school so much?

The worst thing about school according to my pint-sized imp? Recess. Yep, recess. So I brought him home.

Rumple has been plagued with non-specific symptoms since early in the school year. He complained of headaches, dizziness, stomach aches, nausea, tiredness, you name it. We brought him to doctors, specialists, had blood tests, ultrasounds, and even saw a cardiologist. No one could find anything wrong with him. But the illnesses have been increasing in frequency and he’s been missing more and more school until this past month. I can probably count the number of days he was actually there on my fingers!

It turns out that he has been experiencing bullying every day for months. What makes this worse, is that we all (teachers, aides, bus drivers, and myself who spends a day in the classroom helping out once a week) assumed that they were best friends. We thought they had an adorable little love affair going on because whenever we looked at the two of them, they were holding hands, hugging, or stealing kisses on the cheek. So we encouraged it. It was cute and innocent, so why not?

Because all of that overt affection was hiding something much more covert and sinister.

It started out as manipulation and control. Little whispers in his ear telling him what to do, who to play with, where to go. Threats of getting him in trouble or teasing him in front of the other kids if he didn’t comply. This escalated into playing games he didn’t like, head-butting and pinching if he didn’t cooperate, and kicking him under the table if he didn’t always choose her to be his partner for activities. Boys don’t cry or tattle she’s taunt, or was he just a big baby? All this time he never told. He was embarrassed. He didn’t want to seem weak or like a baby. He was Mommy’s big boy; brave and tough.

I saw the signs. But I didn’t recognise them.