Wednesday, September 3, 2014

All for one

These guys are definitely siblings.  They fight about as much as they get along, but when they get along, it's music to my ears.  I love listening to them converse, interact and play together.  Owen imitates everything Reese does and kicks up everything to the Nth degree just so he can be heard or noticed around here.  And if he's lucky enough to get their attention, and if they are all in a good mood, I love to be the fly on the wall.  

As I've said earlier, how my kids interact and get along is one of the most important things to me as a parent.  I love the fact that the girls are so close in age and even though there's a gap that shouldn't be in between the two boys, they have each other.  Chase being here would make it perfect…in a different way.  But right now they have each other.  Some days they get along and some days they fight.  But as they get older, this will tilt toward getting along more and more and their relationships will change, become even more dependent and more unique.  They will have each other always, no matter how many miles are between them.  Distance will not matter.  They will always be close in their hearts.  

This is my hope and dream, anyway.  I grew up a different way and, thus, not all of my sibling relationships are the close knit type that I wish they were. Actually, they are very distant relationships nowadays.  I didn't work on closeness as a kid, because….well, because I was a kid and so were they and we fought a LOT, just like siblings do.  But there was no working on that relationship and bond encouraged by my parents.    They officiated (sometimes literally--we used sock 'em bop 'ems), but they never tried to make us bond--especially across the gap in ages.  They'd get us to stop fighting with punishment, but that was for their sanity.  There was no "working on relationships" when we were kids.  Things were just they way they were and you got used to it.  My older sister and I are super close today but we weren't always.  We had some major disagreements and fall-outs as adults.  But we worked things out between us over time and have a very special bond.  For the other two sisters, one is completely out of touch and the other relationship is one-sided and hindered by my mom despite her opinion.  But this is all part of what helps guide me and be motivated in encouraging a relationship between my own kids.   In the end, though, a mutual desire to be close was what bonded me with my older sis.  That and we are closer in age, too.  Going through life's milestones (college, weddings, babies, etc.) together certainly facilitates closeness, when both individuals want that.

That's why I do what I do with my kids.  I so often am looking into that crystal globe trying to imagine what things will be like between them as adults.  We even talk about it amongst all of us.  "Reese will be the type to not call or anything and so I'll  be really close to his wife and that's how we'll stay in touch," Emma says.  "Owen will always be the loudest," Karly says.  And so go the predictions….  I try, though they seem to do it on their own, to bridge the gap between the age differences.  But I strongly feel that the way I teach them to get along with each other now will affect how they get along when they are independent.  I tell them I can't make them be best friends.  But I can show them, as I do with my closeness to my own sister, how important those bonds are.  And then I have to let them try it on their own.  They have to see that when they reciprocate on this relationship, it will grow.  I don't get involved on all of their arguments (there are toooooo many).  And there are days when I get sick and tired of officiating.  I remember my mom saying that.  But I do my best to talk to each of them in private about all their siblings and what role they play in our family and how we will all be here for each other.  Always.  And how incredibly important that will be later on in life, in so many ways.  The boys are definitely different than the girls on this whole relationship thing, but I truly see this being important to my boys as adults.    

I'm not saying this is going to work and that it will all be like I hope it will be.  They will piss each other off.  A lot.  And sometimes it will be a big deal. A really big deal.  But I try my best as their mom.    It's not all I do, but it's part of what I do.  I foster their relationships as often as I can and instead of fixing their problems, I make sure one of their siblings fixes it for them when possible.  And when they fall ill, I see the result of this…

A couple of nights ago Owen had a really quick allergic reaction to something, I'm not sure what exactly, and his eyes got red and puffy and watery and he was crying and we were all concerned.  None of my kids had ever had this instant of a reaction to something or this bad of a reaction so I was even caught off guard.  To see the care and concern come out of each of them, was incredible.  Karly wanted to go to the hospital with us if we took him in (I called the hotline first and this took a while so we didn't know what we would need to do).  Emma helped with him and Reese tried entertaining him with toys and giving Owen some of his own toys.  It reminded me how delicate their little hearts are.  How all sibling rivalries are put aside and all they cared about was his well being.  It broke my heart all over again to remember the pain these guys went through watching their baby brother die and how little they each were themselves.  And how much they care…which makes them fragile, whether they are sick or worried about someone who is sick.  

This is why I want them to be close to each other.  I want them to always be there fore each other and know the importance of this.  And I think Chase has a large part in helping me make sure that happens. He has taught them so much in their short lives and he continues to every day.  Owen knows he has a big brother in heaven and I know he'll have questions one day for me that will tear me inside out…  But it's who we are and it's part of our lives.  And it's part of them realizing the importance of each other in their lives and I'm just hoping that this, along with my efforts, will forge that bond between them and continue growing at the incredible rate it is.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How Perspectives Change.

warningif you're related to me and you don't talk to me every day or every other day, you should close this window now. these are a few of my uncensored, unedited feelings and thoughts going on inside my head about an area of my life i'm feeling like is totally messed up.

Adulthood is everything we've ever dreamed of as kids, right?  I mean, I learned a lot as I became an adult and moved out of the house and into college dorms.  I learned even more as I moved into my first apartment and even more as I graduated and started my first real job.  There were more responsibilities each time and that day you finish your last car payment on the car your parents helped you with or that last payment on your student loans, you feel the freedom…and even more responsibility…of adulthood.

It's all part of growing up.  Some of us are still trying to get there, right?  Ha--maybe emotionally but that's another post.  You're the boss.  You're the one calling all the shots.  Making your own decisions.  Which job you take.  Where you live.  What you do after work.  Whether or not your bed is made every day and how clean your bathroom is.  No one else is there to check up on you or tell you how to do things.   No one to nag at you or advise you.  All you know is that all those things you learned from your mom or 4-H or home ec class or whatever, are really coming in handy now.  You cook for yourself, you take the trash out, you pay your bills on time, or you dodge calls from the credit card company.  Your actions, your consequences.  No one else to blame.  

Fast forward to getting married….and fast forward a little more to having kids.  


Everything changes.  I.Mean.Everything.  Kick up the responsibility factor to a whole new level now.  There's a whole 'nother human being you are responsible for now.  Your perspective changes on a lot of things.  Maybe your career isn't as important as it used to be.   Maybe it becomes more important.  But raising those kids, that's what it's all about.  You focus everything on them.  They learn things from you from Day 1.  And the older they get, you realize the more they are learning from you.  Of course that is how it should be, but they start to form who they are and they are a piece of you.  One of them, at least, is probably exactly like you, down to the temper or creativeness or laziness or whatever.   

As they get older you start to teach them things, like how to brush their teeth or clean up after themselves, or fix things or bake.  And here's your chance to do it right.  You don't just teach them to brush their teeth, but you teach them how to clean out the sink after they're done.  You (try to) make sure they pick up their rooms and make their bed in the morning.  You are teaching them things that they will be doing every day of the rest of their life.  You teach them how to curl their hair and put on make up.  And what you teach them is probably what you did when you were a kid, or how you fix your hair now.  

This is parenthood.  A lot of people do it.  But no one is ever taught how to parent.  Usually people don't take classes how to parent.  You just do it.  You know it from what you've learned as a kid, adolescent, young adult and now…adult.  And you draw on  your experiences as a child.  

A LOT.  

When our kids were really young (like 3 or so), I used to argue with my husband because he'd compare them to himself as a kid in situations and I knew there was no way he remembered his life at that age.  He may have remembered elementary school, and as a poor judgement of history or how fast time flies, he just thought it was the same.  But it wasn't and to me, how you discipline your kid at age three is quite different from you discipline them at age 7 or 8.  What's interesting, though, is that you draw from how you were raised to make these decisions.  And at this age, through the elementary years, my memory, or perception of my childhood, was pretty carefree and typical, but with pretty strict discipline.  We had tough consequences growing up.    My parents happened to be spankers, and timeout was something I had learned about in my parenting resources so we used a combination of both to discipline our kids.  I tried as best I could to teach them lessons without disciplining.  When I was a kid, our punishment was extra time weeding our rather large garden from what I remember most.  And our spankings were pretty harsh, with scrap lumber in the shed.  One or two swats was all it took to teach us a lifelong lesson and burn it into our memories forever.  Something I don't think any parent enjoys but some find it necessary.

So let me get to the point of this post.  I realized early on in parenthood that my own upbringing would provide an integral part in the way we chose to raise our kids.  Patric and I have talked a lot about how we were raised….everything from family traditions to family time during the week to supporting them in whatever activities they choose to participate in to discipline and beyond.  Both of our parents were strict and both of them pushed us hard in athletics so that we talk about that a ton.  And as our kids are getting older, to ages that I have a pretty vivid memory of in my own childhood, there are issues coming up that I have to deal with.  My dad kept a very tight reign over my older sister and I through high school.  We were not allowed to go out with friends or date.  That's just how life was; there wasn't any success in fighting it so we just accepted it.  We were forced to dedicate our time to our schoolwork and sports and that's what we did.  We were both successful at both of them, which is what our parents wanted for us, so it made a pretty good cover for what was really happening inside our little house in town.  

Since our girls are first, I feel like I'm going through my own childhood again in a way.  Maybe when the boys are this age, Patric will feel this way, too.  But when they have fun opportunities come up that I was not allowed to do when I was their age, I want them to take advantage of it and support them in whatever they choose.  Of course as far as activities go, I didn't have much available to choose from so that doesn't really count.  But it's little things like wearing makeup or talking about boys.  I have boundaries for them and as long as they stay within those boundaries, I love talking to my girls about who their crush is or what makeup tutorials they have seen. Now they are kids and occasionally step outside their boundaries so I discipline them, by taking something away that means a lot to them.  I don't spank them with a piece of lumber.  I couldn't even fathom doing that to my kids.  Not for a second.  I gave up spanking several years ago because I physically couldn't and it was a disaster if I even tried.  

Without getting into detail that I'm not ready to write about, there are many things that come up with my girls that trigger flashback memories of my own childhood and are creating a pit of anger in me--mainly why we were physically and emotionally handled the way we were.   This triggering helps me in a way that I deal with my girls' issues in my own parenting style.  I have made plenty of mistakes but for the most part, it's working for me.  Karly is so much like me so I draw from my relationship with my mom at her age and it helps me to know and decide what I want to do with Karly so that we have the kind of bond that I want to have with her.  I've had a rough time with Karly--it has not been an easy road.  But I feel so much better equipped in knowing how to talk and respond to her because of my memories with my own mom and with Patric's help and advice how to positively affect her.  And our relationship is amazing.  We still fight, but I feel so much closer to her than I ever did with my mom at her age and I am so thankful for that.  I was a tough cookie at her age.  I didn't talk much and Karly has those moments too.  But I'm able to do what I need to do because I know what makes her tick.  And I have Patric's help and support which is just as important.  

While these childhood revisits that I have frequently help me in parenting my girls, I can't say the same for my relationship with my own parents.  I have a lot of anger that has risen as a result of memories that come to me out of nowhere.  Memories of things that are, in my mind, insane.  I saw "When The Game Stands Tall" with Patric last night and in the movie there is a psycho parent that pushes his son to the extreme as he nears a national high school record his senior year.  This dad's lines in the movie were almost identical to the things that our dad used to say to my sister and me during our high school athletic careers.  And to hear it in a movie and see it on a screen so much bigger than life triggers an intense flashback.  Some of the scenes in the movie resonated with me so much so that I caught myself trying to block out my own personal images of them.

And this is what happens as you get older and your kids get older.  You look back on your own childhood, whether you want to or not, it comes back.  And your perspective changes.  What was once innocent and simple, a little messed up, but normal and so perfect, now becomes flooded with bad memories, negativity, and anger.  And what's unfair is that they don't know that.  They feel the distance, but they don't know why.  And I'm not at a place where I can tell them why.  I honestly don't feel it will benefit anyone to go back in time.  Digging up the past reveals way too much about a person and can wreck families.  But covering up ends up smothering you instead.  I am struggling with a lot of things about my childhood and family relationships I but also know that this struggle has probably helped me to work toward and achieve the kind of relationship I have with my own girls.  Which is something pretty special.  And it's been such a pretty thing covered up for this long, why open the package and risk ruining it?  In the meantime, I stay buried in our crazy busy life, consumed by the schedule of school drop offs and pick ups, practices for four kids and homework and everything in between….so nobody can even tell.