Today, I Got This

I got this. This mantra has played over and over in my mind for nearly a decade. It has gotten me through some rough days, endless nights and was a means to an end in sight. There is no doubt that 75% of the time, I most certainly did not have this, but as long as I kept telling myself I was in control, then I could fake it enough so I believed it.

I was that mother- the one that thought she could, and somehow miraculously was, doing it all. I was putting all my efforts into a career, I volunteered with the school PTA and community groups, I taxied the children to activities 5+ times a week while keeping the day-to-day operations of our home successful. But like everything that isn’t sustainable, two months ago I crashed- boy did I fall down hard. And it was then, that we made a decision that now really has me questioning my identity, my life motives- and frankly, everything I believed I could be up until today.

Today truthfully has been years in the making. Because today, I will stop struggling to put my career first, to perfect motherhood and be the poster-face of someone that can do it all. Today I will be content with walking away to just be a Mom for a little while.

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The complete irony is that my mantra is stuck on repeat even louder than ever. This is what we need- I got this. But I have this little voice that has me questioning what if I’m not cut out to be full-time Mom material??! What am I going to do when I can’t drown my overwhelming emotions in my career? My husband keeps trying to assure me that a career break will be great for our family, for myself and for us as a couple. And all I can think is- if I’m doing a mediocre job parenting part-time up until today, how on earth am I going to be successful at it around the clock!?

I really don’t know either- but for the first time in eight years, I’ve realized that I need to try. Phew- I got this.

Summer of ’18

While reflecting this passing summer, the words that I would use to describe it would be … terrible. And the overwhelming photos and posts on social media make me feel even more terrible. What really hit me and sparked this outpouring of building emotion, was an article I read last night called ‘Summer is nearly over- are you making the most of it?’ Nope, not even a little bit. I know I shouldn’t compare our life to posts on social media, but I was already feeling guilty enough without its influence. And if any of you reading this might be feeling these feels too- I get it, and maybe you’ll find peace in knowing you’re not alone.

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This summer has been utterly exhausting, and worse yet- unproductive. Due to varying life circumstances, this summer has led to both my husband and I both working full time. Which in turn means our ‘non-work’ hours are limited to yard-work, housekeeping and just the basics of living. This also means that those great summer memories with the kids/family are non-existent. Even a quick stop at the splash park, an evening of fishing at the riverbank or trip to the farmers market has been non-existent. 

The guilt, resentment, and regrets I have are overwhelming and it makes me angry

Don’t get me wrong- we’ve tried to make the best we could for our kids. We sent them away to the lake with Grandma, drove countless miles each early morning and evening to have them at a day camp, rearranged schedules to pick them up from family that has graciously offered to take them to an event. But as we are nearing the end of summer, we are now left with exhausted/shuffled children, burnt out parents, a longer to-do list than when we started, an empty photo album and with how events unfolded this summer, an uncertain future.

And all for what? To prove that we can do it all? To meet the expectation we are great employees? To put a little extra in our savings that will ultimately be spent on extra-curricular activities come September? To avoid disappointing someone? I’m reconsidering if raising our own meat or growing our own produce is really worth the sacrifice of a few hours spent as a family. Are my children’s tears at 6:30am when their bodies are utterly exhausted to get up for an hour of travel to day-camp worth meeting a quota at my job? Even our dog has taken up residence mostly at the neighbours because no one is ever even home, nevermind time to actually give him the attention he deserves.

And I hate it. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it! The guilt, resentment, and regrets I have are overwhelming and it makes me angry. My youngest starts school in a few weeks- and instead of building on his excitement, I’m scrambling with interviews for part-time childcare. Is dismissing his desire to share his feelings because I don’t have time to stop to acknowledge them really worth it? 

I’m measuring daily success on what I can cross off the ever-growing to-do list, not on our children, my marriage and certainly not on myself. When we are together, I allow the kids to distract themselves with technology, fight with each other for attention and everyone watches as I prioritize everything, but time with any of them.

Your partner and children are meant to be the most precious aspects of your life- yet here I am failing them all. Everything else became a priority this summer, and I’m now in a cycle where I don’t know even know how to stop it. While it wouldn’t be a surprise, my biggest fear is that my kids will look back at their childhood and say that they wish Mom (and Dad) were less distracted by everything else. And to foresee that… it hurts.

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It will never happen to you, until it does

I was really torn about whether to write this or not- until I recently met with a great friend and we were talking about how no one ever shares the photos or stories that go on ‘behind the scenes’. You know- the hour long tantrums, the silent treatment, the failed parenting moments- along with the anxiety, the rage- even the 746 pictures it took to get ONE where everyone is looking (or more importantly not screaming). We are so focused on appearing like we have our shit together, that we are adding to this image of ‘perfect parenting’ and well, let me assure you- I most definitely am not. Let this be my forewarning for family & friends- this year’s Christmas letter will include less fake smiles and undoubtedly more cuss words. So what I am about to share is as raw, honest and vulnerable as I can get.

  

December 28, 2016- that is a day I will never forget. That is the day that I nearly lost a bit of my soul, and should circumstances have been slightly different, I would have lost my son as well. We’ve all done a lot of things as human beings that we wish nothing more than to forget, accept and move on. And I like to think that one day I’ll accept and move on- but not today nor will it be tomorrow.

Our carelessness and need to constantly be rushing through every moment of life resulted in striking and pinning my sweet little angel between a vehicle and a ski-doo. I will never forget that terrifying moment I looked over to see his helpless body caught between steel, and both of us paralyzed in fear. I recall watching my husband’s super strength as he pulled off the machine and together, the two of us stripping him down in sub-zero temperatures to identify any broken bones and injuries. As a parent, we hurt when our babies are hurting, and let me assure you on this one- you’re breaking inside when YOU are the reason they’re hurting.

After initial assessment, imaging and testing at our hospital- it was determined that my little guy’s injuries warranted deeper observation and treatment from a paediatric team. I was at home trying to keep myself calm, while knowing that my child was hurting and I wasn’t right there beside him reassuring him it was going to be okay (I had to stay home with our other son). When my husband called to inform me of their decision to not only transfer him to the Stollery Children’s hospital- but air lift him via STARS for the matter of urgency, I needed to see my boy and I set off.

 

Just departing Red Deer in STARS
 

As I pulled into the parkade at the University hospital, I could hear the chopper still on the pad. I ran nearly half way around the building to the emergency entrance and it took me three attempts to say who I was and why I was there- basically, I crumbled. Security lead me to a room where I could watch them come by- someway, somehow I beat them into emergency, and he wasn’t going to be alone in a strange place after-all. During transport, I had received a few text updates from the STARS team letting me know his status, which I will be forever greatful for. As it was, they came right past where I was waiting and with waves of emotion, I was able to see my little boy for the first time since the accident.

Immediately we went straight into a trauma room and was overwhelmed by Doctors, Surgeons, specialists, introductions and questions. He was screaming out and my Momma strength was wavering. I vaguely remember overhearing a Doctor (one of the many whose name will forever be lost) indicate to bring in a social worker. Fortunately, I was able to pull myself together when we realized that his cries of discomfort were due to his folly and not his internal organs. While still disheartening, this was a tremendous relief.

Everyone was so kind to us, and I truly felt that we didn’t deserve to be treated so well as we were the reason he was there. Doctors brought him a book and added to the array of stickers and bandages on his abdomen. The STARS crew shared photos that they had taken during his flight for us to have and cherish- they had even given him a teddy bear for comfort on the ride to keep. In miraculous time, my husband appeared and together, the relief we had once we were told that no immediate surgery was needed was truly grounding. We were going to be there for a few days purely for observation and with the nature of his injuries, the hospital’s ability to quickly react should his body need some immediate intervention. 

 

The healing power of Lego
 

The three of us spent the next few days building Lego, cruising the halls in our wheelchair hoping to catch a Pokemon and encouraging our little guy to heal and strengthen. We’ve had a few stays now at the Stollery Children’s Hospital and each time I am so gracious for the care provided- not only for the first class medical care, but also the mental well-being of the children staying there. We truly are so honoured to have such a facility that is dedicated to improving the lives of children.

   

 

STARS has always been an organization that we’ve held dear and supported over the years. (Let me assure you there are no shortages of ‘helicopter bandaids’ in this house). They were there for my husband many years ago with his accident, and today we continue to hold our gratitude for their passionate care with our son. Not that we live in any kind of a bubble, but you never really think a situation is going to happen to you- until it does. And once it does, you re-evaluate what is truly important. 

  

His Adventure

On the eve of my oldest’s first real day of school (okay- Kindergarten), I’ve really stopped to look back at the last five years of this little man’s life.

 

We’ve had a lot of accomplishments and milestones achieved over his short life, and while him starting school is “my greatest accomplishment in parenting” (as quoted by my husband), it’s bittersweet for me. I am excited for him to start school and the amazing experiences and challenges that accompany it, but torn by the realization he’s no longer little.

 

I wonder- is he ready? Have all those little preparations we’ve been incorporating the last 9 months gotten him past his social anxiety? Is he going to crumble when he walks through the door with 30 other curious and unnerved children? Or will he be like every other 5 year old, excited on the adventure ahead.

 

We realized about a year ago that my oldest really struggled when he was faced in a new environment with new people, new sounds and without his everyday comforts. He could not cope and we realized this would potentially be a disaster when school started. Everything about us was structured- our dayhome and personal interactions were always consistent; our daily routine was exceptionally structured; and everything we did was comfortable and predictable. So we had to shake it up! We enrolled him in organized sports, took him without notice to new places, met new people- and hey, it worked!!

 

I think about the necessary life skills he will require in his adventurous months to come- did we cover them all? Letters- check! Numbers- check! Can spell his name- check! Toileting, shoes, manners- check, check, check! But then I stop and remind myself that I wasn’t the one who taught him all those skills.

 

Being a full-time working parent has it’s drawbacks- and at this point today, the only thing on my mind is that all the amazing childcare providers we’ve been with, were the ones who got to share that first congratulatory moment when he suceeded at learning something new. Don’t get me wrong- these providers have the patience of a Saint and are so very important in our lives; but that gleam a child gets in their eyes once they have the self satisfaction of accomplishing something was not a glimmer I was able to share often. And it breaks my heart a little today, on this emotionally charged day.

 

And I think ahead- the next 12+ years, he is going to continously learn new things that I had no involvement with. I know it’s part of learning and growing- and frankly why there are highly educated people that are substantially more qualified than myself- but it still makes me sad.

 

So tonight, I’ll take an extra moment to kiss him goodnight, tell him how he makes me proud, and remind him of his strength and courage. And then tomorrow, while waiving fairwell to the bus departing, and through misty eyes- I’ll wish him on his adventure.