Raising future adults — one chore and life skill at a time


So, here I am over at 123 Parenting Lane and thought I would share what’s up. I’ve begun to change how I am doing this parenting thing and I think it’s because my kids are growing up so danged fast.

It hit me a while back that I am not raising kids anymore. I don’t have babies, toddlers or little kids. I have one preteen boy and two teenage girls. Frankly the last thing I want to do is raise kids anymore. Why do I say that? Well I don’t WANT to have grown KIDS when I’m done with the official parenting thing and become an empty nester. I want to have grown adult offspring.
IMG_2233I’ve changed gears: I am now “raising future adults.” This change in mindset has completely overhauled how I do things, how I parent, how I work at parenting and how I see the day-to-day struggles and challenges. I found it actually takes a lot of stress out of the things that we once fought over. With a mindset change, it’s become easier to distance my self personally and see the end game for what it is: a practice game, dress rehearsal, a run-through before the big shindig.

Take cooking, for example. I used to cook all the meals, clean up all the mess, do all the dishes and work hard to make everyone happy. Now? Yeah, I don’t do most of that anymore. Oh, I still have dishes that I do here and there, I still cook some and plan meals, but I’m not the main source of all of it.

We have a weekly rotation of chores. One main chore for each kid, one empties the dishwasher, one fills, one cleans up the bathroom. At the end of the night, everyone takes their own stuff to their rooms and doing this keeps the house relatively sane. They do this daily. Then they each are assigned two nights to create a meal they know how to make or want to learn. Three kids + two meals each = six nights off and only one night for me to cook. My husband helps my son cook his meals. One day he will be on his own for that too.

The kids cooking not only teaches them how to make a meal but also the work involved in prep and getting it done and served. They pick meals they like, but they also respect the efforts of their siblings and that the sibling likes the meal. I rarely hear “I hate this,” or “I want something else to eat.” It’s not an option to eat anything else, and no one will die from eating something that isn’t their favorite. On a positive note here, they also know they have at least two meals a week they like, because they get to pick them.

I sit in the kitchen and work on my laptop. If they need help, I am available to answer questions, give pointers or give a hand. Often they will use the crock pot and even stick the dish in before school. Then there is precious little to do that night. They love that, and we all eat well.

Why am I making my kids cook and do all the kitchen work? Because I already know how to do all that. THEY are the ones who need to know how to do it and how to do it well when they leave home. These future adults need to know how to care for a house and themselves and feeding themselves more than PB&Js. It’s something I want them to leave home with. I remember my friends asking me how to cook stuff when I was in college, and let me tell you they were beyond clueless. When both my brother and I moved out we had cookbooks full of recipes. He’s now an amazing cook and baker on top of being an awesome dad, husband and engineer. We left home knowing things because my mom did this exact same thing with us. She rocked, even if I didn’t appreciate her smarts at the time.

So yeah, I’m done raising kids. They do complain now and again about it. I listen and say, ‘yeah, sorry about that.”  It changes nothing. We are a family and we work together to do what it takes to function and get through this life thing.

It’s important they also know that I don’t love what I have to do daily either, but I do have to do it anyway. Once they leave home, they are going to have to do lots of things they won’t love to do. It’s good practice doing things you don’t want to do and developing a decent attitude about it. After all, they can’t yell back at a boss that they don’t FEEL like doing something, or they hate that job chore, or they don’t like working next to so and so.

Giving them practice doing things they don’t enjoy, but which are needed skills, is just good parenting. It took a while to get it to work like a rusty, badly functioning clock, but, hey, we are plugging away, the hands are moving, and regardless as to if it’s timely or not, we do eventually get it all done and learn things along the way.

Eventually someday, I’ll look back and be glad I had the headaches and stress associated with raising adults, because they will invite me over for dinner and we will have food on the table and their kids will unknowingly thank me with their shrieks of “EWWWWW, I don’t LIKE that!”

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Beyond backstage – the unseen hurdles and what this play means REALLY


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The finished set of “The Savannah Disputation” – 2015

A couple of years ago, I came out of a motherhood-induced-hiatus and stepped back onto the stage again. I’d written and directed and been in plenty of church skits, silly sketches, and dabbled with doing drama at retreats, but I hadn’t been on a REAL stage for an actual play, in 17 years and there is a very distinct difference.

I assumed the dream of doing theater was dead. I didn’t see how I’d be able to do it again. It wasn’t because of motherhood, nor of schedules or the like. The reason wasn’t even the physical issues associated with my Chiari Malformation (where my brain tissue does not fit into my skull correctly and instead herniates into the brain stem, creating challenging issues and pain; to put it neatly) No, the obstacle was tied into my seeking help with Chiari pain management and how I was overmedicated and medically abused.

After being diagnosed, I chose not to do the surgery where they remove a part of the skull at the base and relieve the pressure, kinda like unbuckling a belt after Thanksgiving dinner. It was risky and I was told I had an 80% chance of walking out the same or worse than I walked into surgery. Every case of Chiari is different. Mine was not a good match for a “fix” and, sorry, but my kids were really young at the time, and I couldn’t afford to be worse than I already was. So I instead sought out a pain management clinic. A friend of mine, who also lives in chronic pain, gave me the name of her doctor and I made the call.

Long story short? The doctor (term I use LOOSELY) nearly killed me.

Luckily for me my own family doctor, who is my hero, as well as my fully involved family who loved me, took me to Indy, helped me get out of his clutches and saved my life. I was close to deathly overmedicated and at one point I actually questioned how much longer I had. Would I be here to raise my kids? I begged God one night to answer “yes” I’d be there for them. I didn’t tie Him to my ways of “being there” – but instead asked that he restore me – let them have a mom who the not only need, but let them know ME – the real ME – the one HE created once, and I no longer was. I wanted to somehow have that vivacious, courageous, spunky, bubbly, goofy, spitfire there for my girls to roll their eyes at and my son to be embarrassed by.

It was a long hard year when I began to get clean. I was one of those red ribbon “Just say NO to drugs” kids.  I’d never tried a single drug over Tylenol in my life. Then suddenly I was on all these hard drugs, muscle relaxers, and pain pills. I had every one of the most stolen and desired prescription drugs in my medicine lock box… All legally and completely hooked. My body was a mess. I had body tremors that came randomly and my arm or leg would even jerk and move on their own, waking me from sleep. I was a mess.

I detoxed one drug at a time, hiding for long periods in the bedroom so I could do the ugly stuff alone, out of my kid’s sight. I thought when I finally came off the drugs, and I was back on track with some management that was SAFE for me, that I’d be out of the clutches of this mess.  Then I realized… I had brain damage.

Yeah, the memory issues I had on the drugs were bad, but they didn’t go away. I had lost my ability to drive longer than 20-30 minutes tops in any given stretch. My brain can’t concentrate in intense periods for longer. It will shut down and I have a tendency to suddenly jolt to “consciousness” and realize I’m driving when my brain lapses.

I now had serious trouble with short term memory. I could no longer depend on remembering I’d even heard a conversation. Everything had to go into the long term memory, or be written down and reminders popping up on the phone for me to have a chance to retain it and show up to places and do things.

IMG_0097All that to say, while romping on the stage had always been a dream, it was never one I thought I could ever do again with any kind of success. How would I ever remember lines?  There was no way.  I struggled the first few shows to remember my 2-15 lines. I was trying to put them into my memory the way I always had.. and those methods didn’t work anymore for me.

IMG_0259I had a few moments of panic and freaking out, I’ll admit it. I was sure I’d never be able to do it. My family listened, but encouraged me anyway. My friends told me to shut the heck up and just go be AMAZING. I found little notes in my script that made me feel like I was no longer doing this for me… maybe I was doing it for us all… my kids needed to see me succeed. They needed to know that stress can good, not just not something to avoid; even thrive under.

I refused to give into it. Otherwise it was like I was letting this doctor steal a part of my soul, not just have robbed me of years of my life, and of quality.  I am a heck of a lot more stubborn than that!

I told my family all I wanted for Christmas was the chance to do this show with their support. I had won a role in a four person cast, with some amazingly talented actors. Every night was like taking a college class in acting.

IMG_0613My hidden fear, however, was that I’d fail them all. I was increasingly worried when the words wouldn’t come, wouldn’t stick. It’s always a struggle to get the words to stick. Now? I wondered just how much brain damage there was. Could I do it at all? Again, a few key friends told me to SHUT UP AND GO STUDY. I may not have believed in myself, but everyone else did.

Could I still do this? Could I be who I always wanted to be? Could I step back on stage and really be any good? YES… I can. I know that now. I overcame the limitations and while I may never forget these lines as they have been placed in a crazy hard longterm spot, well, maybe that means I wont forget them when I’m on stage! Ha!

We open tonight. The first of three weekends of shows will begin in just a few hours. I am excited, but not just because I am 40, finally back on track to live my dreams and enjoy my passions… but because I overcame a massive life obstacle, kicked my way through some pretty hard crap, and will get to romp across the stage, holler, smirk, laugh, and undoubtedly, have the time of my life.

What dream have you given up on? What refuses to die inside of you, or nags you? Maybe 2015 is the year to decide what controls you, what control you have, and how to change the balance of power. Be amazing. I know you can!

To hear the director chat about the upcoming show, check out this link: http://wboi.org/post/disputation-takes-comic-look-lines-divide-faithful

Who’s the parent here?


Who's the Parent?

Every now and then, instead of hearing my Mom’s words come out of my mouth, I hear my Dad’s. Lately it’s been one phrase in particular, “Who’s the kid and who’s the parent, here?” That was always my cue, as a kid, to shut the heck up and remember my place.

For whatever reason, something in the air maybe, my kids have been feeling their oats and forgetting that they are the ones who are NOT in charge. While I do drive what feels like a taxi service and work as a food distributor or short order cook, I am in fact a parent, not a servant.  I’ve had to reestablish that the way things get done around here are based on some expectations of us all working together as a family (aka team). Fail to uphold the expectations of the team, to fulfill requirements, and like any team, even star players will be benched. Let’s just say I am not always popular around here. That’s okay. I got over popularity contests when I stopped being in High School.

I’ve found that things don’t run smooth when we cease to respect each other, but more important, when the kids forget to respect their place. I am often shocked at how many parents allow their kids to call the shots, to be the one who runs the show, and for whatever backward reason, they actually care if their kid likes them or not. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love when my kids like me. Heck I get crazy happy when I get to be the hero! But being their friend and being liked? That isn’t going to teach them the things they need to know before they are tossed into the world to have a go at it themselves.

We have three kids and as I see it, three mini-adults-in-training who need to know how things go once they leave the nest. I, frankly, know how to cook, clean, and do chores. My charges here also NEED to know these things. If I was “popular” and did all these things for them, I would honestly be failing them as a parent. How can anyone learn if they are never instructed, get the chance to practice, and to have someone along to mentor them? So the way I see it, it’s good parenting to make my kids sigh loudly, probably hate me a bit under their breath, and get a chance to do chores, learn to cook, and to develop skills in and outside the house. As a bonus, our home runs smoother, stays cleaner, and I catch a small break where I don’t do EVERYTHING by myself.

Think I’m terrible? The kids are handed nearly everything, from toys and gadgets to food, clothes, and a warm roof over their head. Requiring them to contribute to the team for a half hour a day in chores/mentoring-for-adulthood and abiding by house rules for having homework done before partaking of anything that plugs in or uses a battery is NOT torture. It’s just good sense.

Who’s the kid and who’s the parent in your house? I hope it’s YOU!

 

This post first was published by MOMs for the July/August print issue in Fort Wayne, IN. Their website is http://moms.fortwayne.com and my blog with them is located at: http://moms.fortwayne.com/?q=blogs/blog/will-settle-chocolate

Time to take the helm


 

Boat sterring wheelThe following blog was published to my sister blog over at Moms.FortWayne.Comhttp://moms.fortwayne.com/?q=blogs%2Fpost%2Ftaking-back-helm

TO PUT IT MILDLY, it’s quite possible that THIS summer is going to be the WORST-summer-EVER. (This would be from my kids’ perspectives, and honestly, quite possibly, my own.)

 

It happens every summer. The kids come home from school to a shout of hurray and they then proceed to get instantly bored. Routines are mixed up and the usual daily rigamarole is not the usual anymore. It’s nice in a way, but it also means that the kids have a tendency to run amok. I always let the first week play out as it will, let their wind-downs happen and let summer set in. Then I try to corral them. This time around I am frustrated, irritable and annoyed.

Why so crazy? Probably because my kids are as big as I am, could eat me out of house and home because they are bored (and having teenage growth spurts) and because I am far less tolerant when my health is flared up and I am personally not on top of my game. I have decided I am taking back the helm. For whatever reason, in the week and a half since school let out, the kids have decided they run the show. Yup, they got the idea that since school wasn’t in session, normal rules don’t apply. It’s gonna be a rude wake up session starting today.

I find that I go crash into bed, and I am still finding kids rotating up for drinks, “I’m hungry”, and “can’t sleep” complaints till after 1 a.m. Yeah, totally uncool. When did bedtime stop being bedtime?  “There’s no school tomorrow so it doesn’t really matter.” I beg to differ. It matters to ME and the cranky way you’ll behave all the next day, as if it’s my fault you’re tired … oh, it matters, my child!

For some reason, we are playing musical rotating beds. My son wants to sleep on the couch nightly as if that is the only place he can crash, but then ends up in my room. Why? Because Dad works third shift and that side of the bed is empty and comfortable is my guess. I don’t buy into the new reason given every night. I’m not dumb. It’s all made up. I agree that though it began with real issues, I must admit we now are simply used to doing what we want, and so it prevails. All the children will clamor for the living room soon enough because it is getting hotter and we have one window air conditioner placed in said room. I get that, I do, but this must end. I sleep in my room … we all have rooms. Sleep in them until it is truly so hot it’s not possible. Now is not that time. In fact, in my current state of mind, it may NEVER be that time.

I know that parenting today is different than it was when I was a kid. I would never have dreamed of pulling the things my kids have pulled this week or the last few weeks of school, frankly. I’ve been lax. I’ve let things slide because I’ve felt like crap. But crappy or not, I’m done getting told what we do around here by kids. I don’t remember all my parents did, but the respect was there. It’s somehow missing here. It ends now. My kids KNOW how to respect, they just aren’t being made to. Time to man up (or MOM up)!

I’ve mandated their chores to be done and scheduled reading for an hour a day and math a half hour on a math program online, each day. All of them, with checkoff logs on the fridge. Until that’s done, don’t touch anything that plugs in. Just don’t try it. Forget? Lose tomorrow’s plugged-in time all together and still do all the work to earn the time you don’t get. Kids get one hour of plugged-in time a day, then they earn it minute-for-minute by reading or playing math games, and I’ll consider chores to trade for game time. Don’t ask me for more. Don’t ask for freebies. The answer is no.

I will lose my mind as they go through withdraw and the spasms of how unfair life is. I will lose my cool as they loathe and hate me as all teens and preteens do. Make no mistake, though, I gave them their stubborn streaks … I own the rights to the moxie they call upon. I will outlast the attitudes and the sass. I will make them rethink it in fact, for I am far more stubborn and I’ve got more moxie than they have in their little fingers.

Don’t mess with this mama! She’s taking back the summer!

 

 

 

When THEY are watching every move…


Every now and then I get a glimpse that I am not alone in our fight here behind our front door, and it selfishly feels good and is freeing.  Then I get a little sad, because I realize someone else has a life that is hard, frustrating, heartbreaking, and more than a little overwhelming. I don’t wish that on anyone. I had a Momma break-down-without-anyone-noticing moment recently when my mask was called upon to really do a a hell of a job protecting my dignity.  I wanted to break down in tears and instead had to continue to sit and be not just mom, but a smart, intelligent parent who appeared to have a clue what was going on in my daughter’s life.  I am supposed to know those things after all. I am ashamed to say, I realized that I have misunderstood some of what my daughter has told me for 15 years of her life. I got what she said, but I never understood the severity of it.  It was during a standard question and answer portion of her medication review with her psychiatrist, and it hit me like being slammed into a brick wall at 100 miles per hour. It’s a normal monthly appointment where we check to make sure the meds she’s taking both works for her still and that there are no questions, health changes, and that all the “understoods” are actually understood.  So when the doctor said, “Do you ever feel like you are being watched,” the answer is always yes.  My daughter feels on display constantly.  Anywhere we go she feels like it’s a red carpet moment. She feels unable to blend in, instead feeling intensely that all eyes are fixed on her at all times. It can be overwhelming just running in the store to grab a gallon of milk.  Running errands is fear-facing therapy sessions for us.

By artist DLouise found at http://dlouiseart.deviantart.com

By artist DLouise found at http://dlouiseart.deviantart.com

But when she said, “yes” this time, she added an explanation that changed everything. She said that it was hard for her to simply change the wallpaper on her iPad because she was afraid what “they” would think, so she always chooses something that she thinks won’t be “judged” when seen.  I asked if she meant seen by her dad and I, or her brother and sister.  She said no… she meant by “them.”  Reality began to dawn on me, because she has no contact with anyone except us on a daily basis, and after a long question and answer session, we arrived at an understanding that she felt, though never having seen the movie, “The Truman Show,” she was Truman, and every camera possible was hidden somewhere unseen, and somehow it was even possible to look through her own eyes and see what she sees and watch her every move. It was as if she were a personal reality show that could be watched, “The life of Lindsey” show, and all of THEM were watching it all the time, day and night.  THEY were not nice either, but harsh and judgmental. THEY were always looking to pick her apart. There was never a time someone was NOT watching her. being_watched_by_entangled_minds-d5fa1qrMy brilliant daughter has to sit just so in her room where she does school tucked away, so that who ever is watching will see her working away diligently and not judge her lazy or stupid.  She has trouble just relaxing and not performing for “them” constantly. She feels their eyes like you do when you get a sense of someone staring at you and the hairs on your neck stand up. She is overwhelmed and taxed to the max somedays and she doesn’t even know why, all she knows is that the feeling of someone peeking around the corner or watching from the corner of the room, just out of sight, is so intense she is almost unable to function.  I can not imagine living under that stress. She didn’t realize everyone didn’t feel that way.  She assumed everyone did. Now many things suddenly make sense. It makes sense and I am intensely sad. you-are-being-watched-sign-k-9828I knew that once she had great trouble with worry about being watched and we put a special lock on the bathroom door, thinking this would fix it. It fixed the fear of someone coming in, but never the fear of someone watching. I thought if she knew no one could come in, then she would not feel someone was watching anymore. The fact I never truly understood the extent of her personal hell just brought me to my parenting knees. Honestly?  It brought me to my human knees. I would have been broken if it were not my own child.  The fact it is my own girl just breaks me in ways I can’t put words to. Then I came across a book I have to go find.  I want to go get it for my daughter and for me to read this summer.  Not an easy read, but one I really want to dive into.  It’s called “Remnants of a life on Paper” and is written by a mother with her daughter’s diary as they traveled through the difficult roads of growing and struggling together with Borderline Personality Disorder. Found over at http://remnantsofalife.com As is so often the case, ours overlaps with eating disorders and BiPolar Disorder, and OCD.  For whatever reason, these disorders all often come on the heels of each other.  Maybe because they all play off anxiety and fears.

Regardless, it is hard for my kid. It is hard for me, my husband, and her siblings.  It is tough for our extended families to understand our life at home. It’s hard to explain because we have all gotten good at masking up the reality, going to visit and enjoy the outing, then coming home to reality and dealing with the vast array of fears and anxieties that come with trying to live every day life.

1534301_1477731715775942_8768059514068455149_nThe hardest thing however is the complete stupidity that exists outside these walls of ours.  The lack of understanding of what mental illness is.  It’s not just a few kids who decide to go on a killing rampage.  It’s a beautiful girl with long red hair, with a mass of freckles, strikingly gorgeous green eyes, and the only thing killer about her is her smile.  She can knock you flat with her grin.  She can take your breath away with her giggle and her laugh will flat out make you wish you could do anything, instantly, to gain it one more time, to hear her laugh with abandon.  This girl is amazing, brilliant, artistic, and I’m not just being a mom here, she is precious and needed by this world.  She struggles to even put her toe out into it, because she knows how harsh it is. Mental illness is just chemistry of the brain that makes if function differently than the majority of the population.  It makes it harder to do “normal” things and harder to think clearly.  It does not mean less intelligent nor stupid. Just gonna keep plugging away at loving my girl, and you have a friend here if you need one. Know I understand how hard life can get behind that pretty exterior door you shut when life gets rough.  But being there for your kid matters.  And that is the most important thing you can do.  Just love them and be there. Day after day. We will get through this thing called life, together.

Shut the front door: and don’t let the kids in till dinner!


20140516-125449.jpgThe sound of screams and laughter echo on the breeze as it drifts in my window. Looking outside I see green grass, leaves, flowers, and playful birds and squirrels mirroring the kid’s joyful block party. Finally, we have been released from the unrelenting grasp of the cold and frozen white stuff. I dreamed of these days all winter long.

There is no less for me to do now than there was then, when the onslaught of blinding white piles seemed almost a daily occurrence. Now that they are over, and the breezes are warm and soft, it seems I can fit more into my day and my patience is a tad longer, this being a good thing since the children insist upon testing it regularly. I have already begun to remember why I was dreaming of these warm sunny days. Oh it’s not so much that they are warm, nor sunny, though that is absolutely fabulous! It is because they allow me to shove the children outside into the yard and demand they work out their energy somewhere besides upon each other and my last nerve. I can, without fear of being seen as a terrible mother, mandate that they must go outside and stay there until I call them for dinner. I can be mean and demand they play on the trampoline, swing on the swing set, ride bikes, play ball, or find some new and creative way to use the extra boxes left in the garage. I wont be worrying my pretty little brain about if I am damaging them or not by forcing them to use their imaginations.

This, my glorious front door, is what I dreamed about all winter long. I dreamed of OPENING it and sending them OUTSIDE! It is glorious! I promise you that they will come inside with skinned knees, dirty shirts, torn jeans, grass stains, and scuffed shoes. I promise you they will come inside with tall-tattle-tales and he-said-she-said stories that will be fit to make your ears bleed. I absolutely promise you that the banging of the ins and outs from the forgotten toy and one more drink will drive you batty. I do, I promise you all this.

I also promise you, however, that the exhausted little bodies, fresh from a bath and fresh air, will sleep more soundly. Their stale brains from video games and forced air heating will begin to turn once more like a well oiled machine and their schemes will become more elaborate and their tricks more tricky. You will marvel at the speed!

As I stand at my kitchen sink doing my mom chores, I watch humored as I see what’s happening around my house now happening across the street with two little girls, and echoed again down the block as a mom pushes her son outside and takes his video game back inside with her. Way to go moms! Remember, they only get one childhood in life. Make sure they experience it!

1st published in MOMS “For the Parents” ~ May/June 2014 issue in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and News Sentinel.