Posts from the ‘Community’ Category

Christmas: How to Manage When You Are Married to Clark Griswold

I always say that Christmas is such a difficult and lonely time for so many people. I always feel so torn at Chirstmas between struggling with some of  my own painful memories (and worrying about everyone elses) and wanting to create the idea of a perfect Christmas for my own children. It is like an internal tug of war between my grinchiness and that sickenly sweet Mrs. Claus (the cute, young, kinda slutty Ms. Claus not the withered, grey haired one).

For most people , Christmas is a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration. Lights, gifts, food, parties. But for others it can be a dreaded time of loneliness, pain, even desperation. What people do and feel the rest of the year, seems to get magnified at Christmas. Christmas is a time of excess: spending too much, eating too much, drinking too much (for some), and being additionally emotional. A part of why things can get so dark at Christmas is because so many “supposed-tos” and “shoulds” appear. The police officers in my life know that Christmas day is a busy day for domestics.

This year I found myself actually full-on annoyed, pissed off really, when in some stores the Christmas parefenelia was out before Halloween was even over! Now, don’t get me wrong, I have beautiful and truly magical childhood memories of Christmas. But my parents divorced in the year 2000 and I haven’t felt the same magic at Christmas ever since then. It is almost like some of my memories were dashed as my dad headed out the door.

As a teacher, I have known so many children who, on the last school day before the Christmas holidays, are staring down the long, dark, lonely barrel of a less than picturesque Christmas. Whether it be from divorce, economic difficulties, substance abuse, or a combination of these they are not building wonderful memories with their families. Many would rather stay with the comfort of routine and consistency at school than face being at home over the holidays.

There are a lot of lonely adults at Christmas time as well. So many people are grieving from death or divorce. There are also a lot of disenfranchised people that are living on the fringes of society. Christmas just reminds them that they are alone. I have a good cry during the holiday season for all of the people that are lonely.

So, I tend to dig my heels in when it comes to Christmas. I am late to decorate. I am late to shop. I don’t even bake Christmas cookies. The clutter of decorations gets under my skin. I look around on Boxing Day and I am just itching to take down the tree and tuck it all away!

Now, this isn’t easy to do when you are married to a Christmas lover. When my husband was done hanging our outdoor lights last year the neighbour actually yelled over, “Hey, Griswold!” Our house is a red and green environmentalists nightmare! My husband also insists on bringing Christmas tack into our home. Two years ago he came home with a sparkly ceramic Santa boot that had a fake fir tree in it. He even went so far as buying cheap-o little balls to decorate it with. Soon after that, the battle o’ the boot ensued. I would tuck it away only to find it back on the piano again. I even resorted to stuffing it into the garage! I hope that he doesn’t read this post and remember the boot because I am planning on conveniently forgetting to bring it out this year.

I have decided, with encouragement from my husband, to try to embrace Christmas and all its accoutrement so that my children can build wonderful Christmas memories. When I look back on my childhood Christmases they were truly magical and I want my boys to feel the same way. It has been in recent years, that the holidays have been a bit sad for me. So, I have to make an effort to stuff my sadness down (or go to the bedroom for a quick cry) so that my boys have a wonderful day!

The last few years, I have been reminding myself that I am building new memories with my kids. Some of my birth family’s traditions have been lost but I am building new ones with my own family now.

“So, when Santa squeezes his fat, white ass down the chimney he is going to find the merriest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse. Hallelujiah, holy shit, where’s the tylenol?”

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Full Day Kindergarten

I am an elementary teacher, but as  a mother the idea of full day kindergarten makes me quake in my boots.

I have three sons. My oldest son is in grade two (with that pesky December birthday), my middle son is in junior kindergarten, and my third son is 13 months old (also with a fall birthday). We are fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with our boys. My husband works shift work, which means that he can often be home with the boys during the week. I have returned to teaching just every other day so I am also home with our children a lot. We are so blessed to be able to work out our schedules this way.

But alas, if full day kindergarten is instituted in our neighbourhood we will have less time with our children! They will have less time in the comfort of their home, spending time with their family. Surely they derive as much or maybe more benefit from being with us. We play, read, write, discover, adventure, explore, laugh together.

They have a whole lifetime ahead of them of school and work. Let’s let them be kids! My oldest and youngest boys started (and will start) kindergarten at three years old!!! Do they really need to be gone all day, five days a week? There wasn’t junior kindergarten when I was a kid and surely I turned out fine. Don’t comment on that please……

I would love to hear what kindergarten teachers think about full day kindergarten. It is my understanding that teachers would be sharing their classroom and students with Early Childhood Educators. I wonder how this would work. Would the students be able to adjust to different teaching styles, expectations, and routines? Would there be so much learning taking place that it would really be better than being at home?

I understand that some families are spending a lot of money on daycare for their children. I understand that the idea is that full day kindergarten has the intent of providing more learning than daycare.  I know that some children benefit more from the early learning and nurturing at school because there can be a lack of it in some homes. But what about the families that are able to design schedules where their children CAN spend quite a bit of time at home? Do we have to give up this precious time with our children? Should we keep them home and worry that they are missing routines at school? Should we be made to feel guilty by the mounting accumulation of absences if we do keep them home as much as we can?

So far my children’s school does not have full day kindergarten. But by the time my third precious bundle goes off to school (*sob*) it will be everywhere (like an evil plaque…..sorry). Oh, what to do……………

Again, my daydream of putting my family in a bubble and floating off to somewhere where all the world is safe and everyone attachment parents is seeming more and more enticing.

(My high school teachers told me that I was overly idealistic and, although offended at the time, I think that they may have been right. See, I was scarred by school…….oh, let’s just forget the whole thing……..)

Mama Guilt

I am not a new mother. I have been in the business for almost seven years. I have three boys, 6 1/2, 4, and 13 months. “My Three Sons”……..isn’t that a horror film? No, a situation comedy. I’m living it.

I am surprised at how often I am finding myself feeling guilty regarding my sons (that last horror film comment, for example). It began with pregnancy when any less-than-healthy food choice  I made seemed like it was being sent directly into the virgin body of my unborn child, inevitably damaging my child’s brain development forever. Now there are a slew of other things to feel guilty about– the soothers that I gave my first two sons, the time that my oldest son fell and hit his head on the edge of the coffee table, the multiple ear infections that my first son had because he was in a daycare centre (geez….. it sounds like he was my parenting guinea pig),and the time we made our second son go into the dinosaur room at The Museum of Nature even though he was terrified (not a proud mama moment).

Dinosaur Terror: Not a Proud Parenting Moment (despite the look of glee on my husband's face and the fact that instead of coming to the rescue, I snapped a photo).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
I try to remind myself that there is always going to be something to feel guilty about. I am entirely too hard on myself, I am sure. No parenting decision is absolutely perfect. There are always going to be choices that I could make differently. I am not the first, nor will I be the last parent to make similar decisions. I try to act in good faith that I am always putting my children first and that I am trying to ensure that they are healthy, safe, happy, and loved. Then why so much guilt?
 
Reading some facebook threads on various parenting sites has led me to discover two things: (1) there is a lot of guilt tripping, inadvertent or purposeful, going on among mothers; (2) there are a lot of mother’s standing on their soap boxes and not considering that parents have to do what works for their families (there are a lot of families coping with less-than-desirable circumstances). We have seen them all- the anti-circumcism movement, the formula-feeding bashers, the putting down of working mothers, those that admonish crib sleeping families, the rude comments about disposable diaper users. It can be easy to fall into this pattern because, as an attachment parenting mother, you are proud of the choices that you are making for your children. Although I believe in the validity of attachment parenting ideals and movements, I don’t think that their philosophies should be spread by knocking other parenting styles. Every family needs to do what works for them and work with what they are given.
 
We’d get a lot further as mothers if we supported one another. Guilt can be alienating. It can make you feel alone, like you can’t turn to one another to share and ask for support.
 

SuperMom

 
It can be easy to fall into a “Supermom” mentality. I don’t have family close by, so when I have had my babies no one prepared me a meal, ran my vacuum, did a load of laundry, took the older kids to school or to lessons, or watched the kids so that I could grab a nap (except my wonderfully supportive husband……yes, he reads this blog). (Well, “A” did prepare a meal when I had my third child. She also rushed over on the fly when she was like twelve months pregnant with her two children in tow with a breast pump tucked under her arm……da da da daaaaaa…..after a tearful phone call from me…..but that’s another story. Remember, she believes that it takes a village…..but that is the “doula” in her.) You get used to handling everything and you feel like it is like admitting defeat to reach out for any help. You have “mama guilt” if you show any emotion that could be perceived as weakness. It is easier to suck it up and handle it all.
 
Society seems to reinforce this mama guilt, covertly pressuring mothers to feel disappointed in themselves. At the end of the day we are all doing our best and giving whatever we can. No one is perfect. This is one lesson that I will be sure to teach my sons and that I am continually working on teaching myself.

She says that it “takes a village”…..

One of my favourite blogs is from Hobo Mama. On Sunday’s she pulls bits and pieces from other bloggers that she likes. She pulled the following tidbit and then responded to it and it caught my eye.

“Hiring Community” from Strocel.com:

“The reality is that I’m not going to magically become super-productive while two kids scale the back of the chair I’m trying to work in. If I want to get something done, I need help. And so I decided to hire some. We put an ad on Craigslist, and found Wonder Nanny. She comes two mornings a week and plays with my children while I work. …

In a different time, I would live in a multi-generational community, where I would trade childcare with other adults and have back-up when I needed it. Here and now, I don’t have that. So I have hired my ‘community’. I will admit, I feel sort of awkward. …

I do need the help, though. I’ll admit it. This is my life, working at home with two kids, and I am doing my best.”

 

From: Hobo Mama: Sunday Surf

Yes. It is so hard for attachment parents (particularly mothers) to let go of the idea that we can or should be our child’s only caregiver. I don’t think it’s even natural in the sense of historically normal. But when we don’t have volunteers handy, we have to pay for the privilege of giving our children more trusted adults to attach to and experience life with.

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