Meet My Companion, Anxiety

NOTE: If you suffer from anxiety, I’m sharing this post for you my friends. But I also know that sometimes these sorts of stories can cause anxiety too, so I’m acknowledging that at the outset.


It was a lovely day; I felt tired but in good spirits. Not only did I feel happy, but I was in a productive mood, and was smashing through my to-do list: one item was to make an appointment with the doctor for travel immunisations. 

Before the appointment, I sent a quick email to my husband at his request. He had a presentation at work this day and forgot the slides.

I rang him.

“There was nothing with the file name you said.  I found something named similar so I emailed you that.  Just have a quick look and let me know if it’s the right thing.”

He said sure.

I didn’t hear back from him at that point so I assumed it was what he was after.

A good hour later, I glanced at the clock and decided to leave early enough to grab a coffee on the way to the appointment.  Fifteen minutes later, would see me sitting happily waiting in the reception area.  Does anyone else enjoy those forced waiting periods when you can just sit quietly (without kids)?  That sounds rather desperate, doesn’t it.

Anyway, so I’m sitting there, sipping my coffee and scrolling through emails on my phone. Content. Enjoying the moment.

My phone rings.

“Hello!”I said brightly.

It was my husband.

“Hey, I looked at the file and it wasn’t the one I needed,” he said casually.

Immediately, the happy feeling was replaced with a deep sinking feeling, and my mind raced. He forgot to look…he didn’t know I would be out…I knew his talk would be on soon…and I wouldn’t be home in time…I knew I couldn’t help out. All that ran through my head in a millisecond.

The phone felt hot against my ear.

“Sorry love. I’m out now,” I said simply, “I won’t be back home for another hour or so.”

I’ll add in here that it was really out of my control AND my husband wasn’t in the least bit upset (he had an older copy of the slides he could use). So, it REALLY wasn’t a big deal and there wasn’t tension in the conversation, but I couldn’t help but feel like I let him down. It’s part of being a sensitive soul. 

While I was talking on the phone, I glanced straight ahead of me to nothing in particular, but an image caught my eye as I said goodbye to my husband.

What I saw made me immediately nauseous.

I quickly looked away from the picture and down at my feet, desperately fighting panic. Below is what I saw. Oh, it still gives me a sweat. I took a quick picture before I left the surgery…and it was so hard to do so but I wanted to write this post, to share how anxiety plays out in life and how to overcome.

photo-105

I looked down. The image of needles and skin magnified in my mind and I felt both the strong impulse to both LOOK at the picture and the desperate fight of NOT wanting to look. Needles stabbing skin. My mind distorted the image into an ugly mass of skin, and needles pulling at it. I looked up again, confronting the poster in an effort to dispel the sudden fear but it was too late. I looked to the ground again.

I kept my eyes down and carefully rested one arm on my knee while slowly placing the coffee cup under the chair. If you would have been sitting in the waiting room with me, I don’t think you would have noticed anything amiss.

But inside me, a war had began: between me and my body.  The bluish-green carpet at my feet began to blur and swirl before my eyes. My breathing grew heavy like I had a pile of bricks on  my chest, my skin pricked with a sudden heat and I grabbed my knees tightly with my hands.  I was holding my knees in an effort not to fall. Fall where? I don’t know. I felt a deeply nauseous.

A wave of frustration come over me at how my body betrays me sometimes against my will!  Because the thing is: honestly, I was totally fine with everything that happened moments before. It was just normal stuff. I felt frustrated because this sort of panic for me is rare now, because I have developed a host of skills over the years to mange anxiety…and this time, it sprung on me without any warning. I’ve sat in the same spot many times, and seen that picture many times without it being a problem.  

I’ve been down this road a long time.  In this instance, it was combination of deep happiness replaced with the sinking feeling (it’s part of the joy and burden of being a person who experiences emotion very deeply), plus tiredness, but a hit of caffeine, plus the bright lights (that seems all of a sudden very bright), and the heat of the phone (which all of a sudden seems very hot), and the picture of the back with needles. It all happened so fast and all of those things combined as an assault on my person and I didn’t get a chance to regulate myself.  I am objective about my anxiety and so I can write about it quite freely because of that.

Fear…anxiety…it’s been with me all my life. When I was a child, I was terrified of the dark and was often plagued with vivid nightmares.  I’ve come to accept that anxiety as part of me. And it will never totally go away.  Most of the time, Anxiety and I live quite harmoniously together. Yes, that is possible. I’ve learned to manage it very well, but it’s always there lurking. For the most part, I shut anxiety down in the very early stages so I’m rarely plagued with full-on panic these days…but it can still happen…and that moment at the doctors is testament to that.

So I sat there in the reception area, waiting for the doctor, and forced myself to breathe deeply. It was quite a long wait so I made an effort to calm myself and pray.  I tried looking at the picutre a few times in this period but I couldn’t overcome the nauseousness at this point.  I debated with myself whether to move out of view of the picture or not. I didn’t move. I felt frozen. The picture as a focus point was fixed now…so I stopped fighting it, and let the anxiety be there. I’m not sure how long I sat there before I looked at my phone again to read articles to distract myself. By the time my name was called, I was more calm but the flickers of light in my eyes signalised the onset of a potential migraine.  The rest of the day was okay…but a lot of effort on my part was about compensating for the blip.

I tell this story to demonstrate how anxiety can play a part in every day life…even when I’m okay, and I know many others struggle in this way too.  Anxiety also plays a part in parenting…and I’ve had to learn two main things: one is not to be motivated by anxiety when I parent and the second is how to be the mum I want to be when I’m struggling with anxiety.   Below are some main points:

1. Be Aware

I don’t enjoy public swimming pools. I still go with the kids sometimes, but I prefer the beach.  If I’m struggling with anxiety on a particular day, then I won’t put myself in a position (unless I have to) that will make it a lot worse.  So, as an example: if I was having a bad day on school holidays, I might go to the beach, or have a quiet day at home with the kids rather than going to the pool.  Awareness is so important when it comes to combatting anxiety, and this is not to limit what you do, but more about giving you the power to do what you want in a positive way. I wrote about the things that set me up for a good week here.

2. Be Objective

I think the biggest challenge with anxiety is it can so easily become part of your psyche.  It can really MESS WITH YOUR HEAD!  I treat anxiety like I would if I had an ankle sprain.  If I sprain my ankle, I would elevate, put ice on it and rest it…knowing it would get better eventually.  In the same way, I do helpful, edifying things that help my anxiety rather than ignoring it (being strong which often makes it worse) or letting it mess with my head.

3. Love the Moment

I developed the love the moment series a couple of years ago as a tool to help me when I was anxious. They were just little achievable things to weave into my day that are now a beautiful (fun!) and effortless part of my life.  Being intentional about small woven moments is a great tool to practice. This practiced beauty is so important when you’re sometimes clouded by depression, or in my case, anxiety.

4. Insecurities vs Intuition

I wrote an entire post on this called trusting my gut.  I can so easily can let anxiety cloud my parenting decisions, which is no good, so I’ve learned how to distinguish between being motivated by anxiety, and making good decision based on applied knowledge.

5. Trust Someone

It’s so important to have a fall back in someone you trust. I adore having a partner for life and parenting in my husband.  Sometimes, if I am struggling in a decision because of anxiety, I will run it by him for his objective opinion. I also rely on my faith as a grounding foundation in my life. 

6. Model

I think if you have a few children, there’s a good chance that one of them will be prone to anxiety.  I would say that most people (even if they are not prone to anxiety) will suffer from it at some point in their lives.  There’s always an opportunity to give your children a head start on combatting anxiety and helping them to develop tools they can take with them throughout their life. No better way to do this than modelling it in your own life and gifting the knowledge to your kids.

7. Know

Know. Know there are better days, or moments ahead. Know that you’re not really, really crazy (just maybe a little bit). Know that anxiety is often a by-product of a positive personality traits like sensitivity, the ability to see attention to detail and insightfulness. Embrace that! Know that you are beautiful. 

8. Accept

Meet my companion, Anxiety.  I don’t fight it anymore…or hope it to be gone.  There’s beauty in acceptance, because then you find ways to work around and with a situation, rather than fighting against it.


And to end this post, here’s a random set of pictures of my sister and I. Which is a bit strange when I call this post, ‘Meet My Companion, Anxiety’. Shazz, it’s not a subliminal message to you, okay? You see, I couldn’t put this post together with just THAT one horrible picture that affected me…so I’m including this one, because it makes me happy.

sisters

When I’m Criticised as Parent

I said to someone recently, “Parenting is one of those things I desperately want to be good at, but just can’t, no matter how hard I try.”

Do you ever feel that way?

But what does being a good parent mean?  

Feeding

Nurturing

Providing

Loving

Teaching

Encouraging

Refining

Edifying

Inspiring

What other ing words can I think of?

If there was a nice flow chart manual for parents, that would be great.  This problem: look it up: this: yes: that: no: answer. 

If there was a universal benchmark for kids, that would be great.  But kids aren’t all the same and they develop in different ways.

Family situations are different. Roads are different. A lot of things are different.

Why don’t I think I’m good at parenting? Parenting is something I can’t achieve highly at because I experience so many failings, and just when I think I’ve got something right, something changes or there is another issue to address, and I’m back to square one! See my quandary? 

Recently, I experienced a passive attack against my parenting skills.  Not the first, and won’t be the last. My first reaction was sadness. I felt sad and heavy: burdened…misunderstood and misjudged even. Sigh. Then I felt defensive…and if I am to be brutally honest here (and I am) I would acknowledge there was an element of truth to the comment that was made against me.

But, but, that person doesn’t understand what I have been goint through this year, and why I have compromised in that particular area.  It really wasn’t an intentional deficit but more of a consequence of many things. A slow fade, yes.  But they don’t know how hard I’m trying. They don’t know some of the good things I’m doing as a parent and some of the successes I’ve had!  But, but, but…

I could go on. However that doesn’t help.  No. It just makes me angry and stubborn instead of gracious and open.

I remember something my mum said to me when I was a teen…she said, “If you start being defensive, there’s a high chance you are in the wrong (in some way).”  She’s didn’t mean that I was doing something wrong necessarily, but something was wrong.  A defence reaction usually meant there was something to either adjust or overcome.

I’ll rephrase that (for myself): A defence reaction is an opportunity to adjust a potential flaw or overcome an unedifying emotion.  Because of this, I have always red-flagged a defensive reaction in my life.  Always. It makes me stop to examine myself or my motives. Doing this has served me very well.  It has, overtime, made me more confident and free in my thought and action.

I’ve been criticised many times about my parenting, and been able to just dismiss it easily…and that’s because there was no founding to the judgement. It works both ways.  Even if a judgement (intentional or unintentional) is unjust or the criticism well indented, an intense defence reaction from me usually means there is something, something I need to address in my own life or some area to improve. That something doesn’t even have to be a bad trait or a mistake, sometimes it can mean a hurt to overcome, a wrong to forgive or a improvement to make.

However, there is a process. I felt sad about the comment that was made about something I ‘should’ be doing better.  And I then I felt defensive. Then…I panicked.

I’m not a good parent. Where else am I failing?  What else am I not doing as well as I should be?  Where are the holes in my ship? I’ve failed to teach my kids something I should have. But…I have done well in other areas. Haven’t I? But I SHOULD have realised that deficit, but I didn’t. I’m such a bad parent. But my kids love and trust me. That’s something isn’t it? But it’s not enough.   

Can you see the cycle?  Sadness, defence, sadness, defence…and so on.  It’s so easy for me to fall into this trap until eventually, the anxiety passes and I forgot it all…until the next time. But I don’t play that game.

When I felt defensive this time, I stopped myself right there. It’s tough dealing with criticism, and I think parents cop a lot of it.  However, I knew the reason the comment hurt so much in this particular instance, is I could see the truth in it.  The truth wasn’t in the ‘should’ but in my realisation of my failing. And even more than that: the realisation of how the failing came to be.  I felt sad. I felt defensive. Then I stopped feeling defensive and just allowed myself to feel sad.

I felt sad because I realised the emotion wasn’t really because of the comment that was made, and it wasn’t really in my failing, but the realisation of the road that led me to that moment.  It was a road I had to take, it wasn’t the best one, or most ideal, but a necessary one.  When you’re hiking up a mountain, you might use the same cup or coffee and soup. You cut corners because efforts need to more intensely be focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you are working hard at keeping your head above water while it seems all others around you are perfecting their stroke.  But there is a point where the road evens out and the waves turn calm…and it’s good to fine tune. 

I worked out why I felt sad, then I put it in perceptive. You see, this ‘something’ I’m talking about is a blip.  Really. It terms of what is important to me in raising the small people in my care into genuine, kind, bright, confident, inspiring people, it’s the orange in the pie.

chart

Then, I took the criticism on as a prompt. But I only took the truth in it. I didn’t take it all, just the truth the defence in me was screaming at. I took hold of it with open arms, even though it hurt. It worked like this in my mind: acknowledge of what had led to this moment wasn’t because of outright mistake but the compensations made on a particular road (no shaming or blaming or hanging on to guilt). I owned the prompt. I aligned it with what I believe and what is true. I turned it into a challenge for the better.

I’m not a perfect parent. I’m not even a good parent. I say that because what I see as ‘good’ by society’s standards is a fictional image floating around in my head (maybe I put it there myself) and its one of a magazine home, happy families sitting at the dinner table and well pressed, high achieving kids.  What is ‘good’ often means what looks good from the outside, and yet I don’t want to raise good children. I want to raise passionate people of conviction. I don’t want to be a good parent.  I want to be a real parent who shares the highs and lows — the beauty of connection and relationship — with the people most dear to me with an open heart and an undercurrent of deep Faith. I always need to remind myself of that: when I feel my failing keenly; when I feel overwhelming pressure to be a perfect parent.

Another post I’ve written along the similar lines: How I Became a More Confident Parent.

Getting the washing done…

Got home from holidays (which was wonderful) with dirty washing and hand-me-down clothes from my sister. Then one of my daughters had a camp. And then she came home, and all of a sudden my washing pile became a monster mountain.  I decided to put it all on the kitchen table to FORCE myself to LOOK AT IT and DEAL WITH IT.

I have a pretty good system now to do the laundry and you can read about it here. However, with six people in the house, it can escalate VERY quickly. My washing pile is always pretty big but it hasn’t been quite this big for a while.

{sob}

After waking to this, I took a deep breath, and I said to the kids, “Right! So every time each one of us walks past, we are going to fold a few things. We can do this!” And we did. Everyone pitched in and it all went down surprisingly well. Go team!

Washing Pile

Connecting With My Teen (Through Books)

connecting with my teen

In moments of waiting, you’ll often find me with a book.  This is a recent thing. I like it.

I love reading novels, but over the past…8 years or so…I haven’t made time for it.  There are three main reasons for this: it’s rare to have long chunks of quiet moments to digest a good book (the way I like to read); I find myself too tired at night; and reading articles on my phone is an easy and assessable distraction.

But I am reading again.  As I said: I like it.

It started with churning of thoughts in my head about my beautiful teen.  She’s absolutely fantastic, and I love how our relationship is developing.  One thing about my daughter is she loves to read.  And when I say love, I mean she devours books at an astounding rate and I can’t keep up with her appetite. It’s not uncommon for her to get through 2 full length novels in a week.

When it came around to her birthday recently, I asked for ideas of what she wanted.

“Money?” I suggested, thinking that perhaps she would enjoy to shop and pick out her own present.

“No,” she said. “I want books.”

Music to my ears!

Parenting changes in the different stages, and I find it necessary to connect with my teen in a new way.  She’s continually more of her own person, with her own thoughts, ideas and interests — I love that.  There’s also the emergence of a new generation that plays into it, a generation that is different to my own.

As I was mulling through information in the mother part of my brain, I realised the importance of tapping into my daughter’s keen interest.  It’s about connection.  So I started reading one of her favourite book series.

I love seeing her eyes light up when I mention a character I discovered. I love our conversation about plot, people and places.

My thoughts in action had the desired outcome I was hoping for: another level of connection. But there is more than that. I too have reclaimed my love for reading.  I love carrying around a book with me to steal quiet moments while waiting at school for the kids or in the waiting room for an appointment. 

This is it: the beauty of motherhood invested.  You give, and in the giving, there are surprises that give right back.

Truth. Ha.

Nothing is lost. Until your mother can't find it.

A small act of kindness is like a soft breeze

This is a section of a diary entry I posted to Facebook a few months ago. This year has been full on for me and I’ve had to be intentional about looking for joy. Some days more than others.  I’m posting this little snippet of time here because I like to look back: to read, and remember. I like to remind myself about these little moments that have a redeeming quality about them.

8 May 2014:

I feel weary tonight and am finding myself a little snappy. The kids seem louder than usual. That’s very loud. Everyone seems slower doing the evening routine. Like eating dinner. EAT! I just want everyone in bed already.

——

I was in the kitchen, dinner finally over, when my son came and stood in front of me.

“Do you want me to take off your shoes for you?” he asked me. His voice was gentle and quiet.

I looked from my son’s blue eyes down at my sneaker clad feet. I may have stood there for a few moments before answering, rather stunned at the question.

“Yes please,” I said simply, realising how lovely it would be to free my feet.

I stood there quietly, humbled, and watched his blond head bob and still-chubby hands wrestle with the double knot.

I felt still and very small.

He took my socks off too, before putting them inside each respective shoe. Then he picked up both shoes and placed them neatly where I often leave them next to the kitchen bench.

It was such a simple act of kindness, and it brought tears to my eyes and a calmness to my spirit. 

——

And so I sit here, reminded of how a gentle word can calm a storm. I am reminded of how a small act of kindness is like a soft breeze on a hot day. I am reminded of the privilege of sharing life with these little ones in my care.

a small act of kindness is like a soft breeze on a hot day

Domestic Disasters

Just in case you were wondering what happens when you use regular dishwashing liquid in the dishwasher: This.  

Domestic Disasters
This is just one example of my many domestic disasters. Yeah, won’t be doing that again when I run out of tablets. What WAS I thinking?! Not my brightest moment. I’ve burnt tea towels, mistook cornflour for icing sugar, used bleach on a lamanex sink counter (which turns it yellow) and then there was this incident…

It was the in the early years of my marriage, and we lived away from both our families.  Over the December uni break, we decided to spend a chunk of 6 weeks with our families. We organised the house for going away for an extensive period…and just before we were about to leave, we decided to turn the power off to conserve energy.  We emptied the fridge so it was all good.   Off we went, spent Christmas away, and when we came back, we immediately turned the power on again and got back into our suburban life.  But there was this terrible smell somewhere in the house and it took us a while to work out where it was coming from.

Then…we remembered the chest freezer. Oh dear! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear!  It was WORST SMELL of rotten meat that had — when we turned the power back on — been re frozen again. Ack! It was horrible! Cleaning it out was horrendous. I had the top layer of my beautiful wedding cake in the freezer too..

Daisy Wedding Cake
(our wedding was in the pre-digital age)

daisy Wedding Cake

Have you had any domestic disasters?

The Robot, The Superhero & The Person

Motherhood Stages

I had an enlightening conversation with my eldest child. It gave me a small insight into the parent/child relationship through the different stages. I’ve talked about parenting stages before, because it’s important for me to know where I’m at in the journey so I can adjust my expectations accordingly.

It was a Friday night and I felt weary at the end of a school week.  One of the kids had a sporting event on in the evening, so the kids and I went to watch.  This scenario isn’t unusual, however the younger kids really didn’t want to be there this time and managing everyone was particularly draining.  Again, nothing hugely unusual there; it was one of those times when frankly, things didn’t go smoothly.  My patience was thin, everything and everyone seemed loud and I just wanted to climb in a warm hole to be still and quiet for 5 minutes.

In the midst managing expectations and settling everyone (read: stopping the two youngest from bickering) my eldest started to tell me something.

“Can you just not talk to me right now?!” I said in desperation.  I felt like I would explode if everyone (in the entire world) DIDN’T LEAVE ME ALONE FOR A SECOND!

“I need you to wait until I settle myself down. I can’t process what you’re saying properly, and I need a minute to sit here and not talk.” I took a deep prayful-like breath, willing silence to fall and calm with it.

Sometimes I feel like writing a sign for my forehead that says I’M A PERSON TOO!  Do you know those intense times when the you feel the world collapsing around you; when parenting is overwhelming, ever present while darts of weariness weaken resolve and shatter harmony? What I find about these times is they can escalate from all la-de-da into absolute chaos in mere moments!

Anyway…

One thing I’ve learned about with having older kids, is they notice.  They know when you’re not doing great, if you verbalise it or not.  So without burdening her (I hope) or shutting her down, I’m become very frank with my eldest daughter — making sure she knows it’s not about her…but rather where I’m at.  I guess in a way, I’m opening myself up to her as our relationship matures and transitions from adult/child to adult/young woman.  In turn, she is also frank with me. We have developed a cue through words when we feel out of kilter in our relationship. Either one of us says, let’s get back on the same page. We verbalise it, and we act on it.

Back to the loud sporting event…

After a little while, she said, “Mum, you seem like you’re in a better place now, can I talk now?”

You know, in that moment I felt loved and respected. My daughter’s consideration brought another measure of calm over me.  I felt admiration too. She didn’t respond to that conversation with a pout saying, well I won’t talk to you anymore then. Neither did she assume I didn’t have time for her but just accepted what I said as what I meant: I wasn’t in a great place for that second and I needed a moment to get back to where I could function again.

That was that: we talked about stuff, and everyone got through the night (surprisingly) well in the end.  It wasn’t until the next day that I had this interesting conversation with my daughter.

We were in the car (where many great conversations happen). It was just the two of us.  I can’t remember where we were going but I took the opportunity to debrief after that moment from the night before. I wanted to make sure she knew it wasn’t her that caused the problem. I wanted to reinforce that I was just having a moment, and to essentially thank her for the way she responded.

I said, “I’m sorry I was so snappy the night before when I said I couldn’t talk. I was overwhelmed at the time and–“

“Oh yeah mum, I know. It’s fine.” she interrupted nonchalantly.

Then she continued, and I was fascinated by her words.

“You know, when I was very little, it was like you were a robot, always there to do things for me.

Then when I got older, you were like a superhero — amazing — and didn’t need anything.

And now, I’ve come to know you as a person.”

Can I tell you how beautiful that is?  How beautiful all of it is?

I was hit by the motherhood journey in those few sentences.

The Robot

I wrote about the sacrifices of early parenting:”Sometimes you feel like a machine, always providing for the needs of other and cease to exist as an individual person.” I said in the post. 

The Superhero

It’s in the moment I discovered little feet in my high heel shoes. It’s when you are Mum with a  capital M.  It’s in creating a meaningful life with our kids.  Yet in many ways, you are not seen by the kids as having needs of your own.  You are there. You are invincible. No matter what.

The Person

Imperfect. Fallible. Real. They start to see through you. They know more. They see more. They understand more.  This can be unnerving (even a bit scary in a way) but I find this stage most rewarding because I like being known as a person, not as robot or a superhero, but as I am.  There’s deep love in that.  

But you know what?  You can’t rush the stages. There are fundamental building blocks that must be laid and built on.

The robot is important: satisfying and nurturing the needs of another (somehow) tirelessly. It’s the foundation of unconditional love.

The superhero is important: fostering respect through action, facilitating dreams through enablement; presenting a force of strength through the continuance of unconditional love.  It’s the net that catches; it’s the wall that holds; it’s the arms that surround.

The person is important: becoming fully known and recognised for who you are.  Allowing yourself to be vulnerable with a person in trust.  This is relationship at its best.

I can tell you, it’s the most rewarding thing to see the fruition of blocks built over years and years, come out in a real and true relationship. One of the hardest things about parenting is the deep rewards happen long (very long) after the investment is made…through many joys and struggles.

I glanced across to my daughter in the car passenger seat. Nothing more needed to be said. I felt a renewed sense of connection with this small human that came from my body. I felt a confidence in accepting who I am in the eyes of all my children (while still — always — retaining a sense of myself), whether that be the robot or the superhero or the person…knowing it’s all part of the journey.  Knowing each step plays an important part in connection, in relationship, in love.

I Don’t Think the School Holidays Went Well…

In the main, I enjoy the school holidays with the kids, but I’m relieved school is back.

The holidays didn’t go as I planned.  I like to organise a lot of day trips and outings; I like to make the time intentional, even if we don’t go away for a proper family holiday. Now that the kids are back at school, I took a breath and the thought ran through my mind: I don’t think the school holidays went well.

I’m a high achiever.  I like to challenge myself. I’m a bit of a perfectionist in terms of personal growth.  It’s a blessing and a curse.  I remember when I came back from doing a cycle in Laos with Save the Children, and my husband said to me, “Kelly, you don’t need to save the world every day.” It’s that sort of thinking — the make everything wonderful, fix everything and strive and strive and do and do and do — that can get me down. They can be good qualities, for sure, but there’s also a danger there, a weight. The heaviness of discontentment so quickly creeps up on me and I tend to see all the benchmarks I missed instead of seeing the achievements made. 

School holidays didn’t go as I wanted them to because I wasn’t where I wanted myself to be.  My husband has been working further away from home and for the past six months, I’m so very often on my own with the kids.  That’s ok. I’m used to that…but at the moment I’m weary in my spirit and am struggling to find the joy.  There are periods in life that are like that.  Right now, it is what it is. Right now, I’m heavy. 

When that thought came over me about the not-so-great holidays, I stopped myself.  I stopped myself because I know the eyes I look out of right now are heavy and not clear and bright.  I let go of the heaviness for a moment, and looked back over the snaps I took over the past 2 weeks.

The younger kids chatting under a broken umbrella while their older sister plays soccer.

under an umbrella

Watching the kids pull out games they haven’t had the opportunity to play with for a while.

Playing games

Making finger food platters for the kids to eat for lunch. They love it.

little platters

A beautiful morning tea at my big sister’s place. We didn’t even see the kids: they just disappear and play for hours with their cousins.

morning tea

Catching the City Cat Ferry in Brisbane on the weekend Dad was home.

Catching the Cit Cat Ferry in Brisbane

Exploring the HMAS Diamantina at the Queensland Maritime Museum at South Bank, Brisbane.

HMAS Diamantima - Brisbane

A foggy early morning drive out to my sister’s place in the country.

Drive through the fog

Looking at Aunty Emma’s weaner calfs.

Look at the calf weaners

He wanted to take her home with us.

He loved the puppy.

The kids played with our DIY Play Tablecloth for days.

Play Tablecloth

Cubby under the table.

Cubby under the table

We spent more time at home this holidays than we usually do…days on end.  I tend to get a bit cagey when I’m at home too long (without even a trip to the shops)…but it was a great opportunity for the kids to play creative games extensively, we reorganised the toys and I enjoyed watching them get in a groove.  These Lottie Dolls were a hit.

Playing with dolls My little sister and her three kids came to stay for a few days. Crazy with a lot of kids in a small house but it was great…and we had good chats.

Sisters

Big cousin; little cousin. It’s wonderful to spend time with family.

cousins Dress-ups.

dress-ups

We drove the hour and a half one morning to drop Dad to work for another stint (to give him a break from the long train ride) and then we went to the beach for breakfast.

Breakfast at the beach

Love watching the kids explore.

watching them explore

Run away from the waves!  LOVE THAT LAUGH!

I saw two of my three sisters on this particular day. It was an emotional day in a lot of ways, but I felt so blessed by the love and care of my sisters and I felt a wave of happiness wash over me and this is what it looked like.

Happy

I fight the discontent with the truth.  I say to myself: Look Kelly, look at all the things we did! It was a good school holidays! The kids played and laughed; you spent time with family and friends; you loved and were loved. Good-good things.

Sometimes you need to celebrate what’s there instead of looking for something else.

Because there’s joy in that.

Sometimes you need to let go of the heaviness and intentionally see things with different eyes.

Because there’s truth in that.

Sometimes you need be okay that things aren’t great and know the journey is sure.

Even as the path bends.

I don’t think the school holidays went well…but they did.

Disney and Pixar are Raising my Kids!

Guest Post by Occupational Therapist, Nicole Grant

Disney and Pixar are raising my kids, and I’m OK with that.

My two children are pretty big fans of animated movies. Like most 5 and 6 year olds, they’ve more recently been waving their arms dramatically in the air, conjuring castles and sun-loving snowmen.

There’s been a lot of press lately about screen time, and while I am a huge advocate for ‘green time’, I am still quite OK with planting my two in front of a big screen sometimes. Here are a few reasons why:

1. Kids tend to source imaginative play ideas from things they’ve seen. Case in point – the Frozen reinactment referred to above. The fort in the backyard is suddenly an ice palace, and the grass is covered in snow. Believe it.

2. Familiar characters can be used to engage kids in otherwise boring tasks. Reluctant to colour in? Here’s a picture of Mike and Sully. Let’s make a poster for your wall!  Reluctant to write? Let’s write a list of all your favourite characters. Tell me about them.

3. Shy child? I bet they’ll move in closer to a group of kids talking about their favourite scene from Toy Story 2. They might even throw in a comment about how they’ve got Buzz Lightyear pyjamas.

4. I’ve got no problem with Repunzel wielding a frying pan in self defence. If the Road Runner had to contend with dynamite and trebuchet’s, then a kitchen item (which barely connects), is OK by me too. Today’s characters are far more friendly, helpful and kind. Not bad role models, don’t you agree?

5. My final point (for now – there could be dozens more) why I’m a fan of Disney, Pixar and other producers of quality viewing is this. We enjoy these shows as a family. Family time – in fact, any time! – is a precious rarity in this day and age. Anything that brings us together – to snuggle, share a giggle, and enjoy time together, is a wonderful thing.

So go watch Monsters University, Ice Age and How to Train Your Dragon. Then go outside.

Can your kids guess them all?

These alphabet prints are by Mike Boon.

Pixar Alphabet by Mike Boon

Disney Alphabet by Mike Boon Disney Alphabet by Mike Boon

About Nicole

nicole grant picNicole is a privately practicing Occupational Therapist (OT) in Brisbane, Queensland and mother to 2 beautiful girls.

More information about Nicole can be found here:    www.gatewaytherapies.com.au

Follow Nicole: Facebook

More Posts by Nicole

Self-care: I Can Do It!

Social Stories

Reading

Handwriting

iReview: iPad: Using an iPad with kids and recommended apps

Play Baking: An experiment

A Monster Problem: Children and Anxiety 

Finding the line: Ensure Safety | Allow Experimentation

Children & Coping With Transitions

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How Television Fits into Our Family Life

When They Grow Up in a Second

Do you know those times when you look at your child and it’s like somehow they change into a grown-up version of themselves in an instant before your eyes? That.   

when the kids grow up before your eyes

when the kids grow up before your eyes

From my vantage point on the sand on a lazy Saturday afternoon, I watched my son march up to me with purpose.  I gasped internally as he came closer because in those seconds, I got a glimpse the man he will become one day.  My son is my youngest child and so there’s a sad-happy sweetness for me as he matures: his achievements and growth so often mean shutting a door on a part of my life.

But then, only moments later, my little boy was there again, flying his stick plane in the air with abandon. I delighted in it.

You have to treasure all of it as it happens…in the ebbs and flows.

I’m a Tree; She’s a Bird

I'm a tree; She's a bird - motherhood

“I feel scared about facing this week,” I said to my husband yesterday. That sounds rather pathetic, especially when I write it down like that.  But it’s true! I have this fear, anxiety you might call it.  Matt is away, which isn’t unusual, but I am feeling so weary at the end of this school term. The kids are weary too, so right now, it’s like the wheels are coming out from underneath me and ahead I picture myself with gravel rash on my face. The kids are bickering more than usual and my patience is thin. Very thin.  
 
The very thought of going to three parent/teacher interviews by myself, juggling the kids during the interviews (or trying to organise a babysitter), cross country day, an oral assignment due, making sure everyone has the right uniform on and food to eat makes me want to sob.  I guess part of the fear is that I won’t be able to get through it the way I want to: with graceful patience.  Looking ahead at this week, I see myself snapping at the kids at every turn, trying to maintain the peace and dragging myself through.  You know what? I may even reschedule those parent/teacher interviews.
 
This morning, as I was getting lunches ready, Miss 10 hands me this note explaining, “Mum, you’re like a tree. And I am like a bird. You are beautiful like a tree and give me a home — shelter — and food.”
 
Then off she went. She may never know how much it helped me today. She may never realise how that one burst of sunshine will carry me through this week. What a beautiful picture to hold!  One day, I hope she will read this and know special she is and how much I treasured her words.  In a way, the picture she gave helped me refocus and I can see past the moment of overwhelm.
 
Overwhelm: it tends to shift my focus to a very narrow-minded state and I anticipate what I see through those unedifying glasses.  I’m on my skate board, let’s say, and the wheels are wobbling and I’m trying so hard not to hit the curb on the side of the road…trying so hard not to hit the curb; DON’T HIT THE CURB KELLY!! (And yet, it’s all I see, and I hit it).  And yet, when I take the glasses off, and see the big picture, there’s only a little curve there really, and I can look around the bend.  I remember my driving instructor (a very long time ago) telling me the same about steering a car around a corner: look around the bend, not at the bend! Ha! It’s interesting the things you remember sometimes!
 
If there are any other mamas out there feeling weary, remember we are trees, and we are beautiful and strong, even if our branches are drooping a little. And as mothers, we have the privilege to create that haven for the precious little ones in our care. Water will come.

Hello Robot-Mode.

5:30am – Alarm

I don’t even beg the morning for more sleep.

Swing my legs. Sit up. Walk to the stove top.

Heat water for tea.

Make lunches for school.

“Good morning.”

“Hello love.”

“How did you sleep?”

Hug the one that needs a lot of hugs.

“Eat breakfast.”

“Get ready for school.”

“Yes, you have sport today.”

“Formal uniform for you, yes.”

“Is this enough lunch for you today?”

“You can’t play until you have your shoes on.”

“Try and do it yourself first and then I’ll help you if you need it.”

“Get ready!”

“Who left the bowl on the table? It goes in the sink please.”

“Don’t forget to brush your teeth.”

“Just let me finish my tea and then I’ll help you with that.”

“What are we doing in your hair today?”

“Can you empty the dishwasher this morning please? Thank you for that.”

“Remember your homework book.”

“No, library is tomorrow. Check the calendar.”

“Your talk is not until next week so we still have time.”

“I still have one lunch box sitting here! Whose is it? Come and put it in your bag!”

“Does everyone have everything? Lunchbox? Hat? Bag? Everything?”

“Get in the car.”

“It’s time to go!”

“Love you. Love you. Love you. Love you.”

Kiss, kiss, kiss, kiss.

Hug for the one who always needs an extra hug.

“Have a great day.”

And…Take a breath.

In many ways, I’m doing well at home here.  I’m on my own with the kids 99% of the time during the school week. I’m quite organised this year and have a system that’s working relatively well.  Uniforms are ready and washed every day; socks sit neatly waiting in a box.  Nutritious lunches are provided 99% of the time; and that stat goes with dinners too: 99% are healthy homemade dinners.  The house is in good lived-in order. The kitchen is clean before I go to bed 99% of the time. I get the kids to school on time 99% of the time.  I’m juggling after school activities and getting the kids into bed at a good hour 99% of the time…all fed, watered and clean.  I’m managing my work deadlines okay. Personally, I’m eating well and sticking to my exercise plan 99% of the time.  

99%

99% Robot. That’s me right now.  

I mean, seriously, I read the paragraph above, and I’m totally smashing it. 99%! Dude! That’s awesome compared to your effort last year!

There’s a switch somewhere inside me, and it flicks sometimes. Hello Robot-Mode.  H–E–L–L–O ROBOT-MODE!  You know what? Part of me likes Robot-Mode because I become mechanical and go and go and go; and manage and manage and manage. Go me.

This time I’m whispering: “Go me.”

Robot-mode is easier. It means I can sustain 99%. I smash out each day and get it done. Meet that expectation.  Arise to that deadline.  Get there on time. Be strong. Be patient. Be kind. Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. Good you put that alert program in there Kelly. Healthy food. Must remember to buy fruit today. And carrots. What’s for dinner?  Anticipate. Anticipate. Be proactive. Think ahead. Wash. Wash. Wash. Work. Work. WorkAfternoon tea: sorted. Sign that note. It goes there.  This here. That up. Down. Side to side. Nod. 

Robot-mode is easier.

But is it better? Well, certainly looks that way on paper.

And yet, I have no idea what I’ve been doing for the last month.  It’s a blur of mechanics.  People ask me, “How was your week?” and I don’t know what to say. I pause and think for a moment. Truth to be told: I don’t know how my week was. But I got it done. Yes siree, I did. It’s like those times when you drive a familiar route, and arrive at the destination not remembering how you got there.

That.

Is that a good thing?

Here’s the quandary.

The only way I can smash it out, do well and sustain it all right now, IS to be in Robot-Mode.

Another factor: The kids respond very well to the routine I have going; they are pretty settled all things considered (as much as variable-ness of family life can be settled).    On surface appearances, it appears everyone does better when I’m in Robot-Mode. I’ll say that again: everyone seems to do better when I’m a robot.

Because I’m good robot.  I even programmed it to be nice and kind. You see?

Everyone does better when I’m a robot.

I let the thought weigh on me for a moment.  And I realised it hurt.

It surprised me to find tears well in my eyes. I didn’t know I felt sad inside because I was so busy “smashing it out”. I guess a bit of resentment crept in too.

But I don’t have time for tears!  No! They must go! Shut the iron door on them!

And onward!

Keep doing it. Left, right, left right. Morning. Night. Day after day.  

Kids are happy. Happier because the switch is on. Happier and more settled because Robot-Mum is here.

And so it makes me wonder if that is all I am: A robot keeping the boat a float.

I wonder if that is what I must be: A robot serving to keep the harmony of family life.

Because I am a mother.

I listen to the voices telling me:

“You just need some me-time.”

So often it’s one of those surface lines people say that hold no real value.

I can hear a voice saying to me:

“Well, you’re just doing too much Kelly.”

Yet I know that’s not it.

Others say:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

And I know that’s not it either.

And more voices chime in:

“Stop whinging, and just be grateful.”

Fighting the conflict between the weight of sadness against the steel of resolve; I sort through the echo of voices in my head — and I realise something.

There’s change tied up with Robot-Mode.

A transition.

A life season change.

Yes.

THAT is what flicked the switch.

For me, Robot-Mode is activated during times of shift in family life. I remember it when I first became a mother, during the long days and sleepless nights. I remember it when adjusting after the Queensland foods in 2011.

All of a sudden, I stopped to realise the current big shift as my husband works further away and we all see him much, much less.  I recognise this new phase of life now with all my children at school, their growing independence and my desire to facilitate expereicnes. Then there’s the opportunity to for me to work more and the juggle that comes with that. The combination of change hit.

Robot-Mode is Captain-Mode.

It clicks in when the waves are challenging or the water is deep.

It’s for when there is change in the air and leaves fall; when the chill descends; the flowers bloom; or the heat comes.

But does Robot-Mode define me?  Does it overtake me?  Is it required of me?

No. Not forever. Yes. (I qualify: Yes for now).

The trick is knowing when to turn Robot-Mode off. Yes?  Because it must come off: despite the appearance of everything being better when the arrow is up, Robot-Mum is only necessary for a time.  Extended too long and cracks will form in relationships, in connections.  Left unharnessed and there will be long-term personal regret. Somehow, I know that.  And I don’t want to be a robot, managing life into a blur of doing, done.

No.

So I will do two things, no three:

1. I will leave the switch flicked for now. However, I will look at it slightly differently.  I will embrace my God-given capabilities and sail through these transition waters.  And I will stand with confidence and a happy heart knowing this level of servitude leadership is required for a time for the harmony of those most precious to me in the world. There’s beauty in that.  There’s privilege in that even.

2.  When the waters are less challenging — when the transition has passed into a steady hum — I will seek to be aware of when to turn off the switch. I will.

3. And I will find a way back into my body again.  It will come.

The grind will once again, become the journey. 

And that is better.