Tips for Parenting from Baby to Middle School

Opinions are everywhere.

So are your kid’s toys, the cat’s litter and the contents of your purse.

Or is that just me?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s a weird world that we live in- everyone has something to say. Some of us feel the need to live up to expectations that aren’t exactly healthy.

I am not one of those parents.

I was many moons ago, and there’s a post to tell that story.

The Baby and Toddler Stage.. Take A Deep Breath

Babies are adorable. They’re all soft, cuddly and you just want to hold them forever.

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Avery, my little buddy.

Until that first blowout diaper. I’m here to tell you, it’s one of the many gross things you will witness as a parent. Once you see that diaper, you will want to cry and throw the whole day away. As in hit the restart button and pause right before your baby created that horrible mess.

They sleep about as much as cats, at least for a while. Once they sleep all night, life becomes somewhat decent again. Then comes the solid food stage, in which they insist on smearing everywhere. It makes for great pictures but horrible cleanup. Babies also become mobile, and that’s when the real fun begins. It’s when we stop being able to have nice things.

Toddlers are known to be tiny terrors. They can destroy your home in about 15 seconds or less if given the opportunity. They also have the capacity to be the cutest little people you will ever lay eyes on. “Oh, wait, I have a voice and it gets loud? Wait, hold my sippy cup while I scream because Mom changed the channel.”

My friend Melanie had a hashtag #ReasonsWhyMyToddlerIsCrying while her son Elliott was a toddler and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. My kids threw wild tantrums and I am glad I lived through this phase.. barely. I went through three toddlers in a short amount of time.

How can you survive this phase?

  • Sleep. Try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Sleep the best you can at night. Try for some sort of schedule if you can, you will thank yourself later. My kids still have a sleep schedule and they’re much older.
  • Breathe. Take lots of deep breaths. Meditate if you need to. It helps keep you calm.
  • Humor. You will need this when your two-year-old has discovered what a Sharpie is.
  • Backup. Backup needs to be a thing from day one. You will need it until your child moves out, or so it seems.
  • Learn about your child. Every child is different and they change over time. This will help greatly when people start giving advice you really don’t need.
  • Self-care. This should be a priority. Forever.

The Preschool Life

This stage is kind of fun. Kids at this age want to learn about everything. They ask a million and two questions before lunch, and they’re learning to express themselves. This might be about the time they learn to dress. That can be a lot of fun- I had a blast with Lily’s outfits. They’re also learning to interact with others outside their family.

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Lily and the snowball

I didn’t think about how expensive preschool was until both boys were in it together. YIKES. It’s not getting any cheaper, so if that’s your thing, you might want to start looking into it when your child is an infant if they aren’t already in daycare.

My kids never went to daycare. Their grandmothers watched them while I worked and finished school then went straight to preschool. Julian had a rough time in preschool, but Cameron and Lily did great. Lily’s road to preschool was not an easy one thanks to her delays. We almost didn’t get her potty trained in time.

Speaking of potty training…

How do you get through this phase?

  • Lots of patience. Potty training does not happen in one day. I do not care what book you read. If you have potty trained a child in one day, please email me. I’d love to know what you did. Julian broke his foot while he was being potty trained and had a cast almost up to his knee. I cannot express how much fun that was. He had a boot on, but it still impeded his speed in getting to the potty. We started late with Lily due to the therapies for her delays and she continued to have accidents well after her fourth birthday. It was not easy. Patience is required in all aspects of parenting but potty training will wear a parent out!
  • Humor. Preschoolers do a lot of funny things. They also say even funnier things.
  • Have a camera. Thanks to smartphones, this is super easy. You will want to take a million pics during this time. They’re always into something. It’s just the question of what.
  • What’s a clean house? If everyone living in it is clean, then the rest is a bonus.
  • Routine is good. Bonus if it actually gets followed daily. We try very hard.
  • Grow an extra set of eyes in the back of your head. Preschoolers are into everything. They want to learn about the world around them and sometimes that means a little bit of adventure. It can also mean doing things they know they probably shouldn’t. Since we can’t really grow eyes in the back of our heads, backup is a good idea.
  • Self- care. These little people take a lot out of us and we need to recharge.

Time for School!

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Thanksgiving 2015

I may joke about it now, but I was sad about sending my kids to school. I cried a little when Lily went to her first day of kindergarten because she’s my youngest and I realized my 5 lb, 12 oz baby wasn’t really a baby anymore. It was a little crushing. She’s now months away from middle school. I may or may not cry at her 5th-grade graduation.

Some kids do not do well with the kindergarten adjustment. Julian was one of those kids. He was diagnosed later that year and that helped somewhat. Kindergarten is a big change- the building, more adults, kids, the routine, and more. Julian is not a fan of big changes, so this was not on his list of fun things to do. He did better in the other years.

Kids in this stage grow so quickly! I sent Cameron to elementary school in 2010 and he finished in 2015 almost as tall as me! They learn a lot, make friends and lots of things in the middle.

How do you get through your baby not being a baby anymore?

  • Let them be who they are. My kids have tried different things to see if they liked them or not, and this is fine. Lily tried playing the trumpet but didn’t like having to play in front of others. Julian ran cross country in 5th grade because he’s always been a fast runner. Cameron loves basketball and plays whenever he can. He won’t try out for a team, (I think) because he’s afraid to mess with his heart (he has SVT and is cleared to play by his cardiologist).
  • Watch them form their own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. You may be surprised at what they have learned from you. Be proud of yourself for teaching them well.
  • Let them make their own friends. Of course, step in if there’s something dangerous going on. Kids like to hang out with who they like, not who Mom picks.
  • Let them solve their own problems as they get older. This isn’t meant for a kindergartner, but fifth graders can figure out some things.
  • Take all the pictures they will allow. Pretty soon, you will hear “Mom. Stop taking pictures. It’s annoying.”
  • Humor. Humor is a parenting requirement.

The Parenting Struggle…The Middle School Edition

If you’ve seen my Instagram page, this is one of my often-used hashtags. Middle school is a struggle, for parents and kids. Kids are trying to figure out who they are, what their bodies are doing, and as parents, we’re just trying to make sure they’re okay and keeping them fed.

If you have boys, the last one can be a challenge. I have two- I don’t know where the food goes but the wrappers are everywhere.

Kids are smarter than we realize. They, for the most part, are more accepting than many adults are. I think it is a combination of not caring and how they are taught. I’ve done my best to teach my kids to accept others for who they are and not what they look like or what their racial makeup is. I’ve been the kid left out because I was biracial and that is damaging. I would never let my kids do that to someone else.

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Julian and the Gorilla

The struggles? There are many- smelly feet, testosterone, explaining racism and other injustices, discussing drugs and alcohol (especially when you are 2 years sober), homework, grades in general and lots more.

This is the age in which kids start learning from their friends and not asking Mom or Dad about everything- Cameron learned about bisexuality from a friend of his. I guess when you’re 14, this is on the list of things you don’t ask Mom about.

How does this phase work?

  • Talk to your child. I cannot stress this enough. I don’t mean sit them down and interrogate them but just casual talk is good. They need to know you are there for them and that you care.
  • Boundaries. Let them know what you will and will not tolerate. We’re parents, not their besties.
  • Let them come to you if they have a problem. No judgment allowed. If you judge, they won’t confide in you.
  • Remind them of the importance of good grades, enforce homework rules, etc.
  • Give them space. They need it.
  • Knock before entering. You will regret this the one time you don’t.
  • Humor. Teens are funny and humor helps in almost all situations.
  • Let them be who they are. They are figuring out who they are. This takes a while.

Parenting is an adventure. It is not meant to be easy. We are, however, meant to have the children that we were given. I didn’t realize this until Julian was diagnosed.

I thought I had completely messed up as a mom and maybe even as a person, but no, I was given Julian to become a stronger person and much better mom. Enjoy the ride- our kids only get one childhood!

Do you have any tips to get through these stages of childhood? Leave a comment!

Post-Holiday Check In

I’m back with a post-holiday check in. Things went pretty well, for the most part.

Physically:

Not bad. Now that I have decent insurance, I will be able to get into my PCP for thyroid related bloodwork to make sure my meds are still at a good dosage. I can also go back to the rheumatologist. Yay.

The kids and I had a busy winter break- after Christmas shopping, skating, and a few smaller fun things. Tails and Miss Purr had a nice Christmas. All the activity wore me out a bit, but I made sure I got the rest I needed.

My 36th Birthday

My birthday was on 12/29. I got my hair cut, shopped and got lunch.

Sobriety

I celebrated 2 years yesterday, January 1, 2019. I will get a chip at the yoga for Recovery class that I attend this Sunday. I’ve never gotten a chip so this means a lot to me.

I know I’m far from alone in this struggle and I will continue to take things one day at a time. I think I need to work a tiny bit…okay, a lot more, on telling someone when I get into that space where I really want to drink. It’s a dangerous place.

Emotionally:

I’m slightly anxious because I start a new job on 1/7, which is also Cameron’s 14th birthday. I’m not sure where 14 years have gone. We decided to get him a cell phone, and of course there will be limits.

Lily bought her first purse and wallet, plus she now wears junior size clothes. She’s not a “little” girl anymore and now I want to cry.

I’m very glad the holidays are over because they’re always a bit stressful. I’m ready to start a new year, job and see what else happens.

Are you ready for 2019? What are your goals and hopes?

Two Years of Sobriety

I’m here, and I’m sober.

A Bit Of A Flashback

Two years ago, I woke up from drinking for the last time- I drank until Sara and her husband, Paul, were worried that I had alcohol poisoning.

I was a bit hungover.

Not at all surprising.

I was used to this- so were Matthew and the kids. I’d been drinking steadily since 2013 and after Jake died, it only got worse. I had to escape the pain. Even with therapy, I still had a hard time seeing the days ahead of me.

I cried constantly. I was still trying to move forward from the grief. Losing a man I loved so deeply was something I never saw coming. Drinking took that pain away, if only temporarily. I didn’t realize, however, the internal damage I was doing to myself.

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The Wake-Up Call (Literally)

It’s a well-known fact that I have RA and hypothyroidism. The journey to detect and solve both issues began with blood testing in late 2016. I have a great PCP- she later found the nodule that was removed from my thyroid in 2017, along with other issues. She knew I had been drinking but not the whole story.

I’ve met many alcoholics and addicts and not one has been super honest with their PCP if they have one.

Dr. Tobe called me herself- not her Medical Assistant, Stacey.

YIKES.

Britney Spears

I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, but let’s just say my labs looked pretty interesting, especially my liver enzymes.

You see, the liver is an interesting little piece of your body. It can grow back from being removed, injured or otherwise messed up.

In my case, as Dr. Tobe explained, if I stopped drinking right then, I could stop the damage and not end up with cirrhosis.

I saw that as a hard pass. Matthew’s best friend’s mom died from cirrhosis, and it is a terrible death.

I thanked Dr. Tobe and hung up.

Some Serious Thoughts

I’ve got kids, y’all. Nobody is grown yet and somebody’s gotta be here to get Julian to adulthood. This isn’t saying Matthew couldn’t but he knows he would be lost without me.

I don’t think I’m quite done living, so I decided to have one last night of drinking and be done. I did just that.

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Having a bit of sober fun

I also discussed this at great length in therapy. I won’t say sobriety is easy, because that would be a huge lie.

My liver gets tested every few months thanks to Plaquenil because it’s known to affect liver functioning. So far, it seems to be getting slightly better. This process can take years.

It’s A Hard Life

I read The Big Book cover to cover once and part of my plans for this year is to read it again. I’ll be tracking that reading in my bullet journal.

The 9th step talks about amends and making then except when it would hurt the person to hurt more. This one has been hard. I’ve apologized to my kids, Matthew, my friends and even my mom.

Jordan is that one person I hurt terribly. I wasn’t sober when I attempted to apologize and I am almost certain he wouldn’t hear it now. He’s Jake’s younger brother, the one whose now ex-girlfriend I seriously upset.

I never meant to hurt him- you couldn’t pay me to. I’m hoping one day he realizes that and maybe we’ll speak. I haven’t seen him since Sara’s mom’s funeral in May.

This is the kind of thing that happens in alcoholism and addiction. I know I’ve tried and that’s the best I can do. I also know he’s okay and that’s enough for me.

I struggled a lot with apologizing to my kids and not feeling like a good mom. I’m a lot more present these days. They’ve brought me all kinds of stress, but that’s how parenting works.

The Sober Life

Relapse is part of recovery. I’ve come close. I’ve had horrible days in which all I want to do is go to the closest store and grab a bottle of vodka, but I’m able to talk myself out if it.

I remind myself of the progress I have made. My kids haven’t really said it but I know they’re proud of me. I would lose that progress the minute I opened the bottle or took a shot. That would be heartbreaking.

I also know one wouldn’t be enough because I would become horribly depressed.

Also, I’m pretty sure that alcohol doesn’t agree with my meds.

I recently joined a 12 Step Yoga for Recovery class and I love it. I realized that I needed a bit more support, plus, yoga is great for me. It helps a lot and I look forward to each class.

Two years has gone by so quickly! I still take this one day at a time- it’s what works best for me.

Photos courtesy of Pinterest

Other pics are mine.

Pre-Holiday Check In

I think it’s a good idea to check in with yourself daily. I don’t do that on the blog but do so internally. However, I’m doing a pre-holiday check-in hoping to encourage others to do so with themselves.

Physically:

As I am writing this, not great. We lost power for almost two days due to a small ice storm within Winter Storm Avery. I didn’t sleep well those nights plus the first night we got home so my joints got achy and stiff, plus I was exhausted. Besides this issue, I usually feel okay. My main problem is fatigue. My joints don’t hurt as much as they used to but the fatigue is pretty bad.

I’m resting more as needed and listening to my body. This remains a challenge because life happens especially with kids. I was diagnosed with RA last year. It’s taken a while to truly adjust my mind to what I need. I’m still learning to be easier on myself and not push myself so far.

The migraines are a lot better. I’m not questioning it. I take my preventative meds and try to avoid triggers when possible.

Sobriety:

As we all know, I have to take this one day at a time. It’s a challenge. I will have two years on January 1, and I am confident in my ability to stay sober. There are days in which I really want a drink but I’m still able to stop my thought processes. I’m usually stressed, sad or maybe a bit of both.

I either write, text someone or color. Sometimes I’ll listen to a podcast to get my mind off things. Sobriety was a good decision and even though I have plenty of friends that drink, none of them bother me to do so. This is a huge weight off my shoulders.

Emotionally:

Slightly jumbled. I stay slightly jumbled. Some days I’m okay, some days I’m a mess. Anxiety and depression are their own beasts. I don’t like either one. I process my thoughts the best I can but sometimes I still shut down. I won’t talk to anyone, including Matthew. It is frustrating because I know I need to and sometimes really want to talk but I just can’t.

My former therapist once told me that if something is important enough to bother me, I probably need to talk about it. I try to remember this. I have people to talk to. The holidays aren’t super stressful for me, except for the financial part. Holiday break gets interesting because the kids are home for two weeks, but even that is manageable.

We do what we can financially and keep going. That’s it. Plus, my birthday is 12/29, Matthew’s is 1/3 and Cameron will be 14 on 1/7. We’re broke by then!

What’s Next?

I’m looking forward to 2019- new things are coming for the blog, and I might even go back to work part-time. Cameron will be going to high school and we’ll have an idea, hopefully, on where to go next with Lily. There’s usually something interesting going on around here.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

The Aftermath of Abuse

*Trigger Warning: this post discusses emotional abuse. If this is something you have a hard time processing please feel free to take time to do self care and/or come back to this post when you feel you can.*

I wrote The Reality Check to discuss my own issues with emotional and verbal abuse within my marriage. I didn’t, however, discuss the aftermath. It’s not pretty. I had to work on it in therapy. I had to relearn self-esteem and self-worth. I’d lost both. Jake had helped me regain my self-respect- I learned a lot about what I was willing and not willing to take from someone.

Those two things aren’t easy to learn, much less a second time. The decision to stay wasn’t an easy one. I stayed up many nights wondering if I’d screw myself, and more importantly, the kids, over, by staying. Did I? In a way, yes. Things have happened that I didn’t forsee and changes are ongoing. If I’d known these things would happen, I’d have left in 2015.

I was guarded. I didn’t trust Matthew to not hurt or leave me. I wouldn’t let him in, talk to him about anything major. Bills and kids? Sure. Anything else? Forget it. I ended up walking around with all kinds of thoughts and feelings.

The Thoughts that Echo

What if he goes back to being who he used to be? This stays with me daily. I think it always will. Matthew has made so much progress, but even my former therapist said this is a legit fear. I believe her.

If we get into an argument, is he going to blow up? Therapy helped me learn tools for this- arguing can be done in a healthy way. Taking breaks is very effective.

It’s okay to talk to him..right? I’ve got to try to trust him. This remains a daily struggle. Even with therapy, I’m not sure I’ll ever fully trust Matthew, much less any man, again. I know it’s okay to trust people, but I don’t want to ever be broken again.

I need to make it all look okay.. I didn’t know it then, but everyone around me knew what was going on. Even his dad knew. I withdrew a lot from everyone. I was severely depressed.

Am I going to mess up again? Is this going to be the day everything goes to hell? This has gotten better, thanks to a lot of self talk, progress and therapy. There are bad days but I am able to get through them a lot easier. This is also known as “walking on eggshells”, when you feel everything you do might upset your partner. This is a terrible frame of mind to live in.

The Drinking Years

I do not blame Matthew at all for my drinking. That was my own decision. The situation we were in, however, crushed me. I could have stopped drinking. I just liked it too much. It was a fun escape, but it got a lot worse after Jake died. My former therapist almost sent me for an inpatient evaluation. As of this post, I’m almost 20 months sober. Many abuse survivors do turn to some sort of substance abuse and that’s a sad fact. It helps dull the pain for sure, but it’s right there the next day.

My liver took a hit, and I’m forever grateful to my primary care physician because she might have saved my life. I’m pretty sure I would have ended up drinking my way into rehab otherwise. It may take years for my liver to return to normal. I damaged my own body because I let someone else destroy me. Let that sink in.

I drank to forget all kinds of pain- the pain of being what I thought was a horrible mom, definitely not a great wife, and the crumbling of my marriage. I kept drinking to forget the pain of losing the future I’d planned. I’m so glad I stopped.

What Happens After?

Abuse, in any shape or form, is wrong. I chose to cover emotional abuse because it’s not discussed nearly enough. What happens after needs to be looked at so much more.

The effects can last for years, even if the survivor is able to move forward and find a loving partner. The scary thoughts remain in the back of their mind. Some, like me, always have a backup plan just in case the nightmare comes true- they end up where they never thought they would be again. Some avoid relationships altogether for a long time out of fear. Some, sadly, end up in a chain of abusive relationships.

No matter how things turn out for you, please remember that the abuse is never your fault.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash and Pinterest

Resources:

Curejoy

Healthy Place