Toxic Family Members: Handle With (Self) Care

Holidays are great and all, but what about the relative(s) that you don’t want to see? You can choose to avoid them completely, or if you’re stuck being around them because you don’t want to skip a gathering entirely, you have to handle them in small doses. I’m in the second category. Anyone else? Raise your hand then keep reading.

I get that this happens year-round. I have a whole side of my family that I don’t see because of this topic and, well, that’s not entirely heartbreaking. I talk to one cousin on that side, Bethani. I’m a decade older than her, but we have a blast talking. She’s super smart and I’m really proud of her. Our Twitter chats are EPIC.

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How does one handle toxic family members? With (self) care. In my case, I have to do this sober- yuck.

Every family has their issues and the holidays tend to bring out the worst. What can you do?

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I Got New Rules, I Count ‘Em

(Many thanks to Dua Lipa, from “New Rules”. If you’re familiar with the song, read the list to the tempo of the song as an added bonus.)

One: Set boundaries and stick to them. Whatever and whoever it is that bothers you, write it down, make a list on your phone.. do what you need to create boundaries. If you need to, set a time to show up and leave. Everyone has limits on what they can and can’t deal with. If people can’t deal, then they need to look at themselves and think about why they can’t respect your needs. If you don’t drink, or only want so many, don’t hesitate to turn down the drinks at the party. Same with food, if you’re watching what you eat.

Two: Take a time-out. This can be from a person or the whole gathering. Take a short break outside, if the weather is okay, or just go to a quieter area, if possible. Holiday gatherings can get loud, noisy and somewhat overwhelming. It’s okay to need a break.

Three: Remember that their issues are not your fault. This is incredibly important to remember. You cannot take on someone else’s issues. Everyone has to take control of their own life, in one way or another. You cannot fix them, but can possibly be there when they are in a better place to work things out.

Four: Know the topics that may trigger issues and that some topics are just off limits. Some people do not have the ability to discuss certain topics without things going rapidly downhill- politics, sometimes sports, children, old issues, etc. If you know those are bad topics, don’t go there. If someone you have issues with brings it up, tell them you’d rather not discuss it and change the topic.

Five: Remember that YOUR wellbeing comes first. It’s not fun to be stressed out during the holidays, or any other time of the year. Take time for yourself before and after holiday gatherings to de-stress. It is worth it and so are you.

May your holiday gatherings be fun and drama/fight-free. Eat great food and have some laughs!

Leave some comments about how your gatherings went- did they go well?

Information courtesy of Psychology Today

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Pictures courtesy of Unsplash

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Song Lyric Saturday with Michelle Branch

Michelle Branch was big for a while on her own, went country for a while with The Wreckers and disappeared. I was disappointed- I loved her music. I even liked the music she made with The Wreckers. She’s now on her second marriage and just had a second baby, a boy. Congrats to Michelle and her husband. (She has a daughter, Owen, from her first marriage.)

This was another hard choice for me, but I chose “All You Wanted”. It was one of her first singles and I loved the video. Michelle has a great voice, and I would love to see her make a comeback. I know that would be difficult these days- once you leave the music scene, that’s pretty much it.

“If you want to

I can save you

I can take you away from here

So lonely inside

So busy out there

All you wanted was somebody who cared”

This song stayed on repeat once I bought the CD (yes, the CD, this was the time before downloads became huge). I thought that trying to save someone was a romantic thing because it is something you just do. I don’t think that anymore- because you can’t save everyone that you come across.

I learned this professionally- as an addiction counselor, I worked with opiate addicts. I lost a few on my caseload due to overdose, other medical issues and one in a car wreck. The overdoses were much harder to deal with- but my supervisor (a complete saint, if you ask me) told me more than once, “Wrae, you can’t save them all. You did the best you could to help.” Looking back, Mark was absolutely right. Many doctors, nurses and other medical professionals probably feel the same in some situations.

In a personal sense, sometimes people, myself, included, bury the things that hurt the most. I have to work on this and remind myself to reach out if I need to talk, or if someone has hurt me, to let them know. Everyone wants someone who cares and deserves just that.

Picture courtesy of pinterest

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

Why it’s Okay to be the Not So Fun Parent

Where’s the Fun?

Parenting is not fun 100% all the time. Any parent that says this is lying. I love my kids dearly, but there are days in which this parenting thing entirely sucks. Either two or all three kids are fighting (their longtime favorite is the front seat of my car), someone is sick or injured, or if I’m really lucky, both. I even nicknamed the fighting between Julian and Lily “The Petty Olympics” because they constantly go for who can bring up the pettiest thing and get on my nerves the most.

Other days, my house is a magical place in which dinner is done on time and nobody fights. This is great.

Most of the time, I’m home with the three ring circus, as the kids are jokingly called. Even when I worked, much of the after-school childcare has been my arena. I’m permanently on call while the kids are at school if anything goes down (and it has- I’ve picked up each kid at least once). This leads me to be the enforcer. The not-so-fun parent.

Someone’s gotta do it, right?

This is not to say Matthew is not a good dad, because he is. He simply works a schedule that brings him home around 7 PM and it’s been this way for many years. Many dinners have been burnt in the process of the kids not tearing the house apart, having a meltdown, or fighting. Fighting is a common theme at my house.

Mom is a Meanie

If I had a dollar for everytime that Lily told me I am “the meanest mommy ever” I would never have to work again.

She’s 10. She has no idea what’s coming for her in the future.

It used to hurt my feelings that my kids thought I was mean and they didn’t like me…but no longer. I had a chat with my mom, the queen of mean moms. She reminded me that it’s not really my job for these kids to like me but for me to raise them to be decent people.

Good point, Mom.

Now quit buying my kids recorders.

One of our biggest challenges as parents is to do what my mom said- raise our kids to be decent people. They need to learn manners, to fight fairly, talk appropriately, and many other lessons. This may mean not being the fun parent all the time.

Sigh.

I’ve had to let the kids learn to squash their sibling fights on their own (unless things get super bad) because it got draining on all of us. Being the not so fun parent means having to enforce the rules, all the discipline stuff (big bummer), making sure your kids don’t hurt others and teaching them how the world works, especially when they mess up.

I do worry that I’m a bit too hard on the kids. When we’re out in public, I do tend to crack down a lot on their behavior before it even looks bad. One of the last times Julian had to get a haircut, he was so angry he walked out as soon as he was done. He got my evil mom glare as he walked out. I took a deep breath, apologized to the hairdresser and gave her a really nice tip. He was mad that he had to get two inches off the top, not just one.

Matthew tends to be a bit more laid back in general so someone’s got to be be a bit heavier with things. If I wasn’t, I’m pretty sure this house would be a crap show in an hour. This also fits my semi Type A personality. It’s okay to be the enforcer. Kids need structure, rules and guidance. My kids gets that from both Matthew and I. They know that I have basically zero tolerance for certain things but being kids, they will still attempt to push buttons. It’s what kids do.

The biggest payoff, not that I was looking for one, is hearing how well-mannered my kids are when they are with other people. My friend Madonna has five kids. She kept my boys overnight recently and when she brought them back, she told me “Your boys are so good! You should be proud of them. They were so nice and have good manners.”

I thanked her. I guess the not fun mom thing does pay off. She told me her kids are loud and wild no matter where they go, but she and her hubby are working on this. I figured that while my sons are less than mannered sometimes with me, I have taught them something while they have been rolling their eyes and sighing at me.

The lesson here is: your kid might be annoyed at you while you’re teaching them manners and other things but it does pay off.

If you’re the “not so fun” parent, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay to be a bit harder on your kids, especially in the age of super disrespectful kids. I’ve seen videos of kids that shocked me- my mom wouldn’t have tolerated any of that for a second. Kids aren’t robots, they do have thoughts and feelings- but it is good to instill things like respect and good behavior in your kids.

Parenting is a tough job- try to make the mental load a little lighter. Try to have a bit of fun in the midst of the seriousness. I certainly do.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Not Just the 3 of Us

Kids and Chores: How to Make it Work

At some point, almost every parent has to think about chores. Some of those thoughts include:

  • What is my child able to do?
  • What is my child willing to do? (some kids are more helpful than others)
  • Should I pay my child to do chores?
  • What should my child be able to do?

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The Benefits of Chores

Most kids like to help around the house. It helps them feel like part of the family, boosts their confidence, and gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Lily is known for not liking to do anything around our house, but she loved walking Tiger. She became our main dog walker. She was devastated to lose that job and now has the “pooper scooper” job of cleaning the cat litter box. Walking Tiger gave her a huge sense of accomplishment. Julian loves to feed the cats. Kids as small as three or four can do small things, like helping pick up toys, and that can be made to be fun (think “The Cleanup Song”). They love to feel like they’re helping and it teaches responsibility of cleaning their own messes.

Another benefit, my personal favorite, is knowing that your kids will move out as adults knowing they can care for themselves. My kids can do laundry (Lily is working on this), use a microwave, many kitchen chores and use a vacuum cleaner. The boys can cook small things for themselves.

I am doing this for two reasons- Matthew didn’t do his own laundry until college and this was baffling to me, and because I have two chronic health issues. If I’m in bed with either severe joint pain due to RA or a severe migraine, the last thing I’m thinking about is going into the basement to finish the laundry. I can ask one of the boys to do this. I don’t particularly like this, but I choose to see this as a life lesson they’ll thank me for later. To find out more about my fun times as a mom with chronic health issues, you can read RA and Me and Chronic Conditions and Momming

Kids learn bigger chores best by a step-by-step manner. Praise them as they go, and don’t expect perfection the first or even the tenth time. It takes a while and many tries to get certain chores done correctly. School age kids and teens need chores that grow with them- dishes, laundry, pet care, etc. It teaches them a bit more responsibility.

The Chores Battle

Some kids can’t stand doing chores. There are a few reasons that kids don’t like doing chores:

  • lack of knowing how much work it takes to run a home
  • impulsivity. Working on something that isn’t instantly gratifying isn’t on their agenda.
  • Self-absorbed. The kids that fall into this category don’t naturally consider the needs of others and are concerned about their own needs, which don’t usually include helping others keep a clean home.

These traits develop as a child does, and can contribute to a struggle about chores. Some parents let the struggle go because they don’t want to damage the relationship they have with their children, feel guilty about asking their child to do more than they already do (meaning school, sports, a job, etc.) and/or think their child is too young, not realizing their child’s capabilities. It may be helpful if you remind your child that everyone in your home is responsible for helping the home stay clean and orderly.

**If there are special considerations that you need to take for your child, take them. There’s no point in giving your child a chore that they cannot for some reason physically complete.**

Ask your child for input. Do they like the chores they do? Is there a way to swap them? There may be some that are non-negotiable, but maybe there are some that can be changed.

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The Money Question

To pay or not pay?

My kids don’t get an allowance. They don’t have a lot of chores- each kid is responsible for cleaning up after themselves, their rooms and the boys do their own laundry. Cameron takes out the trash and takes care of the turtle. Julian and Lily cover the cat care.

Their rooms are a job in themselves- the boys share a room and it gets pretty gross in there. If they want extra money, they can do extra chores or help their grandparents out with something they need. The boys like this idea, so they’ve been helping their grandfather with yard things lately. Julian and Lily prefer to save their money and Cameron prefers to save it if there’s something he wants, otherwise it’s snack time. He needs to get all the Goldfish he can eat.

Whether you pay your child or not for chores, it is very important to discuss money management- saving, credit, opening a bank account, etc. They will need to know these things for the future. When I take the kids shopping, I remind them of things about tax, sales, and so on. They need to consider those things when buying certain things.

Every parent has a different thought on this topic, and this is cool. I’d like to see your thoughts in the comments. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer.

Pics courtesy of Pixabay and Unsplash

Information from Center for Parenting Education

Very Well Family

My Random Musings