Category Archives: Anxiety Overload

Eat My Words

Last week I had a post all planned for Microblog Mondays.

It was going to be about how I used to love September, how it used to be my favourite time of year, how much I used to love looking forward to the new school year.

And then I was going to write about how I was dreading Tuesday, because it was the first day of school, and E’s first day of Grade One, and I was just.not.ready for another eight-week four month transition like we had with JK and SK.

I wasn’t ready for the endless tears, the bargaining, the requests to stay home, the plaintive statements that school was “just too long” and he just missed me “so much”.

I wasn’t ready for the phone calls from the teacher, the meetings after school, the behavioural charts.

I wasn’t ready for the feeling that everyone else’s kid was getting it when mine just wasn’t.

But Monday was Labour Day and we got busy and I never found time to write the post.

And that, it turns out, was a good thing.

E. went to school on the first day worried, because he had heard that “In Grade One you just have to sit and write all day.”

He came out of the school at the end of the day bubbling over with excitement. Grade One had been fun! He had his own desk and his own pencil case! His teacher had told him she was amazed at how much French he knew!

It’s just kept getting better.

All week we had a few tears at drop off (because, as he told me, he finds drop off “so hard and scary”), but he was fine during the day.

He’s been eating his lunch, despite now being in the lunchroom, “which is really really noisy and filled with like a gazillion kids”.

He’s wanted to play in the playground after school every day, something which he almost never wanted to do last year.

He loves that he can go anywhere he wants during recess.

He loves that he has an agenda.

His best friend is in the class, and they come up with crazy games to play on the field (“Mummy, this morning we made a dust storm!”), and he’s already playing with some of the other kids he was friendly with last year.

On Friday he came home, starving and exhausted, and told me, “Mummy, I’m so disappointed it’s the weekend. I just love school so much!”

To top it off, today he voluntarily went to school 45 minutes early because he wanted to try out for the cross country team.

I’ve had no phone calls from the school, no notes from the teacher, no hand waving me over at pick up for a “brief chat”.

My kid, it turns out, is rocking Grade One.

I have never been happier to have been so wrong.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, E.- the seventh year, Grade One

Make Time for Me

I am trying to find the positives in going back to work, even though at this point I really don’t want to go back to work.

It will be nice to have some time and space to think again.

It will be nice to have some quiet. I was home this summer with both kids, and while it was in many ways a lot of fun, it most certainly was not quiet.

It will be nice, I suppose, to think about my research again. Perhaps I will actually make the revisions the press requested for my book (two YEARS ago. Gah.).

Mostly I am looking forward to being able to make the time to exercise and to occasionally have lunch with a friend.

When E. was little, I found it hard to rationalize doing anything for myself that wasn’t work-related, because if I wasn’t home with E., that meant Q. was, and that meant Q. wasn’t working when he should have been. It felt inappropriate and frivolous to use my time away from E. for anything but the PhD.

This time around, it’s different.

Three days a week P. has a nanny. It is the nanny’s JOB to take care of P. She is not supposed to be doing anything else.

So if I want to use an hour of that time to go for a run, or to eat lunch with a friend, I shouldn’t feel guilty, because the only person whose work isn’t getting done at that point is me. In my view, life’s too short to work all the time, even if I’m supposed to be maintaining full-time hours in my research position and I’m already behind by choosing to stay home with P. one day a week.

I do better work when I make time to read for fun, when I make time to run, when I make time for anything other than sitting in a library staring at a computer screen with a pile of books stacked next to me.

This does not make me a particularly good academic, but it makes me a better person and a much better mother.

I don’t want to be back at work next week.

I would much rather still be at home with P.

I would much rather be the one picking E. up after school every day.

But if I’m not going to be able to do that, at least I can try to make sure that my time away from them is well spent.

And that means making time for me, not just for my research.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Blink and you'll miss it, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Life after the PhD, Running

Not Ready

My first baby, who could have napped and nursed however he liked, quit nursing during the day at just over ten months and started trying to transition to one nap before his first birthday.

My second baby, at fourteen-and-a-half months, needs to nap twice a day. She still loves to nurse, not only before she naps, but throughout the day. She pats my chest or, if it’s more urgent, she lifts up my shirt or sticks her hand down the neckline. She nurses for anywhere from five seconds to fifteen minutes. If I’m sitting on the floor or in a chair she will often stand up on my thigh, making an inverted ‘v’ with her body, and wiggle her bum in the air. She uses her inside hand to grab my bra or shirt or stroke my free breast. Sometimes she reaches up with that arm and waves it around in the air. I call that “yoga nursing” because she looks like she’s doing the triangle pose.

She asks to nurse when I’m cooking dinner, and I hold her with one hand and stir with the other, with her wispy hair and her still-tiny ears curled in over my chest.

She asks to nurse on transit, in museums, while walking down the street, and, as much as I can, I say yes. I have mastered the art of nursing with her in the Ergo, something I never managed when she was younger. I have become an unintentional advocate for normalizing breastfeeding and know that my country supports my right to feed my baby wherever, whenever I choose. I have become almost immune to accidentally flashing strangers when she unexpectedly decides she’s had enough. The milky smiles make the potential embarrassment worthwhile.

She asks to nurse at night, and I still say yes, although if she wakes up too early in the night I send in Q. who tells her gently that it’s “sleepy time now. No milk. No milk. It’s sleepy time.” When she wakes to nurse closer to the dawn I sit in the rocking chair and hold her close and breathe her in. In those moments she is still, calm, content. I am still allowed to cuddle her, to smooth her one tiny curl and kiss her head

My nursing relationship with my son ended badly, much earlier than I had hoped it would.

And so, to my daughter, I say yes, as much as I can. Yes, I will hold you. Yes, I will cuddle you. Yes, you can nurse now.

She is my last baby, and I am in no hurry to wean.

She is my last baby, and my maternity leave is almost over.

She is my last baby, and so she does not get to have what she wants. She will have to nap only once, so her brother can be picked up from school. She will have to nurse less, because I will not be there.

She will adapt.

She will be fine.

I will be fine, too.

Going back to work is the right decision, on many levels.

But right now it doesn’t feel that way.

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Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Blink and you'll miss it, Nursing, P.- the second year

Fearless

Here is a list of places I have found P. in the last week:

  • sitting on every couch and chair in the living room
  • sitting on the square coffee table
  • sitting on the rectangular coffee table
  • sitting on the top of the toy shelves (which she would only have been able to reach by climbing over from one of the chairs)
  • standing in her high chair
  • sitting on top of the kitchen table (which required her to push my backpack over next to a chair, climb onto the backpack, climb onto the chair, and then climb onto the table)
  • standing on the back of the couch (not the cushions, the back frame of the couch itself), holding on to the window sill, having pushed out one of the screens and allowed the (indoor only) cat to escape (luckily said cat was confused enough to just sit on the ledge outside the window until I came into the room and realized what had happened)

At her age (not quite 13.5 months), E. couldn’t get on to the couches by himself. He didn’t sit on coffee tables until he was 15.5 months old. He never, ever, did anything else that his sister has clearly mastered.

Q. and I are scrambling to keep up with her. We’ve moved the couch flush against the wall so she can’t climb onto the back (which has blocked her brother’s snake house, which annoys him no end). We have a strict “wash immediately and return to the chair” rule with the high chair tray, because she can’t climb into it if the tray is in place. We’ve started gating P. into the kitchen with us when we’re cooking because we just can’t leave her to explore the living room any longer because we’ll inevitably find her doing something dangerous. And we’re resigned to having to break out the “baby jail” (our travel crib), even though I’d much rather be able to let her roam free like her brother did.

To say she is going to keep us on our toes is a serious understatement.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, P.- the second year

Microblog Mondays: Waves

We’re down under at the moment, visiting Q.’s family.

It’s technically winter here now, but the weather has thus far more closely resembled what would be a nice spring day at home (except in the late afternoon when it gets cold and dark unexpectedly quickly).

Yesterday we walked to the beach. There were humpback whales breaching off shore and sea eagles soaring overhead. It was a beautiful day.

E. went for a paddle in the shallow end of the rock pool.

Q. went for a swim in the ocean.

He caught a few waves and even though I know, I KNOW, that he grew up doing this, that he has done this thousands of times, that he knows how to read the ocean in ways that my father never could have, I still spent his entire swim trying not to cry or throw up (I wanted to do both).

I haven’t been next to the ocean since it happened.

I’m going to be visiting this beach every couple of years for decades to come. One day my children will not want to swim in the rock pool. They will want to dive into the waves, just like their father, just like I once did.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do it again.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Family, Microblog Mondays

Not My Story

If you’ve been reading me for a long time, you’ve probably noticed that I post a lot less about E. these days.

Partly this is because of lack of time. I post less about everything these days and my Google Doc file of “potential blog posts” keeps getting longer and longer.

Mostly it’s because I’ve decided that E.’s life is not mine to share.

When he was a baby, his life and my life were intertwined. Writing about learning how to be a mother meant writing about what he was doing.

He’s six now.

He’s a big little kid (or a little big kid depending on how you look at it).

He has his own thoughts, wishes, dreams, plans, questions, and opinions (this child is NEVER short of opinions).

Writing about him without his permission feels like a violation of his privacy, but he’s too young to be able to give me permission to tell a story- he wouldn’t truly understand what giving me permission means and what the ramifications are of something being published online (he’s desperate to be able to put “how-to” videos on YouTube when he makes, say, a conveyor belt out of toilet paper rolls and old linens, and can’t understand why I keep saying no).

The problem is, I desperately need someone to talk to about him, and (as I said recently) I don’t have the right kind of friend nearby.

E. is not easy to parent.

I know all kids have their challenges, but I also honestly believe that some kids are harder work than others.

Nothing drove this home more than chatting with one mum after school one day when she told me that the teacher had called her about her daughter. “That’s the first phone call I’ve had from the school about any one of my kids,” she said (she has three- the eldest is in grade four). “I guess one of them had to be the rebel.”

At the time, I was right in the middle of a months-long stretch where I touched base with E.’s teacher (bless her) every single day after school. We talked with E. about what went well, what hadn’t gone well, and what we could do to make things better the next day.

I went home after that conversation and cried.

I feel like most of this past school year has been spent trying to figure out what is going on in E’s head.

I’ve been to eight appointments (not counting follow up discussions with his regular doctor) with three different specialists.

His teacher and I have filled out questionnaire after questionnaire.

I have spent hours Googling, even when I know I should NOT be Googling.

The end result is that the developmental paediatrician thinks that E. probably does have something going on. It’s mild enough that for now we’ve avoided a formal diagnosis (because E. has made huge strides in the areas where we were concerned over this past school year), but we’ll revisit this in a year’s time as the demands of Grade One are going to be much heavier.

I don’t like labels.

I especially don’t like the label that the developmental paediatrician thinks probably applies to E. because it brings with it a lot of assumptions for a lot of people, assumptions which, for the most part, are not applicable to my son.

At the same time, if E. does need more support to be able to thrive in the school environment, and a label is required for him to become eligible for said support, then I will do whatever is necessary to make sure my child gets what he needs.

It’s hard though.

I’ve cried a lot in the last couple of weeks.

It is hard to think that my beautiful boy’s brain is likely to make it harder for him to cope with school (and with life) than it will be for his peers.

It is hard to realize that I have many, many more meetings with teachers ahead of me, that the school may not be able to look past the other stuff to see what he is capable of (and he is so incredibly bright, so capable, so curious).

It is hard to think of myself as a special needs mum, even as I recognize that I am his first and best advocate.

It is hard not to be scared of what the future will bring, especially if you start Googling.

It is hard to know that P. will be at a much higher risk for the same thing and to also know that it will likely be years before we will be able to tell whether her brain is wired like her brother’s or not.

It is hard not to think that this is somehow my fault, that I have done something wrong somewhere along the line to cause this (even as I read over and over again that it is not my fault).

It is hard not to feel guilty that he was five before we put in the paperwork to start asking questions, that we didn’t investigate earlier, that I kept telling my gut to be quiet when it whispered that something was going on, that I thought he would grow out of it or that he just needed more time to adjust.

In my heart, I know that E. is going to be fine in the long run.

Scratch that.

He’s going to be more than fine.

He’s going to be amazing.

P. too.

But the road to get there just got a lot rockier.

And I wish I had someone to talk to about it.

 

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Brave New (School) World, E.- the seventh year, Grief

Absence

I don’t have any friends.

This isn’t, of course, exactly true, but it’s how I’ve been feeling for the last few months.

I have two sisters who are my best friends and who (finally) both live relatively nearby.

I have good friends from high school who don’t live in the same city.

I have some very close girl friends who would be my besties if they lived in the same city, but they don’t (and a couple of them aren’t even in the same country).

I have friends who do live in the city but not in our neighbourhood. They all have kids too and getting together requires scheduling and planning and many emails.

I have online friends, including one group of ladies who’ve been together since 2008. We all struggled with infertility and now we are all trying to navigate our way through parenting, work/life balance, etc. I’ve met them all in person, but no one lives in my city.

I have lots of people I talk to at school pick up and drop off.

I rarely walk anywhere in my neighbourhood without seeing someone I know well enough to stop and chat with.

What I don’t have, however, are good girl friends who live in my neighbourhood, whose kids go to the same school as E.

And this year I’ve really felt that absence.

I’ve been in this neighbourhood for long enough- this September it will be nine years since we moved into our house. Some of the mums at school whom I would most like to be friends with are newer arrivals.

But I feel like I’ve missed the friendship boat. The mums I would most like to be friends with already have other mum friends. They are friendly to me, but they already have someone to talk to when things are tough.

Most of them have been friends since they were on maternity leave.

I was on maternity leave then too.

I didn’t make mum friends in my neighbourhood. I had a group of mum friends from prenatal yoga and we hung out all the time in that wild first year, but two of them moved away and the ones who are still in the city are not in my neighbourhood.

I’m kicking myself now for not trying to find mum friends right where I lived, but the mums whom I would most want to be friends with all had January or February babies.

Four or five months doesn’t make a difference now that they’re all six, but in that first year it would have been huge.

We made some friends when E. was at nursery school, but their kids haven’t been in the same class as E. for two years now, and they have other friends too, so it’s hard to maintain a connection.

E. is not good at making friends. It’s been extremely hard for him, which makes it that much harder for me, because my best chance to make friends with these mums is when our kids are playing together. And if E. doesn’t want to stay after school to play in the playground, if getting him to agree to a playdate is like pulling teeth, if he doesn’t connect with the kids of the mums whom I like, then how can I forge a connection?

We’re all parenting one (or more) kids. Almost everyone is working. No one has much free time, so of course they’re going to want to spend the time that they do have with their established friends. And P. has certainly complicated things on my end.

The truth is, I am not good at making friends either.

I am introverted and anxious.

It is hard for me to reach out.

But I’m realizing that I’m also really lonely.

There’s been a lot going on with E. this year, on top of everything that happened to my family last year, and I’ve realized I just don’t know who I can talk to about it. It’s too much to just hand over to someone I don’t know all that well. It’s too big.

And so I smile and wave and chat with the other mums.

I talk and talk.

I never really say anything.

 

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Friends