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Archive for the ‘Challenges’ Category

I love that quote.  I heard Julia Cameron say it once, but I’m fairly sure she didn’t coin it.  Trouble is, I can’t seem to keep the words in my head mid-process.  Specifically, one of my many I’ll-become-a-domestic-goddess-if-it-kills-me endeavors is two oak straight-backed chairs that I’m determined to paint and reupholster.  I’ve had them four years (procrastinate much?), and today I hauled them out of the garage armed with four sheets of wood-grade sandpaper.  I planted myself beneath my poplar, which my son promptly scrambled up, and started sanding.  A half-hour later, up to my armpits in dust and amid paranoid thoughts of lead-based paint, the aforementioned quote floated through my mind, to which I answered…

Process schmocess. 

But somehow, between eyefuls of dust, I persevered.  I felt the sand-smoothed wood beneath my fingers.  I listened to my son chatter from upon high about how when he turns six he’ll be able to climb to the TOP.  I savored the emerging evidence that I might possibly have a shot at being good at this artsy stuff.  Possibly.  And you know what?  The more I anchored myself to the present, the easier it became to actually enjoy it. 

Which is a good thing; for now my product is two chairs that vaguely resemble skinned animals.

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My son, Alex, started kindergarten this fall, and in October he informed me that there was a mean boy in his class.  Alex would come home with daily stories about how this boy (we’ll call him Tom) pushed him, hit him and, at one point, physically forced him to wipe up a spill with his sleeve.  I thought my heart might break as my husband and I coached him to use words, seek out the teacher and told him about other anti-bullying tips we’d heard.  Alex, bless his heart, tried them all, but nothing seemed to work.  So, at parent-teacher conferences I addressed it with the teacher. 

And my whole perspective got turned on its head.

Tom is a foster child.  He’s with a good family now, but his past is dark and he’s angry and he’s fighting to keep from losing his little self.  Upon hearing this, my heart did break.  I took this new information to my husband (who had previously, wisely commented to me, “I wonder what his home life is like?”).  We decided to take a new approach.  I told Alex that, though he didn’t have to tolerate bullying and should keep his teacher in the loop, he might consider trying to befriend Tom if he felt comfortable.  I also told him he should keep Tom in his prayers, to which he responded, “why would I do that?”  I told him that, more than anything else, Tom needed our prayers and our love.

Full disclosure:  I never thought Alex would actually try to befriend Tom, and I am ashamed to admit that until I learned about Tom’s past it had not occurred to me to suggest that Alex pray for him.   

A week later, Alex came home and stunned me by asking if Tom could come over to play.  After asking him, “are you sure?” seventeen times, their teacher put me in touch with Tom’s foster mom, and that week he came over for movie night.  It went quite well; Tom is bright and spunky, and we learned afterward that it had been his first play date.  Ever.   

Since then, Alex and Tom have become buddies, much to my amazement.  I had been so caught up with protecting Alex and coaching him to “stand up for himself” (and because I unfortunately have grown a little jaded and world-weary) that I completely missed an opportunity to help a child who needs helping.  Lucky for me, Alex was on the ball.  We took his lead and now we get to be a part of Tom’s life. 

By the way, Tom is now adopted 🙂

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We’ve never been a video game family (although my hubby and I did have a months-long adventure via World of Warcraft, but that’s ancient history).  But, given all the hype with the new Kinetic/Wii/Playstation Move systems, we bit the bullet and got the family a Wii for Christmas.  We made it clear to our five year-old son that game time would be limited because it can “make your brain weak.”  He agreed emphatically, but now that he’s getting good at one of the games, it’s all Wii – er, we – hear about.  Things boiled over today when I told him, after an hour of play time, that it was time to move on to something else.  He got uncharacteristically nasty with me, and even told me he wished I wasn’t his mom. 

Ouch.

My own mother told me many times that one should simply let these comments roll off one’s shoulders, given that they’re coming from the mouth of a young child who doesn’t understand the weight of the words.  And I tried.  But it stung more than I thought it would.  He is currently in his room until Dad gets home, and he’s grounded from all forms of electronic media until at least tomorrow.  By then my hubby and I will have hopefully figured out a plan.  We’ll work through this, of course, but admittedly I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have just continued to opt out of the video gaming world.  We were perfectly happy without it.

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Many fears are borne of fatigue and loneliness – Desiderata

I’ve been a SAHM for almost five months and, in the spirit of full disclosure, I want to mention that my transition from Working Mother to SAHM was not exactly seamless.  My girlfriends who had gone before me, while thrilled for me, all warned of the “adjustment period” that would inevitably come.  One close friend, who had left her career nearly five years prior and just before the birth of her first child, explained it best.

“It’s going to feel like an extended vacation at first, or like a materity leave.  It’s going to feel great, and restful and you’ll be giddy.  But trust me, all the while your subconscious will be preparing to return to work.  And when it finally gets the hint that you’re not going back to work – ever – well, BAM!”   

I remember sort of flinching when she told me this, but I had no idea what she meant.  I do now.  As if on cue (self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps?), 1.5 months after I quit my job I stopped sleeping.  I’m and eight hour/night girl, an I started getting a scant four hours.  I felt worn down and anxious, as though I were forgetting something important.  I quickly realized that if I didn’t keep the little ones busy, they would descend upon me with relentless demands that I find something for them to do, and I would sort of stare at them curiously.  How did I get here?  Who are these children?  Who am I?  Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I spent a good two months feeling…off.  The sleep deprivation alone was slowly driving me batty.

So I called up that same good friend and told her what I was going through.  She laughed and said, “Yep, that sounds about right.”  I asked her if it would pass on its own.  If I waited patiently, would the anxiousness just dissolve?  “Oh honey, no,” she said.  “You have to take action.”  And then she outlined for me the things that had helped bring her around years before:

Maintain adult contact
This one took more effort than I expected.  I’m a bit of an introvert anyway, and over the years the proximity to grown-ups at the office had made me lazy.  But after spending almost two months in the company of people aged four and under, I was desperate for adult conversation.  My husband was very supportive during this time, but even he started to gently push me to get out more often.  Apparently I have hermit-like tendencies.  So I reached out to a handful of relatives and close friends and made standing dates.  Some were play dates, some were grown-ups only.  All were necessary. 

Exercise
I fell off the fitness wagon the moment I came home – which is exactly the wrong thing to do.  Vigorous activity is anxiety’s archenemy. I started running and I kickboxed when time allowed.  I never should have stopped, but admittedly I was overwhelmed by the enormity the change I’d made.  After about a week, I was smiling more often, I had more energy, and…

Early to bed
The other thing about exercise is that it helps you sleep, and soon I was ready to crash by about 7:30 p.m.  I didn’t, but I did make sure I hit the hay by 10:00 p.m. 

Solitude
I realize this contradicts Maintain adult contact, but in truth both are necessary.  I started waking up an hour before everyone else.  I used the time to think or pray, plan or just sip coffee and stare at the wall.  Even now, if I don’t give myself this morning time, if I “hit the ground running,” I can feel the anxiety gremlin start creeping back. 

It’s a challenging change, coming home.  There is no place I would rather be, but there is also no way I could expect, after working for fifteen years, to stop cold-turkey without experiencing some sort of withdrawal.  If any new or aspiring SAHM’s are reading this, I hope my little story will help you.  You’re not alone, and the strangeness does pass.  You have to help it along, but it passes.  Most importantly, experiencing the “adjustment period” does not in any way mean that coming home was the wrong decision.

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