Thursday, September 15, 2016

In the Groove

I have been "retired" again since April but it has taken until about now to get in the groove.  It was great to be home over the summer with my kids.  They needed me.  Now they're back in school and I have been figuring out my days.

Over the summer we spent lots of time around Portland.  I had intended to work all summer so I didn't plan any big trips.  Most summers that I have been home the kids and I go on at least one big road trip.  We talked about going up to Vancouver BC but in the end, the kids just wanted to be home.   Why spend the money and time if they weren't into it?  We spent time at beaches and swimming holes but mostly we were just hanging out.  It wasn't super productive but it was relaxing.  I would give this summer a B.

My biggest reason for quitting my job was that the kids were not thriving.  I know that we are very blessed to be in the situation that allows me to be home and I do not take that for granted one minute. When I was working, I just didn't have the energy to give to all three kids.  I got the basics done but that's about it. Here were the challenges of me being at work.....

Sophia - We live 100 feet from her high school.  I always planned on being "that house" for the kids and not being home with the teens was killing me.  The kids would come over every day for lunch.  There were between 7-10 kids daily and poor Sophia was trying to keep them in control, keep them cleaning up after them selves and not eat all our food.  It was stressful for her.  AND, when I got home from work and had to clean the kitchen before I could make dinner, I was not happy. They "tried" to clean but a teen's clean and mine are two different things.  I was tired and not in the mood to clean, make dinner, clean again, finish basic household duties and then finally sit down.  Most nights that I was working Bob and I would not sit down until 9 or 9:30 after straightening the house up after the kids.

Coulter - He is a pretty happy go lucky kid most of the time but he was depressed.  Beverly Cleary is an excellent school but it wasn't working for Coulter.  At Beverly Cleary School Coulter didn't have many friends.  As a matter of fact, he only had one.  That one friend didn't live in the neighborhood and wasn't returning to BCS in fall.  This was a very sad thing for Coulter.  He was being bullied and was an easy target because he is responsive.  He explodes and that is great fun for the kids causing the stress for him.  His teacher was so supportive but she had 34 kids in her class and couldn't protect him all the time.  He needs to toughen up a bit, I know that, but it was more than being tough, he was feeling broken.  The adults there kept an eye on him but there are more than 850 kids at BCS.

Kees - Well, he didn't say much about me working but when he did, he was sad.  He just missed me being here when he got home.  We used to go over his day and just snuggle on the couch most days.  He missed this tremendously.  He felt lost.

None of the three did their chores.  They are great kids but they just "forgot" or conveniently did other things.  When the cat is away.....  I get it.  Again, this is where Bob and I got so frustrated.  We would come home and nothing was done even though lists were left.  Finally, we hired a nanny to come and direct the kids.  It helped but they didn't like it much.  And, it was money that I was spending when I shouldn't have had to.  Mostly, I didn't like being mad and frustrated with the people I love the most.  These were not the interactions that I wanted the kids to remember.  It was not the parents Bob and I wanted to be.  Messes are acceptable but a messy house is not where I feel in control.  I was feeling more frustrated than love, I was feeling let down and I was feeling like I was letting my kids down.  We even went to counseling to try and figure out how to function as a family with two working parents.  It didn't work for us.

I left my job in April and I could see the difference in the kids immediately.  I was thrilled to be home for the kids and their friends.  The boys thanked me daily for weeks for being home.  They were truly, deeply happy about it.  Most of us never know if / how much our kids appreciate us.  Maybe they don't usually give it any thought but when things changed how they wanted it to, they knew it and said so.  Sophia was more subtle but she was happy I was home.

Sophia and her friends thought it would be a total bummer to have me here.  In fact, it gave them more freedom.  Where Sophia didn't want them getting into our food, I gave them leeway.  I bought stuff on sale, boxes of pasta, granola bars etc and created a "Teen Food" Box.  Anything in there is fair game.  Best of all, I got rid of my left overs. Teen boys will eat anything!   I could give rides, a couple bucks, some advice, a bit of support, but mostly, I set parameters.  I think all the teens were glad I was home giving them directions.  They are all here every day.  Now I am available for emotional support, food support, and neighborhood mothering.  It was my plan all along!  The kids don't even knock any more, they just walk in and yell, "Hey mamma Leek!"  I love it.  It's loud, messy and not cheap but it's totally worth it for us.

Kees has perked right up.  He is so helpful.  When I ask him to do anything, most of the time he just does it.  Talk about a kid who wanted direction. He is cheerful and is happy to have me walk him to school or home and we spend a little time cuddling most days.  He is still my baby and I am glad to give him the attention that he needs.

The biggest shift has been for Coulter.  Coulter was diagnosed with ADHD last year.  The meds he was on made him depressed though I am not sure it was the meds or his surroundings at school.  Eventually, we let him stop the meds.  I was so worried about him.  By the time we decided he really needed something different, it was too late to change schools as the lottery cutoff was over in March.  I started searching the District for a new school for him in April.  At this point it didn't matter what it was as long as it was different  His teacher suggested the Ivy School.  It was one of the options that I looked into and applied for.  He was number 5 on the waiting list.....  It was hard to know what to do.  If we couldn't find an alternative for him I even considered home-schooling him.  We waited all summer to hear from anyone.......  Three days before school started at BCS we got the email, "Coulter, you have been accepted to the Ivy School."  We were all thrilled, especially Coulter.

He started a week and a half after the other two so we got some quality time together and we both enjoyed that.  The extra time allowed him to volunteer at the school and get to know some of the adults.  He finally started last week and he is loving it! He is dealing with a couple difficult kids but he feels supported and cared for.  He takes the city bus to and from school or he can ride his bike, we practiced.  He is a different kid.  He is happy again and joyous.  He feels confident.  I am very hopeful for his future at the Ivy School.

For me, I am learning how to be a stay at home mom again.  Iva is the happiest to have me home.  We walk the kids to school or the bus stop, she runs in the park and follows me around the house. I think she is making sure I don't go back to work.  I have re-engaged with school advocacy.  I am on the Board of Community & Parents for Public Schools.  I have been asked to join a boundary review committee for the District.  I am merely a member of the PTA right now..... we'll see what happens there.  I will add things in as I see fit and when the kids need me, they come first.... community next.  I have been asked to do and be many things, but so far,  I am only doing what I want to do.

I am making dinner....most nights.  I am driving the kids to their lessons and sports.  I am parenting my three and about 15 other neighborhood kids.  I do laundry (the dryer is broken so it's taking forever to dry). I clean the kitchen three times per day and I am not mad about it.  I assign chores and they get done.  I do the shopping during the day.  I have had a couple lunches with friends too.

I am back home, I am happy, I am grateful and best of all, I am available for those that need me most. Yes, I am getting back in the groove and loving it!


Rebecca said...

This is such a candid, thorough and honest accounting of what has transpired in your life and those of your kids (and husband!). It is so obvious from your story that you have made the right decision in SO MANY WAYS. Bask in the love of your children (and their friends). You will be a great watchful eye as they continue on their journeys of GROWING UP - which is so hard at times. So hooray for Heather for helping them out. Free food. Free advice. Some accountability. Seems like a good plan.

David said...

Made me laugh and made me cry. Thank you for your honesty and vulnerability about the challenges,joys and frustrations regarding parenting. You and Bob are doing a great job.

Karmen said...

Dang your a good writer! These epiphanies tend to only come after a struggle but at least you are "in the groove now!"