“How is your school going Mom?”
A sincere question, but I cringed. We were having our morning chat during the twenty minute drive to school. I looked at the picturesque farms with their rolling landscapes. Still beautiful, even on this rainy morning.
I felt privileged. I live a life I couldn’t have imagined growing up.
Eight months ago, Owen’s question might have brought on tears, but these are the moments that remind me, God is always working. There are always miracles happening.
Me: I had to quit Owen.
Owen: Oh, how come?
Two years ago I wrote an essay for SheLoves Magazine. It was a big, scary story for me to tell, my insecurity of being uneducated and finding myself doing life with deep thinkers, writers and scholars.
After the piece published I felt empowered and signed up for an online course to complete my high school English. Then I had to explain to Owen I had dropped out of high school. It was the first time I was revealing a piece of my past I wasn’t proud of.
He was surprised to find out his mom had dropped out of high school. More surprised than I had thought he would be. My husband and I talk a lot about the importance of education with him, it was hard for him to comprehend I was not.
I started the course, but the work load, a toddler, and a few of life’s curve balls had me in way over my head.
I put my books away, but whenever I came across them, they would remind of my failure.
To make matters worse, what I did learn during my brief period of study showed me how little I actually knew. So I stopped writing. I became embarrassed about my poorly constructed essays floating in cyberspace.
I gave up my dream.
I allowed fear to paralyze me.
Although I was uneducated and as ridiculous as the dream seemed, I felt called to write.
It’s hard go through life with a dream dying inside of you.
I worried about letting Owen know I had quit. The example it could give to my impressionable little boy. Was I teaching him how to be l like me?
I have raised my kids with my story chasing me, dreading the day that I may stand in judgement before them.
I have tried to carve out a normal life from an abnormal past. My childhood had some really tough years and probably more pain than a lifetime should hold.
I went into adulthood damaged and hurting. I made a lot of mistakes, a lot of bad choices. But God rescued me.
I knew that I would need to find a way to live with my past, with the things I could never be proud of.
Because even when I had reconciled with God and my sins had been erased in heaven, my earthly truth still haunted me.
I wondered how much I would have to tell Owen. If he would understand.
Which sin will be too much too forgive?
As I relive my past, will I feel defeated with each passing memory?
My failure at school was small, but now having failed again I wondered if I could ever really leave that part of me behind.
I imagined losing the respect of my little boy, who I have loved since the day I brought him into this world.
Owen is approaching the age where the smoke and mirrors disappear and our kids see our mistakes. They notice our flaws. They see our humanity.
Last year a random conversation started up with a Facebook acquaintance. I had just started my new blog, and was trying to overcome the voices that said I shouldn’t and couldn’t. I was still living under “failure”.
I don’t even know how it began, but in those brief exchanges, I learned that at fifty years old, this woman had returned to school and earned a couple of degrees.
It was one of those God timed, conversations.
As I read her words, I felt tears rolling down my cheeks. The healing kind, that tell your soul you are going to be okay.
I still have a lifetime.
Me: Owen, I had to stop school for now, my life is busy with having your little brother at home, I don’t think it was the best timing.
Owen: Yeah, that makes sense. (pauses for thought) Mom? Maybe you should do it when he is five?
Me: That would be a much better age. But I am still writing Owen. I have a mentor to help me, so I am doing what I love. Do you know what a mentor is Owen?
Owen: Ummm, sort of.
Me: It would be like if a really good hockey player took you under his wing and taught you some new skills. It is when we personally pass on knowledge to someone to help them grow and better themselves.“
Owen: Oh. It’s like Jesus with his disciples!
I grin from ear to ear.
There is one thing that Owen has that I didn’t while growing up. It’s the name that says everything is going to be alright. It holds the promise of grace, new beginnings and eternal endings.
Did I mention Owen is a genius?
Have you struggled here friends?
I wonder if it will be life and circumstances that will show us what to tell our kids?
Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
This is a safe place, nasty comments are sent to the trash!
“Oliver, look at my eyes.”
“You need to stay beside me, or hold Owen’s hand, you’re not allowed to run away, okay? Otherwise you have to sit in the cart. “
Ahhh. Shopping at Costco with the rest of the pre-dinner rush. I would have preferred throwing myself from my patio, but alas, I had no choice. Days of procrastination had left my home out of milk, cream and coffee, creating a state of emergency.
Half-way through our trip I had reminded Oliver not to run off. He was now too big for the cart, and enjoying free bird status.
But, he wasn’t listening. My repeated attemps to get him under control were failing. I felt frustrated, why is parenting so impossible at times?.
Each time I scolded Ollie, I kept seeing the same woman. Pushing her cart in her yoga pants. Looking a bit too relaxed, while her four kids behaved. I had begun to feel self-conscious about Oliver’s performance. Feeling his lack of control, was a reflection on me.
Oliver and I waited in an aisle, while Owen, my ten-year old, ran back to grab a forgotten item for me. Owen is at an amazing age.
I checked the cart. Almost done.
I was examining a new black bean pasta. It had a fantastic recipe on the back, which I thought sounded very posh. I was having a happy fantasy about hosting an amazing adult dinner party, all my guest praising my super fab black bean pasta curry dish. We would raise our glasses of chilled Sauvignon Blanc to toast my culinary genius…
Oops, I had forgotten about my free bird. He was running full speed ahead of me.
“OLIVER, get back here!”
He rounded the corner at the end of aisle, almost getting wiped out by another cart.
Jesus, if he dies it will be my fault, cause I was having a dinner party in my head.
Owen arrived just in time to witness his brother’s anarchy and started after him.
Owen is way faster than me. And I had a five hundred pound shopping cart with a gimpy wheel.
I tried to cut Oliver off at the next aisle, but only managed catch a brief glimpse of him tearing around the next corner.
As I came up to the next aisle I saw Owen take his brother down as a cart stopped just short of them.
There were my boys, in a crumpled heap on the floor of Costco, Oliver laughing hysterically.
I looked up, and there was the mom with her perfect kids, looking at my dog-pile of children. She had a faint smile tugging at her lips as she observed my offspring. I knew that look. It was smug mom. It was the “my kids would never end up in an uncontrolled dog-pile in Costco” look.
That look has the power to make you feel a little smaller in weakened moments. And it was working.
I grabbed Ollie and braced myself for the near certain storm that was to come. With one hand I tossed food from the cart seat to the basket, while he did the death roll in the other.
It was an Oscar performance. Humiliating.
Finally I had him seat belted into the cart.
And. Then. He. Screamed.
The primal kind that scares the crap out of me.
I tried to summon any dignity I had left and walked to the check out.
I glanced at the lineup next up me. Of course there was smug mom, face palm. She would witness the grand finale. I broke eye contact and began unloading my cart.
Oliver was screaming:
“I WANNNA WALK!” Over and over and over.
And a small piece of me died.
I have been smug mum.
On those rare occasions when my kids have been behaving perfectly and I’ve come across another mom in the midst of an equally humiliating scene, I have judged. In those moments I have felt deep satisfaction, delighting in my own parental perfection.
But smug separates me from others.
Smug has the power to make someone else feel a little smaller.
That makes me a little smaller.
Why do I have it in my nature to one up? I thank God for the humbling moments at Costco to serve as a reminder, that I too can fall.
Perfectionism has served us moms a great big Costco-sized shit pie. I have a wealth of knowledge and opinions to compare myself too. And so does everyone else. Except we all have different pieces of knowledge and definitely different opinions
This can be crippling if not filtered. If I allow every standard I hear to rule me. I lose. I lose my identity, discernment, and sometimes, my common sense. I begin to feel like I will never be enough.
When I lose control of my kid for all the world to see, all those voices and feelings flood my mind. And I hear, what if I am doing everything wrong?
This is who is watching me when my child is melting down.
“I just took my kids to a learning place, and then we all hand knitted hats. Then we told each other how much we love each other, and gave one another words of kindness. Then they ate my vegetable-only organic dinner.”
“If we do not teach our kids self discipline they will become convicts. But be careful, because if you discipline them, you’ll crush their spirit, and then they will become sociopaths.”
Well Meaning, Unsolicited Advice:
This is an interesting group, I am pretty sure this group has selective memory or are blatant liars.
“My baby was potty trained by one.”
“My kids behaved in public; they never disrespected their elders.”
“If you don’t give you kid sugar, he’ll be able to control himself.”
All of this, could be encouraging. It could be helpful, but there is no cookie cutter kid.
I think there are kids that can be potty trained at one, or who never blow a gasket. But those kids are born, not made.
My three year old is now happy, he broke into the cookies. Sugar solves everything.
It is interesting how a meltdown of epic proportions can start you thinking. I feel very “called out” on my stinky smugness.
And the best way to conquer stinky, is with love.
I don’t want to make anyone smaller, I want to make people I meet feel bigger.
It’s simple. The next time I see a mom barely surviving in public, I will use a little courage and step into her moment.
I will hand her a pre-purchased $5 Starbucks Card. With a note.
“Thank you for surviving an outing with melting down kids. I saw you and I know how hard that is.
Have a coffee on me. With no kids around. And know that you are appreciated, and amazing, just as you are.”
Will you join me in an anti-smugness movement? Cause, ladies, we are in this together. Maybe you won’t have a card, or a note. But you can fight smug. Help a sister out. Offer to unload her cart, tell her you have been there. Say something encouraging.
I had a very tired wall that I decided to tackle mid-renovation, cause you know, I did not have enough projects happening. The before picture below was taken in July.
“Happy Easter”…..in July. Clearly this chalk board had lost it’s purpose.
There was a block of wood shoved under the shelving unit, acting as an additional leg, to help keep it from collapsing under the weight of all the toys shoved into those tired old bins. This area needed an intervention.
I wanted to do something interesting on this wall. My first thought was to wallpaper, but I was too impatient to wait for samples to arrive. Then I found Royal Stencil’s site. I think it might have been on Pinterest.
Let me tell you, stencils have a come a long way from the days of chickens and ivy. So after much deliberation, I place my order for the Bombay Paisley.
I had loads of left over paint in my garage. So I used a white back ground and the grey is Benjamin Moore Collingwood Grey. (note, my BM paint was kind of thick, I should have thinned it, but I’m lazy. It made keeping my stencil clean difficult.)
Now, I am not going to say this was easy. I kept lining it up wrong and having to repaint the wall white. I did this in the same spot three times. To fix, I would have to re-paint over the grey with the white, wait for it to dry and start over.
I ran out of the white paint before I could cover my last mistake, then discovered that brand I has using was discontinued. Ever try to colour match white?
I think my Facebook status at the end of the night read something like this.
“I want to punch stencils in the face.”
But it is amazing what a glass of wine and good nights sleep can do for your optimism, and the next day I finished the project. High fives.
It’s not perfect, but honestly, that is what I really love about it.
To complete the space, I resurrected a dodgy side board that was in my basement and refinished it using Annie Sloan Chalk paint. You can read about that here.
Regarding wall art, there was a lot of deliberation with my twin sister. I discuss all my home decorating ideas with her because she is a genius.
She completes me.
She thought I should get a black and white print of a shark. I liked that idea; rooms are much more charming with a little quirkiness.
But, I really needed somewhere to store some of my serving dishes.
So, after six months of staring at my wall, I finally decided on high gloss white shelves from Ikea.
I love them. And they compliment the cabinetry on our fireplace reno.
I reused a lot of things in my house. The chalk paint and wall paint were left over in my garage, I had the sideboard in my basement. So my biggest investment was the shelving, which cost about $80. The cost of the stencil was $36.95.
A pretty big impact for such a small budget.
Alright…..have I made you a believer?
Don’t judge by my errors during this project, I can be a bit of a knob.
Product of my new improved cleaning skills. It looked like this for five minutes.
I am a cleaning dork. A friend was over helping me organize my house, Lord knows, I need all the help I can get. She is a clutter clearing guru, plus a drill sergeant and I totally need that. I am pretty sure I have ADHD (not joking). I have never been diagnosed officially, but I Googled it. I have the attention span of a fly, particularly when I am doing something that I hate, it takes a small breeze to distract me to more interesting things.
While my friend and I were working together, she must have noticed how lost I was, because she said something to me that changed everything and I will get to that in a second.
Let’s talk about why I am lost. Aside from my self diagnosed ADHD, I seem to have also missed the get organized, keep your house clean gene. This could also be to do to a good amount of laziness and procrastination.
This would be my typical cleaning attempt:
My house is typically a mess. Not from a lack of effort, because I am cleaning…all the time, I just never really getting anything finished. This gives me a massive headache. Plus add a three-year old to the hamster wheel of the redundancy of housework and it can all feel utterly hopeless.
The only time I really shine is the three hours before company arrives. I then have an out-of-body experience, and let me tell you, that other girl who shows up can really move her ass.
So what did my wise friend say to me?
“Danny, work each room in a circle till it is clean. Start in one spot, work your way around till it is finished.”
She so gets me.
I know this seems ridiculously simple, I feel kind of dumb for sharing it, but it has revolutionized my cleaning. If I apply this to tidying my house, eighty percent of the time I actually get the room cleaned, but I really have to focus (ADHD). All the cleaning books I have read, the money spent on magazines that promise me a cleaner home, none of them ever said this. Not. Even. Once. It’s always about mystery stains and disgusting grime, that I hope I never have in my house. Doing this get’s the room to being super tidy, then the cleaning part is a breeze. I still need to get more personally organized, but I will take this for now.
Please don’t tell me I am alone in this. I would love your input in the comments below!
How do you clean a room?
Do you get easily sidetracked……SQUIRREL!
Do you keep a schedule? Or BETTER have an app?