When Life is TOO Much

I have raised my kids to rush from place to place and I only come to terms with it after I’ve found my sanity in the bottom of a bag of potato chips with my makeup running down my face. Call it a ritual at this point. I don’t stay this way of course, as I usually find myself taking advice from a five year old taking pity on me, covering me up with a too-small blanket and asking me to just take a break.

But I can’t just take a break. The world would stop spinning.

I live on a hamster wheel and there are times when I do stop but only if I spin out first.

Look, it’s no surprise that being a mom of 7 kids is chaotic and downright exhausting. And you can go ahead and say it: What did you expect? You brought this on yourself. 

But the alternative is what? A dull life? Sheer boredom? Living the same, day after day piloting two, maybe three kids? If the short end of the stick means that I occasionally experience the blunt force trauma of having a life of 7 kids catch up with me, then so be it. I wouldn’t want a normal life. I’m happy to not even know my freaking name by the end of the night; to be so tired that I sleep well—that means I’m happy right? And when I wake up and it’s a new day, I can get dressed knowing that I’m not fooling anyone—I’m not living a life that I really didn’t want. And I’m definitely not going through the motions. Going through the emotions, maybe, haha…but definitely not caring whether or not I’m coloring inside the lines with raising a family.

The thing that gets me through it all is being different—unconventional. Taking a traditional upbringing and turning it inside out. What does this build? Character? Self-awareness? Resiliency? I think yes to all the above. Our big family does not have a solid foundation—it is always moving; changing so much the concrete can’t set. As a result, someone is always unhappy, someone is always thrilled, or lucky, fulfilled, crying, feeling left out, or feeling too crowded. The list goes on, the emotions are always changing and sometimes just as fast as their ages.

 

To tell you the truth, I wouldn’t clone myself if I could, because even she wouldn’t get it right. I’d wind up firing her for fucking up, for not being me. There is no one else that could do this job. No one else probably would. But it’s all the same because it’s exactly who I am and I wouldn’t do any of it differently. These kids are a very different extension of who I am, of who I wanted to be and I’m so happy to see so many versions.

Crunch crunch crunch,

So Called Mom

Friends for My Violent Five Year Old

I hate to say it, but my youngest son, Leopold, has become a savage monster.

What happened to my baby who loved dinosaurs and Legos, and puzzles and wooden toys and even dressing up dolls on occasion?  Slowly but steadily, he’s moved from an innocent obsession with bombs and boogers to full throttle violence with a capital V.

Leopold used to sit happily while his nails were painted a delicious rainbow of sparkles by four giggling older sisters. But today, he wants no part of it, unless maybe the color is blood red. Everything lately has become guts and gore. If he does play with Legos, it’s to fashion a knife that he uses while pretending to be a hired hitman. He then artfully executes me while I’m working unsuspectingly at my laptop. Or, he snaps those colorful blocks together to make some kind of dismemberment machine for the tiny lego men, which leaves their little lego heads strewn all over the house.

I don’t remember the older boys being this brutal.

I’m not usually one to consult child development books or parenting how-to’s – I’m the So-Called Mom, remember? –  but this raised enough of a concern that I fled to my library for some of my own extra-curricular. I chose the obvious: It’s a Boy: Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18. At first glance, this book describes how parents often overreact to boy aggression at ages five to seven, but apparently this is how they develop “leadership skills” and become “socially resilient.” (I have put these in quotes because apparently these are our culture’s measure of “success”.)  In essence, the book instructed me to trust Leopold’s violent play, and that he will eventually self regulate through friends.

Now that’s what the usual mom might do.  But I’m not so usual.  I don’t just accept the so-called truth.  I think there’s other culprits at play here beyond the usual “age appropriate behavior.”

I think it’s screens.

I think screens have changed the rules in ways we are only recently starting to examine. As screens have taken precedence over almost every single activity and norm (research, family photography and filming, social interactions, of course all kinds of games), it seems naive to accept childhood violence as being strictly developmentally appropriate.

For instance, Leopold has learned about torture devices from his older brothers’ video games and watching YouTube at unmonitored moments—and not from watching Fox News or Bob the Builder. He not only has learned all about weapons and killing, but he has a clear understanding that they are for heroes and that the bad guys need to die.  And is Leopold just embellishing with his own active imagination?  I think it’s more insidious.

I think Leopold takes it to uncomfortable heights – or at least a level that I am uncomfortable with.  He frequently jumps the shark when he Lego-bombs his sisters or attacks me with hand stripped twig-shanks. This isn’t in alignment with the material in that book which suggests that Leopold’s friends will guide him with age-appropriate behavior. That together, they make the rules and hold each other to them. So I’m just now learning (on kid 7) about the importance of friends–that no one can get by on family alone, no matter how many siblings you have to play with.

I think this is the cultural impact of the internet and screens.

To add to this, Leopold is an unbelievably muscular kid, who at five, doesn’t yet know his own strength. What he has already realized is he can use it to intimidate and destroy things. He breaks apart tree branches so they become varying weapons of mass destruction. He bears his chest with zero embarrassment and hulks his way around the house, slamming doors, throwing toys, unwary of anything in his path.

So yeah, I”m pulling the plug on him, just as I did with Milla. And it’s a safe bet that he’s going to like it even less. But I’m observing his innocence and inventiveness being ruined by this disturbing new kind of play, and at five, I can still influence most of what he does.  I’m also ramping up in other ways to engage him, like enrolling him in some activities so he can socially engage with kids his own age.  He will start a gymnastics course to help him redirect some of this boundless energy.  Hopefully he’ll start focussing on walking on the balance beam rather than the pirate’s plank.

Desperately seeking friends,

So called mom

Date Nights Work

As Pippin and I blurted out during yesterday’s mini-blog,

we haven’t had a proper date since the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

But yesterday we received some earnest money from the sale of our house, and while “date night” may not be at the top of most people’s priority list, it was on mine.

One thing Pippin rocks at is Dates, and how to make this tired mom of 7 feel like she’s the 25 year old with only three kids that he fell in love with.  He took me to my favorite restaurant, Departure, which is at the top of the Nines Hotel.  For those of you paying attention, Leopold was born in the corner suite on the 11th floor.
We got there early enough to savor a few cocktails at the bar and look into each other’s eyes the way we used to. All I cared about was cherishing the guy who knew intuitively how to keep our freak flag flying.  Usually there’s so much going on in our lives, I don’t have a moment to think about tomorrow…I’m so busy reacting to today. Managing nine people who are growing in new ways every day, selling a house without having another in sight, an unplanned vacation in a couple of weeks – everywhere I look are potential mine fields of stress.

But the best part about last night was none of that existed.

Don’t get me wrong – being in the moment, where it’s just the two of us, takes real effort.  It means shifting gears and forgetting I’m an entrepreneur, a wife and a mom. I’m talking about being good company, being present as a woman who is flirting with her man and even getting a little drunk. This way, when the bill comes, drinks and dinner don’t qualify as a tax write off—but as an aphrodisiac that holds us together until next time.
Look, I don’t pretend to be an expert at this. But if there’s anything I learned from finally finding Mr. Right (who also happened to be Mr. Third Times a Charm) and being able to stay with him for more than 10 years—it’s to pay close attention to each others needs. And that may include ordering a pizza or two and getting the hell out of Dodge on occasion.

Seeking that all important re-connection to your partner means reconnecting with who you are too. I tell myself often: At one point this was everything you wanted. And revisiting those feelings on a date that feels like the first one is very much reminding you that this was what you wanted. And it still is.
Head Over Manolos,
So Called Mom

We Sold the House! NOW WHAT?!

It might be rainy still in lovely little Portland, Oregon–but we are entering VACATION MODE!

We sold the house and it’s time to make a list, knock it out and hit the road to relaxation…..but only after we get our DATE NIGHT!!!!

We’re excited, to say the least–Do you have any idea HOW LONG it has been since our last date? The fact that we can’t remember is enough of a sign that it’s been an eternity.

Looks like we’ll just have to make up for lost time!

Off the hook as of RIGHT now,

So Called Mom