Blog

Moms in Sport

This is an article I wrote for Birthing magazine last year. Since writing it, I have returned to playing competitive roller derby for the CRD Jane Deere and B-52 Bellas. I’m also still coaching the kidlets.

Andi Jamming
Photo by Brangwyn Jones

My name is Andi Linquent and I started playing roller derby in May 2010. My children were 2, 4, 7 and 9 at the time, and I was transitioning to single motherhood for the second time in my parenting life. I had spent the previous three years working towards a university degree, raising children, running an online business and generally not saving much time for myself. I was angry, depressed and resentful, so I decided to make a change.

Sport was nothing new to me; I spent a significant chunk of my life training in Muay Thai and playing baseball. I love team sports and I love challenging myself physically and mentally. My love for sports and my desire to be physically active had not changed after having children. What had changed however, was perceived risk and responsibility and societal expectations, making participation in sport much more challenging. It was no longer simply an activity I engaged in, but rather something that I had to justify and defend involvement with. 

andijump
That’s me in the silver leggings, jumping. circa 2010/2011

The idea of risk and responsibility is fairly unique to mothers, and particularly single mothers, where society gauges the validity of mothers’ participating in certain activities based on their perceived level of responsibility. The line of thinking is that mothers cannot engage in any sort of risky activity because of their responsibilities as a mother. After all, if I were to hurt myself while engaging in said risky activity, who would take care of the children? Think of the children! The thing is, fathers don’t usually get the same reactions when participating in sport or various “risky” activities. They do not carry the burden of “risk and responsibility” because of sexism. There, I said it, and I don’t even care. 

When I joined roller derby in 2010, I had to answer a lot of questions from friends, family and even complete strangers. People were concerned about my priorities not being in proper order, and they assumed that because I participated in a sport (a full contact sport at that), I did not prioritize my kids. This could not be further from the truth. I justified playing roller derby because physical activity and sport are priorities to me, and I know that lessons are best taught to children through example. I knew that if I wanted my children to grow up to be autonomous people who make time for themselves, then I had to model that.

Though I knew I shouldn’t need to justify my participation in roller derby, I still did. I had my justifications at the ready, sharing them with inquiring minds and using them to keep my guilt at bay. Mother guilt is another one of those things that arose because of unrealistic expectations, socially constructed gender roles, and the social policing that occurs within our own circles. The fact that I even had to justify making time for myself is problematic. How about mothers should make time for themselves simply because they are worthy of taking time? Again, when a father participates in a sport, his intentions and priorities are usually not in question. I’ve never been one for gender roles and living up to society’s expectations of what a “good mother” looks like, so the assumptions and judgments did not deter me.

Derbyback265

Roller derby is unique among sports, because it is woman dominated. However, just because a sport is woman dominated, does not mean that it is easily accessible to mothers. I was lucky enough to be involved with a league in Lethbridge (Lethbridge Roller Derby Association) that was kid friendly, and having space for children to play while we practiced was a priority. The onsite space for the kids made it accessible for me as a single mother. The league in Calgary however, during the same period, was in a phase where kids were not allowed at practice. This had a negative effect on the members who were also mothers, making it difficult for many of them to attend practice. The policy went out with a new Board of Directors, as some of the mom members had decided to join the board. 

When I joined Calgary Roller Derby Association (CRDA) in 2012, kids were once again allowed to be in the practice space. As a parent, I still ensured that my kids had activities to keep them busy, and if they were excessively loud I attended to them. Sometimes there would be an older child there who would help wrangle the younger children. I had no problem bringing my children to practice with me, just as I had no problem attending their activities. 

August 2015 marked my last summer playing for the CRDA All-Stars, and ultimately my competitive play in general. Our team was traveling to Vancouver for “Derby Night in Canada,” and my partner and I decided to turn that trip into a family vacation. We loaded up five kids, all our stuff and my derby gear and drove out for a week. I was guilted by people in my life who thought it was selfish of me to drag the children to my sporting activities and try to pretend it was a holiday. I’m laughing right now while typing this. My children still, to this day, tell me about how they want to go back to Vancouver, and how it was their favourite family holiday. Now don’t let that fool you into thinking my kids don’t go anywhere, because they do. All my children have done more traveling than most people do in a lifetime. They are very privileged, mostly thanks to their other biological parent. They loved that holiday because it was the family spending time together doing fun things.

IMG_8280

Years after I started playing roller derby and bringing my kids to my practices, I am witnessing the effects it has had on my children. Three out of the five kids actually play roller derby (started in 2015), and I am their coach. They are strong, motivated, unique individuals who love to skate fast and learn the sport. They love to challenge themselves and work to improve their skills at every opportunity they get. They tell me they love it when I coach, and our time on the roller derby track has become some of our most valued family time. 

Little bone breaker - Hellz

Up until September 2017, we were driving from south Calgary to Airdrie for our junior roller derby practices. It took us roughly an hour to get there, and winter night drives could be pretty scary. I was coaching there as well, so being late or missing practice was not really an option. The long drive and the inaccessibility (particularly for parents who don’t drive) motivated me to start something a little more accessible. I worked with CRDA to create Calgary Junior Roller Derby (CJRD), and held our first practice in September 2017. Although it has been a ridiculous amount of work, it has been worth it. I get to lace up and skate with 25+ kids who all blow my mind each and every week. There are four or five coaches at every practice, most of whom are members of CRDA. What a huge change from seven or eight years earlier, when kids weren’t even allowed in the practice space. Watching and participating in the evolution of local roller derby has been quite the ride. 

CJRD team photo

Currently there are 17 moms who skate with CRDA, out of approximately 80 members. Some moms bring their kids to practice, others leave them at home, but there is an understanding that there will always be children kickin’ around somewhere. Out of those 17, only one currently plays for the all-star team, which is a slight decrease from between 2012-2015 when there were two to three moms at any given time. There were four mothers on Team Canada’s 2017/2018 roster. 

Roller derby is a fantastic option for women in sport, and there is no doubt that many will find the physicality, empowerment and camaraderie they seek in such activity. There is still a lot of progress to be made when it comes to mothers in sport, but with the “by the skaters, for the skaters” motto that most roller derby leagues follow, the more mothers that join, the more mother friendly it will become. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The social expectations and discourse of risk and responsibility continue to restrict mothers from participating in sport, so when it comes to making sport accessible in general, the work needs to take place on a larger scale than just individual sport leagues. That said, small changes made by individual leagues are a great start. Whatever the case, I personally found my participation in sport to have a positive effect on my parenting and myself on a whole, and I would highly recommend giving it a go. Ask for help where needed and remember that you are worth taking time for yourself without justification.

OUT

 

Secret Castle

Easter was this past weekend (shoot… it took me too long to post this and now that sentence is inaccurate). I wasn’t technically supposed to have any kids, but my older two’s dad was out of town working, so I made plans to hang with them. I like to have all my kids for the holidays, so I’ve coordinated with both my exes to ensure that is how it works and that all of our schedules line up accordingly. This year was a little different, and even though I expected to have no one for Easter, I ended up hanging with all four of my kids! I decided to take the teens out to Castle Mountain, where the littles would be, and we spent the day on the hill.

Ashton and Aisha’s grandparents were pivotal in the development of Castle mountain/Westcastle, and they have been locals ever since I don’t even know when. The littles are there all the time and it’s essentially their second home. 

This trip was not met without resistance. Faith made sure I knew the grave injustice that was being forced upon her, as to spend 24 hours without her friends (even if it is Easter) is just too much. Snowboarding is awful, family sucks, and is there wifi? Dakota also wanted to bring a friend, but eventually understood where I was coming from in my request for it to just be the family.

We drove out on Saturday afternoon and spent the night at the hotel on the hill. We went to the T-Bar (the pub on the hill) and I reminisced with the teens about what it was like when I worked there 20 years ago while we inhaled our nachos and wings. It’s a unique pub, littered with memorabilia from the past several decades, filled with old and young all laughing, and home to the roots of table traverse. I could sit in there for hours just people watching. I love sharing that with my teens, and Dakota has already expressed an interest to work there next year.

I let my kids lead the way when we were riding on Sunday, which is always a little risky. Ashton likes to show Dakota how good he is, so generally picks some of the harder runs. My favourite run at Castle is commonly known as “The Dump,” although they formally changed the name to “Dusk” about 20 years ago. We still call it The Dump, just like we still call Castle, “Westcastle.” Ashton also took us to one of his favourite chutes, “Shotgun.” In all honestly, I had avoided the chutes forever because they’re always black diamond and a little steep for my liking, but I LOVED it. They’re essentially like a natural half pipe (also like The Dump), and that is definitely my jam. So I was pleasantly surprised and happy that Ashton took us there. Also, a little disappointed in myself that I had avoided them for so long. Damn.

Castle is known as The Secret Castle in a mini doc made in 2006. The mini doc was screened all across the globe as a precursor to Warren Miller’s “Off the Grid.” You should watch it, then you can see the origins of table traverse (I brought this game to the derby community) and get a small feel of what it’s like there. They say that if you can ski castle, you can ski anywhere, and I have to agree.

 

I am thankful for weekends like this, where we can all hang out and experience some joy/adventure. It’s not often, because the teens don’t generally wanna hang with me, so when it happens I basically celebrate.

** at night we like to do Biore nose strips and face masks, it’s become a tradition.

F*ck Chem

I’m registered in a chemistry class as part of a requirement for the local midwifery program. Well, approximately 1 month ago I found out that my 3.925 competitive GPA was not high enough for an interview, and I would definitely not be offered a spot for Fall 2018. But here I am in this chem class.

It. is. killing. me.

Today, I decided to just say “fuck it.” Fuck chem, fuck the stress it is causing me, and fuck all the kids in my class who are my actual kid’s age who do nothing but talk about how hung over they are and how mad their parents are at them. Where am I and why am I trapped in this room with all these kids? Riiiight, I’m in Chem 30 because I was once one of those kids who did not give a shit and didn’t give chem a second thought back when I could have. Did I sound as ridiculous as they do? I hope not.

Fuck. Chem.

I didn’t get in to midwifery school, this year. I will get in next year…or I better. That means I have exactly 15 months before I actually need to have this chem class completed. If I don’t pass (trying not to say fail here) this time, then I don’t pass. I will take it again. In fact, I should probably take the prerequisite to this chemistry class anyways, then maybe I wouldn’t struggle so hard. Whoever said that you could return to a high school science class 20 years after graduating, even if you don’t have the prerequisite, is a dirty liar. Oh wait, no one says that. I have a B.A. dammit, I took several Neuroscience classes! Why is this so hard?!

I’m going to breathe, switch gears, and do something other than chem (like write this here blog about chem!).

FUCK CHEM.

oxytocin

*this is literally the only chemistry I care about right now, can you guess what it is?

Yes, I am still here

It has been so long since I’ve updated the blog, that I almost don’t even know where to start. I have plans of the things I should write, I do up half a draft, and then let it collect virtual dust in the “neglected posts” section. I’d like to break that cycle. So here is a little post just to let you know we’re still alive… sometimes barely, but alive nonetheless.

There’s no way I can catch you up on everything, so here is the most brief update ever. We had a pretty rad summer, including a week at Family Camp, another week out at the family cottage on Winnipeg Lake, and exactly zero family camping trips. Lindsay and I did do our first ever back country camping trip though, which resulted in us getting lost in the mountains for five hours, nearly giving up on life, and then finding our way to camp after an additional 3 hours of hiking. So that was fun. Here are some valuable lessons I learned:

  1. Bring beer. The weight may be difficult, but the beer will be worth it. You can probably adjust the allowable weight by taking out some food (we brought WAY too much).
  2. Water filters are the best invention ever. We literally survived because of that water filter.
  3. Tang and Everclear is a pretty good drink. If you can’t bring the booze you like, at least bring an alcohol with extremely high alcohol percentage. Everclear is ridiculous, but is okay when diluted properly in your powdered juice of choice.
  4. NUUN electrolyte drink in tablets is essential.

The fall came fast and all the kids are back at school. My teens are not really going though, so there’s that. I am still struggling with the teens, more than I ever thought possible. I am afraid for their futures and I just wish they’d care a little bit. I have spent so much time at the courthouse, and I am getting resentful.

The three littles are back in to derby, and I’m coaching, so that’s rad. Ashton couldn’t play football this year because the games are on Saturdays and his dad couldn’t make that happen (he lives 2 hours away). I’m super sad about that, but we’ll see if we can get him back in it next year.

Halloween was awesome as per usual, and we’re still in the Samhain spirit around here. I’m dreading taking down the decorations and then setting up for Christmas.

Okay, that’s all the update I can stomach at this time. I hope to be a little more diligent with my posting going forward.

Who defined family anyways?

This is an article I wrote for Birthing Magazine, and I thought I’d share it here too. Get rid of your preconceived notions of what it means to be a family… and let me introduce you to mine:

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I just finished putting my dayhome babies down for a nap. The remaining two children in my care take up some colouring on the dining room table as I prepare a snack. My step-daughter is quietly reading in the living room, and for a moment it seems very peaceful. A short half hour later my two youngest children burst through the door and start telling me all about their day. Not even 10 minutes later, my partner Lindsay comes home with the groceries. She battled the crowds at Costco; she is my hero. We spend the next while talking about what we need to get done over the next week, what we should have for dinner, and how we wish we could do more yoga. It’s a spaghetti and meatballs kind of night, a kid favourite around here. Shortly after 4:30 my two teenagers drag themselves through the door and try to avoid any sort of conversation — they are teens after all. The house is now pretty busy: the dayhome babies have woken up and are getting ready to leave, dinner is almost ready, and in comes Justan, our other partner. He comes bearing wine and some much needed comic relief. And we all sit down for family dinner.

I never imagined my life would end up like this. In fact, if someone had asked me 20 years ago what my life would look like, I would have told them with much certainty that it would look like anything but this. And that in itself is a weird thing to accept, how something that had once never crossed my mind ended up being my entire reality. Well, it is, and I would not change it for the world.

IMG_2313

I met Lindsay in 2006 at a playgroup here in Calgary, even though I lived in Lethbridge at the time. We had similar interests, we were both in the process of starting natural parenting stores, and we were both seemingly straight. Now, we definitely weren’t straight, but for some reason, we both assumed that of each other. That is the epitome of heteronormativity.

Over the next six years, Lindsay and I kept in touch through Facebook and a fondness grew between us. We actually both had a crush on each other, although that wouldn’t be known until I moved back to Calgary in 2012. Close to a year after that, following some flirty Facebook messages, a handful of playdates with the kids, and one awkward night at the movies, it was pretty obvious how we felt about each other. That was nearly four years ago now, and we still laugh about how we ended up together and how incredibly awkward we were.

So here is where the story gets interesting. I had been a single mother since 2009, and even though I dated another woman for a couple years, I was still very much a single mother. Lindsay on the other hand was the exact opposite— she was, in fact, married. Lindsay and her husband Justan identified as polyamorous and both dated other people. Take a minute to think about that one.

In the beginning, I didn’t think our relationship would be long term — neither of us did, really. I assumed that because Lindsay and Justan were married there was no room for more love, and how could there be? I mean, isn’t it illegal anyways? So for the next four months, we both fell more and more in love while preparing for the end. Well, as you likely already know, the end didn’t come. It turned out that Justan and I actually really enjoyed each other’s company as well, and we decided to expand our relationship into a triad. We all have our own relationships with each other, but then also as a three-person team. It wasn’t, and still isn’t easy, but it is worth it.

IMG_8800

For the most part, we lived in two separate houses for the first year or so, but in 2014 we decided to merge our homes. Lindsay and Justan brought to the relationship one daughter, who is now eleven, and I brought with me four children, now aged nine, eleven, fourteen and sixteen.  In our home, there are three adults and five children, and it is exhausting. We live in a 1700 square foot bungalow, with three bedrooms on the main floor and three in the developed basement. The space is small, but has a good energy to it, even with all the people.

I’m not sure I knew at the time how challenging it would be to blend families. I had been in relationships where my then-partner accepted my children and that was that, but I had never been in a relationship where another child was involved. The dynamics change significantly when children are brought in from both sides. It was quite the transition for all the children. For Lindsay and Justan’s daughter, as she was an only child up until that point, she had to get used to sharing the time with her parents, and also spending so much time with other children. For my kids, they had to get used to sharing my time with the other adults, and also had to learn to get along with a new sibling.

 

IMG_8280There are some great things about blending a family such as ours. First, we have three parents. Yes, this varies from the norm, but the way we function is not all that different from a typical two-person relationship. We all take care of the children the best way we know how, we rotate cleaning, we express love and concern, and we communicate without yelling. I have to stress the “without yelling” bit, because I admittedly have always been a yeller. It’s not something I am proud of, in fact, I am deeply ashamed of it. Yelling is not even a part of our household discourse at all anymore, and I think it likely has to do with the number of helping hands in the home.

Now the children are another story — they have no problem yelling. Usually at each other, during a disagreement over chess or Exploding Kittens, but always as an attempt to let the adults know the horrible injustices they have been dealt. You know, in chess. They are fairly typical children. They play, they laugh, they hold hands while walking to the lake, and they fight. My own children fought before blending families, and they continue to do so afterwards. This is typical, and not a result of blending families, although now the children just have more options of who to argue with.

A topic of importance, and worthy of a conversation when blending families, is deciding who will be disciplining whom. We decided that it’s best if we all just discipline our own children, or at least for the day-to-day discipline. No one wants a step-mom or step-dad to come into the picture and just start doling orders out; it can become quite abrasive. Naturally, children will have their guard up a little bit with the new additions to the household, so try to not make the newcomers the “bad guys.” Of course, there are situations where the step-parent will have to step in and make an executive decision or enforce a rule or two, but it really is best to leave the nagging to the original parent. You see, my children HAVE to love me. They may not like me at times, but they will ALWAYS love me, as I will always love them. This is not the case for step relationships unfortunately, so spending time building a relationship of positives rather than negatives is key.

The other side of this coin is spending quality time with the step-children. Each of us parents has our own unique interests, and we make an effort to include all of the children in those. Well, all of the willing children anyways — we have teenagers too who do not particularly love hanging out with any of the adults for any extended period of time. I believe that to be fairly typical of their ages though, and try not to force anything. We find other ways to include and bond with them, like going to their soccer or football games, taking them out for coffee or lunch, and generally just showing an interest in their very complicated lives.

For the younger three though, we have ways that we all connect with them. I coached my step-daughter’s roller derby team last year, and this season my youngest has joined us. So once a week, the girls and I strap on roller skates and spend an hour skating, learning, and having fun. Lindsay enjoys reading, so she is the designated reader. Every night before bed, the three littles snuggle up in our king-sized bed (and I sneak in there sometimes too) and listen to Lindsay read. I know most parents read, but you should see the books Lindsay reads to the children. She reads books that they may not be able to read on their own, like “A Wrinkle in Time,” or currently, “The Golden Compass.” The books take a long time to read, and keep the children invested. They love their time reading with Lindsay. She also loves hiking, so will often arrange a nature walk or a mountain climb for the children and myself. This summer we climbed to the top of Prairie Mountain. The kids were so proud to reach their first summit.

prairiemountain

Justan enjoys Lego, boardgames, and gaming in general, so that is his role with the children. He gets to be the really fun one. When the kids get complicated Lego kits gifted to them, Justan is the one who will spend hours (and I mean hours) with the children helping them put it all together. He is also the one who will teach them to play a new board game, or help them with any of their gaming needs. They love Pokemon and Minecraft, and I think they like having an adult on their side with that stuff. Justan is also very fun in general, and can be quite silly. All the children (even the teenagers) can appreciate that side of Justan, and they are typically grinning ear to ear when he is engaged.

IMG_2287

It’s not easy. It takes so much more work than you might ever imagine to make a blended family run smoothly, particularly when adding the extra dynamic of polyamory. There will be problems, just like any family, but there will also be great successes. I know that I am teaching my children to be accepting, non-judgmental, loving and expressive, among other things. They will not, and do not, live in a bubble accepting whatever media decides to throw their way. They think critically, and ask questions instead of making assumptions, and that will help them later on in life.

I believe that it’s important to remember that it’s a long game. The successes may not show up until later, when the children are at an age that they can recognize them. But they will show up, I’m holding out for that.

IMG_8526

Truth Bomb: parenting is so much more than hard

I have a major truth bomb for you, and I am relieved that I am not the only one to feel this way to be honest. We’ve all heard that parenting is not easy, and no one really expects it to be, but have you ever considered that it might not be worth it? I can tell you with much certainty, that if I knew how hard parenting teenagers would be, I may have reconsidered the entire parenting gig all together. If I knew that I would spend years on end in survival mode, peeling myself out of bed and getting through each day like a robot mom, I’m just not sure I’d do it.

I can’t admit this to my kids. When my youngest asks me if I love being a mom, I say yes. When she asks me what my favourite part of parenting is, I tell her cuddling her. That part it true, my favourite part of parenting is the snuggles. But that ends. I won’t tell her how hard I have found being a parent, because I don’t want her to feel any sort of guilt. It’s not their fault really. It’s my naivety, thinking I could mother four children on my own, that’s just crazy.

I read this blog post by themotherhub recently, and it was as if the author was in my head. She spoke the words that I often think but am too afraid to speak. She opens with:

I like to be honest about my parenting experience; by honest I mean telling everyone how hard it is, how tired I am, the impact it has had on both my finances and my mental health. Don’t I sound fun? I do this because I really had no idea about parenting before I had my first child, none of us really do. You can read all the books, go to all the ante-natal classes, but you can’t really prepare for this experience.

TRUTH

via Feminist Friday: Is complaining about Motherhood a Feminist Act? — Feminist Parenting

I am a birth and postpartum doula, and people often assume that I’m a doula because I love babies. While I certainly did love my own babies (you know, when I wasn’t crying my face off and drowning in PPD), I don’t actually love other peoples babies that much. I am a doula because I want to help women prepare for parenthood. I want to assist in the empowerment of women right from the get go and support them through this incredibly hard transition. Birth is the easy part to be honest, parenting the hardest thing in the world. But if you start the journey surrounding yourself with support and being informed and empowered, you may just be willing to ask for help when you really need it. And then, you may just survive. Figuratively and literally.

Oh, and I have a Doula blog, feel free to check that out if you’d like.

The Worst Mom in the World

I’m not sure how it happened. I can’t remember when it started, and I have no idea how to stop it. I feel like I’m the only one, and yet I have seen memes floating around the inter-webs indicating that other mother’s share my sentiment. I feel like I may be the worst mom in the world. The worst.

parentingishard

Okay, I know I’m not actually THE WORST. I don’t beat my children, neglect them, and I make sure they always have a home, clothes to wear and food on the table. But there is a part of my brain that won’t stop telling the rest of my brain that I actually suck, and that I have likely destroyed my children beyond repair.

mentalchatter

How, you might ask? Well, it could be the divorce and separation. It could be the fact that I have moved between two cities (2 hours apart) twice. I mean, I did get a degree out of that move, but I still likely fucked my kids up. It could be that I came out to them roughly 6 years ago and have been in two serious relationships with women since. It could be that I now have two partners and am in a polyamorous relationship, and have been for the past 4 years. Or maybe it’s the activities I did or did not sign them up for. Maybe it’s the schools I’ve chosen, or the fact that I trained them to sleep in… just so I could sleep in on the weekends. Or maybe it’s the screens!!! Oh it’s gotta be the screens… iPods, xbox, netflix… I’m sure they’re screwed because of the screens.parenthood

Did I not breastfeed long enough? Or maybe too long? Was it the soy formula I gave my first two? They didn’t have the research to warn me against using soy formula at the time, but now it’s out and I can’t change the past. Did I not babywear my older two enough? Was it because when I did wear them, I wore them face out? Oh god, their hips!! And the overstimulation!I didn’t really co-sleep with them much either, maybe that’s it!

But what if it’s that I’m too strict? Or not strict enough? Did I not pay attention to them when they needed it? Maybe it’s because I was quite short with Dakota. It was stressful when he was little. I had PPD and he would kick the crap out of his baby sister, so I was short with him. He got sent home 4 times in the first month of grade one for being violent. Maybe that’s my fault too. His ADHD has made things hard, but maybe the years of changing his diet and trying different treatments fucked him up more than anything.

hostage-negotiation

I don’t know exactly what I did, but I have a sinking feeling that I failed them. I have always tried my hardest to be a positive, strong, female role model, but I don’t know if it worked. My teens think I’m weird, that I’m too strict (after all, they “should” be able to smoke pot in the house, right?), and they’ll do anything to get out of being around me.

It could be the roller derby, I always took the kids to my practices and games even though they found it boring. I traveled to games, and made the yearly pilgrimage to RollerCon in Vegas. I just quit competitive derby last year so that I could do more with my kids, but maybe it’s still not enough.

img_0483
Photo by Chris Edwards

Or could it be the tattoos? Piercings? Pink/purple hair? Oh god… maybe it’s my hair.

I.Am.The.Worst

Stop brain…. stop.

I have had enough of the self punishment.

I know that I did make all the best choices I could with the information I had at the time, and I have always been there for my kids. I do love them, and I can only hope they know that. I need to remind myself of that.

But I need you… brain… to stop telling me how badly I suck. Please.

behind-every-great-kid

 

The Glorification of Busy

img_0144

We are a busy family. With eight people in the house, I think it’s nearly impossible to not be busy. Even without registered activities, we stay fairly active. But to be completely honest, the registered activities are taking over our lives. We have brownies on Mondays, roller derby on Tuesdays, soccer on Mondays/Wednesdays/some weekends, in the fall we have football nearly every day, and in the spring we have baseball two nights a week. I coach roller derby and have volunteered to coach baseball this upcoming season.

I. am. going. crazy.

img_0236

I’m tired, she’s tired, we’re all tired!

Last week my ex gave me crap because our son’s baseball tryouts fall on his weekend, and his football games in the fall were on weekends. The thing is, I completely understand his frustration and would be fine without all the scheduled activities. But, here’s the kicker: that same ex took me to court for custody last September, and listed the “lack of activities” on his affidavit as one of the reasons. He actually took me to court and told his lawyer, who told the judge, that I “simply did not have the time” for organized sport and he saw that as a detriment to their upbringing (in actuality, I had the kids registered in activities, but we also took breaks). So now I am stuck between a rock and a hard place, I’m damned if I do AND damned if I don’t.

img_2192

These things are good for them, I get that! But when does it become more of a hindrance than a bonus? How do we find balance?!

I want my kids to be able to just run to the lake and play a game of shinny with their friends, play basketball at the local school, or play street hockey in someone’s cul-de-sac, but the reality is… it doesn’t happen. This lifestyle of organized sport has taken priority over the spontaneous sport and activity, and I don’t know how to change it. This morning Ashton and I went to play football in the snow with another family, and it was fantastic! We need more spontaneity when it comes to play and sport, and all the organized activities makes it nearly impossible. And what makes it even harder is trying to co-parent with someone whose values don’t align with mine. I’m constantly trying to keep him happy as to not end up in court again, but also try to salvage some sanity and happiness in the process.

It’s very difficult.

But we will prevail.

I will hopefully find my sanity in the summer.

A Cautionary Tale for Parents

social-challenges

Parenting is hard and definitely not for the faint of heart. You will be puked on, shat on, yelled at, and you will need to deal with things you never imagined. The reward is that you will experience an unconditional love so strong, that all those awful parenting things seem worth it. That is, until you reach the teen stage.

This is a cautionary tale for parents of young children. Parents of young lovely playful children who will one day become teenagers. I am here to tell you that if you don’t start implementing some plans and strategies for their unavoidable growth and maturation, you will indeed hate your life during the teen years. Do not underestimate the power of teenagers, and don’t think for one second that your precious little angel won’t turn in to what seems to be the spawn of Satan himself during that transformative time of teenage hood. But fear not! There are things you can do to prepare, and it starts here.

o-teenagers-facebook

The first time Dakota stole a car, he was 14. Granted it was his step-monster’s car (it’s okay, I can say that. It’s an agreed upon term for a woman who came and left our lives within one year, leaving a trail of destruction everywhere she went… she earned that name), so it wasn’t “stealing” per se. The second time, he took his aunt’s car for a joy ride and I got a phone call at 4:00 in the morning from a friendly police officer to come pick him up, along with his younger sister who was 12 at the time. Both of my teenagers have tried DXM (a seemingly more legit name for Robitussin), smoked pot (in and out of the house), been suspended from school multiple times, been expelled from school (not both of them for this one), snuck out of the house, and ran away for days on end, all by the time they were 14. And that’s only including what I’m willing to put on this blog. Not only that, they are 100% certain that myself and all the parental figures in their lives are complete fools and know absolutely nothing.

I keep thinking about how every stage of parenthood is hard, and how we’ve categorized and named the stages to reflect the societal view of difficulty level. Most people only reference the “terrible twos,” but I have gone a step further and assigned a few more titles. Some of those said titles include the terrifying threes, fuck off fours, and fuck my life fives. The problem with the vast majority only referencing the terrible twos, it that it ignores the fact that shit does not suddenly improve when that toddler turns three. In fact, it gets worse. And when your little precious hits 13, you’ll be wishing you were in the thick of the terrible twos or the fuck off fours, when you could at least pick your darling up and put them where you need them. But what is the title for teens? It seems that “teen” is a noun and a verb, but I’d like to propose, “tragically torturing teens” or maybe “tighten my noose teens.” Something that can accurately portray the feeling of hopelessness that comes with parenting teens is hard to grasp.

apteen

Then there are the parents of toddlers who love to give advice to parents of teenagers, so first of all, if that is you, please stop. I have heard it all. I am here to tell you that everything you think will save you from the teen years will not work. Your open communication will bite you in the ass, for even though your teen will be totally open with you and you’ll have great communication, they’ll talk to you like a friend and not respect your authority as a parent. If you think that because you were a shit teen you’ll likely be more understanding and empathetic… nope. When the shoe is on the other foot, it is awful. Who you’ll feel understanding and empathy for is likely your parents, and you may even feel the need to call them and apologize for being such an asshole. I recommend doing that if you feel so inclined. I’m holding out for my teens to realize it and apologize when they’re in their thirties. It’s a long game, this parenting gig.

What I have come to discover is that your children absolutely need to have a healthy level of fear for you, along with a good amount of respect. So while the open communication and empathy will help, if it is not paired with discipline, clear boundaries, consistency, hard life lessons, and some pretty serious consequences when needed, it will do nothing for you. At least not in the teen years. Best case scenario, if your relationship survives the teen years you may end up being besties with your kids, but they won’t see you as an authority figure.

 

authoritative-permissive-authoritarian-uninvolved-parenting

I have taken so many psychology classes (psych is one of my streams for my B.A. Soc.Sc.), including many on the child development topic, which all typically cover the four parenting styles. The optimal style is “authoritative,” but I need to tell you that there is a fine line between that and “permissive.” I have always considered myself authoritative, but I feel like I may have potentially fell in to the permissive role for a bit, and that has wreaked havoc on our household. I am not proud of it, and there are numerous factors that contributed to it, but I’ll save that for another blog post.

Whatever the case, now might be the time to put contingency plans in place for when you’re feeling a bit permissive (or as my mom likes to call it… when your head is in the sand). If you don’t have a partner to help you out, then make arrangements with a friend you can call, another family member, or even a parenting hotline. In Calgary here, the Wood’s Home has a community resource team, and they will literally come to your house and help you dole out consequences as needed. It is an amazing resource, and I highly encourage you to put their number on speed dial, or find a similar resource local to you. You may need it. We need to remember that is does take a village to raise a child/teen, and setting up that village now will benefit you in the long run.

mean-girls

The thing is, if you wait until you are navigating life with teenagers, it may be too late. You really need to set up the framework way before they’re smoking pot and stealing cars. They need to go in to their teenage years knowing what the expectations are and what the consequences will be. Having the knowledge, understanding, and now the experience that I do, I have started talking to our younger three about what is unacceptable/acceptable in the house. They know that if I ever catch them with a vape, it will immediately be taken away. They know that they ALWAYS have to ask before using the T.V. or playing a computer game, and they are not allowed to just be on a screen to their hearts content. They are required to make their beds daily, and do small chores around the house. They can also rely on nightly stories, bedtime snuggles, a chest to cry on, and open communication. It’s all just one big balancing act.

wordsforteens

If I caught you in time, and you are not currently drowning in teenage angst, I hope this post might help or motivate you to go in to the teen years more prepared than you would have been otherwise. And if you, like me, are barely staying afloat and have completely gone in survival mode, I empathize with you. Please be kind on yourself, because believe me… I know how easy it is to fall in to the spiral of self hate and parenting hell while raising teenagers.

I got Stamina

Considering who I am (queer, poly, “single” mother, defender of equality, feminist, badass), I feel like I am constantly talking to my kids about all the touchy topics, and also modelling what we talk about in daily life. It is not enough to live a queer life, I still need to talk to my kids about why it’s okay (more than okay actually), and what they should say to bullies and how to stand up for their friends. I do need to talk to my kids about transgender issues, because even though that is not specifically our life, I will proudly wear an #illgowithyou button and thus need to explain my beliefs. I will talk to my kids about the Orlando shooting, because they need to know that people who are just like me are being gunned down for being just like me. That is NOT okay, and the next generation needs to start off better than mine did. I believe that starts with me, in my house, and with my children. I will talk to them, and then one day they will talk to their friends, or their kids, or maybe to a community, and kick hate right in its ugly face. Because they can.

We talked about the new music video by Sia, titled The Greatest. My kids have been dancing to the song for a while now, but they didn’t understand how I knew the song was dedicated to the victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting. That was an opportunity to talk a little bit, watch a music video, and feel some feels. I like to think that showing them the video, talking about music as a method of emotional expression and support, was a success, even if ten minutes later they were fighting and yelling at each other.

What have you talked to your kids about recently?