How I live is how they’ll learn

There are times I’m asked a question that literally stops me in my tracks. And this happened to me last week. Sitting at my fortnightly shrink appointment, my therapist asked me how, as a result of my experiences are now shaping the type of mother I am for my kids & what traits & values I’m stilling in them, also as a result of my life experiences. Answering this for me was simple & the qualities rolled off my tongue.

I responded: I would hope my kids are going to be humble, considerate & compassionate. I would hope that my kids are  going to think really hard before making a judgement or sizing someone up & I would hope that they are going to be kind hearted. Simple really.

Most of the qualities I wish upon my kids, I learned throughout my life, (mostly) the older I got, the more experiences I had & by the  friends I’ve had along the way. Funnily enough, it’s been my kids that have taught me the true meaning of some of these traits, specifically, humility & to refrain from judgment.

I think the most amount of learning I did was when I was admitted to the nuthouse (psych facility, parent-infant unit). I learnt that certain things in life doesn’t discriminate, most obviously at the time, mental illness. I learned it didn’t matter about my education, my background, my University degree, my relationship status, my income, my level of class in society, what car I drove, how big my diamond was – nothing mattered. I was no better than anyone else I sat with & spend my time with. In fact, I was no better than anyone in admitted to the facility then & forever. I needed help just like everyone else. It was the most humbling experience of my life (so far) & one that keep me grounded daily. I also hope my kids see mental illness as an unfortunate condition & not a character flaw, an excuse for odd/bad behaviour or social awkwardness or a result of being weak or impressionable.

It’s easy to learn not to be judgmental when you become a parent.Well it’s easy, but not necessarily upheld & practiced. You learn very quickly that what works for you & your child might not be acceptable & approved by someone else, but it becomes their issue & not yours. You learn that no child is the same (especially if you have more than one child), you learn they all develop at their own pace, you learn that they overcome challenges when they are ready, you learn that you will move mountains for your kids in order for them to be happy, healthy & safe & you learn that we all do it that way that we know how & what works for us. You learn that there will still be those that will judge you for choices you make for your kids, but that their opinions are just opinions. You learn to accept others for the choices they make, whether you agree with them or not. You may not know the other person’s background or journey or what led them to make certain decisions, but to try & just be supportive of them. I’m not naive, I know we are all judgmental, it’s human nature, but it’s those of us that have learnt to accept choices of others that tend to carry less anger, resentment & jealousy.

This wasn’t a revelation for me, however I was still surprised at how the words flowed at the time, how instant the words came & how passionate I was when answering. I don’t know if my answer would have been as passionate had I not spent time in the nuthouse, had I had an easy time becoming a mother, had I had a child without special needs or had I had a different upbringing. What I do know is that this has all shaped the person, wife & mother I am & the person, wife & mother I want to be.

‘Button pushers’ – my guide to you

I suppose this post needs some sort of introduction or disclaimer due to the nature of what you’re about to read & learn about me. See, I wouldn’t describe myself as an angry or hyper-vigilant person, however, I would say the terms passionate & highly defensive would be generally right up there but multiplied when my buttons are pushed. It’s not so much the extent of the button pushing, it’s more the number of buttons I have! I’m slowly disengaging some, re-setting some, removing some & trying to turn the lights off the real flashy ones, but in the meantime, they’re still there.

I’d like to share these buttons with you, so you can help me reorder &/or tone them down or perhaps even avoid them all together when you consider pushing one when next time we meet. I’m (probably) not directing my words to those that are reading this post. It’s more targeted to the know-it-all strangers, mean-wellers & pedestal sitters that I seem to cross paths with on a daily basis.

A word of warning should you decide to continue reading. I’m not going to apologise for anything you’re about to read as this is my domain (literally) & in order for me to be true to myself I need to be true to this space. So I apologise if you’re offended about anything I’ve written & I hope you’ll be back.

Ok, here goes (in no particular order):

The Smug/high-horse parents button: Some people become more humane, down to earth & grounded when they become parents. They quickly learn humility & not to judge others. Seeing a child tantrum, my pre-kid brain went to, ‘spoilt brat, discipline lessons for the parents, crap parenting blah blah’. Now, I instantly think, ‘shame, I wonder if the child has any behavioural issues or cognitive delays etc’. Sadly however, there’s another group of parents that think that being a parent gives them the right to judge others & they make no apology for it. They shit me. And to think their kids will grow up learning that behaviour trait, well, that shits me too.

The I’ve done it before know-it-all/well-meaner down at the shops button: Please don’t presume you know me or my kids. You don’t. You are seeing but a glimse of our life. Go about your business.

The sensitivity button: I know the term ‘failure to thrive (FTT)’ is a medical term used to describe infants not gaining weight, toddlers at the low end of off the chart scales or premmie/disabled kids that are just taking more time than others, but when Flynn was admitted to hospital due to FTT & I heard this term too many times a day for weeks on end I started to personalise & internalise it. I started becoming really defensive about this terminology as all I could hear was ‘your son is a failure’. I would tell people we were in hospital due to feeding difficulties because I didn’t want Flynny hearing me use the words that I had started to resent & wanted to protect him from hearing it. I knew not to take it personally, however I was still hormonally charged/compromised at the time & took it to heart. I can now use the term with ease & know that it doesn’t define Flynn, but describes his journey.

This button actually stems from me hearing lots of comments about Orli when she was a baby/toddler, that she was ‘being lazy’ as she was developmentally delayed & only started walking at 25 mths. Someone actually said to me once, ‘she’s not walking or crawling yet. What does she do? Just sit there like a blob?’.  Yeah, exactly the right thing to say to an mum recovering from a PMD & blaming myself for everything my baby wasn’t doing ‘on time’. But more to the point, how dare you talk about my child like that? Shame on you.

This button has taught me a great lesson in humility & sensitivity & through it a valuable lesson, as I need to learn how not to assign a meaning to everything that is said to me. I’m trying.

The stereotype button: I’m Jewish. This doesn’t mean I’m tight with money, doesn’t mean I’m rich, doesn’t mean I only have Jewish friends, doesn’t mean I only care about Jewish interests or only donate to Jewish causes & it doesn’t mean I am, or am married to a doctor or lawyer. However, it does mean that I would appreciate if you thought hard before you share a joke about the Holocaust or Hitler with me. Oh & using the term ‘Nazi’ instead of custodian or task-master – yeah, don’t do that. It’s really inappropriate & frankly an insulting comparison.

The  ‘I know everything cos I watch the news’ button: Now, I admit I’m not completely educated on the Arab-Israeli conflict, but I have a fair idea of the history in the Region. I love Israel as a country – I speak Hebrew (not well I might add, ok, maybe I understand it), I have family & friends that live there that serve in the Army because it’s the law & they defend a country that would protect me if, as a Jew, my life were in danger due to anti-Jewish uprisings anywhere outside of Israel. So, I’d really appreciate you not giving me your opinion on the conflict, about the suicide bombings, the border protection issues, the whose land is it etc unless you are educated on the subject (which I would actually encourage & enjoy as I love listening & learning) because the media already does a great job at giving me a biased one sided story.

The Gavel Graber button: Really, you’re going to judge me. Where are your qualifications? Nuff said. Bye bye.

The interpreter button: I can speak english & I can understand most accents, so please don’t talk to my kids through me. Don’t lean in to my baby & say, ‘your mum’s mean because she won’t let you <insert anything here>’. Don’t ask my child if she wants to do an activity you know I would not agree to, or offer food you know I would not allow. I am their mother. That gives me the right to make decisions on their behalf while they’re unable to, as well as to teach, guide & educate them so they can make their own decisions one day. What you do when you use them as a go-between is belittle my role in front of my kids & send them the message that you don’t care or respect my position. And if the way you are using my child as a confessions booth has nothing to do with how you feel towards me, well then, don’t patronise or insult my kids. You’re only smarter than them because you’ve been on earth longer, so in terms of intelligence, they’re going to catch up.

The anxiety projector button: Please don’t project your anxieties onto me (I’ve got my own thanks). Don’t ask me if I think my baby is warm enough, full enough or slept enough. I know the answers to all of these questions cos you know, I know my kids. Please don’t come up to me in the store & remind me to watch my baby in case he suffocates to death (Flynn slept on his stomach & face-planted due to his laryngomalacia – I could also hear him breathing as he snored really loudly). This is insulting. Please don’t treat me as if I don’t care or know my child. You certainly don’t.

The ‘pack your bags we’re going on a guilt trip’ button: Please don’t share with me your tragic stories. I’m truly sorry you’ve had pain & sadness, but unless I ask you details, please don’t assume I can handle it, want to hear it, won’t be scarred about it & have it impact me negatively as soon as you walk off & go about your life. There were many social occasions I left the ‘my labour was worse than yours pack’ before I had Orli. I was at the chemist with Flynn after we got home from hospital & a lady left me in tears when she told me (when he was face-planted in the pram) to ‘watch my baby because she knows what it’s like to lose one’. Talk about the stabbing feeling in my stomach, leaving me breathless & in tears. She had no idea what I had already been through with Flynn & it left me angry for days. I actually resented her talking to me, but because I’m not heartless I also empathised with her on some level (when I wasn’t angry).

The someone else is worse off button: Don’t tell me a sad story about how hard someone else has it when I’m struggling. My struggles are my struggles. My pain is my pain & by you down-playing it is both unfair & wrong. I had just been diagnosed with depression when something tragic happened to a friend of mine. The first thing someone close to me said was, ‘makes what you’re going through pretty insignificant don’t you think’. Um no. Actually, I had been suffering for months before I was diagnosed & while the diagnosis was both met with welcomed relief & a care & recovery plan I still had a long road to go. Plus I had to get used to the fact that now I was one of those people with a mood disorder/mental illness. My stuff & my pain was still worthy of me going through the motions & not sweeping it under the carpet because someone was worse off. There is always going to be someone worse off, but that should not diminish or make my pain any less worthy of me dealing with it.

When I was in hospital with Flynn for nine weeks I used to have pastoral carers drop in to check up on the patient (that was usually asleep & couldn’t talk anyway). I decided one day, rather than exchanging smiles & pleasantries, I would tell the person how I was really feeling. I admitted that I was feeling robbed & sad & that I just could not see an end to our admission. I kept reiterating that I knew my baby’s life wasn’t in danger & that he ‘just’ had feeding issues, but my journey was becoming very testing & honestly endless. The pastoral carer listened intently & started off by saying, ‘you know I have also counselled parents that have lost their babies’….. It was as though she had ignored MY pain & wasn’t listening to me at all. I kindly told her that her comment was not helping me & actually invalidated everything I had been telling her. It was the first time I had opened up to one of these carers & sadly, the last time.

The ‘I’m going to tell you what I think you need to hear’ button:  If you’re a close friend of mine, I value your honest opinion. If I ask your advice, I appreciate it & take on board the words you’ve said. However, I always have an undercurrent of weariness when trying on clothes in a shop with their ‘oh, you look great in those’ attitude & the ‘I would have totally done what you did in that situation’ comment when you know that’s nothing like you would have handled the scenario. Don’t bullshit me. I’m not stupid & as I said I asked you because I wanted your honest opinion. No one likes a bullshitter.

The ‘just because I have more money than you means I’m better than you’ button: No. Quite simply it means you have more funds in the bank than me. Money, privilege &/or entitlement does not provide a person with class or manners. It might provide someone with a better education, but the school of life is much harder to learn than any text book I’ve seen. So if you have more money than me, that’s great, & your life is financially easier than mine, but please know that it doesn’t mean you’re better than me & I’m certainly not going to accept being treated as a lesser person.

I think I’m going to leave it at that for now. I think this post may be organic in nature & be updated as time goes on & as my life & learning evolves. Maybe I just need to learn how to operate from my ‘ok self’ so none of these buttons can or will ever be pushed again. I promise to work on it if you promise to mind your own business & be more sensitive to each other. Respectfully.

 

Mama’s Comfort Camp

Mama's Comfort Camp

I wanted to let you all know about a wonderful resource online for mums when having a tough day & just need to vent, share & feel better. You don’t have to have or be a recoverer of any postpartum (postnatal) mood disorder to join up, you just have to be a mum getting through each day & all the challenges that you face daily. So come on over & say hi.

https://www.facebook.com/mamas.comfort.camp

If you would like to join the Mama’s Comfort Camp private FB group, where we go to refuel, meet by amazing mums all over the world ready & waiting with open arms, there’s a link on the page above to ask to join up. We’d love to see you there.

The things I have learnt in my life. So far….

When I was a teenager & then again in my early twenties, I thought I knew everything about everything. Turns out I didn’t. Fast forward ahem, a few years, I’m reflecting on all the things I’ve done & the lessons learnt. And what’s more I know that the learning never stops. So without further ado, here are some things I’ve learnt over the past few years:

I’ve learnt that babies are not stupid just because they can’t talk. They tell you in their own way what they need.

I’ve learnt that my toddler has bipolar disorder & OCD (please know I am not downplaying the seriousness of these mental illnesses, but they are appropriate when explaining my toddlers behaviour).

I’ve learnt the true meaning of unconditional love.

I’ve learnt that when in a hurry a nappy will need to be changed, because babies don’t care for being on time & schedules.

I’ve learnt that you never stop growing up.

I’ve learnt that raising my voice at Orli does not help. At all. I’ve learnt this pisses me off.

I’ve learnt that even as a parent myself, what my parents think still impact some of my decisions.

I’ve learnt that chocolate doesn’t help, but that is also helps.

I’ve learnt that there is no shame in having a Pospartum (postnatal) mood disorder. I didn’t ask for it nor choose to have it.

I’ve learnt that if it’s not on Google it doesn’t exist.

I’ve learnt that you need to work on your marriage. Complacency is the number one reason that most couples split up.

I’ve learnt that patience doesn’t come easily to me.

I’ve learnt that having a nap is the new happy hour.

I’ve learnt that mutual respect is important in every relationship. If it’s not there, you may as well not be there either.

I’ve learnt that the words ‘I love you mummy’ makes my heart explode. Each & every time.

I’ve learnt that Cancer, mental illnesses etc do not discriminate.

I’ve learnt to use the word ‘regret’ instead of ‘guilty’ when talking about my PMD.

I’ve learnt that mess & clutter make me anxious.

I’ve learnt that writing for me is healing & cathartic. Thanks for allowing me to share my words with you all too.

I’ve learnt that forgiveness is bloody hard, but important for your soul & overall happiness.

I’ve learnt not to judge other parents. I don’t live with them, I don’t know the reasons for doing the things they do & it comes down to mutual respect.

I’ve learnt that the TV keeps my kids entertained & I’m more than ok with it.

I’ve learnt that you don’t need to have met people in real life to have long lasting & meaningful relationships.

I’ve learnt that it takes longer for others to learn.

I’ve learnt that my babies have never cared for the baby books saying what they ‘should’ be doing. They can’t read. They do what they want, when they want.

I’ve learnt when to take the higher moral ground.

I’ve learnt that cooking isn’t hard, it just requires time & motivation. I’m lacking in both.

I’ve learnt that self-care is imperative to your overall happiness & crucial to in order to be available to your kids. I need to learn how to do it.

I’ve learnt I learn something new every day.

I’ve learnt that you need to speak up when it comes to your kids health & happiness.

I’ve learnt how to go to the toilet without having kids in there with me. It’s not always successful.

I’ve learnt to enjoy the moment.

I’ve learnt that all families have their shit.

I’ve learnt that you need to be organised when you have kids.

I’ve learnt that NOTHING can prepare you for being a first time mum.

I’ve learnt that masks cover pain, it doesn’t get rid of it.

I’ve learnt that toddlers can frustrate the hell out of you.

I’ve learnt that friends are to be cherished.

I’ve learnt that no one can clean our home as well as me.

I’ve learnt to give myself permission for having a bad day & not to feel guilty about it.

I’ve learnt never to take kindness for granted.

I’ve learnt that it takes a long time to heal.

I’ve learnt that I’ll never stop learning.

 

What have you learnt?