I usually take extra time to reflect, to look at little deeper at my life, wonder which areas are going well, which could be going better, which need adjustments and which need a full overhaul at least twice a year: New Year's and my birthday. Both of these times of the year for me signify, another year, the new year following the old year, being a year older and wiser (??), a time of growth, change and renewal.
Lately I have been struggling in a number of areas of my life. One is my role as a teacher to my kids. Homeschooling is currently challenging. I find myself needing to find a new way of doing things. One issue is in the amount of time wasted arguing over doing school work compared to the amount of work actually being done. The other is fatigue and they are very tightly woven. Another issue seems to be building in the accountability that is inherent in the school system. We had fallen into a negative cycle of kids not wanting to do their work, procrastination, negativity and minimal progress in the midst of lots of complaining. We are realizing that it is a lot harder than we had anticipated to try and accomplish our school needs while tending to the other needs of five kids. We ended up having to pile a lot into our one weekday that cousin L isn't here and by Friday the kids are too tired and just wanting to be together. Things needed to change. Earlier in the week we had made a list of things needed to be accomplished (part of our regular system, however it was laid out with each child's work on one page and printed off rather than white board) by Sunday. Typically I would have made that Friday but because of circumstances it needed to be Sunday to make the consequences feasible.
AJ worked hard all week. His goal was to get his work completed ahead of time so that he could have days with a lot more play time and a lot less school. He was focused and driven and he succeeded with the exception of the group activities which they all needed to do together.
A-girl also just plugged along, doing her work when asked.
L, in typical L fashion dug her heels in and her intensity shone through yet again. I decided not to argue, persuade or beg but to unemotionally (which was hard as we both trigger each other into not so positive interactions) explain what was expected and wait. And wait. And wait. It was hard to sit back and have the work piling up knowing that it wasn't going to get accomplished easily as the days ticked by.
By Sunday morning, AJ and A-girl had only one group activity and piano left. L on the other hand had almost everything left. She ended up spending almost all afternoon and evening deeply immersed in school. It wasn't pretty. The other kids were outside playing and enjoying the day. We were stuck inside. Our wonderful friend A came for dinner and L missed out on a lot of the interaction and play time. It was hard for everyone. Huge emotional responses on her part that are very draining to parent through. Huge emotions for me as I tried to stay supportive while fully exhausted. It was a long day and when she finally realized that she wasn't going to complete all of her school work and that she would need to face the consequences it all seemed to finally click. We weren't playing games. Things were going to change. By about 9:00pm she started realizing the time that was required to complete her work and the time left before the deadline were not in alignment. She started negotiating for an extension. Needing to play a week's worth of piano in an evening just isn't feasible. The notable thing was that this was a very calm process. She asked to be able to do the remaining 40 minutes of her piano and the several math exercises Monday morning. We agreed.
Sunday was an extremely hard day. I was exhausted. I cannot teach 7 days straight. I need a break and so do the kids. Bits and pieces are OK on all 7 days, however intense, focused work for 8 hours straight with the exception of meals is draining as a parent/teacher, however we believe it was necessary. It was hard to have to give up my day, to be inside when the sunny day was calling my name and to feel very frustrated with the whole situation but knowing that you needed to do it.
She got up Monday morning and started working. Things went smoothly. All the kids worked together in a way we haven't seen as much lately. Tuesday was more of the same. She struggles with some subject matter (mostly math) but we are just plugging along.
Things have been so much smoother for everyone because of the change in L's attitude and behaviour. It continues to be a hard process, however overall things are flowing better. We had another glitch today when AJ decided he was not going to do much on his list until later in the week. I know the schedule and I can tell there won't be the time we need and I don't want a repeat of last Sunday but he needs to learn that for himself. I am really hoping he figures it out before Saturday.
Things in my physical fitness area of life also are needing changes. I have Hallux rigidus, a degenerative arthritis of the toe joint, that was diagnosed about a year ago. The one option given to me was surgery which requires over 6 weeks recovery time is not feasible. I looked into chiropractic and acupuncture and it reduced the symptoms for several months allowing me to ski, to walk relatively pain free and to not be too limited physically.......until the past few weeks. The pain and swelling is back and is intense. In the past year, I had to stop some of my exercise and physical activity regime due to it aggravating my foot. The end result was weight gain which when mixed with chronic intense pain starts to wear down a body and adds to exhaustion, lack of patience and affects the joy you can bring to your activities each day.
I have returned to more aggressive treatment and am searching out various footwear options and other treatment options to allow me to lose weight and stay in shape. The shoes I need are about twice the price of shoes I typically buy but I am at the point now that I will wear anything that relieves the pain even for a short amount of time no matter the price or how ugly they look. Today, I finally went looking for shoes. It became apparent that I would not have a chance to shop child free and I couldn't go to another weekly chiropractic appointment stating that the pain was still unchanged wearing the same shoes despite her recommendations to try different ones. It was not an easy task to keep 5 kids content while waiting for assistance and then being fitted etc but we managed and despite the large outlay of cash, I do feel some relief in the foot so hopefully it will come. I quickly realized in the shoe fitting process that I wasn't going to find a pair that miraculously stopped the foot pain but I did learn a fair bit about shoes that will work for me and it does make a difference even if just slightly.
Now I am hoping to get back into some type of regular exercise program to help with weight issues and also stress relief which directly impacts the symptoms of Chrohn's. All is so tightly woven.
The third area of my life that truly needed some attention was my support system. I have some incredibly encouraging, supportive family and friends. Without their support, I know I wouldn't be where I am today. I also have some who are critical and unfortunately their drums beat the loudest and the negativity sticks. I have a lot of growing to do as well in the way I am a friend and a support to others. I know that I have great intentions, however due to the same reasons as many others experience (demands on time, family needs, limited monetary resources), the follow through is not always there. I make mistakes and amends. I want to be more aware of my interactions and be more intentional in my actions.
I have some friends that I have known ever since we started our parenting journey and others that we have had the privileged to meet along the way. We have a great mix of friends from different walks of life and over the years, they have truly enriched our lives. Lately though, it is becoming evident that some are not as positive or supportive as they could be or that I need them to be. Some don't agree with our choices (kid's schooling, S going back to school, activities we have the kids in despite them being the same ones their kids are in) and the comments have been negative, biting and far from supportive. I don't think that everyone needs to agree with me/us and our choices. What a boring life that would be. I like to hear people's feedback, ideas, and suggestions. It is not the content I question but rather the way it is conveyed. Recently discussions have had things said that have value, however the tone, the words chosen, the body language have been very negative and as other friends pointed out (some there at the time) have been quite mean spirited. I kept thinking it was something I wasn't doing right and kept trying harder but over time, things haven't changed and I realized that I needed to re-evaluate where I was getting my support. It doesn't mean that I am walking away from anyone, it is more about personal work for me, knowing there is always something to learn from others, listening to their thoughts, ideas and opinions but not having to become them. Its more about finding a better balance and a more positive focus in people I choose to be around on a regular basis. I can be me and my value isn't associated with other people's views and judgments. It hasn't been easy but I have noticed that my self esteem isn't taking as hard a beating from the outside (I do it quite well enough on the inside) and my confidence is recovering. Its hard to never feel "good enough" in a friend's eyes and to feel that they feel that all would be fine if you would just be more like them. I have also been judgmental and though I likely wouldn't say it directly, I have thought it and I would like to be more accepting and more supportive. I have been with people in various groups that talk about, judge and criticize others and while I didn't actively participate, I did nothing to stop or change it and I want to change this in myself.
Parenting can be challenging enough and too often I think our society judges and tears people down rather than providing the support we all need to succeed in this journey. I know I am guilty of it as well and as I continue to reflect and make choices in this area of my life, I too hope that I can be more open and accepting, learning and growing as I walk my life's path.
Another area of my life screaming for attention is time for me outside of the demands of being a parent and keeping a house in order. I can't remember the last time I really did anything to re-energize or re-create me. My focus tends to be on others, serving them, finding my value in serving them and not much is left over for me. I need to find a balance in this area. Recently, I was invited to dinner at a friend's house to celebrate my birthday. I couldn't remember the last time I had had that kind of an evening (great dinner, group game). I haven't been scrap booking in over a year. I don't get together much with friends (busy schedules, hard to coordinate) and I miss that. Knowing that life will be different as S perhaps heads back to school 9waiting to hear if he has been accepted to grad school) and we adjust to a new normal, I am trying to find ways to build these types of things into my schedule. Again, not an easy task for me, however I am listening more when people throw out ideas for get togethers, joining this or that and instead of immediately saying to myself "that likely won't work for us" I am trying to be more open and consider not only would it work for us but also would it give me the re-creation, relaxing types of things that are currently missing.
Change is moving through many facets of my life and even though at times I don't like change, I am trying to be open to it and embrace it, ready to grow and learn.