People judge…

They all have an opinion… and they all mean well… and they judge…

It’s in the things they say. The words. The looks. The pursed lips. Intake of breath. Sideways glances. Pauses. Stiffening of the body. Pulling away. Turning away…. The list goes on… and on…

Because they judge…

And they don’t believe you. That’s always been what I have found hardest. They tell you it wasn’t as you remember. That it wasn’t that bad. And the crazy thing is… they weren’t even there. So how can they possibly know…

So you stop telling people… and then they judge you on other grounds… for other decisions that you make…

People want to know – why didn’t you leave if it was that bad? And I keep thinking – why did I stay if it was not great??

Because that is the problem. You’re expected to stay. You’re expected to fight to make it work until you have flogged it so much you can no longer tell that it once was a horse. If it’s not broke, why fix it…

When you’re there, you don’t see it. You want that defining line. That one moment that tells you – this is it. Because every other moment just isn’t enough…

When I had my first baby, I was at a complete loss. I was living in the middle of nowhere, literally. I had no support network, at all. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. And when I did go out, I heard how I was doing it all wrong. The baby was too warm or not warm enough. Over fed or too thin. I was over fed too of course – out to a good paddock was the phrase. The baby cried too much or didn’t cry enough. And my all time favourite – if you love her, you’ll breast feed… just keep feeding her… And I did. For hours and hours and hours and hours… It took until baby number 4 before I had an amazing team who discovered the problem – my milk ducts are damaged, I actually don’t produce enough milk… so feeding and feeding and feeding only caused pain and anguish… but in the eyes and words of those well-meaning souls, I just didn’t love my children enough….

And the same goes for every other aspect of parenting and being a wife. If you are a good mum… If you are a good wife… If….

So I ran myself ragged trying to fit this mold. To be the perfect everything. Working two jobs. Studying. Raising four kids – who were involved in everything under the sun. Maintaining a house. Hosting parties. Running fundraising events in town. Driving endless kilometres to the next sporting event or social melee. Running myself ragged… trying to be the perfect everything… and always being told, over and over and over… if you were a good mum… if you were a good wife… if….

So why did I stay? There are so many, many reasons… The official one in these situations is that I was surviving. I was so busy surviving that I couldn’t see the way clear – and there is a lot of truth in that… but I also think society has a lot to answer for. This crazy need for perfection. This insane belief that just because you said the vows means you have to stay together forever – for better or worse. My own family said to me a number of times, even after they knew some of the stories, even after they watched the absolute horror of the aftermath, they still said, over and over…. but you said ’til death do us part… why get married if you weren’t going to stick it out?’. You see… because absolutely EVERYONE judges…. and every single person found me lacking…

And you see… I didn’t need the world to find me lacking, because I have always needed to be perfect…. So it took a hell of a lot to admit that it wasn’t working…. a hell of a lot to admit failure…. and I didn’t need your judgment too…. And still, to admit that I failed on every level… to see the aftermath because no matter how hard I tried, I still couldn’t make it work…

Because you see, that’s what he thrived on… knowing that I would keep trying to make it work… He used those insecurities, latched onto all the criticisms… they were proof that it was my fault, that I wasn’t good enough, didn’t try hard enough… Because, if you’ve ever been there, this will sound so familiar… he wouldn’t have been so angry all the time if I hadn’t… you know I love you but you…. I’m a good husband, you know this, but you…. I’m a great father, I love my kids, but you…. And it works. Because everyone else is telling you that you aren’t good enough. Because you were raised like this and you’ve always known you weren’t good enough. Because you are the perfect person to be told how completely imperfect you are… and it’s all your fault.

So don’t tell me I made the wrong choices… don’t tell me I should have left… don’t tell me it can’t have been that bad… don’t tell me I’m a bad parent and don’t tell me I’m a good parent… Just stop telling me anything. All you need to do is say – I’m here for you, what can I do? That’s it. And if you do that… you will actually be the first person who finally gets it. Because you don’t know. You weren’t there. You have no idea. So stop judging me.

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Don’t tell me I’m an awesome mum… or amazing… or Wonder Woman… whatever….

Because I’m not…

and every time you tell me I am, I remember all the ways I am not…

If I’m so awesome, why would my teenage son rather live with his abusive father than me? Or even boarding school is preferable… and why is he cutting?

Is it selfish to blame myself? Self pity looking for attention?

but I can’t get past the mantra in my head…

When I think of his father, the deep seated white hot rage… I thought I was over that… but not now… not when I see the misery that is my son… the heart break of my eldest daughter…. the confusion of the younger two…. I have so much anger… so so much….

and when I think of myself? Disappointment? Disbelief… Why did I stay? Why did I let them go through this? Especially the child who is now such a mess…

I remember sitting on the side of the road one time… it was during those final insane months before I finally said the words… finally insisted on escape… I was in the car… I couldn’t stop the wracking sobs… saying over and over again to him on the phone – you can’t do this to our child… you just can’t… And he convinced me yet again that he was sorry… that it was just because…. that he won’t ever again…

So how do I ever possibly forgive myself for not walking out that day if not any of the ones before?

Daydreams…

Today is one of those days…. Actually, to be perfectly honest, it’s one of those weeks… One of those ones when I know I would have been a better aunt. One of those weeks when I just don’t have the patience…

Or perhaps, what I really need is an Alice. Someone to cook the dinner that they inevitably refuse to eat… or to take them to gymnastics or soccer… or to just get them in the damned car. Someone to convince them to clean their teeth and to go to bed and to just stay in bed. Someone to deal with the squabbling about who knows what this time – and really, who actually cares…

But I’d have made such an awesome aunt. It was always the plan… I’m still not sure how I came to have 4! Yes, yes… I know how it actually happened… and I even wanted more! But I had always planned to just be the really awesome aunt. The one who traipsed around the world, and would zip in every other month, take the kids on grand excursions and sleepovers and bring them incredible presents…. and then I’d traipse off again… That was the path I meant to take….

I want a week… or a moth? a year?…. but let’s start with a week… A week of not having to get out of bed if I don’t want to, not having to cook a single meal or clean up, no lunches to make, no pick ups or drop offs, no sport or play dates, no bedtimes, no teeth brushing, no getting dressed, no homework, no squabbles and no getting in that damned car…

He’s 13. Don’t take it personally. He’s a kid trying to be a man… and really has no idea how to do it… or a decent role model to show him.

Yes, you reached out to him. No, he didn’t take the hand you offered.

He’s 13.

His brain is a mess. He’s so angry at the world and so incredibly confused. He doesn’t want anyone in his citadel. He wants to wreak havoc on the world beyond his walls. He wants it to burn and suffer – the way he is. He wants everyone to hurt the way he does.

He’s 13.

He doesn’t know how to handle it all and won’t let anyone help him.

So please stop making the drama about you. He didn’t take your hand. He didn’t take mine either. I don’t have the energy to fix your ego. I’m too busy fixing my son’s heart.

I love my children… but!

I am tired of thinking and saying this phrase. I love my children… but!

Of course I love them. Or is that nor necessarily a given? I do wonder at times… Especially when I consider my own parents. I know they love me…. or at least, I think they do… but!

Back to my own cherubs. I do love them. I truly do. They are my world and all those other cliches…. But!

I have raised spoilt brats. I truly have.

My upbringing was quite Victorian – raised with the rod, finances were tight, children were mostly seen and not heard.

My children on the other hand, have been given far too much on a silver platter. And now they are all princesses.

My eldest has gone away on a school jaunt for a few days. She’s going to have a great time, as well as come home exhausted. And moody… yay…. Of course, she needed money… Of course, she has left her clothes strewn across her bedroom. Of course, she has left several bottles of nail polish on the coffee table – obviously in the hope that her two youngest siblings will do their own nails and half the lounge room carpet?

Number two lives away…. but his sense of entitlement astounds me. If we go out to eat, he infallibly chooses the most expensive item. He only visits if I will take him places that cost money. He won’t spend birthdays and holidays with us unless there’s a great present involved…. and realistically, he’ll get that from me regardless, so he chooses to go elsewhere to get presents he wouldn’t otherwise have.

Number three and four are a pack. Twenty months between them, but they come as a pair. People meet them and often assume they are twins. They don’t look alike, they just have a crazy bond. They cost far less than their teenage siblings… but the entitlement is there already. They are insanely fussy about food recently. Oh, we don’t like that brand of yoghurt, milk, bread… Since when??

My eldest had the audacity yesterday, as she was chattering, to laughingly mention some of her friends who have to actually work… She didn’t notice the look on my face… so she continued…. It’s so funny! They work and they’re like ‘I don’t get paid til Thursday so I can’t go to the movies Wednesday’…. and I’m like ‘well, I just have the money in my bank account’…. That chatter didn’t end so well… I had a bad mummy moment…. We had a very firm (one sided) conversation about the fact she will be bankrupt by 21…. a very bad mummy moment….

A part of my brain is writing the eldest two off as a loss. Yes, I know that I can’t actually do that… but seriously – I have two more to get it right – can’t I just call it quits on the first two? The youngest are possibly salvageable….

Is this a symptom of society? Can I simply blame others? It would be so much easier and nicer to not take the responsibility… but realistically, that’s rubbish. Yes, it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes parenting. Time to be the parent that is hated for a while…. but hopefully, ultimately, appreciated :/

Swinging the sword…

He’s home for the week. It’s the morning of the second day. My patience is shot. His seems to be, too….

How do you find the balance when parenting an angry child? When he swings his sword wildly at anyone who gets too close. Anyone who doesn’t follow his exact honour code.

I am exhausted. I am counting sleeps. Five sleeps, six days.

I love this child. He breaks my heart into a thousand shards. Daily.

He has been awake 20 minutes and we have argued about the Xbox, money, food, language, attitude… I’m sure there’s more…

The logical element of my brain knows that I have no idea how to parent this child. Not really. I am too soft, and my words are too harsh. I give him all the love I have and then some, but it is not enough. It will never be enough… and he has built his fortress so high and the walls so impenetrable, that any hint of love is rebuffed by a volley of arrows. Or the sword, swinging wildly, slicing anything in its path.

Snip snip…

I need to call the school. Apparently, please don’t allow my child to cut his hair and/or clothes needs to be stipulated. Not just once either – four times so far this term. It’s kindergarten. Doesn’t she notice the pile of blonde hair once the kids leave??

Don’t get me wrong – I know teaching is hard work. I believe there is a special place in heaven reserved for kindergarten teachers (it’s the place they put all the insane, but nice, people).

However, hasn’t she noticed? That’s four times for hair and once it was his school pants, too. The 6 inch slice down the leg wasn’t obvious? The lack of hair across his forehead didn’t stand out? The pile of blonde locks on the table or floor are normal?

Also, I am aware my child should not be cutting his hair and clothes. He is also aware of this. His way of dealing with this transgression is to swear he didn’t do it and he just brushed his hair differently… or maybe it’s because it’s raining… the jagged slice in his pants is simply a well carved tear when he fell over….

Yes, my fourth child has learnt all the tricks and ensures I am regularly experiencing yet another bad mothering moment…

But seriously, doesn’t she notice???