Back on the Wagon… Again

My name is Sarah Russell.  I am a yell-aholic.  I have been yell-free for eight days.

So here we are.  Day Eight.  Many, many events have taken place in the past month or so.  Mainly summer vacation hit me like a ton of bricks.  The first couple weeks were quite euphoric.  I was craving the lax of no school, no obligations, no pressure… Until that’s just what I got.  Sure, the relaxed nature of our days is easier in some ways but I am not sure the pros have outweighed the cons because something happens when you don’t have to answer to school, sports practices, preschool pick-up and bus schedules: You get lazy.  And I am not just talking about lazy like Oh I’m just going to lay around— no, no.  Lazy like, I’m going to take a little break from parenting.  Lazy like, I’m going to ignore the bickering for just a little bit too long.  Lazy like, I’m going to say sure to that (store bought) cookie because you can get it for yourself and I don’t have to get up from Pinteresting to cut you up a goddamn piece of fruit.  You want to watch TV for an extra hour?  Sure.  You want to play video games past the 20 minute limit?  Go for it.  Your brother kicked you because you– oh nevermind.  Get another cookie.

And as I am sure you can imagine, the cart plummeted off the cliff at the intersection of lazy parenting and children gone wild.  Ugh.  Something had to change.  I was unhappy.  I felt like shit.  The summer was passing us by and I was like an indifferent, stinky high school student on summer vacation.  And then it hit me.  This isn’t my summer vacation.  It’s theirs.   What was my problem?  I was so looking forward to slacking off and then I realized I was wasting their vacation by being self-absorbed and lame.  Mama Fail.

So we went on a trip and spent a week at the ocean.  It was amazing.  On our last day, we had a very stressful travel itinerary and I knew that to keep us from living in a constant state of chaos while one humiliating meltdown blends into another, it was gong to take everything I had in me– which was not a whole hell of a lot considering the steady BAC I was able to maintain for six straight days (impressive, I know).  The night before, I panicked and fell back on the No Yell Challenge.  It was the only tool in my cloudy, liquor-saturated box.  I needed the No Yell Challenge.  And I needed to get Husband on board.  We needed to work as a team- not as ring leaders of t this dysfunctional circus we had operated for  the last couple months.

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Despite the whining, crying and annoying complaining of the next 24 hours, I managed to remain in control.  I did not lose my temper.  And when I was close, Husband became quite adept at identifying the bulging vein in my forehead and stepped in as needed.  We even high-fived each other.  Twice.  As I sat, crammed in between a sweet child and a fat, crabby Canadian (both snoring with drool hanging from their lips), I realized that I can do this.  And I owe it to these amazing little humans I brought into this world to be better.  Better at playing with them.  Better at listening to them.  Better at  guiding them.  

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So here we are.  Day Eight.  I’m doing it.  I have not yelled.  I have taken deep breaths.  I work so hard every day to be patient, kind and attentive.  It’s tough, I won’t lie.  But I feel so much better at the end of the day.  Instead of the guilt-stricken recap, I wrack my mind thinking of little things I can do to make them smile the next day.  And then I do them.   I have left tasks unfinished to read to them.  I have forgone errands to take them to the beach.  I have put my phone down to play with them.  Relishing the feelings which swell as they grab for my hand, turn to smile at me or as I catch them pretending.  This is their summer vacation.  My summer vacation is over.  Or maybe it’s just now beginning.

Peace, Mamas.

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The Beginning of Really Living

This evening, I was able to witness my lovely niece’s graduation from the eighth grade.  As I sat in the jam packed, sweltering gymnasium, clapping on cue, attempting to keep my husband from dying of hunger and trying not to gawk at the short skirts (dear lord!), it occurred to me: This is the Beginning.  The Beginning of Really Living.  These children will go on to become doctors who will treat me when I am old, they will become educators who will teach my grandchildren, they will become scientists, astronomers, mayors, bus drivers, business owners, counselors.  They will become parents who will raise children of their own who will one day walk across that stage and take a diploma in hand.  The Beginning.

After the diplomas had been passed out, the children stood, we clapped some more.  Husband is now convinced he may be fading further into starvation.  The principal announced his closing speech.  He spoke to his (now, former) students about going out into the world; he encouraged them to sincerely show gratitude to the family, teachers, friends who had helped them become the amazing young people they were today.  And then he asked his own daughter who was seven years old to come and sit with him and look at the class of 2017.  He explained to her that they had had some struggles with homework, tests, classes, teachers, each other.  But that they had certainly had a lot of fun too.  This principal, as he spoke to his graduated class, spoke as a parent.  Effortlessly and from the heart.  And not only did this group of silly, emotional, excited barely teenagers listen intently to every word which left the man’s mouth, his daughter did too.

As a Mama of a seven year old, I envy the opportunity to fully captivate my son in a lesson which may quite possibly last him his lifetime.  Have fun.  Be a kid.  School is so important.  When something seems to big you don’t think you can get through it, you always will.  Ask for help when you require it and space when you need it.  Our children are going to become powerful, inspiring, helpful humans.  And it is our job to guide them.  These students are on the cusp of high school where their new challenges will be peer pressure, drugs, sex and an array of  bad choices.  Like a new world of opportunity, these temptations spread before them as part of the landscape.  The choices they make as young adults, are shaped by the values we instill in them through their childhood.  It is so important.  It is so important.

So that next time I want to give up.  Check out from being a parent for a bit, I will try to remind myself of just how important it is to be the most responsive, patient, loving and determined parent I can be.  Do I want them to see that Mama checks out when shit gets tough?  Um, nope.  They watch us.  They are witness to every fit of anger, ever exasperated sigh, every swear muttered under our breath, every eye roll, every snide comment and the negative energy that seeps from our pores.  We worry about violence, the media and video games but the truth is, our children see the ugly from us.  And that’s depressing.  But it’s also empowering.  Why?  Because we can control all of those things.  And that is freeing.

Tonight, this principal took the time to be a parent.  He showed his adorable, sweet little girl the good he was sending out into the world.  He told her about the wonderful things these students would do.  And all they would become.  As she stared up at him, shiny blonde curls falling around her soft pink cheeks, she became convinced that she would become one of these gifted, inspiring graduates one day too.  It begins with us.  This was a lesson for me.  Crazy breeds crazy but positvity leads to opportunity.  We can give our children that opportunity.  It’s worth it.  They are worth the investment.  This is the Beginning of the Really Living.

Peace, Mamas.