Surviving kids without family help is hard, but I’m surviving. Just.
There probably isn’t a parent out there with a son aged between aged 5 upwards who hasn’t heard of the online game Fortnite. To me, I have to say it’s the most boring game in history. Like, you run around wearing strange costumes with a hamburger for a head…right. But, my son like all his mates at school is obsessed with it. And when I say obsessed, I mean like uber obsessed. It’s all he talks about, thinks about and all he wants to do. So, his dad and I limit play time. We thought that was the best way to head off the obsession. I’m not a huge fan of online games anyway, for one I think they’re mind numbing. Secondly, they are dangerous. The idea that my 6 year old can chat to absolute strangers of all ages from all around the world through his headpiece is down right terrifying, am I right? So when the game first came out and Master L begged to play it, I followed a couple of simple steps in order to keep him safe:
- I logged on and played the game myself first. Seems bizarre I know, but it allows me to understand the game, how it works and all its features.
- I changed the privacy settings. Master L plays on Playstation, so his dad was better at this than me as I’m a Playstation/gaming tragic. I literally have no idea how to even drive the things. The last time I played a video game was Super Mario Bros back on Super Nintendo…yikes. However, we changed the settings so that when he was playing with “randoms” the voice function was muted, so he could not hear them nor talk to them. So if some creepy man from the other side of the world wanted to talk to him, he couldn’t hear them.
- Educate your child. Right, so we all know stranger danger right? Well in this modern era, stranger danger doesn’t just take the form of people children meet face to face. More likely, stranger danger will come in the form of online danger. So, teach your child. Educate them that there are no so nice people out there who should be avoided. This worked well in our house. My son has always been super trusting of people, he loves people. While this is a great trait in certain ways, it is also very bad in others. I weighed it up, should I allow him to keep seeing the world as a beautiful rosey place where nothing bad ever happens? Or should I teach him that hey, there is evil in the world that should be avoided at all costs? Well, the answer is rather simple. I sat him down and explained to him that there are nasty people out there who try to talk to young children on the internet. I didn’t need to go into great detail about why they do it, what their motive or end game is because this is just too much for him to digest. I explained instead that some people are rude to little kids or teach them bad words and that was enough for him to understand why I wanted him to steer clear of them.
- Monitor your child’s friends list. Do you know who these people are? Obviously each child has a “username” which makes it impossible to identify them. So I spoke to the mothers of the friends my son said he wanted to play with and I got all of their usernames, that way I could identify each child and approve the friend requests that were coming through.
- Check the profiles of unknown users who are trying to befriend your child. I’ll admit a few came through that my son just accepted without telling me so I viewed their profiles. Turns out because my son was logged into his dads account using his username, some of his dads friends added him. I confirmed that we knew each person there and if we didn’t, that person was immediately blocked. In my opinion any adult who wants to befriend a child they don’t know online has sinister motives. This might be a doom and gloom way of looking at the world but hey, if it keeps my child safe them so be it.
- As mentioned, Master L plays on the Playstation. That Playstation is in the main lounge room of the house. It will remain that way so that I can sit next to him and watch what he is doing. The idea of him sitting on his iPad in his bedroom without any form of monitoring is just plain silly. Be involved in what your child is doing. If they know you are monitoring their every move, they are more likely to play by your rules.
- Set clear rules. No adding random strangers without my permission. Play with mates in “parties” only. Tell me if someone you don’t know tries to talk to you. Have consequences should these rules be broken. Banning the game is like telling my son I’m going to take him right arm away, so that being said he will play by the rules or suffer the consequences.
- Limit the time they are allowed to play. With our busy lives, it is easy to just let them play their Playstation or iPad that little bit longer just to get some work done or a moments peace, you have to think what are the consequences in the long run? We are all guilty of it, I will be the first to admit I have done it. However, I absolutely notice a change in my son’s behaviour when he plays the game too much as opposed to times when I refuse to allow him to play it. Studies have shown that screen time does alter the chemistry in a child’s brain, so try at all costs to limit game time.
Despite all this, to say it has been a smooth run would be a lie. Currently, Fortnite is banned in our house. Why? Because Master L’s behaviour was gradually getting worse and worse. He was falling asleep in class and having random unexplained meltdowns. When we discovered he was waking up at midnight, sneaking into the lounge room to play Fornite for 5 hours before being told to go back to bed, the game was immediately banned. Despite daily protests, it remains that way. Gaming addiction is absolutely real, like any addiction it rules my son’s mind. It is something that we as parents need to be acutely aware of and to manage as best we can as we all know these games aren’t going away in a hurry.
Sometimes I use this time quite productively. Cleaning the house, washing, taking the dogs for a walk. Other times, so exhausted from my busy life, I nap. Yes, I drop the kids off at school and Kinder, I come back home and I climb back into bed for an hour or two. Crazy huh?
To think I used to be ‘bored.’ When now, peeing alone seems like a distant memory. I usually use the powder room toilet because it has a lock on it. But it seems almost instant before the kids are attempting to smash through the door, little fingers are appearing under gap and dogs are sniffing and snorting on the other side. I open the door to two kids, two dogs and sometimes a husband all staring at me like I’ve been lost at sea for years. Oh to be bored once more.
When raising children, you give up so much of yourself. Your life is no longer yours. Your life now belongs to these little beings, tiny little humans who depend on you for absolutely everything. Going to the gym, doing your makeup, getting your hair and nails done, having a coffee or a brunch with a friend takes so much planning its like you’re planning a 6 month tour around Europe.
I have had to book in coffee dates with friends a month or more in advance, save the date in my calendar and set a reminder for myself the day before so I wouldn’t forget. Gone are the days when a quick text to catch up could mean coffee, lunch, dinner and drinks until 3 am without a second thought about school pick up, after-school activities or looking after screaming kids with the worlds worst hangover. Even drinks after work require careful planning, checking hubby’s roster, making sure he does pick up, organising dinner and packing lunches all come into the fray. Life is no longer simple.
FINDING WAYS TO DE-STRESS
Okay, so this sentence seems rather simple but in all honesty, it took me years to realise I needed to take time to myself to cope and to retain my sanity. It took nearly falling apart in order to realise that sometimes I just needed to put myself first.
So, do something for YOU. You give up so much time doing things for others, you totally neglect yourself. Here are some simple tips to de-stress:
Exercise: Whatever form it takes, do it. For me, I love the gym and have taken up running. I have always loved physical exercise and found that it is great for my mental health. After having children and the busy lifestyle that comes with it, I lost this passion. It was too hard, I was too tired or I just didn’t have the time. However, after a scare with my health, I was advised to do cardio exercise at least 3 times a week. I was forced to find time to do it and low and behold, I felt less stressed, felt accomplished and felt like I was doing something for ME.
Being forced to find the time made me realise that I deserved this time and most of all my kids would survive the hour I needed to exercise. For you, it might be taking the dogs for a walk, swimming, walks along the beach, yoga. Whatever form it takes – do it.
New mom? Join a Facebook group and find local walking groups or mothers exercise groups where you can bring bubs along. You’ll be surprised at how many places accommodate new moms.
Park run is also a great initiative and it is located all around Australia. Don’t be fooled by the name, you can also walk it and bring the kiddies along too.
Find something you like doing: For me, I have always loved writing. I started when I was 14 years old and always used it as a form of expression, to find the words when I didn’t know how to verbalise it or simply just to vent on paper. Again, after having children it’s a hobby I stopped. I just didn’t have the time and my brain was so scrambled I just couldn’t.
ecently I’ve started it up again and have re-discovered just how much I love to write. You might enjoy gardening, renovating, reading, arts and crafts. Whatever your passion, find time to do it. Give the kids a hobby or a chore and set aside an hour for yourself. You’ll be surprised just how good it feels to do something you love.
Be more like your husband: You know how they have boys days, pub trips, footy trips, nights away with mates without a glimmer of guilt or worry? Be more like that and do the same. Go for after work drinks with the girls, organise a dinner date childfree, go on a shopping trip or beach day with just your friends. Forget the kids. Hubby might
Do a girls weekend away: Whether you go to the city and stay in a fancy hotel and eat take away, chocolate and drink wine, have a big night on the town drinking and dancing like you’re 20 again or spend the day getting massages and facials at a day spa, enjoy it.
Take this time for yourself, guilt free and do not think about the chaos you’ll walk back into at home when you return. Try not and stress when you get the text message from hubby saying the kids skipped their bath tonight and are eating McDonald’s for dinner, they will survive.
The best gift you can give your kids is a revitalised, relaxed momma whose batteries are fully recharged, so dump the guilt and just do it.
Find time to just be: This is probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Walking away from the housework, the bickering and fighting and the chaos and taking a cuppa tea outside to sit in the sunshine is easier said than done. But I do it. I need it and I own it. Take a book, catch up on your Facebook news feed or just sit and bask in the sunshine.
Whatever it is just relax and breathe. Yes, I have locked the door on my kids and told them to go away and give mommy some time when they come scratching down the door (which they will I promise!). Does this make me a bad mother? Hell no, it makes me a mother aware that I need some me time sometimes and that is okay.
Staying sane whilst raising children is hard. I work in a high-pressure job yet after having children I can safely say that my job is a breeze compared to being at home raising my kids. But one “I love you mommy” or squishy cuddle (as we call them) from my munchkins makes it all worthwhile. After all, we need to make sure we have someone around to look after us when we’re old and wrinkly, god knows we probably won’t be able to do it on our own.
While a lot of the older generation, such as my grandparents scoff at the idea that a child can suffer with anxiety, it is sadly something I have a lot of experience in given my oldest son started showing signs around the age of four.
I myself suffer from anxiety. It is inevitable then that Master L would end up with it also. It still doesn’t stop you feeling saddened and somewhat guilty when your child starts displaying the symptoms of it. It is a condition that is hard to understand, but far more common than you may realise. According to YouthBeyondBlue.com 1 in 14 children aged 4 – 17 experienced anxiety disorder in 2015.
WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE
For Master L, it manifests itself as tantrums, fits of crying and hissy fits when he doesn’t get his own way, negative thoughts and fear of trying something new in case he fails. It has taken me a long time to learn how to deal with it, I googled the shit out childhood anxiety to find out causes (aside from genetics), treatments, supplements…anything that might help alleviate his suffering. Having suffered from anxiety my whole life and only getting a handle on it over the last 5 or so years, I know all too well the fear, confusion and crippling negative thoughts that come with the condition. A constant internal dialogue and uncontrollable bodily reactions such as a raised heartbeat, feeling ill in the stomach and sweating to name a few of the wonderful symptoms that are a daily norm for someone with anxiety.
At one stage Master L’s anxiety was so bad, he cried and told me that he wanted to die. I was heart-broken and at a loss, I never in a million years thought that I would be dealing with this so young. So, I did what I always do and researched, researched and researched. Through my research I discovered that responding to these negative comments “I’m not good enough” “I’m so dumb” “I can’t do anything right” “I’m such a bad kid” and the like actually makes it worse, feeding into the child’s attempts to get attention. The best way to tackle it is to ignore it completely. Easier said than done when your
FINDING SOMETHING TO HELP
So, more research on the google machine and I found a supplement, L-Theanine. Even better, I found it in a relatively inexpensive and nicely flavoured tablet dinosaur tablet making it easy for kids to think it was nothing more than a lolly. Although, I explained it to Master L that it wasn’t a lolly, but a multi-vitamin to help his brain. No need to make the kid feel like something was wrong with him, he has teenage and adult years ahead of him for that.
My ever sceptical hubby said I was insane, that something so cheap and inexpensive wouldn’t work. I doubted it too but had to try. I was in tears at work, losing sleep at night feeling like a was a failure and constantly feeling the overwhelming burden of guilt that I had caused my son to be like this purely through genetics and/or my behaviour.
However, I felt like after a month or so Master L improved. It could’ve been a coincidence, yes. But after running out of the product and waiting for the next shipment to arrive, I noticed Master L regress somewhat. I pointed it out to my hubby who agreed they must be having some effect. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t a miracle cure but it’s definitely tamed the tiger to a degree. So, I ordered buckets of it. I would’ve cleared the shelf of their product to ensure we didn’t run out. And things seemed better. The negative thoughts almost disappeared. His anxiety was ever present but at bay and he seemed happier within himself, happier at school and a more well-balanced kid. Yay. A win to mom.
Fast forward six or so months and life being life, I began to slip. Being incredibly busy at work, having a friend stay with us who was going through relationship troubles and the general business that come with being a working mom with two kids, I became very slack at giving Master L these tablets. And it started to show. He started to act out and become aggressive. He was easily annoyed and clearly unable to handle his emotions. I didn’t twig, instead thinking it was just his age or a phase.
Then one weekend, one of Master L’s best mates wanted a play-date. We owed them one, it was our turn. With hubby
Back home and everything seemed to be travelling along nicely, barring the usual bickering about not sharing and not playing the way the other wanted to. So they head outside to the trampoline (thank christ I think, peace at last!) But soon after the boys end up in a bit of a scuffle and Master L punches his mate in the arm. I witnessed the whole thing and therefore dished out appropriate punishment, put Master L in the shower and sent his mate home.
About ten minutes later, Master L comes out of the shower and tells me he’s a “bad kid and doesn’t want to be alive anymore.” As shocking as this sounds coming from the mouth of a six-year-old, I’ve heard these words before. In my research, I learned that this can be an attention seeking mechanism. It can also be overwhelming anxiety, so much that Master L’s young brain cannot comprehend how he is feeling and doesn’t know how to express it.
At that point, I chose to ignore it, but once he had calmed down I sat down and had a heart to heart with him. I asked him what it meant to die to him. His response was “you become a person who floats in the sky and does nothing” I explained in terms of my mother’s death what it actually meant. I knew, at 6 years old, he could not possibly understand the finality of death nor the impact it has on those left behind.
As I explained to him how much I loved him and how much it broke my heart hearing him say he no longer wanted to be alive, I burst into tears. His little face twisted in shock as he asked me if I was crying because of him. His deeper level of thinking and understanding was so evident, it is no surprise the little bugger suffers from anxiety.
WAYS TO MANAGE IT
- Ignore the negative talk, you are only feeding into it if you give it any attention. As hard as it may seem, the more you acknowledge it the more your child will do it and the negative talk cycle will continue.
- Let the moment pass then sit down and talk to your child, ask them why they are so upset. This shows them you care and allows them to vent. We, as adults do it all the time right? So why can’t our kids? The issues might seem trivial to you, but they could be a massive deal for your child.
- Try supplements, they worked for me so they may work for you too! It’s worth a shot. There are plenty of natural remedies out there to try, as for my child a simple L-Theanine tablet for my son helped settle his out of control emotions. It may or may not work for your child but there are plenty of other options available.
- Research. Read. Understand the condition, especially if you have never experienced it yourself, trust me it’s terrifying at times and I’m an adult. It would be 100 times scarier for a child to try to comprehend.
Researchhelped me to understand behavioursin my son which were frightening and confronting, it gave me a lot of comfortto understand that it was all part of the condition.
- Talk to your doctor, tell them your concerns. They may think that seeing a child psychologist would be beneficial. We are in that process now, to address it further before habits become ingrained.
- DON’T bury your head in the sand. Do not think if you ignore it, it will just go away. It won’t. If you leave it until your child is a teenager to address, it may be too late. Patterns and
behaviourscan already be ingrained by this age, so the earlier you address it the better.
Most of all know you are not alone. Be there for your child and be the best mother you can be, having a mother who is their rock is the best therapy a child could ask for.
In a world full of fake
What many of us fail to realise is that whilst there are 10 perfect photographs with wonderfully smiling, happy children, there could’ve been 100 more photos of dirty, snotty nose, grubby children chucking their 78th tantrum for the day. But, in the social media world we share what we want others to see and herein lies the problem. The problem of perception. The perception of perfection, something you yourself will never achieve. And it can get us moms down on ourselves. We see others allegedly blitzing this parenting thing and we wonder why we are struggling so badly. The reality is, no one and I mean no one finds parenting easy and any mother who says “oh it’s a breeze” is one of those Insta-fake people, too scared to show the world that they are literally hanging on by a mere thread.
Attend any school ground and you’ll spot them, like a flamingo in amongst the plain old ducks, flamboyantly flitting around boasting about how much they’re going to miss their little ones whilst they’re at school. The same mothers who then scurry off to get their nails done, have a latte with friends or wander around the shops in utter blissful peace. So excuse me if I call absolute BS on their “I can’t believe the school holidays are over, what am I going to do without my sidekick…” swan song. Kids are hard work. Damn hard work and we all want a little time to ourselves sometimes.
Take for example me taking my daughter to playgroup. Here was a mom, third child in a pram, two other kids in tow. They were all dressed perfectly, neat hair, lunches packed. She strolled on in with the baby bag fully stocked and the bubs asleep. I couldn’t help but say “wow, how does she do it? I struggle with two and here she is with three….” The answer I received wasn’t one I expected, the reply from her best friend was blunt “with a lot of anxiety and valium….” Oh okay. So again, here is the outward appearance very different to behind closed doors.
Jump on Instagram and scroll though the endless photos of perfection, family bliss with the hashtags to match. Like modern day photoshopping, people are portraying a fake-ness to the world in an effort to show just how wonderful their lives are. Reality is that normal lives don’t like like an Instagram feed. I have always preferred to post just the opposite on Instagram or Facebook. I share with my friends the hilarious parenting fails I face, the utter absurdity that is parenting toddlers. Photographs of my lounge room floor littered with a zillion pieces of lego, faces of my child mid-tantrum or food spread on the floor from the kitchen to the dining room to me is far more interesting. Sure, I’ll put up cute photos of the kids as well but to portray the #mylifeisperfect is just not me. It is not genuine and honestly, anyone who knows me and my parenting style knows that isn’t even close how my daily life goes.
While some of us real “bad” mom’s own it and joke about it, others prefer to hide behind the facade of perfection. The best us other mom’s can do is just be real, know it’s hard and support each other as best we can. So go on, share those imperfect moments, those hilarious parenting fails we all experience. Give everyone a laugh and make your momma friends feel good about the crappy day they may too be having!