Winging It

You could probably safely call me a control freak, with a side of OCD. It’s just who I am, how I’ve always been. I’m a neat freak. I like things in their places. I crave order. I love routine. Change is difficult – it throws me off my game. I’m a planner, down to the smallest details. I hate when plans are derailed. Know what challenges all of that? Having kids, and living life.

We had Little Man’s birthday party Saturday evening. Now,  he is kid #3. I’ve spent sixteen years going crazy over birthday parties – handmade invitations, sleepovers with 13 kids, tea parties, American Girl trips, Pinterested out decorations/cupcakes/games. When he said he wanted a sleepover, I shot it down. First, I’m tapped on the sleepover birthday parties, seriously., and it was the night before I was running a 15K race. No go, my friend. His second idea was a trampoline park. Oh yeah! 1) I love any party that’s not at my house; 2) I wouldn’t’ have to provide any entertainment; 3) Food and drinks were included; 4) Did I mention it wasn’t at my house?

And so let’s just say, I was purely focused on the detail of getting the kids there, bringing them home, and the cake we were allowed to bring in. Have I mentioned things have been a little crazy around our house lately, and that I had a nine-mile race to run the next morning? See where this might be headed?

First off, Little Man, while having good friends, does not have a ton of friends, so his party was small. Spouse was at a golf tournament, so I was the solo parent. The trampoline park set aside three tables for us in their party area – THREE! We all fit, with room to spare, at one table. I put the cake and gifts on another table just so we wouldn’t look so pathetic. We also didn’t have any decorations. He isn’t a little kid, so there wasn’t a theme involved, and honestly, decorations never even crossed my mind. While the kids jumped, I sat there, by myself, at a huge, empty table, no decorations, not a ton of gifts, no other adults. #loser

I also didn’t bring any extra snacks or drinks. I knew pizza and soda were coming, and we were only there for two hours. So imagine how amazing I felt when the kids came back to the party area looking for hydration? I gave them a few dollars to get waters out of the machine as our sodas weren’t coming for another half hour.

Then it hit me….I had cake, but I hadn’t brought enough candles. neither did I have anything with which to light the candles I did have. I didn’t have any cake plates, nor forks, nor napkins. Even more, I didn’t have a cake cutter. The kids figured out something was going on, and I was honest with them. They just started laughing. So did I. Stress broken. We joked about using one of the paper pizza plates to cut the cake. When we did sing, “Happy Birthday”, a few of the kids held their fingers over the cake as imaginary candles.

They all helped clean up when we were ready to go. I checked out while they headed out to load up the car. When I arrived at my car, the Princess asked if the cake cutter the park had loaned us was ours to take. They’d efficiently, in their cleaning and gathering, packed the cake cutter in the cake box. Hysterics ensued. P took the cake cutter back into the trampoline park, from which I’m fairly sure we’ve been blackballed. And oh man, did we all laugh on the way home. I apologized for being a loser, overwhelmed mom, and for messing it all up. One of the boys said, “This is the strangest, but most fun, birthday party I’ve ever been to,” and one of the girls said, “I wish my mom were more like you. This is fun.” Hah!

Not one of them cared. Not one of them felt the party was ruined by my phoning it in Everyone had a good time. Everyone had enough to eat. Everyone jumped and had a good time.  That’s all that matters right?

I’m learning you don’t always have to plan to the last detail, especially when it comes to kids.  Sometimes things turn out better when you just wing it, rather than stressing about every little thing. And often, when you admit you’ve messed up, and are able to laugh at yourself, everyone around you will have your back. I can’t control everything. I certainly can’t control everyone. I’ve learned that while my need for order, control, organization, and routine is okay, it isn’t the end of the world when things don’t go the way I planned. Sometimes,  you get a better result when you epicly “fail.”

Control

I’ve said it before…dealing with E’s issues makes me much more aware of my own issues. Or maybe it’s made my issues return/rise to the surface. Whatever. I’m a control freak. I’m probably also somewhat OCD. I need things a certain way. I exhaust myself doing things other household members are fully capable of doing because I have a need to have them done a certain way. I crave order. I’m most comfortable when everything is in its place.

You know that commercial where the mom is with her son at all times, answering questions on his behalf in class, fixing his hair as he talks with  his friends, and so on? I could so be that mom. In my mind, I know best how to manage E. I know his triggers. I know what to do when he starts to go sideways. I know how to calm him. I know how to rein him back in. I know how to get him to do what he must even when he’s pushing back. I know how to soothe him, how to get him to eat, how to get him to re-focus. Me. That’s my job. I’m his mom. I’d protect him all day every day if I could. I know it would be the worst thing for me, and for him. The control freak in me screams out numerous times throughout the day, “You’re not doing it right!” It’s an uncomfortable feeling for me. It’s good for him though. It’s good for me to be forced to let go.

I’ve had a few suggestions to switch schools for him, or home/partially-home school him.  Trust me, these thoughts have been banging around my brain for a couple of years. We are open to the thought that traditional school may not always be the right answer for him. We also get that with his co-dependence, and my control stuff, home schooling would probably not be the best answer for either of us. We need the time apart. He needs to learn to learn from other people. He needs to learn other ways to calm, re-focus, settle, and manage than just leaning on mom. I have to allow others to take on a care-giving role in his life. For now, he’s in a safe place with trusted people. He’s in a good place. He’s in a caring, loving place. And every day, I learn to let go a little more my need for control

Cups

When Ry was a toddler and P an infant, I had a breakdown/meltdown. I was an exhausted mom of two kids under 2, pushing myself beyond the limits to be the perfect mom, wife, and homemaker. And one night, I fell completely apart. The proverbial straw was a stack of 32 oz plastic cups which would not fit into our dishwasher and needed to be hand-washed. Seeing them sitting on the counter at the end of a very long day pushed me over the edge. It was very apparent I was overwhelmed and much of it I brought upon myself. I reached out, and found a counselor to take me on. I only saw her six times, but it was enough for me to understand what was going on, and to learn how to better manage. The first thing that counselor had me do was to throw away those plastic cups. What a novel concept, right?

I’ve been a perfectionist my entire life. My mom gave up making my bed for me when I was about six years old. One night, upset that my “sheets weren’t right,” I stripped and remade my entire bed, at 11pm. I thrived when things were in their places, when there was order in chaos, when there was structure and certainty. When those things were not there, I struggled, I became emotional, and overwhelmed. As a child, I was unable to recognize what was going on, what I needed, and how to address those needs, as well as how to  keep it in check.

I still have an inner need for perfection. The difference now being I am much more forgiving of myself, much more realistic as to what will be, and capable of recognizing when I’m letting that desperate need for order, structure, and perfection overwhelm.

Last year, E’s therapist asked who at home was the OCD perfectionist. I sheepishly admitted my guilt. I thought I had been doing such a good job of keeping that from affecting the household and children. Apparently, I was not as successful as I thought. She told me the perfectionism was reaching Ethan, tapping into and increasing his anxieties. Guilt tore through me. I thought I had come so far from that night of the plastic cups. I thought I was so much better at tossing them out, literally and figuratively.

In the past year, I’ve worked very hard, again, at letting myself not be that perfectionist. While it stresses me out, I have to be okay with laundry sitting on the table for a day or two. I have to be okay with someone else putting dishes in the dishwasher, even if they’re not put in the “right way.” I have to be okay with someone else doing some grocery shopping, even if they might not get the “right” brands. I have to be okay with letting the kids have some control of their bedrooms, even if that means they are not as clean and organized as I would prefer. For my sanity, and to help keep my issues from affecting Ethan’s anxiety increasing, I have to be okay with things not always being in their places, with things not being perfect, with our home not looking like a model home, with outfits that might not match completely, and with a child who will wear his favorite pair of sweatpants every single day if allowed.

I looked at my kitchen this morning, and felt my anxiety rising. I felt close to tears….there they were…a stack of plastic cups waiting to be washed, the dishwasher unable to hold them all. At the same time, I was seeing posts from those “perfect” moms…or the ones I perceive as thinking of themselves as perfect. I started to get that feeling again…the feeling of failure because I’m not perfect, the sense of my own insecurities and self-judgement, the defensiveness that typically comes when I see or hear *those* moms (and granted I realize this is my perception of how they see themselves and me).

I am not perfect. My house is not always the cleanest. The laundry is not always put away right from the dryer. Towels hang crookedly on their racks. The upstairs hallway has a few half-built Lego creations laying around. My bed awaits clean sheets. The walls are banged up. The car is full of sand from our beach day Saturday. There’s some cat hair on the couch. I don’t cook gourmet meals every night and am perfectly fine with one (or sometimes two, depending upon how busy we are with the kids’ activities) frozen waffle night a week. Does it make me a little crazy? Do I still have mini-meltdowns? Certainly. But for my sanity, and to help my babies see it is okay to NOT be perfect, I have to be okay with all of it. So throw those dang plastic cups away. There’s freedom there.