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Getting Back To The Roots Of Our Life
Our family is in a huge transition right now. It's stressful and overwhelming yet feels like it's exactly how it should be and it's not to be rushed. But it seems that slowing down is not what we are allowed to do anymore. My husband is in Europe right now for business and he texted me today (bedtime on Sunday our time, Monday morning for him) and said that something about being in (Western) Europe makes him feel like we are doing it all wrong. Not our family per say, but the US as a whole. I couldn't agree more. We are failing ourselves big time and we are getting so far away from what we really need as a society it's not even funny. Just what we are doing to our food alone is making me feel like I'm going insane most of the time. Many European countries have banned GMO foods yet we are pumping them out faster than the 1940's could get doctors to endorse cigarettes for magazine ads!
I have been feeling for a few years now that I need to do something totally drastic in order to preserve the innocence of my family and protect them from the negative energy our society is producing at a rapid pace. This feeling inspired me to get rid of my Facebook account*. I wrote about that here. And it's really making me feel like I'm a black sheep when it comes to other people, particularly other moms. I really felt it this past year with my daughter being in kindergarten. We go to a public school but it's ranked very high and has won all sorts of distinguished honors for a California public school. Originally, when we were looking for a house this was our biggest draw - a great school district. Well, we are in one of the top in the state, where all of the elementary schools including the middle school in our district are California Distinguished schools, and the high school ranks right up there as a top performing school as well. What I learned very quickly what this actually meant (for our school and Principal anyway), is that the Principal's main focus is going to be keeping scores up at all cost. This is not necessarily a good thing because the amount of stress it puts on the staff, the teachers, the students and the families is horrible. However, it seemed at times I was the only parent who was frustrated by this. More for another post for another time because I can already feel my blood pressure rising and it's not good for the baby. In short, we were very unhappy with our first (official) year of school - and we were only half day as a kindergartner. I saw my very bright, creative, imaginative, adventurous child become a test taking, homework doing zombie by about the second/third month of school. Her entire year was centered around doing over an hour of homework each night of the week and taking multiple tests on multiple subjects every week. I might need to remind you that she was only 5, and not 15 getting ready to apply to college. Thanks to good 'ol Common Core Standards.
When I was in kindergarten we took naps, played with play-dough everyday, played with a million wooden blocks, played dress up and kitchen and lots of other make-believe games and basically were encouraged to not eat the paste. I know 2 year olds who are in all day "preschool" programs who would look at my kindergarten experience as a 5 year old and roll their eyes and call it baby-ish. Back in my day my own child might as well have been a third or fourth grader with what she was expected to do at 5. Is this really progress though? Is this the magic solution for our schools? And my child is bright. I'm not just saying that because she is my child. A retired elementary school teacher we know refers to her as gifted and even her own teacher told us how smart she is. I can only imagine how stressed out I'd feel if my child was one of the many kids who were falling behind in her class. So many of those kids were just slipping through the cracks and if the parents don't step up and practically dedicate their entire lives to their child's education they are going to keep slipping because the teachers are too overworked with trying to keep up with Common Core to get every kid caught up. Besides the fact there isn't any money for classroom aids so they are totally reliant on volunteer parents. The teachers are just doing what they can to cast a wide enough net to get as many kids as they can but the ones who are slipping are slipping at a rapid pace because there just isn't the time there once was to get them caught up during class time. How can parents who both work full time jobs keep up? I'm very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom but even with that flexibility I felt completely overwhelmed to get everything done. How is this progress?
Throughout the year I saw my child's bright light start to diminish in ways I could see becoming a permanent thing if exposed long enough and this was absolutely not OK with me. It brings me to tears just thinking about it. Our relationship took a drastic change for the worse and I found that I was no longer able to be the happy, positive mom who encouraged her to frolic in nature looking for cool bugs, paint with water colors for hours on end or explore a tiny imaginative world of make believe with her Calico Critters and Lego's. Something a 5 year old should still be doing on a regular basis. We simply didn't have enough hours in our day. She didn't hardly have any play time because it was all taken up by school work and as a 5 year old, this should not be the norm. And we were only going to school from 10:10-2:30! In first grade she is supposed to go from 8:30-3:30. Or is it 3:00? I don't remember. I've blocked it out since we're smack dab in the middle of summer vacation.
My mission this summer was to find my child again. To find myself again. To make my husband want to be around me again. To reclaim the happy-go-lucky pure blissful happiness my toddler felt before the stress of school plagued our family. He didn't understand why he was having more and more tantrums, but I do. I felt the same way but wasn't as free to display my emotions as he was. My mission was to repair the very damaged relationship my daughter and I developed during the school year where I became a prison warden who was a slave to the clock and the day of the week and the box I needed to fill in on the homework log. Before I became a lunch making, paper filing, homework forcing, flashcard flinging, classroom volunteering, PTA fundraising, room mom maniac who was constantly exhausted and always running late yelling like a drill Sargent to get out the door regardless of how early I woke up or how much prep I did the night before.
I don't like that mom very much. She was a tired, frazzled, constantly screaming, miserable person to be around and frankly, my kids hated her. I hated her whenever I saw her in the mirror. I think of her now and want to tell her to chill the fuck out - but I couldn't back then. Our life as we knew it wouldn't allow for it. It was an unhappy, dark time in our lives and this was only one school year. Supposedly the easiest one yet!
The only thing that kept running through my mind on a constant basis was, "somethings gotta change. We can't live like this."
Then we got pregnant with Baby Pickle. (That is the nickname our kids have given the baby.) BP is already this beaming light shining brightly into our lives exposing the dust bunnies and the clutter and forcing us to rethink, reexamine and regroup all the while bringing in more love and happiness.
It's a bit easier to refocus on the positive since it's summertime and as you know, the living is easy. But we really are trying to get back to what matters to us. We're sleeping in, not planning much for our days, keeping less of a schedule and my daughter is taking a science and nature camp at the nature center, something she is passionate about. We are spending many of our days at the local water park (we have season passes so that makes it easier), or the little wadding pool at the park by my parents house. We are also trying to have picnics in the park as much as possible and eat a lot of meals outside when we are home. This does make it a bit tough considering our neighbors are outside chain smokers and their patio is literally about 10 feet from our kitchen, but again, I can't really go into it because the baby doesn't appreciate the rise in blood pressure. So there are times where we'll just get everything settled and we'll start eating and we smell their smoke sending us back inside. But whenever we can, we eat outside. But boy living next to constant day and night chain smokers really makes me hate smokers. I try to be the type of person who doesn't hate anybody. I'm usually very supportive of people's life choices but I can honestly say that I think smoking is one of the most vile habits on the planet. If I met you and you are a smoker I wouldn't necessarily hate you as a person, but I would absolutely hate the habit you have since it doesn't just affect you and that would probably keep me from wanting to be around you if you smoked in front of me and/or my kids. If your habits only affected you it wouldn't bug me because those are your personal choices. However, once I have to start rearranging my life around your need for nicotine, that is when my blood starts to boil and my hackles go up. I just can't handle it.
Wow, I didn't realize I had so much pent up hostility raging through my veins right now. I guess it's good that I'm writing this post then. It's been a while since I've posted anything. The stress cloud we've been living in has kept me from doing a lot of things I once enjoyed, like writing. While I'm at it, can we talk about the paper waste that is going on in schools? Holy cow! Can we eliminate some of that please?! Trees are dying over here people. I don't need a reminder flier sent home about the reminder flier that was sent yesterday about yet another fundraiser the school is having. We all have an electronic device stapled to our eyeballs 24/7, please use that instead of so much paper! But there are many positives right now too. We're having a baby! We found a super awesome midwife and a great doula and are prepping for another home/water birth like we had for baby #2. It was such a positive, life changing experience I couldn't imagine bringing this baby into the world any other way.
Like I said, our life is in a huge transition right now and major changes are underfoot. I'm inspired by living simply and embracing what drives us to be happy and living our passions. Right now we don't have all of the answers and some things will totally be out of our control, but we're open to changes as well as insisting on changes, so it will be an interesting year to say the least.
You can read about my beautiful water birth with baby #2 here and here.
*BTW, this August will be a year since I deleted my Facebook account and it was a great decision. No regrets and no looking back.
It feels good to get back on the horse. Enjoy your summer and don't forget to slow down! If you need a few ideas here is my Summer Bucket List from a few years ago to inspire you.