About siobhanccarr

Spunky mother of three, lover of comfort food and b-rated cult movies.

Powerless Parenting

20634996_133498810501613_3056429470933057536_nI have the blessing of being mom to three amazing, quirky kids. My oldest is nine, not biologically mine, born of my heart rather than my uterus. My middle is eight, fiercely imaginative and one of the kindest souls I have ever met. My youngest is two, he’s rambunctious and the star of my first post, “Suicidal Toddlers,” if that gives you any hint to his personality. Through the last eight years of being their mom I have discovered a lot about parenting. Most notable is that no matter how much control I think I have, they’ll be the first ones to remind me that I don’t. Nothing like arguing with a toddler to teach you that you have no say in how things will happen.

I find that parenting is much like playing frisbee. You put all of your energy and all of your intention into the throw. You spend five times the amount of effort on the wind up; preparing for it, aiming the jejectory, paying attention to the wind. Doing everything in your power to make sure this is going to be perfect, but the moment that it leaves your hand, all you can do is just sit back and watch. At the end of the day, no matter how practiced you are, once it leaves the fingers you have no control on where it lands.

 

And it’s not just parenting that relates to that, I find comparables to that metaphor within almost every aspect of my life. I was told years ago, in order to live a happy full life of substance I needed to get out of the results business. And whereas I had no idea what that meant back then, I’m beginning to develop an understanding of that concept now. To me, what that means is that I am responsible for investing time and energy into the parts of my life that matter to me. I am responsible for all that I do in this life, but I am not responsible for how things turn out. I am not in charge of the results of my intentions. Which, looking at my track record is probably a good thing.

 

Once I let go of that frisbee, whether it lands in the cautious yet determined catch of my nine-year old’s hands or it goes flying over the fence, it’s not up to me. Parenting is a lot like that. I do my best to put my time in, pay attention to outside influences, spend five times the amount of effort into the wind up then I would ever want to spend on the release, but at a certain point I have to go hands off. Let them fly or fail or fall; however they will. And if they do fall, you don’t blame the frisbee. You can try to make excuses of the wind, but you just pick it up, brush it off, and try again. Believe me when I tell you, that level of resilience that I’m speaking of is not always my forte. Though it is the goal, it is what I aspire to be, because it is what I aspire to instill in them. I would never consider myself to be a helicopter mom, not that I really enjoy that phrasing. I am relatively hands off. Because I’m not raising children, I’m raising future adults. To a lesser extent I am raising the future. I’m raising…who knows, contributors to great things, to terrible things, future spouses, parents, teachers, politicians. The best advice I could give, if any, which I’m very trepidatious about because parenting is not one size fits all, is this:

 

Every situation is different, every child is different; what works in my little nest of misfits may not work in yours. What allows my family to thrive could cripple someone else’s. So the advice that I offer is generalized and in no way original or profound. Merely a collection of tips I have been given from moms that I admire.

 

  1. Wear Parenting Like A Loose Garment

 

When plans change or the status quo shifts, (because what worked yesterday may not work today) know that it’s ok. Go with the flow. Yes, you’re probably going to be late…to everything, but that’s alright. You might miss the first five minutes of every movie you go to for the next ten years, but at least you’re not missing out on their childhood.

 

      2.) Kids Crave Boundaries

 

Hell, humans in general crave boundaries, but since this post is about the mini of the humans, I’ll keep the focus on them. My oldest came into my life at three years old and boundaries unfamiliar to his vocabulary, which was quite large for a three-year old. He has always been incredibly intelligent, but back then, when it came to emotional development or the full spectrum of social skills, he was very much delayed. Part of that had to do with, at the time, undiagnosed mental health issues and learning disabilities. I only experienced my daughter, the freak of nature that she is, being self-containable from birth and only requiring a stern look to alter even the worst of defiant behaviors. So Gunner gave me a run for my money to say the least. He also taught me almost everything I know about parenting. My daughter made me a mother, but he taught me what it meant to be a mom.

 

When it comes to boundaries I have found that there are a few things to keep in mind.

 

Expectations, don’t set a bar that can’t be reached. This is definitely a struggle for me, but I do my best to remember that they’re kids, so childish behavior is part of the game. I also like to ask myself often, “Is this age appropriate?”

 

Consistency, when you say something, mean it. If no doesn’t mean no, then all trust of anything that you say is questionable. When a line does get crossed, there has to be a proportional consequence.

 

Mom guilt, don’t buy in. All it does is waste time and energy that you would much rather spend on them or self-care. Which brings me to my third.

 

3.) Self-Care

 

 Self-care is non-negotiable. Like most moms, when it comes to the care of my kids, I find it very black and white, but when it comes to the care of me, there was all kinds of gray. Most of which just translated to, it didn’t happen. Everyone’s heard the expression, “you have to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.” Logically, it makes sense; I can’t take care of anyone if I pass out. But somehow, as moms, as people, as woman especially, we neglect this logical concept that we can’t care for others if we don’t care for ourselves first. So, no matter what shape it takes, make a date or space to spend time on whatever makes your heart glow. Something that benefits only you. Don’t buy into that inner voice screaming that you’re being selfish. Self-care is NOT selfish, it’s self-love.

It’s a necessity to being a productive person, let alone mom. We’ve all seen that person who will do anything for everyone else, running on fumes, hasn’t stopped to look at a mirror let alone take any time for herself. We’ve all been her, hell I am her more times than not and will be again in the future. There are easy steps to make sure that I don’t get to that point, because when I do take the time to do my nails, take my baths, stay up a little later and dye my neglected roots, or just spending 20 minutes writing instead of doing the dishes – my patience is better, I’m more resilient in this ongoing Frisbee game of parenting. Everyone does better when Mom does well. And I think it’s really important to demonstrate that to our kids, that it’s ok to take time for yourself. That the relationship that you have with yourself is one worth investing in. I do not claim to be any kind of expert, especially when it comes to parenting. These are simply the things that I do that result in the days I want to remember.

 

My last final tip,

 

 

4.) Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

 

I accepted a long time ago that at some point in their childhood I will f#$k up my kids lives in some unique and special way. However, I don’t have to obsess over whether or not I’m doing “that thing;” that moment that they will talk about for years to come in hundreds of counseling sessions, that I’m not doing that right now. Be easy on yourself, you’re doing great. Even if you don’t feel it. Especially if you don’t feel it. If you think you’re messing up, if you think you are the world’s worst mom, hold solace in the fact that you care enough to work this hard at the world’s hardest job. Here’s to always being outnumbered.

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Imperfectly yours,

Siobhan

 

 

 

 

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I’ve lived through too much to do fine.

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Two weeks into dating Casey, when both of us thought she was about to head off to Asheville we took an amazing date day. Spent the whole day together, exploring Buffalo on a whim. Played pool, walked around Delaware Park, to finish this beautiful day she took me to the observation tower at Canalside for the first time. We were standing up there and I was recounting the last two weeks and how this woman who I barely knew started this change in me. For the first time in years I was thinking about creating again. Building things, painting, writing. As we’re looking out at Buffalo this thought made its way past my lips which has since developed into a bit of a mantra. I have lived through too much to do fine. It’s hard to express how true that statement is, but at some point in the last five years that life was what happened to me.

 

After I got out of my marriage, I think I was so content with being free that I felt as though I should just keep my head down and be grateful for what I’ve got. A bit of a spit in the face when you think about all that I’ve gone through. There is nothing wrong in my opinion with taking a breather after any major life transition, but this encroaching apathy was climbing up to debilitating levels.

 

Which is partly why the ball that Casey had started rolling was so exhilarating. Having what felt like its own center of gravity, it began to attract more of the same. This blog for instance, inspired by Becca, the co-creator, and her fearlessness when it came to taking control of her life and her future. Venturing off to make her own business instead of succumbing to self-doubt. The universe has always surrounded me with people like that, if I take enough care to pay attention. Those who don’t accept what life has dealt them, but realize that life is what you make it. That the dreams that you have are only limited by yourself.

 

The first thing I ever wanted to be, other than a Spice Girl, I was seven years old and we in the soup aisle at the Grocery store. My mom asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I told her that I wanted to be a storyteller, but through the inevitability of childhood I began to to believe that anything in the creative realm was a hobby. I began to buy into the opposite of what we tell our children; that you can’t be whatever you want to be.

Rather you get a respectable job, work hard, clock in, clock out, get married, have kids, do the whole thing. That mentality is what led me to get married at 20 years-old. Now of course I didn’t go about it in the aforementioned order. Nevertheless, it is that thought process that tells you that this is what you have to do; that there is this picture that you have to fit into. A picture has a way of turning out to be just like everyone else. When I was 5 years old the concept of being cookie cutter was the farthest thing from my mind. I wanted to be extraordinary.

 

Unfortunately I chose to surround myself with people that were comfortable in complacency; what a horrifying thought. That thought, that picture, it wasn’t my dream it wasn’t what I aspired to. It was just what I thought I was supposed to do. And when I got my carefully orchestrated picture, the husband, staying at home with 2.5 kids (not that there is anything wrong with that) maybe if it was in a healthier nature, sure. But allowing my creativity to die allowing complacency to become comfortable, along with other aspects of my unhealthy relationship brought me to a lobotomized like state of step-ford wife. Suicidal thoughts once again became an unwanted house guest that I couldn’t shake.

 

I no longer accept orbiting with those that are ok with fine. This life is what you make it. My life is what I make it. And I’m nothing special, just a poor white girl born raised in central Florida. Teenage mom, college dropout. Like I said, nothing special, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be extraordinary. I found out last night that I was picked for a writing job that I interviewed for. There is something affirming about that. It’s one of those moments that makes you wonder what the rest is gonna look like. I don’t want to even dream about the next chapter, because I know that I’ll sell myself short. So instead I’ll just continue to push forward; taking every opportunity that I manifest. Committing to an extraordinary life. Because I have survived things that should have killed me. I have come out the other side (albeit a little worse for wear) from terrors that most people only witness in nightmares.

I have lived through too much to do fine.Blog Banner_712_gray_res1

My Gilmore Girl

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One of my biggest regrets to date was marrying my ex-husband when my daughter was too young to have a say in the decision. Before that union it was just the two of us, me and my girl. As a young, single mom with a beautiful, baby girl it was pretty easy to see us as the start of real life Gilmore Girls. I did my best to protect that special bond with her, even during the lowest parts of my marriage and the absolute blessing of my two sons. Unfortunately I didn’t always succeed in investing as much time in that bond as she deserved. After “the split” I viewed this new chapter as an opportunity to recommit to the individual relationships I have with all three of my children. Especially the little girl who taught me how to be a mom when I barely knew how to be an adult.

 

When I began to fall for my incredible girlfriend Casey, one of the first conversations I had with the brood was expressing to them that this was an “us” decision. I wanted to make sure that I learned from my first mistake and actively took to heart the fact that anyone that’s dating me is also dating them. When the bigs (my two oldest) and I sat down for a family meeting regarding the possibility of Casey moving in I empowered them with the freedom to always express to me any misgivings they felt. That if they felt uncomfortable at anytime with this new situation to come to me immediately. So when my sweet little Raven cuddled up to me one night and reminded me of this conversation I was nervous, but all ears.

 

“You told us that we should tell you if we ever have bad feelings about you and Casey, right?” Raven cautiously questioned. With my heart in my throat but my voice tempered, I assured her and asked for her to elaborate. Raven went on to tell me that she missed us, her and I. That she felt as though I didn’t have time to hangout with her ever since Casey moved in. Knowing she was probably right I sated my desire to self-criticize, and instead made a date. Tuesday nights would now be girls night, full of her choice of mindless television and self-care.

 

This week it was Project Mc2 and silver sparkle nail polish for her and bright red on me. Let’s start off with her television choice, this particular Netflix Original is about a group of teenage agents who work for an all-female secret spy network, so far so good. Actually, in all honesty it was pretty good as far as kids shows go. In one scene where the focus was on the team member whose specialty is combining chemistry and cooking, Raven told me how she wants to be a scientist when she grows up. When asked what kind of science she was interested in, my seven-year-old responded with Chemistry. Unsurprised by the coincidence I inquired further and she explained that she wanted to make things. I questioned if she meant inventor instead and her rebuttal was that she didn’t want recreate things that already existed but rather she wanted to create completely new things out of nothing. That she wanted to do science magic. This back and forth is a large contributor as to why I am now a fan of this show.

 

With the final credits rolling up the screen, freshly painted nails fully dry, and the clock nearing 9:30, I directed her to finish her chocolate milk and scurry off to bed. As she leaned in for a goodnight hug and kiss she stopped short looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you for listening.” There are those few moments where all of my self-doubt and internal self-deprecation have no choice but to shut the hell up; this was a big one. I know that I will never do this whole parenting thing perfect, nor will I ever be able to go back and alter past decisions, but at least if I can hold on to those four words expressed by one of the kindest creatures I have ever known, there’s a chance we might be doing alright.

Ten things I don’t hate about PTSD

I was officially diagnosed with PTSD a year and a half ago, but for the better part of the last decade that four letter word has been mentioned to me by more than a handful of mental health professionals. Like most people who receive this news I spent a while in denial, after that I was ashamed, and now I split my time between neutral and pissed off. Pissed off at the symptoms that keep me feeling broken.

A few weeks back I was enjoying one of those bad days. It was the first one for some time so this one in particular was kicking my ass. In an attempt to find some solace I spoke to a friend, one of those mentor types, and he had a peculiar suggestion. He empathized with the self-pity cycle surrounding all the downright shitty attributes to my specific mental quirks, going as far as to comment how easy it would be to come up with ten things I HATE about PTSD right off the cuff. Then he inquired if I had ever thought about the positive side to it. Clearly seeing the mixture of confusion and anger growing on my face he elaborated. See he believes, as do I that everything that exists in the material world has a sense of duality to it. Under that logic if there is a negative to something there must be a positive as well. Therein lied my challenge, to come up with ten good things about my PTSD… so here goes.

Ten good things about PTSD…shit:

  1. I always know how many exits there are in any given room and I have probably already visualized multiple different disasters or violent events and which escape route would be the best for each.
  2. I have an incredibly fine tuned gut when it comes to people. I can tell without even having a conversation with someone but by hearing them speak, watching them move across a space, and their facial features as they express different emotions whether or not they are likely to be safe.
  3. That ability to read people has given me a talent in picking out the best people, the gems amongst the coal. With very little difficulty I am able to find these remarkable humans that possess a level of genuine sincerity that is to be admired.
  4. I have about the same information and working knowledge about grounding exercises as most clinical physicians.
  5. This gives me a unique ability for helping people who may be too scared to go to one yet.
  6. It grants me quite a transparent and raw approach to parenthood, I have conversations with my kids that I think most moms would probably be intimidated having. Because my life in run on extremes. When it comes to communicating with other humans it’s either absolute surface or let me show you my soul and see if you understand. There’s not much in between. It allows me a very beautiful relationship with those kids.
  7. I have incredibly fast reflexes. Whether it comes to avoiding car accidents or catching a child moments before their cute little face meets sidewalk; unfortunately the racing heartbeat afterwards is less than enjoyable, but se la vie.
  8. Due to the gratuitous amount of trauma therapy I am painfully aware of the importance of self-care, I have a very in tune relationship with myself. I guess that’s always the upside to being crazy if you’re actually attempting to take care of it, or work on it, or just survive you tend to pay attention to things that other people probably don’t have to. Like actively altering your self-talk to make sure that it’s positive or ensuring that you don’t go longer than a week without taking a shower even if you don’t want to. Like making yourself bubble baths even when the idea of sitting in one sounds awful, but so does everything else. So you draw the bath and you light the candles and you turn on whatever music seems enjoyable or at least the most tolerable and you just sit there trying your best just to sit, even if it’s just for ten minutes.
  9. You are never bored even when you want to be. Your brain is always going, always thinking. Upside of that is with practice and focus you can turn the ever racing thoughts into creative things. Which means even as an adult you have an incredibly powerful imagination.
  10. You’re not alone. Even though you feel that way. When I was diagnosed I was in denial for a really long time. I kept repeating over and over in my head that I didn’t have that traumatic of a life. I didn’t really tell anyone for a while, not even those in my immediate support network. And it wasn’t until I just happened to be driving in the car with this woman I knew, not that well but we were friendly. Out of nowhere she mentions that she has PTSD and like a kid almost giddy I responded with “So do I!” There is something really beautiful about finally being able to talk to some other person about the shadow people who you see on occasion when things get bad. And to not have them look at you with this twisted face of confusion and want to be compassion, but the truth is if you don’t live it, if you haven’t felt it and you don’t know it; you have no idea what it’s like. But when you open yourself up, you realize that you’re not alone. When you finally find other people that do get it, your brain doesn’t have to feel like a cage anymore. All those strange quirks that you have, the ones that you would never want to admit in public just become simple jokes between friends.