Wouldn’t life be grand if we were surrounded by sunshine and puppy dogs all the time? If we all lived with a soundtrack of positivity memes floating around in our head maybe we would all be in an eternal state of bliss? Maybe?
Life doesn’t work like that.
Sometimes life is shit. Let’s face it. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to see the rainbow all you can see are the clouds.
In order to appreciate the good parts of life you have to experience the bad.
Part of my job as a parent is to help my children learn to handle some of the not-so-pleasant parts of life. The best way to learn how to overcome some of life’s obstacles is to face them. Once you realize that something won’t actually kill you, it becomes less scary. Once you become less afraid the world opens up.
As hard as it will be for me to watch, my kids have to struggle. They have to fall down so that they can learn to get back up.
I’ve learned my most important, most resonating life lessons from some of the toughest struggles that I’ve survived.
My first major heartbreak felt debilitating in the moment. I cried what felt like a lifetime of tears. After it was all over and I had ended that chapter of my life, I gained an immense amount of strength. It taught me what I wanted out of life and what I deserved in a partner. It taught me never to settle. Heartbreak isn’t pleasant, but once my kids experience it for the first time, they will never be afraid to leave a situation in which they aren’t happy.
I grew up feeling as though I had to be the best at everything. It was exhausting! In grade 9 I failed math. I FAILED! I failed, and my world didn’t explode. I have still moved on to be somewhat successful, even though I had to take grade 9 algebra more than once. We aren’t all good at everything, and that’s okay. My kids should learn to find their passion and to give it their all, but they should also be okay when they just aren’t great at something. Failure can help you become resilient, work hard and find your path. My children won’t know the satisfaction of success unless they have felt the sting of failure.
When I didn’t make the basketball team, when a boy didn’t like me, and even now as an adult when I write something that others think is terrible. It’s all rejection. Each time it stings. Each time I pick myself up and try again. This week I attended a conference where I heard a quote that is really sitting with me: “If you need to be liked, you are weak.” I have spent way too many years needing to be liked. I hope my kids can learn to follow their heart and not give a fig what people think of them.
One of the lessons I have taken away from some of my own difficult life moments is that the source of so many issues is lack of communication. Relationships with friends, family members and romantic partners have been permanently damaged because one of us wasn’t willing or able to talk about what was bothering us. I want my kids to learn to talk about what has hurt them or made them angry. That sounds much easier than it is. It can be uncomfortable and awkward at best. But guess what? Each time they do it, it will become much easier.
Facing the struggles in life can be debilitating when you are in them. It can often feel as though your world is ending. Yet it’s overcoming these struggles, getting back up when you’ve fallen, that help make you happy and successful.
Someone recently told me that this generation of children are going to be the first generation who don’t do better than their parents. I disagree. If I can help my kids find their strength, to never be afraid of following their hearts, and to try again if they aren’t happy with the path their lives have taken, then I think they will be a true success.
The rage bubbled up from a dark place deep inside me about three days into the experience. It reared its ugly head as a result of the fear. The fear of learning that my first child had a condition that occurs in only 1 in 5,000 births. It came when I stood over my baby right after he had endured hours and hours of surgery. I looked down, unable to touch him, his face black and blue from the bruising and I screamed inside. The rage became all mixed up with the fear and was boiling over inside, screaming to get out.
It was my first experience with mum rage.
It was a symptom of the PTSD I was dealing with and once I had dealt with the PTSD I figured the rage would no longer exist.
Cut to a few years later.
I was running on no sleep. Dinner was burning in the oven, a toddler was screaming in a fit of toddler rage and I tripped on one of the billion toys that was littered across the floor while racing to the baby who had been woken by the toddler tantrum.
I felt the rage bubbling up. I stood up and screamed “SHUT UPPPPPPP!!”
Okay; I didn’t scream it out loud but I did scream it in my head.
I felt crazy. How on earth could I feel angry? They are babies. They aren’t crying to annoy me. They don’t understand that I haven’t slept. They aren’t trying to make me angry. Yet I felt angry. Really angry.
That day, instead of screaming shut up out loud. I stomped up the stairs and straight into the bathroom. I closed and locked the door and slumped down on the side of the tub.
I felt like a failure. I remembered everything we had been through. I was supposed to be grateful that I had two beautiful, healthy children. We had been given a second chance, didn’t this mean I wasn’t supposed to lose my patience?
I took a few really deep breaths and wiped the tears from my eyes before standing back up again. I gave myself a little pep talk in the mirror and opened the door.
In the years since, I have felt mum rage so many times I have lost count. When I’ve asked them to put on their shoes 15 times and they are still sitting on the couch watching Bubble Guppies. Or maybe when they stand in the candy aisle refusing to budge until I give into the Sour Patch Kids. Perhaps when I’m on a really important phone call and they are playing WWE and screaming as though one of them could be losing a limb in the background.
I have raised my voice, I have cried in front of them and I have stormed out and gone for a walk around the block to cool off.
I want my children to feel comfortable with their feelings, including the not so good ones. They need to know that feeling angry is normal. I hope that most of the time I can model positive ways to handle those feelings but I’m human, I don’t always handle things exactly as I should.
Motherhood can be frustrating, it can be trying and sometimes it can be terrifying. Becoming a mother leaves you full of love, happiness, fear and frustration. We all have moments where we feel overwhelmed and out of control.
Own it, take a break, take a deep breath and move on.
When I was pregnant with my son, my gut told me that something wasn’t right. I spent the entire 37 weeks fighting what my intuition already knew; that my son was sick. Seriously sick.
When he was diagnosed with a health issue not long after his birth, it was my first lesson in trusting my instincts when it comes to my kids and their health. In the years since, there have been many incidents when I trusted myself and was right.
The suspicious fever and cough? Not just a regular cold and my trip to the ER was the right move.
That tummy ache that won’t seem to go away? Glad I pushed for the allergist appointment because now we know the cure is avoiding lactose.
The point is my mother’s intuition always seemed to kick in at just the right moment and I instinctively know when something needs to be looked into further.
That’s why when I took my daughter for a standard eye exam just before she started Junior Kindergarten I expected it to be just that, standard, routine, nothing out of the ordinary. There wasn’t an ounce of me that thought anything was going to come up. In fact, there was a part of me that wondered if it was even worth the half hour of our evening that would be spent in the Doctor of Optometry's office at all.
Boy, was I wrong and my mother’s intuition was definitely way off on this one. As my daughter sat across from me in the exam chair and looked to me to help her identify the letters and pictures the Doctor of Optometry was showing her, my heart sank. She couldn’t see. How could I have possibly missed this one?
My mind raced through the last few weeks, months - even years - searching for signs I had overlooked. Did she struggle when we read bedtime stories? Was she not seeing the movie during our weekly family movie night? The answer was no. She hadn’t shown any sign of vision problems at all. I was confident in this. Apparently, I was one of the 60% of parents who, when surveyed, mistakenly thought they would know if their child had a vision problem.
When he noticed that I seemed a bit distraught, the Doctor of Optometry explained to me that he was not surprised that she didn’t display any signs of struggle. He explained that many vision problems are completely symptomless, especially with kids. They don’t know any different, he explained to me. She doesn’t realize that the rest of the world doesn’t see like she does. Turns out, she is almost always focusing out of one eye and to her that is normal. She would have no reason to tell me anything is wrong because in her eyes, everything is working just as it should.
This is why it’s recommended to take your child for a full eye exam before they reach school age. In fact, the first exam should happen between the ages of six and nine months. By the time your child reaches school age they should have their eyes checked annually, so that vision issues can be detected before they lead to more complex problems. October is Child Vision Awareness Month and is a perfect time to take your child in for an eye exam if they have never been before.
Watch this short video to learn the symptoms of vision problems in children:
Once we knew my daughter needed glasses, the next couple of weeks were spent ordering her glasses and having them fitted. When she finally put on her first pair of bright red glasses that she picked out herself, she took a long look down to the end of our street and with shock in her voice proclaimed “I can see all the way to the end of the street!”
It was sinking in that she hadn’t been seeing clearly and that with the help of these new red spectacles she could see so much more! I thought we were about to face a challenge in getting her to wear her glasses. Even the doctor of optometry warned us that young children often avoid wearing their glasses because their vision is so normal to them. He advised that we should try to encourage her to wear her glasses as much as possible so that both eyes receive as clear an image as possible during this critical time in her visual development.
From the moment she first put those glasses on, we haven’t had one argument about her wearing them. She may have been symptomless but the fact that she puts on those glasses first thing in the morning tells me that they are helping her.
After she was able to see all the way to the end of the street for the first time, she turned to me and smiled and I suddenly stopped caring that my mother’s intuition didn’t pick up on this one. Luckily I took her to an Optometrist before her struggle negatively impacted her life. She wasn’t struggling in school, she could read, colour, and play with her friends.
Instincts are an important part of parenting, especially when it comes to your kids’ well-being but sometimes you need to take a pro-active approach and accept that there are things that may fly under your mother's intuition radar.
Did you know 75% of vision loss is preventable? It’s time to open your eyes to maintaining healthy vision.
Take a few minutes to scan these articles that will teach you everything you need to know about eye health.