June Journals #2 – Simple Pleasures

IMG_3184

Lunch at Tesco

I really enjoyed my day with the children yesterday, despite the rain (and, my goodness, it poured!)

After quickly baking some cookies for hubbie (because we forgot to buy birthday treats for his work. The cookies were horrible – I only had demerara sugar and it didn’t work at all – but hey I tried) the kids and I headed out to the Gym.

The Gym I take them to is a proper gymnastics club, but they have an open session for non members in the mornings. We used to go all the time before they started school but now we can only go in the holidays.

My daughter is a real gymnast in the making, but she refuses to have lessons. She is a free spirit and doesn’t like being told what to do. (I mean, at all!) So all the gymnastics she knows is from practice, watching YouTube and a program called Next Steps, and a few random bits my aged body can still just about do. (A handstand, a cartwheel, a round-off. Even when I went to gym classes aged 8 I wasn’t very good!)

Cartwheel

Cartwheel Girl

When she isn’t doing a zillion cartwheels, she loves playing on the A-Symmetric bars. Or any bar. Or basically anything she can hang upside down on. It’s nice to go somewhere full of crash mats and things so I can relax and not fear for her head.

It was crazy busy at the gym, and they’d taken down the trampoline, but the children had fun. Now they’re older it’s easier in play centres. I can spend more time just watching and less time worrying (or trying to keep up.)

Afterwards we went to Tesco for lunch and to do the weekly shop. They chose Tesco over McDonald’s. Turns out taking them all the time when they were little wasn’t awful parenting after all (who knew!) as now they’re sick to death of Happy Meals. Not that Tesco sausage and chips is any healthier but at least we didn’t bring home more random plastic tat.

Just a normal sort of day, nothing special, with a cuddle on the sofa watching Aladdin followed by a couple of rounds of Draughts (Checkers) and Frustration with my boy, while my daughter watched dance programs on the iPad.

Nothing special, but oh so special.

My son kept saying, “I’ve had the best day, thank you so much for today.”

FullSizeRender (4)

Just Hanging

I complain about their lack of gratitude when we go toy shopping and they want just one more thing, or we go on an expensive day out and they want to spend more on souvenirs and ice cream. But a simple day, with a few quid at the gym, and a cheapie lunch, and they’re happy.

And of course I know why.

It’s hard for me that it’s my attention they really want. Because often it’s the thing I don’t have to give. As an introvert / HSP, I find spending time with people exhausting. All I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep. But now I can watch them run about, now I can tell them to be quiet in the supermarket, or send them off to look at clothes while I browse the dairy aisle, it isn’t so bad. Fun, almost. 🙂

I don’t need to look for positives for yesterday. It was all positive. I even found some flip-flops with arches for my poor fallen-arch feet. For when summer finally arrives. You know, if it ever does. Until then, I quite like the rain.

 

 

Being an Introvert Doesn’t Make Me a Bad Parent

I love these gorgeous people

I love these gorgeous people

It’s that time of year again. In two days time the children will break up for the summer. Here in the UK the summer holidays are only six weeks long – you’d think that would be easy, compared to the months they get in other countries, right?

Not for me.

The anxiety started a few days ago. The fear, the broken sleep, the crankiness and racing heart.

Tiredness makes it worse, as does grumpy children, and the end of term creates both.

Summer shows, birthday parties, day trips, farewell gifts, celebration assemblies, things to sign, uniform to buy for next year, moving up days, heat and humidity, have all taken their toll.

The children are fighting non-stop and Hubbie and I are like bears woken early from hibernation.

I know the irony of writing this after my last post. Maybe the contentment makes it harder. Because contentment for me comes from routine and time alone. Knowing where I’m meant to be and what I should be doing, and periods without responsibility or conversation.

Ultimately the thing that makes it hardest is the view that dreading the summer somehow makes me a bad parent. I come across it all the time. Mostly from parents who work, who are glad to have some time with their offspring, or at least away from the office.

Most of my acquaintances have public-facing jobs, which I guess makes them more likely to be extroverts. They like being around people, they take energy from others. Introverts? Not so much. Even people we love spending time with use up our energy and it’s only replaced by periods of solitude. That’s hard to find with two small children and a needy dog in the house 24-7.

I long for the 1980s – children running free in packs away from the house, like I did. Even now, if we lived in a town or a cul-de-sac with other children, then maybe mine would disappear to a friend’s house for an hour or two without me having to arrange it.

Already the children have started the, “Can we…?” and “When will we…?” questions. For half term I scheduled every minute and we were all happier, but I want my children to be free. I want them to be bored. I understand the importance of benign neglect. But there are no trees to climb where I live, no woods to explore, without driving to get there. They’re not old enough to ride around outside on their bikes (even if they could) and I live on a main road.

So it’s trips to the zoo and park and play dates and picnics, refereeing arguments because child A wants to do one thing and child B another. Trying to give them the freedom of my childhood in a world that dictates I must ensure their safety. Trying to stop them being clingy while remembering the psychotherapist that told me ‘dependence before independence’.

And through it all there are those other parents. The ones who say, “I don’t understand why people have kids if they don’t want to spend time with them,” or, “I love hearing my children play and talking to them. I miss them so much when they’re at school.” Or the dreaded look. The one that says, “What a horrible person you are for not wanting to spend 42 days straight with your beautiful children.” Even my doctor questioned whether I actually loved my children.

Yes I love my kids. Sometimes I’m so proud of them I could burst, or my love for them is like a suffocating hug.

I am a good parent.

It’s taken me seven years of soul-searching to appreciate those facts. But I hate arguments, and my children are currently at ‘tantrum four’ and ‘stroppy/sulky six’.

I gave up writing for the whole summer last year, so I could be present and attentive and all those things, and then couldn’t write again until January.

For their sake and mine, I need time by myself, to write, to read, to breathe.

But being a present parent, a helicopter parent, an attachment parent, call it what you will, means my children want to be with me ALL THE TIME. My son sobs if I walk the dog. My daughter wants me to watch her cartwheels endlessly. I can’t pee by myself, even now.

So, judge if you must. I don’t care. Well, not much. The anxiety is with me all the time, your disapproval can be ignored. My son will still go to nursery some days this summer even though his friends have all finished. My daughter has drama camp and church camp. The holiday is planned and sorted and there are times I can be alone.

And I’m okay with that.

Why being an Introvert is toughest in the Summer Holidays

My house, my head, my life...

My house, my head, my life…

I finally got to the bottom of my exhaustion today, after a friend on twitter suggested it might be due to my diet. I spent a lot of time musing on what is actually causing it, and whether sugar and caffeine are to blame.

It’s certainly true that there has been more coffee and cake this holiday, as survival against being home with the kids. But, if anything, my diet has been better, as I’ve had the children to feed too. Lunch is more likely to be pasta and veg than marmite toast, and there is much more fruit. I’m also drinking less tea, because I never get a chance to make and finish a cup while it’s hot.

But today I broke. We were meant to go and pick the car up from the garage and then go to the farm. Somewhere between trying to make a picnic as the kids hurled demands at me, and fighting to get two children dressed who declared they didn’t want to go out, I lost it. I walked away, climbed the stairs and crawled into bed. I couldn’t take it anymore.

Followers of this blog will know I am both an introvert and an HSP or Highly Sensitive Person. The latter is a term I hate, because it sounds like something kids would taunt in the playground, but it’s a diagnosis that applies too closely to me to be ignored. Let’s look at the two terms:

Introvert: I found this brilliant definition on the gifted kids website (not because I think I’m gifted, but because I googled it!).

Definition: Contrary to what most people think, an introvert is not simply a person who is shy. In fact, being shy has little to do with being an introvert! Shyness has an element of apprehension, nervousness and anxiety, and while an introvert may also be shy, introversion itself is not shyness. Basically, an introvert is a person who is energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people.

Introverts are more concerned with the inner world of the mind. They enjoy thinking, exploring their thoughts and feelings. They often avoid social situations because being around people drains their energy. This is true even if they have good social skills. After being with people for any length of time, such as at a party, they need time alone to “recharge.”

When introverts want to be alone, it is not, by itself, a sign of depression. It means that they either need to regain their energy from being around people or that they simply want the time to be with their own thoughts. Being with people, even people they like and are comfortable with, can prevent them from their desire to be quietly introspective.

Being introspective, though, does not mean that an introvert never has conversations. However, those conversations are generally about ideas and concepts, not about what they consider the trivial matters of social small talk.

[Emphasis mine]

Even the garden is a mess

Even the garden is a mess

Remind you of anyone? This is me. My life became a different place when I realised I was an introvert and that was okay. I am married to someone who recognises that I need plenty of alone time, and that even having him home in the garage can stop me from fully recharging. I am liberated by the knowledge, but it’s tough to handle at times, especially when most people I know are extroverts and think I’m antisocial or just plain weird.

The parents who tell me they love being home with their kids, love the constant chatter and the laughing and silliness are not introverts. And, possibly, they will never understand why, even though I love my children, it physically pains me to be around them all the time.

Highly Sensitive Person: On the HSP Website, it says this:

Is this you?

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
  • Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
  • Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?

I read this list and ticked every single one. I tick them in relief, because so many things I thought were just me being difficult or a freak turned out to be things that other people could relate to.  The two bits I’ve emphasised are the ones that have been hardest this holiday. As above with the introvert definition, I “need time alone to ‘recharge'”. This holiday that has been “bed or a darkened room”. A lot. Not very healthy. When the children are at school I recharge by writing and walking the dog, sitting alone in cafes and getting the weekly food shop. None of those options are available to me, so I sleep.

More Playroom Mayhem

More Playroom Mayhem

Another thing that has exhausted me this holiday is the constant conflict. I hate arguments. I grew up in an argumentative household and any sort of disagreement, even without raised voices, ties my stomach in knots and makes me shake. Recently I’ve been having heart palpitations and there is a permanent knot of angst in my tummy. When I went to get my contraceptive pills this week they wouldn’t give them to me because my blood pressure was high.

Today I realised why.

My children are three and five. They argue all the time. When they’re not arguing, with each other or with me, or having screaming heebie jeebies because their socks are the wrong colour, they’re shrieking with glee, which usually ends in someone crying because they get too hyper. And, try as I might to block it out, I can’t. I’ve been living amidst constant noise and angst and conflict for fourteen hours a day for over four weeks. I have had two hours by myself to recharge. Two hours in four weeks. It’s been five years since I had a child at home full time, and back then they couldn’t talk.

I don’t know if being an introvert and being HSP are the same thing. I don’t think so. But I know that being both, and being a stay at home mum, are definitely mutually exclusive things if you want to stay happy.

My exhaustion is because I’m ‘switched on’ all day. It’s like wearing a heavy rucksack that I can’t put down. It starts off manageable but gets heavier and heavier as the journey continues. So my body copes by shutting down. If it can’t make the noise go away, it will go to sleep and escape that way. That’s my thought anyway. And it makes me sad. I had such great plans for the holiday and, in small doses, I genuinely love spending time with the children, taking them to the park, listening to their shows and reading them stories. But this summer I reached my limit.

'Painting' hmmm

‘Painting’ hmmm

I suspect it is all exacerbated by the fact that my children are likely also introverts (with two parents that are, it’s pretty inevitable), so they’re also suffering from being with each other day after day. It’s noticeable that my son, who has had no time by himself, being either at home with his sister or at nursery, has reverted to a tantrummy two-year-old. Normally he has a day or two with me just watching TV and cuddling. Time to switch off. Then he becomes my sweet little boy. At the moment he’s angry and stroppy and teary much of the time. Needless to say that isn’t helping any of our stress levels!

So I just have to hang on. In a week and a half I’ll have a few hours by myself. I think it might take more than one day to regrow the layers of skin that have been stripped away, but just knowing it’s coming is helping me cling on to sanity. It doesn’t help that hubbie is between contracts and at home, but hopefully that at least will be a short-lived situation.

And next year? Like it or not, tears and tantrums or not, even if it’s only for a day a week, they’re going to camp!