Choosing Kindness :: My Experience of 13 Reasons Why

One thing you have to know about me is this: when I really like something, I really really really like it. Like almost obsessively sometimes. 

Must be those previously referred to OCD tendencies of mine!

And when I really like something that resonates with me I find it hard to leave it behind. 

One thing I’ve obsessed a little over lately has been the Netflix original series of “13 Reasons Why” based on the book by Jay Asher. I read the book upon its release many moons ago but for the life of me I couldn’t remember most of it so I got very caught up in those 13 episodes. 

In fact I binge watched them over the course of 4 nights – which is a big thing considering my baby doesn’t sleep at night so sleep is precious to me! It must be good if I gave up the must needed sleep! 

Mainly I was interested in the mental health aspect of the storyline. As I deal with my own issues I find myself drawn to series and documentaries that tell honest stories that I can relate to and the premise here promised to engage me if told correctly.

Now without spoiling anything for those of you interested in watching it, or currently plowing through it, I’ll give a super quick synopsis: the new girl at a public school, teenage Hannah Baker commits suicide and leaves a series of tapes (how retro I hear you say!) narrating the reasons why she chose to end her own life. Each tape is dedicated to one person who made a decision, no matter how innocuous, that negatively influenced Hannah’s life.

The series has been met with mixed reviews and while I can see there may be a risk of somewhat “glamourising” suicide with a story told in this manner, from my own personal perspective I see it as depicting the life Hannah left behind and the devastation left in her wake. The tapes tie the story together giving us the how and why but the heart of the story, at least for me, lies in the heartbreak of those she left behind. The ones she could have reached for. 

I see it as instructing us to pick our words carefully. To choose kindness where we can. To think before we act. 

Because we just never know how what we say or do, or don’t say or don’t do, will affect someone. We can’t know. So I wish to teach my little ones to be kind and hope those around them are also kind.

Needless to say I was sucked in from the outset but as the series progressed I found myself really dwelling on how my own kids will handle their teenage years in a world that, at times, is unbearably cruel. As the story peaks, and we see the final moments of Hannah’s choice I found myself in floods of tears at the thought of just how everyone and everything around her had failed her so badly and how commonplace suicide in teens is. 

But even as commonplace as it is, sadly it is still a fairly taboo topic to address. The series gives you perspectives from a huge range of angles, even ones you may not think affected: the harassed main character Hannah, the bullies (both knowingly and unsuspectingly) surrounding her fate, the friends who did too little, the parents who saw too little, the teachers who paid too little attention – even an insight into the parents of the would-be bullies and friends. 

It was just wonderfully structured. And impeccably well cast. 

Right to the end I was hoping it was all a big misunderstanding and Hannah would come to realise that feeling the way she felt was only temporary. That things get better after secondary school/high school. That just because you may be judged in the small pond you currently reside in, there’s a whole ocean out there where you can be whatever you want to be. The only obstacle is the limit of your imagination! 

I feel sad and more than a little helpless that my kids may face these issues some day. Or indeed that they may be the cause of another parents child feeling as Hannah felt. 

It has remained in the back of my mind since seeing the program. I mean, there’s often debate as to whether nature or nurture makes a person what they are but what about surroundings? 

Several of the would-be bullies came from seemingly loving homes, Hannah herself surely came from a loving home, yet peer pressure made many of these characters do things they would never have done without certain influences. Many of their parents look past the glaringly obvious to reach for the denial: “He’s not that type of person.” or “She would never do that.” But who’s to say what happens to your children and the morals you worked so hard to instill when they are feeling the pressure of their fellow teens.

And the fact that they keep everything so secret from their parents scares me as I personally grew up in a home where nothing was off the table. I have always been able to be open with my parents. I hope so much that my children will be honest with me as they grow. This series reinforces the fact that secrets, no matter how small or seemingly harmless, are damaging.

I know that, for us anyway, these issues are still a while off as my eldest is only five and I think if I dwell on it over much my anxiety will run away with me. 

For now, I just have to try steer those little feet as best I can and hope that once those angst filled teenage years hit, my sons will know they can always come to me or their dad, or even each other. That they will know they can be open, honest and never judged within our walls. That no matter what happens, or where they go, or what they become they will always be our children who we love beyond words. 

Winging it

This past week my little family attended a very special event – the wedding of one of my dearest friends to, none other than, my brother in law! 

Since it was a family wedding we decided to bring the two older boys, gratefully leaving little B with one of our most favourite people in the world. Knowing he would be well looked after made the anxiety of leaving him a little easier to manage. After all, this was my first time leaving him overnight with anyone other than his dad.

As both my husband and I were part of the bridal party I asked my only sibling, my sister, and her other half to bring my older two to the ceremony and basically make sure the boys were ok which she thankfully did for me. I was a little apprehensive about bringing them and having to rely on someone else to keep them in line BUT my apprehension was a total waste of time. 

I actually lost count of the amount of fellow wedding guests who sang the praises of our boys who, by all accounts, were rarely seen and barely heard! I, myself, entered the church during the bridal procession keeping a motherly hawk eye out but missed them. I spent the ensuing few minutes glancing around and annoying the maid of honour with my twitching before making eye contact with my sister’s partner who gestured that they did indeed have the boys sat on the pew beside them. I could then relax but thoroughly expected to hear them throughout the ceremony however I heard nary a whisper. 

Once the bride and groom had exchanged happy vows we mingled with guests outside and I was delightfully met with the same comment several times:

“You wouldn’t even have known your boys were in the church! They didn’t make a peep!”

And I was informed the same again by another handful of guests at the reception celebrations. 

Queue the proud mama moment! 

Now you might be wondering how did we manage to pull it off. How did we manage to keep them quiet and well behaved for the entire day.

Bribery? Threats? A mixture of both? 

Nope, it was none of the above. In fact, we did nothing at all to get them to cooperate. We were just extremely lucky with how the day played out. It was like the perfect storm or something! 

I mean, my boys are generally well behaved but all kids most certainly have their moments and parents that claim to have the perfect kids are surely exaggerating! So while I definitely did bask in the praise my kids, and by default my parenting, received last week I have to come clean. 

My kids are not angels. Far from it in fact.

I am not supermom. My husband is not superdad. We both have our moments where we are liable to fly off the handle, to say and do the wrong things, to be the antithesis of good parenting. But I have never claimed to be. I’m holding my hand up today and saying that’s ok too. I haven’t completely ruined my children with some ill timed snappy reply, a misplaced curse word here or there, too much screen time or too little one on one time. 

I believe in everything in moderation. 

Sometimes I’m snappy. Sometimes the kids are snappy. We’re only human. 

Sometimes I curse. Sometimes the kids….actually, nope. They never curse. They know right from wrong and are old enough to know it’s just not nice (says me, the hypocrite!).

Sometimes they get too much screen time. Sometimes I get too much. Sometimes screens are a necessary evil. 

Sometimes I choose spending time by myself over spending time with the boys one on one, or one on three more often than not. 

Sometimes it’s ok to be selfish. I’m not saying I do this regularly, I probably don’t do it often enough. But after spending an hour reading a book, browsing Pinterest or even just laying down I feel like I can continue to tackle this motherhood gig head on without the odd snappy remark, or the ill timed curse words, or the reliance on Netflix to get my laundry folded! 

I’m stumbling along in the dark. This thing of steering their little feet has spilled over into attempting to keep my own feet on the right path for our family.

Because at the end of the day, when all is said and done, what’s right for you and yours may not be right for the next person but we’re all stumbling along. 

In the dark.

Together. 

Party of five

There’s a certain symmetry to having 3 sons that I wasn’t expecting to feel.

I’m one of those strange cookies who’s OCD gets the better of her more often than not. One of my OCD tendencies is the fact that I really don’t like odd numbers.

Except 7. Cause the Harry Potter nerd that resides deep within knows that in the magical world 7 is a powerful number. It was the number of Horcruxes made by Voldemort you know!

Any who….

I wasn’t expecting to be happy with 3 kids. When we made the decision to have a third child I think we both knew that 3 would inevitably lead to 4. Four was the “ideal” when we first discussed children anyway but parenthood is a lot different in theory than in practice so making the move from 2 to 3 was a big step for us.

Before #3 arrived we found out we were indeed, as my gut had told me, having our third boy. I don’t know how I’d feel if he had been a girl. Maybe I’d have felt the desire to give a daughter a sister. Maybe I’d have felt like our family was uneven (there’s that OCD rearing its head again!) Who knows, maybe I’d have felt this way regardless.

Throughout my pregnancy we said we’d surely go again and have one more.

But I think part of me, deep down in my subconscious, must have known I’d perhaps feel differently once he’d arrived. And so I spent the final months and weeks of my third pregnancy soaking up the joy of carrying another life within my body. I savoured it and, though outwardly saying I would get to feel this way once more before hanging up my baby making boots once and for all, I definitely enjoyed my third pregnancy a whole lot more than my previous two.

34weeks

And then he arrived after two days of warm ups and false alarms in a somewhat frenzied delivery.

I had had a very serene delivery of my second son and selfishly I wanted to relive that experience but had some reservations.

Truth be told I think I was mentally gearing myself up for an emergency c-section.

My third son couldn’t make up his mind if he wanted to come out or not and after the warm ups I was so tired. It definitely made the labour harder than expected.

His heartbeat indicated he was a little distressed so I had to remain laying on my back for quite a while. For someone who prefers to labour standing or kneeling this was not good. For any first timers out there here’s a tip – stay active in labour. It will go faster and gravity will only help your baby’s descent.

It was still quite fast, in the end I went from 3cm to 10cm in about 60 minutes but my Lord those 60 minutes were very tough going. He arrived on the hottest day of the year – not saying a lot considering we do reside in rainy old Ireland but it certainly didn’t help to feel I was kneeling in a puddle of sweat.

He was delivered between my knees and now we come to the crux of the entire reason I am sharing his arrival – before picking him up I looked my husband square in the eye and said “If I ever say I want to do that again remind me of this moment right now!”

I was beyond tired and running the gamut of emotions. I don’t remember that moment with an overwhelming fondness. After all, labour is another word for work and by God his delivery most definitely was the hardest two days work I’ve ever done.

Obviously cuddling him and inhaling his newborn scent made it all worthwhile but I had a feeling of being “done” that I hadn’t experienced previously.

I still feel that way today, almost 8 months on, and it’s just wonderful seeing the love and friendship blossom between my three children.

The three of them – never did I ever think I would parent an odd number of kids and find happiness or completion in doing so but I do. I am complete. My family is perfect and I’m so truly blessed.

That’s not to say we wouldn’t be over the moon with any other children who may be sent to us but if there are no more on the cards I am happy with our party of five just as we are.

I’m soaking up each and every day, every experience, each moment, every “first” because it just might be my last.

Seuss Inspired

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go…

The inspiration for the name of this blog comes from one of my favourite books: Oh, The Places You’ll Go by the inimitable Dr Seuss.

There are a great many life lessons to be learned from reading it, even as an adult, and I love nothing more than helping to prepare my three sons for the paths they choose to steer their little feet down.

I decided to use Oh, The Places You’ll Go as my inspiration as I genuinely adore the book. I remember the first time I read it to my eldest son when he was around 9 months old. We were sat on the nursing chair in his room and had just read One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. He was on the cusp of sleep so I picked up the first thing that came to hand and began to read. It wasn’t until I got to the end that I realised he had long since given in to sleep so I continued to sit there holding his soft, warm, trusting body and mull over the words I had just read. They truly resonated with me. 

I even remember saying to my husband that they should read that book to every school going child. 

Needless to say I wish I had discovered it earlier in life. It may have saved me a lot of worry in my younger days blaming others for how I felt, how I perceived they were making me feel, sometimes making myself miserable by dwelling on things that felt out of my control. 

But there’s the rub – I, myself and no one else, have free will and the ability to choose how I feel.

The advice Seuss gives is basically that you are the one who decides how you live your life and if you CHOOSE to live life blaming others and finding negativity then that’s on you. You can choose to be content just as you can choose to be miserable. 

Success and failure are all part of life. It’s OK to fail. It’s natural. And as a first time mom reading those words was like a balm to my soul.

You see, I have battled post natal anxiety and depression for the last several years and there are times when I feel it may just swallow me whole but with help and support I am learning to, as my mother is so fond of saying, rise above what life throws at me and find little pieces of heaven in every day. My struggles don’t make me a failure. They don’t make me weak. They make me who I am and, I’m coming to realise, who I am is pretty darn good.

Seuss hit the nail on the head when he said “Life’s a Great Balancing Act”. It most surely is but you must also be mindful that once you use those brains in your head and those feet in your shoes there’s plenty of “fun to be done” along the way.

And that’s what I wish to instill in my sons. That no matter where they choose to steer their feet they will make their own choices and I want them to grow up with the ability to learn how to live with their choices and any repercussions that may follow. 

That’s what I hope this blog will be about. Our ascent up the mountain, our everyday adventures, the triumphs and struggles, the ups and downs, the wins and losses – the whole kit and caboodle of trying to navigate this parenting malarkey. 

So if you would like to join me on my journey just hit “Follow” for regular updates. I can’t promise excitement or a laugh-a-minute but I CAN promise honesty. I don’t know how to write any other way.