Campbell of Sweden
Or an oxidized one. Really it’s anyone’s guess at this point, how the face will look after a few more years.
Six years ago I was a fresh faced ogre and today I look like a worse for wear hipster. And I don’t quite know what I feel about either state. All I know is that I feel more and more comfortable in my own skin with each passing year. I never liked being young, and I suppose the classic G. B. Shaw quote is right about me: “Youth is wasted on the young”. It is and it was.
I spent most of my youth with severe and untreated panic attacks. I was paralyzed from fear and OCD. I had so much trouble just getting up out of bed that making it anywhere seemed impossible. I made it to a lot of places but in some kind if state. I was never happy, and I can’t say that I am now either. I’m not unhappy, far from it, I’m just not ‘happy’. Maybe the joy I feel is happiness but I just have a strange image in my head of what I think it should be and what I am is just not there.
I have massive amounts of anxiety, I can’t follow through with plans to save my life, I don’t know how to say no and I hate being in public so much it makes me sweat. It’s funny because I like people watching but preferably from a distance. I’m socially awkward and don’t have any particular interests or hobbies.
But I am a good mom. And that makes me proud of myself. I’m an absolute mess as a person and as a human being but as a mom I feel completely comfortable. I love that little boy more than life itself, much like most parents, but it’s due to him that I can feel some pride in me. And him, I am exceptionally proud of him. And I love him beyond anything. So much so that his father got agitated and spewed “You love him more than I have ever seen anyone love anyone else, ever!” As if to insult me.
But I am slowly embarking on a journey to get out of this hellish nightmare I keep living inside of my head. I am writing down the many things that need to change for my wellbeing to improve. I need to stop lying to myself and to others and admit that I don’t feel too confident about the future nor the present. And as for the past, I’m closing the books on that mess for good.
Wish me luck!
We’ve experienced rolling blackouts. The weather all summer has been extreme, to a point where it’s almost felt a bit ominous. You know like when you’re in a mall around closing time, there’s an eerie feeling about it – like you’ll get locked in and left alone. But much like getting locked into a mall overnight there’s no real bad outcome for you. There may be some collateral damage but you’ll walk out the next morning feeling like you always do, a bit tired and stressed out for no apparent reason.
Stress is getting to me. I have been feeling it mounting up over time but it’s at a point where I can almost touch it now. I’m stressed about work and about the finances, I’m worried that my time is running out and that my options are slimmer now that my hands are a bit tied. I’ve declined work and it’s leaving me with a bittersweet feeling. It was the right thing to do, I made a very good choice turning down an offer that was good – at first glance – but that didn’t pass first inspection.
I’m not in a rush, but the feeling of a suburbanite desperation is coming over me and I’m realizing that I’m about to drown in it if I don’t start swimming soon.
Life is pretty good, outside of work and the fact that I lost my drivers license. 3 months was the verdict. 3 whole months of no driving. So the car sits and so do we. Everything is too far away. It’s too big of a hassle to travel with a baby that is notoriously active. So our stomping ground became very, very small all of a sudden. And while some would see this as an opportunity to learn more about their surroundings I find myself growing bitter instead. A trait I’m not particularly proud of or comfortable with. But here we are, on lockdown for three months. Not a large amount of time in the grand scheme of things but today it hits extra hard. I feel it extra much.
The days pass, even with the bitterness and resentment. Erik has made friends in kindergarten, he’s even flirting with a girl there. They keep flirting and giggling at lunch even tho they sit at different tables. His teachers keep telling me stories and I keep laughing. It’s a most wonderful feeling, knowing that he’s safe and happy even while away from me. Gives a sense of comfort and security.
Other than that I guess it’s all fantastic. My divorce was finally settled and I was awarded sole custody of Erik which made me both happy and proud. Like most things surrounding Erik, I’m so very happy and proud of him and his little shenanigans. He’s a lovely boy and I love watching him grow and develop. It’s a feeling to end all feelings. So much joy and pride and warmth. But also frustration and anger and confusion.
Being a parent, especially a full time single parent, is proving to be a trial of patience and endurance. It’s testing the ability to put yourself in last place while still maintaining a sense of self and worthiness.
On the one hand you’re nothing but a slave and on the other you get to reap huge rewards. It’s not a thankless job but it’s a job that doesn’t pay a dime and the hours are not specified. Some have children who sleep, so the hours are somewhat good but for the ones (like myself) who have children who just don’t know how to sleep you work 24/7 and stress the same hours. You also eat 24/7 and care for yourself on the other hours. You know, the make-belief ones that never come around.
But Erik is happy. I am happy. And if the cost for that is one person’s exhaustion and a slow demise then that is a small price to pay.
Growing up I had big issues with anxiety about death, my own death, which prevented me from planning anything ahead of time. I was convinced that death was just around the corner, waiting to jump in as soon as I was happy.
My biggest win in life, up until then, was to turn 30. I never saw that in my woken nightmares, because 30 meant you had survived the younger years. Someone over 30 was a grownup and I just never thought I would have the privilege to experience that. But I did. Same with children, marriage and many other things that most people take for granted. I never thought I would get to experience any of it, but here I am.
Anyone over 30, for me, has always been a boring old person with boring responsibilities and a look to match. I never wanted to grow old before my time, but I have been forced to in many aspects – never the exterior though. That’s one thing I still can control, how I look. I don’t know, for the most part, how I’m being perceived by the general public but I do know the idea I’m trying to put on display: not an old bat.
I honestly don’t aim higher than that. Some people want to look perfect, tan and made up. Not me, I just don’t want to become that old lady that needs help carrying her groceries. Obviously we’re many years away from that, but I have seen some people my age looking like death came to them last year. And I don’t want to be a part of that crew.
I should watch what I eat, sleep more and take care of my skin and hair. I don’t and am solely relying on genetics. I don’t really have the time, and when I do I spend it doing other things that don’t involve taking care of me. It all comes down to priorities. I don’t have a babysitter, so most of the cleaning that I do around the house is done carrying a screaming baby.
Erik’s been knee deep in one of the leaps, he’s been teething and got his vaccinations which triggered a serious flu – all at the same time. This has been accompanied by my back giving way completely, me getting a flu and custody battles. So the whole sleep, eat, clean schedule has been put on hiatus. I’m happy if I get a shower once a week these days, which may sound gross but that’s because it is.
I have to prioritize other things over me putting on a facemask, or eating a healthy meal. Mostly I just jam any high caloric crap I can find into my mouth when my blood sugar levels are dwindling. So between chocolate, chips and energy sodas I honestly don’t know what it is that gives me such a healthy glow. Jokes aside, genetics really do make all the difference.
I smoke occasionally, I drink more coffee in a day than most do in a week and my stress level is at an all time high yet the skin is looking good. Better than it should, considering both age and treatment. But makeup is becoming a necessity. You can get away with most things but the bags under the eyes, the black garbage bags, are not forgiving. So I cover them with foundation, add some blush and mascara. Today I even slapped on some lipstick, if you’ll believe it.
I mean, if you’re feeling like shit at least you can look like you’re doing somewhat ok. Eyebrows are dyed, lipstick is solid and the two wrinkles I have on the forehead are almost invisible today. I guess, all in all, it’s a pretty decent day. If only life would stop throwing me curveballs for a while, I could maybe have a shot. But for now I enjoy my almost wrinkle free face and soon another cup of coffee with my tiny gentleman who seems to be doing a little bit better today.
Campbell of Sweden
I managed to cut my hair, cut Erik’s hair, dye my eyebrows and do my nails today. This despite both me and Erik having massive colds.
Let’s hope tomorrow’s a bit better.
Campbell of Sweden
Tomorrow my baby whale turns one. His very first year. The first of many to come.
It’s been an incredible year in that it’s been very exciting and ever changing. There have been a few curveballs but I believe we’ve hit them out of the park.
It’s been an insane year, barely any sleep and so much stress over trivial things. Heat rashes, candidosis, not taking to the breast, eating too much, eating not enough, displeasure, whining, crying, not crawling, not walking, falling, scraping knees, bumps and bruises, not getting into kindergarten, getting into the wrong kindergarten, being too sociable, being too clingy, refusing to sit in the car, refusing to sit in the stroller, refusing being in a wrap, refusing to be carried in a baby carrier, not playing alone, hating all toys, not wanting to get dressed, refusing wearing a diaper, refusing all hats and mittens, refusing socks and no sleeping, no resting and no sleeping.
But we worked through most of that. Some things are still there, of course, but I no longer stress myself about it all. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. Erik’s had fevers and ailments that we’ve successfully gotten through, teething and all that it entails. We’re a couple of hams that just work our way through it all with a little help from laughter and a lot of love.
I was never very affectionate but since having the tiny whale all I want to do is hug and kiss away at him, and I do. He has hated it but seems to be warming up to it.
Everything is different, it’s better, it’s so much better. Because he rides in the car like a pro, sits in his stroller and flirts with every girl he sees. He’s a very happy and sociable baby so a lot of people come up to him to say hello and make sure I know how cute he is. He has a huge personality already and I can’t wait to see what kind of person he will grow up to be. One thing’s for sure, he will be loved wherever his life takes him.
And what’s not to love?
But with the first, bumpy, year soon behind us we venture into new territory. I hear that “the terrible twos” might be a bit chaotic, especially food wise. I have introduced Erik to A LOT of different foods. All kinds of fruit, from pomelo to watermelon. He loves fruit and veggies, dislikes cheese and potatoes. He’s not a fan of porridge or baby food in general. He likes sandwiches for breakfast and really hates anything sugary.
He’s had food from the Balkans, Sweden, Italy, Japan, India, Thailand, the US, Germany, China and Vietnam. So his base is wide enough for me to be able to find something he will like later when he refuses to try new things and I pride myself on that. He’s already a gourmet, I just tried catering to his tastes.
It’s been a year where Erik’s learned a lot but he’s also taught me a lot about myself. It seems I have an infinite amount of patience and love that I can only tap into with him. He’s clawed at me and bitten me, he’s constantly climbing all over me and kicking me. He’s headbutted me so bad a few times I’ve wondered if my teeth were going to fall out. He’s screamed so much, and slept so little that I have had loss of sight due to severe exhaustion.
Life has been turned upside down and it seems that finally it’s right side up for me. I’ve needed a tiny dictator to make things completely right.
So I say to him:
I bow to you.
My soul honors your soul.
I honor the light, love, truth, beauty and peace within you, because it is also within me.
In sharing these things we are united.
We are the same.
We are one.
Campbell of Sweden
The holiest of subjects. There are so many preconceptions about it. And I think every person who’s ever thought about having a child has an idea or a thought on how they want it to be, or how they think it will be. And every person who’s since had a child will attest to it being a vastly different experience.
One thing most parents have in common is the overwhelming feeling of love they feel for their child. Something no one is ever prepared for, because it cannot be compare to anything one has ever experienced before. And I only have the one child but I believe that even if you have more than one, every single child you have you get that same overwhelming, never-before-experienced feeling of love.
But the hardships are many. Some are spared, and those lucky few are exceptions to the rule. Most of us have babies that have some sort of difficulty – be it sleeping or eating. Those are the two most common ones, my empirical studies show. Of course there are people who have children who are sick and they really struggle, and are the true heroes who tirelessly fight to make the best out of a situation nobody ever wants their children to be in. But us regular parents, we mostly struggle with sleep and food.
I lucked out in the food department, at least this far. Erik eats like a large, healthy horse. But his sleeping is bad, it’s very bad. He has had one night where he slept a full four hours, in nine months. He doesn’t sleep much during the day 2-3 naps circa 20 minutes each while being continuously rocked. At night he scrapes together about 1.5 hours then eats and falls back asleep only to wake up in an hour again, and so on. After 2 AM I have to keep rocking him otherwise he will be wide awake and angry. For hours and hours.
This is the situation now.
It is so much better than it was a few months ago but far from good. Some nights I don’t sleep at all since he needs to be rocked. Every time a tooth is coming he just stops sleeping all together, he is exhausted and clingy he whines and screams nonstop but he just can’t fall asleep.
So I have learned a few tricks while being at home with him. Mom hacks, if you will.
I do my nails when he’s in the shower. That way I can keep a close look at him and interact with him while also getting to look less like a hobo. I use a dip-in remover so it doesn’t stink up the place, then I file down the nails for a more clean look. After that I soak the hands in warm water and baby oil (that’s what I have on hand) and then file additionally if I see something I missed. I push back the cuticles, usually with a tool but these days it’s with my nails and then put some lotion on them to keep them moisturized.
I’ve tried the “Amazonian Saviour” from The Body Shop. And to be honest it is like a firmer version of Vaseline. I am really underwhelmed due to it drying out my hands. I later applied “Hand Repair” hand cream by Trind to actually moisturize my hands.
That process takes between 5 and 10 minutes. Usually by that point Erik is done splashing around, so it is perfectly synced. Painting the nails I can really ever do if someone is watching him. That I haven’t managed to hack yet.
However I am strongly considering getting a gel manicure set, just so that I can do a nail at a time and guarantee that it doesn’t smudge or smear. It is a bit pricy but I think it might be a good investment, because then I can do nail art without having it get ruined. Living alone with a baby that doesn’t sleep doesn’t leave any space for do-overs.
Nails and food have always been my two big hobbies. Two hobbies that eat up more time than you realize. And when you suddenly find yourself busy 24/7 you are forced to prioritize what’s important. As a parent you, and your wants, always take a back seat, so you have to learn to do what you can with what you have. New situations require new actions. So my nails are nude, for the most part. Some weeks I just can’t manage to squeeze in any upkeep, like filing, because Erik needs 150% of my time. Same goes for food.
On good days I can make simple dishes with Erik hanging onto me or climbing the stove or the dishwasher. Worry not, no area he can access is even remotely warm and I always have a splash guard so nothing splashes onto him. Dry brusselsprouts are not splash prone.
It is often said that one eats with the eye, so sometimes I try to plate my food nicely to make myself forget how simple the dish is.
This was a pepperoni sausage and wax bean casserole with some pasta and cheese.
Other days, when you’ve been up for 12 hours playing and only had two cups of coffee (how good is coffee tho) your eyes are not half as hungry as your stomach.
On those days you eat burger patties with cheese and butter fried beets with garlic. All drowned in Sriracha mayo. That was my breakfast, lunch and dinner today – all in one meal.
Erik has a fever, not a high one but a fever nevertheless so he hasn’t left my side all day and hasn’t slept for two nights straight.
And on days like these one just doesn’t prioritize eating, going to the bathroom or the fact that one has a herniated disc and sciatica. Pain is a French word for bread, which is the motto I live by. My pain is secondary, and any hobby I used to have is a thing of the past. Erik reigns supreme, in terms of getting my attention and time. And I can’t imagine a task more rewarding or fun. Because even though it’s quite painful and I’m exhausted, there are moments like these:
For a baby who is about as affectionate as his mother was when she was younger this is an unusual sight. But it is the biggest treat for the mom unit. Baby cuddles are quite amazing and I’m all but spoiled with them.
But about mom hacks, the best one so far is discovering that the grocery stores do home deliveries. In a small town like this where there is only one pizza place that does deliveries, and that costs as much as two overpriced pizzas (I shit you not!) discovering that I can get fresh fruit and vegetables delivered to my doorstep has been a lifesaver for me. Also I don’t have to carry all those bags. They have Erik’s formula and all the food he likes.
My other lifesaver – 3 AM coffee.
Campbell of Sweden
I think a lot of people, when they have kids especially, lose their minds a bit. It’s inevitable, really, as we get older we usually start making more money and can afford the things we wanted while still working our way up. Of course there are exceptions, the ones who grew up with money whose only struggle in life was to choose between their two favorite colors of any brand name bag they were eyeing at the time.
But for the most part we all sit and look up interior decoration ideas online, watch shows that inspire us and motivate us to make our homes more cozy. What we rarely realize while watching these shows is the amount of money that is thrown onto that project. Most of us have a finite amount of money and if we were to decorate our homes the way that media thinks we should we would be indebted for life. A nice vase for $5000 on a cute antique table worth $150000. It’s a pleasure decorating this home, the interior designer says. No prices are ever mentioned, of course, and it was all a bargain at some auction. And auctions are for the most part public, so I check the prices because I’m curious about what kind of a bargaing we’re talking about.
A bargain to me is something I get for less than my monthly income. A vase for $5000 is, to me, not a bargain and it sure isn’t a steal – as it was referred to in this particular show.
I look over at my IKEA couch and can’t help but wonder what the designers would say about it. How they would laugh and think “by God this place simply cannot be fixed up”.
I read a lot about interior design, it fascinates me – the combinations and the many styles that add up to one coherent look. But lately I have been kind of bored. Every interior designer does the very same thing, in Sweden anyway. It can be summed up with one word: KLONG.
I can’t remember if it was the “Äng/Meadow” vase or the “Gloria” candlestick holder that made its way into everyone’s home first, but it is everywhere. Paired up with the SKULTUNA candle holder “Feather” and/or “Celestial” preferably on a tray with some other knick knack that’s dictated by ELLE HOME.
I grew more and more weary of seeing the same decor in home after home. Page after page of the same items placed in different locations around the house. It got tiresome, that déjà vu of the same color schemes and items that were losing their charm with every turn of the page. MISSONI on every pillow and towel, the boring and boho- friendly zigzag pattern. A round SVENSKT TENN vase with the seasonal bouquet, on a Bruno Mathsson piece of furniture.
So I started wondering if the children’s areas were any better. Maybe I could get ideas for Erik’s play areas if I took a gander at what there was out there. And that’s when it hit me, when I opened page after page of white. A sea of white and gray, of aesthetically pleasing children’s toys in unison colors that all just blended into the crisp white walls.
What kind of a hell is this, I thought to myself. What happened to uniqueness, to ideas outside of the boring magazine frame. Is no one their own anymore? Sheeple.
It seems that to fit in you need to blend well with the wall, stay under the radar or go batshit and be above the radar. But maybe I’m dramatic for no reason, the middle is always scrutinized. I refuse the damn Svenskt Tenn bullshit, the seventies were stylistically fucked up if you ask me. I hate the color schemes, the patterns and the quirkiness that has now been reshaped to fit a more mainstream look. It’s been toned down, washed out and boxed so that it fits your wallet but leaves no space for life.
I’m done watching clean children sit on hardwood floors, afraid to spill and make a mess. Children playing in ball pits that look like something from a Mario Bros nightmare. I’m protesting the clean, sleek look as much as I am protesting bringing back the old crap we threw out and promised to never take back in. You keep your GANT satin sheets, I’m putting the cheapest ones from IKEA on. Granted the bottom sheet is satin, here too, but that’s because my mother made our bed (due to a herniated disc and sciatica).
I am done trying to look like one of the Stepford Wives. I am not you and honestly, neither is about 75% of you. You can keep your catalogue homes and your botoxed, filler- faces with those sun feather eyelashes and gel nails paired with hair extensions and any Gucci/Louis Vuitton- bag. I’m done. And terrified.
I need a cup of coffee and a cigarette, and maybe a ton of chocolate. I need to step outside of this situation and decide the direction I want to take our home in. But I promise you one thing, and one thing alone – it won’t look like something out of a magazine. It won’t be a museum, in stead it will be a home for me and my whale of a boy. Nothing else would ever do.
Look at him happily resting in cheap sheets.
Campbell of Sweden
Having a baby suddenly made me look at things differently, much like it does for most people. But for me it was a matter of learning to accept that second hand things are not the enemy.
I was living by a quote from the mayor in Spin City, an episode where they were talking about buying antiques and he said “Why would I buy old things, I’m rich – I can afford new things”. And that was my life motto, I can afford new things. But life changed suddenly for me and my finances were depleted by somebody who was promising to pay me back but who in turn just vanished. But it is often said that one should never lend anyone anything they can’t afford to lose. So I was left with the realization that in order for me to be able to give Erik everything, that I thought he should have, I had to change the way I think and shop.
So I scoured the web for good buy and sell groups, I kept an eye on sales and had to reevaluate what was important. Clothes I didn’t want to buy second hand, and I still don’t. Anything that has to do with food (plates, utensils, bottles and such) is also a matter of not buying from others. But toys, and interior decorations – that was a free market.
Some of his favorite things were given away for free or for very little money. Something I am vastly grateful for. But it’s not just a matter of financial gain, it is also very good for the environment to not throw things out as soon as the kids stop playing with them.
In hindsight I’m happy I didn’t spend tons of money on Erik’s crib, he hates sleeping away from me. I think I actually got it for free. These days it acts like a couch in one of his play areas. I’ve bought a bunch of pillows that were on sale in different stores to create a bit of dynamics or life because it is way more fun for a baby to have different fabrics and prints that are more visually stimulating than a unison clean look, which of course is more aesthetically pleasing to the adult eye. But his area is an area full of life and color, textures and sounds. It is not adjusted to suit an adult, but a place where he can make any type of mess he wants and nobody can frown upon it.
I can’t wait to watch him grow up and really get to explore all the different things that he has.
A friend found a table and two chairs that somebody was giving away for free. Their kids had drawn all over the set and it looks really well used. So come spring and/or summer I will be sanding them down and giving them a fresh coat of paint. I will also draw some roads on the table top and maybe also on the seats of the chairs so that Erik can drive his cars all over that map.
And as I was writing that I realized that I wanted to do a specific thing, I wanted to put down a wax cloth on said table top depicting a roadmap, rather than to draw it on so I checked and found one I think will be perfect. I ended up ordering it even tho the delivery cost more than the cloth itself. But it is phthalate free and safe for kids so I figured why not.
This is what it looks like and I think it will be a fun addition to his play area. The chairs I was thinking of painting green to match the ones he already has.
But for all I know I might change my mind about their color too. They, too, could do with a fresh coat of paint.
I can’t wait for my herniated disc and sciatica to heal up so I can properly start doing things around the house. First up is Erik’s Stokke Trip Trap chair. Well, actually, first up is a castling. Livingroom and bedroom are going back to where they initially were.
Fun times ahead. No idea where this blog post went. But I guess you guys have gotten used to the lack of cohesion in my texts by now.
Campbell of Sweden
So I took the time to check out Bo Hejlskov Elvén’s speech at a conference here in Sweden. I watched it on YouTube while rocking Erik to sleep. I can full honestly say that it was a massive eye opener for me, because the way he explained it all it just made sense.
It is the approach most favored by psychologists and caretakers who deal with aggressive persons. But the way he put it is that the method works well with tough cases which also means that it works super well with a regular child. So reading up on this now makes a lot of sense.
Erik is still too young to understand consequence, he is also not quite there yet in terms of understanding words and sentences. But meeting him on his terms will make both his and my life so much easier, I believe. And threats and bribes often lead nowhere, I have noticed in life. So a low arousal approach is usually the way to go, or it has been for me. And this is also the method I will use when raising my boy.
It appeals to me on several levels and it is something that is proven to work, time and time again. But much like every other parent I will probably have to revise my strategy more often than not. The tiny humans usually have a pretty firm grasp of what they want and what they don’t want. They don’t always know how to go from point A to point B but they will not worry about that while improvising. They learn by making mistakes and I will do my best to try to guide my tiny whale through the jungle of experiences.
There is so much good in the world and I want him to get a taste of that. To really enjoy all the wonderful things out there, meet good people and eat good foods. I want him to take in the sights. But it needs to be on his terms, I’ve already experienced so much good. It will be a treat to pass on the joie de vivre to the tiniest of whales and to see what he does with it. I will share it with the boy who has my heart – my son 💙
Campbell of Sweden