Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Twas the Fight Before Christmas...

"Mrs. Claus....I need your help."  My husband's voice bellows from our bedroom.   It has been turned into Santa's workshop as he assembles our daughter's play kitchen.  Mrs. Claus is wrapping gifts in the living room, discovering her ability to cut a straight line has not gotten better with time, while two loads of laundry are running and the battle against PMS fatigue wages on.  I sigh and curse the elves.

I endure spousal snapping for not remembering which way I was just told to turn the screwdriver.  We then argue about following the picture on the box versus the directions when applying the stickers to the bottles of fake condiments.
"Parsnip is green!"
"But the directions say H4 should go on the yellow bottle."
"But Parsnip is clearly green!"
"BUT THE DIRECTIONS SAY-"
"FINE!"
I concede and stick the stupid label on the bottle.

Bickering and snide comments continue as Christmas Eve night falls upon us.  There are tons of toys, unfolded laundry, rolls of wrapping paper, and more assembly standing between us and our night out at my in-laws.  We look around the apartment feeling the weight of our "to do" list.  The holidays seemed to kick our ass this year.  We are unprepared with zero holiday spirit as the calendar reminds us the year is almost over.  My decision not to make cookies isn't helping the need for a quick bite of chocolate to ease the tension.

Christmas Eve is just a small part of the bigger problem my husband and I often face.  It always takes us a while to remember its stress and fatigue that is the thorn of our relationship.  They creep up on us in the form of a messy kitchen, having not eaten all day, a cranky baby, an unpaid bill we forgot about, our jobs, our family, or our noisy upstairs neighbors.  Like fools we forget this and wonder why we are so irritable. We should just have a giant Post-It on the fridge that says, "Remember, Being an Adult Sucks."

Over the past sixteen months I'd say my husband and I fight about stupid, unimportant things.  Residual anger we have from the fights dealing with our daughter.  Who knows a better tactic when managing a tantrum, who has the sixth sense and knows what her problem is in the middle of the night, who thinks getting her off the bottle is going to work better cold turkey or with a week of gradual weaning.  Any team knows in order to work effectively there needs to be leaders and followers, often times switching positions when necessary.  But when you are both so invested in doing what is right for the one person in the world that needs you the most, its hard to remember you are part of a team.

The toys are assembled quickly as our daughter wakes from her nap, hopefully in a good mood.  We carry our bitterness to the Christmas Eve festivities, feeling further and further apart as The Fresh Beat Band sings loudly between us in the car.  At my brother-in-law's we all marvel at my daughter dancing with her new Rockin' Elmo.  My husband and I are entertained, taking family pictures and clapping along with her.  The moment she rubs her eyes, we quickly resume our respective roles.  He packs the car, I get her dressed in PJ's and we are on the road.

Tucked in bed, I tell my daughter  that Daddy and I have it covered this year and will leave Santa his cookies.  Mr. Claus is already taking the presents from the make shift workshop and setting them up around the tree.

We move quickly and quietly.  The anger and frustration from the day melting away as we work. We eat Santa's cookies while taking the occasional powdery scented hit off her new Cabbage Patch Kid.  We whisper about our memories of Christmas morning and realize our parents did this exact thing.  We remember why we had a child in the first place.

Together we create magic, carefully placing the gifts near the tree, leaving just the right amount of cookie crumbs and reindeer food behind.  There could be 364 days of aggravation and stifling reality of being an adult standing between my husband and I.  Yet we will always have this one night a year constructing this unbelievable lie for our daughter. Something we believed in so intensely as kids that all the good grades in science couldn't shake.  We agree to commit to this process for years to come. To ensure she believes in this magic for as long as the bratty kids in her class let her.

My husband and I climb into bed,  finding each other's hands in the dark. We are Mr. & Mrs. Claus.  Creative, strong, patient, forgiving.  A mother and father, husband and wife.  A magical team.

I close my eyes, aware of the aches in my back, the unfolded laundry, and the mess in the kitchen.  Nuzzled into my husband's arms I know it can't be true, but after thirty three years I'd still like to think there is a fat guy with eight reindeer up there making his way over the Atlantic.  And somehow in the morning, all my Christmas wishes will come true.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fragile? That Must Be Italian!

I put the ornaments on the tree this year, very careful to place all of the unbreakables towards the bottom.  I knew when my daughter would wake up in the morning she'd marvel at this new 8 foot toy with twinkly lights and accessories.  I came across an old ornament, two bears sitting on a tricycle.  I don't remember where I got it, figured it wasn't valuable, and set it on a bottom branch.  A few days later I was passing the tree and stepped on a part of the wheel, took another step and found a bear.  The unbreakable ornament was apparently breakable.

It shouldn't have mattered.  I knew it wasn't one of those important ornaments I clearly placed closer to the top.  Though as I held the pieces in my hand and glanced at the little perpetrator playing a few feet away, I was sad.

Its a hard thing when your kid breaks something that's always been important to you or that's suddenly become important once you realize its in a million pieces.  Most parents take the usual precautions.  However there are somethings you just don't think will break because up until now, there was no one in your dwelling acting like a savage.  No one has been throwing things haphazardly that don't often get thrown.  For years I dropped plates, sat on sunglasses and knocked over cups which all somehow defied the laws of science and gravity.  I, being much taller, heavier, and stronger than all of these materials, didn't break them.  Yet a significantly smaller, featherweight being wrecks everything in my home.  A mere flick of the finger demolishes something to an unrecognizable proportion.

I should've known better.  My daughter had just broken one of my beloved turkey napkin rings at Thanksgiving.  The minute it landed in her little bionic hand it was tossed behind her back, shattering as it hit the floor.  In two seconds one of the nuances of my traditional dinner was ruined.  I coudn't be mad at her for either of these instances though.  She's a toddler and learning right?  As I tried to reasemble both the turkey ring and the ornament I considered it could've been worse.  At least it wasn't my wedding cake topper or my favorite snow globe.  Both of those, naturally in areas she can't reach as I know they are my prized posessions.  Its the stuff on the ground, near to her touch, whose value I soon found myself reassesing. 

With this in mind, a few days later I looked at the last Rubbermaid box of holiday cheer.  My grandmother made needlepoint houses for me years ago and I have a village along with the nativity scene underneath our tree.  Littered amongst the town are the figurines from the movie Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.  I had put off setting them up after the ornament incident but my husband reminded me that Christmas is about the kids and its more fun to be Mrs. Claus than Scrooge.  So I opened the box, arranged Christmas Town on top of the puffy snow and white lights, stood back and took a mental "before" picture.

The next day I introduced my daughter to the village and all the characters.  She made "baah" noises when I showed her the sheep in the manger and Sam the Snowman and Yukon Cornelius took rides in her stroller.  We had an interesting teaching moment when she took the Virgin Mary and threw her down the hallway.  It was our first argument as she babbled with many a hand gesture, yet I stood firm on my request for her to return "the doll" to Mommy and not throw. 

I reconsidered my choice of decorating as she put Mary back in the manger.  But as my daughter then walked over to the monkey ornament and fed it a Cheerio, I could't imagine not letting her enjoy it all.  How could she not play with the angel ornaments as I did or have the wise men walk along the snowy trail to the general store? With the dustbuster fully charged,  I let her roam free.

Everyday I find a random ornament near her toys.  Somedays I leave them for her to find. Other days I teach her how to return them to their right spot.  The ones with missing pieces end up in a pile for Daddy and Mommy to glue later. 

I suppose once you let a little person into your life everything becomes more fragile.  Most things can be mended with a little bit of Elmers though you know they'll never be the same.  Its those tiny sutures in the depths of your heart, the voids you never knew you had, that are filled and healed with the love only your little person can give.  The difference is, you're perfectly fine knowing it'll never be the same.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Parents and Friends: The Transition Phase


There were moments during my pregnancy when I wanted to call someone and talk about what I was going through.  The moments of anger at nothing fitting, the times when all I wanted was to eat bacon, the overwhelming feeling of the impending doom of parenthood.  The same instinct came just as frequently after my daughter was born.  


I would scroll through my phone looking for the right person.  Who could I share the tales of sleepless nights with or the little moments when I was so amazed by my baby I couldn't really describe it?  I couldn't share this with my married friends who didn't have kids, they wouldn't understand.  My single friends?  I didn't even know if I had any anymore.  I began to feel disconnected and tired of hearing another story about how someone can't relate but their cat did something really funny the other day.  


My friend Ariana and I discussed this recently.   Its this feeling that slowly creeps up on you where something's wrong but you can't place it.  Like when you've walked around all day wearing two different colored socks.  Its a weird purgatory you're in when you're not quite connecting with current friends and are slowly or not really making new ones.  We've dubbed this the "transition phase."


I'll admit I've spent way too much time idolizing those tight-knit fictional posses from prime time television.  I've admired how they all manage to stay together when work schedules, relationships, and money issues typically get in the way.   But when I really think about it, things changed for all these groups when someone had a kid.  


Monica and Chandler adopted twins and bought a house in Westchester, forcing everyone else to move on with their lives and leave that trendy apartment to the next batch of pretty twenty somethings. 


Miranda realized she was hanging on to a city life that didn't want her anymore and couldn't function with a bed in the dining room.  So she packed up Steve, Brady and Magda, and moved to a brownstone in Brooklyn.   


Lily and Marshall are now expecting and considering living on Long Island, potentially leaving Ted to whine about not meeting "the mother" alone in Manhattan. 


Though all these characters moved physically, the point is they made a choice.  They moved on with their lives and chose family. While not looking to ditch their friendships, they understood that sometimes other environments and social circles may benefit certain life changes.  We all saw the episodes that followed, focusing on them coming to this uncomfortable realization, the decision making process, and concluding with the moral of the story:  that the friendships you have before you become a parent, inevitably change after. 


Its sad but its true and now I know why people who don't have kids feel ditched by those that do.  But its not our fault.  Us parents need to talk to other parents.  We need to surround ourselves by people who are also too tired for riveting conversation, who know we are not full of it when we say we're busy, and who can appreciate an enthusiastic discussion about the frequency of infant bowel movements.


I was quite amazed at the need I had for parent comradery and equally shocked at how, quickly and organically I started connecting with people.  Before I was a mom it would take consistent emails, showing up at parties, hosting parties, and an abundance of effort to create new and maintain current friendships. It was work that my more fit, energy infused, twenty something body and mind could handle.  Yet, when I missed an email or phone call, didn't show up to a party, or even worse, stopped hosting, the ship sailed on without me.


Every week Ariana and I have lunch near our offices.  We respect the fact that some weeks, money is tight for one if not both of us and so our weekly rendez vous is at Subway.  We reschedule on each other frequently and coordinate emergency "I'm having a bad day" lunches just as much.  Our relationship is easy because we know it has to be.  We are both busy, tired, and not up for any drama.  I tell her if she's got lettuce in her hair and she lets me know if something is in my teeth.  Easy, done.  I look forward to our chats, knowing its the one hour a week I can talk about my daughter all I want and not feel like I'm boring someone.


What amazes me about our friendship, is that until our kids were a few months old, we hadn't spoken in eight years.  We were very good friends in college and I was even in her wedding, yet we were both going in different post graduate directions and lost touch.  I heard our kids were born only a week apart and took a chance sending her a friend request on Facebook.  We reconnected and have been meeting for lunch and playdates ever since.  We talk about how much time has passed and that the conversation flows as it did years ago, yet we both sense that we have changed.  Not only because of the lives we lead in the past eight years, but because we are now parents.


As with Ariana, I find myself connecting with old friends with whom I was never very close to, or just fell out of touch with, thanks to the common bond of parenthood.  The conversations, be them on email, in person or via text are effortless.  I get the same warm and fuzzy feeling with a text from Roz at 6 a.m.,  happy its Friday and her daughter is getting over her cold, as I used to hanging out with ten friends playing paintball or hosting taco night.


This ebb and flow of friendship is tricky.  It's left me feeling so many emotions at times and wondering for a while if it was just me.   When I've felt I'm missing out on something or have become less "fun" my husband reminds me of what we have in our daughter.  That we aren't really alone when we have each other and that we have a lifetime of new friendships ahead.


Over the past two years I've learned its no use fighting an ever flowing current.  The things we want in life change and in turn, so do we.  At times we all float down different streams.  Traveling that water way may seem long and lonely at times, but at some point, most of us will meet in the same crazy whirlpool.

Monday, December 5, 2011

You'll See


When people used to tell me, "Get the sleep you can now because you'll never sleep again," I laughed. I now know the kind of fatigue I battle on a daily basis is nothing like the days after late nights at work or cramming for tests in college.  I'd also hear about "mom brain" and how formerly brilliant women have been rendered useless by the theory that pregnancy feeds off brain cells.  I thought that was a myth too until I found myself  significantly dumber than before.  


Thinking back I kind of hate these people.  They were so eager to dish out unsolicited advice with a snarky, know-it-all smile, only to leave me and my husband with vague, useless impressions, wondering what "You'll see," means.  Had any of these parents detailed their experiences perhaps I would've been more prepared, possibly added a large day planner and a few months supply of coffee to our registry.


Maybe another moment or two of their time would've allowed them to tell me that...


Things won't make sense and you're always going to have conversations with your spouse as if the two of you are drunk.  


Having a kid is kind of like living in a fun house and if there are crayons in your bed or a slipper in the toilet, you will shrug it off and somehow think its okay.  


Your husband will ask you what the color of something is and you'll reply "turtle."  You won't know how the word came out of your mouth because you're so tired you can't feel your lips, yet are awake enough to know the object in question wasn't even green.


There will be french fries in a cup in the bathroom and a spatula in the hamper.  You will get angry at the discovery of these things until you find a box of contact lens you've been looking for and have to thank your child for emptying everything out of your makeup drawer.


You will undress at night to find enough food under your shirt to feed a small army and feel ashamed as you pick some smushed peach off your chest and eat it.


You will constantly lose your keys and cell phone and try to retrieve your steps only to have your thoughts overcome by a Fresh Beats Band song.  This will strangely lead you to find said items in places you know you'd never leave them, like on top of the trash or behind the toilet.  Somehow you will say "oh yeah" when finding them.


You will never be on time for anything ever again.  Minutes will slip by and you will know there is bag packing, sippy cup filling, and wrestling of the child into the car seat standing between you and your destination.


You will be amazed at the amount of excess sweat you have at any given moment from picking up, cleaning up, pushing, carrying, squatting, and running.  Thoughts will follow of being way too out of shape for this job and frustration that this free workout doesn't result in any true weight loss.


You will put on a shirt fresh from the laundry and later pull out a bib at work.


You will clean a mess and turn around to find another one as disorganization and filth multiply like city rats.  


You will foolishly feel accomplished when you put out one fire, too tired to remember you will be back there tomorrow for another.


You will be caught between caring about your appearance and completely giving up.  


You will understand why parents "let themselves go" and see the convienience of sweat pants and mom jeans.  


You will trade in your Coach bag for a back pack, your jeep for a station wagon, and anything else you once loved because they require more energy to have with a toddler and you just want something easy.  


You will minamilize your possessions to make room for your child's, noting the irony of how a person so small requires so much merchandise to be tamed.


You will understand the term "yes dear" was coined by a tired parent.


You will wake up each morning and quickly calculate the hours until your child is back in bed.


You will understand why parenthood sucks sometimes.   That it is harder than anything you have ever done because you will function daily with two major handicaps:  lack of energy and mental disorganization.  


You will accept this new life because you know your child is your entire world.  And when you encounter new or soon-to-be parents,  you will think of all of these things when they ask for advice and be too tired to detail it all.  Instead you will give them a wry smile, know all what they are in for but only have energy to say, "You'll see."

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Thanksgiving Pardon

Thanksgiving is my holiday to host and despite coaxing from my husband and mother I wasn't letting it go when my daughter was born.  I was especially determined to power through this year and not let on that just days before I was willing to call it quits.

As I put my daughter to bed the night before, thoughts of what still needed to be done washed over me.  I contemplated a trip to Boston Market, factoring in time to hide the evidence of marked containers.  My husband naturally calmed my nerves indicating it would "all get done, it always does."  He is always right.  It does always get done.  But that was typically before we had a 15 month old who tends to cling to my leg whenever I am home.  I couldn't imagine how I was supposed to get the turkey in the oven, set the table,  and help start the sides before 2pm the next day.  I pictured a sad image of me in a boat with all the water of responsibility seeping in.  Am I going to make it to shore at a slow pace, wet and haggered looking, or am I going to do the smart, sane thing and try to bail some of this water out?

The solution seemed like a rational one on any other day but Thanksgiving.  I pride myself on having a neat home and hosting a nice holiday dinner like my mother would.  But as the time somehow became 11pm and I knew Boston Market doesn't make a turkey as good as mine, I realized I'm not my mother.  I'm a new mother.  A mother who really could've used a few extras minutes in bed this morning.  A mother who temporarily has a kitchen and nursery separated by a door and can only do so much when there is a nap taking place.  A mother who is content letting all of the spotty glasses stay on the table and just cursing my dishwasher to everyone.  A mother who is just going to have to come to terms with doing less and it still being her best.

Thanksgiving day I was pleased the bird cooked perfectly and despite the smoke detectors going off and scaring my daughter, there were no problems with the menu.  I hadn't had the table set the night before or the dessert dishes and plates on the credenza, yet it all came together by the time everyone arrived.   Everything seemed surprisingly fine though I sat at the table and sensed a difference.  It wasn't the wrinkled tablecloth, the semi-clean apartment, or our lack of adequate appetizers.  It was my daughter.

It was her dancing and clapping that got my 91 year old grandmother off her feet and joining in.  It was her playing peek a boo with my brother-in-law and watching them chase each other in my hallway.  It was her cuddling with my father watching TV to take a bottle break.  It was her that somehow made everyone a happier versions of themselves and everything else fade into the background.

Since the day she was born I find I'm shedding skins of my former self.  Layers of different needs that are no longer necessary, like the need to have everything perfect for when company comes over and all my laundry done on a Sunday night.  I shed the last layer of the day as my daughter sat on my lap ready for dessert.  She didn't eat a thing at the dinner table and though I was concerned,  I gave her a spoon and we shared a piece of ice cream cake.  She fed me every few bites and I was thankful.  Thankful for her soft hair against my chin, her determination to eat by herself, and her kind nature of always wanting to share.

As I let the chocolate drip down her chin and saw the smiling faces of my family, I realized letting go isn't just about loss.  Its about making room in your life for things to gain.  Moments you can miss if you get too caught up in things that aren't important.  Moments that can turn into memories of which to be thankful.

That night I put the last Tupperware away in the fridge and joined my husband on the couch.  We were bleary eyed with full bellies, feeling a sense of accomplishment. We did it.  We had hosted a holiday with a toddler.  We watched the end of some football game and I closed my eyes, thankful for him, our home, and our daughter.  I nuzzled into his chest and drifted off to sleep knowing the mess in the kitchen would just have to wait until tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Bumpy Ride

My father and I went on the teacups when I was about six or seven.  Our heads buried into each other as we went round and round.  He retells the story making the ride operator seem like a vindictive Carney.  I'm sure it was just a stoned teenager, unaware a dizzy father was motioning for him to stop the ride.  I remember  coming home and flopping onto our big brown and white couch.  My dad's memory confirms we were apparently done for the day and in turn, amusement park rides altogether.

Growing up I was the kid trying to come up with every excuse not to join my friends at Great Adventure or any county fair.  I'd have a panic attack just looking at the Gravitron.  My husband comes from a family of thrill seekers and can take his share of roller coasters before calling it quits.  Spinning rides on the other hand is where he draws the line.  So at a recent mall outing we looked at each other with concern as our daughter marveled at the bobbing horses on the carousel.

I look at the decorated ponies, the fine craftsmanship of each pole as they go up and down, round and round and begin to sweat.  Rides are fun and so is puking after you've had too much cotton candy.  I will not have my daughter miss out on these things.  Time to "Mom Up."

I strap her onto the horse and mount behind her.  She's already "doing nice" to its hair and ready for an adventure.  We start to spin at a speed I'm sure is much slower than I think.  I'm blinking and trying to spot a point on the food court.  Its not working.  By the third time around I tap out and my husband jumps on. I wobble off and steady myself on the stroller.  I see my husband is trying as pathetically as I was, gripping the horse's tail like an emergency brake.  The ride stops by his fifth rotation, just in time for him to turn a nice shade of green.

Though we are staggering towards the exit, my daughter is clapping her hands and waving bye bye to the horses.  I'm not a fan of false promises so I don't tell her we'll be seeing them again.  Instead I just say, "Wasn't that fun?" and hand her a cookie.

My husband and I give each other a proud look. We pride ourselves on being fun parents and eager to share every experience with our daughter.  But as we pull out of the parking lot , our discussion leans towards our knowledge of  limitations.  We can certainly be everything to our daughter, but can't necessarily do everything for her.  Moments that she will enjoy may need to be shared.

She babbles the rest of the way home as we share some Altoids to calm our nausea.   We comment on how much fun carousel rides with Aunt Chrissy will be and agree that taking pictures of the two of them from the bench will make us smile just the same.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Toy Story

Maybe I've seen too much of the Toy Story franchise but I couldn't help but feel bad for Mickey Mouse.  There he was, sitting on the night stand as my daughter squeezed the cuteness right out of Zoe Monster.  Mickey watched, his perky smile ear to big round ear as I read the night time books and did our usual bedtime routine for an intruder from Sesame Street.   I looked at him and thought, "Don't worry, Mickey, Mommy's got this."  I turned to my daughter and gently said, "Don't you want to cuddle with Mickey?"   She shook her head and lovingly bit Zoe's eye.  I glanced apologetically at Mickey, hoping his abandonment issues weren't as bad as Woody and Buzz.

I remember the dolls that I loved when I was a kid.  I'll admit I tried pushing a few on my daughter.  Grover, ladybug, the beautiful crocheted doll my mother made.  I'd make them dance and sing and show her how much fun each one was.  Her interest would last a minute and I started to wonder if she would ever grow attached to any doll like so many toddlers do.  Then there came Mickey, who was the result of an impulse purchase and proof that my daughter has Daddy wrapped around her tiny little finger.  All she has to do is point, say "gets," and magically there is less money in our wallets.  


We thought Mickey would be like any other doll, but soon she couldn't go anywhere without him.  She carried him around, fed him Cheerios, hugged him during diaper changes, and brought him to our nightly story time.  Mickey is pretty much the same size as her which makes cuddling on Mommy's lap a bit of a challenge. But since he has joined the family, she goes down to sleep at night without a peep.  So one can understand why I'm kind of a Mickey advocate.  

I think about the potential  longevity of Mickey's reign.  My mom discarded a lot of my toys after we moved out of our apartment.  Her reasoning was that I had lost interest.  I couldn't argue.  Maybe I grew distant, making her think Miss Piggy and Kermit were expendable.  But as an adult, when flashes of distant memories come into view, I want to run up to my parents' attic and find them.  I know my daughter will want to do that someday too.

Though, like my mother, I find myself taking inventory of my cramped apartment, looking to see what I can get rid of. My daughter is likely too young to remember certain toys but what if years from now, a tiny sliver of familiarity comes with seeing Abby Cadabby or Little Red Riding Hood?  How can I decide what will be most important to her? What will be sitting on the shelf today and be her favorite next month?  


Maybe I should just keep everything and consider this a teaching moment.  As a fellow female and survivor of adolescent girl drama, I can use her dolls as examples of how not to cast old friends aside for new ones.  I can teach her how V-Tech Puppy Violet is just as special as Fisher Price Puppy, even though you can't program Fisher Price Puppy to say your name or favorite food.  I can emphasize the importance of The Sesame Street playset as a great place to see her favorite friends like Telly and Bert.  Sure, The Little People Doll House has a phone that rings, but it doesn't have a grouch in a can on the corner.  Everyone brings something different to the table.

We finish our last night time book with Zoe still tightly bound under my daughter's arm.  I put her in the crib, ask her for a kiss and give one to Mickey too, who I stealthy positioned under the mobile.  My daughter looks at Zoe, loses her grip and reaches for Mickey.   As I put Zoe back on the shelf, I turn to see Mickey in his usual spot, snug under my daughter's left arm as she settles under the covers and for a split second, I swear that mouse gives me a wink.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My Long Lost Friends, Rest and Relaxation

My daughter is about 22lbs right now, only in the thirty percentile for weight for her age.  She is tiny yet her constant motion has rendered me cripple.  Last week I was putting her in her carseat when I felt a strain in my upper back.  I know this strain. Its the one that warns me there is a bit too much activity in the shoulder blade region and any day now the muscles are going to revolt and stop at an inopportune time.  I should've listened, but like any other parent, I didn't have time to hear my body.  There were places to go, things to do, and a cranky child to pick up and cuddle.  Fast forward a week later and I'm still in pain and have spent the past ten days unable to fulfill my mommy duties.

My sleepy, over-worked husband finally crawled into bed the other night, well after 1am.  His head hit the pillow and somehow cued cries from our daughter.  I was already up but he had to get her because I couldn't pick her up.  I laid there in the dark, feeling bad and worrying about being less helpful.  There is too much to do around here.  My husband can't do this two man job on his own.  But above all else, how can I explain to my daughter with her outstretched arms that Mommy can't give her hugs and kisses because she has no lumber support?

I've learned that "parent fatigue" has nothing on sickness or muscle sprains.  Three months after my daughter was born I came down with a horrible stomach virus.  After one trip to the bathroom I promptly shipped my uninfected baby to Grandma's.  The next day my husband got sick.  Recovering from not eating for two days, battling dehydration, and caring for a baby was more challenging than anything we had every imagined.

In my pathetic efforts to keep myself on time, my apartment clean, my daughter cared for, and my other social and family obligations I have to add being well rested, well fed, and inoculated for flu season on my "to do" list.  As a result, I find myself making unrealistic deals with God in exchange for rest .
"I promise to endure waiting for the subway a few minutes longer everyday if I can just call in sick and have someone watch the baby."
"I will never again curse my body and inability to lose weight quickly if I can just curl up under my covers with soothing hot chocolate."
"I will stop ignoring the Green Peace canvassers on the corner near my office if I can just tend to this head cold, watch a Jersey Shore marathon, and create a fort of used tissues around me and the couch."

Naturally the big man is too busy to hear my amateur requests.  So instead, my husband and I try to sneak rest here and there.  This means closing our eyes while our daughter is still for moment in our laps, taking shifts on a Saturday so the other can nap, and sending her for a super fun sleepover at Grandma and Pop's so we don't burn out.

I don't believe in paying a dozen co-pays for medical treatment, but my daughter isn't buying this "Mommy can't pick you up" crap, so I have an appointment with the chiropractor next week.  Hopefully I can get some relief because my child isn't going to stop growing, needing, or wanting.  Until she learns to do about 95% of things on her own I'll keep looking over at that soft spot on the couch and know some day, maybe years from now, there will be a moment just for us.

Monday, October 31, 2011

More than just a pain in the butt.

My daughter has had stomach problems since she was born, having inherited this unfortunate malady from me.  I have all too vivid memories as a child running to the bathroom calling for my mother.  Not quite sure what it was back then:  nerves, the wrong food, or something else to consider as "over sharing."  Thankfully I've been able to manage my issues as an adult and avoid pain and embarrassment in my daily life.

The doctor has advised us to give her prune juice, Mylicon drops and when all else fails, use suppositories or a rectal thermometor when she is really miserable.  Before I let my daughter cry herself to sleep, the whole "helping her poop" fiasco was the one that sent me into the bedroom hiding.  There is nothing worse than seeing your kid in pain.  That and not being able to explain to them how to deal with it, or that your inducing pain and discomfort is going to help them in some way.  I don't want her to grow up too fast but if we could just get to the part where we understand what she wants and she better understands us, times like these would be so much easier.

When I see her make that strenuous, red face I usually know what's coming.  However, this morning makes two days without a stinky diaper right after, which spells trouble.  People may wonder why I'm so concerned. Its only a stomach ache right?  It's not the end of the world!  Wrong.   I look at my baby with the "worry face" my husband tells me I have to work on losing.  I can't help it.  I spent too many times as a kid, doubled over wondering if I was going to die right there on the toiletbowl.  So as my poor 14 month old drops her bottle, starts crying and screaming while tightening her legs, abs and face to push, I can't help but want to scream "Someone do something!!"  And I realize that someone is me.

I lift her up, pry her legs apart to straddle me and sing a catchy, original tune called "Let's Push the Poop Out," while rubbing her back and bouncing up and down.  This works for a a few seconds until her pain subsides and she is interested in her books and dolls again.  But I know this isn't going to end unless I'm cleaning up a dirty diaper, so I reluctantly get her on the change pad and begin the "helping process."

She's older now and we haven't had to do this in a really long time so she is both stronger and more aware.  After kindly telling her that "Mommy has to help," while dodging her wild feet, I resort to a firm,  "Please stop!"  I put the thermometer near her again and she kicks me in the face and says "Top!"  while giving me her signature stink eye.  I'm both shocked and proud.  I guess she can say "stop" now and apparently knows that word should always accompany a potential invasion of her private parts.  I decide we both had enough and get her dressed.

I go to work, kiss my still constipated daughter and wish my husband luck.  We both know its going to be a long afternoon.  A few hours later I check in with him on g-chat and he tells me he has just experienced "the worst 30 minutes" he's ever had with her. Lots of straining, screaming, and crying, and still no poop.  I pounce on the keyboard, frantically sending as much advice and questions that come to mind: "Is she in serious pain?   Should we call the doctor?  Try a suppository.  Keep her active.  Maybe we should ease up on the bananas that she loves."

I wait for a response, handle a few work calls and can't concentrate.  No one understands I am distracted by the image of my baby leaning over the couch, gripping Cookie Monster in pain.  I keep eyeing the messenger for a response and my own stomach starts to hurt.  As an adult I was properly diagnosed as having a nervous tummy which, had we  known back then,  would've likely made both me and my mother less gray than we are now.

About twenty minutes later the screen blinks with a comforting:  "Someone feels better."  I feel the knot on my left side ease.  My husband gives me a full report: length, width, color.  Everything no one wants to know about unless they are a parent or lab tech.

I feel the urge to run to the toy store and get her a present for overcoming a most irritable bowel.  I wonder what would have happened had she been in someone else's care.  Would they just have thought it was her teeth and that she was being cranky?   I'm so thankful for my husband being with her, having the patience and  physical strength to make her feel better.

She is all smiles when I come home, running amongst the mess that is my living room.  It looks like a tornado came through and now I can see just how intense this afternoon's events were.  I give her the Sesame Street  book I naturally got to both make her laugh and ease my guilt.

I go to bed making a mental note of all of the foods we will avoid in the next few days. I consider getting her a potty to help during particularly difficult times even though she is too young for training.  I make a dozen lists in my head, trying to come up with an action plan to avoid this in the future.  But I know no matter how much I try to prepare, I can't predict what ailment is going to send us both over the edge.  Next time it could be a rash, a bee sting, a cough, or a stuffy nose.  It'll be something my husband and I will again have to manage using our instinct until she can tell us what is wrong.

So that leaves me facing my mortal enemy : ambiguity.  Whenever it comes around I'll have to jump right into managing my own discomfort with whatever it throws me.   This means singing a song in my head to mask my daughter's screams, saying "its okay," to both her and myself, and replacing mental images of her face in pain with those of her laughing .   All the while hoping one day I'll look back and  like my mother, realize I was much stronger than I gave myself credit for.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Mommy vs. The Playground

My daughter was pretty content in her stroller but I knew that wouldn't last.  I swallowed hard looking over at the play area, coming up with about a dozen good reasons not to take her in there: "She is fine just sitting here,"  "There are a lot of kids, it looks crowded,"  "It costs $2 to get in."
My subconscious was on to me, "You don't want to take her in there because you're afraid of what will happen to her!"  Thank you Jiminy Cricket.  I flicked him off my shoulder, grabbed the diaper bag and wheeled the stroller in.  Her eyes widened as we got closer. She couldn't get unbuckled fast enough as I grumbled to myself, knowing I begrudgingly made the right choice.

Bringing her to the  playground or any place where there are other kids freaks me out.  I'm afraid she is going to get pushed, stomped on, or even worse, be playing with a toy that another kid is going to come over and take.  What do I do when I see that interaction take place?  Do I go over and try to nicely discipline another person's kid?  Do I ignore it and give my daughter another toy teaching her how to be passive?  What can you teach on the playground when its communal space, everything is fair game, and half the parents are talking on their cell phones?

I sat perched on the edge of the sand pit, ready to spring into action while engaging my daughter in a fun game of shoveling sand in the bucket. There were a lot of older boys playing roughly around her making me nervous. My chest tightened with every passing kid, holding my breathe until they got distracted and ran over to the slide.

A shy kid, I always suffered in social settings for having the inability to open my mouth and in turn let everyone else get their way.  I was always picked last in gym class, made fun of because of my big eyes, and always had a sense that someone was talking about me even when I'd try really hard to be nice. My husband never experienced any of these things as a child.  In fact he claims he was a young extrovert and a protector on the playground,  sticking up for his underdog friends when another person bullied them.  He can't fathom what I went through and doesn't understand this fear I have of what will become of our daughter in a social setting.

Am I a potentially overbearing, crazy mother for having this fear?  No, because as a parent, I'm realizing I have my own baggage that I have to deal it.  There will be more birthday parties, play dates and subsequently more reasons to keep her locked up at home and safe.  I'm sure other parents have similar and various other fears.  The challenge lies in asking ourselves what we are really achieving by our actions and equally, our inability to act.  Are we prioritizing the development of our kids, or our own sanity and inability to face our own fears?

Interest in the shovel and bucket was naturally short lived so my daughter left them to navigate her way around the sand pit.  After she left, a little boy came over and started playing with them.  From across the pit she dropped her new toy, ran over, waved her arms wildy and shouted gibberish at him.  He looked up sheepishly, slowly stood up and walked away, leaving the shovel and bucket at his feet.  My daughter spun around, returned to her new spot and continued to play, leaving her mother stunned, not quite believing what she had just witnessed.

I looked across the sand to my unassuming, little spitfire offspring quietly playing with a dump truck, and smiled to myself.  I couldn't help but think that she just might be okay.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Developing a "Hands Off" Policy

My parents claim they hit me only once when I was about two. I continued to touch the radio after I was told not to. They swear this was the first and last time they ever laid a hand on me and since I have no memory of that or any other incident thereafter, I believe them. I don't know of any other new parents who hit their kids, though I'm sure no one would talk about it if they were. We live in a time where child services is on everyone's speed dial and bringing food into schools that may contain traces of peanut can be considered child abuse. But many people still believe in this method and that its something as a parent you "should" or "need" to do at some point.

I'm learning quickly that having a toddler is a daily test as to whether or not you can keep it together and not become slap happy. Its the age when the kid wants to do his or her own thing, never stays still and you become a diaper changing ninja, shocking friends with your lighting speed. Its also emotionally and physically challenging being you are fighting a more limber, agile version of yourself with the same fiery intent of getting your way.

We found my daughter to really be at her worst around mealtime, when she decides to throw her food on the floor. After ignoring "no" a few hundred times during a recent feeding, I softly slapped her hand. This wasn't working so I slapped her hand again and again. I grew angrier and slapped harder until she stopped smiling as if to say, "Wait a minute this may not be a game." I started to swell with pride, considering I may have won. I was disgusted with myself. Victory can't come with pain to my child! Who had I, a counselor for years, become in this moment?

That night my husband and I discussed a "hands off" policy. We agreed it would be too easy to channel our frustrations with childrearing, lack of sleep, job related stress, and everything else into a slap on the hand or butt. I certainly understand how other parents can lose it, but there has to be a better way, a more creative way to discipline a child.

Its been a daily challenge but I am committed to our rule and so I have started to think outside the box. Now when she gives me a hard time on the changing table I show her how to make shadows with her hand on the wall or tickle her tummy. If that doesn't work, I just give her a minute to freak out and start over. When it comes to lunch and dinner time I realized my approach was totally wrong. I was telling her that food stays "on the table" but never taught her what the table was. So now we point to the food and the table. And when the message doesn't sink in, she understands that throwing food means I push her high chair away from the table until she is ready.

My husband and I are both working hard to be more effective and authoritative in a nurturing way and there are still those moments when we are near the edge. But just last night, my daughter confirmed that our positive actions are slowly taking affect. After telling her over and over again that we weren't going to read another book at bedtime, she got pissed and had her little meltdown. Seconds later, after she figured out she wasn't getting her way, she snuggled into me, looked up and gave me a kiss.

I see that many lessons about what is right and wrong are hard to learn as a child and respect for your parents is something earned. As my parents did, I've made the choice to teach these things in a way that may take longer but will make my family happy and strong. Just as she began to crawl and pick up toys, my daughter will slowly master these things. And one day, she will understand that though these lessons were difficult to learn, they were even harder to teach.



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Don't cry over vomited milk

Crying it out, (or "CIO" as the annoying people on the mothering websites call it), is the method by which an infant cries to learn how to fall asleep without being soothed.  Lots of people love this method, with an equal amount hating it.  Whenever anyone I've talked to discusses this they leave out the grueling details of what they as a parent do while this is taking place.  What do you do while you stare at the clock and find that two minutes of crying and screaming feels like five hours of a root canal with no Novocaine?

I take this opportunity to lock myself in the bathroom, put the fan and water on, change into my pj's and occasionally clean the toilet.  All this productivity to deal with my anxiety and keep me from running to my baby's aid. If I don't do these things I find myself pacing back and forth with each change in the tone of her scream.  One sends me away from her room, one towards it, always faced with the question, "What should I do?"

As we started this grueling process last month, my daughter would get so upset that she would start to choke.  One night, after filing my nails and cleaning the shower, I turned off the bathroom fan and heard a nice retching sound followed by something hitting the floor.  I ran to the living room and my husband instantly reprimanded  me for panicking.

 "You can't go in there," he angrily whispered,  " We're going to have to start this process all over again!  You have to calm down!"

Didn't he understand?  I'm a mother, I don't have to calm down and will get even more angry when someone tells me to calm down!  Plus, my supermom sense of hearing alerted me to the fact that our daughter just threw up!

He agreed to check on her after a few minutes of coaxing.  She apparently didn't vomit and so the process started again.  This time she cried for less than five minutes while I took my makeup off, straightened the bedroom and balanced my checkbook.

She's asleep a good two hours before I check on her.  I open the door and it hits me:  the stench of milk and stomach bile.  There is nothing more poignant than the smell of milk vomit.  There it was on the floor, at the foot of her crib and as I got closer, also on the crib rail.  She had thrown up!  I knew it!

She's sleeping peacefully on her belly as I crouch closer to be sure she's not sleeping in her own vomit.  Tears well as I look down and find a piece of tomato from dinner on the sole of her little foot.  I'm enraged and let loose on my husband who is somehow confused that he missed this and doesn't say much as I start to clean up the mess.  I'm festering with anger as I go over and lift her up.  He tells me to leave her alone and that she will be okay.  But its NOT okay.  My baby will not sleep in her own smelly, vomit stained pajamas.

I lift her up, gingerly change her pj's and put her down, choking back tears as I rub her head.  She is asleep as I clean the rest of the mess up in the dark while whispering "I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

I was a bad mother, succumbing to the parental peer pressure of letting my kid cry it out.  I let all of those people get into my ear with their "you should do this" and "its the only way she will learn", ignoring my maternal instinct to rush to her aid. She needed us and we ignored her.  When she cried loudly it was when she got sick.  She was scared and we let her cry.

She slept soundly that night and woke up with smiles the next day.  Since then she has become a good sleeper, the crying has waned, and my bathroom is a bit dirtier.

I'm thankful her infant memory saves her from thinking we've abandoned her and wanting to run away with the circus when she's older.  Mommy's memory on the other hand, will be easily recalled.  I'll confirm years from now, when my daughter has her own child, that the crying it out method certainly does work.  It only took me seconds after crawling into bed, hands smelling of soap and rancid milk, to cry myself to sleep.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Can you hear me now?

A few weeks ago during the hurricane, we lost power in our apartment building.  I was in my doorway talking to some neighbors and my daughter took off down the pitch black hallway.  She was headed directly towards whatever monsters and goblins were lurking in the dark.  I actually had a moment of childlike panic venturing into the darkness to retrieve her.  Naturally I called to her and she just continued on.  Aside from realizing she had no fear,  I wondered if she was harboring some secret super power like night vision.   Alas, my daughter just wasn't listening to me.  I'm certain she heard me and that this wasn't some auditory issue.  She was clearly ignoring me and likely relishing in the fact that I too knew that this was just the beginning.

In my many attempts to take control of this situation, I've yet to find my "mother voice."  Its the one everyone knows and still creates shockwaves in your system as an adult.  Its the tone of your mother's voice that indicates she is pissed either because you did something, your father did something, or dinner just isn't coming out the way she planned.  I've caught myself going through a series of voices, saying the same thing and hoping for a different result.  You've got the low, bellowing voice that "means business,"  the loud, quick voice that means "I'm pissed, get your little ass over here," and the dry, soft voice that is tired and basically pleads "get back here so I don't have to walk another inch."  Just like my husband and his poor attempts to voice her puppets, my daughter is on to me. She gives me the same look she gives him when Boober the Fraggle sounds a lot like our ninety two year old neighbor.

Maybe she thinks I'm nagging her.  Last night she was putting her snacks in a candy dish on my mother's coffee table.  I came up behind her and told her, very kindly,  to take them out, because "snacks don't go in there silly!".  She turned around, stiffened her whole body, waved her arms and shouted "Meh meh meh!"   Everyone laughed as they too could see she was clearly putting me in my place.  I laughed it off but cowered back into my chair.  Was that baby talk for "stop annoying me woman!"and if so, has my husband been coaching her for this moment all along? I quickly realized there are no allies in this war against the kid that wants her way.

Its our job as parents to teach our kids right from wrong and to keep them safe.  So how do you do that if your kid isn't listening and at what point do you differentiate between them just being a curious toddler and being defiant?  Do you yell for them in the store, letting every potential pedophile know their name, or chase after them letting them think its a game and running away from mommy and daddy is fun?

I'm beginning to think its a little bit of both and that it will take another few months, maybe years, before I'm able to find my true "mother voice."  I'll know I've found it when she stops what she is doing and gives me a look of defeat.  I'll have a moment of excitement, feel the urge to call all my mom friends and tell them "It happened!  She listened!  Dreams do come true!" .  But then I will see her face, feel guilty, and take her to Friendly's.  We'll share a clown cone, suck down a Fribble and both relish in the fact that together we know, this is the just the beginning.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Whatever we'll be we'll be....

As a child I used to whine about wanting a cat or a dog, to which my mother would say "Its unfair for us to have a pet because it would be home alone all day while Dad and I work and you go to school."  I learned years later that she was severely allergic to furry animals and decided to squash my hopes of having one by using guilt instead of a scienfitic explanation.  

Fast forward to my late twenties when my mother's words blinked like a warning sign in my head at the thought of having a child.  How can I bring a baby into this world if I'm going to have to work all the time and never see him or her?  How is he or she going to feel special and loved if Mommy is running out the door five days a week?  How can I be so selfish to want a family?  I already had guilt and I wasn't even pregnant.  Thanks to some passive family advice such as "get over it" and "you're being crazy", I was able to push aside my guilt and fears for the future me to worry about and temporarily move forward.

A crappy short term disability policy had me back to work only nine weeks after delivering my daughter.  I knew the first year would be hard for both my husband and I, but we plowed through.  And here we are, 13 months later and I feel like saying "Okay, enough, that was fun but now I'd like to spend more time with my daughter thank you." 

Who am I talking to?  The financial security gods perhaps, because like many parents I have to work to stay afloat.  Problem is, the water keeps rising as I'm strapped to the buouy, constantly searching but finding no land in sight.  And so the next job, the real "career change"  I was ready for of being a mother, came with a hefty price.  Like so many others, I've had to stay a full-time professional and become a part-time parent.

Thinking about my current family and adding another little person, my heart swells with delight.  Daydreams of family trips, slumber parties in the backyard, arts and crafts, and eating pancakes on Saturday mornings, take up my daily commute.  Then I think about my professional life, my senior level position, and all the responsibilities of adulthood and am quickly deflated. 

I'm not one of those people who still yearn for career growth and are trying to figure out how to balance both.  I just want to continue what I'm doing professionally because I am good at what I do and would like to spend the time away from my daughter doing something productive with my awesome skill set.  Yet that's because I have to. If money was no object, I'd quit today and go join the board of whatever philanthropy deals with parenting issues and fight to make things easier for all of us while getting to spend more time with my kid.

I'm under the impression, like most parents and our parents before us, I will tell my daughter one day that she can be whatever she wants and to go where her dreams take her.  But what do I do if she says "One day I want to be a mommy just like you." ? 

I suppose I can say, "Well yes dear, you can do anything you want 100% except of course what you were put on this Earth to do, which is procreate.  I know its evolution and all but unfortunately its the one role you can't have without juggling another if you want to feed, shelter, provide medical aide and create recreational opportunities for that little cherub.  Watching them grow?  Oh certainly!  You can enjoy those everyday new developments, but only between the hours of 7am and 8am, 6:30pm and 9pm, and hmmmm.... about twenty four hours conclusively on weekends.  Oh wait, minus whatever time you have to devote to doing chores like laundry, cooking and cleaning and having quality time with your significant other.  But don't worry dear, Mommy is doing it and its working out just great!"

I know my daughter will understand what I do for her when she is older, but now, love means face time.  I know this because that's how I felt growing up and no matter how much I understand now the love my mother had for me, it didn't matter then.  She still left and I still missed her. 

So what do we, as parents do about this?  How to we not feel selfish and guilty and everything else that makes Mondays so hard?    I suppose we keep paying down our bills and debt, keep skypeing and texting our caretakers while at work, and keep on hoping the country and the economic status changes.   Then maybe one day we may actually be able to tell our kids they can be anything they want and truly believe it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'll take what's behind door #1.....

I was completely aware of the disaster that would follow as I spread apricot jam on toast and cut it up for my daughter’s breakfast the other day.  I knew I wasn’t going to feed her in the high chair, but allow her to “eat on the go” while watching Sesame Street.  This always ensures she will eat more in the morning but my hang up for food variety forced me to make this bad decision.  I got yelled at later by my husband as he cleaned off the sticky remote and about a dozen of her toys.   A fine example of how I am often aware I’m in the process of making a bad parenting choice.
So what prompted me to make this and many other bad choices in the past 13 months?  Maybe it was the hope that my initial instinct could be wrong.  I think that just this once, maybe she will sleep through the night if I tip toe in and dust her entire room, maybe she will learn what “table” means and obey my request to keep her yogurt off the floor.  Or maybe I’m just indeed, kidding myself.  But in the words of my pediatrician, “consistency is key” and so I continue to consistently make poor decisions that result in my mind replaying the words “you should’ve known better.”
The decisions that we make as parents are within a wide spectrum.  It starts with the benign ones that result with a hit to the head and exclamation of “stupid Mommy!” and end with the ones you read in news headlines and Facebook comments that say “How can that mother be so stupid?!  People don’t deserve to have kids!!”  It’s the really bad, life threatening decisions that you never think as a parent you are going to make, but as I have come to realize, I have.  These are what I’ll refer to as the “decisions you aren’t really aware you are making.” 
So a decision I didn’t know I was making was when I put my daughter down at her birthday party, assumed her father and grandfather were watching her when she walked passed them and turned and talked to someone else.  My husband asked me a few minutes later if I was watching her because she thankfully didn’t leave the backyard party and walk into the street, but wandered towards the present table.  The guilt that followed me after that, along with imagining the horrible plots that could be seen on Without A Trace, make me cringe.  I can only chalk it up to the fact that I was tired, overwhelmed with the party, and suffering from low blood sugar.  But anyone knows that no matter what my excuse was, it was a bad decision whether it was subconscious or not.  Should I beat myself up about it?  No, because thankfully nothing happened, but even if it did, I know someone else has been there.  
Someone else has been so sleep deprived in the beginning that they drove a good twenty miles only to realize at the end of the trip they didn’t buckle their little lovey into her car seat.  Someone else's  mind registered “go” when the green turning arrow in the lane next to them lite up and their lane was still staring at the red light.  Luckily there were many people beeping and flipping them off to alert them of this oversight while they were in the middle of a busy intersection. 
I’ve begun to ask myself what happened to the woman who was in such control of her thoughts and planner?  How can she make such hasty decisions that put her little one at risk?  And I soon realize that my mind is so much more full of concerns than it was before.  I not only worry about myself, my job, finances, weight-loss, family, and whether or not I ate today, but I’ve got a ton of other things taking up space in my brain now.  My daughter’s sleep patterns, food that she will possibly eat, things to do on the weekend to keep her busy, refilling her vitamin prescription, and what to do about her diaper rash are all flooding my ability to think clearly. 
So in my and other parents’ defense, yes, we are allowed and inevitably going to make poor decisions.  We can just hope that they end up being the right ones and if nothing else, the poor ones result in Cookie Monster enjoying a few more spin cycles to get rid of the jam in his fur. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Daddy: 1, Mommy: 0

A set of parents is supposed to be a team, but let’s not deny the fact that you are basically set up by society (i.e. your friends, family, co-workers, Facebook) to have it be a competition.  It starts when you are pregnant.  If it’s a girl, the mother must be happy, if it’s a boy, the father must be happy.  My husband actually wanted a girl first and was elated when the sonogram confirmed my fear that in 13 years I’d be crying because my daughter would want me to drop her off a block away from the mall as not to be seen with me in front of her friends.   
After you confirm the gender of your beloved, it’s a contest to see who gets more of the “she looks like you” comments after birth.  And let’s be honest, as much as you may love your mate, you are rooting for yourself.  You want this little person to be a prettier, smarter, thinner version of yourself and if they have bionic parts that make gym class less socially awkward, all the better.
My husband doesn’t like this idea of parenthood being a “competition.”  He reminds me we are on equal ground at all times, but I think on some level he knows he is wrong, especially when my daughter cried when I told her no last night and ran to Daddy.  There it is again, another set up:  Good Cop, Bad Cop. 
Being a parent is like any job you may have, someone brings something different to the table than someone else and at different times.  Unlike most jobs, parenthood is a job that unfortunately keeps changing.  It’s like getting settled into a routine only to have your office get flooded, your project go in “another direction” and your boss quit all in the same day.  It’s constantly starting over and just like a job, each parent will be good at something the other isn’t and adapt to changes better than the other.
My husband works at home and watches our daughter and though I want to be home with her myself I’ve come to realize my husband bares the qualities that are essential at this stage of her life:  patience; forgiveness; and creativity.  I’ve already addressed the fact that I have a Type A personality in my first post and I will admit I can hold a grudge and not “let things go,” which makes forgiving my daughter for keeping me up at nite a daily challenge.  I am, however, a known creative person who thrives off of the energy of others.  But, anyone who has made it to having a 6 month old can agree, there really is no room for either of those things.  The beginning is all hard work with little pay off since kids can’t really smile until about month 5, at which point you’re convinced its “just gas” because that’s what people tell you.  And the creativity, well if it means creating a puppet out of the wash cloth to ensure I can clean my child’s face after dinner without screams, then I’ve won a prize.
To illustrate my point further, I will share an experience from a few weeks ago.  I came home as I do every night after work and spend time with my daughter which usually consists of me sitting on the floor, getting somewhat absorbed in an iCarly episode while she plays with her toys.   My lack of interaction annoys my husband and I’m instructed to “go play with her.”   So I’m thinking okay, let’s go bake cookies, color, play dress up and…oh wait we can’t do that because you’re one and just discovered your  thumbs.  Unenthused, I try to breathe life into Elmo and Telly on her plastic Sesame Street set.  She is engaged for half a second before she crawls up on me and pounces on my belly reminding me I have no time to do crunches.  Now this is the new game that lasts about a hot second.   
We move onto reading a book with Elmo (of course) and it’s the nursery rhyme “Rockabye Baby On the Tree Top.”  It has disturbing images of a squirrel baby in its cradle hanging from a tree as Sesame Street characters interrupt on the pages asking questions about the story or unrelated inquiries like “where do you sleep at night?”  Stop interrupting Oscar and let’s get on with it.  
On the last page, Elmo asks the reader what his or her favorite part of the story was.  So I ask my little love bundle, “So, what was your favorite part of the story?  When the squirrel mommy and daddy ran to the baby on the ground, realizing they irresponsibly left her unattended in a cradle and tree branch that were clearly not up to code, hence breaking and having her plummet to the ground?  Yeah, I liked that part too.  That’s what toy companies call the start of a massive recall.”   
And there, we have bonded.

A few days later my good friend sends me a picture of sandwiches she just made for her 2 year old at her request for a meal that resembled their two dogs.  They were star shaped sandwiches folded in half to look like legs.   One was pumpernickel for the brown dog and one was white bread for the yellow dog. Brilliant.  I’ve known this friend of mine since we were 12 and I think about how fun and creative she is but how it has likely taken her this moment, 2 years in, for her true talents to shine.
So where does this leave me, the mother feeling like she is waiting in the wings to use the tools of creativity while Daddy’s fun points increase?  I reconsider my definition of the word.   Maybe creativity just comes in the form of finding a way to keep myself sane, my child amused, and everyone quiet for a few moments.  Keep expectations low and no one will be disappointed.  And, if I’m really lucky, creativity can give me some control in dire situations, like when my daughter is crying in the backseat of a car while Daddy is getting us food and Cookie Monster and Monkey puppet have a dance off to Pitbull’s “Give me Tonight.”
Perhaps we, as a society, should focus on making it less about a competition of which parent does more work, is more fun, or better adapts to change and more about who gets more dirty diapers.  Because in that area, I’m proud to say my husband is clearly winning.

Admitting it sucks is the first step.....

Yes, you read the title of this blog correct and don’t judge me just yet.   If you’re reading this then the title resonates with you on some level you are too ashamed to admit.  I have been struggling with what to write about for quite some time and when people say “write about being a mom” all I find when looking for inspiration are people whining about not having enough time to get a manicure or how blessed they feel when they look into their baby’s eyes.  I too have no time for a manicure, but I prefer to whine about how my one year old daughter doesn’t like to eat or sleep, my inability to control her newly found tantrums in public places, and anything else that challenges my Type A personality.  And yes, I too am blessed to have her in my life, to feel complete and to be so important to her its almost frightening.  But the angels and birds don’t sing every day and the bottom line is that being a parent is a lot of hard work and something that challenges every part of you every minute of every day.  An article I recently read compared babies to very needy house guests that don’t leave.  I disagree, mainly because a house guest will not randomly pee on you.  Maybe we should consider babies to be like very complicated pets.  Oh wait, that’s not right either because most animals can walk a few minutes after being born and are fairly self-sufficient immediately.  So what can I compare it to so those without kids can understand?  Oh wait, I CAN’T!  Because there is no comparison!   I was just a normal person before and not a mother so I can confirm that parenthood is a VIP club. Once you cross over you have an understanding  that no non-parent has.  You see things you never saw before, like how many  places have high chairs but no changing stations and do things that never made sense, like take a quick assessment when entering the room of how many things your kid can choke on, fall on, or break.  You realize how much of a tool you sounded like before when you’d see crying kids and think their parents should “take control” because now you realize you are the parent and you have absolutely no control.  Your entire life changes but no one really details how.   And that’s what this is going to be all about.  Why parenthood does completely and utterly suck at times.  I’d like to offer the truth, as ugly as it may be.  So if you are still reading this and feel like you can possibly relate, here are a few scenarios which will confirm you are truly on board.  Please consider the following as something you have experienced or fear to experience in the coming months:
  1. After dealing with a screaming baby in the middle of the night, my husband tags me in.  He throws the thrashing child to me, books out of the dark room only to go full force into the doorway, knocking himself out for a moment and tumbling to the floor.  Now I’m faced with a decision:  do I deal with the out of control child in my lap or be sure my husband knows my name and that of the President?
  2. After changing my daughter in a public bathroom I too have to go.  I squeeze into the small stall and manage to do my business while making sure she doesn’t touch a thing and nothing touches her.  She is getting restless and clingy.  Do I have her play with the toilet paper roll, knowing full well that I will have to unteach this lesson when we get home, or have her sit in my lap and really take on the challenge as to how much I can do with one hand?
  3. After wrestling a one year old who refuses to get changed and is over tired, I finally manage to get her diaper off, only to have her roll onto her tummy, bare butt up in the air and promptly fall asleep on the change pad.  Do I try to get her diaper back on gingerly as not to wake her and get her somehow, with the help of God, to her crib without screaming, or quickly run and get my camera to take a picture?



If you’re tired just thinking about anything I’ve just mentioned than hooray!  I welcome you and hope to have you as a follower.  If you disagree with anything I may say feel free to comment, but be kind as I’m fragile and may cry.  But consider that I might just have something interesting to say and that the aforementioned stories (which are completely and sadly true) illustrate my point.  That being a parent is all about choices, not knowing what decision is going to be right, feeling you always should’ve done one thing when you do another, and always feeling guilty.  Toss in some other random emotions like insecurity, frustration, and anger along with a heap of fatigue and you’ve got a cocktail that doesn’t go down easy anyway you serve it.  

So go ahead, look around, be sure no one is watching and click on the “follow” button.  I won’t be offended when you minimize your screen to read this or quickly switch to Angry Birds if viewing from your phone.  Because you and I both know that after you’ve been thrown up on at 3am or sat down and cried because you’ve let your daughter cry it out too long, or had some part of your body exposed because your kid is grabbing onto everything piece of your clothing as she moves, you too consider these to be the reasons why parenthood sucks....sometimes.