Twy Again, Mom

I’m not sure how it happened but I’m relatively sure I did it and that’s why I think I should be able to take credit. My son is now fond of saying, “Whoops, twy again” when things fall down or apart or don’t go his way. How’s that for resilience? I don’t need you, Parenting Magazine. I don’t need no Scary Mommy.

Now, I’m not saying he’s the most mellow toddler in the world and when he’s hungry or tired, it’s full on melt-down time if he drops a crayon or his sock is slightly askew. But when he’s well-fed and well-rested and playing in his own little world with or without me, he’s more likely to say, “Twy again” than he is to freak out when his block tower falls down.

I mean, I think that’s because of me. I remember saying “try again” to him before he started saying it himself. But it wasn’t an intentional parenting strategy. It wasn’t a mantra. It was just my way of distracting him BEFORE a meltdown occurred. Apparently, the kid has internalized that attitude and it’s made for much more chill play time.

So my next step, I guess, is to foster that attitude to include other things: putting clothes on by himself, using the potty, going to preschool, trying new activities, homework, cancer research, astronaut training, running for elected office. You know, all the important stuff.

And as proud as I am of my little can-doer, I have to reserve some of that praise for myself. This “try again” attitude I’ve infected my son with by accident was a long and painful process for me. I’ve never done well with rejection or embarrassment or … just things that seemed really hard. But the reality of life for a woman is that we have to keep trying, keep working, keep pushing if we want the things we want: again, the important stuff like equality and opportunity and equal pay and equal rights and equal representation. If we want to normalize women’s lives and experiences and health and professionalism, we have to keep trying. If we want the world to be a better place for our children, even for those little can-doers who don’t necessarily need our help, we have to keep trying again and again and again.

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Here’s where I SHOUT OUT to all the brave and bold women running for office in the next few years. She Should Run gives me hope for the future and inspiration to be a leader and a role model regardless of political aspiration (or lack thereof). Do your thing, homegirls, and if it doesn’t work out the first run, TRY AGAIN!

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My Beeswax is Over Here

Today I went to a playgroup and it was not awful!

A neighboring town’s library holds a 45 minute playgroup every week and since my search for affordable day care has gone horribly… so so horribly*, I’m checking out free options for kid interaction instead.

*I should explain. Daycare would be helpful for work reasons but more than that, I want to socialize my shy kid. Turns out, part-time day care is more than I would make working extra hours. I could have a fleet of cars for the price of part-time day care. I could have a much bigger house. I could spend a weekend a month in Las Vegas for the amount they want me to pay for part-time day care. So… playgroups, here we come.

We went on An Adventure today! Our first trip to the library! Our first playgroup! Our first time spent with multiple children of the same age as my little guy! Very Exciting… for Mommy. The kid, not so much. I’m thinking it might take more than one visit for him to acclimate.

c3701b8147a87663f25cf2bf55f4ba19The reason I’ve avoided playgroups until now, and I really am starting to sound like I have some major beef with them, but honestly it was because of Scary Mommy. I’ve read so much anti-other mom bologna, so many The Five Awful Moms You’ll Meet At Playgroup-type articles, so very many “Hover Moms are Ruining Everything!” rants that I got stuck in an introvert fear bubble and assumed the very worst.

It really wasn’t that bad. There were hover moms and sit back & watch moms and grandmas and a grandpa. There were kids who cried, kids who stomped around, kids who spun and fell down, kids who tried to take all the toys, kids who attached themselves firmly to their mommy and refused to let go until the instruments came out (that would be my kid), and totally chill participating kids. It was normal. Totally normal! This is how kids are. This is how the people who care for them are. It’s really not that big a deal.

Yeah, one kid hopped on the back of the chair my kid was sitting on and tried to push him off. His mom came over and grabbed him and apologized. There was a kid wandering around yelling adorably at people. We all thought it was cute and didn’t care. There was a 2 year old the size of a 5 year old who ran around at the back of the room. It was fine. There was a kid who screamed at 10 minute intervals. Whatever.

Maybe some of the caretakers were cranky, maybe there were glares and glances and judgment but I didn’t notice. I just focused on my kid and the group leader and thought it was lovely. Maybe that’s the secret right there: mind your own beeswax and everything will be fine.

We’re going again next week. I might be the more excited of the two of us.

The Day My Kid Stood Still

This morning, my toddler headbutted me in the cheek bone. HARD. My husband’s response was, “he didn’t mean it.”

Listen… if he “meant it”, then there’s something wrong with my kid. If my husband “meant” to do the things we end up fighting about, then I married the wrong guy. If most people “meant” to act like buttholes and hurt and lie and cut others off in traffic even though I CLEARLY had the right of way, then there’s something horribly wrong with all of humanity and I’m calling alien Keanu Reeves* to come clean up, nanobot-style.

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*I watched The Day the Earth Stood Still the other day.

Saying “I didn’t mean it” is the worst way to way to respond in situations like this, second only to “I did mean it. I hope you suffer. Ha!” It’s a pointless non-apology that doesn’t offer sympathy or take responsibility.

“He didn’t mean it.” Like I honestly believe my kid is trying to break my face and that’s why I responded with “OW! DAMNIT, that hurts!”

I guess the good moms respond with “I love you too, sweet snowflake. Do whatever you want to Mommy and I won’t complain because motherhood is pain and womanhood is pain and I am an alien robot mom who doesn’t understand the other side of humanity until I watch someone cry in a cemetery**.”

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**That’s how Keanu does it.

Change is Nature’s Way of Saying STOP SCREWING THIS UP

As a writer, I think this is beautiful. As a mother, I am horrified. HORRIFIED. And disgusted. You have a fucking village, you savages! I’ve got a village of 5 people and 4 of them work full time but we still manage to take care of my kid.

The old ways are bullshit. That’s why we keep inventing new ways.

 

“Those who are unable to believe in the old ways go south, where life loses this rawness.” In the Tin House archives, writer Emma Cline publishes flash fiction, “Perseids,” set in Tasiilaq, Greenland.

via Perseids — Discover

Smug Mommy Shame Writers

I think I should state for the record that this has nothing to do with any sort of bitterness over not having any of my submissions accepted, because I’m not bitter. You can’t be a writer and hold grudges like that or you’ll go nutballs. I’m much too busy to go nutballs, you see. So no, this isn’t about bitterness.
Scary Mommy is getting harder and harder to read. For me. In general. Because THE OPINIONS, my God, the OPINions! I can’t handle the “I’m never doing this again” or “Moms who do this are crazy” articles and there’s just so many of them.

I’ve been a mom for less than 2 years so I am hardly an expert but I gotta tell ya, the road to sanity for this parent is all about flexibility, adaptability, and an understanding of the bigger picture.

This is how it works:

  • I have a parenting theory based on a value so I’m going to do THIS.
  • Wow, THIS failed spectacularly. I’m gonna have to do something different. I’ll try THAT.
  • No, THAT didn’t work either. OK, how about THIS OTHER THING.
  • THIS OTHER THING seems to be going well but I feel bad that THIS and THAT didn’t work. Am I a bad parent? No. Because forcing THIS or THAT on my child when it clearly doesn’t work for him would be bad parenting. I have to understand that my job as a parent is to get my child safely through childhood, instilling good values as best I can, until he becomes an adult and can choose his own values.

 

smug-mom-meme-280x185And that’s all there is to it*. I’m not going to shame myself or let myself be shamed for failure to follow through on something that’s not working, something I don’t believe in, something someone else is pushing on me but I feel iffy about, or some bullcrap that some freaking mommy blogger with a PhD in skimming Parenting magazine articles and then forming a silly opinion that she thinks applies to every other human is touting as gospel truth. No, thank you.

I’m not saying I won’t read magazines or blogs or Pinterest or even Scary Mommy sometimes because I’ve gotten some really good ideas from them. But just because it’s working for one parent or even several doesn’t mean that it’s for me.

And that’s… ok.

Unless you’re writing one of the overwhelmingly prevalent articles for Scary Mommy where you bitch about all the people making bento boxes for their kid’s lunches because WHO HAS TIME FOR THAT CRAP?! Well, the parents making those boxes are using the time they have to do something they enjoy to make their kids happy. Does that mean you have to do it too or you’re a bad parent? No. I’m sure some of those box-makers are smug better-than-youers, but some of them just enjoy food art.

What about those stupid crafty parents making HOME MADE HALLOWEEN COSTUMES?! HOW DARE YOU use your skills and hobbies to benefit your child because it makes both you and your child happy? HOW DARE YOU then post your creations to social media where you can show your friends and family something you’ve made that you’re proud of? HOW DO YOU THINK THAT MAKES ME FEEL not having the same skills nor the time nor the patience to do the same for my child? I’m gonna write a Scary Mommy article about that shaming you because if I feel bad that I can’t do what you do, you should feel bad about it too.

Moms, Dads, Guardians of children, Guardians of the Galaxy, you all need to relax. There are as many ways of showing your kids you love them as there are children in the world. All you have to do is find the thing that you know how to do or that you’d like to learn how to do and figure out how to use that to show your child you love them. And it doesn’t have to be showy or impressive and you don’t have to post it on Pinterest or Facebook to make it count.

Just love your kid the way you can. Just… love your kid.

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Me and my son, pretty much.

*Haha, just kidding. Parenting is wicked hard.

Do You Even GLOW the Second Time Around?

I am Facebook friends with a woman about to give birth and I almost envy her her naiveté. She’ll lose that soon enough. Today she posted the most beautiful picture of herself in full belly bloom standing in the forest, gazing upward toward a hazy, half-obscured sun. Absolutely gorgeous. Oh honey, enjoy it now because hell awaits you.

I’ve been reading on various mommy websites about second children and how very different the experience is while watching my husband’s cousin half-way through her second pregnancy. Things I’ve noticed/read: No one gives a shit about your second pregnancy like they did your first. Life is much less magical and full of hope and possibility. Homegirl does not have the energy for photo shoots and has zero interest in being beautifully pregnant and glowing (not that she glowed the first time either. Or ever. She’s not exactly the model of positive pregnancy here, just the only woman I currently know on her way to kid #2).

So when I think, “Yeah, it might be nice to have another,” I also remind myself that this isn’t a do-over of the first. This isn’t me taking naps and being waited on by my husband and registering for all the things and cooing over every little tiny sock. Well, wait… no, I might still coo. Those things are adorable. I just think it’s really important to remember that I have a Tasmanian Devil of a toddler and as magical as my first pregnancy may have felt, a second one might be more of a pain in the ass.

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Those tiny socks, though!

 

Sanctimommy Says What?

100% of the reason I leave the playground early is other moms being jerks. We don’t have anywhere we need to be. I don’t need to be checking the time every 15 minutes. I’m just counting down the minutes until I can be the hell away from them.

We went to the fancy suburban park today. It is very different from the city parks we usually go to. Let me tell you how:

City parks:

Have those squishy springy floors that make me very comfortable with my little guy running full out, knowing he will fall on his face but still not get hurt.

Have broken glass and ample cigarette butts (among other things) around the perimeter.

Have some shitty parking situations.

Have a lot of latchkey kids that need attention and try to get it from any adult they can find.

Have some shitty parents who are present but not really.

Have some friendly down-to-earthy parents who will say hi but not get too friendly and try to get their attention needs met by me while I’m trying to watch my son and keep him from jumping off the top of… everything, really. They just say hi and smile and watch their kid and I watch my kid and it’s lovely.

 

Rich suburb park I went to today:

Had lots of older people taking walks and commenting on how adorable my son is.

Had some middle-aged ladies taking walks and being friendly and calling my kid cute.

Had great parking!

Has functioning bathrooms!

Had a pond and a baseball diamond and basketball and tennis courts and walking trails and picnic areas and walking trails and seriously, great parking in several places.

Had mulchy playground flooring which is not my favorite.

But also had two giant sandboxes with lots of community toys!

Had not 1, not 2, but 3 climbing structures in various sizes for various age groups.

Had like 5 different swingsets, a little play house, two other play thingies that weren’t quite climbing structures?

Had a bunch of BITCHY RICH MOMS who were very chatty and judgy and parented LOUDLY and complained about their how tight their diamond shoes were and how all their hundred dollar bills don’t fit in their wallets or whatever.

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Also, some bitch harumphed me when I took out my phone to check the time and then fell all over herself to compliment the guy who was playing tag with his kids and kicking sand all over the little kids. You know, because men who parent are heroes and women who parent are open to every kind of judgement ever.

Then I listened to a couple of parents complain about being “orphaned” when their JCC preschool program closed down and how they’re so lucky the super expensive private school that costs more than my entire college education had a couple of spots available in their summer program so they could get rid of the kids and get some tennis practice in.

THEN I fended off a woman who clearly needed some grownup time because she wouldn’t stop baby-talking at me about, jeez, I don’t even know. Something about her amazing her son is and how clearly better in every way he is than mine? Awesome ice breaker, lady. Let’s go have coffee and chat some more about how inferior my kid is.

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This is why people by swing sets for their back yards.

Now I’ll Never Be a Teen Model

ak2p5_ucmaejfpg-large2My son hit me in the face with a football this morning. It was an accident and a great teachable moment: We talked about how hurting people is wrong and moreover, how laughing at people who get hurt is mean. It was a good lesson.

Except that I got hit in the face with a football.

Ow.

Who is This A Problem For?

My husband and I stood in the mini mechanized vehicle aisle at Toys r Us debating the purchase of a toddler bed while our son climbed in and out of a pink and purple Frozen-themed jeep. We had been considering something car-shaped because our son, like his father, is a car enthusiast. He saw pictures of various car beds on our phones as we online-shopped and showed his excitement with “Vrrrroooom” noises. We went to Toys r Us that day to check out our options.

My son is not a good sleeper. He never has been. I tried that “put him to sleep drowsy” nonsense and laughed as the kid screamed the second his back hit mattress. Once he learned how to pull himself up to standing, it was all over. Clearly, the crib wasn’t going to work.

I had fashioned a makeshift floor bed during that time for us to snuggle on when he did wake up and I occasionally left him there to nap during the day while I watched him on the baby monitor. He slept so much better on the floor. It gave him plenty of room to roll. So I bought some body pillows to line the outside and a foam mattress topper to give it some squish, and my little nugget started sleeping, pretty peacefully, on the floor at night. He still wakes once or twice and I have to go snuggle him back to sleep but I’ll take once or twice to every 40 minutes.

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Practical. Affordable.

Back in the car aisle at Toys r Us, we eyed the little wooden bed we had just surreptitiously removed from its display to see how our son did climbing in and out. That wasn’t a problem so much as the quarter-length guardrails that certainly wouldn’t prevent our little roller from landing on the floor several times a night. But we could get another guardrail, right? And put the other side up against the wall? Or we could spend a little more on the wooden car bed that had rails all the way across. OR we could spend too much money on the plastic car bed with the built-in toy chest that could be removed as the boy grew to accommodate a twin-size mattress and wouldn’t that solve several problems?

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Sweeeeet ride– I mean bed, man!

Little guy had abandoned the Frozen jeep for a Ferrari and was making his “Vroooom vrooooom” noises as we debated.

“Maybe we should look at it again?” my husband suggested. “That’s a really good price and maybe we could use it with the second kid?”

What prompted this discussion of toddler beds in the first place, even though we have a fully functioning floor bed, was second baby planning. Although, again, if the kid is happy on the floor bed, then the crib is free and clear for the next occupant. So why are we discussing toddler beds?

“Or maybe we pay a really good price for a piece of furniture that never gets used. Because we have a convertible crib that we could try to get him to sleep in. Or we can let him sleep on the floor for a while because it works and he likes it.”

“Shouldn’t he be sleeping in a bed, though?”

“I don’t know. Does it matter as long as he’s safe and getting enough sleep? I mean, let’s think about this for a second. Who is this whole thing a problem for?”

And isn’t that the question every parent should be asking? Who is this really a problem for? Me? My kid? My spouse? Or all those people telling us how things are supposed to be?

Who is formula feeding a problem for? Who is breastfeeding a problem for? Who is toilet training a problem for? Who the hell is telling me what I’m supposed to be doing and what do they care whether or not it works for my family?

We left the store without a bed and more importantly, without the intention of buying one. Our son slept 7 hours on his floor bed that night before waking and 3 more hours after that once I’d snuggled him back to sleep. So I ask again: Who is this bed thing a problem for? Not for my husband because he doesn’t do night duty. Not for me because if I have to snuggle, I’d rather have the space to do so. And certainly not for my son who has never slept anywhere so well as he does on his floor bed.

This bed thing is only a problem for the voices in our heads that tell how things should be. The voice of our moms and our neighbors and our coworkers who all say THIS is what you HAVE TO DO with children. This is the only way to raise them right. If he doesn’t sleep in a big boy bed now, then he never will.

I call bullshit. On all of it. Let the kid sleep where he sleeps, let the parents make the best decisions for their children, and for God’s sake, let’s all stop insisting that there is only one right way to raise children. It’s not true. It never was. So let’s Let It Goooooo!

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On Winning and Losing

I think I won the break up, kids. Sixteen years later. Without even trying. And after a totally amicable separation. But I won it. I’m the winner. And all I had to do was try to have a pleasant exchange.

Don’t worry about my ego expansion just yet though because I definitely lost the youngest baby battle to my husband’s cousin who’s due this winter, ’round about my son’s birthday so I will henceforth also be losing the child birthday supremacy battle.

Right this very moment, I’m winning the child nap battle but I’m losing the weaning battle since that’s how I got him to fall asleep.

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about lately: winning and losing and how it all comes down to control, social constructs of success, and an utter lack of compassion.

What’s brought this on is a coworker of mine at my afterschool kid’s program job who was brought up under the parenting philosophy of TOTAL CONTROL and raised her own son the same way. Lady D, as we will call her, still sees exchanges with children as winning or losing. She does not see shades of gray and she certainly doesn’t see the “special snowflakes” for what they are: children with actual special needs.

We have a child with a sensory issue who is working with a therapist and his parents to learn how to cope with … well, wearing clothes. Part of the uniform for our activity really bothers him to the point where he cannot concentrate on anything but the discomfort he feels wearing it. So we let him take it off. We told his mom it wasn’t a big deal if he didn’t wear it all the time and she said she’d work with the therapist on it and see what could be done, and all everyone was satisfied with that result… except Lady D.

Lady D told us we’re coddling him. She said that as a mother, she knows what kids try to get away with and if we keep letting him get away with it, we’d lose. The best thing to do was make him wear it because that’s the only way he’d get used to it and to keep yelling at him to stop fidgeting because that’s the only way he’d stop the disruptive behavior.

sigh.

I am ALSO a mother, I reminded her, and HER SUPERVISOR b-t-dubs, and what I say is to back the hell off this kid. Our goal as an organization is to help build confidence and self-control, to give these kids the tools and strategies to overcome obstacles and achieve their goals, NOT to whip them into one conforming shape. We run our program the way we do specifically for the children who have difficulties to overcome: ADHD, autism spectrum disorders, physical handicaps, even just introversion and incoordination. We’re all about inclusion and individual character building and Lady D has often congratulated us (and herself whether deserved or not) for fostering such a welcoming environment. And yet… as a mother, she knows a little something about coddling and she’s right and we’re wrong and winning is the most important thing.

I read this article somewhere the other day about raising teens and how sometimes you need to just give in and help out. You need to recognize that being a teen is stressful and that showing your love and support is more important to their mental health and the child/parent relationship than winning an argument or getting the kid to clean his room. It’s the same thing we’re talking about here, but in terms of maintaining customer relationships. I asked Lady D what was more important in running our program: making sure everyone did everything perfectly or making sure we served our customers in the best way possible, thereby keeping them (and yes, their money, because that’s how businesses run) and maintaining our good reputation. She said the latter, of course, but she still thinks the kid should do what he’s told.

As far as winning the battle of Lady D v. compassion, I clearly lost. She thinks what she thinks and she’s not gonna stop thinking it. But what did she actually win? What do we actually win when we manage to control others or beat them at some arbitrary social game? What does that kid learn in being made to wear the uniform piece? What do I get out of being married and having a child before my ex? What does my husband’s cousin win by having the youngest baby in the family or spending the most on birthday parties?

Winning doesn’t make you the better person, I mean, obviously because Lady D is being a total ruler-slapping bad nun, my husband’s cousin is being a sactimommious Kardashian (with whom I’m supposed to keep up), and although unintentionally, I ended up being an obnoxious braggart. Those aren’t worthy goals.

I don’t want to win anymore. I don’t want to feel pressured into thinking that I have to. I just want to be a good person, raise my son to be a good person, and help the kids I work with to feel good about themselves. Compassion is harder than control but isn’t it more important?

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