There is nothing quite like breastfeeding to make a new mom feel like a complete failure at the most important job she will ever have. Scratch that. There is something else: a lactation consultant.
Now before anyone objects, let me say I am perfectly aware that nurturing and helpful lactation consultants exist and are likely the norm. I was lucky to have a good one after the birth of my first child. Unfortunately, despite all the help and understanding she provided, I struggled with little success to breastfeed my daughter. After latching problems, unsuccessful pumping sessions, a painful bout of thrush, and many tears, I gave up after a month. And man, did I feel the guilt. Hence my statement, “There is nothing quite like breastfeeding to make a new mom feel like a complete failure at the most important job she will ever have.” But guess what? Continue reading “The Lactation Consultant from the Black Lagoon”→
If you were to ever secretly record me watching television, you’d see a lot of this:
I am a crier. Just a few days ago, I found myself crying at that State Farm commercial where the guy keeps saying he’s never going to do something (get married, have kids, drive a minivan…), then it cuts to a shot of him on the couch with his sleeping wife and two kids saying, “I’m never letting go.” Those four words crawled right out of the television, down my throat, and wrestled themselves into nice fat lump for me to get all choked up on. That’s right, people. I cried at a STATE FARM COMMERCIAL. You can add that to the very long list of culprits which have made me weepy, including standing ovations, wedding toasts, the song “Gracie” by Ben Folds, cute old men doing just about anything, and the graduation episode of Saved By the Bell. (Damn you, Mr. Belding! I always knew you loved Zack best.) Continue reading “Compassion Is In the Details: #1000Speak”→
Perhaps the hardest part of parenting is figuring out how to ensure your children don’t grow up to be a-holes. Finding a hiding place to scarf down a bag of Cheetos before they sniff you out and ask you to share is a close second, but I digress. In our house, we follow the very simple yet effective motto of “don’t be a jackleg,” born from my father’s term for various plagues on society. We like to point out jackleg moves, then tell the kids to do the opposite: See that lady texting and driving? She’s a jackleg. If you ever do that, you’ll be a big fat jackleg. Don’t do that. So far, it has provided them with a pretty solid set of parameters for how not to act. But I worry we focus on the negative a little too much. My discipline repertoire could really use some positive reinforcement and a model my kids can strive to be, not avoid.
Currently, I am doing some part-time substitute teaching in a preschool classroom, which is a fairly new experience for me. Though I was a teacher once upon a time, I worked with high school and middle school students. So we are talking about pretty much the entire opposite end of the spectrum here. I always used to think I didn’t I have the special kind of patience required to be a preschool teacher. Older kids don’t need the same type of refined discipline and meticulously crafted rules as the little guys. I mean, that attention to detail is exhausting.
Yet now that I find myself in a preschool class a few days a week, I will admit I’m kind of loving it. Maybe being a mother has imbibed me with those particular survival skills I didn’t have during my earlier teaching days. Or maybe the fact that I know this is a temporary gig makes it easier for me to be charmed by the preschool life…similar to the way people make the argument that being a grandparent is better than being a parent. You get to eventually give them back to the person who is actually responsible for them: their real preschool teacher. Continue reading “Five Reasons You Should Hug A Preschool Teacher”→
“It’s fine. You have to work…again. Maybe we’ll snuggle tomorrow.”
My daughter said it in a way that let me know it most certainly was not fine. For being only nine years old, she sure has mastered how to lay on the guilt in a flawlessly passive-aggressive way, without knowing what passive-aggressive even means.
In my defense, it was 9:30 on a Sunday night, a half hour past her bedtime, when she wanted me to snuggle with her. But I really needed to get a jump-start on the week. I had two freelance deadlines, an author visit to prepare for, a blog to write, Lulu & Milo coloring pages to illustrate, contacts to touch base with, pieces of prose to submit, letters to compose, a sales tax report to file, networking to do, excel spreadsheets to create, two days of substitute teaching, a basketball practice to plan, Girl Scout cookie-selling to oversee, snack supplies to buy and send to school, a birthday present to find, laundry to catch up on…
You get the idea. My life looks like that of millions of other mothers. But some of this is new to me. After being a stay-at-home mom for the last nine years, I’m back working full-time. The last time I did that, I was responsible for zero children. Just a dog. And the only time she made me feel guilty was when I was eating a spoonful of peanut butter in front of her.
I am not the only one who has felt the adjustments that have come with me financially contributing to the family again. My kids have noticed that, even though I am physically home when I work, I’m not as present as I used to be. I know it is partly because I’m still trying to find this little elusive thing called balance, which is exceptionally slippery when you never actually leave your office. My six-year-old son only seems to be bothered if I ask him to be quiet while I work or if I don’t make his chocolate milk as quickly as he would like. But my daughter is extremely sensitive to it.
And it’s hard.
It’s hard because, despite having a seemingly never-ending schedule, I am finally doing what I love. And…here’s the sweet, syrup-soaked cherry…I’m getting paid for it. While I really did enjoy being an English teacher prior to becoming a parent, it wasn’t my dream job. It was my most favorite attainable job. My if-I’m-really-honest-with-myself-I-want-to-be-a-writer-but-I’m-afraid-of-failure-and-I-think-I-could-make-a-damn-good-teacher job. And I wouldn’t trade being home with my kids these last nine years for anything, not even Sandra Boynton’s career. Because I adored it and all its clichéd glory. But now…now I am a writer. An author even. Guys, sometimes I just can’t even. I can’t.
But then I see my daughter’s mopey face when I tell her maybe I can paint her nails tomorrow. She looks like one of those damn sad babies in Renaissance paintings. And that just makes me feel accosted by every blog post I’ve ever read about making time for your kids. Next thing you know, my kids will start spending all their time at Lucy’s house. And when Lucy’s mom says they should check with me to see if it’s okay to stay for dinner, Grace will get all quiet and sulky and say, “Mom’s not around very much. She won’t even notice we’re not home.” And then Lucy’s mom will mentally adopt my kids right then and there and tell them they can eat as many homemade oatmeal butterscotch cookies they want, since they obviously haven’t had a decent meal in months. And they can come over whenever they want. She even has extra pajamas for them. Oh my, God! Just back off, Lucy’s mom! I’m right here! I only told her I couldn’t snuggle tonight! Ease up on the Angelina Jolie complex.
Um, where was I? Oh yeah…
But I DID make time for them…for nine years. And frankly, I’m still making time for them. I’m still the coach and the Girl Scout leader and the classroom volunteer and the chauffeur and the Full House watching buddy and the snuggler and the problem solver and the laundry do-er. Okay, maybe not that last one. I sucked at laundry before. Now I’m just abysmal.
Yet, those times don’t seem to matter when it’s the one time I am refusing to be there.
Working mothers are lauded for showing our children it’s not just men who can successfully handle a career and family.
Working mothers should be seen as examples of possibility. Then why does my child just see me as neglectful?
I know part of this simply stems from things being different from how they were before. Had I always been a working parent, she wouldn’t feel as if something was being stolen from her. Because she would never have had it in the first place. And this isn’t like when her little brother was born and I explained that my heart would simply expand to hold my love for him. He wasn’t going to take away any that already belonged to her. Me going back to work is going to take away time that once belonged to her. Because try as I might, Time is pretty much that pair of pre-baby jeans that just.won’t.zip, no matter how badly we want it. Something’s gotta give. And it ain’t gonna be the jeans.
What I’m hoping is that this is a case of the sting still being too fresh for her. I’m hoping she will come around. I’m hoping she will be proud of me. I take that back. I know she is proud of me. And she is extremely proud of my book.
But maybe one day she will realize that I wanted to be her mom AND a writer not because being her mom alone wasn’t enough…but because being her mom made me enough, so I could finally become a writer.
I guess I owe her a pretty big snuggle for that.
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It’s go time around here. And with our first (of about five) family Christmas celebrations happening this coming weekend, I’m going to pull an old post from two years ago out of my magic sack. But it’s not just any old post. It’s one of my all-time favorites. Besides, at least half of you readers weren’t even around when I posted this. So it’s new to most of you. And with one of my children knowing Santa isn’t real and the other firmly believing in Mr. Kringle without any doubts, I was reminiscing about the year when I had to work a little harder at keeping the faith alive. This is what sitcoms are made of, people. Now, off to address some Christmas cards…
It can be stressful to have a seven-year-old at Christmastime. Why? Because there is questioning. A lot of questioning. You know, about that plump guy in the red suit.
I have to be honest; Grace’s prying questions about Santa make me more uncomfortable than the few questions she has already asked me about S-E-X. Questions about sex, while a little awkward, haven’t been that hard to answer. I am making sure she has accurate facts, giving her knowledge that not only makes her feel okay about her own body, but will hopefully lead to informed and responsible decisions in the future. I subscribe to the very wise motto of G.I. Joe: Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
But answering all these endless questions about Santa means I am doing the exact opposite: I am perpetrating a lie.
It all started at the very beginning of December. We were in the car, sitting at a stoplight. The car behind us caught my eye in the rearview mirror because it had those little reindeer antlers on either side. I glanced at the driver for a glimpse of this person with undoubted Christmas cheer, and lo and behold…it was an older gentleman, with a round face, a long, fuzzy white beard, and a red shirt. I couldn’t believe my luck! Last year we happened upon a reindeer in our backyard just before Christmas, and now this!
So I announced to the kids, “Look who is driving the car behind us!” They both quickly turned around, and Michael yelled, with an energy like the one that comes from eating too many pixie sticks, “SANTA!!!!!!”
Almost on cue, the man behind us smiled and waved at the kids. It was, for lack of a better word, precious. Just as I was feeling my own giant boost of yuletide glow, Grace said, a bit accusingly, “What would Santa be doing driving around here?” I explained that maybe he was making the rounds, checking up on kids, getting reports from all the Elves on the Shelves.
She was quiet for a second. “I kind of think Santa is real. But I kind of think he is a fairy tale.” Well, isn’t that just Grinchy. And then the questions began…
I know what she’s doing. I can tell she is conflicted. She wants to believe Santa is real, but that maturing brain of hers is feeding her more and more of this thing call “logic.” And she’s not so sure she likes the taste of it. Therefore, instead of coming straight out with the question of whether there is a Santa Claus, she is asking every possible question about his practicality to see how I respond.
Grace:What is Santa’s address? Me: Just write “Santa Clause – North Pole. The post office will know where it goes because there is only one Santa. Grace: But if no one has ever seen Santa and his workshop is secret, how does the mailman know where he lives? Me: (crap)
What am I supposed to do? Tell her that I am incredibly impressed with her abilities in deduction, throw up my hands to the fact that I will likely soon be out-smarted, and say, “Congratulations! I think you have just about figured it out. I will spare you the last two zillion questions you were going to ask me and just confirm what you are hinting at. THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS. And your parents are liars. Merry Christmas.”
Nope. That is not what I do at all. Instead, I conspire with my husband to dig ourselves even deeper in this jolly old lie. Ladies and gentlemen, witness our deception:
A few days ago, I was at the computer sending some emails when Grace asked me if the reason Santa knew all this stuff about her and Michael was because I emailed him. I confessed that I had absolutely no idea what Santa’s email address was. So Miss Smarty Pants said, “Just Google it.” I hesitantly typed in the words “Santa’s email address,” fearing that an entry would pop up saying something like “Trick your kids with this fake email address to Santa…because we all know Santa is not real.” Luckily, the first entry was an actual site where kids could send emails to Santa. And it was adorable.
Grace entered her information and her note to Santa, then hit send. A screen popped up with a message that the email was being sent…then it said Santa was reading the email…then it said he was writing one back to her. Within a few minutes, Santa’s email was ready for her to read. She was a bit skeptical that he had written it so quickly, but that doubt was soon squashed once she read the email. It was very personal and even somehow had picked up from what she had written in the free-form comment section the fact that she had a brother. I was relieved to see she seemed quite satisfied.
But apparently her wheels had been turning all afternoon, because at dinner time she informed us she had a sneaky idea. She wasn’t so sure Santa had actually written that email, or that there really was a Santa to even email. So she had devised an “experiment.” She wanted my husband to go back to the site and enter in his name, but say he was 6 years old and from Canada. By her reasoning, if Santa was real and really writing these emails, he would certainly know that Kurtis was actually an adult…and not living in Canada.
Well, *%$#@. But I have to admit, she is kind of a genius. And a little maniacal.
We knew we couldn’t talk our way out of this, so my husband agreed to do it. He went downstairs and started the email. All of a sudden, he came racing back upstairs, whipped into the family room and said in a hushed voice, “QUICK! Get on the Kindle, pretend you are Santa, and send an email to me saying that you know I was tricking you!”
OOOOOH! You handsome devil you!
But there was just one problem. I panicked, “But the site doesn’t send it to your email address! Santa’s email just pops up on the site after a minute or two!!!” But my enginerd had already taken care of that. He had unplugged the router so when they hit “send,” nothing would happen. Then when he plugged the router back in, he quickly opened his email to find this message waiting in his inbox:
Subject: Naughty, Naughty
HO HO HO! You tried to trick old Santa! I know you don’t live in Canada.
P.S. Rudolph thought that was a funny joke!
I know. The tangled web of lies we weave. But I have to say, it was totally worth it to see the look on her face and hear her exclaim, “YES! The email was really from Santa!”
Maybe I am setting her up for a bigger disappointment when she finally does learn the truth. Maybe I am being selfish. I know that the elaborate lengths my husband and I have gone to in order to keep Grace believing are in part for us. We see her losing pieces of “little” every day. Sure, her innocence still outweighs her worldliness. But childhood starts to look different around this age. It isn’t necessarily better or worse, but change is always hard. Every parent knows that faint tug of longing that comes whenever you catch a glimpse of a photo of your child during younger years. Remember…that squeaky voice…the way that tiny hand felt around your finger…that unquestionable belief in anything that could be imagined…it was adorable.
But seven-year-olds can be pretty adorable, too. Grace reminded me of that when she took a bit of offense to Santa’s use of the word joke.
“It wasn’t a joke. It was an EXPERIMENT.”
Maybe I will remember that line when Grace finally does come to the real conclusion about Santa Claus. It was just an experiment. And to make up for her being the subject of that experiment, I will let her eat the cookies her little brother leaves for Old St. Nick. I might need a lot of cookies.
I don’t know about you, but I am woefully behind on my Christmas shopping. See, there’s this thing called Life, and right now it really seems to have an issue with letting me wander aimlessly down the aisles of Toys ‘R’ Us, looking for things least likely to end up being donated next year during our annual pre-Christmas toy purge.
Thankfully, there’s this little gift-giving mantra that’s been going around which might be of tremendous help to me. A friend of mine was the first to enlighten me to it. She, of course, saw it on Pinterest. Because that is where all helpful and clever and visually perfect things are born into this world. But I have since seen it floating around elsewhere on the internet, mainly out of the mouths of comment sections. So you may have heard it as well. It goes like this: Continue reading “A Cute Rhyme Takes the Guesswork Out of Holiday Gift-Giving”→
They say you may miss opportunities if you don’t look for them. They say that don’t they? I’m pretty sure they do. If not, they should.
Sometimes opportunities fall in your lap, like when you’re debating whether you should go to that all-weekend music festival, because last time they ran out of toilet paper, and ew. But then your old college roommate happens to post a link on Facebook, making fun of this mobile toilet paper invention just as you are about to tell your friend Wren you’re going to have to skip Lolla-Roo-Aid-palooza this year. And you post your “Lol. Is that for real?” comment, but then think to yourself, Music festival, here I come. Opportunity totally came knocking at your door. Continue reading “Always Check Your Junk Mail Folder”→
(I hope you noticed my lack of exclamation points.)
Our first dose of snow hit us over the weekend, so I guess Fall has officially packed it in for 2014. Christmas has obnoxiously butted its way in front of Thanksgiving, and once again, my children are ill-prepared in the area of winter weather attire. (When will I learn and just buy freaking snow boots as soon as they hit Target’s shelves?) Thankfully, my son’s Kindergarten teacher was ahead of the game and started getting her students into a chilly mindset. The other day, Michael came home with a worksheet about hibernation, and he had to draw pictures of things he would take with him if he had to hide himself away for a warm winter’s nap, just like a bear. Continue reading “Hibernation Supplies”→
Bathing baby. Infant CPR. Car seat safety. Sure, those are all important things to know when becoming a parent for the first time. But now that I don’t have babies anymore, I’m starting to realize how short-sighted prenatal classes really are in preparing us for the grand scheme of parenting. You know the saying, “no one ever tells you THAT about having kids.” Well, here are my suggestions for a few things those classes should cover for long-term parental success…beyond the baby years…when no one seems to care if you are prepared or not.
1. Clothing Negotiation Skills
Your little one has begun forming opinions, and the first thing she decides to feel passionately about is wearing the exact same Disney-character-of-the-moment pajama shirt with a chocolate milk-stained skirt and a pair of sparkly leggings with a giant hole in the knee everywhere you go. Even to Great Aunt Ginny’s funeral. And when you try to at least swap out the holey sparkly leggings for the non-holey polka dot pair, she has a melt down, saying the polka dots are itchy. Not the leggings. The polka dots themselves. Because that’s what polka dots do. Itch people. And sparkles give relaxing mini leg massages. But the most messed up thing about this whole struggle is that in a few years, she will actually make you wish she did still want to wear the pajama-shirt-stained-skirt-holey-legging ensemble when she decides booty shorts and backless halter tops are appropriate attire for a prepubescent. That’s some pretty sick torture. My recommendation: this will clearly require a CTU-trained negotiator to teach this lesson. I don’t think Jack Bauer is doing much these days. Maybe call him.
2. School Handout Organization
No parent wants to feel the wrath that is unleashed when you pick up your child at school, only to find out it was Pretzel Day. And you never filled out the order form because it is somewhere at the bottom of one of four different piles scattered throughout your house. If your kid doesn’t get a pretzel on Pretzel Day, he may as well just run away and join the circus, because you obviously don’t care about him. In fact, you must actively and intentionally hate him to subject him to watching everyone else in school devour a warm, soft twist of carbohydrates, all because you didn’t detach a little sheet of paper and pop it in an envelope with a dollar by last Thursday. And don’t be fooled…even if it is discovered that said order form never actually made it out of your child’s backpack and into one of your four piles, it is still your fault. Therefore, a subcategory of this lesson would be Strategies for Remembering to Check Your Child’s Backpack Everyday For Important Things Like Pretzel Day Order Forms.
3. A Crash Review In Fractions
…Because those little f%*kers pop out of nowhere sometime around fourth grade. And your kid is going to expect you to help her figure out whether 5/6 or 7/8 is bigger. And if you can’t do it, you’re just going to end up looking like a dumb ass. And if you look like a dumb ass, then she’s going to start the whole “if you don’t know fractions and did okay, why do I have to learn them” thing. And if she thinks she doesn’t need to know fractions, then she’s going to start questioning the whole purpose of elementary school. And if she questions the purpose of elementary school, you’ll try to tell her she has to go so she can get into college one day. And if you tell her she’s going to college one day, she’ll decide she’d rather just work at the mall for the rest of her life so she doesn’t have to learn fractions. And if she works at the mall, she will probably get fired when she won’t know how to ring up a sweater that is on sale for 1/2 off, because, you know, fractions. And if she gets fired from the mall, she’ll probably end up as a jobless teen mom with no education. And if she becomes a teen mom, she won’t get a crash review in fractions in her prenatal class. And when those little f%*kers pop up again when her kid is in fourth grade, she won’t know how to help. And if she doesn’t know how to help, her kid is going to wonder why she needs to know fractions…
See? Learning how to swaddle doesn’t seem so necessary anymore, does it?
*Author’s Note: My husband suggested I end the post with the line, “By the way, 7/8 is bigger.” I asked him if it really was. He said, “I don’t know.”