Thursday, December 19, 2013

Something Christmasy

Guys, I'm going to come clean here. I like Christmas.  I don't love Christmas, I don't hate it, really. I just enjoy it like a regular person. And, while it often leaves me feeling like this:
Christmas isn't the enemy. It's not the most wonderful time of the year, sure, (my birthday is. That's my favorite drinking holiday!), but it isn't the worst time of the year, either (my birthday is, because it's also Isaac's birthday, my niece's birthday, my mother's birthday, mother's day, the end of the school year and memorial day. It's a lot to pull off with a hangover). Here's what I like-- and often love about Christmas: the story. It has always struck me that any organized religion would let one of its biggest holidays belong to a mother and child. It makes me tear up every year to think about a young woman giving birth in such fraught circumstances. Seriously. I love that winter holidays center on light in the darkness. I love the candles, the soft twinkling lights. I love the reminder that it brings us that even in the darkest of days, there is light. Whether that light be hope, be a promise of the eventual return of spring, or if it is in celebration of what many believe to be the birth of their baby savior, the light thing also gets me every time. Family, giving, wishes for peace, a time when people genuinely consider the better natures of their beings to be in charge...those are all the amazing things that manage to get scrooges like me all giddy warm inside.

Know what I fuckin hate though? The Elf On The Shelf. This mother f-er has got to go. I feel like I wasn't consulted about this phenomenon, you know? Like, there defiantly should have been a conference, or at least an online poll about whether we, as parents, are down with participating in the Elf craze. Cause I would have voted no! Nononononono! Emphatic no. How do I hate the Elf On The Shelf? Let me count the ways.

Let's see, well, first off, I hate him cause he's not real. He wasn't a thing when I was a kid, and I wasn't a kid that long ago, really. Why should I get all involved in another damn "tradition" when the holidays are just oozing tradition already? So, bare minimum, the average family celebrating Christmas has a tree. A tree to pick out, drive home, set up properly, decorate and keep alive long enough to open presents. Not altogether easy. Then you have the gifts, the cookies, the dinner, the church services, the carols, the movies, the books, the stockings, the treats for Santa, and getting drunk with your family. That's enough! But on top of that there's advent calendars, 25 days of Christmas books to open and read with your children (which I do think is kind of cute, but cool it, Pinterest, we get it), and now, the god damned elf. Where is there time for me to incorporate this stupid non-tradition? I am set in my ways and I have no space for you, Elf. Which brings me to my second point:

I have no time for you, Elf. Right now, my kids are still young enough to be afraid of Santa and try to eat the pine needles that fall off the tree. I have a grace period before the Elf thing becomes a real issue. But does anyone else feel like this is just some sort of trick being played on parents? Like we don't have enough to do daily, now we have to remember to cook up some dumb ass shenanigans for the Elf to get into every night for nearly a month? Gimmie a break. My 10 year old niece is still a "believer", and she'll come over, bless her too-old-for-this heart, and ask me if my elf is sick (yes, we have one, a "gift" from my sister in law. Thanks, K!). I have no idea why she would think a toy is sick, except yeah, she thinks its real, and there's rules to the Elf. It has to move every day. Kids can't touch it. And if it gets sick (meaning Mom forgot to move it last night), it will only wake up by doing it's drug of choice, Cinnamon, or something like that. So now I have to move the Elf every day, on the off chance that Reilly is going to come over, or the whole thing will be blown. Our lies will be discovered. I don't have time for this nonsense! I barely get to brush my hair and find matching socks! Now you want me to make time to play fucking dolls every night before I go to bed? Noooo thanks.

So, if I don't do the Elf, I am the ruiner. If I chose not to participate, my kids don't participate. So, then what? How do I deal with the inevitable schoolyard questions? Why don't Isaac and Vivian have an elf? Because their mom A) is trying to instil an intrinsically based value-system in which her children will discover the true rewards of kind and generous behavior without the external pressure from an elvin spy? B) is seriously creeped out by the heavy-handed consumerist message that comes with Christmas generally, and the Elf On The Shelf, specifically? C) is not that nice? D) is just tired? Do I have to try and sell my kids a bill of goods about "magic" and "belief"? Can I tell them the truth, that the elf thing is a load of crap and I just don't want to do it, sorry? Will they spoil the fun for the other moms kids? I don't want my kids being the "you know, that's not real" kids! Ugh! Thanks Elf, for making me have to worry about this shit, too! Jerk.

Lastly, I hate the one-upmanship ("look how creative and silly I got with my elf last night! I covered my entire first floor with ice and blamed it on the Elf!"), the sexism and adult jokes disguised as kid-fun ("my elf is snorting cinnamon rails off Barbie's ass! I'm so irreverent!"), and the general cheeky mischief that the elf is supposed to get into ("Haha, our elf ate all the Christmas cookies!"). Why is he such a dick? What is the fun in inviting a little spy into our homes at all, let alone if he is the one acting like a complete asshole while he's there? What is the message for our kids? I just don't get it. It's fun for the parents, I guess, and there's not a whole lot that's still fun for us this time of year, truth be told.

I don't mean to hate on you parents doing your Elf thing. Do it up, man. Enjoy. Start your own traditions with your kids, ride that wave! For our part, my father is still making batches of lebkuchen and Springerle cookies every year, as tradition dictates. And, as tradition dictates, no one eats them. Cause they're both gross. (Sorry, Dad). But he makes them every year, because that's what's done. We have traditions that are old, to which we still cling. And while I'm not sure if I'll be the one to roll out those anise cookies once the torch has been passed, I am pretty sure that I'm not in the market for anything new, either. Call me old fashioned (please). I just don't want to participate. But I'm not the boss of me anymore, either, and I suppose if the time comes that the kids want the elf to do his thing...then Matt can do it, cause I am not doing that shit!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Today I Wondered, Out Loud, If I Should Just Give Up and Feed My Children Mommy's Tears For Dinner

If you ever feel like you're not doing enough to show your community just how far you are in over your head with this whole Parenting thing, this expert suggests a trip to Wegman's in the rain. Bring both kids, at, say, noon on-the-dot. Plan on getting lunch and groceries.

Your first order of business should be to dress your baby in a black novelty onesie and your 4T wearing son in a 2T girl's sweatshirt with an embroidered heart and puffy sleeves because that's all you have handy. And a newsie cap that is too big. Do not, under any circumstances, remember an umbrella. In fact, don't even own an umbrella, that's too easy. Once you and both children "run" through the parking lot, (an act you've told them no fewer than 9,000 times is strictly forbidden and "safety second") stopping, of course, to pick up dropped toys, tie shoes, pull off the hat, pull up a hood and look at a red truck, be sure to loose track of the toddler as you stop to wipe off your glasses inside. Don't worry, the staff at the grocery store know him by now and will just point him in your direction eventually.

Once you decide that pizza is a good idea, grab a cup with no lid and some juice. Struggle to keep the infant in your lap as you cut the pizza into triangles (not squares!) for your toddler. Pretend to smile and listen to the teeny tiny old lady next to you as she tells you how cute your son is (she's referring, of course, to your daughter, but who has the energy to correct her? Maybe parents are naming their sons Vivian these days, I don't fucking know. Luckily, she doesn't either). As the baby enjoys a fistful of your hair, finish packing up the lunch mess, including the napkins from spill #1. Cue spill #2, this one resulting in "down the wrong pipe" choking, tears, and requiring a shirt change. Change your son's cool cool robot shirt in the packed cafe at Wegman's and just leave the heart sweatshirt on, zipped, with his belly button hanging out. Ignore the kind young police officer's offer of assistance. I don't know why. Because you couldn't possibly know where to begin? Because he probably can't breastfeed Viv? And because, generally, fuck the police? Poor guy, he's probably going to turn all Training Day now that he's seen what people are really like.

Ready to get groceries? Great. Don't bother getting out your list, your hands are full enough already. One hand from trying to keep the baby in the carrier as she tries to climb out and nourish herself on your chin, with a side of more hair (sorry, I forgot to remind you to forget your hair-tie. Having damp, stringy hair in your face/daughters sticky, vice-grip hands and mouth through this whole ordeal is a key element). The other hand is occupied trying to keep Isaac from whacking people with his new Cool Cool Umbrella that we had to buy upon entry to the store. Besides, who needs a list? Just go from memory. You remember what you need, right? Coffee filters, crayons, bread, oh shit, dinner, something else you can't quite remember-- was it cheese? Surely it wasn't cheese. Oh well, let's say it was bananas. There. Finished. Check out, run outside in the rain, watch the umbrella blow away, chase it though the parking lot, get home, unload the kids, don't even give one flying fuck that the shirtless toddler wants to play umbrella inside and watch Dora Saves Santa for the 8th time in two days just leave me alone and let me make dinner! Start dinner. Remember that it was milk you needed. Milk. The only thing you ever need, ever, on every list, for every trip out of the house. Just get milk.

Ignore the children, plan the milk run to include a stop to get wine. The end.

The Offenders. Her shirt says "Don't look at me, that smell is comin' from my dad". Stay classy, kids.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Advice From Someone Who's Been There

First off, I'd like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for sharing and re-sharing my last post. It went on to be published by the very cool website Offbeat Families and was very positively received. Thanks for helping me get there, thus helping me continue to not get paid for something I do well, just on a broader scale. lol. lowercase. I really need to get on this "getting published" thing one of these days.

So, lately, I see a lot of my pals starting or expanding their young families. If any of you are like me, you're constantly clicking on those listcicles on parenting websites and The Huffington Post with titles like "8 things I wish I knew before having kids" and "Three Words That Changed The Way I Parent (They're Not What You Think)", "Parenting: 77 Ways You're Doing It Wrong", "This One Lady Got Her Infant To Sleep Easily This One Time. Read In Envy and Frustration". Basically, advice from people who either have really good children or no children at all, writing articles for the rest of us to read on our phones at 3 am while our youngest engages in a World Record breaking nursing session for the ninth night in a row. So now I want to share some non-wisdom, some common sense, some shit that The Stir is probably wouldn't publish because it's so duh. Parenting "hacks", if you will. I hate that word, so, I won't.

1. Get your hair cut before you have the baby
Like,as close as you can before you have the baby. Even if you have to go in there when you're in early labor, just go get a quick trim. Especially if this is your second baby. The next time you have time to go to a salon for real will be for your child's wedding. I understand now why when we were kids it seemed like every mom had the same haircut for our entire childhood. It's because she did. Don't bother with your nails. Watching your nail polish chip away with no recourse is depressing. And I dare you to try to sneak in an at-home mani while your baby sleeps. I dare you.

2. Make Freezer Meals
Working as a server for ten years, to me, dinner was a shift. A shift that either I worked or a shift that another server worked while I sat down and was served. And served in the most gluttonous sense. Course upon course, cocktail upon cocktail...I did my best to try and spend my way into gout, dropping every last penny on food and drink, never imagining a day I might actually need some of that money for silly shit like groceries. Those were the days. It seemed quaint to me that families actually sat down at home to enjoy a meal that one of them prepared. Not everyone could be a badass like me, I guess, and settle for a slice of turkey on a stale dinner roll and some leftover fries to suffice as a meal. Imagine my surprise when I was first home with Isaac and realized that if I were to be fed, it would be up to me to find and prepare food. I know, right? So, lesson learned, before I had Vivian I sat down and prepared a whole bunch of meals that could be tossed in the crock pot or just slow-cooked on the stove top during the day.  Make up a month's worth. You can find recipes on Pinterest and such. If you're breastfeeding, you're going to be wicked hungry, so seriously, just do this.

3. Breastfeed If You Can
It sucks, it hurts in the beginning, you always worry about one damn thing or another, you have to plan your wardrobe around pulling your boobs out and your partner can't ever trade off a feeding with you (at least in the early days). You know what, though? It really is as great as "they" say. I've done both, and far and away, breastfeeding is more convenient. It is so much easier and cheaper than formula, you don't have to prepare bottles all damn night, you just roll over and give the baby a boob. You get used to the idea of nursing in public so your wardrobe becomes less and less of an issue. I've never felt like I was out of place nursing outside my home. I know some women are still harassed, but I have never encountered it. At least not yet.  And god help anyone who does give me shit, at this point! When you have a second baby, especially, it is nice to breastfeed. It gives you time to just cuddle up with your new one, leaving your toddler to, you know, run the house and jump on the furniture and whatever else they do. I feel like if I were purely bottle feeding Viv, I would never get one-on-one time with her. Literally, never. Isaac is a demanding kid. If you can't breastfeed, don't beat yourself up. It's not a race, you're doing great anyway, and your baby is no less loved. Do not engage yourself in "Mommy Wars" or "Mom Guilt" or whatever the fuck magazines want you to engage in. You're doing great.

4. Two-Year-Olds are Horrible People
Horrible people, who, when they stop terrorizing you long enough to give you a little hug and say "I wub oo Ma-ee", are the best people in the world. Enjoy your screaming, pooping, non-sleeping infant who can't talk. They grow into screaming, pooping, non-sleeping toddlers who have opinions on everything. And I've heard that they usually become teenagers not too long after that, so...

5. Get All Your Shit Together
The following items will come up more than you know: Your SSN, your partner's SSN and your child's SSN. Make copies of your birth certificates, your lease (if you rent), and your health insurance card. You never know when you might have to send that stuff in to one agency or another, and it helps having them all in once place, ready to go. Trust me, I lost both my birth certificate and Isaac's. What a hassle.

6. Stop Googling Everything
Your baby is most likely fine, you're just going to make yourself nuts. If something really is wrong with her, you'll know. And WebMd won't be able to help you, just a real Md. Relax. They all spit up a lot, they all cry a lot, none of them sleep, they only look blind in the beginning, their ears aren't abnormally small, newborns kind-of quiver in the first few days, like they're shivering, it's normal, cradle cap goes away (put some olive oil on it for a minute and brush it gently with a baby toothbrush. Voila). These are all things I Googled, by the way. Also, when their belly button falls off, it's super gross and kind of smells weird. And no, the baby's guts will not fall out through that hole.

7. Accept Help
For some reason, when Isaac was born, I almost took offense to my mother coming around to do things like clean my sink. I saw it as an insult, in a way, like she was saying that my house was dirty (which it was, and which it remains). That wasn't her intent at all, I know now that I'm not a New Mom Hormonal Mess. People want to help you when you have a new baby. Let them. One day they stop showing up and your sink will be dirty forever thereafter.

8. They Have To Eat a Pound of Dirt
...and other conventional wisdom. It's all true. Stop sanitizing the shit out of your hands. Soap and water will do. Coming into contact with day-to-day germs helps build their immune system. In the same vein, everyone's baby falls off the couch or the bed, you're not a horrible person if that happens, just be careful next time. Babies survive a regular babyhood. The human species wouldn't have lasted long if knocking their little noggins on the underside of the coffee table were deadly. We had to survive Saber Tooth Tigers, for goodness sake. Give your kid some credit. (This is not meant to be medical advice, as they say).

9. Write Stuff Down
You'll forget more than you know.

Good luck, all! I love you and I love bossing you around. Take care of your pregnant selves. Be confident and strong when you bring that new one into the world. Hire a Doula, trust your instincts and kiss your baby. Give yourself a break when it comes to being a parent-- none of us are doing it right, but we're all doing the best we can. See anything I missed and you'd like to add?

I forgot:

10. The First 5 Weeks of The Baby's Life Is Longer Than The Whole First Year
It gets better, I promise. And on that note:

11. Cultivate Friendships With Other Parents, Especially Other Mothers
Having someone to lean on, advice to hear, advice to give, someone to listen to you bitch, someone to listen to you brag, someone with whom to have a glass of wine or two...these things are invaluable. It can be work, when you are mired in baby land, but it will be worth it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Dora Dora Dora the (Outdated Gender-Stereotype) Explorer!

Dora the Explorer has finally found her way Isaac's House (it's over the shallow river, past the tall church, then you get to Isaac's house! Say "Map! Say Map!"). I've never minded Dora, my niece had a big thing with her a few years back so I'm well acquainted with her program.  Obviously I love that she's a little girl who is always the hero of her own story.  Dora senses the needs of her friends, does all of the planning, the guiding, the saving and helping, all on her own (well, with Boots, of course, but as far as his role goes, he is defiantly a side-kick). There are very few children's programs on air now that even give equal screen time to male and female characters, let alone have a female protagonist that isn't rife with stereotypically feminine traits (conventionally attractive to the point of being "sexy", a nag, in pursuit of a husband/boyfriend/appointment to royal status, or a fairy. Or a princess. Or both). Dora (now, I'm talking just regular Dora, pre-fairyprincess Dora. Fairy Princess Rock Star Dora doesn't factor into Isaac's life. Because she's bullshit), Dora, in general, is fine by me as a television character for my kid to enjoy.

Well, apparently, because Dora is a girl, of course, she is a character for girls. There's like, no way that she can just be a character for kids, according to all the people. Seriously. It started when Isaac decided he wanted cupcakes. I figured we'd make cupcakes and take them to work for our friends. I gave him one of my aprons but it was too big. The next week at the local farmer's market I spied homemade kid-sized aprons. They had some robots and some flowers, but what really caught my eye was, of course, a Dora apron. It is bright pink and lacy but whatever. That's not something that would register for Isaac. He loves his Dora "shirt", as he calls it. He wore it all day that day, wore it to bed, we had to hide it on him in order to get it clean so he could wear it all day again the next day. He wore it to the bakery next door with my niece. Apparently the women behind the counter said things like "what are you wearing? Does your father know you're wearing that?!" I mean, this kid's dad wears an apron to work every day of his life. I guess I wish I were shocked. I wish that a boy child wearing pink didn't illicit some sort of visceral, nasty response in people. He's too young to have understood what they were implying, but Reilly sure wasn't! (Thanks for that, bakery ladies! Certainly a young girl burgeoning on adulthood needs to be reminded of her second-class status whenever she goes to get a bagel!). So we've decided, at my brilliant co-worker's suggestion, to commission a Matt sized Dora apron so the two of them can match next time they go grab a "fuffin" for the kid. If my anger has subsided by then.
Stylin hard with his pockets full of beverages!

So here's what I can't wrap my mind around: (and complete disclaimer here: I am neither an expert in child development nor gender or queer studies, these are just my opinions, gleaned from items I've read and experiences I've had). At two, gender is still very fluid. Isaac doesn't know "boy" or "girl" at all. Like, no concept whatsoever. He calls every child "kid" and I love it that he does. I'm certainly in no rush to make my child fit into any category at all (besides Two-Year-Olds Who Still Don't Sleep Through The Night Ever. Suggestions welcome). So, even if your average bakery worker isn't quite up to speed with child development and gender politics, it's still safe to say that "shaming" my kid (because that's what they were trying to do), isn't alright. He's a child. He's doing his thing, man! He's got a great new outfit to wear on his big adventure to the store down the street, he's happy as can be! It's got pockets big enough to hold cars and his juice! How are you going to come at him with some sort of bullshit like "boys with good fathers don't wear pink aprons"? Not OK.  And for what, exactly, should he be shamed? Because girls wear pink and girls aren't as good as boys? Because if a boy has on clothing that was intended to be worn by a girl, then he may somehow draw the pink ink into his veins and get gay? Because fuck all that. Girls are great! boys are great! trans* kids are great!...Colors are great, aprons are great, hand made items are great and Dora, at times, is great. And wearing a pink Dora apron doesn't infuse gay into your veins. I tried it and it didn't work. Why or how could I possibly care if my child or children were gay? How could that even register on things that would upset me in any way? The truth is, it goes way beyond how Isaac presents himself and identifies himself someday in the future. The really important part of the societal conversation we need to be having is that statistically, he's probably going to grow up a straight, white male, with all of the privileges that are afforded people like him. That is all the more reason he needs to understand that other worldviews and experiences have value. He can be one of two things, in my mind: an ally or a bigot. In our house, we're allies. Every day we have to fight the battle for our children so that one day they will be able to fight it on their own.

I was grumbling about the whole situation to Matt the other night and a real sadness came over me. As I was going on and on about "he's young, colors don't mean the same to him that they do to society at large", I kept adding "yet". Soon enough the world is going to harden around him. Soon enough he will start to get the vibe that girls and girl culture is less-than.  Less than important and less than meaningful. Less than exciting and less than adventurous. He might observe some homophobia along the way. Hatred of trans* individuals is still, unfortunately, a very real thing and likely will still be as Isaac grows up. (Ohmygod, read this blog: gendermom. Hope springs eternal). I won't teach him that kind of hatred and other-ness, his father certainly wouldn't either. It is information that he will absorb, however. He may become embarrassed and deny having worn his Dora shirt. He will blush and protest when I mention that he used to demand that I paint his toenails whenever he saw a bottle of nail polish and that he loved to jump around in my heels. That world is coming for him. It will seep in, through the cracks under the doors, through the advertisements and toy stores, through the off-hand and cruel comments by both his peers and those old enough to know better. That may happen. It may not. My job isn't to change the way the whole world thinks, or even to keep my kids away from it. My role is just to allow the two little people in my house to think better. To think better of each other, of people they don't know, to think better than to make asinine assumptions based in ignorance and hatred. Most of all I want them to be able to think better of themselves, so one day, when they are confronted with bigotry, even in it's tiniest, most micro-aggressive forms, they are able to stand firm on the side of inclusiveness and err on the side of progress.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Let Go and Let Jonah...Sanctimommy at a Standstill

Remember before you had kids, back when you had all the answers, back when you knew how you were going to do things once you had kids? Ah, the good old days. Mine were these ones: No TV til they're like, four years old. No labels or television characters on their clothing ever ever. Gender neutral decor and toys. I will feed them as much organic food as I can afford. Of course, no toy guns or violence. I've managed to stand firm on some of my original plans-- for instance, I do feed them. The other goals are works in progress.

I hate to admit it to anyone, most of all to my Early Childhood Education educated self, but television can be a real help. Isaac's big joy in life is Yo Gabba Gabba! The kid loves it, and keeping him occupied for 22 mins and 34 seconds out of  the day IS AWESOME! (a little YGG reference for ya. No? OK. I'll show myself out). And try though I might to show him that it's OK to play with traditionally "girl" things, like buy him a doll stroller for Raggedy Andy, he is quick to turn the stroller upside down and play with just the wheels.   The few battles I have yet to lose (mostly because they have yet to be fought) are over labels/characters on his shirts-- I don't want my child to be a billboard for The Gap or Marvel Comics. (Star Wars doesn't count, it's a cultural phenomenon. There's a difference). And then there's The Guns and The Violence. (Side note: once, just to see my reaction, Matt told me that he bought Isaac a t-shirt with a picture of Spiderman punching a girl. Of course I believed him and was about to launch into a tirade beginning with "I don't even know where to start!", but then I caught on.)

This isn't the platform to discuss gun control. I will say that I don't really have a problem with responsible gun ownership, it's just not for me or my family. We don't hunt, and I can't imagine what the hell else we'd use a gun for beyond maybe target practice, and that's just not a good enough reason for us to own one. Since we don't and wouldn't use a gun practically, the only way Isaac is going to be exposed to them is through TV and movies (which is why I don't let him watch TV! oh, wait). Since TV and movies rarely show people using guns in a responsible, practical, non-violent way (can't you see it now? "Next, on NBC: Law and Order: Just Plain Old Target Practice and Nothing Else, and later: Regular People Eating What They Kill, For a Sustainable Lifestyle"), I feel that the only way I can provide a buffer for him is by disallowing guns and gun games in the house. Ah, but then I've made a Rule. And you know what happens when you make a rule about Guns in the House? You go to the park, which is not the house.

Jonah and Isaac are park buddies (Names have been changed to protect the innocent, myself, against kids with guns). Jonah is a little older, about 4, and he is always playing guns. Every day he is shooting at something and with something, be it a stick or just his fingers, every day he has a gun. But he's a nice kid! While I cringe every time I hear a "pew pew", I am hoping that Isaac is too young to even notice what his buddy is up to, hoping that all he really wants to do is master the slide the way Jonah has, hoping he's doing anything but noticing that his park friend is shooting him. I can't very well stand up and intervene, can I? My pre-child self would have been all about it. Hell, she'd probably even know the kindest way to say "point that invisible gun at my baby one more fucking time, Jonah, I dare you". It would come out informed-sounding and gentle, like "at our house we don't play guns. He is too young to pretend at something that is the actual cause of death for 500+ children a year in the United States. I know you understand". I'd smile, my long, wavy hair glowing in the mid-day sun. They'd smile, their clean faces the stuff of legend, and they'd go off to play house or boat or maybe even houseboat. There would be sharing and laughter, when it was time to go, they'd hug goodbye and happily leave with their respective guardians...Back on Earth, upon our return from planet Yeah Right, I just freeze in my tracks. Jonah is not my child and I can't very well tell other people's children what is appropriate, and he's not hurting anyone. Plus, I think his grandma could probably kick my ass.

Well today Jonah brought two squirt guns (empty) and a toy crossbow (cause like, why not?). I felt that we were dodging the make-believe bullet, however, because Jonah was already playing with two other kids, and anyway Isaac was too busy doing the slide for real with his dad to even notice the big kids. Wrong! We weren't home ten minutes and Isaac picked up a curtain rod I had taken down and started shooting it! I died a little. I bargained. I told myself that he is just mimicking the noise the boys were making, not the shooting. He would have no point of reference for guns, he's never really seen them anywhere else...So now what? I can't reason with him on this subject. I can't reason with him at all! He's two! Do I actively discourage him from ever playing like that again? Won't that turn into the whole "it's more alluring now because it's forbidden" thing? Do I let it go and hope it won't come up again til he's old enough to listen? When's that? Like, twenty? I am truly at a standstill. I wish I could go back in time, back when I was a legit sanctimommy, back before I had kids and I knew how to raise them.

Someone told me once that boys will always play guns. Or swords. Or Light Sabers.  There will always be some kind of weapon in their play. Sigh. I didn't think it would happen with my kid. I didn't think I would let it happen with my kid. But it has. I suppose I know plenty of really well adjusted people who played guns in their youth. Right?  A few years of "pew pew" on the playground don't necessarily equate to an adulthood of slaughter and mayhem. I am just afraid of normalizing guns and violence, afraid that he will see guns as an everyday thing, and most of all, like Michael Scott doing improv, or Jonah when he isn't ready to leave the park, I'm afraid he'll see them as a means to end any conversation he doesn't want to be having-- both metaphorically, or god forbid, literally. He's got to learn compromise and kindness. I'd like him to have more practice in peace before he learns alternatives that involve force. I'd like to be able to tell him it's time to leave the park without him saying "No! I just shot you".

It is hard when you realize that the parent you want to be is not always the parent you are. You might have a certain vision in your mind about how things are going to go, but reality is always a little different. You may have trouble growing that glowing mane of beautiful hair, you child's face hasn't been legitimately clean in actual months, and every so often you'll let him eat peanut butter and jelly for dinner in front of the television, just to get your damn blog written. I guess the key is choosing your battles and saving your energy for when he wants to wear a shirt with a picture of Spiderman punching a girl.

The Miracle of Birth, Take Two

I feel compelled to write a quick note on the experience of having baby number two, as it was like the delivery of Isaac on Opposite Day. I never thought having a baby could be so pleasant. After a few weeks of hell, I was glad to have a positive experience! About 31 weeks into pregnancy #2, I was diagnosed with hydronephrosis of the kidney, maybe stones maybe not. While I knew what was going on, the entire staff of the hospital seemed to be on planet Don't Care as I writhed and rocked and shook in pain. I wound up in the ER for 7 hours, two of them across the hall from a dead guy, before I was admitted to the maternity floor. The admitting doctor (not my midwife) told the nursing staff that I could take Tylenol for the pain.  I won't repeat what I said to the poor nurse, but suffice it to say, I did apologize to her after being hooked up to an IV drip of something more powerful. Tylenol? Was he serious?! What, were they out of herbs? Like I didn't try Tylenol before coming to the hospital, instead of say, Walgreens, and then waiting around next to a corpse for some relief?! It was the same old routine after that, stent placements, stent exchanges...three in total with Viv, just like her brother.

Unlike Isaac, however, Vivian made her appearnce in quite the opposite way (ok, well not completely opposite, she didn't like, spring fully formed from my skull or anything. That would have been something). I started having contractions at around 10 on Monday night. At about 2 am we went to the hospital, called my mom, sister and my doula to meet us there. I did ask for an epidural after a bit, worrying that I'd want one and it would be too late. I had no other pain relief besides the comforting support of Matt and Darcie.  After the epidural, however, the contractions stopped.  My midwife broke my water, gave me a hit of Pitocin, (which had me extremely worried that I was going to go down the tangled road of increasing intervenion and wind up sliced and diced) and told everyone to get some sleep. This was around 5 am.  45 minutes later the nurse checked me and told me it was time to have a baby.  A few pushes and Vivian was born.  I kept thinking "ugh, I still have to have a baby!" but I didn't! That part was over, and I finally got to make that face I'd seen on other women as their baby arrived-- to experience that feeling, to reach down and grab my newborn and smile. Joy.

So what was different this time? This time around, I educated myself. I read Ina May and imagined what it would be like to give birth on her farm. I followed birth blogs, especially Birth Without Fear, which is really just about sharing, supporting and empowering women in all of their birthing experiences. I brought my husband in on my thoughts by sitting down and watching The Business of Being Born. At this point, we both knew that a home birth was not in our future (kidneys!), but it helped us both to see one natural, un-medicated, peaceful experience after another. But the biggest changes I made for myself were with who I chose to care for me. I switched from my OBGYN to a midwife. The women at my new practice were awesome. Every single visit I was met with upbeat women who really seem to enjoy their work.  They liked me, they respected me, the empathized with me, they had my back. When I lost it and broke down in tears, in such pain between stent surgeries, my midwife, Erin had a plan.  The thing that had worried me the most, the thought of being induced, was cleared up in moments. She was matter-of-fact but gentle, she told me what to say to the urologist, she assured me that induction was not going to happen unless I was sure I really wanted it. At my former practice, I felt like my kidney problems were wholly separate in my OB's mind, like they had no real understanding of the depth of my fear and inexperience. At Birth n Beyond, I felt like I was part of a team.

Another huge part of my team was my doula, Darcie. Talk about someone who has a calling! She's a hugger. Anyone who knows me well will notice that I am not a huge hand-shaker or hugger. She's the kind of person, however, who I did not hesitate to hug upon first meeting. She is warm and kind, she listened to all of my fears and concerns and gave equal weight to every last one of them, big or small. Having her to bounce ideas, worries and fears off of kept me sane. I felt so much more confident even just having her in the room as I labored. Something about her presence reminded me that every contraction would eventually end, that I would be able to get through it, and that each one brought be that much closer to being done. Anyone considering hiring a doula should absolutely do it. I cannot say enough kind things about my experience, it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Contrary to Isaac's entrance into the world, Vivian's was so much more peaceful, so much more joyful, and made me feel so much stronger. I have always been amazed at my body's ability to give birth, or even grow a baby, but I was so frustrated with what I perceived to be failures. I failed to push Isaac out, I failed to nurse him right away, I failed to heal well after his birth and I failed to ask for help when I needed it most. I feel like Viv's birth was a do-over. Not only was I able to experience something much closer to my ideal situation, but I was able to reflect on the past two years and start forgiving myself. I didn't fail Isaac. I was in over my head, I was not fully prepared. His birth left me exhausted and overwhelmed, and that is OK. I am not a villain. I was just a person doing something for the first time. Hear arrival helped me bring down some of the walls I'd built.

A lot has changed for me. I can't seem to keep my mind off the backward way we bring babies into the world in this country. Viewing birth through a medical lens is so unnecessary. Unless there truly are problems that require a doctor's intervention, why are we so set on having surgeons deliver our babies and care for us prenataly? Midwives are the shit and should be our first thought when we're pregnant. We are taught that labor is the worst thing ever to happen and that it should be feared and medicated "away". We are led to believe that screaming in terror and agony are par for the course, that laying down on our backs is how babies come out easiest and that doctors and nurses know best when it comes to our own bodies.  I'm here to tell you that giving birth without a drug cocktail was significantly less painful and frightening that it was with drugs. I was so present this time, so much more in control. Fear is unnecessary if you trust your body and your care team, and when your care team trusts you and your body, the work of baby-having gets done. I mean, it's not easy and it sure does hurt, you know I don't lie about that nonsense. But the pain makes sense. After both of my experiences I would never poo-poo an epidural, if that's what a woman wants. If I were to have another baby, however, I would like to try to go all the way without any intervention.  That's not going to happen though...I'm tapping out.  Hydronephrosis of the kidney has scared me off the whole pregnancy thing altogether and I am getting out of the baby making game.  I won't miss it either! While it is transformative and amazing, on the best days, it is rough going and requires a lot of a person. Being done is bitter-sweet, but I can now concentrate on these two kids-- I have my hands quite full with them!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Busman's Holiday

Am I the only mother out there who feels like Mother's Day is a big load of crap? Literally (more on this later). Listen, I understand the sentiment behind the whole thing, and I want to clarify that my "kids" (husband) did all the things. I got chocolate for breakfast, mimosas for lunch, beautiful flowers, a trip to T.J. Maxx alone, and an entire meal without holding or persuading a child to eat. My issue isn't from within the home, my gripe is with the practice of the holiday in general.
If anyone had asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day, I would have said: a clean bathroom, a martini, and going to see The Great Gatsby alone. Or maybe with other adults like my sister and mother. We tried to plan a day like that, but all of the children and husbands cried "No! you're supposed to spend time with your children on Mother's Day!" Oh, am I? You mean I get to spend the day doing what I do the other 364 days a year?! What a fantastic idea! That is exactly what I need on a day meant to celebrate and thank me for all of my mother-ness.  More mothering! Mother's Day should be a day off. I know many women who were treated to breakfast in bed (my favorite being my sister-in-law, who was greeted with this *amazing* treat.
At least her kids didn't try to cook. Many other mothers were posting pictures on Facebook of their sinks full to the brim with Breakfast In Bed pots and pans. I bet my sister-in-law even had to recycle her own yogurt container. I know that I personally did two loads of laundry and changed one of the most disgusting diapers I have ever encountered (and it wasn't the one that leaked all over my bed at 6am). I also woke up with spit-up in my hair. While being treated to my favorite meal of Fettuccine Alfredo I also got to nurse in public, which I enjoy about as much as jogging outside or wearing a bathing suit... ever...I'm not shy, I just hesitate to engage in any activity that displays my lumpy parts to strangers. Isaac threw his spaghetti all over the room and washed his hands in my glass of water. Bedtime was its usual hellscape of screams and tears, all of which I tried in vain to ignore and so I could watch Call the Midwife in peace. I fell asleep before Mad Men, realizing right before I drifted off, that I forgot to change the sheets.

I'm not complaining-- the day had several wonderful moments that made me realize how happy I am to be a mother, and how proud I am to be a daughter. I got so many warm and loving messages from friends and family, my co-workers, and I even purchased a new pair of shoes. What I would like to point out, is that besides having sassy new wedges and booze for lunch, Mother's Day was just Day.  I changed as many diapers as usual, did as many loads of dishes and laundry, and said just as many prayers to the Goddess of Toddler Sleep as I usually do (ten million).

Here are my suggestions for improvement. Feel free to add your own. Mother's Day should be a day when mothers are shooed away from their homes.  A macaroni-glued card should be on the table next to her car keys, and in it should be a Dunkin' Donuts gift card. Or not. I have three bucks, I got this. Just don't leave me your crusty egg dishes. Target, Barnes and Noble, Jo-Ann Fabrics, all of those places that are going to be open anyway, should open early and have a no-kid policy. I want to shop in peace. I left my kids at home, you leave yours, too. Movie theaters should offer discounts on films that do not feature talking animals, vampires, plucky princess with abusive step-mothers, or explosions. I want to leave the theater in full-on tears, having watched a period drama on its first run. One that might be nominated for an Oscar, one that I had to make exactly zero compromises to see. One with accents and complicated story lines. I want to see a good movie, just once, before I have to wait another 5 years for it to come on Netflix, because by the time it gets there I never remember. I never remember. After the movie I want to go out with a few other mothers for a quick glass of wine, a spicy appetizer, and then home to more quiet and some AMC dramas that start at a reasonable hour. Like 6.  Is that too much to ask? Yeah, probably.

No one of us parents has it easy.  That isn't to say that parenting isn't wonderful and rewarding.  It's just that not-parenting for a day would certainly have its own merits, Amirite? So next year we're doing it: my sister, mother and I are leaving home for the day and doing what we please, sorry kids! We love you real bad, and sometimes we need a day away to remember just how much.