Wednesday, September 24, 2014

5 Things I Never Thought I Would Become as a Parent

1. Sick...all of the time
The first year that my daughter was in daycare she got sick a lot.  Everyone said "With all of those immunities she is building up, she will never miss a day of Kindergarten." (P.S. That isn't really reassuring when you are a first time mom and have a sick baby). I hope it really is true, but what about me?  My husband and I got every sniffle, every cough, and every stomach bug that she brought home. No one prepared me for the fact that WE would get sick. Someone in our house was sick, I swear, for 8 months straight. To top it off, I had to use all of my sick time as part of my maternity leave. It was so stressful!

2. Injured by my own baby
Have you ever taken a board book to the brow bone? It does not feel good.  Picture this: Cuddling in bed early one Saturday morning with your sweet baby. You are reading Goodnight Moon because it was still on your nightstand from the previous evening, and it is just so precious because baby wants to hold the book too. "Goodnight kittens, and goodnight mitt..."  Out of nowhere, that baby has Herculean strength and that chubby little hand slams the book into your eye.  You are temporarily blinded and try not to cry. The baby laughs.  I have also been the victim of head butts and razor sharp baby fingernails to the face. I will spare you the details of a biting incident that occurred while nursing my son when he was 9 months old and teething. Let's just say that it involved a lot of cursing, ice packs, and a trip to the lactation specialist.

4. Owner of a hole-filled wardrobe
I knew there would be spit-up stains. I didn't expect the holes. In ALL of my clothes. For the sake of this post, I surveyed my closet. I have 16 shirts hanging with holes in them. The holes are all in the same spot, where the button of my pants rubs my shirt. It has to be from carrying around a baby/toddler/pre-schooler in my arms. I am too stubborn (cheap?) to throw them all out.  I have also worn holes in the left knees of my two favorite pairs of jeans due to the constant up and down from the floor. I like to imagine that when someone sees me out in public they think "Oh, she must be in the middle of some home improvement project." That is what I look like, someone running out to Lowe's to buy more paint.

3. Fairy Tale editor
Here is just one example: Have you read the Pied Piper of Hamlin as an adult? It is should be narrated by Chris Hansen on an episode of "To Catch a Predator".  If you haven't read it lately, here is the gist: The Pied Piper gets cheated by a crooked town official. To get his revenge, he lures all of the town's children out of their homes with his hypnotic flute and STEALS them. He takes them away to a mountain and the town's people NEVER see their kids again.  I do not remember the mass kidnapping aspect of that story.  I thought he just rid the town of rats.  (Perhaps my parents omitted the end when it was read to me.)  When I read it to my daughter, the kids go on a hike and meet their parents at the mountain.

5. Just...gross
My personal hygiene standards have been lowered and I don't know how it happened.  Showering on BOTH days of the weekend is a thing of the past. It just doesn't take place. Do you want to know a way to spot a new mom? She is hairy. Check out her eyebrows, and her legs. Eyebrow maintenance gets put on the back burner. There are stray hairs growing where it used to be plucked clean.  Legs go unshaven in the summer longer than her former self would have ever let them, but she still wears shorts. I had an excuse when my son was a newborn, and I was insanely tired, but he is now one. Teeth brushing?  It still happens. Most days.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

How Do You Explain Beauty to a Three Year Old?

A few months before my daughter turned three, we were having one of THOSE mornings.  The kind that starts with this conversation as she is opening her eyes:

Her: "Is it a home day or a school day?"

Me: "It is a school day."

Her: "NOOOO, I want it to be a HOME day!"

This is followed by a dramatic flop back onto her pillow and covers pulled up over her head. I have heard people refer to their three year old as a "threenager". We have one of those.  I manage to drag her out of bed, and guide her into the bathroom.  In my hand are the clothes I have selected for her to wear, a pair of purple shorts and a pink shirt. She has worn this outfit a dozen times. We struggle to get the PJ's off, I coax her to sit on the potty. I get the shirt over her head. She looks down and cries:

"Not THAT shirt! That shirt doesn't make me beautiful!"

Ugh, that statement went right through me. I ask why she would say such a thing.  I climb on to my soapbox and launch into my speech. I tell her that clothes do not make you beautiful.  What makes you beautiful is how you treat people. If you are kind, and friendly and generous and funny and helpful, you will be beautiful. I tell her that the most beautiful thing she can wear each day is her smile. I tell her she would be beautiful if she was covered in mud. I explain that the prince chose Cinderella because she was so friendly and nice and she helped her animal friends. She is half listening, sniffling, tears on her cheeks, sitting against the bathtub, thumb in her mouth and snuggling with her favorite soft dog. She is only almost three years old.

Like all parents, I have a very long wish list for my daughter. A big one for me is that she grows up feeling confident about her looks and has a healthy body image. I don't want her to feel like she must wear make up to be pretty. I know there is no way to avoid the horrific pre-teen and teenager years, when she will think everything about her is wrong.  I want to build her up so much that when people do say things to make her doubt her beauty, those words will just make little dents in her armor. I am starting that project now. I don't say negative things about my body in front of the kids and I remind my husband to be cognizant of what he says about himself. I know, this may be a lofty wish, but I am determined to do what I can to make it happen.

Just before this shirt incident, I read a post by Lisa Bloom about how we speak to little girls. She talks about how often, to make conversation with girls, we immediately compliment them on their looks. We teach them that how they look is the first thing we notice. We don't ask about their interests, what they like to play, or what they like to read. We say "That is such a pretty dress." or "I like your hair." It really resonated with me. I have been guilty of that a million times. I am making a conscious effort not to say those things anymore.  My girl is only three and is already an amazing and interesting little person. Ask her a question about the books she likes and I guarantee she will surprise you with her answer.

How do you explain beauty to a three year old that is wrapped up in world of pink and Disney princesses? I sit down and pull her into my lap. I wipe the tears and I tell her that she is beautiful just the way she is, no matter what. I pray that what I say-what I will continue to say-will have a lasting effect. I pick her up and carry her back into her room.

We pick out a different shirt.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Twilight Bark

Do you remember the Twilight Bark from the movie 101 Dalmatians? The dogs bark to one another all across the city to talk to each other, gossip, and ask for help. My youngest sister and I gave birth to our sons on the same day, 5 hours and 456 miles apart.  These baby cousins started communicating in uetero.  They talked by means of a Morse code of pokes and kicks, about how warm and cozy they were in there and how they didn't want to leave.  They were both a week overdue.  We both had to be induced.

During the early weeks of the boys' lives, my sister and I texted each other in the middle of the night, a life line after dark. When the babies started sleeping more regularly, our late night/early morning texting stopped. We talked on the phone during the day, comparing notes.  The boys were at it again. If one slept through the night for four days, then on the fifth day was up from 1am-3am, the other had done the same thing.  We joked that they were talking behind our backs.

I thought of the Twilight Bark one night as I was lying on the floor of the baby's room. He had been up several times already.  I was determined that he would not wake again.  I did not dare get up until I knew he was in a deep sleep. So I shut my eyes, curled up under a blanket and attempted to relax. That didn't happen. My hips and neck ached from lying on the floor, my arm kept falling asleep, my mind would not turn off. I thought that there must be parents all over the world, maybe even down the street, that were doing the exact same thing at this moment. I thought of my sister. Was she lying on the floor at this very moment too? I imagined that our boys were communicating in some cosmic cousin way.

It was then that I recalled the Twilight Bark. Here was the scenario: my baby would cry out his message in North Carolina, setting off a chain reaction of babies crying all the way to Ohio, where my nephew would receive it. I thought this must work for parents too. We are stretched out on bedroom floors lying motionless, awkwardly sitting in rocking chairs at an angle because the baby stopped crying if you lean to the left, spooning a little one in a twin bed with your back against the bed rail. We are all awake, willing our children to sleep. So, I send out a silent message to my sister, "I am awake, are you awake too?" I imagine my message is received by the dad down the street that is pacing back and forth in his kitchen with his newborn daughter, and he passes it on to another parent keeping vigil in the night, and the chain continues.   My Twilight Bark message makes it all the way to Ohio, where my sister is awake, barely rocking in her glider, afraid to move, with my sleeping nephew curled against her.

Now, when I find myself on the floor of the nursery in the middle of the night, I think of the Twilight Bark and send a out a little silent message. It gives me comfort to think of the other parents and caregivers doing what I am doing, that my sister may be lying awake on the floor 456 miles away.  Try it sometime. It just might work for you too.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014


The fabric of parenting is a dichotomy of constant love and constant fear,  woven together like an intricate lace that envelopes your heart, filling up your chest.  I expected the love.  I knew there would be fear.  I expected to be scared the first time the baby had a fever or fell down, face first on the tile, while learning to walk.  I did not anticipate just how closely love and fear are intertwined, and how the combination can steal your breath.

It is a random Monday morning. I am standing on the porch, blowing kisses as my husband backs out of the driveway to take the kids to daycare. Little hands in the backseat. The baby boy hand erratically waving to me. The preschooler hand catching my kisses and putting them on her heart. It fills me up with so much love that my throat tightens. I think, "My whole life is in that car," and the love/fear cocktail runs through me like a cold chill.  What if they get in an accident? What if I never see them again?   This jolt of the love/fear happens in a nanosecond, washes through my veins.  So I stay on the porch. I continue to blow kisses until they drive up the street.  I turn around, I shake it off, I grab a kiss from the air and put it on my heart.

I breathe again.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

10 Items to Make The Best 'Coming Home From The Hospital' Gift for Your Pregnant Friend

Forget the baby gear, here is a list of items that your friend will actually need and use when she comes home from the hospital.

1.  Hemorrhoid pads/cream. We all know how fun that pregnancy/delivery bonus can be.

2.  Extra long, 'overnighter' maxi pads. You know, the kind that make you feel like you are riding a saddle, except you are not on a horse, you are sitting on the couch in your black stretchy pants.

3.  Stool softener.  Your friend may think it is gross, but she will be kissing your feet after she realizes she needs it. The post-delivery poo is no joke. Do not under emphasize the importance of the stool softener.

4.  Lanolin. The "girls" will need some extra TLC. Instruct her to start applying before the baby is born, and to bring it to the hospital if she is breastfeeding.

5.  Ingredients to make chocolate chip cookie dough. Every pregnant lady misses the goodness that is raw cookie dough.

6.  Her favorite form of caffeine.  She may think she will be caffeine free, but she will break at some point. If she has gone 9 months without it, she will be ready for it.

7.  iTunes gift card. She can download new games to play or shows to watch on her phone during those late night feedings.

8.  A giant water cup with a lid and a handle. If she is breastfeeding, she will be thirsty. If she isn't, she can put wine in it.

9.  Ponytail holders to pull back her, going on day 3, unwashed hair.

10.  Gift card to her favorite pizza delivery place.  Don't be stingy, put enough money on there so she can use it more than one time. Cooking?  Who has time to cook?