A Carseat Wish

Some days you buckle and tighten the carseat straps in seconds as your child contentedly smiles up at you. Other days the straps and buckles are more like a Rubik’s Cube than restraining devices, twisting and misaligning with each effort. Certain days your child  contorts and flails making carseat buckling an olympic contact sport; facepainting a hyperactive octopus would be easier. Then there are the days you get stuck trying to get out of your own carseat.

#2 stuck exiting his carseat

#2 stuck exiting his carseat

May your carseat straps stay untwisted, your toddlers amenable to buckling, and your carseat exits unimpeded today, my friends!

 

Scared of Being a Boy Mom

When I found out #2 was a boy I was simultaneously terrified and sad. I wasn’t ungrateful for my child. I was mourning a life vision and fearing a new life long challenge. But people don’t admit these things, so I tried to hide my inner turmoil.

I had always understood girls, I had already birthed and begun parenting one daughter, I came from a predominantly female and matriarchal extended family… boys were unfamiliar territory. I had always envisioned having daughters. I hadn’t really considered having a son. Of course I knew it could happen, I just hadn’t banked on it. My life expectation had shifted, I was sad at my dismantled vision and felt wholly unprepared for my impending undertaking.

I knew my fear and mourning were natural, but I felt immense guilt for experiencing the emotions. I wanted to hide my feelings to protect my son from assumed and projected eventual hurt. I would never want my child to feel lesser, unloved, or unwanted; each of my children is a precious and unique gift. However, my gratitude didn’t dismiss my worry of being unfit or my mourning of a broken dream.

20-weeks pregnant with #2, my anatomy scan neared. My mind circled on the baby being a girl. As if sheer thought could solidify my intention. I knew in my heart that the baby inside was a boy, but I was so fearful of my perceived incompetence as a “boy mom” that I willed and wished otherwise. I would repeat the girl name we’d chosen over and over in my head. I wore pink to the anatomy scan. I said a quick prayer in the waiting room. Though I felt — I knew — this baby was a boy.

Just minutes in, there it was on the screen: #2’s manhood in full spread-eagle glory. There was no doubt, #2 was a boy. My heart raced. I choked up. Not in regret, but in fear.

I seriously doubted my ability to parent a boy, to connect with a boy. I adored the pink and the ruffles, the outfits and the sass of girls. I loved the wide open field of options to girls: be a tomboy, be a girlie-girl, be a science enthusiast, or a theater buff… society allowed for it all. Boys, though, their socially accepted fields of interest were narrowed and dangerous prejudice provided steep fences between sanctioned and unapproved interests. That scared me.

And so, I grew rounder and #2 grew larger. 17.5 weeks later, he made his debut. He looked exactly like my husband: nearly black hair, almond shaped eyes, and pointed features. He was precious. He was calm. He was perfect. He was healthy. I could not possibly love him more.

Days turned into months and #2 grew. He lengthened and pudged, transforming into a fair-skinned, round-featured infant with thick black eyelashes and big, crystal blue eyes. He was cuddly and playful, easy-going and a great sleeper. He was the opposite of my needy, assertive, headstrong, sleep-challenged daughter.

#2 turned 2… the tantrums ensued. They never reached the 30-minute screaming fests #1 waged. He didn’t have the stamina, the focus, the stubbornness. He was open to relenting. He also caused a whole new type of mischievous mayhem than #1 had ever attempted. Gates were obstacle courses, air vents were portals of mystery, toilet paper rolls were activity centers, mud puddles were for sitting, and his genitalia was his own personal fascinating, ever-present amusement. The world was to be deconstructed to be understood, limits were to be repeatedly tested to be accepted.

Months turned into years and #2 became a preschooler. Unlike my fashionista daughter, he didn’t care what clothes he wore; mostly he just preferred to go pantless. Best friends with his big sister, enthralled by princesses and mermaids, fascinated by airplanes and helicopters, #2 didn’t fit a standard mold. I learned each day from him. He saw the world differently from me. He opened my eyes. He made me laugh every single day.

Now, I look at my silly, sweet, professional-little-brother son and think how perfectly it all worked out. I am so glad someone much smarter than me is running the show. I am happily a boy mom, though I still have much to learn.

 

Beach Trips Then and Now

“This will be your last relaxing vacation for at least a decade. Enjoy sitting now!” A mom wrangling three young children on the beach once told me as I sunned my 34-weeks round self on a pre-first-baby vacation. I smiled, thinking that Hubs and I were excited for just that eventuality.

As young beach-going adults, Hubs and I would wake up late, go out to a lazy breakfast, get dressed for the beach, walk to the seaside with a towel over our shoulder and drink in our hand, and find our sandy spot as young families made their naptime exodus.

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Hubs would get restless after a while, but witnessing the antics of children on the beach was enough entertainment to satisfy us both. We loved watching their wobbly trudges through soggy sand, reveled in their youthful fascination with the surf, and speculated about how we’d address hypothetical tantrums. “Beach trips will be so much fun when we have kids,” we’d say imagining sand-dusted baby rolls and seaside castle-building.

After a few hours on the beach, we’d head back to the house, shower, nap, get an afternoon coffee, relax, wander through town, and go out for the evening. Now, a decade and three kids later, our beach trips are much different.

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#3 wakes at 6:15, I lumber downstairs with him to pump while trying not to wake the entire house with his pack-and-play protests, #1 awakes around 7:30am and eats her breakfast while watching a show on the Kindle, #3 plays in the tub while I get ready for the day, then #2 awakes by 8:00am to eat. By 9:15am our cooler is packed and we’re lotioning up for the beach.

Seaside, we unload ourselves from the minivan. With #3 strapped to my chest, #1 and #2 hold my hands as I walk ahead of Hubs who pushes the fully loaded beach cart stacked with beach chairs, a foldable tent, beach toys, the cooler, the diaper bag, and towels. Our herd sets up camp near the ocean and there our morning of wrangling and digging, refereeing and shell-hunting, laughing and eating begins. Sitting happens in 2-3 minute increments. Lounging is a distant memory. Boredom is a forgotten sentiment.

Around midday, #2 and #3 begin to melt. It’s naptime and time to head back. We fold, stack, and pack our beach plot into the cart. We trudge to the minivan, the beach clinging to our sweaty, SPF’ed skin. “Get in you car seats. I’ll check your buckling.” I call to #1 and #2 as they scramble into the van while Hubs loads the trunk and I harness #3 into his car seat.

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As we pull out of our parking space, our former selves walk past us, towel over their shoulder and drink in their hand. By the time they hit the sand, we are home. Exactly where we always wanted to be.

Is Having Three Kids That Hard?

“How is it having three kids?” It’s a question people usually ask as they attempt to camouflage their shock (and occasional muted horror) upon learning I have three kids under 5. Honestly, it has its moments — many of them… daily — but it truly is not as anxious and stressful a time as the life-bending, mind-spinning, beautiful upheaval of having your first child. It’s also not as ego-shredding as the inevitable chaos and calamity of shifting to having two children.

With your third child, very little is new. Diaper rash: been there. Growth spurts and potty-training: lived it. Weird, fun, and loathsome phases: check! It’s all familiar. You know all of the run-of-the-mill childhood viruses — Roseola, Coxsackie, Fifth’s Disease — and can generally tell the difference between allergies, teething, and a cold. Though, by your third child, noses are like butts: you wipe others’ more frequently than your own on a daily basis.

By the time you have the third kid, it takes a lot to rile you. Baby licks a trashcan: immune system boost! Baby refuses baby food: temporary cost savings… you know he won’t go to college exclusively breast/formula fed. Baby gnaws on the toy that the kid with the nasal deluge just licked: ehh, you’ve got a Nose FrIda and saline spray. Baby is slow to walk: score… a temporary reprieve from the eventual mayhem. Baby pops a dried leaf in his mouth: ruffage! 

With the third child you’ve learned that child development and parenting books are generalizations, not Bibles or fodder for competition. You’ve perfected your response to unsavory unsolicited parenting commentaries. You’ve realized babies are heartier than you’d suspect. You’ve mastered the death glare and become immune to the public tantrum. Essentially, your give-a-shit has been lowered mightily to a nice, comfy level.

You’re calmer and more knowledgeable, harried and constantly covered in someone else’s bodily functions, but you’re cool with it. Chaos is your comfort zone.

You know that everything — every phase, stage, achievement, and struggle — is temporary. You learn to savor the good and trust that the bad will be but a memory in due time.

Having three kids is challenging but it has its perks. I wouldn’t trade it for the world (or a solid night of uninterrupted sleep.)

 

 

 

My Morning Routine

Mornings are nuts… always. I plan and prep and rise early to ease the burden, but they’re still dependably bordering on mayhem.

Nearly every day, we venture out for a morning activity and an afternoon activity. Whether it’s preschool, a class at the community center, storytime at the library, a playdate, a walk, a bike ride, a visit with family, or an errand, the kids (and I) do best if we’re out and about often. As Hubs frequently works from home, this provides him with some much-needed quiet time in the otherwise noisy house too.

As the kids get hungry for lunch between 11:00 and 11:30am, we generally need to be out the door for our morning activity by 9am. Here’s what I do to make that happen.

My days start sometime between 5:45am and 6:15am. I brew my green tea, grab my apple, turn on the local news, and pump. By 7:00am #3 is awake and sometimes #1 is too. Hubs brings down #3, changes his diaper, and plops him in the pack-and-play.

Out of sheer pride, #3 disputes his confinement until the local traffic newscaster comes on TV. At which point, he goes quiet and smooshes his fat face against the mesh wall, staring at her like he’s the creepy drunk dude at the end of the bar.

While #3 is distracted, I throw my breast pump parts in very hot soapy water to soak, then bag, label, and freeze the milk. #3 is usually shrieking at me from the pack-and-play by the time I close the freezer door. (The traffic portion is clearly too short for his liking.)

I pour a second mug of green tea, nurse #3, then upstairs we go. I fill our big soaker tub with and inch or so of water and plop #3 in the bath surrounded by floating toys, so that I can get ready for the day.

By 7:45am, I’m toweling off #3 and dressing him. #1 is downstairs usually watching “Dora”, at this point, while lazily eating the breakfast I prepped the evening before.

By 8am, I’m helping #1 do her hair. (If you’ve ever met #1, you know she takes her hair seriously.) As a curly girl myself, I get it.

During the hair routine, #3 is usually trying to eat conditioner, unrolling toilet paper, attempting to lick the toilet, and slamming the bathroom door against my leg. Sometime just before I awake #2 but before #3 manages to French kiss the floor vent, I call Hubs to fetch him to feed him the breakfast I prepped the prior evening.

After successfully styling #1, it’s time to rouse #2. It’s a feat. He loves his bed. We moan and growl our way through the process but, by the time he’s dressed, he’s happily skipping down the stairs to eat his pre-prepared breakfast.

8:15am, I blend the smoothie I prepped the night before, use the second mug of now-luke-warm green tea I had forgotten on the counter to slug down my vitamins, yell at the heathens to stop jumping around like chimpanzees and eat their breakfasts, and — if I’m lucky — pour myself a bowl of Cheerios with cashewmilk. Between bites of cereal or sips of smoothie, I finish feeding #3, clean up breakfasts, rinse my breast pump parts and pop them on the drying rack, then clean up the disaster that is #3’s breakfast area. (Eating is an all-sensory event for #3.)

By 8:30 I am checking #1 and #2’s breakfast progress as I put #3 in the playroom to roam about. I start setting out shoes and jackets, while giving the kids a warning that we’ll be heading out soon. 8:40 is “5-minute warning” time, and at 8:45 #3 is getting his diaper changed, #1 and #2 visit the bathroom, we pull on socks and shoes, squabble about what toy #2 can bring with him in the car, and off we go negotiating who gets to open the minivan door.

People ask me why I get up so early. How could I not? It’s survival.

Smiling through Tears

#1 has completed her final day of preschool. She’s excited for what’s ahead. I’m a wreck.

I know she’ll do great in kindergarten. She’s outgoing, positive, friendly, bright, adaptable, independent, and takes direction well. I have not a single doubt in my mind that she will rock kindergarten. What’s even better: she knows it too. Great, fantastic, perfect, right? Yes! But I’m still a wreck.

My baby — the baby girl I dreamt of, the daughter my husband and I had hoped for, the baby we tried so hard to have, the newborn who fought to make it into and stay in this world, the baby we were told may have cognitive and/or developmental delays, the child who walked late but spoke early and well, the girl who has a tutu in every color and whose favorite colors are “pink, purple, and rainbow”– is growing up way too fast. I feel as if I must be losing vast portions of my memory because there’s no way I could see her every day, spend most of my waking hours in her presence, and yet the time passes so quickly.

My internal mourning is entirely selfish. It’s pointless. It’s silly. But that doesn’t make it any less real.

I smile because I want her to be happy. I want her to crave the growth and change that is life. I want her to feel supported and celebrated in her development and advancement, never held back by my emotions. Never coddled or ensnared.

For me, I want to pause life. To savor it and revel in it. To embed it in my memory. To not feel so lost in the whirlwind. But that isn’t life. Life is fast and ever-changing. I cannot expect it to be any other way, and lamenting that is fruitless.

So, I keep smiling because she needs me to smile. She deserves me to be happy, to cheer her on. Because she is going to do great things and she needs to see that I believe that. And I do. I am proud of her and who she is becoming.

“They’re happy tears,” I’ll tell her. They’re not, but my smile is true.

Bad Mom “Friends”

Too many moms feel pushed to feign perfection due to judgment. Not just judgment from faceless screen names and social media associations, not just from the child-free 20-something at Starbucks, family that simply doesn’t “get it”, or the snippy blue-hair at Target, but from fellow mom friends as well.

I understand the drive to tidy up your home a bit before company comes, for respectability’s sake. I get the desire to swipe on some mascara and brows to feel presentable. I honor the pull to change out of the three-day-old yoga pants splotched with mystery stains and into some jeans (or clean yoga pants.) I get it!

However, to feel the need to conceal the potty-training pandemonium, the tantrum disasters, the back-talk dilemmas, the laundry mayhem, the parenting conundrums, the nitty-gritty real life details because your friends will judge you? To feel the push to hire a house cleaner to visit prior to hosting a friend for a playdate because you fear gossip over your housekeeping? To feel compelled to wear specific brands and certain fashions to obtain praise and approval, and avoid catty side-eyes, from your friends? To feel pressured to present your life, child(ren), and home as flawless for risk of judgment from your friends? Those, dear one, are not your friends.

If you call judgmental fellow moms your “village,” honey, you need to move to a new “village.” If your mom friends are catty and thrive on tearing one another down instead of building and supporting each other, sweetheart, those are not mom friends… they’re immature, venomous toxins.

Many of us moms fear judgment from our peers so greatly we conceal ourselves from those we gift the title “friend.” I’m sorry but, why? Why do we allow ourselves to be belittled, to feel self-conscious, to feel lesser because of our friends? Why would we call these women “friends?”

If your child came to you telling you that his/her friends judged him/her in these ways, would you approve of these so-called “friends?” Would you encourage your child to continue socializing and bending him/herself to meet the approval of these “friends?” I hope not! So why do we moms provide such an example of friendship for our own children?

Moms, you’re worth more than that. You deserve more than that.

If your friends make you feel small and insecure, find new friends who lift you up and support you. Be the kind of friend you want to have and you’ll attract the type of friend you want and deserve.

Friends support each other, laugh with each other, live honestly with each other. Friends do not judge and gossip about one another. Friends do not make friends feel lesser or insecure. True friends make you feel safe, happy, and loved in their presence.

Stop feigning perfection. Stop driving yourself mad trying to please catty, ridiculous standards. Be genuine. Be happy. Be you.

The Perfect Parent

There is a misconception among parents that someone, some unicorn-like humanoid, actually has this whole parenting thing figured out. That perfection in parenting exists. Yeah… no.

We’re all hanging on by a well-worn thread. Not one of us has it all figured out. It’s simply a balance, with some disguising their flawed normalcy better than others.

If we are head of the PTA, the class party parent, and the go-to for artfully designed cupcakes, our minivans are coated in a 2-inch thick layer of Goldfish crumbs and mystery goo. If our kids are wearing spotless smocked monogrammed garments, our pantry looks like an extreme couponer’s shopping cart. If we send our kids to school with perfectly arranged organic, cruelty-free, well-balanced bento box lunches, then our laundry piles have their own zip codes. If our lawns are perfectly manicured and hedges neatly preened, our idea of a homemade meal is serving Chick-fil-A on actual plates instead of fishing through the bag in a family free-for-all.

One kid or five, single parent or espoused, working outside of the home or stay-at-home, no one has it unwaveringly figured out. None of us gets it right all the time. Not a single one of us has every aspect of home, school, and work life precisely pieced together in a pristine algorithim.

We’re all flawed. We all screw up. We all have moments of parenting triumphs and instances of miserable failings. We’re human!

The perfect parent doesn’t exist. Except for the child-free individuals… they are, of course, the perfect parents.

Parenting in the Trenches

Some days you glide through smiling and snapping photo after photo on your smartphone, posting and tweeting the glory of your day. Other days you lurch and drag yourself through the hours — all 24 of them — reaching the finish line covered in food, feces, and spit-up… but you survived, they survived, and only your ego was maimed in the process (and maybe the curtains.)

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Then there are the bumpy days that are a mixture of positivity and pain-in-the-ass, leaving you winded but oddly in tact at the end of the day. Those days are commonplace, benign, and totally survivable.

Some days start out well then careen downward in an unexpected tailspin. You reel in confusion over how quickly everything crumbled. You try to determine the exact moment of hubris or foible that incinerated your glorious day. Sometimes you recover and end your day on a mediocre note. Other days… well, those are the days you thank the heavens for wine.

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No matter what your “friends'” lives look like on social media, no matter the seeming perfection of fellow preschool moms or playground parents, we all stumble through our days. You’re not alone. Parenting is hard, dirty, taxing, and wholly unglamorous.

Dust yourself off, take a deep breath (and perhaps a gulp of wine), and trudge to bed knowing you’re not the only soldier in the trenches. You’ve got this!

Too Much Growing

That’s it! I’m losing it. My eldest just graduated kindergarten the day before yesterday, my middle son is moving from a toddler bed to a full size bed today, and my baby has to have his crib mattress moved down because he pulls to standing. Too much growing!!!

Change is wonderful; it’s a necessary  (though often scary) part of life. However, the rate at which my children are developing, maturing, and stretching before me is unnerving.

I am their mother. I want them to grow and learn and flourish. I want them to create their own lives and flower into their own identities. I treasure their achievements, take heart that their failings will aid them later on, and look forward to seeing who they each become. Still, every step they take toward their eventual selves is a step into the big world — a world from which I cannot protect them, a world I cannot control — and a step away from me.

I dreamt of being a mom, pined when I thought it would not happen, and celebrated when each new life folded into my own. I treasure my children. I cherish these early years of long days, broken nights, and bountiful memories. These are my years with my children. These are the prime mothering years.

I can heal the boo-boos. I can right the wrongs. I can make the world a safer, smaller place. I can see what they see. They tell me what’s in their hearts. They share their worries and have no secrets. These times are fleeting. I see it slipping through my fingers… and I cry.

I cry because the selfish part of me wants them to stay little forever. Because I want them to be with me, near me, needing me. But they cannot. They should not. I am raising them and loving them so that they grow strong and beautifully. That is why I do what I do. In my heart, I know that.

But I don’t want to let go.