Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Here Comes the Son or I Don't Need to Know About Your Poo Anymore

It all started out innocently enough. I got the kids ready for school like usual, dropped off the Valentine’s Day box in the classroom and the kids off at their respective school. And then I snuck back home instead of going to work. Because I took a vacation day and didn’t tell my children.
I didn’t have anything to do. Usually precious vacation days are used for days the kids don’t have school or they have school activities like class parties or field trips or we are on a family vacation. Maybe I’ll take a day off for my birthday, but not always. But to take a day off for no reason? Unheard of.

It’s something moms daydream about. A day to do whatever we want to do – just like life was before kids. I don’t need to put the disqualifier out there about how much we love our children, how they are the best thing to ever happen to us, that we would love to spend every minute of every day with them. It’s all true. However. You know, we used to be people with interests beyond DisneyXD and basketball tournaments and school drama. We had dreams and goals and passions. And we still have them but maybe our time for those interests has diminished greatly. And can I also just say that we are tired, physically, emotionally and mentally? It takes a lot of energy to keep up with these little bundles of joy. In our house we have church activities, sports for both kids, music for both kids and regular school commitments. Oh, and we work full-time and have a house to keep up. So down time for personal activities just doesn’t happen often.

When my kids were babies, I daydreamed about days I could spend just sleeping. I had a fantasy about renting one of those by-the-hour hotel rooms and napping. Bedbugs and nasty sheets didn’t do anything to squelch this fantasy. These days I dream about quiet – time to read, watch MY shows, write, nap without interruptions or demands for snacks and meals. So when a day popped open on my work schedule, I took my chance and kept my mouth shut that Mom was going to have a free day. Because if I said something, I would be asked to do something with all of this free time. There are errands to be run! And if Mom has free time, she’d love to spend it doing these chores. Nope.

So I snuck back into my house. I went to the gym at a respectable time instead of at 4:30 a.m. I ate garbage food for lunch (cereal and Cheetos). I read books. I wrote. I napped. I watch Golden Girls. I practiced my ukulele. It was great. It was quiet. No one asked me to change the channel. No one woke me up from my nap so I could see something on TV. No one complained about the food being served. Ahh. Then I picked my kids up from school and put my Mom hat back on again and made dinner, worked on homework, and checked schedules (basketball games and swim practice had been canceled due to weather.) It was the perfect day.

And then over the dinner table, I made a fatal mistake. I opened my mouth and told the family about my day. Disbelief swept over the boys’ faces. You had a whole day off? But we had school. You were just home by yourself? What did you do? You didn’t go anywhere or do anything? And you didn’t do anything with us?

The Squirrel openly said what was being thought. “You could have had lunch with me! You could have surprised me at lunch and had lunch with me. I really thought you would have done that. Because you haven’t had lunch with me all year and it would have been a surprise. I really thought you would have done that. Because you weren’t working and you weren’t doing anything.” Oh the guilt. If the Squirrel could receive an Oscar it would be for a leading role in Mom Guilt. How dare I have a day off for just myself? And I didn’t DO anything. How did I not think of them and do something for them?

This is coming on the heels of three weeks of being a single parent while my husband traveled. Going to multiple swim meets and basketball tournaments and school ball games and doctor’s appointments and sickness in the house and school projects and Valentines and making lunches and cleaning and cooking and chauffeuring and working every day. Every Wednesday I get up extra early to make them breakfast for Wake Up Wednesday. Just the day before I spent a few hours in a gym watching basketball and then two hours building a Titanic Valentine’s Day box (which this child then cut in half to get his valentines out – because that’s how the Titanic looked when it sank. TWO HOURS of hot glue gunning!) But how dare I take a day off to do what I want to do when I could have spent it hanging out with him at school.

See, when my Moose and Squirrel were born, I jumped fully into the role of Mom. It is my favorite thing. It really is. But it is so easy to give give give and then find that you have done nothing for yourself in…months? Do you remember when they were babies and you considered self-care a shower? Yes, we have all been there. Some days that’s still the only “self-care” I get. Self-care for me now comes in the wee hours of the morning because I’d hate to disrupt these little balls of joy or take away from them in some way. Which is why I had to take a day off of work just to have a little down time.

I think when the Squirrel hears the word “son” he actually thinks it’s “sun” as in the world revolves around him. And I’m sure he’s not the only one. I’ve helped perpetuate this myth so I will take ownership. And it’s not just the Squirrel who feels this way. The Moose may be quieter, but I know he recognizes how much of our lives orbit him and just accepts it as fact. Two sports a season? Sure why not? Band AND choir? Yes! Weight lifting three mornings a week – of course! He is my gentle Moose who always says thank you and never outright asks for much, but mostly that’s because we just give it before it is asked. And of course we do. We love these boys and it is so easy to get wrapped up into everything they do and like. Right now, I am having intense conversations about basketball players and Sharknado. Do I care about either of these topics much? No, but I do now. Because what is important to them is important to me.

Where does this intense gravitation pull to the kids start? Naturally as soon as we pee on a stick and see that plus sign. I instantly went off coffee cold turkey (probably one of the hardest things I’ve done for my kids), skipped Subway and monitored every single moment they made. Then they are born and we are in constant vigilance. They had a dirty diaper – yes, but what kind of dirty diaper? Was it poo? If so, what color, what was the consistency and how much? Did they eat? When? Exactly how many ounces? Did they burp, cry or fall asleep afterwards? We are trained to notice Every. Single. Thing. about these babies because they could all indicate Signs (of something – we never know what.) And that constant vigilance never turns off. There isn’t a chapter in the baby books that says, hey, you can chill now. So this vigilance morphs into how many words do they say, how many friends do they have, how much exercise do they get, how many minutes do they read, how much quality time am I getting with them? And I’m not saying this stuff isn’t important. It is. But if you are like me, questions like these can keep you up at night and you kind of forget about the stuff that used to keep you up at night, like a good book, talks with friends or great sex.

It’s probably time to reclaim a little of ourselves again and teach our kids that they are SONS (or daughters) not SUNS. They are hugely important people in our lives. My babies have literally changed the person that I am today. They have taught me deep love, sadness, perspective and an ability to laugh in harrowing situations. They changed who I am for the better. But….I still need to be me. And I’m going to work on getting that back in just tiny increments. For example, one of my children is awake and yet, I am typing away at this blog, something I wouldn’t have done three weeks ago. Normally I’d be getting breakfast ready right away and maybe trying to cajole them into reading a book. But I really like to write and I’d like to do this for me right now. I’ve started adding things that I like to do to my to-do list – things like, take a bath, start a new book, text a friend, watch Great British Bake Off (I LOVE Mary Berry!) And those items are going to have a priority level like “pick up the Squirrel’s boutonnière for the Mother-Son Dance.” Because I’m important in this family too. 

And my sons will still be my suns – let’s be real, I do orbit them. But I don’t need to know about how big their BMs are anymore (seriously guys, I honestly DON’T CARE! Please stop telling me and just get out the plunger!) And I don’t need to cater to their every single whim if I’m on empty. And if I need a nap, I’m going to take it instead of watching Sharknado 3 with you because, well, I’m tired. I’m sure you’ll fill me in about it all when I wake up. I’ll be ready for the sun then.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Coming Out to My Kids Or There's Another D to Talk About and I Don't Mean Drugs

A few blogs ago I wrote about how I was adding love to my four Golden Rules. So now it looks more like five Golden Rules:

1. No drinking/drugs
2. No smoking
3. Always respect women
4. Always practice safe sex
5. Love everyone but the assholes – we don’t discriminate

Friends, there is another very important conversation we need to have with our kids and I’m guessing it’s one you don’t want to have because I struggle with it too. Nancy Reagan helped us with Just Say No, the NFL (tries to) promote respecting women, the Dalai Lama teaches us not to discriminate, and I’ll coach you with the sex talk. But shhh….notice the silence? We don’t want to talk about depression and mental illness. I watch the news and see babies committing suicide. It literally breaks my heart and I’m sure you feel the same way. Yet I have not really had a conversation with my kids about mental health and depression.

I have no excuses. I used to teach about depression when I worked in wellness. I work on a college campus and mental illness issues have risen at a rate college campuses cannot keep up with. I have had family and friends impacted with mental illness. I know there should not be a stigma surrounding depression and other mental illnesses. And I am silent.

Why is it so easy to talk about the dangers of drinking, smoking and drugs? I’ll admit, cracking the conversation on safe sex was difficult but now it’s easy. Heck, just the other month, I answered the question “What is a dildo?” barely batting an eye. I’m still working on talking about race and discrimination. Depression though? Shhh. We don’t talk about that. But we need to start. The time is now. We cannot waste another minute.

Have you lost someone – friend or family - to suicide? I have. As I watch the news, we are seeing children killing themselves for various reasons – bullying, drugs, mental health problems. It is devastating. It is frightening. We need to have open conversations about mental health with our kids. Just like the sex talks, I want my kids to feel comfortable telling me if they feel depressed or if they have questions about it or if their friends say something troubling. I want an open door policy and the only way to get there is if I open that door.

We are so used to knowing everything about our kids physically. How much they weigh, how tall they are, what they had for breakfast, how tired they are at the end of the day, if their tummies hurt after certain foods. Often we stop at the physical though and don’t want to ask about the tough mental stuff. It’s scary. Suicide completely frightens me because it is so final. There is no treatment after a suicide. Game over. No more tokens. If I found out that my child was struggling with depression or another mental health illness and I didn’t know and didn’t get him help, I’d be wrecked.

Are all suicides preventable? No. It’s no one’s fault. Depression and mental illness are diseases, sometimes fatal ones. We just want to pretend they aren’t. If you had cancer, we’d crowdfund you, throw you a benefit breakfast, start a meal train. We’d rally! You are a fighter! If you find out someone in your family is battling mental illness, you are going to take that journey with a lot less people by your side. There will not be a pancake breakfast. There will not be t-shirts made in your honor, no viral ice bucket challenges. Yet mental illness can be expensive to treat, insidious and long-term, and emotionally and physically draining on the caretakers, just like cancer, ALS and other illnesses that affect families. We aren’t going to mention it in the Christmas cards though. You aren’t going to hear those remission stories. In fact, chances are that no one is going to talk about it at all. That’s not okay.

How did we get here? Mental illness is scary. It causes symptoms we can’t necessarily see, like the way we can see tumors on an MRI. But if you talk to someone with mental illness, they will tell you it feels like one, the way it can take over your mind. Our society perpetuates this by providing inadequate mental health resources and benefits for mental illness. Access to care can be difficult for some, only further hindered by a population that is hard to treat. For example, it’s not uncommon for someone with bipolar disorder to go off their meds because they are feeling better – except it was the medicine that made them feel better in the first place. Back to the cycle. There are so many different depression medicines available now and it can take time and trial and error to find the right combination and dose, which can seem hopeless to group that already feels hopeless. Supporting our friends and family with mental illness can feel daunting and solitary.

So many in our homeless population suffer from mental illness and we see them in an untreated state, which can be disconcerting. If we are disturbed seeing their behavior from the outside, can you imagine the inner turmoil they are in? Or have you watched someone starve themselves intentionally? They "want" to do it. Now find them help. Even the best insurance plans will balk at providing adequate care.

It’s time to cut the stigma of mental illness. At our house we are going to start talking about mental illness. No one is immune. Personally I have dealt with an eating disorder since I was 16. I have been battling it for 24 years. I have been going to therapy for more than four years. I have not told my children. Therapy appointments are simply called doctor’s appointments in our house – not because that’s what they are but because I don’t want to tell my kids I go to therapy. Heck, I hardly tell anyone. I may say I have some “eating issues” – we all take dieting to the extreme sometimes don’t we? Just like we all have “bad days” or feel “blue.” I downplay it. But in reality, I have not had one day in 24 years where I did not have a conversation with my eating disorder. Some days are better than others. Some years are better than others. I’m starting to accept that I’m going to be dealing with this, possibly for the rest of my life. It impacts me every day. It is part of my history, it is a part of my present. It has shaped who I am. But shhh. We don’t talk about it.

It’s going to take some courage but I’m going to come out to my kids about this. If Mom can have mental health problems, anyone can. I happen to think that while I’m not perfect, I’m not doing a half-bad job most days (depends on which kid you are talking to.) My eating disorder impacts me but does not define me. There is no shame in being a survivor. It means you are a warrior. Trust me, I go to war with my eating disorder every day – I am a fighter, just like everyone else with internal battles. It’s time to stop hiding our mental health issues. If we talk about them, our kids will know that they can talk about them too. If one of my sons is feeling depressed or is hearing voices or having hallucinations, I want to be the first person to know. I want them to feel as comfortable telling me if they are depressed as they do telling me about a hang nail. And we will treat it with the seriousness and dignity it deserves. We will not hide in the shadows. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of – our attitude towards it is. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

When Is Intermission or The Ringmaster Needs a Break

If I had to pick one motto that constantly surfaces in my life it would probably be “The show must go on.” This is a phrase that I have repeated to myself for years, starting from when I was young, teaching group fitness classes and personal training. When you teach, no matter what you are teaching, you are putting on a show. And that show must go on no matter if you are sick, tired or hurt. And it better be a pretty damned good show. My boss and I taught through stomach flu, strep throat, sprained ankles and pregnancies. We didn’t miss a beat. I taught with a heart monitor hanging from my neck, I taught the day after an ultrasound to see if I had a pulmonary embolism. I was scheduled to teach the morning I delivered my first son. I taught the first day back from maternity leave.

As I’ve gotten older, the show has changed. I may not be teaching exercise classes like I used to, but my life has filled in with a career, a marriage, and two busy kids. There is never a dull moment. Every night is “something.” Sometimes it’s sports or music and sometimes it’s just the usual drill of homework and dinners. But there is always something that needs my attention and if for a minute I should forget that, I will hear the “MOM” call that we all know and love (?).

As life has gotten busier and more people depend on me to be a ring master, I’ve been thinking about that motto more and more. And I’m not unique in this. Every mom I know has done the same. We are like the post office – through rain, snow, wind, heat, the mail is always delivered, and Mom is always there. Too much is counting on us. Some of us are working full-time outside the home and full-time inside the home when we get off work. Some of us have the 24-hour job of working inside the home. All of us have jobs to do in one way or another and there is not an option to take a time out.

This, my dear friends, is bull shit. One Saturday I stole 50 minutes while everyone was awake (normally my “me” time is between the hours of 4-6 a.m.) and went to the gym. And I felt like I was on borrowed time – I had my phone on the console of the elliptical, prepared to take whatever need came my way. I had to still get groceries, unload everything, and get people ready for their next sporting events, where I would spend the rest of the day being the supportive ever-cheerful mom that I am not always. And I thought to myself the usual “the show must go on!” But this time I paused and had a thought that had never occurred to me before. “When the fuck is intermission?”

You see, recently I have been struggling with the toughest moment of my life so far*. And yet…the show must go on. I hide in a bathroom to take a deep breath so no one knows anything is wrong, because the ring master is always smiling and directing the clowns and dancing bears. I take 5 minutes in my car to scream at the universe and then smile at my children as I enter the house. Because Moms don’t get breaks. Moms don’t get intermission.

How many times have you been physically or emotionally hurt, sick, or exhausted? And how many times have you ignored what you need so that the circus that is our lives can continue on? We spin those worlds so that everyone else gets to be fulfilled with their activities, have their emotional and physical needs met, and still read books at the end of the day and we ignore what we need. Now sometimes we are sick enough that we have no choice but to lie in bed (for a day – you get one day). But I’m willing to bet all I have that there are constant knocks on that bedroom door asking math questions and “what’s for dinner?”

So when IS intermission? When do we get a break when we absolutely need one from our lives? When things are so bad that we can barely function, we still press on. After I had knee surgery and could barely get myself to a bathroom and had to have other people dress me, I rallied, took some pain medicine and dragged myself to my son’s school activities because I don’t dare miss them for something as minor as major knee surgery. I planned on going back to work immediately because I am not going to stop this show for something as trivial as my physical healing. Slap some ice on it, take some pain killers, dry your tears, hide your pain – people need you and the last one you will attend to is yourself.

What makes us resist the idea of taking a pause, a break when we really need one? There are times when we would heal so much faster if we would listen to ourselves for once and take an hour, a day, a week or maybe a month to just let all of those acts run themselves for a bit and just tell the world, “I need a moment.” And without apology too. Instead we push ourselves to still be that one person to everyone because that’s what is expected and what they demand. There are times in our lives that require us to put all of our energy into ourselves instead of into others, just to survive whatever tribulation we are experiencing. And those moments need to be honored and respected for their gravity by giving them space to breath and recover. Those moments require an intermission.

Right now I’m in a place where I just can’t always be there for the show. There are times I give up and admit defeat and take 10 minutes to fall apart, before gathering myself up for the crowd. And let me be honest; I need more than 10 minutes but it is all I can give myself permission for right now. It is humbling and reminds me that I am human and sometimes I just cannot. It’s a forced baby step towards something we all need to do for ourselves. It’s hard but it’s only fair. Sometimes the ringmaster needs to take off the fancy costume and let the monkeys run the show for a little bit. Because if we don’t take care of ourselves, the circus will drive us into the ground. I’m not good at it. I’m not going to pretend that I have the answers on how to go about it. But next time you are running in circles and struggling to hold it all together, and you think to yourself how much the show must go on, maybe take a moment and realize that even the greatest performers take an intermission.

*Not for public consumption. I only mention it so you know that if you are going through something too, you are not alone.

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” –Mary Oliver

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Fly Your Freak Flag or Time to Live What I Preach

“Mom, they call me weird.”

I knew there was no way I’d get away parenting without having to deal with some name calling, teasing, bullying. And I guessed it would happen to my Squirrel, who has always marched to his own drummer. He’s someone we’ve had to defend against adults who thought it would be “helpful” to tell me how much he needs a haircut or should change his clothes. This always pissed me off because his appearance reflects his personality and telling me my son needs to cut his hair is like saying who he is just isn’t good enough for you. And while I may just gently tell you to mind your own business, in my head I’m telling you to fuck off. The fact that how he looks bothers you so much you think you need to tell me he needs to conform to your version of acceptable tells me more about you than him. So needless to say, I knew he’d be called names eventually.

How do I explain that weird is awesome? Inventions, art, music, science, books – all of those things come from people who think differently. If you act like and think like everyone else, you will do what everyone else does. And I have big plans for my kids. I need them to think about things differently so that they can change the world in ways no one else has before, because no one else has had those thoughts and ideas before. Weird makes change. Average does not.

But…that’s a pretty ten-thousand-foot concept. And when you are in second grade, you are thinking about what people are saying to you right now, not that being unique means you’ll invent the latest technology, solve world hunger, or write amazing music when you are older.

What is reassuring is that I’m not alone. Pink’s daughter is bullied for her looks. Her kickass mom made a speech to her at the VMAs, telling her she’s beautiful and amazing, no matter what other people say. If Pink is going through this, then I’m in good company. I don’t have an awards show to make a public declaration of affirmation so I’m going to have to go for frequency.

But frequency is just not enough.

What’s tricky is that as an adult, how many times have you talked about someone because they are different or “weird”? How many times have we spent time with someone only to turn around and gossip about their short comings to someone else? Can we get real? I’ll admit I’m guilty of this. I’m guessing you might be guilty of this too. What an ugly, shameful side of me. I want my kid treated with respect to be his own person and I am one of the people who judges others for being different. We share blogs and memes about how you should be unique and that one small act of kindness can change the world, and in the next moment, we are trolling someone’s Facebook page with our passive aggressive comments.

I have a friend and when she catches herself talking about other people, she stops herself and says, “That’s not fair. I’m just saying that to make myself feel better.” Oh my goodness, she is my hero. Because deep down, I’m saying things to make myself feel better about my own choices and when your choices are different than mine, I’m inclined to judge you because what if you are doing it better than I am? Time to cut you down! It’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s exactly what the kids on the playground are doing. And it’s time to stop.

If we model the kindness and love we want our kids to show to others, what would happen? Would they learn to treat others with respect, even when they are different from us? It’s so easy to tell our kids about bullying and how awful it is, but we forget that as adults we do it too. We say shitty things on people’s social media pages and behind their backs. We don’t count it as bullying because we are adults! Adults don’t do that. We only say what needs to be said. Plus we are old enough now to know that it shouldn’t hurt anymore.

Except that it does. Each week we witness a new horrific act of violence and hatred and we say, how could that happen? How could someone drive a car through a crowd of people? How could a madman gun down people at a concert? How could someone threaten to shoot up a school? This world needs more kindness. I don’t know what motivates these people. I’m guessing a lot of mental illness, which is a whole different blog. But I’m guessing a lot of hatred too. What if this person experienced just a little more grace and kindness instead of judgement and hate? What if there was one person who showed them a smile and did something helpful – would that be the tipping point to convince a madman that the world really wasn’t all that awful? Maybe that’s just way too simplistic. But what does it hurt to try? What if we could all be a little weird and embraced for our differences? Would that change our mental and emotional DNA?

The other day I passed a panhandler and handed him some dollars. Then I walked to my destination. And I realized that I did not look this man in the face when I handed him the money. I kept my eyes down, as though asking for help and giving help were shameful acts. What a bitch. I was fortunate to walk by him on my way back to my hotel. I looked him in the eyes, smiled and wished him a good evening. (Side note: This is ridiculous. As I type, I realize I am telling you a story about how I made the conscience effort to treat a man like a human, with dignity. That should not be newsworthy. However. We treat people who make us uncomfortable like they don’t deserve respect and kindness. But there’s more to the story.) He didn’t say anything back. So I walked on. Honestly, he didn’t owe me anything. I was the one who treated him like nothing in the first place. Humanity as an afterthought can often be too little too late. As I kept walking, I heard “Hey! You have a good night too!” He was talking to me. I’m not sure if he was just slower with his response or just surprised that someone talked to him. I can’t assume to know his life. But I do know that I caught myself withholding kindness and decency because someone lives a different story than I do. It’s time my life involves more kindness, even if it feels a little a little stilted, a little uncomfortable. I saw a side of me that I didn’t like and I can change that. I owe that to society. I owe that to my kids.

So yes, I’m still going to tell my Squirrel all the time that it’s okay to be weird and different. Weird and different are the definition of creative. And I’m going to remind my kids to be kind to others, to talk to the kid that has no friends, to smile at someone who has a blank expression. But I’m going to do it too. I’m going to recognize that sometimes my knee jerk reaction to others is because I’m trying to make myself feel better. We can feel good about ourselves without stepping on someone to bring us up. I’m going to remember that everyone is a person and should be treated with dignity. Is this going to be easy? Nope. Our culture is to climb on others to make ourselves higher. But nothing worth doing is easy. Will I see a change in the world? Maybe, maybe not. Does it matter? We don’t always have to witness the good to be a better person. I challenge you to join me. Let’s make the world a better place. Fly your freak flag and mind your words. As they say in “The Four Agreements” (great book), be impeccable with your word. Sometimes it’s all you have control over. 

Monday, October 2, 2017

No One Told Me or My Truths About Parenting

No one told me these things would become my truths as a parent. Or maybe they tried to tell me but I didn’t GET IT until I had kids. And now I look at young couples and say things like, “Oh, just wait. You won’t know love until you have children,” and they say “I’m sure.” And I think, oh you really have no idea. You don’t even know. You don’t even know. But you will. Just like I did. Sometimes you just have to live it to know it.

No one told me that having children would feel like having my heart outside of my body, walking around, making decisions on its own, subject to the craziness of the world.

No one told me that love for my children would feel like blood in my veins, constantly pumping and flowing.

No one told me that being a mom is like being in junior high again, complete with the clicks and gossip.

No one told me how much more fun Halloween, Christmas, birthdays and the zoo are as a parent.

No one told me how stressful it is to throw a successful birthday party.

No one told me that the best part of ice cream before dinner is not because ice cream is better than spaghetti but because your kids will think you are the coolest.

No one told me that I would be the one doing most of the cleaning, laundry and cooking.  And that these tasks feel like you are trying to dust a house that is swept up in a tornado.

No one told me that I’d be puked on, peed on and occasionally pooped on. And that  eventually I wouldn’t even bat an eye when it happens. I may even still go to Target in said clothes.

No one told me how tired I’d be. Oh my gosh.

No one told me that I would accidentally coordinate my outfits to match my kids.

No one told me I’d have to relearn math. Shocking. You really don’t need geometry. I knew it.

No one told me that I would feel unsettled unless all of my children are in the same room with me. Unless it is the bathroom. I just want 2 minutes to myself then.

No one told me that being a mom means I will feel like I am constantly living in a barrel of octopuses. Someone is always hanging on me.

No one told me that I would be judged for every single decision I’d make as a mom. Going back to work, staying home with a sick kid, the clothes they wear, how they wear their hair, you name it. Everyone has an opinion. And none of them actually matter.

No one told me I'd have to be a walking encyclopedia. So many questions. 

No one told me that the word “lice” would literally strike terror in my heart.

No one told me that I’d repeat the phrase “fuck it” multiple times a day. In my head of course (most days.)

No one told me that my kids wouldn’t be invited to parties just because I didn’t become friends with the parents.

No one told me that some of my favorite people I would meet are my kids’ friends’ parents.

No one told me that I would still feel like I should be a size four, even though I am much older and have had two kids. Excuses.

No one told me that I would be more invested in middle school sports than I am for college athletics. And I love college athletics.

No one told me that the best part of my day is lying in bed with my kids reading to them. And I get to do this every day. Just please no Magic Tree House. Give me Captain Underpants over Jack and Annie any day.

No one told me how awful kids cartoons would become. I just found one called The Day My Butt Went Psycho. I rest my case.

No one told me how awesome kids’ books really are.

No one told me that I’d see hope for the future because of my kids.

No one told me that PG movies from the 80’s are really R rated movies today. Oops.

No one told me how little sleep I can function on. It takes a few days before you get delusional. If you aren’t there yet, then you are doing good.

No one told me that I would become attached to my kids’ favorite stuffed animals too.

No one told me that parenting is like Fight Club – the only rule is that there are no rules.

No one told me that everyone is doing a great job, even if it is the complete opposite of what I’m doing.

No one told me that I still need 8 hours of sleep to function properly. Unfortunately, I don’t know what that feels like any more. You can be Super Mom but the basic rules of being a human still apply. Good luck with that.

No one told me that I’d get selfish with my time with my children, not wanting to share them with anyone else when we are all home.

No one told me that I’d learn how to like Brussel sprouts because my kids like them. Lima beans are another story. My kids don’t even know they exist.

No one told me that I’d miss my kids every day I’m at work, even 13 years after my first was born.

No one told me that I’d go to work just so I could feel competent once a day.

No one told me that I would honestly never get tired of talking about my kids. And I only 
sort of feel bad for becoming one of “those” people.

No one told me that while glitter is very pretty, do not let it into your house. Glitter is the craft cockroach. Once it’s there, it will never go away. It will live on after the apocalypse.

No one told me that I’d never get enough down time or self-care to feel like a refreshed adult again.  Two hours of quiet will not fill this deficit. It’s okay to not be miraculously refreshed just because you got a pedicure or a 20-minute nap. 

No one told me that I’d learn so much from my kids. Thank goodness because I missed most of my history classes.

No one told me that once I had kids I literally would never have money again. What did I do before kids? Burn my extra cash for heat?

No one told me about snuggles. Snuggles could bring world peace.

No one told me that even if I am out with friends, all I think about are my kids.

No one told me that I would become someone who doesn’t mind paying hundreds of dollars 
for extracurriculars. Well, maybe I don’t love it but I don’t bat an eye anymore.

No one told me that I would feel like I'm losing my mind most of the time. I want to be around my kids 24/7, yet I need a break. I want to stay home with them forever and I want to go to work. 

No one told me that an extra cup of coffee solves everything in the short term. It either wakes you up or gives you a brief moment to think. Sometimes that's all you need.

No one told me that I would learn which wild animals are more prone to rabies. FYI, provoked ground squirrels (emphasis on provoked) usually don’t have rabies, even if they bite you. This lesson was brought to you by the ER. I’ve just saved you $500.

No one told me that I would never know what I’m doing. Ever again.

No one told me that you could do anything to me and I wouldn’t notice. But the moment you involve my kid, I will lose my shit.

No one told me that I would have a firm knowledge on which weekend walk-in clinics have x-ray machines. Tip: only use the walk-in clinics with x-ray machines.

No one told me that my children would become my legacy. And I’m okay with that. That is enough.

No one told me that no matter how hard you try to avoid it, you will be able to sing Raffi songs verbatim. Down by the bay, wear the watermelon grow, my ass.

No one told me that I’d be able to intelligently discuss ear infections, respiratory viruses and the virtues of different over-the-counter medicines.

No one told me that I’d miss the baby stage. It pulls my heart out of my chest.

No one told me that I’d love the teenage stage. So so enjoyable.

No one told me that I really would not be able to remember life before kids. Seriously. What did we do? Watch black and white tv and go for walks? I don’t remember! 

No one told me that when my pediatrician retired, I’d feel it like a loss in the family.

No one told me that I’d start considering canned green beans as part of a healthy dinner. I do draw the line at ketchup. This isn’t the Reagan era.

No one told me that my kids really would be more technologically savvy than I am. And I’ve learned to embrace it because I just don’t have the time to keep up. Plus it’s nice to have little tech wizards readily available.

No one told me I wouldn’t be able to breath if I don’t know exactly where my kids are at all times. Don’t get me started on public restrooms with boys. I literally sweat. Especially if I think they are going number 1 and it ends up being number 2. There should be a mom waiting area for the men’s bathroom.

No one told me I’d have to talk about poop, pee and farts so much. See above. Ugh.

No one told me that I would wake up in the middle of the night in a panic attack when I realize my kid is going on a field trip to the zoo that day and what if he is taken by a stranger. It takes everything in me not to wake them up right then to cover Stranger Danger again.

No one told me that my nightmares would change to horrible things happening to my children.

No one told me that I wouldn’t think twice about getting my kids’ oxygen masks on first before mine in case of an aircraft emergency. I know what they say. Tell that to my mom instinct.

No one told me how hard it would be to teach someone to tie their shoes or blow a bubble with gum.

No one told me how much fun coloring is.

No one told me that some of my favorite movies would be Pixar. Inside Out’s Bing Bong makes me cry every time.

No one told me that travel wet wipe packs would become a permanent fixture in my car, years after we left the diaper stage.

No one told me that parenting every single day is different. And once I learn how to deal with one age, it changes.

No one told me parenting would be so much fun and crushing at the same time.

No one told me to stop taking everything so seriously. The only way through parenting is with a strong sense of humor. Laughing is always a better first reaction over yelling or panicking.

No one told me that I’d try my best and fail constantly. And that’s okay.

Monday, September 25, 2017

My Annual Mom Application or This Position Still Open?

To whom it may concern:

I heard your organization had an opening for Mom and I would like to apply. I believe that I possess many of the qualities you are looking for in a candidate, as you can see from my resume which I have enclosed.

Your job description listed several required qualifications, including personal shopper, cook, baker, chauffeur, office organizer, housecleaner, seamstress, artist, mind reader, psychologist, funeral director, gardener, nurse, doctor, handy man, hair dresser, writer, personal assistant, copy editor, event planner, decorator, grief counselor, mathematician and personal trainer. While my academic history does not support all of these qualifications in a traditional sense, I feel as though my experience makes up for what I lack in the classroom.

For example, I can perform under pressure and take criticism. These are not skills that can be learned in the classroom. Once I found myself in a situation where dinner needed to be made, one son had to be taken to a concert and another son had homework to do before said concert. In the midst of this, it was discovered that a pet hermit crab had died. My first response was to throw it in the garbage and immediately I was rebutted. I handled the criticism well and completely changed tactics to ones of empathy and gravity. While cooking tacos, I crafted a make shift coffin for the crab and we held a eulogy over dinner. I am proud to say we still made it to the concert on time. This was a great learning experience for me. Clearly I was insensitive for considering that dead hermit crabs should be disposed of in the garbage (honestly my first instinct was to flush it in the toilet but I reconsidered – perhaps that is only an appropriate burial for fish. What would the Little Mermaid do?) I am glad I had an opportunity to understand the very human characteristics of hermit crabs and why they are such sensitive pets that deserve our utmost respect. I believe this example not only showcases my ability to work under pressure but to also learn new skills in a rapidly changing environment. Additionally, the coffin was showcases my artistic ability with limited supplies.

I understand that a certain personality type is desired for the position of Mom. She must be fun, patient, spontaneous, loving, kind and smart. I believe I will bring my unique spin to this position if chosen as your ideal candidate. I believe that while being fun, Mom must also balance responsibility. She must be patient but also know when it is time to hurry. She must be smart but humble enough for you to teach her new facts you learned at school and from your friends. She must be quick to laughter. I will admit that this can sometimes be a weakness for me as I have accidentally laughed when one of my sons was stung by wasps, although in my defense it was the second time it had happened that day and was following a “I hate nature” monologue of that son just said prior to the second stinging. I like to frame it as lending levity to an unfortunate circumstance. In my past, I have tried to find ways to mix fun with life’s mundane routines. An example is an initiative I call Wake Up Wednesday, where I make breakfast on Wednesday mornings, also known as Hump Day, to break up the routine school week. I appreciate that too much fun can sometimes hurt the bottom line so I have found inexpensive ways to motivate, such as the rule that if there is a new kind of Oreo, you must purchase it. This inexpensive incentive costs a mere $3 and can lighten any grocery trip. Currently I am on the hunt for the Cookie Butter Oreo. We shall not speak of the Root Beer Float Oreos, the only time this fun game has backfired.

During my research into your organization, I have learned that you expect perfection, regardless of the circumstances. I have heard that you do not tolerate tardiness or insubordination. Serving the wrong cheese or “demanding” that you do your homework will not be tolerated. Frequent performance reviews are common in your organization and one must not be crushed by such mundane pressures as being in two places at once. Hours are 6 a.m. until 10 p.m. and of course a 24-hour on call rotation every day. I appreciate that you do not have a non-complete clause, which will allow me to have a full-time job in addition to this one. From the contract that I have reviewed, it looks like you only take 98% of my earnings should I take a “second” job, which seems reasonable.
In closing, I know you have many candidates to consider for the prestigious position of Mom. I hope my qualifications are competitive. I will follow up on my application before bedtime stories tonight. 

Thank you for your time and consideration – I know that you are very busy catching up on the same season of Gravity Falls for the fifteenth time and catching Pokémon with your phone.


Jenny, MBA (Mom of Boys Alone)

Monday, September 18, 2017

Black, White and Rainbow or I've Messed Up

I’m not entirely sure how to start this blog. I hate being cliché and talking about what everyone else is talking about, but sometimes you realize that you’ve been messing up and you just want to let people know about it.

I’ve had difficult conversations with my kids. We’ve talked about gay marriage, drugs, smoking and safe sex. I’ve tried to be up front and approachable so that they can always come to me with questions. We’ve established the Four Golden Rules: Always respect women; Don’t smoke; Don’t do drugs; Always practice safe sex. And I thought if they followed those rules and we talked openly about the hard conversations, they wouldn’t do anything that could royally screw up their lives.

But I’ve omitted a topic that frankly, I didn’t want to talk about. I haven’t been talking about race and discrimination. If I’m being honest, I thought I shouldn’t have to talk about it. Racial discrimination is mostly a thing of the past right? We don’t see it other than isolated incidents and those we can attribute to the outcasts in society, anomalies. We see Nazis in an Indiana Jones movie or in the Blues Brothers and we make it clear that we too hate the Illinois Nazis! But those movies are from the eighties – that kind of ignorant idiocy doesn’t happen anymore. Except that it does.

As a white American who wants to believe the world is better than it is, I’ve been privileged in that I can ignore the ugliness of the world. Why teach my children about race? We see everyone as equal in our family. In fact, we see everyone as equal so much that we don’t even need to talk about it. And that’s where I’ve fucked it up. For some reason, I thought I needed to be clear about smoking, drugs, sex and women so I’ve talked about those things. I didn’t want to talk about race. I assumed that if I didn’t preach hate and discrimination, then my children would just know that “we don’t do that.”

But kids don’t learn anything by the absence of teaching. Silence teaches nothing. If we don’t talk about it, someone else will and who knows what they are going to say. I need to control the message. We live in an age where we know about everything that is happening in the world. Horrific events are now live streamed on Facebook. We have found new ways to insult people anonymously online so we can still seem like decent people in the flesh. And I’m watching the nightly news and seeing the fucking Nazis walk among us. Oh, I’m sorry. Alt-right. Because rebranding hate makes everyone feel so much better. Well done marketers.

I’ve sat back passively for too long. I don’t get involved and talk politics much. I don’t know why – maybe because I don’t think I could have a respectful conversation with someone if I so strongly disagree with their beliefs so instead I opt to stay quiet. I’m going to have to learn how to get better at that because too many of us have sat back and let others do the talking. Look at where we are. We went from a black president to white supremacists walking openly in the streets. Did I contribute to this with my silence? You bet I did.

What can I do to change the world? I am one person but I’m raising two boys that will impact people around them. Their actions will affect those around them either positively or negatively. It is my civic duty to teach them wrong from right, to teach them proactively what our values are instead of thinking they would just pick up on the fact that we don’t hate people based on their skin color, their religion or who they love.

Why is this so difficult? Why can I talk about condoms and STDS and where babies come from but I can’t talk about the struggle for people of color? I’m afraid I’m going to mess it up. And I’ve got to get over that. Look, I mess up parenting regularly. If I could have a “best of” reel of my mistakes, we could watch for days. The one thing I know about parenting is that I will probably screw something up today. But what’s great is that if you are open and honest about messing up, kids will usually give you another chance. Through trial and error, I’ve learned to be a better sideline parent. I’ve learned that analogies should not be used in sex talks. (No glove no love? Glad we caught that one before my kids wore mittens in the bedroom.) We’ve talked about gay marriage and how people can love whoever they want – we will not judge love in our house. But I’m very anxious about talking about race because as a white woman, I’m sure I have committed microaggressions of my own. Does this mean I shouldn’t try to do my best to have discussions about race? Nope. I’m going to forge ahead. 
I’m going to mess up. That’s guaranteed. But maybe the more conversations I have, the better I’ll get at it. I’m sure I’ll need re-dos. Heck, my first sex talk was a disaster but I’ve gotten better at it. You have to start somewhere. At least now I’ll be trying and my kids won’t wonder where I stand on issues of race, religion and orientation.  

What’s that going to look like in our house? It looks like us driving in the car and I’m going to bring it up out of the blue. We are going to talk about it at the dinner table or while we watch TV. I don’t need to wait for a segue or a news clip about race to talk about it. People talk about God openly in their houses; we can talk about race, religion, and orientation openly. It’s time we start preaching our values instead of thinking they will passively become installed in their brains. I’ve made that mistake long enough. It’s time I get over my discomfort. Pretending the world is a different place than it really is simply because I wish it were so is naïve and no one has time for wishful thinking. Maybe if we have those talks with this generation we will eventually get the world that we want. One where everyone really does accept everyone for who they are. Love wins.