21 Gifts That Parents Really Want

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As parents, we truly love anything our kids give us for holidays and birthdays — handmade cards, frames with school pictures already inserted, and the occasional sweater. But what we really want? Well, what we really want can’t be purchased in a store or handcrafted in a pre-school classroom. Here are 21 gifts that parents really want:

1. Lunches that make themselves.  You can only make so many peanut butter and honey sandwiches accompanied by raw carrot sticks and a juice box in a row before you find yourself having nightmares about colossal Peanut Butter Honey Men pelting military-grade carrot sticks at your Juicy Juice fortress.

2. Underpants sans mystery stains.  It’s not quite pee, and it’s not quite poo.  What the hell is it?!

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3. Naps.  Lots and lots of naps.  Naps mid-morning on the weekends.  Naps after work on the weekdays.  Naps in the middle of naps between naps.  JUST A WHOLE BUNCHA FRIGGIN’ NAPS.

4. Whine-halting collars.  Kind of like shock collars for dogs, only not painful, perfectly humane, and legal.

5. Endless supply of give-a-effs.  Sometimes you run out of those effs to give right when you’ve never needed to give more effs in your whole life.  Effs are good to have on hand.

6. A scientific study that says letting your kids watch endless amounts of television actually increases brain function and IQ.  Wouldn’t that just be tits?

7. Another scientific study that says feeding your kids a steady diet of macaroni and cheese and pizza rolls extends life expectancy by a decade or more.  I would die right there in my seat, having drowned in my kid’s mac and cheese/pizza casserole.

8. Kindergarten to involve more naps and playtime and less crap I can’t remember to do at home with my kid.  I thought I had until at least third grade before I had to step it up at home.

9. A legal number of times kids are allowed to say “Mommy!” or “Daddy!” in the car before they’re cut off.  I’m quite certain drowning them out with the radio is frowned upon.

10. Vegetables that taste like Skittles.  Why can’t they just taste like fucking Skittles?  WHY?

11. A cleaning fairy.  Imagine a world where your feet are not under constant assault by Legos.

12. A cooking fairy.  It would only be right to let Cleaning Fairy bring in her bestie. (And yes, I do want to stab myself in the uterus for saying “bestie” just now.)

13. Laundry that sorts, washes, folds, and reshelves itself.  We live among laundry piles like soldiers do among landmines.

14. Someone to kidnap that one mom who’s perfect at everything.  Bonus if they smear her lipstick and ruffle her hair while they’re at it.

15. That one chick from the super nanny show on standby.  There are moments when even threats to behead and burn a kid’s most prized snuggle buddy are fruitless.  (Calm down.  I’ve only done that once — maybe twice.) Those are the moments for super nanny chick.  She’s got balls, that one.

16. Incident-free grocery shopping.  You can only turn down requests for 17 gazillion piece of shit toys they’ll forget about halfway home anyway before you join in on the temper tantrum hysterics yourself.

17. Car seats that feel less like you’re battling biological warfare and more like you’re just buckling your kid into a damn seat, for God’s sake.  Why do they have to make those things so hard to manipulate?  It’s a sick joke, I’m convinced.

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18. Peaceful bedtimes.  Putting kids to bed is like stepping into sniper fire.  You have no idea if, when, and from where they will shoot.  And when they do (which is often), they never miss their target.

19. For children to be able to put on their own coats and shoes and head out the door in a reasonable fashion.  It should not take an entire hour to get one arm in a sleeve or one foot in a boot.  I’msofuckingserious.

20. Bathtubs that resemble amusement park whirly pools.  For some reason kids are more willing to bathe if they think they’re stepping into Mickey’s guts to do it.

21. An endless supply of Mommy and Daddy Juice with a hangover-free guarantee.  If we can’t get all of it, at least give us this one.  This one should do the trick.

Related post: 6 Surefire Ways to Make Momma Happy

I Spent Christmas In A Mental Hospital

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Last week my baby girl turned four. Her long, ultra-fine blond locks hadn’t been trimmed professionally yet, and a new “Sweet and Sassy” beauty salon had recently opened nearby. So she opted for an experience over a present from Mommy and Daddy and on her birthday I took her for the princess haircut and updo, complete with sparkle hairspray and glitter heart tattoo to finish off the royal treatment.

She loved every minute of it.

Almost as much as the special-request “Pink and Purple Elsa Heart party,” similar, yet slightly different than every other little girl birthday party we attended this year. Grandma came through with a beautiful homemade birthday cake in the shape of a heart with purple and pink pastel icing and Elsa and Anna candles on top.

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One day I’ll explain to her why Mommy gets choked up when we play Demi Lovato’s version of Let It Go from the ipad.

It’s all so close to real life for me.

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Nine years ago I spent Christmas in a mental hospital.

At 26, mental illness struck me without a warning, and it left my entire family with an excruciating sense of helplessness and an overwhelming fear for my future.

What would happen to my marriage? Would I be able to go back to work? Would I ever have a normal life again?

We all hid behind a veil of secrecy, speaking in whispers even when it was just us at home. As if we couldn’t let the outside world find out. That something bad might happen if they knew I had Bipolar disorder. The shame penetrated my bones. Made me muffle my sobs with my pillow at night.

Why me?

Life became an unbearable burden. I didn’t know how I was ever going to pick up the pieces of my shattered life and move forward. How could I live with this illness, this secret? I wanted to give up because it would be less painful that way.

I lived the “conceal, don’t feel” mantra with friends and extended family. I was terrified of being different, being labled, being judged.

Yet no matter how much I tried to censor my side of conversations, there was something deep inside of me urging me to share my trauma. Something told me that releasing the repressed emotional anguish would be therapeutic. It’s hard to be whole and keep a secret. So I stopped hiding. I let it go. I shared my story with my friends and with the world on my blog.

That was when everything changed.

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Not every winter holiday season will be magical and glittering and full of joy. Some may pass without any celebration because instead you’re in a mental hospital. And when the shock of it all is over, and medicine leads to recovery, we can breathe a sigh of relief and take the first step towards true healing by letting it go. Christmas will never be the same for me because I’m not the same person who entered that hospital.

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If I’ve learned anything from living these past nine years with bipolar disorder, I’ve learned that no one is perfect. We all have our struggles, our guarded secrets. But ever since sharing the story of my illness almost two years ago, I’ve seen my relationships grow to depths I didn’t know were possible. I have richer, more meaningful relationships with the important people in my life, and have developed many new friendships as a result of being able to talk about the tough stuff I’ve overcome.

When we reveal our scars and imperfections, we set ourselves free. The door to our hurting hearts can only be unlocked from the inside. As hard as it is to pick up the key and turn it in the lock, the result will be worth the effort.

This month it’s my prayer that if you’re going through darkness amid the glittery lights of the holidays, know that it’s okay and you can find your way back to the light. Remember to not let yourself be held prisoner by your secrets. Know that help is out there and when we open ourselves up to others and let go of the shame, we’re able to allow love to flow in and heal.

Related post: The Cloud of Depression

A Christmas Plea To The Pillsbury Corporation

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Dear Good People of the Pillsbury Corporation,

I am writing to you from the depths of Christmas cookie despair. My holiday cheer has all but evaporated and I am asking that you take pity on me.

For the fourth time in a week, I have tried, as your cheery little ads direct, to “stir up a batch of memories” by making delicious cookies with my sweet little children. I have tried and I have failed.

Emulating the example given by your oh-so-very-realistic commercials, I have played the Christmas carols in the background, stuffed the kids into their coordinating reindeer sweaters, and made sure that there are plenty of matching mugs on the counter, filled to their brims with steaming cocoa. I have imagined the children just as they are in your ads…behaving, sharing, smiling gloriously as they sample our sugar cookies, iced to perfection with the tiniest little garnishes for facial features. Oh yes, I have imagined. But fantasies only go so far.

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I’m wondering if you would do all of the women out here in reality world a favor and recreate your ads, just in the spirit of the holiday, to portray life as usual, so we know not to watch your latest commercial and get inspired to join the neighborhood cookie swap (you know, the one that requires 45 dozen cookies baked and wrapped by Saturday). Feel free to borrow some images from my life and show an already exhausted mother muttering four letter words as the heaping pile of dough sticks to the table, the rolling pin, and the plastic cup she keeps next to her filled with “mommy juice”.

You see, there seem to be some inconsistencies between your holidays and mine. Where are the children who stuff fists full of raw dough into their cute little mouths while trying to calm their rapidly unwinding mother with words like, “Really, it’s OK, we like them better this way”?  Where in your ads for the “perfect winter day” is the teacher asking that this year, cookies be cut out in “non-denominational yet festive” shapes? (I can’t even manage a circle!) Where is that nasty little dough boy when I need him? I would really love to know.

Who are these smiling, happy women serving platefuls of steaming, perfectly rounded cookies to their grateful children? Are they real? And, if so, can I hire them to come over and help? Maybe they could keep watch over the baby so she doesn’t get stuck in the tree again, as she tries to feed tinsel to the dog she’s holding by the tail. I must say, that’s a real inconvenience as I try to scrape a malformed gingerbread man off of my poorly floured surface onto my cookie sheet that is being balanced atop a pile of dirty dishes.

I wonder if there is a place in your ads for the clumps of dough in my hair, the smell of singed sugar in the air, or the sound of two children arguing with me over why they can’t use the Halloween ghost cookie cutter and just pretend it’s an angel.

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I have come to realize you are poisoning the American woman’s self confidence. You pretend to make it easy by putting the ingredients together yourselves and packaging it to look like a plastic sausage. All I’m supposed to do is roll it out and cut the darn shapes and presto! Happy kids, clean kitchen, smiling mommy…right? What am I supposed to do when the gingerbread girl is so thin she looks like she’s on heroin and the stars have mutated into some sort of deformed octopus?

What then? How does one make an angel, whose body comes out two inches thick and whose head is still stuck to the kitchen table, look at all appetizing for a bunch of four year olds?

Where is MY happy winter day? Where are MY batches of memories? What would the little dough boy say if he heard my husband come home, whiff the smell of burnt cookie in my hair and say ” Wow, is that new perfume? Wanna go upstairs?”

The American consumer deserves better!

Please, do not insult us any further with commercials featuring robot women who can bake mini-masterpieces. Please, no more smiling kids with twinkling eyes. We want the truth for Christmas. We want to feel like we’re not failures just because we can’t bake. And while you’re at it, could you please contact the gingerbread house people and tell them their kit is a joke? The icing did nothing to hold my candy house together but it’s somehow sturdy enough to have helped my son glue his matchbox cars to the fireplace.

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This Christmas, I say give it to us straight.

Bring on the mother who’s tempted to shape all of the cookies like her middle finger (that’s me, in case you haven’t been reading more closely). Bring on the kids who are sick from eating raw dough and secretly hoping that their mother signs up to bring paper goods to the class party from now on. Bring on the Christmas music that isn’t playing because “someone” left the bathroom door open again and the baby put the CD’s in the toilet (true story). Show me the mother who would rather strangle the fat little dough boy than poke his tummy. I think we all deserve it at this point. Because then, and only then, will we be able to “stir up a batch of memories” that any reasonably sane person would want to hold on to.

Happy Holidays. I’m sure you’ll be hearing from me again at Easter.

Yours Truly,

Theresa Mieczkowski

Related post: What Normal Looks Like

On Saying No To My Children

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“Can you please just stop saying no!” my exasperated daughter exclaims.

“Um….no.” I reply to her cautiously, unsure of the reaction out of her that I might need to deal with next.

We were at the playground where what I thought would be a fun afternoon, had suddenly turned sour when my full time job as her mother intertwined with my other job as her referee/disciplinarian preparer of her future.

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My dreams of flipping through a magazine on a park bench while I smiled at my children, listening to their shrieks of joy while thinking about how lucky I was, had turned into something that sounded more like this; “No, don’t climb on top of the monkey bars. No don’t touch the baby rabbits! No don’t stick your hands in the trashcan! No sorry, we can’t get ice cream from the ice cream man. No sorry, I can’t let you go home with the little boy you just met. No, don’t push her. No, you don’t take his toys! No, sorry we can’t stay any longer.”

The long series of questions in which I had answered “no” had culminated to this moment right now, where the face of my clearly annoyed daughter was asking me “can you please just stop saying no!”

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I spend a great deal of my time saying no to my children.

I do it with my toddler on a near constant basis; “No, you can’t eat that. No, don’t touch that. No, don’t climb on that.”

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to end, as I’ve come to realize with my first grader; “No, we can’t do that. No, we can’t buy that. No, we can’t go there.”

I feel bad… kind of.

Not really, actually.

I don’t enjoy saying no per say, my kids definitely don’t like it, but as much as it annoys me, it really doesn’t bother me.

It’s my job to protect them, to teach them, to help them grow into amazing adults. Unfortunately, they don’t see the road ahead, they only see the moment right now, the moment where they would love to throw caution to the wind, do really fun things, eat really fun things, buy everything, and most likely run around naked.

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Sorry, no. Just no.

I feel bad that they can’t get/do/have what they want, but at the same time I don’t. I don’t feel bad about telling them “no” for reasons that while I try to explain, they might not understand for many years to come. While I know that it’s not what they want to hear, I know it’s what they need to hear. I have been gifted with the privilege of being their mother and I will do right by them. I will make sure to give them what they need, regardless of the fact that they may resent me for it now.

So to answer my daughter’s questions, “can you stop saying no!?”

No,

because I love you.

Related post: 21 Things That Make Moms… Moms