10 Things I Never Thought I’d Have To Say…Until I Had Boys

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cute-little-boy Image via Shutterstock

I have three boys. They are pretty mellow, on the boy-energy scale, and they are pretty well-behaved, on the boy-behavior scale. They are, however, creative. And sometimes I have to wonder what is going through those little blond heads of theirs.

When I imagined motherhood, I obviously didn’t have a clue about what it would be like to raise only boys. I had no brothers and I think I imagined that the things that would come out of my mouth would mostly be wise and after-school-special-ish. Maybe we will get there, but I suspect not any time soon. For now, these are some of the things that have come out of my mouth. Each time, I have found myself thinking, “did I really just have to say that?” And so, I started keeping a running list. Here are some of my favorites:

1. It is NEVER okay to pee into the bed of your toy truck. Self explanatory, right? Not to my then 3-year-old. I remember it vividly. It was the front-loader WOW garbage truck. I guess I have to compliment his aim. The little bucket-part isn’t very big.

2. Take your brother’s underwear off your head RIGHT NOW. You’d think the thought of wearing another person’s (ahem) “used” undies would be a natural turn-off, right? Not to that same 3-year-old.  Being goofy totally trumps hygiene.

3. Do not stick your finger anywhere near your brother’s eye ball. Ever. I honestly don’t remember which kid did this. Probably that same 3-year-old.

4. Do not eat your ear wax. That had to have been the other one. He seems Kleenex-averse. I keep wondering when that whole eating-boogers thing is going to go away. No matter how insistent I am on a) how gross it is, b) how unhealthy it is, c) the actual make-up of boogers, it just persists. I truly think it is done out of convenience. This does not give me comfort.

5. Do not throw banana peels on the ground and then attempt to slip on them. This one was actually witnessed by my husband.  I think it was an attempt by our 4-year-old (the aforementioned former-3-year-old) to recreate a Mythbusters episode. I should also mention that due to Mythbusters, my 7-year-old categorically refuses to wear jeans. Ever. Why? Because there was an episode about jeans spontaneously combusting (or something).He is quite seriously afraid if he wears jeans, he will catch on fire. No amount of discussion will convince him otherwise. Thank you, Discovery Channel, and thank you fashion-designers for all of a sudden making sweat pants hip and cool.

6. Do not leave your toothbrush on the floor next to the toilet where you might pee on it. That firehose is a dangerous thing. So much of what I thought I would never have to say relates to it. Not much that relates to pee or penises surprises me anymore. Well, okay, maybe #9.

7. Do not put boogers in your ear. Seriously. Did I just have to say that?

8. A pretend helmet can’t actually protect your head. That’s wise, right? You gotta love the imagination of a 4-year-old. Even if it might give me a near-heart-attack from time to time. This kid goes to the beach during 90-degree weather in full fireman-costume. And wears it the whole time.

9. Do not leave cups of pee in the bathtub. Okay, so my boys apparently needed to go mid-bath and didn’t want to get out of the tub.  So, they concocted a plan. They seriously thought they were doing some sort of science experiment to see what would happen if they left it there for a few days. This occurred during our 7-months-o’-colic-with-our-third, if you are wondering why there was not more supervision. I took out the trash. I scrubbed the floor around the toilet. I cleaned the toilet. I washed the rug. I could NOT figure out why I could not eradicate the smell. Then I found the offending cups. And we had to have a talk.

10. Don’t put blackberries in your pockets. Blackberry bushes grow as weeds here in the Pacific Northwest. My oldest LOVES blackberries. He recently discovered these curious things built into his (non-denim) pants called pockets. Now he fills them with things. Like blackberries. Side-anecdote: somewhere around a month into Kindergarten last year, he decided he wanted to buy lunch for the first time. He was so enthusiastic about all the choices that when lunch was over, he stuffed his pocket with all the left-over stuff he didn’t have time to eat.  He came home with a pocket full of cherry tomatoes, snap peas, and peanuts. He was so excited to *show* us what he got for lunch.

I’m sure the list will continue for many years, and judging by the way the third boy-child is developing, he will add his own creative twist to mischief, but this is the stuff mommy-memories are made of, right?  No seriously, right?

Related post: Your Penis Won’t Fall Off And Other Things Boys Should Know

The Shitty Issue of Butt Wiping

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child-on-toilet

It’s no secret I dragged my feet when it came to potty training my daughter. While my Mother-In-Law chomped at the bit and every mommy blogger I follow was posting pictures of their fetus already in underwear, I took the mega laidback (read: lazy) approach by just asking her casually every now and then, “So, hey, do you want to stop shitting yourself daily and use the potty?” The answer would come after a long pause. “No thank you, Mama.” So, we carried on.

Eventually I succumbed to the idea of rewards for relieving, so into the grocery cart every week would go two bags of Skittles. The system was one for a sit, two for a pee and a tiny fistful clawed out of the bag for a poop. She was into it. She was filling that tiny Princess Potty with all her might, all before her kindergarten orientation. I wasn’t a total flop of a Mom.

But then, here’s something nobody tells you: A three year old cannot possibly wipe her butt properly. Hell, I’m nearly 37 and every now and then (somehow ALWAYS in WalMart), I get that tell-tale tickle deep in my butt crevasse that tells me I was one wipe shy of completion. For a wee girl who has just shed diapers, expecting her to have the hand-eye coordination required to get her bum clean is akin to asking her to load a bobbin on a sewing machine while I scream in her face about handling the truth.

It wasn’t happening.

She wasn’t even really into toilet paper which was shocking because as per EVERY YOUTUBE VIDEO EVER, all kids love to fart around with the bouncy roll that unwinds into a frothy and fluffy pile of fun. Once when I asked her to get some toilet paper and gently wad it for the pre-wipe prep, she meticulously ripped off a quarter of a square, daintily balled it into a pea-shaped vessel, and then used that to wipe her butt. [AKA lost it in the abyss and used her whole hand to move poo from point A(ss) to point B(are hands).]

I admit it, I gagged. Then I laughed. Who has the answer to this riddle? I thought I was done. I miss the good old days of wiping clean a tiny bum and creating a tightly wrapped diaper package to be sucked down into the diaper genie. I am now tasked with the following:

1. Hanging out with her while she swings her legs, asks me about my day and then does that fake-smile- poo-grimace while her face gently reddens.

2. Hovering over top of her, and the open toilet, while I wipe her clean.

3. Helping her flush the toilet and then spraying the toilet with bleach because suddenly her poop is of Andre the Giant calibre in girth, size and stickiness, and it loves to adhere itself to the toilet like a friendly reminder of her terrible diet. (That I’m also responsible for, so, goddamnit.)

4. Opening the foot stool for her (because she tried twice last week and each time pinched a tiny portion of her flesh creating sad bruises) so she can stand on it to reach the tap and running water.

5. Leaving so she can have “privacy.”

6. Coming back to make sure she’s not touching my stuff. (Hi, I’m four.)

7. Coming back again to change the water temperature.

8. Peeking my head in to make sure she’s not touching my stuff.

9. Helping her pump the soap into each hand, and then the first hand again because the amount in the second hand was more than the first hand and that math is IMPORTANT when you’re three.

10. Turning off the stove to stomp down the hall and check on her when she’s still “washing her hands” six minutes later. And she just smiles and smiles and smiles at me in the mirror’s reflection as the water pours merrily off the counter and onto her tiptoed toes on the stool.

So, next week I get radical: She’s going back into diapers. It’s part of my new parenting technique I’m patenting called Reverse Tiger Helicopter. When I write a book all about it (Wipe Out!), I will become so rich that when she does enter school she can hire her own butt wiper.

It’s a dream, guys, but that’s how all great realities begin.

The Guilt Market

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little-girl-eating-cake

The news always has stories about the volatility in the financial markets, but there’s one market that CNBC and Bloomberg don’t cover: The Guilt Market.

Mothers are very familiar with this market; it starts the minute the line turns pink on your pregnancy test. Suddenly, you feel guilty for the coffee you had that morning, or the calcium you didn’t. Heaven forbid if you had a glass of wine with dinner or ate your hamburger rare.

Perhaps you were like me and had sushi the night before you found out you were pregnant, because surely the cramps you were feeling meant another month of the baby dance, so you might as well live it up.

Now as you look at the line you have spent months waiting to see, you are convinced that all your missteps will doom you and your baby.

From there the ticker just takes off.

This is one market where I have a better eye for picking value than Warren Buffet.

Just like the stock exchange, the guilt market has a contingent of analysts, specialists, and investors — all of whom are willing to weigh in. It may be out of true concern, or maybe they just have a need to put their two cents into your portfolio.

Some of my personal favorite “guilt tips” are:

“Don’t worry about having another miscarriage, I read that stress can harm the baby and cause a miscarriage.”

I had four miscarriages. I always found my guilt index climbed anytime someone gave me that recommendation.

“You have to at least try to nurse your third child because you nursed your other two children. It’s only fair to the new baby.”

I’m pretty sure my youngest child, Peter, has never gone a day worrying about the fact that he was bottle fed while Tom and Lizzy were breast-fed. I’m also pretty sure he appreciated having a sane, happy mother. I know Tom, Lizzy, and my husband did.

I will say years later I do think of that tip whenever Peter goes nuts if he doesn’t have the same exact amount as his brother and sister. I have socked a little extra money into his “money-for-therapy-for-all-the-things-I-did-to-screw-you-up fund,” just in case this is the reason.

“You should talk and play with your children more. Maybe that is why they have speech problems.”

A few times I wondered if raising my children in a convent where we had taken a vow of silence was a bad idea. How was I to know that most parents interact with their kids?

That comment paid a high return to the original investor.

When I realized that something was wrong with our daughter, Lizzy at only six weeks old, I racked up so much guilt I could have singlehandedly paid the national debt.

The idea that if only I had done something, anything, differently, my daughter would live a more normal life has eaten up more time than I care to admit.

As a mom, I want to believe that if I only follow the “rules,” everything will work out just fine. If I read the right books, feed the kids the right foods, and take them to their scheduled check-ups, nothing bad will happen.

When something does occur that’s not in my plan, it’s easier for me to blame myself. If I was at fault, I can control it and make sure it never happens again.

I wish it was that easy. Experience has taught me it’s not. Or, rather, Lizzy has taught me it’s not.

Though Lizzy’s challenges were not in my plan, they’re a part of her.

As she marches through the house wearing three crowns, my shawl around her waist, a sock for a glove, and a hair tie for a bracelet, it’s hard not to admit that Lizzy is who she’s supposed to be.

Lizzy doesn’t blame me for the things she can’t do. She’s too busy living her life and turning her brothers into frogs with the magic wand my cousin gave her. Thank goodness.

Plus, there are more important things that she does blame me for, such as not letting her play with my jewelry or my favorite blouse.

Related post: Why I’m Embracing The Mommy Guilt 

The Princess and The Gender Role

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This past Christmas, we were in line to see Santa when it happened again.

A mom close by asked my children — ages six and eight– what they were going to ask Santa for. My six year old rattled off the list he had been sharing with anyone who asked, “the American Girl Doll of the Year Saige, the ponytail you can get to make her hair longer and black high heel boots size 10 and a half.”

The mom shifted her eyes to me and I got the smile and blank look. I know that look by now. It’s the “I don’t know what to say, I wasn’t expecting that answer” look.

My six year old is a boy. He is a boy who loves his pink backpack and pink lunch box. He is a boy who loves musicals and princesses. He is a boy who loves dress up and make believe. He is a boy who loves life. We realize this may not be the “norm” for most six-year-old boys, but you would really be surprised how many people tell you their stories when they hear his.

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Bren went to his school Halloween party this past year as Merida from Brave — wig, dress, heels and all. It is his first year in a big public school and he is a first grader. He walked with confidence into the gym and had a blast dancing with his friends. It was almost as if he was unaware that it would be odd for a boy to show up in a princess dress. Afterward, a teacher told me how proud he was of Bren, the school community for their acceptance, and our family for letting him choose what he wanted and supporting him.

We have heard that before, people “impressed” with our parenting and letting Bren be Bren.

My husband and I talk about parenting often and we come to the same conclusion in every conversation. How can you not let your child be who they are?  It may be the Montessori education we got while the boys attended preschool to “follow the child,” but really we cannot imagine saying ‘no’ to this enthusiastic free spirit who may be the bravest person we have ever known. There is nothing impressive about letting your child be who they are, it is just love. In the same way we encourage our older son Aidan to explore his interests for science and math, we let Bren explore his interests, which have lead us to theater.

Bren had the opportunity last Summer to perform with older children in a play. In his role, he was needed for two weeks of rehearsals and six performances. He was at practice for 10 hours a day including travel time.  More important than the play and experience on stage, Bren met older boys, 12 and 13 years old. They thought his pink lunch box was cool. They sang songs from Legally Blonde the Musical with him. They gave him tips backstage and invited him to sit with them at lunch. The girls certainly did the same, but Bren is used to relating to girls. I truly believe these boys gave him his confidence. It let him see there are others like him.

By the way, Santa did bring Bren the American Girl doll, ponytail and high heel boots.

He was on the nice list, so how could Santa not?

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Related post: Blurred (Gender) Lines

Why, Hello, Rapist In My Facebook Newsfeed

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searching-on-facebook

Sometimes I complain, loudly and to myself, about the things that pass through the newsfeed on Facebook. I can’t stand the political bickering. Enough with the selfies. And what’s with every single female person posing for photos with one hand on a hip, elbow jutted out, like they’re reciting “I’m a little teapot, short and stout, here is my handle, here is my spout”?

But what really chaps my hide is when someone posts pictures of a party they attended, and as I’m taking a totally non-stalkery look at them to see if I recognize anyone I say to myself, “Huh. There’s the guy who raped me in high school.”

Yeah. The rapist trumps the political yammering.

It was a long time ago. We’re talking decades (I am not as young as I think, you know). Thirty years ago, to be a bit more specific. To borrow from Will Smith, okay…here’s the situation. My friend’s parents went away on a week’s vacation. So she had a kegger. Her parties were insane, y’all. Like, sweaty mob insane. Lots of booze. So, so much booze. And pot. Pineapple Express amounts of pot. We smoked a lot of weed in the 80′s.

Oh, and there was always sex. The established couples who’d make out in corners, hands squeezing Levi-clad butts, the drunken hookups stumbling into dark basements in search of a couch on which to hump the night away, the flirty glances and not so subtle come ons.

I was a virgin. And I was drunk. Tenth or eleventh grade, not sure which, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? It was all so long ago. Little details like that have devolved into meaningless dreck. I was already damaged goods, what with my parent’s nasty divorce and an abusive step parent, but I’d managed to make it that far without surrendering my purity. That’s not typical for girls like the girl I was back then…girls like that tended to be promiscuous party girls, looking for love any way they could, anywhere they could.

Not me. I partied, yes oh my gosh yes, I partied. Partied hard and partied often. And I wasn’t chaste all the way through. I did my fair share of making out, groping and rubbing and all of that fumbling teenage exploration-phase stuff. But I was well on my way to developing the thick shield of armor, the armor I’d find myself still bearing dozens of years later. “If you don’t let anyone in, there’s no way they can hurt you!” was my motto. Still is, unfortunately.

Let’s get back to the party, shall we? Where was I? Oh yes. The drunk virgin. I remember seeking out my friend, the hostess-with-the-mostest, and telling her that I was feeling crappy. Telling her I needed a place to lie down for a while. She led me down a short hallway, and opened the door to her parent’s bedroom. “Sleep in here.” she said to me. “You can lay in here as long as you want!” were her parting words as she left to get back to the fun.

I don’t remember what grade I was in, but this I do recall: I remember the moonlight shining in through thin curtains. The comforter on the bed was one of those cheap nylon jobs, the kind that would catch the tiniest hangnail. I remember there were several pillows on the bed, one had a rough fabric cover, with ridges on it…like corrugated cardboard. I remember I could hear the muffled noises of a Saturday night keg party through the door: laughter and yelling and Def Leppard.

At some point, I must have slipped into that boozy limbo between passing out and falling asleep. I also must have slipped off the cheap nylon comforter and onto the floor, because when the guys walked into the room that’s where I was. On the floor, wedged between the bed and a wall.

There were two of them. At first I thought they had made a mistake, walked into a room that wasn’t the room they were looking for.

Then they shut the door.

I heard them whispering, and I remember trying to be still and quiet. Something in me went on high alert, my hackles were raised and suddenly I wasn’t quite so drunk. I was scared.

One of them appeared in front of me, standing there by the end of the bed, simultaneously spotting me and blocking my exit.

Here she is!” he whispered.

The other one materialized next to him, and that’s when I saw who they were. I knew them, but we weren’t friends. They were older than me, two best friends with twin reputations of good ol’ boy naughtiness. One of them fair, the other dark, they stood there for a moment. They might have talked to me, this is the point where I think I shut down because from then on all I have are tiny soundbites and seconds-long snippets of film. They play on an endless loop when I let them. When something reminds me.

Like when I saw one of them, older as we all are, smiling at me from the screen of my laptop.

My rapist. One of my rapists.

I wondered, as I looked at his now paunchy face…I wondered if he remembers. Does he remember me struggling to get up from that coffin-like space? Does he remember how shocked I looked when his friend pulled me up and threw me on the bed? Does he remember me trying to escape, and how he and his buddy grabbed an arm and a leg, working together to keep their prey still?

Does he remember me yelling out, “NO!” and “STOP!” and “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?“?

I do. I remember all of that and I also remember when the fair one pulled his pants down and I glimpsed, for the first time in my young damaged life, an erect penis. Funny how, even now with all those years stacked up between that moment and this one, I can still see it bobbing in front of me. It was shiny. I was surprised to see how shiny it was. I’d always imagined them to be more dull, or leathery, like elephant skin.

He pushed his shiny penis at my mouth, parting my lips with that spongy round tip and batting it against my teeth.

What was the other one doing during this unveiling of the member? During what was to become my first experience with fellatio? That’s another memory gone.

I do know that when the fair one realized he and his shiny dick weren’t going to get a satisfying blow job from me, the dark one was there to help him get my jeans off. They were an efficient team, those two, because all of a sudden I felt that awful cheap slippery nylon fabric on my bare legs. My bare ass.

The soundtrack of my rape was that loud thumping music, the cacophony of teenagers partying. The smells of youth: night air, stale beer, bootleg booze, smoke from cigarettes and bongs intermingling with all of it.

One of them climbed on top of me, and began forcing my legs apart. Jabbing with his hard on, trying to force himself into me while his friend stood guard at the door.

Mirror in the bathroom. Mirror in the bathroom. It was The English Beat and they were singing Mirror In The Bathroom while the futile attempts to penetrate me continued.

That is where my memories end. The song, the nylon comforter, the shiny penis…all of it ends there, at least in my head. Someone knocked on the door and that’s when my rapists left me. They left me alone, sans pants, sitting on a bed wondering what in the hell had just happened. I can’t tell you when, or even if, I went back out to the party.

I told a friend about it, some time later. “Those guys are such assholes!” she said. She also told me that technically, I was still a virgin. I agreed, and that was the last we spoke of it.

A few weeks afterward, I turned a corner at school. And there he was, the dark one. Cowboy boots, jeans, and a leer. The shame that washed over me was hot, searingly so. Burning. I think part of me had decided what went down in that bedroom was my fault. Wasn’t it always my fault? I was drunk, I was alone, I didn’t fight back hard enough, I didn’t scream loud enough. I didn’t just lie there and let it happen. Maybe they liked me? Maybe they both really liked me and I was supposed to enjoy it?

Funny how the teenage brain works, isn’t it? In their minds it was okay to hurt me, and in my mind it was okay for me to take the blame. My teenage brain also figured out a way to bury it, to take that night and all that transpired and tuck it away like an ugly holiday decoration.

I’m writing this down but I don’t know that I’ll publish it. I’m not out to ruin anyone with a dusty allegation, a weak cry from a half-broken girl who drank too much at a kegger a million years ago. Truth be told, I doubt the smiling paunchy guy in the picture even knows who I am, or who I was. I might have been the first of many, the last of a few or maybe the Dynamic Duo only performed one tag-team rape and I was the one who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I certainly can’t message that effer on facebook, right? Hey! I don’t know if you remember, but you and your friend did a bad thing to me. That wasn’t very nice!

I have a daughter, though. And I have sons. I don’t want to try and imagine this happening to my girl and I cannot imagine this being done by my boys.

But. But we all know this happens. It happened in the past and it happens now and as sorry as it makes me to say this, it’s going to happen in the future. How many of us are out there, carrying around this same shitty filmstrip in our minds? How many of us have felt cheap comforters or expensive sheets or carpeting or dirt beneath us as someone does unspeakably cruel things on top of us? How many times has it happened and nothing, absolutely nothing is done about it?

Too many times. Too many women, too many girls can tell their own versions of this nightmarish tale. Surely I can’t be the only one who has peered at a picture on Facebook and thought, “Huh. There’s the guy who raped me.”

Can I?

Related post: 7 Warning Signs For Date Rape

The Best Mom In The World

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“If I could pick my mom, I would pick you,” says my 9-year-old.

“That’s so sweet,” I say somewhat suspiciously. “Why?”

“Because you’re the best mom in the world,” she replies, then flounces out of the room.

Really? No way.

Some days I’m convinced that I’m among the worst moms in the world. I don’t mean that I’m in the company of those who physically or emotionally hurt their children. That is a different category altogether. Instead, it’s a subtle failing on my part to, in the words of Mary Poppins, be “practically perfect in every way.”

I snap at the kids to hurry up through breakfast because they’re going to be late for school. I threaten to take away the toddler’s lovey if she doesn’t stop running around the dinner table roaring like a lion. I roll my eyes when my 6th grader falls in a heap to the floor because she’s stubbed her toe. I lose my patience when my middle one recounts the day’s events in detail for many, many, many minutes. I seriously daydream about what it would be like if I didn’t have kids at all.

So please don’t pick me if you’re looking for the best mom in the world.

But still pick me.

You should pick me because I’m not afraid of spiders or climbing tall mountains or skinning my knee. Failure doesn’t scare me; not trying does, especially if you really want to but for whatever reason, you don’t. Trying takes bravery and confidence and faith. I can teach you how to be brave, but you should also know that it’s okay to ask for help, to know your own limits and to reach your goals in the company of others.

You should pick me because I know how to cartwheel, skateboard, roller skate and ice skate. I love to go to baseball games and not just for the beer and hotdogs. I love to watch you play soccer and see the determined look on your face when you have an open shot on goal. Even if you don’t make it.

You should pick me because I will always hold your hand on take off and landing. Leaving one place and arriving in another, whether good or bad, is fearsome business. A hand to hold makes all the difference.

You should pick me because I will always tell you the truth. Not the dead-end truths that will only slap your heart without offering to lead the way. I will tell you the truth when you need to hear it, even if it’s painful, even if it’s too brilliant to see clearly in that moment. Truth is like a drug: some people have to have it all the time while others get high from depriving themselves of it entirely. Find your sweet spot both in the telling and the receiving of it.

You should pick me because I know just how you like to lie on my arm when I snuggle you down to sleep. I know how to kiss you goodnight with your headgear on without pinching our lips. And when I leave your room after tucking you in, I will always answer your “night-night-see-you-in-the-morning-love-you” with my “night-night-see-you-in-the-morning-love-you.”

You should pick me because I will always make your lunches fresh in the morning instead of the night before. It’s how I love you.

You should pick me because I believe in magic. This includes the Tooth Fairy, small miracles, like my out-of-their-element peonies that bloom spring after spring, and the scientific wonders of the universe. Algorithms can only explain so much. The fact that it all works and we are here is some kind of marvel.

You should pick me because we are peas in a pod. We are perfectionists. We hate to make a mistake. We blame ourselves for others’ bad feelings and then we feel their sadness with them. We wonder if we’ve done something wrong when we haven’t done anything at all. We are filled to the brim with enthusiasm and brilliant ideas and we just can’t contain them and there they go strutting all over the room, climbing into people’s laps, purring like kittens waiting to be stroked.

So, yes, pick me, because there is no one who knows you better and no one who loves you more. I am the best mom in the world, as long as I can be your mom.

The Rules of Toddler Club

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toddler-in-bath-tub

It’s a Toddler Club folks, and we are not invited.

1st rule of  Toddler Club – You do not talk about toddler club.

2nd rule of Toddler Club – You do not talk about toddler club.

3rd rule of Toddler Club – Protest getting into the bath. Once in, protest getting out.

4th rule of  Toddler Club – If asked a question, the answer is no. Always no. The only exception is when the question is: “Do you want a treat?”

5th rule of Toddler ClubNever go to bed. Ask a question. Ask ten questions. Request water. You have to go potty. You need a tissue. You need a story. You need a new pillow. New Pajamas. A back-rub. Just Never. Go. To. Bed.

6th rule of Toddler Club – If younger brother or sister is crying, cry louder to ensure total panic in household.

7th rule of Toddler Club – If pasta is served, ask for pizza. If pizza wish is granted, ask for pasta.

8th rule of Toddler Club – Never, under any circumstances, put any article of clothing on when asked only once.

9th rule of Toddler Club – Dinner is breakfast. Breakfast is dinner. Do not be fooled.

10th rule of Toddler Club – If mommy says no, try daddy. If daddy says no, tell mommy he said yes.

11th rule of Toddler Club – Do not attempt to get all of your food in your mouth. Your clothes are hungry too.

12th rule of Toddler ClubDon’t trust anything with a crust. Rinds are not our friends.

In each other we trust,

Toddler Management

Related post: 10 Ways Pregnancy is Like Toddlerhood

Moving Forward as a Widow Parent

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It was the night of January 3rd, 2013 and, suddenly, I was a widow with a four-month-old son. I was now a widow parent to an infant when just a few weeks ago my entire world seemed so hopeful.

I tried to fall back into the life I had, but it seemed impossible. Daily tasks that once seemed simple were now arduous.  Making dinner, which was once one of my favorite pastimes, was like climbing a mountain.  Bathing my newborn was difficult and going food shopping welled me up with tears. Not only did I lose my life partner, but also my son would now never know his father. I went to work each day only to come home and sit in my bedroom each day silently crying.  I didn’t know how to take the next step.

As months went by, I realized that something needed to change. I didn’t want my son to grow up in a house strewn with sadness; I wanted him to see that tragedy can transform into strength. So I walked out of bedroom and made a plan for my family.

I asked for help: Asking for help is something I always had trouble with. I want to be known as someone who can handle it all without a second pair of hands. My mother lives in my house so she helped me with daycare.  I was afraid that now as a single parent, my son would be raised by someone in a daycare facility that I don’t even know.  My 71-year-old mother took care of my son every day while I was busy at work in an ad agency and kept an eye on him as I worked online from home.  I couldn’t have financially made ends meet without my mother’s help.

I asked questions: My late husband’s family is like my own.  They know things about my husband that I never learned and they can relay those stories to my kid as he grows up.  His spirit remains alive in my son and through the stories they have told me, the pictures they have shown me and the videos that I have now seen. I also now have two sets of extra parents with my sister- and brother-in-laws and a bunch of cousins that playfully surround him every time they see him.

I give up feeling guilty: All parents, especially single parents, feel guilty about not being a good enough parent and not being present enough. As a widowed parent, I feel this in droves! My jobs leave me little time to spend with my son, but I know when he is not with me, he is with people who care for him immensely.

I started to take care of myself: More than anything, I want my son to live in a positive household, which is difficult. I am obviously sad and feel a piece of me is missing, so I made my mental health a priority.  I started going to weekly therapy and recently joined a widows’ support group.  Taking care of myself can only help my son so he sees his mom as a strong person who triumphs over adversity.  This example will hopefully show him how to do the same, as he gets older.

I let myself lose control: I was the person who wants to be control and plan everything meticulously. Before my husband passed, we moved into a new house and I planned out everything from the dreadful mortgage process to the labor and the actual moving. The thing is: nothing went as planned.  Every single thing went wrong.  As with many homeowners, the mortgage process took quadruple the amount of time it should have. We had our baby two weeks early, one day before we were about to close on the house.  And we had to move in the new house a couple of days after my C-section.  Four months later, my husband was gone and I sat in our house alone with my son and now had an outrageously high mortgage on a single-person income.

So, now I take things day by day. I carve out time to be with my son—even if it’s just him coming with me to Trader Joe’s every Saturday, which he seems to love. I have small outings for just us. And I do things that will instill his father’s spirit. A couple weeks ago, I brought my son to a Brooklyn feast, one that his dad went to each year. It was unsettling. For a minute, I felt like a three-legged table; I wished that my son would be able to walk down the crowded feast street with his dad holding hands. But he just has me instead… and that’s ok.

 

Scarring Your Kids For Life

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men-fighting-in-war Image via Shutterstock

My son was deployed for a year to Iraq with the National Guard, and anticipating my daily maternal meltdowns at how far away he would for the next year (sob!), he set me up on Skype before he left so we could video chat with each other from time to time. Notwithstanding that it’s not like NCIS on TV, where the video and audio are crystal clear and totally synced as if the person is standing in the room with you (It’s a little grainy, with a definite time delay on the speech), I did get to see his beautiful smile and hear those magic words, “Hi, Mom,” every few weeks.

Whenever Jake’s Skype call would come in, my computer would emit a tinkling sound, like a tiny bell. Since there’s a significant time difference between Oregon and Iraq, this often happened in the middle of the night. If I missed the call, it might be days or weeks before another one came, so I developed ears like a mama fruit bat for that sound. I could hear it from any room of the house, any time of the day.

One hot, sticky summer night, I was lying in bed, when I heard the much-anticipated bell sound from down the hall. I bolted out of bed and raced down the hall to click the bright green “Answer Call” icon on my screen. Jake’s smiling face popped up, and then I immediately heard, “OH MY GOD, MOM!!! Are you NAKED?!?” I looked down and realized, to my horror, I was wearing my husband’s boxers and nothing else.

I immediately dove to the floor, taking out the chair on my way down, to crawl on two knees and one hand over to Kenny’s closet for a t-shirt, while frantically waving my other arm up in front of the computer, yelling “Wait! Wait! Don’t hang up!!” I could hear raucous laughter from the background, as Jake’s Army buddies figured out what was going on. Jake was shouting “Mom! MOM!! Click the ‘AUDIO ONLY’ button! It’s on your left! AUDIO ONLY!!” “No, wait! I’m here! DON’T HANG UP!” I kept yelling until I finally grabbed an oversize t-shirt to pull over my head, and scrambled up off the floor to get back in front of the computer, suitably attired to video chat with one’s offspring.

Jake looked at me and said, dryly, “You realize that when I get back and anyone asks me what was the most traumatic thing I saw over here, I’m going to have to say ‘MY MOTHER.’”

Apparently, you’re never too old to scar your kids for life.