Thursday, April 21, 2016

Take a Deep Breath...

How is it this exhausting to care for one three-year-old?

By the time I get her dressed and start a load of laundry, I find her going potty in her bathroom...naked...WHY???

So I ask her to put on her clothes, which sometimes turn into a totally different outfit altogether, leaving the heap of clean clothes I JUST put on her in the bathroom. I ask her to put her old clothes in her room, or in the laundry room. I keep the clean, only worn for five minutes clothes separate from the dirty ones if I can stay on top of it. She puts on her second outfit for the day as I rinse dishes and load the dishwasher.

"Can you start a show?" I hear from upstairs.
"Yes..." I half-heartedly moan, just loud enough for her to hear my response. I hear her footsteps coming down the stairs. She sashays into the kitchen and twirls around, "Do you like my new outfit?" she asks.
"Ooo," I admire, "You are wearing purple pants and a purple shirt."
She bows low, "Thank you, your majesty," she replies. It doesn't make sense, but my tone somehow conjures a royal reply from the three-year-old.
"I can start a show for you upstairs as soon as I finish loading the dishwasher."
"I can help," and she pulls out a handful of wet silverware before I can stop her.
"Wait!" I shout urgently. "Put those back, please. They're yucky. I haven't washed them yet."
"Oh, okay!" and she puts the handful near the basket and lets go of all the silverware in her hand. Maybe two of them made it back into the basket. The rest are left for me to pick through the bottom rack dishes and fish out. I can't ask her to do it, it would take too long. Plus, if I just get the show started, she'll be out of my hair for 21 minutes.

I take her hand and lead her upstairs. "Let's start that show."
"Can I watch Daniel Tiger, mommy? The one when he goes to the doctor and gets a shot?" I roll my eyes. Am I bad mom for letting her watch the SAME episode for the twentieth time? Or do I pick my battles and just say yes, knowing that an argument is sure to follow? Or do I try my luck at introducing her to a new show? Maybe I could buy myself more than 21 minutes if I find a show she likes that she's never seen before. But what if she gets bored and doesn't like it? I'll take my chances.

"What if we try a new show today?"
"NO! I want Daniel Tiger!" she shouts. I was ready for it, so her reaction doesn't phase me.
"Would you like to watch a ballerina show?" She gasps.
"A ballerina show?! SURE!" she squeals. She's much too thrilled to argue about Daniel Tiger. Score.  Well then, it's settled. She can try a new Angelina Ballerina show today. That will buy me at least 40 minutes downstairs. Maybe I can sweep and mop.

I take her to my bedroom where the upstairs TV has yet to be mounted to the wall. Right now it is propped up against the wall on a table...I turn it on...and wait...still loading...there. Hulu. Or is it amazon? I can never remember. There are so many damn kids shows. Some are free on amazon, but others you have to pay for, but they're free on hulu...eesh. Here we are, Angelina Ballerina on Hulu. I skip over the computer animated ones. They are so annoying. They giggle too much...and sing...
I choose a hand-drawn cartoon of the ballerina mouse, Angelina. I give Lily a hug and kiss. " Is this OK?"
"Yes."
"I am going to be downstairs if you need anything, ok?"
"Ok, mom. Can I have a snack?" I was almost out the door. This is when it kicks in...I must swallow my incredulity. I want to turn around and shout, "Are you effing kidding me??? Really? You want to eat a snack in my bed? On what planet is it ok for you to chow down and leave crumbs on my sheets?" But I don't. I want to, but I don't. Even though this is probably the 114th time I have heard this question in this exact same scenario. "Well, honey, if you're hungry, why don't you come downstairs to the table and we can sit there and eat a snack together?" I manage to keep my voice calm.

And here it comes...the swell of the tidal wave. The exhaustion, the pure defeat of parenting slowly starts to creep over me. I need to finish loading the dishwasher. The sink is in danger of overflowing if I add even another fork to the dirty pile. The dryer is running and will buzz at any time, which means I will need to extract Corey's work shirts ASAP. I feel the pressure of all the time-sensitive tasks that are unfinished and the tidal wave swells higher...

"No, I want to eat here."
"Ok, well, whenever you're hungry, you can come down and I will make you something." If I turn the show off, she'll cry, even though she is hungry. If I let her watch the show, she might fall asleep on an empty stomach. We're pretty close to (what should be) nap time. I decide she is big enough to come downstairs if she's truly hungry. After all, she has learned to leave the show when she needs to use the toilet...

I go back downstairs and think about loading the dishwasher. But then I hear that the dryer has stopped while I was upstairs starting a show. Great, I hope I am not too late to take Corey's work shirts out before they start to wrinkle. I hurry to the dryer and open up the door. Good, it's still hot. I start hanging up the shirts right away. I don't want to have to flip them with a wet towel to de-wrinkle them or worse...iron them. Then I hear shouts from upstairs. "MOM!!!! MOM!MOM!MOM!" What the heck? I grab the rest of the shirts out of the dryer and race upstairs, worried about what's happening.

"What? What is it, honey?"
"Can I have booboo?" At this point, I feel my nerves starting to crackle...Seriously?! You only nurse twice a week, like at bedtime, maybe, and you are hollering at me from all the way up here to do booboo??? NOW??? WTF??!?!!!! The tidal wave swells...

I have to laugh out my response because if I don't I will get all up in her face with the "what the hell is running through your head?" attitude. "No, honey, you can't have booboo right now. Are you sleepy?"
"Yes."
"Awesome. Then go to your room, or lay in your nest (her sleeping bag and pillow permanently set up on the floor in our room) and take a nap."
"I don't want to take a nap!" She scrunches up her face and punches down on the mattress with finality. Of course, you don't want to take a nap...BECAUSE YOU'RE TIRED!!!! Makes perfect sense. I make a mental note to take her on a nap ride as soon as I start the dishwasher. I'll give her a snack, then take her out in the car. That might buy me a whole hour of time I can get her successfully transferred back inside the house. (We live in AZ, so leaving her to nap in the car in the garage isn't an option. That is a winter-only option, and we are halfway through April.)

I head into the closet with my handful of Corey's work shirts and start hanging them up. They are still warm. I come out and she's gone. The show is still running. I collect another load of dirty laundry from the hamper and head back downstairs. As I pass her room, I look in and she's naked.

I feel defeated. I feel the tidal wave crashing over me. I'm done. There are clothes strewn all over the floor. She has literally pulled the entire contents of her dresser, all three drawers that she can reach, out onto the floor of her bedroom. She is picking through them, evidently looking for a certain article of clothing that has yet to be discovered in her pile. "I'm changing," she states as I peek my head in enough for her to see. Clearly you are changing. Thanks for the update. And so, for the third time today, she is getting dressed...

It is at this point when I think, "Can I make it through the summer? She starts preschool in the fall. Can I possibly keep it together for that long?" I feel the many days and weeks ahead of me until someone else is PAID to answer her questions, give her food, put her down for a nap, help her clean up, give her activities to do, hear the word NO a thousand times, and watch her on the playground, not to mention insist that she keeps her clothes on...

It makes me sad that I don't have the boundless patience I crave to be at home with my daughter all day. I love spending time with my dear little girl. I giggle inside when I watch her prance around in her tutu and slippers. I love how delicate and girly she is. I love that she has her own sense of style and won't let me dress her. BUT IT IS EXHAUSTING!!!!

The three year old is the tornado of childhood. They fight, they argue, they push back. They are too fast to catch. They are too sly to be on your radar, they are too opinionated to listen. They are only scratching the surface of how to interact with other kids. They don't know when to stop. They don't know how small they are in this big world. They are developing their personal thrust from the inside out.

Call it whatever developmental stage you want, say the third chakra is opening up. However you want to define it, no bit of advice or guidance can help with the exhaustion. Nothing can give you reprieve from the bombardment of Three besides handing them over to someone else and saying, "here, you do this for a while."  You just have to grin an bear it. You have to be consistent; you have to set boundaries, and then, prepare for the tornado. Prepare to have the limits tested, time and again, over and over....Even with the most girly girl, the most agreeable, easy-going kiddo, Three is still.the.worst. I am so glad that it's only a year. I would take teenage sass to her uninformed backtalk any day of the week because at least I might be able to reason and provide some wisdom. But no. The preschooler only hears what it wants to...

I have no warm and fuzzy conclusion for this post. I read so many other parenting blogs that like to make you smile or feel better about what you're reading and empathizing with in the post. But, no. There is only a spit in the eye and a slap in the face, followed by a time out. There is only regret for your actions and words, or tiredness and exhaustion of knowing that you can't overreact and give in to their irrationality. You gotta be the bigger person because, well, you are. Literally. I wish I could say something that would give every parent of a three year old more steam to run on. But I can't. Well, maybe I can...You are not alone. We all feel tired together. We all only want to hear the words, "Yes, mommy" (or daddy, but I think this scenario may be more of a mom thing...) The tornado eventually subsides, but until it does, find other parents of three-year-olds and get together. Laugh and joke about your trials. Maybe if you all laugh together, you might feel just a little less exhausted...

Friday, February 19, 2016

First Tooth


I have been waiting to post on this topic for almost a year now. Ever since Carrick's best friend, Ethan, lost his first tooth in kindergarten, Carrick has had a love/hate relationship with the idea of loosing his first tooth.

 

In the beginning, there was a fascination with loosing a tooth. One by one, Carrick's classmates would come to school with holes in their smiles. Some even lost their teeth while at school.  The fact that a piece of their body could leave the body itself, blood and all, and yet, the person didn't die from blood loss was strange and new to Carrick.

 

After each new occurrence of lost tooth, he could come home, hoping that what he felt in his mouth was a wiggly tooth. He would ask me, time and again, "when will I loose my first tooth?" I told him, everyone is different. I also shared that I didn't loose my first tooth until the summer after first grade, so it might be a while before his first actual wiggly tooth falls out.

 

I was 7 years old when I lost my first tooth. Summer was in full swing, and my Aunt and Uncle were visiting us from Indianapolis. It was my front left tooth on the bottom. I was so proud of myself for FINALLY loosing a tooth. Everyone had tiny, plastic treasure boxes from the dentist filled with teeth. They would come to school after loosing a tooth and shake their little boxes like a maraca. My teeth, on the other hand, remained securely fastened in my mouth.

 

When my tooth made its epic release from my gums, my family was already gearing up to walk down the street to the park. Determined to keep my newly-lost tooth with me as a trophy, I argued with my parents about taking it with me on the walk to the park. You know how 7-year-old knows everything, right? Well, plead as they might, my parents' requests for me to leave the prized tooth at home fell on deaf  ears.

 

We only lived half a block from the park, it's not like we had a long walk. And wouldn't you now it? The city had just that week laid brand new white gravel at the T-crossing where our street and the park conjoined. At that fateful intersection, the single white tooth, my trophy of a childhood accomplishment, slipped out of my fingers. (I don't know why my parents didn't put it in a ziploc…) Down it fell, into what may as well have been the Grand Canyon as far as my tiny little tooth was concerned. I lost it in a sea of gravel that all looked just like my tooth. Hysterical, beyond consolation, I wept and cried over my lost lost tooth. The one thing I had dreamed of for so long, gone in less than an hour. No trophy to show my friends. Nothing to shake and rattle in the tiny, plastic treasure chest from the dentist. Gone.

 

One week later...

 

I came home from playing with my friends one day and my mom told me to look on the table. There it was…a tiny little tooth!!! I looked at it in wonder. How could this be? It had been dropped…in gravel!!! I held it up to get a good look at it. Son of a gun, there was a crack down the middle. My tooth had been run over by a car and cracked in half! My mother had gone back to the gravel pile to search for my missing tooth every day that week when I was out playing. She found not only one but BOTH halves of the tooth!!!! A Mother's love is an amazing thing...

 

So, how did I fare as a mother with a son on the verge of loosing his fist tooth? Day after day for almost a month now, Carrick has given a daily report on his "actual" wiggly tooth. At first I was queasy at the thought of him loosing a tooth. Then, after about two weeks of this rumored "actual" wiggly tooth, I summoned up my courage and wiggled it myself. I burst out laughing as the tiny little incisor moved from my touch. It was real. It was his first "actual" tooth that wiggled!

 

Several more weeks went by and his emotions ebbed and flowed, as did mine. Carrick would be excited about the wiggling one day, then terrified of loosing a tooth the next day. We Skyped with Ethan who had lost 4 or 5 teeth since kindergarten. He gave Carrick some sage advice about what to do and what to expect when pulling the first tooth.

 

And then, the day finally came…

 

When I picked him up from school today, I knew something was up. Normally, he is waiting at the front of the line, eager to run out to greet me. Today, I stood there and stood there as child after child was released. Then I saw his teacher walking him out, and his face was red. He was heaving with sobs and his eyes were full of tears. "His tooth," his teacher began, and I pretty much blanked out the rest. She told me the story of him discovering the "pop" of wiggling it and how he hyperventilated. All I could do was rub his back and nod my head. I felt just as overwhelmed as he looked. I thanked her and walked Carrick to the car. Between choking sobs, he told me the whole torrid story. It freaked him out, like terrified him to think that this loose tooth would no longer be in his mouth. The myth had become reality.

 

For a solid hour, I witnessed, helplessly, as he agonized over the oncoming extraction. On the way home from school, he told me how he was not going to go inside until the neighbor kids came out. He wanted to tell them about his tooth and ask them about loosing a tooth, "Since Quinten is 12 and has lost all his teeth. But I don't want to tell Sebastian because he's 5 and hasn't lost any yet…" On and on, the hysteria mounted. No matter what I said or did, he was in consolable. It really just freaked him out.

 

Finally, at home, I had the bright idea to Skype Ethan again and show him how far his tooth could wiggle.  No sooner had I said this when my phone rang. It was Ethan's mom. I told her about the tooth and Skyping. She was thrilled. "Ethan has a wiggly tooth too. Then can just sit there and wiggle their teeth together." And that's exactly what he did. Talking to his best friend not only clamed him down, but somehow, magically, the darn tooth came OUT!!!! ON SKYPE!!! And his best friend got to be there with him to see it!!!!

 

I wanted to vomit, but I held it together. Shortly after the Skype session, after the blood was gone, I managed to be able to look at his hole long enough to take a picture. And, just like his mother, he  wanted to take it to the park to show all his friends. I learned my lesson, and I bagged it up (there is no way I would find it in all that sand…) He saw this two older friends and merrily told them all about loosing his first tooth. In fact, he would tell anyone passing through the park all about his tooth.

 

I am proud of him for braving his almost paralyzing fear of loosing a tooth. And I am proud of myself for not vomiting. It's a huge step in childhood, and in parenting. Letting go of what I so eagerly awaited as a new mother, his first tooth. It's just another reminder that time does not stand still and I have to treasure every moment…even the ones that make me want to hurl.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Stuck Between a Rock and a Gray Area

How do I even begin to untangle how I feel about this incident?

Tuesday after school: My son's teacher has me sign a permission slip for him to attend a field trip to the Chandler Public Library, Downtown Branch. He will be riding with her.

Wednesday during school: My son takes said field trip to the Library with two of his teachers. At the front of the Children's section, right at the entrance, there is a Valentine's Day display. My son takes a book off this display and reads it. As he is finishing, his teacher sees the book he is reading. She reads the book. She checks out the book and keeps it in the class closet to give to me after school. She tells me the story about their field trip and thought that I should know what my son read. It's called, "Mommy Laid an Egg- or How Babies are Made".

Wednesday after school: On the way home, I asked Carrick if he would read his library book to me sometime after school. He elected to read it in the car on the way home. He did. As he read the book, he would stop to ask questions. I answered them as best I could, and occasionally asked to see the pictures so I would know what he was asking about. When I returned home, I was dumbfounded to see that one of the pages contained crayon stick-figures having sex. Yes, you read that right; Having sex. Naked in four different positions.

How am I supposed to respond to this? Am I supposed to respond to this? I can't argue about how the book was written. It's out there, it's published, and how I would do it differently doesn't matter. So I moved on to what I might be able to do about it. Perhaps talk to the Library staff about book placement? Why was this book available for a 6-year-old to pull off the shelf and read alone? How is it OK for the Library to make this book available to children without adult consent?

I posted a few of the book's pages on facebook to share with friends, and to process what I was going through. Comment after comment echoed some part of how I felt.

The reality is, I have to be rational about this. I have to be objective if I want some change to happen. No one ever got anywhere by demanding or threatening. What am I going to do, boycott the library? I am only denying my son access to literature if I do that. What else can I do? Get mad at the teacher for not keeping a closer eye on my son? Of course not. She has 15 children under her watch. I applaud her bravery and honesty for bringing this to my attention.

So what was I so worked up over? The fact that my son saw people, stick figures, having sex? It's natural right? It's in a kids' book, right? So it should be appropriate for him to read, right? Nah...I'm not so sure about that one.

He is at a stage right now where he asks what my husband and I are doing when we lock our bedroom door. He knows something is up. We call it "massage". We do have a massage table set up in there, so it's not completely dishonest to say that. We are somewhat doing a "massage", so it's not a total lie, either. We just don't think he is ready for the total truth about what happens when we close the door.

Also, it's not like my son asked the question, "where do babies come from?" and I responded by searching out this resource. If it had gone that way, I don't think it would have bothered me so much. It was the unsolicited portrayal of two humans having sex for my 6-year-old to see that just got to me in a way that many things don't. Was it the loss of control over the subject? Was it the fact that two months ago, it was my son going to school saying the word "Vagina" because he heard a friend say it without our knowledge? Or was it because a year ago, his teacher (different teacher) handed me a picture he drew of a woman with boobies after he saw the episode of Parks and Rec where Tammy 2 gets naked (and censored, mind you) in a library, and I was reminded of that? Or was it the fact that like so many other times in life, my son had just plunged me feet first into gray areas of parenting yet undiscovered by yours truly?

Thursday, late morning: I summoned my courage and practiced in the mirror what I would say. I left for the Library, armed with my scandalous book, determined to make a difference, to speak out for concerned parents everywhere. The first person I asked to help me was not the director of the Children's Section. She left to get her. The woman listened to me as I recounted the story of my son coming there on the field trip. I asked her if she had read the book. She said no, so I had her glance through it. I pointed out the page that concerned me. I asked if it was possible to change the location of where the book is shelved, perhaps out of the reach of children, so that an adult must be with them to read it, to be there for them and to answer questions. She said she would print off a form for me to fill out...

Oh geez...here we go...bureaucracy. I filled out the short request form and turned it back in to her, along with the book. While I was filling out the form, she came to me where I was standing and handed me another paper, the Library's Bill of Rights. I put it in the stroller and read it when I returned to the car. As I sat there with Lily asleep in her car seat, a knot hardened in the pit of my stomach. A deep feeling of defeat spread over me. I fought back the tears.

HOW!!!!???? How can a Library have this stance????

"Library policies and procedures that effectively deny minors equal and equitable access to all library resources available to other users violate the Library Bill of Rights. The American Library Association opposes all attempts to restrict access to library services, materials, and facilities based on the age of library users."

Stunned. Just stunned. I never thought about libraries having this stance. I always thought it was silly that people had tried in the past to get books banned from libraries, but now I understand why, even if I don't agree with the choice of which books they attacked. I felt like my right as a parent was under attack. I can't even count on the LIBRARY to keep things age appropriate.

It goes on to say "The mission, goals, and objectives of libraries cannot authorize librarians or library governing bodies to assume, abrogate or overrule the rights and responsibilities of parents." But aren't they overruling my right as a parent to talk about sex to my son in my own time and way by making this book available to him? You see what I mean about a gray area?

"Librarians and governing bodies should maintain that parents-and only parents-have the right and the responsibility to restrict the access of their children-and only their children- to library resources." Uh, thanks a lot. What about people who have say, 3 children? Are you telling me that a mom who wants to educate her kids and use the library as a resource can't have any help whatsoever from the library or the librarian? How might she steer her children to only choose books that she approves for them? Don't you think that by placing books that could be potentially questionable in her reach only you could help her better serve the needs of her children?

"Parents who do not want their children to have access to certain library services, materials, or facilities should advise their children." Oh, really? "Hey, Carrick, see that book that says 'Mommy Laid an Egg'? Don't pick it up and read it. I don't know what's in it, because I haven't read it myself, but it could have sex in it, so don't do it, OK?"  How are parents even supposed to know the content of a book if they themselves haven't read it? How do they know to restrict, or censor for their kids?

I know! The book industry as a whole has a responsibility, just like the TV, movie and music industry. It's all freedom of speech and expression. They need to come up with a labeling system. If a book has nudity, violence or coarse language, there should be a N, V or L listed on the spine of the book, right next to the title that way, parents can be forewarned of what they are getting themselves into.

Or is any of this necessary? Does life just throw us curve balls and we have to just slug away at them? I know I can't have control over my son's life. He has to live it out himself. BUT HE'S 6!!!!! He shouldn't have to see people having sex yet! That is something we reserve for people who are 17 or 18, depending on the media available. Don't kids have to click that they are over 18 to see people having sex on the internet? Or should it matter because they are only stick figures in the book?

"Constitutionally protected speech cannot be suppressed solely to protect children or young adults from ideas or images a legislative body believes to be unsuitable for them." Yeah, so even though legally, minors need adult consent or presence to see sexual material in the world we live in, the library is somehow above and beyond that. I seriously could not believe what I was reading.

However, there was a footnote to this statement in the Library Bill of Rights. "Speech that is neither obscene as to youths nor subject to some other legitimate proscription cannot be suppressed solely to protect the young from ideas or images that a legislative body think unsuitable." This is yet another gray area. Define "obscene". Are stick figures having sex on a skateboard obscene? If so, then this book falls into that category.

I still don't know what to do next, or if I have done all I could. Do I want to fight this battle? Is this my Kim Davis moment to stand up for what I believe in? Maybe I'll get invited to the next State of the Union Address. I feel that sex education should be in the hands of the parent or guardian. I don't think it's up to the library to allow it to be thrust upon my child, unsuspectingly in the pages of a poorly illustrated children's book. I also don't want to keep my child out of the library, as I see it as a vast wealth of information. How do I sort through the information that I am ok with him seeing? How much control is too much? Will he find out about sex in a more detrimental way than just in the pages of a children's book? By seeing it at a friend's house on TV or in a movie because the parents are Ok with their kids seeing it? Or by accidentally clicking "yes" to the over 18 question when he is old enough to navigate the internet?

It is such a huge world out there. I know there is no way to oversee every aspect of my son's life. I just hope that I have been a good enough parent for him to come to me with questions, when he IS ready to talk about sex. I hope that I raise him in the way that teaches him the value of respect towards women, and the pain that a one night stand could cause, and how to sort out emotions of when he gets dumped by his girlfriend. I guess there is just so much complexity to sex, sexuality, feelings, emotions, love, infatuation, hormones, body parts and dreams that I just was not ready for this can of worms to be open yet. But now that it is, maybe I can find some help. I think I know a place with some good resources.



Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Hardest Week


Both of my children were born prematurely. The weeks following their births were spent in the NICU in Flagstaff, AZ. My postpartum body ached and screamed at me as I demanded it to be available for the new lives it had brought forth. My mind was exhausted from having to process so much in so little time; adjusting to giving birth earlier than expected, figuring out how to pump and breast feed, trying to understand how to take care of a premature baby. These experiences had been the same for both of my children, born four years apart. Both times of becoming a new mother, I remember the first week after birth as being the most challenging week(s) of my life.

 

Moving to Phoenix would be a close second.

 

Corey's sudden decision to move right away took me off guard, for starters. It was unexpected and had a similar effect on me as an unexpectedly premature birth. Both were major life changes that I had very little (if any) control over and were very abrupt. Both events were physically, mentally and emotionally taxing on me. While they were positive changes, they were challenging to go through none-the-less. While giving birth had it's own demands on my body, the lifting, and carrying that accompanies moving strained my physical body to its outer limits..

 

My mental state did not go unscathed, either. After birth, I was processing what had happened, trying to acquaint myself with the tiny person I was holding, and accepting the fact that parent hood had come on its own, without my consent. This move required that I sort through 80% of what we owned and decided what to keep and what to toss (or donate). While that may sound like small beans, making decisions about what to let go of is almost as exhausting as the packing, lifting and carrying. Having to pick up each item, decide on where it should go in our lives, then putting it there was the Mount Everest of packing. Slowly I ascend the mountain, item by item. Putting it in a pile, distributing the pile, or running the pile to Goodwill, or labeling the pile for one of the two garage sales I hosted in preparation for the move. My brain reached a point when it just couldn't make any more decisions about anything. It was just done.

 

While the physical strain is palpable and obvious, and the mental effort had tangible progress, the emotions that accompanied these challenges flowed within me, like a quiet river carving out a deep canyon.  When my son was born, my emotional health had to be set aside. I had to just become "mom" and care for the human who had joined us 9 weeks early. My feelings about his early birth laid dormant, still there, but not accessible, until he was 6 months old. When Corey was fired from his job (on his birthday, no less) it was the rock that broke the dam. All of my emotions and feelings that had been bottled up and unprocessed for the past half year came pouring out of me. I had post-partum depression and didn't even know it.

 

After moving, the following week was spent expressing anger and impatience at every turn. I felt my nerves were on edge all the time. If my kids bickered, I would erupt at them. My temper was short with Corey after he would return home from work. Yes, it was nice to be with him under one roof again, but that didn't stop me from making rude comments about what he was doing under my breath. I felt like anything less than total competence and cooperation from anyone was unacceptable, and they would feel my wrath as payment for their ineptitude.

 

Part of the emotions associated with both of these events, moving and birth, are both expressions of grief. Grief is the feeling associated with loss. We most commonly think of grief as being a "death only" emotion, but it's actually the emotion expressed when we have been forced to let go of something. When my children were born, I was forced to let go of pregnancy. I wasn't ready to, but my body and my children were ready, in spite of how I felt about it. When we moved, I was not ready to say goodbye to my friends and community yet. Even though I had every other reason to leave, and I was OK with it, the timing of the transition was what felt forced. Even though I knew that the change was pending, the unexpectedness of it all happening so fast left little time for farewells.

 

Thankfully, though, my friends that I have left behind in Sedona are the most supportive folks I have had the pleasure of knowing. They rallied around Corey and me as we packed our belongings into a U-Haul van. I also had the forethought to plan a going-away party. Even though it will be after we have already moved, it's almost better that way. We get to share with our friends the joy we have found in our new location. We get to miss them for a short while before being reunited with them. We get to see the people we know and love, and bring that love back with us to our new home when its all over.

 

I remember the weeks following the birth of both of my children as challenging, and exhausting, as well as joyous. With both of my children, there were baby showers after their birth. With each party, our new baby was still in the NICU, so our friends in attendance did not get to meet them, but we were able to share with them the joy we felt as new parents. Our moving party is like that. The event we are "celebrating" has already occurred, but is none-the-less special because we will always have our network to come home to.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Parenting: It's not for Everyone

If you wanted to have kids to make money off of the government, guess what...
You'll put in more time and effort working as a parent than you ever would with any other job.

If you had children to make you feel better about yourself, guess what...
Children are like little mirrors, if you don't already like yourself, they will only remind you of that.

If you became a parent because you thought your partner would stay with you if there were kids in the picture, guess what...
Having kids only increases your load of responsibility and they demand all your attention, so you won't be getting more from your partner.

If you wanted offspring so that you could live through them somehow, guess what...
They become their own person at some point, and that may or may not be the person you want to be.

If the reason you had children was to impose your religion, beliefs and ideals upon the world, guess what...
Your children may not believe or practice religion the way you do when they are adults, religion is for the individual.

If you had kids because you thought it would make your own parents happy, guess what...
There are probably family issues that run deeper than pleasing your parents, and having a baby will only compound and pass on those issues.

If you had children because you have so much love that you wanted to share unconditionally with another human being, guess what...
You're in the right place. Welcome to the Parent Club. You belong here.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

My Little Karate Kid

In addition to starting work, and Carrick starting kindergarten, and Lily starting daycare, we started yet another routine in our family: karate class. After a month of hearing parents talk about soccer games, swim team practices, and gymnastics meets, and karate lessons I started feeling like a slacker mom. How could these parents take their kids to not only one but many times two of these activities? How was it possible? Didn't they have life outside of their children?

However they were managing all that scheduled time and chauffeuring of children is beyond me. A small competitive part of me wanted to keep up and put Carrick on the swim team, on the soccer team and in karate class. (We already tried gymnastics and it wasn't his "thing".) He could do all three right?

Realistically, no. We did put Carrick in swimming lessons this summer and he loved every minute of it. He now fearlessly jumps into the "deep end" and fishes about whenever we are at a pool now. Swim team sounded like it would be right up his alley, except for the fact that it's mostly conditioning exercises. I knew he would not enjoy the "work" of swimming as much as he would just playing in a pool. (Not to mention the $275 registration fee to help fund the pool heating through November.) Swim team was out.

Soccer seemed like it would be fun too. Almost all of his friends are in soccer. The team is very non-competitive at games; they don't keep score at this age. And, games are held directly after practices, so families are only committing to one day per week. The only problem was that Carrick burns twenty minutes after being in the Arizona sun, even wearing sunscreen. Imagine how fried he would be after a practice then a game outside. Not to mention I would have to be there with Lily, keeping her wrangled and both of us lathered up in SPF. On second thought, soccer would be too much work.

In order to feel like I was keeping abreast of all the extra curricular activity, I asked my best friend how karate class was going with her son, Carrick's best friend. I purposefully was not pursuing karate just because I didn't want it to seem like I was doing it just because our best friends were doing it. She explained everything they did in class, how much it cost and how often they attended. After hearing her take on karate, it seemed like the best fit for Carrick and his after school needs. I had considered starting him with some sort of music lessons, but I wanted his activity to be physical. He needs an outlet for his body right now. It was also held indoors for the most part (they do go out back behind the dojo occationally), and the price and time commitment was doable.

We arrived at the Saturday karate class nice and early so we could meet the Sensei, and get Carrick ready for class. I was nervous about seeing my friend there. Her son is more calm than Carrick, and I knew that Carrick might stir things up in class. My fears and trepidation were quickly quelled when we spoke with the Sensei about the classes.

Carrick was bouncing up and down on an ottoman next to us while we spoke with his teacher.
"You see that?" he motioned to Carrick, "that's his job. It's my job to take that energy and reign it in." *sigh of relief* I knew we were in the right place. Carrick does have an abundance of energy. I am so glad that the people teaching him know how to handle him in a positive way and give him physical outlets for all of that energy.

Carrick joined a handful of first-time students on that first day of class. The part of his class of smaller children who had experience stayed with one teacher, while the new students went to a different area to work with another teacher. I watched him doing his warm up exercises and welled up with tears. I didn't cry on his first day of kindergarten; I didn't cry when he was born....but this???

Something about karate class threw me for an emotional loop. I have been with Carrick since he was a baby, and I have walked the difficult walk of a parent in a retirement community. Children in Sedona are unwelcome, they are an oddity, they are avoided. But in this safe environment, he can just be a kid, just be his energetic and enthusiastic self, and that's OK. I think I was in tears because I finally felt like he belonged somewhere. I felt the relief of  seeing him immersed in bliss. Yelling, hitting and kicking in a way that was tolerated, controlled, and totally OK. Thank God for Karate Class. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Unpacking the Past Week

I just needed to take a few minutes and reprocess the week I just had. I don't think my head and my heart are quite in sync. My logical brain understands what went on, but my heart is a little slow to catch up. I understand what I experienced, but I don't think I feel the emotional magnitude of everything that happened.

For starters, my personal life expanded. I started working again. The last time I went to work was the week after New Year's in 2013. I only worked for 3 days in 2013 because Lily was born the Sunday following New Year's. Since she was premature and had to be in the NICU, there was no question about me trying to stay at my job. I had been up front with my boss that once I had the baby, that would mean the end of my working for her. I was her personal assistant, and while I absolutely adored my job, and got along swimmingly with my boss, I had no intention of working post pardum.


Even the word "post pardum" still gives me the heebie-jeebies. I had a much more difficult time recovering after Lily's birth than I did with Carrick's. He was 3 lbs, 9oz, and she was 5lbs, 2oz. He practically slid out of me, while I had to actually push to get Lily out. Having stitches this time around only added to the burden of healing "down there".








Not only was I trying to heal, but I was trying to hold down the fort at home as much as possible for the sake of Carrick. I had some help, but for the most part, it was still up to me to drop him off at daycare, then commute to Flagstaff to spend time with my preemie little girl. All that driving around wreaked  havoc on my post pardum recovery. Sitting, sitting, and more sitting did nothing to help. If I had tried to add to my load of the needs of my boss, I would have had a complete meltdown. Nope, I had to focus on my daughter, my family, and myself, there was no room for work.

Lily was healthy, except for the fact that she was 7 weeks early, and just needed a few weeks to adjust to being on the outside rather than still on the inside. As for me, I was struggling with staying healthy after giving birth. I was driving an hour each way to the NICU, every day for 22 days. Then sitting in the hospital holding Lily for 4-5 hours. After that, I was coming home exhausted, just wanting to sit down. All that sitting made the healing process slow and painful.



Now that Lily is 20 months old, she is way past the preemie stage. Nothing about her says preemie anymore. She has been developmentally caught up since 6 months old. She weighs 23 lbs and is 33 inches long, so she's not struggling in the growth department, either. My mommy hindsight being 20/20 with Carrick, I realized that I waited longer than what was necessary to go back to work. I started him out in daycare at 18 months, but we could only afford one day a week. (Even then, I only put him in for a half day, just because I didn't want to scar him with separation from mommy. Looking back, he would not have known the difference between a full and a half day.)

So earlier this year, when Corey decided it was time for a job change, we agreed that we could get by this summer on him earning a little less, and me still not working, but by the time fall rolls around, this mama should go back to work. So I have had all summer to think about what that will be like. I knew that Lily would go to daycare, I knew I would not spend all my time at home or with the kids. But wow, did that summer go by fast!

One of the many jewelry pieces
created at the studio.
So here I am, on the other side of my first week back to work, and I survived. I found a job that pays me just enough to cover Lily's daycare cost and have some left over to give back to the family. I can also work the hours I need to that fit around the school and the daycare hours. I work for an artist not demanding. I have energy after I get off work to come home and still do the laundry and play with the kids. That was probably the most important aspect of me going back to work. I didn't want to come home exhausted and frazzled and not enjoy time with the people I truly love.

That also means that I am on the other side of putting Lily into daycare. I took her to visit the class three days on the week before she started. I wanted her to see her new environment, see the teacher, maybe even recognize him, and get excited about the toys that were there. She was a little shy at first, but by the third day, she didn't want to leave. We were only there for 10 minutes each day, so it wasn't like I was testing to see how she would do when I actually left.

The first day of actually saying "goodbye", Corey came with me. I am so glad he did. Hearing her cry, "Dada!" instead of "Mama!" made it a little easier when we walked out of the classroom. The guy in charge of her class is a father of 4, soon to be 5, so he has a very paternal instinct. He holds the kids who cry. He tries to soothe them, and he is very kind-hearted.  I felt so much better about leaving her than I did when I first left Carrick at daycare. I remember crying in the car after dropping him off for the first time. But with Lily, I had been through it once before, and it eased the strain of letting go. I knew she was in good hands and that she'd be ok.

She woke all the children up during nap time on the first two full days of attendance. Since she is still nursing, she's used to waking up and having mommy's booboos available. Since mommy wasn't there to nurse her, she cried, and one by one, the kids woke up from her crying. The teacher was more concerned for her well-being than for the other kids when he told me what happened. He didn't want her in distress without a way to soothe her. So on the third day, I gave her a sippy cup with almond milk. He said that her day went much better because of that. She clutched that sippy cup all day long. Then when she woke up (before every one else), he sat with her and read a book while she had her sippy cup. No tears. Yay!

Thanks for listening. I feel more in sync now.

Next time....Karate Class.....yes, that also happened last week.