Tag Archives: behavior

I Might Have Been an Amazing Stay at Home Mom, or Not

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IMG_7381There are many days I feel my fate dealt me a cruel blow by not making me independently wealthy.  But I’m a social worker who married an artist, so the reality of my situation is that I have to work to help support the family.

Once I had kids, I went back to work four days a week.  So, I’m home on Mondays and then work four longer days.  I tell people that Monday is my day I get to pretend I’m a Stay at Home Mom (or SAHM for those of us who like buzzy abbreviations).

Mondays can be pretty stinking awesome.

For one thing, I get to spend some quality alone time with my three-year-old, Emily, while my seven-year-old, Jack is at school.  Before Em was born I relished every second with little Jack.  Oh the trips to the playground, ice cream cones, and hours snuggled on the couch watching Disney movies!

Now it is Emily’s turn.  Then the three of us get to be together for a few hours in the afternoon before my husband comes home.  Once the hubz comes home, we all eat dinner together and I take Jack to karate.  Pure bliss.

An added bonus is that on Mondays I get to keep the house in a lovely state.  I mean, it’s not Martha Stewart quality, but it’s pretty decent.  It smells like vanilla, coconut, or vetiver.  The recycling gets put out, sheets get changed, the butter dish gets washed, and I usually make some semblance of a healthy meal for dinner.

I buzz around the kitchen preparing fresh fruit for the children.  We all stay marvelously hydrated.  Our bowels are relaxed and friendly.

While Emily naps I enjoy some tea and a repeat (or two!) of Grey’s Anatomy on Lifetime.  Sometimes I bake cookies for the kids to enjoy after school.  Sometimes I bake cookies with the kids, and delight in a shared experience, knowing I am providing my children creative, sensory activity.

On these days, I find myself all like, hey, look at me!  I am rocking this party!  I am so freaking in love with my children, and they are totally adoring me.  I must be the mother of the freaking year!  I could have been a contender for freaking stay at home mother of the world!  I even showered and put on make up today, folks!  

It’s good stuff.

Then Tuesday through Friday comes and I barely see the children.  My husband becomes the primary caregiver, responsible for drop offs and pick ups, as I work longer, less-flexible hours.  Meals are much less organized (and less healthy. . .  sometimes there are Happy Meals– don’t judge!)  We become tense and snippy with each other.  Our tummies become tight and ornery.

But it is a reality that has worked for us, because it has to, more or less for the past seven years.

Sometimes a lot less, it feels.

It is easy to wax idyllic about what life would be like as a SAHM.  Maybe we would belong to a pool club in the summer.  Or maybe I would be all into Pinterest.

But then, there are those “other” Mondays with the kids.

You know, the ones where Jack comes home ticking like a time bomb from his shift in the grist mill of academia?

The ones where Emily doesn’t nap no matter how much I cajole, promise Snow White and lollipops when she wakes up or threaten to take shit away, she just.  won’t.  nap.  and thus is exhausted and grumpers by 4 p.m.?

The ones where I am in no mood for cooking a pot of boiling water, let alone a balanced meal for anyone?

Yeah, those days.

Those are the days when despite my brightest reasoning act (complete with jazz hands), Jack insists that he has a right to a cupcake for dinner and throws the mother of all tantrums for close to an hour.  Did I mention he is SEVEN?!  I mean, come on, weren’t we supposed to be past that like three years ago?

Those are the days when Emily (who hasn’t napped), switches over into hyper-drive and is twirling in circles, making this high pitched noise that I swear has all the dogs in the neighborhood howling along with her, and is driving me silently insane, but is driving her big brother (who came home nasty from school) very noisily insane.

Those are the days when, non-practicing-buddhist-atheist-Jew-that-I-am, I want to kneel down to whatever deity invented wine and is going to allow me to go to work and get the fuck out of this crazy town the next day.

Then I feel like a shitty person, because moms are supposed to want to be with their precious angels, no matter what, all day forever world without end, right?

Gosh.  I love my kids.  I fucking love them.

But motherhood is so.  fucking.  hard.

(It also makes you say the “F” word more than you used to, but you know, not in front of the kids…)

I think whatever flavor of mom you are in this society–  SAHM, working mom, work at home mom, single mom, part time working mom, whatever!–  it is just really hard.  I mean, can we just honor that?  Like for a moment?

Everyone in this world has some kind of opinion, and there is a new Huffpost article every day to tell us how wrong we are getting everything.  Any and everyone who can connect to digital media has an opinion and they are going to post it to try to convince me I am a bad mom because I said the five wrong things, or I fed my family soy, or I breastfed too long/not long enough.  I’m not “attachment” enough.  I’m not strict enough.  I’m screwing up these tiny humans, that I love almost beyond reason, one day at a time.

It all makes me a nervous wreck.  I sit in my car in the morning, preparing for my commute to work, and I am not sure if I should feel guilty for missing my kids, or for feeling a tiny reprieve.

Some people nail it.  Some people have exuberant energy and can juggle everything just so.  Some people that are just not me.

Look, I just want to love my kids and not feel guilty about working, or not working, or feeling burnt out, or yelling, or going through a drive through because it’s one of those days.

I just want to love my family, and I swear to you, I am doing my absolute best.  But sometimes I have those days, and it is really hard to keep things in perspective.

So, maybe I could have been a super hip SAHM.  And maybe I’m not the greatest working mom.

But I am the mom that I am.

And I love my kids.

If nothing else, I do love them.

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A Mommy “No Hitter”

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Did you ever pitch a “no hitter” day as a mom?

Look, I don’t watch or play ball, but I think that in the sports world, a no hitter is a game in which the pitcher executes every pitch so pitch-perfectly, that the opposing team can’t hit a single one.  Or score. Or something. At least that’s the definition I’m going with.

Somedays are tough with kids from the get-go.  They wake up too early/cranky/sick/demanding and every move from there on in is fraught with difficulty.  These days are exhausting and stressful and leave you craving coffee/wine/a desert island by two p.m.

But then there are these other days.  These other, unexpected, golden days.  Everything just flows.  There are no struggles with the kids or spouse.  Maybe there is an errant tantrum, but even that is managed with ease and grace.  Difficulties are readily redirected.

Sure Emily wet her pants twice, Jack spilled chocolate milk on his freshly washed gi, and the Hubz was late getting home.  It didn’t matter because we were all in this state of blissful relaxation, getting along with one another in such a kind, friendly way.  The kids listened and cooperated and even got along with each other!  They ate their dinner without complaining, and for once, we all sat at the table and ate the same freaking meal! Oh and also the kids didn’t hit each other, or me, giving a double meaning to “no hitter!” (See what I did there?) These days are total sweet spots.  They are the cool spot on the pillow on a hot night.  They are a butterfly alighting on a purple flower on a sunny day that is not too hot and not too cold.  They are the perfect game.

These are the days you take a selfie with your amazing kids, post it on social media and make everyone instantly jealous because you are living such an awesome existence.

These are the days that keep you going, give you hope and sustenance.  They make you feel, even for a little bit, that you are not totally sucking at this parenting thing.

They don’t happen everyday, but when they do. . .  oh, man. . .   Like I said, I don’t play baseball, but if I did, I can only imagine this feeling I have, tucking my feet under me on the couch at the end of the day with my babies sleeping peacefully a few doors down, is what it feels like to walk off the field after pitching a perfect game.

Late Bloomer

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IMG_6070We took Jack to the pediatrician for his well-child visit.  He just turned seven.  She looked him over from top to toe, asked him about his summer, and about his feelings about starting second grade in the fall.  She showed him where he was plotted on the growth chart, squarely in the 56 percentile.

Peering into his mouth with her bright otoscope, she exclaimed, “Well, Jack!  You haven’t lost a single tooth yet!”  She looked at my husband and me, and we shrugged.  Just that day at lunch, Jack had bemoaned his full mouth of “baby” teeth.  He begged me to tell him when he would lose a tooth.

His pediatrician thought for a moment, then said to Jack, “Maybe you’re a late bloomer.”

I’m sure it was the last thing my big boy wanted to hear, but for me, it was a kind of “Ah-hah!” moment.

In many ways, Jack is intellectually advanced.  He is unreasonably bright, has always had a huge vocabulary, and can converse with adults with poise.  Emotionally, on the other hand, he seems to be lagging about three years behind.  He becomes emotionally dysregulated with an ease and frequency that confounds us, has five-alarm tantrums at least once or twice a week, and can become aggressive and destructive if not handled with finesse.

It exhausts us, but it must also be really hard to be Jack, to feel like people are constantly frustrated and upset with you, to feel like some days you can’t do anything right.

We believe part of his emotional sensitivity is due to anxiety, which the poor guy probably inherited from me.  Some kids get the clingy, whiney variety of anxiety where they cry and look wide-eyed with terror.  Other kids, like our Jack, get the brand of anxiety which manifests as rigidity, irritability, and quickness to anger.  It looks like he is being explosive and disruptive, but he is really just having a terrible time managing transitions and demands.

Jack probably would have been fine if we had allowed him to remain an only child.  He does awesome one on one, craves physical touch and affection, and loves to learn.  We had his sister when he was four and a quarter, and his love of life as an only child had been firmly established.  It’s been almost three years since Emily joined our family, but there are days Jack still seems to be groping for his position in the pecking order.  He is hyper-sensitive to any indication he is being criticized.  Even asking him to wash his hands can trigger an explosion.  Many days, despite all the attention and adoration we give him, he still seems insecure, and the insecurity seems to trigger his anxiety.

The fact that Jack was verbal enough at 18 months to tell us full stories kind of worked against him.  I think we expected way too much from him, emotionally and behaviorally.  Our frustration and intolerance for his antics may have actually exacerbated the situation.

Combine all the anxiety, intelligence, and inflexibility with his uncomfortable allergies and tender tummy and you have a recipe for a very grumpy little Jack.

The doc went on to chat with us about how it must be hard for Jack, what with his August birthday and all, to be among the youngest in his class each year.  I asked her if his allergies and stomach complaints could factor into his emotional lability.  She agreed this might be possible, adding, “He’s also very young.”

My son has always seemed larger than life to me.  Even when I was pregnant with him, he seemed enormous and legendary.  Sometimes I look at him, really look at him, and I am shocked to remember how little he actually is.

His doctor mentioned the expectations for kids in school are huge, and when you sit a newly seven-year-old boy next to a girl who may be nearly eight, the boy looks almost helplessly immature.  She went on to voice exactly how I feel about homework for kids in the early grades—  that it is a developmentally inappropriate, unrealistic expectation, and that kids should be running and playing outside after school as opposed to sitting still doing homework.

Jack did pretty well overall in first grade.  It was marginally better than the rude transitional year of kindergarten.  But many days, he came home like a ticking time bomb after sitting for six hours with barely a break to eat or wiggle.  He is already stressing about having the mean teacher for second grade, and how hard it will be.  It was reassuring to know we had the support and understanding of our beloved pediatrician.

After his appointment, I thought about the first time we met his doctor, when Jack was still living under my ribs.  She was the first and only doctor we interviewed and I am infinitely glad we stuck with her.  She has been supportive and encouraging through all my breastfeeding traumas, and is part of the reason I was able to persevere on my breastfeeding journey with my babies.  “What a nice doctor we picked for you, Jack,” I said with a smile.

Looking at Jack as a late, little bloomer helped me to put a lot into perspective, and also helped me to remember how little this guy really is.

Several weeks later, Jack woke us up before dawn.  “Guess what!” he exclaimed, entering our bedroom.  “I think I am going to lose a tooth because I have a tooth growing behind a tooth!”

When I was able to focus my bleary eyes, I peeked into his mouth.  Sure enough, there were two little white flecks behind his bottom baby teeth.  I remembered seeing two similar white flecks in his gummy, infant mouth with a similar sense of bewilderment.  I gingerly touched his tooth and was able to wiggle it slightly.

So, it looks like my late bloomer is about to hit another milestone at his own, amazing pace.

 

 

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Thankful– An Ode To My Daughter As A Toddler

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Thank you for your tantrum

while we stood in line at the merry go round.

Your screaming made my ears ring,

your little hands whapping my face

like starfish slapping their damp bodies onto a rock.

Thank you for trusting me to love you no matter what,

even if in the photos daddy took

I look completely wiped out, frustrated, and

maybe even a little scared by your sudden strength,

as you thrashed against me .

Thank you for introducing me to this new

side of your self, for allowing me to

partake in a sudden, bright bloom of you,

as beautiful and mysterious as lightening.

Toddler, you make me wonder where my

placid baby girl has gone, yet I am thankful

for your fight and vigor.

You are doing your job so beautifully

as I attempt to do mine with as much grace

as I can muster.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/daily-prompt-thanks/

Sacred Audience

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Is berating your child in a public place, where strangers can see and judge you, any better or worse than berating them in the privacy of your own home?

This is a question I am asking myself this morning.

On more than one occasion, including this morning, I have seen a very angry and nasty looking father yelling at his young daughter on their way into my son’s school.  The tirade seems to continue all the way from their car to the door of the school.  This morning the father was scowling at her, shouting, “That’s really how you want to start the day, like THAT?  Really?!”  His child, who looks to be about five or six, was just standing there with a blank look, as though she is so used to it.

I paused and looked at the scene.  I almost said something.

But something about this guy told me that any intervention from a stranger would only make things worse for his child (“How dare you make me look bad in front of that lady?”), and might result in me getting punched.

The scene gave me a sick and sullen feeling in my gut.  Who does that guy think he is, I wondered, to be such an ass to his child, right out there on the street where everyone can see it? 

Driving away, I wondered about what that little girl could have possibly done to offend him so deeply on so many occasions.  Then, I realized I have had similar conversations in a similar tone of voice with my own son Jack, but have done so in the privacy of our own home.

Although Jack is more mature and manageable by the day, we had some really rough patches in the past 18 months since Emily was born.  He is a strong-willed and explosive child.  We had to learn to really keep our fucking cool around this kid no matter what he does.  For us, losing self-control in any way (i.e., raising our voices) only fuels his fire.  It took us the better part of five years to learn this fact and put it into practice.  There are still times when either my husband or myself lose our shit.  Although it does not happen often, it pains me to admit to yelling and threatening to take away Christmas.

There is nothing like parenthood to rob a person of their pride.

I’ve been known to say things to Jack like, Wow.  You really let me down. 

Ummm, he’s only five.  How can a kid that small impair my world that profoundly?

Well, he can’t unless I let him.  I am learning this and being more mindful of it every day.  Watching Angry Dad march down the sidewalk with his deflated daughter, I wondered if he and I are really all that different?

I initially thought that I was better than him since I at least filter my tirades to when I don’t have an audience.

But wait!  I DO have an audience.

Jack and Emily are my most important audience of all!

It might not matter what a stranger sees me do or say because I might not impact their life.  But my children learn from me!  My children need to know how to interact in the world with respect, dignity, and love.  It is so important that I model this for them, not only in our home, but in the world also.  My interactions with them, and the interactions that they watch me have with humanity, will influence how they behave.  Having an audience with my children is more important to me than having an audience with the Dalai Lama!

There is a certain degree of comfort and safety in the home.  We can let it all hang out and know that our family is not going to leave us because there is love and committment.  But maybe this safety shouldn’t be taken for granted quite so much.

I will reiterate that with my family there are way more good times than bad.  I would not label myself an “angry mom,” but I have my moments. I want to have less of those moments.

It is a subject on which I plan to meditate and be more mindful.

I guess I have Angry Dad to thank for this new awareness and mission.  Namaste, dude.