Tag Archives: parenting

Why Does Your Birthday Make Me Want to Cry?

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 Dearest Jack,


Tomorrow you turn nine.

I’ve often described your birthday as a national holiday in the country of motherhood, because it feels huge and spectacular.

The story of your birth is like a legend to me. I tell it often, and although it may bore others after the 47th time, it is always magical to me. I remember how it felt to walk the neighborhood with amniotic fluid dripping down my legs, surprised at how it didn’t stop flowing. It was the first of many surprises motherhood would bring my way.

Tonight, on the eve of your birthday, I told you about how when a mama is pregnant, the baby floats in a sack of waters, and how sometimes when the waters break, it means baby is on the way.

“That’s so weird sounding,” you said.  “Water breaking.” You walked off to play legos, unimpressed.

I labored for 22 hours with you. Most of it was very peaceful. Since my contractions didn’t start on their own after my water broke (an expression which forever after will sound weird to me), I had to be induced. The artificial chemicals caused me a lot of pain. I was tired and I could tell people started to worry that I would end up with a C-Section (that’s another lesson for another day).  I begged for an epidural, and within an hour of getting it, was fully dilated and ready to push you out.

I pushed for a little over two hours. It was two of the most focused, intense hours of my life.  It seemed like just minutes.  It seemed like I was deep inside of my own body, with you, helping you to find your way out of me.

You came out squished, with your head elongated and cone-shaped from being in my birth canal for so long, but as I grabbed you, snatched you to my chest, I sobbed, “He’s so beautiful,” over and over and over.

I couldn’t imagine ever feeling anything other than mystical love and adoration of you.

I couldn’t imagine that I would be so tired and so hopelessly depressed with post partum hormones that I would want to leave you on the steps of the church across the street, or sell you on the internet.  I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be to leave you at daycare when I went back to work, how I cried until my face looked deformed, how I felt like an incomplete person to be apart from you.

I couldn’t imagine how you would test every nerve in my psyche with your strong will and fierce independence.  I couldn’t imagine how you would make me swell with laughter and pride when you made your first smile, took your first steps, or made your first jokes.

Nothing could have prepared me for your otherworldly wisdom, your past life regressions, and your fiery temper.  No one could have warned me how scary it would be and how much I would worry about your heart and soul.

I had no clue you would become so tall so quickly.  That you would be a brown belt in karate.  That you would be fascinated by science.  That you would be such a picky eater.  That you would be so incredibly sensitive.

I had no clue how much you would be like me, and how much that would challenge and frighten me every day.

I had not an inkling how hard it would be to be a mom, to be YOUR mom, to juggle everything we would both need and want.

You came to the bare skin of my chest that August night wired with your own personality, your unique intensity, your distinct weight and volume in the universe.  I’ve tried to shape and help you, and I always will.  But I have also learned to respect that you are your own.  For as much as I will always love you, you do not belong to me.  And maybe that is the scariest part of being a mom.

Before bed tonight, I hugged you close, felt the solidity of you in my arms.  I didn’t tell you that a part of me wanted to cry, wanted to go out and shake all the bats from the trees in the summer night with my wailing.  I just held you and patted you and felt how different and new you feel in my arms as you grow.

And I think that’s the thing.

I think that’s the part that makes me want to cry–  every time I embrace you, you are a new person and it is like the first time I ever clutched you to my breast, weeping for your beauty.  It’s a mixture of joy and sorrow that is every bit as strange and individual as you are, my son.

So here’s to your ninth birthday.  The last year you will spend in single digits.  Here’s to hugs and legos, starbursts and peanut butter sandwiches.  Here’s to Doritos and learning to canoe, swimming with friends and Harry Potter.

Here’s to you.  Here’s to you and me, even on days when it is kind of hard and when we both feel frustrated and scared.

Happy birthday, Sunny Boy.

I love you,

Mama.

Can We Please Talk About What a Royal Mind F*&K Modern Motherhood Is?

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Both my daughter’s daycare and my son’s elementary school send updates through email during the day.  It is a nice way of knowing what is going on with them while I’m at work.

I’ve spoken before about what an existential leap it is to drop my kids off in places and then drive off to another place and be away from them for about nine hours a day.

Actually, if I think about it too hard, the above sentence really screws with my brain.

So it doesn’t take much to kind of push the scale in favor of full blown anxiety attack when my kids are concerned.

Imagine my shock when I got the following email on my lunch break at work:

“Dear Parent:  Please be advised that our school was in Lock Down Mode, as ordered by the local police due to an incident in the area.  We were Lock Down for 30 minutes.  The police assured us that the incident was resolved and we are back to normal.”

The email was time stamped about 90 minutes earlier than when I read it.  Of course the last line indicated that everything was cool as Ice, Ice, Baby.  But the first line of the email had already sent my adrenaline into full-blown-flood-of-piping-hot-lava-panic-mode.

As I tail spun through the office, alerting all my coworkers that I was in the midst of a neurotic episode (and probably alerting some of the incoming clients that maybe they wanted to rethink their choice of counseling agency because the staff here was cray-zee), my eyes filled with tears. 

I longed to run out of the building and race to my baby boy, to hug him and validate that my worst fears had not come to pass.

Two of my coworkers hopped on the internet to see if they could find anything about what happened in my town.  There was nothing on the news.  I finally called the school (yeah, I get it; that should have been my first move, but when panic is in full swing, you don’t always make the logical choice first).  The school secretary assured me that all was well.

I sat back in my office chair and did some deep breathing, trying to calm my racing heart and mind.  As I did so, I checked my email again.

Up popped an update from my daughter’s preschool.  It let me know that they were petting the chicks that hatched in their class’ incubator last week and that they were making nests in art.

And that, my dear friends, is motherhood:  fluffy chicks and bomb threats.

It is a royal mind fuck, the likes of which I never could have predicted.

As a mom, you lose the right to wake up and know what to expect with your day.  You can either get the downy, yellow, baby critters, or you can get the sheer terror of knowing everything you treasure and hold sacred can be squashed like a bug at a moment’s notice.

Sometimes you get both at once, and hardly know where to look or focus because it is all just so confusing and cute and horrifying and your heart is bursting.

As a working mom, sometimes I send my children off to school sick or sad.  Sometimes I hug them with an annoyed huff because we have left the house late, or because they have forgotten something “important”.

Sometimes I leave them crying or cross with me.  Sometimes I kiss them goodbye and give them nary a thought until I join them at home, many hours later, for the chaos that is dinner/homework/bath/tv/stories/bedtime.

And then there are days like this where I ache every second to be together with my babies again, so I can wrap my arms around them, nuzzle their fuzzy heads, and thank the stars we have all made it back to one another safe and sound.

Awkward Girl

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I was always the awkward girl on the playground when I was small.  

I had a difficult time making friends.  I was painfully shy and at times it felt physically painful to even attempt interacting with others.  

My teachers complained I wasn’t social enough when they saw me walking around the outskirts of the recess yard.

Their complaint implied that there was something wrong with me.

When I go now, to pick my son up from third grade, I still feel uneasy, as I stand there on the blacktop, waiting for him to emerge from the cavernous, brick fortress.

My kids like to spend a while playing on the playground after he gets out.  It’s good for them, so I oblige.

My four-year-old, who is not yet in school, skips about making friends with just about anyone she can run or slide or swing with, and it doesn’t seem to trouble her if they run off to play elsewhere.  She doesn’t take it personally at all, but just finds something new to do, or someone new to race with.

My son has his school cohorts with whom he tussles and frolics to the point where I’m almost concerned one of them will get hurt.  I’m assured by other parents that this is just the way boys play on the playground after six hours of sitting in their chairs.  So I leave it at that.

I watch a lot of the moms chat with one another. Sometimes I see someone I know and will utter a few words about the upcoming field trip, or how challenging this particular teacher seems.  Sometimes we talk about our children’s extra curricular activities.

But mostly, I stand off to the side, feeling like I don’t really fit in.

I’m still shy.

It is not in my nature to approach people and I haven’t a clue how to make small talk.

Sometimes I still feel like that awkward, gangly girl I was when I was nine or ten, or twelve, or fifteen.  

Sometimes my stomach rolls and I want to run and hide behind a tree so no one can see how nervously I glance around, knowing I don’t fit in.

But mostly, I talk to that girl I used to be.

It is really a special thing to get to meet her again on the same playground where I once stood, lonely and confused about social customs.

It’s alright, I tell her.  Do you.  You’re just fine.  It’s okay to be quiet.  It’s perfectly fine to not want to waste your energy on small talk.  You’re gonna do just great.  You’ll see.  It’s all going to be okay.  There is nothing wrong with you. 

Holding Hands

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Jack was off from school for his April vacation.

We took the train into the city and went to the aquarium.  It was a really nice day.

He loved the penguins.

I loved that he held my hand on and off throughout the day without any provocation.

It’s been maybe a year and a half since Jack stopped holding my hand willingly.  Maybe two years.  I kind of lost track.  I’ve never stopped sticking my hand out for him when we are walking in a mall, or crossing a street, but it has been ages since he has accepted it.

Kids grow really fast.  There is not much you can do to slow it down or stop it.

I don’t know if it was being in the city, or the bustle of the train, or if he just wanted to feel close and connected to me.  But we held hands and it melted my mama heart.  There were times I actually wanted to turn to a stranger and say, LOOK–  this is Jack.  He is my son and he is almost nine and he is holding my hand as we walk around.

Of course I didn’t do that.  I just smiled as we walked.  And I smile with the memory.

About the Time I Might Have Lied to My Kids’ Dentist

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Being judged sucks.

It is like the worst feeling ever.

Being judged as a mom extra-sucks.  Some of us are able to rise above and not really give a shit if people look at us askance when the kids are taking a tanty in Target, eating crackers off the floor, or using a pacifier at the age of four.

It sucks because none of us moms wake up in the morning and ask ourselves, “Hmmmm, how can I fuck up my children and skate deliriously close to the edge of my sanity today?”

I promise you.  None of us wake up and want to deliberately do crap that messes up our kids and gives them fodder about which to chat with a therapist like me later in life.  But sometimes we have to pick battles for our own sanity.  Sometimes we pick the wrong battles.  It sucks, but being judged for it sucks even more.

So there was this one time I took the kids to the dentist.  Emily was three and it was her first visit to the dentist.  I was enormously proud of how cooperative and well-behaved both of my children were for their exam.  The hygienists even commented on what great kids they were.

Then the dentist came and gave their mouths the once-over.  He mumbled some stuff about Jack needing braces in a few years, and I went off to my happy place in Hawaii on Kailua Beach, because I could not deal with the thought of financing braces.

Then he checked Emily’s teeth.

“Ohhhhhh kaaaayyyy,” he said.  He counted her teeth, asked her to bite down and then looked up at me.  “Does she. . .?” He asked, wagging his thumb at me and miming thumb-sucking.

“Oh, no!” I gasped in mock surprise and horror.  “She doesn’t suck her thumb.  Never has.”

“Aha.  Well, she has a pretty significant gap here in her bite,” he pointed out.  “I guess we will just have to wait and see how her adult teeth grow in.”

I collected my perfectly behaved children and left the dentist’s office with a stone of remorse in my gut.

I hadn’t actually lied to him.  I hadn’t.  It was 100% true that Emily has never sucked her thumb.  But she did still use a pacifier to go to bed at night.  And sometimes for naps.  And sometimes would sneak it during the day while she was watching television and I wouldn’t necessarily say anything about it because it gave me three or four minutes of peace.

So, I don’t know.  On a scale of 1-10 in the spectrum of motherhood foibles, I don’t think it is the worst thing I’ve ever done.  Actually I don’t think it is really that bad at all.  I got over it and I didn’t lose any sleep.

But I do wonder why I was so afraid to be judged by that dentist.

And I wonder why that feeling of mommy-guilt and shame is so difficult to bear.

Have you ever told a lie about your parenting to cast you in a better life?  Please share in the comments below!  I love hearing from you!  xoxoxo.  

The First of April

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This post was originally published three years ago today.  I am reposting it today to honor the memory of Zoe, and to recognize the formidable strength of her family.  I’m also posting this again because I promised Laura, four long years ago, that I would never stop sharing Zoe’s story.  Big, big love to all who take the time to read this post, and especially to my friends on this very difficult day.  xoxo.  

  

 

A week ago, Emily had conjunctivitis, and I stayed home from work to be with her. For the better part of the morning, I sat around resenting Pink Eye. Forced to take a full day out of work, to be home with my oozing-crusty-eyed daughter, I thought, What a stupid “illness”. It isn’t like you’re actually sick, just terribly contagious with an itchy eye.

Angrily, I thought about all the other things I could be doing with a day of benefit time, about all the clients I would have to cancel and reschedule, and about how being at home made me realize the truly gross condition of my house.

And then I thought of Zoe.

Over the years, my life has been changed and shaped in big and little ways. There have been times that I have gotten “a wake up call” to which I opened my eyes and began seeing things in a different light.

Learning about Zoe was one of those things.

Zoe Faye Young is a baby I never met. She was born to loving and devoted parents, Laura and Zeppo, in October 2011. When Zoe was two months old, she was diagnosed with an extremely rare cancer called Malignant Rhabdoid Tumor. This cancer strikes the youngest babies and children. It is lethal.

Armed with her family, and a team of amazing doctors, Zoe fought this disease with grace and dignity. She died at the tender age of five months old, at home, surrounded by the love of her parents. She died on April 1, 2012- a year ago today.

I learned about Zoe last year, around this time. A friend on Facebook posted a link to the blog that Zoe’s parents, Laura and Zeppo, kept.

The blog, http://www.teamzoecancersucks.com is a chronicle of Zoe’s life and battle with MRT. It is also now the site for the Zoe Faye Foundation. After her death, her parents created this foundation, the mission of which is to provide support, assistance, education, and financial relief to families facing MRT in their young children. They also hope to advocate for further cancer research.

If you do one thing today, please go to this website and get a little perspective on life.

When I learned of Zoe, Emily was four months old. I had just returned to work and was struggling with sleep deprivation and stress. After reading of this family, I knew they would forever go without sleep to spend one more moment with their daughter. Since then, I have tried to be mindful of every opportunity to BE with my children.

To BE a mom.

To BE love and comfort in this troubled world of ours.

I’m not perfect. I get tired and overwhelmed, say and do stupid, insensitive things as a mom, wife, and human. But when I catch myself acting like an ass, I often think of Zoe.

I defy you to go to the website, look at her smile, and then bitch about traffic.

And then, go ahead and picture that there are thousands of children like Zoe out there, fighting and suffering with unthinkable pain, but still learning to smile. Think about that and then rant about the weather, or the ten minutes you stood in line at the Target Starbucks only to find out that they were out of decaf.

Over the past year, I’ve ruminated on the story of Zoe and her parents, and on pediatric cancer. I have challenged myself to be more present in my day-to-day life, to look at every midnight feeding and diaper change as a chance to be thankful, to live life to the fullest.

Occasionally, when I lament the lack of finances that keep me from learning how to surf or hula in Hawaii, I remember that exotic locale and adventure is not necessary to be living to my highest potential. Nothing should keep us from connecting deeply and respectfully with our families or fellow humans. There is no reason why being on a surf board or in a grass skirt would be a more precious use of my time than being home with my gooey-eyed daughter.

Every moment, no matter how mundane is an opportunity.

I posted the link to Zoe’s blog on my Facebook many times, and tried to tell her story to others in my life. It was (unpleasantly) surprising most people reacted by saying, “I can’t read that kind of thing; it is too sad.”

I guess I understand.

I used to feel the same way. But my response now is that it is important to face. Read it. And instead of crying, respect every ounce of her beauty and grace and stamina. Instead of feeling pity for Zoe’s parents, admire and be inspired by the fact that they turned unimaginable grief into a mission.

In the face of the worst, this little baby learned not only to smile, but to laugh, to effortlessly brighten the world around her.

It begs the question, do I do this?

And if so, how?

How do you brighten the world, even when extreme adversity comes knocking on your door? How can we dig deeper in ourselves to find the strength to advocate for important causes, or to be better and do better in this world?

Visit http://www.teamzoecancersucks.com.

Then be thankful.

Be thankful for conjunctivitis, or a head cold, or a million dollars. Tap into the potential of every moment, and be thankful for the opportunity every moment possesses to be love, help, peace, and joy to the fullest extent.

And the Worst Mom in the World Award Goes to. . .

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My daughter goes to a preschool that we can’t really afford.  It is the best in the state and it is driving us deep into debt to send her there.  My son went there too.  It is a long story, but we have committed to keeping her there for another year until she is ready for Kindergarten.

Instead of the regular school photos that most places do, which are expensive already in my opinion, my daughter’s school has a private boutique photographer come in to do photos of the children.  And these photos cost the equivalent of a flight to the moon, in my opinion.

Most of the other parents are doctors and lawyers and business people who can afford such tom foolery.

We have skipped on the photos for the past two years, but for some reason my hubs decided that we would go for it this time around.

So we paid the sitting fee and then completely forgot about it.

My husband sent me a picture of my daughter standing by her cubby in a pair of leopard-print leggings that were ripped in the knee, a mis matched top, and her fine, curly hair completely unbrushed.

She was glaring at his camera phone with glassy, annoyance because I had also sent her to school sick.

Beneath this photo, read my husband’s simple text:  Photo Day.

I wanted to cry.

Not only had I sent my poor little ragamuffin to school sick, but I sent her dressed like something out of a Charles Dickens story on picture day.

This is the crap that makes me feel totally out of control of my life.

This is the crap that makes me feel like I am juggling furiously, but the balls still keep dropping everywhere, and then I am tripping over them in an attempt to gather them all together again.

I went off to work feeling sad, mad, overwhelmed.  I ran a red light in my distraction and I’m pretty sure my transgression was caught in the flashes of a traffic camera.

It all made me want to cry.

Sure a good laugh was had by all the other working moms at work, who let me know they had done the same, exact thing at one point or another.

I still wanted to cry.

The other day, I wrote about about losing our shit as moms, and how we need to practice self acceptance and self compassion in our day to day, so that it will be there for others.

Ever notice how things are so much easier blogged than done?