Tag Archives: parenting

Sweet Spot

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It really was a good week.

I’m contemplating that it really had been just a great week.  I was happy.  I felt genuine, uncomplicated, happiness.

Both of the kids had been relaxed and pleasant.  There was a random, late-winter snow storm and we all got stuck at home.  But instead of contracting cabin fever, we lounged blissfully in our jammies, snuggled, and watched TV.  I even snoozed.  We baked muffins. We ate muffins.  It was a day of cozy comfort.

Then Jack found out a piece of his art had been chosen to be in the district art show.  It was a totally unexpected accomplishment, and we were absolutely thrilled to celebrate it with him.  He was proud and humble as he reluctantly posed in front of his drawing at the local library where the exhibit was held.

The very next day, Emily picked up a book and started reading it to me.  She is having a pretty great year in kindergarten, and all of a sudden, a switch has been turned on in her brain and all she wants to do is read.  She tenaciously sounded out words and struggled through page after page of Dr. Seuss as I cheered her on.

It felt almost too good to be true.

Things almost never go this smoothly.

We were getting out of the house in the morning in one piece without any drama, on time, and with cheerful attitudes. The kids were not bickering with each other as much.  I made a French Toast Bake that Jack (my super picky eater) declared was so good it should be on a cooking show.  Emily slept through each night without coming up to our bed and waking us up.  They said “thank you” for random things that they normally overlook as crap that I just do on the daily because I’m their mom.

Part of me was tempted to break into song and dance, because surely this sort of delightful existence only happened in musicals.

Honestly, I just felt like I was nailing it.  I was totally rocking the working mom gig.  I wasn’t even doing anything different or extraordinary.

I didn’t post about it on any social media for fear of seeming braggy, although I did put up pictures of Jack’s art and a video of Emily reading.  But the larger, greater sense of the motherhood machine running just right- I did not post about that.

It isn’t often that I feel this way; like all is well, and all will be well.

Much more often I am beating myself up for letting the kids watch too much TV, not serving as much veggie as I should, and forgetting to check if Emily has remembered to change her underpants.

I so easily fill with self loathing because I lack energy to force my kids to write thank you notes.  I convince myself I am a failure because my kids’ rooms are pits of despair and I’d rather not deal with them.

And then there are all the times I wonder what the hell I am doing wrong when I can’t seem to get places on time, or when I burn dinner, or when I forget to sign a field trip permission slip.

Even worse are the times when Jack is having a sensory meltdown because his anxiety has gotten the best of him and I am completely helpless to assist him in regulating his emotional state.  Or when Emily is annoyed and frustrated and she tells me she hates me.

This stuff is so hard.  I had no clue that the hard stuff would be so hard, nor that by contrast, that the amazing stuff would be so amazing.

I also had no clue that motherhood would frequently and chronically consist of so much more of the hard stuff.

So, that’s why I’m writing about the little sweet spot we shared that nice week.

It’s important to acknowledge and remember what it feels like to nail it in this gig.  It’s good to write it all down so when times are tough we can remind ourselves what it feels like to know and hold happiness, to do it right.  It’s important to remember that we are doing so, so great, even when we think we aren’t, or when we feel like we are struggling to even put milk in our coffee.

There are good moments if we look for them.  We create them, like we create life, like we create last-minute, haphazard recipes from the last four random things in our fridge at the end of the week.  It doesn’t have to be anything earth shattering.  There can be joy.

And that’s the other important thing to remember in this parenting game:  that there will be joy again.  Even when it feels like the rough patch is going to go on forever, there is still a potential for change.

When was your last parenting sweet spot?  How did you nail it as a mom?  Are you going through a rough patch now?  Talk to me in the comments!  

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We Are All Momming As Hard As We Can, So Can We Stop Already With the Mythology of Summer?

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A friend recently remarked that she was super impressed with how much fun, enriching stuff I do with my kids.  She mentioned seeing a group of photos I’d posted on social media of an outing my daughter and I took to a local farm, where we pet a lamb.

It had been an enchanting excursion.  I won’t deny it.  We were by the ocean and the scenery was lush and pastoral.  Emily chased after chickens and we walked up to a fence to look at a bull with gigantic horns that looked like something out of a story book.

Then we got into the car to go home and Emily told me I was the worst mom in the world and she hated me because I wasn’t taking her to a restaurant for lunch.

So, I thanked my friend for her compliment of my pictures.  And then I let her know Emily’s five-year-old opinion of me.

Sure I could have taken the compliment and allowed my ego to be stroked. But I happen to believe reality is important. 

I also let my friend know that every photo of us doing something energetic and interesting represents a minuscule slice of our actual existence. 

 For every five minutes we are out doing something exotic, there are about three hours spent lolling around the house watching television, having tantrums, bickering, eye rolling, and sighing.  Heavily.

I also do not incorporate photos of my never-ending laundry, toilet scrubbing, and refereeing sibling rivalry on social media.  No one does.  We all post the highlight reels.  We post the pics that say “Look at me winning this impossible quest!”

We perpetuate our own mythology along with the collective mythology of modern day parenting. 

It’s what we all do.  Sorrynotsorry. No regrets. Because we are all on this seemingly never-ending struggle bus ride fraught with constant motion sickness and punctuated with momentary glimpses of something lovely out the window.


We all do it, but we all forget that we do it.  That’s the problem.  And that’s what leads us to compare with one another and feel like everyone else is out there having a better time.  All the other moms are out there momming better, harder, and faster than we are.

Summertime seems to highlight this dynamic.  At least it does for me.  There seems to be this unspoken expectation that we are all going to be shiny, happy summer people, and that in addition to all the normal mom duties, we are also going to bring it in the areas of crafts, activities, and day trips to exotic ports of call like we are a deranged cruise director.  Oh, and shit, I forgot about incorporating baking and sensory play.  Gotta do it all.

I’m here to tell you, you do not have to do it all.  I’m here to tell you, it is perfectly okay if this flurry of activity is not a realistic expectation for you.  If you are tired, frustrated, or out of good ideas–  it is all okay.  If you just don’t feel like going outside today, also okay. Stay on the couch.  Put in some Disney or Doctor Who.  It’s all good.  We all eventually get to the same place.

I personally don’t have the time or energy for being super creative mom of the year. 

Of course it is important to do things with our children.  In no way do I espouse neglect or unlimited screen time.  Balance is key.  Exercise is important. Hugs count. But…..  

We do not need to be in constant motion and contact with our kids.

Kids need a break too.  I’ll speak for me and mine.  As a children of working parents, my kids have really  long days–  as long or longer than mine sometimes.  Emily can usually be flexible and roll with the flow, but Jack needs a lot more down time.  This makes it even trickier to balance their needs with my own.  Societal demands, pressures, and expectations have no place in this equation for me.

It’s really hard not to let the social media highlight reels feed into the mythology of what summer and parenting is “supposed to be”.  A lot of people I know have gotten off of social media for just that reason.  

I’m learning to enjoy the posts of other parents without feeling threatened or pressured to do and be more, more, more.  Because really, we are all already doing more than enough.

We are all more than mom enough.

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.