Posts Tagged ‘challenges’

1 + 1 = only a little more than 1

Monday, September 26th, 2011

I wish there was an easy way to explain how having a second baby is different from having a first baby, but there are SO MANY WAYS I don’t think I can. When people talk about having a second baby, they talking about “doing it again” – “Oh I couldn’t do that all again! The spit up! The diapers! The sleepless nights!” – but they forget that all the OTHER stuff is easier. Yes there is going to be a ton of poop, but you’ve gotten so good at pinning down a squirmy baby while you change them it only ends up on your clothes once a day! Or even less!

I should probably include a disclaimer that my second baby is a much easier baby than my first, but honestly I’m not sure where the line between “easier because she was born more easy-going” and “easier because I treat her differently” falls. It’s like the chicken and the egg, if the chicken is a mother who is often distracted by a toddler licking things he shouldn’t be licking and the egg is a baby who has learned to only scream for attention when she’s about to be eaten by wolves or fall down a well. There is something to be said for nature – Little Evan has some sort of crazy silent, painless reflux that turned him into an 8 pound vomit machine and Caroline has thrown up half a dozen times in her entire life – but the way I nurture her is definitely making a difference.

For example, we are sleep training Caroline, which is something I literally couldn’t even imagine doing with Little Evan. My brain shut down and my head hurt and my boobs tingled just thinking about LEAVING MY BABY alone to cry in the dark. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of nights he cried in the crib but it was after HOURS AND HOURS of rocking and nursing and begging and banging my head against the wall wondering why I was such a failure as a mother. It never occurred to me he was just really tired and if I put him down for more than 30 seconds he might fall asleep.

But Caroline has been acting nocturnal and I’ve been totally exhausted and unable to parent my OTHER kid during the day plus I decided it was sort of ridiculous she would ONLY sleep in her baby swing at nine months old. So we put her in the crib. That’s it. She’s fussed a few times, but if I let her roll around and shout indignantly (as opposed to because she is hurt or hungry or needs something) for five minutes she sleeps like, well, a baby. I know the crying won’t kill her because it didn’t kill the first kid. I have tangible proof I am capable of keeping a human being alive despite my mistakes, and that confidence is PRICELESS.

It also works in the other direction – because Caroline takes more hands-on time than Little Evan (except on the days when he’s potty training, which is one of the reasons we haven’t been trying too hard but now that he’s showing a lot of interest we’re going to have to and OMG I AM NOT LOOKING FORWARD TO IT) he has gotten more independent and really improved his communication skills. He’s also more loving and affectionate, which I suspect is because I spend so much time holding the baby he wants some cuddle time of his own. I call that a win-win.

Even when things that worked the first time (ahem, babywearing) don’t work so great with baby #2, I have enough confidence in my own mothering skills to just move on and try something else. It’s making this whole parenting gig much more fun.

I’m assuming the next kid will just be born walking, talking and making my morning coffee.

(p.s. Caroline took 6 steps TWICE on Sunday. Remind me to re-read this post when they start running in opposite directions)

Newsflash: Being a Parent is Hard

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Oh toddlers.

They’re so much fun when they’re not screaming in your face.

Unfortunately, we’ve been having a lot of in your face moments for the past few weeks. Evan’s favorite word is NO and he uses it every chance he gets. Even if he means “Yes please, that would be lovely Mother” he says NO.

Would you like some juice? NO JUICE! Would you like an apple? NO APPLE! Do you want to watch tv? NO TV! Do you want to go to the park and see our friends? NO FRIENDS! NO! NOOOOOO!!! *sobbing hysterics* *tears* *throws self on floor*

Evan, what’s wrong? JUICE! APPLE! TV! FRIENDS!! *sob sob sob sob*


Thank God for our new best friends, Nick Jr and Sprout and whatever other channel is planning something vaguely child appropriate that perhaps also includes a catchy song I will find myself singing later as I vacuum up pretzel crumbs (We got a green light! We’re gonna take a ride! Come on! What are you waiting foo-oo-or? It’s time to move it! It’s time to groove it! Are you ready? Cause here we goo-oo-oo!) Honestly, in the scheme of “things that get stuck in my head” the Fresh Beat Band is NOT THAT BAD. I may in fact actually…like that song. Don’t tell anyone.

I don’t feel even a teeny tiny little bit bad about letting Little Evan watch TV if it means no one gets smacked in the face, buried under a mountain of dirty laundry, or left at the fire station under the child surrender laws. (Not that I’VE ever Googled those in the midst of a meltdown. Nope.)

In the long run, my toddler learns to speak Chinese and I am a better parent. I see no problems.

Sometimes, even all the happy songs and Blue’s Clues on the planet can’t solve the huge, life destroying problems my toddler faces – such as “Why can’t I eat fourteen lollipops for breakfast?” or “Why did I get yelled at for punching my sister in the head?” Life’s mysteries are SO MYSTERIOUS when you are 2. And when you lack the words to explain why you are so upset, the only way to express yourself is flinging your body on the ground and hitting anything that comes within reach. Obviously.

I have learned the suggestion that one “take a deep breath and count to ten” when one is faced with those kinds of meltdowns isn’t just an expression or a general way saying “chill out”. For it to work, you have to ACTUALLY STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING, close your eyes, take several deep breaths in…and…out…and count to 10 VERY SLOWLY. It’s not going to stop the toddler’s behavior, but it will stop you from throwing your own tantrum in return.

Because that is my biggest parenting challenge: not responding like a toddler when faced with a toddler. Which sounds totally ridiculous – I am a GROWN ASS ADULT. I have leveled up appropriately and unlocked all the adult life achievements (college +1, apartment +1, marriage +1, mortgage +1, credit card + a zillion) and yet when someone screams in my face and lashes out it takes every ounce of my strength not to react in kind. It’s stupid and childish and makes me feel like I truly have absolutely no idea what I am doing when it comes to this parenting gig.

WHY ISN’T THERE A TEST? Or a LICENSE? Some sort of oversight program or home visit or preparedness class I had to attend before I was allowed to get pregnant? Why wasn’t I given some sort of practice training child I couldn’t screw up before I got the final draft? Terrible planning, mother nature. Terrible.

But despite all the toddlering going on, I am taking my deep breaths and learning to be patient. I remind myself (over and over and over and over)(and over and over and over) that this too shall pass. I refuse to argue with a 2 year old and pick my battles much more carefully – is it worth losing my cool over pajama shirts or hair washing or sandals or 3 more bites of dinner or keeping the cushions on the couch or how many blankets to bring downstairs or sharing the red truck instead of the blue truck or the five billion other things Little Evan wants to fight about every single day?

No. No it is not.

At the end of the day, he’s a wonderful boy (Especially at the literal end of the day – bedtime is one thing we’ve got worked out). Smart and funny and kind and generous and joyful and friendly. I look forward to spending time with him and seeing the world as the Super! Awesome! Exciting! Place! he thinks it is. We have such GOOD good times that it makes the bad days seem so much worse. I want to just grab him by the shoulders mid-meltdown and shout “WE COULD BE HAVING FUN! WHY AREN’T WE HAVING FUN?!”

But that’s not very grown-up of me.

Parking Lot Police

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Yesterday morning at Target I had an experience that left me feeling alternately overwhelming guilt and extreme anger (neither of which seems warranted but I’m really tired and overly emotional right now).

The kids and I haven’t left the house since last Thursday and if it was up to me we probably wouldn’t leave again until it’s consistently above 70 degrees, but a lack of cold medicine and Goldfish drove us from our cave and out into the world. And by world I mean Target. We actually did pretty well getting ready and packing up to go so it was early when we got to the store.

Now, with one child, my standard method of getting said child into a store was to park as close to a cart return as possible, toss my bag over one shoulder and carry the child to one of the carts in the return. Then I don’t have to worry about anyone running away or distracting me in a Dangerous Parking Lot Situation and we roll right into the store. The problem is with TWO children – especially when one weighs upwards of 30 lbs and the other is sleeping in a bucket seat – is I cannot carry them both safely at the same time. It is possible but not easy and not something I like to do, especially with the toddler in his current state of extreme defiance. I just don’t trust him not to thrash out of my arm when I’ve only got one to hold him with. So what I try to do when I have both kids with me is park directly next to the cart return (even if it means parking super far away from the store)(I actually prefer far away because then no one parks so close to your doors you can barely fit in the space to get the kids into the seats), lock the car, grab a cart and bring it back to the car to load the kids one at a time. I’ve always felt very comfortable with this situation, because my proximity to the car at all times means even in the extremely unlikely circumstance that I were to suddenly – KNOCK ON WOOD – drop dead while the kids were locked in the car, someone would notice them.

Unfortunately, because it was still really early and I was at the Target Less Traveled (you should be so lucky – brand new gorgeous store, almost always empty) there were only 2 carts in the entire parking lot and both were in a cart return in the only row full of cars. I drove around for a minute, hoping I could stalk someone out of the store to their car and grab a cart from them but no one came out. So I decided to pull through a spot one row over from the return. That way although I would have to trek across a row of cars to GET a cart, I’d only have to cross the lane of traffic to put it back.

So I park the car, turn around to tell Little Evan I’ll be “one minute”, which he repeats back and holds up one finger, and get out of the car. At that exact moment, cars pull into spots near mine. The guy in the truck on one side smiles and heads towards the store. No one gets out of the minivan on the other side. It isn’t until 5 seconds later when I’m on my way back with the cart, being extra-super-careful not to ding anyone’s car on my way through the row that I can see two women in their van making dramatic motions and pointing towards my van, where you can clearly see Little Evan sitting in his seat drinking his milk. I get back to the car and press the “unlock” button as dramatically and obviously as possible, wrestle the toddler then the infant seat into the cart and start towards Target. Only THEN do the women get out of the van.

After picking up all the essentials – cough drops, graham crackers, tiny pink cowboy boots – I successfully navigate checkout without accidentally stealing anything or letting the toddler fall out of the cart and head to the car. I open the right door with the remote, lock the (still sound asleep) baby’s bucket into the base, drop my bags under her seat, and close that door. I roll the cart around to the other side, wrestle the toddler into his car seat, put my diaper bag under his seat and close THAT door. Now I have an empty cart and two kids secured in their seats, so I press the lock button, dash across the lane of traffic and shove the cart into the (still empty) cart return.

As I get back into the car, I look to my left and notice those two women are sitting in their van, just watching me with their judgy, judgy faces.

I can’t prove they were waiting for me to come out and they never said a word while we were in the store together, although I passed them several times, but I would bet a MILLION DOLLARS the conversation they had when they pulled into the parking lot was whether to call the police and report children left in a car. I wouldn’t be surprised if they wrote down my license plate.

Or, hey, maybe I’m just being paranoid! Maybe they were waiting to see if I needed help! They’re just Concerned Citizens and they want to watch out For The Children! Such As.

So here’s the thing: Am I doing this wrong? Is leaving my kids in the car for less than 30 seconds at any given time worth the looks of scorn and horror these women were sending me? Trust me, I am VERY AWARE of the dangers of leaving your kid in the car but…I don’t think that’s what I’m doing here. I would bet the number of children hit by cars in parking lots is a lot higher than the number of children who are kidnapped while their mother grabs a cart. Even if you add in children who were left in a car for up to 5 minutes while their mom runs into a convenience store to pay for gas or buy some milk I think “hit by car in parking lot” would be significantly higher. I am making what feels like the safer choice in a situation that doesn’t really have a better option – at least until Target gets valet parking.

What say you?

Needing a break does not make you bad mom

Monday, August 30th, 2010

A hundred years ago, I knew how to relax (Charleston SC August 2006)

Can I say that ANY MORE CLEARLY??

All over the internet (and in real life) I hear moms say “I wish I got a day off” or “I could use a break” or “When do I get a sick day?” or “I can’t wait to go on that vacation”. But those statements are ALWAYS prefaced by this:

“I love my kid, but…”

Without fail.

Usually it’s a lot more than just “I love my kid” too. Sometimes it’s whole paragraphs and posts and speeches about how they are the luckiest women on the planet, with darling, adorable, well-behaved children, super awesome supportive husbands, perfect magazine-cover lives and great hair. They just…need a minute. Maybe two. And a cocktail.

I’m not saying I DON’T love my kid. I am just as guilty as everyone else of worrying people will think I’m a terrible mother if I want him to go away sometimes. He’s exhausting. It’s not so much that feeding and caring for one small child is incredibly strenuous – heck, you can pay a teenager to keep your kid alive for a few hours for less than minimum wage and most of them are happy to do it – but EVERY DAY ALL THE TIME NO STOPPING NO BREAKS will make you crazy.

For the record, here’s what happened when I got my break: There was absolutely no whining. I stayed out late. I called to check in and was happy to hear everything was fine. I was not a sobbing, teary mess at being separated from my kid for a couple days, although when I got back I was actually HAPPY to let him climb all over me instead of wanting to claw my skin off and hide under the covers. It was glorious.

And I’m going to do it again.

I’m not saying if you DO cry when you’re away from your baby there’s something wrong with you – it took me more that a year of NEVER being away from Baby Evan to get to the point where I could even consider leaving for a weekend. But there’s no “Saddest Mommy” medal being handed out to the person with the most tears and guilt. Let it go. Recharge. Have a cocktail. Get away.


It might just make you a better mom.

I think I found the one thing I miss the most

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Last night my parents took E and Baby Evan and I out to dinner at our favorite small local place Chili’s. Go ahead, laugh at me for thinking it’s one of the best restaurants ever but you KNOW IT’S TRUE. Who doesn’t want a giant pile of fried onion straws and a huge burger and a white chocolate blondie with a giant margarita blackberry iced tea to wash it down after a long day of screaming, screechy, smacking baby watching?

Anyways, after the third or fourth time Baby Evan threw something on the floor I decided I needed a moment to myself and ran to hide in the bathroom. As I slunk past all the people having their dinners ruined by That Family who insist on bringing their child to dinner even though he keeps screaming like his hair is on fire aka US I noticed a lady sitting in one of the back booths. She was probably upper middle aged and kind of frumpy and what I would definitely call the stereotype of the crazy cat lady eating dinner by herself in a busy restaurant. And I was INSANELY JEALOUS.

When I was in college, I used to spend a lot of time alone. Not is a “woe is me I am so sad and angsty” way. I just liked getting to make all my own decisions without worrying what someone else thought or wanted or felt like doing that day. Between classes and work and the 2+ hours I spent at the gym 6 days a week (I really liked my gym) by the time dinner came along I couldn’t bear calling around and doing the socially required “Do you want to get dinner? I know we had pasta last night but I’m really in the mood for Italian again but if you’re not we can go for BBQ but if that one place is too expensive there’s that other place and if we get a cab we don’t have to park because that part of town is busy on Fridays but I don’t mind driving either” dance just to eat something. (And don’t ask why I didn’t ever make my own food – I was 21 and employed and lived in a city with some of the very best restaurants in the world.)

So I started going to restaurants alone. And I LOVED it. I carried a book in my purse and would get the smallest table by a window and half-read half-people watch while I enjoyed my sandwich or Thai food or clam chowder or whatever. The book kept most of the overly-friendly-let-me-rescue-you-from-being-lonely-dudes away and I got to know the staff at a few of my favorite places and they learned letting me sit quietly meant a nice tip to make up for hogging their table. Not only did I get to enjoy my book and my food, I always felt incredibly grown up and worldly and brave for eating alone and not caring if anyone thought I was being stood up or didn’t have any friends or smelled really bad and couldn’t get anyone to sit with me.

I cannot remember the last time I got to eat alone. I don’t even get to eat alone in my own house anymore – there’s always a tiny person yanking on my pants or shoving his hands in my bowl or SCREAMING at me. (Seriously, the screaming is getting way out of hand around here.) As much as I honestly love bringing the baby with me most of the time – grocery shopping is a fun way to show him shapes and colors and new things and we both enjoy it – every once in a while it would be super awesome to…not.

I think the next time I need to go bask in the joy that is Target run very important errands down by the mall I’m going to take a book and enjoy some Panera. ALONE.

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