Posts Tagged ‘deep thoughts’

Doing My Best (Question Mark) (Exclamation Point)

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Once a week or so my Facebook, which skews heavily towards moms, blows up with a post or article from the interwebs about being a better parent. Posts about putting down your phone and paying more attention to the present, posts about why you should never yell at your kids, posts about how teaching your children patience means letting them take 45 minutes to put on their coat, posts about all the ways you are probably scarring your children and ruining their lives because you aren’t perfect.

Basically, posts about how someone else lives their life better than me. I suck.

I made the mistake of reading one of the posts about yelling on a particularly bad day. I had just been hit with pregnancy symptoms, I had been solo parenting for weeks, the holiday planning was making me feel overwhelmed and stressed and instead of providing me with a hilarious list of animals that look like characters from Downton Abbey the internet punched me in the face with guilt.

Of course, any day is probably a bad day to read parenting advice. I cannot remember a single day since having kids where I was perfect. Pre-kids no one was really expecting me to be, you know?? As long as I didn’t commit any major crimes no one cared and the majority of the advice aimed at me was how to build a work wardrobe for under $200 or how to plan a dinner party for 12. But once you biologically become a parent people suddenly expect you to be a great parent all the time, although no one can even tell you what that means. There isn’t a handbook. There isn’t even a PAMPHLET. And even if there was, I’d still be doing stuff wrong.

Even on days where the kids are angels and I’m a saint, we probably didn’t eat all-organic, locally-sourced, home-cooked meals. We probably ate McDonalds. On the days when we eat a real, fully-balanced meal made with ingredients from the farmer’s market the kids probably watched 4 hours of iPad so I could make the damn thing.

Some days, I toss something in the trash, miss, and then just stand there staring at it on the floor, hoping it might pick itself up. I make sure my children are not physically suffering and then lie down on the couch. The kids eat Pop Tarts for dinner with a side of Pop Tarts for dessert. I yell. I am unfair. I cannot wait for them to go to bed.

As far as I am concerned, both of those days are my best effort. I am giving 100% of myself. All the parts that aren’t being used to keep me alive are going to my children. But I’m a person too, and some days I need all of my own energy to function. I need an extra hour to sleep instead of doing a craft or to watch House Hunters instead of PBS. I need 10 minutes of silence instead of breaking up another argument so I just let them argue. I need to lock the bathroom door so I can pee my pants while I throw up privately instead of with an audience. Again. I NEED those things, the same way I need air and food.

I assume if my life circumstances changed, I would find more to give. Working moms do way more than I do and survive. Single moms do way WAY more an survive. Literally a billion other mothers do more than I do and survive. But right now, at this moment, in my own life, I am giving 100%. You are probably also giving 100%, whether that means making those all-organic meals every night or taking even more naps than I do.

It’s not as hopeless as it sounds. Most nights I go to bed feeling like I had a successful day and not beating myself up over my mistakes (I figure in another four and a half years I might stop doing it all together). Even when I am totally drained I am lucky to have this life – and I really do feel lucky instead of just saying I’m lucky. My kids are great kids, despite my mistakes, and so far show no signs of permanent damage from either cheeseburgers or Disney Jr binges. Since I realized I cannot do everything – and don’t even WANT to do everything – I have gotten much, much happier. Just don’t show up unannounced or I won’t let you in to see my messy house, screaming children, and wet pants.

Wild Animals

Friday, May 31st, 2013

We went to the zoo on Wednesday for the first time since it warmed up this year. We loved it so much last year and had a great system down: go early, midweek, pack some food, let the kids nap in the car on the way home. My critical error was in not realizing a Wednesday in late MAY is not the same as a Wednesday in late JUNE. I live in New England. Late May is “Who The Hell Cares About School Anymore, Take Those Kids On A Damn Field Trip” season.

Initially, things weren’t bad. It’s a medium-sized zoo so even with half a dozen field trips it wasn’t crowded. I had the stroller and no agenda, so we went slow and tried to avoid any groups we ran into. The water sprinkler wall at the Big Back Yard play area was undergoing maintenance so I promised we’d go back and play there last instead of first. Evan and Caroline were super fun for 90 minutes and then had low-blood sugar meltdowns of an epic degree, but I saved the day with cheese and cucumbers and grapes and water from Mommy’s water bottle (100% more delicious than the exact same water from their own water bottles).

Unfortunately, lunch only made the field trip kids worse. Ok, wait. That’s unfair. I’d say 75% of the field trip kids were fine. Great, even. Evan and Caroline have no fear of big kids, so they both tried to talk to the elementary schoolers about the animals. I thought it was adorable (and so did most of the kids, who kept saying “Awwwwww, she’s so CUTE!” when Caroline tried to tell them about the oudads) but perhaps all the chaperons were thinking “Gawd, why doesn’t that woman keep her loud kids away from us?” Even as a mother who is around a lot of children a lot of the time, I don’t necessarily love kids in general. Children aren’t a homogeneous group any more than you can say “All blondes are dumb” or…actually, I’m not going to list any more racist/group stereotypes. That seems like a good way to get called dumb. Some children are terrible.

After lunch, a girl plowed into Caroline on the walking path. Caroline fell over, scraped her hands and knee and started crying. When I asked her if she was OK, she pointed at the offender and said “THAT GIRL JUST KNOCKED ME OVER.” Because she’s little, not an idiot. The girl stared. Her chaperon stared. I stared for 20 seconds before I said “I’M SURE IT WAS AN ACCIDENT AND SHE’S VERY SORRY.” No one noticed, even though I was speaking in all caps.

When we made it back to the Big Back Yard, it was almost deserted and the water was fixed. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and sat down to supervise (i.e. play on my phone, because, let’s be honest, with only 2 children to watch and no one else around I get to play on my phone for a minute). I hadn’t even finished checking my email before one of the field trip groups appeared. Then I heard this for 20 minutes:

Chaperon: Bobby, don’t get wet. Bobby, don’t get wet. Bobby, don’t get wet.
(Bobby runs through the fountain, gets wet.)
Chaperon: Bobby, don’t get wet. ETC ETC ETC.

It was obvious none of the field trip organizers had anticipated water features at the zoo, since none of the kids were dressed or prepared to get soaked. I had planned for my kids to get soaked – because they always do – but made the obvious mistake not bringing a full change of clothes and/or a poncho for myself, since the next thing that happened was a girl grabbed one of the hoses attached to the wall and aimed it FULL BLAST at the bench I was sitting on with another dad.

I swung my fancy camera (which had been in my lap) out of the water, jumped up and shouted “NO NO NO AHHHHHHH NO!” I looked like an idiot. I stared at this girl – who was probably 9 or 10, we’re not talking preschooler – and then stared at the dad who had gotten soaked even worse than I had. “Is she yours?” I asked. He shook his head. “Do you belong to someone????” I asked the girl, trying to keep my voice below all-caps. She just stared at me, still holding the hose.

FINALLY a woman appeared and said “Emily!” (or whatever, I don’t remember) “Nuh-huh! We do not spray people! You’re in a time out!” The girl wandered (WANDERED) over to sit on a bench as I made fishy-faces of shock and tried to wring the water out of my skirt. Then I called my kids and told them we were done at the zoo for the day. When they whined, I used my loud voice to say “Sorry guys, there are too many naughty kids here who don’t have grown ups watching them. We’ll come back on a day without so many horrible field trips.”

I really did say that. I’m not proud. I will admit using my angry voice to shun people without actually addressing them directly is childish. I will also admit I’ve never been a school field trip chaperon, and watching 10 kids at the zoo sounds like the fifth circle of Hell. But COME ON. I shouldn’t have to get all “Kids these days, get off my lawn!” about 4th or 5th graders who don’t have enough manners to apologize for knocking a baby over or who don’t know intentionally spraying two unknown grown ups with a water hose is a poor choice.

While I was gathering the stroller, I heard one of the chaperons tell Emily “That lady was really mad. You need to apologize.” They sulked over and Emily said “I’m sorry I sprayed you.” I said “Thank you for apologizing.” I refrained from saying any other words out loud, but I let myself think some very unkind things. It’s hard not to when you’re wearing wet underpants that are someone else’s fault.

I’m not going to make any sweeping judgments about these kids or these chaperons or parenting skills or how when you agree to be responsible for a gaggle of children in public you need to spend more time supervising and less time being a Chatty Cathy with all the other mom friends on the trip. But I will say we won’t be going back to the zoo until after school gets out for the year.

Wandering Thoughts

Monday, January 28th, 2013

It’s that time of year again, when we’re waiting to find out if E’s going to be promoted switching jobs it’s sort of complicated and everything is up in the air. We’ve done this for several years now, including the time we got surprise orders to San Diego while I was pregnant, so it might feel like you’ve read this post before. (I assure you this is new, I’ve just whining about the same things AGAIN.) So far, things have always worked out and we’ve managed to stay put in Connecticut, much to my delight and E’s…less than delight. He likes the place, just not being passed over.

I’ll admit that in past years I was sort of relieved E wasn’t promoted. That’s a shitty thing to be happy about, but the logistics of moving are so overwhelming in our current house-owning state. We bought when the market was still high (not at the peak, thank God, or we’d be so far underwater on this house we’d never get out) so selling it without shelling out a huge chunk of cash is going to be hard. It’s even harder to realize that all the work we’ve put into it won’t bring us any return on investment and we’ll have to start over at zero dollars.  Not being a home owner has its advantages…but I love my home.

Beyond the financial aspect of moving, there’s the emotional aspect of leaving somewhere I’ve lived longer than anywhere else in my life. Actually, I’ve living in this HOUSE longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my life – before this, my record was all 4 years of high school in my parent’s house in Virginia. I moved every single year of college, then twice three times in the first year of marriage. The funny thing is, I used to like moving. I grew up in a military household and thought I could keep doing it indefinitely. But the truth is, being settled is comforting. A support system is important to me, especially as a mom. I have mom friends. My kids have kid friends. I have a mechanic, a pharmacy, a preschool, a library card, a favorite playground, and a zillion other things I don’t want to leave.

But. Even after I’ve said all that out loud (and to myself many, many times) I am not going to freak out if we have to leave. We are still in the easily-movable years with the kids where they adjust and make friends quickly. The Navy comes with a built in support system for families so I wouldn’t be starting for the bottom of a sad, dark pit – more like half way up a ladder that reaches the top. Starting over without the enormous costs of a house could give us the freedom to build our savings faster and splurge on things like family vacations more often. If E got promoted we might actually see him on a regular basis, instead of just waving at him as he runs out the door for another 36 hour shift.

To be totally honest, a lot of our moving options sound kind of…exciting. San Diego. Hawaii. Japan. Guam. Yes, it would be insanely far from our families, but they’re all limited-time-offers (and I am SURE my friends and relatives would find a way to visit me in Hawaii). We have friends in a lot of those places already. Even if we get transferred to somewhere on the East Coast a change might be good for us – what better excuse to purge all our unnecessary stuff, get organized and start fresh? I’m almost ready for that kind of challenge. Almost.

There is just so much uncertainty in our lives for the moment, thinking about it and NOT thinking about it both take a huge amount of effort. I don’t have the energy for much worrying on top of the thinking too, but please excuse me if more of this leaks out of my head between now and the end of April.

Facebook Likes Are Not A Measure of Value

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

A heartwarming story came across my Facebook page this week, about some kids whose dad told them if they got 1 million likes on their Facebook photo they could have a new puppy. They got their likes in about 7 hours and their dad has promised to keep his word and get them a (rescue) puppy.

Adorable kids + puppies = internet gold, right? It takes less than a second to click the little up-thumb and now – thanks to Facebook’s news ticker – all your friends can immediately see and join in. Then we can all pat ourselves on the back for doing something nice today.

Here is the part of the post where I turn into the a Puppy Hating Grinch who probably enjoys seeing kids cry: I think asking for attention on Facebook is a stupid – if not downright dangerous – lesson to teach children.

Why didn’t the father ask his children to save their allowance money to cover the adoption costs of a puppy? Or make a sticker chart for responsible behavior and once they had filled it the dog could be their reward? I’d even have less of a problem with simply waiting for a special occasion – a birthday perhaps – and surprising the kids with a trip to the shelter to bring home a puppy. The lesson learned could be about responsibility and delayed gratification and doing nice things for those we love – all important factors in dog ownership.

Instead, the lesson these kids learned is that the attention of a million strangers is valuable and that being Facebook famous is something to strive for. In a society where “internet famous” is mostly a negative thing – anyone remember when Tila Tequila was just someone with a ton of MySpace friends? – why would you encourage your kids to focus on that kind of popularity? I have no problem with anyone, adult or child, wanting to be well known for a legitimate reason. Fame in itself isn’t negative. It’s the “Look at me! Look at me!” attitude of Facebook fame that I take issue with. Get Facebook likes for being clever or original or an amazing artist or rescuing a three-legged puppy from a shelter and naming him Tripod.

I sincerely hope those kids get a new puppy and love it enormously. I’m sure this is nothing more than a fun anecdote they’ll tell someday when they get together for holidays (“Hey, remember the time we were on Good Morning America??”) I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with being liked. But I do think rewarding kids for the attention of strangers is a mistake. Let’s reward our kids for kindness, responsibility, patience,  wise choices and not running with sharp objects instead.

Deep Thoughts

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

1. Sometimes I imagine that if I lived somewhere like NYC or Chicago where I had to walk or take public transit everywhere I’d be in really great shape. But then I think no, I’d probably just be an alcoholic. No driving home FTW!

2. Most mornings when we leave the house, it looks like we were suddenly taken by The Rapture. I can imagine Olivia Benson standing next to the abandoned cereal bowls still on the table and train tracks half completed on the floor and the computer open to Twitter saying “They were obviously taken against their will.” Nope, just always, always late.

3. At what age to kids stop thinking trash trucks are the coolest thing ever and realize DUDE THAT’S A TRUCK FULL OF GARBAGE?

4. If preschool asks for a “family picture” to help my 3 year old draw an accurate portrait for the class bulletin board, is it wrong to pick one in which I look really great, even if Caroline is only like 8 month old?

5. Iron supplements might be the very meanest thing you can do to a kid. Hey kid, want some of this really yummy juice that will keep you from pooping for three days?? HERE HAVE SOME MORE.